From Writing

Life after the junkyard: Sequel to “Wreath, A Girl” releases today!

My new novel, “Wreath, In Summer,” releases today, December 1, 2015, and I can’t wait for you to read it.

Wreath-In-SummerThis is the second novel in the Wreath Willis series, the sequel to “Wreath, A Girl.” I wrote it after hearing from readers who wanted to know what happened to Wreath after high-school graduation. Turns out, Wreath has lots of adventures ahead.

After high-school graduation, Wreath is ready for a summer of fun. However, a mysterious young stranger needs her help—causing her to make tough decisions and putting her in danger. Paperback and digital versions are available on, right here.

Wreath’s story is for readers of all ages, from age 11 through adulthood.

The comments of early readers have made me smile. A sampling:

“Wow! You have topped ‘Wreath, A Girl’ with the new book. The growth of Wreath is amazing. You’ve captured so well the problems of kids in that transition between high school and ‘real life’–be it college or work….It’s a wonderful story.” – From a Book Club Member and avid reader

“What an adventurous story, filled with twists and turns…If you loved ‘Wreath, A Girl,’ hang on for round two! Just when you thought Wreath’s biggest adventures were behind her, she enters into a summer filled with romantic twists, heart-pounding adventures, intrigue…highly recommended!” –Bestselling author Janice Thompson, who has written nearly 100 books

“I loved being part of Wreath’s summer before college…This is a wonderful YA story but also a great read for adults…because there are times when we all need someone to help us do the right thing. I sure hope there is more of this adventure to come!” New York Times bestselling author Lenora Worth

Hope you’ll read “Wreath, In Summer” soon. Haven’t read “Wreath, A Girl” yet or need a teen gift? You can order it in paperback or e-book here.

And please consider posting reviews of “Wreath, In Summer” and “Wreath, A Girl” on and Goodreads and spread the word to friends and family. Reviews are one of the nicest gifts you can give an author.

If you’re in the North Louisiana area, we’ll celebrate “Wreath, In Summer” with a launch party and book fair on Monday, December 7, 2015, 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in Shreveport. We’ll have refreshments and door prizes and visit about books! To give back to our community, B&N will give a portion of all sales to buy books and educational toys for children in need this Christmas–with the help of the wonderful Common Ground Community in the Cedar Grove neighborhood of Shreveport.




Summer-reading photo contest: Show us what you’re reading!

Friend Neil Johnson, usually behind the camera, reads a Jack London book on a family vacation in Maine. (Photo by Cindy Johnson)
Friend Neil Johnson, usually behind the camera, reads a Jack London book on a family vacation in Maine.
(Photo by Cindy Johnson)

I love photos of people reading.

To celebrate the 4th annual Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club, we’re having a summer-reading photo contest.

E-mail your favorite summer-reading photo to judy(at) I’ll share some on the blog. One reader will win a $50 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble or Amazon–your choice.

Any summer reading/book photo qualifies. You don’t have to be on vacation—would love to see your children or grandchildren reading or a shot of a favorite spot to read. Be creative!

You have until after Labor Day–the unofficial end of summer.

Deadline to enter is 5 p.m. CST Wednesday, September 9. Let me know where the photo was taken and confirm that you took it or have permission to enter it.

Old summer photos are eligible, too. Can’t wait to see your reading pictures!

And, leave a comment to let us know what you’re reading as summer winds down. Happy end-of-summer and happy reading!

Want to write a book? Writing Workshop August 29

Back-to-school is a great time to start or finish your book idea. I’m excited to join author friend Shellie Tomlinson at a workshop on writing and publishing on August 29. I’ll share tips on how to write fiction, and Shellie will talk about nonfiction. We’ll gather in Lake Providence, Louisiana. The cost is $45. Would love to see you there! To register: Writing Workshop.

4th annual Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club: Happy reading!

Summer reading
Great photo from a “Magnolia Market” reader!

Greetings from the green kitchen couch–where my summer to-be-read stack is still quite tall!

This is our 4th year for the Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club — another excuse (as though we need one!) to talk about what we’re reading. So, what’s on your bedside table? By your beach chair? On your Nook or Kindle or iPad?

I’ve had great summer writing adventures and have been reading along the way — from an excursion to Colorado (and a visit, of course to Tattered Cover) to a train ride from East Texas to Chicago.

Most recently I read “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon–an unusual choice for me because I rarely read time-travel novels. I heard about this book, the first in a series, several years ago on Twitter, bought an e-version on sale (it’s still $1.99 as I write this) and read it on the train trip to a wedding.

The premise is immensely creative, the characters larger-than-life but oddly believable, and I learned a lot about Scottish history. The book made me reflect on advancements through the centuries. I enjoyed it–although I don’t plan to read others in the series because I have so many other authors I want to sample.

If you like G-rated books, be aware that “Outlander” has some pretty intense–sex and violence–scenes. They didn’t bother me but I don’t want you to be caught off guard.

Has anyone else read it? What do you think? (Or watched the TV series?)

More book talk for summer:

** I decided not to read “Go Set a Watchman,” which I’ve written about in my upcoming book column in The Shreveport Times (runs each Thursday). Main reason: I don’t care to read an unedited manuscript, unless it’s my own. If I were a Harper Lee scholar, I’m sure I’d feel differently. Would love to hear if you’re reading it and what you think.

** Thanks to all who are awaiting “Wreath, In Summer,” the second Wreath WillisWreathInSummerFINAL-Amazon (1) novel, written and in production. A release date will be announced soon, I promise! I can’t wait to share this next installment of Wreath’s story (sneak peek at cover to the right); she has many adventures during the weeks after high-school and must make tough decisions about helping others or staying on the sidelines. Her almost-boyfriend Law is back, along with Faye, Wreath’s newly-discovered grandfather, an intriguing teen and the child in his care–and a host of not-so-nice people!

If you haven’t read “Wreath, A Girl,” Adobe Photoshop PDFfirst in the series, I hope you’ll take a look before the new book comes out. And if you’ve read, please leave a review on Amazon. Really helps!

** Thanks to all who ordered “Magnolia Market” after a Book Bub special over the weekend. It’s been fun to watch this book rise in Amazon rankings and hear from new readers discovering this second book in the Trumpet & Vine series.Magnolia Market final cover 10.24.13

Your turn! Let us hear what you’re reading this summer. Any recommendations? Leave a comment for a chance to win a Starbuck’s gift card and a fun journal! I’ll draw at noon CST July 31. And congrats to booklover MA of Shreveport, La., who won our last drawing!

A Southern sense of place in stories: A conversation with Kimberly Willis Holt

As a reader and writer, I’m partial to southern stories. I live in Louisiana, a state full of so many tales that an author could spend a lifetime capturing them. Each of my eight novels is set in a fictional Louisiana town. So I particularly enjoy reading the middle-grade stories of author Kimberly Willis Holt, woven from her Louisiana roots.

Kimberly Willis Holt
Kimberly Willis Holt

Kimberly, who moved frequently as a child in a Navy family, considers Central Louisiana her “emotional home.” She draws on this setting and her Louisiana family’s gift for storytelling in each of her books—including her new middle-grade novel, “Dear Hank Williams.”

I first encountered Kimberly years ago at a book festival at the site of the iconic Louisiana Hayride where musical giants such as Elvis Presley got their start—a spot that plays a key role in Kimberly’s new book, “Dear Hank Williams.” (Sitting in the green room used by such musical stars offers a thrill all its own, but that’s a blog for another day.)Book Column Dear Hank Williams

“Dear Hank Williams” is set in Central Louisiana in 1948. Tate P. Ellerbee’s teacher has given her class an assignment–to learn the art of letter-writing. (As an avid letter writer, this is yet another thing I love about this book.) Tate’s chosen pen pal: Hank Williams, a singer she heard on the Hayride.

Kimberly has written such great novels as “My Louisiana Sky,” “When Zachary Beaver Came to Town” and “The Water Seeker.” She’s a National Book Award winner and has had her books made into movies. She pulls me in to stories with her keen sense of place and the emotions she evokes.

How she approaches settings

“When I’m writing a story, I want to make the reader feel like they are in the setting. That’s achieved by many layers–not just the way a place looks, but the way the people interact with each other, what they talk and care about, too.”

Her attention to emotional impact

“My emotions are close to the surface. I think that’s why I’m able to easily add that dimension into my work. I’m not interested in reading or writing stories that don’t explore the heart.”

