It's that time of year again...time to share my Writing Resolutions for the New Year. I'm excited for the coming year and looking forward to God's plans and all that He has in store for my life. 

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I will not limit myself and put God in a box ~ His ways are not my ways.  He knows what He is doing and has a perfect plan for my life.

I resolve to write every day ~ at least one section or up to one chapter a day in my current WIP.

I determine that I will keep the fun in writing and not get discouraged with the enormous task of marketing my books.

I decide today that 2012 will be a great year, even if things don’t go according to my own plans.  I will trust in Divine Providence.

I doggedly plan to make every effort to succeed and share my work with others, hoping that my words can make a difference in their lives.

No matter how things turn out, I will keep on writing books because that is my passion and I am so thankful for the opportunities I have been given.  I want to do the best that I can with what I’ve been given and be a good steward of my talents.  God has a plan for your life, too ~ just trust in His Divine Providence to be your guiding light!



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All this week, for anyone who comments on my blog posts, you’ll be entered to win an eBook copy of my book, Mr. Shipley’s Governess…my way of celebrating Christmas with you and thanking you for staying in contact with my blog. I’m truly grateful for each and every reader who stays in touch through my blog and other social media outlets. 

Authors write for readers—at least, I know for sure that this author does. I enjoy hearing from you and hope you will continue to connect with me online in this New Year. I’m looking forward to sharing with you…many new authors and other’s you’ve already met…as they guest on The Mustard Seed. We’ll be hosting many contests and book giveaways, so stay tuned for more details. May 2012 be filled with overflowing blessings in your lives! 


 
 
Well, it’s the day after Christmas and all the presents have been unwrapped and may even have begun to lose some of their initial sparkle in your eyes. We celebrate Christmas time for the entire month of December as we wait in anticipation for that special day. 

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As I watched my nieces and nephews tear through the wrapping paper, eagerly anticipating holding their toys and gifts in their hands—I wondered why we don’t keep that same anticipation in our hearts every day for the special gift of the Lord in our lives.

Life gets in the way. We get caught up in the everyday circumstances that surround our lives and lose our focus on what’s important—the lordship of our Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts. As a Christian, I should live my life wholly devoted to the Lord and go where He leads me. I need to worship Him daily and praise God for who He is and not what He does. I need to believe that He has a perfect plan for my life even when it doesn’t seem that way. God is God and He is Lord of my life.

It’s not always easy to live the Christian life and God never intended our walk to be all roses. He knew there would be difficulties—those make us stronger in our walk with the Lord and we grow closer to Him and to our spouse and our loved ones. Our lives can be a living testimony of God’s grace which is present each and every day as we take one more step and believe, for one more miracle.

I hope Christmas lives every day in your heart. I hope that you have found that living a life, saved by God’s grace—through the birth and death of Christ—is fulfilling and giving you the hope to continue on in this life’s journey until you reach Heaven’s doorstep. If you don’t know the Lord, I’d love to help. Contact me and I can share more of my personal testimony.

If you are saved, I’d love for you to share your testimony. What has God done in your life that takes your breath away every time you remember and can’t stop thanking Him enough for?


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All this week, for anyone who comments on my blog posts, you’ll be entered to win an eBook copy of my book, Mr. Shipley’s Governess…my way of celebrating Christmas with you and thanking you for staying in contact with my blog. I’m truly grateful for each and every reader who stays in touch through my blog and other social media outlets. 

Authors write for readers—at least, I know for sure that this author does. I enjoy hearing from you and hope you will continue to connect with me online in this New Year. I’m looking forward to sharing with you…many new authors and other’s you’ve already met…as they guest on The Mustard Seed. We’ll be hosting many contests and book giveaways, so stay tuned for more details. May 2012 be filled with overflowing blessings in your lives!


 
 
It's almost Christmas Day...Yea! I'm getting more excited every day. Hope you all are too! Danielle Thorne is a guest author today. She's sharing about some of her Christmas memories.

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Fa-La-La Phooey!

In lieu of her non-traditional childhood, my mother tortured us every Christmas in the most inhumane way possible: She made us go caroling. A week before the grand event, the oven would be turned on and run for three straight days. We made cookies until we couldn’t stand the sight of them: Sugar cookies, Snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, peanut butter with the criss-crosses, lemon bars, and those little powdered-sugared nuggets with crushed almonds. Heavenly, unless you had to bake them all and scrub the mixing bowls after each round.

Do you actually know anyone who goes caroling during the holidays? I don’t mean to imply socializing with a church group or a service activity with the Junior Beta Club. I mean door-to-door knocking and bellowing to complete strangers who stand uncomfortably while you hold out a plate of treats as a bribe. You can almost see the thoughts pass through their minds: Should I invite them in? Do I have enough hot chocolate? Hey! Isn’t that the kid that egged my car on Halloween?

When I a child, I found the whole scenario to be a grand adventure. In my innocence, I sang unabashedly, handed over the treats with reverence, and was certain I’d turned someone’s miserable holiday into a shining memory. Then puberty hit. Along with my five brothers and sisters, the yearly caroling tradition my mother started became primeval torture. We grumbled from the kitchen to our victim’s driveways, we sang at a whisper, shuffled our feet, and stared heavenward so we didn’t have to see the patronizing smiles over the threshhold. None of it mattered though, because my mother sang loud enough for all of us. You couldn’t suck the Noel out of her no matter how hard you tried.

