Friday, November 28, 2014

Forbearing the Wicked Cants & Cabals by C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson

Read: Psalm 100

It was a Tuesday. November 4, 2014. Approximately 8:30 PM.

I was watching television, and a commercial for a department store came on, depicting a woman wearing what was intended to be a Santa-like suit. It was red and white. Her surroundings were also red and white. The music playing had a “Carol of the Bells” feel to it.

Other similar ads followed. As they ended, I sat there, staring at the television. All I could think of was, “What happened to Thanksgiving?”

The next day, my wife and I stopped by a home improvement store. We strolled in the front door and were greeted by a display of huge (I mean, six feet in diameter and eight feet high kind of huge) inflatable “rubber duckies” donning Santa hats, a 20-foot high toy soldier, and various scenes from Disney and Charles Schultz surrounded by more innocuous and less definable renditions of Christmas lore.

The next morning, the last straw got tossed onto the proverbial camel’s back. The TV news anchor reported a large department store announcing its intentions to open earlier than ever on Thanksgiving Day.

Noon. They’re going to open at Noon.

As more and more advertisements arrive on the TV screen with single snowflakes, silly snowmen, and shaken snow globes, it actually makes me a little sad. As fall decorations dwindle to make room for more and more candy and costumes at Halloween and more gadgets and gizmos for Christmas, it causes me to pause.

Why? Because I see this push to expand consumerism as a microcosm of a greater, spiritual dilemma.

Thanksgiving overrun by self-absorption. A season of reflection overshadowed by months of days tainted by greed and avarice.

I realize the concept of a “Thanksgiving Day” is an American thing. The First Thanksgiving in 1621, when Edward Winslow spoke of “a bay full of lobsters,” his sentiments, written to Englanders back home, seemed to give us the heart of the pilgrims, despite the newer renditions offered in many elementary classrooms today, “These things I thought good to let you understand, being the truth of things as near as I could experimentally take knowledge of, and that you might on our behalf give God thanks who hath dealt so favorably with us (Bold added).”1

From George Washington’s urging in 1789 for an official day of thanksgiving and prayer (although an official day was never chosen or enacted) to the formal declaration by President Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863, expressing gratitude for the victory at Gettysburg and announcing an official federal holiday be celebrated every 4th Thursday of November, it has been in our American bones to give God thanks.

I also realize that greed and avarice attempting to envelope the Christmas season is nothing new. Charles Dickens made that loud and clear in December, 1843, with some of the most powerful words in fiction (in my humble opinion):

“God bless us every one!'' said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

He sat very close to his father's side upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”

“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”

“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.

“Man,” said the Ghost, “if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”2

As a writer, do I approach my writing like today’s department stores? Pushing, shoving, forcing my way in front of more and more eyeballs for the simple and sole purpose of selling my wares? And how am I perceived by the buying public, both Christian and non? Should my approach to the (in the words of Ebenezer Scrooge) “much buying and selling” look different, smell different, actually be different?

Or am I thankful? Thankful to be called a writer? Thankful to be published? Thankful to be called God’s child? And if being called God’s child was all I had—with my published books stripped and tossed into the fire (1 Cor. 3:10-15), would I be content and consider it a blessing? If God said, “Don’t write another word,” would I be happy? Would I be obedient?

King David, in Psalm 100, talks about a relationship with God as His people. God’s people entering the temple, ready for worship. God’s people walking into the outer courts full of thanksgiving. And if we remember well, when the “much buying and selling” encroached upon the Holy of Holies, it was the Lord Himself who overturned the tables and declared the guilty parties robbers in a den, possibly turning people away if they couldn’t purchase even a dove (Matt. 21:12-14; cf. Jer. 7:11).

Now that the “House of God” is in the hearts of men (1 Cor. 3:16), how much more poignant are the scenes in Psalm 100 and Matthew 21 for us? Especially as writers? As we lead readers to the throne of God, into the Holy of Holies, do we bring our sacrifices of praise and hearts of thanksgiving? Or do we sit at the gate, behind a table, with our coffers open wide, hands outstretched?

