Jesus Beside Me by David Ramos

This is one of the best devotionals I have read in a long time. I so much enjoyed reading it quickly so I could get this review up (it is late by about a week! David I am so sorry for that.)

The first one is lovely, but the second one is thought provoking. This 30-day mental work out is good for that soul stretching adventure that helps you build those spiritual muscles.

Here's a provoker for you:

God does not tempt, but as He desires purity for us He places us in the path of flames.
This is one of those wisdom droplets that you have to savor for a few minutes to get that kernel of hard-grained truth. How fascinating to find a kindred spirit who knows exactly why bad things happen to good people, and why God sometimes allows those things for our good.

Check out the link below to get this gem for your Kindle, or visit David's website. You'll find a treat.

About the book
Jesus Beside Me is a collection of 30 meditations on the words of Jesus in Matthew (Volume 1 covers chapters 4 through 7 of Matthew). Each one captures a different aspect of Jesus' mission, character and power.

A meditation expresses "considered thought on a subject." Jesus Beside Me approaches Matthew passage by passage and gives each phrase of Jesus' speech "considered thought." The result includes both devotional and mindful reading that will engage the readers heart, mind and soul.

The book also serves as a reminder of the constant presence of our Savior. "We do not serve a Lord far off. We do not pray to an inattentive Master. Our Jesus is ever near, always close, right beside us."

About the Author
David Ramos is a 20-something born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He has spent the last four years working in children, teen, and college-aged ministries. David's passion for the Word of God has led him to pursue a Masters of Divinity at Ashland Theological Seminary.


Silent Night by Colleen Coble

 This is a wonderful read. @Colleen Coble sort of ties up all the loose ends for her series about Bree Matthews and her faithful search dog Sampson. Frankly, some parts of it gets a little sappy, but after all it is Christmas, and we all get that way around this time. I enjoyed it very much.

If you have read any of the previous Bree Matthews books, then you absolutely must read this one because you can't leave a story without the happy ending! That is just a rule for readers.

As Christmas day nears, Bree and her faithful search-and-rescue dog Samson follow the trail of a troubling mystery into the snowy forests of Rock Harbor.

Bree Matthews is preparing for Christmas guests, but her heart is reeling from the recent and tender loss of her unborn child. Her sister-in-law, Lauri, suddenly turns up on the doorstep of the lighthouse home Bree shares with her husband, Kade, in Rock Harbor. Secretive and withdrawn, Lauri seems curiously intent on discovering what happened to a parachuter who disappeared in the North Woods along Lake Superior's icy shore.

As Bree and Samson, her search-and-rescue dog, plunge into the search, Bree wonders if Lauri may know more than she’s admitted about the parachuter. And then the clues lead them to the trail of a young woman whose family fears the worst about her disappearance.

Will the search on this snowy, silent night lead Bree and Samson to more than clues about the missing girl? And will Bree’s prayer for a baby ever be answered?


Too little backstory by Randy Ingermanson

(This is exactly one of the things that irritates the tears out of me when reading a book!)

Beginning novelists often commit the capital crime of starting out with too much backstory. They're afraid that the reader won't understand the main story, so they feel compelled to put in long explanations.

Boring explanations about characters the reader has barely met yet.

Advanced novelists know better than to give the reader too much backstory.

But advanced novelists often commit the opposite offense -- putting in too little backstory.

Is that possible? And why is that wrong?

Let me illustrate with a little story:

You're going out to dinner with your best friend. As you sit down at your table, she says, "I've got a secret!"

You stare at her. "So, um . . . what's your secret?"

She shrugs. "I'll tell you later. It's not that important."

"Then why'd you bring it up?" you ask.

"Well, it's fairly important. You'll understand when I tell you."

"Why can't you tell me now?"

"I just want to build your curiosity so you won't leave halfway through dinner."

"Why would I leave halfway through dinner?"

"Because I'm not all that interesting and you might decide to go sit with someone else."

"Are you that insecure?"

"It's a really important secret."

"Then tell me now."

"I can't tell anyone."

"You've already promised you'll tell me later! Why can't you tell me now? What kind of game are you playing?"

A long pause. "So what shall we order?"

If your friend treated you like that, you'd be pretty irritated. Stringing you along with the promise of a secret is weird. It's unnatural. If a secret's important enough to mention, it's important enough to tell. If it really can't be told, then it shouldn't be mentioned in the first place.

