Saturday, February 28, 2009

Withdrawal - For Your Information

I'm going through a horrible withdrawal. I'm coming to the library to use the computer. My telephones are out of order which means my Internet is out too. I'm cut off from the world--at least that's the way it feels. No email, no surfing the 'net, no FaceBook... no prayer warriors that I keep in touch with. No Louisiana Saturday Night interviews. I have two scheduled and they're great so I hope to post them the next two Saturdays.

Keep Eric in your prayers. I sent a text to Angie this morning asking how they were doing and her reply was... "Hanging in." I didn't feel encouraged so I'm popping over to her blog right now to see what 'hanging in' really means.

I won't be back here on this blog until the AT&T guys show up at my house--no later than six 0'clock on Monday. Grrrrrrrr.

Hope you're having a good weekend. Have a blessed Sunday!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CFBA Present Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth

Today, I'm thankful for so much: good friends and faithful prayer warriors. Thankful that God has touched Eric Dilmore and he's on the mend.
I'm thankful too that God gave me just the right title for my blog: Praise, Prayers and Observations. That title covers everything I have in my heart.
I'm also praising God for good writers of Christian Fiction. Last night I started reading Daisy Chain--I'm so behind on my reading!--and I was hooked from the get-go. Mary DeMuth has a wonderful writing style. A distinct voice. Every verb sings. Every sentence paints a picture.
Today is a hazy, overcast day. Perfect for curling up in a big overstuffed chair with Daisy Chain. I hope you'll get your own copy because I can promise you won't be disappointed.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Daisy Chain

Zondervan (March 1, 2009)


Mary DeMuth


Mary E. DeMuth is an expert in Pioneer Parenting. She enables Christian parents to navigate our changing culture when their families left no good faith examples to follow.

Her parenting books include Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture (Harvest House, 2007), Building the Christian Family You Never Had (WaterBrook, 2006), and Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House, 2005).

Mary also inspires people to face their trials through her real-to-life novels, Watching The Tree Limbs
(nominated for a Christy Award) and Wishing On Dandelions (NavPress, 2006).

Mary has spoken at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, the ACFW Conference, the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, and at various churches and church planting ministries. Mary and her husband, Patrick, reside in Texas with their three children. They recently returned from breaking new spiritual ground in Southern France, and planting a church.


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.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Daisy Chain, go HERE

Monday, February 23, 2009

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting...

Thank you, everyone, who have written to me privately to say you're praying for Eric. It has been a roller coaster ride, highs and lows, for this family. It has been amazing to see God at work. Unfortunately, there are some who can't see God's hand in things, some who see no hope. We should add those people to our prayers. Please go to Angie's blog and leave her an encouraging note. Don't just read her latest post, read all of them, and especially her prayer for Eric. I know she and Bob are completely, emotionally drained but God keeps refilling them with strength and courage.

I want the world to stop. That's the feeling I have. I just want everything to shut down so I can listen and feel and wait and cry and pray. Ever have that feeling? That you just need to stop all movement around you so you can take a breath, get your bearings. That's the way I feel when I think of Eric. That if things would just slow down a moment, if we'd all just hold our breath for just a second, he could catch up, gain ground. I guess that's my own anxiety. Every time I think of Angie and Eric--all the family--I have to beat that lump in my throat away or I'll burst into tears. I can't tell you how much Angie has come to mean to me in the past few days. We've attended writers' meetings together, worked on our conference committee together, had lunch with our 'lunch bunch' every Wednesday for almost a year... but these past thirteen plus days, I've grown to admire and love her, think of her as I would a daughter--or sister.

Please, please visit her blog and offer a prayer or words of encouragement. It would mean so much to all of us. And especially to Eric when he walks out of that hospital. I want him to know how much we've prayed, and how much we care for him and his family. I want him to know that he's one of God's beautiful miracles.

