The Phoenix Rattler


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A rattlesnake is a fascinating (albeit formidable) creature. A mixture of strength, mystery, beauty and stealth, this unpredictable reptile has earned the awe with which humans regard it. For when least expected, it strikes. And its effects on the subject are not soon forgotten.

The Christian Writers of the West (CWOW) are in search of entries for our Phoenix Rattler contest. Stories that live up to the legacy of the rattlesnake. Tales that strike the heart of the reader and leave indelible impressions on the mind.

Are you an unpublished* novelist with such a story? One characterized by strength, mystery, history, or love? Maybe even danger and suspense?

You are invited to enter the first fifteen pages of your unpublished novel in The Phoenix Rattler. rattler

The contest opens for entries on August 1, 2014. For more information, please click here. Finalists in the contest will have their entries judged by prominent editors and agents in the Christian publishing industry. The grand prize winner will receive a Kindle Fire HD or a gift certificate of like value.

Send in your entry, and discover if your story has bite!

*Unpublished fiction writers, or those who have not published in the last five years. See site for more details.

A Review of Vow Unbroken by Caryl McAdoo


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Vow Unbroken

Widowed at a young age and left with the care of her daughter and nephew, Susannah Baylor has grown accustomed to fending for herself on her Texas farm. When a local buyer attempts to cheat her out of a good price for her cotton, Susannah finds herself in unfamiliar–and unwanted–territory. She must hitch her mules and take her cotton to port, and she must solicit the help of a shiftless bachelor named Henry to get there.

In Caryl McAdoo’s Vow Unbroken, readers are taken on an adventurous journey through historic Texas, where danger and trouble lurk along the trail, and personality clashes create enough spark to ignite attraction.

McAdoo’s characterization is excellent in this debut novel. Susannah’s headstrong sassiness and Henry’s wise patience make for great romantic tension and enhance the situations of conflict throughout the story. The children Levi and Becky, and Henry’s faithful dog Blue, work together to make this traveling band loveable and interesting.

Susannah’s character is realistic. She has both flaws and positive traits. Her love for the children and her drive to accomplish her goal make her an admirable character that many women can relate to. As a young woman who widowed shortly after marrying, however, she has little experience with people who are not like her. She’s quick to resist advice, and carries some biases inherited from childhood. But her experiences along the journey, and her desire to please God, help Susannah learn and grow throughout the story.

What she cannot change, however, is the vow she made to herself and to God to never marry again without her father’s consent. And of all the trials she faces on the trail, her vow–and keeping it unbroken–become the greatest.

McAdoo’s debut novel was a joy to read, and I gave it five out of five stars.

With Eyes Set Ahead


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Writing is…well…hard.

The temptation to quit lurks at the crosswalk of every failure, around the corner of any rejection, and along the alleys of each hard to write story.

It’s not when the temptation confronts me, but when I actually entertain it, that I’m given a way out of the temptation with a message that speaks exactly to what I’m wrestling with.

God gives me just enough to take my eyes off the corners and alleys of life, and to set them ahead on the path I’ve been called to walk.

Maybe you’re tempted to quit too. And maybe, like me, knowing that it’s meant to be hard is the motivation you need to keep at it.

Blog Hop – My Writing Life


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I’ve been asked to participate in a blog hop. The assignment is to answer four questions about my writing, then select three other authors to answer the same questions on their blogs within the next couple of weeks. Be sure to see the links to their blogs at the end of this post and find out more about these wonderful writers. A huge thanks to Dana McNeely, president of Christian Writers of the West, for inviting me to participate! You can find her answers to these same questions on the Christian Writers of the West blog.

What are you working on?

I am finishing up my second novel, which is actually the third book in the series I am working on. It’s a contemporary romance about a Major League baseball player who’s managed to maintain a low-key lifestyle–until now. Of all the recent changes in his life, three women prove the most complicating–a sports reporter, a sports agent, and the near-dead woman found in his home.

I’m also a third of the way through the second novel in this series, which follows the baseball player’s twin brother to Guatemala, where cartels are terrorizing the countryside for control of the drug trade. He meets and falls in love with a woman who does everything she can to avoid him. He’s determined to find out why, not knowing that the answer will cost him.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

My motto is “Fiction might not be real, that doesn’t mean it has to be unrealistic. There’s no room for perfect people in my stories.” Add to that sentiment “perfect lives, perfect situations, perfect outcomes”…you get the picture. Only God is perfect, so I’m not afraid to put my characters in real life, messy situations that they need a perfect God to help resolve. I’m also not afraid to diversify. My characters come from mixed backgrounds, races, classes, etc. You won’t find many novels with a main couple of two different races, where their racial difference is not the topic of the book. You’ll find such a thing in my writing. I try to stay true to each story put on my heart, choosing characters, setting, and backdrop that strengthen, not distract from, the plot. My main concern is honoring God by writing it to the best of my ability. I worry less about making it “fit.”

