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.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Much to be thankful for

Before this month of traditional thankfulness slips away, here are a few things for which I'm grateful.

My dear hubby, Max, who somehow, year after year, plods along with me, taking all my quirks in stride. And this fall, he scarcely batted an eye when I announced that I wanted our new entry doors to be painted red. Five coats of paint and many moons later, he and my son, James, installed them. Don't they say, "Come on in! You are welcome here."


And the house was full for Thanksgiving, three of our kids and their kids, Max's dear sister and her family. So happy to have them all gather for our Thanksgiving dinner.

The kids had their own fun at this end of the dining room.
Our Thanksgiving table
And we didn't do traditional turkey this year, but the Cajun creation of Turducken. Strange and wonderful aromas wafted through the house as we set the table and then feasted on way too many good foods.

Close up of the Turducken
You know you've had a good time when you forget to get out the camera and line everyone up for family pics. I didn't take many this year, but couldn't resist taking a few of this little monkey (who usually is more cooperative and will look at the camera).

Isn't that an angelic smile?

A blessed year. God has given me a wonderful family. What more could I possibly ask for?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Random Thoughts on Books Alive! 2010

The authors from Books Alive! 2010 
It always takes me awhile to process an event, so even though I've officially been home from Jefferson for three days, the memories keep bubbling up. In the end, the Books Alive! weekend embodied all the things I hold dear. I think you'll understand after reading my random thoughts.

HISTORY: First of all, Jefferson itself is richly steeped in history - established before the Civil War and the only river port in Texas outside the Gulf coast. Before the railroad came to town, Jefferson was where cotton bales were loaded on riverboats to be carried to New Orleans. Interestingly enough, the Books Alive! festival also has a New Orleans connection. During Hurricane Katrina, many folks came to Jefferson to ride out the storm and ultimately found themselves with no homes to go back to. The Methodist church (founded in 1844) took in the victims, turned Sunday school rooms into bedrooms and the fellowship hall became the dining hall. The town rallied around, but in the end, the church had used up its financial resources. Kathy Patrick was among those who helped. As the owner of Beauty and the Book Hair Salon and founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, she decided to call upon her author friends to start a book festival. She coupled her passion for literacy and helping others to bring in some added revenue for her church. It's not a large event number wise, but in spirit it has no comparison, and the money raised allows the church to continue its efforts to reach out to the poor in their community.
Margaret & Sharon came from W Virginia

FELLOWSHIP: A feeling of camaraderie infused the event as authors and readers gathered together around tables, sharing their stories, and being real. There is nothing quite so sweet as sitting by new friends, finding out what books they like and what makes them tick. I had the pleasure of eating with two ladies from West Virginia, meeting a sweet couple from Georgia, and quite a few spots in Texas were represented as well.

HOMEADE FOOD. Wow! Pastor Allison prepared what I believe is the best lasagna I've ever eaten - full of healthy veggies, whole grain pasta, and yes, tasty chunks of meatballs. Salad. Fresh cakes and pies. And on Saturday, a mashed potato bar, which was a first for me. And I'm almost certain there was real cream in those potatoes.

Sam Bracken, Kathy Patrick, & Echo Garrett
STORY TELLING: We came from far and wide. Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Las Vegas, Nashville. Sort of a literary symphony to the ears to hear the all of the regional dialects or twang as we say in Oklahoma. All had wonderful stories to share.

Sam Bracken and Echo Garrett, co-authors of The Orange Duffel Bag, told of their longing to make a difference in the world by sharing Sam's tragic beginnings in life and how he overcame a life of abuse and neglect. But they don't stop there. The "7 Rules for the Road" portion of the book gives a way to live life that is not only meaningful to the individual but embraces others in radical ways. An amazing story.

Missy Buchanan, Judy Christie, & Karla Morton
Texas State Poet Laureate Karla K. Morton entertained us with readings from her books, and on several occasions, I had to tell myself to breathe because of the beauty in her words and expressions. And she wore the cutest, funkiest clothes with her cowboy boots - utterly delightful.

Me w/ Marybeth Whalen & Lisa Wingate
Twelve authors in all participated. We had author panels, book signings, lots of chatter and picture taking, and at the end of the day, we felt like a family. The prayer shawls the Methodist women gave us reminded us that we are all part of God's family. Thank you, ladies, for the work of your hands, and also for the cookbook! I left with a full heart and some great memories.

