Moving on ...

A year ago I started a second blog at www.livevicarrieous.com

I had several reasons for the change.

  • Chocolate, No Nuts is a bit of a frivolous name. The .blogspot.com addendum is also amateurish. 
  • Although the livevicarrious blog is hosted by WordPress, I was able to buy the domain name so I eliminated the hosting portion of the blog name so I appear more professional. 
  • Experienced bloggers recommend WordPress over Blogger. 
So, I started the second blog. For a long time I've been cross posting to both blogs. Recently I've been posting book reviews here and other posts on the livevicarrieous site.

This will be the last post on this site. 

Book Talk Tuesday, Woe! It's Wednesday, and Author Spotlight Thursdays will continue at www.livevicarrieous.com

Although I only have 25 followers, I have many more page views so I know lots of my friends and family check in on me here. 

I know it's an inconvenience, but would you please take a minute to click on the link above, and either add it to your favorites or signup to follow that blog? I so appreciate each one of you who either comments on the blog or texts me or emails me or calls me or comments on Facebook to let me know you read my thoughts and ramblings. 

As a thank you, the first five people who leave a comment will win a free book (of my choice). Just leave your email address and I'll contact you for your snail mail address. 

Thank you!


Book Talk Tuesday: The Perfect Summer

The Perfect Summer by Luanne Rice is a wonderful book about the exact opposite of what the title promises. Bay McCabe  loves her life and her family. It's the longest day of the year, a day she loves and savors each summer. Her hopes and expectations for the coming months are dashed when her husband forgets to pick up their youngest daughter from softball practice.
Life changes for Bay and her three children when Sean doesn't come home at all that night. Then the bank officers where he works, the police, and the FBI come around asking questions about accounts Sean managed.
Daniel Connolly was Bay's first love when she was fifteen. They spent a summer hanging out and working together. Life moved on and Bay settled into her life with Sean. Until Sean disappeared and one of the last people he talked to was Dan, now working as a boat builder.
I've enjoyed Luanne Rice's books in the past. I loved The Geometry of Sisters and Follow the Stars Home. This was another good one.
Some snobs may dismiss Luanne's novels as too light or populist, but that's the kind of stuff I like. It takes me out of my life and gives me a glimpse of another's journey through love and loss. This one made me think about what would my perfect summer look like. And at the end of the season, would I look back with joy, peace, and contentment or anguish, doubt, and longing?


Book Talk Tuesday: One Was A Soldier

I'm a big Julia Spencer-Fleming fan. When we took a trip to upstate New York in 2011, I felt very comfortable there, like I'd been there before. The lake. The farms. The dairies. The village. The brick storefronts. It took me a while to realize it felt so familiar because I had been there before, thanks to Julia and her Reverend Clare novels. Julia did such a great job making the setting of Millers Kill come alive on the page that it was a short hop to thinking I’d been there when I saw it for real.

In the latest book, Clare is back from a stint as a National Guard chopper pilot in Iraq. She’s drinking too much, self-medicating too much, and having nightmares. She’s not alone. She joins a support group for other returning vets and gets drawn into their stories. The double leg amputee. The married woman whose battlefield affair follows her home. The doctor who can’t remember which patient he just saw and what he prescribed. The cop with anger management issues.

The ending of this one is a shocker and it's already two years old. I can't wait for the next installment. Please, Julia, hurry up and write!


Book Talk Tuesday: Field of Darkness

Book Talk Tuesday: Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read

I've been looking forward to this one for a long while.
I used to lurk on several mystery writer email loops and Cornelia Read's comments were always pithy, witty, and spot on.

Field of Darkness is Read's debut novel, but it reads like it's from an accomplished pro, which of course it is. She has three more books in addition to this one.

Madeline Dare comes from money so old it was coined on the Mayflower. Except she no longer has access to it. She's happily married but unhappily living in upstate New York and working as the lifestyle reporter for the local paper.

In a dinner conversation with her in-laws, a long-unsolved murder is mentioned and piques Maddie's interest. Her father-in-law shows her his connection to the case: a set of dog-tags he found at the scene. Dog-tags with the name of her favorite Oyster Bay cousin.

