Friday, March 30, 2007

Fiction Friday Challenge

Gina Conroy over at Writer...Interrupted posted the following challenge:
  • Write the first three sentences of the fiction book you’re reading.
  • Then write the first three sentences of the current WIP you’re working on.
I don't have the book I'm currently reading in front of me, so here's from one I read this week:
"Kill tonight -- or die. The words burned, hot acid eating
through his eyes, his brain. Right down to his soul."

From one of my manuscripts (you'll have to guess which one):
"A flash of sunlight glinted from the barrel of the gun William Devine grasped.
Fear saturated the air in the courtroom as Hayden McCarthy struggled to suck air
into her lungs. Every bad joke she’d ever heard about the only good lawyer being
a dead lawyer looped through her mind as she fought the tremble that threatened
to shake her limbs."

Now, I'll add a twist to it...from the pool of people who guess at least one of these correctly, I'll send a copy of either The Heir by Paul Robertson or Coral Moon by Brandilyn Collins. The only catch: entries have to be in by midnight Tuesday, April 3.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Lawyer Stole Millions?

I saw this article in the American Bar Association's Journal E-Report the other day and just had to wonder.

A New Orleans attorney was indicted for over 50 counts with a potential sentence of more than 1000 years. Yikes! His crime? Billing clients for work he might not have actually done. Having clients pay him directly rather than the firm. He also had the firm write checks to various entities he created.

Sounds like a plot for a book at some point.

They really do make aspiring attorneys take an ethics course in law school. It's even covered on bar exams. Attorneys also have to take on-going ethics classes. But sometimes all of that simply isn't enough.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

WHO'S YOUR 80s Heart throb?

And now for some fun...

I often joke that I'm young enough I really missed the 80s. Amy Grant's Unguarded was pushing the envelope for my parents. Jem (that old cartoon) a bit much for my mom. We didn't watch much TV, we homeschooled, I can count on two hands the movies we went to as kids. The Man From Snowy River and Return to Snowy River sticking out in my mind.

So I had to chuckle when I saw Who's Your 80s Heart Throb on Julie Carobini's blog. And being me, I had to go see what the questionnaire would come up with. Now those of you who know me, know that I am happily married for eleven years to by hubby.

But according to the site, my 80s heart throb is....
Your 80s Heartthrob Is

Michael J. Fox

Family Ties lives on!

CFBA Tour: Reclaiming Nick


This week's CFBA tour highlights Susan May Warren's book Reclaiming Nick. I have learned a lot about writing from Susie by attending her workshops at the ACFW National Conference and thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Award winning author SUSAN MAY WARREN recently returned home to her native Minnesota after serving for eight years with her husband and four children as missionaries with SEND International in Far East Russia. She now writes full time from Minnesota's north woods.

The story focuses on a host of broken and hurting characters who have to work together to save a ranch in Montana. Nick Noble left the ranch ten years earlier after an explosion with his family. He's coming home now to prevent his former best friend from inheriting half the ranch under Nick's father's will.

Piper Sullivan, an investigative reporter, is chasing Nick to prove that he murdered a woman instead of her brother who was sent to jail for that murder. She's signed on as the cook for the summer...only problem is she's a vegetarian on a cattle ranch who can't cook biscuits let alone Rocky Mountain Oysters.

Throw in Nick's high school love Maggy who is now married to his former best friend Cole, a dozen misunderstandings, lies and misunderstandings, and you have a family in need of healing.

I don't usually read straight romance. I find them too predictable and routine. I read to escape and learn something, and I think that's why I like historical fiction and suspense. Here Susan crafted a book filled with characters that I cared about. They were three-dimensional with the kind of struggles that kept me thinking about the book when I wasn't reading.

The setting was also interesting and though there was a legal subplot, Susan did enough research to get it right. In the end Nick and Piper discover that a prodigal can come home, but the journey to that point is filled with twists and turns that I sometimes thought they wouldn't navigate -- but it's a romance, so there is a happily ever after. At least until the sequel comes out.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Posts

I had a post all ready to go this morning, then forgot to load it. Now I'll save it for another day. Spring is here, and I'm going to head back outside and enjoy the sunshine with my kids. Instead, read this beautiful post by Mary DeMuth. Every once in awhile God does pull back the veil and reveal a bit of why He may have allowed us to experience things that noone should.

And I have my weekly post up at Generation NeXt Parenting. Come run with me!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Thanks Everyone!

Thanks so much to everyone who came over and participated in the voting on my author photo. I just sent it off to my editor seconds ago. The winning photo was number one. Here are a couple more of the photos that will show up from time to time. Janet did such a fantastic job making me look great!


The one on the left will likely go with Sandhill Dreams because it looks like the buildings at Fort Robinson.



The one on the right will likely be for Captive Dreams: folks think the bars look prison-ish.



And here's my new blogger photo -- once I remember how to upload them. I tell you, folks, technology is my friend and challenge all at the same time. But, hey, I think I just figured it out on shoutlife, so I'm sure I can remind myself how to do it here, too. So thanks again for voting.

And check back a bit later for a review of Brandilyn Collin's new book Coral Moon. I got it on Friday (great birthday present) and finished it the next day. It's good -- and a bit different. Gotta love that in an author you're familiar with.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Vote on My Author Photo

If you are a writer within driving distance of Lafayette, take notice! Janet Stephens took these photos and I think they're great. The only problem is I can't choose which one should be the author photo in Canteen Dreams. Here's your chance to vote! Which do you like?


Photo One:










Or Photo Two:


Thursday, March 22, 2007

So you want to be a writer....


Did you know that something like 75% of us talk about writing a book? You've probably heard it, too...someday when I have time/money/the gumption, I'm going to write a book.

If that's you, then I have one word of advice. JOIN ACFW (that's American Christian Fiction Writers). Colleen Coble did me a huge service when she pointed me to this great organization. Before I joined, I had a dream. After joining I had a way to learn, people to help, and the opportunity to meet the people that could help me pursue this dream. So check out www.acfw.com to learn more about this group and how it can help you pursue your dream.

If you're a bit further down the dream of writing track, you might be ready to enter a contest and start getting feedback on your writing. If so, check out ACFW's Genesis contest -- a contest tailored to unpublished writers. The deadline to enter this year's contest is April 15 (Yikes, it corresponds with another deadline. Gulp!)

And if you're a published author, you can enter the ACFW Book of the Year contest. Maybe this will be your year to knock off writers like Tricia Goyer, Colleen Coble, and Kristin Billerbeck for book of the year in your category. One can always dream :-) I personally feel the need to pinch myself each time I realize I can enter next year!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Cousins



My kids had the best time last weekend. . . it was great to have Grandma and Grandpa in town. But the best part was having a couple of their cousins visit, too.

We live far enough from their cousins (all in Nebraska) that it is a special treat to spend time with them. So they loved every moment. For exhibit A, just look at these photos from our time at Chuck E Cheese Monday afternoon. Have you ever seen such cute smiley faces?


Their delight in each other reminded me of how we are to delight in each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Sure, there were moments where they got tired of each other. Who doesn't over the course of four and a half days of non-stop togetherness?

But they shook it off and got back down to the business of loving on each other. Whether that meant giving each other some space. Kicking a soccer ball all over the damp back yard. Or playing all kinds of card games. That's my kind of togetherness!

And maybe, just maybe, we'll learn how to have that kind of honesty and fun together.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Good Rejection and Other News

Yesterday I got word from my agent about a good rejection. Now you might be thinking: good and rejection go together?

In this case they do. The editor liked the book, but it needs more romance. I really am not surprised by that. What does surprise me is that all the other elements are there and she either wants to see this one revamped or something else from me.

That is what we call in publishing a wide open door. (Okay, that's what I call it. You'll have to check with others to see if that's accurate.)

So after about twenty seconds of disappointment, I emailed my agent for her advice and then decided I'd revamp this manuscript next month. I really like the suspense part of the story. It MOVES. And I can figure out the backstory relationship between the hero and heroine that will make the romance come easier. I also attended a workshop earlier this month which has given me some insight, I think, on writing that part of a story.

If you know me, you know that I'm a closet romantic. You know the closet that's hidden way back in the bottom of the basement where you can almost forget it even exists. Guess I'll have to find that part of me :-)

Prayer request: Today our company left (boo!), but that means I will get back to writing. Please pray that my writing muscles will get back in shape and that I will have creativity straight from God to turn Cherry Hill into a legal suspense/thriller. I know the kind of book I want to write -- and believe I can write -- now I just have to sit down and do it!

Other news: last night I set up my shoutlife page. If you haven't been over there, check it out. It's a Christian equivalent to myspace...I'm told -- I've never actually been over to myspace. My corner over there is very much a work in progress, but I've already been inundated with people who want to be my friends. I don't know that I necessarily get it yet, but it'll be fun to learn!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Eyes Open

Ever go through a season in life where you just know that God is teaching you something. And part of that is opening your eyes to the pain in other peoples' lives.

I have been blessed beyond measure. My life has been sheltered from so much pain.

Then at the end of January I had a miscarriage.

Even typing those words hurts.

It's not until you experience it that it really sinks in just how many baby things exists in this world. I can't even get milk from our local Wal-Mart without passing the diapers and adorable baby outfits. Try walking through a mall without wincing when you see Motherhood Maternity or the cute clothes at Children's Place, Old Navy, or Kohls.

I am blessed with two beautiful children. Wonderful children. But my arms still feel very empty right now.

Saturday our local hospital partnered with a parish and funeral home to hold a beautiful memorial service for families who had suffered a perinatal loss. They do this three times a year and have a permanent memorial for these little ones. What a wonderful way to acknowledge the grief and begin the process of moving on. It also provides a place for families to return to on those hard days like due dates, anniversaries, etc. And it acknowledges the real pain that people feel when they walk through this process.

As I've thought about it and talked to others, I've realized just how unique this service (and all the other support the hospital provides) is. Yet around 25% of pregnancies end prematurely from miscarriage. What an opportunity for churches and crisis pregnancy centers to step in and reach out to another subset of women who are deeply wounded by pregnancy loss.

So this isn't my typical kind of post. But it's where I am right now. And who knows, maybe this will help ignite a dream or ministry in your heart to reach out to women in pain.

Because as we know, Jesus provides hope and healing. But sometimes He chooses to work through us.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Amazing Grace

Last night my mom and I went to see Amazing Grace. It has me inspired and ready to run to the library to track down biographies on William Wilberforce and William Pitt. I left the theater thinking, "God, can You use me like that?"

But you know what? William Wilberforce had a dream that took YEARS to see to fruition. And those weren't years sat waiting passively. His health was wrecked. His reputation was questioned. He and his team gathered all kinds of evidence about the evils of the slave trade. And after fifteen years of fighting he was ready to give up. I don't know about you, but after that kind of energy investment and personal cost, I might be tempted to give up, too.

But got sent people to encourage him. And others with fresh ideas on how to proceed. They went from expecting 100% change at one time to willingness to chip away at the evil. Then they were ready to play the game. It really made me think of the parallels to abortion in our country.

If you haven't seen this movie yet, go. But only go if you're willing to be inspired and challenged. We don't have to make a choice between loving God and changing the world. When He plants a dream in our heart...we can do both!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Interview with Author Trish Perry


Today, I am delighted to bring you an interview with my friend and fellow author Trish Perry. Her second book Too Good To Be True released this month. As soon as I read it, I'll post a review, but I am fully expecting a rollicking fun time laced with some "Ouch, I can apply that to me" moments. I LOVED The Guy I'm Not Dating, and still have friends telling me how much they enjoyed it, too. Now on to the interview.

My friends and I are still enjoying The Guy I'm Not Dating. How does Too Good To Be True tie-in? Or does it stand alone on its own?


I’m so glad you’re still enjoying Kara’s story, Cara. Have you convinced your friends that the story isn’t based on your own life, yet? Sigh. Wouldn’t we all like a Gabe Paolino in our lives?

Too Good to Be True takes place almost a year after The Guy I’m Not Dating. Whereas The Guy centered on Kara and her efforts at purely platonic relationships with men, Too Good focuses on her best friend, Ren, who has been reluctantly divorced for a year when we join her.

Ren’s story can stand on its own; readers don’t need to read The Guy in order to fully “get” Too Good to Be True. But if you have both books, I’d suggest reading The Guy first, just because that’s their order in time.

Sounds like you threw Rennie and Truman into some difficult situations. What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

Yeah, they do have their life struggles, most of which are pretty humorous when they’re happening to someone else!

Besides hoping my readers have fun with the book, I hope they get a sense of how Ren tries to spiritually process her experiences, how she tries to understand God’s purpose when things don’t go the way she thinks they should. Ultimately she gets a glimpse of how much better He knows than she does what’s best for her and for everyone she loves. That’s what I’d like readers to take away from Ren’s story. I think logically we all know God’s way is the best way. But don’t we often second guess Him or try to “help” Him or at least try to figure out what He’s up to? Ren’s situation demonstrates the importance of simply accepting His often-mysterious plan when we accept His Son into our lives.

Which character is your favorite and why?

Of course I love Ren and enjoyed being in her head. But the character with whom I had the most fun was Clarissa, Ren’s snooty mom. I think most mothers have a few controlling tendencies, and it can be especially hard to let go when our children leave home. But Clarissa is like the ├╝ber-control freak you just can’t shake. She made me cringe sometimes, but I cared about her, too. And I liked how Ren—who is really quite different in personality from Clarissa—still manages to recognize a few controlling tendencies of her own.

Both characters have mother issues. Do you have a good relationship with your kids? How do you find a good balance as the mother of grown kids?

I have a fantastic relationship with my kids! I think it helps that there are 13 years between the two of them. Each was essentially raised and nurtured as an only child, except they still had each other, if that makes any sense. Never any sibling rivalry, never a great deal of having to share me (or anything else, for that matter). And they’re different genders, so many their needs are different. But they both have the same sense of humor I have, which is key, in my opinion. All three of us see humor in oddball situations and people, and we love to laugh together. And we’re very open about how much we love each other.

The mother issues that Ren and Tru have are real situations I’ve seen, but they’re ramped up a bit to make them more fun.

And...drum roll...what did the Lord teach you as you wrote this book?

He taught me that, if I don’t get off my rear end and walk around once in a while, my hips practically creak by the end of the day.

Also, the takeaway I mentioned above, about accepting His plan, is something He constantly re-teaches me. But during the actual process of writing Too Good to Be True, He taught me to enjoy myself with my writing. He opened up scenes and dialogue for me which were just such pleasurable experiences.

And He taught me to be flexible! I originally wrote Too Good to Be True in the first person point of view, and then we needed to change it to the third person, in keeping with The Guy I’m Not Dating’s point of view. I had to rewrite the book and try to hang onto Ren’s personality, even while stepping a bit outside of her head. That was a surprise and a challenge, but it was completely possible with His help.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

CFBA: Review of The Reliance


Can I admit up front that I am not a pirate fan. I endured Pirates of the Caribbean. Not my cup of tea by a long shot. But I found myself with a copy, and MaryLu Tyndall has crafted a story that I could not put down. It didn't matter that pirates were the center of the story. In fact I think I liked it even more because of the unique setting and time period.

The Reliance is a swashbuckler of the first order. Open the book and you will step back in time to 1668 and the Caribbean. You can almost smell the mixed aroma of fresh sea air colliding with unwashed bodies and the stench of below-decks.

Charlisse and Captain Merrick have been married a few years when the book opens and are quickly thrust into the middle of a battle when pirates overwhelm the Port town they are staying in. Captain Merrick is a pirate turned privateer who has made it his life work to hunt down pirates and bring them to justice. Charlisse is expecting their first child and sees a vast world of new possibilities before them.

Then a nemesis from Captain Merrick's past rises up to destroy Merrick by making him believe Charlisse is dead. The rest of the book is spent with the twists and turns of the two dealing with the results of this trickery. Charlisse leans deeper into God, while voices whisper that He too has abandoned her. Merrick plunges back into his old ways as he battles with God about what has happened. I won't say more because the plot and writing will pull you through this book.

I could relate to Charlisse particularly because I have lived through one of her situations recently. The character development was believable, reactions were real, and I cared deeply about what happened to her. Merrick was a bit more of a ... pirate... but I still wanted to see him reach a place of growth and acceptance.

The setting was rich, the language piraty without being annoying, and it made this non-pirate really enjoy the book. It was the second book in the series -- I haven't read the first one, but didn't feel like I missed anything. In fact, I may go pick it up now!

If you're looking for something different, I think you'll enjoy this book.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Guest Blogger: Seven Insider Tips for Pioneer Parents: Part One


My friend Mary DeMuth is the author of two novels and a couple parenting books. She will be on Family Life Today March 22 and 23 and gave me permission to post this article about pioneer parenting. I hope it blesses you today!


4. Understand that parenting is not outside-in, but inside-out.

I used to think parenting successfully meant finding the “best” strategies and practicing them. Though good parenting strategies are helpful, particularly for Pioneer Parents, they lacked real power. I realized I could impose all sorts of methods from the outside, but my heart (where parenting starts) remained the same. To parent differently than how I was raised, my heart needed to be healed. David said, “What you’re after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life” (Psalm 51:6, MSG). God is in the business of cleaning, healing and rejuvenating our hearts from the inside out. The greater the healing, the more authentic and effective our parenting will be.

5. Forgive your parents.

Jesus told us to forgive, plain and simple. Sometimes He even used impossible math: 70 times 7—490 times! Holding bitterness in your heart, shunning forgiveness, actually hinders you from parenting freely in the present. Forgiveness sets you free—free to love your imperfect parents, free to give grace to your imperfect self as you struggle to parent differently. It’s not pretending nothing happened back there; on the contrary, forgiveness is a revolutionary, brave act. How is forgiveness connected to pioneer parenting? Picture a thick iron chain around you and your family of origin. If you choose not to forgive, the chain keeps you connected to the past. It stifles your heart so that you cannot parent effectively today. Choosing to forgive causes the chain to fall away, setting you free to parent your children differently.

6. Stop the comparison game.

Few acts are more destructive than comparison. I’ve caught myself observing other parents not to glean pointers about parenting, but to chide them or myself. I will never parent that way, I think, which can either mean I don’t want to be like that parent or I am an utter failure at parenting well. Jogging through my neighborhood one day, God taught me a comparison lesson. Each yard was different. Some sported “Yard of the Month” signs. Others hatched weeds. I realized that the sanctification journey is different for me, as my “growing up” yard may have had bad soil and not enough sun. Comparing myself to Yard of the Month parents, who may have had affirming upbringings, was unfair. God asks us to concentrate on our own yard, to pull one weed at a time, to revel in one flower planted.

Paul says, “That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original” (Galatians 5:26, MSG). A chapter later, Paul asserts, “ But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another” (Galatians 6:4 NAS).

7. Find support.

My parenting skills increased when I found other pioneer parents who struggled just like me. When I’ve had a particularly difficult parenting day, I’ll call a fellow pioneer parent and vent. Paul says that we are to “bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:4 NAS). Finding like-minded pioneer parents who are willing to share struggles lightens burdens. As I shared my burdens, and listened to other Pioneer Parents share theirs, I realized I was a normal parent with typical struggles—with a big God who ultimately shouldered every burden. In the company of like-minded friends I’m able to laugh at my mistakes and continue down the pioneer parenting path.

