Thursday, December 8, 2016

There's Something Eternal and Special About Small Towns...

Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie... Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light. 

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.




Four short lines of verse, and we can envision this town. A small town, at night, under a star-soaked sky. But within that dark, silent town, a light shines. One light, to break the darkness. And such a light it was! But the townsfolk didn't know that yet. And when they heard of a baby being born in a hillside cave meant for sheep, and being tucked into a straw-filled manger, tongues would wag, no doubt. The government would be blamed for making young couples travel all that way to register. The innkeeper would be shunned by some for not making room... and praised by others for sending them to the cave because how could these invaders be trusted?





And still others would laud him for finding something to accommodate them at the last minute...

They would talk, assess and digress, all because of one small child... A child whose bright light would pierce the darkness forever.  Were they shocked by the noise of angels singing in the night? Did they scold the shepherds for running to the cave, hunting for that manger, looking for the baby, a baby destined to change everything. Did they lose their jobs? Have their pay docked? We see the shepherds, standing in awe in lovely creche scenes crafted by crafty hands... but what about the next morning? What happened to those men then?

I can picture Mary, with Joseph, taking that baby into the temple forty days later. Had they been the talk of the town? Was Mary welcomed into the women's circles?



Well, Mary was young and most likely lovely... And women can be really protective and defensive and well... catty. So I wonder if she was welcomed or ignored and that becomes another small town story element.

Joseph... a carpenter... We picture him as tall (perhaps compared to Mary?) And dark-haired (logical, he is Jewish in the first days of a new time)... Joseph is older than Mary, so did that create talk? Do the older women resent Mary's youth? Do the men let Joseph work among them? 


Perhaps... if he had a skill they did not possess, a way of working the wood just so... Often men are more open to being taught than women... and that can be another small town story point.

Was Jesus an ice-breaker? I bet he was. Who can resist a baby, an adorable little brown-haired, brown-eyed boy with the sweetest smile?  I use this in many of my stories, allowing babies and small children to be the "bridge" to understanding. Art Linkletter used to have a show and write books about how "Kids Say the Darnedest Things" and it was so funny and true! I remember that show being in re-runs and marveling at those truths from such little mouths.




So I can envision that baby king, unknown and unrecognized until he was brought to the temple... I can see him winning hearts, one by one. Because a baby changes everything. Always.

And that's another story point for you: A Baby Changes Everything 
When you bring a baby into the world or into the story equation, everything changes.

The emotional changes instantly because there's nothing like a baby to instill love, joy, panic, fear, happiness and gratitude into a heart and anyone with children knows the truth in this. It is the epitome of mixed emotions... But then there are so many other changes that take place in the midst of the crazy emotional ride.

Physical changes, timing changes, lack of sleep, worry, work (babies are a lot of work!!!), and did I mention sleep? :) 

But there are more internal changes that ride this small-town train. Responsibility raises its fierce head. Goals take on more meaning because now the people/parents/heroes/heroines aren't just fighting for themselves... they're fighting for a child.

So in this small town, overflowing with visitors and migrants trying to fulfill the law, a child is born. A son is given.

And as authors and readers, we can see that effect.




That's the small town ripple effect we should bring to modern-day writing. It doesn't have to be earth-shattering prose to bear world-changing beauty.

It needs to reflect the reality of the small town, the good, the bad, the ugly and the serene... and touch hearts in a way that stirs the emotion of the moment and the hope of the future. For in the darkest night, cloaked beneath a midnight sky... we can be that light to others. And our words can take that light not just to them... but to their hearts.

Hey, come on inside, warm up a bit... I'm manning the coffee bar AND I've got a $15 Starbucks card up for grabs today... Not to tempt you in, but to give you something to smile about, because it's nice to get a little surprise now and again! Especially in the crazy busy month of December... when sweet peace should reign in our frenetic hearts!

Join me inside and tell me what is it you like about small towns?


Multi-published, bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne is a confessed Christmas decoration addict, but not in a bad way... So she says! Her love for twinkle lights has never killed anyone, and brings a smile to small faces, which means she's doing something right! She is blessed to write sweet stories of old and new, and she loves chatting with folks on facebook (friend her as Ruth Logan Herne), or stop by her website ruthloganherne.com or e-mail her at loganherne@gmail.com... and today she's in the Yankee Belle Cafe talking about great Christmas food, because who doesn't love great food? 


ALSO!!!! On December 31st, we're hosting our annual Seekerville Rockin' it New Year's Eve and our theme is "Kick Discouragement to the Curb"... And we're including our own brand of PET THERAPY throughout the day, so if you've got a pet who has helped you stay sane, normal, on-task and focused.... Send your pic of the pet to me at loganherne@gmail.com. Tell me your name and the pet's name... and we'll see how many of our furry friends can fit into a delightfully optimistic rolling blog! 


124 comments :

  1. Ruthy, this post is so, so YOU. And really, no matter the story, I believe it's enhanced by children. Well, most of them are. Some need a puppy or two.
    I love Christmas lights, but have never decorated with them, yet. Maybe next year, when I get my first Christmas Tree. Great post, Ruth. I'll be thinking on the thoughts you gave me. Merry Christmas!

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    1. You can start small and add. :) Christmas lights make everything more festive, along with a puppy or 2! :)

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    2. Aw, Marianne, thank you! What kind words! And you know me, I love the family image of love. It goes deep for me, that sweet spread of grace.

      And KC makes a good point. Christmas lights don't have to be plentiful... I ring some windows with them (thumb tacks are wonderful friends!) I think my love for them stems from the long nights of darkness here in December, making it so fun to fill the streets with bright light.

      And... I LOVE THEM!!!!!! :)

      Twinkle lights, eggnog, and sweet books and babies.

      That's a hashtag for "blessed" right there!

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  2. A beautiful reminder of the season. Happy Holidays, Villagers.

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    1. TINA....I don't know the fastest way to get a hold of you so I thought I'd try here first, but I just found out I won a copy of Belle Calhoune's "Reunited at Christmas" on another blog. Can you please take my name out of the draw here on Seekerville?? Thank you! :-)

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    2. Thanks, Tina!

      Trixi, thank you for telling us. We'll make sure we toss your name overboard on Friday! :)

      And I love that when we tell our stories, we realize that most have been told before. But we tell them again, our way.

      What a wonderful opportunity!

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  3. What a different perspective on the Christmas story Ruth! Makes one think about so much more, but maybe that's the writers brain in you :-) Making us think outside the box, if you will. Great post, I'll be thinking on these things as I re-read Christ's birth story in Scripture.

    I live in a small town and one thing I love about it is I can go to my local grocery store and run into at least one person I know. People are friendly and warm here (for the most part). You can start a conversation with a cashier or the person behind you in line and never think twice about it being strange or odd. It only take about 5-10 minutes to get anywhere around town or about 15-20 to go to a bigger store (Costco or the such). On nice days, you can walk just about anyplace (or bike). There's not the "rush rush" of a bigger city feel, things are more laid back. I guess it's just the whole feeling of a small town I like!

