Monday, August 9, 2010

Wonderful, EXTRA Good News!

Since the last edition of The Bookshelf, I’ve received wonderful, fabulous, absolutely GREAT news to share. Those of you on my e-mail list will already have received it, but it’s definitely good enough to repeat. :)

I’ve been contracted by White Rose Publishing to write not one…not two…but three novels!

The Solomon’s Gate Series will be based around a Christian dating agency called…you guessed it—Solomon’s Gate. First up will be Destiny’s story. Destiny May is the young lady who founds Solomon’s Gate when she re-enters the work force after a five-year “hiatus,” during which she was her mother’s primary caregiver. In the course of getting Solomon’s Gate up and operational, Destiny finds her own true love in the form of Clay Gallagher—a mountain of a man with a heart to match, a shaggy head of hair, and an adorable crooked smile.

Destiny’s Dream takes a bit of a side trip into areas I’ve shied from in the past. I found myself infusing more suspense into this book, and discovered that I truly enjoyed the taste of it. I think you will too.

I’m currently working on book number two, Kylie’s Kiss. I’ll share more information about this one after Destiny’s story is in your hands. And Gypsy’s Game…well, that’s a ways off. But I have titles, storylines, and…most importantly, of course…contracts. Yes!

No release dates just yet, but when I have them, you’ll be the first to know.

I can't believe how much easier it is to write when I know I have a home for my work. That alone is good news! :)

On to this month’s Bookshelf fare. Our spotlight author is Debbie Fuller Thomas. I think you’ll enjoy our chat with her.

A year ago, Debbie contributed a devotion for the August 2009 Bookshelf. On a recent foray through past editions, I discovered, to my utmost surprise, that I never actually ran that devotion. I posted the title, along with Debbie’s name—even made reference to it in my editorial that month—but I didn’t get the actual devotion in place. How on earth did I manage to do that without any of y’all pointing out the empty place on the page? I apologize—to all of you, and more specifically, to Debbie. That article, “First Aid for the Soul,” is included in this edition.

I borrowed this month’s writing tips piece, by Jon Guenther, from Faithwriters. I found it very interesting, as I’m sure you will. We base our entire lives around Bible principles. Those of us who write Christian fiction (or non-fiction) do the same in our subject matter. Guenther’s article presents the biblical account of creation as a prime example of how to write setting.

My review is a little different from what you usually find here, in that I’m featuring a book of poetry. Connie Arnold’s book, Abundant Comfort and Grace, is packed with simple verses of exactly what the title implies—comfort and grace. Hope and inspiration. God’s love, mercy and kindness. It’s also an aesthetically pleasing book, thanks to the gorgeous photos by Gary Strader.

As always, take a peek at the new and upcoming titles. They’ll give you something to pick up and read while you’re waiting for the next Bookshelf Newsletter… :) And don’t forget to take a peek at the Contest post…your name could be in the winner’s slot.

Many blessings, dear readers!

Author of Note: Debbie Fuller Thomas

Debbie Fuller Thomas

I am pleased to welcome Debbie Fuller Thomas to The Bookshelf this month. Debbie, would you share a little with us about how you got started as a writer? Was there an “aha” moment when you knew that’s what you wanted to do?

I wasn’t one of those writers who knew from childhood what they wanted to be. I never even considered writing until I was in my thirties and a neighbor asked me if I’d ever tried my hand at it. She wrote children’s stories for Sunday School papers and explained the basics about article and story submissions to me. I submitted a personal experience story to my denominational paper, and what do you know, they bought it! I thought that was pretty easy, so I continued to write short pieces but didn’t sell another story for about fifteen years. However, it gave me the writing bug and I continued to write during nap times at the home day care I operated. After all these years, I still have about the same amount of time to write every day as when I first began.
Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
Since I write contemporary fiction, I find the most ideas in current newspapers and magazines. On any given day, a newspaper presents a slice of life, whether in a metropolitan area or a small town. Even the obituaries and crime logs can suggest material. The idea for Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon came from a story in People about two babies who were switched at birth.

How much time do you spend writing?

Since I work full-time, I can usually get in about two hours of writing before work, and maybe an extra hour or so at night. Weekends give more time because the house is quiet on Saturday mornings and on Sunday afternoons. I’ve also use vacation days and holidays when I’m on a deadline.
What’s your best piece of advice for new and aspiring writers?
I can’t overemphasize the importance of writer’s conferences and meeting with a local support or critique group on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be an expensive conference or a highly structured writing group. There are many excellent one-day conferences and workshops available and adult schools and junior colleges often have classes that teach the basics that apply to any genre. Sharon Souza, Katy Popa and I are planning a one-day conference in Auburn, California on Oct. 2nd at Bayside Auburn Church. Our website is It is also important to take charge of your education by reading the best writing books available, both ‘how-to’ books and books about the writing life.

