Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I'm still splashing, still venturing past the wading pool to dive into the deep end, but I've relocated my website and blog to a new "pool" with a new focus. Come visit at www.cynthiaruchti.com and learn about the Hope that glows in the dark!

Thanks for stopping by. I'd be honored if you'd jog on over to the new website and blog.

Blessings always,

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Patti Lacy's Debut

I'm blessed to offer you a glimpse into the life and work of novelist Patti Lacy, a friend from American Christian Fiction Writers and a joy to those who know her.

Patti, those who read your debut novel from Kregel—An Irishwoman’s Tale—appreciate your attention to detail and historical/geographical accuracy. Is your research homegrown (from your ancestry), Web grown (Internet), onsite (visits to Ireland), or bookish (library)?

Hello, dear Cynthia! ’Tis a blessing to be on your blog, now, isn’t it? My attempt at brogue, and the gorgeous Irish turns of phrases, comes from a research trip to those mystical cliffs in 2005. I was so blessed to accompany the real-life Mary to her homeland. God had so many miracles wrapped up—in shades of green, of course!

I also devoured the usual Irish fiction (ala McCourt, Uris) and some lesser-known gems, like Little Green Apples, looked at maps, websites, and found a wonderful toll-free connection called Tourism of Ireland, which employs writers, students; a hodgepodge of brilliant Irish lads and lasses bored of the usual hotel/pub questions and just itching to help a Yank write her debut novel!

Like my novels, my answers go on and on…Sorry!

What did your journey to publication teach you about yourself? Your faith? Your family relationships?

God keeps showing me that my job is to write for the Audience of One—Him—and not worry about the rest. Oh, He is faithful! The wild, wacky world of publishing has taught me that I am far too high-strung to deal with the ups and downs without His guidance and a good support group. Thanks to Beth Moore’s, A Woman’s Heart, I recently reread Exodus 17:11-12 and marveled at the teamwork needed to do the tasks God sets out for us. Thank you, writer friends, encouraging readers, agent, publicists, editors…it goes on and on!!! It takes a metropolis to make a writer these days!!!

Did you begin writing An Irishwoman’s Tale with the ending in mind or did you discover the ending as you wrote?

Oh, Cynthia, I’ll have to send this question to Dawn, my Kregel editor so she can ROFL! One of my many writing weaknesses is getting the ending right. I think four different professionals took their turn at poor Mary and her climax on Croagh Patrick’s rugged slopes. After y’all read it, e-mail me a better ending…and I’ll consider it…next time!!!!!

What three factors made the greatest impact on your writing career to date?

Timing. God fitting together all the little pieces of my background (avid reader, English teaching field, court reporter career, half a master’s in African American literature, some dysfunctional experiences) to start me writing at just His moment.

A true passion for all the little words. With generous friends like Nancy Drew and Beautiful Joe and Pippi and Jo—oh, hundreds and hundreds of them—I combined loads of voices and found the right one for me. If you want to learn to write, READ!

God’s manna. I have prayed big for God to give me soul food on those bad days. He has been so faithful to send a phone call, a card, an e-mail, a good review, my way. Manna is still raining from heaven—in just the right portions!

Is there a subtle thread that laces An Irishwoman’s Tale, one that thrills you when readers pick up on it?

Well, Cynthia, subtlety isn’t normally a word people use with this displaced Southerner!  I did thread Irish songs and folk sayings through the book hoping to capture the minor melancholic chords that lace many an Irish personality. I also explore first memories in this novel and in What the Bayou Saw. The theme of forgiveness is trumpeted as well. I did use the puffin as a motif for a misfit since the odd-looking birds pop into and then away from Ireland, like my dear Mary. That’s probably the one subtle thing! 

Most  authors have partial novels tucked away in computer files. Which one keeps calling to you?

Right now I have three books in “to-do” files. I’ll soon start the next one as I can’t WAIT to write God’s stories. All my novels explore the secrets women keep and why they keep them. “Spanning seas and secrets” emphasizes the multicultural link I so love to include in my books!

