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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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WRITE: Words with Friends, Cynthia Ruchti

As promised, here’s my interview with sweet friend and award-winning author Cynthia Ruchti. She and I are serving together this week at the fabulous Write to Publish Conference held on the lovely campus of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. We both give a strong recommendation to this conference which has equipped so many. Now, let’s learn more about one of my favorite authors. Your tagline is “Stories of hope that glows in the dark.” How would you say All My Belongings fits this description? Hope often shows up best against a dark backdrop. That was certainly true for Becca in All My Belongings. Her parents detached emotionally from her before she was born and continued to live as if unaware they had a daughter. Her father’s actions brought shame and public attention to their family name. By her mid-twenties, Becca seemed to have lost everything, including her dignity and any sense of belonging. As the story progresses, she catches faint glimmers of hope that life could be different than how it started. But dark moments intruded. Her father’s reputation threatened, even from hundreds of miles away. But hope is tenacious. And it was all the more beautiful because of the way the light shone off of it in Becca’s greatest challenges. I love the hope that shines throughout her story. But they say novelists almost always write themselves into their main characters. How are you similar to and different from Becca, heroine of this most recent novel? My beginnings were dramatically different from Becca’s. I grew up knowing I was loved. . . except for that brief period in junior high when we all wonder if either we or our parents are aliens because of how “They just don’t get me.” My parents were respected in the community. I had to dig deep into imagination and the experiences of others I know whose childhoods held the kind of pain Becca’s did. Like Becca, though, I have deeply-rooted connections with the sea, even though I’ve lived landlocked most of my childhood and adult life. I got to vicariously live one of my dreams—returning to my birthplace of Oceanside, California, through Becca’s story. I understand her infatuation with it. Two more things we have in common: I love the beach as well, and our family lived in Oceanside for seven years. Now, I know you just won two Selah Awards, one for fiction (When the Morning Glory Blooms) and one for nonfiction (Ragged Hope). Which do you prefer to write? If I didn’t love both, I wouldn’t write both. My heart is the same whether writing fiction or nonfiction, and my nonfiction is strongly storytelling-based. Some topics lend themselves better to one format or...

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READ: Review, THEY ALMOST ALWAYS COME HOME by Cynthia Ruchti

A review–and a drawing to win this exciting new book! Fear. Stark, gripping fear. They Almost Always Comes Home opens with a fear that closes in on Libby Holden as she realizes her husband, Greg, is missing. Alone on what he intended as his dream trip through the Canadian wilderness, he hasn’t returned. Not yet. And maybe not ever. Libby’s fears compound as the search begins. They magnify as she confronts her true feelings about her failing marriage, her missed opportunities, and her own failures. As she, her best friend, and her irascible but wilderness-savvy father-in-law embark on a journey to find her husband, Libby doesn’t realize she’s on a journey to discover much more. As I read this debut novel, I found myself turning the pages and drinking in great gulps of story as though someone might snatch it away before I quenched my thirst. Ruchti’s plot captured me. Her characters moved me. And her gifts of language and imagery left me in awe. Every great novel has the goal of story and the result of inner change. They Almost Always Come Home tells a compelling tale that moved me to reexamine myself and my own often-selfish approach to life and relationships. As it moves back and forth between fear and faith, the book leaves the reader with a sense of satisfaction—and a longing for more. I’ve decided to give a little background for the authors I know personally. I won’t review a book I can’t recommend, but I think it’s appropriate to tell you when my acquaintance goes beyond Facebook or hearsay. Cynthia and I had corresponded through an online writers’ group but became instant friends this spring when we served on faculty together at the Quad-Cities Christian Writers’ Conference. My only regret about our connection is that many miles separate us. Cynthia lives in Wisconsin where she makes potato corn chowder for her husband of 37 years, loves on her three kids and five grandchildren, writes and produces a daily radio broadcast called The Heartbeat of the Home, edits and writes for the radio ministry magazine Backyard Friends, writes devotionals for TheChristianPulse.com, and serves as the current president of the 2,000-member American Christian Fiction Writers. Read more about Cynthia and her stories of hope that glows in the dark at www.cynthiaruchti.com. Sound like a book you’d love to read? Leave a comment here (or through the “contact” form on my website–click “contact” to the right of this post) and I’ll enter you to win an autographed copy of They Almost Always Come Home. I’ll announce the winner on Friday, June 11, so leave your comment before midnight Eastern Time on the 10th. Make sure to include...

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WRITE: Quad-Cities Christian Writers’ Conference–My Favorite Things

My blog followers may recall that I had the recent honor of teaching at my first writers’ conference. Twila Belk founded the Quad-Cities Writers’ Conference in Eldridge, Iowa a few years ago with the encouragement of author and writers’ benefactor Cecil Murphey. The QCCWC was a weekend to remember in many ways. We kicked off the conference with a stunning faculty rendition of “My Favorite Things,” parodied for publishing by Twila’s sweet assistant, wonderwoman Gail Smith. Here, I offer a less poetic version: #10. FANTASTIC FOOD: I heard this comment repeated often by students and faculty alike. Delicious homemade soup and desserts, a full salad bar, snacks—both healthy and not-so-healthy options abounded. #9. GREAT GIVEAWAYS: Conference sponsors allowed Twila to share multiple copies of both fiction and nonfiction books (not to mention the ubiquitous Christian Romance T-shirts and mugs) at every general session.#8. APPROPRIATE ATTENDANCE: As with many conferences, registrations were down this year. The venue, although reasonably sized, held a few hundred–not thousands. Smaller numbers helped produce a warm, intimate experience. #7. REMARKABLE RESOURCES: Twila asked faculty members to submit recommended resource lists and offered many of their choices in the conference bookstore. Faculty members and conferees also sold and signed their books. My ghostwriter status doesn’t allow me to market much of my work, but in this atmosphere, I could and did. #6. MARVELOUS MP3s: The conference registration fee included an MP3 of every speaker and seminar. This avoided dilemmas (“How can I choose between so many wonderful sessions?”) and allowed the blessings of professional instruction to extend beyond the weekend. #5. CONCENTRATION on CRAFT: Per Cecil Murphey’s recommendation, no agents or editors attended in an official (manuscript-reviewing) capacity. This freed conference participants to focus on improving their writing without the pressure of competition or self-promotion. They also had the opportunity to submit manuscripts ahead of time and, for a reasonable fee, receive a full critique and half-hour appointment with the critiquing faculty member.#4. SUPERB SPEAKERS: Each of the three keynoters (Cynthia Ruchti, Jim Pence, and Jim Rubart) shared messages that inspired and encouraged writers from beginning to professional levels. I’m in awe of their hearts, their talents, and their desire to help others grow and improve. #3. TERRIFIC TEACHERS: QCCWC may not be the biggest conference around, but the faculty was top-notch. In what other small conference could you learn story techniques from veteran mentor Frank Ball or marketing strategies from longtime pro (and breakout novelist) Jim Rubart? Conference participants also had opportunities to interact with faculty members at mealtimes, in personal appointments, and beyond. I was blessed to count myself the least of these among this group of top professionals. #2. SWEET SPIRIT: I’ve sometimes...