September 26, 2015

Johnny Devine Cover Reveal & Pre-Order Deal


KUDOS to Nicole at Miller Media Solutions and Ashberry Lane Publishing for this stunning book cover for my upcoming novel! I think it is the perfect blend of of Hollywood glamour, nostalgic mood, intrigue, and romance, don't you?

The Memoir of Johnny Devine is a “classic” love story set in 1953 at a time when post-war America seeks security in prosperity and conformity. Hollywood’s Golden Age is coming to an end, McCarthy's “Red Scare” reaches new heights of paranoia, and unrest over civil rights continues to grow. It’s a story for those who enjoy a character-driven, inspirational drama, a strong but chaste romance, and a touch of intrigue.

This novel was a blast to write and research. In fact, the idea for it came to me in a dream one night at a time when I was in the middle of writing another book. I was so moved by the dream that I set the other book aside and began plotting. Soon, Johnny "Devilishly" Devine was born. (He may possess a few attributes similar to Cary Grant, Clark Gable, and Gregory Peck. Their best ones, of course. :) )

Love can’t rewrite the pages of one’s past, 
but it can cover a multitude of sins
---one page at a time.

Rumor had it that Johnny could seduce anything in a skirt quicker than he could hail a cab. But now, the notorious womanizer claims he's born again. Trouble is, everyone knows who he is and what he's done, and they'll never forget---the tabloids have made sure of that.

1953: Eliza Saunderson is a young war widow appalled by societal injustice and inequality. She also resents the notion that modern women are expected to look fashionable, keep house, and play bridge. What if a woman has other aspirations, other skills, other dreams? And then there was the expectation of marriage. Her's hadn't turned out to be the fairy tale her sister promised. Instead, marriage had taught her a painful lesson: Love wasn't worth the constant work of earning and fear of losing it. If what she had could be called love.

Desperation forces Eliza to take a job writing the memoir of the ex-Hollywood heartthrob, Johnny Devine. But to her surprise, she finds herself falling for the humble, grace-filled man John has become. Meanwhile, her passionate articles on racial injustice land her on McCarthy’s hit list and she must clear her name while trying not to fall in love with a man whose scandalous past keeps him too busy to notice her.

...Or does it?

The Memoir of Johnny Devine is the dramatic story within a story of a bad boy reformed and a good girl in need of reform. It’s a powerful tale of love, redemption, intrigue, and the miracle of God’s deliberate grace.

Johnny releases in print and eBook in Decemberbut the eBook is now available for pre-order at a Special Price of 3.99 ($1 off) thru release day.

September 19, 2015

Captive, the Movie: Messy, Real, and Captivating

My husband, friends, and I had to drive an hour away to the one theater in our area that was showing Captive. Which is not surprising. Even though this film was distributed by Paramount Pictures, films labeled faith-based or inspirational usually don't make it to many screens. Perhaps the reason is the thinking that faith films are not compelling enough to fill more theaters.

My posture while viewing this film? Captive—literally. Held taut for 136 intense minutes and forgetting to exhale.

"Captive" is based on the true story of Ashley Smith, a single mother struggling with drug addiction, taken hostage in her apartment by a man on the run after breaking out of jail and murdering the judge assigned to his case. We are first introduced to Ashley (Kate Mara) in an addiction recovery group. Ashley pulls no punches about what drugs have cost her. She has a daughter she adores, but drug use has taken away what is most precious to her. No, next to most precious: she admits she can’t stop using because she likes it too much. We study her transparent expression as her resigned words replay in our ears, and we decide in that moment to applaud her honesty and sympathize.

When help is offered in the form of a book, The Purpose Driven Life, she tosses it in the trash. She is ruining her life and can’t stop. Won’t stop. What good can a book do? She is honest, she is helpless, and she is hopeless.

Soon, through a violent chain of events, escaped killer Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo), takes Ashley hostage in her apartment. Desperate and hunted, he also pulls no punches about what he is capable of. He killed a judge who wanted to enslave him, and “it felt good.” Ashley’s already hopeless life takes a sudden and unexpected turn for the worse.

Two lives intersect and the course of each changes in a most unusual and unnatural way. It’s that unnatural element that often piques my interest. The book Ashley tossed into the trash ends up on her kitchen table and becomes a catalyst of hope.

As a novelist, I create fictional characters, places, and events, yet work hard to weave in elements of truth, of universal realities that people experience. Real flaws, mistakes, and wounds, basic human hopes and fears bring stories to life, make them tangible, meaningful. And most importantly (to me), my stories include a real God who touches real lives in a very real and often “unnatural” way. It is the supernatural, subtly portrayed in this film, which adds that spark, that tangible hope to Ashley’s story. It is done carefully and organically, not forced, not tidy.

