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.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Winning Proposal - A Fantastic Conference

In six short weeks, I'll be headed to Indianapolis for the American Christian Fiction Writers' annual conference. This is one of my favorite events of the entire year. My sweet friend, Cynthia Ruchti - aka debut author and President of ACFW - penned a proposal for this year's gathering. With her permission, I'm sharing it with you. You'll notice that this little advertisement also masquerades quite cleverly as the perfect example of a winning proposal. Plug in the information for your own stunning novel, add a synopsis and a few chapters and you'll be set to meet even the scariest agent or editor! See you in Indie!


Title: ACFW Annual Conference

Tagline: “Serving Him in WORD and deed”

Scriptural Inspiration: “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17, KJV).

Elevator Pitch: Noted throughout the industry as the premier gathering dedicated to Christian fiction, the 2010 ACFW Conference promises high adventure, a healthy dose of suspense, soul-stirring emotional subplots, and a cast of both heroic and quirky characters.

Back Cover Copy: When 500 fiction writers and industry professionals descend on the Hyatt Regency Downtown in Indianapolis Sept 17-20, the fiction world tips on its axis. So many accomplished and apprentice authors gathered under one roof with 1500 others cheering them on from homebase! Watch the plot unfold as editors and agents find the dream project they’ve been looking for, as writers connect with long-lost brothers and sisters, as a flashflood of fiction craft information careens down the canyon of downtown Indianapolis and sweeps eager writers off their perches. Will an agent fall in love with a manuscript? Will writers find critique partners with whom they can build a future? Will the murder mystery novelists draw curious stares from hotel personnel as they plot their next victim’s demise? What surprises await at the gala award ceremony? And how will the TSA employees react to luggage with its normal contents jettisoned so the return traveler can pack home more books from the conference bookstore?

Simply magnificent. Simply inspired. Simply the best Christian fiction conference.
It’s one story you won’t want to miss.

Bio: ACFW is in its ninth year of presenting a quality conference devoted to Christian fiction. Inspired by the founders of ACFW (now ACFW) and their passion to encourage and educate writers of Christian fiction, each successive year’s board members and volunteers have worked to expand the education, insights, inspiration, and camaraderie offered to ACFW members. The conference is an annual highlight for ACFW, an intense microcosm of what happens throughout the year within the organization, as well as an invaluable opportunity for writers to meet face-to-face with highly respected authors, editors, and agents; grow in their knowledge of what it takes to write life-changing Christian fiction; and reflect the love of God in our worship of Him and our service to one another and our readers.

Market Comparison: None

Endorsements: Come see for yourself whose presence and whose sponsorship of the ACFW conference indicate their endorsement of the unparalleled opportunities and unique blend of worshipful/professional atmosphere it offers.

Takeaway Value: Direction for future projects. Connections with industry experts. Spiritual encouragement. Refreshment. Invigoration. A high-quality education in the craft of Christian fiction. Inspiring moments. History-making experiences. The priceless opportunity for fellowship and worship with others also writing to honor God and serve Christ with wholehearted devotion.

Projected date of completion: Ask past attendees and you’ll hear it said that the Lord is never really finished using what happens at an ACFW conference to build them as a writer, build their career, and build them as a person.

If you would like to respond to this proposal, please click on the conference pages link on the ACFW website. 

Pressing on for His glory,

Cynthia said it better than I ever could. If you've thought about attending a writers' conference, this may be the one you've been waiting for. 

How about you? Any readers/writers out there who will be at ACFW?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Art of Appreciation

Today I received what I believe is my first fan letter (email) from a complete stranger. Yes, I've received many lovely notes from people I know - childhood friends, writing friends, friends of friends. Indeed, it is more than my heart can hold sometimes when I receive a sweet message, a surprise review, or a shout out on Twitter of FaceBook. Folks are generous with their praise. I've been blessed a thousand times over.

So what made the note today special? It came from a young mom who found Chasing Lilacs in her local library and she picked it up thinking she might have time to read a bit on vacation - something she has little time for as she has four very young children. She confessed when she wrote that she'd never written an author before and went on to say she loved the book and could not put it down. This touched me for a couple of reasons. She took the initiative to find out how to contact me AND she emailed me. This no doubt busy mom took time from her day to tell me she appreciated my book. She didn't have to, but she did.

I'm tickled to have a fan (oh, how I've dreamed of this day!), but I am also humbled. Feeling a little sheepish. How many times have I thought - I should send Aunt Gabby a card and tell her how much I enjoyed her pickled rhubarb? Or thought of sending a birthday card/anniversary card/gee-I-miss-you card to a friend I haven't seen in a while. You know what I'm talking about. A quick email that just says "hey, how are you?" A funny Hallmark greeting that would brighten someone's day or let them know you appreciated them for no reason other than because they exist. I don't do it nearly often enough.

I know why I don't. I'm rushed. Forgetful. And selfish.

