Friday, July 31, 2009

Christians Who Write (Giveaway #1)

I'm going to step out on a limb and admit that up until the last few years of my life, I only read "secular" books. I only liked secular books. And yet, in all those years of reading, I thrilled at the discovery of a book by a Christian who writes... I think that something inside of me longs for hope at the end of a story. Not necessarily a happily-ever-after ending, but a hopeful one, an ending that acknowledges that the world is still, in spite of it all, a beautiful place.

At any rate, I've amassed a library filled with wonderful books and I'd like to share some of my favorites with you.

Peace Like a River - Leif Enger

If you haven't read this book, scoot on over to Amazon and buy it. Amazon is selling it for $4.60 right now, and let me tell you: that's a steal. This is an absolutely gorgeous book. Not to be missed. It will always be in my top ten.

Abide With Me - Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout is probably my all-time favorite author, and the woman whose work I would like most to emulate. Abide With Me is the story of a small town pastor who loses his wife to cancer and has to live in the balance between grief and new life, all amid the backdrop of a gossipy small town that just can't understand.

Prayers for Sale - Sandra Dallas

I reviewed this book a while back (you can read my thoughts here), but I like Sandra's work enough to mention her again. Her books aren't action packed or filled with plot twists and turns, but she weaves beautiful stories and manages to make you believe again in grace.

Your turn. What non-CBA books have you read and loved? Please share!

And now, as promised, a giveaway. I'll send a copy of one of my favorite books to one person who leaves a comment on this post. All you have to do is leave a comment with your favorite non-CBA book. Then go tell your friends! Easy, right? I'll draw a winner on Tuesday at noon.

Here's the book:

Breath for Bones
Art, Imagination, and Spirit: A Reflection of Creativity and Faith
Luci Shaw

Luci Shaw is my favorite poet and this book is her a collection of her reflections on faith and writing. If you are a writer, artist, poet, or musician (or you want to be one) this book will help you understand the role of your faith in your art. It's an absolutely amazing book--I can't recommend it enough.

Good luck!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Christian Writers & Christians Who Write

Spinning off of Monday's post, I want to spend a little time today talking about the difference between Christian writers and Christians who write. If you look up these terms on Wikipedia, you won't find an entry, but I think that it's pretty widely accepted that there seem to be two camps when it comes to Christians and writing.

First off, you have Christian writers--people who define themselves first and foremost by their almost evangelical approach to their art. Christian writers publish in the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and often view their books as a way to present Christ to a certain readership. These readers usually consist of other Christians, but the books can also act as an outreach tool. There isn't necessarily a formula for these sorts of books (though it may seem like there used to be), but they usually include Christian habits (i.e. praying, attending church, going to Bible study, etc.), quotes from Scripture, and direct references to God. It also seems there are certain rules that define what is clean and decent in a work of Christian fiction. This means no swearing or cussing and no graphic sex scenes. Violence, however, doesn't seem to be a problem... Hmmm. Wonder why that is?

On the other hand, you have Christians who write. These authors are definitely Christians, but their religious beliefs may not be quite as overt or obvious. Their primary objective may not be to present Christ to an audience, therefore their goals might be much more broadly defined or even change from project to project. It seems that underlying these sorts of books are overarching themes of grace, redemption, and hope. But there is also a willingness to go deep into the raw places of our depravity and present it for what it is. There may not be direct references to God or Scripture, and religious themes may be subtle or even allegorical. These books are often--but not always--published in the ABA (American Booksellers Association) and may include things that CBA books would deem indecent.

Okay. So, working with those two definitions (which, keep in mind, are only my very flawed observations), I have a few questions for you. I'd love it if you'd take a minute to answer even one or two of them!

Is there anything that you would add or take away from the above definitions?

What do you prefer to read? Books by Christian writers or books by Christians who write? Why?

Do you think that Christians should read (and write) certain kinds of books? Why?

If you write, what sort of a writer do you consider yourself? A Christian who writes? A Christian writer? Or neither?

Sorry if this post seemed technical to you! I'm heading somewhere, really I am. Like I said, in the next little while I'm going to be introducing you to some of my favorite authors and giving away some books. The first giveaway will be tomorrow! So stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

From Amish to Vampires--The future of Christian fiction?

A few weeks ago the Associated Press came out with an article about the changing world of Christian fiction. I could recap the entire article for you, but you can either read it for yourself (click on the link) or buy my one-sentence summation: "This ain't your grandma's Christian fiction!"

