Monday, August 31, 2009

Isn't it romantic?

For the last month or so, I've been furiously editing (actually, rewriting) my fourth book. Let me tell you, it's been an experience (more on that Wednesday). I'm so close to the end I can almost taste it, but I've developed a palate for fine-tuning that is insatiable. I think I could tweak this book until the second coming. And then I'd probably ask the heavenly host to wait a sec' while I change just one more thing...

Anyway, as this book is sort of a love story, one of the things I've been working on is my (for lack of a better term) romantic scenes--no, not sex scenes, just romantic ones. Turns out, I wasn't cut out for the Harlequin crowd. It's been a struggle for me to make my love scenes authentic, captivating, and ah-inducing. Never heard that last term? You still know what I mean. It's that breathless sigh that escapes in the middle of a deliciously sweet romantic moment even though you try like mad to act unmoved. Anyone who has ever loved should know how to navigate those scenes, right? Believe it or not, they're HARD to write!!! I'm pulling my hair out here, and it's not for lack of experience to draw on. ;) My hubby is a romantic man.

Part of the problem is, in addition to writing a great scene, I think you also need to write an original scene... And that's not easy to do. What typically happens is the lovers touch, they almost kiss, they drink in the scent of each other's hair, and blah, blah, blah. It's all been done a million times. How do you write a romantic scene that doesn't dissolve into cliche? Personally, I believe it's the unexpected that's swoon-worthy.

Like my all-time favorite, go down in the history books, rewind a dozen times to watch again and again shower scene from Daniel Craig's version of Casino Royale. Have you seen it? If so, sigh with me. Ahhhh. If not, why are you not in your car running to the nearest video store? "Because I have Netflix" is no excuse. You can't wait for something like this to be delivered in the mail. It is, in my humble opinion, the hands down most sexy/romantic/breathtaking movie scene ever. It's completely chaste but incredibly tense, full of compassion but somehow it manages to be hot, too. He does, after all, suck her fingers.

Alas, I'm sad to say that although I love Casino Royale for many other reasons, that one infamous scene is the height of of romance for this movie. It's all downhill from there. When Bond and Vesper finally hook up, she says one of my favorite worst lines ever: "You can have me anywhere. Here. There. Anywhere." I always want to add: "You can have me in a box. You can have me with some socks. You can have me here or there. You can have me anywhere. I do so like green eggs and ham. I like them, like them, Sam I am." I crack up every time. But that's okay. The shower scene covers a multitude of sins.

At any rate, I have a question for you today. As I rewrite my fourth book, I'm wondering: What makes an awesome love scene? I've told you what I think, but I want to hear your perspective. Please share! I'm looking for a great idea to rip off. Gasp! Did I just write that? I mean, I'm looking for inspiration. ;)

Friday, August 28, 2009


If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time you know that I'm undergoing a personal experiment this summer. Our family bought a subscription to an all-natural, local vegetable farm and have been reaping (ha-ha!) the benefits of home-grown produce all summer long. You can read all about it here, here, and here. Anyway, it's been awesome. I feel healthier, I eat better, and as a result my family does too. It's a win-win situation.

But as I was chowing down my yummy lunch yesterday, I couldn't help but wonder how (or if?) this is changing my eating habits.

I love macaroni and cheese. I know, I know, it's nutritional suicide. But I can't help it: I'm gaga over the warm, gooey, cheesy macaroni perfection... Mmmmm. Makes me hungry just thinking about it. Usually I slice a few hot dogs in my mac n' cheese. I repeat: Mmmmm. Quasi-meaty goodness. But as the summer has worn on, I've found myself trying to come up with creative ways to finish the 3/4 bushel box of veggies I pick up every week. The search has resulted in some interesting combos, like replacing my Oscar Meyer stir-in with something a little more figure-friendly: Vegetables.

I slice, dice or chop two cups of whatever veggies I have on hand, steam them in a saucepan with a little water, and add them to my finished mac n' cheese. Call me redneck, but it's culinary heaven. I can't think of anything I'd rather have on a Thursday afternoon.

And yet, I can't help wondering if my healthy choice (vegetables) and my not-so-healthy choice (mac n' cheese) work to cancel each other out. It's a bit of a depressing thought.

