Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Becky Melby has been married to Bill, her high school sweetheart, for 38 years. They have four married sons and eleven fabulous grandchildren. Becky has co-authored nine books for Heartsong Presents and a Barbour Publishing novella. She is currently working on a contemporary fiction series with a historical thread for Barbour. Her favorite pastimes are spoiling grandkids and taking trips with Bill in their RV or on their Honda Gold Wing. To find out more about Becky or her books, visit her at beckymelby.blogspot.com/ or http://www.melby-wienke.com/.

Cynthia Ruchti writes and produces the daily radio broadcast THE HEARTBEAT OF THE HOME and is editor of the ministry's magazine Backyard Friends. She is the 2009-2010 president of American Christian Fiction Writers. Her debut novel--THEY ALMOST ALWAYS COME HOME--released in spring of 2010 from Abingdon Press. Her second book--A DOOR COUNTY CHRISTMAS novella collection from Barbour Publishing--released in September 2010. She and her plot-tweaking husband live within 15 minutes of their three kids and five grandkids in the heart of Wisconsin.

Eileen Key is an ACFW success story. Since 2003, she has published numerous devotionals and articles as well as three books: Dog Gone, Barbour; Door County Christmas, Barbour: Forget-Me-Not, Avalon. Eileen’s humorous approach to life has carried her through tough times: including rejections! She lives near her three grown children and two amazing grandchildren (one more on the way). She is an active member of Grace-San Antonio Community Church. To Eileen, life is all about relationships: knowing people and showing them the way toward Christ. To learn more about Eileen, visit her at http://www.eileenkey.com/

Rachael, a church music director, began her unplanned writing career when the church secretary demanded newsletter articles at gunpoint. The pastors hated this task, but she loved writing humor based on Christian music and the Bible. Soon she began writing a local newspaper column and take writing classes at Bethel College, Mishawaka, IN, graduating with degrees in professional writing and English in 2005.

Her connections there resulted in her first biography in Barbour’s Heroes of the Faith series, Frederick Douglass. She has written three other Barbour biographies (Billy Sunday, Saint Augustine, and Well with My Soul (four hymn writers), as well as more than 400 newspaper columns, devotions, stories, and articles for magazines such as Today’s Christian Woman and Afictionado, as well as Pearl Girls, Guideposts, and other collections. She has co-authored a Barbour reference guide Women of the Bible with Carol Smith and Ellyn Sanna that will release in February 2011 and will publish a second Christmas novella in A Quaker Christmas in September 2011 with Ramona Cecil, Lauralee Bliss, and Claire Sanders. Her awards include the Erma Bombeck Global Award for humor and the 2007 Genesis award for Young Adult Fiction.

"Ride with Me into Christmas," Rachael’s novella in the A Door County Christmas collection, is her first published fiction. She and Steve, her high school sweetheart and husband of thirty-five years, did extensive research on their tandem bicycle for this story. They have not crashed—so far. They have three grown children and four-going-on-five perfect grandchildren.

Rachael loves to visit with her reader friends on-line at www.rachaelwrites.com, her Facebook author page, Twitter and Blog.

We’re focusing on Christmas all this month! What do you most associate with Christmas where you live?

: Snow! I love driving around at night looking at Christmas lights against a snow-covered landscape.

Cynthia: I live in the heart of Wisconsin, so we’re used to a fresh, moonlit snowfall, evenings by the fire, hot cocoa with lots of whipped cream, snowy mohair sweaters on the shoulders of the trees, and cancelled Christmas programs because of the ice storms and bad roads!

Eileen: The sparkling Riverwalk where trees are donned with beautiful lights. Great food including lots of tamales! My family! They live close by and I see them often.

Rachael: My husband and I have only lived here a year, so we’re welcoming new Christmas signposts. We live near Taylor University, a small Christian school, which bursts with Christmas concerts and celebrations that we enjoyed thoroughly last year. We’re also anticipating the friendly Christmas light competition between our two retired neighbors—one already has set up her display!

Do you have any special family traditions you do at Christmas time?

Becky: We stuff stockings for each of our four sons, their wives, and our eleven grandkids. The dollar store is always thrilled to see us coming!