The case won't let go of Maddie and she begins to investigate just enough to prove her cousin's innocence. But by then, she's roused dogs that weren't just sleeping, they were tranquilized and now they're hungry and angry.

Field of Darkness was just what I expected from Cornelia Read. Clever, tight, and a rollicking good read. Just enough humor to keep it from being depressingly dark. Enough suspense to keep me turning the pages long into the night.

I'll add Read's other books to my towering stack of To-Be-Reads.


Woe! It’s Wednesday: Perspective

I was reminded today of one of my favorite legends.

I’ve heard it told as an anecdote about the prophet Elijah, King Arthur’s Merlin, and an unnamed wise man. I’ll use Elijah because I want to.

Elijah and his aide were journeying through a kingdom. They stopped at a rich man’s home and asked for shelter for the night. The rich man sent them to his barn and tossed them some pig slop for dinner.

The next morning, Elijah thanked the rich man and paid for a local tradesman to repair his crumbling wall. 

That night they lodged with a poor couple who shared their home and food freely, including plenty of milk from their only cow.

The next morning, the cow died.

As Elijah and his assistant continued on their journey, the younger man became angry with God and demanded Elijah tell him why the rich man was allowed to treat them so poorly and have his fence mended while the generous poor couple had to lose their cow.

Elijah sighed. “What you don’t know is that there was a vast treasure buried in the rich man’s wall. I had it repaired so he wouldn’t find it and become more greedy and selfish. It had been decreed that the poor woman would die that night, but in appreciation for the hospitality, God took the cow instead.”

I love that there’s more going on here that we don’t know. That it all comes down to trust. Trust and obey. Hey, I hear a song coming on…

Oh. Anyway, I remind myself of this story when things happen that I can’t make sense of.

Sometimes I forget that God is in charge and I’m not Him. He has his reasons. He is sovereign. He knows what’s needed and what’s best. I trust Him.

I do.


Thanks, I needed to be reminded that I do.


Book Talk Tuesday: Full Disclosure

Ann Silver is a “cop’s cop.” She’s the officer called in to consult on the hard to solve cases throughout the mid-West. Paul Falcon is a top FBI agent. They meet when Ann works a case and uncovers evidence on one of Paul’s longtime aggravations: a female assassin who’s eluded capture for a decade.

Full DisclosureAnn brings the evidence to Paul and they discover they have many friends in common. Paul is intrigued by Ann and pursues a relationship with her. She isn’t as sure as he is, but she allows them a friendship to see where it leads.

Meanwhile, two other cases consume their time and attention. Then their interests and their cases intersect.

I’ve been a rabid Dee Henderson fan since I picked up my first O’Malley book. I devour them all. I was so looking forward to this one. So perhaps it’s my own fault. I gave it an impossibly high bar to reach. It’s probably not the books nor the author’s fault that for me, this one didn’t quite measure up.

It’s well written. But it just felt flat to me. Part of it is the character of Ann Silver. She’s too perfect. The woman has no flaws. She’s a hotshot consultant. Everyone LOVES her and gushes about how fabulous she is. She’s an ace pilot with friends at every airport in the country. Sure, she’s a lousy cook and she has nightmares. Maybe it’s just me, but I had a hard time feeling anything for her.

Paul is nearly as perfect. Adopted into an already large family, he wears the inherited mantle of eldest son well. He’s intrigued when he meets Ann and questions his friends and family members to learn what makes her tick. He moves their relationship along as calculatingly as if he were spreading a noose for someone on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

As many friends and family member as Ann and Paul had in common, someone would have introduced them long before Ann flew into Chicago to tell Paul a story.

I’ll read more by Dee Henderson, but I’ll be sure to hold the bar a little lower. That way I won’t be disappointed again.


Woe! It’s Wednesday: Positively Maybe I’m Done With Downton Abbey

Unless you’ve been living on the slopes of Mount Everest, you’ve probably heard all the kerfuffle about Downton Abbey and its season ending episode. Viewers are outraged and threatening Julian Fellowes with pitchforks and torches. The writers and production team are busy pointing fingers and yelling their reasons.

