Monday, March 30, 2009

Photo Tour - The Moment Between

As you may or may not know, The Moment Between is set primarily in a fictitious estate and vineyard called Thompson Hills. The winery is based on my experiences in British Columbia's wine country--the Thompson Okanagan. When we lived in Vancouver, we often vacationed in the Okanagan and enjoyed taking tours of the many wineries in the area. The whole place is just breathtaking... I tried to capture the magic of it in The Moment Between, but I'd love to share a few photos of it with you while you wait for the book to release.

I've created a photo album for The Moment Between on my Facebook page. If you'd like to see firsthand some of the inspiration for my third novel, click on the link (or on the photo below) and peek around. You may learn a fun fact or two! Like how Eli (my interesting vintner and estate owner) got his dog... Nan (Fernando) appeared in the story after I took a photo of an architecturally stunning winery entrance. When I looked at the picture after the fact, there was a dog smack dab in the middle of it all. And he just fit. Voila. Meet Nan. Anyhoo, happy browsing!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sneak Peek, Part II

What I didn't mention the other day is that Lucas's story is only part of my fourth book. Woven through his narrative is the story of Meg Painter, a young woman who knows all about unrequited love. Her heart opened for a boy when she was ten years old, and it's taken him a decade to realize that he may love her too. But it just might be too late.

An excerpt:

As she walked away from Dawson, Meg suffered the weight of what she knew to be true press so heavy against her chest she struggled to breathe. It was suffocating, and she fought the realization of her feelings for him in futile frustration until the moment her heart finally gave way and split open along the seam, an overripe peach rending its flesh. She hadn’t known that it could burst like that. Or that the fissure wouldn’t mend with time--that it would continue to leak.

That death by devotion is a slow, aching bleed.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sneak Peek

I'm going away for a few days to hopefully finish up my fourth book. Still untitled. Argh. I hate coming up with titles. Anyway, I haven't told you much about it, so I decided to share a few thoughts about my work in progress. Believe it or not, this is mostly for me. It's a way of organizing my hopes and ideas for this book... Sometimes I get so lost in the muddle of the page-to-page story, I lose sight of the big picture. Imagine that.

My newest book is my first real attempt at a love story. It's not a romance, per se, but the driving force behind my characters' actions is definitely love. My protag is a small town doctor named Lucas Hudson who is trying to save his ten-year-old marriage to Jenna, the love of his life. When a dead body is discovered and Lucas acts as coroner, he finds himself swept up in a bizarre suicide/murder case that complicates everything. As he's drawn into the unfolding story, his marriage suffers more, especially when a dangerous young woman enters the picture.

It's been interesting (and actually lots of fun) to write tense, sensual scenes that try to capture the emotions of love gone wrong. Here's a quick paragraph from a scene where Lucas is thrust into an uncomfortable situation:

Angela shut the refrigerator door with her hip and stood tall in the center of the kitchen, stately and imperious, and looking for all the world like she owned the place. She locked Lucas in a calculating gaze, and tucked her bottom lip between her teeth so that a thin sliver of white shone between the curve of her lips with a sort of feline restraint. It wasn’t until she started shining the apple on the fabric of her nightshirt that Lucas realized that she was wearing one of his shirts. One of his favorites. It was pinstriped with French cuffs and it fell halfway to her knees.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


While I am thrilled to death about Summer Snow being nominated for a Christy Award, I can say in all honestly that I am equally excited about a lovely little green thing I found growing in my garden on Saturday: the first tulip. Glory be, praise the Lord, and hip-hip-hooray! Spring is in the air. Finally. It's been a long winter.

It was nearly 70 degrees here on Saturday, and I used the opportunity to stir up my special triple-ingredient soil booster. Organic compost, manure, and peat moss have proved to be the perfect combination for our rich, heavy soil, and the timing this year was downright serendipitous. Twenty-four hours after hoeing the fertilizer into all my flowerbeds, it rained. And this was no piddly, little rain. We're talking thunder, lightning, torrential downpours, and the perfect, capping rainbow at the end of it all. Did I mention I love spring?

