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, May 27, 2010

The Joy of Research

Last week, Max and I loaded up the SUV and took off for a long weekend of R & R - Recreation and Research! Destination: East Texas. Since our 38th wedding anniversary was just around the corner and I had decided to set my next book in this area of Texas, we headed south. I inhaled the Texas air when we crossed the Red River. It's always a little like coming home since I've spent almost as much of my life in Texas as Oklahoma.

We spent the first night in Marshall, a beautiful city with some wonderful Victorian homes. What really captured my fancy, though, was this old cemetery in the historic part of town. And what's a research trip without at least once stop at a cemetery? This plot was particularly fetching with its fancy iron work fence and aging stones, many of which dated back to the Civil War era. And there's nothing quite like a trek among ancient gravestones at dusk.

The next day we went to Jefferson, named for Thomas Jefferson, and what a charming place. The first thing we learned is that it was once the second largest city in Texas. Today about 2500 people live there. The entire town could be on the historic register. And many, many buildings are. We toured the museum, visited the old time General Store which sported not one, but two soda counters, and then took a few minutes to peruse the "stacks" in the newly restored and renovated library. I could do some serious research in surroundings like this.

Authenticity is what brings a story alive for me, and I'd been nervous about writing about a place I'd never visited. My town will be fictitious, but I wanted to experience the feel of the bayou country, inhale the scents, and keep my eye out for tiny details I might use. Our tour guide on our trip down the bayou was not only a great historian, but also full of fun stories. And it was from him, I learned about the mayhaw berry bush (or small tree) that grows in the bayou and makes the best jelly in all of Texas. It reminds me of sand plum jelly. And yes, I brought home a couple of jars that I bought in his little shop after we docked.

One of the highlights of our trip came on Saturday morning. I'd learned of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club a while back and knew Jefferson was the home of the world's only beauty shop and book store combo. It's here that Kathy Patrick merged her two loves - doing hair (as they say in Texas) and reading. I was so excited that Kathy was open and greeting customers. Her shop is an absolute delight bursting with good books, jewelry and all sorts of fun accessories, and in the back . . . the beauty shop. Yes, I'm now a member of the Pulpwood Queens and am thrilled with my autographed book - The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life. Kathy is doing a fabulous job of promoting literacy and making women feel good about themselves. If you're ever in Jefferson, stop by Beauty and the Book. You'll be glad you did. I'm hoping for a makeover the next time I go :-)

And a special thank you to Kathy's daughter, Lainie, who is just as vivacious as Kathy and answered so many of our questions while her mother was "doing hair" for one of her customers. Before we left, Lainie was sweet and posed for us in front of the shop.

Our trip wouldn't have been complete without a visit to Caddo Lake, named for the Indians who lived in the area for many years before being relocated to Oklahoma. Caddo Lake is the only natural lake in Texas and is a series of connected cypress swamps.

It's an eerie and haunting beauty to travel through the swamps in our guided boat and see endless lily pads floating on the water while Spanish moss floats ghostlike through the cypress trees all around you. It's not difficult to imagine being lost in the swamp and wandering for years trying to find a way out. Luckily, our guide was a pro and knew exactly where he was the entire time. The view on the left was amazing as were the flapping blue herons and white cranes that appeared from time to time, startling us every time.

Last, this is the bed and breakfast where Max and I enjoyed the hospitality of Bob and Pam Thomas at The Delta Street Inn. The town of Jefferson has a host of Greek Revival, Victorian, and Prairie homes like this one. I could have stayed much longer, but Max was due to be in Denver on Monday, and for me . . . well, there are books to write you know.

Have a great weekend!!

The UPS Man Came Today . . .

. . . And guess what he brought??

I've been waiting my whole life for this day, it seems. And it met my every expectation. I cradled the books in my arms, counted them, inhaled the scent of new paper, read each and every endorsement (thank you lovely friends for your amazingly kind words), wiped a tear as I read the dedication, checked to see that all the pages were there (288, in case you're interested), then I spread them out, stacked them, letting my fingers linger on the beautiful matte covers.