I’ve read some of both sides and I have to say, I agree with them both. 

The reasons it made sense:

Viewers liked the actor and wouldn’t want to see that character played by anyone else.

His story arc was done. What else could be done to him?

His death would make the other characters mine their own depths for future storylines.


The reasons con:

It was the second family member death in Season 3. How many tragedies should this family bear?

The whole episode ended with no hope for next year. No reason to tune in. Grief. Mourning. More black dresses.

Viewers feel betrayed.

I’m not sure I feel betrayal but dismay? Definitely.

This season seemed more soap opera than period drama. It also began overlaying 21st century political correctness on early 20th century conventions. I don’t believe that a man who would forbid his family to be served lunch by a former prostitute would be so accepting of a homosexual man dressing him and serving at his table.

I’ll likely tune in to the beginning of Season 4, but they better hook me and reel me in. Otherwise, I’ll move on.

What do you think? Did the ending leave you yearning for more? Or were you let down?


Book Talk Tuesday: Still Life

A friend recommended Louise Penny’s series set in Quebec. Still Life is the first and it was cheap on Kindle so I splurged and bought it and read it on a recent car trip. 
I enjoyed it.
Inspector Armand Gamache is called to a village in rural Montreal where an inoffensive retired teacher has been found dead. At first it appears Jane Neal died from a hunting accident but why didn’t the hunter report it? Clara Morrow, Jane’s best friend, is distraught and her husband feels helpless. As the Inspector spends time in Three Pines and gets to know the residents, he sees there is much more to the village than it appears on the surface.
The book is well written, although Penny breaks one of the of the hard and fast “rules” of writing. We’re in multiple points of view throughout the book, often in two or three different heads in the same scene. This doesn’t typically bother me, but I know some readers hate that and I did find it jarring a few times and had to look back to be sure when I thought I’d been in someone else’s head in the previous paragraph.
I’m so backed up with books waiting to be read that I probably won’t seek out the next in the series, but if it were offered to me, I’d put it on my stack.


Woe! It’s Wednesday: Life in Paradise

When this posts, I should be over midway through our dream vacation in Maui. It’s the longest I’ve been away from home. The longest I’ve slept on a strange bed and a new pillow. The longest I’ve spent without a dog or cat curled up my feet. The longest I’ve gone without vacuuming, dusting, or scrubbing toilets.

DSCN4551Part of me is really looking forward to the time away. Another part of me is dreading it. I don’t know how much I’ll miss my pillow. It will help that our kids and grandkids are coming with us for the first two weeks, so it’ll be less time that we’re separated from them and less time to miss them.

It’s strange that something that should be fun and relaxing can also induce feelings of uncertainty and unease. It’s the fear of the unknown. Another fear. Yes, I see the irony. This is the year I’m facing fears and conquering them. And another one is about to clobber me.

Well, there’s only cure. Pack my bag and step on that plane.

God willing, that’s what I’ll be doing in a few days. By the time you read this, I’ll be in paradise. But who knows if I’ll be having just enough fun and dreading the time to come home or if I’ll be counting the days till I get to hug my dog and cat.


Book Talk Tuesday: A Quilt For Jenna

I'm a little tired of Amish fiction so I opened A Quilt for Jenna with just a bit of trepidation.

I was immediately captivated by Jerusha's pain and her need to quilt and flee her life and her grief. I loved the book! A Quilt for Jenna by Patrick E. CraigAnother reviewer said, “Amish + Quilts = reader’s delight!”

I concur.

Jerusha and Reuben fell in love but Reuben wasn’t an Amish man in good standing with the community. Then he went off to fight in World War II. He came home a changed man, determined to live by the Ordung, and return to his Amish roots. He and Jerusha marry and are happy.

A few years later, Jerush and Reuben lose their only child, Jenna. Neither Reuben nor Jerusha can find their way back to the other. Reuben blames himself forJenna’s death. So does Jerusha. Reuben has left their Amish community. Jerusha has stitched a wonderful quilt that is to be her ticket out of Apple Creek.