I want to do better at the art of appreciation. Capture those good intentions and send them off before they have time to become only a memory of what I should've done. And I want to be worthy of having a fan who takes the time to say "thanks for the good read."

Monday, July 19, 2010

CHASING LILACS Book Launch and Party

I'd been planning the day for a year - the book launch of Chasing Lilacs. It was a day I wanted to share with the folks who've walked beside me since the beginning of my writing journey. And having it in the Texas Panhandle where the book is set was a perfect choice.

AND because of the era of the story, the party / launch / bash / signing was a salute to the fifties.

How many of these do you remember?
Bubble Up
Lemonhead Candy
Clove chewing gum
BlackJack gun
IBC Root Beer
Nehi soda pop (grape anyone?)
Bit 'O Honey
Double Bubble

You get the idea. Like any great party, the preparation was intense, but filled with anticipation. I was fortunate to have an amazing team of people who worked behind the scenes filling various roles. Here's a brief run-down:

Max - hubby extraordinaire who listened tirelessly to my musings about the launch and did more than his share of work.

The two Gaylas - one who ran the bookstore and headed up the "food" committee, the other who did a superb job with publicity and getting the word out.

Pastor Mike and Betty who graciously allowed me to have the launch at the Community Worship Center.

Andy, Drake, and Nash who took on various roles from set-up to clean-up to serving up ice-cold root beer to helping guests sign up for the door prizes.

Allison who lent her creative hand in making the gift baskets.

Writing is a lonely life, but having a book launch takes an army, and I'm blessed to have had the best soldiers in the hemisphere for launching Chasing Lilacs. Thanks guys for all you did.

And thank you, friends, relatives, and book lovers who shared this day with me. A special thanks to Donna, who had a pastel drawing created by an artist in Denver to commemorate my first book. It's beautiful and dear to me.

By the way, in terms of success, we think around 75 or 80 people came to the launch, and Gayla sold 98 books through the bookstore, but the success to me was sharing time with precious friends who sat at the tables, laughing and reminiscing. That was worth celebrating!

Thank you, readers, for bearing with me. I know I'm lagging behind in bringing you pictures of the events I've attended in the past month. Up next will be my trip to St. Louis to the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS).

Until then, why not dish up a scoop of vanilla ice cream, pour some root beer over it, and take a trip back to the good old days. I know you want to.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

ACFW Carol Award Finalists

ACFW has just announced the finalists for the 2010 ACFW Carol Awards (formerly Book of the Year). These awards recognize excellence in Christian fiction in a variety of categories, and represent fiction titles released in 2009.

Here are this year’s finalists:

Debut Author

Bonnie Grove - Talking to the Dead (David C. Cook Publishing)
Liz Johnson - The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn (Steeple Hill)
Kirk Outerbridge - Eternity Falls (Marcher Lord Press)
Jill Eileen Smith - Michal (Revell)
Dan Walsh - The Unfinished Gift (Revell)

Contemporary Novella
6 Finalists due to a tie

Barbara Cameron – One Child (Thomas Nelson)
Barbara Cameron – When Winter Comes (Thomas Nelson)
Debra Clopton – A Mule Hollow Match (Steeple Hill)
Susan May Warren – The Great Christmas Bowl (Tyndale House)
Beth Wiseman – A Change of Heart (Thomas Nelson)
Beth Wiseman – A Choice to Forgive (Thomas Nelson)

Historical Novella

Victoria Bylin – Home Again (Steeple Hill)
Vickie McDonough – A Breed Apart (Barbour Publishing)
Vickie McDonough – Beloved Enemy (Barbour Publishing)
Janet Tronstad - Christmas Bells for Dry Creek (Steeple Hill)
Carrie Turansky - A Shelter in the Storm (Barbour Publishing)

Long Contemporary
6 Finalists due to a tie

Christina Berry - The Familiar Stranger (Moody Publishers)
Mary Ellis - A Widow's Hope (Harvest House Publishers)
Joyce Magnin - The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow (Abingdon Press)
Susan Meissner - White Picket Fences (Waterbrook Press)
Marlo Schalesky- If Tomorrow Never Comes (Multnomah)
Susan May Warren - Nothing But Trouble (Tyndale House)

Long Contemporary Romance

Candace Calvert - Critical Care (Tyndale House)
Denise Hunter - Seaside Letters (Thomas Nelson)
Jenny B. Jones - Just Between You and Me (Thomas Nelson)
Beth Wiseman - Plain Promise (Thomas Nelson)
Cindy Woodmsall - The Hope of Refuge (Waterbrook Press)


A.K. Arenz - The Case of the Mystified M.D. (Sheaf House)
Mindy Starns Clark - Under the Cajun Moon (Harvest House Publishers)
Darlene Franklin - A String of Murders (Heartsong Mysteries)
S. Dionne Moore - Polly Dent Loses Grip (Heartsong Mysteries)
Janice Thompson writing as Janice Hanna - Pushing up Daisies (Heartsong Mysteries)

