Review of Dining with Joy

From time to time, I like to post book reviews of what I'm reading. Today's review is of Rachel Hauck's Dining with Joy. Rachel is an active ACFW member, works with My Book Therapy, and is pretty much an all-around wonderful person. You may have read some of her other books, including The Sweet By and By, which she wrote with Sara Evans. So without further ado, here's the review. (Just call me Dr. Seuss.)

Joy Ballard is living every cooking host’s dream. Her culinary show has just been picked up by a major network, opening up the possibility of stardom. Only problem? She doesn’t know how to cook. What Joy doesn’t realize is that her ultimate humiliation could also lead to her greatest dreams.

This novel by Rachel Hauck is sure to rank among her previous honors, which include finaling in the RITA Awards, winning the ACFW Book of the Year Award, and being chosen for the Top Pick Book Reviews by The Romantic Times.

In fact, #1 New York Times best-selling author Debbie Macomber says, “Rachel Hauck's stories are filled with twists and turns that leave the reader breathless and longing for more. She is a fresh fiction voice will stir hearts for God,” according to Hauck’s website.

Readers will be drawn in by Hauck’s unique ability to construct a storyworld that tells both the literal and the figurative story. In Dining with Joy, something as simple as a drive through lowcountry South Carolina is never just a drive, but signifies a progression in the characters’ lives.

Similarly, the characters are exceptionally well-crafted. Readers will enjoy seeing several characters’ perspectives written into the book, especially when these different perspectives show the complexities of the problems between Joy and her beau, Luke Redmond. The banter between these two as they flirt their way into romance is witty and charming.

When Luke doubts his camera presence, for instance, he says, “I feel like a talking brick,” to which Joy responds with laughter, “I was thinking cardboard, but brick is good.”

The tension spikes as Joy’s archnemesis in the foodie world, Wenda Devine, reveals Joy’s secret on national television. Luke must decide whether he truly loves Joy, since she’s ruined his reputation as a legitimate chef, and Joy has a few decisions of her own. She has to find the inner strength to move beyond the promise she made to her dying father before inheriting his cooking show.

Dining with Joy shows the rich flavors of trusting God’s plan, particularly when it comes to romance. While the book takes up deeper issues like teen abstinence and self-worth, the Southern tone is sweeter than the tea the characters drink and is sure to leave readers feeling . . . well, joy.

You can find Rachel Hauck on Facebook, Twitter, or her website

Interview with Award-Winning Christina Berry!

Here it is, everyone--the interview you've been waiting for. Christina Berry graciously found time in her busy wedding-planning schedule to answer a few questions for us. I know you'll glean as much from her answers as I have. A special thanks goes out to the very special Christina, who no doubt will become one of our generation's superstar writers... and frankly, already has! So without further ado, here's the interview!

When did you start writing? Did you ever had a moment when you just "knew" you were called to write fiction?

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 …

My mother, Sherrie Ashcraft, and I began writing in the summer of ’99. We figured the accountability of having a co-writer would make us actually do what we’d always dreamed of but never put action to. It took a long road of learning how much we didn’t know, tons of re-writing, brooding over rejections, making connections, pitching at conferences, and directional prayer to make our writing salable.

In the summer of 2006, when Mom was busy caring for her dying mother-in-law, I got the itch of a new story idea. Undiscovered was written by February 2007, edited by June, won second place in the 2008 ACFW Genesis Contemporary category, and was renamed The Familiar Stranger, contracted by Moody Publishers in October, and released in September 2009.

One decade from naïve first scribbles to debut novel!

I have a moment like that every time I write, to some extent or another. Not that it's easy! But I love the physical touch of my fingers flying across the keyboard, the cursor moving across the screen, having captured a moment, or made a deadline I set, or cracking myself up with character's line.

What has been the biggest challenge thus far in your writing career, and how did you overcome it?

