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.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reading in 2010 - What a year it was!

For a few years now, I've kept a running list of the books I've read throughout the year, and it's always a pleasure to read back over it and remember the wonderful hours when I've been swept away into another world. This year had a different mix than in years' past. Not sure why as my tastes haven't changed - I still LOVE a good story, and I base my "favorites" list on the books which had great writing and characters who've become my friends - friends who still stop in for a mental visit now and again.

That said, I'm splitting my faves into three groups: Memoirs, Debut Novels, and All The Others. There's no top pick and I listed them in the order in which I read them.

MEMOIR: Is it just me or are there more people writing Memoirs? My hat goes off to these authors for their courage to examine their lives and give the world a peek at their hurts, their joys, and their heart-stirring stories. My top five for 2010:
  • To Own a Dragon by Donald Miller. Just love this guy and his writing. 
  • Thin Places by Mary DeMuth. My friend and one of the dearest people I know. If your life is scarred from a terrible past, this book offers hope. 
  • Without a Word by Jill Kelly. Also my sweet friend who has written a touching account of her son who changed the lives of many though never able to speak a word in his eight short years on this earth.
  • The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life by Kathy Patrick. This is like a breath of fresh air as Kathy shares her passion for literacy and making people feel good about who they are.
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. This book rendered me speechless, and even now I'm still processing the lovely writing of this heart-wrenching, but amazing story of love within a totally dysfunctional family. I will read this book again and again.
DEBUT NOVELS: This is always a favorite category for me. Knowing how hard it is to finish a book and the get it published makes me want to champion debut authors everywhere. Holding your "firstborn" in your hands is an experience like no other - Hmmm, I wonder how I know this?? Nevertheless, there were some really amazing debut books this year, and all these authors are dear to my heart. Bravo!
  • Walking on Broken Glass by Christa Allen. Christa's voice sparkles in this book about alcoholism and the road to recovery. 
  • A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin. Oh. My. Stars. I loved this book and the second in the Wings of Glory series which also released this year, A Memory Between Us. This is historical romance done right. Authentic with just the right amount of detail and characters that I simply adored. A Distant Melody has already been named to the Booklist Top Ten for 2010.
  • Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes. A tender story of the love between a dying mother and her young daughter. Gina has captured the right balance between angst and tenderness, but with touches of humor that keep it from spilling into melodrama. Lovely prose.
  • Snow Day by Billy Coffey. A series of vignettes that combine into a simple, but profound story about what matters most in this world. 
  • Someone to Blame by CS Lakin. A psychological mystery that at times reads like true crime with deep exploration of both the primary and secondary characters. I enjoy a book I can really sink my teeth into and this one's a delight.
ALL THE OTHERS: I'm faithful to my favorite authors which I just realized when I was pondering this list. They shine through book after book inspiring and giving me that rush of adrenaline because of beautifully wrought prose, story depth, and as always, unforgettable characters. Only one new author (to me) this year. No explanations forthcoming as these authors are in a class of their own.
How about you? What was your favorite book this year? Do you keep a log of what you've read?

Here's to a great look back at 2010. May 2011 be The Year of Reading Pleasures for you!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

"And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Prince of Peace." 


Merry Christmas Everyone! 

May you have a joyous, safe Christmas as you celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Old Friends and New: Book Signings Part Two

I went through all twelve grades with Angie
Last weekend, I returned to another of the "home fires" - the town where my parents grew up and where my sister and dad still live. Although the times I've actually lived there have been short, it's where I come home to - where many of my relatives lived and died. But it's more than being related to people - there's a kinship with the folks in the Panhandle that transcends blood ties. It's knowing someone who is related to an old classmate or someone who knew your mom when she worked at the bank or someone who's heard about my book down at the Baptist church. It's small town friendliness where you're not really strangers, but friends who just haven't met yet.

When I learned I would be attending my grandson's concert a couple counties over on Dec. 5, I called Virginia, a friend who had been asking me to come to Guymon for a book signing. And what a day she and a half dozen others put together! On Saturday morning, The Word Weavers, a small, but dedicated writing group, hosted a reception at Main Street Guymon (the tourism/public relations office).

The Word Weavers prepared the brunch and organized everything. Thank You!


Signing Books at the doctor's desk
A little side note here: The Main Street Office is housed in a restored building that was for many years the office of Dr. Hays. The ladies had me set at the doctor's roll-top desk to set up my display and sign books. It made me feel rather scholarly . . . and quite honored, to be sure.

We had a wonderful turnout! The Word Weaver's served brunch, asked me to do a reading (a first for me), and before I knew it, it was time to scoot over to the Guymon Public Library for the next event - a punch and cookies reception and signing hosted by the Friends of the Library.

Friends of the Library had punch & cookies at Guymon Library

Mary Gail on left, my sister Marsha on right
My dad, my sister Marsha, many of Marsha's friends, a high school classmate, a couple of sisters of high school classmates, and a host of lovely people stopped by at both locations. It was a wonderful day. And like the title of this posts - old friends and new - I'm blessed to have both. And I learned that, yes, you can go home again.
Many thanks to Virginia and Pam and the Word Weavers for your hard work, for the amazing job you did on the publicity. A special thanks to Melyn Johnson for wanting to have the reception at Main Street Guymon and to Sherry Lindley and the Friends of the Library for making me feel welcome. The only sad note of the day was that Virginia, who had worked so hard, came down with a stomach bug a couple of days before the events and was unable to come. I was so sorry she had to miss and am grateful that she is now feeling much better.

I will post more pictures in an album on FaceBook in a day or so and will update you with the link when I do so. In the meantime, I have many warm memories for this chilly December. Perfect weather for curling up with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book. Which I plan to do as soon as I finish my Christmas shopping.

Until next time . . . .

Friday, December 10, 2010

Old Friends and New: Book Signings Part One

I've wanted to write this post for a long time and talk about book signings. I've had a flurry of recent ones, and these have been quite personal since they've taken me back to the "home fires" parts of the country. Chasing Lilacs is set in the Texas Panhandle. I grew up there. My roots go deep there. It's not just the landscape that holds my heart, but the people I've known through the years.

