Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Prelude to Christmas: Terri Reed's novel about a family and a tree

Welcome Terri Reed to the blog today! She's a bestselling author whose stories have been recognized by prominent organizations like Publisher's Weekly and Romance Writers of America (RWA). Terri is visiting with us today to talk about her new novel, A Family Under the Christmas Tree.

Here's the blurb for Terri's book: In this heartwarming tale set during the Christmas season, a single father and a fashion photographer are brought together by a young boy and a mischievous Bernese mountain dog—but first they must learn to set aside their differences if they are willing to let their relationship bloom. 

David Murphy never knew much about kids. But when his brother dies unexpectedly, David is granted custody of his six-year-old nephew, Troy, who he’s only seen once a year since he was born. He already has his hands full running his business, and he has no idea how to help the grieving boy. When Troy runs off one day, David finds him at a park playing with an adorable and rambunctious Bernese mountain dog—who leads him to Sophie.

Sophie Griffith has spent her life travelling around the world as a photojournalist. She has never stayed in one place for long, and her new assignment—helping her grandmother for a few weeks—is just temporary. Once Christmas day comes, Sophie is off the hook and can leave for a new adventure. Caring for her grandmother is a piece of cake—but caring for her new Bernese mountain dog, Riggs, is a different story. It doesn’t help that Riggs strikes up a friendship with a lost little boy one day at the park—and leads her to David.

Neither David nor Sophie have time for romance. But as they spend more time together, they start falling for each other even though they know it can’t go anywhere. Sophie will be gone after Christmas, and the last thing David needs is another distraction as he tries to comfort Troy. But as their faith and growing love for the boy and dog unites them, they wonder whether it’s more than a holiday romance…and maybe Troy might finally get his Christmas wish for a family.

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Enjoy your time with Terri today via this author interview! :)
Interview with Terri Reed, author of A Family Under the Christmas Tree:

Alexis: A Family Under the Christmas Tree is a lovely title for a novel! What is it about? 

Terri: This is a story of two people who think they know the path of their lives only to discover that sometimes the unexpected can derail the best-laid plans but also bring joy and love.

Alexis: Tell us about your story’s hero David. Why is he a single father? Describe his personality and heart.

Terri: When David’s brother and wife are tragically killed, David is given custody of his five-year-old nephew, Troy. David is driven to succeed but he wants to do right by his nephew and struggles to find the balance of work and family.

Alexis: The heroine of your story, Sophie, is a fashion photographer and photojournalist! How exciting! Tell us about the research that you did to make her career and role in this story believable.

Terri: For Sophie’s career as a photographer, I drew upon my time as a model when I was younger. Though I wasn’t behind the camera, I learned the ins and outs of the equipment, lighting, and styling a shot. I also have a daughter who is a photographer who answered many technical questions I had about photography.

Alexis: What is the significance of the “mischievous Bernese mountain dog”? Describe his role in this story.

Terri: Riggs, the Bernese mountain dog is Grandma Louise’s pup and a bit more than she bargained for. Of course she fell for him, who wouldn’t? When Sophie comes to stay, she doesn’t want to fall for the cute dog’s charm but soon realizes she can’t resist as she witnesses Riggs connection to young Troy.

Alexis: What causes David and Sophie to conflict with each other at first? How do they overcome it?

Terri: Their conflict stems issues of trust at first, though they tell themselves it’s about their careers. They each must set aside the hurts of their past to see if a future together is possible.

Alexis: Tell us a bit more about Sophie. Why did she choose a career as a photographer? What does she love most about traveling the world? What would have to happen in order for her to settle down?

Terri: Sophia discovered a passion for photography at a young age. At first is was a hobby to keep her busy but then she discovered she enjoyed the freedom of taking jobs around the globe, allowing her to see new places and experience many adventures. In order for her to settle down, she’ll need to do some self-discovery and open her heart to love.

Alexis: Why doesn’t David have time for romance? In what ways does Sophie open his heart to love?

Terri: David is on the verge of taking his company to the next level. He wants to be financially secure above all else but he also has this child now that he must give his attention too. Adding in the complication of a romance isn’t something he thinks he wants or can handle. Spending time with Sophie makes him realize there is room in his life for more if he’s willing to let down his guard. He has to learn to trust Sophie in order to open his heart to her.

Alexis: Tell us about David’s son Troy. What is his Christmas wish? Why?

Terri: Troy is actually David’s nephew and both are trying to figure out how to live together. Troy is a typical child, testing the boundaries and needful of attention and love. Having lost his parents in an accident, Troy wants to be a part of a family and he prays for one.

Alexis: Describe the setting for this story. Why did you choose it?

Terri: I used Bellevue Washington as the setting because it is a pretty and unique city outside of Seattle. There are mountains nearby, rivers and lakes. And in winter there is the Snowflake Parade through downtown. It’s lovely.

Alexis: Where did you write this story? Paint a picture of it with words.

Terri: I work in my home office right off the kitchen, which makes it easy to keep hydrated and fueled while working. When I’m in the throes of a book, my office tends to look like a bomb went off. I have stacks of papers and books all around me for easy access. Behind my 27-inch computer monitor, I have a wall of photos and inspirational quotes to keep me focused. I have a window for some natural light so I don’t have to turn on the overhead light.

Alexis: Did you listen to Christmas music while writing this story? If so, what songs were on your playlist? Name at least two.

Terri: I love Christmas music and play it all year along. My favorite songs are “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” by Mercy Me, “Angels We Have Heard On High” by Pentatonix, “Mary Did You Know” by Rascal Flatts and “I’ll be Home for Christmas” by Rascal Flatts.

Alexis: What do you want your readers to remember most about this Christmas novel of yours?

Terri: I hope readers will see the beauty letting go of expectations and seeing that the unexpected can bring love and joy.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview! Would you like to share any closing thoughts?

Terri: I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Author bio:

Terri Reed’s romance and romantic suspense novels have appeared on Publisher’s Weekly Top 25, Nielsen’s Bookscan top 100 and featured in USA Today, Christian Fiction Magazine and Romantic Times Magazine. 

Her novels have finaled in RWA’s RITA contest, National Reader’s Choice Award contest, ACFW’s The Carol Award contest. P.O. Box 19555 Portland, OR 97224. 

Buy Terri's book, A Family Under the Christmas Tree, from Howard Books via Amazon.

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Friday, December 2, 2016

A Prelude to Christmas: Christina's story about snow globes and divine connections

Welcome Christina Lorenzen to the blog today! She's here to share a personal essay/guest post based on her Christmas story, Snow Globe Reunion which is available for purchase on Amazon. Her book is part of the Snow Globe Christmas Collection published by Forget Me Not Romances.

Here's the blurb for Snow Globe Reunion:

Stranded by a snowstorm, Carrie Sanders is left holding a bag an old woman she’d been talking to left behind in the airport coffee shop. Mystified by the woman’s disappearance, she sits on the bench staring at the snow globe that was in the bag. 

Inside the glittery snowy world it’s Christmas during the 1940s. Fighting sleep, the next thing she knows she’s in the arms of the soldier she last saw skating on the pond in the snow globe. He’s no stranger, but the boy next door who never forgot her.

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A Snow Globe Moment
A guest post written by Christina Lorenzen

I believe in divine connections. I believe that God leads us to the right people, and in this case, the right projects. In my heart, I think nothing makes our God happier than giving us the things that light up our hearts. I saw it happen again months ago when I spent an afternoon with an author friend, sharing some coffee and writerly chat. After talking about our current projects, she mentioned a new publisher who was looking for novellas for several collections she was putting out. Curious, I took a look at this publisher’s website and stopped at the call for Snow Globe stories for a Christmas collection. As soon as I read she was looking for stories centered on a ‘special’ snow globe I knew this would be my first Christmas book, something I’d been wanting to write for years.

I have been enchanted by snow globes since I was a young child. My earliest memories are the snow globes at my great aunt’s house. Every year she would decorate with what seemed like dozens of snow globes, strategically placed throughout her quaint craftsman style house. I think I spent most of my visits there shaking each and every one. We had one or two snow globes at home, but when I grew up and had my own house to decorate, I knew I had to own a few of my own. I have numerous snow globes—those with snowmen, ice skating scenes, carolers beside a tree, wildlife scampering about in the snow and, my favorite, the nativity. There’s something magical about holding up that glass globe, giving it a furious shake, and watching the glittery flakes fall from the sky and blanket the objects in the globe.

Though life changes, and sometimes rapidly at that, there are some traditions that we all cling to, holding near and dear. For me, seeing these familiar globes of miniature figurines and glitter water are like getting together with lifelong friends. We may not see them often, but when we do it’s like nothing has changed. I’ve come to believe that these snow globes offer comfort in a sometimes turbulent, rapidly changing world. Perhaps you’ve felt as I’ve often felt—that it would be lovely if we could freeze the special moments in our lives so they would stay as they are forever, just like the tiny scenes frozen in time inside those snow globes.

But life marches on, both the happy and sad times, and we learn to accept the sad and cherish the happy. And each year when I pull out those globes filled with glittery water, I feel a hopeful flutter in my heart as I eagerly reacquaint myself with old friends. And just for a season I get to enjoy joyful, sweet scenes forever frozen in time.

Author bio: Christina Lorenzen started writing as a young teen, jotting stories in wire ring composition notebooks. Her first typewriter made it faster to get all those stories out of her head and down on paper. Her love of writing has sustained her through a myriad of jobs that included hairdresser, legal secretary, waitress and door-­to-door saleswoman.

Luckily for her, writing proved to be successful and a lot less walking than going door to door. Harvest Blessings, a sweet small town romance, is Christina's fourth book. She is also the author of A Husband for Danna, its sequel, A Wife for Humphrey and her recent Christmas release, Snow Globe Reunion. She is busy working on a modern retelling of the classic tale, Rapunzel. 

