Missing the Beauty by Nancy J. Farrier

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When I lived in Arizona, the time of day I loved most was evening because of the many beautiful sunsets. The amazing array of colors and textures would often make me stop and stare in awe.

 

I recall one evening, as I drove home with my four daughters, the clouds caught the rays of the setting sun and changed from pinks and oranges to purples and blues. Three of my daughters and I were oohing and aahing as we watched the display. My fourth daughter glanced out the window and said, “I don’t see what’s so special.” We were shocked that she didn’t enjoy the sight as much as we did.

 

Thinking about that evening makes me also remember the story of the birth of a special baby in Bethlehem. I picture that city teeming with people who were there to be counted for the census. The inns were full. I’m sure people’s homes were filled to the brim with relatives. I imagine even the stables were overflowing with animals brought by the influx of travelers.

 

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:13-14 KJV

 

You are probably very familiar with the story of the shepherds out in the hills with the sheep. A choir of angels appeared to them. An amazing sight. I wonder if the colors were blazing into the heavens making the shepherds speechless with awe. What matters most is those shepherds heard the message and sought out the baby, Jesus.

 

Meanwhile, what about the people in the city? The teeming crowds. This is a question I ponder every year. They were even closer to the Christ child. Did they forget to seek God and thus missed the most important message of all time? I picture the song of the angels rippling through the air, there for anyone to hear, if they take the time to listen. I picture the skies lit up with the glory of God as praises were sung to Him.

 

Were the women in Bethlehem too busy cooking, cleaning, making sure everyone had a place to sleep? Were they visiting with people they hadn’t seen in ages? Sharing recipes? Talking about their children?

 

Were the men busy caring for animals, talking about planting or raising herds? Were they discussing the government and how difficult the trip had been? Were they back-slapping and greeting one another? Maybe arguing or talking about other tribes.

 

What were they all doing that they missed seeing the glory of the message of Christ’s birth? Perhaps, they did see, but for whatever reason, chose to say, “I don’t see what’s so special.”

 

Each Christmas I am threatened with all the hubbub of shopping, candy making, parties, decorating, visiting and on the list goes. Every year there seems to be one more thing added to my to do items. If I’m not careful it’s easy for me to lose focus and to forget to acknowledge the One the season is celebrating. I am in danger of keeping my eyes fixed on all that is around me, pulling me to get this or that done.

 

Like those shepherds of old, I want to hear that singing and to gaze up—to see the wonder and glory of a God who loves me beyond understanding. To see a Savior who gave His life for me. To bask in a reminder of beauty beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before.

 

I hope you will take a moment to “listen and look up” this Christmas season. Enjoy the love that is pouring out of Heaven. Enjoy God’s gift to us all.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” Is. 9:6 KJV

 

 

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The Christmas Story from a Writer’s Perspective

By Marilyn Turk

The more I study the craft of writing, the more I read like a writer. I look at how the author tells the story, what adjectives and verbs they use, whose POV they use, and how many “rules” they break. Since I’m a critique partner with three other writers, I’m used to looking for ways the story could be better – what could be left out or added to make it stronger.

Now, when I analyze a book’s structure, shaking my head at what is wrong, but highlighting those things well done, hoping I can duplicate the strengths of the writer. So is it any wonder that now I read the Christmas story as a writer too?

It’s a simple story, right? If you were to write a one-line synopsis, what would you say? “How God saved the world by sending his Son?” “How Deity Became flesh so we could be redeemed?” “How God showed His love by giving us His Son?” I’m sure you can think of others. But when you read the story, it’s far from simple.

For years, the Israelites looked forward to a Messiah. They expected a royal king born in a palace. A warrior-king like David who would lead the army into battle against their oppressors and establish a new kingdom for them.

But the story didn’t play out as expected. The prophecy said the Messiah would be born to a virgin. However, getting pregnant out of wedlock was a sin, and because the virgin in question, Mary, was betrothed, she would have been considered adulterous. A sin punishable by stoning, especially since Joseph, her betrothed, was not the father. What was he to do?  CONFLICT.

Then an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him the baby was the Messiah and everything would be okay. RESOLUTION.

