Monday, December 31, 2007

More Grand Writing News

Top reviewer, Rel, from Australia picked Diva as one of her top '07 reads. Thanks!

RT, Romantic Times Book Club Review honored Sweet Caroline with 4.5 stars, their hightest rating.

Though, I must explain. The 4.5 stars comes with it's own sub rating. My good buddy and MyBookTherapy partner, Susan Warren, got 4.5 stars and Top Pick! Congrats Suz.

We both laughed at how the books we think should get the "most stars" don't and the ones we're insecure about, do.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

End of the Year

It's Sunday after. The late December day is warm, sunny and breezy under a blue sky. The year is ending. Feels like another day in a standard week, but the calendar turns.

I make no resolutions except to be purposeful in knowing Jesus more, and learning to love. If He increases in me, I decrease and the world becomes a better place.

A man I know died and went to heaven. He encountered the King of Kings who asked, "On earth, did you learn to love?"

What an amazing question. He loved. We are to be like Him. Love is a choice. Simple and straightforward. Choose love. It's patient, kind, forgiving, bears offense and keeps no record of wrong. It uplifts and upholds. Love believes and hopes.

Have you forgiven an offense? Then you've loved.

God is love. (1 John 4) Not God is like love, He IS love, the very definition. How can we do or be less? The rock group Foreigner sang, "I wanna know what love is."

Seek Him.

Love does not mean we allow ourselves to be bullied or walked on. Love is not an ethereal concept that evades our grasp. Love is not unsanctified mercy. We show mercy when we should speak truth and call it love. No.

But always, grace, grace.

While my resolve is simple, yet difficult, I have goals. To write with grace and beauty. Frankly, the only way I know is to sit at His feet.

Be faithful to prayer and fasting.

I want to be found in His presence, to stand in His council. My good friend Susie pointed out this verse, Psalm 25:14.

The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him,
And He will make them know His covenant.
My eyes are continually toward the LORD

Goodbye 2007. You brought me good times and bad. Disappointment that stirred both anger and jealousy in my soul. But, in this I gained hope, grace, faith, the abililty to be abandoned.

I am a blank slate. Jesus, paint on my heart whatever You will. If this life is an intership for eternity, then so goes my reward.

Grace, grace.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A nod from Reviewers

A couple of book reviewers gave me a nod this week. Thank so much Michelle and Jana.

Michelle with EdgyInspirationalAuthor picked Diva NashVegas as one of her Top 2007 reads.

And Janna at Cornhuskeracademy picked Lambert's Code as one of her Life Changing reads of 2007. (Though the book was released in October 2005.)

Patricia Woodside over at Readin N Writin selected Geogia On Her Mind as one of her favorite 2007 reads.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007

Note to self: Update address book. Only two addys are valid.

I've resolved this year to send the annual Christmas letter. I'm always close to a deadline in December, thus frantic.

Besides, I blog all over kingdom come: web site, MySpace, Shoutlife, Xanga, Facebook and one new blog site I can't even remember so I feel like our life is "out there."

Tony guest blogs for me from time to time. He has great insights on life and faith.

Last summer, after twenty years of youth ministry, Tony handed off youth church to a younger man and is now focused on teaching, administration, house churches and a downtown outreach.

He picked one of the hardest areas in Melbourne - a drugs and guns type of community - to knocked on doors asking, "How can we pray for you?"

In the last year, the work has grown to a multi-level outreach with small home churches being formed.

I still lead worship on Sunday mornings and at Fire Dweller, and head up a Dream Team in a down town coffee shop. We put up a sign - Dreams - and wait for customers. It's free, fun and very successful.

The multi-church prayer ministry, Fire Dweller is going strong after five years with good changes coming in '08. While Tony is the leader, he is one of the best team players around.

My day job is writing fiction. I had four books released in 2006, one in 2007, and two more coming in '08. Look for Sweet Caroline in February and Love Starts With Elle in July from Thomas Nelson.

I love my job! If you want to know more or read excerpts visit the Books page.

In March we took the Fire Dweller band to Poughkeepsie for a prayer and worship conference. We had a blast.

In May, I flew to northern New Hampshire for a book signing.

In July, I attended a writer's retreat and retailer's convention followed by Fire Dwellers' summer conference, In The Fire.

September, baby bro Pete, Tony and I visited big bro Danny. Opening college football weekend. Fun! A few weeks later I went to writer's conference in Dallas.

In October, Tony and I took a few days in the South Carolina lowcountry - research for me, relaxing for him.

November I traveled to Nashville, meeting up with a friend for another friend's wedding. And got to hang out with my Thomas Nelson colleagues.

Tony flew up to meet me in Indy and we did a whirlwind family tour - his parents, Thanksgiving with my sister and her family, followed by a visit to my mom, grandma, Pete and his family in Knoxville.

We lost our loving dog Jack in '06, but Pal is thrilled to be an only dog-child. Red, our 15 yr-old cat still thinks he's a dog and does pretty much whatever he wants.

It is our prayer that God will do exceedingly above all that you ask or think in 2008.

With love, Tony and Rachel

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Get Up On Those Walls

Tony has a pre-Christmas game. A castle building, surf conquering theme where Tony gathers defenders for his domain.

The other night all I heard was, "Get up on those walls."

You know, such a saying gets to a person. "Get up on those walls."

For a day, I walked around, "Get up on those walls." (more like "Get up on those whoools.")

Archers then take their place on the castle walls to defend against the enemy.

God calls the same to us.

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen;
All day and all night they will never keep silent
You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves.
Isaiah 62:6

Are you in your place on the wall?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Drum roll, please... And the winners are...

Thanks so much to all who stopped by to read the Christmas memories of such wonderful authors. And, thanks to all who shared with us.

Be sure to stop by Tricia Goyer's place, and Camy Tang's as the interview tour continues!

I have a bunch of book drawings to do. Here are the winners:

Gail Martin's new release: WindyCity.

Diann Mill's book: ausjenny.

Kathryn Mackle's new release: Hannah, CherieJ and C. Gwynn.

Deb Raney's offering goes to Brittanie

And, for those who left a comment for a chance to win Cindy Woodsmall's book:
Rebornbutterfly and AudraElizabeth from Shoutlife.

Email me your snail mail addy's and I'll pass them to the authors.

Thanks everyone. Check back next week. It's back to my exciting and in-sightful blogs! ;)

Friday, December 14, 2007

The 12 Authors of Christmas Final Bonus, the lovely Tricia Goyer

Please welcome friend and author, Tricia Goyer. I've known Tricia for several years now and she is one person I always look forward to seeing at writer's conferences or retreats.

Her warm smile and love for others wins everyone over.

Welcome, Tricia.

Tell us about your first Christmas memory?

I remember being an angel in a Christmas pageant and my little brother was baby Jesus. I was four and he was four months old. I remember being very concerned when he started crying from his manger.

Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or, how you created new ones.

