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.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Novels: MY TOP FOUR PICKS THIS YEAR

As I might have mentioned earlier, my “best of” lists include mostly books that were published in 2009. However, by my own rules, they qualify if I first read them this year, and I want to give them their due praise.

There were a LOT of great books in 2009, but even as I looked back, there were four that rose to the top. If you’ve not read them, I highly recommend that you treat yourself. They are wonderful.

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett. A much-acclaimed book that had me from the first paragraph. I was reminded at once why I love books set in The South. It’s a place where you can feel the flies biting and the sweat beads pop out on your scalp the minute you step out the door. The voices have a rhythm all their own. Ms. Stockett captured the cadence and social climate of Mississippi in 1962, and even if you’ve never stepped a foot south of the Mason Dixon line, this book will make you feel you’ve had a personal tour.

It’s the story of three women: two black maids who work for white families, cooking, cleaning, raising their babies, and keeping their secrets. The third young woman is from a family who employs “help” and as she interjects herself into the lives and secrets of “the help” history is made and lives are changed. I didn’t want the book to be over, and it will be one I read again in 2010.

SUMMER OF LIGHT by W. Dale Cramer. I’m really not sure why I’ve never been introduced to this author, but at a friend’s recommendation, I ordered this 2007 release, and I’m so glad I did. It lands a spot in my top four. Here is the review I wrote for it earlier this year:

Mick Brannigan, a construction worker, loses his job when an accident occurs on the “high steel,” and he finds himself playing stay-at-home-dad to his and Layne’s three children. The results are hilarious and poignant, often on the same page. During his tenure, mishaps aplenty occur, a menagerie of animals roam the five-acre lot where the Brannigans live, and Mick discovers passion and purpose in his life. While his wife, Layne, is certain the children will be psychologically scarred . . . if they survive . . . Mick plods along in hopes that the damage to his kids won’t be permanent.

This story was delightful in countless ways, laugh out loud funny at times, and heartwarming to the end. I’ll be reading more from this author.

THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows. Doesn’t the title alone make you want to dive in and see what this is about? First, I must tell you, I’m not sure I’ve ever read an “epistolary” novel before. For those who might not be familiar with such a strange word, it’s a novel presented only in letters and other correspondence. Set in London and on Guernsey Island (of the Channel Islands between Paris and England), I was captivated not only with the setting which was unfamiliar to me, but also a slice of history that I knew nothing about – the German Occupation of Guernsey Island during WW II. The story is tender and charming, a tale I could read again and again.

One note about the book: Mary Ann Schaffer, the author who carried this story in her heart for many years, had just sold it to a publisher when she became ill and unable to finish the editing process. Her niece, Annie Barrows stepped in and make the final additions. It’s truly an act of grace that the world now has this lovely book. Ms. Schaffer has now passed away.

HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jamie Ford. Again, this title mesmerized and enticed me. It’s also a story of an era that I knew little about. Set in the Chinese and Japanese districts of Seattle during WW II, it is a story of forbidden love—a first love that is torn apart when a young Japanese girl and her family are sent to a Japanese internment camp in Idaho. Her young Chinese friend carves a new life for himself, and many years later, upon the death of his wife, is drawn to a hotel where the belongings of many Japanese families have been stored in the basement. For him, it is the beginning of a search for the past, and it’s a lovely journey.

So, for you, my faithful readers here at the Café, I present the four books that captured my heart in 2009. Each is unique and has different qualities that endeared them to me, but the unifying factor is simply this: The stories have lingered long after the last page. The characters are people I would be proud to call friends. I hope you have the opportunity to meet them too.

Q for you: What is the best book you’ve read this year? Please leave a comment and tell me the name of the book, the author, and what made you love the book.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! May 2010 bring you many reading pleasures.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Crockpot Chicken W/ Chiles, Cheese, & Chips

Have you planned your New Year’s Eve menu yet? Having folks over to watch the big games on New Year’s Day? This crock pot winner will give you plenty of time to have fun with the family and still get kudos from the kids and/or your guests.

My FaceBook friend, Therese Fowler, says this is one of their family favorites and always a hit when there’s a frost or snow in the air. Thank you, Therese, for allowing me to share with my readers here.

Therese is the author of two books: Reunion and Souvenir. You can learn more about her and her books here.


CROCKPOT CHICKEN w/ CHILES, CHEESE, & CHIPS

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1-2 lbs.)
3 cans of black beans, undrained
3 15-oz. cans of Mexican diced tomatoes
1-2 cups salsa
2 4-oz. cans of diced green chiles
1 or 2 14 oz. cans of tomato sauce

Add all ingredients to a crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours. At end of cooking time, remove chicken, shred, and return to crock pot. Spoon over tortilla chips. Top with Mexican/Taco flavored shredded cheese (let each person add the amount they like). Other toppings you might enjoy are sour cream, guacamole, or if you really want to spice things up . . . jalapenos.

Thanks, Therese!

And Happy New Year celebrations to all.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

IMMANUEL . . . God With Us


BLESSINGS TO ALL OF YOU - friends, loved ones, and faithful blog readers. May you receive all the best from God above and join in celebration of the birth of the Christ child.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TEN GREAT BOOKS I'VE READ THIS YEAR


My reading pile has grown and grown and now is stacked two deep and spilling over on two shelves. Some of the books I read this year didn’t necessarily have a 2009 release date, but this is the year I read them, so my rule is . . . if I read it this year, it qualifies. There are so many good ones to choose from, your list may vary, but all of these are worthy of your time.

My criteria for a good book:
• Intrigues me with a setting or slice of history that I know little about and makes me feel richer for having read the book.
• Excellent writing that makes me read and re-read the prose just to savor the words.
• Tripping the light fantastic – funny, quirky reads that are like a breath of fresh air.

