Country Music’s Hidden Gem

Last summer, I had the privilege of meeting Sharon and Billy Rae Stewart online. After hearing Redd Stewart’s incredible story–he composed The Tennessee Waltz, a beautiful song my mother used to sing around the house–I became more deeply involved in bringing this story to the world.

Here’s the cover of this new release, and I’m very proud to have played a role in its publication.

Now I’ll let Billy Rae, Redd Stewart’s son, describe what it’s been like to honor his father in this way. At the end, he shares the gifts he’d like to offer to three of you who leave a comment. I hope you visit the website he and Sharon created as a tribute to Redd, as well.

Hello everyone, this is Billy Rae. Let me start by saying becoming an Author was not on my bucket list. Music has always been my direction since I was 9 years old until my father passed away in 2003. My father’s story is an amazing one, full of life’s lessons that everyone can benefit from reading.

My father achieved his dreams against impossible odds, and had to overcome many struggles to become successful. His dedication to his craft and determination to succeed made his dreams come true. He succeeded in an industry where most people lose their souls and abandon their values just to become famous, but he did it without doing either. Starting his music career at the age of 13 in the middle of the Depression was enough to make anyone give up, but his life became a true rags-to-riches story.

This is the reason I just had to write this book. When you read it, you will realize that Redd Stewart never quit and also that he didn’t get the recognition he so rightly deserved. Writing this book was a way I could shine the light on a man who is what I call, Country Music’s Hidden Gem and my dad.

The process of writing the book was much easier than I’m sure most writers go through. I know the subject personally and have heard the stories over and over again. In 2003 when my father passed away, one of the first projects we wanted to work on was a documentary. We gathered together family photos and stories and organized all of the pictures, fliers, posters, awards, etc. my father had saved all through the years. We studied performance videos and interviews and numerous other resources.

We also did video interviews with family members to get stories and insights. On our tribute website for my father (www.reddstewart.com) we had two guestbooks, one for basic stories and comments from fans and one for a petition to have him inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The response was overwhelming. They came in from all over the world from fans and musicians he had played with through the years. 

All of this information made writing the book pretty straightforward. We decided to cover his life from the beginning to the end, and broke up all the resources into 10 year periods starting in the 30’s when he was born. We then went through each decade and decided the most important events to share with readers.

My wife Sharon made up index cards of those events. With her at the keyboard and me in my chair armed with those cards and resources to make sure I had my dates right, I would narrate the story from my head and she would type as we went along. After each part we would go back and tweak it. And that, my friends, is how we wrote the book!

Writing this book has been a dream come true, and I hope when you read it you will get to know the man I had the privilege of calling my dad. He was truly amazing.

We wanted to do a give away for all who read this blog, so we will choose three names from those who leave a comment, and they will get an E-book of Country Music’s Hidden Gem, along with one of my favorite CD’s that I personally remastered from the original entitled,’I Remember,’ which includes a beautiful 12-page booklet filled with lyrics and pictures that I know you will enjoy.

Thank you all for being here and God bless you all,

Billy Rae Stewart

You may follow Billy Rae and Sharon’s FB page My Unexpected Journey (White Socks Rock)

COUNTRY MUSIC’S HIDDEN GEM can be purchased here:

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1952474396Hardback: https://www.amazon.com/Country-Musics-Hidden-Gem-Stewart/dp/1952474388/

Puzzling It Out

About a week ago, Lance emptied a 1,500 piece puzzle on a table he moved in from outdoors. A card table wasn’t big enough to hold everything. First thing, of course, he put together the frame.

Except for one little piece. Now, how hard could it be to find ONE straight-edged puzzle piece in the mess spread out before us?

Very. Two days later, I happened upon the recalcitrant object and jubilantly fitted it in. Oh, the satisfaction!

Since then, long hours have passed organizing pieces by color, being foiled at fitting them in, and fretting when it seems as though ONLY THE ONE PIECE we’re seeking seems beyond our grasp.

Puzzles are somewhat like writing a book. They may lead you down dead-ends at times. They keep you up late.

And they’re addictive…perfect for a January getaway.

