Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Review: Murder by Mushroom

Ever been to a church potluck? If you have, you know they are a delight. I love sampling all kinds of fun dishes and treats. And all those desserts. Yum! After reading Murder by Mushroom, you might look at those potlucks a little differently.

Jackie Hoffner comes to her church’s latest potluck with a casserole, determined to avoid the harassment she usually gets when bringing a bag of chips. Two days later, one of the older women in the church who took some home dies from mushroom poisoning. In an effort to get herself off the suspect list, Jackie takes a week off work to investigate who would want to kill this woman.

In the process everyone becomes a suspect. She’s so desperate to clear herself, that she’s willing to consider that anybody could have killed the woman. And that leads to all kinds of chaos as she cuts a swath through town with her questions.

The setting is small town Kentucky, and the story is populated with a host of quirky characters. As a newcomer to town, Jackie steps on all kinds of toes as she searches between the lines of gossip to find a suspect. In the process she learns a few hard lessons about the reputation Christians have and the problem of gossip.

One thing I enjoyed about this book was the way that the characters in it were real – there were no perfect Christians. You know the saying, the church may have been perfect, then I joined. It’s easy to put on a perfect persona around friends at church and hide the real challenges and issues. It’s equally easy to become judgmental of others. This book provides an example of what can happen in both situations.

It was a fun, quick read… perfect for the end of summer.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Swimming the Summer Away

I love our community. We've got great neighbors, many who have become friends and keep any thoughts of moving at bay.

But the best feature of our neighborhood during the summer is the community pool. We spend a lot of time there when the weather cooperates. And the kids and I have the tans to show it -- don't worry, we use lots of sunscreen, too.

Last week the kids had swimming lessons. Abigail has been fortunate to have the same instructor for four summers. Ms. Pat is fantastic with kids -- pushes them to be better but not to the point they'll drown. So little Abigail can now swim a good 20 yards in crawl and back crawl, has learned the elementary backstroke and sidestroke, is learning the breastroke and butterfly. Swim team here we come! Woohoo. By next summer she may be ready, if we can find a place to practice during the winter.

Jonathan was a hoot. His lesson was shorter, and he was much more vocal about wanting to do only what he wanted to do. But Friday during the last lesson, it all clicked. He now thinks he can swim. And really, he does pretty well for a three year old. Face in for a second, arms and legs moving. Then he looks up grins so big you wonder how he avoids swallowing the whole pool, and starts spinning in a circle.

I love summer!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Review: Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture

This is one of the most challenging parenting books I have read. And I’ve read a few. From Dobson to Leman to Shepherding a Child’s Heart to Babywise to Tricia Goyer’s Generation NeXt Parenting to Stormie Omartian’s Power of a Praying Mom, I’ve read a ton. Each have valuable things to take away from them.

But Mary DeMuth’s new book is making me think. So much that my brain almost hurts --- but in a very good way. You see, I’d noticed some of the cultural shifts she’s talking about without knowing the lens to look through. The term emergent or postmodern is thrown around quite a bit right now, but few take the time to define it. And as a conservative Christian, I wasn’t even sure who to ask.

Enter this book.

I had no idea what to expect, but much like Tricia Goyer does with Generation NeXt Parenting, Mary invites us to come alongside her as she wrestles with the best way to prepare her kids for the culture around them.

How do we be in the world but not of it? She goes as far as to say it’s time to exegete the culture, as we would scripture, and search for the ways that God is revealing Himself through this culture. As recently returned missionaries from France, the epitome of a postmodern culture, Mary brings some hard-won real-world experience to the book.

Here are a few tidbits on the postmodern thinker:
· Experience is key. So experiencing Jesus is richer than our oftentimes overly intellectual pursuit of Him. It’s a question of knowing Him v. knowing about Him.
· I-don’t-have-all-the-answers. In parenting that means that we can be open with our children and explore the world together.
· There is an emphasis on community. Thus, work alongside your kids in the community, a messy but satisfying experience.
· Consumerism isn’t good. And as we turn our hearts from consuming to gratitude our kids learn to enjoy each other and enjoy the free beauty of God’s creation among other things. See p. 18-20.

Postmoderns are also deeply skeptical, don’t believe in absolute truth, and like to ask lots of questions. As Christians we believe Christ is the absolute truth, but how do we communicate that to our kids in a way that they not only embrace it, but are able to communicate that truth to those around them?

The first section of the book addresses the differences between modern and post-modern worldviews mixed with ideas for how those general themes apply to life. Then Mary turns to eight ways that as parents we can use some of those post-modern leanings to lead our children into a walk with Christ that will stand without us to prop them up.

This book is full of thought-provoking questions and applications. I can’t wait to hear some of your thoughts about this book. So get out there and read it, so we can chat about it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Authentic Parenting with Mary DeMuth

This week I am participating in a blog tour on Mary DeMuth's new book Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture. Tomorrow, I'll post my thoughts on the book -- in a nutshell: very thought-provoking. But today, you get to hear from Mary. Enjoy!

Why did you write this book? Aren’t there already a bazillion parenting books out there?

