By the Book

where a love of God and good books meet

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Free Books and Feeling Frustrated

I’m essential. I’ve never seen that as a bad thing, but considering it in light of Corona virus, I’m beginning to wonder. Don’t get me wrong. I know how blessed I am. In a time when others are without their usual income, mine has stayed fairly steady. I’m beyond thankful for that.

But I’m an introverted author with another full-time job and a family. To me, staying home (which I do not get to do) sounds amazing. I have trouble understanding the issues for my more extroverted friends who take to Facebook to complain about their boredom. I’d love to be home working on my next book and keeping caught up on all the marketing and social networking aspects of writing without the countdown clock of the weekend ticking away in my ears.

Even without the added issues dealing with this virus brings to our lives, my week is busy. Because my hours are set at work, I feel like my writing life takes a back seat to my 8-5 work.

But we are dealing with the virus and social distancing and businesses being shut down and stores running out of essential items. Because of these things and the fear they often bring, my 8-5 job as a receptionist in a doctor’s office has become five days of hectic frustration a week. I’m sure it’s the same with any job dealing with people.

This makes my job as an author even more hectic and difficult. I have to take more downtime when I get home. I’ve had more migraines. I find myself trying to fit everything I have to do as an author into the two days I’m home for the weekend. Sometimes it feels like I’m an author who never gets to actually write!

But that’s okay for now. We’re all dealing with stuff. I’ve been blessed with the ability to work in a writing ministry that I love. I never want to forget that. Today, tomorrow, and maybe all of the month of April may be completely wonky. I may be able to write a little, or I may not be able to finish a paragraph on my next book. Whatever happens, it’s okay. I’m giving myself permission to take the time I need to keep myself strong physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I encourage you to do the same. If it’s crafting that sets you straight, then take that time. Dusting the mantle can wait. If you need to get out and take a walk, do it (maintaining social distancing as you do). The kitchen floor can be mopped tomorrow.

If you reset with a good book, I’ve got some help for you. From April 4-8, Faith’s Journey is available as an eBook on Amazon for free. In addition, I’ve got a thread started on my Facebook author page that includes ads for other free Christian fiction books you can get at this time. Fill up your eBook library, and enjoy your You Time. You can find me on Facebook by searching @AuthorHeatherGreer. The post you want to follow begins with this ad. Happy Reading!

What I’m Reading: The Ravenwood Saga

If you’ve followed my blog or any of my social media accounts very long, you know I’m just as likely to sit down and watch an episode of Doctor Who as I am the latest Hallmark movie. I equally love the Lord of the Rings, Marvel movies, and While You Were Sleeping. There’s enough love in me for fantasy, action, sci-fi, drama, and romance. At least, there is when it comes to television and movies.

As much as my tastes in television and movies span the various genres, my taste in reading has rarely strayed from one genre, the romance genre. Any variations have come from whether or not I’m in the mood for historical or contemporary romance. Through the years a couple of suspense books have wormed their way onto my shelves. But it wasn’t until the past year that fantasy/speculative fiction made its own appearance, with the exceptions of a few that are not in the Christian market which I read to share the experience with my kids.

Anyway, a year or so ago, I won a copy of the first book in Morgan Busse’s The Soul Chronicles series and devoured it along with the second one. When I saw she’d come out with a new series and I found myself with a couple gift cards, it wasn’t a difficult choice to add The Ravenwood Saga to my cart. It wasn’t until last month that I had the chance to read them.

I’d just finished a couple contemporary romances, and I wanted something different. I opened up The Mark of the Raven as a way to cleanse my reading palette. I intended to read one book before returning to my standard genre. My plans changed.

The second I read the last page of The Mark of the Raven, I opened up Flight of the Raven. I didn’t have the third book yet, but I added it to my library as soon as I finished the second book. Cry of the Raven didn’t have a waiting period. I finished it the next day.

I loved the characters and the world the author created. Lady Selene is a strong character, gifted with the power to dreamwalk. It is the gift of House Ravenwood, and they have used it to exact revenge on the other houses in their land for abandoning them to the enemy many years before. Lady Selene has been raised on the stories of betrayal and the belief that through using their powers to torment others, steal their secrets, and at times, kill them in their dream worlds, House Ravenwood stays strong.

Only this idea and the reality of what she’s expected to do doesn’t sit well with Lady Selene. Deep inside, she feels there must be more to her gift than fear and death, and she is determined to find out where her gift came from and its true purpose.

