Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Novels

Recently I have been the opportunity of reviewing two wonderful books Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. The third title that you will see in this blog is about a book that I volunteered to post an excerpt of in order to advertise the book.

Unfinished Gift

About the book
 Can a gift from the past mend a broken heart?

Ian Collins is an old man without his son. Patrick Collins is a young boy without his father. On his Christmas list are only three items. He wants the army to find his father. He wants to leave his grandfather's house. And he wants the dusty wooden soldier in Grandfather's attic--the one he is forbidden to touch.

Set at Christmastime in 1943, The Unfinished Gift is the engaging story of a family in need of forgiveness. With simple grace, it reminds us of the small things that affect powerful change in our hearts--a young boy's prayers, a shoe box of love letters, and even a half-carved soldier, long forgotten. This nostalgic story of reconciliation will touch your heart.

Who is Dan Walsh?
Dan Walsh is the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Daytona Beach, Florida, a church he helped found 23 years ago. He is the author of The Unfinished Gift and lives with his family in the Daytona Beach area

My Thoughts
Let yourself go back in time – more specifically in the year 1943 during the 2nd world war. In this book you will get a multitude of details related to the time where things were though and all the resources were concentrated on the war. You will see how coupons were used for food and how you could get more meat just by saving the fat and bring it back to the butcher. You will experience the loss of a mother, the missing in action father, the strained relationship with a grand-father that you never knew and the discovery of a beautiful wooden toy.

This story will dig out the resentment a father has against his own son and his wife to discover that he was wrong during all these years. And it took the disappearance of this son, the letters of his daughter-in-law as well as a grand-son who runs away in the midst of a major snowstorm to melt the anger away. And from that point on, the grand-father is changed from the inside out.

A wonderful neighbour and a lady from the children’s service are also a delight to discover. They embrace the little boy and encourage him to do unto others what he would like to be done to him. And so, he takes on to please his grand-father but it is a hard thing to do since his grand-father is so distant and grumpy. Nevertheless, he tries, gets discourage and decides to leave... Lost in the storm, he will be saved by a gentle stranger who will bring him to safety. While this is happening in town, half-way around the world, another Christmas miracles is happening.

The whole story is spanned on a five days period - from December 20th to the 25th to be exact. Only God could have weaved such a miracle in the lives of these people.

I enjoyed the story very much. It kept me wanting to read more and the way it finishes it makes me wonder what other adventure these characters will experience. I love historical fiction and this one is absolutely special since it is set during the Christmas season. After I turned the last page of the book, I saw an announcement for a sequel titled The Homecoming set to be released in June 2010. I am looking forward to read the sequel just to discover what will happens to all the characters I have learned to love throughout the pages of the Unfinished Gift.

To read an excerpt of the Unfinished Gift, simply go to .

Christmas Dog

About the book
Christmas miracles can come from unlikely sources.

Betty Kowalski isn’t looking forward to the holidays. She just can’t seem to find Christmas in her heart. Maybe it’s because her husband is gone. Maybe it’s because she’s missing her children. Or maybe it has something to do with her obnoxious new neighbour, who seems to be tearing his house apart and rearranging it on the lawn.

But when a mangy dog appears at her doorstep, the stage is set for Betty to learn what Christmas is really all about.

Who is Melody Carlson?
Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books, several of them Christmas novellas from Revell, including her much-loved and bestselling book, The Christmas Bus. She also writes many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the TrueColors series, and the Carter House Girls series. Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books, including the Notes from a Spinning Planet series and Finding Alice, which is in production as a Lifetime Television movie. She and her husband serve on the Young Life adult committee in central Oregon. Visit Melody’s website at  .

My Thoughts
Here’s an interesting little novel to dig into during the Christmas season. Imagine yourself living alone in a house. Your kids are grown and live far away from you. And you think your neighbourhood is going down because of a specific neighbour. Many around thinks that particular neighbour is bizarre and rude and probably not good news. Everyone seems scared of him.

Then a dog shows up in your yard. Dirty, scummy, hungry and you would think the dog belongs to the neighbour. You remember that your job is to love the ones that are hard to love... So you make an effort to encourage the neighbour and go buy food and toys for the dog. You delivery the goodies and the dog at his door and leave. Problem is – this is not his dog.... To top it off, your grand-daughter shows up at your door after running away from home. Mind you, she is old enough to know what she wants being in her 20s and such.

I’m not a fan of dog but this little novel was a delight to read. In the midst of holiday frenzy and birthdays galore, I was enjoying this little novel. It is fresh and simple yet captivating at the same time. The characters interact well between each other and we learn how simple love and kindness can melt the grumpiness away.

As you go through the story, you will discover with Betty what Christmas is really about and open your heart to love the ones around you – even the dog!

If you want to read and excerpt of the book – go to .

Finding Christmas  
About the book
Christmas is everywhere . . . even where you least expect it.

Join award-winning author and storyteller James Calvin Schaap as he uncovers the grace, joy, and love of the season through seven heartwarming tales of miracle moments in a messy world. This beautiful and inspiring collection of contemporary Christmas stories will remind you what grace looks like--and where to find it.

Who is James Calvin Schaap?
James Calvin Schaap, a professor of English at Dordt College and president of the Chrysostom Society, is the award-winning author of twenty-two books. He lives in Sioux Center, Iowa.

My Thoughts
I can’t share my thoughts about this book as I have not received a copy yet. But I promised to post an excerpt of this book as well so here it is - . From what I can see, it looks like it would be a great book to get during Christmas time.

These reviews were made possible because I have received a copy of Unfinished Gift and Christmas Dog from Graf-Martin.
Available now at your favoroute bookselle from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Unfinished Gift is available everywhere even at and

Christmas Dog is available everywhere even at and
Finding Christmas is available everywhere even at and

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Treasured / God Gave Us Blog Tour

Treasured/God Gave Us Love/God Gave Us Christmas
Published at Waterbrook


About the book
In Treasured, Leigh McLeroy considers tangible reminders of God’s active presence and guides readers in discovering evidence in their own lives of his attentive love.

“The idea for the book came from a cigar box filled with odds and ends of my grandfather’s life that arrived a few months after his death. Sifting through the objects in the box, I experienced him in a fresh new way. This made me wonder what treasures might be tucked away in Scripture that could frame God for me in an equally intimate, tangible way. This process also helped me uncover my own “treasures” of my walk with the Lord: objects that remind me of my history with him and his faithfulness to me,” says McLeroy.

Drawn from the pages of Scripture, the author considers twelve such treasures and personalizes their meaning for readers, such as a green olive branch that offers proof of God’s “new every morning” mercy and a scarlet cord that demonstrates his willingness to adopt “strays” of every sort.