    There are drawbacks, but I won't list those here. Because the pros far outweigh the cons in my humble opinion :-) I love living in a small town hands down!

    Thanks for the chance for a Starbucks card! Nothing better than getting together with a friend over coffee!

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    1. We must've been typing about the same time. Great minds and all that.

      Agree with you wholeheartedly, Trixi!

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    2. Trixi, you summed this up beautifully! That's so true... I love running into folks in town, and giving a hug here or there... or grabbing coffee at the little coffee shop inside the local pharmacy. Perfect!

      And those drawbacks help me layer my stories because you and I know the truth: Everybody dies famous in a small town.

      It is so true. If you want to know what happened to X,Y,Z... ask someone. They'll be sure to tell you their version!

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  4. OH the Crippled Lamb. One of my faves ever...
    Beautiful post today. Thank you.

    We moved from Houston, TX (4,000,000 of your closest friends) to a rural county in TN anchored by a little town of about 13,000...

    LOVE it. People are friendly whether they know you or not, generous and helpful. The prices are good. There's not a lot of work here, so that brings its own challenges, but neighbors help neighbors.

    We love it here.

    Thanks again for a lovely post, Ruthy!

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    1. KC, first, I love Tennessee.... I couldn't handle the summer heat, but it is SUCH A NICE STATE. I've been to Nashville a few times now, and love it... and the people are genuinely nice. We have folks we know who've moved down there, and they say the same thing. (They're on the opposite side of the state)... Nice people, sweet towns.

      And folks like small town stories, and since I love writing them, we've got a win/win here!

      And I just added a dog to a book. I knew you'd be proud of me!!! :)

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  5. I can't wait to see all the pet photos :) So fun!

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    1. It will be! We've got some cute fuzzy friends to show off at the end of the month, Eva!!!

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  6. Small towns have a more relaxed feel to them. Yes, everyone knows everyone else, but that can be a blessing too.

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    1. Mary, yes... and that's exactly the beauty of it.

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  7. Great post Ruthy! Quite timely as well.

    I live in a somewhat small town and one of the things I like is how there is always something going on around the courthouse square. At Christmas they bring in Santa's chalet and there is a small area in front that has been created into a very small park with a waterfall (turned off in winter), benches, trees and flowers of the season. It is totally decorated for Christmas. Then they built a small amphitheater a block from the courthouse and on the stage this year they have a life-size Nativity and in the main court a HUGE Christmas tree. I do like small towns as everyone tends to know everyone in some way.

    May everyone have a blessed day!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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    1. What beautiful images those are, Cindy! I can just picture the courthouse square... (I love to put squares and "rounds" in small towns, it's such a perfect gathering spot)... And an amphitheater??? That's awesome!!!!!

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  8. This is such a beautiful post, Ruthy...thank you. "Was Jesus an ice-breaker? I bet he was." I bet he was too!
    I love the photo of the kids. :)
    What I like best about small towns are the people and the sense of community. How fun and comforting it would be to live in a place where everyone knows each other.

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    1. Oh, Jill, me too. I love that community feeling, of belonging to a place... and having a place to come home to!

      We were talking about homecoming Christmas movies the other day, and lamenting how shallow some of them seem to be... where by delving into the town and the setting a little more, that sense of community, the whole story can jump off the emotional page and straight into our hearts.

      That's how I see small town settings.

      Of course big city settings have their own allure because you can feel desperately alone in a crowd.... "Red Kettle Christmas" and "Try, Try Again" both carry this element as part of their threads. And it's a good thread because we've all felt that way at times.

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    2. Oh, thank you! Me, too... that was my first historical and it was a complete accident, but it was a WONDERFUL ACCIDENT!!!!

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  9. What a beautiful post, Ruthy! I live in a unique small town. We have farms, horse farms, a university and a seminary. There are two stop lights and an IGA. We rally together to support and love each other. It's been a great place to live. For Tim's going away party, the community center was full of people who left their day jobs to say goodbye, and the mayor gave him a key to the city. It's not a perfect town, but it's good.
    Thanks for sharing. Today I'm running errands and already dreaming about a cup of coffee from Starbucks. I'll think of you all if I get one.
    Have a great day!

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    1. I love your small town, Jackie! When we lived just up the road - in a slightly bigger small town - one of my favorite places to go during Christmas was the main street of that little village tucked away on the bluffs of the river. Sigh.

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    2. Mmm.... Starbucks coffee. I don't like their politics, but I love their brew!

      Jackie, thank you so much! I love the image of your small town. It's a lot like mine, only no university or seminary. But two stop lights... and a handful of sweet businesses.

      And Lake Effect Snow coming my way!!!!

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  10. What a beautiful post! I live in a suburb and always wish I lived in a small town, where business owners know your "usual" and the community rallies behind people suddenly in crisis. Thinking about this is motivating me to reflect on how I can live in the suburbs with a small-town attitude, ready to fill a need when I see a need.

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    1. Thank you, Barb!!! And you know, every suburb kind of began as a small town... or an ethnic neighborhood.... but I love your idea of reflection, seeing how you can bring the small town attitude into that blossoming suburb. I think that's beautiful.

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    2. BARB S, I applaud your desire to live in the suburbs with a small-town attitude! You've made me even more aware that many need a helping hand, a word of cheer, an invitation to church, to our home. Thank you!

      Janet

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  11. Good morning, RUTHY! A very beautiful and meaningful reflection on the small towns of Jesus's world.

    I grew up in little farming and mining towns in the Midwest--spent summer vacations in a tiny Texas town. Some of them were so small that people knew your business even before you did! :) I've very much enjoyed setting my Love Inspireds in little towns, too, and bringing those memories to life.

    Thank you for a lovely reminder of the uniqueness of small towns and this very special season.

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    1. Glynna, thank you.... and I'm envisioning you (with no A/C in the car) going to Texas for the summer.

      Oh my stars. Now there's a throw-back image for you!

      I love looking at the parallels of small towns then to small towns now because while the names and locations might change, folks are still folks and there's that good and bad in all situations.

      I love to dig down, just a little, and unearth as much good as I can muster!

