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Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Anyone dyeing Easter eggs this year? This was always a favorite and greatly anticipated part of our Easter season each year growing up. I couldn’t wait until I could extend the tradition to my own kids. So when Andy was three and a half and the twins were almost two, I bought a good supply of eggs and put them in the fridge, thinking how I would hard-boil them and introduce the boys to the fine art of egg dyeing.

Before that day came, though, my dear heart, Max, who’s always been an earlier and more cheerful riser than me, came into our bedroom not so chipper . . . or happy. As I recall, his greeting that morning was, “I’ll keep them out of the way while you clean up the mess.”

“Huh? Who? What mess?”

“You need to see for yourself.”
And there they were, my darling twin boys: They’d opened the fridge, pushed a chair over, and when Max arrived they’d already dropped a good two dozen eggs onto the green linoleum. The floor looked like a swirling puke-green ocean with multiple bright yellow eyes peering at me.

Max held them. I mopped the slime.

Thankfully, that episode didn’t become a tradition, and with eggs replaced, hard-boiled, and dyed, we made it through Easter without incident.

This story has little to do with today’s special, but sometimes, moms get to have the pleasure of reminding their children how adorable they were back in the day.

So, how about all those Easter eggs? Why not treat your family to Deviled Eggs?


1 dozen large eggs, hard-boiled and cooled
¼ cup good mayonnaise (lite okay)
1 – 2 Tbsp. mustard (depending on your taste)
1 – 2 teaspoons vinegar (again depending on taste)
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Split eggs lengthwise. Remove yolks to a small mixing bowl. Mash thoroughly with a fork. Add all ingredients except paprika. Mix well. Spoon into egg cavities. Sprinkle with paprika. Refrigerate until serving time.

I like to place the filled eggs on a layer of paper towels until time to serve. Then remove paper towels and/or transfer to serving dish.

Q4U: Do you still dye eggs at your house? Any other Easter traditions? Any messy kid stories?

Blessings to you this Easter. He is Risen!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Writing Nostalgia - Part Two

Things to consider when writing nostalgia:

There must be a reason for placing your story in a certain year or decade. To simply place a story in a past decade because it sounds cool is not enough. You need a backdrop of world events or social customs that are unique to the era. Some examples from the 1950s and 60s might be the fear of communism, man first entering space, the Civil Rights movement, or the emergence of a new sound in music (Elvis, the Beatles). The backdrop doesn’t have to be a part of the plot but will give texture to your story and make it ring true. Everything else springs from this so choose your era and events wisely.

Research is vital. Even if you grew up in the age you’re writing about, it’s important to double check the facts: the year a song first came out, what was on TV at the time, brand names, and products. It’s surprising how many everyday items we use today have been developed only in the last thirty or forty years. If you’re not accurate, more than likely, someone reading your story will spot a mistake and tell you about it. Building trust with your reader should be a priority.

Note: This is true no matter what you write. I once hurled a book by a very famous author across the room for a blatant error that would have taken thirty seconds to research. Don’t be lazy about research.

Vivid, specific details that elicit emotion. This is probably my favorite part of writing nostalgia. Sights, sounds, and smells that capture the flavor of the era draw your reader in. I use a lot of music in my writing because nothing nails an era like its particular “sound.” Smell can evoke memories of a farmhouse kitchen or a trip to the lake or the cologne of a favorite relative. Hair styles and clothing provide visual cues that can illicit emotion—the torture of sleeping in brush rollers or the twirl of a poodle skirt at a sock hop.

Language and slang. Certain phrases come and go and can be good markers for an era. You hardly ever hear anyone today say, “cool cat” or “the cat’s pajamas.” Likewise, you should refrain from having your vintage characters say modern phrases like, “Awesome” or “That was phat.” (disclaimer: these may not be the “in” phrases today but were in the recent past, so I’m just a saying . . . ) Language and slang, can create a doorway to the time period as well as give regional distinction to your writing.

A few resources to help you with phrases and slang:
Online Etymology Dictionary
Meanings and Origins of Phrases, Sayings, and Idioms
Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: Eleventh Edition

Most of all, have fun. Accept the challenges and immerse yourself in the favorite parts of the era you’ve chosen. The ultimate sweet reward is having a reader say, “How did you know what my childhood was like?” or “I felt like I was there and didn’t want to leave.”

Isn’t that the goal of all good fiction? To transport the reader into our fictive dreams and give them an emotional experience?

