Heaven is for Real--for kids as told by Colton Burpo


This is a story that you truly need to read to your kids. It ultimately answers all those questions asked by children when someone dies in the family or the favorite pets dies. Those questions we dread to answer because it is so difficult to form words that will bring peace to our children. A person is there, and then the body remains but there is no life. Where does the life go?

Colton Burpo knows beyond any doubt what happens when you die and he remembered to tell his folks who wrote it down and then Thomas Nelson published the story. Buy the CDs, buy the book for adults first and then buy this one to read to your children. It is worthy, and I know it is true, for I know there is Heaven because God says it is so.

If you do not believe there is Heaven, then read it first. If you do not believe after reading this, then I'm sorry I won't see you when we all get to Heaven on that glorious day.

Heaven is for real, and you are going to like it!
Colton Burpo came back from his trip to heaven with a very important message: Jesus really, really loves children. In effort to reach even more families with this eternally significant story, this runaway bestseller is now told from Colton—kid to kids! Children will receive the same comfort and assurance that so many adults have received from the trade book.

Beautifully illustrated, under Colton's direction, this book is uniquely written from a child for a child. Colton tells of his experiences in first person and comments on things that will be important to kids. A letter to parents is included to guide them in talking to their children about heaven. Scripture along with Q&A section with answers from the Bible are also included in the book.


Branding Obamessiah by Dr. Mark E. Taylor

An amazing book.
I first thought this book would be extolling all the unique qualities and so-called perfectness of Obama. Nothing could be further from the truth of this insightful book.

Taylor has concisely boiled down all the elements of the political arena such as American culture and advertising, and he helps the Average Joe to understand all the subtle nuance of this man-created, supposed savior of America. Taylor exposes some of the lies with simple eyewitness accounts such as someone from Obama's high school having  a completely different set of memories than offered by Obama in his writings. (Several classmates remember he actually did not take part in discussions of racial prejudice in high school.)

"Obama's criticism of 'white folks' did not seem justified by his own personal experience. The irony is palpable" (p. 99) points out Taylor. The man and the message do not make a whole truth, but variations and subtle colorings of truth (pun intended).

If you take a hard look at the photo on the cover, you'll see the kind of subliminal messages the campaign presented to unsuspecting voters. The whole message designed by Obama and the Democrats was so ingenious that even conservative radio host Mark Levin noted, "I can't help but observe that even some conservatives are caught in the moment as their attempts at explaining their support for Barack Obama are unpersuasive and even illogical" (p. 166). Taylor, through intensive research exposes all the tricks and idiosyncrasies of a political campaign that is filled to over flowing, shaken and packed down with religious fervor of the wrong kind.

If you weren't watching, Obama's rallies were organized like ole-timey tent revivals complete with the greeting, "Hello, Believers!" and the Q & A type of motivational, preaching. "You hear what I'm saying?" "Oh, yeah, brother, oh yeah!" There were even some who were "slain in the Obama-spirit", fainting as if on cue for the cameras. Taylor doesn't stop an one documented example but gives the reader ten accounts then asks the question were these eyewitness reports of "slain" devotees legitimate? Excellent question.

This isn't necessarily an expose' of Obama or Democrat tactics, but more an expose' of how the religion of politics has evolved. (Another excellent book which exposes this kind of political/media shuffle is Sarah Palin's Going Rogue.)

This book receives five of five stars. I highly recommend it, and beg you to read it before this presidential election proceeds any farther.


Mark Edward Taylor (PhD, Northwestern University Graduate School; ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a native Chicagoan who has long followed Windy City politics, culture, and religion. While teaching college courses on communication and culture, he discovered that Barack Obama’s US presidential campaign was becoming a dramatic story of quasi-religious persuasion and belief. Mark immersed himself in the unfolding political drama. Using his skills in theology and rhetorical criticism, Mark dedicated five years to capturing the story behind Obama’s ascension from backroom Chicago politics to the heavenly realm of a presidential American idol—Obamessiah.

Read more about Mark, including why he wrote the book, in the online author Q&A and in the introduction to the book.


God, Am I A Nobody? by Sheryl Young

I had the opportunity to read this wonderful devotional by Sheryl Young. You might have read my review of her last book, What Every Christian Should Know About The Jewish People. If not, click on the link because it is a great book.

Sheryl is offering something a bit different in that you have a daily dose of Christ-like wisdom about things we face as we work for the Lord:

In today’s world, personal accomplishment gets all the accolades. Economic stability seems elusive or unsatisfying. It’s hard for us to put God’s will before worldly success. Sometimes:
-God doesn’t let us do something, so we try to do it ourselves.
-There’s a mountaintop experience when we least expect it.
-And sometimes we “labor in obscurity… while He lets others get the credit.”
This last quoted statement is from nineteenth century missionary Hudson Taylor’s sermonette, A Higher Calling. Taylor, an Englishman, devoted his life to serving the people of China and challenging other Christians to put the Lord first.

While everyone has these moments, not everyone has the wisdom to overcome Satan's tug toward worldly desires and fleshly appetites. I have often written about the ability we Christians have to make idols of church, church work, our families and other Church Lady things. Take for instance Chapter Thirteen...

O God, Behold our shield, and look upon the face of Your anointed. For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand (Psalm 84:9-10a).

How often have we used church work as an excuse for not meeting with God? If you are honest, you'll look back and note at least once this has happened. If you haven't done this, then you will so don't be so smug :)

Sheryl points out the story of Martha always in the kitchen while Mary sits at Jesus' feet. Jesus does chide Martha just a bit, and we can see why for Jesus wasn't long on this earth in His physical body. Mary certainly chose the thing I crave the most, sitting at His feet and learning from His own lips. As the priest told Romeo, "There shalt thou be happy."

You can purchase this book...
“God, Am I Nobody” at the publisher in paperback or e-book:
or at Amazon Kindle 


Sheryl Young has been freelance writing for magazines, newspapers and the internet since 1997. Her special interests are Politics, U.S. Government, Society and Education as they intersect with biblical faith. Her articles and stories have been seen in such venues as: Yahoo News, The Christian Post, Chicken Soup for the Soul, the Florida Baptist Witness Newspaper, VISTA National Sunday School Curriculum; Light & Life Magazine and Better Nutrition Magazine. She’s been a Community Columnist for the Tampa Tribune Newspaper, Florida Spokesperson for Concerned Women for America, and the recipient of a First Place “Roaring Lambs” National Writing Award from the Amy Foundation.

In connection with being a Jewish believer in Jesus, Sheryl wrote the previous book, “What Every Christian Should Know about the Jewish People” (2008, Pleasant Word/Wine Press). (here:, or at Amazon and most online booksellers).

You can see her blogsite at, where she posts some of her articles and also spotlights other Christian small-press and self-published authors.


Randy Ingermanson interviews James Scott Bell

4) Marketing: An Industry Pro Goes E

The e-book revolution is roaring in even faster than predicted by e-enthusiasts. A few facts will make clear what I mean:

A-list novelist David Morrell recently self-published his novel THE NAKED EDGE on Amazon, in Kindle and audio formats only.

A-list marketing guru Seth Godin is due today, March 1, 2011, to self-publish his next book, POKE THE BOX, simultaneously in hardcover and e-format.

In January of this year, self-published e-novelist Amanda Hocking sold a reputed 450,000 copies of her books on Amazon. She is 26 years old. Less than a year ago, she posted her first novel on Amazon. Now, she's a superstar.

