Need a book to read? Oh, wait. The answer to that is ALWAYS yes.

I have one to suggest. My friend, Dreena Collins, recently published And Then She Fell. Not only is the book super interesting, it’s written exceptionally well. Here is the review I left on Goodreads.

And Then She Fell by Dreena Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I knew in the first few pages this book was going to be great. Dreena writes prose as if it is poetry. Such perfect turns of phrase, all through the book.

Example:

“You will see our new fences,” he said. “Very safe.”

The word ‘safe’ formed and hovered in the air. It stayed near him. Did not quite reach me.

Another:

We were still like concentric circles. You were at the heart of me. Focal. Vital.

You learn in chapter one the book is in the POV of a grieving mother who is trying to discover what really happened when her daughter died. Each chapter reveals another detail, and you think, “Aha! It was you!” But the next chapter turns that on its ear. When you finally realize the truth, your heart will break. I finished this book two weeks ago, and it still pops into my mind throughout the day.

I enjoyed this book so much, I want you all to read it too. In fact, if you’ll share this post with your friends (tag me!), I’ll put your name in a drawing to win my copy. I’m happy to pass it along and share the wealth. And if you don’t win, get your own copy. You’ll be so glad you did.

Merry Christmas to all …

At this point on December 24, most of us have probably begun our family celebrations. When my grandparents were alive, we spent Christmas Eve at their house. We ate the dinner Mom prepared, with boiled custard and our choice of pie (pecan, for me!) for dessert, then opened gifts. The ride home through the frosty darkness was sweetened by the Christmas songs that played nonstop on the radio.

Now, Christmas Eve is a quiet time for me and my husband, John. Tomorrow morning, we will all converge at my mother’s house – my brothers, my two grown children and their spouses, and nine grandchildren, along with whomever happens to be with us at the time – for Christmas waffles and a lot of chaotic noise and joy.

Christmas 2022

But Christmas is about more than presents and feasting. It’s about the greatest gift ever given, and I pray you know the peace and fulfillment of Jesus in your life.

I also pray your new year will be happy. And to start you off early for 2023, I have a link to nineteen viral videos that will make you smile, laugh, and (probably) cry. Enjoy.

Merry Christmas.

2022 Christmas Round-Robin with PRIZES!

Merry Christmas! Welcome to Hallee Bridgeman’s annual Christmas Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt!

Here’s how it works: At each author’s blog post, you will find a question you can answer by checking out the free Amazon preview of their book or blurb. Provide the answer at this form. Note: You must answer the questions for every author in the round-robin to be considered to win the $200 first place, $150 second place or $75 third place Amazon gift cards. These prizes are USD values. If you are not a U.S. resident, you will get a gift card from the Amazon store for your country; however, it will be valued at these USD amounts.)

At the end of my post is a link to the next blog, which will provide a link to the next blog, etc., to the very end, creating a circle (a round-robin) visit through all the authors’ blogs.

I’m so happy to tell you about my book, Texas Heirloom Ornament. It is a sweet compilation with romantic stories of three generations of Texas women finding love at Christmas.

In Small Things Liberty by Jessica White

A parking spot. An almost kiss. An ornament.
1923—The only thing war widow Hattie Freemont wants for Christmas is liberty for all. As president of the Fort Worth Women’s Club, she’s determined to see them exercise their new right to vote and oust the current representative. But his assistant keeps showing up at the most inconvenient times, challenging her convictions even though she has the statistics to back them up. First, Mr. Fancy Car tries to steal her parking spot, then her heart. Will he choose love and fight for freedom alongside her? And can she trust in true love twice in a lifetime?
In Large Things Unity by Sara-Meg Seese
A tree. An electric kiss. A radio proposal.
1972—Single mom Tricia Little inherited Grandma Hattie’s knack for numbers, but not her knack for love. With money tight and Christmas around the corner, she’s determined to prove to her boss and her next-door neighbor she can take care of herself and her daughter on her own. Radio DJ Mr. Wright can’t help but admire the hard-working woman and her spunky kid on the other side of the fence. When he offers to help them light up their Christmas with a tree, she pushes back. Can they work together to make the holidays brighter? Can he convince Ms. Independent that he’s Mr. Right?
In All Things Charity by Paula Peckham
A bell. A whirlwind kiss. A storm.
2015—Alexis Baxter loves Christmas and her family traditions, like the handmade ornament passed down through five generations. But the final bell before the holiday break doesn’t release her from coaching duties. When the handsome basketball coach confesses he’s spending Christmas alone, she invites him to join her family for a fun-filled night. Joyful bells turn to warning sirens when his biggest regret walks into the party, casting a dark cloud over their budding romance. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth? And can love truly cover a multitude of sins?

