Book Talk Tuesday: short, sweet & sassy

I finally did it. I took the plunge and published myself.

short, sweet & sassy by Carrie Padgett debuted about two weeks ago.

Several years ago I made a joke about taking all my Woman’s World short romance stories rejects and publishing them myself. Well, the joke turned into an idea which became this book.

It’s been a fun process.

The first few days after it was released, it even made the top 100 list of Amazon General Best Sellers. I’m still amazed and awed at that.

It’s available here: https://www.createspace.com/3904061

and here: http://amzn.to/OAdTOb

and here (the ebook link to the Kindle store): http://amzn.to/MQxttp

Now, I need a few reviews …


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat


Previously: SarahJane and April swim in the ocean and talk. April tells SarahJane that her mother turned Opa’s room into a sewing room and she said that if SarahJane wasn’t back by the Fourth of July, her room will become a media room. Liam calls SarahJane back to shore where she learns that Nathan has been asked to stay on the show.

Chapter Thirty-Two

I stared at Cassie. I understood the words: Liam wants Nathan to stay and join the show. But they didn’t compute. “Wait … what?” My head shifted from Cassie to Nathan to Linda and back to Nathan. “What did I miss?”

Linda chuckled. “This I going to be good.”

“What? Someone tell me what’s going on.”

“Liam said the producers want to change things up and introduce a new bachelor. The girls will have two men to fight over.” Cassie’s gaze ping-ponged between Nathan and me.

“I’m not doing it,” he said with a vehemence I only heard when he talked about the beauty that is a GoldDust peach or if the Dodgers could ever win another Series championship.

I barked a laugh. “Of course you will.” I spun on my heel and hurried to catch up with Liam. I caught him stepping into the production RV.

“Liam, wait!”

He turned but didn’t step off the metal landing.

“What are you thinking? Date My Son is always about one bachelor. And our mother—” I gulped “—is dead.”

He shook his head. “Ratings are down. This will bring a new element. It’s a godsend. A tall good looking man will throw the whole house into a tailspin.”

“Who’s tall and good looking? I thought you asked Nathan to stay?”

Liam barked a laugh. “Exactly.” He twisted the door knob and disappeared inside the RV.

I stared at the closed vinyl door for a minute before turning away.

“Sarah Jane!” A trio of girls hurried to my side. “Is it true? The new dude is your brother? And he’s staying?”

I pushed through the press and slogged through the sand again back to Cassie and Nathan. Linda was back under her popup shelter chatting with two girls. “Out of Darkness, Into Hope…” I heard the passion in her voice even across the sand. “There’s so much to be done but so few workers.” The camera stared at her and she ignored it, talking to the girls as if they were listening instead of calculating how long they had to nod before asking for a tip about how to snag Austin’s attention away from the volleyball bunnies. At least that’s what I presumed they were thinking.

“SarahJane, I didn’t come here to be on any show. This was all about April and you—”

“I know.” I raised a hand to stop his protests. “It’s okay. I admit it threw me for a second, but it might be okay.” If Linda could put up with the cameras and the inane chatter in order to publicize her non-profit foundation, then surely I could go with the flow and let my brother along on my adventure. This whole thing was supposed to be about breaking free and trying new things, about forgetting about Jesse and Rachael and Anna and Dad. But a part of me missed home and my brothers. Having Nathan around would ease that. And being the little sister in his shadow was a role I was used to.

“It’s harvest time. I can’t stay.” He rubbed the back of his neck, a sure sign he wasn’t as sure as he sounded.

“The early peaches are done. You can take a few weeks off. Jake and Abel and Daniel can handle it.” Even as I said the words, my last defenses melted and I wanted him to stay. Time to use my secret weapon: the farm. “Really, Nathan. It could be fun. You can talk about the farm and get people interested in our fruit. Talk about the organic acreage and tell people where they can buy our fruit. You can’t buy this kind of publicity.”

I knew I had him when he quit rubbing his neck and his hand moved to his chin.


