How’s Your Acting Ability?

This is one of the most off-beat pieces I’m going to write because I’m so NOT an expert in the field of behavior control–or acting, as it’s called in one book I’m studying. I’m still learning. I did dream of becoming an actress when I was about ten years old, but I don’t think that counts.

Did you know that feeling one way and behaving a different way can be stressful? Yeah, I know, everyone knew that but me. For instance, if you’re angry with your boss or coworker or client, but you have to put on a happy face, that’s hard on you emotionally.

Now I know why I’m so stressed when dealing with the public, introvert that I am. I once broke out in a storm of perspiration when faced with a long line of readers at a book signing. It was great to see all those people lined up to get a copy of my book, but I still felt the stress when I pasted on a bright smile and took pictures and hammed it up. Remembering that stress helps me identify with the staff that works with us at our clinic.

Whether we deal with the public on a daily basis or hide away and work in seclusion most of the time, I think we occasionally find ourselves forcing a smile we don’t feel. Those of us who work in service fields are especially susceptible to burnout. The medical field is a very difficult one. It helps to be an extravert when working with others, and most of our staff members are extraverts, but it isn’t vital.

I’m taking a self-taught course in managing a medical staff, and I’m learning a lot. Among other books, I’ve been reading one titled Organisational Behaviour For Dummies, which, as you can probably tell by the spelling, was written by someone in the UK. I’ve been intrigued to learn that there are two different kinds of behavior upon which to draw when you want to leave a good impression in public.

There is a form of acting that is merely “faking it,” which means you paste on a smile you don’t feel, which looks obviously fake to others, and you tough it out. I read that this leaves you with the most amount of stress, and leaves the client/patient/customer with a poorer impression of you. In other words, with most people it’s obvious you’re faking. If you find yourself doing this often, check your stress level and see if you can learn a different way of dealing with people.

A business in the service industry thrives on meeting the needs of others with kindness and consideration. No matter how we feel about our lives at the moment, strangers on the street, customers, patients, and clients all need to see a face of genuine compassion and kindness from us, so forcing a fake smile doesn’t help anyone.

The other form of friendly behavior when dealing with the public is deep acting, when you dig deeply into your heart and try to identify with another person. Although this, too, is stressful, it apparenly isn’t as damaging to the psyche. Sure, you can take on so much of another person’s pain and suffering that you’re affected long after she’s gone, but genuine compassion and kindness goes a long way toward helping not only your own stress, but it leaves the other person feeling validated. Feelings of kindness and compassion far surpass feelings of resentment and impatience.

Working in the medical field calls for sincere compassion for people, and I can see the stress in the faces of our staff when we’ve had a busy day, or when we’ve had patients in a lot of pain or are even facing death. That stress is worse when we have antagonistic or demanding patients, and it makes for a stressful work environment for everyone. Calling up compassion for bullies is very difficult, indeed–and something for all of us to remember when WE become the demanding or angry patient. Keep in mind that a gentle answer turns away wrath. It’s just difficult to bring up the compassion to keep that answer gentle in the face of animosity.

A well-known psychologist recently remarked that if you work in the service industry–especially if you’re responsible for staff in the medical field–you need to learn how to physically leave the problems of others at the door as you walk out. When I take my badge off and prepare to go home at night, I try to physically leave the stressors, the pain, the staff worries and upsets with that badge on the desk. It’s a work in progress.

Reaching the non-Christians in Japan by Camy Tang

_MG_1378_I had a really interesting conversation with two young women who are staff with me for our church youth group. Both of these women are in their mid twenties, and one is from China, so their age and backgrounds give me a different perspective on evangelism from my own experience.

I was talking about how I really want to reach non-Christians in Japan with my fiction. Less than 1% of the population in Japan is Christian, and there are very few Christian churches in Japan, even counting home churches.

Anyway, in my conversation with these two girls, we were discussing the major religions in Asian countries. Most people in Japan are Buddhist or Shintoist, while people in China are Buddhist or Daoist.

We also talked about how there is some distrust of “foreign” or “Western” religions—and basically, anything west of the borders of China is considered “Western” to Asian countries, which was something I hadn’t realized. They considered the Middle East to be “Western.”

I’ve been reading a lot of English-translated manga and watching anime TV shows to understand the entertainment industry in Japan and what message it’s sending to people. I’ve also been seeing a lot of “slice of life” shows that seem to have certain minor threads in all of them, which show how people seem to view their religion in their daily lives. They seem to adhere to long-standing social rituals like visiting the Shinto shrines at New Years, but it doesn’t always have an impact on people’s day to day lives, unlike Christianity.

