Thursday, July 31, 2008
I'll tell you more about this great book next week. For now, suffice it to say, that it arrived in the mail and I grabbed it and moved it to the top of my reading pile. I love Susan's books, and this one didn't disappoint ... at all... well other than the fact it's the last book in the series. Boo!
When she put her dreams on hold to help run the family ranch, she never imagined they would slip out of sight. Luckily for Stefanie, those dreams are about to come knocking at her door.
Lincoln Cash has gained fame and fortune on the big screen, but a crippling secret leaves him one last chance to make his mark on the movie industry. With dreams of hosting a new film festival, Lincoln intends to remodel a sprawling ranch in eastern Montana to make it the new Hollywood hot spot.
Unfortunately, a house fire threatens his plans. So does opposition from his new neighbor Stefanie Noble, who's not thrilled about his Tinseltown changes. What Lincoln and Stefanie don't know is that the fire won't be the last disaster to threaten Lincoln or his future. Someone is out for revenge... but who? And who is the real target?
read chapter one | buy the book
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Monday I turned in what I thought was the last four chapters in the Complete Idiots Guide to Business Law to hit my August 4th, half the book turned in deadline. Yesterday I got an email from my wonderful editor that they needed two more elements.
I panicked. Not so much that I'd have to write more. I have to write two more chapters this week anyway. But because I'd counted the elements carefully, and was sure I had done it right. If they said they needed more, it meant I was missing something. Yikes!
I really don't have time to miss anything right now. So the emails flew back and forth for half an hour until I figured out where my counting differed from theirs.
Now we're back on track. I wrote the front matter yesterday morning and now have over half turned in. Wooh. And got to check another element off :-)
It's been fun, but it's always a learning curve when I start working with another publisher. They all have their unique ways of doing things!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Last week evaporated.
What has captured my attention, you ask?
A huge booksigning that for some odd reason, I'm in charge of.
You see on September 20, over 100 (107 as of tonight) Christian authors will be at the Mall of America signing books as part of the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference.
At least 3 of the lovely ladies from this blog will be signing: Me, Margaret Daley, and Debby Giusti.
So mark your calendars. It's going to be a huge event! We'd love to have you join us if you can.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Much as I'd like to ignore the fact, our world is very me-focused. I'd like to think that I'm above the fray. I'd like to think incorrectly. How many times a day do I balance the needs of others against mine and want mine to prevail? In fact, it was only a couple weeks ago that I sat in church and wrote in my journal it was time to relinquish my rights. My right to sleep -- I have a 2 1/2 month old after all. My rights in my so many areas. And then with the Bible study No Other Gods so many of my idols stem from concern about what others think of me and my rights.
This book is a great way to begin addressing those issues. In the practical style that I appreciate from Dr. Chapman, he lays out seven secrets to love.
- Kindness: discovering the joy of helping others
- Patience: accepting the imperfections of others
- Forgiveness: Finding Freedom from the Grip of Anger
- Courtesy: Treating Others as Friends
- Humility: Stepping Down so Someone Else can Step Up
- Generosity: Giving Yourself to Others
- Honesty: Revealing Who You Really Are.
In fact, I think I may adapt some of them and work with the kids on them this year in school. Watch out, Abigail and Jonathan. We're on a mission to learn how to actively love each other!
The publisher has provided two copies for a giveaway. Leave a comment with an example of how you have chosen to love someone to be entered in the giveaway. I'd love to hear your ideas!
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Sarah Brenner, a very dear family friend (her oldest daughter and I have been dear friends since we were two), sent the link to this song earlier today. Play this song and let it soak into the very depths of your spirit. Then click on this link, to watch the video of the story behind the song. Be prepared for God's presence to sweep into the room. All I can say is "Yes, Lord. Nothing is impossible for You!" Quickly followed by, "Do not pass us by! I beg You, do not pass us by."
Praying God's presence and His healing will wash over you in waves of refreshing.
The song is written by Mike Guglielmucci, worship team is Hillsong's out of Australia, and the album is distributed by Integrity Music. If you're looking for fresh worship, we love Integrity's Vertical line-up and are actually getting ready to resubscribe.
By Ron and Janet Benrey
When Hurricane Gilda visited Glory, North Carolina, her winds tore the steeple off Glory Community Church. Everyone thought the town had narrowly escaped a major disaster until the body of the town's favorite resturant owner was found under the rubble. Was Gilda to blame ... or did someone else take advantage of Gilda to commit the perfect murder?
by James Scott Bell
A Buchanan suspense novel from Center Street
Ty Buchanan is living on the peaceful grounds of St. Monica's, far away from the glamorous life he led as a rising trial lawyer for a big L.A. firm. Recovering from the death of his fiancee and a false accusation of murder, Buchanan has found his previous ambitions unrewarding. Now he prefers offering legal services to the poor and the under-represented, from his "office" at local coffee bar The Ultimate Sip. A mysterious woman with a six year old daughter comes to him for help. She's being illegally evicted from a downtown transient hotel, an interest represented by his old law firm and former best friend, Al Bradshaw. Buchanan won't back down. He's going to fight for the woman's rights.
But then she ends up dead, and the case moves from the courtroom to the streets. Determined to find the killer and protect the little girl, who has no last name and no other family, Buchanan finds he must depend on skills he never needed in the employ of a civil law firm.
Critical Acclaim for the Buchanan series:
Bell is very good at keeping secrets. Fans of thrillers with lawyers as their central characters-Lescroart and Margolin, especially-will welcome this new addition to their must-read lists. -- Booklist
For more information: www.jamesscottbell.com
To read an excerpt of these new titles go to Chapter-a-Week and to join our deeper discussion of these and other titles go to Chapter-a-Week Chat where authors and readers discuss new titles together.
If you enjoy Chapter-a-Week take the time to tell a friend how to sign up. It's easy and free and a great way to find great books that fit each person's particular taste.
Friday, July 25, 2008
This week I noticed the weeds were starting to get out of control in my flower beds. I've always loved gardening. Even a perfectionist can find satisfaction in pulling out weeds and noting progress.
This time as I weeded I could see the parable in it.
God has me in a place where He's pushing me to go deeper with Him. I keep praying for that desire -- one of those prayers He will always answer. But now comes the hard work. I have to force myself to get out of bed when I'm exhausted from a rough night with Rebecca. Make my time with Him a priority. Draw near to Him, so He can draw near to me.
I looked at my flowerbeds. From a distance -- even a short one of five feet or so -- they are beautiful. There's a riot of great color coming from petunias and zinnias. My perennials are rich and lush.
But if you get closer...then you see the weeds poking up. The flowers past their prime that need to be dead-headed so fresh flowers can develop. The roses have lots of holes on the leaves from some mite that decided they're tasty.
So I steal a few minutes and stoop down. I get my fingernails dirty as I pull at the weeds, chop off the flowers. At times the job can get overwhelming. But I love the blast of color -- the welcoming nod of the flowers. The flit of the butterflies and bees that like the nectar, So I do the work.
How much more I should do what it takes to go deeper with God. One 5 minute increment at a time, move back my alarm. Each day a new commitment to spend time with Him before I do or read anything else. Turning my thoughts toward Him at each opportunity. Allowing Him to show me the weeds in my own life that need to be pulled and the plants that need to be pruned. All so I can bear fruit that will bring glory to His name.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I still remember when she posted to the loop last November that they'd found a large tumor in her brain and she was in for the fight of her life. She and her husband fought well...but we didn't get the answer we wanted. She's pain free and dancing in heaven now, but it's another reminder that we don't always get the answer to prayer that we want. But God still answered.
Hundreds and thousands of people prayed for Kristy. She went to the special healing services. She sought God and felt the shelter of His peace in the midst of an amazing story. And she and Milton blogged her story.
Those blog posts from Milton over the last six months have to be some of the most beautiful expressions of the love they shared. One thing that many people have shared this week is the overwhelming in-loveness Kristy and Milton always had. It came through so beautifully as he shared his heart about his bride, and she'd blog about her hero.
Tuesday he posted a beautiful blog about Kristy's last moments on earth. Go read it and you'll see how even though our prayers weren't answered the way we wanted, Jesus won. And so did Kristy.
