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.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Christy Finalists Announced

This is it, folks--the biggest award in Christian Fiction--the Christy Awards. When I read the list, I got goosebumps. Here's why:
  • The first writing class I ever took was an online class someone recommended to me. The teacher? Michelle Buckman. She has several published novels and is now a Christy finalist for her young adult book. I am so proud of her and know that even in the beginning of my writing path, God was directing me to people who would make a difference in my life.
  • Going down the list, I have taken workshops from or heard EIGHT of these authors speak. Jane Kirkpatrick is one who stands out. Again, early in my career, she spoke on the divine call to write. I wept in her class because it was like she had seen into my heart and knew my desires. What a lovely person. Most recently, I took Angela Hunt's continuing workshop at Mount Hermon. I will be digesting her words for years to come.
  • Of this impressive list, I've read FIVE of the finalists' books, each one excellent. One outstanding read is Catching Fireflies by Charles Martin. I tell everyone who will listen that they should read his books. I've never met him or heard him speak, but his writing touches me in a way that few authors do. And we usually have a fight at our house on who gets to read the latest Martin book.

If you haven't read Christian Fiction lately, I would point you to this list. Pick your favorite genre, and you will be blessed. Enjoy.

PRESS RELEASE From Wynn Wynn Media

Media Inquiries: Jeane Wynn
Wynn-Wynn Media, LLC918-283-1834
For Reservations: Donna

Ann Arbor, Mich.-The Christy Advisory Board is pleased to announce nominees in nine categories for the 2008 Christy Awards honoring Christian fiction. The Christy Awards dinner will be held Saturday evening, July 12, 2008, at The Rosen Centre in Orlando, Florida. Visit the Christy Awards online at for more information about the dinner and to make reservations.

The Christy Awards 2008 Nominees

Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin (Thomas Nelson)
In High Places by Tom Morrisey (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson (Thomas Nelson)

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon (Viking Penguin)
A Time to Mend by Sally John and Gary Smalley (Thomas Nelson)
What Lies Within by Karen Ball (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
Tendering in the Storm by Jane Kirkpatrick (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

LITS (four nominees due to a tie)
Doesn't She Look Natural by Angela Elwell Hunt (Tyndale House Publishers)
Hallie's Heart by Shelly Beach (Kregel Publications)
Let Them Eat Cake by Sandra Byrd (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)
Trophy Wives Club by Kristin Billerbeck (Avon Inspire, a division of HarperCollins Publishers)

Lightning and Lace by DiAnn Mills (Barbour Publishing)
Remember to Forget by Deborah Raney (Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster)
Remembered by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Cure by Athol Dickson (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay (Moody Publishers)
The Pawn by Steven James (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)
The Restorer by Sharon Hinck (NavPress Publishing Group)
Scarlet by Stephen R. Lawhead (Thomas Nelson)

Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)
Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee (NavPress Publishing Group)
The Stones Cry Out by Sibella Giorello (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson (NavPress Publishing Group)
In Between by Jenny B.Jones (NavPress Publishing Group)
Maggie Come Lately by Michelle Buckman (NavPress Publishing Group)
The winners will be announced in July. Any favorites of yours here?

Monday, April 21, 2008

EXCELLENCE: This One's For You, Simon

I’m feeling a bit metaphorical today. Not sure if it’s because I’ve been keeping up with my daily word count or because spring has finally arrived. Whatever the case, please hear me out.

The metaphor for today: Writing a novel is like watching your favorite installment of American Idol.

I’m a semi-Idol fan. I know enough to know who’s in the competition and how the drill works. It's down to the last six or seven this year, but everyone knows the top twelve have a shot at launching a long and successful career after surviving the auditions and not being in the first group of twelve out the door. They know their goal, have God-given talent, and have refined their craft to the point they are ready for serious criticism and trying to woo the American public with their shtick.