Click HERE for Angie's blog.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Answer is Always Jesus

How helpless parents feel when there is nothing they can do for their sick child, but pray. I know prayer is the ultimate answer and while we've hit our knees many times on behalf of our children, there's still that nagging feeling that we could do, should do, more. There's still that horrible tremble of fear going on inside us even though we've placed everything in God's hands. Sometimes I imagine God is shaking his head, pursing his lips and saying, "Ohhhh, Jessica, haven't you learned by now that I'm your answer? The only answer." He knows I know that... and believe it with all my heart, and I praise Him for answering my prayers even when I can't speak them aloud; for those times I can do nothing more than cry and beg, "please-God-please-God-please-God-please. .
Like I'm doing now for my friend Angie and her son Eric. You can read the latest update on Eric by visiting her blog here. Eric makes a little progress and then he'll have a bad night or morning. He's definitely keeping us on our toes with our prayers. This is definitely a time to pray without ceasing. 1 Thess. 5:17.

As it says in Matthew 17:20-21, 'For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 7:7,8 says "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

Ask. Seek. Knock. There are so many wonderful prayer warriors across the country praying for Eric and his family. I thank God for each of them.

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16

As believers, we know without doubt that God has the power to answer prayer. God has given each of us the gift of faith. Let's pray that whatever is standing in the way of total restoration for sweet Eric be removed. Let's pray for the doctors and medical professionals as they tend to Eric. Let's pray that God gives them wisdom, and especially gives wisdom and comfort to Angie and Bob as they sit and wait and pray for their son. Lord, guide them in every decision they make. And let's praise God that praying for Eric allows us to express the sincerest desire of our heart and soul--which is that this precious young man be touched and healed, and will speak of the miracle in days to come.

Thank you, Jesus, thy will be done.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

CFBA Presents Tender Grace by Jackina Stark

Just try to read Tender Grace without crying. The first sentence put a lump in my throat:
He died the way he always wanted to. As anyone would want to, I'd think--sitting in his recliner with something wonderful to read.
Within a few pages, the lump was gone and I was sobbing. This story rings true--too true, too heartbreaking, too close to something any one of us might experience. Jackina Start writes from her heart, with an honesty that makes the reader feel as if she (the reader) is Audrey Eaton, and that this story is happening to her.

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Tender Grace
Bethany House (February 1, 2009)
Jackina Stark


I have also spoken nationally and internationally at many retreats and seminars and enjoy running into many readers and former students. I have written frequently for both Christian Standard and Lookout, periodicals of Standard Publishing. Years ago I wrote two non-fiction books, published by College Press, but currently out of print. These days, I’m exploring fiction. My first novel, Tender Grace, will be released by Bethany House January 30, 2009, and a second, Things Worth Remembering, will be released in October, 2009. I’m working on new projects, including a third novel, as time permits. Whether speaking or writing, I love the opportunity to tell about Him whom Jesus called “Holy Father” and “the only true God.”

She lives in Joplin, Missouri with her husband, and she spends most of her free time doing is reading and writing. That is what she usually do when she's not teaching, enjoying the children and grandchildren, or sitting on the back porch drinking a Diet Coke and watching her husband till the garden!


Audrey Eaton awakes at three in the morning and gets up to retrieve her husband, Tom, from the recliner where he has fallen asleep watching a ball game. But when she enters the living room and looks at his gentle face in the soft lamp light, she knows their time together is over. Grief attacks her until all she can think about is how much she wants her old life back. Determined to find healing, she embarks on a journey to the one place Tom and she always intended to visit but never did. Along the way, she discovers, through shared experiences with friends old and new, the meaning of the "tender graces" God provides each and every day.

I've quit reading--even bestsellers, even the newspaper, even my Bible. I've also quit listening to music. This lack of appreciation for things I once loved is beginning to define me. More mornings than I can count, I say to myself before I open my eyes, "I don't want to do this." In the days shortly following Tom's death, that made sense, but what does it mean now? That I'm in trouble? One of the best qualities of the former me was thankfulness. As I was trying to sleep last night, needing Tom to be curled up behind me, his left arm slung across me, I realized to my horror that I couldn't remember the last time I was truly thankful. I think of a line from an old hymn: "Awake, my soul, and sing." I miss Tom. I also miss me. Determined to find healing, Audrey Eaton embarks on a trip to the one place she and her husband always intended to visit but never did. When things don't go as planned, will she embrace the unexpected graces that guide her journey?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Tender Grace, go HERE

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Louisiana Saturday Night - Fun Places and Groups

We have some great 'goings-on' in Louisiana. Festivals of all kinds. Surprisingly, we have a good number of literary happenings. Take a look:

The annual Jubilee Writers conference will be going on in April. This is a huge event that everyone raves about. I've never been, but I want to. Does that count?