First United Methodist Church (estab 1844)

WORSHIP: Books Alive! ended on Sunday morning with worship at the Methodist church - the perfect final curtain for one of the best times I've had in ages. Does your women's ministry have an annual retreat? Books Alive would be a great opportunity for your group to take a little road trip, stay in one of the many fabulous B and B's in Jefferson, and be refreshed and inspired. Ask me about it - you won't be disappointed.

At the lovely Delta Street Inn

Thursday, November 11, 2010


My dad (2nd from right) during the 1930s
My dad grew up in Oklahoma during the Great Depression, the second of six children. Raised on a farm, he has talked about doing without and once marveled at how his mother could feed a family of eight with only one can of salmon. He was too young to enter WWII, but after he graduated from high school, he did a three year hitch in the US Army and was stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska a good part of that time. One of his favorite memories was shaking hands with Gen. Eisenhower. He married my mom when he got out of the Army, but when I was six months old, was recalled to serve in Korea. I've tried to find the picture of him there (I know my sister copied it and gave it to me, but I can't find it - sigh).

My dad today working in his shop
Over the years my dad's been a hero to me in many ways, but fighting in a war and not knowing whether he would ever see my mom or me again must have haunted many of his nights as he built bridges and tramped through the rice patties of Korea. I really can't imagine. A simple thank you seems frail and inadequate. I only know that I'm grateful that he survived not only the Depression, but also the rigors of war.

Brett on CG Cutter off the coast of Alaska

I have a present day hero as well.
Our son, Brett, has been in the US Coast Guard for fifteen years. His cutter assisted in the Indonesian tsunami relief; he's served a year in Bahrain, pursued pirate ships off the coasts of Africa and Belize, and stepped foot on nearly every continent. He leads a life of adventure, but I know, too, that he is doing a worthy work, something for which I, as a regular citizen, have a poor concept of. I don't tell him thank you often enough.

For veterans and troops across our land and those overseas, I salute you. May God bestow on you the crown of glory for your sacrifice and loyalty to our great country.

Monday, November 8, 2010

HATTERAS GIRL by Alice Wisler - Perfect Beach Read Even in November

With Alice in St. Louis
I'm pleased today to introduce you to my friend, Alice Wisler's latest book, Hatteras Girl. I got a sneak peek at the advanced reader copy of this book when I met Alice for the first time last summer at ICRS in St. Louis. She was up for a Christy Award and then stayed to sign books in her booth at Bethany House. We got to hang out for a while, and it's always fun for me to know the "author" behind the book. Alice is witty, laughs easily, and when we first met, it felt like we'd been friends forever. And that's a little like what her books are like: friends you'd like to have a cup of coffee with or have over for the weekend. 

Here's my official review of Hatteras Girl: 

I’ve been a fan of Alice Wisler’s highly entertaining novels since her first one, Rain Song, came out. She really packs a wallop into her characters, giving them not only quirks, but fears and hopes and dreams, and she’s not afraid to throw a few unpleasant curves their way. In Hatteras Girl, Jackie Donovan dreams of finding the perfect man to marry and one day being the owner of the Bailey Place—a Bed and Breakfast she’s loved since she spent many happy childhood days there.

The only problem is that all of her dates turn into disasters, and the B & B is way out of her price range. Jackie is a features journalist in her Outer Banks beach town, and her assignments with different business owners brings out the local flavor and adds to the plot twists. It made me want to call the airline and schedule a visit right now. The story is sprinkled with a cast of characters who dance off the page: everyone from her Aunt Sheerly and Uncle Ropey to Buck at the Sunnyside Grille to her best friend Minnie whose five-year-old son is more than a handful. And romance for Jackie turns up at the most unexpected time.

It’s a fun book, not too quirky, with plenty of tender moments that had me rooting for Jackie, her friends, and her family. Alice’s voice is lively, her story engaging. Hatteras Girl is the perfect “beach” read – set in the beckoning Outer Banks, it’s a great take-along book for your next excursion.  

Hatteras Girl is the featured book for this week on the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance so here's a bit more about the book and Alice. 

