Sunday, March 29, 2009

April 2009 Good Book Picks

Use your mouse and scroll over the titles to learn more about Christian Fiction Blog's April Book Picks.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Yesterday's Embers

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:

Yesterday’s Embers

Howard Books (March 24, 2009)


Deborah Raney is the author of several novels, including Nest of Sparrows and the RITA Award-winning Beneath a Southern Sky. Her novel A Vow to Cherish was made into the highly acclaimed Worldwide Pictures film of the same name. She lives with her husband and four children in Kansas.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (March 24, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416593098
ISBN-13: 978-1416593096


The parade of taillights smoldered crimson through the patchy fog hovering over Old Highway 40. Mickey Valdez tapped the brakes with the toe of her black dress pumps, trying to stay a respectable distance from the car in front of her.

The procession had left the church almost twenty minutes ago, but they were still barely two miles outside Clayburn’s city limits. The line of cars snaked up the hill––if you could call the road’s rolling incline that––and ahead of her, the red glow of brake lights dotted the highway, flickering off and on like so many fireflies. Cresting the rise, Mickey could barely make out the rows of pewter-colored gravestones poking through the mist beyond the wrought-iron gates of the Clayburn Cemetery.

She smoothed the skirt of her black crepe dress and tried to focus her thoughts on maneuvering the car, working not to let them stray to the funeral service she’d come from. But when the first hearse turned onto the cemetery’s gravel drive in front of her, she lost it. Her sobs came like dry heaves, producing no tears, and for once, she was glad to be in the car alone.

The line of cars came almost to a standstill as the second hearse crept through the gates.

The twin black Lincolns pulled to the side of the gravel lane, parking one behind the other near the plots where two fresh graves scarred the prairie. The drivers emerged from the hearses, walked in unison to the rear of their cars, and opened the curtained back doors. Mickey looked away. She couldn’t view those two caskets again.

When it came her turn to drive over the culvert under the high arch of the iron gates, she wanted desperately to keep on driving. To head west and never turn back. But Pete Truesdell stood in her way, directing traffic into the fenced-in graveyard. Mickey almost didn’t recognize Pete. He sported a rumpled navy double-breasted suit instead of his usual coveralls. How he could see through the tears welling in his eyes, Mickey didn’t know.

Her heart broke for the old man. She wondered if he was related to the family somehow. Seemed like everybody in Clayburn was related to at least one other family in town. Everybody but the Valdezes.

Pete waved the car in front of her through the gates and halted her with his other hand.

Maybe if she stayed in the car until the procession left the cemetery. She didn’t want to walk across the uneven sod. Didn’t want to risk the DeVore kids seeing her…risk breaking down in front of them. What would she say? What could anybody say to make what had happened be all right?

She didn’t know much about carbon monoxide poisoning, but she’d heard that Kaye and Rachel had simply drifted off to sleep, never knowing they would wake up in heaven. She wondered if Doug DeVore found any solace in that knowledge. Maybe it was a small comfort that his wife and daughter had left this earth together.

But on Thanksgiving Day? What was God thinking?

She’d never really gotten to know Kaye DeVore that well. They’d exchanged pleasantries whenever Kaye dropped the kids off at the daycare on her way to her job at the high school, but usually Doug was the one who delivered the children and picked them up at night when he got off work at Trevor Ashlock’s print shop in town.

The DeVore kids were usually the last to get picked up, especially during harvest when Doug worked overtime to keep his farm going. But Mickey had never minded staying late. It wasn’t like she had a family of her own waiting for her at home. And she loved those kids.

Especially Rachel. Sweet, angel-faced Rachel, whose eyes always seemed to hold a wisdom beyond her years. Mickey had practically mourned when Rachel started kindergarten and was only at the daycare for an hour or two after school. Now she forced herself to look at the tiny white coffin the pallbearers lifted from the second hearse. She could not make it real that the sunny six-year-old was gone.

Through the gates, she watched Doug climb from a black towncar. One at a time, he helped his children out behind him. Carrying the baby in one arm, he tried to stretch his free arm around the other four kids, as if he could shelter them from what had happened. How he could even stand up under the weight of such tragedy was more than Mickey could imagine. And yet, for one shameful, irrational moment, she envied his grief, and would have traded places with him if it meant she’d known a love worth grieving over, or been entrusted with a child of her own flesh and blood. She shook away the thoughts, disturbed by how long she’d let herself entertain them.

She dreaded facing Doug the next time he brought the kids to the daycare center. Maybe they wouldn’t come back. She’d heard that Kaye’s mother had cancelled her plans to winter in Florida like she usually did. Harriet Thomas would remain in Kansas and help Doug out, at least for a while. Wren Johanssen had been helping with the kids and house, too, when she could take time away from running Wren’s Nest, the little bed-and-breakfast on Main Street. Wren was like a second grandma to the kids. Thank goodness for that. Six kids had to be—

Mickey shuddered and corrected herself. Only five now. That had to be a handful for anyone. The DeVores had gone on vacation in the middle of April last year, and with their kids out for a week, the workload was lighter, but the daycare center had been deathly quiet.

Deathly. Even though she was alone in the car, Mickey cringed at her choice of words.

She started at the tap on the hood of her car and looked up to see Pete motioning her through the gates. She put the car in gear and inched over the bumpy culvert. There was no turning back now. She followed the car in front of her and parked behind it next to the fence bordering the east side of the cemetery.

A tall white tombstone in the distance caught her eye and a startling thought nudged her. The last time she’d been here for a funeral had also been the funeral of a mother and child. Trevor Ashlock’s wife, Amy, and their little boy. It would be five years come summer.

As if conjured by her thoughts, Trevor’s green pickup pulled in beside her. Mickey watched in her side mirror as he parked, then helped his young wife climb out of the passenger side. Meg walked with the gait of an obviously pregnant woman, and Trevor put a hand at the small of her back, guiding her over the uneven sod toward the funeral tent.

Mickey looked away. Seeing Trevor still brought a wave of sadness. Because of his profound loss, yes. But more selfishly, for her own loss. She’d fallen hard for him after Amy’s death—and had entertained hopes that he might feel the same about her. That she might be able to ease his grief. But he was too deep in grief to even notice her.

Then Meg Anders had moved to town and almost before Mickey knew what happened, Trevor was married. He and Meg seemed very much in love, and Mickey didn’t begrudge either of them an ounce of that happiness. But it didn’t mean she was immune to a pang of envy whenever she saw them together.

This day had to be doubly difficult for Trevor. It must be a comfort to Doug having Trevor here––someone who’d walked in his shoes and still somehow managed to get up the next morning––and the next and the next.

Again, she had to wonder what God was thinking. Where was He when these tragedies struck? How could He stand by and let these terrible things happen to good men…the best men she knew, next to her brothers? None of it made sense. And the only One she knew to turn to for answers had stood by and let it all happen.