Now that you have passed the town of Thanksgiving, trekking the highway leading upward toward the temple we call Christmas, how much of the former have you packed in your spiritual suitcase for the trip to the latter?

Be truly thankful this holiday season.

And, as a Christian writer, the season never ends (Philippians 4:4-7).


1Winslow, Edward. “A Letter Sent from New England,” A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Ed: Dwight B. Heath. New York: Corinth Books, 1963. p. 82.

2Dickens, Charles. “A Christmas Carol.”

A Clandestine Mission.
A Cryptic Message.
A Chaste Promise.

Blake Meyer dreamed of a peaceful end to a dutiful career with the FBI. Married now, his life was taking him in a new direction—a desk job. He would be an analyst. Ride it out until retirement. Be safe so he could enjoy his grandchildren some day.

But when a notable member of the IRA is murdered in a London flat, Blake’s secretive past propels him into the middle of a vindictive, international scheme so hellish and horrific, it will take everything Blake possesses—all of it—to save the United States from the most diabolical terrorist attack to date.

C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister, having served churches in New York, Mississippi, Texas, and Iowa. He is married (for 33+ years), has three daughters, two sons-in-law, and five grandchildren. He speaks in churches on occasion, presently works as an assistant principal in a Central Florida school district, and plays the drums in his church’s praise team. He is a huge fan of the TV series 24 and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic.

Kevin is a member of ACFW, Word Weavers International, and the Christian Authors Network (CAN), and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (OakTara, 2012) and 30 Days Hath Revenge (A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1) as well as articles in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner. His interview as a featured writer can be found on the More to Life Magazine’s blog newsletter.

Facebook:      C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page 
Twitter:         @CKevinThompson
Goodreads:    C. Kevin Thompson

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.  ~Psalm 100:4 NIV

Dora here. On this Thanksgiving Thursday, my laptop sits idle on my desk, my office even more quiet than usual. Not a word will make it into my wip. My fingertips won’t dance across the keyboard.

But that's okay.  

Because once again our house is bursting with family. It's loud with excited chatter and laughter, bubbling over with joy, little boy hugs, and more food than our family could possibly consume. We’re skirting make-shift beds on the floors and getting tangled in electronic cords and groaning over an endless cycle of dirty dishes.

But that's okay.

Because as much as I savor the solitude of my early mornings and the tranquility of my writing routine, this moment is something that will never come again. Time is fleeting and precious, and not one of us is promised tomorrow. This journey is meant to be shared with our loved ones, family, and friends.

And that’s where you come in.

We cherish you, dear readers. Thank you for traveling this writing journey with us. For faithfully stopping by to read our posts, for brightening our days with your comments, and for sharing us with your friends.

Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving!
What about you? Will you find a quiet spot to squeeze in writing time today?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Planner or Pantser? by Debbie Lynne Costello

Is being a seat-of-the-pants writer wrong? Does plotting take all the fun out of writing a story? Debbie Lynne Costello gives us her experience when it comes to getting that story on the page. -- Sandy

Debbie Lynne: So what kind of writer are you? Are you a planner or a seat-of-the-pantster? Just in case you are new to the writing world and aren’t familiar with those terms here's a basic explanation: Planners plan their stories out before writing them and pantsters wing it, flying by the seat of their pants as they go through the story.

There isn’t a right way or a wrong way to write, and if you’re a new writer don’t let anyone tell you that your
way is wrong. Writing is as individual as fingerprints…okay, maybe not quite that unique but you get the picture.

When I first started writing and before I talked to anyone who was in the industry, I just sat down to my computer and started to type the story that God had laid on my heart. The words just flowed and I looked forward to every moment that I could sneak away and write. I’d stay up until the wee hours of the morning, pouring out my story. I loved every minute I spent writing that story.

But then I got connected with the writing world.

