CAFE: A gathering place. A place of refreshment.

Thirsty for the latest releases in Christian fiction? Ready for a peek into the world of publishing and writing conferences? Hungry for spiritual and real-life nourishment? Pull up a seat; you're in the right place, and I'm so glad you've stopped by.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


For several years, I’ve kept a journal specifically for writing down the books I’ve read. Title, author, and date read. It’s fun to look back over what I’ve read in the past and recall a certain passion the books invoked. Normally I read about 50 books a year. This year I’ve devoted more time to writing and less to reading so have finished only 40 books. Looking back, though, I noticed several were books on craft which take a little longer especially if I do the exercises most of them suggest. Another observation was that I read quite a number of fun books . . . those that were spoofs or outrageous in some way that balanced out the heavier, more thought-provoking reads.

So, for what it’s worth . . . here are my top picks for 2007. Twelve in all since I gave Susan Meissner’s trilogy three spots. The top two tied for first—the others are in no particular order.

1. Chasing Fireflies—Charles Martin
2. Water for Elephants—Sara Gruen
3. Quaker Summer—Lisa Samson
4. The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs—Alexander McCall Smith
5. Widows and Orphans—Susan Meissner
6. Sticks and Stones—Susan Meissner
7. Days and Hours—Susan Meissner
8. Peace Like a River—Leif Enger
9. Informed Consent—Sandra Glahn
10. How To Write a Damn Good Mystery—James N. Frey
11. Nobody—Creston Mapes
12. Leaper—Geoffrey Wood (although technically this book doesn’t release until January, I predict you will be hearing a lot about it)

Several authors who are “new” to me are on the list as well as some long-time favorites. As a matter of fact, I had to be pretty discerning to narrow it down to twelve. 2007 was a super reading year for me. How about you? Any great books you’ve read recently that you’d like to tell me about?

I’ll be putting together my “Must Read” list for 2008 in a few days. I’d love to hear your recommendations.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

God Bless Us Every One

It's always a four day marathon when we celebrate Christmas with both sides of our family, now in towns 120 miles apart. The effort this year was worth all the miles, the ice-covered roads, and the weeks of preparation. What family is not worth our best? We are fortunate and blessed to have four generations of family and friends to celebrate with.

Oldest grandson, who entertained us with the dance steps he learned to "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"

Aunt Donna with all five great nephews.

Grandpa Mike (my dad) with his first and only great-granddaughter.

My oldest son and his youngest in "Christmas" headbands.

Grandmama (Max's mom) with youngest family member

Proud Papa Max with first granddaughter

Cousins (aren't they cute???)

Three of our four sons (with our adorable granddaughter)

Four boy cousins with our special niece

A special treat. I got to have Christmas morning coffee (Kona, of course) with college friend, Linda Cavis, who now lives in Hawaii and visits Oklahoma ever so often.

"The girls"
My sisters and me.
Our Christmas is over for another year, but we're left with lots of memories and the warmth of laughter, good food, and time spent together. I hope yours has been as memorable as ours.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Luke 2:8

On Christmas Eve, we'll gather with our minions at my Dad's for a feast and the flurry of gifts. My favorite part, though, is the reading of the real Christmas story in Luke. The honor rotates each year among my sons, my sister's boys, and then a couple of years ago, the mantle was passed to my grandson. Quite a lot of words for an eight-year-old to master, and he did a beautiful job. I don't know who will read this year, but I know my heart will swell as always. Tell me the story of Jesus. I never tire of hearing it.

Blessings to all of you who have visited my writing cafe this year. I'll pop in next week with my reading favorites of 2007 and tell you what I'll be reading next year.

Until then, have a merry, merry Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

BLOGGING Day Two With Tiffany Colter

Blogging: Part Two

Welcome back. If you missed yesterday’s post about who should blog and the basics, just scroll down and read what my guest Tiffany Colter, Writing Career Coach, had to say. Today, she will answer a few more questions.

You mentioned yesterday that you post blogs of note on Friday. What are the essential ingredients for writing a blog of note? One that draws readers?

Easy-offer useful content. I always ask myself the question “Would I be happy after reading this post?” I want to have a blog that someone like me would find useful. My goal is to be THE place on the internet for aspiring writers to go to learn how to fulfill their dream of publication.

Not only that, but I want established writers to be able to come to my blog and find valuable content that helps move their writing to the next level.

I offer products to help even more but when I started out as a writer I couldn’t afford ANYTHING for my writing. Finances were very tight. That’s why I strive to have a blog that will give substantial useful content for free. Money, or lack of money, should never block a person’s dreams.