Weekend Chat: Why don't you(Author) have anything Going On?

27/365 Vida in black-lite by A Blythe A Day...

Vida in black-lite by A Blythe A Day...

Every Friday I will be sharing a brutally honest book marketing tip. You will hear in the tone of my voice that I am very passionate about this topic. Leave your comments here or talk about them on Twitter I'll respond.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Christian Fiction Reviewed: The Literate Housewife Review

i have read the right books to interpret your looks by northern library

We have a new feature at CFB, well and old feature that I've forgotten to do--Christian Fiction Reviewed. I know you all get tired of my review snippets and I like to read and share what others are saying about my favorite books, particularly when these books are great.

Today I found a reviewer blog discussing Beth Patillo's Jane Austen Ruined My Life(Guideposts.) I'm a big Patillo and Jane Austen fan, so was giddy about reading and reviewing this book. But I haven't had the chance to do it...Girl Scout Cookies, my biz, life. you know...

So I found a great review of this book from Jennifer of The Literate Housewife Review Blog


The idea of blaming Jane Austen for ruining your life sounded fun and interesting. I didn’t research the book or the author any further because, quite honestly, they had me with the title. I don’t normally read Christian fiction, so when I opened the package and noticed that the book was published by Guideposts, it knocked the wind out of my sails. It’s not that I don’t think that Christian authors can write well or even tell a wonderful story. I know that’s not true at all. There are some many wonderful authors of all faiths throughout the ages. I just don’t like to be preached to in my fiction – be that about religion, politics, philosophy, etc, and I find that modern Christian authors are not subtle in their evangelization.

Ouch! I agree that many Christian fiction titles paint a heavy coat of Christian orthodoxy in the novels. However, from what I know by working on the back side/the dark side--lol-- is that sometimes the publishing house expects or/and demands that the author color Jesus on every page. I applaud Guideposts for treating readers as Christ would and let them think for themselves.

To use a biblical phrase, I gird my loins in preparation for reading a book that I believe will spend most of its energy beating me over the head with its message. With Jane Austen Ruined My Life, this was completely unnecessary. Had I not recognized the publisher, I wouldn’t have necessarily picked up on the author’s faith at all...She grew a lot and learned a lot about herself over the course of her trip, but she didn’t have the great religious epiphany I was dreading. If you havae similar views about Christian Fiction, I happily suggest that you give Jane Austen Ruined My Life a try.

Yeah, no required conversion scene at the end! Let me stop playing and speak a little truth here. Most contemporary Christian novelists do not write or desire to write conversion scenes in their novel. They have enough wherewithall to seek out an agent who will find them a publishing house, who doesn't want that kind of writing. For those of you "edgy" Christian Fiction writers I would take a look at Guideposts, as a possible publisher to work with.

On the other hand, playing Angels Advocate for a minute here. Conversion scenes are still revelant to Christian literature. The execution of them is the sticking point. Of course, they aren't needed any every book, but when they are present in the book for whatever meaning they should fit the book's tone and all over vision for the book.

Quick question: Have you ever read a novel with a great conversion scene? If so, what was it?

My favorite has been for a long time, Shug Avery's conversion in The Color Purple. What's yours?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Get noticed, get feedback, get an agent.

Here's a chance to have your project reviewed by one of the agents at The Knight Agency. Submit three compelling sentences (150 words max) about your completed, unpublished manuscript to submissions@ knightagency. net. Write BOOK IN A NUTSHELL in the subject line or it will not be deemed elligible. One submission per project, please. Twenty of the best submissions will be chosen and requested by various agents who will then give feedback on your work...and it may even lead to possible representation. Hurry, the deadline is April 20, 2009. Winners will be notified by May 1, 2009.

Why Authors Must Catch up to the Social Media Wave before the Fail Whale

The dreaded fail whale. lol.

This morning I received a group email from a writing buddy regarding the usage of a social media tool. Usually I skim through my email and only respond to questions are specifically addressed to me or I know that my answer will benefit the group conversation, so I answered it. Yet after a little thought I felt a little concerned.

Pam Perry, owner of Ministry Marketing Solutions is a friend/biz bud and book marketing coach. We have worked together through the years and last night had one of those we haven't talked or connected in far too long kind of conversations. We recorded it on Utterz-a micropodcasting social media service just for the kicks. And the gist of our conversation came down to we have to be proactive about connecting with people. We have to use all tools out there to facilitate that connection.

I have to admit I haven't spoken to Pam in a while. She'd shoot some email here; I'd shoot some tweet there and we veered away from the commonality between us. In short we fell off each other's wave. Pam talks in her book Synergy Energy about connection and using shared connection to expand and engage the marketplace. I agree.

A part of that expansion, however, doesn't just happen because you write a book, record a CD, set up a Facebook page, become a Twitter user. Becoming a catalyst for expansion means having the discernment to catch the wave before it passes you by.

In a nutshell this morning my reply to my writer's group was a breakdown of some of the drawbacks of the service and a mention that the service has morphed into a Facebook appi. Most importantly, this change happened two years ago.

Two years ago.

If we are going to be enact change, build communities, engage with our fans we must not be on the tail end of the wave, else we may be kicked off of it.

For the past three weeks I have been meeting every Thursday with some of my author clients for a group coaching session on Social Media. I am honored that some of my clients have taken this free opportunity to learn from me. It is my mission to get them up to speed before the next wave comes in. And yes there is a new wave. I've had the opportunity to beta test some appis that will blow your mind.

March 30th Pam will be hosting a free seminar for those who have no clue what a blog is, but know they need one. I encourage you to please take this seminar.

Moreover, next month I will be hosting three events:
  1. April 16 I will be giving a seminar on The Business of Book Events at the Virtual Fiction Writer's Conference. For those of you who are still chatting about CBE or Book Expo or NBCC prep this is the seminar for you. I will be talking about how to Hack your next book event.
  2. I will be hosting a free teleseminar on How to Build a Better Birdhouse on Twitter: Tips on Using Twitter to Reach your Psychographic. Follow this Blog or subscribe to my Twitter Feed to stay posted on the date.
  3. My 90 day social media bootcamp for authors. It is free to my clients, but not free to the rest. However, the cost is very affordable. That bootcamp begins April 28-August 4(I'm taking a week off for the Faith and Fiction Retreat.)
So my question to you: What are you doing to stay on the Social Media Wave? If not, what do you plan to do?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pam Perry's Candid Chat on Social MediaMarketing

Dee Stewart and PR Pr Pam Perry chat about eblast services for authors, Book marketing via twitter, author marketing swaps, Twitter, the Christian Book Expo, techniques, why sharing matters & much more

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Pam Perry's Candid Chat on Social MediaMarketing

Dee Stewart and PR Pr Pam Perry chat about eblast services for authors, Book marketing via twitter, author marketing swaps, Twitter, the Christian Book Expo, techniques, why sharing matters & much more

Mobile post sent by deegospel using Utterlireply-count Replies.  mp3

Christy Awards Finalists Annnounced

Zora & Nicky Finaled

From what I read the CBE missed its mark, but let's be fair, this is its first year. At least my galpal Claudia Burney, finaled in the Christys. Yeah, girl!!!