These days, since I have passed through childhood, slogged through puberty, and managed to grapple with the joys of mid-life, I remember caroling as some of the best times we shared as a family. The joy it brought me as a child makes me smile. The humiliation of my teenage years makes me laugh. Tradition, I’ve finally learned, is everything.

So each year as the holidays roll around, the ovens in my house run for a week straight. There are sugar cookies, cookie bars, brownies, and gingerbread. My own children help decorate and lick the bowls, and disappear when it’s clean up time. It isn’t exactly a replica of my childhood memories, but it’s close.

Now I confess, those years of caroling did scar me despite their poignant effects. I do not drag my children door to door and sing at the top of my lungs. Instead, we drop off the treats, ring the doorbell and take off running. I call it our “Secret Santa” tradition. My kids thought it was the best adventure ever when they were young. For now, because of age and hormones, they just think it’s embarrassing.

Thanks, Mom!

Danielle, thanks so much for sharing your Christmas memories with us and helping us get even more ready for Christmas. So, I'd love to hear about your Crazy Corn holiday recipe. Please share that with us! 


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Holiday Recipe:

DANIELLE THORNE'S CRAZY CORN

6 cups of microwave-popped Kettle Corn

3 cups of Rice Chex cereal

2 cups of Cheerios cereal

1 cup of cashews piece

1 cup of pecan pieces

1 cup of brown sugar

½ cup of butter

¼ cup of light or dark corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon of baking soda

Stir together the first five ingredients, making sure to remove any unpopped popcorn seeds. On the stovetop, bring sugar, butter, and corn syrup to a boil on medium heat, stirring constantly. When mixture begins to bubble, boil five minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda. Pour over popcorn mixture and gently blend until well coated. Pour into greased roasting pan and bake one hour at 250 degrees, stirring every twenty minutes.

Stores well in covered container and makes a great goody bag.
    


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Now that we've heard all about Danielle's Christmas memories and her delectable crazy corn holiday recipe, let's officially meet her!

Danielle Thorne is the author of sweet romantic adventure books, both historical and contemporary. Danielle currently writes from south of Atlanta, Georgia. Besides contract editing and writing full time, she has four sons with her husband, Rob. Together they enjoy travel and the outdoors.

You can connect with Danielle online via email danithorne@yahoo.com and 
Danielle's Website


Danielle, thanks so much for guesting today and sharing your memories of Christmas and your great holiday recipe. 

Check out Danielle's booklist below and visit her website for more info.

 
 
We have another great author guesting today at The Mustard Seed and she's here to share her thoughts on this wonderful time of year -- Christmas!

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When Joanne invited me to visit her Christmas blog a while back, I jumped at the chance. I love the holidays! Writing about them is a fun extension and natural way to express my joy. So, I looked through the list of topics she had suggested and chose to write about my favorite part of Christmas Day. However, as I sit here at my computer, I find that I've changed my mind. Or rather, I guess I should say, "life" has changed my mind. You see, with Thanksgiving being late this year, the Christmas season kinda just snuck up on me. Is the same is true for you? The calendar says "Advent" is here, yet up until this past week, I was feeling far from prepared -- in my heart or otherwise. That is until we put up our tree two weeks ago.

As soon as the lights were plugged in, it was like a switch in my heart was turned on as well. This year as never before, the physical acts of preparing for Christmas this week... baking cookies with my children, writing the cards, singing carols... they have all been very special and real reminders of the importance of preparing my heart.

Likewise, I'd like to encourage you to take joy in every little thing that you do over these last few days leading up to Christmas. Whether it's filling stockings, visiting family and friends, listening (or perhaps singing) in a Christmas program, driving by pretty lights, whatever... I hope like me, you'll be able to see these physical reminders in a new "light." May we not merely see them as another thing to check off our lists, but as a means to prepare ourselves for celebrating the greatest gift ever given, Jesus Christ.

My hope for you this year is that you will experience an extraordinary Breath of Heaven as you prepare your home and your heart this Christmas season.

Have a very Merry & Blessed Christmas!

You can enjoy this wonderful song, Breath of Heaven ~ written by Amy Grant


Thanks, JoAnn for sharing your thoughts with us and reminding us of the real meaning of Christmas! Let's meet JoAnn...


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JoAnn Carter writes stories that will encourage your faith through inspirational fiction novels and novellas. She resides in Vermont with her wonderful husband and four children. JoAnn is available for speaking engagements to book clubs, reader groups, library groups, womens' ministries events, school events, and church retreats

You can find JoAnn online here:

JoAnn's Website
JoAnn's Amazon Author Page 
Connect with JoAnn on Facebook


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Can you share with us about your book, Hidden Paths, which I understand is a YA inspirational romance that was just released on December 15th! Congratulations! 

