Thank you to each of you for subscribing! I am now officially a book reviewer, thanks to each of you!

And guess what makes it even better – I was able to join TWO different book review groups! It’s like finding two pots of gold at the end of a rainbow!

BookSneeze, aka BookLookBloggers – you already heard about these guys, but they are a division of HarperCollins Christian publishing. They contacted me on July 25, with this understated email below:

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 4.25.03 PM

I went right ahead and requested an eBook version of a Christian fiction book called “Prelude for a Lord” by Camille Elliott and published by Zondervan. I’ve already started reading!


BloggingforBooks – They are a branch of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House.  As soon as I joined, I was presented with a list of delicious books I could request to review. I chose one work of Christian fiction – The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton, and I received the email below:

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You can see that they thoughtfully provide the links to the book cover image for insertion into a blog post. Normally I go to Amazon.com and nab a screenshot of a book cover. This is so handy! (It’s the little things.)


I cannot thank you enough!

Becoming a book reviewer is a particular joy for me, as I’ve always thought it would be a dream hobby or job, akin to a travel writer or video game tester. I’m glad that others out there share this interest and have formed these large platforms enabling small-town bloggers to spread the word about good books. I really believe that recommending books to friends is one of the most powerful ways to get the news out about a great story. People trust their loved ones to know them and suggest the best books. Word-of-mouth isn’t something that millions of marketing dollars can manufacture; it has to be genuinely grassroots in origin.

Each of you helped me get to this point!


Reformatting this blog

Over the next few days, I’ll reorganize the book review section of my blog to make it easier to find reviews. Perhaps a gallery of links rather than individual pages or a looooooong scrolling page. I’m observing other book reviewers’ sites, such as http://marielamba.wordpress.com/, to see how they are structured.


On that note, I’ll be checking my mail every day for my new glossy books to read, and you can see the reviews on this blog!

God bless you each.

Waiting for boooooooooks! SOURCE: http://marielamba.wordpress.com/ – a web site for book reviewer, agent and writer Marie Lamba



New Devotional!

For me, writing devotionals doesn’t come as easily as writing fiction. I don’t want to force writing something that is divinely inspired and meant to encourage others spiritually. Creating a devotional is a precious opportunity to praise the Lord, comfort others, connect Scripture to our daily lives, and more. Unlike fiction, which for me really is about entertainment and at times, education, devotionals have a higher purpose.

So I was thrilled this past week when I awoke one morning, and through the groggy haze of waking up, yawning, and getting ready for the day, I realized a story worthy of a devotional had come to me.

I wrote it down, while it was still fresh, and am editing it now. I can’t publish it here, because most devotionals require the material not to be published anywhere else, but I can give you the rewritten synopsis below:


Recently, my husband David and I bought a tiny tomato plant. We’ve tended it like parents, watering it daily, admiring its growth, rushing out during rainstorms to shelter its fragile leaves. We even named it: Benito Tomito!

(Ok, so we’re kooky. And it’s just a simple garden plant. But inspiration can come from the most mundane places.)

We noticed the tomato plant suffering one day. Gaping holes appeared in its leaves, lower branches lost their healthy green color and turned a pale yellow, and the leaves began curling upwards. Worrying, we watered it extra, checking on it daily. Did it need new soil? Was it getting enough sunlight? Was Benito lonely?

One cool morning I notice the issue. A fat caterpillar lay comfortably on the stalk, chewing hungrily on a green leaf. Poor Benito was helpless, defenseless against those gnawing mandibles. The caterpillar’s chubby segments were the exact green as Benito’s stalk, one of Nature’s camouflage tricks, and so we’d overlooked it day after day.

It struck me this week that sin can attack us just as the caterpillar was ravaging Benito. It stays close by, in disguise, draining us of energy that could be used to serve others. We are distracted from our purpose on Earth by the many sinful, attractive activities that are out there.

Even once we’ve quit the distraction, it takes time to recover. Often there are consequences of our sin that continue pulling us away from serving others. Even after we plucked the caterpillar off and flung it away, Benito’s energies and nutrients were devoted to regrowing damaged leaves rather than growing the red tomatoes we hoped to see.

All we can do is pray for God to reveal our sin to us, that we can be on our guard against it. Similar to how we needed to protect Benito with bug spray, we can guard against sin’s infiltration by surrounding ourselves with Christian encouragers and friends who can keep us accountable and see what we can’t see, reading God’s word, and, most important of all, praying constantly.


I hope this encourages yall!Thank you for reading and following my blog!  I am deeply thankful for each of you.





Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 8.35.29 AMI am so honored to share with you the July 18 devotional for The Upper Room, which is a submission I sent based on a broken friendship which is now reconciled.

You can read the devotional online here, at devotional.upperroom.org. I woke up this morning praying that it would encourage others who have lost the closeness of a friend, sibling, parent or someone else and who despair of ever reconnecting with them. The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways, and I believe He’s changing our hearts all the time when we listen to Him and pray. Have patience and courage!

It also happens that today, July 18, is my new mother-in-law’s birthday! Happy Birthday to Mrs. Susan. It feels like this devotional’s publication date, which I had no control over, was meant to be. It shows me that the Lord is opening the way for new friendships for me even as He also restores old ones.