Christy Award Nominees:

Romance: Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group); Finding Stefanie by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House Publishers); and Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White by Claudia Mair Burney (David C. Cook).

Contemporary (Series, Sequels and Novellas): Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group); Summer Snow by Nicole Baart (Tyndale House); and You Had Me at Good-bye by Tracey Bateman (FaithWords).

Contemporary (Stand-alone): Dogwood by Chris Fabry (Tyndale House); Embrace Me by Lisa Samson (Thomas Nelson); and Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon by Debbie Fuller Thomas (Moody Publishers).

First Novel: Blue Hole Back Home by Joy Jordan Lake (David C. Cook), Rain Song by Alice Wisler (Bethany House Publishers); and Safe at Home by Richard Doster (David C. Cook).

Historical: Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley (B&H Publishing Group); Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin (Bethany House); and Washington's Lady by Nancy Moser (Bethany House).

Historical Romance: Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy (Barbour Publishers); From a Distance by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House); and The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen (B&H Publishing Group).

Suspense: By Reason of Insanity by Randy Singer (Tyndale House); The Rook by Steven James (Revell/Baker Publishing Group); and Winter Haven by Athol Dickson (Bethany House Publishers).

Visionary: The Battle for Vast Dominion by George Bryan Polivka (Harvest House Publishers); Shade by John B. Olson (B&H Publishing Group); and Vanish by Tom Pawlik (Tyndale House).

Young Adult: The Fruit of My Lipstick by Shelley Adina (FaithWords); I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires by Cathy Gohlke (Moody Publishers); and On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (WaterBrook Press).

Winners will be announced at ICRS in July

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Gospel Dream 2009 Auditions ANnouncement: Christian Fiction Blog

Gospel Dream Is Back! Auditions This April and May

Auditions To Be Held in Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, Oakland, Orlando & Seattle

Season Premiere Set For June 6

ATLANTA (March 17, 2009) – Gospel Music Channel announced today it will once again invite performers to audition to compete for the chance to win a record & music video deal, among other prizes, in nine audition cities, for a fourth season of Gospel Dream.

The cities and dates scheduled for Gospel Dream auditions are:

Seattle – Northwest University Chapel – 5520 108th Ave. NE Kirkland, WA 98033 April 1
Minneapolis – 3 Degrees – 113 N. 5th St Minneapolis, MN 55403 April 8
Dallas – Open Door City Church – 8421 Boulevard 26 N. Richland Hills, TX 76180 April 10
Los Angeles – Dream Center Angeles Temple – 1100 Glendale Blvd L.A. CA 90026 April 14
Oakland – Shiloh Church – 3295 School St. Oakland, CA 90026 April 15
Nashville – Marathon Village – 1305 Clinton St. Nashville TN 37203 April 25
Orlando – Northland Church – 530 Dog Track Road Longwood, FL 32750 May 1
Atlanta – Wagon Works – 1514 East Cleveland Ave., 2nd Floor, East Point, GA 30344 May 2
Detroit – Wayne State University Student Center Room 29 – 5221 Gullen Mall Detroit MI 48202 May 4
Locate accommodation options near audition events

Specific times, locations, and official rules and required forms for the auditions will be provided shortly. Stay tuned to for the latest information.

Singers from all Gospel/Christian styles, including traditional, rock, pop, country and soul are invited to audition for Gospel Dream 2009. Solo artists age 16 to 40 are eligible. Between 30 and 35 contestants from the audition cities will be selected to compete for the crown in Nashville.

Gospel Dream will been seen Saturday nights at 9 PM ET on Gospel Music Channel beginning June 6, culminating with the grand finale coronation of the new Gospel Dream winner on July 11.

“Gospel Dream is the original music reality competition on television that celebrates aspiring artists who desire to inspire, as well as to entertain,” commented Charles Humbard, founder and president, Gospel Music Channel. “The show connected with our viewers in the first three seasons and season four competition promises to be even more compelling and will be seen by even more viewers thanks to our tremendous growth in distribution.”

Elvin Ross is the creator, executive producer and musical director of the Gospel Dream series.

Gospel Music Channel is the fastest-growing network in television and can be seen in more than 42 million homes on various cable systems around the country and on DIRECTV on channel 338.

Entry Process (Two Steps)

1) Read rules & complete online form
2) Download, print, and fill out entry and release documents.
  1. Gospel Dream Registration Entry & Rules
  2. Release Form*

  3. * You must bring the Gospel Dream Registration & Rules and the Release Form with you to your audition

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tips to Get the Best ROI on your Book Event

Join me as I answer your questions about pr and publicity. Today's question is: How can you get the best ROI of out of your book event, expo or conference?

If you have a question you would like me to answer on Media Candy's MidWeek Midday Chat leave me a comment here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

5 Christian Book Expo No No I want Go Gos

altMore than 200 Christian authors will come together and meet their readership at the first annual Christian Book Expo in Dallas Texas this week. As I said before when I read the through the list of panel discussion, workshops, & book signing opps, I didn't see anything that would make me want to fly out there and come (outside of attending the Christy Book Awards. You know why.)

There is an African American pavilion that I hope I don't offend anyone, but it shouldn't be there.

I believe I received a tweet a month ago from someone working behind the scenes at CBE, who wanted to know why am I not pleased with the lineup at the show and asked for any suggestions. I tried to tweet him back, but can't find the DM. Sorry. He seems nice. Anyway...this is my reason why I have a challenge.

1. The lineup is scant and without reason to be.

Dallas has a nice-size African American Christian population, but only six AA authors available for the four-day event. There's no[one] Christian fiction novelist on the panel(Michelle McKinney Hammond.) However, in Texas three novelists who have very large readerships weren't invited for the forum. Moreover, Sharon Ewell Foster the godmother of African american Christian fiction, who has won Christy Award, Rita Awards and some is not on the panel. Moreover, Bishop TD Jakes who's Potters House Church is in Dallas is not in the place at all. Are you kidding me?

2. Christianity is color blind, so why is CBE.

I strongly don't believe that the Christian marketplace should mirror the secular world as close as it does. On the part of race as a divider, it shouldn't be there. Granted we are culturally different, our stories should become a part of the Christian world conversation not as separate, but equal(obviously not equal in this case,) but as conclusive and representing Lydia Maria Child and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's concept of the Beloved Community.

But perhaps this demarcation is a tell-tell that racism is still an issue in American Christianity.