Anyway, here's hoping that spring is in the air wherever you are! Take my word for it, a little (or, in my case, a lot of) dirt under your fingernails is better therapy than an hour with the most expensive shrink.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Christy nomination!

While my mind is firmly planted on The Moment Between and my as-of-yet unnamed book #4, cool things are happening with my backlist. (I have a backlist. Sheesh.) A few days ago, I was thrilled (actually, that doesn't quite encompass it, try: blown away, shocked silent, tickled positively pink) to learn that my second book, Summer Snow, has been nominated for a Christy Award! The Christy Awards recognize excellence in Christian fiction, and I am so flattered that one of my books is being considered for this incredible honor. Wow.

Summer Snow is one of three finalists in the Contemporary Series, Sequels, and Novellas category, and the winner will be announced this summer at the ICRS convention in Denver. Wow. Did I say that already? I'm still reeling... :)

Here's the full list of this years' nominees. Check out the amazing authors! I'm on this list?!?!

Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky
Finding Stefanie by Susan May Warren
Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White by Claudia Mair Burney

Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn
Summer Snow by Nicole Baart
You Had Me at Good-bye by Tracey Bateman

Dogwood by Chris Fabry
Embrace Me by Lisa Samson
Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon by Debbie Fuller Thomas

Blue Hole Back Home by Joy Jordan-Lake
Rain Song by Alice J. Wisler
Safe at Home by Richard Doster

Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley
Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin
Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser

Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy
From a Distance by Tamera Alexander
The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen

By Reason of Insanity by Randy Singer
The Rook by Steven James
Winter Haven by Athol Dickson

The Battle for Vast Dominion by George Bryan Polivka
Shade by John B. Olson
Vanish by Tom Pawlik

The Fruit of My Lipstick by Shelley Adina
I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires by Cathy Gohlke
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

Friday, March 20, 2009

PW Review

A little mixed, but I'm happy with it, I think.

The Moment Between Nicole Baart.
Tyndale House, $13.99 paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-4143-2322-0

Baart (Summer Snow) writes an emotionally intense tale of two sisters. Past and present alternate as the history of their family unfolds in order to explain their present circumstances. The present is largely set in a winery in British Columbia, where one of the sisters, Abigail Bennett, pursues Tyler Kamp, her sister Hailey's boyfriend. The vineyard offers opportunity for beautiful description and resonant imagery as the narrative unspools. Abigail is presented in painful, almost claustrophobic, detail as she deals with the central puzzle of her family and history. But some of the supporting characters, while intriguing, are slightly off-pitch. Hailey's boyfriend Tyler isn't presented fully enough, and winemaker Eli Dixon occasionally becomes more of a symbol than a character with a compelling back story. But Baart has exactly right the members and dynamics of the Bennett family, locked in the manic dance of mental illness. She tells a poignant and gripping story. (May)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I love, love, love a good concert. Unfortunately, my concert attendance is sporadic at best. But this weekend I got to see three of my new favorite artists in one of my favorite venues: First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. My favorite (hmmm... I think that word might be losing it's power in this post) concert of all time (Our Lady Peace with Blacklab) was there, and even the theft of my car the night before the concert couldn't dampen the sheer awesomeness of it. (BTW, the cops did find my car abandoned on the side of the road in some shady Saint Paul neighborhood. The windows were smashed, the steering column was shredded, and my sweet, little vehicle was thoroughly violated by a bunch of thugs who used it for a drug run.)

Anyhoo, the concert this weekend was fabulous (and no cars got stolen). A great time was had by all. Check out this amazing trio of talented artists. You won't be disappointed!

Bright, fun pop music reminiscient of Bjorn. But listen carefully, her candy-coated lyrics contain subtle doses of irony. I love sarcasm served up sweet.

Justin Nozuka
Folksy-rock that reminds me of Jack Johnson with a little more kick. It took me a while to get into his sound, and I'm still a bit on the fence... It's good. Not great.

