Friday, September 30, 2011

THE ARDUOUS CLIMB---by Sandra Orchard

Today my guest is Sandra Orchard, another of my writing friends who has shared the same experience as me this year---seeing her debut novel come out in print. She's here today to inspire you in whatever God has called you to do.

ARDUOUS CLIMB---by Sandra Orchard

This summer my husband and I visited Algonquin National Park in Northern Ontario, a wilderness brimming with pristine lakes, winding rivers and spectacular views. Being avid hikers, we chose one of the more difficult climbs, and as we sweated our way up a very steep, very long incline, I began contemplating how very much like the writing journey this hike was becoming.

A few mosquitoes buzzed around taking chunks out of me, not unlike how I felt after reading the first few critiques of my writing.

The air was unusually humid and several times we were tempted to stop and turn back. Then we’d arrive at a plateau and feel the sweet cooling breezes and catch a glimpse of the spectacular view awaiting us at the top.

And once again I found myself contrasting the experience to my writing journey. How in a similar way, God had given me little glimpses of hope to refresh and to encourage and to spur me to keep moving forward.

As my husband and I pressed onward and upward, my mantra became you can’t see the view if you don’t climb the height. Sure I could experience it vicariously by listening to others rave about it, or by looking at photos, but part of what makes the view so very spectacular is the effort required to get there. I honestly don’t think I would have appreciated it nearly as much if I’d simply been able to pull up in my car and snap the photo. And I wondered if I’d have felt the same way if getting published had been easy, if the first novel I’d written had immediately found a home and launched my writing career. Somehow, I don’t think I would have savored the accomplishment nearly as much.

In the same way, the photo doesn’t do the view justice. You can’t feel the breeze on your face, hear the cry of an eagle soaring overhead or the rustle of the leaves, or smell the heat on the rocks or the scent of pine. Neither do you feel your pounding heart begin to slow as you recover from the climb.

As I stood at the height soaking in the spectacular view, Psalm 121 came to mind:
1I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

And I was filled with a profound gratitude for the arduous journey toward publication, because it taught me to lean wholly on Him, to follow where he leads and trust in Him for the fruit.

Christine here: Thank you Sandra for sharing these encouraging thoughts that fit in with anyone's line of work or calling. We so often think that God's will for our lives means an easy road, when quite often it's the opposite. But God is there along the way, and those moments of encouragement are the greatest reward.

There's still time to enter Sandra's Book Launch Celebration Giveaway. Go to her website for information. On October 1st, she’s drawing a name from all of her subscribers, blog commenters, and FB fans for a $25 gift card for the winner’s favorite online book retailer.

I've read Sandra's debut novel, Deep Cover, and found it to be a fun, fast--paced, romance just filled with suspense, that also encouraged my faith. Here are links to Sandra's book page and the Harlequin book page for her novel., and .


Sandra Orchard began writing fiction in the fall of 2004. In 2009, she won the Daphne DuMaurier Award of Excellence in the unpublished category and sold to Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense the following year. Her newly released debut novel, Deep Cover, is in stores this month. Deep Cover is the first in her series, Undercover Cops: Fighting for justice puts their lives—and hearts—on the line. Sandra hails from Southern Ontario, Canada.
You can find Sandra online at:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Clash of the Titles

Congratulations to Delia Latham for taking the crown in last week's Staff Clash. Two anonymous COTT staffers went into the ring and readers had another hard choice to make. Some said:

  • "This was a cruel choice!! LOL! They were both excellent."

  •  (About Delia's excerpt): "Beautiful words expressing emotion and making the reader want more."

  •  "Intense emotions on both excerpts! Great job!"

  •  "Terrific excerpts!"

  • (About Katie's excerpt): "I need to know Wulf better! I have a feeling he's dreamy."

  • "Awesome clash with two well-written, emotion-packed scenes! Great job, authors!"

Of course, nobody knew at the time that those authors were Delia Latham and Katie McCurdy.
Both are recent additions to the staff. Delia has come on board as a Blog Alliance Correspondent, and Katie is the official Talent Scout. (Looks like COTT scouted some talent when they found these two gems.)
This fun excursion was a great interjection into the usual good times shared at Clash of the Titles. This week sees another fierce challenge with nameless authors nominated by COTT staff. Be sure to head over there and vote now!
And in just 2 weeks, the party begins! Mark your calendars for October 10th and be ready to play for extra prizes all month long as COTT celebrates it's first anniversary. Your vote will determine which of the year's winning authors will receive the ultimate honor: the Laurel Award.