Here’s my about-to-be WIP, Recapturing Lily:

Xiu Ling abandons her baby on the banks of the Yangtze and returns to the studies that she hopes will gain her entrance to Harvard’s ivy-covered gates. When her grades begin to slip in the competitive Chinese education system, Xiu offers atonement to the gods by volunteering at a local orphanage. A darling baby—her own dear girl—is brought in by a raggedy peddler and then adopted by an American pastor and his wife. Xiu plunges herself into her schoolwork and is soon bound for America—but with very different motives than she has listed on the student visa.

Recapturing Lily will explore the Christian notion of sacrifice, of roots, of the tension between God’s dream and the dream of the individual.

 Where were you and what were you doing when you heard that Kregel was interested in publishing An Irishwoman’s Tale?

I got a very short e-mail from Dennis Hillman saying Kregel would like to publish my book. If I remember, I was working on Bayou, my second novel.

What unusual opportunity has your book opened to you?

Oh, the places you’ll go, the people you’ll meet! Thanks, Dr. Seuss, for saying it better than I could. Just last week I got to share “all my broken pieces” with an amazing group of women at White’s Chapel UMC women’s gathering in Southlake, Texas. I met a woman at a Barnes & Noble in San Antonio who stepped out for the first time after a long ordeal of chemo, just to buy a book. In Corpus Christi’s bookstore, a woman brought her daughter to meet a writer—and I met a former student of my dear father, who has been dead for nearly a decade. Viola expressed gratitude to my father for being tough on her—and making her a tough teacher. Viola inspired her daughter to become a teacher—no amount of book sales could equal the high created in that glorious Barnes & Noble in Corpus!  And this was just over a three-day period!

Whose appreciation of your book has stirred you to the depths?

The heroic readers who’ve taken the time to share their connection with Mary, either because of their own bout with the devil’s tools of suicide, substance abuse, and familial dysfunction.

Are your future projects linked to this one by emotion, location, characters, or some other factor?

Yes. I’m broken-record stuck on women and their first memories and secrets and how God will use even the worst past to pull us from the mire of dysfunction.

How would you complete this sentence? If I could choose my ideal location for a book signing, it would be the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland.

What was the last stamp on your passport?

Ireland, 2005. If my budget cooperates, the next stamp will be China, 2009.

Where can readers find you on the Internet?

www.pattilacy.com. I’ve tried to create a hybrid blog/website; y’all come on over and enter the March heroes contest! 

Friday, February 27, 2009


"Let's play Opposites!"

Since my oldest is more than thirty, I've been playing Opposites (and Rhyming and Colors and Hide 'n Seek and Situations--our homegrown version of "What would you do if...?") for a minimum of three decades.

I'm pretty good at Opposites by now.

Hot? Cold. Wet? Dry. Up? Down. In? Out. Frogs? Um...toads? No, wait. Something furry and doesn't hop--polar bears?

When one of the grandkids suggests we play Opposites, I'm ready with my vocabulary arsenal.

But have we humans learned how to use the opposites principle to best advantage when life gets hard?

The ink on my to-do list is running off the edge of the paper. What's the opposite of that time-cramping scenario? Nothing on my to-do list. Would I like that better? Nothing meaningful to occupy my time? No thank you!

My husband hovers while I'm in the kitchen trying to get supper. It's a small kitchen. He's a tall man. He throws shadows on my work space! What's the opposite? Would I like it if he didn't want to be with me? If he didn't care to know what I was doing? If he didn't want to come home at the end of the workday?

I can't have nice things. Well I COULD have a new coffee table, but it's probably best if I wait until the last grandchild is done teething and learning to walk...until the last grandchild has grown out of the desire to play with PlayDoh, until they stop using my garage sale coffee table for their picnics. The opposite of a scarred, beat-up, sticky, all-function-no-style coffee table is an enormous tufted leather ottoman and the babies all grown up.

I'll wait for the leather.