Less than three months until Chasing Lilacs comes out. In the next few months, I’ll be sharing some of the things that have been going on behind the scenes and what’s coming up. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments, okay?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Writing Nostalgia - Part One

Boomer Books are in! Or so I’ve heard. So are historicals, and what might be historical to you may only be slightly nostalgic to me. Boomer books fall into a pretty wide array of genres and can be set in any decade from the fifties through the present day. They can have older protagonists unknotting their pasts or they can have child narrators (sometimes coming-of-age tales). The possibilities are pretty wide open, and here’s the cool thing: they appeal to a large audience – female baby boomers make up >27% of the total U.S. female population according to a 2003 MetLife analysis.

I love reading these books, so as a natural extension, I’m also drawn to write for that audience as well. It fulfills both the “write what you know” and “write your passion” elements that craft books talk about. Please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers the Big Bopper, how to twist and shout, doing the hully-gully and the monster mash. I lived the wonder years and now love writing about them.

From the title of this post, you probably noticed that this is part one, so sit back, strap on your seatbelts and journey with me while I tell you what I’ve learned about writing nostalgia.

For a moment, close your eyes and try to remember the perfume your mom wore when you were a child. Do you ever catch a whiff and feel like you’ve been transported back into another time?

Do you remember the song they were playing at your first dance? Were you on the sidelines waiting for someone . . . anyone to ask you to dance? Or were you the one the guys stood in line for, waiting their turn to jitterbug with you?

When you were younger, did you ever lay on a blanket under the nighttime stars and trace the Big Dipper with your finger?

Taking a reader on a journey where the memory is engaged through sensory detail is what nostalgia is all about. Webster’s defines nostalgia as: 1) the state of being homesick; 2) a wistful or sentimental yearning for a return to the past.

Just as a child says, “Mommy, tell me the story of when I was a baby,” adults also enjoy an occasional trip back to the age of innocence and the simplicity of childhood. Whether we have wonderful memories or tragic ones, it was still a time when we felt deeper and more passionately about everything. It is the time when we were literally taking the first steps to becoming who we are today.

Curt Iles, a writer I met recently said it like this. “Life was good, but never easy.” Yes, there were challenges. Adolescence was just as traumatic then as it is today. Who doesn’t remember the acne? Fitting in with the “in” crowd? Your first driving lesson? Or your first car? What it felt like to get a first kiss? I suspect there’s a bit in all of us that is homesick for the “good old days.”

Nostalgia is giving readers a “getaway” from today’s hectic pace one story at a time. Simple, huh? Not simple, but certainly a satisfying pursuit. If you’ve decided to try your hand at writing nostalgia, and you have a story that burns within you, there are some things you might consider. Please join me on Thursday when I’ll share my tips.

In the meantime, have you read anything lately that you think might be a Boomer book? Have you written one yourself? Chat away.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

SPRING BREAK Special of the Week: Dirt Cake

It's spring break week for the kiddos, and we had the privilege of having our six-year-old twin grandsons spend a few days with us. It amazing how much they've grown and seeing their little minds at work. Reading, drawing, swinging at golf balls in the back yard (the plastic practice ones), trying new foods. But when I announced we'd be making dirt cake, complete with worms, they said, "No way. People don't eat dirt. And we hate worms."

So while they took their evening baths, I got everything together and invited them to help me make the cake. They wrinkled their noses at the dirt (crushed oreos). "We're not eating that."

"How about a taste and see if you like it."

"Mmm. This is good. But no worms."

"We'll see. I think you'll like them."

So when we'd finished mixing and letting them make individual servings, I opened the bag of gummi worms and passed them out.

Of course, they loved it. And I think you will too. This is a fun dessert to take to a spring dinner, and I've seen it presented in a flower pot (please buy a new one) with plastic flowers "planted" in the top. We skipped the flowers and got right to the eating of our creation.


1 16 oz box Oreos, crushed
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 8 oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
2 small pkg. vanilla instant pudding
2 1/2 cups milk
1 12 oz. container Cool Whip
Gummi worms

Cream butter, cream cheese, and vanilla in large bowl. In separate bowl, blend pudding and milk (I use the blender for this). Add to creamed mixture and mix well. Fold in Cool Whip. Add 1/2 of cookie crumbs to creamed mixture. Put in foil lined flowerpot. Put rest of cookie crumbs on top to look like soil. Add plastic flowers and gummi worms and you’re ready to eat!