As one man steps forward from House Maris to unite the different houses against their common enemy, Lady Selene has her first hint that her family has indeed missed something in the way their gift is used. To seek out truth could lead to more than being disowned. If her mother finds out she’s not following the ways of her house, it will most certainly mean death. But can she continue in the ways of House Ravenwood and dreamkilling when her heart is telling her the gift was given for a better purpose?

Selene’s quest to find the truth behind the gifting continues through each book. As war draws closer, she is faced with terrible choices, deadly consequences, and inner battles she never imagined possible. Finding the correct path for her life isn’t easy, and it’s made more difficult through the suspicions of those around her and the danger she faces from her own family.

The spiritual lessons of the book are clear but do not detract from the story. In fact, the story makes the scriptural truths more vibrant and inspire the reader to seek out and care for their own gifts and talents. The Ravenwood Saga is a beautiful example of truth clothed in fantasy leaving its message to resonate in the reader rather than being content to simply entertain, though it does that as well.

Full of Character with C. Kevin Thompson and a Giveaway!

While I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting today’s guest in person, I get a strong sense from some of his interview answers and bio information that we’d get along well. I hope you enjoy his interview and then take time to check out his books. And don’t forget to comment on this post to be entered to win Kevin’s giveaway!

What character from the books you’ve read has impacted you more than all the others?

The Ghost of Christmas Present from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. The scene where he and Scrooge are standing in the home of Bob Cratchit, watching the family eat their meager feast is one of the most powerful scenes in all of literature for me. When Scrooge asks the ghost if Tiny Tim will live, the ghost’s reply is masterfully done, especially when he uses Scrooge’s words against him.

“God bless us every one!” said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

He sat very close to his father’s side upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”

 “No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”

“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.

“Man,” said the Ghost, “if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

I often think that’s how Hell will be for those who do not know Christ, standing before God, having to listen to all their wicked cants replayed against them for all eternity while being instantly enlightened to all the opportunities they had to minister in the areas of what Marley called “the common welfare”: charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence. Yet, they chose to instead focus on the “dealings of their trade” at the expense of those less fortunate. I can think of no worse Hell than seeing how you could have helped someone and now have no way of ever changing your fortunes, or theirs, for all eternity. And to top it all off, you can’t go out and commit suicide because of your tremendous grief just so you can end all the suffering! Chilling, indeed!

It would be very heartbreaking to be endlessly faced with all our missed chances. That is a very powerful character choice. Now, let’s talk about your characters. What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

The easiest to write has been Blake Meyer. Although I’m saved and he is not as of Book 5, he and I do think a lot alike when it comes to wrestling with the concept of justice and our U.S. system that calls itself a justice system but seems to be one in name only.

The hardest (and we’re talking being true to a character here) was Rachel Hamar in The Letters, mainly because she’s a woman. There were several times when my wife or my daughters would read a section of the manuscript and say, “Uh, no. She’d never say that.” So, we changed those based on their suggestions. A close second was Dr. Evelyn Sims from The Serpent’s Grasp for the same reasons. Because she was a scientist and thought more scientifically and analytically, it was a little easier to write her character, but not by much.

If we’re talking about hard to write because of what the character has been through (meaning, I really felt true sorrow for the character), then Arina Filipov from the Blake Meyer Thriller series is hands down the “winner.” If I had endured what she’s been through, I just might be a top-level assassin on a revenge tour too.

Wow! Arina sounds like a character I’d like to find out more about. Sounds like she has a lot of stories to tell. Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

It’s a tie between Daniel and Paul. Daniel because he stood up in the midst of his enemies and became the reason why Magi from a thousand miles away came looking for the King of the Jews in Bethlehem all those centuries later. The Apostle Paul because he was so staunch in his stand for Christ. And he was a prolific writer of books we still read today!

Paul is also one of my favorites.

Do you plan your characters and their backstories before you begin writing, or are you as surprised by them as your readers?

It’s a mixture. I often call myself a Plotser. I am a plotter, but I also write by the seat of my pants too (as a “Pantser”). You obviously cannot have purpose in your writing if you don’t know where you begin and where you need to end. For me, that’s how I start. I know where I want to start, and I know where the story needs to end. I always have that much mapped out before I begin. However, the fun part for me is in the journey from Point A to Point B. And yes, along the way, characters develop quirks or phrases or do things that surprise me because it just fits so well into that part of the story and obviously was not foreseeable at the beginning.

