Wednesday, November 30, 2011


When you think of it, the star blazing in the sky that led the wise men to the new-born King of Kings, was a brilliant stroke of marketing.

With my first book out this year I’ve been learning a lot of about marketing. I also work for a marketing firm. No I’m not the executive that sits behind a great big desk. I’m one of those ladies in the grocery store handing out free samples of products. So I know all about solid advertising and false advertising.

Back to that star in the sky. A firey ball light years away. No small thing. God was sending to the world the greatest expression of His love for mankind.

But really . . . was that false advertising?

King of Kings—how could that be when the babe was born in a stable? He didn’t grow up in a palace. The red carpet was never once thrown down for him to walk upon. Although a few coats were laid down for him one day.

The biggest rejection came when the people He’d come to save wanted to kill him.

I often think of Jesus’ mother at that moment. Did she stand at the bottom of that cross, looking up into the face of her dying son and think back to that star blazing at His birth? Did she wonder if all the promises God had made at the start of this son’s life come to nothing?

There are so many moments in life when our dream crash to our feet like broken glass. We may be ill, or someone we love is ill. Maybe we’ve lost the one we love. Or never had anyone to love us in the first place. Maybe we’ve lost a job . . . or a child. There are a million reasons to hurt.

When we’re hurting we can’t see what is beyond. We can’t see what God can do with that broken dream or broken heart. How he can turn things around if we trust Him.

On the day of Jesus’ death his mother Mary may very well have believed that star in the sky at His birth was false advertising.

But on the day of His resurrection—when He came back to life to be the King of Kings and savior of all who believe in Him—she knew for sure that God does keep His promises.

When God put that star in the sky all those years ago, it was not false advertising. That same God cares about you.

This Christmas as you look around you and spot a star—and you’ll see a lot of them this season---think of how much God the Father and God the Son keep their promises to love you forever.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Guest post by Delia Latham

The Amish are known for their quiet, unassuming manner. Their love of all things peaceful…and shunning of competitive pastimes.

Well. I'm afraid that all flew out the window in the COTT Clash featuring Amish fiction. It was a fight to the finish.... a nose-to-nose race...a no-holds-barred dash to the finish line!

Contestants were:

Suzanne Woods Fisher

(Click on the cover to read Suzanne's Excerpt A)


Laura V. Hilton

(Click on the cover to read Laura's Excerpt B)

Both authors hit the ground running with sizzling teasers that presented a definite challenge to our readers. Both were super-fantastic! Both offered a tantalizing glimpse into an amazing read.

But only one of these fabulous excerpts could take the win.

When at last the dust died down…the crowd silenced in expectation…and the winner stood revealed…


held the finish line ribbon firmly in hand!


The choice was not an easy one, as our readers made perfectly clear in their comments:

"Both of these excerpts are immediately engaging—I think I'd like to read both books!"

"Both excerpts are winners. Can't wait to read them."

"I enjoy the Clash of the Titles!! Each author is fantastic!! And such a great place to hear of new authors that perhaps you haven't read before. Good luck!"

"I love to read stories of the Amish. Thank you for your hard work."

"The authors who write Amish fiction are doing a great job keeping true to the Amish ways while holding the reader's interest with wonderful story lines over and over again."

Heartfelt thanks and deep appreciation to both Suzanne and Laura. I wish we could call it a tie and put both in the winner's slot, because both authors truly are winners.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Sometimes it’s hard to count our blessings.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand why the Lord who loved us so much that He died for us to give us eternal life, would allow some of the really hard things in our lives.

Occasionally when I’m going through a rough patch—and we all fall into them from time to time—my faith can flag.

I had a particularily rough patch that lasted for several years. Each one of my children, including my birthdaughter, was suffering in one manner or the other.

You know what that's like when a myriad of heartaches afflict your loved ones. We take our children’s longings, problems, and sufferings, daily to God. And still they hurt. Fighting discouragement becomes an up-hill battle.

But I’ve grown to understand the Lord better these days, and despair does not linger like it used to.

I learned to count my blessings. Literally.

On days when I’m worried about my kids or my husband’s health, I take out my treasure box. It’s a metaphoric treasure box, but it’s full of fifty-three years of answered prayer.

I have to dig to the bottom, because some of these prayer answers go back decades, while some more recent ones lay like jewels strewn on the top. I lift a few out and hold them up to the light, and admire the facets of those prayers God answered long ago.

Oh yes, I remember that one now, the Lord heard me when I was thirteen years old and my grandmother renewed her faith in Christ . . .

And oh, there’s that other prayer when I was twenty-three, and that man with the heart of gold—David what’s-his-name—asked me to marry him.

And there are those other prayers answered—God gave me three healthy children. And oh yes, He brought my birthdaughter, Sarah, back into my life when I was forty-one.

And just three years ago . . . the Lord did such an amazing thing in my mother’s life it shines like a brilliant diamond. Perhaps because this last answer to prayer is so recent and one overflowing with happiness that I take it out the most often to admire it.

