Did Someone Say Christmas?

by Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

Did Someone say Christmas?

Yes, I’m looking forward to it. I love all that Christmas is, and symbolizes. I love the tree with its tinsel and baubles; I love the presents tucked under it; I love the lights that decorate it, and I love the food – turkey, mashed potatoes and dressing and of course, home made pumpkin pie. I most especially love the fact that my family will gather to enjoy all these things with me.

All of these things are wonderful, yet they can be a distraction from the real message of Christmas and I wondered how I could connect them in my mind with the truths of the season.

The tree, for instance. Not all Christmas trees have needles. One of the most beautiful Christmas trees I’ve ever seen was a spindly birch decorated with tiny white lights. That tree often reminds me that Christmas is not the same for all people – many have different traditions and ways of celebrating the birth of the Saviour, but the Christ came for all, no matter their nationality, language or ethnicity.

As I thought about the lights of Christmas, I remembered that Jesus called himself the Light of the world in John 8:12. Isaiah 60:1 tells us to “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” John calls Jesus the true light that gives light and Ephesians 5:8 tells us we ourselves are “now light in the Lord.”

And the Lord himself is our food, our nourishment. He said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry…” (John 6:35). “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33).

And what about the presents? We know Jesus was God’s gift to us, a gift that ‘keeps on giving’ because once we have sought his forgiveness and accepted the sacrifice he made for us, He lives in us.If you have not accepted Jesus as your brother, your friend, your saviour, you have left a priceless gift unopened. That gift is offered to us all at no cost. All you have to do is say yes. Christmas gives us all a new opportunity to celebrate the gift of God’s Son, the gift of the forgiveness He has offered to us.

The tree, the lights, the food, the presents. As I began to connect all the trappings of Christmas to the truths of Christmas, I realized that it’s just a matter of seeing what is really right in front of us at any given time, and connecting it to the mercy and love of Christ.

As writers “in Christ,” Christmas is an opportunity to help our readers see, understand, and perhaps for first time, truly believe in the Christ. As we tell His glorious story through our words, the power and majesty of that story comes alive again and again.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given … And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).


One Smooth Stone

Desperate to escape his past, the police, and especially, God, Alex Donnelly picks a good place to hide – the Yukon wilderness – but he finds even there he is pursued. What will it take for him to discover that no matter how far you run, God will find you, and no matter what you have done, God will forgive you?

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was shortlisted in The Word Awards. Marcia also has four devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.

 

5 Ways to Read More books

By Michelle Griep, @MichelleGriep

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”  ~ Stephen King

If you spend any amount of time online you’ll not only notice sales galore, but “Best Of” lists for 2017, most notably the Best Books of 2017. Everyone’s got their list, from Amazon to Goodreads to pretty much every blogger on the face of the earth. There’s no question that reading is good for you in so many ways: educationally, as a stress reliever, inspirationally, and as Stephen King notes it makes for a better writer.

But how can you shoehorn into your schedule more books than you’re currently reading? Never fear, folks. Have I got a list for you . . .

5 Ways to Read More Books

Quit Reading

I know. Sounds counterintuitive, right? But here’s the deal. If you want to read more you have to read what you love. If you start a book and it doesn’t grab you, quit reading it. The more you read what you love, the more you’ll read.

Schedule Time

Face it. Nobody has time to read. There’s dishes to wash and laundry to fold and the back forty to plow. But if reading is important to you, schedule it. Even a simple 15-20 minutes a day will help you plow through more titles than you currently have on your docket.

Track It

Keeping a list of what you read is a big motivator. This can be as easy as jotting titles down on your calendar or something more elaborate such as Goodreads. Just seeing a list makes you want to add one more by the end of the year. It’s like a competition with yourself.

Audiobooks Count

Commuting to and from work or going on a family vacation is a great time to pop in the ol’ ear plugs and make some progress on your TBR pile. Even short spurts such as when you’re mowing the lawn or going for a bike ride can rack up some pages. Audiobooks are a great way to multi-task reading with other activities.

Disconnect

Turn off the TV. Shut down the wifi. Going old school, especially right before bed, is the best way to get some reading done.

There you have it. Try one. Try all. But do try something to increase your reading even if it’s simply fitting in one more book than you would have normally consumed. And if you’re looking for a great Christmas read to get you in the ol’ holiday spirit, check out my latest release, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor…a mix of Dickens and Agatha Christie.


