Friday, October 31, 2014

Gearing up for NaNo?

by Susanne Dietze
November is National Novel Writing Month--NaNoWriMo, or NaNo for short.

In one month, authors from all over the world participate, committing to do their best to complete 50,000 words--1667 words a day. Does it sound doable? Impossible?

I think it's both, depending on the day. But last year, I gave it a try, and found it a great way to finish a first draft of a historical novel that's now out with publishers. Each day that I wrote, I entered my word count into the program (I'd already registered) and the number was broadcast on my profile page on the website (and on my website, since I'd installed a NaNo widget) so the world could see my progress.

That widget was enough to get my rear end to stay in the chair.

The NaNo community is encouraging. There are local gatherings, if a writer is so inclined. Not everyone finishes, but that's ok. And it's not a system that works for everyone.

But I need to finish a first draft ASAP, so I'm giving it a try again this November.

I'll put into practice some tricks I learned last year:

  1. Pray for discipline and diligence. And grace and creativity, too. God has given you this story to tell, and He alone knows the plans He has for it. Maybe publication, maybe not. But if we write to honor Him, He'll be glorified in what we accomplish.
  2. Prep in advance. I have a synopsis, a Pinterest story board, character worksheets, and an XL spreadsheet broken down by chapter and scene, all ready to go. When I sit down, I consult my XL chart and see what happens in what scene, and in whose Point of View I think I it should be. This helps guide my writing.
  3. Take notes on these sheets if something changes as you write. This happens. As I write, I realize a character has a dog or has a nervous habit--or would never do what I have neatly written in my XL sheet that she does. No biggie. Jot down the info for reference.
  4. If I'm stumped by something happening in the story, I make a note in the text (I use ***), add a note to myself on my sheets (ie "figure out if John does X and why") and then skip ahead to something easier to write. Sometimes, something has to get figured out in my brain in a later scene before I understand what should have been accomplished in that earlier, tricky scene. Later, I do a search for *** and find all those spots again, easy peasy.
  5. Any other problems? Come back to it later, when it's not NaNo. This is the time to churn out words, not to fuss over adjectives, syntax, or imagery. If it's not flowing, leave it to fix in rewrites, which are far easier for me than first drafts anyway. Sometimes, this means flat writing. "He walked down the path. There she was. He struggled for words." Just spit out what the action is and (wait for it) Come back to it later.
  6. Do not do research online. Or check email or Facebook or Twitter. This is time to get words on a page. If you have a research question, mark it with your asterisks or whatever you choose to mark question areas. Then come back to it later.
  7. Get a hot mug of coffee or tea, a snack, and a blanket so you don't need to get up if you're cold, etc.
  8. Set a timer for 45 minutes (or whatever works for you). Write nonstop during that time, and then take a break. Your body needs to do something other than sit all day (and your brain needs a break, too). Use the restroom, fold laundry, walk around your house, brew more tea. I tend to listen to a CD or album on my phone: when it's done, that's my cue to get up and move around.
  9. The crock pot is your friend. Dump food in it in the morning. Family is happy at dinnertime.
  10. Some days you will get no writing done. That's ok. You may not even meet the 50K word goal. That's ok too. Life happens.
Anyone else have any good NaNo tips?

Want to give NaNo a shot? Here's the website:


Susanne Dietze is busy looking over her notes for NaNo, but she'd love to hear your NaNo tips. You can also find her on her website,

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

No Plan B by Nelson Hannah

by Dina Sleiman

Let me share with you about an amazing author you have probably never heard of named Nelson Hannah. In May of 2012, I served on staff at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference as an editor for WhiteFire Publishing. I love working conferences, but they can also be overwhelming for me. Nelson Hannah was the calm in the midst of my storm that week. When he came to me for his editor appointment, he was relaxed, confident, and kind. His experience as a pastor came shining through right away. I loved his gentle spirit and the premise of his book, and I was excited about the possibility of adding him to our WhiteFire family.

Then, he did something no other conferee has ever done for me before or since. He offered to pray for me. Well, I jumped on that opportunity! As he took my hands right there in the appointment room and began to pray, the presence and peace of the Holy Spirit washed over me in a very tangible way. He prayed words over me that God had been speaking to me just that morning in my own quiet time. And I knew for certain: this guy was the real deal. I wanted more of whatever he had to offer.

