Monday, December 9, 2013

Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World: John 3:16 Marketing Excerpt Tour

What a perfect time for me to be hosting Jill Richardson as a part of the John 3:16 Marketing's Excerpt Tour, with the new Hobbit movie coming out within days! Here's a bit about her new book--and then read on for an excerpt, information about a contest with great prizes, and where to go on the tour for another treasure from Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World

Hobbits, elves, and dragons have become common fantasy characters but do they have more relevance to your life than you think? Are they as real as, or the same as, people you meet every day? Maybe not literally, but J.R.R. Tolkien's famous characters bring to life real character qualities we all can learn from, whether good or bad. What can the bravery of a hobbit, the faith of a elf, or the greed of a dragon teach teens about themselves? How can their stories lead us to the real Kingdom where God is working out way more than a fantasy for his people? Dig in to these familiar characters and relevant Bible passages to find out. Come out understanding how to live your own epic story!

Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World of Middle-earth—



Vital Stats
Name: Beorn.
Height: What time of day is it?
Special Talent: Skinchanging. It sounds a whole lot more awesome than “Werebear.”
In His High School Yearbook: Most likely to grow a beard. And two extra legs.

Beorn is the Brando of The Hobbit. Tough, skeptical, secretive, and vicious when provoked. Not someone you want as an enemy. But Beorn will equally viciously protect his friends. You just need to be his friend,
first. OK, nothing sketch about that.

“‘You must all be very polite when I introduce you. I shall introduce you slowly, two by two, I think; and you must be careful not to annoy him, or heaven knows what will happen. He can be appalling when he is angry,
though he is kind enough if humored.’” (The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, p.118)

There’s a little bit of confusion here. On the one hand, it’s great to have this guy on your side. The dwarves and Bilbo would have starved through Mirkwood Forest without the food he sent with them. They found some much needed rest and food at his somewhat unconventional house. They would have never gotten out of Middle Earth alive without his handy turning-into-a- giant-bear trick in the end. When he’s on your
side, he’s there to the end. There is a lot about Beorn to be grateful for.

On the other hand, he admits to being a little untrustworthy. He implies their chances of being eaten alive are fairly high if they leave his house after dark. They’re not entirely sure for a while if he’s the savior they need or the terror they don’t.

What kind of a role model is this?

Maybe Beorn teaches us how important it is to watch where we put our loyalty. Then, when we give it, he shows us how to keep it. Friendships during the teen years can have complicated loyalties. Has anyone ever
said things like this to you?

If you’re really my friend you would... If you really trusted me you’d...

If you really loved me you would...

Teenagers toss around the words “friends forever” and “I’ve got your back” easily. But, what do those words mean? Do you mean what you’re saying? Do you know what you’re saying?

With some people, it’s a bad idea to promise loyalty. Pippin finds this out when he offers a lifetime of service to Denethor. The guy is certifiably nuts. He even dabbles in filicide. (That’s killing your own kid. It is not normal.) But Pippin jumps in quickly and doesn’t put a lot of thought behind how smart it is to promise you’ll be best buds with a lunatic.

Maybe you know the feeling. A promise of friendship has turned into sticking with someone you know isn’t doing great things. You’re realizing how hard it is to be totally behind a friend who tells lies, harms herself, bullies other kids, or wants you to do things you’re not comfortable with. But what to do? You promised.

With other people, it’s tempting to break a promise to be a loyal friend, even when you know you shouldn’t. She’s not popular anymore; he’s gotten annoying and moody. Sticking with them when they need you is
the right thing to do, but...

Here’s a story that might shed some light on the problem.

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt. . .

Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.”

Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you . . .”

Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town (1 Samuel 18-20).

Yes, the story is a long one. Here is the Spark Notes version: David is King Saul’s “intern.” He does well. Too well. Saul’s son becomes his best friend, and his daughter marries the guy. David becomes more popular than the king. Of course, this does not go over well. So, the king tries to pin David to the wall with a spear. Multiple times. Jonathan doesn’t believe his father has evil intentions and thinks maybe the man is just misunderstood. Until Saul tries to pin him to a wall, at which point Jonathan tells David he’d better get out of town fast. Jonathan stays loyal to his friend, makes his dad mad, and basically ends up losing everything. Wow, great story.

Through all of this, Jonathan struggles. Stay loyal to dad, or keep his promise to David? It’s not an easy Choice. He loves his dad. They have a history, and anyway, it’s safer to remain on the king’s good side. Plus there’s a lot of job security in being the king’s firstborn son.

But, David is his friend, and his friend hasn’t done anything wrong. In fact, he’s being picked on and Threatened for being a good guy. What to do?

1. Jonathan started this BFF pact with David. David couldn’t really have started it. He was a commoner, and this was the king’s son. It would be like you walking into the White House and asking Malia Obama to hang. Not done. So why did Jonathan do it?
2. What do you think it meant for Jonathan, the king’s son, to give David his robe, sword, etc.?
3. What was Jonathan risking by making this friendship?
4. Jonathan is torn between two loyalties. What do you think he considered when trying to make his decision about whom to stick with? Why did he decide to stay on David’s side?
5. What did he lose by making this decision? What did he gain?

God says in Psalm 15 that people who really worship Him will “keep their promises no matter how much it hurts.” So, first, it’s good to keep promises, but second, you’d better be pretty careful before you make one.