In talking with these girls, we also discussed how Buddhism and Confucianism and the like tend to stress a “moral life” and for people to be responsible in their daily lives, as opposed to an active awareness of God’s involvement in life and fate.

One important thing that I got out of the conversation is that people in Japan and other Asian countries might feel it’s disrespectful to change their long-standing traditions passed on from generations before. Respect for ancestors is something strongly stressed. I’ve had some really interesting conversations with Japanese nationals who go to my church, and one or two of them have mentioned that sometimes there is a demonic aspect to ancestor worship that also may be fighting against the truth of the gospel in people’s hearts.

The conversation with the girls made me want to study and know more about the Eastern philosophy. I need to understand the social and cultural background of the Japanese in order to be able to know how to present Jesus in a way that they will understand. I want to show them that Jesus is not just a “Western” religion that’s easy for them to reject simply because it’s “foreign.”

It’s interesting, because a few months ago, I wasn’t all that interested in my Japanese heritage, but since God has stirred in me a desire to reach non-Christians in Japan, I’ve been strongly motivated to learn more about the Japanese and their culture. I’ve become really excited with the prospect of fulfilling the Great Commission in this way.

Unfortunately, my dislike for Japanese food has not changed. :P If I ever get to go to Japan again, I think the only thing I’ll be able to enjoy eating is ramen!

Behind the Scenes at a Book Club by Julie Arduini

I have a confession. I’m an avid reader who has never been to an actual book club. I did an online one once, but I’ve never attended one. Until this summer. The book? My own. The women’s ministry at my church suggested a book club this summer as an alternate to the Bible study we did last summer. Before the suggestion could sink in our pastor’s wife looked at me and asked if I’d consider Entrusted as the book.Entrusted FRONT Cover_edited We’re nearly done with the book and a wrap-up picnic and I thought I’d share some behind the scenes observations from a first-timer.

  • It is crazy surreal to talk about your own work. Each week the ladies ask questions and no matter what material I give them—background info on the story, author tips, writing how-to’s or industry information, they eat it up. I want to hold back because it feels so weird to talk about myself for 90 minutes. Thankfully we have a hostess each week who bounces off my chatter and that helps. But one week during group discussion I heard a group talking about Will Marshall and it hit me. That’s one of my characters. They are talking about him like he is real. He’s real to me. They all are. But for others to feel the same way and me see that—so awesome.
  • Most readers have no idea what goes into writing a book. I’m not sure what my group thought but they were surprised to hear how many drafts Entrusted took before I turned it in. That we have to write a thing called a query and fine tune a synopsis. And even then there are authors who have made it that far and not received a contract. That having it published is the beginning, not the end. There is marketing, always marketing. If you have a series, you need to be working on the next one. The group seems to have a huge respect for authors and I believe understands what fluid times the industry is in, generally speaking.
  • Don’t take your story for granted. Ever. Each week I came home and told my husband how on top of my game I needed to be for these ladies. Many dissected scene by scene and wanted to hear about my motivation. Sometimes I surprised myself by recalling the scene and out of my memory bank I recalled that scene being from my dad’s life and it was a tribute to him. Then there were the moments when I admitted I was low on word count and wrote to satisfy that. The ladies asked what critique groups thought about certain characters and chapters and were interested in specifics I never imagined anyone would ask. I walked away with a deep appreciation for my work. I think when we’re holed away writing we convince ourselves few care about our precious people and places in fiction was much as we do. This book club taught me readers care. And it feels good!
  • I have a renewed sense of purpose. One reader asked a great question that I’ve stumbled over for years. Why romance? Why would a woman from a strong Christian faith write romance? I’ve been insecure about this, especially when I’ve walked by people from my church saying they won’t read anything fiction. Talk about a confidence killer. Not only do I write fiction, but romance. For a long time I felt like I had to apologize for it. However, answering that question head-on with words that I believe were given sent directly from my Heavenly Father, I am no longer ashamed. Here’s what I shared:

I have a lot of romantic ideas, but I’m not really a romantic person. At the movies I usually choose the action movies. But in ministry I tend to deal with some heavy things—standing in the gap for others. Taking calls for prayer that at times were life and death. Leading tough Bible studies or needing to say hard things to people I love as God directed. It’s draining and writing was my escape even when I was a child. I think it is a good escape and therapeutic. Not long ago I also sensed this: Writing is the door God will use to get me to the real ministry He has planned for me. My books will take me places on my own I would not be able to go. Perhaps book signings or speaking engagements. Whatever it is, the real ministry will take place when I am done with talking about writing. Women will linger and even if it is just one, they will want prayer. And that’s what it’s about. For God, that’s been His plan all along. And His way to get there? A romance writer. Yes!

