A Story Grows Up

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Did you really begin writing A Packaged Deal when you were high school, you ask. Yup. True story. I have roughly fifty pages of cursive on lined notebook paper to prove it.

Yesterday I said that the stories that don’t go away are the ones you eventually have to write. This story stayed with me. Even though I didn’t complete it in that nine week creative writing class, I lived it in my mind, and it lurked there for many years. When it shouted for attention, I had my own seventeen year-old. Now that it is ready for the public, my children are grown and (usually) out of the house.

The call to finish the story which became A Packaged Deal grew louder when my middle son, Stephen, and my nephew Caleb competed with the Nederland Middle School ski team. Life was busy for the writing of the great American novel, but I thought I might be able to handle penning a romance amidst the hustle and bustle of four teenager’s activities. As I wound through mountain curves to drive Stephen and Caleb to Eldora Mountain, the little story I started as a seventeen year-old began once again to take shape, only this time the setting was a quaint ski town full of quirky and caring supporting characters. Now the heroine became a downhill racer, and the hero waltzed in as the handsome GM of a small-town resort.

Here’s the back cover copy of the NOW story:
Snuggle next to a fireplace in Towering Pines, the Colorado ski town where friendship is served up in hearty helpings and love is as true as the cobalt blue sky.

When Olympic hopeful Aspen Carlisle gave up her ski-racing dreams to raise her orphaned siblings, she found out the hard way that men aren’t interested in a “packaged deal.” Thrust into a stiff learning curve on motherhood, Aspen discovers the love and support of her friends in Towering Pines, but when the handsome new resort manager Stephen Wallace shows kindness to her little family, can she drop her guard long enough to allow him into that trusted circle—and her heart?

As Aspen struggles to believe in him, Stephen battles ghosts of his own. Time with Aspen and her family causes old issues to bubble to the surface. Does he have what it takes to push through the fear and regret, or will he stay stuck in the pain of the past? If he can believe in himself enough to become the husband and father they need, he’ll discover how wonderful a packaged deal can be.

The heart of the  book dreamed up in Robert Wyly’s English class stayed true. A young woman’s life was interrupted when her parents passed suddenly, and she chose to raise her siblings.  That was in the original story line. It’s precious to me, maybe because I love my brother, Curtis, so much. Sibling relationships are so important!

Originally in the seventeen-year-old version there were two men vying for the heroine’s attention, but the more grown-up me didn’t want to do that, so a man named Chad became the ex-boyfriend, and Stephen was the only one pursuing Aspen. (I actually don’t remember what the guys names were originally. I need to find that old manuscript and see!)

While today’s book is definitely the romance genre as was the work of that dreamy seventeen-year-old, this grown-up book works through faith, loss, and the struggle to hope in ways the high school version never could. I pray it blesses you! I absolutely love  what the Free to Flourish publishing team did to make the book beautiful. Thank you to Lisa Joy Samson for the interior artwork and the Towering Pines series logo, to Bryan Butler for the gorgeous cover, and to Carmen Barber for her vision for a lovely interior design and layout.

It’s great fun to see a book dreamed up in my youth become something I can hold in my hands.

Blessings,

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PS A Packaged Deal, which is the first book in the series about Towering Pines and its people, ends with a lovely Christmas Eve surprise, so it is perfect reading for this season and would make a great gift for the readers in your family. Consider purchasing it along with the Tinseled Tidings Collection. Both are available in paperback and on Kindle. Did you know you can gift books on Kindle to your electronic reading friends? In the case of these books, gifting electronically is a wonderful way to stretch the budget.

PPS It’s not too late to download your free Advent devotion from my website. I’m also posting a daily Advent thought on my author page on Facebook. Follow me there to share the Advent journey.

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A Shout Out to English Teachers

Ever have an English teacher change your life? Maybe it was a discussion about that story you read in class. Or maybe, like me, you had teachers who flamed your passion for writing.

Today is the official release of my new book, A Packaged Deal, the first story in the Amazon_Front_Cover_1600x2560 JPGTowering Pines series. I dedicated it to three English teachers. My friend Maria Clinton, who teaches high school English a few blocks from my home, my high school English teacher, Mr. Wyly, and my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan. Other names and faces flit through my mind. I’ve had many excellent English teachers, but there’s a reason I singled out these three.

Years ago as I drove up a windy road toward Nederland, Colorado, a story called for my attention. It was a tale from years before, my first attempt at writing a book. I started it my senior year in high school, and I still have the handwritten cursive manuscript on lined notebook paper to prove it.