The dwarves don’t really know much about Beorn, so they have to make their decision without much info. What they do know is that the smartest person around, Gandalf, tells them he’s a friend worth making. So, they choose to go with listening to someone who knows more than they do, and they befriend Beorn.

But, they don’t keep it one-sided. They live up to their end of the friendship, too. They don’t bring Beorn’s ponies into Mirkwood, even though they’d like to. They respect his boundaries (don’t come outside at night, don’t mistreat my animals), and they are rewarded by a very useful friendship. Friends, chosen carefully and given respect, are some of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. And hey, if one of them can turn into a giant bear, all the better.


Have you ever had to choose between two people? What helped you make your decision? Did you make the right decision or the wrong one? Why?

When you decide on friendships, what matters to you? What would make you keep a loyalty no matter What? What would make you end one? Do you have criteria you think God would like?


“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10

Want to read more? The next excerpt can be found on December 10 at .

Jill's love for hobbits and elves comes from her time as a literature  teacher and as a lifelong reader of great stories. She also loves an epic challenge and a chance for grace wherever they exist. Jill has a BA in English and Education and an MDiv in theology and is an ordained minister who has served as a worship, preaching, and discipleship pastor. She has published four books previously, as well as articles in national magazines such as FamilyFun, Discipleship Journal, and Today's Christian Woman.

Jill enjoys speaking on a variety of topics and has been very active on the MOPS circuit, as well as in junior high and high school classes. She enjoys speaking for retreats for all ages.

With three daughters, three cats, and (thankfully!) only one husband, she keeps busy otherwise with community theater, gardening, reading, scrapbooking, and traveling. Jill loves oceans, cats, chocolate, teenagers, her family, the Cubs, and God, not necessarily in that order.


From December 1 through December 16, the John 3:16Marketing Network is hosting a Christmas Book Launch and Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World is a featured book. As part of the event, the Network is offering a $200 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky winner. For a chance to win, go to and enter the Rafflecopter (toward the bottom of the page). And be sure and pick up your Kindle version of Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World at 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Spiralling Out of Control: Excerpt and $200 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

Today's guest author in the John 3:16 Marketing Excerpt Tour is Michelle Dennis Evans, with info and an excerpt about her new book, Spiralling Out of Control. Take it away, Michelle!

Robin, thank you so much for hosting me on your blog.

Make sure you read right to the bottom for your chance to win a $200 Amazon voucher.

Book blurb... Temptation, depression, seduction, betrayal ... Not what Stephanie was expecting at fifteen years of age. Uprooted from her happy, all-girl high school life with a dream filled future and thrown into an unfriendly co-ed school, Stephanie spirals into depression. 

When charismatic high school senior Jason notices her, Stephanie jumps in feet first and willingly puts all her faith and trust in him, a boy she barely knows. 

Every choice she makes and turn she takes leads her towards a dangerous path.

Her best friend is never far away and ready to catch her … but will she push Tabbie too far away when she needs her most? 

This novel contains adult themes.
Recommended reading audiences 17+ 
Excerpt - Chapter 2 part a

The front door of their new home was slightly ajar. 

“Hello? Mum? Dad? You in here somewhere?” 

No one was in sight. Stephanie mounted the first step and paused.

Silence. She inched her way up to the next. The house was still. Were her
parents in there? She bit her lip, hoping they were. At the top of the stairs
she walked down a short hallway, checking the rooms on either side. Through the
last doorway, her parents lay on the floor of what looked like the master

Her father rolled over to face the doorway. “Steph, good morning. How did you sleep?”

She ignored the question. “Why didn’t you tell us you got in?”

“Just as it was getting light, your father decided to check under all the pavers and rocks for a spare key.” Her mother chuckled.

“They left a key?” Stephanie spat the words. 

“It appears that way.” Dad yawned, stretching. 

“Why didn’t you check last night?”

 “Is April awake?” Dad asked.

“That’s crazy. We could’ve been inside.” Stephanie spun the doorknob between her thumb and fingers. “That’s so typical of this family!”

“Stephanie!” Her mother sat up.

“Not much we can do about it now.” Her father climbed to his feet.

April pushed the door away from Stephanie’s grasp. “Can we go to McDonalds for breakfast?”

“Good morning, love. Yes, McDonalds sounds good. I could do with a coffee.” Diane pushed herself up off the floor.

Stephanie looked from one to the other. Is this some weird fairytale I’ve woken up in?


When they returned to the house, Stephanie cheered. Finally something was happening as scheduled. The removal truck doors swung in the breeze and two burly men were ready to unload. 

Stephanie helped unpack box after box. By the end of the day most things were re-homed, so she left the confines of the house. 

Her mind spun with all the changes. Tabbie wasn’t a five-minute drive away. There would be no dance rehearsal this week, she was no longer a student at Hill Top Private College and she no longer lived in Sydney. 

Stephanie took long strides away from the house as dusk approached. Perhaps a walk would clear her mind. The grey sky seemed to hover low, like it was falling on her, choking the voice that wanted to scream. The weight of fear forced her back home and inside. Her heart raced and her head pounded as she darted into her room. 

She found her posters, the ones she’d carefully taken off the walls of her Sydney bedroom. With no order or pattern, she slapped them on the walls—anywhere. Blu-tacking them haphazardly to cover the duck-pond green paint. In her out-of-control state, everything began to spin. 

