Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Christmas on My Heart: The Swan

The Story Behind The Swan (book) by Piper Huguley:

Caroline Lee had a dream about a romance series. She asked me, via a Facebook DM, if I would join in her dream about 12 mail-order brides coming to a fictitious Colorado town to establish families so that the railroad might come there. The theme would center around “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and each author would write a novella that would culminate in the couple getting married on their particular day. We were also encouraged to entitle our books after the motif of our particular day and to somehow use that motif in the stories.

What an opportunity! I said yes and agreed to meet with her and several of the other chosen authors at the Romantic Times convention in May 2017. At that meeting, everyone went to claim their particular day and motif. Days 1, 12 and 5 were already taken by the three authors who would start, finish, and have a key day in the events of the town. That’s how I became “The Swan” and my story would center around the marriage of my couple on Day 7.

The authors had to keep in touch regularly to ensure that the events of the story over the days flowed smoothly together. Being in the middle was not easy. Also, I had a complex idea for my story. I knew that at the time the story took place (1876) interracial marriage was illegal in most of Colorado. What if I made that my major complication? What if my couple were interracial? How would they skirt the law to be able to marry? The deal over the arc of the series is that twelve couples had to marry to make sure that the railroad could come through. How would such a couple be able to find a happy ending when the law wouldn’t permit it?

I also knew that the phenomenon of Black people who also were able to pass in white society was something that occurred in 1876. So my mail-order bride would be a young woman who would be able to pass for white and was intent on camouflaging her racial heritage to go to Noelle to marry. She was also intent on going to Noelle to confront her mother, who had abandoned her as a young child. The end of “The Swan” is a bit twisty, but I pulled it off in a way that let me be reassured that my couple would be able to have their HEA in a community embraced them both.

The swan motif is woven into the story in several ways. Some are easy “easter eggs” to find. The heroine’s name is Avis, which means bird. She also happens to have a long neck. The name of the general store she works in is called Cobb’s Penn. A cob is a male swan and a pen is a female swan. Learning swan stuff as well as creating this couple, whom I based on Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, made the creation of the story fun.

I specialize in writing romance that speaks to the belief that we are all God’s children and are all precious in His sight, no matter what color we happen to be. I was extremely grateful to Caroline and the other authors that they allowed me to write a story that was truthful to this ideal and to the time while touching people’s hearts.

In 2018, “The Swan” won two Maggie awards—one for romance novella and the other for best book by a GRW member. I’m very proud of this Christmas story, and I hope you will enjoy it as well.

Author Bio:

Piper G. Huguley is a two-time Golden Heart ®finalist and is the author of “Migrations of the Heart,” a three-book series of historical romances set in the early 20th century featuring African American characters. Book #1 in the series, A Virtuous Ruby, won Best Historical of 2015 in the Swirl Awards. Book #3 in the series, A Treasure of Gold, was named by Romance Novels in Color as a Best Book of 2015, received 4 ½ stars from RT Magazine, and won an Emma Award for best historical romance in 2017. 

Huguley is also the author of the “Home to Milford College” series. The series follows the building of a college from its founding in 1866. Book #1 in the series, The Preacher’s Promise was named a top ten Historical Romance in Publisher’s Weekly by the esteemed historical romance author, Beverly Jenkins and received Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest Contest of Self-Published e-books in 2015.

Her new series “Born to Win Men” starts with A Champion’s Heart as Book #1.

A Champion’s Heart was named by Sarah MacLean of The Washington Post as a best romance novel selection for December 2016. 

She blogs about the history behind her novels at http://piperhuguley.com

She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.

Blurb for Piper’s book (The Swan):

Avis Smith is willing to go to Noelle to marry a man she doesn’t know in order to avenge a fourteen year wrong 
— her abandonment to a life of misery and abuse when she was just six years old. In order to get to Noelle, she has to lie about who she is, but her thirst for vengeance is so strong, she transforms herself into the pious, beautiful bride that JD Jones wants. Still, she never expected to be abandoned at the altar. 

His work as an abolitionist and fighter for justice will not allow storekeeper Liam Fulton to turn his back on the beautiful woman his archenemy is willing to leave at the altar. He figures a way to help Avis out of her predicament, offers to showcase her in his store so that other potential grooms in Noelle will see her and might want to marry the young woman with the long and elegant neck.

When swans mate, they mate for life. When Liam offers to help Avis, he never expects that in working with her to find a resolution to her problem, he discovers a fierce need to protect her. Avis doesn’t know that she might find something better than what she was looking for--a new way to a family and bonds of a strong and life-long lasting love.

Buy Piper’s book on Amazon

Connect with Piper:
Website: https://piperhuguley.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/piperhuguley

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Monday, December 17, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Miracles

The Season of Miracles

A devotional by Nanci Rubin

"And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name, Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end." 
~Luke 1:31, 32 (KJV)

"And Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word.” And the angel departed from her." ~Luke 1:38 (KJV)

I am ALWAYS awed by Mary’s statement in Luke 1:38 speaking to an angel of the Lord. “Be it unto me.”

Putting Mary into present day, as a young teen, probably between 12-14 years old when she was betrothed to Joseph. Some commentaries have Joseph much older than Mary, but most agree he was probably between 30-40 years of age. I can’t imagine a teenager of today conversing with Gabriel, an arch angel, and saying, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” Especially after him telling her she was going to become pregnant when the Holy Ghost came upon her. Mary was a virgin, she was engaged, and she was the first surrogate.

She was so willing to listen to Gabriel, and her faith in God allowed her to accept the miraculous, and say, “be it unto me.” There would be few, if any, present day youth who would accept such an arrangement, but there are still some. I am reminded of Columbine High School where the horrible massacre of nineteen-ninety-nine took place. It was reported that eighteen-year-old Cassie Bernall stood for her faith and refused to deny Jesus Christ, her savior and Mary’s son.