Missy Higgins
Soulful, acoustic, lyrical and poetic. She's my favorite of the bunch because of her clear, powerful voice that breaks at just the right times. Her breathing is part of the music. Know what I mean?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Love Walked In

I just finished reading Marisa de los Santos' debut novel Love Walked In. Though I was once a hardcore post-modernist clinging to the notion that there is no such thing as a happy ending (this side of heaven), I'm finding that age softens crusty edges. Ah, how wise I'm becoming in all my thirty-one years. Ha.

Anyway, Love Walked In is the sort of happily-ever-after fluff that I would have scoffed at not that long ago. Now I can admit (with only a little sheepish reluctance) that I adored this book. It's smart and funny with a sort of symphonic lilt that rises and falls from the first line to the last. (Ooh, did you like that description? Symphonic lilt? I brought my A-game this morning.)

Cornelia Brown is a thirty-one year old (maybe that's why I love her) coffee shop manager whose real life begins when a man walks into it: "...a handsome stranger in a perfectly cut suit, and, yes, I know how that sounds." Scorning cliche even as the entire book symbolically and thematically embraces it, Marisa pens a novel all about love and it's many forms--romantic, fraternal, and familial. It's warm and funny, heartbreaking and triumphant. Though a few loose ends are magically tied up (or cut off altogether) by the cheerful end, this is a fun, fast read that will leave you believing in the power of love. And, yes, I know how cliched that sounds. All the same, if you're heading to the beach for a little winter reprieve, I dare you to find a more uplifting and laugh-out-loud lighthearted read.

Friday, March 13, 2009


In light of my post on Wednesday, the irony of my blog topic today is not lost on me. While the majority of the world struggles to scrape together a scant meal a day, I have to sign up for a silly (albeit ridiculously fun) exercise class to work off the results of too many carne asada tacos (yum) and my weekly supply of hazelnut creme lattes. Sigh. But though I'm passionate about many things, I only have one story to tell--my own. And it includes Zumba. (Wait a sec, I'm an author... I have lots of stories to tell... But hey, you know what I mean.)

Anyhoo, I had to blog about my newest "Get Fit" experience because it was one of the strangest hours of my life... I've done aerobics, yoga, swimming, Pilates, water aerobics, strength training, core training, cross-training, you name it, but this was the first time I've ever heard the words, "Shake your moneymakers," in a workout. Shake your moneymakers indeed.

For those of you who don't know, Zumba "fuses hypnotic Latin rhythms and easy to follow moves to create a dynamic fitness program that will blow you away." Blow me away indeed. Though I contest the assertion that the moves are easy to follow. Ha. I was so tangled up I nearly fell on my face more than once. But my lovely instructor told me that my hips would loosen up with subsequent work-outs. Ah, so if I continue to "shake it" my shimmy might actually start to resemble the svelte weaves and twirls of one of those gorgeous Latinas? Doubtful.

All the same, I'm going to keep trying. I can't remember the last time I sweat like that. Or laughed like that. When the one hour class was over, I couldn't tell if my abs ached from all the twisty hip moves or from laughing at myself. My perma-grin probably threw off the instructor, but she was kind enough to avoid looking at my pathetic attempts at the salsa, meringue, and various hip-hop moves. Unfortunately, my fellow classmates couldn't avoid my flinging arms and obvious missteps. Hopefully they'll forgive me for coming back.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Global Food Crisis

In the midst of this recession (are we allowed to call it that now?), it's hard not to go internal. Not to curl up inside of ourselves, implode with a sense of entitlement and bitterness so that we can lick our financial wounds in peace. Don't read an ounce of sarcasm into that. I know it's hard. I know that people are losing their jobs and that we're scared. And we have a right to our feelings. Always have, always will.

