Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ready for School?

As a homeschool mom, I never truly stop educating my kids. In fact I told their art tutor last week that I tend to look for something to learn in everything. Poor kiddos!

Even so, it just hit me!

August 1st is almost upon us. Like soon. FIVE DAYS!

Do you hear my panic?

I've got my basic plan, but now it's time to settle down. Check all the curriculum. Math? Check. English? Check. History? Already started. Spelling? Double Check. (That was one of our summer projects). Literature, Science? Handwriting? The list goes on and on...

Coop? Yep. Can't wait to start that again, but are the kids ready? Am I ready to teach my classes?

We bought some school supplies last week, so the kids are ready with fresh folders, blank paper, and a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils. (Can anyone name that movie?)

So how do you prepare? If you aren' might want to check the calendar!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

CFBA Tour: Canary Island

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Canary Island Song
Howard Books; Original edition (July 5, 2011)
Robin Jones Gunn
Barreling toward deadline, so nothing to add other than the couple chapters I did sneak in hooked me on the story. Can't wait to dive back in with the characters and the great setting!


Robin Jones Gunn was born in Wisconsin and lived on a dairy farm until her family moved to southern California when she was five years old. She grew up in Orange County and spent her summers at Newport Beach with friends from her church youth group. After attending Biola University and Capernwray Bible School in Austria, Robin and Ross were married and spent the next two decades working together in youth ministry.

It was the young teens at Robin’s church who challenged her to write stories for them. She hadn’t thought much about being a writer, but took their request to heart and set her alarm for 3am, three days a week. With two small children it was the only time she could find to write the first story about Christy Miller. After two years and ten rejections the novel Summer Promise was accepted for publication in 1988. Robin hasn’t stopped writing since. Over 4 million copies of her 75 books have sold and can be found in a dozen translations all over the world.

Robin and her husband now live in Hawai’i where Ross is a counselor and Robin continues to write to the sound of tropical birds chattering in the palm trees outside her window. Their children are grown but manage to come to the islands with their families every chance they get. Robin's awards include: three Christy awards for excellence in fiction, a Gold Medallion finalist, Mt. Hermon Pacesetter and the Mt. Hermon Writer of the Year award. Robin travels extensively and is a frequent key-note speaker at various events around the world.  She serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and Jerry Jenkin’s Christian Writer’s Guild.


When Carolyn’s grown daughter tells her she needs to “get a life,” Carolyn decides it’s time to step out of her familiar routine as a single woman in San Francisco and escape to her mother’s home in the Canary Islands. Since Carolyn’s mother is celebrating her seventieth birthday, the timing of Carolyn’s visit makes for a perfect surprise.

    The surprise, however, is on Carolyn when she sees Bryan Spencer, her high school summer love. It’s been seven years since Carolyn lost her husband, but ever since that tragic day, her life has grown smaller and closed in. The time has come for Carolyn to get her heart back. It takes the gentle affection of her mother and aunts, as well as the ministering beauty and song of the islands to draw Carolyn into the fullness of life. She is nudged along by a Flamenco dance lesson, a defining camel ride and the steady gaze of Bryan’s intense blue-gray eyes.
    Is it too late for Carolyn to trust Bryan? Can Carolyn believe that Bryan has turned into something more than the wild beach boy who stole her kisses so many years ago on a balmy Canary night?
    Carolyn is reminded that Christopher Columbus set sail from the Canary Islands in 1492 on his voyage to discover the New World. Is she ready to set sail from these same islands to discover her new life?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Canary Island Song, go HERE.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Who's Your Family?


We all have them. And they are all so different.

I have been blessed with an amazing family.

This is my dad with me and my siblings on his back...a long time ago LOL. My parents just left yesterday after coming out for almost a week to free me to work on edits for two August 1st deadlines. They sent me flowers ahead of time to thank me for letting them come!

Did I mention I'm blessed?

But not everybody is so fortunate. They didn't grow up with loving parents in a secure home. They didn't receive hugs freely as a kid to have them to give to their kids. They didn't hear that they were treasured by God from an early age.

