Monday, March 31, 2008

Researching Your Way to a Book Readers Can't Put Down

Are you a writer and want a little help on research? Then join American Christian Fiction Writers. This month I am teaching an on-line class for ACFW members on Researching Your Way to a Book Readers Can't Put Down.

Being me I've enlisted many of my friends to help. The class will be split between historical and suspense research. For the historical lessons I've twisted the arms of the following wonderful writers to help: Jamie Carie, Kim Sawyer, Nancy Moser, Tricia Goyer, Julie Lessman, and Stephanie Grace Whitson. Isn't that a fantastic line-up of authors willing to share their tricks and techniques with you!

But wait. There's more.

Here are the suspense authors who are participating: Colleen Coble, Brandilyn Collins, Brandt Dodson, Susan May Warren, and Jill Elizabeth Nelson. Wow!

One thing I love about Christian fiction is how amazingly giving authors are of the knowledge they have. So if you want to learn more, check into ACFW.

Friday, March 28, 2008

First Review for Deadly Exposure

It's Wednesday morning, and I am flying high, folks. My dear friend Robin Miller (writing as Robin Carroll) just sent me my review in Romantic Times. I guess Steeple Hill sends all of their books there for review. The highest rating you can get -- according to those in the know is 4.5 stars. I got 4!!!!! Someone who doesn't know me in any way, shape, or form, and really liked the book. And I love what she pulled out of it...

In Deadly Exposure (4), reporter Dani Richards stumbles upon a dead body in the opera box next to hers, and finds her life suddenly in danger. Her high school sweetheart, police officer Caleb Jamison, vows to protect her, and in the process their old feelings resurface. Raw emotions touch the surface of Cara Putman's strong suspense, drawing readers into the story.

—Robin Taylor, Romantic Times

Okay, let me fly high for a day, or two, or three. :-)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

CFBA Tour: Betrayed

Betrayed by J.M. Windle

Fires smolder endlessly below the dangerous surface of Guatemala City’s municipal dump.

Deadlier fires seethe beneath the tenuous calm of a nation recovering from brutal civil war. Anthropologist Vicki Andrews is researching Guatemala’s “garbage people” when she stumbles across a human body. Curiosity turns to horror as she uncovers no stranger, but an American environmentalist—Vicki’s only sister, Holly.

With authorities dismissing the death as another street crime, Vicki begins tracing Holly’s last steps, a pilgrimage leading from slum squalor to the breathtaking and endangered cloud forests of the Sierra de las Minas Biosphere. But every unraveled thread raises more questions. What betrayal connects Holly’s murder, the recent massacre of a Mayan village, and the long-ago deaths of Vicki’s own parents?

Nor is Vicki the only one demanding answers. Before her search reaches its startling end, the conflagration has spilled across international borders to threaten an American administration and the current war on terror. With no one turning out to be who they’d seemed, who can Vicki trust and who should she fear?

A politically relevant tale of international intrigue and God’s redemptive beauty and hope.

Cara here: I've been reading this book and enjoying it. The one comment I would have on it is that it has been very easy for me to put down and come back to. I'm not sure why. The exotic setting is rich and lush. Very well described. The social issues expounded on pull at your heart-strings, but for some reason I'm still struggling to really connect with the main character. The action is a touch slow, too. There are lots of plots and subplots -- maybe too many. It's hard to figure out which one's going to dominate. But if you like international mysteries, this is a good book. It just doesn't reach the level of true suspense -- at least halfway through the book. I may revise that after I finish the book LOL.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

For Pete's Sake Review

Linda Windsor is back with a delightful romance that kept my interest from page one. And you’ve seen any of my other reviews, you know how much I don’t like straight romance. Usually there has to be some other hook to the book.

For Pete’s Sake focuses on Ellen Brittingham, one of a group of four friends who have stayed close since high school. Ellen doesn’t quite fit in. She’s tomboy who’s comfortable on her Harley, loves to have her hands in the dirt, and isn’t even sure true love exists.

Then Adrian Sinclair moves in next door. He’s got a great car, a son, a yard that needs Ellen’s help, and … a fiancĂ©e. Ellen befriends Adrian’s awkward son, and soon finds herself drawn to the father even though she tells everyone who will listen he’s taken.

Adrian’s life is turned upside down when the FBI investigates his partner. The Britiinghams are the only source of normalcy in his life. And the more time he spends with them, the more he has to ignore this feelings for Ellen.

Ellen and Adrian each have a depth that pulled me in. I wanted to see how they would resolve the issues of their friendship. The tug of war they feel between each other and their responsibilities was so true to life. Here are two people trying to do the right thing, and wondering if it might not be the wrong thing after all.

Ellen’s three friends play key roles, like they did in Wedding Bell Blues, the first fun book in this series. And toward the end, the book takes on the pacing and tension of suspense.

The title is a fun twist…read the book and you’ll see what I mean. It contains several layers of meaning in three tiny little words. And it perfectly encapsulates this enjoyable book.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Only Uni Review

Be sure to leave a comment on today's or yesterday's post to have a chance to win a copy of Only Uni.

Senior biologist Trish Sakai is trying to reform her ways. She’s ready to stop chasing the men and start chasing God. She develops three rules that she hopes will help keep her on track:

1) Stop looking at all men as possible dates.
2) Tell others about Christ.
3) Persevere in hardship by relying on God.

When she looks to her cousins for support, she is hurt by their unwillingness to believe her reformation is true. Then she starts working with Spencer at work and her old boyfriend won’t leave her alone. When Grandma adds her forceful personality behind the old boyfriend, Trish doesn’t know if she can stand firm anymore.

At its heart, this book is about finding God when we’ve lost our way and what it means to really walk for Him. When we’re recuperating from a stumble or pit, it can be easy to get legalistic and that’s where Trish Sakai finds herself. Why does she suddenly want to get a M. Div? To convince her cousins and God that she is serious about changing her life this time. And her journey of fits and starts challenged me – I can see similar patterns in my life.

The more Trish tries to do the right things the more her life seems to fall apart. Can anyone else relate?!? And this author certainly believes in making everything as hard as possible for her characters.

This book captures the chick lit flair without being locked into Trish’s head. We get to see the world from another character’s view. But Trish’s reactions and effect on other people was refreshing – avoiding some of the traps of chick lit. Spencer is shocked to learn that it’s not clear he’s a Christian from the way he’s living. Other people at her new church beat the stereotypes and occasionally fall into them.

While the book is written in a fun style, it deals with serious issues like living a genuine walk, finding our place to serve, seeking God with our whole hearts, and others. These are real issues, and this book treats them as such.

This book is a wonderful follow-up to the delightful Sushi for One while standing on its own. If you haven’t enjoyed a Camy Tang book yet, this is a great one to start with!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Guest Blog with the Delightful Camy Tang & Book Giveaway

Here are answers to all the questions you ever wanted to ask Camy Tang, the author of the delightful Sushi Series. Be sure to leave a comment on today or tomorrow's post to have a chance to win a copy of Only Uni.

Top Ten Questions about the Sushi Series:

10) Is Grandma Sakai modeled after your own grandma?

NO. Grandma Sakai is a mix of the actual grandmothers, aunties, and mothers of my friends. So while she’s based on reality, she’s not real.

The scary and rather sad part about it is that I’ve had people, both Asian and even some non-Asian, who say Grandma Sakai is exactly like their own grandma/aunty/mother. It’s really true, reality is stranger than fiction.

9) Did your family nag you about your singleness like Lex, Trish, Venus, and Jenn’s families nag them?

To be honest, my family is very non-naggy. There’s kind of an unspoken non-interference rule in my family.

If something is alarming, like my chosen boyfriend is abusive or a girlfriend dishonored Grandma in some very offensive way, they might appoint a spokesperson (either my mom or my Aunty Jan) to say something to the family member, but once that’s done, that’s it. No more nagging.

(They’ll complain amongst themselves, though. What family wouldn’t? LOL)

On the flip side, my husband’s family is very much into everyone’s business, and too bad if you don’t like it. People will give their opinion whether you want it or not, and they will continue to give their opinion even if you tell them you’re not interested.

My husband says this is very typical Chinese. My family is Japanese, and my family in particular is very reserved. So you can see the differences even between two Asian cultures.

8) Which of the four cousins are you most like?

I am like and yet not like all of them.

I love volleyball like Lex, but I’m nowhere near as good at it as she is, and I wish I had her smart mouth.

I’m a bit of dingbat like Trish, and she and I share careers as biologists, but I’m not as fearless as she is.

I’m organized like Venus is, but I’m not as strong and assertive as she is, and I really wish I had her self-discipline.

I’m least like Jenn, although we both like food, and I wish I could cook as well as I wrote her abilities in the kitchen.

7) Will Jenn get a book, too?

Jenn’s story isn’t contracted, but I got permission from my publisher to write a novella about Jenn. I’ll have it available as a free ebook download to my newsletter YahooGroup members. My YahooGroup is free and easy to join:

There’s a blurb about Jenn’s story on my website here:

6) Are you Japanese, Chinese, or what?

I’m Japanese American, fourth generation in America. I grew up in Hawaii on the island of Oahu.

My last name is Chinese because I’m married to a Chinese American, who’s third generation in America, and who’s from Phoenix, Arizona. He still has family out there.

