Skip to content

Archive for

Character Interview: Molly Sanders from Witcha’be by Anna Marie Kittrell

EbookCover_Witcha'beToday’s special guest is Molly Sanders from a wonderful young adult inspirational novel entitled Witcha’be. Molly, tell the readers a little about yourself: where you go to school, any interests you might have?

My full name is Molly Marie Sanders—but, for some reason, my mom thinks it’s funny to call me ‘Molly Lou.’ I live in a two-story house with my dad, mom, and little Chihuahua named Boo. My mom is expecting a baby, and we just found out it will be a boy. So, soon I’ll have a baby brother named Max.

I’m a freshman at Redbend High School. I really like my creative writing class, taught by Mrs. Piper, my favorite teacher. She is awesome, and I love her perfume. Her classroom is painted periwinkle blue and has Bible verses on the walls. This semester our class is working on a big project. We are writing down our dreams in journals and then combining them into a story. Mrs. Piper said she will help us submit our book to publishers when we are finished. I can hardly wait!

I know that you are new in Redbend, Oklahoma, and that you’re attending a new school. Would you mind sharing with the readers how you felt about moving to a new location, making new friends—and enemies—and about life in your new town?

At first, moving from Crystal, Texas, to Redbend, Oklahoma, wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. My family spent the last two weeks of June at the lake with the Flemming family, which was really cool. Neal Flemming is my dad’s boss, and his daughter, Lenni, and I became instant friends. Lenni told me all about her best friend, Bianca. How beautiful she was, what a great actor she was, and how she made all her own outfits. She couldn’t wait to introduce us. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out quite the way Lenni planned.

When summer ended, things got tougher. Not only was I starting my freshman year of high school, I was going to be the new kid. I didn’t know anyone, except Lenni—and our friendship made Bianca mad. Cursing mad. So mad, in fact, she vowed to destroy me while honing her witch-in-training craft in the hallways of Redbend High. And the fact that I get a violent case of the hiccups whenever I’m scared didn’t help matters.

If it weren’t for Mrs. Piper’s encouragement, I don’t know how I would’ve made it through those first couple of weeks of school. Mrs. Piper taught me that God hadn’t given me a spirit of fear; but of power, love, and a sound mind. Her faith in God—and in what He could accomplish through me—gave me the courage to become friends with a bitter enemy.

I love Mrs. Piper, too. You also have a wonderful best friend in Lenni, but Lenni and your tormentor have been friends for a long while. I admire Lenni for her tenacity in trying to get you to see the good in Bianca. I want to know how you walked that line with Lenni because, at times, I know it was very difficult for you.

Yeah, difficult. As in…the line was a tightrope, and the walk was a balancing act. Most of the time I was teetering fifty feet in the air, on one shaky foot, arms windmilling wildly, without a net! The times I came close to falling, it was the threat of shattering Lenni’s friendship—and heart—that steadied my feet.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” When God says, “all things” I believe He means even the bad things that happen to us. You had some tough things to overcome. Have you been able to find the good in what you’ve gone through?

Omigosh, yes! It sounds crazy, but I have found so many good things in this experience, sometimes I can barely remember the bad. Bianca is such a cool person. I hate to think about how I almost missed out on really getting to know her. I thank God every day for giving me the courage to see through Bianca’s witch disguise. Understanding the person behind the mask was worth every single fear I experienced.

What advice would you give to a teen or anyone who is faced with the type of conflict you faced?

No matter what things look like on the outside, and even no matter what they feel like on the inside, God is ALWAYS in control. Believe in Him. Trust Him. Jump off that great big mountain of fear and let him catch you mid-air. He’ll never let you fall.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

Great advice, Molly. I look forward to talking with Anna on Wednesday.

About Witcha’be:

Is the power of forgiveness really stronger than a Witcha’be spell?

New to the small community of Redbend, Molly Sanders is delighted when she and Lenni Flemming become instant friends during the final weeks of her first Oklahoma summer. However, Bianca Ravenwood, Lenni’s best friend and self-proclaimed witch in training, is less than thrilled. In fact, she’s cursing mad, vowing to destroy Molly while honing her craft in the halls of Redbend High School.

Molly’s new school becomes a waking nightmare as Bianca, beautiful wannabe witch, targets her in a jealous rage. Plagued by terrifying, inexplicable occurrences and an embarrassing case of panic-induced hiccups, Molly is unable to escape Bianca’s snare.

But if Bianca refuses to back down and Molly refuses to stand up, not only will Molly lose the best friend she’s ever had…she may also lose her sanity.

You can view the book’s trailer here

You can purchase Witcha’be here:

Anna Marie KittrellAbout the author, Anna Marie Kittrell:

Anna Kittrell works as a middle school secretary in the same small, Oklahoma town where she grew up. There she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim, and their sixteen-year-old daughter.

Anna has written stories for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftovers she was unable to sell on the playground for a dime—written in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years. She is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Connect with Anna on her website, on Facebook, and Twitter.

Author Interview: Katrina Lenart from Goodbye Noel by Nike Chillemi

Goodbye NoelNice to meet you, Katrina. Please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do?

