Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dreary Rainy Day: perfect for giveaways

It's a terribly dreary day here in Indiana. So in honor of days that beg for a blanket, fire, and cup of tea or hot cocoa piled with marshmallows, I'm giving away one or two books. The choice is up to you. If we have ten comments, I'll give away one. If we have twenty or more comments I'll give away both.

The books are ones I picked up at the Christian Book Expo when my friends were signing. Yes, they're autographed. I'm not even keeping them!

The first book is Gingham Mountain by Mary Connealy which I adored (click the link for my review). The second book is The Red Siren by ML Tyndall, which is on my to be read pile. Leave a comment that includes your favorite type of book to read on dreary days. I'll pick a winner on Saturday, so spread the word quickly!

601410: Gingham Mountain, Lassoed in Texas Series #3Gingham Mountain, Lassoed in Texas Series #3

By Mary Connealy

When Hannah Cartwright meets Grant, a disreputable-looking wrangler, she's determined to keep him from committing two orphan train children to hard labor on his ranch. How long will she have to play the role of schoolmarm before she gets a chance to rescue the children? Prudence, the town dressmaker, has designs on Grant. Will she succeed in securing his affections? As Grant struggles to run the ranch and raise six orphans, he finds love making tracks to his heart. Will he be caught in a web of deceit or lassoed by the love of one good woman?

601567: The Red Siren, Charles Towne Belles Series #1The Red Siren, Charles Towne Belles Series #1

By Mary Lu Tyndall

Faith Westcott, a fiery redhead, is a lady by day and a pirate by night. How long can she maintain this dual identity before she's caught red handed? Dajon Waite, who scours the Carolina coast, expunging it of pirates and smugglers, is a more-than-capable captain in the British Royal Navy. But when asked to take on the guardianship of Faith and her two sisters, he finds himself in deep water. Having vowed to avoid women, what will he do when he begins falling for Faith? Can the all-consuming love of a godly captain redeem a not-so-ladylike pirate?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What I'm reading

Here's something a bit different. I'm in the middle of a bunch of books. Book you'll love. Rather than wait until I'm done with all of them, here's teaser. Reviews to come later...I never used to think I read multiple books at a time. Boy, was I wrong! And I seem to be on a historical kick, though there's a fun mix of books.
278368: Daisy Chain, Defiance, Texas Trilogy #1 Daisy Chain, Defiance, Texas Trilogy #1
By Mary E. DeMuth / Zondervan

The abrupt disappearance of young Daisy Chance haunts the small town of Defiance, Texas. Fourteen-year-old Jed Pepper searches for answers in this gritty and compelling story of love and sorrow, revealing God's hand of redemption in impossible situations. Lyrical fiction from a bright new literary talent.

Cara here: Mary is an amazing writer -- each word strung together in a deliberate and beautiful way...haunting story so far.
448139: Love"s First Light Love's First Light
By Jamie Carie

Christophi, the Count of St. Laurent, has lost his entire family to the blood-soaked French Revolution and must flee to an ancient castle along the southern border of France to survive. But the medieval city of Carcassonne proves more than a hiding place. Here Christophi meets the beautiful widow Scarlett, a complex and lionhearted woman suddenly taken by the undercover aristocrat's passion for astronomy and its influence upon his faith. Although their acquaintance begins brightly enough, when the Count learns that Scarlett is related to the man who murdered his family, he turns from love and chooses revenge. Heaven only knows what it might take for Christophi to love again, to love his enemy, and to love unconditionally.

Cara here: This book starts in the throes of the bloody French Revolution and then turns into a romance that seems fated to fail...I'll let you know when I finish. Jamie is one of my favorite historical writers -- absolutely gripping.

205125: A Claim of Her Own A Claim of Her Own
By Stephanie Grace Whitson

It's 1876, and 20-year-old Mattie Flynn is determined to make a fresh start after fleeing from her sinister boss in the gambling house where she was employed as a singer. Mattie travels to Deadwood, South Dakota, in search of her younger brother, who went ahead of her in hopes of making a fortune in the gold mines.
All Mattie wants is a safe and respectable life for the two of them, but that doesn't seem to be her destiny as she faces more heartache and trials. Will the suspicious bottles of gold dust from her brother's claim be the key to her future...or does the handsome street preacher, who is always turning the other cheek, truly hold the answers to her deepest longings?
Cara here: Stephanie has written a great historical that sweeps me away to Deadwood SD and the gold rush. Can't wait to see how all the twists work out!

733209: Michal, Wives of King David Series #1 Michal, Wives of King David Series #1
By Jill Eileen Smith

As the daughter of King Saul, Michal lives a life of privilege--but one that is haunted by her father's unpredictable moods and by competition from her beautiful older sister. When Michal falls for young David, the harpist who plays to calm her father, she has no idea what romance, adventures, and heartache await her.

Cara here: I've always thought Biblical fiction would be difficult to write, but Jill pulls it off. A tale that will sweep you back to the life of David...