12 Days at Bleakly Manor

Imprisoned unjustly, BENJAMIN LANE wants nothing more than freedom and a second chance to claim the woman he loves—but how can CLARA CHAPMAN possibly believe in the man who stole her family’s fortune and abandoned her at the altar? Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters . . . and what matters most is love.

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the author of historical romances: The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, Undercurrent andGallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at www.michellegriep.com or stalk her on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.the next level.

Motivation is Key

by Kim Vogel Sawyer, @KimVogelSawyer

Before I started writing full-time, I was an elementary school teacher. Although I love what I’m doing now, I think I will always miss the classroom—witnessing the kids’ excitement at learning something new, watching them grow over the course of the year, and sharing my passion of history and writing with them. Even though I’m no longer in the classroom, I still have the opportunity now and then to teach at writing conferences, and my favorite topic is characterization.

For a reader to want to spend time in story world, he needs to connect with the characters. In other words, he needs to care about and root for the character. This connection comes about thanks to a wonderful little noun: motivation.

Motivation is defined as the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way; or the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.A writer can put together a fairly strong story by giving the character a goal and then throwing lots of roadblocks in the way of achieving it, but to have a strong character—meaning a relatable, root-for, want-to-claim-as-my-new-friend character—there must be a viable reason WHY the character wants what he or she is after and WHY he acts the way he does.

I am a completely seat-of-the-pants writer. I do not plot (*shudder*). But before I start any story, I spend time with the characters who will people the story. I find out what they want physically (hold it in your hands), emotionally (under the skin), and spiritually (at their moral center). Then I explore why gaining those things are so important to the characters. For instance, below is the chart I crafted for Hazel DeFord, the main character from my most recent release, Bringing Maggie Home:

 

Because Hazel’s little sister disappeared when Hazel was supposed to be taking care of her, Hazel became an overprotective mother, never wanting to let her daughter out of her sight. This kind of almost paranoid behavior would be annoying If the reader didn’t understand the reason behind it. But when the reader realizes Hazel’s motivation for keeping her daughter safe stems from the trauma of losing her sister, the reader is able to sympathize with her. Most of us can relate to living with regret, which allows the reader to connect to Hazel.

I think most writers want readers to become so attached to the characters that they have a hard time putting the book aside and even think about the characters after they’ve reached the end of the story. To bond the reader with character, they must understand WHY the character is so determined to achieve his goal. Thus, motivation is key.


Bringing Maggie Home

Decades of loss, an unsolved mystery, and a rift spanning three generations

Hazel DeFord is a woman haunted by her past. While berry picking in a blackberry thicket in 1943, ten-year old Hazel momentarily turns her back on her three-year old sister Maggie and the young girl disappears.

Almost seventy years later, the mystery remains unsolved and the secret guilt Hazel carries has alienated her from her daughter Diane, who can’t understand her mother’s overprotectiveness and near paranoia. While Diane resents her mother’s inexplicable eccentricities, her daughter Meghan—a cold case agent—cherishes her grandmother’s lavish attention and affection.

When a traffic accident forces Meghan to take a six-week leave-of-absence to recover, all three generations of DeFord women find themselves unexpectedly under the same roof. Meghan knows she will have to act as a mediator between the two headstrong and contentious women. But when they uncover Hazel’s painful secret, will Meghan also be able to use her investigative prowess to solve the family mystery and help both women recover all that’s been lost?

Kim Vogel Sawyer is a highly acclaimed, best-selling author with more than one million books in print, in several different languages. Her titles have earned numerous accolades including the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Kim lives in central Kansas with her retired military husband Don, where she continues to write gentle stories of hope and redemption. She enjoys spending time with her three daughters and grandchildren.

Find out more about Kim at http://www.kimvogelsawyer.com/.

Numbering Your Days with One Word

by Beth K. Vogt, @bethvogt

“So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12 NASB

 It’s that time of year again when I throw down my One Word challenge!I encourage one and all –  that means you! –  to abandon the time-honored tradition of New Year’s resolutions and instead, to focus on One Word for the upcoming year.

One. Word.

“The ball keeps dropping in Times Square each New Year’s. And we keep dropping the ball on our resolutions to improve. Only 20 percent of resolution makers report achieving any significant long-term change.” (My One Word by Mike Ashcraft & Rachel Olsen)

Bit of a reality check, yes?

