today’s book: A Gift for All Time
We are continuing this year’s blog series spotlighting (over 70 this year) new and recently-released Christmas reads! This is the 7th year for the Christmas Reads Giveaway series, and I think I get more excited about it every year 🙂
Christmas is still 28 days away, according to Google, BUT it’s never too early for Christmas stories. Beginning now and continuing through just after Christmas, I’m going to spotlight several Christmasy releases from 2023. So… snuggle in, grab your fave hot beverage (wassail anyone?) and comfiest blanket, turn on some Christmas tunes and start your bookish Christmas list! And no doubt you know the drill by now – there are GIVEAWAYS with EACH POST in this series??!! (Because authors are awesome!)
A GIFT FOR ALL TIME by Tonya B. Ashley, Jenny Carlisle, and Ellen E. Withers
GENRE: Christmas Fiction Novella Collection (Christmas)
PUBLISHER: Scrivenings Press
RELEASE DATE: September 26, 2023
In Christian homes, one simple reminder of the real reason for the Christmas season has endured―a nativity set depicting the humble birth of our Savior. Varying in size and material, these little tableaus often become a treasured part of a family’s celebration to be passed down through generations.
In the 1840s, an immigrant family experiences a catastrophe in a violent storm. They escape the riverboat with their lives, but all of their possessions, including their treasured nativity are dumped into the Arkansas River. In the town of Van Buren, Arkansas, a young woman enlists a local blacksmith to help return the treasured symbol of hope to its owners as they continue to their destination of St. Louis, Missouri.
By the time the Civil War causes a massive identity crisis for our country, the nativity scene arrives in Mexico, Missouri, a little worse for wear. There, a soldier recovering from injuries sustained in the War, takes on the project of refreshing and restoring the set as a gift to his lady love.
Finally, in a new millennium, the nativity set has completed a full circle. This time, it turns up in the attic of an old church in the Arkansas River Valley, where a college student and her new friend work to restore the spirit of a forgotten little town. After more than a century, the symbol of the first and most holy family becomes the focus once again.
God’s perfect plan for mankind was fulfilled by the birth of his son in a stable in Bethlehem. A simple representation of this event reaches the hearts of each of its owners, spanning generations. God’s love never fails.
the traditions and symbols of a gift for all time
by Tonya B. Ashley, Jenny Carlisle & Ellen E. Withers, authors of A Gift for All Time
Carrie, thank you for hosting us on your blog today to share the traditions and symbols that inspired our novella collection, A Gift for All Time. The stories follow a nativity as it is lost and rediscovered throughout history. It first appears in Van Buren, Arkansas, in 1845, then travels to Mexico, Missouri, in 1861, and finally comes to rest in the fictional Arkansas River Valley town of Snowville in the present day.
Tonya B. Ashley kicks off the collection with Once Lost, Now Found. Set in 1845, in Van Buren, Arkansas, the novella shares the story of blacksmith Levi Snow and town newcomer Allie McLaughlin as they search for the owners of a nativity that appeared when a steamboat accident separated passengers from their belongings. As Levi and Allie show the nativity around town, the townsfolk are inspired to share their personal customs as they establish community Christmas traditions for the newly founded town.
Tonya, what inspired you to include community traditions in Levi and Allie’s journey?
I was honored when Jenny asked if I would be interested in writing about a lost nativity set. I thought a reverse treasure hunt would be a great idea—where the main characters have the special keepsake and need to find the owners. Of course, I also wanted Levi and Allie’s story to have a sense of community and holiday warmth. So, I drew on a tradition I’ve had with my boys since they were young. I call it “Free Day in Our Town.” We hop on a trolley two or three times a year and visit local museums, historic sites, nature centers, and anything with free admission. We make a whole day of it. We love the Christmas version best. The trolley is decked with holly and bows. Historic hotels are trimmed with dazzling trees. One in particular features a nutcracker collection and a life-sized gingerbread house. At museums and historical sites, we experience Christmas’s quiet and cozy side as reenactors share the stories behind many traditions and carolers regale visitors with nostalgic hymns of the season. It’s a day that stirs a sense of wonder and warm Christmas fuzzies.
What a great way to get into the spirit of the season! The second story in the collection is Carving Out Love, written by Ellen E. Withers. Ellen, you took a little inspiration from generations past, didn’t you?
I did, and what a blessing it was to be offered the chance to write a novella for the Christmas-themed collection A Gift for All Time. Jenny had a brilliant idea to feature a historic nativity from Germany as a family passed it down through the ages. With my German heritage, the concept thrilled me. The wooden nativities from the Bavarian region of Germany are hand-carved with a nativity scene at the base. Some are styled like a tower, while others feature an arch across the top. A popular design includes a fan of wooden paddles at the top and candles around the exterior of the base. The heat from the lighted candles turns the fan, which spins the nativity platform.
