New Release ~ Norman by Ann Edall-Robson

When a rough-around-the-edges barn cat introduces himself to the new Hereford calf called Norman, the day turns into one Buttons will not soon forget. How was he going to explain his way out of the shenanigans his new friend had persuaded him to take part in, especially when he knew better?

Norman is available on Amazon and at Ann Edall-Robson’s website

The official release date of Norman coincides with Children’s International Book Day, April 2. The book is the second in the Barn Cat Buttons Series, and if you’ve lived with animals or been around them, you’ll understand where the inspiration came from to write stories for children.

Ann Edall-Robson relies on her heritage to keep her grounded. Reminders of her family’s roots mentor her to where she needs to go, excerpts of a lifestyle she sees slipping away.
​     Snippets of rural life materialize in her writing and photography as she immortalizes the fast disappearing western heritage in her creative pursuits.
​     A finalist for the 2016 Mayor’s Night of the Arts – Emerging Artist Award, Ann was also shortlisted for the Literary Lightbox 2016 Indie Spotlight. Not only has her writing been recognized, her photography has garnered awards and enhanced book covers. 
     She is the author of several books, is a regular column contributor to the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, and her work can be found in a variety of published anthologies.     
     Ann is an avid quilter, photographer, and enjoys traveling the backroads and spending time with family. She resides near the foothills of Alberta where nature and the traditions of the West immerse her in the way of life that influence and inspire her work.

Visit with Ann on her Website, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Advanced Craft Tips

Laura Drake discusses points relating to the difference between a good writer and a popular writer.

I do a lot of critiquing. As I get better at the craft, I’m starting to catch the nuances of good writing; things beyond the basics of POV, show don’t tell, etc. They’re subtler and harder to spot, but I believe they can be the difference between a ‘good writer’ and a popular author.

These are only a few 

  • Unnecessary thoughts. Something happens – your character has a thought about it – someone speaks – your character has another thought. It breaks up and slows the scene, and it doesn’t add enough to warrant the break. Example:

When he stepped out, he had no smile for her. He avoided meeting her gaze. Even though his clothing was freshly pressed and his shoulders were back, he looked drained, as if he’d just run the obstacle course.

The presentation must have gone badly. 

Do you see how the thought is not only unneeded – but that it weakens the sentences above it? Trust your reader to get it – they’ll appreciate it more. Write only thoughts that the reader couldn’t guess. That can be powerful – showing that the character is keeping something from the others in the scene.

  • Anchor us in deep POV. Adam is the POV character below.

He was going to make an example of this one. Maybe word would get around.

He tipped his chin at Joyce, the cashier; his signal to let the kid go.

Halfway out the door, Adam grabbed him. 

“Hey, lemme go!” The punk twisted to see who had the collar of his shirt. 

Do you see how the way this is worded blurs and distances us from the POV character?

Better would be:

Halfway out the door, he grabbed the little thief.

Why? Because if I’m firmly in Adam’s POV, I shouldn’t have to use his proper name. The way it’s originally written, it’s distant; almost from a narrator’s POV.

Another example:

Suzie’s face flushed red, realizing she’d just put her mother in the same category as the wino.

Again, we’re in Suzie’s POV. We don’t need her name. This is also a minor POV violation – Suzie can feel the blood in her face, but she can’t see that her face is red.

  1. Unneeded dialog tags. I tend to notice these more, because dialog tags is one of my pet

peeves. I make the case that the only time you need a tag is when the reader wouldn’t know whom is speaking. And when you need one, there are a lot better ways to use it, than, ‘he said’. I Besides, they’re distancing.

“I’ll walk you back to your ship,” she said, falling into step beside him.

“I’ll walk you back to your ship,” she fell into step beside him.

This is a small nuance, but can you see how the second is more natural and ‘flows’ better?

A yowl from the cabin next door punctuated his statement.

“What was that?” she asked. It sounded like someone had pinched a baby.

Since there are only a man and a woman in this scene, and we know it’s not him from the line before, the reader will deduce that she asked this. Which means you don’t need the tag. 

Margie Lawson is the Queen at this. You can read a blog she wrote about it, HERE.

These are small nuances, but important ones. The reader won’t think, “I don’t need that tag.” But these are the things that show an agent/editor etc. that you’re good.

Telling, then showing:

I see this a lot. Example:

It was insane to expect him to restrain himself. “That’s like sending an alcoholic into a bar that’s giving away free beer.”

I’d make the case that not only is the beginning unnecessary, it weakens the line of dialog. Showing is almost always better than telling, and both is always the worst.

Over the top:

This happens in many ways. 

Exclamation points. You get three per book. Use them wisely. (and yes, I have the same limits, and I hate them just as much). And never two pieces of punctuation in one sentence. Yes, I know everyone uses it on social media – but you’re a professional. 

“I know, right?!”

Along the same lines – repetition in general – 

As a reader, we assume that if you wrote it, you meant it. Repeating it does not make us believe you more. Saying the same thing again in a different way won’t do it, either. If you feel like you need to do this, I’d make the case that your original sentence isn’t strong enough. Go back and work on that until you’re happy with it.

  1. Backload your sentences

Put the important word(s) at the end of the sentence for more impact.

I’ve got more male in my life than I need already.

Becomes:

I’ve already got more male in my life than I need.

  1. Favorite ‘author’ words. Everyone has them. Your ‘go to’ words. But they’re not words that everyone uses in everyday speech, so they stick out. Below are mine. My crit group gives me one to two of the following per book. 

Jerked

Hipshot

Full dark

Tipped (as in chin)

Ones I see very often in others’ work are:

Over, under, turned, back, down, up, just.

  1. Same old, same old body expressions.

How many times have you read, ‘he frowned’ or ‘she straightened her shoulders’ or ‘lifted her chin’?  Personally, I use sighing way too often. Why not freshen them, and instead of having the reader skim, give them a reason to pause?

She caught herself squirming in her seat and forced herself to stillness.

Vale clears his throat. A shudder vibrates up my spine.
Priss buried her nose in her cup.

Vale’s shoulders tip back, just enough to make the crease across the front of his shirt pull smooth.

  1. Throwaway words. 

I’m just becoming aware of how often I do this – throw in unneeded words at the beginning of a sentence. It’s not only wordy, it’s distancing. I’m a big one on ‘when.’

When the woman touched his shoulder, the kid shrugged her off.

Better:

The woman touched his shoulder. The kid shrugged her off.

Oh yes, I know what you mean.”

She knew it was hopeless.

See what I mean? They add words, but not meaning. Along those same lines:

Why use “moved” which tells us nothing instead of jerked (oops) jogged, or stumbled?

Why use “started” rather than just showing someone doing something? 

“Almost” is another word that doesn’t work well very often. Either someone does something or doesn’t. How do you ‘almost’ do something like smile?

  1. Slip in snippets of backstory. Make the reader want backstory before you slip it in. How do you do that? In the first few sentences, raise questions they’re going to be dying to hear answers to.

From The Sweet Spot – page 1

For a few hours, the project had rescued her weary mind from a hamster-wheel of regret.

The homing beacon in the Valium bottle next to the sink tugged at her insides.

She sipped a glass of water to avoid reaching for it and glanced out the window to the spring-skeletal trees of the back yard. Her gaze returned to the two-foot wide stump the way a tongue wanders to a missing tooth. Tentative grass shoots had sprung up to obscure the obscene scar in the soil.

From my books, Reasons to Stay:

She stopped a few feet short of the open grave. Her mother was down there. Shouldn’t she feel something beyond tired?

Next paragraph:

“Come, Ignacio. It’s time to go.” A meager woman stood at the foot of the grave, her face and raincoat set in the same generic authoritarian lines. 

Priss recognized a Social Worker when she saw one. Given her past, she should.

Okay, your turn. Give us your advanced tips with examples in the comments. We all want to learn!

For more information about award winning author Laura Drake, visit her website.

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Audiobooks Sell

An insight into the production and marketing surrounding audiobooks from guest bloggers Marcia and Jory Rosen.

The audiobook market is one of the fastest-growing segments of the publishing industry. According to the Audio Publishers Association, it grew an estimated 24.5% from 2017 to 2018.This included self-published authors and small publishers who access numerous marketing actions and opportunities to create and an awareness and enhance sales. And, think of the millions of people who drive to and from work each day many listen to audio- books. They are just one audience since people can listen anywhere, anytime. Following are the three major elements involved in producing and marketing an audiobook.

Production

Recording:  

The recording of your book is the first step in the process.  Either the author or a talent will need to be well spoken, easy to understand and appealing to listen to.
Once the talent has been selected the recording sessions can begin and recording time will depend on length of book. Usually estimated by word count, for example a  60,000 to 70,000 word count book should take about ten hours.