Have you ever participated in a book club? Authors, how about you? Was it your book? What was your experience like?

Faith in the Margins by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, Christians Read, Faith in the Margins


A short while back, I had a conversation with a devoted believer who is struggling in her personal life and in her professional life.  Usually, we’re stable in one and upset in the other, which gives us a little refuge in the one not in turmoil.  But this time, she got zapped with challenges in both simultaneously leaving her no refuge in either.

We talked, I listened, we talked more, and we prayed together. Later, as I moved from that conversation and situation, I had a hard time shifting focus. Something niggled at me. Some nebulous something I sensed I was missing and I needed to not miss.

The more I thought on it, the more her situation reminded me of other people and other similar situations, and then came to mind the inevitable, Why do the people trying hardest always seem to have the most challenges? I don’t get it. 

I don’t know if life really is that way or it appears that way because the contrast is so stark. I mean, we expect people who seek trouble to find it. But people who are not seeking trouble find it, too, and it, well, sometimes it just seems so unfair.

The moment that phrase crosses my mind, I hear my father’s voice telling me that no one ever said life was fair, and no one ever said it was easy. It isn’t, and it isn’t. Accept it, and live on.

Then I’m reminded that the Bible bluntly tells us we’ll be tried and tested and face hardships and troubles. Each of us.   All of us. But it also promises us we will never be given more than we can handle. And that we’ll never face anythingalone. We just can’t get to a place—physically, emotionally, or spiritually—where we’re beyond God’s reach.

I find enormous comfort in knowing that. Admittedly, I sometimes have wondered if He thought I was stronger, wiser, more capable of handling things than I am. I’ve wondered, and whined and, yes, at times, I’ve crawled into bed and pulled the covers up over my head and hid out from the world for a minute or two to catch my breath because I just knew I wasn’t that strong—not enough to face the challenges pounding me down.

But the challenges remained, so I did what we have to do.  I got up. And I faced them. And, surprise—I got through the challenges. He was right and I was wrong. I was strong enough—with Him—and I’m grateful for it.

One of the things that we hopefully learn with each new challenge is that He has more faith in us than we do. He knows us best—every flaw, every error, every mistake and short-coming—all of it–and yet he still has the greatest faith in us, during good times but also during trials. We doubt.  He’s there with us, cheering us on, trying to get us to see ourselves the way that He sees us.

The first time I considered that, frankly I found it amusing. Well, astonishing that He’d bother, and amusing. I expect we amuse Him often in all the ways our young children amuse us. He knows the outcome before things start. Knows what free will choices we will make and whether or not they’ll be to our detriment or benefit. And I often imagine Him weeping at our poor choices, and delighted by our good choices. Oh, yes. I imagine we do amuse Him often; He loves us.

Yet, following that same line of thought, I can’t deny that we also break His heart. A perfect parent couldn’t not be brokenhearted at seeing His children mess up, harm others, head down the wrong path, or miss his or her destiny due to any of a thousand reasons, including indifference and apathy. Our imperfect parents are heartbroken. We’ve seen their agony, their fears and worries. How much more must our perfect parent, knowing outcomes, be hurt and heartbroken.

Still thinking, I wonder at what hurts most. We all mess up; we’re human. Hurt? Yes. Hurt most? I don’t think so.

I explore this and I come upon those times when we are floundering, lost and in the dark and clueless and yet we fail to turn to Him. I think that must be most difficult for Him. He’s there, waiting for us, eager to help, but can’t intrude uninvited due to the gift to us of free will. I mean, imagine being a parent, seeing your child about to do something that will hurt him/her forever, and you can’t intercede because your child hasn’t informed you, or made you aware, or come to you for help. As parents, we often don’t know. But as the perfect parent with expanded vision and knowledge, He does know.

Definitely heartbreaking. And incredibly difficult. Much, much harder.

You know, when you believe and come upon a trial, often you think, I should be able to handle this. I have the tools. And you do. We all do. But while we have vision, we don’t have the complete big picture. He does. At times I expect that makes things even harder for Him, not easier.

Handling it all on your own as a believer. That’s living with faith in the margins. Going to Him as a last resort instead of right out of the gate. Waiting to see how much you can do before taking your concerns to Him. That’s more “faith in the margins.”

Thinking that you don’t want to bother Him with little things; He has so much to do. Even more faith in the margins.

I give myself a mental thwap!  Do you doubt He can handle all? Seriously?

