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.

Friday, February 27, 2009

DAISY CHAIN by Mary E. DeMuth on CFBA with REVIEW

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Daisy Chain
Zondervan (March 1, 2009)
Mary DeMuth


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. 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.

The abrupt disappearance of young Daisy Chance from a small Texas town in 1973 spins three lives out of control—Jed, whose guilt over not protecting his friend Daisy strangles him; Emory Chance, who blames her own choices for her daughter’s demise; and Ouisie Pepper, who is plagued by headaches while pierced by the shattered pieces of a family in crisis.

In this first book in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy, fourteen-year-old Jed Pepper has a sickening secret: He’s convinced it’s his fault his best friend Daisy went missing. Jed’s pain sends him on a quest for answers to mysteries woven through the fabric of his own life and the lives of the families of Defiance, Texas. When he finally confronts the terrible truths he’s been denying all his life, Jed must choose between rebellion and love, anger and freedom.

Daisy Chain is an achingly beautiful southern coming-of-age story crafted by a bright new literary talent. It offers a haunting yet hopeful backdrop for human depravity and beauty, for terrible secrets and God’s surprising redemption.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Daisy Chain, go HERE


I’ve been waiting impatiently for the release of Mary DeMuth’s new book—Daisy Chain. It came last week, and what a compelling read!

Jed Pepper, a 14-year-old preacher’s son, has one thing in common with Daisy Chance—their families are not normal. Aberrant would be a better description. In the opening pages, Daisy disappears, throwing Jed into despair and guilt because he didn’t walk her home from their daily explorations.

With a cast of quirky and troubled characters, the book is about Jed’s search for Daisy while praying for courage to stand up to his father’s rants and frequent abuse.

It’s difficult to read at times with raw emotions laid open on every page, but that’s also what is so gripping about it. Each chapter draws you into the next as you hope life will turn out better for Jed. Glimpses of beauty and kindness woven into the tragedies gives the book many layers and a tender side.

Many things about Daisy Chain remind me of To Kill a Mockingbird. First, the southern setting, the poetic, sometimes haunting prose. Characters cast from their own unique molds change preconceived notions about worthiness and godliness. Even Jed and his sister, Sissy, reminded me at times of the younger Jem and Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. The story is rich, bursting with truths about Jesus and chock full of wayward Biblical interpretations. Jed is tormented, confused, and sifts through the mess of his life looking for truth—the truth of God and the truth about Daisy’s whereabouts.

Had Mary handwritten this book on a yellow pad, I can almost imagine her with pencil poised, gouging words onto the paper. The writing is strong, lyrical, and heart-breaking at times. I desperately cared for many of the characters, felt dirtied by others. We truly do live in a world where hope is the only answer.

Not all the threads are tied up in a nice package with a pretty bow, but knowing this is only the first book of the series, I too have hope that better things are ahead for the folks in Defiance, Texas. Great southern read!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Normally you just put an ( X ) if you've read it. But I'm also putting an asterisk if I read part of it and couldn't get through it, or didn't finish the series! Man, do I have a lot of books to finish!