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  12. Love this post! ! I just came across The Crippled Lamb a few years ago. It makes me cry every time. Thumb tacks!! Why didn't I think of that? I put up lights around the window and use duck (duct) tape because you know you can use that for anything lol. I had the shirt to prove it. I moved from one small town in southwest Virginia to another small town. The thing I found was you have to drive to get anywhere. All that's in town is a post office and gas station. Come to think of it the hometown I grew up in and thought didn't have anything also had a high school and elementary school, a grocery store, churches, a dealership, and a bank. Where I live now it's like a wide spot in the road. The town thrived in the 1800s w a bank and other things but then burned down. It never was the same. At one point it was in the running as the location for Virginia Tech. But then they decided on Blacksburg, about 10 minutes away. On a four lane. No riding bikes from here to there. Maybe if there was a bike lane... people do the mountain of misery up to Mountain Lake where Dirty Dancing was filmed. Maybe it should be in the works. The town in the other direction is about 30 minutes away but if you want to watch a movie or go to the mall you have to travel farther. I love where I live because I can go to McDonalds in Blacksburg, order food, bring it home, and it's still hot. People living in town can't do that lol. Takes too long getting through town. We finally got a subway restaurant in the next town over and the server knows what I want when I go in. I don't have to say a word. I order the same thing every time lol. The joys of small town living!!

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    1. LAUGHING SO HARD!!!!

      I have friends who are appalled by my thumbtacks because of that itty bitty hole... Well, I know how to patch itty bitty holes when I repaint trim, and it takes all of like five minutes to daub in the Christmas thumbtack holes... So I never worry about that, but I love that you're duct-taping things.... I use it for EVERYTHING (although not a shirt, yet!!!)

      And having folks know your name... and your order.... is a plus! Isn't that lovely? And I didn't know that Dirty Dancing was filmed there. Oh, I loved that movie!!!!

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  13. RUTHY, what a lovely, poignant post! I'm in awe every time I consider the night of Jesus's birth. Can you imagine being there? *chills*

    Love, love, love small towns! When I was a child, I loved roaming the hills and hollows of our little gem in the Ozarks. Everyone knew everyone (which did have a few drawbacks -LOL), but I loved that folks greeted one another by name whether it be at the local market, on the street corner, or church--where dinner-on-the-grounds and "poundings" were big family affairs. Ahh...the memories...

    Thanks for the coffee! Fill 'er up, please! *guzzles last sip*

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    1. Just Brought Fresh Coffee!!!!

      We had a Mass this morning at my grandsons' school so I ducked away with Gramps and we went to church.... and then to stop by the market to make sure we're ready for a possibly snowy weekend with a three-year-old and a one-year-old.

      The Mighty Finn and The Little Princess are staying here for a few days, and it pays to be ready for the fun ahead of time!

      And yes, when I think about that night... and the stars and the emotion and the things that came together to make the prophecy unfold...

      We are so blessed because as a woman of lesser courage, I still marvel...

      And those words "Hills and hollows"... LOVE.

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    2. Enjoy your weekend!And thanks for the coffee! :-)

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  14. RUTHY, this is a moving post and perfect for Christmas. CHRISTMAS, not "The Holidays." The Christmas story has everything we need, doesn't it? And I appreciate your comment about children bringing more responsibility. Just imagine if you were faced with raising the Son of God!
    The ultimate fictional Christmas small town is of course Frank Capra's Bedford Falls, a powerful tale of redemption. I love the way the whole town rallies around George Bailey (no relation). Jimmy Stewart channeled some of his own angst from serving in the war into the bar fight scene. And of course Donna Reed is perfection.
    The only quibble I've ever had with this story is when Donna Reed goes out to shake down their friends for money and she leaves the four children with the BANK EXAMINERS. That would never fly today, she'd have Child Protective Services all over her, but whatever. The whole story is an example of the "cup of water in His name" and how we don't always realize our own contributions. Worth a look every year, but I can't watch it with other people, it's too raw an experience for me.
    Ruth, pour me an eggnog, would you?
    KB

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    1. Kaybee, thank you!

      Did you know that I live not far from Seneca Falls (our writing buddy Deb Marvin actually lives there) which is believed to be the town Frank Capra used for "Bedford Falls"?

      There are a host of similarities and it's not far from Elmira (the bank examiner grumps that he's having Christmas with his sister... in Elmira!...) I've been to their sweet festival in Seneca Falls and it's marvelous!

      I've got your eggnog ready, and every one of us should have some George Bailey-ofski moments, remembering how blessed we truly are.

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    2. RUTHY, I wish I'd known this when my brother lived in Rochester so I could've checked out Seneca Falls. It's a Wonderful Life is on the list of "must see" at Christmas.

      Janet

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  15. I do, however, host group showings of Will Ferrell in "Elf."

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  16. I was raised in a small city which was more like a large town, especially in the 50s. Lived in cities including Boston and Colorado Springs, and found that you can create community in a city, it is just a different dynamic. Raised my children in a small town because that's where we could afford a home, and it was a good experience overall. I can get away with things here, I haven't paid a library fine in 20 years, they know where I live. We are 20, 30 and 40 minutes from three cities, at least they're cities by New Hampshire standards, so there's culture and shopping if I want them. We're also a half hour from the ocean and an hour and a half from the mountains. The nice thing about NH is it's got a little bit of everything. Except desert.
    My worst small-town experience was when Dave was pastoring in the Midwest, and we lived in a town of 500 people, half of whom were related. It really was a fish bowl, not just for the pastor's family, but for everyone. I had two children under 5 and our car didn't always run, so I couldn't get out of town when I wanted to. And we were 20 miles from a public library, although a bookmobile came once a month. I could live if I never did that again. On the other hand, we never had to lock our doors. That one was a little too close for my comfort. Maybe I would have liked it more if I could have gotten away when I wanted to, or Dave hadn't been pastoring, but it's dust and ashes now.
    I haven't really written a small town yet. My first series is in the early 1800s and the first book is Oregon Trail, so there ARE no towns, although the people are just as gossipy. The sequel to that takes place in a settlement in the Oregon Country, but it's really just a hamlet in the woods, not a town yet. My other series takes place in New York's Hell's Kitchen and The Bowery just after World War I, so no small town there.
    I'm waiting for my Canyon Springs or Kirkwood Lake to find me!
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. You're so cute! And you know, Lucy Maud Montgomery brought up the difficulties of being the pastor's kids, etc. in Rainbow Valley (I think that's the one it was) and I could totally see it. Pastor's kids in small towns are in a total fishbowl....

      And not being able to get out of town makes an interesting story line, Kath. Very interesting!

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    2. Yeah, but it would probably be a murder mystery. You can see that I am not quite over that town yet, sigh.

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  17. RUTHY, I too love Christmas decorations. I put a "touch of Christmas" in every room-even the bathrooms! Your post was so sweet...I love to imagine what it might have been like that first Christmas. Imagine not having a place to lay your head while VERY pregnant? I doubt Mary panicked. After all, she told the angel "I am the Lord's servant - May your word to me be fulfilled." Surely she believed that the Lord would provide and he did-just not the way anyone could have anticipated.

    Jesus left the penthouse for the outhouse. Thank you, Lord.

    What I love about small towns is the interconnection. While there are drawbacks to everyone-knowing-everyone, it's remarkable how people come together to help one another.