In view of these, I wasn't surprised when one of my writing buddies, Jim Bell, recently self-published a new e-book, COVER YOUR BACK. The book contains a novella and three short stories. If the words "film noir" and "femme fatale" ring your bells, then COVER YOUR BACK might well be a book you'd enjoy.

Jim has not abandoned the world of traditional publishing. His venture into e-books simply allows him to do things that he couldn't have done with a paper-and-ink publisher that thinks a year is a short period of time.

I asked Jim to tell me about his venture in an interview for this e-zine. Here's a blurb about him and his writing:

JAMES SCOTT BELL is a bestselling thriller author and served as the fiction columnist for Writer's Digest magazine. He has written three popular craft books for Writers Digest Books: Plot & Structure, Revision & Self-Editing and The Art of War for Writers. Jim has taught writing at Pepperdine University and numerous writers conferences. On June 4th and 5th he is teaching a seminar in Los Angeles for novelists and screenwriters. Information can be found at

On to the interview. Let's see what motivated Jim to take the e-plunge.

Randy: You recently self-published your first e-book, after more than a decade of publishing paper books with a number of traditional royalty-paying publishers.
What prompted you to take the plunge into the e-book market?

Jim: Because there is absolutely no downside to it, and plenty of upside. The e-market is exploding and I had several stories and a novella that didn't have a home.
E-book publishing allows me to bring new material to my readers, and introduce me to others. I've always admired the old pulp writers of the mid 20th century, who had to write a lot for a penny a word, but created some of the best suspense ever. That's what I always wanted to be able to do, and now can via e-publishing.

The nice thing is that the royalty for these works is great and I get paid every month.

Randy: Let's talk a bit about the process.  You decided to write a novella and three short stories.  You wrote them in Microsoft Word just as you normally do.  Then what happened?  How did you take the book from a Word document to its final published form on Amazon and the other online retailers?

Jim: I hired a person to do the conversion for me.
There are many people out there who will do this, and the cost is relatively low. You should be able to find someone for between $50 - $100. It may be a bit more if the document needs more work. I toyed with the idea of doing it myself, but was advised by others to let a professional handle it. So I provided the Word document and the person I hired converted into a format for Kindle, for Nook, and for Smashwords, should I expand to that.

Randy:  Many fiction contracts have "non-compete"
clauses in them.  Tell us about those and what they mean for the already-published author who wants to venture into the electronic self-publishing world but doesn't want to alienate his publisher.

Jim: Well, publishers are investing money in writers and trying to build them. So a standard publishing contract has a clause that says the writer cannot sell a book that might compete with the one they're publishing. Usually there's language about potential "harm" to the sales of the contracted book. That could mean that a self-published e-book, at a low price point, could be viewed as competition with the published e-book, which might have a higher price point.

On the other hand, a low priced, self-published e-book can be seen as a marketing tool for the other books.
This should all be discussed with the publisher, and a written understanding hammered out.

Randy: Any predictions on the near-term future of publishing?  As we speak, Borders is circling the drain and Barnes & Noble is battling to reinvent itself, while dozens of previously unknown writers are earning thousands of dollars per month.  Where do you see the world of publishing going in 2011? What are your plans to deal with the massive change?

Jim: I do think the traditional publishing model is undergoing great stress now. There are fewer distributions points, less revenue coming in as consumers turn to lower priced e-books. The old guard will have to be experimenting with new ways of doing things, but that's hard for a big, established business to do.

Meantime, there will be a veritable tsunami of original material self-published. Most of it will be bad. A writer still needs to sweat and strain and get better.
The old model provided a filtering system. But for those who learn to write well, the self-publishing avenue has great potential.

I don't think anyone can predict what the landscape will look like in five  years. I have been surprised at the rapid rise in e-readers (as was predicted by one Randall Ingermanson). As a writer I'm taking advantage of the opportunity. Others will do the same. And word of mouth will continue to help the best works get the attention they deserve.

Randy: You probably couldn't have traditionally published your novella WATCH YOUR BACK and you almost certainly couldn't have published your short stories in paper format.  Tell us a bit about those stories and why you wrote them.  Isn't it enough to be a successful novelist?

Jim: I love the short story and novella form. It used to be we had a thriving short story market in this country, lots of pulp and slick magazines. But that all dried up except for a couple of little magazines, through which it is impossible to make a living. And yes, short story collections are rarely published in print form.

So, here is a way for me to write short form suspense fiction and publish it. As I said, there's just no downside to that. I can provide entertainment for readers at a low cost, and everyone's happy.

Randy: I bought COVER YOUR BACK last week and read through it in a day. Great read! Lots of fun for those who like darkish fiction. What advice do you have for someone contemplating writing exclusively for the self-publishing market?

Jim: First, always be about getting better as a writer.
That should never stop. I started in this business 20 years ago and have kept on studying the craft all that time.

Second, be sure to have your story vetted by several "beta" readers, and even consider paying a freelance editor to go over the manuscript. Readers do notice if the text is sloppy.

Third, hire a good cover designer. You have to make a good first impression with your book cover.

Finally, make some long term plans. What kind of writing will be your specialty, your "brand"? As you build readers, they are going to expect some continuity in your work. That's not to say you can't be flexible and try new things, but an audience is grown largely by coming to rely on the type of story you produce. Think of Stephen King and John Grisham. Even they did not deviate from their genres until they were well established in them.

Randy: Great advice, as always. Thanks for telling us about your adventures on Planet E, Jim!

Permission to reprint granted by author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 24,000 readers, every month. 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.

March 1, 2011
Volume 7, Number 3


The 13th Demon by Bruce Hennigan


This will be a short review. I found this book very disturbing. Blood is everywhere, and that is rather sickening. Although, I have complete confidence that Satan is more than capable of committing the evil acts described in this book. I'm not sure that it would be as overtly physical, but entirely plausible covertly.

If you don't mind all the blood (and there is plenty of it), then this is a page-turner suspense. Just beware this is not for the faint-hearted.

3 of 5 stars 

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The 13th Demon
Realms (October 4, 2011)
Bruce Hennigan


Bruce Hennigan was born and raised in the isolated countryside of Shreveport, La., a place full of possibilities for the active mind of a young boy. The fertile imagination he cultivated while playing deep in the Louisiana woods would lead to a lifelong love of creative writing.

In 2006, Hennigan pursued the Certified Apologetic Instructor Certificate from the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has become a frequent speaker at regional and state events on apologetics and his strong point is in making these sometimes hard to understand issues easily approachable for the average Christian. Hennigan’s experience in apologetics inspired him to write his new novel, The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye, a supernatural Christian thriller that combines science and faith. Now, combining his love for apologetics and his love for the art of writing, Hennigan is pursuing a career as the “Michael Crichton” of Christian fiction building powerful, fast paced stories around the truths of Christian apologetics.

Hennigan currently resides in Shreveport with his wife and daughter. He continues to write and to practice radiology at the Willis Knighton Health Care System. He has secured Jeff Jernigan of Hidden Value Group ( as his literary agent and has signed a five book deal with the Realms imprint of Charisma Media for “The Chronicles of Jonathan Steel”.