Stephanie fell onto her bed, smothered her face with her pillow and sobbed. 

Want to read more? The next excerpt from Spiralling Out of Control will be at tomorrow, December 9!

Please pop over to the John 3:16 page and enter the Rafflecopter for your chance to win a $200 Amazon voucher

Bio ... Michelle Dennis Evans writes picture books, chapter books, young adult contemporary novels and enjoys dabbling in free verse poetry. Her debut novel Spiralling Out of Control and poetry collection Life Inspired both reached #1 in subcategories on Amazon in their first week of release.  
Michelle is passionate about seeing people grow and move forward in their journey. She lives on the Gold Coast with her husband and four super active, super fun and super time consuming children. 
Find Michelle and all of her social media links at

Friday, December 6, 2013

"The Donkey and the King" Excerpt Four: John 3:16 Marketing Tour

Today's post is a part of the John 3:16 Marketing Excerpt Tour for December. It's by Lorilyn Roberts and contains an excerpt and info about her children's book, "The Donkey and The King." Check out these amazing illustrations, folks! And details for entering the raffle for a $200 Amazon card!

From author Lorilyn Roberts:

A donkey longs for an easier life with no heavy burdens and no one to tell him what to do. He runs away and becomes lost, but “good” finds him in the most unlikely of places.

Travel to the Bible lands and meet Baruch, a stubborn donkey, and other lovable animals:  Lowly, the pig; Much-Afraid, a small, lame dog; Worldly Crow, who isn’t as bright as he thinks he is; and a sheep, Little, sent on a special mission by the King. The ending of the story will delight young readers as they discover “good” exists in the world if they look and listen for it. 

When I was young, I hated doing chores. I suppose I was this donkey, rebellious and self-determined, but desperate for a friend—the one friend who would never leave me (or you). 

Here is a short excerpt from “The Donkey and the King.” This is the third stop on the tour. I hope you will visit all the blogs and participate in the John 3:16 Marketing Network Book Launch and win the grand prize. See details below.

“I have to go,” said the donkey. “Someday I’ll come back and we can be together again.”
Baruch slipped away into the darkness.

Several hours passed as Baruch plodded along the unfamiliar road. Night winds blew dust in his face. Bats circled in the moonlit sky. Wild jackals H-O-W-L-E-D.


On every page is the hidden word “good.” Can you find it in the drawings above? If not, you can look below and see where the word is hidden.

The unique quality about Kindle-enhanced books is that the drawings and font size can be enlarged for young readers. And for parents who can’t find the word, a QR code (a free AP is available for smart phones) and link is provided to facilitate the search. Some pages are more challenging than others (for older readers).

If you enjoyed looking for the mouse in “Goodnight Moon” when you were young, your child will delight in looking for “good” in “The Donkey and the King.” The moral:  There is good in the world if you look and listen for the King’s voice.

“The Donkey and the King” (A Story of Redemption)
99 cents December 1 through December 16
24 reviews, 4.8 stars
Ages 2-6

Book Trailer:

From December 1 through December 16, the John 3:16 Marketing Network is hosting a Christmas Book Launch and “The Donkey and the King” is a featured book.

As part of the event, the Network is offering a $200 Amazon gift e-card to one lucky winner. For a chance to win, go to  and enter the Rafflecopter (toward the bottom of the page). And be sure and pick up your Kindle version of “The Donkey and the King” for 99 cents at    

Next stop on Lorilyn Roberts’ Excerpt Tour:  Visit Jill Richardson’s blog on December 7 at:

Lorilyn Roberts is an award-winning author who writes family-friendly books for the young, the young at heart, and all those in between. Visit to learn more.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Bell Ringer's Epiphany

Today's guest blogger is Linda Wood Rondeau. I asked her to help us usher in the Christmas season because I just read her wonderful feel-good novel, A Christmas Prayer, which has just been released. She is sharing her story "The Bell Ringer's Epiphany" with us. Enjoy! And afterward, scroll down and read more about Linda and her new books.