 Hatteras Girl
Bethany House; Original edition (October 1, 2010)
Alice Wisler

Alice J. Wisler is an author, public speaker, advocate, and fundraiser. She has been a guest on several radio and TV programs to promote her self-published cookbooks, Slices of Sunlight and Down the Cereal Aisle. She graduated from Eastern Mennonite University and has traveled the country in jobs that minister to people. Alice was raised in Japan and currently resides in Durham, North Carolina.

Facts about Alice
* Born in Osaka, Japan and lived in Japan for 18 years
* Went to Kyoto International School and Canadian Academy
* Majored in Social Work and graduated in 1983 from Eastern Mennonite University
* Worked at a group home for disadvantaged kids outside of Philadelphia
* Taught English and Culture Orientation at a refugee camp in the Philippines
* Taught English as a Second Language in Japan
* Speaks and teaches on Writing the Heartache
* Has three kids on earth, and one in Heaven
* Recently got married to Carl on 2/7/09


There are two things twenty-nine-year-old Jackie Donovan asks God for: an honest, wonderful man to marry, and to own a bed-and-breakfast in the Outer Banks region. In the meantime, Jackie works for Lighthouse Views magazine, writing articles about other local business owners, and intrepidly goes on the blind dates set up by her well-meaning but oh-so-clueless relatives.

There's one specific property Jackie dreams of purchasing: the Bailey Place, a fabulous old home where Jackie spent many happy childhood afternoons, a place that has now fallen into disrepair because of its outrageous price tag.

When Jackie meets handsome Davis Erickson, who holds the key to the Bailey Place, Jackie is sure God has answered both her prayers. But as Jackie learns some disturbing details about Davis's past, she begins to question her own motivation. Will she risk her long-held dreams to find out the truth?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Hatteras Girl, go HERE.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

BOOKS ALIVE! in Jefferson, Texas

Sam Bracken & Echo Garret with THE ORANGE DUFFLE BAG
Press Release for BOOKS ALIVE!
Jefferson, TX - Here is the following official program for the 5th Anniversary of BOOKS ALIVE, a Christian and Inspirational Book Festival, a fundraiser for her church, The First United Methodist Church of Jefferson, Texas for their mission and outreach programs. All ticket money and donations go to the church to support the ministries of First UMC and are tax deductible.
Friday - November 12th
7:00 p.m. - Join us for an intimate dinner with the authors. All authors will be introduced and the dinner is homemade by the good ladies of the church with the event in the church's Fellowship Hall. Tickets are $25 per person.
Saturday, November 13th
9:00 a.m. Pastor Allison Byerley will give our opening prayer. Kathy L. Patrick will the Moderator of the authors!.
9:15 - 10:30 a.m. Texas Poet Laureate, Karla K. Morton of "Redefining Beauty", Author Judy Christie of "Goodness Gracious Green" and the "Hurry Less, Worry More" series, and Author,Missy Buchanan of "Living With Purpose in a Worn Out Body: Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults" and "Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms!
10:30 a.m Break to visit author autograph rooms and vendors.
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 Noon Keynote Speakers, Sam Bracken and Echo Garrett of "My Orange Duffel Bag"!
Noon Luncheon
1:30 p.m - 2:45 p.m. Authors, Carla Stewart of "Chasing Lilacs", Mary Beth Whalen of "The Mailbox", and Lisa Wingate of "Beyond Summer"!
2:45 p.m. Break to attend author autograph rooms and vendors.
3:15 p.m. - 4: 30 p.m Authors, Gloria P. Jaggers of "Give me a Broom and To Let Me Sweep the Cobweb of My Mind" and Kathy L. Patrick of "The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life".
4:30 p.m. Closing Prayer by Pastor Allison Byerley and author autograph rooms and vendors will stay open until 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 14th
11:00 a.m. Join us for Sunday worship service with special author speakers and music.
All events held at The First United Methodist Church, 305 West Henderson in Jefferson, Texas. Friday and Saturday events in the Fellowship Hall, Sunday in the church!
Tickets are $50 for the weekend or $25 for Friday night, $25 for all day Saturday including lunch per person. Tickets for students are $10. Scholarships for the event are available, please contact the church and we welcome book clubs, church and youth groups. Those who pre-register and pre-pay for the event will receive a FREE BOOK!
Checks may be made payable to the First United Methodist Church of Jefferson and sent to:
First United Methodist Church
Attn: Books Alive Tickets
P.O. Box 457
Jefferson, Texas 75657
or email Pastor Allison Byerley at or call 903-665-3268 for more information.
All authors will have books available for purchase and other vendors will be attending. Come to historic Jefferson, Texas and support literacy and help a worthwhile cause while you are visiting our fair city!
Photo of Keynote Speakers and Authors, Sam Bracken and Echo Garrett of
Contact: Kathy L. Patrick
Beauty and the Book
608 North Polk Street
Jefferson, Texas 75657

