Friday, August 30, 2013

Despicable Me 2

    Okay, my brother likes zombie movies.  So it's pretty understandable that, when he told me I really should see Despicable Me, I was a little skeptical. 
    For the uninitiated, Despicable Me is the story of Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) the would-be Super Villain who can't catch a break.  He manages to build a shrink ray so he can carry off the ultimate crime and steal the moon (shrinking it to make it more portable).  But another Super Villain, Vector (Jason Segel) steals his shrink ray and won't give it back.

    Gru tries several ways of getting into Vector's impregnable lair, and is painfully (and quite humorously) rebuffed.  Then he sees three little orphan girls go to Vector's door selling cookies.  They are, of course, immediately admitted.
    Gru promptly adopts the girls so, through them, he can smuggle his cookie robots into Vector's house and steal back his shrink ray.  Predictably (and humorously and touchingly), Gru becomes attached to the girls and becomes a real father to them while, of course, stopping Vector and restoring the moon to its proper place.
    Frankly, I didn't have many expectations for this movie, but I was quite pleasantly surprised.  So I was happy to hear they had made a sequel to it.
    Despicable Me 2 tells the story of Gru after he has given up his life of super crime.  He's a regular family man now, with a colorful playhouse in front of his creepy suburban home and neighbor ladies who try to set him up on dates.  He and his assistant, Dr. Nefario (wonderfully voiced by Russell Brand) are trying to develop a line of jams and jellies, but are woefully unsuccessful.  (That stuff is just nasty!)  Enter the Anti-Villain League who want to recruit Gru to help them find out who has stolen a serum that turns gentle creatures into mindless killing machines. 
    To assist him in his mission, the AVL assigns him Agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig), clutzy but loveable and with a nose almost as big a Gru's.  (How ever are they going to kiss?)  Despite how much she annoys him, obvious sparks fly, and Gru fights with his earlier memories of rejection to work up the courage to tell her how he feels.  At the same time, the duo sets up surveillance in bogus cupcake shop in the local mall and try to figure out which of the other store owners is their thief.

    I really enjoyed this movie.  Like the first one, it's not on the level of Pixar's greats, but it's a lot of fun.  It's colorful and action packed and doesn't take itself too seriously.  I found myself wishing Dr. Nefario had a bigger role in this one, because I loved him the first time around, and I missed Julie Andrews as Gru's incredibly hard to please mother (though the character shows up at the end, but without dialogue).  I thought Lucy was a trifle abrasive at first, but I grew to like her over the course of the movie. 
    The three little girls, Margo, Edith and Agnes (Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Elsie Fisher) were as cute as ever.  Elsie Fisher is particularly good as the youngest, Agnes, and has an almost manic delivery when she really wants something (like a unicorn or a visit from the Fairy Princess).  They are sweet but never syrupy and live happily with Gru, Dr. Nefario, Gru's savage little dog-like creature Kyle, and lots of minions.
    Oh, I didn't mention the minions yet?  What, I ask, is a super villain movie without minions?  Gru has hundreds of them.  They're yellow and shaped roughly like time-release allergy capsules and have just a few sparse sprigs of hair on their heads.  But they're not identical.  No, no, no.  Some are tall, some are short.  Some have one eye, some two.  They're remarkably happy most of the time and stand up well to being blown up, burned, buried and/or shot into space.  Their disguises are not very convincing and they speak only gibberish, but they are my favorite part of both movies.  They're just so much fun.
    Here's to a Despicable Me 3 someday.
    For when I want to just have a good time.

Have you see Despicable Me or Despicable Me 2?  What did you think?  What movies have you seen lately?  What did you like?

DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, as well as Letters in the Attic, The Key in the Attic, The Diary in the Attic and The Legacy in the Attic, contemporary mysteries. Her new series of Drew Farthering Mysteries debuted in the Summer of 2013 with  Rules of Murder,  to be followed by Death by the Book and Murder at the Mikado in 2014 from Bethany House.  A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Preventing Disappointment

By Niki Turner

turtle photo: Not Ninja Turtle 2013 Turtle-7_zpsa5a41eeb.jpg
"Not Ninja Turtle"
Everyone has been disappointed at one time or another. Some of us are so scarred by previous disappointments we're like turtles hiding inside our shells, unwilling to stick our necks out and risk another wound, crippling and paralyzing us from fulfilling our destinies.