I don’t.  But the thwap has released an avalanche of random thoughts.  Running in a hundred directions in my mind, I see a multitude of flaws in my thinking. I see that I’ve been getting in my own way, making my challenges more enduring and difficult than they needed to be. I’ve shared them but in case my ramblings are indeed ramblings and are not clear to anyone outside of my mind, let me be blunt on the upshot:

Get out of the margins. Everything about us is of interest to Him. He created us. Nothing we say or do can shock Him or make Him turn His back on us. He’s with us for the long haul.

That puts a twist in the thinking, doesn’t it?  And it sends one scrounging for the bottom line.  Yours could be different, but this one is apparent:

He does not exist with faith in us in the margins. He’s all in, all the time, in all ways. If wise, we’ll follow His example and get out and stay out of the margins in our faith in Him.

All in.

Finally, I think. I’ve identified the objective of this mental journey.

It seems so simple now.

To reap the reward, you must make the journey.

Ah, the niggle reveals yet another gem…


The Reunited Hearts Series, Vicki Hinze, Her Perfect Life, Mind Reader, Duplicity

© 2015, Vicki Hinze.  Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. Subscribe to Vicki’s Newsletter.


Christmas In July? by Tara Randel

Yes, you read that right. Christmas in July. At least that’s what you’d think with the shopping channels offering specials for Christmas. Even daytime cooking shows are in on the action. C’mon, you’re thinking. I still have a couple of months before I get caught up in the holiday hubbub. Let me enjoy the beach!

I live in Florida, where it’s been hot and rainy. We didn’t even have spring this year, so the idea of fast forwarding to December holds a certain appeal. But for those of you enjoying the warm temperatures, I’ll cut you some slack.

So, back to Christmas. Not to fall too far off the bandwagon, I’m pleased to announce pre-orders for a new anthology, A Heartwarming Christmas. Twelve Heartwarming authors have put together twelve novellas to warm your heart and get you in the holiday spirit. Twelve connected novellas sharing characters and story lines! This collection of sweet holiday romances are all set in Christmas Town, a location introduced in the 2014 Harlequin Heartwarming release Christmas, Actually. A Heartwarming Christmas will bring you laughter, tears, and happily-ever after.

Foreword by small town lover and New York Times bestseller Kristan Higgins.
Here’s the link to pre-order:

If you aren’t feeling the spirit right now, the official release date is Oct 13, 2015 for the unbeatable price of 99₵.

A Heartwarming Christmas

Decisions, Decisions

Have you ever been faced with a decision between two comparatively good choices? Which is the right one? We’ve all been there dozens of times, from small choices such as paint color for a wall, to larger choices such as job offers.

What do you do when faced with a choice you can’t seem to make? Close your eyes and pick one and hope it’s the right one? Call your friends for input? Sleep on it? Pray for wisdom? Of course, praying for wisdom is something I’ve found myself doing every day lately. Sometimes, however, even with those prayers, I find myself facing a decision in which I would need knowledge of the future in order to be certain of the right choice.

What to do?

I can gather all the information I want and still make the wrong choice. I can talk to every business person I know and crunch numbers all day long, but when faced with a particular decision, I can’t predict what will happen.

One company I know made a decision to move their business to a “better” location, but after all the expense and effort and lost time, they could not have predicted that one bean counter in one little office would make a decision that would cut that business off at the knees. Events like this can paralyze a person’s ability to make the next big decision.

Not all decisions are so life changing. Others are. What kind of treatment does one choose when faced with a life threatening illness? Go the traditional route with physicians under the control of government regulations and insurance companies? Or attempt to find some alternative treatments that might be dissed by the medical community, but would be healthier, though more expensive, in the long run?

I know one answer I’ve used over and over again, even when the decision deadline comes down to the wire. Wait.

When Mel and I were dating, we came to the point where we’d been seeing each other exclusively for nearly a year and we both wondered where the relationship was going. I knew for sure I loved him. He thought he loved me, but wanted to be certain. We prayed and prayed for direction. We were both frustrated. Our only reply was, “Wait.” So we waited. I actually got comfortable in that waiting state, though Mel never did. When God says wait, you wait. Believe it or not, we grow in that waiting room of life. If we skip ahead without God’s go-ahead, we could suffer in ways we might not if we had only done as we were told and waited.

It wasn’t until a very important person in our life passed away, jarring us emotionally, that the answer came. Only a few days after his funeral, Mel asked me to marry him. Our waiting time was over. At least, for our relationship. I’ll never regret the wait.

As for other instances in our lives, the waiting we’re doing right now? I plan to find peace with the waiting phase before we move on. God has something in store. We just have to hurry up and wait.

Submit my heart to God by Camy Tang

cappuccinoI’ve been discipling a young woman at church who used to be in my youth group, so I’ve seen her grow up, to an extent. She’s very busy with graduate school right now, but there’s a young man she’s met with whom she’s gotten closer.