3. The CBE has a limited invitation for African American readers to enjoy the party.

For the same price as a non AA reader, AA readers have the six hours who have sporadic intervals to see, so where do they go then? Are they welcomed inside?

This may be a weird question to ask, but what's the purpose of the AA pavilion if not to establish a boundary for AA readers. Sure we know the spiel that all are welcome to the other panels, but gosh what are you saying when you set us apart?

5. This expo is like a body that refuses to use a limb.

To me it seems that CBE would rather cut off a link and run without all working members and joints in sync than be whole.

There are little panels with AA authors on them, even the AA pavilion doesn't have enough people to have a decent workshop panel. This looks shady at best.

Tomorrow I want to talk about this topic a little deeper as I get to my sixth issue with the CBE. It's inability to reach out to authors and readers who seek Christian messages but not through CBA publishers anymore.

Now comment, rant or do what ever. Holla,


Friday, March 13, 2009

Weekend Chat: Is your Publisher a Scam?

Writer's Block by kylie2good
Writer's Block Photo Credit Kylie2Good

Last week I received an email from a publishing company that they would be hosting a manuscript contest at one of my favorite Atlanta bookstores. But when I read the email and did a little fact checking I became pissed off(sorry, but that is the most appropriate word for how I felt.) Let me show you why?

or Listen here..

An excerpt from the email...

Want to get your book published?
2009 Author Manuscript Contest
will be at Borders Bookstore in _____, GA
Saturday, March 7th

Bring your manuscript to submit and receive 30% off the submission fee

for contest submission rules!
Okay. So what's the problem, Dee?

Let me count the ways:

1. This contest has a hidden agenda that doesn't involve publishing.
This sort of contest reminds me of the Zoo Press debacle back in 2004., excecpt at least Zoo Press was once reputable press with industry following. But in this case what we have is a vanity press disguised as a small press using a contest to fund the company, not the contest.

See. If this company was using the entry fees to fund the contest, meaning: contest advertisements, the publishing contract, publishing and distribution, etc, then there would be more mention of who runs this company, who are the contest judges, more acknowledgment about this contest through the bookstore that booked it, local papers within the area, and at least, at least a few reputable Atlanta news blogs. But zilch. I've found nada except a poorly constructed email campaign(that was sent to me without my agreement to opt-into their email service.) This lack of marketing, improper social media etiquette tells me that the company isn't fully solvent and this contest goal is to make them a little money.

2. The publishing company will deliver a winner

This "boutique" publishing company is a vanity press. They prey on the vanity of authors, who want to see their name on a book more than taking the time to build some compelling and fit for the marketplace. Therefore, they will publish any writing for a fee. So the gauge to determine what is publishable washes out, because this company has no gauge. It publishes whoever pays their set fee. Period.

Now this contest doesn't tell us how many books will be published in the initial print run or how many pages this book is maxxed to be or how the book will be bound. I have seen these books (and I have met the brains behind this company. lol. and I can't believe they were crazy enough to add me to their mailing list. lol) and the print run could possibly 500, the books are lean under 240 pages, its Japanese bound, trade paperback, poorly constructed cover board. So I'm pretty sure i know where this book has been printed from. So my general guestimation about $2500 to print. add editing and the publisher's fee. about $5000 to the author.

So this contest fee is about $25 books (fifteen more bucks if you add another submission.) In Atlanta, during this economy I guestimate maybe 100 entries as a very weak guestimate. I can't tell you the number of people I meet weekly who want to publish their own book. Most writing contest get about 500 entries. Are you smelling my coffee yet?

It's very sour.

What you have here, basically, this company is taking enough entry fees to publish a book through a local press. The cost for that is pretty basic, too. Here's a pub calculator from Author's Lawyer

3. The company is predatory.
You cannot my fathom my disgust for predatory companies that prey off authors, musicians, actors, artists, and parents. It is a thing I need to pray about because my anger becomes a rage, a hulkish rage.

Artists create,and some wish to share their creations with their community. However, in this world and this time, there are people who don't respect the beauty in creation. Instead they see an artist wish to present their art to the world and their wonder about if their work matters to this world and stomp on it with the artist blood, sweat and dollars.

But it's only $25, Dee?

It's so much more than pocket change. You have to consider many of these victims(and I can't necessarily call them victims either) have been:
  1. either rejected by a national publishing company
  2. a newbie writer
  3. a writer, whose works isn't fit for this current marketplace and refuses to accept that truth
  4. someone who trust this company as a reputable because they haven't engaged themselves in the writing community
#4 is one of the reasons for the creation of Christian Fiction Blog. Here this is a place where writers can come and learn about the industry, comment, join a network of published writers and industry professionals for free, and get the answers they need. We post legitimate contests here. We share scam alerts here. We offer advice here. The entire community does this not just me.

So this is this weekend's chatterbox question: Is your Publisher a scam? Do you know? Do you know how to know? want to ask me a question?

Let me remind you every Wednesday at noon est. you can join me for a 30 minute chat about book publishing and promotion at Media Candy.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Daisy Chain. Mary Demuth. Christian Fiction Blog

The abrupt disappearance of young Daisy Chance from a small Texas town in 1973 spins three lives out of control—Jed, whose guilt over not protecting his friend Daisy strangles him; Emory Chance, who blames her own choices for her daughter’s demise; and Ouisie Pepper, who is plagued by headaches while pierced by the shattered pieces of a family in crisis.

In this first book in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy, fourteen-year-old Jed Pepper has a sickening secret: He’s convinced it’s his fault his best friend Daisy went missing. Jed’s pain sends him on a quest for answers to mysteries woven through the fabric of his own life and the lives of the families of Defiance, Texas. When he finally confronts the terrible truths he’s been denying all his life, Jed must choose between rebellion and love, anger and freedom.

Daisy Chain is an achingly beautiful southern coming-of-age story crafted by a bright new literary talent. It offers a haunting yet hopeful backdrop for human depravity and beauty, for terrible secrets and God’s surprising redemption.

Click here to listen to Mary Demuth talk about Daisy Chain

Come back next week and I will share my review of Daisy Chain.

What does Judy Blume, American Idol & Tiffany L. Warren have in Common?: Christian Fiction Blog

Stop by Nora's Psalm 5:16 Finding Hope Through Fiction Blog and chat with Bestselling Author, Tiffany L. Warren. She's talking American Idol, Judy Blume, buying shoes on the cheap and how to write with five kids and a husband. Whew! I'll meet you there.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Casting Call: Tyler Perry Studios, Atlanta, GA

Tyler Perry Extra's Casting for "I Can Do Bad All By Myself"


Tyler Perry Studios “Extras Casting Department” is looking for Extras for the next feature film "Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself." Filming will begin in Atlanta March 16, 2009 – April 20, 2009.