I’m very familiar with both the Japanese American and Chinese American cultures, and so I made the Sakai family a mix of Japanese and Chinese. Lex and Trish are both full Japanese American, but Venus and Jenn have Japanese American mothers and Chinese American fathers. Their family dynamics are quite different from Lex and Trish because of that.

5) Who’s your favorite of the cousins?

Venus, hands down. I think because she’s so hard-nosed and I kind of like that. She also has a warped sense of humor just like me.

4) What’s your favorite sushi?

My number one is soft shell crab. Kabuki, the sushi restaurant in Hawaii that my parents love, makes their soft shell crab roll as a mix of deep fried chopped crab with mayo and fish eggs, and rolled in a sushi with some Japanese bitter green shoots. It’s to DIE for.

My number two is hamachi (yellowtail) sushi. Yup, raw. It’s sooooo yummy.

3) Why is there so much food in your books?

Because in Asian American culture, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD! No joke! Families get together and bring tons of food to eat. It’s like they take any excuse to make lots of yummy Asian food.

In Sushi for One, there’s a birthday party scene where Lex never gets a chance to eat much of the delicious spread. For my book launch party, the ladies at my church made all the things I described for the party! It was soooo good!

2) Do you speak Japanese?

Nope. I took Japanese in high school, and a little in college, but it’s all dribbled out of my brain. My parents understand Japanese although they don’t speak it much. My grandmas are fluent in both Japanese and English. My great-grandmas didn’t speak English very well.

My husband’s family speaks Toisan (Taishan), a southern Chinese dialect. My husband understands some of it but doesn’t speak it at all, his parents are fluent in both English and Toisan, and his grandmas speak Toisan better than they speak English, although their English isn’t too bad, just heavily accented.

1) What’s next for you once the Sushi series is over?

I’ll still be writing Asian American characters, but my books will be more romancey. In the Sushi series, I wrote the point of view of the heroes, but most of the books are in the heroine’s point of view because the story was mostly hers. In my new books, it will be more 50/50 hero and heroine.

I’m also working on another women’s fiction proposal that’s an ensemble piece (think The Jane Austen Book Club or The Friday Night Knitting Club).

Thanks for having me here, Cara!

Camy Tang is the loud Asian chick who writes loud Asian chick lit. She used to be a biologist, but now she is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She also runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things like dumb dogs (namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own...), the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind. Visit her website at for a huge website contest going on right now, giving away five boxes of books and 25 copies of her latest release, ONLY UNI.

Research How Tos: Post Two

So I’ve discussed the basic areas of legal research… there are just a few! Now what? How do you start finding the information that you need for your novel?

One great place to start is national organizations. Here are a few to get you started:

  • American Bar Association is a great resource for research on a host of legal issues. It won’t necessarily go into a ton of detail, but it will give you a great overview or background on just about any legal issue. I could get lost on its website, there’s so much great information!
  • American Civil Liberties Union… if you are interested in getting the liberal perspective on an issue – often needed to make our stories balanced – or if you are looking for experts on prisoners’ rights issues, this can be a great organization to start with. Most states also have a chapter of the national organization. The website has links to issues ranging from prisoners rights to disability rights to religion and reproductive rights.
  • American Center for Law & Justice is a counter to the ACLU. The ACLJ was started in the late 1980s early 1990s by Jay Sekulow. He’s an attorney who was involved in many of the ground-breaking Supreme Court cases during that era, particularly in religious freedom cases. The website also contains many issue papers here: The ACLJ is affiliated with the Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, VA, and can be a good starting place for the conservative position on issues like national security, prayer, and education rights.
  • Center for Education Reform is an organization based in Washington, DC, that is focused on helping parents get more rights in education. It’s focus is charter schools and other forms of bringing choice in education to all children, but has expertise in other areas as well.
  • Institute for Justice is a more libertarian organization that focuses on eminent domain and entrepreneurial rights, think shipping wine across state lines and other areas where government is restricting the access of individuals to a business area. The website contains information on cases and media information. I attended a law student training program and plan to interface with them on one of my books that involves eminent domain issues.
  • Alliance Defense Fund is another organization that focuses on the conservative position to many cases. I have found them extremely helpful in my role as an attorney, both being trained and calling on them for help with cases, and would expect the same for help with plot-lines. There are trained allies in all 50 states, so if you need an expert in an area, this could be another great place to start.
  • Home School Legal Defense Association is an organization that is driven by a mission to protect homeschooling families that are members. Their expertise spills over into other areas that states use to harass homeschooling families like CPS checks, etc. Again, they have trained attorneys available in most states, so you could call and ask to be connected to someone in a state your book is set in, and if your issue falls in line with theirs, may have found yourself an automatic expert.
  • The State Policy Network is an umbrella organization for state think-tanks that focus on free-market issues. It has a blog that focuses on what’s happening in the various states ( and contains a link to member organizations – another great resource to access experts.
  • CATO is a libertarian think-tank based in Washington, DC. It has an extensive list of experts you can email, publications you can review online, and many other resources readily available at your fingertips. I interfaced with one of their experts when needing some information on ethanol research, but there are a host of experts on many, many topics.
  • The Heritage Foundation is the grand-daddy of the conservative think-tanks in Washington, DC. You want an expert? They have one. Education, energy, entitlements, congressional reform, etc. The list is almost endless, and you can identify the expert you need online.
These organizations are literally just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully this gives you an idea of what is available as easily as clicking on internet explorer.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Heartsong Mysteries

I received my inaugural shipment of Heartsong Mysteries a couple weeks ago. Let me tell you, they look great. I'm trying to decide which of the eight books to read first. If you're used to Heartsong Presents romances, the mysteries are longer; about 250 pages v. 180. Man, I could tell so much more story with that extra 70 pages. Too bad when I write a mystery it turns into suspense.

But if you like to read mysteries, this set is one you might want to explore. You can learn more at the Heartsong Mystery site. And with four to try for free, you really can't go wrong.

If you've read any of them, what did you think? Several of my friends are showcased in the first round of books, and I can't wait to read their mysteries.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Blessings by Kim Sawyer

When I received a copy of Kim Sawyer’s latest book Blessings in the mail, I couldn’t wait to start reading it. Unlike the first two that I let linger on my to be read pile, this one got consumed within a couple days of entering my house. And Kim did not disappoint. I LOVED this book and am sad to see the series end.

Blessings is the third book in the Sommerfeld Trilogy and it was a delight to step back into Sommerfeld, Kansas and rejoin characters from the prior books. At the same time, I loved getting to know Trina Mueller better. She’s been a strong secondary character in the other books, but this time we get to see into her heart and mind.

For as long as she could remember, Trina has loved caring for animals. Now as a young woman of 19 her heart’s desire is to become a vet. The problem? Her order does not allow young people to be educated past the 9th grade. Trina struggles – in a very real way – with how to reconcile this desire that she firmly believes is God-given with the constraints of the order. What I love about Trina is she doesn’t do everything perfectly, and she bears the consequences for her actions, yet I couldn’t stop rooting for and crying with her throughout the book.

Graham Ortmann can’t wait to get Trina’s agreement and have their relationship published, one small step away from marriage. Yet, as she chases this dream, she changes, and he’s not sure he can continue the relationship.

The progression and growth that these characters and the community embark on is real. Not everything works out wonderfully and there’s no miraculous moment where everything suddenly changes. Instead, it’s a gradual and painful process for all involved.

The writing is superb as I’ve come to expect from Kim’s books, but it’s the emotional and spiritual journey of the main characters and community that made this a book I could not put down.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chapter-A-Week: test drive a book

You know I talk about books...alot. It's hard not to when I spend so much time reading and writing. Do you ever wander the bookstore aisles not knowing if you want to spend money on a book? Then the Chapter-A-Week could be the perfect test-drive for you

It's hard enough to find books that are just right for everyone. Chapter-a-Week gives readers the opportunity to read sample excerpts from a broad range of Christian fiction every week without having to pay a cent! Plus it's a great way to discover new authors you might not have found otherwise. We don't fill your inbox with needless emails. Only one email per week is all it takes to discover great new titles.

Founded in February 2002 by beloved novelists Jane Orcutt and Angela Hunt Chapter-a-Week has had a steadily growing readership. In honor of our 1000th member, Chapter-a-Week is giving away autographed books by your favorite Christian novelists! We'll send a box of books to our 1000th member and if they tell us that you recommended them we'll send two free books to your snail mail address too!

Chapter-a-Week is a Yahoo! Group, so simply sign on to be a subscriber of the list and you'll start receiving your excerpts every Friday. Just go to: and click "join this group."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

First Chapter: Only Uni by Camy Tang

I just noticed this didn't post like it was supposed to earlier today. Grrrr. But here goes anyway. This is a great book, and I hope you enjoy the chance to test drive chapter one.

The special feature author is:

and her book:

Only Uni

Zondervan (March 2008)


Camy Tang is a member of FIRST and is a loud Asian chick who writes loud Asian chick-lit. She grew up in Hawaii, but now lives in San Jose, California, with her engineer husband and rambunctious poi-dog. In a previous life she was a biologist researcher, but these days she is surgically attached to her computer, writing full-time. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service.