But authors do something similar when they give the reader hints about backstory, but then unnaturally shut down. This can happen in any category, but let's look at a simple example in the romance category.

In a romance novel, the hero and heroine generally meet in the first chapter. They're immediately attracted to each other, but for various reasons, they can't get together right away. The story is about how they each overcome the obstacles keeping them apart.

Often, one of the obstacles is some previous relationship. That's fine. What's not fine is making an abstract allusion to that obstacle, as in this made-up

"Don't you think Jim-Bob's hot?" Mary Sue asked. "Your tongue's hanging out of your mouth, so admit it."

"Yeah, sort of." Honey Jane sighed. Sure, Jim-Bob was hot, but . . . memories of John-Boy flashed through her mind. "Jim-Bob's just not my type."

In the above, we've just got our first hint of Honey Jane's backstory with someone named John-Boy. But it's abstract. The author is TELLING you that there's a memory. He's not SHOWING you the memory.

That's the moral equivalent of, "I've got a secret but I'm not telling yet."

There you are inside the head of the point-of-view character. You're supposed to know everything she knows. But she knows a secret, and she won't even think about it, because then you'd find out. That's just weird.

When I see things like this in novels, I know perfectly well that the author is going to share that backstory sometime later on. But I still feel irritated. The author is insecure and is trying too hard to make me curious so I won't put down the book.

What's the fix here? As an author, you can't stop the main story to feed the reader a big chunk of backstory.
There are two main ways to handle this:

* If you're in the point of view of a character who knows the backstory, then give a little piece of it.
Maybe mention John-Boy's gambling habit. Or his sky-high ego. Or the fact that he was playing three girlfriends at the same time. Something specific, but not the whole story.

* If you're in the point of view of a character who doesn't know the backstory, then have her figure out there's a secret and try to weasel it out of the character who knows. This doesn't make the reader feel cheated, because the point-of-view character isn't hiding anything from her.

In the suspense category, you'll often find a flawed hero who has a mission. But the mission is harder than it should be because it stirs up some old hate or hurt inside the hero. Here's a made-up example of showing too little backstory:

Control leaned forward in his chair and smiled at George. "Look, I know you hate Howard's guts, but you two are my best men and you've got to cooperate or we won't get that bridge blown up. Can you do that?"

Rage clawed at George's heart. He'd never forgive Howard. Ever. He'd slit Howard's throat before he'd go on a mission with him. George gave Control a sheepish grin. "I'm a professional. Of course I can do that."

In the above, we've just learned that George hates somebody named Howard. We know nothing about Howard.
George does, but he's giving us nothing to hate. Once again, we've got abstractions when we need some concrete details.

Did Howard once leave George behind to be tortured by Nazis? Did he steal his lady? Put laxatives in his brownies? We don't need the whole story, but we need something to work on.

It's just not natural for George to feel rage without some sort of concrete image in his mind -- something he saw, something he heard, something he felt or tasted.
The reader feels cheated when the author glosses over the POV character's thoughts with an abstraction.

The bottom line is simple. Show the reader the amount of backstory that the point-of-view character would naturally think.

Not too much, of course. That would bore your reader.

But not too little either. That's just bad manners.
~^~ ~^~ ~^~ ~^~

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 32,000 readers.
If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.


A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano

This novel is an enjoyable read with a few twists and fun dialogue, but it is set in the wrong century. There is so much about our time, and our way of thinking in this story that one can almost imagine it taking place in the 1950s or 1960s, especially the part about the girls being arrested for prostitution. While I am sure that this could be possible, the horror of it happening to two young women who were more used to the parlor than the seedy part of town is not fully explored. The surprise of harlots being on the corner is just short of shocking to the reader given that the house the young women are going to is supposedly of very high caliber. The reader must untangle from the incongruence before jumping back into the story flow. There are other instances like this. I get the feeling this is the editor's doing, and not the author's because the story feels a bit choppy.

There is no subtlety in the story where the reader can imagine love blossoming, or imagine a situation that would lend more humor. Everything is spelled out to a T. If you like that type of story, then this one is for you. However, I miss the anticipation of the kiss as in other romances. Here is the problem with a romance combined with a suspenseful plot. Rarely has this combination been done really well.

There is very little head jumping, praise the Lord! Going back and forth between the two main characters is rather enjoyable and is done perfectly. The POV travels from Eliza to Hamilton and sometimes to others, but is not distracting, and that means it is done well. The reader is never left wondering "Where am I?"