This is where I'll be this next weekend - I'm looking forward to a delightful time with authors who are inspiring others with their gifts of writing, speaking, and encouragement. There may still be a few tickets left if you're looking for a fun, uplifting weekend in historic Jefferson. It's worth the drive just to breathe in the ambiance of this hamlet in the Piney Woods of East Texas. I can't wait, and as always, I'm excited about meeting new readers and plan to come away with a bevy of new friends. Here's what I had to say on the Pulpwood Queens blog last week. I'm about the fourth post down. 

Join me tomorrow for my review of Alice Wisler's newest book, Hatteras Girl.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Introducing the lovely C.S. Lakin


And it's my pleasure to introduce you to an author who has just exploded on the publishing scene. You see, a while back I started hearing the name Susanne Lakin pop up on the blogs and networks I frequent. She and my friend, Camille Eide, were two of the three finalists for the Zondervan/Mount Herman contest in 2009. Susanne came out the winner, but Camille later told me what a gracious and lovely person Susanne was, and that her writing was stellar. I'd read Camille's entry, which was amazing, so I knew that Susanne must be a very special writer.

Fast forward one year: I met Susanne, who has chosen C.S. Lakin as her author name, in September at the ACFW conference. Lovely, sweet lady, who I'm glad to call friend. Her debut book, Someone to Blame, released October 1, and is a contemporary psychological mysteryThe writing is lyrical, the subject about the loss of a child and the surprising resolution of a family stricken with grief. I hope you'll check out this debut author.


In the wake of heartrending family
tragedies, Matt and Irene Moore move
with their fourteen-year-old daughter,
Casey, to a small town. Their goal is to
get far away from the daily reminders
that leave each of them raw and guilt-
ridden. Their hope is to find redemption,
repair, and renewal. Instead, the threads
of their relationship unravel even more.

Breakers is a small community
perched on the rocky coast of the Pacific
Northwest. Its cold isolation seems to
mirror the hearts of the family seeking
solace there. As they settle into their new
life, old grief settles with them. They've
once more set the stage for calamity.

Into this mix comes Billy Thurber, a
young drifter with his own conflicts,
whose life unexpectedly entangles with
the Moores’. His arrival in Breakers parallels
a rash of hateful and senseless
crimes, and soon the whole town – eager
for someone to blame – goes after Thurber
with murderous intent. Out of this
dangerous chaos, however, the Moores
find unexpected grace and healing in a
most unlikely way.

A bit more about C.S. Lakin: 
C. S. Lakin writes novels in numerous genres, focusing mostly on contemporary psychological mysteries and allegorical fantasy. Her novel, Someone to Blame (contemporary fiction), won the 2009 Zondervan First Novel competition 2009, with a publication date of October 2010. Lakin’s three fantasy novels in the Gates of Heaven series has been contracted with AMG-Living Ink Publishers. The first book in the series, The Wolf of Tebron, released July 2010. Her contemporary mystery, Innocent Little Crimes, made the top one hundred finalists in the 2009 Amazon Breakout Novel Award contest, earning her a Publisher’s Weekly review that noted her book was “a page-turning thrill-ride that will have readers holding their breaths the whole way through.”

Lakin grew up collating television scripts for her screenwriter mother. As an adult, Susanne assisted in developing series for television, and while raising two daughters and running a bed and breakfast inn in northern California wrote her first three novels and a cookbook. She currently works as a freelance copy editor and writing mentor, specializing in helping authors prepare their books for publication. She is a member of The Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network), CEN (Christian Editor Network), San Francisco Editors Guild, CAN (Christian Authors Network—regular blogger), ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), and two regional writers’ groups.

Susanne has just finished her ninth and tenth novels and started another psychological mystery. A very busy lady. And a delightful writer. So whether you like a little mystery or lean toward fantasy, C.S. Lakin is a name you want to remember. Find her here and sign up for her e-newsletter to get the latest news from her publishing journey. 

So, on National Authors' Day, who's your favorite author?