Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Five "New" People who touched my life in 2009

Two days before Christmas, I met my college friend Suzanne Brubaker (nee Cantwell) at a Starbucks south of Indianapolis.

We talked for 3.5 hours. Not having seen each other in 15 years or so, exchanging only Christmas and Birthday notes throughout the years, I was confident the young woman who impacted me during sorority rush 24 years ago would impact me that day.

She did. We had a blast. Meeting with her was some what of my Christmas present to myself. I looked forward to it about as much as Christmas morning. I was glad I took the time to contact her. Glad she could take the time from a busy Christmas schedule to meet me.

I felt full for the next day, having made a heart connection that had been ignored over the years. We talked about life, where we are now, what we want for the future. Spent only a few minutes rehashing college memories. It was good. One can only rehash college memories for so long.

Suzanne Brubaker touched my life in 2009.


Thomas Nelson contracted a new author I knew only via Twitter, Kimberly Cash Tate. We tweeted back and forth a bit before the Denver ACFW conference and I sensed a kindred spirit. I looked forward to meeting her. I was not disappointed. We hit it off, chatting while the servers cleared the lunch tables about politics and religion and the love of God. All those touchy subjects people tend to ignore.

Kim and I waded right in and flowed in the same stream. We both realized our idenity comes from Jesus and the Love He demonstrated by the Cross. Any differences in background, culture and history weren't all that magnified because we both found our core belief in Jesus. He is the one who brings up valleys and lowers mountains.

After meeting her, I was encouraged, edified and full. Kimberly Cash Tate touched my life in 2009.


I've known Chip MacGregor for several years through ACFW and my stints as president. Occassionally we'd exchange email barbs. He's an Oregon Ducks fan, I'm an Ohio State Buckeye. (The January 1st Rose Bowl will be the first real test in our relationship!)

In the middle of the year, the Lord began speaking to me about changes coming up in my career. Through a series of cool events, Chip became my agent in July. After a year and a half of off and on angst about my representation, walking in faith, trying to be bold and take chances, I could finally exhale in peace. I knew that I knew that I knew Chip MacGregor was my agent home.

Joy. Confidence. Rest. Simple. I felt full. Chip MacGregor touched my life in 2009.


Jenny B. Jones. What a cool name. An even cooler person. I'd know of Jenny through writerly circles and the fact she is another Thomas Nelson author, but it wasn't until we connected during the summer I really got to know her at any level. We chatted at the ACFW conference. We tweet back and forth. She's funny, clever and an all around unique individual that impressed me.

I was just laughing at some of her tweets and thought, "I'm glad to know her. She's brightened my life."

Jenny B. Jones touched my life in 2009.


RITA. Okay, so the RWA RITA Award is not technically a person. She's named after a person, but the Award is merely a gold statue. One I don't have on my shelf even though I was an award nominee. Accepting the award on behalf of my writing partner and great friend Susan May Warren was a highlight of my year. God answered my prayer to sincerely love and appreciate the winner. Yes, ladies and gents, I wanted to win. I prayed to win.

While I didn't take home the golden statue, I took home the winning of answered prayer. God deposited a joy in my heart that cannot be destroyed. Or gather dust. When I called Susie to tell her she won, the words, "I didn't win, you did," still bring tears to my eyes.

God specifically sent me to the conference by providing the money to go -- in a month! I registered in faith, feeling I was to attend. Then the money came.

If God provided for me to go, didn't that mean I was to win? Yes. But not the RITA. Something deeper in my heart that comes from genuine joy and love for the one who did win.

It's the scriptual admonition of esteeming others higher than oursevles. And God supernaturally brought me to a place I couldn't have achieved on my own. Yes! Amen.

The RITA Award touch my life in 2009.


Naturally others have touched my life this year. These are merely the new or reconnect ones.

My hubby continues to be a major force in my life. My writing partner and friend extraordinaire, Susie May. My editor, Ami McConnell continues to impact me. My Mom. My sister, Rebekah Gunter. My church family. The women of my Tuesday night Dream Team! Love you all. My Kansas City family: Stuart and Esther, and Cassie. My Melbourne/Palm Bay friends and family. My brothers! My writing friends! You know who y'all are.

Joan. The Gonda's. Carrie. My teenage best friend, Lorena Sikking. It was great to be in touch with her this year. My sorority "big" sister Tish Patton and I talked in January for over an hour!

Ack, if I start, I won't be able to stop.

I am blessed. How about you? Did you meet or reconnect with someone in 2009?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve Eve

I'm in Indianapolis visiting family, waiting for the Big Day. I already know one present. Hubby had to ask my opinion.

I'm off to meet an old college friend for coffee, so more on that later, but what are some of your favorite Christmas memories or gifts.

Do you like to be surprised or do you prefer to help pick out your presents?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Writing about food

I'm writing about a character who can't cook, but food is central to her world. It's challenging -- not only to write a sympathetic engaging character, but one who lives in the foodie world but does not feel apart.

In that way, Joy is very much like me.
But how do I show it?

I don't get the foodie world. Watching the Food Network doesn't make me want to run to the kitchen and break out the pots and pans. Reading recipes only irritates me. Why does any dish need more than five or six ingredients?

I once tried a mac-n-cheese recipe from Pat Conroy's cookbook. Oh my gosh, what a mess. I dirties three pans, per his assembling instructions, never mind the mess on my counter. And I'm not a slob. I kept thinking, "all this for mac-n-cheese?" I never wanted to make it again. I stayed out of the kitchen for a week after that night.

I don't want to cook for cooking sake so don't ask me to add citron to a cake. I'm not going to do it. First, what is citron? Second, how is it going to enhance the chocolate taste I'm baking the cake for in the first place?

Asking me to grate a lemon rind equates to asking me to grate my own nerves.

One friend said to me, "It's like everyone is in on this great secret about food and not telling me."


I've read Molly Wizenberg, Judith Jones, Suzan Colon, and Julia Child memoirs with fascination. What makes their heart zing over recipes?

I love food. I love to eat. And maybe that's why I don't like cooking. Because I want to EAT what I've cooked. Weight and I are not friends. "It" wants to control me. And don't want "it" to control me.

Yet, I love the aromas of baking cakes, cookies and bread in a warmly lit fall or Christmastime house. It's comforting and homey. But whose going to eat the warm treats I bake?

Still, in the midst of it, I'd rather read or write than stand in the kitchen. I'd rather walk or bike, or frankly, I'm being honest here, I'd rather Drive-thru.

