Saturday, May 29, 2010

A note of apology

Dear Readers,

I'm sorry that I did not blog today, and I'm especially sorry that I did not announce the winner of the book giveaway. You see, it was sunny and gorgeous in my neck of the woods... The sort of early summer day when (8 months pregnant or not) I couldn't bring myself to stay cooped up inside with my eyes glued to a computer screen. Instead of flipping open my lovely laptop, I spent the day planting flowers, helping my sons wash their bikes with the garden hose (you can imagine how much "washing" we got done), scrubbing our car seat and stroller in preparation for little Baart Baby, and playing at the pool. Whew. I am exhausted. It's time for me to heave my big baby belly into a cold shower and then off to bed. Nothing in all the world sounds quite so sweet right now as the cool side of my comfy pillow. Mmmm... pillow... Night-night. Sleep tight. I'll blog on Tuesday (have a happy Memorial Day on Monday!) and announce the winner then. Guess that means if you haven't told me a bit about yourself (look back two posts to the one titled Journeying Together) you still have time to participate in the giveaway. As for the rest of you, thanks for understanding. :)


Thursday, May 27, 2010


Thanks so much for all of your responses to Tuesday's post! I can't tell you how fun it is getting to know you... Though I get glimpses of your personalities, your interests, and passions through your comments and emails, it's nice to have the opportunity to flesh you out in my mind. Exciting stuff! I just really do wish I could see you and talk to you face to face.

Anyway, I'm having so much fun that I want to continue in the "getting to know you" vein today. One of the issues that has come up in the author's group I belong to (see Tuesday's post for more info) is the fact that I'm a bit of an enigma. I don't quite fit any stereotypes, and therefore my books are kind of hard to market. Who would like them? Not romance readers, mystery-lovers, or fantasy buffs. But maybe those people would like them... Young people? Old? Somewhere in between? Perhaps people who are passionate about adoption (like I am) will like my books. But I don't handle adoption in my books the way that I approached it in real life. Argh. It's like trying to nail Jell-o to a tree. Slippery and impossible!

Oh well, I've decided that I'm going to embrace my inconsistencies! I like the unexpected and I like being surprised. So, I'm going to share a few of my quirks with you... And I'd love to hear a bit about yours!

  • I am a small town girl at heart, but I LOVE the city. In fact, while I long for wide open spaces and huge expanses of blue sky, I could easily envision moving back to Vancouver (or Chicago, New York, wherever) at some point in my life. I'm just as comfortable working with large animals on a farm as I am walking the streets of downtown in a pair of heels and a killer suit. Even though I have no use for my beautiful city clothes these days, they still hang in the back of my closet. Someday...
  • I am both painfully shy and incredibly extroverted. When I was a kindergartner, I was so silent my teacher wondered if I was a selective mute. There are still times that I am nearly paralyzed with fear in social situations. But I can also work a room with the best of them. I'm comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people, and I'm fairly confident about my ability to communicate and express myself clearly. Sometimes it feels like a switch that I can turn on and off. If I flick on the "outgoing" switch, I'm fine in nearly any circumstance. If I forget, all my insecurities rise to the surface and I'm numb with terror.
  • I am a homebody and an adventurer. Have you seen the cartoon Toot & Puddle (or read the books)? Toot and his brother Puddle are pigs who live together in a beautiful, fantasy house in the middle of a lovely wood. Toot likes to travel and see the world. Puddle likes to stay home. I am half Toot and half Puddle. I would backpack Europe with abandon, but be mildly homesick the entire time.
  • I take mothering very seriously, but I would be lost without my career. I wish I could be the kind of mom to abandon myself to my children during their formative years. But I need to be working outside of the home in some capacity. It's true, my kids get the bulk of my time and attention, but my career keeps me grounded and sane. Even if I wasn't writing for publication, I would have to be plugged into the professional world in some way. Teaching, developing curriculum, writing for a newspaper or freelance... Anything that would keep my mind engaged and my creativity fresh.

