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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

A Drumroll for the Winner, Please

I held the drawing today for the $25 Barnes & Noble gift card to celebrate my blog makeover. I did things a little different this time to add to the suspense. Instead of putting the entrant's name on a slip of paper for the drawing, I used the "log" of where I put the contest commenters. This time there were 27 hopefuls, so I used numbers on the slips. My grandson is visiting this week and had the honor of picking the winner. Number 13! We checked my notebook and found the winner.

CONGRATULATIONS to Bethany!! May you be blessed with many happy hours of reading.

To all the rest of you . . . please keep checking out the Cafe for the next contest. I have them when the spirit moves me or I'm feeling generous. You never know when that might be.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I’ve not posted anything about writing in a while. You might even say it’s been eerily quiet here at the café when it comes to talking about craft or creative endeavors. Two reasons for that:

1) I’ve been busy writing (hallelujah!)

2) I’ve been so busy writing, I’ve let all those great “blog” ideas slither on by without taking the time to flesh them out.

Today, though, I’ve got a writing salmagundi for you. Say what????

I can tell you what it’s not. Definitely not a spotted, slimy amphibian that lurks in dark, dank places. And not a newly discovered fungus that’s rocking the ecological world.

According to Webster’s, a salmagundi is 1) a salad plate of chopped meats, anchovies, eggs, and vegetables arranged in rows for contrast and served with salad dressing OR 2) a heterogeneous mixture. So that’s what today’s post is—a delectable assortment.

First off, you have a new word that may or may not be useful in your writing endeavors.

So without further adieu—
WIN, our local ACFW affiliate hosted a mini-conference this past Saturday. Deb Raney, an award winning writer of women’s fiction, came to Tulsa for the day. Her teaching is chockfull of wisdom, and she covered a wide range of writing topics. This was my second time to hear Deb, and each time I’ve come away with different insights and been recharged in my own writing.

Here are a couple of things that seemed to “stick” with me this time.

Marking time in our novels.
1) Deb suggested heading each chapter with a date. You may or may not keep the headings, but it provides an easy way to see where you are on your work in progress.
2) Create a timeline (especially useful if your novel spans a long period of time). You can make a visual timeline by taping sheets of paper together into a long, easy to read sequence, marking birthdates of the primary characters, significant events, the story’s actual beginning point, and days or dates when the story’s events take place. I’ve not tried the super-sized version Deb showed us, but think it would be a useful tool.
3) Use unobtrusive time markers (rising sun, noon whistle) to clue the reader about time of day.
4) Sensory details work well in showing the season (icicles hanging from the eaves, the crunch of autumn leaves, a car door handle that sizzles when touched).

Some useful websites to help you with accurate placement of time and dates:

Plotting Help
Another of Deb’s topics that resonated with me was plotting using Michael Hauge’s 6 Stage Plot Structure. Since this is an area that plagues my writing, I’m anxious to investigate this more. You can see a general overview of the method
here. Or a more detailed explanation with examples here.

Deb shared a wealth of information on POV (point of view), characterization, subplots, editing tips, and where to get ideas and inspiration. Great stuff for a new writer, some excellent reminders and new twists for seasoned writers.

Setting Goals
We were also reminded to set writing goals. Hmmm. I remember doing that at the beginning of the year. Looking back, I’ve stayed on track fairly well in spite of numerous interruptions and a very busy family year. I’ve entered contests, polished my proposal (with the help of my amazingly savvy agent), and cranked out the pages. However, I really wanted to have the first draft of my current novel finished by June 1. It didn’t happen.

First, I was stuck for a week or two at 20,000 words. Pushed past that, then stalled at 42,000. After some head-banging and planting myself in the chair, I’m on my way again. Still, I want to have the manuscript finished by July 26 (the absolute last day I will give myself before we head to California for our son’s wedding). I did a little calculation—number of words needed to complete the book, divided by the total number of days until my self-imposed deadline. I was surprised that by writing 714 words per day I will make my goal. Now, I know I won’t write every day, but many days I write 2000 – 2500 words, so I believe by putting it into a smaller perspective, the task doesn’t look so daunting.

