Rachel’s new Book Launch Collective!

EXCITING NEWS!!! I’ve been invited to be one of seven highlighted authors during the Book Launch Collective’s June Launch Event!

You can learn more about the Book Launch Collective and the event here: https://booklaunchcollective.com

The Book Launch Collective harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing and leverages it to help Christian fiction writers (and their stories) reach readers so they can make both an impact and an income with their novels!

I know first-hand how hard getting the word out there about a novel can be! I’m looking forward to being part of this event in June!

If you:
Love fiction written from a Christian worldview
Believe story is a powerful tool to point people to God’s goodness and love
Want to support your creative brothers and sisters in the work they are doing

You’ll want to be part of this unique opportunity!

You can get on the waitlist to get notified of the event details here: https://booklaunchcollective.com

Ten Commandments for Smooth Writing

by J.E. & Mary McReynolds


Thou shalt send most adjectives and adverbs to a place outside the camp. They are usually not needed or wanted. They may even be unclean.

Hemingway was told early in his career to excise most of the adjectives in his prose. His novels became bestselling masterpieces. No one missed the adjectives that he banished. 

Thou shalt not make characters one-dimensional.

Bad characters who are all bad are boring and unrealistic. Good characters that all good are boring and unrealistic. People are not one-dimensional. The scripts for Titanic and Avatar ignored this commandment. The bad guys were all bad. The movies suffered for it.

Thou shalt vary thy cadence.

Alternate short sentences with longer sentences, but not in a mechanistic or predictable fashion. Readers are attracted to short sentences, but too many in succession make the manuscript choppy. Some writers think longer sentences prove their talent and intellectual capacity. They are wrong. Nobody is fooled.

Thou shalt embrace dialogue.

Nothing moves a story along faster than dialogue: people speaking directly to each other, with or without quotation marks. Readers feel good that they’ve covered a particular number of pages in a relatively short time. They are happy with themselves and the world. Help them achieve this bliss by giving them dialogue instead of exposition.

Thou shalt not search for attribution alternatives.

He said. She said. They said. Searching for alternatives to “said” often leads to derision. This is not absolute. Once in a while, use an “uttered” or “noted.” Avoid archaic alternatives such as “ejaculated” or “expostulated.” Some attribution is not needed in a stream of dialogue. Enough said. 

Thou shalt ignore much of what you were taught by elderly English teachers in high school.

Yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition. This is legal in 49 states. 

Thou shalt audit thy work before letting others read it.

Audit means to hear something said out loud. Read your work to yourself aloud. Listen for how it sounds. You might pick up on something that sounds wrong. 

Thou shalt not get in an all-fired hurry.

When finishing a draft, let some time pass before you go back and read it. The passage of time injects objectivity into the equation. If you don’t wait, you lose that advantage; you’ll just read it the way you wrote it, which sounded great and clear when when you were writing but not great or clear enough to sign off on the work.

Thou shalt not overuse words in a short span of prose.

Look for reasonable alternatives – synonyms – for nouns that appear more than once in a short passage, but be careful. It’s OK to use “deluge” as a substitute for “rain” in a passage with a lot of references to ongoing precipitation. It’s not OK to write about bananas and describe them as “elongated yellow fruits.” That was actually done once by a bad writer.

Thou shalt “show” more and “tell” less.”

Show: As his mother switched off the light and left the room, Michael tensed. He huddled under the covers, gripped the sheets, and held his breath.

Tell: Michael was terribly afraid of the dark.

The “show” version illumines what’s happening in detail. The “tell” version states a condition with no explanation for why the condition exists.

Mary Hicks McReynolds lives in Northwest Arkansas with her husband, a retired professional journalist. McReynolds has authored three novels, a non-fiction historical book and a collection of poetry. She earned her BA in English and MA in Creative Studies from the University of Central Oklahoma. A career in health care marketing and public relations rounded out her writing skills with awards in attendant disciplines. 