My top ten picks (in the order in which I read them):

1. The Passion of Mary Margaret by Lisa Samson
2. Rose House by Tina Forkner
3. What the Bayou Saw by Patti Lacy
4. Return Policy by Michael Snyder
5. Twisted Creek by Jodi Thomas
6. Just Between You and Me by Jenny B. Jones
7. A Slow Burn by Mary DeMuth
8. Seeing Things by Patti Hill
9. White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner
10. The Fence My Father Built by Linda Clare

I rarely read non-fiction except for researching my own novels, but this year one stood out that deserves a mention. Parting The Waters by Jeanne Damoff was both a tender memoir and simply beautiful writing. So a special nod for that one.

How about you? Are any of these your favorites? Give yourself a Christmas gift this year and curl up with one of these outstanding novels.What suggestions would you have for me for “must reads” in 2010?

At the end of the month, I’ll reveal the four books that I could not put down. Four books that have not appeared on this list or my debut author’s list. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Poor Man's Millionaires


Can’t afford designer chocolates? (And who can at this time of year?) No time for time-consuming candy-making extravaganzas? Then, here’s a deal for you. THREE ingredients. Less than 30 minutes. No mixing. And everyone loves these bite-sized gooey chocolate treats with just the right crunch.




Poor Man’s Millionaires


Bag of mini-pretzels (knots)

Bag of Rolo candies

Pecan halves (one per treat)


Line cookie sheet w/ waxed paper. Spread pretzels on cookie sheet (not touching). Unwrap Rolo candies. Place one atop each pretzel. Bake at 250 degrees for 4 minutes (only until candy is slightly soft). Removed and press pecan half into top of each candy smooshing it down a bit. Let cool completely before removing from waxed paper. I sometimes put them in the freezer for a few minutes to speed the cooling.


Store in airtight container. That's it! Hint: Plan ahead and get enough stuff for two batches because these disappear fast.


You might want to leave a plate for poor Santa. He'll be grateful, I'm sure.


MERRY CHRISTMAS.


Peace and Joy to all . . .

Thursday, December 17, 2009

TOP FIVE INSPIRATIONAL DEBUT NOVELS OF 2009


I am fortunate to be sharing my writing journey with other authors whose first novels released this year. Although I’m not personally acquainted with all the debut authors on this list, I’ve been entertained with a great variety of inspirational fiction. These ladies have set the bar high for me and others trying to break into the magical world of publishing.

For your reading enjoyment, I present – in no particular order – my Top Five Debut Novels for 2009: Inspirational.

Lovely books from some great up-and-coming authors.

Next week – Ten Great Novels from 2009!

And to round out the year, the last week in December – Top Four Amazing Novels from 2009 and why you should read them.

I can’t imagine a world without books, can you?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Sugar Cookies for Christmas



It's not to late to get in some Christmas baking! My good friend and awesome writer - Camille Eide - took time from her hectic schedule to whip up a batch of these for her family and allowed me to share her sugar cookie recipe. They sound delicious and may be just the thing you've been looking for to share with your neighbors or family.




CAMILLE'S SUPER SIMPLE VERY VANILLA SUGAR COOKIES
(soft & chewy!)

400 degree oven.

1 cup butter
2 Tb shortening
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 box Betty Crocker French Vanilla Cake mix
½ tsp salt
1 tsp soda

Optional: Sugar sprinkles, turbinado sugar crystals, frosting, etc

Mix butter, shortening, and sugar till fluffy. Add eggs and blend well. Blend in flour, salt, soda, and cake mix. Shape into 1 ½ inch balls on a cookie sheet (flatten slightly) and bake at 400 for about 7 minutes till very lightly golden. May look slightly underdone, that’s good. Cool a minute or two on cookie sheet to finish cooking before removing to cooling rack. Leave plain or frost and sprinkle for holidays! Or dip dough balls in colored sugar or big sugar crystals before baking.

Thanks so much, Camille, for sharing this with my readers.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Peppernuts

When our boys were small, we moved back to my husband’s childhood community, about half of which were German Mennonites. Max didn’t grow up in their church, but remembered that the people who went there were loving, generous people who lived out their faith as neighbors. One day soon after we’d moved in, someone called and invited our boys to summer Vacation Bible School, and at the parents’ night, Max said, “This is where we should go to church.” What a blessing those folks were to us. And, I might add, they ARE THE BEST COOKS IN THE WORLD.

Every fall, the ladies had a work day devoted solely to making “peppernuts” – a traditional sweet treat - which were then taken to the area Mennonite relief sale ( for missions) where all sorts of German food and beautifully crafted handmade items were sold. Let me just say, the Amish quilt makers have nothing on these talented Mennonites!

I was indoctrinated into the fine art of peppernut making, and ever since—even if I bake nothing else at Christmas—I do make peppernuts. There are variations on the recipe, but my family’s favorite is the Plain Peppernut recipe. So for your enjoyment, here it is.

PEPPERNUTS
Traditional German Treat

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup milk
3 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
Enough flour to make a stiff dough (about 5 cups)

Mix all ingredients in mixer. Chill 2-3 hours or overnight. Pinch off walnut-sized piece of dough and roll by hand on a floured surface into a long rope, a little larger than a pencil. Cut into ¼ to ½ inch pieces and bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until light brown. Cool and store in airtight container (ziploc bags work great).

Christmas and peppernuts – thanks you, ladies, of the Mennonite church for your willingness to share your faith and a piece of your heritage with a young mom. I always think of you when I make my annual quota of peppernuts.

Have any of you been privy to a special person who shared a secret recipe? Are there any ethnic foods you make at Christmas?

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Christmas Spirit

I’m the first to admit, the Christmas spirit is a little slow in making its appearance around here. I’m consumed with me-isms—my book promotion, my next project, my responsibilities to the writing groups I belong to, my blog posts, my email. It’s no wonder I feel like such a Scrooge. When we see only ourselves and the urgencies around us, it’s harder to gain our focus. And sadly, I’m guilty.

