Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mrs. George Washington's Christmas Cake

Lots of people have Christmas traditions. It appears that our founding fathers of the U.S.A. had them, too. They celebrated the 12 Days of Christmas and usually had a party on January 6th. There is a wonderful article on Guns & Patriots (even if you're not a gun-lover, this article is very informative! It has several more recipes) by Susan Dale describing the celebrations of the 1700s and it includes George Washington's bride Martha's recipe for Christmas cake.

Since I'm collecting stories and recipes, how could I not include this recipe? Enjoy!

Martha Washington's Christmas Cake
"Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks & beat them to a froth then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream & put the whites of eggs to it a Spoon full at a time till it is well work'd then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powderd [sic] to it in the same manner then put in the Youlks [sic] of eggs & 5 pounds of flower [sic] & 5 pounds of fruit.  2 hours will bake it add to it half an ounce of mace & nutmeg half a pint of wine & some fresh brandy."

Do you have a recipe that was handed down to you through generations? Do you fix any special recipes at Christmas?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When I Was Just a Kid

Author Lena Nelson Dooley shares her poignant story of her childhood at When I Was Just a Kid blog and is giving away her new book, Love Finds You at Golden, New Mexico!

Come visit at When I Was Just a Kid!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Books & Such Literary Agency and Their Marvelous Recipes

You know how much I love books, but now you're beginning to realize that next to a good story, I love a good recipe just as much. I love the stories in families surrounding meals and recipes, because it says so much about them. A single taste or the aroma of a certain food can take you back to a time and place that has already passed.

Anyway, do go over to Books & Such and catch up on the agents' stories of cooking for Christmas. Janet Grant and Wendy Lawton have already posted. Wendy shared her fantastic Rocky Road candy recipe and the story of her mom who was a wonderful woman (I even got to meet her once.) Life is full of treasures that you hold in your mind's eye and with one whiff of cinnamon or oregano, you are transported in time and space to something that's no less than a miracle of the mind. You might even figure out how it works into your writing.

Do you incorporate what you know about food and the food from your families' meals into your writing? How have you done this?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Seven-Layer Bars for the Holidays

Pike Place Market since 1907

My Southern friend, Scarlett* and I were exploring Seattle while our husbands had to go to conference classes. One of our first stops was at Pike Place Market. It was fun watching the crowds, checking out the eats and shopping in the shops. One coffee place had these 7-layer cookie bars that Scarlett absolutely adored. She asked them for the recipe, which of course, they refused. Let me tell you something about Scarlett. She is one determined little Mississippi Girl. She can charm the worst beast into laughing. So, I knew this wasn't the end of her heart's desire.

We went to a great kitchen store called Sur la Tab. In the middle of the store were cookbooks stacked to the ceiling. I have to admit I love kitchen stores. They make my heart sing, just as Scarlett's heart sings over a special recipe to serve. So, she tackled the cookbooks, looking for that recipe! I have a weakness for dinnerware and went wandering. Finally, she grabs my arm, drags me to the stacks and demands that I help her. Realizing that we would be there all day if I didn't at least try, I took a book off the stack.

Flipping to the index, I scanned the listed recipes for some sort of layered cookie. Lo, and behold on my first flip, I land on a recipe that sounded pretty much like the same recipe (our expert tastebuds had discerned the ingredients.) Of course, I smirked, handed her the book and said, "No problem."

This may not be the same recipe, but it is pretty good, if I do say so myself, and I think it would have satisfied Scarlett.

Easy Seven-Layer Bars

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)
1 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C. butterscotch chips
1 C. shredded coconut
1 1/2 C. graham crackers, crumbled
1/2 C. butter
1 C. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter in 13X9-inch pan; melt in oven. Swirl to coat bottom and sides with butter. Spread crumbs evenly over bottom of pan. Layer chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and nuts over crumbs. Pour condensed milk over nuts. Sprinkle coconut over condensed milk.

Bake 25 minutes until edges are golden brown. Let cool before cutting.

*Scarlett is not her real name.

--Crystal Laine Miller

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Happy Birthday, Indiana (And to me!)

Here's a story about a little girl born in Indiana on the anniversary day that Indiana became a state, December 11th.

The day started out as a blizzard, that day on December 11th, Indiana's birthday. Her dad was a long haul trucker and had to work. He was "on the road." Her mom had to make it to the hospital slip-sliding on treacherous roads in Noblesville, Indiana, but she made it in time. The snow stopped.

The doc went outside to hunt rabbits while the young mother, who had lost 5 previous babies, labored and worried. The doctor told the nurse to "hollar out the window" when it was time. The state, Indiana, was celebrating its birthday, too.

The dad finally made it home, came to the hospital, and the baby was already there. The mom, drugged by some drug called "twilight" (awake, but feeling little pain by that point,) cried and said, "I'm sorry, it's a giiiiiiirrrrrl."

The dad grinned and said, "We'll keep her, anyway."

Missing both of them on my birthday, and yes, I'm still a Hoosier Girl.

Wow, that's fascinating
Fascinating Fingers in Indiana

Crystal around 4 years old Noblesville house
Back in the "old" days since the camera mom had didn't have a flash, photos had to be taken outside. Yes, it was cold! It was December in Indiana, c'mon.

Crystal at 5
5th Birthday in Noblesville, Indiana (note the milk box behind the little brother)
Hey, You! This is my doll.
Hey, you!
Chickens are almost too close
I still look like this in the morning!

Crystal, still in Indiana on her birthday (and yes, it's cold and snowy)

Happy Birthday, Indiana!
December 11, 1816
(And no, I'm not telling you what year I was born.)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Cara Putman's Hazelnut Crinkles (Cookies)

Stars in the Night by Cara C. Putman
Have I told you how much I love the scones that Cara Putman makes? If not, then here is a public declaration. Cara is a friend and she just had her fourth child. I'm so thrilled for her. Also, I love her writing, but mostly, I just think she's one of the nicest people I know.

Anyway, here's the promised cookie recipe. These are yummy and from the kitchen of Cara Putman. Eat them while reading her latest book, Stars in the Night. You'll be glad you did!

Hazelnut Crinkles (makes about 4 dozen)
(Cara Putman)

3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. hazelnut spread (Nutella, which has some chocolate in it)
1/2 c. butter or margarine (softened)
1/2 t. vanilla
1 egg
1 34 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
3 T. course white sugar crystals or regular sugar

1. Heat oven to 375. Beat sugar, Nutella, butter, vanilla and egg in large bowl. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt.

2. Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar crystals. place about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until puffed and edges are set. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute. Remove to wire rack. Cool.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


When I first moved here, I couldn't get a library card. Really. It frustrated me to no end and I tried every angle. What had we done moving to such a literary forsaken place??!

But then I took Doc Hensley's writing class at Taylor University in Ft. Wayne and he got me started on the road to writing book reviews--and with book reviews came FREE BOOKS.