Natalie Bright coordinated the Canyon Library event.
When I found out that my former writing group in Amarillo - Panhandle Professional Writers - would be part of a group signing at the Canyon Public Library, I signed up. It was a trip that was long overdue, and I had a wonderful time reconnecting with the writers who first influenced my writing.

The best part of the trip, though, was seeing old friends. Not "old" as in years, although we're not getting any younger, but "old" as in a part of the fabric of my life.

I've known Janet since I was two years old. We grew up in the camp which became the setting for Chasing Lilacs. Her dad owned the Edsel which I remember being the "ultimate" car with it's push button controls. And it was Janet who I sat with for hours in that Edsel listening to KIXZ on the radio. Janet was a year older than me, and when your four or seven or even twelve, that year makes all the difference. I looked up to Janet and secretly wanted to be like her - I always thought she was prettier, skinnier, and certainly more savvy about our pre-teen world. I was honored that she would run around with me.

When I was in the eighth grade and Janet in the ninth, she moved away when her dad was transferred. Although the town was only 50 miles or so away, I never saw Janet again. Ever. I heard through the grapevine that she married, had a child, moved to Kansas. But I was in my own world of husband, kids, living in Dallas, and we just lost all contact.

With Janet at her home
Until about a year ago. Through a complicated series of emails with another friend who grew up with us, I found out Janet lived in Amarillo. Seeing her again was glorious! We went out to eat with our husbands the evening before the book signing on Saturday, went back to their home for coffee and endless conversation. It's hard to squeeze a lifetime into a few hours, but we tried. She loved that I had included the Edsel in the book (thankfully!). And I loved that, at long last, we had found each other again.



Book Signing Hint: Share it with friends!
I know this doesn't have a lot to do with booksignings, but in a way, it does. Janet came to Barnes and Noble the next afternoon and sat with me. A former classmate - Maelynn - joined us. Maelynn and I have seen each other occasionally through the years at reunions, and she was always the "wise and sensible" one in high school. Sweet. Considerate. And, as you can tell from this picture, still stunningly beautiful.

Going to a booksigning can be an unpredictable experience. Sharing it with two fabulous friends makes it a party! Another family that I hadn't seen in years stopped by my table in B&N to chat. Another great surprise. It was a remarkable day of laughter, friendship, and connecting. I signed a few books, but for me the success of the day came in connecting.

Part Two of Old Friends and New will go up on Monday. Until then . . . grab a cuppa and call up an old friend. Write a note. Say a prayer.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chasing a Dream

 I'm guest blogging on the FaithWords blog today about my writing dreams. Here's a snippet.

As a young girl in Texas, I didn’t think of my life as being anything but ordinary. My dad worked in a petroleum plant. My mom sold Avon so she could save up for a piano and pay for lessons for my two younger sisters and me. And more often than not, she spent any extra money on new dresses for us girls while she wore last year’s style. . . . read more here.

Who knew that someday my dream of writing a book would be realized? This weekend I'll be returning to my home stomping grounds for a brunch reception and then a book signing at the Guymon Public Library. I'm proud of the area where I grew up amid the most nurturing, encouraging people on earth, and I hope I've made them proud as well. I'll let you know how it goes. 

What is special about the place you grew up?  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Much to be thankful for

Before this month of traditional thankfulness slips away, here are a few things for which I'm grateful.

My dear hubby, Max, who somehow, year after year, plods along with me, taking all my quirks in stride. And this fall, he scarcely batted an eye when I announced that I wanted our new entry doors to be painted red. Five coats of paint and many moons later, he and my son, James, installed them. Don't they say, "Come on in! You are welcome here."

WELCOME!

And the house was full for Thanksgiving, three of our kids and their kids, Max's dear sister and her family. So happy to have them all gather for our Thanksgiving dinner.

The kids had their own fun at this end of the dining room.
Our Thanksgiving table
And we didn't do traditional turkey this year, but the Cajun creation of Turducken. Strange and wonderful aromas wafted through the house as we set the table and then feasted on way too many good foods.

Close up of the Turducken
You know you've had a good time when you forget to get out the camera and line everyone up for family pics. I didn't take many this year, but couldn't resist taking a few of this little monkey (who usually is more cooperative and will look at the camera).

Isn't that an angelic smile?

A blessed year. God has given me a wonderful family. What more could I possibly ask for?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Random Thoughts on Books Alive! 2010

The authors from Books Alive! 2010 
It always takes me awhile to process an event, so even though I've officially been home from Jefferson for three days, the memories keep bubbling up. In the end, the Books Alive! weekend embodied all the things I hold dear. I think you'll understand after reading my random thoughts.

HISTORY: First of all, Jefferson itself is richly steeped in history - established before the Civil War and the only river port in Texas outside the Gulf coast. Before the railroad came to town, Jefferson was where cotton bales were loaded on riverboats to be carried to New Orleans. Interestingly enough, the Books Alive! festival also has a New Orleans connection. During Hurricane Katrina, many folks came to Jefferson to ride out the storm and ultimately found themselves with no homes to go back to. The Methodist church (founded in 1844) took in the victims, turned Sunday school rooms into bedrooms and the fellowship hall became the dining hall. The town rallied around, but in the end, the church had used up its financial resources. Kathy Patrick was among those who helped. As the owner of Beauty and the Book Hair Salon and founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, she decided to call upon her author friends to start a book festival. She coupled her passion for literacy and helping others to bring in some added revenue for her church. It's not a large event number wise, but in spirit it has no comparison, and the money raised allows the church to continue its efforts to reach out to the poor in their community.
Margaret & Sharon came from W Virginia

FELLOWSHIP: A feeling of camaraderie infused the event as authors and readers gathered together around tables, sharing their stories, and being real. There is nothing quite so sweet as sitting by new friends, finding out what books they like and what makes them tick. I had the pleasure of eating with two ladies from West Virginia, meeting a sweet couple from Georgia, and quite a few spots in Texas were represented as well.