As an editor for WhiteFire, I only read Nelson's proposal and handed it along to our non-fiction editor. This fall, I finally had a chance to read the full finished product, and I was even more blessed than I anticipated.

No Plan B is by far the best book I have ever read about our identity in Christ. This seems to be an area of significant disparity in beliefs between born-again Christians who are all diligent students of God's word and good-hearted people. Nelson cuts through the excesses on both sides and finds that narrow road of truth. He debunks a lot of religious sounding, yet unscriptural, ideas to get to the heart of who God intends his children to be. Rather than try to summarize Nelson's ideas, let me offer some little snippets to whet your appetite.

That was God's original intent--the genesis of Plan A.
And it still is...

Far too many of God's sons and daughters still live in the confusion of slavery rather than the comfort of their radical new identity in Christ. We have majored on what to do when God was only interested from the beginning in whose we are.

Jesus has been repopulating creation with a new species, reproducing himself in them.

You are not just another human being stuck in a dead-end existence waiting for death to set you free so you can experience the wonder of heaven. No, eternal life began for you the moment you met Jesus.

Spirit-filled has become a term that overwhelms some believers with fear and apprehension. Yet it is a biblical description of our position and power in Christ. We must reclaim it, believe it, receive it, and start walking out this privileged position in our daily lives. It is our inheritance, a necessary part of God's gift to us.

Okay, I think that should be enough to pique your interest. If not, let me also mention that beloved CBA author, James Rubart, wrote the foreword for this book. You can check that out and also read a sample of (or order!!!) Nelson's amazing book here.

Let me close by saying that I have taught and even written about many ideas in this book, and I still walked away from it with clearer understanding and a sense of awe. I am blessed to have read this book and honored to have been a small part of its birth into the world. It gets my highest recommendation, and I strongly encourage you to read it soon!

Monday, October 27, 2014

I Don't Like to Read Christian Non-Fiction for Women

Time for a Book Picnic
by Gina Welborn

I subscribe to's Daily Updates. Yesterday they sent  me an e-mail with this article:

5 Books for Christian Women who Don't Like to Read Books for Christian Women

Oooh. How intriguing! But then--

Hmm, do I like reading books for Christian women? I do like reading non-fiction. Maybe it's talking about fiction. But how many "women's books" uninterest me? Maybe I'll find a new book I'd actually enjoy reading. Needless to say I had to click on the link.
Andrea Lucado wrote:

If you relate to any of the below, the book recommendations that follow are for you:
  • Your brow furrows with confusion when an author refers to you as her “dear sister” or a “daughter of the king.” You are not this lady’s sister—you’ve never even met—and “child of God” will due.
  • If you have to read one more book about how to better organize and manage your life, your time, your kids and your marriage, you are going to run away and give up on everything altogether. All of those areas seem to be hanging by thread no matter what you do and you would like your reading time to be escape time. Just tell me a good story.
  • You would rather read about someone’s imperfect life that is remaining imperfect, than read about a woman who used to no have it altogether but now she does and here’s how you can too. Vulnerable stories speak to you more deeply than success stories do.
Umm, yes, I relate! I have been known at times to think, "If I see another Christian lady all decked out in purple and driving a car with a license plate BLESSD or 'I'm not perfect, just forgiven,' I'm going to puke on her and then on her car."

I remember reading a book that began about lies women have been taught. By the time the author got to the section on marriage, birth control, and parenting, I quit reading. Once she's married and raised a few kids, then I'll listen to the "wisdom" she's gained. Most of the book, though, was good.