In the midst of my writing and research, I have yet to connect with the heart and love for food as those I've read. God didn't give me that gene. I understand what the writers are saying and I appreciate every fine detail, but my emotions are not moved.

Growing up, I was never fascinated with the kitchen or watching my mom or grandmothers cook. In fact, I avoided the kitchen at all cost fearful they'd put me to work. One cannot cook without dirtying a few pots and pans. I never liked doing dishes either until college. Now I'd rather clean than cook.

Lest you start the violin strings for my hubby, I do cook. I can't afford not to! But cooking must not involve a recipe. If it does, no more than six maybe seven ingredients and nothing that I cannot pronounce. It's just not worth it to me. I'm not "into" it.

I bake. I can make mean chocolate chip-peanut butter chip cookies. I have a few tricks for making a box cake that is yummy. However, I can eat the whole thing myself, so let's not go there.

My can opener is my number one tool and the Rachael Ray knife I use to cut onions. I do love onions.

So, back to my character. There's something about food she does love, something she is longing and looking for, and it will spill out on the pages. . . eventually.

What about you? Do you cook? Do you like to cook? What are your favorite food memories?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Just how good is good?

The American Humanist society called for all who don't believe in God at Christmas not to worry. Just be "good for goodness sake." My hubby took the time to craft some thoughts in response. The floor is yours, babe.

I have a few questions. Can someone be good just for the sake of being good?

In an isolated circumstance, sure. Long term, I don’t think so. I know I can’t. But I don’t feel bad because the apostle Paul, whom Jesus appeared to and who was caught up into heaven, couldn’t be good either (Rom 7:19).

The question is how good do you have to be to be good? Who gets to define “good” in the absence of God?

Does the definition change with time, culture or circumstances? Is there one definition, or do we each get our own? At some point, does the discussion become meaningless in the absence of absolute standards?

So where would we find absolute standards to measure good? Jesus said, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” (Mk 10:18)

It’s self-evident. You can’t be good unless you know what good is, and only someone who is good can tell you.

By the way, why even bother to be good if being bad is more fun...unless of course we’ll be responsible at some point to someone who is good. Something to think about.

Bottom line; not only do I need God to be good, I need God to even want to be good.

P.S. This has nothing to do with getting to heaven. For that you have to be perfect.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Monterey Memories by Gail Martin

Please welcome my friend and ACFW Advisor, Gail Martin. Since I've been striving to become an author, Gail has been successfully publishing great romance novels. I'm happy to have her featured today!

MONTEREY MEMORIES - is set in the beautiful Monterey area in the central coast of California. The Barbour anthology includes the novels And Baby Makes Five, Garlic and Roses and Butterfly Trees.

Book Description

Walk the streets and countryside of Monterey, California, with three couples who are surprised by love in the midst of their busy lives. Chad helps Felisa when she goes into labor in his lettuce field. Juli meets Alan while volunteering at a soup kitchen. Ross takes an overdue vacation at Alissa’s bed-and-breakfast. Can busy people slow down enough to realize the love God has brought into their lives?

Reviews from AMAZON

Monterey Memories, an anthology, is a must buy. I truly love this book. In each of the three novels, set in the central coast of California, Gail writes of God's love with such ease and weaves His love throughout each story.

We see how faith and growth in the Word affects every aspect of the characters lives. Everyday normal people with trials and decisions, which we too, can identify. From trust, or acceptance to forgiveness, each of the story's characters learn to lean on God through their faith.

I'm adding this book to my gift list for friends and family. Who wouldn't want to find this warm, engrossing book in their stocking at Christmas? Or simply a gift to share.
Reviewer Carolyn J. Devaney

About Gail:

Multi-award- winning novelist, Gail Gaymer Martin is the author of forty-three novels with three million books in print. Her novels have received seven national awards and was presented the Favorite Heartsong Presents Author Award for 2008. She writes for Steeple Hill, Barbour Publishing, and is the author of Writing the Christian Romance from Writers Digest. Gail is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers and a popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter at conferences across the U.S. www.gailmartin. com.

Purchase the novel is bookstores everywhere or click this link to purchase on Amazon

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I never did get this one

In '97, I was working at a software company as an product tester. The engineers built the software, I tested it.

In those days, WYSIWYG display was becoming imparitive for any program. "What You See Is What You Get." It was no longer acceptable to have plain text on the screen. Yet, the company's premier product I was working on, didn't have WYSIWYG.

The sales team hammered the table. "We need WYSIWYG. All our competitors have it."

Sometimes you have to wonder about engineers. They can be so line upon line, sequential, nervous to step outside the lines.

The Veep of Engineering just couldn't or wouldn't dedicate the resources to developing a WYSIWYG display. The engineers were elbow deep in other development aspects of the program. WYSIWYG wasn't getting done.

WYSIWYG meant that when a sales rep in the classified advertising department of a newspaper entered an ad for a customer, it would appear on her screen as it would in the paper. She could fax the ad to the customer. Spiffy.

But our slick ole product couldn't do that particular function. A few engineers hacked at WYSIWYG coding, but produced a sloppy product. Crashed the program. Made taking an ad incredibly slow.

So, the Veep of Engineering decided to hire someone to do the job. An former colleague who hadn't written code in several years. She didn't know the Mircosoft tools we used. She didn't know C++. She didn't know our product. Talk about disadvantage.

I have to tell you, it was painful to watch her work. She was lost. So very lost. And the product was a monster, I mean a monster of code.

But poor new-engineer worked faithfully. Accomplished very little. And within six months had another job.

One of the lead engineers took over coding for WYSIWYG and had something working and demonstrable within a few weeks.

It continues to baffle me why those in charge assigned a complete neophyte to such an important process. We need this function to sell the product. Yet, all the Veep could see was the schedule already set and she wasn't leaving her path.

I didn't get it. Still don't. But that's me.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dancing with the Stars and Kellie Osbourne

In Kansas City, there's an awakening happening among the youth which has spread to students at Wheaton and Asbury.

God is healing teens and twenty-somethings of self-hate, depression, breaking off shame and condemnation that took up residents as a result of sexual sin or abuse.


People who've known Jesus for years as Savior but never felt His love are experiencing His tangible embrace.
Let it increase, Lord.

Yesterday I watched the finale of Dancing With the Stars online. As a long ago Donny Osmond fan... well, you know.

