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, September 29, 2008


For the past few months, I’ve spent nearly every writing moment finishing my Genesis entry which was fortunate enough to final in the 2008 ACFW contest. My preliminary scores were good—two very good and one so-so, but it propelled me into action. Top priority—finish the thing in time for the conference. I made it, pinging out at 72,000 words. Then the awards ceremony, and truthfully, I thought it could go either way. I wanted to win (the competitor in me), but if I didn’t, then I could live with that (not my time, other entries were better written or more compelling to the judges).

But, I did win. Gloriously. Took my bow. Brought home the trophy (okay, it was a plaque, but beautiful nonetheless) and basked in the victory. For almost a week.


Big breath.

I got my scores from the finals judge. Let’s just say, I have work to do.

Two things come immediately to mind:
1) Getting the opinions of two editors is extremely valuable. They gave of their time to read my entry (and four others) and rated my writing on twenty different points. This is a tremendous spectrum of information that I can use once I’ve brushed myself off and picked up my manuscript for revisions.

2) Winning is not the ultimate goal in a contest. Becoming a better writer is. I’ve put my work out there to be evaluated by others, subjected myself to the critical eye of fellow writers, and yes, even editors. Their opinions matter if I’m going to improve my craft.

And just in case you’re wondering, I had a Café Americano with my Humble Pie. I’ve printed off my manuscript and dug into the rewrites. I’ll let you know how it goes.

On another note, I’ve been tagged to write Seven Random Things about myself. I recall doing this a few months ago, so I guess it’s come around again. As usual, I’m not tagging anyone, but if you’d like to keep this thing going around the world and don’t want the wrath of the wrinkle fairy to assault you in your dreams, you can pick it up and run with it.

Seven Random Things About Me:
1) I saw Mama Mia (the movie) this summer—Loved it! Love the music. Love the drama.
2) I do not like cantaloupe.
3) Or squash.
4) My favorite color is animal print, but I am also partial to red.
5) I have delivered kittens, puppies, and human babies. Human mamas yell louder.
6) I have seen kittens, puppies, and humans take their last breath. They’ve all made me cry.
7) My Redeemer lives. And that makes my heart soar!

Blessings to you all.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Conference and Book Signing Pics

The pictures tell more than I ever could about the conference. I hope you catch the excitement!

The gals from "Seekerville"
(front) Cheryl Wyatt, Myra Johnson, Julie Lessman, & Janet Dean
(back) Debbie Guisti, Margaret Daley (who infiltrated the group), Mary Connealy, & Camy Tang
The Three Musketeers - My online buddies
Erica Vetsch, Kaye Dacus, & Georgiana Daniels

Author Panel at the Mall of America Booksigning
Angela Hunt (Conference Keynote Speaker), Karen Ball, James Scott Bell, and Brandilyn Collins
My friend and author, Michelle Sutton
Mike Ehert (Editor of Afictionado) and fab author, Susan Meissner

Myra and Rhonda Gibson at booksigning

I am so proud! Here is Denice at the booksigning. The cows and pencils were a big hit.
Sarah Anne Sumpolec is on the right.

Me with Cara Putnam, who should be named Wonder Woman. She organized the 120 person booksigning, had a baby four months ago, and had two books published last year. She is amazing and so much fun!

Authors Tosca Lee and John Olson
John also taught the Advanced Fiction Writing class. Wow!

Vickie McDonough and Myra Johnson at booksigning

The fantastic Mary Connealy (Book of the Year Winner) with me

My two favorite Susans - Great authors and fun friends
Susan Meissner and Susan Page Davis at the awards banquet

Me with my agent, Sandra Bishop. She's smart and funny and loves coffee. Who knew?

Chip MacGregor who looks fine in a kilt and is one of the nicest guys around.

Fellow WIN members, Therese Stenzel and Gina Conroy at the banquet

WIN friends at the banquet - Myra Johnson, Vickie McDonough, & Therese Stenzel

Denice, Me, Margaret Daley, and Myra at the banquet

Cindy & Steven Hunt, Matt Jones, and Kenny at the awards banquet

Myra, Denice, and I on our best behavior.

