• Home to Chicory Lane releases next month!

The first novel in my new Chicory Inn Novels series from Abingdon Press releases next month (and rumor has it that it is already appearing in some bookstores).

In Home to Chicory Lane, Grant and Audrey Whitman have sunk most of their retirement funds into Audrey's dream of renovating the home built by her grandparents over a hundred years ago. After raising their five children, the empty-nesters have turned the stately Missouri home into an elegant bed-and-breakfast. What they didn't count on was that even as their open house is in progress, their children begin returning to the nest.

Each book of the Chicory Inn series will focus on one of Grant and Audrey's children, but you'll get to know the whole family, including Huckleberry, the Whitman's beloved-but-ornery chocolate Lab, in the first novel, and follow them through heartache, romance, trials, and triumphs as the series unfolds.
. . . Readers will quickly find themselves immersed in [the characters'] lives and dilemmas . . . an enjoyable and compelling read, sure to please both the inspirational and mainstream crowd.
~RT Book Reviews
I've always been a very visual writer, referring to photographs of my characters and setting. Below are some of the images that inspired me as I wrote the Chicory Inn novels. The first two books are finished and with my editor. And I'm having a blast as I work on the third book, making notes fast and furious for the final two books in the series as I go.


Grant & Audrey Whitman


Chase Spencer













Home to Chicory Lane tells Landyn's story. The somewhat spoiled baby of the Whitman family, Landyn thought she was living the dream with her new husband in New York City. But after only six months, she is homesick and disillusioned with marriage. In desperation, she returns home to Chicory Lane to try to sort out her life and decide if her marriage can be salvaged.
Landyn Whitman Spencer
Where the Whitmans enjoy Tuesday Family Nights
Huckleberry



• SILVER BELLS: The story behind the story

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY:

Silver Bells, published by Summerside Press/Guideposts, was such a fun book to write! Why? Because it is set in the 1970s––the era when I was falling in love with my husband. While, of course, my story is completely fictional, there are some things from my own life (and Ken's) that inspired the story. Here are just a few:

• The Kansas setting and my heroine's farmer's daughter status. (I had the happiest childhood imaginable, growing up on a farm, the oldest of five kids.)

• K-State. My dad and I and all my siblings attended or graduated from Kansas State University in Manhattan.

• And like Michelle, I really wasn't too torn up when I dropped out of college (for me, it was to follow my husband to New York!) because the real dream of my life was to have babies––lots and lots of babies.

• I worked as a typesetter and proofreader for several small-town newspapers. I started my first newspaper job just before computers revolutionized the process of printing a weekly newspaper, and back when page layout was done with a waxer and an X-Acto knife.

• The "newfangled microwave" incident was inspired by the fact that my hubby's family had one of the first microwave ovens in town, which they won in their small town's holiday lane drawing. It was quite the attraction, and Ken's friends would come over to watch his demonstrations of "instant" boiling water or exploding marshmallows (and some other things I'm not sure his mother knows about yet, so I won't publish those for the world. Ha!)

• What's New!

I'm so excited that one of my early novels has been reissued as an e-book through Greenbrier Books this spring! Formerly titled In the Still of Night, this was the second novel I wrote and remains a reader favorite. While I updated the book, bringing it into the twentieth century (it was originally written in 1995, before laptops and cellphones came on the scene in a big way), the story itself hasn't changed. But even if you read it when it first came out 17 years ago, I think you'll enjoy this "refreshed" version. CLICK HERE to order.

I've given this new edition a new title since there are now several recent novels with my original title. I love the new title, Because of the Rain. And I adore the new cover designed by my husband, Ken Raney!

The title reminds me of how often in my life the good things have happened because of the rain, not in spite of it! A few years ago when we were going through a trying time, a friend gave me a picture frame that says, "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain." I hope if you are going through a difficult time, you're also learning what a joy it can be to dance in the rain.