Give us one writing tip that you personally find invaluable.

When I’m working on a new story, I start a new notebook or journal and keep it with me at all times to jot down ideas for characters, setting and plot. If it doesn’t have a pocket, I glue an envelope on the inside cover to save photos of people who may be my characters or any other snippets of information that may influence the direction of the story. I also have a ‘Night Note’ from Restoration Hardware which I keep on my night table. It’s a notepad which lights up when you pull out the pen and goes off when you replace it. It beats writing on your arm in the dark, as one fellow writer has been known to do.
Tell us about your newest release, and what inspired you to write it.

My second book is Raising Rain. It’s about four college co-eds in the early 70s who raise a child (Rain) together and the impact that the turbulent times have on their relationships and on Rain’s future. When one of them (Rain’s mother) is diagnosed with a terminal illness, they come together on a stormy weekend in Monterey and confront their past choices and mistakes. Some of them have mellowed and found closure, some have not, and for most, the wounds go deep. It’s really about finding understanding and healing for the past.

What can we expect from you next?

I tend to write about family relationships, and I’m working on a story of two sisters who hide a devastating secret all their lives. I’m letting each of them tell me their side of story, even though they don’t get along very well at times.

That sounds fascinating! Now for those off-the-cuff questions I mentioned. If you could ask any person, living or dead, a random question – what question would you ask of whom?

My dad died when I was in my mid-thirties and there were too many grown-up life questions I never got to ask.

I don't think it matters how old a woman is when she loses her Daddy. There are always too many unasked questions...too many things left unsaid.

What books are on your bedside table right now?

Jewel by Bret Lott, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. I also picked up Pride and Prejudice, which I’ve never read. I absolutely love the miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, and I’m finding it is very true to the book.

What word annoys you more than any other?
It’s more of a phrase than a word. I’m tired of hearing speakers say, “Let’s unpack this (idea, issue, etc.)” It’s already a cliché. Seriously, leave your baggage at home.

What “super power” would you like to borrow for awhile?

I would love to fly. Even in flying dreams, I can never get very far off the ground, but I love the feeling of weightlessness. I mourned the first time I realized that I could no longer handle those jaw-dropping roller coaster rides.
What is it about flying? I think almost every human being would like to do that. Most of us have dreamed about it.

Share a grammatical pet peeve…go ahead, sound off.

How hard can it be to spell words correctly? In a Word document, they are underlined in red.

I'm with you on that, one hundred percent! Thank you for hanging out at The Bookshelf for awhile. We've enjoyed having you here.

Debbie Fuller Thomas writes contemporary fiction from a historic Gold Rush town in Northern California. When she’s not working on her next book or planning children’s programs for her community, she enjoys singing with Colla Voce of the Sierras with her husband and catching up with her two adult children. Her debut novel, Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon was a finalist for the 2009 Christy Award and the 2009 ACFW Book of the Year. Her latest novel is Raising Rain. Visit her website at or at where she blogs with five other upmarket fiction authors.

Notes of Devotion: First Aid for the Soul

Psalm 147: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars; he gives to all of them their names. ESV

Mia (not her real name) is a nineteen-year-old unwed mother of a toddler who has chosen to redefine herself. By her own poor choices and actions, she has estranged herself from her parents, friends, her child’s father and her adorable baby boy. Her mother is distraught, her child’s father is heartbroken and angry and her child is confused about who mommy really is. It breaks our hearts, too. In a lucid moment, she was overheard to wonder, “How did my life get so messed up?” Please pray for her – God knows her real name.

As long as there have been hearts, they have broken. Often these are not clean breaks, but complicated torn-tissue, splintered kinds of injuries with phantom pains that last for years - wounds that don’t heal cleanly without special attention by the Great Physician.

Whether it’s a series of repeated rejections for a manuscript, a child who has chosen poorly, a spouse who has disappointed, a job that has gone away, or a loved one who is suffering there can be real physical pain along with the emotional hurt. People who have worked and saved all their lives have seen their retirement savings slip away just when they needed it or struggled to save their homes from foreclosure. Sometimes it leads to undiagnosed depression, and sometimes it can even shake the faith of Christians who have faithfully served Christ since childhood.