But the finalist who impacted me was Kelly Osbourne. I teared up during her flashback/diary scenes, or when she finished a dance and ran over to hug her father, Ozzie.

Even recounting what I felt to my Hubby, I teared up. What was God speaking to me through Kelly? What was His heart toward her? Does it relate to the awakening going on?

Kelly entered Dancing With The Stars as an unsure girl. She wasn't confident she could do it. Convinced she'd be outed on the first round. Making it to the end seemed impossible to her.

But as she grew in confidence, survived one elimination after another, her heart came alive. She began to shine. Her weak confidence took on a spark and bloomed toward strength.

If nothing else, Kelly realized SHE could do way more than she imagined. She discovered a part of herself she didn't believe existed.

The daughter of a rocker with fame and money at her disposal was locked down with insecurity. One would think she'd have every advantage to learn dancing, art, confidence and composure.

But here she was, as weak as each one of us.

As the love of her dance partner, the judges and the viewing audience embraced her, Kelly Osbourne came to KNOW she was much more than she ever imagined.

My tears, I think, reflected God's heart in that Kelly abounded in love and discovered it's power. He loved seeing her discover who she could become.

Philippians 1:9 - 10 Paul prays that we would abound in love so we could grow in knowledge and discernment.

Love is more than emotions and feelings. It's knowledge. Truth. Understanding. Make no mistake, in Kelly's moment of grace God's heart may have been moved, but she needs to know Jesus to enter into the fullness of God.

Should she live a happy, successful life as a result of her DWTS confidence, I'm happy for her. But her joy will end in this life. She must know Jesus for her joy to be complete.

Paul writes if we give all to the poor, give our bodies to be burned but don't have Love, don't have Jesus, it's a big honking, annoying noise. (1 Corinthians 13)

The poor need us. The poor in spirit, the poor in heart. They need our time and money, our aid and compassion, but above all, they need Jesus. How tragic for one to be desolate and poor in this life, then die and enter into eternity without knowing Jesus.

Love others, preach Christ.

Kelly Osbourne, I pray you come to know Jesus, the living Lord, the One who died for you, as your Savior. I pray this moment as a Star ignites your heart to seek true love. I pray your moment in the light brings you to true Light.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Eternity On Our Hearts

The summer I was fifteen, life opened up for me. I was no longer in the geeky, chubby young teen stage, but a lean, older, trying-to-be-confident teen.

I'd completed my first year as a cashier for Publix and finally, I was allowed to leave the Express Lane and work a big register. Woo hoo. You do not know how much this meant to me! I no longer worked 11 - 2pm but 5 - 9pm. I'd arrived.

I'd also caught the attention of two part-time stockman, Pete Ramirez and Kevin Rattigan. They flirted and winked, smiled and complimented. My unsure confidence about my potential beauty or lack there of, soared. Other started to notice me too. (Pretty funny stories ensued, but later.)

I'd kind of been dating my brother's friend (and mine) but when these older "men" turned their attention to me, the other guy didn't have quite the same appeal. Fickle are the emotions of a fifteen year old.

I fell pretty hard for the dark eyed, dark haired Pete with his amazing smile and muscular frame. And he played hard to get for a really long time. He'd lure me close, then push me away. The entire store was involved in our drama. From the manager on down. Pete liked me but never asked me out.

I've blogged about that ordeal on these pages before, so I won't bore you with the recap. But finally, I'd turned sixteen and after lo so many months, he asked me out. We had four months together before my family moved from south to north Florida.

But I thought I was in love, thought he was the one. Then he wasn't the one and I met someone else. And another someone else. I went to college and met lots of guys. Though I didn't think any of them were "the one" I was looking, waiting, wondering.

When I met Hubby, all the waiting and wondering stopped. Recurring dreams about running out of my wedding, ended.

Looking back, I'm so glad I didn't commit my life to my sixteen-year-old female emotions. I know it's worked for many, many couples, but life still had a journey for me.

At sixteen, that journey was hard to see, hard to imagine. Sometimes we commit to a person or a job, or a way of life because we just can't see beyond the moment.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us God has written eternity on our hearts. In other words, it is within our very core to believe, know and trust that there is a life after this one. Eternity. In our hardest moment, on our toughest days, we can look up and believe God that an infinitely much better life is coming.

Based on the understanding I would one day be married to the man God had for me, I calculated my choices and my actions. I modified my behavior for the life I wanted to live not just in the moment, but five and ten years down the road.

I wanted a career, so I studied and went to college. I wanted to earn a good living, so I worked hard on my jobs.

We must apply the same to the Next Life. Don't live just for today, but for the era when this age will end and Jesus will come again, ushering in a new era, a new age, one that goes on for Eternity.

So what you're not rich in this life. You have all of eternity to become rich. So what you've given up a few meals for fasting, or a few television programs to be on your face before the Lord in prayer. Those heart motions will be rewarded by Jesus.

Hollywood will not take any of us into eternity. McDonalds, and y'all know I love McDonalds, will not fix my ills, or fix my place in the next life.

But a postured heart toward the Lord will. Look, I'm not saying go all religious and not live this life. Please. LIVE IT! I am. This life is my internship for the next. And frankly, I want a good showing.

I am not saved or justified by my works, no, no, hear me, it's all on Jesus and the work of the Cross. But what I do with my time, words, money and emotions IS on me. Those are the things I can "take with me."

I write because Jesus put it in my heart. I'm writing out of both love and obedience. I want to be a writer in the Kingdom, you know?

So, consider your thoughts and emotions? Are you too wrapped up in the "now" to consider the future? Are you in love with your "fifteen-year-old boyfriend" and truncating all your possibilities and potential?

Hear: fifteen year old boyfriend is a metaphor!

Pray to understand the beauty and value of eternity being written on your heart. Then walk in it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Great Christmas Bowl by Susan May Warren

Okay, let me tell you my version of how this book came about. A few Novembers ago were in Nashville to attend our friend Anne Horch's (nee Goldsmith) wedding.

Friday night, Susie tuned into her son's football game via the Internet. His team was in the championships. Saturday afternoon, as we got ready for the wedding, I watched the Ohio State-Michigan game.

Both my brother and husband texted me the score during the wedding. (Sorry, Anne, but it was a lovely, moving wedding! I loved being there!)

So, Suz and I were of a football mind. On the way to the wedding, we started brainstorming about a football mom. We yakked back and forth the rest of the night, turning to each other during the reception, "What if?" And argued on the way to my car to go back to our hotel who would write the book first.