    The soup kitchen in our town never runs out of food or volunteers. Eighty-five people were fed this Thanksgiving. When a local man posted on a message board that he needed a winter coat because he only had enough money to purchase one for his very ill wife, one was delivered within a few hours—along with a hat, scarf and gloves. When a sweet 1-year-old was diagnosed with cancer (and still battling), the town came together and put on a comedy-for-a-cause show that sold out within hours with a second show being added on.

    That tight-knit sense of community is something I cherish. Merry Christmas, Ruthy. May God bless you and your family richly.

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    1. Josee, all of those stories are what build that empathy between the reader and the story... the relatability of a sick woman, a sacrificial husband, the struggling child, and a food shelf, fully stocked... And in that backdrop folks can see the goodness intrinsically while the story might offer some of the down sides of everyone knowing someone's business... and how that affects individuals.

      I love working to strike that balance and when I imagine Bethlehem... and that they must have been there for a while for the wise men to find them... I envision the ups and the downs of being new in town, with little to your name and a king in your arms.

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  18. I'd like to add that at this time of year, I'm sensitive to those who are struggling. Particularly with the loss of a loved one. When I was 14, my family went to Quebec as we did every year to be with family. On Christmas Eve my dad and I got into a snowmobile accident and he died from his injuries. I spent Christmas day alone, in a hospital bed while my mom was with my dad in the hospital and my sister was with my aunt and uncle. I remember laying in bed believing I would never again enjoy Christmas. It took several years for the joy to return and while this time of year still brings up old wounds, God has blessed me with a loving husband and 3 healthy, beautiful children. He picked me up out of the pit and set me on a hill.

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    1. Josee, I replied to your comment but failed to place it here. Scroll down to find my reply.

      Hugs!

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    2. Josee, that's a commanding story.

      Such a loss, and a loss that mars what for most is a gloriously happy time of year. And then that joy sometimes spits in our face because our wounds are raw.

      Your empathy because of that is huge. You know what it's like to be alone in the bright lights, in the crowded, joyful room... and how guilty you feel when you first begin to feel joyous again, as if you're going against the natural order.

      Bless you for sharing that. You've touched hearts here today. They may not know what to say back to you, but I guarantee... your words have opened a nudge of healing.

      Thank you.

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    3. Thank you for your kind words, Ruthy!

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  19. Good morning, Ruthy! Love this post. This is one of those stories that has always captivated my imagination. You could write a hundred variations.

    I live (a good portion of the year, anyway) in a tiny town on the MO/AR border. It has about 2000 people and it's a railroad town. I absolutely adore the town. It's historic value (which everyone has a part in because their family has lived there since they originally settled there.), the way that you never go to the store without seeing at least one person you know...then there's the "everybody knows everybody" element, which can be wonderful but also infuriating. Lol.

    One could go on and on. But I hadn't thought about Jesus being a small town dweller. Very interesting! I'm going to mull on that one. :)

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    1. Amber, you totally get it! I thought of this scenario for the Holy Family because of the timing. If Christ was born and it took the wise men a length of time to get there... then Mary and Joseph had to be part of the small town in the meantime before they fled to Egypt. Their baby was presented at the temple... and I'm pretty sure there would be some speculation, tongue-wagging and raised eyebrows because that's human nature... but one of my favorite parts of the Christmas story is how Simeon and Anna react when they see the Christ child in the temple... Oh, how beautiful. Simeon's praise to God... And Anna's pledge to tell the world...

      That makes me smile every time! Can't you just picture them? :)

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    2. Amber, that's funny you mentioned the grocery store. Since we moved this summer I never see anyone I know at the grocery. I miss that!

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    3. Oh, wait. I DID see one person: the woman who sold us her house! :)

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  20. Good morning, Ruthy!

    I love small towns. Because of my husband's job, we've always needed to live near a city, but we've been blessed to live on the edges. Some people might call them "bedroom communities," but most still hold the charm of a small town.

    Now we live in a small city. Small towns out here in western South Dakota have single or two-digit populations! (8, 16, 64...). So our small city is THE place to go for shopping, etc. But it is so neighborly, even when we're inundated by tourists in the summer. We love it.

    And children. Can you imagine how cute that perfect baby Jesus must have been? You're right about babies being icebreakers and bridge builders. I love including them in my stories.

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    1. Jan, I must come west and see the Dakotas sometime in person... and Yellowstone! And the thought of towns with 64 people.... LOVE IT!!!!

      You and I love using little ones to round out a story. I find it so natural... and I have so much fun writing children and babies and reactions into stories that it just plain feels right!

      Sweet babies and sweet stories. :) It works for me!

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    2. 64 is one of the bigger towns. :)

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  21. Beautiful, Ruthy, and filled with so many truths! Small towns are a world of their own. So much fodder for a writer to use. No matter the age, people remain the same. We are those folks in Bethlehem who either closed our doors to the Christ Child or found room for him in the stable of our hearts!

    Today, as Scripture focuses on the Annunciation, is a perfect time to reflect on who we will be this Christmas...the open door and open heart, hopefully. O Come, O Come Emmanuel!

    Hugs and love!

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    1. Deb, how beautiful those words are! Can you imagine being Mary... facing that angel?

      And saying yes.

      Such courage because we know that folks are not exactly all going to buy in on the story of a virgin birth. I'm seeing skeptical brows being raised left and right.

      So maybe in a way it was good and wholesome for Mary and Joseph to have to travel to Bethlehem for the birth. That way the wagging tongues back home could give it a rest, and new people wouldn't have their backstory to hold against them.

      And there was a BABY in her arms... The Christ child... and that should have refocused the Bethlehem conversations!

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  22. Josee, my heart breaks for what you endured that Christmas Eve long ago. My mother and dad came to visit for Christmas when my children were young. We had all been sick with the flu. They got sick and my mother died on DEC 27. I say that time was a "dark night of the soul" for me, but the outpouring of my Christian community supported me and touched me deeply. What I experienced plays into my stories. Perhaps a topic for a blog post someday...or maybe not. I have recounted that Christmas story in retreat talks to show the hand of God even in the darkness and am grateful that the Lord can use that pain for good. I'll be thinking of you throughout this time of preparation and holding you close in prayer.

    Sending hugs and love. May the Light of the Christ Child bring comfort and peace!

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    1. Oh Debby, I'm so sorry for your loss. How tragic. My experience plays into EVERYTHING I write because it's a part of me. I was actually driving the snowmobile (my father's hands were on mine) and I lost control. My father pushed me off and saved my life but ended up hitting a tree. It took me years to get the grisly images out of my head. What none of us realized was that I suffered from PTSD for a long time after that. I could go on and on but like you, I've shared my story a few times at women's retreats, moms groups and with a high school youth group.

      Thank you so much for your prayers. I appreciate them and will likewise lift you up in prayer. Much love to you.

