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?