Saturday, December 06, 2014


Welcome, A R. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
There are twenty-five short, short stories in the book, That Was the Best Christmas! I will now name some of the fictional characters and how they relate to me. In “Anna’s Fleece,” I am Anna—the little girl who wanted her father’s love and who knew she wouldn’t get along very well through life without it. I am Joseph’s mother in “Christmas Reborn.” I have also parented with my fingers on the pulse of all my children. In “Beyond the Garden Gate,” Cassie is awkward at evangelizing. I did not become a Christian until I was in my mid-30s, so I was inspired to write about the challenges of reaching others for Christ. If only, however, I had Cassie’s heart, I could have moved mountains.

And, there is no question in anybody’s mind who knows me that I am Emma in “Emma in the Middle.” I am a middle child, and—from early on—my older sister has been an accomplished person. As a child, I was too shy to try anything outside my world of pretend. Like Emma, I do like people. Sometimes we fare better in life by relating beyond our four walls. I, too, have had kind people in my life, as Emma had Mr. Johnson. He could realize her potential and, therefore, steer her in the direction of her talents and gifts. Supportive people have been there for me at every turn.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
My husband and I had arranged to meet at a restaurant after he got off work. He had asked me to leave early and get us a table. Because we had eaten there before, I could picture the building and the location. When I arrived at the place where the restaurant should have been, it wasn’t there!

I called my husband. “It’s not here! The restaurant it not here!” I declared.

“What do you mean?” he asked in his usual calm manner.

“They moved the restaurant!” I proclaimed. “It’s not here! I know houses can be moved, but to move an entire restaurant . . . !” 

Of course, I was in the wrong place. But, I was so convinced I was in the right place that the only “logical” explanation was that an entire restaurant had been moved from its foundation to a new location.

My husband found me, and we found the restaurant.

When did you first discover you were a writer?
Between the grocery and the dry cleaners in Louisville, Kentucky, at the red light of the crazy intersection that represents the need to do something with all the streets converging at one point. “I am a writer!” was the light bulb moment.

I had been writing for twelve years. (This was twenty years ago.) But something I had recently written was being replayed in my head and, for the first time, I felt like a writer!    

Books! I love books. Two weekends ago, we moved into an apartment. Just yesterday, I put the books up into the shelves. So, now I am home! In the grandchildren’s room are all their books—the ones I read over and over again to their parents. Tattered copies of—among others—Goodnight Moon, Pierre – A Cautionary Tale, and The Runaway Bunny are waiting for the grandchildren to return.

In another room of the apartment are my husband’s and my books. Old Bibles that have been handed down in the family, and newer ones. Books by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Oswald Chambers, and C.S. Lewis—among other Christian classics. Old novels, miscellaneous inspirational titles, and biographies of noteworthy people in history finish our collection. All good books give hope. I always buy a book when I am sad or troubled. 

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world? 
I write. I honestly don’t run that much because writing takes so much time. I talked to a friend on the phone just this morning, and she was on her way out the door to help at church. Our personalities and talents are different, but I couldn’t help questioning myself, “Shouldn’t you be out there doing more?”

When I do question myself, I always receive the same answer: From all that I can see, it seems that God has been saying, “Sit still and write.” 

 “Yes,” I gleefully obey. I’ll keep writing until God says, “Stop.” But, I sure hope He never asks me to do that.  

How do you choose your character’s names?
The name needs to fit. Naming characters is great fun. Anna—from “Anna’s Fleece”—is innocent and subdued. Emma—from “Emma in the Middle”—has two m’s in the middle. Emma is the name of a thinker. Eleanor—Emma’s older sister—is a name that sounds like a girl who is in control.

In “Beyond the Garden Gate,” Mrs. Thatcher is a good name of someone who is distant and hurt. Aaron is a good sturdy name for a boy who can weather storms and who loves his horse in “Gray Lady.”

Someday I will count all the characters named in That Was the Best Christmas! I did have a good time birthing all of them!

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Behind all the important people in my life, my greatest accomplishment in writing is twofold. First, a book of poetry. In That Place Called Day was written to share my journey between the lines. In “Summer Rain,” for example, I am the person who takes the umbrella from the back hall and unfolds—like it does—to go walking in the rain. I was trying to say that I am capable of trying something new and willing to be a bit daring. And, in “Lemons Needed,” I realized that lemons are needed to make lemonade. There is a place for us glass-half-empty kind of people. The glass-half-full people need us, and we need them. Good thing we are not all alike.

The second accomplishment that brings me joy is the completion of three picture books for young children. (They are finished, but not yet published.) The Christian books concern a fictional boy named Henry. The first book deals with Henry’s heart, the second with his soul, and the third with his mind. The goals of these books are reaching young children with the truth of God’s Word and setting them on a good path for their lives. 

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I would be a child’s dog and make a difference in his or her life just by being me. I’d be there when he or she came home. I would dash to the door to meet him or her, and I’d show my love and concern at every turn of the child’s road. 

