Elizabeth’s Christmas Eve Gift

Elizabeth’s Christmas Eve Gift is a vintage Christmas story by Chesna L. Smith.

As if they were playing a game of verbal tag, the members of the Miller family always tried to be the first to shout “Christmas Eve Gift!”

Spend Christmas Eve with young cowgirl, Elizabeth on the  Miller ranch in the 1920s to discover how in the midst of everyday chores, good ol’ cowboy humor and the ranch animals remind her of the true meaning of Christmas.

From the wide-eyed wonder of the little believer to the wiry grandmother with a sparkle in her eyes as she muses, “My dad told me that when I was little too,” the heartwarming story has generated responses from young and old alike.

Author Chesna Smith says:
The inspiration came from a story that my husband’s grandmother (Elizabeth Miller Smith) was told when she was a little girl.  Another family tradition was woven in when, after marrying my husband, I discovered that both our families grew up playing a peculiar game on Christmas Eve Morning!  Every member of the family would try to be the first to shout “Christmas Eve Gift.”  In theory if you “got” someone by saying it first, they were supposed to give you a present early.  However, no one ever got around to “paying up.”  The victory was in the thrill of knowing that they would have to wait a whole year before they had a chance to get you back. Neither family really knows where the tradition came from.

Chesna, who grew up in Oklahoma, says, “For as long as I can remember I wanted to grow up and be a cowgirl,  I don’t know if I will ever get there, but it sure has been fun trying.

Illustrators are Shawna Wright,  Clayton, NM, and Ben Miller, nephew of the late Elizabeth Miller Smith, who lives on the Miller Ranch where this story took place.

Come along with Elizabeth and see how in the midst of everyday life she discovers the greatest gift of all.

Meet Award-Winning Children’s Author Donna McDine

 Donna McDine is an award-winning children’s author, Honorable Mention in the 77th and two Honorable Mentions in the 78th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competitions and Preditors & Editors Readers Poll 2010 – Top Ten – Children’s Books category – The Golden Pathway.

Her stories, articles, and book reviews have been published in over 100 print and online publications. Her interest in American History resulted in writing and publishing The Golden Pathway. Donna has two more books under contract with Guardian Angel Publishing, The Hockey Agony and Powder Monkey. She writes, moms and is the Editor-in-Chief for Guardian Angel Kids and Publicist for the NWFCC from her home in the historical hamlet Tappan, NY. McDine is a member of the SCBWI and Musing Our Children.







Thank you for this interview, Donna.  Do you remember writing stories as a child or did the writing bug come later?  Do you remember your first published piece?

A: When I was a child, I enjoyed watching the television program, Lou Grant with my dad, and became mesmerized on how a reporter put a story together and I dreamed of becoming a reporter one day. For some reason or another, I did not follow this early dream and worked in administration for several Fortune 500 companies for many years. Not until I came across the Institute of Children’s Literature aptitude test in 2006 did my dream of becoming a writer reawaken.

What do you consider as the most frustrating side of becoming a published author and what has been the most rewarding?

A: The waiting. I am very much hurry up, let’s get it done mentality. Over the last several years I’ve learned that patience is truly a virtue. My most rewarding experience was the day my children acknowledged me as a children’s writer to an adult I was having a conversation with.

Are you married or single and how do you combine the writing life with home life?  Do you have support?

A: Balance, balance, and some more balance. To find it at times with (as many fellow writers) the responsibilities of wife, mother, daughter, friend and my work as a virtual assistant can be quite daunting at times. Even though summer vacation is in full swing I find it essential to rise at least two hours before my children, so I can get my exercise, shower, and writing in. By the time the girls rise, I’m all set to have breakfast with them and then I’m ready to switch gears to my virtual assistant position with International Business Leaders Forum. This way I can remain much more focused on my VA work when I get my writing session in first. Oh and yes, this isn’t the army, so there are times my schedule gets thrown out of whack depending on what the day throws me (i.e., basketball camp and F.I.T. camp car pools).

Can you tell us about your latest book and why you wrote it?

A: Be transported through time to the Underground Railroad, where high-pitched screams echo each night. David’s cruel Pa always chooses the same victim. Despite the circumstances during slavery, David uncovers the courage to defy his Pa. Raised in a hostile environment where abuse occurs daily, David attempts to break the mold and befriends the slave, Jenkins, owned by his Pa. Fighting against extraordinary times and beliefs, David leads Jenkins to freedom with no regard for his own safety and possible consequences dealt out by his Pa. I have always been fascinated by American History and it was a natural pull for me.

