Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bible Reading

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 23–25; Mark 6:1–29

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Awaken My Heart by DiAnn Mills

DiAnn is another good friend of mine whose book we are highlighting today. I first met DiAnn nearly four years ago when she was in town for the ACFW conference. She had time before the conference to meet with writers groups or other people. I was teaching at a Christian school in the Denver area, and I set up a time where we brought all the seventh grade through seniors together for an all-morning writing workshop on characterization. And it was fun! The students responded well to DiAnn's teaching, and we English teachers reaped the fruit of that workshop all year long.

So today, I'm very pleased to introduce you to DiAnn Mills and her latest book. After reading about her and Awaken My Heart, DiAnn answers a few questions I asked her.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Awaken My Heart

Avon Inspire (February 5, 2008)


DiAnn Mills


Award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. She is the author of numerous titles including novels, novellas, and a nonfiction. In addition, she's written several short stories, articles, devotions, and has contributed to several nonfiction compilations.

DiAnn believes her readers should "Expect an Adventure." Her desire is to show characters solving real problems of today from a Christian perspective through a compelling story.

Several of her anthologies have appeared on the CBA Best Seller List. Three of her books have won the distinction of Best Historical of the Year by Heartsong Presents, and she remains a favorite author by Heartsong Present's readers. Two of her books have won short historical of the year by American Christian Fiction Writers both in 2003 and 2004. She was named Writer of the Year for 2004 at the 35th Annual Mount Hermon Christian Writer's Conference and is the recipient of Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards for 2005 in the long contemporary and novella categories.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, ChiLibris, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops. DiAnn also belongs to Cy Fair Women's Networking, an exclusive professional women's networking organization.

She lives in sunny Houston, Texas, the home of heat, humidity, and Harleys. In fact she'd own one, but her legs are too short. DiAnn and her husband have four adult sons and are active members of Metropolitan Baptist Church.


1803, the colony of Texas

Awaken My Heart is set in 19th century Texas and tells the story of 18 year old Marianne Phillips, the daughter of a wealthy rancher, Weston Phillips. Weston is involved in a hostile struggle with Armando Garcia, the infamous rebel leader of the 'mestizos' who claim to own the land that Phillips has settled.

Marianne Phillips, the daughter of a wealthy rancher, has never agreed with her father's harsh treatment of the poor mestizos who first inhabited the colony of Texas. When rebels kidnap Marianne, in hopes her father will trade back their land for her freedom, she realizes her loyalty lies with her abductors, not her father, who plans to marry her off to the don of a nearby estate.

Armando Garcia is the locals' reluctant leader, but his people revere and depend on him. Knowing that without his leadership they'd be forced from their land, Armando accepts his role, but does not approve of the latest attempt to manipulate their enemy. When he learns that Marianne actually speaks his language, of her loyalty to his people, and of the faith that keeps her strong, Armando is faced with a difficult decision. Will his newfound love keep him from letting her go? Or will he set her free and risk losing their land forever?

How did you get started writing, and where has that journey taken you that you may not have expected starting out?
I had always written stories and poetry—yes, poetry. But I didn’t have the confidence to do much more than be a “closet writer.” I was a single mom of four boys for a lot of years. During that time, I wrote stories for them: birthdays, holidays, etc. Then in ’96, my wonderful husband said, “Stop saying one day you’re going to write a book. Just do it. Quit your job. I give you one year to see if you can get anything published.” That’s all I needed! I was challenged, and I was not going to lose.

How do you balance family life with writing?
My sons are grown, and my husband and I work at home. I must admit that I’m a workaholic, but I do believe my family comes first. Weekends are great family time. I love to cook; it relaxes me. So I combine that hobby with visiting with those I love.

How does your walk with the Lord affect your writing? And how do you balance time with the Lord with your writing schedule?
I view my writing as a ministry. It’s defined to writing and teaching writing. And with that mindset, I rely on God’s guidance and wisdom. My early mornings begin with Scripture reading, a devotion, and prayer.

Since my blog is geared to writers who want to improve their self-editing, could you briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision?
I could write another book on the process! Let me try to simplify the procedure below.
1. A story idea . . . This can come from a media report, a movie, a story from a friend or family member, or a dream. What if?
2. Characterization comes next. This is a lengthy process. I use a character sketch, several reference books - from psychology to body language. I live with my characters through a variety of settings and experiences.
3. The plot is developed by learning the character’s wants, needs, and goals. Motivation drives the plot.
4. Actual writing. I’m not a seat-of-the-pants writer or a detailed outliner. I’m somewhere in between. Sometimes I use note cards or an excel spreadsheet or whatever strikes me at the time. I establish a few big scenes and write them in random order. When I feel like the story has taken form, I begin arranging the scenes in chronological order, like a puzzle.
5. I use critique buds for grammar, plot, characterization etc.
6. Edit
7. Let it rest
8. Edit
I utilize the Micro-Soft Reader program. This is a free download that allows the writer to hear his/her manuscript audibly. This process is like a critique bud.
What kinds of things do you have to revise once the editor at a publishing house gets done with your manuscript?
That depends on the publishing house and the genre. Revision varies from adding motivation to clarity.

Would you tell us a little about your future projects?
I’m currently working on a romantic suspense series for Tyndale. It’s an exciting project!

