Sunday, December 28, 2008

Vanity, Vanity

I am so not photogenic. In fact, quite the opposite. If someone brings out a camera anywhere near me, I cringe and can't stop myself from pulling my famous photo-face (think pained, slightly constipated half-smile--if you're lucky you'll catch my eye twitching). Don't know what made me that way, but I'm blaming the "scared of pictures" gene on my dad. Handsome man, for sure, but even more petrified of cameras than me. And that's saying something.

Anyway, I've been in an ongoing conversation for the last few months with a couple of author friends about many different aspects of publishing. A hot topic we keep coming back to is why people buy (or don't buy) books. What sells? Cover? Title? Name power? Topic? Writing? One of these lovely ladies noted that her publicist has chosen a particular image for her, a hook that will hopefully brand her and help sell her books. Hmmm, me thinks. Do I have an image? Do I want one?

If I did have an image, I suppose it would be the harried, newish mom. At least, that's me at my most raw. Or maybe I could be branded as a philanthropist, a passionate young woman co-heading a growing non-profit. The small town girl next door? The got-it-all-together pastor's wife? The truth is, I'm all of those things. And none of them. Funny how that works.

An image, at it's most literal, is exactly that: a picture, a representation. I've been noticing lately the amazing photos that most authors have gracing their websites and the backs of their books. Check out my friend Lisa McKay's site (she's so pretty!), or Tosca Lee (granted, she is a professional model so the gorgeous part is a given), or even Travis Thrasher (love the different looks he can pull off). Have you ever read a Brandilynn Collins book? I haven't, but I'd know her picture anywhere--her over-the-shoulder, wide-eyed gaze is a brand in and of itself. And the truth is, there is something really cool about all of their pictures, beyond the obvious aesthetic appeal: when I look at a well done portrait, I feel like I know the subject. Cliched as it sounds, a little piece of that person is preserved in an artful rendering.

So all of this begs the question: Am I, photo-phobic that I am, capable of taking a truly revealing shot? Get your mind out of the gutter, I don't mean revealing that way. :) I mean, could someone photograph me in such a way that a person picking up one of my books, or finding my site on the web, could feel an instant connection with me? A sense of commonality? A feeling of, I want to know what she has to say? Because I can relate to her, or she intrigues me, or I like the spark in her eye... whatever. Fill in the blank.

Welcome to my personal experiment.

I have a very dear friend who happens to be one of the most talented photographers I've ever met. Amazingly enough, so far she only takes pictures of her kids. But the images she has gracing the walls in her home rival that of any professional studio. Since she's interested in seeing where the Lord is leading in this area of her life, I put myself in her very capable hands for a morning of fieldwork. We packed the kids in her mini-van, put on a video, pacified them with snacks, and then drove around our community and shot a ba-jillion photos. When the rugrats got sick of that, we drove through McDonalds and went home. Then she proceeded to do my make-up, hang a black sheet over her banister, and snap at least a ka-trillion more photos with five children screaming in the background. She should be sainted. Not only for putting up with all those kids, but also for being patient with me. A typical conversation:

"Smile, Nik."
"I can't."
"Come on..."
*Sickly half-smile*
"A real smile."
"That was a real smile!"
"Uh, okay then, give me a fake one."

I know, I'm pathetic. But my friend, like I said, is very talented. She managed to capture some pretty cool photos. Unedited, shot on my camera, and downloaded for your perusal. What do you think? Do you feel like any of these portraits capture a bit of who I am? Does it matter what an author looks like? Or, more accurately, what their author photo looks like? More to the point: Is it all just vanity? A selfish preening in the hope that someone will find us interesting, attractive, compelling, handsome...? Or do we all long in some way for people to see us as we truly are? Oooo, now we're getting deep. Are my musings going overboard? Do I sound too much like Carrie Bradshaw? Will this post ever end??? :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Traditions

If you live in the Midwest you know that the past week has been a wild one for the prairies. We're buried under a few feet of snow (help!) and the temperatures have been lethal. But, oh, how I love it! We've been sledding, sipping cocoa, playing games, watching movies, and even sneaking under the Christmas tree. As my oldest tells anyone who'll listen: "We have so many presents under there it's embarrassing." I have to quickly add that our Canadian family spoiled us by sending boxes filled with presents. After all, it's not my fault our modest Christmas is... well... not so modest.

Any-hoo, blogging is the last thing on my mind. The Baarts are too busy playing trains, building Lego, and enjoying a soothing glass of Bailey's on ice. But I am able to pry myself away long enough to direct you to TitleTrakk. This week your "Christian Book, Music, & Movie Terminal" is featuring a Christmas author interview. 27 authors (including myself) have been asked the question: What is your favorite Christmas tradition? The answers make for some fun reading. I encourage you to check it out! And when you're done, take a minute to share. I'd love to know what your favorite Christmas tradition is. :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's coming... The Moment Between

I am in such a fantastic mood today. The sun is shining, there is half a foot of blindingly white snow on the ground, and I have a mug of English toffee laced Ethiopian coffee in hand. Life is good. Okay, so it's like 30 below zero outside... at least I can... uh... enjoy(?) it from behind warm glass. It's amazing to me that a patch of sunlight is still warm when it's so freezing cold outside. Anyway, I digress.

Part of the reason I'm in such a good mood today is because my next book, The Moment Between, is creeping ever closer to a book shelf near you! I'm so excited. I was browsing Amazon for Christmas gifts the other day and typed in The Moment Between on a whim--I wanted to see what other titles out there were similar to my next offering. Lo and behold, I discovered that my third book is available for pre-order! There's something very fun about having three books out there, even if one isn't quite official yet.

I find it fitting that things seem to be happening in harmony with my budding book excitement. Today the novelist Trish Perry is hosting my first interview about The Moment Between. Pop on over to her site for more info about the book as well as a giveaway! This is a fun giveaway because you have two chances to win. I'll be signing a copy of Summer Snow and sending it off next week to one lucky winner. But I'll also send an Advanced Reader Copy of The Moment Between to one reader who is willing to help spread the word. The catch is, you need to have a blog or website where you can review the book. We'd also appreciate it if you'd post your review to the major bookselling websites (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.). I'm not 100% sure when I can send the ARC out, so the contest will require a bit of patience on your part (I hope you're good at delayed gratification). I think the wait is worth it!