I tend to call that a plantser, but I like plotser too. Now onto a fund question about you. If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?

Are we talking about being realistic or stretching the truth? Just a little, of course…Ha!

For me, I’d say either Dennis Quaid or Kenneth Branagh (although Kenneth would have to lose the British accent and die his hair). At least in their acting (don’t really know anything about them personally), in the films or TV shows I have watched, they always seem to be down to earth, caring, yet are manly enough to take care of business when needed. They’re not uber famous (what I mean is, they are not on everybody’s top five list of Who-would-you-like-to-be? actors), yet they do not seem to be bothered by it. And they can act! Much better than some of those top five actors, I might add.

Interesting choices. I enjoy both of them for different reasons. But we are authors not actors so I need to ask, who is your favorite author and why?

That’s a tough one. I’d have to say I don’t have one favorite over all others. I like Charles Dickens for his humanity. His concern for the downtrodden—obviously a hot topic for him coming from his own boot-blacking background as a kid—is always refreshing.

I like Michael Crichton for taking pressing scientific questions of the day and asking if we really should go there. Will anyone heed his cautionary tales? That’s my question. Did you know there are scientists trying to replicate dinosaurs as we speak? Maybe they should watch next year’s Jurassic World III before they continue.

I like Tom Clancy for his patriotic characters, who are more worried about being truthful than being anything else, including patriots.

I loved the Shetland series on BBC, so my oldest daughter went out and bought me all the Ann Cleeves books in that series for my birthday last year, so we’ll see how that goes. They’re next on my reading list (which keeps growing!). If Cleeves’s books are anything like the series, she’ll have to be added to this list of authors for sure.

One more question because inquiring minds want to know. Or at least, we will pretend they do! What is your go-to snack and drink combination when you’re writing?

It depends on the time of day. If it’s four in the morning, then it’s coffee. And then more coffee. And then more coffee. And then, on my way to work, more coffee.

If it’s later in the day, then it’s Coca-Cola, if we have any around. I’m a recovering Cokaholic. Anytime I can recover some, I usually do.

As for snacks, chips mostly. I love Late July’s lime tortilla chips. But unfortunately, I love many other kinds of chips too. Hence, my current physique (and yes, I know, the Coke doesn’t help either, so you can refrain from commenting in the comment section with comments about my drink choices J). In this, I defer to the sentiments of the priest in The Count of Monte Cristo, “I’m a Christian, not a saint.”

Chips and Coke are a lethal combination to the diet. Thank you for taking time to let us get to know you today.

Readers keep reading for a little more on where to connect with C. Kevin Thompson. And don’t forget the giveaway at the end of the post. All you have to do is leave your comment below to enter.

C. KEVIN THOMPSON is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a kid at heart. Often referred to as “crazy” by his grandchildren, it’s only because he is. He’s a writer. Need he say more?

He is the author of the Selah Award-winning debut novel, The Serpent’s Grasp, and his Blake Meyer Thriller series, which includes Books 1-4 so far, with Book 5, A Pulse of Time, coming out Memorial Day 2020! And, his new standalone novel, The Letters, is now available!

Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, NCIS, Criminal Minds, BBC shows Broadchurch, Shetland, Hinterland, and Wallander, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic too. But you will never catch him wearing a deerstalker. Ever.

Website:                                  www.ckevinthompson.com/

Kevin’s Writer’s Blog:           www.ckevinthompson.blogspot.com/

Facebook:                               C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page

Twitter:                                   @CKevinThompson

Instagram:                               ckevinthompson

Pinterest:                                 ckevinthompsonauthor

Goodreads:                              C. Kevin Thompson

BookBub:                                C. Kevin Thompson

THE GIVEAWAY: One lucky reader will win their choice of an e-book or paperback copy of The Letters. The drawing will take place and be announced on March 9th. Open to US residents, 18 and over. To enter comment below about your favorite answer from today’s interview or ask C. Kevin Thompson your own question. Here’s some more information on The Letters.

THE WORLD IS A CRAZY PLACE

WHEN THE LIVING ARE DEAD

AND THE DEAD ARE ALIVE.