But I'd like to take a moment to consider what we do have: a country where we can worship without persecution, access to all manner of services and programs to help us continue to put food on the table, a government that is working tirelessly on our behalf (whether or not we agree with their policies, at least we are not stuck beneath the cruel thumb of a dictator, despot, or tyrant), all manner of friends and family (by blood or by church, organization, or self-appointed community) to help carry the load, as well as clean water, a roof over our heads (even if it is not one that we own), food to eat (even if it comes from the ladle at a soup kitchen), and clothes on our bodies (hey, shopping at Goodwill is cool). And let's be honest here, for most of us, it's nowhere near that dire. Our IRAs are in the tank and we can't afford that little extra something we've been coveting. The extravagant lifestyle that most Americans enjoy is going to change. But maybe that's what had to happen.

The truth remains, we are blessed beyond belief, even when times are tough. We think the financial crisis is hard on us? It's devastating the rest of the world...

Today Compassion International is sponsoring Global Food Crisis Day. Partnering with media across the continent, they are trying to raise awareness about the food crisis that continues to ravage most of the world. I encourage you to stop by their site and see how you can help. Not interested in Compassion? Try World Vision, Save the Children, The Global Hunger Project, Bread for the World, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, or even our own One Body, One Hope. A dollar a day won't buy you a coffee in the States. But it can feed, clothe, educate, and give a child in the third world access to medical care. Did you see the little sweetheart in the picture above? Her name is Princess and she's eating today because a family cared enough to give up $1 a day for her. I think she's worth every penny and so much more.

Hunger Facts

  • One person in seven goes to bed hungry every day.
  • One-third of the world’s population is undernourished.
  • There are 25,000 starvation-related deaths each day.
  • Each night more than 300 million children go to bed hungry.
  • Every day, over 12,000 children (one every 7 seconds) die from hunger-related causes.
  • Approximately 146 million or 27 percent of children under age 5 in developing countries are underweight.
  • Nearly 17 percent of babies in developing countries are born with a low birth weight compared with only 7 percent of babies in industrialized countries.
  • More than 4.4 million children die from malnutrition each year.
  • Worldwide, 161 million preschool children suffer chronic malnutrition.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

I'm fully aware of the fact that I'm a bit behind the times blogging about Slumdog Millionaire after all the hoopla, honors, and starry-eyed song and dance. But blog about it I must because I finally, finally had the chance to see it this weekend. I've been looking forward to this film forever, it seems, and it lived up to my every hope and expectation.

Since you can read thousands of reviews on-line, I won't bore you with yet another summary and personal critique of what Hollywood has decided is the best movie of the year (it is). I just had to take a moment to say: WATCH IT. Ignore the naysayers who claim that it unrealistically depicts an orphan and slum dweller rising above his circumstances (uh, that's the point--it's a fairytale). Ignore the skeptics who scoff that love can conquer all (I think Jesus proved exactly that--love wins). And don't be afraid to immerse yourself in the pain. It is a hard movie to watch, but it's worth every minute. May your heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.

Friday, March 6, 2009


So I have a Facebook fan page. Yes, you read that right and yes, I'm crimson as I write it. Fan pages? Seriously? But I guess it's one of those things you do--good for networking, good for publicity, good for selling books...? Hmmm. Not sure if I buy that (no pun intended). Anyway, the lovely ladies in marketing at Tyndale set up this nifty page for me and threatened to write responses in my name if I don't step up. Since we have similar senses of humor, I don't see a problem with this. ;) All the same, I will learn how to manage the page and try to drop by on a regular basis to post interesting things. I hope. I mean, I hope you find the things interesting. Argh. As you can tell, I'm a goofy, bumbling idiot when it comes to anything publicity related. I just might manage to muck this up royally before it's all said and done. Ugh. I need a drink. Did I just type that???

At any rate, you can click on the link to check it out. Or not. Either way. Oh, just don't be mad at me if I don't respond to any posts, comments, etc. for a while--I'm not set up to do so yet. And I might drag my feet in doing so... I'm kinda curious to see what sorts of quirky things the administrators come up with in my name. :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

More Reviews

A couple more book reviews for some of my recent reads.

