I admit it. I’m a sucker for a good romance now and then. I like it even better is if there’s more to the story than romance, more depth of character and plot.517EweYbSwL._AA324_PIkin4,BottomRight,-54,22_AA346_SH20_OU15_

All for Anna is just that. Author Nicole Deese offers realistic characters, clearly established settings, engaging dialogue, and a plot that keeps twisting. The kind of book that keeps the reader turning the pages/tapping the screen.

Victoria Sales, better known to most as Tori, has been involved in a devastating car accident, and her guilt has escalated to the point of severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her family can’t reach her. She has distanced herself from social situations. Her chosen method of coping is to bury herself in her job as an ER nurse and to run long distances in her off hours. No time to think, no time to feel…and although she doesn’t realize it, no time to heal.

Tori moves back to Dallas to stay with her sister after a self-imposed seventeen-month “working exile” in Phoenix. Her sister is pregnant, and since her husband must be away for an extended time, Tori agrees to stay with her. The situation works well, as long as Tori continues to drown out the pain with work and running.

Then she meets Kai Alesana, a hunky EMT, and her determination to hold her pain inside begins to crumble. Will he be able to draw Tori out of herself? Will she learn to trust him?

Just as she begins to gain confidence that her inner devastation can improve, flashbacks drag her back to square one. As her friends and family do their best to support her, she begins to open up to the possibility that God cares about her. We think we see an upward trend, until Kai reveals a secret that sets Tori against him and everyone else in her life.

Author Deese has obviously researched PTSD extensively, and has successfully shown the progress of the disorder through the character of Tori. I appreciated the author’s realistic approach, in that Tori experiences no sudden miraculous turnaround that leaves her healed. As in most cases, the comeback is slow, unsteady, riddled with obstacles to healing.

I was so intrigued by the story I had to stop everything else to finish reading. A well-written story, a memorable plot, a lovely romantic line, recommendable to anyone who likes Christian romance.

Only one issue kept me from giving it the full five stars: after the halfway point, there were a number of grammar and usage glitches that interrupted the flow of the narrative. Although there were apparently many beta-readers involved in the proofreading, there could have been a couple more, in my opinion. Other than that, I loved the book and look forward to more from Nicole Deese. See below for the second and third books in the Letting Go series.

Books Two and Three of the Letting Go series can be read as stand alones, but they involve characters from Deese’s first book.



When I realized back in 2002 that my first novel was actually being published, I came up against another thought. One that scared me silly. I would have to speak about the book publicly.

I am an admitted introvert, but that does not mean I lack determination. I wracked my brain as to how I could handle this looming obstacle to my career. Two ideas sprang to mind:

  1. Dale Carnegie Course
  2. Toastmasters

I didn’t know anything about Dale Carnegie besides that it cost a lot of money, which I didn’t have, and I had no idea if or where it was offered. I checked the websites of various towns and the small city nearby, and discovered a Toastmasters Club forty minutes away. Gathering my courage, I joined.Unknown

One of the first things that happens at a Toastmasters meeting is the introduction of members and guests. As I drove the forty minutes to the meetings, I would rehearse my simple introduction. Nine years and many speeches later, I had achieved my Advanced Communicator Silver and Advanced Leader. This accomplishment still surprises me sometimes, except when I look back at what it’s done for me. I have confidently launched four books, presented book readings, classes, workshops and a keynote speech. There are still butterflies and an introvert’s nagging mantra: “how did I get myself into this?” But beyond this, I have the experience of many speeches and presentations to remind me that I’ve done it before and I can do it again.

In my opinion, Toastmasters is a solid and valuable tool for any writer. A different mode of communicating than writing, public speaking draws me out of myself to become involved with others.reading

How does Toastmasters work?

* The first manual consists of ten speeches. You choose the topic, the speech is timed and evaluated by your peers at the meetings.

* Each speech involves a new communication skill to be incorporated into your speech: eye contact, body language, gestures, vocal variation, visual aids, etc. And every speech presented gives you more confidence that you can do it again…and better.

* One aspect of speech evaluation that I regard very highly is the timing issue. A speech at a Toastmasters meeting is docked for being under or over the time allotted. If you’ve ever sat through an endless address or attended a meeting that went on for hours, you know how important timing is. If you are given fifteen minutes to speak, then you learn to time your presentation to between fourteen and sixteen minutes. The way you assure the length of your speech is to practice it aloud. More than once. After a while it becomes second nature to ask for time allotment and to gauge your speech accordingly.

* You learn to organize your material with a beginning, middle and end, whether it’s a speech or a Table Topic (unrehearsed two-minute speech).

* After the first manual, you are free to choose the next manuals from an extensive and interesting list. As you progress in your manual, you are worked into the meeting schedule in other aspects, including timing, counting “ahs,” leading the business portion of the meeting, and evaluation, to name a few. I often found evaluation experience as valuable as speaking.

* Besides local meetings, Toastmasters offers many opportunities to enter speech and evaluation contests at higher levels of the organization. All along the way, members are friendly, encouraging and inspiring.