This will be my thirteenth year to focus on One Word, and this choice has changed me personally, professionally, emotionally, and spiritually. Here’s a quick recap of my One Words in years past:

  •  2006: gratitude – I kept a gratitude journal and found my “glass-half-empty” attitude revolutionized.
  • 2007: simplify – A severe illness turned this word into survival. I embraced simpler things in ways I never imagined.
  • 2008: content – as in “be content with such things as you have” (Hebrews 13:5) I bought a lot less that year!
  • 2009 & 2010: forgiveness – I had a lot to learn and unlearn about forgiveness.
  • 2011: hope – I clung to this word when life hurt or when my heart ached for others who were hurting. I asked myself, “Are you going to abandon hope?” My answer: No.
  • 2012: trust – During a year of change, I faced doubting versus trusting — and chose to trust.
  • 2013: confidence – I’m so much stronger emotionally after keeping my heart and mind set on “not throwing away my confidence.” (Hebrews 10:35-36)
  • 2014: think – I anchored my thinking to truth more and more, rather than letting my thoughts go wandering around in doubts and lies.
  • 2015: collaborate – “to work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something.” I focused on collaborating with God in my writing life.
  • 2016: prosper – to act wisely, as in “And David was acting wisely (prospering) in all his ways for the LORD was with him.” (1 Samuel 18 14) This word stayed with me as I confronted a lot of major (and minor) decisions.
  • 2017: inheritance – Psalm 16:5-6 talks about having a “delightful inheritance.” To be honest, I wasn’t as intentional about my One Word as I’ve been in the past. Life was just one challenge after another. But God continued to show me the word again and again in small ways … and I’ve been encouraged that there’s more to this life than the here and now.

My One Word for 2018 is kindness. Why? There’s been a lot of divisiveness in the world this past year and we need more kindness. The verse I’m anchoring this One Word to is “Be kind to one another …” (Ephesians 4:32a) I also found a fun, multicolored visual on Etsy that says, “Throw kindness around like confetti.”

 In the book My One Word, the authors encourage you to think of your One Word as “the lens through which you examine your heart and life for an entire year” that forces clarity and helps you concentrate your efforts.

“We’re so busy with the surface-level things of life that we forget to number our days and tend to our hearts. We become so preoccupied with getting our lives to a manageable point or a better future that we miss both the moment right now and the reality of a coming eternity.” (Ashcraft & Olsen)

So, are you a resolution or One Word person? If you choose One Word, I’d love for you to share your One Word from this year – or the one you’ve chosen for 2018.

TWEETABLES

Numbering Your Days with One Word by @bethvogt on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2BYP1PF

Choosing One Word for the year forces clarity and concentration @bethvogt on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2BYP1PF

New Year’s Resolutions vs. Choosing One Word for 2018 @bethvogt on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2BYP1PF


Almost Like Being in Love
She’s won a luxurious dream wedding—now all she needs is the groom!

Winning an all-expenses paid Colorado destination wedding might seem like a dream come true for some people—but Caron Hollister and her boyfriend Alex Madison aren’t even engaged. How is she supposed to tell him that she’s won their wedding and honeymoon when he hasn’t asked her to marry him? And while everyone says they’re perfect for each other, how strong is a relationship when it’s built around protecting secrets?

Realtor Kade Webster’s business savvy just secured his company’s participation in the Springs Tour of Homes. He never imagined he would run into Caron Hollister—the woman who broke his heart—right when Webster Select Realty is taking off. When Kade learns his home stager won’t be able to help with the Tour of Homes, he vaults past all the reasons he should avoid Caron, and offers her a temporary job helping him on the project. This time, their relationship is purely business—Realtor to Realtor.

Spending time with Kade again has Caron questioning who she is and what she wants. The man intrigues her—at times infuriates her—and reminds her of what she walked away from. Has she been settling for what everyone expects of her? How can Caron say “I do” to one man when she’s wondering “what if?” about another?

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Now Beth believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” Beth’s first women’s fiction novel for Tyndale House Publishers, Things I Never Told You, releases May 2018. Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner, a 2016 ACFW Carol Award winner, and a 2015 RITA® finalist. Her 2014 novel, Somebody Like You, was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. A November Bride was part of the Year of Wedding Series by Zondervan. Having authored nine contemporary romance novels or novellas, Beth believes there’s more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us. An established magazine writer and former editor of the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth blogs for Novel Rocket and The Write Conversation and also enjoys speaking to writers group and mentoring other writers. She lives in Colorado with her husband Rob, who has adjusted to discussing the lives of imaginary people, and their youngest daughter, Christa, who loves to play volleyball and enjoys writing her own stories. Connect with Beth at bethvogt.com.