Monday, April 20, 2015

Off the Bookshelf: C.S. LEWIS - A Life Inspired, by Christopher Gordon

Anybody who has known me for a while knows I adore C.S. Lewis. I have fond memories of discovering Narnia through a Sunday school paper when I was maybe in third or fourth grade. We got an actual chapter of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" every week .... I wish I still had those papers!

I graduated to his apologetics, and found them very intense, requiring lots of thought, and I'm sure I could reread those books every couple of years and still learn something from them. It's silly, but I really want to meet up with him in Heaven someday and say, "So, did I do a good job? Did you like any of my stories?" because he inspired me in many ways to write the kinds of books I write. He challenged me to write in fantastical genres and use them to explore matters of faith and spirit. I honestly hope I get at least a nod and a smile. Hmm, do you think we'll still be writing books and reading them in Eternity? Hope so!

So when I discovered a new book about the Master, I had to get it. I'm pretty sure it was either on sale or free at the time. It was refreshing to sit down and take small bites of this book -- because I've been so busy the last few weeks I haven't had time for any reading! -- and reacquaint myself with his life, his education, his spiritual rebirth, and an overview of his books. In many ways, this book can be considered an introduction, as it covers Lewis's life and writing very lightly. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested, but doesn't want to dive into a 400-page biography! Next on your reading list, I recommend "Surprised by Laughter," a study in Lewis' humor and writing, by my grad school adviser, Dr. Terry Lindvall.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

SPOTLIGHT: Tabor Heights -- DETOURS

Today's Spotlight is on DETOURS, from Year One of the Tabor Heights, Ohio series -- Inspirational romance following the lives and loves of the members of one congregation in the fictional town of Tabor Heights.

DETOURS started out as a stage play about three college girls who share an apartment, and the ups and downs and barriers to their dreams -- the Detours that they take on the way to what they want in life. Then I realized that the girls belonged with other characters I had started moving into Tabor, and they were students at Butler-Williams University.

Bekka, Kat and Amy are theater students -- mostly because I was a theater student. They're trying to get their breaks through writing. Kat writes screenplays, Bekka writes short stories and novels, and Amy is a poet. Kat has a different boyfriend every week, Amy keeps breaking up and making up with her boyfriend, Joe, and Bekka is too busy with three jobs and work study and writing to indulge in romance -- but she sure would like to try it.

Turning the story/script into a novel required me to focus on the romance of one of the three, so I chose Bekka. Shane was a walk-on character for the script at one point, then I decided I liked him enough that he was good enough to be Bekka's boyfriend. The "detours" of the title became all the obstacles to the two of them finally getting together. It takes them months of conflicting schedules and mis-information from various people and theater crises before they get their reward.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

SPOTLIGHT: Tabor Heights -- COMMON GROUNDS

Today's Spotlight is on one of the first published books in the series, from Year One:

COMMON GROUNDS

Xander Finley is a well-known character throughout the Tabor Heights series because he's the lawyer everyone turns to when they have legal problems, or just need advice. Common Grounds is the name of his legal clinic, which has a lot of support from the Arc Foundation, to help Xander and his team provide legal help to people who normally couldn't afford it.



Hannah Blake is Xander's Gal Friday, his assistant and office manager, the one who has been there helping him when Common Grounds was just a grand idea with a lot of opposition coming from other lawyers, including lawyers in Xander's own church.

After all this time, Hannah has given up on hoping Xander will wake up and realize he wants her in his life outside the office, too. She doesn't realize all the pressures that keep him from pursuing his feelings for her.

It take crisis to get people to realize that all the worries and concerns and roadblocks don't mean that much in the grand scheme of things. Between the pressures of opening up a branch office of Common Grounds and a copycat serial killer who has decided to target Hannah, the two of them get things straightened out. Finally.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

SPOTLIGHT: Tabor Heights -- BEHIND THE SCENES

The SPOTLIGHT today is on BEHIND THE SCENES, a pivotal book from Year One of the Tabor Heights series.

Why pivotal?

Well, some of the events that take place in BEHIND THE SCENES are mentioned in many of the other Year One books.

