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.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


What font are you?
I saw this on my friend Myra Johnson’s blog and gave it a try. You might get a kick out of it, too.

You Are Comic Sans
You are a nothing but a big goofball. You're quite playful and fun!
You're widely known for your zany personality and your vivacious attitude.

To say that you stand out in a crowd would be a definite understatement.
Remember that you are overwhelming at times and that people appreciate you best in small doses.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Review of IT'S NOT ABOUT ME by Michelle Sutton

Thanks to Michelle for sending me a copy of her debut novel, It’s Not About Me, which releases from Sheaf House in just a couple more days. You may remember I had an interview with Michelle recently. If you missed it, click here.

Now, for my review:
Michelle paints bold brush strokes in dealing with pre-marital sex, alcoholism, and the perils of pornography among the teens and young adults who inhabit this story. When an abhorrent tragedy comes to Annie Myers, her life is changed forever. In the aftermath, Annie becomes the center of a love triangle with an unusual twist—two brothers are both in love with her. Michelle’s straightforward, sometimes gritty, prose follows these young people through a gamut of moral dilemmas. The complications kept me turning the pages, riding the emotional rollercoaster with young Annie, Tony, and Dan.

With a liberal sprinkling of scripture, Michelle’s passion for young people and her Savior is evident. Her readers will be challenged to be bold in sharing the Gospel and generous in extending mercy.

Bonus: The first chapter of the sequel to It’s Not About Me is tucked in the back of the book. It will be interesting to see where Michelle takes the secondary characters of her debut book in this continuing drama.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Two little words. Only six letters. Oh, but they sound so lovely. Look so smart sitting there on the page. Yes, today I typed THE END! I finished my Young Adult manuscript that is an ACFW Genesis Finalist. The title for the contest is AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, and I’ve never been crazy about it—it just not too catchy, you know? Ta Da! The new title, and one I hope will hook my intended young adult audience—MUDDY WATERS. This is much more fitting with the mystery twist that drives the story and all the trouble my teen protagonist gets into. Can’t say anymore about that right now.

Having a first draft done is not to say I’m done. Next come the edits, numerous passes for all the weasel words I’m so fond of using, checks for passive writing, layering in more of the five senses, checking the tension in each and every scene, and reading it aloud for awkward sounding passages. I actually enjoy the rewriting more than the original draft and am looking forward to making the words sing.

To celebrate, we ordered pizza for supper and took Zelda for a walk. Not earth-shattering, but my load feels a little lighter tonight. Tomorrow, I’ll be back at it.

What’s the latest “big news” you’ve had? It doesn’t have to be writing related. Here at the café, we celebrate ALL our accomplishments. Let me know.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Pull on your cowgirl boots, folks—we have a winner for Mary Connealy’s latest book Calico Canyon. What a wonderful bunch of entrants and a few drive-by comments from Mary. If you missed her wit, you can read back through the interview and comments here.

Now, for the winner. Congratulations to Carolynn W of Canada. Happy reading!

Hope to see you all again next time.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Congrats to my good friend - HER FIRST BOOK CONTRACT

Last Friday, my good friend, critique partner, and all around lovely person,MYRA JOHNSON, received “the call” – in writer lingo, that’s the phone call that brings the news that you’ve been offered a contract. It’s on a level with your first kiss, winning the lottery, or an expense-paid trip to Mars! No one is more deserving than Myra. She’s worked years honing her craft, cranking out manuscripts, entering contests, and hanging out in all those cool writerly places. Although she’s threatened to chuck in the towel a couple dozen times, she didn’t.

Now she’s having her first book published, and I am so happy for her. One Perfect Christmas will be coming out in July, 2009, as one of the first books in the new fiction line at Abingdon Press. Kudos and hugs, Myra. You’re the best!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Ball

The wedding party hung back amid the pillars and cushioned benches, taking a moment to catch their breaths before their grand entrance into the Magic Kingdom Ballroom. Evening clad friends and loved ones filtered in two, six, and eight at a time through heavy doors, flashing their table numbers for the greeters who checked names from the master list. The grand ballroom was lit by Never Land lamps on round tables topped with fine linen and gleaming china, and you could almost see pixie dust in the air. Guests bustled in to get a look at the topsy turvy Mad Hatter wedding cake, find tablemates, and snap impromptu photos with their pocket cameras.

Seated below the sweetheart table, Max and I were enjoying a bit of awe ourselves when Nancy, the bride’s mother approached.

“There’s a woman at the door whose name is not on the guest list. Do you know a Ruth Grumbacher? A last minute friend or relative we didn’t get on the final count?”

