CAFE: A gathering place. A place of refreshment.

Thirsty for the latest releases in Christian fiction? Ready for a peek into the world of publishing and writing conferences? Hungry for spiritual and real-life nourishment? Pull up a seat; you're in the right place, and I'm so glad you've stopped by.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ACFW BOTY (Book of the Year) Finalists

In less than two months, five hundred or more writers will converge on Denver for the annual American Christian Fiction Writers conference. It's a highlight of my year for many reasons, but one of the most exciting things about the conference is recognition of the winners of two contests sponsored by ACFW: The Genesis winners (for unpublished authors) and the Book of the Year winners for inspirational books published the year before (2008 this time). It's a time of celebration and rooting for your favorites. I'm tickled to see many of my writing friends nominated for this year's honors. Some really good books here. For fiction lovers, you can't go wrong by reading one of these nominated books. This years finalists . . .

2009 American Christian Fiction Writers
Book of the Year Contest Finalists


A Passion Most Pure
(Julie Lessman)
Courting Miss Adelaide (Janet Dean)
Every Good and Perfect Gift (Sharon K. Souza)
Hero, Second Class
(Mitchell Bonds)
In the Shadow of the Sun King
(Golden Keyes Parsons)


Faking Grace
(Tamara Leigh)
Picket Fence Promises
(Kathryn Springer)
Single Sashimi (Camy Tang)
Sweet Caroline
(Rachel Hauck)
Truffles by the Sea (Julie Carobini)


Lookin Back Texas
(Leanna Ellis)
One Holy Night
(J.M. Hochstetler)
Stuck in the Middle
(Virginia Smith)
Summer of Joy
(Ann H. Gabhart)
Symphony of Secrets
(Sharon Hinck)


Along Came a Cowboy (Christine Lynxwiler)
Controlling Interest
(Elizabeth White)
The Convenient Groom
(Denise Hunter)
Finding Stefanie
(Susan May Warren)
Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black & White
(Claudia Mair Burney)

LONG HISTORICAL (6 finalists due to a tie)

The Apothecary’s Daughter (Julie Klassen)
Calico Canyon
(Mary Connealy)
Deep In the Heart of Trouble
(Deeanne Gist)
From A Distance
(Tamera Alexander)
I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires (Cathy Gohlke)
My Heart Remembers
( Kim Vogel Sawyer)


The Case of the Bouncing Grandma
(A.K. Arenz)
Death on a Deadline
(Christine Lynxwiler, Sandy Gaskin, and Jan Reynolds)
Drop Dead Diva
(Christine Lynxwiler, Sandy Gaskin, and Jan Reynolds)
For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls
(Nancy Mehl)
Of Mice . . . and Murder
(Mary Connealy)


The Cookie Jar
(Janet Lee Barton in A Connecticut Christmas anthology)
Dressed in Scarlet
(Darlene Franklin in Snowbound Colorado Christmas anthology)
Santa’s Prayer
(Diane Ashley in A Connecticut Christmas anthology)
Snowbound for Christmas (Gail Sattler in A Connecticut Christmas anthology)
Stuck On You (Rhonda Gibson in A Connecticut Christmas anthology)


Buffalo Gal (Mary Connealy)
Clueless Cowboy (Mary Connealy)
Family Treasures (Kathryn Springer)
Her Unlikely Family (Missy Tippens)
White as Snow
(Janice Thompson)


Bayou Paradox (Robin Caroll)
Broken Lullaby
(Pamela Tracy)
Countdown to Death
(Debby Giusti)
Forsaken Canyon (Margaret Daley)
Killer Cargo (Dana Mentink)


Family of the Heart (Dorothy Clark)
Masked by Moonlight
(Allie Pleiter)
Reckless Rogue
(Mary Davis)
Return to Love (Susan Page Davis)
Sandhill Dreams
(Cara Putman)


The Book of Names (D. Barkley Briggs)
DragonLight (Donita K. Paul)
The Restorer’s Journey
(Sharon Hinck)
Shade (John B. Olson)
Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy (Theodore Beale)


(Colleen Coble)
The Black Cloister
(Melanie Dobson)
Fossil Hunter
(John B. Olson)
Lonestar Sanctuary
(Colleen Coble)
Perfect (Harry Kraus)

(7 finalists due to a tie)

A Month of Summer
(Lisa Wingate)
Every Good and Perfect Gift
(Sharon K. Souza)
My Sister Dilly
(Maureen Lang)
The Perfect Life (Robin Lee Hatcher)
The Shape of Mercy
(Susan Meissner)
Stepping into Sunlight
(Sharon Hinck)
Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon (Debbie Fuller Thomas)


The Big Picture (Jenny B. Jones)
The Fruit of My Lipstick
(Shelley Adina)
It’s all About U
s (Shelley Adina)
The Owling
(Robert Elmer)
Trion Rising
(Robert Elmer)

CONGRATULATIONS to the finalists. Thank you for writing your dreams!

Monday, July 27, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Snickerlicious Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you've been stopping in at the Cafe for a while, you know I like no-fuss, yummy comfort foods. Today's special does the trick for me. Melt-in-your mouth chocolate (ahhhhhh . . .) and so simple even a caveman could do it, providing of course, he could figure out how to rub the sticks together to start a fire.

Many thanks to my friend, Gayla Busch, who first taught me this recipe. Trust me, she's no cavemistress, but one of the loveliest, most talented people on the planet. Very bossy as a dance instructor for the many two-left-footed folks she's directed in church musicals, but someone I'm fortunate to call friend. Now, for the cookies . . .


One roll of your favorite refrigerated chocolate-chip cookie dough

One bag of "bite-size" Snickers candy bars

Cut the Snickers bars in half and wrap each bite-sized morsel with one spoonful of cookie dough so that you form a ball. Place two inches apart on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until the cookies are lightly browned (10 to 12 minutes). Cool slightly before removing from sheet.

You'll be tempted to eat one as soon as they're baked, but restrain yourself! The chocolate and caramel swirl are HOT. Chewy, luscious, and perfect for the chocolate lover in your life! Who knows? You may even feel like dancing!!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


We’ve had our theater tickets for months! I’m a huge fan of Broadway musicals, and after hearing my daughter-in-law rave about WICKED, we coughed up the $$ for five tickets. Hubby and me, our son and daughter-in-law (Happy early birthday Allison), and our twelve-year-old grandson. The three-hour show was even better than all the hype, so without giving anything away—here’s what I learned from WICKED:

  1. The Emerald City is really, REALLY green. Dazzling, neon, hurt-your-eyes green!
  2. Having a best friend of another color is a “good” thing.
  3. Things are not always as they seem. Nor are people.
  4. Being swept up in an over-the-top fantasy erases the cares of the world, if only for a few hours.
  5. The world would be a lot more fun with more flying monkeys.
  6. Seeing the delight in my grandson’s eyes was totally worth the price of the tickets.

Hope you’ve all taken the time to do something fun this summer. I’m glad we did.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Ice Cold Watermelon

July already. I don’t know about you, but summer in the South means it’s too hot to even think about firing up the cook top or turning on the oven. We’d much rather be fanning ourselves on the patio or packing up for a family picnic. And no righteous picnic in the South is complete without a sweet wedge of ice-cold watermelon. So, today at the Café, we’re taking a break from our usual recipe and keeping it simple. Have a seat and pass the watermelon. The salt shaker’s right there in the middle of the table.

While you're enjoying your watermelon, I have another treat in store for you. In honor of the mother-fruit of the South, I’ve invited Patricia Neely Dorsey, a poet from the great state of Mississippi to share a bit of verse from her book, Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia – A Life in Poems.

If you want a glimpse of Southern life,
Come close and walk with me;
I'll tell you all the simple things,
That you are sure to see.
You'll see mockingbirds and bumblebees,
Magnolia blossoms and dogwood trees,
Caterpillars on the step,
Wooden porches cleanly swept;
Watermelons on the vine,
Strong majestic Georgia pines;
Rocking chairs and front yard swings,
Junebugs flying on a string;
Turnip greens and hot cornbread,
Coleslaw and barbecue;
Fried okra, fried corn, fried green tomatoes,
Fried pies and pickles too.
There's ice cold tea that's syrupy sweet,
And cool, green grass beneath your feet;
Catfish nipping in the lake,
And fresh young boys on the make.
You'll see all these things
And much, much more,
In a way of life that I adore.

Copyright 2008 Patricia Neely-Dorsey
from Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life In Poems

Aren't there some yummy images in there? Patricia Neely Dorsey's book of poetry is "a true celebration of the south and things southern." Patricia tells us, "There are so many negative connotations associated with Mississippi and the south in general. In my book, using childhood memories, personal thoughts and dreams, I attempt to give a positive glimpse into the southern way of life. In my book I try to show that there is much is more to Mississippi and the south than all of the negatives usually portrayed. I invite readers to Meet Mississippi (and the south) Through Poetry, Prose and The Written Word."

You can learn more about Patricia here or order a copy of her lovely poetry here.

Thank you so much, Patricia, for sharing with my readers.
Now, for all of you at the café, a couple of questions:
How do you eat your watermelon? Free-styling with the melon in both hands and juice dripping down your chin? Or on a plate with a fork? Salt or no salt?
Personally, I don’t think there’s a wrong way to eat watermelon. Enjoy a wedge today. And stay cool.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Today, I have a double treat for you here at the cafe. I'm thrilled to have a visitor from Canada . . . an excellent writer and frequent visitor to the cafe . . . as my guest. Bonnie Way, aka The Koala Bear Writer, has special memories and a recipe to share with us.

Bonnie is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been published in a variety of publications, including, The Olds Albertan, and The Mom Writer's Literary Magazine. She is currently the editor of FellowScript, the quarterly newsletter of the Inscribe Christian Writers' Fellowship. When she's not writing, she's busy as a mom and wife.

Welcome, Bonnie!

Grandma's Rhubarb Pie
Nothing tastes like summer to me as much as my grandma’s rhubarb pie. It was something we only had at Grandma’s place, so it was a special treat. Sometimes Grandma would make it with just rhubarb, and sometimes it would be rhubarb and strawberry—just as delicious. Here’s the recipe. Line a pie pan with pie dough or use a prepared pie shell. Mix 4 cups of unpeeled, diced young rhubarb stalks (or 2 cups rhubarb and 2 cups strawberries), ¼ cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 to 2 cups sugar (depending on your sweet tooth!) and 1 tablespoon butter. Pour into the pie shell. Top with either a regular crust or a lattice crust. Bake for 20 minutes at 400* C, then reduce heat to 350* C and bake for another 20 minutes. Enjoy!

When I’m not eating rhubarb pie at my grandma’s place, I enjoy playing with my sixteen-month-old daughter or writing while she naps. I enjoy reading other writer’s blogs for inspiration and use my own blog as a way to keep myself writing regularly. Lately, I’ve worked mostly on short fiction, as the task of tackling a novel appears daunting when my writing time comes in short chunks. However, I’m a novelist at heart and am itching to get back to a work where I have more than a thousand words or less in which to develop a character and her relationships to those around her.

I’m currently a book review blogger for three publishers, which keeps me busy reading and gives me a chance to see what’s hot in the Christian fiction market (hopefully that will help when I do get around to starting a novel!). I also write articles on a variety of topics including book reviewing for Suite Four times a year, I have fun editing and putting together a writer’s newsletter called FellowScript for Inscribe Christian Writer’s Fellowship—reading the articles multiple times while I work on them really helps me learn more about writing!

This summer, I’m looking forward to a bit of time to relax with my hubby (who’s a teacher) and our daughter. I’m also plotting a way for us to stop by my dad’s place to see if his rhubarb plant needs trimming at all...

Carla here: My dad is going to love this--a recipe for rhubarb pie (now I will have no excuse for not making his favorite dessert). Bonnie, it's a real treat to have you here and hope you'll come back often. And you MUST start at least one novel. How about the rest of you? Recipes? New ventures you'd like to share? This is the place to do that. Have a wonderful week.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Whether this is your first conference or your twentieth, you have before you an opportunity to connect with people you’ve never known before or renew acquaintances with familiar faces and old friends. It’s all good. None of my ACFW conferences have been the same, but the one thing they’ve all had in common is meeting fascinating, dear people you’ll want to stay in touch with for life.

1. Beginnings. It all begins the moment you walk into the hotel lobby. Chances are there will be other attendees milling about trying to get their bearings. Almost at once you will begin connecting faces with names you’ve heard on the loop or via blogs. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself or strike up a conversation. Some starter questions for you: “I’ve read your books and love your writing.” “Are you with ACFW? What do you write?” “Where’s the registration table?” Chances are you will see these “first” faces many times over the next few days and will welcome a friendly smile. Once introduced, call people by name—it will make you both feel connected.

2. Meals. Several of the meal tables are hosted by agents and editors. If possible, find one that’s on your list of “dream agents” or an editor from a publishing house that you’re interested in. Generally you’ll get a chance to tell a little about yourself and meet other people with similar tastes. This is a good time to share biz cards with those at your table and do some important networking.

3. Appointments. Whether you’re having a paid critique or meeting with editors and agents, this is a great opportunity to present yourself as professional, willing to listen to what an expert says, and perhaps make a connection that will further your career in ways you never anticipated. These are probably the most fear-inducing encounters you will have. You can reduce the I’m-afraid-I-will-swallow-my-tongue jitters by being well-prepared with your pitch, praying before your appointment or asking a friend to pray with you. Then, just do it. Same rules apply as above: Ask questions. Call the author/editor/agent by name. Smile. Thank them for their time. The first time may be the hardest, but even veteran writers stutter and get sweaty palms.

4. Major tracks and workshops. The primary reason for these is, of course, to learn more about writing, but don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with those around you. If you’ve attended the same session, it’s likely you have a lot in common. Ask questions of the speakers. The old adage, “There are no stupid questions,” applies here. Others may have wondered the same thing.

5. Prayer room. This may be the single most important connection you make—the one with God. He will hear your cries of frustration, rejoice with you when good news comes, and calm your spirit. There are volunteers in the prayer room available to pray with you, but you may also choose to be alone for a quiet time of reflection.

6. Spontaneous prayer encounters. You don’t have to go to the prayer room to connect with the throne of grace. I’ve had several opportunities to pray with people while waiting for appointments, at mealtimes, during casual encounters. Praying with another person forges connections in meaningful ways that mere chit-chat doesn’t.

7. Volunteer. There are many opportunities to connect through giving a bit of your time. It can be as simple as collecting meal tickets at the door or working at the registration desk or something that requires more time: the bookstore, helping at the appointment desk, being a workshop introducer. There are many possibilities. If you’ve not signed up to volunteer this year, pay attention to what others are doing and promise yourself that next year you’ll do one or more of the jobs. The rewards are endless. Giving back is an excellent way to connect with conferees, speakers, and authors. You’ll be glad you offered.

8. Keep your antennae up. One of my favorite parts of a conference is being aware of people around me—the writer who looks lost or is sitting alone at a table. Smile. Ask if you can join him/her. Strike up a conversation: “You look nice in that sweater.” “What sessions are you attending this afternoon?” “Wow! You’re from Idaho. I’ve always wanted to visit your state.” You may have reached out to someone who is lonely or afraid, perhaps frustrated and who knows? You may have found a new BFF.

9. Reconnecting. One of the joys of ACFW conferences is meeting people again. And again. And again. Catch up on what’s going on in your lives—recent contracts, getting an agent, frustrations, new babies, yada, yada. I love this part of the conference. Lobbies, restaurants, even the bar (which was also the snack area in Minneapolis) are great for more casual conversations, whether pre-conference, during break times, or late-late at night. Old and new friends and faculty alike mingle for fun connections.

10. Divine Appointments. These are snippets that happen without planning or intention. There’s no way to prepare for these special encounters that may change your life or be just the boost you needed to make this your most meaningful conference to date. You might have a sudden Eureka moment about a writing concept you’ve been wrestling with. Or receive a word of encouragement at the perfect time. Be open. Expect to be surprised. And awed.

BONUS: Taking stock after the conference.
It’s always a bittersweet moment when the last strains of the conference waft through the air. I like to keep a list of new friends I’ve met and hopefully have exchanged business cards with. When I get home, I send a quick email to let them know I enjoyed our time together.

IMPORTANT: If you’ve met with an editor, agent, or special author either around the table or during an appointment, send them a thank you note. If you didn’t get an address, an email is okay, but nothing says “I appreciate you” like a handwritten note. The sooner you do this, the better so that person will be more likely to remember you.
Take some time when you get home to organize your notes, update your address book, and bask in the afterglow of the conference. Send your requested proposals or follow-up thank-yous. Kick off your shoes and begin dreaming about next year’s conference.

From June 15 until August 15, ACFW members are blogging about different aspects of the conference. You may follow the bloggers from the links below or go to the ACFW Conference Blog. This information may be just what you needed to prepare for your most successful conference ever.

June 15: Christa Allan: Evolving Conference Experiences

June 15: Ane Mulligan: A Few of My Favorite Things...

June 17: Margaret Daley: Enhancing Your Conference Experience Through Volunteering

June 18: Trish Perry: ACFW Conference Friendships at all stages of writing careers

June 21: Megan DiMaria: Finding restaurants at conference (visit often for multiple postings beginning June 21. Megan will be posting weekly so check back often for her eye on the best eateries and how to save money eating out as well as how to impress your business associates with excellent food.)

June 22: Michelle Shocklee: Help! I'm Shy! How to overcome a shy
personality at conference.

June 23: Dana Mentink: Navigating the conference waters

June 24: Tiffany Amber Stockton: Pitching with Success

June 27: Sharon Lavy: Prayer Room or here

June 30: Kathleen Fuller: Amish fiction, historical romance tracks

July 1st: Deborah Vogts: What You Can Expect at Conference.

July 2nd: Megan DiMaria: Dining Options in the Park Meadows Mall (Colorado's only retail resort!) Food Court (AKA Dining Hall)

July 3rd: Mindy Obenhaus: Conference Prep-Part 1

July 2-10: Amish Hearts: Group blog with various conference posts

July 5: Jeannie Campbell: Why I chose the ACFW conference: A newbie’s perspective

July 7th: Annette Irby: What It's All About

July 8th: Carla Stewart: Ten Ways to Connect at Conference

July 10th: Mindy Obenhaus: Conference Prep-Part 2

July 12-19 : Linda Kozar and the Internal MonoBlog- Group blog with various conference posts. (Each blogger will post at least once. One a day until the group blog has all had the opportunity to post.)

July 17th: Mindy Obenhaus: Conference Prep-Part 3

July 19: Tiffany Colter 1: Long-term return on investing in a writer’s conference (multiple posts)

July 22: Tiffany Colter 2: Investing in your professional development (multiple posts)

July 25-31: Writer’s Rest Group Blog: Trusting God to use conference (multiple posts, each blogger please post at least once. One a day until your group blog has all had the opportunity.)

July 28: Jennifer AlLee: The Value of Face-to-Face Networking in a Twitter & Facebook World

July 31: Angie Breidenbach: Confidence at Conference

Aug. 2: Deb Raney: "What if I Can't Come to the Conference?"

Aug. 3: Lena Nelson Dooley 1: Uplifting worship

Aug. 3-9: Writing By Faith Group blog: 6 authors, 1 great God.
Aug. 3rd is Belinda Peterson: Relax-You CAN Enjoy Those Editor and Agent Appointments
Aug. 4th is Mindy Obenhaus: "Making the Most of Your Conference Experience."
Aug. 5th is Angie Breidenbach: Professionalism 101
Aug. 6th is Missy Tippens: Introverts Can Act Extroverted--and no one needs to know.
Aug. 8th is Jennifer Hudson-Taylor: TBD
Aug. 9th is Christy LaShae-Smith: Don’t Waste Your Pre-Conference Time

Aug. 6: Cynthia Ructhi: "Novel Ideas--Connecting at the Table" (How to make the most of mealtime connections)

Aug. 7: Lena Nelson Dooley 2: Connecting with publishers

Aug 9: Ane Mulligan: A Few of My Favorite Things...

Aug 12: Jill Elizabeth Nelson: TBD

Aug. 13: Cynthia Ruchti: Dealing with Disappointment-What else might God have in mind?

Aug. 14: Maureen Lang: "After The Conference. What now?"

Aug 15: Cara Putman: First Timers and Calm Nerves

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Last week I went to one of our local farmer’s markets for some locally grown produce. Pickling cucumbers, green beans—all freshly picked with smudges of dirt still clinging to them. Then alongside the sweet corn, I saw them. Porter peaches. Yes!

In this corner of the world, Porter peaches are the fruits of heaven. They even have a festival in their honor in the tiny town of Porter, OK. I picked out a couple dozen of the fuzzy, rose-colored gems, my mouth watering in anticipation—you know what I’m talking about. Sinking your teeth into the not-too-firm-not-too-soft flesh of a perfect peach and having to lean over quick to keep the juice from dripping down your chin. And the taste—oh my! No doubt summertime peaches are God’s way of making up for the relentless heat and humidity July brings.

While fresh might be the best way to eat a Porter peach, they also make fabulous cobblers. And since this is family reunion and barbecue season, why not score of few brownie points with your guests by serving up a warm cobbler to top off the friend chicken or grilled hot dogs?

Today’s recipe comes Max’s aunt, Edna Mae. I think you’ll like it.


1 cup sweet milk
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
4 cups sweetened peaches (heated, but not cooked)

Mix dry ingredients together. Add milk. Pour into 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish. Add hot fruit with butter melted in it. Bake in 350 degree oven 30 minutes or until golden brown. Fruit goes to the bottom of pan and a crust will form on top.

Best enjoyed with ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream. Bon apetit!

What are the local summer specialties where you live? Any great recipes you’d like to share? Just let me know and we’ll serve them up here at the Café.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Guest Reviewer at Novel Reviews Today

My review of Patti Lacy's What the Bayou Saw is being featured at Novel Reviews (part of the Novel Journey community). Hope to see you there.