It’s always hard for me to give advice or encouragement to young women when it comes to their love lives. Everyone’s experience with romantic relationships is different depending on each person’s personality, family background, and life experience.

The guy she’s interested in seems nice. He’s a bit immature in some areas, and yet in other areas, he’s emotionally stable and sensitive to others’ feelings. No one is perfect, but I’ve come to see that there are spouses who are perfect for your own temperament and personality. Captain Caffeine matches me in ways I didn’t even realize I needed compatibility. He is kind, we laugh a lot together, and he is always striving to do his best for the Lord.

One thing that came out in my conversation with this girl is that God was really good to me. When I was younger, I was so desperately lonely that I could have fallen in love with any loser who came my way and gave me attention. But God introduced me to Captain Caffeine, who has a really good heart and who treats me well.

I don’t know if this is why God blessed me so much, but one thing happened just before I met my future spouse. I had reached an emotional low point in my life. My loneliness had become incredibly painful to me and it seemed no one understood why it bothered me so much. While I understood that God loved me more than any human being would, I still wanted that kind of human connection and wanted to feel that I mattered to someone else.

The one area I really struggle with is submission to God and His will, especially when I don’t understand it. This period of loneliness was no exception. God kept encouraging me to simply submit to Him and His will for me. Even though I didn’t understand, even if His will meant my doing something I didn’t want to do—namely, never falling in love, never getting married.

Was I willing to trust God to that extent, to trust in His plans for me and His knowledge of what would make me happy, to trust in the path that would enable me to accomplish what I was made to do?

It was a long and painful struggle, but I made the decision, Yes. I was willing to submit to God and trust Him, even if that meant never finding that special someone. I gave up on my own ideas of what would make me happy and chose to trust in God’s plans, even though I didn’t understand what they could possibly be.

A few months later, I met Captain Caffeine, and the rest is history.

I really do think that for me, that moment of decision to trust in God is what enabled my heart to be ready when Captain Caffeine walked into it. If I’d met him a few months earlier, maybe our relationship would never have gone anywhere because I wasn’t spiritually and emotionally ready for it.

Anyway, I explained all this to the girl I was disciplining, and I don’t know if that applied to her or not, but I hope it encouraged her that God really does know what is best for our lives, if we’re willing to trust Him.

I encourage you to trust in Him, too. You may not be having loneliness issues like I did, but maybe you’re at a crossroads and you feel God telling you to simply submit and trust. I encourage you to wrestle with it and make the decision to trust Him. One thing I’ve come to see in my own life is that God really does know what’s best for us, in ways we couldn’t possibly understand.

Summer Reading by Tara Randel

Summer is here! The kids are out of school. It’s vacation season! What better time to escape between the pages of a good book?

Whether you’re at the beach or poolside, slathered in SPF 50 and drinking a cool beverage, nothing beats relaxing with a book you can’t put down.

The question is, what kind of book? Fiction?

My fall back is always romance. Give me a fun, laugh-out loud story, or romantic suspense, and I’m a happy girl.


Check out a great deal on my book here:

But I also love to read blockbuster thrillers as well. For some reason, I always hold off and read these types of book in the summer. Talk about escaping! Saving the world is hard work! Someone has to sit back and read about it.

I’m currently reading The 6th Extinction by James Rollins. That man knows how to write a page turner! He combines suspense, science and history. Lots of fun.

A mystery is always a good read. Between amateur sleuths and police procedurals, if you enjoy figuring out who-done-it, you can easily spend hours finding your man, or woman. If you like to get your mind working, there are plenty of good mysteries waiting for you.

How about thumbing through a cookbook? I like to cook and have compiled dozens of recipes I’ve never tried, but that doesn’t stop me from looking for new ideas. There’s something about being daring in the summer. Get that grill warmed up and try that new dish you’ve been afraid to tackle.

I’m working on a new book right now, so my pleasure reading time is very limited. But that doesn’t stop me from looking up my favorite authors to find out the next release date on a book. After all, no self respecting reader can keep up with their To Be Read pile. So many books, too little time…..

What are you reading right now?

My Speech This Morning

I’m speaking at two libraries today, and when I walked into the first one I had an idea what I was going to say. I’d brought books to give away, so I knew those kind ladies would go home happy no matter what I said, but I had to ask whether they were all readers or if they were readers who were interested in writing. All were readers. That kind of killed my speech.

I was going to speak about the new indie markets and how to edit, edit, edit, because many new writers don’t do that, and it hurts their sales. I was also going to explain to them how many people they could help with their writing if they used their own experiences to encourage others. But no, none of the ladies at the library had any interest in becoming writers, they simply loved to read and wanted to meet the writer. I changed my speech.

