I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Book In A Week

600x750mm sign intended to match the specifica...Image via Wikipedia This week I'm trying something I've secretly longed to do for ages: write a book FAST.

Book in a Week, or BIAW, is just one of many names and methods for a popular idea -- meeting a predetermined word count through a scheduled burst of writing, generally with the support of other writers who are busy doing the same thing. The writing time is intense but doesn't usually last more than a week or two, allowing a writer to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.

And yeah, some writers can actually pull off composing an entire 80,000 word book in one week.

I'm not one of them, by the way. I'm the tortoise of the novelist menagerie. And I know a lot of cheetahs.

To accomplish writing a book in a week -- or even meeting a lesser goal -- preparation is key. Many writers (I've read) complete all of their research and outlines before their BIAW challenge. They shop for groceries, freeze prepared meals, and line up others to help with their children. Then they sit down and type like crazy, oftentimes in "draft" mode, which means they don't go back and edit, and if they come to a question or difficult spot, they make a notation and keep moving in the manuscript.

Anyone can accomplish a BIAW Challenge by themselves, but sometimes it can be helpful to join an established group for accountability purposes. When one of the writing groups I belong to, HisWriters, announced they'd sponsor a BIAW challenge over the next two weeks, I thought it might be just the kick I need to get moving with my historical WIP. As I said, I'm a slow writer anyway, so I need to just get busy and finish the draft already.

I created a goal based on word counts achieved during previous blocks of intense writing; I also looked at my calendar and factored in the amount of time I'll have alone (alas, I have no childcare lined up for this writing spree). Therefore, my goal isn't very large: 1500 words per day. No, it isn't much. I won't get a novel written this way, but reporting my accomplished words per day to the BIAW participants in HisWriters will offer me the motivation to at least meet this goal. If I surpass my goal, wonderful. If not, I'll receive encouragement from the women in HisWriters to do better the next day.

So if you don't see much of me over the next two weeks, you know what I'm up to. I'll be in another place and time, up to my neck in bustles and buggies and mustachioed swindlers, at least in my imagination. And I'm also guessing that in real life, my fingers will be worn out from typing, but the sense of accomplishment should be enough to soothe the ache.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book Recommendation -- The Healer’s Apprentice

It’s my absolute pleasure to recommend The Healer’s Apprentice, the debut novel by inspirational author Melanie Dickerson. Loosely based on the story of Sleeping Beauty, The Healer’s Apprentice is a retelling of a familiar fairy tale with an inspirational twist.

In this medieval-set story, Rose , a woodcutter’s daughter, serves as the apprentice to Frau Geruscha, healer at Hagenheim Castle. Although Rose gets queasy at the sight of blood, her quick thinking and faith help her tend to the wounded son of the duke, Wilhelm, Lord Hamlin. Their attraction is instantaneous, but the obstacles between them are insurmountable. Rose isn’t his social equal. Nor is Wilhelm free. He’s been betrothed since childhood to the mysterious Lady Salomea, a young woman hidden since infancy to protect her from a sorcerer’s curse. Yet circumstances continue to bind Rose and Wilhelm’s hearts together, and both of them must struggle with God and their wills to fulfill their separate destinies.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and took it with me everywhere. The pace is quick, the story sound. Dickerson’s writing is graceful, and her knowledge of the medieval period flows through the story in ways that both enhance the setting and further the plot.

The characters are equally well-drawn. Rose is the sort of person anyone would want for a friend: she’s loyal, intelligent, and loving. In the face of adversity (hers or others’), she strives to make things right. Her relationships with others, from Wilhelm to her indifferent parents to her friend, Hildy, reveal her to be a heroine worth rooting for. Wilhelm likewise makes an admirable hero. He’s handsome and strong, of course, but his struggles between his desires and his duty make him a man with a lot to lose, and it’s easy to see why Rose loves him. Both characters grow throughout the story, as does their faith in God as they work through themes of desire, submitting to God’s will, and even spiritual warfare.

Although The Healer’s Apprentice is a Young Adult novel (YA), there’s plenty of heart, action, and passion in this book and should satisfy any fan of historical fiction or reader of sweet or inspirational romance.

You can find The Healer’s Apprentice online or at your favorite retail establishment. To visit Melanie’s blog, click here.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received this book compliments of Zondervan, the publisher, although no review was expected in exchange.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not Going to ACFW This Year?

Sequins, Stars and HeartsImage by Jo and Paul's pics via Flickr If you’re reading this, chances are that (like me) you’re not attending this year’s conference for American Christian Fiction Writers. It starts tomorrow, and today a lot of folks are en route to Indianapolis for the big event.

And what an event. There are workshops on every aspect of publishing, plus appointments with editors and agents, book signings, and worship. There will also be chances for friendships to form and solidify, through stolen moments over coffee as well as scheduled meals for particular subchapters and groups. I confess an eagerness for these opportunities someday, to meet so many of my writing friends face to face and thank them for the encouragement and fellowship they’ve offered me through my writing journey.

Then the weekend comes to a head at the awards banquet Sunday night.

And yeah, instead of wearing sequins and eating dessert Sunday night when my picture comes up on the screen alongside the other Historical Romance Genesis finalists, I’ll be wearing yoga pants and indelicately scarfing down a Rubio’s fish taco at home.

Fortunately, ACFW is offering a live blog stream of the event. If you’re interested in the next best thing to being there, follow this link:


You can provide your email address at the prompt so a reminder will be sent to you. Then, like me, you can sit down at your computer at 7:30 pm EDT, follow along, and cheer for your friends. I’m so thankful for those who are putting the live blog together. Thanks, folks!

After the conference, CDs will be available for specific workshops. These can be a great way to glean bits of knowledge shared by the speakers. Check out http://acfw.com for more details next week.

Until then, I’ll be rooting for all the nominees Sunday night and waiting to see everyone’s pictures!

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Outlive Your Life: A Book Recommendation

Best-selling author Max Lucado has spent twenty-five years assuring us of God’s love, care, and commitment to us; now he assures us that God can use us to stand against poverty, complacency, and injustice. His new release, Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference, calls Christians to change the world, regardless of their age, strength, or finances.

And the world is in need of change. Lucado’s statistics are staggering. Every five minutes, 90 children die of preventable illnesses. Two million children are trafficked annually in the commercial sex trade. One billion people are hungry. And a tiny 2% of the world’s grain harvest would be enough to feed them.

Of course, the solutions aren’t simple, and Lucado acknowledges that. He knows one person can’t end world hunger or immunize the planet. But He also acknowledges that we are among “the wealthiest generation of Christians ever,” and God wants each of us to do something about it.

God’s given Lucado a gift for storytelling and expressing Biblical truths in clean, catchy ways (I loved it when, describing first-century folks’ reactions to the Resurrection: “The word was out that the Word was out.”). Lucado’s reminder that God changed the world through the disciples, a rag-tag bunch who, somewhat like us, were regular folks lacking fortune and fame but who’d encountered the Living God, was encouraging to me.

But I found inspiration in many of Lucado’s modern-day examples, too. In the early chapters alone, one man’s gift of fifty dollars freed an entire family from poverty in Brazil; two ladies’ efforts rescued over 800 girls from sexual slavery; and one elderly gal’s sewing blessed cancer patients. None of these folks were wealthy or powerful, but they obeyed God’s call to consider “the least of these” and went to work. And He blessed their efforts.

This message is so important to Lucado that he’s written several versions of the book, aiming his message at teens and kids, too. In addition, one hundred percent of Lucado’s royalties are being donated to World Vision and other faith-based compassion ministries whose goal is to feed, clothe and educate the world’s neediest children.

This book may be purchased wherever books are sold. To follow the use of the royalties, go to www.MaxLucado.com.

I was provided a copy of this book by Thomas Nelson for the purposes of review.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Giveaway at the Inkwell and In All The World

Brownie Scouts bookImage by litlnemo via Flickr Today ends our celebration of the one year Blog-O-Versary over on the Inkwell! Pop over today (click here) for a chance to win a 4-pack of Gaila Graphics' gorgeous notecards -- details follow my post on how I became the most clueless Brownie Scout ever!

And if you hurry, you can still enter one or two of the week's earlier drawings. Just scroll down to read the earlier posts.


Speaking of give-aways, I'm reading Max Lucado's newest release, Outlive Your Life. I'll write a recommendation which will appear here on September 10, but one cool thing I'd like to share about this book is that 100% of the author's royalties will benefit faith-based compassion ministries like World Vision.

I'm a huge fan of ministries like World Vision and Compassion International. They offer wonderful, practical ways for families to reach out to children who live in some of the world's poorest countries. And for the cost of one dinner out at Applebee's a month, you can educate, feed, clothe, and offer medical treatment to one of God's children.

When I told my husband about Lucado's donation, he wondered aloud (without sarcasm) what it would be like to be so blessed that you could give away millions of dollars. Which got us thinking, where would our money go, if we had that much to donate?

What about you? If you could give away millions of dollars, where would you send it?
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Thursday, September 2, 2010

September Reads

American Christian Fiction Writers just announced its members' September releases. And as it's that time of year again (back-to-school, still scorching heat, but yeah, it's September), there are plenty of Christmas-themed stories in the bunch, along with adventure, suspense, and romance titles.

So take a peek and see if anything strikes your fancy!

1. Across the Cotton Fields; Mississippi Brides, book 1 by Diane T. Ashley and Aaron McCarver-- Romance from Barbour. Alexandra Lewis must find a husband before a family scandal follows her to Mississippi, but where does God fit into her plans?

2. A Door County Christmas; The Heart's Harbor by Cynthia Ruchti, Ride With Me Into Christmas by Rachael Phillips, My Heart Still Beats by Eileen Key, and Christmas Crazy by Becky Melby, A collection of four Christmas-themed romance novellas from Barbour. A Door County innkeeper guarantees four single women that her Christmas cactus gifts?and love?will bloom by Christmas. As December nears, will barren plants and romances blossom into holiday joy?

3. A Hope Undaunted; Winds of Change series, book 1 by Julie Lessman -- An Romance from Revell. While on a summer law internship, a sassy and modern woman of the Roaring 20s butts heads with her lawyer boss, a stubborn pest from her past.

4. A Memory Between Us; Wings of Glory, Book 2 by Sarah Sundin -- An historical from Revell. During World War II, B-17 pilot Maj. Jack Novak has never failed to meet a challenge - until he meets Lt. Ruth Doherty, a striking nurse with a shameful secret.

5. A Prairie Christmas Collection by Deborah Raney, Tracie Peterson, Tracey V. Bateman, and six others -- A collection of nine Christmas-themed romance novellas from Barbour. An instant holiday treasure, this fiction collection is penned by nine multi-published authors. Each novella promises a sweet Christian romance on the historical American Great Plains.

6. A Riverwalk Christmas by Elizabeth Goddard, Martha Rogers, Lynette Sowell and Kathleen Y'Barbo-- A collection of Christmas-themed romance novellas from Barbour. Four young women find love in the most unexpected places at Christmas.

7. A Very Private Grave; #1 The Monastery Murders by Donna Fletcher Crow -- A Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from Kregel. A new policeman must protect a young social worker from big-city gangs making their evil way down south. Felicity thinks she knows everything, until a brutal murder teaches her she doesn't know anything.

8. A Woodland Christmas by Janelle Mowery, Tamela Hancock Murray, Darlene Franklin and Ramona Cecil-- A collection of Christmas-themed romance novellas from Barbour. Experience a nostalgic Christmas in the Piney Woods of East Texas where a traveling wood-carver dispenses wisdom that brings four couples to realize the gift of love.

9. Alpha Redemption by P.A. Baines -- A Science Fiction/Fantasy/Futuristic from Splashdown Books. In man's pursuit of knowledge, artificial intelligence was created. In the pursuit of love, artificial intelligence found God.

10. Baby Makes A Match; Love Inspired/Chatam House Series by Arlene James -- A Romance from Steeple Hill. A rodeo cowboy rescues a stranded pregnant girl and with the help of three matchmaking aunties?.well what else do you need?

11. Christmas Mail Order Brides by Vickie McDonough, Susan Page Davis, Therese Stenzel and Carrie Turansky-- A collection of Christmas-themed romance novellas from Barbour. Ride the transcontinental railroad as marriage arrives by mail-order-and just in time for Christmas.

12. Finding Becky; Book 3 Winds Across the Prairie by Martha Rogers -- An Historical from Realms/Strang. Rebecca comes home with a new attitude, but Rob wants to find the Becky he's loved since their youth.

13. Formula for Danger by Camy Tang -- A Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from Love Inspired Suspense. Dermatologist researcher Rachel Grant is pursued by an enemy trying to take her latest research and her life.

14. Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer -- A Romance from Bethany House. When a recovering romantic goes to work for a handsome ranch owner, her heart isn't the only thing in danger.

15. High-Stakes Inheritance by Susan Sleeman -- A Romance from Steeple Hill. Claiming an inheritance turns deadly when Mia Blackburn returns to her hometown.

16. In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel Sawyer -- An Historical from Bethany House. Claiming an inheritance turns deadly when Mia Blackburn returns to her hometown.Three best friends, three cherished dreams, three searching hearts...

17. Judgement Day by Wanda Dyson -- A Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from Random House/Waterbrook. One reporter's love of sensationalism leads to a horrifying story and someone willing to kill her to keep her quiet.

18. Lily and the Lawman; Idaho Brides, Book Two by Erica Vetsch -- An Historical from Barbour. A wary woman has no choice but to join forces with a local lawman to rescue her kidnapped niece.

19. Love Finds You Under the Mistletoe by Anita Higman and Irene Brand-- A Romance from Summerside Press. Two heartwarming stories of Christmas past and present.

20. Lydia's Charm by Wanda Brunstetter -- A Romance from Barbour. Will the anonymous gifts left for Lydia bring her hope for a new life, and when tragedy befalls her yet again, will the mysterious gift giver be there to support her?

21. Making Waves; CHAIM series, Book Four by Lorna Seilstad -- An Historical from Revell. After Mr. Boring presses for an engagement, a witting debutante meets an intriguing sailing instructor who is everything her hum drum suitor is not.

22. McKenzie; Montana Skies Series by Penny Zeller -- An Historical from Whitaker House. She wanted to change him and mold him into the man she was supposed to marry. Instead, she was the one whose heart was changed.

23. Medical Error; Prescription For Trouble (book two) by Richard L. Mabry, M.D. -- A Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from Abingdon. Identity theft isn't normally fatal, but this time it was.

24. More Than Words; Daughters of Amana #2 by Judith Miller -- An Historical from Bethany House. Will Gretchen Kohler's one impulsive decision cause tragic consequences for the entire Amana Community and cost her everything, even the love of her life?

25. Second Chance Brides; Texas Boardinghouse Brides #2 by Vickie McDonough -- An Historical from Barbour. When the man they came to town to marry weds someone else, two mail order brides must find a way to survive in Texas--or find another man to marry.

26. Secret of the Shroud by Pamela Billings Ewen -- A Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from B&H Publishers. A powerful Bishop reaches for revenge when he's suddenly confronted with the secret of the Shroud and a choice that can destroy him.

27. Tender Vow by Sharlene MacLaren -- A Romance from Whitaker House. When John Evans is killed in a skiing accident, his brother, Jake, reaches out to his widowed sister-in-law, but Rachel will have nothing to do with his charity, particularly since they have a "history" she'd rather forget--but God has other plans.

28. The Columns of Cottonwood; The Alabama River Heritage Series by Sandra Robbins -- A Romance from Barbour. When a handsome stranger purchases a woman's plantation for back taxes, she vows to recover her land, but they discover God has a greater solution--a compromise to benefit both.

29. The Doctor's Blessing; #2 in The Brides of Amish Country by Patricia Davids -- A Romance from Steeple Hill. A nurse-midwife to the Amish and the new doctor clash over her home deliveries.

30. The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson -- A Romance from Zondervan. The Sleeping Beauty fairy tale comes to life when Rose, the apprentice to the town healer, falls in love with Lord Hamlin, the betrothed son of a duke.

31. The Newcomer by Laurie Alice Eakes -- An Historical from Barbour. Marigold sacrifices things precious to her, for the sake of her young charges and isn't willing to let their uncle take over when danger follows in his wake.

32. The Perfect Blend; The Tea Shop Series by Trish Perry -- A Romance from Harvest House. A jilted bride encounters chaotic jobs, overbearing society matrons, and charming suitors in her quest for love, independence, and the occasional glimpse of God's will.

33. The Wolf of Tebron by C. S. Lakin -- An Science Fiction/Fantasy/Futuristic from AMG/Living Ink. A young blacksmith goes in search of his missing wife, journeying to the four ends of the world and solving riddles with a faithful wolf at his side.

34. Where Hearts Are Free; Darkness to Light Series, Book #3 by Golden Keyes Parsons -- An Historical from Thomas Nelson. In the freedom and promise of the New World, Bridget Barrington and Philippe Clavell fall in love, but nothing about their love seems possible, apart from God's intervention.

Whew! There's something in that list for everyone! See anything you like?