“I don’t think so.” Puzzled, I turned back to the Oklahoma friends who shared our table, recounting the lovely ceremony, admiring the nearby groom’s cake—an enormous white creation with the University of Oklahoma logo in red icing. An appropriate addition since both James and Allison, the honored couple, had graduated from OU. I sank back into my chair, anticipating the evening yet ahead. Truthfully, I wondered if my feet would make it through the dance I would share with my newly married son, a handsome groom that would make any mother proud.

Nancy approached again. “That woman is still here. Do you think you could have a look at her and just see if you know her? Over there. With red hair.” She pointed to the table across the dance floor.

Henna hair would be more like it. Shoulder length. A woman who’d hadn’t seen forty in a while, but neatly dressed. Wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. She stood when I came to the table . . . or rather when I made a beeline for her.

I smiled and held out my hand. “I don’t think we’ve met. You are?”

She lifted her chin and without a stammer, “Ruth Grumbacher.”

I frowned, curious now. “I don’t remember seeing your name on the guest list. How is it that you know the bridal couple?”

“I’m friends with the groom.” A matter-of-fact reply as if that settled everything.

Ha! I raised my eyebrows. “That’s funny. I’m the groom’s mother, and I don’t believe he’s ever mentioned you. Where did you know him?”

“Oh.” She perked up. “Back in Ohio.”

Knowing James had never stepped foot in Ohio, I gathered steam. She had some nerve. Obviously she’d mistaken the big red OU for Ohio. Wrong state, my friend. I blundered on, “Tell me then, what is the groom’s name?”

Her face fell, and if she’d been wearing dentures, they would have lost their grip. She stammered, “I . . . I don’t remember.”

My most apologetic smile. “I’m sorry. This is a private party, with a restricted guest list. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave.”

By now, I was aware that a number of people were watching, staring really, and in my rampant imagination, I thought this might be where our brassy Ruth Grumbacher would tip over the table or make a run for it. Wrong. She kept her composure and picked up her purse as calm as a summer’s day. I waited and said, “I will walk you out and help you find the escalator.”

From the corner of my eye, I saw Max follow a couple of steps behind me as we went through the double doors. I stayed with her. “Here, I’ll walk with you to . . .”

She turned and in a gruff voice said, “I know where the escalator is.” Her hips swayed as she marched off in the right direction.

I turned back to the ballroom, shaking my head, almost laughing. My first gig as a “bouncer.” Now that’s something you don’t get to do every day. However, in Never Land, you just never know.

Now, before you ask, YES, this really did happen. The Disney security folks made sure our wedding crasher left the building, but what if she had moved surreptiously among our cozy gathering? How many evening bags would she have pilfered through? And all those gift cards in gleaming white envelopes on the gift table? Surely she couldn’t have resisted taking one or two on her way to the buffet. And yes, I'm still curious. Who is Ruth Grumbacher? And what was she doing in the Magic Kingdom Ballroom?

Every wedding needs a funny story. This is ours. And somehow, I believe that Ruth Graumbacher is out there, scoping out her next party invasion. She’d better hope I’m not on the guest list.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Interview with Mary Connealy (CALICO CANYON) and Giveaway

I’m so happy to have Mary Connealy at the Café today. At the end of the interview you can leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of her latest book. Now, to tell you about the book . . . here’s Mary.

Welcome, Mary! And congratulations on your latest book in the Lassoed in Texas series, Calico Canyon. I laughed my way through this one and am delighted to have you here at Carla’s Writing Café. In the words of Joan Rivers, let’s talk.

Where did you get the idea for this series?
Calico Canyon came to me as I was writing Petticoat Ranch. That book was full of a clueless man trying to deal with a bunch of woman. It seemed only fair to tell the flip side of that story, a clueless woman trying to deal with a bunch of men. Then in book three, I had to mix things up. Find a family with boys and girls.

You are gaining quite a reputation for writing hilarious historical romance. Did you start out to write humorous stories?
I didn’t exactly make a decision, Carla. It’s more like, I’m writing along and an opportunity comes for one of my characters to speak and I just always go for the sassy line. I can’t resist. :)

Your method certainly works. Where do your ideas come from? Personal experience, divine intervention, or outer space?
There are echoes of personal experience in these books. I’ve got four daughters, like Petticoat Ranch. My husband’s from a family of all sons, like Calico Canyon. My own childhood was a family of eight, both boys and girls, in a tiny, ramshackle house, Gingham Mountain is a fit for that.
In my cozy mysteries series, my heroine in Of Mice and Murder is scared to death of mice…like me.
But beyond those passing similarities, I just go nuts.