How about you? Are you keeping up with your goals?
Do you have any links you’d like to share that have helped you in your writing journey?
I’d love to hear from you. And please, if you have the opportunity to hear Deb speak, take it. You’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Review of CALICO CANYON by Mary Connealy, Up Today on CFBA

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Calico Canyon
Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2008)
Mary Connealy

MARY CONNEALY is an award-winning author and playwright, married to Ivan a farmer, and the mother of four beautiful daughters, Joslyn, Wendy, Shelly and Katy. They live in Decatur, Nebraska. Mary is a GED Instructor by day and an author by night. And there is always a cape involved in her transformation.

Mary has also written Petticoat Ranch, Golden Days, and her latest, Alaska Brides that will debut in August.

Let yourself be swept away by this fast-paced romance, featuring Grace Calhoun, an instructor of reading, writing, and arithmetic, who, in an attempt to escape the clutchs of a relentless pursuer, runs smack dab into even more trouble with the 6R's - widower Daniel Reeves, along with his five rowdy sons. When a marriage is forced upon this hapless pair - two people who couldn't dislike each other more - an avalanche isn't the only potential danger lurking amid the shadows of Calico Canyon. Will they make it out alive? Or end up killing each other in the process?

Running from her Abusive foster-father, a man intent on revenge, the prim and perfectly proper Grace Calhoun takes on the job of schoolmarm in Mosqueros, Texas.

As if being a wanted woman isn't bad enough, Grace has her hands full with the five rowdy and rambunctious Reeves boys─tough Texan tormenters who seem intent on making her life miserable. When, in an attempt to escape from the clutches of her pursuer, Grace is forced to marry widower Daniel Reeves, father of the miniature monsters, she thinks things couldn't get any worse. Or could they?

Daniel Reeves, happy in his all-male world, is doing the best he can, raising his five boys─rascals, each and every one. Since his wife's death in childbirth, Daniel has been determined never to risk marriage again.

When God throws Grace and Daniel together─two people who couldn't detest each other more─the trouble is only beginning.

Will this hapless pair find the courage to face life together in the isolated Calico Canyon? Or are their differences too broad a chasm to bridge?

If you would like to read the first chapter go HERE


Funny. Tender. Winsome.

These are but a few of the adjectives that fit this fast-moving novel. Calico Canyon takes place in the dead of winter in Mosquero, Texas. Being stuck on a ranch with no way out in a blizzard and confined to a one room cave/home provides a setting with plenty of room for conflict. Daniel Reeves’ wild bunch—five onery boys—create havoc wherever they go. It starts with their teacher, Grace Calhoun, the last woman on earth Daniel expects to find stowed away in his wagon, and continues when Grace becomes their new mother.

A confession from me. I’m not usually drawn to romance or historical novels, but this one kept me turning the pages to see how the author would build the relationship between Grace and Daniel. Seeing what mischief the boys got into provided comic relief when the home fires heated up with sharp words or worse, bouts of silence.

Several subplots added a layer of mystery and pulled at my heart strings. Overall, the story was well crafted and a joy to read. Kudos to Mary Connealy for weaving humor, romance, and pathos into a great story.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, James

Today is our youngest son's birthday. James was a cute kid, wasn't he? I won't embarrass him by saying he's still cute, but he has grown up to be a very nice young man. He hardly ever leaves his socks in the den anymore, and he learned to empty his pockets before putting them in the laundry after I washed his "blue tooth" not once, but twice.

He's getting married in less than six weeks, so we are enjoying his last days at home with us. He and Max are heading to the golf course after work to celebrate. Maybe his dad will let him win this time.

Happy Birthday! And, if you happen to read this . . . yes, there will be cherry cream pie when you get home!

Monday, June 16, 2008


How do you like the new look here at Carla’s Writing Café? All the credit goes to Ashley and George Weiss from Tekeme Studios. I heard about them from my friend, Mary, after they designed a new blog for her. This amazing couple really knows how to design with the customer’s dream vision in mind. I happened to be one of the winners in a recent contest from Tekeme, but their everyday prices are very reasonable, with exceptional hands-on attention. Plus, they are very fast. Check out their current contest here, and while you’re there, look at some of their blog and website designs. You might be next for a great makeover on your site. THANK YOU, Ashley and George!

