Tag Archive | grace livingston hill

Writing Wednesday: Grace Livingston Hill and an Old Fashioned Christmas

Grace Livingston Hill is the grandmother of all of us inspirational romance authors. If you read or write inspirational fiction today, you owe Hill a tremendous debt. At the turn of the last century, when women were not always encouraged to work outside the home, a recently-widowed Hill was able to support herself and her child by writing stories that wove a message of faith together with delightful romance and dramatic suspense.

Her stories were like bread and butter to me growing up, and as I chronicled, led me to my path as an inspy romance writer. I have a few that will always be my favorites, but the one I want to talk about today is The Substitute Guest (1936). This is a Christmas story, and it was written in the middle of the Great Depression. We have a tendency nowadays to look back on this era and think, “Wow, they really knew how to celebrate Christmas back then,” but in Hill’s world, Christmas was a battle between crass materialism and meaning and faith even during the good old days.

Our hero, Alan Monteith, is headed to his girlfriend’s winter lodge to celebrate. But this celebration rings hollow:

There would be excitement and hilarity, there would be amusement and a wealth of unique variety. There would be luxury of eating and drinking and apparel, but it would not be Christmas, not real Christmas. (page 8)

Alan is waylaid on the way to his party when he attempts to do a good deed for a friend, and ends up snowbound with the Devereaux family, a mother and father and their two grown children. One of these children is Daryl, our heroine. She is fighting feelings of resentment and loss when her fiance blows her off for a drunken hotel party with his boss and coworkers. Alan is able to complete his errand with the help of the family, and ends up staying with them during the worst part of a blizzard.

During this blizzard, the Devereaux clan welcomes Alan as one of their own, and he gets the joy of celebrating a real, old-fashioned Christmas in the country.

There was a quiet sense of being shut in that gave security and a new kind of peace. He wasn’t going to feel badly if he had to stay the day out here among these delightful sincere people. He had a feeling as he woke that he was a little boy again waking on Christmas morning, with the thrill of anticipation that he used to feel as a child. It was great. He lay still for a little just to keep that delightful sense of expectancy. (page 141)

Sparks fly between Daryl and Alan as they realize how much they long for security and peace along with love. In order to embrace each other, they must cast aside all the worldly materialism that their respective lovers represent. And, as in any good inspirational story, the development of their faith is just as profound as the deepening of their love.

And no discussion of Hill’s books would be complete without mentioning the domestic coziness she weaves into every story. When I finish reading one of her books, I want to bake cookies, sew new curtains for the living room, and make a pretty flower arrangement in a pickle jar–all at the same time. Here’s a sweet passage from The Substitute Guest:

Simple breakfast, Mrs. Devereaux had said.

There was wonderful oatmeal, steamed all night until each grain stood out softly and separately, with Chrystobel’s cream to eat on it, cream almost as thick as the oatmeal. Eaten in old Haviland china saucers with springs of forget-me-not on them, and a silver spoon so old it was almost paper thin. Then there were hot rolls and doughnuts and coffee! Simple breakfast indeed! (page 153)

I always crave oatmeal after reading that passage. With cream, of course!

I have a battered old first edition of this book that I save every year to read throughout the season. It’s a warm and loving tale and if you haven’t read any of Hill’s books, first I must say shame on you, and then I must say “read this one!” It’s one of my favorite holiday traditions; in fact, I pack it away so I am not tempted to read it throughout the year.

What are your favorite Christmas stories? Tell me what stories you save up to read during the Christmas season, and I will enter you in a drawing to win one vintage copy of The Substitute Guest. Contest is open to US residents only; please include a valid email address when you comment. Contest ends December 1, 2012. I look forward to hearing about your favorite reads!

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Frugal Friday: Thriftindipity

Sometimes, I know that I just need to go thrifting. It can be a feeling that is triggered by not having thrifted in some time. It can be triggered even after several days of thrifting. I just know, by the pricking o’ me thumbs, that something amazing is awaiting me at a thrift store. And I have to go, until that feeling is satisfied.