David knew about being brokenhearted. Among other things, he knew how it was to grieve for a son who hated him and to never find closure this side of heaven. But through his pain, David adamantly affirms that God heals us and binds up our wounds, and in case we need convincing, he follows up with a picture of God strolling through the universe counting and naming the stars. I imagine David saying, “This Guy can totally do it.” To David, God’s healing is on par with managing the celestial bodies. It’s just as important and incredible and mystical, and He is fully capable.

So along with our prayers for finances, broken relationships, physical illnesses, and crises of faith, we should ask God to heal our broken hearts and to bind up our wounds. Right in the midst of our hurt and not waiting for resolution. He won’t necessarily take away our problems or change our situations. But these will be a little easier to face if we allow our ‘bones’ to be set so they don’t heal crookedly and our ‘sores’ to be salved so they don’t scar painfully by the hand of the One who manages the stars.

Notes on Writing: Jon Guenther

Copyright © 2008 by RjE Photography.
All rights reserved.

The Creation Story As a Guide For Setting

When you write a story I assume you must have some general idea of where that story takes place. If you're writing in a specific genre, such as science fiction, you might set the story in space (at least some) or maybe in a futuristic world. If you’re writing fantasy, you will most likely have to create an entire world peopled with mythical creatures and forests and marshes and castles. A Western? Well, that sort of speaks for itself, doesn't it? I think you get my point and this is why I maintain that setting is one of the first things you’ll need to consider for your story, because the place where the story occurs is already there, from the very first word really, and with certainty from the first paragraph.

Consider this line from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, which is the third sentence in the book: "They were sent to the house of an old Professor who lived in the heart of the country, ten miles from the nearest railroad station and two miles from the nearest post office."

When we read further, we discover this Professor has a big house and servants. Right away we know that the four children are being sent to a large, spooky house that is remote from anything considered to be modern niceties of the time, which Lewis also informs us happens to be during World War II. We sense they are very small fish in a big pond, although we'll see them put into an even grander pond as the story progresses, a land called Narnia.

Now let's consider our created world. Talk about a setting! When God spoke the world into existence, He "set the stage" on which the drama of all mankind would play out; much like they dress a stage for a play, and now we come to the Creation Story as an allegory for this first chapter: setting. I've always chosen to view the Creation Story as sort of a painting, where God adds light and darkness, and separates it into day and night (Genesis 1:3-5); hence, we are given some reliable measure of time.

In the next few verses, God creates the heavens (or the water vapor in the form of clouds) and sky (v. 6) and the ground and oceans (v.7-10). In doing so, He separates the geographical boundaries, which gives us some idea of where we are. Having a good sense of where you are is crucial to the setting of your story. If you don’t know where your characters are, how do you know where they're going, or can go, or what their limitations are during travel?

Beginning with verse 11, God creates the vegetation, which includes plants and flowers and trees of every kind. This arrays the setting with personality and vibrant colors. This led me to conclude that setting, in many respects, is something you must almost treat like a character in your story. It has personality.

God then creates the sun and moon and stars (v. 14-18), which acts as the playing field for mood. These are also tools by which mankind will ultimately mark logical and appropriate calls to action. He will harvest in the spring time and reap in the fall. He will hunt and procreate in the winter. He will play during the summer when he’s not tending to his crops or watering his herds. Really, then, this part of the setting dictates the "seasons" in which mankind will conduct his life.

Verses 20-22 and 23-24 remain some of my favorite because this is when God created all of the animal life that abounds on the Earth. Okay, so I happen to be an animal lover. In a later verse (v. 30), God gives man dominion over all the creatures. Deep in my spirit I have always believed animals are an exemplary reflection of God’s love. Take dogs, for example, who love their owners unconditionally. Indeed, scientists have proven that an abandoned dog might well sit in the same spot until it starves to death on nothing more than a belief its owner will eventually return for it! Thus, your setting should contain some reflection of God’s perfect love for people. Make God’s creatures a part of your setting: they are everywhere and will lend authenticity to your story.

Finally, we come to the climax of the creation story beginning with verse 25, when God creates man and woman in His own image. The ultimate product of his passion, the author and finisher of our faith, proves beyond any reasonable doubt that He is a family man. That's right: God's a family man. Did you ever stop to think that a family may be part of a story's setting, and not necessarily just characters? I’m talking about the social aspects of a family life. A house. A car. A backyard, as well as the general nature of the family relationships. Believe it or not, families have much to do in determining social setting. A single mother of four kids on welfare isn't likely to be living on the coast of California or in the Hamptons. And what happens when a large congregation of single parents on welfare make up the primary populace of a given area? That creates a social setting of a type, yes? The makeup of the family unit, therefore, provides a deeper insight into the particular setting and its impact on society. If you're in doubt, I suggest reading The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. I think you might change your mind.