      Delete
    2. Josee, I was gone all day and just got back to my computer. God bless your dad for saving you! Greater love hath no man! The accident wasn't your fault. You know that, don't you? We can never understand why such terrible things happen, but we know that God is there with us through the darkest times. Grief is so strange. Even after years, it returns as if everything had just happened. I hope this Christmas is filled with joyous moment spent with your sweet family! I'm carrying you in my heart throughout this holiday and covering you with prayer! Sending much love too!

      Delete
    3. Oh, Josee, that's a life-changer... and I'm so glad you shared it today.

      And that you share it with others. We know accidents happen, but that internal guilt is the fodder for story after story... we plague ourselves with the "what ifs"? Bless you.

      Delete

  23. "Babies change everything but themselves."

    "What keeps small towns small makes outsiders want to live there and insiders leave."


    Hi Ruth:


    I love reading series stories set in small towns. I also like stories with children. Yet not everyone shares that love. Some years ago RT did a survey of what women wanted less of in romance novels. The overwhelming winner was 'less kids'. The number one comment was "Kids are not like that!" (These women had kids and read romances to escape them!)

    Also, I found the antidote from over sentimentalizing small towns is simply reading "Winesburg, Ohio" by Sherwood Anderson. In real life it is usual to find that the number one goal of many people in small towns is to get out!

    So, bottom line, I like small town stories in which some characters have problems with their kids and others where there are a few characters whose main goal is to leave. Keep all the sentiment honest and emotions genuine but also keep it real. : )

    In a sea of angelic voices we still need our Joe Cockers, Bob Dylans and Rod Stewarts. Was it not hospice, cancer and unwed mothers what brought you to the dance?

    Kept the faith! Keep it neat!

    A fan

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    1. Laughing here!

      Well, you're right it was all of the above that brought me to the dance, and I'm still dancing with the guy who brought me... :) In Gray's Glen we've got liver disease, a transplant, a drug user, divorce, a fatal accident, a town-wide fire, dead cattle and town-wide anger.... so that small town needed my help, VINCE!!!!

      And I read that survey years ago and I absolutely, totally ignored it.

      I didn't care what it said, I knew my reader numbers were strong and going up, and that the readers that love having kids and families in their stories would follow me. And they did... But there is also a difference between straight romance and inspirational romance. I think if that survey had been done with readers of Christian romance, the results would differ. I don't have proof of that, but we don't have the sex factor in our stories... so the focus is different, and I think in a good way.

      But I will say that I've read lots of stories that didn't do kids well... Where the kids seemed unbelievable... so that makes a difference, too.

      Is this a good time to confess that I didn't like Bob Dylan or Joe Cocker? :)

      But Stevie Nix? Bonnie Tyler's scratchy voice? And Jim Nabors deep voice?

      Those I loved!

      Delete
    2. Hi Ruth:

      Now that you mention it, RT is mostly secular and that emphasis could well change how fans view children in romances. I read many conventional romances before I read my first inspirational and my impression was that kids in romances, especially 'hot' ones, were mostly used as props (as a good source of conflict).

      I'm sure I had a letter in RT after that article which said that there were more romances published each month than any one person could read. Therefore, as long as the publisher put pictures of kids on the cover (so you could avoid them), who cares how many romances have kids in them? Stop complaining.

      And you know what? Women wrote back telling how they had bought romances only to find out later that the stories did have kids! The kids were hidden! They were tricked by there being no kids on the cover or even mentioned in the blurbs! Just think of the irony of hiding the fact that a romance has a 'hidden child' theme! I'd be upset, too!

      Of course, in inspirationals the kids are usually a source of the inspiration or at least an amplifier of that inspiration which may be why I favor romances with kids in them. (I like Julie Lessman's Henry. That's the kind of kid Charity should have.)

      BTW: is Gray's Glen in a yet to be published series? You are now writing books, not only faster than I can read them but, even faster than I can become aware of them!

      I do like your reality romances. It's like why the Chinese used to put quinine in all their medicines. It was not to make the medicine work better but to make the medicine taste bitter which made the patients believe that the medicine was more efficacious.

      About not liking the singers I mentioned: all is fine as long as you like Rod Stewart singing 'Have I Told You Lately That I Love You'.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQUQcAzAi3k

      I can't imagine this done better and yes I am a big fan of Van Morrison.

      Vince

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    3. I love Rod Stewart... on that one we agree!

      And I'm laughing about hiding children... oh, those cover artists!!!!

      Gray's Glen is the town adjacent to the Double S Ranch, so Back in the Saddle, Home on the Range and (in May!!!) Peace in the Valley are all set in Gray's Glen, Washington, near Cle Elum and Roslyn.

      It is a gorgeous section of our country. I fell in love with it when I visited 18 months ago...

      Wishing Bridge is a not-yet-published town set in Western New York, in the forested hills, a town with a Brigadoon-like feel... and a bridge for wishing and praying.... The first Wishing Bridge novel will be out in November of 2017... and I'm so excited about this series!!! :) Love, love, love.....

      Quinine in med as a bitter placebo. Oh my stars, I believe it. We are suggestible folks, aren't we????

      Delete
  24. Ruthy, your nativity scene filled with children is so precious!

    I've lived in some small towns...the smallest being an isolated Wyoming town with under 1000 residents. I love the caring attitude of cooperation. Most everyone knew each other, and all our kids could come and go through each other's homes. When picking up the phone....someone who dialed a wrong number...and I recognize the voice, so we chat a bit about an upcoming Cub Scout meeting....that kind of small town. If you were driving an hour to the big city...of 50,000...an hour away, you check to see if anyone needs something. You know the sorrows and the joys others are experiencing...and pray for all. I love small towns...both living in them and reading about them!

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    1. Sherida, me too! And that idea of checking in with folks to see if they need something. Isn't that wonderful???

      Now they do that in NYC boroughs, too... in the neighborhoods... but it's a different feel because you are surrounded by people, so many people!

      That's not a bad thing, but the story dynamics are going to be different by necessity.

      Although in Red Kettle Christmas I made the Polish neighborhood very "small town" friendly because ethnic neighborhoods were often like that.

      I can so see youse guys chatting over a wrong number!!!!

      That's a perfect image.

      Delete
  25. I lived on farms near small towns my whole life. I currently live on a small acreage near a town of about 250. There's a post office, feed store and a small restaurant. We are within six miles of a small community of about 1000 people that has a grocery store,gas station,schools and restaurants and our church. I know small town life. I know the people. It has good and bad. But it's what I know. It's what I write about. Loved this image of how Jesus' birth might have impacted the community. I'm sure it was the "talk" of the town.

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    1. Linda, that's exactly the kind of small town setting that my readers tend to love. Some are bigger than that, and some are tiny... but the feeling of community abounds. I love it!

      Thank you for your kind words!

      Delete
  26. Hi Ruthy, Loved your post and thinking about the small town where Jesus was born. I heard an interesting take on the inn that appealed to me greatly. In those days the inns were crowded, noisy, unsanitary (bedbugs), stinky, etc. The inn keeper let them stay in the barn and make a bed on the clean hay and have peace and quiet. The inn keeper was doing them a favor by offering a place in the manger instead of making them suffer in the crowded inn.