Please keep Milton, her daughters and the rest of their family in your prayers.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The book is written from the perspective of Ty Buchanan, the hero of book one. While this is book two, it stood completely on its own. -- and lead straight to book three that I'm dying to get my hands on -- of course it hasn't been written yet!
Irregardless, I dove right in and enjoyed the characters and plot twists. Ty's a guy looking for his place after the chaos of book one. The book opens with him playing basketball with a nun! And that kind of quirky humor runs through the whole book. It almost had the slightly slap-stick approach of the Thin Man movies -- and that's high praise in my book. It also reminded me of Brandt Dodson's Colton Parker series. A non-Christian is surrounded by folks planting seeds in his life as he chases the bad guys.
The dialogue is quick, if this were chick lit I'd call it sassy. But don't skip any part. Ty loves to get himself in all kinds of trouble with his mouth. Crazy lawyer!
This is a book I enjoyed and think Eric will, too.
To celebrate the release, I have a copy of Try Dying, the first book in the series that I'm giving away. Leave a comment with your favorite lawyer/PI from TV or movies. Good Luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
JAMES SCOTT BELL is a former trial lawyer who now writes full time. He has also been the fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine and adjunct professor of writing at Pepperdine University.
The national bestselling author of several novels of suspense, he grew up and still lives in Los Angeles. His first Buchanan thriller, TRY DYING, was released to high critical praise, while his book on writing, Plot and Structure is one of the most popular writing books available today.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Ty Buchanan is living on the peaceful grounds of St. Monica’s, far away from the glamorous life he led as a rising trial lawyer for a big L.A. firm. Recovering from the death of his fiancée and a false accusation of murder, Buchanan has found his previous ambitions unrewarding. Now he prefers offering legal services to the poor and the underrepresented from his “office” at local coffee bar The Freudian Sip. With his new friends, the philosophizing Father Bob and basketball-playing Sister Mary Veritas, Buchanan has found a new family of sorts.
One of his first clients is a mysterious woman who arrives with her six-year-old daughter. They are being illegally evicted from a downtown transient hotel, an interest that Ty soon discovers is represented by his old law firm and his former best friend, Al Bradshaw. Buchanan won’t back down. He’s going to fight for the woman’s rights.
But then she ends up dead, and the case moves from the courtroom to the streets. Determined to find the killer and protect the little girl, who has no last name and no other family, Buchanan finds he must depend on skills he never needed in the employ of a civil law firm.
The trail leads Buchanan through the sordid underbelly of the city and to the mansions and yachts of the rich and famous. No one is anxious to talk.
But somebody wants Buchanan to shut up. For good.
Now he must use every legal and physical edge he knows to keep himself and the girl alive.
Once again evoking the neo-noir setting of contemporary Los Angeles, Bell delivers another thriller where darkness falls and the suspense never rests.
If you would like to read chapters 1 & 2, go HERE
“Bell has created in Buchanan an appealing and series-worthy protagonist, and the tale equally balances action and drama, motion and emotion. Readers who pride themselves on figuring out the answers before an author reveals them are in for a surprise, too: Bell is very good at keeping secrets. Fans of thrillers with lawyers as their central characters—Lescroart and Margolin, especially—will welcome this new addition to their must-read lists.”
“Engaging whodunit series kickoff . . . Readers will enjoy Bell's talent for description and character development.”
“James Scott Bell has written himself into a niche that traditionally has been reserved for the likes of Raymond Chandler.”
—Los Angeles Times
“A master of suspense.”
“One of the best writers out there, bar none.”
—In the Library Review
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win Try Dying. And next week, I'll give away TWO copies of Gary Chapman's new book, Love as a Way of Life.
Anyway, I click on and see a new title that's releasing in October. I am so excited!
I click though and see it's a repackaging of True Courage...With a new title. Darn!
Monday, July 21, 2008
1. Do you remember how you developed a love for reading?
I have always loved to read. My mom says I learned to read at 4, and I’ve never stopped. I remember being six and in first grade. I went to the small library in the small church school and was told I couldn’t read a sixth grade level book. Hmmm, talk about waving a red flag in front of me. That became one of my favorite books – wish I could remember the title, but it was about the little Jewish girl who suggested Namaan go to Israel to be healed.
2. What are some books you read as a child?
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
3. What is your favorite genre?
Suspense! But really, I read pretty much anything. I love a wide range of stories.
The only genre I struggle with is angsty women’s fiction, because they’re too emotionally painful for me to get through. My life has been too emotional the last couple years – I can’t invest the emotional energy in characters who aren’t real. But if the story is more than women’s fiction, I am more than willing to dive in with the characters.
4. Do you have a favorite novel?
I have to name only one? I reread so many, it’s hard to name one. But if I had to I’d say Anne of Green Gables or Gone with the Wind.
5. Where do you usually read?
Anywhere. If I’m sitting, I usually have a book in my hand. On the treadmill. Waiting for appointments, etc.
6. When do you usually read?
Throughout the day – whenever I can. Reading is just something I do.
7. Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time?
I never thought I did until several months ago, when I realized I usually have a couple books running in the background while I race through others.
8. Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction?
I like nonfiction, but go in cycles. I can get stuck on fiction unless I’m careful. I love nonfiction for Bible studies, research for books, and then areas of interest. Usually love biographies, too.
9. Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library?
I buy most and check a few out from the library – usually to see if it’s one I want to buy later. I love the feel of a book in my hands. It’s finding the places on bookshelves to keep them that’s a problem. Right now I’m giving a lot to my church library, and I’ve always got stacks out with friends.
10. Do you keep most of the books you buy? If not, what do you do with them?
See the above questions.
11. If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them?
Love introducing my kids to the books I enjoyed. A Cricket in Times Square. Ballet Shoes. Nancy Drew (my husband reads the Hardy Boys to the kids at night). Etc.
12. What are you reading now?
Just finished a fantastic legal suspense by Randy Singer. By Reason of Insanity – it was awesome, jam-packed with twists. Also finished Blue Heart Blessed by Susan Meisnner – it was a delightful romance. Picked up Try Darkness by James Scott Bell. Getting ready to read the Shack – hearing too much about it not to give it a shot. And my to be read pile is huge after ICRS.
13. Do you keep a TBR (to be read) list?
I have a shelf on my desk hutch that is loaded with books I’m supposed to be reading or want to read. I’ve decided my addiction is books. I can live with that.
14. What’s next?
Here are just a few of the titles on my shelf: Demon by Tosca Lee (heard way too many great things about this one), Beach Dreams by Trish Perry, Nobody by Creston Mapes (again heard great things about it).
15. What books would you like to reread?
I reread Brandilyn Collins and Colleen Coble’s books. Lisa Gardner’s. Lisa Scottolini’s. I’ve reread Dee Henderson’s O'Malley series.
16. Who are your favorite authors?
I’m going to follow Camy Tang’s lead here…I have so many authors on my auto-buy list, it’s too long to list. But I’ll list a few of the newer authors in case it piques someone’s interest who’s looking to try a new voice:
Janet Dean (her debut novel comes out in September)
And Camy Tang!
Your turn! Do this meme on your blog and leave a link in the comments!
Friday, July 18, 2008
I just found out that Canteen Dreams finaled in the ACFW Book of the Year contest in the short historical category.
Honestly, I am so honored. When I sent in the book, I hoped I might make the finalist list, but also tried to be realistic enough to recognize it was my first book and it would be up against some great competition. Then I got the call today. WOW!
This writing journey has been so amazing. I try to hold it with an open hand -- the fact that I received one contract beat so many odds. And each additional contract is a gift. Speaking of which, I'd better get back to writing.
You know what's really fun -- my mom and sister will be at the banquet. Janna because she's being a key volunteer for ACFW this year. My mom because she's going to babysit Rebecca and hang out with me and my writing buds. Sharon Hinck's daughter is going to watch the babies during the banquet. So even if my name's just called as a finalist, it'll be so cool. Not bad for a homeschooled kid and her mom :-)
Without further ado, congrats to all the finalists:
ACFW's 2008 Book of the Year Finalists: (I have so many friends on this list -- the awards ceremony will be a blast as I cheer everybody on!)