Doctor visits bumping into each other? The opposite is no good health care nearby. The opposite of aches and pains is lack of feeling, or paralysis, or death.

Dirt on the floor? I have a floor. Mud on my shoes? I have shoes. Closet too crowded? Oh, brother! What a thing to complain about!

Tough time deciding what to make for supper? What's the opposite? Bare cupboards make the decision easy.

The next time I'm unhappy with how things are going, I hope I remember (and hear) the voice of God saying, "Let's play Opposites!"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

“When life gives you lemons…don’t confuse them with hand grenades.”


With that opening point, author James Watkins reveals his unique take on…well, everything in life. In his new book from XarisCom, he turns his humor and his heart to the subject of:


Squeezing Good Out of Bad


“Life is filled with lemons!” he says. “Here are the top ten ways to squeeze the good out of those life-puckering situations.”


James Watkins brings both empathy and experience to the pages. He's known the squeeze of cancer, unemployment, family crises and “chronic nose hair.”


With humor stirred in like a refreshing portion of lemon zest, Watkins tackles tough subjects and leaves his readers grate-ful (sorry for the pun) for his insights.


He says:


When life gives you lemons . . .

10. Don't confuse them with hand grenades (Identify the problem)
9. Check the delivery slip (Determine if it's your problem)
8. Sell them on eBay (Profit from the problem)
7. Paint smiley faces on them (Laugh at the problem)
6. Join a citrus support group (Share your problem)
5. Use as an all-natural, organic astringent (Grow from the problem)
4. Don't shoot the delivery driver (Forgive the problem-maker)
3. Graft to a lime tree for a refreshing, low-calorie soft drink (Take the problem to a higher level)
2. Grow your own orchard (Live a fruitful life despite—or because of—the problem)
1. Give off a refreshing fragrance (Live a lemon-fresh life).


James N. Watkins is a friend and colleague, and an award-winning author of fifteen books and over two thousand articles including a column each issue for Rev. magazine. He serves as an editor with Wesleyan Publishing House and instructor at Taylor University, as well as popular conference speaker. His most important roles, however, are as child of God, husband, dad, and "papaw." Read more than you’d ever want to know at:www.jameswatkins.com/bio.htm


Jim is offering a free electronic copy to anyone who is currently unemployed or disabled. (Details at Web site above.)

For more information, or to purchase a copy (or a bushel) of Squeezing Good Out of Bad, check out http://jameswatkins.com/bookstore.htm


Friday, February 06, 2009

Not What I Expected

It’s a family joke. Perhaps in more households than just our own. The males (no offense intended) were born without the ability to find lost things.

“Honey? Do we have any toothpicks?”

“Yes, dear. In the spice cabinet.”

“I’m looking in the spice cabinet. They’re not here.”

“Yes, they are.” By this time, I’ve already stopped whatever I was doing and am heading for the kitchen to solve his toothpick mystery. Ah, there they are. In the spice cabinet. Front row.

“I didn’t see them,” he says.

“I know, dear.”

“I thought they were in a red and white box. Wasn’t expecting yellow.”

That’s what stops me. He couldn’t find the cotton balls because they were on the second shelf, not the top one, as he expected. He couldn’t find ME in a crowd, because I was wearing my sister’s coat.

I can’t fault him, though, much as that might be in my nature. I do the same thing. I don’t recognize the Lord’s answers to my prayers because they don’t come packaged as I expected. I thought I’d see my friend Mary healed of cancer. God took her Home for healing. I thought financial provision would come wrapped in an unexpected check. It arrived as endurance. I looked for spiritual growth in soul-stirring conferences and high-powered retreats. It appeared disguised as heartbreak.  I hadn’t thought to look there.

After 36 years of marriage to a hyper-observant wife, my husband is learning to look for lost items in unexpected forms. And after years of being surprised by the shape of God’s answers, I’m discovering where they hide and why I’ve sometimes missed them.

He didn’t fail to answer me. I failed to notice.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Writing Sediments and Sentiments

The writing day I envisioned evaporated. In its place I found what I considered sediment. Upon closer examination, it revealed its true nature. Not sediment at all, but condensed particles of a writing life devoted to God’s plan and timing.

ACFW tasks (always a joy, even the hard ones) kept me busy most of the morning, but I managed to make progress on a dozen other small projects. Then—sigh—grocery shopping. Whether it’s convenient or not, Tuesday is now grocery day because I can’t miss out on the ten percent senior discount. It is, after all, one of the few benefits of being older than Beatle memorabilia.

The aisles held not people but characters. An elderly woman shouted at her deaf husband who had a one-word vocabulary—“Huh?” A lost soul seemed befuddled that the pizza sauce isn’t kept on a shelf near the spaghetti sauce. A height-challenged woman (wait, that was me) strained to reach the two-liter bottles of Diet Coke which are—for some reason known only to marketing departments and chiropractors—in racks too high for anyone but NBA hopefuls. A mother chided her tactile-learner daughter, “Don’t touch!” A man read the label on a box of frozen, deep-fried mozzarella sticks. (If you have to read the label, trust me. This is not the product for you).

My cell phone rang as I negotiated the cleaning supplies aisle. A request for an errand for a person in need. It rang again as I exited the parking lot with my trunkful of groceries. A neighbor needed someone to stop at Walgreen’s for medicine the doc had neglected to order when the neighbor was discharged from the hospital earlier in the day. (Someone asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered, “The person who needs mercy.” And who are our characters?).

I tried the drive-through window at Walgreen’s, but the prescription had “issues,” so I parked and went inside, where I discovered another handful of characters. A customer apparently unaware batteries come in different sizes. A man staring long and hard at the glut of cold and flu medications (I kept a wide berth). The check-out clerk whose center-part told me her original hair color which was not even close to the color an inch out from center, or the one two inches beyond that. She pointed to the clearance rack make-up I’d purchased and commented that it was good stuff. Then she apologized. She wasn’t wearing any makeup at the moment and how could she promote a product looking like that? I told her—and meant it—that her smile went a long way toward beauty care.

A quarter mile from home, I delayed my progress toward my next novel yet again. This time the character was a young woman sitting behind the wheel of a car whose front end looked like the loser in a prize fight. Toothless and sporting a spectacular starburst where its windshield should have been, the car bore the marks of a tangle with a deer. Not a win-win situation. After determining the young woman had been Elvised (All Shook Up) but not injured, I flagged down the neighbor who is—conveniently for the neighbor-hood—a county deputy.

Crisis averted, I delivered the medicine, put away my groceries, speed-cooked supper, and wondered where the day went. I’d wanted to write. Instead, a cast of characters paraded past me.

Ah. Research.

It is the act of living that fuels our fiction. Sure, imagination plays a large part. But if I resent a God-breathed interruption because it interferes with my writing plans, am I shooting past the scenic overlook without a glance?

It’s been said that the things that threaten to keep us from writing are the things we write about.

If you’ll excuse me, I have some character sketches to flesh out and notes to take about a spectacular starburst windshield.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Joined at the Heart--Interview with Sharon K. Souza

I met author Sharon K. Souza at an authors' retreat for the literary agency the two of us are privileged to call "home"--Books & Such Literary Agency.

I say met, but from the first moment of our face-to-face connection, we knew we'd always been friends but hadn't had the opportunity to be introduced yet!

I devoured her first novel--Every Good & Perfect Gift--as much enthralled with her writing talent as with the story. If one outshines the other, the reader misses out. But Sharon exquisitely maneuvered the balance beam and performed a glorious dismount with the book's final words.

I'm pleased to share this conversation with you and encourage you to treat yourself to the gift of her writing through Every Good & Perfect Gift or her second novel with NavPress, Lying on Sunday. 

1.   I asked Sharon...

     How long was your journey from the seed of an idea for Every Good and Perfect Gift until its publication? Musing time? Writing time? Sending it out to publishers?