A concern many people have is the amount of time it takes to write blog posts and visit other people’s blogs. What can a writer do to streamline this process so that it doesn’t dip into our real writing time?

This is a legitimate concern and one that blocked me from blogging for eight months. First, writers need to see this as a part of their marketing, not an interruption. Second, writers need to find a way to quickly do this.

I write all my blogs on one day, usually Monday or Saturdays. I save them in a file “This weeks blogs” or I date it “Blog for week of 12/23”. Then I type Monday, Tuesday’s blogs, I have my daughter write her blog for Wednesday, then I copy and paste the file for Thursday [or write Thursday’s]. The blogs of note are in a separate file that I add to when someone tells me of a great blog or I find one myself. This takes me about 30-60 minutes to do once a week. Then I copy and paste on my blog [which takes about 2 minutes] each day and spend 10-20 minutes visiting other blogs. That comes out of the hour I spend each day marketing my writing and business.

If someone is REALLY pressed for time and can only post to their blog [which I was when I started this blog], then you can write the blogs for the week on Saturday and post them during the week. That’s less than 1 hour a week. Not a huge sacrifice.

How can bloggers get more people to visit their blogs? Are contests beneficial to getting visitors?

I have not had luck with contests. They can be good but unless you’re a book reviewer who posts the review and then gives away that book I don’t think you’re getting meaningful visitors. I covered some ways to drive traffic to your blog a month ago. I’ve posted the link here:

In addition to that, make sure you’re giving valuable information and let friends know about it. Word of mouth is by far the best advertising.

Once an author is published, should he have a blog for published works or something that is genre specific for what he writes? Ex: suspense only, YA, romance.

That depends on how much time someone wants to commit to blogging. For the time being I’m only writing the one blog. If I find my readers want more, I’ll consider doing a second blog only if it won’t take too much time from writing.

As a Writing Career Coach, what other blogging advice could you give that we haven’t talked about?

The best advice I can give is to come to my blog. :-)

In addition to that, find 5 or 6 blogs that give good content that you trust. Visit subscribe to them and visit them when they post new content. This can be some of the most useful time you spend learning. Make sure these blogs offer content and not chatter. This is marketing and research time. The few minutes you spend each day visiting those blogs will pay big dividends when you’re marketing your book.

And don’t forget to make comments on those blogs. Blogs are a conversation, that’s what makes them so popular. Learn what you can from them.

I hope to see lots of you on my subscriber list.

Thank you so much, Tiffany, for your time and insights.

I hope all of you will follow Tiffany’s advice and leave a comment here. Questions? Please ask, and we’ll see if we can get Tiffany to answer. Starting a blog can be intimidating. Having a blog is not. Once you’re up and going, I’ve found that it’s a great way to meet people and share what’s going on in my writer’s head as well as sharing great news about books and the craft of writing. You never know until you try :-)

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Blogging: Part One
The holidays are coming at us fast and furious, but I know many of you have been toying with the idea of starting a blog in the new year. Others may be wanting to make their blogs more relevant and or less time-consuming. I’ve asked Tiffany Colter, Writing Career Coach, to answer a few questions for all of us.

Thank you, Tiffany, for being my guest today. I’m fairly new to blogging myself and know that it scares many people. How important is it for a writer to become one of millions who blog?

That really depends on what your goals are as a writer and who your target audience is. If you write books targeted to the over 50 group there may be less of a need than if you write chick-lit.

I have to admit, I really wasn’t big in to blogging. I started a blog a year ago and really didn’t do much with it. I’m a writing career coach, and as such, I spend a great deal of time researching marketing principles that help writers build their business. As I did this I kept coming back to needs that could be met by blogging.

Let me say, if you HATE to blog and you hate the idea of coming up with something relevant to say then you’ll do yourself more harm by having a blog that is never updated. But, if you’re committed to spending 15 minutes a few times a week to make it work-it’s worth your time.

I’ve heard that focus on a particular area is the primary thing to consider when starting a blog. Is it better for an unpublished author to have a general focus or concentrate on one or two areas? (ex: book reviews and author interviews or the craft of writing and professional tips or areas of expertise and your preferred genre).

Hmmm, another good question. If anyone’s been to my blog they know I don’t focus on one area exclusively. Monday I post marketing tips, on Tuesdays we apply what we’ve learned by taking a book idea and saying “How would you market this?” On Wednesdays my daughter does book reviews of kids books [she’s a 9 year old who is a voracious reader….proud mommy moment here.] Thursday I’ll either have people in the industry [Writers, Editors, Agents, Publishers] post or we cover more on marketing. Friday I post blogs of note. This is a list of blogs that I’ve read or my readers have read that have valuable content.

