Monday, December 21, 2009

I've Got Some Questions

Did you watch the Survivor finale?
Did you agree with the voting for "Sole Survivor"?
Did you listen closely to the questions asked of the three finalists?
Do you remember the three words Russell said described him in the real world? (honor, integrity, loyalty)
Can those words truly describe his character if he could put them on a shelf for a chance at $1,000,000?
What does that say about a society that thinks he should have won?
Will anyone ever trust him in business again?
What legacy does this leave for his children? (Honor, integrity and loyalty are great except when you want to win $1,000,000?)
Will he ever turn his reputation around? What will it take?

Am I thinking too much?
Should I have bothered to watch the show?
Does anyone really care?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

An the Winner Is. . .

Remember the contest a couple weeks ago? Well, we finally had the drawing. I need to say I'm sorry to my family and friends who left messages. I remained honest and unbiased. Every name of those who left a comment were written on slips of paper and I had Phil draw. Charity is the winner. Congratulations! Your name has been added to the drawing for that beautiful Christmas display. In the meantime, I'll be contacting you privately about sending you your copy of  Christmas Miracles.
Abundant blessings!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Time to Laugh

When things get tough or sad, I find that laughter is soothing to my soul. Well, this past week has been one of those times so I looked for something funny. I discovered (or rediscovered) some great You Tube videos. If you are a fan of the Back to the Future series, you'll get a kick out of these. Enjoy!

This is for all my adult ESL students. 

And this is for my Project students--see how easy Haiku poetry can be?

And for all parents with kids in sports.

Laughter is a good medicine.
Abundant blessings!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'm Back!

I know, it's only been a few days but I have something to share. Michelle Gregory interviewed me for her blog. If you are the least bit curious, follow this link.

Abundant blessings!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Christmas Miracles, an Interview and a Chance at a Prize

I am so excited to be able to post today! My story, Ian's Christmas Gift, is included in a wonderful collection of Christmas stories titled Christmas Miracles. Below find out about the terrific writers who've pulled this collection together as Marley Gibson interviews Cecil Murphey. Enjoy the interview and then leave a comment for a chance at a lovely prize--check out the picture and instructions below. Oh, and before I forget, Abundant blessings and Merry Christmas!

Award-winning writer Cecil Murphey is the author or co-author of 114 published books, including the NY Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Dr. Ben Carson). He’s also the author of When Someone You Love Has Cancer and When God Turned Off the Lights, both 2009 releases. Murphey’s books have sold millions and have given hope and encouragement to countless readers around the world. For more information, visit

Marley Gibson is a young adult author whose first published books in the Sorority 101 series were released by Penguin Group in 2008 under the pen name of Kate Harmon. She has a new Ghost Huntress series with Houghton Mifflin written under her own name. She can be found online at

Many ordinary people experience Christmas miracles—those special moments during the season of giving and receiving when Christmas becomes more than just a holiday. In Christmas Miracles (St. Martin’s Press, October 2009), Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson share the stories of those who have recognized the special moments that transcend daily experience and transform their lives.

In these stories, people overcome desperate situations through a miraculous twist of fate—all during the most wonderful time of the year. A young boy sits down to read a Christmas book and discovers that his learning disability has vanished. A woman stranded in a blizzard is rescued by a mysterious stranger who she suspects is an angel. And a woman living far from home gets an answer to her prayer in the form of an unexpected gift.

Bestselling author Cecil Murphey says, “We all face discouraging times, whether it's the lack of money, being stuck on a road in a snowstorm, feeling stress, or being hungry and homeless. But God's help is available. I want readers to see that miracles do happen—sometimes simple, unexpected blessings or those that involve the supernatural. We start by asking, and in strange and wonderful ways God tiptoes into our dark nights; we experience renewed joy in life and witness God in action through people and unexpected events.”

Interview with Cecil “Cec” Murphey

by Marley Gibson

Co-authors of Christmas Miracles, from St. Martin’s Press

I am extremely privileged to have the opportunity today to talk to my friend and co-author, Cecil “Cec” Murphey, and to chat about our upcoming book, Christmas Miracles.

Marley: Cec, thanks for spending some time with me today.

Cec: Marley, it's great that you could take time away from important things like making a living to spend a little time with me.

Marley: I’m so jazzed about our Christmas Miracles book that’s coming out soon. I’ve had a lot of questions from folks wanting to know how we met, what brought us together, etc. So, I thought we’d do a back and forth on how it all came to be. Of course, I have to give props to our amazing agent and friend, Deidre Knight, for bringing us together. For those of you who don’t know, Cec co-authored the runaway New York Times bestselling hit 90 Minutes in Heaven with Don Piper.