Back then (about ten-twelve years ago) that was a revelation to me. I also got on board with Multnomah Publishing as a reviewer, giving feedback to them on books they sent to me. Before I knew it, I had started libraries in two churches and in an elementary school. Of course, I didn't give away the ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies,) but I did give away many books to these libraries.(And still do.)

Now, after a thousand published reviews and countless copies of books, you would think I have had enough. Not so. Even though I gave up my book review column in a magazine, I still review for Church Libraries Journal and will influence for Christian authors as I am able. And I sometimes enter drawings on blogs for books I am thinking of getting. That's what I did when I entered the contest for Dining with Joy by Rachel Hauck in the Thomas Nelson contest.
Dining with Joy by Rachel Hauck (Thomas Nelson) released November 2010
I was hoping to win her new book. Well, I ended up winning the grand prize, too--a Kitchen Aid mixer! That was something I would have never thought would happen.

I influence heavily for my Indiana ACFW authors, but also any ACFW member, so don't tell anyone, but I'd do this without winning a book or a mixer (but I can't tell you the boost of joy--pun intended-- that it gave me on Tuesday to learn I'd won!)

Do you have a blog where you do influencing for authors? Do you belong to a book review group where you are sent books in exchange for a word about them?Do you ever enter the book contests either to win a book or other prizes?

If nothing else, I will always be a reader. And when you offer a reader a free book, how can she resist?? We didn't have to in this contest (though encouraged to do so,) write a food preparation faux pas, but I put mine in the comments section on Rachel's blog.

Here it is:
"I've been married about 30 years now and have done LOTS of cooking since for our four sons and my hubby and lots of family and friends. BUT when I first got married, my husband was in school and we lived on scant groceries and creativity. One night I was in a big hurry to get supper on after teaching all day. I had chili powder, but for some reason as I mixed chili ingredients, I got the cinnamon! I dumped out the cinnamon before I realized what I had, so frantically I scraped as much of the cinnamon off as possible. It wasn't even an option to start over!

I gave the chili extra chili seasoning, as I knew some of that cinnamon soaked in. Then, I got out some applesauce and sprinkled generous cinnamon on top. I set that next to my husband's bowl and hoped he wouldn't notice. Back in those days I was still sensitive about my cooking, so no way would I admit what I'd done.

Hubby took a bite and then put down his spoon. Little did I know I'd married a man who would could discern every ingredient, could taste the difference between Coke and Pepsi, Lay's Potato Chips and Seyfert's. He says to me, "Is there cinnamon in this chili??"

And I'm alarmed but still not wanting to own up to my mistake. I say, "You have cinnamon on your applesauce." (See? Not really lying....) He puts the applesauce on the other side of our table and takes another bite.

"Yup. Tastes like cinnamon. New recipe?"

At that point I broke down. We laugh about it now....

I can't wait to read Dining with Joy! Love stories like that."

See what admitting your mistakes can do? Enter a book contest today! (I'm a happy camper.) Now, to find a good cookie recipe to mix up in my new Rachel Hauck/Thomas Nelson Kitchen Aid mixer so I can eat cookies with my new book. (I'll post a cookie recipe tomorrow.)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant EverThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When my boys were young, I read this book to them and fell in love with the story. It's one of my favorite stories EVER. I read it to my boys every year until they simply got too old to sit night-after-night approaching Christmas to sit and listen (Four boys are quite busy.) I hope that we all can approach the Christmas story with the fresh eyes of someone hearing the story for the first time.Robinson captures it perfectly with endearing characters and humor.

If you haven't read this story, no matter if you have children in your life or not, you must read it, is my advice.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How Did You Get Started?

Often I'm asked how I got started in writing, and then, into freelance reading/editing. Everyone has their personal journey and here's a little bit of mine. When I was speaking to groups of students about writing, this is what I jotted down. How did you get started? What kinds of writing have you done? What kinds of writing do you wish to do?

Writing for most people begins with a desire to communicate through the written word, doesn't it? I think my writing began with reading--I loved to read and I wanted to write something to read. Usually I was the only person reading what I wrote. All through junior high I wrote in journals. When I won my scholarship in journalism and headed to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, I did an incredibly impulsive thing: I burned every one of those journals! I wish now that I could have kept those journals somewhere safe until I was ready to process the things I was writing at the time.

a. I started real writing in high school. I published a poem in my freshman year and that fueled the fire.

b. I got on the newspaper in high school–was the sports editor and art editor. Those articles won me a journalism scholarship at Ball State University, where I started off majoring in journalism.

c. Back then I knew I wanted to work with books more than newspapers, so I changed my major to elementary education with physical education, wanting more experience with children—for whom I thought I wanted to write.

d. I took a correspondence course from the Institute of Children’s Literature as I finished my degree, then dove into teaching and coaching. When I had one experience after another, like students who were murdered, beaten by parents, unfair treatment of teachers, etc., I wrote my first article and sold it.

e. Then, I had four boys of my own, and life sort of went into “living mode”—all good. I edited a newsletter, wrote articles for newspapers freelance, and just wrote down thoughts and dreams and insights on parenting.

f. When we moved here (where I live now) in order to be close to our parents and extended family, I no longer was doing the jobs I did in the past—-teaching and leading--so I found an online writing organization, and then drove an hour to Ft. Wayne once a week, taking the professional writing program at Taylor University with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley. This is a superb program that is now located at the Taylor campus in Upland.

Everything has a beginning, and while my writing took an adventurous turn to evaluating fiction, working freelance for both editors and agents, I still find time to write.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Barn Door: A New Midwestern Blog

The Barn Door

A new blog by Midwesterners about the Midwest, The Barn Door, begins and I'm one of the gals kicking off my boots to contribute(Second Saturday of the month.) All members of the American Christian Fiction Writers, you'll see the view from Midwest states, all with a heart for Jesus, and all putting their thoughts into ink.

Come follow us! It'll be fun.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Uncle George's Birthday Soup

My husband's cousin, Jan, is a great cook. I always look forward to what she is going to bring to a family gathering. Her mom, Gladys, and dad, George, are no longer with us, but they always opened their home at Thanksgiving. It was so much fun as we'd have people even in the bedrooms! (Lots, and lots of people.)

One year Aunt Lola got out the family films and we watched Grandpa Small and his gang butcher hogs! (Ewww.) I was pregnant with our first child, Jordan, so the next week when I went to my doctor's appointment, he asked me about my Thanksgiving. I think he said an extra prayer for me ("what kind of family has that girl gotten into??") LOL.

Here's Jan's dad's requested soup for his birthday. It's really yummo.

1 package of California Vegetable Soup Mix
2 cubes of chicken bouillon
4 C. water

Cook until vegetables are tender.

Add 2 pounds of Velveeta Cheese.