324685: The Woman of Mystery: Unveiling the Secret to True Romance The Woman of Mystery: Unveiling the Secret to True Romance
By Hayley DiMarco

You once thought that your life would be filled with love and adventure . . . but now all that seems to have passed you by. DiMarco says, not so fast! With her trademark warmth and candor, she reveals the secret to true romance and helps you become the captivating, self-confident, graceful woman you long to be.

Cara here: This is a non-fiction and very intriguing. What woman doesn't want to have the allure of mystery surrounding her?
448730: Sweet Waters, Otter Bay Series #1 Sweet Waters, Otter Bay Series #1
By Julie Carobini

After her fiance dumps her, her sister relocates to Manhattan, and her mother remarries, Tara decides to move from Missouri to her childhood home of Otter Bay, California. But as she settles in and finds a new flame in firefighter Trent, she discovers shocking family secrets that could turn her fairy-tale life into a soap opera.

Cara here: I am loving this book -- It's one of my running buddies since it's an ARC I can beat up LOL. There's a hint of mystery, layer of romance, and heart.
074914: Dear Mom: Everything Your Teenage Daughter Wants You to Know But Will Never Tell You Dear Mom: Everything Your Teenage Daughter Wants You to Know But Will Never Tell You
By Melody Carlson

Popular teen girls' novelist Melody Carlson helps moms cut through murky and uncharted waters so you can hear what your daughter is really trying to tell you through her anger, silence, and mixed messages. Dear Mom focuses on your daughter's heart and soul. Get to know her hopes and fears, doubts and dreams about her identity, guys, friendships, and even you. You can connect on a deeper, more intimate level that will carry both you and your daughter through the stormy seas of life.

Cara here: I scanned this book in a night and found it very compelling. What do teenagers think and how can we as parents reach out to them in a way that encourages a healthy relationship. Very easy to read, but also very packed with great information.

569718: The Eyam Factor The Eyam Factor
By Walt Larimore & Paul McCusker

A top-secret group of forensic scientists investigates the past to save the future when a deadly plague infects innocent people. But as they study how an English village survived the 17th-century Black Death, they encounter 21st-century grave robberies, grisly murders, and a ghost! Who's trying to stop them from learning the truth---and why?

Cara here: This book is one reason the others are still in process. It's a suspense on a global scale -- had some Clancyesque feel to it. LOVED it! Not for the faint of heart. Releases in August.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Living Life as Ministry

I spent Friday at a friend's house as we participated in our neighborhood's garage sale. My week was utter chaos as I sorted boxes of baby and toddler clothes...desperate to get them ready for the sale. I'm ready to declutter that part of my life.

It took a ton of effort. And my room is almost put back together. There's a box filled with clothes for my niece Leilani. Another box filled with baby boy clothes for my nephews Quinn and Brodey. So that's all great. Thursday morning we spent a couple hours trying to sort everything and set up. I finally gave up as evidenced by my oldest's statement that the garage sale had turned into a rummage sale. Pretty astute observation for an 8 y.o.

Back to Friday morning. I zipped the kids out to Chick-Fil-A for breakfast and their largest sweet tea, and by 8 we were setting up in the driveway. In no time, my friend had people looking at and buying electronics. I was feeling pretty low. Unless you needed 0-24 month girl or boy clothes, you weren't going to want what I had to sell.

As I sat down I asked God for ministry opportunities. With one of those, I would know the effort was worth it. After all, the clothes were now sorted and could go to the crisis pregnancy center -- a very worthwhile destination for them.

How God answered that prayer. One woman had just learned her 18 y.o. was pregnant. I was able to love on her and direct her to the crisis pregnancy center for help. At that moment, all the time was worth it. Then an acquaintance came by. Learned she'd miscarried and was able to hug on her, encourage her, give her my number and generally love on her. Then a family came by where the mom was pregnant with her third but this one a girl -- who just "happened" to be due around my oldest's birthday. Loaded her up with a box of wonderful clothes at a low price.

There were other moments, but those three sealed the day for me. Even though it was stressful, and my week felt incredibly insane, any one of those would have made it worth it, but God gave me three.

It's left me wondering how many opportunities to minister I miss because I haven't asked. Open my eyes to see those opportunities, Lord, and my life to serve.

Friday, April 24, 2009

For Fun -- a Photo

Here's a photo of me with one of my favorite readers, Sarah. She's a fellow homeschooler from Texas, and it was so fun to finally meet her face to face in Dallas at the Christian Book Expo. Thanks for sending the photo, Sarah!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Elisha's Bones

CFBA is hosting Elisha's Bones this week, too. I LOVED this book. It was international suspense/thriller with a strong archaeological component that I thoroughly enjoyed. As soon as I finished the book I tossed it to my husband and said, "Read this -- you'll love it."