Like life.

The story is well-written, touching on universal elements of human experience people feel and even crave, like hope, second chances, and spiritual truths that empower and liberate. The acting is superb. Mara and Oyelowo are spell-binding as they portray realistic, complex characters who grip us from beginning credits to end. 

"Captive" is a high quality, thought provoking, “captivating” film that lingers long after you leave the theater. I highly recommend this film and plan to buy it and watch it again when it releases on DVD. 

Director: Jerry Jameson, Writers: Brian Bird (screenplay), Ashley Smith (book), Cast: Kate Mara, David Oyelowo

Question: Have you seen Captive? What was your takeaway?

September 18, 2015

Captive Movie Opens TODAY!

Today is release day (US) of the film, Captive, based on the true story of Ashley Smith in Atlanta 10 years ago. It's a powerful, faith-inspiring story, written for screen and produced by Screenwriter/Producer Brian Bird. I plan to see it tonight with a truckload - ok a minivan full - of friends.

Do you plan to see Captive? If you do, I would love to hear your feedback on the film. I will post my review here soon, stay tuned!

September 10, 2015

This novel is coming in December!

The Memoir of Johnny Devine is the story-within-a-story of a bad boy reformed and a good girl in need of reform. This “classic” romance is set in 1953 at a time when post-war America seeks security in prosperity, Hollywood’s Golden Age is coming to an end, the “Red Scare” reaches new heights of paranoia, and unrest over civil rights continues to grow. It’s geared toward those who enjoy a character-driven, inspirational drama, a strong but chaste romance, and a touch of intrigue.

Will be available in print, ebook, and audiobook.

Visit for release news or sign up for publishing news from Ashberry Lane.

September 7, 2015

You CAN Be A Great Dad - Even If You Didn't Have One

“It’s easy to talk about being a great dad . . . but when the rubber meets the road it’s not always so easy . . . If we didn’t have those qualities modeled for us by a father, it makes it even more difficult. Interestingly enough though, the qualities that make a great dad are easily learned and mastered by all men. Most men want to be a better dad, even a great dad, but just don’t know how . . .” From 10 Things Great Dads Do: Strategies For RaisingGreat Kids - by Rick Johnson, releasing September 15, 2015

My review: Fatherhood can be challenging, but it can also be fun, rewarding, and fulfilling. 10 Things Great Dads Do is packed full of things that fathers (as well as moms and grandparents) can begin doing today to improve the challenging but doable task of raising confident, healthy, great kids. This book is an easy read (YES!) and an excellent tool for providing some very doable things to develop the kinds of characteristics in you, dads, that will positively impact your kids lives as well as yours.

This book is a godsend that fills in the gaps of what may be missing in our “toolbox” of parenting.

My kids are adults now and beginning families of their own. My husband did (and still does) a tremendous job as a father, but even so, I wish we’d had this book when our kids were young. Even after raising three great kids into great adults, this book is full of eye-opening information about what kids need that I wish I’d known. As someone who didn’t have the blessing of a great dad until I was an adult myself, I found myself nodding (tearfully) in agreement with everything Mr. Johnson said about what children need from their dad.

As grandparents, we are looking forward to putting some of these wonderful strategies into practice. I highly recommend this book to dads as well as to moms who want to partner with the father of their children to give them the best chance in life they can have.

The Author: Rick Johnson is a bestselling author of That's My SonThat's My Teenage SonThat's My Girl, and Better Dads, Stronger Sons, as well as Becoming Your Spouse's Better Half and Romancing Your Better Half. He is the founder of Better Dads and is a sought-after speaker at many large parenting and marriage conferences across the United States and Canada. Rick, his wife Suzanne, and their grown children live in Oregon. To find out more about Rick Johnson, visit

September 4, 2015

SECOND CHANCES: Screenwriter BRIAN BIRD on Upcoming Film CAPTIVE

Photo Credit: Copyright 2014 Paramount Pictures
“All of us have loved ones or friends who have hurts, habits, or hang ups they need help with.” ~Brian Bird

CAPTIVE (2015 Paramount Pictures) is the compelling true story (in 2005) of a single mom taken hostage by a man on the run for murder, and the events that turned a deadly situation into lives forever changed. Captive stars Kate Mara (Fantastic Four), David Oyelowo (Selma, The Butler), and Michael Kenneth Williams. Directed by Jerry Jameson, screenplay by Brian Bird. This film releases September 18, 2015.

