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, February 25, 2010

CAFE SPECIAL OF THE WEEK - Chicken Fajita Quesadillas a la Foreman

Ever notice how many times I seem to revisit the Tex-Mex theme here? Perhaps this should be renamed Carlotta's Writing Cafe? No apologies from me. I grew up in Texas and it's a taste we never tire of. This recipe is fairly mild and something I more or less invented when I peered into the freezer one day and said, "Speak to me. Give me something fast and tasty for dinner." This is the result. We like it for a quick meal. It would also work for having folks over to watch the Olympic hockey competition.


2 large chicken breasts (uncooked) cut into thin strips
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 4 oz. canned green chiles
1 cup Mexi-mix grated cheese
6 ten-inch flour tortillas

Combine chicken, onion, and chiles. Season with salt and pepper. Preheat Foreman grill. Spray top and bottom with cooking spray. Add chicken mixture, spreading evenly over grill. (Be sure drip tray is in place). Cook 3 to 5 minutes. Rearrange chicken on grill. Cook another 3 to 5 minutes until chicken is no longer pink. Scoop meat into bowl.

Wipe down grill with moist paper towel. Reheat.

While grill is heating, assemble quesadillas. Along one side, place 2 tbsp. chicken mixture, heaping spoonful of grated cheese, and add salsa according to your taste. Fold tortilla over and flatten slightly. Repeat for remaining tortillas. Spray grill again. Place two or three filled quesadillas on grill at a time. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until tortilla is slightly brown. Keep warm until all servings are cooked. Cut into thirds and serve. Pass the sour cream, additional salsa, and for an extra yummy taste, add a dollop of guacamole. (recipe below)


2 large avocados, ripened

1 cup fresh tomato, chopped

4 or 5 chopped green onions

A few sprigs of chopped cilantro

Juice of one large lime

Scoop avocado from shell with a spoon. Add lime juice and mash with a fork (a few lumps okay). Add chopped tomato, onion, and cilantro. Serve immediately with tortilla chips or as topping for quesadillas.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

THE PASTOR'S WIFE by Jennifer AlLee / Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Pastor's Wife
Abingdon Press (February 2010)
Jennifer AlLee


Jennifer AlLee was born in Hollywood, California and for the first 10 years of her life lived over a mortuary one block from Hollywood and Vine. An avid reader and writer, she completed her first novel in high school. That manuscript is now safely tucked away, never again to see the light of day. Her first inspirational romance, The Love of His Brother, was released in November 2007 by Five Star Publisher.

Besides being a writer, she is a wife and mom. Living in Las Vegas, Nevada, her husband and teenage son have learned how to enjoy the fabulous buffets there without severely impacting their waistlines. God is good!


Maura Sullivan never intended to set foot in Granger, Ohio, again. But when circumstances force her to return, she must face all the disappointments she tried so hard to leave behind: a husband who ignored her, a congregation she couldn't please, and a God who took away everything she ever loved.

Nick Shepherd thought he had put the past behind him, until the day his estranged wife walked back into town. Intending only to help Maura through her crisis of faith, Nick finds his feelings for her never died. Now, he must admit the mistakes he made, how he hurt his wife, and find a way to give and receive forgiveness.

As God works in both of their lives, Nick and Maura start to believe they can repair their broken relationship and reunite as man and wife. But Maura has one more secret to tell Nick before they can move forward. It's what ultimately drove her to leave him three years earlier, and the one thing that can destroy the fragile trust they've built.

If you would like to read the first Chapter of The Pastor's Wife , go HERE

In her second novel, Jennifer AlLee explores a topic not often addressed: a pastor who puts his congregation’s needs ahead of those of his wife. Nick and Maura marry young, excited at the prospects of their first church, but neither are prepared for the demands it will make on their relationship. A separation ensues. Now, six years later, Maura moves back to the small Ohio community when she inherits an old theater with the stipulation that she must live with her husband for six months while remodeling the theater. It’s a dance of propriety as the two face the opinionated congregation and explore the plan God has for their future.