Cynthia: I have a cassette tape we sometimes play (I need to get that out and convert it to digital!) of my daughter (now 35) when she was three, telling the Christmas story with the most wonderful voice inflections: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in their fields and night. And LO!!!!!!!! The angel of the Lord came upon them…”

Eileen: When the kiddos were little, we baked a birthday cake for Jesus. We saved it for Christmas Eve, lit a candle in the middle and sang happy birthday. That reminds me, I could start doing that with grandkiddos!

Rachael: We love Christmas gatherings, dinner and gift exchanges at our house and usually attend a Christmas Eve service together. The years our children were teens and young adults, I wrote clues for a treasure hunt, and my husband scattered them throughout our house and yard for the kids to decipher together. These quests always ended on a spiritual note at our manger scene, with Christmas blessings—and checks—from Mom and Dad. Now, however, we have four preschool grandchildren. We’re learning to celebrate our Christmas chaos with joy—and gratitude when nobody ends up in the emergency room.

Do you have a favorite Christmas Carol and if so do you know why?

Becky: In every church I’ve attended, “Silent Night” is always the carol sung at the end of the Christmas Eve candlelight service. I love looking around at hundreds of flames and imagining them multiplied across the globe. Think how it looks from heaven! As a side note...when I was little I thought the song said, “sleep in heavenly peas.” I pictured Mary and baby Jesus sitting in a massive pile of green peas!

Cynthia: A modern Christmas carol that always moves me is “Mary, Did You Know?” I can’t write about it now without getting choked up, thinking of that new mama looking down into the face of God incarnate in her arms.

Eileen: “Silent Night” brings a catch to my throat whenever I hear it. Reminds me of my daddy. He loved Christmas!

Rachael: That’s like asking me if I have a favorite book or food—ALL of them! But I cannot picture Christmas without singing “Joy to the World.” In the Incarnation, Jesus invaded our dark planet, bringing His light. We can never be the same again.

If you could spend Christmas any way you could how would you celebrate?

Becky: Just the way we do—going to church, eating way too much, and filling the house with tons of kids and wads and wads of wrapping paper.

Cynthia: All my family gathered around me…taking naps. It gets pretty noisy around here with five small grandchildren. I would turn off the football games and listen to Christmas dulcimer or harp or acoustic guitar music. Then my wonderful sisters would show up with their families and we’d eat a fabulous array of Christmas hors d’oevers like little bitty lobster and avocado tacos, as we did one outrageous year.

Eileen: It would be fun to take my entire family to Door County and see the splendor of Lake Michigan surrounded by snow! What an awesome place.

Rachael: I fantasize about spending it in the Holy Land one year.

Do you have any special memories of Christmas?

Becky: In my high school years, I took part in a live nativity in front of our church. One night, as I stood on a bale of hay in an angel costume and furry white earmuffs, with a scratchy Christmas record playing in the background, it began to snow—huge flakes that drifted slowly down and landed on our eyelashes. Voices hushed in the still night air. It was an incredible “peace on earth” moment.

Cynthia: Many special Christmas memories…and most of them either involve music or children. One year, my oldest granddaughter arrived at the door and announced that she’d decided to give her heart to Jesus. I told her how happy I was and she answered, “Don’t get so excited, Grammie. I didn’t DO it. I just DECIDED.” It was her intention to wait to pray until we were all gathered together that day. It was a moment to remember.

Eileen: In 7th grade,my friends and I spent many Friday nights at the skating rink. I wasn’t fond of poking my toes in rented skates, but had no choice. Until Christmas Day. A new pair of white skates including blue pompoms. What a surprise!

Rachael: When my parents were missionaries in Mexico, we celebrated Christmas with a decorated thorn tree and homemade presents. My mother made clothes for my doll, Julie. Our little church had a piñata for the neighborhood children, and my parents rejoiced when the two poorest boys got top prizes—two big bags of candy (at five years of age, I thought my mom and dad should have routed for me!). My older brother received new shoes from a missionary barrel, and he gave his old ones to a shivering boy so overwhelmed with his good fortune that he stopped every few steps to look at his new Christmas shoes.

What does a typical Christmas Eve and or Christmas Day look like for you?