I still told them how they could touch lives with their words, whether written or spoken. If you’ve lived more than fifteen years–maybe even fewer–you’ve had some kind of experience that could help someone else. I do it all the time in my writing. I personalize what I write with snippets of my painful experiences in life to show readers that the worst times in life can be endured. I let them see that they aren’t alone.

Of course, since the ladies to whom I was speaking don’t think they’ll be writing to readers, I told them that they can still touch a LOT of lives. All of us can. I love to touch lives through my writing, but I also love to share hope with anyone going through a life ordeal. Lost a loved one? I’m here to tell you that yes, you’ll endure pain and it’ll change you forever, but you can find a new normal. Injured in a care accident? Yes, the body can heal. If you have continued pain you might have to live with that pain, but I’ve lived with pain for nine years and it’s given me a deeper appreciation for what remains of my health.

We can all offer hope. We don’t want to explain in detail our own ordeals when we see someone who is struggling, because they’re so caught up in their pain they don’t want more added to their load. Just let them know there is hope and they aren’t alone. It’s amazing how much it helps to know someone understands. Be the one who understands. I guess that’s my message for today because it’s what I’m going to speak about at the next library. I’m leaving now, and on the drive I’ll be thinking about how my words might be able to better heal those around me. Want to join me?


A Kindle Fire Giveaway!

It’s vacation time!
Whether you’re going someplace new or old, planning an exotic trip or a staycation, chances are booklovers like us will be packing a new title or two for those leisure moments of rest and relaxation. And I have just the contest to help!

This summer, I’m thrilled to be included in not one but TWO novella collections. Those quick reads you can enjoy on a beach or on a plane ride, or just before going to bed at night. Quick, romantic, positive stories to uplift and entertain!

Convenient_Brides_RafflecopterI’ve teamed with the nine authors from The Convenient Bride Collection to offer a fun giveaway, starting today and ending on July 10th. We’re giving away a 7″ Kindle Fire, loaded with (what else?) the ebook version of our book, along with several titles including my other novella, The Summer Harvest Bride.

12BridesSummerNovella2_SocialMediaPostsThe 12 Brides of Summer are releasing three stories at a time, and my story, The Summer Harvest Bride, is featured with my wonderful colleagues Mary Coneally and Amanda Cabot. Three romantic novellas for only $2.99!

The Convenient Bride Collection is available in ebook or print, featuring nine different stories where the wedding comes before the romance!

And now for the contest details. Prize Package Includes:

7″ Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire Cover (You’ll have a choice of colors)

The Convenient Bride Collection ebook – OF COURSE!

Kindle Versions of:

The Cactus Creek Challenge by Erica Vetsch

A Secret Hope by Renee Yancy

A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears

Two Brides Too Many by Mona Hodgson

The Oregon Trail Romance Collection with Jennifer Uhlarik

The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection with Gabrielle Meyer, Amanda Barratt, and Erica Vetsch

12 Brides of Summer Collection #2 with Maureen Lang

Just click below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you don’t like Rafflecopter, you may email mjagears AT gmail DOT com for an entry; put Loaded Kindle Fire Giveaway in the subject line to be entered.

Happy Reading!


Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Christian Novelist Retreat
Retreat for writers wanting to learn more about the craft and creativity of writing novels – all genres – contemporary and historical

October 18-22, 2015

Theme: Hope in the middle of faith and love. – I Corinthians 13:13

It’s HOT, HOT, HOT – unseasonably so – right now in these mountains

but… this too shall pass

And all that will be HOT in a few months is that book you’re working on

– or thinking about –

Time to improve it, work on it, brainstorm it, get it critiqued,

enter it into a contest, and/or show it to an editor/agent!

October is the peak season for leaf color in the mountains of western North Carolina and the perfect time for novelists to gather for inspiration, encouragement, improving skills and practicing creativity. If you don’t have an idea in mind, we’ll help you find that too.

Small, intimate group. Please register early. – Ridgecrest: 1.800.588.7222 –


Ridgecrest/LifeWay Conference Center, Ridgecrest, NC

(twenty minutes east of Asheville—home of the famous Biltmore House and Gardens)

All sleeping rooms and classes for the Novel Retreat are in Mountain Laurel Hotel

Ridgecrest Novelist Pricing:

Program Fee – $325 full time

Program Fee – $120 for one day

Program Fee – $60 for one-half day

Mountain Laurel Lodging (per room, per night:

Single $69, Double $69, Triple $79, Quad $89

Meal Package – $96 per person (Sunday dinner – Thursday lunch)

TEACHING FACULTY: They don’t come any better than these!

