I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Teeny Flowers

Can you hold this, Mommy?

My baby, already two and a half, is getting to the age where she has "treasures." Packing to go to daycare in the morning is quite the production. As I'm busy packing actual necessities like her lunch, she's busy bringing me trinkets for safekeeping.

By the time we depart, I've got at least two "guys" (stuffed animals), a couple of books, a Mardi Gras necklace, keychain flashlight, two hair clips, spare bandaid, Minnie Mouse ears and a plastic strawberry stuffed into my already overflowing purse. Even when I don't think it's possible to fit another guy, I can't let her down when she trusts me to guard her treasures. It's part of my job. What's important to her is important to me.

When we were playing outside last week, she came scampering over with the teeniest flower I've ever seen. "Can you hold this, Mommy? We cannot lose it." Besides the fact that it was microscopic, there's nothing particularly special about it. Except it's hers.

Her insistence I keep her treasures safe has me pondering the things I bring to God for safekeeping. The dream of a published novel, my hope for more children, a simple prayer to make it through the day. Big things, to me. Yet, from Gods's eternal, sovereign perspective, these things must seem like teeny flowers. But just as I cherish being entrusted with that little piece of my daughter's heart, I know God treasures my trusting Him with the details of my life.

What hopes, dreams, goals and ambitions have you entrusted to God recently?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Great (or Horrible) Question

Novelists often ask “what if?”  It kick-starts brainstorming and stirs creativity at every stage of their writing. It can even lead to the idea for a book.

  • What if the host of a TV cooking show can’t really cook? (Rachel Hauck’s book Dining with Joy)
  • What if a Psychology professor and criminal profiler can solve any crime except for the one she most wants since it touches her family? (Patricia Bradley’s Shadows of the Past)
  • What if the star of a popular syndicated radio show gives advice romance even though she’s never had a date? (Susan May Warren’s My Foolish Heart)
  • What if the bride-to-be in an unguarded moment kisses the groom’s brother? (Beth Vogt’s Wish You Were Here)

Yes, writers love those “what if” questions that pop up in their heads—even if they keep us awake at night.

But recently I had a “what if” question raise it’s ugly head when I least wanted it.

My dearest friend from childhood (I’m talking about the one who’s like a sister), had to undergo a surgery. The day of her operation, I walked about the house cleaning since I could not sit still. Every time I thought about her, I whispered a prayer.

At one point during the day, a thought entered my head so strongly that it was almost like an audible voice. “What if she doesn’t make it?”

Thankfully, as quickly as I thought it, I recognized its source: the devil. Jesus never asked “what if” questions to raise a doubt or a fright. He made verily-I-say-unto-you statements to give assurance. He said, “Truly, truly.” His questions made folks pause and consider, not panic.

(I’m pleased to report that my dear friend is now recovering nicely at home.)

Have you ever had the experience of The Old Deceiver asking you a “what if” question?

Do you have a “what if” idea for a book or did you find one in a book you recently read? Please share!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Come meet Sandra Orchard...And the winner is....Delores Topliff!!

I’m a happily married to a man who is very supportive of my writing, although he hasn’t actually read more than a few paragraphs of it. I’m the mother of three wonderful children that I thoroughly enjoyed homeschooling on our little hobby farm. My two youngest still live at home and my youngest daughter is a freelance writer and aspiring novelist so we have a lot of fun commiserating together when plots don’t work and celebrating when they do. My eldest daughter is married and I’ve now become one of those grandmothers. You know the kind I mean. The ones who have a gazillion pictures and shamelessly dote on them every chance they get.

I’ve been writing full-time since signing my first contract in 2010 and am currently drafting my tenth contracted novel. I write for Revell and Love Inspired Suspense, and do a bit of freelance content editing and speaking/teaching. I also do bookkeeping (since I did major in Math at university). And when it can’t be avoided any longer, I clean the house. Before I took up writing, most of my spare time was spent renovating our old farmhouse, so I’ve always had a good excuse for dust bunnies. 

