Sunday, March 30, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Would the Cafe scenarios and repairs come across realistic? I had to do quite a bit of research on that part.
Did I show how Caroline was a servant but not a whimp?
When Romantic Times Book Club Review gave me 4.5 Stars, I was thrilled.
On the other hand, there were some aspects I felt really confident in: the head, heart dialogs. The scenes with J.D. and Mitch. Elle.
The symbolism of Caroline keeping the old car as a way of hanging on to her old life.
Jesus visiting her.
The symbol of Caroline praying in a "live oak" tree hoping God was real. Jesus being the Tree of Life. Oak representing humanity. He was holding her all along, she just didn't know it. The tree being a resentation of His Godhead as well as humanity.
The reason she inherited the Cafe in the first place.
I loved the notion of "freely give, freely receive." Once I had a friend who was given a nice car. A few years later he went to sell it and I felt strongly the Lord wanted him to give it away. While the money was to go to his education, I felt the Lord was going to supply more than the price of the car.
He sold the car. But I've always been curious as to what God would've done if he'd given it away.
I wanted to show that with Caroline and how she handled the Cafe. In her humility, God was already blessing her with the Barcelona opportunity.
I loved the scene at her Mom's grave and the one with her brother. It's so important to say good-bye to the past.
I liked the writing believe it or not. This is one of my favorite lines, " The horizon beyond my small oval airplane window is like one of Elle's lowcountry paintings - wild with color and light. Gold and red mixed with fading blue sky, reaching down to the dark line that is earth."
Most of the reader feedback has been good. But a good friend confessed to me the other day, "Rachel, I loved the book, loved the writing, but well, it was painful."
Caroline's journey reminded her of dreams she hadn't achieved. She felt her family had been mediocre and lazy, thus she struggled to do the things she wanted to do.
On the contrary, I saw my friend as a woman zealous for God, who loved her husband and family, loved her church. She was a smart, strong, working woman who'd raised great kids.
But we all have those things we wanted to do, but didn't. I understand. But until we're in the grave, we have a lot of living to do.
I said, "You're not dead yet. Don't quit."
She laughed. "I set the timer and gave myself a few minutes for self-pity."
Got to like that.. set those limits.
Anyway, Caroline's story is about opportunity. But mostly about living the life in front of you, growing where you're planted. Caroline humbly accepted her lot in life, but had the courage to reach out for change when it passed her by.
That's the encouragement of Sweet Caroline. Bloom where you're planted. Believe God had great things for you. Most of all, don't be afraid to reach out for change and opportunity.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
My grandfather Rainier and I had a tradition. The day after Thanksgiving he'd come by our house around four in the afternoon and take me to the Frogmore Cafe for a hot bowl of Frogmore Stew.
"I had enough turkey, Posey," he said to my mother, patting his belly. "I need some low country boil."
He glanced down at me with a wink. I was six and the baby of the family. Still am in some ways, I suppose. "Care to go with me, Caroline?"
"Momma, please?" I hopped off the stool and hugged up next to Pop's leg. A retired Marine, he carried a certain authority, commanded deep respect.
I heard Daddy talk about him with the men standing in the front yard after church, smoking cigarettes. It's where I first heard the words Nazi and the big war.
But to me Pop was my best friend. Like we were cut from the same cloth sixty-six years apart.
"Jessup, you’ll spoil her." Momma flattened her hands against her hips, shaking her head. "Now, Caroline, if-"
I ran for my sweater.
Momma followed us all the way to the drive way. "Now remember, she's only six. Don't get talking to Jones and forget she's sitting there. Remember little pitchers have big ears-"
That pulled Pop up short. "Sakes alive, Posey, I'm seventy-two, not addled."
Momma sucked in her bottom lip and wrinkled her nose. I didn't know what addled meant but it sure shut Momma up. Grandpa took my hand and smiled down at me.
"Guess that did it."
Pop’s friend, Jones Whitmore, owned the Frogmore Cafe, a converted nineteenth century home facing the Beaufort River. The old sweeping veranda creaked when we stepped up, but the Frogmore was warm and cozy. Even at six, I felt enveloped by the atmosphere. Low sounds, low lights, wonderful smells.
Here's another start and stop.
The wind carries a wintery chill as it blows through the live oaks, catching up the Spanish moss in an easy, melancholy dance. A few stubborn dry leaves, lacking the courage to fall to the ground, rattle against the side of the veranda's roof.
Propping myself against the porch railing, I cradled a For Sale sign to my chest, feeling my heart beat against the tips of my fingers. Some of my best childhood memories happened in this place, The Frogmore Cafe.
Through the moss and barren trees, I watch the Beaufort River flow gently toward the Atlantic, diamonds of sunlight lingering along the water's surface.
The cafe door opens behind me, then claps shut. My father's broad hand presses down on my shoulder.