I have a confession to make. Until I signed a contract with Tyndale House Publishing, the last Christian fiction book I had read was a Janette Oke when I was a pre-teen. I think I liked it...? Throughout my teenage years my mom had a few Inspirational books laying around the house, and though I picked them up and tried to read them, they seemed really out of touch with my life and the things I was experiencing. I inherited my dad's reading habits: Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth, Robin Cook... you get the picture. Which is kind of ironic because it's not like I had so much in common with Ludlum's covert spy gone rouge, the infamous Jason Bourne.

Any-hoo, as an author of Christian fiction (something I never thought I'd call myself!) I've had the pleasure of meeting many amazing authors and reading their equally amazing books. Apparently, I'm not the only one who has longed for more substance, more literary quality, more raw struggle in my books. The truth is, Christian fiction is becoming more... (dare I say it?) edgy. Okay, I hate that word. Don't know why, though it may have something to do with the implication that edgy Christian books blur the line between decent and indecent by sashaying up to the line in the sand and doing a seductive tango all over it. Is that necessary? Sometimes. And yet, I don't think it's something we should force in our books. But I digress...

In the next few days I'd love to continue this conversation and share some of my favorite Christian fiction authors with you. I'm also going to be giving away some books so stay tuned! In the meantime, I want to leave you with a question and a quote. The question is: What do you look for in a good book? What does it take for you to close the cover and sigh in contentment?

And, last but not least, they mentioned me in the AP article! How exciting is that?

"Other Christian fiction shows growing sophistication. No longer must characters follow a predictable path to salvation, for instance. The heroine of Nicole Baart's "The Moment Between," published by Tyndale, is not a conventional believer but a spiritual seeker; the novel is set in a vineyard and deals with a suicide."

Cool, eh? Have a fabulous Tuesday!

Friday, July 24, 2009


Okay, okay. I'm finally giving in. Even though Blogger introduced the whole "Follower" concept months ago (longer than that?) I've been slow to hop on the bandwagon. I don't know why... Maybe because it feels strange to have someone "following" me or my blog. After all, the moniker has certain unarguably negative connotations. Stalker, addict, and even parasite are all synonyms of follower. Ew. But I'm equally uncomfortable with the less frightening verbal comparisons: disciple, admirer, devotee. Jesus had disciples (not me), Aaron (my handsome hubby) is the last admirer I've entertained, and devotions are for early mornings and late night, solitary runs. ;)

But in the last few months of my blogging, I've experienced the strange, on-line phenomenon that is unique to our generation... I've developed on-line friends. Suddenly, these little posts we send off into cyberspace feel like a conversation, and I look forward to talking with people whom I've grown to genuinely care for. Imagine that. All at once, follower means companion, helper, friend. Your comments, emails, and blogs have done much to lift me up and encourage me through experiences light and unbearably heavy. Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

And so, I've added to my sidebar the sweet followers--friends--that take the time to stop in and say "hi." Thanks for your words of kindness, your willingess to share yourselves with me, your brief interactions that continually remind me that we are not, and never need be, alone. Even in cyberspace.

Have a wonderful weekend. May it be filled to overflowing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Heart Broken

I remember when my son was born.

"It's a boy," the doctor said. Then she raised that sweet, tiny bundle and placed him on my chest, leaving a heaviness over my heart that hasn't lifted in the five and a half years since. I've discovered that having a child is exactly that: a deep mark on your heart, a hand pressing down that leaves fingerprints all over your formerly untouched soul. You are never the same.

Throughout his infancy, toddlerhood, and preschool years, my son painted himself all over me. His handiwork is a mural of sorts, a tapestry in relief that dips and curves according to the lines of his small palms. You'd think that having a second son would only mess up the already chaotic sprawl of his youthful art, but our second baby was, and is, the perfect fit. And so two children, in concert, have their way with my heart. I wouldn't have it any other way.

But there is one thing I know. I want them with me. Always.

We've been talking a lot about Africa in our home lately. Our non-profit is making incredible strides in Liberia and we have a trip planned for November of 2011. We want to take our kids along, but I worry about the little one who puts bugs in his mouth to see what they taste like. And I worry about the big one who has allergies and who is a homebody... But we had a conversation a few days ago that changed my mind.


"Yeah, hon."

"How many shots do I have to have when we go to Africa?"

Silence as mommy remembers the Hep immunizations, yellow fever needles, anti-malarial pills, and more. "Uh, I don't remember exactly."