Finally, I have one last exciting thing to share with you... The cover! This isn't a finalized cover, there will be a lovely blurb squished in somewhere, but you get the idea. Isn't it gorgeous??? I just love it. Cheers to the very talented artist, Jessie McGrath. Her work is amazing.

Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Liberia (the second)

Okay, so I could forego all the book talk and spend the rest of my life blogging about Liberia. But I won't. At least, not now. Maybe after I go you'll see a definite change in subject matter around here. Until then, this will be my last Liberia post. Thought you might like to know what One Body, One Hope actually does.

Abide in the Vine

This is the church we support. Robert Bimba is the pastor and our original contact (we met in Ethiopia). We now provide quarterly food aid for the church and basically help out in any way we can (from paying surgical costs when someone gets sick to buying Bibles for church members). When Aaron was in Monrovia he led a pastor's conference for 120 Liberian pastors.

Christ Our Hope Orphanage

I call this our orphanage, but it's not. We just provide monthly sponsorship for the 54 kids here. Immanuel and Fatu Bimba run the orphanage and the children couldn't ask for more loving "parents."

Rice Farm

Through CHAP (Community of Hope Agricultrual Project) we were able to help Abide in the Vine secure over 30 acres for a rice farm. The very first head of rice was harvested when Aaron was overseas. After the photo was taken, they cut the stalk and gave it to Aaron. We're having it framed.

Lifewater Liberia Compound

While in country, Aaron and the rest of the team helped finish (or almost finish) a Lifewater Liberia compound. LL digs wells in Liberia and through mutual contacts and friends we became excited about their ministry.

Well, that's it in a nutshell. If you're interested in getting involved, we have a website (One Body, One Hope) that is in desperate need of updates, or you can simply email me. We are currently looking for people to sponsor the incredible teachers at the Christian school our kids attend. These selfless people are all Liberian nationals and university grads who are dedicated to making a difference in their country. I could not admire them more. Anyway, I'd better get back to writing. But I'll leave you with one last photo. This young man has stolen my heart.

Monday, December 8, 2008


He's home!!! I'm no longer a single mom! Hooray!

Aaron's only been home two days (today is the third) but already my world is 100% better. Amazing how those husbands worm their way into your life and nothing seems good or real unless you can share it with them. The nerve.

Anyway, it's been a feverish reunion filled with late nights and lots of updating... I'm trying to fill him in on two+ weeks in the life of the Baart boys, and he's trying to get me up to speed with all that's about to break open at One Body, One Hope. Exciting stuff. I'll pass the juicy tidbits along once they've all been deciphered. In the meantime, enjoy a few pictures snapped by my National Geographic-worthy, photo-journalist husband. Who knew he could take such awesome shots?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stuck in Brussels

So my husband has been working his hands to the bone in Liberia for the past two weeks plus. He's held a pastors' conference for 120 pastors, documented, photographed, and cataloged every one of the 54 children at the orphanage our non-profit supports, worked on a Lifewater Liberia compound, met with the head of the Ministry of Health, visited the soon-to-be adopted son of our friends, battled chemical burns, heat exhaustion, and heat rash, and all-around managed to be Supermanly. I'm so proud of him. And now I want him HOME. Do you hear me? HOME. I wasn't cut out for single-momhood. (Nor am I very good at dealing with the envy I feel every time I think of him hugging the kids I've come to love.)

Forgive my insitence and the tinge of desperation you might hear in my online voice. But I can't help myself. I was supposed to be sharing my bed with my hubby tonight (did I mention I strongly dislike sleeping alone?). Instead, he's stuck in Brussels and I'm wearing long johns and two pairs of socks for one more night (my bed is cold!). I hope. It better not be more than one more night. I'll scream, and wherever you are, I bet you'd hear it.

Life's not fair, is it? Here's Aaron, probably sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Brussels, sipping a frothy Belgian beer, and enjoying a pretty little corner of Europe.

And here's me, single mom extraordinare, though a lot less sexy and chic (think tangled hair, drool stained shirt, and tired eyes--though the cooking, reading, mothering, working, telephone-talking, exercising, grocery-buying part is pretty true to life. All she's missing is Bible study leading, children's church planning, 4th book writing, and snow shoveling.) As far as I'm concerned, the life of the modern mom is far less Zen-like than this lovely young lady suggests. No less busy, mind you.

Anyway, I'm pouting. Bad habit, I know. The truth is, we survived just fine and I'm sure he's as homesick for us as we are for him. Plus, it's winter in Brussels, too, so the sidewalk cafe thing is the product of my overactive imagination. Though I don't doubt the beer part for one second. And I don't blame him a bit. Cheers to you, Aar. I'll see you tomorrow sometime. You'd better have Belgian chocolates in one hand and French wine in the other. ;)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Whistling in the Dark

Whistling in the Dark ~ Lesley Kagen

It's the summer of 1959 and Sally O'Malley is looking forward to a few fun-filled months with her younger sister Troo. But things don't always work out as planned, and when the girls' mother gets sick and is secreted away in the hospital, Sally and Troo are left to fend for themselves. An alcoholic step-father, a lovestruck older sister, and a neighborhood filled with people who have their own worries leave the girls to find their own way. There's more than enough drama to go around, but when a predator sets up camp in their relatively peaceful Milwaukee neighborhood, the girls are in a fight for their very lives.

I picked up this book on a whim because I liked the cover (wow--covers really do sell books!). Okay, it wasn't just the cover that caught my attention. I was also interested in reading a book about sisters since my next book, The Moment Between, is all about that mysterious genetic bond. Anyway, I ended up loving Lesley Kagen's debut. Sally and Troo are endearing heroines and I adored the wide-eyed innocence of the story from their perspective. I thought Kagen really nailed their voices and I laughed outloud throughout the book. Surprisingly, though Whistling deals with child molestation, murder, and other various forms of abuse, it really is a rather lighthearted read where the eventual outcome of the story is never in doubt. I usually like my stories a bit messy, but for some reason when children are concerned I'm all for the happily-ever-after ending. Whistling doesn't disappoint.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Daisy Chain

Daisy Chain ~ Mary DeMuth

When his best friend and self-proclaimed future wife disappears, it's up to fourteen-year-old Jed Pepper to find her. But as even as the trail begins to cool, Daisy's disappearance uncovers a minefield of dark secrets in the small, Texas town of Defiance. Before long it seems as if everyone must shoulder some of the guilt for her alleged kidnapping. Emory Chance, Daisy's mother, deals with accusations of alcoholism and neglect. Ouisie Pepper, Jed's mother, is haunted by dreams. Even Jed himself is consumed by regret for not protecting Daisy the way he feels he should have. And the secrets don't stop there... A prophet, a madwoman, a child, and a seemingly soulless preacher all play an integral part in Mary DeMuth's haunting tale.

