Saturday, December 29, 2007

The greatest gift of all. . .

It's six pm and the thermometer in my room, where I normally work, reads 90 degrees. No wonder I've been so miserably hot these past few days, not sleeping, and moving slower than a sloth. Somehow I managed to spend a couple hours ironing, finish my word count for the week, study my Portuguese, and straighten Mariah's hair. I'd take a nap if I could, but it's simply too hot.

Okay, enough of the negative.

This Christmas I received one of the most special gifts to date. A book, written by my daughter. It's entitled "The Little Boy Who Enjoyed Christmas" and she wrote it for me because she knows how much I love books.

This particular book, has just hit number one on my list, because it was a book, straight from her heart. And one that tells me just how much she loves me.

I'm writing another book right now, and it's spiritual theme has been a constant reminder to me of another gift. While Christmas might be a time to rememeber Christ's birth, the reason for His coming to earth was to ransom each one of us from death.

“And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9 NLT

From every tribe. Every language. Every people. And every nation.

That's how much He loves us.



Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Twas the night before Christmas. . .

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house the occupants were sweating including the mouse.

The stockings were hung by the floor fan with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children had thrown off the sheets from their beds, while visions of mangos danced in their heads.

And mamma in her tank top and I in my shorts, had just settled down for a long summer night. When out on the street there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

To the open window I flew like a flash, and searched the horizon for signs of a crash. The sky was filled with red, yellow, and blue, as rounds of fireworks exploded till two.

It might be December, without snow and icicles, but for us it’s summer, time for swimming and bicycles.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

School's out!

After six weeks of grueling language study, I’ve made it to the intermediate level just in time for a much needed two week break from classes. These two weeks, though, won’t be work free. I have lots of studying to do before going back, mainly learning vocabulary and verb conjugation.

I’ve also been instructed by my teacher to watch as much television as I can. Strange homework, isn’t it? But I’ve found that it really does help. The more I listen to the language, the faster I learn.

Before I share a story about Scott, I have to brag a bit on him. His Portuguese has exploded in the past few weeks. He’s returned items, made doctors appointments on the phone, taken Gabriel to the dentist, caught the city bus, and much, much more.

The other day, though, he was in a store and needed to find out the price for something. Most stores have scanners where you can find the price, but this store’s scanner was broken. He went up to the counter to ask, but there were a lot of people milling around, and he couldn’t hear the employee’s answer to his question. So he pulled on his ear to imply he couldn’t hear her and asked if she would write down the price.

And she did. In great detail. Then he realized, as he walked out the door, that the woman had thought he was deaf. Ah, the joys of language learning.

I often have to remind myself why I’m here in Brazil, learning another language and trying to adapt to another culture. Through it all, though, God has continued to be so faithful. He‘s made our family closer, forming us into a team, giving us new experiences, and sending us new friends.

May each of you have a blessed weekend, remembering the real reason of the season!

“Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:28



Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Big Apple Christmas

If you're looking for a great stocking stuffer or simply a holiday read to get yourself in the Christmas spirit, check out this new novella collection from Barbour Publishing, A Big Apple Christmas.

I recently interviewed some of the authors from this collection, and here's what they had to say.

LISA: What is the premise of the collection?

CARRIE: A BIG APPLE CHRISTMAS includes four novellas set in New York City during the Christmas season. The sights and traditions of Christmas in The City are the unifying factors that draw the stories together. In my novella, “Moonlight & Mistletoe,” Christmas plans are set askew when professional organizer Sarah Montgomery meets free-spirited poet Justin Latimer. As they work together on a project for her neighbor, romantic sparks fly, but new revelations threaten to douse them.

LISA: What’s it like working with three other authors on one story? Any challenges, rewords?

LYNETTE: The rewards are the best part. It’s fun seeing someone else’s version of your vision. The challenge in collaboration is the give and take. Our biggest discussion was about the weather. Christmas Eve, for example, had to have the same weather in all four stories. 