Woe It’s Wednesday: Coffee Cup Wisdom

I picked this one up at the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. last fall.


spy mug


Read on the surface, it says, “I’m Telling You, Nothing Happened.” But some letters are a different color and the highlighted letters say “I’m Lying.”

How many times have we listened to someone (frequently one of our children) vehemently insist that they’re telling the truth when all the while we know they are lying?

We see it in the news. Politicians point fingers at others while doing the same thing. Celebrities spin their drunk driving and drug rehab stints as “exhaustion.” Writers “edit” the facts to make a story more compelling.

It’s all different words for the same thing.


Sometimes I wonder who we’re trying to fool with all the spin. Others? or ourselves?


Book Talk Tuesday: Almost Amish

I have to admit, I had a few trepidations about reading Almost Amish by Katie Cushman.

  • I’ve said before and it’s still true: I’m over Amish fiction. I’m tired of bonnets and buggies.
  • Katie’s a friend. I’ve loved her other books, but what if I didn’t care for this one?

And my biggest fear:

  • What if it felt like something that was just trying to follow the Amish trend?

With great relief I can say all my fears were unfounded.

Katie’s books are always about two sides of an issue. She writes characters who are passionate about their positions and she writes each so well that it’s impossible not to see their side. Whether it’s vaccinations, doing the right thing in a difficult situation, or making little compromises, the characters are real people grappling with real decisions that have real consequences.

Almost Amish is her best book so far.

Susan is a Type A perfectionistic Martha Stewart wannabe. Her sister-in-law Julie is more laid back. But Julie’s easy going nature makes it hard for her to say no and draw boundaries and she’s often overstressed and overwhelmed by her commitments.

Susan and her daughter have the opportunity to be part of a reality television project and Julie joins with her own two children. They agree to live on a farm for the summer, doing things “almost Amish,” meaning as simply as possible, while being filmed.

Susan about kills herself and everyone else doing things perfectly. Her pie has to be perfect, even if it’s baked in a wood-burning stove. The bathroom floor has to sparkle, even though it’s made of fifty year old tile. Her breakfasts have to be garnished as if the pancakes were getting their own close-ups.

Julie discovers that she enjoys the slower pace of life on the farm and being able to focus solely on her family and providing for them.

The television crew throw various challenges at the two families, all while the cameras are rolling.

I thought Katie did a fabulous job showing each woman’s feelings about the project and how it affected them. Susan could have been a hard character to care about since she’s abrupt and abrasive and impossible to please. But she has a compelling reason for doing this project and it drives her to succeed.

As Julie slows down, she learns some lessons about herself and the life she’s been living. As a wife and mother who often felt overwhelmed by the demands of home, school, work, and life, I sympathized with Julie and could apply her lessons to my own life.

Almost Amish is not “almost good.” It’s wonderful and I highly recommend it!


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat

Previously: Nathan and April showed up to visit SarahJane. April had missed SarahJane until Anna had tracked her down. Nathan and Cassie met and flirted a bit. Liam was introduced, then hurried away after asking Nathan to stick around a while.

Chapter Thirty-One

“Can we go swimming?” April tugged on my hand and I smiled down at her. I’d missed her gap-toothed smile. Although …

“Your front teeth are in!” I ruffled her bangs.

She nodded. “And I won an award at the end of the school assembly for good citizenship, but you missed it.” Her tone held more than a hint of accusation and it hit its mark.

I blinked rapidly to keep the tears from spilling. “I’m sorry about that, sweetie.”

She gazed into my eyes and must have seen my true regret because she shucked off her shorts and T-shirt and turned to water.

“SarahJane, is everything okay?”

I turned and introduced Linda to Nathan. “And that’s my niece April. They tracked me down and came for a visit.”

Cassie, Nathan, Linda and I stood in a line, watching April. She clutched her elbows in knee-deep water.

Linda shook Nathan’s hand and waved at April. “Is everything all right?”