Can you share an excerpt?

A: He crept into the barn. A sweaty odor clung heavily in the air. His first attempts to help Jenkins hadn’t gone well. Jenkins use to cringe when he saw David. Fearful he was there to inflict another beating. But over time, David gained Jenkins’ trust with promises he was not there to harm him, but to help. Tonight, the wounds from the whip were worse than ever. The welts looked like caterpillars lodged under his skin. David dared not touch the wounds with his bare hands, afraid his calluses from farming would make the welts worse.

Where’s your favorite place to write at home?

A: The dining room table away from my computer. This way I am not distracted by email and because the natural light fills the room.

What is one thing about your book that makes it different from other books on the market?

A: Even though there are illustrations, The Golden Pathway is not a picture book, but rather a story book geared towards 8-12 years old.

Tables are turned…what is one thing you’d like to say to your audience who might buy your book one day?

A: The protagonist David shows that we can overcome negative influences with love and perseverance.

Thank you for this interview, Donna. Good luck on your virtual book tour!

Thank you to Cheryl C. Malandrinos of Pump Up Your Book Promotion for this original interview.

VBT – Writers on the Move continue to swirl through cyberspace, visit with Dallas Woodburn on June 9th at http://dallaswoodburn.blogspot.com as she features Jennifer Gladen .

The Grandmother Who Flew as a Dragon

My guest today is Franses Hermann of Missoula, Montana, author of The Grandmother Who Flew as a Dragon, a delightful fantasy children’s book.

Where did your dragon stories come from?

Originally I started telling stories to my grandson Sean when he was very little. He was only a few years old, and like a lot of little boys, very interested in dragons. We used to take long walks, and he would point out various places where he thought a dragon might hide, and I would tell him about that particular type of dragon living there. Several years later, when his younger sister Rhyan was born, the stories became longer, and after I had my cardiac death it was suggested I should write. That is when I started to embroider a little on the basic tales and write them down.

Tell us a little of your background, where you came from, and if you’ve always been a storyteller.

I was born in Rotterdam, Holland’s largest harbor. There I lived for the most part in various foster homes until my mother came and picked me up, She had rented an apartment in a Jewish neighborhood and we lived there together till I turned six. I did not do well in school, and mother was not doing too well financially. Besides, Rotterdam was under attack continuously. Mother packed up a few of our belongings and we went up north to stay with my grandmother. It did not last either, so we went off to the Hague and moved into the same boarding house where my sister lived at the time. It was a bad experience for me, and was glad when we found a small little rowhouse and moved again. When I was eight, my father was back in the picture. We moved one more time before we made the big move back to my mother’s neck of the woods.

The Grandmother Who Flew as a Dragon is your first in a series. Are you working on a second book?

I am working on book two, wherein the second dragon head tells of his life as a horse in Ireland. Book three goes back to Rhyan, who is now a college student, while Sean is living in his grandmother’s cabin.

How did you find your publisher, Stoneydale Press?

When we (The Montana Writers Guild) did our first anthology, I was the one checking out various options and Stoneydale was one of them. I like Dale (Burk), and knowing that I would not be able to handle the business end, I chose him when I wanted to self-publish the book.

What do you do to market your book?

I wish I could say I have had a high pressure campaign going. I have done some readings. I am very good at reading, and have been told that I have a pleasant voice to listen to. I wish I could do an audio book.

Have you written in any other genre besides children’s stories?

I am writing my memoirs, and have written some stories where the center point is a run-down bistro that I bought on a trip back home. I had a short story, “Hometown” published in the Montana Writers Guild anthology, A Blend of Voices.

Why do you like writing for children?

I love children, and have always been able to place myself in their world.

What advice would you give authors who want to write for children?

I am hardly  in a position to hand out advice, but one thing people must understand, that is more difficult to write for children than for adults. Children know a phony when they hear or read one.

I see that the cover art was done by your niece. Is she a professional artist?

Yes, my niece, who lives in Amsterdam, is an artist. Check her out on the web. Ella Gersteling.

The Soggy Town of Hilltop

Today we welcome Kevin McNamee, who will be talking about his children’s picture book, The Soggy Town of Hilltop.

