Monday, December 22, 2014

Brandy Vallance | Spread the Christmas Joy

When I was six years old we had a silver tinsel tree with a retro color wheel. I remember lying on the carpet and watching the tree turn colors. Red, green, yellow, and blue reflected on the walls and ceiling. While the room sparkled, I’d let my imagination roam. Pans rattled in the kitchen—my grandpa making fudge. My grandmother’s voice joined his in low tones of conversation. The rise and fall of those moments stay with me to this day.

A second predominant Christmas memory comes from the seventh grade. My family and I had moved to Mecca, Ohio. After living in the city my entire life, this place was magical. We had ten acres by a lake. Our driveway was a path through the forest, flanked by forsythia bushes that turned yellow in the spring. Almost every day I climbed massive trees, walked in the woods, or played in the creek. We had three dogs and two pet goats that followed me everywhere. I started writing my first story that year. Winter came, and the snow that fell was like something out of Narnia. On Christmas Eve, I bundled up and snuck outside.

Sometimes snow brings silence, like the world is new again. Or sometimes that silence makes you feel the age of the world, but it’s like it’s letting you in on the mystery. I was alone in the field that night, my boot prints deep. I walked further and further away from the lights of the house until the hush was all around. I remember taking a deep breath and feeling like anything was possible. Like the white-blue moonlight was just the beginning. I opened my arms to the thick snowflakes and turned my face into the Christmas sky.

As I think about these two memories it occurs to me that there’s a correlation. Although I’ve had many Christmas memories, I picked these. They were the memories that begged to be told. Why? I think in both instances life was a perfect span of possibility. There was only safety, and the freedom to dream.

The joy of Christmas for me is like that. As we celebrate the most precious gift of Jesus—God’s love to the world—let’s make space for dreams. Give yourself the permission to let your mind roam. And may the Lord fill you with His blessed hope, and His peace which passes all understanding.

Here’s a song that lends itself to winter dreaming:

Brandy is offering up to copies of her novel The Covered Deep. Leave a comment to enter to win!


Bianca Marshal is looking for a man who can quote both Jesus and Shakespeare. Not surprisingly, that man is hard to find in the small Appalachian town where she lives. Her mother insists that Bianca lower her standards. One the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday, even Bianca wonders if her mother is right.

Still set on experiencing love, or at least a little adventure, Bianca wins an essay contest that propels her into a whirlwind search for the perfect hero. Via the opulence of London and the mysteries of Palestine, Bianca's true love will be revealed—but not without a price that might be too heavy to pay.

Brandy Vallance fell in love with the Victorian time period at a young age, loving the customs, manners, and especially the intricate rules of love. Since time travel is theoretically impossible, she lives in the nineteenth century vicariously through her novels. Unaccountable amounts of black tea have fueled this ambition. Brandy's love of tea can only be paralleled by her love of Masterpiece Theater Classics, deep conversations, and a good book. Brandy is the 2013 Operation First Novel winner and the 2012 winner of the ACFW Genesis Contest for historical romance. You can connect with Brandy via her website, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, YouTube, or Twitter @BrandyVallance.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Andrew Swearingen | Spread the Christmas Joy

Christmas Presence

When it comes to Christmas, I'm a total kid at heart.

I've outgrown my days of drooling over the Sears toy catalog, circling the really cool toys, then leaving it out on the kitchen table where I hoped my mom would notice it. Now I'm all grown up and I have to live vicariously through what my nieces and nephews receive on Christmas, which can be a pretty sweet gig. I'll never forget the fun when my oldest nephew received a castle play set on Christmas. He toddled up to me and asked “Uncle Andrew, can you help me build my siege tower?”

I try to be mindful to get the kids toys that they will actually play with. I have several nieces who are in to the “Disney Princess” thing, so I don't get very many cool toys to play with from them, although on occasion they've suckered me into playing with their princess toys.

But, every once in a while I get some nice surprises, like last Thanksgiving when I was playing with my nephew Sam. He opened up all of his toy bins, in that way that five-year-old boys do so well, and I was delighted to find that his collection included Star Wars toys , the Avengers, Ninja Turtles, Legos and even some pro-wrestling figures (this kid is sooo my nephew).

So, that year for Christmas I bought Sam a Star Wars Lego set (the A-wing star fighter with an Admiral Ackbar figure for those of you who want to know). I knew it was a great gift....and apparently so did someone else, because when Sam opened my present, he let out a disappointed “Aww. I already got this one.” (I figured it wasn't a big deal, because extra Legos just means 'extra parts' in my book, but Sam did not share this opinion.)