HOMEADE FOOD. Wow! Pastor Allison prepared what I believe is the best lasagna I've ever eaten - full of healthy veggies, whole grain pasta, and yes, tasty chunks of meatballs. Salad. Fresh cakes and pies. And on Saturday, a mashed potato bar, which was a first for me. And I'm almost certain there was real cream in those potatoes.

Sam Bracken, Kathy Patrick, & Echo Garrett
STORY TELLING: We came from far and wide. Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Las Vegas, Nashville. Sort of a literary symphony to the ears to hear the all of the regional dialects or twang as we say in Oklahoma. All had wonderful stories to share.

Sam Bracken and Echo Garrett, co-authors of The Orange Duffel Bag, told of their longing to make a difference in the world by sharing Sam's tragic beginnings in life and how he overcame a life of abuse and neglect. But they don't stop there. The "7 Rules for the Road" portion of the book gives a way to live life that is not only meaningful to the individual but embraces others in radical ways. An amazing story.


Missy Buchanan, Judy Christie, & Karla Morton
Texas State Poet Laureate Karla K. Morton entertained us with readings from her books, and on several occasions, I had to tell myself to breathe because of the beauty in her words and expressions. And she wore the cutest, funkiest clothes with her cowboy boots - utterly delightful.

Me w/ Marybeth Whalen & Lisa Wingate
Twelve authors in all participated. We had author panels, book signings, lots of chatter and picture taking, and at the end of the day, we felt like a family. The prayer shawls the Methodist women gave us reminded us that we are all part of God's family. Thank you, ladies, for the work of your hands, and also for the cookbook! I left with a full heart and some great memories.

First United Methodist Church (estab 1844)

WORSHIP: Books Alive! ended on Sunday morning with worship at the Methodist church - the perfect final curtain for one of the best times I've had in ages. Does your women's ministry have an annual retreat? Books Alive would be a great opportunity for your group to take a little road trip, stay in one of the many fabulous B and B's in Jefferson, and be refreshed and inspired. Ask me about it - you won't be disappointed.

At the lovely Delta Street Inn

Thursday, November 11, 2010

SALUTE TO OUR VETERANS AND TROOPS

My dad (2nd from right) during the 1930s
My dad grew up in Oklahoma during the Great Depression, the second of six children. Raised on a farm, he has talked about doing without and once marveled at how his mother could feed a family of eight with only one can of salmon. He was too young to enter WWII, but after he graduated from high school, he did a three year hitch in the US Army and was stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska a good part of that time. One of his favorite memories was shaking hands with Gen. Eisenhower. He married my mom when he got out of the Army, but when I was six months old, was recalled to serve in Korea. I've tried to find the picture of him there (I know my sister copied it and gave it to me, but I can't find it - sigh).

My dad today working in his shop
Over the years my dad's been a hero to me in many ways, but fighting in a war and not knowing whether he would ever see my mom or me again must have haunted many of his nights as he built bridges and tramped through the rice patties of Korea. I really can't imagine. A simple thank you seems frail and inadequate. I only know that I'm grateful that he survived not only the Depression, but also the rigors of war.

Brett on CG Cutter off the coast of Alaska



I have a present day hero as well.
Our son, Brett, has been in the US Coast Guard for fifteen years. His cutter assisted in the Indonesian tsunami relief; he's served a year in Bahrain, pursued pirate ships off the coasts of Africa and Belize, and stepped foot on nearly every continent. He leads a life of adventure, but I know, too, that he is doing a worthy work, something for which I, as a regular citizen, have a poor concept of. I don't tell him thank you often enough.

For veterans and troops across our land and those overseas, I salute you. May God bestow on you the crown of glory for your sacrifice and loyalty to our great country.

Monday, November 8, 2010

HATTERAS GIRL by Alice Wisler - Perfect Beach Read Even in November

With Alice in St. Louis
I'm pleased today to introduce you to my friend, Alice Wisler's latest book, Hatteras Girl. I got a sneak peek at the advanced reader copy of this book when I met Alice for the first time last summer at ICRS in St. Louis. She was up for a Christy Award and then stayed to sign books in her booth at Bethany House. We got to hang out for a while, and it's always fun for me to know the "author" behind the book. Alice is witty, laughs easily, and when we first met, it felt like we'd been friends forever. And that's a little like what her books are like: friends you'd like to have a cup of coffee with or have over for the weekend. 

Here's my official review of Hatteras Girl: 

I’ve been a fan of Alice Wisler’s highly entertaining novels since her first one, Rain Song, came out. She really packs a wallop into her characters, giving them not only quirks, but fears and hopes and dreams, and she’s not afraid to throw a few unpleasant curves their way. In Hatteras Girl, Jackie Donovan dreams of finding the perfect man to marry and one day being the owner of the Bailey Place—a Bed and Breakfast she’s loved since she spent many happy childhood days there.

The only problem is that all of her dates turn into disasters, and the B & B is way out of her price range. Jackie is a features journalist in her Outer Banks beach town, and her assignments with different business owners brings out the local flavor and adds to the plot twists. It made me want to call the airline and schedule a visit right now. The story is sprinkled with a cast of characters who dance off the page: everyone from her Aunt Sheerly and Uncle Ropey to Buck at the Sunnyside Grille to her best friend Minnie whose five-year-old son is more than a handful. And romance for Jackie turns up at the most unexpected time.

It’s a fun book, not too quirky, with plenty of tender moments that had me rooting for Jackie, her friends, and her family. Alice’s voice is lively, her story engaging. Hatteras Girl is the perfect “beach” read – set in the beckoning Outer Banks, it’s a great take-along book for your next excursion.  

Hatteras Girl is the featured book for this week on the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance so here's a bit more about the book and Alice. 
 

 Hatteras Girl
Bethany House; Original edition (October 1, 2010)
by
Alice Wisler


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alice J. Wisler is an author, public speaker, advocate, and fundraiser. She has been a guest on several radio and TV programs to promote her self-published cookbooks, Slices of Sunlight and Down the Cereal Aisle. She graduated from Eastern Mennonite University and has traveled the country in jobs that minister to people. Alice was raised in Japan and currently resides in Durham, North Carolina.

