Must Read Monday: Stuck In the Middle

“That’s your big idea? Tori will show up for dinner wearing size two designer jeans and you’re going to offer to pick up his dog’s poop?”

This may be one of the funniest lines, to me, in this book by Virginia Smith. Stuck in the Middle is the first novel in her Sister to Sister Series.  Joan’s just come out of a nine year relationship, she’s still living in her own hometown (although that’s by choice), and she feels overlooked and plain.

And then she meets the handsome doctor that moves in next door and sibling rivalry, with the baby sister, takes over. It’s quite humorous as they fight for his attention, even the eighty something old grandmother flirts a little!

Joan is a Christian, but she realizes her relationship with God isn’t at all like the missionary who speaks at her church and not at all like Ken’s, the hunky doc. Her church is very traditional, but she doesn’t know anything else. I really liked her spiritual journey from just another gal sitting in a pew following an ordered service to actually having a personal relationship with Jesus.

I got misty eyed when I read how God showed Joan just how much He specifically cared about her. It warmed my heart and gave me a reminder that He always hears our thoughts and loves us without abandon. He’ll even use our favorite ice cream, but you can read that for yourself!

If you like a deep story with tons of humor and a sweet romance, then this is a book for you.

Stop back by after you read it and if you’ve already read it, what did you think? Happy Monday, Friends!

Virginia Smith

Here’s a teaser:

“Her older sister, Allie, is starting a family, and her younger sister, Tori, has a budding career. Meanwhile, Joan is stuck at home with Mom and her aging grandmother. Not exactly a recipe for excitement — or romance. When a hunky young doctor moves in next door, Joan sets out to catch his eye. It won’t be easy, but with a little help from God, Allie, and an enormous bad-mannered mutt, Joan begins to find her way out of this rut.”

Don’t judge a book by its cover…but for the love, read the back!

A true story…
My friend, I’ll call her Jane since she said not to use her name as she humiliated herself, came over this week. She brought her laptop, and we decided to search the Amazon store for free books that we could read together. While browsing through them, I became engrossed and tuned her out. I’m really trying to get better about this habit. Our conversation went like this:
“Oooh, Jess, this book looks really good!”
“Are you listening to me?”
I was reading the back cover of a love inspired book. “Yeah, what’s it about?”
 “A paranormal detective. Stop what you’re doing, and look at the cover. It’s intriguing!”
I glanced up as she turned the laptop around, and staring me in the face was a nice looking man with sinister yet determined eyes. In the background a dark shadowy house beckoned my attention and piqued my interest. I had to admit, the cover looked like something I’d definitely want to consider. Not so much the man, but the house and the darkness. I looked at the title, which I’ll not name, typed it in, and hit my “one click” button. BAM…I can read it whenever.
I moved on to other books, and then I decided to go back to the paranormal book. I scrolled down to the item description, and my mouth fell open. “Jane, did you read the back cover?”
“Um…yeah.” I looked up and glared at her until she felt it and met my eyes. “What? I did.”
I can’t arch one brow like most fictional characters, so I raised both. “So…you enjoy gay porn?”
Her eyes grew wide, “What!? No! That’s not what that book is about!”
I cleared my throat and proceeded to read, “Putting his life and sanity on the line—for a man beyond his reach. Sam Raintree’s experience with things he can’t explain isn’t the only reason his new job as a paranormal investigator is a perfect fit. His coworkers, preoccupied with things outside the norm, will never notice he’s gay…This book has been previously published. Warning: This title contains explicit male/male dream-sex, cross-dimensional electromagnetic theories (mmm, that’s hot!), intense violence, and language graphic enough to wake the dead.” *the remark in parenthesis is not mine.

I sat the laptop down. “Not exactly inspirational fiction.”

Her face turned red. “Maybe I just skimmed it. The cover looked so good.”

Maybe? Do you realize that since I downloaded this book, next time I’m on Amazon it will prepare a list of books I might enjoy reading based on what I’ve downloaded!?”