I feel as if I’ve been through a time machine talking to people who live in the new millennium, but it’s peachy-keen. I lived in Sanctuary Point on the south shore of Long Island with my mother and father. It’s a tiny village where most people know each other. Momma played piano in our small church and poppa was recognized as the finest hat-maker in all the county. We lived up on what’s called the slope, which is a hill, and it was also the Czech part of town. People said I took after momma, as we both had a flair for fashion. I suppose that was so. But I was more interested in making something of myself. Most of the boys I grew up with shipped out in WWII and many didn’t return. What was left was slim pickings in the marriage department. So, I decided to better myself. I had a job working in the hospital cafeteria and was admitted into the hospital’s first nursing class. I graduated valedictorian and became a pediatric nurse in the same hospital.

Good for you! This novel is a Christmas-New Year murder mystery? Please tell us a little about your story?

Well, it was pretty horrifying to find dear Noel Bauer murdered under her Christmas tree with her baby in the next room. Because I’m a pediatric nurse the police chief allowed me and momma to care for the baby in our home. I guess I was unprepared for how much I would love that precious infant. I became like a tiger, fighting anyone who didn’t have the baby’s best interest at heart. At one point, I even fought the detective who was trying to find the murderer. After there was a violent attempt to kidnap the baby, I realized I had to trust the detective and came to discover what a fine man he was. The two of us wound up going undercover in a cult and then again at a snazzy ball in the Hamptons. Little did we know just how heinous this killer would turn out to be.

Oh, my. It seems as if you had a merry (pun intended) mystery to solve. What Christmas traditions are shown in the novel? Do they play a role in the mystery?

You know, the story actually spans the entire Christmas season right up to Epiphany. And that was great for momma because she got to bake all of the traditional cakes and confections for each part of the holiday. I recall pondering how momma cherished her handmade beaded ornaments from Czechoslovakia. I hope you won’t be cross with me if I tell you something I’ve observed. In your post-modern America, you seem to either want to celebrate “the reason for the season” or you toss the Christ child out with the bath water entirely. Then you throw yourselves into decking the halls, party going, and the like. In the 1940s we did both. We enjoyed jingle bells ringing on a horse-drawn sleigh, or we got a huge thrill chopping down our Christmas tree, but that would never supplant the spiritual aspects of the holiday. As a matter of fact, now that I think of it, I’d say the holiday was woven into the fabric of the story. Detective Daltry and I did go ice skating, as a matter of fact, and it brought an unexpected plot twist. Did I mention, (blushing and playing with her pearls) I got my very first kiss on New Year’s Eve after a church midnight service at a social.

New Year’s Eve kisses are supposed to be important ones. I hope the man who kissed you, lived up to the tradition. What issues did you, as a character in Goodbye Noel, bring to the author?

I imagine I was difficult. I had decided I would never get married and then the author brought Detective Daltry into my life. Did you know, at one point, I actually wanted to push him into a snow bank? (gives a sly, little grin) Well, if you want to know how that turned out, you’ll just have to read the book.

Is there scripture or a biblical concept that you leaned upon to help you through your crisis?

Yes, and I don’t know where I got this from. It’s possible I heard it in a sermon. I believe it’s well and good for others to spiritually support me and to pray for me, but I firmly believe that I’ve got to grow up, mature in the Lord, and take responsibility for my own spiritual life. In fact, I told my friend Erica Brogna that very thing in the first book of the series, BURNING HEARTS. That was her story, you know, but it was really fun being in that one too.

So true. God’s Word tells us that we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Spiritual maturity comes when we do so.

Thank you, Katrina for being here with us on Christmas Day. I’ve read your story. Your author is one of my favorite storytellers, and your story is another great read from her. Would you mind telling us a little about Nike.

IMG_1320Like so many writers, Nike Chillemi started writing at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (penciled might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better. She also has a love affair with Christmas, enjoying every aspect of it from the cooking and baking, the decorating, Christmas movies and carols, and so much more.. She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chairman, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011 and 2012 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories.  She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). http://nikechillemi.wordpress.com/

Purchase Goodbye Noel from Amazon.com or Christian Book Distributors.

Nike shared a wonderful post for the Holidays. If you missed it, click here.

Random Acts of Christmas Blessing by Nike Chillemi

NikePixToday’s special guest is Nike Chillemi. Like so many writers, Nike started writing at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (penciled might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better.

She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chairman, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. S he writes book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011 and 2012 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. BURNING HEARTS, the first book in the crime wave that is sweeping the south shore of Long Island in The Sanctuary Point series, finaled in the Grace Awards 2011 in the Romance/Historical Romance category. GOODBYE NOEL, the second book in the series released in December, 2011 won the Grace Award 2011 in the Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller category. PERILOUS SHADOWS, third in the series released July, 2012, and DARKEST HOUR, the fourth in the series released in February, 2013.  She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). http://nikechillemi.wordpress.com/

Salvation Army photo courtesy of Stock.chng #724482

Salvation Army photo courtesy of Stock.chng #724482

For many, the exhaustion following Black Friday madness signals the beginning of Christmas. No way does that work for me. I know the Christmas season is here when I see my first Salvation Army volunteer on a street corner or in front of a store with their signature red kettle. They will be smiling, ringing their bells. Sometimes there will be musicians present. Tossing a dollar or two or five into the kettle is giving directly to those in need. The Salvation Army has boots on the ground in areas hard hit by disaster long after other organizations are gone. They are a stick-to-it type of assembly that stays in the trenches helping the distressed, doing what is often the drudge work after the television cameras have disappeared. So, give and give generously. Also, take a moment to chat on a cold day, offer a word of encouragement, and express thanks. Connect with the Salvation Army volunteer. All too often we rush by people fulfilling a function as if they were not living breathing people. Make it a moment full of blessing.