"Well, I don't care. I'll be brave."

Phew. Though mommy wonders if they make needles small enough to stick in his narrow little hip.

"I really, really want to go to Africa."

"You do?"

"Yup. I'm going to be a missionary when I grow up. I'm going to tell people about Jesus."

Gulp. Visions of distance and danger and sickness and strife. But mostly distance. Away from me? But isn't this what I've always prayed for? That he'd have a heart for God?

I don't know if my son will be a missionary when he grows up. But the fact that at five years old he wants that more than he wants to be a football player, firefighter, or motorcycle stunt man (his previous longed-for occupations) breaks my heart in that good, heart-rending, God-aching way.

I pray for my sons, and I pray that God will continue to break my heart with the things that break his. Maybe when they grow up I won't have my boys with me, but I pray that even if I can't hold them, God does. And Lord, let them cling to you right back. I think I could handle that kind of heart break. In the meantime, they're here. They smell like syrup from breakfast and their scraped knees call out for kisses. Their hair is morning-mussed, their cheeks still pink from the warmth of their pillows. They say, "Mommy, I love you so so so so so so much."

I love you so so so so so so much right back.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Beautiful World

Happy Monday! I'm in the process of creating the playlist for my next book. And this amazing song by Carolina Liar is the backbone. Thought you'd like to hear it. Hit play on the YouTube video, then scroll down to read the lyrics. It's a beautiful song. And it is, indeed, a beautiful world.

Here it comes in the morning
I’m just trying to forget
Keep it real, keep it simple
And somehow just get out of bed
And this city is endless
I’m as cold as it’s stone
Yeah this city is endless
And I’m, I’m walking alone

Sunlight creeps in between the curtains
Lose the sheets there’s no time for sleep
I lie, I pretend ‘til I’m almost certain
It’s a beautiful world

I wanna ask for direction
But I don’t dare to disturb
I got a thing with affections
Yeah, that’s why I’m walking alone

Sunlight creeps in between the curtains
Lose the sheets there’s no time for sleep
I lie, I pretend ‘til I’m almost certain
It’s a beautiful world

Here it comes in the morning…

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lazy Saturday Afternoon

I love summer Saturday afternoons...

We live in an "old" neighborhood where the trees are big and the houses have character, where cracked sidewalks crisscross every block and the sound of the wind in the leaves is a constant whisper. We jokingly call it the "inner-city" because our small town seems to be sprouting new subdivisions and "suburbs" at every far-flung corner. But there's no place that I'd rather be, particularly on a lazy Saturday afternoon halfway through a perfect summer...

We walk miles around the meandering blocks, finding treasures in the form of pine cones, feathers, and dandelion puffs.

We bike more than we use our car. This summer, my son learned to ride a bike here in thirty seconds flat.

My sweet aging house wears window boxes like jewels, spilling geranium reds and soft petunia whites in a summery cascade of color. She's a pretty little lady, all decked out in blue.

My yard might be small, but I spend hours in my gardens, weeding, watering, removing dead leaves and spent flowers so that more will bloom. We don't get enough sun to grow a vegetable garden, but I have hostas the size of a Volkswagon Bug. Well, close enough.

Dorothy might have said, "There's no place like home," but her words are my own. Thank you, Lord, for a place to call home. Especially on a Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Denver, Take II

Weronika wanted more photos, and since I'm playing hide and seek with my boys and don't have time to blog, more photos she shall receive. :) See? All you have to do is ask!

I made such a big deal out of my $5 earrings, I thought I should give my $29 shoes some publicity. I have to confess, I'm not usually so girly... But it was fun getting dressed up and I found myself loving the chance to wear anything other than jean shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops--standard stay-at-home mommy fare.

Here we are posing with Tom and Collette Pawlik. Beautiful couple. All these great people are just one more reason why I love what I do.

Smiles before the signing. Randy Singer was signing his book The Justice Game right behind me. Publishers Weekly says that Randy is "every bit as enjoyable as John Grisham." Talk about high praise! On the opposite corner of Randy, Chris Fabry was signing his newest book June Bug. I can't wait to read this re-telling of Les Miserables--Publishers Weekly calls it "a stunning success." And Tom Pawlik held down the fourth corner of the Tyndale booth, signing his book Valley of the Shadow. Tom writes visionary fiction along the lines of Dean Koontz and Ted Dekker. This "exciting page-turner" sounds like an awesome read. Now can you see why I felt like I was playing dress up? Literally and figuratively? ;)

Another angle of the signing. My back is to the photo. From where I sat I had a great view of the Faithwords (an imprint of Hachette) booth (the blue banner above all the heads). Next to Tyndale was Bethany. I think. Maybe Harvest House? I can't remember... Lots of booths, lots of publishers...

