Sunday, December 28, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
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
Thursday, December 11, 2008
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
Thursday, December 4, 2008
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 ~ 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 ~ 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
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
Monday, November 17, 2008
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
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
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
P.S. If you have a chance on Monday, check out RelzReviewz for a Character Spotlight on Julia.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
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:
FactCheck.org 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. ;)
Snopes.com 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.
HoaxSlayer.com 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
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.
- 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,
- 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!
- 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).
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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
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
Monday, October 6, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
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
Friday, September 26, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
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.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
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.
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
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
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
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
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
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
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.
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...