How does your writing process work?

Okay, real life again. I’m a stay-at-home mom. I have two 9-year-olds and a four-year-old empress. So…you can’t set a watch by my writing schedule. Sometimes I sit in the corner of a karate dojo with a laptop propped on my knees, other times I’m tapping in the notes section of my phone from the passenger seat of my truck while my husband drives to Costco. Being a night owl helps. Typically I write after I’ve put the kids to bed, spent time with my husband, and cleaned the house. (A nighttime clean is the most rewarding; it lasts more than five minutes.) So it’s not unusual for me to be typing and backspacing away from about 1 to 3 (or 5) in the morning. Every now and then I’ll pop into a Starbucks at opening time on a Saturday and stay until I’ve reached a word count goal. Ultimately I have to make time to write around my family’s schedule. Depending on what’s realistic any given day, I’ll set a time goal or a word count goal.

I’m also a pantser. I have a general idea of what’s going to happen in a story, and I make notes and loose (very loose) outlines. But for the most part the story unfolds as I’m writing it.

Why do you write what you do?

The stories I write originate in different ways: people watching, past experiences, “what if” scenarios, etc. Only the ones that continue to resurface–those that produce this sort of burning in my chest–actually make it on the list to become a full length novel. Writing is not just hard, it can be downright torture sometimes. But to quit would be to waste a gift I’ve been given and to choose not to honor God with it. That’s a choice I’ll never make. Plus, I have a suspicion that if I give up before that (ever-growing) list has been completed, I’d be subjected for a lifetime to small, relentless voices whispering “write me, write me, write me.” So I write.

Tag, you’re It!

Robin W. Pearson is a gifted writer who is also a stay-at-home mom and homeschooler. Her debut novel A Long Time Comin’ (formerly titled Women & Children First) was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest. She has done editing and article writing, and currently blogs about faith, parenting, and writing. She lives with Eddie, her husband of almost 20 years, and their seven children. Within the next week or so you can find her answers to these questions on her blog Mommy, Concentrated, where you’ll also find relatable stories about parenting with a focus on Jesus.

C. Joy Allen is a recent finalist in Clash of the Titles’ Olympia writing contest. She writes contemporary fiction and romance. She completed her first novel in January 2013, and has plans for another. When she’s not writing, she’s enjoying her marriage of fifteen years and counting, and homeschooling her four children. She also loves volunteering for American Christian Fiction Writers where she is a member. Within the next couple of weeks you can find her answers to these questions on her blog To See Joy, where you’ll also find other enjoyable blog posts about faith, writing, and life in general.

Ruth Douthitt – In 2004, author Ruth A. Douthitt completed The Dragon Forest, which was picked up by OakTara Publishing in 2008 and released in April 2011. Ruth currently teaches Writing/Language Arts at an elementary school. She enjoys running, gardening, and drawing in addition to writing. She lives in Arizona with her husband. Within the next couple of weeks you can find her answers to these questions on her blog The Writer’s Pen, where you’ll also see some of her amazing artwork and find access to her books.


Risky Embrace


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I saved a life today.

Not intentionally, and not of the most precious variety, but a valuable life all the same: that of a fat, feisty lizard.

He lives in my backyard. And our relationship is…uh…complicated. (A vague adjective, missing all the negative connotations applicable to our feeble ties, but I’ll go with it.)

See, I don’t like him, but I’m glad he lives here.

He enjoys his home, but he’s no fan of me either.

So we do this little dance around each other. The steps should be fairly simple. He roams the yard at his leisure, eating bugs and diminishing the scorpion population. The backyard is his kingdom. Only when I glide onto the scene, he’s supposed to dip into the shadows.

Apparently human kings aren’t the only royal types to resist abdication, no matter how temporary.

He’s dashed past my feet a number of times while I’ve watered jalapeños or clipped rosemary. He’s perched on the wall and watched me with what I’m sure was a superior lizard scowl on his face. He even accosted guests once, running at them on hind legs with his mouth gaped wide like he’d swallow them whole. That little episode propelled my six-foot-three nephew over the fence in an amazing display of gymnastics.

Bad lizard! Bad, bad lizard!