Bayou Justice (Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll)
In Between (Jenny B. Jones)
Sushi for One? (Camy Tang)
My Soul Cries Out (Sherri Lewis)
Petticoat Ranch (Mary Connealy)
Contemporary Novella (*six finalists due to a tie)
A Cloud Mountain Christmas (Robin Lee Hatcher)
Finally Home (Deb Raney in Missouri Memories anthology)
Mississippi Mud (DiAnn Mills in Sugar And Grits Anthology)
Moonlight & Mistletoe (Carrie Turansky in Big Apple Christmas anthology)
Remaking of Moe McKenna (Gloria Clover in the Race to the Altar anthology)
Sweet Dreams Drive (Robin Lee Hatcher)
Beyond the Memories (DiAnn Mills in Mississippi Memories anthology)
Finishing Touches (Kelly Hake in Missouri Memories anthology)
Love Notes (Mary Davis in Love Letters anthology)
The Spinster & The Cowboy (Lena Nelson Dooley in Spinster Brides of Cactus Corner anthology)
The Spinster & The Tycoon (Vickie McDonough in Spinster Brides of Cactus Corner anthology)
Lits (*six finalists due to a tie)
Around the World in 80 Dates (Christa Banister)
One Little Secret (Allison Bottke)
Renovating Becky Miller (Sharon Hinck)
Splitting Harriet (Tamara Leigh)
Sushi for One? (Camy Tang)
The Book of Jane (Dayton/Vanderbilt)
Autumn Blue (Karen Harter)
Like Always (Robert Elmer)
Taming Rafe (Susan May Warren)
When the Nile Runs Red (DiAnn Mills)
Within This Circle (Deb Raney)
Long Historical (*seven finalists due to TWO ties)
Courting Trouble (Deeanne Gist)
Fancy Pants (Cathy Hake)
Lady of Milkweed Manor (Julie Klassen)
Remember Me (Maureen Lang)
Then Came Hope (Louise Gouge)
Veil of Fire (Marlo Schalesky)
Where Willows Grow (Kim Vogel Sawyer)
Days And Hours (Susan Meissner)
Death of a Garage Sale Newbie (Sharon Dunn)
Gone With The Groom (Janice Thompson)
Sticks And Stones (Susan Meissner)
Your Chariot Awaits (Lorena McCourtney)
Heart of the Family (Margaret Daley)
The Heart of Grace (Linda Goodnight)
The Perfect Blend (Allie Pleiter)
Wedded Bliss (Kathleen Y'Barbo)
When Love Comes Home (Arlene James)
Short Contemporary Suspense (*six finalists due to a tie)
Caught Redhanded (Gayle Roper)
Her Christmas Protector (Terri Reed)
Nowhere to Hide (Debby Giusti)
Pursuit of Justice (Pamela Tracy)
See No Evil (Gayle Roper)
Vanished (Margaret Daley)
Short Historical (*six due to a tie)
A Time to Keep (Kelly Hake)
A Wealth Beyond Riches (Vickie McDonough)
Canteen Dreams (Cara Putman)
Corduroy Road to Love (Lynn Coleman)
Golden Days (Mary Connealy)
To Trust An Outlaw (Rhonda Gibson
Demon: A Memoir (Tosca Lee)
DragonFire (Donita Paul)
The Restorer (Sharon Hinck)
The Restorer's Son (Sharon Hinck)
Isle of Swords (Wayne Thomas Batson)
Abomination (Colleen Coble)
Black Ice (Linda Hall)
Coral Moon (Brandilyn Collins)
Crimson Eve (Brandilyn Collins)
Ransomed Dreams (Amy Wallace)
A Promise To Remember (Katie Cushman)
Bygones (Kim Sawyer)
Remember to Forget (Deb Raney)
The Oak Leaves (Maureen Lang)
Watercolored Pearls (Stacy Adams)
In Between (Jenny B. Jones)
On The Loose (Jenny B. Jones)
Sara Jane: Liberty's Torch (Eleanor Clark
Sarah's Long Ride (Susan P Davis)
Saving Sailor (Renee Riva)
You've chosen a time period for your book back in the 1700s. What attracted you to this time period?
It was likely the discovery of several significant events during Colonial times where Delaware was a key factor. And since the purpose is to spotlight the history of the state, it only made sense to begin at the beginning. Of course, that would have required going back to the 1670's, but I chose the 1700's because they were a bit more familiar, yet not overdone in books today.
I'd love to continue this series into the 1800's and then 1900's with a present-day novel utilizing the same house that was featured in all 3 of this first series. It was established in 1740 and still stands today. But, we'll have to see where my writing takes me.
Promises, Promises is set in Delaware. How did you pick that state?
I spent about 25 years of my life living there. Throughout that time, I learned a lot about the significance of that little state. Too often, Delaware gets skipped in history books. Everyone knows about Philadelphia, Williamsburg, Valley Forge. But, not many know how critical Delaware was during the early start of the United States. I wanted to bring that out in a series of books. Plus, when I pitched the idea to Jim Peterson, he said in all 12 years (at the time) of the Heartsong Presents book club, no one had submitted a proposal with a Delaware setting. I knew I had a unique location, and I capitalized on that.
What kind of research did you have to do to make the setting and time come alive?
This required quite a bit. I had to dig into archives of letters and newspaper articles to get a feel for the voice and speech patterns. I also had to study the clothing and the everyday activities of the farming person along with the more elite members of society. Drawing the reader into the setting and making them feel lost in the past is important to me. It's why certain historical novels make my favorites list, so I try to do that for the ones I write as well.
This is your first book. What was it like getting the email from JoAnne? Who was the first person you told?
When I received the notification that my first book was actually going to be bought, I can't begin to describe the elation and the excitement. It was only a week before Christmas that year too. I can't think of a better gift. The first thought that went through my mind is, "I have to tell someone!" Since the hour was late, and everyone had gone to bed, I logged online. The only one signed on was the man who is now my husband. We weren't even engaged at that time. Some people would call that ironic. I call it God. One of the biggest moments of my life, and the first person I tell is the man I would marry just 8 months later. Amazing!
This is the first book in a series. What are the other two about? Are they in the same setting? Any connections between the three?
Book 2 picks up with the daughter in the next generation, enduring the struggles of the French & Indian War and battling emotions for Major Madison, while a local writer for the colony's first newspaper casts doubts on Madison's character.
Book 3 goes to the next generation with Margret meeting a British soldier who is actually a spy for the Colonial Army during the Revolutionary War. She gets involved in the secret-keeping aspects of his duties, and when her parents find out, her father forbids her to see him.
Through each book, you see the progression and early beginnings of what becomes the United States and witness the significance of present-day Delaware during a time when its 3 counties belonged to Pennsylvania. I reference key historical figures and events, but the main focus is the everyday individual and how they deal with the harsh realities of life during these times.
I usually learn something as I'm writing a book. Usually it's as a character struggles with an issue. What did you learn?
For me, it was the patience, steadfastness and fortitude of the hero. He made a promise and stuck to it. No matter what Raelene did to him, he stayed until his promise was fulfilled. From what reviewers have been saying, it reminded them of God, pursuing us and not giving up until we finally realize how much He loves us and wants the best for us. I didn't see that when I was writing, but I love that parallel.
Now for some fun... If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be and who would you take?
Hmm, I could go with the traditional and likely predictable answer of Hawaii, but how about Australia, or Scotland or Alaska instead? Would love to get to Europe at some point in my life and the land down-under seems fascinating. As for who I'd take? Obviously, my husband. :) Wouldn't be as much fun without sharing it with him.
Has God forsaken Raelene?
What kind of God would take a girl's family and leave her alone in a wild land where women have no voice? When Gustaf Hanssen promises Raelene's dying father that he will take care of her, he finds himself bound to her happiness, her success, and her well-being in ways he never imagined. To keep his word, must Gustaf really oversee all of Raelene's affairs, find her a husband, and maintain her farm, while she does nothing but scorn him? Can God reach through Raelene's pain and self-centeredness and give her the love that awaits, if only she will accept His will?
Quills & Promises
Innocence paired with wisdom beyond her years--
With these traits, Elanna Hanssen unwittingly captures the attentions of Major Madison Scott. Her honest desire to understand the war fascinates him, and he resolves to get to know this perspicacious young lady better. When he is called away to fight the French and the Indians, they begin a correspondence, cautiously baring their hearts to one another. Elanna has never known emotions like these before, but she is drawn to the integrity she sees in her major. When a writer for the first newspaper in the colony questions the major's credentials and activities, however, will she allow her heart or her head to rule? Can true love grow over such distance and around such obstacles?
BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE
Shirley Connolly (July month-long feature) - http://apenforyourthoughts.blogspot.com
July 7 - Margaret Daley (bio) http://margaretdaley.blogspot.com
July 7 - Dawn Kinzer at From Dawn til Dusk, Musings of a Night Owl http://dawnkinzer.blogspot.com
July 8 - Donna Moore at Write by Faith http://writebyfaith.blogspot.com
July 8 - Kim Woodhouse at God's Grace, Love & Forgiveness http://www.kimberleywoodhouse.com
July 9 - Margaret Daley (interview) http://margaretdaley.blogspot.com
July 9 - Amy Riley at The Friendly Book Nook http://thefriendlybooknook.com
July 10 - Jenny Blake at Come Meet AusJenny http://ausjenny.blogspot.com
July 11 - Rose McCauley http://rosemccauley.blogspot.com
July 11 - Shauna Sturge at The Coffee Stop http://shaunasturge.blogspot.com; Long and Short Reviews http://longandshortreviews.blogspot.com
July 12 - Carolyn Strawder at Quiet Time with Carolyn http://www.quiettimewithcarolyn.com/Serenity
July 14-19 - CAN! blog spotlight http://canblog.typepad.com/canbookmarketing
July 14 - Martha Rogers at Martha Writes http://marthasbooks.blogspot.com
July 15 - Leslie Sowell at A Little Bit of Sunlight http://www.footprintsinthesand.us/blog
July 16 - CFBA blog tour date (various blogs) http://christianfictionblogalliance.blogspot.com
July 16 - Novel Journey / Novel Reviews http://noveljourney.blogspot.com / http://novelreviews.blogspot.com
July 17 - CFBA blog tour date (various blogs) http://christianfictionblogalliance.blogspot.com
July 17 - Eileen Astels at A Christian Romance Writer's Journey http://eileenastels.blogspot.com
July 17 - Cheryl Wyatt at Squirrel's Treehouse http://scrollsquirrel.blogspot.com
July 18 - CFBA blog tour date (various blogs) http://christianfictionblogalliance.blogspot.com
July 18 - Cara Putman at Cara's Musings http://carasmusings.blogspot.com
July 18 - Tyora Moody at CB Reviews http://www.faithwebbin.net/cbreviews
July 19 - Stacy Johnson at Vader's Mom http://jeffstacyandvader.blogspot.com
July 21 - Camy Tang at Camy's Loft http://camytang.blogspot.com
July 21 - Jennifer AlLee at Musings on This, That & The Other Thing - http://jenniferallee.blogspot.com
July 21 - Trish Perry (interview) at Reading, Writing and the Stuff In-Between http://www.trishperry.com
July 22 - Cindy Woodsmall at the Plain Talk Blog http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/category/plain-talk/
July 23 - Delia Latham at The Melody Within (review/interview) http://themelodywithin.blogspot.com
July 24 - Margaret Chind at Creative Madness http://cherryblossommj.blogspot.com
July 25 - Delia Latham at The Melody Within (guest blogger) http://themelodywithin.blogspot.com
July 25 - Christa Allan at Fictionary http://cballan.wordpress.com
July 26 - Paula Moldenhauer at Grace Reign http://gracereign.blogspot.com
Thursday, July 17, 2008
What do you like in book trailers? What makes you want to go buy a book? I'm still trying to decide whether to make them for my books...but this one is the cleverest I've seen so far. Ah, to know an animator!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Writing can be very solitary work.
Think about all the hours that a writer spends in front of a computer crafting the words and story that a reader can inhale in a few hours.
I belong to American Christian Fiction Writers and a couple other loops as a way to connect with other folks who's brains work the same way -- or at least in a similar fashion -- to mine.
Last Thursday Rebecca and I traveled to Orlando for a writer's retreat with about 70 other published authors. (Okay, Rebecca's a tad young to be a writer -- we're still working on cooing -- but everybody loved her!)
The retreat was exactly what I needed. A chance to be with other writers. A chance to learn and think creatively. A chance to brainstorm with a friend who's plot imploded. A chance to relax and refocus. A chance to work on galleys with minimal interruptions. A chance to start my next novel and work on character sketches. A chance to reconnect with industry professionals. And a chance to step back and just be.
Then there were all the folks who loved on Rebecca. Colleen took her one afternoon. Karen Ball will always be the baby whisperer to me. Tammy Alexander rocking her like a pro.
I also got to attend the International Christian Retail Show otherwise known as ICRS. It was a reader and writer's dream to walk the floor for a day. I had so much fun joking with friends during their booksignings as I opened books for them. Maybe some day I'll have as many people as Brandilyn Collins, Michael Synder (Author of the clairvoyant dog) and Cindy Woodsmall did at their signings.
And running into so many people. It was a blast to meet Jennifer Rothschild -- we agreed it felt like we'd known each other for years.
All in all, I felt like a kid in a candy store living another part of this dream. And I feel smack dab in the middle of an awesome community.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Ever have times in your life where you look around and think: Wow, God, I'm not sure why I'm here, but thanks so much for the opportunity! That's been the last 3 1/2 days for me. I mean, I got picked up at the airport by Wanda Dyson! If you haven't read Wanda's suspense, you really should! I am so excited about her new series. She's going to have bounty hunters in it. Talk about outside the typical box in Christian fiction :-)
Sharon Hinck, Wanda, Rebecca and I crammed all of our luggage and us into a Sebring convertible. That was worthy of a photo!
Last night I brainstormed Robin Caroll's next book with her for hours. It's always fun to come up with ways to create all kinds of havoc in characters' lives. She started out worried her plot was dead; nope, an hour later it was alive and kicking. There is such a synergy when authors get together (even over the phone) and kick around ideas.
I was nervous. Seriously. about coming. I mean, I really don't belong yet. I've got books out, more coming, but the authors I was with are at another level. But they never treated me that way. And they were amazing with Rebecca. I really didn't need to worry about what they'd think when I showed up with a 2 month old. If anything, folks were disappointed that she cried when they held her. I've decided Karen Ball is the baby whisperer. That woman was amazing with Rebecca. Rebecca started looking for her -- seriously!
Today, I'll be at ICRS -- so excited! I'm not signing books, but I get to take in the atmosphere and support friends. But I will leave Orlando with a long line of new friends, having deepened other friendships and rested.
Now to get home and write the books I'm contracted to write!
Saturday, July 12, 2008
PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER AUTHOR TO CHAT
ABOUT WHAT LIES BETWEEN THE LINES:
Melanie Wells Joins Readers on Online Bookstore Chat
Melanie Wells, author of the critically acclaimed Dylan Foster series – “When the Day of Evil Comes,” “The Soul Hunter” and the newly-released “My Soul to Keep.” Wells will join the family-friendly online bookstore, Abunga.com, to discuss her insights on the fiction series, writing, building story lines and using one’s creativity and imagination to shape character development.
“Authors at Abunga” Chat with Melanie Wells
Wells’ Dylan Foster trilogy is packed with both humor and suspense. Each thriller tracks the mayhem surrounding Wells’ unlikely heroine, college psychology professor Dylan Foster. Wells, who is also a psychotherapist and accomplished musician, will provide insights into her writing style, how stories are created, and where characters come from.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
11 a.m. – Noon PDT / 1 – 2 p.m. CDT / 2 – 3 p.m. EDT (LIVE)
Wells is the first author to be featured on the newly-created “Authors at Abunga” chats by Agunga.com. A Texas native, Wells is an accomplished musician (she’s a fiddle player) a licensed psychotherapist, and the founder and director of Dallas-based LifeWorks counseling associates (www.wefixbrains.com).
Beginning with “When the Day of Evil Comes,” each of Wells’ novels weaves a gripping tale in which the quirky, likeable Dylan Foster wrestles with her own personal demon -- Peter Terry – “a spiritual and emotional stalker,” Wells says, ”Peter Terry is a compelling character who rings true for all of us. He is a metaphor for the opposition we all have in our lives. And we can all relate to Dylan, who often feels like she’s fighting forest fires with a squirt gun.”