Enjoy this story compilation where generations pass down not only the ornament, but also the famed Texas strength of the women in the family.

Let’s begin this scavenger hunt! Go to the book on Amazon at this link. Read the full blurb to find the answer to this question:

In Texas Heirloom Ornament, what is Alexis’s job?

When you have the answer, FILL OUT THIS FORM and head on to the next blog!

Thank you so much for visiting! The next author on the tour is Sarah Hamaker, who is telling us all about her Christmas book, Dangerous Christmas Memories. You can find it at this link:

https://sarahhamakerfiction.com/2022/12/03/2022-christmas-scavenger-hunt-round-robin-dangerous-christmas-memories/

Remember that the round-robin will end on December 11th at 11:59 PM EST!

Ever Been Involved In a Research Project?

Want to help me write an article?

I send short stories to a magazine on a regular basis. The editor-in-chief asked me to write a story about sports drinks. I don’t like the flavor, and they make me too jittery, so I’ve never been a fan. But I’d like to hear from others about drinks like Celsius, Monster, Red Bull, etc.

If you have consumed sports drinks, what was your experience like? Physical reactions? Addictiveness? Did you enjoy the flavor?

If you stopped drinking them, why?

I don’t want to influence your answer, so I’m not telling you who the magazine is or what slant I’m taking. I want to hear what you think and why.

They like the stories to come from a personal point of view, true stories, not fiction. I may quote you in the article. If you’d rather I didn’t, please let me know.

Ok, partners! Let’s do this. Hit me up with your answers and stories. Enquiring minds want to know.

Just a Baby – guest post

This week, I’m sharing a post from my friend Angela D. Shelton. Angela is living out a dream I’ve secretly harbored, and I love reading her posts about the animals on her farm. She is also a fellow author, and her books are winning awards. You’ll want to check her out. Might find some good stocking stuffer ideas! Now, read on to enjoy Angela’s message.

One of the most painful lessons I’ve learned since becoming a farmer is that life ends. The worst endings are the unexpected. It may seem strange to hear that a person who raises Angus cattle for beef would mourn the loss of an animal, but I have.

Some deaths, though sudden, haven’t affected me as much. A perfect example of this is when two of my chickens escaped their coop early in my chicken-mama career. Our Husky, Ricky, has free access to the backyard and saw those two loose birds on the other side of his fence. Once he saw that, the game was afoot!

He dug his little heart out until he could crawl under the barrier. Once he was free of the enclosure, the chickens became the best toys ever. Those birds never had a chance. Honestly, though, I was more upset at the dog getting loose and getting the taste for free-range chicken than I was about the dead chickens. I guess that makes me a little hard-hearted.

Another incident occurred when a calf was born prematurely. He was the cutest little bull I’d ever seen. Calves are so small compared to their mamas, but this little guy was beyond tiny. He did great, though. Within days, he was up and running around with the other babies, jumping and having fun. It’s so relaxing to watch them play.

Then one day, we checked on him, and he was not with his mama. He wasn’t with any of the herd members. They were all down by the woods, chilling, but he lay in the pasture on the hill by himself. This behavior was a little unusual for his age. When we got out to check on him, he ran back down to be with the rest of the cattle. So, we figured his mama had hidden him and not called for him yet. Yes, mama cows will hide their calves when they are little.

The next day, we checked on him, and he was up by himself again. This conduct wasn’t normal, for sure. Not after he’d already shown he could play with the other babies. So, we decided we needed to hand-feed this little fella to ensure he was getting fed properly. Off I went to the store to pick up the formula and supplies to make him a bottle. Never having hand-fed one before, I had to ask several questions and do a bit of research to ensure I had all the required supplies. When I returned to the farm, I went in search of the little nipper.

I searched and searched and searched the entire field. He was tiny and could have been hiding anywhere. When I found him, my heart broke. He was lying dead at the top of the hill, all by himself. My tears and sobs of sorrow flowed out in torrents. It devastated me. It was as if I’d failed the poor little fellow when I should have ensured his well-being. Mama had probably abandoned him, knowing he had some medical problem, and I hadn’t recognized what she’d done.

It was days before I stopped hurting over that little bull’s death. It terrified me another one would die on me if I didn’t watch them with the same intensity that Ricky devoted to looking for more chickens to get loose. Later that same season, we had another small calf born, and his mama wouldn’t nurse him. I immediately jumped into action and got the formula prepared. It wasn’t easy to learn how to get him to nurse on a bottle, but we did it. We only fed him four times before his mama got mad at us for feeding her baby and took over feeding him herself. New mamas can figure it out with time.

Lessons learned? You never know what to expect in life. Surprises occur daily. Some of those surprises are losses that kick you in the gut. It happens, and we don’t always see it coming. But there is life after loss. Supporting each other through these difficult times is a crucial ingredient to getting past them. I was grateful to have family and friends to support me while I struggled.

I also learned that just because you failed once doesn’t mean you are a failure. It means you had something to figure out so you could do it right the next time. As a new farmer, I feel as though I’m learning lessons every day. But that’s what makes life sweet—always moving forward.

You can see Angela’s website here: https://www.angeladshelton.com/news.php?extend.7

Here is information about her latest series. If you have teen readers in your family, this is a perfect gift for Christmas.

Blurb for the series:

After a global catastrophe wipes out millions and devastates global resources, three teens must navigate a new life. 

In book one, Collapse, Jan learns the hard lesson deception serves up. She trusts the wrong person and brings even more hardship to her family. Can she rally behind the right people before the battle for their ranch begins? 

In book two, The Death of Honor, Caleb’s haunted past comes back with a vengeance. He hides the truth from those he loves, making him the perfect target for blackmail. Will he confess before his family pays the price? 

Book three, The Death of Independence, follows Olivia after her father abandons her. Stuck with incompetent relatives, she struggles to eke out a life for herself and them. When a man makes her an offer she can’t turn down, will he pull her into a life she never wanted? 

The Collapse series is a young adult, post apocalyptical alternate reality by Angela D. Shelton. Explore these tales of survival in a shattered world. 

Amazon link:

What does all that information on the copyright page mean?

Most of us skip right past the copyright page. (It actually has a name, which I didn’t know until today–it’s called a verso, and it should always be on the back side of your title page.) But writers needs to know about these little details, and this article, written by Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur, does an excellent job of explaining it all.

Two cool things I learned: One, you can get a Library of Congress control number for free. This is necessary if you want your book shelved at a library. There is a link in the article above.

You can also add a CIP data block. A cataloging in publication data block is not necessary, but it can make your book look more professional. However, if you self publish, you’ll have to pay to get this assigned to your book. It’s really unneccesary unless you plan to market your book to libraries. So, since you’ll have to fork over anywhere from $60-$100, you may decide to let this one go. If you decide you just have to have this, you can apply for it at CIPblock.com.

Check out Dave’s article. I learned a lot.

So hard to say goodbye

In the writing word, cliches are frowned upon. They are a fallback for the lazy writer who cannot come up with something original to say.

And yet, one particular cliche has been on my mind since Tuesday night—don’t take life for granted.

Last Wednesday, October 19, my friend Stacy Simmons went in for a surgery to remove a growth from her abdomen. She had originally been told the surgery would take place in November, but somehow an opening had appeared in the schedule. Stacy posted how excited she was that Jesus had answered her prayers to do the surgery as soon as possible. The doctors didn’t think the growth was cancerous, but I can imagine Stacy wanted it out of her body. It probably felt like a ticking time bomb.

The surgery went well, and the doctor removed a 27-lb growth. Whew! What a relief that must have been. That’s like carrying triplets.

Tuesday morning, I texted Stacy to let her know I was thinking of her and had said prayers for quick healing and good results from the doctor on testing the growth.

Tuesday evening, I received this text in reply.

“This is her daughter. She passed away today from complications.”

I couldn’t process it. Had my phone been hacked? Hers? Surely this wasn’t real. Somehow, this was a horrible prank.

I scrolled back through my previous texts. I had definitely messaged Stacy’s phone. My text history was chock full of her typical encouragements.

“Wishing you all the best tonight. You’re gonna be awesome!!”

“Thank the Lord!! I’m so happy for y’all!!!”

“Holy smokes!!! That’s so amazing!!! I’ll be happy to tag team it with you.”

Her vibrancy and infectious enthusiasm shouted from my iPhone screen.

Had someone found her phone? Answered me this way to be terribly mean?

I called a mutual friend and asked her if she’d heard anything. Her tear-choked gasp told me my answer.

I looked at Stacy’s Facebook page.

There it was. A message from her family, confirming the news. “Due to complications from the surgery…”

What?

How was this possible?

Not Stacy.

Whether your religion teaches you the dead in Christ wake up sitting at his feet, or sleep until he returns, the dead person is immediately at peace. Stacy is fine. She’s either with or waiting for the Lord she loves.

But, oh. The rest of us.

This shock is too sudden. Too cruel.

I’m so glad I followed the prompting that urged me to send her that message. I’m grateful her family knew people loved Stacy and were concerned for her. How they wake up each morning and take their next breath with this sudden hole rent in the fabric of their lives, I cannot fathom.

So, back to the cliché … don’t take life for granted. Tell the people in your life you love them. Make the extra effort to spend time with your friends and family, even if it’s not particularly convenient for you. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.

And Stacy, please save us a seat. We’ll see you again one day.

Something Weird This Way Comes

It’s okay to be weird. Here’s why, according to James McCrae, contributor to Huffpost.

The Blobfish lives in deep waters off the coast of Australia.

1) There is no such thing as normal.

What is normal for me may not be normal for you. When we chase the normal, we lose sight of the natural.

2) What you think is weird is really your superpower.

Your shyness, for example, might make you a better listener. Your awkward laugh might make you endearing. Our quirks, when we master them, contain great power.

3) What makes you weird makes you memorable.

Your true self, by its very nature, is captivating. People won’t remember the thing you did that everybody could do, but they will remember the thing you did that only you can do.

4) The world needs more authenticity.

We are all afraid to be the first one. When you start living as your true self, weirdness and all, you give permission to those around you to do the same. We might not say it out loud, but everyone wants to see your honest self.

5) All great art was made by weird people.

Embracing your weirdness gives you a new perspective, and the world needs a new perspective. Innovation happens when outsiders challenge the status quo with weird ideas.

6) Resisting your weirdness makes you dark.

Hiding our unique characteristics and resisting our natural self makes us feel less good and makes our personalities darker. Just like a black hole results from the absence of a star, so also the resistance to our unique qualities, however weird, results in a dark and inverted projection of self.

7) Standing out is how you find your tribe.

Standing out will not make you lonely—far from it. By living honestly, you will discover others who align with your weirdness. This is your tribe.

After spending nineteen years in a classroom, I’ve grown to appreciate weird. Today, I especially appreciate Weird Al Yankovic.

Really? you might ask.

Really. Let me set the stage.

In 2013, Robin Thicke wrote a song titled “Blurred Lines.” It won the MTV Video Music award for Best Song of the Summer.

I loved it. It’s catchy, upbeat. Makes me want to dance.

And I hated it.

The lyrics are horrible. Demeaning. Sexist. Misogynistic. The video combines live action with all that, and it makes me sick.

Obviously, I couldn’t listen to that song. Couldn’t enjoy it.

But, thanks to Weird Al, now I can.

Now, instead of women dancing—no, writhing is a better term—we see punctuation bebopping.

The lyrics are no longer sexist. They’re funny. They’re a notch above. They’re intelligent.

Watch this video, then I’ll explain why the writer/editor in me particularly appreciates what Weird Al has done.

Word Crimes

Less versus fewer

Less versus fewer

A very common mistake among authors. Less refers to things that are not easily counted, but instead are measured, as in “less time” or “less effort.” Fewer is used to describe things you can count, as in “fewer choices” or “fewer problems.”

I could care less.

People say this when they mean they don’t care. But if you could care less, then you must care a little, or there’d be nowhere less to go.

Your versus you’re

If you’re unclear about when to use your versus you’re, just find an argument on Twitter. Someone, somewhere, will use it incorrectly and the next nineteen tweets will be all about how wrong they are and will explain, with derision dripping from every letter, exactly how to use them both.

Its versus it’s

It’s a quirk of the English language. Apostrophes are used to show possession (Sophie’s choice, A Bug’s Life). But they’re also used to make contractions. Its is the anomaly. Its job is to show possession, but without the apostrophe.

Dangling participle or modifier

This one is in my top five favorites. It’s so easy to do, and not so easy to catch. The phrase at the beginning of the sentence (the modifier or participle) must describe the subject of the rest of the sentence. In this example, “After finishing a drink” must describe what comes next. But what comes next is the bartender. We left the modifier dangling in the wind.

Oxford comma

Another subject sure to stir up an hours-long Twitter argument is the Oxford comma. I, personally, am on Team Oxford. Not everyone agrees.

Homophones

Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently. I’ve recently seen both of these in work I edited (one was my own!)

He leaned over the railing, wretching miserably.  (should be retching)

The sound of morning doves filled the air. (should be mourning)

These are particularly pernicious because your spell check won’t catch them.

Who vs whom

“Who” is used when it’s the subject of the sentence. “Who was at the door?”

We use “whom” when it is the object, which we’re used to seeing in a prepositional phrase. “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

An easy test is to replace the word with he or him. If it makes sense when you say “he,” use “who.” If “him” works best, use “whom.” Try it. He was at the door. Never send to know for him the bell tolls. (Okay, not as obvious with whom, but using “he” always works.)

And we’re all going to pretend we didn’t notice the two (maybe three–my mind may be in the gutter on that third one) sexual innuendos.

Thanks, Weird Al, for making it okay for me to enjoy this song.

Book Two is out!

Hi, friends! Some of you may have seen the news already, but wanted to let you all know Book Two in the San Antonio series–A Father’s Gift–is now published by Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.

https://tinyurl.com/PeckhamFathersGift

A Father’s Gift continues the story of Abby and Manny. Abby struggles with a difficult pregnancy. Looming fatherhood uncovers Manny’s deeply buried feelings stemming from the loss of his own father. His desire to understand what truly happened so many years ago threatens to drive a wedge between him and Abby as Christmas nears.

When Gabe, a mysterious stranger, appears, Manny enlists his help. Secrets swirl, drawing an ever-tightening net around the three. Some mysteries, he discovers, are better left alone. Clawing back the curtain places Abby and their unborn child in danger.

Will Manny be able to put his restless curiosity to bed? A Father’s Gift tells a story of a father’s endless love, whether human or heavenly.

This tender love story makes a perfect Christmas gift. You can find it on Amazon. Or join me this Saturday at the Burleson Half Price Books and get your copy signed.

Help my unbelief.

Do you ever see Christians on TV praying eloquent prayers and think, “They’re perfect”? They serve the poor, dish soup in a shelter, collect shoes for the homeless. I try doing those things, but life gets in the way. Best-laid plans and all that.

Those perfect people sometimes make me feel defensive, and I resent instead of admiring them. God, in the Old Testament, and Jesus in the New, repeatedly used flawed people to carry out their work. Perfection is not required. A willing heart is.

Characters in my stories sometimes make wrong decisions. They’re selfish. They don’t turn to God right away when things go wrong. But they try. They call out to God eventually and learn through life experiences they can trust him.

I experienced this a while back. I sell my books in Kroger grocery stores. Passing shoppers stop at the table I set up and chat with me. This day, a youngish man walked directly to me (which was odd… most wander by with a cautious eye, unwilling to commit until they’re sure why I’m there). Nothing about my display makes it obvious I write Christian fiction, so I’m unsure what drove him to my table. Straight on he came, though.

During our conversation, I learned he was visiting Texas from his home state of Florida. He’d been here only three days and had been to four different churches. I asked if he came to speak at those churches, but he didn’t. Just attending. I was confused about his purpose, but he was so enthusiastic, I gave up making sense of it.

He asked if he could pray for me.

“Of course!”

He put one hand on my shoulder and gripped my hand in his other. He asked if I had any pain.

This threw me. I was unprepared. Surprised, I tossed out the first thing I thought of. “My hip flexor sometimes hurts.”

He began praying. Loudly. Using all the “Christian-ese” words like “hedge of protection” and “healed by Your stripes.” I flinched inside.

Stop.

You’re drawing attention to us.

People are probably staring.

Then I heard a whisper in my heart.

Listen to his words. Claim the promises he is calling down for you.

I listened. To the holy nudge and to the young man. A smile crossed my face as my new friend claimed healing for my body. He was so sure. Why couldn’t I be the same way? I was just like my characters. Stubborn. Unwilling. Unsure.

He finished his prayer, and I hugged him. Whew. Quite an experience. I wished for that faith.

Ten minutes later, a sparkling feeling—imagine what Tinkerbell’s wand might feel like if it touched you— fluttered through my hip joint. I kid you not.

I froze.

I was afraid to move. Movement would be a test to see if my hip really had been healed, revealing my doubt. And, if I doubted, would it cancel out the healing?

I so totally identify with the Roman soldier who told Jesus, “I believe.” Then, in the same breath, begged, “Help my unbelief.”

I believe Mark shared this story to tell us it’s okay if we sometimes waver. We see with this story we can ask Jesus for help.

Help me believe, Jesus. I want to believe.

And when we pray in his will, he answers that prayer.

Don’t worry if you’re not perfect. God doesn’t demand perfection. He asks for an open heart. That we can do.

My latest book, A Father’s Gift, is now available on Amazon. Book two in the San Antonio series, it continues the story of Abby and Manny who you first met in Protected. Originally published in the Christmas anthology, Christmas Love Through the Ages, it is now a stand-alone book published by Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.

If you missed book one, (Protected), for a limited time, you may download the eBook version for only $0.99. Check them out.