There’s that one person in your neighborhood or in your church who is in need. Pick up a gift card while at a nearby supermarket or in a department store, one easy for the individual to get to. The next time you see them, walk right up to them, wish them a Blessed Christmas, and tell them why you appreciate them. Don’t forget that last part. Expressing their worth is as important, if not more important, than giving them the gift card.

Fill up the gas tank for everyone in your family without their knowledge. If you have access to a friend’s or associate’s car, fill up their tank. To make sure they know it’s a Christmas blessing, leave a fabric poinsettia on the driver’s seat. You can get them at any dollar store.

When you are writing your Christmas cards write up a few extra without any name on the envelope. Make sure it’s a religious card expressing the reason for the season…one with Scripture. You can place a tract inside it, but it might be more effective without a tract. Many nonbelievers have an adverse reaction to tracts. They think Christians handing them out are pushing religion on them. A simple Christmas card is seen more as a personal gesture of goodwill. Walk the streets of your neighborhood or go to the local mall and hand the cards out to individuals who seem particularly downtrodden. Wish them a Merry Christmas. Spend a few minutes chatting with them. Some people have absolutely nobody to talk to.

Goodbye NoelIn my novel GOODBYE NOEL, when pediatric nurse Katrina Lenart took in an infant whose mother had just been murdered under the woman’s decorated Christmas tree, she thought she was performing a simple act of kindness. Katrina had no idea a heinous killer would soon be coming after her. In spite of terror stalking her little village, she managed to catch the eye of Detective Ian Daltry. They both had a Merry Christmas filled with laughter, family, and blessings.

You can purchase Goodbye Noel at Amazon/Kindle and Christianbooks.com.

The Glad Tidings of Christmas by Ann H. Gabhart

Ann GabhartOur special guest today is Ann H. Gabhart. Ann, the author of several bestselling novels, has been called a storyteller, not a bad thing for somebody who never wanted to do anything but write down stories. She’s published twenty-six novels for adults and young adults with more stories on the way. She keeps her keyboard warm out on a farm in Kentucky where she lives with her husband, Darrell. They have three children, three in-law children, and nine grandchildren. To find out more about Ann or her books visit her website www.annhgabhart.com. Check out her blog, One Writer’s Journal, or follow her on Facebook,  Twitter, or Pinterest.

Ahh, Christmas, that great time of family and gifts and food. And the hustle and bustle of shopping and decorating and baking and wrapping that goes into making it happen. A person can get tired just thinking about all the things that need doing at Christmas, especially if you’re the mom or grandmom everybody expects to do all the above. Sometimes you’re the one who expects you to do it all the most. We have to make Christmas wonderful for our families. We have to!

I get caught up in that feeling. I want Christmas to be fun for my children and grandchildren. I want it to be stuffed full of traditional joys–the expected food on the table, the perfect or at least good gifts under the tree. It seems every year expectations rise of what we need to give or get at Christmas.

Several of my books have Christmas scenes, and this year I published a Christmas novella, Christmas at Harmony Hill. So while doing research about Christmas celebrations, I’ve seen how celebrating Christmas has changed over the years. Even in my own family, the way Christmas is observed has changed from one generation to the next. My mother grew up during the Great Depression, and I based some of the background of Angel Sister on the stories she told me about her childhood. She never went hungry, but Christmas was a much simpler holiday for her family. She remembers getting a doll once, but usually she and her sisters got stockings filled with fruit and candy. Her mother never put up a Christmas tree. Instead, they hung their stockings on a rocking chair.

We always had a Christmas tree when I was a kid. We would search our farm for the perfect cedar tree, cut it, and put it in a bucket of rocks and water to haul into the house and decorate. Santa Claus brought us presents, but early on we knew Santa was a practical guy who shopped at Sears Roebuck. Every year a Sears Christmas catalog arrived in the mail and the wishes started. We even called it the wish book. My mother let us pick out gifts up to a certain money amount. That practical Santa had a budget. My sisters and I wore that catalog out looking for the presents we wanted most and then practiced our math skills to see if it would fit in Santa’s bag.

After I married and had children, I didn’t give them a dollar amount the way my mother did me. But the kids knew we couldn’t afford certain things, and so it would be useless to put those kind of gifts on a Christmas wish list. The cedar Christmas trees eventually gave way to an artificial tree that wasn’t a fire hazard so it could stay up longer. Sears catalogs went by the wayside and television commercials became the wish instigator. Those advertisers make everything look fun in a commercial. My kids might not have gotten as many toys as some of their friends, but we always had a fun Christmas morning.

Now I have grandkids and they are blessed to have loving parents who want them to have wonderful Christmas mornings the same as I wished for my children. That’s good. I want them to be happy and excited. That is an important part of Christmas.