Weaving these treasures together with scenes from her personal history, Leigh McLeroy invites readers to discover God’s heart for them and embrace their unique role in his redemptive story. Treasured offers readers a guided experience of God’s love and character and invites them to consider their own treasures that point to their part in God’s ongoing story.

Who is Leigh McLeroy?
Leigh McLeroy is the author of The Beautiful Ache and The Sacred Ordinary. An avid collector and recorder of everyday moments, words, and wonders, Leigh’s keen eye for God’s presence in ordinary life infuses her writing and living with a deep, insistent joy. A frequent conference and event speaker, the author makes her home in Houston, Texas, and posts often on and

My Thoughts
Do you have a box in your wardrobe where you put little treasures in it? I do. Actually, I have one to remember things that my husband gave me, one (make that two) for our wedding that won’t be opened until our 25th anniversary (which by the way will be in another fourteen years from now – well more like thirteen and a half! *grin*), and one for each kids with mementos for them since their birth. I know I’m a major packrat. I still have things from when I was in primary and high school – like the high school journal I was part of. Geez! Pathetic sometimes.

This book is a wonderful read and a must for anyone who wants to discover God through new lenses. It makes you think about what God would keep in a box to remember the major events that touched humanity. Okay – some of you might say – God doesn’t need a box of things to remember. True enough but I think He would keep the box for us – his children so that one day we can sit with Him and go through the box together (a little bit like we will do with our children on our 25th anniversary!).

Treasured made me discovered a different side of God – a side I haven’t thought off, a side where He cherishes the memories of things that happened in the past. If God would keep these mementos from various times from the bible, why would He not keep some from my story. Someday, I could sit down with him and go through my own memory box with Him and see how He was present the whole time even when I didn’t know it…

Even while you read about the things that God would probably keep, you also go through the life of the author as she pours out her thoughts about the various subjects of each chapter. At the same time, it got me ponder and think about my own life and how I would have reacted in a same situation.

God Gave Us Love / God Gave Us Christmas

About the books

In God Gave Us Love, Little Cub and Grampa Bear’s fishing adventure is interrupted by mischievous otters, and the young polar bear begins to ask questions like why must we love others . . . even the seemingly unlovable? Why is it easier to love those we like? Where does love come from? And why does God love her so much?

Grampa Bear patiently addresses each one of Little Cub’s curiosities by explaining the different kinds of love we can share: the love between friends, the love between families, the love between moms and dads, and the love for God.

He also assured Little Cub that because of the love God has given her through his Son, there’s nothing she can do to make God love her any more or any less. Through Grampa Bear’s encouraging Little Cub to love others with a “God-sized love,” children will be inspired to love others and to be patient, gentle and kind, so that in every way, they too can demonstrate God’s love.


In God Gave Us Christmas, as Little Cub and her family prepare to celebrate the most special day of the year, the curious young polar bear has something on her mind: “Who invented Christmas?” she asks. “Is God more important than Santa?”

Her questions reflect the confusion of so many children during the holiday season. And this heartwarming story takes them on a wonderful journey of discovery—right to the heart of Christmas.

Through Mama’s gentle guidance, Little Cub learns that God loves her and everyone— polar bear, moose, or human—so much that he gave us Jesus, the very best gift of all.

Who is Lisa Tawn Bergren?
Lisa Tawn Bergren is the award-winning author of nearly thirty titles, totaling more than 1.5 million books in print. She writes in a broad range of genres, from adult fiction to devotional. God Gave Us Love follows in Lisa’s classic tradition of the best-selling God Gave Us You. She lives in Colorado, with her husband, Tim, and their children, Olivia, Emma, and Jack.

My Thoughts
I have seen the previous books from Lisa Tawn Bergren in the bookstores previously but I never bought one. I always thought that the drawings were fantastics though.
Imagine my excitement when I had the opportunity to review not one but two of her latest books; God Gave Us Love and God Gave Us Christmas.

In God Gave Us Love the children will learn that it is important to love others no matter what. Little Cub is very frustrated with the otters and can’t seem to find love in him for them. Grandpa Bear explains the different kind of love that God gave us – love to share between families, friends and parents. And Little Cub is reminded that every time we show love to someone – even when they are unlovable – we show a bit of God’s love to that person.

In God Gave Us Christmas, Little Cub is wondering who invented Christmas. And his mother takes him on a journey so that he can discover who created Christmas in the first place. As they explore together their environment, Little Cub will find God in places where he never thought about. He then concludes that Jesus is the best gift of all!

My children and I enjoyed the two books. We read them together while sitting in the living room. We enjoyed the beautiful drawings and the adventures of Little Cub with his grandpa and mother. We talked about love and Christmas afterward. The four kids loved Little Cub and even after reading it, they would pick up the books just to look at the pictures.

I find these two books very well done and easy to understand for little minds. They give the basics information about love and Christmas and the children enjoy the pictures. These two books are definitively good books to give to children during Christmas.

These reviews were made possible because I have received a copy of each books -Treasured, God Gave Us Love and God Gave Us Christmas - from Waterbrook.

Treasured is available everywhere even at and
God Gave Us Love is available everywhere even at and
God Gave Us Christmas is available everywhere even at and

Saturday, November 28, 2009


CLOSER – Devotions to Draw Couples Together
Written by Jim & cathy Burns
Published at Bethany House

About the book
What Couples Want Today: A Devotional with a New Approach
The Love Dare challenged individuals to love their spouse more. Closer: Devotions to Draw CouplesTogehter shows wives and husbands how to grow that love together. Introduced with Scripture verses and engaging stories, these 52 devotionals will inspire couples to draw closer through faith conversations--those quiet talks so vital for emotional and spiritual intimacy in a marriage. Guided, practical action steps round out each reading.

Who are Jim & Cathy Burn?
Jim Burns founded the ministry of HomeWord in 1985 with the goal of bringing help and hope to struggling families. As host of the national radio broadcast HomeWord with Jim Burns, Jim's passion is to build God-honoring families through communicating practical truths that will enable adults and young people alike to live out their Christian faith. In addition to the radio program, Jim speaks to thousands around the world each year through seminars and conferences. He is also senior director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University and an award-winning author, whose books include Creating an Intimate Marriage, Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality and Confident Parenting. He has been featured through numerous media outlets including CNN, ABC, Focus on the Family, and Library Journal. Jim and his wife, Cathy, have three grown daughters and live in Southern California. Visit

Cathy and Jim Burns have been married for over thirty years. They have the privilege to speak to couples each year through conferences on “Creating an Intimate Marriage” and “Growing Together Spiritually.” Cathy is also a teacher at a Christian school for kids with learning disabilities.

My Thoughts
In the midst of busyness, dealing with life in general and raising your kids, sometimes you might find difficult to connect with your spouse. Well, help is there for any couples who want to draw closer to each other. Closer – Devotions to Draw Couples Together has been written to challenge spouses to do what needs to be done to be closer spiritually and emotionally.