“April and I wanted to see SarahJane for ourselves.” Nathan grinned at Cassie. “And see who she’s been hanging out with. Make sure no one’s corrupting her morals.”

Linda laughed. “I think it’s the other way around. The girls seem nicer to each other when SarahJane is near.”

I shook my head. “I doubt that.”

“No, she’s right,” Cassie said. “I hadn’t put it together that it’s you, but I noticed a different feel to the group at times.”

“Is it cold?” I called to April.

She shook her head. “Come in with me, Auntie SJ.”

“Excuse me.” Even the chilly Pacific waters was better than listening to Linda and Cassie paint me as some goody-goody wet blanket who dampened the party when she showed up. I splashed to April’s side. A wave swelled against my legs and I shivered. “I’ll be able to stay in a few minutes.”

“Sissy.” April’s gaze swept from my face to my knees. I could see the little gears turning as she thought about splashing me.

“Don’t do it.” I paused, one foot hovering over the sand while I debated closing the gap between us.

She beamed that angelic smile that meant I was in big trouble. I turned but that only meant my back got drenched instead of my front. I gasped as the cold penetrated my suit and chilled my skin.

I whirled. “You rascal.” I kicked flat-footed and sent a nice spray toward her. She ducked underwater just before it reached her. She came back up, blinking and triumphant.

“You can’t get me!”

“Just watch me.” I reached and had her arm before she could get away. I swung her around, up and into my cradled arms. “I’ve missed you so much, my punkin pie girl.”

She snuggled closer. “Why did you leave?”

I sighed. “I don’t think there’s one reason. It was just time. I needed to get away from the house and the memories of Opa and Oma.”

She nodded. “Mom turned his room into her sewing room. I miss his smells in there.”

I couldn’t speak past the lump in my throat. Anna hadn’t wasted any time erasing reminders of my parent’s presence from the house they built and lived in for nearly sixty years. “That must be hard,” I finally said.

She wriggled and I set her down. “Mom said if you’re not back by the fourth of July, she’s going to start on your room. She wants a … a medium room?”

I smiled in spite of ache in my heart. “You mean a media room?”

“That’s it.” She squeezed my hand. “I told her you’re coming back. July fourth is next week.”

So it was. “April, sweetie, I have a commitment here. Do you know what that means?”

Her brow furrowed.


April and I turned to shore. Liam stood with the others motioning us to come closer.

We trudged through the water.

Nathan stood with his arms folded, a stunned expression on his face. Liam’s lips were tight. Linda and Cassie appeared to be holding in laughter. They kept exchanging glances before smothering giggles and looking away.

“What’s up?” I asked when we were back in camera range.

No one spoke.

“Hello?” I waved my hand in front of Liam. “You summoned me, remember?”

“Talk to your brother, please.” Liam turned and strode through the sand.

“What’s going on?” I looked from Nathan to Cassie to Linda to April. Only April met my gaze. She shrugged. “Come on, you’re freaking me out.”

Nathan finally unfolded his arms and put his hands on his hips. “It’s crazy. I just brought April to visit you.”

“Will someone tell me what’s going on?” I would have stomped my foot, but the effect on sand isn’t impressive.

Cassie pushed her sunglasses atop her head. “Liam wants Nathan to stay and join the show.”


Woe! It’s Wednesday: Coffee Cup Wisdom


Coffee Cup Wisdom

I love coffee cups. Their succinct wit captures me every time. One of my favorites was a Christmas gift last year from my daughter. I bought a shirt at Disneyland with the same sentiment a few months earlier so she added to my collection.


Mine coffee cup

If you haven’t seen Finding Nemo, grab a kid and watch it ASAP.

The seagulls fight over food scraps while squawking, “MINE! MINE! MINE!”

They are so busy worrying about what’s theirs and not letting it get away that they miss the story unfolding around them.

It’s what I have a tendency to do also.

I think about what I’m owed. 

I mull over what I did.

I wonder if anyone will thank me.

I’m concerned with how I look.

Hmmm … I’m noticing a pattern here.