Finally, would you discuss Awaken My Heart? The research, the idea, and the scope of the project?
Actually, I can best discuss it through an excerpt from an article that I wrote about my passion for this book.

Awaken My Heart is set in 1803, when Texas was Tejas, a colony ruled by Spain. Indians, Mestizos (native-Spanish lineage), and the elite ruling class of the Spanish lived and died here. The priests living in the Catholic missions helped educate and train the people in various crafts and how to serve God. From this culture was born my story of forbidden love.

Which brings me to one of my greatest heroes—Zorro. Who can forget the handsome, daring masked man who championed the poor and fought the injustices of his people? His flashing sword, generous smile, and chivalry would bend the strongest woman’s resolve. It also helped Zorro’s cause to be portrayed by Antonio Bandera in The Mask of Zorro (1998) and The Legend of Zorro (2005).

Is it no wonder that I call Awaken My Heart my Zorro book? My hero, Armando Garcia, is passionate about the cause of his poverty-stricken people, but his passion also extends to Marianne Wharton, the daughter of a wealthy American rancher. The wealthy and the peasant. The Diablo and his angel. And her daddy ain’t happy. Oops! I mean Marianne’s father is out for blood.

This isn’t the first book I’ve written about historical Texas. The Texas Legacy Series was set in the period of the Old West when lawlessness and unscrupulous characters crawled out from under rocks and attempted to claim the state. I chose unlikely heroes and heroines who made a courageous stand for what they believed in.

Hop into the saddle and grab the reins. This ride will keep you up all night. Let me hear from you!

Thank you so much, DiAnn! We appreciate your time and the opportunity to spotlight your work.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 20–22; Mark 5:21–43

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Soldier's Promise by Cheryl Wyatt

Today, I’m featuring my friend Cheryl Wyatt and her debut novel A Soldier’s Promise. Last year I got to know Cheryl through e-mail as a judge in several contests she coordinated. I don’t know how she had the time to do all that as well as find time to write, but she did . . . and she did it well. We finally met at the 2007 ACFW conference, and when she asked for people to be involved in a blog tour for A Soldier’s Promise, I jumped at the chance. Here’s an interview I had with Cheryl. And I’ll add a short review at the end.

Thanks you, Cheryl, for joining us today.

How did you get started writing, and where has that journey taken you that you may not have expected starting out?

I’ve written and journaled all my life but I didn’t start seriously pursuing fiction until about seven years ago while on bed rest with a pregnancy. Writing has taken me into a world with wonderfully supportive people who I might not have met otherwise. People who’ve become some of my closest friends. What a blessing. Writing has taken me into some verrrry strange places for research. LOL!

How do you balance family life with writing?

Ha! Prayer and patience is the only way. It is a challenge, but my husband works with me as best he can. He runs his own business so we do have some leeway. We trade time. It helps that I’m a habitual organizer and that I’ve simplified my life and am fiercely protective of my family and writing time. Asking God to order my day every day is a must. Asking Him to help me focus and know exactly what needs to be done that day. I try to only write when my children are sleeping or at school, and I have regular date nights with my husband. When I Matthew 6:33-it and put God, his stuff, and my family first...things go much better. Thankfully God has blessed me with the ability to write extremely fast.

How does your walk with the Lord affect your writing? And how do you balance time with the Lord with your writing schedule?

I touched on this a little in the last question, but I try to always put God first. There are days when I don’t but I try. Then I start feeling empty, out of sorts and overwhelmed with tasks. So I have to stay connected with Him because if I don’t, things start unraveling fast. LOL!

Since this blog is geared to writers who want to improve their self-editing, could you briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision?

I research and get to know my characters first. I figure out my structural point, which is goals, motivation, conflicts. Then I do a scene index and dive into my rough draft. The research and character development takes way, way longer than the rough draft. I usually get my rough draft out in a matter of days. Then comes rewriting and layering. This also takes longer because there are several passes. I usually spend a few weeks doing this. I am now turning in proposals so it’s challenged my system in that I have to write the synopsis before finishing the story. LOL! In self-editing, it’s helpful to have a list of things to go over as you make passes through the manuscript. I don’t self-edit as I write. I wait until the chapters are finished. I have a list of things to look for. Many of those things can be found on various contest score sheets. Some of it I can spot, but some of it others have to spot, such as have I kept my characters consistent and are they likable and endearing? It’s best to ask someone other than yourself that questions because there can often be a chasm between how we picture our characters and how they’re actually coming across on the page to others. So self-editing, for me, involves feedback from tough, honest critters who aren’t afraid to hurt my feelings.

What kinds of things do you have to revise once the editor at a publishing house gets done with your manuscript?

It has been different things, but I break revisions down into two categories. 1-things to add, and 2-things to delete. I go through the manuscript and delete everything I need to first, so I know what kind of word count I have for scenes that I need to add or build up. I always make a second copy of the manuscript in my computer, or make a hard copy and print it out before beginning though. It is very important to do this because your editor will give specific pages and lines they want you to address. Once you make one change, that automatically changes the line, so it can be hard to figure out if you don’t have a copy of the original manuscript as the editor’s line notes.

Would you tell us a little about your future projects?