While this covers one basic topic-books-my blogs have shown up in blog carnivals that cover business, marketing, family, women in business and a host of different areas. So I’d say that you don’t need to cover only one or two areas but be consistent so your readers know what to expect.

What blog providers do you recommend for the faint at heart or those who are just starting out? Which ones seem more user friendly?

Wow, I wish I could help more on this. I use shoutlife and blogger and am happy with both of them. I try to only speak from experience so that’s the best I can answer for you there.

Can a blog take the place of a website? Why or why not?

Wow, tough question. I actually have both for my Writing Career Coach products. and I suggest authors get their domain name so they can use it if they need to.

I will say this. It’s better to have a blog that you post to even 3 times a week rather than an outdated website that sits there and does nothing.

Thanks, this is all great advice.

I hope you’ll drop by the Café again tomorrow to find out what you can do to increase traffic to your blog and streamline the writing for more efficient use of your time. In the meantime, take a break from the holiday madness, have a cup of your favorite brew, and reflect on the joy of the season. Until then . . .

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I'm Cupid. Which one are you? Click here to find out.

You Are Cupid
A total romantic, you're always crushing on a new reindeer.
Why You're Naughty: You've caused so much drama, all the reindeers aren't speaking to each other.
Why You're Nice: You have a knack for playing matchmaker. You even hooked Rudolph up!

Thursday, December 13, 2007


An ice storm hit Oklahoma on Sunday. We lost power that night and woke to find my car like this:

The neighbors Bradford pear split—Half of it landed on my car, the other half crashed into our backyard. Max (who is a quick thinker in emergencies) went to Home Depot and got a gas-powered chain saw to cut the limbs from around my car. There’s not a single scratch or dent on it. A bent aerial—that’s it. Amazing! The last three days have been out of the ordinary, to say the least. We were without power 70 hours. Here are a few of my observations:

  • I’m not as resilient as I thought.
  • 54 degrees is cold inside your house.
  • Tough times draw neighbors together. One neighbor borrowed my old-fashioned can opener to open dog food for his elderly labs. Meanwhile, he checked on and helped several retired neighbors.
  • Max put the chain saw to good use helping get large fallen trees out of the street.
  • Coffee (by the pot) from the local convenience store should never be taken for granted.
  • Fast food is not fast when twelve cars snake around the drive through, and the lines inside are even longer. And no one complains. Hot food is worth the wait.
  • Having no TV or Internet didn’t seem like much of an inconvenience.
  • Cell phones are fantabulous!
Thousands are still without power. The cleanup will take months. Today I’m more grateful for the rush of warm air coming through our vents, the sparkle of Christmas lights on the tree, and my first cup of coffee made in my very own kitchen. I am blessed. More than I can imagine or deserve.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I'm On Seekerville Today

My friend, Myra Johnson, asked me to be the guest blogger on Seekerville today. The Seekers there have a ton of information about contests, how to prepare a manuscript, and personal stories of contest wins and misses. It's fun and informative. You can read my take on winning the ACFW Genesis contest (Historical Fiction) this past September. And while you're there, check out some of the great advice these contest veterans have.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


One of my favorite childhood memories is going to Granny’s on Christmas Eve and feasting on her beautifully decorated sugar cookies. While I didn’t help Granny make them, my mother did help my sisters and me make cut-out cookies. Later, I followed the tradition with my four boys. Not sure how much interest they had in the art, but they did seem to enjoy licking the frosting off their fingers and devouring the final product.

This past weekend, my twin grandsons visited, and I thought why not? I had the dough ready and decorating supplies laid out when they arrived. Oh my. What fun! Here they are working hard and enjoying the results. I hope you take the time this holiday season to carry on a tradition or just goof off in the kitchen and make someone smile.

Monday, December 3, 2007


My first official “Book Signing” was yesterday at Steve’s Books and Magazines in Tulsa. It’s an old-fashioned book store/soda fountain that is a landmark in Tulsa. We had a great turnout and sold all the books (an anthology of the Tulsa Night Writers) our president brought with her. She had to dash home and get some of her reserve stash.

Since many authors were represented, we took shifts at the signing table, but I got a huge kick out of walking around, pen in hand, signing books whenever someone asked, “Are you one of the authors?” Great fun!

L to R: Bren Presley, Me, M. Carolyn Steele, Gloria Teague

Mark Darrah, Bren Presley, Me, M. Carolyn Steele, Gloria Teague

Me with writing buddy and friend, M. Carolyn Steele