My Top Ten Favorite Christmas Stories

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Stack of books and other presents in basket. Christmas decoratioby Tamera Lynn Kraft

After all the decorations are put up and the cookies are baked and the presents are wrapped than to sit down with a classic Christmas story that you remember from your childhood Christmases. Here are my top 10 favorite classic Christmas stories of all time.

10. Christmas Day In the Morning by Pearl S. Buck: A classic tale about how showing love to the people closet to us is the most important Christmas gift we could ever give. You can read it online at this link.

9. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg: This newer classic tells a story about a boy learning the importance of belief. Every year, hundreds of children are taking train rides across the country because of this story. A couple of years ago, I took the same train ride with my grandchildren. The first thing they did when the got home was too hand their bells on the Christmas tree.

8. The Little Match Stick Girl by Hans Christian Anderson: This is such a sad tear jerker about a poor little girl who gets to have the Christmas of her dreams. I remember the first time I read it as a young girl. The story stuck with me. To this day, I believe I am more charitable to those who have nothing partly because of this story. Don’t read it unless you have tissues handy.

7. The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke: The wise man who didn’t make it to birth of Christ in time finds out why Jesus really came to Earth. I remember reading this in Junior High School and how it brought alive the Christmas story in my heart.

6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss: Before the movie with Jim Carey and before the cartoon we watched every Christmas season, there was this great story book written by Dr. Seuss. “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” Who could ever forget this line from this classic story?

5. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry: The best Christmas romance ever written. It shows how we sacrifice for the ones we love. I remember thinking when I first read this as a young girl that if I found a romance like this, I had found true love. Now that I’m an adult who has been married for many years, I’d have to say that I have found true love like this.

4. Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore: This original story about Santa Claus was a poem originally called A Visit from Saint Nicholas. It was originally printed in 1823 and has served to establish our modern version of Santa Claus. It also is the first time the eight reindeer were actually named. I doubt those same 8 reindeer are still living, but maybe their descendants were named similarly. Since Rudolf didn’t appear until a story book was written about him in 1939, obviously this happened before Rudolf saved the day.

3. The Tale of Three Trees by Author Unknown: This folklore story tells about three trees who served a great purpose. The first tree wanted to hold the greatest treasure in the world. The second tree wanted to be a strong ship for mighty kings. The third tree wanted to be the tallest tree in the forest. Each tree thought it’s wish didn’t come true, but in reality, each tree ended up fulfilling its purpose in a way it never imagined. Angela Hunt wrote a novel based on this story.

2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: This story of repentance set at Christmas times is the best Christmas story other than the real story in the Bible. Scrooge is a mean stingy old man who is visited by three spirits where he learns the true meaning of Christmas. This story has been made into many movie adaptations, but the original novel is far better than any of them because it shows Scrooge’s redemption from the first visit. By the time the ghost of Christmas future visits, Scrooge is a changed man.


1. The Bible Nativity Story:  This is the story of Christmas. Without Christ being born in Bethlehem, this would be a very dark world.

(Luke 2:1-21)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.


What Would You Do…?

by Carole Brown

…if someone wanted to kill your baby? 61VMxm17AQL

  • Mary and Joseph fled.
  • In the Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, Cara is mad with grief and anger at the death of her oldest daughter. A tough read? Yes, but well worth seeing what happens to this sorrowing mother.


…if you had to give up your business in a hurry? Or face destruction?sabataged-christmas1-front-cover3

  • Joseph did. He and Mary had to flee to Egypt to escape the wrath of the King and begin again in his carpentry business.
  • In Sabotaged Christmas, Toni DeLuca must find the person casting doubt on her beloved father before her business is ruined and Christmas won’t be coming to Appleton, WV for her employees.


…if you were told you were having a baby, but you had no idea (at first) how it’d happened?front-cover1-w-apple-blossom

  • Mary did. She heard the angel’s proclamation, but told no one and kept everything hidden in her heart, pondering.
  • Starli Cameron was always told she couldn’t have a baby, but was it the truth? Only time would tell…after the struggles from the past vanished.