I wondered why I had volunteered. I had too many things to do. And I hate the cold. It gets into my bones until nothing can make me feel warm again. 
I had offered to be a bell ringer for the Salvation Army’s Christmas drive. I bundled up and trekked to my station at the local grocery store. I donned the blue apron and picked up the emblem of my assignment, a small golden bell.
Then one by one the people came up to the little red bucket dropping in the change or dollars. Sometimes people felt like talking. Other times, they nodded and left. Still others dropped their gift and scurried off to complete the sundry other tasks the season required of them.
“I brought you here to teach you something,” the Spirit said to my heart.
Not to be so quick to volunteer?
 “No. I want you to study these people. Examine the way they give.”
And, I did. To my amazement, I learned the reasons for giving are as varied as the people who donate. Then I began to see similarities in people’s motivation. And, I wondered where my heart would fit among theirs. 
The first lady gave from her sorrow. This was her first Christmas without her mother. Her father had passed away only a year before. Eyes brimming with tears, she pushed twenty dollars into the bucket. “My mother was a bell ringer,” she said. “Thank you for doing this.” Then she rushed off, uncomfortable with her emotions.  
The Spirit spoke again: He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering (Isaiah 52:3).
The next person gave from his abundance. His leather jacket and bulging wallet told all. He plopped a den-dollar bill into the bucket, pleased with his generosity. He straightened his shoulders with pride in his offering and left.
The Spirit spoke again: From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded: and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:48).
An elderly woman approached. Her threadbare coat and raveled scarf told of her station in life. Her cart also bore testament to her poverty. She stopped before the red canister, pulled out a thin and worn wallet from her purse, and dropped in her last two coins. “Maybe this will bring me good fortune,” she said. She gave from her need, as if investing into generosity would bring better days. 
The Spirit spoke yet again: And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
Another elderly woman stopped by the kettle. Her head drooped from her heavy burden. She shrugged her shoulders then reached into her purse for an assortment of change. “I feel guilty if I pass by one of these drums and give nothing.” She trotted off, head slightly higher. Her giving well was a fountain of guilt.
The Spirit spoke anew: For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me (Psalm 51:3).
Lastly, a young man eagerly approached the drum, much akin to Tiger’s Happy Bounce, and tossed his coins with a whistle. “I love this!” he said as he sailed out the door. “God’s been good to me. This is one way I can say, ‘Thank you.’” The young man gave from a spirit of gratitude.
The Spirit spoke once more than fell silent: Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (1 Corinthians 9:7).
Then I knew what the Spirit wanted me to learn. Christmas is a time for giving. I analyzed my own motivations. Do I give begrudgingly because it’s expected? Do I donate from a feeling of loss? Do I thrive on the hope one day my giving will be multiplied? Do I fear what will happen if I do not give? I hope that from this day on my giving will be from a grateful heart to a Savior who came as the atonement for my sins.

Winner of the 2012 Selah Award for best first novel The Other Side of Darkness/Harbourlight,  LINDA WOOD RONDEAU writes stories of God’s mercies. Walk with her unforgettable characters as they journey paths not unlike our own. After a long career in human services, Linda now resides in Jacksonville, Florida. 
Linda’s best-selling Adirondack Romance, It Really IS a Wonderful Life, is published by Lighthouse of the Carolinas and is available wherever books are sold.  Her next releases were her devotional book, I Prayed for Patience God Gave Me Children and Days of Vines and Roses
Joy Comes to Dinsmore Street and A Christmas Prayer have been released in time for the Christmas Season. Songs in the Valley/ Helping Hands Press will be released in late 2013 or early 2014.  
Readers may visit her web site at or email her at  or find her on Facebook, Twitter, PInterest, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Goodreads.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Catching Up and a Preview of Coming Attractions

Wow, I haven't posted in quite awhile. I have a good reason. Actually, a lot of good reasons.

Except for the fact that I follow a "loaves and fishes" God who can multiply anything and make it enough--including my time and energy--I don't know how I would have managed everything I did over the past few weeks.

The photo at the top is Pete. He's one of the reasons I've had very little time. Or money, come to think of it. Pete is a stray pit bull puppy. He showed up the week of August 19. I remember the date well, because that's when everything else started happening, too!

I'm a college librarian, and that was the first week of fall term--the busiest, most stressful time of the year on my job. And then I had a conference to attend that week. And then Pete showed up.

You wouldn't believe all the twists and turns the story with this dog has taken. A work colleague told me I had to write it up as a short story--or a novel. I think I'll at least give it to you as a couple of blog posts. So stay tuned for Pete's story.

And then...during all this, while working full time and helping take care of my elderly mother, I started the process for publishing Summer's Winter. I had no idea what all I would need to do for that. And then...two traditional presses requested either a proposal or full manuscript of my next book, Jordan's Shadow. And I decided to apply to teach at some conferences. And I had to set up my website. And, and...

And I haven't been blogging much! But I will. I'm drawing a breath again, and I really have to tell you Pete's story. And about the Kirkus review I got for Summer's Winter. And the book's publication progress.

In the meantime, I'm participating with helping launch several books for incredible Christian authors. First I'm going to introduce you to Linda Rondeau, the writer of a feel-good Christmas romance called A Christmas Prayer. Then I'm going to participate in something new for me--an excerpt tour. On December 6, 8, and 9, the Queen will be part of a tour for three different authors sharing excerpts of their new novels. You could get to read up to 25 percent of these books for free, just by following the tour.

Oh, and by the way, I have a post today over at a devotional blog called Life to the Fullest. It's a Thanksgiving piece called "Thankful for Fleas." Head on over and see what the heck I meant by that.

And I'll be back soon! Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Guest Blogger Deborah Heal: Every Hill and Mountain

I'm becoming acquainted with author Deborah Heal through the John 3:16 Marketing Network, and was particularly interested in her Time and Again time travel-mystery book series since I'm writing my own time travel novel, Jordan's Shadow. I've started reading Time and Again, and I'm hooked! Deborah agreed to share some very personal insights from her faith and writing journey. And also the good news that the Kindle version of Every Hill and Mountain is on sale for 99 cents now through the end of November. Click here to buy it at Amazon.


I think of my novel Every Hill and Mountain as an assignment I turned in for the continuing education program I’m involved with. You know, that life-long business of becoming more sanctified. As slow as I’m learning things, I figure God may decide to keep me in school another hundred years or so before he lets me into Heaven.

