Carol McClain has some GREAT ADVICE and a giveaway this week . . . her humorous take on life reminds me of Erma Bombeck. Welcome, Carol!
Life has been so extra busy this last year. I’ve been busily scheduling:
Book Launch for a new book.
Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas
The busy part wasn’t the activities. It was the cancelling of them all. (Except maybe protests).
How do we stay sane in this awful pandemic/politically charged/economically devastated society?
The prescription can be found in Proverbs 17:22: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine:”
Find the humor.
The very act of smiling—even a fake smile—can change your mood. Go on and give it a try. We’re all in quarantine, so no one can see you grinning when you don’t want to (unless you have your Zoom video running.) PLEASE, always remember, if your camera is on, colleagues can see what you’re wearing or not wearing).
For me, humor has been my coping mechanism. A big zit on my nose? I don’t hide it with a burqa. I tell myself, “Own it, Carol. Make it work for you.” Or I ask for Ms. Pimple for rent.
Laughter isa good medicine. Not only did God tell us this. The Mayo Clinic confirmed it.
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter has the following benefits:
Cachinnation stimulates many organs.
Chuckling activates and relieves your stress response.
Mirth releases tension.
Hilarity improves your immune system (Take that, COVID-19!).
Got pain? Get snickering. Pain will flee (or escape my escapades in the thesaurus, or my poet’s penchant for alliteration).
Glee increases personal satisfaction.
And proving my initial point, guffawing improves your mood.
If you don’t trust the Mayo Clinic, do a concordance check on your favorite version of Scripture. God decreed this truth long before American doctors had.
So, here’s my shameless self-promotion. Skip this portion if you have no interest in considering my latest book (or you don’t mind breaking my heart).
All my writing, even when dealing with intense subjects such as child slavery, drug addiction, or loss, is always dosed with humor. People return to me time and again and speak about how my book made them laugh (even after they cried).
I’ve re-released a book now called The Perils of Cheryl. It’s a LOL novel about divorce, dating, and the divine. One reader said her husband repeatedly asked her what was so funny as she snorted and chortled in bed reading the novel.
Today, our guest author, Carole Brown, shares SING UNTIL YOU DIE, the third in her series of novels. Here, she gives us a grip on her story. Also, she’s offering a signed paperback to one commenter:
Unlike books one and two of The Spies of WWIIseries (With Music in Their Heartsand A Flute in the Willows), I couldn’t get a handle on where to go with Claire Anne Rayner and Wills Mason’s story in Sing Until You Die. I knew their names, knew their careers, but the plot evaded me until it was time to write the novel. And then…
Slowly the plot opened up:
How Claire was using her career
What was being asked of Wills by his colonel
The conflict between the two main protagonists
The protagonists’ personalities
Why revenge was being sought by the foreign spy
Who the spy was
The more I wrote, the more I loved these two faulty, but loveable characters. Were they perfect? No. Were they determined to do what they felt was their duty, what they knew was their calling? Yes and yes.
Claire, as a child and teenager, faced thoughtless and sometimes cruel teasings because of over zealousness from certain family and friends. In her youthful mind, she felt loathing for those hurting her and knew she’d never forgive those involved.
Wills, on the otherhand, as a youth was bound to prove he was one better than his best friend. Nothing was too dangerous or too extreme for him to try. No matter how others might feel…
Yet, through loving family and friends, these two grew into adulthood as caring, serious, and individuals determined to succeed in their separate pursuits. The only thing they needed to do was ask for forgiveness and forgive. Could they lay aside their accusations for each other and do it? Would they realize that past feelings and thoughts about the other might just be wrong?
I worked hard at showing the slow and sometimes painful process of their achieving that. But tying in the insidious spy, thrust these two adorable, but different, characters into each others’ lives. That brings about the question:
Will the web of deceit the mysterious German spy is weaving destroy their one chance of happiness with each other, or can they both let go of the past and work together to bring the spy to justice?
Sing Until You Die
From childhood up, Claire Anne Rayner has despised the man who’s like a brother and son to the rest of the Rayner House residents. But when she puts her musical training on hold and begins singing to the troops as a means of helping support and encourage them, she is pulled into a mysterious spy’s efforts to destroy a certain high-ranking man.
Wills Mason is loved by everyone but Claire who cannot forgive him for his and her sister’s unmerciful, youthful teasing. But now, grown up and serving as a civilian spy, Wills must prove that Claire is not willingly relaying messages to the enemy, as his colonel believes, even when all evidence points that way. And can he prove he’s changed and can be trusted to cherish her heart as she deserves to be loved?
Will the web of deceit the mysterious German spy is weaving destroy their one chance of happiness with each other, or can they both let go of the past and work together to bring the spy to justice?
Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. An author of ten books, she loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?
A big welcome to author Hallie Lee, who has published screenplays and now writes women’s fiction. Impressive! She gives us a look at her novel, Paint Me Fearless, which debuted at the number #1 spot on Amazon’s Hot New Release chart in contemporary Christian Fiction, and continues to battle the top spot out with Robert Whitlow.
Hallie is giving away a commenter’s choice–e-book or paperback. She has agreed to an interview, so here goes:
1) Tell us what is unique about your novel.
Paint Me Fearless depicts real struggles in women’s lives in a way that’s both edgy and innocent. Told in first person, the story alternates between the two main characters, Desi and Robin. They are young, and insecure. Like we all are at that age! What makes this book unique, I think, is the truth about the way we carry those insecurities into adulthood, even when we should know better, we still struggle with feelings of inadequacy, body hatred, loneliness – and jealousy.
Through these characters, we see how fear affects the choices we make, and how it can alter our lives. The message is how we can overcome the falseness of the lies, and be free of the fear.
2) How would you categorize your genre?
Honestly, I think it crosses genre lines and would resonate with fans of both mainstream women’s fiction as well as uplifting Christian literature. While certainly grounded in a Christian worldview, the characters are flawed, relatable … and redeemable. Like all of us.
3) What’s your background? How’d you get here?
It took me a while! I wrote short stories in high school. Romance novels in my twenties. I got a lot of no’s. A lot of rejection. But my mama read everything I ever wrote. She inspired me. Encouraged me. So I never gave up. I suppose I honed my skills when my family moved to Santa Fe. It’s a movie making town and I had a lot of opportunities there. I learned to write screenplays, and had some success.
3) I see you’ve won the Actor’s Choice Award at a screenwriting conference in Santa Fe and a Silver in Drama in the PAGE International Screenwriting Contest. Tells us about that. Did you meet any movie stars? Ha!
I did! I met Shirly MacLaine. I saw Alan Arkin in Whole Foods. The Longmire guy, Robert Taylor, in Albertson’s. Ali McGraw. But in Santa Fe you have to be real cool about it …Ha!
5) You grew up in Louisiana, right? Is that what inspired Shady Gully, Louisiana? Will the rest of the series take place in Louisiana?
Paint Me Fearless spanned Louisiana, New Mexico, and Kentucky. Write what you know, right? Ha! It’s the Shady Gully Series, so sure, mostly in Louisiana, but my characters will take a few trips to the land of the bluegrass in Kentucky for sure.
7) What should readers expect in Book 2?
A little more intrigue. And a lot of humor, believe it or not. It will take place five years from the end of Book 1, and this time, the story will be told through the point of view of men. We’re going to learn more about Wolfheart, the anti-villain of Book 1. But we’re going to see Robin and Desi and all the gang as well!
A note from Hallie:
When the delightful Gail Kittleson invites you to be a guest on her blog, you do a little happy dance, say a little prayer, and (hopefully) rise to the occasion! So…with that… Happy 2021 everyone!
I’m Hallie Lee, and I’m honored to “meet” you today. Like you, I’m a fan of Gail’s, not only for her inspirational, prolific writing, but for her wisdom, her guidance, and of course, her flowers!!
Paint Me Fearless is set in Shady Gully, Louisiana, a small town chocked full of ornery, cantankerous characters. Think Steel Magnolias meets Divine Secrets of the Ya-YaSisterhood. It’s Inspirational/Women’s Fiction, and it’s Book One in the Shady Gully Series…
Paint Me Fearless
Sometimes just the perception of betrayal is enough to destroy a lifelong bond…
It’s the spring before high school and DESIREE and ROBIN have little in common.
DESI, having moved to Shady Gully from Albuquerque, is miserable as she tries to adjust to small town life, while ROBIN, forever doomed at the “bottom of the popularity pyramid” is terrified she’ll never measure up.
When Desi is introduced in class, Robin hates her on sight, but fate draws these two alienated girls to one another, and together they overcome mean girls, weight hang-ups, and disturbing family dynamics.
Their bond stands the test of time, even as their paths diverge and they raise families of their own, but when a shocking betrayal ignites old insecurities, the layers of their friendship begin to unravel.
As they confront the lies that ravaged their lives, they finally learn that the world’s prizes—beauty, recognition, and approval—are fleeting. And with that truth they find the freedom to live unashamed. And unafraid.
Reviews/What They Are Saying:
“Paint Me Fearless resonates with the crippling effects of our insecurities, both those we inherit and the ones we create.”