“That’s bad, huh?”

I gave her a pointed look and promptly deleted the book. “Don’t even ask to get a say in our next book club read. The answer’s no.”


You never know what’s inside it!
Book covers influence what I pick up and what I curl my nose up to. I may put a book down just because the cover isn’t intriguing. (I should also take my own advice and not judge a book by its cover!) But it is important. I went on Amazon and started scrolling through books. Christian and non. I found a pattern to what draws my eye. I then scrolled through some authors I enjoy reading and lo and behold, I found the pattern! Here are few:




See the pattern?

Guess I like scary houses (shrug). I don’t know. It’s what drew me to download the gay porn novel. It was the back cover that inspired me to delete it! The above books have mystery…intrigue. What secrets are lying behind the cover of night? I love designs that hold shadows of people or places. Even if I’m reading a romance, which I love to read, I’d rather see a setting of where the book takes place than to see the people (unless they’re shadows =)). It’s just my reader preference. It’ll probably be my preference when my book goes through cover design. We’ll see what happens when the time comes.

Do book covers influence your choice of reading? What kind of designs determine what you purchase?  Have you found a pattern that draws your eye?
* Mary Keeley an agent with Books and Such Literary group wrote a great blog on book covers and the design process this past Wednesday. Check it out.
Have a great weekend! See you Monday!

Are YOU a Hoarder?




to accumulate money, food, or the like, in a hidden or carefully guarded place for preservation, future use, etc.
I’ve been watching the hoarding shows on TV the last couple of weeks. Mostly as research, but I suppose if I really wanted to, I could just go to my grandma’s house.
The minute the show comes on, my jaw drops. It’s hard to imagine someone living like the person in this picture. You could laugh or poke fun even, I’ve said a few smart-castic (that’s my own word…I think) things about my grandma’s house. But it’s rather tragic.  One episode, they had cleaned up the woman’s house, and six months later it was even worse than before! In six months!
Another woman had hundreds of jars. Glass jars for soup. Plastic jars for paint. The therapist asked her why she kept them, and she said because she might want to make soup, and if she threw away the jars then she’d never make it. When asked, “Have you made soup?” She sniffed and wiped a few tears away, “No.”
These people are filling up their homes, their sanctuaries, with things they think they need, will use, or can’t part with.
I’m not a hoarder. I throw everything away. My poor kids will have no tangible childhood memories. (Sadly, I’m not feelin’ real guilty here.)
It made me think of little things we keep in our “sanctuaries” that we think we need or can’t part with. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” 
1 Corinthians 6:19

In 1 Samuel Chapter 15, Saul spares King Agag’s life after being specifically instructed to “utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them…” (verse 3)

In verse 9 Saul kept everything that he thought was best and got rid of what he considered worthless. It cost him his kingdom.

I know in my life, there have been times God has asked me to clean house. I got rid of some things, but hoarded others. Like Saul.  And I’ve paid a price.

Matthew 12:43-45
 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”


Cleaning out the mess that doesn’t belong isn’t enough. If left empty, it will just pile up again…more so. Just like the woman in the hoarding show.

I like the feeling of a clean house. But, I don’t like it empty. I want it filled with good things. My family, friends, and even my annoying dog. I want to burn my apple cinnamon candle, turn satellite radio on low and listen to the laughter of a happy home. Put in order. And productive.

I want my inside the same the way. Filled with my family-God the Father, His Son the Bridegroom, and the Holy Sprit my Friend and Teacher. I want the warm glow from His light to shine softly, while His fragrance fills every chamber of my heart…drawing others to come in and cozy up. I want my inside to be a joyful, happy place. Put in order. And productive.

What do you want your inside home to look like?

Must Read Monday: Happily Ever After

“He barely escaped with his shirt.”
I gotta tell ya, that’s not a shabby way to start out a book. I’m hooked! You judge me, but you know the minute you saw that line, you wanted to read this blog.

