Jodie
Is America ready to meet the Potluck Catering Club on reality TV? The women of the Potluck Catering Club have a growing business. They even became the subject of a budding filmmaker's class project. Problem is, they didn't read the fine print when they signed off on his documentary. When he enters the club in the reality show The Great Party Showdown, the ladies of Summit View, Colorado, must head to the Big Apple for the unexpected adventure of their lives. Between navigating New York City, dealing with cutthroat contestants, and trying to maintain their close friendship in the surreal world of reality TV, the Potluck women must keep their eyes on the prize--a cool million dollars--and work together if they're going to make it back home in one piece.





Oh my! Where to start on this one? Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson have mixed together the fifth book in their Potluck Club series, and it's perfectly seasoned. (Okay, I think we agreed a few weeks ago I shouldn't write food metaphors. Even if they're true.)

I was disappointed when I got to the end of A Taste of Fame. I wanted it to keep on going. I think I'm going to have to go into my spare room and pull all of my Potluck Club books out to reread now, just to enjoy the ladies' company a little bit longer.

When it comes to the end, by the way, I was fooled. There are recipes from the book included in the back. If your mouth starts to water reading about those Peppermint Patty Brownies, you can go and whip up a batch. Sweet! It's a great bonus, and I've already read them... twice. (Yes, I read recipes. Have been known to sit on the beach and read a cookbook.) But I forgot they were there as I read. When I got to the end of the book, I thought I still had pages left to go! Oh well, I just read the recipes again. And maybe gained a few pounds.

I'm a first-person kind of girl, and this book is all first-person. Each chapter is from the point of view of one of the six main characters. It takes a little getting used to, but getting into the rhythm is quick. It's interesting to follow each of them and to get their personal thoughts on their New York adventures. The format allows you to see how each woman changes and how each one's actions affect the others. I liked it, sort of like reading their journals about what went down behind the scenes.

One thing I've always loved about the Potluck Club is that each of the women is at a different place in life. They are different ages, different stages, different needs, different fears, different desires. There is something for every woman in a Potluck Club book, and that remains true in A Taste of Fame. All of them are sharing the New York reality show experience, yet it's all set against the backdrop of individual lives. For a people person like me, that was fascinating.

And then, as if their personal issues weren't enough to keep you turning the pages... there's a dash of intrigue. Who is trying to knock the girls out of the competition? Why? And what will the saboteur do next?

Take a trip to New York with the women of the Potluck Club and go behind the scenes of reality TV cooking shows. You'll love the journey... and the food.

Speaking of the food... There's a Potluck Club cookbook! We've already establihed how I feel about cookbooks, right? I'm reading it now and seeing tons of recipes I want to try. (After I make those Peppermint Patty Brownies...) After I've made a few and taste-tested them on the family, I'll update you on it.

Want to learn more about the Potluck Club and their catering adventures? Maybe get some tips for your book club? Check out the book trailers? Visit The Potluck Club online!
Jodie
Overwhelmed. There are those moments when life comes crashing in on you and it's all just too much. I've felt that way a lot lately, but mostly about prayer. I look around me at the world and see too much to pray for. When I stop to pray it's like my mind's eye sees bricks falling on me, piling up, burying me... Too many needs, not enough time. Not enough energy. Not enough power.

Too many Bible studies to do. Too many people to comfort. Too many battles to fight.

Oh, isn't the devil a sneaky one? If he can't trick us into doing nothing, he'll trick us into doing too much. He'll make sure every burden on the planet becomes our personal burden. He'll make us feel like dropping the ball for even one second will make everything fall apart. He'll make us feel like we're failing if we are not on our faces in prayer twenty-four hours of the day. (Now, if God has called you into that season of prayer, it's a different story...)

When those overwhelming, treadmill is speeding up, must pray more and harder and better and louder days sock me in, there's one way to combat Satan.

Remember the basics.

Guess what? We are not in charge here. God made it. God did it. God will continue to do it. He was. He is. He is to come.

Want to remember that? Get back to the basics. What are the basics? We all already know music speaks to me. And on those days when Satan wants me buried under the avalanche of too much, when I can't hear what it is God is calling me to and what the devil wants me to think I have to do, it's time to remind myself of The Basics.

Originally written by Rich Mullins, later performed live by Third Day, "Creed" is just that, based on the creeds of the Christian church. It's the basics. What makes us who we are. The things of God that we do not make, but that make us. The basis of our relationship with our Creator. It's humbling. It's mighty. It's sometimes tear-jerking. And it's important.

It's the things Satan can't steal from us, the antidote to "busyness" that destroys our relationship with Him.

We say it by rote often, but take time. Sit still. Listen to it. Let it sink in. Let God make of you what He wishes. Take the time to remember what it is that you believe. It puts all of the rest into perspective.