Let’s All be Brave: Living Life With Everything You Have by Annie F. Downs (Zondervan)

How often does fear hold us back from the very things we most want to taste, touch, and experience? The call to be brave isn’t just for one person—it’s for everyone. Let’s All Be Brave is more than a book, it’s a battle cry. Annie challenges us to live boldly, she calls us to step into those places that require courage, and she gives us the help to take the next step forward—even when it’s scary.
This non-fiction, essay-driven book opens the door to many different views of courage—nudging, encouraging, and inspiring readers to be brave whenever given the chance. Kindle Price : $3.79

Girl Meets God: A Memoir by Lauren F. Winner (Shaw Books)

The child of a Jewish father and a lapsed Southern Baptist mother, Lauren F. Winner chose to become an Orthodox Jew. But even as she was observing Sabbath rituals and studying Jewish law, Lauren was increasingly drawn to Christianity. Courageously leaving what she loved, she eventually converted. In Girl Meets God, this appealing woman takes us through a year in her Christian life as she attempts to reconcile both sides of her religious identity.
Used hardcopies as low as $0.01
New hardcopies/paperbacks as low as $2.99

Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control by Elisabeth Elliott (Revell)

Very few books on dating have stood the test of time like Passion and Purity. Its much-needed message remains strong and hopeful in an age when doing whatever "feels right" is common practice. Using her own life as an example, Elisabeth Elliot guides singles of both genders and of any age on how to put their love lives under the authority of Jesus Christ. Passion and Purity covers dating issues such as: •how to know which person is the right one to marry •loving passionately while remaining sexually pure •the man's and woman's role in relationships •putting God's desires ahead of personal desires •how far is too far, physically This best-selling book now has a new cover, an updated interior design, and a foreword from popular author Joshua Harris.
 Use copies as low as $0.01
New copies as low as $5.97

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson)

Lucado writes, "If Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury just aren’t your thing, give Katherine Reay a try. Her novel is a delightful and honest tale of two sisters, cancer and a restaurant."

Reay is a 2014 Carol Winner for her novel Dear Mr. Knightly.

Kindle $9.99

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist

Cold Tangerines—now available in softcover— is a collection of stories that celebrate the extraordinary moments hidden in your everyday life. It is about God, and about life, and about the thousands of daily ways in which an awareness of God changes and infuses everything. It is about spiritual life, and about all the things that are called nonspiritual life that might be spiritual after all. It is the snapshots of a young woman making peace with herself and trying to craft a life that captures the energy and exuberance we all long for in the midst of the fear and regret and envy we all carry with us. It is both a voice of challenge and song of comfort, calling you upward to the best possible life, and giving you room to breathe, to rest, to break down, and break through. Cold Tangerines offers bright and varied glimpses of hope and redemption, in and among the heartbreak and boredom and broken glass.
Used copies as low as $0.61.
New copies vary from $3.79 kindle and $11-12 print copy.

I've put Let's be Brave, Girl meets God, and Cold Tangerines (all new copies) in my Amazon cart. Do any interest you? Have you read any of these?

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Researcher's Tragedy

By Lisa Karon Richardson

The Eleventh Census of the United States begun June 1, 1890 provided a great deal of information critical to researchers interested in every facet of the forces of history which were shaping the nation and the century to come, from immigration, to industrialization, to westward migration.

The census staff was originally overseen by a British journalist, Robert Porter, but he was ultimately replaced by Carroll Wright, a statistician. It was an enormous job, with over 45,000 enumerators across the country. New innovations were introduced to improve accuracy and timeliness. These included the use of Herman Hollerith’s electrical tabulating system. Data was punched into cards and tabulated. Another new innovation: for the first time, portions of the forms were not required to be filed with the county clerk’s offices. This latter proved to be disastrous for modern genealogists and researchers, as all the original copies were sent to Washington. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The 1890 schedules themselves were different in several ways as well. For the first time, a separate schedule was prepared for each family. Each schedule contained more questions relating to race (white, black, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, or Indian), home ownership, whether the residents could speak English, immigration, and naturalization. There was even a question relating to Civil War service.

At the end of the census in July, the population of the US was tallied up at just under 63 million. But these results were plagued by allegations of fraud, undercounting, and inaccuracy. State officials were accused of inflating census numbers. Business competition between St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota was so acrimonious that it ended up in 19 indictments of Minnesota businessmen for adding some 1100 fake names to the census.

In 1896, before the final publication of the general statistics volumes, the original 1890 special schedules for mortality, crime, pauperism and benevolence, special classes (e.g., deaf, dumb, blind, insane) were damaged by fire and destroyed by an order from the Department of the Interior. Researchers mourned, but took comfort in the fact that no damage was reported to the general population schedules.

