Kathy Ide ~ 21 Days of Christmas

21 Days of Christmas book deliveryChristian author and editor Kathy Ide crossed my path several years ago at Montrose Christian Writers Conference, where she’s a favorite faculty member. When Kathy launched her latest project, a series of fiction-based devotional books, I eagerly accepted her invitation to send a few submissions for consideration. My story “The Last Ember” appears in the second book of the series, 21 Days of Christmas: Stories that Celebrate God’s Greatest Gift.

To celebrate the book’s release, I invite you to listen in on my virtual chat with Kathy Ide. (Don’t miss the giveaway announcement at the end of the Q & A!)

Linda:  Let’s get into the holiday mood by sharing a cherished Christmas memory. You first, Kathy.

Kathy:  When I was maybe ten years old, my mom asked my dad to build dollhouses for me and my two younger sisters for Christmas. He collected scrap lumber, carpet samples, strips of wallpaper, paint, and miniature furniture pieces. After working all day, then waiting for his daughters to go to bed, he stayed up late several nights in the garage, constructing a two-story house with five rooms, glued to a board that was painted green and had little trees and bushes in the wooden yard.

The night before Christmas Eve, the dollhouse was finally finished. And my mom asked, “Where are the other two?” What? “You have three daughters, Wayne. You can’t expect them to all share one dollhouse.”

Kathy Ide's Christmas memoryAfter a last-minute shopping trip, Dad stayed up all night and built two more houses. They were identical in size, shape, and floor plan, but with different wallpaper and paint and furnishings. When my sisters and I woke up on Christmas morning to three beautiful dollhouses, mine was the only one we could play with right away because the paint hadn’t yet dried on the other two! I still display the picture of those houses, with me and my sisters grinning from ear to ear, on my china cabinet.

Linda:  Thanks for sharing the photo with us. Cute!

Hmm … So many Christmases to choose from … Sifting through all those memories is a joy in itself!

Our first Christmas together, Bill and I didn’t have money to buy holiday decorations or gifts. I crafted tree ornaments from scraps of cereal-box cardboard and egg cartons, yarn, toilet paper tubes—you name it. Bill’s mom was too ill to do much baking for his father and four younger brothers, so my gift to the family was an IOU for one baked item per month for the coming year.

Unfortunately, my knowledge about baking could have fit on a recipe card, with room left over for the Gettysburg Address. The yeast rolls I painstakingly formed into beautiful cloverleaf shapes were as hard as baseballs (thanks for demonstrating the similarity, Doug!). The lemon filling oozed out of my jelly roll in yellow gobs. Even my mother’s moist brownie recipe came out so crusty that Ken bounced a knife off the top, trying to cut into it.

Linda's homemade ornamentsForty-plus years later, my brothers-in-law still snicker about the Year of Baked Goods. And those homemade ornaments hang in places of honor on our Christmas tree.

Every Christmas is special, of course. So being a contributing author in the Christmas edition of the Fiction Lover’s Devotionals is exciting. Tell us about that project, Kathy.

Kathy:  The series is published by BroadStreet Publishing. Each book is a collection of twenty-one short fiction stories, all written by different authors. Each story is followed by a brief Life Application, written by the author of the story, that suggests how the messages in the tale can be applied to daily life.

Linda:  I’ve contributed quite a few devotions to books, magazines, and inspirational web sites. Typically, devotions weave a meditation around an anecdote from the writer’s personal experience. It was a new challenge for me to write a fiction story with a devotional twist.

Kathy:  Yes, this series takes a unique approach. There are lots of compilations with short true stories out there. The Fiction Lover’s Devotionals are for readers who enjoy fiction. But beyond the entertainment value of Christian fiction, they give readers the additional depth they want in their quiet times with the Lord.

Linda:  Gathering and reviewing submissions and editing twenty stories per book has to be a massive amount of work. On top of that, you contribute one of the chapters yourself. Tell us about the piece you wrote for 21 Days of Christmas.