If you are interested in working as an extra send a photo and resume to tpsmovies1@yahoo.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
. If you do not have a resume please include your contact information (PHONE NUMBER), height, weight, and date of birth with the email. You may also mail your photo to the address below no later than March 13, 2009.
No phone calls will be accepted.

TPS / Extras Casting
Attn: Heather
541 10th Street # 172
Atlanta, GA 30318

The following talent is requested: Ages 20 and up ONLY!
African American Females and Males
Caucasian Females and Males
Hispanic Females and Males
Must have set etiquette
Must have professional work attitude
Must be available for a 12-14 hour day if booked

Extra Compensation: $90.00/12 hr day

Also looking for Stand Ins*:

If you are interested in working as a Stand In send a photo and resume to brit_grooms@yahoo.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . Please put “STAND IN” in the subject line of the email. If you do not have a resume please include your contact information (PHONE NUMBER), height, weight, and date of birth with the email. Please email your information no later than Monday, March 9, 2009.
No phone calls will be accepted.

The following talent is requested: Ages 20 and up ONLY!
African American male or female -4'9", 140lbs
African American male or female-5'5", 160lbs
African American female- 5’2”, 110lbs

Must be available for a 12-14 hour day if booked
Must have set etiquette
Must have a professional work attitude
Must have a flexible schedule
Must be available to work 3-16-09 through 4-25-09

*Previous stand-in experience is a plus but not necessary.
Stand In Compensation: $125.00/12 hr day

More Tyler Perry News

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Ethics of Being a Good Writer

"I hope she writes back soon ... my skin is just crawling with freakbabyitis." by Dymphna *

The Ethics of Being a Good Writer

by Holly McCarthy, guest blogger

There are various aspects to being a writer, and you wouldn’t think ethics played any kind of role in any of them, but it’s a major part of any good writer’s repertoire. Besides the fact that you’re a master story teller who can weave magic with words and create the most interesting characters, you also need to have basic moral values if you need to be able to take pride in yourself and your work. Ethics may not contribute to making your book a bestseller, but they sure do matter when it comes to making a better person out of you.

  • Plagiarism is an absolute no-no: There’s no use in copying someone else’s work or idea and passing it off as your own. For one, you’re likely to face legal action; and for another, you’re not being true to yourself. Think about it – if you steal one idea or plot, you’re likely to keep doing so all through your extremely short career (believe me, it is going to be short if you’re short on originality).

  • According credit where it’s due takes you a long way: As a writer, you’re bound to be indebted to people who help you in your research, your ground work, and in many other aspects. And if you’re not going to acknowledge their efforts in making you who you are today, you’re making a big ethical mistake.

  • Don’t get ahead at the cost of someone else: If you have to push someone over and step on them to become a success, that success is definitely not worth it. It may not mean as much as it should because you’re bound to feel guilty about using underhand tactics to get what you wanted.

  • Meet deadlines: When you’re a writer, deadlines are a large part of your schedule; you’re always scrambling to meet them no matter how much time you think you have left. Make sure you honor your commitments, no matter how sought-after you are, because a man of his word is a man of good faith.

  • Remain humble: No matter how big a success you become, remember your humble beginnings and stay true to them. If you let victory go to your head, you’re in danger of losing sense of who you really are and believing the hype that’s built up about you.

Holly McCarthy writes on the subject of the online colleges. She invites your feedback at hollymccarthy12 at gmail dot com

Monday, March 09, 2009

Everything I Learned about Writing I learned from Barbie

Everything I learned about Storytelling I learned from Barbie

hanging out reading by natalia & gabriel

by natalia & gabriel

Today is Barbie's 50 Birthday and yes I am a collector. Sadly, two years ago I sold all my Barbies to take care of my family. This year I bought an Alvin Ailey Barbie to celebrate my birthday and my road to recovery. Thank you, my Lord. As I watched the news media wonder about the Barbie fascination, I realized something profound about myself. Everything I learned about storytelling I learned from Barbie.

Let me explain.

Continue reading "Everything I learned about Storytelling I learned from Barbie" »

Friday, March 06, 2009

Madea Goes to the Bank & Two More Movies

Okay. I have not seen Madea Goes to Jail. I took Selah to see the Jonas Brothers Concert, but you guys showed out in big numbers. The movie has been #1 for the past two weeks. LionsGate is so pleased with Tyler Perry that he has been greenlit two more movies.

“Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself”will star Taraji P. Henson( “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, "Hustle & Flow", "The Family that Preys.) I own the play and so am curious about the movie adaptation. Who should play Bobby? Hmmm...

Shooting begins here in Atlanta at TPS on the 16th. Movie comes out just after Labor Day(Sept. 11.) 9/11? Hmmm...wonder is there a tie in with the script on the date, too. (I obviously need sleep. lol)

After TPS completes I Can Do Bad... the company will began shooting “Why Did I Get Married Too?” Obviously this is a sequel “Why Did I Get Married?” It will release 2010 Easter Weekend(April.) The entire cast will return. Yeah! I liked this group.

Black Voices interviewed Tyler Perry "Why do a sequel to the film?"

TP: Because there is so much I want to say. There's not another film that I have written that I felt like there's more to say; and there's more say in 'Why Did I Get Married Too.'
Well, I have to say I'm excited. I am a big Taraji P. Henson fan and I heart all things Jill Scott and Janet Jackson so there.

This weekend chatter question is: Have you seen Madea Goes to Jail? If yes, what did you think? If not, let's go together and do an Atlanta Screen-up!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

What is an Author Entitled To when hiring a PR Pro Part 1

paparazzi!!!!!!!! by little peppercorn

Paparazzi!!!!!!!! by little peppercorn

an excerpt from Building Your Marketing Team...

Leave entitlement at the door: this doesn't necessarily apply to working with your marketing team, but it's a good general rule to remember. Being an author doesn't entitle you to immediate success. You might nod your head knowing this, but you'd be surprised how many times I hear from editors, agents, and other pr folk that the quickest way for an author to undermine his or her own success is to subscribe to entitlement. Penny Sansevieri

So what is an author entitled to when hiring a PR firm?

I own a small pr firm that specializes in providing marketing support for authors, publishing houses, entertainers, ministers, and mags. Authors--any of my clients-- are entitled to communication, transparency, and accountability from me. What I have found is that some of my clients[past clients] have a challenge communicating their expectations.

When speaking with a good friend, Ron Hudson yesterday he Amen and coined this challenge. What are author's expectations, particularly those who are new to the industry and do not have strong prior sales? This is a question I am going back to each client to find out. Because the answers are different for everyone. What I have found is that the more experienced author has more realistic expectations. Authors who are under extreme pressure or are new become frustrated quickly. What I hope to accomplish with those clients, is to appease their concerns and get them toward making a step to move forward with their book marketing campaign. Some do and some don't by their own accord.