Rachel Hamar—a Manhattan bank teller—lives nothing close to a Manhattan lifestyle. Residing in Washington Heights, NY, the only thing keeping her in The Big Apple is her mother—a long-time patient in a local psychiatric hospital. It’s December, 2014, and the twentieth anniversary of her high school sweetheart’s tragic death. She’s not sure how much more heartache she can endure, especially after being told earlier in the day she no longer has a job at the bank. A casualty of downsizing.

In the midst of spiraling depression, Rachel receives a mysterious letter in the mail. When she opens it, she becomes cautious and skeptical of its contents and discards it as a mistake, concluding it’s simply addressed incorrectly or a postal worker’s faux pas in the midst of a busy Christmas season. But another letter arrives the next day. And another the day after that. Before long, she is in possession of several letters. Each one more puzzling than the last.

Thinking that someone may be playing a cruel game, she contacts the police, and this propels Rachel and the two detectives into one of the most bizarre cases they’ve ever encountered. Is it a friend’s cruel joke? Is it some stalker’s perverse idea of manipulation? Or is it something more?

Full Of Character with Hope Toler Dougherty

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Hope Toler Dougherty, author of Rescued Hearts, Irish Encounter, and Mars…with Venus Rising. Keep reading after the interview to find out a little more about Hope’s books and where you can connect with her on social media. Welcome, Hope.

What character from the books you’ve read has impacted you more than all the others?

Jane Eyre! Despite being an orphan with plain looks and nothing but her intellect and strong will to help her navigate the world, she remains true to her Christian character. Jane Eyre is a classic novel, not Christian fiction, but Charlotte Bronte wrote Christian lessons throughout the whole story.

What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

I loved writing Agnes in Irish Encounter, Jancie and Winnie in Mars…With Venus Rising, and GiGi in Rescued Hearts. They’re senior saints who have a zest for life. They were so much fun to write! I hope to be like them many years from now!

I’m struggling with a character in my fifth manuscript. I know a few things about her, but she’s pretty quiet about her real main goal. She’s a tough nut to crack.

I have no doubt you’ll find out exactly who she is and be able to share her with the rest of us! Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

You know when Paul writes in Romans 7:15 about knowing what to do, wanting to do it, but then doing what he hates to do? Sometimes I feel like that, like the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I wish I was bold like Moses’ sister, Miriam, when she appealed to Pharaoh’s daughter or Abigail when she appealed to David when her husband, Nabal, was being foolish or like all those new Christians in Acts who spread the Gospel amid so much persecution and fear. I love reading about average people acting courageously for God.

I don’t know about our readers today, but I can also relate to that verse and the reasons you chose those people. Do you plan your characters and their back stories before you begin writing or are you as surprised by them as your readers?

I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, but I try to get to know my main characters as much as I can before I begin. I have a character sketch activity with about 100 questions from a writing class I took at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writing Conference. I fill out as many of those questions as I can before I begin because it makes the writing easier for me.

I think Blue Ridge is where I first met you. It’s a great conference. If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?

Maybe Sandra Bullock. She’s got a quirky vibe going even when she’s dressed up. Plus, we both studied at East Carolina University, but I never saw her there.

I love her, and I like that you have that connection to her, no matter how distant. I can’t think of anyone famous that I’m even distantly connected to. Just two more questions and a fun fact. What is the most encouraging thing you’ve heard or experienced as an author?

A couple of years ago, I was shocked to find myself sitting beside Steve Laube, a top literary agent and owner of his own agency, at a meal at ACFW. During dessert, he asked what I write. I answered, love stories. He asked, “Do you mean love stories between men and dogs or men and cats or…?” I said, “No, men and women.” He replied, “Ah, romance. Then you should say it. Own it. Romance is the biggest genre in the publishing world. It’s the biggest for a reason. People love it.”

I’ve always struggled a little with the idea of writing romance because I used to teach real literature. Now I’m trying to focus more on gratitude for the perfect path God’s created for me. I write romance!

What a great reminder for the tough days as an author. What is your biggest challenge as an author?

Marketing. I’m sure that’s true for a lot of introverted writers.

I hated selling Girl Scout cookies, and they should be the easiest thing in the world to sell. I don’t even like asking people for reviews. If they’ve shelled out money to buy the book, taken the time to read it, taken more time to tell me in person or my message or email that they like, I feel greedy asking for one more thing. And those reviews are so important!

And now I’ll share a fun-fact Hope included as the answer to an alternate question. Her favorite go-to snack whether writing or not? It’s Cheez-Its. I couldn’t pass up sharing that one since it’s also my youngest son’s go-to snack! And now a little about Hope’s books and where to find her.