This past weekend, I went to Texas to see my grandson perform in his second Christmas band concert. Last year he was a beginning tuba player. This year, he’s advanced to the symphonic band. Oh, what a difference from last year until this one! The tempo was faster, they were together on the melody, and the blending of the sections was so much mellower. Delightful.

Proud Mimi with her grandsons, the tuba player on the left.

They played four numbers, the first of which was The Christmas Eve March where a portion of the song featured the percussion and tuba players. Lots of bum-bum-bum. They played with skill and authority. Next was African Noel with an exotic beat that reminded me of our brothers and sisters in another part of the world. A toe-tapping Holly, Jolly Christmas followed with the finale of Feliz Navidad, its Latin beat resounding with the very talented percussion section again. And in each of the songs, the tuba notes grounded the instruments, giving the overall performance depth and a framework.

It made me more aware than ever that we are all part of humankind. Different cultures. Different generations. One reason to celebrate. How can we not get in the Christmas spirit when we stop for a moment to ponder and remember that Jesus is the Spirit of Christmas? Jesus who came in fulfillment of the prophecy, to save us all, even a wretch like me.

I had a wonderful time with my grandsons and their parents as well as about twelve hours of playing my favorite Christmas CDs on the trip to and fro. I arrived home weary, but filled anew with the wonder of Christmas, the love of family, and the gift of music in our world.

May all heaven and nature sing!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

'TIS THE SEASON


Christmas always seems to sneak up on me. It's not like I haven't seen the decorations out in the store since Halloween or noticed how fat our daily newspaper has become with ads for the best bargains of the year. I have noticed and have chosen to shut myself off from the world. Hid behind my computer screen and surfed the net for the latest marketing tips for writers and gone over my new manuscript for the umpteenth time. In my self-imposed isolation, I've also not served my readers here at the Cafe very well. So, with my humblest apologies, I have a couple of things to tell you today.

First: We have a winner for Patti Lacy's What The Bayou Saw. Congratulations to Dina Sleiman! And thanks to everyone who stopped by and left a comment.

Next: A friend and fellow writer has started a new blog that I recommend you check out at once if you're a writer. Many instructors warn writers to avoid flat lifeless characters (a.k.a. cardboard characters) but writer/dramatist Lynne Gentry actually shows us HOW. Even seasoned novelists will appreciate the tools she provides to make characters leap off the page. Hint: what does dressing someone in the color “cream” convey to readers?

You can find out the answer on Lynne's new blog: Stage Write

Last: As 2009 winds down, I will be bringing you the "Best of 2009" - Books, Blogs, Writing Sites, and even a few recipes to get you through the holidays.

It truly is the season: May you find joy each day as we approach the day of the birth of our Lord and Savior. Immanuel. God is with us. Today and always.

Monday, November 30, 2009

SAINT'S ROOST by Terry Burns on CFBA

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Saint's Roost
Sundowners (September 20, 2009)
by
Terry Burns

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Terry has over 30 books in print, including work in a dozen short story collections and four non-fiction books plus numerous articles and short stories.

His last book Beyond the Smoke is a 2009 winner of the Will Rogers Medallion for best youth fiction and a nominee for the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America. He has a three book Mysterious Ways series out from David C Cook, and Trails of the Dime Novel from Echelon Press.

A graduate of West Texas State he did post graduate work at Southern Methodist University. Terry plans to continue writing inspirational fiction as well as working as an agent for Hartline Literary Agency. Terry is a native Texan Living in Amarillo, Texas with his lovely wife Saundra.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Terry Burns has written a novel rich in Texan drawl and old western authenticity.

Saint’s Roost opens with a determined couple leaving a wagon train to set off on their own, only to be set upon by savages. Patrick, an eager evangelizing preacher, steps out to share the Good Book with the savages and meets an untimely demise, leaving his wife, Janie, alone on a trail to nowhere with no one to help her survive.

She makes her way across the frontier determined to follow her husband’s calling, but she doesn’t know where to begin, or even how to take care of herself. When her travels bring her into the lives of two cowhands, an ex-prostitute, a young boy and his drunken grandfather, and towns filled with cowboys waiting to be saved, she discovers there’s more than one way to spread God’s word.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Saint's Roost, go HERE

Sunday, November 29, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Turkey Spaghetti


Well, it’s inevitable. Thanksgiving’s over, and chances are, you may still have leftover turkey lurking in the fridge, daring you to come up with something more creative than a slice of turkey and Swiss on rye. If so, here’s a dish to change things up, and one of the nice things about it is that you can make this dish and freeze it for later.

A little secret? I put two cups of leftover turkey in the freezer in a zip-lock back on Thanksgiving Day so that one of these cold, rainy evenings, all I have to do is throw a few things together for this creamy, comforting dish. Add a salad, some Tuscan bread from the grocer, and you’re all set.


Turkey Spaghetti


2 cups cooked turkey (leftovers work great)

6 oz. package thin spaghetti, cooked to al dente

½ onion, chopped

½ green bell pepper, chopped (can use red bell pepper if you like for added color)

1 can cream of mushroom soup

½ soup can milk

2 cups shredded cheese (I like the mixed variety best)

½ tsp. black pepper

½ tsp. oregano

½ tsp. basil


Sauté onion and bell pepper in one teaspoon butter. Meanwhile, combine soup, milk, and shredded cheese. Add onion, pepper, turkey and spices. Pour into a 9 x 13 inch dish which has been sprayed with Pam. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.


This is a nice variation on spaghetti, and you won’t feel like you’re eating leftovers. May you be blessed with all good things as we enter this season of celebration. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite treats for the holidays over the next few weeks. Hope you’ll join me.