Sadly, I don't think my diet is the only place where a right doesn't cancel out a wrong. I've been thinking lately about the choices I make--the way that I try to sprinkle a little good on something that I know is not healthy for me and proclaim it A-OK. Don't we all do that? We schedule a much-needed coffee date with a friend (a good thing!), but then spend the whole time complaining and gossiping (uh, not so good). We decide to work out, eat better, and take care of ourselves, but quickly fall prey to obsession and vanity. We actually succeed in scheduling devotional time into our hectic day, but do it with a spirit of legalism and superiority. Maybe you're all scratching your heads... Am I the only one who does this?

Anyway, I don't want to downplay the positive changes that are continually reshaping me. Nor do I want to get bogged down in unrealistic expectations. After all, even a baby step is a step. But I do want to be a strong enough person to realize that I will never arrive. Life will always be a journey, a long obedience in the same direction. It makes me want to keep trying. To hope for more... Like maybe the vegetables minus the mac n' cheese every once in a while.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Saying Goodbye... summer, to lazy afternoons at the pool, to long days with my son by my side. My eldest goes to kindergarten today, and it's put his mommy in a pretty melancholy mood. They grow up so fast.

A requiem for summer, in photos.

Setting out on a hike in a national park near our home.

My son, admiring a baby blue bird that decided to perch on our outdoor furniture.

Blowing bubbles. No, he's not drowning, he's my water baby. This is his pool pose.

I love this photo so, so much. I took it on Saturday, on a walking trail near our home.

It's times like these that I have to remind myself of every cliche in the book. When one door closes, another opens... When one chapter ends, another begins... Life goes on. Yes it does. It's just that sometimes it goes a little too quickly.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Evolution of Identity

I love this video. My husband shared it with me after discovering it as he researched for a series of college chapels about finding your true identity. So powerful... It's worth a minute of your time.

Want to read more about my thoughts on identity? Check out this essay.

Monday, August 24, 2009

B&N in Review

So I had my first Barnes & Noble booksigning on Saturday...

I had a good time. The staff at the Sioux City B&N was wonderful--they made me feel so welcome (they even gave me flowers, a sure way to make me love you). And the customers were nice, too. I didn't have hordes of people stopping to see me, but those who did stop were great. It's amazing how you can have a rather deep, meaningful conversation with a stranger! We talked about wine, British Columbia, postmodernism, literature, forgiveness... Wow. I am continually blown away that God allows me to experience these sorts of things.

To be honest, I'm still not a huge publicity fan. But I guess I'm learning to submit myself. It's part and parcel of the publishing game, this sometimes awkward experience of putting yourself out there (way out there if you're a closet introvert like me). And that's okay. Maybe the awkwardness keeps me humble. I have three books (almost four!) under my belt and I still feel like this blushing rookie. Does it ever change? I guess I hope not. It keeps butterflies in my stomach every time someone has the grace to say: "I loved your book..."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Grapevine: WINNERS!

I just used to find the winners of my first Grapevine Giveaway! How exciting. I'm excited. Are you excited? ;)

Our two lucky ladies are: Sarah (Nesting in Pleasant View) and Heather Monaghan! Please email me privately ( with your snail mail address and your book preference. Really, you can't go wrong... Both Demon and Havah are amazing books.

As for the rest of you, don't despair! On September 15 I'll post a new Grapevine introduction and announce another book giveaway. All I can tell you is that you're going to love this author, too...

Have a fantastic weekend!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Last Chance... sign up for a free book! If my (admittedly pathetic) attempt at math is right, we have 30 comments on this post (not counting my two comments and Tosca's one). That's what we needed for this lovely author to give away both Demon and Havah. Hooray! The drawing will be tomorrow at noon. I'm laying the peer pressure on thick: if you haven't left a comment and thrown your name in for one of her books, do it now! Your odds are great, the book is awesome, and you don't have to have a blogger account to leave a comment... Just type in your name and check back on Saturday to see if you've won. Come on, everybody's doing it... ;)

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I've been meaning to post about this for ages and I keep forgetting...

I am having my first official Barnes & Noble booksigning this coming Saturday! If you live anywhere near the Sioux City, Iowa area, I beseech you to come (don't make me beg). Booksignings are scary enough, but downright terrifying when it means I'll be on display at the mall entrance to a major bookstore. If my author friends are right, I'll get lots of strange looks and few book sales. Nothing like being humbled. ;)

Anyway, the booksigning is this Saturday (August 22) from 1-3 pm at the Southern Hills Mall Barnes & Noble in Sioux City. I'd love to see a friendly face or two. Or twenty.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

5 going on 25

A recent conversation with my five-year-old. Names have been changed to protect my possible future daughter-in-law.