Now, to celebrate my good fortunate, I’m giving away a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card. That way you may choose to buy books or splurge in the café while writing on your novel. It’s easy to enter. Leave a comment on this post with contact information. I’ll draw for a winner at noon on June 30.

If this is your first time to visit the café, I hope you’ll have a look around and then sign up for an email subscription in the FeedBlitz box in the upper right hand corner. I wouldn’t want you to miss future contests or any café happenings. If you’re a regular here, thank you for your support. You are a dear bunch of friends, coffee afficionados, fellow-writers, and lovers of books. What could be better than that?

Sunday, June 15, 2008


For my dad. What can I say? You’re the family character, a story teller like no other, and a man who walks with God. You’ve given us “girls” your time and your love of adventure. We know we can do anything we set our minds to because of your example. I love you and am thankful you still have a zest for life and can spin a good yarn.

For Max, my husband. You are the love of my life, and let’s face it—without me you wouldn’t even be a dad! Well, maybe. What I do know is that without YOU, our four boys wouldn’t have known how to change a tire, install a ceiling fan, build a doghouse, or how to be loving, patient husbands who love their wives. You are the glue that holds us all together.

For my sons. Three of you are dads. I marvel as I watch you with your children, and I’m so proud. I pray every day your children will bless you as you have blessed me and your dad. James—someday you will be a dad, too, and I have every confidence that you also will be a wonderful father.

For dads everywhere. This is your day. Relax. Enjoy the praises sent your way. You deserve more credit than our world gives you.

Writing this reminds me how blessed I am to be a daughter, wife, mom, and friend to some amazing fellas. So the next time I nag one of you to pick up your socks or roll my eyes and tell you to stick a sock in it, please know deep down, I love you. Really.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Wedding Fever

This past year has been a whirlwind of weddings for the friends of our youngest son, James. Over the weekend, we attended that of Tanessa and Braden, two sweet kids who attended our church when we lived in the Panhandle.

What made this wedding unique is that Tanessa (the bride) and James (our son) have been good friends since second grade—through church, school, AND college. They fight like brother and sister and defend and protect each other in the same way. When Tanessa transferred to OU and needed a roommate, James’s girlfriend, Allison, became the logical choice, so the three of them were then best friends. Tanessa even chose Allison to be her maid of honor, and James, a groomsman.

Tanessa and James

Allison’s parents came from California for their first ever trip to the area where James grew up, and we got to be their official tour guides and introduce them to the many people they’d only heard tall tales about.

Of the two hundred or so people at the wedding, we knew probably three-fourths of them and have special memories with each one. Mark and Becky, the kids’ former youth pastor came so Mark could perform the ceremony, and hearing Tim and Margie Ramsey sing together once again was, in itself, worth the trip. Love, love, love those two songbirds and can’t even begin to tell you how much mischief we’ve been into over the years with them.

Also, our former family hairdresser, Kevin, was there (doing hair for the entire bridal party, and I heard it was QUITE the party), and his and Dyan’s children participated in the ceremony by reciting I Corinthians 13—absolutely enchanting.

Most of James’s guy friends from the youth group graduated before him, so by his Senior year of high school, it was just him and a slew of girls. They’ve all stayed in touch and were in the wedding party. Max and I had so much fun catching up with them and their parents and letting Allison’s parents get to know them. It felt a little like a family reunion, only better. We are related by our love of Jesus and each other. Precious memories intertwine our lives, and while we’ve walked through various trials and victories together, this was one of the loveliest of times.

James and the girls (his fiancee Allison 2nd from left)

Jan and Nancy (Allison’s parents) and Max and I are counting down the days until James and Allison’s own fairy tale wedding at Disneyland (less than two months). Lots of these same folks will be there to share in our joy as our kids repeat their vows. My eyes are tearing up already in anticipation.

Love. Honor. Cherish. Don’t you just love a good wedding? Any advice for this soon-to-be mother of the groom?