How long have you been writing?
I started seriously trying to write a book the year my youngest daughter when to kindergarten. My first book released in February and she graduated from high school in May. So it was a LONG, LONG TIME.

During that time I know you won a few contests. Has that helped you on your road to publication?
I really believe in writer’s contests. They’re great for the critique you get, win or lose. They’re a great way to get your work in front of editors and agents who might otherwise not accept your submission. They’re great practice taking rejection … lots of that in the publishing world, and they give you a big dose of deadlines and following rules. These are all good things.
Everyone’s got contest horror stories of a judge who is just particularly cruel or where one judge said, “I hate your hero.” And another says, “I hate everything in this book except your hero.” So they aren’t perfect. But I think, big picture, they’re worth it.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned from contests?
I’ve just learned so much. When I started writing I had no idea about setting a scene, Point of View, passive voice, showing instead of telling, back story dump. Most non-writers have never heard of this stuff. At first when I’d get a critique back and there’d be some dashed of note saying, POV error…I didn’t even know what that mean. But I learned. You HAVE to learn. I feel like I have always told a good story. But telling it skillfully was something I had to learn.

What is you writing process like? Are you a plotter or a seat-of-the-pants writer?
I can do both. I honestly prefer seat-of-the pants, but I think that’s mainly because plotting out a book is a lot of work. Even with sotp, I still have a fair idea of beginning, middle, end and what story I want to tell.

How do you develop characters? Charts? Interviews? Or do you just start writing?
I just start writing. I get to know my characters as I write, then have to go back and revise the book once I figure out who these folks are.

As the mom of four boys, I identified with the antics of this gang of characters. Where did you come up with all their pranks?
FOUR BOYS!!!!!!!!???????????????
Carla, you are SUPERWOMAN.
My mother-in-law has seven sons, she can tell little boy stories forever.

Back to writing, what is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
The best writing is re-writing.

The worst?
Well, I had a bad agent for a year, that really tripped me up for a while. I’d say, trying to be object, that slowed me down getting published by three years.

Coffee? Tea? Sparkling mineral water? Or . . .
Diet Coke.

I wish you the very best with this fun book. What other book projects are you working on? Any exciting news you’d like to share?
I’ve got a lot coming
Of Mice and Murder, a cozy mystery, coming in November
A three book Heartsong series
Buffalo Gal - October
Clueless Cowboy - November
Bossy Bridegroom – December

Book #3 Lassoed in Texas series
Gingham Mountain – February

Another cozy in February, Pride and Pestilence
Then one in April The Miceman Cometh

Then the cozies get re-released as an anthology in June called Nosy in Nebraska.

That wears me out, but I am thrilled for you. It’s your turn. Any closing thoughts?
I’ve gone on long enough I can’t imagine anyone wants to read more!!!
If you want to hear more about me…first consult your psychologist…then, if he can’t talk any sense into you, you can find me at:

Thank you, Mary, for being my guest here at the café. You’re welcome to stop by anytime.

Now for you, dear readers, the opportunity to win your own copy of Calico Canyon. Leave a comment here with your contact information (required) to be entered in a drawing. Deadline: This Friday, August 22. Noon. Good luck and comment away.

Giveaway limited to US and Canadian readers only.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

WELCOME to Debut Novelist, Michelle Sutton

Today I have a treat for you--an interview with the famous "chocolate lady" from ACFW conferences, now a published novelist.

Welcome, Michelle! And congratulations on your debut young adult book It’s Not About Me. I know you are very excited and ready to tell the world about your novel. So pull up a chair here at the Café and let’s talk. Where did you get the idea for It’s Not About Me?

I had written two prior books (Women’s fiction) and the prior story had a pastor in it who visited a woman in the hospital. I thought it would be fun to write a story about his two sons. In my mind I saw Annie as a pretty girl, yet somewhat innocent and naïve, but very concerned about being good and what people thought of her. So her inner conflict is wanting to please her boyfriend, Tony, who is the pastor’s son, but wanting to not compromise her morals at the same time. So I make him pushy. Come to find out he has a problem with porn which changed the dynamics of their relationship, but she doesn’t know this. Anyway, she has a horrific thing happen to her (no, she doesn’t get raped) and Tony bails on her. His older brother Dan steps in and comforts her in his brother’s absence, and the drama begins.

Can you give us a teaser about the book?

How’s this for a short one.

Two brothers…One choice.

Short, but nice. How long have you been writing?

I started writing in August 2003.

Tell us your reaction when you found out your book had sold.