What is your story about?
This is the second book in a three-part series, and although each book has a standalone mystery, the romance and a suspense arcs the three books, so I highly recommend reading them in order to avoid spoilers. In this novel, herbal researcher, Kate Adams returns, and caught inadvertently passing counterfeit money while buying groceries for her elderly neighbor, she lands in the middle of another one of Detective Tom Parker’s investigations. Determined to prove her neighbor’s innocence, Kate stumbles into a pit of intrigue that is far deeper than a two-bit counterfeit operation–and that strikes too close to home for comfort. As family secrets come to light, her world–and her budding romance with Tom–begin to crumble. To Kate, it’s clear that she won’t be safe until she uncovers all of Port Aster’s secrets. But is it too late for her and Tom?
Here’s what Booklist had to say in their review:

“Orchard infuses romance with suspense and keeps the excitement coming page after page.  Readers will love the ever-deepening mystery as Kate extends her investigation and finds herself and her long-dead father tangled up in an international corporate conspiracy.”

Do you have a favorite scene in the book? If so, can you tell us a bit about it?

Yes, The opening scene. This is the second book in my Port Aster Secrets series and hero and heroine haven’t seen each other for a while. It was fun to write this “reunion” in which she’s been caught counterfeiting and he’s the officer called in. His reaction: “If you wanted to see me, you could have just called.”
Since the store security guard who made the call doesn’t know their history and believes she is a thief, I had a lot of fun with the subtext of their conversation throughout the scene.

Where did you get the inspiration for your story?
There is a lot of stuff happening in the story. One reviewer counted at least 4. But the opening mystery was inspired by a counterfeit $5 bill that turned up in the offering at my neighbor’s Ladies’ Missionary Meeting.

What are you working on now?
I’m finishing the edits on the final installment in the Port Aster Secrets series, Desperate Measures, which promises to finally uncover everyone’s secrets. I’m also writing my next Love Inspired Suspense, a paramedic story featuring the cousin of the heroes in Perilous Waters (April 2014) and Identity Withheld (Nov 2014).

Where can readers connect with you?
I’m active on Facebook at: http://www.Facebook.com/SandraOrchard and would love it if you’d “like” my page!

And although I’m taking a break for the summer, I blog on Mondays at http://www.SandraOrchard.com/blog and a bit of nosing around on the site will provide lots of things of interest to both readers and writers, including bonus features for all of my novels.

Readers are also invited to subscribe to my newsletter at: http://bit.ly/OrchardNews for news of new releases, giveaways and subscriber exclusive short stories.

Where can readers buy your book?
You can ask for it at your favorite bookstore or find it online at all the major stores. At the moment it is on sale for an especially low price in E-format. The best prices I’ve found are at Amazon and CBD.com (for Epub format which works on Nook and Kobo).

Last but not least, apart from writing, what is your favorite creative outlet?
Since taking up writing, most of my former creative outlets, which included every kind of craft you could imagine from knitting and sewing to cross-stich and jewelry making and painting, have sat untouched. So probably my most creative outlet is keeping my young grandchildren entertained.  You knew I had to come back to them, didn’t you?

So, readers, what is your favorite creative outlet? Leave a comment for a chance to win Blind Trust.
Must reside in US or Canada and be at least 18 years old. Winner will be announced Monday, July 21st.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Dreaded Phone Call

By Jennie Atkins

As mothers, we always fear the possibility of receiving the “dreaded” phone call—our child is in trouble or has been in an accident and is hurt, or worse.
My call came Sunday May 25th right after dinner. My oldest son, Toby, the one I affectionately call “My Adrenaline Kid” had been in a horrific accident while in a motocross race in Anchorage, Alaska.
I think I always knew I would get one of those calls concerning him, but prayed I never would. I say this because Toby has been riding a dirt bike since he was five years old. Every year he got faster, every jump took him higher, every race more competitive, every stunt more aggressive than the last.  Yes, the picture shown here is him, flying through the air on his dirt bike about a week prior to his accident.
When the phone rang, the look on my husband’s face after answering the call told me what I had always feared. And since then we’ve learned the chances of Toby walking again are solely in God’s hands.
Some would curse God, but how can I when I raised him to reach for the sky? Some would ask God why Toby had been left in such a state.  I instead thank God because it could have been worse, so much worse.
God’s hands have been in everything. He is in control and will sustain us through the good times—and the bad.  He is our provider, our caretaker, our savior.
The Bible tells us in Philippians 4:19, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”
I write this to you today as an encouragement. No matter what life brings, God is there for you.  When you get the dreaded phone call, unexpected news, or face issues of life and death.  God is there. He is walking beside you, carrying your burdens for you. He WILL supply your every need.  He is just one word away…Jesus.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ingredients to lasting fame