Experiencing that marked me. It made me the woman I am today.

Not hearing or experiencing that is just as scarring. It makes people who they are.

So think about your characters...what's their family like? Are their parents married? Divorced? Were they an only child or surrounded by siblings? Did their family have money? Were things hand to mouth? Did they grow up in a family with parents who led them to God? Or did their parents give them a warped image of God? Those questions matter because the answers change how they will respond to the life and challenges you're giving them today.

So what about you? Was your family more functional...or dysfunctional?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Recipes: Summer Grilling

It's so hot here, we don't need to turn on a grill to cook mean -- well almost. But it is summertime - the time to crack open the grill and chargrill everything. We're cooking with gas!

So today I thought we'd share our favorite grill tricks.

Here're mine for fantastic burgers:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

CFBA Tour: Shadows on the Sand

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Shadows on the Sand
Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)
Gayle Roper

Love this book! The pacing isn't as intense as some suspense I read. Instead, it has the feel of a vacation to the beach with puzzle that gets more complicated with each chapter. And that heroine is a fighter that I loved. There's so much pain in her past that she's overcome...and the hero's pain is so different, but equally overwhelming. I love the way that made me root for both!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Teaching Your Kids to Read

Does the thought of teaching your child to read seem daunting?

It does to me, too, and I've got two kids who are fluent, voracious readers. But now that my toddler wants to read, I'm back to evaluating the best way to teach her.

The book on the left is the tool I used with my first two. They knew their letters and the basic sounds. So this book worked really well. What I loved was it told me everything to say. As someone who stayed far away from elementary education in college, the thought of teaching them to read -- such a critical skill -- was daunting.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

CFBA Tour: Falls Like Lightening

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Falls Like Lightning
Bethany House (July 1, 2011)
Shawn Grady
Because this book arrived at the end of last week, I haven't had time to read it yet. It's sitting on my desk teasing me, but I'm being a good girl and finishing edits before I dive in. But I can't wait to read it because I have really enjoyed Shawn's prior two books. He has the background to know what he writes and the ability to make the stories come to life.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Moral Premise

Right now I'm reading a book called the Moral Premise. The author Stanley D. Williams will teach the Early Bird at ACFW in September, and like any good hyper student, I wanted to get a head start on preparing. The Moral Premise reveals the foundational concept at the heart of all storytelling and successful box office movies. In concrete terms it explains how you can create your own success and, in the process, entertain, delight, challenge, and uplift this generation and the ones to come.

Hmmm, that's a lot to offer in one little book!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Recipes: Fruit Cobbler

As I'm typing this, I have a blueberry cobbler in the oven. Made with fresh blueberries that we picked this morning at a local blueberry farm. Can you say YUMMMMMY? The fresh fruit is one of my favorite parts of summertime. Better yet is when we get to go pick it ourselves. Maybe there's an incredibly teensey weensey bit of a farmer in my after all. My grandpa would laugh -- at 91 he still has an acre or so of garden, but hey, you do what you can.

So here's a recipe for cobbler that comes from our time in the south. I'll give you the real recipe and the way I alter it :-) Use the fruit of your choice. I just always seem to use blueberries.

Easy-Peesy Fruit Cobbler

take a stick of butter and melt in a 9x9 pan in 350 degree oven.

1 c. buttermilk (regular milk works, too)
1 c. sugar (I didn't say it was healthy :-) )
1 c. self-rising flour
 pour into the melted butter in the pan. Cover with fresh or frozen fruit.

Bake until golden brown.

I usually make this in a 9 x13. I still use 1 stick of butter because 2 is just too much. I double the milk and flour and add a little more than 1/2 cup of sugar for 1 and 1/2 cups total.

It really is yummy and oh so easy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pattern of Wounds

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Pattern of Wounds
Bethany House (July 1, 2011)
J. Mark Bertrand
Review: This is Mark's second solo project and I couldn't put it down. It's a fantastic cop investigative novel that kept me guessing. Roland March is a homicide detective in Houston who colors right to the lines and seems to stay on the bad side of his superiors. He's got a past, but he's also a great cop. He

Summer – the perfect time to curl up with a new book & Giveaways

Today, in Indiana, the heat is blistering with enough humidity to let me know I’m alive. It’s the kind of day you can do one of two things. Curl up by the pool with a book or inside with the A/C cranked up…again with a book and glass of sweet tea.