Happily Ever After was a free book at the kindle store, check it out it still may be. It’s not necessarily the title or the cover that grabbed my attention, although I love happy endings and books with coffee or tea. It was the word FREE that snagged me.

However, that’s not what held me. I’ve downloaded tons of free books, read a few pages and realized they just weren’t my thing.

Have you ever read that one book, you know was meant for you for that particular time in your life? That’s what Happily Ever After was for me, proving once again that fiction does minister, teach lessons, and touch lives in ways other things can’t. God knew I wasn’t going to be watching TV for two days, or venturing out to hang with friends (I’m slowly getting better. Read my blog for New Year’s Plans), but He did know I’d be reading.

This book was a touching romance with humor that I found funny. The theme of the book was about dreams. Mona Reynolds had dreams of making an old Victorian house into a bookstore and coffee shop. She’d been saving for years to make it happen, and when she finally had it in her grasp, one thing after another taunted her into believing it never would.

I had a rough week before I settled in with Susan’s book. I’d had a few doubts and unsettling moments related to my dream. I switched on my kindle, and picked up at the scene where Mona is giving up. Disappointment has overshadowed all the small successes and breakthroughs. Her quirky friend, who I could so relate to if I was having a good day, told her that God doesn’t give you a dream only to yank it away and laugh at you.

I needed to read that statement. At that moment. If you have dreams, God given ones, don’t give up, and also…read this book.

Now, I will say that her twists were predictable, but she hinted enough that she wanted the reader to guess them. And even though I knew what those were, the book held me and kept me engaged. My heart swelled when the hero swooped in at the end and saved the day. Literally I whooped and laughed out loud! I love books that make me fall in love.

Susan is on the right; geez do I have to
spell it all out for you!?! 🙂
Check out amazon or any bookstore for her

It also touched on subjects of guilt, forgiveness, Down Syndrome, and faith. I had never heard of Susan May Warren before the free download, but I’ll be sure to mark her as an author to read and follow. I hope you will too! You can click on her name and read her first chapter on her website, if you don’t believe me…but…you know trust me!

Here’s a teaser:

“A bookstore in a Victorian house on the shores of beautiful Lake Superior. Mona Reynolds can’t think of a better storybook setting for a happy ending. Until someone starts to sabotage her plans. Could it be the drifter handyman she hired to help her? Just what will it take to make her dreams come true? “

Passion or Obsession: Guest Blog with Debbie Cerise


Today, one of my best friend’s mom will be sharing a devotion. Debbie sends out encouraging devotions to almost 100 people weekly/bi-weeklythrough email. I loved the one she did this week and asked if she would share it here in my corner of cyberspace! Welcome Debbie!


Good morning, I was listening to the Christian radio station the other day, (KLOVE) and they were interviewing a woman who wrote a book titled, “Made to Crave.” Her name is Lysa Terkeurst.  

As she spoke about her book she really peaked my interest. She explained that she had a problem with food, more specifically, controlling the amounts of food she ate. Now before I lose you because you may not have any problem pushing

 away from the table, you may have a problem pushing away from something else.

I am always drawn to books, stories,  and shows about health and fitness. I really love it. Now most of you have never seen me in person, but I don’t look like a person who is obsessed with this subject.


I am not obsessed, I am passionate about it, and I do like to share my passion with others. But just because someone reads and studies a subject doesn’t always mean they carry out what they learn.

I think the Lord revealed that to me by comparing what I also read and learn from His word. I don’t alway carry that out either. But one of the things that drew me in was  she acknowledged the fact that she knew from scripture…

We are made to crave.

The dictionary’s definition of the word crave is, “to yearn for, to want greatly, to have a strong inward desire.” So is God trying to play a trick on us? He made us to crave and when we do, we end up in trouble.

Now you know God is not like that right?