Daisy Chain is filled with unforgettable characters and a gripping plot. I was so anxious to uncover the mystery behind Daisy's disappearance that I had to remind myself to read, not skim. And when I took the time to savor the words, I was completely drawn in to the world of Defiance, Texas. Written in a comfortable, down-home style that invites you in, Daisy Chain brings up tough issues and examines them beneath the lens of scripture. Though the ending may not be nice and neat, it is hopeful--and it left me wanting more.

*Daisy Chain has not yet been released. Zondervan has slated this book for a pub date of March 1, 2008.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Happy belated Thanksgiving! I hope you had a lovely holiday with family and friends. Our celebration was rather quiet this year--Aaron's in Africa, my brother and his wife are in Montana, and most of my extended family was feasting with the "other side" (of the family, that is)--but it was nice all the same. Good food, good conversation, and a spirited fooseball tournament... Who could complain?

Anyway, as the weather cools and I spend my evenings alone (16 days with an absent husband is no fun), I find myself reading more and more. Thought I'd share a few of my most recent good reads with you. Stay tuned--I'll post one at a time. Enjoy!

Away ~ Amy Bloom

When her husband and parents are killed in a Russian pogrom, young Lillian Leyb thrusts her three-year-old daughter out a bedroom window in the hope of saving her life. Miraculously, Lillian herself is not murdered, but when she is able to leave the house in search of her daughter, little Sophie is long gone. So begins a lifelong pursuit for Lillian, for though all evidence suggests her daughter is lost forever, Lillian's love for Sophie will not die. From New York to Chicago, Seattle, and finally up through the Alaskan wilderness, Lillian searches for her daughter. "Encompassing prison, prostitution and poetry, Yiddish humor and Yukon settings, Bloom's tale offers linguistic twists, startling imagery, sharp wit and a compelling vision of the past" (PW).

Away is a slim novel and a hurried read because from page one this reader longed for Lillian to find what she was looking for. I was so consumed by her deep, undying love for her daughter that I found myself urging Lillian on in her search. Her devotion is heartbreaking and her story is filled with sorrow and brokenness--it forced me to look at my own love for my children and ask myself: "How far would I go?" To the ends of the earth and back. I don't want to give anything away, but the ending was so bittersweet and satisfying, I want to read the book all over again just so I can savor the final pages.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I want to see Twilight. I know, I know, this admission cements me as a hypocrite. How can I love all things literary and yet find myself itching to see Bella and Edward come to life? Especially after my experience with Stephanie Meyer's series as a whole: I devoured Twilight, and though I found the writing subpar and the intro way too long, I loved it. Then I read New Moon and was disappointed by the fact that it felt like a retelling of the first book, except for a werewolf was subbed in where the vampire used to be. By this time I was relatively bored, so I let a good friend give me the cliff notes on Eclipse. She said it just wasn't worth the read. But when Breaking Dawn released I had to know how it ended. Too cheap to pony up the dough for a hardcover I doubted I'd cherish, I read as many spoiler reviews on Amazon as I could find. I was shocked by what I read. Sounds like the final book in the series is a huge stretch and a colossal let down. And yet, I want to see Twilight. What's wrong with me?

Okay, I'm going to go somewhere and hang my head in shame. But if anyone's in the mood for a cheesy vampire-love story, you might be able to twist my rubber arm into tagging along.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Our Kids

In light of everything that has happened recently, it does me good to think about all the blessings that God has rained down on our lives. First and foremost in my mind are my own children. And then I think immediately of the kids at Christ Our Hope, the orphanage that our non-profit One Body, One Hope supports in Monrovia, Liberia.

One Body has been in existence for only a year and a half, and yet God has done such amazing things it makes my head spin. What started as a friendship in Ethiopia has expanded into a growing organization that has raised over $40,000 for our neighbors in West Africa. And on Thursday my husband is on his way to Monrovia. I'm so happy for him and yet so jealous... The reason I'm not going with him is because I was supposed to be sixteen weeks pregnant. Argh. But I am doing much better, and I am very excited about his amazing opportunity. Hopefully this will pave the way for yearly trips (or maybe an extended sabbatical in Liberia??? I can live on rice and bottled water...).

Anyway, I thought you might like to see our kids. At least, I consider them our kids. Aren't they beautiful? Maybe, when adoption stabilizes in Liberia... :)

I also wanted to take a moment to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your overwhelming display of support after I shared with you about my miscarriage. It wasn't an easy thing to do, but I'm so glad that I did. Your emails, comments, and prayers have meant so much to me. I know this probably sounds cliche, but I really, truly, honestly could feel the power of prayer in these last weeks. I thought this pain was something I'd never get over, and already I feel the sort of healing that only came months and months after I lost our last baby. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am humbled and I am blessed. And I'm starting to wonder if there's a book in here somewhere...? I never thought I'd write non-fiction, but boy, do I have stories. And so do you. Thank you for sharing them with me.

May your cup overflow, my friends.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Hi friends. I'm sorry about my absence and my cryptic announcement that I would be gone for a while. Our computer generation has gifted us with the unique situation of having online friends... I may have never met most of you (and probably, sadly, never will), and yet I consider you friends and I appreciate the interaction we have in emails, comments, and sharing each other's lives through our blogs. All that said, thank you for your prayers and understanding. Thanks for waiting around while I pulled myself together.

I've never had to deal with such a tough situation while being involved in an online community, and so I'm not exactly sure how to handle this. Disclose everything? Nothing? What's too personal? And what's edifying for people who may find themselves or someone they love in a similar situation? I guess I've always been rather open, and I don't mind sharing what the last two weeks have held for me and my family.