I remember after that going to my Grandma’s house for dinner. We always spent Christmas with her and my grandpa. All the aunts, uncles, and cousins would come together to celebrate. We'd have a big dinner, usually with homemade enchiladas or tamales. We'd have an adult's table and a kids' table. For most of my growing up years it was just me, my brother and my two cousins at the kids table.

Now that I have my own family, we still have a big gathering. My grandma lives with us, and we have three teenagers. We also invite over my husband's whole family and friends who don't have family nearby. Last year we had 35 people, and I expect the same this year.

(rh: Wow, sounds fun.)

When do you put up your tree? At my house, it goes up right after Thanksgiving. My husband works assembly and outside lights. I do the rest. Describe the decorating at your house.

I usually put it up after the kids keeping bugging me and bugging me. This year it was on December 2nd. We put it up Sunday after church.

(rh: Ah, my dad could relate to you. I bugged him until he put up the tree.)

My kids help decorate and the young woman I mentor and her family come over too. Her kids are 6, 3, and 1 … so there is a lot of commotion!

What is your favorite Christmas song or album? I grew up with a Johnny Mathis Christmas CD and it's still one of my favorites. My other is a copy of Mel Torme singing his "Christmas Song."

I love lots of different kinds of Christmas music. I love old songs that are sung by new artists with a new twist. This year I found a new cd called Unexpected Gifts, and I've listened to it at least 10 times every day.

It includes "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (Bethany Dillon); "Do You Hear What I Hear" (Nichole Nordeman); "O Little Town of Bethlehem" (Steven Curtis Chapman); and "Silent Night" (Sanctus Real).

(rh: Tricia confessed to me she didn't even know who Johnny Mathis is, but I'll forgive her. Young'un...)

Christmas morning, my parents didn't want us in the living room until the tree was plugged in. So, we'd wake up early, five a.m. or so, and bang on the floor to stir my parents awake. Relive your childhood Christmas mornings for us.

We'd usually get up, get dressed and head over to my grandparents' house where we'd all open presents together.

I think that as we got older my brother and I complained because around junior high we started opening them at our house. I don't remember getting up super-early, but I do remember the smells of Christmas dinner cooking while we open gifts.

Also, I loved it because everyone was together and focused on the celebration. In fact, those Christmas days are some of the few times I remember my parents playing games with us. That's why I'm big on family time and games on Christmas!

Seems to me snow and Christmas go together, but I’ve been a Florida girl for 33 years! Tell us about your Christmas setting?

I grew up in the mountains of Northern California. We had lots of snow. Lots!

I remember one Christmas Eve driving from my Grandparents house to our house. It was a blizzard and I didn't know how my dad could even see the road. I remember thinking that the snow hitting the window looked like the opening of the Star Wars movie when the stars were zooming lines in space.

It’s Christmas Eve, describe your day and evening.

We usually attend a Christmas Eve service and then spend time with friends. This year we're going to church and then we're having the families from our small group come over for snacks and a white elephant gift exchange. There are five families and between us we have twelve kids between 4-18. We’ll eat, open gifts, sing and play games.

Confession time. Shop on line or at the mall?

Half and half. This year my daughter and I are making blankets for my nieces and nephews, so we have fabric and stuff all over the house.

But most of the stuff - for my kids and husband - I buy on-line. It's too hard to shop and not have them with me. Every time I go out the kids say,
"Can I come?"

Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle and bustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?

Christmas is celebrating the birth of our Lord with friends and family. It's taking time to enjoy each other and spend time with those we love the most.

It's Christmas day, what's for dinner? Do you make cookies or other traditional foods?

I don't make many cookies . . . because I end up eating too many! Our Christmas dinner is similar to Thanksgiving.

We have potluck style and everyone brings something. Since it's usually at our house, I make a turkey, potatoes, and some type of dessert. There are usually 5-6 people scrambling around my kitchen and it's tons of fun.

Tell us about your favorite Christmas memory.

My favorite Christmas memory is when I was twelve. I received a cassette play with a microphone that could record. My Mom, Dad, brother and I sat around and made up stories and recorded them. I still have that tape somewhere.

What are you plans for this season?

The holiday season also means basketball season. In addition to all the holiday fun we travel every other weekend for games.

Since we live in rural Montana we often travel 4-5 hours for two or three basketball games. Of course, these are great memories too . . . dashing through Montana, talking in the car, replaying the game's highlights with our words.

Since my oldest son is a senior in high school thing years I’m enjoying every moment.

Any final thoughts on Christmas?

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

The official word on Tricia Goyer.

Tricia Goyer is the author of seven novels, six non-fiction books, and one children's book.

Tricia was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference "Writer of the Year" in 2003.

In 2005, her book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion. Also in 2005, her novel Night Song won ACFW's Book of the Year for Long Historical Romance.

In 2006, her novel Dawn of a Thousand Nights also won Book of the Year for Long Historical.

She’s written over 300 articles for national publications and hundreds of Bible Study notes for the Women of Faith Study Bible.

Tricia lives in Montana with her husband and three kids where she homeschools, leads children's church, and mentors teenage mothers.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The 12 Authors of Christmas Bonus - Gail Gaymer Martin

Please welcome friend and award winning author, Gail Martin.

I've known Gail for many years, and am honored to serve with her as an Advisor to American Christian Fiction Writers.

Welcome Gail!

Tell us about your first Christmas memory.

My most vivid first Christmas memory was when I was four. Because of Christmas, the physician allowed mom to give birth to my sister at home. She was born on December 23.

Remember, this was many years ago.
I was taken to my aunt's house to spend the night while my mom was in labor, and I recall being confused and wondering why I couldn't be home.

(rh: Gail, how special.)

The next day, Christmas Eve, my aunt took me home. The first thing I recall was the Christmas tree. In my childhood memory, it was in the middle of the living room.

Discussing this with my mom years later, she said my father had brought home a tree too big for our small living room and so to my young mind, it probably appeared to be in the middle of the room.

I remember the lights on the tree, and I remember standing beside it, and looking from there into my mom and dad's bedroom. I knew I had a brand new sister but I was very shy about meeting this interloper coming into our home.

(rh: When my sister came home from the hospital, I couldn't wait to see her. But I was ten.)

I was the first born until then and loved my only child status. My mom beckoned me forward, and finally, I tiptoed to the bedroom doorway, and out of the corner of my eye, I remember seeing a bassinet.
My mom opened her arms, and I moved forward.

The words that came out of my mouth were: "I love you."

I suppose I wanted to be reassured that she still loved me too. I recall thinking how tiny this new little sister was and acknowledged I would rather have had a doll. Today my sister and I are dear friends, and a doll would never have given me a lifetime of companionship and fun as she does.

(rh: Same here.)

Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or how you created new ones.

I suppose my family was very typical of most, but we did have some traditions special to us.

We opened our family gifts on Christmas Eve early evening - all except what Santa brought in the morning. Then, our whole family - meaning aunts, uncles and cousins - would visit my mother's oldest sister who lived in the area.