My sister-in-law pleasantly explained that she could just take it to Wal-mart and exchange it for another set. I couldn't help but feel a little miffed at this. Granted it was given as a gift and if Sam didn't want the extra set then that was fine. But it was my gift to him. I'd picked it out, bought it, and wrapped it. So it was a pretty disappointing to see it get returned.

And apparently my entire family does their Christmas shopping at Wal-mart, because Sam got another Lego set that needed to be returned (apparently you can do that even without a receipt, which kinda blew my mind). This ended up working out really, really well because the two medium sized Lego sets were exchanged for one big one that built a dragon. It was pretty complex. Lots of moving parts and ball joints and such.

And guess who got to help Sam build his dragon? The same uncle who helped build the siege tower.

That's one thing I learned about the Holidays as I got older. Yes it's fun to get stuff. And all of us enjoy giving good gifts to the people we love. The trappings of the season are great but in the end it's less about those things, as much as it is about just being around each other.

So this year, just take some time to get away from crossing items off your holiday shopping list and your travel plans, use this time to savor the people God has blessed you with.

And who knows. Maybe you'll get to build a siege tower and help rescue the Disney Princesses from a Lego dragon.

Many of you know my love of all things that Ronie Kendig writes (check out her website HERE and her books HERE). Well, a dear friend of mine has offered up a copy of the HAWK audio CD. She got an extra copy and, best friends being what they are, wanted to offer it to you, my dear readers! How cool is that? So...

Leave a comment below to enter for the chance to win a audiobook copy of HAWK by Ronie Kendig.

Andrew Swearingen is a blogger and aspiring writer, living in the hidden kingdom that is Southern Illinois, where (for his 'real job') he works for a landscaping company. He also finds occasional work as a substitute teacher, serves in his church's kid's program, and has on several occasions saved the city from robot invasion.

(One of those isn't completely true, but we'll let you guess which one.)

Twitter: @WittySwearWords

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nicole Deese | Spread the Christams Joy

Nine years ago this November, my husband Tim and I brought our first baby home from the hospital. Not only were we in the clutches of chaos trying to survive sleepless nights and frozen meals, but we had just moved across state lines and were in the process of waiting to hear news on a new job.

Needless to say, we had approximately seventeen dollars in our checking account, and what we lacked in money was made up in stress. The idea of buying Christmas presents, much less, purchasing a Christmas tree was far from a reality.

One night right before Christmas that year, my husband came home from a Men’s Game Night held at our church. When he walked through our front door, his eyes were downcast, his shoulders slumped in defeat. I worried something awful had happened to him in those few hours away from home. Had he been hurt? Had he heard bad news about the job?

Tim sat down beside me on the sofa and studied our sleeping baby cradled in my arms. “There was a big Christmas jackpot for the last man standing tonight. I made it to the very last round—to the very last hand—and I lost.”

My husband’s not an emotional man by nature—sincere, yes—but emotional? No. I never would have imagined him so upset over losing a card game.

He looked at me, tears streaming down his cheeks. “Every round I won, all I could think about was how badly I wanted to surprise you on Christmas morning—give you something so amazing because of all you’ve given me.”

And in my hormonally-sensitive, sleep-deprived state, sobs rolled through me like tidal waves.

But I wasn’t crying because Tim couldn’t buy me Christmas presents, or because we only had seventeen dollars to our name.

I cried because I realized in that beautifully raw moment that God had given me something I could never earn or deserve.

In my arms laid the blessing of new life, and at my side, sat a man who sought my happiness over his own.

No gift could outshine what God had already given me.

That December night long ago is a reminder that no matter what season of life we find ourselves in—whether it be lean or plentiful, sad or joyful, lonely or filled to the brim with family, our Savior's gifts are all around us.
And most of them are wrapped in the shape of the people we love.

Merry Christmas,
Nicole Deese

2014 American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis Award Finalist

Writing happy endings is easy. Living one is the hard part.
Georgia Cole—known in Hollywood as the “Holiday Goddess”—has made a name for herself writing heartwarming screenplays chock-full of Christmas clichés, but she has yet to experience the true magic of the season. So, when her eccentric grandmother volunteers her to direct a pageant at Georgia’s hometown community theater, she is less than thrilled. To make matters worse, she’ll be working alongside Weston James, her childhood crush and the one man she has tried desperately to forget.

Now, facing memories of a lonely childhood and the humiliation of her last onstage performance, seven years earlier, Georgia is on the verge of a complete mistletoe meltdown. As Weston attempts to thaw the frozen walls around her heart, Georgia endeavors to let go of her fears and give love a second chance. If she does, will she finally believe that Christmas can be more than a cliché?
(Book description taken from Amazon)

Nicole has graciously offered up a copy of her novel A Cliché Christmas as a giveaway. Leave a comment below to enter!