It’s all about me and what’s mine and making sure that I get what’s mine and what’s coming to me.

How sad. I don’t want my life to be summed up as It’s all about me. I want to be remembered as someone who put others above herself. Who loved unconditionally. Who wasn’t worried about getting what she deserved.

I’m a Christian. I’ve already gotten what I don’t deserve. Grace. Forgiveness. Mercy.

May I pass on those things and quit squawking about what’s mine. 


Book Talk Tuesday: The Flight of Gemma Hardy


I don’t remember why I requested this one from the library. I probably read a couple reviews and decided I needed to read it.

It’s very good. It will likely go on my Best of 2012 list.


The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a novel, by Margot Livesey    The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey is part update and part homage to Jane Eyre  but it is much more. Gemma’s story stands on its own just fine.

Gemma is an orphan with a nasty aunt who sends her away to boarding school where Gemma ends up more servant than scholarship student.

As a young adult, Gemma is forced to make her way in the world without friends, family, or funds.

She lands a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands of Scotland. Anyone familiar with Jane Eyre and her story will know the arc of Gemma’s story.

Livesey’s writing is poetical but practical. She keeps the story moving with well-drawn characters who stand on their own. Gemma has a steel will and this can make her a bit unsympathetic since she’s so determined to have her own way. But given her background, it’s understandable, and so forgivable.

I loved the beginning with Gemma’s childhood. The rest of the book is excellent, but not quite as magical and enthralling as those first hundred pages or so.

Definitely recommended, especially for Jane Eyre fans, but anyone can read and appreciate The Flight of Gemma Hardy for what it is: an excellent book.


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat


Previously: Sarah Jane asked Linda why she agreed to the reality dating show. Linda told Sarah Jane about a non-profit she works with that helps women escape the overseas sex trade. Liam told Cassie she had to repeat her apology to Amanda for hitting her in the nose with a volleyball. A blue pickup arrived at the beach that looks like Sarah Jane’s brother Jake’s truck.

Chapter Thirty

I watched the blue truck glide to a stop. I strained for a glimpse of the driver. The passenger door flew open and a girl hurtled toward me.

“Auntie SJ!” April wrapped her arms around my waist.

A cameraman swiveled in my direction.

“April? What are you doing here? How did you find me?”

Nathan, not Jake, strode to us, shoving his keys into the front pocket of his jeans. “It wasn’t easy.”

“What’s wrong?” Since Mom and Dad were both gone, and April was right here, I couldn’t imagine what propelled Nathan to find me on a Malibu beach.

“April misses her aunt.” Nathan pushed the ball cap up his forehead. His expression was a mixture of affection and exasperation. He gave me a one-armed Richter man-hug. “She refuses to eat. She cries herself to sleep. She’s driving her mother crazy so Anna did some internet searches and she found your name at your school’s website as a teacher. She asked her Facebook friends if anyone knew a family from that school. It took a couple weeks, but here we are.”

Now it was my turn to be exasperated. “I still have my Rosedale cell phone number. She could have just called.”

“She figured you wouldn’t answer. Either the phone or her questions.”

He was right. If Anna called I wouldn’t have picked up. April stood between us, watching her Uncle Nathan and I talk.

“But, still, Nate,” I said. “You drove four hours to talk to me on a beach?”

He shrugged. “It gave me an excuse for a day off.”

“What about the peaches? And the plums?”

“Jake said he, Daniel, and Abel can get along without me for one day. It was important to his daughter that she see her aunt.” His eyes grew steely. “And that she be reassured her aunt hasn’t abandoned her and that her aunt is fine and healthy.”

I bit my lower lip and nodded, then crouched to look April in the eye. “Do you want to go in the water? It’s chilly, but—”

April didn’t let go of my leg. “Yes!”

We turned and made our way to the wet sand line. The camera followed. A few of the other girls gave us curious looks as we passed. The volleyball players giggled as they fell in the sand.

“SarahJane!” I turned to the voice.