"Well, Caroline, how's it feel?"
"Weird." My entire body is conflicted with swirls of anxiety and excitement.
He bends forward so his hands rest on the railing and gazes toward the river. "It's going to be a lot of work."
I bob my head, once. "Can't imagine it not."
Dad looks over his shoulder at me. "You’ve never run a cafe slash restaurant."
"No, but I'm a good business woman, Dad."
"Until Parker stole your business out from under you." He shift his gaze back to the river. "You're too trusting, Caroline."
"Your confidence in me is exhilarating."
Dad dips his head with a chuckle. "I'd feel better if I knew you could manage the back half of the restaurant." His ton is gentle, but laced with a warning. "Never will forget that call from the high school principal."
"I was there, Dad, remember?"
"'Hank, Caroline is a fine student, but we just can't keep her in home econ...'"
His laugh burst from his chest with a deep resonance. "A fire. Of all things. A home ec kitchen fire."
"How was I supposed to know the cherries and cinnamon would spill over on to the baking element and ignite?"
"Come on, Kit, surely you see the irony." He motions behind him toward the once-tabby exterior of the nineteenth century home that was now my cafe. "Pop filled your head with a bunch of dreams."
"Tony's coming to help me."
Dad tips his head to one side making a clicking sound with his teeth. "I don't mean to be a downer, but are you sure that's a good plan?"
"Absolutely. He's a great chef. Experienced."
"Got fired from his last job for insubordination, I believe?"
There are no secrets in Beaufort, South Carolina. What happens in Atlanta, or Charleston, or Savannah is breathed around here in soft whispers.
"He didn't get along with the executive chef." I face my father. "Do you think I can do this or not?"
Dad slips his hands in the pockets of his khaki slacks and starts down the steps. "I've always said you could rule the world Caroline. You could rule the world."
I run after him. "Except for?"
"You lead with your heart. It's like a big welcoming matt for the down trodden and the users. Even Jesus walked away from the insincere."
"I have to do this, for myself, if for no other reason. No guts, no glory."
Dad stops by my car parked along Bay Street. He pats the cherry red door with the palm of his hand. "Pop's old '65 Mustang. Still running."
Finally, at the beginning of January, I'm closer to what would be the final product.
My life changed the day a man died. The day I sat in morning traffic on Hwy 21, the spring sky promising to be blue, while the Beaufort River draw bridge slowly swung closed.
The day the carburetor of my old '68 Mustang convertible sputtered and choked, then died right there on the bridge with a hundred cars in line behind me.
The day I arrived late for work at the Frogmore Cafe to find everyone milling around in red-eyed, stunned disbelief.
The day Daddy told me he was finally marrying his long time girlfriend, Posey, and I had to move out of the house. Was two months enough time? Yes, if I had money.
The day God heard me whisper a simple question, "Hey, I don't know if you're really there, but if you are, could you dig in your bag of goodies and find a life for me?"
Two months. That's all it takes for my broken down jalopy quit on me again just as I exit the bridge and turn left onto Bay Street. I mashed in the clutch and gunned the gas to keep it from dying completely - and to save face with the line of cars behind me - and send a vapor of black smoke out the exhaust.
So fitting that I inherited this heap from my mother. Thank you, Sarah Sweeney, wherever you are.
The carburetor sputters and chokes and the 'Stang hesitates, then lurches forward. Come on, come on. I ride the clutch, gun the gas and aim for an open parallel parking slot in front of as I inch over to the side of the street, barely slipping into a handicap spot in front of Rhett Gallery.
The engine rattles and shakes. And dies. I jerk my bag to my lap from the passenger seat, muttering soap worthy words, and dig around for my cell phone.
As I auto dial Daddy, a siren and blue lights blip beside me. "Can't park here, Caroline."
I don't even look over. Dang J.D. Think I don't know I can't park in the handicap spot? "Car's broke down, give me a minute."
"Caroline?" JD inches the squad car forward and blips the siren again.
Go out with a Sheriff once and he thinks he owns you. I peek over at him. "I'm calling Daddy."
"I can radio in a tow truck for you." Sheriff JD holds up his handset.
Shaking my head, I point to the phone, "Daddy can fix the car. Besides, no money for a tow."
"Don't worry about that, now."
Oh no. Rule number one of lowcountry dating. Don't be indebted to a man who claims he's loved you since fifth grade and grows up to carry a gun for a living.
"Yeah, Caroline." Daddy's voice booms into my ear.
"Help." I wince. "She broke down again."
"Where?" Sigh. "I told you to get rid of that thing."
"And buy what? With what? I'm in front of Rhett's." With my best smile, I give JD a thumbs up. He can move on now.
But he doesn't.
Originally, I thought Caroline would not work at the Cafe and discover she inherited it. Then I wrote a couple of scenes with that in mind and the story did not feel real to me. The conflict was not genuine enough.