Right now I am working on proposals for the next PJ’s (Pararescue Jumper) stories. There are seven stories total, but I’m not sure if they’ll all be contracted. Three have so far. There are seven men on the pararescue team, and each guy gets his own story. I’m working on the next proposal this week and, of course, finishing my contracted novel.

Finally, would you discuss A Soldier’s Promise? The research, the idea, and the scope of the project?


“My name’s Bradley. I’m eight and have cancer. I want to meet a Special Forces soldier more than anything. Well, almost anything. Having a family would be nice.”

U.S. Air Force pararescue jumper Joel Montgomery promised to make a sick child’s wish come true. Well, not the family part—not with Joel’s past. And so despite vowing never to set foot back in Refuge, Illinois, Joel parachuted onto the boy’s school lawn to a huge smile. But another smile unexpectedly stole Joel’s heart: that of Bradley’s beautiful teacher, Amber Stanton, who was trying to adopt the boy. And trying to show Joel it was time for new vows.


Joel’s story is the first one. He’s the team leader. USAF Pararescue Jumpers are basically Special Forces skydiving search and rescue paramedics. They’re the ones who often jump behind enemy lines to go after downed US pilots. Their training is as rigorous and only the elite make it, similar to training SEALs go through, only PJs have more air training whereas SEALs have more water expertise. PJs will leap into any kind of terrain, in any territory in pitch black from heights requiring oxygen administration. Part of their creed is, “So others may live.” They risk their lives to rescue others. I thought this career would make for fabulous heroes so I researched and ran with it. Joel’s story is the January release and received a Top Pick from Romantic Times. Manny’s story releases in March of 2008. Ben’s story releases in April of 2009. For more information on the next PJ stories once they get contracted, readers can visit my Web site and sign up in the space provided. (Join Cheryl Wyatt’s Author Mailing List).

Thank you for being with us today, Cheryl. I've really enjoyed chatting with you.
Thanks so much, Margie. This was great fun!


Margie’s comments: I like my romance reading to have some meat to it rather than just a sweet story. In other words, I like to read about real people with believable problems who grow and learn in the process of falling in love. Cheryl did that in A Soldier’s Promise. I’m a teacher, so I could relate to Amber right away. I’m a mom, so I could relate to Bradley’s illness and request. My mother was a nurse, so I grew up being familiar with nursing. But I’d never heard of the pararescuers, so Joel’s occupation intrigued me. And each of the problems with their pasts, Bradley included, were very believable and touching. This was a book I had a hard time putting down, and one where the characters are so real, I wonder what they’re doing today. I look forward to reading others in this series.

Please go visit Cheryl’s Web site to learn more about her and her books.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 17–19, Mark 5:1–20

Friday, January 25, 2008


As you know I've been thinking a lot on this topic. Today I want to share with you my mom's vision into heaven five days before she left her pain-ridden body to enter into it's glories. I wrote this and read it at her memorial service.

The Sunday evening before Mom died, four of us surrounded her bed. My sister, Kathy, and I were holding her hands. My daughter, Kathy, and my stepsister, Deb, were there, too.

Mom turned to me and said she was so tired. When would she be released from her body? I reminded her that soon she would be with the Lord in heaven. She replied, “Really? I’ll be going soon?”

Then she turned her gaze to the upper corner of her room as she had done several times over the previous two days. Only this time her big, beautiful smile, broke out, and her face was radiant. I asked her what she saw.

“Oh, it is so much more than I ever thought it could be.”

“What is, Mom?”

“Heaven.” Her voice sounded a little impatient, like she couldn’t understand why we couldn’t see it, too. “It’s so much more.”

“Can you describe it for us?”

She shook her head. “There just aren’t words to do that.”

I reminded her of the verse in 1 Corinthians that says, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him.”

She said, “Oh, yes, that. I couldn’t have ever imagined what it is really like.”

She continued to gaze into heaven as she lay in her bed, quietly taking it all in. The four of us watched her and cried, tears amidst the laughter. She was so joyful, and heaven was so real right then.

I remembered what Mom’s second husband, Jim, said just before he died. He described the music he heard and the colors he saw. So I asked Mom what colors, if any, she could see.

“Only one,” she said. “A real clear, bright blue—more vibrant than any blue you can imagine.”

“What about people? Do you see any?”

“Oh, yes. They are on the periphery. Lots of them. So many. . .and I know them all!” She said this with wonder in her voice.

“Do you see your parents?”

She nodded. “Oh, yes.”

“Your grandparents?”

“Yes, they’re there, too.”

“What about our daddy?” I asked this question for both my sister and me. He'd committed suicide 26 years before.

Her eyes moved as she looked for those I asked about.

“Yes, he’s there.”

“What are they doing, Mom?”

“They’re standing there waiting for me to come so they can shout, ‘Hallelujah!’”

She was so excited she practically shouted the last word.

Then I asked if she could see Jesus.

“Oh, no. No. Not until Richard gets here.”

All during this time several nurses and one of the social workers came in, checking on Mom. Some, when they realized what was going on, stayed to hear some of what she was saying, but they all left with tears in their eyes. Ron, Deb's husband, and Roger joined us, too. Only Mom’s eyes were dry all during the two hours and more that she looked into heaven.

After one of her short rests, she told me, “My eyes are dancing.”

When I asked what she meant, she said, “There’s so much to see, my eyes are dancing trying to take it all in.”

