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.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

In The Mood for a Little Romantic Suspense? Enter to win RELUCTANT SMUGGLER

RELUCTANT SMUGGLER by Jill Elizabeth Nelson released last week by Multnomah. Jill is one of those sweet, mild-mannered people who just radiates friendliness. Don't let that fool you. She's a killer of a writer. Leave a comment (with contact info) on this post to win a copy of my friend's latest book. US residents only please. Drawing to be held on Friday, February 9, 2008.

They say keep your friends close and your enemies closer…but what if you can't tell the difference?

For security consultant Desiree Jacobs, the assignment is simple: make off with an ancient Mayan artifact, and hand it over to the good guys in time to plan her wedding to ultra-fine FBI agent, Tony Lucano.Yet, in a world where no one is as they seem, Desi must decipher who the good guys are—before she ends up in the hands of a ruthless enemy.

Suddenly, artifact recovery turns into archaeological espionage, and the woman who finds all the answers must now ask questions. Who's looting priceless antiquities underneath the nose of the baffled Mexican government? And what does a violent gang of drug and human traffickers have to do with missing artifacts?

Even with Tony on her side, she'll need way more than luck to survive against the odds. She'll need the truth—not just to set her free, but to liberate many innocents caught in the snare of calculating evil.

Complete with a reader’s guide, this third book in the To Catch a Thief series explores the power of hope in the darkest of circumstances.

Author Bio:
Jill Elizabeth Nelson graduated with a degree in literature and creative writing from Southwest Minnesota State University. Her writer's journey has taken her in many different directions. She's worn the hats of journalist, columnist, essayist, poet, story teller and book reviewer. Her current chapeau is the one she coveted all along—novelist. Her Guide and Mentor in along the path is her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Jill is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Christian Writers Group, Crime Scene Writers, and Christian Authors Network. She and her husband have four children and live in Madison, Minnesota.

My Review: Jill Elizabeth Nelson has done it again with the third installment of her To Catch a Thief series. Fast paced with more twists and turns than the Yucatan jungle where Desi Jacob’s work takes her, Reluctant Smuggler is a thrilling ride. A fact finding mission with Mexico’s government officials ends with the loss of a prized antiquity, her precious engagement ring and almost her life. At the same time, Tony Lucano, her FBI agent fiancé, finds himself out of commission temporarily when an undercover operations turns into a disaster. Separated by circumstances and fighting for their lives, they wonder if they will ever accomplish their professional goals, let alone be able to set a date for their wedding.

Fun, supportive secondary characters, including Desi’s friend, Max, and Tony’s colleague, Stevo, add comic relief and sound advice. Tony’s mom also brings a touch of wisdom and unconditional love to her son and future daughter-in-law. The drama, love interest, and knock-your-socks-off ending round out this series nicely.

Enter a comment to be entered in a drawing for this book. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


This has been a long week already. I’ve almost recovered from a nasty intestinal illness that started Saturday evening. My inability to consume food OR caffeine on Sunday left me with a migraine. More nausea and the daze of being on another planet. The stomach thing prompted a long-overdue visit to one of those doctors who specialize in torturing people of a certain age with “screening” tests. Yep, he scheduled me for the “look-see” into both ends of my digestive tract. It makes me queasy all over again just thinking about it.

Still, life goes on, and today I caught up with reading the stacked up emails. This one from our neighborhood watch in my urban development caught my eye.

My neighbors and I have seen a black chicken with a red beak and small red comb hovering around our front yards since last Friday, the 19th. One neighbor has put out food for it. If anyone knows who might be missing a chicken, please call me at ______.

I’ve mentioned before that we’ve had coyote sightings and a feral cat issue here in the middle of suburbia, but a chicken?? Good grief. I suppose someone could have just “dropped it off” hoping it would find a good home. After all, who wouldn’t want a pet chicken or two?

In the days we lived on a farm, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. We also had coyotes, raccoons, deer, an armadillo or two, even a stray emu once (although I never could explain that one). It just goes to show, when you think you’ve seen it all, something new comes along.

And speaking of chickens—that will be me next Wednesday. The day I go for my tests. Say a prayer for me, okay?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


My friend D’Ann tagged me for this “One-Book” exercise.

Off we go!

1. One book that changed your life.
This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. I read this during a very tumultuous time in our lives. The lessons in spiritual warfare were unforgettable and led me on a prayer journey like I’d never experienced.

2. One book that you have read more than once.
Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. An overwhelming story with the best examples of POV (point of view) I’ve ever seen.

3. One book you would want on a desert island.
My NIV Study Bible with all the markings in the margins and helps in the back.

4. Two books that made you laugh.
The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs by Alexander McCall Smith (one book in the Professor Dr. von Igelfeld trilogy). Leaper by Geoffrey Wood—the tale of a superhero which is not my normal fare, but very funny.

5. One book that made you cry.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Such a satisfying ending that I wept with relief and joy at the goodness that still exists.

6. One book you wish you'd written.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. The words dance off the page. Pure delight.