The Society of Children's Book Writers has a Louisiana chapter. That's exciting. Check them out.

The North Louisiana has a wonderful conference every year. Check it out here. This is a Romance Writers of America chapter and they bring in some good editors and agents.

We have three other RWA chapters worth your while.
SOLA in New Orleans
Couer de Louisiane in Alexandria
There's also a great group called Writers' Guild of Acadian in Lafayette. Their link is broken so you might google them to try to learn more.

Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge

New Orleans Literary Institute

Take a look at A Studie in the Woods. This is a fascinating venture so explore the website.

And our very own Bayou Writers' Group in Lake Charles, LA. We have a great one-day conference each November and we have a good blogsite and website. Check us out.

I apologize for the ugly links but I couldn't attach them to the titles of the groups so... we'll just look tacky this post.
Louisiana has a festival for every occasion. Check us out at

Friday, February 13, 2009

Prayer Request

My friend Angie and her husband are sitting in ICU right this minute with their fourteen year old son. He has severe pneumonia. He's on a ventilator; he's stable but there isn't much improvement since yesterday. I'm asking those of you who are prayer warriors to please lift Eric to Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord, our Healer. And if you're not a praying person, please join us by sending good, hopeful thoughts their way.
Here is a pic of Eric on the right and his brother Andrew on the left.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Wish I Was A Songwriter

I wish I was a songwriter instead of . . . whatever I am.

Can you imagine flicking on the radio and hearing words that came from deep down in your soul making their way across the airwaves into the hearts of complete strangers? Can you imagine creating a melody so powerful, so beautiful it can instantly soothe a troubled mind, a wounded spirit, heal (at least encourage) a broken heart?
Can you imagine someone you didn't even know existed wanting to, needing to, aching to hear your song over and over and over again.

Words + Melody = ________________________ (fill in the blank for me.)

I love books but there are times I wish I was a songwriter.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Face-to-Face Critique Groups?

Do you have a face-to-face critique group? Tell me about it. Does your writers' organization have critiquing sessions? How do they work?

How many members in your group?
How often do you meet?
When you crit, do you read aloud?
Do you bring as much as a chapter or just a few pages?
Do you pass from left to right, read silently and make comments directly on the manuscript?
How long do you spend on one story, with each member?
How long does the entire critique meeting last?

Bayou Writers Group has approximately 18-25 active members who want to critique each other. We're a general writing group. We have everything from poetry to novels.

I want to hear your suggestions on how we can critique more effectively.
Five people to a group?
Moderator with rules and guidelines?
Pass out manuscripts to 'partners' a day or two before the meeting?

Talk to me. Leave nothing out. I want details and suggestions.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Louisiana Saturday Night with Betsy St. Amant

What a joy to introduce my young friend from north Louisiana. I've watched Betsy work hard to learn the craft, hone her skills, take the necessary steps to sell her manuscripts and get a super-agent. I enjoy watching a writer evolve into a novelist. Keeping an eye on Betsy's writing career was a pleasure, but I must have blinked because she has four books under her belt with more to come. I hope you enjoy our Q&A, and visit her website and blog to learn more about her books.

1. First, tell us about yourself and what kind of books you write.I’m a new mother, a wife of 4 ½ years, and an author! I write romance, though I have done a romantic suspense novel that my agent is still shopping around. We’ll see how that goes!

2) Tell us about your path to publication, how long you’ve been writing, how long it took you to publish.I’ve been writing in some form since I was about 7 years old. I have stories saved on old disks of my first attempts at writing. So funny to read back over now! I got
serious about writing around the age of eighteen and attended my first conference on writing/speaking called CLASServices. Fabulous author Gayle Roper was a small-group teacher there and encouraged me to join the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). That advice changed my life! I joined immediately, started learning the craft of writing and networking, and my first novel, MIDNIGHT ANGEL, was published with The Wild Rose Press in January 2007. Then in the fall of 2007 I signed with super-agent Tamela Hancock Murray of Hartline Literary, who soon after sold two of my romances to Steeple Hill Love Inspired! (July 2009 release and February 2010 release)

3) How much do you know about how your books are going to be structured, who the characters are, and what the plot is going to be, before you start writing, and how much comes to you during the writing process?Since I now submit proposals for new stories to my agent before writing the entire manuscript, I usually plan things out in advance. A proposal includes a story synopsis (a detailed summary of the entire book), therefore, I have to know what happens ahead of time—though there is still always room for surprises!