* by Assistant Editor of COTT, Michelle Massaro 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tourney Banner 2

Happy Anniversary, Clash of the Titles!

It's been almost a year since COTT opened its voting-booth doors and invited everyone in. Over the past twelve months, readers have chosen 25 Clash winners and received 48 free books. And along the way, a family formed. That family consists of the voters, authors, staff, and the 25+ blogs who have banded together in mutual support with COTT.
This is cause for major celebration! So COTT is doing it up to the nines.
Clash of the Titles' first annual Tournament of Champions begins next month! Over the course of four weeks, past winners from the previous year will compete in a series of clashes for the ultimate prize: the Laurel Award. The Laurel, COTT's most prestigious honor, is awarded by public vote to a single author among the year's champions.
Voters are expected to turn out in droves to support their favorites and participate in games just for readers. Each week, COTT sponsors—consisting of various authors and staff—will issue fun challenges to readers along with the chance to win gift cards, critique services, a business card design, and more. A dozen sponsors are lined up for the event so far. That's a lot of prizes!
Throughout the month, details and updates on the Tournament of Champions will be shared on the COTT website and featured within the Blog Alliance. To help spread the word, please grab the special Tournament Button (below) to display on your site. Then send a link to your page to: contactcott at gmail dot com to enter the special COTT Shout-About drawing. The drawing will take place during the first week of the Tournament and the winner will receive a Clash of the Titles mug.

Please also consider Tweeting or sharing this article on your Facebook wall.

(it only takes a second--just click the share button.)

Mark your calendars and spread the word. This BYOV (Bring Your Own Vote) party begins on October 10th!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Is there anyone out there like me who gets stressed going to work?

Anyone out there who dreads confrontations with unhappy customers, or worries that elements of your work are not going to be there to let you complete your tasks? Anyone out there who gets that nervous swirl in the pit your stomach as you drive to your job?

I'm one of those nervous nellies who always used to worry about work. In fact I used to worry on Sunday nights about going to school the next day. Not that I didn't like school, I just worried about failing in some manner.

A few weeks ago I started a new day-job. I call it the day-job because it's not my career. It's work to support the labor that I really want to do but that doesn't actually pay.... yet. Let's just say there are so many other rewards in being a writer of Christian fiction.

But I need a regular pay-check.

The week I started my new job in a local department store doing product demonstrations, I
had also started to read the book of Ruth in my devotions.

I discovered there that the book of Ruth is not just one of the sweetest love stories ever told. God showed me how much He cared about Ruth's day-job.

Ruth had to support herself and her mother-in-law Naomi, and the only work for her was to glean barley in the field belonging to a relative of Naomi's. It wasn't long before Ruth was noticed by the owner of the field, Boaz. No doubt inspired by God, Boaz instructed his work hands to see that Ruth was not stressed by others. He also instructed his female servants to take Ruth under their wing and keep her day peaceful. Boaz saw to it that Ruth's workday was made as easy and possible. And he arranged for her to receive bonus product to take home.

At at time when I needed it most, the Lord opened my eyes to an element in this love story that gave me peace as I drove to my new job.

And, just like Ruth, the Lord saw that other workers in the large department store were around when I needed help. There were smiles and no one to stress me out. There were people to help me put up my awkward sign at the start of my day and take it down.

God really does care about every aspect of our life. We just have to open our eyes to see the intimacies of God's love for us.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Today my guest is MaryLu Tyndall, a multi-published Christian romance writer. She has just released her 11th book, Surrender the Dawn.


In high school, I was the shy, introverted, pimple-faced, nerd who never got a date. Months of piano lessons faltered on my clumsy hands, my cooking would make the staunchest overeater lose weight, and I was always the last one picked for sports.

Have you ever felt like you don't measure up—that you aren't pretty enough, smart enough, funny enough, or talented enough to bring any value to this world? Most of my life I felt like God must have made a mistake when He created me, but the truth is, God made me exactly the way I was for a reason.

Seven years ago, God told me He had something for me to do that would blow me away. At the time, I was working at a job I hated, my kids were rebelling, and my marriage was falling apart. I thought I had misunderstood Him. Besides, what could I do? I couldn’t even handle my own ordinary life. But, I wanted to believe Him.

So, I stopped fighting and I gave Him complete control. Within two years, my first novel was published. Now I’m working on my 11th!

At the time God spoke to me, I hadn’t considered becoming a novelist, hadn’t written a word, had no prior education or training. Now, I’m doing something I love and using it to glorify God. This is my destiny!