Before I go any further let me just say that finding a writing community was the best thing that ever happened to my career. However, as I met more and more people I started hearing that the way I wrote my story was all wrong! I needed to plot it out—to plan my story scene by scene, chapter by chapter. Well, I wanted to be successful so that’s exactly what I did. I planned and plotted my next story.

But you know what happened? I lost some of the joy that I had with that first story. By plotting my story out I lost the freedom to let my characters take me where they wanted to go. And that stole the love of writing. I still enjoyed the craft but not like my first story.

I have friends that plan out their stories down to the smallest detail and they write beautifully and enjoy what they do. And so that is right for them. My point is there is no right or wrong way to write. This is a business, and an art. What makes it successful for you? God has created each of us differently and we need to follow how He has created us to write.

So on to the business side of writing. As a pantster I have run into a problem along the way that a planner doesn’t have. And that is some publishers want a detailed summary/synopsis—some even require a chapter by chapter. So what does a pantster do?

What I’ve found helps me is to take my time as I plan out the story. I walk through the scenes with my characters and give them time to tell me if they’d planned a surprise twist for me. Give yourself a few days between chapter summaries and then reread what you’ve wrote. Is your character happy with where you are taking them? If not find out why and see if you can make them happy.

The key for me is not to hurry. Now, I will say, that at times my characters have taken me down a different path even though the summary clearly stated that was not the road to go. Sometimes there is just no stopping them.  And when that happens I just do my best to keep the storyline from straying too far from the outline of the story.

How about you? Are you a planner or a pantster? Have you tried writing the other way? If so what happened?


A recent WWII widow receives a mysterious letter seeking reconciliation with her in-laws, but when she goes for a visit only her father-in-law seems to be interested in mending fences. But as the days pass mother-in-law and daughter-in-law learn a little about themselves and the true meaning of forgiveness.

Debbie Lynne has enjoyed writing stories since she was about eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina. She has worked in many capacities in her church and is currently the Children’s director. Debbie Lynne has shown and raised Shetland sheepdogs for eighteen years and still enjoys litters now and then. In their spare time, her and her husband enjoy camping and riding their Arabian and Tennessee Walking horses.
goes for a visit only her father-in-law seems to be interested in mending fences. But as the days pass mother-in-law and daughter-in-law learn a little about themselves and the true meaning of forgiveness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Gift that Needs to be Used by Janet Sketchley

Janet Sketchley
Almost 20 years passed between my earliest dated notes and the publication of my first novel. I used to think that said something negative about me – it does say I didn't work at this full time or every day – but it's more about God's timing and the importance of perseverance.

I only quit a few times in those two decades, plus taking a year off with a new baby. Writing opportunities were often brief and scattered. Working on short fiction would have been easier, but the idea behind the novel wouldn't let me go. That meant huge batches of rewriting each time I received feedback and learned new things. I didn't know how much I didn't know!

At times it was overwhelming, but I felt a responsibility to my characters – something only other writers understand. I made a commitment that as long as I could learn how to apply what I'd learned or been shown, I would do it. If and when I hit something I couldn't grasp, I'd stop work on these stories – at least until I learned how to do what they needed.

My motto was "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."

Novel One deals with the redemption of a serial killer and spends time in his head. I felt a strong need to know God's leading about publication. What if it caused more harm than good? Self-publishing wasn't an option, because how could I tell if it was my will or His?

I finished a second manuscript and struggled for motivation with the third. Perhaps I should switch genres. I loved stories too much to quit by this point, even if none would be published.

Choosing to write because it's a gift that needs to be used felt liberating. No more wondering if God had called me, or if I was wasting my time.

Ironically, shortly after that I signed with Choose NOW Publishing for that first, long-suffering manuscript. Three rounds of intensive editing meant more revisions, and I'm so pleased I didn't release the book on my own without professional help. The "before" and "after" are quite different.

My novel had been out for six or seven months, and I was tidying the next manuscript to send to the editor when the company closed its fiction line. I was devastated. At first. But working with a small press meant I'd learned many of the behind-the-scenes details. And I have friends who were in or investigating the world of self-publishing.