The storyline is very fast paced, perhaps in places a bit too fast. But, it is never boring and never gives you the feeling that you have to skip to the good parts. The writing is very good, but the story could be fleshed out in places to give a bit more detail concerning the era and society-ways. Sometimes the humor comes from a blase' attitude toward a situation. While that may not have been how a nineteenth century man would have viewed a woman in pants or find himself with her skirt in his hand, it does lend to the fun of the situation. Read it for fun, not for history and you'll very much enjoy it.

This one gets 4 of 5 stars.

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
A Change of Fortune
Bethany House Publishers (November 1, 2012)
Jen Turano


Lady Eliza Sumner is on a mission. Her fortune was the last thing she had left after losing her father, her fiance, and her faith. Now, masquerading as Miss Eliza Sumner governess-at-large, she's determined to find the man who ran off with her fortune, reclaim the money, and head straight back to London.

Mr. Hamilton Beckett, much to his chagrin, is the catch of the season, and all the eyes of New York society--all the female ones, at least--are on him. He has no plans to marry again, especially since his hands are full keeping his business afloat while raising his two children alone.

Eliza's hapless attempts to regain her fortune unexpectedly put her right in Hamilton's path. The discovery of a common nemesis causes them to join forces and, before she knows it, Eliza has a whole retinue of people helping her. Eliza's determination not to trust anyone weakens when everyone's antics and bumbling efforts to assist her make her wonder if there might be more important things than her fortune and independence.

When all of Hamilton's and Eliza's best-laid plans fall by the wayside, it will take a riot of complications for them to realize that God just might have had a better plan in mind all along.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Change of Fortune, go HERE.


Jen grew up in the small town of St. Clairsville, Ohio, where she spent an idyllic childhood riding her purple spider bike, ice-skating on a little pond and reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon books in her tree house. High School was, surprisingly enough, fabulous as Jen spent time with her girlfriends. She headed off to college with no idea of what she wanted to be when she grew up, but settled on pursuing a career in fashion because she thought it sounded glamorous. Her parents thought she’d lost her mind, but they resigned themselves to her choice and after earning a BA degree in Clothing and Textiles, Jen set off to take the fashion world by storm, only to discover retail was certainly not the glamorous career she’d imagined it would be. She moved to Buffalo, New York to take a job in the buying office of a large department store, learning all there was to know about cookware, which again, was hardly glamorous, especially to a girl who did not have a knack for cooking. She met her future husband, Al, a few months after taking this job and eight months later, they were married. After moving into management at another department store and working that for a few years, the company went out of business and Jen decided she’d had enough. One year later her son was born and Jen hung up her heels for good and concentrated on being a mom.

She began dabbling in writing when her son, then in elementary school, said he liked her made up stories as much as those in his books. It was then that she fired up the computer and never looked back.

Jen loves to write humorous stories with quirky characters and a dash of intrigue and finds historical romances especially appealing, seeing as how she’s been reading them since she was a teenager. Her mother gave her a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Flame and the Flower, and Jen was hooked on the genre. When not reading romance, she loves to read mysteries, young adult and her favorite series of all time, Harry Potter.

Besides writing, Jen enjoys spending time with her family and friends.


The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann

I was quite intrigued by this lovely novel from Kristen Heitzmann. The story development was superb, and the character development exemplary. The character that stole the show was Livvy, the two-year old daughter of Morgan. Quite the charmer and cute, I thought she may have been attributed some dialogue that might have been a tad too old? Maybe not. I found myself caring about what happened to both main characters, and especially to Livvy.

What I did not like was the head-hopping. Flipping from one character to another to another stopped the story flow and did nothing for suspense or intrigue. What could have been a nail-biter, turned out to be an average read. No suspense at all. We are all scared of the unknown. If Heitzmann had just capitalized on that, this story would have worked very well as a love/suspense story. But, she didn't and it doesn't. Jumping into the head of the crazed-maniac does not create suspense. It only adds another character that no one really cares about because he is the evil genie of the story. We readers do not want to feel sorry for him; we want him caught, and we want him to pay for his evil.

If you really like anticipation in your love stories, this one won't do for you. This book reads like it was intended to be a much shorter love story with a suspense back story that was only supposed to play a minor  role; but then was short-circuited by an editor for more fluff and added dimension to make it a longer version. 