"Whoever goes home and writes the book gets it," Susie said.

Well, I was doomed. I knew I was doomed. I only hoped she wouldn't really write it. She did. In two weeks. Amazing. But from the beginning, this was her story. She is the football Mom. I'm only the football fanatic.

This is a great book straight from Susie's heart with a fragrance of her real life. Please, buy this book for your friends, for the office gift party, the staff exchange. I think it will become a Christmas classic.

Here's a word from Susie about the book:

Shoot...football season is over. I'm so sad....as we all know, I love Football...

So much so that I wrote a football story! Okay, it's not just about football. It's about Christmas. And small town life. And church Christmas Teas. And family....and traditions. And the crazy things we do for each other. Basically my favorite things about the season.

GCB Cover

I love Christmas stories - and every year I read aloud to my kids (this year my college kid might be too old), the Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever. And recently Dave Barry's, The Shephard, the Angel and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog. (sooo funny). I wanted to write my own Christmas Classic.

So, I did. Well, at least I HOPE it is a Christmas classic. Check it out HERE!

Are you in ministry? Want a cool bulletin insert--flyer for the GCB?

And don't forget the cool CONTEST we're running this fall! It's a recipe exchange!! Send us your favorite Christmas recipe and a cool story - we'll publish it on the blog, and sign you up to get a preview copy of my new book (a world war 2 epic!) And/or a cool Harry and David Gift basket!

Warren’s tender holiday novella invokes both laughter and some sweet tears. The vivid portrayal of family connections and football fervor will bring the Christmas spirit to everyone. (Romantic Times)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Exciting things coming up!

Just got off the phone with the great marketing and promotions team at Thomas Nelson and they have some fun and exciting things lining up for the release of The Sweet By and By.

If any of you have a review blog or book blog, let me know, we might be able to give you an influencer copy of the book.

Also, keep an eye out for deets on my Fan Page Birthday Party where YOU my guest will have a chance to win prizes. Why not? All y'all bless me throughout the year.

Steadily working on my own book before diving back into book three with Sara. My protagonists, Joy and Spear, are taking shape and I'm hewing out their story.

Did you see The Proposal? Remember when Drew was at hacking away at the old canoe in the front yard after a argument with his dad? Yeah, that's me and this book.

I think the pressure is really internal. I'm nervous I won't write a good enough book. And need to just surrender it to Jesus.

Here's one of my favorite lines. And it so works. "Jesus, You have a book to write. What do You need me to do?"

Stay tuned for more exciting details here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thirty-five years ago in November

Thirty-five years ago this month, we moved from Lexington, KY to Homestead, FL. I was a few weeks from turning fourteen, a recent victim of the Blow Cut hair style, and a little overweight from an affinity for saltines and sweet tea.

November in Florida is beautiful as the heat and humidity wane and the holiday season rolls in. But thirty-five years ago it was odd, hot, and far away from my "world." I felt like I'd moved to the end of the earth.

I had culture shock going from a suburban Lexington Junior High to one all classes and races of kids. I had to learn their lingo and culture. I stood at the bus stop sweating in my pants and short sleeve top while my bus stop mates wore fur lined coats. It was the first time I'd ever been asked, "Where you stay at?"

My classes ran from noon to five p.m. The hallways were covered sidewalks or opened into courtyards.

Riding my bike this afternoon a scent on the breeze reminded me of those early days in Homestead. For a second I remembered how odd and weird it felt to be in a scene with so much green and sunshine when my setting should be cold, grey and pregnant with snow.

It was a long time ago. My parents were more than a decade younger than I am now. They loaded up five kids and moved to pursue their dreams.

Within a year of that move, I had a couple of best friends. I'd shed those extra pounds, exchanged octagon wire rims for contact lens and eventually got a job at Publix. I got a little bit prettier. Had a crush on a guy named Joe, then a guy named Pete. And had infinitely better hair. ;)

Looking out my front windows, soft breeze in the leaves, golden light on the lawn, I'm glad. I'm content. Life is good.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The lovely, gracious and talented Robin Lee Hatcher

FIT TO BE TIED by Robin Lee Hatcher

"A master of lively historical romances, Hatcher demonstrates an expert ability to craft spunky, unlikely heroines who go against the tide of the times in which they live, making for fun, exciting stories. She also pays close attention to historical detail. This second series entry (after A Vote of Confidence) is highly recommended for readers of inspirational and historical romances and women's fiction." -- Library Journal

Who says a woman can’t do a man’s job?

Cleo Arlington dresses like a cowboy, is fearless and fun-loving, and can ride, rope, and wrangle a horse as well as any man. In 1916, however, those talents aren’t what most young women aspire to. But Cleo isn’t most women. Twenty-nine years old and single, Cleo loves life on her father’s Idaho ranch. Still, she hopes someday to marry and have children.

Enter Sherwood Statham, an English aristocrat whose father has sentenced him to a year of work in America to “straighten him out.” Sherwood, who expected a desk job at a posh spa, isn’t happy to be stuck on an Idaho ranch. And he has no idea how to handle Cleo, who’s been challenged with transforming this uptight playboy into a down-home cowboy.

Just about everything either of them says or does leaves the other, well, fit to be tied. And though Cleo believes God’s plan for her includes a husband, it couldn’t possibly be Sherwood Statham. Could it

About Robin

If you don't want to embed, here is the direct link:
Best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. She makes her home in Idaho where she enjoys spending time with her family and her high-maintenance Papillon, Poppet.

A Note from Robin

The Sisters of Bethlehem Springs series sprang from the question: Who says a woman can't do a man's job? And I can't fully express just how much fun I've had looking for the answer through the eyes of my heroines in this series. Although I have no favorites among the novels I've written (each were special to me at the time I wrote them), I do have some favorite characters. Cleo Arlington is one of them. I love her for her strong faith, for her quirky turns of phrase, for her confidence with horses and her lack of confidence with men, even for her impatience with Sherwood, the English aristocrat that she's supposed to turn into a cowboy. I've been so delighted that readers have taken her into their hearts the way they have. I hope you'll feel the same way about her.


View the book trailer here

Buy it from Amazon or Christianbook

Read an excerpt of FIT TO BE TIED

RH: I have the book at the top of my To Be Read pile. The opening chapter was engaging and fun. Another winner from Robin.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Just the two of us

In my house, it's just my Hubby and me. It's quite. Peaceful. Calm.