Lynette Eason (widely-acclaimed suspense writer,speaker,award)

Eva Marie Everson (FCWC director, best-seller, pres.WordWeavers,editor)

Eddie Jones (author, speaker, publisher Lighthouse of the Carolinas)

Yvonne Lehman (conference director 30+ years, 56 novels, 5 non-fiction, editor)

Torry Martin (anything creative!author,actor,speaker,you name it!)

DiAnn Mills (50+ best selling novels, suspense, multiple Christy winner)

Edie Melson (best-selling books, Guideposts blogger, Social Media expert)

Robert Whitlow (best-selling thrillers, movies, we’ll show his movie Mountain Top)

Diana Flegal (Hartline agent, speaker, author)

Lori Marett (award-winning scripts, DVD movie Meant to Be)

Ann Tatlock (adult and children’s books, multiple Christy winner, editor LPC)

Deborah Harvey (music and worship leader)

(in addition to novel classes, we offer Social Media instruction, script writing,



(for discounts:


Mythic structure, archetypes, ideas, senses, social media, compelling protagonist & antagonist, scenes, scriptwriting, movie making, cozy mystery, point of no-return, writing as extended ministry, seat-of-pants suspense, top ten mistakes, comedy for stage & screen, romance, query letter, cover blurb, changing state of publishing, character arc, plot, tension, Goodreads/Pinterest/etc., write for your life, dialogue, successful critique groups, advanced characterization, synopsis, dialogue that sings/dances/plays piano, genre & brainstorming


Inspiration, encouragement, association, great food (you don’t have to cook and wash the dishes!), classes in one building, beautiful spacious rooms, indescribably beautiful views, maybe a black bear or so, bookstore, signings, Moments presentations and opportunities, one-on-one with faculty whether or not you pitch…just discuss,

writing time, worship, music, fun, laughter



Summer Reads and Movies

11424659_577268585748361_8873474521910097599_oI think summer is passing me by and I haven’t started having fun yet. How about you? I’m a home schooling mom and also write novels so the summer gives me a break from the toughest part of my day so that I can focus more on writing my novels. But this girl also wants to have fun! (I’m hearing Cindy Lauper in my head now)

Since I have a little more free time in the summer, of course we do the usual activities of swimming and hiking and picnicking. But I can also watch more movies and read more books–all part of having fun and part of my job. That’s right–I have the best job in the world.  When looking for new inspiration or ideas it helps to watch lots of movies and read widely.

Recently I considered revisiting some classics and thought about the old Alfred Hitchcock movie,  North by Northwest with Cary Grant. I had used a similar Frank Lloyd Wright house used in the movie for a setting in my last novel, after all, I might as well watch the movie. But I never got around to watching it. And the next thing you know, I was heading with my family to Rapid City, North Dakota for an impromptu trip that had nothing at all to do with the movie! My husband was speaking at a church there, doing his sermon on the potter’s wheel. In the meantime, we were able to visit the sights including Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Custer State Park where we saw buffalo herds and prairie dogs. I’ve never seen prairie dogs before. Cute!

We didn’t get time to see any of the movie-related sights for North by Northwest or Dances with Wolves, but when I got home, I put both movies on Netflix and I watched North by Northwest last night. The movie was slower than I remembered, but that’s how old movies are. We live in such a fast-paced world and want stories to move along quickly these days. I enjoyed watching Cary and his damsel in distress climbing on Mt. Rushmore or at least a set, since I had just visited.

I decided to make a list of classics to watch this summer so I’m asking for suggestions? What are some of your favorite old and recommended movies?

Adirondack Reflections by Julie Arduini

Last month I was invited to speak in Speculator, New York and share the writing process behind my Adirondack romance, Entrusted. What made it extra special was I spoke at the Lake Pleasant library, a place I used as inspiration in the book.

Once I finished sharing the process, guests lingered to chat. I came away encouraged and tempted to become like Jenna Anderson, the heroine, and pack it all up and move to the mountains once and for all. What encouraged me was hearing their stories about Adirondack life. Because I visit and don’t live there, it was important my research was accurate. They let me know I was right on track.


Speaking at the Lake Pleasant library in Speculator, NY.

Here are some of my thoughts now that I’m back in Ohio:

1. Naming the village Speculator Falls instead of the real Speculator worked. It’s fictional and although I brought a lot of real experiences to Entrusted, having a fictional village gave me flexibility. They let me know my research was accurate and they appreciated that when I needed to embellish, it was okay.

2. Paying attention to the cover paid off. They loved the cover and felt it was Adirondack authentic. One woman felt she knew the exact location in Lake Placid where the picture originates. I explained that for some across the country, they see hills and believe they are mountains. My Speculator friends know the difference and were honest enough to say they would have called me on it.

