15 Christmas Gift Ideas for the Writer in your Family

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Christmas shopping season is upon us. As a writer, I’ve received over the years gifts that touched my writers heart. Fun t-shirts, mugs and magnets. However, There’s more creative options for the clueless non-writers’ gift-giver. Let me inform them with my gift idea list for the writer in the family. Writers, post this blog in a prominent place for your friends and family to see.

  1. Gift card for favorite place to buy office supplies.

Running out of ink in the middle of a project is maddening. You can never have enough flash drives, batteries and copy paper.

  1. Small notebook

When inspiration strikes, it’s nice to have a notebook in your pocket or purse.

  1. Software programs for writers

Some examples: Scrivener or Dragon. Scrivener is a word program for writers and Dragon is a voice-activated program to dictate your words. (Great when a writer’s hands, arms and back are out of commission.) There are more writerly programs out there, listen, when your writer raves over their fave.

  1. Amazon Gift Cards

Books, books and more books!

  1. Gift card to favorite writing spot

Some suggestions: Starbucks, Panera’s or another Wi-Fi available coffee shop.

  1. Magazine subscriptions

These are must haves for writers. Try Writers Digest, Christian Communicator or other Writing Craft periodicals. There are online e-zines subscriptions as well.

  1. Trade books

Here are some must haves:

  • Chicago Book of Style
  • Writer’s Guide, Christian Writer’s Guide

There are many, many writing craft books and among them are a few your writer wants. Listen and learn.

  1. A day or week end away to write.

A gift of hotel or a cabin in the woods—heavenly.

How about offering your home when you’re at work? A time away from the interruptions of family is golden for productivity.

You might volunteer to babysit or be responsible for picking up kids from school. Maybe take grandma to the store so your author can have a full-day of uninterrupted time to write. This is a special blessing if they are on deadline.

  1. Pay a conference fee for them.

Even a one-day seminar is a wonderful gift.

  1. A new laptop

I don’t know how many writers are still trying to use computers that are limping along.

If it’s new enough pay for repairs and buy the latest software upgrades.

We know a new one is often cheaper than the repairs. And if you can do all the software installs and have it up and running in advance that’s even better.

  1. Office furniture.

Maybe a nice new comfy chair or a file cabinet. Shelves or cabinets. A friend’s husband built her an office to her specifications.

  1. A nice pen for autographing.

The right pen is so important. You don’t want it to bleed through the paper, neither do you want a cheap ink pen that fades or skips.

  1. Nice house slippers with a sole sturdy enough to walk outside or run to the store.

I don’t write in my PJs but I’m often in slippers or socks only. Writers are a casual breed and taking the time to look for suitable shoes to run an errand distracts our brains from more important things—do I hear plot twists.

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  1. A homemade coupon book

Create coupons for various chores. The more items taken off a writer’s plate the more productive their word count. Dishes and laundry call to us when we need to have our fingers on the keyboard.

  1. Accolades

A certificate, note or plague reminding them you support their writing career choice. A wonderful reminder of your love and support.

These ideas are in no particular order. Authors, journalists, free-lancers and novelists will appreciate finding any of these gifts under the tree this year.

What ideas would you add?

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A Visit with Author Lindsey P. Brackett

BrackettLWEB(1)Today I welcome Lindsey Brackett to talk about her debut novel Still Waters. The setting is the same as a favorite mystery writer of mine. So, I had to have her as a guest. Love the story. Made me want to visit Edisto Beach. Welcome Lindsey. Tell us about your novel.

My debut is Still Waters, a Lowcountry story about the power of family and forgiveness. The novel released in September with LPC Books and is enjoying great reviews—including 4 Stars from the Romantic Times! It’s the story of Cora Anne Halloway who has just graduated from college. Cora Anne had a plan that didn’t involve her grandmother’s ramshackle beach cottage or Tennessee Watson, the local builder dedicated to the preservation of Edisto Island—and her heart. But as tends to happen, life has sent her back to the one place she doesn’t want to be, even though it’s the one place where she may find her peace

What inspired you to write your book?

