Review: The Christmas Singing by Cindy Woodsmall

the christmas singing book coverPublisher: WaterBrook Press
ISBN: 978-0307446541
Pages: 208
Format: e-Galley
Rating: 4
Age recommendation: Teens, Young adult, Adult
Buy: Amazon

Three years ago, Mattie thought everything was going well in her relationship with childhood sweetheart Gideon until she found him cheating on Christmas Eve. As quickly as she could, she packed her bags, baking equipment and moved to Ohio. She opened her highly successful Mattie Cakes and moved on in her dating life before a disaster forces her to return to Pennsylvania. And to the truths that are being revealed, truths Gideon kept all these years. Continue reading

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My Novel Taught Me

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The Writers Voice
Where you get to know the people behind the pages
(Please stop by and follow us at http://ourbooksourvoice.blogspot.com)
This is Emma Michaels, the author of ‘The Thirteenth Chime’ and
‘Anasazi’ and I am taking over! Don’t worry, it is only for one post to
introduce you to the team of amazing authors who are a part of a new
blog called, ‘The Writers Voice’. A blog run by 10 authors and dedicated
to letting you get to know each of us and the many guest authors we feature!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned when creating your book?

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“I think the main thing I learned was: If you feel the need and the love to do something in your heart but you don’t think you will be good enough, it is all the more reason to do it and become good at it. All you really need it honest passion and time.”
-Emma Michaels

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“Well, I don’t know if this is a learning thing……but a girl that I haven’t been ‘friends’ with on more than a run into her and say “hi” kind of basis has become one of my most trusted Lovies. She is great when it comes to helping me clean up a scene and make it flow right. Thank you Lara! You rock!”

-Devyn Dawson

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“How unpredictable a muse can be – that I have no control over where my characters will lead me.”

-Jamie Magee
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“If you wait for inspiration to strike you, you might as well give up writing altogether. Write even when you don’t feel like writing. Write even when you’re bored with your plot and characters because if you force yourself, at some point you’ll get back into the story.”

-Jayde Scott

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“For me, it is that I do better at coming up with the story by not thinking too much about it other than when I’m writing. I feel like I have inspiration from a higher power, helping me write and giving me ideas that come to me as I’m writing.”

-Victoria Simcox

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“That I could actually finish something I started. Three times!”

-Brenda Pandos

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“That people are enjoying my work. I wondered if anyone but me would ever like them, but there’s a few out there that do. I treasure every encouraging word!”

-Megg Jensen

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“That I actually had a whole book in me – and not just one, but many. During college, I’d given up on fiction writing. I’d convinced myself I was just never meant to write a novel and I needed to use my talent in the business world. When I decided to give it a try again, I was floored when an entire book, and then a series, immediately welled up, seemingly out of nowhere. Family and friends said they knew I had it in me, so I was the only one so surprised.”
-Kristie Cook

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“The most surprising thing I learned is that my outline was useless. I’m usually a very structured writer. I always create an outline just to assure myself that I have a logical beginning, middle and end to the story. In every case so far, I departed from the outline and ended up allowing the characters to take the story and run with it. I think the books have turned out better for it.”

-Raine Thomas
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“That I had an incredible imagination!”
-Kim Richardson
Oh yeah, did I mention we have amazing guest authors? 
Here is a sneak peak of a few of the interviews we have planned for the future:

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“I think what surprised me the most was that my characters had minds of their own and often took the story in directions I hadn’t anticipated. It was fun! And, kind of a roller coaster ride at times.”

-Julia Karr
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“I learned how incredibly carefully deadly viruses are handled in the lab—with more precautions than even occurred to me, and only very select people allowed to work with them—but also how easily mistakes can be made despite that, through human fallibility. It was scary and startling to find out how close to the catastrophe I write about in my book we may have come several times in the past.”
-Megan Crewe

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“I discovered—painfully, at times—that I really needed to come up with my own methods for writing and revising, and some of those methods are a little… unconventional. For example, the revision process was giving me fits as I tried to do it on my laptop. I finally started printing out chapters, cutting them up with scissors, and physically rearranging them and making notes on them. It went so much easier after that! It made me realize I just had to do what worked for me, even if I was the only one doing it that way.”

