Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Book Review: A Texas Ranger's Family by Mae Nunn

A couple of months ago I received my score sheets from a writing contest I’d entered. Judges don’t always sign their names on the score sheets, but one of my judges did and she included her e-mail address in case I wanted to ask her any questions about her comments.

This was a wonderful opportunity, so I sent her an e-mail full of questions—after thanking her, of course. Not only did she answer my questions and offer me encouragement, her comments helped me strengthen my writing. In fact, when I tweaked a scene based on her advice, it sent my mind in an entirely new direction and I ended up with three new scenes and a much stronger opening. Oh, and I like my book again. For a while I was beginning to have my doubts. Now I’m happily working on it once more, with a goal of finishing the book before the year is over.

But enough about me.

This is about my superjudge, Mae Nunn.

I'm ashamed to say this, but at the time she signed her name on my score sheet, I hadn’t read any of her books. Then after her kind words and constructive input, I decided to watch for the next one. A couple of weeks ago, while out shopping, I was delighted to come across her September inspirational romance release from Steeple Hill's Love Inspired: A Texas Ranger’s Family. I didn’t waste any time grabbing it off the shelf, and since it was a nice sunny Saturday, I took it with me to the beach where I spent a wonderful afternoon reading and soaking up the sunshine.

Injured in a bomb blast in Iraq, photojournalist Erin Gray is brought back to the United States to recover. After three weeks in a medically induced coma, she wakes to the sound of a familiar voice: her one-time husband, Daniel Stabler—the man she ran out on when she found herself unable to deal with the nightmares of her past. Daniel isn’t alone at the hospital, though. At his side is his—their—sixteen year old daughter, Dana. But when the bandages are removed from Erin’s eyes and she finally sees the daughter she abandoned, Erin realizes she must still face the pain of her past.

In A Texas Ranger’s Family, readers will find an unpredictable story with layers of depth—a truly inspirational story of love and the many ways it can heal the human heart.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was excited to find out it’s the first of a three-book series. The next one is due out in April. I may have missed the first several of Mae’s books, but you can be sure I won’t miss another one.

To learn more about Mae Nunn and her inspirational romance novels, check out her website at:

Saturday, September 12, 2009

“Thank you. Have a nice day!”

When I was in high school I worked in a hobby shop. It was my first experience working in a store, dealing with people, offering customer service. My boss, Marge, taught me from the very beginning, “The customer is always right.”

Even when they buy a model airplane, break it on the way out the door and then want to exchange it for a new one?

“Yes,” Marge would say. “Even then.”

And so I learned to smile even when the customer was mean or grouchy.

A couple of years later a popular burger chain opened in my town. I was hired as part of their very first crew. Before opening day, there were several evenings where we all went in for group training. Not only did we learn never to put hot fries in the same bag as a milkshake (yes, if you can imagine it, they really used to put the drinks in a bag), but we also spent entire evenings going over different customer-relations scenarios and learning those all important words: “The customer is always right.”

Even when they ordered extra pickles on their burger and then insisted they really wanted a chicken sandwich?

"Yes, even then," Bob or Wally would say. "You smile and thank them, no matter what."

I don’t know about where you live, but here in my hometown that notion is no longer in existence. Where did it go? Is it really so difficult to smile and act friendly even if you don’t feel like it? Or are they simply too busy to take just a few seconds for courtesy?

Apparently so. The fast-food restaurant I worked at all those years ago is still here, along with several others that have sprouted up over time. In spite of the varying menus, they all have one thing in common: The fancy headset that lets them take your money while taking someone else’s order.

The other day I went to a drive-thru for an iced tea. When I arrived at the window, the girl was talking into her headset. She reached out for my money then handed me my change and my tea, all without ever saying a word. I thanked her, but she just turned away and kept talking into her headset.

The next day, my husband and I went to the fast-food place where I’d worked all those years ago. Our experience was almost identical to the one I’d had the day before. The exception came when the girl looked at us and said something. My husband answered her, but she just looked at him like he was crazy and continued talking…into her headset.

It's painfully clear the customer is no longer right because the customer isn’t even worthy of a simple, “Thank you. Have a nice day.”

Or so I thought.

The next evening we decided to forgo fast-food and went to our favorite Mexican restaurant. (Yes, I know we eat out too much. That’s a problem to be solved another day.) While we were eating, we heard the waiters and waitresses singing “Happy Birthday” to someone nearby. No big surprise. People have birthday celebrations in restaurants all the time. But this time when we turned around to see who was having a birthday, we were surprised to see them singing to the owner. Looking a little shy, but pleased, he blew out his candles before he and his staff disappeared with the cake. A few minutes later he came back and set the table across from me with a stack of plates, forks, and napkins. Then, with a huge grin on his face, he put the cake on the table. He turned to me and asked if I’d like a piece of cake. Then he proceeded to serve everyone in the room.

Clearly, customer service is alive and well. Just not in the fast-food restaurants where I live. Now I’m not saying they have to give cake to all of their customers, but is it really so hard to thank them for their business?

My radio station likes to encourage people to make a difference in the lives of others. They call it the drive-thru difference. The idea is to make another person's day a little brighter when you're in a drive-thru line by paying for the order of the car behind you. Then when they get to the window, they receive a flyer that you've given the order-taker, letting them know their order has been paid for and why. I haven't tried it yet because I don't think the person taking my money would know what to do. I don't think they'd give the flyer to the person behind me. And given their preoccupation with their headsets, I think I'd have a hard time even trying to pay for the person behind me.

I realize the purpose of the headsets is to push as many cars through as possible. Keep ‘em moving, don’t hold up the line.

But really, where are we more likely to spend our money? At the drive-thru where the girl reaches out the window to slap a bag of fries into our hands all the while never acknowledging our presence? Or the cozy restaurant where the owner is always happy to see us and is so thankful for his customers that he generously shares a slice of his yummy birthday cake?