Okay, I've shared four idiosyncrasies with you. It's your turn! Please take a moment to tell me at least one thing about yourself that other people might find enigmatic. I'd love to know I'm not the only one who doesn't fit every stereotype! Oh, and don't forget to leave a short introduction on Tuesday's post. I'll be drawing for a winner on Saturday.

PS - I included photos throughout this post of several of my different sides. The top one was a promo shot my good friend took. She wanted to try and glam me up. ;) The middle one is me "mothering" (or is it smothering?). And the last one was taken when I taught high school. Yup, those are my pajamas. It was pajama day and I took my job very seriously. ;)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Journeying Together

I've recently joined a small group of fellow authors that is interested in better understanding who we are and who we write for. If you've been reading my blog for a while you know that I've touched on this topic before--most notably when I signed a new book contract with Simon & Schuster and had to give some serious thought to the concept of branding. I'm no expert, but I'm slowly learning... And I'm starting to realize that the better I grasp this, the more meaningful my work will be.

Believe it or not, it's not just about selling books (at least, for me it's not). Of course, that would be a nice side effect, but I am convinced, heart and soul, that we all want to be a part of something that matters. According to Seth Godin in his book Tribes: "People want connection and growth and something new. They want change... We [all] want to belong." Yes! I do! I want my life to make a difference and I want that passion to translate into every area of my being, not just my spirituality or my understanding of good and bad or right and wrong.

This desire for positive change impacts so many areas of my life that sometimes it's hard to pinpoint what I am most passionate about. Some of my most engaging interests are:

  • Writing. My books are much more than a paycheck for me. They're a way to engage the world around me, to point to beauty in brokenness, and to explore things that I don't fully understand. When I write, I long to engage people in a conversation.
  • Philanthropy. Our non-profit (One Body One Hope) consumes me. I can totally see the Baart family ending up in Liberia someday, for a much more extended stay than a two week mission trip. I would love to do life with our friends in West Africa.
  • Motherhood. Before I had kids, I never considered myself the motherly type. But now that I'm a mom to a six-year-old, a three-year-old, and a soon-to-be newborn, I take bringing up children very seriously. My job as a mom takes first place above any of my other pursuits.
  • Adoption. I've always been drawn to adoption, but now that I'm a bona-fide adoptive mother I'm downright rabid about it. I take seriously the biblical mandate to care for widows and orphans, and I love advocating for the least of these.
  • Simplicity. With the current recession forcing the entire country to reassess our finances and the extravagant way we live, this doesn't seem like such a unique passion. But living a simple, un-busy life is something I've always longed for. From re-examining the concept of frugality, to getting rid of processed foods in my home and buying local, I believe that contentment can be found in refusing to give in to the lies of our materialistic culture. I hope to continue to explore this idea in the coming months and years.
Okay, these are just a few of my interests and passions. But right now I'm trying to condense all of this information and apply it to my career as an author. I'm trying to answer the following questions: Who reads my books (or would love to read my books if they only knew about them)? And, even more importantly, what can I offer these people? What do we have in common, and what has the potential to draw us closer so that we want to continue journeying together?

I have a couple of questions for you today and I would be so grateful if you would take a moment to answer them!

Question #1: Who are you? Tell me a bit about yourself... Include as much or as little as you want!

Question #2: What are you passionate about? I mentioned five of my pursuits, now what captures your imagination?

*As an added bonus, I'll tie a giveaway into this little exercise. I have a lovely, signed book up for grabs. All you have to do is leave a comment and I'll pick one winner from the bunch. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Do you write? Do you dream of being published someday? You have to watch this video. It's a great dose of reality, served up so funny you won't worry too much about the sad truth of it. If you don't write, do you read? Maybe this video is even more important for you to watch... Love an author. Say hello. You'll make the world a happier place.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Research Trip, Part II

Yikes, I learned a lot in Alaska. Even as I begin to type this I'm wondering which parts to share with you. I think I could blog for weeks! Just the best, Nic, just the best...