2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of celery soup
1 package of hash browns with onions (cook until browned and tender and add to soup)

Warm until Velveeta is melted.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Blog Check Up!

Sometimes blogs get into a blog-rut. I'm looking to post more regularly, but I need some direction. Why do you come to this blog? To the right you will see a poll. I would love some suggestions. Would you like to see more book reviews? More writing-related posts? Interviews with authors? More recipes? Recipe book reviews? (ha, I DO have a lot of recipe books, but maybe you just want links to recipes to try?) Maybe you'd like a chance to see a critique?

Whatever it is, I want to know.

Maybe the time for this blog is over and it's time to retire?

Take the poll to the right and help me out. And be sure to leave a comment if you have a suggestion or email me at crystalATcrystallainemillerDOTcom with your thoughts.

Will await my friends' thoughts!

Crystal hard at work

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Italian Vegetable Soup

This soup is super yummy on a cold day. You'll find yourself eating more than one bowl!

Italian Vegetable Soup
1 lb. Italian sausage  (my husband is picky and so you can use hamburger sauteed with garlic)
1 C. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 C. beef broth
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. dry red wine (or you can add another 1/2 c. water if you prefer)
2 c. chopped tomatoes
1 c. thinly sliced carrots
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
3 TBS. chopped fresh parsley

Fry sausage; drain. Combine other ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer 15 minutes or more. Or cook in your crockpot on low for several hours.

Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan. Eat with garlic bread and a fresh salad!

I Need Some Help!

I've been going through a time where I am restyling my life---writing and personhood. While I focus on my writing and on my spiritual journey, I also am trying to be comfortable in my choices of my environment and even the clothes that I wear. (Yes, though I live in a house full of guys, I'm still a female.)

If you are interested in giving some opinions on color analysis, please drop by my personal blog. If you are signed up to follow that blog and leave a comment (with your contact email,) I'll enter you to win Lora Alexander's book, Color Revival. If you are in the public domain (writer, speaker,) you may be interested in getting your own analysis from Lora Alexander over at Pretty Your World. The links are on my Crystal Laine Miller blog.

Today is Part 1 of my Color Analysis. Should be fun, if nothing else!

Go to Crystal Laine Miller.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Recipe:Imy's Honey Cookies

Imogene Small Miller, "Notch" Baby
My mother-in-law, Imy, is one of the best people on earth. She's been very good to me in the nearly 30 years I've been married to her son (who was born when she was 40!) She's 93 and while some things have slowed her down, she is still a great cook. She talks about how when she was 4-years-old and one of her 8 siblings was born (she's the oldest,) her dad got out a box for her stand on and taught her to make breakfast. She's been cooking with the gas ever since! (Figuratively speaking.) For years she was the head cook at a school, too.

She has so many recipes, but my family adores these cookies. They never fail to be eaten in sometimes a matter of hours. They are an oft-requested recipe and I'm going to share it now with you. You'll want to add these to your Christmas cookies and they'll be a hit. My aunt says her granddaughter doesn't eat much, but she'll eat these cookies!

Imy's Honey Cookies

Bake at 350 degrees
12-15 minutes
Makes several dozen
1 inch balls

½ cup butter
2 cups sugar
½ cup honey
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
4 ½ cups sifted flour
4 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar, blend in honey. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients; add. Chill several hours in fridge before baking. Scoop by tablespoon (or teaspoon--you decide)roll into a ball. Roll cookies in sugar before baking.

~Crystal Laine Miller

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Speaking of Speaking

Crystal Laine Miller at her first speaking engagement (Imitating Bub Pope.)
You're a writer. If you haven't been asked to speak yet,eventually you will. If you haven't been published yet,now is the time to consider how you will handle public events and publicity surrounding your book.

At the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis this year I met author Jim Rubart in person for the first time.We'd had some correspondence on email due to ACFW business. If you haven't checked out his site for promotion and speaking, then you simply must. His fiction book, Rooms, has garnered all sorts of honors and awards, appeared on bestseller lists, but he's also a speaker, marketing consultant and has a company called Barefoot Marketing. Also check out his list of topics on his web site--topics on which he'll speak. He's done some workshops with our own Tiffany Colter and with agent Chip MacGregor that you may wish to look into taking.

*Think about this for yourself: on what topics would you be willing to speak?

Now here's what's funny about meeting Jim. Somehow he was under the impression from my emails that I am an extrovert. A-living-out-loud kind of person. Someone like Colleen Coble. But I am an introvert. This doesn't mean I'm shy, but it does mean I need more preparation and I need recovery time after a speaking engagement.  I'm more likely to not say anything until I've thought it through. I may be somewhat on the line between extrovert and introvert as this was not true when I was teaching in school every day. I could sometimes teach off the top of my head because I was passionate about and knew my topics.If you are an introvert, then this is from where you can draw your topics--the ones you are passionate about and know well.

Here are some practical things from my speaking experiences:

1. Have water nearby. (Preferably with some lemon in it.) Don't drink
caffeine drinks prior. (For two reasons!*Ask me by email.)

2. Have your handouts stacked according to presentation and marked in your
outline (if you use one) when to distribute. It's best to enlist someone to
disperse these as you continue to speak, so if you do that, make sure you give
some time to get these to your audience because this will distract, anyway, from
what you are saying. Also, if you can, disperse prior to the speaking and
then indicate about when they will need this, if at all.

3. Prior to speaking, make sure people can hear you. If you have a
microphone, it would be good to do a test. Don't walk in front of the amp/speakers with the microphone, if you have one/them, because some systems squawk when you do that. Ouch!

4. Don't grip the podium if you have one. (ha) Relax. These are just people you are talking to about things you are passionate about, right?

5. Try to make eye contact with those in the audience. Don't just look in one spot. Try not to take it personally if someone is not looking at you. There are such people who are auditory learners and won't necessarily be looking at you, but will be paying attention.Kinesthetic learners may be fiddling with things, too.There might be someone who is asleep (I had this happen to me when I spoke to high school students.) Think positively and don't take credit for that person taking a nap....

6. Occasionally ask questions where the audience has to participate--like
"how many of you," "raise your hands," that sort of thing, because it engages
your audience.
But don't use it so often that it loses it effectiveness or
gets to be distracting (like, they are counting how many times you say it. )Also, watch repeated phrases like "as such" or "you know what I mean?" or any other phrase that gets distracting--unless it has a point,of course.If all of a sudden a bunch in the back row jumps up and yells "Yes! Score!" then they're probably either listening to a game on their iPhone or you just broke your own personal record for saying, "As such."

7.No matter how serious the topic, start off with a little humor (if
to set yourself and others at ease. Then, set the tone with some sort of anecdote.Choose carefully.If you are afraid it will be offensive, do reconsider.

8. Make your own notes about how a favorite speaker presents himself. You
can always learn from a speaker who holds YOU in the palm of his hand. I was struck during the elections here in the U.S. by the various candidates and how they spoke. I think the way two in particular presented their material certainly swayed their audiences, even if you don't agree with the message.