From inception to release, Every Good and Perfect Gift was ten years in the making. It’s the only book I’ve written from real life experience. The story was inspired by a catastrophic illness that struck a very close friend, one I didn’t even know existed until her diagnosis. I jumped right in when the idea for the story struck, so there was very little musing time, but it took two and a half years to write. I did send it to a few publishers on my own, and got it back each time with a nice form letter. It wasn’t until I went to the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, met a young editor who was interested in the story, and ultimately signed with my wonderful agent, Wendy Lawton, that things began to happen. Within a few short weeks following the conference, I was offered a contract.

2.       The friendship between your two main characters—DeeDee and Gabby—is so rich, it seems obvious that imagination alone couldn’t flesh it out as fully as could your personal experience with deep, sacrificial friendships. Did you draw heavily from your own relationships in creating the characters?

Not since high school have I had the kind of friendship I wrote about in Every Good and Perfect Gift, not even with the friend whose story inspired the book. I think the relationship between DeeDee and Gabby reflects the kind of friendship I would like to have, but that too many grown women, myself included, don’t have. Marriage, motherhood, career and ministry, all take so much of our time, energy and emotion, that very little is left over for the type of relationship the characters in my stories enjoy. Or maybe it’s just the type of person I am, too private for my own good. All I know is that writing stories about such rich friendships has birthed a desire in me I haven’t known in years. I’m allowing myself the luxury to cultivate my own version of those friendships, now that I know how important they are and how much I missed over the years. If there’s one thing I’d like to do, it’s to encourage young women not to sacrifice that in the busyness of their lives. I’d encourage them to make time for themselves, because everyone in their life will benefit from it.

3.       Can you share your philosophy—with which I personally identify—of how humor and pain seem so often intertwined in life and crises?

The difficult times in our lives can bring us very quickly to the breaking point. Humor, like nothing else, can break that tension at just the right time. My dad passed away very unexpectedly at the age of 54, and it was one of the hardest things I ever experienced. My sister, her husband and I spent almost a week at his house, going through all his things, emptying the house he’d lived in most of our lives. It was a very difficult time. Well, he had this nearly dead spider plant hanging in front of his swamp cooler, and it came right to the height of my brother-in-law’s forehead. You guessed it. Every time Bob turned around he was banging his head on the plant. By the time it happened three or four times, we were all laughing so hard we were crying. But we were no longer crying from our sorrow. I love my brother-in-law all the more dearly for the comic relief he provided – intentional or otherwise – for my sister and me.

4.       What did it cost you, emotionally, to write this story?

It was an emotionally difficult story to write, but then most of my stories are. I think because I was so closely linked to the issue I wanted to present with my friend’s illness, I could never really step away from it, like I might with another story and another issue. It was always there in front of us, getting worse all the time. So in that regard, it was more real than anything I’d written – until now.

5.       Your three children are grown. How has your empty nest affected your writing habits or stories?

I look back and wonder how I accomplished what I did with my writing, as a working mother and pastor’s wife. Back in the day (ha!) I did most of my writing at night, after everyone was in bed and all the chores were taken care of. I’ve never been a morning person, so getting up early was not an option for me. I’d much rather stay up late to work. I have a friend right now who gets up every morning between 4:30 and 5:00 to work on her book before she gets ready for work, and just thinking about that makes me want to take a nap. I can get by on four hours of sleep when I have to, which is more often than I’d like, but it better be because I’ve stayed up half the night, rather than gotten up before the sun.

Now that our children are grown with children of their own, I’m able to do most of my writing in what I call the heart of the day, that time between noon and dinner time. That gives me the morning to do my housework, run my errands, have an early lunch with my daughters, husband, or a friend once in a while, and get home to write. I also have time to write at night after my husband—who IS a morning person—goes to bed. But usually I reserve that time for things like answering interview questions, catching up on email, and reading.

6.       It seems no nest is truly “empty.” And certainly our prayers and concern for our children and grandchildren don’t cease. What’s the greatest gift your kids and grandkids have given you in regard to your writing career?