On the way home, we drove through a stunning Colorado storm. At one point the clouds seemed to be coming up from the ground instead of down from the sky... Turned out the wind had kicked up a dust storm that was making little twisters and funnels all along the horizon. It was awesome. The photo (snapped from my car window at 80 mph) does not do the dark sky justice.

Ah, back to life as normal. I have a dishwasher to unload and teeth to brush (both my own and my sons'). This is my last week of "vacation" from writing... Next week I'll hop in the deep end with more edits for my 4th book and research for my 5th. I've already started crafting scenes--that's always a good sign. Happy Thursday to you!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Denver 2009

Aaron and I just got home from our whirlwind trip to Denver. Amid unpacking, laundry, cleaning, and boy-hugging, I'm taking a few quick minutes to whip up a blog post. I think I may have told you I'd write this weekend... Uh, sorry about that. We were having too much fun to worry about booting up the computer. Any-hoo, without further ado, Denver, in five photos or less (or more--we'll see how it goes).

The Christy Awards Ceremony

Though Summer Snow was a finalist in the Series, Sequels, and Novellas category, it did not win. The lovely Tracey Bateman won for her novel You Had Me at Goodbye. As cliched as it sounds, I was so incredibly humbled and honored to be considered in the same breath as Robin Jones Gunn and Tracey Bateman (both bestselling authors with an entire library of work under their belt) that the joy for me was in the nomination. Besides, I now have a rockin' medal (that my boys will probably use for dress-up), and I got to get all dolled up and be girly. The best part? Chandelier earrings and heels that tied around the ankle. He-he! Or maybe it was meeting Robin Jones Gunn, sitting beside the brilliant Angela Hunt, being inspired by Richard Foster, or watching two fellow Tyndale authors win Christy Awards. Obviously a toss up.

Posing for a pic with my stunningly handsome hubby.

Standing in-between the wonderful Robin Jones Gunn and Chris Fabry. Do I look serious to you? It's only because I'm silently thanking God that I didn't fall off the stage when I was accepting my medallion.


On Sunday, Aaron and I drove out of the city and spent the day in Breckenridge. Wow. We lived in British Columbia for several years, but mountains never cease to take my breath away. We took a lift to the top of Peak 9 and hiked around on top of the world. So amazing. In fact, we were so blown away by the beauty and grandeur that we waxed poetic on how much we miss living near such sights... Until we headed back for Denver and found ourselves amid bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 70. It took us nearly three hours to get back to the city! Needless to say, by the time we finally stepped out of the car at our hotel, we were very happy small town dwellers once again. Who needs mountains when you have the peace and quiet of the simple life?

Hiking around the beautiful city of Breckenridge.

At nearly 10,000 feet.


This was my second experience at the International Christian Retail Show and it was as fun and furious as I remembered. Tyndale hosted a booksigning for four of their Christy nominated authors on Monday morning, and I had a ball meeting people from all over the country. Not to mention, getting free books! I love that about ICRS. And I love that there are such fantastic people in the publishing industry... I feel so blessed to get to be a part of it.

This was the line at the beginning of the signing. I'm the little-bitty person sitting at the table.

Hmmm. I can deduct two things from this picture. One: I like booksignings. Two: I really like my chandelier earrings.

From right to left: Chris Fabry (Christy winner), Randy Singer, Tom Pawlik (Christy winner) and me. I'm the one in the skirt (and chandelier earrings).

Well, I made it in seven photos. Not bad considering I have sixty-nine. :) Blessings to you this week!

Friday, July 10, 2009

4th Book

Soooo... It's done. Just over a week ago I put the finishing touches on my fourth manuscript and sent it to my agent with a wish and a prayer. If you've been following my blog for any amount of time, you know a few things about this book already, but for some reason I find it helpful to organize my thoughts. No, this creative mind doesn't think linearly. But I do like to collect thoughts much like I hunt for shells at the beach. Size, color, and type don't matter, but there's a pattern to what I keep and why. Don't try to understand it, just smile and nod. ;)

Some interesting stats about Book #4 (Sometimes Girl?):

-It's 104,360 words. That's my second longest book. The Moment Between is around 118,000 words. Apparently, most contemporary fiction these days stays under the 100,000 word mark. What can I say? I'm verbose. People have both praised this quality in my books and scorned it.

