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  • Friday Favorites: Summer Reads (for what’s left of the summer!)

    With the recent Christy Awards ceremony ahttps://www.lizjohnsonbooks.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpnd the announcement of the ACFW Carol Award Finalists (two big deals in the Christian fiction world), I realized that I’d totally failed to share some of my favorite Christian fiction titles from the last year. I meant to get this post up months ago, but I figure it’s never too late to share some great summer reads! If you–like me–are going on vacation in the second half of the summer instead of the first half, may I suggest a couple books perfect for the beach, pool, or even just a late-night reading session.

    First off, a super-fun read from my friend Betsy St. Amant–Addison Blakely: Confessions of a PK. This sweet story follows preacher’s kid Addison Blakely as she tries to discover the truth about friendship, labels, and love in high school–all while living in full view of every member of church. In an unexpected twist of fate, she ends up overseeing the school’s talent show, and she can’t help but notice her widowed father’s budding relationship with her teacher. Add to that a love triangle including the town’s motorcycle-riding bad-boy and the would-be-perfect classmate, and Addison is in trouble. I zipped through this book as fast as Addison downs mochas and eats a box of gummy bears. As fun as it is, it also delves into the labels and expectations we place on others and reminds readers that walking with God is about being authentic, not perfect.

    Second is Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer. I’m such a fangirl of hers. I can’t help myself. I was so eager to get my hands on this book that I called around to every bookstore in my area for weeks leading up to the release, hoping someone–anyone–would have it out early. When I finally did get it, I’m pleased to report that it didn’t disappoint. This lighthearted historical romance tells the tale of Meredith Hayes, who overhears a plot to burn down the Archer family farm. She owes a debt to Travis Archer, so sets out warn him of the fire. But when she winds up stuck on the farm without a chaperone, one of the four Archer brothers will have to marry her to save her reputation. They must draw straws to decide, but one of them loves her a lot more than a short-straw’s worth.

    After devouring this book, I shared it with my mom and sister, a busy mom of three, who stayed up until 2am to finish it. We’re like two peas in a pod.

    Have you read either of these? What books have you loved this year? What do you recommend for some fun summer reading?

    Merry Christmas!

    Tomorrow is the big day! It’s Christmas! Christmas Day! The day that we celebrate the birth of Christ. The day that God took on human form. This is the day that we set aside to celebrate the miracle of a God who loves us so much that He sent His son to earth to redeem us from our sins.

    In honor of this day (and since it’s Friday), I want to share with you one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs, put to this amazing video. Enjoy Downhere singing How Many Kings? and ask yourself how many kings would do what God did to romance this world.

    Only one.

    A holy God loves you so much that He gave His only son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everylasting life. That’s the message of Christmas, and the good news of the Gospel.

    You have good reason to be merry today and every day!

    Merry Christmas!

    Friday Favorite – Heather Cadenhead’s Inventory of Sleeping Things

    Today I’m super-excited to share with you the poetry of Heather Cadenhead, a great friend and co-worker. Heather recently released her very first chapbook called Inventory of Sleeping Things. So I know what you’re thinking. What the heck is a chapbook? I asked that, and a bunch of other questions of Heather, who kindly agreed to answer them.

    And as an added bonus, I’m giving away a copy of this exceptional poetry collection. Just leave a comment on this point by next Friday, and then Heather will pick a winner at random. (And if you’re not a poetry fan, still enter because there’s probably someone in your life who would love this as a gift.)

    1. Heather, your first chapbook is called Inventory of Sleeping Things. Explain to us what a chapbook is.

    As best as I can tell, chapbooks originated sometime in the sixteenth century. They began as inexpensive booklets for the working class, featuring everything from short stories and folk plays to religious or political content. The term comes from the peddlers, or chapmen, who sold these little books. Most chapbooks were purchased by those who couldn’t afford to keep formal libraries. Their popularity decreased in the 1800s but, in the 20th and 21st centuries, we’ve seen a sort of revival of the chapbook. I think self-publishing played a huge role in reviving the format, but now, we see many small presses who publish chapbooks exclusively, and the reason for that, I think, is inventory-of-sleeping-thingsbecause they’re not terribly expensive to produce, so they really sustain a lot of the work that small, independent presses are doing. Mainly, you’ll see poetry chapbooks—short books with anywhere from 20 to 40 poems—but I’m seeing a lot more short story chapbooks these days, too. I think it’s an interesting format—one that digital publishing has expanded even more. It’s not uncommon at all to see digital chapbooks, or “e-chaps,” these days. I think it continues to be a format that is kind to poets who are just starting out, and allows us to build a small repertoire of publishing “cred” that’s helpful when we start seeking publishers for full-length poetry collections.

    2. Where did your title come from?

    I got the title from “After Hours,” the last poem in my chapbook. The last two stanzas read: “Here, I make an inventory of sleeping things: / you; our next-door neighbor, five tabby cats / curled up at her feet; the brown-eyed dog / we brought home from the pound. Tell me / why you closed your eyes. Because / you could, I think, is the answer.” There are a lot of poems about night, a lot of poems about dreams. I see a sort of “Wee Willie Winkie” thread running throughout the poems—I just feel a sense of awe when I observe the beauty of nighttime, and feel most aware of the mystery, and majesty, of creation. There’s this sense of hushed reverence peppered with questions: How did I get here? Am I loved? There’s not always an obvious answer to every question—as it is with life. In our limited understanding of God, there’s always going to be mystery. I see congruence in my thoughts about God, and my total dependence on Him, with a poem like “Illiterate,” where I talk about a girl who can’t read: “Dear Baby my mother wrote me a month before I was born. / I recognize her curves, her jagged signature, but it’s still / Sanskrit to me. I only know it says baby / because my father told me once.” In the same way, I see myself as an unlearned child—and the only things I know in this life are “because my Father told me,” because not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from Him.

    3. How long have you been writing poetry?

    I’ve been writing poems since I was probably eight or nine years old. I would write poems for my mom on Mother’s Day and that sort of thing. When I was in high school, I wrote poems about boys. I think it began as a way to express myself lyrically. In college, I had to “relearn” poetry—and go from the “Dear Diary” approach to more of a focused, craft approach, if that makes sense. I’ve been working at poem-writing as a craft—as opposed to an outlet—for about five or six years now.

    4. What’s your favorite poem in Inventory of Sleeping Things? What’s it about?

    If I had to pick a favorite, I’d probably go with “A Man Names Things” because it was so much fun to write, and hopefully it’s fun to read, too. I’ve had a lot of my poet friends call it a feminist poem, but really, it’s about a desire for acceptance, and the temptation that comes with being able to read another person—knowing what they expect of you, what they’d like for you to be—and sometimes giving into that, and going with that, rather than being who you truly are. And then, it’s about how arduous it can be to reverse someone’s perception of you once you’ve allowed them to think something that wasn’t perhaps entirely true. A close second would be “Raven,” which was inspired by Ruth 1:16: “But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.’”

    5. Your day job is in the fiction department of a major Christian publisher. Have you ever considered writing fiction? If so, what would you write?

    I’ve most definitely considered writing fiction! I think fiction is great fun—I love reading it, and I love experimenting with the occasional short story. If I ever wrote a novel, I’d be interested in doing a coming-of-age story, I think, because those are the kinds of stories that jump out at me the most. I’d love to set something in the ’80s—I think it was such an interesting decade, and not just because I was born in it. The ’80s had spunk.

    6. Where can our readers purchase your book?

    You can purchase Inventory of Sleeping Things at www.maverickduckpress.com. Or you can email me at heathercadenheadATgmailDOTcom.

    Thanks for joining us, Heather!

    Okay, readers. It’s up to you now. Leave your comment for a chance to win.

    Friday Favorite – Clark Richard

    I’m so-so excited to tell you all about my friend Clark Richard, who’s new EP is called Kissing Kelly and is available for download at iTunes here.

    Kissing Kelley - EP, Clark Richard

    Clark and I were in a small group together this year, and he’s just a really cool guy. And his music is way more than cool! It’s awesome!

    The first time I heard his EP, I just couldn’t stop. I listened to it at least a dozen times in a row. The lyrics are so fresh, and the music is absolutely addictive. And the album has a really wonderful cohesive sound that is sometimes missing from independent albums. My favorite song on the album is the title track, a sweet tune about going to sleep so that he can dream about the girl he loves.

    The one bad part about the EP? It’s only 4 songs long. I could listen to Clark’s tunes for hours! Please go check out the EP and plop down at least 99 cents for Kissing Kelly, which you’ll want stuck in your head. Better yet, spend all $4 for the whole EP and put it on repeat. Trust me. You’ll love it.

    You can thank me later. 🙂

    Friday Favorite – Autumn

    Have you felt it? Have you smelled it in the air? Or noticed that those sweaters in the back of your closet are calling you? Yup. It’s fall, and with it come so many of my favorite things.

    Now that I live in Nashville, I’m getting to enjoy the leaves changing. Oh, they were so green this summer. And now they’re starting to turn yellow. Rumor has it that the rain this summer will cause them to turn brown and fall off the trees without really turning brilliant reds and oranges. But, you know, what? It’s still a beautiful change that I would never get to see in Arizona (the cactus are always green) and very little of in Colorado. So bring on the cool weather and the falling leaves.


    Fall also brings back football. And while it took me a couple weeks to get back into the swing of the season, I’m so glad to have Peyton Manning, Austin Collie, Dallas Clark, and the rest of  the Colts back in my life–and on my fantasy football team. I don’t know if I’d be this excited if I was losing my fantasy league very badly, but I’m hanging in there, and boy, do I love watching this game!


    And then there are the scarves. I love it when I’m a little chilly and I wrap a scarf around my neck. It warms me right up … and also adds a little something to my outfit.


    Then, of course, there’s the realization that Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. You’ve got to love that! And it means that I get to start planning and buying Christmas gifts, which is also a favorite of mine.

    These are a few of my favorite things about autumn. What do you love about it?

    Friday Favorite – Mark Smeby’s This World Is Not My Home

    Hey, guys!

    Last week, I introduced you to my new friend Mark Smeby. Mark was out of town this week, filming a new movie called 1 Message, for which he plays the “romantic lead”. Looking forward to checking that out whenever it’s ready. But for now, I thought I’d share Mark’s tune, This World Is Not My Home. Just click on the link below to open a new window that should play the song for you.

    Mark Smeby – This World Is Not My Home

    Hope you enjoy it, and check out his new album Pilgirm Man, out September 14th.

    The song from Mark that keeps playing in my head, is actually the Christmas one, Emmanuel (You Are With Me). I swear, every time I hear it on my itunes, I end up singing it for hours. (Too bad I don’t have a voice like Mark.) 🙂 So here’s that music video.


    Hope you’ve enjoyed this musical edition of Friday Favorite. Thanks for sharing your music with all of us, Mark! (And also thanks to Mark for telling me how to post audio. Watch out for crazy audio clips from LJ, coming soon!)

    Friday Favorite – Self-photography

    I noticed recently that I take an awful lot of pictures of myself. Well … maybe that would be better stated that my percentage of self-photographed pictures is rather high. But I love a good self-photograph! And I’ll tell you why. It’s all about the angles.

    You see, when you take a picture of yourself, you tend to hold the camera up high. The picture points down, and bada bing, bada boom, any potential double chins or weird face issues are destroyed. And so, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite self-portraits.

    Me and Mom at the Third Day/Brandon Heath show in Phoenix. Rockin' good time!
    Me and Mom at the Third Day/Brandon Heath show in Phoenix. Rockin' good time!
    Former roommate (and friend-extraordinaire) Amy and I at a Brandon Heath concert in 2009.
    Former roommate (and friend-extraordinaire) Amy and I at a Brandon Heath concert in 2009.
    My sister and I at our recent Bluebird adventure!
    My sister and I at our recent Bluebird adventure!
    Jess Barnes, Jess Lacy, and me at the Golden Bee just before I left Colorado Springs.
    Jess Barnes, Jess Lacy, and me at the Golden Bee just before I left Colorado Springs.

    So the next time you’re looking for someone to take your picture, remember that all you need is an extended arm and a tight hug with everyone you want in the picture!

    Friday Favorite – 30 by 30

    I’m almost 30. Well, to be completely forth-coming, I’m almost, almost 30. That’s right. I’m about to turn 29. This Sunday to be exact.

    A few weeks ago, I started thinking about making a list of things that I might want to do by the time I’m 30. I started asking questions like, Have I accomplished the things that I want to by the time I hit 30? What do I want to do with this year?

    So, what I came up with is below … a list of 30 things I want to do in the next year. Some are a little silly. Some are meant to stretch me. And if I add up all the hours it’ll take to accomplish these, I might have to quit my day job. (Hmm … well, I can’t finance my trip to the Harry Potter theme park if I quit my job. Bummer.)

    Without further ado, I present …

    Liz’s 30 by 30

    1. Complete the Nashville Rock and Roll ½ Marathon
    2. Write 2 novels
    3. Read all of Jane Austen’s Books
    4. Go to an NFL game
    5. Save $1500 toward a trip to Scotland/Ireland
    6. Finish Caleb’s fire truck cross stitch
    7. Visit 3 Civil War battlefields
    8. See Brandon Heath in concert
    9. Visit Boone Hall in South Carolina (Mount Royal Plantation)
    10. Donate $1000 to World Vision for Micro-loans
    11. Get a contract for a 3-book deal
    12. Find a place to serve at my new church
    13. Take a cooking class at Whole Foods
    14. Give away 20 of the books on my shelves
    15. Buy flowers for a friend for no reason
    16. Eat something with mushrooms
    17. See a show at TPAC
    18. Read the Bible in a Year
    19. Take an adult beginner dance class
    20. Visit the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios in Orlando
    21. Catch up on the TV show Chuck
    22. Volunteer at least 10 hours at a local food bank/shelter
    23. Read a #1 New York Times Bestseller when it’s #1
    24. Go a week without eating out
    25. Host a dinner party for at least 4 friends
    26. Write a Christmas short story
    27. Drop 2 dress sizes
    28. Sing karaoke in public
    29. Drink only water for 2 weeks straight
    30. Vacation on Prince Edward Island

    And wouldn’t you know … that list actually looks like it’ll provide material for at least 30 blogs! Score! I’ll keep you all up to date on my progress, and in a year, we’ll revisit. 🙂

    (And, yes. Technically my trip to PEI is already planned and mostly paid for, but I’m still going in my 29th year, so that still counts, right?)

    Did/do you have a 30 by 30 list? What was on it?

    Friday Favorite – Old Spice Man

    Once upon a time there was a commercial. It was a silly commercial, intended to make viewers giggle with glee.

    It did it’s job well.

    And then one day, the Old Spice Man began responding to twitter and facebook comments. Random comments illicited random responses.

    These made me giggle, too.

    And then they made me giggle (and by that I mean, laugh so hard I nearly peed my pants) again.

    Well, I hope these made you giggle too. If they didn’t … well, that simply will not do.

    Friday Favorite – My birthday is a month away!!!

    In case you didn’t pick it up from the headline, my birthday is just a month away! And while I’m not as young as I once was (who is?), I’m still in the mood to celebrate. And to kick this party off, I thought that I could give you a gift!

    So we’re going to do an impromptu giveaway of my new book, Vanishing Act–before it’s available to purchase!

    Here’s the deal. Leave a comment on this post with your favorite birthday gift (to give or get), and I’ll pick one winner on Monday, June 28 (so make sure you leave your comment by Sunday night). I’ll even personalize and sign it for you, or someone you want to give it to as a gift!

    So get ready for a little pre-Liz’s birthday celebration!