This book contains 52 devotions – one per week – but is not restricted to a specific schedule. If you miss a week, don’t worry about it, just continue the book where we left it the last time you had some time together.

Each devotions start with a scripture and a little text that you could read together. Then the conversation can start. After having read the devotion, you will have some faith conversations between your spouse and you. These conversations are guided by strategic questions that the authors have thought of while writing the devotion. Once your conversation is finished, you are not done just yet... The authors have also included some exercises to do with your spouse. Called A Step Closer, these exercises will help you to deepen your relationship.

I was impressed to see a story about a Canadian in one of the chapters. I find it rare that American authors would include stories of Canadians in their book. So imagine my surprise to see a little tidbit about Terry Fox in the devotion titled Attitude is Everything.

As I write this, my husband and I are already in the midst of a couple book right now but this devotion is something I am planning to do with him in a near future.

In conclusion, whether you have been married for 25 years or if you are newlyweds, this book is a must in your personal library.

This review was made possible because I receive a copy of CLOSER from Bethany House.

CLOSER is available everywhere even at and

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Novel Idea

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

Various Best-Selling Authors
(contributions from best-selling authors including Jerry B. Jenkins, Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Randy Alcorn, Terri Blackstock, Robin Jones Gunn, Angela Hunt and more)

and the book:

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Best-selling Christian fiction writers have teamed together to contribute articles on the craft of writing. A Novel Idea contains tips on brainstorming ideas and crafting and marketing a novel. It explains what makes a Christian novel “Christian” and offers tips on how to approach tough topics. Contributors include Jerry B. Jenkins, Karen Kingsbury, Francine Rivers, Angela Hunt, and many other beloved authors. All proceeds will benefit MAI, an organization that teaches writing internationally to help provide literature that is culturally relevant.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414329946
ISBN-13: 978-1414329949


Chapter 1: Plot

The Plot Skeleton

Angela Hunt

Imagine, if you will, that you and I are sitting in a room with one hundred other authors. If you were to ask each person present to describe their plotting process, you’d probably get a hundred different answers. Writers’ methods vary according to their personalities, and we are all different. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically.

If, however, those one hundred novelists were to pass behind an X-ray machine, you’d discover that we all possess remarkably similar skeletons. Beneath our disguising skin, hair, and clothing, our skeletons are pretty much identical.

In the same way, though writers vary in their methods, good stories are composed of remarkably comparable skeletons. Stories with “good bones” can be found in picture books and novels, plays and films.

Many fine writers tend to carefully outline their plots before they begin the first chapter. On the other hand, some novelists describe themselves as “seat-of-the-pants” writers. But when the story is finished, a seat-of-the-pants novel will (or should!) contain the same elements as a carefully plotted book. Why? Because whether you plan it from the beginning or find it at the end, novels need structure beneath the story.

After mulling several plot designs and boiling them down to their basic elements, I developed what I call the “plot skeleton.” It combines the spontaneity of seat-of-the-pants writing with the discipline of an outline. It requires a writer to know where he’s going, but it leaves room for lots of discovery on the journey.

When I sit down to plan a new book, the first thing I do is sketch my smiling little skeleton.

To illustrate the plot skeleton in this article, I’m going to refer frequently to The Wizard of Oz and a lovely foreign film you may never have seen, Mostly Martha.

The Skull: A Central Character
The skull represents the main character, the protagonist. A lot of beginning novelists have a hard time deciding who the main character is, so settle that question right away. Even in an ensemble cast, one character should be featured more than the others. Your readers want to place themselves into your story world, and it’s helpful if you can give them a sympathetic character to whom they can relate. Ask yourself, “Whose story is this?” That is your protagonist.

This main character should have two needs or problems—one obvious, one hidden—which I represent by two yawning eye sockets.

Here’s a tip: Hidden needs, which usually involve basic human emotions, are often solved or met by the end of the story. They are at the center of the protagonist’s “inner journey,” or character change, while the “outer journey” is concerned with the main events of the plot. Hidden needs often arise from wounds in a character’s past.

Consider The Wizard of Oz. At the beginning of the film, Dorothy needs to save her dog from Miss Gulch, who has arrived to take Toto because he bit her scrawny leg—a very straightforward and obvious problem. Dorothy’s hidden need is depicted but not directly emphasized when she stands by the pigpen and sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Do children live with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em if all is fine with Mom and Dad? No. Though we are not told what happened to Dorothy’s parents, it’s clear that something has splintered her family and Dorothy’s unhappy. Her hidden need, the object of her inner journey, is to find a place to call home.

Mostly Martha opens with the title character lying on her therapist’s couch and talking about all that is required to cook the perfect pigeon. Since she’s in a therapist’s office, we assume she has a problem, and the therapist addresses this directly: “Martha, why are you here?”

“Because,” she answers, “my boss will fire me if I don’t go to therapy.” Ah—obvious problem at work with the boss. Immediately we also know that Martha is high-strung. She is precise and politely controlling in her kitchen. This woman lives for food, but though she assures us in a voice-over that all a cook needs for a perfectly lovely dinner is “fish and sauce,” we see her venture downstairs to ask her new neighbor if he’d like to join her for dinner. He can’t, but we become aware that Martha needs company. She needs love in her life.

Connect the Skull to the Body: Inciting Action
Usually the first few chapters of a novel are involved with the business of establishing the protagonist in a specific time and place, his world, his needs, and his personality. The story doesn’t kick into gear, though, until you move from the skull to the spine, a connection known as the inciting incident.

Writers are often told to begin the story in medias res, or in the middle of the action. This is not the same as the Big Incident. Save the big event for a few chapters in, after you’ve given us some time to know and understand your character’s needs. Begin your story with an obvious problem—some action that shows how your character copes. In the first fifth of the story we learn that Dorothy loves Toto passionately and that Martha is a perfectionist chef. Yes, start in the middle of something active, but hold off on the big event for a while. Let us get to know your character first . . . because we won’t gasp about their dilemma until we know them.

In a picture book, the inciting incident is often signaled by two words: One day . . . Those two words are a natural way to move from setting the stage to the action. As you plot your novel, ask yourself, “One day, what happens to move my main character into the action of the story?” Your answer will be your inciting incident, the key that turns your story engine.

After Dorothy ran away, if she’d made it home to Uncle Henry and Aunt Em without incident, there would have been no story. The inciting incident? When the tornado picks Dorothy up and drops her, with her house, in the land of Oz.

The inciting incident in Mostly Martha is signaled by a ringing telephone. When Martha takes the call, she learns that her sister, who was a single mother to an eight-year-old girl, has been killed in an auto accident.