VASTHI: As the new writer among the bunch I was apprehensive that I’d need too much of their time. But these ladies were fantastic! They were very willing to give me feedback and help me make my story the best it could be. Their honesty was a gift.

LISA: I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters, especially spiritually. Is there a character who you relate to and who made an input on your life?

CARRIE: It’s easy for me to relate to Sarah, the heroine in my novella. She likes to have her home and her life all neat and orderly so that she has a sense of control. I tend to be like that, and I have to guard against valuing neatness over time with family and relaxing and enjoying life with them. Sarah learns some important lessons about trusting God and allowing her faith to permeate her relationships. That’s an area I am working on in my life, too.

VASTHI: My character, Cecilia, is a hard working grad student. The first in her family to go to college, much less get a graduate degree. She feels the burden of her family’s expectations and wants to make them proud. When she sees all of her hard work going down the tubes, she panics. The lesson she learns—that we can’t rely on our own strength and abilities but must trust in God alone—is a lesson I needed to learn.

LISA: What is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?

LYNETTE: Patience, especially because I don’t have everything figured out.

CARRIE: It is an awesome privilege to touch people’s hearts and lives through my writing. I need to continually seek the Lord and be in touch with Him as I write so that my writing can have the impact He desires it to have.

VASTHI: I’ve learned that as much as I wanted to be published, and this is my first published novella, it is not as much fun as the actual writing.

LISA: Any future plans for your writing you’d like to share? Any specific dreams you’d like to accomplish in the area of writing?

LYNETTE: I’d like to write bigger books. As one who’s always had to add words to what she writes, this novella gave me the happy chore of trimming. I hope that I’m growing as a writer, not just getting wordier. My big dream is to write full-time, but until then I’m doing the best I can working a regular 40-hour work week and fitting writing in on nights and weekends.

CARRIE: I want to continue to grow and improve as a writer, and I know that takes perseverance and commitment on my part. Some day I hope to write a story set in Africa that highlights the beauty of the land, the shining faith of the believers, and also shows the needs. Recently, I’ve been very touched by a ministry called Charity: Water. They raise funds to drill wells all over Africa and provide clean water and hope for communities there. I would love to highlight their work in one of my books and help raise awareness and support.

VASTHI: I’ve written a trilogy based on a modern adaptation of the book of Ruth with Latino characters which I hope will get published.

LISA: Because I know there are many aspiring writers out there, can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published?

VASTHI: God opened a door for me in His timing. Wait on Him. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it. 1Thess. 5:24.

LISA: Any advise in working together as a team/preparing a novella proposal?

LYNETTE: Keep an open mind. Don’t rush. Trying to coordinate four writers’ schedules isn’t easy. But hang in there. The project will come together.

LISA: Any writer’s resources you could recommend?

CARRIE: I often consult Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King and Plot and Structure by James Bell, I also like to buy the MP3 from the ACFW Conference and listen to all the classes and workshops.

LISA: Thanks so much for stopping by, ladies! If you'd like to read more about these authors and their books, please check out their websites.

Carrie Turansky
Vasthi Reyes Acosta
Lynette Sowell
Gail Sattler
A Big Apple Christmas Site

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's a wild ride. . .

I originally thought I’d post about our wild ride to the mall on the city bus. Then I realized that life in general has been a bit of a wild ride lately. With the ups and downs of language school, home schooling, and book deadlines, life is good, but never dull.

Take for instance the Christmas party we attended this past week. It was a dress-up holiday dinner hosted by our language school, held, of course, on the day it began to rain. We were to catch a ride that evening, but still had to walk the mile or so to the school where the van was waiting for us.

By the time we left, it was pouring.

We walked five in a row, each with an umbrella, up the drenched sidewalk, trying to stay as dry as possible. My sandals slipped off constantly as I sludged through ankle-deep puddles, dodged the spray of water from cars as they zoomed by, and balanced my umbrella, a backpack, and a cheese ball. Yes, a cheese ball. My contribution to the evening’s festivities that turned out to be a great hit, by the way.