What is your favorite food?
Strawberries. I am so very glad they are no longer a seasonal item that is restricted to the springtime.  In every one of my grocery carts is a plastic, flip-top container of strawberries. My husband has caught on and does not return from the store without a box.

What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Self-doubt has been my greatest roadblock. “What if no one likes what I write?” is the question that once bothered me so much. Finally, I hope I have resolved that battle in my brain. I write because I need to write; it is good for me; and it helps me grow in the Lord.

I can’t control whether or not I am successful as far as others liking what I write. I do write to help people. That is always my first motivation. A few days ago, I returned to a doctor’s office to pick up some paperwork. The lady in charge of the paperwork and I know each other on a personal level.  We talked about many different things. I learned that her grandmother had recently passed away and that her mother had taken care of her for many years. Then, she shared that she had given That Was the Best Christmas! to her mother last Christmas. 

“Your book meant so much to my mother last year,” she said. “She told me that it was her best Christmas gift.”

Wow! That was a wonderful moment. A dear lady, who had been burdened with the care of an elderly person, enjoyed the stories in the Christmas book—that was a great moment.    

Tell us about the featured book.
The twenty-five stories in That Was the Best Christmas! were written approximately twenty years ago over many months. I had some ideas that I wanted to share about relationships, feelings, personalities, and God’s intervention in our lives. So, I wrote little stories, not intending for them to ever be published together. But, it became increasingly clear that the stories, which are set at Christmastime, fit into different times in history. It was then that I interjected a bit of history into each and arranged them in order. My publisher at Cladach Publishing had the very good idea to add the endnotes that relate what happens beyond the story’s ending. 

How can readers find you on the internet?  
I blog with some other women on “Journeys to Mother Love.” I am one of nine women who wrote her testimony in a book by the same name. We write about the relationships we have had, or are having, with our mothers. And, we write about our experiences as mothers. 

I have a website, which is Greatfish Books. And, my email for writing is

My account in Goodreads will be activated shortly after Thanksgiving. 

Thank you for including me on your blog. I hope that my answers have been helpful. And, to you and the readers, I wish the best Christmas—one filled with the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It is my pleasure and great blessing to introduce you to my readers.

Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.
That Was the Best Christmas! : 25 Short Stories from the Generations - Paperback
That Was the Best Christmas! 25 Short Stories from the Generations - Kindle

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

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Deanna Stevens said...

Being lost even when you are not is a little upsetting! We traded both cars within a few months, & one of them again in that 2 months & for weeks I had trouble remembering where i had parked my car.. would enjoy reading your book :)
dkstevensne AT outlook .com
Nebraska gal :)

Linda Kish said...

I got lost with my friend's kids in my car once. I panicked. It took me about 15 minutes to figure out where I was. I had made a wrong turn and ended up in a town I had only been in once before...a town filled with one way streets. Once I figured out the one street I knew, I was okay again.

I'd love to read all of these stories.


lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Mary Preston said...

A wonderful interview thank you.

I had to laugh at the restaurant having been supposedly moved. A fair assumption & one I could see myself making.

Mary P


Sheila Deeth said...

Fun interview, and that getting lost story certainly resonates. The number of times our school chess players took the scenic route to tournaments when I was driving them...

Sheila, Oregon, sheiladeeth at gmail dot com

Charlotte Kay said...

What a wonderful collection of Christmas time stories! It is awesome to see God's hand working to direct you to compile these when you did not write them with the intention of publishing them. That's a great testimony in itself of following His leading and not your own!!!!
Many Blessings and Smiles :) :) :)
Charlotte Kay, Georgia

PriviesAndPrims said...

I'm with you on the strawberries, but I drizzle chocolate on mine. :)

Doreen from Lancaster County, PA

Sm said...

I am very excited about your book with all the little stories with morals and a Christmas theme! Sm. wileygreen1(ay)yahoo(dot)com

sm said...

Sm here again with where I live. Oceanside CA. wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

A.R. Cecil said...

Dear readers, Thank you for coming along side me with that whole getting lost thing! Your responses confirmed my belief in the purpose for writing, which is to connect. As is quoted in SHADOWLANDS--the movie and the book about C.S. Lewis' life--"We read to know we are not alone."

A.R. Cecil said...

Dear Charlotte,
Thank you for your kind remarks. I am very pleased to hear you are enjoying the Christmas stories.

God has been good to me. As you pointed out, the very best part of writing is to see God's hand in it and--even if it takes a long while--His timing.

Blessings on your Christmas, A.R.Cecil

Sharon Richmond Bryant said...

Enter me!!
Conway, SC.

Melanie Backus said...

Thank you for a great interview, Lena!

Melanie Backus,TX

apple blossom said...

Thanks for the chance to win sounds like a good book
live in ND

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the giveaway!
Sydney Harries GA

Judy said...

I enjoyed the interview. Wouldn't it be great to be a child's puppy? I loved that answer you gave!

Judy B from Indiana