There we received token gifts and visited with family and even some friends who dropped by. About 11 PM, we headed for our midnight church service.

We had to leave earlier when I was old enough to sing in the adult choir. When we arrived home, we hung our stockings, and in the morning before church, we opened our stockings.

I remember then we received little gifts like fruits, nuts, candy, and perhaps some small gifts like school pencils or barrettes. Today, I think, kids expect iPods in their stocking because they're small.

(rh: LOL, probably. Nanopods are even smaller!)

We always had dinner with our extended family, and most of the time, it was at the same aunt's home that we visited on Christmas Eve. I do recall a few Christmas dinners at our house.

I remember being allowed to drink wine with our dinner even as a child. I assume that was a German custom. It usually gave me a headache. Still to this day, we have dinner with siblings and their families, but the Christmas Eve gift opening stopped being Christmas Eve.

With marriage comes another family who wants time with their sons and daughters and grandchildren too, so Christmas Day is also our gift opening time - mainly for the children.

We began another tradition. When we're together, we break up into groups of eleven and sing The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Everyone sings On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree, and then the other eleven groups sing the other verses. Usually my brother demands the Five golden rings verse. He thinks he's king.

When do you put up your tree?

This varies depending on our social schedule and on outside deadlines and pressures. Usually I want it up before the middle of December, and my husband believes in keeping the tree up until Epiphany which is January 6.

(rh: What a beautiful scene, Gail!)

Since our tree is up a long time, two years ago, I gave in and bought an artificial tree with lights (love that part) but it was something I said I would never do.

We actually have two Christmas trees. One's smaller that goes in our sitting room on the second floor. This is where our TV is located plus this computer that's on-line. We spend much time in this room so it needed it's own little slim-line tree.

Bob does the outside lights and decorations with a tiny bit of help from me. Along with white lights, we have a Rudolph character made from logs and twigs and a red bulb for a nose.

Our house has large French-pane windows, and I have candles in each window too and a wreath on the front door and a huge one on the attached garage. Inside, I'm it as far as decorating, except Bob helps get the tree up and helps with the lights and garland which for me is beads.

I treasure my ornaments and have a collection of old ones given to me by special people in my life but also ones that we've collected on vacations.

So many of the ornaments take me back to a warm and fun trip we took in the US and all over the world. I decorate my staircase with draped greens and red bows, and my mantel has greenery with miniature white lights, two candles, and a collection of angels - some are mine and some were my mom's.

I love my angels collection. We have a fiber optic tree for the bay window in our sun room, too, and often I hang greenery around an large archway and decorate that with ornaments or most often its draped with gold and burgundy ribbons and burgundy poinsettias.

What is your favorite Christmas song or album?

Oh my. A lover of music, it's so difficult to name one thing. I have a CD that I play every year which I purchased in Germany and it's a boys choir in the Alps singing German carols.

(rh: Gail has a beautiful voice, y'all!)

I also have a CD of a harpist playing Christmas music which is very lovely. I have another CD that's a blend of all the old Christmas favorites by the artists who made the music famous so it includes Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby and so many others.

Another favorite is Mannheim Steamrollers Christmas CDs. If I were to select a favorite Christmas hymn other than Silent Night, it would probably be Whence Comes This Rush of Wings or What Child Is This.

Relive your Christmas morning.

As children, we couldn't wait to see what Santa brought. We would dart out when we woke up. If our parents weren't awake, they were when we let out our yells.

There bedroom was off the living room area. When we had Christmas Day services at church, we were shuffled quickly from our gifts to get ready to go to church. I love Christmas morning because Bob and I still give each other stocking gifts and they're so fun to see how creative we can be.

(rh: I think I should revisit this stocking idea...)

Tell us About Your Christmas Setting.

Michigan. Usually snow, blustery and cold. If no snow, it's still cold. I do love snow for Christmas and then send me Hawaiian weather. We're in the Detroit area but our little town has the feeling of distance. Our street is dirt with many evergreens, and all houses are different and have their own angles so it’s a pretty sight.

Christmas Eve - describe the day and evening.

Christmas Eve day is usually preparing food for Christmas dinner that can be prepared ahead of time.

As I mentioned, we eat as a family with our siblings on Christmas Day. The hosts prepare the meat, potatoes and gravy, but everyone else brings contributions to the meal - salads, veggies, desserts and appetizers.

Bob and I open our gifts on Christmas Eve usually, but this year we will attend both worship services because of handbells, handchimes, and choir so Christmas Eve is a bevy of confusion.

We have a 6 PM and an 11 PM service. Sometimes we've been invited to someone's home from the choir or musical groups for treats and wait for the next service. So we never know.

Confession time. Shop on line or at the mall?

I proudly say I avoid malls at all cost. I'm definitely an on line shopper but I also do something else. Since we're blessed to do a lot of traveling and usually out of the country a couple times of the year, I buy gifts as they strike me for my husband and family. I tuck them away in two storage areas I have for that purpose and "voila" I'm ready for Christmas.

(rh: Nice idea to look for gifts all year.)

Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle and bustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?

Christmas has always been Jesus birthday to me. It's a time of music and praise and a time to be with loved ones - family and friends. It's always been that way and always will.

Since my teen years, giving has always been more fun than receiving. I love participating in the Giving Tree at our church where we purchase gifts for strangers who have so little and for woman and their families at Haven which is a women's shelter.

This is what gives me joy. Bob and I support a Haitian child through Compassion and I love sending as much as they allow (which isn't much) to help this child have a special day.

Loving and giving is Christmas, when God gave us the greatest Gift possible, our Savior and Lord, born in a manger to save us from our sins.

Christmas Day – what's for dinner?

What's Christmas dinner without turkey, but we often have a second meat. Bob loves to make pork tenderloin. Some make a ham.

Others a pork roast. Stuffing is important and we sometimes have two - traditional bread stuffing and the other is rice stuffing. Bob sometimes makes his grandmother's nut strudel, and we usually make Itallian pizzelles.

(rh: Sounds lovely!)

I bake a variety of cookies but two that I love are thumb-print cookies which I've already made for this year and a nut roll up that is so fattening you’d gain 10 lbs just smelling them. They're made with butter, eggs and flour with a nut filling.

Favorite Christmas memory?

Having a home of my own big enough to host the family dinner is one that I recall. Another is when my sister's husband was in the military and came home, surprising everyone on Christmas Eve.

(rh: What a powerful time. Those are moments of great Christmases.)

What are your plans for the season?

This year we will eat at my sister's home. I am the Easter dinner person for this round of holidays.

My brother and wife had Thanksgiving. Good thing we didn't have four siblings. One would be left out of a holiday dinner unless we added the Fourth of July. We have gifts for the children - but I often have a token gift for others.

This year it will be my newest book, And Baby Makes Five and also some candy we brought back from our trip to Greece and Turkey in September.

It's called Turkish Delight. By the way, I have gifts put away from that trip for my siblings birthdays. We still exchanges gifts for birthdays.

