Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Empty Store Fronts, Empty Pockets

I don't know how it is where you live, but in the past several months the commerical landscape around my neighborhood has changed a lot.

The Lone Star Restaurant was one of the first to go, followed quickly by Max and Erma's across the road. Then a couple weeks ago, Baker's Square hit the skids. Today I read in the paper that Bennigan's shut their doors yesterday without advanced notice to their employees. Those are just the restaurants. Bassett Furniture has been having a close-out sale for weeks now. I guess tomorrow is the last day before those doors shut for good. Standing in one of the neighborhood strip malls the other day, I looked around. Gone is the Country Sampler, Pier One, a discount beauty shop, a scrapbook store--and on and on it goes. The government may say we are not in a recession, but what I'm seeing says otherwise.

Aldi's, the low-cost grocer, is doing great as are Wal-Mart, Sam's and Costco. And I imagine the fast food restaurants are experiencing a surge. People still want to eat out but they will think twice before plunking down as much money as it takes to fill a tank with gas these days on a single meal. Gas has come down a little bit the past week or so, but I wonder how long that will last?It was a good ride these past years, but for now the economy has slowed to a crawl.

I'm still hoping for that elusive book contract and haven't given up. Even so, it's becoming harder to break into the market as publishers tighten their belts and are less willing to take a chance on an unproven author.

What keeps me going is that God never changes and he is the One who is in control no matter how much we try to manipulate things with tax incentive rebates, etc. He has authority over my life and this world. He promises to never leave me or forsake me. He promises to protect me. He promises me the greatest gift of all, far more valuable than a night out at a fancy restaurant or even a book contract.

He promises me eternity with him. I'll take that to the bank!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

CFBA Tour - Painted Dresses by Patricia Hickman

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Painted Dresses

(WaterBrook Press - July 15, 2008)


Patricia Hickman


Patricia Hickman is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction, whose work has been praised by critics and readers alike.

Patricia Hickman began writing many years ago after an invitation to join a writer's critique group. It was headed up by best-selling author Dr. Gilbert Morris, a pioneer in Christian fiction who has written many best selling titles. The group eventually came to be called the "Nubbing Chits". All four members of the original "Chits" have gone on to become award-winning and best selling novelists (good fruit, Gil!).

Patty signed her first multi-book contract with Bethany House Publishers. After she wrote several novels "for the market", she assessed her writer's life and decided she would follow the leanings of her heart. She says, "It had to be God leading me into the next work which wound up being my first break-out book, Katrina's Wings. I had never read a southern mainstream novel, yet I knew that one lived in my head, begging to be brought out and developed." She wanted to create deeper stories that broke away from convention and formula. From her own journey in life, she created a world based upon her hometown in the 70's, including Earthly Vows and Whisper Town from the Millwood Hollow Series.

Patty and her husband, Randy, have planted two churches in North Carolina. Her husband pastors Family Christian Center, located in Huntersville. The Hickmans have three children, two on earth and one in heaven. Their daughter, Jessi, was involved in a fatal automobile accident in 2001. Through her writing and speaking, Patty seeks to offer help, hope and encouragement to those who walk the daily road of loss and grief.


In this story of sisterhood and unexpected paths, Gaylen Syler-Boatwright flees her unraveling marriage to take refuge in a mountain cottage owned by her deceased aunt. Burdened with looking after her adult sister, Delia, she is shocked to find a trail of family secrets hidden within her aunt’s odd collection of framed, painted dresses. With Delia, who attracts trouble as a daily occupation, Gaylen embarks on a road trip that throws the unlikely pair together on a journey to painful understanding and delightful revelations.

Steeped in Hickman’s trademark humor, her spare writing voice, and the bittersweet pathos of the South, Painted Dresses powerfully captures a woman’s desperate longing to uncover a hidden, broken life and discover the liberty of living authentically, even when the things exposed are shrouded in shame.

If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE

Buy it at Amazon!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

ACFW 2008 Book of the Year Finalists Are Announced!

ACFW's Book of the Year awards have become a cherished honor for published authors. Today the finalists for this year's contest were announced. The winners will be announced at the awards banquet to be held the Saturday night of our conference in Minneapolis.

I've read some of these books, but not all. If you're looking for a good read you need to look no further than this list. There's something for everyone here.