A NEW IMPRINT

This is exciting–(:

Congratulations to my reader and author friends–we have a new publishing venue! One of the editors, Karen Ullo, joins us this week. She’s also an author–see below for her GIVEAWAY details.

Thank you, Gail, for inviting me to be here with you this week! I’m thrilled to introduce your readers to my fantasy novel Cinder Alliaas well as Chrism Press, a new imprint of Gail’s own publisher, WhiteFire Publishing, dedicated to fiction from Catholic and Orthodox perspectives.

First, I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that, hopefully within the next few years, Cinder Allia will become a movie! Believe Entertainment (God’s Not Dead, Unplanned) recently purchased the film rights, and we are actively working on developing the film! 

What if the happy ending dies before the fairy tale even begins?

The way the idea for Cinder Allia came to me is a funny story. Once upon a time, I got together with some of my childhood girlfriends for a sleepover. We were all in our mid-twenties and still single. Sometime after midnight, we started wondering what had happened to our Prince Charmings. Fairy tales had promised us princes! Then we thought, what if Prince Charming had died before we could meet him? We concocted a very silly story that the prince’s guardian angel had gone on vacation and left a replacement—the Angel Vinnie—in charge. Vinnie had been asleep on the job when the prince got whacked by a crack dealer. 

Fast forward many years to a happily married, mother-of-two version of myself… and I realized there really was something to that idea. What if Prince Charming died before he could save Cinderella—and what if it was the fairy godmother’s fault? Out of that very silly seed of an idea, something completely different blossomed: a tale of war and espionage, with a crippled prince, a spy priest, a stepmother whose wickedness is poised to take down the throne, and a cinder maid who has to save not only herself, but her kingdom. 

I’m pleased to be able to offer a signed paperback of Cinder Allia to one lucky person who comments on this post, so please, ask questions, make comments, and let’s talk fairy tales!

I’d also like to invite you all to come join the fun at Chrism Press. If you read a lot of Christian fiction, you may (or may not) have noticed that there are very few depictions within this market of Catholic and Orthodox Christians. Surprisingly, the story of Chrism Press begins with two Evangelicals, David and Roseanna White, the owners of WhiteFire, who noticed that lack and wanted to create a place for these voices to be heard. Rhonda Ortiz and Marisa Deshaies, two Catholics who were already part of the WhiteFire editing team, invited me to join them, and a new imprint was born. Our first releases will be issued in the fall of 2021. I hope you’ll sign up for our newsletter, and if you want a sneak preview of what this ecumenical fiction looks like, check out the book that inspired it all, Roseanna White’s own The Number of Love 

It’s lovely to “meet” you all. Thank you once more to Gail for hosting me. Come find me on the web!

My website: www.karenullo.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/karenulloauthor

Renovations and Resolutions

This past year has renovated some aspects of our lives. Well, at least ALTERED them. Usually we plan and welcome renovations, but boy, can they ever make a mess!

The idea is to keep our eyes on the goal…what looks like a disaster can only be temporary, and as they say, the only way to accomplish anything is to begin. Right now, our carpenter has begun a HUGE project that involves chopping down a weight-bearing wall above a basement stairway, plus a whole lot of rebuilding.

With plaster pieces launching across our dining room like rockets, it’s reasonable to wonder, “Is this worth it?” But the goal, to open up the floor space so heat from our pellet stove can reach the rest of the house, is no impetuous one. My husband has desired this for many years.

The end result, increasing all-around efficiency, will make a big difference. So we’re plunging ahead, keeping our eyes on the target. Isn’t this similar to entering a new year?

The only way out of 2020 is moving into 2021, right?

We hope this new year satisfies the deep longings brought to light by the troubles of the old one. Universal yearnings: truth and justice, health, safety, joy and peace.

As the old hymn goes, “The wrong shall fail, the right prevail…with peace on earth, good will to men (and women and children.” (When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned these words, I’m pretty sure he was including everybody in his mind.)

The beginning of a renovation parallels the New Year’s resolutions I used to make. We all want to be kinder, more serene, more patient. to develop stronger character (and characters!) But amid the actual tests that strengthen us deep down, the drills, hammers, and brute force of renovation can be daunting.