In the meantime, do you have any quick stand-by dishes you make to stretch your holiday hours?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fiction Marketing Seminar in Dallas

Me? Marketing? It's not an endeavor that I thought would be critical in my writing career, let alone my life. Apparently it is. And I think it’s something I’m going to love once I get the hang of it. I took a step of faith this past weekend and went to The Master Seminars first fiction marketing workshop taught by Chip MacGregor and Jim Rubart. They not only have expertise in both publishing and marketing, but are really nice and easy to relate to as well.

Our group for the two-day seminar

All six of us who attended write vastly different things, but I’m glad to say I’ve made new friends who were fun to brainstorm with and discuss my favorite topic – writing. We also got to know each other during free time and at meals.

Without going into a lot of detail, here are some of the highlights.
  • Basic marketing concepts – Know yourself and your target market. Be unique. Be first with the great idea. Be intentional.
  • Know your strengths and the roadblocks that hinder you. Build a marketing plan around your strengths and execute it.
  • Listening to other novelists talk about their work was really beneficial in seeing how personality and message depends on the individual and must be an integral part of a marketing plan that works.
  • The last day of the seminar, we each formulated a specific market plan for our books. We did this in a group with Chip and Jim giving their thoughts and helping us think through the ideas. Some were revolutionary. Some were daunting. But all were specific for each of us.
Other subjects were covered as well – branding, writing great copy (websites/blogs), and working with publishers and publicists. I’d rather leave the nuts and bolts to the experts. Both Chip MacGregor and Jim Rubart share their wisdom about publishing and marketing around the web. Chip’s blog is straightforward with emphasis on current trends in publishing. Jim is currently doing a three-part marketing series on agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog. And you can learn more about The Master Seminars here.


Jim Rubart, Tiffany Colter (seminar coordinator and the one who took good care of all of us), and Chip MacGregor

Stay tuned. I’ll be sharing some of the exciting things I’ve planned for the launch of Chasing Lilacs. I also invite you to take a look at some of the editorial reviews recently posted on Amazon.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Cranberry Salad

You either love cranberries or you don't. Today's special, though, is not the gelatinous burgundy stuff you get from a can (although I personally like it, too). Matter of fact, people who don't even think they like cranberries love this family favorite. And with Thanksgiving just around the corner, it's time to pull out those "must have" recipes for the holidays.

Special bonus: Cranberries are all the rage nowadays for their antioxidant properties, so even though it's got a bit of sugar, you can take a second helping knowing it's good for you.

CRANBERRY SALAD

1 bag fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 apple, cored and diced
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Large carton Cool Whip (not the giant sized one, though)

Chop cranberries in a blender or food processor. Add sugar and allow to sit four hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Add apple, pecans, miniature marshmallows, and Cool Whip and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate until time to serve.

This doubles as a dessert, so if you want something sweet, but not as heavy as Aunt Maude's chocolate bottom pecan pie, this is perfect.

For our family, it's not Thanksgiving without cranberries. How about you? Any dishes that you simply must have every year?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

WHAT THE BAYOU SAW by Patti Lacy up on CFBA Along with Review and Giveaway

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
What The Bayou Saw
Kregel Publications (March 24, 2009)
by
Patti Lacy
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Though Patti's only been writing since 2005, she thinks her latest profession of capturing stories on paper (or computer files) will stick awhile.

The Still, Small Voice encouraged Patti to write after a brave Irish friend shared memories of betrayal and her decision to forgive. In 2008, An Irishwoman’s Tale was published by Kregel Publications. Patti’s second novel, What the Bayou Saw, draws on the memories of two young girls who refused to let segregation, a chain link fence, and a brutal rape come between them.

The secrets women keep and why they keep them continue to enliven Patti's gray matter. A third book, My Name is Sheba, has been completed. Patti's WIP, Recapturing Lily, documents a tug-of-war between a Harvard-educated doctor and an American pastor and his wife for a precious child and explores adoption issues, China's "One Child" policy, and both Christian and secular views of sacrifice.

Patti also facilitates writing seminars in schools, libraries, and at conferences and has been called to present her testimony, "All the Broken Pieces," at women's retreats. She also leads a Beth Moore Bible study at her beloved Grace Church.

Patti and her husband Alan, an Illinois State faculty member, live in Normal with their handsome son Thomas, who attends Heartland Community College. On sunny evenings, you can catch the three strolling the streets of Normal with their dog Laura, whom they've dubbed a "Worchestershire Terrier" for her "little dab of this breed, a little dab of that breed.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Segregation and a chain link fence separated twelve-year-old Sally Flowers from her best friend, Ella Ward. Yet a brutal assault bound them together. Forever. Thirty-eight years later, Sally, a middle-aged Midwestern instructor, dredges up childhood secrets long buried beneath the waters of a Louisiana bayou in order to help her student, who has also been raped. Fragments of spirituals, gospel songs, and images of a Katrina-ravaged New Orleans are woven into the story.

The past can't stay buried forever. Rising author Patti Lacy's second novel exposes the life of Sally, set amid the shadows of prejudice in Louisiana.

Since leaving her home in the South, Sally Stevens has held the secrets of her past at bay, smothering them in a sunny disposition and sugar-coated lies. No one, not even her husband, has heard the truth about her childhood.

But when one of her students is violently raped, Sally's memories quickly bubble to the surface unbidden, like a dead body in a bayou. As Sally's story comes to light, the lies she's told begin to catch up with her. And as her web of deceit unravels, she resolves to face the truth at last, whatever the consequences.

