Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Makeover

Spring steals in on hushed, lady-like footsteps. With gentle firmness, she ushers out the tenacious Old Man Winter, who takes his reluctant leave, grumbling as he goes, and needing more than one firm shove before he disappears. In his wake, on branches recently coated with ice and snow, tiny leaves begin to show themselves…slowly, hesitantly, as if to check the temperature before emerging. A touch of the sun’s warmth will be enough to make them stay, to grow and spread, dressing the naked trees in glorious green garments and an entire palette of colorful accessories.

I’ve missed the green. And while I don’t want to seem an ungracious hostess, Winter definitely overstayed his welcome this time around—I’m not sorry to see him go. Of course, I must confess to a bit of a prejudice toward Lady Spring.

By the time Winter prepares to make his slow exit, my entire soul longs for the colors and warmth of the new season. I clap my hands like an excited child when the first buds appear on the tree branches, and the bright yellow and white of jonquils appear in my front yard. The glorious pink blooms adorning my neighbor’s redbud tree bring a smile every time I glance in that direction. And the tulips—those glorious tulips!

What is it about this season that makes my spirit soar? I think it’s the promise of new life, after Winter’s freezing touch creates a dead, barren landscape. While that season has it’s own type of beauty, there’s just something so reviving about Spring. After the bleakness of Winter, its beauty is almost beyond description.

Puts me in mind of the metamorphosis Christ creates in us when we let Him in. From the arid desert of a sinful heart, He brings forth beautiful new life. Leads us gently into green pastures of the soul. Removes all traces of the empty, ugly, barrenness of our pasts. He creates Spring inside our hearts.

Beautiful Spring!

With Spring outside my window and inside my soul, I’m eager to get this edition of The Bookshelf posted. With the help of authors from Kathy Carlton Willis Communications, it is packed with good stuff! It is my pleasure to welcome our spotlight author, Debbie T. Williams; Cynthia Ruchti, who brings a wonderful devotion filled with warmth and bursting with birdsong; and Kathy Carlton Willis shares her own tips for creating a tagline. Be sure to check out my review of Lori Copeland’s A Kiss for Cade. I love this book, and I know you will, as well. Then of course, there’s the contest and the “Watch for these Titles” section, where you can plan your reading menu for the next several months.

Thanks for being a Bookshelf subscriber! If you’re not subscribed, I invite you to do so now. Each edition is packed with good things from wonderful authors who love the Lord.

Have a happy Spring, full of sunshine and blessings!



Notes of Devotion: Cynthia Ruchti

CYNTHIA RUCHTI

Window with a View

Just beyond our bathroom window, Adam and Eve Barnswallow built a nest on top of a wooden shutter. As the season progressed, we watched the parents tend the nest and warm their eggs. Eventually little fluff-heads attached to massive, always-open beaks peeked over the edge of the nest.

When my then five-year-old granddaughter Grace was at our house one day, I took her by the hand to show her the incredible sight. Six now-adolescent barn swallow babies were crammed into a tiny mud-and-fiber nest. Grace took such delight in watching the mom fly back and forth with nubbins of insects for her children. We mocked their bird voices as we watched the beaks open and close.

And then it happened. One birdling got tired of the overcrowding and stepped out of the nest onto the top of the shutter. He clung there for a few minutes. Then, with a flourish that almost stopped our hearts, the baby took off flying!

Within a few minutes, they'd all left the nest except one lone holdout. I called him Fred. The scaredy cat. Grace asked why I named him Fred. I told her he looked like a Fred to me. She said, "At this point, Grammie, I think we should just call them birds."

We cheered and cajoled the babies. "Come on! You can do it! You can do it!" Despite our encouragement, Fred stayed put. The others came and went, reveling in their new freedom and the glorious discovery that they could eat while flying.

Poor Fred. He didn't know what he was missing. Sure, the nest was a lot more comfortable. But it held no possibility of adventure. And everyone he knew and loved was out there having fun...without him.

Eventually we left our bird-watching perch, overcome with the wonder of flight, of God's grace in allowing us a front-row seat, and of sadness for Fred the Fearful.

About an hour after Grace and the family left to go to their own nest, I took another look out the window. The nest was empty. Fred learned to fly!

He was built to fly. He just didn't know it at first.We humans were built to fly, to soar, to dip and dance in the skies of spiritual adventure. How sad if we stay too long in the nest, thinking that's where the fun is.