Think of your favorite stories—how many feature a hero who’s reluctant to enter the special world? Often—but not always—your protagonist doesn’t want to go where the inciting incident is pushing him or her. Obviously, Martha doesn’t want to hear that her sister is dead, and she certainly doesn’t want to be a mother. She takes Lina, her niece, and offers to cook for her (her way of showing love), but Lina wants her mother, not gourmet food.

Even if your protagonist has actively pursued a change, he or she may have moments of doubt as the entrance to the special world looms ahead. When your character retreats or doubts or refuses to leave the ordinary world, another character should step in to provide encouragement, advice, information, or a special tool. This will help your main character overcome those last-minute doubts and establish the next part of the skeleton: the goal.

The End of the Spine: The Goal
At some point after the inciting incident, your character will establish and state a goal. Shortly after stepping out of her transplanted house, Dorothy looks around Oz and wails, “I want to go back to Kansas!” She’s been transported over the rainbow, but she prefers the tried and true to the unfamiliar and strange. In order to go home, she’ll have to visit the wizard in the Emerald City. As she tries to meet an ever-shifting set of subordinate goals (follow the yellow brick road; overcome the poppies; get in to see the wizard; bring back a broomstick), her main goal keeps viewers glued to the screen.

This overriding concern—will she or won’t she make it home?—is known as the dramatic question. The dramatic question in every murder mystery is, Who committed the crime? The dramatic question in nearly every thriller is, Who will win the inevitable showdown between the hero and the villain? Along the way readers will worry about the subgoals (Will the villain kill his hostage? Will the hero figure out the clues?), but the dramatic question keeps them reading until the last page.

Tip: To keep the reader involved, the dramatic question should be directly related to the character’s ultimate goal. Martha finds herself trying to care for a grieving eight-year-old who doesn’t want another mother. So Martha promises to track down the girl’s father, who lives in Italy. She knows only that his name is Giuseppe, but she’s determined to find him.

The Rib Cage: Complications
Even my youngest students understand that a protagonist who accomplishes everything he or she attempts is a colorless character. As another friend of mine is fond of pointing out, as we tackle the mountain of life, it’s the bumps we climb on! If you’re diagramming, sketch at least three curving ribs over your spine. These represent the complications that must arise to prevent your protagonist from reaching his goal.

Why at least three ribs? Because even in the shortest of stories—in a picture book, for instance—three complications work better than two or four. I don’t know why three gives us such a feeling of completion, but it does. Maybe it’s because God is a Trinity and we’re hardwired to appreciate that number.

While a short story will have only three complications, a movie or novel may have hundreds. Complications can range from the mundane—John can’t find a pencil to write down Sarah’s number—to life-shattering. As you write down possible complications that could stand between your character and his ultimate goal, place the more serious problems at the bottom of the list.

The stakes—what your protagonist is risking—should increase in significance as the story progresses. In Mostly Martha, the complications center on this uptight woman’s ability to care for a child. Lina hates her babysitter, so Martha has to take Lina to work with her. But the late hours take their toll, and Lina is often late for school. Furthermore, Lina keeps refusing to eat anything Martha cooks for her.

I asked you to make the ribs curve because any character that runs into complication after complication without any breathing space is going to be a weary character . . . and you’ll weary your reader with this frenetic pace. One of the keys to good pacing is to alternate your plot complications with rewards. Like a pendulum that swings on an arc, let your character relax, if only briefly, between disasters.

Along the spiraling yellow brick road, Dorothy soon reaches an intersection (a complication). Fortunately, a friendly scarecrow is willing to help (a reward). They haven’t gone far before Dorothy becomes hungry (a complication). The scarecrow spots an apple orchard ahead (a reward). These apple trees, however, resent being picked (a complication), but the clever scarecrow taunts them until they begin to throw fruit at the hungry travelers (a reward).

See how it works? Every problem is followed by a reward that matches the seriousness of the complication. Let’s fast-forward to the scene where the balloon takes off without Dorothy. This is a severe complication—so severe it deserves a title of its own: the bleakest moment. This is the final rib in the rib cage, the moment when all hope is lost for your protagonist.

The Thighbone: Send in the Cavalry
At the bleakest moment, your character needs help, but be careful how you deliver it. The ancient Greek playwrights had actors representing the Greek gods literally descend from the structure above to bring their complicated plot knots to a satisfying conclusion. This sort of resolution is frowned upon in modern literature. Called deus ex machina (literally “god from the machine”), this device employs some unexpected and improbable incident to bring victory or success. If you find yourself whipping up a coincidence or a miracle after the bleakest moment, chances are you’ve employed deus ex machina. Back up and try again, please.

Avoid using deus ex machina by sending two types of help: external and internal. Your character obviously needs help from outside; if he could solve the problem alone, he would have done it long before the bleakest moment. Having him conveniently remember something or stumble across a hidden resource smacks of coincidence and will leave your reader feeling resentful and cheated.

So send in the cavalry, but remember that they can’t solve the protagonist’s problem. They can give the protagonist a push in the right direction; they can nudge; they can remind; they can inspire. But they shouldn’t wave a magic wand and make everything all right.

For Dorothy, help comes in the form of Glenda the Good Witch, who reveals a secret: The ruby slippers have the power to carry her back to Kansas. All Dorothy has to do is say, “There’s no place like home”—with feeling, mind you—and she’ll be back on the farm with Uncle Henry and Auntie Em. Dorothy’s problem isn’t resolved, however, until she applies this information internally. At the beginning of the story, she wanted to be anywhere but on the farm. Now she has to affirm that the farm is where she wants to be. Her hidden need—to find a place to call home—has been met.

In Mostly Martha, the bleakest moment arrives with Lina’s father, Giuseppe. He is a good man, and Lina seems to accept him. But after waving good-bye, Martha goes home to an empty apartment and realizes that she is not happy with her controlled, childless life. She goes to Marlo, the Italian chef she has also begun to love, and asks for his help.

The Kneecap and Lower Leg: Make a Decision, Learn a Lesson
Martha realizes that her old life was empty—she needs Lina in her life, and she needs Marlo. So she and Marlo drive from Germany to Italy to fetch Lina and bring her home.

You may be hard-pressed to cite the lesson you learned from the last novel you read, but your protagonist needs to learn something. This lesson is the epiphany, a sudden insight that speaks volumes to your character and brings them to the conclusion of their inner journey.

James Joyce popularized the word epiphany, literally the manifestation of a divine being. (Churches celebrate the festival of Epiphany on January 6 to commemorate the meeting of the Magi and the Christ child.) After receiving help from an outside source, your character should see something—a person, a situation, or an object—in a new light.

When the scarecrow asks why Glinda waited to explain the ruby slippers, the good witch smiles and says, “Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.” The scarecrow then asks, “What’d you learn, Dorothy?” Without hesitation, Dorothy announces that she’s learned a lesson: “The next time I go looking for my heart’s desire, I won’t look any farther than my own backyard.” She has learned to appreciate her home, so even though she is surrounded by loving friends and an emerald city, Dorothy chooses to return to colorless Kansas. She hugs her friends once more, then grips Toto and clicks her heels.

The Foot: The Resolution
Every story needs the fairy-tale equivalent of “and they lived happily ever after.” Not every story ends happily, of course, though happy endings are undoubtedly popular. Some protagonists are sadder and wiser after the course of their adventure. But a novel should at least leave the reader with hope.

The resolution to Mostly Martha is portrayed during the closing of the film. As the credits roll, we see Marlo and Martha meeting Lina in Italy; we see Martha in a wedding gown (with her hair down!) and Marlo in a tuxedo; we see a wedding feast with Giuseppe, his family, and Martha’s German friends; we see Martha and Marlo and Lina exploring an abandoned restaurant—clearly, they are going to settle in Italy so Lina can be a part of both families. In the delightful final scene, we see Martha with her therapist again, but this time he has cooked for her and she is advising him.

Many movies end with a simple visual image—we see a couple walking away hand in hand, a mother cradling her long-lost son. That’s all we need to realize that our main character has struggled, learned, and come away a better (or wiser) person. As a writer, you’ll have to use words, but you can paint the same sort of reassuring picture without resorting to “and they lived happily ever after.”

Your story should end with a changed protagonist—he or she has gone through a profound experience and is different for it, hopefully for the better. Your protagonist has completed an outer journey (experienced the major plot events) and an inner journey that address some hurt from the past and result in a changed character.

What Next?
Now that we’ve reached the foot of our story skeleton, we’re finished outlining the basic structure. Take those major points and write them up in paragraph form. Once you’ve outlined your plot and written your synopsis, you’re ready to begin writing scenes. Take a deep breath, glance over your skeleton, and jump in.

Taken from A Novel Idea by ChiLibras. Copyright ©2009 by ChiLibras. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

My Thoughts
I was curious about this book. I missed the opportunity to review it through Tyndale directly so when this book was listed on the FIRST Wild Card Tour I decided to jump on it so I can review it. Maybe not that graphically but I have sent my e-mail really fast to be on the list of reviewers... *grin*

Part of its attraction was because I had reviewed a product to help teenagers (and adults) to write fiction last year. I was curious to see what this specific book would say about writing inspirational fiction. After all, this book contained advices from best-selling authors!
After digging into A Novel Idea, I can say that the two products are totally different – one for adventure novels while the other one for inspirational novels – and at the same time they complete each other.

However, I like the idea behind the book A Novel Idea. It is quite different from other books on a similar subject. This time, you have well-known novelists who give you tips and tricks on how to write a inspirational novel. So in a way you have mentors guiding you as you pursue the writing of a novel.

The book is divided in four sections; the fundamentals of fiction (plot, characters, dialogue, point of view, pacing, setting, descriptions), developing your craft (preparation, discipline of writing, finding your voice, writing with expression, handling rejection), writing Christian fiction (discerning your calling, distinctives of Christian fiction), and networking and marketing (soliciting feedback breaking into publishing and marketing). On top of going through all these specifics in the chapters, you will discover some other bits and pieces of guidelines and encouragement from various authors throughout the book.
Recently, someone I know has submitted a novel to a publisher and she will get published in 2010. She is quite excited about it and is currently going through editing with the publisher. In a recent blog, she shared part of the letter she received from the publisher which was quite positive. I can’t wait to read her book when it comes out. If you want to read her entry go to

If you feel like you have a story ready to pop out of your brain but don’t know exactly where to start, I would strongly suggest that you purchase a copy of A Novel Idea. This book is available everywhere even at and

Global Influence Holiday Guide

Holiday shopping season is here again and the Global Influence network has some great gift ideas for you, tried and tested by real moms. Click on the links to check out what our team of reviewers had to say about each of these gift ideas, and then take a moment to enter our fun giveaway and take a chance at winning some of these fabulous products. Featured Reviews pouchee Pouchees -
Busy moms need all the help they can get to stay organized and keep life as simple as possible. The Pouchee is the perfect solution to keeping all those little things together, putting everything you need, right at your fingertips.
duckhunter Duck Hunter -
Duck Hunter turns the excitement of the hunt into an activity the whole family can enjoy. Launch the duck in the air and try to hunt it down with the toy shooter as it flies freely in the air. A fun choice for those who love outdoor sporting.
Things Remembered Custom Couture Jewelry Just Elfin' Around Card Cubby Harumika By Bandai Harumika Runway Showstopper Harumika Style Starter Baby Alive Whoopsie Doo Strawberry Shortcake Playset Kota Monty Rex Wall to Wall Basketball Nerf Pocket Vortex Busy Ball Popper Talking Chuck Truck Leapfrog My Pal Scout Leapfrog Tag Jr Leapfrog Scribble and Write Animal Planet Polar Land Playset Animal Planet Dinosaur Playmat Onionhead Adult/Teen Feelings Pack Onionhead A-Z Feelings Magnet Set FotoboxPlus MeTime Tees
Fun Holiday Giveaway!
For this holiday guide, we want to share the love with the blogosphere! Some of our generous sponsors have donated prizes to be given away to lucky readers! To enter to win one of the following fabulous prizes, simply fill out the form here:
Prizes include:
Things Remembered Custom Couture Jewelry
Elfing Around
Onionhead Feelings Pack
Nerf Wall to Wall Basketball
Baby Alive Whoopsie Doo
MeTime T-shirt
Entries will close on December 6, 2009 at 11:59 PM EST. Winners will be contacted by email after the close of the contest.
Global Influence Member Guides
Need more ideas for this holiday season? Check out the guides that some of our Global Influence members have put together on their own sites!
Thrifty Jinxy, Happy Healthy Hip , And Twins Make Five , Because Two People Fell In Love, Mommy Musings , Lipstick to Crayons , Bargain Briana , Mommy PR , Shop With Me Mama, Santa Picks, Connected 2 Christ , 3 Boys and a Dog, The Classy Closet , Contest Corner, Lisa Reviews , A Giveaway Every Day, HulaHoopinMom, Spalibrations, High Impact Mom, From Cribs to Car Keys
All reviews listed in the Global Influence gift guide were product provided. Featured positions were purchased by sponsors. Member gift guides are not affiliated with Global Influence.

Bo's Café - First Wild Card Tour

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Windblown Media; 1 edition (September 25, 2009)
***Special thanks to Miriam Parker of Hachette Book Group for sending me a review copy.***


Bruce McNicol is president of Leadership Catalyst, Inc. and an international speaker and consultant. He holds a master's in theology and a doctorate in organizational and leadership development. Previously he served for ten years as president of the international church planting organization Interest Associates.

