Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Review of One Christmas Eve by Robin Patchen

The winner of a downloaded book of their choice from The Pelican Book Group is: Mary Ann Diorio! Mary Ann left her comment on Inkwell Inspirations.
Thank you, Mary Ann!

Today on Inkwell Inspirations, I'm featuring some of the Christmas novellas from The Pelican Book Group. On this post, I'm featuring a review of Robin Patchen's novella, One Christmas Eve. I'm also featuring Robin Bayne's novella, Christmas Forever, on another post on this same blog. This weekend, I'll be drawing for a downloaded copy of a novella of the winner's choice. If you'd like to be in the drawing, please leave a comment here, on Robin Bayne's excerpt post, or on the Inkwell post where I feature the novellas before Friday, December 14, 2012, at midnight. 

For the month of December, all of the Christmas novellas are at a great price of $1.00. You can't beat that for a satisfying Christmas read. Below is my review of one of the novellas, by a delightful inspirational writer, Robin Patchen.

One Christmas Eve

By Robin Patchen

Blake Carmichael has made mistakes in his life, but he’s a new person now and his number one priority is to reconcile with his son. For Blake, starting anew with Eli would mean his Christmas wish coming true. But the going is rough and late one night, just before their first Christmas together, Eli sneaks out of the house.

Desperate to find his son, Blake discovers Eli’s girlfriend is also missing. He enlists the help of Kelsey’s pretty aunt Tallia Waters. Tallia and Blake attend the same church, and though he’s wanted to ask her out, Blake has determined not to pursue a relationship until he’s fixed the one with his son.

Drawn together by their desperation, Tallia and Blake travel the dark streets late at night praying to find the teens before they find trouble – or worse.

Despite the fact that he’s a Hollywood A-Lister, Blake is a man who’s trying to reach out to a rebellious teenage son. Tallia is a woman struggling to make ends meet while following her heart as an artist.

Robin Patchen uses her words to paint these true to life characters in a way that will touch the heart of most readers. Tension and sweet moments intermingle to make this a captivating read, and the hope of a Christmas miracle is the perfect backdrop for this story of redemption.

I enjoyed every page of this book, and I’m eager to see what will come next from this talented author.

To learn more about Robin Patchen, visit her website by clicking here.

One Christmas Eve and other Christmas novellas can be downloaded from The Pelican Book GroupAmazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Thank you for visiting today. I hope you'll decide to check out this wonderful Christmas collection. To be entered in a drawing for a downloaded copy of one of these novellas please leave a comment below, on the post with the excerpt of Robin Bayne's novella, Christmas Forever, or on the Christmas Extravaganza post on Inkwell Inspirations.

Excerpt of Christmas Forever by Robin Bayne

The winner of a downloaded book of their choice from The Pelican Book Group is: Mary Ann Diorio, who commented on Inkwell Inspirations.
Thank you, Mary Ann!

Today on Inkwell Inspirations, I'm featuring some of the Christmas novellas from The Pelican Book Group. On this post, I'm featuring an excerpt from Robin Bayne's novella, Christmas Forever. I'm also reviewing Robin Patchen's novella, One Christmas Eve, on another post on this same blog. This weekend, I'll be drawing for a downloaded copy of a novella of the winner's choice. If you'd like to be in the drawing, please leave a comment here, on the review post, or on the Inkwell post where I feature the novellas before Friday, December 14, 2012, at midnight. 

For the month of December, all of the Christmas novellas are at a great price of $1.00. You can't beat that for a satisfying Christmas read. Below is a description and an excerpt from one of the novellas, by a wonderful writer of inspirational contemporary romance, Robin Bayne.

About Christmas Forever:
Jason hasn’t seen Cami in three years. Now she’s back, with the son he’d wanted to claim as his own. Can he believe her newly found faith or will she desert him, and God, again?

Cami Jones is nervous about spending Thanksgiving with the Becker family, because she knows her old and dear friend Jason will be there. The friend, and employer, she’d deserted three years ago to run away and start a new life. Ashamed of things she’d done before finding faith, Cami reluctantly agrees to start a temporary job for Jason once again.

Still hurt that Cami had taken the son he’d helped deliver and fled, Jason finds it hard to believe she’s now a Bible-believing Christian. But the old spark is still there and he finds himself weaving into Cami and Robbie’s life again. When his new accountant turns out to be Cami’s ex, they panic they may lose custody of Robbie. Admitting he wants Cami and Robbie forever is the best Christmas present he could ever imagine.