PRAYER: Almighty God, King of all who fly, give me courage to leave the safety of my spiritual nest to soar with You.

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles,” Isaiah 40:31a KJV.

Today’s devotional is by Cynthia Ruchti, writer and producer of the radio ministry THE HEARTBEAT OF THE HOME and current president of American Christian Fiction Writers. Cynthia’s debut novel—They Almost Always Come Home—releases from Abingdon Press in Spring 2010. Cynthia writes stories of hope that glows in the dark. http://www.cynthiaruchti.com/.

Author of Note: Debbie Taylor Williams

DEBBIE TAYLOR WILLIAMS


I’m delighted to welcome Debbie Taylor Williams. Please make yourself comfortable and enjoy our chat with this multi-published author and speaker.

Welcome to The Bookshelf, Debbie. We’ll be talking about your writing journey, and I also have a few just-for-fun questions. First, however, I’d like you to tell us a little about you as the everyday lady next door.

My hubby of almost 35 years is Keith Williams, whom I’m more in love with today than ever. We’re best friends and are parents to two adult children, Taylor and Lauren; who are married to Ali and Chris. I’m goofy over our sixteen month old grandson. I can hardly go into a store without buying him a jillion books and toys. Abby, our two year old lab, keeps us company on walks. I’m often in airports due to my speaking ministry. I lead P.R.A.Y. with Passion Conferences throughout the United States, as well as keynote at women’s events. It’s such a joy. I love serving the Lord.

Well, it’s a good life, living for the Lord! 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?

In 2004 I was asked to write Discovering His Passion. Later that year, New Hope Publishing asked me to write for them and If God is In Control, Why Do I Have a Headache was birthed. If God Is In Control, Why am I a Basket Case followed.

Howard Publishing, now Simon and Schuster, offered me two book contracts: Pray with Purpose, Live with Passion and Prayers of My Heart prayer journal.
Gary Myers, with Leafwood Publishers called and asked me to write The Plan A Woman in a Plan B World. Writing was obviously God’s idea, not mine. I didn’t start out as a writer. I began as a Bible teacher. The “ah a” moment came when I realized God was bringing writing opportunities into my life. He impressed on my heart the benefit of the written word, which remains long after the spoken word is forgotten.

What a wonderful experience! Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

Life! People, pets, conversations, funny stories, the news, and daily events coupled with the Holy Spirit and Bible provide inspiration.

How much time do you spend writing?
When I have a book deadline, I wake at 4 or 5 a.m. and may write for eight hours. Early morning is my best time to write because there are no interruptions and my mind is fresh to receive God’s Word.

What’s your best piece of advice for new and aspiring writers?

Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind. Begin each day kneeling at His feet. Listen to Him. Let Him direct your heart and mind.

Tell us about your new release, and why you wrote this book.

Women grow up dreaming of the life they hope to have. When things don’t go according to plan, a woman can become depressed, angry, and even fearful. The Plan A Woman in a Plan B World addresses nine “land mines” in our minds that left unchecked, can hurt us and others. Through three sections: Live Out Loud: Choosing to Disarm Land Mines of the Mind, Love Out Loud: Talking it Over with Friends, and Laugh Out Loud: Living with Joy and Humor, women learn to take charge of their thoughts and walk in the power of the Spirit.

What can we expect from you next?

A new book, The Plan A Mom in a Plan B World, will equip women to navigate through Plan B parenting challenges.

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?

What was it like to see the Risen Lord on Resurrection morning?
What books are on your bedside table right now?

My Utmost for His Highest, Killer Angels, and Who Switched Off My Brain

What word annoys you more than any other?

"Absolutely" is absolutely overused.

What super power would you like to borrow for awhile?

I agree with Paul in Philippians 3:10. I desire the power of Christ’s resurrection.

Thank you, Debbie, for hanging out at The Bookshelf with us! Where can readers find your books?

Lifeway, Family Christian, Mardel’s, Books a Million, Borders, Costco, Amazon and other stores; as well as my ministry, Hill Country Ministries,
www.debbietaylorwilliams.com.

Thanks again for being with us.

Thank you!