If you would like to read the first chapter of What The Bayou Saw, go HERE

Watch the Book Trailer:



MY REVIEW: Patti Lacy writes with abandon—exuberant prose with a magnetism aimed straight at the reader. Her second novel is another compelling, page-turning read that recalls a tumultuous past, this time for Sally Stevens, a college professor. When one of her students, a gifted African-American girl, is brutally beaten, old memories that Sally has kept hidden for thirty years are stirred. As the layers are peeled back, Sally discovers not only the misdeeds of others, but also a blackness in her own soul that stemmed from an incident with her childhood friend, Ella.

Deeply honest, the prose sometimes stings with gritty reality about the prejudices of the South—from the swamps of Sally’s childhood to Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. Ultimately, it’s a story of faith, the sometimes twisty road to forgiveness, and God’s grace. The cost is great, but it is the sacrifice Sally must make if she is to preserve her marriage and her own integrity. I think you’ll be delighted with the detours in the scenery, as Sally and Ella wrap themselves around your heart.

Patti Lacy is a gifted storyteller, with a knack for drawing rich settings that linger long after the last page.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment with your contact info to be entered in the giveaway for What the Bayou Saw. Deadline: Monday, November 23 (noonish).

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher to me for promotional purposes and to write an honest review. Your chances of winning are dependent on the number of entries. US residents only.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"My First Sale" Article

A lot of people have asked me about my writing journey. Here you can read it all in the current issue of the ACFW Afictionado Ezine. Tiffany Amber Stockton did the interview and made me sound way more together than I am. ACFW is a wonderful organization where almost 2000 members learn together, cheer each other on, and promote one another. I'm truly blessed to be a part.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Something Worth Noting

A couple of brief things:

Thanks for all the comments on the Coffee Cup Bible Study series! I forgot to mention that Cheryl Barker's name was drawn last Friday. Her name has been sent to the tour coordinator, and she will be eligible for the grand prize tote bag with all the yummy books and coffee. Congratulations!

ANOTHER GIVEAWAY opportunity:

Yesterday I mentioned Susan Meissner's book, White Picket Fences. Lucky you! You could win a copy over at Romance Your Spouse. The contest ends this Friday, and there are no comments yet so you have a great chance of winning this incredible book. Go. Now.

Back to your normal day.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Don't Fence Me In


Okay. What did you first think when you read the title of this post? Roy Rogers? If that was a yes, you’re absolutely correct! Roy sang this song while Trigger danced in the 1944 movie, Hollywood Canteen. Many other singers also recorded it over the years – Gene Autry, Kate Smith, Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters (together), Ella Fitzgerald, and Harry Connick, Jr. (more recently). Did you know it’s a Cole Porter song adapted from a poem by Robert Fletcher? Me neither. But by now, I know the words are rolling around in your head, so if it’s driving you nuts, you can click over here to watch the clip.

And the purpose of this post is not to send you into some time warp. It’s the word fence I want to talk about. Some words just trigger (sorry . . . couldn’t resist with the dancing horse still in my head) immediate reactions. I don’t necessarily think of “fence” being a powerful word . . . at least I didn’t until a couple of weeks ago. I received two books in the mail on the same day: White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner and The Fence My Father Built by Linda S. Clare.

Distinct, but totally different images came to mind before I even had time to study the covers and wonder what stories might be inside. White Picket Fences, of course brought the image of a comfortable cottage with Cape Cod curtains at the window. I could see in my mind’s eye a cheerful yellow kitchen and people who laughed and lived satisfying lives. Perhaps even perfect lives. That’s exactly what the title and cover were meant to convey, but with this being a novel, I knew much more lurked beneath the surface. Wow. Did it ever. Lovely writing from one of my favorite authors.

The Fence My Father Built brought images of another sort – heritage, a solid foundation, perhaps a bit of mystery as to why this particular fence had significance. Again, an idea that hooked me and kept me turning the pages. It was indeed about heritage – Native American roots – but also one filled with action, regret over never knowing the father who built the fence, and ultimately about guarding the things we hold sacred.

Both of these books are terrific reads and well worth your time. The publishers did a fantastic job of conveying the hearts of the stories through the cover art and just the right titles. Well done.

So, books aside, and songs that are skipping through your head, what other thoughts does the word “fence” conjure up? And how might it be used in a story? A “fence” of course can take on a criminal element with regard to stolen property and the middleman. Sports-minded? How about the Green Monster – the enormous 37-foot, 2-inch wall fence at Fenway Park? To make a ball sail over it is a moment of victory, of personal accomplishment. Rivaling paramours “fence” in duels to win the love of a fair maiden. Stockades and razor wire fences are meant to contain people. Barbed wire fences keep cattle in and gated community fences keep people out.

And what about a chat over the backyard fence? Do people do that anymore? When our twins were babies, I’d sometimes hand one over the fence to our neighbor on the south and the other one over to the north-side neighbor so I could have thirty minutes to read a book to my toddler. Those were the days.

Are you convinced yet that fence is a strong, evocative word? I’m sure you can come up with even more creative examples, and may even have a few power words of your own you’d like to share. Just don’t straddle the fence about joining the conversation.

And don’t forget to check out these two new books. You’ll be glad you did!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Smothered Chops


My mother-in-law was one of the best cooks I've ever known when it came to wholesome, country cooking. We teased her about being the "Cream of the Crop" for her many wins at the county fair and her lavish spreads, even for everyday meals. Rarely did we sit down to a meal at her house and find less that six or seven dishes on the table. Boy, was Max in for a jolt when he married me! His mom has slowed down (she's 89, for goodness sake . . . she deserves it), and many of her recipes that I now make have become dog-eared from much use. Smothered Chops is one of her specialties and probably should be renamed - Grandma's Smothered Chops.

It's a crock pot recipe - one of my favorite ways to steer clear of the kitchen as much as possible. Very simple. Mouthwatering. Hearty. Can't go wrong with this one!