It wasn’t that many years ago that my mother’s self-esteem had been stripped down to the bare wires of her being for a multitude of reasons. Her General Practitioner prescribed antidepressants. But due to a combination of the wrong prescription, poor follow-up on the doctor’s part, and lack of co-operation from my mum, her emotional health actually grew worse. The doctor just kept prescribing stronger medications, but she steadily became more depressed.

When I saw my mother withdraw further and further from her family, and begin to walk around her apartment, fearful of going out, I began to believe her doctor that she was mentally ill.

For several years this went on, until it seemed to me that my mother’s apartment had become her coffin. She was crippled by fear; fear to live on her own, fear to go out of the house on her own, fear to actually live. And I had no idea how to help her. All I could do was pray daily that God would change her life, and enter her apartment with the power of the resurrection—to bring my mother back to life.

The day came when my mother collapsed because she hadn’t been eating properly for several years. Immediately at the hospital the doctors took her off the drugs her General Practitioner had prescribed. When I visited her that day, she lay in the hospital bed, looking like an eighty year old woman with no desire to live. She could barely contain her anger with me when I prayed at her bedside and read to her from the Bible.

But I saw my mother’s collapse as the answer to my prayers. As she recuperated my brother, sister, and I closed up her apartment. Two weeks later the hospital released her, and I brought her to my home to live with us. There my husband and I nursed her as if she were an elderly woman.

At first she could barely make it up and down the stairs of my home. But I caught a tiny gleam in her eye. She was going to make it up these stairs even if it killed her. I was starting to see glimpses of the strong woman my mother used to be.

For a long while all she could eat was the blandest foods, but things changed day by day. God sent us a new doctor who worked with me, and with his guidance we planned how to bring my mother back to complete health. But he urged me, this would take time, and she may remain emotionally frail. After two months in our home, she announced to me that she wanted to attend church with us. And four months after that she started to take walks by herself up the street. A half an hour later, she would return to the house with a proud grin on her face; she’d made it past a certain tree and back again.

From that moment on I watched as each month the Lord did things in my mother’s life and she grew stronger. She began to take a healthy interest in her appearance and wardrope. And I saw this woman become younger before my eyes. She joined not just one Bible study but two. She started to go to the 55+ group at the church. She started to make friends.

My mum is a busy woman these days. It’s got to the point where she jokes with us that she’s so busy she can only pencil us in for certain days on her calendar. Her coming back to life has been a miracle to me. And she's again, my best friend.

So when I fret and wonder when God will answer the prayers for my children, my husband, my other loved ones—I take out this shiny diamond of answered prayer, buff it against my shoulder and say, “thank you, Lord”. The same God who took care of my mum will answer the rest of my prayers in His perfect timing.

Philippians 4:6, 7 “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meet Julie Arduini and Renee Chaw

*guest post by Michelle Massaro

Today it is my pleasure to shine the spotlight on two more amazing women who are both members of the COTT Blog Alliance.

Julie Arduini was born on Good Friday with tornado warnings. A description that she says could not be more accurate!

She lives in NE Ohio with her husband and two children. She's also a step-mom to two adult children who live in out of state. Her writing is featured in ten books (learn more on her site!) She also blogs monthly for the marriage counter at the Internet CafĂ©. She loves serving in children’s and women’s ministries through her local church and Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) chapter.
Julie says: "I love my strong coffee, lilacs, NCIS, and Beth Moore Bible studies (not in that order!)"
Her site has been up since December 31, 2006 and was her first act of surrendering fear of what others would think about her. That fear had kept her from doing what she loved since childhood but her baby step into blogging quickly led to many other writing opportunities—a true testament to listening to the whisperings of the Lord.
Julie's warm, transparent personality is woven throughout her blog posts. "I’m not a scholar, just a wife and mom trying to help anyone willing to read know that Jesus is close and intimate with arms open to receive, not turn away." Her focus is to encourage readers, mostly adult women, to find "freedom through surrender."
An avid reader, Julie provides book ideas on her site based on what she's reading. On Sundays you can take a peek at her amateur nature pictures with a few thoughts about God’s love. She posts 5-7 days per week so there's always something new! If you're looking for a blog-hostess gift, I hear she really really loves chocolate!
Surrendering the good, the bad, and---maybe one day---the chocolate

Say hello to Renee Chaw (and her 3 year old dog, Coco.) Renee's blog features reviews of Christian fiction, romance and young adult fiction as well as posts about some of her favorite movies, TV shows, and Steelers football. Woot!
Black 'n Gold Girl's Book Spot is a fun place to gather. Renee is always looking for a way to make you chuckle or at least inform you about some great books and movies. She also sometimes posts about her other interests like vintage jewelry, TV, antiques, sports, pets etc. She always makes you feel welcome!
Another great reason to add her to your blog roll: she loves doing giveaways and hosting authors.
Renee says she's an avid reader of just about anything from the back of the cereal box to the back of a book. ^-^
"I love to blog. I've met so many great people through the blogging world and have had the opportunity to read so many wonderful books that I might not have otherwise had the chance to. I love being a member of FIRST Wild Card and this Blog Alliance, two other great groups that I wouldn't have had the chance to join if it wasn't for blogging. I'm loyal to the local sports teams, especially my Pittsburgh Steelers (LOVE those Black 'n Gold guys ;-)) and I'm a crazy car girl LOL! Take me to a car show over the mall any day of the week!"
She tries to post everyday but sometimes 'real life' limits her blogging to 3 times per week. If you want to bring her a blog-hostess gift, make sure you get a big box with holes in it. Renee loves big, furry dogs! =) Of course, it might be easier to just bring a treat for Coco.