About Debbie:

Debbie Taylor Williams is the founder of Hill Country Ministries, an organization dedicated to spreading God’s Word and love and ministering to women. Best known as a passionate Biblical expositor, Debbie uses humor and practical illustrations to communicate spiritual truths to women throughout the nation. She is the author of Pray with Purpose, Live with Passion; Prayers of My Heart; If God Is In Control, Why Am I A Basket Case, and other books. She and her husband make their home in Kerrville, Texas. Learn more by visiting her popular web site: www.debbietaylorwilliams.com.

Notes on Writing: Kathy Carlton Willis

KATHY CARLTON WILLIS



What's in a Tagline?
What’s in a name? In days of old, parents named babies in a way that would be almost prophetic of what that child would become or what that child represented. We’ve gotten away from that tradition, but today, we use taglines. Part of branding for an author is to come up with a tagline.

A tagline isn’t a commercial jingle or a mission statement, but it has that same sort of feel. It is a punchy slogan that defines your body of work. A successful tagline evokes an instant image of the one being described, succinctly leaving a positive impression. You want to pick a tagline that will be broad enough to cover the entire scope of your work, but narrow enough to be unique in capturing your essence—your passion. It’s not just telling others about you, it’s telling them what’s in it for them when they read your work.

Sometimes a tagline is also referred to as a strapline or even a slogan. When identifying the components of a good tagline, I look for three elements: 1) Does it succinctly voice your mission? 2) Does it offer the consumer a promise of what’s in it for them? 3) Does it fit consistently with the rest of your branding elements (logo, book titles, speaking titles, bio, etc.)? It’s important to not merely focus on the product itself, but what you as a total package offers.

Make sure your tagline doesn’t only define, but uses pizzazz to punch up the sell-factor and make you a household commodity—at least to your identified niche-markets and target audiences.

Keep your tagline short—long ones are hard to remember. Make it catchy. And be sure your tagline holds interest for anyone beyond your mother or spouse. You don’t want to leave the potential consumer going, “So what?” Use originality, humor, or drama to make your tagline memorable. Some use puns and use them well, others use puns in a tired, corny way. Be sure you know the difference if you try this technique.

Once you have brainstormed a tagline, you can use it in all sorts of ways: on business cards, with your logo as a header on your Web site or blog, as part of your signature line on e-mails, as part of your print materials and letterhead. Also, your tagline might be a good thing to use on your query letters, one-sheets, and proposals. It gives others a quick snapshot of what your heartbeat looks like. Much better way for them to get to know you than showing them your 6th grade school photo!

When you use a tagline as part of your branding efforts, you funnel all of your work into this one defining description. It gives you a consistent message, voice, stylization, and image. One goal is to build a specific perception with your audience and potential audience. It causes your audience to feel a certain way, and when they read your work, they seek that same “something unique” in each of your books. Your tagline helps define what makes you distinctly different from other authors.

Taglines will help you build your public exposure, your name recognition, and even gives an implied promise that the consumer will get a certain special “something” consistently with you as the “product” being described by the tagline. The tagline will hook your target audience because it’s relevant, real, and fits the consumer’s implied need or want.

If your tagline defines you, defines your work, and grabs readers at the heart and the mind—then you’ve discovered the right tagline.

Here are some samples of great taglines. (Permission granted by each author for me to use these taglines in this article.)

where romance meets therapy
Jeannie Campbell, LMFT
http://charactertherapist.blogspot.com

Stories of Unscripted Grace
Christa Allan
http://christaallan.com/

Uncovering the Unthinkable
Deborah M. Piccurelli

Southern-fried Fiction
Ane Mulligan

Cozy mysteries - with a kick!
Lorena McCourtney
http://www.lorenamccourtney.com

Exploring the Deep Questions of Faith
Cheri Cowell
http://www.DirectionAndDiscernment.com

Stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark
Cynthia Ruchti
http://www.cynthiaruchti.com

Yesterday's women—Today's issues
Ann Shorey
http://www.annshorey.com

Finding the extraordinary God in our ordinary lives
Patty Wysong
http://pattywysong.blogspot.com/

Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace
Winnie Griggs
What’s In a Tagline, by Kathy Carlton Willis, owner of the same named communications firm. Kathy and her team get jazzed shining the light on their clients and their Lord. See more at their blog: http://www.kcwcomm.blogspot.com/

Notes in Review: A Double Scoop!