Really, I’m okay with that.

Why? Because there are so many GREAT books and I'm giving one away.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quirks: We All Need Them

We all have quirks.

One of mine is that I love traditions. So every July 4th week, I know I'll be dragging my kids to a blueberry farm at least once so we fill our fridge and hopefully our freezer with fresh blueberries. This year we went twice in three days -- so far. But my breakfast of choice is homemade oatmeal with blueberries on top. Every day. Of the year. Over and over. Quirk.

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's Almost Here: ACFW Conference

This week I've started one of my favorite times of the year, running first time orientation for the ACFW conference. A few years ago we realized that approximately a third of our attendees any given year were first timers. I'll never forget my first time at conference in 2005.

I went with a fellow writer from Indiana -- a gal I'd met once or twice -- yet, we became fast friends in the six hour drive to Nashville. I met Tracie Peterson for the first time looking like a drowned cat -- boy, would I like a photo of that first impression! Am I ever excited that she is the keynote speaker this year!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Review: False Witness by Randy Singer

I loved False Witness the first time it came out. So when I learned about the re-issue, I was curious to see if I'd notice any changes or if anything major would change. Instead, even though I'd read the book before, I found myself pulled into the plot as if I read it for the first time. Randy Singer is a master craftsman -- he creates plots that have the pacing of the Bourne Identity while being set in the legal environment. This book is really two stories that intertwine seamlessly. Clark, the protagonist in the first part is a guy who is forced to do things no one would want to in an effort to get his wife back from the Chinese mafia. Then the heroes in the next section are three mismatched law students. Boy, did I root for them as they were up against horrible odds. This is the kind of story where every time you assume the worse thing that can happen has, you learn in another few pages you were wrong. And the story twists literally to the last page. Even though I'd read it before, I could barely keep up with all the changes. A perfectly plotted legal suspense! I can't wait for the next Randy Singer novel to release!

Randy is donating all proceeds from this book to an organization that assists those in the underground church. Another great reason to buy this book!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Winning Him Without Words

Today, I've invited my friend Dineen Miller to stop by. While her first novel releases next year, she has an important non-fiction title out right now: Winning Him Without Words. This book is designed to give hope, encouragement, and advice to women who are married to an unbeliever.

How did you and your co-author, Lynn Donovan, meet and what led you to write Winning Him Without Words?

Unbelievably, we met online. God had inspired us both with the idea of blogging about being unequally yoked at the same time. Lynn started the blog site, in 2006 and I came on board shortly thereafter. The rest is amazingly and wonderfully covered with God’s fingerprints.

As for the book, there just wasn’t much out there that was current or designed to be a Bible study as well. Churches for the most part aren’t equipped for this issue, partly because the focus is mostly on family, and partly because the spiritually mismatched tend to stay in the shadows of shame or despair. We listened to our blog readers’ needs and broke down over 30 years of mismatchdom into what we saw as 10 key areas and the truths God had showed us in our own mismatched marriages.
Seeing it all come together still blows us away. That’s what God does best—redeems everything, wastes nothing. Now we get to share all that with others struggling in their mismatched marriages. That alone leaves Lynn and I awestruck on a daily basis.

So, you both have been blogging and writing about this topic since 2006?
Yes! When you live it, you tend to write it. So to answer the next logical question, yes, I’m spiritually mismatched. My husband is an atheist, has been for 15 years now. My cowriter, Lynn Donovan, has much the same story though I’m pleased to say her husband is slowly coming around and starting to search a bit. The power of prayer…

Was it difficult writing about such personal issues?

No, actually. That’s part of the miracle of this book. We each have areas we are passionate about. Amazingly, that turned out to five key chapters for each of us to write. The rest we collaborated on, like the introduction and the resources in the back of the book.
As Lynn says, we complete each other in this ministry. God knew exactly what He was doing (when does He not?) when he put us together to write the book AND for the Spiritually Unequal Marriage ministry. We share different strengths and overlap beautifully.

Let’s pretend you just met someone who is spiritually mismatched and they are really struggling with their marriage. What would you tell them?
First, I would tell them, they are not alone. There are a lot out there. I would encourage them to keep pressing into Jesus for the strength and guidance they need in their marriage. Lynn and I write on our site almost everyday. We also have a Yahoo group, 1Peter3Living, that is a wonderful and safe place to share prayer needs and receive encouragement. We are there and we want to help any way we can. God wants more for us than to just survive our mismatched marriages. He wants to show us how to make them places filled with his love so we can thrive!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Too Many Good Books this Summer with GIVEAWAY

I never thought I'd see that as a bad thing. I don't, until I have so many I have to tell you about! Here are a couple of my new favorites! Both these books have exotic settings, which was so fun. Don't you want to escape with a summer read? And be sure to read all the way to the end for details on the giveaway!

With Wolfsbane, author Ronie Kendig ramps up the intense action I've come to expect in her Discarded Heroes series. Add in a love triangle and mistakes that could break the relationship, and I was left with a book I couldn't put down. This is a story of brokenness and healing. Add in electrically-charged romance and twists so complex I felt like a pretzel -- all within a fast-paced military thriller -- and you have the perfect suspense novel that will tug at your heart as it compels you to read one more chapter. I hated to see this book end!

Next up is the Amish Nanny, a novel by Leslie Gould and Mindy Starns Clark. I LOVED the Amish Midwife, so the moment this book hit my mailbox, I scarfed it up. The other books I was in the middle of just had to wait until I could read Ada's story. (And now I can't wait for book three which must be Ellen's story!)

With this story, Ada must travel to Switzerland with friends to help redeem her families history and a promise made over one hundred years earlier. In the process she must decide what she wants for her future. Who hasn't felt trapped by others expectations of you? Who hasn't felt trapped by a past they couldn't control? Who hasn't wanted a chance to be more than what people say you can be? When everything Ada desires is stripped away, she gets to choose what her future will be. Is she willing to risk or will she stay in her safe yet unfulfilling life? With this book, I felt like I was on the cargo ship crossing the Atlantic. I felt like I journeyed to the small towns in the Alps. It was like a vacation with several friends that I got to know better through the trip. LOVED it!

I'm delighted to have an extra copy of the Amish Nanny to giveaway. Just leave a comment stating where you'd love to travel and how you'd get there.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

CFBA Tour: Lion of Babylon

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Lion of Babylon
Bethany House (July 1, 2011)
Davis Bunn

Cara's Take: I LOVED this book. I grew up reading Tom Clancy -- hey, you all knew I'm not a typical girl :-). In many ways, this book has that kind of feel. A lone operative sent into a hostile territory to do the impossible. Like Hunt for Red October, there's a local who tells part of the story -- and it is so much richer for seeing the story partly through his eyes. Set in Baghdad, as I read I felt transported to the battle in Iraq. I got a flavor for the state of the country from the American and Iraqi perspectives. The action was intense. And the characters compelling. The political factions are each illustrated with enough background to understand why these divisions have evolved over the centuries, but without too much that might bog things down. So while this book has everything that makes a Tom Clancy book a great read, it also has one missing element -- heart. The faith element is amazing -- and adds to the richness of the book. I can't wait to hear what my husband thinks of the book, but this is a keeper -- if you saw the overflowing state of our bookshelves you'd understand what high praise that is!
Marc Royce works for the State Department on special assignments, most of them rather routine, until two CIA operatives go missing in Iraq--kidnapped by Taliban forces bent on generating chaos in the region. Two others also drop out of sight--a high-placed Iraqi civilian and an American woman providing humanitarian aid. Are the disappearances linked? Rumors circulate in a whirl of misinformation.

Marc must unravel the truth in a covert operation requiring utmost secrecy--from both the Americans and the insurgents. But even more secret than the undercover operation is the underground dialogue taking place between sworn enemies. Will the ultimate Reconciler between ancient enemies, current foes, and fanatical religious factions be heard?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Lion of Babylon, go HERE.
Born and raised in North Carolina, Davis left for Europe at age twenty. There he first completed graduate studies in economics and finance, then began a business career that took him to over forty countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Davis came to faith at age 28, while living in Germany and running an international business advisory group. He started writing two weeks later. Since that moment, writing has remained both a passion and a calling.

Davis wrote for nine years and completed seven books before his first was accepted for publication. During that time, he continued to work full-time in his business career, travelling to two and sometimes three countries every week. His first published book, The Presence, was released in 1990 and became a national bestseller.

Honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, his bestsellers include The Great Divide, Winner Take All, The Meeting Place, The Warning, The Book of Hours, and The Quilt.

A sought-after speaker in the art of writing, Davis serves as Writer In Residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University.   

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Birthday, Grandpa

Here's a guest post from my 10 1/2 year old in honor of her Grandpa, who shares a birthday with the country. As my Grandma always said, he came in with a bang...

You can almost see my dad in this photo. I've got to get his service photo scanned because he was and is one good looking dude. My dad served in two wars, flying Hueys in Vietnam and Desert Storm. I wasn't around yet during his Vietnam tour, but vividly remember his stint in Desert Storm. I guess you could say I'm amazingly proud of him!

Now on to my daughter's tribute to him (I'm equally proud of her!)

Independence Day

On the Fourth of July
A special day
for the good ole U.S. of A.
I watch red, white, and blue
Fly through the sky
and think of you.
You were born on this day
and I have the chance to say
Thank you and Happy Birthday, too
You served in the Army to keep us free
And for that I say thank you!

Love, Abigail

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Joshua Thoughts: Take 1

I'm starting a study I've prayed about for awhile. I keep coming back to a need to understand Joshua and what made him so different from the rest of Israel. I'll probably study Caleb, too, for the same reason.

How could 12 men with the same experiences have such vastly different responses?

I think about the people of Israel. Didn't they all experience the miracles of God? Didn't the all see the Nile turn to blood? Didn't they see the frogs everywhere? Didn't they all experience God's grace as the angel of death passed over their houses as it flew through Egypt killing the firstborn in every household not protected by the blood?

Yet, they chose not to believe God could do the next thing for them.

It's like in an instant the ways --very dramatic-- ways God had moved on their behalf evaporated. That's the past. There's no guarantee He'll move for us again.

God, open my eyes to areas in my life where I show the same lack of belief and faith!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Review: Martha: a novel

My Thoughts
I have a love-hate relationship with Biblical fiction. I'm attracted to it for the way it can help me see Bible stories through a new lens. At the same time, I'm always cautious because I'm concerned about the author's twists on Scriptures. Yet when the books are about people I've studied on my own, novels can help me see the story in a new light. This novel on Martha is one such book. The author does a great job of painting the scenes in living color. There's much the Scripture doesn't say and much that the author has to expand on, but she does so with care. I was transported back to the ancient times and swept into what might have been.

More about the book
When her mother dies leaving young Martha in charge of the household, her family is dependant upon her to oversee the home. Yet like other girls in her village, Martha longs to be married and begin her own family. Considered a fine cook and weaver, Martha is quick to help others within her community. She experiences the hope of love and love lost, trials, friendship, the death of her father, the overwhelming duty to her family, the discovery of the Messiah, the miracles witnessed at the Temple, and the hospitality she shows to her Lord with dignity and grace. However, when Lazarus becomes ill and Jesus is too late – Martha questions both her faith and the Lord. How could she know that one of the Lord’s greatest miracles was only moments away? Through the life of Martha, Taylor shows readers a new perspective and appreciation for this special woman of the New Testament. 
Diana Wallis Taylor enjoys speaking to women’s groups and teaching writing and poetry workshops.  She is the author of Journey to the Well, has published many articles, and contributed stories to several books. Taylor lives in California. Find out more at

Available June 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”


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