At one point she said she could feel God’s presence. It permeated everything. She said heaven was so full of God that He overflowed the space and wrapped around her. At this point she said she was no longer afraid of the final journey because of God’s presence surrounding her and wrapping her in His love.

About 8:30 Richard called for final directions to the hospice center. When Mom roused shortly after, I told he would be there in just a few minutes. At that point, Mom sat up in bed, raised her arms in the air, and shouted, “Praise the Lord, oh, praise the Lord.”

Then when Richard arrived, she reached her arms out for a hug, gave him a big smile, and said, “Richard, I get to go to heaven now!”

Richard says that when Mom woke the next morning and realized she was still in her room at the hospice center, she was very disappointed. But she remembered what she’d seen the evening before, and she knew it wouldn’t be long before she would see her Savior.

How I have clung to these moments with Mom, because I believe the Lord allowed her to have this glimpse before she went not only to encourage her for her final journey but also to comfort those of us left behind. It certainly has made me long for heaven that much more.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 9–10, Mark 3:20–35
Saturday's Bible reading: Isaiah 11–13, Mark 4:1–20
Sunday's Bible reading: Isaiah 14–16, Mark 4:21–41

Have a wonderfully blessed weekend!

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Earlier this week my sister sent me a paper my nephew Jared wrote for school (he's in 7th grade). We're all facing the one-year anniversary of my mom's physical death, her entrance into heaven. So of course she's on our minds these days.

Jared graciously gave me permission to post this here:

Jared Anderson
English 1
January 20, 2008

My Grandma

My grandma was the kind of person you could look up to. She was a strong Christian and was someone who would always think of the positive things in life. She had many illnesses and had surgery more than 20 times, but she was full of life even then.
My grandma had a kind of feeling about her- a warm fuzzy feeling that made even the most exotic stranger feel welcome. She would always give to good causes, even if she didn’t have the money.
I only got to meet my grandma’s third husband. He is still alive, but the other two died, one from suicide, and the other from age. Even though she had two other husbands, she still loved her third husband even as much.
When she died, I was extremely sad a losing such a close friend. She was always there for me, even when she was dying. She would love to give me advice when the going go rough. The last time I saw her, I sort of knew that it would be the last time. She knew too.
My grandma is my role model because she was strong even to the end. She was also a strong Christian and loved everyone and everything. I know she went to heaven. My grandma is my idol.

We miss Mom, but we cherish the memories and the many lessons she taught us through her everyday life.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 7–8, Mark 3:1–19

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fallen by Matthew Raley

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


(Kregel Publications February 29, 2008)


Matthew Raley


Matthew Raley is senior pastor of the Orland Evangelical Free Church in northern California, where he lives with his wife and two young children. For fun, he enjoys playing chamber music with friends, giving occasional solo recitals, and playing first violin in the North State Symphony. This is his first book.


Jim was at work when his eyes drifted to the coffee shop visible from his office window. An attractive woman driving a Mercedes pulled up to the curb . . . and Jim’s married pastor emerged from the car. When Jim delves deeper into his pastor’s world, will he be able to handle what he discovers? Is he right to suspect that Dave is having an affair? In the behind-the-scenes church battle that ensues, Jim is torn between duty to his church and a desire to show grace. A ripped-from-the-headlines drama of suspense that keeps you engaged to the last page.

Fallen is the story about Jim’s relationship with Dave—how Jim tries to do the right thing to keep Dave accountable, but finds the situation getting worse and worse. It’s also about Jim’s other relationships. Just as he discovers hypocrisy in Dave, Jim discovers his own sins against his wife and daughter.

Margie's comments: Fallen is a sobering look at the moral issues of our day. When a pastor falls, it's public and easy to point fingers. But how many of us ignore our own weaknesses and failures, yes, even hypocrisy, while we judge others. I appreciate the emphasis on what living in grace and dealing with others with grace means in a practical sense. Fallen is not an easy book to read, but it is definitely right on the mark in the issues it covers.

Daily Bible reading (yesterday): Isaiah 3–4, Mark 1:23–44
Daily Bible reading (today): Isaiah 5–6, Mark 2

Monday, January 21, 2008

In Heavenly Love Abiding

As I've mentioned before, our daughter moved to London this past weekend. She arrived safely yesterday and gave us a call to let us know she was okay and settling into the apartment her company has. She'll be looking for her own place in the next two weeks, getting a bank account set up, getting her own phone (hopefully with a US number combined with it *smile*), and taking overnight trip to Paris on the train.

Someone asked me yesterday at church how I was doing. And it depends on when you ask me. Most of the time I'm very happy for her that this dream is coming true for her. But I'm already missing her terribly. I told her Thursday evening when we were saying our good-byes that this was harder than sending her off to college the first time. It doesn't help that a year ago we were sitting at my mom's deathbed. However, I'm so thankful that neither of these good-byes are permanent ones. We will one day see Mom in heaven, and we'll see Kathy at least twice a year, possibly more if we can afford a trip or two over there.