On Thanksgiving weekend 1950, a horrific storm blew through Ohio, capturing Jerusha and her quilt in its fury. A little girl in the back seat of another car is abandoned and left to die. The two find each other and take refuge from the storm.

Patrick Craig is equally as good at both the male and female points of view. The battle scenes at Guadalcanal are as painstakingly crafted as Jerusha's quilting scenes.

I liked how the backstory of what happened during World War II was interwoven with the 1950's events.

Mr. Craig accomplished what I thought was impossible: weaving a compelling Amish/quilting story into a wonderful tale of love, loss, and redemption.
I'll definitely read the next one in the Apple Creek Dreams series!


Spotlight Thursday: Richard Mabry, Medical Suspense

Last week's Author Spotlight included a picture of my first Mount Hermon mentoring group with Gayle Roper. Richard Mabry was also in that group. Richard writes medical suspense. I've reviewed several of his books here and I'm delighted to turn the spotlight on him this week.


Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, past Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the author of five published novels of medical suspense. His books have been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award and Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year. His last novel, Lethal Remedy, won a 2012 Selah Award from the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. His most recent medical thriller, Stress Test (Thomas Nelson), will release in April, to be followed by Heart Failure in October.


Richard, what's your newest book called and what's it about?

Stress Test is scheduled for release in early April, but is already available through every major bookseller. There’s a preview posted on my website, and here’s the back cover copy.  
Dr. Matt Newman thought he was leaving his life as a surgeon in private practice for a better one in academic medicine. But the kidnappers who attack him as he leaves the hospital at two AM have no such plans—they just want him dead. Bound and in the trunk of his car, Matt's only thought is fleeing with his life. He does escape, but at a price: a head injury that lands him in the ICU . . . where he awakens to discover he's being charged with murder.
Sandra Murray is a fiery, redheaded lawyer who swore she was done with doctors after her last relationship. But when Matt calls, she knows she can't walk away from defending someone who is truly innocent.
Matt's career is going down the drain. His freedom and perhaps his life may be next. But with the police convinced he's a killer and the kidnappers still trying to finish what they started, finding the truth—and the faith to keep going—will be the toughest stress test Matt has ever endured.

-Which of your characters is most like you and why?

That would be Dr. Ben Merrick, and before your readers start thumbing through my books, he hasn’t seen the light of day yet. Ben is the protagonist in my very first (unpublished) novel, working title More Than A Game, playing a failed baseball player who goes on to medical school, but gets discouraged with his practice and looks for a way back into baseball.

Not only is my background similar (played semi-pro ball, could throw the curve but not hit it), but like Ben I’ve wondered at times if it was too late to find another profession. Now, after retirement, it appears that I have.    Carrie's note: I've had the privilege of reading the opening of More Than A Game and I love it! It's the story that made me Richard's fan before he was published.

-How do you celebrate when you finish a book?

Unfortunately, it always seems that when I finish a book I’m also involved in marketing the last one and thinking up an idea for the next one. However, we sometimes celebrate with a dinner at some purveyor of comfort food, like Gazebo Hamburgers or El Fenix Mexican Restaurant. (What, you were expecting fine dining featuring champagne and caviar? Let me explain to you about royalties sometime).

-What's your favorite part of the writing process?

Once I have the first draft finished, I get to go through the book page by page and make it better without having to wonder where the action is going or how the plot will devolve. That’s fun.

On the other hand, I don’t particularly like responding to line edits, when it can seem as though someone is leaning over my shoulder, whispering in my ear. Go figure!

-What's your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

I can distill what I’ve learned into three phrases: 1) Learn the craft, 2) attend at least one writer’s conference, and 3) write, get your work critiqued by someone who knows what they’re doing, revise, repeat the process again and again and again. I think it takes all three to become a successful writer.

-When you read for pleasure, what's your favorite genre?

I enjoy suspense and thrillers, often with a touch of humor. Unfortunately, many of the authors whose work I love to read are now dead—Dorothy Sayers, Ross Thomas, Donald Westlake, Robert B. Parker—but their work is so good I keep re-reading it. Some of the work of James Scott Bell’s has a similar feel, and I enjoy it. And I’m sure I’ll think of other names as soon as this is over.