Two weeks ago today I lost our fourth baby to a miscarriage. Ironically, I was one day shy of the all-important twelve week mark and was very excited to announce online that I was pregnant. Instead, I had a D&C. You'd think that since this is the fourth baby I've lost, I'd be used to it by now. Unfortunately that is the farthest thing from the truth. I have struggled more with this loss than any of the others and I'm not sure why... Maybe it's because I was closely monitored and saw the sweet babe via ultrasound three times (healthy and growing with a strong and steady heartbeat) before she died. Maybe it's because I believed that I had learned the lesson God intended for me through the loss of the first three. Or maybe I just let myself hope too hard that everything would be fine this time around. At any rate, I'm still healing.

It's a strange mix of emotions that this sort of loss leaves with you. I'm heartbroken (I was sure that this was my little girl), filled with remorse (did I do something to cause her to die?), ashamed (I'm broken, my body doesn't work the way it's supposed to), numb (is it really over?), jealous (of all my friends who are currently pregnant or who just had beautiful, healthy babies), and the list goes on and on. It's exhausting. But in the midst of it all, I can see light at the end. I know that Kahlil Gibran is right when he says: "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain." Grief is exactly that: a deepening. I don't always like the process, but there is something rich and beautiful about living a life that is filled with all manner of things. My soul longs for the day when "all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of all things shall be well."

In the meantime, life goes on. I have two handsome sons to fill my days, and, oh yeah, I write books, don't I? It's time to resurface. There's laundry to be folded, supper to be planned, and I'm halfway through a major chapter. I think I'll be gracious to the inhabitants of my fictitious Bridgewater this week...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Joy & Sorrow

Then a woman said, "Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow."
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

~From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Friday, October 31, 2008


In light of some recent events in our family, I'm going to be taking a little break from blogging. I don't know how long I'll be gone, but in the meantime I could use a prayer or two. Anyway, blessings to you and yours.


P.S. If you have a chance on Monday, check out RelzReviewz for a Character Spotlight on Julia.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Aaron and I had houseguests this weekend (if you've been following my blog for a while you know that this is sort of a regular occurance in our home). Anyway, I didn't get any writing, editing, blogging, laundry, or much of anything else done. It was wonderful. Especially because our houseguests were a a fabulous team of people from YWAM (Youth With a Mission). Jeff's specialty is Afghanistan, Elaine and her family have hearts for China, and Tinika hopes to work with African-American people in the US to promote missions within their communities. Exciting stuff, all of it. And for some reason it's empowering just to be around them--to hear their stories, learn about their passions, and see the Kingdom of God in global terms.

Though I'd love to tell you all about our conversations and what YWAM is accomplishing worldwide, I'm going to leave the ball in your court today. I encourage you to check out the YWAM website or just take a moment to pray for these amazing people who make it their life's ambition "to know God and to make him known." We may not all be called into missions overseas, but I think the YWAM motto is applicable to each and every Christian. At least I'm certainly feeling convicted.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thoughtful Movies

Some movies you watch because you want to. Other movies you watch because you feel compelled to. Well, maybe that's not how you choose your Friday night entertainment, but Aaron and I tend to rotate through a list of fun, challenging, entertaining, and enlightening movies. It depends on the mood.

Lately it seems we've watched more than our share of thought-provoking films. The sort of movie that sticks with you for hours, days, even weeks after watching it. In the mood to think? To be pushed out of your comfort zone? Wanna spark a heated conversation? The following movies might be hard to watch, but they are beautiful in their own way. And I promise they'll get you pondering the complexities of life.

The Constant Gardener is both gorgeous and haunting. Filmed on location in Kenya, it's really a love story that goes horribly awry. Justin is a British diplomat whose activist wife, Tessa, is murdered in a remote region of Africa. As he tries to uncover the mystery behind her death, we relive their romance in the years leading up to the tragedy. Their love is bittersweet and unexpected, and seemingly doomed from the beginning. But there's more to the story than romance: underlying Justin and Tessa's relationship is her passion for social justice. I won't give anything away, but suffice it to say the movie uncovers yet another way the world uses and abuses Africa. Whether or not the allusions are true (some critics say that the film is a walk in the park compared to what really happens in Africa, while others say the claims are unfounded) The Constant Gardener definitely gets you thinking about justice issues in Africa and whether or not we are apathetic enough to yet again turn a blind eye.

Gone Baby Gone was our most recent movie venture and it's still very fresh in my mind. I do NOT recommend this film for everyone--there was a ten-minute scene in the middle that I couldn't watch at all (the word "pedophile" conjures up all manner of hatred and malice in me), but horrible rabbit trail aside, this movie had Aaron and me talking for hours. In a nutshell, Gone Baby Gone is about a little girl who has gone missing. Patrick Kenzie and his girlfriend Angie are private detectives who are hired to help find her. What ensues is a journey to hell and back as they try to figure out what happened. The problem is, once they solve the mystery, they can't help wishing they didn't. After watching the conclusion, Aaron and I argued and talked and wrestled... Is the right thing to do always the moral thing to do? The Bible says that justice is God's... But does the Lord ever use his people to mete out that justice? Are we ever allowed to "take matters into our own hands?" The movie's very appropriate tagline is "Everyone wants the truth... Until they find it." Is that true? Are there ever times when we are better off not knowing the truth?

We may not have come to any consensus after watching and discussing these films, but at least they got us talking... Have you seen them? Or do you have any others to add to the list? I have a feeling our next movie selection will be a few seasons of The Office (just to take a little break from all the heaviness), but I'm always on the lookout for something that will engage me...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Getting out of Politics...

Well, I've had my brief little foray into the political realm and I think I'm already more than eager to call it quits. After I wrote my Getting Political blog, I felt sick for a few days... Why does having a political opinion pose such a huge personal risk??? It wasn't my intention at all to endorse one candidate over the other, tear down Republicans or Democrats, or make my fellow church members or Christians mad at me. So, if I offended you, I apologize. All I'm really advocating is an educated, informed approach to politics.

To that end, when you have political questions or hear something that just doesn't seem right to you, I highly encourage you to check it out and get the facts. A brief rundown of a few of my favorite resources: is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to wading through the muck of political lies, slander, and backtalk. They can answer nearly all of your political questions. Though I doubt they have a section on whether or not Obama is the Anti-Christ. ;) deals more with urban legends and other such cultural myths, although they do talk politics, too. There are tons of sections that help you locate exactly the information you're looking for. is educational to say the least. It deals with investigations into scientific hoaxes. I'm not much of a scientist, so I don't visit this particular site all that often, but my science teacher friend loves it.