This novel really started with a place—Edisto Beach, where my family spent most summers of my childhood. When I first decided maybe I could actually do this, write a book, all I knew was I wanted a story set on Edisto. From there I began to build characters and to discover what brings them back or makes them stay away. As I grew as a writer, and began to understand how little I knew about novel structure, the plot changed many times, but ultimately it has always been a story of homecoming, relying on the power of family that ties us to a place.

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There is a sprinkling of a faith message throughout Still Waters. Do you have a favorite verse that resonated with you as you began this project?

My prompt for Still Waters was 2 Corinthians 4:18. I just love that “focus on the unseen… for what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.” I really need to stick it on my laptop for all those times social media wears me down.

Love that verse. Now tell me who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?

My husband is my rock. He’s always encouraging about anything I’m doing. Specific to writing, I have a small group of friends who have banded together to push and uplift one another. I know I can send them chapters or scenes and they’ll read and offer me feedback. I also know they’ll answer if I call in tears on a random Tuesday because things just aren’t going my way.

Every writer is always told to read extensively in the genre they write in. What genre do you read for fun?

I LOVE to read. Southern literary fiction is my favorite and To Kill A Mockingbird is my favorite book. Right now I’m reading a lot of Joshilyn Jackson, Karen White, Charles Martin, Kristy Woodson Harvey, and Julie Cantrell. I’m a sucker for a good romance, too, and I like Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck, or Pepper Basham for the best kissing scenes on paper.

Where is your favorite place to write?

On my back porch with a glass of sweet tea (or a cup of coffee right now). I also tend to get up before the rest of the house, and I tuck myself into an old wingback chair of my grandmother’s, put my feet on the ottoman and write before I do anything else. With four kids, my days can get hectic, so it’s a relief to know writing happens when I’m at my freshest—and most open.

 

Share with us the quirkiest thing you’ve done to promote your book?
This year I’ve been tapped (pun totally intended) to participate in my local community’s biggest fundraiser: Dancing with the Stars for Hope which benefits our domestic violence shelter and the Rotary Club. This event pairs well-known community figures with “professionals” and we have a dance competition. People vote for their favorite teams (only $1 a vote) and there are lots of opportunities to win great raffle prizes. I’m paired with my friend, Jeremy, the high school theater director. We’re both theater nerds, so we’ve done several shows together and while we haven’t made a concrete decision about our routine yet, no doubt it will be epically theatrical. Right now, through November 30, our fundraising promotion is a donation of the proceeds from my book sales. So, there’s no better time to buy, support a local author and a great cause! Voting and prizes are not limited to North Georgia—anyone can go online and support us or enter to win raffles over on my Facebook page, Lindsey P. Brackett.

Want to help support our team_For every copy of Lindsey's book sold November 15-November 30, a portion will be donated to our team's fundraising efforts forDancing with the Stars.(1)

I love it and know you’ve given my readers a new way to look at marketing.

What a great way to discover a new author and support a worthy cause. Purchase Still Waters and do both.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Lindsey. You are an inspiration.

Dancing with the Stars Link: http://www.dancingwiththestarsforhope.com/vote-for-teams.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LindseyPBrackett/

Bio:

Award-winning writer Lindsey P. Brackett once taught middle grades literature, but now she writes her own works in the midst of motherhood. A blogger since 2010, she has published articles and short stories in a variety of print and online publications. In both 2015 and 2017, she placed in the top ten for Southern Writers Magazine Best Short Fiction. Previously, Lindsey served as Editor of Web Content for the Splickety Publishing Group, and currently she is a general editor with Firefly Southern Fiction, an imprint of LPC Books. In addition, she writes a popular column for several North Georgia newspapers.

Still Waters, influenced by her family ties to the South Carolina Lowcountry, is her debut novel. A story about the power of family and forgiveness, it’s been called “a brilliant debut” with “exquisite writing.” A Georgia native, Lindsey makes her home—full of wet towels, lost library books, and strong coffee—at the foothills of Appalachia with her patient husband and their four rowdy children.

Connect with her at www.lindseypbrackett.com, where she Just Writes Life, on Facebook as Lindsey P. Brackett, on Instagram @lindseypbrackett, or on Twitter @lindsbrac.