JB
Jodie
Today I'd like to introduce you to author K.M. Weiland and give you the chance to read the first couple of pages of her new book, Behold the Dawn.



K.M. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She is the author of A Man Called Outlaw and the recently released Behold the Dawn. She blogs at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors.

Behold the Dawn released October 1st!

Marcus Annan, a tourneyer famed for his prowess on the battlefield, thought he could keep the secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him find justice for the transgressions of sixteen years ago, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade.

Wounded in battle and hunted by enemies on every side, he rescues an English noblewoman from an infidel prison camp and flees to Constantinople. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.
The sins of a bishop.
The vengeance of a monk.
The secrets of a knight.




An Excerpt from Behold the Dawn:

All day she had stood near the boundary of the prisoner camp, watching the dust of the distant battle beneath Acre’s walls, listening to the muted cries of the combatants.

But now it was growing too dark to see, and as Lady Mairead drifted back toward the tent that had been set apart for her husband, William of Keaton, she watched the Mohammedans usher their latest prisoners through the cordon of guards.

They had brought back only a few today. In the long, sultry weeks since the capture of Lord William’s ship by the infidel blockade, Mairead had watched countless prisoners dragged or shoved into the camp. Thousands of people were confined here already: men, women, and children—mostly Frankish Syrians, the European natives of Jerusalem. By the count of one of Lord William’s servants, Saladin had 2,500 prisoners in this camp alone.

Holding the folds of her shawl to her breast with one hand, she crossed the dust of the camp to where the Moslems had dumped their score of prisoners in the midst of the growing crowd.

A Frank stepped aside and allowed her to stand at his shoulder. “If that is the extent of their prisoners, God be praised. The Christians will take Acre.”

“It is already taken,” said another. “You can hear that the battle is over.”

She scanned the bloodied faces. Most were French, most were wounded. The Turks threw the last of them into the group, then shouldered their way back through the crowd, shouting to one another in their own tongue. Immediately, the prisoners began their call for water.

Mairead sighed. It was always thus.

Pulling her linen shawl free, she went forward to bind the arm of a man—an archer by his livery—who held his hand to a shoulder wound. His arm was red down to his fingertips, and he swayed where he stood. His face had the blanched look of one who was slowly bleeding to death.

He stared ahead, unseeing, as she knotted the shawl over the wound. “God be with you.” She placed a hand on his grimy cheek, then moved aside to allow a Knight Hospitaler to take over.

She stood still, one hand trying to hold her long dark hair from her face, watching as the prisoners ministered to the wounded among the new captives. So many wounded, so many dying. The priests decreed that a Crusader’s death was only the unhindered passage of a redeemed soul into blessed Paradise and should be cause for rejoicing. But all she could see were the falling tears of faraway loved ones and the contorting pains of those who had not yet made it quite across Death’s threshold.

She did not often come to this part of the camp. Lord William, grievously wounded during their capture, preferred her to remain with him, sequestered from the heat and the throngs of strangers. Whenever the infidels brought forth their prisoners, she always watched from afar as other women tended their wounds.

But she had ached to be here, to staunch the endless flow of blood, to hold in her lap the head of a soldier whose wounds she might heal, unlike those of Lord William, who the monks whispered would never recover.

She drew in a deep breath, biting her lip to forestall the tears, and turned away. She had come to the Holy Land to escape her fears. But she should have known better. They had followed her here. They would always follow her.

She started forward, but trudged only a few paces before the sight of another knight arrested her. He lay on his back in the trampled sand, while two brethren of the Hospital struggled to remove his blood-crusted armor.

He was a giant of a man, easily head and shoulders above most in the camp, and the breadth and depth of his chest and arms bespoke a terrible strength. He had a strong, square chin, barely cleft, and a set to his mouth, even in sleep, that revealed an iron will. A white scar rived his right cheekbone and disappeared into the fair hair above his ear.

The blood-blackened hole in the mail above his left breast showed what it had taken to bring him down. The bodkin that had inflicted the wound was gone, pulled from his flesh by his Moslem captor or perhaps by his own hand. His face was pale, his breathing shallow, his body still.

She drew nearer and stopped at his feet. “He lives?”

The Knights Hospitalers turned to look at her. The one on the left inclined his head. “He lives, Lady.” His accent was unfamiliar, possibly from the southern regions of France.

The other, undoubtedly English, laid a knife to the knight’s tunic and slit it up the middle. “For now, he lives. He’s lost much blood.”

“That is why he sleeps?”

“Aye.”

“He is English?”

“I know not. His surcoat bears no symbol, not even a cross.”

She watched their ministrations in silence, feeling once more the bitter cold of anguish rise in the pit of her stomach. They tended so many! Why could they not save Lord William?