This book had a sense of pacing that made me think of the DaVinci Code -- but in a good way. There were many things I hated about that book -- in this one the concept of a relic that could change the world with converging forces who wanted it for their own is done well. And the ending isn't neatly packaged -- until the last page. This book also avoids all that made me through the DaVinci Code against a wall. The writing is clean and compelling -- I couldn't believe it was a first novel. And the characters are richly drawn and thrust into exotic setting after exotic setting.

Great read for those who like their pulse pounding and the pages flipping as they wait to see what danger awaits the characters next.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Elisha's Bones, go HERE.

ABOUT Elisha's Bones
Every year, professor of antiquities Jack Hawthorne looks forward to the winter break as a time to hide away from his responsibilities. Even if just for a week or two. But this year, his plans are derailed when he's offered almost a blank check from a man chasing a rumor.

Billionaire Gordon Reese thinks he knows where the bones of the prophet Elisha are--bones that in the Old Testament brought the dead back to life. The bones of the prophet once raised the dead to life... but they vanished from history in a whisper.

Bankrolled by a dying man of unlimited means, Hawthorne's hunt spans the globe and leads him into a deadly conspiracy older than the church itself. A born skeptic, Jack doesn't think much of the assignment but he could use the money, so he takes the first step on a chase for the legendary bones that will take him to the very ends of the earth.

But he's not alone. Joined with a fiery colleague, Esperanza Habilla, they soon discover clues to a shadowy organization whose long-held secrets have been protected . . . at all costs. And he soon discovers those sworn to keep the secret of the bones will do anything to protect them. As their lives are threatened again and again, the real race is to uncover the truth before those chasing them hunt them down.

ABOUT Don Hoesel:

Don Hoesel was born and raised in Buffalo, NY but calls Spring Hill, TN home. He is a Web site designer for a Medicare carrier in Nashville, TN. He has a BA in Mass Communication from Taylor University and has published short fiction in Relief Journal.

He lives in Spring Hill with his wife and two children.

Elisha's Bones is his first novel.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Promise for Spring Review

A Promise for Spring is a beautiful offering from Kim Vogel Sawyer. Set in the author's home state of Kansas, I was swept back to 1874 from the first page.

205071: A Promise for SpringA Promise for Spring

By Kim Vogel Sawyer

England-born Emmaline Bradford pledged her life to Geoffrey Garrett and then bid him farewell when he sailed to America. Although Geoffrey anticipated only a short separation, several years passed before he was able to send for Emmaline. By then the fiery flame of her youthful love had all but died. Shocked by the conditions on Geoffrey's Kansas sheep ranch, Emmaline wishes to return to England immediately. Geoffrey offers a compromise: If Emmaline promises to stay until spring, he'll pay her return fare if she decides to go back to her home country. When spring arrives, will Emmaline return to England, or will she marry Geoffrey and carve out a life with him in Kansas?
This book has the sweet touch of romance that I've come to expect from Kim's historicals. I longed for Emmaline and Geoffrey to resolve their differences, but it wasn't a done deal. Instead, there were many times I wondered if it would be possible. Emmaline is completely out of her element - unable to even cook a simple meal, while Geoffrey struggles to understand her reluctance to embrace him.

The supporting characters play key roles, adding to the Emmaline's and Geoffrey's challenges. Then there's the setting and nature. Think plague proportions. Everything seems stacked against them as they try to rediscover their love. If you love historical romance, this book will not disappoint. Instead, it will remind you why you love this genre and books by this talented author.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Reluctant Cowgirl Review

I read Reluctant Cowgirl last week and loved it. I've heard great things about Christine's writing, even had one of her books sitting in my TBR pile, but never quite got it to the top of the pile. Now I can't wait to go back and read that one, too.

In Reluctant Cowgirl, Crystal McCord has left her hometown in Arkansas to make it big in NYC. After seven years, another play she's in is closing and then she finds her boyfriend with her roommate. What's a girl to do other than run home for a family meeting that's been called. While there, she has to decide whether to postpone her dream for a few weeks to help her parents live one of theirs.

There are issues all over the place. Crystal ran from home after a tragedy she hasn't dealt with. The neighboring cowboy who will help reacclimate her to the ranch has tragedies of his own that he's dealing with. Can two broken people help each other without becoming co-dependent? And can Crystal get to the core of her dream?

Crystal is supported in her pursuits but a delightful cast of family. I loved these interactions and can't wait for the sequels that are sure to come about some of her siblings. And there were so many times this book could have fallen into a cliche, but it never did. Instead, I kept reading because I wanted to know what Crystal would do. Would she open her heart or would she pursue a dream? I kept wondering what I would do if I were in Crystal's shoes. So a wonderful book releasing just in time for summer vacation reading.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Reluctant Cowgirl, go HERE

ABOUT Reluctant Cowgirl

Actress Crystal McCord gave up the closeness of her big family in order to make a name for herself on the New York City stage. But when life in the Big Apple turns sour, she follows a country road back to her parents Arkansas ranch.

The last thing she expects to find in cowboy country is a new leading man. Still, she can't help but imagine handsome rancher Jeremy Buchanan in the role.