Friday, July 11, 2008
Susan May Warren's latest thriller Wiser than Serpents, is another page-turning, nail-biting, can't-life-stop-until-I'm-done? kind of book.
The third in the Mission:Russia series, this book from Steeple Hill stands completely on its own. Somehow I have book two but managed not to read it, yet didn't feel like I missed anything that was important to this book.
Yanna Andrevka infiltrates a human slavery ring in an attempt to locate her sister who has vanished. David Curtiss has spent months attempting to infiltrate an organized crime cartel. All seems to be going well until he finds Yanna at the meeting he's supposed to have with the kingpin. From the moment he sees her the story rushes into overdrive in classic Susan May Warren style.
If you love books with international intrigue and a thread of romance, this book is for you. You get to hop around the globe with the characters, all while learning more about the human slavery issue. Susan is donating a portion of her profits from each book sold to International Justice Mission, a non-profit dedicated to fighting human slavery.
While this book may seek to highlight an issue, that focus doesn't preach or slow down the plot. Instead, it enhances it as you get an international and stateside exposure to the problem.
note from Susan:
Did you know that there are 27 million people around the globe held as slaves today – more thank 80% of them women and children, and up to 50% minors. In fact, there are MORE slaves today than were in the time of William Wilberforce. That leaves me horrified, and it was those stats that compelled me to write a story with a human trafficking plotline.
Wiser than Serpents is a continuation of the
However, the world is real, and the need to get involved is great. I so greatly admire people who take their beliefs and put action to them –hence why a portion of the proceeds of Wiser than Serpents is going to help the International Justice Mission, (www.ijm.org), an organization dedicated to rescuing victims and fighting the scourge of slavery.
Contest Info! Susan will be giving away 3 SIGNED sets of the Mission: Russia (In Sheep’s Clothing, Sands of Time, and Wiser Than Serpents) series. To enter the contest…click on over to Susan’s blog tour post here (http://susanmaywarren.typepad.com/scribbles/2008/06/wiser-than-serp.html) and tell us which ministries/charities you support and why! Susan will randomly select three winners!
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Since I didn't review it here's my sister Janna's review from her blog. Be sure to stop by her blog and comment to win a copy of this book!
This book was different from most that I have read lately - it's not chicklit, action, young adult, fantasy/sci-fi, comedy - in fact it took awhile for me to figure out what it would be classified as. Personally I would rank it as drama/mystery. It is a touching story of Ty who goes back to Wyoming where he spent much of his childhood fishing with Soren, a grandpa type to him. He made a promise when he was young to one day bring Soren back when he was too old to come himself. The time has now come to fulfill that promise and so Ty heads back to the mountains of Wyoming for one last trip.
You know from the beginning that Ty needs to exercise his demons from Iraq and that eventually we will find out what exactly happened to him that has disconnected him from his wife and made him miserable. What we don't really know is that Soren has some demons to exercise too and that is where the book gets really interesting. And just when we figure all that out we realize that someone else needs to get something off their chest too... And through all of it one thing shines clearly - no matter what has happened in our past, it's not too big for Jesus to forgive. I cried toward the end, but felt a strange relief as the book finished that everything was right with the world.
It was a good book and I will give away my copy of it so if you would like to be entered then leave a comment with your email address (all entries without one are disqualified) and tell me if you have ever been fishing and who you usually went with... Good luck!
Here are the details:
You Can't Outrun the Sins of Your Past
Desperate to forget what happened to him in Iraq, Tyler Perkins flees to the emptiness of Wyoming. He's here to escape and also to fulfill a long-ago promise by accompanying his 86-year-old friend Soren Andeman on a fly-fishing trip--once more for old time's sake. But their trek to an idyllic trout lake soon becomes something more deeply harrowing--a journey that uncovers long-held lies, deadly crimes, and the buried secrets of the past.
Ty barely has time to contemplate the question of what constitutes justice when nature unleashes her own revenge. Trapped in a race back to safety, he must face his own guilt-ridden past or risk being consumed.
Powerfully imagined by the acclaimed author of In High Places, Wind River is an engaging wilderness adventure that explores the power of confession, the beauty of forgiveness, and the freedom of truth unveiled.
If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE.
Well, today, I head to Orlando for the fulfillment of another dream.
Years ago -- too many to share here -- I remember meeting our dear family friends the Brenners in Denver after the then called CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) Convention. They'd spent a week hanging out with all kinds of amazingly cool people and getting advance copies of Christian books and music. Gasp! Could anything more wonderful exist?
That year or one very close in time, the manager of the local bookstore came back from the conference with an autographed copy of a Bodie Thoene book -- signed to me!!! Unfortunately, I think that book traveled to the first Gulf War with my dad since I have been unable to find it -- Sigh. My first autographed book. By one of my favorite authors.
But today, I fly down to Orlando for a writers retreat that is attached to the CBA now called ICRS: International Christian Retail Show. I am so excited! I'll only be at the show one day, but it will be enough. And to cap the event, I'll get to see Mr. Brenner for a bit!
So if I don't post much until I return, you now know why. I'm writing, retreating, and crowd-watching. Ciao!
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
This is your second book...was it hard coming back to the same main character? Why or why not?
I actually loved coming back to the character of crime-scene cleaner Gabby St. Claire. It was like visiting with an old friend. I’m familiar with her, so I knew exactly how she would react to certain situations.
I love how she always belts out lines from classic songs. Why the Elvis theme this time?
I’ve been writing for my local newspaper for five years now.
One interview I did was with an Elvis impersonator (or, an Elvis Tribute Artist, as I was quickly informed) performing at a senior citizens’ center. I had no idea what to expect before I went. After I finished the interview (and I’ve had easier times getting interviews with senators than I did with this guy after his show), the president of his fan club came running after me as I walked to my car. She presented me with an autographed picture of him. I thought, this man has a fan club? The ideas spun from there.
What did you learn writing this book?
This book explores the issue of loneliness. I think this issue will only become a bigger problem in the coming years. With technology being what it is today, people can do everything from home without ever having to interact with anyone. While in some ways this is convenient, in other ways it’s isolating. I explored this issue through a couple of storylines within the book. I know as someone who works from home, I’ve struggled at times with loneliness. The book encourages readers to value the importance of friendships.
What's next for you?
I’m currently working on book number three in the Squeaky Clean series. It’s called Organized Grime. The mystery in this book centers around Gabby’s best friend, Sierra, who gets herself mixed up with the wrong people. Suddenly, the FBI is looking for her on eco-terrorism charges. This book will also wrap up the series. I’m dragging my feet to finish it because I’ll miss my characters after this book is complete!
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and who would you take with you?
This might sound crazy, but last week I was supposed to go camping in the mountains with my family. The day I got there, I got a virus and… we’ll just say it wasn’t pretty. We had to pack up and come home. So, if I could be anywhere right now, I’d want my vacation back! I’d be in Virginia’s mountains with my family!
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Act Two: a Novel in Perfect Pitch is a delightful offering from Kimberly Stuart. This is the first of her books that I've read, though I've heard great things about her books. Particularly from a friend of mine who happens to be her agent. Any thoughts he was merely biased evaporated as I read this book.
New Yorker Sadie Maddox is the toast of the classical-music world -- and a bit of a diva. But lately her CD sales are sagging, not to mention parts of her anatomy. Maybe it's time for a change. So when her agent suggests a professorship as a small liberal-arts college, Sadie decides to give it a go...
Okay, sounds interesting. But put this diva on a pig farm...in Iowa. The contrasts are immense, and the shocks almost overwhelming. The book is written in Sadie's voice and I could almost hear the New York snobbery as she first lands in Iowa and wonders what she's done. If the smell doesn't kill her, the lack of ethnic food might.
Over the course of the semester the town and a certain veterinarian grow on her, even as she's convinced she could never stay.
This book is filled with the reality of what happens when our world gets tilted. I could see and understand Sadie's perspective even as the strong contrasts made the point stand out in a clear fashion. Life has its seasons. And my choice is to accept them with humor or battle them. What will I choose to do when my life is presented with a second act.