-K. C. Neal

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“For THE PRINCESS CURSE, I learned a bit of Romanian folklore; I learned that Romanian has had at least three words for dragons. First, zmeu, which is a dragon prominently featured in my book, is a humanoid sort of dragon that likes to kidnap young wives; second, balaur, which is a more dragony sort of dragon; and third, dracul, which we know from Vlad Dracul and of course Dracula. (Vlad Dracul was a member of the Order of the Dragon, which was a prestigious chivalric order of the day; he was very proud to be a member. “Dracula”–or slightly more accurately, “Draculea,” meant “son of the dragon.” In Modern Romania, dracul was adapted to a meaning more like “devil” while balaur stuck with meaning dragon, and zmeu means both dragon and… kite!”

-Merrie Haskell

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“There have been a few instances of “wait…I thought I made that up” connected with D,D and the sequel. Probably the biggest one concerns the Allister gene bank and nature preserve, which is mentioned in book one and becomes pivotal in book two. When I was drafting book one, I randomly decided this thing was located in “northern Nicaragua.” It’s my book, it’s 2195, I can make up anything I want, right?

While drafting book two I ended up mapping out some roads using Google Maps, and I found there was a dead zone through which no roads ran. “What is this thing getting in the way of my chase scene?” I huffed, zooming in.

Turns out there’s an enormous nature preserve located in northern Nicaragua, right where I said it would be.

Yeah, I didn’t get any writing done that day after finding that out.

-Lia Habel

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“How much I love writing from the male perspective. I don’t know why I found this surprising because all my life my guy friends have told me I don’t think like the ‘average’ female :-s Okkaaay. But yeah, I really enjoy writing from my hero’s perspective. It’s fun because, in general, there is a lot less ‘musing’ and a lot more ‘doing’.”
-Samantha Young
I hope you will join us at The Writers Voice and hear more from our team and other writers from around the web! 
“The Writers Voice: Where you get to know the people behind the pages”

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Inside Out Christmas by Debora M. Coty

There’s also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 – 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***

My veterinarian friend, Dr. Katie, tells the story about the December when a woman brought a very sick black lab into her clinic. The dog was only ten months old, so she was really just a big puppy, but she’d been vomiting incessantly and her worried owner didn’t know what was wrong.

“Why don’t you go on home?” Dr. Katie told the owner. “I’ll need to run tests for about four hours. We’ll give you a call when we’re finished.”

Dr. Katie’s assistant took x-rays and hung them on the light panel for Dr. Katie to examine. Hmm. Something looked a little peculiar. Dr. Katie called her assistant over.

“Is it just me, or does that look like a … a camel to you?” she asked incredulously.

“Matter of fact, it does,” replied the astute assistant. “And look, there’s an angel here, a shepherd there, and down there in the colon, it’s Baby Jesus!”

At that moment the phone rang. It was the dog’s distraught owner. “I can’t believe this! I just got home and glanced at the coffee table where I put my manger scene yesterday. There’s nothing there but an empty stable!”

As I thought about this quite literal technique for internalizing the true meaning of Christmas, it occurred to me that sometimes I have the opposite problem. With all the bustling busyness, my inner joy in celebration of my savior’s birth never really makes it to the outside.

Oh, I have plenty of glittery, festive evidences of the holiday in decorations, baking galore, and gifts under my tree. But those things are for show. They’re merely the pretty wrappings, not the gift itself.

Can people really see the core-deep joy that radiates within me when I think of the true gift that Papa God sent the world in his son, Jesus? Is my immeasurable gratitude for eternal life evident as I dash through this hectic season?

I’m afraid all too often, the answer is no.