For the writer, it might be the stack of rejection letters in the shoe box under the bed, or the conference that doesn't result in a book deal. For the parent, it might be an ongoing struggle with infertility or an angry teenager in trouble at school. For the spouse, disappointment can appear when the other spouse refuses to acknowledge a problem in the marriage and work together to find a solution. For the minister, it might be facing row upon row of empty pews every Sunday morning despite repeated outreaches to the community.

disappointment photo: disappointment Disappointment.jpgMy point? No one is immune to disappointment and discouragement. How we handle those opportunities may well determine whether we succeed or fail in the future.

Someone has said misplaced expectations are the root cause of disappointment. When what we expect (anticipate, look forward to, suppose or surmise) doesn't turn out the way we hoped, we're subject to a life-disrupting case of disappointment. So how can we prevent being bitten by the disappointment bug? TRUST.

T - Take it (the situation) to God in prayer.

R - Release it into His hands.

U - Understand that He has your best interests at heart.

S - Stretch your imagination to include many possibilities.

T - Trust God with the outcome, no matter what it is.

Since so many of you are off to the national ACFW conference in the next few weeks, let's apply this acronym to that particular scenario. (I don't get to go this year, but I'm planning ahead!)

  • T - Talk to God about the conference. Check your motives. Why are you going? What do you hope to accomplish? What are you expecting? Lay it all out there, don't be shy with Him, because He already knows your heart and your thoughts.
  • R - Now, take all your cares and concerns, all your hopes and dreams, all your wishes and fears, and roll the care of them over on God. Release them, let them go entirely.
  • U - Understand that He cares for you, deeply, unconditionally, with a love that surpasses any human emotion. God, more than you, more than any other human being on earth, has your very best interests at heart.
  • S - Don't lock yourself into one particular outcome (this is a surefire way to set yourself up for a long fall!). Instead, use that wild imagination of yours to come up with as many possible scenarios as you can construe. What's the best possible outcome? What's the worst? And what fits in between?
  • T - Turn ALL those possibilities over to God and trust Him to take care of you, to do what's best for you, personally, at this time and season of your life, and know that He loves you and has an excellent plan for your life that's greater and better than anything you can come up with because He knows ALL, and we only "see in part."
It's possible to avoid being derailed by disappointment. It's not EASY, but it is possible, and it's worth it to do what we can to prevent a bout with disappointment!

Niki Turner is a writer, former pastor's wife, mother of four, and grandmother of two. She has thus far been unsuccessful at coming up with catchy taglines for her writing, her purpose in life, or what she hopes to achieve in the future. Suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Much Anticipated Sequel

by Dina Sleiman

This week I received in the mail a much anticipated sequel. But let's look back for a minute to January when I took the bold step of declaring Soul's Gate by James Rubart my new all-time favorite novel. Months later, I am more than willing to stand by that statement. You can see my review of Soul's Gate here. At the end of the review I actually went so far as to say this, "Honestly, I'd much rather you read this novel than one of mine." And I'm still willing to stand by that statement as well. (Although I'd really like it if you'd read mine too ;) The reason being, I think the best fiction challenges you and truly affects your life, and Jim's books are guaranteed to do that while taking your on a thrilling journey you will never forget.

So when Jim mentioned on facebook that he was looking for people to help him spread the word about his sequel, Memory's Door, I jumped right on that opportunity. This week I received my shiny new copy with glee. I'm about halfway through it, and I am not in the least bit disappointed. Although I didn't rush through it in a twenty-four hour read-a-thon, it is because there is too much to be savored and mulled over. It is as enthralling as the first book of the series, and jam-packed with spiritual insight.

Why don't I let Jim tell you a little bit about his series himself?


I'll be back next Friday with my official review of Memory's Door. In the meantime, if you haven't read Soul's Gate yet, (what in the heck are you waiting for?!?!) I highly suggest you get started there. While each book in this series contains a complete story and can stand alone, you will enjoy them best and be able to better appreciate the subtle nuances if you read them in order.

What is your favorite series? Why do you love it so much? Do you prefer a series in which the books can stand alone or one that leaves you in the middle of the action?


Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an honorable mention in the 2012 Selah Awards. Her latest novel, Love in Three-Quarter Time, was the launch title for the Zondervan First imprint. Look for her newest release, Dance from Deep Within, in November. Dina is also a part-time acquistions editor for WhiteFire Publishing, and she is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Book or the Movie?

by Jennifer AlLee

As a rule, if a book has been made into a movie or TV show, I like to read the book before I watch it. But right now, I'm trying something different. I'm watching the TV series Under the Dome and I'm reading the book by Stephen King at the same time.

Talk about fiction shock!

I'm used to there being major differences between the written story and the visual one. Most of the time, it's necessary. Take Gone With the Wind... as if dealing with the entire Civil War wasn't enough, Scarlett's antics produced three children in the book. Even after removing the existence of two of those kids in the movie, it still clocked in at three hours.

At 1088 pages, Under the Dome is a pretty hefty book. Naturally, one would expect some changes, although as a TV series, there's a lot more time to tell the story. What surprises me is how little of the details in the book have made it onto the small screen.

Both are in a town called Chester's Mill that has found itself covered by a mysterious Dome (like the one in The Simpsons' Movie). And a lot of the characters' names are the same. But that's it. Ages, occupations, marital status, even mortal status is up for grabs. Yes, one character that's a focal point of the TV series is actually dead by the time you're a couple chapters into the book.

It's an interesting exercise in what makes fiction click. There are some things that just plain work better when you see them rather than read them. When an animal gets cut in half by the Dome, the visual impact is much greater when it's a large cow that's sliced long ways down the middle, creating a mirror image on either side of the barrier (as in the TV series) than when it's a cute little gopher cut across the middle with its head on one side and his tail on the other (as in the book).

Now it's your turn. What's your favorite book turned into a movie? (I expect some lively conversation from the Austen fans out there!) Is there a movie that made so many odd changes to the storyline you wonder why they optioned the book in the first place?

JENNIFER ALLEE was born in Hollywood, California, and spent her first ten years living above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on the car radio. Although she’s thrilled to be living out her lifelong dream of being a novelist, she considers raising her son to be her greatest creative accomplishment. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. Her novels include The Pastor’s WifeThe Mother Road and A Wild Goose Chase Christmas from Abingdon Press; Diamond in the Rough and Vanishing Act, the first two books in the Charm and Deceit series, from Whitaker House and co-written with Lisa Karon Richardson; and the novella Comfort and Joy in the Christmas anthology, Mistletoe Memories from Barbour.
Visit Jennifer's website at

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bad Hair Days and Other Misadventures

by Suzie Johnson
If you’ve never had a bad hair day, consider yourself lucky, and stop reading now I’m so happy for you. Not.

One of the things on my bucket list is to have just one good hair day in my life. Okay, maybe that’s exaggerating, but not by much.

One day in late spring, on impulse, I stopped in a salon in Seattle. The stylist knew exactly what to do with my hair, leaving me to hope there’d be more than one good hair day in my future. About two months later, I stopped in the same salon, only to be informed that the stylist’s last day was yesterday. Lizzy (not her real name) said she’d be happy to help me.

My first clue should have been when Lizzy left me with my head tilted back in the sink while she went and chatted in the doorway with her friends. But she was young and I was willing to overlook it in spite of my screaming neck. Lizzy came back and wrapped my head in a black towel then ran back to talk with her friends again, leaving me to stare in the mirror and wonder how she managed to get the black towel to look like a tricorn hat.

Okay, I know. That should have been my second clue. And really, how many clues does a girl need when it comes to important things like hair?

When Lizzy returned, she so graciously handed me the clue that should have sent me racing out the door. Unfortunately I didn’t, and Lizzy made the first snip with her scissors as these words fell from her lips, “Cute glasses. I always forget to wear mine. I usually wear contacts. I’ve noticed I get better tips when I wear them.”

Could I just say right now that I was trying to be nice and give a young girl the benefit of the doubt? Oh, and did I forget to mention I wasn’t wearing my glasses at the moment? Lizzy asked me to place them on the counter so they wouldn’t be in her way. It wasn’t long before I wondered if there was another reason why she didn’t want me wearing my glasses.

The first thing I noticed when Lizzy handed me a mirror was that my hair was longer on the right than the left. No problem. Lizzy promptly trimmed it up until it was longer on the left than the right. But I could fix that myself. No need to make the poor stylist feel bad.