Then I’m reminded of this young Jewish girl who became the mother of Jesus, our Savior, and the beautiful song, Mary, Did you Know? I get cold chills when I hear the verse, “Mary did you know the child you delivered would one day deliver you?” And, “did you know that when you kissed your baby you kissed the face of God?” 

These phrases bring me to tears when I think of my own child as a baby and realizing Mary’s plight in loving this child. Although Jesus was deity, he was a baby and Mary loved him as a mother would.

Did she know? Yes, Gabriel had witnessed about Jesus, but did she really know? I’m not so sure. His death and crucifixion I don’t believe was something she dwelled upon or even knew as he grew into manhood.

But only imagine, if you can, the horrific moment in time when she was forced to witness the inhumane treatment of her first born and the agony, she felt watching him agonize. I am convinced she could taste the salt of his tears. 

But as miraculous as his birth so was his resurrection. Everything about Jesus is miraculous. This is the season of giving and God sent His son as the greatest gift of all. Share Him with those who do not know him. Give the gift of love. 

May this season bring peace and joy to each household and what a privilege it is for me to be allowed to share this wonderful savior, Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.

Merry Christmas!

Author Bio:
Nanci is a poet and short story writer published in Cypress News, Family Times E-Zine, Free Verse and the Commonwealth of Poetry.

She belongs to RWA, ACFW, and Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild where she’s enrolled in his novel writing program.

Nanci lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and cats, Romeo and Julliette, along with their newest member of the family, Roni, a seven-month-old Goldendoodle.

Recently, Nanci completed her debut novel, A Betrayal in Cross Keys, an Amish romance and has placed it in her agents capable hands. 
The rest is up to God. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Falling for Books: Kristen's book

Interview with Kristen Terrette about her book, Morning Star:

Alexis: Congratulations on the soon release of your new contemporary romance story, Morning Star! Why did you write this story and how did you decide on the title?

Kristen: These characters—Shane and Addie—have been brewing for a while.

Helicopter rescue swimmers have fascinated me since I saw The Guardian with Ashton Kutcher years ago. I loved their bravery and figured they must have an addiction to adrenaline just to do that job, so I loved exploring what that job meant for Shane. And with Addie, I knew I wanted to restore an old Moanna Island home. So, the thought of her arriving on the scene and then a boy next door appears and is a distraction was a fun take on an old storyline. And the Moanna Island series has recurring families and the intertwining of their lives, so Shane and Addie fit seamlessly into the mix of the other two Moanna love stories.

The title was an early-on choice for me that I talked my publisher into after a little petitioning. The Bible refers to Jesus three times as the Morning Star, which of course reminds me of a sunrise. Both Shane and Addie are early risers (unlike me!) and so the sunrise is extremely important to them. In the story, there’s a special sunrise where Addie points out the significance of the Morning Star to Shane, who has turned away from God. It seemed fitting to name the story after such an extraordinary moment. And because of it glorifies our Savior.

Alexis: Morning Star is book three in your Moanna Island series. Will there be a book after this one? Why or why not?

Kristen: I do have at least one other Moanna story taking shape in my head, but I haven’t started writing it, so I’m not sure. We’ll see!

Alexis: The heroine of your story Morning Star is Addie McHenry. What is she like? Describe her looks, personality and heart of restoring homes.

Kristen: Addie has an alpha personality. A first-born, bossy and goal-driven woman in a man’s world. She even wears a tool belt well! Her auburn hair only reinforces the stereotype of feisty redheads. But her pretty green eyes soften her tough exterior and Shane sees that instantly. She grew up helping her dad renovate homes and it became “her thing.”

Alexis: How does Addie feel when she catches her big break when the House to Home Network contracts her to film a reality TV show focusing on how she brings homes back to life? Why is this a dream come true for Addie?

Kristen: Addie is excited, but hesitant. Her younger sister submitted an application to the uber popular House to Home Network telling about Addie’s success at bringing old homes from dilapidated to showcases. So, she was shocked when the network chose her but knows this could propel her company to a level not many achieve. She has a strong faith and tries to follow God’s path carefully, so she’s sure He’s brought her to this place but unsure of cameras and publicity. Plus, the home is on Moanna’s beachfront, a new area for her, so there’s a lot of unknowns. 

Alexis: What does Addie have to risk in order to restore one of the oldest homes on Moanna’s beach?

Kristen: Addie risks her life-savings in order to purchase the house. When the restoration is complete, if the home doesn’t sell quickly, there’s a big chance she won’t have the money to pay the mortgage. The cost of the project is very tight as well. She has no room for mistakes.

Alexis: Shane Armstrong is the hero of your story, Morning Star. What is he like? Describe his looks, personality and heart for his family.

Kristen: Shane is a Paul Walker lookalike who jumps into stormy oceans to save lives for a living. He’s in the United States Coast Guard, so there’s a soldier-style to him. His walk is more like a march, he keeps his light hair short and he’s in extremely good shape physically. But he’s not completely comfortable in social situations and puts his foot in his mouth quite a few times! His relationship with his mom and grandmother is terrific, but he and his dad can’t seem to find common ground.

Alexis: What happened to Shane that shattered his world? How did he survive?

Kristen: I don’t want to give it away, but he’s suffered a great loss and because of it may now lose his career as well.

Why does Shane think that his grandmother’s place will help him heal and in what ways does he think that a reality TV show will threaten his serenity?

Kristen: He spent summers at his grandmother’s Moanna beach house. They have the cutest relationship! He knows the island is quiet, especially in early spring. He needs to get away from the city and the memories he’s trying to forget.

Alexis: Addie is known for being “tough as nails, challenging and superbly bossy.” Does her getting to know Shane change any of that? Why or why not?

Kristen: Shane doesn’t change her bossy nature, in fact, he may bring it out more! They both have dominant personalities so, in a way, they drive each other crazy. Though even their teasing becomes something endearing, and I love seeing them flirt through their joking and joshing.

How does Addie’s relationship with God affect her relationship with Shane?