Joseph accepted Mary’s condition. All was well. The baby was almost due. But wait. Caesar Augustus called for a census requiring everyone to travel back to their home towns to register.  Joseph had to take nine-month pregnant Mary to Bethlehem. CONFLICT.

And so they proceeded, slowly, to Bethlehem. RESOLUTION

But when they got there, there was no place to stay and Mary was having contractions. CONFLICT

But then, they were offered a stable to stay in and share with the animals. The baby Messiah was born there. RESOLUTION.

All is well. The baby was even welcomed by shepherds. So Mary and Joseph had a healthy baby boy they took home to raise. But wait. Some wise men had been looking for him a long time and followed a star to find him. They stopped at the king’s palace to ask directions, not knowing the king wasn’t interested in worshipping a new king and they inadvertently tipped him off to a potential usurper to his throne.

But the wise men found Jesus and worshipped him. But wait. Now the current king, Herod, wanted to kill the baby. CONFLICT.

Then Joseph had a dream warning him to go to Egypt and stay there until Herod was no longer a threat. So Joseph left with Mary and the baby. Jesus was safe. RESOLUTION.

Wow! What a great story! No wonder it has captured the interests of millions for centuries. A great plot, lots of excitement and suspense to grab our interest and keep us reading to the end. And this is not fiction.

But we know the story didn’t end there. It continued to the adult Jesus was crucified for the redemption of the world. It continued to His glorious resurrection when He won the victory over death for us. And it continues today in the lives of His believers. So now, we can read the story not only as an observer, but also as one of the characters, because we’re included. We’re part of the world He came to save. And Praise God, His point of view has now become ours.

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 CONFLICT

“For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 RESOLUTION

 

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An Amana Christmas

With Christmas approaching, I recalled one of my visits to the Amana Colonies during the month of December. Back then, I was writing books set in the Colonies, and needed to complete some research about their Christmas traditions. In an effort to gather needed research, I decided it would be helpful to visit during the holidays and attend the presentation of A Glimpse of Amana Past at the History Museum in Main Amana. And, I was correct. This proved to be an enjoyable visit that added special Christmas joy to the holidays and provided much needed fodder for my writing.

The evening began with the descendants of early settlers dressed in authentic Amana attire to present stories of Christmas celebrations from years gone by (the picture at left shows one of the ladies dressed in authentic Amana clothing). The ladies told us the history of the Christmas pyramids and early Christmas trees used in the Colonies, and prepared us for a visit from Pelznickle (the Amana German version of Santa Claus) who made a rousing appearance. When I say they prepared us for his visit, that’s no exactly true. What really happened is that after singing Christmas carols in both German and English, there was loud banging at the door of the museum followed by the ringing of harness bells. The door opened, and I don’t want to be disparaging, but Pelznickle burst into the room wearing what appeared to be a version of Great Aunt Maude’s tattered fur coat. I nudged my friend sitting next to me and said, “I guess they couldn’t afford a Santa suit.” It wasn’t until later that I learned Pelznickle means “St. Nicolas in fur” and that a rumpled fur coat is traditionally what he wore. Sure glad I didn’t make my comment to anyone else!  Pelzsnickle carried a large walking stick and he did toss candy at us before he ran out of the room., but he isn’t a character I’d want to find in my home on Christmas Eve. (The picture at right is the only picture of Pelznickle I could find, but it gives you a bit of an idea.)

The people of Amana were frugal and could be considered early conservationists. In days gone by, they thought it wasteful to cut down a tree for Christmas display. Some families used a Christmas pyramid carved by Vater or Opa. The pyramid below was on display at the museum and is about two feet high. When the candles were lit, the heat would cause the blade at the top to turn. Small figures, including nativity scenes, were placed inside the pyramid.

The Amana colonists were a people of deep faith—they came to this country to escape religious persecution. They attended meeting (church) eleven times a week, so the birth of Christ  has always been the centerfold of their Christmas celebrations. In addition to hand-carved or ceramic nativities, another thing you would find in their homes during the Christmas holidays was a cardboard crèche that would sit beneath the tree or near the pyramid. These crèches were always available at the general stores in each village during the holidays. If you look closely, you can see it beside the Christmas tree.