Be Brave
You're looking at a photo of Exit Glacier, taken at 3500 feet from the cockpit of a Cessna 172. To tell you I was scared of flying would be a flat-out lie. I was terrified. I've been researching bush plane accidents and disappearances in Alaska for months now, and let me tell you: a lot of flights go down in Alaska. If that wasn't scary enough, as our pilot, Blair, was calling in our flight plan, the dispatcher with the FAA told him to tune his radio to pick up emergency signals. Apparently a flight had just gone down in the Kenai river. And while we were in the air, a Coast Guard helicopter ran into a snowstorm on the top of a mountain and crashed! The helicopter apparently rolled down the mountain for a while before it stopped. Thankfully, the pilot and co-pilot were okay. However, when we left the tarmac the missing plane on the Kenai river had still not been recovered. Talk about scary. But I did it! I flew! And I'm so glad I did... Oh, I also ate moose burgers and reindeer sausage while I was in Alaska. Also very brave of me. ;)

Ask Questions (Lots of Them!)
See that little strip of land in between the water of the Cook Inlet? Guess what? It's not land. Nor is it sand, which I was quite sure it was. It looked so inviting during low tide that Aaron and I were planning to go for a little walk along the beach... But I'm glad we didn't. Apparently, the soft beach we were so convinced would be perfect for strolling along was really the beginning of the mudflats. As viscous and unstable as quicksand, the mudflats are extremely dangerous and can gobble up an unsuspecting tourist before the Coast Guard has a chance to pull you out! Creepy... And incredibly important to the unfolding of my story. Who knew? Thankfully, we learned about the mudflats within the first day of being in Alaska. My newfound knowledge taught me two things: 1.) Don't walk on the mudflats. 2.) Assume you know nothing. Ask questions about everything. So I did. I probably sounded like an idiot, but I learned so much. What's this? What's that? Why is that moose in someone's backyard? Is reindeer meat really made of reindeer? Why do Alaskans drink so much coffee? What's a snow machine? And on and on and on...

Document Everything & Take Pictures (even of things that don't seem important...)
I took this photo on the pier in Seward because I thought it was cute. But I'm already starting to realize that all the little details I didn't consider important at the time are going to add a depth and authenticity to my story that I could have never acheived by simply researching Alaska online. From the Heart Attack on a Plate and the Veggie Bypass (breakfast platters at Snow City Cafe in downtown Anchorage) to my little evergreen friend, the intricacies of life in Alaska are what is going to make my story feel real. The story truly is in the details and I'm so excited that I was able to experience so much during my time in Alaska.

Your turn: The lesson I took most to heart during my Alaskan research tour was be brave. For the sake of my story I hopped into scenarios that I normally would avoid like the plague. But it was so good for me (in so many ways)! My question for you today is: Does your story require you to be brave? To go somewhere you've never gone? Deal with an emotion you'd rather avoid? Forgive someone you'd like to simply forget? I'd love to know if you're being pushed right now and how you're responding to it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Research Trip, Part I

So I just got back from Alaska! What an adventure... If space is the final frontier, Alaska is the last true wild frontier. Wow, it's a different world up there. From the midnight sun to the hearty, friendly people, Alaska was truly like no place I've ever been. It would take me weeks to sum up our experiences in Anchorage and beyond, but I'm going to try to condense it all this week into a series of photos and tidbits of wisdom I gleaned. This was my first true research trip, and the learning curve was harsh. But also thoroughly enjoyable--I'm already looking forward to the next time my research takes me somewhere unexpected. (Aaron is hoping for Tahiti or the south of France. Think I could set a book there?)

Without further ado, research nuggets from the Last Frontier.