Back cover copy for Rescued Hearts:Children’s clothing designer Mary Wade Kimball’s soft spot for  animals leads to a hostage situation when she spots a briar-entangled kitten in front of an abandoned house. Beaten, bound, and gagged by the two thugs inside, Mary Wade loses hope for escape when a third villain returns with supplies.
Discovering the kidnapped, innocent woman ratchets the complications for undercover agent Brett Davis. Weighing the difference of ruining his three months’ investigation against the woman’s safety, Brett forsakes his mission and helps her escape, the bent-on-revenge brutes following behind. 
When Mary Wade’s safety is threatened once more, Brett rescues her again. This time, her personal safety isn’t the only thing in jeopardy. Her heart is endangered as well.

Hope’s bio: Hope Toler Dougherty holds a Master’s degree in English and taught at East Carolina University as well as York Technical College. She’s a member of ACFW and  RWA, and her novels are Irish EncounterMars…With Venus Rising, and Rescued Hearts. A native North Carolinian, she and her husband, Kevin, look forward to visits with their two daughters and twin sons. 

Where to purchase Hope’s books:

Irish Encounter 

Rescued Hearts

Here are Hope’s social media links:

http://hopetolerdougherty.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AUTHORHOPETOLERDOUGHERTY/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13941031.Hope_Dougherty

https://www.instagram.com/hopetolerdougherty/

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hope+toler+dougherty

Sharing My Post

This is my post from today on the Mantle Rock Publishing site. I hope you enjoy it!

What I’m Reading: The Year in Review

The last month has been a struggle for me as a writer and blogger. I guess it started in earnest about seven months ago. Then, about a week before Thanksgiving, life changed drastically again, and I’ll be honest, with the adjustments and holidays colliding together, I don’t feel I’ve found my footing yet.

Even with the ups and downs of my chaotic life over the last several months, I’ve not been completely stagnant. My third book, the final one in Katie’s story, is with the publisher and due to come out in June. I finished writing another book in November and look forward to finding an agent for that one. And this year brought opportunity to read some great books by several others authors, most of them new to me.

While I won’t do a “Top Ten” post, I do want to share a few of the books that stand out as I review the list of books I’ve read. For more information on any of the books I mention, look back through my “What I’m Reading” posts. You should be able to find each of them there. Keep in mind, the books I mention are in no particular order.

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock – This one is an emotional and heartwarming story set at Christmas. There’s no intrigue or suspense usually associated with Blackstock, but the story draws you in with just the right balance of humor and drama and realistic characters.

The Great River Romance Series by Kari Trumbo – In the spirit of full disclosure, I should let you know I bought my first two in the series because of the covers. Whole Latte love is only available in a set if you want ebook, but you can get it individually in paperback too. Want Ad Wonder is my favorite of the covers. But Check Out Crush and Central Park Paradise are great too. Each book has needed conflict, but overall they are sweet, quick romances.

Holy in the Moment by Ginger Harrington – I met Ginger at a writer’s conference. I enjoyed getting to meet her, and her book stayed true to the tone and personality I was introduced to at the conference. This one is nonfiction and full of great reminders of what it means to live out holiness in our daily lives.

Blue Columbine and Red Rose Bouquet by Jennifer Rodewald – These stories heavier themes, but the stories were as well-crafted as any of the others on the list. Dealing with real world issues, the author challenges readers to step outside their comfort zones and consider themes that are quickly becoming commonplace in our society from different angles.

A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz – Beautiful. That single word encompasses not only the story the author lays out for readers but also the way in which she writes it. In days when there is a push for less description and scene setting, I found the author’s attention to detail well used and artistic.

Tainted and Awakened by Morgan Busse – I’ve always read historical fiction and contemporary fiction, but until I won a copy of Tainted I’d never really considered Christian fantasy. I’m so glad I did. I bought the second book as soon as I reached the last page of the first one. I’m looking forward to reading the two new ones I downloaded in 2020 and sharing my thoughts on them as well.

There they are, a sampling of the books I read in 2019. It isn’t even close to a comprehensive list of the great books I read this year, but you can always revisit my “What I’m Reading” posts to find out more. And if you missed any of the ones I mention above, you still have time to get your own copies and start off 2020 with a few great reads!