If you’d like to learn more about the early settlers in the Colonies and live anywhere near Iowa, I think you’d truly enjoy a visit to the seven villages. And, of course, you can find a list of the books I’ve written about the Colonies at my website or do a search for either of the series under Daughters of Amana or Home to Amana in Amazon. They’re available in both e-book and soft cover through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Christianbook.com

May you find great joy as you prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

~Judy

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Sometimes Technology Can Drive Me Crazy by Margaret Daley

Sometimes Technology Can Drive Me Crazy

By Margaret Daley

I’ve never acclaimed I was a technology whiz, but usually I could hold my own, managing the various social media sites, self publishing my books, updating my website and other aspects that a writer needs to do in today’s world of publishing that have nothing to do with writing a story. But recently I’ve been wrestling with my spam program for my website. It’s not working, and I’m swamped with 3000 spam emails during a day. I was upset with the program because it wasn’t working.

Then I realized the real problem is the people who send spam over and over to our emails, websites, blogs, Facebook and anything else we have, especially when I start looking at some of these spam comments left on my website. If they were truly from the people of the merchandise being praised, then how in the world do they think I’ll buy their product when they flood my inbox with emails I never wanted?

And while I’m on a rant how about all the spam calls we get even though your name is on the Do Not Call List. I still get solicitations several times a day!

frustrated shocked business woman pulling hair out yelling

So other than pulling your hair out, how do you handle all the spam thrown at you all the time?

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Loving the Green by Hannah Alexander

Evergreens and Mountains

Don’t you just love evergreens? I haven’t had a Christmas tree for a lot of years–and when I did, it was often fake. But we have spruce and lodgepole pine trees around our house that protect us from the harshest of the snow in winter.

With great regret, we’re afraid we might be moving soon. Wherever we go, we need trees. I’m not really a tree kind of person. I mean, a few here and there work for me, and then I like the wide open spaces. And mountains. And water.

Trees, however, are a sign of life for me, especially the evergreens. I love the feeling of protection I get whenever I see a tree–unless I’m in a lightning storm. Trees give me shelter and hope. A good, strong, sturdy old tree gives me a connection to the past.

I have a family tree that keeps me, an only child, connected to a foundation. My cousin lives within a three hour drive from me. I’ve always had a cousin within three hours of me even when I lived far from most of my family.

But the most important thing to have is a spiritual family tree. That foundation dates back to Jesus Christ, to the beginning of the world, and is more solid and protective than any other foundation that exists. When I’m in limbo, wondering where we will be a year from now, or even next month, I have that foundation to hold me fast and connect me to family all over the country–all over the world.

Don’t you just love trees?

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Power Talk by Vicki Hinze

VICKI HINZE, power talk

 

We all know that storytelling is an art. Some are good at it. Some are better. And some are works-in-progress who need a little more training in specific areas of craft, like pacing.

 

There are perks to slowing the pace. Building suspense, fostering anticipation, and making people hang onto every word, eager to hear what happens next. Those are useful tools that can best serve a story.

 

 

But in today’s climate, we should also be aware that people are moving at a frantic pace, and while they might read to relax and be entertained, they don’t read to be bored by the slow moving pace of a novel.

 

 

I remember years ago, COLD MOUNTAIN (CM), was released. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of thrillers and suspense. I like action and lots of it in a book. I bought CM because so many raved about it being a wonderful story. I waded, then slogged through the first five or so chapters and gave up. I passed the book on to someone I thought would enjoy it. For me, it didn’t work. The description of every bit of flora and fauna had my eyes rolling back in my head. Well written, well researched, but the pacing was incredibly slow for my tastes.

 

 

As the book gained momentum and began winning some prestigious awards I respected, I thought, maybe it was my mood at the time I’d tried to read, and so I bought the book again. I kept waiting and waiting for something to happen, but again slogged through descriptions to the point I lost focus. I gave up trying to read CM for the second time.

 

 

And then the movie came out. I watched it… and loved the movie. The plot was twisted and intricate, the characters deep and realistic—it was terrific.

 

 

Imagine that, I thought. Just imagine that.

 

I’m accustomed to enjoying the book much more than the movie, so this was a welcome surprise.

 

 

Fast forward a number of years. To just recently, in fact. A dear friend and I were discussing a totally unrelated non-fiction project. This project requires a lot of research, and we mentioned two researchers we respect and admire. Both are meticulous and excellent at what they do, but in relaying their findings and conclusions to others, they’re so slow to get to the point that we both react with similar sentiments. Mine: “Spit it out already.” Hers, by far more diplomatic: “Power Talk it.”

 

 

Power Talk?

 

 

Have you ever been to a meeting or a lecture where the speaker talks very slowly and adds so much unrelated and extraneous stuff that the point is lost. You kind of fall into a glazed-eyed mental slumber and just doze with your eyes wide open?

 

 

That’s the anthesis of—and proves the benefit of—power talk. Get to the point while people are attentive and conscious: Boom! Mess around until they go eye-glazed comatose: Fizzle.

 

 

Clearly, there are times in a novel when you want to lull people into a false sense of complacency so that when you zing the character, the reader really feels it. But if you dally too long, the zing fades to a fizzle. The power has left the talk.

 

 

It’s hard to gauge when to speed things up and when to slow them down. Pacing gives a lot of writers and readers fits. We learn the craft aspects of it—when and how to slow and speed up pacing. But in the actual story… determining how much is enough, or too little or too much, is an instinctive reaction to what is being written or read.

 

 

Sometimes our instincts are on target. Sometimes we miss a little or a lot. And it isn’t only in books, reading or writing, that pacing can help or hinder us.

 

 

Years ago, I was the director of operations for a corporate chain. The boss had weekly meetings. They were scheduled to last fifteen minutes but always extended. Sometimes to thirty minutes and sometimes to an hour.

 

What needed saying could be said in ten minutes. The rest was just watercooler chat. Everyone hated those meetings but agreed that we needed the ten minutes’ worth. Subtly telling the boss we needed to keep it short did no good. He was an agreeable sort and enjoyed a good chat, which is lovely, but not productive when everyone sat on lengthy to-do lists. So we calculated how much money each meeting was costing the company—per week, per month, per year.

 

We got twenty minute, monthly meetings. Everyone was happier. What changed?

 

Our boss learned to Power Talk.

 

We can apply Power Talk to our lives in so many ways, including in our internal dialogue–the way we speak to ourselves–and even in our prayer lives. In doing so, we find we intensify our focus, become clearer and more precise–more effective in our communications.  That benefits us and all in our circle.

 

And my mind expands on this concept.  Infuse power into your beliefs, your convictions. Strengthen your clarity on your ideas, your projects. Engage in more effective, more productive communications.

 

Power Talk.

 

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My Favorite Christmas Story by Elizabeth Goddard

I love the holiday season and especially Christmas—the sound of bells ringing, shiny things sparkling. The warmth of friends and families. Smiles, laughter and joy. Everyone seems a little kinder to each other, even to strangers.

You and I know the reason for this is because of the light of Jesus shining in our hearts. It’s infectious. Let’s work to make it infectious all year round! (But that’s another topic.)

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the stories—you know, books and movies and tall tales shared around the fireplace.

Christmas movies and books and stories abound, especially now that there is Netflix and the Hallmark channel. Ha! I enjoyed The Christmas Candle (Netflix) just the other night. A wonderful story about faith and miracles. I love to laugh while watching A Christmas Story with Darren McGavin. Will Farrell has made classic Christmas movie history with Elf. Hilarious and over-the-top.

When I was a girl, there were really only two Christmas stories, at least that I was aware of.

Twas the Night Before Christmas—Where I could read about Santa Claus.

Luke Chapter Two–Where I could read about the birth of Jesus.

As a very young child, I was more than excited and not a little terrified at the thought of a big fat guy in a red suit creeping into my living room. But hey, he was putting toys under the tree!

Still, nothing meant more to me than the gift of Jesus I received in my heart, the light that burned bright in my spirit when I read the story in Luke.

I read it so often, in fact, that I could recite it form heart—not an intentional memorization, mind you, just my love for the story.

The story of the birth of Jesus—the true reason for the season. I love reading this in the King James Version—it’s so poetic. Wouldn’t you agree?

Luke 2:1-20 King James Version (KJV)

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

 

Share with me in the comment section one of your favorite Christmas stories or movies that you’ve enjoyed this season or plan to watch, and enter the drawing for my Christmas story–Texas Christmas Defender–Newly Released This Month!

