CAFE: A gathering place. A place of refreshment.

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

Sunday, September 27, 2009


A few days before my oldest son’s twelfth birthday, the element went out of our electric oven. This was during the era when we actually baked birthday cakes instead of stopping by the local bakery and ordering the sugary, themed cakes that are routine today. I considered it part of my vow of motherhood to bake and decorate my boys’ birthday cakes – or any family member, for that matter. Everyone had their favorites, so on your birthday, you had “your” special flavor.

So, what’s a mom to do without a functioning oven?

It was no secret that Andy, the birthday boy, adored his Grandma Stewart’s cherry cream pies . . . and since no oven was required, I announced he would be getting a birthday pie that year. He declared it the best birthday ever. And so began a new tradition—Andy’s birthday PIE.

In honor of Andy’s birthday this week, and because I only bring you the best treats here at the café, here’s the recipe for Cherry Cream Pie. Happy Birthday, Andy!


1 large bar cream cheese
½ cup lemon juice (Minute Maid frozen, real juice)
1 can Eagle Brand milk

Mix in food processor until very smooth.
Pour into 12-inch graham cracker crust (the extra serving size).
Top with 1 can creamed cherry pie filling.
Refrigerate two hours before serving.

How about you? Any quirky birthday traditions in your family???

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ACFW Winners - Congrats!!!

I've just returned from the ACFW conference in Denver. Two of my friends from Tulsa won their Genesis categories!! I am so thrilled for LACY WILLIAMS and JAN WARREN. Major kudos! The complete list of winners is below the pics of Lacy and Jan.

Lacy Williams, Genesis Winner, Historical Romance

Jan Warren (left) with me and Cindy Hays
Jan was Genesis winner in Romantic Suspense

The American Christian Fiction Writers Awards 2009

2009 Mentor of the Year- Donita K. Paul
2009 Membership Service Award- John B. Olson
2009 Editor of the Year Award- Ami McConnell, Thomas Nelson
2009 Agent of the Year Award - Steve Laube, The Steve Laube Agency

2009 Book of the Year Contest

Debut Author- A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman
Lits- Sweet Caroline by Rachel Hauck
Long Contemporary- Symphony of Secrets by Sharon Hinck
Long Contemporary Romance- Controlling Interest by Elizabeth White
Long Historical (tie)- My Heart Remembers by Kim Vogel Sawyer, and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires by Cathy Gohlke
Mystery- For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls by Nancy Mehl
Novellas- Stuck on You in A Connecticut Christmas anthology by Rhonda Gibson
Short Contemporary- Family Treasures by Kathryn Springer
Short Contemporary Suspense- Broken Lullaby by Pamela Tracy
Short Historical- Family of the Heart by Dorothy Clark
Speculative- The Restorer’s Journey by Sharon Hinck
Suspense- Fossil Hunter by John B. Olson
Women’s Fiction- The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner
Young Adult- The Big Picture by Jenny B. Jones

ACFW 2009 Genesis Contest

Contemporary Fiction- Jennifer Griffith, Magpies in Trees
Contemporary Romance- Christy LaShea Smith, The Bridge Between
Historical Fiction- Christine Schmidtke, Unveiled
Historical Romance- Lacy Williams, Marrying Miss Marshal
Mystery/Suspense/Thriller- Alan Schleimer, Q.doc
Romantic Suspense- Jan Warren, Katherine Octavia, C.I.A.
Science-Fiction/Fantasy/Allegory- David Fry, Lies To See
Women’s Fiction- Cathleen Armstrong, The Church of Last Chance
Young Adult- Gretchen Hoffman, Rewind

In addition to Lacy and Jan, who attend our local group, I have the privilege of knowing several others who won awards: Rhonda Gibson, who lives in another state, but calls our local chapter home. My amazingly gifted friend, Susan Meissner - wow! Julie Lessman, one of the perkiest women on the planet - love this girl. Jenny B. Jones - a funny girl with a passion for story telling. Rachel Hauck, a lovely mentoring writer. Another friend and prayer warrior - Kim Vogel Sawyer. A new friend who bubbles with enthusiasm - Christy LaShea Smith.

I was doing a lot of cheering at the banquet. One of the most exciting moments, however, was the announcement of the Contemporary Fiction category of the Genesis. I had judged in the preliminary round of this category and was blown away by one of the manuscripts. Such joy to see Jennifer Griffith win this. Lovely writer who I had the privilege of visiting with after the awards.

Major congrats to ALL the winners!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Myra Johnson's ONE IMPERFECT CHRISTMAS on CFBA with a Giveaway

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
One Imperfect Christmas
Abingdon Press (September 2009)
Myra Johnson

Making up stories has been second nature to me for as long as I can remember. A select group of trusted friends back at dear old Mission High waited eagerly for the next installment of my "Great American Spy Novel" (think Man from Uncle) and my "All-American Teen Novel" (remember Gidget and Tammy?). I even had a private notebook of angst-ridden poetry a la Rod McKuen.

The dream of writing persisted into adulthood, although it often remained on the back burner while I attended to home and family and several "real" (read paying) jobs along the way. Then in 1983, while recovering from sinus surgery, I came upon one of those magazine ads for the Institute of Children’s Literature. I knew it was time to get serious, and the next thing I knew, I'd enrolled in the “Writing for Children and Teenagers” course.

Within a year or so I sold my first story, which appeared in the Christian publication Alive! for Young Teens. For many years I enjoyed success writing stories and articles for middle-graders and young adults. I even taught for ICL for 9 years.

Then my girls grew up, and there went my live-in inspiration. Time to switch gears. I began my first women's fiction manuscript and started attending Christian writers conferences. Eventually I learned about American Christian Romance Writers (which later became American Christian Fiction Writers) and couldn't wait to get involved. Friends in ACFW led me to RWA and the online inspirational chapter, Faith, Hope & Love.

So here I am today, still on this crazy roller-coaster ride. Still writing. Still hopeful. Writing, I'm learning, is not about the destination, it's about the journey. My current projects are primarily women's fiction and romance . . . novels of hope, love, and encouragement. Novels about real women living out their faith and finding love in the midst of everyday, and sometimes not so everyday, situations.


Graphic designer Natalie Pearce faces the most difficult Christmas of her life. For almost a year, her mother has lain in a nursing home, the victim of a massive stroke, and Natalie blames herself for not being there when it happened. Worse, she's allowed the monstrous load of guilt to drive a wedge between her and everyone she loves-most of all her husband Daniel. Her marriage is on the verge of dissolving, her prayer life is suffering, and she's one Christmas away from hitting rock bottom.

Junior-high basketball coach Daniel Pearce is at his wit's end. Nothing he's done has been able to break through the wall Natalie has erected between them. And their daughter Lissa's adolescent rebellion isn't helping matters. As Daniel's hope reaches its lowest ebb, he wonders if this Christmas will spell the end of his marriage and the loss of everything he holds dear.

If you would like to read the first chapter of One Imperfect Christmas, go HERE

NOTE FROM CARLA: Myra is my fabulous critique parner, and I'm a little prejudiced here, but this really is a great book!! Read my my previous interview with Myra and a review here.

BONUS: BOOK GIVEAWAY! Leave a comment on this post to be entered in a drawing for an autographed copy of Myra's book. Rules: Leave contact info. US entrants only. Chances of winning dependent on number of entries. Drawing to be held at noon on Friday, Oct. 2.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Winner and an Opportunity

Congratulations to Cherie J for being the lucky girl to receive the giveaway of Jenny B. Jones book Just Between You and Me! Thanks to all who enetered.

If you read the heading of this post, you probably noticed I used the word opportunity. It's not too late to join 500 other fiction writers in the annual ACFW Conference (American Christian Fiction Writers). Here's the info:

"The Premier Christian Fiction Conference"


"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:58 (KJV)


SEPTEMBER 17 - 20, 2009

Bestselling authors, publishing industry representatives, and newcomers to Christian fiction writing will gather in Denver at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s annual conference September 17-20 to compare notes, learn from each other, and encourage one another in the pursuit of publishing goals.

This year’s conference theme, Standing Firm…Moving Forward, will especially inspire the full range of talent and dreams in the ever-changing publishing world today.

This amazing conference will feature representatives from major publishing houses like B & H, Guideposts, Zondervan, Harvest House, Barbour, Steeple Hill, Summerside Press, Bethany House, Waterbrook Multnomah, Marcher Lord Press, Tyndale House, and Thomas Nelson, and top literary agents who will meet with writers and identify promising proposals from both new and veteran novelists. Conferees will have access to publishing panels, professional critiques, and customized workshops based on skills and interests.

The keynote speaker is New York Times bestselling author, Debbie Macomber, who has more than 100 million copies of her books in print worldwide.

Learn more about the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference by visiting Click on the left sidebar on Annual Conference.

If you're not a writer but live in the Denver area and want to meet some of the best Christian authors on the market today, you are invited to attend the booksigning at the Marriott Tech Center Hotel in southeast Denver. The following authors will be signing from 4 - 5:30 pm in the hotel conference center. Books are available in the conference bookstore.

Carolyne Aarsen
Diane Ashley
Ruth Axtell Morren
Rick Barry
Christina Berry
Lauralee Bliss
Diana Brandmeyer
Sandra Bricker
Margaret Brownley
Candace Calvert
Robin Caroll
Jeanie Smith Cash
Colleen Coble
Brandilyn Collins
Mary Connealy
Shirley Connolly
Margaret Daley
Susan Page Davis
Mary Davis
Janet Dean
Megan DiMaria
Lena Nelson Dooley
Wanda Dyson
Leanna Ellis
Pamela Ewen
Miralee Ferrell
Linda Ford
Tina Ann Forkner
Judy Gann
Jeff Gerke
Rhonda Gibson
Debby Giusti
Sandra Glahn
Elizabeth Goddard
Winnie Griggs
Cathy Marie Hake
Lisa Harris
Mary Hawkins
Roxanne Henke
Cynthia Hickey
Patti Hill
Denise Hunter
Annette Irby
Myra Johnson
Liz Johnson
Jenny Jones
Eileen Key
Laurie Kingery
Kathleen Kovach
Harry Kraus
Jeanne Marie Leach
Tosca Lee
Julie Lessman
Loree Lough
Elizabeth Ludwig
Richard Mabry
Debbie Macomber
Joyce Magnin
Gail Gaymer Martin
Judy/Jude Martin-Urban/Urbanski
Debby Mayne
Aaron McCarver
Vickie McDonough
Dana Mentink
Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll
DiAnn Mills
Stephanie Morrill
Janelle Mowery
Jill Elizabeth Nelson
Kevin Parsons
Golden Keyes Parsons
Donita K. Paul
Tracie Peterson
Allie Pleiter
Cara Putman
Tara Randel
Deborah Raney
Sandra Robbins
Kim Sawyer
Marc Schooley
Michael Sheehan
Shelley Shepard Gray
Ann Shorey
Beth Shriver
Sandra Lee Smith
Virginia Smith
Betsy St. Amant
Therese Stenzel
Stuart Stockton
Alison Strobel
Michelle Sutton
Camy Tang
Donn Taylor
Janice (Hanna) Thompson
Missy Tippens
Pamela Tracy
Carrie Turansky
Deborah Vogts
Jenness Walker
Dan Walsh
Susan May Warren
Michael Webb
Kit Wilkinson
Lisa Wingate
Beth Wiseman
Kimberley Woodhouse
Lenora Worth
Cheryl Wyatt
Kathleen Y'Barbo

I'm fortunate to be able to attend the conference again this year. Denver is one of my favorite spots on the planet, so I'll be soaking up the mountain air and taking in the sights ahead of time. In view of that, I won't be posting here for a week or so. I'll have a full conference report when I get back. Don't get into trouble while I'm away.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

CAN Blog Post - Marketing before your first contract

I recently had the privilege of becoming a member of CAN, The Christian Authors Network. This group of published authors is passionate about writing and sharing their victories and struggles with marketing and promotion of Christian books.

Since my first book, Chasing Lilacs, is still in the pre-published phased (getting closer!), I was asked what an author could do prior to being published to begin marketing and promotion. Sarah Sundin, another new member with CAN, who I met at Mount Hermon last year, interviewed me on today’s CAN blog. You can read it here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Mushrooms a la Julia

I finally got to see Julie and Julia at the movies this holiday weekend. What a culinary delight! And I have to say, I identified with both characters – Julia Child of the 1950s and Julie Powell, a young wife in today’s New York. As each of them tried to make sense of their lives, they wondered, "What now?" and found a worthy calling. Most interesting to me was that neither woman knew without a doubt that cooking (or in Julie's case - writing about cooking) was her ticket to fame - they tried and considered alternatives, and when they did begin to cook, their goal was only to find self-fulfillment, not reap wild success.

As a writer, sometimes I wonder if success is the goal or if I should be content with the process, to delight in a nicely-worded paragraph, to feel a sense of accomplishment in nailing a character's personality and voice on the page. Just as Julia mastered the art of speed chopping onions, so we writers must be masters of everyday techniques so that we can move on to more complex work. Only when we've done that can we produce true art or the perfect pastry or a painting that brings tears to the eyes of the beholder.

So, this week's special at the cafe is not a completed dish of an accomplished chef, but a single ingredient that has the potential of making your recipes sing and tears spring from your eyes in its simplicity and delectable flavor.

Sautéed Mushrooms a la Julia

At medium heat on your stove top, melt enough "real" butter to cover the bottom of a heavy skillet. When butter is melted, add sliced mushrooms of your choice to cover bottom of skillet. It's important that you give the mushrooms room to breathe, so don't crowd them or let them touch. Stir and turn as necessary to the brown-ness you prefer. Mushrooms are delicious atop a grilled burger, snuggled up against a juicy rib-eye or as the perfect topping of a golden omelet or tossed into the recipe of your choice.

So for the price of a movie ticket, popcorn, and coke, I learned that I’ve been cooking mushrooms wrong all these years. No more! I will let my mushrooms "breathe" and serve them with pride.

Bon Appétit!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Welcome to Jenny B. Jones - Fun Interview and Book Giveaway of JUST BETWEEN YOU AND ME

Welcome, Jenny! First off, let me say, I loved Just Between You and Me. Before we get started, I need to tell my readers that you need to read all the way to the end. There you will find my review of Jenny’s book AND a chance for you to win the book!!!

Café: Jenny, you have a gift for writing quirky, fun stories with strong messages of faith. Thanks for stopping by the Café for a pop quiz.

JBJ: Thanks for having me! And I’m so glad you enjoyed Just Between You and Me. Otherwise. . .this visit might be a bit awkward.

Café: You’ve written several books for young adults. Why the change to Women’s Fiction?

JBJ: Not a change, but an addition. It’s funny, but one thing I learned in writing about a single 30 year old with a crazy life, is that she wasn’t THAT much different than a single 16 year old with a crazy life. Still has boy issues, still has confidence issues, both struggle with surrendering things to God. Thirty year olds just have a later curfew.

Café: Will you continue to write in both genres? (I know your teen fans are hoping the answer to this is YES.)

JBJ: Yes, I intend to. I hope so. Totally up to God. Both genres have something a little different to offer me as a writer, so it’s fun to switch hats. Keeps me on my toes. And when I’m writing YA, I’m usually stumped for a plot, yet a women’s fiction is growing in my head. And definitely when I’m writing women’s fiction, a million YA novels are demanding my attention. (Granted, 98 percent of these ideas become useless, but still—it makes for a crowded head during a deadline.)

Café: Have any of the things in your books happened to you or do you just have an overactive imagination? How much of Jenny B. Jones do you write into your stories?

JBJ: Oh, wow. I dunno. I think my voice is pretty evident in the books. Friends and students who read my books always say, “It was like you were in MY HEAD reading the book to me.” I don’t know that they think that’s necessarily a good thing.

My first series, A Katie Parker Production, about a foster kid who finds her calling on stage, was loosely based on two students I had—one who blossomed and found her place when she discovered drama and one who totally evolved into a different person when she finally found a loving home after a lifetime of being unloved and unwanted.

I think the people around me find their way into my books more than I do. But there are definitely pieces of things I’ve experienced or dealt with in every book—some good, some not so hot. We all have dysfunction. Might as well use it. ; )

Café: I know you’re a teacher by day and yet have written several books in a short time. How do you find the balance between the two?

JBJ: Food, caffeine, stretchy pants. I have really struggled with balance the last few years. Mostly I only do school at school and only do writing at home—and the two never shall meet. This year I am blessed with a modified schedule and only teach ‘til noonish and then I get to go home and write, hopefully leaving my evenings free for a life. Or at least some good TV.

Café: The new schedule sounds like it’s working out for you. When you do write, how do you develop your characters? Charts? Interviews? Or do you just start writing and let them have their say?

JBJ: I am very character driven. I see the characters before I ever see the plot, and so I create that plot around the quirks of the characters or where I see them going or being funniest. I wish I did do charts or interviews or something organized. But I don’t. I never know really where my plot is headed. (This is a very, very comfortable feeling. NEVER keeps me up late night. Never makes me eat empty calories to numb my acute anxiety. . . I would love to be more of a planner/plotter. But I’m not. I am quite poopy at plotting.

Café: Now, for a few fun questions:

JBJ: YES! These are my favorite!!!!

Café: What is your favorite food?

JBJ: Mexican (fajitas and quesadillas are my favorite. And I have the local Mexican place on speed dial), cereal (it’s like crack—CANNOT get enough. It’s like a meal AND dessert), and ice cream. I used to not really care that much for ice cream. I could take it or leave it. In the last 5 years I can’t get enough. Why couldn’t that have happened with green beans or something healthy? I hated green beans five years ago. I hate them today. But ice cream? Double scoop!

Café: Favorite movie?

JBJ: In order. . .
1. Princess Bride
2. Charade
3. Sweet Home Alabama (leading guy is originally an Arkansas boy!)
4. Nacho Libre
5. Chocolat (Actually I don’t even know what this movie is about. But the title—it speaks to me.) (kidding.) (mostly)

Café: All time favorite book?

JBJ: Ew, tough one. I have a rotating list of favorites, but I love A Year Down Yonder, a YA novel by Richard Peck. Though it’s YA, adults will love it. I read it to my grandmother years ago who adored it. I cannot recommend that book enough. I also love Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts. There’s a secular romance novel that I just think is the best romance ever, but I’m not going to tell you because it’s not rated G, and I don’t want to be responsible for leading anyone to the temptation of a book with lots of kissing. I also ADORE A Girl Named Zippy. It’s nonfiction, but reads like fiction. It had me laughing out loud, something a book rarely does. It’s one of those books that you give to every friend you have.

Café: Billie Letts is one of my favorite authors. Who knew? I’ve met her a few times, and she is a wonderful person, too. She just tells it like it is. Any particular author who has influenced your writing?

JBJ: Meg Cabot, Kristin Billerbeck, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, God. Anyone with humor, romance, and quirky characters. Authors whose writing doesn’t take itself too seriously. (Except for God on that one. God can take Himself seriously all He wants I guess.)

Café: Coffee? Tea? Sparkling mineral water? Or . . .

JBJ: This question breaks my heart. I don’t know if I love anything in this world more than ice tea (strong, no sugar as the Lord intended). But caffeine makes me comatose for days, so I really try to stay away from it. But I fail. Often. And I always say, “I’ll never drink tea again!” But I do. Because I love it so. It’s quite a toxic relationship really.

And I love a good Diet Dr. Pepper or Diet Coke, but I’m two months free of the stuff! Cold turkey. No mas. If even 1/10th of the information on the internet is true about that stuff, it’s bound to have eaten a good chunk of my brain cells. And I’ve decided Diet Coke cannot have any more. I have a hard enough time finding my car in the Wal-Mart parking lot as it is.

Café: Jenny, you are a delight. I promise not to base a character in my next novel on your answers (maybe). Thanks for sharing your wisdom and wit here at the Café. Any exciting news or closing thoughts you’d like to share?

JBJ: We have a great time over at my blog on my website. Stop by and see me. Lots of giveaways and random attempts at the occasional joke. And stay tuned for November when the second book in the YA series A Charmed Life hits the shelves.

Café: That’s it folks. Remember you can find Jenny’s books here .

I don’t think you need to read my review to know you’re in for a treat with Jenny B. Jones’ debut women’s fiction, but allow me:

Jenny B. Jones debut into women’s fiction, Just Between You and Me, has been chosen as a 2009 WOMEN OF FAITH novel. In a departure from her quirky, action-filled Young Adult books, Jenny brings the same fun style to an adult audience.

Ivy, Texas is the last place Maggie Montgomery wants to go, but at the urgent request of her dad, she returns to her hometown. She’d rather be skydiving or rappelling or any number of other things in her adventurous life as a cinemaphotographer. Once back in Ivy, getting away is not as easy as Maggie hoped. Neither is facing the fears from her past and the people she’s hurt growing up in Small Town, America.

The story is one fraught with mishaps and filled with tenderness. Maggie’s niece, Riley, has experienced more than any ten year old should, and it is only to save her that Maggie agrees to stay. A budding romance with the local vet, a sister (Riley’s mom) with a drug addiction, and a haunting memory give Maggie’s story layers that kept me guessing and reading until the last page. The author packs a lot of humor into the pathos for a light, faith-filled book with a message for young and old alike. Only by reliance on God can we embrace and conquer our deepest fears.

Highly recommended for a summertime read . . . or anytime you need a pick-me-up!

BOOK DRAWING: Jenny has graciously offered a book giveaway, and I know you want to read this one, so please leave a comment AND your contact information. I’ll put your name in a “cereal bowl” in honor of Jenny’s craving and draw for a winner at noon Friday, September 11.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I’ve anticipated having my friend, Myra Johnson, here at the café for months. This time last year we both lamented whether we would EVER be published. Myra got the first contract, and honestly, I couldn’t have been happier. I’m looking at her to pave the way!

Myra’s first book – from Abingdon Press – officially releases TODAY, but it’s actually been available on Amazon and in bookstores for a few weeks. So, let’s hear it for Myra!!
Welcome to Carla’s Writing Café.

Café: Congratulations on the release of your first book, One Imperfect Christmas. I’ve read it (SEE REVIEW AT THE END OF THIS POST) and am so proud for you. Great job! I know you’ve been writing for a long time, so tell us how your first “publishing” deal came about.

Myra: In July 2008 during my daily check of several favorite blogs, I saw that Brandilyn Collins had just returned from ICRS, where she’d met Barbara Scott, the editor heading up a brand new fiction line from Abingdon Press. Barbara had agreed to accept e-queries from Brandilyn’s blog readers. With hours my query was on the way. Barbara asked to see a proposal, and by August I had a contract offer!

Café: Why this particular book? Where did you get the idea?

Myra: Several years ago I got the bug to write a heartwarming Christmas story, the kind they make into Hallmark movies. The germ of the idea came to me in the middle of the night—a couple ready to celebrate their 50th Christmas together until something intervened. It took some brainstorming to come up with the right characters and plot, and then several incarnations of the basic story until it evolved into what it is today.

Café: Which comes first for you – the characters or the plot (premise)?

Myra: In this case, it was apparently the premise. I can’t use the word plot because I am a confirmed seat-of-the-pants writer! I have no idea what’s going to happen scene by scene until I’m in the midst of writing. Often, though, I start getting ideas about certain types of characters, who gradually flesh out in my imagination. I ponder what kinds of situations would cause them the most trouble, which areas they most need personal growth. Character and premise play off each other until I find the right combination and the story begins to take shape.

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

Myra: Most recently I’ve tried simply free-writing my characters’ biographical sketches in their own voice. It’s sort of like an interview because I pretend they’re talking to me, but I don’t ask specific questions. I just let them tell me whatever they want to. I like to find representative photos so I have a real person to picture as I write. In fact, even just browsing photos on sites like iStock and Getty Images can spark ideas for character and plot development. Once I get started writing, I do try to keep a chart of basic character details for the sake of consistency.