Debut Author

  • Bayou Justice (Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll)
  • In Between (Jenny B Jones)
  • Sushi for One? (Camy Tang)
  • My Soul Cries Out (Sherri Lewis)
  • Petticoat Ranch (Mary Connealy)

Contemporary Novella (*six finalists due to a tie)

  • A Cloud Mountain Christmas (Robin Lee Hatcher)
  • Finally Home (Deb Raney in Missouri Memories anthology)
  • Mississippi Mud (DiAnn Mills in Sugar And Grits Anthology)
  • Moonlight & Mistletoe (Carrie Turansky in Big Apple Christmas anthology)
  • Remaking of Moe McKenna (Gloria Clover in the Race to the Altar anthology)
  • Sweet Dreams Drive (Robin Lee Hatcher)

Historical Novella

  • Beyond the Memories (DiAnn Mills in Mississippi Memories anthology)
  • Finishing Touches (Kelly Hake in Missouri Memories anthology)
  • Love Notes (Mary Davis in Love Letters anthology)
  • The Spinster & The Cowboy (Lena Nelson Dooley in Spinster Brides of Cactus Corner anthology)
  • The Spinster & The Tycoon (Vickie McDonough in Spinster Brides of Cactus Corner anthology)

Lits (*six finalists due to a tie)

  • Around the World in 80 Dates (Christa Banister)
  • One Little Secret (Bottke, Allison)
  • Renovating Becky Miller (Sharon Hinck)
  • Splitting Harriet (Tamara Leigh)
  • Sushi for One? (Camy Tang)
  • The Book of Jane (Dayton/Vanderbilt)

Long contemporary

  • Autumn Blue (Karen Harter)
  • Like Always (Robert Elmer)
  • Taming Rafe (Susan May Warren)
  • When the Nile Runs Red (DiAnn Mills)
  • Within This Circle (Deb Raney)

Long Historical (*seven finalists due to TWO ties)

  • Courting Trouble (Deeanne Gist)
  • Fancy Pants (Cathy Hake)
  • Lady of Milkweed Manor (Julie Klassen)
  • Remember Me (Maureen Lang)
  • Then Came Hope (Louise Gouge)
  • Veil of Fire (Marlo Schalesky)
  • Where Willows Grow (Kim Vogel Sawyer)


  • Days And Hours (Susan Meissner)
  • Death of a Garage Sale Newbie (Sharon Dunn)
  • Gone With The Groom (Janice Thompson)
  • Sticks And Stones (Susan Meissner)
  • Your Chariot Awaits (Lorena McCourtney)

Short Contemporary

  • Heart of the Family (Margaret Daley)
  • The Heart of Grace (Linda Goodnight)
  • The Perfect Blend (Allie Pleiter)
  • Wedded Bliss (Kathleen Y’Barbo)
  • When Love Comes Home (Arlene James)

Short Contemporary Suspense (*six finalists due to a tie)

  • Caught Redhanded (Gayle Roper)
  • Her Christmas Protector (Terri Reed)
  • Nowhere to Hide (Debby Giusti)
  • Pursuit of Justice (Pamela Tracy)
  • See No Evil (Gayle Roper)
  • Vanished (Margaret Daley)

Short Historical (*six due to a tie)

  • A Time to Keep (Kelly Hake)
  • A Wealth Beyond Riches (Vickie McDonough)
  • Canteen Dreams (Cara Putman)
  • Corduroy Road to Love (Lynn Coleman)
  • Golden Days (Mary Connealy)
  • To Trust An Outlaw (Rhonda Gibson


  • Demon: A Memoir (Tosca Lee)
  • DragonFire (Donita Paul)
  • The Restorer (Sharon Hinck)
  • The Restorer’s Son (Sharon Hinck)
  • Isle of Swords (Wayne Thomas Batson)


  • Abomination (Colleen Coble)
  • Black Ice (Linda Hall)
  • Coral Moon (Brandilyn Collins)
  • Crimson Eve (Brandilyn Collins)
  • Ransomed Dreams (Amy Wallace)

Women’s Fiction

  • A Promise To Remember (Katie Cushman)
  • Bygones (Kim Sawyer)
  • Remember to Forget (Deb Raney)
  • The Oak Leaves (Maureen Lang)
  • Watercolored Pearls (Stacy Adams)

Young Adult

  • In Between (Jenny B. Jones)
  • On The Loose (Jenny B. Jones)
  • Sara Jane: Liberty’s Torch (Eleanor Clark
  • Sarah’s Long Ride (Susan P Davis)
  • Saving Sailor (Renee Riva)

Friday, July 11, 2008

ACFW National Conference - 68 Days and Counting!

Yep, in exactly 68 days the American Christian Fiction Writers will invade the North. After two years in the Lone Star state we're setting up in Minneapolis and we can't wait to get there!

I've been fortunate enough to have attended all ACFW conferences since our very first one in Kansas City back in 2002 when 100 people attended and ACFW was just starting to grow into the 1600+ membership we have today. This year we expect 500-600 attendees and the conference is better than ever.