But it’s not the reason for the season. Sometimes as I’m spinning in place trying to get it all done, I have to take a deep breath and remember that Christmas doesn’t depend on me finding the right gifts and wrapping them up in paper decorated with Santa Claus and snowmen. The day will be just as sweet even if I don’t get six kinds of cookies baked. Stars will still be in the grandkids’ eyes. Love will still be in our hearts. And that’s good, because once long ago in a stable, a child was born and the angels sang and mankind received glad tidings of great joy! A Savior was born!

May the true spirit of Christmas live in your heart now and every day of the year.

9781441244413About Christmas at Harmony Hill: 

It is 1864 and the nation is still torn apart by civil war when Heather Worth discovers she is with child. She has been working as a laundress with her husband’s army unit, but when the army gets orders to march south to Tennessee, Gideon insists Heather go home to have their child under safer conditions. Heather agrees, but returns home to another kind of devastation–deaths in the family and a father who refuses to forgive her for marrying a Yankee. With nowhere else to turn, Heather seeks refuge at the Shaker village of Harmony Hill, where her great aunt Sophrena lives. There, after many peaceful years at Harmony Hill, Sophrena is having doubts about her Shaker path. Both women are in need of love and forgiveness–whether given or received. With Christmas coming, can the miracle of new life fill their hearts with unexpected joy?

Ann H. Gabhart’s many fans will be thrilled to return to Harmony Hill at Christmastime for this stirring story of healing and hope.

You can purchase Christmas at Harmony Hill here.

When You Grow Up Without Tradition by Kathy J. Bain

197597_1007733841260_1462365699_13278_7836_n1Today’s special guest is my friend, critique partner, and a very talented author of comedy, romance, and romantic suspense, Kathryn J. Bain.

Award winning author Kathryn J. Bain’s fifth book, Beautiful Imperfection, was released September 29, 2013. Her book Catch Your Breath took Third Place in the 2013 Heart of Excellence Contest for her inspirational romance and Breathless took First Place for Inspirational Romance in the 2010 Royal Palm Literary Awards.

She was the President of Florida Sisters in Crime from 2010-2012 and is currently the Public Relations Director for Ancient City Romance Authors. Kathryn has also been a paralegal for over twenty years and works for an attorney who specializes in elder law.

Kathryn grew up in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. In 1981, she moved to Boise, but it apparently wasn’t far enough south, because two years later she headed to Jacksonville, Florida, and has lived in the sunshine ever since.

When Fay asked me to donate a Christmas story to Inner Source, I was tempted to say no. After all, I had no Christmas traditions growing up. There was never anything special that we did as a family besides visit other family. Unfortunately most of these involved alcohol.

My father was an alcoholic. The only sure thing we knew about Christmas Eve was he’d be drunk. Even worse, he’d not be jolly like Santa. My father wasn’t a very nice man, whether drunk or sober.

When you have someone in your family who drinks, there are no traditions. At least not any you want to pass on to your children.

That’s why when my daughter, Amanda, was born, I wanted to do something special each year. I was a single mother at the time so it wasn’t like I could afford something as fancy as Rockefeller Center. Even the local playing of “The Nutcracker” was out of reach. So I decided on pajamas.

So every Christmas Eve I gave my daughter a new pair of pajamas. Years later, when my youngest was born, I did the same for her. To some, this might not seem like a big deal, but to us, it became our tradition. And the kids looked forward to it every year.

Both my girls are grown now. And this year, my oldest blessed me with a wonderful granddaughter, Hope. Amanda called the other day and asked if she was supposed to buy Hope’s pajamas or do I? I asked her why. Maybe she couldn’t afford it. Starting a photography business can put a crimp in your pocket book at times.

But, in fact, Amanda had already bought pajamas for her daughter. She just called to make sure our tradition was that the parents buy the pajamas for their own kids.

It warmed my heart to know she wanted to pass this tradition on to her child. It just goes to show, sometimes the simple things are the most remembered. As long as love is involved, those memories will stick.

Merry Christmas to everyone. I pray for you all a blessed New Year.

Kathy is the author of Breathless, Catch Your Breath, and her latest novel, Beautiful Imperfections.

BeautifulImperfection_w11186_680About Beautiful Imperfections:

When witnesses to a mass murder start dying, breast cancer survivor Teddy Federline must push aside her anger and trust an ex-boyfriend to ensure she lives long enough to testify against the killer.

Detective Sloan Michaels still has deep feelings for Teddy but realizes that after the way he left her years ago, he has a lot of making up to do. Now, he must keep his focus on the case and off the woman he loves. If Sloan doesn’t keep Teddy safe, he’ll never get a second chance.

You can purchase Beautiful Imperfections, and Kathryn’s other titles at Pelican Book Group, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com

Samson: A Christmas Memory by June Foster

June FosterToday’s guest is my very good friend, June Foster. June is a retired teacher with a BA in Education and a MA in counseling.