• A Year of Weddings

I'm delighted to be a part of the new A Year of Weddings series from HarperCollins/Zondervan. Denise Hunter's A December Bride launched the series last December, and 2014 began with my A January Bride. This is an updated and expanded version of my 2003 novella, Playing by Heart, one of my favorite stories I've written and I'm so excited for it to have a new life! Click on the book cover to order.
There are now five books available, currently as e-books only, but beginning in November, they will be collected into four seasonal collections in print. The first print book, Winter Brides, will include the first three novellas. Isn't the cover stunning?

Here are my fellow authors for the first four books:
And a sneak preview of the entire collection:

• Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference

I'm just back from Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference near beautiful Santa Cruz, California. This has to be one of the most beautiful places on the earth, and I've never worked so hard, yet felt so much like I was on vacation.

Common Grounds is the rustic coffee shop on the campus where
conference attendees meet at all hours for coffee, conversation (and free wi-fi!)

My classroom was in Lakeside behind those gorgeous dogwood trees.
It was very tempting to move my PowerPoint presentations outside!
Fellow faculty (and two of my favorite authors!) Angela Hunt and Gayle Roper.

The majestic redwood trees at Henry Cowell State Park
in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Believe it or not, we're INSIDE a giant redwood tree!
Not easy taking a selfie when you can't even see
which way the camera is pointing!
With fellow Abingdon Press authors, l to r:
Karen Barnett, Linda Clare, and Sherry Kyle.
At the book signing party with Susan Meissner.
I'm reading–and loving–her newest novel, A Fall of Marigolds.
My wonderful agent, Steve Laube of the Steve Laube Agency.
We got just a glimpse of the rare Blood Moon!


Palm Sunday services were incredible! The auditorium is surrounded by
God's glorious creation and it was such a joy to sing with these writer friends.
It was hard to leave, but I got to bring my favorite person home with me!

• Oregon Christian Writers Winter Conference 2014

I had a wonderful time keynoting and speaking at the Oregon Christian Writers Winter Conference February 22. What a great group of writers and what a professional conference committee. Above we all "crashed" together for dinner after the conference at a great seafood place.
















I've posted many more photos on my Facebook page. CLICK HERE to see if your photo is there, and feel free to tag yourself if you like.

• The Writing Life



The Face of the Earth released in May from Howard/ Simon & Schuster! I thought you'd enjoy seeing some of the cover designs we considered before arriving at the final cover for The Face of the Earth. That moment when I finally get to see what the designers have come up with for the cover is always so much fun. This cover is from Dogeared Design and they were all so good, I had a tough time deciding which was my favorite! But I think we picked a huge winner in the end. If you don't find The Face of the Earth at your favorite bookstore now, please request that they order one!

My Dutch readers will be happy to know that The Face of the Earth is now available in the Netherlands. The Dutch translation cover is just beautiful, too! Spoorloos translates as "Traceless" (or "Without a Trace," which is actually a title I considered.)

I turned in the first draft of the first book in my new Chicory Inn novels for Abingdon Press in July. The title is Home to Chicory Lane, and I'm pleased with how it turned out, but I expect there will be a lot to fix when I get edits back. A series has advantages (using the same setting and characters for five novels!) but also challenges in foreshadowing coming events in each novel. Fortunately, I have a bit of a breather while I wait for substantive edits and dive into rewrite. Meanwhile, I'm working on Book 2!

• Best-ever Granola

So many people have asked for my recipe that I'm posting it here. Credit goes to author Tamara Leigh whose recipe I tweaked to come up with this. (Tamara's recipe has much less coconut, no sunflower seeds, and adds raisins and craisins. And we bake ours longer so it's chewy, with just a little crunch.)

BEST EVER GRANOLA
4  Cup Old Fashioned Oats
1  Cup Flaked Coconut
½ Cup Chopped Pecans or Walnuts
¼ Cup Sunflower Nuts
½ Cup Brown Sugar
½ Cup Olive Oil
½ Cup Honey
1  Teaspoon Vanilla

In a large cookie sheet with sides (jelly roll pan), bake dry oats at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix nuts, coconut, sunflower seeds and brown sugar in large mixing bowl; stir well.

In a small bowl, mix oil, honey, and vanilla. Remove oats from oven and add to nut mixture. Pour oil and honey mixture over all, stirring well. Return to cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes till dark golden brown, stirring every 5-8 minutes. Cool. (Stir again several times while cooling as it tends to clump.)