Ginger Garrett calls this a laugh out loud book, and she's right. The humor was wonderful -- I laughed my way through this book. And frankly, I can't wait to dive into more of Kimberly's books now that I've enjoyed this one. So this Nebraska girl gives the gal from Iowa kudos for an enjoyable read.
Then the librarians knew me by name.
Now, librarians know me as Abigail and Jonathan's mom. Though that's changing.
My local paper did a quick profile of me a few weeks ago -- right before the big booksigning May 31st. It was a great article in the entertainment section with a photo. I'm learning how many people read that section -- including librarians.
Our favorite children's librarian -- Polly -- was telling me that she'd read the article and then bought Deadly Exposure. It was such fun to get her take on the plot. That just happened to be the day I was walking out with a stack of books I'd requested holds on. A DVD on the Mind of the Serial Killer. A DVD on Finding a Serial Arsonist. Books on arson investigations and the forensics of fire. Forensics and Fiction. The poor librarian who checked me out must have really wondered where my mind was.
Polly got it. She asked -- Arson in your next book?
Yep, my next Love Inspired Suspense. Tricia Jamison is back and butting heads with a firefighter. I'm in the research stage -- and in a twisted way -- loving it.
And no, the serial killer information is simply global research...filed away for someday in the future. Maybe. As one columnist said recently, there are more books about serial killers than actual serial killers.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Tessa Young is fascinated by labyrinths. Maybe because she's long dreamed of a monster who's been locked inside one. For years she and have her psychiatrists have tried to destroy the monster to no avail. Then she's invited to unearth a centuries old labyrinth. The only problem is it will require her to work with her other scar, Smith Chandler. He betrayed her years ago when they were college students. Tessa accepts the job, determined to find closure on both fronts.
Instead, the work site is vandalized by an unknown force, the town is talking about its ghost, and her dreams and memories are increasing in their strength. As romance begins to develop, Tessa has to decide whether to permanently remove her walls or stay cocooned in an attempt to avoid pain.
The plot slowly spirals into tighter and tighter twists. It literally sucked me in through gentle waves. There are hints of suspense intertwined with layers of romance. And the psychological component of this book is very strong. Tessa is barraged with dreams and memories that leave her wondering what to believe.
The past is so tightly tied to the present, that she has no hope of a future until she can put the past behind her. To do so requires strength and a willingness to go where her mind won't go. And who can she trust? This book had me thinking and interacting with the characters the whole way through. Tessa's stand-offish nature made it a bit of a challenge to get into her mind, but she became multi-faceted and very likeable by the end. She handles the challenges thrown her way with a strength I hope I would demonstrate.
I enjoyed this book, and am delighted to have a copy to giveaway. To enter to win, leave a comment here. It's also your last chance to comment for a chance to win Fatal Deduction; leave a comment today!
Friday, July 04, 2008
Unfortunately, I do. For the second time. If I were really clever, I'd take a picture to show you. But let me just say, there's a mawing hole in my keyboard where the v key is supposed to be.
And it is HARD to type without that key. That little letter that I don't notice most days is suddenly very present in my mind. Do you know how many words have that little letter? Too many!
Fortunately, I've been assured by Dell I'll get a new keyboard in two to three business days. Thank goodness! A writer needs all her keys. Hopefully, by the time you read this I'll have them all back. Until then I'll type fast until I hit that little hole that has to be hit just right to produce a V.
--update: I have to say I love DELL. They had the new keyboard to me in less than 48 hours! Thank goodness. I had never realized how many words contain that pesky letter V!
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Love Begins with Elle is the latest offering from one of my favorite authors Rachel Hauck. Rachel's books sometimes have the twang of southern chick lit or lowcountry romance. But Love Starts With Elle has a different feel, a heart that kept me reading.
This book starts with a proposal -- Elle, the dame of Operation Wedding fame in Sweet Caroline, thinks she has it all when her hunk of a pastor proposes to her. But if he's the one for her, why is everything so hard? Soon Elle is questioning her life and what God wants for her.
Heath McCord moves to South Carolina for six months to escape New York City and the memories of his deceased wife. He's also chasing a dream -- turning a lawyer into a writer. Only problem is he wants to write a World War Two love story rather than a hard-hitting legal thriller. I laughed as I read some of what his agent told him -- since I've heard many of the same lines!
One thing I count on in one of Rachel's books is a spiritual thread that will challenge me and often hit me between the eyes. Elle struggles with entering a relationship of deep intimacy with Christ. She's invited to join an older woman for prayer every weekday morning for prayer. She shows up once out of a sense of obligation, but soon can't imagine her days beginning without that time. How I long for a similar sense of relationship -- yet, I have to take that step and draw near to Him, so He can draw near to me. Am I willing to make the sacrifices required to develop what my soul yearns for?
Rachel also presents characters who are fully human and struggle with real-life issues. There's no candy coating on these characters. One of Elle's sisters has to deal with the last fall-out of an earlier relationship that resulted in a daughter. Watching her struggle with real emotions without the veil of fictionalized Christianity challenged me. Am I willing to provide the accountability and support that someone needs when they find themselves confronted by the lingering effects of sin. We all have those areas, so why pretend otherwise.
This book was a joy to read. It impacted me on several levels, while being a real page-turner. If you're looking for a romance with depth, this is a fantastic one to read!
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Remember those carefree days as a kid? You know. The ones where you're coasting along on the saddle of your friendly bike.
I remember the feeling of freedom. I could go wherever I wanted -- or so it seemed. Now I know my parents had placed some boundaries on where exactly I could travel, but still it felt great to hop on my bike and take off.
This week Abigail has gained that freedom. It took awhile -- but the key was finally getting her a bike that was the right size. She's not eating her knees anymore, so she's sailing around the neighborhood. Pushing the boundaries. And begging Daddy to take her on more and more rides around the neighborhood.
Jonathan doesn't have quite that same freedom. He's got a great new bike, too. He informed Eric it would be fundamentally unfair for Abigail to get another new bike without him getting one. And I had to agree with him. So he'd got an awesome bike -- with training wheels. At the rate he's going it won't take long and he could probably ride without him, but even then, he doesn't have the same level of freedom -- even without Abigail stretching hers a bit.
It makes me think of the way God parents us. Sometimes He gives me more area to travel. Sometimes He pulls me back. Sometimes He lets someone else have seemingly more than me. But each of us are treated as individuals. He knows us intimately and what is best for us.
He'll hold us back if we're not quite ready.
He'll push us when we're hanging back, and He has something more for us. Just like I kept telling Abigail I knew she could ride the bike. She just had to believe she could do it.
So what is God telling you you can do? What area is He asking you to step out in faith and trust Him? Let's embrace His challenges!
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
As a former HGTV addict, I could so relate to the idea behind Gretchen's transformation. Of course, she bit off way more than she could chew -- can't relate to that at all LOL-- and the pages flipped like crazy as I raced to see if she would beat the deadline or not.
Gretchen is a character I could relate to on many levels, the writing had great humor, and the cast of characters was fun, even down to the seven year old daughter of her contractor. That little girl added a lot to the story.
If you're looking for a fun read this summer, this is a great one to add to your list. But don't take my word for it! Scroll down to read the first chapter.
It is July FIRST, time for the FIRST Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and her latest book's FIRST chapter!
WaterBrook Press (June 17, 2008)
In sixth grade, Melody Carlson helped start a school newspaper called The BuccaNews (her school’s mascot was a Buccaneer...arrr!). As editor of this paper, she wrote most of the material herself, creating goofy phony bylines to hide the fact that the school newspaper was mostly a "one man" show.
Visit Melody's website to see all of her wonderful and various book titles.
Don't miss her latest teen fiction, Stealing Bradford (Carter House Girls, Book 2).
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
So after my fiancé jilted me less than four weeks before our wedding date, and since the invitations had already been sent, my only recourse was to lie low and wait for everyone to simply forget.
Consequently, I became a recluse. If I wasn’t at work, teaching a delightful class of five-year-olds, who couldn’t care less about my shattered love life, I could be found holed up in my apartment, escaping all unnecessary interaction with “sympathetic” friends.
And that is how I became addicted to HGTV and ice cream. Okay, that probably calls for some explanation. HGTV stands for Home and Garden TV, a network that runs 24/7 and is what I consider the highest form of comfort TV. It is habit forming, albeit slightly mind numbing. And ice cream obviously needs no explanation.
