Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another Free Weekend

Pass this on to parents of kids with Kindles. Because hundreds of people took advantage of this last weekend I thought I'd do it again for New Year's. NICK BAZEBAHL AND THE CARTOON TUNNELS will be FREE on Saturday and Sunday. It is book 5 in the Tunnels series for kids ages 8 - 12.

In these chapter books two 12 year olds, Nick and Samantha, slide down mysterious tunnels which link to various real and imagined works of fiction. Their reading experiences come to life as they observe and then interact with famous fictional characters. There is surprise, wonder, adventure, mystery and a lot of humor.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

I gave up making New Year’s Resolutions ages ago. I always made the same one, to lose weight, and I never, ever succeeded. So this year I’m going to resolve to eat more chocolate. This seems like a win-win resolution. I’ve already discovered the best chocolates ever at the Alpine Chocolat Haus in Gaylord, Michigan. I’ve limited myself to three after breakfast, four or five with lunch and unlimited snacking throughout the afternoon.

You see the chocolates don’t have time to stick to my hips or belly. Like other types of addicts I should quickly wither away to skin and bones. Once, years ago, my doctor made me give up chocolate. I cut it out for one month and gained 5 pounds! So if I eat lots of chocolate I should lose weight, right? I’m sure this will work.

After all, don’t we all forget about those resolutions within a week or so?
Do you think I’ll ever forget about chocolate?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Generosity and human goodness are not enough to make us holy.

Boy, that’s a statement to ponder. This is the time of year when we think that we are generous and good. If we put a few coins in the Salvation Army kettle we think we’ve done our part.

We are generous to our families. We pile on the Christmas presents if we can afford it and even if we can’t. We fill Christmas stockings with goodies and think that we are good.

Generosity and human goodness are not enough to make us holy.

Do we need to be holy? Isn’t holiness something reserved for God, for priests and preachers, for missionaries? Yes, but the rest of us need to be holy, too. And, if we belong to God then we are, by default, holy. See? So it’s not the generosity or goodness that we show at Christmastime that sanctifies us, not at all. We are sanctified by our belief in Christ Jesus – the reason for the season. We are made holy by belonging to God.

What are your thoughts on holiness?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Another Freebie

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. I thought I'd let you all know that Amazon is making book 5, NICK BAZEBAHL AND THE CARTOON TUNNELS, FREE for one day, December 26. So if you know of a child between the ages of 8 and 12, with access to an e-reader, please let their parents know. The TUNNELS series books can be read out of order so there's no problem in starting with book 5.

ALSO DRAGONFOOT is being promoted for FREE all day today, December 26, and tomorrow, December 27.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #8 The Manger Scene

What is the TRUE meaning of Christmas? THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST!

We have a crèche where the kids can rearrange the figures. They know the story that fulfilled every single prophecy of his birth: his lineage, his virgin birth, where he would be born, even his name.

I recently read an article that took a look at just 13 of the many, many prophecies. The odds that one person could be born at the right place and time and be a descendent of King David were astronomical. Literally. The number was 1 in 10 to the 138th power (that’s a one with 138 zeros following it). Putting it in perspective the author (click here) used the example that it would be more likely for a gasoline engine to refrigerate itself during its combustion cycle.

Here are two more sites that explain more thoroughly the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies by Jesus: mb-soft and simplybible.

Hold a microphone to people in the mall and ask “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” You’ll hear all kinds of sappy answers about Santa, giving, family, helping others and silly answers about partying and decorating with more lights than your neighbor. Christians are celebrating the birth of Christ, our Savior.

The truth is that we wouldn’t celebrate Christmas if it weren’t for Easter. If Jesus hadn’t died for our sins and rose again to conquer death then no one would have even heard of him today. Is your Christmas all about Santa or all about Jesus?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas! A Gift for Kindle Owners.

DRAGONFOOT is regularly $9.99 on Kindle, but it's FREE for 2 days so those of you who received a Kindle for Christmas can download it December 26 and 27.

Seventeen-year-old Jedidiah was born with a gruesome deformity that causes him to drag his foot. He searches for acceptance through drugs and skateboarding. He sets his sights on becoming a champion skateboarder, but amputation, a mission trip and two girls challenge his dream.

As he recovers from surgery, Jedidiah opens his heart to both girls. Can he rescue the one who needs him without losing the one he needs? And, faced with a second amputation, can he open his spirit to supernatural help?

DRAGONFOOT taps on the door of the paranormal while addressing adolescent issues and pushing against the world’s view of right and wrong.