9. Always, always take into account your audience, their point of view and
what your purpose is.
Just like in writing!

10. Don't look down too much because your voice goes wherever you are
If you are constantly looking down as you speak, your voice goes down into your notes, not out to the audience. If you have a microphone, make sure you speak into it, but try not to "breathe" into it. If you have to cough, take your mouth away from the mike.

11. Wear something comfortable (if it cuts off your air, you will be sorry! ha)but also choose a color that enhances your appearance and personal coloring.People get focused on your appearance and can be distracted by the weirdest things, like your hair sticking up or that you're wearing orange. Color also influences what the audience will think of you and your message. I have written articles about this. Colors convey a message, too. If you have a friend there, have that friend make sure that you don't have underwear static-clinging to your skirt or that your slip is dangling around your ankles. (Men, you know what to check....)

I am by NO means an expert and I certainly could use more experience and tips on speaking. I like how fiction authors are offering topics to speak on to groups who ask them to speak. I think you will sell more books if you offer the audience more than just your fiction. Doc Hensley told us that you need to establish your expertise in order to garner attention to your work. (That probably gets into "branding.")

Also, I think it's nice to give "gifts" to your audience--plenty of bookmarks, or similar type things. Some speakers pass baskets of chocolate or candy.It's always nice to have a "door prize,"too. (Your book, for example.)

What kinds of advice do you have for us when it comes to speaking? What has worked for you?

Here's a story you can use if you want for that ice-breaking humor :  
A hungry lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree reading a book; the other was typing away on his laptop.

The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him. 

Why? Because even the king of the jungle knows that readers digest and writers cramp.

~Crystal Laine Miller

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Under a Maui Moon by Robin Jones Gunn

Under a Maui MoonUnder a Maui Moon by Robin Gunn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Empty-nesters Carissa and Richard should be coming into a wonderful place in their marriage, but counselor Richard's explosive clientele threaten Carissa. When she loses her longtime job on top of tensions with Richard and his devotion to his job, her retiring boss offers use of his house in Maui and she jumps at the chance to go--alone.

Gunn weaves a tale of marriage on the rocks and distancing from God in the Hawaiian paradise with endearing characters. Each chapter begins with a verse written in Native Hawaiian and in English, which adds much to to the setting. Reading this story, I was overcome with hope and could almost feel the breezes and smell the pineapple. I love how Gunn tucked in the history while developing well-written dialogue and characters. It is a story that kept me guessing as to how it would resolve and one I recommend.

Published review in Church Libraries Journal, Fall 2010, by Crystal Laine Miller.

Reprinted with permission.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

The Silent GovernessThe Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Olivia Keene flees her parents' home with scant money, a letter of introduction, and fear of her future after bashing her father over the head when she finds him choking her mother to death. In 1815 England few opportunities await the school teacher. After a series of dangerous events ending at Brightwell Court, which leaves Olivia temporarily speechless, she accidently overhears a conversation between Lord Edward Stanton Bradley and his father, the Earl. When the Lord realizes she could ruin him, he hires her as first an under nurse to the children in his care, and then as a governess. Her mysterious past and his cloaked future as they become drawn to each other threaten to unravel them both.

Full of tension and twists, this romance has plenty of mystery. It became one of my favorite historical romances this year. I highly recommend it if you love this genre.

REPRINTED with permission from Church Libraries, Summer 2010

Reviewed by Crystal Laine Miller

View all my reviews

Monday, October 04, 2010

A Door County Christmas on When I Was Just a Kid Blog!

Chance for this book if you comment on When I Was Just a Kid blog!

Today Becky Melby’s interview went up  on When I Was Just a Kid blog, and only ONE person commented who is eligible for the book, A Door County Christmas (so far! )

You still have time to leave comments on all four interviews this week—start with Becky’s and move on to Rachael Phillips’ on Tuesday, then Eileen Key’s on Wednesday and finally Cynthia Ruchti’s on Thursday.

Also, Cynthia reminded me that you can interact with the characters from A Door County Christmas on their web site—  http://doorcountychristmas.blogspot.com/ . Complete with photos!

Come by and share your Christmas memories or just enjoy the authors’ –and then comment for a chance to win their book. It’s perfect for a gift or to read for a treat for yourself. The Clearing where the authors stayed is so beautiful! Maybe you’d like to visit Door County, Wisconsin, too. If the winner comments on all four blog interviews, I’ll also send that person who wins, a bonus Christmas treat!
The Clearing, Where Authors of A Door County Christmas Stayed

If you don't want to read the book, you could give it as a gift! So, it's a win-win situation. (And it's a really good book. I loved it.)

Crystal Laine Miller
What Was It Like When You Were Just a Kid?


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Rooms by James L. Rubart

By James L. Rubart
B and H, ISBN 978-0-8054-4888-7, PB, 400 pages, $14.99.

Software genius tycoon Micah Taylor gets a 25-year-old letter from a great uncle he never knew, along with a house built for him in the last six months along the Oregon coast. Despite Micah's trauma as a nine-year-old, which occurred on the beach where the house is, he leaves his Seattle business more and more to spend time there. He meets Sarah and Rick there, who both become close friends and who have deep faith, which Micah left behind in college and still resists. The house becomes a healing place for the deep wounds in his soul, and his uncle seems to have built this house based on the places within his soul.

Many people compare this book to The Shack, but it is well-written and  biblically-based sound. Recommend it to men, as well as women and teens. Unique and riveting.

Reviewed by Crystal Laine Miller
Reprinted from Church Libraries, Summer 2010. Used with permission.

I write reviews for Church Libraries Journal, a magazine for church librarians, members of the Evangelical Church Library Association. I'm given 150 words to sum up what I know about the book and what I think about the book. I might add that this book had me thinking a long time after I closed the book and typed my review to be sent off. I certainly will read the next books that James Rubart writes. His speculative genre is long a favorite of mine, as well as his craft being superb. Don't miss this book.

About the book and the author:

About Rooms:
On a rainy spring day in Seattle, young software tycoon Micah Taylor receives a cryptic, twenty-five-year-old letter from a great uncle he never knew. It claims a home awaits him on the Oregon coast that will turn his world inside out.

Suspecting a prank, Micah arrives at Cannon Beach to discover a stunning brand new nine-thousand square foot house. And after meeting Sarah Sabin at a nearby ice cream shop, he has two reasons to visit the beach every weekend.

When bizarre things start happening in the rooms of the home, Micah suspects they have some connection to his enigmatic new friend, Rick, the town mechanic. But Rick will only say the house is spiritual. This unnerves Micah because his faith slipped away like the tide years ago, and he wants to keep it that way.