Excerpt:  Christmas Forever by Robin Bayne
“When did you start going to church?” He asked the question in a quiet voice, but Cami also heard the unasked part of the query-when you would never go with me?
“In Philly. A woman I worked with asked me to go with her. She didn’t have anyone else, and neither did I. She gave me a few web sites to look at, ones that answered a lot of my concerns about Christ, and I got hooked. Katherine, that’s her name, went with us to all the social events, too.”
“Guess you’ll miss her.”
“Yeah. But she’s getting married in a few months, so she has someone.” They walked together in silence, traipsing into the snow bank as the street dead-ended near the woods. “How come you still aren’t married, Jason? You’ve always wanted a family.”
He touched her arm, and she felt his heat even through her coat. “Let’s turn around and head back now. It looks like it’s going to start snowing again.”
She understood he wanted to change direction of not only their path, but of their discussion. And she couldn’t blame him-it drove her nuts when people asked why she’d never married, too. Well-meaning, most folks had no idea why she couldn’t enjoy the blessing of marriage, of a loving, committed partner. She had too much to make up for.
Halfway home, Jason turned to her again. “Would you like to go to church with us Sunday? Then I could go with you to pick up Robbie.” He scuffed his boot against a curb. “There’s plenty of room in our pew, especially since Dad’s gone on. Mom still takes the family right up to the front row. She’s amazing.”
They stopped two houses from the Becker property. Cami felt a fist in her gut, twisting with the genuine affection she still felt for this man. “I don’t think so.”
That seemed to surprise him, and she watched the myriad of emotions cross his face. Finally a look of smug disbelief settled in his eyes, and the set of his mouth. “Why not? Are you really going to church now, Cami? I know we’ve had this discussion before, and it’s really none of my business. But you can tell me.”
“Of course I am. I’d never lie about that. It’s just that when I attend, I sit in the back row. And I keep my head down.”

Praise for Robin Bayne:
Tender, sweet, heartwarming and utterly charming are just a few words I'd use to describe From Now On. Ms. Bayne vividly brings to life Cami and Jason's struggles to follow Christ, accept, love and forgive as He did, yet never gets preachy or holier-nthan-thou. Cami and Jason are ordinary people, living their lives, dealing with their moments of doubt and hardship as they come along. I highly recommend this enchanting novella." ~~In The Library Reviews

"A good read from a talented author." ~~Carolyn Scheidies, author & reviewer

"A must read." ~~Romance Reviews Today

"An interesting tale that includes real problems and real solutions." ~~The Road to Romance

"A quick and satisfying read"

Christmas Forever and other Christmas novellas can be downloaded from The Pelican Book GroupAmazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Thank you for visiting today. I hope you'll decide to check out this wonderful Christmas collection. To be entered in a drawing for a downloaded copy of one of these novellas please leave a comment below, on the post where I review Robin Patchen's novella, One Christmas Eve, or on the Christmas Extravaganza post on Inkwell Inspirations.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's Finally Here!

Book giveaway 
The two people who received a copy of No Substitute are Robin Bayne and Anne Mateer.

Please join me in celebrating the release of 
No Substitute

I am so thrilled that my lifelong dream is finally being realized. No Substitute is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Pelican Books, and other online retailers (I will add a complete list as soon as I can gather all of the links), and it can also be ordered from your local bookstore.

I'll be giving away a book to two readers who leave a comment here any time before midnight on December 31st, 2012. No purchase necessary. Please be sure and leave your encrypted email address to protect from web crawling spiders. Example: myname (at) yahoo (dot) com. Info will only be used to contact the two readers whose names will be drawn at random.

There are two other opportunities to win a copy of No Substitute this coming week. Sunday, December 2nd, I'll be guest blogging at Winning Secrets of 7 Scribes, and starting December 3rd, we'll be celebrating at Inkwell Inspirations all next week. Stop by and leave a comment at either place - or even both places, and I'll be drawing names for those two blogs on December 8th.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Hundred Thousand Miles: Women Explorers in History

This post originally appeared June 19, 2012, on Inkwell Inspirations, where I am a regular contributor.

In 1872, in Stockton, California, a baby girl was born into a life of adventure. At the age of eight years old Harriet Chalmers explored the entire state of California on horseback with her father, including the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Quite an accomplishment for such a young girl, especially in the 1880s, and perhaps this was where her love of adventure began.

As her father was an adventurer from Scotland by way of Canada, and her mother the daughter of early California settlers, Harriet likely came by this love naturally. Her childhood was spent swimming, hiking, hunting, fishing and horseback riding. When she was fourteen she spent a year on horseback with her father, traveling through what was then known as the Mexican border-lands.

Young Harriet was quoted as saying she wanted to go to the ends of the earth, so it’s no small wonder her adventures did not end as she grew into a woman. In 1899 she married a man with her same same energy and zest for life. With her new husband, Franklin Pierce Adams, Harriet took an extended road trip through Mexico and California in their motor car1.