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen ( )
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien ( )
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte ( X )
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling ( )
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (X)
6 The Bible - (x)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (X)
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell (X)
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman ( )
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (X)
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott (x)
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy ( )
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller ( )
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare ( )
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier ( X )
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien ( )
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk ( )
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger( )
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger ( )
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot ( )
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell ( X )
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald (X)
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens ( )
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy ( )
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams ( )
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh ( )
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky ( )
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck ( X)
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll ( X )
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame ( )
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy ( X )
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens ( X )
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (x)
34 Emma - Jane Austen ( )
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen ( )
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (x)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini - ( )
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres ( )
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden (x)
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne (x)
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell ( X )
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown ( )
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez ( )
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving (x)
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins ()
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery ( )
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy ( )
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood ( )
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding (x)
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan ( )
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel ( )
52 Dune - Frank Herbert ( )
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons (*)
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen ( )
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth ( )
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon ( )
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens ( X)
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley ( )
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon ( )
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez ( )
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck ( )
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov ( )
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt ( )
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold ( *)
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas ( *)
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac ( )
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy ( )
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding ( X )
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie ()
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville ( X )
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens ( )
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker ( )
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (X)
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson ( )
75 Ulysses - James Joyce ( )
76 The Inferno - Dante ( )
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome ( )
78 Germinal - Emile Zola ( )
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray ( )
80 Possession - AS Byatt ( )
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (x)
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell ( )
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker ( )
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro ( )
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert ( )
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry ( )
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White ( X )
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom ( X )
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ( X )
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton ( )
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad ( )
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery ( )
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks ( )
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams ( )
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole ( )
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute ( )
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas ( )
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare ( X )
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl ( )
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo ( )

Okay, I beat the prediction of the BBC with 26 reads. A lot from high school and college. Many, many other favorite "classics" aren't on the list, so I wonder how the selections were made.

How about you? How many have you read?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Please join me in welcoming once again the creators and geniuses from My Book Therapy on their LOVE TO WRITE tour.

Today, some personal thoughts from Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck, and Sarah Sumpolec.

Thoughts from Therapist Susan May Warren: Writing the story of your heart

Q: Have you ever had a story that you wanted to write, a spiritual message you wanted to share, but it won't let you just yet?

A: Yes, I have a couple stories sitting in my heart that I haven’t had the opportunity or perhaps the divine timing to write yet.

I’m a firm believer that God will work out the story in the right time, so I continue to collect ideas, impressions, do research and let those ideas soak, waiting for the right timing. But sometimes I’m not ready – emotionally, or even professionally to write it. Maybe I don’t have the skill level yet. And I certainly don’t want to waste my swan’s song on mediocre writing! So, in the meantime, I move onto the stories I have the ability to write right now.

This is what happened with my “Josey” series. The story of my hilarious happenings in Russia simmered in my heart YEARS before God opened the door to write it. And when he did, the timing was perfect. (My first book in that series, Everything’s Coming Up Josey was a Christy finalist). The same thing happened with “Nothing but trouble.” I cooked up my heroine PJ Sugar four years before I saw it come to publication. And I’m glad I waited – I hope I did Sugar justice! (Nothing But Trouble hits the stands May 2009! Read a preview at

I think a lot of writers believe they have to write the stories on their hearts…but perhaps they’re also not ready to write that story yet. I think it’s wise to ask God if it’s time…or if there is another story that could hone your skills in the meantime, in preparation for that heart story.

So, don’t give up on your heart story. Wait on Him, and be open to working on something else in the meantime.

God Bless you on your writing journey!
Susan May Warren

A therapist thought: Writing in the midst of a busy life.
By Rachel Hauck

Early on in my writing life, I had to give up the notion that writing time would come easy, be ideal and full of inspiration.
When I signed my first book contract, I was working full time for a software company as a department manager. I’d recently become a worship leader at my church, adding that to my job as youth pastor’s wife. My husband and I also gathered with other area pastors to start a weekly multi-church prayer meeting and I’d become the Vice President of a national writers organization and was coordinating our second annual conference.

Writing? Yeah, like when? Where? And I didn’t even have children to raise. I felt pushed, pulled, torn, frazzled and on the edge. I’d never written a book to be published before. I’d not coordinated a conference and my committee was “out there” across America. If I failed, I’d let so many people down, including myself.

I lay in bed one night praying, trying to decide if I should just work up my courage and resign as Vice President and admit I couldn’t do it all. I didn’t need to be that kind of person. But as my final grasp for God’s grace, I whispered in the darkness, “Lord, you have a conference to coordinate, let me know what you need me to do.”

Peace washed over me. I didn’t resign. The Lord sent me a co-coordinator. The conference was a success.

And, I wrote my first book by June of that year and met my deadline.

A busy life seems impossible to avoid these days. We have so many options and opportunities available to us. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

1. Make sure the jobs or opportunities you embrace are really from the Lord. Don’t say yes out of guilt or even selfish ambition. Know that you know all you’re doing is right and good. Sure I had a full plate that one year, but I knew God had loaded me up for a reason.

2. Give it all back to Him. Ask for wisdom and grace, insight and help.

3. Let go of any and all concept that you have to be perfect. You’ll fail and it’s okay to fail. There were quite a few bloopers at that second annual conference, but we got past them. God’s grace was greater.

4. Get organized. Since I knew my book deadline, I wrote out my writing schedule on a calendar. I had a few extra vacation days so I scheduled them as mega-writing sessions. It’s not unholy, or ungodly to plan. Most of us fail in our sincerest desires because we live by the tyranny of the urgent. We don’t plan so our lives are governed by the moment. If we do plan, we allow ourselves to be knocked off course. Schedule writing time and STICK to it. If it’s one hour a week, then guard it with all your might.

5. Be confident before God. Know that He has good works planned for you to walk in. He loves you. He wants you to succeed.

In the midst of juggling my schedule, I worked hard to maintain my own intimate relationship with Jesus. It wasn’t always easy and I failed to reach my ultimate goal, but by having a goal, I found success. Otherwise, I might have drifted way away from the heart-to-heart relationship I wanted with Him.

There were a few tools I used to help me stay on track with my relationship.
1. I attended corporate prayer meetings.
2. I was faithful to all worship services.
3. I went early to youth church or main church to have prayer times.

Look for ways to fortify your spiritual as well as natural life.

1. Find a buddy to pray with or write with.

2. Ask your family to “do it with you.” As parents we spend time driving our children to school, music or dance, sports events. Wouldn’t they love to help mom or dad meet their writing goal? Bring them into the adventure with you.

3. Pray. Ask Jesus for grace. For help. If all else fails, use my prayer. “Lord, you have a book to write, let me know what I need to do.

If you find you just can’t manage it all, set is aside and wait. Maybe your season of writing is not yet. But keep taking notes, keep praying, keep learning.
God is faithful to keep us in His will. Even when we fail, He will not.
So exhale. Relax. Have fun.

Why I Love to Write YA
Sarah Anne Sumpolec

My first book idea grew out of my work with our church’s youth group. I tried going to Women’s Bible Studies and do all the grown up things, but I always felt called to care for the youth. So writing for them simply became a natural extension of what I already loved to do.

Even now, I spend more than twelve hours a week hanging out with eighty kids and teens at our local Christian Youth Theater. I like being around them. I love to encourage them. And I want to do all I can to help them as they grow in Christ. My own teen years were tough (whose weren’t?) and I didn’t have anyone to talk to or turn to. I simply want to be available to these teens. You just never know when you might get the chance to offer a few life-giving words from God.

So who I am as a person, and who I am as a writer are hopelessly intertwined. I’ve written five novels for teens and over and over, God has shown me how a simple story can affect the lives of teenagers. But they need more. I’ve lost track of how many letters I’ve gotten where a teen wrote, “I read all five of your books last week…” Teens are hungry for truth and stories that they can relate to. They need more great stuff to read that is written for them, by people who care about them.

The YA market can be tough. But we can’t write because a certain market is booming. We must write out of our God-given passions and that’s what YA is for me – a passion. So yes, I realize that Amish books sell really well, but I’m staying in high school. It’s where I belong.