When Jonathan Steel wakes up on a beach in a raging thunderstorm, naked, beaten, and bleeding, he has no idea who he is or how he got there. But just as he starts to make progress in his slow journey to recovery, tragedy strikes again, taking everything in his new life that he has come to love and rely on.
Filled with rage and a thirst for revenge, he searches the countryside for the entity responsible—an entity called only the Thirteenth Demon. His quest brings him to Lakeside, Louisiana, and a small country church where evil is in control and strange writing on the walls, blood-soaked floors, and red-eyed spiders have appeared in the sanctuary.

As he faces the final confrontation with an evil presence that has pursued him all of his life, he must choose between helping the people he loves or destroying the thirteenth demon.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The 13th Demon, go HERE.



Usually Deeanne Gist has an excellent storyline, great character developing and some suspense within the love story.

This novel is a little different incorporating a "Gentleman Jack" type of villain within the storyline in which the real hero, a Texas Ranger, finds it difficult to "get" his criminal because the people think the villain is some type of Robin Hood. It is quite interesting how Gist weaves this story. However...

I was only into the third chapter and was thoroughly disgusted with the bird thing that Georgie has... I'm quite sure all the bird hat and clothing decoration information is quite true because Gist does an excellent job with research. It's just the bird-loving goes overboard for me. What could have been a personality quirk actually becomes an overwhelming character flaw, in my opinion. It reminds me of some eco-environment "persuasions" that some writers indulge in which is annoying to say the least. Frankly, there is nothing between the two "love birds" that explains why the two fall in love. It is rather after the old-fashioned, from the eighties, iron-sharpening-iron kind of love story. It is merely physical attraction after all disguised as "love".

I give this on 3 out of 5 stars. I liked it, but it could have been so much better.

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Love on the Line
Bethany House (October 1, 2011)
Deeanne Gist


After a short career in elementary education, Deeanne Gist retired to raise her four children. Over the course of the next fifteen years, she ran a home accessory and antique business, became a member of the press, wrote freelance journalism for national publications such as People, Parents, Parenting, Family Fun, Houston Chronicle and Orlando Sentinel, and acted as CFO for her husband’s small engineering firm--all from the comforts of home.

Squeezed betwixt-and-between all this, she read romance novels by the truckload and even wrote a couple of her own. While those unpublished manuscripts rested on the shelf, she founded a publishing corporation for the purpose of developing, producing and marketing products that would reinforce family values, teach children responsibility and provide character building activities.

After a few short months of running her publishing company, Gist quickly discovered being a "corporate executive" was not where her gifts and talents lie. In answer to Gist’s fervent prayers, God sent a mainstream publisher to her door who licensed her parenting I Did It!® product line and committed to publish the next generation of her system, thus freeing Gist to return to her writing.

Eight months later, she sold A Bride Most Begrudging to Bethany House Publishers. Since that debut, her very original, very fun romances have rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere. Add to this two consecutive Christy Awards, three RITA nominations, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.

Her latest releases, Beguiled, Maid To Match, and Love on the Line are now available.

Gist lives in Texas with her husband of twenty-eight years and their border collie. They have four grown children. Click here to find out the most up-to-the-minute news about Dee.


Rural switchboard operator Georgie Gail is proud of her independence in a man's world ... which makes it twice as vexing when the telephone company sends a man to look over her shoulder.

Dashing Luke Palmer is more than he appears though. He's a Texas Ranger working undercover to infiltrate a notorious gang of train robbers. Repairing telephones and tangling with this tempestuous woman is the last thing he wants to do. But when his stakeout puts Georgie in peril, he realizes more than his job is on the line.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love on the Line, go HERE.


Teens and Their Supernatural Pursuits

(Editor's note: This is a guest post for October by Melody Carlson)

By Melody Carlson

Have you even wondered why some teens are drawn toward things like Ouija boards or psychics? Or why séances are still popular at sleepovers? Does it just have to do with Halloween and that spine-chilling need for a good scare? Or could it be something more? And, as a Christian, should you be concerned?
    Those questions, as well as some confused reader letters, prompted me to tackle the “supernatural” in one of my teen novels (Moon White, TrueColors, Nav Press). And whenever I write an issues-based novel, I’m forced to research—and often in some dark places. So I began scouring websites, learning more about Wicca and the occult, trying to grasp what was really going on with today’s teens—and how I could write about it in a helpful and relevant way.
But, as usual, when I write a teen book, I go back to my own adolescence...trying to connect with my inner teen...and I suddenly remembered a short era when a friend and I got very interested in witchcraft. I had honestly forgotten about this time and was fascinated to recall how we scoured some witchcraft stores on a local campus—I think we even purchased a few things. Fortunately, this interest was short-lived and I became a Christian not long afterward.
    However, as I reconnected with my inner teen, I had to ask myself—why had I looked into witchcraft back then? Why do teens dabble with it now? Suddenly the answer became crystal clear. I was searching. I’d been calling myself an atheist for several years by then, but I was spiritually hungry—starving in fact. Consequently I was looking for spiritual answers—something that would fill that empty void within me. I wanted a supernatural force in my life and I didn’t even care where it came from. I needed something bigger than me, more powerful than me, something to hold onto. I had no idea at the time that I was really searching for God.
    This realization changed the way I viewed my research. Instead of feeling disgusted and dismayed by the witchcraft/Wicca sites (which are not particularly enjoyable) I began to recognize that these people (mostly girls) were simply searching too. They wanted a power source in their lives just like I wanted one in mine. They just hadn’t found God yet.
    This led to another discovery. A girl who’s attracted to a religion like Wicca is usually seeking to gain some control over her life. Something is wrong and she wants to change it. To do so, she’s often enticed to purchase something—like “magical herbs”—to create a potion that will give her some control over her situation. Unfortunately, she doesn’t even realize she’s being tricked.
    But think about it, wouldn’t you love to have control over a bad situation sometimes? Wouldn’t you love to be able to change the circumstances that make your life unpleasant? So what if someone offered you the “power” to do just that? Perhaps if you’re fifteen, you wouldn’t see that person as a charlatan and you would fall for it.
    Which brings me to another important factor in understanding this generation’s attraction to the supernatural. Follow the money. The more I researched, the more it became painfully obvious that Wicca and witchcraft and the occult are money-making enterprises. Thanks to the internet, these savvy distributors sell anything imaginable—and many things you can’t. That leads to some serious motivation—these marketers want to hook their unsuspecting young customers and reel them in. Of course, these potions and trinkets and how-to books don’t come with a money back guaranty. Nor are they approved by the FDA. Yet they are a multi-million dollar industry.
    So, in a way, it’s a perfect storm. Teens that are insecure, lost, unhappy, and up with an unregulated industry that offers supernatural answers and power and control...for a price. And, oh yeah, I never even mentioned how this opens a door for Satan to slip in and wreak havoc. For’ll have to read the book.


House of Secrets by Tracie Peterson

Another great read from Tracie Peterson. I have always found her books to be quite satisfying. She always manages to write into the heart of a matter. This is an interesting topic, too.

Bailey is the eldest of three sisters, and with an often absent father she felt the need to mother here sisters setting her own wants and desires to the side. Actually, it wasn't the absent father but the memory of what happened when her mother was so ill and died 15 years before that caused her to question true commitment. Which is good for Mark because he happens to be in love with her and will follow her anywhere to make sure she understands that. Plus, he has a great desire for her to get to know the true Father whom she thought had abandoned her as a child.