I’m just too preoccupied to allow my outside to reflect my inside so that nonbelievers recognize that I rejoice because of the hope that is within me. My joy is obscured by the mounds of clutter. Gratefulness is sucked out of my soul by the vacuum called urgency.

“But let the godly rejoice. Let them be glad in God’s presence. Let them be filled with joy” (Psalm 68:3, NLT).

This verse has become my prayer this Christmas season – that I would make the time to give priority to rejoicing, being glad in God’s presence, and letting my inner joy show for those who may be silently desperate to know the giver of true joy.

Yep, there’s a better way to internalize the gift of Christmas than the black lab technique. We can lodge the Little Lord Jesus in our hearts rather than our colons.

***

Debora M. Coty is a humorist, inspirational speaker, and award-winning author of twelve books, including Too Blessed to be Stressed, and coming in March, More Beauty, Less Beast: Transforming Your Inner Ogre. Debora would love to swap Christmas hugs with you at www.DeboraCoty.com.

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Giveaway: Queen of America by Luis Alberto Urrea

Thanks to Anna at Little, Brown and Co., I have been given the opportunity to host a giveaway of Queen of America by Luis Alberto Urrea. Three copies of the book is being given away. Only residents of the U.S. and Canada are eligible to win. No P.O. Boxes allowed. If you are a Canadian winner, you will have to provide me with your phone number as per the requirement of Little, Brown and Co. Any information provided to me is kept confidential. This contest ends on January 5th.

Click here to enter the giveaway

As you will notice, the Rafflecopter form is different from previous forms. This form is the new and latest version. To enter, you can either fill in your name and email address, or log in using Facebook. The advantage of logging in using Facebook is that you can edit your entries if you make a mistake, and you don’t have to enter your Facebook name when you enter the Facebook like entry. If you choose the name and email address function, you don’t have to use your real or full name. A pseudonym will work just as well. The biggest change this new Rafflecopter widget offers is that it helps to “remember” you so that you will not log in duplicate entries. Of course, this only works until you delete your browser cookies.

Book description from Amazon:

queen of america book coverAfter the bloody Tomochic rebellion, Teresita Urrea, beloved healer and “Saint of Cabora,” flees with her father to Arizona. But their plans are derailed when she once again is claimed as the spiritual leader of the Mexican Revolution. Besieged by pilgrims and pursued by assassins, Teresita embarks on a journey through turn-of-the-century industrial America-New York, San Francisco, St. Louis. She meets immigrants and tycoons, European royalty and Cuban poets, all waking to the new American century. And as she decides what her own role in this modern future will be, she must ask herself: can a saint fall in love?

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Simple or Sparkle? by Tracey Eyster

There’s a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 – 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***

It’s a simple ornament made of thin cheap metal and it looks quite out of place on our CHRISTmas tree. But each year I lovingly and safely nestle it amongst its expensive and sparkly peers, without a care as to how unglamorous it appears.

Many of our CHRISTmas ornaments have a story and an uncanny way of welling up emotion in me, but this certain one causes an intense stir.

You see the ornament is engraved with the name of my grandmother, Sara, and was given to me by my mother, who ordered it from Hospice, after Grandmama’s death. Yes, the months leading up to her death carry memories of a frail and failing grandmama, but that ornament carries my thoughts to sweet CHRISTmas memories of the past.

CHRISTmas Eve dinners in her home, laughing, singing, gathering and celebrating a year filled with blessings as we remembered the birth of our Savior. CHRISTmas mornings, she was always there participating with glee, in our raucous CHRISTmas happiness. Her gifts were always bank envelopes gently tucked into the pine needles of our CHRISTmas tree, fresh cut from the property she grew up on.

All memories of my Grandmama make my heart swell. You see she was my Jesus with skin on. She lived her life full of joy, serving others and approached life selflessly with an attitude of, “What can I do for you?”

Just months before she left us, even as the Alzheimer’s was robbing her mind she shared her love of Jesus with a sweet little old lady friend, who came to know the Lord – a divine appointment.  The very next day that little old lady silently slipped away to meet in person the One Sara introduced her to just the day before.