Anyway, the bottom line is, I love you all: Republican, Democrat, or Independent. And for my Canadian friends, I love you whether you're Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Green Party, and even if you're Bloc Quebecois or a part of the Marijuana Party (though I do doubt your ability to understand exactly what it is you are voting for or against). I hope you still have a little love left for me, too. And, I can't help wishing that we would imitate our Canadian friends by cutting the federal election race from two years to less than forty days. Wouldn't that be grand?!? (And cheap?!?)

One last politically minded thought and then I'm done: Don't forget to vote. ;)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Getting Political...

When news about the federal election started to heat up (oh, about two years ago--ugh), I promised myself that this year I would be a quiet political activist. I’ve always been politically minded, but as an evangelical Christian growing up in these “scary times,” I spent most of my life in the expected role of staunch Republican. Isn’t every good and godly Christian a Republican? I’m learning that the answer is a resounding NO. And I’ve discovered that single issue politics is not always wise, just like it’s never a good idea to swallow anything you hear whole--especially when it comes to political propaganda.

Anyway, I vowed that I wouldn’t talk, debate, or discuss politics, much less blog about it. But here I am, breaking my own commitment to myself because when it comes down to it I just can’t stand idly by and twiddle my thumbs. Now that my code of silence is officially abolished, I’d love to expound on my political views and what brought me to the crossroads where I find myself today. But I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m writing this afternoon because I feel a deep-down need to address something that keeps rearing its ugly head at me: political forwards. Specifically, political forwards among Christians.

Though I have received more than my share of Obama-bashing email forwards, I got one this morning that put me over the edge. For your reading pleasure…

* * *

This will make you re-think: A Trivia question in Sunday School: How long is the beast allowed to have authority in Revelation?

Revelation Chapter 13 tells us it is 42 months and you know what that is. Almost a four-year term of a Presidency.

All I can say is 'Lord, Have mercy on us!'According to the Book of Revelations: The Anti-Christ will be a man, in his 40's, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal.... The prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, will destroy everything. Do we recognize this description??

I STRONGLY URGE each one of you to post this as many times as you can! Each opportunity that you have to send it to a friend or media outlet, do it! I refuse to take a chance on this unknown candidate who came out of nowhere.

-Dr. John Tisdale

* * *

Obama is the Anti-Christ?!?!? Wow, if I swallowed this sort of thing without thinking I'd be rapture-ready, that's for sure. But, since I don't believe in the rapture and since I think emails of this sort are full of holes, misinformation, ignorant conclusions, and downright lies, I'd rather test Mr. Tisdale's theories. My brilliant husband and I quickly discerned several reasons why this email is nothing more than fodder for the junk folder.

  1. Revelation does not explicitly say that the anti-Christ will be necessarily a man (perhaps a force? an economic structure? an ideology?) or that he will be in his 40s. Furthermore,
  2. Scripture also does NOT teach that he will be Muslim (Islam was not even created yet as a religion—Muhammad did this several centuries later). This is preposterous!
  3. Though some people interpret the book of the Revelation literally, most theologians agree that the specific numbers and time periods mentioned in Revelation are symbolic (the same way that forgiving your neighbor 70 x 7 doesn't literally mean that you should only forgive 490 times and then stop).
  4. Mr. Tisdale asserts that Obama is an unknown candidate who came out of nowhere. The truth is, Obama has been in the spotlight now for two years, and every little fact about his life, past and present, has been paraded in the media. If we are going to be concerned about an "unknown" who "came out of nowhere," shouldn't we be scrutinizing Sarah Palin, who we've known for 8 weeks?
  5. Based on the actual Scriptural rationale provided in this argument, one could argue that office of the president of the US in general IS the anti-Christ, not a particular candidate.
  6. Subtract the really poor exegetical work indicative in this email and one could argue the very same about John McCain, especially because he claims much more adamantly to be Christian. This is more in keeping with the Rev. 13 warning than one who doesn’t argue for a “Christian nation.”
  7. For the argument that we currently are “a Christian nation” to be begin with, refer to Gregory Boyd’s, The Myth of the Christian Nation. This ploy, used in emails like this is a scare tactic. It also borders on hate-mongering and ethno-profiling. The hard truth is that:
    a. Little of our current (or past) policy reflects Christ-centered values.
    b. Little of our social services reflect the social justice concerns of Scripture and its prophetic voices.
    c. Our founding fathers were primarily deists with a view of God wholly removed from the unfolding of history. In their day-and-age it was as common to write the word God into legal documentation as it is today to swear on a Bible in court (even if you don’t believe in it) or to wish someone “God bless you” when they sneeze. Let’s not look back into history with rose-colored glasses!
    d. The US was founded upon Enlightenment, Lockeian, democratic, capitalistic, individualistic ideals, not Christian ones. We’ve just been living inside the system so long that we’ve learned to baptize the language of democracy to be synonymous with Christianity. This cannot be so.

The bottom line is: Emails like this are horrible. They slander someone terribly and attempt to manipulate Scripture in order to prop up (or tear down) a particular political candidate. This absolutely cannot be what Jesus had in mind when he ushered in the Kingdom of Heaven. This is Scriptural abuse. Nothing less. (And I would say the same thing if the tables were turned.)

It's not my intention to raise up Barack Obama or tear down John McCain or Sarah Palin. I happen to deeply respect all the candidates and their obvious dedication to our country. But it saddens me when Christians participate in these sorts of ill-informed acts of character assassination and fear mongering... We are only perpetuating the popular myth that Christians are ignorant Bible thumpers with no concern for the facts. I don't care who you vote for, but please don't buy into the hateful rhetoric that both sides are slinging. You're better than that and you're smarter than that.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Quick Reviews

My husband and I were lucky enough to get away for the weekend, sans kids. Hooray! Some friends generously offered the use of their beautiful lake home in Minnesota, and we spent a few days sitting on the dock, hiking around the various islands, and reading. So peaceful and so romantic. Anyway, I got a lot of reading done. Specifically, I read two books that have been on my Must Read list for years. They were both gems and I thought I'd give you a quick rundown in case your looking for a good, fall read.