That story matured with me over many years, but it never went away. It’s the stories that don’t leave you alone that must be written. A Packaged Deal is one of those, and that story I began at seventeen grew into the book releasing today. I remain forever grateful to Robert Wyly for this and more. Why? Because in that nine-week creative writing class I requested permission to write a novel instead of doing the daily assignments, and he cheered me on.

It was one of those touch points that established my dream to become an author. The experience helped keep my dream alive and sustained it during my busy years as a teacher and young mom, when I thought I would write books and didn’t accomplish much more than short poetry and family letters.

I chose my third grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan, for this dedication because her class is the first place I remember knowing I would someday write books. It started when she assigned us a creative writing exercise using personification. I wrote about a pencil and an eraser who always fought but eventually discovered they needed each other when they had to work together to save the third grade classroom. As I wrote that little story, I was hooked. My first “real” job out of college was as a third grade teacher. I can only hope there are a few students out there whose lives were impacted by me as I was by Mrs. Duncan. I read that pencil and eraser story to my students every year, and they always loved it–and loved writing their own personification tale.

Mrs. Duncan also gave me another gift I’m forever grateful for. She discovered that I loved to read and that I finished my work quickly. Instead of allowing me to sit idle, she and the librarian set me up on a speed reading device that helped me read and comprehend more and more quickly. This valuable skill allows me to consume books even now, and I’m very grateful.

I chose to include my friend Maria in the dedication because of her dedication to her students. I am consistently amazed by her passion for them. She cares about their academics and works hard to prepare them for college. She is also passionate about them as individuals. I believe the literature, writing, and class discussion in Mrs. Clinton’s classes open the world beyond that classroom as well as helping her students explore the world within. No doubt the experience grows their understanding and provides forward momentum in their lives. What a difference a passionate teacher makes! (Mrs. Clinton and I share another joy beyond our mutual love of literature, learning, and people. My son, Sam, just proposed to her daughter, Ariel! Wahooo!!)

I’m forever grateful to these three teachers–and to all the English teachers (and librarians!) who called forth my passions. As I reflect, story after story, teacher after teacher, comes to mind who fostered my love of books and writing. The story that made me laugh that our fourth grade teacher read to the class? I read it to my own class of third graders years later. We laughed so hard my co-worker came over and asked what was going on because her class was getting jealous. That serious book about concentration camps in fifth grade? Still part of the shaping within me for justice and compassion. The sixth graders teachers who allowed me to express creativity in numerous ways. Anne Frank’s Dairy, Great Expectations. The immersion into fantasy thanks to a teacher who loved Brigadoon and pookas. The elementary librarian who constantly worked to find me the next books series and keep me engaged in reading. The junior high librarian who became a friend as she shared her favorite authors with me, again finding ways to keep my love of books growing. The list continues into college.

So here’s to English teachers (and librarians) everywhere! Thank you for pouring out on our behalf!

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Blessings,

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PS A Packaged Deal is available in paperback and on Kindle. Tomorrow I’ll share a little more about how this story matured from its beginnings in Mr. Wyly’s class to become the novel of today.

Stories Behind the Stories and Paperback

Ever wonder what drives the spiritual themes in your favorite stories? Do authors plan them, or do they unfold as they write? Are they ever surprised?

Collection picture lower resolutionFor me it’s both. In my new Tinseled Tidings Christmas romance collection, I had some idea of where I was going, but the Lord also added some special surprises. (BTW, the paperback just released! This volume includes the first three titles in the Tinseled Tiding Collection–and I gotta tell you, it’s gorgeous! The original artwork (by Lisa Joy Samson) and interior design (by Carmen Barber) makes the book’s fun, uplifting stories even more delightful because they are so visually pleasing!)

When I wrote The Joy ScroogeI found it interesting that when I wrote Krista and Tait’s pivotal moments, it just flowed. Usually it’s when my characters are in pain that I have to fight through the writing. (Hey, they are real to me, and I hate to see them hurting!) But this time when I got to the happy ending, I had a block. Talk about weird! The hard part was done, but I couldn’t write the fun part! (Makes me wonder how often we fight through pain—or even choose to stay in it—but are afraid of believing in the happy in real life! But I digress.)