Soak it in.
Smell it, feel it, observe it, listen to it, drink it up. Aaron was so patient with me--even when I insisted we pull over every five minutes so I could get a feel for Alaska from a hundred different perspectives. I wanted to experience the wind and the rain, the sun and the dark (though dark is a relative term in Alaska in May), and everything in between. Believe it or not, I did not take pen and paper and try to capture these experiences. Instead, I engaged them fully, living in the moment, and later (when I had time to pop in a coffee shop or relax during some downtime in our hotel) I released everything I could on the page. It was interesting in retrospect to see how I remembered each event and what stuck out in my mind as important. I think I waded through a lot of the initial junk that would have cluttered up my mind if I wrote as I was "in it."

Meet the natives.
This is a photo of me, my pilot Blair, and the Cessna 172 that we took over Resurrection Bay surrounding Seward. Our good friends, Josh and Jessica, were gracious enough to introduce us to a host of amazing people that regaled us with stories of life in Alaska. Ken, Fred, and Blair are just a few of the people we met, but I cannot begin to tell you how much they influenced the trajectory of my book. The stories they told and the wisdom they shared will play a huge role in the unfolding of my tale. I hope that I can do justice to the tidbits of life that they so graciously blessed me with.

Have an open mind.
Before we went to Alaska, I thought I had a pretty good idea of where my story was going. I knew where my pilot would take-off from, and I knew how his tale would unfold. Several days in Alaska uprooted many of my well-laid plans! For example, the town of Seward wasn't even on my radar--until I went there and realized that it was the absolute perfect setting for part of my book. And who knew that Resurrection Bay, a deep bay on the Kenai Peninsula would play a significant role? Honestly, I didn't even know it existed. At first, it was a little unnerving to watch some of the details of my story unravel, but I'm glad that I was able to hold my intentions loosely--the book is going to be much, much stronger for it.

Stay tuned on Thursday for more research insights (and more of my Alaska photos)! :)

Your turn: What is something you've learned in researching for a book or story?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Here's the recipe I promised! One of my all-time favorites. :) Usually I make the cake from scratch, but you can just as easily bake it from a box. When I'm pressed for time I like something really rich and dark like Devil's Food or Dark Chocolate Fudge. I don't recommend German Chocolate or something similarly sweet or too light with this decadent recipe.

Have a great weekend!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

1 dark chocolate cake, baked according to directions in two round pans
peanut butter cups


1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
salt to taste

-Blend butter and peanut butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. If desired, add salt pinch by pinch until it tastes perfect.


3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter (not margarine!)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla
dash of salt

-Melt butter and add vanilla. Sift cocoa and sugar togehter. Add dry mixture to melted butter bit by bit. When the frosting becomes too thick, begin to slowly add evaporated milk. Beat until smooth and creamy. Again, add salt if needed.

To assemble the cake, place one round cake on a serving platter. Top with all of the peanut butter filling. Layer second round cake on top. Frost the entire cake, and garnish with chopped peanut butter cups.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Have a God Day

My kindergartner is a budding linguist. Of course, my husband thinks our firstborn is bound to be a pastor--the sort of wordsmith who spins lyrical stories and inspires multitudes from behind a pulpit. (Which is kind of ironic because I can't remember the last time Aaron stood behind a pulpit to preach...) And I'd like to imagine that our son is going to be a novelist, a writer whose talent far exceeds my own. But for now, our sweetheart is learning big words like evaporation, incubator, and vocabulary. Not to mention the fine art of stringing letters together to make much smaller (but infinitely more satisfying to spell) words. The best part? He leaves letters for us all over the house.

Hi Mom, I love you.

Dear Dad. How are you?

And my personal favorite: Hi Mom, I hope you have a God day.

The first time he wrote that particular note, I was tempted to tell him that he had it wrong. That it was "have a good day", with a double O instead of just one. But he was already finishing up his second letter, and that one also exhorted my husband to have a "God day." (Believe it or not, he even capitalized the G.) All at once I couldn't help but love the so-called mistake.