I set up as an indie publisher, regained my rights to book one, and have been learning yet more things. Now Heaven's Prey and Secrets and Lies are both in print, and I need to get back into writing Redemption's Edge #3. This time I don't have the luxury of 20 years to let it steep!
About the Author
Janet Sketchley is the author of Heaven's Prey and Secrets and Lies, two novels of suspense and redemption. She also blogs about faith and books. Janet loves adventure stories, worship music, tea and Formula 1 racing. Like Carol in Secrets and Lies, she loves music and tea. Unlike Carol, Janet isn't related to a dangerous offender, has a happy home life, and has never been threatened by a drug lord. May those tidbits continue to hold true! You can find Janet online at Fans of Christian suspense are invited to join Janet's writing journey through her monthly newsletter:

Amazon Author Central:

Secrets & Lies
by Janet Sketchley
A single mother must protect her teenage son—from organized crime and from himself.

Carol Daniels thinks she out-ran her enemies, until a detective arrives at her door with a warning from her convict brother. Minor incidents take on a sinister meaning. An anonymous phone call warns her not to hide again.

Now she must cooperate with a drug lord while the police work to trap him. Carol has always handled crisis alone, but this one might break her. Late-night deejay Joey Hill offers friendship and moral support. Can she trust him? One thing’s certain: she can’t risk prayer.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Count Your Blessings by Mary Manners

Count Your Blessings
By Mary Manners
"This is the day which the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it."
~ Psalm 118:24 ~

What are you thankful for today?
Sometimes I’m so caught up in the day-to-day bustle of writing life...juggling deadlines and outlines and stubborn characters that stray from the plotline...that I forget how very blessed I am. The holiday season is a time to reflect and to also hopefully take a moment to slow down long enough to draw a breath, step back, and count the many blessings that fill my life.

I’m thankful for my loving husband, Tim—a man with whom a share a real-life romance filled with love and laughter, adventure and fun. I often tell my husband he’s cheap entertainment since he makes me belly-laugh with regularity. Tim supports and encourages my passion for sharing the written word with others. I’m so thankful God brought him into my life.

I’m also wildly thankful for my daughter, Danni, who has grown into a beautiful young woman. Danni illuminates my life with her loving, generous spirit. She’s a loyal friend to everyone, and has a special place in her heart for the elderly and the hurting. She has never met a stray or wounded animal she didn't want to bring home and love back to health. Danni is truly a blessing to all who know her.

My friends, especially my precious writing friends, are one more reason to give thanks. These wonderful people completely understand when I elaborate on the ‘voices’ that speak to me while I’m writing. Twisted plots and story arcs make for great conversation when surrounded by those who put pen to paper. I love them dearly.

But, most of all, I am thankful for my Lord and Savior, who has given all of these blessings and more to me. What an amazing gift to know His love and grace are never-ending.

So, as this holiday season begins, I wish you blessings and peace, dear friends. May you take a moment to draw a breath, step back, and count the many blessings that fill your life.

Again, I ask...for what are YOU thankful?


Dillon Cutler has returned to Clover Cove just in time to help with the busy Christmas season at his family’s nursery. All his siblings have found love, but he has no plans to hustle to the altar...until Brynn Jansen shows up at the nursery one night searching for a fresh-cut tree and a sprig of mistletoe. Intrigued by her gentle laughter and dark-chocolate eyes he asks her out.

Brynn Jansen comes to Clover Cove to help Nana, who’s broken a hip. She has warm memories of visiting Clover Cove as a child and is especially fond of the Cutler family who brought her grandparents a Christmas tree during a tough financial time. 

Brynn has plans to pay that kindness forward. What she doesn’t plan for is falling in love with Dillon Cutler.
Mary Manners is an award-winning romance writer who lives in the beautiful foothills of East Tennessee with her husband Tim and the cherished cats they've rescued from local animal shelters...Lucky and Gus. Mary’s debut novel, Mended Heart, was a finalist for the Bookseller’s Best Award and her follow-up, Tender Mercies, was awarded a 4 ½ star rating from The Romantic Times Book Reviews. Buried Treasures was named Book of the Year by The Wordsmith Journal while Light the Fire took top honors for the Inspirational Readers Choice Award and Wisdom Tree garnered National Excellence in Romance Fiction. Mary was named Author of the Year by Book and Trailer Showcase. She writes romances of all lengths, from short stories to novels—something for everyone.
Learn more about Mary Manners at her website:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Your Writing World by Sydney Avey

Sydney Avey

How much thought have you given to the purpose of your writing? Author Sydney Avey challenges us to dig deeper into what determines our writing world with her beautiful and thought-provoking article. 
~ Dawn

Your Writing World

Settling into a folding chair in the Scottsdale Civic Center Library’s Gold Room, ready to mine the deep cave of writing genres, I listen carefully as the seminar leader points to one rich vein after another: cozy murder mysteries, political thrillers, space opera sci-fi, medieval fantasy, Viking romance, and so much more. I leaf through three pages of genres. Women’s fiction seems to have been commandeered by chick-lit. Where does my work fit?

“If it’s not on this list,” the seminar leader says, “then it’s literary fiction.” I picture a rusted train car sidetracked on a weedy railroad bed while sleek, modern, high-speed rails whizz passengers to pleasurable destinations.

I move to the auditorium to listen to a presentation on setting. “Give me three words that describe your writing world,” the presenter says. “What’s the mood and ambiance?”(Try this exercise. It will sharpen your focus on your purpose.) Hands pop up with lists like dirty, dark, and dangerous; sexy, sensual, and seductive; delicious, delightful, and delectable (did I mention that culinary mystery is a sub-genre?) I touch pen to paper and my fingers freeze. The words I hold back seem too precious, too affected.

What determines your writing world?

What engages your imagination and makes your heart beat faster?  What causes you, on a sensory level, to perceive the vital essence of your story? Is it adventure into uncharted territory? Is it fascination with otherworldly creatures and their scary intentions? Is it yearning for a relationship that promises to deliver happy-ever-after?

My writing world is character driven, stylistic, and fueled by themes and ideas. Family legends about my ancestors have invited me to think deeply about the effect of their actions on subsequent generations. Love of literature that elevates the human condition leads me to explore what motivates people to rise above difficult circumstances.

 Truth, beauty, and hope are seed stock for my stories. Truth, both gritty and great; beauty found in darkness and in light; and hope in the expectation of Psalm 27:13, “I remain confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

Literary fiction, known as general or mainstream fiction in its lighter form, is not the sole proprietor of truth, beauty and hope. There are truthful, beautiful, and hopeful moments in many other genres. In Others of my Kind, a noir story about abuse, James Sallis explores a larger theme, the role memory plays in identity. “The past is what we are, even as we’re constantly leaving it,” his horrifically abused character says. Her redemption seems to lie in her resilience and an unselfish act, where neither was demanded of her. Grace can shine in any genre.

Our passions are as varied as the rising number of genres and subgenres. If truth, beauty and hope are part of your writing world, then grace will abide. 

A feast of family can be a plate-load of problems!

It’s the Sixties. Modernity and tradition clash as two newlywed couples set up house together. Dee and her daughter Valerie move with their husbands into a modern glass house Valerie built in a proudly rural Los Altos, California neighborhood. When their young relatives start showing up and moving in, the neighbors get suspicious. Then a body is found in the backyard and the life they are trying to build comes undone.

Father Mike is back to guide Dee through a difficult time with humor and grace, even as his own life is unraveling. Now he’s going to have to take some of his own advice about love.

A sequel to The Sheep Walker's Daughter, The Lyre and the Lambs explores the passions that draw people together and the faith it takes to overcome trauma.

Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine) and Ruminate. She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Sydney is the author of two novels, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter and The Lyre and the Lambs.  She blogs at on topics related to love and mystery, family relationships, conflicts between generations, and how faith functions in real life.

You can connect with Sydney in a number of ways: