Friday, June 29, 2007

Supreme Court Ends with Landmark Case

When a case reaches the US Supreme Court, it has already traveled a complicated path. First, it usually has to survive to a hearing or trial. At a minimum the judge has made some sort of final decision that is appealable. Then the case has to travel through to a Court of Appeals. If one side still isn't happy, and has the money, that side will petition for cert. The court accepts a tiny percentage of the petitions for cert that are filed. The number that sticks in my head is 4%.

So from the start, any decision that is issued by the Supreme Court has the potential to be a landmark case. They usually will focus on big issues that will have an impact. Maybe the case focused on a government taking, interstate commerce, a federal regulation or law. Or one of the social issues like abortion or education.

Thursday, the court handed down decisions in two school cases that deal with policies schools in Louisville, Kentucky and Seattle had for assigning children to schools. Seattle has never been under a court-order regarding school desegregation; Louisville's order was revoked in 2001 when the district was found to be unitary. Yet both school districts were making decisions on where children would attend school based on race.

Today it appears racial balancing isn't allowed anymore. As I said often in class though, it will be interesting to see how the decision is applied. Was racial desegregation ended today? It depends. And as the majority opinion stated, "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Revision Letters

I got my first revision letter from Steeple Hill yesterday. I know this is going to sound crazy, but I LOVED reading it. My editor has a fantastic reputation for pushing writers to improve their stories and characterization. If you want to learn to write, many authors have told me to write for her.

After reading this letter, I agree.

Yes, she has several direct criticisms of the way the book is structured right now. But I know that each of those is rooted in a desire to make the book stronger and better.

And frankly, I need the direction.

Deadly Exposure is the best book I can make it. But that doesn't mean it's done. Instead, I know there are many places it can be improved. With Krista's help, I'm identifying them.

This isn't my first revision letter. I've had the pleasure of going through this process once with my other publisher. In a sense I'm broken in and know what to expect. What impresses me most about the editors I work with is that they want to make me look better.

In the revision process, I'll learn many things. Hopefully, I'll then apply these new skills to future books. I often pray for a teachable spirit that is eager to learn everything I can about writing -- especially where my writing is weak.

I now understand why authors like Colleen Coble say they love getting revision letters. With my editor's guidance, this book will come to life in a way that will hopefully resonate with readers. And that, after all, should be the goal of all writers.
Cross-posted at

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Review: Meeting Her Match

Debra Clopton has a wit and voice that sings across the pages of Meeting Her Match. This is the first book of hers that I have read, but won’t be my last.

In Meeting Her Match, Sheri Marsh just wants to be left alone. But the Mule Hollow Matchmakers are bound and determined to force her over her broken heart and into a forever relationship. Pace Gentry, a taciturn cowboy, returns to town in time to become Sheri’s Plan B. If she can trick everyone into thinking she’s happily involved, then maybe they’ll leave her alone.

The book is a frolic, filled with metaphors and similes that are perfect for a Texas cowboy romance. The sparks fly early and often as Pace and Sheri butt heads. He’s trying hard to follow God, but it’s an effort for the new believer. Sheri is convinced that God has decided she’s not worth the effort. And she refuses to risk putting a man or future children through the chaos her parents subjected her to growing up.

The supporting cast is rich for category romance. And the humor is fantastic. Through the twists and turns, Sheri has to decide whether to follow her emotions, or stick with her head. And Pace learns to close the door to his other options and truly trust God to lead him.

If you’re looking for a fun and different romance, this one is perfect.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Lazy Days

I love summer.

And in a week, my summer will be lazy for the first time in a long time. Sure I have two book deadlines in August – Ack! But I’ll be done teaching a summer class at Purdue, and I won’t be at the law firm. The kids and I will have two months of hanging out and playing.

I can’t wait!

I plan to spend time most days at the pool. Just this week my son figured out he can float and swim all over the pool with his floaties. Talk about freedom for mom. And my daughter is quite a fish. Each day, her swimming gets stronger. I can’t wait to see how far they both progress by September.

I have a bag of art projects we can make together. Both of my kids love projects and crafts and will create their own if I don’t direct them. So we’re going to try some new things like painting vases and making garden stepping stones.

Then there’s education. It may be summer, but as a homeschooling family, learning never stops. My daughter will start second grade in the fall, and it has been wonderful to watch her reading take-off as we work on it each day. She’s gone from reading simple readers to more complex chapter books. And I love that she’s asking if she can read out loud to me. Then there’s double-digit subtraction and addition. And working with my son in math books and on picking out words in books. He loves to do both, and he’s only three. Plus reading books like Stuart Little, Dancing Shoes, and Magic Tree House to them.

I am ready to relax and enjoy a summer hanging out with my kids and watching their personalities and character continue to develop.

What will you do this summer?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Which Come First: the Story or Market?

I'm a Nebraskan at heart, and as I'm sitting here working on Sandhill Dreams -- set in, you guessed it, Nebraska -- I was doing some quick research on Nebraska authors to make sure their books were in print in 1943. As I did that I ran across this quote from Bess Streeter Aldrich. Some of you may have read her books including A Lantern in Her Hand (truly one of the great prairie stories). Anyway, the author notes at the beginning contained the following quote that I thought you might enjoy.

"A Lantern in Her Hand" was written to please no one but my own consciousness of the character of many of those pioneer mothers. It was written in the so-called "mad twenties" when most of the best-selling books were about sophistication, flaming youth, or far-flung countries. There was some youth in it, but not of the flaming type. There was no sophistication, for Abbie Deal was of the soil. There was not even diversity of scene, for Abbie was only a homemaker.

"Lantern" seemed destined to be lost in the wave of the popular type of the times. That it has made new friends each year since that day might be a bit of a lesson for young writers. Regardless of the popular literary trend of the times, write the thing which lies close to your heart." (quote found at

One challenge for writers is whether to write for the market or the story. The thinking is what good is it to write a great book that noone will ever see. Why not focus on markets that I know editors are looking for? I never planned to write historical romance. Yet three of my first four books are in exactly that genre.

However, I have been able to marry my deep love for Nebraska and World War Two into these books. They have been a joy to research and write because I find them fascinating. I'm blessed to have editors who are as intrigued by the stories as I am. Hopefully, readers will love them, too.

I also write suspense. The book Love Inspired Suspense purchased is high intensity and set in Nebraska. I wrote the book thinking there would be a market, but knowing that it was a story I wanted to tell. It was the kind I love to read. I didn't know if it would find a home, but wrote it anyway with a couple ideas for houses that it might fit at. Fortunately for me, one of those houses agreed with me!

So Bess' quote resonated this evening as I read it. Especially in light of a conversation we had today at the Indiana Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. Should we write to the market or to the story? Like any self-respecting attorney, I think the answer is a mix of both.

So as I chase the dreams God placed in me to write, the challenge is not to chase the market so much I lose the story. Yes, I need to know the market. But even more I need to be obedient to tell the story God gives me. And just maybe I will write something timeless that is still read 80+ years later.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Word Counts

Gina asked the other day how many words I try to write a day. My bare minimum when I am under deadline is 1500 a day or almost a chapter. I find that if I am able to focus and not get distracted by anything and everything, I can write 1000 words in an hour. And those words will be keepable for the most part. Sometimes I write faster. Other nights much slower.

Tuesday night I got 1660 words done. Then Wednesday I bombed. A whopping 304 words. It was like I hit a wall and the more I panicked the less I could write. Yesterday I was able to write 1000 words in the morning, and another 1100+ at night. Almost has me back on track.

I have an excel spreadsheet that I maintain as I write for personal accountability. I suppose I could do the same thing with page count; one page equals roughly 250 words, but I like to watch the word count tick up. At this point, I'm 21,524 words into Sandhill Dreams. That means by the end of the weekend I should be halfway. Woohoo!!!

The class I'm teaching at Purdue wraps up next week with a final the following week. Once that's done, I'll have a bit more time to focus on finishing Sandhill Dreams. I'm also a little nervous about my revision letter on Deadly Exposure. Okay, really nervous.

So if you're a writer, how do you stay motivated? I'm hoping some of you have far more interesting ways than excel spreadsheets!


On the Name Contest, Miss Bookwarm and Sherrie B are the winners. Congratulations! Please contact me so I can get you your book!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Random Thoughts of a Writer on Deadline

I should be set.

The kids are finally in bed. The puppy has been run all around the yard. And the clock reads 9:38 p.m. Scratch that, Jonathan is up and out of bed...again. Sigh.

You wonder when the books you read get written? Often in either the early hours of the morning -- some of my friends get up as early as 4 a.m. That is so not me. Or in the later hours of the day when the house begins to calm down. I've been up since 6:30 (if you don't count Eric waking me up twice on his way out the door before 5:30). So I'm tired.

But I only got 500 words written this morning. So I have to write at least 1500 more before I can call it a day.

I'm actually pretty excited about it though.

You see, today I received a box from Amazon. In it, a CD Songs that Got Us through the War and a book: Everyday Fashions of the Forties. I love that book! It has pages from Sears catalog from 1939-1949. Perfect for the era the book I'm writing it in. The other night I spent twenty minutes trying to match the image of a soldier's hat from a photo with a term. This book won't address that, but it will give me names for styles of dresses, shoes, etc., and let me see what was available in the catalog in 1943. Helpful since I'm about ready to dive back in May 1943.

Ah, the strains of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy! You've got to love it. Oh, and now it's playing It's been a Long, Long Time. And now, dear friends, I'm jumping back in time 64 years and moving 1500 miles west. Sometimes I really think I would have enjoyed the 40s -- I love the music and movies. Can you see my contented smile from here?

Oh, and I hear the water boiling, so in moments I'll have my cup of Chocolate Hazelnut decaf tea with a biscotti next to me. That's the perfect recipe for a great night of writing if you ask me. Check back tomorrow to see how I did.

Out of the Wellspring of the Heart

“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34)

“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart” (Matthew 15:18)

Little Jonathan likes to sing his heart out. As he sings, my husband and I often look at each other and grin. I’ll often whisper, “We must be doing something right.”

Eric nods or whispers back something like, “Or God is amazingly faithful.”

Frankly, I think it’s both.

You see, Jonathan’s mouth is overflowing with praise songs. True, it’s fun to listen to his renditions of songs like Promises. We were walking through the mall yesterday, and he’s singing at the top of his lungs, “All of Your promises won’t let go of me….oh, oh, oh, I can’t forget about it.”

Abigail is much the same. More often than not, her heart bubbles from her lips with praise song after worship song. It delights my heart to stand in church with her and hear her sing as loud as she can along with everyone else. She came back from Vacation Bible School a couple weeks ago singing all kinds of songs about the fruit of the Spirit.

And singing those principles will cement them in my children’s hearts. How many songs from your childhood can you still recite word for word? Many of the verses I have memorized started as a song I learned at church. I will never forget the words to El Shaddai, The Warrior is a Child, or even I am a Promise (a classic from the Bill Gaither Trio for Children), Psalty, and Bullfrogs and Butterflies. Does anyone else remember those? And I’ve added literally thousands of songs since then.

At times those songs are literally a lifeline pulling me back to the throne room of God when emotionally I couldn’t be farther away for whatever reason.

I turn on Casting Crowns and belt out Praise You in the Storm or Lifesong. Or plug in Desperation Band and sing Amazed or really anything. Anything that reminds me of the promises and character of God.

So when I see my three and six year olds choosing to turn on Point of Grace or another praise and worship album or they ask to sing Voice of Truth just one more time, I smile and thank God for His faithfulness. Because no matter what Eric and I do to train our children, only God can turn their hearts to Him.

And when they’re adults, they’ll have a wellspring well-stocked with verses to sing to Him in the good and bad times.

Cross posted at Generation NeXt Parenting.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Review: Death of a Garage Sale Newbie

Sharon Dunn, author of the Ruby Taylor mystery series, is back and frankly better than ever. The Ruby Taylor series had a sassy, first person voice that was enjoyable, but I LOVED Death of a Garage Sale Newbie. I honestly wasn’t sure when I started the book, because what could someone find at a garage sale that would be worth killing over. Little did I know…

Ginger Salinski has a cadre of three women around her that she has taught how to find a bargain. Every Saturday they go garage saleing and then met at Mary Margaret’s home to discuss and compare their finds. Ginger gets very worried when Mary Margaret, the real estate agent, fails to show up one Saturday. With the help of Kindra, the college student, and Suzanne, the pregnant mother of three, Ginger is determined to find out who killed Mary Margaret.

What I enjoyed about this book is that while it’s a intricate mystery, it also is filled with subplots that add depth to the book. Ginger is concerned that her marriage to Earl may be on the rocks, and she’s paralyzed to know how to save it. When he asks her to go crazy and buy something for herself at full price, she’s convinced there’s nothing she can do. She just can’t waste the money. It practically sends her in a swoon.

As the gals retrace Mary Margaret’s last steps, they meet a woman who lost her husband 15 years earlier. There is also a police officer who is willing to help them – maybe – even though she’s under strict orders to leave the case alone. They peel back the clues and uncover a conspiracy that has been in place for twenty years. Could it be tied to Mary Margaret’s death? And if so, can they expose it before one of them dies, too?

The characters were real and fresh. By the end of the book I truly cared about them, and I cannot wait to read the sequel and spend more time with them. The plot kept me engaged. And I was challenged by the spiritual lesson that Ginger had to learn – frugality can become a prison when it prevents us from accepting the good gifts that God has for us.

Pick up this book for a clean mystery, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

We have a Title!

I sent my editor a list of about 15 titles last night. From that list she narrowed it down to DEADLY EXPOSURE. I like that one! So you've heard it here first, folks. Check bookstores in June 2008 for a LI Suspense titled DEADLY EXPOSURE by yours truly. I have goosebumps!

Now to find time to write more stories to pitch to them :-)

CFBA: As I have Loved You

The other CFBA book this week is Nikki Arana's newest release, As I Have Loved You. I have started this one, but haven't had time to finish it yet. Look for the review later. I really enjoy Nikki's writing style, and am eager to finish the book. Here's more on the book:

Contemporary Struggles...

...A Single Mom and College-Age Son.

Leigh Scott is a widowed, single mother who wants the best for her son Jeff. She would like him to graduate from college, land a secure job, and start a family. However, Jeff, who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) at a young age, has a God-given compassion for people. And his non-judgemental acceptance of all has unintended consequences.

Jeff starts dating Jessica, a girl with a questionable past and seemingly non-existent future. Soon, Jeff's grades drop as quickly as his sober determination to achieve the goals he's worked toward all his life, and Leigh finds herself caught ina relational tornado

To complicate matters further, Leigh is an author with a looming book deadline, a father battling cancer, and her former boyfriend and first love, a strong Christian Native American, coming back in her life.

Arana weaves a multi-layered, emotional family saga that brings the peril of judgement, the need for forgiveness and the gift of love to light

"Nikki Arana wrings the heart and exalts the soul."

---Romantic Times

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Here are some suggestions I've received from creative friends of mine. Which ones do you like? Does it trigger ideas? Share em!

Running From Shadows
Garden of Deception (because the gardener is the red herring, and this throws more suspicion on him.)
Garden of Deceit (same reason as above)
Inside Out (you said Dani finds her life turned inside out in a week.)
Spiral (God is the only one that can help her when her life spirals out of control. Also the murder, kidnapping, and stalking are all intertwined.)
Murderous Intent
Deadly Intent
Top Story
Lead Story
First on the Scene
Witness to the crime
Murder between acts
A Beautiful Murder
The Deadly Scent of a Rose
Deadly Exposure
Deadly Story
Curtain Call
What do you think? I have 24 hours to compile the list for my editor. Yikes!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It sold! and Help!

I just learned today that Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense wants to buy Double Image, my complete suspense. Yeah!!!! God is so good! I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with this new editor and to see this book in print.

Now for the help: my editor would like some ideas for new titles. Double Image is about a reporter who finds a body at intermission during the theater in Lincoln, NE. As a reporter, she begins to chase down the story, then becomes the target of a stalker. It's a race to the last page. There's also romance between the reporter and the police investigator. So any thoughts? Dani is not a Christian at the beginning and comes to rely on God as her protector and refuge.

If you play, I'll enter you in a contest for a free book. Mine won't be out until next June, but you'll have a great selection. Promise :-)

Review: Diva NashVegas

This week's CFBA tour has two books. The first is Diva NashVegas. If you read the review I wrote (conveniently reposted here) you know I LOVED this book. Rachel has a knack for writing funny but very touching books. To read an interview I had with Rachel last month, click here.

What do you do when the past you’ve been skirting shows up at your door with cameras rolling?

That’s exactly what happens to country super-star Aubrey James. The daughter of gospel greats who were killed while she was a teenager, she’s became a diva almost by accident. As a result she’s hidden from the media as much as possible. Until now.

Aubrey James is not your typical CBA heroine. Frankly, I loved breaking away from the stereotypes. Aubrey has spunk, but can’t get her life to calm down. She’s strayed far from her Gospel roots, as evidenced when her fiancé moves in. She’s also under attack from a former band member who wants to replace her. Then her record company puts pressure on her to produce an album quickly. And her love life isn’t going as smoothly as she’d expected when she accepted Car’s ring.

The book shows Aubrey’s journey back to herself. She’s pulled along that journey by her manager, best friend, and Connie, a mother figure. They encourage her to tell her story for the first time. She does and in the process rediscovers herself.

I could relate to Aubrey’s struggles. And through Aubrey’s journey, the author examines several of the imitations we settle for rather than seeking true acceptance and love from Christ. Whether it’s acclaim, human love, or belonging to a family, nothing material can fill the God-shaped void in our lives.

An interesting twist on this book is that there are two point of view characters, both told in first person. Rachel did a great job of writing each character, so that it was easy to tell which character’s perspective I was reading at any particular chapter. I also enjoyed the chance to get so deeply into the heads of the two main characters.

This story was a very satisfying read from page one to the end. I enjoyed the glimpse into the music scene in Nashville. It was fun to have a couple of the characters from Lost in NashVegas play roles in this book, yet it stands completely on its own.

So if you’ve ever lip-synched and dreamed about being a diva…this is a book you’ll enjoy! Rachel Hauck takes us behind the scenes in Nashville's music world, and it's a great journey.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Liza Jane turned to Brother Julian. “I believe you, sir, are the only Frenchman here. And the only person who is likely to own a Bible written in French. What do you have to say for yourself?”

The monk felt his face burn with embarrassment. “Anyone could own a French Bible. Your accusations prove nothing.” He straightened his rounded shoulders and pushed out his chest.
“Now if everyone will be so kind as to move out of my way, I should like to return to the Sanctuary. I am a cook there, and the hour is late. I am needed in the kitchen.” The monk moved toward the door of the schoolroom.

“Not so fast, Brother whatever-your-name is.” Cutter grabbed one of the monk’s chubby arms and held it. “You have some explaining to do first.”

Jose grabbed the other arm.

“Unhand me!” the monk demanded. “You have no right to hold me here.”

“We do until you answer a few questions,” Cutter retorted.

The monk tried to jerk free. Then everybody joined in his capture.

Someone gripped the rope belt around his waist. Another pinched his right ear with sharp fingernails.

“This is outrageous!” the monk shouted. “I insist that you release me at once.”

“We’ll release you when you’ve answered our questions.” Cutter nodded toward the corner near the teacher’s desk. “Since the monk won’t fit in any of these chairs, I suggest we shove him over in that corner to question him.”

Julian felt his body being pushed forward. He wiggled and squirmed but was unable to break free with all those hands on him. If he expected to get home in time to help prepare a proper evening meal, he would have no choice but to confess.

The baroness dragged over a small desk and shoved it behind him. “Sit down, Brother Julian, and start talking.”

“Very well.” His heart pounding, the monk sat down and tried to collect his thoughts. “I was walking along the beach in front of the church. All at once, the world around me began to spin around and around. I tried to make it stop.” He shut his eyes and fisted both his hands. “I could not.”

“And then what happened?” Audrey asked.

Julian released a deep breath. “I found myself in front of this building during a thunderstorm.” He pulled free enough to press the palm of one hand against his chest to keep his heart from jumping out of his body. “You see I have—I have sinned much in my lifetime.” He swallowed. “Can you not see that being here is my punishment?”

“Confession is good for the soul, Brother,” Liza Jane said. “Maybe it would help if you told us what you did.”

“Tell?” He chuckled under his breath. “And why not? I have nothing to lose now.” He cleared his throat. “I have listened at the door when the priest heard confessions.” He hesitated. “And I have told what I heard for money.” He trembled, wondering what disaster might come to him now. “And I have done worse things. But I shall not speak of them here.” His thick lips firmed, and a frown crossed his forehead. “This is all the fault of that pretty little nun and the young monk who arrived at the Sanctuary only last night. None of this would have happened but for them.”

“But you still haven’t told us why you tried to destroy my schoolroom.” Liza Jane said.

“I never wished to destroy it,” the monk confessed. “I was looking for a way out. Everything is strange here. I was looking for a way home.”

“We all desire to return home,” Jose said.

Julian shook his head, unable to believe what he’d just heard. He’d thought he was the only one who didn’t belong here. To hear that he was wrong confused him.

“Jose is telling the truth,” Audrey put in. “We all want to go home.”

“Then what is to be done?” Brother Julian turned to Liza Jane as if he expected her to come up with an answer.

“I don’t need to find a way home,” Liza Jane said. “I am home. I belong here. But maybe if we all prayed together in the name of Jesus, the Lord would find a way to get the rest of you home, too.”

“Yes,” Brook said. “Let us all join hands and pray at once.”

Brother Julian nodded, agreeing to pray with the others. But he doubted God would hear his prayers after all the things he’d said and done.


Brother Julian is a minor character in SANCTUARY by Molly Noble Bull.
Sanctuary will be published in trade paperback on September 15, 2007 and is the first of three long historical novels about the Huguenots. To read the first part of Sanctuary today, go to Molly’s website,, scroll down and click Molly’s Books. SANCTUARY can be preordered from her website and from The Winter Pearl can be ordered from bookstores and from her website as well.

ACFW Conference Blog Tour

June 1st registration for the 2007 ACFW National Conference opens. In honor of that authors, editors, agents, ACFW board members, etc., are participating in a blog tour. These sites are all great for writers, and I encourage you to stop by and see what they have to say! I'll be posting on June 9th.

1 DiAnn Mills
1 Chip MacGregor , agent
2 Michelle Sutton, ACFW Board Member
3 Ane Mulligan, ACFW Board Member
4 Susan Downs, author and editor at Heartsong Presents Mysteries
4 Pamela James, ACFW Board Member
4 Colleen Coble, ACFW CEO
5 Tricia Goyer
6 Becky Germany, Barbour Editor
7 Novel Journey
8 JoAnne Simmons, Heartsong Presents Editor
9 ME :-)
10 Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll, ACFW Prez
11 Gail Gaymer Martin ACFW Advisory Board
11 Pamela James
12 Rachel Hauck, ACFW Advisory Board
13 Brandilyn Collins, ACFW Advisory Board
13 Mary Demuth
14 Carrie Turanksy
15 Susan Meissner
16 & 17 Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll: Robin really likes to talk about ACFW
18 Pamela James Pammer likes to talk about it, too
19 Katy McKenna
20 Pam Myers ACFW Secretary
21 Susan May Warren
22 Tiff Miller
23 Margaret Daley
24 Ron Estrada
25 Pamela James
26 Cheryl Wyatt
27 Dineen Miller
28 Tamera Alexander
28 Deeanne Gist
29 Tiff Miller
30 Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll
July 1 Robin Jones Gunn

ACFW Bookclub

American Christian Fiction Writers has a bookclub. Each month a different author and book are featured. The club spends that month discussing the book and then has a live on-line chat with the author at the beginning of the next month.

The Book Club membership has grown in the last few weeks and is now over 350 members. In a push to cross 400 members, we’ve had several authors donate prizes for the 400th member and referrer as well as going past that. So, if you’re not a member, now is a great time to join! The Book Club is free and anyone can join by sending a blank email to

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Value of ACFW

Today's the 9th, isn't it.

If it is, I'm the person on tap to blog about American Christian Fiction Writers. One of the best things that happened to me is the day that Colleen Coble told me to join and attend the conference.
I love being a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). A key is getting to meet other writers. I'm a member of the Indiana chapter. In April I got to meet Judith Miller and Cyndy Salzmann at a book signing in Lincoln. It was an absolute delight to meet Judith... and Cyndy was exactly the kind of person I expected after our emails back and forth.

But conference takes the cake. I get to see friends from literally all over the country, gathered in one place with one purpose: to learn as much as we can about fiction while honoring God. It is amazing!

Nashville in 2005 was my first experience, and I was intimidated. Those of you who know me, probably think of me as out-going and hard-charging. That's true in a lot of areas, but in September 2005 I knew I was out of my league. Going to ACFW was like going to the Oscars would be for folks who love movies. I got to meet some of my all time favorite authors, the folks on the e-loop who had taught me so much, the majority of my crit groups that had taught me how to write. It was down-right overwhelming. At that point I didn't even have a completed manuscript. But I soaked in everything I could and enjoyed the experience. I was overwhelmed by how good God was...I walked out with three editors who wanted to see projects from me when they were finished, an agent who was interested, and a new project that I was excited about.

Fast forward a year.

In 2006 I was so eager to get back and reconnect with friends, and meet even more people. I also knew I had a lot more to learn. I also had a secret hope that maybe I would get a contract. But I didn't want to hope too much -- especially since the editor I had connected with was no longer with that particular house. Then I heard my manuscripts title read. It was such a kiss from heaven! That conference was a roller-coaster emotionally. Highs and Lows. Joys and doubts. But one I will never forget.

Now we're in 2007. I'm on the board of ACFW - yikes. I chaired the committee that waded through almost 150 qualified applications for approximately 25 slots. Double yikes. This is going to be the best conference yet. And I am so pumped.

So if you've ever had the dream of writing fiction, get thee to Dallas September 20-23. Registration opened June 1st, and the excitement is almost palatable. Click here to see more about the conference at the ACFW website.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Are Vaccines Linked to Autism?

Starting June 11th, the Court of Federal Claims will start a test trial to determine whether the mercury contained in vaccines is directly linked to the surge in autism.

I clerked for a senior judge at this court for a year after law school. It is a unique court in that the United States is always the defendant. Since 1986, if you believe a illness or health change is caused by vaccines, the court is also the only place you can seek compensation. Each time we are vaccinated there is a 75 cent excise tax that is paid into the vaccine fund. According to a article, that's $200 million a year.

While I didn't work on any of the vaccine cases, I read several decisions that were issued during my tenure, and the facts in each was heartbreaking. The trial that starts next week is designed to streamline the process for the 5,100 other cases that have been filed.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

So I'm curious

How many of you have read the Who? posts? And did you enjoy them? Why and why not? I think they've been fun, but before I participate in more, I'd love your feedback. It's a new project and I know we're always looking for ways to make them better. :-)

I know my sister Janna got the answer write for Who? 2. Everyone else, who do you think did the dastardly deed?

Review: These Boots Weren't Made for Walking

This week's CFBA book is These Boots Weren't Made for Walking by Melody Carlson. I had the pleasure of reading this book and really enjoyed it. Here are my thoughts.

Cassie Cantrell invests in a pair of boots that should make the statement that she’s ready to move to the next level in her life and career. Instead, the first day she wears them, she’s fired. Her long-time boyfriend dumps her, and she decides to let her loser neighbor take over her lease – only maybe he’s not such a loser after all. Then she moves home and finds her mom wearing them on a date with a man Cassie went to high school with. At thirty-one, Cassie can’t imagine her life being any worse. She’s jobless, boyfriend-less, and homeless.

When she moves back home, she’s not sure what she wants out of life. Her mom’s convinced a make-over will do the trick. Cassie’s not sure she could survive the kind of make-over her mom has in mind.

This book was a chick lit with attitude. Sure, there were all kinds of references to shoes made by designers I’ve never heard of living here in the Midwest. And there were the day-to-day events that were blown into hysterical proportions. Frankly, that’s why I pick up a chick-lit. I want to be reminded that I can laugh at the insane events life throws my way.

I think everybody can find something that mirrors their life in Cassie’s story. Who hasn’t had serious body issues? Or experienced a mid-life crisis at the ripe old age of 31? Or wondered if this could really be what life is supposed to be about?

There were many times while reading this book that I laughed out loud. Other times, I was challenged to examine my sometimes bleak thoughts about life. We all have a choice to make. Will we curl up with a pile of junk food when life gets tough? Or will we strap on some boots and tackle the challenges? I know which category I want to be in.

There are job issues, romance (or lack thereof) issues, friend issues, family issues. All the issues that make life so much fun and a challenge all at the same time. And after awhile Cassie finds her stride and gets her life back on track.

This book was an enjoyable read, told from a sassy perspective.

Who? Vol. 2: Brother Julian and Liza Jane

Brother Julian from SANTUARY – circa 1740s France
by Molly Noble Bull

Brother Julian glanced at the others in the room. “Never have I seen so many books in one place other than inside the walls of a church.” The portly monk’s high- pitched, squeaky voice revealed a strong French accent. “All of you must be blessed. To be sure, I am amazed.” A slow smiled formed on his thick lips as his gaze moved to the bookcase next to the line of small desks that Jose had just righted. “I speak English but little. Would it be possible for me to study some of the titles here? Perhaps read some of the books on the shelves?”

Liza Jane shrugged. “I don’t care if nobody else does.”

“Thank you, mademoiselle. You are most kind.”

The monk pulled a book from one of the shelves. He glanced at the cover and put it back where he found it. Then he reached for a large Bible.

“All our Bibles are written in English,” Liza Jane said.

“Pity.” Brother Julian shook his head. “Still, it is rare indeed to see a Holy Book outside a church. Is it not? My FAITH demands that I examine it. Might I?”

Liza Jane nodded. “Of course.”

The short, round little monk was too fat to fit into any of the desks. Nevertheless, he settled his large body on the top of one as if he thought it was a bench or a backless chair.

The baroness let out a heaving breath. “This is getting us no closer to figuring out who did this. Tell me; who was the last one out of the schoolhouse after the lightning struck?”

Cutter cleared his throat. “The monk and I. We stood on the steps and filled my pipe. Then I went out and joined you and Jose, baroness.”

Everybody turned to Brother Julian. He pressed the palm of his hand to his ample chest. “Surely you would not accuse a holy man like me of such a crime.” When he realized everybody still stared at him, he opened the pouch attached to his rope belt. He pulled out a piece of broken leather and held it up for all to see. “Does this not look like a strap taken from a horse’s lead? I found this when we all came back in. Now think, if you will. Who but Jose arrived on a horse? Therefore, who but Jose would have need of a leather strap like this one? I followed Cutter out; Jose could have snuck in after I left.”


Liza Jane from LOVING LIZA JANE – circa 1880s Kentucky
by Shar MacLaren

Liza gasped at the sight of her once well-organized classroom and tried to stop the tears, knowing her blubbery state would accomplish nothing. She looked toward the window where, outside, the rain still fell in torrents. She batted at the wet trail with the back of her hand and willed herself to calm down. This was a serious matter and one that demanded a clear head, not a head stuffed full of woeful emotion. Someone among them had transformed her perfect little classroom into a cyclone, and she needed to determine the culprit’s identity.

Pulling back her shoulders, she looked at the cluster of mismatched people who had chosen her schoolhouse for a place of refuge from the summer storm and found equal looks of astoundment on each face, not that she’d ever considered herself terribly good at discerning folks’ inner thoughts. Trusting by nature, perhaps to a fault, she’d always sought the good in everyone, believing most to be innately honorable. Oh, she wasn’t so naïve as to believe that crimes didn’t occur, but that’s why she’d left her native Boston to travel to the quiet, respectable—and wholesome—town of Little Hickman, Kentucky.

Now she saw the futility in such thinking. It would seem that even in this tiny burg, the presence of evil hovered nearby.

“What a horrid mess!” remarked Brook, smoothing down the front of her dress, as if the clutter had somehow affected her natural-born beauty. “Why, I never…!”

“Appears to me there’s a rotten apple among us,” said Jose. He peered through dark eyes from one to the other. In his depthless gaze, a look of suspicion leaked out. “Seems we weren’t all in the same place at the same time.”

“Don’t go looking at me with those accusing eyes,” said Cutter, removing his pipe from his mouth with his good hand. His other one sagged at the end of a useless, shriveled arm. “I’d be hard put to do such damage with only one good limb.”

“Your good arm looks plenty strong enough to me,” said Brother Julian.

Even though he stood a good six feet away from Liza, the round man’s rancid breath carried across the room. She had all she could do not to pinch her nose shut.
Cutter narrowed his eyes at the chubby, bald-headed fellow and opened his mouth to retort, but Liza stopped him with an outstretched hand.

“Now, please, let’s not start throwing out accusations without some measure of proof. What we need here is PATIENCE, my friends, that and a bit of common sense. Let us think this thing through in as orderly a way as possible. Now then…”

Liza closed her eyes in thought and when she reopened them, spotted something lying on the floor she hadn’t seen before. It was a book, and not a student textbook, either. In fact, this one was altogether unfamiliar.

Her curiosity piqued, so she left her circle of “guests” to retrieve the book.
Bending, she felt her face pull into a tight frown when she saw that, though a Bible, it was in French. Certainly not something she or her students would own. And so far as she could recall, none of the guests had been in this corner of the room before the tree fell, so if someone dropped it, it would have had to be while making this mess.

She held the book’s cover up for all to see. “Which one of you claims to own this?”

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Interview with Author Shelley Bates

It is my pleasure to have Shelley Bates join us today. She is the author of several books including the new release, Over Her Head. Over Her Head is one of those rare books that has stayed with me in between the times I've had to sit down and read it. The characters are real and all too easy to relate to. And the scenario is a mother's worst nightmare...without being a suspense. Watch for my review in the next few days.

Now to the interview with Shelley.

SB: Hi, Cara, and thanks so much for being part of my blog tour!

CP: Shelley, Over Her Head tells a story that is a bit disturbing (at least for mothers of teenagers!). How did you come up with the question that propelled the story?

SB: My books always contain a crime of some kind (too many years supporting the police, I guess!), but I wanted the story to be more than a murder mystery. Since it's women's fiction, which revolves around a woman's personal concerns, family, friends, and community, I wanted the story question to be not so much "Who killed Randi Peizer?" but "What kind of mother suspects her own daughter of murder?" That's pretty personal! And it also makes a reader stop and think, wow, the stakes are pretty high here--for the mom, the daughter, the family, and beyond. All good reasons to pick up a book :)

CP: What are you hoping readers take away from the story?

SB: My Elect trilogy of books and Over Her Head both deal with an issue that's very close to my heart--the danger of trying to work one's way to heaven versus depending on the grace of God through His Son. My heroine, Laurie, has a life that's filled to bursting with works--but at the core there's an empty space where God should be. Part of her journey is to discover how much she needs to fill that space with true worship. Which is something I've had to discover, too, after spending my life in a toxic church that was all about the works.

CP: Which was your favorite character in this book and why? Are there hints of you in this character?

SB: There are pieces of me in every character, I think :) But as much as I loved writing Laurie, she's not a bit like me. She's a former prom queen and I never even went to my prom! She loves to cook, and I leave that to my husband, who's much better at it than I am. She's very organized,
though, which I am after twenty years of organizing executives in the high-tech industry. My favorite character is probably Nick Tremore, the investigator of the homicide. I like writing strong guys who think their life is just fine--until the least likely woman they could think of rocks
their world. Hee hee!

CP: You've written many books. Which is your favorite?

SB: Oh my. Each book is precious for its own reason. Grounds to Believe was written when I was finding my way out of the toxic church. It kept me sane because I sure couldn't afford therapy. Pocketful of Pearls gave a voice to several abused women who had been forced to be silent for too long--and I love my flawed heroine, Dinah. A Sounding Brass gave me closure and enabled me to leave the past behind. And Over Her Head taught me to stretch my writing--because I didn't think I could write this book. The subject was too emotional ... I didn't have the experience ... you know the kinds of doubts that can set in. But writing it turned out to be a joy!

CP: What are you working on next?

SB: I am so excited about my next project--a series of six "chick lit" books for teens that I'll be writing under a pseudonym. The Christian answer to Gossip Girl. Heh! :: rubs hands in glee :: Watch for the first book in May 2008!

For another insightful interview with Shelley, check out Robin Carroll's blog.

Who? Vol. 2: Jose & Cutter

Jose from The Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War (series) – circa 1938 Spain
by Tricia Goyer

Jose moved around the room with quickened steps. Near the Spanish coast where he lived only the children of the wealthy attended SCHOOLS such as this, and he appreciated the fact that here all were given such a chance.
Yet his first concern was for the safety of the women.
Jose turned to the door. “Senoritas, please. I am afraid our place of refuge has become one of destruction. Maybe you should stay outside, where it is safe.”
The women didn’t seem to be listening as they hovered near the door of the room, all of them talking at the same time. It was hard enough understanding English, even harder when they all spoke at once. He shook his head, realizing that women were often harder to tame than the wild stallions he trained.
He moved to the closest school desk. It had been tossed to its side and the seat torn from the frame. Whoever had done this used great force.
Jose thought it best to right the piece of furniture, lest any of the women’s long, or short, skirts get caught on the furniture and cause them to tumble.
Jose righted the piece and felt the pull of a piece of metal on his hand. A bent nail stuck out from the broken frame. He looked closer and noticed that a piece of ripped cloth was stuck to the nail. Bending down, and resting his weight on one knee, Jose noticed it was tan.
“It could be from the children. Maybe a nino or nina who sits at this desk on a daily basis,” he mumbled to himself. But when he heard a loud man’s boisterous voice behind him he turned and noted the man who called himself Cutter wore tan breeches.
Could it be?
The man was taller than Jose with hair that touched his shoulders. He seemed kind enough despite his frightening appearance. Still, one could never tell. During the months of the civil war Jose had discovered too well the pain of being deceived by those who appeared to be one’s friend. Kind words did not necessarily stem from a kind heart.
Jose rose and tugged, pulling the fabric from the nail. He took two steps, his eyes focused on Cutter, then he paused as another man moved into view.
It was the monk, Brother Julian. He was bald and plump, similar to the many servants of God who had lived on Spanish soil. Jose had been raised to always respect the men of the cloth. Yet, his stomach turned. For the cloth the monk wore was a homespun robe. A tan homespun robe.
Jose stood straighter and cocked his head, confused. The tall man with the scarred face or the priest with the high voice? Just who did the cloth belong to?

Cutter from THE RESTITUTION – circa 1669 Caribbean
by M.L. Tyndall

“Egad, woman. Surely you don’t suspect me?” Cutter rose to his full height and gave Audrey a look of indignation. “In case it has escaped your attention, I have but one useful arm.” He waved his scarred, withered limb through the air. “I can barely pick up a quill pen with this hand, let alone topple a desk and shove a stove from its moorings.”

Cutter grimaced and took a puff of his pipe as all eyes sped in his direction. What was the lady thinking? Lady indeed. He stared at her, trying to avoid gazing at her shapely, bare legs. More like a trollop than a school teacher. And he’d met plenty of them when he’d sailed upon the pirate ship, The Restitution.

“All I was saying, Mr. Cutter, is that you are the only one who smokes.”

Cutter grunted and turned aside, deciding not to honor such an incredulous accusation with a retort.

“We should discount the women.” Jose picked a book off the floor. “They are not strong enough to do this.”

“Then you don’t know mujeres very well, mi amigo.” Cutter shot a gaze to the horse trainer and noticed the look of surprise on his face. “Yes. I picked up a bit of Spanish while sailing the Main. But nevertheless,” Cutter tapped his pipe on one of the only shelves still hooked to the wall. “I once knew a woman who dressed like a man and passed herself off as a pirate. Did a fine job of it too, I might add.”

“Really? How exciting.” Brook raised her brows. “I believe that’s the one thing I have yet to accomplish. Whatever happened to her?”

“I married her.”

His comment brought chuckles from the group and drew their attention off him—which was precisely what he wanted. Why did everyone always point fingers at the scarred man, the monster, as if being unattractive caused wickedness.

“Nevertheless, Mr. Cutter, we are not pirates and as you can see, we are all slight women,” Liza placed her hands on her hips and glared at him.

“I agree with Mr. Cutter,” Brother Julian interjected. “The women could have easily done this damage, especially if they worked together. Everyone here is suspect.”
Liza gave an unladylike snort and turned away as Cutter made his way to the tobacco leaves Audrey had discovered.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her approach.

“How did this happen to you? She pointed at his arm, but naught but concern warmed her eyes.

“I ran into a burning building to rescue someone.”

She gave him a sad smile, but said nothing.

Liza appeared at her side. Cutter had to avert his eyes from her tight-fitting gown. He was a married man, after all. Did these women in Kentucky have no sense of modesty?

“Come Audrey.” She threw her chin in the air and gave Cutter a look as if he had leprosy, before she escorted her friend away.

Cutter leaned over, picked up a tobacco leaf from the floor, and lifted it to his nose. Indeed, it was his brand. Brother Julian had helped him fill his pipe.
Yes, now he remembered. But they hadn’t been standing here by the shelves. He gazed across the room at Brother Julian as he spoke with Brook. No, they had been standing on the stoop at the time. How did his tobacco get all the way over here?

He eyed the monk. A man of God. Cutter had experience with such devout men. He’d actually known pirates who had turned from their wicked ways to follow God. Why would a man of faith do such a thing? Impossible. He scanned the scattered, broken desks where CHILDREN sat, learning and reading and playing. No, certainly a man of God would do no such thing.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Who? Vol. 2 -- my character

A crime has been committed in 1880s Kentucky—and it’s up to you to figure out WHOdunit! Play the game for a chance to win one of THREE autographed copies of Sharlene MacLaren’s LOVING LIZA JANE.

Have you read the opening scene yet? If not, then see how it all started from Brook’s point of view. (Just click on the newest blog.) When you get to the bottom, you’ll find links to the other characters in the room who will also give you clues….now, let’s hear from—


Audrey from CANTEEN DREAMS –1941 Nebraska

Audrey slumped against the rough wall of the schoolhouse. The damage was horrible. It looked like one of the bombs bombarding England had exploded outside, with the shockwave tossing books and desks about the small room. School should be an escape, a haven, for the children who attend. It would take effort to return this one to an appropriate state.

She listened to the others argue and wrapped her arms tightly around her. A shiver shook her frame. Didn’t they know there were more important things than arguing? She’d hoped the trip to KENTUCKY to visit Lainie while she trained with the other nurses would help her relax and forget the strife of war. Instead, she found herself in a strange time warp worthy of an Orson Welles’ broadcast.

Enough. Time to stop feeling sorry for herself and do something. Working at the North Platte Canteen had taught her the value of having a job to do during a crisis. While everyone else bickered, she’d figure out what had happened. How hard could it be? There were only six of them who could have destroyed the classroom. And she knew she hadn’t and doubted Liza would do something like this to her own classroom. That left four suspects. Maybe Audrey could put on her Thin Man hat and solve this murder faster than William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Pushing off of the wall, Audrey squared her shoulders and approached Cutter. He looked like he’d lived a hard life, but there was something about him… He might be an ally if he’d look her in the eyes rather than ogle her legs. Really, why was everybody so fascinated with her skirt? She could only imagine what they’d think if she plopped them in a cinema!

She stopped as something crunched under her feet. It sounded like dried leaves that had abandoned their trees, but looked nothing like the leaves she was used to in Nebraska. “Does anybody know what this is?”

Liza scurried over. “Why, those are tobacco leaves, and the students know better than to bring them in…though I had to send a few home at first.” She sighed. “I swept thoroughly before the storm, and these weren’t here then.”

Cutter stepped closer and crouched to examine them. As he did, Audrey noticed a pipe tucked in his pocket. Brother Julian swiped his hands together before shoving them behind his back. What was he brushing off? It looked an awful lot like the fragments on the floor.

Then there was the stiff lady, Brook wasn’t it? She carried herself like something prickly poked her under the chin. She wasn’t warm and cuddly and seemed determined to make anyone else the culprit…but Audrey had to agree with Jose. None of the women looked strong enough to hurl the desks around the room. She certainly couldn’t. And Jose…his shadowed eyes looked like they’d seen too much to cause intentional harm.

So who did?


Visit these authors’ blogs for the next installments:

Jose by Tricia Goyer
Cutter by M. L. Tyndall
Brother Julian by Molly Noble Bull
Liza Jane by Sharlene MacLaren
Have you figured out WHOdunit? Then go to the Christian Review of Books and send a ShoutMail with the name of the culprit and the six keywords with a subject line WHO?


Audrey Stone is the main character in Cara’s debut novel, Canteen Dreams, which releases from Heartsong Presents in October. To learn more about Cara and all her books, please visit her blogs: and

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Who Vol. 2: setting the scene

A crime has been committed in 1880s Kentucky—and it’s up to you to figure out WHOdunit! Play the game for a chance to win one of THREE autographed copies of Sharlene MacLaren’s LOVING LIZA JANE.

Here’s what you do: read through each of the scenes below. Collect the KEYWORDS from each scene (except Brook’s). Note: keywords point to the NOVEL, not the CULPRIT. Next, figure out WHOdunit! Finally, send an email with the five KEYWORDS and the NAME OF THE CULPRIT to with the subject line WHO?

Entries will be received until 3 p.m. EST on 8 June.

Come back on Monday 11 June to read the confession of the culprit!

WHO? Volume 2

Brook – circa 1850s Englandby Roseanna (There is no KEYWORD within Brook’s scene)

The very air was sinister, crackling with threat. Baroness Brook Moon looked out the schoolroom window at the clouds that hung low and black over the town. The rain fell in torrents, and lightning still rent the heavens in two every few seconds.

Brook would have given anything to be back home in the Cotswolds, among familiar faces. Instead, she had sought refuge from the storm in this one room schoolhouse in Kentucky, along with a handful of other strangers, all of whom were from places—and times—far flung. They were lucky the school’s new teacher, Liza Jane, had been preparing for classes and had let them all in.

Liza came over to peer out the window, too. She was a pretty little thing, her golden brown curls coming out of her bun, her well fitting dress bearing an ink stain that she didn’t seem to notice. “I hope it lets up soon. I’d hate to see Little Hickman Creek swell its banks.”

Brook offered a smile, but it was vague at best. She wasn’t about to make promises concerning this summer storm.

“Are we having fun yet, ladies?” The voice was distinctly American but had a different cadence than Liza Jane’s. Brook looked over to see the other female in the group of six, a woman named Audrey, who smiled as she joined them. “Figured I’d join you. Those men won’t stop staring at my legs.”

Brook’s lips twitched. Given that Audrey’s skirt stopped at her knees, the men’s attention was little wonder.

From outside came the sudden hiss of lightning, stumbling over the thunder on its heels. A loud crack sounded, and the group gasped.

“The tree!” Liza picked up her skirts and headed for the door at a run. Brook followed close on her heels, intending to stop the young woman from darting into the downpour. But when Liza threw open the door, Brook saw that the rain had stopped as suddenly as it had started, so instead she followed her.

“Oh no! That poor old oak!” Liza pressed a hand to her mouth and trudged through the mud toward the fallen tree, heedless of her dress. Brook opted for the stepping stones forming a crude walkway.

Audrey followed her lead, swiping away a lock of shoulder-length auburn hair. “Poor thing’s taking it personally, isn’t she? Of course, I guess I would too, if it were a tree at my school.”Brook lifted a brow. “You’re a teacher too, then?”

“Mm hm.” Audrey smiled, though it faded away when Liza turned slowly their way. Brook watched resolve mix with compassion on Audrey’s pretty face. “Come on, Liza, let’s walk around the school and see how everything else fared.”

Liza nodded, but it was half-hearted. She looked down at her skirt and pressed a finger to the dried ink stain. Audrey went over to her, stepping carefully in her slim-heeled shoes, and linked their arms together. They were about the same height, both lovely, but Brook couldn’t help but think they looked a little odd together, given their very different styles.

Another long rumble of thunder rolled over the Kentucky hills.

“You know what would make you feel better?” Audrey said as she led Liza Jane away. “A real cherry Coke.”

“A. . . what?”

Audrey’s laughter ran out through the schoolyard. “Never mind. Say, do you have a ladies’ room around here?”

“A. . . oh. Facilities, yes. I’ll show you. They’re around back.”

Brook shook her head as they rounded the corner of the building, her eyes then moving to the tall, dark-haired man who was ambling up from the other direction. Jose. He let out a whistle when he saw the damaged tree. “We’re lucky it didn’t fall toward the schoolhouse.”
Brook nodded, smiling at his Spanish accent. It had been several years since she’d had the pleasure of conversing in a Romance language, so she answered in what she assumed to be his native tongue. “Si. The Lord must have been watching out for us.”

He smiled, his warm brown eyes lighting up. They were compelling eyes, practically inviting one to relax and name oneself his friend.

Another deep voice sounded from behind Brook before Jose could answer. “I thought you were British, baroness. I am surprised you know Spanish.”

Brook spun around, pressing a hand to her racing heart. The man called Cutter stood there, smiling through the severe scarring on his lip. He had a pipe secured between his teeth, though how he had managed to fill it when one arm hung limp at his side was a mystery to her. Still, in spite of his appearance he had been a perfect gentleman since they’d met up inside, especially when he realized that she was the only one among the six who was also English. During the worst of the storm, he had regaled them with stories of his adventures as a surgeon on a ship in the Caribbean.

“I am,” she answered at length. “But I was raised in the court of Monaco until I was sixteen.”

“Ah.” Cutter puffed on his pipe and tilted his head to better see the destroyed oak as thunder rolled in the distance. “I’m afraid I won’t be much help in clearing that away.”

The final member of their group came up then, too, screwing his face up at the picture. Brother Julian gave his tan homespun robe a sweep with his chubby fingers and then lifted his bald head toward the heavens. “A judgment, perhaps? Or a warning? Has one of you committed some sin?”

The other two men both shifted, almost uneasily.

Brook was the first to shrug the question away. “Don’t be silly, Brother. It was simply a wayward streak of lightning.”

The monk revealed his yellowed teeth and spoke again in his high, grating voice. “Perhaps it is due to that shameful young woman daring to bear her legs.”

Liza Jane arrived back on the scene just in time to hear that and answered it with hands on hips. “Leave Audrey alone, Brother Julian. She has been very kind to me.”

Brother Julian was quick to offer a conciliatory nod. “As have you been, mademoiselle, to offer us all sanctuary from the storm.”

“Well.” Liza straightened her spine and nodded back, smiling when Audrey rejoined them. She held out a hand when a few drops of water started falling again. “I believe the rain isn’t quite finished—we’d better all get back inside.”

Jose led the way, moving to open the door for the ladies. When they stepped in, though, they all halted. Stared.

Brook had no idea what to say. Five minutes before, the schoolroom had been in perfect order, the supplies sparse but organized. Now. . . now desks were overturned, books thrown around and broken, slates scattered about the room in pieces, and even the potbellied stove pulled from its pipe.

Brother Julian shook his head. “Who would do such a terrible thing?”

Brook said nothing for a long moment. One of them had—no one else could have reached the school without being seen.

“Why?” Liza lifted a hand toward the destruction and then dropped it to her side. A tear slid down her cheek.

Audrey looped her arm through Liza’s again. “Who knows? But we’ll get it all cleaned up.”

“First, we’ll figure out who did it.” Brook folded her arms across her chest and looked from one person to another. “I was talking to one or another of you the whole time we were outside. But everyone else seemed to have been on their own for at least a moment. Long enough to do this while the thunder was going, I should think. So everybody might as well sit down until we figure out who the vandal is. It has to be one of us”

“Yes,” Jose agreed, darting inside and scowling. “But who?”

Keep Me In Suspense

Today and later this week, I'm the guest blogger over at Keep Me In Suspense. So pop over to learn more about how to write a courtroom scene that will ring true.

I'm also the guest blogger at Generation Next Parenting today. You never know where I'll turn up next. :-)

Monday, June 04, 2007

I am doing something new this summer…writing a book on deadline.

This is a new experience for me, and one that I pray I get right. You see as a new author, I have a reputation to earn and protect. And I’m learning all the time.

In an ideal world, I’ll write a chapter a night in June. Then that leaves me July to edit and fine-tune, before I hit my August 15th deadline. My editor is having a baby about August 15th, so I would love to get it turned in a bit early.

Already, I’m having trouble. First, the kids and I did fun things. Jonathan had a fieldtrip with his preschool. Abigail had a friend over for tea. Then we went to a strawberry field to pick fresh strawberries…Yum! These berries are so sweet and juicy I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to buy strawberries in a store again! Then we went down to Indianapolis so that Eric’s folks could watch the kids while we had a date night. Super important. But I didn’t get any new writing done on Sandhill Dreams.

Saturday was another bust. I opened the file and checked to see that there are only 3500 words written so far. Yikes! Only 46,500 to go. So I’ll edit those, revamp them based on what I learned at my visit to Fort Robinson in April. Ease my way back to 1943.

And then I will write like a madwoman this month. Why? Because I don’t have a choice. I am one of those blessed authors who has a contract and deadline.

Please pray for me!

Cross-posted today at Writer...Interrupted.

Confession of a WHO? Culprit

It was. . . Tiffany by Trish Perry

Okay, just hear me out here. Contrary to how things appear, I am not perfect. I make mistakes, just like an average person does. I said I wanted to develop a little culture, and I meant it. I want to be able to discuss . . . stuff. That’s why I came to the museum, and now I can talk about how messed up modern art looks. And thanks to the time we’ve been stuck in the Native American exhibit with Grandfather there, I know more about the Pince-nez Indians than I ever planned to. Nez Perce, I mean, thank you, Gracie so very much for correcting me.

Sigh. How Jessica got Miss Gracie Conspiracy-Theory and me confused from behind, I’ll never know. Sure, we both have auburn hair, but I am clearly the more relaxed of the two of us—I think I would have known Gracie was connected to the military even if she hadn’t mentioned it. Anyway, I’m wearing black, and Gracie’s in white, and she didn’t leave Grandfather’s side long enough to pull off any theft.

Ew. Theft. Sounds awful.

Look, it’s just that the book looked special. It looked like something maybe I could read and be impressive with. And if it’s a book I could get at the library or a book store, it probably wouldn’t be on display in a museum, is what I figured. That’s the only kind of book I could be certain Ren and Kara wouldn’t have read. I just wanted to know something they didn’t. I would have brought it back when I was done; why would I want to keep a book I’ve already read?

It wasn’t hard finding a man willing to hold the book for me so I could run back and tell Quinn I was leaving. I mean, look at me! Me, man, willing? Those three words just fit together in so many sentences. And I would have been fine if Jessica had minded her own business, instead of turning down my generous offer of help with her appearance; I’d be willing to bet that girl’s had a case of the munchies from time to time, if you catch my drift. If I hadn’t pulled out one of my cards to give her in the first place, I wouldn’t have dropped one at the scene of the dirty deed for Gracie to find and turn over to Max.

And that Max! Ears like an Australian Bandicoot, for Pete’s sake. So my stiletto’s click a little on these marble floors. I was practically on tiptoe when I rushed over to ask that guy to hold the book for me. What is it with these people, studying my every move? My every sound?

But that Marina was the last straw. She found one of my hairs near the empty display case? What is she, a bloodhound? Why, oh why did I bother to run a comb through my luxurious locks before dashing off to hand the book to that guy? It’s not like I needed to bother. But I’ve seen enough CSI shows to know that last piece of evidence is going to nail me.

So, listen, Quinn. Be a sweetie. Bring up the steel walls, let us out, and I can have that stupid book back in place in no time. But let’s make it snappy. I can still make my manicure appointment, and I don’t want that guy out there getting any ideas about taking the book out of the museum. Not that he’s likely to leave without me, but let’s not take any chances. Then you and I can get together later and have a little laugh about this whole silly episode. What time do you get off work, anyway?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Too far?

I think I've seen it all now. A woman has sued E-Harmony because it does not provide matching services for those who are seeking a same sex or bisexual partner. See here. If you've read any Neil Clark Warren's books, you know he is a Christian and the company is based on those principles. Sigh. The suit was filed in California, so I'm not even going to guess how it will end.

Who? Post 4

Final Installment of the first volume of Who?

Jessica by Nikki Arana (from As I Have Loved You)
Visit her website at

Jessica folded her arms across her chest and blinked back tears. First she’d been signaled out by that loud mouthed Marina and then insulted by the red-headed Barbie, Tiffany.

Jessica tossed her head. She wasn’t surprised Miss Tiffany had a cross dangling above her cleavage. Typical Christian, always judging people. And that remark, “I could do wonders for you.” Jessica adjusted the shoulder strap on her purse and ran her hand over the front latch, making sure it was securely closed. I’ve got something that could do wonders for you, Missy.

She never should have come on the tour. And she never would have if her fiancé’s mother, Leigh, hadn’t made her feel stupid for not even knowing there was a museum in town. She stifled a grin. Thanks to Leigh she had a brand new place to meet her contact in the future.

“Who cares about this stuff, anyway?” Jessica shifted from one foot to the other and motioned at the cases full of artifacts. “It’s all hundreds of years old, and I can’t imagine any of it was useful even when it was new.”

The man who called himself Grandfather smiled and stepped closer to her. “You’d be surprised how valuable those tools were to the people who used them, young lady. My grandfather benefited from similar items in his tribe and managed to survive in the Wallowa mountains.”

She felt heat creep up her neck. “You’re . . . an Indian? I guess when you said that about your ancestors, I didn’t realize. . . I thought. . .”

He chuckled and actually reached over to pat her shoulder, like she was an old friend or something. She took a step back.

“Don’t worry, my dear, I’m not offended.” He winked at her. “Nor do I have any designs on your hair.”

It took a minute for his implication to sink in. “Oh my gosh! Like I thought you were going to scalp me or something?” She turned and walked away.

Jessica glanced around the room for a place to sit down; her legs were killing her. Even though the tour had hardly started, walking on the hard floors had sent shooting pains up her calves. Not seeing anything to sit on, she backed up against the wall behind her and slid to the floor. Clutching her purse in her lap, she eyed the other people in the room.

Her eyes settled again on Grandfather. He’d gone out of his way to walk with her when she’d fallen behind as they’d moved between rooms, then he’d made a point of talking to her here. She’d wondered if he was an undercover cop. Nobody was nice without a reason. That’s why she’d been RELUCTANT to talk to him. No point in encouraging anyone’s interest.

Her gaze shifted from Tiffany to Gracie, both of whom had their backs to her. The image, suddenly familiar, triggered a memory. As the docent had been speaking about the displays in the room they’d just left, Jessica had been scanning the area, looking for a place to sit. And she’d caught a glimpse of a woman talking to a man in the hall and handing him something. She closed her eyes a moment, then looked back at Tiffany and Gracie. She pulled her lower lip between her front teeth and bit down. She wasn’t positive, but she was pretty sure it had been one of them. Whatever. She wasn’t going to get involved.

Jessica’s heart started to pound as Quinn moved toward her. Tightening her grip on her purse she lifted her chin and stared him straight in the eye. She could feel her palms starting to sweat.
It wasn’t the book, it was the baggie of loose leaves and the cigarette wrappers in the bottom of her purse that she was worried about.


Grandfather by Miralee Ferrell (From The Other Daughter)
See it on her blog at

Grandfather looked around the room, trying not to smile at the antics of the younger generation. Seemed like flirting and arguing was more popular than the Native American display they’d stopped to view.

“Who cares about this stuff, anyway?” The plump red-head beside him shifted from one foot to the other and pointed at the artifacts in the glass case. “It’s all hundreds of years old and I can’t imagine any of it was useful even when it was new.” She brushed her hair out of her eyes.

He searched his memory, groping for her name. Ah, yes…Jessica. “You’d be surprised how valuable those tools were to the people who used them, young lady. My grandfather benefited from similar items in his tribe and managed to survive in the Wallowa mountains.” He tempered his words with a smile.

A slow blush crept above the neck of Jessica’s baggy sweater and stained her cheeks. “I’m so sorry. You’re…an Indian?” She whispered. “I guess when you said that about your ancestors, I didn’t realize…I thought…”

He chortled and patted her shoulder. “Don’t worry, my dear, I’m not offended, nor do I have any designs on your hair.”

A frown creased her face. “Oh my gosh! Like I thought you were going to scalp me or something,” she glared and walked away.

Grandfather shook his head and grinned. Young people now-a-days didn’t seem to have a sense of humor, or an appreciation of things from the past. Too bad his FAMILY couldn’t have come…his grandson David and wife Susanne’s two youngsters would’ve loved this museum. Oops…three youngsters. He’d almost forgotten their newest addition, Brianna, who’d recently arrived on the family’s doorstep, claiming to be David’s Other Daughter. The kids would get a kick out of seeing some of the tools and pottery that his own great-grandfather had used.

Though maybe it was for the best they weren’t here, given this latest development. Grandfather watched as Quinn went from person to person, talking to them about what they’d seen. Grandfather didn’t know what he could really add, so he just went on studying the artifacts around him and bided his time.

“Ah-hem.” A deep vibrato voice at Grandfather’s elbow swung him around.

“Yes, Mr. Quinn?” Grandfather glanced at the man whose eyes kept darting from one woman to the other, but always seemed to return to Tiffany of the low neckline.

“Where were you when the book disappeared?”

“Yeah, you seemed awfully interested in all the displays in the book room,” Marina the cop chimed in.

Grandfather waved his hand in the air and smiled. “Calm down, folks. If there’s one thing my great-grandfather Raven passed down to his children and grandchildren, it was honesty and truthfulness. I’ve been chatting with Gracie and Jessica…and Marina, I spent some time with you earlier, too.”

Gracie stepped forward, swishing her long, auburn hair around her bare shoulders. “My boy-friend and my dad both have experience in the intelligence field, and I’ve learned a lot from them. I think it’s a conspiracy, that’s what. Maybe someone at the museum has it in for some of us.” She crossed her arms and glared at Quinn, then swiveled her glance back to Grandfather. “What did you see, Grandfather? If I may call you that?”

“Certainly,” Grandfather replied. “Let’s see…while we were in the antiquities book room I remember you chatting with me about some of the older volumes and I shared a story with you that’s been passed down through the generations among my people.”

Gracie nodded, her face beaming. “That was so interesting! He was telling me about his great-grandfather, Little Raven when he was just a boy…why you’d never believe…”

“Pu-leese!” Rasped Marina, stomping her foot and silencing Gracie. “Go on Grandfather, then what?”

“I noticed everyone leaving the book room headed for the Native American display, and I hurried to catch up. Jessica’s foot seemed to be bothering her, so I walked the rest of the way with her and we were together almost till the alarm sounded. I’m afraid I can’t add much more.” He shrugged and pulled off his cap, running his fingers through his iron gray hair.

“Right,” drawled Max. “Then the lovely gate came crashing down, and here we all stand, trapped, tired and wanting to go home. Whoever has the book, how ’bout fessin’ up, ya hear?” She ran a hand over her fly-away hair, but only succeeded in sending it spiraling into more absurd directions.

He turned to the group. “I agree. I’m sure whoever took it simply forgot they were carrying it. If you’re embarrassed and are having a hard time letting us know, we’ll understand.”

“Humph,” snored Marina. “You might, Grandfather, but I won’t. Theft is theft and someone’s going to pay.”


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