This is the stuff that really good character stories are made of. A worthy read.

4 of 5 stars

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
House of Secrets
Bethany House (October 1, 2011)
Tracie Peterson


Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 85 novels.
She received her first book contract in November, 1992 and saw A Place To Belong published in February 1993 with Barbour Publishings' Heartsong Presents. She wrote exclusively with Heartsong for the next two years, receiving their readership's vote for Favorite Author of the Year for three years in a row.

In December, 1995 she signed a contract with Bethany House Publishers to co-write a series with author Judith Pella. Tracie now writes exclusively for Bethany House Publishers.

She teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research.

Tracie was awarded the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for 2007 Inspirational Fiction and her books have won numerous awards for favorite books in a variety of contests.

Making her home in Montana, this Kansas native enjoys spending time with family--especially her three grandchildren--Rainy, Fox and Max. She's active in her church as the Director of Women's Ministries, coordinates a yearly writer's retreat for published authors, and travels, as time permits, to research her books.


When her father orchestrates a surprise trip to the summer house of her childhood, Bailee Cooper is unprepared for what follows. What is intended to be a happy reunion for Bailee and her sisters, Geena and Piper, quickly becomes shrouded by memories from the past.

Together again, the three sisters sift through their recollections of fifteen years ago...of an ill mother, and of their father making a desperate choice. They vowed, as children, to be silent--but one sister believes the truth must now be revealed. Yet can they trust their memories?

Mark Delahunt arrives in the wake of this emotional turmoil. Determined to win Bailee's affection, Mark becomes the strong fortress for her in this time of confusion, and what was once a tentative promise begins to take root and grow. Caught between the past and an uncertain future, can Bailee let God guide her to heal the past and ultimately to embrace love?

If you would like to read the first chapter of House of Secrets, go HERE.


Dangerous Mercy by Kathy Herman

I rarely ever do this, but I have not had time to read the book because I just received it this past Friday, so I'm posting what it is about and I'm just saying that it sure begins good. This is the second in a trilogy. The first one was quite good. However, there were some parts of the Creole/Cajun speech patterns as well as nuances that didn't quite hit the mark. I only say this for my Cajun friends following this blog. I grew up in Louisiana, lived in South Louisiana for more than 26 years, working with and talking to Cajuns, my best friend being one, all that time. If you aren't from that part of the country, you'll never notice it, so don't let that stop you from buying this book!

Happy reading!

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Dangerous Mercy
David C. Cook (October 1, 2011)
Kathy Herman


Suspense novelist Kathy Herman is very much at home in the Christian book industry, having worked five years on staff at the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and eleven years at Better Books Christian Center in Tyler, Texas, as product buyer/manager for the children’s department, and eventually as director of human resources.

She has conducted numerous educational seminars on children’s books at CBA Conventions in the U.S. and Canada, served a preliminary judge for the Gold Medallion Book Awards of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association , and worked as an independent product/marketing consultant to the CBA market.

Since her first novel, Tested by Fire, debuted in 2001 as a CBA national bestseller, she's added sixteen more titles to her credit, including four bestsellers: All Things Hidden, The Real Enemy, The Last Word, and The Right Call.

Kathy's husband Paul is her manager and most ardent supporter, and the former manager of the LifeWay Christian Store in Tyler, Texas. They have three grown children, five almost-perfect grandchildren, a cat named Samantha. They enjoy cruising, deep sea fishing, and birdwatching—sometimes incorporating these hobbies into one big adventure.


Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. —Matthew 5:7

When eighty-five-year-old Adele Woodmore moves to Les Barbes to be near the Broussards—and her namesake, their daughter—she wants nothing more than a comfortable, quiet life. Employing men from Father Vince’s halfway house for the homeless to do odd jobs and landscaping, she delights in the casual conversation she has with them, the fledgling friendships, and the idea that she is helping them get back on their feet.

A series of murders in Les Barbes has cast a pall over the town and, in fact, one of Adele’s handymen becomes a person of interest to the police. But Adele cares for these young men, she knows them, and continues to show them kindness in spite of her friends’ concern. And then one day a murderer walks through Adele’s defenses, sits down at her kitchen table...and they begin to talk...

If you would like to read the first chapter of Dangerous Mercy, go HERE.


Going Deep by Gordon MacDonald

Gordon MacDonald begins with asking the question, "What does a deep person look like?"  Then he enumerates several qualities that describe deep people:
  • Quiet but noticeably living, people who exude all the fruit of the Spirit as well as grace and wisdom
  • People who know what their motivational gift is and who operate within that gift.
If a church were populated with a whole congregation of such deep people, there would be no power on earth great enough to stop their ministry.

Enter an unchurched friend who suddenly ask the 40+ year pastor, "What's your church's elevator story?" The pastor has this doe-in-the-headlights look. "What's an elevator story?

Thus a wonderful journey begins. With some very simple, yet powerful changes in church leadership meetings, injecting fun as mandatory, and understanding people's gifts, MacDonald takes this church into new heights of power. Miracles happen, and a church is deepened with the power of Christ Jesus.

An absolute must read for every pastor who deeply desires his church family to make a difference in the community doing exactly what God has intended His church to do. An amazing, and very readable book.

Five out of Five Stars.

The future of the Christian faith will not be determined by the number of people who fill the pews but by the spiritual depth of those people.
Pastor Gordon MacDonald revisits the fictional New England congregation of his critically acclaimed book Who Stole My Church to deal with a new dilemma: What's his church's story? What is it doing that justifies its existence? The importance of these questions is anything but fiction.

Through a series of e-mails and discussions with friends and parishioners, Pastor Gordon's search for their story leads him to realize that the future of the Christian faith, and thus the church, is at risk. As MacDonald says, "We seem to know how to get unchurched people to visit our buildings. We even seem to know how to draw them across the line into a declaration of personal faith in Jesus. But what we do not seem to know is how to cultivate spiritually deep people. Tomorrow's church could be headed for trouble."

Deep people. People who possess spiritual awareness and maturity, people with solid, grounded, life-altering faith. MacDonald shows that the church needs people with a passion for God's presence and a desperate hunger to seek him above all things.
Join Pastor MacDonald and his congregation on their quest to cultivate spiritual depth and grow into a community of believers whose hearts and minds are truly focused on God.


Dr. Gordon MacDonald has been a pastor and author for more than fifty years. He serves as chancellor at Denver Seminary, editor-at-large for Leadership Journal, and speaker at leadership conferences around the world.


Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer

A very aptly named Regency romance. We have two ladies, a daughter and step-mother, one slightly older than the other only the older one is not the step-mother when Lord Spenborough has the misfortune to die suddenly. His daughter has red hair and the temper that goes with it, the young and beautiful widow is as meek as a lamb, yet the two rub along famously setting up residence in the dowager house on the property that has passed to a cousin along with the title.

An excerpt...
Since Lord Dorrington and Mr Eaglesham showed no disposition to bring their acrimonious dialogue to an end, and Lord Spenborough's polite attempts to recall them to a sense of their surroundings were not attended to, Rotherham intervened, saying impatiently: "Do you mean to continue arguing all day, or are we to hear the Will read?"
Both gentleman glared at him; and Mr Perrott, taking advantage of the sudden silence, spread open a crackling document and in severe accents announced it to be the last Will and Testament of George Henry Vernon Carlow, Fifth Earl of Spenborough.