So many people go through their entire lives and miss their destinies. Don’t let that happen to you. Submit to God. No matter what He asks you to do, no matter the struggles, the trials, submit to Him and His will. And in Romans 12:2, He promises that His will for you is perfect, pleasing and good—something you and only you can do.

This is the major theme in my Surrender to Destiny series, where you'll meet ordinary, flawed characters who don’t think much of themselves, but who God considers His precious children. Once they turn to Him, God transforms their weaknesses into strengths and uses them mightily to save America and change the course of history. And He can do the same with you!

Review of Surrender the Dawn by Christine:

I thoroughly enjoyed another tender romance set on the high seas by MaryLu Tyndall. Surrender the Dawn is an excellent example of this author’s talent for telling a fast-paced and romantic tale. She always manages to fill her stories with realistically flawed characters who live and breathe and that you begin to root for from the very first page.
Cassandra Channing is a head-strong heroine who has to care for her family of younger sisters and her mother who prefers to bury her head in the sand, or in this case a bottle of laudanum. Cassandra takes a huge chance when she invests the last of their family money with a privateer sailor, Luke Heaton. She figures she has to take a chance or the family will starve.

Everyone is outraged that Cassandra would trust their few last dollars with the town rogue who has a penchant for the rum bottle. And her mother continues to push Cassandra into the arms of a man who has the money to support them.

But things seem to be going well when Luke makes good on Cassandra’s investment. That is until he’s forced into treason against his fellow Americans in The War of Independence. The tables turn quickly and the stakes get higher.

What I love about MaryLu Tyndall’s stories is the real struggles her characters face that people face today, such as alcohol addiction in the face of great stress. I also love the families she sets her heroes and heroines in. Altogether a delightful fun read.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Dialogue--Snappy Dialogue, That Is

Coming Up at Clash of the Titles, October 10-November 4, 2011

The first annual, Tournament of Champions! 

Over a FOUR week period, SIXTEEN previous COTT champs will face-off in EIGHT different mini-Clashes.

Only ONE will take home The Laurel Award.

With Clashes, games, and prizes galore, you won't want to miss this month-long celebration!


*Guest post by Lisa Lickel

Dialogue lets your characters be heard. It’s their voice; their conversation amongst themselves. It’s how they tell their story. Dialogue is talk. Discussion. Arguments. Jokes. Questions and answers. Foibles. Mystery. Mesmerism. It’s the muscle on the skeleton of the story.

The writer’s ability to conquer natural dialogue comes out of how well we know our characters. The reader’s ability to hear natural-sounding dialogue comes from the depth from which he is drawn into the story.

      Using dialogue in a book helps readers see that characters spend time with each other for a reason, even if they’re stranded on desert islands. Tom Hanks had Wilson in the move Cast Away, after all. Dialogue is more than internal mutterings or their revelations to the reader. It needs to be heard, not just read. The words need to translate immediately to sound in the reader’s inner ear, and thus be natural, no matter the setting.

What can we deduce from these two small pieces of the excerpts in this Clash? Are you in time, in story, in the character’s emotions? Can you cheer for them? Figure out exactly what will happen next, or are you eager to turn the page for more?

“Would you mind if I walked with you?”

      “As long as we’re not together.”

      “All right.” He strode into the street and spread his arms as wide as his grin. “There. We’re not together.”

     “Jack!” she cried…. “Get back up here.” Ruth motioned frantically. “Don’t make me fix you up again.”


“Perhaps you cannot wait for the wedding night?”

      Her brown eyes simmered. “Why you insufferable cad!” She raised her hand to slap him.

He caught it and lifted it to his lips for a kiss, eyeing her with delight.

She studied him then released a sigh. “You tease me, sir.” Snatching her hand from his, she stepped back. “But what would I expect from you?”

In a novel, talk must have a purpose. A conversation shouldn’t be talk for the sake of filling time or space. Readers have only until the last page to spend with people in a book, so writers must not waste time. Dialogue is meant to reveal something useful, important to the story line—passion, motive, or confession.

Why Snappy? Characters must speak true to their nature. While snappy it might not describe the personality, it implies action, tension, perhaps a slip of the tongue or a revelation that might even surprise the character, but certainly should surprise the reader.

Clash of the Titles hopes you are intrigued by these little snippets of story and want to find out more about the books and authors. Stop by and you’ll get that chance! Meet the authors and leave comments to enter the drawing for a free book.
*Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and fifty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she has written dozens of feature newspaper stories, magazine articles, radio theater, and several inspirational novels to date. She is also the senior editor at Reflections in Hindsight.