Let’s take a look at  the scripture that she quoted. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

He placed a deep need and desire in our hearts for Him. The problem is that we fill that hole with other things, drugs, alcohol, food, sex, whatever.  We’ve talked about this before, but I thought it might be a good time to do it again because people usually try to make changes in their lives around this time of year.

What do you crave?

What physical desire are you trying to meet outside of the will of God? What material desires are you trying to meet outside of His will?

The last thing she brings to our attention , do we try to get our needs for significance met outside the will of God? I know, she really asks hard questions. It is worth thinking about.

The Bible is clear, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not from the Father but from the world”. 1 John 2:15-16.
In the first scripture we are told it is right to yearn and want greatly a relationship with God. But it is not right to yearn and want greatly the things this world has to offer. Now you know what I am talking about when I say the world. All the things that look great on the outside but can lead to destruction.
An intimate relationship with someone outside of your marriage– seems harmless but ends in disaster. Taking some pills to help get you through, next thing you know you can’t get through the day without them. You get the picture.
Again, I enjoyed reading this book because it’s a subject that I am passionate about. But even that can get out of control. If I spend more time reading and studying about health and fitness and thinking about it more than the Lord, that is when I have crossed a line.
Even something good can be bad if you cross the line.

This year let’s all crave a relationship with Lord. Put Him first in your life, and see what happens. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33.

In other words, let us stop trying to fill our own needs and desires. Focus on God and let Him fill you up. What do you think?

Debbie Cerise
About Debbie
Just a bit about myself. I have been married for 37 years to my first love and really only love.  I met my husband in the 5th grade and just thought he was so awesome. I have never loved anyone but him in my life. We married 2 years after I graduated high school, and he joined the Navy. We  later had 3 incredible children and 7 even more incredible grandchildren, one of them lives with Jesus. They call me “Mia”. I love being with family. We have so much fun together now that they are grown and have a little “clue” about life. They have truly become my best friends. I work for my youngest brother who is actually 19 yrs. younger than I am. He could have been my son. My mom was pregnant as I was planning my wedding. His business is Kidcam Summer Camp and I help him manage 18 summer camps from his corporate office.  I enjoy teaching bible studies in my home and have a passion to help families who are affected by drugs and alcohol.I am so privileged to say that my entire family knows and loves the Lord. That is the biggest blessing since my husband and I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. Such is my life!

Must Read Monday: Until Forever

“Where will God draw the line at allowing circumstances into our lives that lead us to Him?”

This is just one of the many questions raised in Darlene Shortridge’s debut novel, Until Forever.

I’ve had the privileged opportunity to read Darlene’s book before it hits the bookstores and online shelves later this month.

In the first chapter, she gripped my heart with a tragedy feared by all mothers.  She held it as her characters journeyed down a tough road filled with alcoholism, death, divorce, and prison.

Just when I thought things were looking up, Darlene threw the curve ball and struck my heart again. Sometimes, it takes God allowing many painful experiences to bring His babies into His kingdom. I enjoyed Darlene’s story and her writing style.

www(dot)darleneshortridge(dot)blogspot(dot) com

 This book is the first in Darlene’s Women of Prayer Series. I look forward to reading the next one.  

Here’s a teaser:

“Until Forever is a story of a young family that is torn apart by the devastating effects of alcoholism. Can healing take place in a relationship when an unforgivable act is committed? Will Jessi’s pain and Mark’s guilt keep them apart forever, or will unforseen circumstances bind them together?” 


What’s In a Name?


 Names have always been significant in the Bible. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Jesus called Simon, Peter. God is called many names describing who He is. Jehovah Rapha, Jehovah Jireh…

Ah, to find the perfect name. For babies, or pets, but for fictional characters. A good name, in my opinion, is vitally important when crafting a story.

I like for my fictional friends and antagonists to have names that describe them in some way whether a personality trait, (strong or weak) something that they long for, or ambition they have. I even like to use a seemingly ironic name– for example, naming my female lead Sophie (wisdom) when she’s rather foolish. I  then drive that character into her name as the plot unfolds. 