A dear friend prayed with me Saturday evening, and she reminded me once again that my losses aren't permanent, that God wants me to rest in His love—trusting His power and provision, His leading. I know those things, but I need to be reminded of them often. This morning in my quiet time, the Lord gave me Isaiah 40:27–31, reminding me that I exchange my weakness for His strength so that I can soar above the difficulties of life. And then this hymn written by Anna Waring more than 100 years ago. (In case you want to sing it, many hymn tunes fit, but the one I like best is "The Church's One Foundation.")

In heavenly love abiding, no change my heart shall fear.
And safe in such confiding, for nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me, my heart may low be laid,
But God is round about me, and can I be dismayed?

Wherever He may guide me, no want shall turn me back.
My Shepherd is beside me, and nothing can I lack.
His wisdom ever waking, His sight is never dim.
He knows the way He’s taking, and I will walk with Him.

Green pastures are before me, which yet I have not seen.
Bright skies will soon be over me, where darkest clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure, my path to life is free.
My Savior has my treasure, and He will walk with me.

Have a blessed day!

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 1–2, Mark 1:1–22

Friday, January 18, 2008

Four Things About Me

This is kind of fun. My good friend and former neighbor, Katie, sent this to me last week.

I'll look forward to hearing back from all of you, either by commenting here or posting on your blog. I know that something similar has already made the rounds, but this is the first time I decided to participate. I know, I know. But I rarely send anything on to my friends and family.

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1 Insurance clerk, McAllen General Hospital, McAllen, Texas

2 Teacher (1st grade, Garland, Texas; 4th grade and high school Spanish, Normal, Illinois; high school English and Spanish, Denver, Colorado)

3 Camp Kitchen manager, Camp Eden, Golden, Colorado

4 Freelance Editor, Writer

Four places I have lived:
This is hard! We moved fourteen times by the time I was nine. Okay, let’s give it a shot, but I think some are going to be combined. I’ll try to go in order.
1 Childhood places: Craig, NE; Costa Rice, Peru (my parents were missionaries); Kearney and Omaha, NE, McAllen, Texas

2 Garland, TX

3 Normal, Bloomington, Hudson, Illinois

4 Golden, Westminster, Colorado

Four Places I have been on vacation:

1 Arizona (Phoenix/Grand Canyon)

2 Colorado (before we lived here, both as a child and an adult)

3 Yellowstone National Park, Black Hills

4 Canada, Ecuador (missions trips with sightseeing and other touristy things thrown in)

Four of my favorite foods:

1 Chocolate - in any form! (gotta be honest!) (This was Katie’s response, but I’m with her!)

2 Fried Chicken (and I hate to admit I hated it growing up!)

3 Steak

4 Fettuccine Alfredo

Four places I would rather be right now:
Ummm . . . I really can’t think of any. Even in winter, Colorado is the best place to be, in my opinion. So . . . I’m changing this to places I would like to visit:
1. England (and not just because my daughter is there! I’ve long wanted to visit.)

2. Scotland (same as above)

3. Alaska

4. New Zealand

Four friends or relatives I think will respond first:
I don’t know. You readers don’t comment very often . . . so this is pure guesswork! LOL

1 Linda

2 Jill H.

3 Carole

4 Paula

Here’s what you’re supposed to do (but, believe me, it won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t!)
Copy this post into an e-mail or your blog. Delete my answers and put your own in.
Then, send this to a whole bunch of people you know INCLUDING the person who sent it to you.
The theory is that you will learn a lot of little known facts about those who know you.

Remember to send it back to the person who sent it to you... (I’m sending Katie an e-mail right now!)

Daily Bible reading: Geneses 43–45, Romans 15:1–13

Saturday: Genesis 46–48, Romans 15:14–33

Sunday: Genesis 49–50, Romans 16

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Busy Times

Of course my closest friends and my family would ask, "When isn't it busy for you?" And the answer is "Never." Sigh. I can't seem to function if I don't have at least two or three things going on at once.

But there are times, like today when I promised the next installment to parallel construction, that something is just one too many things to keep up with. So . . . today I'm skipping the grammar lesson.

Our daughter is moving to London this weekend, leaving late tonight for the first leg of her trip. She and a friend are spending a couple of days in New York before flying on to London late Saturday night. So tonight she's coming for dinner and we've invited several close family friends to come later to bid her good-bye and let her know how much she's loved and supported in this latest adventure. God is good.

So I'm not going to make any promises about when we'll get back to grammar, except that we will.

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 41–42, Romans 14

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Christian Writers' Market Guide 2008 by Sally Stuart

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Christian Writers' Market Guide 2008

WaterBrook Press (January 15, 2008)


Sally Stuart


Sally Stuart has been writing for the last 40+ years, and has been putting out the annual "Christian Writers' Market Guide" for the last 23 years. Her other writing includes several Christian education resources books, a children's picture book, a basic writing text, writing resources, and a western novel--plus hundreds of articles and marketing columns. She writes marketing columns for the "Christian Communicator," "Advanced Christian Writer," and the Oregon Christian Writers' Newsletter. She speaks and teaches at Christian Writers' Conferences nationwide. Sally is the mother of 3 and grandmother of 8. She and her husband, Norm, spend their free time vacationing on the Oregon coast.

Check out her blog!

The essential reference tool for the Christian writer, Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide is now in its 23rd annual edition!

Check out the section on Blogging on page 69...the CFBA is listed!