Serious writers are like that. The desire to be published burns within. We use our talent and ideas to string words together into compelling plots and memorable characters. We work on our craft day and night—studying other writers, attending conferences, and submitting to the critiques of others.

Enter American Idol. Talent. Hours and hours of rehearsal time. Studying with the star-of-the-week. Learning new arrangements, picking the right song, polishing each note and musical phrase. Then choosing the right costume to project the image they want to burn into the hearts of their adoring public.

Performance night: Each contestant gets two to three minutes in the spotlight. Everything is on the line. Time to hear what the judges have to say. Here, I think, we can make some easy comparisons to the writing life and the process of letting others read—and critique—our own stories. Pretend you are an Idol contestant.

Randy is first with his “Yo Dawg—that was pretty cool, man.” Followed usually by telling you that was not your best performance or you were a little pitchy in spots, but you’re getting there. OR he might say that was the best thing we’ve heard all year. Randy would make a good critique partner. He’s honest, but cuts you some slack and gives good advice.

Up next: Paula. She is the mother who loves every word you’ve ever written. And tells you how pretty you look and how much she loves you. We all need people like that—once in a while.

Last, you wait, breath held, fingers crossed. Simon Cowell. And, let’s be honest. It doesn’t matter what anyone of the others say, you are here for one purpose: To hear Simon’s words. “I liked it.” Three words, but they can float you, a young singer, straight into next week. A nod from Simon is tantamount to hearing your dream editor or agent (insert name here) say, “Yes, please send me a proposal.”

It’s that simple. Play along with me for a minute. Week after week, the contestants affirm, “I just hope Simon likes it.” Well, he is the creator of the British version of Idol, and when everything is said and done, his words are the ones we all remember. Think British accent as you listen to some of the more frequent Simon remarks.
“I thought it was a little Cabaret-ish.”
“I actually found it quite boring.”
“I thought it was old-fashioned, just like your outfit.”
“It sounded like something you would hear at a theme park.”
“It was actually quite forgettable.”

There’s a huge lesson for writers here. Simon is nearly always right. He knows talent, he recognizes what makes a performance work, and he’s never, ever afraid to say what’s on his mind.

I don’t know about you, but this analogy shouts to me about my writing.

  • My ideas must be original. Fresh. Not done a thousand times before.
  • I should strive to invent characters people WON’T forget two minutes after they lay down my book.
  • Don’t rely on what worked ten or twenty years ago.
  • Never, never bore your readers.

How can I accomplish all that? Write. Rewrite. Daydream. Study. Write some more. Show it to a Simon (agent/editor name again). Cry. Try again.

You know how sweet it is when one day you hear the words every Idol wannabe longs to hear from Simon.

“That was incredible.”

Happy writing.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Denice Stewart Blog Tour in Progress

As I mentioned right here a few weeks ago, Denice Stewart’s first book has been released. Where Would Cows Hide? is a tweener adventure story where the fun never ends. The author, who just happens to be my daughter-in-law, is in the beginning of a month-long Blog Tour.

Just so you know, I’m a little cautious about sending all you lovely people to the different sites to read her interviews because . . . well, she just might spill some of the family secrets or answer one of those questions that interviewers love to ask like: What is the worst writing advice you ever received? And then, Denice might say something about her mother-in-law said . . . (fill in the blank here) . . .And . . . Well, you get the picture.
I’m kidding, of course. I’ve read a couple of her interviews so far, and you know, I couldn’t be more proud of that girl. She’s really got her act together (and no, it’s not an act) and has some great advice and humorous stories to share.

So, right now, why don’t you hop over to some of these blogs and find out for yourself.
And to Denice—You go girl. You’ve made the Stewart family proud!