As Serena had foretold, it contained little of interest to its auditors. Neither Rotherham nor Dorrington had expectations; Sir William Claypole knew his daughter's jointure to be secure; and once Mr Eaglesham was satisfied that the various keepsakes promised to his wife had been duly bequeathed to her he too lost interest in the reading, and occupied himself in thinking of some pretty cutting things to say to Lord Dorrington.

Serena herself still sat with her face turned away, and her eyes on the prospect outside. Shock had at first left no room for any other emotion than grief for the loss of her father, but with the arrival of his successor the evils of her present situation were more thoroughly brought to her mind. Milverley, which had been her home for the twenty-five years of her life, was hers no longer. She who had been its mistress would henceforth visit it only as a guest. She was not much given to sentimental reflection, nor, during her father's lifetime, had she been conscious of any deep attachment to the place. She had taken it for granted, serving it as a matter of duty and tradition. Only now, when it was passing from her, did she realise her double loss.

Her spirits sank; it was an effort to keep her countenance, and impossible to chain her attention to the attorney, reciting in a toneless voice and with a wealth on incomprehensible legalities a long list of small personal bequests. All were known to her, many had been discussed with her. She knew the sources of Fanny's jointure, and which of the estates would furnish her own portion : there could be no surprises, nothing to divert her mind from its melancholy reflections.

She was mistaken. Mr Perrott paused, and cleared his throat. After a moment, he resumed his reading, his dry voice more expressionless than before. The words : "...all my estates at Hernesley and at Ibshaw" intruded upon Serena"s wandering thoughts, and informed her that her share of the bequests had been reached at last. The next words brought her head round with a jerk.

" the use of Ivo Spencer Barrasford, the Most Noble the Marquis of Rotherham -"
"What?" gasped Serena.

" trust for my daughter, Serena Mary," continued Mr Perrott, slightly raising his voice, "to the intent that he shall allow her during her spinsterhood such sums of money by way of pin-money as she has heretofore enjoyed, and upon her marriage, conditional upon such marriage being with his consent and approval, to her use absolutely."

An astonished silence succeeded these words. Fanny was looking bewildered, and Serena stunned. Suddenly the silence was shattered. The Most Noble the Marquis of Rotherham had succumbed to uncontrollable laughter.

The fiery tempered Serena chafes at the effrontery of her beloved father forcing her and Rotherham together again especially after she had jilted him a few years earlier. She chafed even more at all the changes wrought by the new Lord Spenborough. Well aware he was not brought up to the title, he enlists Serena's help with the workings of the estate until he's more sure of his footing. The old lord and Serena were beloved by all which heightens the tensions. Finally, the widow, Lady Fanny readily agrees to move to Bath where  they can be more at ease and finish their mourning taking the waters, going to concerts, and enjoy polite society in the Pump Room.

A delightful tangle ensues when Serena meets her long lost love who had placed her on the Goddess Pedestal after his suit was rebuffed by Lord Spenborough seven years earlier. Serena was anything but a goddess.

This novel written in 1955 receives a 4.5 out of 5 stars.


Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer

People don't remember when paperback books used to be 50 cents. When I'd get my allowance, I'd purchase at least six books and I'd always take home a Georgette Heyer book when one was on the shelf. However, the delicious fair was often not on the shelf for very long.

Do you know, Georgette's book published during a general strike in 1926 and never received any newspaper reviews or advertising whatsoever sold 190,000 copies? She had no Twitter account, no Facebook account, no quad code (or whatever than thing is called). She didn't rely upon her family and friends for sale and there wasn't any serial printings in magazines for These Old Shades and yet it was a hit among hits.

In 1966 when Black Sheep was published, she had nixed interviews and photo shoots keeping her personal life within her family arena. I find that amazing. This particular Regency Romance sold for $1.25 and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. What an astounding wit she must have been. The dialogue absolutely sparkles.

Abigail Wendover (but, please call her Abby for she hates the name Abigail) meets such an interesting man in the sitting room of a hotel where friends on her's and her sister's were to reside while visiting Bath. While writing a note to them, a man of some considerable baggage enters and retires to the sitting room where she overhears his name is Miles Caverleigh. The very man she never thought to meet! This man's reprobate nephew was about to steal her young niece right from the school room which just would not do at all. Hearing his name, she appeals to him to try to do something to break up the romance, to shoo the man away from her vulnerable niece.

He flat refuses to because he'd never laid eyes upon his nephew and he didn't care a fig for sticking his nose in business that didn't concern him.

Then who does she meet in her best friend's parlor? Mr. Caverleigh for he had brought her friend's son home from India. He smiled with his eyes, and he said the most outrageous things that tickled her fancy. Thus begins a most satisfying romance and one of the best Heyer wrote... but, then, you'll see me write that about nearly all her books.

Five of Five Stars!


The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer

Fair use image public domain
To be sure, Georgette Heyer is on par with Jane Austen in situation intrigue and comedy. I can't think of another author so prolific and so interesting. Even today, she captivates millions with her books written a century ago. That is more than an accomplishment, it is a miracle because today our flighty society raises and tosses away favorites like last night's tissue. She has staying power.

Heyer did her homework. She could have lived during the "powder and patch" period of late 17th century and early 18th century for the close attention to detail she imparts in her early books.  When reading a Jane Austen book you get the complete flavor of early 19th century, all the etiquette and manners and society ins and outs. But, that isn't such an accomplishment for Austen because she actually lived during that period. Heyer pays close attention to minor details of hats and clothing as well as speech. It doesn't detract from the story at all, but enhances it so much you can almost see the foppish flick of the handkerchief.

Fair Use image for review purposes
The Masqueraders was written in 1928 but takes place just after Bonnie Prince Charles tried to take the throne of England beginning in Scotland. Interestingly, Heyer mocks the vanquished Bonny Prince with this story because Charles barely escaped England dressed as a lady's maid. 

The story begins with the rescue of an heiress, Letitia. She had ill advisedly eloped with sinister Markham. Peter and Kate Merriot, brother and sister are actually Jacobites in flight from the failed attempt of Prince Charles for the throne. Exactly why they must disguise themselves as the opposite sex is not important to the plot and therefore is not completely addressed. It suffices they have turned from their wicked ways of the Jacobite and are now bid by their father, The Old Gentleman, to take London by storm. Since both are extremely attractive as either man or woman, this bidding isn't hard to do once introduced to society by lovely Lady Lowestoft.

The sleeping giant, Sir Anthony, easily pokes through the disguises because he simply fell in love with Prudence aka Peter Merriot. Oh, but don't sit back and think all is well!

Markham has designs on Letitia. Rensley thought he was heir to the wealth of the Burham estates and must face inquisition because The Old Gentleman declares he is the younger son and heir to the estate. Lord Burham is a bit tiresome in his narcissism, but one must admit he is very clever and he does do everything he says he will accomplish.

Heyer is such a clever author, she winds this tangled web into such a tight coil and with veritable ease loosens the whole for a most satisfying end.

Worth twice the money and quite a keeper.

Five of Five stars


Thomas Nelson give away--Take the survey

From Thomas Nelson:

One of the highlights of our days in the Fiction department at Thomas Nelson? Receiving reader letters—either directly addressed to us or passed along from our talented authors. It’s critical to be reminded that at the end of our long days acquiring, editing, designing, selling, marketing, and publicizing books, those stories are reaching readers, striking nerves, changing lives. We want readers’ feedback. How stories have given you hope. Which authors’ series you can’t help from sharing with everyone you meet. We want to know what makes you stay up late in the night to finish a story, and conversely what turns you away.

