Monday, November 15, 2010

Dining With Joy Release Day November 16th

The big day is finally here. The third in the Lowcountry Romance novels, Dining with Joy.

This is a fun book with serious undertones about a cooking show host who can't cook. In the video below, I talk how I came up with this concept and the process of writing the book.

Thomas Nelson is partnering with me to host a contest, for you, the reader! Post your comments below for a chance to win. See contest rules here.

What's up for grabs? An KitchenAid Artisan Mixer is
the grand prize. The winner will be chosen randomly on December 3rd after the December 2nd deadline.

You can post a comment, or your own fun kitchen-cooking story. Stupid Cooking Tricks is an element on Joy's show and we invite you to share your own stories.

I'll be sharing mine this week.

Ten runner ups will receive a signed copy of Dining with Joy and the new Thomas Nelson cookbook, Second Helpings with Johnnie Gabriel.

I'm excited for this opportunity for you all!

Dining with Joy video

All for the Love of Jesus

There's a great post over on @stickyjesus today about living out the love of Christ online. Isn't this a great battle for us "off line" too?

As a writer, I struggle to keep a balance between my real life, my online life, and the "life" of me that comes out on the pages of my novels. I have to speak for the characters and the journey they are enduring instead of the "message" resonating in my heart at the time of my writing.

In The Sweet By and By Sara and I tackled abortion as part of Jade's story. Jade was wounded by her decision, plagued with guilt and shame, fear and anxiety. In researching, I read stories of women reacting to their abortions after the fact on Most of them suffered the way Jade suffered in the book.

But Jade's mother, Beryl, felt it was Jade's only option. Another characteristic I read about on As I wrote, I had to argue each case effectively according to the voice and "mind" of the character despite my own conviction that abortion is not a viable option to unwanted pregnancy and there are many other choices.

Yet I wanted to show there is no condemnation for those who may have made the choice, that Jesus is there to love, deliver and forgive.

Because more than writing for my publisher, the reader or myself, I write for Jesus. My prayer is always, "Lord, if my characters are found in me, and I'm found in You, then my characters are found in You. What do You want to say?"

Jesus is the best story teller. Don't you love how He launches into a story in the Gospels. The disciples are like, "Hey, what does that mean, Jesus?" And He answers, "A King threw a wedding feast for His Son..."

My husband and I are watching the television show Numb3rs on DVD and one of the tools the writers use to explain the math theories and principles is story. Charlie, the math genius, will come up with a way to mathematically solve a crime and he explains it to the FBI agents by using real life, every day, ordinary scenarios.

Story! It gives us a picture of the unseen, the abstract, the complex. And isn't that what Jesus is? The Uncreated God becoming man, becoming a part of His own creation so that He could SHOW us who He is and demonstrate His amazing, unsearchable love for us.

What God appeases Himself with His own sacrifice. Bridges the gap between man and God by becoming man, not requiring man to become God? The one true God. He is love.

When you find yourself in tense, stressful, hurtful situations, meditate on His love. Ask Him to kiss your heart with His love so you can be like Him and respond in love.

Is there a situation where you've responded in love because you understood His love for you? (Later, I'll blog about justice!)

Tomorrow, we start a contests for Dining with Joy!

Monday, November 08, 2010

What's in a dream?

I believe in the power and purpose of dreams. They communicate issues of our own hearts, or perhaps the weird multi colored Cubism image of the pepperoni pizza we ate the night before.

Or the meds we're taking. Meds can really mess with your dreams. Be careful.

Largely, I think dreams come from God. Sometimes they are "Slough off" dreams. Meaning, some kind of gunk from the world got on you that day, you dream about it, some thing weird, gross, sexual that makes your skin crawl. It's your soul sloughing it off.

Psalm 127:2 says God "gives to His beloved even in his sleep."

I've seen things in my sleep, read books, heard songs, understood a relational conditions, or gained insight into a question of my heart. I've asked God for dreams when some answer or help from heaven eluded me. And He's answered. Not always, but a good bit of the time. When I've really needed insight.

God directed Joseph and Daniel in dreams, and Joseph, Jesus's earthly father. Pilot's wife dreamed about Jesus and begged her husband not to mess with Him.

On occasion, I have those "between" moments -- not awake, not asleep -- where I sense the presence of the Lord. I've gained insight there too. Clarity about a story, or life situation. Often encouraging words for others.

I've had dreams about world leaders and events. Friends of mine have had dreams about presidents -- before they were elected.

Maybe you've had a dream something bad might happen to a family member, or a national or world leader. Perhaps even your local mayor or pastor.

I had a dream once where our president sat in our sanctuary with rapt attention to the prayers and worship.

That excited my heart. And you know what? I can do nothing about it. Except pray.

Why are we given dreams? To teach, to warn, to edify, to prepare. To pray.

If you're given a dream in which you feel helpless to do anything about, the purpose is for prayer. God is calling you into intercessory partnership with His Son, Jesus.

I can't call up President Obama and say, "Sir, Jesus is calling you to His heart." I can only pray what I saw in the dream and what I felt the Lord was communicating to me through the dream elements.