Before they make that decision this week we will share five few points to consider when your expectations do not match their service provider's outcomes:

1. Are you making the most of your pr firm?

Are you aware that your pr firm provides media coaching? Are you participating in these sessions? Have you attended any continuing education classes your firm provide? are you reading their books or listening to their teleseminars?

If the answer is no, then you are not making the most of your pr firm. A PR firm's image is just as important as yours. If they take you on as a client, the main reason they accept a contract with you is that they believe that you will make a great contribution to that image. Therefore, ensuring that who you are matches the image your PR firm has set is paramount.

Tomorrow we will speak about: Are you completing all the action items they request?

So here's the question: are you making the most of your pr firm?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Why Fiction Matters: Bookclubs & Ministry

Today author Sherri Lewis joined me on Media Candy's midweek/midday chat. We discussed the power of bookclubs and how authors can leverage their writing career using them. One thing Sherri said that stood out was how book clubs show the author themes and motifs about their book that they didn't see, but ministered to them.

Quick question to Christian faith writers, have a reader ministered to you threw your own writings?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Are You on the List this Week? Author Sherri Lewis

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:

The List

Urban Books (February 24, 2009)


Dr. Sherri Lewis is an MD, author, ordained minister and conference speaker. She is the staff physician at a Georgia Department of Corrections’ women’s prison. She lives in Atlanta, GA.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Urban Books (February 24, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601629826
ISBN-13: 978-1601629821


Tick, tock, tick, tock…

There it was. The sound that had been growing louder and louder in my brain – until now, it was no longer background noise. Groaning, I rolled over in bed and pulled a pillow over my face. I peeked out and cast an annoyed glance at my nightstand clock, but it was digital, so it couldn’t be blamed for the relentless ticking in my head. No, it was my own internal clock – the proverbial biological one. And now there was an alarm to go with it. An alarm with no snooze button to make it stop. The AMA alarm. Today was my thirty-fifth birthday and I was officially AMA – advanced maternal age. The age at which my eggs, encased in my ovaries since birth, started to get old and decrepit. If by some magic I were to meet Mr. Perfect tomorrow and we fell overwhelmingly in love and got married within the next six months, then got pregnant right away, I would still be considered a high-risk pregnancy just because of my age.

I sat up on the edge of the bed and stretched my arms upward, resolving that today, I would celebrate my life with thanksgiving, hope, and faith.

Hey, God. Thanks for waking me up healthy, beautiful and strong this morning. Thanks that I turned thirty-five today…

And then, for no apparent reason, I burst into tears. Sobs actually. I rolled onto the floor and curled into a fetal position, crying like someone had died.

I guess someone had. The thirty-five year old woman I had dreamed I would be when I was a little girl. Married to a gorgeous, black Ken look-a-alike – plastic smile and all – with two beautiful children living in a castle on the hill with two ponies in our stable and a thriving career as a firewoman or a ballerina.

Okay, so I was seven.

But still. I didn’t expect to be thirty-five, single and childless. I was supposed to wake up to breakfast in bed cooked by my wonderfully loving husband and two beautiful daughters – all bouncy, bubbly and giggly. They were supposed to burst into the room and scream, “Happy Birthday, Mommy” and cover me with little girl kisses. My husband was supposed to kiss my cheek, say “Happy Birthday, Dear” and give me a knowing look that said as soon as the girls got off to school, he was going to really wish me Happy Birthday.

But instead, I was all alone in my king-sized bed. Well, actually on the floor next to it. I grabbed a pillow, then pulled the comforter off the bed and snuggled underneath it. I could see God looking down from heaven shaking His head. He’d elbow Jesus who would roll His eyes. They’d both look at the Holy Spirit as if to say, “Please, go help our pitiful child.”

I imagined the Holy Spirit swiftly coming to my rescue. He’d come and get under the comforter with me and hold me in His arms, promising to love me until my earthly husband came along.

“God, for the millionth time – why can’t You take it away? Just make me completely satisfied with You and You alone. If You’re not going to fulfill it, then take away my desire for a husband and kids.” I yelled at Him from under the comforter. I imagined the Holy Spirit hugging me tighter. I appreciated the fact that He wasn’t moved by my angry outburst. He loved me no matter what.

I relaxed in His arms. Imagined myself snuggling into His chest and instantly felt better. “God, why can’t You send me a husband just like You? Send me You wrapped up in chocolate.” How awesome that would be. To be married to a guy like God.

I must have fallen back asleep in His arms, because when the phone rang and I looked at the clock, it was two hours later. I wasn’t in the mood for the onslaught of phone calls from people wishing me happiness for my birthday. I should have gone out of town like I originally planned. Instead, I had let my friends talk me into a “Girls’ Day” – some big surprise they had planned. Much as I loved them, I wasn’t in the mood for surprises.

All I wanted to do for my birthday was be alone with God.

The phone rang again and I ignored it. I thought about getting up to do a quick half-hour Taebo tape. Maybe some kicking and punching would get rid of some of my frustrations. Billy Blanks had become my best friend in the year right after my divorce. There was just something about being violent and calling it exercise. I had joined a gym with a big punching bag that I pretended on a regular was my ex and his mistress. I got a reputation at the gym as the girl no one wanted to spar with and would never want to meet in a dark alley.

My stupid ex. This was all his fault. My marriage should have never ended. After eleven years he decided that twenty-one was too young to have gotten married and that he needed to see what else was “out there”…

Fresh tears flowed down my face. What in the world?

Was I really crying over my ex? Really? My divorce was final almost three years ago. I hadn’t cried over him, or even thought much about him in the past two years. Had to check the calendar when I got up off the floor. This had to be my hormones.

I guess it wasn’t my ex I was crying over. It was the fact that the marriage hadn’t worked. That I was thirty-five, divorced, childless, and oh yeah, hormonal.

My cell phone chimed to indicate that I had gotten a text message. I picked it up and looked at the screen.

Get up off the floor. Dry your eyes. Get dressed and get ready to be celebrated. I promise the day will get better, but you have to get up first. Happy Birthday. Please, girl – get over it. Thirty-five is not that old! Love you!!!

I had to laugh. My girl, Vanessa. I decided to take her word for it. Maybe the day would get better if I just picked myself up off the floor.


I pulled up at Vanessa’s house an hour later – fresh faced and comfortably dressed as I had been instructed. As I got out of my car, I took authority over my hormones as I did every month. I could overcome in most battles in my life, but once a month, the day before my cycle started, I wound up crying endlessly and reacting irrationally to the dumbest things. Amazing that a strong, successful woman – producer at the nation’s newest up-and-coming black television station – and experienced spiritual warrior could be reduced to such ridiculousness by some estrogen. Please, God. Not today.