Final thoughts
Since the Christmas message is "Peace on Earth," I wish everyone blessings and peace. May we all pray that wars will cease and loved ones can return home from war, that the jobless find jobs, the homeless obtain homes, and the hungry have food.

When I look at my wonderful life filled with so many blessings, I can weep for those who struggle to find one iota of comfort and peace. Lord, grant us all your blessings.

The official work on Gail
Gaymer Martin.

Multi-award-winning author, Gail Gaymer Martin, writes for Steeple Hill, Barbour Publishing, and Writers Digest.

Gail has signed forty fiction contracts and has over 1 million books in print. She is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers and a keynote speaker and workshop presenter at conference across the U.S.

She has a Masters degree and post-master's classes from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

Look for her book, Writing the Christian Romance from Writers Digest released at the end of December 2007. Visit her website at and her blog site on Writing Fiction Right at

Thanks Gail for coming by! What great memories.

Gail is giving away a free copy of her book, "Family In His Heart" January 2008. Leave a comment to be eligible for a drawing!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The 12 Authors of Christmas - Linda Hall

Welcome friend and author, Linda Hall, from the Great White North, our Canadian neighbor!

Thanks for stopping by, Linda.

Tell us about your first Christmas memory?

In my growing up house, the Christmas tree wasn't put up and decorated until after we kids had gone to bed on Christmas Eve.

(rh: My dad grew up with the same tradition.)

But some time during that long night, my brother and I would sneak downstairs to catch a glimpse of the unlit tree. I can still remember what it looked like there, in the halflight of morning with all the presents underneath it. It was splendid and the excitement was more than we could contain.

(rh: The thrilling magic of Christmas for children!)

But, I'm a crybaby. When I was a kid, my parents would pay me a nickel if I could get through the day without crying. I still cry a lot, and just about anything can bring me to tears; a sunset, a beautiful worship song, even the national anthem.

One of the things I remember most about Christmas day is going up to my room in the afternoon and having a good hard cry because it was all over. My mother would have to soothe me and tell me that there were still lots of good things to look forward to. I did it every year.

(rh: I didn't cry, but I can relate to the feeling. Linda, what a wonderful gift. Tears. God's smiling!)

I've learned now, that as a novelist, those tears are a gift. God made me the way I am - perfectly suited to write novels because novels deal with emotions.

Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or, how you created new ones.

In my childhood home, we kids were allowed to open our stockings first thing in the morning, but all the rest of the gifts? We had to wait until after breakfast.

My grandmother always took such an agonizingly long time with her breakfast and fussing with her coffee!

The stocking tradition is one my husband and I kept for our own family. Stockings come first, then a nice breakfast, then the gifts under the tree.

As well, in my husband's home, his father read the Christmas story from the Bible before any gifts were opened.

We did that when our children were at home. Also, to keep it from becoming a free for all under the tree, the youngest member of the family hands out the gifts and we open them one at a time.

(rh: Lovely traditions. I like them.)

When do you put up your tree? At my house, it goes up right after Thanksgiving. My husband works assembly and outside lights. I do the rest. Describe the decorating at your house.

One of the traditions we didn't carry into my grown up house was decorating the tree on Christmas Eve after our kids went to bed.

I decided I wanted a tree up way before that! Because for the last fifteen years we have traveled to visit family on Christmas, we have only put up a small artificial one about three weeks before Christmas.

This year will be the first time in a long time we'll be here for Christmas. We've got a big real tree laden with decorations I haven't taken out of the boxes for many years. I love the smell of a real fir tree.

What is your favorite Christmas song or album? I grew up with a Johnny Mathis Christmas CD and it's still one of my favorites. My other is a copy of Mel Torme singing his "Christmas Song."

Around ten years ago I bought a Christmas CD called "An East Coast Christmas," and I've practically worn it out. It was independently produced and so I can't find it on Amazon, but it's simply wonderful.

I also have a Rita MacNeil Christmas CD that I enjoy as well. As you can tell, I love music with a folky sort of feel. I also enjoy Bruce Cockburn's Christmas CD.

I've sung in choirs all of my life, as well. (Writing is my vocation but music is my eternal avocation) and so of course, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without practicing long hours for Christmas concerts, cantatas and caroling.

I love the music of Christmas, and on my iTunes, I've made up a playlist of my favorite Christmas carols.

(rh: I have a Christmas playlist, too.)

Christmas morning, my parents didn't want us in the living room until the tree was plugged in. So, we'd wake up early, five a.m. or so, and bang on the floor to stir my parents awake. Relive your childhood Christmas mornings for us.

Sometime around 5 in the morning or earlier, my brother would come into my room whispering that the tree was up! He'd even been down to see it!

But he didn't have to wake me up, I was usually too exited to sleep. We'd tiptoe down the stairs and stare at the tree, our first glimpse. Then we'd sit beside it and look at the presents.

If our parents didn't intervene, we might stay there until morning, or until we thought it was safe enough to open our stockings.

Seems to me snow and Christmas go together, but I've been a Florida girl for 33 years! Tell us about your Christmas setting?

I live in Canada. We usually have snow on the ground for Christmas, but it's nice when it's actually snowing on Christmas day. I'm very happy in a place where winter is really winter. I like the four seasons. Sun reflecting off the snow on the ground brings such a lightness into the home.

It's Christmas Eve, describe your day and evening.

The day is usually spent shopping for last minute gifts and stocking stuffers, wrapping presents and making the dressing for the turkey.

In the evening is the Christmas Eve service, then home to eggnog and Christmas goodies.

(rh: Yum!)

Confession time. Shop on line or at the mall?

I'm going to go against the trend here and say that I would really feel bereft if I didn't get to the mall at Christmas.

I like the decorations and the hustle and bustle. I'm married to a man who loves to shop. I know that's unusual for a guy, so I think I'm pretty fortunate!

(rh: Wow, where'd you find him? ;) I do like one day at the mall during Christmas, just for the "shopping fellowship.")

My back doesn't allow me to shop for long time periods however, so all that means is frequent stops for eggnog lattes.

Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle and bustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?

It's a time for family. It's a time when for one day, everything stops and we can be with each other. It's also a time when we can think and reflect on the greatest gift - Jesus. It's a time to reflect on that mystery.

It's Christmas day, what's for dinner? Do you make cookies or other traditional foods?

Turkey with all the trimmings, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and decorated Christmas cookies.

For many years I made traditional Christmas pudding and fruitcake, but I haven't for a while. Those are nice traditions, but fussy and a bit expensive to make.

The one thing I do make is this most wonderful shortbread in the world. It's my mother-in-law’s recipe from England and it's really melt-in-your-mouth sinfully good stuff.

Of course, anything made with pure butter and icing sugar has to be good.

(rh: Well, of course!)

Tell us about your favorite Christmas memory.

It was around 35 years ago. My husband and I were newly married and living far away from either of our families.