But as he slowly discovers, the home isn’t just spiritual, it’s a physical manifestation of his soul, which God uses to heal Micah’s darkest wounds and lead him into an astonishing new destiny

Available in all major bookstores and online. (Check out Jim's books here, more to come.)

About Jim in Jim's Words:

I love God, my wife, my boys, writing, speaking, playing guitar, and golf, in that order. And I dabble in photography.

(Check out his photography on his web sites and blog.)

Jim writes a blog, too! 
Check it out!

Friday, September 24, 2010

ACFW Carol Awards 2010

By now many of you will have seen the list of winners of the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Awards 2010.

I was there for the gala event where the winner of the ACFW Mentor of the Year (Susan May Warren) and winners of the Genesis (unpublished writers who entered a writing contest) were announced, as well. (I judged again this year in the Genesis, too.)

The Carol Award was named after Carol Johnson, the editor who first went to bat for Christian fiction by championing the manuscript by an unknown who wrote Love Comes Softly (yes, THE Janette Oke.) By the way, Janette told us (she was delightful!) that she had titled it, SOMETIMES Love Comes Softly. A room full of writers laughed heartily about that!

Anyway, if you're looking for good fiction, the judges picked this list. Pretty good list.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2010 Carol Awards. I find it wonderfully amazing that the Mentor of the Year, Susan May Warren,  also was one of the Carol Award winners. She also is mother and wife. Just proves you can do many things well. It's possible, but then, she makes it seem easy. (Smile.)

Contemporary Novella -
The Great Christmas Bowl by Susan May Warren
Tyndale House, Karen Watson, Editor

Historical Novella -
Christmas Bells for Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad
Steeple Hill, Tina James, Editor

Short Contemporary -
A Texas Ranger's Family by Mae Nunn
Steeple Hill, Melissa Endlich, Editor

Short Contemporary Suspense -
Evidence of Murder by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
Steeple Hill, Emily Rodmell, Editor

Short Historical -
The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh
Revell, Andrea Doering, Editor

Young Adult -
So Not Happening - Jenny B. Jones
Thomas Nelson, Amanda Bostic/Jamie Chavez, Editors

Long Contemporary -
The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry
Moody Publishers, Paul Santhouse, Editor

Long Contemporary Romance -
Just Between You and Me by Jenny B. Jones
Thomas Nelson, Natalie Hanemann/Jamie Chavez, Editors

Mystery -
The Case of the Mystified M.D. by A.K. Arenz
Sheaf House, Joan M. Shoup, Editor

Suspense/Thriller -
Intervention by Terri Blackstock
Zondervan, Sue Brower/Dave Lambert, Editors

Long Historical -
Stealing Home by Allison Pittman
Multnomah, Alice Crider, Editor

Long Historical Romance -
Cowboy Christmas by Mary Connealy
Barbour Publishing, Rebecca Germany, Editor

Speculative -
Eternity Falls by Kirk Outerbridge
Marcher Lord Press, Jeff Gerke, Editor

Women's Fiction -
Never the Bride by Cheryl McKay and Rene Gutteridge
Waterbrook Press, Shannon Marchese, Editor

Debut Author -
The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh
Revell, Andrea Doering, Editor

P.S. I want to publicly thank whomever nominated me for ACFW 2010 Mentor of the Year. It was a very great honor to be listed on that screen along with the likes of Susan May Warren. I am even more delighted that I am ever able to help someone on their road to publication. I am humbled if I'm ever a part of someone's journey. Keep writing! And yes, keep reading!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Mentors in Writing: Do You Need One?

One of the topics I often hear writers whispering about is finding a writing mentor. And we all are admonished that you can't just grab the arm of someone you'd LIKE to mentor you and say, "Oh, you must! You're a Christian, aren't you?"

Guilting a person into mentoring you doesn't work. (Nor tying her up and throwing her into your car.)Plus, the very person you choose to mentor you is no-doubt a busy person writing her own novels,marketing, etc., or you wouldn't have even noticed her.

So, you pray. "Please, Lord, You know I need someone to mentor me in writing. Send someone today. Make it clear who this person is/persons are."

And let's say someone does want to mentor you! Joy! They offer to read some opening pages, your synopsis or even to sit down and help you plot a course to follow to reach your goals.(They have these "mentor appointments" available this year at the ACFW Conference. And guess what? They are all filled up! Next year!) Maybe this person offers to introduce you to certain people who can help you at conference. (If you are a Christian fiction writer, you must join ACFW. It's the best place to be.)

Check the Conference Details for 2010!

Literary agent Chip MacGregor on The Writers View (You have to request to join this yahoogroup) once set up mentoring groups based on Paul, Barnabas and Timothy in the New Testament. You were labeled either a Paul (mentor,) Barnabas (peer group,) or Timothy (mentee--this doesn't mean your breath was fresh...)Some were in all three categories, and some, just one. He really worked hard on matching people up.The point was to set up a Paul with a Timothy and then put you into a friend group, Barnabas.

I don’t know if any of them worked out because of exactly what Cec Murphey was talking about once, "so many expectations." When you come to a group or a relationship with expectations, because we are human, you can be disappointed. It doesn't always work out, but don't give up hope. I do think it CAN work out and that yes,you may move on, or your mentor may move on, but you will get something out of these liaisons. It's a process. And some day you may become a mentor.

Betty Southard in her book, The Mentor Quest said about mentor myths: “Even the title ‘mentor’ often scares away a potential mentor or seeker. It implies lessons, structure, discipline, accountability, and maybe most discouraging, time…we don’t really want to spend a lot of time working on growth.”

Here’s what she says the “mentee’s” part is:
1. Personal responsibility for own growth
2. Look for mentoring in everyday activities and chance encounters.
3. Recognize the mentors around you.
4. Wherever you are, maintain a teachable spirit.

She says to list people who make a difference in your life: (I adjusted it to writing)
1. Teachers from school/conferences/editors/agents
2. Three writer friends
3. Five people who taught you writing
4. A few people who made you feel appreciated or special in writing
5. Five people (writers) whom you enjoy spending time
6. Heroes (Authors) whose stories (writing journeys, as well as what they write)inspire you

These people mentor you.(Jot these people down right now and think about writing them a thank you note or send them chocolate!)

You can also be any of the above at one point or another.

I've found that in ACFW, we have built-in mentors. There are courses, local writers who help you find your path in the chapters and zones, a conference (this year in Indianapolis--are you going?) and any number of opportunities that come on the forums. There are countless blogs with teaching going on, too. I like to haunt various agent blogs and a couple editor blogs, as well as published writer blogs, because there is always a discussion going on about writing in those places.

So, who will I see at ACFW Conference in ten days??? (And will you be my mentor? I'll be yours!)

Check out the ACFW local chapters in your area once you join ACFW, too. Lots of mentoring going on there.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Review: The Six-Liter Club by Harry Kraus, M.D.

I have written hundreds of reviews. Here's one from this summer.

