Monday, September 28, 2009

Mary DeMuth's A Slow Burn

Author Mary DeMuth’s A Slow Burn (Zondervan, 2009) presents quality literature that appeals to the masses. In this second installment of the Defiance Texas Trilogy, the reader assumes Emory Chance’s burdens and becomes the mother of a murdered child, a mother consumed by the guilt of love ungiven, of hope neglected, of shame unyielding.

When Emory was a child, her mama warned her the crossed lifelines on her palms destined her to heartache and misfortune. Drug abuse, adultery, and neglect of her daughter, Daisy, brought that prediction to fruition, engulfing Emory in pain and suffering. Believing God created her to fail, Emory tells Ousie Pepper, “I’m really only good at messing things up.”

With Daisy’s killer stalking Emory, lurking in the shadows, she trusts no one, especially not God. In Emory’s opinion, God is weak. He couldn’t protect her little girl from evil. Why expect Him to deliver her? One man, Hixon Jones, a man “more like Jesus than anyone,” accepted God’s charge to protect Emory. Having wrestled with life’s afflictions, Hixon knows firsthand her need for redemption and persistently reaches out to Emory, despite her resistance.

The reader transforms along with Emory Chance and emerges a bit charred but renewed, together receiving a final prayer, “Dear, dear Jesus, Author of everything beautiful, Thank you for changing her, for making her a woman who loves you again...Oh, how I pray that every single day, Emory would know she’s treasured.” As Emory considers the message, she knows she’ll “spend her life living up to outrageous love like that.”

Mary DeMuth is a master at her craft, and A Slow Burn is a must read! Her books are available on her website or at retailers like Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, or Barnes & Noble.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stop. Breathe.

It’s a beautiful September afternoon, cool by Texas standards. A misty drizzle spritzes the window while I relax in the recliner and listen to my children’s laughter. When what to my wandering eye should appear, but a miniature sleigh and…Oops! I guess I got too relaxed for a moment.

It’s a rare occurrence these days to have time to daydream. I’m a freelance writer and editor, but I also homeschool my children. School has resumed, as has all the busy-ness that accompanies the season. We have classes, music lessons, dance rehearsals, ball games, church events, and sleepovers. Not to mention deadlines, doctor appointments, Bible studies, and holidays. Complicate matters with each family member’s unique frustration level and nerves can quickly fry.

My daughter tends to be overly dramatic. Why, just today she threw a fit at Academy Sports & Outdoors because she did not get a soccer ball like the one her brother has. Even with Mom and Dad’s assurance of, “Maybe you’ll get one for your birthday,” she insisted she never gets anything she wants and whined and moaned all the way home.

My husband was tempted to react. He sternly reprimanded her a couple times, but then remembered to stop and breathe. Acknowledging her tantrum rewarded her and encouraged her to continue, whereas stopping to breathe allowed Daddy to maintain self-control and assert his authority more effectively.

1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) advises, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The enemy prides himself on the inevitable disasters that loom over the most carefully organized schedules and the conflicts that lurk on every page of the calendar.

And so each day, when you sit down to write and havoc threatens peaceful productivity: Stop. Breathe. Such restraint improves discipline, both the discipline of our labor and the discipline of daily structure. It curbs anxiety and allows God to order our days. By practicing self-control, we resist our enemy the devil and he flees from us, freeing us to go about our busy-ness in a civilized manner.

The clouds have given way to the setting sun, weaving hues of lavender and azure amid soft pink billows…A Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night! Sorry! I’m getting ahead of myself.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Practice Being Scared

Fear. In its grasp, a victim is paralyzed, bound by deception, held captive by miscues. Fear prohibits success, which is probably why it’s a common motivational theme these days. A recent Guideposts article by Phil Keoghan of TV’s “Amazing Race” suggests practicing being scared to overcome angst. He says the more we face fears, the easier it is to handle life’s challenges. Habitually taking on the things that scare us enables us to squelch fears as they flare.

Does writing scare you? A blank computer screen intimidates. What about query letters? Must word them just right. Book proposals drain more energy from an author than writing an actual book! Does the writer’s conference meet-the-editor (or agent) appointment tremble the boots off your feet?

Practice being scared. Open a new journal and record your day. Ask a trusted friend to pose as an editor, then submit an inquiry to him or her. Prepare a detailed outline of a book you’ve read. Use Terry Whalin’s Book Proposals that Sell as a guide. Ask your “editor” friend for a mock interview. Set timers, write without correcting errors, let a peer read a first draft, and practice being scared. Watch yourself escape anxiety’s grip.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fatal Illusions Book Review

A disillusioned counselee, Stacey James, shot Pastor Marc Thayer in his Chicago home, leaving him for dead and implying an affair. Media deluge forces the wounded pastor and his family on sabbatical, sending them to a remote, historic lighthouse on the coast of Lake Superior. When Stacey is found strangled on their Michigan property, Marc is the prime suspect.

Several convenient coincidences pull detective Chuck Riley out of retirement. Back on the case, he unravels ties of this murder to a string of deaths in the Cincinnati Magician Murders. Are the events mere happenstance, or are they God’s providence?

Interwoven throughout Adam Blumer’s debut novel, Fatal Illusions (Kregel, 2009), is a story of forgiveness, letting go, and following God’s lead. Marc Thayer unshackles himself from his mega-church ministry and embraces the small community. His wife, Gillian, begins to accept the loss of her newborn twins while liberating herself of unfounded guilt and learning to trust her husband again. Even the antagonist approaches catharsis.

My only disappointment with this otherwise well-written and suspenseful novel is that the “real” story doesn’t begin until about a third of the way through the book. The author devoted a lot of time on setup in the early chapters, and I found it difficult to sort out the numerous characters and viewpoints in the beginning. However, I was duly rewarded for my persistence.

I enjoyed Fatal Illusions, but I don’t recommend reading it while sitting in a dark house alone at night!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Offense Calls a Timeout

So I was watching a college football game with my husband tonight, and I realized the sport has something I want: the ability to stop time. Granted, the officials don’t actually prevent seconds from ticking away, but they do halt progress of the game periodically. Someone blows a whistle and the teams retreat to the sidelines to rethink their strategies.

I want to stop time.

Imagine how handy that would be. I’d never have to do revisions! Ugly first drafts would be a thing of the past, because I could stop the clock and rethink my strategy as I go along. And writer’s block simply wouldn’t exist. I’d just hit pause until play resumes in my head. Every deadline would be met early and stress would melt away. I’d score a lot more points with publishers.

If only I could stop time.

This sums it up ;)

This sums it up ;)