Vanessa must have been watching for me, because before I got out of my car, she threw open the door and held her arms out wide, walking toward me. It was rare that her petite frame was casually dressed in jeans and a simple blouse. She was one of those elegant suit ladies who wore shimmery stockings and 4-inch heels with the perfect short, sassy haircut. In spite of her casual attire, her make-up was flawlessly done as if she was about to do a photo shoot. Wearing her signature brilliant smile, she sang out, “Happy Birthday, Michelle!”

She looked so happy to see me and her eyes were so filled with love that I burst into tears. A look of horror flashed across her face. “Oh no!” She shook her head slowly in disbelief. “Hormone day on your birthday? What was God thinking?”

I laughed a little. She took me into her arms and held me for a few minutes. Her comforting voice spoke directly in my ear. “Oh, Father, help us today. We take authority over estrogen gone awry.”

I laughed a little more.

She broke our embrace and grabbed me by the shoulders. “Fix your face, girl, and snap out of it. It’s your birthday brunch.” She rubbed my arm and smiled. “Actually you know what? It’s your party and you can cry if you want to.” I laughed more and sniffled.

I wiped my eyes as she led me into the house. Vanessa was my shero. She had kept me alive and sane during my separation and divorce. She was the ministerial counselor at our church. Through our sessions, I decided that not only did I want to live, but that life could be good after divorce. Not too long after she released me from therapy, her husband died tragically in a car accident. I could only hope I was half the friend to her then that she had been to me. Our losses and our relationship with God had bonded us together into one of the best friendships I’d ever had.

Vanessa’s house was immaculate as always. I was amazed that a single mother of two teenagers, full-time counselor and minister could keep her five-bedroom house perfectly clean without a housekeeper. I, however – single with no kids – couldn’t seem to keep my townhouse straight to save my life.

As we entered her two-story foyer, I looked above the winding spiral staircase and saw a huge banner reading “35th Annual Michelle Bradford Celebration Day”. Simultaneously, I heard several voices cry out, “Happy Birthday, ‘Chelle!”

At the foot of the steps stood my girlfriends, Nicole, Lisa, and Angela. I burst into tears again. Lisa and Angela ran over to hug me.

Nicole stared at me. “Are you serious?” She looked over at Vanessa who winced and nodded. Nicole picked up her purse. “I’m out. You know I can’t stand her when she’s like this.” She got halfway to the front door before Vanessa grabbed her.

“Stop playing, Nicole.” Vanessa put her hands on her hips.

“Who’s playing? I can’t stand being around her snotting and crying because a butterfly splattered on her windshield or Revlon discontinued her favorite lipstick color. Naw, I’m out. I’ll meet you guys for the big celebration later.” Nicole turned toward the door again.

“Nicole.” Vanessa put on her mother voice and evil eye that always snapped her kids into perfect obedience.

Apparently it worked on Nicole too, because she took her purse off her shoulder and came over to hug me. “Happy Birthday, Michelle. You know I love you like a sister, but dang – can’t you take the pills for this? I know God is a healer, but for real though, until your manifestation comes, you need some earthly medicine. ”

“Nicole.” Vanessa said it like Nicole had one more time before she got sent to her room for a time-out. Lisa and Angela disappeared into Vanessa’s massive gourmet kitchen.

I had to laugh. It was funny to hear Nicole using spiritual lingo. She had just gotten saved two years ago and was still a little awkward when it came to using spiritual terms.

She gave me a big hug, which set off a new flood of tears. “Dang, girl.” Nicole called into the kitchen. “Can y’all see if Vanessa has some olive oil or something? Shoot, some Crisco will do.” She looked at Vanessa. “Can’t you lay hands on her and cast out this estrogen demon so we can all enjoy our day?”

That sent me into a fit of uncontrollable giggles. When I laughed really hard, I couldn’t stop myself from snorting. Snorting the snot from crying made me cough until I could hardly breathe. Vanessa pounded me on the back.

Nicole stared at me and let out an exasperated sigh. “What a crackhead.” She disappeared into the kitchen to help Angela and Lisa with whatever they were doing.

I was glad Vanessa had only invited my closest sister circle for brunch. At least they all understood my condition. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder was what my doctor called it. Insanity was what my friends called it. Hell on earth was what I called it. Fortunately, it usually only lasted a day in my case. I hoped it would pass before the big celebration later Nicole had mentioned.

Vanessa led me to the breakfast room table and sat me down. Angela, Lisa, and Nicole emerged from the kitchen a few minutes later, each carrying a tray. Vanessa fastened a tiara onto my afro, wavy from being let loose from two-stranded twists. “Today, we’re celebrating you with your favorite things. Sit back, relax and enjoy.”

I looked down at the trays my girls had brought from the kitchen. There were finger sandwiches – peanut butter, honey and bananas on wheat bread – chocolate covered strawberries, mango slices, crab cakes, jerk chicken wings with rice and peas, fried plantains, and ginger beer to wash it all down with. I clapped my hands and laughed. “All my favorites. Kind of weird together, but still. It’s so nice to be loved and for you guys to know what I love.” I looked up to see everyone holding their breath, as if they were afraid I was going to cry. “Loosen up, guys.” I smiled. “This brunch is perfect.”

I frowned at two capsules filled with greenish stuff on the side of my plate. Vanessa answered before I could ask. “It’s St. John’s Wort. The herb I told you about. I picked up some at the health food store.”

I stared at the pills.

Nicole put a hand on her hip. “God gave us plants for natural cures so it’s not like you’re not having faith for healing.” She picked up the pills and shoved them at me. “Look, we’re the ones that have to spend the whole day with you. The least you could do is try them.”

Angela tsked at Nicole. “Girl, stop being evil. You’ll only make it worse.”

Lisa chimed in, “Yeah, Nicole. At least she can blame emotional craziness on hormones and it only happens once a month. What’s your excuse?”

Nicole shot Lisa an evil stare.

I obediently swallowed the pills, ignoring the organic taste in my mouth.

We filled our plates with my special treats. Everybody was silent for a few minutes as we started eating.

Lisa finally spoke. “So, Michelle, you’re thirty-five today. How does it feel –”

She stopped talking when Angela elbowed her in the side and shook her head. Everybody kept eating.

After a few minutes, Vanessa said, “Michelle, we want you to know that…” her voice trailed off.

Nicole rolled her eyes. “This is ridiculous. We’re all afraid to talk because we don’t want her to cry? I tell you what. Michelle, talk about what’s bothering you – what we know you cried about when you woke up and in the car on the way over here. Let’s get it out in the open and deal with it so we won’t be dancing on eggshells all day. This is supposed to be a celebration. Sheesh…”

Everyone stiffened a little and looked at me.

I stared past Angela and Lisa out Vanessa’s breakfast room bay window at the lake behind her house. The water moved slowly with the sun reflecting off it, creating a tranquil glow.