Long Historical

Deeanne Gist - A Bride in the Bargain (Bethany House)
Robin Lee Hatcher - Fit To Be Tied (Zondervan)
Maureen Lang - Look to the East (Tyndale House)
Siri Mitchell - Love's Pursuit (Bethany House)
Allison Pittman - Stealing Home (Multnomah)

Long Historical Romance
8 Finalists due to a tie

Amanda Cabot - Paper Roses (Revell)
Mary Connealy - Cowboy Christmas (Barbour Publishing)
Mary Connealy - Montana Rose (Barbour Publishing)
Laura Frantz - The Frontiersman's Daughter (Revell)
Ann Gabhart - The Believer (Revell)
Julie Lessman - A Passion Denied (Revell)
Janice Thompson writing as Janice Hanna - Love Finds You in Poetry, Texas (Summerside Press)
Kathleen Y’Barbo - The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper (Waterbrook Press)

Short Contemporary

Debra Clopton - His Cowgirl Bride (Steeple Hill)
Myra Johnson - Autumn Rains (Heartsong Presents)
Vickie McDonough - A Wagonload of Trouble (Heartsong Presents)
Mae Nunn - A Texas Ranger's Family (Steeple Hill)
Glynna Sirpless writing as Glynna Kaye - Dreaming of Home (Steeple Hill)

Short Contemporary Suspense
6 Finalists due to a tie

Jill Elizabeth Nelson - Evidence of Murder (Steeple Hill)
Sandra Robbins - Final Warning (Steeple Hill)
Virginia Smith - Murder at Eagle Summit (Steeple Hill)
Virginia Smith - Scent of Murder (Steeple Hill)
Jenness Walker - Double Take (Steeple Hill)
Lenora Worth - Code of Honor (Steeple Hill)

Short Historical

Lyn Cote - Her Patchwork Family (Steeple Hill)
Laurie Alice Eakes - The Glassblower (Heartsong Presents)
Laurie Kingery - The Outlaw's Lady (Steeple Hill)
Lynette Sowell - All That Glitters (Heartsong Presents)
Dan Walsh - The Unfinished Gift (Revell)

Speculative (includes Science Fiction, Fantasy, Allegory)
6 Finalists due to a tie

Kirk Outerbridge - Eternity Falls (Marcher Lord Press)
Donita K. Paul - The Vanishing Sculptor (Waterbrook Press)
Steve Rzasa - The Word Reclaimed (Marcher Lord Press)
Stuart Vaughn Stockton – Starfire (Marcher Lord Press)
Fred Warren - The Muse (Splashdown Books)
Jill Williamson - By Darkness Hid (Marcher Lord Press)


Terri Blackstock – Intervention (Zondervan)
Colleen Coble - Lonestar Secrets (Thomas Nelson)
Brandilyn Collins – Exposure (Zondervan)
Harry Kraus - Salty Like Blood (Howard/Simon & Schuster)
DiAnn Mills - Breach of Trust (Tyndale House)

Women’s Fiction
7 Finalists due to a tie

Julie Carobini - Sweet Waters (B&H Publishing)
Kathryn Cushman – Leaving Yesterday (Bethany House)
Sara Evans & Rachel Hauck - Sweet By and By (Thomas Nelson)
Rene Gutteridge & Cheryl McKay - Never the Bride (Waterbrook Press)
Deborah Raney - Yesterday's Embers (Howard/Simon & Schuster)
Deborah Raney - Above All Things (Steeple Hill)
Lisa Wingate - The Summer Kitchen (New American Library/Penguin)

Young Adult

Shelley Adina - Who Made You a Princess? (Hachette FaithWords)
Brandilyn & Amberly Collins - Always Watching (Zondervan)
Jenny B. Jones - I'm So Sure (Thomas Nelson)
Jenny B. Jones - So Not Happening (Thomas Nelson)
Booker T. Mattison - Unsigned Hype (Revell)

The Carol Awards will be presented at ACFW's Conference in Indianapolis, September 17-20. There's still time to register at


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chasing Lilacs featured this week

Hello Friends,

Just wanted to let you know that Chasing Lilacs is being offered in a giveaway at my friend, Margaret Daley's, blog this week. Read about it and enter here.

Also, the folks at Novel Journey are hosting me today and asked some great questions. Find out which childhood book first made an impression on me, get the scoop on my journey to publication, and more. For those of you who don't know, Novel Journey has twice been named One of Writer's Digest 101 most valuable websites for writers. It's a great place to learn about some of today's best writers and their advice to other writers. Please stop in and say hi.

In the meantime, I'm perfecting my game on the Wii with Grandson # 1 who is visiting this week. Fun times.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Confessions of an ACFW Conference Junkie

I'm a guest today on the ACFW Conference Blog. It's no secret that I love the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference. Come see why on today's installation of the ACFW Blog.