Bill Thrall serves as vice-chair of Leadership Catalyst, mentor, and coauthor of the bestselling TrueFaced resources (, The Ascent of a Leader, andBeyond Your Best.

John Lynch is a national conference speaker and writer for LCI, holds a master's of theoology from Talbot Seminary, and has twenty years' experience as a teaching pastor of Open Door Fellowship. He's also cofounder and playwright of a theater troupe in Phoenix.

Visit the authors' website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Windblown Media; 1 edition (September 25, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193517004X
ISBN-13: 978-1935170044


My Thoughts
I had mixed feeling when I started this book but with time I came to love the characters and discover a little bit more about myself in the story. I must tell you that I was first attracted to the book by its cover – mostly the restaurant part of it. But while reading about Bo’s Café in the book, I have a different kind of picture in my head.

The story is all about grace. In a way it’s a different kind a prodigal story. One of the main characters has some issues with anger and this is perturbing his marriage and family. Out of the blue he meets another guy named Andy who offers him to ride in his 1970 Electra. Have you ever had someone you don’t know totally out of the blue suggest something about a problem you have just because they were listening to the conversation you had with a friend? I did. And it’s weird. Totally unexpected and usually your reaction you be like the one I had in my head “Yeah! That’s nice but why are you telling me this when I don’t even know you...”. Anyhow, I think Steven must have reacted the same when Andy approached him. Ah! I can even picture his face...

Turns out the group who meets at Bo’s Café is very supportive and encouraging. They open their arms and are more than willing to be vulnerable as they share their stories. Bottom line, you learn throughout the book that it’s important to be honest with yourself and be yourself. It’s hard to trust and be vulnerable but it has to be done.

At the end of the book, an employee working at the company of Steven comes to him for help. Turns out she has problem with her dad. And then we learn that Andy also had issues with his dad. It got me thinking... I had issues with my own dad in the past – how is was physically present but absent at the same time, how I felt that I didn’t measure out to his dreams, how abandoned I felt when he went to ski on more difficult path a few times and leaving me on the easier ones, how he left home... I’m fortunate that God has worked in my heart and allowed me to meet with him before he died in 2000. Honestly I don’t think I was ever close to him. And maybe I still have some hurts inside. But my Father in Heaven is there for me and He will help me to heal. I know because He did it before.

Bo’s Café is available everywhere even at and

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas

Touching Wonder; Recapturing the Awe of Christmas
Written by John Blase
Published at David C Cook

About the book
Sometimes, as we become men and women, we put away the childlike with the childish. The result? We lose something vital - the wonder of it all. When author John Blasé went looking for the lost wonder of Christmas, he went back to the place he'd last seen it - the stories from Luke 1-2. What he found fills these pages with flesh and bone and dust and night and a baby's cry; the intimate union of human and divine - the Incarnation.

In this most wonderful time of the year, take a few moments with this imaginative retelling of the grand miracle and find yourself wide-eyed, slack-jawed, and heart-full. The book's graceful design and Amanda Jolman's beautiful line drawings combine to make this a thoughtful Christmas gift as well as a wonder that families will treasure for years to come.

Who is John Blasé?
John Blasé's work includes Living the Questions and Living the Letters Bible-study series, the Worldviews reference book (TH1NK), Real Life Stuff for Couples, and The Message Children's Bible. A former pastor, John currently edits by day and writes by night. He and his wife, Meredith, have three children and make their home in Colorado.

My Thoughts
I received this book a while back but was asked to wait until later during the month of November to write my review. So when I was ready to read Touching Wonder, I pick it up and focused my eyes on the meaning of Christmas.

Christmas is a season of Joy and pleasure for the eyes. I especially love it in Canada because we get to have a white Christmas (when the weather is good that is!). But nothing beats Christmas than having snow around I find.

However, we must not forget that Christmas is also the birth of Jesus Christ – a wonderful gift that God himself gave us a long time ago. And this book, Touching Wonder, will permit you to recapture the true meaning of Christmas.

Each chapter are divided in three parts. First the reader will dig into the scriptures based on the Gospel of Luke taken from The Message. Then, the author has included his reflections based upon the scriptures that have been read. You will go through the thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams of the various characters introduced in the scripture portion. I particularly enjoyed this permitted me to imagine a new aspect of the lives of the characters – Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds are some of the characters you will re-discover while reading Touching Wonder. Each reflections are then followed by a short prayer written by the author. Even though the prayers are personal to the author, it can easily be taken into your own heart and send back to God.

This book is a wonderful gift for anyone on your list and even for yourself. I think that in the midst of the Christmas season, it would be a wonderful read for anyone interested in rediscovering the true meaning of Christmas
Watch a promo video of Touching Wonder on YouTube!

Want to hear some parts of the book? It is now possible with! Hear it out!

This review was possible because I received a copy of Touching Wonder from David C Cook.

Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas is available everywhere even at and

Growing With Purpose

Growing With Purpose
Written by Jon Walker
Published at Zondervan

About the book
Growing with Purpose elevates God’s grace to its proper place, above sin, where love always triumphs over lists of rules, where no one is forgotten, and where everyone gets more than a second chance. This one-year devotional is an unusual and compelling combination of conversational pictures, humorous prose, and practical suggestions firmly planted in biblical theology.

Who is Jon Walker?
Jon Walker has worked with Rick Warren for many years, first as a writer/editor at, later as vice president of communications at Purpose Driven Ministries, and then as a pastor at Saddleback Church. He's also served as editor-in-chief of LifeWay's HomeLife magazine and founding editor of the Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox. His articles have appeared in publications and websites around the world. You can learn more about his ministry at

My Thoughts
Here’s another devotional that I got the opportunity to review. It is one-year devotional (however, there are no dates at the top of the devotions!) that will help you to go deeper in understanding God’s plan for your life. The author, Jon Walker, has worked closely with Rick Warren (remember the Purpose Driven Life and Purpose Driven Church?) in the past. This devotional will help Purpose Drive Life readers and others to discover God’s grace and grow in His love.

Each devotion has only one page and starts with a scripture at the beginning. Then the author writes about something that will make you think. Part of devotions I think is that they make you think and ponder about what you have read and see how you can apply it in your life.

This little book will bring your stories from the author or his family, prayers to read, stories from past events, life stories and so on. At the end, I sense that the reader would have grown to become more like Jesus and realize that God has indeed a plan for his/her life. Too often, we have a tendency to think that we are not worth it but it isn’t the case.

This devotional would make a wonderful stocking gift for the coming New Year. It would be a good book to go through during each day of 2010. And be prepare to grow with purpose in your life as you discover God’s plan for you!

This review was possible because I receive a copy of Growing with Purpose from Zondervan.