There were several places that just didn't make sense like a paragraph or a couple of sentences were removed with no bridge put in place, and that made some places choppy. I had to reread several paragraphs to make some kind of sense and in one or two places, it never did make sense. 

However, on the whole, the book is enjoyable and is very well written. If for no other reason, the book is truly remarkable in how much a two-year old can add to the plot without being a victim. There is good balance with how the characters interact, and this gives the novel a good level of realism. Heitzmann also weaves a nice subplot in how humans need each other, and need to let go of the past as well as loved ones who have passed on. 

I give it 3 stars out of 5.

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Breath of Dawn
Bethany House Publishers (November 1, 2012)
Kristen Heitzmann


From the time my dad taught me to read at sit-on-the-floor school when I was four—launching me past kindergarten into 1st grade—I have loved learning and expressing what I know through art, music, and especially writing. Education came easily, and I grew accustomed to having my work read and displayed. But breaking out of the family mold, I left college to marry my husband Jim (celebrating our 29th this year.) Since then, life and all kinds of research have provided the grist for my stories. We have three awesome adult kids, and one incredible teenager. (You might think I’m biased, but ask anyone who knows them.)

While home schooling my four kids, I wrote my first novel. I pitched it for publication, and it became the first of a five book historical series. Since then, I have written three more historical novels and nine contemporaries. The Still of Night was nominated for the Colorado Book Award. The Tender Vine was a Christy Award finalist and Secrets won a Christy in 2005.

People often ask why I started writing, and I say to get the stories out of my head. Some say they’d like to write a book, but I say if you’re not wracked with labor pains, there are easier ways to express yourself. Being a writer is a solitary, eccentric, and often compulsive path. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.


Kristen Heitzmann Delivers Powerful New Romantic Suspense
Morgan Spencer has had just about all he can take of life. Following the tragic death of his wife, Jill, he retreats to his brother's Rocky Mountain ranch to heal and focus on the care of his infant daughter, Olivia. Two years later, Morgan begins to make plans to return to his home in Santa Barbara to pick up the pieces of his life and career.

Quinn Riley has been avoiding her past for four years. Standing up for the truth has forced her into a life of fear and isolation. After a "chance" first meeting and a Thanksgiving snowstorm, Quinn is drawn into the Spencer family's warm and loving world, and she begins to believe she might find freedom in their friendship.

The man Quinn helped put behind bars has recently been released, however, and she fears her past will endanger the entire Spencer family. As the danger heightens, she determines to leave town for the sake of the people who have come to mean so much to her.

Fixing problems is what Morgan Spencer does best, and he is not willing to let Quinn run away, possibly into the clutches of a man bent on revenge. But Morgan's solution sends him and Quinn on an unexpected path, with repercussions neither could have anticipated.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Breath of Dawn, go HERE.

A visit to the neighbors by Deborah Ludlow

Folks, this children's story book is by my friend and colleague, Deb Ludlow. I would so much appreciate it if you would consider buying this as a Christmas present for some child in your family or circle of friends ;)
 About the Book
Have you ever watched a child looking at an animal and seen their wonder? What do you say when they ask, “Mommy, Daddy, do you think animals can talk to each other?” This short illustrated story will be a delight to share with your child. It may help your child understand three basic methods that
horses use to communicate with each other as they read about Audrey’s visit to the neighbors, to feed apples to the horses.
About the Author
I was born Deborah Bardenhagen in Kalamazoo Michigan July 22, 1958. I grew up passionate about horses, dogs, and cats. My first encounter with horses was my toy spring horse; followed by “Bob’s ponies.” I owned my first horse at the age of 15 and have had them in my life since.
I have always loved to draw horses, but my career led me down another path. In completing a MCOM through Spring Arbor University, a requirement of graduation was completion of a Portfolio project, which opened the door to illustrating a story book about how horses communicate. It also became an opportunity to honor Audrey’s short life and the joy she brought to all of us who’s life she had touched.
A Visit To The Neighbors
“Mommy, Do You Think Horses Can Talk To Each Other?”
Deborah Bardenhagen-Ludlow
AuthorHouse - 24 pages
ISBN: 8.5x11 Paperback (978-1-4772-8310-3)
Ebook (978-1-4772-8311-0)
Suggested Retail Price:
$17.99 - Paperback
$3.99 - Ebook
You can order
A Visit To The Neighbors
directly from the publisher at
Typical Ordering Time: 7-10 Business Days
This book is also available at your local resellers.
© 2011 Author Solutions, Inc.