Facts about Alice
* Born in Osaka, Japan and lived in Japan for 18 years
* Went to Kyoto International School and Canadian Academy
* Majored in Social Work and graduated in 1983 from Eastern Mennonite University
* Worked at a group home for disadvantaged kids outside of Philadelphia
* Taught English and Culture Orientation at a refugee camp in the Philippines
* Taught English as a Second Language in Japan
* Speaks and teaches on Writing the Heartache
* Has three kids on earth, and one in Heaven
* Recently got married to Carl on 2/7/09

ABOUT THE BOOK

There are two things twenty-nine-year-old Jackie Donovan asks God for: an honest, wonderful man to marry, and to own a bed-and-breakfast in the Outer Banks region. In the meantime, Jackie works for Lighthouse Views magazine, writing articles about other local business owners, and intrepidly goes on the blind dates set up by her well-meaning but oh-so-clueless relatives.

There's one specific property Jackie dreams of purchasing: the Bailey Place, a fabulous old home where Jackie spent many happy childhood afternoons, a place that has now fallen into disrepair because of its outrageous price tag.

When Jackie meets handsome Davis Erickson, who holds the key to the Bailey Place, Jackie is sure God has answered both her prayers. But as Jackie learns some disturbing details about Davis's past, she begins to question her own motivation. Will she risk her long-held dreams to find out the truth?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Hatteras Girl, go HERE.

HAPPY READING! 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

BOOKS ALIVE! in Jefferson, Texas

Sam Bracken & Echo Garret with THE ORANGE DUFFLE BAG
Press Release for BOOKS ALIVE!
Jefferson, TX - Here is the following official program for the 5th Anniversary of BOOKS ALIVE, a Christian and Inspirational Book Festival, a fundraiser for her church, The First United Methodist Church of Jefferson, Texas for their mission and outreach programs. All ticket money and donations go to the church to support the ministries of First UMC and are tax deductible.
Friday - November 12th
 
7:00 p.m. - Join us for an intimate dinner with the authors. All authors will be introduced and the dinner is homemade by the good ladies of the church with the event in the church's Fellowship Hall. Tickets are $25 per person.
 
Saturday, November 13th
9:00 a.m. Pastor Allison Byerley will give our opening prayer. Kathy L. Patrick will the Moderator of the authors!.
9:15 - 10:30 a.m. Texas Poet Laureate, Karla K. Morton of "Redefining Beauty", Author Judy Christie of "Goodness Gracious Green" and the "Hurry Less, Worry More" series, and Author,Missy Buchanan of "Living With Purpose in a Worn Out Body: Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults" and "Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms!
10:30 a.m Break to visit author autograph rooms and vendors.
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 Noon Keynote Speakers, Sam Bracken and Echo Garrett of "My Orange Duffel Bag"!
 
Noon Luncheon
1:30 p.m - 2:45 p.m. Authors, Carla Stewart of "Chasing Lilacs", Mary Beth Whalen of "The Mailbox", and Lisa Wingate of "Beyond Summer"!
2:45 p.m. Break to attend author autograph rooms and vendors.
3:15 p.m. - 4: 30 p.m Authors, Gloria P. Jaggers of "Give me a Broom and To Let Me Sweep the Cobweb of My Mind" and Kathy L. Patrick of "The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life".
4:30 p.m. Closing Prayer by Pastor Allison Byerley and author autograph rooms and vendors will stay open until 5:00 p.m.
 
Sunday, November 14th
11:00 a.m. Join us for Sunday worship service with special author speakers and music.
All events held at The First United Methodist Church, 305 West Henderson in Jefferson, Texas. Friday and Saturday events in the Fellowship Hall, Sunday in the church!
Tickets are $50 for the weekend or $25 for Friday night, $25 for all day Saturday including lunch per person. Tickets for students are $10. Scholarships for the event are available, please contact the church and we welcome book clubs, church and youth groups. Those who pre-register and pre-pay for the event will receive a FREE BOOK!
Checks may be made payable to the First United Methodist Church of Jefferson and sent to:
First United Methodist Church
Attn: Books Alive Tickets
P.O. Box 457
Jefferson, Texas 75657
or email Pastor Allison Byerley at fumc@jeffersonfumc.com or call 903-665-3268 for more information.
All authors will have books available for purchase and other vendors will be attending. Come to historic Jefferson, Texas and support literacy and help a worthwhile cause while you are visiting our fair city!
Photo of Keynote Speakers and Authors, Sam Bracken and Echo Garrett of www.myorangeduffelbag.com.
Contact: Kathy L. Patrick
Beauty and the Book
608 North Polk Street
Jefferson, Texas 75657
903-665-7520

This is where I'll be this next weekend - I'm looking forward to a delightful time with authors who are inspiring others with their gifts of writing, speaking, and encouragement. There may still be a few tickets left if you're looking for a fun, uplifting weekend in historic Jefferson. It's worth the drive just to breathe in the ambiance of this hamlet in the Piney Woods of East Texas. I can't wait, and as always, I'm excited about meeting new readers and plan to come away with a bevy of new friends. Here's what I had to say on the Pulpwood Queens blog last week. I'm about the fourth post down. 

Join me tomorrow for my review of Alice Wisler's newest book, Hatteras Girl.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Introducing the lovely C.S. Lakin

Today is NATIONAL AUTHORS DAY!

And it's my pleasure to introduce you to an author who has just exploded on the publishing scene. You see, a while back I started hearing the name Susanne Lakin pop up on the blogs and networks I frequent. She and my friend, Camille Eide, were two of the three finalists for the Zondervan/Mount Herman contest in 2009. Susanne came out the winner, but Camille later told me what a gracious and lovely person Susanne was, and that her writing was stellar. I'd read Camille's entry, which was amazing, so I knew that Susanne must be a very special writer.

Fast forward one year: I met Susanne, who has chosen C.S. Lakin as her author name, in September at the ACFW conference. Lovely, sweet lady, who I'm glad to call friend. Her debut book, Someone to Blame, released October 1, and is a contemporary psychological mysteryThe writing is lyrical, the subject about the loss of a child and the surprising resolution of a family stricken with grief. I hope you'll check out this debut author.