Cec: I have to say thanks to Deidre Knight as well. Between Deidre and my assistant, Twila Belk, I've been able to sell quite a few books. 90 Minutes in Heaven has been my big book. I'm also proud of a book I wrote in 1990 called Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. The book has never been out of print and has hit close to four million in sales. Early this year, Cuba Gooding Jr. starred in the made-for-TV film version.

Marley: That’s amazing! You are truly prophetic and definitely “the man behind the words.” Now, people ask how we teamed up. Sadly, there was a personal tragedy that brought Cec and me together as friends.

Cec: True. In early 2007, our house burned and our son-in-law died. Aside from the grief over Alan, we lost everything. Deidre and Jan, my-then-assistant, sent the word out of our tragedy without telling me. I'm immensely grateful for every gift people sent, but I probably wouldn't have admitted I needed help and wouldn't have asked. They taught me how much we need other people.

Marley: Deidre put out a call to other clients of The Knight Agency, to help Cec and his family out in any way in their time of need. At the time, my company was moving and we were cleaning house. We had a ton of office supplies that we were either going to throw away or give to some of the charities the company worked with. I got my boss’ permission to send a large care package to Cec…full of office supplies for him to re-stock his writer’s office. You name it…post-its, staples, paper clips, pens, pencils, markers, white out, ruler, scissors, paper, notebooks, notepads, envelopes, a laptop case, tape, glue, folders, binder clips…etc. A veritable potpourri of office delights. I was hoping that it would help Cec have a sense of getting his office back so he could keep working.

Cec: Marley's gift was the most unexpected I received. We hadn't met, although Deidre Knight had spoken of her many times and kept telling me she was wonderful. I wonder if you can imagine what it was like for me to open that box from someone I didn't know. I saw all those practical things for my office and yelled for my wife. I felt as if I were reading a first-grade book. "Look! Look and see! Oh, look!" I was overwhelmed by the gift and even more to receive it from a stranger. Those supplies were the most practical gift anyone could have given me. I'm still using black paper clips and red folders from Marley.

Marley: Awww…thanks, Cec! I didn’t have to think twice about doing it. Writing is such a solitary “sport,” but the writing community always astounds me with how they help their own. Not long after that, over plates of spinach and Gouda omelets, Deidre introduced me to Cec in person and I was thrilled to finally meet the man behind the words. Deidre knew we needed to work on a project together and thus began our brainstorming. What did you think of that first meeting, Cec, and cooking up the idea to work together?

Cec: Deidre and I had already spoken about a Christmas book and I had some idea about what it should contain, but nothing had come together. One day Deidre told me that Marley was coming to visit her and she wanted us to work together on a Christmas project. Marley and I talked before we ate and again during the meal. Everything felt right to me. I knew my strengths and Marley knew hers (and Deidre knew both of us). Everything clicked. Marley, a far better networker than I am, immediately sent out the word for submissions. Within days she had almost four times more than we could use. (She read every one of them!)

Marley: I was truly impressed with the submissions we received and it was hard narrowing it down to the ones we chose for the book. We’re fortunate to have such a go-getter agent in Deidre Knight. Cec, can you share how the whole idea of Christmas Miracles came about and what you thought of the project originally?

Cec: For me, it actually started while I was on the rapid-rail train from the Atlanta airport when I listened to teens talk about Christmas and it was mostly about gifts. I had the idea then, but nothing really came together. Months later when Deidre I and had a meeting, she brought up the idea of a compilation and mentioned my working with Marley. I've been Deidre Knight's client since 1997 and I've learned to listen carefully when she comes up with an idea. I said yes before she gave me all the information.

Marley: That’s the truth about Deidre! Getting back to those submissions, I want to say we got more than two hundred submissions for Christmas Miracles. So many wonderful stories to read through and select for the book. It was a challenge to pick and choose which ones were right for the book, but I loved every minute of it. After I chose the entries that would go into the book, Cec toiled long hours editing the works for a unified voice. What was the biggest challenge you found in the editing process, Cec?

Cec: I've been a ghostwriter and collaborator for twenty-plus years and this was a switch to give the book a unified voice—which was mine. It would have been easier to stay with each writer's voice, but the book—like many compilations—would have been uneven in tone and quality. When I discussed this via email with our delightful editor, Rose Hilliard, she was (to my surprise) familiar with my work. She told me she liked the warm tone of my writing and that I don't waste words. "That's the voice we want," she said. It still wasn't easy, but it was an exciting challenge. After Marley and I agreed on the stories and gave them that unified voice, our editor pulled six contributions. Although different, Rose felt they were too similar to other stories.