Along the way, we may discover weak spots badly in need of repair and requiring more work than we thought. After some time, we pause and look back at our progress and realize it’s all good. In spite of our struggles we clean up pretty well.

After quite a few decades of resolution-making, I take a less strictly defined approach. One day at a time, one of the hallmarks of Al-Anon. And always, gratitude.

So we enter a new year. I appreciate all of your support throughout this extra looooong one, and hope to see more of you again in person during 2021. We’ve done our best, we’ve made it through, but it’s simply not the same!

Grand Openings Can Be Murder

It’s a COZY MYSTERY to begin the new year–enough questions to satisfy, but light. Amber Royer is offering a print copy giveaway to a commenter: enjoy reading her take on writing fiction! “““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““

I’ve always been a believer in the whole writing is therapy adage.  I’m a writing instructor as well as an author, and I’ve seen people uncover amazing things about themselves in my memoir classes.  But what about fiction?  Things don’t have to line up one-to-one for a writer to be able to process emotions or puzzle out pieces of human nature.

When I sat down to write Grand Openings Can Be Murder, I decided to write about a character who had experienced grief and disappointment and decided to reinvent herself. Felicity is moving locations, starting a new venture, slowly learning to live life on her own terms.  I’ve been through a lot over the years (because I’m over 40, and let’s face it, who my age hasn’t?) including deeply personal loss. And some things I’ve never been able to write about in the context of memoir.  But I can relate to what Felicity’s going through, because loss is loss no matter what form it takes, and as story events force her to change and help her to heal – I have to confront those same emotions too.

The story is a mystery, so of course, there’s a murder, which gives Felicity a puzzle to solve and puts her into proximity with new people who will become important to her over the course of the series.  But I made the murder victim someone who was also trying to reinvent herself, and Felicity gets to see how going about it the wrong way can be destructive.

Cozy mysteries are by definition light, so I had to balance Felicity’s grief with her sense of humor, and put her into situations where fun/funny things are happening around her, pulling her forward psychologically as she gets pulled into them.  And I gave her a quirky group of family and friends who genuinely have her best interest at heart.  One of my favorite moments in the whole book is when her matchmaking aunt decides to set her up on a date.

  

But it is interesting writing a sleuth who has instant empathy with the family of the murder victim, and who needs to see justice done to ease their pain.  It gives her this whole extra level of stakes in the story. And it allows what is going on in her personal/business life to mirror what is going on in the investigation.  I’ve already drafted the second book in the series, and while she’s made emotional progress throughout the first book, she’s still dealing with the loss in the second (which, admittedly, takes place only a month later).

I hope you enjoy Grand Openings Can Be Murder. It’s got an island setting with Texas flair, plus a bean-to-bar chocolate business to die for.

Connect with Amber online:

Website: http://www.amberroyer.com Blog: http://amberroyer.com/blog/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amberroyerauthor/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Amber.Royer.Author/ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoA_29HV2nPmRnox9LPVanw Twitter: https://twitter.com/amber_royer Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amber-Royer/e/B00PFV4CGM Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8144619.Amber_Royer


Purchase Links for Grand Openings:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Grand-Openings-Can-Be-Murder/dp/1952854083/ 

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/grand-openings-can-be-murder-amber-royer/1137714818?ean=9781952854088 

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/grand-openings-can-be-murder 

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/grand-openings-can-be-murder/id1532667488 

cozyIndie Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/grand-openings-can-be-murder/9781952854088

Still Waiting

Yes, Advent, the time of waiting and watching for the birth of our Savior, has passed. But we will still wait as the new year comes and our lives continue.

Does waiting ever get easier? Not in my experience! I used to think I’d become less impatient with age, but that has yet to occur.

The quote below reminds us of the various aspects of waiting. We often wish we had more time to simply BE, but when that happens, we’re often uncomfortable with the quiet, the lack of running around, worrying, pushing our way through each day.

What does it mean to linger, to tarry without anxiety? The best explanation I find is included in this quote: STAYING.

Remaining. Ceasing all motion.