We’re conducting a series of surveys—seeking answers from readers who love Christian fiction. Up for grabs is a free ebook for every respondent who completes the survery, as well as a $10,000 prize for one entrant. The responses we gather will help shape the future of the books we publish for years to come. As well as the data we’re collecting here, we’ll also seek more in-depth feedback from a panel we’ll develop over the next year. More details to come. The note below from one of authors gives a specific picture of how reader feedback shapes her work. In short, your opinion matters! We thank you for your time and appreciate your responding.

--Thomas Nelson Fiction

Dear Friends--
Your opinion matters. It really does. I love hearing from readers about what worked for them in a story and about what doesn’t work. Reader feedback changed the balance between romance and suspense in my novels. After the Rock Harbor trilogy, I wanted to write more suspense in my novels because that’s what I personally like. But readers really wanted more relationship and romance in the books so I moved back that direction to about the same mix of 50/50 that the Rock Harbor novels contained. I write for you even more than for myself.

I had no intention of setting a whole series of books at Bluebird, Texas. It was going to be only one book, but readers sent me requests in droves for more books. The fourth book in the Lonestar series, Lonestar Angel, will be out in October. The Rock Harbor novels were going to be complete at three. There are now five and I’m thinking about another one! All due to reader demand.

I’ve often asked for reader input on names and locations too. When I was struggling for a name for my hero in The Lightkeeper’s Ball, I turned to my readers. Harrison really fit my character, and my readers told me. Love that! When I was trying to decide on a location for the new Hope Beach series I’ve started, I asked readers. Their overwhelming response was for a series set in the Outer Banks so guess what I’m writing?!

That’s why we’re coming to you for answers. We want to give you what you really want! Don’t be afraid to let us know what you really think. We value your honesty and the time it will take to share with us. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

Your friend,
Colleen Coble


Powder and Patch by Georgette Heyer

This delightful novel was published in 1923 under the name Stella Martin. It was re-issued by Heinemann in 1930 and renamed Powder and Patch, and with the original final chapter deleted (ref: PWGH p25),

US Publisher:  Dutton, New York, 1968

I just wonder what was in that last chapter!

Cleonie loves Philip. Philip loves Cleonie, in fact he has eyes for no other woman. But, enter a distasteful fop who has all the airs and la-dee-das of the most worldly of gentlemen, and Philip shows badly against him because Philip loves the land, and his horses, and all the earthy things with no care at all for clothes or which colors go best together or what silver waist coat would do or not do with a peach-colored coat. Alas, Philip is nothing but a country clod and Cleonie says she won't marry him unless he's polished.

Off goes Philip to Paris to become a changed man. He becomes the darling of the ton, a fashionable diamond rather than the diamond in the rough. What should have taken more than a year, he accomplishes in six months, but Cleonie hears of a duel and speculation that Philip was dueling over a French miss and it fills her bosom with flames of jealousy. Why oh why did she send Philip away to become Phillippe?

The comedy of Georgette Heyer, the original situation comedic genius, is dry and subtle but that does not dull the chuckles and laughing out loud. Note: do not read this in the doctor's office because everyone wants to know what you are laughing about!

I was quite enthralled with this offering. I know you will, too. Savor it because when the last page is turned, you'll miss Cleone and Philip.

Five of Five Stars!


The Hardest Thing To Do by Penelope Wilcock

One thing that is very hard to do is jump into a series that has three books ahead of the one you are about to read. I never had the opportunity to read the first trilogy, I am not Catholic, and there are numerous characters that have apparently already been developed so there is really no lead in for them. You are just popped into the story knowing names of the Brothers, and that this is one year later from the first three books.

I'll let you read what the book is about in the last paragraph.

You do need to read at least one of the first three to understand sooner what is going on at the Abby. However, Brother Thomas is having a bad day in the first paragraph, and his thoughts are quite humorous because they run down the same vein as mine do when I am having a bad day with people I don't have a whole lot of respect for. It really doesn't take long to get drawn into the story.

I am so familiar with story lines that hop back and forth between two or three places and giving you gallons of back story, filled with so many characters that your head is spinning from trying to remember them all and this story is no exception. It is a personal peeve of mine, so read around the groans, please. Wilcock does an excellent job of raising certain questions then leaving them there to ponder while the story moves along. Such as one can have compassion for those one doesn't know intimately, but just when does compassion dissipate leaving the "good riddance" grim smile on one's face when something catastrophic happens? Do we judge even while we say we do not?

Wilcock raises some very good questions that will have you pondering even after the last page is read.

3 out of 5 stars

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Hardest Thing
Crossway Books (July 31, 2011)
Penelope Wilcock


PENELOPE WILCOCK is a full-time author living in Hastings, Sussex, on the southeast coast of England. Her blog, Kindred of the Quiet Way, is about a simple and spiritual Christian lifestyle. Her other books in The Hawk and the Dove series are The Hawk and the Dove, The Wounds of God, and The Long Fall.


This latest in Wilcock’s The Hawk and the Dove series takes readers into the world of a fourteenth-century monastery struggling to forgive an old enemy seeking refuge.

The first of three sequels to the celebrated The Hawk and the Dove trilogy takes place one year after the end of the third book, in the early fourteenth century. A peaceful monastery is enjoying its new abbot, who is taking the place of Father Peregrine, when an old enemy arrives seeking refuge. Reluctantly taking in Prior William, the upended community must address old fears and bitterness while warily seeking reconciliation. But can they really trust Prior William?

In her fourth book in the series, Penelope Wilcock wrestles with the difficulties of forgiveness and the cautions of building trust. Taking the form of journal entries, her story will delight the imaginations of readers captivated by a time and place far distant from our current world. Her timeless themes, however, will challenge our prejudices today as we, along with her characters, are forced to ask ourselves, “What is the hardest thing to do?”

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Hardest Thing, go HERE.


River's Song by Melody Carlson

First I must give an abject apology to Melody Carlson and to Glass Roads for missing the blog tour date. I had not put this on my calendar and enough of excuses. My deepest apologies!

This novel will grab you with the first page but not with a tempest's claws but with the gentle swaying of a boat in the water until you get to the sound of the chugging diesel engine and the smell that goes along with it. Notwithstanding, the story draws you ever closer to Anna's heart.

The tale is told well by this author of more than 200 books. She has learned the art well and it shows mightily. I'm honored to be able to review it. I will definitely read more from Carlson who had an uncanny ability to develop characters in such a way you understand their motives before they even do anything. Very rare these days.

The story takes place in a small town of Anna Larson's youth after her mother's funeral. For the first time, she finally takes the time to sort out her life and her heritage. What an amazing thing that she decides to transform her old family home into something wonderful for others to enjoy. As the story flows like a river, the characters are caught up in the hopes for future happiness and Anna understands that happiness is a chosen state of being, and so is peace.

I do recommend this novel.

4 out of 5 stars.


Thomas Nelson $10,000 give away!!!