Marley: Can you give our readers a preview of the book? A favorite story perhaps…or one that moved you to tears? (I have to say the little boy who wished for nothing but to be able to read a book all the way through because of his stutter had me bawling when I read the submission.)

Cec: That's not fair! I liked them all. The one that touched me most, however, is the last story in the book, "Sean's Question." We had almost finished the book and I was teaching at a conference in Florida. I felt we needed one strong story at the end. Despite all the good ones, I didn't feel fully satisfied to conclude the book. On the last day of the conference, I met a conferee named Sara Zinn for a consultation. As we talked, I mentioned Christmas Miracles and that I still needed one more story. "I have a Christmas story," she said and told me about Sean. As I listened, tears filled my eyes—but, being the macho type I am, I was sure it was an allergy. Sara wrote the story, and it became the one I sought.

Marley: Oh yes…that one is an emotional one all right. It was meant to be in the book because of how you met at the conference. Now, you and I have both had challenges in our lives that others might have found too much to take, but we are both very strong in our faith and our relationship with God. How do you think Christmas Miracles is going to help others feel closer to God and experience His miracles in their own lives?

Cec: Awareness and appreciation are the two things I want readers to grasp. Awareness means for them to realize that they're never totally alone in life. Those unexpected, out-of-the-ordinary events remind us of that. Appreciation means to be thankful for what we already have. Too often, and especially at Christmas, we focus on what we'd like or what is supposed to make us happy. Christmas Miracles gently reminds readers of both.

Marley: In this day and age when our country is fighting two wars, unemployment is high, and a lot of people have a lack of hope and faith for their future, what do you want readers of the book to take away from Christmas Miracles and how can the stories in our book help provide comfort to those struggling?

Cec: I want readers to see that miracles do happen—sometimes simple, unexpected blessings or those that involve the supernatural (as in one of Marley's stories). I call myself a serious Christian. For me, the world's greatest miracle began with the birth of Jesus. Regardless of a person's religion, this book encourages readers to think about life during the Christmas season and see that life as more than gifts and celebrations. It's also a reminder that God loves us and hears our needy cries.

Marley: Beautifully put, Cec, and I couldn’t agree with you more. Can we share what’s next after Christmas Miracles? J

Cec: Why it's the Cec and Marley show, of course. Because of our go-getter agent and our enthusiastic editor, we've already received thumbs up for The Christmas Spirit. This will be stories of people who express the true spirit of Christmas by acts of love and kindness, for release in the fall of 2011.

Marley: And I can’t wait to start working on that project! Thank you so much for your time, Cec, and answering my questions. It was a privilege and honor to work with you and I look forward to our future projects together. You’ve helped me along during a trying time and I appreciate your friendship and support.

Cec: I liked this project because Marley had to send out the word, collect submissions, read them, and discard the weaker ones. I get to see only the better-written stories. (Don't tell her that I have the better job.) Although I mentioned only one story, all of those in the book touched me because of the poignancy of their situations and the miraculous answers. I won't say the stories increased my faith, but they increased my appreciation for the delightful mix of human need and divine intervention.

Marley: Thanks again, Cec! God Bless! And to our readers, please be sure to pick up a copy of CHRISTMAS MIRACLES, out October 13, 2009 from St. Martin’s Press. It’s a great stocking stuffer or gift basket filler. We hope you, too, will discover your own Christmas Miracles in your life.

Leave a comment for a chance to win the Christmas Miracles gift basket.
Wouldn’t you love to take home this amazing basket filled with Christmas goodies galore? This amazing gift basket contains everything you’ll need to make your Christmas holiday a success. Inside you’ll find a stocking stuffed with hard candies, kitchen towels and oven mitts, seasonal potpourri, holiday-colored candles, stuffed animals that talk, snowman candle, nutcrackers, Christmas ornaments, gift bags, gift tags, gift bows, ornament hangers, Christmas cookie cutters, a Merry Christmas doorstopper, a picture frame, Christmas cards, Santa ear muffs, and not just one, but two copies of Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson’s Christmas Miracles – one to keep and one to give away to someone special.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank You!

Boy, it’s been a long while since I’ve posted to my site. Please don’t think it has been because I’ve nothing to say, nothing for which to be grateful—I’ve been abundantly blessed and continue to be so.
Today, however, being Veterans’ Day, I feel it important to publicly say thank you to every vet who has contributed to the freedom I appreciate every day.