Despite his nuisance status, I was more than a little upset this afternoon when I found him floating upside down in the pool. The sight of his sea-blue underbelly bobbing under the hot sun sent me screaming–water hose tossed aside–to fetch my husband. (Critters bring out my inner chump. Don’t judge me.)

As I waited for hubby to do the honors, it dawned on me what the reptile’s absence would mean. More bugs. Infested plants. A lost relationship.

Come again?

Apart from my awareness of Lizard’s usefulness, I didn’t realize until I thought I’d lost him that I’d grown a bit attached to the little sucker. But before I could work up a decent drift down Sentimental River, remembering with fondness how he used to bask under the morning rays (cue the music and a slow motion close-up of Lizard lifting his head to the sky), my husband brought the news.

Lizard, once scooped onto a flat pool-screen, righted himself with a fair amount of indignation, then perched on the edge to await royal transport back to land.

He’d floated motionless on his back to conserve his energy. That, and me finding him, saved his life. And I’m glad he lives.

Lizard serves a purpose here. Though I don’t always approve of how he goes about it, I appreciate the fruit of it. Less scorpions equals less danger. And he’s become a sort of wild pet, in a that-doesn’t-mean-I’ll-be-petting-him sort of way.

Sometimes the things that keep us on our toes or riled up now and again, are the very sources God uses to work good in our lives. We resent it when we really ought to give thanks for the difference it’s making.

Maybe it’s inconvenient yet improves the quality of life. (I hate that Lizard zips by and startles me, yet I love that his appetite for bugs lets my plants thrive. Thank You, God, for Lizard.)

Or perhaps the effect is more internal. (I’m terrified of reptiles–okay, any creeping thing–but I’ve grown in courage since Lizard’s been around. Thank You, God, for Lizard.)

If we learn to embrace the difficult–to be content in all situations (Phil 4:11-12)–we risk tapping into all measure of blessing and growth and depth of character God has planned for us.

And that’s a risk worth taking.

He’s still an ill-behaved, cranky, arrogant, bad, bad lizard. But he’s my lizard, and I’ve finally embraced him.

Your turn. Do you have a thing/situation in your life that’s less than ideal, but you see the benefit of embracing it?



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My oldest daughter wears glasses…sort of.

She has a prescription. And a set of lenses matching that prescription. And a nifty little case to put them in.

It’s a fight, however, to get the glasses out of their felt-coated den to perch stylishly upon her pretty little nose. They spend a lot of their time left at school, buried in her backpack, or “lost” in some obscure location that reeks of premeditation.

Because she has only mild astigmatism, she doesn’t need to wear them all the time. But not wearing them all the time and not wearing them ever are two different cookies.

I try to enlist the help of her optometrist to reiterate the importance of her glasses. If she wears them while she’s young and the condition is mild, her eyesight can be corrected. But if she doesn’t, she runs the risk of worsening her condition and needing eyeglasses on a more consistent, permanent basis.

He knows this. He’s the one who told it to me. Yet, year after year, he caves to the pleading look of nine-year-old doe eyes and the sound of a soft, shy voice, and mumbles something to the effect of, “Oh, I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

Avoiding the look I’m giving him, he laughs and talks with her about school like we’re on a social visit, only to side-speak with me later about different ways to get her to wear them at least when she’s reading or doing schoolwork.

So the need is there. But he chooses to stay cool doctor and leave the villainy to mom.

So villain I become…and private eye for lost lenses, and insurance rep for broken frames. Some days I explain it all over again, other times it’s “the look” and a simple, “Glasses. Now.” That gets results, though it doesn’t make me popular.

I’m sure my ratings would rise if I gave in and let her go glasses-free. Today anyway. In the future, if she did indeed graduate to a more permanent need for optical assistance, she’d regret that I didn’t stand my ground, maybe even resent me for it.

Because at the end of the day, it’s my job as a parent to do what’s best for her, and that’s not always what makes her happy or lets her feel good.

I imagine her older, walking out of a shopping mall (with a dagger in her pocket and a can of pepper spray in her purse like Mama taught her). She’ll take in the scenery around her with pristine clarity–without glasses. Not because she’s not wearing them, but because she no longer needs them. She won’t just see clearly then, she’ll understand too.

And she’ll thank me for it.


Twice the Miracle


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I could tell by the look in the nurse’s eyes she wasn’t sure I understood what she was saying. We stared at each other, she with one brow lifted in question for some sign of comprehension on my end; me drifting inside myself with a host of “what if’s” tumbling through my mind.