June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day – February 1, 2012, As We Forgive – September 1, 2012, and Deliver Us – April 1, 2013, and Hometown Fourth of July – July 1, 2012. June’s book, Ryan’s Father, will be available from WhiteFire Publishing January 2014. For All Eternity, Red and the Wolf, and Misty Hollow, God willing, will be published in the near future. June loves to write stories about characters who overcome the issues in their lives by the power of God and His Word. June uses her training in counseling and her Christian beliefs in creating characters who find freedom to live godly lives. You can meet up with June on her blog: The Traveling Writer at Home Samson 002

After my husband, Joe, and I moved into our new house in El Paso, Texas, we got a dog. And what a dog he was. We named him Samson because we needed a strong guard dog. Frequently, however, we called him Sam or Sammy, and sometimes “Hey, Mutt.” Sam turned out to be a dog with an amazing personality, almost human. Really. At least he seemed like our son, since our children were grown and gone.

One of my favorite Christmas memories was when Joe decided to give Sam a present. Joe took a bag of treats and poked holes in the plastic around them—so the delicious aroma of doggie hors d’ oeuvres wafted through. He wrapped the gift with brightly colored paper and tied a bow around it. After he put it under the tree, he called Sam over and pointed out the package saying, “Sam, this is your present. Now don’t touch.”

Our well-trained and obedient dog never bothered the parcel—even when we weren’t in the room. Each time Joe would say, “Sam, where’s your present?” he’d run to the package and sniff it. He didn’t even push it around with his nose. Finally on Christmas morning, Joe went through the usual routine of asking Sam to identify his present. Then he loudly proclaimed, “Sam, you can have it.” Sam grabbed the package and within a couple of minutes unwrapped it and enjoyed a doggie treat. The memory of our precious dog lives on in our hearts. Even after ten years, we miss him.

Ryan's FatherI am eagerly awaiting the January 2014 release of June’s novel, Ryan’s Father, in which June tackles a very heavy subject.

Ryan Reid is a first-grade teacher and a Christian with a heart for neglected kids, but a chance encounter during an earthquake with Sandy Arrington, a beautiful young nurse, rocks Ryan’s carefully guarded world and unearths the secret he has held deep in his heart. Though Sandy falls in love with him, Ryan’s forbidden affections lie elsewhere, and he must depend on the Lord to see him through a battle he always hoped he’d never have to face. Ryan’s Father releases January 2014. Don’t miss it.

Be sure to also read June’s other novels in her Bellewood series: Give Us This DayAs We Forgive, and Deliver Usas well as her Hometown 4th of July.

You can pre-order Ryan’s Father here.

How “Silver Bells” Taught Me a Valuable Lesson

JD2_origToday’s special guest is JoAnn Durgin.  Starlight, Star Bright is JoAnn’s sequel to the popular Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, part of Pelican Book Group’s 2012 Holiday Extravaganza. The author of seven books, JoAnn is an estate administration paralegal in a Louisville, Kentucky law firm and lives in southern Indiana. Visit her at www.joanndurgin.com or via her Author JoAnn Durgin page on Facebook.

I loved everything about third grade. My teacher, Marcia Mackenzie, was this petite, adorable woman. Every hair was always in place, and she wore the most beautiful dresses I’d ever seen. Miss Mackenzie also drove the coolest silver British import sports car and was sweet and soft spoken. She was patience and kindness personified and, to my knowledge, never raised her voice or lost her temper in front of her students. Needless to say, she made a big impression in a year when we learned long division, cursive writing and I came down with a nasty case of the mumps following a field trip to the public library. If I’d become a teacher, I’d credit Miss Mackenzie as my inspiration.

Perhaps because I wanted to impress my beloved teacher, I did something I’d never done before in the school Christmas pageant that year…and proved myself the fool. All I had to do was line up with my fellow students and sing “Silver Bells.” No acting was involved other than swinging a bell—cut from heavy construction paper and decorated with silver glitter—back and forth. Easy, right? So, what did I do? I sang my proverbial little heart out. Loudly. If an eight-year-old could bellow, that’s most likely what it sounded like…but halfway in tune, I hope, and not like some kind of moose in heat. It was enthusiastic and. . .rousing. Now, that’s the word for it.

The music teacher (whose name I cannot remember) kept glancing my way as we started on the second verse of “Silver Bells.” With her pasted-on, frozen smile, I thought, Wow. She must be proud of me. I’m doing a really good job. That only prompted me to sing even louder. Finally, the teacher kept directing the other students with one hand as she walked over to me and leaned close.

“JoAnn,” she said (sounded more like a hiss, as I recall) “you don’t have to shout. Everyone can hear you just fine. Don’t overpower the others.” At least she said it more or less in private, but it only takes one to be proven the fool. I wanted to sink into the gym floor, and I’m sure my cheeks were on fire. My mom never said anything, and neither did Miss Mackenzie. Neither did the music teacher, and I’m sure they all just wanted to forget about it. Then again, maybe they didn’t think another thing about it. But the humiliation and embarrassment has obviously stayed with me all these years later.

So, what did I learn from this experience? Well, I’ve never been one to exactly “blend in.” But I have learned to not overpower others, especially when singing in a group. Good thing I married a man with a gorgeous tenor voice, and he’s often had to tone it down so that he doesn’t overpower my voice.

In retrospect, I learned something else that day that’s even more valuable and a basic truth of life. It’s not about being the loudest, the best or the one getting the attention. Sometimes it really is about blending in to make a harmonious whole. We all have our “parts” and how we go about it is every bit as important as the end result. I don’t need to shout in order to be heard. Sometimes a whisper is all that’s needed. And the Almighty hears it all. I’m so thankful for that.