Truly, the biggest challenge right now has been the market. Buyers have moved away from the grittier, darker stories I'm drawn to. Many people want to escape into a better world when they are reading. I've overcome that--or am attempting to--by tapping into another part of my creativity and have started a few cute romances.

What current project(s) are you working on?

I have a wonderful co-author--you can find her first book under the name Angela Ruth (Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho)--and we've put together a novella collection of classics retold. We definitely have modernized the stories, while keeping the bones and themes of the original novels.

Describe an average day in your life. How do you fit in time to write?

For one short year after my (then) youngest was in school and before becoming a foster parent, I would write or market from 9-2:45 with a short lunch break. The last few years have been more sporadic, with email and online marketing in the morning, then phone marketing, editing, and writing. After dinner and once the kids are in bed, I usually log 1-3 more hours of work time.

I’ve found I’m most productive at actually writing when I play games with myself. For instance, I might write down all the chores I have to do on one side of a paper and my word count in hundred word increments on the other. For every hundred words I write, I complete any chore. In a few hours, I’ve made good progress on both lists. Many writers hate to “interrupt” their writing time like that, but my brain seems to process better with frequent breaks and words spill out when I set back down at the keyboard.

Of course, if I get a call to substitute teach, I don’t get much done that day! I'm really looking forward to being married (ONLY 23 DAYS TO GO!) and being a full-time stay-at-home mom with dedicated writing time. My beloved values my writing and wants me to follow my dreams, so I might get a better "average writing day" soon. :)

How important is marketing on the author's part once a book is published? What things did you do to market The Familiar Stranger?

Extremely important! No one knows your book better than you. Thus, you are the perfect person to be telling people why they should buy it. However, once you've done your 100%, the rest is up to God.

Here's a long list of all I've done:

In November 2006, my mother (who is my co-writer on other projects) and I launched our website and asked our friends and family to subscribe to the infrequent, humorous Ashberry Lane Newsletter. Technically, this marketing effort began before I wrote a single word of The Familiar Stranger, but it laid the foundation for my current marketing.

We set a goal of getting 1,000 subscribers before one of our books made it to print. We hit that, gave an iPod Shuffle to a lucky librarian from Queens, and are pushing toward 2,000 now. We've recruited from real world, shoutlife, facebook, and conference contacts. Having access to so many interested readers and the building of momentum over the years has been priceless. I can’t imagine starting at ground zero in the midst of all the release date hoopla! (Come sign up at now to get your chance at a cool prize!)

My focus has always been on making one reader at a time, whether it be the woman who waited with me as our snow tires were removed at the tire shop, or the checker in the grocery store. Pretty much just looking at me sideways will earn you a business card.

I also did a 61-day, 90+ blog tour with almost every single one having new content. There is no doubt I put every thing I could into the marketing, but my sales have been less than stellar. Surprisingly, a year and a half after the book's release, I'm doing more book clubs/speaking engagements/signings than ever!

Who are some of your own favorite authors?

Most of my favorite authors have voices I never dream to come close to: Nancy E. Turner, Jane Kirkpatrick, Leif Enger, Francine Rivers, or Randy Alcorn, to name a few. The writers who really influence my stories are ones who examine the real grittiness of life like Roxanne Henke, Bette Nordberg, and James Scott Bell.

Tell us more about the editing service you offer.

I love, love, love helping an author get to the next level in his or her writing. A wonderful free-lance editor did that for me, so I feel like I'm passing it on. So many editors are very expensive. Editing is a time-consuming process, so they no doubt are worth the money, but I wanted to offer an alternative for writers who couldn't afford the usual edit. I work with partial manuscripts as well. If someone can only afford to have 50 pages edited, the comments and tools I offer should be usable throughout the rest of the manuscript. I pulled the following from my webpage at
  • $35 for a Trial Critique of the first fifteen pages--this allows us to see if our professional relationship will be mutually beneficial
  • $2 a page for Full Manuscript Critique, with a credit for the Trial Critique*
  • Critiques include both line editing and substantive edits
  • Your choice of paper or electronic copy
  • Detailed comments, illustrations of writing principles, and recommended resources that will take your writing to the next level
I'm thrilled every time one of my past clients finds an agent or signs a publishing contract!