If you dream someone may harm themselves, pray life into them. Pray God's destiny and hope. Pray protection.

We are ambassadors. We are Kings and Priest. We are partners with Jesus for His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.

Pray for understanding of dreams. Don't just slough them off as weird or "Gee, I don't know." ASK! Look for understanding in the Word. Most of the time, you'll find a verse or chapter that expounds on the elements of your dream.

Ask for Daniel 1:17. To understand and interpret dreams and visions.

Be a wise and informed partner of Jesus so when He gives you a prayer assignment in a dream, you know how to respond.

If He reveals something of your heart, or His, again, you'll know how to respond.

Pray. Believing.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Research can power up a story

Since I'm ankle deep in a new book and participating in National November Writers Month, NaNoWriMo, which I affectionately call, NaNaMoMo, I'll blog about writing.

It's dang hard. Can I just say that? It's true. First drafts are like pulling teeth without Novocain for an entire month. A tooth a day. You have to work up the courage to do it.

Working with the spark of an idea is fun.
Even hammering out the synopsis. Then comes the writing. Invariably, I never do enough research, so I'm back and forth between the story and the internet, searching.

The tediousness of it is wearying.

Take last night. I wanted to know specifically where my 1912 heroine lived in Philadelphia. I knew it was along the Main Line, but where?

I Google Mapped the city. I used the little yellow man to see the streets. I read the history of Philly and the Main Line.

But did those same streets and train stations exist in 1912? How far out on the Main Line would a wealthy family live? In the early 1900s, the community was young.

Question, questions, questions. Without answers. I was getting frustrated, and decided to NaNaMoMo right through the scene without the info I needed. After all that's what this writing month is about, but it wasn't working. I couldn't see the scene in my mind, nor feel it.

Back to Google and I finally hit gold with the West Philadelphia Historical Society. They had maps. From 1911.

Detailed maps. I could tell which houses were stone or brick. Which ones had porches. Where the green houses were located. Hospitals, churches and schools. The park I'd been reading about finally made scene.

It was fantastic. Now I had the image in my mind of what kind of neighborhood my character would live in, and how she would run across her neighbors lawn to get to her own back door.

Research slows you down, but there's nothing like it to power up the story. Once you know how something works, or how a city was designed, the name of a street or neighborhood, pieces begin to fall into place and the story can flow.

When I was writing Dining with Joy, a chef said something to me during our phone interview. "Even the most experience chef can freeze up in a cooking competition."

That off the cuff remarked added a nuance that layered a scene to make a good scene even better. Had I not taken the opportunity to talk to the chef, I'd have never sliced out that very subtle idea.

I have to see a scene. I can't write it if I don't know where she lives and how it impacts her life.

Funny, I don't necessarily care what she's wearing or how she looks. But I need to see her world.

How about you? How do you research. How does it impact your story? How do you manage research while writing?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

In the company of peanut butter cookies

Walking through the kitchen, the package of bakery cookies called out to me. No, they're for home church.

But when I passed through again, the cookies shouted my name. My empty stomach agreed. Just one, just one.

So, I ate two. (blush) The small sugar cookies hit the spot. But you know what was weird, the last bit of each cookie tasted a bit like... peanut butter.

I looked in the box. The row of sugar cookies ran along side a row of peanut butter. The edges touched just a little bit and the sugar cookies absorbed the peanut butter taste.

There's probably a scientific reason the sugar cookies took on the flavor of peanut butter. But I think it's because the sugar cookies are generic. They don't have a specific flavor or texturing. All the ingredients of sugar cookies are in the peanut butter cookies.

My poor sugar cookies represent a philosophy. "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything."

Who we hang around with, what we behold with our eyes, what we open our heart to, and who and what we give our energy and time to shapes us.

We start out as sweet, innocent sugar cookies. Life experience makes us peanut butter, chocolate chip, or oatmeal raisin.

We form our "flavors," our beliefs, through our parents, teachers, friends, and believe it or not, our wounds. If we don't get healing for our hurts, and pain, we use them to guide us through life.

Imagine the guy with a pebble in his shoe walking along the road, telling you to follow him, but he can't walk a straight line for trying to ease the pain coming from his shoe?

We can't keep company with liars, cheaters, haters, haters of God, lovers of self and not be effected. Even as adults, we are molded and flavored by the people we keep company.

Funny though. The peanut butter cookies didn't taste like sugar cookies. The strong peanut butter flavor over powers.

I want to be a peanut butter cookie. Strong in who I am, able to influence rather than be influenced.

To be a voice and not an echo.

I want people to be around me and leave with the flavor and texture of God on their hearts. I want them to leave my company feeling hope and faith, wanting to run for their destiny in life rather than hide from it.

You know why I love a good book or movie with a happy ending? Because it makes me ask, "Yeah, why not me?"

I want people to leave my company and ask, "Hey, God, why not me."

What happens when people leave your company? What kind of "cookie" are you? Sugar or peanut butter?