Growing with Purpose is available everywhere even at and

25 Days. 26 Ways to Make This Your Best Christmas EVER

25 Days, 26 Ways to Make This Your Best Christmas EVER
Written by Ace Collins
Published at Zondervan

About the book
Christmas. It should be the most anticipated day of the year. Instead, we dread the shopping, baking, spending, and stress. Bestselling author Ace Collins wants to help you rediscover the joy and peace of the holiday season. Discover how this Christmas can be the happy, joy-filled celebration you’ve always dreamed of!

Who is Ace Collins?
Ace Collins is the writer of more than sixty books, including several best-sellers: Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, More Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, The Cathedrals, and Lassie: A Dog's Life. Based in Texas, he continues to publish several new titles each year. He has appeared on scores of television shows, including CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News, CNN, Good Morning America, MSNBC, and Entertainment Tonight.

My Thoughts
Last week, I received a box from Zondervan. Imagine my surprised to get not one book to review but seven in total. In the midst of the stack a title caught my attention – 25 Days, 26 Ways to Make This Your Best Christmas EVER. Mmmm! Interesting. So I picked up this little book and started going through it.

It is quite amazing actually. Do you feel as though you lost touch with the true meaning of Christmas? Or that at time you get fed up with all the things going around? This book is packed with fascinating stories about various things refering of the Christmas season. In there, you will learn the true meaning behind the song “The Twelves Days of Christmas”. When I read this particular chapter I understood more about the history behind the song.

Also at the end of each chapter, you will have a shortcut to the Spirit of the Season which will encourage you to do something different for the day. One of them is suggesting you to read The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke which can be downloaded on the internet at Project Gutenberg. I know a book worm that will download this little gem for sure! *grin*
Do you buy an advent chocolate calendar to your kids? Well this little book is a little bit like that as there are chapters to cover the days before Christmas (with a bonus chapter explaining the meaning of Boxing Day). I’m quite excited to go through this book when December comes around and I am actually thinking that my oldest son and I can enjoy the readings together in the afternoon while the younger ones are taking a nap. Part devotion, part discovering Christmas with new eyes, I’m ready to dig into this book starting December 1st.

If you want to recapture the joy and magic of the Christmas season, I strongly suggest that you grab a cipy of 25 Days, 26 Ways to Make This Your Best Christmas EVER. And be prepare to remember the reason we celebrate...

This review was possible because I received the book 25 Days, 26 Ways to Make This Your Best Christmas EVER from Zondervan.

25 Days, 26 Ways to Make This Your Best Christmas Ever is available everywhere even at and

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So you want to be a work-at-home mom

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (August 15, 2009)
***Special thanks to Jill Hart for sending me a review copy.***


Jill Hart is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms, Jill is a co-author of the upcoming book So You Want To Be a Work-at-Home Mom (Beacon Hill, Sept. 2009). Jill welcomes work-at-home questions at

Visit the author's website.

Diana Ennen is the President of Virtual Word Publishing. Diana has worked from home for over 25 years and is passionate about PR, Publicity and Marketing & helping others Start their Own Virtual Assistant Business. Follow Diana on twitter at

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (August 15, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0834124661
ISBN-13: 978-0834124660


Making the Choice to Stay Home

Today’s moms are passionate women who want both careers and families without having to give up precious time with their children. They’re searching for ways to have it all, and they’re finding that it’s possible to work from home and at the same time balance a family.

It may sound like a dream, but it’s not. It does start with a dream, though.

A few fortunate women fall into a job or business that allows them to work at home, but it isn’t that easy for most women. To find a way to stay at home while still contributing to their family financially is something that many women long for but few know how to achieve. We hope to make it easier for you.

Being Content at Home

You might have expected us to immediately launch into a chapter about how wonderful life can be if you work at home. However, with the authors having worked from home many years, we realized that you first need to be content in your home life to make it work. The focus of your mind is where true happiness lies. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

Before beginning your search for a career that will allow you to work from home, it’s important to remember that God has put you where you are for a reason. It may be for a season of your life, or it could possibly be long-term. Either way, trust that God will provide what’s best for you, and that may look a little different than what you think is best.

Being a mom and working outside the home can be incredibly challenging. Coordinating schedules, running kids to and fro, and being so tired by evening that you don’t have the energy to enjoy your kids take their toll. However, being a work-at-home mom every day, all day, presents its own unique challenges. It can become monotonous, even tedious. The kids, the house, the responsibilities—the list goes on and on. In either case, it can feel downright impossible to have an attitude of gratitude. The road can be hard, but in the end, your life will be less stressful and more satisfying if you can overcome discontentment. Following are some ideas for building contentment.

Be Grateful

One of the hardest attitudes to achieve is that of gratefulness. It’s easy to get caught up in the negatives that happen each day. However, it’s important to be grateful for each and every blessing that God gives.

Make a list of things in your life that you’re grateful for. You can start your list with your family and the opportunity to work from home, and continue from there. Take the time to thank God for each of the things on your list. As you begin to develop a grateful attitude, you’ll begin to notice more and more things each day you can add to your list.

Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Give Back

Changing your attitude is the first step to finding contentment. Reaching out and helping others is a proven way to change your attitude. When you extend help and graciousness to others, it can’t help but benefit you as well.

Find someone who needs a friend, and make a conscious effort to reach out to him or her every week or every month. Or find a ministry that you admire, and get involved. You’ll be surprised what investing something of yourself in others will do for your attitude. If you’re running a business from home, you may be able to bless others with a product they can’t afford or a special discount that will brighten their day. Maybe you can mentor someone. Be careful, though, that you don’t get so involved in helping others that you neglect your own business.

Choose to Accept Your Situation

A key component of contentment is acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean you don’t strive to better your life. It simply means that you make peace with where you are in life at this time.

There will always be more to attain—more money, more prestige. If you spend your life focused on what you don’t have or what you haven’t attained in life, you’ll be sad indeed. Celebrate each and every success, no matter how big or how small.

Examine your life and see all that is good in it. Each good thing is a gift from God. Accept that He is with you at this point in time. He’ll be with you in every success and every setback. Nothing you do will make Him love you more, and there’s nothing you can do that will make Him love you less.

We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

Focus on Christ

This may sound like a cliché, but it’s easy to allow focus to move from the Lord to self. When moms work at home, the needs of family, business, and self can sometimes be all-consuming, leaving little time to meet spiritual needs. But focusing on your relationship with the Lord is what should come first. If your relationship with Christ is weak, all other relationships will be affected.

Here are practices that will help keep you focused on Him:

1. Read your Bible every day. Make the commitment to read at least one verse every day. The Book of Proverbs is a good place to start, or start with verses from the Gospel of John for a close look at the life of Christ. As you progress to reading more each day, consider purchasing a Bible that will guide you through reading the whole Bible in a year. There are also versions available that will lead you through the Bible in ninety days.

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8).