What I’m Watching: Countdown to Christmas

Hallmark Christmas ornament

I know. This is a book blog. It’s always been a book blog. It will always be a book blog. But today, I’m switching things up because one of my favorite Christmas traditions (much to the dismay of my male dominated household) is watching the new Hallmark Christmas movies.

I’m a little behind this year. I have four new ones to catch up on, but it can’t be helped. I will catch up. There are rare times I will pass over a movie due to casting choices, but for the most part, if it airs I will watch it. And before all you naysayers start in, yes, I realize how the plots are going to play out. I don’t care. I’m not in this for a big surprise at the end. I’m in it for entertainment, nostalgia, a spirit of love and joy, on screen chemistry, and a happy ending. That’s what I get from the best of what Hallmark has to offer and the criteria for rating the three movies below.

Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen: 3 1/2 Hallmark Ornaments

I love watching Erin Krakow and Kimberly Sustad. I watch every movie Hallmark puts out starring either of them. I also enjoy watching movies with Luke Macfarlane as the male lead. Using this trio as the lead characters gives this movie a star before it ever starts. To be honest, I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would. I’m over the remakes of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. It made me hesitant to watch this one, but I tuned in because of the three reasons above. I’m glad I did.

The event planning business Ella and Marianne own is going well, but there’s tension between the sisters because of very different personalities and styles. As Ella creates the perfect party for Edward while also sanding off his grinchy edges with her enthusiasm for all things Christmas, she faces various set backs. The dynamic between the sisters increases the tension but also adds to the satisfaction of a well planned party and joy at family discord being smoothed over. Add to that a man with reawakened Christmas spirit and new love, and you have a movie you’ll watch again when it airs again.

Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy – 4 Hallmark Ornaments

Is Christmas in Evergreen too good to be true? Is the snowglobe really magical? And where is the legendary time capsule that has intrigued Evergreen’s inhabitants for years?

This is Christmas in Evergreen’s third installment, and it’s full of everything you’ve come to expect to find at Christmas in Evergreen. The skeptical newcomer, Katie, is played by Maggie Lawson who can’t believe the hype about Evergreen. From her first encounter with Paul Greene’s Ben, her doubt is challenged. As she’s drawn into a quest to find the time capsule left by the town’s inhabitants years ago during a blizzard, she meets the characters who live in Evergreen and starts to see they are exactly who they’re rumored to be and the town really is that full of Christmas spirit.

I’m not sure how I feel about Hallmark revisiting so many of their previous movies. Evergreen, Father Christmas, and A Gift to Remember all have two or thee installments at this point. But I’ll forgive Hallmark because I really enjoyed this movie. I love the pairing of Maggie Lawson and Paul Greene. It doesn’t hurt that Paul Greene is my all-time favorite male lead in any Hallmark movie. I even modeled one of the characters in my third book after him. I’ll watch his movies every time, and I guarantee I’ll be watching more than once. That includes Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy

Picture a Perfect Christmas – 5 Hallmark Ornaments

Who doesn’t like Christmas surprises? This movie is definitely a Christmas surprise, a really glad it happened kind of surprise. I thought it might be enjoyable, but I never expected it to land in the top spot for favorite Hallmark movie of the season. And while it is true that the season isn’t over yet, I don’t expect the rest of the lineup to topple this one from Santa’s sleigh.

I’ve watched other Hallmark movies with Merritt Patterson in them. And while she’s not on my “must watch this movie” list, I enjoy her work. I especially liked Forever in My Heart and The Christmas Cottage. She does a good job as world travelling photographer Sophie in Picture a Perfect Christmas as well. She brings a little humor and a lot of caring to the character who comes home to spend Christmas with her injured grandma and finds herself volunteering to care for the neighbor’s nephew. With the boy leading the way and the grandma playing matchmaker, Sophie joins Troy and his uncle David on their family Christmas adventures and finds herself falling in love during this unexpected Christmas at home.

David is played with near perfection by Jon Cor. I’ve only seen him in one other Hallmark movie, Love on Safari, and in one episode of Supernatural. (Please don’t kick me out of the Hallmark watching club for admitting I watch and enjoy Supernatural too!) In my defense, I didn’t realize I’d seen him in Supernatural until recently, but that’s beside the point. He was everything a Hallmark casting director should be looking for in this movie and ultimately the reason this movie earned its fifth ornament.