The story is tender and woven with grace. Jennifer raises many questions about the relationship of a pastor with his congregation and his family. Does God call a man or a couple? What roles are appropriate for the wife of a pastor? It gave me a new perspective in what it must be like to live the “fish bowl” life. A thought-provoking, but gentle book from a lovely author.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine Winner and A Special Announcement

Erica Vetsch is the winner of Myra Johnson's new book, Romance by the Book, and . . . drumroll, please . . . a box of Godiva chocolates.
Thanks to all who left comments about your favorite romantic movie. I didn't chime in, but one of my favorites is HELLO DOLLY! Why, you ask? It's the movie Max and I saw on our very first date - Valentine's Day in 1970! Ah, the memories.

I'd also like to direct you to a new blog that my friend, Elizabeth Ludwig, has just started. Here's what she has to say:

Looking for just the right book but not sure where to look? Check out The Borrowed Book, a website designed specifically for readers and writers of fine books and devotionals! On Mondays, meet the finest debut authors Christian fiction has to offer. Wednesdays and Thursdays, read interviews with your favorite authors or browse excerpts from many of the latest books. Not into fiction? Then stop by on Tuesdays when writers of non-fiction and devotionals will be the featured guests.

Created by award-winning author and speaker, Elizabeth Ludwig, The Borrowed Book offers readers the chance to meet some of their favorite authors, catch up on the latest books, and sign up for weekly drawings and prizes. Rest assured, this isn’t your average writer’s blog. The Borrowed Book was designed with the book-lover in mind…you.

Sounds fun, doesn't it? She has debut author, Christa Allan, on today talking about her book, Walking on Broken Glass. Hope you'll check it out.

Happy President's Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010


The special this week at the Cafe will satisfy the chocolate lovers in the group and was a family favorite when our boys were still at home. As a matter of fact, our son, Scott, named them. I called it Erma's Yummy Brownies since I got the recipe from my good friend Erma. But as Scott ate one square, then another, and another, he said, "This should be called Turkish Delight."

"How did you come up with that?" I asked.

"You know, like in Narnia when Edmund met the White Witch, she gave him a round box tied with a green silk ribbon. Inside was Turkish Delight. It was so good he couldn’t stop eating it. Just like these, they’re so good, I can’t stop.”

So, although this recipe is nothing like the "real" Turkish delight, you'll be tempted to reach for another serving before the first has melted in your mouth. Perfect for the special Valentine in your life.


(Formerly known as Erma’s Yummy Brownies)

1 German Chocolate cake mix (with pudding in the mix)

1/3 cup evaporated milk

1 cup pecans

1 stick margarine, melted

Mix the four ingredients together. Press half into the bottom of a 9 by 13 pan. Bake eight minutes at 350 degrees.

Sprinkle one cup chocolate chips over crust.

Melt together one bag caramels and one-third cup evaporated milk. Pour over chocolate chips.

Dob remaining cake mixture on top and bake 15 – 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cut into squares when cooled and serve.

Q4U: What are your Valentine's plans? Do you have a chocolate lover in your family?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Some great news today. I've invited my friend, critique partner, and romance aficionado, Myra Johnson, to visit the cafe and tell us about her new book. Hint: It's very timely and if you read all the way to the end, we also have a very sweet deal for you.

Welcome, Myra.

Hi, Carla! Thanks for inviting me to join you today and talk a little about my latest release, Romance by the Book (Heartsong Presents, February 2010).

What woman doesn’t long to feel beautiful, cherished, special? I’m sure that’s a big reason romances are so popular, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether we’re single, married, young, or . . . not-so-young. Imagining for a few sweet hours that we are the object of the handsome hero’s desires carries us away from the tedium of everyday life and into a world where the dishes are always done, our jeans always make us look skinny, and there is always a happy ending.

In Romance by the Book, my heroine, Sailor Kern, is so quiet, shy, and plain that she can’t believe anyone would ever be interested in her. Instead, she has centered her romantic yearnings on her favorite romance author, Chandler Michaels. Anyone who writes such heart-tugging love stories, she reasons, must certainly be the most romantic man alive.

But then Sailor has the chance to meet Chandler in person, and he surprises her in more ways than one. By the end of the story she discovers her true hero has been right there all along, and that real life is so much more wonderful than anything she imagined.

The thing about fantasies is that they usually disappoint. The grass only looks greener on the other side of the fence, but that’s only because of all the manure—excuse me, fertilizer—it’s been laced with!

So, while I both read and write romances, I always prefer little doses of realism. A heroine who’d never be a cover girl. A hero who doesn’t quite fit the macho mold. Real-life problems that don’t have easy answers. In the end, it’s always about keeping the faith that somehow, someday, love will conquer all.

About Romance by the Book: In reality, Sailor Kern is a swimming instructor at her local YMCA in Birkenstock, Missouri. But in her dreams, she shares a life with famous romance writer Chandler Michaels. And now she's about to meet him in person! And not only meet him, she gets to be his assistant the whole time he's visiting Birkenstock. But romance and reality don't always mix, and Sailor is in for some big surprises. Will Sailor follow her dream man, or will she see the true hero God has placed before her, right in her own hometown?

About Myra: Myra Johnson’s roots go deep into Texas soil, but she’s proud to be a new Oklahoman. Empty-nesters now, she and her husband share their home with two loveable dogs and a snobby parakeet. Her debut novel, One Imperfect Christmas, released in September 2009 from Abingdon Press. She also writes for Barbour Publishing’s Heartsong Presents line. Autumn Rains, winner of the 2005 RWA Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript, was a November 2009 Heartsong Presents book club release. Romance by the Book is part of Heartsong’s February 2010 collection, and Where the Dogwoods Bloom is expected later this spring. Myra writes full-time and is active in her church as well as local and national writers groups. The Johnsons, married since 1972, have two gorgeous daughters, two terrific sons-in-law, and five amazing grandchildren.

Thanks bunches, Myra. I'm anxious to meet Sailor and Chandler. NOW, for you readers. You, too, can be romanced by Myra's new book. She's offered to give one reader here a signed copy of Romance by the Book. And to sweeten the deal, I'm throwing in a box of chocolates. Not sure which brand they'll be yet, but they'll be good ones. Creamy and yummy. Maybe nutty. So here's what you need to do. Leave a comment. Tell us your all-time favorite romantic movie AND (this is important), leave your contact information. Don't delay. I'll be drawing for a winner on Valentine's Day either right before or twenty minutes after my hubby and I exchange our Valentines.

Disclaimer: No purchase necessary. US and Canadian residents only (unless prohibited in your area). Book provided by the author.

Friday, February 5, 2010

MY WRITING JOURNEY - Waiting on the Lord

Today I'm once again blogging at


Join my friends Dawn Kinzer and Annette Irby and me as I share my writing journey
and what "Waiting on the Lord" means to me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Chat with Canadian Friend, Koala Bear Writer

I'm also chatting today with a special friend and lovely writer from Canada.


She asked about my "getting the call" and wanted a sneak peek at Chasing Lilacs.
Please stop by her blog and say hi!


I'm blogging today at
Seriously Write.
Join Annette Irby, Dawn Kinzer, and me today as I share
Ten Tips for Engaging Your Readers.

See you there!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


In honor of the New Orleans Saints first ever appearance in the Super Bowl, this week's special is a tribute to all things Cajun! You might cook this hearty dish the day before or after church on Sunday and reheat during half-time of the big game. Dish up in earthenware bowls and have plenty of hot French bread on hand. This is a crowd pleaser no matter which team you're rooting for.


2 pounds fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ pound seasoned sausage (I prefer the spicy Italian)
½ cup chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves, chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 ½ cups canned tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon crushed thyme
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt
8 oz. penne pasta
1 ½ cups water (more if needed)

Prepare shrimp and keep in refrigerator or on ice until time to add to jambalaya. Sauté sausage with garlic, onion, and pepper in an 8 quart or larger Dutch oven. Drain off excess fat. Add parsley, tomatoes, seasonings, pasta, and water. Stir in thoroughly. Boil until pasta is nearly al dente. Add shrimp and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until shrimp are pink (about five more minutes). Do not overcook shrimp.

The sausage gives this recipe a special “zip”. Serve with crusty French bread.

So, the obvious question: Which team are you rooting for?
Bonus Question # 1: Have you ever attended a Super Bowl? If so, which one?
Bonus Question # 2: What's your favorite Super Bowl recipe? Leave a comment and I'll run a Super Bowl Food Guide on Saturday. Help me out here, fans!