So if you are an aspiring writer, get into the action ahead of time by signing up with a local Toastmasters group and learn public speaking in a warm, accepting environment. If you already have some books or articles published, it’s never too late to analyze and improve your presentation skills.

Take a look at this site for more information, and search out a Toastmasters Club nearby.


Geoffrey Deschambeau* is the author of a recently published children’s book that the teacher of a dance class discovered and used to encourage and inspire her young students. However, when parents asked where they could buy the book, no one knew. They couldn’t trace the author or the book title.


Rebeka McElroy* has written a riveting historical novel set during World War II. It’s titled The Cost of Courage*. Apparently, it’s a great read and well-written. But how would you know that if I hadn’t told you, or if you didn’t believe me?

(*names have been changed)

Case in point: if we want people to read our books, we must make them available through whatever means of promotion are within our reach.

How can we do this?

My short answer: through social media.

newer twitter





Yes, there may be a steep learning curve involved. If you’re tempted to skip this blog because you don’t want to put the effort into learning social media, please don’t. My expertise is also limited, but I can learn. My age might well be against me, but I can learn. And if I can learn and benefit from social media, so can you.

Step One — Who Are You?

* Create an author bio –where you were born/lived, early writing inspiration, education/professional experience, publishing credits if any, genre, etc. Write it in third person.

– Begin with a longer version, about 250 words (for website, interviews, social media profiles)

– Whittle it down to 30-50 words (for back cover book bio)

– Edit out everything but the essential facts, to 140 characters (for Twitter)

Step Two — What do you have?

* What is your book about? Write a summary (this is not a synopsis) in three lengths (short, medium, long) for various posting purposes. Check back covers of other books, especially those in the same genre as yours. Try the template in Appendix B of Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell if you need a more structured approach.

Step Three — Where Are You?

You must be traceable. How can people find you?

* Join writing groups, both locally and online

* Attend writing workshops, conferences, readings, launches

* Network with other writers and readers whenever possible

* Create an online presence for you and your books. This is what Social Media is for.

Step Four — Website, etc.

* Ask for help from friends who already have an online presence. Google to learn more.

* Create a website using WordPress or Blogger (my preferences). They provide easy-to-use templates for setting up a simple website. If you have the extra cash, you can hire someone to do this for you.

* Create accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Amazon Author Page, and any others you hear about. Take it one step at a time and practice using each site before moving to another

* Use the book summaries and author bios you prepared earlier for your profile on these sites. Here’s an example from the back cover of my most recent novel:

back cover copy



In CASE STUDY #1, Deschambeau’s book found an extremely limited audience willing to buy if the buying was simple. However, at the time of this writing, the author has no website, and the book has not found a home on any social media sites. If we don’t know about it, we can’t buy it.

In CASE STUDY #2, I’m happy to say the author did her legwork and sent out emails, Facebook ads and tweets. She also hosted a book launch to spread the word of her newly released novel. She requested, received and posted positive reviews that followed the book’s appearance on the major bookselling sites. I believe it’s selling well and the actual title and author are Threaten to Undo Us by Rose Seiler Scott.

To conclude, our writing careers require balance. We must be traceable. Our product must be available for purchase. BUT, if we spend all our time on social media, we won’t have time to write. Many prolific authors have people to tend their social media sites, but those of us who can’t afford that must maximize our online time. The matter of greatest importance is to keep producing quality fiction. Otherwise, we will have nothing to promote.

I recently discovered an article online that offers a strong note of caution regarding social media book promotion. I will leave it to you to read and consider HERE. Go for balance.


Practice of the Presence of God


Besides conversations recorded by others, Brother Lawrence also connected with friends via letters. Some of these have been included in the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Below is the essence of his third letter—a short one—and responses that come to my mind.






* God is infinitely gracious

* He knows all our wants

* He comes in His own time, often unexpectedly

* He does favors for us (such as giving us our every breath, sez Jan)

* He cares for us

* He allows/sends affliction and suffering in order to teach us

* He welcomes our prayers, whether short or long

* He is our comfort

Our Responses:

* Accept who God is (and don’t remake Him in our likeness)

* Hope in Him

* Accept His will for our lives (God does what He does; read the book of Job)

* Learn from the difficulties and trials that come our way

* Accept that trials are part of life and we shouldn’t run from them

* Accept God’s timing

* Pray continuously, in all times and circumstances

* Be thankful in all things and at all times

* Think of Him often

* Practice the presence of God

Another fifth Tuesday means another list of things to be thankful for. I’m purposely not looking back to the last fifth Tuesday, so there may be some repetition, but thankfulness cannot be overstated.

IMG_0260As a resident of a cold climate country, I am extremely thankful for the warm seasons.

I am thankful for the blazing sun and the brilliant blue skies.

I am thankful for the robins that begin their day at 3:22 a.m. by waking the wrens that wake the sparrows, etc. I’d be happy to let the magpies sleep, but they wake up too.

I am thankful for fresh air and the opportunity to work in the yard and garden. It’s a short season.