4) Are you a member of any writers’ group and how do you think they help you? I’m a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers ( and they have been invaluable to me as a writer. I’ve made the best friendships within this group, learned how to write for the Christian market, learned what the market is after, networked and found my current agent, attended conferences and bolstered my confidence, etc. etc. etc. I would advise any new authors to join ASAP! They won’t regret it.

5) What has been your biggest frustration within the publishing industry and how have you dealt with it? I guess every author would complain about the pace. Things happen SLOWLY in the publishing industry and there is no way around it. God teaches us patience that way I suppose. =) It can take weeks for you to hear back from your agent on a new proposal or manuscript (though my agent Tamela is great about that and usually responds much faster!) and then it takes even longer for them to hear back from the editor they submitted your proposal or manuscript to. Then if you get a contract, you’re still waiting for the thing to come in the mail, then you’re waiting for your check, then you’re waiting for your edits, then you’re waiting for your cover and then you’re waiting for your release…..etc. etc. etc. That’s why it’s so great to keep writing and keep getting more contracts so you’ve always got something going/circulating at any given time! No room for boredom.

6) Give us your best brainstorming tip or how you ‘grow’ and idea. Talk it over with a friend. You’d be surprised how many “DUH” moments I’ve had when I get stuck with a problem in my storyline and take the problem to a fellow writer. My crit buds and I have “fixed” things for each other too many times to count. It really helps to have that neutral, outside opinion from someone who understands why it matters and doesn’t think you’re crazy for worrying about it.

7) What do you dread the most when you sit down to write? Interruptions! Which is my life now with a newborn! Haha! My daughter is sooooo worth it, and I’d give up or do anything for her. But when its naptime, I hit that keyboard!!

8) If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were a beginning writer, what advice would you offer? Don’t compare yourself! It’s so hard in this industry, even in the Christian market, not to compare yourself with other authors, but it’s just not wise. Someone will always have more contracts than you, more published books than you, better covers than you, a more coveted publisher than you, a better sales record than you…When you’re starting out, it can seem especially daunting because you think “I’ll never get there!” I would tell myself “don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, worry about what YOU are doing and why you are doing it.”

9) Do you have a critique group? How would you advise beginning writers about critiquing each other? If you don't have one, who were your early readers and how did they help you?I don’t have an official crit group but I do have two fellow author friends that read my stories for me and help me out. One friend reads my work chapter by chapter as I write it, the other reads my books in full and it’s a great system!

Two pieces piece of advice for new authors about critting: One is to be kind and constructive. Try to give as many compliments as you do criticism, or at least close to it. It really makes the difference for a new author’s moral! And secondly, crit within your genre (it really does you no good to get writing advice/crits from a Sci-Fi author when you write sweet romances!) and make sure the people in your crit group have a variety of experience. No blind-leading-the-blind scenarios or no one will ever get anywhere.

10) Many writers describe themselves as "character" or "plot" driven writers. Which are you? Did you strive to be that kind of writer or did it come naturally for you? I’m more character driven, I believe, and it’s just how I always have been. I see my characters before I see situations. I always struggle with the “stakes” of a story – the urgency that keeps readers turning pages. I tend to focus more on the motivations and hearts of the characters and what their circumstances mean to them personally, than I do their actual circumstances. Which isn’t necessarily good, because you need a healthy balance of both to have a great story! (but that’s why crit buds are so very valuable, they help you brainstorm those stakes and make sure you have enough!)