Other than the fact that my dad, bless his heart, had seven quart-sized cartons of Ben & Jerry’s delivered to my apartment the day after Collin dumped me. Appropriately enough, dear old Dad (who knows me better than anyone on the planet) selected a flavor called Chocolate Therapy, a product worthy of its name and just as addictive as HGTV.
But now, eighteen months and twenty-two pounds later, I seem to be in a rut. And apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so.
“Come on, Gretchen,” urges my best friend, Holly, from her end of the phone line. “Just come with us–please!”
“Right…,” I mutter as I lick my spoon and dip it back into a freshly opened carton of Chunky Monkey–also appropriately named, but let’s not go there. Anyway, not only had I moved on to new ice cream flavors, but I also had given up using bowls. “Like I want to tag along with the newlyweds. Thanks, but no thanks.”
“Like I keep telling you, we’re not newlyweds anymore,” she insists. “We’ve been married three months now.”
“And it’s Cinco de Mayo,” she persists, using that little girl voice that I first heard when we became best friends back in third grade. “We always go together.”
I consider this. I want to point out that Holly and I used to always go to the Cinco de Mayo celebration together–as in past tense. And despite her pity for me, or perhaps it’s just some sort of misplaced guilt because she’s married and I am not, I think the days of hanging with my best friend are pretty much over now. The image of Holly and Justin, both good looking enough to be models, strolling around holding hands with frumpy, dumpy me tagging along behind them like their poor, single, reject friend just doesn’t work for me.
“Thanks anyway,” I tell her. “But I’m kind of busy today.”
“So what are you doing then?” I hear the challenge in her voice, like she thinks I don’t have anything to do on a Saturday.
I slump back into the sofa and look over to the muted TV, which is tuned, of course, to HGTV, where my favorite show, House Flippers, is about to begin, and I don’t want to miss a minute of it. “I’m, uh…I’ve got lesson plans to do,” I say quickly. This is actually true, although I don’t usually do them until Sunday evening.
She snickers. “Yeah, that’s a good one, Gretch. I’ll bet you’re vegging out in front of HGTV with a carton of Chocolate Fudge Brownie.”
“Wrong.” Okay, Holly is only partially wrong. Fortunately, I haven’t told her about my latest flavor.
“Come on,” she tries again. “It’ll be fun. You can bring Riley along. He’d probably like to stretch his legs.”
I glance over to where my usually hyper, chocolate Lab mixed breed is snoozing on his LL Bean doggy bed with a chewed-up and slightly soggy Cole Haan loafer tucked under his muzzle. “Riley’s napping,” I say. “He doesn’t want to be disturbed.”
“Like he wouldn’t want to go out and get some fresh air and sunshine?”
“We already had our walk today."
Holly laughs. “You mean that little shuffle you do over to the itty bitty park across the street from your apartment complex? What’s that take? Like seven and a half minutes for the whole round trip? That’s not enough exercise for a growing dog like Riley.”
“I threw a ball for him to chase.”
“So there’s nothing I can do or say to change your mind?” House Flippers is just starting. “Nope,” I say, trying to end this conversation. “But thanks for thinking of me.”
“Want me to bring you back an empanada?”
“Sure,” I say quickly. “You guys have fun!” Then I hang up and, taking the TV off mute, I lean back into the soft chenille sofa and lose myself while watching a hapless couple from Florida renovate a seriously run-down split-level into something they hope to sell for a profit. Unfortunately, neither of them is terribly clever when it comes to remodeling basics. And their taste in interior design is sadly lacking too. The woman’s favorite color is rose, which she uses liberally throughout the house, and she actually thinks that buyers will appreciate the dated brown tiles and bathroom fixtures in the powder room. By the time the show ends, not only is the house still on the market despite the reduced price and open house, but the couple’s marriage seems to be in real trouble as well.
“Too bad,” I say out loud as I mute the TV for commercials. Riley’s head jerks up, and he looks at me with expectant eyes.
“You just keep being a good boy,” I tell him in a soothing tone. Hopefully, he’ll stretch out this midday nap a bit longer. Because once Riley starts moving, my tiny apartment seems to shrink, first by inches and then by feet.
My hope for an elongated nap crumbles when his tail begins to beat rhythmically on the floor, almost like a warning–thump, thump, thump–and the next thing I know, he’s up and prowling around the cluttered living room. Riley isn’t even full grown yet, and he’s already way too much dog for my apartment. Holly warned me that his breed needed room to romp and play. She tried to talk me into a little dog, like a Yorkie or Chihuahua, but I had fallen for those liquid amber eyes…and did I mention that he’s part chocolate Lab? Since when have I been able to resist chocolate? Besides, he reminded me of a cuddly brown teddy bear. But I hardly considered the fact that he would get bigger.
After he climbed into my lap that day, licking my face and smelling of puppy breath and other things that I knew could be shampooed away, there was no way I could leave him behind at the Humane Society. I already knew that he’d been rejected as a Christmas present. Some dimwitted father had gotten him for toddler twins without consulting Mommy first. Even so, Holly tried to convince me that a good-looking puppy like that would quickly find another home.
But it was too late. I knew Riley was meant for me, and that was that. And I had grandiose ideas of taking him for long walks on the beach. “He’ll help me get in shape,” I assured Holly. She’d long since given up on me going to the fitness club with her, so I think she bought into the whole exercise theory. She also bought Riley his LL Bean deluxe doggy bed, which I could barely wedge into my already crowded apartment and now takes up most of the dining area, even though it’s partially tucked beneath a gorgeous craftsman-style Ethan Allen dining room set. Although it’s hard to tell that it’s gorgeous since it’s pushed up against a wall and covered with boxes of Pottery Barn kitchen items that won’t fit into my limited cabinet space.
“This place is way too small for us,” I say to Riley as I shove the half-full ice cream carton back into the freezer. As if to confirm this, his wagging tail whacks an oversized dried arrangement in a large bronze vase, sending seedpods, leaves, and twigs flying across the carpet and adding to the general atmosphere of chaos and confusion.
My decorating style? Contemporary clutter with a little eclectic disorder thrown in for special effect. Although, to be fair, that’s not the real me. I’m sure the real me could make a real place look like a million bucks. That is, if I had a real place…or a million bucks.
I let out a long sigh as I stand amid my clutter and survey my crowded apartment. It’s been like this for almost two years now.
Overly filled with all the stuff I purchased shortly after Collin proposed to me more than two years ago. Using my meager teacher’s salary and skimpy savings, I started planning the interior décor for our new home. I couldn’t wait to put it all together after the wedding.
“Have you ever heard of wedding presents?” Holly asked me when she first realized what I was doing.
“Of course,” I assured her. “But I can’t expect the guests to provide everything for our home. I figured I might as well get started myself. Look at this great set of espresso cups that I got at Crate & Barrel last weekend for thirty percent off.”
“Well, at least you have good taste,” she admitted as she stooped to admire a hand-tied wool area rug I’d just gotten on sale. Of course, she gasped when she saw the price tag still on it. “Expensive taste too!”
“It’ll last a lifetime,” I assured her, just like the Karastan salesman had assured me. Of course, as it turned out, my entire relationship with Collin didn’t even last two years. Now I’m stuck with a rug that’s too big to fit in this crummy little one-bedroom apartment–the same apartment I’d given Mr. Yamamoto notice on two months before my wedding. It was so humiliating to have to beg to keep it after the wedding was cancelled, but I didn’t know what else to do.
And now, a year and a half later, I’m still here. Stuck. It’s like everyone else has moved on with their lives except me. It wouldn’t be so bad if I had enough room to make myself at home or enough room for Riley to wag his tail without causing mass destruction…or enough room to simply breathe. Maybe I should rent a storage unit for all this stuff. Or maybe I should move myself into a storage unit since it would probably be bigger than this apartment.
As I pick up Riley’s newest mess, I decide the bottom line is that I need to make a decision. Get rid of some things–whether by storage, a yard sale, or charity–or else get more space. I vote for more space. Not that I can afford more space. I’m already strapped as it is.