-Any last words?

Did the Governor call? Oh, wait. You don’t mean that kind of last words.

To the writers out there: If you find that, even after deciding to quit writing, you keep coming back to your computer, turning over ideas, trying out scenarios in your mind—don’t stop. You’re a writer, whether you’re ever published. You can’t “not” write. It’s your calling.

To the readers: Thanks for inviting me into your home. I hope I can entertain you and glorify God. If I accomplish those two things, I’ll feel I have succeeded.

To my host: Carrie, Gayle Roper’s class at Mount Hermon was a great place to start my road to writing. It was a pleasure to share it with you, and I continue to value your friendship. Thanks for having me here.

Richard, it was my pleasure. I've enjoyed your writing since that group and you've only gotten better! Thank you for letting me turn the spotlight on you.


Woe! It’s Wednesday: Fear Check-in

I did a scary thing recently.

I commented on a political Facebook post. Even though I knew the person was opposite me in our political beliefs. The person whose post I was commenting on was perfectly nice and civil and we had a good discussion. Neither of us changed our minds about our positions. But something interesting happened.

We’re still speaking. S/he didn’t decide to unfriend me. They didn’t name call or question my upbringing.

It was actually quite delightful. I may do it again someday.

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Book Talk Tuesday: Always the Designer, Never the Bride

I’ve read and enjoyed the first two in this series and was ready for a little light reading so I turned to Always the Designer, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker.
Audrey Regan has been working and designing wedding gowns in New York. She returns to Atlanta and the Tanglewood Inn with her most beautiful dress ever. It’s for Audrey’s best friend Carly. While in Atlanta Audrey’s faltering business loses its last-hope client. But things are looking up when a local bride is interested in what Audrey can do for her on short notice. And the very intriguing JR is another reason Audrey doesn’t mind staying a little longer in Atlanta.
We met other couples from the Tanglewood in Bricker’s previous books. Emma Rae is the baker from Always the Baker, Never the Bride and Sherilyn is the wedding planner from Always the Wedding Planner, Never ….  well, you get the idea.
The books are all light and fun and can be read quickly. Perfect for a rainy afternoon by the fire.


Spotlight Thursday: Gayle Roper

Author Spotlight: Gayle Roper

I had the pleasure of meeting Gayle Roper at the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer's Conference. That's part of our group up above. Several are now published and I'm sure they credit Gayle with helping them along the way. She's in the front right. 

She's been my mentor, but more than that, she's become a friend. I love Gayle's books and their mixture of romance, suspense, with a dash of humor. I asked her some questions and you get to peek over my shoulder. 

Gayle, tell us about your newest book and what sparked the idea.

My most recent book is Shadows on the Sand, the fifth of my books set in my fictionalized Jersey shore town of Seaside. I was talking with my editor, and she mentioned that there might be a story in the cop who shows up at the crime in the other four books. Yes, I thought. Greg would be a good hero. Only trouble was that the books are romantic suspense and Greg was already married. What to do, what to do! But I figured it out as you’ll see when you read the book.

As for the heroine, she needed to be someone he’d interact with more than just politely at a crime scene. Enter Carrie who runs Carrie’s CafĂ© where Greg eats breakfast each morning. She’s a gutsy lady who’s more than a match for a cynical cop.

Which of your characters is most like you and why?

I don’t think any of my characters are like me. Some of them do things like I do, say drink Coke or enjoy Oreos, but they aren’t me. In fact one of the great challenges is writing characters who aren’t like me. What would he or she do in this situation since they don’t think like me?

How do you celebrate when you finish a book?

Aside from feeling several pounds lighter with the weight of the project gone from my shoulders? Go out for dinner. I love to eat out (I think that really means I don’t especially like to cook), so going out for a nice meal is my favorite was to celebrate.

What's your favorite part of the writing process?

My favorite part of writing is definitely rewriting. Getting the words on the page originally is hard, hard work. But playing with them, making them the best I can, adding more personality, more depth, more humor, more everything—that’s great fun. I am a sparse writer when I originally put something on paper, so deepening every part of the story is not only necessary but fun and exciting.