Tallgrass - Sandra Dallas

My agent introduced me to this gem of a novel (Sandra Dallas is also one of her clients) and I'll be forever grateful. It's lyrical, honest, and memorable. I fell in love with the characters, and look forward to reading more of Sandra's work.

Set in Colorado in the middle of World War II, Tallgrass explores the implications of a national tragedy that occurred while all eyes were directed overseas. When a Japanese internment camp is constructed outside of her small town, Rennie Stroud doesn't know what to think. But the murder of a young girl turns her world upside down, and suddenly racial tensions run dangerously high. This coming-of-age story has something for everyone.

The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd

This book has been on my to-read list for a very long time and I finally had the mixed pleasure of picking it up. Though I loved the prose and was riveted by the story, there were some elements that left me scratching my head...

Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, a young woman who lives with her abusive father after her mother is killed. When her surrogate mom (a black housekeeper named Rosaleen) insults a group of white men in their racially divided town, Lily grabs Rosaleen and skips town. The two women find themselves in the care of three beekeeping sisters, black women who readily take the fugitives in and give them a home like none they've ever experienced.

Though I liked this story and was riveted by the lovely prose, a few things prevented me from fully immersing myself in the book. First of all, I found Lily's struggle with her past to be almost annoyingly volatile. She pendulum-swung from acceptance to denial and forgiveness to vengeance within the span of a paragraph. And though I realize these sorts of emotions are rather normal in tragic circumstances, after an entire chapter of hot and cold, back and forth, I was just plain sick of reading about it. Also, the whole "divine female power" thing was... well... odd. Themes of "You have to find a mother inside of yourself," and "I am enough," permeated the book. Essentially, find the god in yourself and you'll never need for anything again. Mix that in with some strange Mary, Mother of God pagan-ish rituals and you get the bizarre spirituality of Bees. A good read, don't get me wrong, just... weird at times. If you're not into an entire scene dedicated to watching a group of women rub down a wooden statue with honey, you might want to skip Bees.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Just got back from a convention in Chicago and I'm feeling the spiritual and emotional effects of an overwhelming weekend. Don't get me wrong, The Power of With was awesome. But it makes me want to do things... As if I don't already have enough things to do. That's the problem with being a visionary (thank you Grip-Birkman personality assessment for illuminating exactly what makes me tick)--you dream big dreams. I feel singularly burdened to transform my community. But I'll get over it. Or at least I'll digest it into manageable pieces and make small changes to my own life before I unleash myself on my community. Watch out, small town U.S.A., she's armed and passionate (which is, consequently, more dangerous than being simply dangerous).

Anyway, the convention was a mosaic of seemingly unrelated experiences that I'm still processing. A few highlights:
  1. Visiting my agent on Michigan Ave. It was a miserably rainy day, but that didn't lessen my pure enjoyment of her fourth floor offices overlooking the lake. Hardwood, floor to ceiling bookshelves, enormous windows... Need I say more? The music drifting down the hall from the violin maker's studio made the whole experience feel almost scripted. I could definitely write a bestseller here.

  2. Hearing Doug Pagitt speak. He's hilarious, insightful, and brimming with ideas that make my head spin. Would love to visit him at Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis and talk community over a cup of coffee.

  3. Spending time with Deon and Alyssa, our associate pastor and his wife. I only have one word to describe this couple: awesome.

  4. Going for lunch with various friends from Tyndale. I love this publishing house (and the people in it). It's good to be reminded that it takes a village to raise a child--I mean, publish a book. Who am I kidding? It's practically the same thing.

  5. Having dozens of different conversations with people from all over North America who share the same passions as me. Constituents from CRWRC (Christian Reformed World Relief Committee), Home Missions, Communities First, DRS (Disaster Response Services), and congregations large and small made this conference feel like a family reunion. I love people.

Well, thanks for letting me process. It's been helpful. I think I am going to start small--with chocolate chip cookies for our new neighbors. They'll be coming out of the oven in about 20 minutes. In the neighborhood? Stop on by... :)