3. They were so wonderful to share, but nervous to at the same time. More than once I heard, “You’re probably going to put this in your book…” What they appreciated was in Entrusted they couldn’t find anyone that was real and yet everyone felt like a real friend. I explained that I took everything I loved about Speculator and made composite characters. Each person in the story has something that reminds me of the people there.

On the flip side, I returned to Ohio full of mountain air and pleasant memories. I compiled video and pictures and organized everything for the Embrace Women’s Book Club featuring Entrusted. We had our first meeting last week and I had some reflections from the Ohio side, too.

1. The ladies find Adirondack life as peaceful as I hoped they would. From the tall pine trees to the lack of chain hotels and locals who stay year around, the readers in this book club were instantly enamored.

2. They immediately respected the people who choose to live there year ’round. We had a rough winter in Ohio but the Adirondacks saw temps as low as -40. I’ve been in Lake Placid in September when there was ice on railings. It is especially isolating in a winter as the one we had.

3. Everyone felt as loyal to the Adirondacks and the people as I feel. If I’d had a bus chartered and announced we were leaving for Speculator, everyone would have been on it. They understood the love for the woods and desire to protect them. Most couldn’t relate to living in a county where there were no traffic lights but they admired the literal frontierland.

And that’s where the summer will take us as a book club—a literal frontier land. Jenna leaves everything in Ohio to pursue a life without regrets. She wants to belong and with a non working GPS, inability to access Wi-Fi and constant conflict with the town grocer and councilman, it isn’t easy. Trying new things never is.

Have you ever visited a setting from a book? What observations do you have?

INDIE TIME by Kristen Heitzmann

I’m excited to say I’ll be independently publishing my upcoming novel, TOLD YOU SO. I’m blessed to work the past seventeen years with top-notch publishers, but this seems the right avenue for this time and this series–yes, I’m now writing TOLD YOU TWICE. Being able to do these stories this way is exhilarating. But I’d like your input.

Here’s a peek at the first of the TOLD YOU Series:

Grace Evangeline knows her newest romance novel should be playing live on Broadway and will stop at nothing to convince playwright-producer Devin Bressard. Yes, it might involve a little stalking and infiltrating the people in his life to prove her plots are not contrived, her characters not cartoons. People all over the world love her novels–and her. So why should this man matter?

Devin Bressard likes his full and meaningful life. As “a voice for the times,” his productions strike nerves and win awards. Grace Evangeline’s request is laughable—until he starts glimpsing her in his East Village neighborhood. Forced to work together, he learns she’s trouble in more ways than one—a calamity vortex. Who could know the spokesperson for strength and virtue would ignite his carefully contained heart in a conflagration that touches more lives than their own?

That’s the bare bones gist of it. Now it’s time for book covers. For this romantic comedy series set in NYC, what might appeal to you?

A. artistic, i.e. watercolor wash, zany illustration, or other cool treatments

B. sharply photographic

C. feature faces

D. closeups of clothing, hands, etc. without faces

E. incorporate setting in a composite

F. Simple / plain with text

Feel free to vote or offer any thoughts you have about covers. I value your feedback!

The Names of God by Tara Randel


I recently started reading a book about the names of God. It made me sit back and contemplate just how awesome our living God is.

We all have ups and downs in life, struggle through circumstances or long for the desires of our hearts. How comforting to know that God has a name for every single need we have in this life. I find security and trust knowing God is available to me. All I have to do is call His name.

He is Almighty, powerful, has authority and is filled with splendor. He is Sovereign. He is everything I need and, best of all, longs to have a personal relationship with me. He is my redeemer. He is everlasting and my king. He is faithful. True. My rock and my salvation. My comfort, my peace, my healer.

And in all things I give Him honor and praise.

I could very easily add to this list of names, but I wanted to focus on three that struck me.

First is Yahweh. To be or to exist. I AM. Completely set apart. This name was regarded so holy that the Jewish people would not spell it out in its entirety, nor would they speak it out loud. It is the name God gave us to remember him throughout all generations.

The next is Elohim. Lord God. More God than any other gods. Strong Mighty. Worshipped above all.

Adonai. Great Master. Total obedience is His rightful due. He watches over me, I am protected by God. He is the authority.

I believe the more we know God, discover how vast and myriad are His names, we come into a deeper relationship with Him. A deeper understanding of who He is. The more I learn about Him, the more I can’t help falling deeper in love.

My prayer is that you take some time out of your day and think about the wonderful names of God. You can’t help but coming away more amazed by Him.


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