Julie Hemmingway, a recent college graduate, is preparing to leave for the mission field. When she meets Adam Jacobs, her well-organized plans begin to go awry. Will she fight to hold onto her own agenda, or open her heart to a new - yet Hidden Path? Staying in Vermont on the family farm wasn't what Julie had envisioned for her life. After all, she had just spent two years at the community college in preparation to join a mission agency to use her nursing skills overseas. However, those plans quickly change when her father suffers a massive heart attack and dies. Out of necessity, she stays home to help her mom manage the farm. To help make ends meet, Julie accepts a new job at a construction company where many unexpected things happen, including working with the handsome, Adam Jacobs. Will Julie learn that she can trust in God and the path He has planned for her life -- even when it looks totally different than what she expected?

Sounds like a wonderful book and I love the cover art! Where can readers find your book online?

Purchase Link for Hidden Paths

Can you share an excerpt with us?

EXCERPT of Hidden Paths 

Julie Hemmingway's thoughts centered on one thing -- and one thing only -- the letter which had arrived yesterday. Her dreams were coming true at last. She hummed a little Christmas tune and pushed her cart to the return rack. Scooping up her bags, Julie turned to walk out of the grocery store. The next thing she knew, her face was planted against a wool sweater and a coat's zipper. The paper bag filled with groceries crushed against her midsection with a sickening crunch. Thankfully, with a firm grip, she somehow managed to hold onto the second bag. She stood stunned for a moment. Please tell me I didn't just run into the person behind me. "Are you okay?" His warm bass voice vibrated through his chest and beat against her cheek. So much for that wish. Julie wrapped her arm tighter around the bag resting between them to prevent it from plummeting to the floor and pushed herself back. The guy gently gripped her forearms to steady her. "I'm sorry. I should have been paying closer attention to where I was going." He pointed with his thumb toward the colored lights twinkling merrily in the window. "I was looking at the decorations. They're amazing." 

Julie let her gaze travel up until she met his blue eyes. The second bag, which had managed to escape the fiasco, slipped out of her grasp. She looked down in horror at the mess on the floor. "Oh man, it looks like I just did some decorating of my own -- but not the pretty or festive kind." She groaned. "I think that bag had my eggs." 

"If that's the case, they're now scrambled." He took the bag, with lettuce spewing over the side, away from her and stepped back to assess the damage. "Or at least, sunny-side up." Julie grinned at his quick wit as she kicked loose coffee beans off the top of her shoe. With a crooked smile, he introduced himself. "I'm Adam." Before Julie could tell him her name, he plucked a piece of lettuce draped over her sleeve like a scarf. "I must say, these lovely, um... accessories, don't do your beautiful coat justice."


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JoAnn, love the excerpt...thanks for sharing! So glad you guested today and thank you for helping us get into the Christmas spirit! 

Readers, if you'd like to enter JoAnn's giveaway -- (winner's choice of either a free download of one of JoAnn's titles -or- a mug featuring the cover art of one of her books and a packet of yummy hot chocolate to go with it) -- please feel free to comment on this blog post. I know JoAnn would love to chat with you today. We'd really enjoy hearing your thoughts on Christmas and what this holiday means to you!

 
 
Chynna Laird is here at The Mustard Seed today sharing about her special Christmas gift. Hope you can hang around to visit with her as she lets us in our her special gift. 

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I’ve received some pretty fantastic Christmas gifts in my life, everything from original Beatles collectible stuff (my all-time favorite band!) to a trip to Disney World when I was seven. But the greatest give I’ve ever received has to be something that didn’t cost a thing, wasn’t wrapped and was something I thought I’d only ever hope for: a hug from my little girl.   

I know that must sound so odd. Why would I have to wish for a hug from my own child? My oldest daughter, Jaimie, has a condition called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). When she was born nine years ago, I knew something was going on with her. Although she was physically healthy, she wasn’t responding to her environment or the people in it the way she should have been. That’s what SPD does.  

In a nutshell, SPD interferes with how the brain interprets and processes sensory and motor information taken in from the senses. The various sensory systems take in messages from the world around us, and send those messages up to  the brain but somewhere along their journey in the nervous system those messages get jumbled. And by the time they get to the brain, it neither understands how to read the messages nor tell the body how to respond to the initial stimuli. You can only imagine how scary the world can be when you don’t know how to interact with it or how it will make your body feel. And that was what it was like living with Jaimie.   

Jaimie was on the severe side of things in that all eight (yes, there are eight!) of her sensory systems were affected from moderate to severe. You see, it doesn’t just disrupt the five senses we learn about in school (visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile and gustatory) it also affects what our muscles and joints do, including muscle tone, strength, agility, etc. (proprioception). It affects our balance, coordination, body awareness and how our bodies ‘feel’ in space (vestibular). Finally, it affects the functioning of the systems happening under our awareness or control (interoception).  Some of these systems work together to help us complete every day tasks most of us take for granted such as eating, writing, skipping rope or even being able to sit still and pay attention.  

I’d have to say that Jaimie’s greatest challenge, and still is, was tactile. Touch caused Jaimie tremendous discomfort and she came to fear it. It wasn’t until I learned more about it that I understood why. Think about it. Touch is involved with almost everything we do:  getting dressed (ever put something on that drives you crazy?), all hygiene practices, eating, sitting on a chair, having someone talking to or sitting near you, and even the fun stuff like crafts. The most painful thing for me as a mom was not being able to hug Jaimie or offer her comfort when she was scared or hurt because my touch seemed to intensify her anxiety.  This by no means meant that Jaimie didn’t like touch didn’t want to be loved. Her brain she never taught her how to deal with these sensations. Light tough actually registers as ‘pain’ in her brain so the reaction to that is ‘fear’ or ‘danger’. So, until I learned what was going on, I did what I called, “Mothering from a distance.”   