…if valuable items were given to you by kings?front-cover

  • Baby Jesus was visited by the three Magi and given precious gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
  • Caroline‘s friend, Andy, had valuable paintings, but Caroline disdained them. When one is stolen, she’s pushed into a mystery that proves how valuable paintings (and relationships) can be.  


…if you were suspicious of three foreign kings who visited you?WMITH Bk Cover small-Modified earrings

  • King Herod was, afraid that a new baby would take his place someday.
  • Tyrell Walker in With Music in Their Hearts had a reason to be suspicious of so many in the boarding house. After all, there was a foreign spy determined to wreck havoc to the U.S.


…if you were about to lose what you loved?A Flute In The Willows-2 Front cover

  • Mary and Joseph were. Baby Jesus was a precious gift from God. They were assigned a duty to raise him, and they would do anything to keep him safe.
  • Jerry and Josie thought they were losing each other, and both were determined to battle the war for their lives and their souls. 


Interest peaked?

Read St. Luke Chapter 2 to find the answers to the above questions.

Go here to find my books that hopefully will keep you reading and warm through the coming winter! 

Amazon Author Page

Merry Christmas!

christmas journey


Your Novel’s Details

by Carole Brown

elephant forget free

Have you ever read a book that has the details wrong? And I’m not just talking about historical details, but mundane details that you didn’t catch when writing–even editing–your manuscript. Examples:

  • You wrote that an event happened on Wednesday, but a couple chapters later, on that same Wednesday, you wrote a totally, and unusable, event happening at the same time?
  • Or what about forgetting to finish a subplot detail by not following through with a satisfactory solution?
  • Did you ever change a name and find out you missed a time or two where he/she’s referred to as the previous name? Ouch!
  • Or start out with the main character’s eyes blue and finish up with a green-eyed protagonist?


If you’ve ever read about this happening and don’t want it to happen to you, or you know you’ve missed a few things in your manuscript, then may I suggest a couple ideas:

 1. Choose a paid-for program that works for you. There are different ones that are available that can give you guidance and steer you in the direction needed to keep all your manuscripts details clear and in order.  Depending on the money you want to invest, it can go from inexpensive to very expensive.

To those who like having it all set up for you in advance and have the money to spend, this is the way to go. There are all kinds of apps out there with varying prices. Google or ask other writers to find out what would work best for you.

programs free


I’ve heard good things about Evernote (basic is free; premium costs a decent price). Use it to keep track of your characters by using tags and keywords: eye and hair colors, photos of possible character look-alikes, clothes, styles, etc., and articles of research that you want to keep and refer to later in your work.

Scrivener: a writing software where you write without worrying about formatting. You also have the ability to use tags and keywords, clip websites, store photos and other research material. It can outline with text or a simulated cork board with index cards. You also have the added benefit of it tracking your daily quota of writing.


2.  Create your own “program” where you keep a detailed list of what’s happening, when, where and who.  This is the one I want to focus on today.

checklist free




First:  you’ll need to decide what you’ll use for your Details List: post it notes, whiteboard, index cards, spreadsheet, physical notebook, etc. Use these to help you:

  • Keep track of all characters, including minor characters who may appear only as a mention or very little in your book. List their names, ages, looks, habits, character traits, quirks, relationships (past and present) and anything else you might want to attribute to them and that helps you understand them better. You may not use everything, but it’s valuable for you to determine why and how your character acts the way he/she does.

Example: It’s easier than some realize to forget a minor character’s name, what color of eyes you first used, etc. I changed a minor character’s name in one book and couldn’t remember what it was. Another time, I changed a pretty important character from one position to another, from one name to another, then back again. Details like this are so much easier to remember when you have your handy, detailed lists.


character2 free


  • Keep track of what happens in each chapter. Some events or thoughts or actions may need follow up in later chapters. This helps you to not miss anything that needs to be visited again.

Example: this saves tons of time when you need to double check something to make sure what you previously wrote vibes with what you’re ready to write (rather than having to scroll through pages trying to find that particular scene).

book chapter free



  • Keep track of all major scenes in your book. This is a more specific listing that keeps you right in line to where you’re headed. You can follow the scenes and know whether you’ve left out any vital action, thought or words that would help clarify it or make it even more realistic.