When you read for pleasure, what's your favorite genre?

I enjoy romantic suspense, mysteries with a touch of romance, and some straight romance if the plot is complex enough. There’s something wonderful about being taken to a world that’s not mine, especially on days when my world seems boring or sad or too hard. When the Bible says to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, I don’t think it means fictional somebodies. Still there’s a sense of life becoming a bit brighter and better when in the company of characters and a story you like.


Woe! It’s Wednesday: When it rains …

I often wonder how people without a faith get through life.

Not just for the big things like cancer, catastrophes, or chemical spills, but for things like traffic jams and a tax bill and a leaky dishwasher.   Or a dog in the dishwasher.

Do they rail at an unknown entity and shake their fist at the universe? Or shrug and figure it’s their turn to be swatted by the cosmos?

As a believer, life is so much easier when I know high blood pressure, crazy political rants, and gophers serve a higher purpose.

To make me more like Christ.

How does a leaky dishwasher make me resemble Jesus?

Well, if I take a deep breath and remember that God orders my day, then for some reason unknown to me, I must need to be one with dishwasher that day. I may not like it. I may not enjoy it. But it’s where I’m supposed to be and that’s good enough for me.

I hope I remember this lesson the next time I’m stuck in traffic and hungry and I know a pile of laundry is waiting for me at home.


Book Talk Tuesday: Becoming Fearless

I’ve sensed a theme forming for 2013. I keep crossing paths with books and speakers addressing the subject of Fear.

Becoming Fearless: My Ongoing Journey of Learning to Trust God

Becoming Fearless: My Ongoing Journey of Learning to Trust God crossed my path several months ago and I downloaded it to my Kindle. I finally read it and can see that indeed fear does keep me in my comfort zone.

Michelle Aguilar won the sixth season of The Biggest Loser. We watch the show and I remember Michelle in a general way but had forgotten many of her particulars until I read her book. She and mother were estranged but had reunited to be teammates on the show.

In Becoming Fearless Michelle tells the rest of the story. Why she and her mother had become distant and how Michelle masked that pain with food and her smile.

Michelle quoted her trainer Jillian Michaels: “Feel the fear. And do it anyway.” I heard Jillian herself say it on the February 11th episode of The Biggest Loser.

She has an compelling story that is told with honesty. I heartily recommend it, especially to anyone feeling held in place by fear.


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat

Previously: The charm ceremony finished and SarahJane was not offered a charm. Austin walked her out and told her she was too nice and likeable and the show was more for his actress mother to be in front of an audience than it was for him to find love. He liked her but she had to go.

Chapter Forty-Six

It took a couple of days of Grey’s Anatomy reruns and intense Hershey’s Kisses therapy, but by the following Monday I had recovered somewhat. Enough to go out anyway and get the mail and begin to think about the rest of the summer.

Even though a lifetime of events had happened to me since school let out for the summer, it was only late July. I had three more weeks before I had to be back in the classroom.

I walked into apartment Monday afternoon and stopped as I heard April’s voice pleading. “Please come home. Or at least for a vis—” The answering machine cut her off. That must have been quite a speech. I flopped down on the couch.

If I had the energy I’d just erase her whole message. I couldn’t even conjure up the oomph to delete her from my machine, much less drive four hours for a visit. I pulled a throw pillow close and let myself drift to sleep.


I forced my one eyelid open.

“Auntie SarahJane, are you there?”

It took a mighty shove against the couch cushion to get me upright but I managed it. It sounded like April but I was still alone in my little living room.

“Why won’t you answer?” The plaintive voice sounded from the answering machine. I sighed and reached for the phone.

“I’m here, Punkin. How are you?” I forced a note of cheer into my voice but even I could hear its falseness.

“Where have you been? Why haven’t you called me back?”

“April, you knew I was out of town and couldn’t make or return any phone calls. I told you that when you and Nathan came down a few weeks ago.” And Nathan stayed on the show and wooed everyone until they decided to keep the fun and cute Richter and send his loser sister packing.