“A sweeping story of family, friendship and the lies the devil tells us about ourselves …”
“A touching novel about two girls molded by their small town and the whimsical brushstrokes, both beautiful and shameful, of the adults in their lives.”
I’ve lived in the south all of my life (with the exception of a brief stint in New Mexico) and most of my novels and screenplays are set somewhere below the Mason-Dixon line.
Despite my kinship with all things southern, it was the brief stint in Santa Fe, New Mexico where I honed my writing skills. The exposure to such a creative movie making community gave me the opportunity to attend many writing conferences and classes.
As my screenplays were recognized with placements and awards in various contests, I had the opportunity to take a course with Emmy Award winning screenwriter Kirk Ellis in Santa Fe. Beyond that, producer Ronnie Clemmer (A League Of Their Own) saw something in me he wanted to mentor.
But alas, my heart is southern. After a move to Kentucky a few years ago, I put away the screenplays and focused once again on my real passion—writing novels.
THE SHADY GULLY SERIES is the result. It’s women’s literature. It’s book club fiction. It’s faith based. It’s me.
Social Media: Visit Hallie’s website and sign up for her newsletter at www.hallielee.com
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)
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 Allia, as 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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Mary Vee joins us this week, bringing her new novel, a great gift for mystery lovers. Mary writes “never give up” stories, and is offering a paperback giveaway to one commenter. Sounds great to me!
Thank you, Gail for inviting me to be a guest. I’m so excited to meet your readers!
Where Can We find Amazing Characters?
The best answer to this question is: characters can be found all around us. Not in movies or books, those characters already had their journey. Our character is among the people we see wherever we go.
For example, I took a river cruise on the Rhine. The prices had dropped, drawing regular folk like me into a world I wouldn’t typically see. The first night, a woman of class, dressed for evening dinner, sat at the round table next to mine. She asked the waiter for tea. Moments later, a person at her table spilled a beverage. Liquid flowed across the table soaking everything in its path. The stylish woman scooted back and waved her fingers in front of her face. The waitstaff dashed to clean the table, replacing items and lavishing apologies to the noble woman. Her wide eyes proclaimed such aghast over the situation, but she spoke not a word.
With the table finally ready, she slowly drew her cup to her lips then stopped. Above the rim and straight in her view was the remaining damp circle on the linen tablecloth. She slowly returned her teacup to the saucer. The next pause lasted only a moment before she reached to the place setting next to her, removed a sparkling white napkin from under the silverware, unfurled it, and draped it over the imposing damp area. Her satisfied shoulders rested in place. All was well with the earth once again. She picked up her teacup and drank.
This woman formed the bones of my next character. I have no idea her true name, but she has become an amusing, lovely woman of style and wealth who has a journey like any other character. One that reveals she too is loved.
So, Sylvia’s Secret, a Christmas story was born. Fifteen days before Christmas, the staff at Sylvia Duvet’s mansion discover she is missing. Her daughter arrives at Detective Carhill’s office in a panic, concerned the gossipers and media will create their own story, embarrassing the family name. After all, a wealthy widow only disappears if…she simply can’t bear to think of those possibilities. Sylvia Secretis on sale for only $0.99. The link is below.
Considering the difficult times we’ve all experienced in 2020, remember the wealthy in your prayers too. They suffer in a different way, but their hearts are hurt as much as ours. Money does not solve all problems. Only God does. We all need supportive, trustworthy friends. Jesus longs to be our friend, our tower of strength, our provider, our anchor…
May you be blessed with the peace that passes all understanding.
Here is a question for you: Name your favorite character and the book they live inside. Also, tell something fun/unusual/interesting about this character.
Answer in the comment section to be eligible to win a copy of Sylvia’s Secret. Sorry, US addresses only. If the winner prefers, an eBook will be sent.
Welcome to Nancy Arant Williams, who lives in the beautiful Ozarks of Missouri. She’s highlighting her latest novel, and offering a free trade paperback of her trilogy called Bear Me on Angels’ Wings to one commenter. I’m particularly intrigued by how her writing career began later in life:
1999 should’ve been a good year for me, because my husband retired and we were moving to the beautiful Missouri Ozarks, where we were having a home built. But for me, it was a traumatic time, because it meant leaving Nebraska, the only home I’d ever known, as well as my network of friends, relatives and neighbors, our church, and our children and grandchildren.
I don’t acclimate easily to change, and was struggling, so my doctor put me on an antidepressant to ease the transition. We moved March 1, during a gray and icy spell in Missouri, into our unfinished home to complete it, and it was cold, muddy and not the least bit appealing.
Once the house was finished, I had nothing to do with my time, so I asked the Lord what on earth I was supposed to do in such a foreign environment. And because I had never written a thing in my life I was stunned to hear him say, “Sit down, because I want you to learn to write for me.”