7. One book you wish had never been written.
I’m drawing a blank here. There have been a few I didn’t care about, but nothing stands out as that deplorable.

8. Two books you are currently reading.
Fallen by Matthew Raley and The Reluctant Smuggler by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. I’m reading both for upcoming book tours (two different ones). Am anxious to get started on A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman.

9. One book you've been meaning to read.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

10. Five people that I tag: Myra, Erica, Rhonda, Gina, and the Koala Bear Writer.


Novelist and non-fiction author of parenting books, Mary DeMuth, has started a new web place, So You Want To Be Published . . . to help unpublished authors chart their course and press on with their writing goals. She has a heart for mentoring and a deep conviction for writing God’s truth. I think you’ll like the resources and wisdom she shares. To launch the site, she’s having a contest and will give away three copies of her Non-Fiction Writing Proposal package.
Side note: If you ever have the opportunity to hear Mary speak, jump on it. She’s the real deal, and you will come away encouraged and challenged to be a better writer. So, do something nice for yourself and hop over to
Mary’s right now. I just did.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


The Bucket List is a new film with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. With nothing in common but a terminal illness, they embark on an adventure to do everything they want to do in life before they kick the bucket. Fun and interesting premise, no? My local newspaper thought so, too, and ask their readers what was on their “bucket list.”

Several golfers dreamed of making a hole-in-one (I’m sure my hubby would second that one!). Some of the adventurous types wanted to ride in a hot-air balloon or see the earth from a B-24 bomber. Motorcycle trips across New Zealand or hiking the Appalachian trail topped others’ list. Many people dreamed of exotic vacations or taking the whole family to Disneyland. Sports-minded types would thrill at playing for the Chicago Bears or just watching a game at Wrigley Field. One grandfather’s wish was to see his 4-year-old grandson play Little League baseball, and a lighthouse collector wanted to visit a real lighthouse in person. Many bucket wishes revolved around family and faith—watching the sunrise on the beach with a special granddaughter or walking where Jesus walked in the Holy Land.

This is the stuff that causes my writer’s heart to beat faster, my imagination to spin off in unclaimed territory. Knowing my characters longings, their wildest dreams, and the one thing they would move heaven and earth to accomplish gives me new possibilities for plot twists, for deepening personalities and relationships of the imaginary people whose lives I weave into stories.

I haven’t seen “The Bucket List” movie (rated PG-13) so can’t attest to how moral or entertaining it is, but it sounds like something I would like. For certain, it brings up the question—what’s on my bucket list?

Right off, I’d have to say I want my name on the cover of a book as a published author. There burns within me the desire to become accomplished enough to have an editor, a publishing board believe that my writing has merit. I know God planted the desire in my heart, and should it come to pass, I will be grateful that He has allowed my dream to come true.

After mulling it over for a bit, however, I know that this is only a fraction of what my life is about. I’ve been blessed with a husband who loves me, four boys who’ve grown into pretty cool adults, grandchildren who amaze and delight me. Sprinkle in some memorable trips every year or two and countless friends and family who’ve intersected my life along the way, and I would have to say, this journey called life has been full of scenic turnouts. Fun and sometimes painful side trips have molded me and given my life meaning. Mercifully so. Within the marrow of my bones, I know my true bucket wish—to see Jesus face to face and bow before Him. To hear him say, “Well done.”

Should I abandon my dream to be published? Absolutely not! I will still aim my arrow toward the prize. I will pant after it, read books on writing, hang out with writerly friends, and polish my sentences. I will give my characters grit, my plots pizzaz, and my dreams to God.

How about you? What quickens your heart? What’s on your bucket list? I’m dying to kn

Sunday, January 6, 2008

What's on Your Reading List?

I’ve seen a lot of books recommended on other lists for the best of 2007—way more than I could ever read. Since my reading time is precious, stolen time from my writing I have to be careful and read wisely. And well. What do I want in a good book?

Entertainment—Sometimes I need a dose of laughter, something absurd or tongue-in-cheek. I like to sprinkle those in throughout the year. It’s also entertaining to be taken to a place or setting I’ve never experienced. I’m not the sort who has to identify with the story or the main character. Empathy or rooting for an offbeat or downtrodden character takes me down roads I’ve not traveled. Like a Calgon bath—they take me away.

Challenging—I didn’t read any really long books this past year, although some were pretty meaty. I’ve picked two this year with more than 1000 pages. A challenge can also come from reading something literary or outside my normal genres. I also like books that make me think beyond my normal self, that make me yearn to be a different person, or change me in some way. Often, it’s an unexpected read that does that, and I love the surprise of it.

Mysteries—I’m directing my writing toward the mystery genre (I’ve dreamed of writing a mystery for as long as I’ve been breathing almost) so I want to cast a wide net and read even more mysteries than usual (an even dozen last year).

Books on craft—Some will be repeats. Some new to me.

One rule I’m enforcing this year. If I’m not engaged in the story by the first 50 pages, I won’t torture myself finishing it. Life is too short, and there are a hundred other books that can easily take its place.