The party was a mixture of cultures and languages from around the world. From Greece to Madagascar, and the USA to France, and even a couple from South Africa who spoke to Mariah in Afrikaans, a language she misses. We ended up having a great time, great food, and made some new friends.

Going to the mall the week before had been an even bigger adventure. We caught the first bus that dropped us at the spot where we could catch a second bus. With our vacuum cleaner in hand--the one I was so excited to have until it literally exploded in a puff of smoke after one week--needing to be returned, we watched for the number of our bus.

Within two minutes we saw it. . .and then saw it zoom past.

Obviously, we’d missed something in Bus Etiquette 101. Turns out, you have to step out and flag the bus down. Which we did after waiting another twenty minutes or so. Once on the bus, there was no place to sit, so I stood holding onto a pole for dear life with Jayden clinging to my leg as the bus wound it’s way through the city. There are no straight road, it seems, and the bus driver turned at every corner leaving us feeling as if we’d paid for a ticket on a rollercoaster instead of a trip to the mall.

At one point, I asked Scott if he had seen how close we’d come to hitting a passing bus. He hadn’t. His eyes were closed.

We continued down narrow streets where old men played board games along the side of the road, tiny shops sat sandwiched between fenced-in houses, and moms pushed babies in buggies. Colorful bougainvillea climbed garden the walls, spilling over the top for us to see, while in the distance, dozens of high-rise apartment buildings filled the sky line.

Strangely enough, it's all beginning to feel like home. I decided yesterday that home doesn't have to be a permanent address where I've live my whole life. It's a place where love and laughter ring forth above the challenges. Where I can smile across the table at my children while playing another round of Mexican Train and listen to Portuguese music compete with the now familiar sounds of cars zooming past our house with their horns blaring.



Wednesday, December 12, 2007

An early Christmas

Congratulations to Patty, Ruth, Shirl, Ronie, Carol, and a sixth winner, Alene, for sending me a personal email I couldn't refuse. I'll be contacting you soon to get your mailing addresses!


If you missed the contest and would like to order A Matter of Trust you can call my publisher at 1-800-847-8270 or visit Barbour's Website website. It will be available at
and other retailers after it goes through the Heartsong book club.

I also got a bit of an early Christmas present today! We've been really missing Tex-Mex here in Brazil. We can find tortillas for about $3 each (each tortilla, not each package!), but no salsa. A can of refried beans is about $10! Taco seasoning is also horribly expensive.

So yesterday for dinner I made a Mexican dish from scratch using home made salsa, taco seasoning I'd brought with me, plain yogurt, and a crust made from pie pastry. It was actually great, but not exactly real Tex-Mex.

Well, Scott went to pick up a few groceries at the store today, and when I got back from school, he had a wrapped package waiting for me. An early Christmas!

As you might have guessed, the store had packages of tortillas on sale. Packages of ten for about $2.50. Scott bought every package they had!

Guess what's for dinner?



Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Merry Christmas to you!

I think I've mentioned before how hard it is for me to get into the holiday spirit when it's so hot outside. For the past several years, I've spend Christmas in the southern hemisphere which definitely means hot! We've added a few more presents under the tree which has the kids anticipating Christmas morning.

To thank you for following my blog this past year, I'm going to give away five copies of A Matter of Trust (hot off the press!) to the first FIVE people who leave a comment and a way to contact you.

Merry Christmas!

Look for more giveaways in the coming weeks including A Taste of Brazil gift box!

And in all the rush of the season, remember the One who sent His son to earth, giving us the greatest gift of all.



PS For some reason I'm not able to post photos today. Santa sightings coming soon. . .

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The city that never sleeps. . .