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: L.A. Racines Shares the Research Behind “A Shield in the Shadows”

What Kind of Research Went into A Shield in the Shadows

By Cheryl Bristow, aka L. A. Racines 

Author of A Shield in the Shadows 

A Shield in the Shadows

Most people know very little about the Roman Empire of the Fifth Century. Fourteen years ago I knew nothing. All I knew was that I was going to write a historical novel about an era where people experienced massive dislocation and destruction coming at them in Tsunami waves.  

As a sensitive child first learning about the barbarian crossing of the Rhine River and the resulting devastation in Gaul and Iberia, I was horrified for those people. Writing the book was a little like scratching a scab or revisiting an unpleasant memory. I decided to “go there”. I also wanted to know what I would have in common with the people of that era. I am an Anglophone Protestant raised in Francophone Quebec with a degree in Anthropology. I taught school for two years in Nigeria during the civil war there, and I have visited many countries, but this was new territory. Almost everything we know was different then. 

All I remembered were a few Roman historical facts, the names of some famous Roman figures and the terms for the rooms of a home, and I had to build an entire world in my head. It was a lot of work! 

To begin with, who were the barbarians and why did they invade? What was the political state of Rome? Who was on the imperial throne? What famous people were alive at the time? What was the state of Christianity then? How were women treated by both groups of people? What were living conditions like on both sides of the northern frontier? What about slaves? Education and literacy for men and women? And so on … 

One factor I had to face early on was that Rome had a history of more than a thousand years. While things did not change then as fast as they do now, things did change. What I knew from the First Century of the Empire was not the same as what I learned about the earlier days of the Republic, nor the same as the much later era I was focusing on. This period is now known as Antiquities. It was pre- or early Medieval and although we used to call the centuries after the Dark Ages, and blame the barbarians for that, the clash and mixing of those two ‘civilizations’ was actually a chaotic cauldron of cultures that had to learn to find common ground. The barbarians, from the Greek word for ‘stranger’, learned a lot from Rome and in turn influenced Romans, and us, in profound ways. 

I began with a thick academic history of the Romans and the barbarians. Then I read it again. And again. And then I bought many other books. Some equally thick, covering the same period. Gradually I began to understand together the geography and history and cultures of the Romans, the Huns, the Goths and other northern peoples of the time. I read Edward Gibbons book, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (an abridged version, fortunately), and found it fascinating. I bought and read books on sports, ancient fashion, women in ancient times, Roman warfare, mountaineering, and more. I even read some of the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo, Claudian the court poet, Orosius, the Christian historian of the time, and Jordanes, a Gothic historian who worked for Rome a hundred years later. 

In order to keep a mental focus on the people experiencing life as it happened to them, I chose for several years not to read beyond the year 415, the year when Princess Galla Placidia returned home to her brother, the Emperor Honorius from her years of wandering with the Goths in Gaul and Spain. 

This took eight years of reading. It was a lot of knowledge to absorb, but I loved doing it. What I began to reluctantly realize, though, was that the main story was not in Gaul with the Rhine crossing, it was in Rome. The barbarians who crossed the Rhine and cast a bloody trail through Gaul and Spain was important to Gaul and Spain, did so in a specific and fluid political context, and that story needed to be told, too.   

That meant that I needed to find a way to bring one of the barbarians right into the center of the story in Rome, because I intended to link her story with that of Princess Galla Placidia who lived there at the time. That need led to a closer examination of the invasion of Radagaisus, the virulently anti-Christian pagan Gothic chief who brought at least a hundred thousand people, mostly Goths, from northern Europe into Italy in 405 AD. My barbarian of choice, of course, had to be a girl. Theona, the female protagonist of A Shield in the Shadows is a young, literate, Christian woman who attracts the attention of both Radagaisus’ younger son Roderic, and Marius, my representative Roman soldier. The three of them are very real to me now, and very dear, and I hope they become real and dear to you, too. 

Once I began writing, the research continued. I used Google Earth Pro to explore the highways and byways of the alpine passes and the terrain of Montefiesole, the mountain behind the city of Florence where the final siege takes place. I used Wikipedia to check information from time to time, and I contacted a couple of the scholars who had written several of the massive books I had read on the subject. One got back to me and I will be forever grateful to him. 

Dr. Thomas Burns was a professor of Antiquities at Emory State University. He supplied me with several articles and ancient sources relevant to my story, and gave me tidbits that were not in any of the books. He read the entire manuscript before it was published, and now recommends the novel on one of his class reading lists as well as to his colleagues in Europe. 

The final bit of research was the trip to Europe to retrace Marius’s journey. We started in Trier where he lived, and ended in Rome on Palatine Hill, where Theona is sent after the siege of Montefiesole. I did not learn much that was new, but the trip does add coloration to the scenes I describe. And it was fun! 

Would I ever want to spend twelve years doing research for such a project again? No, but I won’t have to. The work I have done is a strong foundation for continuing to write about this relatively unknown period. I know now where to find what I need, and that is immensely satisfying. 

You can read more about A Shield in the Shadows on Amazon here. 

Meet L.A. Racines:

Cheryl(a.k.a. L.A. Racines) is a native of Quebec, Canada, and a graduate of Montreal’s McGill University with an Honour’s BA in Anthropology and Sociology. She worked as a teacher in rural Nigeria for two years during the Nigerian Civil War, and then worked for a number of NGOs and charities in Quebec and Ontario.  

Married to an Anglican clergyman, mother of two daughters and grandmother of four, Cheryl has, over the decades, written and published a number of freelance articles for various publications including Reader’s Digest (Canada), Decision Magazine, The Sower, Faith Today, Christian Week, and a variety of denominational and evangelical publications.  

Cheryl loves research and studied broadly and deeply for eight years before beginning to write this novel. She has found great satisfaction in achieving a lifelong dream of writing a novel, and has been encouraged by the accolades she has received from readers from both Christian and non-Christian backgrounds. Her novel is published under the pen name L. A. Racines, which can be translated “Wings and Roots,” because Cheryl agrees with the old saying that “the greatest gifts we can give to our children are roots and wings.” 

She is a member of The Word Guild, an association of Canadian writers who are Christian, and very active in the Healing Rooms ministry in her home town of Uxbridge, Ontario. 

Musing Over a Ray Bradbury Quote and Story Ideas

alrm clock alertRay Bradbury said, “I don’t need an alarm clock, my ideas wake me.” This iconic science fiction writer’s words challenged me. Sleeping after an idea floats through my mind is hard. Getting up to write when I work the next day—a bigger battle. If the idea strikes a half hour before the alarm my creativity usually wins out. But 2am when I get up at 4:30—fat chance. I roll over and tell my characters to go back to bed.

Then there’s the ideas I get in the shower. They often flow away in the recesses of the bath towel as I dry off. By the time my shower is over, and the idea has been thoroughly discussed with my imaginary friends I don’t have time to write it down. But if it happens on my day off I’m excited. I drag those characters out of the tub and make them wait while I dress. Then we traipse to the computer and they dictate as I type.

More often the not though, on my days off, if I haven’t jotted the ideas down, it feels like my characters have gone to the beach and taken the next scene with them.

Such is a fiction writer’s life.

When I do capture the ideas, it makes my next block of writing time so much more productive. Rather than letting the idea alarm rule my writer’s life I tend to scribble ideas on scrape paper at work and shove them in my uniform pockets. God forbid those uniforms get washed before the pockets are emptied. The ideas come during down times at work when the phones are quiet, and the paperwork is caught up. Those notes spark my thoughts for the next scene when I sit down to write.

Bradbury was far more determined than me if he let the ideas dictate his day no matter what time of night. If my ideas become my alarm clock during retirement at least I can take a nap after my sleep has been interrupted. Until then I’ll keep pushing the snooze on the idea alarm.

How does this quote speak to you?

 

 

 

A Writer’s Thankful List

Writer's thankful list

Writing requires getting words on a page. Lots of words on a page is what we do. At times it can be a thankless pursuit. In order to refocus my mind from the attitude “this is too hard” to “I am having fun” I created a thankful list in no particular order of importance.

  1. I am thankful for computers and spell check.

When I first began this writing journey it was with a typewriter, carbon paper and white out. Bleh!!!

 

  1. I am thankful for the internet.

Research questions answers a key stroke away. I love the library but not leaving the house is golden.

 

  1. I am thankful for writing blogs.

So much information and encouragement to remind me I am a writer.

 

  1. I am thankful for e-mail.

No more sending proposals and query letter snail mail. No additional expenses to send my manuscript to several publishers at once.

 

  1. I am thankful for social media.

Connecting with my fans and other authors is wonderful.

 

  1. I am thankful for reviews.

Good, bad or quizzical. They remind me that real people read my words.

 

  1. I am thankful for my critique group.

Without my Word Weaver partners, I would still be unpublished.

 

  1. I am thankful for the friendships I’ve forged with fellow-writers.

They’ve mentored, encouraged and opened doors for me.

 

  1. I am thankful for a supportive family who brag about me to their friends.

Making me feel so loved.

 

  1. Most importantly, I am thankful to Jesus for the gift of words.

 

What’s on your thankful list?

 

      

 

Processing Rejection and Life Events

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photo from pixabay

This has not been the week I’d hoped it’d be. This has not been the month so far, I expected. Good thing I didn’t join NANOWRIMO because most of my days have had zero writing in them from November 1st.

I’ve always been told life happens and you need to adjust. Well, a family member recovering from a stroke is a definite life event my husband and I weren’t expecting? (Family member is not hubby and will remain anonymous.) The patient is recovering well but having my day interrupted with home health care nurses and physical therapist is not conducive to writing.

maxwell finalists

Award and Rejection

Those of you who follow me on Facebook saw my announcement of winning the Maxwell Award for Secrets & Charades. Third place is awesome considering the point spread between first and third was minimal. That was on Saturday. Just two hours after Bride in Disguise (The sequel to S & C) was rejected by the pub board. So, that put a damper on the award. I don’t get emotional over these things immediately.  Rather, I have a delayed reaction. So, this week was grief and confusion mode for me. I’m sensing I need to just knuckle down and rewrite the thing to resubmit. (They said I could.)

I imagine I won’t start until next week or even December. Why? Rejection takes times to process. Courage takes time to emerge. And with health care workers invading my space I get overwhelmed. Honestly, health care workers are one more acrobat standing on the shoulders of other unexpected trials over the past few years.

Adjusting to life

Once my emotions and brain have wrapped themselves around the new normal, I will get back in the writing groove. This blog is a day late because Wednesday was the apex of my emotional downer. Thursday things seemed more normal. So, I’m posting on Friday to keep my two posts a week going.

I want to ask what you do when the acrobats of need weigh down your emotions and stymie your writing life? Please leave a comment.

 

Also, congratulations to Heather Roberts the winner of Shellie Arnold’s eBook Abide in Me.

 

 

 

 

Shellie Arnold discusses Abide With Me

close-up-for-webToday I am welcoming back Shellie Arnold. I wanted to touch base with her after the release of her third novel in The Barn Church series. I loved The Spindle Chair, adored Sticks and Stones, and got my hubby hooked on them, too. Abide With Me does not disappoint, a powerful story. Shellie, thanks for stopping by.

Hey Cindy! Thanks for having me back.

For my readers who have never read any of your books (shame on them) can you give us an overview of The Barn Church series.

I write about the perfect storms in marriage—what happens when your weaknesses hit mine head-on, and we’re both left wondering if anything can be salvaged. The Barn Church series follows several couples who attend the same church, Rowe City Gospel Church in Rowe City, Alabama (a fictitious church in a fictitious place). The church is literally a huge, converted barn. Very welcoming. Very rustic. Each book is about a different couple within the church, so each story stands alone. It’s a series, but a reader wouldn’t have to read them in order to enjoy the stories.

Now let’s focus on your new release Abide With Me. Here’s the back-cover.

Abide With Me cover

After ten years of marriage to the only man she’s ever loved, why is Angelina so unhappy? As a wealthy yet lonely wife, Angelina Rousseau pours all her emotions into her paintings. Desperate for affection and attention, she finds herself willing to do almost anything to feel loved. Her husband Nick is determined to provide everything Angie could want, including finally giving her what she’s asked for most—time with him. When what seems to be the perfect real estate investment turns sour, he’s arrested for fraud, but soon learns being accused of multiple felonies is the least of his worries.

Once again, Nick’s choices negatively affect Angelina. This time she’s forced to part with cherished possessions to finance his defense and protect her future. When Angelina’s carefully built walls begin to crumble, both husband and wife must examine their emotionally bankrupt marriage. Yet even if they discover what went wrong between them, Nick could still spend the rest of his life in prison.

Could “having it all” cost Nick and Angie more than they ever imagined?

How is this book different than the other two?

Great question. Let’s see…The Spindle Chair looks at how wounds from our past can directly affect a marriage, especially if that wound is tied to a trauma. I believe when God spotlights a wound or pain in us, it’s because He wants to heal it. Hopefully I showed healing is indeed possible in The Spindle Chair.

In Sticks and Stones I really wanted to show how enduring a crisis can take its toll on a marriage. Coping mechanisms often reveal bad habits, things we learned wrong before marriage, things we didn’t learn at all. I wanted to show a couple confronted with the fallout from handling a crisis, then rebuild with healthy habits.

I admit, Abide With Me is a bit different than the first two. It contains the message I wish I could share with every married couple, and hopefully the work speaks for itself. I wanted to show how every choice we make, every time we choose to listen (or not) and follow (or not) God’s promptings, we’re either sowing or refusing to sow into our marriage. I wanted to show how a couple can drift apart over time, why that happens, and the key to coming back together.

How is it the same?

It’s the same in that I show both points of view, address what can be a fundamental problem in marriage, and show my characters stumbling through changing their spiritual and marital lives.

What do you hope readers gain from reading Angelica and Nick’s story?

As with all my stories, I have three main goals: 1) that readers see God is always at work, always reaching for them, always offering growth and an opportunity to draw closer to Him and each other, 2) that readers will consider their own spiritual and marital lives, and 3) that readers will receive hope and believe no matter how difficult or strained their marriage is, if both of husband and wife listen to God, He can redeem, restore, and heal anything.

Your novel’s characters feel so life-like, so real. How closely do they mimic life experience? Either yours or someone you know. Or is this a big stretch of the imagination.

Thanks for that! Honestly, some part of all my characters is me, and all the struggles in my stories are struggles I’ve had or still have. I write from experience and try to share what I’ve learned the hard way. I know how difficult change can be, how daunting growth can be. I know what it’s like to be afraid of God seeing my sin and weaknesses—dark places are something I’m well-acquainted with. I’ve also been the recipient of His mercy and grace and kindness and gifts I don’t deserve. I want to show all of that in my stories.

I know you recently moved and that you are a home school veteran. How do you find time to write and keep up with your busy life?

Yes, this time last year we were in the process of buying a home and moving. A stressful, but exciting event.

My family comes first. Always. Finding time to write has been a tremendous challenge for many years. For decades I felt overwhelmed from home schooling and trying to write. Bottom line, there are no easy answers when managing family, and a calling or job of any kind. My youngest is now a senior in high school, so my home school responsibilities are much less than they were in previous years. Right now I’m learning how to proactively manage my time—a new feeling and experience for me.

What is the one thing you have learned about yourself as you’ve traveled this writing journey?

Honestly, I am constantly learning how much I need God for all the broken places inside I’d not noticed before. Almost daily I realize there’s no end to God’s love and mercy, to the provision provided by Christ’s death on the cross. That love, mercy, grace, patience, provision—all the things God has for us—really is endless. I can’t really wrap my brain around that, the idea God is always more, always has more, but it’s always true. When I need more—which is both again and always—He is more.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by. Hope my readers grab a copy of  Abide With Me. (Readers, check below for a chance to win a free e-book version.)

More About Shellie Arnold:

Shellie Arnold is a writer and speaker on marriage and family. She truly believes—despite baggage, neglect, or mistakes—if a husband and wife listen to God, they can live happily even after. Her passion is sharing how God is helping her do exactly that. She maintains a blog at www.shelliearnold.com and is the founder of YOUR MARRIAGE resources. Shellie is a mother of three and has home schooled for over twenty years. She lives in Ohio with her husband of thirty-one years.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shellie.arnold.7

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShellieArnold1

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ShellieLArnold/

Shellie is giving away an e-book version of Abide With Me. This book is easily a stand alone if you’ve never read the other two books in the Barn Church Series. Click the comment button at the top of this post and let me know you want to be placed in the drawing. If you re-post this blog on your social media and mention it in the comments I’ll give you an additional entry. Friday I’ll announce the winner.