Blessings to you and yours, friends, during this most special and precious season of the year!

James 4:6:  But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (KJV)

StarlightStarbright_w11612_680More about Starlight, Star Bright:

Dante Moretti, Texas-born goalie of an Italian World Cup champion team, expects Starlight, Iowa will be only a blip on the radar of his life. Grabbing a quick meal at Barney’s Diner during the holidays, Dante meets two women who capture his heart in very different ways. Then his rental car won’t start and leaves him stranded. Does the Lord have a plan for bringing him—and keeping him—in Starlight?

Amanda Marston is excited to be home for her brother’s wedding. When she drops in for a cup of coffee at Barney’s, she’s charmed by the mysterious, Italian-spouting cowboy. Before she can blink, the handsome stranger is helping with projects all over town and working his way into her heart. Does God have a plan for Dante in her beloved little Starlight or will he take her heart with him when he returns to Italy?

Starlight, Star Bright is available from White Rose Publishing (Pelican Book Group), Amazon.com, and other book retailers.

And Meet Me Under the Mistletoe: MeetMeUnderTheMistletoe_w11222_300

Jacob Marston, Starlight, Iowa’s hometown hero made a long-ago promise to the Lord: he won’t kiss a woman until he knows she’s “the one.” Now at age twenty-eight, the rugged firefighter questions if it’ll ever happen. Then, he meets his best friend’s sister, and Jake believes he’s found the woman of his dreams. But what will she think when she discovers his vow?

When Julia makes an unexpected confession on Christmas Day, Jake shares his secret with her, and it looks as though happily-ever-after will make a holiday appearance.

But somehow, everyone in the tiny town of Starlight learns Jake’s secret, and he’s instantly transformed from town hero to laughingstock. Did Julia reveal his secret? Can Jake forget the humiliation and find his way under the mistletoe to share a forever kiss with Julia?

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe is available from White Rose Publishing (Pelican Book Group), Amazon.com, and other book retailers.

 

A Time for Sharing by Anna Marie Kittrell

Anna Marie KittrellToday’s special guest is Anna Marie Kittrell, author of one of my favorite (yes, I’ve read it) young adult novels: Witcha’be, which released on December 11, 2013. Anna  works as a middle school secretary in the same small, Oklahoma town where she grew up. There she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim, and their sixteen-year-old daughter.

Anna has written stories for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftovers she was unable to sell on the playground for a dime—written in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years. She is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Connect with Anna on her website, on Facebook, and Twitter.

At the age of six, I received a wonderful surprise. A genuine dream-come-true. My dad asked my best friend’s mom to marry him, and she said yes. The happy couple broke the news to us on an outing at the local park. Kelly and I widened our gazes at one another, clasped hands, and ran toward the swing sets giggling, calling each other “sissy.”

With long, dark hair hanging down both our backs, and only two months between us in age, people often mistook us for twins. Similar in size and stature, we even wore the same size clothing. Blending our closets to make new outfits was fun and exciting…at first, but quickly became a source of resentment. I happened to like my clothing, and didn’t take kindly to Kelly’s falling down on the playground and ripping giant holes in the knees of my favorite floral bellbottoms.

And clothing wasn’t the only thing I was expected to share. My bedroom, toys, hair accessories, pets, and even my friends, became communal belongings. It didn’t take long to realize having my best friend for a sister wasn’t the never-ending slumber party I’d imagined.

The Christmas that broke the camel’s back arrived when Kelly and I were ten. Under the decorated tree on Christmas morning, we found three lovely boxes. A present labeled with Kelly’s name, a present labeled with mine, and a present—by far the largest gift of all—labeled with both of our names. Another something to share. Humbug.

As we sat on the tree skirt shaking the packages, Dad ambled into the living room, scaring us both to death. He was nearly unrecognizable, his normally hairy chin now smooth as a baby’s bottom. He claimed Santa Claus had sneaked into the house and shaved off his beard while he slept.

“Open them,” Dad yawned, as my stepmother joined him on the sofa.

We seized our presents, shredding giftwrap like a couple of kittens in a yarn factory. Seconds later, we excitedly yanked from the tattered boxes… matching bathrobes. Sigh. At least there were two of them. Kelly’s blue, mine pink. We shoved them aside and tore into the large package bearing both of our names.

“An Atari!” Kelly shrieked, her wide smile perforated by toothless gaps.

“An Atari?” I cried, knitting my eyebrows together and crossing my arms.

Just as I predicted, the game system brought my stepsister joy beyond measure. And infinite humiliation to me. The thing was relentless, as if it could somehow feel my hatred and held a serious grudge. At dizzying speeds, asteroids crashed into my spaceship, blowing it to smithereens, while Kelly’s ship glided easily between space-rocks that moved in slow motion.

Seriously? An Atari that played favorites? Definitely not in my letter to Santa. So sad to learn the jolly old elf was ho-ho-hoing at me, not with me. (It took months for me to discover Kelly was setting my controller to “advanced,” and her own to “beginner.”)

Kelly and I are all grown up now, with adult children of our own. We dropped the step from sisters long ago. These days, we share a wonderful brother, a loving friendship, and a whole bunch of crazy memories I wouldn’t trade for the world. But most importantly, we share a love for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Sisters on earth as we shall be in Heaven. And Heaven is the one great big gift with both our names on it that I won’t mind sharing.