I kind of knew it ahead of time so I wasn’t surprised. It wasn’t until we started designing covers for the book that it really hit me. I was ecstatic that people were going to read my story. People I didn’t know.

A wonderful and scary feeling, I'm sure. What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a seat-of-the-pants writer?

I just sit in front of my computer and out comes the story. I’m not kidding. It’s like I’m watching a movie in my head and typing what they say and do as I watch it progress.

How do you develop characters? Charts? Interviews? Or do you just start writing?

I always know them very well before I start any book. I mull them over in my mind until they become real enough to carry the story.

Tell us about your writing space.

I used to write at the computer in our bedroom but we moved it out. Now that I primarily use my laptop, I do pretty much everything from the living room couch.

You have an outside job, manage an impressive website and Ning group, edit an online magazine, and serve as the ACFW Volunteer Coordinator. How do you find time to write and balance your life?

Who says I’m balanced? Hehehe. Here is my motto…To everything there is a season, to every time a purpose under heaven. I just go with the flow. That way I never freak out.

Not too many writers are balanced, but you have a great motto.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Read Stein on Writing. It literally transformed my thinking and helped me find my unique writer’s voice.

The worst?

Contradictory opinions from critiquers. That used to make me crazy.

I don't think you're alone with that. So tell me, what works for you? Coffee? Tea? Sparkling mineral water? Or . . .

Sparkling mineral water. If they are out of Perrier, I’ll go to Starbucks.

I wish you the very best with your debut book. What other book projects are you working on? Any exciting news you’d like to share?

I am just editing existing stuff. I continually get requests from publishers (yeah, my agent is great) but then they always decide I’m too edgy. I’m trying to tone it down. Really.

You, edgy? Come on--LOL! It’s your turn. Any closing thoughts?

Nope. Thanks for having me on your blog.

Thank you so much for being my guest here at the café. You’re welcome to stop by anytime.

Closing Notes: Michelle's book releases in September and is available for pre-order here. You may also visit Michelle on her blog where the first chapter is available.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Welcome to the Family

On August 2, 2008, Allison Janan Danielle Garner repeated her I Do’s and became Mrs. James Stewart, the lovely wife of our youngest son. It was a beautiful ceremony in the Rose Court Garden at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. There were so many tender, beautiful moments. Lovely music. The sacred vows sealed with holy communion. The gathering of family and loved ones to wish these two precious people well.

Coming from a family with only her parents, one brother and a sassy sister-in-law, Allison committed an act of great bravery entering our family of countless in-laws, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nephews, nieces, and cousins. What a girl! We are thrilled to have her and celebrated with her and James last weekend. So, for family and friends, to those who have endured our endless litanies about wedding and travel plans, we love you. Enjoy the wedding pics.

Nancy and Jan, Allison's gracious and wonderful parents

Carla and Max (who are fortunate to be the parents of four great boys!)

The glass carriage for a fairy tale wedding, of course.

Members of the wedding party. They're not as innocent as they look :-)

Ceremony in the Rose Court Garden

The bride and groom at the sweetheart table at their reception

The Mad Hatter Wedding Cake

The groom's cake. The recessional at the ceremony was "Boomer Sooner" - what else? They're both University of Oklahoma grads. Sure makes us proud, don'tcha know?

Allison and James Stewart

I'll have another post soon about a VERY bizarre thing that happened at the wedding reception. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 7, 2008


For more than a year, James and Allison have been planning their wedding. Finally, last week, we packed our bags, boarded airplanes, stuffed SUVs with belongings and children, wedding attire, and wads of extra cash and began the journey west. James arrived first. On a Tuesday. On the day that SoCal had their biggest earthquake since 1996. James and Allison were filling out their marriage license papers when the quake hit. It’s nice to have something significant like that to seal a memory, isn’t it?

In the end, of course, there was no major damage, although Allison’s family lost a few knickknacks, and their belongings shifted from their usual places, We arrived the next evening and enjoyed a couple of days of last minute details, welcoming family and friends, and loving the balmy 80-degree days.

Here are a few pics to get you started.

The palms along Katella Ave.

An evening at Bubba Gump's with the Cowan's and Matt B.
Friends from Texas enjoying California hospitality at the Garner's
Our twin grandsons in the surf at Newport Beach

A fairy tale wedding is not complete without terrific shoes--Here's a taste of what's to come. I'll post more wedding and California photos in the week to come.

Right now, they're about ready to boot us from our hotel room, and we have a flight home this afternoon. Can't wait to share more about our trip and some of the fodder I've acquired for future writing.