No matter how you look at it, it was a lovely day. Thank you, Jesus, for your grace and your blessing. Thank you, FaithWords, for believing in this book. Thank you, friends, for all your support. Thank you, family, for putting up with me on this long journey.

And thank you, readers, for this glorious indulgence.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Friend - Christina Berry - is a Christy Finalist . . .

so I'm giving away a copy of her book!!

I featured this book back in September when it first came out. Congrats to Christina for being a Christy Finalist in the Debut Book Category. You can find a list of the other finalists here. I know many of the authors and their work. What an esteemed list of authors. You are all an inspiration to me and deserving of this honor.

Contest info for winning The Familiar Stranger is at bottom of this post. But first, a little about Christina:

Single mother and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time to write from her busy schedule because she must tell the stories that haunt her every waking moment. (Such is the overly dramatic description of an author's life!) She holds a BA in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem, as well. Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, released from Moody in September and deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. A moving speaker and dynamic teacher, Christina strives to Live Transparently--Forgive Extravagantly!

Her work has also appeared in The Secret Place, The Oregonian, and Daily Devotions for Writers.

Craig Littleton's decision to end his marriage would shock his wife, Denise . . . if she knew what he was up to. When an accident lands Craig in the ICU, with fuzzy memories of his own life and plans, Denise rushes to his side, ready to care for him.
They embark on a quest to help Craig remember who he is and, in the process, discover dark secrets. What will she do when she realizes he's not the man she thought he was? Is this trauma a blessing in disguise, a chance for a fresh start? Or will his secrets destroy the life they built together?

As always, to be entered in the drawing for this book, please leave a comment WITH YOUR CONTACT INFO. A few entries are always disqualified because I have no contact info. I will draw for a winner next Wednesday, May 19.

Thank you to all who entered the drawing for Vickie McDonough's book THE ANONYMOUS BRIDE. The winner is Sherri. Congratulations!!! Enjoy this fun read.

Disclaimer: The Familiar Stranger was provided to me last fall for promotional purposes. The chances of winning contingent on number of winners.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

CROSSING OCEANS by Gina Holmes UP ON CFBA with Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Crossing Oceans
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (May 1, 2010)
Gina Holmes


From the back cover copy and what I’d heard about this novel before I read the first page, I knew the main character, Jenny Lucas, was facing the end of her life. A life that would be cut short by cancer. I prepared myself for that in the way that I did when I read Marley and Me. It wasn’t the ending that mattered so much, but the celebration of life on the pages.

What I didn’t know was that Jenny’s cancer was melanoma—the cancer that claimed my own mom ten years ago. And although my mom wasn’t leaving a young child behind, it was impossible to read Crossing Oceans without reflecting on the mother/child relationship and the fears we all face—what will happen to the ones who are left behind when we die? What legacy will remain?

Gina’s writing is graceful, poignant, and emotional, but sprinkled with enough light-hearted moments to keep it from being melodramatic. Yes, you will cry, but not for the reasons you might think. Of course, I’m not going to tell what happens because this story of love and healing and sacrifice is one you should savor for yourself. I’d suggest you pick up a copy today. Lovely debut.


Gina Holmes began her career in 1998, penning articles and short stories. In 2005 she founded the influential literary blog, Novel Journey. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her husband and children in southern Virginia. To learn more about her, visit May 2010's issue of CFOM at Interview with Gina Holmes or Novel Journey.


Jenny Lucas swore she’d never go home again. But being told you’re dying has a way of changing things. Years after she left, she and her five-year-old daughter, Isabella, must return to her sleepy North Carolina town to face the ghosts she left behind. They welcome her in the form of her oxygen tank–toting grandmother, her stoic and distant father, and David, Isabella’s dad . . . who doesn’t yet know he has a daughter. As Jenny navigates the rough and unknown waters of her new reality, the unforgettable story that unfolds is a testament to the power of love and its ability to change everything—to heal old hurts, bring new beginnings . . . even overcome the impossible. A stunning debut about love and loss from a talented new voice.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Crossing Oceans, go HERE.