Unfortunately, Jeremy's been burned by Crystal's type before. Or has he? Every time he thinks he knows her, the multi-faceted woman surprises him. Will the reluctant pair allow their hearts to guide them, or will their common stubborn pride keep them miles apart?

ABOUT Christine Lynxwiler

Christine lives with her husband and two precious daughters in the foothills of the beautiful Ozark Mountains in her home state of Arkansas. Her greatest earthly joy is her family and, aside from doing God’s will, spending time with them is her top priority.

She recently took a break from writing romance to pen a Christmas story with a twist. Her Mom Lit novella, My True Love Gave to Me, is part of a 2 in 1 anthology from Barbour entitled All Jingled Out. It’s also included in Simply Christmas, a 4 in 1 Barbour anthology. One of my holiday highlights was seeing Simply Christmas at Sam’s Club a few weeks before Christmas.

She has written two other novellas, both romance, which are included in Barbour anthologies, City Dreams, and Prairie County Fair and a serial for the Heartsong Presents book club newsletter – The Carousel Horse. The Carousel Horse can be read in its entirety on the Heartsong website, and you can read excerpts from all of her other books on her website, HERE

In 2003, Christine was honored by being voted #2 Favorite New Author by the Heartsong Presents Book Club members!

Monday, April 20, 2009

When do you quit?

Today, I'm knee deep in boxes of kids' clothing. Yep, trying to get ready for a garage sale. Oy, I knew we had boxes up there. But this many! Yikes.

So today, pop over to this blog to read a post on quitting. I'd love your thoughts. Mine...if God has placed the dream in your heart, don't stop until He tells you to.

Also, I covet your prayers as I work on proposals. It's been slow going working through the plots in my head, and now it's time to start writing again. :-)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Random Musings on Ego

Y'all know I went to the Steven Curtis Chapman/Michael W. Smith United tour at the end of March. I love the music both those men put out and have tapes/CDs going back to the um beginning.

The concert lived up to everything I'd hoped, but left me thinking about ego. Here are two men who have as much of a right as anyone does to have ego -- yet there was none at the concert. Instead, these two men seemlessly played back-up to each other, disappeared, returned, joked, and worshipped.

I watched and prayed -- God give me a heart that is not threatened by those others would say could be my competition.

Many of my friends in writing have the same attitude. I can't tell you how many times I've been surprised by the lack of ego from people you would think have earned it. Such a blessing to see people live in a way that shows they want to serve others and give the glory to God.

My prayer is that I would live a life where my ego is firmly in check. Where I focus on the needs of others v. the imagined rights I should have. That I would always look to serve rather than develop the attitude of a prima dona. That my life would point clearly to the Father whom deserves any glory I may receive. That I would reflect it to Him rather than clutch it to my chest.

Random thoughts.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hearts at Home

Have you ever felt alone as a mom? Lost in your chosen field of mothering?

There is an organization that was created to encourage, educate and equip women in the profession of motherhood. Hearts at Home helps thousands of moms love their lives through their many resources including conferences, website, and books.

Recently I partnered up with this organization as a blogger. Over time I hope to share with you the many resources this ministry has to offer (old ones and new). To learn more about the Hearts at Home Blogging team go here.

In the meantime I would like to encourage you to explore their website and blog for an immediate dose of mothering encouragement.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

International Suspense Reviews

205606: Elisha"s BonesElisha's Bones

By Don Hoesel

Plans change for antiquities professor Jack Hawthorne when billionaire Gordon Reese hands him an irresistable offer to follow a rumor. Joined by colleague Esperanza Habilla, Jack searches for the prophet Elisha's bones---believed to reverse death---and stumbles upon a shadowy organization with long-kept secrets. Will they uncover the truth before the society catches them? 352 pages, softcover from Bethany.

This is a debut novel filled with intense pacing, fresh writing, and richly layered characters. It's also filled with continent hopping as Jack Hawthrone and his old flame attempt to find Elisha's bones before they're killed. The suspense will keep the pages turning as the intrigue reaches DaVinci Code levels but in a much better written package. I loved this book, and hope the author has others releasing soon.

420078: Blood BrothersBlood Brothers

By Rick Acker

Karl and Gunnar Bjornsen have developed a revolutionary new drug---a neural stimulant that increases strength and intelligence! Unfortunately, its potential for success has them battling for control of their company. Karl sues Gunnar, and Gunnar hires Ben. But the case goes beyond sibling rivalry, and soon Ben's in Norway where things turn personal---and violent. 368 pages, softcover from Kregel.
Those of you who read my blog know that I enjoyed Rick's debut novel. Blood Brothers had many of the same elements. Ben Corbin is back in another legal case that has international elements. This time he's helping one brother sue another for control of the company. There's a wonder drug at stake in the lawsuit. The book starts with a slower pacing as life is pretty good for the Corbins post the win in Dead Man's Rule. But as the pages turn, the pace increases. And the plot crosses international borders as they trace problems to Norway. This book is a very enjoyable read for those who like legal/thriller/international.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Yeah! Interview & Giveaway with Author Randy Singer

315478: By Reason of InsanityBy Reason of Insanity

By Randy Singer

After a series of killings, reporter Catherine O'Rourke is plagued by dreams that reveal each crime in ghastly detail. But because of her intimate knowledge, she's charged with murder! When she engages high-priced lawyer Quinn Newburg, he wants her to plead insanity. Can his famed legal maneuvering save her---or will it take a miracle?