Café: I know you’ve won a few contests. Has that helped you on your road to publication? And what is the most important thing you’ve learned from contests?

Myra: I can’t quantify how much contests helped toward publication, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt to have a few successes in my résumé. Contests also help a writer build a tough hide for editorial criticism. The most important thing I’ve learned is that judging is highly subjective. What one judge praises, another will have problems with. That’s real life. You can’t please everyone, so you have to trust your own instincts—but only after you’ve honed them through study, practice, and extensive reading of authors whose work you admire.

Café: What advice do you have for new writers?

Myra: Don’t be in a hurry. Learn your craft. Attend conferences. Join a critique group. Read. And write!

Café: Building a platform is something we hear a lot about these days, and you are on a number of blogs. Please share with us the benefits of blogging – both personally and with a group of writers.

Myra: I have my own blog, but it’s hard to keep it updated as often as I’d like. And besides, I don’t think of my everyday life as all that interesting! Not to mention the blogosphere is growing more crowded every day. Who has time to read everything that’s out there, much less leave witty comments? That’s one reason there are definite advantages to the group blog. At Seekerville, there are 15 of us, each assigned one day a month, plus we always have several guest bloggers on the schedule, so no one gets overburdened. A group blog is also helpful for unknown writers because of the shared information and extended outreach. The key is to find a niche and then make your content as interesting and relevant as you can. A little humor goes a long way too—and in Seekerville we always have plenty of cyber-snacks! ;>D

Café: What other book projects are you working on? Titles and release dates?

Myra: Coming out in mid-October will be my contemporary romance Autumn Rains (Heartsong Presents). This is the first of three novels set in Missouri. Next up, some time in 2010, are Romance by the Book and Where the Dogwoods Bloom.

Café: Coffee? Tea? Sparkling mineral water? Or . . .

Myra: I enjoy a pot of Earl Gray green tea every morning. Iced tea with meals and Diet Caffeine-free Dr Pepper for an afternoon refresher. And the occasional diet cherry limeade from Sonic!

Café: It’s your turn. Any closing thoughts?

Myra: This past year has been an amazing whirlwind adventure! Sometimes scary, sometimes exciting, always a learning experience. More than once I’ve used the phrase “Be careful what you pray for because you just might get it!” I’m thrilled to have achieved this lifelong dream, but the reality is that there is so much more to being published than I ever imagined. Every day begins with a prayer for wisdom about priorities and guidance about each next step.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Carla! You are a true friend and a fabulous critique partner. I can’t wait until next year when I’ll be interviewing you about your debut novel on my blog!

Café: Myra, my friend and critique partner extraordinaire, I’m so happy for you!! I wish you much success with One Imperfect Christmas and your future books. I’m so glad to be sharing this writing journey with you. Thanks for stopping by.

CARLA'S REVIEW: One Imperfect Christmas puts together all that is perfect about Christmas—family, faith, celebration of life and the birth of Christ. It also gives us a glimpse into life’s imperfections—loss, guilt, self-doubt, and the pain of having a loved one suffer in illness.

Natalie Pearce faces the same frustrations many busy women do—the responsibilities of maintaining a home, trying to quell her temper with a husband whose job is top priority, and providing guidance for an adolescent daughter who can be a handful at times. Add to that a budding career for herself and helping out with her retired parents, and it’s easy to see how Natalie falls into the “guilt” trap when her mother has a debilitating stroke. Blaming herself for not being there, Natalie erects a wall around herself, alienating her family and giving her father more worry instead of help in caring for the mom who’s confined to a nursing home.

One Imperfect Christmas is a family’s journey through broken marriage, misunderstood feelings, and the lengths to which a young teen will go to bring her parents together and be the catalyst for healing and peace. Warm and heartfelt, the writing is deeply introspective, and there were times I didn’t like Natalie very much, but as we are all vulnerable to life’s traumas, she was also relatable. Who among us is always likeable? And even more, who hasn’t experienced the need for divine intervention more than a few times in our lives?

Myra’s debut book is one to ponder, to reflect on our own relationships, and to celebrate the joys of Christmas.

Order One Imperfect Christmas here.