EbookCover_Witcha'beAbout Witcha’be

Is the power of forgiveness really stronger than a Witcha’be spell?

New to the small community of Redbend, Molly Sanders is delighted when she and Lenni Flemming become instant friends during the final weeks of her first Oklahoma summer. However, Bianca Ravenwood, Lenni’s best friend and self-proclaimed witch in training, is less than thrilled. In fact, she’s cursing mad, vowing to destroy Molly while honing her craft in the halls of Redbend High School.

Molly’s new school becomes a waking nightmare as Bianca, beautiful wannabe witch, targets her in a jealous rage. Plagued by terrifying, inexplicable occurrences and an embarrassing case of panic-induced hiccups, Molly is unable to escape Bianca’s snare.

But if Bianca refuses to back down and Molly refuses to stand up, not only will Molly lose the best friend she’s ever had…she may also lose her sanity.

Purchase Witcha’be here.

And check back with us the week of December 30, when Inner Source will welcome, Molly Sanders and her author for interviews and another guest blog post.

 

 

 

Counting Down to Christmas

Winter MeToday’s special guest is author Sharyn Kopf, who shares with us a poignant insight into her past, one that makes the present so fulfilling for her.

We gathered around the Christmas tree, six instead of seven, trying to grab onto something familiar. A family whole, minus one. Mom had only been gone eight days. It felt like more. It felt like less. Her spirit swirled around us, laughing, tickling us to join her.

A lost and joyous ghost of Christmas past.

Dressed in green.

Draped in black.

I had just turned seventeen when Mom died, but the long journey to that Christmas began when I was fifteen. Before then, I didn’t even know what breast cancer was, let alone the devastation it would cause my family. The doctor didn’t catch it in time and, after a mastectomy and months of radiation, they let us know it was too late. We would lose her, it was just a matter of when.

Still, I chose not to believe it. I was, after all, a high school student. This was my time to rebel against her, not mourn her. I needed to spend time with her, but there wasn’t any. I wouldn’t know until later just how much I needed that. By then, she was gone.

How do you celebrate Christmas one week after your mom has passed away? We sang The Twelve Days of Christmas and I think we opened presents. It’s so hard to remember. Most of my memories of that day revolve around a single, grainy Polaroid photo my brother took. Our faces are downcast, pensive and sad, with a few unwrapped gifts scattered about. We didn’t even have a week to get used to the idea.

Everything reminded me of Mom; nothing reminded me of Christmas.

For five, ten, fifteen years, my siblings and I wandered. I tried to fit my life into eight states and thirty-six towns and struggled to make a career out of an untold number of jobs. From Iowa to Michigan to New York to Vermont to Indiana to Missouri to Colorado I fled, running from loss, searching for peace or joy or some kind of contentment.

Looking for family.

Then, a miracle—my youngest sister married her college sweetheart and, one or two years later, they introduced a chubby little spitfire we call KatyKat into the world. Four years later, sweet-hearted LuLu joined the family. And, just like that, everything changed.

I found what I was missing when I visited them in Ohio. So I left my home in Colorado to be closer. A few years later, Ollie-pop entered the world. My first nephew. This past summer, I had the amazing opportunity to move within four miles of these three kids. I can drive to their farm in six minutes for dinner or a campfire or snuggle-time on the couch while we watch Disney movies. I can babysit when my sister needs me or pick up my nieces from school.

It’s good to live close to your heart.

One day, I hoisted Oliver into my arms to take him up to his room for a nap. He melted into me and fell asleep almost immediately. When I laid him down on the bed, I brushed his thick, wavy hair from his forehead and it hit me just how much my mom would have adored him. And his sisters. For the first time, I realized what she had missed out on. The knowledge wrung grief from my heart for a second, then a voice whispered,

“Enjoy this. Enjoy this for me.”

A new responsibility covers me this Christmas. To embrace the enchantment of each moment with my family, not only for me but for her.

I’ve always loved this time of year, despite that early heartache. How everything smells like evergreen trees and peppermints taste so much sweeter. I count the months, then the weeks, then the days. And I believe something magical can happen.

Now I see it has. The One who loves me most has multiplied my joy. More than I ever dreamed possible.

Merry Christmas, Mom. You can count on me.

About Sharyn Kopf:

Sharyn knew she wanted to be a writer the moment she wrote her first poem at the age of five. She still considers it one of her best works.

After college, she roamed around a bit, finding work writing for newspaper, radio, TV, marketing and public relations. Most recently, Sharyn has made her living as a freelance writer and editor. Her work has included co-authoring/editing Coping with Traumatic Brain Injury: One Woman’s Journey from Death to Life (published by BookJolt, 2012), writing and editing numerous web articles, and editing a 400-page devotional for publication.

In February 2013, she won the Write Integrity Press One Hope Contest in fiction. Her first novel, Spinstered, will be published by Pix-N-Pens Publishing this fall, alongside a nonfiction version under the same title.

In her spare time, Sharyn plays the piano, makes the best fudge ever, rages against unnecessary uses of the Oxford comma, and watches too much HGTV. She lives in Bellefontaine, Ohio, just five minutes from her favorite people in the world, including her nieces and nephew.