The awesomeness can be something big, like the time I was literally pulled over to an authentic Hermes scarf.

The awesomeness can be something small but significant, like the time I was stuck with my writing career and a shelf of Grace Livingston Hill books beckoned to me like a beacon.

The need to thrift washed over me last week, when I was reading Sarah‘s blog Wearing It On My Sleeves, which is one of my favorite modest fashion blogs. She posted a blog about the nifty household treasures she’s found while thrifting. And just like that, I remembered how much I love finding unique things for my home…and I just knew something was out there waiting.

So on the pretense of needing new boots, and possibly finding a few new-to-me maxi skirts, I went to Arlington Resale.

And there they were. All three of them.

Gentlemen…behold!

This is all I could fit of the pantsuit on the scanner…trust me, her shoes are fab.

My favorite of the bunch.

This one is my daughter’s favorite.

These are honest to goodness, pencil and pen and ink fashion drawings from the 1970s. I nearly swooned when I saw them. They were hanging up next to the dressing rooms, and at first I thought they were just repros. Then I saw they were real. And as the black dots swirled before my eyes from a thrift-induced swoon, I grabbed them off the walls, hugged them to my chest, and took off for the cash register, boots and skirts forgotten.

And when I got them home, I popped the frames open. The drawings, which were cut unevenly out of their mat boards with an unwary x-acto knife, were ads for Kassab’s Department Store in Joplin, MO.

And now…they’re mine! Thriftindipity!

Writing Wednesday: How I Chose Inspirational Fiction…Or How It Chose Me

I don’t like to write a lot about CRAFT, because it makes me feel self-conscious and like I’m taking myself way too seriously. But a lot of people have written to me or asked me questions about writing, and I realize that there are a lot of questions about the industry that maybe I can answer. Or at least contribute to the conversation. I’ll try to address some of these questions by posting on Writing Wednesdays. Monday is now my weight loss blogging day, and Friday is still my frugal day. Are we good with the change-up? Great. Away we go…

Big Question #1: What is Inspirational Romance and Why Do You Write It?

Inspirational romance is a subgenre of romance fiction, in which the spiritual journey of the hero and heroine is as important to the development of the story as their romantic attraction. Inspirational romance can be contemporary, historical, suspenseful, or any combination of the above. Inspirational romance does not have overt sexual scenes, drinking, gambling, or anything else that might be considered offensive. Think of it as PG-rated, but also remember that there are some truly awesome films that are rated PG.

I started trying to write romantic fiction when I was at my local library and I saw just how much room was devoted to the romance novels. I always loved reading historical romance but never thought I could write it. I started researching he industry on a lark and thought I’d give it a whirl. I joined a critique group and they were amazing at helping me to improve my writing skills, which were woefully underdone at that point.

I realized that I simply wasn’t comfortable writing secular romance and felt stuck on what to do with my career. At the time, we were living in eastern North Carolina, and to clear my mind, I went for a drive. I stopped at a Salvation Army thrift store in Bayboro. If you read this blog, you know I cannot resist a thrift store, and this one always yielded treasures.

As I strolled around, I felt something calling out to me. I wandered around, and the feeling of being pulled grew ever stronger. I finally whirled around and spied what had been calling out to me–a shelf full of Grace Livingston Hill and Janette Oke books. The Hill books were beautifully bound in hardcover; the Oke books were the same trade paperbacks I had read so carefully as a girl in my mother’s bookstore. They were only 10 cents each, so I bought 2 shelves’ full. And that’s when I had my career epiphany–to write inspirational historical fiction.

These books and these authors brought me so much joy as a young girl–I wanted to perpetuate that joy and share that feeling with others.

And that’s why Lily George writes inspy romance–it all stems from a chance encounter with some dusty books at a Salvation Army thrift store.