  Another example, in Forgetting What Lies Behind, I named the heroine, Hope. Why? She needs it! Her father, Gavin (Hawk) has that name because he watches her like one after her accident. Nicholas (Victory of the people) has his name because he’s overcome his bitterness. He forgave when the world said he shouldn’t and Jesus said, “Do it.” So many people need that same victory. 

In Pigeon’s Blood, my heroine’s name is Amelia (to strive) Aston (noble stone). She’s a jewelry designer. The book I’m presently working on, Cassius “Cass” (vanity) is a Cosmetics Company heir and Jolie (pretty) is a former model.

Choosing my characters’ names are one of the very best parts of planning to write. I like to roll it around on my tongue while I’m fleshing out their physical traits and what motivates them. A name helps me stay focused on who the character really is or a goal they’re trying to achieve. 

I’m also a reader. I’ve been a reader longer than a writer and I pay atttention to names in other books. I like a character better if I think their name suits them. Maybe it’s a quirk of mine. Maybe not.

According to, the #1 girl’s name in 2009 was…Isabella. Twilight was first released in 2005 with the last book releasing in 2008. Since the saga came out, Isabella has been on the rise and is still holding at #2 for 2010. Twilight moms to be were hoping for baby girls to name after Isabella “Bella” Swan. Some of you may say, “It was the movies that started the hype, not the book.” The name still originally came from a character in a book!  Not to say everyone naming babies Bella/Isabella was because of the books, but the saga had a direct influence in pushing that name to the #1 slot.

There are many parents (mostly moms) who choose baby names after favorite characters. Movies are written as screenplays first. I’ll be honest, I named my daughter Bailey after the written character from the TV show Party of Five. Oh yeah, I did.
What do you think? As a writer, how do you decide what name to give your characters? How important is a name to you? 
As a reader, do you pay attention to names and if so, is there a name that has stayed with you over time?

Have a great weekend! See you Monday!

Snow Day: It’s Every Day


“Snow Day!” Myles is thrilled to stay home. Bailey grunts, “Just one more day we’ll have to make up later.” She’s so positive.

As I pour my first cup of coffee, the best cup of the day, Myles begs me to go out and play. Bailey’s too proud to beg. I can hear the song lyrics in my head as I glance at her and pour the last of the peppermint mocha creamer into my mug.

“I don’t care.” I have no intentions of going out. I silently hope they won’t ask me to go with them. I’m certainly not offering myself up on the altar of frozen toes and fingers. I’ll be quite happy looking out the window, drinking my coffee, staying warm from the fire. No sireee, I am not an outdoors woman.

I sigh in relief because they don’t care if I come. They know by now it’s not my thing, although as they run off to gear up for the rare southern snowfall, I hear Bailey say, “Can’t wait till Daddy comes home.” Daddy likes snow. Mostly, Daddy likes pelting his children with hardpacked snowballs and watching them drop like flies. I enjoy watching from the window as they scream for him to stop.

A new cup of coffee later, the kids come barreling out of their rooms, layered up for the endless snowplay. “Mom, Bailey says not to eat yellow snow. What’s yellow snow?”
“When animals pee on the snow.”
“Eeew,” he smacks Bailey’s arm (as if she can feel it) and frowns, “Why would I do that?”
She laughs and opens the door. The gust of icy wind reminds why I’m not going out with them. “Have fun,” I call as they take off, Myles slips immediately on the patio but jumps up, “I’m okay!”


By my third cup of coffee, I hear the backdoor open and I’m all ready to yell at them, “Look, in or out. I’m not having you drip all over the floors and freeze the house out.” I walk into the living room and see Myles on the couch with a bowl of Cheetos and Bailey picking up wet clothes.

“What’s going on?”

Myles looks at me and sticks his feet out, “I got frostbite.”