11) You have a couple of different publishers. Tell us about them, how you got their attention, and how they differ? I’ve been published with The Wild Rose Press and am contracted for two stories now with Steeple Hill Love Inspired. (I also write for an online magazine, Crosswalk, and have had a story published in a compilation book by Tyndale, but I won’t focus on that here) The Wild Rose Press is a small POD (print on demand) press that pays royalties, but no advances, and is relatively new to the publishing world. They also print e-books. I found them when an editor there requested submissions through the ACFW email loop, and submitted. I had a great experience with them and it was a wonderful first stepping stone into the publishing world! The Wild Rose Press doesn’t require an agent to submit to them, so there are more opportunities for authors starting out in that regard. But the marketing falls solely on the author, and since it is POD, it is harder to get your book into actual bookstores—so most of your sales come through Amazon or other online catalogues.

After acquiring my agent in fall 2007, we decided to broaden my horizons a bit, and she sold two of my romances to Steeple Hill. Steeple Hill Love Inspired is a division of Harlequin, a well established publisher that’s been around for a very long time and has great sales records. Both publishers were wonderful to work with and I look forward to continuing to grow in my career.

12) How do you juggle a baby, a husband, a home, marketing and writing?
You must be incredibly organized. I am definitely a Type A, organized, detailed freak! I look around sometimes and wonder myself how everything gets done! Somehow I manage to work a full time job, be around for my husband, be there for my daughter in the evening, keep the laundry/dishes/housework going, and write. WHEW. Multi-tasking is a must! I think it’s by the grace of God I don’t whirl myself into exhaustion. But the good part of being so busy is that everything I am doing, I love. I love caring for my family, I love writing, I love keeping things neat and clean in our home, etc. (I don’t always love my job, but that’s a different story! Haha) So, loving what I do definitely makes the craziness easier to handle.

13) What’s your greatest publicity/marketing tip and does promotion come naturally to you? I believe online promotion is a must in today’s society. I have a presence on Shoutlife, Facebook and Myspace, and I KNOW that effort has earned new readers and friends! Promotion is pretty easy for me, because I’m a naturally friendly person and I am comfortable on a computer and know my way around those types of websites. It’s hard at times because I feel like through promoting, I’m bragging on myself—but I know any success I’ve had is by the grace of God alone! He gave me my talent and I am simply seeking to use it for Him.

14) What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I love kickboxing, reading, watching movies, and shopping. I’m a shoe girl! And of course I spend every moment I can with my baby girl and my hubby.

15) What kind of research went into the writing of your books? Do you research as you go or do you need to have it all out there before you start writing? I research as I go. My release in July, RETURN TO LOVE, is set in New Orleans and I had a blast pulling up pics from my last visit there, talking on the phone and through email with various workers at various stores, businesses, etc. At one point, I even called the famous Gumbo Shoppe in the French Quarter and asked the hostess that answered the phone “are your floors concrete or tile?” Haha. I could just picture her looking down on instinct before answering. Research can be a lot of fun and with today’s internet and Google access, there really is no excuse for not getting things right!16) Tell us how to keep up with your books, what's next for you and anything else you want us to know. Readers can always find me at and or email me at betsystamant (at) yahoo (dot) com. Next is my first release with Steeple Hill Love Inspired in July 2009 – RETURN TO LOVE. The sequel, yet to be titled at this point, will be released February 2010. Hopefully I’ll have more titles to share with you soon!

Check out these titles by Betsy St. Amant!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What I'm Doing These Days

I've been so consumed with preparation for this Saturday's BWG meeting, that I haven't given any thought to blogging. Guess that really means I haven't had anything to say. Wrong!

I've finished Chapter One of a new novel and I'm so excited about it. I'm moving on to chapter Two. I have 100 rough pages and probably should go forward with the last 100, but you know me... gotta stop and revise before I can move on. My downfall.

I've got several really good interviews lined up. Louisiana authors are everywhere and I enjoy meeting them.

I can drive through town and point to places on my right and my left, and honestly say, "My daughter's resume is there, and there, and there, and there." Hopefully, someone will hire her soon. Please?

American Idol is back and I'm excited. Look at the hopefuls here. I thought I might have to forego this year if 'Bikini Girl' moved on to the next level. Whew! That was close.

I've written three poems, and received an encouraging rejection on one of them. I've submitted a memoir-type story to the Narrative Magazine contest. This periodical is so good. Check it out.

Oh yeah, I'm back to my roots and feelin' like a writer again. That happens when I follow my instinct and not the crowd.

Tell me what you're doing these days.