Nicole Deese is a lover of fiction. When she isn’t writing, she can be found fantasizing about “reading escapes,” which look a lot like kid-free, laundry-free, and cooking-free vacations.
Her debut novel, an Inspirational Contemporary Romance, All for Anna, has hit multiple milestones since its release in January 2013, including a 4.7 star rating on Amazon and more than 120,000 downloads on Kindle. She has since completed the Letting Go series and is over-the-moon excited about her new release, A Cliché Christmas, published by Waterfall Press, an Amazon Publishing imprint. A Cliché Christmas is available at Walmart stores nationwide and on
Nicole Deese is represented by Jessica Kirkland of The Blythe Daniel Agency, and lives in Frisco, Texas, with her husband, Tim, and her two rowdy boys, Preston and Lincoln.

Twitter: @nicoledeese

Friday, December 19, 2014

Carole Brown | Spread the Christmas Joy

A Bundle of Love and Peace and Joy!

“Behold, I bring good tidings of great joy.”

I suppose one of my biggest desires I’ve had since my boys reached an age where they were considering marriage, was the time when I could become a grandmother. You see, I thought it would never happen. Sigh.

My husband (when the boys were growing up) ALWAYS teased that he didn’t want them to marry until they were thirty. Thirty? I just rolled my eyes. Until the years rolled by . . . And rolled by . . . And rolled by.

We did teach them to pray about choosing a life partner and they were confident that that was the way to go about knowing God’s choice of a companion. Finally, though, our youngest son married a woman with two sons.

Heaven! I immediately adopted them and jumped right into being a grandmother. Though they had a maternal grandmother, I reminded them often, I was the “fun-est” one ever! They grinned in agreement.

A few months later when I learned a baby was on the way, I was thrilled. And nine months later I was invited into the delivery room, was the first person (the other grandmother graciously gave me the opportunity) to hold that bundle of little joy. And the first Christmas we continued to thank God for the privilege of being grandparents. It’s still, two years later, one of the best Christmases I can remember.

God loves children (Become as one, he says), and I cannot doubt that he saw my longing for a precious grandchild.

Does God care about our “little” desires and wishes? Of course, he does? He delights in giving us good answers. He loves seeing us rejoice at his gifts to us. Did God really answer my prayers for grandchildren? Oh, yeah. I see the results. Merry Christmas!


Brown not only has her award winning (RWA International Digital Awards finalist in Inspiration, Laurel Award finalist, Selah finalist; Genesis semi-finalist) debut novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, but a companion book called West Virginia Scrapbook: From the Life of Caralynne Hayman, filled with tidbits of information about West Virginia, quotes, recipes from West Virginia and from Caralynne’s life, pictures and discussion questions for the novel.

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Personal blog:
Stitches in Time:
Barn Door Book Loft:

Laura V. Hilton | Spread the Christmas Joy

Excited to switch things up for this mornings post! I'm welcoming Laura V. Hilton to the blog with an interview (in the Writer Wednesday style). Laura was also gracious enough to offer up a copy of her novel The Snow Globe as a giveaway!

You and Writing

Who is one of your favorite authors and why? ...Susan May Warren. She really draws me into her stories. Love them.

What is one book or resource you would recommend to other writers? Why?
...I don’t really recommend any. I learn better by studying and reading other authors.

Share a writing-related milestone with us?
... I won the Laurel Awards in 2012 with A Harvest of Hearts, both in the Amish category and in the best fiction book overall.

How do you balance your time between writing and other actives? Any helpful tips, tricks, or suggestions?
...That’s a good question and even now, writing my thirteen book, I still struggle with it.

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about The Snow Globe...
Victor Petersheim has left the Amish and works on a river boat on the Mississippi River, spending three months on the river then having three months off. During his off-work months he returns home to his Amish community and helps out on his grandparents’ farm. When he returns home after his most recent absence, he discovers his grossmammi has developed health problems and they’ve hired Esther Beachy to be a “mother’s helper.” Victor is unsettled by this woman living in their home, but has to accept it. Esther loves listening to Victor’s grandmother’s stories and while puttering around in a store while the grossmammi’s in the hospital, she discovers a snow globe that depicts an area where the Petersheims used to live. She buys it as a gift for the grossmammi to cheer her up during her hospitalization. Victor is touched by Esther’s gift and her care for his grossmammi, and strives to be friendlier. Will Esther’s gentle heart draw him back to the community? Or will he return to the river once again?
What was one trial you faced when writing it? One success? 
...I had to dive right into this book from another and didn’t have time to let the brain unwind between different stories. But with God’s help, I managed.