Writers’ Conference listings, Book Publishers, Magazine Publishers, and a Bookstore filled with the resources you need to be successful in this business. Get a Book Contract or Manuscript Evaluation, and check out the Writer’s Resource links. This book has all you need to connect to all these valuable helps for the beginning, intermediate, or professional writer.

To keep you up to date with the latest marketing news, visit Sally Stuart’s new marketing blog, Christian Writers’ Marketplace, at

A new, updated version of the Christian Writers’ Market Guide is available about January 15 each year.

Margie's comments: I've been getting the Market Guide for a long time. It is invaluable for marketing, for seeing what's out there, for making connection with other writers and editors, for learning about conferences in my area, and so much more! Now that it's on CD, I don't have a problem loaning out my copy to a new writer so they can begin to get a grip on marketing their writing. Highly recommended! This truly is a must-have for every serious writer.

Daily Bible Reading: Genesis 39–40, Romans 13

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Parallel Construction, 2

Last night we had our monthly ACFW chapter meeting. I am president of this wonderfully supportive and fast-growing group. We had eighteen people in attendance last night, most of whom are members. Wow! It was really good to see so many. How good God is!

Okay, today let’s look at the examples I gave yesterday and see why they are faulty and what to do to fix them.

The lecture was long, a bore, and uninspiring.
Long and uninspiring are adjectives; bore is a noun. In a series like this, the words need to be the same part of speech in order to be parallel. So changing the misfit word is all that’s needed: The lecture was long, boring, and uninspiring.

Planning a surprise party calls for organizing, scheduling, and cunning.
Again the problem is within the series. The first two words, organizing and scheduling are gerunds. (That’s a word that looks like an –ing verb but acts as a noun.) Cunning is a straightforward noun, since there is no verb “to cunn.” So we need to look for another verb that is similar in meaning and turn it into a gerund to match the other two, or we need to change the gerunds to straight nouns. Two possible solutions for this (and there could be more, depending on your choice of words) are: Planning a surprise party calls for organizing, scheduling, and scheming. OR Planning a surprise party calls for organization, cunning, and scheduling skills.

He had always preferred talking to listening, and to give rather than to take direction.
Talking and listening are gerunds; to give and to take are infinitives (to + verb = the basic verb form). Because this is a comparison, we need to either make these all infinitives (which makes the sentence even more awkward) or change the infinitives to gerunds. So: He had always preferred talking to listening, and giving rather than taking direction.

Her responsibilities were the management of the PR department and to attend trade shows.
Again this is dealing with parts of speech. The first responsibility listed is a noun (management), the second one is an infinitive (to attend), So two ways to fix this one: Her responsibilities were to manage the PR department and to attend trade shows. OR Her responsibilities were the management of the PR department and attendance at trade shows.

A computerized database index needs to be reorganized when it has become fragmented, or to correct the skewing of values.
The focus of what is happening changes from the database index to what the person operating it should do. There aren’t two subjects in this sentence, only one: the database index. So passive voice is appropriate here. A computerized database index needs to be reorganized when it has become fragmented or when its values have become skewed.

She told him to get to the hotel by six o’clock, that he should check with the concierge for messages, leave his luggage at the front desk, and to wait for her in the lobby.
These are phrases in a series, and the wording must be the same for each. So try: She told him to get to the hotel by six o’clock, check with the concierge for messages, leave his luggage at the front desk, and wait for her in the lobby. OR She told him to get to the hotel by six o’clock, to check with the concierge for messages, to leave his luggage at the front desk, and to wait for her in the lobby.

Tomorrow we’ll have a book review and get back to some more examples of faulty parallelism on Thursday.

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 36–38, Romans 12

Monday, January 14, 2008

Parallel Construction, 1

As promised this week we'll discuss parallel construction.

Sometimes an editor will write, in the margin next to a particular sentence, faulty parallelism or not parallel. I’ve had questions as to what this means, but without specific examples from the questioner, I can't easily answer the question because there are so many reasons for faulty construction.

In simple terms, faulty parallelism is a clumsy sentence or paragraph that doesn’t mesh with the words, phrases, or sentences around it. Grammatically the writer is jumping from one type of construction to another.

Anne Stillman in Grammatically Correct states it this way: “Ensuring parallelism in your writing does not mean that every sentence should be structured the same way. What it does mean is that if you are creating a sentence, a list or a passage that contains elements related in purpose or structure, these elements must be presented in the same grammatical form. Thus, you must not got arbitrarily from the active voice to the passive, from the second person to the third, from the present tense to the past, from a series of adjectives to a noun. You must also be consistent in your use of minor words such as prepositions, articles, pronouns and conjunctions.”

Here are some examples of faulty construction (also taken from Grammatically Correct):

The lecture was long, a bore, and uninspiring.

Planning a surprise party calls for organizing, scheduling, and cunning.

He had always preferred talking to listening, and to give rather than to take direction.

Her responsibilities were the management of the PR department and to attend trade shows.

A computerized database index needs to be reorganized when it has become fragmented, or to correct the skewing of values.

She told him to get to the hotel by six o’clock, that he should check with the concierge for messages, leave his luggage at the front desk and to wait for her in the lobby.

See if you can come up with sentences that will correct the faulty construction in each of these sentences. We’ll check your answers tomorrow, as we discuss what makes them faulty and what to do to correct them.