I'm delighted to welcome my friend Randy Singer. You've heard me rave about By Reason of Insanity, and I'm sitting with bated breath waiting for his next novel. But today, he's stopped by with a great interview filled with great insights into his books and how he balances a crazy life of attorney, author, and pastor. Best of all -- I have a copy of the paperback edition of By Reason of Insanity to giveaway! Yeah!!! So read the interview and leave a comment for the chance to receive this awesome book!

Now here's the interview...

By Reason of Insanity was a legal thriller that my husband and I both loved. The pages couldn't turn fast enough. How did you get the germ of the idea?

Like many of my stories, the storyline for By Reason of Insanity was not triggered by a single idea but by the intersection of several ideas that together created something I wanted to explore. Looking back, I think there were four little streams that trickled together to form the small river that became By Reason. The first stream was the increase of a strident form of atheism in our culture. These new “atheism evangelists” won’t be satisfied until everyone else shares their lack of faith. They deny anything spiritual. There is no dimension except for the one we can see, touch and smell. The second stream was another cultural trend, somewhat contrary to the first, i.e. the fascination with the paranormal. Shows like Medium demonstrate that even in investigative work, police sometimes seek aid from those who claim an ability to communicate with another dimension. A third stream consisted of reports from the mission field, particularly in Muslim countries, of unbelievers experiencing visions and dreams that pointed them to Christ. Does God still work that way? Just on the mission field or here in America too? And finally, a single Bible verse helped trigger my thinking as well. As Paul is defending himself in front of Agrippa, making some very convincing arguments, Festus blurts out: “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” Acts 26:24

Now you’re starting to see where the insanity came from.

See this is why I'm still struggling to hit upon that great idea publishers will fight over. It's the streams that come together to make a runaway river of a book! This book is filled with so many twists I almost felt like a pretzel at the end...and then it twisted again. What made you kept tweaking the plot?

A “twisted” sense of fun. Sorry, bad pun. My goal is to try and surprise readers two or three times at the end of each book. But I have in mind a certain kind of surprise. Any writer can surprise readers with something out of left field but that will just leave readers with a sense that the writer didn’t play fair. The best kind of surprise is something the reader never sees coming, like a silent train whispering down the tracks, but once the train hits, readers can dust themselves off and say, “I should have seen it coming.”

I so agree. I feel cheated if the device and answer is from left field, but when the author has out thought me I love it. And come back for more, and more, and more...Quinn Newberg takes on the hard cases -- even when he doesn't necessarily believe in his client's innocence. Have you had cases like that in your practice?

Yes and no. Quinn specializes in criminal cases. I primarily handle civil cases. We both practice at relatively large firms. We can both be somewhat choosy about the cases we accept (unlike lawyers who work at a public defenders’ office who must accept anyone who qualifies). I generally represent the plaintiff in civil cases, meaning I’m the one filing suit, so I will simply refuse the case if I don’t think it’s got merit.

There are times, however, when I represent a defendant who I’m pretty sure is “guilty” (we call that “liable” in the civil context). When that happens, I will counsel the client to make a fair offer and we try to settle the case.

I love the complexity of civil litigation, but you're right...there's often a certain amount of "guilt" on each side. Which leads to the next question: If the case doesn’t settle, how can you defend someone that you think is liable?

For the answer to that, I turn to the story in John 8 where Jesus defended the woman caught in adultery (on procedural grounds) even though he knew she was guilty. God is a God of justice. But God is also a God of mercy. Sometimes, as lawyers, our job is to advocate for mercy and let the system be responsible for deciding what constitutes justice. As Christians, we should all be grateful for the fact that Christ became our advocate while we were still guilty and gave his life so that we might have mercy and grace rather than justice and punishment.

You write legal thrillers. Why do you think people are so fascinated with all things legal? And what keeps you writing them?
The courtroom is our modern intellectual version of the Roman Coliseum. It’s where all the big life issues are contested and resolved: When does life begin? How do you define marriage? Should the United States waterboard terrorism suspects at Guantanamo? Etc. Another reason people love the courtroom is because one lawyer, committed to his or her cause, can make a tremendous difference not just for his/her client but for all of society. The courtroom tends to level the playing field between David and Goliath, between Joe Plumber and IBM.