I’ve made a few interesting observations about life in Brazil in the few weeks we’ve lived here. Number one is that the people are extremely friendly. Several Brazilians have gone out of their way to help us with a smooth transition, including the staff at our language school and our landlord. I’ve had a woman help translate the lesson during church, others give us directions on the street and help practice with conversation, and show us around the grocery store.

People also walk a lot here, which is nice because our walking everywhere doesn’t stand out like it would in South Africa. But even despite all the walking, the women wear high heals (we’re talking two to three inch heals) and high platform shoes. With most of the sidewalks uneven cobblestone, I honestly don’t know how they do it.

Another thing that intrigues me, is the security guards. Imagine a twenty-to-thirty-something year old guy, black suit, white button-down shirt, tie, and dark sunglasses. These guys stand in front of various stores, or sit on stools under a large umbrella, all day, and simply guard. They have walkie-talkies and seem to know everyone that passes. That’s got to be one of the most boring jobs ever created.

And then there’s nighttime. Last night was Friday night and about ten o’clock (the hour I’m ready for bed) the city comes alive. It happens on weeknights as well, but especially on the weekend, nighttime is party time. Horns blast, radios blare, shaking our house, cars backfire, and people shout. Add a victory for the soccer team, and there’ll be fireworks. And it goes on all night, until about four in the morning. I suppose we’re adjusting better, because while I still wake up several times at night, I am sleeping through most of it now.

So we are slowly beginning to adjust to our new life.

Today we had a bit of an adventure. We took the bus to the mall to do some last minute Christmas shopping. (The photo is of the mall.) I'll plan to post about our wild ride through the city soon.



Monday, December 03, 2007

I did it!

This weekend, I finished my latest deadline with two weeks to spare! I still have some editing to do, but overall I’m excited about the story. It’s a romantic suspense dealing with an internet scam, and it was a lot of fun to write. It’s such a great feeling, reminding me why I love to write. I need to add a HUGE thank you to my crit partners, Ronie, Beth, Susan, Lynette, Darlene, and my hubby Scott. I never could have finished with out you all!

I have two more books to write in the next eight months. The first one is book three in my upcoming cozy mystery series with Barbour Publishing. Pricilla Crumb, the heroine of my series, is a quirky, retired home economics teacher who never fails to do the unexpected. This has been such a fun series to write. Here’s a teaser from book one that releases in February, along with the cover.

Pricilla Crumb’s guest list has just turned into a suspect list. . .for murder. Pricilla never expected to be involved in a real life mystery, but that’s exactly where she finds herself when she joins her son at his hunting lodge in the beautiful Colorado mountains. Laced with a spiritual message and a sprinkle of romance, Pricilla Crumb is determined to discover the truth, this unconventional busybody follows one lead after another, dishing up laughter and suspense along the way.

Barbour Publishing’s new cozy mystery book club debuts next month, and if you enjoy reading cozy mysteries, you’ll love these books. I’ll be passing on the details of how to join soon, as well as a peek at my latest video trailer.

The second book I’ll be working on is an international suspense novel set in Africa that I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. About a year ago, God’s opened a door for it, and I can’t wait to see where it leads.

Regarding my writing, I prayed a lot when we felt God’s call into Mozambique. Should I quit writing? Did He want me to continue balancing children, ministry, and writing, or focus simply on family and ministry? I asked Him to shut doors if he wanted me to quit, and in the meantime, decided to take off the next six months to focus on Portuguese school.

But the doors didn’t shut. Instead of taking time off, I ended up selling a book in less than a month. In my experience, this rarely happens. Then when I met with another editor about my African suspense series, another door flung wide open.

Life is full of opportunities for each one of us, and as I’ve mentioned many times, balancing those opportunities can often be difficult. We go through seasons of life where family takes priority, with young children, siblings, or perhaps aging parents. There are needed times of renewal, times of accomplishment, and times when we need to simily stop and listen to His voice.

In it all, God only calls us to be faithful to Him.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17

Where ever you are in life today, may God bless you as you seek His face.