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 33–35, Romans 11:19–end of chapter

Friday, January 11, 2008

Weekend Bible Reading

On Monday I will have more grammar tips, this time on parallel construction and what it means to our writing. And I'm mulling over various topics to explore further here.

For you writers out there, check out Susan May Warren's blog Book Therapy. She's going step by step on how to set up and write a novel. And there's place for the braver ones to submit their "homework" for Susan and Rachel Hauck to evaluate and help out. I highly recommend it for all writers, pubbed or yet-to-be pubbed!

Have a blessed weekend.

If you're reading through the Bible with me, I hope you're already as blessed, convicted, and in love with God as I am! Each day I ask the Lord to show me what He has for me out the scripture I'm reading. And each day He has answered. He is so good!

Friday Bible reading: Genesis 27–28, Romans 9:16–33
Saturday Bible reading: Genesis 29–30, Romans 10
Sunday Bible reading: Genesis 31–32, Romans 11:1–18

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bible Reading

Genesis 25–26, Romans 9:1–15

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Happily Even After by Marilyn Griffith

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Happily Even After (#3 - Sassy Sistahood Series)

(Steeple Hill January 1, 2008)


Marilynn Griffith


Marilynn Griffith is mom to a tribe, wife to a deacon and proof that God gives second chances. While best known for her colorful novels about friendship, family and faith, Marilynn is also a speaker and nonfiction writer.

Her nonfiction has been included in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE CHRISTIAN WOMAN'S SOUL and several other devotionals and magazines. Currently, Marilynn is editor of the SISTAHFAITH:BELIEVING BEYOND SHAME anthology. She is also the founder of, a blog for faith fiction readers.

Marilynn is the author of six novels dealing with issues such as teen pregnancy, AIDS, abstinence, stress relief, single parenting and marriage. Her recent fiction titles include TANGERINE and IF THE SHOE FITS.

Marilynn has served as Vice President and Publicity Officer of American Christian Fiction Writers. She speaks to youth, women and writers about believing beyond boundaries and daring to reach dreams.

Marilynn lives in Florida with her husband and seven children whom she taught at home for seven years. When not chasing toddlers, helping with homework or trying to find her husband a clean shirt, she can be found scribbling furiously on her next novel.

To book Marilynn for media interviews, speaking engagements, Serious Fun fiction parties or book club call-ins, please contact her thru her WEBSITE.

Superwoman doesn't live here!

I marry a gorgeous executive, have a baby, lose all the weight (most of it), and move to a fine house in the suburbs with a welcoming new church. Wait...did I say welcoming?

One teeny waaah! and new mothers and their crying babies are exiled to a separate room. At least there's some enlightening conversation. Like about my husband and issues I didn't even know about!

And then there's my aptly named mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth, who can't stand me.

I'm about to lose my mind! So it's high time for a visit to the Sassy Sistahood for some much-needed advice about men, marriage and motherhood!

The Sassy Sistahood: They get by with a little help from their friends.

Margie's Comments: Happily Even After is an enjoyable read—convicting, too. Tracey, a new mother, is still adjusting to marriage, a "nosy" mother-in-law, and a new church. In the shuffle she's lost her identity trying to conform to everyone's expectations for her. Many times hilarious, often thought-provoking, this an excellent portrayal of how most women struggle in these situations. I ended my reading of this third book in a series with a satisfied sigh. Definitely a must read, especially for those who find themselves in one or more of these situations.

Today's Bible reading: Genesis 23–24, Romans 8:22–38

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Confusing Comma, 3, continued

Let’s jump right in to these sentences. Do they need commas and why?

4. Without any obligation, order your sample record today.
This does need a comma for clarity. This prepositional phrase has a natural pause after it, and therefore would use the comma. However . . .

5. In a few cases you will find a winner.
Usually, if one short prepositional phrase begins the sentence, it doesn’t need a comma after it. And since the trend is going toward fewer commas, this is a good place to delete one. But . . .

6. At the edge of the deep Maine woods near Moosehead Lake, he built a small log cabin.
There’s always the exception J. (Yikes! I just realized I forgot the e on Maine yesterday. Just proof that even editors need editors J.) Because this sentence starts out with three prepositional phrases, we need the comma—to indicate a pause, if for no other reason. Without it, reading this sentence makes me breathless.

7. Consequently, Tom must make the decision.
Single adverbs at the beginning of sentences—especially those that end in –ly—usually have a comma after them. Then and now would be the exception. If these words flow smoothly into the sentence (think Now what? or Then let’s go.), don’t put a comma after them. If it’s a “throwaway” word, like well or oh, then definitely put in the comma.

I hope this discussion on the introductory comma is helpful to you. Please leave a comment if you have more questions about this, or any other punctuation/editing confusion.

Today’s Bible reading: Genesis 20–22, Romans 8:1–21

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Confusing Comma, 3

I’ve had a lot of questions over the last few months about the use of the introductory comma, the comma used to set off introductory material in a sentence.

Let’s look at the following sentences without commas. Try to determine if a comma is needed, and if so, where the comma should go. (The examples I’m using come from Punctuation Plain and Simple by Edgar C. and Jean A. Alward.)