We had no children yet and it was our first Christmas alone. We got up, opened our few gifts by ourselves and then went up to the ski hill.

I still remember what my husband bought for me that year - a locally made pottery creamer and sugar which I still use.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day on the ski hill, sunny and the snow was perfect. Also, being Christmas, the hill wasn't very crowded, and everyone up there was in such a festive mood. In the evening we went to a friend's house for dinner.

(rh: Lovely memory!)

What are you plans for this season?

My two little grandsons will be here! Can you tell I'm excited? They are four and two and I know will add a kid-dimension to our Christmas. We're going to decorate gingerbread houses and make more cookies. They're bringing their ice-skates, so hopefully we’ll get some ice-skating in, too.

Also, we'll be sharing our Christmas dinner with a couple of international students who are here at the university with no place to go. It will be crowded and noisy and fun.

Any final thoughts on Christmas?

Enjoy it. Take it easy. And if you go to the mall, get in with the flow, don't be in a hurry. Look at the faces of the people, enjoy the lights and decorations and bring along some reading material for when you have to wait in line. Those Steeple Hill romances are just perfect for that. They barely take up any room in your purse. Hint. Hint!

(rh: Great advice.)

The official word on Linda Hall

Linda Hall is the award winning author of fifteen novels, seven nonfiction books and a number of short stories. She has received the Canadian Word Guild Award five times, has been short listed twice for a Christy and once for a Daphne Award. She has also been awarded the Beacon Award, the Winter Rose Award, and the Award of Excellence.

Her newest romantic suspense, Shadows in the Mirror is the first book in her Steeple Hill 'shadows' trilogy. All three of her shadows books feature women who must come to grips with their pasts before they can move ahead in the present.

Linda also loves writing short stories, and her newest story, The Mad Scientist will be featured in an anthology of Canadian women crime writers to be released in 2008.

She and her husband have two children and three grandchildren. When she's not writing, she and her husband enjoy sailing. Both she and her husband have achieved the highest level in the Canadian Power Squadron, that of Senior Navigator. She invites readers to her website:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The 12 Authors of Christmas - Marlo Schalesky

Please welcome author and friend, Marlo Schalesky. I know Marlo mostly via email, but looking forward to meeting her in person one day soon.

Tell us about your first Christmas memory?

I must have been about four years old. I remember running into the family room and seeing the presents under the tree. Later I unwrapped one for me – a black stuffed poodle that actually barked. It was wonderful. I had never seen anything so magnificent in all my life.

Of course, I don't have that poodle anymore. I don't even like poodles so much (being more of a boxer person ;-)), but I'll never forget that little black dog that barked.

(rh: Still, a great memory!)

Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or, how you created new ones.

My favorite Christmas memories (and tradition) from when I was a kid, is of getting up before dawn on Christmas morning, running to fireplace with my brother, getting all the stockings, and racing back to my parents' bed.

My mom was always awake and excited. My dad pretended to be sleepy and complained. Then, with lots of giggling and the thrill of anticipation, we'd pull out the gifts from our stockings one by one.

They were simple things, boring really - M&M's, a toothbrush, some silly plastic toy. Things that would be used up or forgotten in just a few short days. And yet, there was something special about being together, being happy, laughing, that makes those times such neat memories for me.

So, now of course, with kids of my own, stockings are a big deal. We open them first thing on Christmas morning, on our bed. And it's still just as fun as it used to be, even though I'm all grown up!

(rh: A lovely tradition and memory.)

When do you put up your tree? At my house, it goes up right after Thanksgiving. My husband works assembly and outside lights. I do the rest.

When I was growing up, a fun tradition was putting together the artificial tree together. But when I got married, my husband's tradition was going out to cut down a fresh tree from a Christmas tree farm the day after Thanksgiving.

We've been married for 19 years. And for 19 years we've cut down a tree after Thanksgiving, cleaned it, put it up, and spent the remaining weeks trying to keep it watered and cleaning up needles from the floor (oh, that was tons of fun last year when the twins were one and crawling around!)

But this year, something amazing happened. My hubby said on Thanksgiving day, "Maybe we should get a fake tree this year. They've got some really nice looking ones at Costco."

After picking my jaw up off the floor, I smiled and said, "Great idea. Maybe we should." And we did - the 9 ft. one with matching garland for our log staircase and rails. No watering. No needles. I am a happy woman. And it looks fantastic.

I also bought a pine-scented candle so the house smells like pine tree. The best of all worlds. Yay!

(rh: Great story, Marlo. We finally went "fake" a few years ago, too. Stringing lights got to me. I said, "Forget it, let's get a tree with lights already on it!" Plus, the expense of a real tree just didn't seem worth it.)

Describe the decorating at your house.

"No, no! Put it ON the tree. ON the tree. That's not for your mouth. Put it back. Don't hit your sister over the head with that. Ahhhh! That one's breakable. Give it to me. No, no, don't throw it. That's it. Here, this nice soft one is for you. No, not to eat … ON the tree."

(rh: ROFLOL!)

Explanation: Two-year-old twins, along with 2 older sisters, ages 4 and 7.

Decorating pretty much consists of putting all breakable ornaments way up high on the tree, and redecorating the bottom third with the "safe" ornaments about every half hour, as they remove them and hide them in odd places.

As for other decorations - nativities, little trees, old fashioned santas - all breakable ones on the mantle or the high shelf in the kitchen. Stuffed snowmen, dogs, etc., down to play with.

Also, a big hit is the Little People Nativity in a Christmas basket. Basket comes out every morning for play, back away every evening for a little bit of order for Mommy's sanity.

What is your favorite Christmas song or album? I grew up with a Johnny Mathis Christmas CD and it's still one of my favorites. My other is a copy of Mel Torme singing his "Christmas Song."

I love "We Will Find Him" on Michael Card's CD "The Promise: A Celebration of Christ's Birth (1991)".

But then, I'm a big Michael Card fan in general. Other than that, I love to hear Nat King Cole sing the old favorites like "O Come All Ye Faithful" (my favorite Christmas hymn), "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and "O Holy Night."

Seems to me snow and Christmas go together, but I've been a Florida girl for 33 years! Tell us about your Christmas setting?

Mid-California. No snow. Only fog. Lots of fog.

It's Christmas Eve, describe your day and evening.

Usually, we'd get together with my husband's family - parents, brothers, their wives, exchange gifts, eat soup (it's always soup!), and enjoy.

This year will be different, but just as fun. It'll just be us - Bryan and I and our four girls. We'll get to go our church's Christmas eve service, then come home for hot cocoa, cookies, and the opening of one gift (just one!)

I'm really looking forward to it!

(rh: The first Christmas Hubby and I stayed home without family felt strange in thought, but we really had a nice day!)

Confession time. Shop on line or at the mall?

Three words: Four. Little. Girls. And I've mentioned their ages already. So, as you can imagine, a trip to the mall spells n-i-g-h-t-m-a-r-e.

I shop online as much as possible, or even better, have my hubby shop on line.

Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle and bustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?

Oh, I love Christmas! It's the most wonderful birthday party of all! The birthday of God incarnate, when the infinite God of the universe was born as a tiny baby in a stable. Wow! So, I love Santa Claus, because at Jesus' birthday we ought to have the best birthday clown ever.

(rh: ROFLOL! What a great observation!)

And who's better than a jolly guy in a red suit? I love the decorations, because Jesus's birthday party ought to have the most fantastic, sparkling, beautiful decorations of all.

I love the gift-giving, because what better way to celebrate the greatest gift of all than to be generous with others? I love the warmth, the laughter, the way people are kinder to others, give more, and get together to enjoy the season.

That's just "right" for a celebration of Jesus. So, to me, Christmas means that God loves me, loves us all, enough to do the crazy-impossible - to become one of us, to be born a baby, and to someday die on a cross and raise from the dead - all so we can be with him, forever.

So, that's Christmas to me - a celebration of the incredible love of a wondrous, vivid, breath-taking God.

It's Christmas day, what's for dinner? Do you make cookies or other traditional foods?

The most important thing, of course, is the Christmas sugar cookies. That's the big tradition at our house. Every year, all of us (yes, even the littlest ones), make and decorate Christmas cookies, from scratch.

(rh: My mom had a great sugar cookie recipe, too.)

We have cookies cutters in the shape of trees and fat Santas, stars and crosses, bells and gingermen. It's so fun to see the kids, their tongues sticking from the sides of their mouths as they work on frosting Santa's tummy.

Other than that, we like ham, bread, glorified rice (Bryan's mom makes that), corn and more cookies.

What are you plans for this season?

Ah, a simple Christmas this year, of enjoying the family, singing Christmas carols, having fun, and working on a big, fat marketing questionnaire that my editor just sent me for my next book. Hmmm, something here doesn't sound very Christmas-y. Let's go back to the cookies.

Any final thoughts on Christmas?

This year, I find I'm thinking a lot about the memories I'm making now - for my kids, for my hubby, for me. And I'm thinkin' that I don't want those memories to be ones of a Mom who's running around with too much to do and too little time to do it.

I don't want them to be of hustle, bustle, shopping, wrapping, cooking, cards, and gifts thrown under the tree. I don't even want them to be of the cool stable-and-horse set that my girls will unwrap on Christmas morning. Or the cheap kid's guitar for my oldest, or the new "ooo-ahh" (stuffed gorilla) for one of the twins.

'Cause toys break, get old, get lost, or they outgrow them. But they don't outgrow the happy memories of family times together. The memories of decorating Christmas cookies with laughter and joking - those don't get old.

The times we make a gingerbread house together, or sit down and watch the Grinch - those don't break. The simple things make the best memories. Times when we're together as a family, having fun, enjoying the traditions we're building together.

So, that's my goal this Christmas, to weave memories of peace, love, togetherness, because that's the best gift I can think of to celebrate Jesus's birth - Memories that bring a smile to the face of children and to the face of the King.

(rh: Great thoughts, Marlo. You are so right!)

The official world on
Marlo Schalesky

She is the award winning author of six books, including her upcoming novel BEYOND THE NIGHT, which will release in May of 2007. BEYOND THE NIGHT is the first of Marlo's "Love Stories With a Twist" - poignant love stories with I-never-saw-it-coming ending twist.

Her novel released in 2007 was VEIL OF FIRE, a historical mystery which explored the great Minnesota firestorm of 1894 and the figure who appeared in the hills afterward.

Marlo has also had over 500 articles published in various magazines, had her work included in compilations such as Dr. Dobson's Night Light Devotional for Couples, and is a regular columnist for Power for Living.

Marlo recently earned her Masters degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently working on three contemporary novels for Multnomah-Waterbrook Publishers, a division of Random House.

She lives in Salinas, California with her husband and four daughters.

(rh: Marlo, thanks for a fun interview. Everyone, remember to stop by Tricia Goyer's site later this week for more author interviews, and Camy Tang, who's hosting a tour as I write! Blessings!)

Monday, December 10, 2007

The 12 Authors of Christmas - Donita Paul

Please welcome author and friend, one time mentor, Donita Paul. I met Donita in a critique group years ago and she was a great help to me. In fact, she critiqued my first published book, "Lambert's Pride."

Welcome, Donita.

Tell us about your first Christmas memory?

I had three brothers older and wiser than me. In our house, we were allowed to open one present Christmas Eve and we'd spend weeks deciding which would be the one to open.

I had zeroed in on a box that rattled deliciously. My brothers, of course, had guessed it was a puzzle, and kept enticing me with other gifts. I don't know why they didn't want to open the puzzle, but I was stubborn and opened it.

Then we got out the cardboard table, and sorted pieces. I was happy, and my big brothers soon fell into the spirit. We had the border done and one huge chunk before we went to bed that night.

(rh: Those are the best times!)

Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or, how you created new ones.

We were allowed to go in the family room and get our stockings before mom and dad got up. Then we carried them up the stairs to their bedroom and unpacked them while our parents laughed and carried on about the presents from Santa we revealed

When do you put up your tree?

We put up our tree the day after Thanksgiving as many people do and take it down on New Year's Day. When I was little we hung those wonderful, crinkled tinsel on each branch. It was heavy and hung just right. They don't even make that type anymore. Now, I just watch my daughter and her husband and the grandsons decorate. My job is to unwrap the ornaments. It is a very cushy job.

(rh: Sounds good to me.)

What is your favorite Christmas song or album?

Every year one of the local tire stores had a Christmas album on sale. I believe it was the Firestone Store. We would go get one and wear it out.

I can still sing the Steve Lawrence rendition of The Night before Christmas.
I wrote a very simple Christmas program for the church where I was Children's education director. I happened to find a copy this year. Tears came to my eyes as I remembered the young people doing their parts.

(rh: Something about Christmas time and music touches the soul.)

Tell us about your Christmas setting?

We live in Colorado but that doesn't guarantee a white Christmas. We moved into a new neighborhood this summer. Here they do a lot of decorating, and it is fun to come home and see the lights. We've had snow and the displays are even prettier with a white background.

Shop on line or at the mall?


Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle and bustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?

Jesus, family, generosity.

It's Christmas day, what's for dinner? Do you make cookies or other traditional foods?

We have turkey, bread/sausage/sage dressing, cranberries, pumpkin pie. Sounds just like Thanksgiving, doesn't it?

We make Gingerbread men. Here is the recipe: (yum!)

Gingerbread Men

3/4 cup melted butter

1 cup molasses
1/2 cup honey

1 cup buttermilk

6 1/2 cups sifted, unbleached flour (can use half whole wheat)

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsps. ginger

4 tsps. baking powder

3/4 tsps. baking soda

2 Tbsp. orange extract

Mix melted butter, molasses, and honey until smooth. Add buttermilk and orange extract, then flour sifted with salt, ginger, baking powder and soda. Mix to a smooth, stiff dough. (In the end, you will be kneading with your hands.) Roll out on lightly floured surface to 1/3 inch thickness. Cut into shapes. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 -10 minutes. Cool on racks.