I knew within the first page that A Girl Name Zippy was my kind of book. Haven Kimmel's memoir of her youth growing up in a small town in Indiana is laugh-out-loud funny from the beginning to the end. At least, I thought so. Though the book is a memoir, it reads like a novel, or at least, a collection of deftly woven stories that keep you turning pages until the end. I couldn't put it down. Zippy (Haven's childhood nickname) is a precocious tomboy whose perspectives on life kept me in stitches. The only thing I regretted about the book was that Zippy had to grow up.

The second book I read and devoured was Quaker Summer, by Lisa Samson. Interestingly enough, if you look on my links, you'll see one for Lisa's website. She's "an author I admire." And she has been for a very long time. But though I keep up with her blog and admire the way she wrestles with real spiritual issues (from politics to social justice to living green, my kind of gal), I've never read one of her books. Until now. Quaker Summer was simply unbelievable. It made me think, it made me laugh, it made me cry. Go borrow it, buy it, or scam it from a friend, and read it. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Favorite Flowers...

...are "just because." It's not my anniversary or birthday (well, it will be in a few days, but that's beside the point), I'm not sick, sad, or suffering in any way. I got these from my hubby "just because." Aren't they lovely?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Reviews & Contest

Sara Richardson at has just posted review of both After the Leaves Fall and Summer Snow. Though you may not need to read another review of my books, I highly recommend taking a moment to check out this neat website. According to what can only be deemed their mission statement, MomStories hopes to: "give moms everywhere an opportunity to discover more about faith, experience divine hope, and encounter God’s love." They have book reviews, scripture meditations, and inspirational posts about beauty, finances, health, relationships, and more. Plus, I'll be giving away a set of signed books to one lucky reader. As always, all you have to do is leave a comment. Have a great Monday!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Unlikely Heros

People continually surprise me. Just when you think you're starting to figure out this humanity thing, someone invariably pulls out all the stops and blows you away by doing the exact opposite of what you expect them to do...

Aaron and I experienced this strange phenomenon again today. We were about 70 miles from home on the outskirts of a sizable city in the Midwest. Happily chatting away, we were at first oblivious to the loud, hissing sound of all the air leaking out of our driver's side rear tire. By the time we clued in to what was happening, we were rolling on rim. Argh. Thankfully, I wasn't alone (that would have spelled certain disaster), and my husband is handy with a car jack and tire iron. However, after five chrome lug nuts spun free, the sixth one gave him some serious trouble. Aaron heaved and pushed, stomped on the wrench, worked up a sweat, and in the end the only thing he accomplished was spreading open the heavy metal casing of the tool like a flower in bloom. It was actually pretty impressive. I even laughed at the obligatory jokes about his masculine prowess, bending steel with his bare hands and all that jazz.

At this point, it hit us that we had been stranded for ten minutes or so on the side of a pretty major highway (two lanes both ways) just past a busy intersection--and no one had stopped. Maybe that's not shocking to you, but being small town people, we were very surprised that no one had bothered to see if we needed a hand. I realize this is the age of cell phones and we could have easily grabbed ours and called a tow truck. But all the same, I'd stop for someone stranded. Wouldn't you?

What happened next was as unexpected as it was touching. Three different people did end up stopping for us. But it wasn't one of the dozens of 4x4 truck drivers that sped by, even though they were obviously equipped to help. It wasn't someone you'd expect, or even someone who knew how to change a tire (though I could be misjudging my big hearted rescuers). The people who stopped to help us were: an elderly gentleman who had a difficult time getting out of his car to talk to us, a young, single mom with her 8 month old baby sleeping in the backseat, and a Gothic-looking loner with piercings and a shirt monogrammed with screaming skulls. Each person emerged smiling, asking with sincere concern if there was anything that they could do for us. And each one of them ended up playing a part in getting us to the nearby dealership where we finally got our tire fixed (the perpetrator was a rusty nail).

Anyway, our little mid-morning adventure was hardly life-changing, but it did leave me with a smile on my face. I love being surprised. And I love being reminded that you can't judge a book by its cover.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Since the covers of my books aren't typical for the CBA market (i.e. they don't depict the main character) one of the questions that I am continally asked by readers is: What does Julia look like??? Of course, I describe her in After the Leaves Fall and Summer Snow, but some people still want to see her. "Compare her to a Hollywood actor," people implore me. But for some reason I can't imagine Julia as anyone in Hollywood. "Sketch a picture," someone else recommended. Are you kidding me? I hardly do stick people.

Well, I think I've finally found Julia. I refused to peg her as anyone until I found the perfect picture of her--the photo had to absolutely nail the Julia I had envisioned when I was writing her. And this young woman is it. Here is my interpretation of Julia De Smit, lovely but just a little awkward, tenacious yet uncertain, strong but scared. What do you think? Is this Julia?

Friday, September 26, 2008

One Body, One Hope

Check out the new logo for our non-profit organization. Isn't it cool? A good friend of ours just completed the design and I had to share it with you.

For those of you who don't know, One Body, One Hope was founded over 18 months ago after Aaron and I became friends with a wonderful Liberian pastor named Robert Bimba. Robert and his congreagation at Abide in the Vine (just outside of Monrovia) support an orphanage called Christ Our Hope. The 53 kids at Christ Our Hope depend on the generous monthly donations of our sponsors for their food, education, medical care, and other needs. It has been such an awesome experience to be involved in the lives of these beautiful children.

Anyway, over the course of the next few weeks I'll be sharing a bit more about our organization. In the meantime, if you'd like more info feel free to email me. And if you'd like a One Body, One Hope t-shirt, they'll be for sale soon!

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Favorite Season

I love fall. Though you may hear me confess that I love spring the best after a long, hard Iowa winter, don't buy it. Autumn is my first love, and I'll claim it when I'm thinking clearly and my brain isn't muddled by cabin fever. Today was warm and lovely, hot in the sun but cool in the shade. The sky was searingly blue, the leaves are just starting to change, and I spent the whole day with my boys outside. I took some pictures of my favorite fall things...

It's so much fun to decorate in the fall. I adore pumpkins--they're so satisfyingly tactile, you just have to reach out and touch them. And I like being surprised by new colors, unexpected shapes. There are pumpkins all over my house right now. This pretty green one greets you when you walk in the front door.

Of course, as a pumpkin-lover, I'm also crazy about pumkin bars. Cream cheese frosting... What could be better? They're the perfect cool weather dessert.