My twins, due in two months, would be delivered in a matter of hours. The medical staff had done their best to keep them in, and now they had no choice but to take them out surgically.

In part I was relieved. My son, whose water had burst five days earlier, and whose heart stopped with every contraction, couldn’t possibly survive much longer. But the nurse wanted me to acknowledge the risks of such an early delivery: long-term disabilities, breathing difficulties, jaundice, stunted growth, brain defects…and very possibly death. My husband squeezed my hand and spoke for me. Yes we understood. Yes we were prepared.

But no…I wasn’t.

I remember feeling so cold that the blanket tucked around my swollen body was about as effective as it could’ve been warming a block of ice. A new mother, never having held one of my children, I wasn’t at all prepared for the worst. In truth I wanted nothing to do with it.

In my mind’s eye I saw my children alive and healthy, growing and happy. From the first toddled steps to the first days of school; then on to camping trips, family vacations, and game days. That’s what I was prepared for. My heart, which others wanted me to coax into being ready for anything, was defiantly unyielding in its loyalty to the original plan. Come what may, problems and all, I wanted those babies.

But soon enough, as with every other time when my will has rushed to the frontlines of battle and tossed it’s proud locks, words buried in my core began to whisper what I knew all along to be true. It wasn’t my choice. And no amount of will could change that. Whether either twin would suck that first breath of God’s given air into their lungs, or pass quietly on to the call of their Maker, was out of my hands.

I had to lay before Him the desire of my heart – that He let my babies live – then lay my will flat-faced on the floor in submission to His, and accept whatever He chose for me. And in all that still know that He loves me, He is for me, and He is now and forever will be my King. As soon as I did that I had peace about the entire situation, and was finally prepared in the way the doctors and nurses wanted me to be prepared.

What strange creatures we are! What is it in us that makes us automatically think when we’re willing to let go of something we desperately want, it means we’ve already lost it? For at that time, though I still had hope, and I knew beyond doubt that God could not only let them live but make them completely healthy, I was internally cringing in preparation for loss.

I look back on that now, nine years which seem to have passed as quickly as nine glorious sunsets, and I can imagine Him looking down at me on that rather hard, sterile rollaway. His eyes full of compassion as He listened to the fears suppressed beneath my brave exterior. He knew I would love Him no matter what – perhaps He just wanted me to know it too – then He blessed me with two completely healthy, beautiful babies.



My twins – His twins – turned nine recently. And as they reminisce over the fun they had bringing in the “big nine,” I sit back and look at them in celebration. Not just celebration for their lives, but also celebration of the worthy, mighty Father who gave them life. He who did not spare His own Son, spared both my son and my daughter.

And He is now, and will forever be, my King.

Walk it Out


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feet walking

El interés tiene pies.

It’s a Spanish phrase that often comes back to haunt me when I find myself making excuses not to do something. The literal translation? Interest has feet.

Who has What?!?” you ask. Stay with me, the meaning is a bit more profound.

Many of us have approached a prospect or task at one time or another with the following attitude:

I’d like to be able to, BUT…

I wish I could help you, BUT…

I need to finish writing that today, BUT…

We express an intention, then chase it with a determination not to do the thing. El interés tiene pies says if you really wanted to do it, you’d drop the excuses and get it done.

We might argue that it’s not always that simple. But most times, it really is. We excuse ourselves time and again out of opportunities and obligations, sometimes for fear of failure or lack of passion, other times out of sheer convenience. Yet the less we make excuses and the more we act, the more impact we have on the world and those around us.

If one is to live up to one’s purpose, one must be purposeful.

El interés tiene pies.

Put some feet on that torso of a task, and get to stepping.

Dare to Live the Dream


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red fernsing down

Every dream has a starting point. My love of reading, and the eventual desire to write, began in the pages of two childhood classics.

Where the Red Fern Grows is the first book to ever make me weep. Not cry. Weep. Hysterically. As if my house had just gone up in flames and every family member, friend, acquaintance, and celebrity crush perished inside.

Sing Down the Moon sobered me to the cruel realities of human nature, yet inspired hope. And it stayed with me, dug a sort of niche in my heart where I knew I’d always carry these people who never existed.

That niche grew and grew, and over time I began making up my own people to put in there. That they’re climbing out and into their own stories is a kindness of God I don’t have the words to describe. By His grace, my dreams are stirring to life.

The process is slow and the work is hard, but dreams are worth the effort. Otherwise they stay lofty notions in the head and passing flutters of the heart.

Your turn: What’s your dream and what inspired it?



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