My first experience with a veteran was my daddy. Richard Lee Goodell, Sr. served in WWII and was a plank owner on the Bon Homme Richard.
I remember first hearing the story of Pearl Harbor and then learning my dad had been stationed there. I wasn’t so good with timelines at that age and feared for him and what he might have experienced. I was also thankful he’d made it home safe. Years later I realize he’d been at Pearl Harbor after the fact—he joined when he was seventeen, in 1943 and was a signalman in the Pacific theatre.

His older brother, Bobby—Robert Crockett Goodell, Jr., served in the Army and wrote amazing letters home. I’m blessed to have several of them, especially since he died back when I was a preschooler and I can’t remember meeting him. Creative and funny, his letters helped me get to know him a little. He told a story of a GI who’d been attached to a French resistance group. It was cold and when this GI went out on a reconnaissance run with two Frenchmen, they noted that he needed a hat. The next day, one of the men brought the GI a knitted scull cap. A few days later, word got back that the Frenchman had been killed. My uncle ended the note by saying, “Now every time I reach up and touch the hat, I am reminded of him and his gift to me.”

My dad’s father, Robert Crockett Goodell, Sr., served during WWI and was shipped home on his birthday, the day the Armistice was agreed. It was signed the next day—ninety-one years ago today. I never met my grandfather. He died six years before I was born. But I did hear lots of stories and have one of his diaries from the war. He was a man of few words but he felt things deeply.

Patriotism was alive on my mother’s side of the family as well. Her brother, Lee Johnson, served in the army during WWII as did her sister, my Aunt Alice Johnson Lehman—only she was a Marine. The first and prettiest marine I ever met. Uncle Jim must have agreed when he met her while he was serving with the marines.

My grandfather, Ole Johnson, moved to America from Sweden when he was a teen and became a citizen. He also served in WWI. Again, I didn’t get to meet him because someone took his life after he returned—a murder that never was solved. However, I can just imagine him—tall, blond, kindhearted, but a little stubborn. I’ve searched for a picture of him with my grandmother—my tiny grandmother who was all of four-foot ten, if that, where he was six foot tall—but can’t find it right now.

My mom’s baby sister, Aunt Kay, married a man who served both in the army and the navy. They are still with us though Uncle Bob is recovering from pneumonia. Only tough men serve in both the army and the navy—and he is tough, Tough, and funny and loving. I can’t say enough good about AK and UB .

After my mom (Frannie) died, my dad remarried and I gained more family. When my dad died, my mom (Mary) remarried and I gained my Norman. Everyone should have a Norman like mine—I love him dearly. And he is also a veteran having served in Korea with the 82nd Engineer Pipeline Company.

My Uncle John, Mary’s younger sister’s husband, served two tours in Viet Nam, learning the language. Today he teaches English to Vietnamese here in town. Recently he was able to return to Viet Nam for a visit. He took his daughter along, showing her where he was at when he missed her younger years. A sacrifice they both feel.

So you see, veterans have played an important part in my life from the start. Then I married into the Cary family and my father-in-law, Richard C. Cary, was added to the group. He celebrated his nineteenth birthday with the start of the Battle of the Bulge—a German bullet dented his helmet as a gift. He also met General Patton. He was there when the General came through to check on men during that push through the Arden. The General asked what he could get for them.

As the story goes, no one spoke up so my father-in-law did, “We could use a hot meal.” The next day some trucks showed up and the men saw their first real food in weeks. Months later, after the shooting ended, someone noticed that Dad had taken a typing class in high school and assigned him to the typing pool. When the General showed up for his orders (this would have fairly soon before his accident), my father-in-law was the one who’d typed them up.
Dad said the general looked at him a minute and said, “We’ve met before.”
“Yes, sir.”
The general paused a second and then said, “You’re that little @#$% who asked for the hot meal.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Did you get it?”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

Dad could tell some stories, but that is one I tend to believe.

Finally, the latest vet in our family is our “other son” Anthony. Technically he was our son Ian’s best friend, but he is as dear as any son to my heart. He has fought admirably and beyond distinction, doing one tour in Afghanistan and three tours in Iraq. He is due home for Christmas and I cannot wait to hug his neck again.

I could have taken this back to my ancestor, John Crockett, who served during the Revolution or my great grandfather, Lyman Goodell, who lied about his age so he could serve with the North during the Civil War. However, I think you get the idea. With all these wonderful examples of veterans in my life, how can I not be grateful for the freedom they have protected for you and for me? God bless each and everyone who stands in harms way that we might have our country and way of life. And God bless everyone who loves them and waits at home for their return.