(rh: Oh, this sounds so good!)

Here's one of those Christmas question lists that go around the internet:

Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both

Real tree or artificial? Artificial

Do you like eggnog?

Favorite gift received as a child?
A miniature Grandfather's clock

Do you have a nativity scene?

Hardest person to buy for?
My daughter-in-law

Easiest person to buy for?
My grandsons, they want everything and enjoy everything.

Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
A box of candy designed to curb your appetite. (rh:
LOL. Who gave you that?)

Mail or email Christmas cards?

Favorite Christmas Movie?
Miracle on 24th Street

When do you start shopping for Christmas?
At the after-Christmas sales

Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Hmmm? Well, . . . Yes.

Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Gingerbread cookies and pumpkin pie

Clear lights or colored on the tree?

Favorite Christmas song?
Serious: Oh, come, oh come Immanuel; Stirring: Joy to the World;
Fun to Listen to: Carol of the Bells; Most meaningful personally: I Heard the Bells on Christmas day; Children's: Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

Travel for Christmas or stay at home?

Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Commercialism. In fact here is a song from the play I spoke of earlier -
Sung to We wish you a merry Christmas:
We wish you a lot of money. We wish you a lot of money.
We wish you a lot of money to spend in our stores.

What I love most about Christmas?

Spending time with family, drawing closer to God, remembering Christ's humble entrance into our lives, picking out just the right present to please someone I love.

Merry Christmas!!!!

The Official Word on Donita Paul

Donita K. Paul enjoys writing, but she enjoys her readers more. Her web site is place where she can interact with readers, young and old.

Mrs. Paul is a retired teacher but still spends a great deal of time with young people. Although she lives in the shadow of Pikes Peak, she does no mountain-climbing, preferring more sedate hobbies such as knitting and stamping. She prefers to make things she can give away.

Still surprised by the popularity of the Dragon Keeper Chronicles, she is writing on three projects: dragon readers for emergent readers, picture books about a dragon and his best friend, a turtle, and the next novel about Amara.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The ninth 12th Author of Christmas - Jill Nelson

Hi everyone! Please welcome my friend and fabo author, Jill Nelson. She writes intrigue-adventure-romance stories that spark the reader's faith.

I'm honored to have her stop by the Christmas tour!

Let's read about Jill's Christmas memories.

Tell us about your first Christmas memory?

This isn't my earliest memory, but it was something I was reminiscing about just the other day. I was in grade school at the time. My father was the pastor of our church and was working on the Christmas program. I found a poem I liked in a book and suggested someone read it for the program. He smiled and assigned that task to me - and I had to memorize it, too.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: When you make a suggestion, be prepared to carry it out yourself! It's also a treasured memory since my father passed away suddenly when I was 18.

(rh: Jill, I'm sorry to hear your Dad died so young. But what a great memory to have of him.)

Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or, how you created new ones.

We open our presents on Christmas morning, not Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is set aside for attending candlelight church service. Always a beautiful, blessed time!

When do you put up your tree? At my house, it goes up right after Thanksgiving. My husband works assembly and outside lights. I do the rest. Describe the decorating at your house.

The tree goes up the first weekend after Thanksgiving. I don't do ANY Christmas decorating until after our family has given proper thanks on the special day set aside nationally for that purpose. Besides, I love the fall decorations. Why would I want to switch them out before winter even hits?

What is your favorite Christmas song or album? I grew up with a Johnny Mathis Christmas CD and it's still one of my favorites. My other is a copy of Mel Torme singing his "Christmas Song."

We wouldn't miss our town's local Country Christmas production. It's amazing how much musical talent is contained in our rural area. The annual event really gets us in the Christmas spirit. Tryouts for the production take place in the summer, they practice intensely starting in the early fall, and then put on a quality show I'd stack up against big city troupes any day!

(rh: What a great tradition.)

Christmas morning, my parents didn't want us in the living room until the tree was plugged in. So, we'd wake up early, five a.m. or so, and bang on the floor to stir my parents awake. Relive your childhood Christmas mornings for us.

Early was the name of the game. Sometimes when we showed up in their bedroom at 4 a.m., our groaning parents sent us back to the sack. My sisters and I shuffled off reluctantly for another sleepless hour or two, but we knew better than to sneak into the living room until everyone was up and at 'em.

When we finally got the go ahead, the dash was on. After checking out the Jolly Old Elf contributions, we opened up our presents that were under the tree for each other.

We always took turns opening from youngest to oldest so everyone got to see everyone else's blessings. Lots of oohing and aahing.

The first time my husband attended one of my family's Christmas celebrations, he was amazed at this practice. No one paid attention to anyone else's gifts at his house. They all ripped stuff open simultaneously and basically went and put them away at the first opportunity. At first, he thought my family's way was weird, but he likes it now.

Seems to me snow and Christmas go together, but I've been a Florida girl for 33 years! Tell us about your Christmas setting?

In Minnesota, we usually have snow, but there have been a few "black" Christmases. No, I don't mean depressing; I'm just saying the opposite of white. We can't call it "green," because no snow in winter here means a barren landscape - lots of black dirt in the fields, dark tree limbs stark against the sky. It's actually a rather striking tableau.

It's Christmas Eve, describe your day and evening.

Busy, busy, busy in the morning and afternoon with cleaning house, meal preparations for the next day, wrapping last minute gifts, and - um - nibbling Christmas baking. Late afternoon is the candlelight service. Then we come home to a supper of oyster stew and hot dogs. (Gotta go with simple after all the other work.) Then we read the Christmas story from the Bible and take communion before bed.

Confession time. Shop on line or at the mall?

Some of each. But I definitely do NOT shop the day after Thanksgiving. My husband and I tried that misadventure once with my brother's family when we had just celebrated Thanksgiving in Minneapolis at my sister's place.

We arrived at a Walmart at around 4:30 a.m. for the 5:00 a.m. opening and had to park at least a block away. We stood in line a good football field distant from the doors.

As soon as the holy portals were unlocked, machine gun fire went off. I nearly hit the deck . . . until I realized it was only the people in nearby cars leaping out and slamming their doors. Of course, they all bucked ahead in line.

When we finally surged into the building, thoroughly chilled from the freezing weather outside, we could hardly move for wall-to-wall people. Doug and I ended up finding a bench out of the way and just watching folks battle for whatever treasures they came for. Never again!

(rh: I've never braved the day-after. Probably never will. ;)

Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle and bustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?

A celebration of the greatest gift of all - Immanuel! God with us! The very concept is awesome beyond belief. That God, the eternal, almighty Creator would take on a flesh and blood body and go through the whole messy birth process to not only live among us, but die with the full burden of our sin upon Him! No wonder fallen humanity has trouble getting their heads around this concept and opening up their hearts to His love.

(rh: Amen. He does love us so very much.)