Where Would Cows Hide? BLOG TOUR:
Follow along as D.C. reveals how she got inspired to write this story, some of her favorite things, and how she manages to write with her own twin terrors and sweet daughter underfoot.You’ll also find reviews, fun banners, and more cool stuff along the way. Join us for the WHERE WOULD COWS HIDE? blog tour at these blogs:

April 15, 2008 : Lacy Williams at
April 16, 2008 : Donna Moore at
April 17, 2008 : Carolyn Strawder at
April 18, 2008 : Margaret Daley at
April 19, 2008 : Debbie Archer at
April 20, 2008 : Brittanie Terrell at
April 21, 2008 : Gina Conroy at
April 22, 2008 : Justin Boyer at
April 23, 2008 : Charlotte Schofield at
April 24, 2008 : LaShaunda Hoffman at
April 25, 2008 : Jenny at
April 26, 2008 : Laura Williams at
April 27, 2008 : Margaret Chind at
April 28, 2008 : Antionette V. Lee at
April 29, 2008 : Myra Johnson at
April 30, 2008 : Laura Hilton at
May 1, 2008 : Leslie Sowell at
May 2, 2008 : Kathy Brasby at
May 3, 2008 : Camy Tang at
May 4, 2008 : Karla Cook at
May 5, 2008 : Carla Stewart at
May 6, 2008 : Pamela Morrison at
May 7, 2008 : Ashley at
May 8, 2008 : Kim Ford at
May 9, 2008 : Christa Allen at
May 10, 2008 : Heather Thomas at
May 11, 2008 : Deena Peterson at
May 12, 2008 : Michelle Kralicek at
May 13, 2008 : Leah Sande at
May 14, 2008 : Rachelle Arlin Credo at
May 15, 2008 : Amy Lathrop at
May 16, 2008 : Janna Ryan at
May 17, 2008 : Kristy Walker at
May 18, 2008 : Amy Riley at
May 19, 2008 : Mimi Baker at
May 20, 2008 : Kathie Nolasco at
May 21, 2008 : Julia Graham at

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I’m reading an incredible book right now. Trouble The Water by Nicole Seitz (see previous entry on this blog). It’s rich setting is the South Carolina Lowcountry, and through Nicole’s magical writing, I can taste the salt in the sea breezes and feel the grit of the sand on my feet. Her story comes from personal experience with the setting.

How often have you hiked a mountain trail and heard the whisper of aspens or tasted the icy fresh water from a snowmelt stream? Smelled pinecones and decaying humus on the forest floor?

In the heart of a big city, the constant noise of traffic and distant sirens, the smell of asphalt and car exhaust lend themselves to completely different stories from the roar of the ocean or afternoon mountain showers. Writers capture readers through their settings as well as their characters or knock-your-socks-off plots. I’ve talked before about engaging the senses, and this is one area where writers can set themselves apart for each setting has its own unique look and sound and smell. Even the feel is different when aptly described.

We’ve made several trips recently to visit family in the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle. From Woodward, OK, there’s a shortcut on back roads that ends up eventually in the Texas town where our son and his family live. To the inexperienced, it’s a maze of turns and hills, short stretches and long ones. There are no signs to point the way, but countless locals—whether farmers, cattlemen, or oilfield workers—know about this shortcut and use it all the time. At one particular junction an abandoned combine sits in a lonely corner of the field. It’s been there for years, and someone has humorously tacked letters on one side that say Vic’s Landmark. On the back of the combine, along an east/west road, it says Barth’s Freeway. A little country humor, but a detail that would add to a setting, if not conjure up some interesting plot ideas.

Why was the combine abandoned in this exact spot? Who are the people who travel these roads? What kind of lives do they lead?

Take a closer look at the picture. See how the grass is bent, the sheen on its blades. This is a windy part of the world, and I imagine a scene such as this inspired the Oklahoma state song . . . where the winds go sweeping down the plains. Look at the sky. Isn’t that the most marvelous color of blue? Worthy of having a Crayola named after it.