Harriet Chalmers Adams courtesy of Library of Congress

The people of Mexico stole Harriet’s heart and after her honeymoon trip ended, she was already making plans to go back and immediately immersed herself in learning their customs. In 19042, Harriet and Franklin made a two-year journey through South America. Franklin was a mine inspector for the Inca Mining and Rubber Company but the couple funded most of the trip themselves. While in the mining camps they had hot baths and comfortable beds. In port cities they were able to enjoy fine dining, but they also spent a great deal of time poring over maps and planning out their next adventure.

During this two-year adventure, Harriet and Franklin climbed the Andes, walked the jungles, canoed through the Amazon, and spent time with the natives. They encountered rough weather, uncomfortable conditions, moments of fear, but their joy for the journey rose far above any discomfort brought about by vampire bats, harsh weather and hunger. Not only did they go back, but Harriet went by herself when her husband was unable to accompany her.

Harriet Chalmers Adams
courtesy of Library of Congress

The couple documented their explorations with photography, journals, and later with magazine and newspaper articles including The New York Times, National Geographic, and The Ladies Home Journal.

Later, Harriet would travel through Haiti, Siberia, Sumatra, the Philippines and every country in the world that was in some way connected with people of Latin ancestry. She included Asian countries in her travels to prove her theory that the Asian peoples were the first settlers in the Americas and that the natives were of Asian descent.

Harriet is quoted as having said to her editor at National Geographic, “What I would like most on earth to do is accomplish work which would reflect glory on the National Geographic Society, which has so befriended me.”

Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday

And what would a woman who loves life, adventure and her fellow man do when war breaks out? Become a war correspondent, of course. Harriet was one of the first women war correspondents in the First World War, representing Harper’s Magazine on the French front. She was the first woman allowed in the trenches.

After the war, Harriet and Franklin continued their travels. On a trip through the Mediterranean, Harriet fell off a sea wall and broke her back. Told she’d never walk again, she of course did. Once recovered, she traveled in Africa.

Harriet and Franklin spent their retired years living in different European cities. In 1937 after having lived a life of amazing adventure, Harriet died peacefully in Nice, France.

1One source states Harriet and Franklin decided not to take a honeymoon trip until they saved enough for a trip somewhere “exciting”. One source refers to their trip in the motor car as their honeymoon trip, and another refers to it as occurring soon after they were married. (I chose to go with the two sources that were written based on accounts in Harriet’s journals.)

2One source states this trip began in 1903 and two others state it began in 1904. Harriet began her diary in January of 1904 and ended it in May of 1906.

Every female explorer I’ve read about to date has written down her adventures. 
  • What do they have in common with writers? 
  • Or, should we ask what do we writers have in common with the women who sought adventure? 
  • Are we creating the adventures we wish we were following?
Resources used:

Ahead of Their Time: A Biographical Dictionary of Risk-Taking Women by Joyce D. Duncan; Greenwood Publishing Group, Copyright 2001
Presenting America’s World: Strategies of Innocence in National Geographic, 1888-1945 by Tamar Y. Rothenberg; Ashgate Publishing LTD, Copyright 2007
Harriet Chalmers Adams Got Around by Penny White
New York Times, August 18, 1912; Woman Explorer’s Hazardous Trip in South America

Women Making an Impact in the Lives of Others

This post original appeared June 25, 2012, on Inkwell Inspirations where I am a regular contributor.

Strong women:
Leaders, dreamers, achievers, caregivers, helpers, encouragers, teachers, doers, prayers….

I love reading about strong women; women who have an impact throughout history, in current events, and in fiction. Listed above are just a few of the words we can use to describe strong women. One thing they each have above all else is heart, and one thing they all need to achieve their goals is faith.

One such woman made headlines just about a month ago for being a woman of strength, a dreamer and an achiever. Now she wants to be a teacher and encourager.

Mount Everest
courtesy of wikipedia
On May 19th, 2012, Tamae Watanabe broke her own record as the oldest woman to ever climb Mount Everest. She originally set the record ten years prior – ten years where some other woman could have broken her record, and yet none did. Tamae Watanabe is seventy-three years old!

Tamae, who lives near the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, is a retired office worker who has spent years climbing mountains. Perhaps living so close to the largest mountain in Japan is part of what inspired her to climb. From Alaska, to Switzerland to Nepal, Tamae has climbed mountains all over the world.

Mount Fuji
courtesy of wikipedia
Seven years ago, at the age of sixty-six, three years after she initially set the record on Mount Everest, Tamae fell and broke her back. She was afraid she’d never climb again. Driven, she pushed forward and realized her dream.

For now, Tamae has no further plans to climb Everest. She does, however, intend to spread her enthusiasm and knowledge by teaching and encouraging young women of Japan who wish to also achieve their dream of climbing mountains.