A Kiss for Cade
by Lori Copeland
(The Western Sky Series)

Fifteen years ago, Cade Kolby rode out of Winterborn. He promised to come back and didn’t, leaving young Zoe with a broken heart and a secret—both of which nearly destroy her. She’s none too pleased to summon the now-famous bounty hunter back home when his sister dies, leaving four orphaned children behind. But that was Addy’s last request, so Zoe complies. A widow now, she’s older, wiser and much more on her guard than the love struck maiden Cade abandoned so long ago. All she needs to do is convince Addy’s brother to give her those kids. He owes her that much. Then he can ride back into the sunset and keep on riding, as far as Zoe’s concerned.

Cade never forgot the red-haired maiden he loved and left behind. And now, seeing her again, watching her with his sister’s kids, recognizing the fine woman she’s become, he finds his career-hardened heart melting like a snowball in a heat wave. But despite that undeniable attraction to his former love, he’s determined to find a real home for his nieces and nephews. A home with a mother and a father. A secure, normal environment. Though he knows she loves them like her own, he can’t bring himself to consider Zoe as a possibility. She’s cute as a kitten and twice as feisty, but the woman lives in an apartment barely large enough to turn around in, runs a rapidly failing general mercantile, and barely has the funds to keep her own pretty mouth fed. No. Zoe doesn’t need four younguns, and the kids need more than she can offer them.

It seems Cade’s trip back home might just end in disaster. Four unhappy children, a fighting mad redhead with a freshly broken heart, and a hunky cowboy riding back into the sunset—this time leaving his own heart behind.

But then the townsfolk step in to do a bit of heavy-handed matchmaking, and Zoe and Cade don’t stand a chance.

A Kiss for Cade is a sweet romance with a pinch of pluck and a dash of daring. The author weaves a western love story with grace and beauty. The element of faith is seamlessly woven into a lively tale that leads the reader through a full range of varying emotions. It paints the good ol’ days in a light of love and laughter yet clearly portrays the hardships of a frontier life.

Lori Copeland knows how to spin a tale. In A Kiss for Cade, she does it with undeniable flair and a healthy dose of fun.

This is the way to write a book!




They Almost Always Come Home




When Libby’s husband Greg doesn’t return home from a trip to the Canadian wilderness, she's not sure whether to be sad or glad. In fact, if he did show up, she just might divorce him. Their marriage has been a farce since their 12-year-old daughter’s death, for which Libby holds her husband responsible.

The police investigation seems haphazard at best, as they’ve pretty much decided Greg used his annual trip to Canada as a way out of a failing marriage and a career he despised. Despite her own doubts as to her husband's disappearance, Libby finds herself unable to let it rest. With her father-in-law and her best friend Jenika in tow, she sets out on a wilderness trip of her own, hoping to find clues or find Greg.

The trip sheds a light on far more than a missing man's motives. With her own trust in God lying in tatters, Libby is buoyed by Jenika’s steadfast faith and her father-in-law’s unswerving confidence in his son’s integrity. By the time they reach the end of their journey, she is forced to reconsider her harsh judgment and consequential treatment of a husband whose love was unfailing. In doing so, she finds things hidden away in her heart that force a reassessment of her own spiritual, mental and moral being.

Is it too late for them? Will she ever find Greg … dead or alive?

They Almost Always Come Home is a touching account of one woman’s journey back to love and faith. A wonderful thread of humor keeps Libby’s painful odyssey from being too much to bear. I enjoyed the authors' subtle yet unmistakable message of faith. Because it took me a chapter or two to get into the story, I was surprised when I discovered that I was completely lost in it. I had to know what happened to Greg and whether or not his and Libby’s marriage would be salvageable if he were found. This is a well-written, memorable story I’m pleased to recommend.

Reviewed by
Delia Latham

April/May Contest Notes

The drawing for this edition of The Bookshelf will be held on the last day of May. Winner will be announced in the June edition.The winner will receive Third Time’s a Charm by Virginia Smith and This Side of Heaven by Karen Kingsbury.



The February/March edition winner of Third Time’s a Charm and A Gathering of Finches:


AMY INHOLT
Congratulations, Amy!

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. If you want Bookshelf articles to come right to your inbox each month instead of receiving a link to this web page, use the FeedBlitz link in the top left corner of this page in addition to the manual icon on my website.

Note: The books given away in these drawings are in excellent condition, but most have been read once for review purposes. They are handled carefully and you will receive them in great condition.