Cassie jogged up. “That was a waste of words and time. I guess it’s not filmed anymore so I can’t say it was a waste of film. What do you waste on digital? Space? Megabytes? Pixels?” The whole time she talked, she eyed Nathan.

When she paused for a breath, I jumped in. “Cassie, this is my brother Nathan, and my niece April.”

Nathan stuck out his hand. “Pleased to meet you. I’m not April’s father.”

I laughed as Cassie shook his hand. The cameraman backed up.

“We’re just going in the water,” I said. “April wanted to visit me and Nathan agreed to bring her.”

“I’ve heard all about you, April,” Cassie said. She flashed a smile at Nathan. “But not a word about your uncle. Are there any more brothers at home, SarahJane?”

Nathan grinned. “Two other bachelors. I’m the good looking one, though.”

Liam joined our little group. “What’s going on?”

I made the introductions and explanations.

“Okay, but Nathan, you’ll have to sign a release. And we can’t have April on camera without a parent’s consent.”

Nathan and I exchanged a glance. “That’s not going to happen,” I said.

Liam nodded. “Well, try to keep her back to the camera so we don’t have to pixelize her face.”

“But this isn’t part of the show, right?” I asked. “Nathan and April just came to visit me. They’re not staying. And they don’t have anything to do with Austin or Linda looking for true love.”

Liam nodded but then his eyes glazed over. “Uh … yeah … maybe …” His gaze snapped back to Nathan. “I gotta check on something. Enjoy your swim. Help yourself to food at the catering truck. I’ll be back. Don’t leave until I talk to you though.” He turned and jogged away, his feet churning a sand wake.

“What’s that all about?” Nathan asked.

Cassie and I stared at Liam’s retreating back then looked at each other and shrugged. “No telling,” I said. “But it’s not going to be good.”


Book Talk Tuesday: Invisible

A friend recommended this to me and since I already had it on my Kindle, it was an easy one to try.

Invisible - A Christian Book written by Lorena McCourtney by Lorena McCourtney

Ivy Malone may be older than Nancy Drew but she’s not yet into Miss Marple territory. She’s shocked to learn that with age, comes a thin sheen of invisibility. Many people barely glance at her and fewer still realize she still has feelings and purpose.

Ivy lives in a Missouri town that has grown and changed. She doesn’t know everyone at church any more. Many of her neighbors have moved. Other unsettling things happen. The country cemetery where her friend Thea’s family is buried has been vandalized. Thea is distraught and Ivy promises to help.

That help leads to running for her life from local organized crime.

I enjoyed this. Ivy is spunky and pragmatic and likeable. She’s real.

You don’t have to be of ‘a certain age,’ to enjoy Invisible by Lorena McCourtney.


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat

Previously: Sarah Jane and Linda, Austin’s mother, walked along the beach getting acquainted. Someone buried Sarah Jane’s flip-flops and towel under a mound of sand. Linda invited Sarah Jane to sit on her beach blanket. Sarah Jane asked about Austin as a little boy.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

“Austin was obsessed with superheroes. He broke his leg when he was eight jumping off the stairs. He tied a towel around his neck for a cape, said a few words he’d made up as a ‘magic’ phrase, and leaped. He was in a cast all summer which cured him of believing he had super powers.”

I reached to the blanket’s edge, picked up a handful of sand, then let it sift out through my fingers. “Sounds like he’s daring.”

“He is that.” Linda sounded bemused.

“Why are you on the show, Linda?” I asked.

The only sound was the sand making a miniature dune. I scooped up more and repeated the process. When the silence had stretched to a full minute, I looked at her.

Sunglasses hid her eyes, but her mouth was pulled into a tight line and compassion stabbed me.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Never mind. It’s none of my business.”

She sighed. “No, turnabout is fair play. I asked you first.”

“It’s twofold. Part of it is Austin’s story to tell. The other is … it sounds so self-serving when I say it out loud, but if I want your girls to be honest about yourself and your motives, I guess I have to be the same.”