While Tamae may be the oldest woman to climb Mount Everest, she is not the first. The first woman to successfully climb Mount Everest was Junko Tabei, in 1975, also of Japan. Junko was also only the thirty-ninth person to complete the climb.

Another woman making recent headlines is thirty-three-year-old Liu Yang of China. When Liu Yang was a young girl, she loved riding the bus so much that she wanted to be a bus conductor so she could ride every day. Later she decided to become a lawyer. But when members of her country’s army visited her school, Liu decided she wanted to become a pilot.

On June 16, 2012, Liu Yang became the first Chinese woman to be launched into space headed toward the Tiangong space lab where she and two male colleagues were to spend a week doing space experiments. She is only one of two women, and one of six people to have been considered for this space mission and China is only the third country to send a woman into space.

Learning about these two women, and other women like them – women who dare to follow their dreams, women who want to experience all life has to offer and to perhaps be an influence on other women, women who put their lives in danger for their beliefs – is inspirational to say the least.

But there are other women out there doing things right now, today, who aren’t in the headlines; women who are changing lives because of their faith and their calling – women who are giving of themselves to help others.

My friend, Amy Hauser, whom I wrote about here in early 2011, is leaving today for Haiti. She’s made several trips there since I first told you about her. Not because she wants attention or headlines, but because she wants to help those in need. Amy is a physical therapist and the first time she went to Haiti she lost her heart to the people who were hurt, devastated, hungry and grieving. Because her life’s mission is to help bring comfort and aid to those in need, and because she’s been blessed with the gift of healing hands, Amy has become involved with missions such as Hands of Light in Action and To Love A Child, Inc.

Then we have Christi Sleiman, daughter of our own Inky Dina Sleiman, who also has a heart for helping others. Christi says it best on her blog sitewhen she says, “I love helping people and making them smile.” Christi is getting ready for a mission-trip to the Philippines. Is Christi doing this for glory and accolades? No. She was called to this through faith, and she’s going with the heart and attitude to help minister to the poverty-stricken children of the Philippines.

God bless Amy, Christi, Dina who instilled her love for all of humanity into her daughter, and other women out there who have the courage to put themselves out there and make a difference in peoples’ lives.

You have to be physically strong to climb mountains and go into space. But you don't have to be physically strong to be a woman of strength and courage. Those who make the greatest impact are those who do so with spiritual strength, relying on their faith to help them make a lasting difference in people’s lives.

To read about Christi and her mission trip to the Philippines, read here.

Suzie Johnson’s debut novel, No Substitute, a contemporary inspirational novel, will be released by White Rose Press later this year. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is the cancer registrar at her local hospital. The mother of a wonderful young man, who makes her proud every day, Suzie lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and naughty little cat.  You can visit her at the following places:

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Talks With Jesus

by Michael John Sullivan

For most of my 23 years, my refusal to take part in the sparring wars that happened daily at the dinner table had made me an outcast in my own family. I survived many battles by escaping to my attic room, wondering if I would ever truly find peace. I sought the answers sometimes from music, sometimes from a deep dream, many times by praying. When my mother – my protector – lost her battle with cancer and was called home by God, I knew my continued existence in our Richmond Hill house was fragile.

On a cold November night, my father asked me to leave.

It wasn’t long before my more affordable shelter was a subway token and an overnight ride on the E-train in New York City. I continued to seek employment, sometimes landing a job interview, then waiting outside by a pay phone for hours for a job offer.

While riding the trains at night, I reflected on my motives, my goals, and most importantly, my faith.

Who was Jesus Christ to me?

I thought about what He meant to me as I would sit huddled at the end of the subway car, warming my feet. I avoided eye contact with the other passengers whenever possible, embarrassed by my dirty appearance and fighting off the nausea that accompanied the realization that this was now my bedroom.

And I asked the question again: Where are you, Jesus?

On some nights, I pulled a notebook and pen out of my green garbage bag of belongings and started to write. Was there something more to my relationship with Jesus than just my reciting of the Lord’s Prayer?

On New Year’s Eve that year, as I walked through the streets I had biked as a kid, I started to cry. It was frigid and the wind spit into my face. I didn’t want to spend another night on the dangerous subway. I walked to a familiar church in the neighborhood, waited until the last service of the evening ended, and hid in the back under a pew. I waited anxiously for everyone to leave, hoping no one would notice. I felt a sense of relief as the doors were locked.

I was alone. The wind creaked eerily in the old church. The slightest sound echoed loudly, causing my heart to skip a few beats. But was I really alone?