1. Walking through the woods on a brisk fall day can provide us with many rewarding experiences.

2. Having checked all accounts receivable the clerk concluded that somebody must have given him $24 too much.

3. To achieve the highest standards possible the school committee hired the best-qualified teachers available.

4. Without any obligation order your sample record today.

5. In a few cases you will find a winner.

6. At the edge of the deep Main woods near Moosehead Lake he built a small log cabin.

7. Consequently Tom must make the decision.

Okay, now let’s look at the answers and the reasons we use or don’t use a comma in these sentences.

1. Walking through the woods on a brisk fall day can provide us with many rewarding experiences.
This sentence doesn’t need a comma. The gerund phrase (Walking through the woods on a brisk fall day) is the subject of the sentence and can’t be separated from its predicate (can provide).

2. Having checked all accounts receivable, the clerk concluded that somebody must have given him $24 too much.
This is a participial (adjective) phrase describing the clerk. So it needs to be set apart from the rest of the sentence with a comma. Even if we moved that phrase to after clerk, we would need to set it off with commas: The clerk, having checked all accounts receivable, concluded that somebody must have given him $24 too much.

Hint: If you can put the participial phrase from the beginning of the sentence into the sentence somewhere, it will need commas, and therefore, needs a comma when used as an introduction to the sentence.

3. To achieve the highest standards possible, the school committee hired the best-qualified teachers available.
This is an infinitive phrase (to achieve is an infinitive: to + a verb). Again, for clarity and because of the natural pause after such a phrase, we need the comma.

That’s enough for today. Tomorrow we will cover the four other examples of introductory commas.

Today’s Bible reading: Genesis 18–19, Romans 7

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Weekend Bible Reading

Today's Bible reading: Genesis 13–15, Romans 5

Sunday's Bible reading: Genesis 16–17, Romans 6

Friday, January 4, 2008

Lead, Kindly Light

For a person who loves to see what's ahead on the road of life, I'm not allowed that luxury anymore. And from the hymn history I read this morning, neither was John Henry Newman. (And many other godly men and women in the past and in 2008. So I know I'm not alone on this path.)

Here are the words:

Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on;
Keep Thou my feet: I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on;
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years.

So long Thy pow'r has blessed me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

That second verse jumped out in bold at me this morning. How that describes me. But I want to be like Abraham in Romans 4:21: He was absolutely convinced that God was able to do anything he promised.

Here's the story behind the hymn. At 32, John was a leader in the Church of England, sent to Italy to meet with Catholic leaders there. While there, he became ill with Sicilian fever. Still sick, he boarded a ship back to England. He wanted to get home. But no wind and a heavy fog kept the ship from being able to navigate or sail. In this stillness, John was restless, no longer in control of his life. He penned these words. And kept praying that God would move the ship.

Finally, there was a break in the fog, and one star shone through. The ship's captain told Newman, "The star is shining tonight. If a wind rises, we can chart our course. At night one little star is sufficient."

Newman realized that he'd been looking for dazzling sunlight to guide him through life. He wrote this in his journal, then concluded with, "but He sent me the kindly light of a star to show me the way one step at a time."

That's all we really need—light on the path to see one step at a time. And our hand tucked securely into His. God is good.

Bible Reading for today: Genesis 10–12, Romans 4

I'm hoping to return to some self-editing tips on Monday. Have a blessed weekend.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Bible Reading

Busy writing and editing today, but I didn't completely forget to post the Bible reading for the day, in case any of you are reading with me :).

Today's Bible reading: Genesis 6–9, Romans 3

I'm already benefiting from the readings each day. God is so good! And His love for us is amazing. These passages today, especially, reinforced this in my mind once more.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Back to Work

January 2. Back to work day. I took all of last week off. Did a lot of reading, a lot of organizing. Culled through my books—decided what to sell, what to keep. Cut into the TBR piles/boxes/bookshelves. Yeah, I have a lot of books! But between books from ICRS in 2005 and 2006 and books I received for judging in various contests, there were a lot of freebies in those piles :).

Now it's back to work. Over the holidays book ideas galore popped into my head. Now it's time to see which one is viable. Plus continuing to work on the rewrite of my romantic suspense. And I have a January 15 deadline to meet with the last of my caregiving devotionals. Then I have at least five proofreading and editing projects to work on. So I'm not lacking for work!

How about you? Are you getting back into the swing of things? Did you make some resolutions for this year? Mine are usually pretty vague, simply because I find that those made with my desires and wishes almost always get changed. The Lord is continually showing me that His way is best. But I still have goals I strive to work toward accomplishing—like reading the Bible through this year, learning more of God's love and grace.

Today's Bible reading: Genesis 4–6, Romans 2

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Sitting in my recliner watching the Rose Bowl Parade, I can hardly believe we are at the beginning of another year. I love the prospect of a year untarnished, full of hope.

This year I'm committing to read through the Bible, something I've not done for a long time. While the New American Standard is my version of choice, usually, I've chosen the New Living Translation to read this year. This will force me to slow down and pay attention to what I'm reading. Out of the many reading plans I looked at, I chose the blended reading schedule from Back to the Bible. I'm inviting you to read with me this year, so I'll post the daily reading schedule each day.

(That will make me post every day, too!)

Today's reading: Genesis 1–3, Romans 1s

Verse for today: Philippians 3:10–14

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;

in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

May you all have a blessed and prosperous New Year!