Kid: Mom? I've got something to tell you.

Me: You do?

Kid: Yup. But you might not like it.

Me: Oh, dear. Lay it on me.

Kid: I'm engaged.

Me: Excuse me? Do you know what that means?

Kid: Yup. I'm going to marry Claire.

Me: You are?

Kid: Don't you like her?

Me: Of course I like Claire. She's a very nice little girl. But I think you might be too young for marriage.

Kid: Don't worry, I won't marry her 'til we're grown up.

Me: What's grown up?

Kid: When can I drive a car?

Me: Sixteen.

Kid: Sixteen then.

Me: Where will you live?

Kid: She can sleep in my bed. I have you and daddy's old bed.

Me: But you share a room with your little brother.

Kid: He won't mind.

Me: Can I ask how you became engaged to Claire?

Kid: I told her she was beautiful.

Me: That was nice of you.

Kid: And I like her clothes and I like her green swimming suit.

Me: (thinking) My five-year-old notices what girls look like in swimming suits!?!? Heaven help us all...

Kid: I think she's as beautiful as you are, Mommy.

Me: (melting a little in spite of the circumstances) You're a very sweet boy, honey.

Kid: Can I call Claire's mom and dad? I have to tell them that we're getting married.

Me: I think we'd better put that phone call off for a while (like another twenty years)...

* * * * * * * * * *

It's true, all of it. Not a word of a lie. Though I should give you a little background to help you understand where my son is coming from.

In exactly one week he will start kindergarten (sniff-sniff). A few decades ago, when my son's daddy went to his very first day of kindergarten, he got sent home. Yup, you read that right--they sent a five-year-old home from his first day of kindergarten. Why? Because my husband pushed a little girl into a cupboard and kissed her until she started to cry. Nowadays, they'd probably slap the kid with a sexual harassment suit. Thankfully, back then they just called his mom to pick him up (and, presumably, have a long talk about the inappropriateness of kissing girls who don't want to be kissed in cupboards where they don't want to be shoved).

Anyway, pair my recent engagement conversation with my husband's Cassanova-ish history, and I'm afraid I have a little lover on my hands... Pray for me, will you? And my handsome son... I miss the days when the woman he wanted to marry was me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

More Tosca Lee

Interview-ette with Tosca Lee:

1. Do you love to write? Or is it a chore/occupation/obligation?

It is a tic. And an obsession. And sometimes I love it. Part of the time I hate it. It hurts my back. And my eyes. And my hands. And it’s probably going to kill me since I do it a lot while I’m driving.

2. You probably get asked this all the time, but I have to ask anyway: Where did you come up with the idea for Demon?

While driving. :> Seriously.

3. What's the best advice you've ever received about writing?

Keep writing. Write your next book while you’re trying to sell your first. And get better—study writing. See what works. Approach your favorite books with an analytical eye.

4. Take a moment to shamelessly plug your next book.

Agent of prophecy, patriot rebel, betrayer of God. Coming in 2011: The story of the most reviled man in Christendom, Judas Iscariot… as told in his own words.

* * * * * * * * * *

My Take:

Tosca Lee

Rich and mesmerizing, Havah grabs hold in the first few lines and does not release its compelling grip until long after the final page has been read. I did not devour this book, I savored it, tasting the fruit of the garden with Havah and weeping with her over the unfathomable bitterness of the fall. Tosca Lee’s prose is breathtaking, her story of grace utterly transforming. She is a gifted artist, and Havah is nothing less than a masterpiece.

Tosca Lee

In her exceptional debut, Tosca Lee proves that she has both the courage and compassion to tackle the taboo: the life and times of a fallen angel. Successfully weaving the story of the descent of Lucifer with an everyman narrative, Lee offers us glimpses into the heart of God and his fathomless love for the crown of his creation. Compulsively readable and subtly convicting, Demon will forever recast your understanding of redemption.

* * * * * * * * * *

It's not too late to enter the giveaway for Tosca's book! Just leave a comment on Saturday's post (The Grapevine: Tosca Lee). A winner will be drawn on Saturday.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Grapevine: Tosca Lee

I'm taking a little break from my stay-cation to live up to my promise of introductions and freebies. It is the 15th today and that means my very first installment of The Grapevine. Looking for a good book? Wanna get hooked on the work of a great author? Do you like free books? Come on, who doesn't? ;)

Tosca Lee is the author of the critically acclaimed Demon: A Memoir--a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Silver Award winner, ACFW Book of the Year second-place winner, and Christy award finalist and top pick of 2007. Her eagerly-awaited second novel, Havah: The Story of Eve, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, 4.5 stars from Romantic Times, won a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Bronze Award and was named’s top pick of 2008.

A sought-after speaker and first runner-up to Mrs. United States 1998, Tosca works as a Senior Consultant for an international consulting firm. She received her B.A. in English and International Relations from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She also studied at Oxford University. In her spare time, Tosca enjoys travel, cooking, history and theology.

I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting the lovely Tosca Lee and reading both of her fascinating books. Wow. Not only is she beautiful, talented, and brilliant, she writes some of the best fiction I have ever read. Period. Demon: A Memoir will change the way you view redemption, and Havah: The Story of Eve will forever recast your understanding of the fall of man. Her prose is stunning, her plots are tight and riveting, and her style is fresh and unexpected.

Tosca has graciously agreed to share her gift with my readers by offering one of her signed books (I just can't remember which!) in a blog giveaway! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. Want to up your odds? Blog about it, Twitter, or tell your friends about the giveaway on Facebook and you can earn extra entries. For each social networking thing you do, you can have another shot at the free book. Just leave a second (or third or fourth) comment with the link to whatever you've shared.

Stay tuned on Monday for a mini-interview with Tosca and my review of her books!

*Just heard from Tosca and she's willing to give away a copy of both Demon and Havah. But I want the giveaway to be worth her while so I'm going to add a catch. If I get 30 or more entries for the contest, we'll ask Tosca to send out both of her masterpieces (two separate winners). Otherwise, the contest will be for just one book (winner chooses). Tell your friends!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


As summer winds down, the Baart family is gearing up for one last hurrah. Our vacations usually consist of trips to our second home in British Columbia, but the boys are reaching the age where family holidays are memorable and shaping, and we think it's important to spend time with just the four of us.

Since we're tightening our belts with the collective whole of middle class America, it's a mini stay-cation for us this year! I couldn't be more excited. We're headed to the Omaha Zoo, the Children's Museum, a water park, some hiking, and (a Baart family first) a little letterboxing! I'm so giddy I feel like a kid again. Isn't that the point?

Any-hoo, it'll be a quiet week. Blessings to you as you soak in the last couple of weeks before school starts and schedules once again reign supreme. How are you spending the waning days of summer?

PS - See you back here on Saturday for my first installment of The Grapevine! You're gonna love this woman almost as much as you'll love her books. ;)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Through the Grapevine

So we've been talking books now for a while, which is a feat for me considering that most of the time I just post whatever I happen to be thinking about. Sorry for the inconsistency, though I'll admit it keeps things interesting! At least for me. ;) But I've managed to string together a coherent thought for several posts now, and it's all been leading up to this master plan that's been fermenting in my mind for weeks and weeks now. Let me explain.

In the few years that I have been privileged to be a part of the publishing industry, I've learned one thing: nothing is guaranteed. Not another contract, not book sales, not reviewer or audience acclaim of your hard-won blood, sweat, and tears. Nothing. It can be disheartening. I've seen talented authors devastated by crushing reviews and not-so-talented authors sell in the multi-millions. As much as we might sometimes like it to be formulaic, it's not.

But there is one thing that seems pretty consistent in this unpredictable market: the importance of word of mouth. Conventional wisdom says that word of mouth is still capable of selling more books than any fancy, expensive campaign. At first, I thought: Get real; it all comes down to the almighty dollar. And it might, to a certain extent. But when I'm ready to buy or borrow a book, I don't give a rip about a billboard in Times Square if my trusted friend tells me that it sucks. In fact, I'm so confident in the assessment of like-minded book lovers and friends that I happily skipped right over the last two books in the Twilight series because I was so annoyed with New Moon. And at the high recommendation of a woman in my community, I bought The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society without even bothering to read the back blurb. I had no idea what the book was about when I cracked the front cover. But my friend was right--it's one of my current favorite books. Word of mouth works for me.

Anyway, I haven't hidden from you the fact that I was never a very big fan of Christian fiction. And now I write Christian fiction. How'd that happen? Well, God's plans are bigger than mine, but I also have to admit that I used to have a pretty narrow view of faith-based literature. Maybe it earned my disdain. Maybe I didn't look hard enough. Either way, the CBA market is much more interesting, diverse, and dynamic than I ever gave it credit for--and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Since The Moment Between came out, I've received many emails saying a version of “I wish there were more authors like you out there.” Guess what? There are. I’m a drop in the bucket, a little fish in a big sea, a novice surrounded by professionals who have been doing this much longer than me… But before you get any big ideas to up and leave me, you still have to love me and buy my books. I think you signed a contract, didn't you? ;)

At any rate, for the next year or so (and as long as I can keep it going!) I'm going to take a break from my regular blogging once a month to introduce you to some fantastic CBA authors. These authors write books that are sophisticated, literary, and able to rival anything the ABA has to offer. You'll be blown away by their talent and the scope of their stories. I'm so excited to introduce you!

I've decided to call this new monthly segment Through the Grapevine because it's all about word of mouth--not to mention my website (and latest book) are vineyard themed. How's that for cutesy? Gag. But I have to call it something. Anyway, who cares what it's called when it will feature reviews, interviews, and (best of all!) giveaways! I've contacted my first five authors (through December), and they are all eager to participate and give away copies of their books. Some are even giving away more than one. So, what could be better? Fascinating authors, great book suggestions, and chances to win. Best of all, word gets out that people who happen to love God can (and do) write beautiful, complex, and literary books. Maybe even life-changing books. Imagine that.

My first Through the Grapevine feature will happen on August 15 and continue spicing up the mid-month sag from then on out. In the meantime, back to more personal posts... Thanks for reading. :)

P.S. - As I was finishing up this post yesterday, a cop in a ghost car pulled up to my house. When the boys caught sight of his gun holster and handcuffs, mayhem broke loose. Thankfully, he was here for an interview, not an arrest, but I neglected to add the last paragraph of this post. I wanted to know: Do you agree? Is word of mouth important? Where do you get your book recommendations? Are you a religious Publishers Weekly reader? Do you wholly trust your local librarian? I'd love to know...

P.S.S. - I've decided my witty moniker (ha!) is too cumbersome. I'm ditchin' the preposition. Stay tuned for a monthly installment of The Grapevine. ;)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Winner: Giveaway #1

Well, I just used a random number generator (at and got the winner for Luci Shaw's Breath for the Bones. The number I received was 3, so I skipped back to my blog with bated breath (ha--did you catch the pun?) and found that Lauren was the third person who posted and therefore the winner! Lauren, you emailed me your snail mail address a few days ago, so I'll drop the book in the mail this afternoon or tomorrow. You're gonna love it. ;)

As for the rest of you, don't give up! Like I promised, I've got more giveaways coming up. And for those of you who read my blog for the personal posts and yawn when I start talking book, I'll get back to more fun things in coming posts. I've got photos of my writing space, a hilarious conversation with my five-year-old, and reflections on life, liberty, and the pursuit of trailer living. Huh? It'll make sense later...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Just Plain Good Books

Lest I make you think that the only books I will read are books written by Christians (for Christians or for a larger audience), let me take a minute to introduce you to some of my all-time favorite books. Good literature is good literature as far as I'm concerned, and though this doesn't really factor into the current discussion I'm trying to orchestrate, I think I'd be remiss not to mention these amazing books. I won't go into specifics on each book, but be forewarned that they are not all for the faint of heart or easily offended. But I can say that I found something heartbreaking, redemptive, hopeful, or just plain beautiful in each and every one.

In no particular order, a few books that make me reach out and touch their spines when I wander into my library/office:

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory

Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood

Wicked - Gregory Maguire (You can read my thoughts on it here.)

Bel Canto - Ann Patchett

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

East of Eden - John Steinbeck

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any to add to the list? And, is there anything in a book that will make you stop reading? Most of the above books include some or all of the following: sex, violence, vulgar language, things that offend my sensibilities or break my heart. And yet I love them. Hmmm. What do you think?

PS - Don't forget to leave a comment on my last post if you would like to be entered in a drawing for Luci Shaw's Breath for the Bones! It's an amazing book...