The Six-Liter Club
By Harry Kraus, M.D.
Howard, ISBN 978-1-4165-7797-3, PB, 364 pages, $13.99

Set in 1983, Dr. Camille Weller becomes the first black, female surgeon to become attending staff member at Medical College of Virginia and also to be initiated into the "six-liter" club by bringing her patient back from death by replacing a full six-liters of blood. Raised by a white aunt in the South, her prior terrifying childhood in the Congo as the daughter of an American missionary doctor and Conglonese mother battles her spirit as much as her private and professional life do.

With the tension of not only a woman surgeon in the medical world, but also her race, memories, and spiritual struggles, Kraus pulls no punches and brings a satisfying ending.

Reviewed by Crystal Laine Miller
Reprinted from Church Libraries, Summer 2010
Used with permission.
Join Evangelical Church Library Association at http://www.eclalibraries.org

Free first chapter of The Six-Liter Club

Fiction Books by Harry Kraus

Dr. Kraus in surgery

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Recipe for a Crowd: Tex Mex Taco Soup

I'm going to admit a real weakness in me. I buy recipe books. I counted 100 books I've collected over the years and I felt so guilty about having them, that I started giving some of the books away. But then, I love looking over them again and again--even if I have such picky eaters that they won't eat most of the recipe books' contents! Sad, but true. When I visit a region, I pick up a book as my souvenir. (I remember places by what I eat!)

  I adore cooking sites and recipes in novels. The Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) has this fabulous recipe book complete with a story of her romance with Marlboro Man and life on the ranch. What's more romantic than food?
A really good friend of mine posted that she wanted a taco soup recipe. Well, her friends were faster on the draw than I was, but I love this recipe so much, I thought I might share it with you, too. I've used this recipe and adjusted it to my groups according to occasion. It's great for those large gatherings of people. I love cornbread with it, but get creative and think of things you could serve with it. Writers (and readers who get hooked on a good book) need easy recipes to put on that they don't have to stand over the stove too much, while they're in the thick of things (reading or writing.) Put this on for a chilly, fall day. 

Since I have so many recipes around, I thought I should share one periodically, just because I can!


1 ½ - 2 lbs. ground chuck (Cook meat and drain off grease)*
1 – 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans, well rinsed and drained
1 – 15 oz. can pinto beans, well rinsed and drained
1 – 15 oz. can black beans, well rinsed and drained
1 – 11oz. can Green Giant Mexicorn, drained ( ***see note below)
1 – 15 oz. can Del Monte “Savory Sides” Santa Fe Corn (***see note below)
1 – 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (I use 1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce instead)
1 – 15 oz. can Ro-tel diced tomatoes, drained or jar of HERDEZ (mild, medium or hot--your choice) salsa

1 – pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch DRESSING mix, NOT dip mix!
1 – pkg. Taco seasoning (I use Taco Bell or Old El Paso)
1 – tsp. Mrs. Dash (I add garlic & onions, too)

3 – 15 oz. cans water (I usually add about 1 to 1 ½ cans)
8 oz. hot tap water (to dissolve the dry ranch dressing and taco mix in)

*Is good with cooked chicken instead of ground meat,too.

NOTE: This makes a HUGE soup pot that serves up 10-12 (large bowls) if you use 3 cans of water.  Makes about 8 large bowls if you use the reduced amount of water like I do for smaller crowds.

Dissolve ranch dressing mix and taco seasoning in cup of hot water.  Place the dissolved seasonings and all remaining ingredients into a LARGE soup pot.  Heat on medium high heat until soup is bubbling, then reduce heat to low and simmer covered  for at least an hour….I usually simmer on lowest heat for 1-2 hours.   This is a great crock pot recipe, too!

Serve soup with cornbread and/or tortillas and a salad.  Can add grated cheese and tortilla chips, too. Good to take to potlucks.

This soup will be slightly spicy due to the taco seasoning and Ro-tel tomatoes.

*** If you are unable to find either Mexicorn and/or Savory Sides, you can substitute regular corn for the Mexicorn and another type of bean for the Savory Sides.  The Santa Fe Savory Sides blend is a mix of black beans, corn, red and green bell peppers in a wonderful sauce.

This recipe adapts to personal preferences, additions and deletions beautifully. Freezes well.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Getting Ready for a Writer's Conference: Strike a Pose

Do you need a professional photo for your writing? I say yes. And I also say you might want to include a photo on business cards for agents and editors.

No, this is not me. It's my "persona."
I have a file/disk of my professional photos to be included in any writing endeavors. A photographer, Janet, who catered especially to writers that day did my session and interviewed me beforehand to find out my personality/what I wrote. From that she worked on my session.

I have to say that I hate photos of myself. I didn’t like my photos at first because that is my immediate reaction, so I put them here on my blog to have blog-friends vote! Many of you helped me to see what you saw, and what kind of personality came through the photos. I’ve seen other writers do this on blogs and Facebook. Comments do help.

This year at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference they will have a fabulous photographer, Amber Zimmerman, available for a session appointment. Your photo should be free and clear of any usage constraints so you may use them for all of your work, which makes opportunities like this one of which to take advantage. You don't want photos that you must get permission to use each time.

As far as dress and poses—usually a photographer will address this with you. You need a face shot for things like articles, columns, and any publicity/media events. But I’d encourage you to have fun with your personality/type of writing that you do and have a few casual shots, too. (Depending on your genre and type of other writing that you do.)

The color you wear should enhance your own coloring and go with the colors to wear that emphasize the type of writing that you do. I wrote a couple articles on this, addressing what color “says” to the viewer. For example, navy blue is “trustworthy” while pink is “friendly/feminine,” and green is “earthy.” Of course, everyone’s heard of the red power tie. Make sure you wear the color; don’t let the color wear you!

Some of my shots were outside, but that was for lighting and she included some flowers. At one point I was on the ground on a white background and she was up on a ladder. Photos taken from above are flattering to your face. If someone shoots you from below, things have a tendency to “expand.” (Even if you’re not heavy.)

I think that any business card you give to an editor or agent should have your photo on it—a really good photo. (Remember that it will be small.) It does jog the memory of the editor/agent, especially when you have jotted the project you have pitched to him on the back. Make sure you have all of your contact info on that card. If you want to have a business card for all others that only lists your web site/email address, then that’s ok, but you definitely want certain people to have access to you.

Here is the photographer, Amber Zimmerman, for the ACFW conference and samples of what she’s done with authors:



The authors you see there are Colleen Coble and Denise Hunter, but she’s done many other authors because her mom is Diann Hunt (also an author.)

Amber’s page on “what to wear” is mostly for family shots, but she also wrote about photos for authors on Seekerville Blog: (GREAT article on Seekerville)


I do think it’s important as a writer these days to have a public platform/persona. When you go to sell your work you will have to have these photos, and while you may have them updated and redone when the project is actually sold (especially for books,) it’s great to have done this ahead of time, too.

