My Christmas Tradition

by Betty Boyd

file0001298428842I have been living in the Tennessee Valley for twenty years. While married to my late husband, we never really celebrated the traditional Christmas. So most of my adult life, I did not have any Christmas traditions. Growing up, our family had the usual waiting for Santa Claus to give us gifts, but that’s as far as it went.

I had always wanted to attend midnight mass. I joined St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Athens, Alabama in 2009 and joined their choir later that year. They sang every year at midnight mass. Here was my “in.”

The choir starts preparing in late October. I wasn’t sure I could get into singing sacred Christmas songs this early, so I decided to listen to what each song was really saying about the birth of Jesus. This made it easier for me to sing.

Just after Thanksgiving, the pressure is on in rehearsals. The choir director is making sure we go through all the music as many times as we can fit in, to make it as perfect as possible. I am starting to feel nervous, for this is the first midnight mass in which I will be singing.

The day has arrived. It is Christmas Eve, and I hope I am prepared for this special event. Throughout the day, I keep thinking–can I do a good enough job to show God I truly glorify and love Him? Though I have participated in some form of choir all my life, I have never been this nervous about singing. Am I up to the challenge?

I arrive at the church at least 45 minutes early. The singing for the midnight mass starts at 11:30 while the congregation files in. The choir’s music is performed by two brothers on acoustic electric guitars, along with other electronic accompaniment. We have a small choir of 10 people, which makes it both beautiful and unique in performing.

The live music helps me sing better with the choir. We sing throughout the two-hour-long mass. As each song is performed, I feel closer and closer to God. For the first time in my life, I feel as though it is really Christmas.

file0002074159204Singing at midnight mass has been my tradition for five years now. I practice with the choir in preparation. I find the songs more beautiful and their meaning more special. Singing at midnight mass inspires me to know that the true meaning of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

May your Christmas be blessed by the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Betty Boyd

Betty Boyd 1

 

Today we welcome our own Crew Member, Betty Boyd, to 3 Questions Wednesday.

 

(1) What is your favorite book? [Bible excluded]

Betty: My favorite book is The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell.

Jennifer: I love all his books :)

(2) If you could walk into any book, what literary character would you want to be?

Betty: I would like to be Jo Walsh, in Little Women.

(3) If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Betty:  I would want to travel to Australia.

Thanks for joining us today, Betty!

Betty Boyd, a Pennsylvania native, moved to the Tennessee Valley in 1994.  Her passion has always been both writing and photography.  She is an artist at heart.  God has given her these gifts to help inspire others, to help others, and to give back to the community. She’s presently working on her first book about Women of Inspiration. She hopes their stories will help inspire others.

 

A Long Time Ago in a Faraway Place…

by Betty Owens

A long time ago in a faraway place…

Sounds like the beginning of a fairytale, doesn’t it? I can imagine scrunching down in my bed, getting ready to hear a wonderful story that helps me drift off to sleep. A story filled with marvelous things, like fairies…and princesses and kings.

What story do you read or tell on Christmas Eve? What story beckons to your imagination? “Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” Many of us know that one by heart.

Then there’s the story of the animals that spoke at midnight on Christmas Eve. And the true story of the Christ child, born to Mary in Bethlehem, a long time ago…a faraway place. Shepherds came in from the fields, sent by an angelic host. The three wise men arrived, bearing strange gifts. The Christ child cooed in his make-shift cradle—a manger—a humble beginning for a king.

Leonardo DaVinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

The magic of Christmas glows in our hearts. The traditional telling, whether we read it or say it from memory, passes on the tradition of belief. And belief lends strength to the hearer. How will they hear unless someone speaks the message? How will they believe if no one teaches?

It may have all the earmarks of a fairy tale, but it’s grounded in truth. We’ve fictionalized it over the years, but the facts remain. If you open the Bible and read it directly from the Word of God, you find truth that touches hearts and ignites a fire within.

So plant the seeds of faith in your children and grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends. Tell the story, or read it aloud to them. Share the faith that burns in your heart because someone shared it with you. And never forget the Christ child born in a manger, who grew up to change the world.

May you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and holiday celebration. Peace on earth, good will to men!