 “CAPTIVE, based on a miraculous true story that drew the attention of the entire nation, is a thrilling drama about the spiritual collision of two broken lives. When Brian Nichols - on the run as the subject of a city wide manhunt and desperate to make contact with his newborn son - takes recovering meth addict Ashley Smith hostage in her own apartment, she turns for guidance to Rick Warren’s best-selling inspirational book, The Purpose Driven Life. While reading aloud, Ashley and her would-be killer each face crossroads where despair and death intersect hope.” (from the official movie website)
Photo Credit: Copyright 2014 Paramount Pictures

The film's screenplay was written by producer/writer Brian Bird, 30 year Hollywood film and TV veteran. Bird is co-founder and partner with Michael Landon, Jr. of Believe Pictures, specializing in life-and-faith-affirming films and television.

I became acquainted with Brian Bird through the television series “When Calls The Heart” (Hallmark Channel), which he and Landon co-created and produced. Fans numbering in the tens of thousands (and growing) appreciate the work that these men are doing and the vision they have for bringing faith-affirming, family values back to TV and film.

When I saw this trailer for Captive, I was both hooked and disappointed that I’d have to wait until September 18 (!!!) to see the film. In the meantime, I asked Brian if he would talk about this remarkable true story and share what he hopes its telling will accomplish.

CE: Brian, what first drew you to this story?

BB: I’ve been a member of Saddleback Church for the last 20 years, so I was very familiar with Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life and I even had an opportunity with 20th Century Fox to try to get some version of a movie made using the principals in Pastor Rick’s book. But it was only after the Ashley Smith story happened that Rick emailed me and suggested that we try to make Ashley’s story into a movie instead of trying to cook something up that was purely fictional. He was totally right. After that, it took about seven more years to finally get this movie made, but God’s timing could not have been more perfect and I am so grateful. I really believe this is a movie that could have a transformative effect on the culture, and perhaps even save some lives.

CE: I appreciate that the real, positive impact on lives, more than entertainment, fame, and fortune, is at the heart of your work, your goal. One of the taglines from the film is “When you have God, you have nothing to fear.” At what point in the creation process did it become apparent that this was a key truth in this story?

BB: That principle could not be any more true, not only in Ashley’s Smith story, but also in my own. When I started working on the screenplay for “Captive” I was at a particularly vulnerable point in my life. I was questioning my career, my future in the Hollywood industry, and my calling as a writer. Rick Warren called me one day and challenged my doubts. He told me that there is no such thing as being “uncalled.” There is no such thing as “un-ringing” that bell. I guess you could say it was a bit of a “come to Jesus” phone call, and a great encouragement to me to keep pushing forward. The fact that we have nothing to fear when we’re walking with God is absolutely an essential truth for all of us. And I am praying that “Captive” will help a lot of people around the world conquer their fears.

CE: It’s a powerful story, and yet, even though it’s based on true events, I believe a good storyteller draws on some kind of personal, core connection to make any story—real or fiction—come “alive” for others. Was there something in particular about the story that resonated with you personally?

Photo Credit: Copyright 2014 Paramount Pictures

BB: You’re right, when we are telling or adapting true stories into books or films, we are not making documentaries. We are making entertainments. That means we can’t let the truth get in the way of good storytelling. But in the case of the Ashley Smith and Brian Nichols story, I did not have to fill in too many gaps. We just chose to be as authentic with the story as possible. One of the big lessons in the true story, which became magnified in our film, is that we all need second chances in life. We’re not all murderers or meth addicts, but we have all made mistakes that we need to be forgiven for, and for which a second chance in life means everything. Some of the biggest sinners in history are recorded in the Bible. Moses was a murderer. David was an adulterer and a murderer. Yet God remembers them as powerful forces for good in the world. Imagine what the world would be like if there were no second chances.

CE: We would have no hope! I thank God every day for second chances. What were some of the challenges involved in bringing Captive to the screen? What kept you going?

BB: “Captive” is a “widow’s mite” kind of film. When my colleagues and I first embarked on putting this film together, we had very few resources to work with. There was no big bank account full of investment money to fund creation of the script or the plan for this film. We had to step out in faith with a sense of destiny that we could make this plan come together. But I think it’s more satisfying that way, because that’s what faith is always about. Faith is about stepping into the darkness, not knowing what the future holds, but doing it anyway. Our job is to be obedient. God does the amazing part. Just like when the children of Israel were trying to cross the Jordan River into the promised land. They had to wade out into the river at flood stage. The water didn’t start receding until they were in the middle of the river. That’s the way God works in our lives sometimes. We do obedience, and he does amazing.