TexasChristmasDefenderTARGETED AT CHRISTMAS

After earning the wrath of her brother, a notorious drug kingpin, Adriana Garcia has been in deep hiding on a remote Texas llama ranch. But when Texas Ranger Brent McCord manages to find her—leading her brother’s men right to her—Adriana discovers she’s a suspect in the murder of a border patrol agent. The handsome, principled ranger, whose life she once saved during a dangerous sting operation, intends to bring her in for questioning…and protection. To prove her innocence, Adriana has to trust Brent with the truth, her heart and her life. Because her brother and his henchman have the ranch surrounded, and Brent’s all that’s keeping this Christmas from turning deadly.

 

Many blessings and Merry Christmas!

Elizabeth Goddard

 

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Writers’ Words – A Gift to the World

 

I wrote this on November 7, the 99th birthday of the famed evangelist, Billy Graham, and looked back at how his life and words touched not only millions of people throughout the world – but changed my own life.

 

Decades ago, when I was led to the Billy Graham School of Christian Writing, the spoken words of faculty opened up a whole new world to me and resulted in my career of written words. Almost immediately, I wanted to put my ideas into novels, feeling that fiction was truth in living color.

But… nonfiction was not for me!

No? Look back through the years

  1. What about the years in grade school English classes and writing essays? (learning)
  2. What about later years of rewriting Sunday school lessons I taught because the writers didn’t verbalize or present the lesson “my way”? (learning about and expressing my voice and faith)

What about the writings I did while “typing” (I didn’t say writing!) my first novel?

  1. The Poem – 8 rhyming lines of iambic pentameter published in a small magazine? (I learned I’m not a poet but more importantly expressed my belief about the power of prayer)
  2. The Articles – for three months in a take-home publication? (eliminating the unimportant by paring down 2000 words into 500 each week – and seeing my four children’s “antics,” not with frustration, but as material for articles)

What about when that first novel was “returned”? (experienced devastation which led to renewed determination)

  1. Began taking college literature classes, one at a time (accepting that the original idea is the beginning of a story, not the end. One doesn’t begin at the top of a profession, but puts in the time and effort and work which leads to success)
  2. While revising, interviewed people for newspaper feature articles. (some of these led to their stories being material for characters in novels, i.e. the man who made violins in his basement – my novel in the collection, Music of the Heart)

 

Non-fiction a sideline? No! Our words are valuable, whatever form they take, whether teaching or reaching… ourselves or others. That has been confirmed more strongly since I was “led” (I hadn’t intended to compile non-fiction books) into stories for the Moments series. When it “happened” I intended only one book. Now there are ten Divine Moments books comprised of themed personal stories in each book, written by multi-published and first-time published authors.

You’re invited to send your stories. Who knows where it might lead? Maybe to an entire family coming to Christ (the result of a story). Or to a novel. Or simply your telling a story meaningful to you. God knows how to use our written words, whether it’s to reach the world or to tell us we need to learn a little more on how to write them. For information about the Moments books, contact me at yvonnelehman3@gmail.com (see www.yvonnelehman.com). 

Gigi Graham’s grandchildren are looking at the pictures in One Wintry Night, written by Gigi’s mother and the children’s great grandmother, Ruth Graham.

 

 

In the fourth Christmas Moments book, 41 writers with 51 articles are saying “Merry Christmas” to the world by, again, donating all their royalties to Samaritan’s Purse, an organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people (www.samaritanspurse.org).

 

The writers of this book share some of their memories of Christmases past that include happiness, joy, lighthearted celebration, family traditions, singular occasions, happy times, trying times… and so much more. In its own way each story illustrates how, no matter what our circumstances, at Christmastime we will find happiness and joy when we decide not to focus on ourselves and instead choose to celebrate Christ’s birth.

 

If you love stories that express the wonder of Christmas, touch the heart, and stir the emotions, you will love Merry Christmas Moments.

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Letter to an Aspiring Author or Editor

When I was a college English and humanities professor, students sometimes asked questions about my writing life. Some hoped to become writers themselves and asked me how they could achieve their dreams. Here’s a sample of the answers I gave them. This young lady was dual enrolled in high school and college classes, and she was interested in both my writing and my editing work.