A few years ago, we had a couple of dogs that stirred up the atmosphere, but the older one died three years ago. Then his son died last August.
Now we just have lovely little Lola, a mini Schnauzer and Red, a very old and loud cat.

My writer friends, my sister, my sister-in-law have family blogs, detailing things their children do that will have you rolling on the floor, laughing.
Then there's the Pioneer Woman's blog. Puts us ALL to shame.

I don't have any life-at-home anecdotes. Seriously, do you want me to detail how Lola jumps in my lap every time we drive to a place she's never been (McDonalds is really old news to her now. And Publix.) and smashes my Diet Coke, spilling it into my console. I didn't think so.

I could tell you about a dream where a man I only knew by face entered the dream, began to pray in a way that sparked the song of the Lord in me and an entire room came to attention. I met him last week when I saw him in a book store in Kansas City. I recognized him from the back.

I could share how I can't even make an apple crumb dish from a PRE-MIXED package because I added too much butter. Hey, it melted when I tried to soften it in the oven. I had to add it or throw it away. Perfectly good butter. No can do.

Let's see. The carpets were cleaned today. True excitement there.

Got my hair done. Let's see. Ate warmed up Dominoes pizza for dinner. Am writing a book. Now you're talking. . . now you're talking.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Umph, climbing back up on the blogging band wagon

I fell off again. Thunk! Did you hear it?

I was trying to be good, diligent, writing my next novel without distraction. I couldn't bring myself to give up words. And emotion.

Not that blogging is not worth my time, effort and good words, more like whenever I make a bit of head way on my story, I pop over to a blog or email and drain the emotional energy it takes to write.

I was in Kansas City last week. My great idea to write and prayer didn't turn out as I'd imagined.

In my mind's eye, I'd go to the prayer room in the morning, then write in the afternoons. But I was struggling with the story and decided to give the book my best and first-morning creativity.

Being in the prayer room required a different kind of emotion and energy. Between the worship and the prayers being offered corporately, I was pulled into the room to do what it was designed to do -- engage in intercession.

I felt guilty for not writing, then I felt guilty for not praying. So, I went to the coffee shop. Noisy. Naturally. All the held-in conversations from the prayer room were let loose in the coffee shop. I did get some writing done in there, but I also ran into folks I knew, (Hey Don and Alberto!) wanted to say a quick hello.

I holed up in Cassie's apartment one afternoon. Then locked down in Stuart and Esther's basement (a nice room down there) for a few nights. But, they are good friends and it'd been awhile since I'd seen them and conversation was impossible to avoid.

I was also story-STUCK. Very stuck. Not sure how to unscramble and put the plot back together. Susie May and I plotted Wednesday afternoon. Read more about it here.

Most of the time, I felt out of my element. I pushed, wrote, hated half of every word, and decided my experiment didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. No one's fault. Just a lesson learned.

I did love spending time with my friend Julia, my girl Cassie and dear ones, Stuart and Esther. Also caught up with the Foix's and Nayomi and her daughter. Got to say hello to one of my favorite worship leaders, Justin Rizzo, and sat in some amazing intercession sets.

On Friday just before retiring to Stu and Es's place for the night, and preparing to leave Saturday morning, Es and I went into the bookstore. Wanted to get a t-shirt for Tony. As I was heading to the check out, I saw a man I recognized but did not know.

A few months ago I had a dream about intercession at Church on the Rock. This man walked up the prayer mike, began praying with a clear, distinct sound. I began to sing the same kind of sound.

I didn't know who he was nor could I describe him in any way to those who might. But there he was in the bookstore! I asked his name then shared the dream. While I'm not sure all the Lord is doing with the dream, I was so blessed to meet the man who helped deliver such a clear sound of the Lord.

Saturday I flew home without incident. Spent time on the plane meditating on my story. Susie May suggested my life is too good of a place to relate to my heroine. She's right. I need to dig deep and understand where she's coming from and what's going on in her life, in her heart.

So, we are into fall. The nights grow darker earlier. It's cozy and peaceful. While I'm not sure of what my time in KC produced, or how God will use it, I'm confident He works all things together for good.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Welcome Cindy Woodsmall and The Sound of Sleigh Bells

I'm happy to have my good friend Cindy Woodsmall back to my blog with her new book, The Sound of Sleigh Bells.

Cindy is a New York Times best-selling author whose connection with the Amish has been featured on ABC Nightline and the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Her ability to authentically capture the heart of her characters comes from her real-life connections with Plain Mennonite and Old Order Amish families.

Cindy is the mother of three sons and two daughters-in-law. She and her husband reside in Georgia. Visit her Web site at www.CindyWoodsmall.com

The Sound of Sleigh Bells

Beth Hertzler works alongside her beloved Aunt Lizzy in their dry goods store, and serving as contact of sorts between Amish craftsmen and Englischers who want to sell the Plain people's wares.

But remorse and loneliness still echo in her heart everyday as she still wears the dark garb, indicating mourning of her fiance. When she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children playing in the snow, something deep inside Beth's soul responds and she wants to help the unknown artist find homes for his work‚ including Lizzy's dry goods store. But she doesn't know if her bishop will approve of the gorgeous carving or deem it idolatry.

Lizzy sees the changes in her niece when Beth shows her the woodworking, and after Lizzy hunts down Jonah, the artist, she is all the more determined that Beth meets this man with the hands that create healing art. But it's not that simple. Will Lizzy's elaborate plan to reintroduce her niece to love succeed? Will Jonah be able to offer Beth the sleigh ride she's always dreamed of and a second chance at real love‚ or just more heartbreak?

The Sound of Sleigh Bells is a heartwarming Christmas novella where lack and abundance inside an Amish community has power for good when it' tucked inside love. Romantic Times gave The Sound of Sleigh Bells 4 stars, saying ~ This is a wonderfully written, transformative story of two Amish families at Christmastime. It will bring sleigh-riding memories to life as readers vicariously join in this jolly and exciting holiday tradition.

To read the first chapter of The Sound of Sleigh Bells, go here.

To purchase through Amazon.

To purchase through CBD.com.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner

Welcome to my friend, Susan Meissner, and one of my favorite authors. Susan's writing inspires me and her last release, Shape of Mercy, stayed with me for weeks.

Susan's new release, White Picket Fences is out and I'm looking forward to this amazing story.

Readers of emotional dramas that are willing to explore the lies that families tell each other for protection and comfort will enjoy White Picket Fences.