Becky: There is something very fishy about our Christmas Eve menu. Oyster stew was a family tradition I brought into our marriage. Later we added clam chowder. All night we graze on delicacies like crab dib, herring, and smoked salmon. Our daughters-in-law have added some new traditions—one makes a mean éclair ring, and the ones who don’t relish fish fare run out for Chinese take-out. After we’ve had more than our fill, we read the Christmas story, open stockings, and then gifts. At eleven o’clock, some of us head out for the midnight service. Now that our boys are married, they spend Christmas Day with their in-laws and my husband and I usually have a quiet, relaxing day filled with wonderful things like napping and nibbling leftovers.

Cynthia: Did I mention the football games? But there’s also lots of love and fun and food. We make quite a mess opening presents, and we wait for each person to open one at a time. As the family has grown and the bank account has shrunk, we’re spending more time focused on each other and conversation than on the mess-making.

Eileen: Christmas Eve is quiet now. My children are grown and are often with the in-laws. I usually camp out with my best friend, Caron, for her enchilada and tamale dinner. Christmas Day=hectic! The whole gang gathers at my daughter’s where we cook, eat, laugh, open too many presents and spend the day in fellowship.

Rachael: Fun and busy!! Since our house handles the crowd best, we have hosted five generations coming from four different states. Whoever makes it by Christmas Eve worships at the service with us. My husband and I usually sing in the choir—what a joy and privilege to worship Jesus on the eve of His birthday! The kids and babies are up early (and occasionally, all night) to greet Christmas. Before breakfast, we share the stockings I stuffed the night before, then have breakfast before the gift exchange under the tree. Depending on when everyone can arrive, we enjoy the traditional turkey dinner. My mother-in-law, bless her, still makes the pies and brings Christmas cookies! It’s a crazy day of playing with new toys and games, taking pictures, diapering and attempting naps, singing together, eating non-stop, and sharing each others’ lives, since geography keeps us apart much of the year. I love it, and I believe Jesus does, too. But He recovers from the party much faster than I do!

Do you have any Christmas movies or Christmas books you like to see or read each year?

Becky: “White Christmas” is a must.

Cynthia: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” always makes me smile and cry.

Eileen: “It’s A Wonderful Life.” I’ve never missed a year! And I cry when Clarence gets his wings!

Rachael: I try to study the biblical Christmas story from a fresh angle every year. If I can grab a few moments, I read Dickens’ Christmas Carol or John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas.
I love it when my girls, mother-in-law and I watch While You Were Sleeping. My husband’s 90-plus grandmother enjoyed it, too, before she became too feeble to join us. And I’m addicted to White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Christmas Story every holiday season.

Tell us a little about your book:

Becky: The main character, Jillian Galloway, thinks she’s heading to Door county to enjoy the fall colors and use her advertising skills to help promote her uncle’s dinner theater. When she arrives, she finds the theater closed for the season thanks to a leaky roof and missing staff and money. She’s determined to rescue the theater in time for Christmas, but a cast of oddball actors challenge her optimism and the only person who can help her save the day is a handsome and mysterious Brazilian she’s been warned not to trust.

Cynthia: A DOOR COUNTY CHRISTMAS is a novella compilation with good friends Rachael Phillips, Eileen Key, and Becky Melby. It’s set in charming Door County, Wisconsin, which is the peninsula thumb on Wisconsin’s mitten. It seemed the perfect setting for four romantic comedies. Each of us centered our story in one of the small tourist villages along the shoreline. My character’s story takes place in Egg Harbor. Amanda Brooks escapes Chicago, hoping for a quiet getaway. In one jaw-dropping moment, she’s drafted into managing The Heart’s Harbor Inn and its legendary Christmas Tea. Quirky guests, a bare-bones budget, and the innkeeper’s exasperating son make her wonder if Christmas and love have anything in common.

Eileen: Door County Christmas is a romantic comedy novella with four unique tales of love and laughter. Door County, Wisconsin is a beautiful area of small towns dotting the peninsula, each with their own flavor. A Victorian inn and a Christmas cactus tie the romances together.

