Saturday, December 30, 2006

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 New Year's Resolutions for the Writer in YOU!

10. Admit that deep fried Snickers bars do not inspire creativity.

9. Ignore e-mail messages from mysterious agents with e-mail addys like

8. Accept all criticism graciously.

7. Understand that all criticism isn't right.

6. If your mother says it's good, be grateful. Every little bit helps.

5. Blog reading/writing does not count as part of your writing time.

4. If it's bad through chapter 5, it's bad. Start over. Or make chapter 6 the first chapter.

3. Pick one or two conferences. After a point, it's just a party.

2. Never let your characters write your novel, unless one of them is John Updike.

And the number 1 New Year's Resolution for the Writer in YOU!

1. Learn a writing rule, then learn how to break it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Chapter 28

It means nothing to you, but it happens to be the last chapter of Murder on the Side, the first of my River Bend Mystery Series, and I started the final edit on it this morning. I set a goal of Dec. 31st to have it complete, so I seem to be on track. Of course, my readers will point out a few things to touch up, but nothing major. The joy of novel writing comes when you hit the final turn. For me it was somewhere around chapter 20. Then you just can't type fast enough. It's when you settle into the groove and your best writing comes out. I stumbled at the beginning. With the help of my wife and crit partners, I made a few course corrections and got it on track.

This is my third complete novel. They get better with each attempt. Is this the one that gets me on the board? I think so. I'm confident enough to start book two of the series in early January. I still have to write the proposal, which takes considerable time as well, and send it out to agents. Maybe by the time the ACFW conference comes along I'll be on my way. Will I quit if things don't turn out that way? Absolutely not. We try again. And again. It's what we do.

I am eagerly anticipating 2007, even January. What a wonderful life I have. What an awesome thing it is to have no regrets.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Card

I just can't resist a classic. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

My official blog Christmas Card.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 of my Favorite Things about Christmas...

10. It's acceptable to have glass bowls full of chocolate scattered throughout the house.

9. The unspoken joy of exterior illumination.

8. The TBS 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon.

7. My bright red Grinch jammies (okay, I wear 'em from October through April).

6. It's becoming rebelious and cool to say "Merry Christmas."

5. I get to wear both of my Grinch ties to church (see a theme here?).

4. Laughing at the people on the news who actually stand in a two-day line to buy something they can get at half the price in another month.

3. Knowing that I'm raising my kids with better values than someone who would stand in a two-day line to buy something they can get at half the price in another month.

2. Having my 11 year-old son explain to me the significance of the lion's sacrifice in Narnia.

And my number one favorite thing about Christmas...

1. After 40 years, the single most memorable moment in Christmas television history is that of a six year old cartoon boy quoting King James scripture.

And all of God's children said...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


I just berated critter Robin, now ACFW President, about posting on her blog once a month. Thus the word "blazy," for those who don't tend to their blogs. When that happens, things get musty, weeds pop through the cracks in the sidewalk, and friends find excuses for not posting (I woulda posted but the new "Scrubs" was on...). You know the drill.

So here I sit, about to let a full week pass by without a post. And the new "Scrubs" wasn't all that good. I even neglected the Friday Top 10. My shame runs deep. However, I did write a Haiku on Mark Terry's blog. He's having a contest. Some guys will do anything for attention. Go join in and win a free autographed (I think he said autographed) Mark Terry novel. Twist his arm for both.

I plug Mark's books because A: he knows where I live and B: in SE Michigan, novel writing may be the only source of income soon. So we have to give each other a boost. Again, that's Mark Terry's blog, or call toll free at 1-800-KIDS2FD.

So, I guess this counts as a post. I'll see ya Friday. Maybe.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Word's that should be in the Dictionary

Today's word:

Putzitating - What 11 year old boys do between the moment you left them tying their shoes and the ten minutes you've been waiting in the car.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ron's Reviews: The Devil's Pitchfork by Mark Terry

As y'all know, I don't do many reviews or author interviews. I figure there's enough of that going around, so I don't need to add to the pile. Occasionally, though, I like to plug a book if it's particulary well-written, the author is a friend of mine, or the author is someone local. In this case, it's all three. Okay, Mark and I aren't exactly close friends, but we did live on the same street for about nine years and never knew there was another person nearby with writing aspirations. Our kids go to the same schools and we often enjoy pointing out the absurtities of small town living on one another's blogs. I now live several miles from Mark, bumping into him at school concerts and such. One thing I love about this guy, he's determined to make it as a full-time writer, despite those who say it can't be done. Well, he seems to be doing it. Not a full-time novelist yet, but judging from his latest release, that day is coming soon.

Which brings me to The Devil's Pitchfork by Mark Terry. If you're a Clancy fan, you'll hate it. I say that because I've always found Clancy's characters to be a bit too perfect for my taste. Hey, I was a sailor and so was my old man. We just didn't always have that perfect sense of mission and duty. Normally, watch standing was a necessesary evil before the next liberty call.

Our hero in Pitchfork, Derek Stillwater, is not perfect. In fact, he's darn near human by outward appearances. He's nervous before a mission and even throws up. Kind of reminds me of my first stage appearance in elementary school (now I'm a ham and make no apologies). Stillwater has talents, though, as is necessary for a proper hero. He's an expert in chemical and biological warfare. See where the plot can take us? And it does.

The book opens with a rogue terrorist group (is that an oxymoron?) stealing a man-made super virus that has a 100% mortality rate and, of course, no known cure. How can it possibly get any worse? It does.

The kiss of death of any suspense novel is when the author plays too nicely with his protag. Terry doesn't have that problem. I felt a little sorry for poor Derek. Jack Bauer should have such a day. Terry does a great job weaving in sub-plots and a conspiracy that runs to the deepest levels of government. As if getting Derek's butt kicked all the way through the novel wasn't bad enough, Terry keeps us on the edge with a secondary character in equally dire straits.

I won't go into the plot any more than that. I will recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good end-of-the-world scenario. Be sure to read it on an airplane, by the way.

When you read this kind of thriller, you know the author's done his job when you come away feeling like this could very well happen. In fact, you wonder why it hasn't happened already. The Devil's Pitchfork is a great ride and a realistic plot.

Devil's Pitchfork is available at Amazon.

Be sure to visit Mark's website and blog as well!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 Money Saving Ideas for Christmas…

10. Inform your extended family that you appreciate the $50 limit for each of your sixteen nieces and nephews, but perhaps you should learn their names first.

9. Tell your kids that Santa got 20 to life for smoking his pipe in an L.A. restaurant.

8. Once the snow starts falling your neighbor won’t see the extension cord for your lights leading to his house.

7. Re-wrap the gifts you bought your kids last year. Since they haven’t played with them in 364 days, they won’t remember.

6. Tell your kids that the terrorism alert level is “Orange,” meaning that every gift in the country must be inspected by government employees, so they won’t see them for several years.

5. Resist the urge to see yet another Christmas movie where washed up actors fight over must have gifts.

4. The Kid Rock Christmas Album…do ya really need it?

3. Tell the music teacher that the cost of her costume selection for the Holiday Concert will directly impact your vote in the next mileage renewal.

2. When the office dimwit comes around for the “Secret Santa” drawing, pull the Menorah and skull cap out of your bottom drawer.

And the number one Money Saving Idea for Christmas…

1. If you just can’t resist another singing and dancing snowmen ornament, stay out of the Hallmark store.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

This week the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is doing a tour for Never Ceese by Sue Dent. It is notable that Sue is one of our CFBA members!

Sue Dent was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi and currently resides in Ridgeland. When not writing, Sue designs websites and works with digital photograpy.Sue loves to hear from her fans through her Website in fact, the push from eager readers has already set the ball rolling, and she's hard at work on Forever Richard, the sequel.
In Never Ceese, Sue sets out to prove that faith and fun can live happily in the same story, and that vampire/werewolf fantasy can have a spiritual message too.

Never Ceese takes religious fantasy to a new level, bringing an entirely new Light to a very dark side of fiction, doing a very admirable job to prove that vampire/werewolf fantasy does not have to be evil to be enjoyed.

The story starts with the classic tale of an English manor owned by Richard, the vampire who righteously is the bain of his neighbor's existence, what with the missing goats and all!

Then enters Cecelia, better known as Ceese, the young werewolf maiden who's arrived via invitation by Richard's aging companion, Penelope.
Ceese and Richard would prefer to tear each other apart, literally, but they are drawn together by their mutual love for Penelope. She is dying and has one request...that the two of them love one another.

This is the overall theme throughout Dent's interesting tale of two who were wronged but learn to work together. Meanwhile they are threatened by an evil stem cell researcher who wants the immortality and power that he thinks their blood will bring him!

Dent's characters do differ from the stock one's we're all accustomed to in a very important way. They are not mindless, brutal killers. Bloodthirsty, yes, but they are constantly resisting the urge to kill, and, thus, curse another human. Feeding on rodents, goats, virtually any warm-blooded animal helps to satiate the never ending thirst for blood, but how long will they be able to resist that most delicious morsel man?
There is a chance that their curses can actually be lifted if they can find the strength within to resist their selfish natures and act selflessly toward another. Will they succeed? That same basic choice lies before us all every day...
A vampire and a werewolf, one determined to, once again, be able to acknowledge what will get her to heaven, the other no so sure he can. A spiritual fantasy designed to spark the imagination, to speak to the heart as well as entertain.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 Clues you may have gone a bit overboard on your Exterior Christmas lighting…

10. Your January electric bill comes with chapter numbers.

9. Your rose bushes bloom in mid-December.

8. A sudden spike in low-flying aircraft.

7. The average temperature for December in your town is up 8 degrees.

6. Vegas Casino owners are complaining about the glare from your home.

5. Your bag of Orville Redenbacher’s pops while in the cupboard.

4. Al Gore uses your home for a speech backdrop.

3. You don’t require reading lights inside the house at night.

2. Your children have the best tans in the school Winter Solstice Celebration.

And the number one clue you may have gone a bit overboard on your Exterior Christmas Lighting…

1. Three guys on camels show up at your door.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This week the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is doing a blog tour for Landon Snow and The Island of Arcanum by R.K.Mortenson, published by Barbour Publishing (October 2006).

About the AUTHOR:
R.K.Mortenson is an ordained minister with the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. He has been writing devotional and inspirational articles since 1995. He currently serves as a navy chaplain in Florida and lives with his wife, daughter and son in Jacksonville.

This page at Barbour's site provides a few good links, two as recent as last week: The top link there goes to a story about Randy's adoption experiences, the second link goes to the Landon Snow short at Clubhouse magazine.

Randy got the idea for this series one late night, when flute music woke him from a sound sleep. As he stood at his window, trying to locate the source of the sound, he spied a library across the lawn. Suddenly, he envisioned an eleven-year-old sneaking out of his bed and stealing to the library in the dead of night...And thus Landon Snow was born.

In the latest adventure of Landon Snow And the Island of Arcanum, Landon, once again visits his grandparents in Button Up, Minnesota. If your familiar with the first two books, Landon Snow and the Auctor's Riddle, and Landon Snow and The Shadows of Malus Quidam, you'll know that Landon's adventures always start at the Library in Button Up.

This time, Landon's most dangerous journey yet, begins in a rowboat-shaped tombstone that floats. And it's lucky for him that it floats because a few drips from the library ceiling turns into a powerful waterfall.

The stone turns into wood. The stone book propped up in the prow of the boat turns to paper.

The left page says "ANCHOR". The right page says "AWEIGH".

"Anchor aweigh?" said Landon.

Holly whispered, "Did you hear that?"

No one has time to respond, however. The next instant saw the water before them dropping away as the water behind them grew into a giant swell, pitching them headlong into the abyss.
Landon will have to protect his two younger sisters, Holly and Bridget, who wind up in the boat with him headed towards The Island of Arcanum. On the Island, the animals of Wonderwood are imprisoned and the evil shadows of Landon's nemesis, Malus Quidam lurk!

With the help of some old friends, a horse named Melech, an odd fellow named Hardy, a girl named Ditty, and the poet/prophet Vates--Landon seeks to unlock the island's dark secrets and escape with the animals intact.

But first, he must navigate his way through unchartered waters and battle the villainous Archans...Can Landon and his friends rescue the animals from deep within the island's stronghold?

R.K.Mortenson's website:

Book link:

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Penguins and such

Movie going has turned into somewhat of a challenge in recent years for me. The lack of quality movies began this decline in my cinema experience. After I became a Christian, it got worse. A lot worse. Alas, with the onset of the computer generated animation age, I thought my problem had been solved. Among my all-time favorite movies you'll find animated classics like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, And Monsters, Inc. Finally, films that were just fun, well-made, and told a good story.

Those days appear to be over. After Brother Bear, Over the Hedge, and Open Season, I'd just about had enough. The final nail in the coffin came with our family outing to see Happy Feet last night.

For those who haven't seen it, let me warn you, it goes on about an hour longer than it should. I could pretty much point out the moment that the original writer probably intended the movie to end. Then, the addition was made. Someone in Hollywood realized they'd left out The Message.

What's The Message?

Oh, it's been fairly consistent since the making of Bambi, but until recently, it didn't appear in every stinkin' movie. The Message is: Animals and Nature Good, People Evil Evil Evil.

In Happy Feet, the Evil Evil Evil humans are taking all the fish out of the Antarctica. This was news to me. Our hero, Mumble the dancing penguin, follows the fishing ships (not boats, ships) back to Human World. He is picked up, tossed in a zoo, and stared at by the uncaring humans while his family starves back in Emperor Penguin Land. Keep in mind, up until this point, the movie was good. Fantastic animation, funny. Welllll....there was the usual poking fun at religion (yes, by penguins), but I let that slide.

And how does our hero, Mumble the dancing penguin, convince the humans of his plight? He dances, of course. Somehow, by tap dancing to Stevie Wonder, he communicates to the United Nations that his flock is starving (you'll notice no one felt sorry for the leopard seal and killer whales who were denied their penguin snack). So Mumble is released back to his flock with a tracking device attached to his back. He convinces all of his brethren to dance for the humans who follow him, and the world is saved!

If I'd written that, my crit partners would have sent me a big fat "Try again bonehead!" on my manuscript. But, since there's an important Message for all of us Evil Evil Evil humans, it was given a pass.

And would someone please explain the Robin Williams character to me? As far as I could tell, he was put there to poke fun at religious extremists (you know, people who believe in Jesus and the bible). But that feat had been accomplished by the Emperor Penguin leaders, who stubbornly held on to the old dried up ways. The old dried up ways involving faith, of course, instead of tap dancing.

Happy Feet was supposed to be, originally I'm sure, a story about a penguin who stayed true to his heart, though it caused him much social grief, and won the love of his life. Unfortunately, the ever wise ones in Hollywood decides us Red State, bible thumping, SUV driving dolts needed a life lesson.

A famous Hollywood producer from the golden era once said, "If you want to send a message, use Western Union." Apparently, his advice has been forgotten. We want to be entertained, Hollywood, not indoctrinated.

It's a good thing I can write my own stories. At least I won't have to de-program my kids after they read them.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 Hints to get you and your eating disorder through the Holidays…

10. Get off the internet and get back to the mall! Full contact sports are a great way to burn calories.

9. A serving of turkey and mashed potatoes contains the same number of calories as a piece of fudge, so skip the turkey and mashed potatoes.

8. Apples are fruit. Wrapping them in pie crust doesn’t change that.

7. With the onset of global warming you’ll be sweating off those calories in no time!

6. Chocolate production makes up 23% of the U.S. economy. Or don’t you care?

5. Tell your Weight Watchers leader that “I’m sorry, this just isn’t working out. I’m going to have to let you go.” Practice in front of the mirror.

4. You’ll be wearing a heavy coat for the next three months anyway.

3. Make sure you add Ronco’s “Home Lipo-Suck” to your wish list (call 1-800-UMOOTOO).

2. Skinny people are never jolly.

And the number one hint to get you and your eating disorder through the Holidays…

1. By January, you won’t be able to afford food. Better bulk up now.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is posting about Calm, Cool, and Adjusted by Kristin Billerbeck

Kristin Billerbeck was born in Redwood City, California. She went to San Jose State University and majored in Advertising, then worked at the Fairmont Hotel in PR, a small ad agency as an account exec, and then,she was thrust into the exciting world of shopping mall marketing. She got married, had four kids, and started writing romance novels until she found her passion: Chick Lit.


Calm, Cool, and Adjusted is the third book in the Spa Girls Novels.
Billerbeck did a great job with the characterization of Poppy, a quirky Christian chiropractor who is a health nut. I'm talking real NUT. She is so obsessed with health that she forgets about living. When she finally realizes that she is over the edge obsessed, she doesn't know how to stop herself.
Best friends since Johnny Depp wore scissors for hands, "The Spa Girls" live very separate lives, but stay in touch with routine visits to California's Spa Del Mar.

The third novel in the Spa Girls Series focuses on Silicon Valley chiropractor Poppy Clayton, who is as calm, cool and adjusted as they come. Or is she? Known for her bad fashion sense, a love for all things natural and the inability to get a second date, Poppy is beginning to wonder if she might be misaligned herself. Her route to self discovery will be an unnatural one - a plastic surgeon, a dilapidated house in Santa Cruz, a flirtatious client, and a blind date from the dark side.
It's all enough to send a girl - and her gal pals - running for the comfort zone of their spa.
Ron's note: Having met Kristin at the '05 Conference, I can tell you that she is a joy to talk to. Visit her blog, shared with three other authors, at Girls Write Out.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 Ways to get kicked out of your critique group…

10. Insert the little vomiting Pac-Man icon in various places throughout their manuscripts.

9. Post their work on your blog and ask for charitable donations to the writer.

8. Reply to them with “Does your mommy have anything to send now?”

7. Highlight their entire manuscript and write “Fix This!”

6. Send your work with a note that says “No need to critique--for your enjoyment and education!”

5. Charge a reading fee.

4. Let them know you’ve checked the donor box marked “Talent” on the back of your driver’s license.

3. Send them the link to

2. Go to chapter 36 of their manuscripts and write “The story begins here!”

And the number one way to get kicked out of your critique group…

1. Autograph your submissions.

Best Wishes...Ron

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is posting about Scoop by Rene Gutteridge.


Rene Gutteridge is the author of several novels, including Ghost Writer (Bethany House Publishers) The Boo Series (WaterBrook Press) and the Storm Series, (Tyndale House Publishers. She will release three novels in 2006: Storm Surge (Tyndale) My Life as a Doormat (WestBow Press, Women of Faith)Occupational Hazards Book #1: Scoop (WaterBrook Press).

She has also been published over thirty times as a playwright, best known for her Christian comedy sketches. She studied screenwriting under a Mass Communications degree, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Oklahoma City University, and earned the "Excellence in Mass Communication" award. She served as the full-time Director of Drama for First United Methodist Church for five years before leaving to stay home and write. She enjoys instructing at writer's conferences and in college classrooms. She lives with her husband, Sean, a musician, and their children in Oklahoma City.


The Occupational Hazards Books are a series of books about seven homeschooled siblings whose last name is Hazard. The parents died in a freak accident leaving the kids ages 16-26 with a lucrative clown business but the kids realize that God has other plans which doesn't include being a family of clowns for the rest of their lives.

Scoop is the first of the series and centers around Hayden, who was age 20 when her parents died. If you haven't yet guessed by the series title, this book is packed with many laugh out loud moments and great one liners.

Hayden is a strong Christian who, having been homeschooled, lacks some of the politically correct social not praying in front of everyone during a crisis. She finds herself in an internship at a television news station with a boss that takes stress pills, an aging news anchor that everyone wishes Botox on, a weatherman who wants to predict love for himself and Hayden, and a reporter struggling with his own politically correctness of being a good reporter and being a Christian.

Old School meets New School meets Homeschool. A smart and funny read.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A week in the life

Okay, it's Monday. Can I stop here? The official kick-off of cold & flu season has arrived. In Michigan we have a parade to celebrate the event. Floats with giant hypodermic needles, children dressed as bacteria and viruses, scouting troops tossing handfulls of cough drops into the wheezing crowd. It's all very magical, really.

At any rate, I'll suffer through my first bout, ten rounds, no whining, and get through the week.

We crossed over to the dark side this weekend. Yes, that's right, we bought an artificial Christmas tree. Although I do love the smell of fresh cut pine in my living room, the magic disappears after about a week when the needles begin carpeting the carpet. There's also the minor back pain after trudging through snow, cutting down the perfect tree (which looks more like Charlie Brown's tree when we get it home), and hauling it a mile back to the pick-up spot because children can never find the perfect tree ten feet from the road. And now that spruce is up to $40 a pop, I figure it's time to join the faux Christmas crowd.

Besides, the tree is a cast-off of some pagan ritual anyway. No trees in the manger. Maybe a palm branch. How come we don't have palm trees for Christmas? It would be easier to clean up. Just a hundred or so great big leaves. Then you can save them for Easter. Unless, of course, you opt for the artificial palm tree. Then you'd have to buy artificial dead palm branches for Easter.

Palm trees would bring disastrous results for the Michigan Christmas tree farms. Even more than the deer. Some business, I think it was a golf course, on M-24, the main road shooting up into the Thumb, planted about six full grown palm trees along the road a few years ago. Really. I don't know where he got 'em or how much he paid for the transplant, but he was obviously not the quickest bunny in the roost (check out more at!). The trees wilted sometime around early August, then turned brown before fall. Last time I checked, palm trees aren't supposed to change colors with the seasons. So, he did what any good Michigander would, he spray painted the branches green. I don't make this stuff up. I don't have to. I live in Michigan.

So, since WNIC is already playing 24hrs of Christmas music, let me wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Drag your local ACLU member under the mistletoe and give him a big wet one on the lips. Then charge him with sexual harassment.

Now go out and cut down those palm trees! I'll give you directions to the golf course.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Top 10

In honor of my 16th Wedding Anniversary, I give you my Top 10 Secrets to a Lasting Marriage...

10. Never give your wife a brake light as a gift to prove you know what they look like.

9. Never respond honestly to the question “What are you thinking about?” (Just because it’s about her, don’t assume you’re sharing in the same fantasy).

8. Always take the time to say “It’s my fault.”

7. If you go to Vegas without her, call every 15 minutes. Use the phone camera to prove your whereabouts and state of dress.

6. Women find no humor in embarrassing bodily functions (10 year old boys do, though, so make sure you have one around).

5. She knows you’re not really shopping for her birthday gift in the Victoria’s Secret catalog.

4. Never shop for her birthday gift in the bathroom.

3. Never introduce her as "your first wife."

2. Never refer to your bed as “Ol’ Shakey.”

And the number one secret to a lasting marriage...

1. Never write a blog. She’ll find it. She’ll hurt you.

Happy Anniversary, sweetie.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Interview with Rachel Hauck

Today's guest is Rachel Hauck, author and President of the ACFW.

Rachel Hauck is a multi-published author living in sunny and sometimes hurricane-plagued central Florida with her husband and ornery pets. She is a graduate of Ohio State University with a BA in Journalism. Visit her blog and web site at

Her latest book, Lost in NashVegas, comes out in November from Westbow.

(Enter stage right--a ruggedly handsome gentleman puffing a pipe and waving to his adoring fans. He sits, crosses his legs and thumbs through a copy of The Iliad in its original Greek, glances at his watch, and waits patiently for his guest.

Enter stage left--a harried woman in scarlet and gray, cell-phone to her ear. She trips over the roses that litter the stage, tossed by the host's afformentioned adoring fans. She scowls at the adoring fans and slips into the guest chair.

The host pencils in a correction in The Iliad and turns to his guest, flashing a brilliant smile though cleverly hiding his distaste at his guest's fashion sense. Really, scarlet against a blue backdrop? Oh, well, he could only hope that his own brilliance would draw attention away from the garish "O" emblazoned on her sweatshirt. He sets the pipe in its holder and clears his throat, pulling gasps of anticipation from the audience.)

Host: Welcome to my blog, Rachel. Sorry about the mess. I get a lot of strange visitors.

RH: No problem. I think I’ll be right at home.

Host: So you graduated from Ohio State? Despite that handicap, you’ve done quite well. How important do you think your education has been to your fiction writing?

RH: LOL. What handicap! Certainly education at such a GREAT university helped my writing journey. I studied journalism and received encouraging feedback from a professor who loved a short story I wrote for his class.

But life itself is the best writing teacher.

Host: Has the CBA always been your only option, or did you consider the secular market?

RH: When I started writing. I was reading CBA fiction which was just starting to get a foot hold in the publishing world. I didn’t consider the secular market at the time because it just wasn’t something before me.

I think if a Christian author can write in the ABA market, he/she should. They need the fragrance of our message.

Host: What influenced your decision the most?

RH: My decision to write in CBA? Because I was reading CBA fiction like Broke and Bode Thoene, Gilbert Morris, Lori Wick.

Host: Here’s your chance to stump for re-election, even though Robin will threaten to strap me to a black ant hill only because red ants would get the job done too quickly. Where do you see the ACFW going in the next few years?

RH: More power to Robin and the new board. It’s been an honor to be a part of ACFW’s growth and vision. What a fabulous organization. I see ACFW doing more and more to encourage writers and I hope grow to influence the ABA and CBA publishing world.

Host: It must be tough to juggle the responsibility of being President of ACFW, a writer, and a pastor’s wife. How goes an average day in the life of Rachel?

RH: I consider writing my career and job. So, it comes first. Though I must confess I’m easily distracted. My goal is to organize my day so I can get my word count done, as well as meet other demands – ACFW, ministry.

My husband and I have a unique approach to ministry. He may be on staff at church, but I’m not. I only do the things I’m called to do. I work with him in our prayer and worship ministry, Fire Dweller, and I lead Sunday morning worship. So, I schedule time for those activities. Ministry wise, we are in flux since Tony recently handed over the youth ministry to a younger man and had taken over other pastoral duties.

Host: Do you feel your dogs and cat have suffered social or psychological consequences as a result of your Buckeye background?

RH: My dogs and cat are huge Buckeye fans and feel most fortunate to belong to such a wonderful football winning family.

Host: You talk a bit on your website about your college years. Sounds like your faith got tested a bit. How’d you get drawn back into the fold? Was there any one person who stood with you?

RH: The years after college when I knew it was God-now or God-never, I walked the walk alone for over a year and a half. Just me and Jesus. I knew I would never be happy or feel satisfied in life without Him. I think all believers go through a wilderness time where the have no one but Jesus. He’s an amazing God-Man. Even when I found a church family, I traveled so much I still felt alone many times. But a good kind of alone. I know how faithful God is.

Host: The bible says that salvation is for all who believe, even a Buckeye (though I’m sure there’s a prohibition period). You’ve been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things. Is there anyone you just knew would never come to believe in our Lord, but surprised you?

RH: I’ve witnessed to a lot of people around the world. But, there was an engineer I worked with. I can remember being on the road, working against an installation deadline, and calling this man for support in the wee hours of the morning. I witnessed to him a lot during those times while waiting for the system to reboot and software to compile.

He visited church once. Over time, he left the company and moved away. Years later I ran into a mutual co-worker and he said, “You ruined that guy?”

I said, “What are you talking about?”

He said. “He got all church and saved, and stuff.”

I was thrilled. And so surprised!

Host: You talk a lot about the power behind the faith. Have you seen or done anything that would be a good example of that power?

RH: Lots of things. Small power encounters, but the biggest example is how I learned to pray the Word to overcome attacks of fear and anxiety. I’m living proof prayer and the Word work to overcome anxiety even if part of it is physical as well as emotional.

Host: As you may have surmised, I don’t ask normal interview questions. Do you have a favorite Food Network chef?

RH: I love your questions. Yeah, I love what’s her name… Paul Deen. J

Host: Pluto. Planet or a really big rock?

RH: Isn’t he the Disney Dog?

Host: Did you tell your husband you went to OSU before you got married?

RH: Of course, he’s a big OSU fan. As you can tell, he’s very smart.

Host: Before you go, any “Top 10” requests?

RH: You become a Buckeye fan. (snicker)

Host: Thanks for visiting, Rachel. And Rachel—Go Blue.

RH: Thanks for having me! Go Buckeyes!

(As the credits roll, the host hands his guest a an autographed photo of himself. She glances at the audience, clearly fearing for her safety as she tucks the photo into her Buckeye bag, then hurries off the stage. Security restrains the crowd while she escapes. Your host picks up his copy of The Iliad and, with a final wave, exits stage right.)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is posting about The Cubicle Next Door by Siri L. Mitchell.

If you like blogging...which you must if you are reading will think this book is blogarific. After each chapter, there is a blog entry. The book is written in first person and contains some hilarious blog antics.

Imagine that you are an anonymous blogger, one who uses a silly name instead of your own, then imagine blogging about your work. Now imagine blogging about your cubicle mate of the opposite sex and calling him by an anonymous name.

I know some who have done just that.

But now imagine that your cubicle mate has discovered your blog and begins to read it out loud to you. EVERY MORNING.

The Cubicle Next Door is set in a civilian's view of working on a military post. That in itself is funny enough...then add that the main character is a tree hugging, anti-SUV lover, with a thing for Bollywood movies. (Her favorite it Bride & Prejudice.) Suddenly this civilian hippie is thrown into a cubicle next to an Air Force Pilot/Teacher who SUV. Can't you feel the love?

Also, The Cubicle Next Door has some wonderful moments of self discovery.

A delightful is an excerpt for you:The Cubicle Next Doorby Siri L. Mitchell Released Aug 06Excerpt from Chapter 1:
“So what do you think, Jackie?”
What do I think? Funny Joe should ask me that. He’s just finished reading my blog. He’s just quoted me to myself. Or is it myself to me? Do I sound surreal, as if I’m living in parallel universes?
I am!
The blog—my blog—is all about Joe. And other topics that make me want to scream. But the clever thing is, I’m anonymous.
When I’m blogging, I’m Jackie, Joe’s cubicle-mate when I’m not. And that’s the problem. Joe is asking Jackie (me) what I think about the Mystery Blogger (also me). And since I don’t want Joe to know the blog is all about me and what I think of him, I can’t tell him what I think about me.
My brain is starting to short circuit. So if I can’t tell him what I think about me, I certainly can’t tell him what I think about him, so I’m going to have to pretend not to be me. Not me myself and not me The Cubicle Next Door Blogger—TCND to my fans.
I have fans!
If I were clever I’d say something like, “Look!” and point behind him and then duck out of the room when he turned around to look.
But there’s so much computer equipment stacked around my desk and so many cables snaking around the floor that I’d break my neck if I tried to run away. So that option is out.
I could try pretending I didn’t hear him.
“SUVs. So what do you think about them?”
But then we’d basically end up back where we started.
So how did I get myself into this mess?
It was all Joe’s fault.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Happy 2nd Tuesday

It's election day. This means two things: 1. You will get no more recorded phone messages from candidates who don't even have the decency to use a human being. 2. The U.S. may be a very different place, politically, by this time tomorrow.

I normally try to avoid the subject of politics on my blog because I try to keep it light and focus on writing and my faith. Yes, my faith plays a huge role in the way I vote, as it should, but I don't expect to convert many Democrats on a blog that attracts about 10 people a day, mostly conservatives. Even the Dems I talk to sound very conservative when we drill down to core issues and values. They want the same things I do: security, a chance to prosper, low taxes, and a place where my kids can grow up without being exposed to the more unsavory elements of our culture (see my entry on Las Vegas).

So what separates us? Well, it's the way we get to our desires. Without getting into details, most Republicans, including myself, feel the government should stay out of the free market (thus keeping it "free") and allow businesses as much freedom as possible to prosper. When they prosper, jobs are created, everyone is happy. Well, not everyone. There will always be those who don't like "unfair" profits to corporations. Here's the thing: the only way to stop that is to have the government intervene. Then you no longer have a free market economy. You have socialism.

Okay, economics aside. The other reason I cannot vote Democrat is their ridiculous alignment with the pro-abortion community. It's the only issue that is literally life and death. I'll choose life, thank you. And, oh, by the way, abortion is a huge business in America. We're talking billions. Now I will start complaining about unfair profits.

Yes, I know all Dems aren't pro-abortion socialists. There are conservatives among them. And I also know that it's not safe to equate the GOP with conservatism any more. I do wish we could expand from the two party system and not feel like we're flushing our votes.

In the meantime, I'll continue to follow God's law as close as possible in the way I live and vote. Jesus commanded us to "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." He never said we'd like the Caesar we have. But He did tell us to love our God with all our heart, mind, and strength. That I can handle. There is no gray area with God.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Surviving Las Vegas

I'm home! Thirty-degrees never looked so good! I have plenty to say, including several top ten lists, but for now I need to wash Sin City off my grubby hide and get re-acquainted with my time zone (not to mention my wife).

I must say, though--YIKES!

Is this how far we've fallen? I feel like I've spent a week on the world's biggest porno set.

Oh, well. More to come later.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Leaving for Las Vegas

I'll be out all week. I fly out to Las Vegas tonight for the SEMA show. It's a big car and truck aftermarket show. I'll be working at the Sportchasis (Freightliner) booth and promoting Hensley's trailer hitches and brake controllers.

I must admit that I'm looking forward to seeing Vegas. It's one of those places that's part of Americana, albeit a dark side. There's something about a city built entirely on gambling that bothers me. I'll refrain from further comment. Maybe I'll have a new perspective when I return.

For a writer, it's a goldmine. You can people watch 24 hours. You can also eat 24 hours.

I couldn't help but notice in my hotel/casino where I'm staying, The Excalibur, you have to pay for internet, the gym, and anything else that might keep you off the casino floor. I won't be paying for internet. Really, I can get it free at McDonald's now.

I'll try to find a "hot spot," though, and get online. Pray for me. I'm sure I'll have plenty to talk about next week.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 Reasons to own a cat or two…

10. Prove your high school science teacher wrong--that a solid can indeed expand to fill its space, specifically a queen sized bed.

9. You’ve always wondered what a herd of buffalo would sound like at 3am but couldn’t afford the trip to Yellowstone.

8. If you were to die alone, your corpse would be disposed of quickly and efficiently.

7. You don’t have teenagers and always wondered what it’s like to have someone in the house who never talks and looks upon you as an inferior species.

6. Justify owning a laser pointer.

5. You need something to stop the heat that keeps pouring from your floor vents all winter.

4. After a trip to the vet, you can tell your friends the scars on your arms and face are from an encounter with a grizzly.

3. Your kitty will love you as long as you have access to the food and expend body heat.

2. You can laugh as the world’s most graceful animal slides off the back of the couch while in a deep sleep.

And the number one reason to own a cat or two…

1. A thin layer of fur on your clothing will certainly set a fashion trend.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is reviewing Jerome Teel's latest book, The Election..


Jerome Teel is a graduate of Union University, where he received his JD, cum laude, from the Ole Miss School of Law. He is actively involved in his church, local charities, and youth sports.He has always loved legal-suspense novels and is a political junkie. Jerome and his wife, Jennifer, have three children-Brittney, Trey, and Matthew-and reside in Tennessee, where he practices law and is at work on a new novel.


They seek ultimate power.Nothing can stand in theirway.Ed Burke has waited a lifetime to become president of the United States. He's not about to let his nemesis, Mac Foster, stop him now...especially when he's sold his soul for the Oval Office.Claudia Duval has lived a rough life. And finally, things have turned around for her after meeting the wealthy Hudson Kinney. But is all what is seems?When a prominent citizen is murdered in Jackson, Tennessee, attorney Jake Reed doesn't want to know the truth. He just wants to get his client off. But as he investigates, he uncovers a sinister scheme. A scheme that would undermine the very democracy of America...and the freedom of the entire world.

"The Election, by Jerome Teel, is a fast-paced, highly readable mystery filled with suspense, intrigue, and political conspiracy. Teel skillfully weaves together themes of faith, family, suffering, and providence in a way that not only compels, but enlightens."
David S. Dockery-President, Union University

Monday, October 23, 2006

A week in the life

My son Andrew presented me with the first paragraph of a story yesterday. I read it and realized he'd managed to do something that most writers never seem to fully grasp. He set the hook within three lines. I've always pictured him as a writer. He's extremely creative and sees things the way few do. I'm sure, while I'm still struggling with some low end publisher and barely selling enough to cover the advance, my son will be on the bestseller list at age 23. He'll be on the Today show, wearing something black and cool, looking bored to be there.

The latest blond anchor will ask him, "Did you always want to be a writer?"

Andrew will say, "Naah. I wanted to fly jets or go to Mars or something like that. The writing gig looked a lot easier."

"Is there anyone you'd like to thank for your success?" Blondie does the little hair flip and giggles.

His eyes will glisten and he'll choke up a bit. "My mom."

Isn't that the way it always goes? I know, Bill Cosby said it first. But it should probably be in the Bible somewhere, anyway.

We all have these little fantasies for our kids, don't we? We know darn well they'll make a lot of the same mistakes we did. We just hope we handle it better than our parents did. So far I think he's a much better kid than I am a father. My daughter, Sydney, doesn't even answer my calls anymore. And she's only 12.

I think the most important aspect of this little writing goal I've set for myself is to show my kids that it's good to dream. You don't have to settle for what life hands you. And when you dream, dream big. Going for it can never be a failure. Hiding from the possibility of failure is the only true tragedy.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 Chicken Soup Books for Real People...

10. Chicken soup for the Junior High Shop Teacher’s soul.

9. Chicken soup for the Postal Employee’s soul.

8. Chicken soup for the “Lost Luggage” Desk Attendant’s soul.

7. Chicken soup for Anyone Who’s Ever Read Anything by Al Franken’s soul.

6. Chicken soup for the Guy Driving Behind My Mother’s soul.

5. Chicken soup for the Detroit Lions Fan’s soul.

4. Chicken soup for the Fathers of Teenage Daughter’s soul.

3. Chicken soup for Anyone Who Ever Voted for an Ex-professional Wrestler’s soul.

2. Chicken soup for the Blogger’s soul.

And the number one Chicken Soup Book for real people...

1. Chicken soup for the Chicken’s soul.

I know, it's not a real people, but neither is Al Franken.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The loss of Covetousness

Critter Robin has done it.

She got the call from her agent yesterday that Steeple Hill is offering her a contract. She's the first of our little band to get that call, as we all knew she would be. No one works harder at this game than Robin.

There was a time, no so long ago, when I would have felt just a twinge of jealousy. We always say that's to be expected, natural. But I have a hard time with that. We're called, as Christians, to be beyond such feelings. After all, we've got an eternity with our Lord to look forward to. Why do we fret over what others here on earth have that we don't? It takes away our focus from God. That's why it's a commandment, people.

So I didn't jump up and down or giggle all over myself like my silly crit partners undoubtedly did. I'm the male in the group. I'm supposed to be like Clint Eastwood after gunning down an entire gang of Mexican bad guys. I just squint, shove a self-rolled cigarette between my lips, and peer off toward the horizon, where another mob of bad-guys awaits. Robin knows I'm proud of her because I grunt and don't spit chewing tobacco on her shoes.

Okay. I'm not quite that cool. I'll get giddy when I see her at the conference.

I can honestly say that I didn't feel the least bit jealous, though. What it does is inspire me. Despite the dire numbers thrown at newbies regarding the publishing business, there is hope for those who don't give up. Robin is like Han Solo--"Never tell me the odds." I like to think I'm that way, too. And Dineen. And Ronie. And Heather and everyone else who seems to stand apart from those who will give it one shot and go back to stamp collecting (I, myself, have a basement full of woodworking tools collecting dust).

This is what we do. This victory will erase the bitter memories of rejection after rejection for Robin. She'll do an blog interview soon and be asked if she ever had any doubts. "Ohhhhh Nooooooo," she'll say. "I just knew if I kept at it and gave it all to God's glory and kept improving my craft why one day I'd have my name on a book cover too I mean if that Collin's gal kin do it why can't I I'm just as witty and funny and charming and I don't use passive verbs and don't ya just love that new sitcom with the girl and the murders and what's with all these morons who post those rambling book reviews on Amazon why they can just BITE ME not a one of 'em has ever picked up a pen and probably think Harlequin is the height of literature and..."

Good job, Robin! (Key in theme song from "The Jeffersons")

Now get back to work.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is posting about Karen Kingsbury's latest book, Like Dandelion Dust.

About the Author:

USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America's #1 inspirational novelist. There are nearly 5 million copies of her award-winning books in print, including more than two million copies sold in the past year. Karen has written more than 30 novels, nine of which have hit #1 on national lists, including award-winning Oceans Apart, One Tuesday Morning, Beyond Tuesday Morning, the Redemption Series and Firstborn Series, and several other bestsellers, one of which was the basis for a CBS Movie-of-the-Week and Gideon's Gift, which is currently in production as a major theatrical release for Christmas 2007.
Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Don, and their six children, three of whom are adopted from Haiti.
About the Book:


Jack and Molly Campbell enjoyed an idyllic life (great house in a fancy neighborhood, high-paying job, and a beautiful little boy) in their small hometown outside Atlanta with their adopted 4-year-old, Joey. Then they receive the phone call that shatters their world: a social worker delivers the news that Joey's biological father has been released from prison and is ready to start life over with his son. (It's discovered that Joey's birth mother forged the signature of Joey's birth father, making it a fraudulent adoption.) When a judge rules that Joey must be returned to his father (a man who cannot separate love and violence), the Campbells, in a silent haze of grief and utter disbelief, watch their son pick a dandelion and blow the feathery seeds into the wind.Struggling with the dilemma of following the law, their hearts, and what they know to be morally right, the Campbells find that desperation leads to dangerous thoughts. What if they can devise a plan? Take Joey and simply disappear....LIKE DANDELION DUST.

Review by Mimi Pearson

Monday, October 16, 2006

America's Religion

No, I'm not a sports nut. In fact, this weekend I watched the first five innings of baseball I've watched in over two years. And those were spread over two days. Critter Robin's hubby commented that baseball is not a "real" sport. Of course, they live in Arkansas, where the combined total of that state's income probably wouldn't pay for one starting pitcher. Instead, they watch college football and play golf. I understand they even have one golf course with grass.

At any rate, I'm not one to argue. Professional and college sports, in general, bore me to tears. I think it's partially because, in the many compartments that make up my life, sports kept slipping farther and farther toward the bottom until it disappeared entirely. Hunting is way above football, and I don't have time for that anymore, so guess where that leaves the Detroit Lions? That's right--last place as usual.

More of my disdain for professional sports, though, lies in my own rebellion against the status quo of this country. The average American male knows more about the quarterback of his favorite team than he knows about his wife. We live in a society that is engrossed by 90% sports and 99% sex. Yes, I know that adds up to way over 100% but, thanks to Budweiser and professional wrestling, we've managed to overlap the two quite nicely.

If anyone thinks that I'm just a self-righteous Christian born to a Baptist deacon, forget it. The first thirty years of my life were spent pursuing the same lusts that I now rail against. If Hooters had been around when I was twenty I probably wouldn't have eaten anywhere else.

It's not so much a stretch that I can't seem to separate sports from America's sex fixation. It's a pretty short leap for a teenage boy to ogle a cheerleader's midriff to surfing the internet porn sites for the next ten years of his life. Right up until his first wife walks out on him.

I hadn't intended to go on a rant when I started this post. I really am happy for the Tigers and for Detroit, a city in desperate need of a bright spot on its gloomy horizon. I let my son watch some of the games with me this weekend and he got to see "the shot" that put the Tigers in the World Series. I hope he remembers that moment for the rest of his life, just as I remember guys like Kirk Gibson, Lance Parish, and Frank Tanana from the '84 Tigers and my father reflects on guys like Al Kaline, Willie Horton, and Norm Cash from the '68 team.

Unfortunately, our society has turned sports into a religion, and I will never allow my son to get to that point where he places the importance of a game over the One true God. Fifty-thousand people came to their feet at Comerica Park Saturday night over one man's home run. If Jesus himself walked out onto that ball field, performed miracles, and promised them all eternal life, most would have ignored Him, got up for another beer run, and returned once the game resumed. Welcome to post-Christian America.

I'll root for the Tigers for another week or two. But the Glory always goes to my Lord.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Top 10

Today's Top 10 is a joint effort between myself and Rob Walker, world famous novelist and winner of the 1977 Chicago Disco Fever and Jalapeno Eating contest. So, we give you...

Top 10 Ways to Guarantee a Best Seller...

10. Write a novel about leaves in the wind that whisper poetry into the ears of all your characters and each must act on his or her poem. High literature.

9. Write a novel from the point of view of a Bonsai Tree. No one's ever done it. It might lack for action but it will be chock full of inner monologue.

8. Write a novel about a man killed in the prime of his life only to come back as a ghost to stalk his wife who'd been estranged from him even before he was a ghost. Call it the Stalking Spirit.

7. Write a memoir of having had your gall bladder removed and fill it with poignant moments, tearful asides, and dedicate it to the American family values crowd.

6. Ghost write a book for Pamela Anderson.

Ghost detectives being all the rage...

5. Bring back Allastair Ransom as a ghost detective in the 21st Century. (He's Rob's character from City for Ransom. Try to keep up.)

4. Just use the title “Maximum Bodycount” and you’re in.

3. Make up a horrible past for yourself, write your “biography,” get on Oprah, get busted for lying, sell even more books because of the scandal, and retire rich.

2. Write a novel about a ghost detective who appears on Oprah, only she busts him for lying. He wasn’t a detective at all, but some low-rent mystery writer who’s now just a low-rent ghost. But he’ll make millions in the scandal when all his books go back into print. Unfortunately, his estranged wife gets all of it because he’s dead and she runs off to Rio with her pool boy, Raul.

And, to put this thing to rest, the number one way to guarantee a bestseller...

1. Lose your bid for the presidancy and write about the Earth's doom. Don't worry that your degree is in law. Oprah will never catch on. But after you're killed when a glacier runs over your SUV, you can come back as a ghost presidential candidate, marry Pamela Anderson (since she's not real either), and tell everyone "I told you so."

I hope that wasn't as painful for you as it was for me. This is what happens when you allow ghost bloggers on your site.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

How to Write a Log Line

This is a site for screen writers, but, as you probably know, there's little difference these days in our methods. This article talks about the objective and subjective story lines, the key elements to any succesful novel or screenplay. The article also provides a nice list of "ingredients" for a good tag line. That means the one liner we're always searching for when we pitch to publishers. Check it out.

Toss your log-lines in the comments section. I'd love to hear what everyone comes up with.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Violette Between by Alison Strobel

It's that time of the week! Time to do a blog tour! This week's tour is Violette Between.

Between Here and the PAST,


a place of longing for what has been rather than hoping for what could be.


Alison Strobel graduated with a degree in elementary education, and in the summer of 2000 she moved from Chicago to southern California where she taught elementary school for three years. It was in Orange County that she met her husband, Daniel Morrow, and the story developed for her first novel, Worlds Collide.

Violette Between is a poinant story of a true artist. When the love of Violette's life, Saul suddenly died, she died too. Then she meets Christian, who also is morning the loss of a loved one.

As Violette and Christian begin to feel something that they both thought was impossible. Tragedy strikes again. Christian finds Violette on the floor of his waiting room, that she had been painting to look like a New York rooftop restaurant.

As Christian holds a vigil at her bedside, begging her to come back to him, Violette is in a coma, traveling to a place where she meets her beloved Saul. And she finds that she may not want to come back!

What would it be like to choose a place between the past and the present?

Violette Between is a powerful character study of a woman finally relinquishing the past to move on, only to be thrust into the quandry of reliving that life and needing to make a choice.

For Christians, this will definitely make you think about heaven and the consequences of eternal life.

"Delving into the underside of complicated relationships, Alison Strobel takes readers to unexpected places, but doesn't hesitate to deliver redemptiom when needed."
---Melody Carlson, author of Finding Alice

Monday, October 09, 2006

Crystal Blue

That's what I call days like the one we had yesterday. It's what makes Michigan in October the best place in the world to be. I know, Wisconsin and Ohio and the other northern states are probably beautiful this time of year, too, but they don't have one thing Michigan has--me.

It sounds like I'm a little full of myself, but that's not the case. You see, a place is only a chunk of geography until it's painted over with the years and events of our own lives. I'm sure, that if I dropped into Colorado in the midst of autumn, I'd be stunned with its beauty, but I'd know it wasn't mine. Somehow, the dry leaves of Minnesota wouldn't smell quite the same as the dry leaves of my Michigan. The sky wouldn't be quite the same shade of blue, a blue so deep that it hurts to look at it. The pitch of the geese would be slightly off. The cacophony of Starling chatter from the oak trees wouldn't have quite the same intensity.

Each year I vow to embrace the fall. This weekend I think I did a pretty good job of that. From yellow-jacket cider mills to an afternoon on my deck, watching the sky, listening to the starlings, and smelling the sweet scent of changing leaves. All of this combined with the knowledge that God has given me this as a mere shadow of what awaits us in eternity. That must be what makes Heaven different. To all of us, it will be home. There will be no strangers. The sky will be our perfect shade of blue.

I see four letter word starting with "S" in our forecast for later this week. It will surely not accumulate, but it's always a reminder that we have only a short while to breathe in all that is Michigan in October.

Wherever you call home, embrace the fall.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Quote of the Week

Some friends of ours who moved to California several years ago sent us an e-mail yesterday regarding their youngest son, Logan, a second grader.

Logan came home jabbering about their first day on the computers in the library. "I had my own computer," Logan said to his mother. "It even had my name on in. Except they spelled it wrong. They spelled it L-O-G-I-N."

Have a great weekend.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Stephen King on Writing

His novels definately aren't CBA material, but he's the master of popular fiction. I loved his book "On Writing." Here's a Washington Post article by him about the writing life.

"The only things that can teach writing are reading, writing and the semi-domestication of one's muse. These are all activities one must pursue alone."
--Stephen King

Words to live by.

Friday Top 10

Top 10 Character Names...

10. A one legged woman named Peg.

9. An airport security guard named Pat.

8. A car wash attendant named Buff.

7. A duck hunter named Bill.

6. A fisherman named Gil.

5. A weathergirl named Gail.

4. A beach lover named Sandy.

3. A witch named Wanda.

2. A rock climber named Cliff.

And the number one character name...

1. A crook named Robin.

Okay, it was the best I could do on short notice. I need more ideas!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Christmas Shopping for your Writer

These are some cool writer gifts! Someone must be sure Robin has the "Caution: Mystery Writer" coffee mug at "The Write Thing."

Lots more where those came from!
To my darling wife: A "Mystery Writers Have a Clue" mug would be nice. Oh, and maybe a "You are so not going into my book" t-shirt!
Get 'em here...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It is time for another Christian Fiction Blog Alliance Tour! This week's feature author is GINGER GARRETT and her novel, Dark Hour!

Guess what? The publicists for Ginger have agreed to a book contest for each CFBA member's blog post on Dark Hour! It is up to the member on how they judge which commenter wins the free, comment and you might become a winner! Here's how I'l l do it. Whoever gives me the best topic for a Top 10 list gets the book. I'll do anything to avoid work!

About the author:
Ginger Garrett is an acclaimed novelist and expert in ancient women's history.Her first novel, Chosen, was recognized as one of the best five novels of the year by the Christian publishing industry. Ginger enjoys a diverse reader base and creates conversation between cultures.

In addition to her 2006 and 2007 novels about the most evil women in biblical history, she will release Beauty Secrets of the Bible (published by Thomas Nelson) in Summer 2007.
Ginger Garrett's Dark Hour delves into the biblical account of Jezebel's daughter and her attempt to end the line of David.

And now, a special Q&A with Ginger Garrett:

1.) First, tell us a bit about Dark Hour.

I was praying about what book to write after Chosen, and accidentally left my open Bible on the kitchen table. (A dangerous thing, since in my house, small children and large dogs routinely scavenge with dirty hands and noses for snacks!) As I walked past it, I saw a caption about someone named Athaliah and a mass murder. I stopped cold. I knew it was my story.
Athaliah was the daughter of Jezebel--a real woman in history--who tried to destroy all the descendents of King David in a massacre. God made a promise that a descendent of King David would always sit on the throne, and one day a Messiah would come from this line. If Athaliah succeeded, she would break the promise between God and the people, and destroy all hope for a Messiah.One woman, her step-daughter, Jehoshebeth, defied her. She stole a baby during the massacre and hid him. Between them, the two women literally fought for the fate of the world.

2.) What drew you to write biblical fiction?

The similarities between the lives of ancient women and our lives. We get distracted by their "packaging," the way they dressed and lived, but at heart, our stories are parallel.
3.) How much time is spent researching the novel versus writing the novel?

Equal amounts, and I don't stop researching while I write. I have a historical expert, probably the best in the world in his field, review the manuscript and point out errors. The tough part is deciding when to ignore his advice. He pointed out that most everyone rode donkeys if they weren't in the military, but a key scene in the novel involves riding a horse to the rescue. It would have been anti-climatic to charge in on a donkey! :) So I ignored his advice on that one.

4.) Dark Hour takes its reader deep into the heart of palace intrigue and betrayals. Were parts of this book difficult to write?

I left out much of the darkest material I uncovered in research. It was important to show how violent and treacherous these times and this woman (Athaliah) could be, but I tried to be cautious about how to do it. The story was so powerful and hopeful--how one woman's courage in the face of evil saved the world--but the evil was depressing. I tried to move quickly past it. I wanted balance. Our heroine suffers and some wounds are not completely healed in her lifetime. That's true for us, too.

5.) What would modern readers find surprising about ancient women?

They had a powerful sense of the community of women. They also wore make-up: blush, glitter eyeshadow, lipstick, powder, and perfume! They drank beer with straws, and enjoyed "Fritos": ground grains, fried and salted. Many of our foods are the same today, but they loved to serve pate made from dried locusts, finely ground. Ugh!

Monday, October 02, 2006

World's Worst Hunter

There was a time when October 1st rated up there with Christmas morning for me. That’s because 10/1 is the opening day of archery deer season in Michigan. Allow me to offer up a disclaimer before I continue: I am the world’s worst hunter. Bambi is quite safe while I’m in the woods, thank you. More serious hunters often question why I continue to try.

Why continue to try?

Because if I didn’t try, I never would have seen that bald eagle land on a branch so close that I could hear him ruffle his feathers. I’d never know that mice are quite active all day long as they scurry through dry leaves in search of some hunter’s pile of corn that’s supposed to be deer bait. I’d never know that feeling to the toes is lost at twenty-three degrees and four hours in a tree stand. (I feel a top ten list coming on, don’t you?). I’d never know that it takes approximately thirty-seven minutes for a box turtle to cover fifty yards of open ground. I’d never know that a kingfisher looks like a dark gray bomb as it hurtles toward the water at speed that should surely break its neck.

Sure, I could do it with a camera, but the chances of actually outsmarting an animal and providing meat for the table adds a bit to the drama. Never mind that a pound of venison costs the average hunter $134.17.

This Saturday found me Up North. That’s a place in Michigan, though you won’t find it called that on a map. Up North varies slightly for each person. This year it was the Rifle River Recreation Area. Saturday also found me watching four wood ducks paddling around in front of me. The hens have an interesting whistle. They don’t quack (did you know that, in mallards, only the hen quacks?), but they emit this soulful sort of whistle that seems to work quite well in attracting other wood ducks to the buffet. After watching them for a while, it occurred to me that I was duck hunting. I decided it was more fun to watch. That was until other ducks started flying in. A man with a gun can’t resist a flying target. I missed.

Besides, if I gave up hunting just because I always end up eating Purdue chicken all winter, I’d have to give up a lot of things. Writing, for starters. If I base my success on publication, I’d have a short career. Oh, but I can do better than that. How about Christianity? I totally suck at it. However, since Paul said the same thing (a slight paraphrase on my part), I think I’ll continue to push on toward the prize.

I have a point somewhere in here. I think that success is always something to strive for, but it’s only a way to measure our growth. I can’t imagine all that I would have missed had I quit hunting years ago. I can’t imagine what I’d miss if I suddenly deciding writing wasn’t worth it. And I don’t want to imagine what I’d lose if I turned my back on my faith simply because it was too hard in this world and I lose my direction on occasion.