Now, I pray a lot while writing. Pray for God to write His story through me. I think a lot about my characters, analyze each scene, questioning it's relevance and importance. Is the scene contributing, or redundant? Is there enough tension? Why should the reader care about these characters?
I just didn't feel like I was getting the story right. One night, as I went to bed I asked the Lord for a dream to help me understand the story I needed to write.
The gist? Write the story as if Caroline worked at the Cafe, but instead of it being a fancy place, make it a run down Cafe. Then there was the part about Tom Cruise making a movie in Beaufort, but I cut that part.
So, on January eight, I started the story over. While I used a lot of material I already had, but nevertheless, I was starting over.
I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. Long days, long nights. The book was due March 1 and on February 17th, I sat in my chair and wrote for fifteen hours to finish the book.
Tony was reading and offering input, then a friend was critiquing. The Saturday before it was due, she wrote, "I think you need to add a thread to up the conflict."
What? How? Where? Now? I freaked. I only had five days. How could I create more conflict and tension in five days? I was up until midnight writing. Then up again at 3:00 a.m. trying to rewrite.
I managed to crawl into church, a zombie. Thank goodness I wasn't leading worship. But on that day, my friend Jesus began to really show Himself strong.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Katherine Clarkson has the perfect life. Married to Brad, a loving and handsome man, respected in their church and the community.
Two grown daughters on the verge of starting families of their own. A thriving ministry. Good friends. A comfortable life.
Without warning, Katherine's marriage is shattered and her family torn apart. The reassuring words she's spoken to many brokenhearted women over the years offer little comfort now.
The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction (Whispers from Yesterday), the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance (Patterns of Love and The Shepherd's Voice), two RT Career Achievement Awards (Americana Romance and Inspirational Fiction), and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over 55 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal.
Question: Hi, Robin, it's good to have you stop by. The book looks wonderful. Where do you get the ideas for your stories and what has been your greatest inspiration?
Answer: Ideas come from all kinds of places - from dreams, from bit of news on the television, from conversations overheard in restaurants.
Sometimes I'm conscious of the exact moment an idea for a novel began. But for most my novels, the ideas seem to creep up on me. The Perfect Life was more the latter. One day I simply recognized I had the premise for a story rolling around in my head, then I began brainstorming the bigger picture and eventually the novel was born.
Some of my novels have come from deep personal experiences. Because God has walked me through dark places and brought me out on the other side, I want to share with others the grace He has shown me. Since I am a novelist, fiction is the main way I can do that. And naturally, the faith element of my novels comes out of my own faith experiences, from lessons God has taught me or is teaching me. Sometimes I'm looking for answers right along with the characters of my books, so writing is a form of discovery for me.
RH: Fifty-six books! That's incredible Robin. A hug achievement.
Question: Do you have a favorite of all the books you have written so far? Why is it your favorite?
RH: Every book is like a personal extension of ourselves. And yes, the "next" book is the one that will turn out exactly as we envision.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Worship is such an intimate thing. It's very hard for me to describe it, even though I've been a worship music leader at my church for several years.
Originally, when I had just started working with the youth group as a staff member, my youth pastor asked me to lead music for the youth group meetings on Saturday nights. The junior high and high school kids aren't very picky, and so I didn't worry about missed notes, forgotten lyrics, etc.
One time, we had problems with the projector and couldn't get the lyrics up on the screen, so we did the entire set without them! The kids just kind of mouthed words and looked a little confused, but they didn’t really mind.
However, a few months later, the youth pastor wanted me to put together an all-youth worship team to lead music for Sunday service. He wanted to give the kids a chance to serve the church in this way, and there was an opening for an additional worship team.
This made me more nervous. The people in Sunday service tend to be more discriminating, and more vocal if they don't like something. Teens aren't known for being on time for practices, or even for Sunday service. They're not known for playing completely accurately if they're not taking something seriously. They're also not known for really valuing the opportunity to serve at church, even though the youth staff tries to help them to understand why it's important.
But, my pastor had asked. So I gave it a go.
The kids stepped up to the plate in ways I would never have dreamed. They came to practice on time. They made an effort to be serious about their playing and not goofing off. And they seemed to understand why it was important for them to be there, playing on the worship team.
Most important, they started to understand how to worship.
No just standing and singing words, but in being a worship leader. In worshipping themselves as they played or sang. In thinking about God or the congregation and not themselves.
I have to admit, they were helped along by some very key youth retreats that happened around the time the worship team started doing a turn at Sunday service (my church has four worship teams, and we each take one service a month). The youth retreats focused on true worship, and the kids on my team took the messages to heart.
But I didn't expect to be affected by their new attitudes. I had taken on the job like a youth staff worker leading a small group, but then I started to realize that I was a worship leader and a worshipper myself. It changed my whole conception of what worship was, of how to worship.