Who is your favorite character and why?
...Oh, that’s hard. I love Viktor, Esther, Anna and Reuben.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
...I leave that up to God and the reader. What I take away might not be what the reader takes away.


In honor of the fall, what’s your favorite fall treat?
...Apple cider and pumpkin seeds.

When you were a child, what did you dream of growing up to be?
...A mom and a writer.

Laura Hilton lives and writes in Arkansas, surrounded by her husband and five children. The author of inspirational novels about the Amish, she is also a book reviewer.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A.D. 30 by Ted Dekker | RE:View

I've been a fan of Ted Dekker's for a long time now. He has consistently put out books that I love. They inspire me, entertain me, and make me think. A.D. 30 was another such book.

A.D. 30 follows the story of a young woman, Maviah, whose father is a powerful Bedouin sheikh. When turmoil hits, Maviah narrowly escapes with the help of her father's warriors, Saba and Judah. Sent on a mission from her father, these three cross desserts and encounter all sorts of adventure.

This story is one that will transport  you to another time. It will wrap you up in beautiful language and description, as if you were the one experiencing the grit and dryness of a sandstorm or staring in awe at a sky filled with stars.

For me, when Maviah's path crosses with that of the "enigmatic teacher" Yeshua, my connection with the story deepened. I was there seeing Him. I was experiencing His stories in real time. I was the one being called daughter. 

It is a story of purpose, adventure, and transformation. 

I highly recommend this novel to anyone. Whether you enjoy historical fiction, enigmatic tales, or action and adventure, you will enjoy this book. I cannot sing its praises enough!

Purchase A.D. 30: A Novel

Book Description
(from Amazon)
A sweeping epic set in the harsh deserts of Arabia and ancient Palestine.

A war that rages between kingdoms on the earth and in the heart.

The harrowing journey of the woman at the center of it all.

Step back in time to the year of our Lord...A.D. 30.

The outcast daughter of one of the most powerful Bedouin sheikhs in Arabia, Maviah is called on to protect the very people who rejected her. When their enemies launch a sudden attack with devastating consequences, Maviah escapes with the help of two of her father's warriors--Saba who speaks more with is sword than his voice and Judah, a Jew who comes from a tribe that can read the stars. Their journey will be fraught with terrible danger. If they can survive the vast forbidding sands of a desert that is deadly to most, they will reach a brutal world subjugated by kings and emperors. There Maviah must secure an unlikely alliance with King Herod of the Jews.

But Maviah's path leads her unexpectedly to another man. An enigmatic teacher who speaks of a way in this life which offers greater power than any kingdom. His name is Yeshua, and his words turn everything known on its head. Though following him may present even greater danger, his may be the only way for Maviah to save her people--and herself.
I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Deanna Klingel | Spread the Christmas Joy

If one were to ask our seven children, numerous exchange students, a few fosters and family extensions who’ve all been part of our family Christmas traditions to name one family memory, I’m sure you’d hear one answer: The Klingel Caroling Party.

This family tradition started accidentally when we only had two little girls. We were in our first home, on a quiet street, no sidewalks, and a few friends starting out like us. I wanted to have a Christmas party in our first-ever home, but without a lot of funds, all our friends with babies, and not a lot of room, I decided on a caroling party. Construction paper invitations said it would be right after supper, babies could come. Dress to be outside. Bring a plate of cookies to share and a flashlight. Hot chocolate and song sheets to be provided.

We pulled the little ones on sleds and wagons down the street singing Jingle Bells. We rapped on doors and sang out a carol when the door opened to surprised and appreciative faces. After covering the neighborhood we went home for cookies and hot chocolate, then home for bedtime. Neighbors talked about it all year and looked forward to the next one. Over the next forty years and many neighborhoods in many states, our tradition continued.

Eventually boyfriends, girlfriends, fiancees and new spouses joined us, and then grandchildren who ran up and pushed the doorbells, just like their parents had done. In 2000 we retired to the mountains, leaving family, friends and neighborhoods, and the sweet memories of about 40 annual Christmas parties in snow, rain, balmy winter eves, or windy and cold. The weather never matters when joy is shared. Warm mittens, steaming hot chocolate, snowflakes falling under the street lights and untrained voices singing traditional Christmas carols, what could be a nicer annual memory.

Serve Jehovah with gladness. Come before his presence with singing. 
Psalm 100 


Deanna K. Klingel, author of award-winning books for young-at-heart readers of all ages, resides in the mountains of western NC with her husband and their golden retriever Buddy. Their seven married children and twelve grandchildren are scattered around the southeast.