You want to have your photos available for blogs, FB, Twitter, articles (written by you or ON you,) any public forum or platform, for your books, and for media kits.  We needed to be friendly and approachable, as well as trustworthy looking. You do not have to be a model or drop-dead gorgeous (glamorous) in those photos, but you should have a warmth and a joy that comes through. Be yourself but find a photographer who helps bring “you” to the picture.

What kinds of advice do you have about photos?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Marlayne Giron: When I Was Just a Kid

Marlayne Giron is my guest on When I Was Just a Kid and is giving away her book, The Victor there. Go over to read about Marlayne's fascinating childhood and leave a comment ON THAT BLOG.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Going to the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis?

I've been to many large writing conferences and have worked freelance for agents and editors, but I still remember my first meal time at an editor's table.You wonder if you forgot everything your mama taught you about eating with "important" people. Is this napkin for me or the person beside me? What if I splat ketchup all over Chip MacGregor's kilt!

Many times a first time conference attendee is baffled when it comes to the lunch and dinner times at editors' and agents' tables, or at least a little intimidated, especially if you are an introvert. If you are Colleen-Coble-type, then you can go back to writing and miss this post. (Of course, she's now eating onions, so who knows? Maybe you need this, anyway.)

At the ACFW conference during lunch and dinner, you will be given the option of sitting at a table with an agent or editor OF YOUR CHOICE. (First come, first serve. Their names will be on cards in the center of the table.) Yes, you will be able to give a short blurb about what you write (wait for it--they'll ask.) Yes, it will be noisy,and there will be others at your table who also are interested in the host of the table. The agent or editor may be distracted by any number of things. There will be announcements and wonderful things going on with Brandilyn Collins, the MC, too.She may be giving away books or causing you to snort out your tea (try to avoid the direction of the agent/editor.)

Here are a few tips when you get to the table. Don't be nervous, eat the really good food. Just be prepared. If you pray before, God can grant you peace and assurance. Really!

1.Often breakfast is reserved for faculty to have a break from conferees. Please respect the parameters given at the conference.It's ok to say hi if your eyes meet, just don't stop at the table or sit down or for that matter,or even slow down. (Break the eye contact as soon as you can--wave to that new person you have yet to meet.)

2. Don't wear fragrances, but do smell pleasant. I don't know how you accomplish this, nor do I want to know.

3.Have your business cards available without fumbling for them for others at your table. You'll also want to chat with those at your table because these people can become your good friends.(And really, you just never know how they will be bridges for you.) Ask the person beside you about her writing. Chances are, you'll relax while listening to her. And this is hard when you are nervous or an auditory learner, but try to practice true communication/listening, and not just rehearsing what you'll say to the editor/agent in your mind while the other person talks. Who knows? You may get a chance to practice with the person beside you. But you also may miss an opportunity to get to know the really cool person next to you.

4. Have your business card(no papers) with you to give to the editor/agent at your table, if the opportunity arises. Jot briefly your book title and a line on the back of the card (and genre.) Make sure you have address/phone/email on that card. If you are uncomfortable having that info for just anyone, have the full contact info ones for only the editor/agents or good friends.

5. Have your 30 second pitch(they will probably ask you) and do not hog the table talk time with the agent/editor. Answer questions, but do speak with others at your table, too. Sometimes it is difficult to hear if you are across the table, too, so be aware and be willing to help others at your table to communicate. Think of always being gracious.

6. It may just be sooo important to contact that editor/agent because you've spent so much money for this conference, but I've seen rudeness occur when people will "save" chairs at a table, and even rushing to take the chair ahead of someone else. This isn’t junior high. Be polite and trust that there will be God-incidences happening. Some editors and agents have noticed if you're chair-grabbing and they have good memories (at times.)

7. You never know who “works”for/influences the agent/editor. Be nice to everyone! (You'll be happier if you are, too. It's fun. Try it. It will confuse some people.) I've introduced myself to someone at a conference, and the person said, "Are you anyone? Oh. You're nobody. Ok. Bye." Yes, I'm Nobody, but I do remember names as they cross my desk....

8. No matter how friendly you have become with an agent or editor, be courteous and respect her/him. I saw a whole table "tease" an editor about something this editor "seemed" to be comfortable about, but behind the scenes this person went back to the room to fume/be hurt--and let organizers know about it. Be sensitive. Don't tease or talk about volatile/sensitive issues. Try to put yourself in that person's shoes.

9. There will also be author tables. Don't be disappointed if you get at an author's table. They are "scouts" for publishers and have agents, too. They're also wonderful mentors, and have much to share.

10. Do be aware that the conference is jam-packed and an overload for everyone. Presenters, editors, agents, authors may need a minute to collect thoughts or just need nourishment. Give the host a chance to sit down (do save a chair for the host!) eat a little and maybe even sample the dessert. Each one has an individual personality and will try to lead the table in his own way. He may want to know what you've been reading, what book impacted you this year, or even ask you what you think about green tea! (Yes, I was asked by an editor about that.) I even found an editor once who had attended Taylor University in Upland, Indiana and I ended up not sending her a manuscript, but a tee shirt from Ivanhoe's. (That was fun.)

10-B. Oh, one more thing--lose 5 pounds before you go as food at these things are usually great and you will WANT to eat! (Not to mention the chocolate parties.)

I have found that the ACFW conference has the nicest, most helpful people. One special time was when someone stopped me from being a deer in the headlights as she quickly prayed for me on the way to her own appointment. Don't sit in your room and order room service--get out and be with others who are just as passionate as you are at the meals. When you go into the "cafeteria," even if you are the new kid in school, you'll find a place and it will be the right place, the right time.

Hope to see the Indiana group at breakfast one morning!

Monday, August 02, 2010

They Almost Always Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti

They Almost Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti
Abingdon, ISBN 978-1-4267-0238-9, PB, 301 pages, $13.99

--Review by Crystal Laine Miller

Libby and Greg flail in the 20-year-plus marriage after the death of their daughter, Lacey. Greg heads for a solo canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness. When he doesn't return home on time, Libby; her father-in-law, Frank, and best friend, Jen, decide to look for him.

Tenderfoots Libby and Jen and seasoned Frank all struggle with their own faith as they fight for their lives, searching for Greg, as Libby gets to know her husband through his past wilderness journeys.

This book is a page-turner full of adventure, rich characterizations, and spiritual revelation. Readers will need to keep tissues handy. Discussion questions at the end make it suitable for book groups. This is one of my favorite books so far this year, and I highly recommend it to women over 30.

--REPRINTED from Church Libraries, Summer 2010. Used with Permission.