Delores E. Topliff
Born Frederick Austerlitz, in Omaha, Nebraska (1899). Fred Astaire started dancing when he was four. By age six, he formed an act with his sister, Adele, which became a popular in vaudeville. When she retired, Astaire made a screen test. The movie executive wrote, "Can't act, can't sing. Balding. Can dance a little." But Astaire appeared in Dancing Lady (1933), starring Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, and the Three Stooges. He's famous for movies he made with dancing partner Ginger Rogers: classics like The Gay DivorcĂ©e (1934), Top Hat (1935), and Swing Time (1936).
He said: "The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style." He worked hard and became famous. Sticktoitivity, otherwise known as hard work, is essential to fame.
Next let’s look at the Three Stooges. When I was 17, I was asked to make arrangements for our high school's graduation banquet. I went to Vancouver, Washington's best hotel and pushed the elevator button. When the elevator opened, I encountered the Three Stooges, who were appearing there nightly that week. At around 4 p.m., they were coming up from the basement cocktail lounge, and got off on the second floor, while I rode to the business office on the third. In our brief time together, I did not think to request their autograph. Instead I noticed that they looked old, sad, tired--not funny. When we reached their floor, the elevator door opened, closed again, and they were gone. That was one of my earliest encounters with fame. I’m not sure it changed me, except to make me wish that if I ever accomplished fame, it would be the kind I could be proud of.
What about you? Share an interesting or funny encounter you've had with the famous or infamous. Or offer your definition of fame. Tell us what you most wish to be famous for.

Final assignment? Have a great week!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Love Defined by a Ninety-Year-Old

My father at home with his favorite Sonic Burgers!
My daughter recently sent me some quotations where children were asked to define love.  Some of them were pretty cute.

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.”

“Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."

"Love is when you kiss all the time.  Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more.  My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss"

"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."

"Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken."

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you."

But when my 90-year-old father was in a rehabilitation center for about 20 days, he gave me a new definition of love. Apparently he felt disoriented one day and bugged the nurses until they allowed him to call me.

His only words have become my favorite definition of love: “I want to be where you are.” Of course it hit me hard, and I left my chores immediately to go and sit with him.

The more I thought of it, the more I decided his words define love--whether from a father to a child, a husband to a wife, or friend to friend.  If we love someone, we simply want to be with that person.

Jesus Himself confirmed this in John 17 when He prayed to His Father and said, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given me, be with Me where I am…” John 17:24

Do you have any favorite definitions of love? How have some of your favorite characters in books defined love?”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Few Computer Keyboard Commands That Might Save your Wrist...

by Patricia Bradley

I was talking with a friend the other day about ways to keep from having to use a mouse and she suggested that I blog about these short cuts. So here goes: (Note-this is for a PC, not sure about a Mac since I don't have one, but I'm sure there are shortcuts out there)

If you want to cut and paste text, how many of you out there use your mouse to highlight text then look for the scissors at the top of the page, and then use your mouse again to paste it where you want it? That's a lot of gripping of your mouse. 

I learned a long time ago to use keyboard shortcuts instead of a mouse. To highlight text I move my cursor with the shift arrows to the text I want to cut and paste. Then, holding the shift key down I move the cursor with the arrow until the text I want is highlighted. Then I simply hit Ctrl X, find the place I want to move the text and hit Ctrl V (for paste). It saves time and my wrist.

Another shortcut if you want to highlight a whole sentence is to put your cursor at the beginning of the sentence, hold the shift key down and tap end. That will highlight from your cursor to the end of the sentence.

Here are a few shortcuts using the Ctrl button (it's the button on the far left or far right at the bottom of the keyboard)
Control +
A = Select all
E = Center
S = Save
W = Close
D = Font
M = Indent
F = Search or Find
C = Copy
V = Paste
B = Bold
I = Italics
U = Underline
P = Print
X = Cut
Z = Undo

Here are a few shortcuts using the Ctrl + Function keys (those at the top of the keyboard)
Ctrl + 
F2 = Print Preview
F4 = Close window
F5 = Restore window
F6 = Go to next window
F7 = Spell Check
F10 = Maximize
F12 = Save as

I hope you find this useful. There are a lot more short cuts, but these are the ones I use the most. Leave me a comment and let me know if you use shortcuts or not.