Yes, I do believe there are a bazillion. I always struggle when I write a parenting book because I feel so darned small and weak. I don’t parent perfectly. But, we did live through two and half years in France, the hotbed of hyper-postmodernity. We had to learn how to parent our kids in that culture. It occurred to me that the things we learned would be helpful to American parents too.

What does postmodern mean? And why should it matter to parents?

Postmodernism is the waiting room between what used to be a modern worldview and what will be. According to several postmodern scholars, we’re in a shift right now, leaving modern ideas behind, but what we are shifting to is not yet fully defined.

Postmoderns believe that rationalism and/or more education doesn’t necessarily create a better society. They typically don’t embrace the notion of absolute truth, though they reach for the transcendent. They are skeptical, and often question whether science is something to be embraced or feared.

The question for parents is how will we mine the current worldview, even as it shifts? What in it can we embrace as biblical? What is not biblical? What I’ve seen in the church is a fearful adherence to what is familiar. So we cling to modern ideas, even though they may not be biblical and shun postmodern ideas even when they might be biblical. Our children will meet this shifting worldview no matter what our opinion of it is.

How can a parent help their children prepare for the world outside their door?

Become a conversational parent. Talk to your kids. Listen. Share your story.
Dare to believe that God has much to teach you through your kids. Be humble enough to learn from them.

Create a haven for your kids, an oasis in your home that protects, supports, and gives kids space to be themselves. Take seriously the mandate that you are responsible for the soul-nurturing of your children.

Teach your children to joyfully engage their world, while holding tightly to Jesus’ hand. Teaching this comes primarily from modeling it in your own life. Do you engage your neighbors? Are you more interested in God’s kingdom than your own?
Admit your failures openly with your children, showing how much you need Jesus to live your daily life.

You are the first to admit that being authentic might require a parent to apologize after an angry outburst. Are you saying that authentic parents don’t always have it all together as some would like to think?

Yep! We are all frail, needy humans. If we present ourselves as perfect parents, never failing, always doing this correctly, we show our children we have no need of Jesus. We also set up a standard of perfection—that to be a Christian, one has to be perfect. This can lead to our children creating elaborate facades or hiding behind masks. I’d rather have my children see that even mommies make mistakes. Even mommies need Jesus every single day.

You talk about the twin values of engagement and purity. What does that mean?

Many parents subconsciously believe that true parenting means protection at any cost. We received a lot of flak for putting our children in French schools because the atmosphere there wasn’t exactly nurturing. Believe me, the decision was excruciating. But through it all, I realized that Jesus calls us all to be engaged in the culture we live in, yet not to be stained by it. That’s the beauty of engagement and purity.

Abraham understood this. After God told him to leave everything and venture to a new place, he obeyed: “From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD” (Genesis 12:8). Oswald Chambers elaborates: “Bethel is the symbol of communion with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abraham pitched his tent between the two.” As parents journeying alongside our children through a postmodern world, this concept of pitching our tent between communion with God and engagement in the world should encourage us.

To visit other blogs participating in this tour, click on the links below:
A Cup of Cold Water
Aspire2 Blog
Be a Barnabas
Dawn Morton Nelson
Deborah Gyapong
Dobsons 411
Eleanor Joyce
Good Word Editing
Preacher’s Daughter
Sky-High View
The Master’s Artist
The Surrendered Scribe
Through My Window

The Moments that Count

Ever have those moments where life seems to conspire against you? A host of demands intersect and leave your head spinning as you try to keep all the balls in the air?

I'm there. Boy, am I ever.

I've got three book deadlines in August. Yikes! I know I am incredibly blessed to even have a contract, let alone four...but next time I'll try to spread the deadlines out a bit. Sandhill Dreams is due August 15th -- it's done...but I'll probably look through it one more time. Then the Deadly Exposure revision is due August 27th. I've stared at the computer screen for two days and haven't made it past page six. I'm having serious creative blocks...and a touch of fatigue with the book. I've reworked it so many times, I'm dreading this..even though I know it will be better. Then there are the galleys for Canteen Dreams. I'll have 7-14 days to look at proofs one last time to catch typos before it goes to press. Yeah! And yikes!

Oh, and then there's our vacation in the middle of all that. I'd love to leave my laptop at home, but I doubt that will happen.

But life does not consist merely of writing. Oh, no. I have kids, a husband, a puppy, a house, a car, ACFW board work, etc. Stuff. And sometimes in the clutter of life, I feel like God gets lost.

Not that He's gone anywhere. But in the busyness and distractions of life and deadlines, the quiet time with Him evaporates. It's one of those paradoxes. I know that I need Him. Desperately. Like the air I breathe. That without Him, I am and can accomplish nothing. Without Him my words merely take up air or hard drive space. My actions are worthless and improperly motivated. My relationships become a chore rather than a pleasure.

And I hate that.

I want to hold loosely to things, and tightly to God. To step back and inhale the scent of His Presence. To be filled to overflowing with Him. It's only then that everything else will fall into place.