And my garden is so pretty in the fall. I have a Pee-Gee hydrangea that is so heavy with flowers the branches hang on the ground. A bunch of cut blooms in a glass vase makes the prettiest centerpiece I've ever seen.

My kids love fall, too. Especially making squirrel soup, a Baart family specialty and an autumn tradition. (FYI, the soup is for the squirrels, not filled with squirrels.) We take my turkey roasting pot outside and fill it with whatever we can find by walking around the neighborhood. This year the squirrels feasted on red berries, phlox flowers, mushrooms, cut grass, leaves, bark, sticks, and rocks. I think there might be a few mystery ingredients also, thanks to my two-year-old. Lucky squirrels.

One last, sweet picture. Though I hate to admit it, I like it when the weather cools off and my kids need to start wearing warm jammies. They seem more snuggly in the fall, somehow... Anyway, I thought this was the sweetest picture--they're head to head, reading a book at the kitchen table in their pajamas. I couldn't resist capturing it on film.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Books Among Friends

One of the neatest things about this whole writing gig has been the chance to meet people who share my passion for words. Granted, I've only been in the industry for a year, so I can hardly claim the sort of bond that Madeleine L'Engle and Luci Shaw shared. All the same, I have met some amazing people who I definitely consider my friends, and I'd love to take a few minutes today to introduce you to them and encourage you to read (buy!) their books.

Travis Thrasher was one of the very first people I met after I signed my contract with Tyndale. A few months after the papers were complete, I flew out to Chicago and spent a few days with my editors and all the other fabulous people at Tyndale House. At that time, Travis was the Author Relations Coordinator. He was funny, well-spoken, and very understanding when I made a fool of myself by not knowing that he was an author, too. Since then, Travis and I have continued to keep in touch via email, and we were able to spend some time together at ICRS this summer.

One of the things that I like best about Travis's books is the fact that he's not afraid to try new things. Often authors get pegged in a certain genre and never leave. Travis writes romance, adventure stories, horror, you name it. Since I don't always feel as if I know myself as an author, it's nice to know that someone like Travis likes to experiment, too. His most recent book, Isolation, has just been released from FaithWords. If you like Stephen King, you'll love this book. I read it on the plane home from Florida this summer and was scared to death. I think that was the point. :)

Lisa McKay and I met online. How very modern of us. Anyway, it all started with an email, and from there Lisa and I have built an incredible friendship. We spent four days together at the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, and had such a wonderful time that we did it all over again at ICRS in Orlando. Lisa is brilliant, witty, and a great conversationalist. Our complete lack of sleep whenever we're together attests to our ability to talk and talk and talk... Mostly we talk about the fact that we are both debut novelists and have no idea what we're doing!

To date, Lisa only has one book out, but it's a doozie. My Hands Came Away Red is gripping, fast-paced, and beautifully written. I couldn't put it down. Apparently, neither could the judges for this year's Christy Award for excellence in Christian fiction. Hands was nominated for a Christy in the suspense category. If you haven't read this book, you're missing out.

Last, but not least, I'd like to introduce you to Chris Fabry. It might be a bit of a stretch to call him a friend since we only met briefly this summer during ICRS. But he made an impression on me and I love his book, so Chris is a friend. (Can I just claim him like that?) The few times we spoke at ICRS, Chris struck me as a very happy, genuine, fun-loving guy. He's the sort of person you just want to be around.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I'm not familiar with Chris's earlier work. He is the author of more than 50 novels for children and young adults, but Dogwood is his first adult novel. And I just devoured it. The prose is beautiful, the story is heartbreaking and multifaceted, and the ending will leave you breathless. It's one of those books that you want to read twice just to make sure you caught all the clues and innuendo. A very fun read.

Well there you go. Click on the links, buy the books. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Writing Partners

People often ask me what sort of advice I have for writers who aspire to be published. Honestly? That question often makes me feel a bit uncomfortable--I'm hardly a seasoned veteran. And who's to say that what works for me will work for you? My mind feels fresh and ready to write after a hour of yoga and a cup of strong coffee. You may not be the yoga type. (I won't even comment about not being the coffee type. If that's the case, we gotta talk.) Besides, when I've received writing advice in the past, I have to admit that it hasn't always been that helpful to me. I think the best thing you can do is try it all, keeping what you like and chucking what you hate.

However, I do believe that there are a few things about writing that apply across the board. One of them is the necessity of a writing partner, critique partner, partner-in-crime, whatever you want to call it. My writing partner and first draft editor is the single most influential person in the production of my manuscript. He listens to me babble endlessly about my ideas (in the planning stage) and offers sage advice and words of wisdom when my big dreams go a little overboard. Then he edits and encourages me through the writing of every chapter of the book. Because he is not immersed up to his eyeballs like me, he can see things in plot and characterization that I can't. Sometimes his analysis of my work catches me a bit off-guard, but when I have a little distance I usually find that his observations are bang on. Finally, he bounces ideas off me, helping me see plot twists that I didn't even pick up on myself, and getting rid of the non-essentials. I don't know what I would do without him.

Anyway, I was thinking about Todd today, wondering if he's ready to jump into another book with me, or if he's had enough of editing my first draft drivel. I hope not. If you're reading, Todd, cheers. You'll have a chapter in your in-box soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I've been such a homebody this week. Yesterday I mothered three children, made chocolate chip cookies, roasted a chicken for supper (with mashed potatoes, sweet corn, stuffing, and homemade gravy), and managed to do it all with a smile on my face. (Okay, so that was a normal day in the life of my grandmother. Sue me.) Ready for more today, I undertook the laborious task of fixing nasi goreng, a Dutch-Indonesian rice dish that is a personal favorite of mine. It's sort of like fried rice, but there's chicken and pork, as well as a hot Indonesian spice called sambal oelek. Very yummy, but very time consuming. Anyway, between running my Big Boy to gymnastics, preschool, play dates, and hockey, then cooking, cleaning, and trying to keep my family sane, I'm starting to feel very "super-momish." This morning I was chatting with some friends in the parking lot of my son's preschool and it hit me full on--I'm not a super-mom, I'm a soccer mom. Or, a hockey mom. How Sarah Palin of me.

Okay, this is not new news. I've been a mom now for nearly five years. But for some reason this summer I felt much more "authorish." There was lots going on in my professional life and my days felt more tipped toward the work scale. Now I've hardly touched a pen (or my computer) for weeks. I'm feeling so out of it! Like an athelete who's taken a too-long vacation. It's time to get back in shape.