Why I Love Being a Book Therapist

I love the whole concept of Book Therapy. Imagine! A place where you can get useful feedback? It could save people years of submitting. So often writers just get a “No, thank you” when they submit to publishers or agents. But that doesn’t help them improve or grow or discover what they can do to make their work better. When I first started writing, I had some precious people who offered me advice and help. They let me ask every silly question and answered each one with patience and love. So just as people gave to me so generously, I want to turn around and give back to others. My Book Therapy gives me a chance to do that. I think I was built by God to want to teach and encourage. I love looking for ways to strengthen a story or make the characters come alive on the pages. I love taking a good story to a great story by infusing it with layers and subplots and themes that will resonate with readers. I love seeing where a story can go when you give it wings.
I’m so glad I get to be a part of My Book Therapy, especially as a YA Specialist. Writing for Young Adults is something I am passionate about, so I have a vested interest in helping see that teens have great reading material in the years to come.

A Therapist’s Thought

I spend most of my weekends working as a director with a Christian Youth Theater. A typical show will have eighty kids that range in age from 8 to 18. As a director, I get to look at the big picture of what we want to accomplish and then help each kid do their best work to make that big picture happen. But these aren’t puppets, these are kids. So directing them must be about bringing the best out of each one of them individually. And at the end of it all, I am dressed in black, hiding in the wings, watching them shine on stage. I get so much joy out of it. I know I played a vital role, but I don’t need the applause – all I want is to see them bring joy to that audience.

Directing is a lot like Book Therapy. You’ve got this story to tell and you want to tell it in a way that’s going to have the greatest effect on your audience. A therapist can come in and help you find ways to make the story stronger, ways to make the characters more real, and ways to explore all the possibilities. Just like an actor can’t always see what the audience sees, a writer can’t always tell what effect their story is having until a skilled writer comes along and asks the hard questions.

And really, it can be hard. It’s natural for us to just want praise. It’s harder when someone comes along and says, “We’ve got some work to do here.” But it’s worth it. It’s worth it when you take a story to the next level and realize that you can impact your readers in new and amazing ways. It’s worth it when you discover tools that can help you grow. And it’s worth it when you finally get to share that story with the world. And at the end of it all, it’s still your story, your moment on stage to shine. But I’ll be the one in the wings cheering you on.
Carla here: For more on how to win the book co-authored by Susan and Rachel, go to my previous post where you can find the information at the bottom. Hurry! The contest ends February 28.
Blessed writing!

Sunday, February 8, 2009


The first Christian Book Expo takes place in Dallas on March 19 - 22. This is an important event for several reasons. It's a great resource for what is happening in Christian communities across the nation with some of the country's leading speakers: Henry Blackaby, Don Piper, Max Lucado, Donald Miller, Liz Curtis Higgs, Randy Alcorn, Mary DeMuth, and many others.

It's also an author event with more than 200 Christian authors signing throughout the three days. On Thursday night, my friend and amazing author, Susan Meissner, is a finalist for the Fiction Book of the Year. So, whether you're a writer, reader, or involved in ministry, this should be a very worthwhile few days.

Right now, I'm planning to go. Max will get a couple of golf days, and we're anxious to visit some long-time friends in the area. What a deal! Spending time with writers, great friends, and my husband in a wonderful city.

How about you guys? Any great getaways planned?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


When I began writing eight years ago, Panhandle Professional Writers in Amarillo, TX was the nearest writers' group to our home in the Oklahoma Panhandle. There I met some of the friendliest, most talented and helpful people on the planet. PPW was the womb where my writing dreams were nurtured and grew. So now I'm delighted to tell you about the new release of four special gals from Amarillo.

Give Me a Cowboy is the encore book to last year's Give Me a Texan. Each book has four novellas, with Give Me a Cowboy having a common thread about a working ranch rodeo in the 1890 Texas Panhandle. The authors, Jodi Thomas, Linday Broday, Phyllis Miranda, and DeWanna Pace have already garnered numerous four and five stars review on their newest book. In addition, it's been picked as Doubleday, Rhapsody, and Book of the Month Club selections.

Congratulations, ladies!

Sounds fun, doesn't it? If you're not yet convinced, check out this book trailer.

And for all you readers out there--what is it about Cowboys (the real hat-wearin', boot-stompin' kind) and Texans that make such irresistable heroes???