You can connect with Sharyn on Facebook or Twitter. She and her sister, a graphic designer, recently started an editing and design company for authors pursuing self-publication. Find out more here.

A Ruby Christmas FRONT COVERSharyn and I are both proud to announce the free Kindle download of A Ruby Christmas, a Write Integrity Press/Pix-N-Pens Christmas novella.

Ruby Joy Buckner, cowgirl, has never left the Lone Star State, but at her father’s request, she takes her faithful canine companion and travels the world in search of Nativity pieces. As Ruby collects the pieces, she also collects a few unexpected surprises, including an awareness of the beauty in other cultures, and quite a menagerie of new friends, thanks in part to Yippee Ti Yi Yo who charms everyone they meet.

Ruby’s budding awareness of life outside Texas opens her eyes to a world of whimsy, and the Nativity pieces she collects are unusual. Will her father approve her eclectic collection … and the changes that travel brought to Ruby’s life?

Get your copy here.

 

Christmas: Hope Realized

Phee ParadiseToday’s special guest is Phee Paradise, who celebrates Christmas in South Carolina with her husband, children, grandchildren, cat and bird. The rest of the year she writes, teaches public speaking, and volunteers at church. She loves God’s Word and you can read her meditations by clicking here.  Phee also contributes her short stories at Faithwriters.  Phee took part in the Write Integrity Press Christmas novella contest, and her entry was chosen. Phee joined the Write Integrity Press family with her chapter, which is included in A Ruby Christmas. 

Christmas and Hanukkah coincided the year I invited a Jewish student to spend the holiday with us. She brought a tin menorah and placed it on the window sill in the living room. The whole family gathered around when she lit the candles and said a Hebrew prayer. Then she bundled up with us and went to the candlelight Christmas Eve service.

In the morning, the kids knew they couldn’t wake their father and me before 8:00, but a college student wasn’t quite an adult. Santa had brought her a stocking, too, so they dragged her down to see what was in it. When we came downstairs, they were playing dreidel on the cover of a Christmas record. The kids’ new friend was winning all the chocolate from their stockings.

It was fun to share our different traditions and to compare and contrast them. Both holidays, as we understood them, were about hope. The difference is that in the birth of the Messiah she didn’t recognize, we saw our hope realized. Our friend has not yet recognized that truth. But we still love her and pray for her. And our hope extends to the next generation. Last summer, when she came to visit with her children, my grandchildren told them about Jesus.

We are blessed to share a common heritage with our Jewish friends, but we should remember to pray that they will come to know that Jesus is their Messiah, too.

A Ruby Christmas A Ruby Christmas FULL COVER

Ruby Joy Buckner, cowgirl, has never left the Lone Star State, but at her father’s request, she takes her faithful canine companion and travels the world in search of Nativity pieces. As Ruby collects the pieces, she also collects a few unexpected surprises, including an awareness of the beauty in other cultures, and quite a menagerie of new friends, thanks in part to Yippee Ti Yi Yo who charms everyone they meet.

Ruby’s budding awareness of life outside Texas opens her eyes to a world of whimsy, and the Nativity pieces she collects are unusual. Will her father approve her eclectic collection … and the changes that travel brought to Ruby’s life?

Phee’s chapter of A Ruby Christmas  is posted on the Write Integrity Press blog. We hope you’ll also take part in our Altered Photo Contest. Check out the unaltered photos posted each day on the Write Integrity Press blog and then visit that day’s author’s website (Today you’ll visit Phee’s website) for a look at the altered photo. Keep a list because on December 13, we’ll ask you to send in your list. Those with the most correct answers will be eligible for a drawing. The prize? A bundle of all of our books in PRINT and DIGITAL (for giving and/or keeping) formats. The winner will be announced Tuesday, December 17, but rest assured, the books will be shipped in time for Christmas. (Continental U.S. Residents only for print books. If an international winner is chosen, they may receive two sets of digital books for gift giving).

Last year’s Write Integrity Press novella: The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt is also available on Kindle.

A DOZEN APOLOGIES FINAL FRONT COVER Phee also joined other Write Integrity Press authors with the upcoming Valentine’s Day novella, A Dozen Apologies:

Mara Adkins, a promising fashion designer, has fallen off the ladder of success, and she can’t seem to get up.

In college, Mara and her sorority sisters played an ugly game, and Mara was usually the winner. She’d date men she considered geeks, win their confidence, and then she’d dump them publicly. When Mara begins work for a prestigious clothing designer in New York, she gets her comeuppance. Her boyfriend steals her designs and wins a coveted position. He fires her, and she returns in shame to her home in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where life for others has changed for the better.

Mara’s parents, always seemingly one step from a divorce, have rediscovered their love for each other, but more importantly they have placed Christ in the center of that love. The changes Mara sees in their lives cause her to seek Christ. Mara’s heart is pierced by her actions toward the twelve men she’d wronged in college, and she sets out to apologize to each of them. A girl with that many amends to make, though, needs money for travel, and Mara finds more ways to lose a job that she ever thought possible.

Mara stumbles, bumbles, and humbles her way toward employment and toward possible reconciliation with the twelve men she humiliated to find that God truly does look upon the heart, and that He has chosen the heart of one of the men for her to have and to hold.