Post-Production/File Creation:

Once the recording is complete, the file should be carefully reviewed to make sure all flubs, misreads, etc. are cleaned up. Music, pauses and other needed elements should be inserted in the proper places for an entertaining final product. 
Once the product is completed, files are created in the proper formats for the authors website, Audible, Hoopla and other audio book sellers. The files are delivered and uploaded as needed for each site. Tests should be made to make sure the files are being downloaded correctly and meet both yours and the seller’s requirements.   

Distribution:

Audiobooks can be distributed and sold on Amazon, Audible, Apple, Google, Chirp, Hoopla etc. Your publisher should be able to help you list it on Amazon. There are companies like Findawayvoices.com that can help with development and distribution and librofm.com an independent Audio book retailer.  Be sure to compare pricing.  If you’re published through kindle they should be able to help you list your audiobook on Amazon.

Marketing

With the recording done and the files uploaded it’s time to market the book to drive sales. This includes creating strong, appealing messaging concepts with opportunities for on-going visibility for your audio book.
First and foremost, audio-specific marketing materials, graphics, and posts for audiobooks need to be created. A simple and quick example would be to have a book rendering with headphones bracketing the cover. This is an easy way to catch the attention of audiobook listeners, letting them know that this book is available in audio format and is being marketed directly to them.

Following are some additional strategies for promoting an audiobook for preorder and sales:

Launch – Develop and distribute a press release announcement. Send to your contacts, post on your social media and also on your personal website.

Your website – The file will be uploaded to your website where people can download samples and also purchase your book. Adding an ecommerce element to your site is simple and can be set up to handle any credit card transactions with the funds from the sales being delivered directly to a bank account of your choice. You have the price set and run various promotions, including contests to generate sales. In addition, this will be a good way to sell printed copies of all your titles. Or, of course you can work with a distribution company such as Findawayvoices.com. 

Social Media – An audiobook should be promoted across all social media channels. Samples should be available for download with direct links to your or other sites for purchase. Considering running contests for free copies of the audio book.

Newsletter – Announce the preorder via your newsletter or blog if you have one and on your social media pages. Many of these groups are genre-specific (like Aural Fixation and Audio Loves on Facebook for the romance genre). Authors can do a search for groups or pages that focus on audiobooks in your genre.

Bloggers – Approach audio-centric bloggers (e.g. AudioGals), genre-specific bloggers, and review podcasts. Offer an Advance Listener Copy (ALC) or ask about partnering on a giveaway for an ALC to one of their subscribers/listeners.

Podcasts – Review podcasts also tend to have promotional spots/opportunities for advertisers, where authors pay a fee to share a sneak peek of their audiobook on the podcast. Data suggests podcast listeners are also audiobook listeners. There are a number of podcasters listed on google who feature interviews with authors.

Facebook Live – Leading up to the release or even after the audiobook is out, ask your narrators if they’d be willing to do a Facebook Live video with you. Prepare questions ahead of time for your narrator and share short snippets of the book live. Make sure you post the link to your audiobook in all social media and special event posts. You can also do Facebook posts and boosts to vast and specific audiences.

Boost retailer pages – Post screenshots of your audiobook available on retailers and tag that retailer in your post/social media announcement. Some retailers might even share your post to their audience, especially if you consistently share their purchase links (even library distributors, like Hoopla and OverDrive!).

Affiliate links – Always remember to use affiliate links on your website, directing all traffic (social media, podcasts, bloggers, newsletter, etc.) through your affiliate links.

Discount the audiobook and promote it on Chirp(Owned by Bookbub) – This is another marketing option to consider. The ability to control the price of an audiobook on retailers is an extremely valuable marketing tool.  If you distribute wide through Findaway Voices (to Chirp, Apple Books, Google Play, Authors Direct, Audiobooks.com, Hoopla for libraries, etc.) then you can have full control over the price of your audiobooks on those retailers.

As we said, audiobooks significantly increase awareness of your books and you as an author.
Marcia Rosen
Jory Rosen

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Do You Really Need Social Media?

Thomas Unstattd Jr., author at Author Media produces the Novel Marketing podcast direted towards writers, authors, and those aspiring to journey into the literary world in one way or another.

Why Most Authors Don’t Need Social Media in 2022

When authors think about promoting their book, their minds usually go directly to one method of promotion: social media. But social media networks change so quickly. The advice you received at a writers conference in 2019 doesn’t necessarily work in 2022. Even the best social media methods of 2021 may not work in 2022. Therein lies the challenge for authors.

Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, whether you’re traditionally or independently published, you need to be aware of the changes and costs of social media.

One of the most unhelpful questions authors ask is, “Will doing X help me sell more books?” It’s a useless question because the answer is almost always “yes.”

Listen to the full podcast about “Why Most Authors Don’t Need Social Media in 2022”.
Read the show notes at Novel Marketing.

What types of social media do you use to promote your books?
Has this podcast made you re-think how you will move forward in 2022?

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The Stories Maps Can Tell

Guest Blogger, Vicki Felmlee’s Research Leads to a Treasure Trove of Information.

1947 Map of Colorado

How often have you, as a writer, had an idea or a theory about something and after diving into old journals, maps, and newspaper articles you discover you were right, that “Eureka!” moment. 

About 10 years ago I was researching the historic (pre-1850) Old Spanish Trail in my part of Colorado. One section was the ‘favorite” among local historians, but I doubted this premise. Present-day U.S. Highway 50 follows the OST from Gunnison, Colorado into Grand Junction, but the section I questioned went up a pretty steep hill. Fine for cars and trucks nowadays, but what about for horses, wagons, carts, and mules 200 or 2,000 years ago? There was an alternate route, not officially recognized, that was almost flat, close to a river, with perfect camping and game-hunting opportunities. Wouldn’t Native Americans, and, later, Mexican and American trappers and traders, and U.S. military scouts, take that route?

On a whim I visited the local engineering office of the Colorado Department of Transportation. There I met Sean Yeates who was very interested in my question: how steep was the original grade of that hill before it was dynamited or bulldozed? He dived into the state files dating back to 1900 and the next day gave me his answer: almost 8%, a very steep grade indeed. Too steep, in fact, for laden pack animals especially in the winter. 

Then Mr. Yeates mentioned a staff member had digitized several CDOT maps. “You seem to be interested in maps, do you want them?” he asked. I said, “Sure,” and received a CD.
That night I opened the disc and realized what a remarkable bunch of files I now possessed: these were “travel maps” produced by CDOT and handed out free at gas stations and restaurants. There are a few gaps, but beginning in 1916, they were plain, unadorned; by 1951, they were filled with state information, pictures, advertisements – a few in full color. Scanning these maps, some very large, had required a large-scale scanner and a lot of time! 
They were entertaining and fun, but had little practical use. Or so I thought.

Fast forward a few years – eight to be exact – and I am researching Western Colorado ranches and the Great Depression for my next novel. Highway 50 is the main arterial through this area so of course it plays a role in my narrative. I discovered the road was paved in some areas in the 1920s, but when did it become U.S. Highway 50? I knew from earlier research it was called the “Old Wagon Road,” the “Salt Lake Wagon Road,” and the “Bean Road” (after a ranching family). 
Then I realized I had the answer in my office: that CD.

The 1916 map called it Road 44; some subsequent years no name or number was assigned. I really wanted to be as accurate as possible, so I kept opening those maps, zooming in. By the mid-20s most of the maps referred to it as 50 or 550, and finally the proper U.S. Highway System insignia was applied; by 1929, my “year of interest,” it was clearly U.S. Highway 50. 

Now my characters could correctly say they were “turning left on Highway 50” or had “found a body on the side of the highway” while they traveled, rode, and drove, to and fro, from town to town. 

By the way, remember the original quest for researching the “alternate” route on the
OST? Based on my information, and Mr. Yeates’ help, the National Park Service agreed, and designated it the OST Official Historic Route in 2012. Eureka!

Note: I have now uploaded all of these maps at tcsmg.com/CDOTmaps. Just click on a year, for example, and the files will appear for you to view. Most are pdfs, there are a few jpgs. These maps are large, 20″-30″ wide, so you won’t be able to print them out unless you have access to a very large printer. You can of course bring them into a program like Photoshop and reduce.
As a bonus, I have included one sheet from the Hayden Survey of Western Colorado/Eastern Utah. The Hayden maps are very important historical documents from 1871. You can read more about this expedition here (and Google for more):

Vicki Felmlee received her degree in Geology but took a right-hand turn into journalism, working for newspapers and magazines for more than 10 years. She then returned to her “roots” and worked as an Environmental Scientist for projects in Idaho, New Mexico, and Denver before starting her own company in 1996. She is a former national president of the Old Spanish Trail Association and has been active in community issues. Retired, she lives in Grand Junction, Colorado with her husband, dogs, cats, and chickens. Her website is at www.americamoreorless.com

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Choosing a Book Title

Anne R. Allen’s blog discussion: 5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Book Title in the Internet Age.

I’ve blogged before with tips on choosing a book title, but recently I’ve become aware of a few other things we need to consider in the age of online bookselling.

I ruminated about titles over the holidays, when I had a chance to read some titles from my TBR pile, and catch up on a few TV shows I’d missed. I found that some books and films spun out tales that fit perfectly with their titles. Others didn’t.

And it seemed to me the titles that didn’t match their content were harder to remember. And “memorable” should be our number one goal when choosing a book title in the days of mega-competition. So here are some things to keep in mind when making that final decision about your title. (I realize only indies have the final decision on a title, but we can all hope….)

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Power Up Women Podcast Interview

Anne Doyle, the host of the Power Up Women podcast, sat down for a visit with Women Writing the West president, Betsy Randolph. Listen in on their conversation.

Have you ever fantasized about the American West? I have, as have millions from all over the world. So many that there is now a genre of literature, “The American West.” So I was thrilled to discover an organization of “Women Writing the West (WWW),” which is female authors (and some male) whose characters, stories and settings reflect the distinct cultures, geography and history of this important and distinct part of the United States. Betsy Randolph is a widely-read, mystery author, including her noted Cat Carlyle Mysteries, the president of Women Writing the West and one of the first female officers in both the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Capital Patrol promoted to leadership roles. She joins me to talk about writing, growing up as a “tom-boy” and her reaction to the arrest of the parents of the suspect in the latest school shooting that occurred in my community of Oxford, Michigan. 
 

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A Message for the New Year

It’s a new year—time to let go of the old and welcome in the new. New goals, new plans, new dreams. We’ve had a rough couple of years in the world, and our lives have changed forever, but it doesn’t mean we can’t move forward with renewed hope and the opportunity to make our dreams come true. 

Many people shy away from setting New Year’s resolutions for fear they will not carry them out. I get it. I’ve failed many times—but the important thing to me is setting the goal. It gives me direction and a sense of excitement for what may come my way. It gives me purpose and a sense of optimism. 

Optimism doesn’t come easily for people. We are wired with a negativity bias which is essential to our survival. It’s what alerts us to danger and keeps us safe. But sometimes it can go into overdrive, and we often don’t know how to get out of that negative mind set. Setting goals and striving to make those dreams come true can break through those barriers and open up a whole new way of thinking. 

My books, all historical mystery novels, have this theme of pushing through adversity running through them. My characters have this drive, this need to make their dreams come true and make the world a better place. My protagonists, all amateur sleuths, are presented with situations that seem unsurmountable, but they have a need to find the truth and seek justice, to make order out of the chaos of the problem set before them. And through their determination and refusal to fail, they reach that goal.

Annie Oakley, in my Annie Oakley mystery series, is drawn from the real-life woman. If you know anything about her, you know she came from poverty and hardship, and rose above those hurdles to become one of the most famous women in the world. You might also know she was driven to help others, especially women. She taught thousands of women to shoot because she felt every woman had the right to defend herself. This pint-sized wonder-woman worked in a man’s world and excelled, besting all her male opponents. To me, it only made sense she would make an excellent detective—someone who is driven to rise above the adversity caused by a murder and get to the truth. 

My protagonist Grace of the Grace Michelle mysteries, (a purely fictional character) has also come from adversity. It’s her past sorrows that give her the drive to make something of herself (she’s a costume designer on Broadway and then in the silent film industry) and to help others through her sleuthing skills in order to prevail above the wrongs in her world. 

Ruby Delgado (also fictional), of my Southwestern mystery Bones of the Redeemed, has suffered tremendous loss in her life, her only child, and is struggling with a reason to see another day. An archeologist by profession, her work is the only thing keeping her going, but when she arrives at a dig in New Mexico, she unwittingly stumbles upon a sinister secret society and learns a young man’s life is in danger. Her need to save this boy ( because she couldn’t save her own) drives her to rise above her own suffering and expose this deadly brotherhood. 

I realize that the goals of my protagonists are pretty lofty—usually consisting of saving lives or righting wrongs. Few of us are presented with those challenges. But the challenges we face in our own lives can often feel insurmountable and sometimes we can’t find a way out. 

The best way to do this is to start small. Chip our way out. Set a goal. Dare to dream. 

And the new year gives us the opportunity to do just that. So, even if you think you’ll fail, make a resolution. Start fresh. Get excited about what lay ahead. The possibilities are endless.

When she’s not on a horse, or walking along the beautiful cottonwood-laden acequias of Corrales, New Mexico; or basking on white sand beaches under the Big Island Hawaiian sun, Kari Bovée is escaping into the past—scheming murder and mayhem for her characters, both real and imagined, and helping them to find order in the chaos of her action-packed novels.

An award-winning author, Bovée was honored with the 2020 Chanticleer First Place in category for the Chanticleer International Clue Awards for her book Folly at the Fair. In 2019, she was awarded the NM/AZ Book Awards Hillerman Award for Southwestern Fiction for her novel Girl with a Gun. The novel also received First Place in the 2019 NM/AZ Book Awards in the Mystery/Crime category and won First in Category in the International Chanticleer Murder & Mayhem Awards. It was also a finalist in the 2019 Next Generation Indie Awards. Her novel Grace in the Wings won First in Category for the 2019 International Chanticleer Chatelaine Awards. Peccadillo at the Palace won Grand Prize in the 2019 Goethe Awards and was a finalist in the 2019 Best Book Awards Historical Fiction category. 

Bovée has worked as a technical writer for a Fortune 500 company, has written non-fiction for magazines and newsletters, and has worked in the education field as a teacher and educational consultant.

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Women Writing the West President’s Message for Christmas 2021

We all have special memories of Christmases past. Whether celebrated in traditional fashion unwrapping presents in front of tinsel-strewn, twinkling-lit trees covered with hand-crafted ornaments, enjoying platters of food, and pies upon pies. Or celebrating on a cruise ship, a tropical island beach, at a ski resort. Maybe your favorite Christmas memories were just a few days off work, snuggling with your special someone, sipping cocoa, and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time. 

My fondest Christmas memories were of Christmas 1981. I was eleven years old. My brothers, Brian and Brent, were twelve and six. A few months before Christmas, my family moved to Enid, Oklahoma, from my birth state of New Mexico. I thought everyone lived as we did—five humans sharing a box of Mac-n-Cheese, a can of green beans, and bread slices covered in soft margarine. I didn’t know what poverty meant. We were always clean and fed, with a rented roof above our heads; I was happy, carefree.

Christmas was a special time at our house. Santa always came on Christmas Eve no matter how terrible my brothers had been during the year. Mom somehow managed to buy us the things we wanted even if we hadn’t told her what that was. Back then, there was no Wal-Mart, at least not in Enid, and Amazon was light years away from existence. Still, Mom pulled off Christmas in her usual, extravagant fashion. 

On Christmas Eve, my brothers and I opened gifts of clothes, shoes, and toys. Christmas morning found us gawking over our crochet Christmas stockings stuffed and spilling over with peppermint candy canes, chocolate shaped Saint Nicolas bars, little books of LifeSavers, and at least one additional toy. My stocking that year held a blonde Barbie doll in a beautiful satin white gown, and diamond-like earrings in her ears. She matched the doll I’d gotten the night before, her groom, Ken, who wore a black tuxedo with long tails. But what made this Christmas the most memorable for me was not the candy or gifts, or even the feast Mom prepared of honey-glazed ham covered in pineapple chunks, mashed potatoes, a mixed salad, and chocolate pudding pie for dessert. What made that year different and priceless for me, was the realization—the unwavering, unequivocal, know-it-in-your-heart comprehension of what Christmas was truly about. 

Growing up in a Christian home, we read Luke 2:1-19, the Christmas story, every Christmas Eve. All my life I’d heard about the birth of the Messiah, the Christ-child. I sang Silent Night year after year and over and over proclaiming the good news of the Savior’s birth. Still, something was different that year. Something inside me had changed. For the first time ever, I knew, really knew Christmas didn’t have anything to do with Santa—it was about God’s perfect gift for all mankind. Jesus. 

The knowledge was like a flashbulb—a bright shock, flashing in the darkness, forcing one to squint against piercing illumination. I finally got it. I understood the immense sacrifice of God sending His only begotten son to die in my stead, and Jesus’s willingness to do so. Why after all those years did it finally sink in? I don’t know, but every year since, I’ve been less and less interested in gifts and more and more interested in, and amazed by, The Gift. 

I hope you take some time to recall some of your fondest Christmases past while creating wonderful new memories with your loved ones this year.

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