By that, I’m not saying I will have arrived, become perfect, and thus will deserve to get into Heaven—not even after a thousand years. But apparently, God thinks it’s good for us to come smack up against our ignorance, stupidity, and foulness for a while in this life so we we’ll appreciate His perfection all the more in the life to come.

I have a friend of the New Age persuasion who does believe in the perfectibility of human beings. We had a conversation a while back about racism, in which I said everyone’s prejudiced to one degree or another. He got quite irate and said, “Hey, speak for yourself!” He claimed to be completely free of this fault.

But I know I’m right. No one reaches perfection in any aspect of his being. Not in this life. Whether I like it or not, I’m a racist to one degree or another. But I have come a long way through the years as God continues to work on me.

My first teacher on the subject of race was an aunt (God rest her soul). The lesson came when I was five or six and as a treat, she took me to shop at the Ben Franklin store. When we got out of the car, she called my attention to some people standing on the sidewalk across the street. “See those n***ers over there,” she whispered. “Watch out. They’ll cut your ears off if they ever hear you call them n***er.” The sad thing is, I think my aunt was really trying to help me.

It was the first time I’d heard the “N” word, and taking her teaching as Gospel truth, I solemnly promised never to use that word. For so many years I took it as the literal truth. My aunt’s anxiety was transmitted to me, but here’s the funny part: I couldn’t distinguish those people on the sidewalk from anyone else. I remember being so confused.

My racist education continued in the small rural town where I grew up. I don’t remember anyone slinging racial slurs in the elementary school, but maybe the subject of race never came up because the school was completely 100% bona fide white. My first experience meeting and speaking to a minority came when I reached high school in the late 1960s and was surprised to find four or five African-American students there. During that time, the news on TV was filled with stories about race riots in cities across the country, including nearby East St. Louis. I wondered (a bit indignantly) why those Negroes were so angry. After all, Lincoln had emancipated them, hadn’t he? The Negroes in our school seemed happy. Of course some of them seemed overly anxious to please and the rest just kept their heads down and mouths shut and worked on being invisible.

The African-American students at my high school never mentioned any reasons for discontent, and our teachers were completely silent about race issues. The rumor that Dr. Martin Luther King was a Communist made its way into discussions among students and around the family dinner table. And when he was assassinated, while we didn’t rejoice, we were relieved he wouldn’t be able to spread violence and his evil doctrines any more. I managed to graduate from high school and get on with adult life without ever once hearing anything about Jim Crow, disenfranchisement, “separate, but equal” or any of the other abominations the black community suffered through.

It wasn’t until I went to college that my ignorance began to be chipped away by the power of the written word. I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of using primary sources when I read Martin Luther King’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.” With no trumped up rumors and slanted newscasts between the writer and the reader, the truth came shining through on the page. I was astounded by his logic and moved to tears by his eloquence and gentleness. I decided that if he was a Communist, then I was an astronaut.

(Listen to a dramatic reading of Letters from a Birmingham Jail.)

Later my brain was exercised with the biographies of Frederick Douglas, George Washington Carver, and Booker T. Washington. Other books in the curriculum for this white woman’s continuing education were To Kill a Mockingbird and Black Like Me and Growing up Black and The Emancipation of Robert Sadler and Dick Gregory’s autobiography Nigger and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The written word had made a powerful impact on my thinking, and I took that lesson into the classroom when I became an English teacher at other small rural, all white schools. I wish I could report that my students were much more sophisticated in their thinking than I had been at that age. The majority of them probably were, but I’m sad to say that in virtually every class that I taught To Kill a Mockingbird and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, (much less mentioned Black History Month) two questions inevitably would be raised by students:
1. Why do we have to learn this? After all we don’t have any African-American students at our school.
2. Aren’t we the ones being discriminated against now, and isn’t everything hunky dory for Blacks now?
Their attitude caused me to shed a tear or two, but also to be reminded of how much my own sinfulness causes God to sorrow. But like Martin Luther King,
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
In other words, I long for the day when all God’s children will be freed from the bondage of ignorance and sin. On that day, we’ll be past all the striving and--with equal access—turn our attention to where it should have been all along, on God's glory.

My amazingly photo-shopped professional portrait. It sure is nice to have a photographer in the family.

Deborah Heal is the author of the Time and Again virtual time travel mystery series, which has been described as “Back to the Future meets virtual reality with a dash of Seventh Heaven thrown in.” She was born not far from the setting of her book Every Hill and Mountain and grew up “just down the road” from the setting of Time and Again and Unclaimed Legacy. Today she lives with her husband in Waterloo, Illinois, where she enjoys reading, gardening, and learning about regional history. She has three grown children, three grandchildren, and two canine buddies Digger and Scout. She loves to interact with her readers, who may learn more about the history behind the books at her Website , Twitter, and Facebook.

Time Travel Trilogy by Deborah Heal
These are her literary babies. She's expecting another in the spring of 2014.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What do you think of my cover copy?

I was just asked to provide the "back cover copy" for Summer's Winter. Here is what I've come up with. What do you think? Would this make you want to read it? Confused? Typos or mistakes? Thanks for your help!

At age ten, preacher’s daughter Jeanine fell in love with young movie star Jamie Newkirk and the character he played—Danny Summer. Jeanine believed God Himself promised Jamie would be part of her life—that he would rescue her from boring rural Georgia. A talented writer and musician herself, she was going to be powerful and accomplished like this boy. She was destined to be a part of Jamie’s world.