We can all use a spring break once in a while. Time to change our routines, look at the world through a child's eyes, try new things, and have a few laughs. The boys have gone home now, but I feel ready to tackle the writing project that I've been dodging for weeks. I'm ready to get my hands dirty and take a few swings at the characters who've wandered into my head.

How about you? Have you tried anything new lately? Ready for spring break?

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Ah . . . glorious spring! Time to clear the cobwebs from my head and soak up some of the warm sunshine. And I'm sorry to say, I’ve been playing hooky from the blog. It has been one long, dreary winter, and it seems I’ve hardly strayed from the house except when the cupboards were bare.

Now that the endless cycle of cold fronts, snow flurries, and northerly winds has broken, I’m trying to make up for lost time. It’s been fabulous going to lunch and talking about writing with friends. On Friday, I headed over to Mardel’s to a book signing where I met the lovely Karen Kingsbury and then ate dinner with a couple of other writers. Max and I went to a Southern Gospel concert Saturday evening, and this afternoon I worked for four hours in the yard.

I raked the detritus of winter from the flower beds and discovered a plethora of green shoots poking through--two kinds of garden lilies, moneywort, dime-sized violet leaves and nice clumps of green that will bear giant daisies in a couple more months. The daffodils, which shot up overnight it seems, have swollen tips, so their happy faces will be here soon. Such a welcome sight after the brown of winter. To celebrate, I made our favorite pasta salad, chock full of fresh veggies. It’s a perfect side dish for grilled chicken. Hope you enjoy it. We did!

Rotini Pasta Salad

I box tri-color Rotini pasta
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
6 green onions, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 orange bell pepper (or red or yellow), chopped
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
1 small can sliced black olives

Cook pasta in 10 cups boiling water to al dente. Don’t overcook. Drain and rinse with cold water. Add to chopped vegetables in an extra large bowl, then toss with dressing. May use bottled Italian, if desired, but I like to make my own.

¼ c. olive oil
½ c. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. dried basil (or 3 tbsp. fresh, if you have it)
1 tsp. dried parsley
¼ tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper

Refrigerate four hours. Stir well and toss with 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese before serving.

Any signs of spring where you live?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Introducing Sarah Sundin and her debut novel, A DISTANT MELODY

Two years ago, I met Sarah Sundin at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. She had a friendly smile and an easy manner, and one evening we found ourselves chatting. While we both agreed that nothing on earth is as sweet as a week in the redwoods, we also lamented the fact we didn’t have a book contract or even one on the horizon. Much to our dismay, no one was interested in the stories we had poured our hearts into.

As we shared our frustrations, we agreed to pray for one another, and as God’s timing would have it, we both received contracts within the year . . . multi-book contracts! I am thrilled for Sarah that A DISTANT MELODY, Book One of the Wings of Glory series, has hit the book shelves! It could not happen to a nicer person OR a more gifted writer.

The book is a delight. Here is the review I will be posting on Amazon and other places around the internet. Below that, you’ll find a bit more about Sarah and where you can purchase her book. Trust me, it’s one you don’t want to miss.

Once in a while a book comes along that wraps its arms around you and so enchants you that you don’t want to the story to end. Sarah Sundin’s debut novel, A Distant Melody, is one of those books. At the height of WWII, a chance meeting brings Allie Miller and Walt Novak together, but Allie’s upcoming marriage, arranged by her wealthy parents, and Walt’s dispatch to pilot a B-17 bomber from an airbase in England, halts the romance before it has time to spark. Only the letters which cross the Atlantic keep the flames burning.

At times I felt I had a front row seat in a Bing Crosby/Frank Sinatra/Betty Hutton movie. The story is warm and witty, with authentic characters and poignant situations. While Walt deals with the tragedy of war, Allie is consumed with wedding preparations to a man she doesn’t love and volunteers for the war effort stateside. Multi-layered with tender subplots, Sarah weaves this lovely story with finely drawn details and finesse.

Did I mention I didn’t want it to end? The good news is that this is the first book of three in the Wings of Glory series. I can’t wait until book two. Highly recommended.

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 debut novel.

Sarah’s blog is chock full of WWII facts and fun memorabilia. You can order her book here and here.

Thanks, Sarah, for allowing me to be part of “launch week.”

My appreciation to Revell (a division of Baker Publishing Group) for providing me with this book for review.