If you take advantage of this free offer, please let me know. Go bookmark the page now because who knows what Santa will bring you.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #7 The Kitchen

I found the perfect place to display my dozens of Christmas music boxes: on top of the kitchen cabinets and out of everyone’s reach. Our first Christmas here at Big Pine Lodge I set up a village of lighted houses on the cabinet tops. Because the ceiling soars to the center peak you could look down on the village from the loft area, but when my youngest daughter moved far away I sent along the village for her to enjoy in her new home.

The green of the cabinets never seems to come out right in photographs. Take my word for it, they are not blue, but rather a woodsy green with antiquing. The Elmira stove is the focal point and I polish it and talk to it like a man with a Corvette.

Having the kitchen open to the sunroom means I always know what’s going on. The kids play video games there or in the loft which looks down onto the kitchen.

I love my kitchen. I had a list of 13 must-haves when I designed it and Brody Smith of North Country Cabinets did a marvelous job of making it all fit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #6 Wreaths

There are wreaths on the front door of the lodge, the guest house and the bunkhouse. We have a large lighted one over the fireplace and in the sunroom a giant wreath spreads across the back wall, the only wall without windows. The ornaments are large lodge-themed decorations such as birdhouses, fishing gear, snowshoes, birds and other woodsy items.

It may sound strange that there is a wall without windows in the sunroom. Originally I had drawn the plans to include large windows on that wall as well. One of the cool things about building a log home is that you cut the windows out last, after it’s erected. We took barrels and barrels of sawdust out at the end of each day after the workers chainsawed through the walls to our specifications. It was obvious that with all the light coming in the east and south windows, and since the sunroom is open to the kitchen, that we could leave the tall (26’) wall as a backdrop. It works better for furniture placement, too.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #5 Family

The picture above is of a teddy bear vignette set in one of the nooks (or crannies, I can't tell the difference) in our log home.

Christmas is close. Closer than you think. This is the weekend that we get together with all of our closest loved ones and celebrate together. Our church choir sings a cantata. We eat turkey and ham and lots of sweets. We open most if not all of the presents under the tree. We get “us” out of the way so on December 24th and 25th we can go to church and concentrate on “Him”.

This year I’m hoping there will be enough snow for sledding down the hill, having a sleigh ride and making snowmen.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #4 Snow

I love living in Michigan with four distinct seasons. It’s just not Christmas without that frosty white blanket over the woods and on the roof.

Here’s a shot of the back of the house from one of the trails. We enjoy snowshoeing and riding in the Argo (a six wheeled ATV) along the trails. The stars at night are unbelievably bright.

I’ll never forget the Christmas before we moved here full time when we arrived at midnight to an impassable driveway. We snowshoed in by the light of a full moon. The sparkles on the snow were like shining diamonds.

The silence of the woods is not marred by traffic, barking dogs or any other civilized sound. We hear an occasional coyote, the hoot of an owl and the whisper of the wind. Sleep is deeper here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #3 The Railing

I do the railing differently each year, sometimes looping the lighted garland and sometimes twisting it round and round the rails. Running it down the stairway is tricky since I don’t want to end with one of those strings of lights that doesn’t have another connector plug. I’ve added tiny presents, sparkly bulbs and gold or red berries.

A thoughtful electrician added special floor plugs on the bridge with the on/off switch on the first floor so I can light up the house with one flick of my finger and shut things off for the night without traipsing upstairs.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #2 The Tree

A lodge-themed 9 foot tree claims the corner of the dining end in the great room. We have tiny canoes, fish, Adirondack chairs, moose, bears and other assorted wildlife ornaments.

A log home is made for Christmas, so just one tree isn’t enough. We have a small 3-footer on top of the highest cabinet in the kitchen where the ceiling slopes up to the highest point. A third tree decorated in white lights and red ribbons sits center stage in the bridge that joins the loft and the guest bedroom upstairs. The bridge is ten feet wide and twenty feet long so the tree has plenty of room to reign over the second floor and still be seen from the great room. A small 4th tree sits sits on a ledge by the front entry along with a teddy bear in a child’s rocker.

Red and green go great against log walls, but not so great if your home’s color themes clash. Fortunately I went with shades of green and burgundy throughout. That’s pretty common for log homes probably because most log home owners are thinking ahead to Christmas. I’d venture to guess that we decorate sooner and keep the tree up longer than most folks.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas, #1 The Mantel

My husband and I picked up every single rock for this 6 and a half ton fireplace. We’re lucky enough to live in a log home. There’s nothing like a fire in the fireplace on a cold wintery night especially if there’s a foot or more of snow on the ground and it’s almost December 25th.

I thought I’d write about the special “loggy” look of Christmas here at Big Pine Lodge for the next several posts. I’m starting with the fireplace because the collection of rocks was started before the basement was even dug. We have 62 acres of woods criss-crossed with trails that we made. It was easy to find field stones, some the size of boulders (we left those), along these trails. Our pile of rocks grew over the course of many months. We amassed about 13 tons and what we didn’t use in the fireplace we used around the base of the foundation outside.

The fireplace is seven feet wide and soars up to a height of about 26 feet. We had to leave a gap of about 8 inches between the top rocks inside and the ceiling because, as a totally full log construction, the whole house settled quite a bit when the logs shrank. We experienced about 5 – 6 inches of settling over the first three years as the logs noisily popped and cracked during the drying process. We left similar gaps above windows and doors to save us from broken windows. Frames slid over skirting boards until the gaps closed.

The fireplace is the center piece of the great room and a fun conversation starter: Can you find the rock that looks like a hockey mask? A russet potato? A tennis ball? A brain?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

GEEK GIRL - released today!

I met a wonderful author, Cindy Bennett, this past year and we've become cyber friends through our endeavors in the self-published world. A traditional publisher has found her and today, December 8th, 2011, her first young adult novel, GEEK GIRL, will be released. I'm happy to do an interview with Cindy.
(2014 update: Cindy and best-selling author Sherry Gammon have started a publishing company for clean fiction. Check out Creative Prose Publishing.)

Give us a brief synopsis of each of your titles first.

GEEK GIRL - Sarcastic Goth girl Jen makes a bet with her friends that she can turn the ultra-good geek Trevor into a "bad boy". She doesn't count on develping a genuine liking and respect for him. She also doesn't count on wishing that her current foster family might want to make her a part of their family. Jen bets to win, she just never imagined what the prize would be.

Heart on a Chain - Kate has lived her short seventeen years subject to abusive parents and being bullied by her classmates. Henry has lived what Kate sees as an idyllic life. Moving back after several years away, Henry finds his friend Kate transformed into a shy, beaten girl instead of the funny, happy girl he remembered. His decision to rekindle their friendship sets Kate on edge, believing he is playing a game with the intention of hurting her. Just as he manages to convince her of his good intentions, a tragic accident threatens to undo everything they've built together.

Immortal Mine - Niahm Parker's small town life suits her just fine, even if she spends most of her time on the family farm alone while her parents travel the world. When Sam Coleman moves into town--a rare occurance at best--he completely turns her life upside down. It soon becomes apparent that there is something different about Sam, something that makes him just a little more than . . . human.

Where did you get the ideas for your plots?

Heart on a Chain came first, when a girl who lived near me could be seen always outside on her swing. My first question was why? Why was she always out there, what was she trying to escape? From there the idea grew. Geek Girl began as a short story for a contest. I just couldn't get the funny, sarcastic girl who uses humor as a defense mechanism, and the boy who completely accepted her no matter how strange she seemed, out of my head. So I completed their story. Immortal Mine began as the idea of a girl so completely content with her life that she has no desire to change anything. But what if something came along that changed all that she'd known to be true, all that she thought she'd always wanted. How would she deal with that?

You self-published first. How did that work out for you?

It worked really well, actually. It took several months for me to be able to get word out about my book well enough for people to be willing to read it. I became discouraged, and impatient if I'm being honest, and so decided to try traditional publishing to see if that would work better. Ironically, the month that I signed with them I had the highest sales I've had to date. Had that happened a month prior, I likely wouldn't have signed with them. But I believe everything happens for a reason, and I've had a really positive experience working with the editors at Cedar Fort, so I can't regret at all the way things have happened. I'm very excited to see what happens with Geek Girl in their hands.

How does your traditional publishing experience compare and contrast to self-publishing?

Both are surprisingly similar so far. The face of publishing has changed so much in the past few years for both traditional and self-publishing. Gone are the days of big advances, taking chances on unproved authors, and publishers sending authors on extensive book signing tours. Not that there are still a few authors who are gifted with those things, but it's rare. Now an author can self-publish, make a name for themselves by proving their work, and then be picked up by a publisher who knows there isn't as large of a risk inherent in the author. With my publisher, though I haven't had to format my book or make my own cover, marketing is still up to me. They will help, and help me set signings and such up, but it's up to me to be out there in the virtual world to try to drum up excitement about the book. That's also up to me on my self-published books.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

Other than my love of reading (I have a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling library of books I've read - and that doesn't count the ones I've given away), I love spending time with my family. Nothing means more to me than they do. I enjoy riding my Harley Davidson, especially on long road trips. I'm a bit of a movie fanatic, and am a bit obsessed with watching TV on Nat Geo, Military, ID, History, TLC, TBS, AMC, Discovery . . . all right, pretty much any channel. I like to do crafty things, but only if it's something I can complete within an hour or two. I don't have the patience to spend more time than that, and it'll never get finished if I can't complete it in one sitting. I spend too much time on my internet learning completely useless information. For example, say I'm watching a movie. I jump online to read everything that's been written about the movie, then about the actors, then what other movies they've been in, and info about those movies . . . it can get exhausting! And yet, I quite enjoy it. I would never call housework, cooking, or sewing hobbies or interests.

I’ve read GEEK GIRL and HEART ON A CHAIN and loved them so I know they appeal to women and not just teenage girls. How do you make your themes bridge the gap from young adult to adult?

Thank you so much! That's so nice of you to say. I don't know that I ever set out to bridge the gap. I think I just write what appeals to me in the YA genre, and since I'm not a young adult, I suppose it's inevitable that it will appeal to adults as well. I do tend to deal with more mature subjects in my books, so I think women can completely relate either personally, or through someone they know (or know of) and maybe that's why they enjoy the books as well. I'm just grateful that I have both that like the books!

Where can we buy your books?

Geek Girl is available in any book store. If they don't have it, they can certainly get it for you. Heart on a Chain and Immortal Mine are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble Smashwords Smashwordsand Createspace

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

My website it Cindy You can find me on Facebook at Cindy Bennett and on Twitter at Cinbennett

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Writer's Block

There is a song by England Dan & John Ford Coley called SAD TO BELONG about the hopeless feeling of realizing that you’ve finally met the right person, but it’s too late . . . you already belong to someone else. Using that as a theme in a novel almost requires an historical setting now because the 21st Century attitude would be to immediately break up and move on.

I’m searching for a theme for my next writing project, or rather I’m waiting patiently for a plot idea to land in my lap. Meanwhile I’ve been pondering various dilemmas. I woke up this morning thinking about whether it would be better to be with someone that was crazy in love with you (while you only liked him back) or be with someone that you were obsessed with who only just liked you.

To completely get a feel for the two situations I tried to remember my long ago teenage years of angst, love, and turmoil. Boy “A” pursued me from 5th grade until college. I had no interest in him, but finally accepted a date, had a great time, but just wasn’t feeling that “you know what”. He wasn’t the one for me.

Boy “B” was someone that I fell for in 7th grade and tried unsuccessfully to attract for the next 7 years. Finally, we briefly dated. But in this case I wasn’t the one for him.

From my young heart’s point of view I would have chosen Boy “B” if I could and chained my heart to someone who never would have loved me enough. From my author’s perspective I think I would have my character choose Boy “A” and, with time and love, have her be swept away. Oh, wait, that would be about the millionth variation of a Lifetime movie.

Back to the “sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along” theme, which is, in reality, the situation in each of the above scenarios. Been there, lived that, married boy “C”.

I need some ideas. Some “what ifs”. Any ideas?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Psalm 126, A Psalm of Ascent, Going up the Steps

Psalms 120 through 134 are the 15 “songs of ascent” that were sung as the priests walked up the 15 steps to the temple, stopping on each step to sing the next psalm. I have previously posted on Psalm 123 and Psalm 133. Today I’m looking at Psalm 126. Here is the passage:

1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, LORD, like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

Every time you see the word LORD in all capital letters it means that the original Hebrew text used the tetragrammaton, God's 4 letter name (you may know it as Yahweh or Jehovah, Jews will say Ha Shem or Adonai to avoid pronouncing it). God’s holy name is used 4 times in this short psalm. This is a wonderful song of praise alluding to the recognition of God’s work given even by the Gentiles/heathens. “The nations” in verse 2 refers to everyone other than the Israelites.

When the Israelites returned from 70 years of exile it must have seemed like a dream. Notice the laughter and the joy (4 times!) and the songs.

At Thanksgiving and Advent (Christmas) many churches include Psalm 126 in the pulpit readings because of its emphasis on rejoicing. The rejoicing comes as a result of the great things God has accomplished on behalf of His people.

I especially like the theme of going from weeping and tears to songs of joy. This is tremendously encouraging. Read it again and then let me know if you hear it in church during this Christmas season.