By now a giant pit had opened in my stomach and possibilities skidded through my mind. She and Austin ran a sex trafficking ring, finding girls and shipping them overseas to be auctioned off. No, I discarded that one immediately. The FBI or the State Department or someone would notice if women from a television show started disappearing. Maybe they ran a pyramid scheme business and wanted to recruit naïve women to invest.

“I have a non-profit group and I wanted to raise awareness of what we do,” Linda said.

My shoulders slumped and I exhaled with relief. “Whew. That’s so much better than what I was just imagining.”

She laughed and ran a hand down her throat. “I’m afraid to ask what you were thinking.”

“What kind of work does your non-profit do?”

“We help women caught in the sex trade. We teach them, give them skills to make a living.”

Guilt about what I’d speculated a minute ago flooded me. “How wonderful!” I must have said it too loudly because from the corner of my eye I saw the sound man with the earphones jump a little and make a shushing motion. “I mean, that’s really admirable,” I said in a lower tone. “Tell me about it.”

“It’s called Out of Darkness, Into Hope. DTH for short.” Linda pushed her sunglasses on top of her head. “We have workers in several southeast Asia countries and we want to expand.” Her voice filled with passion as she went on to tell me about some of the women her group had already saved.

“Austin may have thought and dreamed about being a super hero, but you’re doing the work of one,” I said.

She shook her head. “I’m just the stateside face. I try to raise awareness and funds, but it’s hard. We’re a complacent people and we don’t like to acknowledge unpleasant realities.”

My brow furrowed. “Do you think it’s that or are we just so overwhelmed by the magnitude of some issues that we don’t know where to start?”

Her head waggled. “Maybe.” She didn’t sound convinced.


We looked up as Austin strode to the shelter, a girl on either side. “Let’s go for a walk. Tiff and Hayley want to get acquainted with you.”

“Coming.” Linda stood and turned to face me. “Thanks for the chat, Sarah Jane. I better go do my mom thing.” She winked, grabbed her sarong and made her way to Austin and the girls.

Before I had a chance to wonder what to do, Cassie joined me on the blanket. Liam followed her.

“We have a problem.” Liam crouched next to us. “Amanda is threatening to leave the show. Her nose is swollen.”

Cassie shrugged. “It was an accident and I apologized.”

Liam nodded. “There was a problem with the sound and the production people want you to do it again.”

“Are you kidding me?” Cassie sounded more annoyed than angry but I agreed with her.

“It should be done and over,” I said.

“This is the reality of reality television. Sometimes the reality is scripted.” Liam stood. “Come with me. They’re set up near the volleyball net.”

Cassie sighed but got to her feet and followed him.

A flash of blue caught the edge of my gaze and my head followed as if magnetized.

A pickup had pulled into the parking lot.

A blue pickup just like my brother Jake’s.


Book Talk Tuesday: Chasing Mona Lisa

I’d heard some great things about this book but also read a few that were less glowing.

I’m on the good to excellent side. Maybe not fabulous, but certainly worth picking up.

Chasing Mona Lisa

Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey is a sequel to The Swiss Courier by the same duo. I have not read The Swiss Courier so I was concerned if that might be a problem.

It wasn’t a problem exactly. More like a barrier.

I liked the story and had no problems following the different threads.

Chasing Mona Lisa is about Gabi and Eric, characters from the first book, as well as Bernard and Colette, another couple. Paris is liberated in the early pages and the two couples race the Nazis to retrieve the Mona Lisa that had been secreted away from Paris and the Louvre.

The book is tightly plotted and well written. My only problem stems from not seeing Gabi and Eric’s relationship grow. Colette and Bernard were supposed to be equally in love, but I never felt connected to them in a way that let me into their relationship. When one suspects the other of being a double agent, I had no emotional investment in the outcome.

Over all, I enjoyed it and I recommend it. It’s probably a good idea to start with The Swiss Courier though, so you can join Gabi and Eric for their journey to love and “happily ever after.”