I walked to the front of the church. There was a makeshift manger with the baby Jesus lying in a wooden cradle. I knelt beside it and wrote and wrote. I looked at the innocent baby. His life lay ahead with so much promise, hope, and dreams. I spoke softly, telling the baby how sad I was. I even picked Him up and kissed His cheek. He was so beautiful, the dim light from above shining proudly on His face. I sat there for a couple of hours and reflected. I wondered why my life had become a complete mess without any hope. I wondered if there would ever be a day where I would lie down again in my own bed, under a warm and sturdy roof, surrounded by loving people.

Then I realized who Jesus is. He was there for me whenever I needed Him.

The spiritual conversation I had during this bleak period inspired me to send my characters back in time. In my latest novel, Everybody’s Daughter, the main character, Michael Stewart travels back to the time of Christ when He was preaching. I wanted the main character to witness the Sermon on the Mount. What would Jesus say? How would the main character react? What would he say to Jesus later when they met? How would Jesus address a man of the 21st century? Would it be any different than when He had spoken to people back in first-century Jerusalem? What would it feel like spiritually to look into Jesus’ eyes and say The Lord’s Prayer with Him?

In Everybody’s Daughter, the fictional Michael Stewart is given an incredible gift – a chance to say the Lord’s Prayer with Jesus, an opportunity to speak to Him, a few minutes to visit his deceased wife and ask for forgiveness, and a chance to truly understand why Jesus was walking this same earth with us many centuries ago.

I allow Michael Stewart to honestly express his anxieties, fears, and concerns to Jesus as he struggles with his own faith and the challenges of raising a teenager daughter in modern day America.

Everybody’s Daughter allowed me to heal and regain my faith in many ways. While the fictitious Michael Stewart was taking this trip, I was alongside him for the journey, expressing my thoughts and fears, speaking to Jesus as I had done on that cold winter night inside the old church by the makeshift manger.

Michael John Sullivan is the author of Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness. It was published by Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books imprint in April 2010. The Library Journal named Necessary Heartbreak as one of the year's best in Christian fiction for 2010. He recently finished the sequel, Everybody's Daughter, featuring more memories from his young adult life, including the day he walked to Forest Park as he contemplated taking his own life. Only the strains of a song prevented him from doing the unthinkable. Sullivan lives with his family in New York. He is a nominated board member for the Long Island Coalition of the Homeless.

This article by Michael J. Sullivan, author of Everybody’s Daughter, is used with the permission of TBB Media. Any reposts of this article should be credited to Michael J. Sullivan, Everybody’s Daughter 2012.
Everybody's Daughter

By Michael John Sullivan
May 16, 2012/$15.95
ISBN 13: 978-1936558445
ISBN 10:1936558440

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Jennifer AlLee and The Mother Road

logo designed by Lisa Karon Richardson

graphic by armee003   
I hope you're all ready for a trip down the Mother Road. Believe it or not, until I read this book, I didn't know Route 66 was known as the Mother Road. Nor did I know all of the interesting sights one would see when traveling along the route. Today I'm happy to share my interview with Jennifer, and I'll try to avoid any silly puns like "buckle up" or "let's hit the road." (Shh, don't tell anyone, but I think I already ruined that little plan.)

Probably the most over-asked question in author interviews is the one readers want to know the most: What inspired this story? I guess I'd specifically like to know if you started with a germ of an idea and it grew from there, or did you brainstorm and plot it out with a fully formed concept before you started writing?

The story started with this idea: what would a marriage expert do if her own marriage fell apart? From there, I thought about all the other things that could go wrong in her life, like dealing with an estranged sister and a mother who had early-onset Alzheimer's. Lindsay's wild-child persona developed on its own. It was a nice surprise!

photo by Astrid_Habraken
Where did the Route 66 idea come from, and did you really travel it?

In order to create more chaos for poor Natalie, I decided she and Lindsay needed to be forced to spend a lot of time together. A road trip was the natural choice, and what better road trip than on Route 66? Unfortunately, I was not able to travel the entire road. But I lived right on Route 66 in Duarte, California for about 15 years, so I'm pretty familiar with all the Southern California bits of the Mother Road.

As someone who’s never been on Route 66, I just have to ask, how many of those quirky sites (or sights) are the real thing?

Believe it or not, every single one of the Route 66 sights I wrote about is real. The road is so iconic, it was very important that I get the facts right. You really can go to Oatman and see burros roaming the streets. And those concrete wigwams really do exist. The only location in the book that's made up is Beaumont, Illinois, where Natalie's parents live. For that town, I needed the flexibility of creating a town out of thin air.

courtesy of bretz

Total fluff question: Have you ever stayed in a wigwam? (Okay, that question might seem bizarre until one reads the book, but I just have to know). If you haven't, how did you research it?

No, I haven't slept in a wigwam, but I hear they're pretty cozy ;) I'm not normally a plotter, but for this book, I had to sit down and figure out not only where the route was, but what sights the sisters would see along the way and how long it would take them to get to each one. This required lots of research: books, DVDs, YouTube videos... I immersed myself in Route 66. I even played the Cars soundtrack from time to time to put me in the right mood.