About the Author: Cynthia Ruchti

Cynthia Ruchti is the current president of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), which she’s served in various volunteer capacities since shortly after she became a member in 2002. In her role as president of ACFW, Cynthia writes a monthly “From the President” column for ACFW’s Afictionadoezine. For two years she was one of four humor columnists for Afictionado’s“Let There Be Lite.” In 2007, she was the recipient of the ACFW Member Service Award. In 2008, Cynthia won second place for Women’s Fiction in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Contest.

Her debut novel—They Almost Always Come Home—released in spring 2010 with Abingdon Press. She’s represented by Wendy Lawton of Books & Such Literary Agency.
Cynthia writes stories of hope that glows in the dark, merging her love for storytelling with inextinguishable hope for inexpressible hurts. Her novels in progress include On the Night He Was Betrayed, All My Belongings, When the Morning Glory Blooms, and Afraid of the Light.
The radio broadcast Cynthia writes and produces — The Heartbeat of the Home — is celebrating its 30th year of ministry. The scripted radio drama/devotional broadcast airs on 16 radio stations and two cable/digital television stations. Cynthia is the editor of the ministry’s Backyard Friends magazine, a twenty-page, twice annual publication that reaches 5,000 homes, churches, and parachurch outreaches.
Cynthia’s articles have appeared in a number of publications, including Christian Communicator, Victory In Grace, Quality of Life Times, and others. Her essay “Reading by Flashlight, Writing by Heart” appears in Cup of Comfort for Writers. She also has an essay in Writing So Heaven Will Be Different, a compilation commemorating the 35th year of the Write-to-Publish writers conference. She writes a monthly column for Wisconsin Christian News and has written a number of feature articles for that publication.
Cynthia spends her days diving into words, worship, and wonder and celebrating 37 years of marriage, three grown children, and five exceptional grandchildren. One of her greatest joys is helping other writers grow in their craft. To that end, she is the assistant director and a faculty member of the Quad Cities Christian Writers Conference, has served as worship and devotions staff for the Write-to-Publish conference, and teaches at other conferences as opportunities arise. She speaks to women’s groups, at mother-daughter banquets, and for women’s refresher days. It is her delight to serve on her church’s worship team and Creative Arts team. Rather than “busy,” she likes the term “active.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

Stars in the Night by Cara C. Putman

A Word From Cara:

I graduated from high school at sixteen, college at 20, and completed my law degree when I was 27.

My writing journey started in 2005 when I decided to write my first novel. Now I have eleven books published with more on the way.

People say I've accomplished a lot and that I must have life by the proverbial tail. Hardly! I grew up as a home schooled kid when home schoolers were misunderstood and oddities.

I struggle with balancing my writing and law career, plus being a good mom and wife.

I often fear people won't like my books.I've walked through the deep pain of miscarriage.Really, I'm just like you – I don't have it all together and have gone through tough times. But in His strength, I've discovered a strength I never knew I had. A strength I want you to discover, too.

In the end I'm just an ordinary mom who has seen God do some wonderful things as I've been obedient to step into the calling He's led me into.


Stars in the Night Background

Stars in the Night was an idea that had begun to percolate in my mind. I’d written two World War II series and was actively looking for my next setting. My husband, a huge World War II history buff, and I were kicking ideas around, and I’d decided Hollywood was probably the next place for me. I’d gone to the library and gotten a stack of research books when I got the call. An editor I knew but had never worked with wanted to know if I might be interested in a new line they were starting. As we talked, I got so excited. And then she emailed me their guidelines, which listed that Hollywood was a location they were interested in setting books.

Only God could have known ahead of time. But because I followed His prompting I was ready to run with an idea. Stars in the Night is the result.


Hollywood 1942. When attorney Audra Schaeffer's sister disappears, Audra flies to Hollywood to find her.

Any day Audra might have been flattered by the friendly overtures of Robert Garfield, a real-life movie star. But on the flight from Indianapolis to Hollywood, Audra can think of little else than finding her missing sister. When Audra arrives in the city of glitz and glamour, and stars, and learns her rising starlet sister has been murdered, all thoughts of romance fly away.

Determined to bring the killer to justice, Audra takes a job with the second Hollywood Victory Caravan.

Together with Robert Garfield and other stars, she crisscrosses the southern United States in a campaign to sell war bonds. When two other women are found dead on the train, Audra knows the deaths are tied to that of her sister.

Could the killer be the man with whom she's falling in love?

If you'd like to read an excerpt of Chapter 1 of Stars In The Night, go HERE.

Contest: Lots of opportunities to win and great prizes, and the grand prize contains some of Cara's favorite classic movies as well as all of her WWII novels: Launch Contest!

(Hurry as contest ends July 31st,2010.)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I Write Like....

Try submitting a few paragraphs of your WIP to this site. It gives you an idea of your style.I found out that my writing is like Mark Twain. LOL.

I write like
Mark Twain

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Stars in the Night by Cara C. Putman

My friend Cara Putman has written some books that are on my favorites list, but this new book is my very favorite that she's written. She found her sweet spot with this book. Now she's having this great contest to kick off the debut of Stars in the Night--Hollywood glamour and style all tucked into the prize basket.

The grand prize consists of several DVDs of her favorite classic movies, popcorn, cracker jacks, a signed copy of Stars in the Night. If she reaches over 200 entries, a copy of each of her other six World War II based romances will be included. These DVDs are special because they include some of her favorite movies of all time. Bringing Up Baby and The Philadelphia Story are great romantic comedies, both with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart joins them in Philadelphia Story. Just last week, she rewatched one of her favorite musicals: Singing in the Rain, which you'll also find in these collections along with Easter Parade and Meet Me in St. Louis. And then you can't do better for dramas than Casablanca and Mrs. Miniver. For the final set, she's adding Frank Capra's collection. You'll have hours of wonderful classics to watch.

Five first prizes: a copy of all her WWII books: that means winners receive a copy of Stars in the Night, Canteen Dreams, Sandhill Dreams, Captive Dreams, A Promise Kept, A Promise Born, and A Promise Forged. That's plenty of World War II era romances and romantic suspense to fill your summer with reading.

Five second prizes: a signed copy of Stars in the Night.

So how do you enter?

I'm so glad you asked. There are many ways you can enter for a chance at one of these great packages.
  • Help spread the word about Stars in the Night and the contest through facebook, myspace, shoutlife, and twitter.
  • Mention the contest and Stars in the Night on your blog
  • Ask your library to order Stars in the Night and any other of my books.
  • Go into your local bookstores and take a photo of Stars in the Night on the shelf if it’s there or ask the bookstore to order it. If it is there, take a photo and email it to Cara at cara at caraputman dot com.
  • Post links to order Stars in the Night at CBD, Amazon, or B&N on your blog or social network and let her know you've done that.
  • Also, once you've read Stars, post a review on CBD, Amazon, or B&N and let me know you've done that.
    Each time you do one of the above items, come back to her blog and leave a comment. That will be your entry. So you have the possibility of entering eight to eleven times.

The contest ends July 31st.