I’ve made a short list and will add to it as the months roll on.

World Without End by Ken Follett
The Stand by Stephen King
A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman
Reluctant Smuggler and Reluctant Runaway by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
More books in the Colton Parker Series by Brandt Dodson
Magic Time by Doug Marlette
Ransomed Dreams by Amy Wallace
A Bigger Life by Annette Smith
A Seahorse in the Thames by Susan Meissner
Portuguese Irregular Verbs and At The Villa of Reduced Circumstances by Alexander McCall Smith
Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (again)
Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain (again)

Just writing them down and gazing at the covers makes me homesick for reading. I can’t imagine a world without books. Hmmmm. . . . maybe that’s why I yearn to be a published author—to see my name on a book cover and know that somewhere, someone has MY book on her to-be-read pile.

Anything here look interesting to you? What are you reading in 2008?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Story Book Romance--Fairy Tale Wedding

Seven months from today (on August 2), our youngest son will marry a wonderful, spunky girl from Orange County, CA. So how did a West Coast girl end up with a rural Oklahoma kid who graduated with a class of nine students? Providence, I’m certain. I began praying for my son at an early age as all moms do, but specifically that he would marry the girl God chose for him. What a wondrous answer to prayer.

James and Allison met the day before their first day of class at the University of Oklahoma more than four years ago. They began dating soon after, and the rest is history. They are perfect for each other, and it’s been fun to see them in love. Allison has spent five Thanksgivings with our family, gone on vacation with us, and attended a mammoth family reunion without flinching. Not only that, she loves my son. That’s good enough for me.

The fairy tale wedding will take place at the Disneyland Hotel next summer. Plans are well under way. The dress has been purchased, the menus selected, the engagement photos taken, and the save-a-date letters sent. No doubt the next seven months will fly by in a flurry of even more preparation. I’ll keep you posted.

We love you, Allison.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

GET SMART Goals for the NEW YEAR

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Have you made any resolutions yet? I’m not crazy about making a promise to myself that more than likely will be broken before the ice of winter has thawed. But I do like the idea of a new start. A time to get organized. Throw out the old junk and get on with the business at hand. Which, in my case, is writing. So it’s time to make some writing goals for 2008.

I love the Richard Dreyfus movie What About Bob? where Dreyfus's character writes a stellar book entitled Baby Steps that he believes will rock the world of psychotherapy. Anyone remember the movie? It's hilarious with a grain of truth. Nothing is ever accomplished without taking that first tiny step. That’s what writing goals are—incremental steps toward a BIG idea—for me, my long-term writing dream to have a novel published and do well as an author. That won’t happen overnight and certainly not without sustained effort on my part. One baby step after another toward my ultimate goal—that’s the plan.

I’ve used the acronym GET SMART to make my goal list. Maybe you will find it useful, too.

Give God first place in your writing. “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” Psalm 127:1. Prayerfully consider what goals God would have you make in the coming year.
Evaluate what you have accomplished in the last year. It may be more than you think. How many pages did you write? How many articles? How many writers’ meetings or conferences did you attend? How many books on craft did you study? How many queries or proposals did you send? All these added up bring you closer to your BIG goal. Think of areas where you can expand on what you have already accomplished in the past year. More pages? More queries? A good evaluation will also weed out the ineffective time wasters that cut into your writing time (computer games, checking your email twelve times a day, getting lost on the internet). Be honest with yourself. I’ve just told you what time wasters plague me :-))
Try something new. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to start a blog. Write a mystery. Try your hand at non-fiction. Join a critique group. Maybe you’ve always been a SOTP (Seat of the Pants) writer and want to try Outlining for your next project. Now is the time to put some of those things on your goal list.

Specific goals. “Write a book” is not specific. “Finish my cozy mystery” is specific.
Measurable goals. “Write queries that sell” cannot be measured. “Write 1000 words a day” can be measured.
Attainable goals. “Write a New York Times Bestseller” is probably not attainable for most of us. “Submit two articles a month” is. So is “Write and polish three chapters for the Genesis Contest.”
Realistic goals. “Get a $50,000 advance” may not be realistic. “Write one query per week” is.
Timely goals. "Write a novel” needs a time frame. “Finish my novel by March 10” gives you a timely goal.

With that in mind, here are my writing goals for 2008:
1. Write 2000 words a day (M – F) on my Route 66 Mystery
2. Polish the first three chapters and synopsis for contests and queries.
3. Enter the Genesis contest.
4. Enter two area contests.
5. Attend Mount Hermon in March, OWFI in May, and the ACFW conference in September.
6. Continue to market my finished manuscript (depending on result of current queries)
7. Read one GOOD book per week. Be selective so that what I’m reading makes a difference in my writing or the way I look at the world.
8. Continue blogging at least three times per week.

Whew! Eight goals for 2008. I think I need another cup of coffee before I get started. All the best to you and yours for a wildly happy and deliriously successful New Year!