Being a Pioneer Parent is no easy task, particularly when we’re plagued by worry that we’ll duplicate the homes we were raised in. In granting ourselves grace, seeking mentors, saying I’m sorry, seeking inside-out healing, forgiving our parents, eliminating comparison, and finding friends who bear our burdens, we will scale the difficult peak of parenting, by God’s grace.

Cara again: if you are interested in listening to Mary's Family Life Today episodes, here's more information about the broadcasts:

A Rocky Beginning 3/22/2007 (Day 1 of 2) Guests Include: Mary DeMuth: On the broadcast today, Mary DeMuth, author of the book Building the Christian Family You Never Had, tells Dennis Rainey about her rocky start as the only child of a single mom heavy into drugs. Mary tells about the abuse she encountered at the hands of neighbor boys and her eventual faith in the God of the universe.

Embracing Forgiveness 3/23/2007 (Day 2 of 2)Guests Include: Mary DeMuth: Today on the broadcast, author Mary DeMuth talks honestly with Dennis Rainey about the change that took place in her life when she choose to forgive her abusers.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Guest Blogger: Seven Insider Tips for Pioneer Parents Part One


My friend Mary DeMuth is the author of two novels and a couple parenting books. She will be on Family Life Today March 22 and 23 and gave me permission to post this article about pioneer parenting. I hope it blesses you today!


Some of us grew up in stable, Christ-loving homes. Others did not. What happens when people from difficult upbringings want to raise their children in a Christian home? How do we pioneer a new path for our children? Pioneer Parents are parents who don’t want to duplicate the homes they were raised in. They share many common traits, the most common being fear. They ask themselves questions like:
  • Will the hurtful words my parents said to me fly out of my mouth in a moment of anger?
  • Will I repeat my parents’ mistakes?
  • How will I parent if I’ve had no positive, godly example?
  • Why, when I read Christian parenting books, do I feel like the author can’t relate to me?
  • How do I protect my children from possible negative influence of my parents without harming their relationship?
As a Pioneer Parent, these questions have swirled around in my paranoid head ever since I birthed my first child. Thirteen years later, sometimes they still haunt me. How do we break free from harmful parenting patterns? How do we build a Christian foundation in our homes if we’ve had no example?

Here are seven tips:

1. Read parenting books with a caveat of grace.

When I first became a mom, I read every Christian parenting book I could find, determined not to repeat my past. I highlighted words until the pages glowed yellow. Instead, with every book I read, I berated myself for not being a perfect Christian mother. Instead of letting the words encourage me to improve my parenting, I would shun myself for not parenting correctly. I didn’t offer myself grace.

Eventually, I learned to see the books as kindly companions instead of angry Pharisees, pointing out my failures. I had to remind myself to be gentler toward me—a sinner in need of grace—and understand afresh that God delighted in me, sang over me. He was not watching me read parenting books and mumbling, “Well, I sure hope she bucks up and parents better after reading this.” No, God, as I’ve had to learn, comes alongside me, cheering me when I fail, and giving me confidence as a parent.

2. Find or observe a parenting mentor.

Of all the campaigns I’ve initiated to try to improve my parenting, finding a mentor has been the most effective. I have learned the importance of engaging parents who are raising stable, well-adjusted children. The most rewarding parenting-mentor relationship I experienced happened on walks with my friend Kathy. She had two grown children who were serving Christ full time. Pushing a double stroller as I walked a mile or two around the neighborhood with her, I peppered her with questions, she listening and praying and offering advice.

I’ll admit it’s not easy to find a mentor like Kathy. If you can’t find one, remember that mentors can come in surprising packages. I’ve been “mentored” by kind mothers in the grocery store who answer my questions patiently, by grandparents who get on the floor and play with their grandchildren, by friends who share their trials and victories with me. The most surprising mentor in my life has been my eldest daughter who is now old enough to baby-sit. Watching her kind patience with toddlers inspires me to be a more patient mommy.

3. Say, “I’m sorry.”

Pioneer parents—and all parents for that matter—make mistakes. We say painful words that we heard our parents say—words that once stung us, words that now sting our children. The best way to disarm sin is to admit it. No parents are perfect. Trying to appear sinless (particularly during a bout of anger) causes children to worry about how they “made” mommy or daddy be mean. Confessing our sins to our children and asking their forgiveness opens the door to communication, de-escalates heated arguments, and shows children that even parents need the restorative forgiveness of Jesus. . . .

Tune back tomorrow for the rest of this article.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Winter Pearl

The Winter Pearl is the first book of Molly Bull's that I have read. In it you will be transported back to 1888 Colorado, a time far removed from ours. Life was harsh and often filled with difficult choices.

In this book Honor McCall is running from an uncle who wants to force her to marry him. To escape she steals money from a church offering plate, determined to pay it back when she can. On her way to start a new life, the stage she is on is attacked by outlaws and she is injured. Reverend Jeth Peters and his mother take her in and start her on a journey of discovery.

Her uncle sets out to find her and the money he believes she has stolen from him. During his journey, he spirals deeper and deeper into alcoholism until a pastor and his wife reach out to the uncle -- even though they know he has harmed them. Their love and caring reaches through his hard walls.

The story is a reflection of how God can change our hearts and lives when we allow him to. I found I could anticipate the spiritual arcs in this story. And the character development was what I expected to see. So while it was a good story with interesting characters, it did not keep me guessing.

If you like sweet historical romances, you will enjoy this story.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Review: Midnight Sea


“A seemingly random shooting at her aunt’s coffee farm has left Lani Tagama blind. Now she must learn to navigate in a world of darkness. With the help of an embittered ex-cop, Ben, and a half-trained guide dog, Fisher, Lani discovers she can regain a shadow of her former independence.
“But strange and dangerous secrets lurk behind the beauty of this seaside paradise. Suspicion grows that this was not a random shooting, but an attempted murder, one with its roots in a hippie commune burned over thirty years ago. Lani realizes she is a target and that she must find the shooter before he strikes again.”

In this book, Colleen Coble crafts another tight suspense plot filled with twists and turns and rich characters. She transports readers back to Hawaii, the setting for her Aloha Reef series. While this book stands completely on its own, if you read and enjoyed the Aloha Reef series, you will enjoy the reappearance of characters from that series.

Lani is faced with something I think most of us fear – she wakes up one morning unable to see anything. In the midnight sea of darkness, she must learn to cope and strive for some independence. Ben reluctantly agrees to help her learn how to use a guide dog and adjust to her new world. However, he’s heard too much about her to be drawn in by her beauty.

When Ben’s suddenly finds himself taking care of his niece, everything spirals out of control. A killer is out there who believes Lani can identify him and that Ben’s niece has something that belongs to him.

The characters struggle with real questions about how their faith can sustain the circumstances of life. And they are brave enough to ask the questions many of us would love to scream to the heavens. As they wrestle with the mystery and their doubts, they also develop a relationship that could extend beyond friendship if they could let go of their pasts.
The book is rich with layers of characters and plots. And Coble does a fantastic job bringing all the layers together into a cohesive and compelling book. And if you’re looking for a book to transport you to the beaches of Hawaii on a cold afternoon, this book is the one for you. Coble again creates a vivid setting and a story that could only be set in Hawaii.

I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Legal Snippets: It's all about Employment Law

American teenagers are working too much in dangerous and unsupervised conditions according to a new study released in the March issue of Pediatrics. The results come from a 2003 study of 928 teenagers by University of North Carolina. Teens under the age of sixteen are not supposed to work past 7 p.m. under federal regulations, but often do. There are also restrictions limiting the dangerous equipment that those under the age of eighteen can use, but this study found frequent violations. To learn more check out this Reuters article.

There's an interesting Nevada case involving Walgreens and claims by former employees that they were racially discriminated against and forced to tolerate a violent workplace. Click here. It only took the jury 45 minutes last month to decide that the employees weren't discriminated against. But an appeal is planned that could illustrate just how elusive defining discrimination and violence are. Would you consider kicking a box or slamming a door violence? I suppose it depends. And that's the challenge - it all depends on the jury you get - if your case survives long enough to reach a jury.

In Denver, two women were more successful in raising their claim that they were discriminated against by their employer. The jury believed their claim they were fired because they refused advances from a manager -- believed them to the tune of $3.175 million. Click here.

A Ohio man claims he was discriminated against for the 32 years that he was employed by a company. Click here. He alleges that the union and company only made token investigations after he complained. This case has a long way to go before a jury considers it.

There's all kinds of fodder for external conflict in your characters' lives if you insert some of these kind of threads to your book. I can't think of much that is more disruptive to life than problems at work.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

CFBA tour: The Watchers


I was literally blown away by this book. Now I have read Hadassah and the Hadassah Covenant, books Mark Andrew Olsen wrote with Tommy Tenney. If you've read the blog for awhile, you know I enjoyed those books.

The Watchers was nothing like them, yet similar. The book can best be placed in a spiritual warfare genre. It's like This Present Darkness grown up -- and I loved This Present Darkness...reread it many times. I picked up this book having no idea what it would be about and found it nearly impossible to put it down.

I am EXHAUSTED, but satisfied after finishing the book. I'm also a bit behind in my work. But the book was worth it even when I've thrown many spiritual warfare novels against the wall. In fact, if I'd realized that was the genre, I probably wouldn't have picked the book up. Boy am I glad I didn't realize the truth :-)

Writers often talk about "high concept" and "fresh" writing. Well, this book has both.

"A woman's awe-inspiring vision launches her on a quest through distant lands and ancient history, face-to-face with eternity and into the arms of a family line on the brink of annihilation...A man who is hired to exterminate her discovers the folly of blind loyalty, then learns how to wage war in a realm he never believed had existed...An extraordinary saga of the unseen war against evil, the reality of the supernatural, and the transforming power of forgiveness."

This book takes spiritual warfare to a new level and is a really refreshing race -- not to save the world -- but to understand a mystery from the ages as well as save Abby Sherman's life. One of the interesting devices was that Abby was asleep for the first several chapters that she is a main character, yet you still get a real sense for her character and begin to fall in love with her from her blog posts. Yep, blog posts.

It all begins when Abby has an intense dream -- the kind that makes her wonder if it could be something more. She posts it on her MyCorner page. And thus sets in motion a chain of events she couldn't have anticipated. And launches a round the world search for answers and healing.

Her unlikely cohort is a man who is a trained assassin. In the process, he is forced to choose sides in a war that he didn't even know existed.

The action is fast-paced, the character realistic -- though Dylan's spiritual arc was a touch forced -- it had to be to fit the book's time line. In many ways this book struck me as a rightful heir in the tradition of This Present Darkness. The author throws out some interesting spiritual ideas, like tracing our spiritual heritage that got me thinking. And thinking, as they say, is always good.

All in all, if you are looking for a fast-paced suspense with strong spiritual warfare overtones, you will really enjoy this book.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Post on Dreaming with God

My post this week on Generation NeXt Parenting is a challenge to stretch our dreams. You know the verse: Proverbs 29:18 -- without a vision the people perish. Well, pop over to Generation NeXt Parenting today to see what I'm writing about. It's time to expand our dreams for how God can use us. Let's dust off our deeply held dreams and see what God wants to do.

Lawyer Stories

The Secretary from our office circulated this one on Friday. I have no idea where she got it from, but thought it was pretty good.
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THE BEST LAWYER STORY SO FAR THIS YEAR - 2007

One afternoon a lawyer was riding in his limousine when he saw two men along the roadside eating grass. Disturbed, he ordered his driver to stop and he got out to investigate.

He asked one man, "Why are you eating grass?"

"We don't have any money for food," the poor man replied. "We have to eat grass."

"Well, then, you can come with me to my house and I'll feed you," the lawyer said.

"But sir, I have a wife and two children with me. They are over there, under that tree."

"Bring them along," the lawyer replied. Turning to the other poor man he stated, "You come with us, also."

The second man, in a pitiful voice, then said, "But sir, I also have a wife and SIX children with me!"

"Bring them all, as well," the lawyer answered. They all entered the car, which was no easy task, even for a car as large as the limousine was.

Once underway, one of the poor fellows turned to the lawyer and said, "Sir, you are too kind. Thank you for taking all of us with you."

The lawyer replied, "Glad to do it. You'll really love my place. The grass is almost a foot high."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Photo Overload

This bright and chilly morning you would have seen me shivering outside the train station in downtown Lafayette, standing on train tracks next to a busy highway losing all feeling in my toes, or inside -- where it was warm -- getting more traditional headshots taken. More than 300 shots later, I'm feeling all grinned out. I don't know how models do it!

This morning felt like senior pictures -- without the long, permed hair -- and wedding photos -- without the big white dress -- all rolled into one. I know how tour guide Barbie felt in Toy Story Two. "Are we done yet? Oh, good. My cheeks hurt."

But it was such fun. My friend Janet Stephens is a photographer and she had scoped out these locations and prayed about what shots she needed to get. It was such fun to watch her work. And just the few shots I got to peek at while she downloaded them on to her computer looked great. I don't know how I'll chose the best shots.

She's going to prepare a portfolio and then I'll pick from those. Once I narrow it down, I'll post a few that y'all can select your top picks from. One of those will be the author shot in Canteen Dreams, another in Sandhill Dreams, and a third in Captive Dreams. You know -- it just struck me that those titles perfectly represent what God has done. He has made my dream of being a writer come true!

All in all, it was such a fun morning! Even if I did freeze.

Friday, March 02, 2007

ACFW Book Club

Want to read some great books and chat with the authors? Then check out the American Christian Fiction Writers' Book Club. The ACFW Book Club gives fans of Christian fiction the opportunity to communicate with each other, chat with ACFW authors, and discuss books.

Book Club participants are invited to join an e-mail group set up to facilitate announcements and host discussions about the current reading selection. Members will be eligible for monthly free book drawings. To join, send a blank e-mail to acfwbookclub-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/acfwbookclub and click "join this group." You will receive a confirmation e-mail after joining. Follow the instructions given in the e-mail to complete your subscription to this e-mail list.

Each month, club members have an opportunity to participate in an on-line chat with an ACFW published author. Chats will be announced in advance so Club members have the opportunity to read the featured book. Book Club chats will be held on the ACFW website in the chat room at 7:00 p.m. CST on the first Monday of the month following the month the book is read.

Currently, the club is talking about Rachel Hauck's Lost in NashVegas. And then it's on to Mary Connolly's Petticoat Ranch before tackling sci-fi for some variety. Check it out.

Canteen Spirit Lives on...

Thursday I was on the phone with my Mom...not usually a blog worthy event. However, she was telling me about a fundraiser our restaurants had participated in. As I listened, I got chills thinking about how that spirit that permeated during World War Two might not be gone after all.