Because I couldn’t seem to write the happy part of The Joy Scrooge, I went back and did couple of rounds of editing on the deep parts of each of the main character’s journeys. As I rewrote Krista’s, I realized that her issue was bumping up against one of my own. I needed to be willing to walk with someone I love on a path of suffering. I needed to do it whether or not this person could ever come out on the other side. It helped me be willing when I realized that the simple act of loving when it means hurting with the person we love is part of entering the suffering of Christ. It helped me feel closer to Jesus and to trust Him with how the other person’s pain affects me.

To be clear, I’m not saying that in every situation we should choose to walk closely with someone in pain. None of us have that bandwidth, and not every need is the call. We help where we can, and we follow God’s leading in that. There are also abusive situations where we have to remove ourselves from the more intimate act of walking with a hurting person who is acting out. But all of us face situations where we need to choose to enter the suffering of a loved one. Sometimes they cause their own suffering, and sometimes it is thrust upon them by health issues or evil. It brings me comfort to know in these situations, when loving means entering someone else’s painful journey, that it is part of entering Christ’s suffering. It comforts me that He understands and is with us in the pain.

Once I processed all of that, the happy ending for the book came more easily.

If learning this kind of backstory for my latest stories is interesting to you, you’ll enjoy an interview I did with Peg Thomas. Check it out! Peg is a fellow author and we are both published in a novella collection, A Bouquet of Brides, which releases January from Barbour Publishing.

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PS If you’re joining me by reading Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent this December, you might enjoy liking my Facebook page and following me there. Each day I’m posting short thoughts connected to the reading. (And you can still get that as a free download at my website.)

PPS The Tinseled Tiding paperback would make an uplifting, fun Christmas gift–and for those electronic readers, all three novellas could be bundled and gifted electronically for less than $3!

Launch Day and FREE book to celebrate!

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Launching TODAY!!

My face-to-face friends allowed me “drop off the earth” for a crazy fall. Good friends of authors know that they have a “deadline” friend, who disappears for a while, and their regular friend who comes up for air ready to play! If you’d like to learn a little more about the life of an author, visit Moving the Ancient Boundaries, my friend DiAne’s blog. She asked me some great questions in her interview posted there today!

Honestly, Tinseled Tidings, the first series Free to Flourish Publishing launched this fall, was almost like playing, even with all the work! The characters are fun, a little zany, and a whole lot lovable. I fell for them all. They laughed and cried with me and until their stories were told. With today’s release of this last title, I’m happy and sad. Happy because YOU get to meet my imaginary friends, sad because I won’t be spending as much time with them. (I will get to keep talking about this series as the PAPERBACK 3-in-1 collection releases next week!)

Fruitcake Fallout is the only book in the series (for now) which has an historical setting.  As you might guess from the title, the hero is a private and his gal-to-be is a WAC in World War 2. For interesting tidbits on what I learned about this time period, visit my friend Donna’s blog, History Thru the Ages. As I write I often am surprised by little nuggets of truth and grace that appear, unplanned, in the story line. I’ve also learned that when I do historical research the Holy Spirit leads me to special true stories of LIGHT. I share some of this today on Donna’s blog.

FREE BOOK INFO

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FREE today!

To celebrate today’s launch day, Free to Flourish Publishing is offering the first title in the series, You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch, FREE today and tomorrow. It was an ACFW Carol Award finalist for novella of the year. In this story retired police officer Rick Stanton dons a Grinch costume for the holidays and “patrols” Christmas, Florida to promote the festive town. Everyone falls under his charm except the person he most wants to impress—Postmaster Edie Hathaway. If you’re like me, you’ll be cheering for the Grinch, hoping he can steal Edie’s heart before they both give up on love.

The second book in the series, The Joy Scrooge, is featured today on ALLBETSAREOFF. Check out that interview and see where your own scrooge barometer is! lol Remember this is the book which prompted me to offer my Advent devotion for FREE on my website. I hope you’ll download it and journey with me this Christmas season!

As I close out this post, I want to offer a shout out to some amazing people who make it possible for these stories to get to YOU.

Thank you to the Free to Flourish Publishing Team!

Carmen Barber ~ Copyeditor, interior design, and formatting

Lisa Samson ~ Artwork for cover and interior

Kim Liddiard of the Creative Pixel, Cover design

Wendi Wilkins ~ Proofreading

Laurie Spies ~ First reader

(And special thanks to Carmen, who also should have the official title of “holding the author’s hand through it all.”)