By January 10, 1921, the 1890 schedules were all stacked neatly on pine shelves in an unlocked file room in the basement of the Commerce Building. Just outside the fire and water proofed vault which contained census records from 1830, 1840, 1880, 1900, and 1910.

At about five o'clock, a watchman noticed smoke coming through openings around pipes that ran from the boiler room into the file room. The house alarm was pulled, the fire department was called, and employees were evacuated.

Firemen had trouble gaining access to the basement due to the fierce smoke. The crowd of onlookers was said to number ten thousand as firemen poured streams of water into the building and flooded the cellar through holes cut into the concrete floor. Thanks to a fireproofed floor the fire did not go above the basement. Firemen poured water into the burned area past 10:30 p.m. Having extinguished the blaze, the chief clerk opened windows to let out the smoke and everyone went home, oblivious to the need for salvage efforts.

The next morning, Census Director Sam Rogers reported estimating that 25% of the 1890 schedules had been destroyed, and half of the reminder had been damaged by water, heat, or smoke. Salvage of the documents might be possible, but it would take two to three years to copy off and save all the records damaged in the fire.

The Census Bureau Clerk’s analysis was more sobering and, unfortunately, more accurate. He told reporters that the irreplaceable 1890 records were "certain to be absolutely ruined. There is no method of restoring the legibility of a water-soaked volume."

No cause of the fire was ever determined. Speculation ran the gamut from a discarded cigarette or lit match, to spontaneous combustion, to conspiracy theories from would-be heirs, alleging they were being defrauded by people who had destroyed the records in order to remove any evidence of kinship. 

The disaster prompted support for a National Archives, The Washington Post fumed that the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were “at this moment” inadequately stored at the Department of State in wooden cabinets.

Meanwhile, the damp and singed 1890 schedules remained in shambles. By May of that year the records were still lying in a warehouse where they could not be consulted and were destined to deteriorate. A new census director had them returned to the census building so they could at least be put in some order for reference.

Congress authorized destruction of the records in February 21, 1933, as of being of no historical relevance. In a caustic twist of fate, just one day before Congress authorized destruction of the 1890 census papers, President Hoover laid the cornerstone for the National Archives Building.

In 1942 and again in 1953 the National Archives did acquire a few surviving fragments from the 1890 census. (Praise be, copies have been made!) 6,160 names are indexed on these surviving schedules. These are someone's ancestors.

Have you ever come to a research dead end? Were you able to overcome it? How!?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More Christmas Cheer Giveaways

More copies of 
A Cup of Christmas Cheer 
Volume 3 & 4
 available to win!

Yes, we picked a winner for Anita Mae Draper's A Cup of Christmas Cheer Release Party, but there are more copies available to win ...

goodreads Book Giveaway 

A Cup of Christmas Cheer (volumes 3 & 4)
Release date: Oct 2014
A Cup of Christmas Cheer, volumes 3 & 4, from Guideposts Books. 

Each winner will receive:
 one copy of Volume Three: Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Past; and 
one copy of Volume Four: Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present, 
for a total of two books.

Giveaway dates: Oct 14 - Nov 14, 2014
5 copies available
Countries available: US and CA 

Check the CoCC blog

for the story behind the story

and details of the giveaways.

A new Author posts every Mon, Wed, and Friday.

The CoCC Giveaway page shows
all current CoCC giveaways
so check back often
or Follow the CoCC blog
and keep informed because rumor has it 
that one of the prizes could contain 
all 4 CoCC volumes published this far... 

Finally, check out the 
More from Our Authors page of the CoCC blog
for more posts and giveaways 
as the CoCC authors roam cyberspace

Happy Hunting!