From Thomas Nelson:

One of the highlights of our days in the Fiction department at Thomas Nelson? Receiving reader letters—either directly addressed to us or passed along from our talented authors. It’s critical to be reminded that at the end of our long days acquiring, editing, designing, selling, marketing, and publicizing books, those stories are reaching readers, striking nerves, changing lives. We want readers’ feedback. How stories have given you hope. Which authors’ series you can’t help from sharing with everyone you meet. We want to know what makes you stay up late in the night to finish a story, and conversely what turns you away.

We’re conducting a series of surveys—seeking answers from readers who love Christian fiction. Up for grabs is a free ebook for every respondent who completes the survery, as well as a $10,000 prize for one entrant. The responses we gather will help shape the future of the books we publish for years to come. As well as the data we’re collecting here, we’ll also seek more in-depth feedback from a panel we’ll develop over the next year. More details to come. The note below from one of authors gives a specific picture of how reader feedback shapes her work. In short, your opinion matters! We thank you for your time and appreciate your responding.

--Thomas Nelson Fiction

Dear Friends—

Publishing books is a team effort, and there are a lot of players—authors, editors, cover designers, marketing staff, and a host of other behind-the-scene folks who help get the books on the shelves. And readers are also a large part of the process. Your input matters, probably more than you know.

When I hear from readers, I really listen to what they want. This is particularly true with my series books. For example, Seek Me With All Your Heart (book #1 in the Land of Canaan series) wraps up nicely at the end, but one of my minor characters (Katie Ann) was left pregnant after her husband left her. I received lots of emails about Katie Ann from readers, so book #2 in the series—The Wonder of Your Love—is Katie Ann’s story.

With the popularity of social media resources such as Facebook, it has allowed me to keep in close contact with readers and to seek opinions and advice. Several times, the publisher and I couldn’t decide on a cover, so we posted the cover options on Facebook and let readers decide. And if you’re posting anywhere on my Facebook Fans Page, your name could end up in a book. I often scan the names there, so you are unknowingly helping me just by being on the site.

Readers also made it clear that they wanted books in digital format, large print, and audio versions. Authors and publishers listened, and most (if not all) of my books are available in multiple formats.

As an author, I hope to write entertaining stories that will be enjoyed for many years. As a reader, I have favorite authors, and I’m not afraid to let them know what I want in future books. We listen to the likes and the dislikes in our effort to bring you the best stories we can, so don’t be shy. Tell us what you think!


Beth Wiseman

The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer

This is the third in my series of Georgette Heyer reviews. I had to read this one third because I remembered it with such delight! Here is a sample...

     "I was not aware of it, ma'am. Nor do I know why my cousin should leave her home at dead of night and undertake a solitary journey to London."
     "She was wishful to become a governess," explained Sarah.
     He stared at her in the blankest surprise. "Wishful to become a governess? Nonsense! Why should she wish anything of the kind?"
     "Just for the sake of adventure," said Miss Thane.
     "I have yet to learn that a governess's life is adventurous!" he said. "I should be grateful to you if you would tell me the truth!"
     "Come, come, sir!" said Miss Thane pityingly, "it must surely be within your knowledge that the eldest son of the house always falls in love with the governess, and elopes with her in the teeth of all opposition?"
     Sir Tristram drew a breath. "Does he?" he said.
     "Yes, but not, of course, until he has rescued her from an oubliette, and a band of masked ruffians set on to her by his mother," said Miss Thane matter-of-factly. "She has to suffer a good deal of persecution before she elopes."
     "I am of the opinion," said Sir Tristram with asperity, "that a little persecution would do my cousin a world of good! Her thirst for romance is likely to lead her into trouble. In fact, I was very much afraid that she had already run into trouble when I found her bandboxes upon the road. Perhaps, since she appears to have told you so much, she has also told you how she came to lose them?"
     Miss Thane, perceiving that this question would lead her on to dangerous ground, mendaciously denied all knowledge of the bandboxes. She then made the discovery that Sir Tristram Shield's eyes were uncomfortably penetrating. She met their skeptical gaze with all the blandness she could summon to her aid.
     "Indeed!" he said, politely incredulous. "But perhaps you can tell me why, if she was bound for London by the night mail, as her maid informed me, she is still in this inn?"
     "Certainly!" said Sarah, rising to the occasion. "She arrived too late for the mail, and was forced to put up for the night."
     "What did she do for night gear?" inquired Shield.
      "Oh, I lent her what she needed!"
     "I suppose she did not think the loss of her baggage of sufficient interest to call for explanation?"
     "To tell the truth - " began Sarah confidingly.
     "Thank you! I should like to hear the truth."
     "To tell the truth," repeated Sarah coldly, "she had a fright, and the bandboxes broke loose."
     "What frightened her?"
     "A Headless Horseman," said Sarah.
     He was frowning again. "Headless Horseman? Fiddlesticks!"
     "Very well," said Sarah, as one making a concession, "then it was a dragon."
     "I think," said Sir Tristram in a very level voice, "that it will be better if I see my cousin and hear her story from her own lips."
     "Not if you are going to approach it in this deplorable spirit," replied Miss Thane. "I dare say you would tell her there are no such things as dragons or headless horsemen!"
     Miss Thane cast down her eyes to hide the laughter in them, and replied in a saddened tone: "When she told me the whole I thought it impossible that anyone could be so devoid of all sensibility, but now that I have seen you I realize that she spoke no less than the melancholy truth. A man who could remain unaffected by the thought of a young girl, dressed in white, all alone, and in a tumbril --"
     His brow cleared; he gave a short laugh. "Does that rankle? But really I am past the age of being impressed by such absurdities."
     Miss Thane sighed. "Perhaps that might be forgiven, but your heartlessness in refusing to ride ventre à terre to her deathbed -"
     "Good God, surely she cannot have fled the house for such a ridiculous reason?" exclaimed Shield, considerably exasperated. "Why she should be continually harping on the notion of her death passes my comprehension! She seems to me a perfectly healthy young woman."
     Miss Thane looked at him in horror. "You did not tell her that, I trust?"

Now, does that not beg a smile from your lips if not a chuckle out loud however indecorous it may be?

Truly, this is a most delicious offering from our most talented Georgette Heyer. It was written later in her career, if 1936 can be called later. She had already written 20 novels, several of which she suppressed from further publication after the initial debut. Later we'll discuss why Beauvalet may have been suppressed, but today we're discussing The Talisman Ring.

Heyer does an excellent job with written humor. Actors will tell you that comedic acting is far more difficult that dramatic acting. Timing is the key, and comedic acting can be more toiling on the emotions than dramatic acting because of that fact. Heyer could very well be the number one comedic writer of her time.

She sets up the scene in a very nonchalant manner, then zings you with something so surprising the burst of laughter causes quite a stir in the doctor's office, or where ever you might be whiling away the waiting hours with your trusty Kindle or Nook.

I quite enjoy the subtleties of  her writing. Today authors think they must spell everything out in vulgar details giving readers the impression only authors have brains. Heyer takes her time in displaying the underlying character of each player in this novel. The reader is immediately drawn into Sir Tristam Sheffield's character. His strength, no nonsense attitude is calmly noted in his conversation with his grandfather. He promises to marry his cousin because he has yet to meet his one true love. No woman has ever displayed the slightest bit of sense to him so he assumes all women are silly, extravagant females, his cousin is no exception.

And from there we are off on a wonderful adventure filled with smugglers, Bow Street Runners, a shady innkeeper, a villain slowly revealed and a hidden Talisman Ring that proves the innocence of one of the heroes.