Choosing ideas to write about

“When you get excited about the idea, so excited that it will hurt you if you don’t write it, it’s probably time. For me, the excitement comes when I hear the voice of a character speaking to me. Then I know it’s time.”

Coming-of-age stories (which I love)

“…Almost all my ideas are coming-of-age ideas. To me a coming-of-age story is a story about a young person who has to make an adult decision. In doing so, life is never quite the same.”

For more, including public appearances and advice for writers, see

Are you drawn to books with a sense of place? What sorts of settings appeal to you? Hope you’ll leave a comment.

And congrats to blog reader M.A. who won our April drawing for a collection of Louisiana Booklovers’ items, including a signed copy of the new edition of  my YA novel, “Wreath, A Girl.” And to e-newsletter subscriber A.R. who won 10 signed copies of “Magnolia Market,” my fiction with a Louisiana flavor, for a book discussion. Have you signed up for my e-newsletter? I announce new books and contests there and will never share your e-mail address with others:

An Author Friend & Her Dog During Dog Days of Summer

The Dog Days of Summer have officially arrived (yes, they really are a thing), bringing a perfect time to read on the Kitchen Couch–and an opportunity to introduce you to one of my favorite writers, Lisa Wingate, and her adorable dog and literary sidekick, Huckleberry.IMG_6051
Lisa is a hero of mine and a great southern writer. Huck makes me smile.

A free book

Lisa is the author of more than 20 books, including “The Prayer Box,” FREE now on Kindle, Nook and iTunes (to be read on one of your iThings). She’s an all-around nice person who writes “Fiction That’s Good for the Soul.” With a deft touch, she blends feel-good, inspirational stories with real-world challenges–always with characters you’d like to chat with.

“The Prayer Box” is about what happens when Tandi Jo Reese, running from a messy, dangerous past, is charged with the task of cleaning out an old-timer’s house on Hatteras Island. Tandi’s life changes when she discovers 81 carefully decorated prayer boxes from the life of Iola Anne Poole.

To download “The Prayer Box” for free for a limited time:Prayer Box cover (2)
Barnes & Noble:

Read more about Lisa at or take a look at her blog post with background on “The Prayer Box”– Her next book, “The Story Keeper,” will be out in September.

Meet Huckleberry

And then there’s Lisa’s dog, Huckleberry, the real star of this post. He’d make me want to read her books even if she wasn’t a terrific writer. Named for Huck Finn, of course, he’s her literary companion, dogging her steps (so to speak) as she writes and providing needed chuckles when she takes a break.Lisa and Huckleberry

He’s the perfect pooch to kick off a little Dog-Day Reading in our Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club, don’t you think?

An aside on writing about dogs

While I don’t own a dog, I write dogs into my novels and get attached to them: Sugar Marie. Holly Beth. Kramer. And, of course, Mannix (the beloved 3-legged dog with a starring role in “The Glory of Green”). In my next novel, “Magnolia Market,” you’ll meet Willie and Howie. To me, pets add another layer to how a character reacts–and they’re fun to name!

I also enjoy reading books with dogs in the plot. Romance Author Kristan Higgins comes to mind; each of her novels has a dog (or cat) with a starring role. For more on Kristan’s fun romances, see

How about you? Do you like stories with pets in them? I’d love to hear from you–and to learn what you’re reading now that we’re in the middle of July. Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of one of Lisa’s books. I’ll draw at noon CST Friday, July 18. And stay tuned for more authors and their dogs (and maybe even a cat or two). IMG_5605

Celebrating the release of a new novel!