“You haven’t been out long enough for frostbite.”

He shrugs, “Have you been out there?” I get his point. How would I know? I hide my grin and ignore his smart aleck remark, because it’s just Myles. He isn’t being rude or defiant.

“Bailey, are you going back out?”


“Maybe later.” I know what that means.

I know that’s a no.  I reheat my cup of coffee, come back into my room and sit down at my desk to finish the last page of a Bible study and it hits me.

We, as Christians are a lot like my family on a Snow Day. We spend a lot of time talking about playing in the snow. I like the idea of it, but I’m not willing to even try. I enjoy the comforts of my own four walls. My kids go, but don’t stay out long enough to build anything. They spent more time gearing up than going out.

The world around us is forever like winter. Cold. Bitter. Icy enough for us to get bitten, but we must venture out and DO something. The four walls of our churches are too comfortable. We talk about going out. We gear up to go– through the preaching, programs, and plans. Some spend all their time gearing up and never going. Some stay inside without ever venturing out and knowing they never will. Some go out but don’t stay long–never laying foundations, building relationships with people who need Jesus or suffering the frigid temperatures to get it done. It doesn’t feel like fun. It’s just too uncomfortable.

Only a few go out and stay out long enough to no longer feel their flesh or their noses run. They work hard. They build. They smile as they do it. They inspire. When they come inside, accomplishment glows from their rosy cheeks and cracked lips. Something wonderful has happened! It’s time to come in, get warm, get a bite to eat and a drink then go right back out.
My kids never made it back out. They talked about it throughout the day. “Maybe tomorrow.” The sun came out. And it melted the snow away, right along with their opportunity.
Don’t let your opportunities melt away.
So, what’d you do on your Snow Day?



Must Read Monday: Never Without Hope

Michelle Sutton is the “edgy” Christian fiction queen for a reason. She delivers a raw and powerful story of marital issues that most dance around or ignore.

Her novel, Never Without Hope is a very graphic (without being tacky), yet real view of a married Christian woman who gives in to sexual temptation, what keeps her in this poisonous affair, the consequences, hope, and healing.

I think it’s interesting how much wisdom and insight she gives to Hope’s young son. He’s quite the encourager throughout the book. I liked seeing that.

Visit Michelle at

I laughed, cringed, cheered, and got angry often. That’s the sign of a good book to me. I want to feel what they do. Get mad when they do something stupid, and sympathize with them. I even felt sorry for the “other man.” At first, I wanted to smack him but Michelle weaved the story so well, by the end I just wanted him to be happy. In his own marriage of course!  I’m looking forward to the next book.

Anyone who thinks they’re above sexual temptation, has broken vows and needs healing, or just likes edgy Christian fiction should read this book. If you’ve never read this kind of writing before, give it a try and see how you like it! Never Without Hope is available as an ebook and in paperback. 

Here’s a teaser:
“Hope believes she is above sexual temptation; that she would never break that commandment like her husband’s previous wives had done. After all, she is a good Christian and a loving mother. She has no reason to stray . . . until her husband starts neglecting her needs and things begin to look hopeless. Though she clearly communicates her pain to her husband, he refuses to get help. She starts to wonder…Will she never have sex with her husband again? She soon learns that she, too, is capable of such betrayal when she succumbs to the unthinkable. But things that first seemed sweet and reasonable given her painful situation soon produce a bitter taste when combined with the overwhelming guilt. No substitute will ever replace her love and desire for her husband. If only he would touch her like he used to. If only they could make love again. She misses him so much and wants to tell him the truth hoping it will propel him to do something to fix their problem, but she fears his rejection. Yet, she can’t continue living such a hypocritical life. She knows it’s wrong even though she continues to crave physical intimacy. Steeped in the quagmire of adultery, Hope must find her way back to solid ground to save her marriage. But will she lose everyone she loves in the process?”

Drop back in and tell me what you thought!