This year's keynoter is Angie Hunt. Angie is a prolific author and a great encourager to writers of all levels. I had the honor of sitting in a writing clinic that she taught at the Colorado writing conference I attended last year.

For any Christian who writes fiction, the ACFW conference is the one conference you should be attending this year. Continuing classes and workshops will be taught by the best professionals in the business. Nearly every CBA publisher intends to have representation there. Think Bethany House, Whitaker House, B&H, Zondervan, and Tyndale, just to name a few. Agents such as Chip MacGregor, Steve Laube, Alive Communications, Hartline, Browne & Miller, and a lot more. Awesome worship. Networking opportunitites. Massive 100-author book signing at the Mall of America coordinated by Barnes and Noble, and much, much more.

There is still time to sign up! Just go to the ACFW Conference Web Page and first study the offerings by clicking on the links in the sidebar menu. Then click on the registration link and get started.

It all takes place in the 5-star Sheraton Bloomington Hotel. I spent several days at this hotel last March and I can promise you a comfy bed in a well-appointed room. comfortable meeting space, an awesome dining experience with great food. All that along with a very splashy and exciting award banquet on Saturday night where we'll announce the winners of the Genesis writing contest, Book of the Year winners, Agent of the Year, Editor of the Year, and Mentor of the Year. ACFW has a block of rooms held at a special low price so don't wait too long to make your reservation!

Have I whetted your appetite yet? Good! See you in September in Minneapolis!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Table for One Please

As I started the first sentence of this blog post I wrote, "Last week's research trip to Wisconsin . . ." Then I paused. It wasn't last week. It was two weeks ago! And that means that I missed posting anything at all to Writer's Journey last week. What happened? Summer madness in the forms of interruptions.

But, I digress. The point of this post isn't about time flying or forgetfulness. It's about courage and stepping out of my comfort zone.

When I wrote about my trip TWO weeks ago, I focused on the jewel of my trip. The Red Mill in Little Hope, Wisconsin. Today I'm focusing on a sort of personal victory for me.

Dining alone in a sit-down, formal restaurant has always been off my trodden path of life experiences. Not a drive-through, not a fast-food place. A bona fide restaurant where a person waits on you, takes your order, and brings you your food.

As one being single all my life you'd think I would be used to dining alone, but to me dining out like that is more for the social aspects than it is for the food. Without someone to share the experience of good food and conversation, why bother to go? I've often seen people dining alone. Usually that person will have their nose in a book. That makes sense, and will more-so when I have one out that they can be reading :-). But, sometimes they aren't reading. Just dining alone. Slowly. As if savoring every bite.

While I was in Wisconsin I couldn't resort to my old standbys of fast food joints where I could take a book and wolf down a cheeseburger. I had to go to places where my characters might like to dine. Experience the restaurant through their eyes. Take notes and pictures. Talk to the servers in some cases. I needed to step out of my comfort zone.

The first restaurant where I had lunch was a treat. It was rather eclectic in decor, but casual with unique twists on common dishes as its fare. I engaged the women who worked there in converstion and explained why I was there. I snapped pictures with abandon and made copious notes while I ate. That notebook of mine was my crutch. While waiting for my food I made notes. It was also my conversation partner.

That evening I took myself out again. Still full from my lunch, I probably wouldn't have gone to a sit-down meal, but I had to for the sake of the story. Again, my ever-present notebook served as my dining partner. That night I enjoyed a meal of deep-fried perch. A huge departure from the low-fat diet I like to maintain, but I was in Wisconsin, the state I grew up in, the land of traditional Friday night fish frys that are so much a part of the Wisconsin culture. So I indulged and enjoyed every minute.

The next morning I was tempted to take advantage of the complimentary breakfast my hotel offered, but I had one more place to visit before heading home--a small cafe someone had told me was the place to go to get a taste of the locals as well as good food. And boy did I! I'd forgotten that Wisconsin has no state-wide ban on smoking, and this place was so small it never heard of a non-smoking section! Other than that, it was perfect for what I needed. The decor was like a step back in time and so were the prices. I'll never forget the cap one man with a cigarette dangling from his lips wore, "Fish or Die." The breakfast was great.

In retrospect as I look back, I realize that in all the restaurants I visited, I attacked my food with a vengance. Since I had no one to talk to I focused on eating. Maybe I subconciously ate fast so I could leave and get back to my comfort zone. I don't know if I'll ever decide to eat alone in such restaurants for no reason except to go out to eat, but I learned a new thing about myself. I have the courage to do what needs doing.

And you need that in this crazy world of writing.