Sometimes I have good days. Every once in a while I have a bad day. Most of my days are pretty normal. Fine. Okay. Average. But I love the idea that no matter what sort of a day I have, it is always a God day. And it is, no matter where my heart or mind happen to be. I love it when God uses my kids to remind me of a basic truth, something I may have forgotten because I don't often take the time to pay attention to the small things.

I haven't corrected him. And our house is filled with letters that remind us to "have a God day." I wish you the same.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Taking Risks: Character

One of the most interesting sessions that I went to at the Festival of Faith and Writing was called Taking Risks and Cultivating Compassion Through Fiction Writing. Stephanie Kallos is an actress and author whose second book, Sing Them Home was chosen by Entertainment Weekly as one of the best books of 2009. But her first book is the one that caught my attention...

Some of you may remember that I had title troubles with my third book, The Moment Between. I wanted to call the book Broken for You, but someone had already used that title. Grrr. It's true, I harbored a little bitterness toward this unknown author. But when I met her after her fascinating session at the FFW, I just had to go out and buy her book! Stephanie Kallos has written a masterpiece in Broken for You. And she's a wonderful lady, too. Who knew I'd get to shake the hand of the very woman I resented for "stealing" my perfect title?

Anyway, Ms. Kallos session drew heavily on her acting background to draw out nuance and depth in crafting character. There are several gems I gathered from this presentation. Since they're pretty self-explanatory, I'm just going to list some of her tidbits of wisdom.

  • In a character's life, there is no entrance or exit. Therefore, you (as an author) have to choose what to frame and what to leave out of the story. As you write, never forget that the life of your character began before you picked up the story, and will continue long after the last page.

  • You must find common ground with your character, even if you don't agree with his or her choices. You cannot stand outside the story and judge them--you have to "walk a mile in their shoes" and learn to empathize with whatever they are going through. Where the commonality stops (between you and your character), you need to start asking yourself, "What if?" This is where writing begins.

  • Remember that there is a life-affirming reason for every character you create--even if it is small or hard to identify. If not, why create the character at all?

  •  Before you can get to know your character (before you can ask that all-important question (What if?), you have to know who you are.
For the rest of the presentation, Ms. Kallos walked us through some exercises in understanding self and using that information to expand our characters. We started with a generic list of self-stats: age, height, weight, gender, appearance, etc. After a couple of minutes we expanded our list to include important relationships. Then adjectives describing ourselves. When our adjective list contained several elements, we wrote the opposite of every descriptor we came up with (i.e. dependable became unreliable, driven turned into lazy, etc.). Eventually, we wrote a set of "I would never..." statements (I would never eat..., wear..., see..., do..., have the career..., etc.). The final exercise was to write a paragraph from the perspective of our opposite. We were encouraged to let go of the "nevers" (the things we listed we would never do) by putting our characters in danger. What would cause us to do the thing we said we'd never do?

Of course, many of the things that Ms. Kallos said are not new. I've heard all this before... But there was something so fresh in the way she presented it, that I found myself looking at my characters through totally new eyes. I'm excited to apply some of her wisdom to my next book--already I've discovered things about my main character that are stretching me as an author and as a person.

Your Turn: Do any of Ms. Kallos suggestions ring true to you? Is any of her advice new or unexpected? I'd love to hear what you think about her approach to crafting character!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Book Winner

I just plugged the numbers into a random generator and the 5th person who entered the Lucky Baby giveaway is our official winner... Congrats to Miriam Buss! Miriam, your book is on its way. ;)

In other news, I'm sorry about this random week. I have not kept to my regular blogging schedule, but I've had a very good explanation (excuse?). The week has been nuts. But it's over (or almost over) and I'm officially in unwind mode. Which is kind of good and kind of bad because Aaron and I leave for Alaska soon! I'm excited, but I have lots to do before we take off. Isn't that always the case?