-Meg Painter (the protag for my backstory), is everything I wish I would have been in high school and beyond. She's tough, tomboyish, and bold. She plays football, rides a Freestyle BMX, and charms everyone who meets her. I was shy, bookish, and uncoordinated. Though I was a cheerleader--imagine that. The only thing I have in common with Meg is that we were both late bloomers. Meg's mother tells her that Painter girls grow into their beauty. I was an ugly duckling who always hoped that would prove true for me!

-Lucas Hudson (the protag for my main story) is based loosely on my husband, my father, and my brother. They are all kind, gentle-spirited men who manage to exude utter masculinity and strength without feeling the need to brandish guns or put on the sort of silly, macho displays that some men consider manly. I have never been attracted to that in a man.

-This is the first book I've written that is told (at least in part) from a man's perspective. My first draft editor is a man, and he was at times impressed by my ability to get inside the head of the opposite sex, and at times found my interpretations laughable. Thankfully, he kept me true to Lucas's character, and I feel confident handing this manuscript to any man.

-I started this novel, in earnest, in January. The idea actually took root fifteen years ago, and I wrote 50 pages or so of Lucas's story before my first son was born in 2003. In some ways, this book has taken the least amount of time to write (just under six months) and the most amount of time (fifteen years).

-Like The Moment Between, I have a very hard time describing this book. It's part murder-mystery, part true crime, part love story. It's a page-turner, but it has the same literary elements as my first three books. It's character driven, but there is a large cast of fascinating characters instead of merely two or three.

Well, that's it in a nutshell. Hope it piques your interest! I'll keep you updated as things start to get fun... I love editing, the cover design process, marketing plans... Oh! So exciting! I just love what I do. :D

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


There is sooooo much going on right now I don't even know where to start. For lack of any common thread, I'm going to post randomly today, and get back to regular blogging in the coming week. Thanks for putting up with my scatterbrained-ness!

*Today is my baby's birthday! He's officially three years old. Sweet, sweet thing. Though I wasn't there at his birth, the Holy Spirit worked a little miracle for me and let me know the week he was born... It's an amazing story, I'll have to share it sometime. In the meantime, Happy Birthday, Sweet Pea.

Not flesh of my flesh or bone of my bone
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn’t grow from my heart but in it.

*I'm done with my fourth book. That's a hard sentence for me to write because I never really feel done with a book until it's officially in print. Even then, I have a hard time reading it because something could always have been done better. I'm such a perfectionist. But, Book #4 is officially in the hands of my wonderful agent and her assistant, and I hope to get feedback on it soon. Stay tuned: I'll write more about it tomorrow!

*On Friday morning, Aaron and I leave for Denver, Colorado and the Christy Awards! I'm so excited. Time alone with my husband, a fabulous hotel downtown, hanging out with friends and colleagues in the publishing industry... It's going to be a blast. And I'm still getting my mind around the fact that Summer Snow is a finalist. Crazy. I'll try to post Saturday night or Sunday to let you know how it all went.

*Believe it or not, hot on the heels of finishing my fourth book for publication, I'm nearly ready to begin again with another book! The idea came to me several weeks ago, and though this fabulous novel-in-waiting is still in its infancy, I'm very excited about it. Not quite ready to talk about it yet, but I will say that I'll be taking a few flying lessons this summer in preparation for the coming months of writing. Could be interesting since I'm afraid of heights. And this ain't no 747... More like a two-seater Cessna. I'll keep you posted.

Whew! I'm feeling like my life is one big mosaic these days! Between family and writing and church and friends and gardening and summer and everything in between, I'm trying to take in each beautiful minute. Hope your summer is proving equally wonderful.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Summer Berries

One of my favorite summer traditions is going strawberry picking at a local berry farm. The boys love riding a tractor to the fields, and I love all the memories of picking berries with my grandma when I was a kid. We pick for an hour, eating more than we collect, of course, and we always have a hard time stopping... Lifting the plants to find those crimson beauties is like treasure hunting--it's impossible to just walk away! This year we made two double batches of strawberry jam, countless containers of "ice cream berries," and four pies. Enjoy the pictures.

Happy 4th of July!