Stay.

The final sentence gives us the secret of such a pose. It’s knowing something’s on the horizon. It’s focusing on something wonderful, something called hope.

So here’s to a New Year for one and all, filled with this precious commodity.

Rumors of Christmastide

With so much of our normal activity hushed this year, we settle in to wait. The gatherings we’ve shared, the excitement, the candles we normally light together…so much has changed in 2020.

But waiting can be quite activel. It’s all a matter of mindset: our preparations may be quieter, humbler, but simplicity breeds clarity. What does this annual time of celebration really mean?

For those caught in the chaos of World War II, so much altered overnight. All around the globe, with “Christmas past” in their memories and imaginations, they served our nation.

Still, they found creative ways to keep this holiday with their comrades, and even sang Silent Night from frozen foxholes. Through the ages, despite war and pestilence, ime and again the Christmas spirit proves it is no slave to circumstances.

Whatever our situation, thoughts of Christmas motivate us to take action, however quiet that may be. We light candles, hum a holiday tune, and find a way to cheer others. Action proceeds from hearts in tune with the ineffable joy of this season.

What a difference! The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it moved them to make that long journey. The scribes were much better informed, much better versed. They sat and studied the Scriptures like so many dons, but it did not make them move. Who had the more truth? The three kings who followed a rumor or the scribes who remained sitting with all their knowledge?

—Soren Kierkegaard, from “Only a Rumor”

At lonely outposts around the world, even in the shadows of the forest during the Battle of the Bulge, the idea of a tiny babe bringing light and peace to this old world moved soldiers, too. Surely our present trials can make room for such a rumor.

When Cleo Lampos and I began work on our World War II Holiday Scrapbook, we had no idea how appropriate the ingenuity of the Greatest Generation would be for this particular Christmas. Hopefully, that era’s make-do attitude spreads cheer from us to you as we all keep this unique Christmas.

The Belsnickel

Welcome to Bonnie Swinehart, who has written two delightful children’s books. Here’s my review of the one she’s featuring here this week:

For eleven-year-old Benjy, growing up in 1930’s rural America provided plenty of opportunities to choose “naughty over nice.” And this eleven-year-old farm boy consistently veered toward naughty. Watching him mature through the efforts of his parents and teacher makes an engaging story. I had never heard of the Belsnickel before reading this book, and am glad I took the time.

Bonnie is giving away a print copy of her story to a commenter–perhaps it will make a gift for one of your grandchildren. Now, she describes the work that went into creating this book and shares a little about a second Benjy story.

Many hours of research and work come alive on the pages of Benjy and the Belsnickel, a chapter book for ages seven and up. The book’s setting is the 1930s in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. If you have never heard of the Belsnickel, the opposite of Santa Claus, your German ancestors might be able to tell you exactly who this Christmas character who originated in Germany really is.

Benjy, a loveable eleven-year-old prankster, finds himself in a heap of trouble over and over again. His main target is Miss Nettie, the schoolmarm, who teaches in a one-room schoolhouse.

At times his antics will make you laugh out loud while others will find you wiping away tears as he struggles to figure out right from wrong. His problems multiply when he is threatened with a visit from the dreaded Belsnickel. He has moments of disbelief thinking the Belsnickel is just an old folktale, but then he struggles with moments of deep fear that the grim legend may be true. It is during these moments of dread that he prays to God for help to be a better boy.

The story keeps you intrigued while guessing if the Belsnickel is real and who he might be. The story takes a twist and offers a surprise ending!

I was inspired to write Benjy and the Belsnickel after attending a performance featuring the Belsnickel while working as a newspaper reporter. I found it fun to see the children so fascinated with this creature. Contrary to being afraid, the kids sat close to him and listened intently. I was also inspired by my parents who grew up in the 1930s and attended one-room schoolhouses. Some of their stories made for wonderful memories which ended up in this Christmas book dedicated to them. 

If you turn the last page of the book with the yearning for it to go on and on, don’t fret! Benjy’s adventures continue in my newest book, Benjy and the County Fair.

The school year is over, and spring has arrived. With a sense of freedom, Benjy finds himself yearning for a new bicycle. Trouble is, he has to earn his own money.

On the last day of school, Benjy and his closest friend, Sarah, arrive at Benjy’s family farm to be greeted by three very cantankerous goats. When his pop announces the goats will be his responsibility, Benjy is filled with misery. 

Then one day his ma mentions the money she earned at the county fair, and a lightbulb pops on in Benjy’s head. Determined to earn some money for his bike, he decides to turn one of his new goats into a show goat. He also starts a vegetable garden where he hopes to grow the county’s biggest pumpkin.

Unfortunately, Bruce, the local bully, tries to undermine his efforts, and thoughts of revenge overtake Benjy.

Benjy’s goats, Hazel, Lucy, and Sadie turn his life upside down. Join Benjy as he shakes his head trying to decide if he should roar with laughter at the goats’ outrageous antics or kick the dirt in disgust.

Benjy and the County Fair was actually inspired by suggestions from my writer’s group to write about goats. I was intrigued with the idea of incorporating the goats’ antics into the book, and liked the fact that I would have to research everything about the subject. I was never a farm girl so there was definitely a learning curve. Also, I grew up in the carnival, so the idea of the setting being a county fair came so naturally for me. Writing the book was an adventure that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Both books as well as a study guide for homeschool education that accompanies Benjy and the Belsnickel are available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at http://www.Whitespark-publishing.com

Bonnie Swinehart lives in Liverpool, PA, in Pennsylvania Dutch country. She’s both a journalist and a columnist, but her lifetime dream was always to write and publish a book. That dream came true when her Benjy books were published by WhiteSpark Publishing.

Bonnie loves to hear from her readers and can be contacted at bonnieats@yahoo.com.

A Fresh Start For Christmas

I’m so happy to welcome Kimberly Grist this week. In Fresh Start For Christmas, a part of the Spinster Mail-Order series, she writes about a 19th Century Pandemic that some of us may not recall from our history lessons. After listening to this old-fashioned love story, I can guarantee it will transport readers back to a time when things might seem simpler, when a childhood and youth spent in an orphanage were not unheard of, and an old-fashioned love story might develop across the miles through hand-written letters.

And Miss Jane Austen shares her wisdom at the beginning of each chapter–what else would anyone want for Christmas?

After the Civil War, the yellow plague epidemic and gold fever sent young men west. A Fresh Start for Christmas is a mail-order bride story based on a matrimonial service started by several pastors and an orphanage matron. The group bases the agency on Rebecca and Isaac’s story and work together to find a way to match women to Christian men in the west to form H.I.M.M., short for Heaven Inspired Matrimonial Matches. 

Kimberly is giving away a copy of Fresh Start For Christmas to a commenter, and below, she shares some of her rich research about Christmas celebrations in a bygone era. Now I’ll turn this over to her.

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Did you know that the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” had much to do with shaping Christmas traditions that are still popular today?

Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book was an American women’s magazine published in Philadelphia from 1830 to 1878 and played an important part in shaping the cultural customs of the 19th century.


Sarah Josepha Hale, author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” was the editor from 1837 until 1877. When Hale started at Godey’s, the magazine had a circulation of ten thousand subscribers. 

By 1860 it had 150,000 subscribers and was the most popular journal of its day. Hale used her influence to advocate for the establishment of a national Thanksgiving Holiday and other various causes, including advocating for women’s education.

Best known for the fashion plate that appeared at the start of each issue, other articles and editorials helped shape many of the traditions practiced by American families today.

The above picture is based on an image of Queen Victoria and her decorated Christmas tree previously published in The Illustrated London News in December 1848. 

A revised version was copied in Godey’s in 1850 and removed what was referred to as royal trappings from Victoria’s tiara and Prince Albert’s mustache to remake the picture into an American scene. It was the first widely circulated picture of a decorated evergreen Christmas tree in America and was reprinted in 1860. By the 1870s, a Christmas tree was common in the United States.

Appearing in the December 1890 issue in Godey’s Lady’s Book, Hale wrote, At no time in all the year is the heart so filled with joy or the home so replete with genuine home love and home feeling as during the time that leads us up to the holiday season. Christmas Day is, to be sure our day of days-the most joyful of all the season; but surely every home-mother at least will agree that the days of preparation before Christmas are filled with a quiet, stead, soul-stirring happiness that could not be exchanged for any singe day of revelry. 

For is it not during the weeks that precede the holidays that we prepare gifts for our dear ones? Are we not busy planning and scheming and perhaps denying ourselves some coveted thing that we may enrich those we love? 

In Europe, it was fashionable to chop off the tip of a large fir to use as a Christmas tree. However, since this practice prevented the tree from growing taller and made it useless as a timber tree, statutes were enacted to limit people from having more than one tree. With the introduction of the “goose-feather tree” made in Germany as early as 1845, this problem was resolved. Goose feathers were plentiful, and what was perhaps the first artificial tree began to be produced as a cottage industry as the alternative to cutting a live tree. 

Meanwhile, in America, cut live trees were the cherished way to make the holiday come alive. German immigrants brought their portable feather tree to the United States and introduced the Victorian feather Christmas tree. However, using artificial trees did not become popular until Sears Roebuck first advertised artificial trees for sale in their 1913 catalogs.

Here is the gist of A FRESH START FOR CHRISTMAS:

Memphis Rose Griffin loves teaching at Counting Stars Children’s Home. The girls and staff are like family, and working here ties her to her mother, whose last wish was for Memphis to take her place as teacher. But something’s missing. Now at the age of twenty-eight, her teenage dream of having her own family has all but faded.

Until her pastor and the orphanage founder come with a proposal that will change her life forever. Should she become their first candidate for their new matchmaking venture? Though grim, at least her future at the orphanage is familiar and certain. Can she risk an unknown future with a man she’s never met?

The last thing thirty-three-year-old Mike Montgomery wants is to marry again, especially to someone he’s never met. His family has other plans for him and completes the application without his permission–even changing some of his preferences to make him seem more intriguing. Can two star-crossed candidates dare to dream again?

Purchase link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081SF6HCK

Kimberly Grist is married to her high school sweetheart, Nelson, a former teacher and coach, now a pastor. They have three adult sons, one with Down syndrome, and they have a passion for encouraging others with family members with special needs.

I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a young girl; however, I began writing my first novel in 2017. Inspired by so many things life has to offer, one of which includes our oldest son’s cancer diagnosis, it’s especially gratifying to write a happy ending.

I believe you should come away refreshed and inspired after reading a book. In my personal life, I wear so many hats, working inside and outside the home. I work hard, try harder, and then begin again the next day. Despite my best efforts, sometimes life stinks. Bad things happen. I need and want an outlet, an opportunity to relax and escape to a place where obstacles are met and overcome. My stories are designed to entertain, refresh, and inspire you, the reader. They combine History, Humor, and Romance, with an emphasis on Faith, Friends, and Good Clean Fun.

Links:

Website:https://kimberlygrist.com/

F.B.https://www.facebook.com/FaithFunandFriends/

Sign up for my newsletter:  https://mailchi.mp/a920c145512a/kimberlygrist

Amazon: Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Kimberly-Grist/e/B07H2NTJ71

Let There Be Light!

  This phrase from the book of Genesis describing the very beginnings of creation could not be more appropriate this season, or this year. As 2020 slides into its last month, we look back with questions and concerns. But doubts and wonderings only make light more precious.

Used as a noun, here’s the definition of light: the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible. But light also radiates warmth, so welcome during winter in the northland. And so we light our house this year.

This is the third re-stringing of lights on our pine tree. A phantom squirrel (we think?) sharpened its teeth on the first two strings, which were blue.

With no more blue lights available in town, we’ve switched to multi-colored, and will see how that goes, remembering, of course, that’s it’s still 2020.

Having just learned of Lance’s mom’s positive COVID test results, we’re watching and waiting in yet one more way. Hopefully she has a mild case, but no one ever knows. This “not knowing” makes just about anything we go through more difficult, doesn’t it?

And so we light our house this year. Thanks to Lance for this photo, and may your preparations for Christmas bring you great joy.