Dear readers:
Sweet Olive, the first novel in the Trumpet & Vine Series, is here!
Not only is it shipping immediately from some sources, we’ll celebrate Tuesday, September 24, with a signing and book fair in Shreveport, Louisiana.
I’m thrilled to introduce you to this new community and a new group of characters.
What happens when a unique Southern town collides with the outside world and big oil?
Talented negotiator Camille Gardner must entice a group of rural Louisiana landowners to lease their mineral rights and, instead, finds herself drawn to the folk art created by those same landowners. Camille would rather be anywhere than Samford, Louisiana, the small southern town where she once spent the worst weeks of her life.
The charming residents and traditions of this small community leave Camille conflicted about her family obligations — and her own plans for the future. Perhaps she needs to give Samford a second chance.
Sweet Olive is published by Zondervan (HarperCollins Christian Publishing). 
What others are saying about Sweet Olive
(And I appreciate their kind words SO much!)
Publishers Weekly:  “The story’s fluid, Mitford-style pace perfectly matches the easygoing ambience of smalltown Louisiana. Fans of the author’s Green series will feel they’ve met new friends just down the road who share the same humidity, fragrance, and foliage that Christie so effortlessly recreates.”
Library Journal: “This tender romance (and new series launch) is blessed with a likable, strong female protagonist. As in her Green series (Gone to Green; Goodness Gracious Green) a Southern small town becomes a charming character in Christie’s able hands.”
Romantic Times: “Christie’s charming story has a cast that readers will remember long after finishing the novel. The characters were well-defined and well-written; they want the best for themselves even if it means turning their back on technology and continuing with their traditions. Christie is a talented author and her research in the field of drilling for natural gas while trying not to harm nature shines in the novel.”
Sweet Olive is a tender, romantic tale loaded with faith, hope, and heart.”
Lisa Wingate, National Bestselling Author of The Prayer Box and Firefly Island

A new novel calls for prizes, right?  Just leave a comment below for a chance to win a great Made-in-Louisiana item (Camellia Coffee, pralines, Bayou Magic cooking mixes and more). No purchase is necessary to win–just leave a comment about why you enjoy reading. I’ll draw at 8 p.m. CST on September 24, release day.


I love visiting with readers and hope you’ll spread the word.  Here’s info on a few  ways we can chat:

Thank you so much for all your encouragement on my writing journey.
And we’d love to have you celebrate the release of Sweet Olive, with us from 5-8 p.m. September 24, Barnes & Noble booksellers in Shreveport, Louisiana. Book-signing. Refreshments. Door prizes. A book fair for the Common Ground library in the Cedar Grove community. Hope to see you there!
Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a Louisiana item. I’ll draw at 8 p.m. CST on September 24,  release day.

Remembering Mama

imageMy mother died when I was 20.

​She left us too soon.

Yet she is as much a part of my life as though she were stirring around in the kitchen or reading her Bible on the weird red-and-black Mediterranean couch she loved.

I am who I am because of who she was.​

Born in rural Louisiana in 1924, Mama was a wise and loving parent and a kind woman who never spoke ill of others. (How I wish I had gotten more of that!) She liked to visit with neighbors in the porch swing, plant a big hanging basket of flowers each spring, sew on her brown Kenmore machine, go to the Baptist church down the street and laugh with her four sisters.

​She was a high-school educated food-services worker. She went to work on time, took shifts as assigned, appreciated her customers and respected her bosses. She made a warm home for us, even though she rarely owned property and didn’t have a checking account most of her life. The porch light and the coffee pot were always on. Whoever you were, whatever time it was, you were welcome.

​She cooked great Southern meals, and sometimes I flip through her dilapidated cookbook and read recipes written in her own hand, just to feel close to her. She was famous for her chicken-and-dumplings, among other things, and I smile when I read the brief recipe and wonder why she bothered to write it down.

​Though much time has passed since I had the joy of looking into her eyes, her lessons come to me in present tense.  She’s an example of how one person can make a difference, no matter where — or how long — she lives, how much education she has or how little money she possesses.

Mama did what the best mothers and fathers and teachers and pastors and leaders do — she made sure we four kids had a solid foundation — and encouraged us to go forth and build a life based on that. She preached the Golden Rule – and she most decidedly practiced it. She planted seeds that still sprout in children and grandchildren, great-nieces and great-nephews.

If Mama were still alive, I hope I’d be smart enough to tell her what I learned from her and why it matters in my daily life. She taught me that words and actions have impact way beyond today. Choices reverberate through the decades.

​I remember Mama.

​I miss her still.

​And I am thankful.

How about you? What have you learned from your mother? What lessons do you want to leave your children and grandchildren? Leave a comment, and I’ll draw for a signed copy of “Wreath,” my Young Adult novel that has been short-listed for an INSPY award, at noon CST on Friday, May 17.

Hurry Less Worry Less at Christmas

9781426742101One of the joys of my life is visiting. Whether I’m chatting in the porch swing, by handwritten letter, by phone, online or on the Kitchen Couch, I love to hear what is going on in people’s lives.