And yes, I left a tip.

Unfortunately, I noticed a few oddities the next morning. Not only was my hair still a little longer on the left side, I had dozens of scraggles hanging down from the underside of my hair. But that wasn’t the worst of it. My bangs were cut in a line so straight Lizzy must have used a ruler while I couldn’t see what she was doing. Unfortunately, that straight line went in a diagonal from the top right of my forehead to the outer corner of my left eyebrow.

To make it worse, the right side of my bangs has more cowlicks than I can count. Those were highlighted nicely still there.

“Don’t worry,” my coworkers said. “They’ll grow out.”

Clearly they don’t have as many bad hair days as I do. Bangs grow when they want to. Not when you want them to.

Oh, and did I mention this was just about four weeks ago? Two weeks before I leave for a writer’s conference I’m planning to attend? Yup. One side hasn’t quite caught up with the other. Perhaps, sometime during the next two weeks, a hair miracle will happen.

Does anyone know of a “Miracle Grow” for hair?

If you’re planning to attend the same conference, please, whatever you do, don’t notice my hair.

Also, if you’re shopping for evening wear, I have it on good authority you should never pull a Spandex camisole over your head. For those not in the know, once it makes it over your head, it snaps and rolls and tries to squeeze you tighter than a boa constrictor before you can even blink – leaving you to stand helpless in a department store fitting room with your arms straight up in the air while you panic and try to figure out how to get yourself out of this newest pickle.
Looks innocent, doesn't it?
Don't believe it!
I tried to find some spiritual content to relate this to, but I’m still feeling a bit humiliated by the Spandex camisole/dressing room hair salon incident. So instead I’ll just say, I wish each of you good hair days and Spandex-free camisoles.

True North, Suzie Johnson’s second novel, will be released in January, 2014. Her first novel, No Substitute, a contemporary inspirational novel, is out now from White Rose Press of The Pelican Book Group. She is a regular contributor to the Inkwell Inspirations blog, a member of ACFW, RWA, and is the cancer registrar at her local hospital. Suzie and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest with their naughty little cat on an island that is definitely not tropical. Together, they are the parents of a wonderful grown son who makes them proud every day – even though he lives way too far away. You can visit Suzie at the following places:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

God IS

by Suzie Johnson
I consider myself to be very blessed. I thank God for my blessings every day.

My friends all know that one of the ways I'm blessed is with the water that surrounds my island. It's where I meet God.


Morning and evening during the work week, I get to make a beautiful drive; and at least once during the weekend, I'll find myself at the beach. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't live surrounded by water. I pray I never have to find out.

One thing, though... if I ever do have to live without my precious blue Pacific, I pray my heart will still take flight and lead me to another lovely portion of God's creation where I might find peace and rest. 

But what if that didn't happen? What if the very place I meet God ceased to exist?

I'd like to think I'd still be able to meet Him, to find Him on whatever plane I'm living. I'd like to believe my joy in Him is not dependent upon my circumstances.

"If I had no voice if I had no tongue, 
I would dance for you like the rising sun. 
And when that day comes and I see your face, 
I will shout your endless glorious praise." 
~~ From: You Are
by Michael Colton Dixon and Michael Busbee

From the moment I heard this song, I focused in on those lines. In my mind, every time I hear it, I'm like David, dancing my heart out for God - even though my form might not be correct. It's just an image that makes my heart soar.

Of course, the song also brings me to the image of the person who, even if their world is tipped upside down, will still find a way to praise to God. It makes the image of dancing my heart out for God even stronger. It's who I desire to be.

Am I there yet? Like all humans, I have a ways to go. But it's what I'm striving for, what I'm praying for. If I wake up tomorrow and my beautiful beach and blue water have disappeared, I still want to dance for Him like the rising sun.

When I went online to find the lyrics so I didn't mangle them, and so I could properly list the writers, I learned that the scripture Colton had in mind as he wrote the song was this:

"Then David danced before the Lord with all his might..." ~~ 2 Samuel 6:14

The same one I picture in my mind whenever I hear the song. That made this song, and everything I imagine when I hear it, all the more perfect for me.

God is my strength. 
God is my joy. 
God IS.

And no matter what may befall, 
I want to sing and dance my heart out for Him. 