James E. McReynolds is a retired professional journalist, having worked at newspapers for nearly 40 years. He lives in Northwest Arkansas with the novelist and poet Mary Hicks McReynolds, his wife of 43 years. He is an Oklahoma native and graduate of Oklahoma State University. 

Both James and Mary have received numerous awards for their fiction and non-fiction writing.

a christian carol

At this time of year, advent reflections light the hopeful way to Christmastide and like Charles Dicken’s trinity of ghosts in A Christmas Carol, advent visits us with memory past of His glorious entry into hostile and foreign territory- hope birther. The present now- darkness shatterer. And promise future- curse breaker.

Hope Birther— field shepherds overwhelmed by angelic heraldry announcing His birth. The suckling babe, the Lamb of God, to clothe us with His rightness. Come see…

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst. MECKLENBURG-VORPOMMERN/PUBLIC DOMAIN

Darkness Shatterer— confession drawn from repentant hearts seeking solace in His embrace. The seal of His Holy Spirit. Come enter…

The Repentant Magdalene is a c.1635-1640 oil on canvas painting by Georges de La Tour

Curse breaker— exultant return delivering us from this pain-filled fallen world. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus…

Gustave Doré, “The Triumph Of Christianity Over Paganism,” 1868 (photo: Public Domain)

Expectantly we wait. 

the waning

      It’s another November without her. I remember the low thrum of bagpipe. I turned in the wooden pew peering toward the back of the church as the piper’s mournful tune emerged. Her kilt swung solemnly as she walked up the carpeted aisle. Tears flowed, sniffles all around me, I wiped my nose too. The flower arrangement my sister thoughtfully designed around our great aunt’s favorite colors lay before the lectern. She would have approved.

       Today would have been her one hundred second birthday, but instead she is being laid to rest. She, the matriarch of our family on my dad’s side. I’d bought her a solar bobble head Queen Elizabeth on a trip to London in 2017. She’d loved it of course.

       As I look at family photos, especially Thanksgiving pictures, her face beams— usually next to Jane, or between my sister and I. First, the oldest sibling had died. Then a sister, followed by another (my grandmother), then her brother. I asked her once if she felt old. “No,” she’d said. Though she was 100. 

       One of the last time’s I saw her she told me the story behind a farmyard scene that hung above her floral couch. She’d pointed to the girl opening the screen door.       

       “That’s me,” she’d laughed, “going in to wash the dishes. And that’s Diz.”

       The other figure a girl reading lazily on a swing. I unnecessarily defended my grandmother’s work ethic. I remembered an often-quoted directive I’d been given countless times, “Dinner isn’t over until the dishes are through.” How many times had I said those very words to my children?

       Another time, she told me the story of the composer Dvorak coming to Spillville, Iowa. And how townsfolk saw him walking in the woods, writing notes of music on his paper cuffs as much needed inspiration flowed from the wind, trees, and brooks. The Catholic community had welcomed and enshrined him accordingly, along with the Bily Brothers, poppyseed kolaches, and all things Bohemian. Not Czechoslovakia when her family immigrated, but Bohemia! It was important I know.

       An old tape recording captured the ghost of her mother’s voice as she sang a simple song in their native tongue. Her daughters’ soft laughter in the background. The family farm where she’d been raised, milked cows, made lye soap, and yes, washed dishes rests under Lake Arcadia, Oklahoma.

       The last time I saw her, her frail form stood in the door of her apartment. She’d smiled in spite of the pain and said softly, “I’ll see you in the waning.” She passed a week later.

       Yes, I‘ll see you in the waning.

If you would like to join in, please post your link in the comments. 500 Word Wednesday, Let It Fly. If you do, please feel free to take the badge!

To Lois, With Love

(on your wedding anniversary)

Heaven Some Day, Heaven Soon

In the darkness of this day, your smile made life better,

A gentle touch upon an arm, a nudge you were here.

Heaven here, heaven now

Heaven some day, heaven soon

A smile so warm it lit the room, keeping the shadows at bay,

A servant’s heart for your family, a picture of Christ so near.

Heaven here, heaven now

Heaven some day, heaven soon

A void now feels the space that you once did occupy,

A void no one else can fill, only you sweet dear.