As the moon rose full and bright against the murky sky, she knelt and reached out her arms to the Hospitalers. “Please—let me help.”
Jodie
It seems like clouds are a recurring motif in my life this week. Not emotional clouds, but real clouds in the sky and the word clouds itself. And then, as I was driving to the grocery store this morning (because even writers have to eat. We need chocolate. And coffee. And occasionally some chai tea.), I heard Third Day's "The Sun Is Shining." It's on their Wherever You Are CD, which I admit I haven't listened to as much as others. It's still a great Third Day CD, just not my favorite of theirs. It's a little low-key for me, I think.

It's not that the song spoke to me so much as it brought to the front all of the cloud things that have been floating around out there lately. It was raining, I had on the windshield wipers, and when the song came on it hit me: above those clouds, the sun is shining. If I had the ability to get up in the air a few thousand feet, the dreariness would be gone and the sun would be shining. Below me, it would still be raining. All around me, it would be bright and sunny.

Hmm...

How many times in our lives do we set our focus onto the clouds? We see the gray and the rain and the bleak and the blah. I'll go one step further... above every tornado, above every hurricane, the sun is shining down. When the storm is raging and everything about us is shattering, when everything we thought we knew is wrong, when it seems like there's nothing but dark... the sun is shining just a few thousand feet above us. (No jokes about, "Not if it's the middle of the night," please.) Just because we can't see it at the moment doesn't mean it's ceased to exist.

In her Beloved Disciple Bible study, Beth Moore refers to Oswald Chambers. Chambers notes that clouds symbolize God's presence (Exodus 16:10, 24: 15-16, Lev. 16:2, Luke 9:34, and others). Typically, they "shroud" His presence because He is too glorious for human eyes to see.

No, it's not deep theology, but it's truth. Clouds don't make the sun go away. Dark times don't make God go away. He is always there, undimmed and no less glorious than when we see him in our mountaintop times.

JB
Jodie
It's another first! As part of the blog tour for Christina Berry's debut novel The Familiar Stranger, she's answering questions for you guys and even giving away a copy of her book. (More on that in a minute.)

Single mother and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time to write from her busy schedule because she must tell the stories that haunt her every waking moment. (Such is the overly dramatic description of an author's life!) She holds a BA in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem, as well. Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, released from Moody in September and deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. A moving speaker and dynamic teacher, Christina strives to Live Transparently--Forgive Extravagantly!

Her work has also appeared in The Secret Place, The Oregonian, and Daily Devotions for Writers. Find her at www.christinaberry.net and www.authorchristinaberry.blogspot.com

Why do you write?

Because story ideas and lines fly around in my head and if I write them down, I get a little peace and quiet. 

What made you start writing?

Buried deep within my closet, one might find some angst-filled poetry from my teenage years and a very spooky seven pages of the novel I started in high school. Though I was in love with the idea of being a writer, it wasn’t until I finished college and stayed home with my first child that I actually decided to write a book. Truthfully, my mom told me we were going to write one together, and being the obedient daughter I am …

What fun facts may surprise your readers about you?

I was the team captain and second answerer in the speed round for our family on Family Feud in 2000 … and we won! Also, I grew up in Nigeria, West Africa, while my parents were Southern Baptist missionaries. I remember being awed at the selection of toilet paper in the grocery store when we returned to the States.

Tell us about your latest book.
It’s my debut novel, The Familiar Stranger.
Craig Littleton's decision to end his marriage would shock his wife, Denise . . . if she knew what he was up to. When an accident lands Craig in the ICU, with fuzzy memories of his own life and plans, Denise rushes to his side, ready to care for him.
They embark on a quest to help Craig remember who he is and, in the process, discover dark secrets. What will she do when she realizes he's not the man she thought he was? Is this trauma a blessing in disguise, a chance for a fresh start? Or will his secrets destroy the life they built together?

How did you come up with the story?

In the summer of 2006, two stories appeared in the newspaper. One was a huge, national story; the other a smaller, local-interest item. I wondered what it might look like if those two stories conceived a child. Boom! I had the entire plot for The Familiar Stranger. It will be interesting to see if readers can figure out which stories inspired the book.

What surprised you about the publishing process after your novel was contracted?

I knew that titles were frequently changed for publication, but I didn’t expect the title to change before the contract was officially signed. Also, I knew that editors move from house to house fairly often in this industry, but I didn’t expect to lose my dream editor two days after signing the contract. (Hi, Andy!)

After getting over the shock of losing my editor, I was very surprised at how much Moody valued my input, how frequently they communicated with me, and how they lifted my family up in prayer. In fact, everyone from my editor to the marketing manager to the author liaison has been amazing!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

~Read craft books (I have a list of my favorites on the sidebar of my blog
~Write consistently
~Join a critique group
~Attend writing conferences
~By open to criticism. One always has room to grow!