#cupofchristmascheer         @guideposts

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Tale of Two Story Forms

We’re celebrating the release of Anita Mae Draper’s short story “Here We Come A-Wassailing,” available as part of Guidepost Books’ A Cup ofChristmas Cheer collection. Despite its compact size, HWCA-W packs two story forms into its pages: the road story (or road trip story) with the cabin (often called “closed circle” in mysteries) story. In honor of Anita’s new story, I thought I’d look at the structure of these two fiction types.
Road stories chronicle a character’s journey from one point to another. It sounds simple enough, but in true story fashion, there are obstacles along the way that impede the journey. Fortunately the character will frequently gather allies who assist him (or her) in overcoming the obstacles. These allies and obstacles cause the main character to grow, so that the character has changed in some fundamental way by the time he reaches his destination.
Take for example, The Wizard of Oz. Protagonist Dorothy  (along with her dog Toto) lives a rather dull and boring life on her aunt and uncle’s Kansas farm. But when she is suddenly whisked away to the magical land of Oz, she needs to figure out how to travel home. The journey is both concrete (Dorothy has to physically walk down the yellow brick road) and symbolic (Dorothy is also on a journey of self-discovery). She makes allies (Lion, Scarecrow, Tin Man) and encounters obstacles (the Wicked Witch of the West and a wizard who isn’t really a wizard). The story ends when Dorothy returns to Kansas, newly appreciative of her life and family.

Some other famous road stories are Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C.S. Lewis), Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne), and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour starred in a series of road story movies, conveniently named Road to ___. (In short, if the book or movie has “voyage,” or “journey,” or “road” in the title, there’s a good chance it’s a road story!)
The cabin or closed circle story seems to be the opposite of a road story. Two or more people find themselves trapped together by circumstances. They may be detained in a hotel during a storm or trapped on a deserted island without a way of returning to civilization. While the setting of a road story is ever-changing, these cabin/closed circle stories take place in a single setting. The fun (or danger) comes from the unlikely combination of characters.
For instance, the famous TV show Gilligan’s Island has seven very different people stuck on an island together: the bossy Skipper, goofy Gilligan, rich and aloof Mr. and Mrs. Howell, elegant Ginger, brainy Professor and girl-next-doorish Mary Ann. Despite their disparate backgrounds and personalities, they have to find ways to work together.

What happens in the cabin (or hotel or country house or train or space ship) depends on who is stranded there. When the story is a closed circle mystery, it’s quite possible one of the characters is a murderer. The other characters need to figure out the identity of the murderer before they, too, fall victim. In a cabin romance, the forced proximity offers an unlikely couple the chance to get to know each other. Many survival movies (and countless Star Trek episodes) also utilize the concept of people (or people and aliens) stranded in a single location where they are forced to work together in order to survive.
For example, Beauty and the Beast is at heart a cabin romance. The beast confines himself to the castle because of his hideous appearance and Belle is trapped because of her promise to remain. Alone with only singing household furnishings for company, a peculiar pair forms a unique bond. Some other examples of this type of story are Murder on the Orient Express (set on a train), Key Largo (set on the island of Key Largo during a hurricane), and Apollo 13 (set in a space ship).

(Since we're beginning our Christmas celebrations early here on Inkwell, I suppose I might as well confess that after years and years of annual It's a Wonderful Life watching, I have trouble picturing Lionel Barrymore as anyone other than the meanest, richest man in Bedford Falls.)
As to how Anita’s story combines elements of both these story forms…well, for that, you’ll have to read it yourself. Just leave a comment with a “safe” version of your email addy (i.e., name at provider dot com/net) by 11:59 Monday, October 20 for your chance to win a free copy.
And be sure to share your favorite road stories, cabin romances, or closed circle mysteries.

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at


Friday, October 17, 2014

New Release Marketing Plan

by Anita Mae Draper

Forgive the lopsided banner on this post, but I used a cropped version of my Facebook Author page since I want to show you all the marketing involved in my new release, A Cup of Christmas Cheer.

I am so very honored that Guideposts Books chose Here We Come A-Wassailing for their 2014 edition of A Cup of Christmas Cheer (CoCC) Volume 4 Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present. Last year if you recall, I made my publishing debut with the short story, Riding on a Christmas Wish which Guideposts published in CoCC Volume 1 Tales of Faith and Family for the Holidays. 

For the record, Guideposts Books (GB) does not require their authors to promote their books as they have an excellent marketing team for that purpose, so you might be surprised by this post on our marketing efforts, but we're so excited about our stories that we can't help promoting it.

Last year when CoCC Vol 1 & 2 was nearing release, some of us authors banded together on a private Facebook page and decided on a hosting a blog hop. We offered prizes at each stop of the hop, and then a grand prize worth about $120. This was on top of our personal blogging, tweeting and facebooking as we promoted our 2-volume set which for several of us, was our debut publishing credit. We were rewarded when the books sold so well that GB ordered a second printing.