Imagine not being able to hold your child in your arms. Or cuddle her. Or rub her back when she’s had a nightmare. Or give her a hug or kiss when she’s hurt. We learned later on that Jaimie responds best to deep pressure and heavier forms of touch. Back then, we didn’t have this information. Jaimie’s form of hugging was sticking her head on your arm or leg--she had to initiate it—and say, “Hug.” We got used to that and it was okay. One day…I held onto the hope that one day, I’d get to hug her and have it be a good thing for her.   

The Christmas just after we’d found out Jaimie lived with SPD, I left Jaimie watching a movie with her daddy while I went up for a bit of alone time. When I came back downstairs, Jaimie ran across the room to give me one of her hugs. I leaned down so she could put her head on me but instead she threw herself against me, wrapping her tiny arms around my neck, and hugged me.  She was almost three at the time and that was the first time she’d ever hugged anyone.  I can still feel it to this day.

Chynna, thank you so much for sharing this precious memory of such a special gift! 


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Let's meet Chynna...

CHYNNA LAIRD – is a freelance writer and multi award-winning author. Her passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder and other special needs. She’s authored an award-winning children’s book, two memoirs, a Young Adult novella and an adult Suspense/Thriller.

You can connect with Chynna online here:


Chynna's Website
Main blog: The Gift Blog

Special needs blog: See the White Elephants Blog
Find Chynna on Facebook
Find Chynna on Twitter
 

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So what's on your writing agenda right now?

I am currently in the editing  process of my next YA suspense/thriller/sweet romance, ‘UNDERTOW’. I also have two memoirs out and a children’s picture book that is being re-edited for re-release. 

Please check out ‘Blackbird Flies’, my first YA book through Astraea Press, which I am very proud of. The link is: ‘Blackbird Flies’, my first YA book through Astraea Press, You can also find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. More information about this, and my other books, can be found on my Website.  

Can you share with us more about your book, Blackbird Flies?

Fifteen year-old Payton MacGregor is a musical prodigy. To him, though, his music is merely a way for him to escape from the chaos that surrounds him. All of his life, he’s had to care for his mother, who copes with her bipolar disorder with booze instead of turning to her own musical talents. He refuses to become a statistic. Then he’s thrown a curve ball.

His mother suddenly dies, leaving him to be cared for by his aging grandparents.  As much as they love him, they decide to send him halfway across Canada to live with his father, Liam—the man Payton always believed abandoned him and his mother. Payton isn’t making the relocation easy on anyone until he finds out he's going to attend the prestigious School of the Arts for musically gifted youth. Any second thoughts he has about his new life are erased when he meets Lily Joplin. Their connection is instantaneous.

Lily is a talented singer, but her struggles with drugs and bipolar disorder hit too close to home for Payton’s comfort. And when her issues become all-consuming for Payton, he wonders if his music will be enough to carry him through.

Chynna, thank you again for guesting today and sharing about your precious gift. 

If you'd like to enter for a chance to win in Chynna's giveaway, please comment on this blog post and share with us about your most favorite Christmas gift and why it was your favorite. Merry Christmas!

 
 
Welcome back to The Mustard Seed Blog. Kristine Lowder is here sharing a Christmas memory. 

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Bring a Torch
By Kristine Lowder

Reading with Norman Naas was like snagging a front row seat at a command performance.  He didn't just like books.  He devoured them.  Ate them up with a spoon.  If it came to a choice between dinner and another chapter, you may not see Norm until after dessert.  Or the next morning.

I took full advantage of my Uncle Norm's love of literature whenever the Naas clan came to visit.  Norm believed in reading aloud before reading aloud was cool.  He put heart and soul into every page, bringing characters to life with different vocalizations, gestures and facial features.   Realizing this, I'd climb into his lap, laded to the chin with books.  Bass voice booming, Norman and I bounded into Treasure Island and Camelot, explored Neverland with the Lost Boys, roared with Aslan, and jumped into chalk pavement paintings with Mary, Burt, and the Banks children.  We shared many summer hours with Stuart Little, Black Beauty, a word-spinning spider, an Indian in a cupboard, an old yeller dog, the March and Ingalls families.  So many others.

It was November of 1960-something.  I was in the second grade.  Mom bought me a book I couldn't figure out.  "It's a Christmas book," she explained.  "The holidays will be here soon."  I could read the words just fine, but they were song lyrics and I couldn't read music.

Figuring that Uncle Norm was omniscient in all matters bookish, I pulled on his sleeve one morning when the troops were visiting for Thanksgiving.

"Can you read this to me, please?"  I thrust the dark blue book into his hands. "It's a singing book.  I don't know how it goes."

My uncle and I retreated into the living room, plopped onto the sofa and opened Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella.  He paged through, "ooing and ahhing" at scenes depicting a young girl with a torch, the Holy family, a stable and lots of stars.  

"Oh, this is a good one!" Uncle Norm declared.  He always said that.  To a world-class bibliophile like Norman Naas, every book I offered was "a good one."  

"Let's give it a try, shall we?" he leaned back, perched his black-rimmed glasses atop his nose, cleared his throat and began to sing:

Bring a torch, Jeanette, Isabella!
Bring a torch, to the stable run
Christ is born. Tell the folk of the village
Jesus is born and Mary's calling.
Ah! Ah! beautiful is the Mother!
Ah! Ah! beautiful is her child.

A sixteenth century French Christmas carol, Bring a Torch urges visitors to the stable to keep their voices low so as not to disturb the dreams of the newborn Babe.  I'm told that some French children still dress up as shepherds and milkmaids and carry torches and candles to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve while singing the carol.  The doleful tune has also been recorded by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, Joan Baez, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Mannheim Steamroller, among others.

Uncle Norm and I never recorded Bring a Torch, but it seems we sang it every holiday season for years.  It was "our song." I don't know what happened to that book, but my uncle passed away years ago.  I think of him often, especially when prowling the stacks of the local library.  The literary lights he lit still blaze beacon-bright. 

Just as my uncle "brought a torch" to illuminate the wonderful world of books, so has the Divine Author written the greatest Book of all.  Its pages reflect the Light of the world and the true story of a Father whose love for you and me is so pure and deep that it became Emmanuel, God with us.  His story, The Great Story, became flesh, walked among us, and was nailed to a cross so those who believe would never walk in darkness.        

So when cherry-cheeked winds scrub autumnal skies and November ignites the hills, I sometimes catch myself humming. Isabella's torch is lit. Memories of my Uncle Norm shine like alpenglow at sunset.  Jesus is born.  And the Greatest Story ever told calls me Home.


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Let's meet Kristine...

A multi-published author and voracious reader, Kristine Lowder enjoys hiking, camping, fishing, and exploring the Cascades with her family of six.  She loves Puccini arias, white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, and doing almost anything other than scrubbing the kitchen sink.

You can find Kristine online here:




Kristine's Website
Kristine's Blog 
Find Kristine on Facebook 
Find Kristine on Twitter


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Can you share with us about your book, Forgiveness: What It Is, What It Isn't, Why It Matters

What are the key biblical passages on forgiveness? What does God expect us to do with them? What is He after? This new release tackles these questions plus "trigger-happy forgiveness," the necessary link between repentance and reconciliation, when and how to apologize, forgiveness praying and spiritual warfare. 

Forgiveness myths are also debunked. "When you chose to forgive, it’s like taking a key, walking into a jail cell, turning the lock, and setting a prisoner free: you" writes the author. 'Forgiveness' tells you how and why in clear, easy to understand language that you can put into practice today. Real help for real people with real questions. 

Where can readers find your book online? 
Purchase Link for Forgiveness: What It Is, What It isn't, Why It Matters

Kristine, thanks so much for guesting today and sharing about your Christmas memories and also about your book. 

 
 
I'm loving all these guest authors at The Mustard Seed helping to spread Christmas cheer and get us into the holiday spirit! Brea Essex is here today to share a Christmas memory. She's also doing a book giveaway so stick around to chat.

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When I was in high school, my dad and I always got our Christmas tree last minute. I'd get caught up with school, he would get caught up with work, and we would both sort of forget. Then one day, maybe a week, maybe a few days before Christmas (once even on Christmas Eve), my dad would get home from work and one of us would suddenly realize that we still needed a tree. We'd jump in his car, drive to the nearest tree lot we could find and pick out a tree. Once we got it home, my dad would get it into the tree stand while I put on a Christmas CD. He'd help me string the lights and then more often than not, he'd let me decorate by myself. He knew I loved to do it, so he'd disappear upstairs and return later to exclaim over the transformed living room. He'd bring down all the presents I'd wrapped for our family and we'd arrange them under the tree. I always had fun wrapping the presents. My dad worked long hours and even though he's a much better artist than me, we're about equal when it comes to decorating—decorating packages included. Once everything was arranged, we'd plug in the tree (I'd always put the lights on some sort of weird setting where they faded on and off slowly, or chased each other) and stare at the tree while listening to the Christmas music.

Christmas morning, I'd always set my alarm for five a.m. Yes, I was on vacation from school, and yes, I could have slept in, but I knew it would take me forever to get ready and that we had to be at my grandparents' house (an hour away) early. My dad would usually get up about the time I was finishing my makeup or attempting to curl my hair (I'm still to this day terrible with my hair—takes me forever) and we'd head downstairs to open our presents to each other. My dad never seemed to need anything—still doesn't—so I'd get him the same type of things every year: a coffee mug and a planner for the next year. He always managed to act surprised at my oh-so-predictable gifts. I'd also add the same type of thing to his stocking every year—I'd write him a short story, try to do some sort of fancy border around it, print it out, roll it up like a scroll and then tie it with a ribbon.

We'd head down to my grandparents' house early. This was before they opened up the extra lanes on Highway 101 (if you live in the Bay Area of California, you know what a headache that was), so there was always a ton of traffic. More often than not, we'd have to pull off the freeway and take the back roads, which took almost as long as sitting in traffic, but wasn't nearly as frustrating.

When we reached my grandparents' house, I'd help my dad carry in the gifts and arrange them in the front room. My aunts and my cousins would usually be there already because one aunt lives in the same town and the other in Canada—she always flew in a few days early. My grandmother would make coffee for the adults and hot cocoa for me (I still don't drink coffee to this day) and would bring out the pastries she heated in her toaster oven—including the fruitcake. Don't say ew. I don't know where my grandmother gets this fruitcake, but it's actually good. We'd all hang out the whole day. My grandfather would play piano and we'd sing Christmas carols. My grandmother would make a ton of food and instruct me in the fine art of setting a proper table (it's more difficult and involved than it sounds). My dad and I would head back home much later with leftovers.

My aunt has taken over the Christmas cooking now, and my cousin the piano playing, but Christmas remains more or less the same...a day to spend hanging out with my family. Surprisingly, my tree didn't go up last minute this year. My husband and I set it up the day after Thanksgiving (I still haven't finished decorating it, though). Christmas is still my favorite holiday. To me, it's not about the food, or the presents (although those are fun to wrap). It's about spending time with my family, laughing and hanging out.

Oh, and Dad, if you're reading this...I promise I didn't get you a coffee cup and a planner this year. Although, I can't guarantee that I didn't get you one or the other.


Brea, thanks so much for sharing your Christmas memories with us. Christmas is my favorite holiday also! 


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So let's meet Brea...

Brea Essex was born in Gilroy, California, called the “Garlic Capital of the World”. She has been telling stories since she could talk. She moved around a lot as a child, living all over Northern California, with a brief stay in Montana. She graduated college with a degree in Medical Assisting. She eventually decided that a medical career wasn't for her, so she began writing her first YA novel, Foreshadow, inspired by her favorite city of the multitude she's lived in: Capitola, CA.  She currently lives near San Jose, CA with her husband, their dog and three cats, and enough books to start a library. 

You can find Brea online here:

Brea's Website
Brea's Blog
Find Brea on Facebook
Find Brea on Twitter


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Brea, please share with us about your book, Foreshadow

Imagine discovering that your boyfriend was out to kill you—and that the annoying boy from school was your guardian angel.

Rae Davenport has already lost her mother. The only thing keeping her sane is her new boyfriend, Andrei—that is, until she finds out that he wants to kill her. Andrei is a devil, and he wants to use Rae as a sacrifice to get back into Heaven. The only one who can save her is Logan, her guardian angel. He’s only annoyed her in the past, but now he will be her savior. 


Sounds like a book going on my TBR pile and I love the cover. Book One of The Shadow Imperium series is coming soon from Astraea Press! If you'd like to be entered to win in Brea's giveaway, please feel free to comment. Brea, thanks again for guesting today!


 
 
S.G. Rogers is a guest at The Mustard Seed today. Hope you all can hang around to chat with her and she's also doing a giveaway. 

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The Crystal Clarity of Christmas

My favorite Christmas movie is the 1970 musical “Scrooge,” starring Albert Finney.  At the outset, Ebenezer Scrooge is a perfectly dreadful fellow, whose twisted scowl accurately defines his dour character.  In the end, however, he’s singing, dancing, and dressed like Father Christmas.   His personal journey is what holds the most fascination for me because it’s about choices.

Visited by three ghosts in one night, Scrooge is first reminded of a painful childhood by the Ghost of Christmas Past. We discover his father was cruel and cold, but that Ebenezer had a loving sister.  Next we see Ebenezer as a young man in the employ of the ebullient Mr. Fezziwig.  Even at the Christmas ball, Ebenezer watches the merriment from the sidelines, unable or unwilling to fit in.  One wonders what Fezziwig’s beautiful daughter Isabel sees in Ebenezer—but she’s so lovely you know there must be some good in the man. As the story unfolds, Ebenezer squanders a chance at happiness by choosing business over love. This marks the proverbial fork in the road that sends Ebenezer down the path to misery.

The Ghost of Christmas Present is a jolly visitation, and a welcome respite from the poignant sadness of what has gone before.  With this likable spirit, Ebenezer Scrooge has his first taste of the milk of human kindness…and he discovers the elixir to be delicious and intoxicating.  As delightful as the Ghost of Christmas Present is, however, he too has a few harsh realities to show Scrooge—namely the happy household of his long-suffering employee, Bob Cratchit.  Scrooge is confounded by the impoverished Cratchit family’s ability to celebrate Christmas.  He does not yet understand that happiness and love is a choice available to one and all despite their financial circumstances.

The final visitation of the night is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  Dressed like the Grim Reaper, this particular spirit ought to be the most terrifying to Ebenezer Scrooge.  Oddly enough, the miser almost welcomes this ghost.  In one of the most cheerful numbers in the movie, Scrooge’s debtors dance and sing at the news of his passing.  Even Scrooge himself gets caught up in the hoopla as he looks on, unaware that the jubilation stems not from his deeds but from his death.  Scrooge is then shown the future waiting for him in the afterlife, a cold office in Hell as Lucifer’s clerk.  Here, his options are laid bare—repent or suffer eternal damnation.  


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After a lifetime of bad choices, Ebenezer Scrooge finally chooses redemption.  Therein lies the appeal of the movie.  Its message is clear—each moment of every day we have the chance to choose.  Shall we live life to the fullest, making the world a better place for our presence, or do we end up with a shriveled, dark soul?  I’d rather my deeds ring with the crystal clarity of a bell and resonate just as beautifully.

Love that last line! Now that S.G. got us in the Christmas spirit, let's meet her...


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In her former lives, S.G. Rogers was a lawyer and an actress, but she’s now grown up and settled down as an author.  Drawn to fantasy literature, she’s lived in some of the most magical places in America, including La Jolla, California, Asheville, North Carolina, and currently Savannah, Georgia.  She resides with her son, husband, and two hairless cats—which look and act quite a bit like dragons.  When she’s not writing, she enjoys practicing martial arts. 

You can find S.G. online here:

S.G.'s Blog   

Find S.G. on Facebook 
Find S.G. on Twitter


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S.G., can you share with us about your book, The Last Great Wizard of Yden

After his father is kidnapped, sixteen-year-old Jon stumbles across a closely guarded family secret--one that will challenge everything he has ever believed about his father and himself. A magical ring his father leaves behind unlocks a portal to another dimension, but in using it, Jon unwittingly unchains the forces of evil. A crisis develops when a malevolent wizard transports to Earth to kidnap one of Jon’s friends. With the help of some unlikely schoolmates, and a warrior princess from Yden, Jon embarks on a dangerous quest to free his friend and his father from the most vicious wizard the magical world has ever known. In the end, Jon will be forced to fight for his life as he attempts to rescue the last great wizard of Yden.

Sounds like a very interesting book. Where can readers find it online:

Purchase Link for The Last Great Wizard of Yden: Astraea Press
Purchase Link for The Last Great Wizard of Yden: Amazon 
Purchase Link for The Last Great Wizard of Yden: B&N 

S.G., thanks so much for guesting and sharing about your favorite Christmas movie. 

If you'd like to enter to win S.G.'s book, please join the chat and comment on this blog post. 

 
 
Sherry Gloag is here today at The Mustard Seed to spread some Christmas cheer by telling us about her favorite Christmas movie. Hope you can stay and chat with Sherry...she's doing a giveaway. 

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My Favourite Christmas Film 
by Sherry Gloag

Why, when I’m not a film buff, have a chosen a film from 1951 as my favourite film?  Well, because the lead actor, Alastair Sim had the gift of what I describe as, a ‘mobile face’.  He could and did play the famous role of Miss Fritton, headmistress in two of the St Trinians as convincingly and hilariously as he did the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge the 1951 film adaptation of Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. 


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Born in 1900 in Scotland, Alastair Sim once claimed he dreamed of becoming a hypnotist and practiced on animals.  I have no idea whether he succeeded with them or not, but am thankful he changed direction and embraced a career in acting.

Sim had a gift of creating laughter in roles others actors played seriously. His role as Scrooge in the film adaptation of Charles Dickens faithful classic in1951 is a wonderful example.

In this Christmas classic film director Brian Desmond Hurst creates the wonderful and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. Through the intervention of the ghost of his former partner and of three spirits Scrooge learns the error of his ways in this faithful adaptation of the Dickens classic.

This verion, more than any other captures the spirit of Dickens story implicitly, add Alalstair Sim and the rest of the quality cast and you have a film that will last through many generations as a keeper.

Alastair Sim’s incredible ability to portray every facet of emotion from anger through contempt, disbelieve, vulnerability, loss, regret and the stirring of joy as the film comes to such a hopeful conclusion is all portrayed in minute detail and still endears the old rogue to his audience.  The rest of the cast is a role-call of top actors of the day.   Mervyn Johns presents an excellent Cratchett with his ability to rise above the enormous degradation he is exposed to by his boss.  Michael Horden, as Scrooge’s late business partner Marley lays the foundation of the story with chilling clarity and promises impending doom if Scrooge ignores his warnings.

Scrooge has turned away from the love of a good women  to take the acquisition of money as his mistress, he denies his nephew for reasons beyond the poor man’s control, and yet the skilful portrayal of this atrocious character by Sim instils sympathy for Scrooge on several occasions during the film. Awesome as the rest of the cast is, Alastair Sim carries every moment in the film, by demonstrating his versatility as an actor.

There are several versions of A Christmas Carol, but this is the one I return to each year.  I cry, I laugh, I join in the carol singing, and I sigh with contentment during the closing scenes, and thank Alastair Sim for accepting the part and giving me such pleasure every year.  



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Let's meet Sherry...

Sherry Gloag lives in the East of England, where, like those who may, like Christopher Robin, enjoy watching the ‘Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace’, she enjoys watching the changing of the seasons in the countryside. 

When she found it increasingly difficult to find romances she enjoyed, she decided to try her hand at writing them. She has four books and several short stories published and another awaiting its release date.  “I enjoy meeting my characters, sharing their lives and giving them a HEA after making them jump through several emotional hoops.”

You can find Sherry online here:

Sherry's Website 
Sherry's Blog 
Find Sherry on Facebook 
Find Sherry on Twitter


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Can you share with us about your book, From Now Until Forever?

For Prince Liam, families meant bad news, unwanted commitments, and the loss of his personal freedom. Love spawned white picket fences, slippers at the hearth with a wife and kids making demands, so why did those images disappear when he met Melanie Babcot?

Melanie Babcot fought hard to escape the horrors of her youth and vowed to remain single and free, so when paid to protect Prince Liam from insurgents why did her personal pledge fly out the window?

Sounds like a very intriguing book...definitely going on my TBR list! Where can readers find your book online?

Purchase Link for From Now Until Forever

Sherry, thanks so much for being a guest today and sharing about your favorite Christmas movie and your book. 

Readers, if you'd like to enter Sherry's giveaway of a Selenite Pendant, please feel free to comment on this blog post. We'd love for you to stick around and chat! 

 
 
S.G. Rogers is a guest at The Mustard Seed today. She's also doing a giveaway. Hope you all can stay and chat for a bit.

Picture
The Crystal Clarity of Christmas

My favorite Christmas movie is the 1970 musical “Scrooge,” starring Albert Finney.  At the outset, Ebenezer Scrooge is a perfectly dreadful fellow, whose twisted scowl accurately defines his dour character.  In the end, however, he’s singing, dancing, and dressed like Father Christmas.  His personal journey is what holds the most fascination for me because it’s about choices.

Visited by three ghosts in one night, Scrooge is first reminded of a painful childhood by the Ghost of Christmas Past. We discover his father was cruel and cold, but that Ebenezer had a loving sister.  Next we see Ebenezer as a young man in the employ of the ebullient Mr. Fezziwig.  Even at the Christmas ball, Ebenezer watches the merriment from the sidelines, unable or unwilling to fit in.  One wonders what Fezziwig’s beautiful daughter Isabel sees in Ebenezer—but she’s so lovely you know there must be some good in the man. As the story unfolds, Ebenezer squanders a chance at happiness by choosing business over love. This marks the proverbial fork in the road that sends Ebenezer down the path to misery.

The Ghost of Christmas Present is a jolly visitation, and a welcome respite from the poignant sadness of what has gone before.  With this likable spirit, Ebenezer Scrooge has his first taste of the milk of human kindness…and he discovers the elixir to be delicious and intoxicating.  As delightful as the Ghost of Christmas Present is, however, he too has a few harsh realities to show Scrooge—namely the happy household of his long-suffering employee, Bob Cratchit.  Scrooge is confounded by the impoverished Cratchit family’s ability to celebrate Christmas.  He does not yet understand that happiness and love is a choice available to one and all despite their financial circumstances.

The final visitation of the night is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  Dressed like the Grim Reaper, this particular spirit ought to be the most terrifying to Ebenezer Scrooge.  Oddly enough, the miser almost welcomes this ghost.  In one of the most cheerful numbers in the movie, Scrooge’s debtors dance and sing at the news of his passing.  Even Scrooge himself gets caught up in the hoopla as he looks on, unaware that the jubilation
 stems not from his deeds but from his death.  Scrooge is then shown the future waiting for him in the afterlife, a cold office in Hell as Lucifer’s clerk.  Here, his options are laid bare—repent or suffer eternal damnation.  


Picture
After a lifetime of bad choices, Ebenezer Scrooge finally chooses redemption.  Therein lies the appeal of the movie.  Its message is clear—each moment of every day we have the chance to choose.  Shall we live life to the fullest, making the world a better place for our presence, or do we end up with a shriveled, dark soul?  I’d rather my deeds ring with the crystal clarity of a bell and resonate just as beautifully.

Love that last line! Now that S.G. helped to get us in the Christmas spirit, let's
meet her...


Picture
In her former lives, S.G. Rogers was a lawyer and an actress, but she’s now grown up and settled down as an author.  Drawn to fantasy literature, she’s lived in some of the most magical places in America, including La Jolla, California, Asheville, North Carolina, and currently Savannah, Georgia.  She resides with her son, husband, and two hairless cats—which look and act quite a bit like dragons.  When she’s not writing, she enjoys practicing martial arts. 

You can find S.G. online here:

S.G.'s Blog   

Find S.G. on Facebook 
Find S.G. on Twitter  


Picture
S.G., can you share with us about your book, The Last Great Wizard of Yden

After his father is kidnapped, sixteen-year-old Jon stumbles across a closely guarded family secret--one that will challenge everything he has ever believed about his father and himself. A magical ring his father leaves behind unlocks a portal to another dimension, but in using it, Jon unwittingly unchains the forces of evil. A crisis develops when a malevolent wizard transports to Earth to kidnap one of Jon’s friends. With the help of some unlikely schoolmates, and a warrior princess from Yden, Jon embarks on a dangerous quest to free his friend and his father from the most vicious wizard the magical world has ever known. In the end, Jon will be forced to fight for his life as he attempts to rescue the last great wizard of Yden.

Sounds like an intriguing book. Where can readers find your book online?

Purchase Link for The Last Great Wizard of Yden: Astraea Press 
Purchase Link for The Last Great Wizard of Yden: Amazon 
Purchase Link for The Last Great Wizard of Yden: B&N 

S.G., thanks so much for guesting today and sharing about your favorite Christmas movie. 

If you'd like to enter for a chance to win S.G.'s giveaway (
one copy of the ebook in Nook or Kindle format), please comment on this blog post. 

 
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