So this morning, while a friend watches the kids so I can write, I think I'll start with time in my Bible. And maybe then this frantic feeling will begin to lift.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Review: Abomination

Colleen Coble's first hardback is hitting stores now -- Woohoo! It's even on display at Barnes and Noble. So look for it -- it's a fantastic book!

A serial killer is loose in Upper Peninsula, Michigan, punishing people for their sins. One of his victims escaped with her life and small daughter. Now the race is on to identify the serial killer before he can finish his task.

I am a huge fan of Colleen Coble’s books, and Abomination is the best yet. One of the reasons I love her books is that she constantly writes stronger with more intricate plots in each book. She cares so deeply about the craft of writing and delighting her readers with a story that will absorb them.

Abomination is Colleen’s first hardcover and represents a subtle shift. In it, she returns to Rock Harbor. If you’ve read her Rock Harbor series, you will love the return trip and the chance to see what’s happened in Bree and Kade’s lives. If you haven’t read those books though, you will still enjoy this read. Colleen’s done a great job of balancing a setting that’s familiar without making it dependent on the earlier series.

This plot is also richly layered. Eve Andreakos has amnesia, which severally complicates her attempts to stay safe and protect her daughter – and even though I’ve seen this type of plot in other books recently, it worked very well in Abomination. Her ex-husband is the lead investigator on the case. Because of their divorce Eve knows there are issues between them, but isn’t sure what they are. He wants to start their lives together again, but she can’t. Her sister has shown up demanding something Eve can’t and won’t give her. And a former boyfriend dances into her life again.

The suspense in this book is high-paced, probably one of the tightest I’ve seen in from Colleen. And the romance is there, a slight step behind the suspense. The book strikes the balance I love when reading a suspense.

Run out to buy this book when it releases in August. If you love suspense, you will love Abomination.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Interview with Sharon Hinck

I am delighted to have my friend Sharon Hinck join us today for an interview. If you read yesterday's post, then you know I loved her latest book The Restorer. Fortunately, she had time coming off her whirlwind booksigning tour to answer a few questions. Enjoy!

Sharon, with The Restorer, you soared past the Becky Miller series (which I thoroughly enjoyed!) into the realm of full-fledged fantasy. How did you create the concept for this book?

I think women are more heroic than they realize. I’ve always been inspired by the story of Deborah from the book of Judges – and I see modern people around me every day who remind me of her.

I wrote this story for my friends – ordinary women who are sometimes called on to fill extraordinary roles that they don’t feel prepared for. We may not be literally yanked into an alternate universe, but the idea of being pulled into an unexpected challenge is very real to most of the people I know. I wrote this book for my friends who receive a diagnosis of cancer, or the news that their child has a learning disability, or their parent is battling Alzheimers, or their spouse has lost his job. They suddenly find themselves in a foreign world, facing new rules, and being asked to fill a role they don’t feel ready for. My prayer is that as well as being entertaining, this novel can inspire courage and determination for those facing daily battles.

Susan has hints of Becky Miller. She's feeling some dissatisfaction with the life she has even though there's nothing wrong with it. Then she gets sucked into another world. How did you envision the setting? It is rich andeven a non-fantasy reader like me could see everything!

Hee hee! Honestly, it was one of those over-long Minnesota winters. They are great for inducing melancholy periods of creativity. It was an unusually warm winter where the sky was gray for weeks at a time. I began to doubt there was a sun or moon or stars beyond the shroud….which led to wondering about a world that was literally shrouded all the time. The setting around Braide Wood was inspired by hiking in the North woods. Other communities were developed from extrapolating the natural resources nearby and how they might build homes, roads, etc. I also wanted to do something new. I didn’t want to revisit Middle Earth or Narnia (which was done by better authors than I) so I played, “what if?” What if this world had certain technologies that had developed in different directions and with different priorities than our world? How would that look?

I sense you have a heart for women who want to do and be more for God. What do you hope women will take from this book?

Susan’s spiritual journey – her desire to follow God and her confusion when the road is much harder than she expected—is very parallel to my own. I’ve never carried a sword into battle, but I’ve faced the challenge of surrendering more deeply to God’ s purposes when they didn’t make sense to me. It’s my hope that Christians who are feeling discouraged or weary or confused by life’s battles will take away a little encouragement from watching Susan’s story unfold. And I pray they will be strengthened in the knowledge that they CAN be a blessing to the people around them as God empowers and guides.

Now, this book isn't just for women.

True. I have received LOTS of reader mail from men and from teens who loved the book.

Trying not to give too much away, but how did you develop Tristan and Marc? Both were so real (loved the twist with Marc by the way) and so heroic. Was that easy to capture?

Thank you! No, it wasn’t easy for me. I find noble characters difficult to write. They can come across flat and boring. It’s much easier to write “bad guys” sometimes. I wanted my heroic characters to be MORE interesting than the villains, and so I challenged myself to rework those scenes many times.

I'm not a fantasy reader -- couldn't read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series until after the first Peter Jackson movie because I had no framework for it -- but I LOVED The Restorer and can't wait for book two. Did you intentionally try to bridge the gap between fantasy readers and fantasy avoiders? What tricks of the trade did you use to accomplish that?