2. Cultivate an active prayer life. You can pray anytime and anywhere—when you’re driving, putting on your makeup, cooking, even as you drift off to sleep at night. Take advantage of these precious moments to spend them with your Heavenly Father.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

3. Meditate on the Word of God. When you find a verse or verses that have deep meaning for you, allow your mind to dwell on them, and let them soak into your spirit. A good starting point might be Romans 8:38-39—“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Make note of the verses you’ve chosen, and jot down thoughts or ideas that they bring to mind. Keep your mind focused on Him, and be in prayer that He will open your eyes to what He would have you learn from the verses.

4. Wait. Contentment will not be attained overnight. Feelings of discontentment will push their way in. When they do, look through your life to bring to mind the ways God has changed you, the things He’s done to bring you closer to an attitude of contentment. Contentment comes in His timing, so allow Him the time to work in your life.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him

(Psalm 37:7).

If the temptation to wallow in discontentment continues to present itself, find someone who will hold you accountable—someone you can trust to be kind but firm who will speak the truth to you lovingly.

When you’re feeling dissatisfied or frustrated, give your accountability partner a call, and be honest about your feelings. Every mom gets frustrated; you’re certainly not alone. When you find someone you can talk with honestly, it will be an excellent help in overcoming negative thoughts and feelings. Accountability partners know each other on a very real and honest level and still accept and love each other. This allows both of you the opportunity to be supported as well as supportive.

Contentment may seem elusive, but with prayerful deliberation it can be achieved and will bring you more joy and peace than you can imagine. Start working toward an attitude of contentment today.

When your mind and heart are in a good place, it’s time to begin thinking about the choices that are available to you. Can you work from home? Should you work at home? And how in the world do you begin your search for success?

Setting Priorities in Business and at Home

Working from home, particularly if you’re running your own business, is a time-consuming endeavor—especially for moms. You’re responsible not only for the success of the business but for your family as well. You must be self-reliant, self-motivated, and self-disciplined in order to attain success in both areas.

When you work at home, it’s easy to let phone calls, e-mail, and paperwork keep you tied down and cause you to feel you don’t have time to take a break or choose to spend top-quality time with your family. Maybe you’ve noticed that you spend more time in front of your computer or on the phone than you expected to when you made the decision to work at home. Maybe you see your kids acting up and trying to get your attention. Maybe the work-at-home dream you envisioned isn’t happening.

You started out with noble intentions, but now the excitement of success in your business has caused you to lose sight of the primary reason you chose this path. It happens to many of us who work at home, so don’t worry. Help is on the way.

She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard (Proverbs 31:16).

Here are five tips for setting priorities in your life and business:

First, be honest. You probably didn’t start your work-at-home career to climb the corporate ladder. Spend some time in prayer, and ask the Lord to show you the things you need to change.

Take a few minutes to answer the following questions about how you’ve been handling the time commitment of owning a business.

• Are you spending too much time on the phone with clients?

• Do you think about business to the point that you’re distracted when you’re doing family activities?

• Is television getting more top-quality time with your children than you are?

• Do you snap at your children because of the stresses of your business?

Second, make a list. Sit down and write out a list of things you see that you would like to change. This can be a list of tasks you can do differently, such as limiting the time you spend on your business or ways you can reduce stress so you can deal kindly with your family.

Third, log your time. Buy a notebook or create a spreadsheet to log the time you spend on business. Make a column for each day across the top and a row of half-hour increments down the side. Time yourself every time you sit down at your desk by writing “in” in the box that corresponds to the time and day. Every time you leave your desk or complete a task, write “out” in the appropriate box.

At the end of the week, total up the hours you’ve spent each day on business tasks. Take special note of how much time you spend on e-mail and things that aren’t billable. Are you surprised, or is it about where you thought it would be? This can be a real eye-opener and show you in black and white if your priorities have gotten off track.

Fourth, take a break. If you’re in shock after examining your time log, it’s time to take a break. If you normally work during the weekend, make it a point to take this weekend off. Shut down your e-mail, turn off the ringer on your business phone, and shut the door to your office.

Plan ahead and schedule your time. Prioritize your workload, and have the work that will require the most effort and concentration scheduled for your peak time. Try not to get sidetracked; stay on task and focus on what you need to do. For example, you’ll be amazed by how much more you can accomplish by changing the way you handle e-mail. If you answer it only at scheduled times, you’ll find you have more time to do the tasks at hand.

Reevaluate the ways you’re spending your time. Try to plan when you can work on your business without losing time with your children. If your children are in school, make it a point to stop working when they get home. If your children are still small, try to plan your time accordingly. Perhaps a babysitter for several hours or days a week is necessary. Another possibility would be to have a grandparent or neighbor watch them once or twice a week to allow you time to work without interruptions.

Fifth, plan an activity. Now that you’re ready to make a change in your routine, why not plan an activity once a week? This can be an outing with your children or something simple, like setting aside time to make cookies together. You’ll notice that when you plan for these times, they actually happen.

If possible, find another work-at-home mom, and hold one another accountable to keep to your new schedules. Make a weekly play date for your children to spend time together. You and your friend can talk business if necessary, or you may decide to make it a “no business talk allowed” time.

Remember that the years you can work at home and have time with your children are a gift; your business is a gift also. How that will work for you and your family will take a little time to determine and will be different for each family. Take the time to find what works for you, and set your schedule accordingly. Reevaluate your priorities every few months to make sure that you’re making the best use of your time. The rewards will be well worth it. Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him (Psalm 127:3).

So You Want to be a Work-at-Home Mom, by Jill Hart and Diana Ennen © 2009 by Jill Hart, Diana Ennen, and Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, Kansas City, MO. Used by permission of Publisher. All rights reserved. Visit purchase this title.

My Thoughts
I was very interested in this book because we do have an home-based business but my husband mostly works in it. It's in information technology. Since this year has been hard on us, I was wondering what I could do to help. When I got the offer to review So you want to be a Work-At-Home mom I jumped on the opportunity. Surely I could learn some things in this book!

Well the first few chapters will direct you through the choice of staying at home, where to start, choosing the right business for you and how to set up your home business. Some of the information in these chapters were not so new to me... like for example setting up your home business part. After all we do have a business in information technology! But other information like choosing the right business for you for example got me thinking. What is it that I really like to do? How much time could I put in the business? and so on.

Then came the chapters about marketing, clients relations, connections and so on. Very interesting. Marketing is something we are looking into for an online product that we have just released. I discovered some ideas we could apply for this specific product - like the Press Release. I didn't know that anyone could produce one of these. Since I blog about books and so on, I could write some articles and submit them as well. Honestly I never thought of this.

Finally, the book is also packed with real-life examples of women who started their own business.

If you are considering to start a business of any kind, I strongly recommend that you get So You want to be a work-at-home mom. You might learn a thing or two while reading it!

So you want to be a work-at-home mom is available everywhere even at and