Example: Recently, I wrote a scene of which I had that vague sense it wasn’t quite what I wanted. But in the push to finish the book, I went on writing. When the first draft was finished, I realized details weren’t as they should be in that one scene. I went back through and rewrote it twice before I came close to being satisfied with it.

Praise on the Bible


  • Keep track of timeline. Obviously, this is a biggie. Writers have to keep track of the time events happen, whether it’s minor or major. Readers are sharp. They can pick up a major error like this easily if they’re detail-oriented. It’s an author’s obligation to make sure their story’s timeline is “time-right.”

Example: Is it on Sunday morning before church or after an evening meal when the bad guy is taken to jail? Sometimes, especially when you switch viewpoints, you can overlap actions and times from various characters, but when it comes to certain actions or the same character, you have to consider that he just might not be able to scale Mount Everest the same time he’s eating luncheon with his girlfriend. Keep it straight with your list!

timeline free


  • Keep track of your plot.  Make sure you’re headed in the right direction. There will be changes and sidelines that create an even better story, but you want to remember that by keeping track of your plot, it will help keep you in line for a satisfactory ending. Every line, every scene, every chapter should lead to the ending of your plot.

Example:  In a couple of my books, I realized, the closer I got to the end, that the bad guy wasn’t the one I’d planned for when I first commenced writing the book. Because I kept track of my plot–which didn’t change–changing the character worked fine.



There are many other things that can be added to your lists, but the main thing is, keep track, however you decide to do it. I like simple and easy, so going my own way (preparing my own lists–usually with physical notebooks or cards) works for me.

However you decide to go, I think you’ll find this a great idea. Many times writers want to write and not be bothered or “distracted” with lists and such. But I encourage you to give it a try. I had the same mentality once I seriously began writing novels. It didn’t take long for me to realize I needed help…and lists was the way to go.

Questions? Ask. If I know the answer, I’ll be glad to respond. If I don’t I’ll try to find the answer. Best to you as you work on your manuscript!

A New Mystery Book from Karen Robbins

by Carole Brown

Karen has some fun mystery books, and here’s her newest! 

The second book in her Annie Pickels Story

Pickle Dilly

IMG_4901 (800x600)

Links to purchase books:

In A Pickle:

Pickle Dilly:



KAREN ROBBINS is a writer, author, and speaker. She and her husband are travel addicts and many of her stories are enriched by their adventures in different parts of the world. She has written six novels, collaborated on two non-fiction books and contributed often to Chicken Soup For The Soul books. She is currently working on a Christmas novella, A Pocketful Of Christmas. While the world is fun to explore, Karen most likes to spend time with her grandchildren. They offer the greatest adventures of all.


Catch up with Karen at her blog, Wandering Writer (, Twitter (, Facebook ( or Amazon (


Happy Reading


Writing the Book Blurb

by Carole Brown

book, old writing free


A book blurb is one of the most important items of a marketing plan. Without it, you will find it harder to “sell” your book to agents, editors and readers. Here are a few thoughts of how to create an excellent one:



Introduce your main character(s). Use the names they’ll go by in your book. Keep it simple. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, you don’t need to go into detail about their personality.

character free

Reveal the genre. Again keep it brief. Set the tone or mood of the book. Mystery? Romance? Sci-fi? Thriller?

WMITH Bk Cover small-Modified earrings

Reveal the main conflict. Most books have subplots but they won’t need (usually) to be mentioned here. In one sentence show the problem. Will the detective be able to find the thief? Can the hero save the heroine’s life (or vise versa 🙂 ) etc. Many times this will begin with one of these words:  Until. But. However.


Hook the reader’s curiosity.  Is all lost when another man shows up and does what the hero should have done? Is the detective a failure because his main suspect turns out to be innocent?

curious free

Give the reader a hopeful possible. This “longshot” will give your reader hope that all is not lost and keep them reading.