Their support and encouragement has been phenomenal. Sadly, our son passed away during the final edits of this book, so he never got to hold it in his hands, but he’d read the manuscript and cheered me on as proudly as his dad and his sisters. Now my grandchildren are getting to the age where they’re eager to read my books. That’s very gratifying.

7.       Every Good and Perfect Gift is your debut novel, but writers often have a couple of “practice” novels on file. Was this the first novel you completed? If not, what made this one rise to the surface in your focus and in the eyes of your publisher?

You’re absolutely right about those practice novels. I have three or four that will never be published, but they were wonderful learning experiences. By the time I began to edit Gift, my writing style was much sharper and I’d found my voice, if you will. So I was able to tighten it up before turning it in. It really was the one I hung my hopes on, and I’m glad it was the first one published, but I like to think I improve with each book I write.

8.       If you had it to do over again, is there anything in your fiction career you would have done in a different order?

I would like to have been published much sooner than I was, but I committed my writing to the Lord a long time ago.  I have to believe this has all been in his time and according to his plan.

9.       Describe for us your typical writing day.

As I said earlier, I’m not a morning person, so morning is not the time I use to write. Instead I like to clear as much off my plate as I can, so that when I do sit down to write I don’t have things vying for my attention. Late morning and all afternoon is when I usually write, and sometimes at night. However, when I’m under a looming deadline all bets are off, and I’ll spend as much time at the computer as I have to.

10.   Do you have any specific advice for writers seeking to stay well-balanced in their family life, spiritually, physically…?

This is definitely a case of do as I say … and when I speak to you I’m speaking to myself as well. The pastor we had for a number of years was known by one word – something he talked about all the time. Balance. In whatever we do, it’s the Lord’s intent that we put him first. He created us and knows that’s how we function best. It’s a principle similar to tithing – give the Lord 10% and the remaining 90% goes further. I believe that same principle applies to our time, our energies, our devotion. Putting God first puts everything else in balance. Then comes our family, our vocation, and our ministry. Typically we run into problems when we get those things out of order.


We can’t do it all, no matter how much we try. So if something has to go, make sure it’s the right thing – and that’s never your relationship with the Lord, your spouse or your children. If I could spend one more day with my son, believe me I’d give him my undivided attention.

11.   How did your own faith walk differ after you completed the book compared to before? Or did the writing of the manuscript simply solidify how you felt before you picked up your pen or laid your hands on the keyboard?

The writing of Every Good and Perfect Gift certainly solidified the point I wanted to make with the story, and that is the faithfulness of God. Yes, bad things happen. Yes, we sometimes lose our way, but God so loved the world . . . that he sought us, to redeem us. There’s no greater story and no greater truth. It’s a truth I cling to, more now than ever.

12.   I’ve fallen in love with your writing style and know that many others have, too. Lying on Sunday—your second novel—is on my must-read list. What kinds of new projects can we expect from you in the future?

Thank you so much, Cynthia. My stories continue to include extraordinary friendships, and the intricate workings of familial relationships. Unraveled (working title) is the story of a young woman who goes to Moldova in Eastern Europe to teach English to children, and has a crisis of faith when one of the children is abducted for the worst of reasons. The Hub of the Daisy (also a working title) is the story of a boy who carries the guilt of the accidental death of his sister. I can only encourage readers of this interview to check my website from time to time to learn the release dates, because I don’t know what they are yet.

13.   Here’s your opportunity to express something from your heart to your readers and potential readers. What would you say to them if you were sharing a cup of tea with them in a quiet cafĂ©?

It’s my hope that you will come to value those around you a little bit more, and that the infinite and incredible love that God the Father has for you will become ever clearer because of something you’ve read within the pages of my books.

14.   Where can readers find you on the Internet? Would you share a link through which they can purchase your books and learn more about you?

Readers can visit my website at www.sharonksouza.com or visit http://novelmatters.blogspot.com, featuring myself and six other authors where we talk about what makes good fiction good from the perspective of reader and writer alike. You can find my books at all online bookstores, such as www.christianbook.com.