Sushi for One? (Sushi Series, Book One) was her first novel. Her second, Only Uni (Sushi Series, Book Two) is now available. The next book in the series, Single Sashimi (Sushi Series, Book Three) will be coming out in September 2008!

Visit her at her website.


Chapter One

Trish Sakai walked through the door and the entire room hushed.

Well, not exactly pin-drop hushed. More like a handful of the several dozen people in her aunty’s enormous living room paused their conversations to glance her way. Maybe Trish had simply expected them to laugh and point.

She shouldn’t have worn white. She’d chosen the Bebe dress from her closet in a rebellious mood, which abandoned her at her aunt’s doorstep. Maybe because the explosion of red, orange, or gold outfits made her head swim.

At least the expert cut of her dress made her rather average figure curvier and more slender at the same time. She loved how well-tailored clothes ensured she didn’t have to work as hard to look good.

Trish kicked off her sandals, and they promptly disappeared in the sea of shoes filling the foyer. She swatted away a flimsy paper dragon drooping from the doorframe and smoothed down her skirt. She snatched her hand back and wrung her fingers behind her.

No, that’ll make your hips look huge.

She clenched her hands in front.

Sure, show all the relatives that you’re nervous.

She clasped them loosely at her waist and tried to adopt a regal expression.

“Trish, you okay? You look constipated.”

Her cousin Bobby snickered while she sneered at him. “Oh, you’re so funny I could puke.”

“May as well do it now before Grandma gets here.”

“She’s not here yet?” Oops, that came out sounding a little too relieved. She cleared her throat and modulated her voice to less-than-ecstatic levels. “When’s she coming?”

“Uncle picked her up, but he called Aunty and said Grandma forgot something, so he had to go back.”

Thank goodness for little favors. “Is Lex here?”

“By the food.”

Where else would she be? Last week, her cousin Lex had mentioned that her knee surgeon let her go back to playing volleyball three nights a week and coaching the other two nights, so her metabolism had revved up again. She would be eating like a horse.

Sometimes Trish could just kill her.

She tugged at her skirt—a little tight tonight. She should’ve had more self-control than to eat that birthday cake at work. She’d have to run an extra day this week … maybe.

She bounced like a pinball between relatives. The sharp scent of ginger grew more pungent as she headed toward the large airy kitchen. Aunty Sue must have made cold ginger chicken again. Mmmm. The smell mixed with the tang of black bean sauce (Aunty Rachel’s shrimp?), stir-fried garlic (any dish Uncle Barry made contained at least two bulbs), and fishy scallions (probably her cousin Linda’s Chinese-style sea bass).

A three-foot-tall red streak slammed into her and squashed her big toe.

“Ow!” Good thing the kid hadn’t been wearing shoes or she might have broken her foot. Trish hopped backward and her hand fumbled with a low side table. Waxed paper and cornstarch slid under her fingers before the little table fell, dropping the kagami mochi decoration. The sheet of printed paper, the tangerine, and rubbery-hard mochi dumplings dropped to the cream-colored carpet. Well, at least the cornstarch covering the mochi blended in.

The other relatives continued milling around her, oblivious to the minor desecration to the New Year’s decoration. Thank goodness for small—

A childish gasp made her turn. The human bullet who caused the whole mess, her little cousin Allison, stood with a hand up to her round lips that were stained cherry-red, probably from the sherbet punch. Allison lifted wide brown eyes up to Trish—hanaokolele-you’re-in-trouble—while the other hand pointed to the mochi on the floor.

Trish didn’t buy it for a second. “Want to help?” She tried to infuse some leftover Christmas cheer into her voice.

Allison’s disdainful look could have come from a teenager rather than a seven-year-old. “You made the mess.”

Trish sighed as she bent to pick up the mochi rice dumplings—one large like a hockey puck, the other slightly smaller—and the shihobeni paper they’d been sitting on. She wondered if the shihobeni wouldn’t protect the house from fires this next year since she’d dropped it.

“Aunty spent so long putting those together.”

Yeah, right. “Is that so?” She laid the paper on the table so it draped off the edge, then stuck the waxed paper on top. She anchored them with the larger mochi.

“Since you busted it, does it mean that Aunty won’t have any good luck this year?”

“It’s just a tradition. The mochi doesn’t really bring prosperity, and the tangerine only symbolizes the family generations.” Trish tried to artfully stack the smaller mochi on top of the bottom one, but it wouldn’t balance and kept dropping back onto the table.

“That’s not what Aunty said.”

“She’s trying to pass on a New Year’s tradition.” The smaller mochi dropped to the floor again. “One day you’ll have one of these in your own house.” Trish picked up the mochi. Stupid Japanese New Year tradition. Last year, she’d glued hers together until Mom found out and brought a new set to her apartment, sans-glue. Trish wasn’t even Shinto. Neither was anyone else in her family—most of them were Buddhists—but it was something they did because their family had always done it.

“No, I’m going to live at home and take care of Mommy.”

Thank goodness, the kid finally switched topics. “That’s wonderful.” Trish tried to smash the tangerine on top of the teetering stack of mochi. Nope, not going to fly. “You’re such a good daughter.”

Allison sighed happily. “I am.”

Your ego’s going to be too big for this living room, toots. “Um … let’s go to the kitchen.” She crammed the tangerine on the mochi stack, then turned to hustle Allison away before she saw them fall back down onto the floor.

“Uh, Triiiish?”

She almost ran over the kid, who had whirled around and halted in her path like a guardian lion. Preventing Trish’s entry into the kitchen. And blocking the way to the food. She tried to sidestep, but the other relatives in their conversational clusters, oblivious to her, hemmed her in on each side.

Allison sidled closer. “Happy New Year!”

“Uh … Happy New Year.” What was she up to? Trish wouldn’t put anything past her devious little brain.

“We get red envelopes at New Year’s.” Her smile took on a predatory gleam.

“Yes, we do.” One tradition she totally didn’t mind. Even the older cousins like Trish and Lex got some money from the older relatives, because they weren’t married yet.

Allison beamed. “So did you bring me a red envelope?”

What? Wait a minute. Was she supposed to bring red envelopes for the younger kids? No, that couldn’t be. “No, only the married people do that.” And only for the great-cousins, not their first cousins, right? Or was that great-cousins, too? She couldn’t remember.

Allison’s face darkened to purple. “That’s not true. Aunty gives me a red envelope and she’s not married.”

“She used to be married. Uncle died.”

“She’s not married now. So you’re supposed to give me a red envelope, too.”

Yeah, right. “If I gave out a red envelope to every cousin and great-cousin, I’d go bankrupt.”

“You’re lying. I’m going to tell Mommy.” Allison pouted, but her sly eyes gave her away.

A slow, steady burn crept through her body. This little extortionist wasn’t going to threaten her, not tonight of all nights.

She crouched down to meet Allison at eye level and forced a smile. “That’s not very nice. That’s spreading lies.”

Allison bared her teeth in something faintly like a grin.

“It’s not good to be a liar.” Trish smoothed the girl’s red velvet dress, trimmed in white lace.

“You’re the liar. You said you’re not supposed to give me a red envelope, and that’s a lie.”

The brat had a one-track mind. “It’s not a lie.”

“Then I’ll ask Mommy.” The grin turned sickeningly sweet.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Trish tweaked one of Allison’s curling-iron-manufactured corkscrews, standing out amongst the rest of her straight hair.

“I can do whatever I want.” An ugly streak marred the angelic mask.

“Of course you can.”

Allison blinked.

“But if you do, I’ll tell Grandma that I found her missing jade bracelet in your bedroom.” Gotcha.

“What were you doing in my bedroom?” Allison’s face matched her dress.

Trish widened her eyes. “Well, you left it open when your mom hosted the family Christmas party …”

Allison’s lips disappeared in her face, and her nostrils flared. “You’re lying—”

“And you know Grandma will ask your mommy to search your room.”

Her face whitened.

“So why don’t we forget about this little red envelope thing, hmm?” Trish straightened the gold heart pendant on Allison’s necklace and gave her a bland smile.

A long, loud inhale filled Allison’s lungs. For a second, Trish panicked, worried that she’d scream or something, but the air left her noiselessly.

Trish stood. “See ya.” She muscled her way past the human traffic cone.

She zeroed in on the kitchen counters like a heat-seeking missile. “Hey, guys.”

Her cousins Venus, Lex, and Jenn turned to greet her.

“You’re even later than Lex.” Venus leaned her sexy-enough-to-make-Trish-sick curves against a countertop as she crunched on a celery stick.

“Hey!” Lex nudged her with a bony elbow, then spoke to Trish. “Grandma’s not here yet, but your mom—”

“Trish, there you are.” Mom flittered up. “Did you eat yet? Let me fill you a plate. Make sure you eat the kuromame for good luck. I know you don’t like chestnuts and black beans, but just eat one. Did you want any konbu? Seaweed is very good for you.”

“No, Mom—”

“How about Aunty Eileen’s soup? I’m not sure what’s in it this year, but it doesn’t look like tripe this time—”

“Mom, I can get my own food.”

“Of course you can, dear.” Mom handed her a mondo-sized plate.

Trish grabbed it, then eyed Venus’s miniscule plate filled sparingly with meat, fish, and veggies. Aw, phooey. Why did Venus have to always be watching her hourglass figure—with inhuman self-control over her calorie intake—making Trish feel dumpy just for eating a potsticker? She replaced her plate with a smaller one.