Yes, it was VERY intentional. Many of my friends haven’t read much fantasy and I’ve always loved the genre (L’Engle, Lawhead, Lewis, etc.). I wondered if I could introduce a very relatable character that would make the story accessible for even my friends who don’t normally read fantasy, and allow them to enjoy the imaginative adventures that I’ve always found in the genre. I purposely used a more contemporary fiction voice than many “high fantasy” novels and experimented with blending a little humor, a woman’s fiction sensibility, along with the “out of this world” and adventure elements.

You and three other fantasy writers just returned from a whirlwind book tour. How did it go? What did you take away from that face time with readers?

The Fantasy Fiction Tour was an amazing, non-stop experience. We hit something like 16 cities in 8 days, and over 25 events and met hundreds of readers in a variety of venues. I was blessed out of my socks by hearing from readers who said these books were not only entertaining, but inspiring and life-changing. It affirmed to me the power of story as a way to communicate and encourage, and showed me the hunger that people have for books that are imaginative and soul-stretching.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

The Restorer’s Son is already available to preorder at my website and features a new and very unlikely Restorer, as well as more adventure for Susan and her family. The Restorer’s Journey releases in January 2008. Then I have two contemporary fiction novels coming out with Bethany House (Symphony of Secrets, 2/08 and Penny’s Project, 9/08).

I love to hear from readers, so be sure to visit my website. You can also sign up for my Book Buddy ezine to keep in touch.

Thanks for letting me visit!

Thanks so much for your time and for the vision you pour into your books. Whether Becky Miller or Susan, I am challenged and entertained when I read your work. Someday I'll write like you!

LOL! No, you’ll write like Cara, and that will bless many.

Friday, July 20, 2007


My friend Crystal Miller tagged me over at her blog. Sometimes I avoid tags, but this one is all about books and writing, so right up my alley. Here goes:

1. What's the one book or writing project you haven't yet written but still hope to?
I have to think about this one. So far, I've gotten to write everything I wanted to. Now I just need more time to write. I sat down and looked at the rest of the calendar for this year and got...um...urgent. Not quite panicked, but realized I have zilch down time. There's one story brewing in a corner of my mind about WWII. I'd love to tell that one, but probably won't have time until January to work up that proposal.

2. If you had one entire day in which to do nothing but read, what book would you start with?
My TBR pile is huge! It's ready to take over the floor along my bedside. Every time I read a book, it seems two take its place. The books are more prolific than rabbits! But if I had to choose -- which the question requires -- I'd grab either a short fun one to start with like Jdy Baer's Mirror, Mirror or Allie Pleiter's The Perfect Blend. Since either one of those will only take a couple hours and I have all day, then I'd move on to HeadGame by Tim Downs (he just won the Christy for suspense and he's good). After that, if I still had time, which with 24 hours to do nothing but read, I would -- I'd move on to either Snitch by Rene Gutteridge or Bygones by Kim Sawyer. Wooh! Glad I read fast! That would only leave about 20 books in my pile :-)

3. What was your first writing "instrument" (besides pen and paper)?
An old computer. You know, the kind with a dot matrix printer, and the holes along the edge of the paper you had to pull off. Whoever created the first computer has my immense thanks. Can't imagine life without them -- or the Internet -- or email.

4. What's your best guess as to how many books you read in a month?
10-15 easily -- and that's in month's like this when I'm writing like crazy. Months I'm not writing it's more like 25.

5. What's your most favorite writing "machine" you've ever owned?
My laptop with the wireless. I love this puppy. It gives me all kinds of mobility and freedom. But I've read about some that only weigh 3-5 pounds. Now that would be sweet!

6. Think historical fiction: what's your favorite time period in which to read? (And if you don't read historical fiction--shame on you.)
Umm. No contest. World War Two :-)

7. What's the one book you remember most clearly from your youth (childhood or teens)?
One? Only one? This is killing me! I read 30+ books a month as a young adult. I inhaled books from the start of first grade. And you only want one. Argh. It would have to be Ballet Shoes or Little Women. I think. I also loved Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Happy Hollisters, A Grandma's Attic series, Mandy series, you get the idea.

But there's one book, I'll never forget. I was in first grade. Small (tiny) Christian school. There was a book about the girl who told Namaan to got to Elijah to get cured of leprosy. Supposedly at a sixth grade level. Someone told me I couldn't read it because I was only in first grade. That's like showing a bull red. I must have read that book dozens of times before we moved. And I still remember it... though I couldn't tell you the title to save my life.

Okay, I tap Tricia (assuming you haven't already been tapped), Gina Conroy (ditto), Michelle (ditto), Pam (ditto), Tina and JoAnne (Grin).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blog Awards

The other day, I recieved the Rockin' Girl Blogger from a friend... Frankly, I tried to back my way into who it was, but I should have written this post then. Sigh.