Dear Nicole,

Thank you for your nice letter. As a college professor, I love to see high school students thinking seriously about furthering their education in preparation for a career.

Computer w Tigger

Writing books is an enjoyable career that requires four things: grammar and language skills, an active imagination, some life experience, and a broad world view. Add to that the discipline needed to sit alone in front of the computer and hammer out the story, and you can see it’s not an easy job. But the rewards can be tremendous. (At right you can see one of my latest manuscripts, a book in progress, along with Tigger the cat, who likes to edit my work.)

Your grammar in your email is quite good. Keep adding new words to your vocabulary and don’t fall into the bad habit some of my students have of using abbreviations in school papers that should be used only in emails and text messages.

Prime your imagination by jotting down story ideas as they come to you and save them all. Some will be good, some not. Some will inspire stories to write now, and some will be for future use.

Life experience is not limited to adults over 30. It can be anything from a kindergarten memory to a tour of duty in the military to a visit to a grandparent in a nursing home. Experiences give you something to say that will hold the interest of a reader. Write your memories of these meaningful experiences in a journal.

Developing a broad world view means you have studied humankind and learned what motivates people of various races, religions, and ethnicities. This sounds like a lot, but if you continue with your education, these things will come. Pursuing an English major will bring you into contact with many great authors of the past and present. A liberal studies degree will take you into many areas of knowledge. Journalism, history, psychology, and political science are also important areas of study.

In addition, you can begin now by reading great works of literature. My favorites are Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and anything by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter all provide windows into the past and inform us about the human condition. Popular fiction of today can be fun to read but might not provide the depth a serious aspiring writer should seek.

You also asked about a career as an editor, of which there are several kinds. If I understand correctly, you were asking about those who purchase authors’ books and guide them all the way to publication. For that career, you’ll need the same skills as an author because you’ll need to know at least as much if not more than the authors writing for you.

editor-definition-english-dictionary-22698290

Another kind of editor is the copyeditor, which is what I am. That means people send their manuscripts to me to “correct” before they submit their work to editors. I polish the grammar and offer suggestions on characterization and story structure. One literary agent who refers clients to me calls me a book doctor. I like that.

I hope these thoughts are helpful to you. I remember long ago writing to a famous opera singer (I’m not at all famous!) about my aspirations to follow that same career. She wrote me the loveliest letter in response that greatly encouraged me. Although I didn’t become a professional singer, her kindness stayed with me, and I hope this response to you pays it forward just a little.

Blessings,CLCR Cover

Professor Louise M. Gouge

If you love Christmas stories, take a look at Cowboy Lawman’s Christmas Reunion. Here’s the story:

Sheriff Justice Gareau can make outlaws quake in their boots…yet coming face-to-face with Evangeline Benoit once again takes away all his composure. She broke their engagement, and his heart, to marry a wealthy older man. Despite his reluctance, Justice can’t avoid the widowed single mother of two when they’re collaborating on a Christmas village for the town’s children.

The loving boy Evangeline once knew has become an unyielding lawman. Forced to flee New Orleans over false allegations, Evie doubts Justice will take her side when the past follows her to Colorado. Especially when he and her troublesome son butt heads. But perhaps the spirit of Christmas will soften his heart and give them a second chance at love. Copyright © 2017 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, Cover art and cover copy text used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises. ® and ™ Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license

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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas!

It’s finally here. With Thanksgiving over we are now officially in the Christmas season.

And when I think about Christmas, I find myself thinking about Christmas decorations.

So today, I though I’d share some of my favorite craft ideas for this Christmas season. I plan to try each of them.

I love this idea because it seems easy enough and you can add lights to it, giving it a special look.

Not sure if I can pull this one off or not. But I’m looking forward to trying it.
This is one of my favorites from last year. The melting snowman. I think it would be fun to make with the granddaughters.
And this sign that pretty much defines the meaning of Christmas for me.
So what about you? What’s your favorite way to decorate for Christmas?

This Christmas, I have two new romances out.Love’s Sweet Homecoming, which is out now, is my First Street Church series novella set in the fictional town of Sweet Grove, Texas.

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Blurb:

Donovan Henderson is finally coming home to Sweet Grove, Texas. Yet it is not to the sweet homecoming he’d once envisioned because he is not the same man he was before he left for the war in Afghanistan. After surviving an IED attack that ended his career with the marines, Donovan feels like half a man. Can this wounded warrior find his place in Sweet Grove once more? And will Donovan accept the love that has been standing right before him all along.