I wanted to infuse part of that mystery of worship in my writing. I was able to write a few key scenes in ONLY UNI that tried to convey the kinds of things I feel when I worship the Lord. Trish's experience is a mix of my experience and the experience of the teens on my worship team.
I hope Trish can influence other people, too, to seek the mystery of worship of our Lord.
Camy Tang is the loud Asian chick who writes loud Asian chick lit.
She used to be a biologist, but now she is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service.
She also runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things like dumb dogs (namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own...), the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind.
Visit her website a www.camytang.com for a huge website contest going on right now, giving away five boxes of books and 25 copies of her latest release, ONLY UNI.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
I'm going to hit the abortion issue once again because I believe its important that we understand something our forefathers knew, something we’ve forgotten.
Or worse, something we no longer believe to be true in this age of intellect. It is this profound truth; that God still judges the nations of the earth.
The Bible says, "So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it." (Num 35:33)
Abraham Lincoln understood this principle. Below is a portion of his second inaugural address. Just try to imagine our next President speaking like this to the whole nation as he takes office.
"Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!"
If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?
Fondly do we hope - fervently do we pray - that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.
Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk,
and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether"
We've lost so much as a nation that we don't even realize the peril we are in. 600,000 men died in four years in our civil war, and Lincoln considered that the price due for the injustice of slavery.
What will 50 million aborted babies cost us? God give us another great awakening in America!
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Daughter of the town drunk, Vienne Kenney has escaped Clayburn for law school in California.
But after failing the bar exam - twice - she's back home with her tail between her legs, managing Latte-dah, the Clayburn cafe turned upscale coffee shop.
Jackson Linder runs the art gallery across the street and Vienne has had her eye on him since she was a skinny seventh grader and he was the hunky high school lifeguard who didn't know she existed.
Now it's his turn to fall for her and suddenly Clayburn seems like a pretty nice place to be. . . until Vienne discovers that Jack is fresh out of rehab and still struggling with the same addiction that ultimately killed her father.
DEBORAH RANEY is at work on her seventeenth novel. Her books have won the RITA Award, the HOLT Medallion, National Readers' Choice Award and Silver Angel from Excellence in Media.
Deborah's first novel, "A Vow to Cherish," inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title.
Deb serves on the advisory board of American Christian Fiction Writers. She and her husband, Ken Raney, have four children and enjoy small-town life in Kansas. Visit Deb on the web at www.deborahraney.com.
Chatting with Deb. . .
Q. I love the premise of this book, Deb, what was your inspiration for Leaving November?
A. When I was writing the first book in the series, Remember to Forget, Jackson Linder, a secondary character in the book, really intrigued me. Jack has struggled with something that is my greatest fear: being responsible for the death of another person. I wanted to explore how someone in his shoes could find forgiveness, redemption, and even happiness.
Q. Living with that responsibility would be incredibly hard. What a great topic to tackle in fiction. So, what are you working on now?
A. I've just finished the first draft for the third book in the Clayburn series, Yesterday's Embers.
I have a new contract for another three-book series, and a couple of stand-alone novels to write, but there are other characters from the Clayburn novels begging to have their stories told! I don't know if I'll get to write any more Clayburn books, but I've loved my time in this little fictional Kansas town!
Q. Writing about a town and people we love really helps the writing journey. What do you enjoy most about writing? The least?
A. Most: Having written! Because that means I'm getting reader feedback on my novel - the reward for all the hours of solitude! I also love that I get to be at home and make my own hours.
Least: First-drafting! I love rewriting - taking my editors' comments and applying them to make my book the best it can be. But the blank page terrifies me! For me, it's far easier to fix a horrible manuscript than to try to come up with something out of thin air.
rh: I agree, Deb. I love getting my editor's feedback, then get to rewriting. Most of all, hearing from readers.
Q. Tell us, what do you do when you're not reading or writing?
A. I love working in the beautiful garden my husband, Ken, designed in our back yard (for a peek, go to http://kansasprairiegarden.blogspot.com) and I love decorating our home.
It's such fun to comb antique shops and flea markets for a great object from the past that I can use on my desk or in my kitchen, or a great piece of furniture to paint or refinish.
I'm not much for pretty stuff just for the sake of having it on display, but I love "repurposing" antiques -like the old chamber pot I use for deadheading in the garden, or the antique bank mail sorter that serves as my filing "cabinet."
As much as I enjoy my career, I've always believed that my most precious calling is wife to Ken, my husband of 33 years; mom to four great kids; and now mom-in-law, and "Mimi" to two darling little grandsons.
In addition, I have some of the most amazing friends in the world, including a group of women who share my name. We affectionately call ourselves Club Deb. I think being in the solitary profession of writing helps you really appreciate the people you have eye-to-eye contact with!
rh: Very true. We need to keep up with the outside world!
Thanks for stopping by, Deb.