Kathy Ide

Kathy Ide

Kathy:  “Star Light, Star Bright” is a story of what might have gone through Joseph’s mind in the moments after Mary gave birth to Jesus. I loved imagining what it must have been like to realize that you’ve been called to teach God’s Son about God. Based on what Joseph was raised to believe about the Messiah, that experience must have been mind-blowing!

Linda:  You said it! I wrote a song for Joseph to sing at that very moment in a Christmas Eve nativity program at my church. The title “A Guardian’s Prayer” links Joseph’s experience to the challenge faced by all adoptive parents. The tune is a slightly modified version of TO GOD BE THE GLORY. Download sheet music

Each Fiction Lover’s Devotionals book is a collection on a particular theme, not just twenty-one random stories slapped between the covers. What themes are available besides the Christmas collection?

Kathy21 Days of Grace: Stories that Celebrate God’s Unconditional Love was the first book in the series. 21 Days of Love: Stories that Celebrate Treasured Relationships (for Valentine’s Day) and 21 Days of Joy: Stories that Celebrate Motherhood will be released in 2016.

Linda:  How do you see people using these devotionals?

Kathy:  The books are being published as beautiful hardcover gift books and e-book versions—small enough to take with you, and with chapters short enough to read anywhere. You can enjoy these stories over breakfast, at lunch break, before bed, or curled up in your favorite chair with a cup of coffee or tea. These books could also be used in group settings—for your book club, Bible study, life group, Sunday school class, or just getting together with friends. They make terrific gifts too—especially 21 Days of Christmas! A Study Guide will be available for free at www.FictionDevo.com or as a 99-cent e-book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Linda:  The companion Study Guide is a great idea. A wealth of discussion questions popped into my head for “The Last Ember,” a contemporary story of a young cashier whose despair collides with grace on Christmas Eve. Hopefully it will generate a lot of discussion, especially if readers share their personal connections to the characters’ circumstances. I pray that the story will touch readers whose difficulties have tempted them to end their own lives.

Kathy:  This is my desire too! I know God can use these stories in a powerful way.

Linda:  Where can people purchase the book?

Kathy:  The print version of 21 Days of Christmas can be ordered online at Amazon, BN.com, ChristianBook.com, Cokesbury.com, and GoHastings.com. The e-book is available from Amazon, BN.com, iBooks, and Google Play.

Linda:  How can readers connect and respond after they read the books?

Kathy:  There’s a forum on FictionDevo.com where people can post responses to the books and the stories in them. They can also do that on Facebook.com/FictionDevo. I’m very excited to read about how God is using these stories in people’s lives.

Linda:  Now for the giveaway we promised …

Christmas Fun GiveawayKathy:  “Christmas Fun Giveaway,” featuring 21 Days of Christmas, is a great way to kick off the holiday season and get into the Christmas spirit! We’re giving away three “Christmas Fun” grand prizes plus seven second prizes, with autographed copies of 21 Days of Christmas and 21 Days of Grace plus more! There are nine ways to enter. Do as many as you like, but each option can be done only once. Deadline to enter is November 6, so act fast!  Edit 11/19/2015: Kathy’s Christmas Fun Giveaway is over and done with. But if you’d like to score a free copy of 21 Days of Christmas, check out my extra-special Christmas giftie for my extra-special supporters, until December 20, 2015. -Linda  

Linda:  Author-signed books are a treat, and the Fiction Lover’s Devotional hardcover gift books are absolutely beautiful. Thanks, Kathy!

My writing friends might also be interested in Kathy’s book Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. If you need editing services, or want to become an editor yourself, check out the many resources for Christian writers on KathyIde.com. Kathy posts her upcoming schedule of writers conferences there, too.

And thank you, friends, for sticking with us all the way to the end of Kathy’s visit. Please leave a comment. We’d love to hear your cherished Christmas memories!