Anyway, things will be back to normal next week with a Tuesday post on the writing life, a personal post on Thursday, and a just-for-the-fun-of-it post on Saturday. I'm thinking of sharing my peanut butter cup chocolate cake recipe. I've been dreaming about it lately, and maybe posting the recipe will encourage me to bake one for myself. Yup, you read that right: for myself. I might eat the whole thing.

Have a lovely weekend, wherever you may be!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Interview with Meredith Efken

Back with more Meredith! Enjoy... :)

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

Oh I LOVE to write! It's my favorite thing to do in the whole world--until I sit down with my computer. Then I spend several minutes utterly loathing the written word while I'm staring at that horrid blinking cursor. Eventually, I start writing something, anything, and am convinced it's complete schlock. But then later, I read back over it, and discover it's not actually half-bad. And then I LOVE writing again.

2. What do you do when you get writer's block?

Well, I can tell everyone what NOT to do. When I was writing LUCKY BABY, and got a pretty bad case of writer's block, I self-medicated with those big chocolate chunk cookies from Starbucks. I got the book written, but I currently have three really cute pairs of jeans I can't wear anymore!

The other thing I did, which I DO recommend, was working with a creativity coach. My coach is Judy Baer, and she's a multi-published, bestselling author of like a million books or something, and she's specially trained as a life coach, especially for us creative types. She was able to help me get over the creative block and rediscover my passion for my story.

Unfortunately, not even she could coach away the cookies!

3. Your new book is in the vein of Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells. What made you interested in magical realism?

This was one of the best things that came out of my coaching sessions with Judy. I was at a point with LUCKY BABY where I felt like I was losing creative control over my work. Plus, the subject of adoption was so deeply personal to me that I was paralyzed by my own expectations. I wanted to show how miraculous and "magical" that adoption journey was, and I didn't know how to put that into mundane, everyday words.

At the same time, I'd started reading Garden Spells and some of Alice Hoffman's stories. I loved how they wove the fantastic right into the fabric of everyday life. To me, it was a perfect vehicle to show the reality and the mystical aspects of the adoption journey. So when I started incorporating that into the book, it was a huge breakthrough and made the story come alive for me. It gave me back my excitement about the story.

I had such fun with it that I'm planning to write some more books in that general style. To me, it's a perfect way of conveying how the world of faith and the unseen intersect and impact the world we can see and touch. It resonates with me in a way I hadn't expected, and I'm very excited to explore it further.

4. What do you do to unwind?

I LOVE hanging out at bookstores--that's actually my husband's and my favorite date place. Funny thing is, I tend not to do a very good job of self-promoting my books, so up until very recently, the bookstore employees knew me so well they could order my drink for me, but they had no idea they could order my books!

I also really like getting pedicures. Now, if I could just get a pedicure WHILE at the bookstore, that might just be my idea of heaven! :-)

5. Take a moment to shamelessly plug your new book!

This is an adoption story like no other. It's not a "baby coming home" fairy tale, but there IS some fantastical elements in it. It's not a story about a child seeking a birthmother--although there are actually two birthmothers in the story. (One is obvious. The other, you will have to search for and you may not find her. And don't ask me, because I'm not telling.) It's not about an adoption gone sour, although it does have some serious conflicts in it.

At it's core, LUCKY BABY is about overcoming abandonment and the miracle of loving despite pain. It's about a group of people who have no reason to love each other at all, and their journey to become a family that can survive no matter what. There's an American woman trying to become a mother, while still hampered by the effects of her stormy past with her own mother. There's a precocious, brilliant Chinese orphan who can't allow herself to trust, but has no choice but depend on others because she is going blind. And there are loving Chinese foster parents who are bound by their culture and family expectations and doing all they can within those constraints to make a difference for the orphans they love.

It's a story of overcoming all these odds and finding the courage to forgive and then to love, no matter what.