At the end of January a family in North Platte was devastated when the mom and two young girls were killed in a car accident. The little boy spent a month in different hospitals being treated for head and other injuries.

This family had touched all segments of North Platte. Whether from church, being active in the community, eating in restaurants four times a week, the tragedy really left the town reeling... and my brother and friend wanting to do something to help.

Eventually they talked Dad into doing a fundraiser at our two North Platte Runzas. Then they talked the radio station into free announcements every half hour for four days, stories and announcements in the Telegraph and on KNOP-TV. Then they hoped to raise enough to give the family $1000 to help with expenses.

They prepared, thinking business might double -- but the good folks of North Platte had been waiting for a way to help. One story tripled sales and the other quadrupled. People filled the donation boxes with additional money. All in all $4000 was raised in one day for this family.

Are you feeling the chills?

And this isn't the only example. The father works for Union Pacific railroad. Fortunately, he has good medical insurance, but he has had to use up all his vacation time so he could be in Kearney and Denver with his son. So the men he works with have been donating their vacation time to him so that he has continued to receive a paycheck during this entire period.

Then there's the person from the Telegraph who called the Broncos and let them know that this boy and his family are huge Broncos fans. So the Broncos sent a box of Broncos gear. That seems like a good response. Then the organization made a donation to the family. Equally enough. But then on the little boy's eighth birthday, John Elway had lunch with him at the Denver hospital -- far away from media exposure. Just because it was a good thing to do. You see this little boy's name is Jonathan Elway Hastings. The Hastings are those kind of fans.

This is what it's about. Seeing a need and finding ways to help meet that need. Reaching out to people who are desperately hurting and letting them know that they aren't alone.

And every time I begin to think we've lost the ability to feel and respond deeply, I hear a story like this. And then I hope again.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Breaking News!!

Many of you may have heard the screams or felt the dance of joy. I just learned this afternoon that Heartsong Presents is going to contract my next two Nebraska World War Two stories. I am so excited, blessed and amazed!

This is a dream come true...and it let's me know I might be more than a one-book contract girl. That's certainly the fear that starts whispering in your mind when you get the first contract.

Tomorrow morning I'll get author photos taken for Canteen Dreams. I'll probably post options here for your votes. I'm sure I'll be overwhelmed. The photographer is going to take a few at our train station in downtown Lafayette, and then some at railroad tracks since Canteen Dreams is centered primarily at a train station based canteen. Then we'll take some traditional head shots, too. Should be fun.

I still don't know where God is taking me on this journey, but I will continue to chase hard after Him and enjoy the ride.!

Review: The Root of All Evil

“Wealthy businessman Berger Hume is dying, and the one thing he wants most is the one thing his millions can’t buy…a relationship with the son he’s never met.

“In a race against time, private investigator Colton Parker is hired to find Berger’s son but soon finds himself on the receiving end of some very deadly messages. Messages that are meant to keep Colton from uniting father and son. Messages that come form one of the city’s most notorious outlaw biker gangs. A gang whose reach is extends into the highest levels of government to Colton’s own home, endangering the life of his daughter.”

When I picked up The Root of All Evil, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It is the third book in the Colton Parker series by Indiana author Brandt Dodson. When you read Colton Parker think one of the FBI agents from NUMB3Rs ten or fifteen years down the road. They’ve lived a little, lost a lot, and are now trying to find footing without the FBI. In Colton’s case, he’s a recent widower with a teenage daughter and a fledgling – read struggling – PI firm.

When a woman enters asking him to find the long-lost son for a large retainer, Colton can’t think of a reason to say no, and his bank account tells him he has to say yes. By the time he has a host of reason to say no, it’s too late.

This is the third book in the series, and I had no trouble figuring out what was going on. The book stood alone quite well. It is centered in Indianapolis, and took me to parts of the city I have never visited – and after reading the book, would very much like to avoid on my next trip to the Capital.

The plot is filled with twists and turns that keep you guessing and wondering if Colton will be able to protect his charge and his child while unraveling who’s behind the threat to the Humes. I liked how this book was not predictable and took the plot places I’d hoped it wouldn’t go. The book had the hard-edged feel of a PI novel without diving into language to convey the coarseness of the characters.

The characters – even the antagonists – had facets that made them human. Dodson didn’t fall into the trap of making the characters cardboard props to the plot. And I wasn’t expecting the son of an extremely wealthy man to be so far removed from his father’s world. Yet he still had that hole in his life that made him long to know if his father could love him.

Colton isn’t a Christian, and isn’t by the end. Instead he has characters who challenge him and ask him the hard questions. Much like real life – I love that in a character’s spiritual arc. I don’t know many people who become Christians overnight, thus it was very believable that as he’s running all over Indy trying to save lives and solve a deadly puzzle that he doesn’t have much time to sit down and ruminate about spiritual matters. But he listens – reluctantly – when challenged.

All in all I enjoyed this book, and it is not the last book of Dodson’s I will read. In fact Original Sin has jumped up in my to be read stack.

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