Kristen: Truthfully, Shane is hard to like at first. But because Addie views the world and its people through a filter of love, she’s able to see a different side of Shane behind his snarky-ness. She sees how he treats his grandmother, his eagerness to help (even though he says otherwise) and the sacrifice and courage it takes for him to be able to save lives every day on the ocean.

Alexis: What do Addie and Shane admire about each other? Why?

Kristen: Shane loves Addie’s strong work ethic, the way she treats her employees like family, and how she loves to get her hands dirty by doing manual labor. But, he also watches her live selflessly and take risks, so he knows she’s brave. He loves her kindness and how she makes him laugh. Ironically, these are some of the very same things Addie loves about Shane.

What do you want readers to remember most about this story?

God heals. Tragedy will strike, but He is faithful, and therefore never leaves you, even if you try to leave Him. You don’t have to fear, He’s fighting on your behalf.

The Bible says in Psalm 46:1-3 (NIRV): “God is our place of safety. He gives us strength. He is always there to help us in times of trouble. The earth may fall apart. The mountains may fall into the sea. But we will not be afraid. The waters of the sea roar and foam. The mountains may shake when the waters rise. But we will not be afraid.” 

Thanks for the interview, Kristen! Do you have closing comments?

Just a big thanks to you for allowing me to have a little fun talking about Morning Star!

Author Bio:

Kristen holds a Master's degree in Theological Studies and served as a Children's Ministry Director for five years.

She cherishes her Southern roots and currently lives forty-five minutes outside of Atlanta, GA. 

With the support of her husband and two children, she stays at home writing Christian fiction, striving to let God take her stories where He needs them to go.

She also enjoys serving on the women's leadership and teaching team at her church and writing for Crosswalk and Wholly Loved.

Blurb for Kristen’s book, Morning Star (Moanna Island Book Three):

Addie McHenry, restoration home builder extraordinaire, catches her big break when the House to Home network contracts her to film a reality TV show focusing on how she brings homes back to life. She sets her sights on one of the oldest on Moanna’s beach and has to risk everything just to get it.

Shane Armstrong moved from Savannah to his grandmother’s Moanna oceanside house when his world shattered five months before. He went on leave from his job as a Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer, hopeful his grandmother’s peaceful street will help him heal. The reality TV show’s arrival threatens this serenity.

But the construction and camera crews are nothing compared to Addie herself. She’s tough as nails, challenging, and superbly bossy as she works to get her way. But she’s also kind, hardworking, and has a relationship with God Shane can’t begin to understand.

With each encounter, Shane’s walls start to crumble as Addie brings more than just the historical home back to life, but him as well. Addie tries desperately not to enjoy spending time with the irritable and scowling boy from next door. He hides his heartache well, but she sees it there behind his prickly exterior. Soon she begins to uncover the sacrificial hero underneath the fa├žade.

With both of them only temporary residents on Moanna Island, their thin ice relationship crashes to a halt. Can Shane return to his risky job with the Coast Guard? Does he even want to? And can Addie let him go and follow her dreams even when tragedy strikes?

Buy Kristen’s book Morning Star when it goes LIVE on Amazon in Jan. 29, 2019. You may pre-order Morning Star in a few weeks prior to its release date.

Connect with Kristen:
Website: https://www.kristenterrette.com
Amazon Author page: https://amzn.to/2RLmJ2t
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorkristenterrette
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kterrette
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kterrette/

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Christmas on My Heart: Wish Upon a Star by Tabitha Bouldin

Warriors and Worriers
A devotional by Tabitha Bouldin, based on her book Wish Upon a Star

“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”
~Deuteronomy 31:6 (KJV)

Warrior = A brave or experienced fighter

Worrier = A person who is experiencing persistent mental uneasiness

It’s interesting that two little letters can change the entire meaning of a word.

I don’t have all the answers for my life, but I do know one thing: God calls each of us to be warriors. Notice the definition of warrior: A brave or experienced fighter.

How do you gain experience? Do you want the honest truth? You gain experience by going through battles, again…and again…and again.

Some people are born warriors, some people seem to have some innate gene that keeps them moving forward when everything else tells them to give up. But if you ask them, I bet they tell you that they fight against the desire to worry.

Sometimes, the drive to worry overwhelms even the staunchest warrior. The Bible tells us to not be afraid, which is slightly different from worry, but they are close siblings. What we have to remember is: God will never let anything happen to us without His approval. Yes, we will have hard times. Yes, we will suffer. But we have the ultimate promise that it will all be worth it in the end.

It is so easy to worry. Even when we try not to, the desire to languish in our problems is a persistent thought. So how do you overcome worry? Put on the full armor of God and go into battle! It’s easy to say, right? But is it easy to do? Not so much. Going into battle requires trust, and faith, and the desire to do God’s will. That is the armor of God. Clothe yourself in His substance.

A battle is not always what you expect it to be. Sometimes, a battle might be nothing more than not losing your temper. Other times, the battle might be understanding why something unspeakable has happened to ourselves or someone we love.

This is where we find the main character in Wish Upon a Star. Bryce Masters lost his wife, Molly, during childbirth and is raising their daughter, Anna, alone. After six long years, he is finally returning to the place where he grew up. Worry threatens to overwhelm Bryce when Anna reveals her wish for a mother. With the move home, reopening the town bookstore, and caring for Anna, how is Bryce going to fulfill Anna’s wish? Does he even want to? Molly was the love of his life. His heart has no room for another.

Bryce must sacrifice his will and let God have control. Only then does he have a chance to overcome his fears.

God has given each of us free will. We can choose the type of person we want to be. Change is not easy, nor was it ever meant to be. If change were easy, then life would not be what it is today. I am a worrier by nature, but a warrior through endless trials and sheer determination as I pray for strength to overcome my own downfalls.

Worrying never does us any good. All it is capable of is taking us further away from God. We should cast our cares upon Him and leave them there. If you’re like me, that is a struggle. I can toss them away, but it’s like fishing…I keep a line on them so I can drag them back to shore and worry over them some more. The Bible says, “Be strong and of a good courage” and that is exactly what I want to be.