Heaven here, heaven now,

Heaven some day, heaven soon

But some day soon and not so far away,

we’ll see you once again,

He’ll draw us in, hug us close, and wipe away the tears.

Heaven here, heaven now,

Heaven some day, heaven soon.

~For my mother-in-love, Lois Frantz May 16, 2016 with love

teddy bears picnic

Today was a Muzzie day. I drove to Edmond this morning while the sun was still shining. “A single dip hot fudge sundae, please? No nuts, no cherry,” I order at Braums. Just the way she likes them now.
I pull into the small park and trek across the street past the full lot as I don my mask. They beep me in and record my temperature before I’m allowed entry.
Do I know where her room is? I nod.
She is slumped in her bed this morning, half in, half out, her nurse aid mid-process helping her to dress. My timing, as usual, turns out to be impeccable. No, I’ll stay. I add assistance where I can.
Once she’s settled I ask if she’d like her sundae, she nods. Unsure of what to do or how to move. This is part of the weakness of aging. She’s 96.
One of her daughters had come yesterday for the Thanksgiving meal hosted by the home, her nurse tells me. I say I was sorry to miss it, but I’ve come today with ice cream. She smiles and leaves the room.
After the treat, Muzzie dozes in and out, smiling each time she awakens and sees my face, masked though it is.
I reach into her book basket and find the card I’d bought for her in Wyoming. It’s one of those textured numbers that looks 3D as you shift it. This one is a forest of aspens.
Next time she wakes I remind her of a song she used to sing to us, The Teddy Bear’s Picnic. I tell her the card had reminded me and that is why I sent it. She smiles unsure. I start to sing it and a glimmer of recognition beams out. Her small Bitty Bear was in the same basket, I set him before the propped card, for context. I tell her she is always in my heart. Always. And she is.

Criss Cross, Christ’s Cross

I wept as I listened to James Blunt’s song, Monsters, about his ailing father. He sings about the universal exchange of place that occurs as a parent’s health fails.

Criss crossed.

Brushing bangs gently away from eyes with a caress as tender as the one once used on newborn infant. Applying Chapstick to parched lips before promising to return to the hospital one more time. Always one more time. 

       A friend of mine once told me that the loss of her grandparents, and then her parents, had felt like the layers of an onion slowly being peeled away. This unmerciful undressing of the soul in its exposure to the elements of time. I hadn’t experienced yet what she was saying but I recognized the truth of it.

       And as I continue to listen to his lyrics, I am drawn to its simple confession of knowing another even as I am known. A mercy is exposed that always draws me to itself. A humility of love that seeks to bring relief not accusation. A gentle reminder that we all have feet of dust.

       I keep listening only disagreeing with one point, I don’t know that it will be me turning out the light. Maybe my life will be one handspan, maybe two, or it may be required tomorrow.

       I’ve seen friends walk through the harrowing loss of a child. Another criss cross. And even though as Christians we believe that Christ has upended death the finality of feeling, no, knowing, that this simply is not right is delineated by the grief of such deep pain. 

      And a whisper reminds me that death was never supposed to be part of the natural order. That the orderly death of preceding generations passing before the younger and which is generally accepted was never meant to be. In the pre-apple days there was no death. No wonder we label it myth. No wonder.      

       The Father enters in to rescue, as Son, and brings death to death. Criss cross, Christ’s cross. I try to imagine it. A world without grief and pain. Banished of all monsters, Mr. Blunt. This is what Jesus has promised, He wills to leave the light on.

John 10:9-10

I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Crater Lake Reflections on Burial Day

The wind sounded like waves rustling through the pines, not a gentle whisper, but a mighty push.

Down below on the surface of Crater Lake, Wyoming I could see the wind in a way I never had before as it moved the surface of the water.

The Holy Spirit of scripture is often referred to as a breath or a wind, and He is part of the Godhead we are taught about and invited to reside with here on earth. He is the foretaste of heaven.