Also thank you to every person who reads, reviews, and buys my books. Reviewers–you have NO IDEA how valuable those reviews are. I REALLY appreciate you taking the time!

LEAVE A COMMENT TODAY AND I’LL PUT YOU IN A DRAWING FOR A FREE COPY OF A PACKAGED DEAL, THE FIRST BOOK IN MY NEXT SERIES, TOWERING PINES.

Just Kiddin’ (Not really. I messed up.)

You may or may not know that I have a lovely part-time job that is an incredible gift and only feels like real work once a month when I have to get there at 7:30 to sing at the early service. (So not a morning person.)

The job is as a staff singer at a lovely Lutheran congregation. We sing wonderful music, like Bach and Handel, and just got new choir robes. (Hang in there. This relates to my mistake.)

I arrived this morning thinking that Advent starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving–which it often does–and prepared to put on my purple stole. (I actually paused briefly earlier this morning when getting dressed because I couldn’t help but think how my red earrings would clash with the lovely purple stole once the robe went on.) I arrived at church only to discover white stoles on the choir robes.

White??

“Isn’t it the first Sunday of Advent?”

Now Advent is confusing for lots of folks for reasons exactly like this. Not everyone celebrates Advent in the same way or on the same weeks. (I think the Irish actually do a six week Advent.) But much of the traditional church in America celebrates Advent beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas.

NEXT WEEK.

Not today.

Ooops. And I bought my candles and everything.

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STOP! Don’t light that first candle yet! Hahahaha!

Not to mention telling everyone to get that Advent devotion so they can start reading it today.

Only it’s a four-week devotion designed for the four weeks before Christmas and there are still five weeks. Not four. Because Thanksgiving comes on the fourth Thursday every November and there are five Thursdays this year, not four.

Have a headache yet?

So if you’re using my devotion this year for Advent, I’d encourage you to hold off on starting it for one more week so it will last the whole time, even though I know You’re chomping at the bit to get started. (Or you could start and leave room for all those times you miss a day ’cause you’re busy.)

And if you haven’t downloaded your free copy–there’s still time!

Look at that. Maybe it was meant to be. And here you thought you might miss out.

Now here’s the next confusing issue. I was told today no purple stoles for Advent. Next Sunday we’re wearing blue. Last year it was purple. But that was before we got the blue ones. My research shows that some churches choose purple for Advent, some do blue. Others do something else entirely.

So maybe there’s another point to be made. Advent is not about doing it all right. I don’t think there is right way except maybe this one thing: Celebrate Jesus.

Whenever, however, with whatever colors you like.

And if you’re like me and love the opportunity for stillness with Him in the busy month of December, part of that celebration just might include candles and devotional thoughts. If that’s you, I hope you’ll join me this year in reading Soul Scent: Flourish Selections for Advent, which is still available for *free download* on my website.

 

Blessing,

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Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent offers four weeks of devotional thoughts, Scriptures, and prayers for meditation and worship in the weeks before Christmas. If you’re celebrating Advent with candles, you can use Sunday’s reading for reflection as you light the candles of hope, peace, joy, and love. It also includes a scripted prayer and suggestion for worship. Monday through Friday’s daily readings focus on concepts like Christmas memories, the Christmas tree, the Cross, celebration, nativity, and worship. On Saturday journal questions prompt reflection on the week’s worship experience.

Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent is taken from weeks nine through twelve of the Soul Scents: Flourish thirteen-week devotional book. Additional content for reflection during the lighting of Advent candles and at the end of week is included only in this special holiday edition.

(Selections for Advent is available as a free pdf on my website, www.paulamoldenhauer.com/gifts. If you prefer to read on Kindle, you can get your copy there for 99 cents.)

 

Why I love Advent–Which Starts Sunday! (And a free Advent devotional book for you.)

The ribbons and bows looked funny on that avocado plant, but my little brother and I beamed at our parents, showing off our “Christmas tree.” To their credit they didn’t reprimand us, but the delight my nine-year-old heart hoped to see in their eyes was pain instead. They hated to disappoint us, but they couldn’t encourage such “pagan” behavior. See, I was raised with the belief that Christmas and all its trappings were not of God. Jesus was from God. He was sent to save us. But Christmas was not His birthday, and the Christmas tree was nothing more than leftovers from people who worshiped a false god.