“I know.” She sniffed. “But I thought you’d call anyway.”

Ahh, the logic of kids. “I’m sorry, Sweetie. What did you want to talk about?”

“Well, here it is … I was wondering if I could come visit you?” She hurried to convince me. “I know you’re busy with the show and everything. But wouldn’t it be good for them to see how you interact with children? And it’s so convenient because I’m a child and I already know you so you could interact with me.”

Her words tumbled over each other in a rush and she did something I thought was impossible just two minutes ago. She made me laugh.


Thursday Author Spotlight: Patrick E. Craig

I had the privilege of meeting and working with Patrick last year at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. His first book was recently released from Harvest House. I reviewed it here and really enjoyed it.

Here are a few questions (and answers) from Patrick.



You are a man who writes Amish fiction and there are very few out there. Why Amish?

In late 2010, I read a blog by Nick Harrison, a senior editor at Harvest House Publishers, whom I had met at the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. Nick said for the first month of 2011 he would accept story ideas, and he liked Amish and quilting stories.

At first I thought, I’m a man and I know nothing about the Amish or quilting, but I felt compelled to go for it anyway. I didn’t realize it at the time, but God had put a wide-open door in front of me. I went for it and sent Nick a one-sheet for a story called “A Quilt For Jenna.”

What happened then?

Nick really liked the story idea and proposed that we consider it for an anthology of short stories. He asked for some sample chapters so I wrote three short ones, thinking that we were working on a short story.

So you were writing short chapters for a short story. How did it become a novel?

The 2011 Mt. Hermon Conference was coming up and I sent the chapters to Steve Laube, a literary agent, for a critique. At the conference, I met with Steve. He asked if the story could be a novel and if I could make a three-book series out of it. I took a deep breath and said that I could. I spoke with Nick, and he also encouraged me to make it into a novel.

So did you get your book deal then or later?

Much later. I left Mt. Hermon in April with a mission—to write two chapters a week and finish by August. I sent the complete manuscript to Nick and Steve on September 15th. Steve contacted me about representing me, and Nick pitched it to the editorial committee at Harvest House. Then three weeks later, I got an e-mail from Nick that said, “It’s a yes!” I signed with Steve, he negotiated the contract, and we were on the way. In a few short months I had gone from knowing nothing about the Amish or quilting to having a three-book deal with Harvest House and a top literary agent to represent me. I’m now working on the second book, “The Road Home.”

What did you learn from this experience?

I learned two things: first—if the Lord opens a door, step through it, and second—you must let the Lord put you in the way of people who can help you. Writer’s conferences are great for that, and Mt. Hermon is one of the best.


Patrick E. Craig is a lifelong writer and musician who left a successful songwriting and performance career to follow Christ in 1984. He spent twenty-six years as a worship leader, seminar speaker, and pastor. He signed a three-book deal with Harvest House Publishers for his Apple Creek Dreams series. The first book, A Quilt for Jenna, was released February 1, 2013. You can contact Patrick by email at Patrick@patrickecraig.com or on Twitter @patrickecraig.


Woe! It’s Wednesday

I’ve noticed a theme forming for this year. I often take a word or phrase and try to consciously live it throughout the year. I’ve done Kindness, Speaking the Truth in Love, Defy Gravity. In 2013 the word that keeps cropping up is Fearless. Several books have crossed my path on taming fears.

I don’t tend to think of myself as a fearful person. My husband was a cop for nearly thirty years and people often asked me I worried about him and I truthfully said I did not.

I appear fearless. I’ve gone scuba diving and snorkeling. I rode a bike down Haleakala. I drive in San Francisco and LA. I fly.

But I’m coming to realize that fear and worry are not the same thing.

I am afraid of offending people so I tend to keep my opinions to myself until I feel safe.

I am afraid of being hurt.

In a recent writing exercise, I had to write why I was afraid to write the story. As I wrote a lot of reasons why I wasn’t afraid, it became apparent that I was afraid it would be good and then there would be expectations placed on me to do it again. So I’m afraid of success.