It's always fun to know someone -- in this case a really elusive someone -- thinks my blog is nice. So I'm passing the award on to some of my favorite blogs:

Sabrina's Hijinks from the Heartland
Crystal Miller's Chat 'n' Chew Cafe
Tina Forkner's She Plants a Vineyard
Gina Conroy's Portrait of a Writer...Interrupted
Candice Speare's The View From My Perch

I enjoy each of these blogs for different things... not the least of which is I can keep up with my friends.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Review: The Oak Leaves

The Oak Leaves is a gripping story of two women, separated by 150 years but joined by a family tree. Maureen Lang artfully weaves between the two stories in a way that kept me flipping pages because I couldn't wait to get to the next chapter in each woman's life.

Talie Ingram has it all: a successful husband, a 12 month old son, and another child on the way. The only problem is her son isn't keeping up developmentally with other children. As she searches through her father's belongings she finds a journal of distant ancestor Cosima Escott. As Talie reads the pages she is horrified to learn about a hidden chapter in her family's history.

Surely, the problems and questions she has about her son aren't tied to those experienced by Cosima so many years ago?

The author pulls from her experiences as the mother of a child with Fragile X Syndrome to weave a story that engulfs the reader. I felt Talie’s emotions: the rage, the fear, the guilt, and finally the willingness to accept. Through Cosima, we see what society used to do, and are challenged to avoid those stigmas and see the blessing that each person is.

"All and whatever." Those words form the backbone of the book. All our love, commitment, faith, hope; whatever the circumstances. When life throws us a curveball we didn't anticipate, we can dig in and commit to sticking "all and whatever," or we can run. This book is a beautiful example, in two generations, of sticking "all and whatever."

I loved this book and am already looking forward to the next.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


This blog post has run through my mind for days, so I’m going to stop and write it.

Deep breath.

This is another one of those gut-level honest posts.

I’ve experienced a little grief in my life when one set of grandparents died and when a uncle died. We also lost our dog (and first child in many senses) very unexpectedly a couple months ago. All of those were big losses.

But I’m learning that the death of a child through a miscarriage falls into a whole other plane…and very few people understand. Unless you’ve had one, most people don’t get it (with rare exceptions).

My family doesn’t understand. My friends don’t understand. Even my husband struggles to understand though he tries.

To each of them, it is a loss – a real loss – but a one-time loss.

It couldn’t be farther from that for me. Each month I am reminded that I’m not pregnant. Then there are the times that my son or daughter will say something innocent that reminds me again that we’re waiting for a baby. Or that they still think the baby will arrive someday. Or I’ll pick up my son and think I shouldn’t be able to do that because I should be nine months pregnant.

There’s the count-down of what a normal pregnancy looks like. The dates that you anticipated after the baby was born. And the one I dread, almost fear, the due date. That one’s barreling at me, and it’s easy to feel like everyone else has forgotten while I’m curled up in a fetal position wondering how I will survive that day.

I’m not prone to depression, but there are days that I truly struggle to find the positive in life.

Now don’t get me wrong. Life is still good. God is still good.

But there is also real pain. And if you know someone who has experienced a miscarriage, please remember that the pain doesn’t end – in fact in some ways it builds.

So pray for them. Ask how they are really doing. Because you may be the only one who cares enough to remember and ask.
I found this resource this week, and it will help those who may have had a miscarriage know they are not alone and help those who are watching a woman struggle understand a bit more what she is going through.


And on a lighter note...the new Point of Grace video is out. You can check it out here...Beautiful video and song. That could be an anthem for all of us. It's not who you knew...It's not what you did...but how you lived...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Finished Another Book!

Late Friday night/early Saturday morning, I finished the first draft of Sandhill Dreams! Woohoo!

Let me tell you, it is a great feeling to type in the last word and then the final period. I have lived with this story for about five weeks. About six of every seven nights I would sit down to write. The characters felt like friends the further into the book I got. Many times I didn't even have to think about what the characters would do. I just knew.

Now the fun part...going back and adding layers, catching typos, making sure I wrote what I actually think I wrote. And the big one...filling in gaps. You see I have instincts as I'm writing. My mind keeps going over what's been written even as I continue to move forward. I have two dear friends who have read the book as it's been written and they've confirmed my suspicions about what needs to be enhanced and clarified.

So to Janna and Sabrina, thanks for reading the book as I've been writing it. To Tricia, thanks for reading it next.

Here's hoping the collaborative effort makes it my best book yet! I think it's a good one!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Soundtracks for My Books

My editor JoAnne Simmons in a recent post on the Barbour Editors blog, Edit Cafe, talked about music and asked about the songs that would form a soundtrack to our books. (BTW, if you haven't checked out their blog, you should!)

For Sandhill Dreams, I bought a CD called Songs that Got Us Through WWII on Amazon. It's filled with great songs like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, It's been a Long, Long Time, and I'll be Seeing You. I fire up iTunes, and listen to favorites from that, and I'm instantly transported to 1943.

I've also listed to Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride and a mix of praise and worship while writing this book. Eric often shakes his head at the way I'll be writing while swaying and singing along to some random tune. I know myself, though, and I can't operate in a vacuum. I always wonder what I'm missing. And some of the country songs are great for hitting different tones when writing the romance portions. And P&W works great to get me in the mood for the more spiritual scenes.