Ava Richards lost her husband to the same war that took Donovan’s leg. Even after two years, Ava is still crippled by the loss. Unable to move forward with her life, she is stuck in the past. Yet the more time she spends with her husband’s best friend, Donovan Henderson, the more Ava longs for a second chance at life…and love.

Can Ava convince Donovan that he doesn’t have to leave Sweet Grove to rebuild his life? And is it possible for two wounded souls to help each other learn what true love really means again?

 

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And on December 1st, Christmas In Delaney Mountain, my Christmas Romantic Suspense novella, comes out through White Rose Publishing, book two of the Delaney Mountain Series.

Blurb:

Kara Edwards has been looking over her shoulder for years. After being kidnapped and held hostage by a man who claimed to be her late husband’s friend, she’s no longer in the trusting business. She moves to Delaney Mountain with one expectation: to outrun her stalker. Never does she expect to meet a man like David Delaney—one who not only makes her want to trust again, but to love again, too. David Delaney is drawn to Kara from the first moment he meets her. There’s an attractive strength behind her no-nonsense caution and independence. He knows Kara is running from something, but nothing prepares him for what she has to say. When Eli Redford escapes from prison, Kara and David find themselves on one side of a Christmas Eve showdown that brings everything to a deadly head.

All the best…
Mary Alford
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Transition Week by Tara Randel

This is the time of year I like to call transition week. We’ve just finished celebrating a beautiful Thanksgiving weekend and now our mood shifts to the joyful Christmas season. The week between football and turkey to lighted trees and mistletoe is a shift week for sure. At least it is for me.

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I love, love, love my Fall decorations. Since I live in Florida and we don’t experience the changing autumn colors, I make my own Fall. I put my decorations out the last week of September and leave them up until the first weekend in December. I have a hard time letting go. I love the rich orange, gold and brown palette. It makes me feel warm inside and every time I walk into my living room, I smile. So I have a real dilemma come December. I don’t want to take them down.

But then Christmas decorations start popping up everywhere. Soon, I can’t resist the red and green color motif. Up with the tree. Light up the house. It’s fun, especially when young children—or those young at heart—get caught up in the Christmas excitement. Once I take all the autumn items and pack them away, opening Christmas boxes is like greeting old friends. Such lovely memories can be found in special ornaments or a hand-me-down angel or even placing the Nativity scene in a designated spot that features the reason for the season.

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So how to battle the transition week blues?

If you’ve been to any store lately, you’ve probably already witnessed Christmas decorations.  While I like shopping for new pieces, last year I started a new tradition. Once all the Christmas novels show up on the shelves, I pick out a handful and devote the month of December to reading and enjoying Christmas stories. Yes, it’s a busy time of year, but I try to grab spare moments to escape into these lovely novels that share the love and hope of Christmastime.  I’ve written a few Christmas novellas myself, and I have to admit, they’re so much fun to write. Even if I’m working on the project in July! There’s just something uplifting about books set during this season. If you haven’t taken the time to read during the holidays, I highly recommend it. I notice a hop in my step and I wear a sappy smile when I’m enjoying these holiday-themed stories.

So, back to transition week. Or maybe bittersweet week? Either way, I have to pack away my favorite Fall decorations and get ready for Christmas. The bright spot in all this?  Reading a heartwarming Christmas novel. It takes a bit of the sting away. If you have the same  problem transitioning, leave a comment so we can commiserate together!

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Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of fifteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, HIS ONE AND ONLY BRIDE, available January 2018 and her next Christmas Town novella in the holiday collection, HEARTWARMING HOLIDAY WISHES, available now.  Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books

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Happy Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s a time when we stop and think about what is important to us. It’s a time to be thankful for all the people and things in our life that are important to you. When I say “things,” I’m not talking necessarily about items like electronics or other objects that money can buy. I’m thankful for God, family and friends. I’m thankful for my health, for my time I spend with the Lord, for my time with my granddaughters, my forty-seven years of marriage, and for the free country that I live in. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that possessions aren’t nearly as important as they were in the past.

So what are you thankful for?