For the next eleven years, Jeanine was obsessed—with Jamie Newkirk; with Danny Summer, the character he played; and with the entire Summer series of books and movies that were released throughout her childhood. When the author, Hannah Raney, died in a mysterious fire without finishing the series, Jeanine was grieved like the rest of fandom. But she believed Jamie was still promised to her.

But eleven years later, she’s graduating college and about to settle into the dreary nine-to-five life with no word from Jamie or God.

And then Jamie bursts into her life in an amazing way. Incredible things start to happen. There are plans to resurrect the Summer series, and Jeanine is right in the middle of it all. Jamie seems to be falling for her, just as she’d dreamed. And yet…

She never dreamed of all the dark undercurrents. Jamie is hiding out in Georgia following the suspicious death of his former girlfriend. And isn’t it odd that he found his mother dead of a supposed suicide in that same house two years before, and that both women had the same strangely-shaped burn on their bodies? And who knew there would be so many sinister characters involved in Jamie’s life, and in the Summer series? There’s his young co-star, Charlie—the Summer author died in an unexplained fire at his house. And Jamie’s stepfather, Elliott, and uncle Richard seem to be in a vicious competition for control of the Summer series and of Jamie’s life.

Jamie is obviously guarding deep secrets—about his family, about the deaths of his mother and Paula. The media and the public have declared him guilty. Jeanine longs to prove his innocence. Unless she can, Jamie’s dark secrets may shatter her dreams, her faith—and her life.

Friday, October 4, 2013

My Huge Decision and an Announcement

In my last post, I told you that I’ve been trying to decide whether my decades-long pursuit of publication is perseverance or insanity. I told you I’d let you know what I decided. So here it is…perseverance or insanity?


Yep. I think it’s good to keep striving toward a worthy goal, even for a long, long time. That “definition of insanity” proverb, however, talks about the craziness of repeating some unhelpful action over and over. That’s where I’m making my mistake, at least recently.

I’ve been going at it the same way all these years. I write, I get feedback, I rewrite. I submit. I’m told that my writing doesn’t exactly fit one genre or the other. I study guidelines, I rewrite, I try to make my stories fit a genre or a publishing company. I get feedback. I submit. I’m told my writing crosses genres. It has science fiction elements in women’s fiction. It’s too literary to fit a genre, too popular to be literary. It’s too Christian for the secular publishers, doesn’t have enough Christian content for the CBA. I start over, trying to make my poor little square pegs fit into the round holes.

If I were walking down a path, trying to reach an urgent destination, and I fell into a hole because I wasn’t watching where I was going, it would be virtuous for me to get up and keep walking, even with a sore ankle. But if I still didn’t look where I was going, if I continued to let myself fall into holes and break my bones instead of just keeping my eyes open and walking around them, that would be crazy. Not only that, it wouldn’t get me to my ultimate destination, because I eventually wouldn’t be able to walk anymore.

I’ve been trying the same things over and over for MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS, trying to get published. And I’ve hurt myself in the process. I’m starting to hurt my writing. It’s time to try something new. I’m going indie.

Yep, the dreaded “S” word. Self-publishing.

It’s not what I dreamed of. It’s not how I thought my writing career would go. But for a lot of reasons, I feel that’s where God is leading me—at least with one novel. I feel like He has taken my hand and is trying to lead me around that hole I keep falling in.

A year or so ago, I was at a gospel music concert by an amazingly talented band. The church was small but packed. I’ve seen this band numerous times. They’re talented enough to make a lot of money, and they always pack people in. People also frequently get saved at their events. One of the singers was giving a mini testimony and said that she didn’t worry about pursuing fame or fortune or huge audiences. She just asked God every day to send her where her music could be used to reach the people He wanted her to reach—two or five or a thousand, it didn’t matter.

I felt as though God had reached down and shaken me. Doesn’t the Bible say something about not hiding your light under a bushel? What if this incredibly talented woman never sang or gave her testimony because no one was paying her to do it? What if I continued to hide the testimony that I pour into my writing, waiting for someone to pay me for it? Would God really bless that kind of pride?

I know a lot of my writer friends will be disappointed in me. I’ll have more to say about how I came to this conclusion and about just what I’m planning to do. But in the meantime, I’ll leave you with another thought: When the rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked Him what he should do to be saved, Jesus told him to sell everything he had and follow Him. But another time, when Jesus cast demons out of a very afflicted man, the restored man was so grateful that He wanted to follow Jesus and go with him. Jesus told him to return to his home and tell what the Lord had done for him—to stay put.

The Lord doesn’t want every one of us to follow the exact same path. He has plans for all of us—different plans. This path I’m embarking on is scary, but I think it’s the right one. I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Perseverance or Insanity?

I’m sure you’ve all heard this saying, right? “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

But wait a minute…that’s perseverance, isn’t it? Frankly, I’ve been using so many precious resources of time, money, and energy for decades trying to publish a novel—always failing, but expecting a different result next time—that this is important for me to consider.