Sibling relationships can be so up and down. Did you draw from experience to portray the relationship between these two sisters so realistically?

I have two sisters, but we didn't grow up together. We met as adults and had none of the issues that Natalie and Lindsay have. But, when I was 14, my brother, Josh, came along (I did live with him). There's a scene in the book when Natalie remembers being 14 and being called into the obstetrician's office so she can hear the heartbeat of her soon-to-be-born sibling. That scene (and the Star Wars joke) is actually what happened when I was in that same situation.

The emotions surrounding the baby issue really struck me. It's an issue that can stir up a lot of emotion for many readers. The other serious issue you deal with in this book is that of a parent with Alzheimer's. How did you research those two issues?

I think any woman who's had a baby can relate to the pain of not being able to have one, as well as the fear and confusion of an unplanned pregnancy. So for all the baby issues, I drew on my own experiences and feelings. Dealing with Alzheimer's took quite a bit more research. Again, the internet was a great tool. And personal experience came in handy here, too. My great grandmother (who I lived with as a child) exhibited signs of Alzheimer's before she died. She didn't know who any of us were and she was disoriented and detached. It's a hard thing to have to live through.

By metalcat37
Did you set out to write a serious book infused with humor, or did the humor just naturally find its way into the book?

The humor just found its way in. I'm one of those people who deals with difficult situations through
sarcasm and making jokes. So it just comes out in my writing.

Was it difficult to find a balance between the serious and the humorous?

No, it wasn't difficult. It's how I naturally deal with life, and I shared it with my characters.

How did you settle on the viewpoint? I must tell you, I don't usually read books with this particular point of view, but I realize now it's not the viewpoint that pulls me in, but the author's voice. You totally pulled me in and the viewpoint was done so well and so naturally.

Thank you, Suzie! I'm really glad you connected with it. To be honest, I didn't put a lot of thought into which viewpoint to use. The first line that came to my mind (and is still the first line of the book) was "I cannot get a divorce." That set the tone of the story and it flowed from there.

Is there spiritual message you want to leave with your readers?

That a woman's identity lies not in whose wife she is or how successful her career is. Her identity lies in whose daughter she is: God's daughter.

Where is your writing taking you next? Do you have any plans for revisiting the characters from this book in the future?

Next up for me is A Wild Goose Chase Christmas, a contemporary romance that's the second book in Abingdon's new Quilts of Love series. Izzy Fontaine is a former ballet dancer whose grandmother has just died and left her an heirloom quilt. Things get complicated when museum director Max Logan claims that Gran promised him the quilt. And when Izzy's mother and brother catch wind that the quilt may hold the key to a great treasure, they want a piece of it, too. Things get a little crazy as Izzy tries to keep the peace, deal with the charismatic Max, and figure out what Gran was trying to tell her. As for the characters from The Mother Road, I have no plans for a sequel at the moment... but who knows. There's always time for one more journey.

Jen, I love the title A Wild Goose Chase Christmas. I can't wait to read it. In the meantime, I hope everyone takes the opportunity to read The Mother Road. You won't be disappointed.

I'll be giving away a copy of The Mother Road. If you'd like to be considered for the drawing, please leave a comment along with your encrypted mail (me [@] lovelyreader [dot] com) during the week of April 22nd through April 29th 2012.

You can visit Jennifer AlLee's website at

Disclaimer: I did receive a copy of this book in exchange for my endorsement - but I loved it anyway!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Lord's Great Delight

by Suzie Johnson

"And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" ~ Matthew 3:17

Most, if not all of us reading this blog, long to please the Lord in some way. I know I do. Fortunately, since I tend to fail a lot, I’m covered by His grace.

courtesy of
I have this long standing image of the Lord holding out His arms, face beaming, as He says words similar to those same ones He spoke over Jesus when he was baptized in the Jordan River, "You are my child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

The very thought fills my entire being with a warm glow and I feel incredibly loved.

I don’t think I’ve ever shared this with anyone, not even my sister. But somehow she must have known because she sent me a card this week with an unfamiliar scripture on the front. I may have read it before and stored it in my subconscious, but I can’t be sure. I do wonder though, if this is where I came by my initial image of God being pleased with me.

"The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing." ~ Zephaniah 3:17

courtesy of 
I never imagined God taking delight in me. Pleased, yes, but taking that concept deeper to Him taking great delight in me – it’s a new thought for me. Even more so, the image of Him singing over me with joy, gives me a sense of gladness so deep down in my soul, I can barely express what I’m feeling.