It's Christmas day, what's for dinner? Do you make cookies or other traditional foods?

When I was a child, my favorite was my mom's gingerbread men. She made one special for each of us with our names on them in frosting.

Now when we happen to be at my mom's for Christmas day, I adore her anise cookies. The meal is pretty traditional with ham and meatballs and green bean casserole. Oh, and the hors d'oeuvres! Pigs in blankets, mini-pizzas, chips and dip, cheese and crackers. Love! Love! Love! (Can you tell I sorta like the holiday feasting?)

(rh: Yum. What time shall I be there?)

Tell us about your favorite Christmas memory.

When I was a kid, I had the brainstorm to play Santa for my parents. I bought little things on the sly, sewed them stockings out of felt, and then filled them on Christmas night.

My folks were very surprised when I dragged them into the toy room and showed them what Santa brought. Well, they acted surprised anyway. I got such joy in pulling off my little stunt.

(rh: What a great idea. How sweet, Jill!)

What are you plans for this season?

Christmas Day will be our immediate family. Our four kids plan to be at our house, plus one spouse and a serious boyfriend.

We'll open gifts, eat yummy stuff, play board games, or lie around watching movies. Oh, and laugh a lot. To me, that's about as perfect as a day gets. Extended family celebrations will occur the weekends before and after Christmas. Those will be way more hectic.

Any final thoughts on Christmas?

Whatever you need to do in order to pull it off, if at all possible, be together with someone you love. Share your adoration of the Christ child and laugh as much as possible. Joy to the world!

The Official Word on Jill Nelson.

Jill Elizabeth Nelson writes what she likes to read - tales of adventure, intrigue, and romance laced with soul-stirring faith. "Reluctant Burglar" and "Reluctant Runaway," the first two installments of her "To Catch A Thief" series, are on bookstore shelves now.

"Reluctant Smuggler," book three, releases on January 15 to acclaim from the
Library Journal and Romantic Times magazine.

Jill and her husband Doug live in rural
Minnesota, with their four grown children also living in the area. No grandchildren yet, but they are blessed with a wide variety of "granddogs," as their kids tell them. To find out more about Jill and her books, and to play a fun art matching game for a chance to win an autographed book, drop by her web site.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Continuing The 12 Authors of Christmas with DiAnn Mills!

Please welcome my friend, author and special encourager, DiAnn Mills.

I met DiAnn in '97 at Write-To-Publish. She was pre-pubbed but about to sell her first Heartsong Presents. We hit it off and spent every evening (or was it morning) walking the track at Wheaton for exercise and conversation.

DiAnn has been a huge encouragement to me. I joined American Christian Ficiton Writers because of her and the rest as they say, is history.

Tell us about your first Christmas memory?

I know this sounds crazy, but I remember seeing Santa ride across the sky. Ok, let me back up. I was three-years-old. My parents kept a glass of orange juice in the refrigerator for those times when I was thirsty in the middle of the night. I don't do milk. Anyway, it was Christmas Eve, and I stood in front of a window drinking my orange juice. Then all of a sudden, I saw Santa in his sleigh and all of his reindeers ride across the sky!

(rh: This is the imagination of a GREAT writer. :)

Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or, how you created new ones.

We didn't tear into our gifts on Christmas morning. Each member of the family was respected and honored with their gift. I carried over the same tradition. We don't open a gift until the Christmas story is read.

For the past five years, I prepare a Holiday Brunch for about 22 friends. I love cooking, and this gives me an opportunity to serve others.

(rh: Sounds wonderful!)

When do you put up your tree? At my house, it goes up right after Thanksgiving. My husband works assembly and outside lights. I do the rest. Describe the decorating at your house.

We put up our tree the day after Thanksgiving. My husband does the tree, and I stay out of his way until it's done. He also does the outside. I do the rest!

What is your favorite Christmas song or album? I grew up with a Johnny Mathis Christmas CD and it's still one of my favorites. My other is a copy of Mel Torme singing his "Christmas Song."

I love Christmas music! I think "I'll be Home for Christmas" is one of my favorites. That takes me back to rural Ohio with snow and great memories. I also like "White Christmas." Actually, the season doesn't begin until I hear "Breath of Heaven."

Christmas morning, my parents didn't want us in the living room until the tree was plugged in. So, we'd wake up early, five a.m. or so, and bang on the floor to stir my parents awake. Relive your childhood Christmas mornings for us.

We could peek and see what Santa left, but we couldn't open gifts until my parents were up.

It's Christmas Eve, describe your day and evening.

Total anticipation of the event – as though Jesus is being born again. And He is in our hearts. I have music going constantly as my husband and I fill stockings and prepare food for the next day when the house will be filled with our adult children and friends. I look forward to Candlelight service at church and the singing of all the traditional hymns.

Confession time. Shop on line or at the mall?

Both! I like the touch and feel of the real thing! I like the music and the sound of the Salvation Army bell. But in Houston, there is no snow. But if I get frustrated, I’ll shop Online.

Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle and bustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?

Giving of myself. Wondering about the first Christmas and the awe of all those who shared in the birth of Jesus. I like to reach out to those less fortunate. Talk to old friends and family. Making sure that the gifts I give are useful and given for a reason.

It's Christmas day, what's for dinner? Do you make cookies or other traditional foods?

Oh, I cook and bake all December. Dinner will be ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potato bar, vegetable casseroles, colorful salads. Did I say I love to cook? I ask each guest for their favorite dessert, then I make sure it's baked for them. And did I mention wassail? I make several cups of this hot, spicy drink - and not the mix kind either.

Tell us about your favorite Christmas memory.

That would be the Christmas that Santa brought me a pogo stick. I was excited! But I lived in Ohio, and we had snow. So I decided to jump on the front porch. I was jumping away and fell through the picture window beside the Christmas tree. My coat and gloves protected me, and thank goodness I missed the tree!

What are you plans for this season?

Awareness for the critical situation in Sudan and Africa. Giving to charities who assist the less fortunate. A big dinner for family and friends on Christmas.

Any final thoughts on Christmas?

Give where there is a need. We live in the richest country in the world, and I believe we all have a responsibility to take care of those who have far less.

The official word on DiAnn Mills

Award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. Currently she has over forty books in print and has sold more than a million copies.

DiAnn believes her readers should "Expect an Adventure." Her desire is to show characters solving real problems of today from a Christian perspective through a compelling story.

Six of her anthologies have appeared on the CBA Best Seller List. Three of her books have won the distinction of Best Historical of the Year by Heartsong Presents. Five of her books have won placements through American Christian Fiction Writer's Book of the Year Awards 2003 - 2007. She is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader's Choice award for 2005 and 2007.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America's Faith, Hope and Love, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer's Guild.

She lives in sunny Houston, Texas, the home of heat, humidity, and Harleys. In fact she'd own a Harley, but her legs are too short. DiAnn and her husband have four adult sons and are active members of Metropolitan Baptist Church.

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