The book can be purchased from or phone 888-280-7715.

merry Christmas y'all!


Creativity: Is headhopping a sin? by Randy Ingermanson

3) Creating: Is Headhopping A Sin?

Every so often the issue of "headhopping" comes up among writers, and the fur soon begins flying. It came up recently in a circle of novelists I belong to.

Some writers insist that there is no sin more vile than headhopping, except possibly teaching the cat how to smoke.

Other writers claim that headhopping is an acceptable practice in romance, where many readers like it and a few editors even insist on it.

Is headhopping a sin? If it's so horrible, then why does Joe Bigname Author hop heads like crazy? Is headhopping just another gotcha invented by writing teachers to put newbie writers in knots? Isn't headhopping just the same thing as the omniscient viewpoint?

First things first -- we need to define "headhopping."

To do that, let's review the main alternatives. The two most common points of view in fiction are first-person and third-person.

In first-person POV, the author writes as if she is one of the characters, using the pronouns "I" and "me" to refer to that character.

When you write in first-person, you put your reader firmly inside the head of that one character and it would be unnatural to get out.

In third-person POV (the most common POV these days), the author chooses one particular character in each scene to be the viewpoint character. The author uses the pronouns "he" and "him" or else "she" and "her" to refer to that character.

When you write in third-person correctly, you put your reader firmly inside the head of that one character.
You show only what that character can see, hear, touch, taste, smell, or feel. Nothing more.

So third-person is very much like first-person, except for the pronouns you use.

Either first-person or third-person puts your reader on intimate terms with the viewpoint character for the course of any given scene. This makes it fairly easy to give your reader a Powerful Emotional Experience, which I believe is the main goal of writing fiction.

Now of course it's possible that a writer will do a bad job of writing either first-person or third-person, which means that the reader will have no Powerful Emotional Experience. But tens of thousands of professional novelists use these viewpoints effectively because they work.

Now we can define headhopping. Headhopping is like third-person, except that the author uses two or more viewpoint characters within a single scene.

In headhopping, you put your reader firmly inside the head of one character for a while and then hop into another character's head for a while.

Let's look at those questions we raised at the beginning of this article:

Is headhopping OK?

My own opinion is that it's OK to do this IF you do it well. But it isn't easy to do it well, for two reasons.

First, those pesky transitions from one head to another are hard to get right. If you confuse the reader, then that's a speed bump in the reading experience and that's bad.

Second, even if you do the transitions well, doing them too often will make your reader feel jerked around.

Why does Joe Bigname Author use headhopping in his novel?

Good question. Some authors actually don't know any better (and neither do some editors). Some authors know that headhopping is risky but do it anyway because they believe they can do it well and the rewards are worth the risks.

Is headhopping just an invention of selfish writing teachers who want to earn more money by putting up more roadblocks for new writers?

Not that I can tell. Headhopping is hard to do well, and very often it just plain doesn't work. Headhopping by novice writers almost always doesn't work. Writing teachers spend most of their time working with novice writers, so they spend a lot of time telling them  not to hop heads.

Is headhopping exactly the same thing as the omniscient viewpoint that was used so successfully by the great 19th century writers?

In my opinion, no. I believe that omniscient viewpoint means that the narrator is actually omniscient and can know things that NONE of the characters know.

I am tempted to say that all right-thinking people must agree with me, but I know at least one writing teacher who believes that headhopping is the same thing as omniscient.

I'm afraid that rational discussion will never settle this argument. However, kicking, biting, scratching, and hair-pulling might, so I have hope that someday all writers will agree with me on this point.

So should you hop heads? Will you suffer eternal torment if you indulge in the forbidden fruit of headhopping?

My own opinion is that if you're a new writer, then it's best to avoid headhopping, for two reasons:

* Headhopping requires that you master third person viewpoint AND that you master transitions from one head to the next. It's easier to master one skill than two.

* Some editors will reject you outright for headhopping.

Once you've learned to write third-person Xtremely well, then you'll have the skills to try hopping heads when you have a scene where you believe it makes sense.

At the very least, if you're going to hop heads, you should be aware that you're doing it, you should have a reason to do so, and you should make it work.

The goal in writing fiction is to give your reader a Powerful Emotional Experience. Do whatever it takes to do that.

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 32,000 readers.
If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.
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