Don’t choose the worrier path. Choose instead to be a warrior.

Author Bio:

Tabitha Bouldin was born, raised, and still lives in the same small town in middle Tennessee. 

A member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), she has been writing for nearly five years but only recently began publishing her work.

After working for ten years as a nurse, prayers were answered that gave her the chance to be a stay-at-home mom and the time to homeschool her two boys.

Her books are meant to encourage others through the trials of life. While the stories are fiction, they come from situations that many of us face. 

Blurb for Tabitha's book (Wish Upon a Star):

Bryce Masters had everything he needed...or so he thought. His six-year-old daughter, Anna, would disagree. They were going home, moving back to Jingle Junction where Bryce would take over the local bookstore just in time for Christmas.

Losing his wife, Molly, during the birth of their daughter six years ago was tragic, but Bryce has no idea just how much it weighs on young Anna's heart until she confesses her deepest wish. 

What Anna wants for Christmas is a mother, but Bryce's heart is not ready to love again. Only God can give Bryce the desire to make Anna's wish come true. 

Only He can heal the hurt and open Bryce's heart to the power of love. But Bryce will have to be willing to listen. And when the perfect woman reveals a secret that could devastate them all, will Bryce be able to look beyond what was and accept what might be?

Buy Tabitha's book Wish Upon a Star on Amazon

Connect with Tabitha:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/tabithabouldinauthor
Twitter – www.twitter.com/tabithabouldin
Instagram – www.instagram.com/tabithabouldin
Blog – https://tabithabouldinauthor.home.blog

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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christmas on My Heart: Mistletoe Kiss by Andrea Boyd

Personal Essay by Andrea Boyd about her book, Mistletoe Kiss:

The inspiration for Mistletoe Kiss came to me two Decembers ago when I was taking the two-hour drive to see my oldest grandson. It all started with a radio announcement. A Guinness World record had been broken
–  the most people to kiss under the mistletoe at once. Over eight-hundred couples visited Six Flags in various locations to help break the record.

I began to imagine all the couple types. Long-time married couples, dating couples, strangers who met for the first time at the park that day and decided to go for it...but the one that flowed rapid-fire through my brain was of two people who decided to go as friends but ended up wanting more after that one kiss.

As soon as I got to my destination, I started doing research. The participants were provided the mistletoe. One of them had to hold it above their heads as they kissed. They had to hold the kiss for the count of ten. Oh boy! The ideas were flowing faster than I can write. Chase and his friend, Rachel, came to life.

Chase has been in love with Rachel since they first met in grade school. She has him firmly planted in the friend zone and he’s too afraid of losing what they have to ask for more. He is one of five in the Spencer family. As I wrote, I fell in love with all of them and their stories may come to life in future books, but don’t expect them to have it as easy as Chase.

Rachel is the one to come up with the scheme of them kissing under the mistletoe. She has always dreamed of breaking a world record and she and Chase had made it their goal to visit every amusement park in America. This little trip to Six Flags would serve a two-fold purpose. And the kiss, that would be a piece of cake—no different than when they played spin-the-bottle in sixth grade. A peck on the lips and it’d be over. Except she missed the part where they had to hold it for ten seconds. Oops!

I wanted to write the type of story I like to read at Christmastime—sweet, heartwarming, and full of nostalgia. There’s not too much conflict in this one. My hope is that it is in keeping with the Christmas spirit and leaves the reader with a smile.

Author Bio:

Each of Andrea Boyd’s series represents a different genre but all fall into the category of romance. All offer an element of her own brand of humor. And all are a tribute to God. 

Besides writing, she loves spending time with her family, quilting, going to car shows, and driving around in her 1968 Barracuda convertible. 

Andrea lives with her husband, Tommy, and at least a couple of cats in York County, SC.

Book Blurb for Mistletoe Kiss:

Calling All Couples!
Sign up now. Help us set a record!
On December 10 at 5:00 pm, we need your help setting a Guinness World Record for the most couples kissing under the mistletoe!

Chase Spencer had been firmly planted in the friend-zone ever since he first met Rachel Anthony back when they were in grade school and it looks like that’s where he’s destined to remain. And her latest scheme is bound to be torture. She wants them to help break the Guinness World Record for the most couples kissing under the mistletoe at one time. How should he handle this? Should the kiss be a chaste, friendly kiss like she envisions? Or should he do it in a way that leaves Rachel without a doubt that he wants to be more than friends?

It had always been Rachel’s dream to break a world record, and who better to do it with than her best friend Chase? And it wasn’t as if they hadn’t kissed before—sixth grade, spin-the-bottle at Iona Puckett’s party—a peck of the lips and it’d be over. Except she missed the part where they had to hold the kiss for ten seconds. And no one warned her of how she would feel afterwards—confused and longing for more. How can she convince Chase to change her status from friend to girlfriend?

Buy Mistletoe Kiss on Amazon

Connect with Andrea:
Website: www.andreaboyd11.com
Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cKlZwP
Twitter: https://twitter.com/andreaboyd111
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andreaboyd11/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14689507.Andrea_Boyd
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/andreaboyd11/
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/andrea-boyd

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Friday, December 14, 2018

My Review of three NEW Devotional Journals by Ellie Claire (brand)

Today, I'm sharing my reviews of three devotional journals by one of my favorite creative brands, Ellie Claire! Here's the cover design for each journal:

Worthy Publishing Group gave me (Alexis A. Goring) these products by in exchange for an honest review. This by no means impacted my decision of the journals and all opinions are my own.

Now on to the reviews...

My Review of Ellie Claire’s 
“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus: A 365-Day Devotional Journal”:

I like the cover design of this devotional journal because of the soft, pastel colors and flower/vine design. I found it to be appealing because it reminded me of spring and as I write this, winter is approaching and I don’t like the cold. So having a journal to start writing in as cold weather and snow makes its seasonal appearance is comforting.