And I’m sorely in need of a Christmas visit with you.  I wonder how you’re doing during these days filled with so many blessings and so much sadness.

Are your thoughts jumbled with both the trivial and the tragic? Mine are.

Do you find yourself giving thanks for all the good and weeping at the bad? I do.

Years ago when I decided to slow my life down and enjoy each day more, I was reminded that Christmas is a particularly tough time to stay calm. This year it seems even more challenging. While the season brings many happy moments, it also can cause stress and heartache.

It’s a challenge to spend less, eat less, do less during the holidays, but I also find great joy in this season. I enjoy fun times with friends and family and savor worship services where we sing familiar hymns and celebrate the birth of Christ. This year I anticipate holding two brand-new grandbabies, special Christmas gifts indeed.

As I visit with you today, I vow to rejoice, to listen, to pray, to express gratitude – and I hope you’ll do the same. No matter how busy you are at this moment, you can slow down. No matter how tough life is, you don’t walk the path alone.

On my cluttered desk, next to my long pre-Christmas to-do list, sits a slate plaque. Etched on it are these words from Isaiah 45:2: “I will go before thee and make the crooked places straight.”

 I share that as a reminder that God goes before us, in the happiest of times and the saddest. In the most frenzied days and the quietest.

Hurry less and worry less during this next week – no matter what your circumstance. Slow down and give thanks. Don’t fret about small things. Focus on What Matters Most.  Remember that you can’t do everything. Say “no” to some things to say “yes” to others. Cut activities from your to-do list.

Sit here by me on the Kitchen Couch, friend, and take a deep breath. Let’s savor this holy season – reaching out to those who hurt and rejoicing at the Good News of Christmas.

What is your Christmas prayer? Please leave a comment. After the first of the year, I’ll draw from those comments and send you a Happy New present.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2013 to each of you.

P.S. If you’re having a tough time, I hope you’ll consider attending a special “Blue Christmas” service at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, December 23, at Grace Community United Methodist Church in Shreveport, La. Perhaps you’ve had a great loss this year – a death or divorce, an illness or a financial crisis or maybe you’re just not in the “Christmas spirit.”   Attend in person or watch live via the Internet at


Might this be the right time to write your book?

I’m thrilled to announce that “Sweet Olive,” my seventh novel, will be published by Zondervan in Fall 2013. (The picture you see here may look like an ordinary notebook – but it’s a paper copy of the manuscript, submitted on October 1!)

“Sweet Olive” is fiction with a Louisiana flavor, the story of what happens when oil-and-gas troubleshooter Camille Gardner meets up with a small-town group of folk artists. This novel is the beginning of the Trumpet & Vine series.

As you may know, when I turned 50 (nearly six years ago), I promised myself I would finally write the novel I had planned to write for years. I encourage those of you who have dreamed of writing a book to sit down and write.

In a recent blog for Writer’s Digest, I discussed my No. 1 tip for becoming a multi-published author: Develop a writing habit to put words on the page – instead of only dreaming about one day writing a book. Here’s that post:

Perhaps you have a “what if” story running around in your brain. Maybe you want to write a nonfiction book about something you are passionate about.  Or, maybe you want to write a collection of letters or lessons for your children or grandchildren.

This is a great time of year to sit down and write. November is the month when novelists around the world come together to write the first draft of their novels. For more information and lots of inspiration, see:

If November doesn’t work for you, set a goal to get started before the end of this year or before your birthday – or whatever works in your life. I’ve found that if I plan to write, I’m more likely to write.

Buy a notebook or journal and jot down the topic of the book, ideas, possible titles. Or make a file on your computer. List the steps you will take to get your words on paper. It’s not always easy to find time to write, so you have to make it a priority.  But your perspective is unique and can bring something to the world that no one else can. You can do it!

What book is tucked away inside of you? Have you ever wanted to be a writer? Leave a comment, and I’ll draw for a collection of books on writing and other tools (including a giant green pen!) on Monday, Oct. 22 at noon CST.  If you’d like a free copy of writing tips, e-mail me at

P.S. Have you read “Wreath” yet? This is my sixth novel and it was a recent finalist for the ACFW Carol Awards. A very fun celebration!