    I like this version much better than the idea that the inn keeper was mean and forcing them out. I've been in primitive places where the inns were not that pleasant and trust me, I would have much preferred sleeping in the barn.

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    1. One of our priests offered that introspection a few years ago, and it was a sweet look at keeping a private moment private... and he showed a posting rendition of what the town was believed to have looked like, and how crowded some parts might have been... so like you mentioned, the privacy of an outdoor spot was to be appreciated.

      Aren't we funny folks, though? Because we really want to know the whys and wherefores. We want to know if we're more Mary than Martha... if we would be brave enough to touch the hem of his garment... or climb a tree like Zaccheus. We yearn to understand who we are based on who God is... and of course if we can simply "be a light" in our place and time, following Christ, it's a simple enough path.

      But oh gosh, we're human and we tend to make it complicated. Not you, Sandra... but the collective "we"!

      I like that notion of the innkeeper looking out for them.

      And a brand new baby... a child of the poor.

      Delete
  27. Oh yes, I have lived in small towns and I've lived in the city. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to both. I'm glad I had the experience of living in both environments.

    As a teacher, I much preferred the city. In a small town you were always the teacher and no time off. LOL In the city, you could relax in privacy.

    As a retiree, I prefer the small town and more relaxed life style. So yes, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

    Love your portrayals of small towns in your stories. Hugs

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    1. You raised a great point here. Teachers are known in their towns... So it's never a bad idea to live a town or two away from the district you teach in!

      Delete
  28. Ruthy, thank you for adding more perspective to the Christmas story. We know it didn't just freeze in time until Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple. I honestly have never considered how life might have been for Mary and Joseph in that time.

    I absolutely love small towns. Most of my life I have lived in moderately small towns with a big city thrown in here and there. Currently we live in Prescott, Arizona. It is a city but it feels like a small town. We too have a fairly bustling courthouse square where you will be able to catch the Christmas parade and lighting of the square. All year round there are art fairs, town concerts and an event for National Day of Prayer. It is that courthouse square that convinced me to move here when my husband and I got married.

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    1. Kelly, is Prescott in the desert or up high?

      I would have a hard time in AZ unless I was in the mountains. The heat and I don't get along, and I'm more likely to not kill someone in the northern climate, but I love the sound of your small town!

      The advantage of the desert is year-round access to doing things outside... I bet it's beautiful!

      Delete
  29. Beautiful and thought-provoking post, my friend, allowing us to explore the what-ifs in the birth of our Savior!

    And that Nativity scene -- flat-out ADORABLE!!!

    You said: "There's nothing like a baby to instill love, joy, panic, fear, happiness and gratitude into a heart and anyone with children knows the truth in this. It is the epitome of mixed emotions..."

    I couldn't agree more about the different emotional spin children and babies can bring to a story. You are famous for that, Ruthy! I'll admit, I've never been a baby-hugger type (give me older kids that I can build living-room tents with or tell spook stories), but I do love to inject spunky and sassy kids into the mix, for humor as well as emotional entanglements. :)

    You asked: "What is it you like about small towns?"

    Mmm ... I'm actually not a "small-town" gal either (uh-oh, probably ruffling all kinds of feathers here because I know the Christian market has a true love affair with small towns), but if I would have to say one thing I do like about small towns, it would be quirky characters you sometimes find in them and close-knit community. I tried to convey the "small town" feel in my Boston series with focusing on the Irish community in South Boston known as the Southie neighborhood, but mostly I focused on the family, because that's where my writer's heart is. :)

    Hugs!
    Julie

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    1. Julie, I think you do a marvelous job of creating the "small town" feel of yesteryear in the ethnic neighborhoods... I think they're pretty equal in my estimation of how things go down... the hierarchy, the neighborhoods, the setting, the parks and schools...

      When you tuck all of that into South Boston, it works wonderfully!

      Delete
  30. hi Ruthy
    I adore the nativity kids picture. Too sweet! I've never really lived in a small town, although my mom grew up in farm country (North Dakota). I like the idea of the community aspect of smaller town but not the fishbowl part. Of course, I LOVE reading about it. Your stories capture that life so well.

    Our house is the most lit up one in our neighborhood. We got lights, lights, and more lights. We love Christmas. I'm still working on Guppy to remember to emphasize that Christmas is about Jesus, not the list of toys he would love to get :(. At least he's listening to the Advent verses each night and trying to understand what they mean - of course, his eagerness is due, in part, to what small trinket is behind the next door of the Advent Calendar too. *sigh*

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    1. Oh, that's funny with Guppy.... With the little ones I kind of surround sound them with Advent so they're immersed. The Advent wreath, Mary and Joseph "traveling" around the room, how they get to put a piece of yarn into the manger to warm the bed where Christ will lay in 17 days... and to read the scriptures and prayers and talk about the journey. There is so much of Santa (raising a guilty hand here!!!) and focus on a secular holiday rather than a blessed holy day, that I've kind of incorporated the blessings of the season every way I can.

      BUT THEN I ADD A BAJILLION CHRISTMAS LIGHTS!!!!

      :)

      Because I love them!!!!

      And kids love them, they love driving by or driving in and seeing twinkle lights everywhere.

      It just looks so darned cheerful!

      :)

      Delete
    2. We haven't put up the nativity scenes inside because the interior looks like a storage unit threw up. We recently brought home a bunch of stuff from my MIL's house after she sold the home of 30+ years and downsized to two rooms of a MIL suite at hubby's brother's home. We're sort of slowly absorbing family memories and purging old junk. Little man misses the Nativity scenes (as in mulitiple we usually put out) - but there isn't room.
      He's also doing better because I warned him if he said too much I want and not enough Jesus - we'd be taking his gifts to another little boy and letting him watch that boy open his gifts. was that mean?

      Delete
  31. RUTHY, you've touched my heart with this post. It was fun to think of the reactions of those who were aware of the Babe born that Holy night in Bethlehem. I love the poetic imagery of Silent Night, of the hope Jesus brought for eternity.

    I love small town settings where nothing goes unnoticed, where people care, share, gossip and chastise--a microcosm of life.

    Janet

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    1. Janet, me too... small towns reflect so much back to us. The good and the bad.

      And I'm so glad you liked this post... Just something to think about, right?

      Who was nice to Mary?

      And who sniped at her behind her back?

      Who showed her the best place to get water?

      And who sent her the wrong way on purpose?

      People are such people!!!

      Delete
    2. Hi Janet:

      You wrote:

      "I love small town settings where nothing goes unnoticed, where people care, share, gossip and chastise--a microcosm of life."

      This confirms my belief that living in a small town is like living under a microscope. I'd rather be on the open range under the stars.