This devotional journal definitely would have attracted my attention because of its cover design and brand (I love Ellie Claire products)!

The art style and devotions in this book work really well together because the color theme and font style are similar to the cover design. Each devotional is short and sweet with an inspirational message that will touch your heart.

“Prayer: The Map to God” the devotional for November 11 is one of my favorites because of the title and content. The message for that day in my journal really spoke to my experience with GPS (navigational systems) and encouraged me to never stop praying because God is always willing to listen. He’s also ready to help at any time.

The paper thickness of each page is enough to support the ink from your pen or marker without leaking onto the next page.

I plan to use this devotional daily. Anyone female from age 12 to 100 in any career or from any background would probably love to receive this journal as a gift and would benefit from using it!

*Buy this journal on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


My Review of Ellie Claire’s
“The Earth Is the Lord’s and Everything In It: A 365-Day Devotional Journal”:

The cover design for this devotional journal is rich in color, elegant and elaborate. The design appealed to me from the moment I saw it, drawing me into the richness and elegance. Blue is one of my favorite colors so the beautiful blue color of the peacocks on the front cover enthralled me. This product would definitely have caught my attention as I browsed through a bookstore!

The art style and devotions in the book works very well together as the upper body of a peacock and a flower from the front cover are pictured on the bottom corners of each page in this journal.

The devotions and quotes inside the journal were very inspirational! One of my favorites is the entry for June 12 titled, “The God Who Sings.” I never thought of God as a singer but He created music so I guess it makes sense! This is supported by the Bible in Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV). Now I cannot wait to hear God sing when we get to Heaven!

The paper thickness of each page is enough to support the ink from your pen or marker without leaking onto the next page.

I plan to give away this journal to someone who I believe will be blessed by it. But if I were keeping it for myself, I’d write in it every day, starting on January 1, 2019!

*Buy this journal on Amazon or Barnes and Noble


My Review of Ellie Claire’s
“Peace Begins with Me: A 365-Day Devotional Journal”:

The cover design for this journal is soft and looks like a work of art as if a painter dipped their paintbrush in a gorgeous light green color then graced the cover with fluid strokes. The result is a light green-creamy white marble look and it is gorgeous!

If I were browsing through a bookstore, I would definitely stop to pick up this journal and flip through the pages! The art style and devotions within this product work well together because the left and right of each page has a thin border that’s the same color of the front and back cover of this journal. It creates a beautiful design and accent.

The devotions and quotes in this journal are inspirational. One of my favorite devotions within this journal is from April 2, which is titled, “The Immovable Anchor.” It’s based on a Psalm 93:3 (NIV) and reminds me that God is my anchor in the midst of any storm that I may go through in this life. After reading this devotion, my heart is encouraged to persevere and continue leaning into God.

The paper thickness of each page is enough to support the ink from your pen or marker without leaking onto the next page.

I plan to give this journal away too but only because I believe that someone will be blessed by it and I only need one devotional journal to write in for the New Year 2019.

*Buy this journal on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


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Devotionals for the Heart: Words

Courage, Fear, and Joy
A devotional by Sara L. Foust

“Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.” 
~Psalm 32:24 (KJV)

I have mentioned before, I believe, that my word for 2018 was courage. And that I had no idea how much I would need when the year began. But, as we near 2019, I’d like to think I acted courageously to the many new adventures God placed in my path. The lesson I’ve learned this year is this: When we have the courage to do what God asks of us, joy comes along on the heels of fear. And the beauty of the joy far outweighs the momentary fear.

God has asked me to step out of my comfort zone time and time again this year. He has asked me to face several fears head-on, with my head high, my shoulders erect, and His hand in mine. He has not once failed me. He has not once left me. I have felt his presence in the midst of my sadness. And in the midst of the unknown. He has helped me when I thought the fear of what lay ahead might crush me, might stomp me and leave me for dust. 

Though I am far from perfect, I have felt His face shining down on me, heard His voice whispering to me, and seen the glory of His will reach into the tendrils of the decisions we’ve made together. I have found pieces of myself I didn’t know were missing this time last year, and I am painstakingly trying to put them back into place—with His guidance as the master puzzle-builder. All the while, learning new things about myself and this wonderful, loving God I serve along the way. 

Isn’t it amazing that I have “known” Him for nearly 20 years now and still learn something new every single day? I have read the Bible diligently (almost) every morning for six years now, completely through at least once that I know of (I’m ashamed to say it isn’t more), and yet every day He shows me something I hadn’t seen before.

We serve a good God. A just God. A wonderfully merciful God.

If I can take anything away from the experiences of 2018, it will be that God has indeed given me the courage to do things I deemed improbable and, at times, impossible. And He has allowed me to find my joy when I thought I’d never see it again. I wake up early now, before the sun is up most mornings, and watch as the day grows gray out my window. My dad has been telling me for years it is a magical time of day, and now I finally understand why. I never thought I could enjoy waking at 5 o'clock in the morning so much. (Though, I do really look forward to those often-hoped-for but not-always-accomplished midday naps.) there is so much joy in the little things. Like the sunrise or the anticipation for another glorious day. Like the first cup of coffee and the first words my son speaks in the morning. The first hugs I get from my daughters each morning and the first prayers that leave my heart.

I could look back at my year and focus on the problems, but I choose not to. It’s a choice I make several times a day. I’ve had a good year. Ups and downs alike. Goods and bads, sorrows and, most importantly, those moments of joy. Two weeks before Christmas, I have found the puzzle piece holding my smile, and I couldn’t be more thankful. I am thanking Him for the trials, for the lessons learned, and for giving me the courage to try new things and face new obstacles this year. If my word for 2019 is courage once again, I am okay with that. Because I know He is already there and I have hope in Him.