Abundant blessings, all.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Interview with Michelle Sutton

I first met Michelle Sutton in person when I picked her up at a mall. Okay, so there’s more to the story and to be honest, we’d seen each other before, but not had as much time to talk as we did that day when we left Metro Center and drove to our CWOW (Christian Writers of the West) meeting. It was a chance to really hear what was going on in her life, and I can tell you, there was a lot. But that’s normal for Michelle, whose new YA novel, It’s Not About Me, is now available. So, I thought you might like to get a taste of what this busy gal is like. Please welcome, Michelle Sutton!

AB: Hey, Michelle! Glad you could drop by. First, let me ask you the normal stuff—how long have you been writing? How did you get started?

MS: I’ve been writing five years and got started by just sitting down and doing it.

AB: How many stories had you completed before you got “the call”?

MS: Publishable stories? 9. Total number? 11.

AB: How did you end up settling on your genre YA?

MS: I love to write drama and romance so YA fits the profile. My book is a YA romance.

AB: You use the word “edgy” in describing your work. How would you define edgy in the context of Christian fiction? Where do we as Christian writers draw the line?

MS: I define it within the context of Christian fiction as daring to tell the truth about human hearts and our natural rebellion against God. Put simply, my characters think bad thoughts and make bad choices despite often being “saved”, and they always learn from that because God redeems every situation. For example, in one scene I have Tony telling everyone at Teen Challenge about how he found the Lord and the difference He made in his life, then he finds out his brother was seeing his girlfriend behind his back and he kicks his butt in front of the same people he just told about his new faith. That is real life.

AB: How did you get connected up with your publisher? What do you see as the strengths of going with a young house?

MS: I hooked up with my publisher back in 2004 at the Denver conference. She was my roommate and was impressed with the stories I told her I’d written. She said some day when she opened a publishing house of her own, she’d buy my stuff. Who’d a thought it would really happen? I sure didn’t. The strength of going with a young house is I have the chance to spark success for the company. I want to be the Tracie Peterson or Lori Wick of Sheaf House, contributing a large part to its success. Plus, I had input into the cover and my voice wasn’t “taken out” in the editing process. The story is fully “me”.

AB: Besides your new release It’s Not About Me, you’ve been wearing several hats in the writing world. Please tell us more about your other writing ventures.

MS: I can’t remember them all. Hehehe. I started out reviewing books as an influencer, then that grew exponentially, leading into me starting several social sites which are highly trafficked. Then I was asked to be Editor in Chief of an online magazine. And yes, it’s a paying position.

AB: What is a normal writing day like for you?

MS: Get up at five thirty, read my email, eat breakfast and drink coffee, then hop in the shower and race to drive my son to the bus stop. I call writer friends as I drive to work, then try to read or do writing stuff at lunch time and on breaks, then I go home. At night I eat and dive into email again before working on the magazine columns. Then if there is time left (usually there is NOT) I do some editing or writing. When I go to bed I read for awhile before I fall asleep. I play catch-up on the weekends and Wednesdays (my day off) between appointments.

AB: Where do you see your writing career in five years?

MS: I’ll either be a rich magazine mogul, or I’ll have many more books published (my preference), however, I suspect I’ll still have to work a government job for the insurance benefits. I hope to be published in more than one publishing house, too. I doubt I’ll be reviewing as many books as I am now.

AB: What was the one best thing you did to help yourself on this journey?

MS: Read several good books about how to write fiction and listened to my mentors when they gave me advice.

AB: What was your biggest writing mistake that you’d like to keep others from making?

MS: Don’t listen to too many people when they give you opinions or it’ll make your head swim and discourage you. Pick a few good critiquers and stick with them.

AB: Who are your favorite authors? What about them is the most appealing?

MS: Anyone who writes edgy stuff. Francine Rivers, Julie Lessman, Deanne Gist, etc.

AB: Julie is one of my crit partners and a dear friend—I agree that she is terrific! One of the most important questions I must ask: White, milk, or dark?

MS: Dark first, followed by milk and last is white.

AB: Where can readers get copies of It’s Not About Me?

MS: CBD, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble online and can go into any Barnes and Noble store and order a copy. However, right now just about every place is out of stock. I hope to do a book signing in Phoenix in October the weekend of the CWOW (October 4th) meeting and will be selling books there.

AB: How can readers learn more about you and your writing?

MS: Subscribe to my edgy inspirational author blogspot blog or check my website

AB: It was good catching up with you. Thanks for dropping by Michelle!

Abundant blessings!