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‘Tis the season to be . . .grateful!

When most of us think of Thanksgiving, turkeys and big meals usually come to mind. Who can stick to a diet when some of the dishes passed around the table are offered only once a year? It’s the one holiday when tradition demands we eat as much as we want, guilt-free.

Or perhaps what comes to mind is that it’s a day when entire families gather, and we reaquaint  ourselves with people we rarely see. Sometimes that’s good . . . sometimes not so much. In a culture that seems increasingly divided, some of us might need to be careful about the direction of our conversations!

Eating, fellowship, pilgrims, the Christmas season kickoff are all good things. But perhaps most importantly, the reason President Lincoln created this holiday was to remind us to thank God for the many blessings He’s given us.

As my pastor reminded me last Sunday, core evidence of a healthy person is gratitude. I ask you: is it possible for a person to be angry and grateful at the same time? Here’s an equation to remember:

Gratitude + expression = shared happiness.

So this year at the dinner table, why not be the obnoxious relative who insists everyone share at least one thing they’re grateful for?

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We Need More Thanksgiving by Hannah Alexander

I wish a very happy Thanksgiving to you. In fact, I wish you more than just the traditional day of Thanksgiving. I wish for you to have abundant thankfulness in your heart every morning when you arise, every night before you retire, every time there’s a calamity during the day. May a thankful heart be your armor when you’re under attack, when you’re disappointed, when you are feeling mistreated.

I’m thankful that on my worst days I still have God to thank. I still belong to Him, and He will never leave me or forsake me. How easily I take this wonderful blessing for granted. Gratefulness is a mighty power in our lives, so let’s strive to count our blessings every day, especially during the bad times, but also during the good times. How many blessings can you count today?

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Mexican Folklore by Nancy J. Farrier

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Bandolero is set in 1830’s Southern California, which was Mexico at that time. I found some interesting tidbits while doing research for my book. One of the sad, but true historical truths had to do with the sport of fighting bears and bulls. From my reading I found that sometimes they were tied together and sometimes they were tied to a post. Either way they fought to the death, a bloody sport.

I used that in Bandolero as something that happened in the past. This time the event was not merely for sport. In Bandolero there is a bear attack. Grizzlies were once common in California, which is why the bear symbol is on the flag.

Mexican folklore is as fascinating as folktales or fairy tales from anywhere in the world. These stories were usually cautionary tales meant to teach young people morality or wisdom. Picture the children seated at the feet of their Nana as she tells the story of a young wayward girl we’ll call Rosa.

Rosa was a beautiful girl with long, black hair, and eyes that sparkled like stars. She worked very hard at home, but longed to go dancing. Sometimes her feet would tap a rhythm of their own as she thought of the handsome cowboys and the dances held in town. One night, Rosa sneaked from the house and made her way into town. Dancers whirled in bright colors and Rosa heart sang to join them. One handsome cowboy sauntered across the room and held out his hand to Rosa. He was the best looking man in the room and only had eyes for Rosa. They danced and danced. Rosa knew she should go home, but she thought, “One more dance. Only one more.” Before she knew it, the clock struck midnight. Rosa’s handsome cowboy whirled around, his feet became cloven hooves, and Rosa knew he was the devil. Too late, she knew she should have been home where she would be safe.

Today Bandolero is on sale for 99 cents. If you are interested you can find the Kindle version here. Below is the blurb for Bandolero.

She’s been rejected and betrayed.

He sacrificed all to seek revenge.

Alta California 1830’s

Yoana Armenta knows she is doomed to a miserable existence after her betrothal is broken. She will never marry. But, when her reckless behavior results in her and her tía being captured by bandoleros, Yoana fears her impulsive nature may cause irreparable disaster for both of them.

Amado Castro gave a death bed promise that he intends to keep – at all costs – even if he must break a childhood vow. When his choice endangers Yoana’s life, he struggles with the decision to honor his word, or to protect Yoana, whom he has come to care for more than he could have imagined. What of his father’s expectations? And, what does God require of him?

Now as the bandoleros threaten to sell Yoana and her tía to a fate worse than death, and the rancheros want to hang Amado, they must make choices. Will they trust God, or will they do what seems right to them? Will Amado’s life be sacrificed for Yoana’s?

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