Book blurbs should not be too long nor too short. Fifty words at most; Twenty-five to thirty words is a perfect sized blurb. Keep to these main facts, edit and you should have a winner. 

Happy Writing!


List of 35 Must Read Young Adult Fiction

Many of the books on most Young Adult reading lists are not acceptable for a Christian teen or preteen to read because of the content. Here is my must read YA list. YA consist of books for ages 10 – 18, so it has a wide span. This list doesn’t consist only of Christian books, but they all have Christian principles or a Christian worldview. Because each parent’s standards are different, I’ll leave it to you which books your teen should read and at what age each book is appropriate. I’ve listed them in order of what I consider age appropriate.

Pipi Longstocking Series by Astrid Lindgren

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol

Anne of Greene Gables Series by LM Montgomery

Chronicles of Narnia Series by CS Lewis

A Wrinkle in Time Series by Madeleine L’Engle

Wizard of Oz Series by L. Frank Baum

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

William Henry is a Fine Name and I’ve Seen Him in the Watchfires by Cathy Gohlke

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Silas Marner by George Eliot

Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavin

The Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan

The Hagenheim Series by Melanie Dickerson

If We Survive by Andrew Klavin

The Giver Series by Lois Lowry

Diary of Anne Frank (non-fiction, but still a good book)

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Christy by Catherine Marshall

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Homelanders Series by Andrew Klavin

The Lost Books Series by Ted Dekker

Watershed Down by James Ashton

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Outsiders by SE Hinton

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

100 Must Read Works of Fiction

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

I’ve seen a lot of lists of books everyone should read before they died. Many times I was disappointed certain books weren’t on the list or that other books were. I decided to make my own fiction list everyone should read. It is in alphabetical order according to title. Comment how many of these you’ve read and if you think I should have added any.

  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  3. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  5. Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
  6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  7. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  8. Anne of Green Gables Series by LM Montgomery
  9. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
  10. Atonement by Ean McEwan
  11. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  12. Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Willhelm Grimm
  13. And Then There were None by Agatha Christie
  14. Atlas Shrugged by Ann Rand
  15. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  16. Christie by Catherine Marshall
  17. Circle Series by Ted Dekker
  18. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  19. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  20. Emma by Jane Austin
  21. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  22. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  23. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  24. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  25. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  26. Hind’s Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard
  27. His Brother’s Keeper by Charles M. Sheldon
  28. Hondo by Louis L’Amour
  29. Hounds of the Baskervilles by Sir Author Conan Doyle
  30. In His Steps by Charles M. Sheldon
  31. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  32. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  33. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  34. Left Behind Series by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
  35. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  36. Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  37. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  38. Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke
  39. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  40. Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C Douglas
  41. Mark of the Lion Series by Francine Rivers
  42. Much Ado about Nothing by William Shakespeare
  43. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  44. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  45. Persuasion by Jane Austin
  46. Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti
  47. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  48. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
  49. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
  50. Riven by Jerry Jenkins
  51. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  52. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  53. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin
  54. Shane by Jack Schaefer
  55. Silas Marner by George Elliot
  56. South Pacific by James A. Michener
  57. Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  58. Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe
  59. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  60. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  61. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  62. The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett
  63. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  64. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  65. The Cantebury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  66. The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  67. The Chronicles of Narnia Series by CS Lewis
  68. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
  69. The Covenant by Beverly Lewis
  70. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
  71. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  72. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  73. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
  74. The Lord of the Rings Series by  J. R. R. Tolkien
  75. The Hobbit by  J. R. R. Tolkien
  76. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  77. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
  78. The Metamorphosis by Frank Kafka
  79. The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe
  80. The Outsiders by SE Hinton
  81. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  82. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
  83. The Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flannigan
  84. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  85. The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis
  86. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  87. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  88. The Time Machine by HG Wells
  89. The Virginian: The Horseman on the Plains by Owen Wister
  90. This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti
  91. To Build a Fire by Jack London
  92. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  93. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Sevenson
  94. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  95. Twice Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  96. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Tubman
  97. War of the Worlds by HG Wells
  98. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  99. When the Heart Calls by Cindy Woodsmall
  100. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte