Saturday, October 31, 2009

Falling Back

I am currently living my favorite hour of the year. Sure, anybody can have a favorite season, or a favorite holiday, but I can narrow my favorites to a single sixty-minute unit.

Falling Back

I feel sorry for those poor Arizonians who don't get to experience the twice-a-year time shift. Sure, there's a little bit of excitement that first evening after Springing forward when it's, like, 9 o'clock and still bright as noon, but there's nothing like this hour right now. 10 p.m. on clock change night, realizing that, in a sense, it's really only 9, and you're going to get an extra hour's sleep.

A brand-new, un-wasteable, un-deserved hour. A gift, really. The gift of time.

Think about it--how often during our week do we wake up wishing we'd had an extra hour's sleep. Or need a little more time to finish a project. Or wished we had more minutes to spend in meaningful conversation. And tonight, we get that.

Technically, I suppose, we get that hour tomorrow. The purists among us would say so. But I'm no purist. And I'm impatient. I'm snagging my extra hour the minute I close my eyes, and tomorrow when I open them, I'll be so rested, so grateful, so utterly giddy with joy--like I've gotten away with something wonderful.

Then tomorrow night, darkness will fall earlier than it has in months. And the days will feel so short, and the evenings so long--all the more reasonto curl up a little tighter and live a little closer to home.

Ah, the grace of time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

An Unexpected Sabbatical

I finally got the chance to see Julie & Julia (ok...weeks ago) and while, yes, it was great to see all the impressive cooking--all those rich, complicated, detailed delicacies on the screen, I was impressed with another aspect of the movie altogether. Some people say they left the theater incredibly inspired to cook, I was much more fascinated with "Julie's" capacity to blog. Every day. Just amazing to me.

The thing is, I walk around all day with all kinds of stuff rolling around in my brain, thinking--Oh, I need to blog that--then somehow the day goes on without me. And lately, during those last few weeks of dog-hot summer, and the reinstated routine of September, I just got out of my groove. So, for those of you lovely enough to follow me, I apologize for the lack of, well, anything to follow. But the Lord just had me in a more introspective mode, re-focusing on my direction on His path. It wasn't a planned just happened. He and I have had some sweet times together, and now He's pushing me back out.

So, look for more commentaries and, TV and movie reviews. And, in general, a little more of me. I've missed you!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lord, take my children by the hand...

Ah…..7:15 am, and the whole house is quiet. My boys—all three—off to school. Now, to tell the truth, the house has been quiet at 7:15 am all summer long, but that was when they were all snoozing away until the digital clock read double-digits. But this morning, they were all up before me, showered, dressed, gelled, fed and brushed, only to sit nervously on the edge of the couch waiting to pick up their back-packs and go. And so, in the quiet of my house, I scrambled an egg, sipped a cup of tea, and prayed that this day—this year—would be one of wonder and joy. Kids deserve that, you know?
So, in-between studies right now, I sat down with my Bible and did the “flip.” You know, where you just let the pages fall open…and for a reason I didn’t understand at first, the Lord led me to Daniel. First chapter. Daniel? Really? So I read about the selecetion of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, plucked from their homes and brought in for special training in the king’s service. Immediately they were re-named (Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego).
By the end of the chapter, I knew why God brought me to this book.
See, my older sons are starting high school today, and I have enough experience teaching it to know that those four years change a kid. Of course there are the natural, physical changes that come with the transition to being a young adult, but that’s nothing compared to the changes in their hearts. So many more temptations, such scarier options—all of it seeming so wonderful and glamorous and powerful and promising.

Just like special training for the king.

But Daniel, and his buddies, all refused to eat the rich diet of the king. They held to their values—the ones they came in with—and were deemed stronger, better, healthier at the end. Now, in this first chapter the trial lasted just ten days, but I looked beyond that. Think about it, nobody’s ever read the book of Belteshazzar, have they? No, we read the book of Daniel. Through it all, at the end of it all, Daniel remains Daniel.

So I change my prayer a little. Yes, I want the boys to have a wonderful, fun, exciting, enlightening, fabulous year at school. But more than that, I want them to remain true to who they are. I want them to remember what they’ve been taught, who they love and Who loves them. Christian kids in public schools aren’t just entering a spiritual battle, they’re entering into training for service to a pagan king. May they, like Daniel, refuse to be defiled.

(P.S. – taking a break from book give-aways for a while…winner of By Reason of Insanity is Kelly. Congrats!)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ticket Stub: Time Traveler's Wife

I have been looking forward to seeing this movie since the first little Hollywood blip slipped about it. So, in a rare display of eagerness, I was at the Friday afternoon matinee--along with about 20 other women. Ticket price: 5.25--roughly what I paid for the Starbucks balanced in my carefully-carried over-sized purse. (don't judge me)

Now, reviews have not been kind to the movie, and I can understand why. If you've read the book (which you should!), you'll quickly recognize this film as a pale shadow of a great story. Serioulsy, I spent well over 100 beautifully crafted pages working to wrap my brain around Henry's traveling. The movie blurts it out within the first 15 minutes: "I travel through time! I'm from the future!" All of a sudden, it's like George Lucas is writing the screen play. And that ain't good. There were just so many changes--some I can forgive, some I can't. Some necessary, most not. Most seem to be motivated by the need to give the film a bladder-friendly running time. But, come on. If we can get through nearly three hours of Benjamin Button, certainly Time Traveler's Wife deserved another 45 minutes or so.

But enough with the griping--here's the positive side. One, it was a lovely excuse to spend an afternoon with a dear friend--a fellow book reader who was quicker to point out the inconsistencies than I was. And if you haven't read the book, it's still a harmless bit of romantic escape. Believe me, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon than watching Eric Bana. More than that, though, there's one aspect of the story that I absolutely embrace: the life-long love between Claire and Henry.

See, Claire has loved Henry since she was a little girl--when he travels back from the future to see her (just go with it...). It makes me think about the fact that God has a mate chosen for each of us--how out there somewhere is a young woman, or even a little girl, who is destined to be the wife of one of my sons. Our lives are crafted beyond our knowledge, our days planned out before our conception. I think about my hubby, too, how very much I love him--how wrapped up I am in his life and he in mine. When I think about who I was growing up, I think I've always loved him, because he is everything that I adore--funny, sweet, honorable, a fan of John Hughes movies. Goodness, wouldn't my life have been simpler if I had simply patiently waited to turn 22 and meet him?

So, if there's a lesson from the movie (NOT the book), it might be this. Take your daughters. Let them know that God has a plan for their lives, and it's a plan worth waiting for. Take your sons (tell them you're gong to GI Joe and distract them with popcorn). Let them know that those girls they see in school are--deep down--little girls waiting for the man they love. There are worse movies. There are worse messages.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My Reason for Insanity

So, it seems this week I've been answering almost all of my emails with an apology for the delay in response. See, for the past two weeks I've been taking a course in writing instruction, and while it is engaging, enriching, fascinating and fulfilling, it's also exhausting, draining, mind-consuming and depleting. It's also, however, finished, and this evening I embrace the first evening in a long time not dominated by homework.

I'm late announcing the winner of my heart remembers, and it's Kimberly! Congrats and I'll get that to you soon.

This week's give-away is as different from a sweet historical family saga as can be. The book is By Reason of Insanity by Randy Singer, and it's a tight, tense courtroom drama. Here's the blurb:

How did crime reporter Catherine “Cat” O’Rourke wind up in prison? It starts with “visions” involving victims of a high-profile kidnapping, twin children adopted by the family of a well-connected defense attorney. In her first vision, Cat sees the children being executed. Nightmares? Maybe, but why do they occur when Cat is awake? She seems to know so much information about the missing children (and other grisly crimes) that she becomes the key suspect. Could Cat possibly have an alter ego committing these heinous acts? Enter defense attorney Quinn Newberg, who recently invoked the insanity defense to get his own sister acquitted for murder. Quinn decides this will be Cat’s defense as well, even though the evidence suggests otherwise. At the center of the heart-pounding action are the moral dilemmas that have become Singer’s stock-in-trade. In addition to scrutinizing the insanity defense from an ethical point of view, Singer offers similar appraisals of the death penalty and vigilante justice.

And, my take: This is the first Randy Singer book I've ever read, and it definately won't be the last. Now, I'd never judge a book by my own ablility to figure out a story, because I can never figure out the whodidit in a whodunnit. This book gets high marks from me because I actually cared to know--enough to stay up far past my reading time. The story was complex without being confusing, exciting without being manic, insightful without being intrusive. Great writing, great story, great message.

So, playing off the title for a minute...for the past few weeks, my reason for insanity has been an insane, hectic, crazy schedule. Class all day, obligations all evening, editing all night. How about you? been feeling a little insane lately? What's your reason?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Happy Birthday Book

First of all--Happy Birthday to Me! (pic is my birthday cake from last year--decorated by my sons...notice "MOM" spelled out in Twizzlers...) I've never been a big birthday celebrator--not much of a party girl--but I thank the Lord for the blessings He has given me this past year, all the wonderful opportunities to connect with readers and friends and family. So, thank you, all of you Crossroads followers and readers for being numbered among my blessings! In light of that, I have an AWESOME book-give-away specially picked for my birthday week drawing.

(Oh, and Roxanne--you are the lucky winner of the romance Return to Love! Contact me and I'll get that to you...)

OK, on to this week's book: My Heart Remembers by the lovely Kim Vogel Sawyer. Now, I have to tell you, I personally gave this book the highest honor possible. No, not a medal or a trophy--better than that! Really. I...loaned my copy of this my mother. Now, that might not mean a lot to you, but mom is a rather picky reader, and woe unto me if I ever recommend a book that she ends up not liking. So, I only go out on a limb and actually give her very special books.
That said, I realized Ididn't have a copy to give away. So, I emailed the generous author and requested a copy to give to the lucky person whose name will be drawn at my Writers Group Meeting next Monday. Well, not only did she send me a's a hard-cover copy. That is truly a first for this blog. How exciting is that!

Here's the blurb:
Orphaned in a tenement fire, three Irish immigrant children, hoping to be adopted, are sent to Missouri aboard an orphan train. Despite eight-year-old Maelle's desperate attempts to keep her siblings together, each child is taken by a different family. Maelle vows that she will never stop searching for her siblings and that they will be together one day. Sixteen years later, Maelle is still searching. So are her brother and sister. United by blood, divided by time, will they ever be reunited?

And my take:
Ummm....I loved it. 'Nuff said. Seriously, there are moments in this book when you'll be just breathless.

My Heart Remembers is all set to be my birthday gift to one of you. So, tell me, what's a favorite birthday gift that your heart remembers?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Most Trusted Dinner Guest in Our Home

Flipping through what passes for TV journalism today makes me long for those simpler times when our family gathered to watch Walter Cronkite every night. And, I mean every night. If mom's dinner was ready to hit the table at 5:30, we ate silently with that familiar soft baritone in the background. No hitting "pause" on the DVR, no catching the later re-broadcast on another cable network. And absolutely no thought of not watching. Today, we have the screaming vitriol of Bill O'Reily, the smug indignation of Keith Olbermann, the vapid non-presence of Katie Couric. Once, a few months ago, I got all nostalgic and decided I wanted our family to watch the evening news together like we did when I was a kid. Just 30 minutes of our time, and enough of a snippet of everything to feel informed. I went with Brian Williams on NBC because I think he's rather delightful. Long story short, my kids stretched and sighed and yawned and begged for dinner--even though we were having broccoli. Some things go out of style for a reason, and the ratings for network news evening broadcasts show them to be as popular as courdory shorts.

But I think that's because we have so much choice--so many distractions. A little something for everybody means that nobody rallies around anything. Cronkite was the voice for a nation in need of stability and comfort following the assassination of President Kennedy and the devastating mire of Vietnam.

He is, of course, remembered for his signature sign-off phrase: "And that's the way it is..." Like, you know what, America? This is what's happening, and there's not much we can do about it, and there's no reason for me to rant and blather on, so take it and go. I have to say, that's an attitude I'd love to see spilled all over the shiny sets of other "news" programs. It reminds me of one of my favorite "edgy" Bible verses:

The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. [Psalm 135:6]

Because sometimes, when we get caught up in the why, why, why, why of the world, all you can do is step back and realize the sovereignty of God. Sometimes, that's the way it is.

...The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. [Psalm 93:1]

Some people might see this as fatalistic, but I choose to see it as faithalistic. How comforting it is to know that the world, as terrifying and terrible as it can be at times, is in the hands of a loving, just, righteous and sovereign God--one who loves me unconditionally and wishes only the best of blessings in my life.

That's the way He is.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Chill Out and Return to Love

Eileen will be cooling off with Colleen Coble's Cry in the Night...but this week's give-away is just as cool. In fact, it's a romantic summer treat from brand-new author Betsy St. Amant.

Return to Love by Betsy St. Amant is a delightful read featuring two of my favorite creations: Penguins, and hunky musicians. Ah--nice. There's also a nice shot of Christmas to give an escape from the summer heat, and a little bit of romance to heat it right back up again.

Here's the blurb:

"I'm Not The Man I Used To Be!"
If only Gracie Broussard could believe that! Years ago, Carter Alexander broke her heart and betrayed her. Now, just when she needs him most, he's back—asking her to believe he's changed. But this time, it's not just Gracie who'll be hurt if he disappears. A penguin keeper, Gracie urgently needs to find a new home for her beloved birds. Carter is the only one who can help. He promises that she can trust him, that he's not the rebel he once was. And that he needs Gracie as much as her birds do.

I had the chance to meet Betsy a few months ago at a writers conference in Shreveport, LA, and what a treat she is! No offense to my fellow authors (myself included), but we are not by-and-large a fresh-faced lot. I mean, take a bunch of Christian novelists to a bar, and not many of us would get carded. (We might get reprimanded by our pastors, but that's a different story...) So how exciting it is to see not only a new author on the scene, but one coming with such a fresh voice, and to see that the values and faith that permeate Christian literature is not just something we'd like to see our young women embrace, but something embraced by young Christian women.

So, I cornered Betsy to ask her a few questions about her book and this journey she's on:

Let’s face it—you are much younger than most of us in this writing business. So, what do you think your youth brings to the field of writing Inspirational romance?

I hope readers will tell me!! haha. Seriously though, I hope to bring a new viewpoint on romance, romance that is young and fresh. I married early, had kids early, (married at 20, first baby at 24) which is so rare for my generation. I hope to draw in a new batch of romance readers by relating to that generation.

You have such a lovely family! How are you balancing writing, hubby and baby?

Thank you! I'm quite fond of them too. The balance is sometimes tricky but I've learned to always be thinking on my WIP so that when it comes times to actually grab a spare 10 minutes and write, I'm ready to go. It takes away from the keyboarding-twiddling-thumbs stage every writer goes through when first sitting down to work. Family will always come first and thankfully my Hubby is super supportive. He's waiting for me to make the big time so he can quit work and "drive my tour bus". Gotta love hubbies with big dreams =)

Two words: Why penguins?

Two more words: Why not? =P I collected penguins growing up, they're just a fun animal and have always been my favorite! I have no idea what started that trend but it lingers regardless! So it seemed only natural that Gracie, the heroine in RETURN TO LOVE, would work at the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans as the penguin keeper. The fun part was researching for this story. I spoke frequently with the current penguin keeper in New Orleans, Tom Dyer, and he gave me lots of useful info, and even let me use the current residing penguin's names in my story. =)

So, in doing your research for this book, did you spend more time hanging out with penguins, or musicians?

I wish I could have hung out with my birds, but did my research on the phone. Obviously the penguins weren't very involved. =) I did speak with an old family friend and singer/songwriter, Dallas Caine Weeks, who lent me the lyrics to one of his songs to use in the story. Its such a beautiful song, I'm working on marketing with him to sell CD singles with the story at book signings. He deserves the shout out!

Tell us a little about what’s coming out next from you. Is there going to be a follow-up to this book?

Yes, there is a sequel titled A VALENTINE'S WISH releasing February 2010. It is the story of Gracie's best friend Lori, who goes to work in an upscale chocolate boutique in the French Quarter, and begins receiving gifts from a secret admirer. Is the secret admirer the handsome Italian chef, her youth pastor best friend, or her ex-fiance back for a second chance? Find out in February! =)

So, not to penguin you to death, but like I said, they are one of my favorite creations--like something God gave us just for fun. What species to you see out there that makes you marvel at God's imagination? Leave a comment and be entered to win a signed copy of Return to Love.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

This week, my son Charlie turns 11. It's a rather anticlimactic birthday. It lacks the first double-digit excitement of turning 10, and it doesn't have the cache of 12. It's a bridge year. One more year of elementary school, one more year before church youth group. A non-age, really. Eleven. The most syllables he'll have until he turns seventeen, but that's really reaching for something positive.

I have to say, our family has never been one to do the big birthday parties. I lack the hostess gene, and beyond that, I could never get past the idea of spending hundreds of dollars to formalize the spending of other hundreds of dollars. The party is something we have just never done. Instead, the birthday person in our house gets to simply rule for the day. On his birthday, Charlie will get to decide where we go to dinner. And--wahoo!!--we'll all get to order beverages instead of our usual dining-out water. He'll spend the afternoon at the water park with his brothers at his beck and call to carry the tubes up the steps.

There's another reason why I avoid the big party beyond the financial concerns, though. The video here was taken during the July 4th celebration at my sister's house. This was to be the grand-finale fireworks explosion. The really really big one the boys had been eyeing all evening long. And if you take time to watch the clip, you'll see the result. Kind of a fizzle, you know? Something I could smile at clear up until you hear my Charlie say--in all of his tween indignation--"That cannot be it!" Sometimes the bigger the firework, the bigger the fizzle...

Now, just a few minutes ago, Charlie came stumbling out of bed and I told him "Happy Birthday." He lifted the cover and saw his kind of lop-sided chocolate cake with Ding-Dongs on top. "It's a 'Lego' brick!" he exclaimed, a new squeak to his voice--like it was the coolest thing in the world. Then I got a hug and a kiss. I think 11 wil be a great year after all!

The Grass IS Greener...(Notes from the road...)

I spent last week visiting with my sister, Roi, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. We were there for the 4th of July (an evening of swimming and fireworks and luscious bbq ribs, mmmmmm). She has a lovely home overlooking a lovely yard with velvet-green grass and a sapphire-sparkly pool. The house itself sits in a neighborhood built on the far edge of town, smack in the middle of what can only be affectionately and accurately called: desert.

One of my favorite memories is from an evening long ago, when I was on her balcony. I looked down and saw a little family of rabbits foraging for what they could find to nibble on amidst the dry sagebrush of the desert. Little did these bunnies know that, right on the other side of the fence, another family of rabbits was grazing on the soft, velvet green grass of Roi's lawn. Just think, those poor desert bunnies probably had such a negative outlook on life, cursing their environment, thinking what a rotten, dry, desolate world they were forced to live in. If only they could somehow look to the other side of the fence--what a different world they would know!

It reminds me of those people who go around in life without knowing the Lord. Think about it--how many truly jolly, content, pleasant Atheists do you know? The world is full of poeple who see only the dry shrubs of life--who nick their lips trying to seek sustenance on life's tumble weeds--all the while ignorant of the vast, lush, delicious blessings that come with a life in Christ.

Faith in Christ is the fence that separates the bunnies of the world--those who dwell, lost, in the desert; those who revel in the glory of His grace. Take time this week to lift a bunny up--show him or her the sweet green velvet that comes with grace.

(Don't forget to leave a comment to be eligible for the book drawing for Colleen Coble's Cry in the Night)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Take a Winter Break with This Week's Give-Away...

Whew! I'm a few days late posting for the give-away this week, since I've been out of town on a stay-ish-cation in my hometown of Las Cruces, NM. Great visit--lots of fun--but sketchy internet access at my parents' house. I'll have more observations from the road in the coming days. But, with no further ado...the winner of Speak Through the Wind is Edna! Congrats!

This week's book is like a literal breath of fresh air--for me, anyway, and for anyone else living through one heatwave of a summer. It's Cry in the Night by Colleen Coble. Here's the blurb:

A mysterious crying in the night leads search-and-rescue worker Bree Matthews and her dog Samson to an abandoned baby in the woods outside of Rock Harbor, Michigan. Against objections from her husband, Bree takes the baby girl in. Quickly she begins a search for the mother-presumably the woman reported missing just days earlier.
While teams scour the wintery forests, Bree ferrets out clues about the woman. Where is she and why did she leave the child behind? And how does that connect to Bree's first husband's mysterious death yars ago in the Upper Peninsula? Everything Bree thought she knew about her life is turned upside down with the sound of a Cry in the Night.

And, my take:
This was my first Colleen Coble novel--I don't naturally gravitate to suspense, save for a few writers who I know won't disappoint me. Well, Miss Colleen is soon to be added to that list, because this was a great read. Twists and turns, yes, but also a great story in a lovely seting of Rock Harbor, Michigan. Coble's writing is so crisp, I felt like I was crunching around in the snow with Bree and Samson. Great details made this a chilling read--in more than one way. One of those where you'll be up late into the summer night, or escaping the heat during those long summer afternoons.

So, Cry in the Night gave me a few hours respite from the oppressive summer heat. What's your escape plan when the temp's too hot to handle?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Desert Rain--Notes from the Road...

We're traveling in New Mexico this week, a bit of a family vacation. Thought I'd bring you all along on a few hi-lights and insights of the road.

The drive from San Antonio to Las Cruces, NM is a very familiar one to us. We make it 2-3 times a year. I have every last rest stop memorized. Besides one little mishap a few years ago when high wind resistance resulted in running out of gas (now, THERE's a story!), the drive has always been one without much drama. Basically, you hit I-10, pop in a good book on CD, and go. For this drive, we listened to Bob Newhart's I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This. Part memoir, part comedy routines--all wonderful.

So, there's this stretch of road right in the dead middle between Fort Stockton and Van Horn where, I kid you not, it is always raining. Always. Every trip. Sometimes a little rain, sometimes hail storms. But you can smell it coming on--nothing quite like the smell of rain in the desert, lovely. You see a grayish sky approaching--if you're driving it an sunset there's some purple--and that rain is every bit as much a landmark as the Tee-Pee KOA and Allison Road.

For me, this year, that rain was such a welcome sight. We've had such drought in San Antonio--nary a drop in what seems like months. But I think about the people who live there. Granted, I don't think there are many, but there are a few little bits of human occupancy off in the distance, and I wonder if the rain is as constant as I imagine it to be? Yet, what for them might be a never-ending drudgery is such a moment of refreshment for those that travel past their little spot in the world.

Think about this--we all have a little something raining around our life, and what we see from day to day might not seem all that special. But trust me. There will always be others that come traveling through, looking for refreshment. Be aware of what you have to offer. Be somebody's rain in the desert.

I'll let you all know if it's raining there on the way home...

Friday, July 3, 2009

My Sister's Birthday

Today is my sister's birthday--Happy Birthday, Barbara!!! Now, chances are she'll never read this, as she's living the country life in Wyoming, but she deserves a shout-out anyway...

She and I have an on-going joke stemming from the fact that she doesn't like to own up to her age. Like, at all. She's a few years older than I am, but every year we decide that we're drifting closer and closer. Pretty soon, we say, she'll pass me up and become the new baby of the family!

The picture here is from last Christmas, when our family went up to Wyoming to spend Christmas with her family. It was an amazing time, and this moment captures the two of us being towed up a mountain, only to tube down it at lightning (well, pretty fast) speed. Barb's in the foreground. She lives in this wintry climate, so she's wearing the cute jacket and stylish headband. I'm further back, and if you could see me, you'd see me in my dad's winter coat, an ill-fitting hat, brand-new snowboots. She's the snow bunny, I'm the slope ragamuffin. A better picture of my life with Barbara would be one of us spinning down the mountain, though. She was a teenager when I was playing with dolls. She was building her life and family while I was trudging through puberty, and now--well, life just goes by to quickly for the both of us. She spins in her circle; I spin in mine.

But, every now and then--never often enough--one of us picks up the phone and calls. We'll giggle within the first 2 seconds of the conversation, and laugh often throughout. She's always been a spark in my life--beauty to aspire to, values to emulate, and the best cook I know!

So, Happy Birthday, Barbara! Here's wishing you a Red Velvet Cake!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cover Girls

The winner of Jenny B. Jones' So Not Happening is (drumroll please...) a King's Daughter! So, please send me an email with info, and I'll get this in the mail to you!

This week's give-away is my own Speak Through the Wind--Book #2 in the Crossroads of Grace series. Now, since it's my own book, it seems a review would be in poor taste, but for those who aren't familiar with the story, here's the back-cover blurb:

When Reverend Joseph plucks a gravely wounded child from the mean streets of Manhattan’s rough Five Points District, he intends to give her a real home. And though Kassandra flourishes in the preacher’s house, learning Bible verses at his knee and going to school, as a young teenager she makes the first of many devastating decisions, running away from the only haven she’s ever known.What follows is a waking nightmare: life in a tiny room above a brothel, the loss of a child, a lover’s rejection, and finally, life as a prostitute. As circumstances lead her further and further from the reverend’s secure home, an ashamed Kassandra is certain that neither God, nor Joseph, will ever forgive her.Feeling as though she has nothing left to lose and nowhere to go, Kassandra leaves behind her hopes of redemption and heads west to California, where she is transformed into the woman known as Sadie. Unfortunately, nothing in her life is pointing to a happy ending, and Sadie is forced to grapple with the question: Once you’ve passed the point of no return, can you ever go back?

Now, while I'll somehow refrain from touting this as the greatest book ever, I will go on a limb to say that, of the three books in the Crossroads series, this one happens to be my favorite. A little deeper, a little darker than the others--different from a lot of what happens out there in the world of historical Christian fiction. I say this at the risk of a week-long empty comment box, but there you go. I have to say, too, that this book is possibly one of my favorite book covers, ever. Maybe I'm feeling a little nostalgic because this week I'm grappling with the design for my next novel, tossing ideas back and forth, trying to find just the right look that will appeal to both my fabulous audience and my own personal prejudice. I look at the cover of Speak Through the Wind and ask myself, "What is so intriguing about this cover?" and it comes to me.
It's the woman's face.
You can't see it.
As I was writing Speak Through the Wind, I wanted to bring forth an element of relatability. It's my prayer that nobody who reads this book is ever literally in the same situations that Sadie finds herself in, but there is a strong theme of accountability. How often do we find ourselves in dire straits directly because of the choices we made? Right now I'm raising my hand up high, thinking about a lifetime of some pretty stupid (and some downright reckless) decisions I've made. And, oh, how thankful I am every day for God's loving, merciful grace! I'd like to think that, having Sadie's face hidden, readers can actually connect with her on a deeper level.
But, that's just me.
So, what about you? What is it on a book cover that makes you pick it up off the shelf?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On Ed, and Farrah, and Michael...

I was just going into my sophomore year of high school when MTV first planted its flag on the green-screen moon. I remember it being a premium channel, and begging my father to pay to have it added to our cable. I even offered to take a cut in allowance--but my kind-hearted daddy would have none of that, and by the middle of my Junior year, there it was, in all its weird 24-hour glory. I remember one night my friend Nan and I stayed up all night finishing a project for our Humanities class. We took turns at the typewriter--while one of us typed, the other watched MTV. Then we went out for breakfast and straight to school. It was one of the best nights of my life. The day? Not so much. I fell asleep and drooled in Humanities, and got a low score on the paper. Go figure.
I mention this in light of the loss of these three iconic entertainers, because in some way the birth of MTV ushered in an era that makes the kind of stars they were obsolete. Think about it--as Johnny Carson's side-kick, Ed McMahon's "Heeeere's Johnny!" signaled to people everywhere that it was time to wind down the day. MTV told the world it was perfectly fine to sit up and stare at crude, colorful, creepy mini-movies all night long. Farrah came onto the scene with a distinct style--a look so unique, yet so simple, no woman could ever dream of capturing it. MTV brought us hordes of identical back-up dancers, not to mention the Madonnas and Cyndi Laupers who presented images imitated by 3rd graders right down to the Kool-Aid-colored hair and lace gloves.
And, Michael Jackson. Face it--Jackson would not have had the career he did if not for Music television. How else would he bring his distinctive dance to the world stage? How else could he capture and share his multi-dimensional talent? Last night, MTV aired back-to-back videos, and my sons laughed at the simplicit of "Rock with You." Just Michael singing in front of a huge green screen of what looked like caramel candies.
"That's it?" The mocked.
"That was the beginning," I said. Later, we sat raptured through Thriller.
That was before you could YouTube your favorite videos. I told them about sitting around all night, because the MTV VJ said the Thriller video was coming up that hour. How we'd wait and wait and wait. Then, we'd dance.
I've had a hard time explaining to my boys (age 11 and 15) just how important these three people were, because they live in a totally different world than I did. Todays "stars" are so disposable. So interchageable. Michael Jackson had a distinct sound. Today it seems like all the artists sound alike. Nobody--nobody looked like Farrah. Today, I wouldn't know Megan Fox if she was standing in line next to me at WalMart. And Ed? Ed was a dying breed long before he was a dying man. Quick! Name another TV second-bananna with class.
I don't say this because I'm old--because I'm not. And I don't shun pop culture--I thrive on it. It just seems that with the constant bombardment of images and media, nobody has to work hard to stand out anymore. Why do we know who Heidi and Spencer are? Who will know them 20 years from now? They'll be long, long forgotten while my grandkids are moonwalking.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Mental Reunion

So...lots of great comments about our high school selves--all in great enthusiasm for Jenny B. Jones' book So Not Happening. And, I have to tell you, the reason I connected so much with this book (and there's another one coming...yay!!!) is totally due to the fact that the main character, Ella, is on her high school newspaper staff. With a fantastic opportunity for investigative journalism, and a cute editor-in-chief. Well, I was on our newspaper staff, too, but that's where my connection with Ella ends. Well, that and I had no fashion sense, style-less hair, and a boring, though in-tact, family.

Of course, all of these thoughts brought me straight to memory lane, and I had to ignore every household chore waiting for me and haul out the Mayfield High School yearbooks. I looked at every picture of me, living through the school events much as I did when I was a student--somewhat removed. I looked at pictures of football games I never went to, dances I chose to stay home from, clubs that never drew me in. I remember being not solitary, exactly, but I had a small group of friends--all of us content to have each other. I read the notes scrawled within the cover pages and realized I'm really pretty much the same person now as I was then. I affect people the same way. I'm still really smart, and really funny, and really nice. Really. Some might see it as a frightening thing to remain what they've always been, but not me. I just wish I had the confidence to embrace all of that about myself back then--without the constant worry about not being in the midst of the "in" crowd.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

So Loving this Book...

Congrats to Elizabeth--winner of Riven.

This week's give-away takes us in a whole different direction. It'll make you turn back the clock as quickly as you turn back the pages--back to high school, in fact. But, Bella Kirkwood in Jenny B. Jones' So Not Happening is soooooo not what I was in high school: she's everything I wanted to be.
Here's the blurb:

New York's social darling Isabella Kirkwood just woke up in a nightmare: Oklahoma. Problem is, it's right where God wants her.
Bella Kirkwood had it all: A-list friends at her prestigious private school, Broadway in her backyard, and Daddy's MasterCard in her wallet. Then her father, a plastic surgeon to the stars, decided to trade her mother in for a newer model.
When Bella's mom falls in love with a man she met on the Internet--a factory worker with two bratty sons--Bella has to pack up and move in with her new family in Truman, Oklahoma. On a farm no less!
Forced to trade her uber-trendy NYC lifestyle for her down-home charm, Bella feels like a pair of Rock & Republic jeans in a sea of Wranglers.
At least some of the people in her new high school are pretty cool. Especially the hunky football player who invites her to lunch. And maybe even the annoying--but kinda hot--editor of the school newspaper.
But before long, Bella smells something rotten in the town of Truman, and it's not just the cow pasture. With her savvy reporter's instincts, she is determined to find the story behind all the secrets.
How can a girl go on when her charmed life is gone and God appears to be giving her the total smackdown?

I loved, loved, loved this book. Maybe that's because my favorite moments in life were spent watching Molly Ringwald movies. The book is written for an audience of teen-age girls, and if you have one of those in your life, you should enter for a chance to win, because so many of the books targeted to them these days are, frankly, awful. A few years ago I saw every other girl reading a certain book so, intrigued, I read it for myself and felt immediately icky. Jones' book is sweet and clean, but with a comic edge so sharp, she cuts the grown-up chick lit attempts to shreds. I laughed loud and often while reading, all the while appreciating the subtle, but integral, message of faith. And, even if you don't have a teenager to hand the book off to, read it for yourself. It's a sweet summer break, and an opportunity to wish you could go back to highschool--even if only to meet the adorable editor of the newspaper.

Yeah--it was the high school newspaper aspect that hooked me. I, too, was a budding teen-age journalist. But the most interesting story I ever got to cover was the introduction of the cafeteria salad bar. Nothing like the exciting adventures of Bella. sigh...
That was me. Here's what Jenny B. Jones has to say about her high school life: In high school, I was the girl who knew I had a good thing going. I wasn't in a big rush to grow up and get out of school because I LOVED high school. Junior high and middle school I wouldn't do over again for anything, but high school was a great time. I saw my friends every day, I ate questionable food without caring, and I actually liked going to class. Except science. Ew. High school was a lot of fun. I remember giggling a lot and just being carefree. I was busy all the time--games, friends, studying, friends, the occasional job, friends. I loved that the world was all ahead of me. So many possibilities. I could be anything. I was also the girl who took a huge tanker of ice tea to school every day. It went with me everywhere like a security blanket. Me and Lipton. Together forever.

So, who were you back in the day?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Third Sunday in June

I am horrible with holidays. Really. If the entire world didn't remind me to get my Christmas shopping done, I never would. I've been known to forget my own birthday, as well as having been totally taken by surprise by those of my own children. So, these media-driven, Hallmark-created fauxdays? Hopeless. Not that we don't observe Father's Day. But, trust me, it's nothing to build a 7-minute morning news segment around. Gifts are always modest--think, $20 range. We go to church, go home, nap, then hit a restaurant after the post-worship lunch crowd has thinned out. It's basically the same as Mother's day, only we go to Chuy's instead of Outback.

Actually, in recent years, Father's Day has been pretty painful. Oh, I still have my own father, but my brother passed away a few years ago, and with every commercial hawking ties and grills, I think about my neice and nephew watching that same commercial with a hole in their heart. And this year...well, this is the first Father's Day since the death of my husband's dad, so I've been kind of dreading it. Turns out, though, God (and my father-in-law) had a plan.

See--this weekend, my hubby is in Las Vegas. Yep. Vegas, with his brothers. Courtesy of their father's last wish. See, in his will, he left money specifically for his boys to have a weekend together in his beloved vacation spot. Whether or not he intended it to be over this weekend...dunno. But this was the weekend that worked for everyone, so I think it's absolutely fine. I don't need a commercially-imposed celebration of the father my husband is. He's a terrific dad every day, and we love him and honor him 365 days a year. (OK, 364--I steal the spotlight in May.)

So, on Sunday, I'll be sitting around with my boys--maybe just eating pizza--and texting their father occasionally to remind him (and his brothers)to stay out of trouble. I'll know in their bizarre, Pittman way, they're honoring their earthly father even as my boys will be thanking their Heavenly father for giving them such a great dad.

Monday, June 15, 2009

This Week's Give-Away

First of all...the winner of Rose House is......Edna!! Congrats, Edna--this is a great book.

OK, this week's book comes to us from an author to whom all Christian novelists owe their gratitude. Jerry B. Jenkins blazed a huge trail with his Left Behind series, creating a path for others to follow. His novel, Riven, is a departure from that series, and let me tell you, this is a big ol' fantastic summer-read book. At 500+ pages, get ready to plunge into a story tailor-made for the dedicated, serious reader.

Here's the blurb:

You would never expect the paths of Brady Darby and Thomas Carey to cross. The teenage Brady is an outsider from the wrong side of the tracks who’s trying to find his place in life while still somehow protecting his little brother from their negligent mother. Thomas is a preacher without a flock, as he and his devoted wife, Grace, are forced to move towns once again after allowing membership at yet another church to dwindle under their watch. At every turn, Brady’s decisions seem to backfire, even when he tries change by participating in the high school musical. At the same time, Thomas and Grace are immediately rejected by their latest congregation for refusing to give in to politics, and their only child seems to reject them and their lifestyle. Several years later, the worlds of Brady and Thomas collide at a juvenile halfway house. They act as life forces for each other even as their individual worlds sink deeper into misery. Christian fiction author Jenkins covers much ground in this weighty book, and while heroes are made out of those who come to God, Jenkins avoids preachiness and, instead, lets goodness shine.

Now, confession time: I have not personally read this book, so I can't give my own review. But, I will give you a few snippets from the Amazon reviews:

Jerry B. Jenkins calls Riven the book he has always wanted to write, unlike anything he has ever written before.

Riven is a masterful work focusing on the human condition and redemption. Jenkins contrasts one who has tried to do right throughout his life and "failed" with another who has done everything wrong and refuses to take responsibility for his actions. Isn't that a current mindset? Surely, I am not responsible for what I have done? As the two main characters collide, a chain reaction ignites and races to fulfillment, resulting in a brilliant display of the greatest price ever paid, the ultimate responsibility. Both Christian and secular readers will find more than enough to ponder.

This book is by far the greatest work of Jerry Jenkin's life. It is his epic. When a person reaches the magnitude of Jenkins he becomes free to publish the story on his heart rather than the story that might sell. Riven is such a story.

I love that last statment, about Jenkins being able to publish the story of his heart. I've said all along that Stealing Home is the story of my heart. So, tell me about a book you've read where you could sense the author's love for the story and the characters. What other books have you read that are stories of the heart?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Happy New Year

...Might seem like a strange title for a mid-June post. Allow me to explain...we just got a new calendar. Yep. Until a few days ago, hanging in our kitchen was some winter scape and a row of boxes for December, 2008. I'm not exactly sure how it happened. Maybe I got too busy in the pre-Christmas shopping to pick one up? Maybe because we were travelling over the official New Year, so I wasn't out bargain shopping. Maybe I was relying on mom to get me one--although it's been years since she's abandoned that tradition. I guess I always figured at some point I'd be at the huge calendar kiosk in the mall, picking one up for 50% off...and then I never did. And let me tell you, this family needs a calendar!

So, since I had pictures on my mind this week, I went to Wallgreens on the web, uploaded a bunch of pictures, and ordered a calendar that runs from June-May. How fun is that? And they are all family Disney pictures, since we're one year away from our BIG vacation next year. (Dear followers, you may sicken of my Disney-esque dreams throughout the year...sorry!)

The point is, I'm huge believer in beginnings. I think every day is the first day of a new year. We have so many jumping off points--First Day of Summer, First Day of a New Age (as in birthday), First Day of School--so now I have a calendar that celebrates my year--stocked with images of memories upon memories.

How about you? Do you keep a family calendar? And do you theme it to your decor? Your passions? Or whatever freebie the bank gave away?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What's Worth a Thousand Pictures...

In the corner of my living room sit 4 of those huge storage containers. What's in them? Pictures. Old photo albums, framed portraits, loose photographs. All inherited from my in-laws' home months ago when I had every intention to get them all sorted, filed, albummed and re-distrubed to hubby's brothers. I still have the intention, and now I have a deadline--next weekend. But that's not what this post is about.

I was looking through one of the albums tonight, and they were, page after page of family and friends wearing short courdory shorts and OP T-shirts. Feathered hair, tube socks, orange furniture in a room decorated with a powerful conquistadore theme. Hubby wasn't with me as I looked, so I had noone to tell me who any of these people were. I could recognize his brothers, but that's about it. The cousins are all strangers.

Then, on the next few pages came the dogs. One after another, pictures of the family pets, each carefully labelled with its name and the date of the photograph. And I thought to myself, this is crazy! Who cares about the dogs? Who are these people? But then it came clear to me...I'm sure when Jean put these pictures on the sticky pages, it never occurred to her that anybody would have any trouble identifying the people in them. They were constant familiar faces in her life. They were comfortable in her home. They were family--blood and other.

Earlier today I spent the afternoon at a friend's house, my son and some other children swam in the pool for a good part of the day. Like the dutiful mother, I snapped pic after pic. As soon as I got home, I uploaded and emailed them. And I had this vision...someday, far in the future, is my son going to be zipping through a dusty hard-drive, looking at these images, vaguely remembering the day, and wondering...who are these other kids? Now, I can easily delete these, but I'm stuck with the dilemma of hundreds of photos and nobody (not even hubby) knows who's in the picture. It's a lot easier to delete than toss...

Monday, June 8, 2009

This Week's Book...

Congratulations, Carly--you're the winner of Ten Thousand Charms. Quick side note--a few evenings ago, I had the opportunity to just sit in a Starbucks and talk writing with my lovely friend Elizabeth, and I ended up talking about this book a lot--kind of like revisiting an old friend. So, Carly, I hope you enjoy!!
This week's give-away will take you down an intriguing, intertwining path. It's Rose House by the lovely Tina Ann Forkner.

Rose House is Fornker's second novel (a follow-up to Ruby Among Us), and in it she takes us back to the beautiful Californian wine country. Although there are a few returning characters, it's not a sequel to Ruby. Rather, it is its own haunting tale of woman still in the grips of mouring unspeakable loss, and the healing that comes through the faith she discovers and the friends who embrace her at a charming, although somewhat haunting, cottage. The whole time I was reading Rose House, I had this feeling of watching an old know, the one you stumble across on a Sunday afternoon and just get sucked in. So, while it would be a great read at any point during the summer, it's a fantastic book for that warm, rainy evening, or that quiet Sunday afternoon when everybody else in the house is napping.

One important element in the story is this beautiful, mysterious painting (and its charming, mysterious creator), and Forkner does a beautiful job bringing that painting to life. I can still see it. So, to be entered in this week's give-away, tell me about your favorite painting! One of mine is The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet--three women in a nearly barren field, thier faces obscure, their backs bent. It's a depiction of dignity in poverty, and a reminder of my favorite Biblical heroine, Ruth!

So...what's your favorite painting, and why? Doesn't have to be anything famous...truth be told, my absolute favorites are anything my son Charlie creates!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Last Day of School

When I was teaching, this day had a whole different meaning...It's somehow not nearly as much fun anymore. Today, my kids were actually only in school half-day, and I was so tempted to just spend the morning lounging around, watching Regis and Kelly (with Anderson Cooper), just soak in those final hours of solitude and silence. In fact, I went so far as to get back in my jammies and crawl into bed at 8:45. Then, the oddest thing cat woke me up. Now, our cat Clancie is not an affectionate cat. She treats all of us--me, especially--with barely contained disdain. Yet, the minute I was curled up in my jammies, she was at my side, nudging me and meowing. When I "lovingly" tossed her aside, she was back again. Nudge, nudge, nudge. And the thing is, she did the EXACT same thing on Tuesday. It's like she knows it's time to get up and work out.
Does she hate me that much?
So, yay me...I got up, put on my suit, and managed to be just 3 mintues late for water aerobics (that's my Tues/Thurs workout). Thank you, Clancie. I should have had you in the car with me and my gym clothes yesterday when I was out running errands; I might have actually made it to the gym!
And while I don't see actual pounds melting off, I'm feeling so much better. Gotta really get my diet under control for the poundage. But seriously, I didn't work out at all for the entire months of April and May (in May I didn't even walk Stella!), so it's a major back-track...I'm choosing to think of it as being back ON track, and hopefully my body will show me a little grace. In the meantime, I'm a snacker by nature, so tell me, what's the ONE healthy snack you can't do without? For me, it's raw almonds!
And--YAY!!!--My excercise ball I ordered from Amazon just got here! (like, literally, while I was typing).

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday, Monday, Monday!

First of all, the winner of Stealing Home is turnermd1. So, turnermd1, please send me a private email so I can get your address!

So, look at what we have. It's Monday, June 1st. I know summer isn't "officially" here until the 21st, but how can you not think of kicking off summer on the first of June? So, it's my goal this summer to get everybody reading...something. And, don't worry, not just my books. I have a bunch of great books to give away all summer. However, I'm kicking it off with one of mine--my first book, actually, Ten Thousand Charms. It was the book that kicked off my writing career, so it seems fitting that it be the one to kick off the summer reading series. I won't be giving you a review, but really, I do rather like this one!

Personally, I have a stack of books in a basket by my bed. (don't we all?) But there are certain books that I have earmarked for summer. Frankly, there are some stories that seem less "summer" to me than others. For example, I really don't like to read historicals in the summer. Why? Don't know. Maybe the thoughts of all those petticoats when it's 100 degrees outside. No, when it's hot outside, I like a good comedy, or even a great, dark mystery. I like summer books that are huge and thick to read at home, and little, light romances to carry in my bag when I go to the waterpark.

Since I'll be showcasing so many different books this summer, take a minute and tell me what makes the perfect summer read for you! Your comment enters you in a drawing to win a copy of Ten Thousand Charms. Yeah, petticoats, I know. But you can read it under the air conditioning!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Disney on My Mind...

So, turns out the woman who was reported "kidnapped" simply grabbed a fake i.d. and ran off to the Grand Floridian Resort in Disney World. Whil part of me realizes that she must be a sad, troubled woman, part of me is thinking..."Why didn't I think of that?" My feelings of sympathy are all mixed up with a pinch of envy. Maybe it's being on the cusp of summer, knowing we can't go this year. Maybe it's the episode of Full House where the Tanners go to DisneyWorld buzzing in the background (a guilty pleasure...).

Last year, close to this time, Mikey and I took an impromptu middle-of-the-marriage honeymoon to DisneyLand (California), and next year we're planning a 20th Anniversay 10-day trip to Florida (with the kids, of course!)--so this year seems like another of those midpoints. But, it all goes to the goal. We go to Disney about every other year, and every other year I come home with picture after picture where I'm disappointed in how I look. Right now, I'm a full ten pounds heavier than I was in this Minnie portrait.'s the one-year count-down...working toward a mini-er me for next year!
So, in the meantime, it's another summer of Six Flags Fiesta Texas--look for me at the waterpark all sunscreened up with a book! But, to keep the Disney dream alive...I figure by this time next year, given my nightly 3-mile walk with Stella, I will have walked the distance to Orlando! How's that for inspiration?
And you? Any plans for this summer? What's inspiring you?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Summer Shift--G+40

First of all, Yaaaaaaayyyyy Kris!!!!! Now, that's out of my system. So, American Idol is not the only reality show I follow. I'm also a huge fan of The Biggest Loser. This year, what an inspiration to see the winner turn out to be not only a woman (3rd in a row!), but a 48-year-old woman at that. Yay Helen!!

So, every season, I watch the contestants week after week, weigh-in after weigh-in, and there's always the week where they step on the scale and the number on their scale matches the number on mine. And it makes me a little sick inside because I see it in two ways: First, they were my weight at one time and continued gaining and gaining into obesity. Second, they are at my weight now, and on their way down and down. Makes me feel like I'm just perched in the middle, able to go either way. And right now I see everything I eat as making a choice, because it's becoming more and more obvious that I can't just stay here forever.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Idol Chatter...Double Treble

You know how sometimes you're driving down the highway, and you see a wreck coming up on the side of the road, and you know you're coming up on it, and you don't want to look, but somehow you can't help yourself--even though you know it might be awful? Like, you want to turn back, but you're caught up in the traffic, and there's just no going back? That's how I feel every year when we're down to the final two contestants on Idol, and it's time to sing the Idol Anthem.
So, I went into this year with a true spirit of hope, thinking, for Pete's sake--the songwriter is one of the judges! She has a vested interest! How awful could it be? And then, no turning back. It's 7:45, and we're howling about mountains and bowndrays.
No need dwelling on the first two songs--they were perfectly awesome. I thought they were a little tough on Kris for his second number, but yadda, yadda--haven't they been all season? They're still reeling from the shock of his presence on stage tonight. I'm a little suprised Paula didn't accidentally stick with the script and call him Danny. And Adam was as consistently good as he has been all season. That's what you can say about both these guys. You can count on a great performance, originality, arrangement...
And then...Kara's song. So, I guess this one is hands-off for arrangement? Because it seemed to me they both had identical orchestration and--to Kris's detriment--an identical key. It's like it was written for Adam's acrobatic vocals. Look close, and you can actually see Kris rising to his toes trying to hit the notes. Ah, the final conspiracy of the season.
So, my final prediction? I've got to go with my human behavior instinct here and think, yeah, Adam has had momentum all season, but I can't see all those people who voted for Danny switching their votes to Adam. Therefore, I'm predicting Kris.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Three's A Crowd...

Eeeeeek!! Just realized we're just a few hours away from results show, and I didn't get a recap blogged. Blame it on the combined factors of a looming deadline, coupled with being out-of-town (visiting my lovely parents!!) where internet is just a bit wonky.

Anyhoo, last night's show was awesome!!! My Danny-gag-reflex was subdued, though I would have put money on him choking out a few tears at the end of "You Are So Beautiful." And, you know, Adam didn't do a lot for me in either song. He was fantastic, of course, but he's always fantastic, no?

But Kris! My goodness, he was just in a whole different league! I had the great pleasure of watching this episode at my sister's house, where the Danny/Adam split was pretty obvious. We each had a few choice words to say about the other's fave, but our common ground was Kris. Which makes me worry a little bit. It's my hope that the Dannyites voted for Danny and the Adamites voted for Adam, and EVERYBODY ELSE voted for Kris.

So, to post my prediction, hmmm....this is really tough, because it's hard to separate what I want to happen from the inevitable. But, you know what? I'm going out on a long, skinny, tremulous limb here. Ready? I think There!! I typed it!! And I'm ready to be wrong, whether it's in rejoicing that America finally got a collective brain and got rid of Gokey, or in mourning that America was the willing pawn in the producer's evil scheme. Hm. I guess that's my middle ground.

OK!! We'll find out in a few hours!! I'll call you, Roi!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

When Idol Rocks...

Disclaimer: I did watch this episode under the increasing pressure of a looming deadline, so I apologize in advance for the disproportionate crankiness.

I was soooo looking forward to this episode, because I'm a Rock-n-Roll girl at heart. And then--wham! Somebody in my family must have hit the channel button and switched us over to one of those childbirth shows on the LifeTime Network. But, no, it was just Danny s(cream)inging. Sheesh, that was awful. And I thought his attitude toward their criticism was awful, too. I hope he did go back and watch that tape. Over and over. Or at least twice. I mean, we had to hear that final note twice, didn't we? How could he possibly not know how bad that was? And I thought he was awful in the duet with Kris, too. Not his singing, which was just as moderately adequate as it's been all season, but again, his attitude. No attempt to engage or really sing "together." You could see Kris trying to work into his space, but Danny wouldn't even look at him. But, back to Aerosmith: there's only one logical reason behind his decision to sing that song: Hubris. All these weeks of undeserved praise have given him an imaginary range... Poor boy, maybe his life of church music left him too sheltered, and he mistook being mentored by Slash as auditioning for a slasher film.

Sorry, like I said, I get cranky when a deadline looms...

Adam was freakishly awesome,and I think properly humbled by last week's bottom three placement, and watching him sing with Allison was really a joy. You could see that neither of them were threatened by the other. It was like watching some FogHat tribute concert with seasoned singers. But, you know...Allison just doesn't seem 17 to me. I totally see her like the 38-year-old truckstop waitress who finally gets to belt one out after some talent scout accidentally overhears her singing with the juke box one night as she's mopping up the floors. Like Susan Boyles with cooler hair.
But she sooooo deserves to be in the finals over Danny.

And, I actually liked what Kris did last night--he was the only one who really did any kind of original arrangement. (Besides Adam's performance from the final act of Zeppelin: The Musical and Danny's arrangement from Aerosmith meets Freddy Kreuger). I'm just really hoping that Kris got all of Matt's votes.

So, if you hear a mysterious, tortured scream wafting on the breeze, it's just me screaming at the injustice of Kris going home. Or, your DVR kicked in and it's replaying Danny's final note...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Brat Pack

And by "brat" I mean Simon---but I'll get back to that in a minute. I've just realized that the deadline looming o'er me almost made me forget to get my post on. The world would probably survive, but my power of prediction is a true source of pride, so I want my vision on eternal record. Even if I'm wrong. Or, as I like to think of it, even if America is they were last week. Because, really, think how great Anoop would have done this week. I'll bet he sings "My Funny Valentine" when he shaves in the morning--or at least did back when he used to shave.
So, without further Anoop--my thoughts on who was the leader of the Pack last night.
Kris--love him, love him, love him...didn't totally love the song last night. Still, I thought Simon was waaaaay out of line in his criticism. It's almost like the producer's pick is about to be edged out by this "dark horse," and somebody doesn't want to see it happen. Hmmmm...AI conspiracy? Never. Still he was adorable, and should be totally safe tonight.
Allison--now, what was I saying about AI conspiracy? Because Simon--grrr! This is the first time this season I truly wanted to reach through the screen and slap him. Allison was uh-mazing, and then just so sweet and humble (truly taken aback, I think) when he asked if she thought she could win. I mean, how easy would it be for her to get all snide and snotty and throw all humility to the wind...
Which brings us to Danny. Now, in all fairness, I must say this is the FIRST time I've ever actually enjoyed a Danny Gokey performance. He's been seriously under my skin since the audition. So, yeah, yeah, he's gonna be in the finals. It just might be nice if he could pretend to believe that another singer belonged there with him.
Matt--why did he save him? Because he couldn't get his deposit back on the hat? Once again, Simon...grrrr!!
Finally, of course, I am a total Adamite, and once again he was amazing. During the afternoon, my agent and I emailed back-and-forth trying to guess what song he would sing. My vote was for "Candyman" he thought maybe "The Lady is a Tramp" (both suggestions firmly tongue in cheek, of course.)
So, prediction time...OK America. By now the decision is made--and I'll actually know in a matter of hours. I'm saying Matt and Allison are probably in the bottom two, and somewhere out there is a piano bar and tip jar with his name on it. Hopefully, he'll be there Friday night.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Launching Party Disco Winners

So...a lot to talk about in one little post--partly because I haven't posted in a few days, and partly because it's one of those times when a bunch of stuff happens at once.
Launch Party!! Last night (Monday) I had a modest little launch party for my new book, Stealing Home. I hi-jacked the first hour of my regular writers group meeting and treated them and a bunch of friends and family to snacks in keeping with the spirit, setting and theme of the, Coca-Cola and Cracker Jacks. I gave a little talk, did a little reading, and had a lovely time. I'm just so excited about this book--it's truly the book of my heart, and, as promised, one of my blog followers will win a signed copy, and the winner, daisies, snowflakes...THAT GIRL!! So, THAT GIRL, email me privately your address, and I'll get a copy in the mail to you.
And, the winner of Tamara Alexander's The Inheritance is, WindyCindy, email me with your address and you'll inherit this great read!
Finally, lest we forget, it is Tuesday, and that means Idol, and once a year we have that wonderful night when Idol meets Disco and all seems right with the world. In the interest of keeping my prediction reputation on the line, I'll skip the lengthy re-cap and just spill my thoughts. Two people are going home, and those people will be Lil and Matt. Because, really, didn't both of them sound like some horrific office Christmas party gone terribly wrong?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ho-Hum Hollywood

OK, either these guys need to see more movies, or I need to just embrace the power ballad, because this was one hum-drum night of American Idol. In my humble opinion, of course. It was like one long soaring (sometimes souring?) note. And personally, I would rather have listened to all 4 judges give feedback and cut the Quentin Tarantino "coaching" -- but that's just me.
So, a couple of questions...did anybody else think Allison was way, way off key? I was cringing through the whole thing, then it was like extra scoops of praise from Paula and Simon. Are my ears that off?
Then, a bunch of other people sang--Danny got contacts, which, in the world of sit-com evil twins should make him unrecognizable. Adam gave the one performance that didn't sound like it came from a dentist's office, Randy hated Kris, Lil chose the wrong song...again...and it was over.
I'm having a tough time calling it tonight, but based on performances, I think Allison and Lil should be in the bottom two. Allison's been there before, of course, but Lil did get the sweet last spot, so it might be Matt. Anyway, the Judge's Save is still in place, and the only contestant who wouldn't get that second chance is probably Lil. So...out on my limb here, but I predict that, actually, nobody'll go home.
Am I right? Am I wrong? And if you could choose another soundtrack ditty for any of these guys, what would it be?

Monday, April 13, 2009

You've Got to Read this Book -- The Inheritance

I am, of course, a fan of good historical fiction, and I'm also a huge admirer of Tamera Alexander's work. She and I sort of hit the Christian fiction scene at the same time, and I must say as I grow, I hope to follow along her path. She is a gracious, beautiful woman herself, and her books reflect that inner beauty.
The Inheritance is a lovely tale of family--the struggle to put together new ones, and the hard work it takes to maintain the one you have. Here's a quick look:
Determined to tame her younger brother's rebellious streak, McKenna Ashford accepts her cousin's invitation to move west and to begin again. But she quickly discovers that life in Copper Creek, Colorado is far from what she expected. Shouldering burdens beyond her years, McKenna tries to be the parent Robert needs, instead of the older sister he resents. But an "untimely inheritance" challenges her resolve at every turn, while also offering a second chance to restore her trust--and perhaps even her heart.
U.S. Marshal Wyatt Caradon is dedicated to bringing fugitives to justice, yet years of living on the trail have taken their toll. When his path intersects with that of McKenna, he comes face-to-face with a past he never wanted to relive--and the one woman who can help him find the future he's been longing for.
As McKenna struggles to let go of her independence and Wyatt considers opening his heart again, they discover an inheritance beyond imagination. But it will come at a price.
My take: I really loved The Inheritance not only for the love story you expect to unfold, but for the powerful brother/sister relationship that unfolds alongside it. McKenna is a character of wonderful dimension and depth, and Wyatt Caradon sheds the darkness of his past before our very eyes.
As with any good book, the title is multi-layered, as McKenna's inheritance is both measurable and immeasurable.
So, I'd love for you to "inherit" a copy of Tamera's book--especially if you are new to her writing. Leave a comment and tell about one of the greatest "treasures" you've ever inherited--tangible or otherwise--and be entered in a drawing to win a free, signed copy of The Inheritance. Drawing will take place Monday, April 20.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Night

Months and months in the making...and here I am with the fabulous Chris Vlasek who set music to my script for "New Beginnings" -- our Church's Easter program. It seemed like this weekend would never come, then it seemed like it wasn't far enough away, then it seemed like it was breathing down my neck. And the stage was bare, and the lights were wonky, and what seemed like a great idea last August was about to be tested by fire. Then...
Lord be praised! What a fabulous Easter weekend this was. After months of being immersed in our church's Easter production, we finally took the sanctuary stage on Good Friday night, and on Saturday--three blessed performances, three chances to witness God's power over our lives and His calling on our spirits. And then, church this morning...powerful music, perfect sermon, and then the blessed ride home...

I know the traditional Easter celebration is that glorious Easter morning, but for me, I was just hanging on waiting for Easter afternoon. Not that I'm discounting the special recognition of Jesus' resurrection--that's something we should be celebrating every day! But I've been spending every Sunday afternoon for the last three months in rehearsals, not to mention the hours put in every evening this week. Yes, for a while now I've been looking forward to coming home from church on Easter Sunday, sitting down to the Stouffer's Lasagna waiting in my oven, then collapsing for a well-earned nap.

Which I did. For, like, 3 hours. The first long Sunday nap of 2009. You can see my behind-the-scenes pictures here, but to get a sense of the power of the performance, check out the video on my facebook page--http//

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Song

So, what does it say about the business of my life that I can only manage to post my Idol rundowns? Here's hoping that, once Easter has passed (I'm directing our church pageant) I might be able to address a few more meaningful things. Until then...

I'll spare all of us the singer-by-singer rundown for tonight, because I think the writing's on the wall for a couple of people tonight. Lil, Scott--sorry...looks like your run is going to end tonight. Or at least it should. Tonight more than any other shows a great big ol' gulf between what you bring to the stage and what, well, everybody else does.
With that, I'll limit myself to just two raging rants...First, the Danny/Kris conspiracy. So I thought it was cool that Danny did a kind of jazzified "Stand By Me," and I found myself totally agreeing with the judges. Then, Kris did a cool jazzified "All She Wants to Do is Dance," and the judges ripped him apart. Hey! Maybe if he didn't have to perform in the midst of a bunch of swaybots he could have delivered a more interesting performance. Sorry--Danny's been a producer's favorite from the get-go, and heaven forbid anyone else tip-toe into his spotlight.
Rant #2 is aime squarely at myself. Wait, no, myself and the Idol producers. Wait, no, myself, the Idol producers and my STINKIN' DVR that totally cut off Adam's performance! I left the room for a second, came back, and Simon was giving a standing O! So, in shock, I attempted to rewind, hit a wrong button, and lost that performance perhaps forever. Or until it's on line. Sheesh!! So, somebody comment! What'd he sing? Was it wonderful?
And what song from your birth year would you take to the Idol stage? Me? It's a three-way toss up between "Good Lovin'" by the Rascals, "My Love" by Petula Clark or "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by the Supremes. Of course, ask my mother, and she would have me singing "Wild Thing..."
Listen on the links below: (My Love) (Keep Me Hangin' On) (Good Lovin')

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I remember every Saturday afternoon sitting on my yellow polyester bedspread listening to American Top Forty. For two, three solid hours, song after song...even then I was all into predictions, always writing down which song I thought would be the top one that week.

Go figure...

What's fun about a night like this is you get a chance to see just what each of the contestants think about themselves as an artist. In fact, you get to see which of them really ARE artists and can do what Kara lined out at the top of the show. The verdict? Ummm...not many...

Anoop--I thought he was totally ripped off by the judges. No, it wasn't amazing, but it was him.
Megan--Hey, remember on the TV show Friends when Phoebe would sing in the coffee shop? Yeah. Who let Megan out of the coffee shop?
Danny--He sang a Rascall Flatts song. Is there any more middle-of-the-charts group? Danny is a good singer. He's not an artist, and the judges ignored the fact that he did nothing new with the song...And it seems Gokey is getting a little Cocky.
Allison--Gotta love her...but goodness, she looks a lot older than 16
Scott--I'm going to ignore the Golden Girls hairstyle and just say that he'll be safe this week, and if next week is Christopher Cross week, he'll be fine...
Matt--Didn't make much of an impression either way, which isn't good...
Lil--You'd never guess that she was singing from the same theme week...
Adam--A-mazing, As Always, but it surprised me that "Play That Funky Music" was a popular i-tunes download. Who knew?
Kris--Love that him. He's quickly becoming my #2 favorite!

So, who should be in the bottom 2? A mixture of Megan, Matt and Anoop. The only one with a shot at judge's save is Matt.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Idol Chatter -- Goin' Down to Motown...

I always love Motown week. They are, quite simply, some of the best, most iconic songs ever recorded. And, to me, they really are the songs that can divide true artists--those who can bring a new sound to an old song and still allow the initial vision of the songwriter to come through. It's easy to listen to song after song from this catalog and have the entire night come across as some cheesy salute to Motown rather than listening to a singer who has added a Motown hit to their repetoire.
So, my favorite of the night? It's a two-A tie between Adam and Allison. Now, I thought Adam went a little to far in the slick-back look, but I totally appreciate the effort. My agent has long said that, take away the emo-wings, and he'd look just like a young Elvis. And, man, he's right. I loved hearing Adam actually sing. And to get a standing ovation from Smokey Robinson? Wowza. But, you know, I think it might have been awesome if Adam and Anoop had switched songs, because I think Adam's better capable of the range Kara talked about. But, my real reason for loving Adam, is that every week I can't wait to see what he chooses to sing!
And Allison? Simply awesome. I love an old soul in a young body.
To get back to my original point, I like to see a contestant who seems to understand music, not just that particular song. On that note, I also appreciated Kris and Matt. I think Megan has that capability, too. I don't hate her voice, but I think it all fell apart tonight.
So, my bottom 2 predictions? Scott (sorry, but everything he sings sounds the same) and Michael (sorry, everything he sings sounds...kinda bad). And no way the judges would save either of them.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The First Saturday in Spring

First of all, to fulfill my own Promise for Spring...Elizabeth! You're the winner of Kim Vogel Sawyer's book! Yay! So, email me privately and I'll get that to you...

This is the first Saturday of Spring, and it's a beautiful one. It's the first one in a while where I had absolutely no commitments--no meetings, no family business. Nothing. And there's just something about waking up to an open day. Of course, when faced with the enormous amount of chores waiting to be done, well, it's enough to make you want to go back to bed. But then, how fun is it to have going back to bed as an option!
So, I could have spent the day sorting through the thousands of photographs I inherited from my in-laws' passing, or I could do the the amazing colossal closet switch-over, or I could try to write the 1,000 words I fell short this week...but for some reason breakfast at the Egg and I with girlfriends and a trip to the gym with hubby won out. Tonight, we're eating out again, meeting up with another family. (Good think I worked in the trip to the gym...)
I guess it goes to show that we get little spring days throughout the year. We can wax on and on about the renewal of the season--little green leaves in the trees, pristine new baseball fields--but today's just been one of those days when I feel a little renewal in my spirit. Nothing huge, but just a day to take a few deep breaths and see what can spring forth out of an empty calendar page.
Enjoy the season!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Idol Chatter -- Gone Country

I remember being at a teacher's conference, waiting for a session to begin, and these two lovely African American women were in the row in front of me. I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but they caught my attention when they said, "That sister had no business wearing that hat." I knew immediately who they were talking about. The previous night was "Country" night on American Idol, and Mandisa had chosen to wear a ridiculous straw cowboy hat. She was voted off promptly. You can say it was a lack of fan base, but I'll always blame the hat.

So last night was Country night on Idol, and boy did I experience a shift in favorites. I've been an Adam girl for a while, but my goodness. I'm so glad Johnny Cash is in heaven singing praises to his savior so he could be spared that hot mess. But my Anoop was back! And I hopped on the Matt band wagon. And I finally see why the judges kept Kris around.

Now, I get a lot of flack about not being a Danny fan. And it's not that I don't think he's a wonderful singer...I just don't find him that interesting. He's a bit too slick and put together for my taste--at least for my taste in the context of this show. And it bothers me to think that, should he win, the producers probably won't let him release a purely gospel album. Click the link below for a cool performance of three AI alumni--Mandisa, Chris Sligh and Phil Stacey singing with Michael W. Smith at the Dove Awards.*:IE-SearchBox&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7DMUS&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=derASf3vMYbiyQWl2dFU&sa=X&oi=video_result_group&resnum=4&ct=title#

By the way, my prediction? If Michael Carver is on the chopping block, the judges'll send him home. Anybody else? They'll get the "judges save" for the week.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Promise for Spring

Take a peek...
England-born Emmaline Bradford pledged her life to Geoffrey Garrett and then bid him farewell when he sailed to America. Although Geoffrey anticipated only a short separation, several years passed before he was able to send for Emmaline. By then the fiery flame of her youthful love had all but died. Shocked by the conditions on Geoffrey's Kansas sheep ranch, Emmaline wishes to return to England immediately. Geoffrey offers a compromise: If Emmaline promises to stay until spring, he'll pay her return fare if she decides to go back to her home country. When spring arrives, will Emmaline return to England, or will she marry Geoffrey and carve out a life with him in Kansas?
Take it from me...
A Promise for Spring takes on one of my favorite historical romance modes---the marriage that is and isn't. And is. And isn't. And... Ooh, the tension! This also takes on the question of whether or not the infatuation of young love can withstand the pressures and and responsibilities of an adult relationship. In this case, though, since they haven't had the opportunity to grow together, both Emmaline and Geoffrey face the hardships of frontier life--locusts, sheep and all--while still dealing with each other on the same emotional level they did as teenagers. There were times, I'm sure, when the sheep themselves were rolling their little sheep-eyes and bleating, "Come on, kids! You know you love each other! Get on with it already!"
But Kim Vogel Sawyer does a masterful job and keeping the reader (and the sheep) rooting for the romance to kick in while still enjoying the emotional fencing match between the two. You'll find yourself on Emmaline's side in one chapter, and on Geoffrey's the next. And then, like the welcome of any long winter, there's the promise of Spring.
And this is one promise that really comes through!
So, what promise does Spring hold for you? Leave a comment and be registered for a drawing to win a free copy of A Promise for Spring. Check back March 21 to find out who wins!