Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Recipe For Romance by Vickie McDonough - Review/Interview

Kiss the Bride: Angel Food/Just Deserts/A Recipe for Romance/Tea for Two (Heartsong Novella Collection)
A Recipe for Romance by Vickie McDonough
soft cover, 2006, Barbour Publishing
ISBN 1597893536
366 pgs.

Written by Vickie Mcdonough; an author who is becoming a well known name in writing. “A Recipe for Romance” is one of four novellas in the book “Kiss the (Cook) Bride.” An apron connects all four stories adding a fun twist.

Our story starts when Haley Tannehill’s brother asks her to email an old school buddy; Scott Jantzen. Haley and Scott exchange emails and a friendship forms. Meanwhile Haley is put in the awkward position of taking over, The Cowpoke CafĂ©, the family restaurant she grew up despising.

When Scott returns home from the Middle East, Haley hires him to help her renovate the neon, cowboy boot blinking restaurant, into something a little more modern. As Haley spends more time with Scott, his witness and devotion to his heavenly father, makes Haley realizes she has more missing in her life then an updated restaurant.

Later Haley discovers a secret about Scott and his family, and her trust in him flops. She must depend on her rekindled relationship with God and trust in His plans for her restaurant instead of her own.

The outcome is Scott realizing he should have been truthful, Haley leaning on God for direction, and a restaurant that takes off in a way that no one predicted, all served on a platter overflowing with romance.

At the end of Ms. McDonough’s book is a recipe for “Aunt Mildred’s Icebox Cake”. It made a wonderful addition to my Thanksgiving dinner and has a surprisingly nice tart and nutty flavor. And really, there is no better way to enjoy a good book then having a great dessert to go with it!


Gail: I loved the recipe at the end of your story. Is there really an Aunt Mildred out there who takes credit for this dessert?

Vickie: Yes! That part is true. She was my dad's sister, but has been dead for about ten years. Whenever we went to her house when I was a child, I'd ask if she had any of that "pink stuff". That's where I got the idea for that part of my novella.

Gail: Camping vs. hotel, what do you prefer?

Vickie: Definitely a hotel. I have back problems and need to sleep on a real bed.

Gail: What words of wisdom would you pass on to blossoming authors?

Vickie: Keep at it. Find a good critique group and network with other writers. Lastly, be patient. Writing and selling a book can be a very long process.

Gail: From your website, I see you have 3 books coming out by spring. You have been very busy! Are these the only three you are currently working on, or do you have other irons in the fire?

Vickie: I've finished work on the books coming out next year and just recently sent a proposal to an agent about a new series idea that I have. I'm hoping she'll want to represent me and will market the proposal to publishers for me. It's another historical set in Oklahoma.

Gail: You mentioned on your website that you never liked to write in school, what finally sparked your interest in writing?

Vickie: Honestly, it's a God thing. I've always been an avid reader, but never once considered writing a book until January 2001. I got a story going thru my head that wouldn't leave me alone. I was only getting about five hours of sleep at night because of it, so I finally decided to try writing it down. I hoped that getting the info on paper would cause it to leave my head alone. That worked...until shortly after another story came. I wrote it down too, then got to wondering if maybe God was trying to get my attention. I jumped into writing with both feet, going to conferences, joining local and online writer's groups, studying the craft of writing, and joining a critique group. I've really enjoyed all the friends I've made on this journey.

Gail: What is your favorite time of day to write?

Vickie: Mid-morning. I'm good and awake, fresh, and the house is usually quiet because everyone else is gone.

Gail: Tell me about a typical day in the life of Vickie McDonough.

Vickie: Ugh! There really isn't a typical day. I don't write everyday, unless I'm on a deadline. I find I write better if I take days off between writing days. I do the typical housework and other things that a mother of four boys does, although only three boys are still at home. I also am the primary caregiver to my mom, who is homebound. I do all her errands, so some days are spent in the car. For down time, I read or watch some TV. I baby sit my granddaughter one day a week. We attend church on Sundays and sometimes on Wednesdays. I also like to garden when the weather cooperates. As far as actual writing, I usually try to write a chapter at one sitting. If not a chapter, then one or two scenes. The next time I write, I go back and reread and proof what I wrote last. That helps my creative juices get going and helps me remember where I left off.

Gail: Is there something about you that most people don't know?