That's frankly why I became a lawyer...watching HSLDA attorneys in action in the political arena. I wanted to do that! If you could write any book you wanted and know it would land on the bestsellers list, what would you write?
The books I’m writing now. When I write, I try to put aside thoughts about who might ultimate read the book, or how I can make it sell better, or what a particular market might demand or expect. I try to write the stories that God has placed on my heart and let all this other stuff take care of itself. Since these are the stories I’m most passionate about, I wouldn’t write a different kind of story if I knew it would make the NYT list.

Great perspective. And timely as I'm evaluating next steps. As an attorney, I know I sometimes find myself analyzing legal thrillers for accuracy. What's your pet peeve legal mistake in novels?

Wow. Great question. There’s not one particular mistake, but I can tell when a legal thriller has been written by someone who is not a lawyer or when a thriller involving a trial has been written by a lawyer who is not a trial lawyer. There are so many nuances in the way cases actually get tried in the real world—attempting to write about it without being there is like trying to write about brain surgery if you’ve never been to medical school. A lay person might enjoy the story but a real brain surgeon will put the book down after the second chapter. Having said that, my “pet peeve” is when fictional attorneys do no pre-trial discovery and are still operating under the old “ambush” system of litigation that disappeared decades ago in this country.

I agree! Makes me think they haven't seen the inside of a courtroom in a LOOONNNGGG time. How do you balance your many hats of author, practicing attorney, and pastor? It makes me tired just typing that!
Probably not as well as I should :-) A few keys that work for me:

1. Have great people on your team and rely on them. It’s especially important to have people whose skill sets complement yours rather than duplicate yours. For example, we have a wonderful administrative pastor at church who takes a big burden off me for the administrative tasks.

2. Put systems in place and stick to the systems. I work collaboratively on my books, cases and sermons. The systems I have in place help me tap into the creativity and thinking of many others so I can merge that thinking into a (hopefully) cohesive product.

3. Protect some alone time with the tenacity of a mama bear. I need time alone during productive parts of the day to write, craft sermons, and work on critical parts of my case. This means I’ve got to have a sanctuary where I can get away from life and people—turn the cell phone off and really concentrate.

4. Manage expectations as tenaciously as you manage time. One of the things that makes my three hats possible is that everybody knows I’m trying to juggle lots of different things. I try to keep expectations low and then exceed them. A related issue is making sure expectations are clear and, in the best case, written.

5. Remember that “no” can be a spiritual word. I try to major on the big items and ruthlessly evaluate every request for a piece of my time by asking whether this is the best use of my time or just a good use of my time.

By the way, I obviously concluded that this blog interview was the best use of my time. Love what you’re doing here. Cara, good luck on the writing and running! One of the things I’ve discovered is that my best plot twists frequently come to me while I’m running. Has that been your experience? (Lawyers have to ask questions—it’s in our blood—not just answer them).

Thanks so much for making the time. I truly am a huge fan...and on the running -- I tend to read or catch up on movies. But it's also a great time to pray and meditate...when I can slow my mind down enough. Thanks, Randy!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Self-Discipline: a 4 letter word?


What a ... delightful... word. And one I'm living right now.

The mini-marathon is 3 weeks away, and the training has reached the point that it's not fun. At all. I'm sorry, but there's nothing enjoyable about 8+ mile runs. Even 5 mile runs done 2-3 times a week aren't fun.

But if I'm going to survive the mini, those runs are critical. They build the endurance that my body will need to finish the race without dying. And I'd really like to be around for my kids!

You know the verse II Timothy 2:17, For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Some version say a sound mind. Others self-discipline. Hmm. I think we prefer a sound mind -- and that is important. But I honestly like the idea that God gives us power, love and SELF-DISCIPLINE.

Isn't that so important in our lives? The self-discipline to do the task in front of us -- even when it isn't fun. To do the thing God asks of us. To tackle the dream He's planted in our hearts. The task He instructs.

Without self-discipline, many of those items would linger undone. So watch my twitter updates. You'll see me bemoan training -- but I'll do it. And maybe it will get easier. But if it doesn't, I'll do it anyway.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Interview with Sara Mills

This interview ran on Monday -- and I just learned that Sara's husband died of a heart attack on Tuesday. He was young -- 40 -- and I am so grieved for Sara and her children. If you've considered buying one of these books, please follow the links at the end of this post to buy one or both books. I thoroughly enjoyed both, and may go buy them again they were that good.

Miss Fortune and Miss Match are delightful books set in NYC in 1947. Tell us how you got the idea for Allie and these books...

I got the idea for Miss Fortune in the middle of the night, when all good ideas come to me:
One sleepless night I was watching The Maltese Falcon and I started to wonder how different the story would be if Sam Spade had been a woman. She'd never have fallen for Miss Wunderly's charms and lies. She'd have been smart and tough and she would have solved the case in half the time it took Sam because she wouldn't spend all of her time smoking cigarettes and calling her secretary Precious.

The thought of a hard-boiled female detective got my mind whirling.

I paused the movie and sat in my darkened living room thinking about how much fun a female Sam Spade could be. Intrigued but not yet ready to dash to my computer, I changed disks and put on Casablanca (my all time favorite movie ever). The sweeping love story, a tale full of hard choices and sacrifice was what finally made the whole idea click in my mind. If I could just combine the P.I. detective story of the Maltese Falcon with the love story from Casablanca, and make Sam Spade more of a Samantha, I could have the best of all worlds.

These books are so good, I wish I'd written them. How did you set the stage to capture that gritty PI feel without being dark?

I find that a lot of PI stories are gritty and dark, focusing on the worst of the humanity, and while I wanted the Allie Fortune mysteries to be exciting and tension-filled I didn’t want them to be stark and hopeless.

One of the things I tried to do to counteract the darkness was to give Allie a multi-layered life. She has cases, relationships, friends and family, all of which I hope combine to make the stories textured, rich and full of life.

Allie is a character I'd love to have coffee with. What did she teach you while you wrote these books?

Allie was a great character to write. One of the things I learned from her was that human relationships (man/woman, mother/daughter, friends) are complicated and full of unspoken rules and expectations. Allie is a rule-breaker at heart and it complicates her life on a regular basis. One of the storylines I loved most is Allie’s relationship with her mother and how it grows and changes and how it’s shaped her.

Another dimension of Allie’s character that really taught me a lot was her willingness to do whatever was needed to help those she loves. There is no price on that kind of friendship and it’s a characteristic I’d like to see more of in myself. Okay I admit it, I’ve got a bit of a friend-crush on Allie. LOL.

One last question: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would that be and who would you take with you?

If I could go anywhere right now I’d head to Monterey, California (I’m writing a book set there right now) and I’d plant myself on the beach with a notebook, writing my story as the waves crashed. Sounds like my idea of heaven on earth. There’s something about the wind-shaped Cypress trees and the crash of the surf in Monterey that calls to me. I don’t know why, it just is.

469260: Miss Fortune, Allie Fortune Mystery Series #1Miss Fortune, Allie Fortune Mystery Series #1

By Sara Mills / Moody Publishers

In 1947 Allie Fortune is the only female private investigator in New York City, but she's kept awake at night by a mystery of her own: her fianci disappeared in the war and no one knows if he's still alive. Until Allie finds out, she will have no peace. When there's a knock on her office door at four in the morning, Allie suspects trouble as usual, and Mary Gordon is no exception. Mary claims someone is following her, that her apartment has been ransacked, and that she's been shot at, but she has no idea why any of this is happening. Allie takes the case, and in the process discovers an international mystery that puts her own life in danger.

Meanwhile, the FBI is working the case as well, and she is partnered up with an attractive, single agent who would be perfect for her under other circumstances-if only she knew whether her fianci was still alive.

469270: Miss Match, Allie Fortune Mystery Series #2Miss Match, Allie Fortune Mystery Series #2

By Sara Mills / Moody Publishers

FBI agent Jack O'Connor receives a letter from Maggie, a woman he used to love, saying she's in trouble in Berlin. The FBI refuses to get involved, so Jack asks Allie Fortune to help him investigate. Allie and Jack pose as a missionary couple who want to bring orphans back to the United States.

A child finds important documents that everyone in the city - Soviets and allies alike - want for themselves. Maggie refuses to tell Jack what the documents are, saying if things go wrong, they are better off not knowing. Through the course of the search, Allie's past is brought back to her, half a world away from home.

The Missionary: Review

455697: The MissionaryThe Missionary

By William Carmichael & David Lambert

American missionaries David and Christie Eller run a clinic for homeless children in Caracas, Venezuela. But when an angry David publicly rails against the government, he falls into an unimaginable nightmare of espionage. Will his life-or-death gamble to escape the country with his wife and son succeed---or will the resources of a corrupt dictatorship prevail? 300 pages, softcover from Moody.

The Missionary is a debut novel for Bill Carmichael and the fourth for his co-author Dave Lambert. I've had the pleasure of getting to know Dave since joining ChiLibris, but didn't know anything about Bill. Then I went to CBE. While there, I stopped at the Barbour booth and started talking to this vaguely familiar looking man seated on one of their comfy couches. Turns out he was Bill Carmichael.

It was so fun to chat with him about this book, its journey and the co-writing process. I've always wondered about the process co-authors use. For Bill, he'd written and rewritten the book until he couldn't see it anymore. Then an editor read it and made some suggestions. That editor was Dave Lambert. Bill asked if Dave would be interested in working on the book with him. From that question the partnership was birthed, and this book finished.

The Missionary is the story of David Eller, an American missionary in Venezuela. He's worked with the poor street children long enough to be frustrated. He feels like all their efforts are only a drop in the bucket, and has been vocal with his frustrations. Then he's given the opportunity to do something more. And that decision ends in a desperate, life-or-death gamble to flee the country with his wife and son.

The Missionary
starts with the pacing of a South American afternoon then pulses to a heart-stopping race to escape the country. When David is approached to participate in an attack at the problem rather than the symptoms, he's torn. He works at Hope Village with his wife and son and a missionary couple he loves. At the same time he's wrestling with what to do, operatives sneak into the country...and that's all I'm going to tell you because I don't want to spoil the book for you.

Instead, let me just say this book pulls you into the colorful setting of Venezuela. As I read, I could see, smell, and taste the Venezuelan countryside and experience. I also felt swept into the action and conflict with and between David and his wife Christine. She wants him to work below the government's radar, and he's so focused on doing something he looses focus.

Who hasn't felt frustrated by a systematic problem? Wondered what the right response is? Been tempted to go off the reservation? After setting the scene (which takes awhile to get all the characters in place), this book has the pacing of a thriller with all the international twists and turns you want.

If you like books filled with questions, foilable characters, and a plot that keeps you guessing until the end, then try this one. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Experiencing the Spirit Giveaway

Serve God as never before

The first Christians “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) shaking the gates of hell even in the face of severe persecution. The result: People all around “were filled with wonder and amazement” (Acts 3:10).What can give Christians today the same impact?

God’s Holy Spirit is ready to answer that for us in an awesome way, as Henry Blackaby and his son Mel Blackaby make clear in Experiencing the Spirit. You’ll see how the proof of the Spirit’s presence is our awareness of God’s personal assignments for us, plus our supernatural enablement to carry out those assignments. You’ll find essential clarification on the difference between natural talents and spiritual gifts. You’ll explore the dynamics of being filled with the Spirit through intimate relationship with Him, committed obedience, and radical departure from sin.

Instead of considering what you can do for God with your abilities and talents, you’ll be encouraged here to seek what God wants to do through you supernaturally by His Spirit, empowering you beyond your personal competence and capacities. Release the Holy Spirit’s work at the very core of your experience of the Christian life.

I'm delighted to have one copy of this book to giveaway. Be sure to leave a comment to be entered -- those who have received a book in the last two months are ineligible -- unless the only ones who leave comments are those who have received a book in the last two months!

Happy Easter early!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Bunches of winners!

Hey, y'all.

Now that my deadline is behind me, here are the winners for the last few book giveaways. Ruth, Mary, and Jessica, I do not have contact info for, so please email me by Friday April 10, or I'll redraw the winners:

  • For Men Only: Ruth
  • For Women Only: Mary
  • Michal: Jessica
  • Greatest Man Who Ever Lived: Walt
  • If Tomorrow Never Comes: Michelle Pottenger and Linda.
Congratulations to each of you!

Friday, April 03, 2009

City of the Dead Review

City of the Dead is a book that will sweep you back in time to ancient Egypt circa 2500 BC. Like T.L. Higley’s first book in the seven wonders series I let the book linger on my TBR stack a bit. Even though the Shadow of Colossus (SP) swept me back in time and captivated me, I wondered if the author could pull it off again.

Let me tell you – she did – in an even more gripping tale. Basically, I read the book in one morning while traveling.

Hemi is the Grand Vizier to the Pharaoh of Egypt and determined to make a mark on eternity for both the Pharaoh and he through building the Pyramids at Giza. His life is all about tightly controlled order, until events conspire to turn that order on its head.

I was catapulted back in time and lived the experience with Hemi. I literally did not want to put it down. The secrets and the suspense kept the pages turning as I tried to figure out what would happen and if the truth would be revealed.

The author twisted the plot practically to the last page. Each time I thought we might be closer to the truth or I assumed the perpetrator had been discovered, I learned yet again that I was dead wrong.

The other element I love about this series is the way the author weaves a faith message into the books at a time there was only limited Old Testament understanding. She doesn’t pretend that everyone understood about the Messiah. However, she weaves in enough to show the hope, grace, and love extended by the Father, all while maintaining accuracy for what the people of that time knew.

And for those of you who have to have romance in your books, you will love the romance that weaves throughout the pages. It is subtle, finely-tuned, and satisfying.

447316: City of the Dead, Seven Wonders Series #2City of the Dead, Seven Wonders Series #2

By T.L. Higley / B & H Publishing Group

Up from the sands of Egypt rises the Great Pyramid, where Hemiunu, Pharaoh's Grand Vizier, commands the historic building project as he orders his life-with justice, truth, and precision. But when a series of murders at the site threatens chaos, Hemi must abandon his legacy to hunt down the killer who may be closer than he would like to think. Can he restore justice to the city before his careful life and work are destroyed, or will a mysterious people and their strange God uncover the secret past that Hemi has tried to forget?

447309: Shadow of Colossus, Seven Wonders Series #1Shadow of Colossus, Seven Wonders Series #1

By T.L. Higley / B & H Publishing Group

Like Colossus overshadowing the island's harbor, years of bondage on Rhodes have darkened Tessa's heart. A high-priced courtesan in 227 B.C., she's abandoned hope for liberty or love. But her wealthy owner's death offers her a chance for both---if she can conceal his absence! Will she find God's wholeness before the island's peace is shattered? 400 pages, softcover from B&H.


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