Many thanks to Christina for some great answers!

And now for the giveaways!


You can win a copy of The Familiar Stranger! Just leave a comment on this post and you are automatically entered to win one of twenty copies Christina is personally giving away! She's going to draw ten names on her birthday September 30th and ten names at the end of her blog tour on October 31st.

But wait! There's more! Christina is even giving away a chance to win a 4 GB iPod Shuffle OR free books for the life of her writing career if you sign up for her "infrequent, humorous" newsletter! Cruise over and check it out.


Want to buy the book?




Want to follow Christina to her next stop on the 'net? Check out Deborah Vogts's blog tomorrow!
Jodie
If you do not own the original Glory Revealed CD that came out in 2007, I urge you with everything in me to go and buy it or download it or whatever. Right now.

Trevor Morgan's "He Will Rejoice" is one of my favorite songs on the CD because it is based on one of my absolute, all-time, favorite verses in the Bible, Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV), "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." I may like the Amplified version even better: "The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing."

Do you understand that? Do you get it? Does it really and truly sink into the marrow of your bones? Into the core of your soul? Into the center of who you are?

Read that again. Better yet, listen to the song and hear it. I mean it. Stop right now and take a minute or two to meditate on that verse. Do it now, before you read another word.

Get this... The Lord God Almighty, who made absolutely everything, who is high and exalted and seated on the throne in heaven... that very God rejoices over you. He sings over you. He is with you.

Did you do anything to earn it? Nope. Can you do anything to earn it? Nope. Does He rejoice over you and sing over you anyway? Yep. Because He loves you that much.

We don't get it do we? We can't grasp it. Because we are here on earth, we only catch glimpses of that love. It's like Third Day's "Love Song" (best song ever written!) says, "And I know that you don't realize the fullness of my love and how I died upon the cross for your sin. And I know that you don't realize how much that I give you, but I promise that I would do it all again."

Folks, I can't write words enough to tell you how much God loves you. But please, take a few minutes to sit still at some point today and feel that love, to let Him rejoice over you with singing. To let Him just love on you. Don't talk to Him, don't ask Him for anything, just let Him, for one brief moment, be all about you and His love for you. I promise you won't walk away the same.

JB
Jodie
This lady is awesome. I think all of heaven stood up and cheered for her. Don't you know she made Jesus proud?

Jodie
First of all, this morning I'm showing my age. I believe the Burlap to Cashmere song "Mansions" is probably ten or more years old. It's interesting, since I had never heard of them before, but their CD Anybody Out There? was one of the first Christian CDs I ever bought. It may be the only one they ever recorded. Are they even still together? I heard they weren't. Not that any of that has anything to do with, well, anything.

We lived in Michigan when this CD came out, and I can vividly remember where I was when I heard the line from "Mansions" that starts, "Faithful God like faithful sunrise..."

Don't know why, but ten years ago that line punched me in the gut. I was struggling with a whole lot of things back then, and something about knowing that the sun was going to rise tomorrow and knowing that God was going to be there tomorrow wrapped around my heart and healed something in there.

I can't count the number of times over the course of the past ten years that "faithful God like faithful sunrise" has popped into my head, usually when I needed to know that God is right there.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am definitely not a person who likes to get up in the mornings. I'd a million times rather roll over and sleep as late as possible. But my daughter's bus time and my desire to get everything done in the day necessitates me getting out of bed around six. The house is quiet, the dog is not nosing into the middle of what I'm doing (though the cat is), and there is nothing pressing to do at six in the morning.

And I have come to treasure that time with God. I like to keep the lights off and open the blinds and look at the world and be still with Him. My day feels off when I don't get that quiet time. It's not prayer usually, just sitting with my head on my Abba's knee, ya know?

This morning, I curled up in my chair, reached up, and opened the blinds to see... the most amazing purple, blue, violet sky I've ever seen. There's not a paintbrush in the world that can do that. It actually made me gasp. And it faded from deep blue violet to a purple pink that defied description. At that moment, it wrapped me up in love so tight I could hardly breathe.

God's been working on the love thing with me a lot lately, because it's rare for me to let Him simply love on me. I rush around, pray this, pray that, throw praises into the air and love on Him, but even when I'm sitting still I rarely bask in His affection. Know what? God adores me. And He adores you. You are the apple of His eye (it says so in Zechariah, which, incidentally, is an awesome book), your name is engraved on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49). Those things are just too huge for me to grasp.

It hit me this morning, watching that sunrise, that sometimes I try too hard to love him. Not sure if I can explain that. I strive after it sometimes, and the striving becomes the thing, not the love. Fact is, I will never on this earth be able to fully love my Jesus. Ever. It's impossible. But oh, when I get to heaven... then I will fully know as I am fully known (I Cor. 13). And dare I say, fully love as I am fully loved?

JB