Here we are in Oct 2014 and again, the authors are working together for promotion. Some of us were published in Vol 1&2, but many are new to these sweet little books. Once again we have a private Facebook page where we discuss ideas which one of the authors, Keli Gwyn, works as our liaison with our editor, Jon Woodhams, who in turn checks with the GB marketing team.

From this arrangement, we have developed some great promotional tools including a CoCC blog where each of us has scheduled a day to post about our stories. The blog has been live for over a week and includes posts from editor Jon Woodhams about the inspiration behind the CoCC books, and an interview about how he and his team chose the different stories.

Included with the CoCC blog are the following pages which are being continually updated:
- Stories - describes all 4 CoCC volumes
- Authors - links to online appearances
- Giveaways - some fabulous draws are in the works
- Pinterest - links to the authors' story boards

One final thought on the blog... if you want to keep up with the posts, giveaways, etc, you can Follow the Blog via Email. The details are on the blog's right sidebar.

The following promotional tools allow GB to see us on Twitter and Facebook where they retweet us for greater exposure
- #cupofchristmascheer 
- @GuidepostsBooks 

Just when I thought we were doing everything we could, Keli gave us some more good news in that we now have an official public Facebook page. If you LIKE it, you can choose to receive notifications of giveaways, blogposts, etc. 

Keli has added A Cup of Christmas Cheer to goodreads where GB is giving away 5 sets of CoCC Volume 3&4 in a draw that ends Nov 14, 2014.

GB has donated several more book sets to be given away on the CoCC blog and at our Facebook party which is tentatively scheduled for Nov 6. 

We've been assigned a special link to the ShopGuideposts page which allows GB to keep track of which orders are being made on behalf of the promotional efforts of the authors. Yes, if you're going to order, please use this one:

Or click on this button which I've already linked to the Shop Guideposts page. 

This is so exciting!

Before I close off, I might as well give you the links to my social media hangouts:
Pinterest boards including Christmas and Fall/Thanksgiving
Here We Come A-Wassailing CoCC story board

Don't forget about my Giveaway here at the Inkwell where I'm giving away a copy of A Cup of Christmas Cheer Volume 3 & 4 to one randomly-chosen commenter. Be sure to leave a comment with a way to contact you to be entered! The drawing ends Monday, Oct 20, 11:59 EDT.

So, have I fired you up enough to click one of the links? I wasn't a fan of Pinterest boards at the beginning, but now they are my go-to place for images and recipes. :)


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their 4 kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the Old West, and Edwardian stories set in the East. Anita Mae's short story, Riding on a Christmas Wish is published in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013. She is honored that Guideposts Books has chosen a second short story, Here We Come A-wassailing, for inclusion in the 2014 A Cup of Christmas Cheer Vol 3&4 book set. Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita at

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's a Wassailing Party for Anita Mae Draper...and a Giveaway!

Welcome! Oh, you all look so cheerful and festive in your hats and scarves. (Yes, it is snowing, and yes, you've been out in the cold for a long time. Forget October. It's Christmas at the Inkwell!)

This is what I imagine for the front entrance of Joan's family home.
Come on in! There's a party inside! (don't slip on the snowy stairs...)
We're celebrating the release of Anita Mae Draper's Here We Come A-Wassailing from A Cup of Christmas Cheer, a 2-volume set from Guideposts. Aren't the covers delightful?
A Cup of Christmas Cheer Volume 3 & 4 is available now as a 2-volume set from @GuidepostsBooks at this special link
Available here!

Now that you're inside, move closer to the fire and warm your hands with a nice cup of wassail (old family recipe). And since we're wassailing, how about a sing-a-long? Click play and sing (lyrics provided) or just enjoy the music while you mill about the party.

Wassail ! - another christmas must.  Ingredients:  •1 gallon apple cider  •1 large can unsweetened pineapple juice  •3/4 cup tea   Place in a cheesecloth sack:  •1 tablespoon whole cloves  •1 tablespoon whole allspice  •2 sticks cinnamon This is great cooked in a crock pot. Let it simmer very slowly for 4 to 6 hours. You can add water if it evaporates too much. Serves 20. Add orange slices, or quartered with cloves, and some cinnamon sticks.
Mmm. You can just taste this clove and cinnamon-scented punch. Have a cookie, too, and admire the tree.