I pray each and every one of you has a blessed, magical Christmas and a safe New Year. Let’s go into 2019 praying, trusting Him, and with the determination to let Him lead, no matter how scary it feels. My newest favorite song says, “My fear doesn’t stand a chance when I stand in Your love.” What a perfect motto for 2019—and for the rest of my life.

Listen to Josh Baldwin’s “Stand in Your Love” on YouTube here. I promise it will bring a smile to your face. It does mine, every time I hear it.

Author Bio: 
Sara writes Inspirational Romantic Suspense from a mini-farm in East Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and their five homeschooled children.

She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Tennessee Mountain Writers.

Her debut novel, Callum's Compass, won second place in Deep River Books' 2017 Writer's Contest. She also has a story, “Leap of Faith,” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. Sara finds inspiration in her faith, her family, and the beauty of nature.

When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, camping, and spending time outdoors with her family. To learn more about her and her work or to become a part of her email friend’s group, please visit www.saralfoust.com.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Christmas on My Heart: The Christmas Glory Quilt by Cathe Swanson

Personal Essay by Cathe Swanson about her book,
The Christmas Glory Quilt:

I had so much fun writing The Christmas Glory Quilt! It’s a classic “write what you know” book. To start with, I’m a quiltmaker. I started sewing garments and other projects when I was a young child, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I made my first real quilt. I was hooked. That was beginning of a long career as a quilter, designer, and teacher of quiltmaking.

A writer friend urged me to write books with quilts in them, but I resisted, certain that market was already overcrowded. Then I came up with a brilliant idea: I would write books and design quilts for each one, offering the pattern as a bonus for early purchasers and then selling it separately later. I still think it’s a brilliant idea, but I hadn’t thought it through. Designing and making quilts, as well as drafting patterns, takes as long as writing books! Still, I’m happy with the results, and I have the whole Glory Quilts series mapped out!

The Christmas Glory Quilt is about a large, homeschooling family in Minnesota, with a strong Swedish heritage, an old family farm, and an avid genealogist great aunt. Oh, yeah... got all that. The settings and seasons are familiar from my childhood. Now, having migrated all the way to Wisconsin, I enjoy visiting my family who (all) still live there.

Family – the extended, multigenerational family – is important to me. As the Glory Quilts series progresses, there will be more of the Andersons’ family history woven into the contemporary plots. Great Aunt Violet has been chronicling their stories in quilts, like scrapbooks, and she’s come across a new family mystery – a family heirloom, buried long ago, and no one is left to tell her why it was hidden!

I especially enjoy celebrating my ethnic heritage at Christmas, with so many Scandinavian traditions and foods, and I included several of them in this book. I even included some of my personal opinions of the St. Lucy processions – not only dangerous, but extremely gruesome and odd!

The one part of this book that required extensive research is the heroine’s dyslexia. In addition to the usual online research, I had an invaluable advisor, a specialist in remediating dyslexia in children and adults. I learned so much!

We are blessed to live in an age where dyslexia is diagnosed early and can be remediated. Previous generations, like Great Uncle Olof, were just labeled illiterate, too dumb to learn to read.

Penny Anderson is smart, creative and ambitious. She just has trouble reading. Determined to make a success of her business, designing bridal gowns, she’s not going to let dyslexia define or limit her.

The Christmas Glory Quilt is the first in the Glory Quilts series. The next one, The Swedehearts Glory Quilt, will appear in the Betwixt Two Hearts collection in February.

The Christmas Glory Quilt is available now in paperback, but you can only get the Kindle version in the 2018 Christmas Lights collection: Comfort & Joy. The collection features inspirational Christmas stories from Toni Shiloh, Alana Terry and Chautona Havig – and me! It’s available exclusively on Amazon, for just 99 cents, and – as always – free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. 

*You can learn more about my quilting at www.gloryquilts.com

Author Bio: 

Cathe Swanson, the author of the Great Lakes series, enjoys gardening, sewing, papercrafting and kayaking on the beautiful Wisconsin rivers. 

She’s been teaching quiltmaking for over 25 years, focusing on retreat workshops, ministry events and bridal quilt bees, and is finally bringing that experience and enthusiasm to her newest series, the Glory Quilts.

Book Blurb for 
The Christmas Glory Quilt:

Scrap quilts, bridal gowns, an old Swedish farmhouse and a hidden family heirloom. What more you could you want in a Minnesota Christmas romance?

Penny Anderson has a dream – she’s going to be an exclusive bridal gown designer, and she won’t held back by dyslexia, a rural location or the doubts of others.

Brian Michaels has waited seven years for Penny to see him as man instead of just a childhood friend. Can he work up the courage to speak before the tall, dark and handsome business consultant sweeps her off her feet?

Aunt Violet is interested in only two things: Genealogy and quilting. As she chronicles the family history in a series of patchwork quilts, she comes to peace with her own past.

Buy Comfort & Joy (boxed set) on Amazon

Connect with Cathe:
Website: http://catheswanson.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CatheSwanson
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CatheSwanson
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/catheswanson
Instagram: http://instagram.com/CatheSwanson
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/CatheSwanson
BookBub Author Page: http://www.bookbub.com/authors/cathe-swanson
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/catheswanson

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Comfort

The Comfort of Jesus
A devotional by Melissa Henderson

“Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever.” 
~Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)

Have you ever paused to consider the Scripture listed above? Have you ever thought about the blessing of Jesus staying the same yesterday and today and forever? What a wonderful comfort to know Jesus is always with us. He never leaves us. He loves us forever. In a world full of changes, the love of Jesus brings blessings to all.

Our days may be full of activities, rushing here and there, trying to complete everything on the “to do” list. Or our days may be lonely and filled with uncertainty. Each of us has a unique path in life and special gifts given to us by God. Knowing He is with us brings comfort and peace.

As we experience daily schedules, sometimes things are the same and sometimes different. The schedule may include a different time or place. A new appointment, lunch date, play date, or our work hours may change. Births, deaths, illness and more. How we adapt to those changes shows others how we rely on God.