The novel is ideal for those who appreciate exploring questions like: what type of honesty do children need from their parents, or how can one move beyond a past that isn’t acknowledged or understood? Is there hope and forgiveness for the tragedies of our past and a way to abundant grace?

The story:

When her black sheep brother disappears, Amanda Janvier eagerly takes in her sixteen year-old niece. Tally is practically an orphan: motherless, and living with a father who raises Tally wherever he lands– in a Buick, a pizza joint, a horse farm–and regularly takes off on wild schemes. Amanda envisions that she and her family can offer the girl stability and a shot at a “normal” life, even though their own storybook lives are about to crumble.

What led you to write White Picket Fences?

Several years ago I was a court-appointed advocate for children involved in protective services. There were times when I saw that despite the outward appearance of a less-than-perfect home, a child could be loved there.

Just because a parent is unconventional or unsuccessful career-wise or makes choices that buck societal norms, it doesn’t mean that he or she is by default a "bad" parent. Likewise, parents who we would traditionally call "good" -meaning they provide, they protect, they don’t hit, they don’t ridicule - can nevertheless make decisions regarding their children that have hugely negative effects and yet their outward appearance would never lead anyone to suspect it.

Even if you live behind a white picket fence, you still have to deal with the fallout of a living in a broken world. You can't hide from it. The perfect, idyllic life is an illusion. Life is a weave of both delight and disappointment and it’s precisely these things that give it definition and depth. To ignore what is ugly is to cheapen what is beautiful.

You dovetailed a current day family drama with the Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto. Why the connection?

I think it's fair to say that the depth of the atrocities inflicted during the Holocaust wasn't fully appreciated until after the war. There was ugliness happening, if you will, and much of the West failed to see it -- for whatever reason. Within the horror, though, people made brave choices, selfless choices. And there were survivors who had to choose what they would take with them from the ashes of their suffering. I wanted to explore how a person makes that decision. Even the decision to pretend it never happened is a decision regarding those ashes.

What do you think interests you about the intersection of personal relationships and perceptions – a theme you wove into both The Shape of Mercy and White Picket Fences?

I see every great work of fiction being about human relationships. Gone With the Wind is so much more than just an epic story with the Civil War as a backdrop. It's a story of human relationships. Scarlett and Ashley, Scarlett and Rhett, Scarlett and Melanie, Scarlett and her father. It's within our closest relationships that our brightest virtues and worst flaws are exposed. That's why there is such tremendous story value within intimate human relationships. We are at our best and our worst when we are responding and reacting to the people who shape who we are. Human history is the story of relationships and what they teach us about what we value. And what we don't.

White Picket Fences is a different kind of novel than your acclaimed book, The Shape of Mercy, but there are some similarities too. Can you explain those?

As with The Shape of Mercy, there is a historical thread in White Picket Fences, though it is not as dominant. The invasion of Poland by the Nazis is woven into the story, and provides the backdrop for Chase's and Tally's discoveries about hope, dreams, and redemption. This thread is enhanced by visits to a nursing home where Chase and Tally meet a man blind from birth who survived the occupation of Poland. It is also a story that draws its pathos from family dynamics and the near-universal desire we have to make straight what is crooked. There are two young protagonists in "White Picket Fences," like there was in "The Shape of Mercy," as well as a third character, who, along with the two men in the nursing home, provide a similar multi-generational story thread.

What do you hope readers come away with after reading White Picket Fences?

The pivotal moment in the story for me is when Josef says to Chase: "[This] is what all survivors must decide. We have to decide how much we will choose to remember, how much courage we are willing to expend to do so."

It takes courage to acknowledge and remember what drove you to your knees or nearly killed you. If you choose to forget – and that's assuming you actually can – then it seems to me you suffered for nothing. You are different but you don’t spend any time contemplating – or celebrating – how. I'd be happy if there was a takeaway for someone out there who needs to consider that.

RH: Great thoughts, Susan!

Susan's bio:

Susan Meissner is the multi-published author of The Shape of Mercy, named one of the Best Books in 2008 by Publishers Weekly the ECPA’s Fiction Book of the Year. She is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. A devotee of purposeful pre-writing, Susan encourages workshop audiences to maximize writing time by mapping the writing journey and beginning from a place of intimate knowledge. She is the leader/moderator of a local writer's group, a pastor's wife and the mother of four young adults. A native San Diegan, Susan attended Point Loma Nazarene University. When she's not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at The Church at Rancho Bernardo.

You can purchase White Picket Fences here:

And read an excerpt here:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

4 Writers and Me on what makes us feel MOST like ourselves

In Oprah's eponymous magazine, there's a fun article: "4 Authors on What Makes Them Feel Most Like Themselves.

Among the featured authors was Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, Traveling Mercies, and Imperfect Birds. Here's Anne's answers.

I look most like myself…in worn jeans and a tight-ish white T-shirt.

I act most like myself…at church, overeating after worship.

I feel most like myself… lying in bed on Sunday mornings with the dogs and the cat, reading The New York Times.

I feel least like myself…when I have to socialize with people I do not know.


I thought it'd be fun to play along, in all of my writerly anonymity.

I look most like myself…in worn jeans and a T-shirt or top, wearing flip flops or my Ohio State crocks.

I act most like myself…at church, at home with friends. Well, pretty much anytime. I am what I am!

I feel most like myself… when I'm with hubby, writing or watching DVDs. When I'm worshipping.

I feel least like myself…when I'm around certain individuals in the publishing industry. I feel so awkward and geeky.

What about you? What makes you feel most like yourself. If you're so inclined, copy and paste the question into the comments and give your own answers!

Next: When Mary Karr acts most like herself

Friday, October 16, 2009

Siri Mitchell Winners and the weekend

Congratulations to Carol Jarvis, Angie Brennan and Crystal Offhaus, winners of Siri's latest books! I actually had two copies of Constant Heart so I picked an extra winner.

Send me your snail mail ladies! :) Click on the Contact page and send it through there.

So, what's planned for the weekend?

I'm going into "deep dark mode" meaning submerging myself in writing. See you all next week!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Is there a med out there for blogfobia?

Because I think I have it. A disease. Blogfobia. See, I can't even spell phobia! How'd it all start, Rachel, you ask.

Well, um, see, a loooong time ago, 2002, I started blogging in Diaryland. Just fun little tidbits about my days, news of my writing, my first book contract, life at the office. Which, btw, was nothing like the TV show.

I switched to Xanga, then Blogger. I hopped onto MySpace, then Facebook and a myriad of other social sites. Blogging became key to a new writer's existence. Everyone started blogging.

All my deep, personal thoughts, funny bits about Santa Mouse Christmas songs suddenly became fodder for comparison to all the other genius writers now blogging.
People started, gasp, giving stuff away. Books, iPods, prizes. Bloggers were funny. Wise. Full of publishing industry information.

Suddenly I'm Aubrey Montegue in Chariots of Fire, running the Steeple Race, landing in mud puddles, tripping over hurdles, coming in last.

Am I to be funny? Every day?! Am I to be deep and wise? Every day?! Should I give stuff away? Did I mention I'm a fledgling author?

Am I to go on about publishing industry news? Add posts of self promotion? Interview other authors. Write book reviews.

Ahhhh, I don't know what to blog any more!
Is there such a thing as a blogging trainer? I need to get in shape!

I don't feel so good.... "Mooooommm!"

Don't worry. There's not enough people who read my blog to pick up my germs and spread the disease. Maybe there's a blogphobia hospital where I can recoup with all the other authors suffering from "what do I blog?"

I use all my best brain to write books! Now, I must write an award winning blog. Sorry, I'm just not that competitive.

Don't worry. I'm strong. I'm healthy. I'll recover.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Spending time with author Siri Mitchell

I've always been a Siri Mitchell fan. Of her writing. Of her person.
This summer I read her newest release "Love's Pursuit" on a plan ride to Washington D.C. I was captivated. Loved, loved, loved the book. I saw Siri in D.C. as well as her editor, Dave Long. I had to gush to both of them about the story and Siri's work.

If you haven't read a Siri Mitchell book, please do.
I asked Siri to answer some interview questions, which she graciously agreed to do.

Siri has written seven novels, two of which (Chateau of Echoes and The Cubicle Next Door) were named Christy Award Finalists.

A graduate from the University of Washington with a business degree, she has worked in many levels of government and lived on three continents. She currently resides with her family in the Washington DC metro area.

Listen in to a bit of our conversation!

RH: Siri, I loved Chateau of Echoes and Moon Over Tokyo, very different books but both set in foreign cities. Can you talk about writing with international settings?

SM: I’d love to – they’re my favorites! I think the key in writing international settings is remembering whose eyes you’re supposed to be viewing them from. Cultures are foreign to us because, given the same set of information, they would probably draw different conclusions and find different solutions than we would. It’s always been easier for me to write an international setting from the view of an outsider. That way, I can use my own observations about the place and the culture. Besides highlighting international differences, I also like to touch on the similarities. It’s important to realize that people across the globe (and across time) deal with the same issues and same questions that we do.

RH: So true. When I traveled for my job, I was so struck by the commonalities of people across the world. We all want to be happy, to be loved and to raise our kids in a warm, safe environment.

You’ve gone from contemporary and chick lit books to writing historicals. Can you tell us about this migration in your work?

SM: I actually came into the publishing industry wanting to write historicals, but at the time, no one was buying them. (That changed, of course, about two weeks after I signed my first contract!) I enjoyed writing contemporaries, and hope that I’ll have the chance to get back to them, but for now, I have a backlog of historicals that I feel the need to put on paper.

RH: My first book was a WW2 historical, but the research is too tedious for me. I think I have a more contemporary voice. Your historical voice is so perfect. I really felt enveloped into Puritan Massachusetts when reading Love's Pursuit.

What’s next for you?

SM: What’s next is another historical, She Walks in Beauty. It officially release in April 2010.

The book is set in 1890s New York City in the upper levels of society during the late-Victorian era. When Clara Carter is told she’s to debut a year early, her social education shifts to high gear.

There’s more than dance skills and manners to learn. There are corsets to be fitted and bosoms to be enhanced, for a girl so tall and gangly as Clara could never hope to attract a man by simply being herself.

But the more enmeshed she becomes in New York City’s social scene the more she begins to wonder if this is the life she really wants. Especially when she’s pitted against her best friend for the hand of the most eligible bachelor in town. When she does manage to find a kindred soul, a man who seems to love her simply for who she is, her heart begins to assert its case. But there’s more at stake this social season than just Clara’s marriage and the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

The more research I did into corsets and late-Victorian culture, the more their problems seemed to mirror ours. Women still go to dangerous lengths to ‘fix’ the way they look. Media still creates a celebrity-focused culture. Advertising still perpetuates unreasonable standards of beauty for women that lead to anorexia-inducing behaviors, and we still grapple with our attitudes toward and treatment of the poor. Most books about debutantes focus on the glamour of the lifestyle or the cattiness of the girls themselves.

This books looks at the huge spiritual, physical, and emotional costs these girls were made to pay. But really, in true Victorian fashion, this book has a happy, heartwarming ending and I think there are scenes that will make readers laugh and others that will touch their hearts and make them cry (happy tears only, please!).

RH: All right, I'm hooked. I love the title. And I love the Victorian Era. You create heroines that are so profoundly impacted by their culture and traditions. It's fascinating. Cannot wait to read it!

Tell us a bit about your writing day. I know you have a daughter, so how does parenting work with writing for you?

SM: It really only works when I compartmentalize. I’m a bad juggler (even with scarves), so I do my best work when I’m concentrating on only one thing at a time.

After school starts, I work out. After I work out, I write from 2-4 hours 4 days a week (I figure that in any given week, I’ll have an appointment I have to go to or a series of errands I’ll have to run).

After I write, I take care of housework until my family comes home. Once they’re home, I’m theirs…and they get the weekends too. That’s my life. Pretty boring! In summer, I don’t keep a regular writing schedule. I operate on the assumption that I’ll be doing all the research reading for my next book, but frankly, I have a hard time making that happen.

RH: I can't juggle scarves either. :) Maintaining "life" is key to authors because we can become consumed by the deadline, by the craft. Sounds like you've found a good balance.

Historicals require a lot of research. Do you enjoy that aspect? How do you go about researching?

SM: I love research! What a great excuse to explore history. And buy books. I love books! I usually start my research in a very broad way. I like to read generally about my time period to get a feel for what was going on in my characters’ world politically, culturally, and spiritually.

After I get a good grasp of the period in general, then I start to narrow my research. I try and read biographies of women in the same class as my protagonist to see how the more widespread events of the day impacted women in particular. I’ll research specifics on architecture, food, and clothing.

Sometimes, if needed, I’ll delve into health and medicine. I’ve researched childbearing and marriage ceremonies. Period music, folk songs, and dance steps.

When it comes to actually writing my books, I try to forget everything I’ve learned. I try to interpret the world through my characters’ eyes rather than my own. I think I’m growing in this area. When I do it right, I treat the historical details matter-of-factly and my readers are able to buy into the illusion I’ve created, even when the characters do things that would seem odd or wrong to our modern day sensibilities. Write historicals with confidence and without apology. That’s my motto!

RH: Great advice about research. Even for me, researching contemporary issues and settings is key to a great story. Like you, I have to forget it all when I start to write and let it surface in a natural way.

Are you a plotter, Siri? Or Panster, as we say? How do you come up with your stories? Then, how do you approach writing?

SM: I’m a pantser, but my pants don’t seem to be wearing out quite as quickly these days. (RH: LOL)

I always try to craft a better book and I know that plotting is my weakness. For the past three books, I’ve been testing out different methods of quasi-plotting in order to find something that works for both my right and my left brain.

My stories always start with a character who comes to me and begins to tell me their story. In the early stages of writing, I’ll often hear my characters speaking and I’ll hurry to jot down what their saying. It used to be that my first draft manuscripts were lots of dialogue…with lots of gaps in between. I’ll usually know the beginning of my stories and their end and a few key scenes in the middle before I start to write.

With the book I just finished (She Walks in Beauty), I used scene cards to organize my thoughts. With the book I’m just beginning, I spent a lot of time thinking about theme and premise (influenced by Dr. Stanley D. Williams book, The Moral Premise).

I found it gave purpose to my scenes and helped me understand the actual structure of a novel. James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure and Jeff Gerke’s How To Find Your Story have also been very helpful. I guess I’d say I’m a pantser who wishes she could be a plotter. How’s that?

RH: While we can always improve our craft approach, there's some part of us that just "is." I'm a bit of a both-and writer myself. I plot and plan, then start writing and see what bubbles up!

What do you want readers to take away after reading one of your stories? What do you want them to feel?

SM: I want them to feel God’s great love. I want them to know that they don’t have to be anyone else, they don’t have to look like anyone else, they don’t have to act like anyone else. God created them for a purpose. And they deny that eternal purpose if they don’t value the person God created them to be.

RH: Your words so echo my own heart about my stories. I want readers to know God's amazing love for them and His destiny for them is uniquely designed for them!

Of all the places that you have traveled, which one is your favorite? Is there a place you haven’t been that you would love to visit?

SM: I have to say Paris. I’ll probably always say Paris! We were able to live there for 4 years and I completely fell in love with the city. But I would also love to visit all seven continents. I only have two left: South America and Antarctica. An Argentina/Antarctica itinerary would be a dream vacation for me.

RH: I've been to South America but Antarctica... wow, that would be some trip! Send me a post card!

Do you have any hobbies that you do in your spare time? Is there something you would love to learn but haven’t had the chance yet?

SM: I like to golf. My long-term goal is to get my handicap low enough so that I can play St. Andrews.

My husband has already played The Old Course twice. The next time we go to Scotland, I’m playing too! I also actually enjoy working out (lifting weights). And, I kind of hate to admit this, but I think I’m learning to enjoy gardening. As far as aspirations, I would love to be able to knit a lopi sweater like this one, but so far, I’ve only been able to conquer several really long scarves. (I have a lopi from 1984 that I still wear…mostly because I’ve never found another to buy.)

RH: What’s a typical family day like in the Mitchell household?

Unfortunately, it would probably begin at about 6:45. For some reason, some of us in my family are incapable of sleeping in. (That would not be me, by the way.) It would probably involve a sport (golf, tennis, biking, or swimming) or a visit to a museum. There’s so much to do and see in our area that the possibilities are endless!

RH: One of the great advantages of living metropolitan. Stuff to do. What kinds of books will we find on your bookshelf? What is the last book that left a big impression on you?

SM: All kinds of books line my bookshelves. And the desk. And the floor. And my nightstand. Non-fiction probably outnumbers fiction, but for pleasure reading, I’ll choose a novel every time. I have a long-time interest in fashion and French history (extra points for French fashion history), so I’ll add books in those categories regardless of what my research needs are at any given time.

Big impression? Probably Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. (Set in China during the foot-binding period.) As I was reading it, I kept looking at my feet thinking, ‘Really? People used to do that to their feet? Because they thought it was beautiful?!’ For anyone wondering, they used to break their feet (on purpose), bend them over into themselves, and let them basically rot into a gelatinous mass. (You have to read the book.)

RH: It's incredible what woman have endured through the centuries in the name of beauty.

I know you love to cook. What’s your favorite meal to prepare? Your favorite dessert? Do you cook every day?

SM: I’ve just discovered orange bread. And grilled coconut shrimp. But now that fall is coming on, I’ll be able to get out all my recipes with dried fruit (pork with apricots; chicken with prune sauce…). And Rachel Ray has a great recipe for penne pasta with pumpkin, sausage, and portabella mushrooms.

I’m not big on making desserts, though I love to eat them. But one of our French friends gave us a recipe for chocolate mousse. You’ll know I really like you if I take the time to chop up the chocolate, separate the eggs, and whip the egg whites up into a stiff meringue.

Usually, I cook every other day. 'Cook once, eat twice' is one of the sayings I live by. I never really liked leftovers until I became the chief cook and bottle washer. Now, I think they’re vastly underrated!

RH: Cooking is so not an interest of mine. I mean, I try. And if someone gives me an easy way to cook with variety, I'll do it, but I'm not a kitchen person. Too many other things to do.

What would you like readers to know from your heart about your books and writing?

SM: My goal has always been to make my readers think. I’m always trying to say something or work out how I feel about an issue. (My curse is to not be able to do it in less than 85,000 words!) I’d be flattered if reaaders couldn’t put my books down or felt like they connected with my characters, but I’d be honored if something I wrote gave them pause and caused them to stop, for even a moment, to consider something for the first time or from a new perspective.

RH: In my opinion you've accomplished your goal. You write storylines and characters that make me think. I've said this before but the storyline of Thomas and Small-Hope in Love's Pursuit is such an amazing Christ as Bridegroom image. Thank you for taking the time to create characters and stories to touch our hearts!

Thanks for stopping by, Siri!

Now, to blog readers, I'm giving away two autographed books by Siri Mitchell: Love's Pursuit and Constant Heart. For a chance to win, click on my Facebook badge to the right and post a comment! I'll draw names in a few weeks!