True North, Suzie Johnson’s second novel, will be released in January, 2014. Her first novel, No Substitute, a contemporary inspirational novel, is out now from White Rose Press of The Pelican Book Group. She is a regular contributor to the Inkwell Inspirations blog, a member of ACFW, RWA, and is the cancer registrar at her local hospital. Suzie and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest with their naughty little cat on an island that is definitely not tropical. Together, they are the parents of a wonderful grown son who makes them proud every day – even though he lives way too far away. You can visit Suzie at the following places:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Small Press and Indie Publishing Tips

Five Things I Learned From Publishing “Smaller” Works
By Carrie Fancett Pagels
By the time October rolls around, my fourth publication in six months will be released--my short story, “Snowed In: A Northwoods Christmas,” with Guidepost Books. My debut fiction release, a novella, was published in late March: “Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance” with Helping Hands Press.  I also contributed a story to “God’s Provision in Tough Times” by Cynthia Howerter and LaTan Murphy with Lighthouse of the Carolinas and my nonfiction psychology article for the American Association of Christian Counselors was published last week in their beautiful print journal.  I published in nonfiction (co-author of a chapter in a book and in journal articles) in the past, also.

Here are my thoughts and experiences, for what they are worth, and I hope they may be helpful to the Inkies’ readers.

1)     Habits.  All that practice of blogging and writing articles for ezines (with no financial compensation) can pay off.  This is why having experienced deadlines, and meeting thos,e and getting in the habit of not shirking deadlines matters: when you get to the real, i.e., paying, deal, you will have less stress than someone who never has done so.

2)     Differences. All editors are not created equal. Nor are writers, etc. Having had the pleasure of working with a handful of wonderful freelance editors I was familiar with this fact (which goes back to point #1!)  But the differences can vary so wildly that it can be mind boggling. And if it is the first time working with that particular editor, you have to learn her/his ways. When I was a psychology intern writing psych reports, I though there was one way to do it “right.” I ended up working under every professor during my three year internship. Each one had a totally different way of editing my reports. And each was “right,” in other words—I better produce a report that was exactly his/her definition of what it “should” look like. Enough said.

3)     User-friendly. Setting up an Amazon account was nowhere near as difficult as I thought it might be.  Goodreads was a tad harder—worth it but not super easy.

4)     Marketing. Budgeting time for marketing is an important part of having one project out and working on the next one. Although I’d been in the habit of marketing for my two group blogs, Overcoming With God and Colonial Quills, it was a bit of a different game when it was for my own book. Now I had an additional layer of marketing I needed to do.  Also, some publishers have their own publicity and promotional teams that you end up on and these add another activity that you must add to an already packed calendar.

5)     Acceptance. This one is tricky. Although I had completed two full-length polished manuscripts (over 95K), two full manuscripts through the second draft, a polished novella (20K), had a half dozen incomplete manuscripts plus other writing credits and a thesis and dissertation, one new 20K novella gave me an entrĂ©e into the published fiction world.  It opened a lot of doors that had been closed before.  Not all of them. I still don’t have a published novel in the CBA market. But when I do, I hope I’ll be back on Inkwell Inspirations sharing some more of what I’ve discovered!

Giveaway: Leave a comment about something you’ve learned and how it compares with my experiences. Winner will receive a signed copy of “God’s Provision in Tough Times” and an ebook copy of “Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance” or the brand-new paperback copy of the novella!

 Carrie Fancett Pagels ( is author of Amazon top-rated Civil War novella Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance. Carrie also contributed to God’s Provision in Tough Times, Lighthouse of the Carolinas (July, 2013). Her short story, Snowed In: A Northwoods Christmas, will appear in Guidepost Books “A Cup of Christmas Cheer” (October, 2013). With a Ph.D. in School Psychology, Carrie served as a psychologist for twenty-five years. She has two popular group blogs: Overcoming With God ( and Colonial Quills ( Carrie is the former ACFW Zone Mid-Atlantic Zone Director and Virginia/West Virginia Area Coordinator and continues to serve as co-hostess of the Tidewater Area Christian Writers group. Married for over 25 years to the love of her life, she resides in Virginia’s historic triangle. She has an 11-year-old son and a 24-year-old daughter. 
Contact info
Carrie Fancett Pagels

Links to purchase Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance 

God’s Provision in Tough Times

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We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.