Even if our lives are filled with happiness or sadness, calm or stress, rest or rush, there is one constant in our lives. Jesus. Forever. Even if we become weary and lose hope, He never leaves us. We can always return to Him.

Friendships may come and go. New friendships may be formed. The hours change, the days change, lives change daily. Change is evident everywhere, from the ocean tide to the rising and setting sun. Changes come in the seasons and the weather. Warm temperatures to cold winds, God’s creations are full of changes.

When we feel overwhelmed, Jesus is there, waiting for us to go to Him. When we are filled with joy and happiness, Jesus is there, waiting for us to go to Him. From prayers of anguish to prayers of thanksgiving, His attention to us never wavers. He never turns His back on us.

His arms are always open, waiting for us. His love is always evident. We are forever His.

Jesus is always the same. We never have to worry about losing His love or Him not caring for us.

Jesus loved us yesterday, Jesus loves us today. Jesus loves us forever.

Can you share the good news with others? Have you showed His love to others today? Find someone and remind them of Hebrews 13:8. Have a conversation about the peace Jesus provides.

There may be someone waiting to hear about the love of Jesus. Don’t assume everyone knows the comfort of Jesus. Share His love through your words and actions.

What a glorious day to show people that “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever.”


Melissa Henderson

Author Bio:
Melissa Henderson and her husband Alan live in South Carolina.

Married for over 38 years, they have one son (Mike) who is married to daughter-in-love (Christine) and now are blessed by a precious grandson (Rowan).

Melissa was taught the love of reading and writing at an early age from her parents. She is now working on her first inspirational fiction novel.

Her passions are volunteering, Bible Studies, reading and writing. Connect with Melissa online, https://mimionlife.wordpress.com.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Christmas on My Heart: A Cinderella Christmas by Amanda Tru

Interview with Amanda Tru about her book, A Cinderella Christmas:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this story?

Amanda: I was in a car accident a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, I was at fault. After the accident was cleaned up, the cars were towed, and the police were gone, I sat on the curb waiting for my husband to come pick me up. Feeling very traumatized and upset, I cried while people walked by, not a single person bothering to look my direction or ask what was wrong. Because of that moment, I wondered how often I don’t see others in need on the sidelines of my own life. Dealing with the trauma from my accident and capturing the significance of that moment became the inspiration for A Cinderella Christmas.

Alexis: What does your story’s title, A Cinderella Christmas, mean?

Amanda: It’s an unexpected twist on the fairytale. In the story, Grant Dillon must find a mysterious woman who inspires his life to change after just one meeting. It is definitely a Cinderella story, but in the end, it also presents a challenge for us all to be the Cinderella this Christmas.

Alexis: A Cinderella Christmas is book two in your Christmas Card series. Tell us about this book and the series.

Amanda: A couple of years ago, I wrote the first book in the series with the idea of writing a book that could be used as an inspirational Christmas card. It’s amazing to realize that gifting an e-book could be less expensive than sending a card, but it’s often true! I wanted to tell a beautiful story that also communicated a Christmas inspirational message that would make the world a better place. It is a different genre than I typically write, and yet readers found it deeply meaningful. I wanted to write a second book, but I had no idea what it would be until I dealt with my own trauma from the accident. This series is my most personal, based on my own experiences, and I love to think that God has been able to use the tough things in my own life to now create two beautiful Christmas stories to inspire others.

Alexis: Let’s talk about your story’s heroine Emily Jansen. What is she like? What drives her to succeed? What hinders her success? What are her dreams?

Amanda: Emily’s life is on pause after an accident in which she is at fault. She is an elementary teacher and a Christian. She’s a good girl who hasn’t ever purposely hurt anyone. Now, with the guilt of knowing the other driver was injured because of her and the uncertainty of whether she will be sued because of it, she’s paralyzed in every area of her life. Her current dreams consist of driving from point A to point B without a panic attack, putting one foot in front of the other to get through each day, getting through the next two years without being sued, somehow allowing God to show her how to help others so that no one else has to be ignored on the sidelines. Emily is a writer and has a heart for others but has trouble trusting God enough to put one foot in front of the other when she doesn’t know how her story will end.

Alexis: Why does Emily struggle with guilt and anxiety?

Amanda: Emily is the type of person who would never knowingly hurt someone and the fact that someone was hurt because she caused an accident is very difficult for her to deal with. She identifies herself as the bad guy in the scenario, and it completely rewrites how she views herself. She no longer trusts herself as a driver or a person of intelligence and can’t forgive herself for making a mistake. Driving is extremely difficult for her, and she has extreme flashbacks and anxiety every time she gets behind the wheel. It is a constant struggle for her to keep moving forward when she doesn’t know that she can trust herself or God.

Alexis: What does Emily’s special notebook look like and how does writing in it help her process everything?

Amanda: Emily’s notebook is a simple, bound pad with lined paper like one might find for a dollar or even 88 cents on a back-to-school special. I picture it as a black composition notebook, probably because that’s the current variety I use! Emily is a writer, though not professionally so. She writes as a way of dealing with the trauma of what she’s been through. If she writes something out, it is far less confusing and more understandable in the form of words on a page. Swirling, random thoughts become three dimensional when writing on lined, two-dimensional paper. Emily very much borrows this habit from her creator who really doesn’t know what she thinks until she reads what she’s written on a page!

Let’s talk about your hero Grant Dillon. What does he look like? What does he sound like? What is his passion? What breaks his heart?

Grant is a bit of a local celebrity, in part because of his writing talent and his good looks. He’s in his mid to late thirties and is tall and masculine with a strong jaw, warm brown eyes, and dark brown hair that falls across his forehead at just the right angle. He’s quite charming when he’s interviewing and on the job, but he sees the deeper emotion behind what casual observers see as a superficial story. Writing stories that matter is his passion, but that is trumped by his love for his daughter. Grant’s heart was broken with the loss of his wife, and though he tries his best, his heart breaks a little more each day he feels inadequate to connect with his daughter in the way she needs.

Alexis: At the start of your story, Grant has been a widower for five years. How is he coping with the loss of his wife?

Grant is similar to Emily in that the trauma of losing his wife has paralyzed him. He hasn’t been able to write like he used to, and he feels way over his head with trying to raise his daughter by himself. The intense grief has passed, but the day-to-day loss is what he can’t seem to get beyond.

What does Grant consider to be the challenges of raising his daughter alone?

Grant’s daughter, Mila, is fourteen. As she gets older, he realizes their relationship has changed. He can no longer make everything better with a kiss to an owie. He has trouble understanding the girl drama and doesn’t know how to relate to her. He feels that she’s moving away from him and connecting less, but he has no idea how to stop it and how a dad can also fulfill the role of a mom in her life.

Alexis: How did the death of Grant’s wife affect his successful journalism career?

Amanda: Before his wife’s death, Grant was a successful journalist who spent considerable time traveling to write prize-winning stories. He scaled back his career when he needed to stay with Mila, and the newspaper he works for agreed to let him stay local. He hasn’t had a big story since he became a widower, and the newspaper is getting anxious. Grant doesn’t seem to have the drive to do what he used to do, and his writing and career has been paralyzed since the day he said goodbye to Kristi.

Alexis: Why does Grant’s boss pressure him to write a prize-winning article?

She doesn’t give him a choice. He needs to prove that he is still a valuable asset to the newspaper, or he will be fired. His boss has a very hard edge to her personality and assigns him a seemingly impossible task. Then she attaches a deadline.

Alexis: How does a visit to a vet’s office inspire Grant and change his outlook?

Amanda: Grant witnesses a heartbreaking situation, and when he sees the brave way in which a young woman responds, he is touched and inspired. Then, when he finds a notebook that is left behind, he reads her writing and realizes he’s just witnessed her living out the beautiful, personal message she’d written. He is inspired to do the same and to share her message with others.

Alexis: What is it about Emily that inspires Grant and helps to heal his heart?

Amanda: Because Grant is a writer, he understands that the words in Emily’s notebook aren’t casually written. They are birthed from experience and pain. Grant is inspired because he recognizes that there is a story behind the notebook and that the pain behind the words has created something beautiful that is meant to become alive and be shared. Likewise, he wants to be brave beyond his own pain to see those around him in need. It is that sight beyond his own pain and the inspiration of Emily’s message that awakens his heart to live life differently and share that inspiration with others.

Alexis: What is it about Grant that makes Emily want to open her heart to him?

Grant’s belief in her when she has lost all confidence in herself unfreezes Emily’s heart. He sees strength in her weakness and beauty in her pain in a way that she can’t see herself. He knows her faults and all she’s done, and he deems her valuable still. It is the echo of God’s love in Grant that reaches Emily’s heart and causes her to trust that the One who loves her most intends to use her for something worthwhile.

Alexis: What life lessons are you trying to teach through Grant and Emily’s story?

Amanda: I don’t think my objective is to teach as much as it is to share. This is a message that is meaningful to me personally, and I hope it’s meaningful to others as well. I think everyone has felt both extremes at some point in their lives. Sometimes you’re the person sitting on the curb and crying while nobody notices. Sometimes you’re the person walking by oblivious or not brave enough to help someone on the sidelines of your life. I’ve been both. Since I wrote this book, the message has changed my own life. 

My prayer is the same as Emily’s: Give me eyes to see what isn’t shown, ears to hear what isn’t said, hands to do what You want, and the courage to not walk away.

My hope is that those who read this book might be inspired as well, and if just one person chooses to not walk away because of it, I consider that a success.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about A Cinderella Christmas?

: Every person who reads this book will connect in a different way or extract something different that they find most profound or meaningful. Whatever message God uses to touch you, that’s what I want you to hold on to. Capture that split second of inspiration, savor it and allow God to use it to write your own beautiful story.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Amanda! Do you have closing comments?

Amanda: If you read A Cinderella Christmas and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review and sharing it with others. I believe word of mouth is still the best publicity, and the highest compliment you can give an author is to recommend her book. Also, I love to hear from readers. If you loved this story or felt inspired, it would truly make my day to know about it.

Author Bio:
Amanda Tru loves to write page-turning books that inspire real-life Christianity while providing plenty of unexpected twists. She figures she loses so much sleep writing the things, it’s only fair she makes readers lose sleep with books they can’t put down! 

Amanda's current book list includes everything from historical, to action-packed suspense, to inspirational romance, to a Christian time travel/romance series. She is also the author and organizer behind the unique, multi-author Crossroads collection series.

Amanda is a former elementary school teacher who now spends her days being mommy to her four young children and her nights furiously writing. Amanda and her family live in a small Idaho town where the number of cows outnumbers the number of people.

Blurb for Amanda's book (A Cinderella Christmas

A notebook meant to heal one heart, inspires the hearts of many. 

Entirely at fault after a traumatic accident, Emily Jansen struggles with feelings of guilt, anxiety, and the desire to prevent others from experiencing something similar. To help work through her issues, she writes in a notebook and prays for God to open her eyes to see others in need. 

After Grant Dillon’s wife passed away, he scaled back his successful journalism career to better raise his daughter. Now his boss wants him back in the game. He must either produce a prize-winning article or find a new job. At a chance encounter at a vet’s office, Grant finds a notebook a woman left behind. Knowing that she will be the source for his story, Grant searches for someone he knows only by her inspirational writing.

Though just a simple notebook, the message inside could change the world. Its message both inspires Grant to act differently and produces a chain of events that changes lives forever. 

Will Emily's own very personal message heal her heart and allow God to use her pain for good? 

Will Grant’s search for the author of the notebook end with him finding his true Cinderella?

Connect with Amanda:
Website: www.amandatru.com
Newsletter (sign-up): http://eepurl.com/ZQdw9
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amandatru.author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TruAmanda
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/truamanda/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5374686.Amanda_Tru

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