CE: Amen! I found the storytelling and the acting/writing quality in just the trailer alone to be very impressive for a faith-based film. Do you anticipate a growing trend in high quality, faith-affirming TV and film? What can viewers do to help grow this trend?

BB: Any of us working in storytelling, whether it be writing novels or making movies, should be absolutely committed to excellence in our craft. We do the world, God, and ourselves no favors by playing small. When it comes to our creativity, there should be no such thing as the “good enough principle.” We were all made the image of the Author of the Universe. We all have a tiny strand of that author’s DNA in us. That means that every aspect of creativity that comes out of us should strive for excellence. Our goal should be to become the Michelangelo of our own gifts and talents, not for our own glory, but to point to the glory of the One who made us. That’s not to say we will be perfect in our creative endeavors, but I believe it’s a sin not to attempt to be the most excellent image-bearers we can be. I will let others judge whether we accomplish that aspiration with “Captive,” but I sure pray it’s so. And if they do see the film and believe it worthy of their recommendation, I pray they will tell everybody and their brother about it very quickly. The first week’s box office numbers are crucial to determining how many people will be able to see this film (and Lord-willing, have their lives changed). If people wait, thinking they will see it in weeks 2 or 3, there may not be a week 2 or 3. But if week 1 is big, we may be around for weeks 7 and 8!

CE: Thank you for making that clear. What do you hope viewers will gain from seeing this film?

BB: My hope and prayer for “Captive” is that millions of people will be exposed to this important story of Second Chances. All of us have loved ones or friends who have hurts, habits, or hang ups they need help with. I would like nothing more then to see thousands of our loved ones get into get into recovery or rehabilitation with ministries like Celebrate Recovery, the Salvation Army, and Alcoholics Anonymous. It took a killer to save Ashley Smith’s life because she was a meth addict who was on the brink of losing everything in life, including her life. The night Brian Nichols took her hostage a decade ago was the night she got a clean and sober, and she has been clean and sober ever since. Imagine if God was able to use this movie to do that same miracle in the lives of tens of thousands of people. That would be the biggest and most important accomplishment of my life.

CE: Thank you, Brian, for giving us a glimpse into the story behind the film, and for sharing your heart in bringing it to screen. I hope everyone will:

1. GO see this film OPENING DAY
2. SHARE the word with others
3. PRAY for lives to be touched by God in a powerful way

Sign up to get updates about the film here: or visit Captive on Facebook.

Share on Twitter: MUST SEE: CAPTIVE the MOVIE 9.18.15 starring @KateMara #DavidOyelowo @Captive #FollowYourPurpose  (CLICK TO TWEET)

Photo Credit: Copyright 2014 Paramount Pictures

Visit AMAZON for Ashley Smith's story: Unlikely Angel

QUESTION: Do you believe God gives second chances? Do you have a second chance story? Would you like to share it?



I've published three novels and a novella (more about those on my website.) I've been writing all my life, but decided in 2007 to get serious about being published.

I love action movies and Jane Austen. (she’s dead, I know. I found that out when I tried to get her to endorse my novel)

They let me play Bass guitar and sing in a worship band.

I can produce 4 dozen homemade cinnamon rolls in a flash for a crowd of drooling young adults. Or publishing house editors.

I used to have a Harley. Now we have twenty-something kids. Decent trade, really. The window-rattling grumble isn't quite the same, but we are still enjoying the ride.

I am a proud Grammy. Don't even think about taking candy from my babies.

I hate shopping (Yes, I'm aware that I'm a girl)

I've lived in Oregon all my life, spent time in Eugene (Go DUCKS!), Springfield, Reedsport, and Smith River. Which is not really a town, but a river, about 70 miles long, a tributary of the Umpqua River in southwest Oregon.

Although it's not a town, it is a community with a strong sense of pioneer history. It's cool to say you've lived there, especially if you lived there during the days when you had to take a boat to school. No joke! The old farmhouse my grandfather and my mother grew up in still stands, nestled into a narrow, pasture carpeted valley, complete with a swimmin' hole and its own 'crick'. It may turn up in one of my novels.

There's a rumor that my ancestors had a connection with the Mafia back in Sicily. I used to fantasize as a kid about a big black limo with tinted windows pulling up and whisking me away from school. Ahhh. So THAT'S why I'm having so much trouble conjugating my dangling participles now.

NOT RANDOM: I am challenged by the truth and amazed by the grace of God. And it's either in spite of or because of that grace that I hold a PhD in Learning Stuff the Hard Way.