There are times when the emotions playing across a character’s face can bring back that feeling of newly discovered attraction we may not have felt for a while or break a viewer’s heart with the vulnerability we see in their eyes. And while I know on-screen chemistry, the director’s vision, and the script itself play roles in this happening, it is ultimately the actor who puts the bow on that beautiful present and places it under the tree. That is exactly what Jon Cor does in Picture a Perfect Christmas, and I have to admit I’ve already watched this one twice since it aired.

What I’m Reading: Spring of Thanksgiving

My family is experiencing first-hand how God works in what our very limited human perceptions label as good and bad events. Dealing with dementia, strokes, and a gradual decline leading to what we hope is soon to be my grandmother’s heavenly homecoming we are swimming in a sea of what feels like bad events. But God has given us so many good gifts during this time.

Through the years of dealing with her dementia, God has grown us and provided for us in ways we never expected. He’s brought beautiful things out of the experience and taken care of details we didn’t know would be necessary. Some of the good has been spiritual in nature, but He’s worked out just as many of our physical needs.

I gave up my job to help my mother care for my grandmother. I didn’t hesitate when she asked for help though I knew my position as a full-time caregiver could end at any time, and I have one large bill that my salary pays for each month. When my grandmother went into the memory care facility, I was left without a job. Within a week, I gained employment at my previous job. It’s very part-time, but it’s enough to pay my bill each month. As an added bonus, the limited hours leave me more room for writing and learning about the business side of writing. God provided when I couldn’t. I had to wait and trust until He did.

Waiting when the answer isn’t readily seen is hard. Ivy Cooke, the main character in Liz Tolsma’s book Spring of Thanksgiving, knows that from experience. Ivy and her father are facing tough times on their Texas ranch. A seemingly endless drought and the need to fence their land to protect their property and others due to the railroad has put them in a hard place. Deeply in debt, Ivy has no idea how they will come up with the money to get caught up on their loan.

Facing the loss of their property to the bank is hard enough, but problems seem to pile on. New neighbors claim the spring necessary for getting Ivy’s ranch through the drought is on their property, and there’s nothing they won’t do to prevent Ivy and her father from using it.

Dell Watson is determined to show his father his worth, and the spring in question is his way to do it. Dell’s plan to secure the rights means he has to entice his beautiful neighbor to marry him. Circumstances change when Dell discovers Ivy is far more to him than a tool to get what his family desires. But his family still needs the spring, and the only way he sees to get it is through Ivy.

Dell and Ivy both face difficult circumstances without easy answers. As with most people, their minds work to find solutions to their problems. With their minds and hearts giving conflicting answers, they have to choose whether or not they can trust God with their problems and wait for His solution.

Dell and Ivy may get what they want, or God could give them something entirely unexpected. No matter what the circumstances, they have the choice to trust God’s goodness no matter what happens. Like us, they can choose to let trust lead to praise for His work in the hard and unexpected situations of life. But you’ll have to read Spring of Thanksgiving to find out if they do and if the path God gives them leads them closer or further apart.

Right Stuff Wednesday: Tea Anyone?

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C.S. Lewis

I know the current trend is toward coffee. And I have nothing against coffee, except that it makes me sick to my stomach when I drink it. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty important thing to have against it. My own digestive issues aside, I understand people’s love of coffee. It smells wonderful. But it’s not what’s in my mug on a cool autumn evening.

Hot tea frequently makes the list, but my absolute favorite cold weather drink is hot chocolate. I like the variety of flavors available in mixes, but nothing beats the flavor of homemade hot chocolate. It’s rich and creamy with the slight bitterness cocoa brings. But I’m not here to talk about the drink. I’m more interested in the container.

I love mugs, and I just received a trio of them from my awesome cousin and mom. They might seem like normal mugs, but they were chosen with a purpose. Faith, hope, and love adorn these mugs. They were given to me in honor of completing my first series of novels. Faith’s Journey and Grasping Hope are currently available. Relentless Love will wrap up Katie’s story in June 2020. Every time I look at these mugs, the joy of reaching my first goal as an author will come back to me.

While they don’t all relate to my writing, each mug I own has it’s own story to tell about me. I got my hedgehog mug from the gift shop at the hospital where I worked. I passed it several times before giving in. It must have been fate. I thought the hedgehog was adorable. He’s also the studious type, and the background is a dictionary page. It’s all very writer-like. But the best part? Look closely at the background and you’ll find heather is one of the words. It comes right after heathen, but still, I think it was meant to be otherwise my name wouldn’t be on it.