Music has always drawn me close to the Lord. This fact and the timing of my sister choosing a card with this scripture has reminded me that God’s timing is perfection. That she sent me this scripture at this particular time – God must have been sitting on her shoulder while she looked at cards and nudged her toward this one. My desire to give my best in whatever I do has been renewed because of it. (Thank you, Pam!)

I now have a burning desire to attain the utmost in this scripture – the part where not only is God delighting in me, He’s singing over me with joy!

What images do you hold onto of God?
Did they come from scriptures you read, or from something you were taught?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sakura: All the world is Pink and White

by Suzie Johnson

Cherry blossom time
Showers of pink and white
Small girl is happy

I originally posted this on the Inkwell Inspirations blog in 2010, and wanted to share it again since it's spring, the cherry trees are blooming, and the sun is shining. If you've read it before, I hope you enjoy it again.

When my husband and I were first married, we had two beautiful cherry trees in front of our house. In fact, our entire street was lined with them. It made me feel incredibly lucky because each spring when those trees would bloom and the blossoms would cascade to the soft green grass below, it reminded me of one of the most special times of my childhood.

When the city decided to chop our trees down for a beautification project, I was not happy. How dare they take away something of mine that stirred my heart every time I looked at them? And as for that beautification project? It turned out to be an ugly shoulder between the road and the newly cemented sidewalk where my trees once stood. It didn't help that we had to actually pay for their little project.

However, they could take away my cherry trees but they couldn’t take away my memories. Memories that, each year when the fragile blooms appear, transport me back to Japan, where I lived when I was a little girl.

Living in Japan as a child was a wondrous experience. Origami, Mount Fuji, riding the bullet train, and learning to speak Japanese. White cranes, pagodas, and running through the villages where the incredibly kind market vendors loved me and my friends and would give us Japanese treats. (Thanks Carol for helping my memory burst to life last year with the dried peas and rice cakes!) 

It should be noted that we were expressly forbidden to go to the villages, but my friends and I couldn’t help but sneak off and run through the fields anyway with my baby sister toddling behind. I guess I was a little on the non-compliant side when I was little. My poor mother had a terrible time keeping track of me.

I honestly can’t tell you how old I was, maybe eight years old, when we traveled from Yokusaka to Kamakura for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival where the Japanese people celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossom. Though I really had no idea what to expect, I bounced with anticipation. We had been learning to dance to a song in school called Sakura. The word Sakura refers to the cherry blossom on the Japanese cherry trees. Even after forty years, I can still remember standing in a circle practicing the words and then singing and dancing to the music.

I’m not sure I really knew what to expect at the Festival, or if I even knew what a Cherry Blossom Festival was. But the cherry blossom song was special to me, and that was really all I needed to know. The other source of my excitement: my parents’ friends, Tom and his Japanese wife, Setsu, would be accompanying us that day. Tom was as fun as Setsu was sweet, and they meant the world to me. I simply adored them. Any opportunity to spend time with Setsu was special. Setsu lived in a traditional Japanese house, and I loved it when we went to visit her.

The parade was spectacular. Samurai warriors led the parade, followed by Japanese girls in their kimonos. Dancers in costumes twirled colorful wood and paper umbrellas. The emperor and his wife (or people portraying them) were carried in on separate carriages. I was in awe. But perhaps the most amazing part of the entire day was standing on the cherry-tree-lined street under those wonderful pink and white trees with the occasional petal floating in the air around me.

Setsu, Japan, and blossoming cherry trees are forever tied together in my heart. When I see cherry blossoms I think of Japan and of Setsu, and I’m a little girl again, twirling in the street, dancing to the song about the cherry trees.
I remember being heartbroken when the time came to say goodbye to Tom and Setsu. Whether they moved back to the United States before we did, I don’t remember. I just remember how sad I was when I didn’t see her anymore. But God is so good. Just a few years ago, almost forty years later, I was able to see Setsu again. The years fell away and I was a little girl again, laughing, crying, and hugging my sweet Setsu. My mother, my sister, and Setsu and I had a very blessed time together that day, and I’m so thankful we did, because she passed away not long after that. 

Below are the words to Sakura, as well as the English translation, followed by a You Tube video. You may be surprised to discover you’ve heard the song before. And while it’s as lovely as I remembered, the song doesn’t give credit to the creator of those lovely blossoms and I would be remiss if I didn’t.

Thank you, Lord for these heavenly flowers and the joy they bring to my heart when I see them. And, during this most holy time of year when blossoming flowers of all types remind us that all things are new, thank you for the rebirth, renewal and hope we have in you.