      Delete
  32. JULIE, cities make great stories too, and great Christmas stories. "Miracle on 34th Street" could not have happened in Mayberry. I love Boston, it's the nearest real city to me in NH, and I lived there for a while as a young adult. There is a real sense of community in the different neighborhoods. No feathers ruffled here, unless they are on angels' wings.
    KB

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  33. DEB H, wish I could see your house, I LOVE lights! My husband and I take a "lights tour" every December. We crank up the heat in the car, put a CD in the player, and drive around our area looking for lights displays. The bigger the better. I don't do a big display at home because I don't have the time or the money and neither of us can climb ladders, but I so appreciate it in other homes. Only thing I don't like is those new projector lights, they are not bright enough, and lights should be installed when Dad grumpily untangles them and someone falls off the roof. It's a ritual. It shouldn't be too easy.
    KB

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    1. Dying laughing here! Although not laughing, too, because a church friend lost her husband that way years ago... I've come to know that putting my lights up when the weather is still nice in September or October is SMART.... The porch things aren't a big deal, but if you're stringing lights along the roof, it is so much better to do it when the weather is not out to kill you.

      And the wind is calm!

      But those lights that won't light???

      GRRRRRRRRR.........

      Delete
    2. We do the looking for lights tour too. I think folks will like our lights. We don't go overboard, but our little corner is definitely brighter. Not many of the townhomes on our block put up lights. It's kinda sad. That's why we make sure to have a bunch.

      Delete
    3. Deb, good for you! Letting those lights shine sometimes has an effect you may never see or know... but blesses someone.

      (Or it could drive someone crazy, but I prefer to think on the bright side!!!)

      Delete
  34. Lovely post, Ruthy! Important to remember that Jesus came to us as a helpless infant--truly God With Us, Emmanuel!

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    1. So true, Myra... dependent and tiny and weak... with parents who loved him from the beginning.

      Oh, what a wondrous thing, right there!

      Delete
  35. I love this! And I love small towns. I love that everyone knows everyone. I love that people watch out for each other. I love the lack of traffic! LOL And when I write about them, it's fun to write about how people get in each other's business. :)

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    1. Missy, that is so true. And the characters of the neighborhood or village are so distinctly fun to layer into the story!

      Delete
  36. Oh Ruthy! Loved this post. I love small towns because that's all I know. I was born and raised in a town of less than 700 people. One year, our census was done and the population was 666. That did NOT sit well with our small community. I still can't remember if we killed someone off or found an extra person, but they very quickly removed the final 6 from that number. :) I lived in Phoenix for a brief time while my husband was going to trade school. We counted down the days to return to our rural town. There's something comforting about knowing everyone, who you can count on and how they always step up to help out everyone. :)

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    1. From a small town to Phoenix is a huge move... I mean HUGE!!!!!

      I loved visiting there, I loved going up to the Canyon, and seeing red rocks... and if I'd had more time I would have explored more, but we were only in town for a handful of days.

      But I do love visiting cities. There's something so thoroughly BUSY about a city!

      Delete
  37. I've not written any small town stories, but I do like the elements of everyone knowing and looking out for each other and just all around being friendly (the Andy Griffith Show comes to mind). Though I did read a murder mystery in which the murder takes place in a small town and all these elements were turned against the people.

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    1. Murder in small towns is such a hard thing to pull off and make it believable.

      Murder isn't usually quiet.

      Small towns tend to hear everything.

      I think poison must be the weapon of choice!!!

      Nicky, I love Mayberry, the small town in Andy Griffith's show... And Andy Taylor was smokin' hot in his day (which was WAY before my day, by the way, just in case anyone is asking!)

      :)

      I loved Andy Griffith.

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  38. I adore small towns. I have lived in the same one my whole life. You end up knowing most everyone, so it is always enjoyable to shop and go places and know a friendly face is waiting. At the grocery store they spoil my kids, at the bank they know my request before I make it, even at the chiropractor here they know all my kids and we talk about mutual friends. It is a warm and inviting feeling to feel "safe" and welcome. If I ever have to move I know I will find another tiny town to call my home.

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    1. Oh, Susan, that's a beautiful tribute to small town, America... I can see you going through your days, and imagine the people in the bank... in the store... along the sidewalks....

      You know, we do tend to paint the idyllic view of a small town. With the downfall of manufacturing in the Northeast and Midwest in the last 40 years, lots of towns have fallen apart.

      I used that as my North Country basis (the books Vince was talking about above) and in my Men of Allegany County series for Love Inspired...

      Towns that fall on hard times can have trouble standing back up....

      And I JUST MIGHT be using that premise... a helping hand of a good person, aiding a town that's fallen on hard times... for my 2017 WISHING BRIDGE series...

      :)

      But we'll talk more about that next month!!!!

      But who wouldn't want to call Wishing Bridge, New York home?????

      Delete
  39. RUTHY, thank you, my friend -- I LOVED writing about the Southie neighborhood, so I'm glad the "small town" feel came through. :)

    KAYBEE SAID: "JULIE, cities make great stories too, and great Christmas stories. "Miracle on 34th Street" could not have happened in Mayberry. I love Boston, it's the nearest real city to me in NH, and I lived there for a while as a young adult. There is a real sense of community in the different neighborhoods. No feathers ruffled here, unless they are on angels' wings."

    LOL, KATHY, soooo glad, because angel-wing ruffling is definitely allowed! ;) And I'm jealous you're so close to Boston and actually lived there. I canNOT get my hubby to go up there with me because he had a bad experience in Boston once, so I still have yet to go. :(

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. I love going to Boston... tramping old gravesites and walking through Cambridge and hanging out on the waterfront and Faneuil Hall food and shops. Luke was there for several years, in school for his masters at Northeastern and then working at Price Waterhouse... and I got to go to Cape Cod while he was there, and that was GORGEOUS... I could live on the ocean. I love the tempest of the sea!

      But back to small towns. Massachusetts and NH and VT and NY small towns... Gorgeous.

      Something intrinsically romantic about being in the deciduous forestland of the Northeast, and it lends itself to old New England beauty.

      Just strikingly pretty, all four seasons.

      Delete
  40. What a wonderful post, RUTHY! I enjoyed it so much. I love small towns. I was born in Fort Worth and lived there until I turned 30. Since then we've lived in two different small towns (only 11 miles apart, so I claim dual citizenship) and I've loved both of them. Can't imagine ever living in a large city again. Thank you for such a thoughtful, inspiring read.

    Btw, I received "Home on the Range" this week - I cannot wait to read it! I was gone when the mail came, and my husband put everything in the same spot as the bills usually go. I didn't see the book right away. He should've known better. I don't look at bills until I absolutely have to, LOL, but I was eagerly awaiting your book!! Thanks again to you, and Sherida Stewart, I'm so excited to have won it!