I argued for a while until I realized how therapeutic this would be. He even gave me dreams, with scenes and dialogue running through them, showing me the story in movie format. It flowed easily and filled my emotional bucket, until I was no longer depressed and had no further need for the antidepressant. Ultimately he showed me that this new niche was the perfect place to write, quiet, wooded, and on a small three-acre private lake, picturesque in every season.
Writing was satisfying and fun because the characters were animated and zany; it wasn’t long before they seemed like real live people I’d love to know. Once the first book was done, it was clear there would be several more in a series. By the time I’d completed the series, Missouri felt like the home that I never wanted to leave.
Only God knew that my tough new start would open doors of destiny I could never have imagined, making readers laugh and cry. But best of all, they could see the love of God through fiction. Writing still fills my emotional bucket like nothing else, and best of all, there is no compulsory retirement date in my future.
Peachtree contrasts with other books in that the characters are middle-aged, and the book is more slice-of-life than any single genre, containing humor, conspiracy, murder, romance, etc., which makes it stand alone.
Excerpt from Peachtree Street:
Makkie Yeats is a fifty-three-year-old retired RN, whose life has been turned upside down. She’s still struggling to adjust to the idea of once again living with her dominant, social-climbing older sister Zoe after their mother tricked them into moving in together. In fact, things have been in such an uproar that she’s stunned to realize she hasn’t seen or heard from her dear friend, Ferdy Wallace, the wife of their family doctor, for months. After several failed attempts to phone, she’s desperate for answers, so she drives to Ferdy’s house and presses the bell.
No answer. I rang again, and waited another minute, before circling to the back of the house, where sliding glass doors led into Ferdy’s room. The curtains were pulled and the slider was locked, leaving me feeling more frantic than ever.
At the front door again, I tried the knob. It wasn’t locked, so I walked in. I called, “Hello, is anyone here?” At the door of her room, I knocked, heard a faint sound, and let myself in. All I could do was stare in shock. Ferdy, a small mound under the covers, was nearly unrecognizable; she had aged at least twenty years since my last visit several months earlier. Her normally porcelain skin was gray and sunken and her frame skeletal. Her striking white hair was sparse and dull, and her eyes were glazed.
I took her hand. “Ferdy, It’s Makkie. Can you hear me?”
She turned her head slightly, trying to focus. “Makkie,” she whispered, then closed her eyes as if exhausted.
“Ferdy, what’s going on? Where’s Silvey?” Silvey was their live-in housekeeper.
Just then Silvey stomped into the room. “What are you doing here?” she demanded.
“I came to check on Ferdy. What’s happened, Silvey? Why does she look so bad?”
Her green eyes flashed angrily. “I don’t know exactly, but Doc’s taking care of her. Now you need to leave.”
“I’m not leaving until I talk to her alone. So get out, close the door, and don’t let it hit you in the fanny on your way out.”
She left, but I knew she’d be calling Doc, and my heart skipped a beat as I realized the trouble I’d be in when he arrived.
“Ferdy, I need you to tell me what’s wrong. Can you do that?”
She looked at me, trying to focus, and I could see she was drugged to the point of sedation. I took her hand in mine. “Ferdy, is Doc doing this to you?” She nodded with effort.
“I’m calling an ambulance.”
Before thinking, I picked up her extension and heard Doc and Silvey talking. I heard him rage, “Well, get rid of her before she finds out!”
I carefully hung up, dug my flip phone from my pocket and dialed 911. When I felt reassured that help was on the way, I lifted the fragile woman into her wheelchair and pushed the hair out of her eyes.
“I’m taking you outside to wait for the ambulance.” I pushed her down the hall at a fast clip and was pulling the front door open when Silvey rushed me.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she screeched. “You can’t take her out of her home. I won’t let you.”
“Just try to stop me.”
“Don’t think I won’t You cant take her. You can’t!”
I pushed Ferdy through the front door, heading for the curb. Silvey had followed us a few steps out the front door, only to turn back toward the house. Now I could hear her gaining on us. She whirled around in front of me and said, “Get out of here, Makkie, before I call the sheriff.”
I frowned. “Go ahead and call him. I’d like him to investigate exactly what’s going on here.”
She stopped in her tracks, eyes aflame. “What do you mean, ‘what’s going on here?’”
“You know exactly what I mean.” She backed off a little, and I had nearly decided to haul Ferdy in my car when I heard sirens. Turning toward the sound, I saw a blur of movement and was hit from behind with something heavy. I could feel my legs buckling, and my consciousness fading, a flash of pain at the back of my head. My next lucid thought occurred when I woke in the back of the ambulance . . .