Rachael: An offbeat innkeeper offers Joanna Flick a Christmas cactus, promising the flowerless plant—and hope—will bloom. A recent widow, Joanna can’t believe it. But new neighbor Paul Sorenson, a fifty-something flannel-shirt fanatic with a bad haircut, shares Joanna’s passion for bicycling through gorgeous Door County, Wisconsin, landscapes and faith in the One who created them. Will love flower this bleak winter, or will their Grinch-y grown children nip their Christmas romance in the bud?

Where did you get the idea for your book?

Becky (Christmas Crazy): Door County is known for the arts, so using a comedy dinner theater as the core setting for the story seemed fitting. After assembling a cast of unique characters, it was just a matter of creating obstacles for them to overcome.

Cynthia (The Heart’s Harbor): Becky Melby and I live in Wisconsin, though many hours apart. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that we both consider Door County one of our favorite getaway destinations. We invited Eileen and Rachael to come experience it for themselves on a research trip last fall, introducing Texan Eileen to the true meaning of the word COLD. My story—The Heart’s Harbor—had lived in my heart and computer files for a very long time, but needed complete reworking to incorporate how much I’d learned since then and turn it from a simple romance into romantic comedy.

Eileen (My Heart Still Beats): Cynthia Ruchti enticed me to join the group with stories of the scenic area. Once I spotted Ephraim, I was hooked. I did explain to my co-authors I’d never spent time up north and that morphed into a research trip. What a fun experience. I couldn’t fathom snow plows and icicles the size of my arm until I saw pictures and chatted with residents. (and sampled some cherry desserts!) I have such admiration for those who shovel their way to work during the winter months.

Rachael (Ride With Me Into Christmas): Many romances include conflicts that involve parental resistance. I thought an interesting twist in a Christmas romance might involve opposition from grown children who do not want their widowed parents to remarry. My female and male lead characters in Ride with Me into Christmas share an interest in cycling, as my husband and I do, which worked well in Door County’s beautiful vacation setting. I also placed them on a tandem bicycle for the first time, and like us, they learned lack of communication and cooperation can mean a crash!

Do you have a Christmas message for my readers?

Becky: May your time of preparation for the holidays be a joy-filled journey rather than a stress-filled stretch of days. I pray that each one of you will take the time to savor the small moments that make up this wondrous season—candlelight reflected in a child’s eyes as he sings “Silent Night,” or holding hands around the Christmas dinner table as you thank God for the gift of His Son. Merry Christmas...unto us a Child is born!

Cynthia: It strikes me that every glitzy thing the world displays at Christmas is a poor imitation of the sparkle of the original Star that guided the shepherds and the wise men. Every gift—no matter how extravagant—is peanuts compared to the gift of God’s Son. I don’t want to be dazzled this year by elegant displays or fancy gift-wrapping, but by the wonder that Jesus became a babe, a child, a Master, a Savior, and a coming King.

Eileen: S L O W D O W N The hurry and scurry of getting ready for “the big day” often leaves us frazzled and broke. In the grand scheme of life, is it really worth it? Memories of relationships are so much more important, in my opinion, than grandmother’s perfect pumpkin pie. Jesus told stories, He spent one-on-one time with people. I believe that’s what He’d want us to do on His birthday!

Thank you, dear friend, Lisa. Merry Christmas!!

Rachael: In Isaiah 61:2-3, God assures us that He desires “to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Jesus’ gift exchange is like no other!

Merry Christmas to you, too, Eileen!

These wonderful ladies are giving away a copy of their book Door County Christmas. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!


  1. Oh, THAT was fun! Thank you, Elizabeth, for allowing us to reminisce and chat here in your corner of cyberspace, a corner beautifully decorated for Christmas, by the way. When gathered for a Christmas meal and service project with a group of Baby Boomer friends a week ago, the stories abounded regarding Christmases past. To a PERSON, when talking about gifts they remembered, each one spoke of a gift that cost almost nothing in dollars (a wagon rescued from the dump and repainted, a single dollar bill from a financially challenged grandma, a doll made from scraps) but meant everything because of the heart behind it. Rejoicing this Christmas because of the God who gave everything when He gave His Son.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Cynthia! I had so much fun reading all about you ladies. Merry Christmas to you all.


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