SOMEONE TO BLAME

In the wake of heartrending family
tragedies, Matt and Irene Moore move
with their fourteen-year-old daughter,
Casey, to a small town. Their goal is to
get far away from the daily reminders
that leave each of them raw and guilt-
ridden. Their hope is to find redemption,
repair, and renewal. Instead, the threads
of their relationship unravel even more.

Breakers is a small community
perched on the rocky coast of the Pacific
Northwest. Its cold isolation seems to
mirror the hearts of the family seeking
solace there. As they settle into their new
life, old grief settles with them. They've
once more set the stage for calamity.

Into this mix comes Billy Thurber, a
young drifter with his own conflicts,
whose life unexpectedly entangles with
the Moores’. His arrival in Breakers parallels
a rash of hateful and senseless
crimes, and soon the whole town – eager
for someone to blame – goes after Thurber
with murderous intent. Out of this
dangerous chaos, however, the Moores
find unexpected grace and healing in a
most unlikely way.

A bit more about C.S. Lakin: 
C. S. Lakin writes novels in numerous genres, focusing mostly on contemporary psychological mysteries and allegorical fantasy. Her novel, Someone to Blame (contemporary fiction), won the 2009 Zondervan First Novel competition 2009, with a publication date of October 2010. Lakin’s three fantasy novels in the Gates of Heaven series has been contracted with AMG-Living Ink Publishers. The first book in the series, The Wolf of Tebron, released July 2010. Her contemporary mystery, Innocent Little Crimes, made the top one hundred finalists in the 2009 Amazon Breakout Novel Award contest, earning her a Publisher’s Weekly review that noted her book was “a page-turning thrill-ride that will have readers holding their breaths the whole way through.”

Lakin grew up collating television scripts for her screenwriter mother. As an adult, Susanne assisted in developing series for television, and while raising two daughters and running a bed and breakfast inn in northern California wrote her first three novels and a cookbook. She currently works as a freelance copy editor and writing mentor, specializing in helping authors prepare their books for publication. She is a member of The Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network), CEN (Christian Editor Network), San Francisco Editors Guild, CAN (Christian Authors Network—regular blogger), ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), and two regional writers’ groups.

Susanne has just finished her ninth and tenth novels and started another psychological mystery. A very busy lady. And a delightful writer. So whether you like a little mystery or lean toward fantasy, C.S. Lakin is a name you want to remember. Find her here and sign up for her e-newsletter to get the latest news from her publishing journey. 

So, on National Authors' Day, who's your favorite author?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Proud Moment: BROKEN WINGS COVER

It's here: the cover of BROKEN WINGS !!!

FaithWords has done an amazing job again on the cover art for my book which releases next summer: Mark your calendars: JUNE 3, 2011. Available for pre-order on Amazon.

Here's a bit about the book:


Onstage, the singing duo of Gabe and Mitzi Steiner captured America's heart for more than two decades. Offstage, their own hearts have throbbed as one for sixty years. Only now, Gabe has retreated into the tangles of Alzheimer's, leaving Mitzi to ponder her future alone.

On the other side of Tulsa, everyone believes Brooke Woodson has found the perfect man--a handsome lawyer with sights on becoming Tulsa's next District Attorney. If only Brooke felt more sure. If only her fiancé could control his anger. If only love didn't come with so many scars.

When an accident lands Brooke in the hospital where Mitzi volunteers, the two women quickly develop an unlikely friendship birthed by providence and bathed in grace. And with Mitzi's help, kindness, and insight, Brooke learns how to pick up the broken pieces of her life.

And so it begins. The page proofs are done. The Advanced Reader Copies for reviewers will be out before you know it. Marketing strategies are being considered. And I'm just as excited about this book as I was the first one. I guess it's true - you can love more than one child with equal fervor. And I so hope that you will love Broken Wings too. You'll be hearing more of the developing story, but for now, I'm just thrilled that I can share this much with you. 

So how about a round of applause for Jody at FaithWords and his magnificent touch in creating this beautiful cover? Thanks, Jody. Thanks, FaithWords. And thank you, readers for this moment of indulgence. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie

Nothing says autumn to me like the smell of pumpkin! I love pumpkin-scented candles, trips to Starbucks for the pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, of course, and in the past I've tried to make pumpkin cheesecake. Without much success. The recipes were either too rich, too complicated, too lopsided, toooooooo . . . you know? So, I have this fabulous Lang Calendar with garden recipes, and this one looks like a winner! I've not made it yet, but since we're hosting Thanksgiving this year, I'm going to try this one. Maybe you'd like to go first and tell me if it's any good.

CREAM CHEESE PUMPKIN PIE

Make a graham cracker crust: 
Mix 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs with 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, & 1/4 cup melted butter. Pat into a 9 - inch pie plate. 

In a separate bowl, mix three eggs & 1/2 cup sugar. Beat until fluffy. 
Add 8 oz. softened cream cheese & 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Beat again. 
Stir in 1 1/2 cup cooked pumpkin puree, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, & 1/4 tsp. nutmeg. 

Pour into prepared crust and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. 

Cool and enjoy! 


This one doesn't sound like it will be too sweet. A little rich, perhaps, but we all splurge some during the holidays. What's your favorite pumpkin recipe? Do you have one that's "healthy" and still tasty? 

Maybe you're not a pumpkin lover. What do you love about autumn? 


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Interview with Sarah Sundin


I hope that you all had a chance to read about Sarah Sundin’s newest book, A Memory Between Us, in yesterday’s post. Today, I'm glad to have Sarah with me to answer a few questions.

Thanks, Sarah, for being my guest here at the Café. Congratulations on A Memory Between Us. I’ve been excited about this book for a long time and loved Jack and Ruth’s story. Can you tell us a bit about your writing journey?

I started writing in January 2000 and first submitted the proposal for A Distant Melody to editors and agents in 2003. For five years I received “good” rejection letters—they liked my writing and story and characters—however, historicals weren’t selling. In 2008, publishers wanted historicals again. At Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, I submitted to Vicki Crumpton from Revell, and she offered me a three-book contract. A Distant Melody was released in March 2010, ten years after I started writing.

