Some people have the gift of editing and others have the gift of writing.  Some people have both gifts.  I find myself somewhere in the middle.  I love to write.  I feel that I am a better writer, than editor; however, I know that having my work edited by a professional will make me a better writer, if I learn from my mistakes.

Since I started writing in High School, I have grown by leaps and bounds as a writer, but that’s only because I’ve been open to instruction through editing.  I went to college and have an English degree.  I did well in school and went on to the business of PR.  When I finally got around to taking my writing seriously and finished my first book, I searched for a publisher.  At the time, I did not have the funds to have my book professionally edited.  Of course, I did my own edits and had some other friends (who are pretty good at editing, but not professional), review it as well.  The publisher I worked with did not have a good editing system; they really had no system in place at all.  I know my book was not polished, but I use that as a stepping stone. 

My current book has been through many edits of my own.  I submitted it to one publishing company that gave me a contract and they had an awesome editor that opened my eyes to major issues I had.  I learned a great deal from that editor.  That publishing company went out of business before my book was published.  I’m with a great company now and I just finished reviewing the current edits that my publisher did on my book.  It was another eye-opening experience.  I learned so much more.

After these two major overhauls on my book, I feel that Mr. Shipley’s Governess is finally ready to take on the world! 

During the first major overhaul of my manuscript, I learned that I had an issue with POV.  I kept head hopping between characters.  Once that was shown to me, I worked hard and made the necessary changes and the book was one more layer towards completion.  During that review, I also learned that I was going about my plot line wrong.  My book is an inspirational romance and the manuscript was anything but romantic.  I was telling the story, but the characters were on two different continents for a good portion of the story.  Once I realized that they needed to be in more scenes together, the reader is able to feel their story more; another layer completed.  My third problem was that I used passive voice too much instead of active voice.  I fixed that problem and ended up with another one.

During the second major overhaul that I just completed, I realized that as I was revising the manuscript to use more active voice, I removed the passive voice, but that meant that I was now starting too many sentences with “he, he, he and she, she, she.”  I was so focused on the action verbs that I didn’t realize I was losing the flow of the paragraphs.  So, the problem is now solved and I thank my editors at the publishing company for showing me that writing flaw.  The other major flaw that I had in my writing was that I used too many “said’s” in the dialogue.  For example, Mr. Shipley said, “Wait, I’ll be right there.”  I learned that it’s better to rephrase that.  Mr. Shipley stood up from his desk.  “Wait, I’ll be right there.”  The latter definitely makes the dialogue sequences have more action and follows the mantra of show, don’t tell.  Once I rephrased my dialogue sequences, it was amazing to me what a difference it made.

I am currently going through the first rounds of edits on my newest book, Bella Lucia. I did my edits and am now reviewing the edits from the editor at my publisher. I am continuing to learn more each day that I focus on my writing and learning from editing. 

If you are a beginning writer, it is so important for you to have a professional editor review your work.  If you can’t afford to hire an editor, do your own homework and make sure you have good POV and don’t head hop.  You need to use active, rather than passive voice.  Steer clear of repeating words and starting sentences with he/she all the time.  Make your dialogue into great action sequences.  Keep your plot lines strong with characters that change and grow with the story.  Don’t let the plot become convoluted.    

Always be open to instruction from editors.  If they see a problem, address it.  Once you’ve taken an open-minded look at their suggestions, if you don’t agree, fine, then walk away from their suggestions.  However, if you want to be successful, be open to constructive criticism.  That’s the only way to improve your writing and grow in your craft.  Your readers will thank you!     

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!  ick here to edit.Add Comment

I write because I can even though there will always be critics of my work, but I charge ahead brazenly, trying to freely express myself, my beliefs and my dreams in what I write.

I write because it feels like I’m not breathing if I don’t write.  It’s a part of who I am and the characters in my mind and their lives flow freely onto the page and I feel compelled to tell their stories. 

I write because I feel that I have something important to say and even if I didn’t think that anyone would ever read my work, I would still continue to write, for me.

I write because I have lived and have experiences and want to intertwine those pains and joys and emotional times into stories that can touch peoples’ lives and let them know that someone else out there has felt the same way. 

I write because I feel that God has given me a gift; I may not be the best writer in the world, but I want to be the best writer that I can be and glorify God in everything I write.

I write because it’s therapy when I’m going through something in my life and I can tell a story of someone who is struggling, but goes through the journey and comes out the other side a better person and I hope that someday that will also be me.

I write because I love to read and reading has always been a part of my life since I was a young child.  I want to create my own stories that encompass the imagination I have.

I write because I want to leave a legacy and hope that my work will, in some small way, make this world a better place and help readers see that God is the answer.

I write because there are some stories that just need to be told and I figure that somebody needs to tell them, so why not me.

Why do you write?  Do you have your own Writer’s Declaration?

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!  ick here to edit.

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. 

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!

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! 

*by COTT Sr. Editor, April W Gardner Cover Images Clashes are becoming hugely popular at the literary contest site, Clash of the Titles. Voters have been turning out by the droves to give their opinion about which cover they find most eye-catching. Their latest Clash featured three Christmas cover images, all of which would have been worthy winners. There’s just something about holiday décor that warms the heart! A book cover with Christmas dressings is no different. Here’s what hostess Gail Pallotta had to say about the three covers. “The mountain scene in A Log Cabin Christmas took away my breath and sent a peaceful feeling over me.  The lovely smile on the young lady on the cover of Christmas Belles of Georgia brightened my day and spoke to me of Christmas joy. Christmas Pearl stood out and proclaimed this holy season.”
But the voters decided, and the winner of the 
Christmas Cover Images Clash is:
This is what voters said about Christmas Pearl: *'Christmas Pearl' simply struck me as beautiful & I sank right in as I read the blurb. *I think all three are charming, but 'Christmas Pearl' does it for me! *"Christmas Pearl" is just plain lovely. I love the way the pearl imitates a tree ornament. Very well done cover and quite evocative of Christmas. Well said! COTT  is currently taking a Christmas break, but please visit  January 9 for a new clash that will – literally – take your breath away! If you're an author, don’t forget to check upcoming open clashes and submit. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Clash of the Titles!!
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. 

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?

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.

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! 

Holiday Recipe:


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.

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 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!

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...

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

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."

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!

This week's article was written by *Gail Pallotta

Thank you to our blog alliance partners Jessica Keller works from an office her husband set up for her in their Chicago home. Using a bright orange laptop she posts five days a week. She blogged big-time in college, garnering a huge following. She says, “It got to the point where people I didn’t know would walk up to me and start talking…about my life because they were addicted to my blog.”  After graduation she ended that blog and went to work in the records department of law enforcement. She figured her blogging days were over, but she started writing novels. She thought about author blogs she loved and wanted to “create a place like that so…someday when a novel-length piece is published…” she’ll already have a blog. Her blog reflects her love of baking, her communications and Biblical studies degree and her enthusiasm for books. She’ll read over one hundred this year. On Mondays she muses about life in general. Tasty Tuesdays give cooking advice and recipes. On Writing Wednesdays she shares her writing struggles and advice or hosts experts. Thick-of-it-Thursdays feature a spiritual message, and Fridays for Readers introduces new writers. At least once a month there’s a cookie give away. Yum. During the past nine years she’s written articles, short stories and a novella and recently made the finals in three contests. When she isn’t writing she runs in 5K’s and mentors college-aged women. When asked for a random fact about herself she said, “I have two cats named for super heroes, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent.” Visit Jessica's blog here.
Carol Moncado blogs about life and writing from a big cushy chair in a basement in the Ozarks. She says the area “is slowly becoming my office/library.” She’s written on and off ever since she was a kid, seriously for the last two years. She blogs everyday attracting readers, other writers and friends who want to know a little more about her, her writing and the authors she likes. She says, “I try to have humor – and we all know laughter is the best medicine!I love to get comments.” As for her writing, she’s currently blogging her way through NaNoWriMo. When she isn’t blogging or working on her own writing projects, she takes care of four children, reads and watches television. Her all time favorite show – NCIS. When asked to share a random fact about herself she said, “When we moved into our first house, we moved on Friday the 13th to a house on Elm Street. We found and put an offer on our second [current] house on 06/06/06.” Visit Carol’s blog here. Marianne Evans started her blog, A Minute with Marianne, a little over two years ago. She says, “I loved the idea of chronicling my thoughts and expanding my writing platform…Call it ‘keeping up with the times.’” An added bonus. “It’s a blast…” She posts almost once a week. A Minute with Marianne introduces readers to writers and books they may not otherwise hear about. Marianne says, “There are so many wonderful inspirational, Christian themed books out there. I love shining a light on them and getting the word out on new and exciting authors.” Her blog also covers writing inspirations, motivational tidbits, reviews and publishing news. She keeps her blog casual with highlights on having fun, getting to know people and sharing a passion for great writing. When Marianne isn’t blogging, she writes.  She’s A Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence winner for Hearts Crossing. She was a 2011 finalist for Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year for Hearts Surrender. Marianne says she made the jump from secular romance to Christian Inspirational romance/fiction when “the call on her heart matched the ideas in her head.” Visit her blog here.
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. 

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! 

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

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. 

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.

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

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. 

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