Oh! And Shadows of the Past is a $1.99 on Amazon from Tuesday through Thursday!
 Link: http://ow.ly/y7f2B 

Patricia Bradley

Follow me on Twitter: @PTBradley1
Follow me on FaceBook: www.facebook.com/patriciabradleyauthor

I asked God to teach me patience and He gave me a book to write 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Making a Scene Come Alive

By Jennie Atkins
Field of Dreams is one of my all-time favorite movies.  Especially one scene in particular. It’s when Ray Kinsella talks to Shoeless Joe Jackson about playing baseball:
Shoeless Joe Jackson: Man, I did love this game. I'd have played for food money. It was the game... The sounds, the smells. Did you ever hold a ball or a glove to your face?

Ray Kinsella: Yeah.

Shoeless Joe Jackson: I used to love travelling on the trains from town to town. The hotels... brass spittoons in the lobbies, brass beds in the rooms. It was the crowd, rising to their feet when the ball was hit deep. Shoot, I'd play for nothing!
In those few short sentences you can feel Shoeless Joe Jackson’s love for the game.  You can hear, taste, and smell everything he experienced from traveling from town to town to actually playing the game. Without trying you can almost smell the popcorn and taste the salty flavor of a stadium hot dog.

He could have stopped after he said “Man, I did love this game.”  But he didn’t, he explained why without going into laborious descriptions that went on forever.  He put his descriptions in phrases we could understand, see, taste, and feel.
My dog named Fred liked to eat popsicles.  By that description you could picture me handing him a frosty treat and in two bites and a gulp he’d have devoured it stick and all.  Nope, not Fred. Fred would sit down next to me and while I held the colored ice, he’d lick the Popsicle with his long tongue. His eyes would roll back in his head as he savored the cool sweetness on his tongue one long, luscious lick at a time.  Not once would he bite into it—he would slowly lick it clear down to the wooden stick.
As writers we need to stop and experience our writing one sweet scene at a time. What senses were engaged at the time? Was the air so foul with decay that it made the woman’s lunch crawl up her throat? Was the candy so sour that the small child shivered in reaction to its pucker? Was the scream so wretched the man never thought he’d sleep again without having it haunt him in his dreams?
It’s easy to plop in a bit of story world that describes the surroundings.  But instead of paragraphs of eloquently written phrases, try slipping in small snippets that make the reader dig into their own memories for similar sensations.  In the end, it makes them an active participant and puts them smack in the middle of your story without even trying.
Your Turn:  How do you fit descriptions in?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Writing Is Painting with Words

Delores Topliff

In Amsterdam's Rikstad Museum, a friend pointed out one special touch that made Rembrandt an outstanding master. His subject’s eye color was not simply solid brown or blue, but was highlighted with a single speck of white or pearl color, like light hitting and refracting from the eye, making it more life-like. Gaze in the eyes of a close friend or family member. Check their eye color, and you’ll see what I mean. Greatness comes from such detail.
Well-chosen details in writing help our characters stand out from one another. Or describe a landscape in such specific detail we know what mood or emotion will follow. Shakespeare mastered that skill. Dickens brought it to perfection. His sunlit landscapes with balmy skies prepare us for happiness. Storms, with thunder and lightning rolling for light and sound effects, set the stage for brooding disaster. We feel shuddering terror in his Great Expectations graveyard scene just before the terrible Magwitch rises from behind a tombstone and demands food. The spider-web garlanded home of aged spinster, Miss Havisham, including her intact rotted wedding cake, shows as much information as the dialogue tells--and we nearly need to hold our hankies to our noses.
Choose a favorite book or scene that stays with you, utilizing a skill you’d love to use in your own writing or conversations. Kipling’s Jungle Booksincludes this northern India panorama scene, inviting our eyes to take the journey, too. In my mind’s eye, I have repeated this journey more times that I can count:
            “Looking across the valley, the eye was deceived by the size of things, and could not at first realize that what seemed to be low scrub, on the opposite mountain-flank, was in truth a forest of hundred-foot pines. Purun Bhagat saw an eagle swoop across the gigantic hollow, but the great bird dwindled to a dot ere it was half-way over.” 
Now please name a favorite book or scene and share what you love most about it.