How did you come up with the idea of the Wings of Glory series? Had you always intended for there to be three books? 

The idea for A Distant Melody came out of a “what if” question—what if a man and woman met at an event, truly clicked, and parted before exchanging contact info? Wouldn’t it be romantic if he went through great effort to track her down? My husband and I watched a History Channel special on the US Eighth Air Force based in England during World War II, and I was hooked. My great-uncle was a B-17 pilot with the Eighth, so I had access to his stories and letters.
A Distant Melody was meant to be a standalone, but while doing research, I became enamored with the Eighth Air Force and wanted to tell the full story to V-E Day. Since my hero had two pilot brothers, I decided to write a series, with each book focusing on one brother.

Having read the first two now, it’s quite obvious that meticulous research goes into your writing. Can you tell me a bit about how you do research? 

I have to confess, I have over two hundred books and websites in my bibliography for this series. Yes, that’s sick. I started with basic texts on World War II, then got more detailed. Bibliographies are a great resource—when a book is mentioned in multiple bibliographies, it warrants attention. On the internet I found a company that sells copies of the actual B-17 pilot’s manual and the training film, which were pure gold! For A Memory Between Us, I did lots of research into nursing during World War II, flight nursing, and Army hospitals.

Two hundred sources in your bibliography? That is some serious research, Sarah. Wow. But you mentioned you have real life inspiration through your great uncle as well. Did you have him in mind with any particular character from your books? 

I based the career of Jack Novak, the middle brother and the hero of A Memory Between Us, on my great-uncle’s career. But Jack’s looks, personality, family, life-story, and romance are purely fictional. My great-uncle, Roderick Stewart (yes, the original Rod Stewart), was a true character, and no fictional character could have done him justice. By the way, Carla and I are not related…no nepotism here.

Well, I am honored that we have the same name in common! I’m fascinated with the way you’re able to put the reader spot-on in the setting. Have you been to England and seen the places you write about? How about the military planes? Have you flown in one? 

I was blessed with a husband with frequent flier miles. He took me to England in 2002 and 2003 without kids (romantic!!!) when I was in the early stages of writing the trilogy. I visited London and Bury St. Edmunds, and traipsed through the ruined abbey—which I had to put in A Memory Between Us. As for the B-17s, the Collings Foundation and the Experimental Aircraft Association tour the country with beautifully restored B-17s—and you can walk through them for a nominal fee. Wow! When you crawl through the narrow passageways, duck through the doorways, and poke your head into the top turret—and then imagine doing it as a full-grown man with bulky high-altitude flying gear in subzero temperatures under fighter attack—it gives you a new level of appreciation for what the airmen went through. Both organizations offer flights in the B-17s, but I’ve balked at the price. Some day…

What do you want the reader to gain from reading A Memory Between Us? Is there a particular take away you have in mind? 

I never write a novel with a message in mind, but I do hope my readers will learn from my characters’ experiences. Shame serves a purpose—to bring you to ask God’s forgiveness—but when it persists after forgiveness, that’s not God talking. Shame burdens so many people and holds them back from the wonderful plans God has for them. I hope my readers will learn to truly accept forgiveness, shove off shame, and allow God to use them. I also hope they see the insidious nature of pride and learn to trust in the Lord a bit more each day.

Your spiritual threads are quite organic to the story, Sarah. Very practical, which leads me a practical question. What have you learned between the publication of A Distant Melody and A Memory Between Us? Any marketing secrets you’d like to share? 

I sure wish there was some way to measure which marketing techniques work and which are a waste of time and money. I’m still new at this, but what I’ve done that seems effective:
a)    Blog interviews like this one. Each interview exposes my book to people outside my sphere of influence.
b)    My publisher gave me book copies for “influencers.” These people have been wonderful. They’ve posted reviews, chatted it up on Facebook, recommended it to their book clubs and libraries, and my friend Marci Seither made a vintage 1940s apron with the book cover for A Distant Melody on the pocket and donated it to a fabric store. The store owner displayed the apron in the store window and recommended the book to her book club!
c)     Facebook has been a great way for me to connect with people—other writers, old friends, and new readers. I like that personal touch.
d)    Bookmarks generously distributed. I carry them everywhere. Whenever someone asks about my book, I give them a bookmark. Also my friends and influencers hand them out in droves. I’ve already gone through my first lot of one thousand bookmarks, and I’m working on the second. Low tech but effective.
e)    Local speaking. I’m still getting started in this, but lately I’ve spoken to middle schoolers, the women’s club, and the Soroptomists. Speaking at the women’s club led to two local newspaper features on me and my book. Those women know people!

Coffee? Tea? Sparkling mineral water? Or . . .
Yes, please! Well, I’ll pass on the mineral water, but I love anything in the caffeine family. Coffee with a dash of milk and flavored syrup, tea (hot or iced), and generic diet cola. Lots of it.

Sarah, you’re getting great reviews and gaining a lot of fans (including my husband and me). Congratulations! One last question:

Please tell us where to find you on the web and the burning question in all of our minds – when does book three come out? Title? 

The third book is called Blue Skies Tomorrow, and it comes out August 2011.
You can find me on the web (and please come visit) at:


Thanks, Sarah. I love the title Blue Skies Tomorrow. And thank you readers for sharing this time with us . . .

A reminder: If you haven’t entered Sarah’s Movie and Memory prize package, check it out on yesterday’s post.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A MEMORY BETWEEN US by Sarah Sundin - Book 2 in the Wings of Glory Series and a FABULOUS GIVEAWAY

 It's no secret to my blog followers that I'm a big fan of Sarah Sundin and her debut Wings of Glory series set in WW II. I'll be sharing my review below, but first, a bit about Sarah and the just-released second book in the series - A MEMORY BETWEEN US. Tomorrow, I'll feature Sarah again in an interview where she tells us more about her passion for writing and how she does research.


ABOUT THE BOOK:Can they overcome the past to find a brighter future together?