Hmm, I may just have to treat myself to another CD for Captive Dreams. I just noticed there's a volume two for Songs that Got Us Through WWII. Hmm. Christmas present anyone?

When you read, do you hear a soundtrack of music? If you write, do you have certain songs that go with different scenes or manuscripts?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Puppy Dog Tales

The other night my husband started teaching our puppy to use the treadmill. She’s not sold on the idea, but more curious than I would have thought.

She walked on it while he held her there for about a minute. Then she circled it a couple times slipping onto the front edge of it.

Tonight she started pawing at the treadmill, and it took me a moment to realize that was her way of asking us to turn it on. She's been walking around it, on it, and ignoring it since then. Who would have thought a treadmill would be such an entertainment piece for her.

Part of me wonders what will happen when she wants to run with us…when we’re on it. Eric says we’ll throw her outside then. Of course, the other night she somehow unhooked her lead outside. A neighbor pounded on the door to ask if she’d found our puppy in the middle of the street. Talk about a heart attack waiting to happen! So we may be getting a fence a lot faster than we anticipated.

Maybe we should rename her MacGuyver or Houdini.

It is adorable to watch her experiment and process how to get on the treadmill. If only she wouldn't do that in other areas!

Okay, now share your crazy pet stories. I know you have them!

CFBA: Fearless

Fearless: Book Two of the Dominion Trilogy, by Robin Parrish, editor of Infuze Magazine

The world changed after that terrible day when the sky burned, and now every heart is gripped by fear...

Earthquakes, fire, disease, and floods pummel the earth, and its citizens watch in horror.

But in the darkness there is hope -- an anonymous but powerful hero whom the public dubs "Guardian." He is Grant Borrows, one of a chosen few who walk the earth with extraordinary powers. But while Grant enjoys this new life, signs of a dangerous ancient prophecy begin coming true, and those closest to Grant worry he may be hiding a terrible secret.

A search for answers brings Grant and his friends to London, where an extraordinary discovery awaits that will challenge everything they thought they knew. With a deadly new enemy dogging his steps, Grant realizes that the world's only hope may come from unraveling the truth about himself once and for all. But what he comes face-to-face with leaves even this most powerful of men shaken with fear.

Secrets will be revealed.

Friends will make the ultimate sacrifice.

And destiny will not be denied.

The story continues...
I just received this book last week, and haven't had a chance to read it yet as I barrel toward my own deadline, but I have to tell you it looks interesting.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Two CFBA tours this week

Here's the first one.
Wedding Bell Blues is the first in a new series, The Piper Cove Chronicles, that follows four women who grew up as best friends in a small community on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. They have returned home from their successes and failures at college and life, determined to pursue their dreams in the town they'd once vowed to leave in the dust. True love has eluded the four friends until one by one they encounter their soul mate. Next in the series is FOR PETE'S SAKE, on sale from Avon Inspire in April 2008.

Alex Butler is a successful home decorator who hopes she has finally gotten her life together. But when Josh Turner, the man who ran away and broke her heart sixteen years ago, returns to Piper Cove to be the best man in her sister's wedding, Alex can't escape the butterflies in her stomach. But Alex has no time for distractions. Her family has enlisted her to make this the wedding of the century. To pull the event off, she pools the talents of her three best friends - Jan, who creates desserts to-die-for will help with the cake and catering, tomboy Ellen, who works at a landscaping business will handle the flowers and decorations, and Sue Ann, who can…well, Suzie Q can give Alex a much-needed reality check in the course of the wedding planning chaos.

But fate won't be stopped in this small town as Alex and Josh keep running into each other at every turn. When sparks fly, Alex soon finds herself caught in a paralyzing battle of the heart between her old-fashioned Southern father, who fiercely resents Josh for breaking his little girl's heart, and her feelings for the one man she ever truly loved.

As the wedding approaches, the Butler family faces a threat to their reputation that will shake this Chesapeake clan to their very core. In the midst of it all, can Alex and Josh resist the many forces that seem to be drawing them together?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

We're Headed to the Sun

My kids are precocious. I’m not the only one who says that. Most people who spend anytime with them will use that word or a similar one to describe them.

They are best friends. I love that. I know a time will come when they aren’t so willing to play with each other, but at 6 and 3 they really do enjoy each other. Most of the time. Though I did have to laugh a couple weeks ago when they each created a “secret” room in their closets. Well, our daughter created hers first; then she helped our son make his. His has been pretty dormant since the first day. Hers is in constant use. And I have to admit it’s pretty cute when they curl up in their to sleep. Both of them. In one closet. A walk in closet, but still a closet.

They also have imaginations that don’t stop. I love that. And try to cultivate it. Though there are days I’m certain I could hand them a paper bag and they’d create a show or play around it.

Tonight I went outside for 15 minutes to move the water, pull some weeds and other fun, but necessary yard chores. When I went back in, they were decked out in an assortment of carefully thought out gear. See photo.

The hats were just because astronauts wear hats. The jackets and second layer of clothes were to protect their skin from the sun and outer space. The backpacks contained 4 pounds of oxygen that could last as long as they need. Both had boots on to for walking in untested worlds.