I am thankful for flowers. My perennials are flourishing, I’ve transplanted some of them, and the few annuals I planted seem to be doing fine. The garden germinated poorly, but what’s up looks great. The poor germination makes me thankful for grocery stores to buy what I don’t grow.My Violas

I am thankful for long hours of daylight as we approach the longest day of the year this coming weekend. I rather dread the decline in daylight hours after that, but for now, I’ll enjoy long evenings to work or to sit and enjoy the yard.

I am always and ever thankful for stories. I read continuously: e-books on my iPhone (haven’t yet justified an iPad), audiobooks on the iPhone or iPod, and print books from the library or the bookseller. To repeat a well-known phrase: there’s no such thing as too many books.

I am thankful for health and strength to do the things I love to do, for joy in the company of family and friends, and the contentment in long hours alone creating my own stories.

I am thankful for faith, which is a gift from God, and for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that gives me purpose, joy and hope.

I am thankful for the technology available to share these thoughts with you, and I wish you joy.

* This book is now available for purchase HERE.

ENDORSEMENT (By Janice L. Dick)

My Emigrant Father is much more than a memoir. It is a comprehensive revelation of Russian Mennonite history in general and Jacob J. Funk’s life in particular, a resource to be studied and treasured. This book is a buffet of foundational facts, personal anecdotes and author commentary, seasoned with recipes and visualized through photos, trimmed with citations for verification and further study.



Jacob J. Funk lived from 1896 to 1986, but this comprehensive memoir by his daughter, Katie Funk Wiebe, reaches back further to the beginnings of Mennonite history in Holland. Wiebe’s most recent book, to be released in the summer of 2015 by Kindred Productions, spans not only generations, but countries, continents and cultures. Through concentrated research, the author offers a personalized version of her father’s ethnic history, deftly weaving in family stories and events, photos gleaned from long past, and recipes both old and recent that have become part of the Funk family memory.

This memoir is not specifically chronological, rather it is a journey that stops along the way to investigate and discuss many thoughts, traditions, events and people, as well as faith and its adaptation to times and experiences. At times Wiebe leaps forward in an effort to explain what happened in the past. Other times, she reaches to the past to explain the present.

In this captivating treatise of Mennonite life in general and Jacob Funk’s life in particular, the reader is treated to word-pictures of an Eden-like existence in South Russia that is destroyed, its inhabitants fleeing to a foreign land they know nothing of, to forge a new life. Family separations are final, fears abound, and old ghosts often haunt the new land throughout that first generation.

Through it all, Wiebe portrays a family carried by faith. In spite of enduring hardships, the Lord leads to green pastures and quiet waters. I marvel at the way God placed the Wiebe family in a community populated by Russian immigrants who shared background experiences, language and many customs.

This volume will be treasured for years to come as an exhaustive resource for anyone interested in Russian Mennonite history.

Author Katie Funk Wiebe

Author Katie Funk Wiebe

For more on Katie Funk Wiebe and her many published books, click HERE.

Whether introvert or extrovert, a writer often requires long periods of self-imposed isolation in order to create an ever-expanding body of writing. But every now and then, we need INPUT—remember Johnny-Five in “Short Circuit”—and one of the best places to find it is at a writing workshop or conference. Besides being a solitary species, we are also often misunderstood by non-writers. Finding renewal and refreshment from like-minded individuals is very likely to happen at writing events.People attending a Congress

One of the suggestions I offer new writers is to join writing groups, either online or in person. We often hear about workshops and conferences through memberships in various writing groups. As a Canadian who writes from a Christian worldview, I hold membership in The Word Guild. TWG offers many offshoot groups including listservs, editing groups, conferences, workshops across the country and contests.

Another of my memberships is with InScribe Christian Writers Fellowship. ICWF offers similar events to TWG, and their annual conference is geographically closer to where I live, so I can afford to attend most years.

A couple of years ago I also rejoined our provincial writing association, the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild. SWG offers me excellent financial support for author readings and workshops that I present, as well as exposure to local groups seeking a writer/presenter.

Besides these Canadian groups, I also belong to the American Christian Fiction Writers, and one of their affiliates, International Christian Fiction Writers.

Once you choose your path (obviously, mine is primarily Christian fiction), there are many opportunities to continue to learn, grow, teach, market, and generally find support from other writers.

Organizers, promoters and presenters spend much time and effort preparing for these writing events, and we, as attendees, should also be prepared. Here are ten simple tips:

  1. Book travel in order to arrive in plenty of time to settle in before the conference begins
  2. Book accommodations near the conference venue (there are often discounts for attendees)
  3. If possible, share travel and accommodation costs with other attendees
  4. Study the schedule, analyze all information and decide what best suits your needs
  5. Study up on presenters and their areas of expertise; if possible, read some of their work
  6. If you have publishing credits, prepare a one-sheet
  7. Bring business cards to distribute as you meet other writers (make them yourself to save on cost)
  8. Check if there are opportunities to sell your books. Inquire as to selling fees.
  9. Prepare manuscripts for hands-on workshops, or for readings, or for editor / agent interviews
  10. Get enough sleep before the conference, and take time to review everything immediately after the conference, with plans to follow through on your commitments.

So join, listen, plan, prepare, attend, and look forward to some great INPUT!

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