Major Jack Novak has never failed to meet a challenge--until he meets army nurse Lieutenant Ruth Doherty. When Jack lands in the army hospital after a plane crash, he makes winning Ruth's heart a top-priority mission. But he has his work cut out for him. Not only is Ruth focused on her work in order to support her orphaned siblings back home, she also is determined not to give her heart to any man.

As the danger and tension of World War II rise to a fever pitch, Jack and Ruth will need each other more than ever. Can Jack break down her defenses? Or are they destined to go their separate ways?

From the English countryside to the perilous skies over France, A Memory Between Us takes you on a journey through love, forgiveness, and sacrifice.

A Memory Between Us is the second book in the WINGS OF GLORY series, which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sarah Sundin is an on-call hospital pharmacist and holds a BS in chemistry from UCLA and a doctorate in pharmacy from UC San Francisco. Her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England during WWII. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children. This is her second novel.  For more info please visit her website at www.sarahsundin.com!
 

MY REVIEW: 


As I anticipated the release of Book 2 of the Wings of Glory Series, I didn’t see how Sarah could possibly live up to her debut novel, A Distant Melody, but she did. She skillfully portrays Major Jack Novak as a man who is driven to succeed both in his military career as a WWII pilot and in his desire to win the heart of Lieutenant Ruth Doherty, the Army nurse who cares for him when his plane crashes. Ruth’s determination to forget her past and care for her orphaned siblings, though, is her top priority, and she is not swayed by the major’s relentless pursuit. The chemistry that sparks between them is authentic and tender, warm and witty.

There is an indefinable quality to Sarah’s story telling. She drew me in with her meticulous detail of the medical world Ruth inhabits, the British setting, historical context (the chapter on D-Day had me biting my nails), and Jack’s life as a decorated pilot. Novels that have this sort of magical “it” are hard to find, but this one is a treasure. I give it a high recommendation. 
 

LINK TO PURCHASE A MEMORY BETWEEN US:





And now, Sarah's gift to one very special reader - 


Sarah Sundin presents The Movies and Memories Giveaway in honor of book 2 in the Wings of Glory series. A Memory Between Us is available for purchase wherever fine books are sold. From the English countryside to the perilous skies over France, A Memory Between Us takes you on a journey through love, forgiveness, and sacrifice.

AMBU_button


To celebrate Sarah is giving one lucky winner A Movie and Memory Prize Package! One grand prize winner will receive:

* Make-your-own-photo book from Mypublisher.com (Capture your own Memories)

* Netflix Subscription (New or Nostalgic Movies delivered right to your house)

* Starbucks gift card (To keep your engine revvin’)

*Gourmet chocolate (A favorite in the 1940’s and now)

* British specialty teas in carved wooden box (Timeless tradition)

* Miniature model of a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber & C-47 cargo plane (Everyone needs a few toy planes)

*Big Band music CD (Break out your dancing shoes)

* WWII authentic poster playing cards (Cards – a perfect game for two)

* Keep Calm and Carry On (Uplifting sayings WWII, a boost for troubled times)

To enter simple click on the icons below (contest runs 9/27 - 10/17!)

Monday, October 11, 2010

SNOW DAY by Billy Coffey up on CFBA with My Review

This week, the 
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance 
is introducing 
Snow Day
FaithWords (October 11, 2010)
by 
Billy Coffey


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

When you’re raised in small-town Virginia by a redneck father and a Mennonite mother, certain things become ingrained. And when you marry a small-town girl and have two small-town kids, all you want to do is pass those ingrained things along.


Like believing the best life is one lived in the country enjoying the pleasures it provides—summer nights beneath the stars, rocking chairs on the front porch, deer grazing in the fields. And believing that no matter how iffy life can get sometimes, there are some things that are eternal and unchanging.


But above all else, believing that in everything there is story waiting to be told.

That’s where I come in.


Billy Coffey was raised on stories. The first ones came on the front porches of relatives, tales laced with local charm and deep meaning. Then came the stories from people like Max Lucado and Robert Fulghum, who write with a charm and deep meaning of their own.


Billy lives with his wife and two children in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. If you drive by his house, you’ll probably spot him on the front porch. If you do, give him a wave. He’ll wave back.


ABOUT THE BOOK

In this debut novel, Peter is a simple man who lives by a simple truth--a person gains strength by leaning on his constants. To him, those constants are the factory where he works, the family he loves, and the God who sustains him. But when news of job cuts comes against the backdrop of an unexpected snowstorm, his life becomes filled with far more doubts than certainties.


With humor and a gift for storytelling, Billy Coffey brings you along as he spends his snow day encountering family, friends, and strangers of his small Virginia town. All have had their own battles with life's storms. Some have found redemption. Others are still seeking it. But each one offers a piece to the puzzle of why we must sometimes suffer loss, and each one will help Peter find a greater truth--our lives are made beautiful not by our big moments, but our little ones. (2010)

To read an excerpt from Snow Day, go HERE.
 
MY REVIEW:
From debut author Billy Coffey comes the tender story of Peter Boyd who wakes up one morning to a snow storm. But this isn’t the only storm in his life. He’s in danger of losing his factory job and doesn’t know how he’ll care for his family with Christmas just around the corner. He takes a “snow day” and as he ventures through the day, his interactions with family, neighbors, and strangers remind him life’s simple virtues—family, laughter, kindness, and faith. Coffey weaves gentle humor into prose that had me smiling one minute and teary-eyed the next. Peter Boyd is a man we’d all be fortunate to call friend. I’m looking forward to more stories from this author.

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Denver
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month - this year celebrating 25 years of awareness, education, and empowerment. Race for the Cure events are being held worldwide this month to remind women to have their annual mammograms and to work together so that more women might live. My sister is a breast cancer survivor and participated in the walk in Denver this past weekend. She's such a sweet, gentle soul. I'm so fortunate to have her for my sister . . . and as my hero.

At the start of the race











To find out more about breast cancer and how you can be involved please visit the Breast Cancer Awareness Month website.

Have you had your mammogram this year?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lagniappe

I'm borrowing the title of this post from Jason Ashley Wright, the quirky Mississippi boy who's one of my favorite columnists in our local paper. The first of the month he channels his Southern roots and throws in some lagniappe - a little somethin', somethin' extra, as he says. Last weekend I went to the Celebration of Books and attended the humor session where Jason was a panelist. He's just as cute and funny in person as he is in his column, so I thought I'd "totally name drop" and steal his lagniappe theme to fill you in on several happenings in my world.