Max Randolph and Tony Martin are best friends and writing partners. They both wonder from time to time what it would be like to be "more" to each other ... but life is awful busy, behind the scenes at Homespun Theater, run by Max's parents.

Then tragedy strikes Max's family and her life is turned upside down and shaken for the next few weeks. First her parents are hit by a drunk driver in a semi truck. Then the world gets the news that Emily Keeler has been "found" -- living in Tabor Heights, running Homespun Theater with her family. The paparazzi descend on Tabor, and Max is busy salvaging an upcoming production, dodging the media, and trying to finish a book by deadline. Oh, yeah -- and making sure her natural father doesn't find out she exists.

Tony abandons his writer-in-residence program to come home to help. His absence from Tabor has impressed on him how much Max means to him. He proves it by being there for her, through all the ups and downs and personal tribulations. When will the time be right to tell Max that he loves her -- as more than just a best pal?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

SPOTLIGHT: Tabor Heights -- ACCIDENTAL HEARTS

Today's SPOTLIGHT is on a Tabor Heights Year One story: ACCIDENTAL HEARTS.

What do you do when you seem to be a trouble magnet? Anything that can go wrong, does. The worst part is when certain nieces and nephews want to help you with your romantic endeavors, but all their efforts just seem to add to the confusion.

Tyler Sloane and Abby Morgan meet entirely by accident when dropping off their respective nieces and nephews at summer camp. When his niece and nephew break and then try to fix his beloved Corvette, Abby comes to the rescue. Tyler is the director of the Royal Community Theater, while Abby is a pilot and
makes a living as a courier and giving flying lessons. Their schedules just never seem to mesh, except when the children are involved.

That's fine, but only up to a point. What will it take to shake free of the kids so they can find some private time and figure out if what they're feeling for each other is real, or just the excitement of all the accidents that hit them with frightening regularity?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Off the Bookshelf: FESTIVE IN DEATH, by JD Robb

I've been a really good girl -- productivity-wise. So when the latest paperback in the In Death Series was available, I didn't feel guilty -- too much anyway -- about indulging and buying a new book.

FESTIVE IN DEATH takes place at Christmas. Amid all the strain of preparing for Roarke's annual blow-out Christmas party, and navigating all the social obligations and niceties of gifting and holidays and decorations, Lt. Eve Dallas has to deal with the murder of a personal trainer.

Gee, hasn't everybody wanted to kill their personal trainer at one time or another? The thing is, this personal trainer deserves to die. He's a user. A blackmailer. A manipulator. An ego-maniac. And as Eve investigates all the people on his client list and then the secret list tied into the huge wads of cash found in his locker, she discovers he's also a rapist. The kind of rapist who convinces himself his victim wanted it. Yeah, he deserved to die. But the thing is, that kind of decision should be left to the courts, so that's where Eve Dallas comes in. Despite everything, she has to stand up for the dead.

I love the characters in the In Death series. The interactions. The relationships. And the process of tracking down the murderer and even understanding, a little bit, why ....

Saturday, March 21, 2015

SPOTLIGHT: Tabor Heights -- A BOX OF PROMISES

Today's SPOTLIGHT is on a book from Year Two of the Tabor Heights, Ohio books: A BOX OF PROMISES.

Casey, Meg, Bergen, Ray and Andrea are dorm sisters, preparing to separate for their summer apart. They all have big plans and dreams and want to do something important. They make a list of their goals for the summer, and make a vow that they will accomplish or pay up: with a pizza party. Then they put their signed vows in a box and give it to their dorm supervisor for safekeeping.

The summer is filled with adventures, challenges, problems, disappointments, laughter and frustration. Bratty kids in VBS, mean girls at summer camp, affectionate elephants at the zoo, summer classes, weird customers at the newspaper office, killer bees in Mexico, orphans, sunburn, broken limbs, temporary blindness, bubblegum in hair, oblivious boys, career barricades ... and amazingly, a chance at romance for each of them.

Who has to pay for the pizza and who gets far more than she set out to do? Read it and find out.