Let me give you an example of how families play into social setting. If a young man in a shirt and loosened tie with a ratty suit coat draped over his arm trudges tiredly up the sidewalk at the end of the day, there's nothing terribly revealing about that—we could make any number of assumptions about his social setting. However, if we know that he’s headed for a single-story house in a middle-class neighborhood, and nearly trips over a tricycle on his way to the door, we have a much better picture of the setting. He’s probably a man who has just returned home from a long day at the office, and he’s so tired he doesn't see a little kid's toy blocking the pathway. A home where we can assume his wife and child anxiously await his arrival. Or maybe he's a single father.

In summary, the following elements are those you should include to give the characters a set on which the drama shall unfold:
  • Sense of time (e.g., day or night)
  • Geographic boundaries (e.g., the mountains or oceans or beaches or prairies?)
  • Character/nature of the setting (e.g., the colors and smells and foliage; are we in a jungle or a forest, city or village; on a ranch or in a high-rise apartment?)
  • Lifestyle/season of story (i.e., business or home setting; formal or informal; workaday world or life of luxury?)
  • Animals/fauna (e.g., gorillas in the jungle or house full of domestic cats; beloved pets or dangerous wildlife; human-animal relationships intimate or confrontational?)Family/social setting (e.g., suburban home of married couple or Manhattan condo of a divorced father; orphanage/reform school or dwelling of 10 siblings; sprawling estates or urban projects?)

Will all of these things appear in your story in detail? Not likely. However, they are the chief elements of setting for any story because they are those components God included when He created the world. And even if you’re setting this on another planet, someone had to create all of it. Why not God? Our world certainly proves He’s qualified for the job!

There's an old cliché: "All the world's a stage." Yes, very true. So open your eyes and observe; carefully consider the best setting in which to tell your story. Then get to work and start jotting down all the most interesting aspects of that setting, those things you can use throughout the storytelling. You might have to do this research via the Internet, since it's possible you can't actually go to the heart of India or walk along the northern shores of the Siberian continent. Still, the information is there if you look for it, and feel free to use your imagination to fill in the gaps. That's what writers do. And please don't feel you have to reveal all of it in the first few pages. Better to pepper the setting throughout the story where it feels appropriate, like you might season a slow-cooked roast. That way, the reader can sample a bit of the setting with every, delectable bite.

Copyright © 2008 by Jon Guenther. Reprinted with permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Notes in Review: Abundant Comfort and Grace

and Gary Strader

Simply beautiful poetry. That’s what Connie Arnold offers in Abundant Comfort and Grace. It’s a little book with a big return. Each page offers something different: encouragement for the discouraged; a mustard seed of faith for those who find theirs lacking; a roadmap to implicit trust, for the reader who has trouble letting go and letting God; a bright glimmer of hope for the hopeless. Connie’s own relationship with her heavenly Father shines through every verse, spills out of the pages, and wraps itself around the reader’s heart like a warm, loving hug.

Any lack of cadence and poetic form (based on official literary rules and guidelines) becomes unimportant when one reads the heart of the writer…and I get the feeling that’s what this writer intended. Every verse is saturated with sincerity, conviction, and an almost tangible desire to uplift and encourage.

Each poem is accompanied by Gary Strader’s gorgeous photography. The heart-stirring poetry, combined with striking photos, make Abundant Comfort and Grace a lovely book to add to any poetry collection.

I can’t imagine anyone being untouched by Connie Arnold’s writing. Keep this one handy—you’ll reach for it more than once.

Contest Notes

The drawing for this edition of The Bookshelf will be held on the last day of September. Winner will be announced in the October/November edition.The winner will receive Third Time’s a Charm by Virginia Smith and a $6 gift certificate to White Rose Publishing.

(Click on the cover to read my review of this book)

The June/July winner of Finding Jeena and a $6 gift certificate to White Rose Publishing:



Note: You don’t need to “do” anything to enter the newsletter drawing each month. If you are subscribed to The Bookshelf, you will be automatically entered. Here’s how to subscribe: Use the icon on my website’s Home page, or the link in the Navbar (top of page) on that site, which will put you on my e-mailing list. You will then receive an e-mail link every other month when the newsletter posts, as well as occasional updates or announcements between posts.

Note 2: The books given away in these drawings are in excellent condition, but most have been read once for review purposes. Some may be Advance Reader Copies, sent to me for review before their final edit, so there could be typos or formatting errors. They are handled carefully and you will receive them in great condition.