Kindergarten teachers don’t make a whole lot. I feel like I’ve created a prison for myself. What used to be a convenient hideout now feels like a trap, and these thin walls seem to be closing in on me daily. Feeling hopeless, I flop back onto the couch and ponder my limited options. Then I consider forgetting the whole thing and escaping back into HGTV, which might call for some more ice cream.
But that’s when I look down and notice my thighs spreading out like two very large slabs of ham. Very pale ham, I might add as I tug at my snug shorts to help cover what I don’t want to see, but it’s not working. I stare at my flabby legs in horror. When did this happen?
I stand up now, trying to erase that frightening image of enormous, white thunder thighs. I pace around my apartment a bit before I finally go and stand in front of an oversized mirror that’s leaning against the wall near the front door. This is a beautiful mirror I got half price at World Market, but it belongs in a large home, possibly over a fireplace or in a lovely foyer. And it will probably be broken by Riley’s antics if it remains against this wall much longer.
But instead of admiring the heavy bronze frame of the mirror like I usually do, I actually look into the mirror and am slightly stunned at what I see. Who is that frumpy girl? And who let her into my apartment? I actually used to think I was sort of good looking. Not a babe, mind you, but okay. Today I see a faded girl with disappointed eyes.
Some people, probably encouraged by Holly, a long-legged dazzling brunette, used to say I resembled Nicole Kidman. Although they probably were thinking of when Nicole was heavier and I was lighter. Now it’s a pretty big stretch to see any similarities. To add insult to injury, Nicole has already hit the big “four o,” whereas I am only thirty-two. Her forties might be yesterday’s twenties, but my thirties look more like someone else’s fifties. And I used to take better care of myself. Okay, I was never thin, but I did eat right and got exercise from jogging and rollerblading. Compared to now, I was in great shape. And my long strawberry blond hair, which I thought was my best asset, was usually wavy and fresh looking, although you wouldn’t know that now. It’s unwashed and pulled tightly into a shabby-looking ponytail, which accentuates my pudgy face and pale skin. Even my freckles have faded. It doesn’t help matters that my worn T-shirt (with a peeling logo that proclaims “My Teacher Gets an A+”) is saggy and baggy, and my Old Navy khaki shorts, as I’ve just observed, are too tight, and my rubber flip-flops look like they belong on a homeless person–although I could easily be mistaken for one if I was pushing a shopping cart down the street.
Then, in the midst of this pathetic personal inventory, my focus shifts to all the junk that’s piled behind me–the boxes, the myriad of stuff lining the short, narrow hallway and even spilling into the open door of my tiny bedroom, which can barely contain the queensize bed and bronze bedframe still in the packing box behind it. If it wasn’t so depressing, it would almost be funny. I just shake my head. And then I notice Riley standing strangely still behind me and looking almost as confused as I feel. With his head slightly cocked to one side, he watches me curiously, as if he, too, is afraid to move. This is nuts. Totally certifiable. A girl, or even a dog, could seriously lose it living like this. Or maybe I already have. They say you’re always the last to know that you’ve lost your marbles.
“It’s time for a change,” I announce to Riley. He wags his tail happily now, as if he wholeheartedly agrees. Or maybe he simply thinks I’m offering to take him on a nice, long walk. “We need a real house,” I continue, gathering steam now. “And we need a real yard for you to run and play in.” Of course, this only excites him more.
And that’s when he begins to run about the apartment like a possessed thing, bumping into boxes and furnishings until I finally open the sliding door and send him out to the tiny deck to calm himself.
After he settles down, I go and join him. It’s pretty hot out here, and I notice that the seedling sunflower plants, ones we’d started in the classroom and I’d brought home to nurture along, are now hanging limp and lifeless, tortured by the hot afternoon sun that bakes this little patio. Just one more thing I hate about this place.
So much for my attempt at terrace gardening. I’d seen a show on HGTV that inspired me to turn this little square of cement deck into a real oasis. But in reality it’s simply a barren desert that will only get worse as the summer gets hotter. I feel like I’m on the verge of tears now. It’s hopeless.
This is all wrong. On so many levels. This is not where I was supposed to be at this stage of the game. This is not the life I had planned. I feel like I’ve been robbed or tricked or like someone ripped the rug out from under me. And sometimes in moments like this, I even resent God and question my faith in him. I wonder why he allows things like this to happen. Why does he let innocent people get hurt by the selfishness of others? It just doesn’t make sense. And it’s not fair.
Oh, I’ve tried to convince myself I’m over the fact that my ex fiancé, Collin Fairfield, was a total jerk. And I try not to blame him for being swept away when his high school sweetheart decided, after fifteen years of being apart, that she was truly in love with him. I heard that the revelation came to Selena at the same time she received our engraved wedding invitation, which I did not send to her. She wasn’t even on my list.
And I actually believe that I’ve mostly forgiven Collin…and that sneaky Selena too. And I wish them well, although I didn’t attend their wedding last fall. A girl has to draw the line somewhere.
But all that aside, this is still so wrong. I do not belong in this stuffy little apartment that’s cluttered with my pretty household goods. I belong in a real house. A house with a white picket fence and a lawn and fruit trees in the backyard. And being single shouldn’t mean that I don’t get to have that. There must be some way I can afford a home.
Of course, I’m fully aware that real estate isn’t cheap in El Ocaso. It’s on the news regularly. Our town’s prices certainly aren’t as outrageous as some of the suburbs around San Diego, but they’re not exactly affordable on a teacher’s salary. I try not to remember how much I had in my savings account back before I got engaged and got carried away with spending on my wedding and my home. That pretty much depleted what might’ve gone toward a small down payment on what probably would’ve been a very small house. But, hey, even a small house would be better than this prison-cell apartment.
And that’s when it hits me. And it’s so totally obvious I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner. I will become a house flipper! Just like the people on my favorite HGTV show, I will figure out a way to secure a short-term loan, purchase a fixer-upper house, and do the repairs and decorating myself–with my dad’s expert help, of course!
And then, maybe as early as midsummer, I will sell this beautifully renovated house for enough profit to make a good-sized down payment on another house just for me…and Riley. Even if the secondhouse is a fixer-upper too, I can take my time with it, making it just the way I want it. And it’ll be so much better than where I live now.
I’m surprised I didn’t come up with this idea months ago. It’s so totally simple. Totally perfect. And totally me!
“We are going house hunting,” I announce to Riley as I shove open the sliding door and march back inside the apartment. His whole body is wagging with doggy joy as I quickly exchange my too-tight shorts for jeans and then reach for his leather leash and my Dolce & Gabbana knockoff bag–the one I bought to carry on my honeymoon, the honeymoon that never was. I avoid looking at my image in the big mirror as we make a hasty exit.
“Come on, boy,” I say as I hook the leash to his collar at the top of the stairs. “This is going to be fun!” And since this outing is in the spirit of fun, I even put down the top on my VW Bug, something I haven’t done in ages. Riley looks like he’s died and gone to doggy heaven as he rides joyfully in the backseat, his ears flapping in the breeze. Who knows, maybe we’ll find a house for sale on the beach.
Okay, it’d have to be a run-down, ramshackle sort of place that no one but me can see the hidden value in, but it could happen. And while I renovate my soon-to-be wonder house, Riley can be king of the beach. The possibilities seem limitless. And when I stop at the grocery store to pick up real-estate papers, I am impressed with how many listings there are. But I can’t read and drive, so I decide to focus on driving. And since I know this town like the back of my hand, this should be easy.
But thanks to the Cinco de Mayo celebration, the downtown area is crowded, so I start my search on the south end of town, trying to avoid traffic jams. I’m aware that this area is a little pricey for me, but you never know. First, I pull over into a parking lot and read the fliers. I read about several houses for sale, but the prices are staggering.
Even more than I imagined. Also, based on the descriptions and photos, these houses already seem to be in great shape. No fixer-uppers here. Then I notice some condo units for sale, and I can imagine finding a run-down unit in need of a little TLC, but it’s the same situation. According to the fliers, they’re in tiptop, turnkey shape–recently remodeled with granite counters and cherry hardwood floors and new carpeting and prices so high I can’t imagine doing anything that could push them a penny higher. My profit margin and spirits are steadily sinking. Maybe my idea to flip a house has already flopped. Just like the rest of my life.
Excerpted from A Mile in My Flip-Flops by Melody Carlson Copyright © 2008 by Melody Carlson. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.