Betty Thomason Owens

Elizabeth Noyes – Imperfect Wings

Congratulations, Elizabeth, you’ve written a book, and seen it to publication. What are three things you’ve learned from this experience?
E NoyesElizabeth:  Patience – the publishing process is a world unlike any other. For so long, everything revolved around my story world, my characters and scenes, editing, and polishing. Once I pronounced it complete, at that point I realized I had no idea what to do with it! That’s when I entered the world of conferences, weary literary agents, and the dreaded “tell me about your book” question.

I strongly encourage aspiring writers to get started on this part of the process as early as possible. If nothing else, it provides practice that will prepare you for the next step … before you reach the next step.

Patience – I went to a conference and met with a literary agent. She requested a book proposal, which set church bells ringing in my head. I also met with a publisher who listened to me for all of thirty seconds before he began shredding my story. Crushed is a good way to describe how I felt. He sure stopped those heavenly bells!

After licking my wounds, I sent my proposal off to the agent and received a response back requesting the completed manuscripts. I entered a writing contest, took second place, and my hopes soared again. I tackled another writing conference and met Tracy Ruckman of Write Integrity Press. She requested the first few chapters of my story, read it, liked it, and offered me a contract. I was on my way!

For writers, our writings are our children. It’s hard when your kids are rejected. My best advice is to toughen up and remember that rejection is not personal. It’s a fact, since your book will not appeal to everyone. Keep your chin up and persevere.

Patience – So I had a book and a contract. Friends and family were so tickled for me. “When’s your book coming out?” Uh … soon? In the spring? Maybe summer? Next year?

If you contract with a publisher, you don’t go to the top of their list. More likely, you go to the bottom. Publishers have a number of authors awaiting publication, much like a juggler with a dozen balls in the air. Books slated for publication go through pre-edits, more edits, and galley edits. There are jacket designs to be considered and finalized, copyrights to file, and the list goes on. Publication is not a quick process.

I waited and, as the months went by, I began to doubt my work. What if my publisher had second thoughts? What if my story wasn’t good enough? Every time the dark thoughts came, Tracy came through with a bit of encouragement. Don’t do what I did. Ask your publisher up front for a projected release date, but understand that unforeseen circumstances can change it. Don’t be afraid to contact your publisher with questions—just don’t go overboard with your worries. Focus your attention on building your social media platform. Don’t neglect your writing—start something new. And trust your publisher. After all, they’re the one who offered the contract.

Thanks for making that point, Elizabeth. Receiving a contract is a very important step, but it’s only the first step in a sometimes long, drawn-out process. Now, regarding Imperfect Wings, what is your favorite sentence or paragraph in the book?

Elizabeth:  I actually have two favorite passages. The first occurs while Garrett and TJ (the main characters, are arguing. This is reference to the age-old claim that men and women don’t speak the same language. 
It goes:

(Garrett) “Let me get this straight. You’re saying I see you as a woman, but I don’t want to see you as a woman, and you don’t like that?”
(TJ) “Do you deny it?”
(Garrett) “Yes. Wait…no.” The beginnings of a headache stirred. He yanked off his hat and hurled it to the floor. His voice rose, a sure sign he’d lost control of the situation. “I don’t have a clue what you just said, and I sure don’t know how to answer without digging myself in deeper.”

The second passage is part of a dialogue between Garrett and his father, Cody. During a little father-son talk (keep in mind Garrett is in his early thirties), Garrett admits he hurt TJ and doesn’t know how to make it up to her. This little conversation snippet gives a man’s insight into a woman’s psyche.

Here’s what Cody says:

“Commitment don’t mean you have to get hitched tomorrow. That would be a disaster. You two got a spark going, but you barely know each other. Commitment means you’re willing to spend the time and effort to get to know her. Learn to trust and be trusted without letting anyone else muddy the water. Figure out if you want to spend the rest of your life with her, and vice versa. And then you grovel. A lot. Women like that.”

On a more practical note, writers sit for extended periods of time. What do you do to combat fatigue?

I block time on my iPhone calendar, set those “appointments” with funky alarms, and then stash my phone in a nearby room. This way I can tune out familiar ring tones for text messages, emails, and Facebook notifications. The unusual calendar alarm (a Sherwood Forest horn sound) stands out and catches my attention.

By scheduling blocks of time for specific purposes and using an obnoxious alarm, I protect my writing time, make sure critiques get done in a timely manner, do PR on a regular basis, and take care of other demands (such as walking and those never-ending household chores). So far, it’s worked well.

How do you personally handle “writer’s block?”

Elizabeth:  I have a number of ways to unblock my inner muse. I use them based on mood, weather, circumstances, and outside demands on my time.

1. Read. I like to immerse myself in someone else’s story.
2. Nap. I “write” a lot of my stuff in my head.
3. Watch a movie (or two, or three). Again, get into another story.
4. Go on a cleaning spree. Physical work exhausts the body while leaving the mind free to chase all those crazy rabbit trails.
5. Take a walk sans iPod—and not in my neighborhood where everyone wants to stop and chat. I call this “free think” time.
6. Sometimes I just get up and walk away from my computer until I feel the pull to return. That might be a five-minute stretch, an hour-long trip to the grocery store, or even a weekend spent with the grandkids.
It’s key for each author to find an avenue of escape so they can return to writing with a fresh outlook.

And in closing, what fun fact would you like your readers to know about you?

Elizabeth:  I married my husband on Christmas Eve, which seemed like a good idea at the time, at least until we started needing babysitters. We left my home in Alabama on Christmas Day, flew to his family’s home in northern Maine, and then on New Year’s Day to Germany where he was stationed with the Army. Who else do you know can boast of a 3½ year honeymoon?

We’ve been avid travelers and passionate cruisers ever since. During forty-plus years of marriage, I’ve visited 4 continents and more than 40 countries and islands. (My honey has been on 6 continents and in tons more countries). Our retirement plan includes lots of travel in the coming years, as long as we’re able to still go.

BIO:  Elizabeth Noyes is a native of the Deep South and claims to still “speak the language,” even after traveling around the world for most of her adult life. She and her husband now live in the eastern suburbs of Atlanta where she recently retired from a career as a professional business writer and editor. “I thought I would have trouble filling my days now that I’m retired. Instead, it’s a challenge to squeeze in time for my writing between church, family, grandkids, friends, book marketing, and learning more than I ever wanted to know about social media. Somehow, though, the balance always comes.”


Imperfect Wings, by Elizabeth Noyes

A young woman in the wrong place at the wrong time… An ex-soldier determined to finish the mission… Assassins, traitors, passion, and a deadly race against time in pursuit of justice.

IW Front CoverEvil stalks TJ McKendrick.

Three years after burying her father, TJ visits Honduras where he died. While there, she witnesses a murder and is forced to flee.

Don Castillo dreams of riches and power. Funnel the drugs into the States and it’s his. First though, he must eliminate the woman who dared spy on him.

The last thing Garrett Cameron needs is another woman disrupting his life, but when the feisty vixen that put a monkey wrench in his mission two years ago shows up at his ranch running for her life — what’s a man to do?

IW Back CoverThe attraction between TJ and Garrett, a desire neither is prepared for, ignites into a raging inferno in the midst of danger. Her past is filled with betrayal. He’s lived a life of violence. Love isn’t for them.

Only faith in God can overcome the deadly odds they face. Only by trusting each other can they move beyond their pasts and embrace a future together.

For more Information:

Elizabeth@ElizabethNoyesWrites.com

www.ElizabethNoyesWrites.com

www.facebook.com/Elizabeth.Noyes.54

www.linkedin.com/in/enoyes1625

www.twitter.com/ENoyes5246

One of My Favorite Christmas Traditions

silver nativity“How do you keep Christ in Christmas at your house?” My friend, Tracy asked me. My mind drifted automatically to the nativity scenes I display at Christmas. In the past, two main scenes decorate our house amidst the many snowmen I collect. This year I’m also adding a third. Let me tell you about them and what they mean to me.

 

First is my silver-plated set given to me by my mother and step-dad. It’s an elegant rendition of that first Christmas, each piece handcrafted and detailed. It reminds me of all that is beautiful during this season. From decorations, to selfless acts to large choirs singing songs of adoration, at Christmas time, beauty is on display.

 

My second set came from a local department store during a sale after Christmas. This ceramic set is more down-to-earth, a closer portrayal of the reality of a stable, hay and animals that surrounded the Savior’s birth. This set reminds me of the reality of life, the hurry, the bad mixed amongst the good during a season full of people with faults and failures, people a lot like me.Jennifer Hallmark ceramic nativity

 

I received my third set this year, a gift from my brother and his wife for my fiftieth birthday. Handcrafted in Talkeetna, Alaska, near where they live, this set has two spruce trees and an igloo. Some might think it odd knowing Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but I see symbolism in it as well. Jesus came to earth to save us all from the Eskimo in Alaska to the Aborigines in Australia to the Native Americans in the western United States.

 

Jennifer Hallmark alaska nativitySo as I decorate for Christmas and watch my granddaughters carry around baby Jesus and ask me questions about these different renditions of Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus, once again Jesus is lifted up in the Hallmark household.

 

Writing Prompt: Make a list of your favorite Christmas decorations and detailed descriptions and personal meanings of each. File this to use in an upcoming short story, novella, or novel.

 

 

 

 

http://www.jenniferhallmark.com

Christmas Time is Coming!

christmas treeAnd so are more winners! Our latest winner of Shirley Kiger Connolly’s book, Not Quite an Angel, is DK Stevens. Congratulations!

 

Don’t miss this week’s interview with Ginger Solomon with a chance to win her book, One Choice.

 

There are only a few days left to enter our Christmas Extravaganza! It’s the Crews time to give and we’re offering gift cards, books, jewelry, and free edits to one blessed winner! Maybe it will be you. Check out the details here...

 

Ginger Solomon

Ginger pic (1)

 

 

Today we welcome author Ginger Solomon to 3 Questions Wednesday.

(1) What is your favorite book? [Bible excluded]

Ginger:    I read extensively, so it’s really hard to narrow down the list to one favorite book. If I had to choose, I would say Winter, and its sequel Prophetess by Keven Newsome. These books are outside my preferred genre, but something about the supernatural draws me.

(2) If you could walk into any book, what literary character would you want to be?

Ginger: What literary character would I be? Hmmm. There are so many good ones, but we writers tend to put our heroines through the wringer (pardon the cliché), so it’s hard to decide whose life I’d like to live. I like the idea of an Amish heroine, with their simple life, but I don’t think I’d like getting up before dawn or living without electricity. I guess I’d like to be one of the heroines in Mary Connealy’s books. At least then I’d get to ride a horse once in a while. J

(3) If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Ginger:  Ah, finally an easy question to answer. I’d go to Scotland and/or Ireland. My ancestors are Irish, but for some reason Scotland has a special place in my heart. I love their accent, the old castles, and the sound of the pipes. I’d spend weeks traveling the countryside, visiting the locals and the castles, learning Gaelic, and just having a grand old time. I’d love to try on a traditional arisaid (a tartan for women). *sigh*

Thanks, Ginger, For joining us on 3 Questions Wednesday! Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of One Choice.

One ChoiceOneChoice 200x300

Cahri Michaels is American by birth, but Belikarian by choice. Being selected to participate in the Bridal March forces her to give up the independent life she’s created for herself. She’s not ready to be anyone’s wife, much less to a man she doesn’t know.

Prince Josiah Vallis despises the centuries old tradition—the Bridal March—that is forcing him to choose a wife from fifty women. Why does it matter that he’s twenty-five and still single?

When Cahri and Josiah meet, sparks fly. Will it ignite a godly love that can see them through or will they be burned, never to be the same?

Ginger Solomon is a Christian, a wife, a mother to seven, and a writer — in that order (mostly). When not homeschooling her youngest five, doing laundry or fixing dinner, she writes or reads romance of any genre, some sci-fi/fantasy, and some suspense. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, president of her local writing group, and writes regularly for two blogs. In addition to all that, she loves animals, horses especially, and likes to do needlework (knitting, crocheting, and sometimes cross-stitch).

My Links:
A Bed of Roses…Thorns Included
Inspy Romance Blog
Facebook Author Page
Twitter @GingerS219
Pinterest