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Words with Friends: Cynthia Ruchti

Dear Friends, I’m excited to re-introduce an author friend to you today. I met Cynthia Ruchti several years ago at the very first writers conference where I had the opportunity to teach. Her grace, kindness, and beauty are matched only by her skill as a writer. I fell in love with her back then, but I’ve fallen in love with her words since. I don’t dare present her work as an unbiased reviewer, but I also thought you might enjoy the opportunity to get to know one of my favorite people. Today, I’m thrilled to interview Cynthia and to give her the opportunity to share a little more about her new novella release, An Endless Christmas. Let’s go! Welcome, Cynthia. I know you live in Wisconsin, but you do a great job of setting the scene for Endless Christmas near Stillwater, Minnesota. How did you decide on this location, and what research did your writing involve?  I love spotlighting places that have captured my attention and affection. Stillwater is one of those locations. The story of An Endless Christmas is centered on a too-small cottage about five miles from town, just far enough for the cottage to seem separated from the hubbub of the small-town tourist destination, but accessible to it. I’ve visited Stillwater several times over the years. My husband and I took a day trip to Stillwater as the book was being written so I could recapture the feel, lock down specific landmarks in my mind, and collect some of the details that make Stillwater such a destination spot. I researched online, tapped into the experiences of friends who either lived near or had vacationed in Stillwater, gathered more ideas from their Chamber of Commerce, their Historical Society, and from Pinterest pages that confirmed what I’d discovered personally. I love your care and thoughtfulness. The Binder family has lots of Christmas traditions. Does your own family have any of these in common with your characters? Two key traditions are borrowed from my extended family. For many years, one of the holiday meals always provided a variety of soups. My brother’s Killer Chili for the strong of heart, a milder chili, chicken wild rice soup, and maybe a couple of other choices. When Mom was alive, oyster stew was one of the options. It had been a holiday tradition in her family for many decades. The other tradition that worked its way into the story was deciding to forego exchanging gifts in favor of taking up a collection for a meaningful charity, given first in honor of my father the year after he died. Now, the gifts are collected on behalf of both our father and mother. We’ve truly delighted in sending donations...

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Review: An Endless Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti

Dear Friends, Not long ago, I wrote about The Perfect Christmas and how, even with at least one child unexpectedly absent, I know it will be the perfect Christmas after all. Author Cynthia Ruchti’s new novella,  An Endless Christmas, also describes a perfect Christmas. And a perfect family. And a story that’s just—perfect, right? Maybe. Nurse practitioner Katie Vale sees herself as the one huge blot on an otherwise-flawless family Christmas scene in wintry Minnesota. When she turns down boyfriend Micah Binder’s unexpected proposal at the start of the holiday, she plans to pack her bags and return to her Florida home. But Micah and his large, loving extended family urge her to stay. And somehow, the grace-laden magic of an endless Christmas starts to work in ways that surprise everyone. In my case, the obstacle to a perfect Christmas was my attitude. Read the book to find out what Katie discovers about herself and her own imperfect holiday. An Endless Christmas is a tender, thoughtful story that, like every good Christmas gift, delivers much more than glitter and glitz. Watch for my “Words with Friends” interview tomorrow with author Cynthia Ruchti (a friend as well as an award-winning novelist), and go buy this novella for anyone who loves characters who become friends, timeless truth, and a page-turning story bright with Christmas wonder and hope. Have you had a Christmas that started out less than perfect but ended up better than you thought? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on social media. Blessings! For His glory, Marti   Find a local Christian bookstore where you can purchase Endless Christmas. Find this book on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, or at Christian Book Distributors. (FTC Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this novella free from the publisher. I was not required to post a review or a positive...

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READ: Review, Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker (Emma Rae Creation Series)

Sometimes an author creates a place and a people so warm and intriguing that you want to return. Again and again. This explains, at least in part, the popularity of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables books or Jan Karon’s Mitford novels. And I also believe it applies to the whimsical world Sandra Bricker creates for her readers in her Emma Rae Creation series.   At the Tanglewood wedding hotel in Atlanta, little things mean a lot. And Sherilyn Caine, diva of detail, is ready. She has her dream job, a dream fiancé, even a dream return to friends and adoptive family in Atlanta to accompany them. But as she manages others’ weddings in expert style, she wonders if her own is about to fall apart. The problems begin when little things—including two lost wedding dresses, an unwanted pet, and a mysterious allergy—loom large. Will they overpower Sherilyn’s happiness as well? In Always the Baker, Never the Bride (Abingdon, 2010), readers fell in love with the Tanglewood and its diabetic cake artisan, Emma Rae Travis. A warm wedding party of characters and sparkling touches of humor only added to the book’s charm. Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride (Abingdon, 2011) brings it all back with the delightful additions of Sherilyn; her doctor fiancé, Andy; and plenty of detours along the way. Creative, fun extras include wedding tips and tricks at the close of each chapter with the additional bonus of some of Emma’s best recipes. If you need a fun book to help you escape the winter doldrums or an inspiring read to remind you that the truth sets free, say “I do” to Always the Wedding Planner. Like me, you’ll wish the Tanglewood were real—because you know and love the people who work there. Watch the book trailer.  Find a local Christian bookstore.  Find the book on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, or at Christian Book Distributors. (FTC disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free from the author. I was not required to post a review or a positive response). Does this sound like a fun read? What other novels have created a community that begs you to return? Leave a comment on any of my posts between now and Valentine’s Day for an entry for my Valentine’s prize pack that includes a treat or two from Sandie Bricker. More details to...

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YA Friday: READ Review, Carrying Mason by Joyce Magnin

I’m an unabashed fan of the Bright’s Pond series* by rising star and author Joyce Magnin. That’s why I found it scary to open her middle grade novel, Carrying Mason. But—as is often the case when we face our fears—I’m so glad I did. Not only does Magnin have the chops to write for the children’s market, but she kept me reading from first page straight through to the end without a break. Yes, plane trips can provoke such attention, but I had options. When thirteen-year-old Luna’s best friend and companion Mason dies, she has options, too. But as she sees it, her decision to move in with Mason’s mentally disabled mother, Ruby Day, and care for her in his stead involves nothing more than simple obedience.  “Mason died, and now she’s by herself, and Jesus said to help the widows and orphans, so that’s what I intend to do.” This determined veteran of the road less traveled has plenty to learn, and Magnin grants us the privilege of joining her journey. As the story unfolds, we see the unspoken cruelties of a life like Ruby’s and the gentle but flawed way Luna and others respond. We remember that love endures when all else fails. And we’re reminded that everybody matters to God. Kudos once more to Magnin for creating characters I’d know if I met them on the street, for writing dialogue so real I can hear it as I read, and for pouring truth through story in a way that moves me to step back in awe. And read straight through to the end.  What other middle grade/YA novels have had an impact on you and your life as a reader and/or writer? Feel free to leave a comment. I’ve missed my blogger family and have more reviews–and some mission trip stories–to share with you soon.  *Click the titles to read my blog reviews of The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow, Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise, and Griselda Takes...

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READ: Review, Griselda Takes Flight by Joyce Magnin

Oops, she did it again. Joyce Magnin combines the ridiculous with the poignant in a way that spells sublime. And that’s especially true of Griselda Takes Flight (Abingdon, releases 4.1.11), the third offering in her Bright’s Pond series.  No one but Magnin could put together a comatose treasure hunter; his not-so-concerned fiancée; an obsessive pumpkin farmer; two sisters learning to love their way out of dysfunction; and a pilot who makes an emergency landing and decides to stay a while. And no one but Magnin could weave all these and more into a loveable, believable, page-turning story.  In what’s become her signature style, the author uses flawed characters and awkward, often humorous situations to teach powerful lessons. Griselda Sparrow, who takes flight in not only an airplane but her self-confidence, shows readers the power of truth to set free. And as other Bright’s Pond residents work through their own versions of truth-telling, readers will no doubt do the same.  At one point in my reading, I realized I was holding my breath. Charlotte Figg, heroine of Magnin’s second novel, was about to encounter Griselda and friends for the first time. My concern for my fictional friends defined my discovery about their creator:  Oops, she did it again.  Read it and smile. Because when Griselda Takes Flight, your heart will,...

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READ: Review, Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner

(Leave a comment below for the chance to win my review copy of this book). Layers of meaning captivate me. I think it has to do with my love of words. Double entendres, puns—anything with two or more layers always makes me smile. In my own writing, I take delight in creating titles or subtitles that hold two meanings whether or not readers notice them My love for doubles is one of the many reasons I fell in love with Susan Meissner’s latest offering, Lady in Waiting (Waterbrook Press, 2010). This gentle but powerful work shares the story of two ladies in waiting tied together by a mysterious ring. Present-day Jane Lindsay, people-pleasing manager of an antiques store, finds the ring in a box of scrambled items from a British jumble sale. Captivated, she begins her quest for its original owner. In the process, she confronts both her troubled marriage and the choices she alone must make. Lady Jane Grey of 16th-century England also has choices to make and a destiny to fulfill. In love with one man but pledged to another, her life seems as subject to the whims and wishes of others as Jane Lindsay considers hers to be. Meissner sets the modern-day story alongside the story of Lady Jane Grey as seen through the sympathetic eyes of her dressmaker, Lucy. As the two stories unfold, they have much to say about choice, desire, and truth that sets free. Meissner’s skill as a writer is evident as she weaves the two stories together with a firm but gentle hand. Each  carries its own unique voice and leaves readers contemplating their own choices and relationships—and wanting more from Meissner. And that makes this reader a lady in waiting, too. Want a sneak peak at Lady in Waiting? Click to check out a sample chapter. If you’d like, take a moment and rate my review on the Waterbrook site, too. Thanks! What other books have you read that carry layers of meaning or perhaps a dual story? Share your comment for the chance to win my review copy of Lady in Waiting. And watch for a WRITE interview with author Susan Meissner later this week! I’ll draw names from those who comment on either post before midnight this Friday night, February 4.  (FTC disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for this review. I was not required to post a positive...

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