I don’t get excited over October 1st anymore, although it is still my favorite time of year. As you get closer to God, you get better at appreciating everything that lies at the edge of whatever it is you think is important. The deer may or may not show themselves on October 1st, but the morning sun on the dew will always be there. Remember to give Him the praise this week. He will never give up on you.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 Reasons to be a United Methodist…

10. You don’t know what a steering committee is, but you’ve always felt called to be part of one.

9. You can go from potluck to potluck and never actually prepare your own meals.

8. You’re thinking about opening your own UM franchise.

7. If you don’t like the preacher, just give it a few weeks.

6. When you die, your name will be memorialized on a clock, pew, or cooking utensil.

5. You got a C minus in “Tongues I & II.”

4. If somebody annoys you, you can just go to the United Methodist church across the street.

3. If you pretend you’re not sure about joining, someone will bribe you with cake.

2. You have a choice between the “Low Guilt” and “No Guilt” services.

And the number 1 reason to be a United Methodist...

1. Even though outrageous ideas are taken seriously, by the time they get through committee they’ll be forgotten.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Writer's Life

My editor leapt up onto my desk this morning as I was tapping away at chapter 25 of my wip, Murder on the Side. She's rather smug, you know, in a cute, annoying sort of way. She stuck her nose into the screen and said, "You misspelled 'intoxication'."

"I know," I replied, though I always try to use "said." "I can see the red squiggly underline. I'll get it later."

She twitched a whisker and turned back to the monitor. "What does 'XXXX' mean?"

I stifled my desire to sweep her off the desk. Mostly because that normally results in a long trail of claw marks in the pine. "That means I forgot that character's name and I'll fill it in later."

She read through the paragraph again. "Isn't he your protagonist?"

Well shoot me for having a poor memory. "Listen, can I just get through this chapter? I don't need editing until it's done."

Another whisker twitch. She read another paragraph, stood, stretched, and yawned. "I'd suggest a lot more usage of the 'delete' key."

Editors have a way of doing that. Not the editors sitting inside publishing houses, bless their kind souls. I mean the "as we write" editors. I used to do some computer aided design (CAD) work. I had a boss who knew nothing about it. She'd often walk up while I was working and ask what this line was for and that circle was for. The machine didn't look anything like that.

I'd point out that most of the lines on the screen were construction lines. They're put there to help me create my final box, circle, arc, whatever, to the exact specifications.

Writing is a lot like that. When I sit for my morning session, most of what hits the screen are "construction words." I may write something like "Fred ran slowly toward the river." Now I know that "ran slowly" will have to become something more writerly later on, like "trotted," but I have to get the story on the page. Like Stephen King says, it's all about the story. Fix the other stuff later.

I still need my editor, despite her self-righteous attitude and the fact that she sheds all over my suits hanging in the closet. But it's often necessary to sweep her away. A few claw marks won't kill me.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A week in the life

Okay, it's over. The 2006 ACFW conference is history. It's been tough for me to sit this one out, but it's been nice not to feel pressured to have something ready to present to editors and agents. I think, as writers, we have to slow ourselves down sometime. This is a sloooow moving industry. They'll wait for me.

Critter Robin scored 2nd place in the suspense category of the Genesis contest. Colleen Coble, friend by association, mopped up the joint with 2nd and 1st place for book of the year in the suspense category. She was awarded Mentor of the Year last year, too. She is, without a doubt, one of the hardest working ladies in the industry, and always willing to help out a newbie. So buy her books. She rocks.

I should complete Murder on the Side, the first of my River Bend Mysteries Series, within the next week or two. I feel another twist burning in my little brain, so it may be a couple weeks. I have got to figure out how to handle the juggling act of editing previous works while writing the new. If I've got something that's several years old, do I scrap it and concentrate on the newer works? I'm thinking yes. I can always come back to the old one later. You know how those first attempts are--good ideas and...well...good ideas. Not much in the way of good writing. Editing those is harder work than starting over.

Sydney had her first b'ball game last week. It was a blowout--we lost. I kind of wonder when the 7th grade girls on the opposing team are taller than I am. My parent's house selling fell through, so they're back on the market, the journey westward on hold. I'll be heading north this weekend for a quick "Doe Camp" with dad. There won't even be any deer hunting, just ducks and maybe grouse. It's really about time away, cold nights and campfires, and the celebration of autumn, something that Michiganders have made into an art form.

So now I'm waiting to hear the reports from my buds who did go to the ACFW conference. They're surely crashing as I write this. Now back to work.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

City for Ransom by Robert Walker

Robert Walker has written over 40 novels now, and he says this is the novel that all those others were leading him up to. I believe it.

City for Ransom is set in 1893 Chicago in the midst of the World's Fair. Our hero, Alastair Ransom, Chicago Police Detective, is a man caught between the old and the new. The big man, who Walker actually referred to as the "Chicago Bear" (I loved that), has quite a history with what we'd call police brutality today, but in 1893 was quite the norm. Ransom struggles with this throughout the book, at the same time embracing the new technologies, like phones and forensics. It's a great peak into a time when law enforcement was going through growing pains between brute force and science.
Ransom is a character you either love or hate, which makes him all that much more enjoyable to read. You realize, as you journey through Chicago's cobblestone streets, that he hasn't yet decided whether he loves or hates himself. To my shock and horror, Walker provides Ransom with a love interest in the story. That is a subplot that is almost as interesting as the main plot. I won't say anymore less I ruin it for you.

The plot is that of a serial killer stalking the immediate vicinity of the fair, which, not surprisingly, increases public interest in the fair. The killer's method is brutal and dramatic, but Walker keeps the gore to a minimum. I especially liked the tie in to another imfamous event in Chicago's history--the Haymarket Riot.

I love history, and it's always fun to read a fictional novel set in a period and place I'm unfamiliar with. Chicago makes a great setting because so much has changed yet so much was the same. Even in 1893, it was a city famed for corruption and political scandal (You all know the joke amongst Chicagoans, right? Vote early and vote often). This was the city that would eventually give birth to men like Al Capone.

I read the reviews on Amazon before writing this. It's always dangerous to write historicals because this nation is awash with armchair historians who live for two things: reading about history and pointing out the mistakes fiction writers make when writing about history. I couldn't care less if a .44 Sharps was a rifle and not a handgun (I haven't checked on that). Mystery fans love a great plot and enticing characters, and that's what Walker delivers.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 things to do while everyone else is at the ACFW Conference…

10. Use the conference fee money to buy Coldstone Creamery ice cream for the neighborhood.

9. E-mail them and say you’re an acquisitions editor and need to see their complete manuscript before Sunday.

8. Have anchovy and onion pizzas delivered to their hotel rooms.

7. Call their spouses and ask why they never arrived at the conference.

6. Call the Dallas PD and tell them someone’s plotting a murder at the Marriott (the half-truths are the best ones).

5. Write like heck and fill up their e-mailboxes with chapters for critiquing.

4. Call the Dallas chapter of Girl Scouts and tell them they’ve got some easy sales at the Marriott.

3. Call Al Gore and request he speak, at great length, at the conference on the issue of global warming and how he was robbed of the presidency in 2000.

2. Arrange for a local aspiring acid rock band to provide the evening entertainment.

And the number one thing to do while everyone else is at the ACFW Conference...

1. Send a dozen black roses to all the editor’s rooms and sign the cards “Publish me or else—Love, Robin.”

Anyone have the number to a cheap florist in Dallas?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Special ACFW Conference Top 10...

Top 10 Worst things that can happen at the AFCW conference…

10. You discover your roommate can’t travel anywhere without her pet python.

9. Your roommate steals your best manuscript.

8. She still gets rejected by every editor in the joint.

7. Your room is beneath a junior high girl’s volleyball team (I speak from experience).

6. You complain to the editor at your table about the person in room 221 who snores like “a grizzly after a full salmon dinner” and guess what…

5. You discover you’ve misspelled the title of your book on all your one-pagers (sorry, pal).

4. The editor you’re interviewing with turns out to be the geeky guy you dumped in high school.

3. After a dinner of baked beans, steak, and potatoes you hop on an excessively slow elevator with a dozen editors and agents.

2. You, the keynote speaker, take a restroom break only to discover you’ve left your microphone turned on.

And the number 1 worst thing that can happen at the AFCW conference…

1. You gush all over Colleen Coble and tell her how much you just loved “Eyes of Elisha.”

There ya go, Dineen. You’ll get two Top 10 lists out of me this week. No extra charge.