My Inigo Montoya mug was a gift from my niece. Apparently, makers of pop culture mugs don’t realize not everyone loves coffee. She knew that but bought it anyway because she knew my love for The Princess Bride would outweigh my dislike of coffee. It’s no secret to those who know me that The Princess Bride is my favorite movie of all time.

I bought the exploding Tardis mug for myself. I have fond memories of my sons, husband, and I watching Doctor Who together. It’s one of the few shows we all enjoyed. The Van Gogh episode was a favorite. When I saw the mug, I couldn’t help myself. Every time I use it, I’m reminded of those evenings watching a favorite television show together.

This isn’t close to all of my mug collection. (I didn’t even get shots of any of my Christmas ones. I love Christmas, and they make the perfect mugs for watching Hallmark movies.) But each one, even those I didn’t talk about, were chosen for me or someone who knows me. There was a reason for each one, and that makes them special whether they hold tea, hot chocolate, or even the dreaded coffee.

What’s in your mug?

By the Book: Never forget, you are chosen too. 1 Peter 2:9 reminds us that believers are a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people”. We aren’t chosen on a whim. God chose us for a reason. He chose us to proclaim His praise, be examples of God’s love to the world, and to share the gospel with those who need it. God also chose us for specific ministries and spiritual gifts. These make up our own unique way to live out the purpose God has for us. You weren’t an accident. You are chosen. Do you live like it each day?

What I’m Reading: Just the Way You Are

I’m from small town southern Illinois. Though Carbondale has Southern Illinois University to make it more recognizable, the small village of Makanda can only boast of being one of the places where the 2017 eclipse could be seen for the longest amount of time and for Vulture Fest. Yes, Vulture Fest. No, I’ve never been. Though that’s really not surprising. Makanda is actually very large in area, and as most residents do, I end up in Carbondale more often than the tiny strip of eclectic stores making up Makanda’s business district.

Being from a small, rural town surrounded by other small, rural towns has its advantages. It also has drawbacks. One of these is the country drawl prevalent in the area. It’s not a pretty southern drawl or the twang of the southwest. It’s less refined. Hick is the term most often used.

As a kid I fought that way of speaking. I worked hard to make sure my pronunciation and vocabulary were not filled with the southern Illinois vernacular. I thought I was doing a great job, until I went to summer camp in Peoria, Illinois. Peoria is about 4 hours north of where I live. Kids came from all over Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, and other states for camp.

Imagine my surprise when all the work I’d done to distance myself from the southern Illinois sound was repeatedly met with, “Are you from the south?” Every northerner I met decided I was not just from the south, but from the deep south. Over and over I explained I was not from Mississippi or Alabama or any other southern state. I was from Illinois just like most of them. So much for my efforts to conceal my vocal heritage.

Adulthood has brought perspective. I’m more appreciative of the benefits of small town life, and the downsides don’t bother me as much. (I admit I still cringe when I hear myself say “fer” instead of for, but I’m working on it!) I love where I grew up, bad grammar and all. I try to bring that to my writing (the love, not the bad grammar!). That same attitude is part of the reason I enjoyed Pepper Basham’s Just the Way You Are.

Eisley Barrett grew up in the Appalachian region, but the story starts with a trip to England to find answers to a family mystery. In addition to meeting wonderful new friends,Eisley has a real life adventure on her quest to find answers her dying uncle needs to finish the book he’s writing.

Though initially drawn to her due to a cynical nature that insists Eisley is a gold digger out to take his family fortune or ruin their good name, Wes Harrison finds he’s drawn to her for other reasons as well. As their friendship progresses, Wes enjoys the opportunity to solve the mystery with Eisley.

As their relationship progresses, it’s time for Eisley to return home. She and Wes have enough emotional baggage from the past to make the distance between England and Virginia seem like child’s play. This baggage comes back to wreak havoc on their relationship and threatens to tear them apart.

This is the first book by Pepper Basham I’ve read. She does a wonderful job of telling an entertaining story. The differences in how Eisley and Wes were raised and currently live are explored and alternately provide helpings of drama and comedy for the reader.

Respect for both ways of life are easily seen. Pros and cons of each are laid out for the reader to enjoy. In the end, it’s a great reminder that our differences can bring us together or tear us apart. It’s all in how we want to look at them.

By the Book: We’re all different. Think of someone you’ve had trouble working or ministering with and pray for God to show you how to celebrate your differences to make the job/ministry stronger.

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