Confession time: My suitcase from the ACFW conference is finally unpacked, but the glow of the ACFW conference still lives! For all of you who want to see what all the conference buzz is about Mike Ehret, editor of the ACFW Afictionado Ezine, has just released the Conference Edition. Every year this is a more monumental undertaking as the conference grows. I'm honored to be one of the "reporters", and who wouldn't be? Mike is a great encourager. Clap. Clap. Great job, Mike! And clap, clap for me for getting the suitcase emptied and back in the closet.

New Interview: Fellow writer, Delia Latham featured me on The Bookshelf Newsletter where she asked some fun off-the cuff questions that certainly qualify for this lagniappe kind of day. Thanks, Delia! While you're there, check out Delia's new upcoming Solomon's Gate series from White Rose Publishing.

Since lagniappe is a southern thing, this is a good time to bring up that spot in East Texas where the Deep South begins. Check this out: THE AUTHORS  who will be attending the Pulpwood Queen's Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson, Texas. January 13 - 16, 2011. A great gathering of some of today's most fabulous authors, including Pat Conroy, Cassandra King, Fannie Flagg, Charles Martin, Jamie Ford, AND a host of others. Complete details on the tiara wearing, book loving queen, Kathy Patrick's website: Beauty and the Book. Did you know the Pulpwood Queens Book Club is the largest book club in the world? Did you know Kathy is the founder and owner of the ONLY Hair Salon/Book Store in the WORLD? Kathy's heart is as big as the hair she does, and I'm not only looking forward to attending the Girlfriend Weekend, but also being one of the featured authors November 12-14 for the Books Alive! charity fundraiser that Kathy sponsors. And yep, it's in Jefferson too.

Looks like I'll be pulling out my suitcase to start packing again soon. I'm thinking I should just leave it out. And all this talk reminds me of one of Jason Ashley Wright's favorite "Clairee" quotes from Steel Magnolias: You know I love ya more than my luggage! Yes, readers, I love having you here. And to wind this up, what's your favorite southern saying?

Friday, October 1, 2010

And the winners are . . .

Thanks to everyone who celebrated with me on my three year blogoversary and left such nice comments. I must admit, I let yesterday slip by without drawing for the winners as I'd told you I would. Today I remembered and have notified the winners. Ready?

Congrats to Carmen, Stina Rose, and CarolNWong! 

Hope that you enjoy the book and continue to be the faithful readers of my blog that you have been. Coming up, I'll be featuring more books I think you'll enjoy, interviews, and later this month a special addition to Carla's Writing Cafe. That's all I can tell you for now, but it's going to be wonderful! 

Many Blessings!  

Sunday, September 26, 2010

ACFW Conference Aftermath

Sometimes it's hard to process all that goes on in a weekend long conference - hence my long wait to tell you about my ACFW conference experience last week. My thanks to the conference directors who made this the best one yet! The teaching was exceptional, and I know I will be pondering some of the nuggets I learned for a long time. But for me, the primary purpose of attending ACFW is to be with other writers, to reconnect with friends, make new ones, and for a few short days, indulge myself in all things having to do with craft and promotion and rubbing shoulders with some of today's finest Christian authors. So, here are my highlights of this year's conference:

 

Seeing my friend, Camille Eide, who is also one of my critique partners, and our mutual dear friend Kellie Gilbert. They are both fabulous writers and someday you're going to enjoy reading their novels. To give you a taste, check out what Camille had to say about the conference here. She's funny and wonderful!
(left to right: Kellie, Carla, Camille)
 
I LOVE the awards banquet, and this year was exceptional. My agent, Sandra Bishop, received the Agent of the Year award. Not a surprise to her clients as she is witty and smart and one of the best in the biz. Here is Sandra with Chip MacGregor and Amanda Luedeke, the rest of the savvy team at MacGregor Literary. CONGRATS SANDRA! Sandra gave her 30-second speech with style and grace, but was unable to give her longer, prepared speech. However, she shares it here. Scroll down to the September 22 entry.

Hats off to all the winners, but a shout out to Cindy Hays who was a Genesis finalist and Myra Johnson and Vickie McDonough from my local ACFW group who were Carol Award finalists. A complete list of the winners can be found here.


One of the most prestigious awards is for the Mentor of the Year, and this year's honor went to Susan May Warren. She is one of the most energetic, giving, and fun people I know. She encourages and inspires other writers through her My Book Therapy endeavors. And every year, she hosts a pizza party on the "free" night at the conference. This year she had a special surprise. At the conclusion of the party, Susie herded everyone into another room, locked the doors, and taught us all a line dance. Not your usual expectation for a writing conference, but what can I say? Publisher's Weekly dubbed it the highlight of the conference. I'm sharing the link at risk of embarrassment to myself, but we're all friends here, right? Line Dance on YouTube.

I'll conclude with some other random shots - friends, colleagues, moments that I'll hang onto until the next conference. To see my complete set of photos please visit me on FaceBook where I've posted two albums of pics.

I shared a book signing table with the fabulous James Scott Bell and enjoyed the support of Susan Meissner and Christina Berry. The gals both endorsed Chasing Lilacs and were Carol Award finalists. Christina took home the trophy in Contemporary Fiction Book of the Year - I am so proud of this girl!
Courtney Walsh, Sandra Bishop, and me. I'd been dying to meet Courtney after our online friendship and sharing the same agent. She was wonderful and we hit it right off. I miss her already. 

Sandra and her clients, celebrating at the banquet. 
 My post is not complete without mentioning Max, who not only encourages me in this crazy writing life I've chosen, but also drove the SUV that got us safely to Indianapolis and home. Not sure if it was the allure of being around 630 people who navigate imaginary worlds and stay up until all hours talking about plots and character goals or if it was the call of golf courses not yet conquered that made him want to go. Whatever it was, the trip was that much sweeter because Max shared it with me. Thanks, honey.