And the winner of Cherry Blossom Capers is…

First of all, I want to thank everyone who visits my blog and enters to win these fantastic books by these awesome authors! I really appreciate you!

Secondly, I am so thankful for random.org, which helps me decide who wins these fantastic books! If you haven’t used random.org, it is so easy – just plug in the number of entries (in the case of my blog, those who are confirmed subscribers receive two entries) and wah-lah, it gives me a number for the winner!

So…without further ado, the winner of Cherry Blossom Capers by Gina Conroy, Cara C. Putman, Lynette Sowell, and Frances Devine is…

Cindy Regnier! Congratulations, Cindy! Gina will be in touch with you soon.

Again, thank you to all who entered. If you haven’t had a chance to enter this week’s giveaway, you still have time to leave a comment to win Fay Lamb’s Book Because of Me at https://pennyzeller.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/interview-and-giveaway-with-author-fay-lamb/ and this Thursday, I’ll be hosting one of my favorite author friends, Shellie Neumeier. She’ll be giving away a copy of her new book The Wishing Ring, which is written especially for tweens, so be sure to sign up for a chance to win a copy for your son or daughter!

 

 

Book spotlight and giveaway with Gina Conroy!!!

I’m thrilled to have my author friend, Gina Conroy, as my guest once again. Today, we are spotlighting her new release, Cherry Blossom Capers and you have a chance to win a copy by leaving a comment for Gina (U.S. residents only, please). For all the details, see below…

Four townhouse neighbors encounter romance and mystery near our nation’s capital. In State Secrets, White House assistant chef Tara Whitley and FBI agent Jack Courtland stop a plot to sabotage a State dinner—and find love still hidden in their hearts. In Dying for Love, attorneys and opponents Ciara Turner and Daniel Evans uncover love while searching for justice. In Buried Deception, archaeologist Samantha Steele and security guard Nick Porter dig up love while uncovering a forged artifact. In Coffee, Tea and Danger, amateur sleuths Susan Holland and Vince Martini find love while investigating a string of mysterious accidents.

I haven’t yet read this book, but I think it sounds SOOOOO good!

And now, for some interview questions with Gina!

What inspired you to write this book? Several years ago when I was homeschooling, we took the kids on a cross-country trip up the east coast. I remember walking through Mount Vernon’s Mansion wondering if all the antiques were real and what would happen if one of them was a forgery? The mom character with her rambunctious kids came first, NOT that I would know anything about that sort of thing. Then came the snarky, but lovable, brooding security guard. Again, not that I would know anything about sarcasm…

What did you find the most difficult aspect of writing a mystery? Making all the clues match up and make sense in my head! The research and clue dropping had to be precise, and at times even I got confused as to whodunit. There was a lot of police procedure involved where I counted on my police officer friend, Steven Hunt, to educate me in all areas of background checks, firearms, and cop lingo. When it came time to reveal the villain, it took more mental power than I had imagined to make sure everything lined up with the facts. Just thinking about all the double and triple checking I had to do makes my head hurt.

Aside from writing, what else are you passionate about?I love to encourage fellow writers and people to pursue their dreams. In fact, I started the pursuit of another lifelong dream of mine. Ballroom dancing. While I won’t be on Dancing with the Stars anytime soon, I am enjoying the physical and mental challenge of dancing. Not to mention it’s a great work out and lots of fun!

Where can we find you on the web and what should we expect?  For a more personal account of my life and triumphs and trials as I pursue my dreams along side my kids’ dream, you can find me blogging at Defying Gravity.

I share my writing insecurities and celebrations, but also share fun stuff about my family like when my kids got a Disney audition call back! After all, my blog is all about helping people follow their dreams, and I have to include my own children!

Gina’s bio: Gina Conroy used to think she knew where her life was headed; now she’s leaning on the Lord to show her the way.  She is the founder of Writer…Interrupted at http://writerinterrupted.com/  where she mentors busy writers and tries to keep things in perspective, knowing God’s timing is perfect, even if she doesn’t agree with it! 😉 Her first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, releases from Barbour Publishing in January 2012. On her blog Defying Gravity at http://www.ginaconroy.com/ginablog/wordpress/ she chronicles her triumphs and trials as she pursues her dreams while encouraging her family and others to chase after their own passions. Gina loves to connect with readers, and when she isn’t writing, teaching, or driving kids around, you can find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Gina-Conroy/198614450154235 and Twitter at https://twitter.com/ginaconroy

Gina and the other authors will be guests tonight at 10pm EST at www.choicesradio.com or on iTunes–podcast available after tomorrow.

Want to have a chance at winning a copy of Gina’s new book? Here are the full details…

All you have to do is leave a comment for Gina.  Confirmed subscribers (be sure to check your email to confirm your subscription!) receive two entries.  The giveaway ends on Thursday, February 16, and a winner will be chosen at random. Entries are limited to those residing in the United States.

**Be sure to stop by each Thursday for book spotlights and chats with some of my favorite author friends. I have a wonderful lineup coming up in the next couple of months. On Mondays, I do movie reviews – you might want to check out this past Movie Monday review of Marriage Retreat at https://pennyzeller.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/movie-monday-marriage-retreat-2612/. On Tuesdays, I share humorous or inspirational postings about the everyday life of a wife, mom, and author. You can check out some hilarious spelling word sentences I unearthed in my daughters’ school notebooks here: https://pennyzeller.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/need-a-good-laugh/

Have a fantastic rest of your week!

 

Final Day of the Days of Christmas Book Giveaway Celebration with Gina Conroy, Shellie Neumeier and Darlene Shortridge

Today is the final day for my special Days of Christmas Book Giveaway Celebration (but not the final day to enter!). I hope you’ve enjoyed all of the fantastic giveaways! Tomorrow, I’ll be providing a listing of all the giveaways so you can go back through if you haven’t already, and leave comments for any of the books you’d like to win. Yep, you can enter as many giveaways as you’d like! All giveaways end December 18 and the winners will be announced on December 19.

I’ve enjoyed the giveaways, but I am eager to get back my regularly scheduled program with humor posts, movie reviews, and devotionals! I’ll be having some Favorite Top 10 Posts, and on December 20, please join me for my popular humor post “5 things a man shouldn’t buy his wife for Christmas!” You won’t want to miss that post!

Today, let’s bring some humor into the mix! Leave a comment telling us your most hilarious Christmastime moment! Or the most hilarious Christmas gift you’ve ever received!

And now, without further ado, here are the three books up for grabs today…while I haven’t yet read the books, they both look awesome!

Following  is the blurb for Cherry Blossom Capers

Four townhouse neighbors encounter romance and mystery near our nation’s capital. In State Secrets, White House assistant chef Tara Whitley and FBI agent Jack Courtland stop a plot to sabotage a State dinner—and find love still hidden in their hearts. In Dying for Love, attorneys and opponents Ciara Turner and Daniel Evans uncover love while searching for justice. In Buried Deception, archaeologist Samantha Steele and security guard Nick Porter dig up love while uncovering a forged artifact. In Coffee, Tea and Danger, amateur sleuths Susan Holland and Vince Martini find love while investigating a string of mysterious accidents.

Below is the blurb for Driven…

Robyn can’t help but notice the handsome new guy at her school. She ignores, however, the arrival of another being at Brookfield Central High School—a demon assigned to destroy her…

Robyn loves her friends, enjoys her youth group, and looks forward to meeting cute Caleb Montague. But when a caustic news reporter challenges her school’s prayer team, Robyn must choose: defend their right to meet on campus and pray for whomever they wish or back down at the principal’s request.

Now she must learn what God wants her to do. And she had better learn fast, because there’s a supernatural enemy in town whose sole mission is to stop her—no matter the cost.

And the blurb for Until Forever

Until Forever is a story of a young family that is torn apart by the devastating effects of alcoholism. Can healing take place in a relationship when an unforgivable act is committed? Will Jessi’s pain and Mark’s guilt keep them apart forever, or will unforeseen circumstances bind them together?

Join Jessi and Mark as they travel many roads that lead them to places of healing and forgiveness.  Where will God draw the line at allowing circumstances in our lives that lead us to Him?  Is there any earthly pain that isn’t tolerable if it leads us to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?  As you read “Until Forever” you may find yourself asking these types of questions.  As in real life, the answers don’t come easily to Jessi and Mark.  You will find yourself walking in their shoes, crying their tears and laughing with them as they experience real and pain and find true joy. 

And now for some Christmas memories!

A Christmas Memory by Shellie Neumeier

When I was five or six, Christmas at my house always started with dark nights (‘cause in MI, December nights start at 4p.m.) and sugar-cookie smells.  Time brought friends and family to eat the feasts my mother made and sleep on our couch and floor. But as a child, the best part was the culmination of Christmas morning. The moment when everyone raced into the family room, tripped over Uncle Frank (sleeping on the floor), and shifted through the pile of presents to find the ones with your name on it. Mom and my aunts would drink from steaming coffee cups and hide from Grandpa’s camera or ooh and ahh at just the right time while Dad would dole out the gifts after fending off eager hands.

One Christmas, I changed all that. Oh sure, the cookies were baked and the feasts, all eaten. The relatives came in car loads, and Uncle Frank slept peacefully on the couch (it was a good year for him). But with dawn hours away, I woke bright-eyed and ready for the morning. I skipped down stairs to peek at the Christmas tree. Lights from the window sparkling off the multi-colored bows and papers. It had to be time for Christmas. Oh how I was tempted to rip apart those gifts, right then and there, but I remembered one clear rule my father gave the night before.

“No one opens any gifts until an adult says it’s okay.”

I raced back upstairs and popped into my parents’ room, but no amount of jumping pulled them from their slumber.

My brothers didn’t count, so I let them sleep, but I had to find someone…somewhere. I knew my aunts and uncles would tell me to ask my parents and we all know how well that worked out. Grandpa would probably say no, no questions asked. What was a kid to do without a willing adult nearby?

Then again, there was one. One that always said ‘yes.’

Uncle Frank.

I dashed for the family room and bee-lined for the couch. With a gentle hand to my uncle’s shoulder I shook him until he groaned.

“Uncle Frank,” I whispered.

“Huh?” His eyes still closed.

“May I open my gifts, please?”

“Uh-huh.” He mumbled as he rolled over.

That was enough. I had an adult’s permission, even if that adult was barely out of his teen years. I demolished my gifts, tore the paper from every Shellie-labeled box. As the last ribbon hit the floor, the lights flickered on. There in the doorway stood my father.

“What?” was all he could mutter.

It didn’t seem to matter that I’d followed the letter of his ruling; he looked deflated at having missed my Christmas morning. And now that it was after seven, my bleary-eyed brain couldn’t figure out why. Christmas morning was all over the family room floor. What had he missed?

“You’ll figure it out when you have children of your own,” he said.

And he was right. Now that I’m slightly older, I look forward to every Christmas morning. Not for the presents, but for those moments spent watching the children rip open their gifts, spying their excitement over that oh-so-special toy, and talking about that first precious Christmas. It isn’t about the gifts anymore; it’s about family and Christ, but I bet you knew that.

Merry Christmas, every one.

Shellie loves to connect with her readers at http://shellieneumeier.com/

A Favorite Christmas Memory by Darlene Shortridge
How do I choose one favorite memory of Christmas?  You have asked a hard thing!
Growing up in difficult circumstances, I have very few childhood memories.  There is one occasion that left me with a smile.
I was young.  How young, I cannot remember.  My parents divorced when I was five so, I must have been a little bit older than that.  My father brought gifts and he gave me the coolest present ever.  I received a pair of studded green jeans with a matching jean jacket.  Yes, I am giving away my age…but come on…isn’t that just so darn cool?
They fit perfectly and I loved them.  I’m not sure if there ever was a more joyful moment in my childhood.  That is my best childhood Christmas memory!
Darlene loves to connect with her readers at http://www.darleneshortridge.com/home.html

Remembering Saint Nicholas, the Man Who Became Santa by Gina Conroy

In my efforts to steer materialism away from December the 25th and create new family traditions, I thought a great idea would be to exchange gifts on Saint Nicholas Day. Only problem is, it always snuck up on us and we’d miss it. Usually we end up remembering Saint Nick and his “spirit of giving” on Christmas Eve,

The following ideas are some suggestions on how to remember Saint Nicholas, the man who became Santa. You can adjust the activities depending on the age of your children, but no matter how you choose to remember Saint Nicholas, I’m sure it will soon be a treasured family tradition.

Share the story of the Real Saint Nicholas

We’ve always taught our children the true meaning of Christmas and shared who the real Saint Nicholas was. The video Nicholas, The Boy Who Became Santa, is a sweet and entertaining historical tale of an orphan boy who grew up to be Santa Claus. It really captures the true meaning of Christmas and one man’s sacrifice for the savior he loved. Caution: you might want to have a tissue nearby.

Nicholas, the Boy Who Became Santa

Synopsis: Nicholas was still a young child when he discovered a very special secret that changed his life. It was the gift of giving, by which he brought happiness to many people; but in sharing this great gift Nicholas had to face many dangers. Here is a fascinating story of the boy whose love and care for others make him one of the most popular figures of all times. Today, more than sixteen centuries later, the entire world celebrates the kindness and generosity of the man we call Santa Claus.
 Santa’s Birthday Gift by Sherrill S. Cannon

Whether you read the traditional stories of Saint Nicholas or take the Santa approach, here’s a study guide to make the most of Saint Nicholas and the Christmas story.

Discuss: Nicholas’ life and contrast it with today’s version of Santa Claus. What do you like about the real story? How has the real story of Saint Nicholas strayed from the original story. What has remained true through the ages? Is it okay to blend the two stories of Christmas?

How can you emulate Saint Nicholas and his spirit of giving this Christmas season? Talk about ways you can give to others throughout the entire year.

Do: Exchange gifts to one another in honor of Saint Nicholas and his love for Jesus and helping others.

It’s not hard to reconcile Santa with Christmas once you know the real story. Make it a goal this year to share the true story of Santa Claus with young and old alike. It’s what the real Saint Nicholas would want!

Gina Conroy used to think she knew where her life was headed; now she’s leaning on the Lord to show her the way.  She is the founder of Writer…Interrupted at http://writerinterrupted.com/  where she mentors busy writers and tries to keep things in perspective, knowing God’s timing is perfect, even if she doesn’t agree with it! 😉 Her first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, releases from Barbour Publishing in January 2012. On her blog Defying Gravity at http://www.ginaconroy.com/ginablog/wordpress/ she chronicles her triumphs and trials as she pursues her dreams while encouraging her family and others to chase after their own passions. Gina loves to connect with readers, and when she isn’t writing, teaching, or driving kids around, you can find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Gina-Conroy/198614450154235 and Twitter at https://twitter.com/ginaconroy