Can you imagine the relentless July heat or the unforgiving icy wind of a “blue norther?” It’s a land inhabited by coyotes and deer. Jack rabbits and rattlesnakes. And I can almost hear the squawk of a ring-neck pheasant, dressed in iridescent colors. Not many people dwell in this part of the country. For good reason. It takes a lot of acres to sustain a herd of cattle here or grow a wheat crop that will feed a family. It’s a hard life, but a good one, as the people who do live there will tell you. They’re honest, hardworking, neighborly folks. I know. We once lived in a county not too far from where I took this picture.

I’m not sure I’ll set a novel there, but I love the images this picture conveys, the warm feelings of home and being close to the land.

How about you? Have you been inspired by a setting or written a story with a specific location in mind? What senses did you employ to plop your reader into the setting?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Favorite Books of All Time

From Publishers Lunch Today

Poll Asks, Name Your Favorite Book
Harris Interactive surveyed American adults to find out "What is your favorite book of all time?"

The answers:
1. The Bible
2. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
3. Lord of the Rings (series), by J.R.R. Tolkien
4. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
5. The Stand, by Stephen King
6. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
7. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
8. Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown
9. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
10. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

Are any of your all-time favorite books on this list? What makes a book stand the test of time? Obvious to me, the BIBLE has stood firm because it is as relevant today as it was in its original Hebrew and Greek. People still need the Lord.
What about the other books? Will they be relevant in fifty years? A hundred? What about the classics—Homer, Hemingway, Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Jane Austen, The Bronte sisters? Do people read those anymore? Have they been left behind on dusty library shelves? Just wondering. . . Feel free to chime in and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

2008 ACFW Genesis Finalists

Yesterday, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) announced the 2008 Genesis Finalists—a full week ahead of schedule, thanks to the magnificent efforts of contest coordinator, Camy Tang, and her very capable crew. If you scroll all the way to the bottom, you will find that I have a particular reason for this post. Yes, I am, by divine grace, a finalist again this year. Different category. New story. Still humbled and blessed.

I’m also thrilled that my friend Erica Vetsch is a DOUBLE finalist. We became friends last year through our finaling in the same category and cheering each other on in Dallas. I also need to point out that my friend and critique partner, Myra Johnson, is a repeat finalist. Kudos also to D’Ann Mateer, a great writer from Texas who I met last year at the conference and is a finalist in the Women's Fiction category. To everyone else, I wish you the very best and look forward to seeing you all in Minneapolis in September. What a thrill to be among these up and coming authors. God bless.

Congratulations to all the finalists of the 2008 Genesis contest!

Chick lit/mom lit/lady lit:

Annalisa Daughety

Tiffany Kinerson

Sara Richardson

Lynda Schab

Erica Vetsch

Contemporary Fiction:

Christina Berry

Dan Case

Lynne Gentry

Jennifer L. Griffith

Jim Rubart

Contemporary Romance:

Annalisa Daughety

Kathleen Haynes

Cara Slaughter

Sandra van den Bogerd

Linda Yezak

Historical Fiction:

Yvonne Anderson

Lori Benton

Mona Hodgson

Christina Miller

Rachel Moore

Historical Romance:

Patty Smith Hall

Myra Johnson

Allison Studer

Erica Vetsch

Karen Witemeyer


Ed J. Horton

Melanie L. Jones

Janice Olson

Donna Alice Patton

Jane Thornton

Romantic Suspense:

Dani Pettrey

Kelly Ann Riley

Julie Scudder

Jane Thornton

Jenness Walker

Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Allegory: (there are six finalists because there was a tie for the 5th finalist spot)

Lynda K. Arndt

Valerie Comer

John W. Otte

Jim Rubart

Chawna Schroeder

Stuart Stockton

Women's Fiction: (there are six finalists because there was a tie for the 5th finalist spot)

Heather Goodman

D'Ann Mateer

Sara Richardson

Linda Rondeau

Cynthia Ruchti

Kristian Tolle

Young Adult:

Kasey L. Heinly

Stefanie Morris

Susan Miura

Janet Rubin

Carla Stewart