Is there a flower that inspires a special memory for you?


sakura sakura 

no-yama mo sato mo 
mi-watasu kagiri 
kasumi ka kumo ka 
asahi ni niou 
sakura sakura 
sakura sakura 
yayoi no sora wa 
mi-watasu kagiri 
kasumi ka kumo ka 
nioi zo izuru 
iza ya iza ya 
mi ni yukan 

And the English translation:

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms, 

Blanketing the countryside, 
As far as you can see. 
Is it a mist, or clouds? 
Fragrant in the morning sun. 
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms, 
Flowers in full bloom. 
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms, 
Across the Spring sky, 
As far as you can see. 
Is it a mist, or clouds? 
Fragrant in the air. 
Come now, come, 
Let's look, at last!

Pictures courtesy of
If the You Tube video below doesn't display for you, and you'd like to hear Sakura, sung and demonstrated with hand motions, you may view it here:

Friday, January 20, 2012

How Do You Handle Your TBR?

Hardly a week goes by where I don't hear someone mention their TBR stack (pile, shelf, tower, whatever) – be it physical or virtual – and bemoan the fact that there’s never enough time to read everything.
courtesy of nkzs at
So let’s talk about our TBRs (that’s what I’m going to call them for the rest of this post).

Over on my group blog, Inkwell Inspirations, Debra E. Marvin once mentioned she was thinking about re-creating Stonehenge with her stack of books. I laughed at the image, but in all seriousness most of us do have enough books that we really could build something out of them. I know I’m happily guilty of the very same thing.

So I was wondering… how do you manage your TBR? Do you organize your books alphabetically, by author, by date of purchase, by genre, or in order of what you think you want to read next?

For my physical TBR, I don’t have an organized system. I have little stacks in the bedroom and computer room, a box in the garage, and some on a shelf in the hall closet. They aren’t in any particular order. Neither are my NOOK books. However, on the NOOK there’s a front page where you can organize the books you want to read by cover for easy access. I love, love, love this feature! I always put the newest most exciting ones there, but if I get a new book that I think I’ll want to read before that one, say a Julie Klassen or Vicki Hinze, I’ll just bump a few back into the NOOK “library”.

I do tend to read by genre first. Inspirational suspense is almost always what I’ll read first, followed by favorite authors, unless there is something so gripping that it has to wend its way up to the top. Like Dina Sleiman’s Dance of the Dandelion or Lisa Bergren’s new YA time travel inspirationals.

I know people who keep lists of every book they’re read, and every book they buy, so they can cross them off and make sure they don’t read them again. I can’t operate that way. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. I just don’t have time to be that organized. I work hard enough being organized at my job, I can’t handle it in my reading life since that’s where I go to relax.

courtesy of nkzs at
For those of you who have a Kindle, NOOK, or other reading device (or even those who read on the computer) do you have a virtual TBR as well as a physical one? I do have to say my physical one has shrunk somewhat since I bought the NOOK, but I think it’s always good to have a physical book on hand just in case the battery runs low on the NOOK due to excessive all-night reading sessions. If any of you have ever found yourself without a book to read, you know exactly what I mean.

My next question is the biggie. How many books do you currently have in your TBR? Anyone care to share? Go ahead, go and count. I’ll wait. I’ll share mine, too. It did take me a while to count. Oh, and before you ask, YES you can count your research books but let’s put them in their own category. I think they’re fair game because most of us get as much enjoyment out of doing research as we do reading fiction.

So here’s my list:
  • Virtual: 151 (NOOK)
  • Physical: 38 (all I can say is WOW! When compared to the NOOK, I can see I've really depleted my paper TBR since buying it. It's better for my allergies, I suppose.)
  • Research: 44 (Okay, I know I have many more somewhere, but I'm not digging through dusty boxes in the garage to count them. And chances are, since they're out there, I may not ever use them again. But still...I have to hang on to them. Just in case...)
Wow. I have a lot of reading ahead of me, but I have five more months of heavy-duty schoolwork ahead with little time to read, so I know before I’m finished with school my list will have grown some more.
courtesy of cafe-ole a
So why, when we have these huge stacks of books do we continue to buy more? I’ll go out on a limb and say for me I think it’s a little bit of an OCD thing. I’m constantly searching for new books by xyz author because even though I know her next book isn’t coming out for a month or two, I want to make sure it doesn’t sneak out early. There was a time when I’d snatch the books up because if you didn’t buy as soon as they became available, they would be gone. That changed with the advent of Amazon, and you can get most any book now, even if it’s out of print. And then there’re the e-versions. If a book comes out electronically, there’s a fairly good chance you’ll be able to buy it when you’re ready to read it. But it’s hard for me to change that habit of constantly searching. Again, probably the OCD thing.

I’ve asked a lot of questions here, and I hope you’ll give me an answer or two: How do you organize your TBR? Is it virtual or physical or do you combine the best of both worlds? How do you choose what you’re going to read, and how many books are in your TBR?