Kevin McNamee is a writer and poet living in Yonkers, NY.   He primarily writes for the children’s market.  Kevin’s published work includes the picture books, If I Could Be Anything, The Sister Exchange, Lightning Strikes, The Soggy Town of Hilltop and What Is That Thing?

Kevin’s poetry has been published in the collection, An Eyeball in My Garden: And Other Spine-Tingling Poems.  Other titles coming soon by Kevin include My Brother, the Frog, Papa’s Suns, Just for Today, and more.

Kevin, what is this book about?

The High Council of Hilltop gets bored, so they decide to start making up rules for their own amusement.  The latest rule demands that people drink water by pouring it on top of their heads.  The townspeople try to drink water this way, but are not very successful at it.  It takes a child to inform the townsfolk exactly how silly this new rule is.

What message are you trying to convey in this book?

Sometimes, following the crowd isn’t the best thing to do.  People need to think for themselves.  Being that this book contains advanced concepts; the age range is listed as 4 through 10.  As children attend school and participate in other activities outside the home, they are bound to be exposed to peer pressure and other outside influences.  This is an excellent time to educate children about these pressures and to give them the tools and guidance so they can make good choices.

Do you think this book can help children with that?

I believe it does.  I tried to use an extreme and funny example to illustrate a problem that could easily solved by independent thinking.  During book readings and school visits, children have always able to recognize what the problem is in the story.  Like the main character in my story, children come to the conclusion that this situation isn’t right.  With this realization, children express why it isn’t right, and draw parallels to situations in their own lives.

Is it hard to write a picture book?

A picture book may be short, but it is by no means easy.  It still has to have all of the elements of a longer story.  I need to pay attention to plot, dialogue, pacing, character development, etc, all while using the least amount of words possible.  When I’m writing a rhyming picture book, it adds another level of difficulty to the process.  I have to consider rhyme and meter as well as all the other elements of a story.  It’s quite a juggling act, but when it all comes together, the extra effort is worth it.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I think that when children learn to think for themselves, they are more likely to make good choices.  I may use humor to talk about this issue, but I think it is a very serious concept for both children and adults.

I had a lot of fun writing this book, so I hope you have just as much fun reading it.

The Soggy Town of Hilltop by Kevin McNamee, Illustrations by Eugene Ruble

Print ISBN 13: 978-1-61633-041-5

eBook ISBN 13: 978-1-61633-042-2

“You want us to do what?!!!”

This fun, rhyming picture book teaches more than just a new way to drink water.

The High Council of Hilltop wants the people to learn a new way to drink.  But when the people find out why, everyone has something new to learn.

This book is available as a print book, a downloadable e-book, and a book on CD from guardianangelpublishing.com at http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/soggy-hilltop.htm.

Books are also available at amazon.com.

You can also find this book and others by Kevin at barnesandnoble.com, or ask your local bookstore.

What Others Are Saying

The Soggy Town of Hilltop is a funny, rhyming story by Kevin McNamee…What I really like about The Soggy Town of Hilltop is that McNamee spells out the lesson in the end for readers. There isn’t any second guessing as to what the point is. Like one of Aesop’s fables, the moral of the story is in plain sight. The illustrations in this one are equally funny and beautiful. Eugene Ruble does such an excellent job of bringing a story to life with his artwork. – The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection


Told in amusing rhyme, children’s author Kevin McNamee will have the reader laughing out loud and wondering how people would follow ridiculous rules so blindly. Coupled with the unique illustrations by Eugene Ruble, The Soggy Town of Hilltop will soon be a must have for our young muses. – Reviewed by Donna M. McDine for The National Writing for Children Center.


Rather than teaching us a new way to drink, The Soggy Town of Hilltop illustrates the danger, and sometimes even the stupidity, of bowing to peer pressure, something that both youngsters and adults should remember. – Home School Book Review


This is a fun, rhyming story that teaches young readers just because somebody tells you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, it doesn’t mean you have to and Eugene Ruble’s illustrations give the story a classic fairy tale feel, sure to become a bedtime favorite. – Examiner.com

To find out more about Kevin, please visit his website at http://www.kevinmcnamee.com or visit his blog at http://www.kevinmcnameechildrensauthor.blogspot.com.

You can also find Kevin on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/kevin.mcnamee.author.

Kevin is also on Linked-In and Twitter, but he admits that he doesn’t tweet much.

Published in: on April 9, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (13)  
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