SMOTHERED CHOPS

6 - 8 boneless pork chops
3 cans cream of mushroom soup (or one family-sized can)
Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. canola or olive oil

Heat oil in skillet and brown chops thoroughly on both sides, but chops don't have to be cooked through. Place on plate with paper towels to remove excess oil; then layer mushroom soup and chops in crock pot. Pepper freely. Cook all day on Low or 4 to 5 hours on High. Serve over prepared rice. (I like the old-fashioned kind, but Minute Rice will do.)

Add a vegetable and/or a salad and you have a complete meal with all the food groups. I'll never be a cook in the same league as my mother-in-law, but I am glad I have her recipes and that her son likes my cooking almost as much as hers.

Q of the day: Do you eat meals around the table, hanging over the kitchen counter, in your car, in the den in front of the TV or . . . . . . ? What kinds of conversation do you have during meals? Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, November 6, 2009

CHASING LILACS Available for Pre-Order on Amazon


Have I mentioned lately how much I've enjoyed the publishing process? Each phase has been like the movie Fifty First Dates - a brand new world at every turn. Most recently, I've been writing discussion questions for the Reader's Guide which will be in the back of the book and providing my publisher with a list of "dream" endorsers. One of the things that has surprised me the most is how far ahead of the publication date everything has to be done. It's now about seven months until Chasing Lilacs will be in stores, but . . . please indulge me here . . . The book is already available for pre-order on Amazon!

Here's the editorial description:

It is the summer of 1958, and life in the small Texas community of Graham Camp should be simple and carefree. But not for twelve-year-old Sammie Tucker. Sammie has plenty of questions about her mother's "nerve" problems. About shock treatments. About whether her mother loves her.

When her mother commits suicide and a not-so-favorite aunt arrives, Sammie has to choose who to trust with her deepest fears: Her best friend who has an opinion about everything, the mysterious kid from California whose own troubles plague him, or her round-faced neighbor with gentle advice and strong shoulders to cry on. Then there's the elderly widower who seems nice but has his own dark past.

Trusting is one thing, but accepting the truth may be the hardest thing Sammie has ever done.

Up until now, everything has been done undercover, so to speak, between my agent, editor, art department, and marketing experts at FaithWords. Launching my book into the world is exciting, to be sure, but also a bit like taking my clothes off in the fountain of the city square (gasp!). No longer flying under the radar, I'm throwing myself at the mercy of readers, critics, and reviewers. So, here's to a safe landing for my debut book. And if you're so inclined, you might click over to Amazon and take a peek.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

CFBA presents Mary DeMuth's A SLOW BURN

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
A Slow Burn
Zondervan (October 1, 2009)
by
Mary DeMuth
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mary E. DeMuth is an expert in Pioneer Parenting. She enables Christian parents to navigate our changing culture when their families left no good faith examples to follow.

Her parenting books include Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture (Harvest House, 2007), Building the Christian Family You Never Had (WaterBrook, 2006), and Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House, 2005).

Mary also inspires people to face their trials through her real-to-life novels, Watching The Tree Limbs
(nominated for a Christy Award) and Wishing On Dandelions (NavPress, 2006).

Mary has spoken at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, the ACFW Conference, the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, and at various churches and church planting ministries. She's also taught in Germany, Austria, Monaco, Italy, France, and the United States. Mary and her husband, Patrick, reside in Texas with their three children. They recently returned from breaking new spiritual ground in Southern France, and planting a church.

ABOUT THE BOOK


She touched Daisy’s shoulder. So cold. So hard. So unlike Daisy.

Yet so much like herself it made Emory shudder.

Burying her grief, Emory Chance is determined to find her daughter Daisy’s murderer—a man she saw in a flicker of a vision. But when the investigation hits every dead end, her despair escalates. As questions surrounding Daisy’s death continue to mount, Emory’s safety is shattered by the pursuit of a stranger, and she can’t shake the sickening fear that her own choices contributed to Daisy’s disappearance. Will she ever experience the peace her heart longs for?

The second book in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy, this suspenseful novel is about courageous love, the burden of regret, and bonds that never break. It is about the beauty and the pain of telling the truth. Most of all, it is about the power of forgiveness and what remains when shame no longer holds us captive.


Watch the video:



If you would like to read the first chapter of A Slow Burn, go HERE

You may read Carla's Review of A Slow Burn here.

Girlfriend Bible Studies - Fun Ways to Study the Scripture with your friends

Creative Ways to Have Girlfriend Bible Studies -
from Sandra Glahn, author of the Coffee Cup Bible Study Series 



· Get ripped with Ruth. Meet at the health club and walk side-by-side on the treadmill with your BFF. The study’s spiral binding and modest size lends itself to being stashed in a gym bag. You won’t even have to pack your Bible. The text is included.



· Inhale the aroma of java as you enter your favorite coffee shop. Order yourself a cappuccino, and then hang out around the table with friends discussing Colossians. 



· For your friend’s birthday, give her chocolate-covered coffee beans and a Coffee Cup Bible study. Promise her an hour every week of your time for building your friendship on what lasts.



· Invite the person who does your nails to consider the words of Jesus. Provide a copy of Mocha on the Mount, and every time you’re together discuss what you’re both learning as you go through it. Schedule an extended “Spiritual Spa Day” together by watching and discussing a movie about Esther as you kick off bi-weekly meetings around your kitchen table. Contemplate what the Hadassah spa—Esther’s year of beauty treatments—must have been like. Then consider the part of her beauty that was deeper than skin.



· You don’t have to sip your cuppa joe in a shop that starts with an “S.” Grab some colleagues and organize a small group study. You can nurse your favorite beverage in the company cafeteria, the hospital coffee shop—even your local McDonald’s. 



· Brew a pot of coffee in your church kitchen and meet one evening per week with members of your congregation. Engage in a lively discussion about Deborah, Jael, and Samson’s mother as you go through Java with the Judges.