Watch the Video Book Trailer:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Read First Chapter of Chasing Lilacs

Today it's only 37 days until the release of Chasing Lilacs. It has seemed like forever at times, and now that it's drawing near, my mind is racing wondering whether I'm really ready. Sort of like a wedding day or becoming a new mother for the first time, although trust me, I do not in any way compare the birth of a book to the precious linking of two lives through matrimony or the sweetness of a newborn's first breath. But, it is a feeling like no other - the debut of the novel I've poured my heart and soul into.

To celebrate the occasion of 37 days until launch, I've posted the first chapter at Fiction Finder. It's a great site that is growing daily with more and more great fiction. And as always, Chasing Lilacs, is available for preorder at your favorite online book places: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


To moms everywhere: No matter where your kiddos are - I wish you a lovely Mother's Day. Being a mom is one of the greatest privileges I've had. Love to my boys, their precious wives, and all my grandkids. You know who you are.

PS: Once every few years, Mother's Day falls on the birthday of my grandmother on my mom's side. This is one of those years. Although she's been gone many years, it's sort of nice to remember her sweet smile, those crystal blue eyes, and the love I had for both of my grandmothers. If you still have a grandma, give her an extra hug for me today.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


I hope that wherever you are, you are enjoying the first glimpse of spring, sunshine, and warm days. It's time to dig in the garden and pull the barby out for another season of grilling! Okay, our grill has a year-round spot on the brick patio Max built a few years ago, and I've been known to chip the ice off of it to throw some burgers on in the winter. But, you get the idea, right?

Today was perfect. Cool. Just a whisper of a breeze. And it was "seafood extravaganza" day at the local grocery store. Fresh salmon, lemon-pepper marinated tilapia, and Tiger Bay gulf shrimp.

Oh. My. Stars.

Not only were the shrimp bigger than my thumb, but they were at a wonderful price. And although my stomach is still full from the feast we had this evening, just remembering the taste of the shrimp is making my mouth water.

Here you go: Today's Special of the Week


1 to 2 pounds large shell-on shrimp, deveined if possible
(1/2 pound per person or a smidgen less)
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dried basil (fresh is better is you have it)
Generous shake of Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning
Additional coarse ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a one-gallon zip lock bag. Shake to blend spices and liquid with the shrimp. Marinate 30 to 45 minutes, turning bag occasionally. Pre-heat grill. Spray wire basket or grill tray with non-stick spray. Spread shrimp in single layer and cook on medium 2 to 4 minutes per side. Sprinkle with leftover marinade after turning. Do not overcook.

These could easily make up the whole meal, but you probably shouldn't do that. A green salad, crusty bread, and a veggie goes well with shrimp. We had steamed asparagus tonight and a hearty multi-grain bread. Amazing.

What foods do you like to cook on the grill? Any special recipes that your mother made or that you're having for Mother's Day? Tomorrow, I know what I'm having - leftovers. And I don't mind a bit.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Help for Aspiring Writers at The Ruff Draft

John Williams, a newspaper columnist, reporter, author and teacher, has a vision for helping new writers. His blog is dedicated to just that. Industry news and tips from publishers and authors. Here's a recent article I wrote at The Ruff Draft: Six Essential Elements of a Novel.

I'm always looking for new opportunities to write on the web and appreciate John letting me post from time to time . . . probably about once a month. Hope you'll check it out.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Writing Dreams, Partners in the Journey, and OCD

My friend Tiffany Colter did a fun interview with me which is now live in the
Also featured are some quotes from my writing friends and a few little known facts about me. Take a look if you dare. And thanks, Tiffany, for putting this all together!