At the time I wept, realizing that regardless of our own frailties and failings, God can still use those of us who are willing to do His work and are well practiced at hearing His voice…no matter our lack of sparkle in comparison to others.

A simple life lived for Him, a simple ornament in memory of Sara…a simple truth for you to ponder.

***

Tracey Eyster wife, mom, relationship gatherer and Creator/Editor of FamilyLife’s MomLife Today is a media savvy mom making a difference where moms are, on-line. Through speaking, writing and video interviews Tracey is passionate about encouraging, equipping and advising moms on every facet of momlife. Her first book, Be The Mom will be released August 2012. You can connect with Tracey at http://www.momlifetoday.com, her personal site www.traceyster.com or www.twitter/momblog.com.

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Review: Caught in the Winds by L.D. Wenzel

caught in the winds book coverPublisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 9781453647875
Pages: 330
Format: Paperback
Rating: 2
Age recommendation: Young adult, adult

Morrie Schiller is in Bethlehem College under the orders of his parents. Journalism is his interest, but he is forced to major in psychology instead. That is not the end of his problem. On the first day, he becomes infatuated with a girl who ends up using him again and again. He also wants to become a Roman Catholic, something that shocks all he confides this to. Then, one day, he meets Jack Joplin. Jack brings with him a strange philosophy that holds lofty promises. Morrie finds himself inexplicably drawn and caught in the web of Jack’s talk and ways. Soon, Jack brings him onto a dream-like journey transcending reality and into the supernatural. Continue reading

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Enjoy the Ride! by Susan May Warren

There’s a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 – 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***

We sit poised on the top of a cliff, a near drop off before us, that falls to a rushing river. In the middle, a bridge of snow and ice hints at our destination. My husband guns the snowmobile engine. “Ready?”

Ready? For a face plant into a tree, maybe reconstructive surgery? To feel my stomach ripped from my body as we plummet down the mountain? Let’s do it!

We live on five acres of woods in northern Minnesota that butts up to a national forest. Hence, our backyard is about a hundred thousand acres. Aside from harboring deer, lynx, fox, cougar and bear, it also makes excellent snowmobile terrain. And not long ago, Mrs. Claus gave her Santa a snowmobile for two.

I love snowmobiling. Flying over the snow, catching air over drifts. I love to drive, to be at the helm of the beast as I weave around trees and over hill and dale, my husband sitting behind me. I also love riding behind my husband as he drives, feeling those powerful arms as he’s muscling the snowmobile into the wilds. We follow unknown trails, driven by a Magellan spirit, hoping that we have enough gas to get us back to civilization. I love hanging on, simply trusting him, knowing that wherever he’s taking me, he’s going first.

But there are times, when I see where he’s taking me, and I just have to bury my head in his back. Like straight down a cliff.

However, my heart cheers, despite the terror as we gun it down the hill, over the river, up the opposite side. And, if we hadn’t let ourselves go, we would have never discovered the beauty of a winter river, a hidden jewel buried deep in the forest. Nor the exhilaration of facing the challenge together.

Further on, we find an enchanted forest of towering white pine. Catch a view of Lake Superior, discover an old cabin in the woods.

It occurs to me that snowmobiling is much like my spiritual life. Occasionally, I drive, and it’s me setting our course, weaving through the trees, getting us hopelessly lost. But when God takes the “wheel” and I hang on, trusting Him for the speed and destination, I see the scenery. I trust him to keep me safe. I trust him to bring me home, where there is an eternal supply of hot chocolate.

As Christmas season becomes more hectic, what if I let God drive?  Maybe everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and maybe I don’t have to control every tradition, every holiday nuance. What if I just held on for the ride?

I’ll bet I’ll still get there, and I might even enjoy the scenery along the way.

How have you let go, and “enjoyed” the scenery of this hectic, exhilarating Christmas season?

Merry Christmas!

***

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of thirty novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside Press.  A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.  A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!.  She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

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