Have a wonderful Friday, everyone!


Setting a New Goal

US goalkeeper Tim Howard Blocks a Shot

In light of the ongoing World Cup, I’m setting a new GOAL!

(Ok, yes, that can’t even be called a pun. “The lowest form of comedy,” my husband says, quoting “Last Man Standing”.)


What’s the goal? One short story per week.


That’s it. Seems simple, right? Sure. Just as simple as when they tell you to eat right and exercise. Hah!


My brother Ralph, an exercise enthusiast and exercise physiologist, recently mentioned to me that the words “should” and “shouldn’t” shouldn’t be used in the context of goals. Why? The reasoning is that there’s no commitment to action behind “I should lift weights” or “I really shouldn’t eat that giant slice of chocolate cake.” There’s only an implied action, or a slightly shamed admission that one isn’t doing the right thing. Compare those statements with “I will lift weights twice a week” or “I will not eat desserts except on Friday nights.” Much more concrete. Plus, the timeline adds structure.

So for this short story goal, instead of saying “I really should write more,” I’m going to say, “I will write one short story per week until the first week of October.” That would equal 13 short stories.

I won’t be posting them here to this blog (I know! I want to share them, you want to read them. But many of the short story contests I’ve been looking at require that submissions not have been published anywhere, even to a blog.), but I’ll let you know when they’re complete!


Why do you need a goal, and why short stories rather than a novel?

Settling into married life and increasing responsibilities at work have squeezed my writing time lately. It’s time to make a renewed commitment so I can keep making progress and sharing the constant stream of stories and ideas floating around in my noggin.

I have created two novel manuscripts, which I’m proud of and yet realize suffer from the typical new novelist’s traps of bulky “middles”, character inconsistencies and more. Many of the great writers started out writing short stories. Aerogramme Writers’ Studio, one of my favorite blogs, shared this article containing 35 beautiful and insightful quotes about short stories from famous authors.

Here are a few gems:

  • “In a rough way the short story writer is to the novelist as a cabinetmaker is to a house carpenter.” – Annie Proulx
  • I would also suggest that any aspiring writer begin with short stories. These days, I meet far too many young writers who try to start off with a novel right off, or a trilogy, or even a nine-book series. That’s like starting in at rock climbing by tackling Mt. Everest. Short stories help you learn your craft.” – George R.R. Martin
  • “A short story I have written long ago would barge into my house in the middle of the night, shake me awake and shout, ‘Hey, this is no time for sleeping! You can’t forget me, there’s still more to write!’ Impelled by that voice, I would find myself writing a novel. In this sense, too, my short stories and novels connect inside me in a very natural, organic way.” – Haruki Murakami
  • “When seriously explored, the short story seems to me the most difficult and disciplining form of prose writing extant. Whatever control and technique I may have I owe entirely to my training in this medium.” – Truman Capote
  • “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” – Ray Bradbury


That last one really appealed to me, hence the short story a week goal! I realized that these writers practiced their craft, the story arc and the whittling of words, within short stories. Who am I to do differently?

To me, the short story is a 5K race as a novel is to a marathon. If I can practice my form through 5Ks, I’ll be ready to tackle a novel with greater skill later.

Me writing a novel right now:


Let’s get to this level:

SOURCE: Michigan Runner Girl


Write on!

Travel the World in Stories – Maptia


An online society of people who love to write about beautiful places in the world? Of course I’m interested in joining Maptia! This blog is a compendium of far-flung stories and posts across the globe, zooming in on those micro moments which flavor the air of other nations. People share adventure stories hiking summits or the open road, celebrating new and old customs, dining on exotic culinary creations and more. They even have a globe you can explore by clicking on the location then reading stories related to that location.

It’s a young group – only started in September of 2012 or 2013 in Switzerland – so they are developing their platform to support more travelers/writers. A few writers already have stories available – like “The Penguin Runner” set in Namibia and “A City of Bright Colours” set in Morocco. There’s a whole world out there!


Maptia.com Manifesto

maptia manifesto

Maptia.com’s Personalized Manifesto for Me

It’s a global crowdsourcing effort, where people toss their stories together like pennies to a well. In order to make sure those pennies gleam like newly burnished copper instead of going green and gross, Maptia provides 13 tips for telling stories about places:

        1. Pick a place that means something to you.
        2. Keep it personal.
        3. Be original.
        4. Write vividly.
        5. Focus on the details.
        6. Choose photographs that tell a story.
        7. Use different vantage points.
        8. Write a colourful description to introduce your story.
        9. Show, not tell.
        10. Go the extra mile.
        11. Be selective.
        12. Read other people’s stories.
        13. Enjoy the process.


Whether writing about places or fiction, these 13 rules hold true, I’m thinking.

I may hearken back to earlier travels, the days when friends and I traveled through Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos…so many stories there that I’ve kept inside.

Or, this weekend, a few friends and I are going to explore the mountains of Western North Carolina, and I may attempt to write a short story guided by those 13 rules. Let’s see how it goes!

Either way, writing and exploration go hand-in-hand, whether the exploration is of the soul or of the planet.


Robertsons in front of a house we were building in “Coconut Country,” Ben Tre, Vietnam, summer 2007