The general subject matter, adoption from China, was inspired by my own experience of adopting a child from China. But while I've drawn on my own experiences, and those of other adoptive families, it is completely fictional and NOT auto-biographical. But it's emotionally authentic and real, and I think by the end, it will make you feel alive and hopeful, and help you believe again in all those things we can't see but know must be there.

Your Turn: I love Meredith's answer to the question, What do you do when you get writer's block? Her response is totally original--no one has ever suggested getting a creativity coach to me! Honestly, I didn't even know they existed. :) Anyway, it got me thinking... Maybe you have a fabulous, new way to deal with the age-old problem of writer's block. Care to share??? Also, don't forget to leave a comment on Saturday's post for a chance to win Meredith's new book, Lucky Baby!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Meredith Efken

Remember how I used to do a mid-month introduction and giveaway? Well, that kind of went by the wayside when I added some structure to my blog, but I believe I told you that I would continue to introduce you to some amazing authors and host giveaways from time to time...

Well, today I have the privilege to spend some time raving about the beautiful and talented Meredith Efken! She has graciously agreed to speak at our One Body One Hope Women's Night Out, and this weekend felt like the perfect time to gush about her a bit. (BTW, if you live in the area, it's not too late to get tickets! It's going to be an amazing evening... Grab some girlfriends, your mother, daughter, grandmother, or a bunch of complete strangers and join us for a night of fun, door prizes, desserts, and entertainment! Email me for more info or to buy tickets.)

Since Meredith's online bio sums her up so well, I'm going to borrow from her website to tell you a bit about her...

Meredith is the author of the critically acclaimed SAHM I Am series that traces the friendship of a group of stay-at-home mothers through their emails to each other. She has been a finalist for the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice award and the ACFW Book of the Year award, and critics use phrases like “charming,” “fresh,” and “pure delight” to describe her humorous yet insightful comedies.

In her “spare” time, she and her husband enjoy learning Argentine tango and hanging out at the local bookstore. She studies Chinese and Welsh on a semi-random basis and plays keyboard and sings with her church’s worship band. She and her husband have two lively daughters, one very naughty snowshoe cat and one stately and somewhat naughty Great Dane. They all live in a ramshackle Victorian fixer-upper in Nebraska.

Don't you just love her already? I adore a lady with a sense of humor and the patience to put up with a Great Dane. Somehow it seems those two things go hand in hand... ;)

Meredith's latest release is a bit of a departure for her as is deals with something very near and dear to her heart: international adoption. Lucky Baby also breaks new literary ground, exploring the relatively new sub-genre of magical realism. Though I haven't yet finished the book, I'm finding it impossible to put down. The prose is gorgeous, and Meredith explores parenthood and family ties with a tender, gifted touch.
From the back cover copy:
All Meg Lindsay wants is to give a child the love and acceptance she wished she’d been given. When she talks her reluctant husband into adopting a Chinese orphan, she expects her dream to come true. But becoming a parent has a way of opening up painful doors from the past, and it’s all Meg can do to hold her new little family together. What started as a good intention could destroy her marriage and her family, especially if the daughter they’ve grown to love abandons them, too.

Meg’s journey is a magical one as East meets West and imagination aligns with reality. Lucky Baby takes the reader on a realistic yet mystical journey into the complexities of family life.

Guess what? Meredith is going to give y'all a chance to win her new book! All you have to do is leave a comment... But, of course we have to make it interesting. If you want your name entered in the giveaway once, leave a comment. Two entries will be given to anyone who spreads the news about Meredith and our giveaway (feel free to Tweet, post it on Facebook, talk it up on your blog, or anything else you can think up). And I'll enter your name three times if you become a follower of this blog, or join me on Facebook. I know, I know, I'm being shameless. It's a rare day when I'm so forward.

Leave a comment and win a book! And stop back on Monday when I'll be taking a little break from passing on my Festival of Faith and Writing wisdom and post an interview with Meredith Efken. She's a hoot. :)

Have a lovely Sunday!