“Well…” I nibbled on a chocolate strawberry. The bitter sweetness of the dark chocolate blended with the natural sweetness of the strawberry. “I woke up alone this morning. No husband. No babies. And I’m thirty-five. This wasn’t the life I dreamed of. But I have no choice but to accept it.”

I took a bite of mango. Its tropical, tangy sweetness contrasted sharply with the strawberry-chocolate combi-nation. I wondered if being hormonal made my taste buds more sensitive. I watched everyone waiting for the tears as I continued sampling the fruit. I was more surprised than they were when no tears came.

I decided to continue. “I’ve asked God countless times to send my husband, but I guess He’s not listening. Or maybe He doesn’t think I’m ready. I’ve done therapy. I’ve healed and forgiven and realized my mistakes. I think my heart is ready to love again. But I guess He doesn’t.”

I stopped for a minute to listen to the wind chimes tinkling outside the breakfast room door. It was a breezy, spring day and I could imagine how sweet the wind would feel kissing my cheeks. I almost wanted to move the party onto the patio but didn’t want to upset Nicole’s allergies. Her sneezing and snotting, and my crying and snotting would make for a very bad day.

“It’s pure torture. Wanting something you can’t have. Craving something, needing something and it not being there. I’m tired of begging. I want to not want it anymore. Just focus on my career, my friends, and chasing after God and let that be enough.”

Angela and Vanessa nodded. Lisa shook her head like she couldn’t get with me on that.

Nicole reached over and took my hand. “See? That wasn’t so bad. If that’s the worst, we can talk about anything now.”

I smiled. “Yeah. Thanks, Nicki. You can be pretty all right when you want to be.”

Everyone let out a collective sigh of relief, myself included. Maybe today could be a good day after all. Nicole squeezed my hand. As much as she could be evil and blunt, she was full of love – that ride or die chick a sistah always wanted around to have her back. I looked around the table and appreciated God for my friends. Maybe I didn’t have a man, but I had some beautiful, strong women in my life that loved me. For now, that would have to be enough.

I looked out the window at the lake again. There was a long-necked duck with her babies trailing behind her on the water. “Look! Baby ducks.” I pointed and everyone turned to look out the window. “They’re so cute.”

And with that, I burst into tears.

Nicole dropped my hand and shook her head in disgust. “Crackhead…” she muttered as she disappeared into the kitchen.

Vanessa passed me a napkin and I wiped my eyes and blew my nose.

“Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.” Lisa got up and followed Nicole into the kitchen. They both came back a few moments later – Nicole carrying champagne and orange juice, Lisa carrying Vanessa’s crystal flutes.

Nicole set the bottles down on the table. “I’m not sure how smart it is to mix alcohol, herbs, and hormones, but it can’t get much worse than crying over baby ducks.”

Lisa cut her eyes at Nicole. “You were the one that wanted her to talk.”

Nicole answered, “How was I supposed to know there would be ducks on the lake?”

Lisa said, “All we had to do was –”

“Ladies!” Vanessa interrupted. “Chill.” Vanessa opened the orange juice and began filling the flutes. “Honestly, I think Nicole had a good idea.”

Nicole crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue at Lisa like she was five years old.

“In fact…” Vanessa topped off the glasses with a small splash of champagne. None of us were drinkers, but we always had a drop or two of champagne when we celebrated. I guess it made us feel grown, even though we always ended up throwing away almost a full bottle of the expensive stuff. “…I think it’s a perfect idea for a birthday celebration. Instead of going to the spa, shopping, and eating cake, every woman’s birthday party should be a look at her life.”

Nicole muttered, “Oh boy, here goes the latest Vanessa psychobabbleology. Just when I thought this party couldn’t get any worse.”

Vanessa ignored her. “Yeah. That’s exactly what it should be.” Vanessa stared into space as she pushed the cork back into the champagne bottle.

“What?” Nicole tapped her fingers on the table.

“Shh, she’s thinking.” Lisa smacked Nicole’s arm.

Vanessa handed each of us a mimosa glass and sat back down in her seat, the wheels in her brain ticking. “For a woman’s birthday celebration, she should be surrounded by her sister-circle in a safe, loving environment. She should look at her past and see where she made it and where she missed it. Look at her present and see where she is and where she wants to be, and look at her future and if she’s doing the right things to get there.” Vanessa nodded and smiled to herself. “Then her friends should celebrate her by telling her wonderful things about her, giving her affirmations, blessings and prayers to press her toward her future.”

Angela and Lisa nodded. “I like it.” Lisa said. She turned to Nicole.

Nicole shrugged. “Y’all know I don’t like all that touchy-feely, psychobabble stuff.”

Lisa rolled her eyes. “Lord, Nicole, can’t you get over yourself and help us celebrate Michelle’s birthday?”

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t do it. I’m just saying…” She pursed her lips together and glared at Lisa.

“Okay, then.” Vanessa glared at both of them like they were about to get a beating. “Since Michelle has identified what’s bothering her the most, let’s focus on that. If there are other areas you come up with, we’ll deal with that, too. We’ll break away for an hour or two and everybody take some paper and write something special for Michelle. Michelle – like I said, take an honest look at past, present, and future and whatever else you need to get out, and then we’ll reconvene. Pick your favorite spot – out by the lake, in the sunroom, by the fireplace, wherever you can get comfortable. Okay?”

“But I don’t want to spoil whatever you guys already had planned for me just because I woke up hormonal and lonely,” I said.

Nicole sucked her teeth. “Please, girl. We had planned to watch all your favorite movies. Love and Basketball, Love Jones, Brown Sugar...” She looked around the room. “There’s not enough tissue in the house for that. Even though it’s warm and fuzzy, touchy-feely, this is way better than you snotting and crying all day over a bunch of movies. And we still have your surprise for tonight.” She looked at Vanessa with a nod of approval. “It’s actually a good idea.” She frowned. “Just don’t expect to be psychoanalyzing me for my birthday.”

Vanessa laughed. “I wouldn’t dream of it. I don’t think my years of training or experience have in any way prepared me for that.”

Nicole’s eyes widened with obvious surprise at Vanessa’s dig.

Lisa laughed. “Good one, V.”

“Whatever.” Nicole lifted her champagne flute and indicated for us all to do the same. “To Michelle and celebrating her life. The good, the bad, and the ugly.”

“Nicole!” Lisa, Angela, and Vanessa said in unison.

Nicole looked around at everyone and shrugged her shoulders. “What?” She lifted her glass again. “For real though, we love you, girl. I haven’t known God long, but what I do know is that He’s good. And faithful. And you’re a beautiful example of Him living and breathing on earth. And no matter what, man or no man, your future will be bright and beautiful. I’m looking forward to being a part of it.” She looked around the table. “Is that better?”

Everybody laughed and lifted their glasses. “To Michelle.”

And, of course, I burst into tears.

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