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    1. I loved going to Fort Worth a bunch of years ago, and Sandra was pretty sure I was going to KILL US ALL with my driving. But I didn't, and New Yorkers rarely kill folks when we drive, a fact I've bragged on numerous times since! :)

      Laura, I hope you love Home on the Range! I'm glad you got it, I sent out a big mailing last week (totally working in catch-up mode) and it was so good to get those all out the door!

      And thank you for being you, for being such a wonderfully invested person in Christian fiction...

      Merriest of Merries!!!

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  41. Have to admit that I am utterly fascinated by small-town life. I'm a big city girl -- have lived in the heart of the city my whole life -- but I think I am a secret small-town girl. That's why I love reading stories set in small towns. The only city equivalent I can think of is church. I think being part of a church community has some of the same joys and frustrations of small-town life. :-)

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    1. Kav, that's a great analogy. We can set up a small-town feel within any contained community. Church. Hospital. School. Neighborhood.

      The beauty of the "small town" feel is that it's really quite adaptable to any situation... and then the writer's job is to format the setting and people to create the feeling of a small town.

      It's so doable!

      Delete
  42. Love the analogy, Ruthy, of the Bethlehem story to our own stories. I would love to be entered for the Starbucks card.

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    1. Sandy, thank you! I'm tucking your name right in!

      Delete
  43. What a beautiful post, Ruthy! You inspired me to sit down with my Bible and read through the Christmas story again tonight :)

    And to piggyback off the conversation with Jan above: You definitely need to come see the Dakotas! And if you come in the summer, I'd love to treat you to some ice cream and a tour at our shop ;)

    Also, I love the way you write children. I recently finished More Than A Promise and those three boys had me laughing and groaning and smiling and crying. And Elle's reactions to them gave me some ideas for my own parenting adventures! ;)

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    1. Megan, thank you for your sweet words, and isn't that a beautiful Bible passage.... and no mention of the donkey we all love, but that's okay. I'm keeping my nativity set donkey and a cow and the sheep... we know the sheep were abiding with their shepherds!!!

      I'd love to meet you! Wouldn't that be so fun? I'll have to figure out a trip out west and we can giggle and eat ice cream and talk writing. I would love that!!!

      "More Than a Promise"... oh, I loved those boys! I modeled them after three real kids, siblings, two boys and a girl, and that girl is now going off to COLLEGE.... She was my model for Amos... And time goes on. (and their mom knew I was using their childhood antics/personalities... and thought it was funny)...

      Of course she hasn't read the BOOK!!!!! :)

      And I love Elle... Thank you so much for reading that, Megan!!!

      Delete
  44. I find that for some women like me who have experienced child loss or difficulty carrying a baby to term, romance books with babies as a central focus aren't a first choice. Especially when that miracle given to Elizabeth and Hannah never appears for us. There'a a need for child-free romances, too, in Christian romance! We feel alienated enough in churches as it is.
    But we can all rejoice in the infant Jesus and his glorious appearing on that long ago night.

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    1. Jenna, that is so true... and I totally understand that. When the happy-ever-after escapes us, or God's plan differs, then the wound is raw.

      Outside of Love Inspired and Amish books, I see lots of romances with no or few family aspects.

      Do you find that, too?

      Delete
  45. I'm super late stopping by today but wanted to say this post is BEAUTIFUL, Ruthy!! :) And of course I LOVE the Nativity photo with those darling kiddos - - soooo sweet.
    I love small towns - - and have never lived anywhere except in small towns, LOL. So far all of my stories take place in small towns (all set in Georgia except for 2 of my manuscripts - - but they're still in the south).
    Thanks so much for sharing this with us today. I am still amazed at ALL you accomplish and always enjoy your facebook posts and Seekerville blogs - - you're an inspiration!
    Hugs, Patti Jo :)

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    1. Patti Jo, thank you and right back at you... I love seeing the cheerfulness of your posts, the family, the friends... and the peaches!! :) I'm so glad you made it over here today!

      And you know I love, love, love my Southern Writer buds! You guys ROCK!!!

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  46. I'm late, but rushing in with sleepy time tea. I have learned to love small towns for the kindheartedness,the Midwestern thoughtfulness, and the minimal traffic. There's a comfort in less crime too.

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    1. Sharee, so true on all counts! And I'm glad you came over, whatever the time... I love seeing you stop in.

      Minimal traffic is GOOD!!!! :)

      And the kindheartedness... oh, yes, that's the thing that often levels the playing field of angst, isn't it?

      Kindness. I love kindness.

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  47. For me, small towns are quiet without traffic and continual road work. Also, more people to talk to because we see each other often & so think we know them and get more greetings.

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    1. Janet, good to see you! You're right, small towns usually have one or two project repairs/year... and life goes on. Here, so many of our roads are classified as "state" routes, and the town actually gets paid to fix them... a help in a small town budget!

      And those greetings are wonderful. I try to do that in bigger venues now (annoying people in NYC, no doubt!) but it's fun to say good morning... to wish people a nice day... to say hello... bringing the small town feel to the city or the suburb!

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  48. Ruthy, I find myself writing about small towns even though I've never lived in one. I like the idea of small town living. In my imaginary small towns the weirdness of our current times hasn't been allowed entrance. Small businesses thrive, children are safe, and Christianity is the norm.

    Now that's when I'm writing romance. Suspense is a whole other ball of wax.

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    1. Terri, you are so right. I find that suspense in a small town gets weird sometimes... especially if it's murder related.... because there's a code of honor in small towns about safety and looking out for one another.

      But they're so fun to write, aren't they? And I find that's true in the west or the east... A small town envelopes its people, one way or another, and it can be good... or bad... but it's always interesting!

      Thanks for coming over!!!

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  49. I love to read about small towns. I live in a village, but it is in the middle of the outer loop.
    Thanks for your post,
    Becky B.

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  50. Hi Ruth:

    You now have so many books out that I think you need a special bookmark that you can give out. This would be a plastic strip with a list of all your books in series order with an embassed dot at the end of each title which can be punched out as books are read. This way a reader can always check which books she has read and still needs to read. This is a big help when books go on sale for a day or two. It's important to know if you've read the book, have the book, and its location in any series.

    Also some people are compulsive and once they start punching those holes, they won't be able to rest until they've punched them all.

    I want to be on the list to get the first printing of those bookmarks.

    Mary needs to do the same thing.

    A Fan Lost in a Sea of Titles!

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  51. Hi Ruth:

    Have you considered this:

    There may be a big difference between liking stories set in small towns and liking small towns themselves.

    I think stories set in small towns are easier to grasp as the focus seems more character centered. I think it is very possible that folks that would hate to live in a small town could still love inspirational stories set in a small town.

    Something to think about at least.

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  52. I'm raising my kids in a small town. I love that our neighbors look out for each other. It's also nice to see friends, family, neighbors, everywhere you go. However, I like being close enough to a larger city to have access to the big city amenities.
    I enjoy stories set in small towns too, I guess for the same reason.

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