Happy Birthday to a Special Girl

This time last year, I announced the birth of our first granddaughter. Today, she's a year old, and the magic has not dimmed. She is still adorable, soft, smells of baby powder, and babbles girl-talk. Happy Birthday from Mimi and Papa Max.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Home from the conference

It's hard to believe the 2008 ACFW conference has come and gone. It was all I hoped for, and most of the things that I fretted about, simply turned out to be pre-conference jitters and negative self-talk, which writers are very good at it.

I'll be writing more later about my reflections of the conference, but for now, I want to congratulate my friend, Erica Vetsch, for receiving her first contract at the conference - in front of 500 people at that. She also placed in two Genesis categories:
FIRST in the "lit" category and THIRD in historical romance.
My Genesis category was the last item of the last award of the evening . . . you know, the one where people have started looking at their watches and hiding yawns behind their napkins. Luckily, I won the category (Young Adult) and still have a surreal feeling about the win. Blessed. Amazed. Humbled. And honored.

Having Denice with me made the night so much more fun!

Two of my local WIN buddies also placed in the Book of the Year Award. Vickie McDonough got a second and a third. Margaret Daley took home a second place win, and Linda Goodnight won a first in her category. It was thrilling to see other ACFW friends from far and wide and be able to cheer for them when they won or placed in their categories. Special congrats to Susan Meissner, Deb Raney (3 first place wins), Kim Sawyer, Camy Tang, and Mary Connealy. These gals have impacted my life and my writing so much. I want to be like them when I grow up.

The 2008 ACFW Genesis Winners:

Chick lit, mom lit, lady lit Category:
1st: Erica Vetsch, Pam On Rye
2nd: Lynda Schab, Mind Over Madi
3rd: Tiffany Kinerson, Stand On My Own Two Hands

Contemporary Fiction Category:
1st: Dan Case, The Voice
2nd: Christina Berry, Undiscovered
3rd: Jim Rubart, Book of Days

Contemporary Romance Category:
1st: Annalisa Daughety, Love is a Battlefield
2nd: Kathleen Haynes, The Quarterback Club
3rd: Cara Slaughter, Joanna's Treasure

Historical Fiction category:
1st: Mona Hodgson, A Thimble's Worth
2nd: Rachel Moore, A Trail of Waves
3rd: Lori Benton, Trouble The Water

Historical Romance category:
1st: Patty Smith Hall, Flights of Freedom
2nd: Karen Witemeyer, Cloud by Day
3rd: Erica Vetsch, Marriage Masquerade

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category:
1st: Jane Thornton, Menace
2nd Donna Alice Patton, Wrestling Demons
3rd: Janice Olson, Don't Look Back

Romantic Suspense category:
1st: Jenness Walker, Deja Vu
2nd: Dani Pettrey, Quest
3rd (tie): Kelly Ann Riley, A Cowboy's Prayer
3rd (tie): Jane Thornton, Be Anxious

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Allegory category:
1st: Chawna Schroeder, Metamorphosis
2nd: Lynda K. Arndt, The Song of Blood and Stone
3rd: Valerie Comer, The Girl Who Cried Squid

Women's Fiction category:
1st: Heather Goodman, 50 Things To Do Before I Turn 30
2nd: Cynthia Ruchti, They Almost Always Come Home
3rd: Kristian Tolle, When Autumn Comes

Young Adult category:
1st: Carla Stewart, An Unexpected Journey
2nd: Stefanie Morris, The Dragon of Delarest
3rd: Kasey L. Heinly, Broken Glass

Tomorrow I'll post more pictures and tell you about the book signing at the Mall of America.