As I attempted without success to find out the author of the quote, I came across a blog by therapist Ryan Howes, blasting this pithy little proverb: “Repeating the same constructive behavior over and over, hoping (one day) for a positive result is difficult but virtuous. It's the effort made by eating oatmeal every morning, brushing your teeth after every meal and daily journaling. It's weekly therapy, consistent workouts and taking time for spirituality. It's Rudy trying over and over to get into Notre Dame. Or Mother Theresa tirelessly serving the poor.”

Howes does admit there is perseverance (above) and something destructive called perseveration—like repeating useless actions in an obsessive-compulsive disorder, or repeating unhelpful behavior patterns. He says it’s an important distinction to make, because “perseverance is a strong, valuable quality. Perseveration is a troubling issue needing clinical attention.”

So…have I been strong and virtuous through the years? Or do I need help from a good psychiatrist? And help for what? To keep me striving on toward my goal—or to help me stop an unconstructive and often stressful drain on my resources?

I’ve given this a lot of thought, particularly over the last year, and I’ve made a huge decision. One that I hope everyone will support me in. I’ll let you know about that decision next time.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

That Blasted Proverbs 31 Woman!

You’ve heard of the “Proverbs 31 woman,” right?

I’m sure you’ve at least heard the line, “Her children arise and call her blessed.” She’s sort of the Old Testament ideal of the perfect wife. Proverbs 31 (starting in verse 10) describes this great lady in detail. Many fine Christian women set great store by her and want to be like her—which is wonderful.

For many years, I positively despised her. If she had been real, I would have liked to get my hands on her, and not to give her a hug.

My bad attitude started in the early days of my marriage, which weren’t exactly ideal. Let’s just say we had a lot of adjusting to do. As a part of our adjustment, we went to a marriage conference. The leader asked us to write down some concrete things we would like our spouse to be or do—I can’t remember exactly how he worded the assignment. I’ve been married a LONG time. But I do remember that my dear hubby wrote down one line. “All I want is for you to be the Proverbs 31 woman.”

That’s all??!!

I wanted to snap back at him that all I wanted was for him to behave exactly like Jesus. But I bit that one back. The Proverbs 31 woman would never be so snarky.

In case you haven’t read Proverbs 31 lately, let me give you just a synopsis of this woman that I was supposed to be like. She gets up not just early, but while it’s still night—STILL NIGHT!—to start working. Her house is in perfect order. She spins and sews and makes beautiful coverings for the beds. She’s great at business—buys and sells fields for profit and sells things she makes—so she can take care of her family and give to the poor. Her family isn’t afraid of hard times, because she takes care of them. And of course, her children arise and call her blessed, and her husband praises her to everyone he meets.

For about two years after that, I couldn’t escape hearing about that dratted woman. The preacher seemed to preach about her every other week. I would turn on the car radio and the Christian family show would be talking about her, urging women to be like her. Daily devotionals, Sunday School lessons, conversations with other women at church…you get the idea.

For a woman who felt like a failure at this whole marriage and family business, I have to tell you, those messages could be pretty depressing. Not only did my children not call me blessed—I was facing infertility and couldn’t even manage to have children. And my husband was not exactly praising me in the streets.

Years went by. I stopped hearing so much about that blasted woman, for some reason, and stopped worrying about living up to her. Life became pretty full and hectic, anyway. We moved back to my hometown and I was so stressed and unhappy with my new job that I decided to get my master’s degree and become a librarian. My parents became elderly and my dad developed dementia and I spent a lot of time taking care of them. I taught an extra class at the college to get money to help with that, too. For my sanity, I took up quilting and beading and knitting, and even tried selling a bit of it. 

Through every bit of this, my hubby was supportive and sweet, a real shoulder to lean on. So I became sweeter, kinder, more respectful to him.

And one day, a few weeks ago, he said something that nearly made me fall over. He reminded me of the time he wrote down that he wanted me to be the Proverbs 31 woman, and then he said, “That’s what you are.”

For a moment, I thought he was delusional. But he had brought it up in the context of me caring for my parents, for my family. I got to thinking about that dratted woman again, and wondered if I had misjudged her. I thought about her making coverings for the bed and beautiful clothing for her family. So she had the same urges to quilt and knit and sew that I do! And that woman loved her family and would do anything to take care of them, which is always my first priority after serving God. We’re both career women mainly to be able to help our families, plus friends and acquaintances who might be having a hard time.

My attempts at selling (books or crafts) haven’t been as successful as hers, at least not yet. And this getting up while it’s still dark thing—well, we may just have to let that one go. I’ll never be as perfect as her. But my heart longs for the same things, and I’m striving toward the same goals.

Fortunately for me, my hubby seems to think that’s enough.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

And a Robin to Write It?

I caught a brief snippet of Alistair Begg's Truth for Life the other day, but got a very profound message--one that he really didn't even intend--in just a couple of sentences.

I turned on the radio in my car and caught him in mid message, but I believe Begg was talking about the authority of the Bible, and the fact that Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit. He explained what this did NOT mean--that God didn't choose random people and knock them into a trance and dictate the Scriptures to them. Rather, he said, when God saw that He was going to need something like the book of Romans, which was written by Paul, He planned and made a Paul. A man with certain personality traits and life experiences and abilities which are part of his writing.

As a writer, of course, I took that idea and ran with it.

I certainly don't claim that my writing is Holy Spirit-inspired--not in the sense that Scripture is. But I did start to wonder...what if God did want something like my novels to be written? What if He had a plan for those stories, to touch someone's heart and life in a certain way? So He planned and made a Robin to write them.