What advice would you give to the unpublished authors reading this blog?

  • Read craft books
  • Write consistently
  • Join a critique group
  • Attend writing conferences
  • Be open to criticism. One always has room to grow!

Best piece of advice for those of you who've been writing for years and have yet to get published: start a new novel. I'm a stubborn girl—just ask my parents. My mother and I reworked and reworked a co-authored story for eight years, each time putting our newly acquired writing knowledge/skills to use. We were determined that it wouldn't end up in a box in the closet or shoved under the bed. I still love that manuscript, but it wasn't until I took the advise of others far sager and experienced with writing to start a new novel that I finally made my first sale.

Write with purpose, whether it is a letter to a friend, a blog entry, or a full-length novel. The Lord says we will be held accountable for what we’ve said, so let’s make these words of our count for eternity!


Interview with Christina Coming Soon!

Hey folks, just wanted to give you a sneak peak from my interview with Christina Berry...

What advice would you give to the unpublished authors reading this blog?

Christina: Write with purpose, whether it is a letter to a friend, a blog entry, or a full-length novel. The Lord says we will be held accountable for what we’ve said, so let’s make these words of our count for eternity!

More to come tomorrow! I can't wait to share this full interview with you but wanted to give y'all a heads up first before I post the whole thing so you can be sure you don't miss it. And because it's fun teasing. :)


Thoughts on a Monday Evening

Hello, all! I apologize if this post seems a bit incoherent; I just finished a long grading spell and currently feel like getting a pedicure while reading Jenny B. Jones' latest book while eating a box of Godiva. But since that's not possible (except for the reading part, which I'll be doing later), I thought I'd touch base with all of you guys.

How's everyone been doing? Does anyone have any updates and what's new?

I asked you guys to keep Diann Hunt in your prayers. Thanks for listening! She found out that she is facing cancer again, but the prognosis is very good, and the doctor even said she'll most likely be able to keep all her hair, which was a HUGE blessing! Keep praying for her as she goes through her treatment process. I'm sure she'll appreciate all the prayers she can get!

As for things with me, in the past week I... turned in my master's thesis, found a snake in the backyard (just a little guy, though--he was kind of cute, as far as snakes go), wrote & entered another submission into the Genesis last-minute after feeling a pull from God and because I'm nuts like that, researched for endless hours about Italy because my hubby and I are planning a trip there (hurray!), and graded until I considered hiring someone else to do it (kidding of course... mostly ;) )... yet somehow, I still have enough papers left to create a pretty sturdy shelter for a garden toad. Now you're all caught up.

Has everyone else been watching American Idol? Here are my favorites so far:

Most Adorable... Lauren, hands down. I loved her from her first audition when she made Steven Tyler sing. Every time she comes on stage, I smile. She has such a natural stage presence.

Cutie Patootie Award... Paul. His tooth whiteness is, frankly, amazing. I would've definitely had a poster of this guy in my room when I was fifteen instead of the *NSYNC poster I actually had at that oh-so-formative stage in my life. And really, what a good role model for young women... make sure you floss, folks, and stay away from those tooth-ruining cigarettes.

There's even a Twitter account devoted to Paul's grin. I'm not even kidding. Here's the link to the article about it, just in case you want to "follow" his teeth.

Here's the twitter avatar his teeth are using:

And last but not least, Most Likely to Win... Casey. This guy's the whole package, albeit a bit odd at times, but quirky's kind of cool, right? I am glued to the TV every time he sings, and I'd actually buy his album. And listen to it. (Same goes for Paul, though... I love the quality he has in his voice... reminds me a little of Leigh from Sixpence.)

Besides, Casey plays the bass. The big bass. Upright, I guess it's called. How much cooler than that can you get?

Have you guys been watching the show? What are your thoughts?