Be sure to check out these two blogs and make a couple new friends!
* Michelle Massaro is Assistant Editor for Clash of the Titles. Find her on twitter @MLMassaro, and Facebook.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Tournament of Champions: Week Four

Week FOUR of COTT's Tournament of Champions saw four more authors compete and three more scavenger hunts played. 

Here's a recap:

Becky R went to Gail Pallotta's Blog on Monday to find out when Love Turns theTide's Cammie sees a different side of Vic. She got the correct answer and walks away with a $10 Starbucks card from Lisa Lickel. Pumpkin Latte, anyone?
Megan D visited Marianne Evans' blog Tuesday to discover which of Marianne's books was a Christian Small Publisher's Book of the Year nominee. She won a $10 Amazon gift card from Amanda Stephan. Awesome!
Theresa M stopped by Margaret Brownley's Blog on Wednesday and found the name of the Christmas anthology which Margaret contributed to. She also received a $10 Amazon gift card donated by Raquel Byrnes.
Congrats ladies! Clash of the Titles has awarded over $125 worth of game prizes, thanks to its generous sponsors. Thanks, COTT--and another round of applause for all those game winners!

This was the last week of reader games, but fear not! There's still a chance to win the Grand Prize! I'll share how in a minute. But first...

Which Books Won the Clashes?

Rosslyn Elliot's "Fairer Than Morning" and Delia Latham's "Destiny's Dream" clashed last Monday. "Fairer Than Morning" came out the winner.
Shellie Neumeier's, Driven and Ann O'Barr's Singing in Babylon struck swords on Wednesday. Driven took the top spot. 
These two victorious titles competed together on Friday to determine which would move on to the finals for a chance to win the Laurel Award. And that finalist is...

Rosslyn Elliot's "Fairer Than Morning"

She joins Marianne Evans' Hearts Crossing, Elaine Cooper's The Road To Deer Run, and Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride. We now have all four finalists vying for the ultimate COTT honor.
Voting for the Big Winner is going on RIGHT NOW, and continues all week long. The big announcement will be made on November 12th. Public vote determines the outcome, and one reader will receive a Grand Prize of 15 books!!!  Want a shot at it? Enter by sharing links, putting up buttons and banners on your blog, becoming a follower of COTT (just make sure you tell them you've done so--they aren't psychics!) Details on the prize basket and full instructions on how to enter can be found here. To make it easy to grab n go, here are the banner and button codes.

Clash of The Titles

Here's the button code:

Find me on twitter @MLMassaro, and Facebook.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Tournament of Champions: Third Week Recap

*Guest post by Michelle Massaro

Week THREE of COTT's Tournament of Champions saw four more authors compete and three more scavenger hunts played. 

Here's a recap:

On Monday, players were sent to Elaine Cooper's Blog with a mission: Find the full name of the girl Nathaniel Stearns falls in love with in the book trailer video on her home page. Renee C won a $10 Amazon gift card from Marianne Evans, author of Hearts Crossing.
Tuesday, the hunt was on at Shellie Neumeier's Blog. The question: What is the name of the book Shellie co-wrote with Lisa Lickel? Tammy G won a $10 Amazon gift card from April Gardner, author of Wounded Spirits.
Wednesday we were led to Naomi Musch's Blog. The question: In her new release, The Red Fury, Colette's daughter Lainey is seeking solace from tragic loss and two searing rejections by doing what 2 things? B.J. Robinson won a $10 CBD gift card donated by Ann Gaylia O'Barr, author of Singing in Babylon.
Want your own spending spree? Be sure to play in this week's hunts. Check Clash of the Titles for game info.
And what about the competing books? Who won?
Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride and Lena Nelson Dooley's Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico battled on Monday. A Tailor-Made Bride came out the winner.
Christine Lindsay's Shadowed in Silk and Naomi Musch's The Green Veil struck swords on Wednesday. The Green Veil took the top spot.
These two victorious titles competed together on Friday to determine which would move on to the finals for a chance to win the Laurel Award. And that finalist is...

Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride!
There are now three finalists vying for the ultimate COTT honor. In this final week they'll be joined by a fourth book, then all will be thrown into the ring until only ONE remains. Who will it be? It's up to readers to decide, so cast your votes!
The Laurel will be awarded on November 4th, along with the 15-book grand prize that will be given to one lucky reader. Want a shot at it? You can enter by sharing links, putting up buttons and banners on your blog, becoming a follower of COTT, etc. Details on the prize basket and full instructions on how to enter can be found here. To make it easy to grab n go, here are the banner and button codes (just don't forget to let them know if you put them up!)
Clash of The Titles

Here's the button code:

* Michelle Massaro is the Assistant Editor for COTT. Find her on twitter @MLMassaro, Facebook, and Adventures In Writing.