See you then!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Off to the land of 10,000 lakes

Tomorrow I leave for Minneapolis for the annual ACFW conference. My bags are packed. I've printed off one sheets, chapters and verses, organized my notebook. But I still don't feel ready. Not really. Doubts are pestering me. Questions ricochet through my mind like a pong game gone mad.
What if I say something stupid in my editor appointments? Or can't remember my name OR my pitch? Are there really ten thousand lakes in Minnesota? Can I see them from the air? What if my agent (waving to Sandra) goes uh-oh, what was I thinking when I signed this chic?
Big breath.
Stay calm.
It's only a writer's conference.
Yes, but it's the one I've pined for since the closing moments of last year's conference. The one where I will see MANY familiar faces, friends I've met since I started this amazing journey. The place where I will be challenged to write deeper, more thoughtful prose. Take classes to teach me how to edit my work until it is flawless (hear me laughing here???). Participate and assist my fellow scribes by signing up to be a volunteer (What came over me when Mike E. sent that email asking for volunteer reporters to write articles for the fabulous ACFW online magazine?)
Really, I can't wait, but there are still nerves. The what-ifs.
I'm happy that my daughter-in-law, Denice, will be traveling with me. That she will be signing her book in the Mall of America. That we share this crazy addiction called writing. I know we will have a wonderful time . . . once we're there.
I'll be back next week with a full report, some pictures (Did I pack the camera?), and hopefully with my sanity intact.
I think I'll say my prayers and call it a day.

Blessings to all.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Isn't that a marvelous title for a book? My friend and fellow Tulsa Night Writer, Gloria Teague, is the author of this nostalgic book about her growing up years in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. I haven't got my hands on a copy yet, but hope to attend her book signing Saturday, September 13, here in Tulsa: 2-4 pm at the Frugal Bookworm on S. Lewis. If you're in the area, you might stop by and tell Gloria that I sent you.

SATURDAY NIGHT COCOA FUDGE is the coming-of-age story in an era of bobby socks, poodle skirts and the freckled-faced girl that wore them. It's also about the Deep South and sweetly flawed women who taught her what she was meant to be and what she was not meant to be.

Their corner of the world was filled with folklore, superstition, and mystical ideas. Her grandmother believed and practiced most of these, passing them onto the next generation. The little girl's life was populated with strange relatives, quirky neighbors and mysterious bible verses that could stop the flow of blood. Being a member of this bizarre family made life worth living. These people were so fiercely loyal in their love for her, for each other, she felt they deserved to have their story told.

Gloria's book is available on Amazon and at the book signing, of course. I think you'll be glad you picked this one up.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Subject Close To My Heart

Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. Breast cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in Hispanic women. It is the second most common cause of cancer death in white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.
In 2004 (the most recent year numbers are available),
  • 186,772 women and 1,815 men were diagnosed with breast cancer
  • 40,954 women and 362 men died from breast cancer

Among diseases in women, breast cancer is the 6th leading cause of death in woman and can strike as early as twenty years of age. The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Approximately 1 in 100 women who are 60 years old now will die of breast cancer before age 70.

The good news about all that is public awareness and funding has increased dramatically in the last twenty-five years due largely to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. And now, more women than ever before are surviving breast cancer because of early detection through mammography, MRIs, clinical breast exam and breast self-exam.

I’ve been an advocate of yearly screening and regular self-exams for many years. Still, you think that by doing these things, it won’t happen to you or those you love. I was wrong.

Last spring, my younger sister found out she had Stage 1 breast cancer. She had surgery, followed by extensive testing which revealed a tiny lymphatic vessel which was “not negative”. One small obscure area. She needed a course of chemo to ensure that indeed she had no remaining cells in her body.

Last week, I had the privilege of being with her for her LAST chemo treatment. We are grateful that she has done very well and Lord willing, will join the ranks of “breast cancer survivors”. She has been incredibly optimistic and has had a wonderful group of friends who have walked with her, laughed with her, and offered shoulders to cry on. They will be by her side, I know, as she has radiation later in the fall.

My sister, Donna—wearing her graduation crown—with two of her amazing friends—ReNee and Gina.

For you, dear readers, I’m not asking you to consider having a mammogram—I am begging you. Make an appointment today. Take a friend or sister or the lady next door and make it an event. Already had your mammo this year? Consider helping out with the “Race for the cure” by signing up for a walk or run in your area. You can find a complete list of the runs here.

For Donna, my friend Debbie (who was also diagnosed this year), and any of you going through breast cancer, you are loved and precious. And I’m pulling for you.
Love and prayers.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Taking a Short Vacation

I’m spending a few days in Denver with my sis—some much needed time together for both of us. Thought you’d enjoy a few pics of the local sites.