Then they had an assortment of items to help them navigate. It was a riot to watch them make their presentation.

I love to watch them create, because God is a creative God. And He created us in His image. I firmly believe that when we are creating whether it’s a piece of art, a play, a book, a meal – anything really – at that time we are mirroring God.

And I love the feeling that comes when I meet God in the creating. There is nothing like having an on-going conversation with Him about how to develop a character or write a chapter or wrap up a book.

As summer speeds by, how do your kids use their imaginations? Are they transported to other worlds? To the bottom of the sea? I can’t wait to hear your stories.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Fantasy Four Author Book Signing

Sharon Hinck is an author who has earned my respect. I have enjoyed her Becky Miller books, but I just finished The Restorer. WOW. That's all I can say at the moment. WOW! Think soccer mom gets pulled through a portal to another world and finds out the hard way that she's been sent to save a people. Yikes!

Sharon has turned this non-fantasy person into a fantasy reader. I can't wait for book two -- coming in September -- love the cover for that one! I hope to have Sharon join us later this month after she gets back from

She and three other authors will be on a fantasy fiction tour (can you believe the tour has its own webpage!). Here are the dates, times, and places. I'm sure they'd love to have you stop by.

7/11 - Wednesday
6pm - 8pm Borders 2501 West End Ave. Nashville, TN.

7/12 - Thursday
12:00-2:00pm Cedar Springs Christian Store, 504 North Peter's Rd., Knoxville, TN.
6:00pm Barnes & Noble, 83 South Tunnel Rd.,Asheville, NC

7/13 - Friday
12:00 - 2:00pm, Barnes & Noble, 4720 Sharon Rd., Charlotte, NC.
6pm Borders, 404 - 101 East Six Forks Rd., Raleigh, NC.

7/14 - Saturday
12:00 - 2:00pm Barnes & Noble, 5501 West Broad St., Richmond, VA.
6:00 - 8:00pm His Way Christian Bookstore, 8450 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, Maryland

7/15 - Sunday
9:15 am National Presb. Church, 4104 Nebraska Avenue N.W.,Washington D.C.
3:00 - 5:00pm Barnes & Noble, 3651 Jefferson Davis Highway, Alexandria, VA.
6:30 - 8:30pm Barnes & Noble, 4300 Montgomery Road,Ellicott City, Maryland

7/16 - Monday
1-2pm Christopher Matthew's, 5 Bel Air South Parkway - Suite 1421 - Bel Air, MD
6pm - 8pm The Days Of Knights Store, 173 East Main Street,Newark, DE. 19711

7/17 - Tuesday
5pm-Timeless Treasures Christian Bookstore, 163 Livingston St.,Brooklyn, NY.

7/18 - Wednesday
Noon -Timeless Treasures Christian Bookstore, 673 8th Ave.,Manhattan, NY

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Over Her Head

Over Her Head is a book that haunted me as I read it. Something about the conflict and the characters grabbed a hold of me and wouldn’t let me stop thinking about them in between reading it.

Laurie Hale as the perfect life – and the perfect family. Her husband has a great job, she’s active in leadership at her church, and her children seem happy. Then a girl dies in a freak episode that soon has the town buzzing with gossip and animosity. Rumors fly that Laurie’s daughter was somehow involved in the death. What if Anna really was involved in Randi’s murder?

Laurie reminded me of a dozen people I know – including me. Everything seems fine, but what would happen if a crisis hit? How deep is our faith when the world we know is rocked to its core?

I think this story disturbed me because it made me think about how I would react. I like to think I have rock solid faith in God, my family, my friends. But how often has that faith been tested? I could also imagine all too well what it would be like to have a child go through an experience like Anna’s. As parents all we want to do is protect our children from harm, and yet there are times there is nothing we can do.

The town really could be any town in the United States. The characters were a cross-section of your typical church stratas. And that is why this book was so gripping. This isn’t one that I sat down and read in one quick sitting. But I kept getting pulled back to it. I had to know how the conflict resolved. And how Laurie reacted when she found herself Over Her Head.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I got the Funniest Thing the Other Day

First, Happy Fourth of July. I hope you take a bit of time today to thank God for this country and the fact that you live here. I am constantly humbled to think of everything we have and the freedoms we often take for granted.


I love mail. To the point that I usually have one eye peeled toward the mailbox for the hour around when our mail usually arrives. Last week I missed the delivery and went outside to find a couple boxes waiting on our porch. One was for my husband who discovered Ebay a couple weeks ago. The other for me. I wasn't expecting anything, so my curiosity was high. And the box was big, so I knew it was more than a book.

I opened the box, and there was a house shaped box inside. Inside that sturdy box was a pack of swiffer dusters and a party pack.

Now, I love swiffers, but I was stymied. How did I get on the list?

The packet was styled the Ulimate Party Tool Kit and came with tips for cleaning the house quickly for unexpected summer guests as well as menus and recipes.

Eric's convinced it's their idea of guerilla marketing. I'm still trying to figure out where I asked for it. Until then, I'll still enjoy using them, and my ceiling fans are much cleaner.