One fortune blogger from each participating blog will be entered into a grand prize drawing for a coffee themed tote bag, twelve oz of Starbucks Sumatra and signed copies for Kona with Jonah and Frappe' with Philippians. Leave a comment here or in the previous post. I'll draw a name on Friday (Nov 6). Here's a picture of what you might win!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

COFFEE CUP BIBLE SERIES - Enter for a Giveaway


(Dallas Texas) - The coffee industry is one of the leading industries in America. Specialty coffee houses provide cozy intimate spaces to read, study and visit. That's exactly what Sandra Glahn had in mind when she wrote her Coffee Cup Series Bible studies. Recently added to her already existing studies are Kona with Jonah and Frappe' with Philippians.

These Bible studies are designed for casual gatherings and coffee shop discussions.
Kona with Jonah begins with a brief history of Jonah and Ninevah. Merging historical event with current modern day practicality, Glahn invites readers to take a walk in Jonah's sandals. Coffee sippers will find it hard to escape the similarities as these two worlds collide. Prayer, mercy, city revival and other strong themes will perk the interest and heart of diligent students.

Frappé with Philippians brews for five weeks of strong, powerful conversation about Paul and the heroes of the Philippian church. With detailed study time spent examining the letters of Paul to the Church, readers will come away feeling like they have met with the man himself. With sections entitled "That God Will Get me Out of Here, and Other Prayer Requests Paul Doesn't Make," Glahn keeps the tone of the study light, without disrespecting the seriousness of the study of God's Word.

A Chat Over Coffee w/ Sandra

Women who typically feel they don't have the time to do
Bible Study find your studies relevant and easy to use. What's the secret to making the study inviting?

I don't know if there's one secret. Different things appeal to different people. But I do know that with my own personal Bible study time, I've been able to stay fairly consistent Monday through Friday when my daughter is at school. But on the weekends everything changes in our household. Sometimes we travel. Or we sleep later on Saturday. And we rise and go to church on Sunday. Result: my routine gets disrupted. For this reason I often have a more difficult time doing Bible study on the weekends. So I designed the series for Monday-through-Friday study with only short devotional readings on the weekends. The weekday time can require twenty minutes or more; the weekend readings take less than five minutes.
I think the studies also appeal to the right-brained person. As an artsy type, I sometimes engage more with the Bible if I can write out a prayer, draw, view a related video, compose a story, sing a song...

And I wrote this series with that person in mind. The devotionals are also full of stories, which most of us love to hear.
In addition (and this is probably the main reason), when I was working full-time, I wanted a study I could stash in my purse without having to lug a Bible and a commentary. I wanted to use my lunch break for a quiet time without parading my resources in front of people. And I think it helps that the Coffee Cup series books don't look like typical Bible studies; they're all-inclusive (text, commentary, questions included); they're small enough to throw in a briefcase or diaper bag; and they're both spiral and bound--making it easier to use on a treadmill or fold in the lap and write on while sitting. In short they're designed for the multi-tasker. I heard from an ob-gyn who uses them as she's sitting in the doctors' lounge waiting for babies to arrive.
And one more thing--I also include a prayer at the end. I heard from an eighty-something man who told me how much those prayers meant. All his life he had struggled with prayer, and that guidance helped him respond to God. I'm glad that a series directed to women didn't scare him off!

In
Jonah with Kona, what do you hope participants will take away and apply to their own lives?

We tend to like our own causes best; we like our own country best; we like our denomination best; we like our own families best; we prefer the schools we attended, the neighborhoods where we grew up, our own political party or cause, our gender--even our brand of peanut butter. And somewhere along the way we cross the line from preference to prejudice. We pray for our loved ones but rarely, if ever, our enemies. Mention atheists, opposing politicians, humanists, materialists, homosexuals, and radical feminists in most churches today, and the response you'll evoke will sound nothing like, "Let's pray right now for God to pour out his love." 
Genesis tells us that humans are fellow creations of one maker. The qualities of God that so angered Jonah are the very qualities we most need: grace, compassion, patience, mercy, abundant love, and truth. And not just for those we love--but for those we hate. For those who have wronged us. For those who want us dead. For those with whom we strongly disagree. The only possible way we can demonstrate such remarkable goodness is through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The focus of Frappé with Philippians is the life of Paul and the early church. What kind of historical research did you do and did you learn any surprising facts as you compiled your information?

I think it's enormously important to understand the world in which Paul was writing. Let's take the view of women, for example. The Jews were the most conservative. The Greeks were better, though greatly influenced by Aristotle's low view of women. And the Roman women had the most freedom--even owning property and supervising gymnasiums. Knowing a city's predominant citizenship helps us understand Paul's letters on such issues. 
 My PhD work relates a lot to the Greek pantheon and Greek and Roman history. The historical backgrounds for the Bible books are essential, and fortunately they interest me. 
I also love getting a sense of the geography, if I can. I had the advantage this summer of taking a clipper to follow the journeys of Paul. Some of our stops included Corinth, Troas, Neapolis, Philippi, and Athens. 

One sentence out of the mouth of a guide in Corinth really stuck with me, as she provided a key to understanding the cities we visited. She mentioned that while American visitors seem generally uninterested in talk of gods and goddesses, knowing which member of the Greek pantheon a city worshiped is essential to understanding that city's mentality. The more I thought about this, the more sense it made: 


ATHENS. Athena was the goddess of wisdom, so citizens of Athens wanted their city to reflect culture, religion, and philosophy. And sure enough, in Acts 17 we find Stoic and Epicurean philosophers hanging out at the Areopagus (Mars Hill). Paul affirms them for being religious, and rather than dissing their many false gods, he zeroes in on their altar to the unknown God and tells them about this Almighty one who was not made with hands--One who is never far from any of us.