Vickie: Yes. Shortly after I was married back in 1975, my husband and I went to Israel with a church group and lived and worked on a kibbutz for a year. We also got to visit different places in Israel.

Gail: Do you share a love for cooking like that of your character?

Vickie: Hee hee. No, not really. Because of my back problems, being on my feet a lot is difficult. I like eating home cooking but not so much doing the actual cooking.

Gail: What aspect of writing do you find most difficult?

Vickie: The writing part. :) Because I'm not a writer by nature, I have to discipline myself to do it. Once I sit down and get started, I get in the groove and usually complete my goal for the day. I'm a creative person by nature but writing a book takes a lot of time and sometimes takes a lot out of you. But to complete a book takes hard work and discipline. That's why I like to encourage people to keep at it, and they will eventually finish their novel and maybe even get it published.

Thanks so much Vickie!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Brother's Keeper by Terry W. Burns - Review/Inteview

Brother's Keeper (Mysterious Ways Series #2) by Terry W. Burns
softcover, 2006, River Oak
ISBN 1589190351
278 pgs.

Brother’s Keeper is a humorously delightful story written from the hand of well-known western author and storyteller, Terry W. Burns.

From the first page Terry grabs our emotions as James Jackson faces the devastating loss of the family farm. With no way to provide for his aging mother, and his twin brother, Ross, long gone, James does the only thing a decent son can do. He heeds his ma’s request and they go looking for Ross with all of their earthly belongings strapped into a wagon.

And before they even leave the yard humor strikes in the form of Miss Mary Jane McMinn, Ross’s waiting sweetheart. Mary Jane is determined to go with them and the three Tennesseans start off on a wild and side-splitting ride. Rain storms, traveling preachers, and a clattering trail of mishaps left behind by innocent Mary Jane doesn’t deter them.

Ross is on his own adventure, trying to shake Texas Ranger Bulldog Shocum from his own trail of past misdeeds. And in this mixture is the soft reminder that God is in control.

The plot twists and turns as James and his companions follow Ross through the tune of blizzards, bank robbers, and mistaken identity. The ending is timed perfectly as Mary Jane realizes her heart, James realizes his dreams, and Ross realizes the price of love.

Very well done, Mr. Burns.

Paula: As a twin myself, I was pleasantly surprised at your accurate portrayal of twins in BROTHER'S KEEPER. Do you have twins in your family or was it soley the result of research?

Terry: No twins in the family, although had some identical twin girls that were good friends in high school. We never knew which of them we were with. They very often switched dates and changed things on us all the time. Beyond that it was research.

Paula: Are there more books coming in the MYSTERIOUS WAYS SERIES that your readers can look forward to seeing?

Terry: The third in the series, Shepherd's Son, is now out. Shepherd's Son came about when my daughter remarked about a talk she had just heard telling about how totally helpless sheep are and how depended they are on the shepherd, of courser relating that to us as sheep in the flock of the Great Shepherd. I took that one step forward to reflect on how sheep were looked upon back in the days of the cattle barons. Gave each aspect of the story a whole new twist.

Paula: You have several novels in print right now. Which was the hardest for you to write and why?

Terry: Mysterious Ways - the challenge in that book was to make Amos as much of a rogue and a scoundrel as possible without crossing over the line to where people would no longer care whether he had a chance at redemption or not. He had to be a real rascal, but a likeable rascal. People tell me I got it done, I hope so.

Paula: You present several programs for writers in the Texas area. Can you tell me a little about what a typical program looks like?

Terry: I range much further than just Texas, I've done them over in the Ozarks, up in Kansas, have one scheduled in Colorado and have a couple scheduled over in Oklahoma in addition to those I have done around the state. I offer several "programs" that are listed in the program page, but in reality I have a stock of "program modules" and I use them to work the crowd and tailor the presentation to the questions and the interest of the participants. As such, no two programs are ever alike even to someone who may have sat in the same topic with me before.

Paula: What advice would you give to aspiring authors that you've learned from study or from personal experience that has helped you most?

Terry: Never give up. Publishing is like assembling a puzzle. Even if we have a good product, have researched the agents or editors well and only submit to those we're sure are a potential for us, there are still maybe a hundred pieces that have to be in place for it to happen. They can have just done one like what we're proposing, we can be too early, too late, any number of things that aren't in place to make it happen. At any given time the odds are against the conditions being just right, and it takes perseverance to stay after it and find that spot that the pieces are all in place. Too may people take the process personally and give up before they get it done.

Paula: What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Terry: Eggs benedict at Ihop.

Paula: You've recently begun blogging. How has this helped you as a writer?

Terry: I use it as a warmup to help me make the shift from the logical left brain that we spend most of our day in over to the creative right brain where we do our writing from. I also find it helps generate traffic to the website.

Paula: Your website mentions that you've joined forces with Hartline Literary Agency. What made you decide to make that move?

Terry: I've sold a lot of my work myself and helped a number of my friends publish. In addition, for over 25 years in chamber of commerce work I put people who had things to sell together with those who were looking to buy, making deals. This seemed a natural extension of both processes. From a faith standpoint it will allow me to help other writers, particularly Christian writers to get their words out where they'll do some good.

Paula: Can you tell us about your current projects?

Terry: I just finished writing a mystery. I thought it was a cozy, but I've got a couple of people reading it to see how I should classify it. On the agent front I've already gone through a stack of queries, invited a dozen proposals from them and have contracted with one writing team so far. Just starting to get cranked up on that front.

Paula: Tell us something about yourself that most people would be surprised to know.

Terry: Most people don't know that I am actually very shy. I learned some time ago how to create a "public personna" and hide behind it in order to do the things I've needed to do in order to do chamber of commerce work and now to do the public functions required to be a writer or agent. I use this in my presentations, and because so many writers are by nature shy people it goes over very well.

Thanks Terry!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Touchdown Alexander with Cecil Murphy - Review/Interview

Touchdown Alexander: My Story of Faith, Football, and Pursuing the Dream
by Shaun Alexander with Cecil Murphy
hardcover, 2006, Harvest House Publishers
ISBN 0736919376
224 pgs.

Written with well-known author, Cecil Murphy, "Touchdown Alexander" is a moving story about trusting God and living in true obedience.

Shaun lived in a small Kentuckian town in a two bedroom apartment with his mom and older brother. His brother was a member of the local peewee team and encouraged him to join. Shaun’s response? He didn’t mind staying indoors and watching T.V. one bit. Football did not interest him–especially the running part. But his brother persisted, and when Shaun joined, he found he actually liked the sport.

Through his school days Shaun not only became better and better in a sport he grew to love, he also learned the importance of living a godly lifestyle. Shaun shares stories of his mother’s strong faith, the coaches that aided him in his game and his spiritual walk, and the experiences that challenged and changed him.

Choosing a college was done in a unique game of elimination. He’d throw their letters over his shoulder toward the wastebasket. If they hit the basket, they stayed there. If they landed on the floor, he picked them up and read them. But the final choice came down to having one of the Alabama football players invite him to church.

After college, God added several factors into his life that didn’t deal with just football and becoming an NFL player. Shaun started the Shaun Alexander Foundation (SAF), an organization that today empowers young men to be the role models for the next generation. He met his wife, Valerie, and they agreed not to kiss until they were married. After they were expecting their second child God showed them His perfect timing with something as seemingly simple as buying a house.

No one can argue that Shaun Alexander is a great football player. But in the telling of his story, Shaun shows us that although he's an NFL player, his life doesn’t revolve around career. He is a child of God first, a husband and father second, and the MVP for the Seattle Seahawks third.

His story if filled with instances he's chosen to follow God's prompting and the blessings he's recieved from doing so. If your young men are looking for a God-honoring role model in NFL football, Shaun's story is the place to start.


Paula: You've ghostwritten numerous books over the years. Is there a special reason you've chosen to use your gifts in this way?

Cecil: I can't say it was a conscious choice. An editor at Revell asked me to ghostwrite my first book in 1982. He liked my first effort and other projects came along. I didn't know if that was God's path for me, so I made a promise to God. I said I would never take the initiative to seek ghostwriting projects. I've kept that promise: All the project have all come to me.

Paula: Tell us a little about how ghostwriting works. What's your process? Who contacts who first?

Cecil: The contacts come from individuals (Shaun Alexander) or from a referral from someone else (Don Piper for whom I did 90 Minutes in Heaven). A few times it has come directly from the publisher (Franklin Graham's Rebel with a Cause and Gifted Hands).

Paula: What did you learn while writing "Touchdown Alexander?"

Cecil: I can't say that I learned specific lessons. I can say that in trying to capture Shaun on the page, it meant I had to go within myself. I had to open myself and try to hear his voice and grasp his values. I think of the process as one in which I try to understand the other but in the process I learn more about myself.

Paula: Your books primarily focus on three areas: Spiritual Growth, Christian Living, and Caregiving. Why these topics rather than others?

Cecil: Because I care about those areas. The caregiving books came about because my wife and I took care of an elderly relative for 6 1/2 years. It wasn't easy--and going into the situation we knew it wouldn't be. But we did it because it seemed the right thing to do.

I want to grow and I want to live in a way that honors God. Much of my own writing speaks of my own spiritual progress.

Paula: If you could have only written one book in your lifetime, which would it be? Why?

Cecil: I don't think that way. I can say that when I wrote Committed but Flawed, it was the most self-revealing thing I had ever written.

The book of which I am the most proud is Gifted Hands that I wrote for Dr. Ben Carson of Johns Hopkins Hospital. The book came out in 1990, has never been out of print, and Zondervan recently slapped new covers on it. I hear from people occasionally who say, "I read that book in school and now my children are reading it." That gives me a satisfied feeling of accomplishment.

Paula: You've also mentored several people who are now authors themselves. What motivated you to become a mentor?

Cecil: That's an easy question to answer: Because I couldn't find my own mentor. I knew several professional writers, but when I asked for help, they didn't respond. Very early in my career I made a double commitment to God: I would never stop learning to write better and I would do whatever I could to help other writers.

I suppose it's like not having a father figure, so I tried to become one to others.

Paula: I love finding out how people meet their spouses. How did you meet your wife, Shirley?

Cecil: I am an adult convert and Shirley is a cradle Christian. I started to attend her church and she noticed me but there were so many young, unattached females, I didn't notice her. A few weeks later I went to a series of meetings and the ONLY seat left when I got there was next to Shirley. We started to talk and...

Paula: What experiences while living in Kenya for six years have helped develop you into the writer you are?

Cecil: Kenya taught me more about myself, God, and life than any single experience. While there I wrote letters to supporters. (We were with a faith mission and had no denomination behind us.) I wanted my supporters to know I appeciated their help and I wrote a different letter to every person. Sometimes I used some of the same stories but I tried to tell them differently. I learned a great deal about writing from typing 30 or so personalized letters every month.

Paula: Tell us one thing about you that most people don't know.

Cecil: I'm an avid runner and have been running since about 1975. I try to run about 30 miles a week.

Paula: Do you have another project on the burner or can't you tell us about it yet?

Cecil: I always have projects going. I wrote my first cozy mystery because an editor challenged me to try one. Barbour brings it out in January (Everybody Loved Roger Harden). After they read the completed manuscript they asked me for a second. Based only on the title (Everybody Wanted Room 623), they send me a contract and I finished the book last week and it comes out in September 2007.

I have a three-book contract with Berkley (Penguin) for follow-up books with Don Piper. The first one, Daily Devotions Inspired by 90 Minutes in Heaven comes out in November with an initial print run of 110,000. We are now working on the next book with a tentative title of: When Life Isn't the Way It Used to Be.

Beyond that, I wait. My agent has four book projects for which we expect to get a thumbs up within the next month or so.

Thanks Cecil!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Submission Guidelines

Reviews by Two accepts several genre of Christian books and authors for review/interviews. But quite honestly we lean toward conservative books in these categories:

light mystery/suspense

(Please, no sci-fi, gruesome murderish types, or deep psycological thrillers. While we knows there are some fantastic Christian writers who love these genres, at least one of us is a scaredy-cat and not afraid to admit it. :)

spiritual growth

If you have questions as to whether or not your book would be acceptable, please email me at

The Process
The process is very simple. Reading excellent books and writing author interviews takes time as well as a bit of juggling around family and our own writing. Depending on the stack of books we have to review/interview, you should expect a 4-6 mth. turn around. However, we can't make promises.

As with industry standard, your book will not be returned. We can tell you that your book will most likely be:

1. donated to a church library
2. donated to the city library
3. given away in monthly contest
4. given to a particular family/individual who would benefit from reading it
5. kept in personal library

We will not write a bad review. If we do not feel we can give a good review, we simply will not give one at all.

If you still want to send us your book, please email Paula for further instructions.

We look forward to reading your book,

Paula Miller & Gail Quistorff