I’m afraid of rejection. I’ve talked about that one before, it’s a big one with me.

I’m a collector of quotes for all occasions. My current favorite is from Jillian Michaels, one of The Biggest Loser trainers. She says, “Feel the fear. Do it anyway.”

That’s my goal for this year. Figure out my fears. Acknowledge them. Do something scary anyway.


Book Talk Tuesday: Three Sisters

I’m a newcomer to Susan Mallery’s books but that just gives me more of her backlist to look forward to reading.

Three SistersAndi Gordon was jilted at the altar and in response she did the first impulsive thing in her life: she picked up stakes and moved to Blackberry Island off the coast of Seattle. She buys a worn down house on a cul-de-sac. Her house sits between two others. A perfectly restored home and one with more whimsy.

Artist Boston King thought she and her high school sweetheart husband were going to be together forever. They probably would be, except for the heartbreak that has torn them apart. Each is so wounded they may never find their way through the grief, much less back to each other.

Deanna Phillips confronts her husband about an assumed affair. She discovers that her marriage is in much more trouble than she ever suspected. And it has nothing to do with another woman. Deanna has worked hard to have the perfect family, the perfect marriage, and the perfect home. How will she survive if anyone finds out her life is a sham?

Each of the three women on the street needs a new beginning. Along the way they find each other and the life they are meant to live.

I really enjoyed Three Sisters. It was more women’s fiction that romance, although there’s plenty of that too. In fact, I need to caution my blog readers, there was a bit more sex than in the books I usually recommend, just FYI. Not a lot, but it was there and fairly graphic, although nowhere near pornographic. Okay? Okay.

Anyway, there was humor, heart, and real life. I believed these women could be living on an island, making margaritas, and encouraging each other. None of them pretend to have all the answers. Or any answers. But that’s what made them likeable and made me root for them.

I loved this one. My mountain of To Be Read books is so massive, I’ll likely never see the bottom of it, but I’ll definitely seek out another Blackberry Island novel by Susan Mallery. Anyone who enjoys Kristan Higgins, Jill Shalvis, or Susan Wigg’s Lakeshore Chronicles series will love this one.


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat

Previously: The charm ceremony was underway. Linda saved Cassie and a few other girls. Nathan saved Amanda and Shelly. Austin saved two girls. No one would look at SarahJane. Austin was about to announce his last girl.

Chapter Forty-Five

I blinked to keep the tears from spilling as Austin walked to me. “May I walk you out?” he asked.

I nodded, but truthfully I didn’t care if I ever saw him again. How had I let myself be sucked into this thing? It was billed as a game but I’d never had my heart broken by Clue or Monopoly.

“I owe you an explanation,” Austin said.

The cameraman backed down the steps in front of us. Just the sight of Joe with his black beanie and New Balance sneakers told me this was real. I wasn’t dreaming and it wasn’t some weird twist of the producers. Austin and Linda didn’t want me around anymore.

“I really do like you, SarahJane.” Austin took my hand and tucked it over his elbow. He guided me toward the waiting limo. “It’s not personal.”

I stopped and pierced him with what I hoped was a soul-searing gaze. “What are you talking about? This is a dating game. Of course it’s personal.”

He sighed. “I was afraid you’d see it like that.”

“Is there another way?”

“Look, I told you my mom was an actress. This was as much to get her back into the viewers’ eyesight as it was for me to fall in love. More, if we’re being completely honest.”

“Oh, please, let’s be honest for once.”

He opened the rear door and pulled me close for a good-bye hug. I might have believed in his sincerity if he hadn’t angled his face toward Joe’s camera and me towards the now hovering full moon behind the limo.

“You’re too likeable and too sweet. Mom and Liam think it’s better if I let you go.”

I pushed him back and crawled into the back seat. “No worries, Austin. I had fun.” I’d have pulled it off too, except my voice cracked just then and Austin shot me a look that—if I didn’t know better—I might have thought was caring and concern.

He raised a hand, his eyes stricken. “SarahJane—”

“Let’s go, please, Mike,” I said to the driver.

He obligingly put the car into drive and we headed down the hill to the exit.