Lex had a platter loaded with chicken and lo mein, which she shoveled into her mouth. “The noodles are good.”

“Why are you eating so much today?”

“Aiden’s got me in intensive training for the volleyball tournament coming up.”

Trish turned toward the groaning sideboard to hide the pang in her gut at mention of Lex’s boyfriend. Who had been Trish’s physical therapist. Aiden hadn’t met Lex yet when Trish had hit on him, but he’d rebuffed her—rather harshly, she thought—then became Christian and now was living a happily-ever-after with Lex.

Trish wasn’t jealous at all.

Why did she always seem to chase away the good ones and keep the bad ones? Story of her life. Her taste in men matched Lex’s horrendous taste in clothes—Lex wore nothing but ugly, loose workout clothes, while Trish dated nothing but ugly (well, in character, at least) losers.

Next to her, Jennifer inhaled as if she were in pain. “Grandma’s here.”

“No, not now. This is so not fair. I haven’t eaten yet.”

“It’ll still be here.” Venus’s caustic tone cut through the air at the same time her hand grabbed Trish’s plate. “Besides, you’re eating too much fat.”

Trish glared. “I am not fat—”

Venus gave a long-suffering sigh. “I didn’t say you were fat. I said you’re eating unhealthily.”

“You wouldn’t say that to Lex.” She stabbed a finger at her athletic cousin, who was shoveling chicken long rice into her mouth.

Lex paused. “She already did.” She slurped up a rice noodle.

Venus rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “All of you eat terribly. You need to stop putting so much junk into your bodies.”

“I will when Jenn stops giving us to-die-for homemade chocolate truffles.” Trish traded a high-five with Jenn, their resident culinary genius.

“Besides, chocolate’s good for you.” Lex spoke through a mouthful of black bean shrimp.

Venus, who seemed to know she was losing the battle, brandished a celery stick. “You all should eat more fiber—”

Trish snatched at a deep-fried chicken wing and made a face at her. “It’s low carb.” Although she’d love to indulge in just a little of those Chinese noodles later when Venus wasn’t looking …

She only had time to take a couple bites before she had to drop the chicken in a napkin and wipe her fingers. She skirted the edge of the crowd of relatives who collected around Grandma, wishing her Happy New Year.

Grandma picked up one of Trish’s cousin’s babies and somehow managed to keep the sticky red film coating his hands from her expensive Chanel suit. How did Grandma do that? It must be a gift. The same way her elegant salt-and-pepper ’do never had a hair out of place.

Then Grandma grabbed someone who had been hovering at her shoulder and thrust him forward.

No. Way.

What was Kazuo doing here?

With Grandma?

Her breath caught as the familiar fluttering started in her ribcage. No, no, no, no, no. She couldn’t react this way to him again. That’s what got her in trouble the last time.

Trish grabbed Jenn’s arm and pulled her back toward the kitchen. “I have to hide.”

Jenn’s brow wrinkled. “Why?”

“That’s Kazuo.”

Jenn’s eyes popped bigger than the moon cakes on the sideboard. “Really? I never met him.” She twisted her head.

“Don’t look. Hide me.”

Jenn sighed. “Isn’t that a little silly? He’s here for the New Year’s party.”

Trish darted her gaze around the kitchen, through the doorway to the smaller TV room. “There are over a hundred people here. There’s a good chance I can avoid him.”

“He probably came to see you.” A dreamy smile lit Jenn’s lips. “How romantic …”

A mochi-pounding mallet thumped in the pit of Trish’s stomach. Romantic this was not.

“What’s wrong?” Venus and Lex separated from the crowd to circle around her.

“That’s Kazuo.”

“Really?” Lex whirled around and started to peer through the doorway into the front room. “We never met him—”

“Don’t look now! Hide me!”

Venus lifted a sculpted eyebrow. “Oh, come on.”

“How does Grandma know him?” Jennifer’s soothing voice fizzled Venus’s sarcasm.

“She met him when we were dating.”

“Grandma loves Kazuo.” Lex tossed the comment over her shoulder as she stood at the doorway and strained to see Kazuo past the milling relatives.

Venus’s brow wrinkled. “Loves him? Why?”

Trish threw her hands up in the air. “He’s a Japanese national. He spoke Japanese to her. Of course she’d love him.”

Jennifer chewed her lip. “Grandma’s not racist—”

Venus snorted. “Of course she’s not racist, but she’s certainly biased.”

“That’s not a good enough reason. Don’t you think there’s something fishy about why she wants Trish to get back together with him?”

Venus opened her mouth, but nothing came out. After a moment, she closed it. “Maybe you’re right.”

Trish flung her arms out. “But I have no idea what that reason is.”

“So is she matchmaking? Now?”

“What better place?” Trish pointed to the piles of food. “Fatten me up and serve me back to him on a platter.”

Venus rolled her eyes. “Trish—”

“I’m serious. No way am I going to let her do that. Not with him.” The last man on earth she wanted to see. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. Her carnal body certainly wanted to see him, even though her brain and spirit screamed, Run away! Run away!

“Was it that bad a breakup?” Lex looked over her shoulder at them.

Trish squirmed. “I, uh … I don’t think he thinks we’re broken up.”

“What do you mean? It happened six months ago.” Venus’s gaze seemed to slice right through her.

“Well … I saw him a couple days ago.”

Venus’s eyes flattened. “And …?”

Trish blinked rapidly. “We … got along really well.”

Venus crossed her arms and glared.

How did Venus do that? Trish barely had to open her mouth and Venus knew when she was lying. “We, um … got along really well.”

Jennifer figured it out first. She gasped so hard, Trish worried she’d pass out from lack of oxygen.

Venus cast a sharp look at her, then back at Trish. Her mouth sprang open. “You didn’t.”

“Didn’t what?” Lex rejoined the circle and the drama unfolding. She peered at Jenn and Venus—one frozen in shock, the other white with anger.

Trish’s heart shrank in her chest. She bit her lip and tasted blood. She couldn’t look at her cousins. She couldn’t even say it.

Venus said it for her. “You slept with him again.”

Lex’s jaw dropped. “Tell me you didn’t.” The hurt in her eyes stabbed at Trish’s heart like Norman Bates in Psycho.
Well, it was true that Trish’s obsessive relationship with Kazuo had made her sort of completely and utterly abandon Lex last year when she tore her ACL. Lex probably felt like Trish was priming to betray her again. “It was only once. I couldn’t help myself—”

“After everything you told me last year about how you never asked God about your relationship with Kazuo and now you were free.” Lex’s eyes grew dark and heavy, and Trish remembered the night Lex had first torn her ACL. Trish had been too selfish, wanting to spend time with Kazuo instead of helping Lex home from one of the most devastating things that had ever happened to her.

“I just couldn’t help myself—” Trish couldn’t seem to say anything else.

“So is Kazuo more important to you than me, after all?” Lex’s face had turned into cold, pale marble, making her eyes stand out in their intensity.

A sickening ache gnawed in Trish’s stomach. She hunched her shoulders, feeling the muscles tighten and knot.

Her cousins had always been compassionate whenever she hurt them, betrayed them, or caused them hassle and stress by the things she did. She knew she had a tendency to be thoughtless, but she had always counted on their instant hugs and “That’s okay, Trish, we’ll fix it for you.” But now she realized—although they forgave her, they were still hurt each and every time. Maybe this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“Where’s Trish?” Grandma’s refined voice managed to carry above the conversations. “I’m sure she wants to see you.” She was coming closer to the kitchen.

“I can’t face him.” Trish barely recognized her own voice, as thready as old cobwebs. “I can’t face Grandma, either.” A tremor rippled through her body.

Venus’s eyes softened in understanding. “I’ll stall them for you.”

Trish bolted.

Out the other doorway into the living room. She dodged around a few relatives who were watching sports highlights on the big-screen TV. She spied the short hallway to Aunty’s bedroom. She could hide. Recoup. Or panic.

She slipped down the hallway and saw the closed door at the end. A narrow beam of faint light from under it cast a glow over the carpet. Her heart started to slow.

Maybe she could lie down, pretend she was sick? No, Grandma might suggest Kazuo take her home.

She could pretend she got a phone call, an emergency at work. Would Grandma know there weren’t many emergencies with cell biology research on New Year’s Eve?

The worst part was, Trish hadn’t even gotten to eat yet.

She turned the doorknob, but it stuck. Must be the damp weather. She applied her shoulder and nudged. The door clicked open. She slipped into the bedroom.

A couple stood in the dim lamplight, locked in a passionate embrace straight out of Star magazine. Trish’s heart lodged in her throat. Doh! Leave now! She whirled.

Wait a minute.

She turned.

The man had dark wavy hair, full and thick. His back was turned to her, but something about his stance …

The couple sprang apart. Looked at her.


Kissing a woman who wasn’t her mother.

Taken from Only Uni, Copyright © 2008 by Camy Tang. Used by permission of Zondervan.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The joy of the law

I'm working on a project for a client right now that is reminding me what I like about the law. The list of things I don't like is long. I love client interaction, but would really enjoy client interaction when people aren't in crisis. I think that's why I gravitate toward corporate law. It's just business folks. You can avoid some of the inherent conflict and messiness of family interactions, and interact with the law.

This project will also help a lot of people once it's complete. I like that a lot. Knowing the purposes of the corporation I'm creating and the way it will be used as a tool to help others is a great feeling.

It's good to remember these aspects of the law. Sometimes it's really easy to focus on the bits that are tedious or heart-wrenching. Okay, I stopped last night because my eyes were crossing on some of the tedium, but I can help others. There are so many people who could do what I'm doing, but the legalese and tenacity to search for the answers in the right places wears them down.

So last night I went to bed feeling good about what I accomplished for this client.

Now if I could just find that high concept for a legal thriller!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ready for a Movie?

I hadn't seen anything about Ben Stein's latest movie until the link to the website got mailed to me this week. Now I'm incredibly intrigued. Check out the link for Expelled and let me know what you think.

Fabulous Contest at Crystal Miller's Blog


Wendy Lawton, Artist and Author, Celebrates Release of Her Seventh Novel With Fabulous April Fools Day Contest

(THE WOODLANDS, TX) What do porcelain, Pocahontas, and prizes have in common? Wendy Lawton, author, sculptor and literary agent is on a mission to find the next Daughter of the Faith for her highly successful middle grade series. In celebration of the release of The Captive Princess: A Story Based on the Life of Young Pocahontas, her seventh novel in the series, Lawton is offering a plethora of prizes for contestants who are chosen from among those who post suggestions on Crystal Miller's When I Was Just a Kid blog.

One lucky winner will receive all seven Daughters of the Faith novels ($49 value), while another will get all four books in the Real TV series ($44 value).The grand prize--an autographed Courage to Run doll and book, (value $695.00) will be awarded if more than twenty people comment before April 1, 2008, with suggested Daughters of the Faith characters.

Keep in mind that each character in this series is a real girl from the pages of history who took a stand for her faith (usually at great cost) while she was still a girl. Nominees should not be someone who grew up to do great things or who married a great man, bur rather a girl like Pocahontas, the Captive Princess, who stepped out in faith.

The Captive Princess: A Story Based on the Life of Young Pocahontas

Is there an American student who doesn't know some version of the story of Pocahontas-- whether the fabricated Disney version or the equally fictitious but oft-told love story between Pocahontas and John Smith? Wendy Lawton digs into the history and tells it entirely through the eyes of the young Pocahontas. And though the romantic accounts are the stuff of legend and lore, Pocahontas' faith story remains one of the most beautiful love stories in history.

WENDY LAWTON feels equally comfortable on a computer, at a writer's conference or with a cool lump of clay in her hand. She's been an artist, a writer and now, a literary agent with the respected literary agency, Books & Such.

No stranger to the literary market, Lawton has written seven books in her middle grade Daughters of the Faith series. These books were followed by a series of teen books The Real TV series and her nonfiction book, Impressions in Clay (Moody).

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Next Level Book Giveaway

David Gregory, author of Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, is back with The Next Level. It's a delightful parable of how to find our place in life...and I've got a copy to give away!

Business degree in hand, Logan enters the immense Universal Systems building and is hired as an organizational analyst – a trouble-shooter. His job: evaluate the company’s five divisions, each on a separate level and each operating on startlingly unique principles. Which set of principles is successful? Why is most of the company’s profit generated by one tiny division? What is real profit, anyway? And who is the enigmatic executive that Logan ends up reporting to?

Logan engages in a life-changing pursuit for The Next Level—a fascinating parable that will help readers answer some of life’s most perplexing, vital questions. Joining Logan in evaluating each level’s approach, readers will be inspired to consider the big picture of their own life from an entirely different perspective – one that holds the key to life’s ultimate purpose. No matter where you are now, get ready to embark on your own passionate pursuit of The Next Level.

David Gregory is the author of the best-selling books Dinner with a Perfect Stranger and A Day with a Perfect Stranger, and coauthor of two nonfiction books. After a ten-year business career, he returned to school to study religion and communications, earning graduate degrees from The University of North Texas and Dallas Theological Seminary. A native Texan, David now lives in Oregon devotes himself to writing full time.

This book could be a great graduation gift or for anyone who enjoys a quick read. So to enter to win a copy, be sure to leave a comment and share some advice for those who are searching for their place. I'll draw a winner from the comments on March 21.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rewrites: Joy or Angst

This has been quite a week. On Monday I got to hold Deadly Exposure -- Yeehaw! And I got my cover for Sandhill is gorgeous! And I got my rewrite letter from my editor for Captive Dreams.

Also this week, writers on an eloop I'm on have been moaning about and rejoicing in rewrites. Seems writers fall into two groups: those who dance for joy when they get their rewrite letter and those who sulk, balk, and dread the same missive.

I'm not sure where I fall yet.

The letter I got for Captive Dreams is my shortest to date. I'm taking that as a sign that maybe, just maybe, I'm improving with each book. At the same time, I'm finding an interesting thing. Because the letter was so short, I'm really combing the book as I go through it. Maybe subconsciously I'm convinced the editor missed something -- though one of the comments was to look for places to smooth the transitions.

This book was pure work for me. Canteen Dreams was a breeze to write...merging of passions. Sandhill Dreams was work but a I loved the story. Deadly Exposure was nothing short of tons of work, but I really wanted to see this story through. Captive Dreams I hated. Until about one week before I turned it in. Then I thought there might be something worth redeeming in the book.

Now as I read it with some distance...I'm enjoying it. Even as I find ways to improve it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sweet Caroline: Fantastic Romance with Sass

When Sweet Caroline arrived in the mail, it leapt to the top of my TBR pile. I have thoroughly enjoyed Rachel Hauck's NashVegas books and wondered if this one would measure up. Let me tell you, I loved every page and did not want to see it end.

Caroline Sweeney has always done the right thing, unlike her mother who abandoned her family. Now she has the opportunity to accept an exciting job in Barcelona, Spain, and she's ready to go. Then she inherits the run-down cafe she's worked at, Deputy Sheriff J.D. Rand is out to capture her heart, and her first love Mitch O'Neal comes back to town after finding fame in Nashville as a country music singer. What's a girl to do?

This book is told in first person from Caroline's perspective. She's trying so hard to do the right thing that she's paralyzed by indecision. If she stays, she'll lose a once in a lifetime opportunity. But if she goes what will happen to the cafe and its employees, not to mention her love life?

This book is filled with laugh out loud moments. It was a good thing my kids were asleep and my husband out of town when I read it, or they would have all questioned my sanity. At the same time, the book has lots of heart. There were times, especially the closer I got to The End, that I cried as Caroline tried to make the right choice.

Another fresh twist (though not dissimilar to Diva NashVegas) is that the heroine is not a Christian at the beginning. She also doesn't make grand leaps of faith, but instead has a very natural progression into exploring faith and what that means in her life. The hero is also struggling to find his faith you have two very human and very likeable main characters experiencing the questions of faith.

As I read Sweet Caroline, I felt like I was transported to South Carolina. From the characters to the dialogue to the activities, it all fit that locale. And the secondary characters add a rich layer to this book. No one is thrown in without serving a purpose, and each adds a dimension to the plot and to Caroline's character.

I loved this book...and can't wait to read Love Begins with Elle when it releases this summer. If you're looking for a romance with sass and heart, pick this book up at your local bookstore. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Review: The Perfect Life

The Perfect Life by Robin Lee Hatcher is the latest installment in Women of Faith fiction. This book makes a great addition to the collection.

Katherine Clarkson has the perfect life. Perfect marriage. Perfect daughters with their own perfect lives. The respect of the church and community. Then a woman goes to the press, claiming that Katherine's husband Brad Clarkson had an affair with her and embezzled money from his charity. With those claims, Katherine’s perfect life falls apart.

As I read this book, I found myself fluctuating between two extremes. On one hand I wanted to shake Katherine out of her daze of self-pity and tell her to pick up and move on. On the other hand, I could relate to that daze. It is so easy in today’s world to get sucked into the importance of appearances and perfection that it is almost impossible to let go and admit we need help. This book highlights that dichotomy in stark contrast.

I’ve tried to decide why I reacted to the book like I did, and think it’s because the author quickly draw characters that we can relate to. We all know someone like Katherine (if it isn’t us) and we’ve all see the extremes that the supporting characters added.

The real struggle for Katherine is whether she would trust even when she could never had a definitive answer. Trust her husband who’s been accused of unfaithfulness. Trust God when her Christianity is tested by adversity.

This book is wonderfully woven and will make you think as you read.

The Perfect Life Review

The Perfect Life by Robin Lee Hatcher is the latest installment in Women of Faith fiction. This book makes a great addition to the collection.

Katherine Clarkson has the perfect life. Perfect marriage. Perfect daughters with their own perfect lives. The respect of the church and community. Then a woman goes to the press, claiming that Katherine's husband Brad Clarkson had an affair with her and embezzled money from his charity. With those claims, Katherine’s perfect life falls apart.

As I read this book, I found myself fluctuating between two extremes. On one hand I wanted to shake Katherine out of her daze of self-pity and tell her to pick up and move on. On the other hand, I could relate to that daze. It is so easy in today’s world to get sucked into the importance of appearances and perfection that it is almost impossible to let go and admit we need help. This book highlights that dichotomy in stark contrast.

I’ve tried to decide why I reacted to the book like I did, and think it’s because the author quickly draw characters that we can relate to. We all know someone like Katherine (if it isn’t us) and we’ve all see the extremes that the supporting characters added.

The real struggle for Katherine is whether she would trust even when she could never had a definitive answer. Trust her husband who’s been accused of unfaithfulness. Trust God when her Christianity is tested by adversity.

This book is wonderfully woven and will make you think as you read.

Monday, March 10, 2008

More Winners

Congratulations to Karin, winner of Symphony of Secrets, and bookwurm, winner of Truffles by the Sea. Contact me, and I'll get the books out to you ASAP.

I'm Back and had a great surprise....

Last night I arrived home late -- still a bit groggy this morning, but life goes on. There were stacks of books on my desk. The first shipment of Heartsong Presents Mysteries -- boy, do those look good. Amber Morn from Brandilyn Collins. Leaving November by Deborah Raney. Beloved Castaway by Kathleen Y'Barbo. And Courting Emma by Sharlene MacLaren. All very cool and I can't wait to dive into them...but...

The best box contained copies of Deadly Exposure!!!!! My first (hopefully not last!) Love Inspired Suspense. They did a wonderful job with the cover and backcover copy. It was incredible to hold that baby -- the very first book I wrote after God told me to start writing again. And my editor worked so hard with me on it -- I'm thrilled with the end result. God is so good!

My page is also up at Be sure to check it out.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Review: On Sparrow Hill


As the curator for the Quentin Hollinworth family estate, Rebecca Seabrooke is focused on just two things: making hers the most successful historic home in the country and forgetting the childhood crush she’s had on Quentin since her father worked as the family valet. After all, they don’t exactly run in the same social circles.

But when she and Quentin uncover letters in the family vault written over 150 years ago by Berrie Hamilton – one of Quentin’s ancestors – Rebecca discovers that Quentin isn’t the only one with a legacy to appreciate. Only Berrie’s words can prepare Rebecca for the dramatic turn her life is about to take.


On Sparrow Hill is the sequel to The Oak Leaves and Maureen Lang’s fourth book for the inspirational market. While I loved The Oak Leaves, this book is even more gripping. It sat on my to be read pile for several weeks, but when I picked it up, I had an incredibly hard time putting it down. The mix of current and historical plots pulled me through the chapters.

Rebecca Seabrooke finds herself unexpectedly spending almost every day with Quentin Hollinworth. Very quickly their feelings for each other come to the fore front. The only problem is his mother doesn’t approve, and his ex-girlfriend is all too willing to get involved again.

The historical story line follows Berrie Hamilton, Peter’s sister and Cosima’s dear friend from book one. She is trying to start her home for those suffering from Fragile X Syndrome that society didn’t know how to handle in the early 1850s. But she’s running into challenges and obstacles at every turn.

The two plots are interwoven with the arrival of Dana and Padgett from the United States. Dana plays a role in book one and helps tie the two together. She also brings a modern light to the challenges and scares of Fragile X Syndrome. I appreciate the reality and heart that the author pours into this book. She doesn’t downplay the challenges – or the unexpected joys. And the struggles that Dana experiences rang true to me – it would be so easy to fall into those even though you want to trust God and His sovereignty.

The twists and turns in both romances kept me reading, as well as genuinely wanting to know what would happen to Berrie’s hospital and Dana. And I think the intermixing of the storylines helped keep the pages turning late into the night.

However, my one complaint would be that some of the modern chapters seemed like mere pageholders to get back to the historic story even though both story lines were compelling with gripping characters and questions. Because I read an unedited ARC, some of those tiny hiccups may have been worked out before the press run.

I enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the next Maureen Lang novel.

Friday, March 07, 2008

ACFW Conference Prep and More

First, don't forget to leave a comment on the Symphony of Secrets post and the Truffles by the Sea post to be entered in the contests for copies of those books. I will post winners when I get back in town.

Why am I out of town you ask? For ACFW board meetings and pre-conference meetings. I arrived in Minneapolis Wednesday early afternoon and have been running to meetings ever since. Until my body collapsed Thursday afternoon for a couple hours.

You see, this year, ACFW is having the large booksigning in a very public place -- ever heard of the Mall of America?!?!?! I've spent a lot of time there in the last couple days. We've always had a booksigning with the conference, but this is the first time it will be in a truly public forum. And you can't get much more public that the Mall of America. We'll take over two rotundas and a hallway since we'll have around 100 of Christian fictions big authors participating.

And my job as publicity officer is to spread the word to as many people as possible in the Twin Cities area. So I've been meeting with groups, the Mall, Barnes & Noble, etc. to generate their excitement and get leads.

I have my work cut out for me. Please pray that I'll have wisdom and favor as I work with the press, churches, groups, colleges, etc. And that I'll have the right people to help me with all the work that's just been generated!

And if you love Christian fiction, the book signing on September 20th at the Mall of America is going to be incredible!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Truffles by the Sea Review & Giveaway

Truffles by the Sea is Julie Carobini’s second offering. I loved this book!

Gaby, Bri’s best friend from Chocolate Beach (mom lit and another great read), is the star of this book, and her life is a mess! I can’t think of one more thing that could go wrong in this poor woman’s life! Her employee stole everything from her store. Her landlord torched the building along with all of her material possessions. And her bank account is non-existent.

Gaby is desperate to keep her business going, yet struggles to keep stock on hand and find the joy to sell to the few customers who do wind their way into her shop. She finds a wonderful loft to live in by the ocean, but isn’t sure about her neighbors or her new landlord. And she doesn’t know what she’s supposed to do with her life or what God expects of her.

This book is a delight to read, and the author has us rooting for Gaby from page one. This girl’s never-say-die attitude is incredible, and her life is filled with all kinds of foilables. This is chick lit with heart – about so much more than finding a man.

There is a rich array of supporting characters, too. It's hard to tell who's trying to help Gaby, who's slightly neurotic, and who's completely gone off the deep end. Through her interactions with them Gaby learns to look beyond the surface. How often do we base our friendships on first impressions?

While keeping the light chick lit tone, this book satisfied while avoiding the tired old formulas. Just when I'm ready to give up on the genre, I stumble across an author who can write without relying on stereotypes.

I enjoyed this book, and think it will be a great addition to any spring break or escape read.

Giveaway from Julie!!!

To celebrate my CFBA tour March 5-7, I'll be giving away a copy of Truffles by the Sea AND and a 1/2 lb. box of yummy truffles to three readers. All you need to do is drop by Julie's blog during the tour and leave a comment and a way to contact you if you win. So come on all you chocolate loving readers, give her a shout to get your name in the drawing, and don't forget to tell your friends to stop by her blog and enter the drawing!!!

Giveaway from Me!!!!

I have an extra copy of this book and would love to give it away to a chocolate and book lover. So leave a comment about your favorite type of chocolate: brownies, candy, hot chocolate, etc. I'll draw a winner next week!

Hehehehe. I just noticed --geek that I am-- that the powers that be are using a quote from my review in the publicity efforts. How fun is that!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Blinking Lights and a Cat

We're on something like our 10th snowstorm this year. Sigh. I love winter. I love snow. But I am so ready for anything else. Sunday we hit 60 degrees; it was awesome. Monday started that way...then last night it sleeted and snowed. Same today.

So Monday night Eric peered through the blinds to see how much snow there was. I didn't believe him and had to check for myself.

Then I looked out again. Eric's car is blinking. Flashing. Winking. Whatever you want to call it.

Eric doesn't believe me. So he grabs the key fob, hits a button, and asks, "Is this better?"


He tries again.

Nope. Still blinking.

Finally, he comes to the window and checks for himself. Yep. The lights are blinking. Flashing. Winking.

Eric decides it's a good time to move his car inside. When he reaches the car he sees the source of the problem. Somehow our cat snuck into the car while Eric pulled groceries out. The cat is now standing on the front seat, batting at the hazard light button.

Mystery solved. :-)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

March's New Releases

What an amazing month of new releases! We've got 21 new Christian novels to choose from - plenty of choices to fit every taste in genre.

1. A Lady of Hidden Intent, Book 2 in the Ladies of Liberty series by Tracie Peterson from Bethany House Publishers. Catherine Newbury flees her past, but has hidden intentions to right the wrongs done her family.

2. A Soldier's Family, Book 2-Wings of Refuge Series by Cheryl Wyatt from Steeple Hill-Love Inspired. A USAF Pararescue jumper recovering from a skydiving accident opens his heart to a widow and her troubled teen, and discovers he's been given a second chance at family.

3. A Suspicion of Strawberries Scents of Murder Series, Book 1 by Lynette Sowell from Barbour. Andromeda Clark loves control, and that's tough to hang onto while tracking down a murderer, saving her business, all while her boyfriend decides it's time to settle down.

4. A Treasure Worth Keeping by Kathryn Springer from Steeple Hill, Love Inspired. Single school teacher seeks solitude. . .and ends up on the adventure of a lifetime!

5. Amber Morn, Kanner Lake series #4 by Brandilyn Collins from Zondervan. The lives of the nationally read “Scenes and Beans” bloggers are on the line when they’re taken hostage by three volatile men whose demands are impossible to meet.

6. Another Stab at Life in The Volstead Manor Series by Anita Higman from Barbour Publishing. Another Stab at Life is about a woman who inherits not only a Gothic mansion, but the shadows and secrets that lie within.

7. Better than Gold Book Three in the Iowa Historical Series by Laurie Alice Eakes from Heartsong Presents. She wants to leave the small, Iowa town. He wants to stay and create a
settled life. They both want to find the missing gold.

8. Blue Heart Blessed by Susan Meissner from Harvest House. A jilted bride opens a secondhand wedding dress shop but can't seem to let go of the one dress that started her business - her own.

9. Broken Lullaby by Pamela Tracy from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. When Mary Graham finally starts making right choices, DEA officer Mitch Williams interferes. From small steps to large leaps, trust, love, and faith are born in the midst of a mystery.

10. Dear to Me, Book 3 in the Brides of Webster County series by Wanda E. Brunstetter from Barbour Publishing. Melinda Andrews is torn between two loves -- her dear animal friends and Gabe, the man she loves.

11. Don't Look Back, #3 in Reunion Revelations (Love Inspired Suspense Continuity Series) by Margaret Daley from Steeple Hill. Jameson vows to help Cassie solve her brother's murder by delving into his secrets. But Jameson has his own secrets that might tear them apart.

12. Goldeneyes by Delia Latham from Vintage Romance Publishing. In the darkness of a Depression-era night, an alcoholic man commits a heinous crime, and over twenty years will pass before the horrible wrong begins to be made right.

13. John's Quest by Cecelia Dowdy from Barbour Publishing. John, an agnostic science professor, finds romantic love while searching for Jesus.

14. Leaving November, Book 2 The Clayburn Novels by Deborah Raney from Howard Books/Simon & Schuster. After failing the bar exam twice, a young woman comes home to discover love--with an artist who is everything she never wanted in a man.

15. My Heart Remembers by Kim Vogel Sawyer from Bethany House. United by blood, divided by time, three orphan train siblings seek to reunite eighteen years after fate separated them.

16. Seneca Shadows by Lauralee Bliss from Heartsong Pesents, Barbour Publishing. Lucy's quiet world has been invaded as soldiers come to train in her valley. Will love be the consequence?

17. Sincerely, Mayla, The Sequel to Just As I Am by Virginia Smith from Kregel. For control freak Mayla Strong, learning to lean on the everlasting arms is the toughest lesson of all.

18. The Renovation: Carter Mansion, First book in the 3-book Project Restoration Series by Terri Kraus from David C. Cook. Single father Ethan Willis is a master at restoring old buildings, returning what was once in ruins to the beauty of its original design. Can a new woman help restore his life after a tragedy that changed everything?

19. The Truth About Love by Tia McCollors from Moody Publishers - Lift Every Voice Imprint. In this powerful sequel to Zora's Cry, four friends face issues that test the strength of their faith and their love.

20. Trouble the Water by Nicole Seitz from Thomas Nelson. Three flawed women find God's healing in the loving hands of a Gullah community on a South Carolina sea island.

21. Wildfire Book #3, Snow Canyon Ranch series by Roxanne Rustand from Steeple Hill. Snow Canyon Ranch---where sinister family secrets lurk in the majestic Rockies.

Happy reading ~

Monday, March 03, 2008

Review: Taming Rafe

Sometimes when the first book in a series surprises you and sweeps you into the romance, I wonder if the second book will live up to the first. In this case Susan May Warren has written a sequel that more than stands on its own. Be sure to go to the bottom of this post to find the link to Susan's contest related to this book.

Taming Rafe tells the story of two broken people, each searching for something but not really sure what. Katherine Breckenridge wants to break out of the expectations that she’s been forced to live with. But she’s hesitant to try. And Rafe feels even more like the lesser Noble after his life implodes.

Katherine has a backbone that shows up in unexpected ways when she’s desperate. And now that she’s desperate to salvage her mother’s foundation, she follows Rafe to the family ranch, the Silver Buckle, with an idea that just might save both of them.

While Rafe and Katherine’s story is the main one, it isn’t the only one. Lolly, the diner owner, and John, a local rancher, play strong supporting parts as their not-really-there romance continues to wax and wane. There’s also a story inside a story that could be a gimmick, but actually pulls the characters together as they all read it throughout the book.

The book pulled me into the fictional dream mainly through the deep pain and searching of the characters. Katherine and Rafe each have deep reasons they are suffering their current problems. But the choice to confront those issues and take a less safe path, left me rooting for them. Could they do? Or would they take the easier rode?

The book is filled with challenges for the characters…each of those a natural outgrowth of the plot and characters. And the secondary characters added a rich layer to the story through John and Lolly’s fight to choose each other or walk away, and Nick’s inability to communicate with Rafe. Add in a grandfather who wants to shelter his granddaughter, an almost fiancĂ© who wants to elope and all kinds of other conflict, and this is a rich story it was almost impossible to put down.

And there were just enough glimpses of Stefanie and her struggles to leave me hungry for book three.

To check out Rafe's blog, go here. The book trailer is located here. And to read the first chapter, go here. But if you read the first chapter, realize you're going to want to read it all, so click here to buy the book! To enter Susan's Taming Rafe contest, click here.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

FIRST Tour: The Restorer's Journey

It is March FIRST, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

I just got this book in the mail yesterday and am already neck deep in it. I LOVE it! Can't wait to finish it and post a review :-)

This month's feature is:

Sharon Hinck holds a BA in education, and she earned an MA in communication from Regent University in 1986. She spent ten years as the artistic director of a Christian performing arts group, CrossCurrent. That ministry included three short-term mission trips to Hong Kong. She has been a church youth worker, a choreographer and ballet teacher, a homeschool mom, a church organist, and a bookstore clerk. One day she’ll figure out what to be when she grows up, but in the meantime, she’s pouring her imagination into writing. Her stories focus on characters who confront the challenges of a life of faith. She’s published dozens of articles in magazines and book compilations, and released her first novel, The Secret Life of Becky Miller (Bethany House), in 2006. In April 2007, she was named “Writer of the Year” at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. When she isn’t wrestling with words, Sharon enjoys speaking at conferences and retreats. She and her family make their home in Minnesota. She loves to hear from readers, so send a message through the portal into her writing attic on the “Contact Sharon” page of her website, She is also an avid blogger...visit Stories for the Hero in All of Us.

The first and second books in The Sword of Lyric series are The Restorer and The Restorer’s Son. The FIRST chapter shown here is from the third book, The Restorer's Journey. Enjoy!


Chapter One - JAKE

My mom was freaking out.

She stared out the dining room window as if major-league monsters were hiding in the darkness beyond the glass. Give me a break. Our neighborhood was as boring as they came. Ridgeview Drive’s square lawns and generic houses held nothing more menacing than basketball hoops and tire swings. Still, Mom’s back was tight, and in the shadowed reflection on the pane, I could see her biting her lip. I didn’t know what to say to make her feel better.

I ducked back into the kitchen and used a wet rag to wipe off the counters. Clumps of flour turned to paste and smeared in gunky white arcs across the surface. I shook the rag over the garbage can, the mess raining down on the other debris we’d swept up. Broken jars of pasta and rice filled the bag. I stomped it down, twist-tied the bag and jogged it out to the trashcan by the garage. Usually, I hated the chore of taking out the trash. Not tonight. Maybe if I erased the signs of our intruders, Mom would relax a little.

So Cameron and Medea dropped a few things when they were looking for supplies. No biggie. Why did my folks have such a problem with those two anyway? They’d been great to me. I trudged back into the house, rubbing my forehead. Wait. That wasn’t right. A shiver snaked through my spine. Never mind. They were probably long gone by now.

“Kitchen’s done.” I carried the broom into the dining room, hoping Mom had finished in there. But she was still hugging her arms and staring out the window.

She turned and looked at the china cabinet, then squeezed her eyes shut as if they were hurting. “Why?” she whispered.

Glass shards jutted from one cabinet door, and the other hung crooked with wood splinters poking out. Broken china covered the floor. Mom and Dad had been collecting those goofy teacups ever since they got married.

I pushed the broom against the edge of the fragments, but the chinking sound made her wince, so I stopped.

Dad strode past with an empty garbage bag from the hall closet and stopped to give my mom a squeeze. He nodded toward me. “Honey, Jake’s alive. Nothing else matters. We all got back safe.” He leaned his head against hers, and I edged toward the kitchen in case they started kissing. For an old married couple, they were a little too free with their public displays of affection. No guy wants to watch his parents act mushy.

But my mom didn’t look like she was in a kissing mood. She pressed her lips together. I had a sneaking suspicion that she was more freaked out about what had happened to my hand than our house. Like when I had cancer as a kid. She’d gotten really stressed about the details of a church fundraiser and cranky about everything that went wrong—stuff that wasn’t even important. It gave her a place to be angry when she was trying to be brave about a bigger problem.

“It’s only a piece of furniture.” Dad was doing his soothing voice. When would he catch on that only made things worse?

“Only a piece of furniture we bought as a wedding gift to each other.” She swiped at some wet spots on her face. “Only twenty years’ worth of poking around garage sales and thrift stores together. Don’t tell me what it’s only! Okay?”

“Okay.” Dad backed away from her prickles.

I made another ineffectual push with the broom. My folks didn’t argue much, but when they did, it grated like a clutch struggling to find third gear. Typical over-responsible firstborn, I wanted to fix it but didn’t know how.

Mom picked up a Delft saucer, smashed beyond repair, and laid the pieces gently into the garbage bag. Dad folded his arms and leaned against the high back of one of the chairs. “I can fix the cabinet. That splintered door will need to be replaced, but the other one just needs new hinges. I can put in new glass.” His eyes always lit up when he talked about a woodworking project. The man loved his tools.

Mom smiled at him. Her tension faded, and she got all moony-eyed, so I ducked into the kitchen just as the doorbell rang. Thank heaven. “Pizza’s here!” I yelled.

Dad paid the delivery guy, and I carried the cartons into the living room. Flopping onto one end of the couch, I pried open the lid. “Hey, who ordered green peppers? Mom, you’ve gotta quit ruining good pizza with veggies.”

That made her laugh. “We’d better save a few pieces for the other kids.” She cleared the Legos off the coffee table and handed me a napkin.

I gladly surrendered the top pizza box, along with its green pepper, and dove into the pepperoni below. “Where is everyone?”

“Karen’s spending the night at Amanda’s—trying out her new driver’s license. Jon and Anne are at Grandma’s. But if they see the pizza boxes when they get home tomorrow . . . ”

I nodded. “Yep. Pure outrage. I can hear it now. ‘It’s not fair. Jake always gets to have extra fun.’” I did a pretty good impression of the rug rats. What would the kids think if they found out what else they had missed? This had been the strangest Saturday the Mitchell family had ever seen.

I popped open a can of Dr. Pepper. My third. Hey, I’d earned some extra caffeine. “So, what do we tell the kids?”

Mom smiled and looked me up and down, probably thinking I was one of the kids. When would it sink in that I was an adult now? I guzzled a third of my pop and set it down with a thump. “We could tell them there was a burglar, but then they’d want to help the police solve the case, and they’d never stop asking questions.”

“Good point.” Mom licked sauce from her finger. “Jon and Anne would break out the detective kit you gave them for Christmas.”

Dad tore a piece of crust from his slice of pepperoni. “If we finish cleaning everything, I don’t think they’ll pay much attention. The cabinet is the only obvious damage. If they ask, we’ll just say it got bumped and fell.”

Dad wanted us to lie? So not like him. Then again, when Kieran told me Dad wasn’t originally from our world, I realized there were a lot of things he’d never been honest about. Now I was part of the family secret, too.

He rested his piece of pizza on the cardboard box and looked at Mom. “Do we need to warn them?”

“Warn them?” She mumbled around a mouth full of melted cheese.

“In case Cameron and Medea come back.” His voice was calm, but I suddenly had a hard time swallowing. Something cold twisted in me when he said their names. The same cold that had numbed my bones when I’d woken up in the attic. Why? They’d taken care of me. No, they’d threatened me. Confusing images warred inside my brain.

“You think they’ll come back?” My baritone went up in pitch, and I quickly took another sip of pop.

Dad didn’t answer for a moment. “It depends on why they came. If they plan to stay in our world, we need to find them—stop them. But my guess is that Cameron wants to return to Lyric with something from our world that he can use there. That means they’ll be back to go through the portal.”

Mom sank deeper into the couch and looked out the living room windows. At the curb, our family van shimmered beneath a streetlight.

They might be out there, too. They could be watching us right this second.

“Maybe we should call the police.” Mom’s voice sounded thin. I’d suggested that earlier. After all, someone had broken in—well, broken out.

Dad snorted. “And tell them what?”

He had a point, but it’s not like there was a rulebook for dealing with visitors from other universes. Unless you attended Star Trek conventions. “So what’s your plan?” I asked.

“I’ll get extra locks tomorrow. Maybe look into an alarm system.” Dad believed every problem could be solved with his Home Depot credit card. He turned to me. “Can you remember more about your conversations with Cameron? What did he ask you about? What did he seem interested in?”

A shudder moved through me, and pain began pulsing behind my eyes.

Mom gave Dad a worried glance, then rested a hand on my arm. “It’s okay, honey. We don’t have to talk about it right now.” She smoothed my hair back from my face.

“No problem.” I brushed her hand away, sprawled back on the couch, and studied the ceiling. “It just seems like it was all a dream.”

“What’s the last thing you remember clearly?” Dad pulled his chair closer and watched me.

“Braide Wood.” I closed my eyes and smiled. “It reminded me of summer camp. And I was so tired of running and hiding in caves. I finally felt safe. Tara fussed over me, and I taught Dustin and Aubrey how to play soccer. It felt like home.”

I struggled to remember the rest. For some reason my memories were tangled up, like the time I had a major fever and took too much Nyquil. Mom and Dad waited.

“I went to see Morsal Plains with Tara. Brutal. The grain was all black and it smelled weird. Tara told me about the attack. How Hazor poisoned it on purpose and how Susan the Restorer led the army to protect Braide Wood.” I squinted my eyes open and looked sideways at my mom. They’d told me she had ridden into battle with a sword. “Unbelievable.”

Even though she was watching me with a worried pinch to her eyes, she smiled. “I know. I lived it, and it’s hard for me to believe.”

“Anyway, I hiked back to Tara’s house, and some guys came to take me to Cameron. He made a big fuss over me. Said it was his job to welcome guests to the clans. Said I’d run into bad company but he’d make it up to me. He gave me something to drink, and there was this lady. She was amazing.” No matter how fuzzy my memories were, Medea was easy to remember. The long curly hair, the sparkling eyes, the dress that clung to all the right places. My cheeks heated. “I can’t remember everything we talked about. She made me feel important, like I wasn’t just some teenage kid. It was . . . ” I sat taller and angled away from my parents, my jaw tightening. “She helped me realize that no one else had ever really understood me. I wanted to become a guardian. I had an important job to do.”

“Jake.” Dad’s voice was sharp, and I flinched. “The woman you met was a Rhusican. They poison minds. Don’t trust everything you’re feeling right now.”

A pulsing ache grabbed the base of my neck. I pressed the heels of my hands against my eyes. Mom’s hand settled on my shoulder, and I stiffened. Weird static was messing with my head.

“Jake, they used you to find the portal. She doesn’t really understand you.” Mom’s voice was quiet and sounded far away. I felt like I was falling away inside myself. She squeezed my shoulder. “Remember my favorite psalm?”

I managed a tight smile. “How could I forget? You made us learn the whole thing one summer. ‘O Lord, you have searched me and you know me…’ blah, blah, blah.”

Despite my smart aleck tone, the words took hold and some of the static in my brain quieted.

“What’s the rest?” Dad pressed me.

What was he trying to prove? That I couldn’t think straight? I could have told him that. I struggled to form the words.

“‘You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.’” Once I got started, I rattled off the verses by rote. In some strange way, the words actually stopped the sensation of falling away inside myself.

“Sounds like there’s someone who understands you a lot better than Cameron and Medea. Remember that.” Dad stood up and tousled my hair. Then he yawned. “Let’s get some sleep.”

Mom didn’t move. She was still watching me. “How’s the hand?”

I rubbed my palm. “Still fine. Weird, huh?” I held it out.

A scar, faint as a white thread, marked the skin where broken glass had cut a deep gash an hour earlier. My lungs tightened. What did it mean?

Dad shook his head. “Come on. Bedtime.”

Mom hesitated, but then stood and gave me a quick kiss on the forehead. “Good night, Jake. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

Oh, great. She sure loved talking. I looked at Dad. His mouth twitched. “I’ll get us signed up for some practice space at the fencing club.”

Good. He hadn’t forgotten his promise. I couldn’t make sense of my trip through the portal, or the sudden-healing thing, but I knew I wanted to learn to use a sword.

My parents gathered up the pizza stuff and carried it to the kitchen, out of sight, but not out of earshot.

“If we hide the portal stones Cameron and Medea won’t be able to go back,” Dad said over the crinkling of a sheet of aluminum foil.

Someone slammed the fridge door shut hard enough to make the salad dressing bottles rattle. “We don’t want them running around our world. They don’t belong here.” Mom sounded tense.

“I know. We have to send them back. But on our terms. Without anything that would hurt the People of the Verses. And what about Jake?”

Silence crackled, and I leaned forward from my spot on the couch.

When Mom refused to answer, Dad spoke again, so quiet I almost couldn’t hear. “We need to keep the portal available in case he’s needed there. But how will we know?”

Needed there? Did he really think . . .?

I waited for them to head back to their bedroom, then slipped down the steps from the kitchen to the basement. Most of the basement was still unfinished – except for my corner bedroom and Dad’s workbench.

I hurried into my room and shut out the world behind me. Tonight everything looked different. The movie posters, the bookshelves, the soccer team trophy. Smaller, foreign, unfamiliar.

I pulled a thumbtack from my bulletin board and scratched it across my thumb. A line of blood appeared, but in a microsecond the tiny scrape healed completely. I had assumed the healing power was some heebie-jeebie thing that Medea had given me, or that had transferred over from my interactions with Kieran.

But now that my head had stopped throbbing, I could put the pieces together. Excitement stronger than caffeine zipped around my nerve endings. My folks thought this was more than a weird effect left over from my travels through the portal. They thought I might be the next Restorer.


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