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, 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.


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


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

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


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

Sunday, October 25, 2009


When I first met Christina Berry and her mom Sherrie Ashcraft, Christina and I were finalists in the Genesis contest. We were both unpublished, but hopeful that we would soon find homes for our novels. This is something I’ve noticed and love about conferences—you seem to find those who are kindred spirits, and when you see their joy in landing an agent or signing a first contract, it feels very personal. We’re all on a journey together, and it’s so much more fun to be traveling with friends. Christina is one of those simply radiant individuals who I’m blessed to know, and I’m thrilled to have her with us at the Cafe today.

ABOUT CHRISTINA: As a single mom and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time out of her busy schedule to write about the heart and soul of life. She lives with her family in rural Oregon. The Familiar Stranger is her debut novel. Get to know her better here. Christina and her mom also have an “infrequent and humorous” newsletter which you can find here.

Welcome and congratulations, Christina. First, tell me about your novel.

The Familiar Stranger—formerly known as Undiscovered—is about a couple going through a really rough patch in their marriage. When an accident incapacitates the husband, their relationship must be redefined. Which would be a lot easier to do if BIG secrets from his past didn’t raise their ugly heads. Despite the upheaval, the choices they make involving forgiveness and trust might allow a new beginning. Or … they might not.

How did you come up with the story?

In the summer of 2006, two stories appeared in the newspaper. One was a huge, national story; the other a smaller, local-interest item. I wondered what it might look like if those two stories conceived a child. Boom! I had the entire plot for The Familiar Stranger. It will be interesting to see if readers can figure out which stories inspired the book.

Your creative weaving of the two stories landed you your first contract (big smile here). What surprised you about the publishing process after your novel was contracted?

I knew that titles were frequently changed for publication, but I didn’t expect the title to change before the contract was officially signed. Also, I knew that editors move from house to house fairly often in this industry, but I didn’t expect to lose my dream editor two days after signing the contract. (Hi, Andy!)

After getting over the shock of losing my editor, I was very surprised at how much Moody valued my input, how frequently they communicated with me, and how they lifted my family up in prayer. In fact, everyone from my editor to the marketing manager to the author liaison has been amazing!

What takeaway value do you hope readers receive after reading your novel?

The recent changes in my life—losing my husband, facing finding a “real” job, selling my home—have done nothing but solidify what I hope to be the theme of the book and my life: Live Transparently—Forgive Extravagantly. If reading The Familiar Stranger makes even one man or woman be more honest with his or her spouse or delve into trust issues in a healthy way, I’ll consider it a success. Maybe there’s a hurting heart that can find a new path to forgiveness because of the story.

You’ve already received some very favorable reviews, so I’d say you’re on the way to seeing lives changed. One final question: What fun facts may surprise your readers about you?

I was the team captain and second answerer in the speed round for our family on “Family Feud” in 2000 … and we won! Also, I grew up in Nigeria, West Africa, while my parents were Southern Baptist missionaries. I remember being awed at the selection of toilet paper in the grocery store when we returned to the States.

From Africa to Family Feud to debut novelist – wow! Thanks so much, Christina, for stopping by today.

On October 31, Christina will be giving away 10 copies of The Familiar Stranger at the conclusion of her blog tour. To be entered in the drawing, all you have to do is leave a comment here. Please leave your contact information in your comment. US residents only and void where prohibited. Chances of winning dependent on number of participants.

The Familiar Stranger is also available here and here.

MY REVIEW: What an amazing debut novel! In a word – captivating! From the beginning I was drawn into the intrigue of where this story was going. Christina exhibits skill in showing the point of view of both Craig and Denise whose marriage has grown stale and troubled. Then Craig is critically injured and a mysterious man is killed. It’s a love story, one of astonishing grace by a wife who stands by her husband even when faced with jarring evidence that he’s not the man she thought he was. It’s also a mystery that unfolds one layer at a time into a resonant and satisfying resolution.

I really liked this story because of its unique approach and writing that wasn’t overdone or clichéd. Christina’s straightforward storytelling pulled me in and kept me turning the pages. My husband echoed my sentiments after reading the book. Highly recommended for both male and female readers.

Your turn. Leave a comment, and if you've already read Christina's book, share your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WATCH OVER ME by Christa Parrish on CFBA

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Watch Over Me
(Bethany House October 1, 2009)
Christa Parrish

Christa Parrish graduated high school at 16, with every intention of becoming a surgeon. After college, however, her love of all things creative led her in another direction, and she worked in both theatre and journalism.

A winner of Associated Press awards for her reporting, Christa gave up her career after the birth of her son, Jacob. She continued to write from home, doing pro bono work for the New York Family Policy Council, where her articles appeared in Focus on the Family’s Citizen magazine. She was also a finalist in World magazine’s WORLDview short story contest, sponsored by WestBow press. She now teaches literature and writing to high school students, is a homeschool mom, and lives with her husband, author Chris Coppernoll, and son in upstate New York, where she is at work on her third novel.


Her Rescue Might Be the Miracle They Needed Things like this don't happen in Beck County. Deputy Benjamin Patil is the one to find the infant girl, hours old, abandoned in a field. As police work to identify the mother, Ben and his wife, Abbi, seem like the obvious couple to serve as foster parents. But the newborn's arrival opens old wounds for Abbi and shines a harsh light on how much Ben has changed since a devastating military tour. Their marriage teeters on the brink and now they must choose to reclaim what they once had or lose each other forever.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Watch Over Me, go HERE

Monday, October 19, 2009


Autumn is in full glory here. Crisp mornings. Cooler evenings. The leaves making an almost daily progression from green to gold to russet to blazing orange. Pollen filtering through the air . . . wait, that’s not one of the joys of the season. But despite a few sneezes and sniffles, there’s something a bit mystical about autumn. Rest. Relaxation. Shifting into another gear. Time to clean out the flower beds, put on your softest, lived-in sweater, and relegate your flip-flops to the top of the closet.

Another welcoming sight is the new crop of apples in the grocery story—crisp Fuji, juicy Delicious, those wonderfully tart Granny Smiths. Which brings me to today’s special: Apple Pudding. Not to be confused with the custard type puddings, this is more of a cake-like dessert, but very moist, cinnamon-y, and with a crunchy top when it’s fresh from the oven. And to be honest, you can use any kind of apples you want. You pick!

Some of my best memories are stepping into the house after the thirty-minute bus ride from school and having the smell of apple pudding meet me. My mom made this quite often, so it’s always a pleasant reminder of her. I think you’ll like it, too.


1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. butter (or margarine)
1 egg

Mix together. Add 2 cups sliced, peeled apples

1 cup flour mixed with 1 tsp. baking soda and 1 tsp. cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans

Mix well – the apples will just have a coating of batter on them. Bake in 7 x 11 or 9 x 13 greased cake pan for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and a glass of cold milk or your decaf beverage of choice. Yum.

What do you like (or dislike) about fall? Favorite foods? Any special memories you’d like to share?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Carve Diem

In anticipation of three of our grandchildren visiting, I threw out a question on FaceBook about carving pumpkins. Is it too early? Any hints for a fun experience?

Here were some of the responses:

1. Put Vaseline on the raw edges where you make the cuts to help pumpkin last longer.
2. In the north we used to carve them a week or two before but now in Florida the day before. (Hmmm. We’re somewhere in the middle, but have had unusually cool weather.)
3. Buy the" kids pumpkin carving sets".
4. The rule is... keep it till it stinks then get another one...
5. We use Sharpies to decorate the pumpkins. Multiple colors, no rotting, then when we're done, I slice the pumpkins in half, bake them, puree the pulp, freeze it - and a year's worth of pumpkin bread and pie!
6. Paint the pumpkin with chalkboard paint & leave messages on them! Cute!
7. No Rules! Carve diem!!!
8. Do not trust the children with knives !*%@*!
9. Whatever you do . . . have fun!

Great advice, but my favorite was Carve Diem! Whatever strikes you, go for it. So go for it we did.

On Friday afternoon, with the help of Aunt Allison, we painted three small pumpkins. I provided the craft paint and the pumpkins. The six-year-old twin grandsons provided the inspiration and art. The two-year-old sister provided the mayhem – grabbing paintbrushes and peering over the top of the patio table to poke her fingers in the paint.

While they loved their painted pumpkins, the twins couldn’t wait for Papa Max to get home to help with the real deal – carving the two remaining pumpkins. I think it was the danger element – sharp objects and the “ick” factor. They were adamant, though, that the carved faces be traditional and “scary.” Baby sister delighted in sticking her fingers in the goo and telling us all repeatedly, “yucky!” And it’s entirely possible she consumed a few raw pumpkin seeds.

Thanks to Christi for suggesting the pumpkin carving tools. Wal-Mart to the rescue, and the little saws were perfect for small hands. I’m happy to report there was no blood shed, and we had two very happy boys when we were finished. The crowning moment – Papa Max shone the flashlight in the cavities for the spooky effect.

Here they are: the pumpkin artists and their creations!

Monday, October 12, 2009


Here it is—the cover of my first book, Chasing Lilacs! I’ve been anxious to share it with you (and all creation) since I first saw it a while back, and now I have word from my publisher that it's official. I’m not sure which has been the greater thrill—getting my first contract or viewing my first book cover. I understand now what others have said - the process of waiting for the birth of a book is a bit like being pregnant. An over-used analogy, but true.

Sort of. The gestation period for a book is more like that of an elephant, but the really cool thing is you get to see your “baby” book about halfway through the pregnancy. It’s like having a tiny window inserted in your tummy so you can get a glimpse of what your little one will look like.

The real live flesh and bones book is still developing, growing into the 5.25 X 8 inch baby it will become. And with a little over seven months until the due date (Mark your calendars - June, 2010), I’m content to just have a cover to feast my eyes on.

A word about my publishers. The team at FaithWords has been wonderful, asking my opinion every step of the way and then creating what I believe is a fabulous cover. For me, it conveys the nostalgia in the book, the intoxicating smell of lilacs, and a touch of whimsy with butterfly ready to light on the blossoms. It’s been an incredible experience, and I’m thankful and blessed. Hats off to Whitney, Anne, April, Katy, and the art team who’ve all had a hand in making my dream come true.

Later I’ll share more about the story and keep you abreast of some of the exciting things planned for the debut of Chasing Lilacs. Until then . . .

Winner of A SLOW BURN


"Jo" is the lucky recipient of Mary DeMuth's book, A SLOW BURN. For those who stopped by, thank you. And if you get a chance, pick up Mary's book. You're in for a treat.

Monday, October 5, 2009


This week’s special is inspired by a book I just finished: The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin. Agnes Sparrow has devoted her life to praying for the people in her town who come to her for prayers of healing. It’s a fun, quirky book with a powerful message about the One who is the ultimate healer. Food plays a major role in the story, and one of Agnes Sparrow’s favorites is lemon squares. Every time she polished off a plate, my mouth watered, so in honor of Agnes, today’s special is Lemon Squares. I think Agnes would approve.


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
¾ cup butter or margarine, softened
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup lemon juice

Additional confectioners’ sugar

Combine first three ingredients; pat into a greased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, flour and lemon juice until frothy; pour over the hot crust. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into squares.

Yield: 3-4 dozen yummy squares.

Pull up a chair, help yourself to a lemon square, served today with a cup of Verona Bold, and tell me what books you’ve been reading lately.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


to Camille!!!
You are the winner of Myra Johnson's book, One Imperfect Christmas.

Note to readers: It's not too late to be included in the drawing for Mary E. DeMuth's book, A Slow Burn. Enter here. Contest ends Friday, October 9 at noon.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Review and Giveaway of A SLOW BURN by Mary E. DeMuth

A SLOW BURN by Mary E. DeMuth

My Review:

This second course in the Defiance Texas Trilogy was a bit of a surprise to me. Instead of continuing with Jed Pepper’s story, Mary takes us deep into the lives of Daisy Chance’s fragile, drug-addicted mother, Emory, and Jed’s warm-hearted friend, Hixon, whose own life is marked by uncertainty and grief. From the story’s opening with the discovery of Daisy’s body until the very last page, Mary paints a heart-wrenching picture of the colors of grief, the depths of regret and guilt, and the stranglehold that drugs have on Emory. There are breathlessly touching moments of grace in Emory’s life as the reader is shown her inner struggle and the desperation she lives with each day. Doubts plague Hixon as he ministers faithfully to Emory even when nothing makes sense and his efforts seem futile.

Mary endears her characters to the reader by making them real even with the quirks that set them apart from the other residents of Defiance, Texas. Redemption shines through the pages as we realize that every life is precious, that God has a plan even when we can’t see it, and our job is to trust Him. I look forward to the final installment of this trilogy to find out what happens to these characters who’ve become like friends.

It’s probably helpful if you’ve read Daisy Chain, the first book in this series to understand the background and be more invested in the characters, but no matter how you do it, this is a series of powerful, redemptive books from a very gifted author.

Visit Mary’s Website.

Visit Mary's Blog.

See what other reviewers are saying.

Watch the book trailer.

Buy the book.

AND THE BEST NEWS OF ALL – A GIVEAWAY OF A SLOW BURN: Win a copy of the book right here! Leave a comment with your contact information to be entered in a drawing to be held at noon on Friday, October 9. US Residents only. Your chance of winning depends on the number of entrants.

Blessings to you all!