1280x960 Wallpaper christmas, holiday, fireplace, christmas tree, garlands, candles, toys, gifts
One of the Inkies is eyeing the presents. But there's no peeking until Christmas!

Here We Come A-Wassailing has just as much holiday heart as this party. A young woman heads home through rural North Dakota for Christmas, but her solitary trek turns into an adventure as she picks up an assortment of folks. The crazy detours along the way prove to be a Christmas miracle.

I loved the story, and I'm sure you will, too! So heartwarming. So festive. Just what a Christmas story should be.

I'm so excited for Anita! Lift high your cup of wassail and join me in a toast.

To Anita and her new release! To the blessings of friendship! To Christmas miracles, especially the One who came to save us!

Anita Mae is graciously giving away A Cup of Christmas Cheer Volume 3 & 4 to one randomly-chosen commenter. Be sure to leave a comment with a way to contact you to be entered! The drawing ends Monday, Oct 20, 11:59 EDT.

Feel free to enjoy more treats from the buffet. Goodies will be available all day! Be sure to say hi to Anita in the comments!

Monday, October 13, 2014

What Do Your Favorite Childhood Books Say About You?

By Niki Turner

I recently listened to a recording from an ACFW conference workshop taught by agent Natasha Kern about the influence our favorite childhood books have on our lives as adults, and as writers.

Ms. Kern shared an example of a client who writes suspense/thrillers. His favorite book growing up was "Artie the Smarty." Artie, a little fish, has to use his wits to navigate his way across a pond filled with dangers. Can you see the parallel? He now writes stories where his protagonists have to use their wits to escape the villain's clutches on their way to reaching their goal.

My list of favorites is long. As an only child I was (and am), a voracious reader. Books were my friends. (On a side note, learning that almost every other writer I know shares that same addiction has been such a comfort to the adult me!)

"Gordon the Goat" and "Ballerina Bess" topped my early reader list. (My mother insists I should have had to keep reading Gordon the Goat, which is all about peer pressure, throughout my teen years.)

I have a beautifully illustrated copy of Cinderella that I read and re-read for years, sometimes just to look at the pictures.

I loved "The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes."

Some of my favorite memories involve trips to the bookstore, and frantically searching to see if there was a "new" Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden, or a new Black Stallion book, on the shelves. And the Christmas I got the boxed set of Little House on the Prairie books (still have it) was a fine Christmas, indeed.

There were also the books that "stuck" emotionally, the ones that made me cry: "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm," "The Secret Garden," "Black Beauty," "Little Women," "Jane Eyre." Bittersweet stories, to be sure.

As I got older, the books got fatter, and darker: "Sacajawea," Herman Wouk's "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance."

And then I moved on to romance novels, to my mother's chagrin (this was in the '80s, remember romance novels in the '80s?). And this one is mild... wouldn't even need a brown paper cover to take it out in public.

Is there a theme? Possibly. Nothing quite so straightforward as Artie the Smarty, but I can see a connection, not only in what I like to read (and write) as an adult, but in my motivations, my perceptions of the world, and in some of the choices I've made. (The Country Bunny and I have SO much in common...)

How about you? Did you have a particular favorite, or many? 

What was the first book you read that made you cry over the characters? 

What parallels can you draw between your childhood favorites and who you've become?

Have you ever thought about the effect your stories might have on your readers? 

Niki Turner is a novelist, journalist, blogger, and the production manager for the Rio Blanco Herald Times weekly newspaper. Her first completed manuscript earned second place in the Touched By Love 2009 contemporary category romance contest. She won second place for best agriculture story at the 2013 Colorado Press Association annual convention. She also blogs at She is the Colorado Area Coordinator for American Christian Fiction Writers and is involved in establishing an ACFW chapter on Colorado's Western Slope, where she resides. She published “Sadie’s Gift” as one of the Christmas Traditions novella collection in 2014. Her next project, “Santiago Sol,” will be published by Pelican Book Ventures, LLC, as part of the Passport to Romance novella collection.

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