I love this idea! It turns everything around for me. So often I say "my writing," and I view it as "my dream." There have been so many obstacles that I often feel myself in an adversarial position with God--begging Him to bless it or allow me to do it. But what if...

He planned that writing? He wanted it done? And it's my job to write it.

A little scary. But also an awesome and cheering thought. If He has a purpose for it and wants it to reach certain people, then it will reach them. I just have to pick up the quill...or tap on the keys.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Winner and a Nifty Prize Give-Away

After a lot of incredible suggestions from friends, readers, and authors, I've settled on a new name for Glass Houses. And the winner is...Summer's Winter, suggested by the lovely and talented Ane Mulligan.

I love this title on so many levels. In my story, my protagonist is obsessed with a character in a book and movie series, and the character's name is Danny Summer. The series has temporarily "died" (as in winter) when the story begins, but will be resurrected. And the crisis in the life of Jamie, the actor who plays Danny Summer, happens in winter. I hope everyone else will be drawn to the title as I was! Thanks again to everyone, especially Ane.

On another subject, there's a great Christian book marketing effort out there, called the John 3:16 Marketing Network. I'm passing along info about a give-away they're hosting.

The John 3:16 Marketing Network is hosting their August Book Launch by giving away a Kindle, $25 Amazon gift card and a $10 Starbucks card. If you would like to enter, go to  and look for the Rafflecopter raffle. While there, please check out the two great books being showcased -- Children of Dreams, a creative nonfiction memoir, and Keeper of Reign, a YA adventure fantasy. Both books promote a Christian worldview. You don’t have to buy an ebook to enter, but for $1.98 cents, if you buy both books, you get 20 chances/entries  to win one of the prizes.

Thanks! Hope you win! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Help Me Choose a Name!

I need a new name for my novel, Glass Houses. The name doesn't fit as well as it used to--plus I see on Amazon that there's a teen vampire novel with that name now. Drat.

So I would really like some input from you folks. Here's a blurb about Glass Houses:
Glass Houses is a love story wrapped in a mystery, about a preacher's daughter named Jeanine and her obsession with movie star Jamie. At the age of ten, Jeanine believed that God Himself whispered to her in a dark movie theater and promised that the young star would someday be a part of her life. So began an eleven-year test of faith as Jeanine waited for her knight to arrive and rescue her from boring middle Georgia. And then, just as she’s graduating college and about to settle into the dreary nine-to-five life that stretches ahead of her, Jamie bursts into her life in an amazing way. He even seems to be falling for her, just as she’d dreamed. Trouble is, loving Jamie is nothing like she expected. Instead of carrying her away on a white charger, he’s hiding out in Georgia following the suspicious death of his former girlfriend. Jeanine longs to prove his innocence and get at the truth. Unless she can, Jamie’s dark secrets may shatter her faith—and her life.

The character Jamie plays--the one Jeanine is obsessed with--is named Danny Summer. The series of books and movies about Danny all have the name Summer in the title. There's a lot in the story about the Summer series, and how the author died and left the series hanging. The murder in my story ties into the lucrative revival of the Summer series, and who holds the copyright to be able to do that.

I also like the idea of summer symbolically. For me, summer was always about imagination and freedom. So I'm thinking I'd like to have the name "Summer" in the title. Here's what I'm leaning toward so far:

Saving Summer.

What do you think? Would a book with that title sound interesting? Suspenseful? Romantic?

Here are some other ideas I had:

Eternal Summer
Dying Summer
Eleven Years 'Til Summer
Waiting for Summer
If Summer Dies
Fatal Summer
Mortal Summer (or Immortal Summer?)
If Summer Comes
Killing Summer
The End of Summer
Summer's End

Okay, I think you get the picture. Do any of these strike you? Or do you have a brilliant idea I've overlooked?

Thanks so much! (And at least this post should show up on the first page of a Google search for "summer" today, if nothing else. I wonder if anyone else has ever used that word this much in one post.)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Big Reveal of Upcoming Book Cover: The Captive Maiden!

I'm home sick today, but I have dragged myself out of bed to do this blog, because today is the first day that author Melanie Dickerson is sharing the cover of her upcoming novel, The Captive Maiden. And I get to share it with my readers!

So, without more rambling from me, here it is...

Isn't it beautiful! As an amateur costumer, I adore the dress. It's perfect for Cinderella. Oh, did I mention this is a retelling of the Cinderella story, set in Medieval Europe?

Melanie is known for her inspirational and realistic retellings of classic fairy tales. She's done Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow White to date. Cinderella is one of my favorites, so I'm particularly looking forward to this one. Here is Melanie's description of it:

Happily Ever After …Or Happily Nevermore?

Gisela’s childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father’s death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela learns the duke’s son, Valten---the boy she has daydreamed about for years---is throwing a ball in hopes of finding a wife, she vows to find a way to attend, even if it’s only for a taste of a life she’ll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten’s eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.

The release date for The Captive Maiden is October 22, but the book is available for pre-order now. All you followers of The Queen may remember Melanie as a faithful reader and commenter on this blog way before she was published (and a Christy Award finalist!). So I want to help her out by pre-ordering and hope you will, too.

I'm sure it's available other places, but here's where I bought mine at Amazon.