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My first Christmas tree

It was to be another forty years before I owned my first Christmas tree. Perhaps this is one reason I dearly love Advent worship. The process to shedding the beliefs of my childhood and learning to celebrate at Christmas has been long and confusing, but the search has also been pure gold. Since I wasn’t raised with traditions around the holiday, my heart hungered to understand why people did what they did, what God thought about it, and what was right for me.

 

The Advent devotional readings became one of my favorite things, and I’m always on the look-out for a good devotional book—one that makes me think about worshiping Jesus and celebrating not only His birth, but what He came to do.

When I wrote Soul Scents: Flourish, which is a thirteen-week devotional book about my journey out of spiritual, emotional, and mental abuse, I didn’t expect a month’s worth of writing to center of Advent worship, but it’s what God placed in my heart to write. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Captivity of heart, mind, and emotions is the result of abuse and my heart has fought for years to fight out of the captivity connected to my Christmas worship.

Advent cover smallThis fall, as I worked on my Christmas novella series, Tinseled Tidings,  the Lord prompted me to pull out the weeks of Advent worship and off them free on my website. I am pleased to do this. I like to think of it as giving a Christmas gift to all who will receive it! (You can get yours by visiting for free at my website.)*

As I wrote these devotions I found myself typing, “I was created to celebrate. The trappings of Christmas are simply an expression of this need to worship, to sing, to dance. What I really seek is complete freedom to be who I am, to praise my God in abandon, to enjoy every ounce of beauty I can find, without majoring on minors or intense self-evaluation of the rightness of every choice.

From the beginning of my life the enemy tried to steal this identity from me. Children of celebration don’t do well with strife, but I was surrounded by it from day one. They need free expression and movement and beauty. As a child, religion created within me a mistrust of the aesthetics. The culture I was raised in didn’t give much credence to the arts. In the early years movies were considered evil. Dance classes a sin. And much of art inappropriate. Beautiful spaces were not particularly appreciated. There was a prevailing attitude in the church of my childhood that poverty was more acceptable than riches. Too much emphasis on outward adornment was also suspect. As a religious culture, there was a scarcity in our ability to celebrate, to embrace the abundance of the gifts God offered us. Christmas was but a tiny piece of a prevailing attitude that found suspect anything that included too much celebration, too much joy, too much beauty—too much abundance of any type.”

As the words flew from my fingers I grasped something big. I wrote, “It isn’t just Christmas the enemy has tried to steal from me. It is life!

The right to be who I am and breathe my own air the unique way He created me to do it!
You see, I am a child of dance and song. I am a child of celebration. From the beginning the enemy has sought to steal this from me. He has tried to exploit my desire to please God by turning it into striving instead of joyful surrender and praising advancement. He tried to twist the deep parts of my personality, the “old soul” that is me to make me melancholy instead of simply reflective and insightful. He tried to poison my sanguine temperament with hopelessness.

But he has lost his battles. His schemes are crushed into the ground. Where he sowed pain and despair my Jesus came in and poured His healing blood and turned all that evil had planted into seeds of faith. My Jesus watered those seeds with the showers of blessings and storms of trial and the every-single-day-new-hope of His Light. The seeds are bursting forth in blossoms, and the garden of my heart where He dwells is fragrant with grace. The turtledoves have arrived and coo their love song there in my garden heart. The garden my Lord planted for His enjoyment. Here there is hope. There is dance and song and celebration. For I am His child, created for joy.”

As I share those words** with you today, passion rises, jumps, screams out of my body asking, “how about you?” Where has the enemy stolen your joy? Taken away your worship? Lied to you, forcing you into a box of unending self-examination and rules or held you back from enjoying abundance?

My friend we are FREE.

Remember the truth of the beautiful carol, “In His name all oppression shall cease!” and join with worshipers of the ages singing:

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim! ***

May God meet you in joy and freedom this Advent season. I hope you’ll download my *free* Advent devotion and let me be a part of that.

From my heart to yours!

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*If you prefer to read on Kindle instead of downloading the free pdf, Selections for Advent is available on Kindle for 99 cents.

**Taken from week 2 of Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent

***O Holy Night’s original verse by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847, translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight (1812-1893)

 

Secrets Revealed

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Telling secrets. Leeann Betts interviewed me on her blog this week. She asked if there is a real-life piece of my love story with my hubby tucked in “You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch.” The answer is yes . . . for more visit Leeann’s blog.

Lots of fun stuff in the interview about my latest release: You’re a Chamer, Mr. Grinch, available today on Kindle for 99 cents.