Again, don't miss it!

This one receives six of five stars. Don't miss it! It's a keeper and well worth the money.

Creating: Unlocking the Mighty MRU - Randy Ingermanson

One of the most popular classes I teach at writing conferences is a mentoring workshop. Typically, I have
5 to 10 students that I work with intensively for several hours over the course of the conference.

I've taught this enough times that I schedule time to teach little 5-minute lectures on various topics that I know in advance most of my students are going to have trouble with.

Right at the top of the list of topics is the "Motivation-Reaction Unit," often abbreviated to "MRU."
(This term seems to be due to the legendary writing teacher Dwight Swain.)

Between 80 and 90 percent of my mentoring students need help on their MRUs. In reading published novels, I'd guess that about 75 percent of all authors also need some polishing on their MRUs.

As always, let me apologize for the terminology.
"Motivations" and "Reactions" aren't quite what you think they ought to be, and that's confusing.

But there should be nothing confusing about MRUs. Let me define a few terms.

In each scene, you choose one "Point of View Character"
whose brain you can look inside. You know this character's thoughts and emotions. You don't directly know the thoughts and emotions of any other characters in this scene, although you can make one of them the POV character in some other scene.

The "Motivation" is composed of anything that happens in your scene external to your POV character. The Motivation typically includes descriptions of the scene or actions and dialogue of the other characters.

The "Reaction" is composed of anything that your POV character does. The Reaction typically includes the actions and dialogue of your POV character, along with any thoughts or emotions you want to reveal to your reader.

Clearly, Dwight Swain had a reactive model in mind when thinking about POV characters. In Swain's way of thinking, things happen that "motivate" his POV character. Then the POV character "reacts" by doing or saying or thinking or feeling.

The reason this is poor terminology is that your POV character will often be proactive. She'll be doing or saying things that "motivate" the other characters in the scene to "react" to her.

So Swain's terminology is misleading, but it really doesn't matter. What I've found in teaching writers is that they make a quantum leap in their writing as soon as they learn to analyze their writing in terms of MRUs. Scenes that are fuzzy suddenly leap into focus when you break them down into MRUs. Big blocks of complicated and confusing action becomes clear when you put paragraph breaks between Motivations and Reactions.

Some examples would be helpful here. Let's look at a typical example of "fuzzy writing" that clarifies immediately when you try to break it down into Motivations and Reactions:

Harry and Tom pulled out their wands and began casting curses at each other.

Randy sez: What's wrong with this sentence? Isn't it exciting? It's a life-and-death situation. What's wrong with that?

What's wrong is that we're not experiencing it from the inside, we're seeing it from the outside. Furthermore, we're not seeing it in real-time, we're seeing it as a summary of real-time.

First things first. The reason we're not experiencing this from the inside is that we haven't yet chosen a POV character. We have two choices: either Harry or Tom. If there were other characters in the scene, one of them would work as well.

A good rule of thumb is to choose the POV character to be the one with the most to lose in the scene. Another good rule of thumb is to choose the more likable character.

In this case, since both Harry and Tom could be killed, they both have a lot to lose. But we'll say by fiat that Harry is more likable, so we'll make him the POV character.

Now that we've chosen a POV character, we find immediately that the above sentence is all tangled up.
It's showing the actions of BOTH Harry and Tom. Let's break it up into three paragraphs, each focusing on only ONE of the two characters:

Harry pulled out his wand and madly brushed the hair out of his eyes.

Tom peered at Harry through snakelike eyes and pointed his wand at Harry's heart. "Avada --"

"Expelliarmus!" Harry shouted.

Randy sez: Notice that the new version is a lot longer than the original. The original was "narrative summary"
and cost us only 14 words in a single paragraph. The new version cost us 34 words in three paragraphs.

If the stakes were low, then there wouldn't be much point in dragging things out in MRUs. It would make more sense to summarize things using narrative summary.

But since the stakes are high, it increases the tension to show the action in more detail, switching focus between Harry and Tom.

Also notice that we've used only a few of our tools. In the first paragraph, we see two actions of Harry. No dialogue, no interior monologue or interior emotion. If we wanted to stretch the tension further, we could add some of these elements.

In the second paragraph, we have two actions by Tom plus a little description plus the beginning of some dialogue. Again, if we chose, we could fill in far more here. More action. More dialogue. More description. Or not. It depends what you're trying to achieve as an author.

In the third paragraph, we have only dialogue. This is pretty sensible here, since the dialogue is interrupting Tom. There's a time and a place for stretching out the tension. There's also a time and place for compressing.

Now here's a second example that shows a different kind of problem, this time in timing:

Sherlock dived to his right just as Moriarty swung the axe back and then viciously swept it forward, immediately after Inspector Lestrade blew his police whistle far away up the street and both men paused to look before resuming their fight.

Randy sez: Again, there's no POV character, but it's an easy choice to make it Sherlock. The real problem with this paragraph is that the timing is all screwed up.
The order of the actions as they appear in the sentence doesn't have much resemblance to the actual sequence of events.

The events happen as follows:
* Lestrade blows his whistle.
* Sherlock and Moriarty pause to look.
* Sherlock and Moriarty resume their fight.
* Moriarty swings the axe back.
* Moriarty begins to sweep it forward.
* Sherlock dives to his right.

In your writing, watch out for words like "after" that indicate that you're showing the effect first and then the cause. In this case, the cause is Lestrade blowing his whistle. The effect is that Sherlock and Moriarty pause to look. It's far less confusing to show things in the order they actually happen.

Also watch out for words like "just as" that indicate that two events are simultaneous. Often, they aren't.
Even if they are, you can't SHOW them simultaneous. You have to write one event first, then the other. That's the nature of the written word.

In this case, the action of swinging the axe back and then forward takes a lot more time than the action of diving out of the way. The dive can't possibly happen "just as" the axe swing does. Obviously, you don't dive out of the way until you see the axe coming, so it's clear what the correct order should be.

Now let's rewrite the above in several short, punchy paragraphs that get the order right. Also, we'll insert a little interior monologue for Sherlock, to put the reader more inside his head.

Far away up the street, Inspector Lestrade blew his police whistle.

Sherlock sneaked a look. Help was on the way. All he had to do was fend off Moriarty for a few moments longer.

Moriarty swung his axe back over his shoulder and then swept it forward viciously like a scythe.

Sherlock dove to his right, out of range of the gleaming blade.

Randy sez: We've expanded the sequence slightly, going from 41 words to 63 words. But the main thing we've done is to get the timing right.

There's a lot more to say about MRUs, and the ideal situation would be to analyze a full scene from a real published novel, paragraph by paragraph. That's tricky to do for a couple of reasons, but I've figured out how to do it.

My coauthor John Olson and I will soon be republishing our award-winning out-of-print novel OXYGEN as an e-book. We'll include a long appendix that analyzes the MRUs of the entire first scene in excruciating detail.

This appendix will be just for novelists who care about such things. If we had a publisher, it would tell us we're stupid to do this, because only one reader in a thousand is a novelist. But we don't have a publisher to tell us we're stupid, so we're just going to do it.

Since OXYGEN will be an e-book, the price will be just $2.99.

You'll hear about it as soon as it's available. Watch for a "Special Note" e-mail from me sometime in the next few weeks.

Permission for reprint granted by author...
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 26,000 readers, every month. 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

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