CORINTH. Corinth was the home of Aphrodite, goddess of love (and not the agape version). Behind the city ruins stands a towering hill at the top of which sat Aphrodite's temple. One could not walk down the street without being conscious of its prominence. Might that explain why the Corinthians had so many issues with sexual immorality, and why Paul tells them that it's good for a man not to touch a woman (1 Cor. 7:1)? For the sake of the kingdom, he encourages them to consider embracing sexual abstinence rather than marrying. How fitting that in a city that prides itself on being a center of love, Paul pens the beautiful definition of true love--known to us as the love chapter (1 Cor. 13). 



EPHESUS. Ephesus was home to the virgin Artemis who loved her virgin status and was immune to Aphrodite's love arrows. Among other things, Artemis was the goddess of the hunt. If you take a close look at the Artemis statues from the first and second centuries, you find her legs covered with numerous animals and flanked by a couple of deer. Now, usually we think of women as gatherers and men as hunters. And the fact that Artemis was a hunter suggests she had a less-than-feminine persona. In Ephesus we find stone work with the Amazon story (these women were way independent!), and guides tell visitors that the city was founded by an Amazon queen. The Book of Ephesians was probably intended for more than one city (like Laodicea), so we don't find much that points to a specific city's mentality in that book. But we do find 1 Timothy directed to Paul's protégé in Ephesus, and in it we find an emphasis on widows, women teaching false doctrines, and the need to marry and have children.


When reading the New Testament, I think it's important to find out something of its geography and certainly what member of the Greek pantheon each book's readers were up against. How its authors approached the cities' demons can provide insight for us into engaging a culture that's in love with worldly wisdom, immorality, and a low view of family.


Sandra Glahn, Th.M., is adjunct professor, Christian Education and Pastoral Ministries, at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), her alma mater. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Aesthetic Studies (Arts and Humanities) at the University of Texas at Dallas. In addition she serves on the board of the Evangelical Press Association, the advisory board of Hannah's Prayer, and the women's executive committee for bible.org. Sandra is editor in chief of Dallas Seminary's award-winning quarterly magazine, Kindred Spirit.

Her books include The Coffee Cup Bible Study series and the medical suspense thriller, Informed Consent (Cook). Ms. Glahn has also coauthored seven books and she has contributed to several additional works, including Genetic Engineering: A Christian Response (Kregel); and The Making of a Mentor (Authentic). Sandra has appeared on the 700 Club, Ivanhoe Productions' "Smart Woman" television broadcasts, Family Life Today, At Home Live television, Janet Parshall's America, and in other national media. She and her husband, Gary, have been married twenty-nine years and have a daughter who joined their family through adoption.

WAYS TO OBTAIN THE BOOKS:

1. Leave a comment here by Friday, Nov. 6. I will draw a name to be entered in the grand prize drawing. Leave contact information so that if you are the winner, I can let you know.

2. One fortune blogger from each participating blog will be entered into a grand prize drawing for a coffee themed tote bag, twelve oz of Starbucks Sumatra and signed copies for Kona with Jonah and Frappe' with Philippians.

3. You may order these and other Coffee Cup Bible Study books here, here, and here.

Carla here: Tuesday, I'll be sharing some of Sandra's thoughts on creative ways to have girlfriend Bible studies. There's something for everyone on her list, so I hope you'll stop by. This week we'll be featuring Kona at the Cafe, so sit back and enjoy!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Chicken Enchilada Casserole


One of the things I love about fall is, that with the cooler temperatures, I don’t mind heating up the kitchen to make our favorite oven dishes. And it’s especially nice when Max walks in from work and notices the rich aroma—“Mmm, something smells good.” Brownie points from my sweet hubby are always good.

Here’s a dish we like a lot. I think you will too.


CHICKEN ENCHILADA CASSEROLE

3 large chicken breasts, cooked
1 can chopped green chiles
1 can green enchilada sauce
3 cups Mexican style shredded cheese
6 to 8 medium-sized flour tortillas

Cube the cooked chicken and mix with green chiles in a bowl. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with Pam. Place a couple of the tortillas in the bottom of the dish. Spread ½ the chicken mixture, 1/3 of the green enchilada sauce, and 1/3 of the cheese over tortillas. Repeat for another layer. Top with tortillas, the last 1/3 of the sauce, ending with the remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Serve with a green salad, corn, and warm tortillas. Pass the sour cream, guacamole, and salsa for garnish, if desired. Margaritas would be a great addition to the meal too, but I’ve never learned how to make them ☺

¡Que aproveche!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS up on CFBA

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
A Little Help from My Friends
FaithWords (October 15, 2009)
by
Anne Dayton & May Vanderbilt
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


ANNE DAYTON graduated from Princeton University and is earning her master's degree in English literature at New York University. She works for a New York publishing company and lives in Brooklyn.

MAY VANDERBILT graduated from Baylor University and went on to earn a master's degree in fiction from Johns Hopkins University. She lives in San Francisco, where she writes about food, fashion, and nightlife in the Bay Area.

Together, the two women are the authors of Miracle Girls series




ABOUT THE BOOK

Zoe is used to being overlooked. As the youngest and shyest Miracle Girl, she was happy to fade into the background last year. But when she sheds her baby fat and shoots up four inches the summer before her junior year, everything changes. Now she's turning heads at school, and this new attention is beginning to strain her relationship with her sweet, serious boyfriend, Marcus.

Pressure builds when Zoe's assigned partner for history class is Dean Marchese--a handsome New York transplant who isn't afraid to show her how he feels.
Just when she needs her three best friends the most, the Miracle Girls are suffering from boy troubles of their own.

Even Zoe's rock-solid home life begins to shake underneath her when her parents' relationship frays in the face of serious financial burdens. As this uncertain year of growing pains comes to a frenetic head, the quietest Miracle Girl must find her voice at long last and take control of her own destiny . . . with more than a little help from her friends.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Little Help from My Friends, go HERE