When she isn't writing or reading, she can be found walking her dog, talking to her herd of cats and spending time with her family.

To find out about Christina's upcoming releases, visit her website at

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Words of Faith: Juan-Jose's story about childlike faith in God

Material God
A Words of Faith story by Juan-Jose Garza, a.k.a. Zay Heron

As a writer of speculative fiction, my mind regularly travels to a domain of make believe (or what philosopher Alexius Meinong’s contemporaries called Meinong’s Jungle), my own self-created universe of discourse. Because I travel there so frequently, I question many times: Are the beings and worlds in my “jungle” and my own understanding of God one and the same? Or does some line of demarcation exists determining the difference? For that, my faith is not only questioned, but simultaneously, I believe, it finds new strength.

Since before I ever knew sight-words or number facts, God and my imagination existed to me. Ironically, as a child, I knew they both were not tangible entities. Down the middle of my mind, a single line grew. On one side, I understood what classifies as the material world (things I can see, touch, taste, smell, or hear) and on the other exists things that are of the immaterial (things that cannot be observed as such). Among the immaterial, I understood my own jungle to be pretend and God was very much real.

As the vertical wall split the material and immaterial world, simultaneously, a horizontal line segmented my immaterial side into two halves. I wondered, does there exist a horizontal line on my material side as well? I would answer, yes. There are fir trees and plastic ones, as there are living chickens and rubber ones. In the material world, determining what is real and fake is simple and unquestionable. So since there is no denial in the material, why are there questions about the immaterial?

So when my teen and early adult years came, I naturally found that I was physically capable to care for myself if I wanted to. Thus, like many around the world, I decided what from my childhood to peel away and rationalize why to keep others, and like many, I began to ponder do I keep God? Since God fell into the category of immaterial, then my horizontal line needed to dissolve and He be pretend like my jungle residents. Like the tooth fairy, He was supposed to be for kids, but I could not let Him go.

Thus, I found myself in a place where the question became how can God exist in my logical and rational adult mind? Did God practically bring anything of value to adulthood?

The narrative goes, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, yet the American religious tradition claims God is personal. How can this God, who manages solar flares, relate to me? Logically, that is impossible, as kings not personally know the price of milk or the taste of poverty. The hypothetical connection was impossible.

Then, I reread what Christians call the “Gospel in a nutshell,” John 3:16 (KJV): “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

For this verse was not new to me, but at the reread, the repetitive story no longer became just data. It revealed that God became material, allowed himself to die, and did it all so I can have greater access than what my reason hindered me. But as I thought about this, I could not help but wonder that since God is not tangible any more how can I believe? To still believe in this God that I have never seen is irrational and belongs to the mind of children.

And in Matthew 18:3 (KJV), Jesus speaks to me: “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

For it was the mind of a child, upon which faith is fueled. The greater one uses their mind as children, the more their faith allows God to be real beyond reason, but in the life of the believer. It is the faith of a child that gives us access to more than what we currently conceive, and it is that faith that allows our fears to be conquered. Thus, I believe, our courage and faith is then strengthened.

Author bio: 
Juan-Jose Garza is a writer of speculative fiction. His penname is Zay Heron. He is a native of Washington, D.C.. He works as a learning coach at Gifted Academy, working with youth from the ages of 3 to 17. 

He is a graduate of Washington Adventist University. He is also a Christian and drummer. He and his wife live in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Connect with Juan by following him on Twitter,

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Prelude to Christmas: Jenna Victoria's story and personal essay

Welcome Jenna Victoria to the blog today! She's here to share a personal essay inspired by her Christmas novella, War of the Heart. It's a story that's part of the Snow Globe Christmas Collection published by Forget Me Not Romances.

Back cover blurb for War of the Heart: When a vintage snow globe sends Boston dress designer Louise Martin and British B&B owner George Walker back in time to London, December 1940, they race against the clock to reconcile a feud between their families and solve a 75-year-old mystery. As Louise relies on God and on George for guidance, friendship then love, will the future George envisions strangle her own dreams? Will their love survive generations of mistrust, the Blitz and being stranded in wartime 1940, possibly never to return to their former lives? 

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Jenna Victoria's personal essay:

Thank you, Alexis, for allowing me to "pull up a sleigh" at your blog series, “A Prelude to Christmas”! I've been known to break into Christmas songs any time of the year, maybe it's because my birthday is three days after? There's something eternally hopeful and encouraging about the season.

War of the Heart is both a stand-alone book and part of a six-novella Snow Globe Collection on Kindle. I was quite enthusiastic about writing Louise and George's story, as I was able to feature two of my favorite things: London and snow globes. I specifically chose December, 1940, the first Christmas of WWII in the United Kingdom, as I wanted the setting to help reflect the message of their time-travel journey which is one of hope, perseverance and reliance on God despite circumstances.

I was struck by many things while researching that week in 1940. Londoners (and those in other larger cities in the U.K.) simply carried on. They ate far less due to mandatory rationing, created homemade or re-mended store bought clothing, did without necessities and reused everyday items such as newspaper and scrap so the men fighting on the front could have what they needed. Still, they still had peace and joy, something I focused on in the book.

There were no eight-foot Christmas trees for sale, but three-feet ones easily able to fit into air raid shelters quickly sold out. Christmas lights were banned so enemy aircraft could not see their reflection. Yet the tube (subway stations) repurposed as shelters held festive holiday parties, sing-alongs and appearances by Father Christmas.

This sacrifice was especially poignant that first Christmas, when most fathers and brothers were away at war and it was the Mums and grandparents that relied on their faith and their ingenuity to provide a happy Christmas even as bombs rained on the city. In direct opposite to their situation, they stayed the course, confident in the sovereign government to get them out of the war quickly.

Our faith as Christians is similar to that of Louise and George. At first, we assume our trial or difficulty will pass quickly. We pray for that. We believe in that. And for many, a positive resolution, a miracle, is what occurs. But what about those like the country of Great Britain which was not war-free until May of 1945, who don't receive the answer they have prayed for?

My personal struggle is recurrent breast cancer. We approached my initial treatment plan in 2012 with naive optimism, trusting God that mine would be similar to the normal path followed by 82 percent of women with BC (chemo, surgery and radiation) and then finally, I would be cancer free!

Rather, six weeks after my first tumor was removed, I was newly diagnosed as a triple-negative breast cancer patient as cancer returned in several locations. TNBC is the most aggressive and drug-resistant form of breast cancer which affects less than 20 percent of those diagnosed. Man like myself become metastatic, which is incurable. Four years later, I continue to receive IV chemotherapy every 21 days.

Like Louise and George, I find myself in a place I don't want to be. I want to return to my life before cancer, the same as they wanted to return to modern day London instead of being stuck in wartime England as snow is falling.

As their (and my) journey unfolds, something vitally important occurs. When you place your trust and hope in God, He never fails you. The answer may not be what you longed for or prayed for, but He never, ever leaves you with less. I knew this in my head, at that scary visit after my first biopsy. But, I did not feel it in my heart until much later. I was faithful in trusting God even when I did not have the emotional connection to that trust. I carried on, trusting Him despite my feelings. Now, I have a peace, a contentment, and a joy within my circumstances!

I won't reveal here how (or if) our two lovebirds in War of the Heart return to current day London. But they, like me, embrace the words of the Apostle Paul:

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." ~2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

Author bio: 
Jenna Victoria lives on the eastern seaboard of the USA. She enjoys Hallmark movies and Christmas carols year-round. She writes Happily-Ever-After romance and romantic suspense stories with a Christian world view. 

Her book emulates those she enjoys reading…with a heroine who is in grave danger and a hero who is smart enough to get out of her way as she solves the case (with a little help)…and those that feature the sweetest of small-town, fairytale-ending love stories.
Connect with Jenna Victoria:
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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Prelude to Christmas: Bonnie Engstrom's story about Candy Canes

Welcome Bonnie Engstrom to the blog today! She's a talented author who's here to talk about her Christmas story, Noelle's Christmas Wedding. Bonnie touches on important real-life topics in this fictional book. I think that you will enjoy learning more about it in the interview below.

But first, here's the blurb for Bonnie's book: Noelle Day finally has the courage to break off her ill-fated engagement with her volatile fiancé and cancel their Christmas wedding. It’s embarrassing, and she has to share the humiliating reason with her friends The Candy Canes. The other five girls were to be her attendants in red taffeta gowns. 

When she faints and falls into the arms of Braydon Lovejoy, the now former wedding florist, Braydon is confused by her abrupt manner. Who is this beautiful woman with the sepia hair and the huge brown eyes? Is she a damsel in distress as he suspects? He prays for an opportunity to find out. Then he backs his delivery van into her precious red car, and he’s sure she would never go out with him, especially since he was hired to deliver a huge bouquet of roses to her from a secret admirer. 

Noelle isn’t sure how to respond when Bruce, the school principal, physically forces himself on her. After all, he is her boss, and she’s just a first year English teacher. She finally accepts a lunch date with Braydon, and he takes her to Sherman Gardens in Corona del Mar where she learns he is the local rose expert. But, Noelle worries their friendship is happening too fast and calls a respite. 

One of the Candy Canes has a tragic accident, and the women bond together. But Braydon, who is not sure why he is involved, becomes their anchor. Will Braydon’s prayers heal the hurts, physically and emotionally? Will the injured Candy Cane forgive the woman who caused her accident, the woman who is related to Bruce the principal? Will Noelle ever have her California Candy Cane Christmas?

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Enjoy my interview with Bonnie
Interview with Bonnie Engstrom about her book, Noelle’s Christmas Wedding:

Alexis: The Candy Canes are Noelle’s tribe of best friends. Why did you give them that name? What’s the meaning of it?

Bonnie: I was involved in a proposed novella collection with three other authors; I was assigned to decide the setting and theme of the stories, something that all the others could pick up on. As a group we decided loosely on candy canes and a Christmas theme. When the other authors in the collection bowed out, I was devastated at first. But, it turned out to be a blessing for me because my story became the first book in a series.

My own children had been involved in competitive swimming for many years, so swimming came to mind naturally. Now that they are all grown with families of their own, I don’t know what to do with so many shoe boxes of winning ribbons and medals.

Here is a description of the Candy Canes: Ten years ago six high school freshmen formed a swim team that became legendary. They won the state relay swim championship four years in a row. In addition to their skill and devotion to daily practicing, they prayed together and vowed to be sisters forever. Another thing that set them apart was they chose their own swimsuits making them a team within a larger team. They chose red and white diagonally striped swim suits. Thus, became known as the Candy Canes.

Alexis: Noelle’s ex-fiancé was physically abusive, that’s a serious real-life issue. Do you hope that Noelle’s story will help women in the real world who are being abused? If so, how?

Bonnie: All my stories, not just the Candy Cane ones, have some real life issues in them that the heroine has to overcome. I don’t write any of those issues blatantly, mostly just hint at them or have them take place off stage, or as a subplot. Although I’m married to a psychologist and have some knowledge via marital osmosis, I am not an expert in any of the situations. But, I do believe they need to be presented, and with plausible conclusions and ways to deal with them.

Alexis: What is the significance of Noelle planning for a Christmas wedding?

Bonnie: Her original wedding was to be at Christmas time. Now, she can really plan and have a unique venue for her wedding (public garden). Every Candy Cane book has a unique wedding venue. (I love weddings!) One is in a historical landmark, one on the beach in a foreign country, one in a preschool. Braydon designs the flowers for all of them! Even his own wedding with Noelle.

Alexis: Tell us about the hero, Braydon Lovejoy. Describe his looks, talents, personality and explain what it is about Noelle that makes him want to protect and love her?

Bonnie: Braydon is handsome, but more than that he is a gentleman and a devout Christian. He notices Noelle’s weakness during their first meeting in chapter one when she faints in his arms. Braydon is the protective type; it’s the way he has been raised. As for his appearance, I prefer to leave that to the imagination of the reader. But, gosh, he is drool-worthy handsome.

Alexis: A career as a professional florist is an interesting option for a man. Why did you choose this livelihood for Braydon?

Bonnie: Noelle had to meet up with someone (hopefully a man) who was involved in the planning of her original wedding so she could cancel the contract. Jill, the real life wedding coordinator who is in every Candy Cane story, arranges for Braydon and Love In Bloom Floral to provide all the flowers.

Braydon’s mother, Lydia, owns the flower shop, so she involves her sons in it. He is very creative, and in the next book his brother Rob takes over while Braydon is on his honeymoon. That book, Cindy’s Perfect Dance, is the next story with more life issues.

Alexis: Noelle has a boss who is hitting on her and she doesn’t like it. Why was this an important part of the story?

Bonnie: Noelle needs to keep overcoming. Not just from Clay, her abusive ex-fiancé, but other situations in her life with forceful men. The boss, Principal Bruce Walker, tries to hit on Melanie in the latest book, Natalie’s Deception, number five in the series. Incidents like this are what make a series ongoing and, hopefully, encourage readers to want to read the entire series to find out what happens next and to the other girls.

Alexis: Why did you choose to make Noelle an English teacher? In what ways does it fit her personality and reaffirm her passion for the youth?

Bonnie: I was an English major, and I spent over 35 years volunteering in education as a five time PTA president and many times as a room mother. Next to my faith, education is the most important passion in my life. I still volunteer in my grandchildren’s classrooms. Also, she reminded me of my high school English teacher who had a major impact on my writing career. It just seemed natural for Noelle.

Alexis: What special message do you have for your readers in this book?

Bonnie: That life’s problems can be overcome. Not just abuse, but sticky situations, uncomfortable situations. And, of course, with prayer and trusting in God for the answers as all the Candy Cane women do when they pray collectively.

Friendship is so important, especially long-term, prayer-linked friendship. I still have friends and prayer partners from over fifty years ago.

Alexis: What was the most fun feature of writing this story?

Bonnie: The most fun was writing about Newport Beach where we lived for over thirty years and raised our children. It tugged at my heart. When I first started Noelle’s Christmas Wedding I remembered every street and every restaurant and every beach. Not only has my memory faded but things have changed. So, I needed to do more research and depend on my research assistant, Kerrie, for updates.

Alexis: Complete this sentence: If I were Noelle, I’d want ______________ because _________________________.

Bonnie: If I were Noelle, I’d want to be part of the Candy Canes when I’m eighty because true friendship never dies.

Author bio:

Bonnie Engstrom and her psychologist husband, Dave, live in Arizona near four of their six grandchildren. The other two live in Costa Rica where they surf. But, they share their Arizona home with Lola and Sam, their two rescued mutts in charge of the household.

She used to bake dozens of Christmas cookies in November and freeze them so she would have a lot to pass out to neighbors. Now... well, that was a long time ago. Instead of cookies for Christmas, she writes. Her Candy Cane stories set in Newport Beach, California, where her family was raised and where they have many fond memories, are perfect for gift giving. Or, for just cuddling up by the fire for an inspiring romance read.

She hopes you enjoy Noelle’s Christmas Wedding and also gift it to a special female in your life. Don’t forget to leave an honest review on Amazon.

Connect with Bonnie: 
Bonnie can be reached via email at Be sure to put BOOK in the subject line so your post doesn’t float around in her junk folder. Her website is, and she can also be found occasionally on Facebook, although she’s not very astute at it. You can sign up for her Life on the Lake quarterly newsletter on either one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Prelude to Christmas: Angela Ruth Strong's holiday romance in Montana

Welcome a dear friend of mine, Angela Ruth Strong, to the blog today. She's written a holiday romance that takes place in Big Sky, Montana and it's beautiful! :) The story is called Finding Love in Big Sky, MONTANA.

Here's the blurb for Angela's book:

Bright Star Ranch led him to her--but will he stay?

Josh Lake is forced to head home for the holidays after he’s suspended from his job in the city, but running into Paisley Sheridan could be exactly what he needed. Not only does she board him at her ranch in exchange for his advertising expertise, but spending the Christmas season with her in Big Sky, Montana, brings more joy than he’s felt in a long while. Is he willing to give up the lavish lifestyle he’s worked for in exchange for the gift of love?

The last thing Paisley wants for Christmas is to spend time with Josh Lake—the guy who broke her heart in high school—but until her bank loan goes through, she has to take all the free help she can get. Unfortunately, Josh seems to want back in her life again, and the town’s quirky coffee shop owners don’t help by hanging mistletoe at every opportunity. 

Will Paisley succeed in driving him away, or will she find the healing needed to have hope for a future together?

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Join me today as I interview the hero of Angela's story, Josh Lake. This is a "character interview". 
Character Interview with Josh Lake from Finding Love in Big Sky, Montana:

Alexis: Dear Josh, It was so hard to choose to interview either you or the heroine of this story, Paisley. But I find you especially intriguing so I'm excited to interview you!

Josh: Thanks for picking me. Paisley answered questions for another interview, so I’m glad I get to share here.

Alexis: What is it about Bright Star Ranch that you love (besides Paisley Sheridan)?

Josh: It’s beautiful and peaceful, and it reminds me of my youth when life was simple and I hadn’t yet lost my swagger.

Alexis: You planned to visit the ranch short-term but you stayed long-term. Why?

Josh: I’d worked so hard for success in Chicago, and when I finally got everything I wanted, it didn’t satisfy. It was all about me. Paisley is passionate about making a difference in the world, and I want to be more like her.

Alexis: Why were you suspended from your job in the city? How did that make you feel at first?

Josh: I’d pitched an advertising campaign to one company and they were about to sign when their competitors came out with the exact same commercials first, which made it look like I had stolen the idea. That wasn’t my fault. But it was my fault that I blew all my money by celebrating my success prematurely so when I was unexpectedly suspended, I had nothing left.

Alexis: I believe that your suspension from your job was God working behind-the-scenes to bring you home to Bright Star Ranch. What do you think? Explain.

Josh: God does that. When we have a dream and overcome all obstacles to reach that dream, God will ask for the dream back. This is our chance to choose the Dream-Giver over the dream. It’s hard and it hurts, but I can promise if you chose the Dream-Giver, He will give you an even bigger dream in return.

Alexis: Josh, you are clearly a swoon-worthy character (I speak for most female readers of your story) but you also seem down-to-earth and dedicated to the greater good. Is there anything about your upbringing that made you such a good man? Share details.

Josh: Hey, thanks. As you can see in my previous answers, I’ve been selfish and made some foolish mistakes, but coming back to my roots reminds me of how I was raised in a big family on a Christmas tree farm where we learned to work hard and value relationships. Being the middle child, I often erred on the side of trying to charm people to like me. Having Paisley dislike me so strongly really challenged my self-worth but also forced me to question my identity in a healthy way.

Alexis: Are you a man of faith? If so, how does your faith in God impact the way you live?

Josh: Yes, I was raised to believe in God, but for a long time, I’d been living my own way rather than His. I guess I was afraid He would get in the way of my dreams. And guess what—He did. But only because He had something better for me.

Alexis: What is it about Paisley Sheridan that tugs at your heartstrings? She’s clearly a wonderful woman and I can see why a man like you would be drawn to her, but please do share in your own words why you love Paisley. 

Josh: She’s tough yet vulnerable at the same time. She’s been hurt, but it’s only made her stronger. I want to protect her, but there’s no way she would let me. In fact, she’s rescued me more than once. Also, she looks good in heels, but she’s more likely to throw them in anger than wear them to a Christmas party.

Alexis: The love that you and Paisley share is something that single ladies in the real world dream of! But your road to romance was not easy. Why do you think that it took time for you to win Paisley’s heart?

Josh: Paisley’s heart had been hardened toward me for a reason I didn’t understand. It was especially hard to understand when we had such a strong connection. It’s like she was motioning me toward her with one hand while holding me back with the other. I think we all do that more than we realize. We want to be loved, but we are afraid of the risk. This is why we must first accept God’s love. If God is enough for us, then we know we will be okay if others reject us the way we fear they might.

Alexis: What were your first thoughts when Paisley offered you free room and board at her ranch in exchange for your advertising expertise?

Josh: I was shocked. She’d been trying to get rid of me up to that point. It showed me how much she cared about her ranch, and it made me want to be part of something that meant so much. At that point in our story, I wanted to kill time until I could get back to Chicago, I wanted to avoid confessing my failures to my brothers back home, and I also wanted to get her to like me so I could like myself a little more.

Alexis: When your boss offered you a chance to return to your job and lavish lifestyle, why didn’t you?

Josh: I realized Paisley was what I’d been looking for all along.

Alexis: The town’s coffee shop owners hung mistletoe every chance they got. Were you scared of meeting Paisley under the mistletoe by accident or even on purpose? Why or why not?

Josh: I liked flirting with her. And I’d made it pretty clear I wanted to kiss her. She turned me down every time though, and I wasn’t interested in facing the rejection in public. I know Dot and Annabel had good intentions with the mistletoe, but Paisley needed to decide to kiss me on her own.

Alexis: What is it about Christmastime in Big Sky, Montana that warms your heart?

Josh: Jingle bells. Dashing through the snow. Bright stars. Evergreen trees. Giant fireplaces. And, of course, hot chocolate at the Coffee Cottage.

Alexis: What is it about your relationship with Paisley that helped you both find healing and hope for the future?

Josh: I had to learn that I couldn’t “pitch” myself like an advertising campaign to get people to love me. Paisley was the opposite. She was afraid to offer anything because she didn’t think she was worth being accepted. We learned the truth through the gift of Christmas and through each other.

Alexis: What relationship advice do you have for us single ladies at Christmastime, Josh?

Josh: I can set you up with my little brother Sam. Just kidding. He’ll probably be single forever. My actual advice is this: Give. Rather than focus on what you don’t have this holiday season, focus on what you do have. Santa may not have left you a diamond ring, but God has given you many other gifts. And you have a lot to offer. When you give to the less fortunate, you will never feel so blessed and loved.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview! It was a delight to spend time with you! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Josh: Thanks, Alexis. It’s been a delight.

Author bio:

Angela Ruth Strong studied journalism at the University of Oregon and published her first novel, Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010. With movie producers interested in her book, she's decided to rerelease it and write sequels as a new series titled Resort to Love. 

This Idaho Top Author and Cascade Award winner also started IDAhope Writers to encourage other aspiring authors, and she's excited to announce the sale of her first romantic suspense novel to Love Inspired Suspense. Presumed Dead releases in February. 

She currently lives in Idaho with her husband and three teenagers where she teaches yoga and works as a ticket agent for an airline when not writing.

Buy Angela's book:
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Monday, November 28, 2016

A Prelude to Christmas: Jan's story about Moostletoe and a recipe

Welcome Jan Elder to the blog today! She's here to share an excerpt and a recipe from her new novella, Moostletoe. Jan's book is in a “boxed set” with five other Christian authors. The boxed set is called "Frosting and Flurries: Five Delicious Christmas Romances." Here's the cover picture of it:

"Frosting and Flurries" contains five Christmas novellas and is available for purchase on Amazon. The other authors in the set are Kimberly Rae Jordan, Cecelia Dowdy, Clare Revell, and Marion Ueckermann. Jan's novella in this boxed set is called Moostletoe.

You may compete to WIN a copy of Jan's book by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget below: 

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Enjoy your time with Jan today! 

Book blurb for 
MoostletoeFresh out of divinity school, Rev. Samantha Evans is ready to conquer the world for Christ. She lands in Moose Creek, Maine, a tiny backwater town with more moose per square mile than men. Even worse, one of her new parishioners chews up new ministers for breakfast, and he’s hell-bent on sending her packing. 

Forest ranger Eric Palmer is done with women. Determined to live simply with no encumbrances, he’s moved to Northern Maine to study the moose population. With Christmas right around the corner, he runs into his buddy, Sammie, the girl who’d been his best friend when they were teenagers. Unlike most of the women in his life, he trusts her implicitly. But could she ever be more than a friend?

When Samantha’s career is on the line, Eric must save her job and rescue his own shattered heart in the process. But how does Matilda the town moose factor in?


Excerpt from Chapter Four of Moostletoe

As they headed toward the fence at the back of the large yard, the trapped moose turned her head and fastened Samantha with the longest, most distressed face she’d ever seen. Somehow, the words “there’s a moose stuck in the fence” had not prepared her for the sight of two hooves sticking to the top of tall pickets.

Poor moosie indeed!

The TV news reporter strode toward Eric and Travis, a determined set to his jaw.

Eric took charge. “Dale, you can film, but be quiet about it and keep well back. I know everybody loves Matilda, but she’s a wild animal and she’s scared. You too, Mr. Tremblay.”

“We’ll do our best to behave.” Dale smirked. “But the TV audience is going to eat this up and we’re here to serve.”

Eric grimaced. “She’s just a moose for crying out loud. People in Aroostook County see them every day.”

The TV crew moved into position. Eric glanced at Samantha. “Sammie you asked what you can do. Your job is to pray we can get this moose out of trouble, fast.”

“Will do.” Samantha nodded and clung to the fence line several yards away. Matilda puffed, her breath sending up a cloud of steam. Samantha’s heart went out to the creature, and she unleashed a silent prayer. If God cared for the lowly sparrow, He surely loved the magnificent moose.

Eric’s eyes zeroed in on the television camera as two men continued to edge closer. “Confound it, Dale, stay back. Don’t you have a zoom on that contraption?”

The cheeky, young reporter lifted his chin. “We’ll stay back as long as you give us an exclusive after the rescue.”

Eric planted his hands on his hips and huffed. “Exclusive? Dale, what do you think this is? Portland? You’re the only TV station there is in these parts. Just keep your distance. Hey, Tremblay? You have a small hatchet?”

A protest erupted from the cameraman. “Surely, you’re not going to hurt that wild animal.”

Eric shook his head. “No, of course we’re not going to hurt her. We have to break up the fence.”

Dale cocked his head. “Why can’t you just yard on it until her feet come out?”

Huh? Samantha searched her memory banks. Yard on it. Ah, yes. Pull hard.

“Do I look suicidal? I’m not getting anywhere near those back hooves. We have a crazed five-hundred-pound moose who’s not thinking straight, here.”

The cameraman grumbled and when Eric turned his back, the cameraman made a hand gesture that meant … Samantha wasn’t sure what it meant, but it couldn’t have been nice.

Matilda shifted her back feet, tried to maneuver backward and pitched a bit to the side. The wooden fence scraped against her front fetlocks and she bellowed, a terrible noise that rang hollow in the damp, night air. Terrified, her eyes flicked back and forth, the whites showing. Helpless, Samantha prayed harder and shuffled her feet to keep the circulation moving, her chest squeezing.

The cameraman hefted his camera and aimed it at the reporter. The show was about to begin.

Author bio: 

Jan Elder is an inspirational romance writer with a passion for telling stories other women can relate to on a deep level. She strives to write the kind of book that will strengthen the reader’s faith, introducing the reader to a loving and forgiving Lord who walks beside us in our daily lives, while also providing an entertaining and engrossing love story.

Happily married for thirteen years to loving (and supportive) husband, Steve, the two live in central Maryland along with Jamie (a chubby black and white tuxedo cat), and Shu-Shu (a willowy tortoiseshell cat). On the weekends, Jan and Steve comb the nearby countryside in search of the perfect ice cream flavor.

Connect with Jan Elder:
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Recipe from Jan's story:

*Note from Jan:
In Moostletoe, the owner of the local coffee shop is a baker. There is a celebration in each of the five books, complete with a very special cake. The following is the recipe for the delicious cake in mine:

Janice Bittner’s Chocolate MOOSTLETOE Cake


3 cups finely crushed chocolate graham crackers

¾ tsp. espresso powder

1 stick butter, melted


3 cups chocolate chips

2 tbsp. butter

2 eggs

4 egg yolks

2 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp. espresso powder

1 tsp. vanilla

1 package (10 ounces) peanut butter chips


Mix the crushed crumbs and the espresso powder. Add the melted butter and mix well. Press into the bottom of a 9” or 10” springform pan. Chill until ready.

Beat the eggs and the egg yolks, and set aside.

Melt the chocolate chips and butter in a medium saucepan. Slowly add the egg mixture in 3-4 additions, whisking well after each addition. Transfer to a large bowl to cool slightly.

With and electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add the confectioners’ sugar, espresso powder and vanilla, and beat until stiff peaks form.

Stir about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate, mixing well.

Gently fold in another 1/3 of the whipped cream. Gently fold in the last 1/3 of the whipped cream until as few streaks remain as possible without deflating the mousse.

Fold in the peanut butter chips.

Pour mousse onto the crust. Freeze until ready to eat. Thaw for about 1 hour before serving.