Store in zip-lock bag or other air-tight container. (We use a gallon-size ice cream tub.)

Enjoy!

• Welcome to my Dutch readers

Welkom aan mijn Nederlandse lezers!
Ik ben heel blij dat uitgeverij Voorhoeve veel van mijn boeken in het Nederlands uitgeeft. Helaas spreek ik uw prachtige taal niet, maar gelukkig kunnen wij desondanks, door het vakmanschap van de vertalers, samen iets delen - namelijk verhalen over Gods liefde en genade. Dank u voor uw belangstelling voor mijn romans, en ik wens u veel plezier bij uw bezoek aan mijn website. (Thank-you, Hella, for translating my greeting!)


It's been fun to see many of my novels translated into foreign languages. But to have written a book I can't read is a bit disconcerting! I've had the privilege of meeting with Hella Willering and Marieke van den Hazel, editors with Kok Publishers of the Netherlands, several times, and it is fascinating to hear some of the challenges they face in translating a novel. American humor doesn't always translate well, and a motif from Scripture, etc. may depend heavily on the sound or spelling of the English word. It can be a challenge to find an alternative.


Voorhoeve, a Kok imprint, has put out beautiful editions of most of my recent books and I'm excited that they plan to translate more of my books in the future.

• Hanging out at Club Deb

I'm blessed with a bevy of friends who just happen to share my name. During a getaway at a bed and breakfast a few years ago, one of the guests dubbed us "Club Deb" after being introduced at the breakfast table. The name stuck, and we've been sharing birthdays and other special occasions together ever since (although we'll use any excuse to get together!) I count my wonderful "Deb" friends as one of the great blessings of my life.

• The best things in life are...kids!

Our four kids are all grown and scattered from Missouri to Texas to Berlin, Germany now, so the times are too rare when we're all (plus our two sons-in-law, daughter-in-law, and our five precious grandkids) home at the same time. But when that happens, we have such a great time just hanging out together. It's a joy to discover that the children we raised are such genuinely nice people. And we couldn't love the ones they've married more. Children are truly a blessing from the Lord. Best of all, our quiver of grandchildren is filling up fast with (so far) four little grandsons and our first granddaughter!


• The many faces of A Vow to Cherish


When my novel was made into a movie by World Wide Pictures in 1999, my publisher went back to press with the book, giving it a new movie tie-in cover. The screenwriters/movie director changed the name of my character from Jake to John (we're not sure why) and my publisher felt that most people picking up this new version would be doing so because they had seen the movie (which has aired on national TV and been shown in hundreds of churches across the country). So we decided to change Jake's name to John in this new edition of the book. I also added or changed a few minor character descriptions to match the actors from the film.

"No motion picture could ever define
the power behind the Billy Graham ministry
more effectively. I have not been so moved
by any movie, maybe ever. Not just entertainment."
~Paul Harvey

"Powerful. A family attains the courage to persevere."
~Phil Boatwright
The movie is now available in seven languages and has a lovely, haunting score by John Campbell. Ten years after the first release of my novel, it was out of print, when another publisher, Steeple Hill, purchased the rights to reissue it, and asked me to write a sequel as well.

A Vow to Cherish is available in trade size as well as mass market, while the sequel, Within This Circle, is only available in mass market size. I should also note that this newest version of A Vow to Cherish has been updated to reflect current medical information about Alzheimer's disease, and hopefully, to reflect how much I've learned about the craft of writing since penning that first version. To my surprise, as I was working on the rewrite, I realized that I also needed to move my story into the 21st century and give my characters cell phones and computers! The newest edition has about 7,000 more words than the original and is much improved, in my humble opinion.
At left I'm with Carol Johnson of Bethany House at the Hollywood premiere in June 1999.

The novel has also been translated into Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and Dutch (see Toeverlaat, the Dutch edition, right).

Click on the link above to purchase this great new resource for writers! I'm honored to have three articles included in A Novel Idea, including one written with my writing critique partner, Tamera Alexander.