Although I haven't written any chapters, I have been doing something that I've never done before: I'm plotting. My fourth book (I'm calling it Bridgewater right now) is already well established in my mind, and for the first time ever I'm doing extensive character sketches, plot diagrams, and chapter plans. It's so unlike me. I hardly know this woman who's taken over my writing life! But it's exciting, too. I'm having lots of fun trying to write a different way.

And not only am I writing differently, I'm swimming into uncharted territory: romance. Well, not romance. Someone once told me that the rough definition of a romance is a happily-ever-after story, and a love story has much more tragic elements and leans more toward the literary. So I guess Bridgewater has elements of a love story. Fun for me, but my critique partner and first-draft editor is quite nervous. Not much of a romantic, I guess. Hey, maybe that's why I'm not getting emails from him demanding the next installment... Either way, I'm afraid the story is set. Hopefully once all is said and done, I'll have converted him. My fingers are crossed.

In the meantime, I'm afraid supper tomorrow is going to be hamburgers on the grill thanks to the heroic efforts of my spatula-weilding husband. I hope he doesn't mind--I have a date with my pen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Birthday Winners

So I just drew two numbers and the winners of the autographed copies of After the Leaves Fall are Scrappy Kay and Angi! Please email me with your home address and I'll drop the books in the mail ASAP. Thanks for your interest. I hope you like the book.

I'd write more, but I happen to a mother of three today. My cousin's husband is in Iraq and I'm watching her baby for the day. He's absolutely adorable, and I've done way more than my share of smooching. But life is busy with three boys ages four and under! Gotta run.

Have a great Tuesday!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Birthday Contest!

Guess what day it is today?!? The birthday of my very first novel! How exciting is that? I'd sing, but you wouldn't hear me anyway, so instead of baking a cake and doing all the other regular birthday stuff, I'm going to give away some books. I'll send a signed copy of After the Leaves Fall to two people who leave a comment on this post. On Tuesday (Sept. 9), I'll randomly draw two names to win a copy of a book that happens to be a very good fall read... I love reading novels that coincide with the season I'm in. And in many ways Leaves is like a pumpkin spice candle--it just goes with the crisp air, colorful leaves, and soft fall wind. Anyway, good luck to you!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wine Tour, Take II

Well, today my Big Boy is officially a preschooler. I dropped him off this morning, prepared for an emotional display and a little mommy-clinging. Uh, no. We were two feet in the door when my sweet son took off without even saying goodbye. I did a pathetic lunge and tried to catch him for one last hug, but he shrugged me off. Can you believe it? My four and a half year old is a fully functioning (not to mention independent) human being. The nerve. I pined for him all morning, but when he came home at lunchtime, it was obvious he hadn't given me a second thought. Everything was "Cody-this" and "Cody-that"... Apparently my Big Boy has a new friend. Although, I guess I can't claim that this yet-to-be-seen young man has usurped my role in my son's life. Sadly, it has never been "Mommy-this" and "Mommy-that" around our house. Oh well, who am I kidding? I want my son to be happy, well-adjusted, normal, etc. I guess this is just one more small step in his maturation.

Anyway, in an effort to get my mind off my ever-changing life, I'm going to post a few more wine tour pics. I consider the Okanagan my "happy place" right now. He-he-he!

This is the view from the second-story deck of our fabulous bed and breakfast, Okanagan Oasis. The little patio with the grass umbrellas is where we enjoyed our first bottle of Okanagan wine. Then we went for a swim in the heated salt-water pool, and out for supper on a dock over the lake. Amazing.

Here I am with my beautiful mom right before our Mission Hills viticulture tour. Everything at Mission Hills was very well cared for and lush.

Sampling the fare... :) I believe this was the Cabernet Franc. Yum.

A view of the amazing cellars at Mission Hills. This particular cellar is a cave that was blasted out of the side of the mountain that the winery is perched atop. It was spectacular.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wine Tour, Take I

Sorry it's been so dull around here lately. A two-week vacation always seems to take longer than two weeks... Between the packing, traveling, packing again, traveling again, unpacking, and clean up, the days just seem to disappear. But the Baart family is finally settled at home and life is more or less normal. If you can call my Big Boy going off to preschool next week "normal." (Brief pause to wipe slobbery, pathetic mommy tear.) Any-hoo, you don't give a rip about the trivialities of my life, so I'll stop babbling and get to the good stuff.

Where to begin...? Though our two weeks in BC were filled with family, friends, and a beautiful wedding, we did manage to squeeze a three day trip in to the Okanagan. This region is about a four hour drive east of Vancouver, through some of the most beautiful mountain country you'll ever see. As you near Canada's only desert, the topography undergoes some dramatic changes: it seems like one moment you're driving through a coastal rainforest, and the next you can imagine the hiss of rattlesnakes just over the sandy ridge. It's breathtaking.

Why the Okanagan? Well, partly because it's our favorite vacation destination, but mostly because my next book, All the Places Between, is primarily set there. The backdrop for the book is a small, family owned estate and vineyard called Thompson Hills. Though the book deals with suicide, mental illness, relationships, and revenge, wine plays an integral part in the storytelling. And I just had to do some research.

Over the course of three days we visited several vineyards, including the world-renowned Mission Hills and the lesser known Tinhorn Creek. Mission Hills crafts some of my favorite wines, and it was absolutely inspiring to spend time touring their grounds and visiting their spectacular cellar. As for Tinhorn Creek, it deserves the distinction of being the very first winery I ever visited (and the place I began to really fall in love with wine). I toured Tinhorn for the first time over six years ago and was enchanted by the picturesque winery. My memories of Tinhorn served me well as I was writing All the Places Between.

Anyway, I don't feel like I'm doing a very good job of articulating myself. I'm still tired, and a little off from traveling, so for now I'll just leave you with some pictures. Enjoy.

A lovely little bunch of Cabernet Franc graps at Tinhorn Creek.

The remains of salmon with red pepper remoulade and a blackberry and goat cheese salad. We had a flight of white wines to complement the meal, starting with a soft, buttery Chardonnay and ending with a Pinot Gris.

Here we are in front of Tinhorn Creek. The tasting room overlooks the show vineyards and the valley below. It's so gorgeous.

I just loved the look of the vines...