May He rest on us today as we go to celebrate the passing of one of His children from this dirt globe into the brilliant presence of God for eternity. May that knowledge fill, comfort, and assure us of the promises of the good news of Jesus Christ, that He has overcome death, hell, and the grave.

On Queries & Book Synopsis

Well, then…

When one was having fun writing a novel, one didn’t know what would be involved with its next steps. One didn’t even have to care. When people asked, you just shrugged off the question as veritably unimportant. Surely that could wait. And then you finish writing your book. You stand back satisfied, basking in the moment.

But then a sinking feeling creeps in. What is next?

I think the sensation is akin to going on your honeymoon, getting pregnant, then waking up three months later with the first bout of nauseating morning sickness. (just not pleasant)

On that carefree island vacation where you romped in the waves, carelessly shopped as if no bills were due at the end of the month, and you ate the apple dumpling with vanilla ice cream, (or two), nothing else had really seemed to matter.

Enter stage left, (for fiction that is), the Query & Book Synopsis. With completed babe in hand, even dolled up by a few beta readers, you come to realize there is a whole new vocabulary to learn. Like beta reader for example and genre and where does your book fit into this grand scheme. This invisible bookshelf that reaches to the heavens. These are things that you have to know. That is what they, and by they, I would mean the people in the business with actual credentials who have made a life and passion of the written word and getting it published, have to say.

So I listened to several podcasts on hope*writers, googled some names, did some searches and came up with this initial link list that might be beneficial for your go-bag to the bookbaby hospital:

(if it helps, you are most certainly welcome, if not, well, I understand…it is all a bit mesmerizing and overwhelming…just as it should be, btw)

Please, pass the pickles.

Milo and the Rattle Snake

(a Halloween tale, 2021)

       The Eagle’s “Hotel California” blared from the tape deck. Milo winced. The song’s message of futility and emptiness grated on his last nerve. From within the musty cab Gabe, the work hand, revved the motor as he rolled a well-chewed toothpick from side to side. He bid Boss goodnight. Milo tipped his Stetson in return.

       As the old Ford roared down the gravel drive, Milo welcomed the silence. In the moonlight he sought the barn door handle, grabbed it, and began to slide it open. Its heavy weight resisted along bent tracks, his back ached with the effort.


       The hairs on his neck bristled as his stomach dropped. A sinking dread covered him. Wh— he stopped mid-croak and listened.

Hisssssssss. Rattle. Rattle. Rattle.

       The smell of manure and hay lay dank in the dark. He stepped slowly back from the serpent’s warning. The herd silent within.

Hissssssssssss. Rattle. 

       He closed the barn door then spit in the dirt. He’d wait until daylight to replace the lightbulb that swung uselessly above him in the nighttime breeze. He’d bring his shotgun too.


       He went to bed uneasy and dreamt of a particular snake from the first glory-garden as The Eagle’s eerie intro began in the background. Oh, how he’d always loathed this song. The snake taunted him with hissing lies, filling him with fear, as the music rattled on and on.

             He woke in a cold sweat in the large, empty bed. He searched for the familiar comfort he wouldn’t find this side of the grave. And wept again. Here was the sting.

       The next morning he woke to soft sunlight slanting through the window. The pane cross shadow lay on his bedclothes as he knelt and talked to his Savior. All things would be made new. One day. 

     He dressed, put on his worn boots, and took down his gun from above the mantel. He rocked it open, checked the loads, then headed to the barn.

       As he slid the door open all was silent. He peered to the left, to the right, below him, above him. A cruciform of wary attention. His boots shuffled on the hay-strewn, concrete slab. There on his right hung all the outside farm tools. He scanned the wall of axes, assorted metal rakes, and saws.

      Midway among the various collection was the large rattler. Its huge body hung lifeless. He could see it had constricted after wrapping multiple times around Milo’s two-man crosscut saw. He smiled grimly as he reached up and unwound the carcass.  

       Hadn’t the serpent tried this very thing on Golgotha?

the Holy Spirit reminded. 

The truth settled deep into his bones as he watched the scaly hide burn on the trash heap. It never had been his job to kill the beast.