I was raised in Missouri, which has a strong representation of German immigrants. My hometown inspired my novella, the second in this collection. I incorporated its Civil War history into the love story of George and Alice. Carving Out Love opens with the nativity in Mexico, Missouri, in 1861, a little worse for wear. A soldier recovering from injuries sustained in the war takes on the project of refreshing and restoring her family’s nativity set as a gift to his lady love.
What a creative way to bring together a sense of family and hometown feel! The third story, Rejoicing with Joy, belongs to Jenny Carlisle. Jenny, is it true you drew on a childhood experience as inspiration for your novella?
It is. Since I was a small girl, Christmas has been more than a time to receive presents. I remember being a little frightened of the pageant at my elementary school. I’m fairly certain we attended each year, even before I was old enough to attend school. I wasn’t fond of people wearing costumes, particularly if they involved beards, like the “Three Wise Guys.” But I was still so impressed with the idea that God’s son was born in a manger and that the shepherds were told about the event by a group of angels singing in the night-time sky. The whole scene held as much or more fascination for me as any tale of a jolly old man who slid into the house through the chimney.
The thrill of a full-sized live nativity scene took hold for me when our small country church hosted an annual special event. Though our kids were too old to participate, most other children participated. Costumes were utilized year after year; the parents painted the scenery, and one of the older boys served as the narrator. One young man was determined to be the donkey several years running. He declined any other part, explaining that the loyal animal who carried Jesus’ mother to Bethlehem just in time for the Holy Birth was vital to the story. Before the traditional party and visit from Santa Claus, our youngsters taught us the true meaning of Christmas. As we sang Christmas hymns at the program’s conclusion, our hearts were filled with joy.
In my novella, Rejoicing with Joy, I tried to bring to life the importance of the first Christmas by making a live nativity part of the community’s celebration. May the joy of His birth live in your hearts throughout the year. Merry Christmas from my house to yours!
What symbols or traditions help you make meaningful connections at Christmastime?
Tonya B. Ashley is excited to make her writing debut with Once Lost, Now Found, the first story in the A Gift for All Time novella collection. Tonya enjoys a thread of adventure, whether in story or life. Fascinated with people, places, and nature, she loves to explore through writing, reading, hiking, and artwork.
She and her firefighter/paramedic husband are parents of a middle-school son who is teaching himself electric guitar and an adult son, a newly married firefighter. They’re delighted to add a girl to the bunch in the form of a precious daughter-in-law who is a nurse. Connect with Tonya on Facebook.
Jenny Carlisle retired from a career in state government to pursue her dream of writing fiction.
She was a long-time columnist with Ouachita Life magazine, and has self-published two inspirational non-fiction books, Turn, Turn, Turn and To Everything a Season. Her first works of fiction, Hope Takes the Reins and Faith Moves Mountains have been published by Scrivenings Press. Her latest project is included in a novella collection called A Gift for All Time, along with co-authors Tonya Ashley and Ellen Withers. The third full-length novel, Love Never Fails will be released in January 2024.
She is a past president of American Christian Fiction Writers-Arkansas Chapter, and Saline County Preservation. Because of her fascination with old buildings and old towns, there is undoubtedly a book about the past in her future.
She and her husband, James live in Benton, Arkansas, where they worship with the Church of Christ. Three married children have blessed them with eight busy grands. She loves spending time with her supportive tribe of readers and writers, in person and on social media. God is good! Connect with Jenny on Facebook.
Ellen E. Withers is an award-winning fiction writer, freelance writer, and retired insurance fraud investigator. Ellen credits her success in the world of writing to the generosity and kindness of established writers who shared their expertise and nurtured her writing ambitions. She is most grateful for the mentoring provided by Dusty Richards, three-time Western Writers of America Spur winner and Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame Honoree.
When not writing or reading, Ellen enjoys spending time with her family, traveling the world with her adventurous friends, and performing with Top of the Rock Chorus, a Sweet Adeline chorus in central Arkansas. Connect with Ellen on Facebook.
Tonya B. Ashley, Jenny Carlisle, and Ellen B. Withers are offering a copy of A Gift for All Time to THREE of my readers! (2 winners will receive a print copy – US only. A 3rd winner will receive an ebook. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What makes you want to read A Gift for All Time by Tonya B. Ashley, Jenny Carlisle & Ellen E. Withers?