Eddie Jones ~ Skull Creek Stakeout

Cover of Skull Creek StakeoutLast October I posted a fun interview with the irrepressible Eddie Jones. Eddie is an author, acquisitions editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, humorist, and follower of the Lord’s leading—not in that order of importance, as Eddie would surely agree. He had just released Dead Man’s Hand, the first book in his Caden Chronicles trilogy for boys.

Since then, Dead Man’s Hand has won the 2013 Selah Award for Young Adult Fiction and racked up nominations for the 2013 INSPY Award for Literature for Young People and the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award.

Now Eddie Jones is in the news again with the second installment of Nick Caden’s adventures, titled Skull Creek Stakeout. He’s a busy guy these days, but he posted an interview on his website that will bring you up to date and explain why vampirism is an appropriate and important theme in a middle-grade boys’ book with a Christian worldview. Yup. Vampires.

Read my October, 2012, interview with Eddie Jones.

Read Eddie Jones’s August 23, 2013, message.

Check out Dead Man’s Hand.

Check out Skull Creek Stakeout.

New Indie Author ~ Frank Di Giovanni

Photo of Frank Di Giovanni, author of RIVINGTON STREET, reading from his play

Frank Di Giovanni, author of RIVINGTON STREET, reading from his play

Frank Di Giovanni, a long-time member of the W. B. Ogden Writers Group in Walton, New York, enthralled an audience at W. B. Ogden Library last night with a dramatic reading from his newly released play, Rivington Street.

The three-act drama follows the conflict between retired businessman Sam Israel and his son, Robert, a pushy lawyer. After the death of his beloved wife, Sam leaves their Florida residence and returns to the old neighborhood in New York City—over Robert’s fierce objections. Sam meets up with Dave, the present owner of Sam’s former clothing store, and can’t help but compare Robert’s attitude to the close, respectful relationship Dave enjoys with his adult son, Max. The fat hits the fire when Robert shows up, armed with papers authorizing him to take Sam “home” by force. Yes, Robert is one of those characters you love to hate. Don’t worry, though. “Salvation,” as Frank calls it, comes by the end of the play.

Missed the event at Ogden Library? Click here to listen to Frank Di Giovanni’s reading of Act Two, Scene One of Rivington Street. (The recording runs about 25 minutes. Please forgive the slight gurgle that was left behind when I filtered out a loud ventilation fan.)

Having heard Frank read his work at writers group meetings, I wasn’t surprised by the authentic characterizations he dressed his dialogue in. As audience members remarked during the question and answer session that followed the reading, both Frank’s writing and his animated reading put us right into the scene. Frank says he’s had no acting experience to account for his theatrical flair. He jokingly suggests it came with his Italian heritage.

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Want to Put Poems to Music? See Guest Blog on Random Writing Rants

Random Writing Rants banner

Ever had the desire to write hymn texts or put your poems to music? Think it’s impossible because you have little or no music training?

Check out my 10 tips for putting poetry to existing music, on my guest blog at Random Writing Rants, which is a terrific source of information, advice, and encouragement for adult and teen writers.

If you haven’t already read my posts here on Faith Songs about my adventures in writing original music, take a look at them, too:
Writing Songs for the Lord
To the Ends of the Earth

By way of an update, I’m happy to say that, thanks to my musically inclined collaborator, Phyllis Neff Lake, the project of adding piano accompaniments to the hymns and faith songs in Songs for the Lord is well underway. Yay, Phyllis! Yay, God!

Meanwhile, I’m adding material slowly but surely to a second songbook. This one will feature original hymn texts set to some of my favorite classic hymn tunes. Just this morning, the Holy Spirit showed up with a new hymn idea in the wee hours. I grabbed a newspaper lying next to my bed and scribbled a draft of the verses before they floated out of my memory. Next step will be to—well, you can read all about the process on my guest blog at RWR. 🙂

Let me know if you’re inspired to give it a try!


P.S. 9/28/2013

I just added new links to my Resources page that will interest poets who want to write new words to set to old hymns.  Hymnary.org offers XML and midi files of public domain hymns. MuseScore, a free music notation program, opens those files and lets you edit them. Replacing the old lyrics with your own words is easy! You can modify the notes, too. Then you can save and print professional-looking sheet music. Have fun!


Just a Chalk Outline on the Ground: Iain Edward Henn Interview

Photo of thriller author Iain Edward Henn

Thriller author Iain Edward Henn

Author Iain Edward Henn lives in Sydney, Australia, halfway around the globe from me. We “met” in the Suspense/Thriller Writers Facebook group, where I was impressed by his low-key humor and thoughtful, positive attitude.

As part of The Next Big Thing blog-hop, Iain answered 10 questions about his novel-in-progress. You can read those on his blog Take It As Read.

But I, of course, had more nosey questions to ask him …

Iain, I read your first two thriller novels, The Delta Chain and Disappear. Good stuff. How would you describe them?

Disappear concerns a man missing 18 years, who turns up as an accident victim in the same place he was last seen, his body still the same age as it was almost 2 decades earlier.

The Delta Chain is about young drowning victims, whose identities cannot be traced – who were they?

Without spoiling any surprises for those who haven’t read them yet, I’ll just say that both books incorporate elements of research science. Is that going to be the “brand” or hallmark of Iain Edward Henn novels?

No, I am interested in all aspects of the mystery/suspense genre. Science, forensics and high-tech may resurface from time to time.

Growing up in the 60’s I loved thrillers set just slightly ahead in time that envisaged future gadgetry and scientific developments. Forty years later I’m living in a world where many of those far-out concepts exist and are taken for granted in our day to day lives – cell phones, the internet, space stations, DNA. I’ve followed and researched scientific developments through the years.

Do you think it’s harder to write a convincing thriller or mystery nowadays? I mean, it’s a pretty short novel if the good guys can track down a crook in three pages, using the Internet and all that scientific technology.

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Taking It to the Streets ~ Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Black-eyed susans trapped behind wireMichelle Sweeney

When I interviewed social activist Ruth Jacobs here on Faith Songs in November, I joked about a nice church lady like me blogging about prostitution. Well, today Ruth clued me in to a nice church lady in Coventry, England, who’s really taking it to the streets – her faith, that is.

Michelle Sweeney says, “I was listening to a late night radio show one night in November 2011. As I listened, I quickly found out that not only did human trafficking happen in our world today but that it happened in the city I lived in. That was it, in that moment, I was convicted that I should be doing something about this.”

But what to do?

Michelle’s research led her to a church-sponsored mission project, which helps young girls, women, and boys exploited by sex trafficking in her local area. With her church, she also does weekly outreach work with a charity named Embrace. “We drive around the local red light area. We offer the women hot and cold drinks, hygiene bags, food, and also condoms. And we offer friendship. We listen to them, we talk with them and we try to help them with their practical issues. Embrace also offers spiritual support for the women, so if they ask for it, we would pray with them.”

To read more about Michelle Sweeney’s many and varied activities on behalf of victims of human trafficking, and about what drives her to serve them, read her full interview on In the Booth with Ruth

William Eberle

Human trafficking and sexual exploitation aren’t issues that concern only women or only European communities. American William Eberle advocates for trafficking victims here in the USA. What motivates him?

“Too often these people find themselves with little to no hope for bettering their situation. I remember a time when I had lost hope and it was through the caring of friends and family as well as my faith in God that I found hope again. I believe that God will use my efforts to help people, I don’t need to understand how that happens, but it is my faith that says that it will happen.”

Read more about William Eberle’s fight against trafficking, and how you can get involved, in this interview In the Booth with Ruth

Kimberly Benson

And if you feel unmoved to help victims of sex trafficking because you aren’t too sure the “victims” really are victims, or you doubt slavery could happen in this day and age in your home town, please pay close attention to Kimberly Benson’s reason for becoming an anti-trafficking activist:

“My passion stems from being a victim once myself. When I was 18, I thought I knew it all – enough to keep me from trouble, but didn’t know that trouble would come looking for me. I left home to live on my own. After having been in several negative and abusive relationships, I was all alone. A young lady and I became friends. She was the best, was always there, encouraged me, bought me clothes, took me to get my hair and nails done. We were great friends.”

Until her “great friend” left Kimberly at a house party to be drugged and raped, then tricked her into attending an “innocent, all-girl” party where she handed Kimberly over to a powerful man. For money. In a major American city.

Read the details, and how Kimberly has been working against trafficking since her own escape from enslavement, In the Booth with Ruth.



Love, Truth, Purpose, Freedom: Pat Bertram

Photo of Pat Bertram, photo supplied by Pat Bertram

Author and blogger Pat Bertram

I first encountered Pat Bertram in her role as administrator of the popular Suspense/Thriller Writers group on Facebook. Pat is, not surprisingly, an author herself, but her work ranges far beyond the suspense/thriller realm.

Detecting in Pat a kindred spirit I would like to know better, I asked her a few nosey questions …

Pat, why do you write what you write? For example, why did you choose to write A Spark of Heavenly Fire?

A Spark of Heavenly Fire came about because of a Washington Irving quote: “There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” When I read those words, I could see her, a drab woman, defeated by life, dragging herself through her days in the normal world, but in an abnormal world of strife and danger, she would come alive and inspire others. And so Kate Cummings, the hero of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire was born. But born into what world?

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Soul Destruction ~ Ruth Jacobs

Question: Why would a nice church lady discuss prostitution on her blog?

Answer: To support author Ruth Jacobs’s mission to dispel the “happy hooker” myth and expose the “soul-destroying” reality of prostitution.

Photo of author Ruth Jacobs

Ruth Jacobs, author of the Soul Destruction novels


I recently read Ruth Jacobs’s book In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl and her blog, Voices of Prostitution Survivors.  To be honest, I half expected to find lurid pornography masquerading as social commentary. Instead, I found authentic reflections from “Q” and other real women caught up in the trade (often as very young girls). I was so moved by their experiences that I contacted Ruth, and she graciously agreed to answer my questions.

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Elizabeth Bristol ~ Confidence in the Prophecy

My Kindle music book, SONGS FOR THE LORD, will be offered as a FREE download on Amazon.com and its European affiliates on Friday, November 2 through Monday, November 5. Mark your calendars! And please help me get the word out!

Photo of Elizabeth Bristol

Elizabeth Bristol

Here is a related message—a testimonial of sorts—sent in by kindred spirit Elizabeth Bristol.

A native of Foxboro, Massachusetts, Elizabeth has lived in many states and other countries. She says she loves the school of life and looks for opportunities to step into another pair of shoes for deeper understanding. She can be conventional, but she’d rather color outside the lines.

(I happen to know that Elizabeth has applied to work in Antarctica. That’s coloring outside the lines, all right!)

Elizabeth writes:

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Eddie Jones ~ Author & Publisher


Photo of Eddie Jones
Author/Publisher Eddie Jones

Today’s Faith Song is a duet with guest Eddie Jones. Eddie claims he can’t carry a tune, so we’ll settle for hand-clapping and foot-stomping in the “joyful noise” pew. 🙂

I met Eddie at the 2011 Montrose Christian Writers Conference. Couldn’t help but love the humor-filled, down-to-earth way he lives out his passion for the Lord and for the written word.

Eddie is the author of eleven books and over 100 articles. He also serves as Acquisition Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He is a three-time winner of the Delaware Christian Writers’ Conference, and his YA novel, The Curse of Captain LaFoote, won the 2012 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award and 2011 Selah Award in Young Adult Fiction. He is also a writing instructor and cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries. His “He Said, She Said” devotional column appears on ChristianDevotions.US (not “dot com”). His humorous romantic suspense, Bahama Breeze, remains a “blessed seller.” When he’s not writing or teaching at writers’ conferences, Eddie can be found surfing in Costa Rica or some other tropical locale.

Now, try to imagine Eddie answering the following questions with a grin and a charming slightly-southern accent:

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