What kind of crazy things have appeared in your mailbox or on your porch unexpectedly? I can't wait to hear your stories!

Mary DeMuth on Point of View Thursday

My friend Mary DeMuth will be on Point of View with Kerby Anderson and Carmen Pate on Thursday. The time is from 1-3 p.m. Mary will be discussing her new book Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture. I am looking forward to reading this book, and thought you might be interested in catching the broadcast.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Butterfly Days

Yesterday contained one of those had to be there moments. Of course, as a writer, I’ll try to describe it.

We’d just returned home from a friend’s house, and the kids were outside while I put on casual clothes. Confession – I got distracted by email – and next thing I know my daughter is standing in front of me with a huge grin on her face, hands clasped tightly in front of her.

“Mommy, guess what I caught!”

Over the last couple summers we have planted perennials designed to attract butterflies. Occasionally, we’ll see a brightly colored Monarch, but usually the butterflies are pure white with maybe a bit of green running along the vein lines.

I gulped and tried to match her excitement. “A butterfly?”

“Yes. Look!” And she opened her hands. The dazed butterfly stood on her palm for a moment and then took off. In the office. Heading straight for the window. “Catch it, Mom!”

I am not a trained butterfly catcher. I can’t even remember catching them as a child. I love to watch them and provide food for them, but catch one?

I eyed the window. The office’s window is framed by wooden blinds that don’t retract anymore. The butterfly is trapped against the window, and I’m trying to figure out how to reach it without giving it a stroke or crushing it.

First, I pull up the window, trying to think of a way to pop the screen and send the butterfly to freedom that way. Abigail panicked and accused me of crushing it. The butterfly hyperventilated – at least that’s what I think all the frantic beating of its wings represented.

Second, we lowered the window and tried to coax the butterfly to fly past the blinds. It never considered leaving the light.

Finally, I sent Abigail downstairs for a large cup, and I plopped it over the top of the butterfly. Then we slipped a piece of paper between the window sill and the cup to form a lid. In moments I had it outside and shook it out of the cup and into one of the flowerbeds.

Abigail skipped away to chase more butterflies, and I considered what I’d just seen. How often does God encourage us to come toward Him and freedom, and we beat our heads against a plate of glass that appears to lead to safety. Instead, its counterfeit. The butterfly would have died quickly if left to beat against the window. God woos us in many ways back to Him, but in the end always grants us the freedom to choose. Will we love Him or will we go our own way.

Monday, July 02, 2007


To learn even more about ACFW and our conference in September, check out these sites this month:





Christa Allen



Angie Bredenbach



Linda Fulkerson



Jennifer Hudson Taylor



Marjorie Vawter



Lena Nelson Dooley



Rose McCauley



Peg Phifer


7/11 & 7/12

Robin Miller



Robin Grant



Leanna Ellis



Deb Raney



Tiffany Colter



Candice Speare



Danica McDonald



Camy Tang


7/23 to 7/27




Annette Irby



Ronda Wells

8/2 & 8/3

Ronie Kendig


Ack! I'm Getting Published

A couple weeks ago I sold my first suspense.

I am beyond excited. This is the first book I started when I decided to try my hand at writing. It's also the second book I completed. I still remember the rush of reaching the end and feeling so excited.

Originally, this was a 85,000 word book. The editor who looked at it decided it wasn't a good fit for her house -- and she was right. So I sat on the book for several months -- busy with other things.

In December I followed up with another editor who had expressed an interest in the book. Frankly, I was embarrassed to contact her -- it had been over a year since her invitation to submit it. She said she'd want to see it -- but the complete manuscript. I thought she'd just want the proposal, and make a decision whether to read the rest after that. Nope. She wanted the whole bloated thing -- her line only accepted 65,ooo word manuscripts.

Over Christmas, my sister and I spent a couple afternoons rereading the book and figuring out how to rework the plotline to fit this house's guidelines. A couple chapters were easy kills. But that only cut 8,000 words. It was still bloated and not a great fit for some of their guidelines.

I spent the next four weeks chopping and trimming, and at the end of January mailed the book off with a prayer. That same week I signed with an agent, and let her work with the editor. About six weeks later -- during which time I sold two more books on proposal -- I got an email from my agent that the editor liked the manuscript, but it still needed some work before they could accept it. Was I willing to revise it?

With that hint of encouragement I went back to work. Of course, during this time, I learned that the word count was shrinking to 60,000 words! Ack!!!! I had to add plot and twists, while cutting words. I took a deep breath and went back to work. I love the way it developed. I really thought we were getting close. The good news is we are -- and any day now I should receive the contract.

But the fun has begun. Within forty-eight hours of getting the call from my agent, I had to complete a cover art sheet questionnaire and create a list of alternate titles. The new title is Deadly Exposure, and I love it. I still have a lot of work in front of me as I rewrite the book -- again -- based on the revision letter I received from my editor. The best part is I know it will be stronger when I'm done.

So watch for Deadly Exposure in June 2008 from Love Inspired Suspense. And pray that I can balance two deadlines that fall within two weeks of each other in August. Now I'm writing and revising under deadline.

Cross-posted at Writer...Interrupted.


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