In my novella, A Sidelined Christmas, Bebe and Jay are on the hunt for a great activity for their Christmas ball. Bebe comes ups with the idea of reindeer. After all, what’s more Christmas-y than reindeers?

In light of the loveable creatures, I’ve linked to some awesome reindeer-inspired Pinterest crafts to help you celebrate the holidays.

But first, how about some interesting reindeer facts.

  • Reindeer belong to the deer family.
  • Male reindeers can stand more than 3ft 9in tall at the shoulder.
  • Reindeer are herbivores.
  • Male and females have antlers.

For more information check out the Britannica Encyclopedia.

Check out these Pinterest crafts.

How to Draw a Reindeer

How to Make Candy Cane Reindeer

Reindeer Hot Cocoa

Pinecone Reindeer


Happy Crafting!

What’s Your Pet Peeve?

Pet PeeveMy good friend and fellow ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) member, Susan M. Baganz, interviewed me recently for her website.  Interviews are tricky, especially if the interviewer tosses some oddball questions into the conversation.

Susan asked me “What’s your pet peeve?”, and I had an instant motherhood flashback to the day one of my sons mentioned “a pet peeve.”

Me: What is a pet peeve? (yes, I knew the answer.)

Him: It’s something that really bugs you.

Me: But what makes it a pet?

Him: It’s something that bugs you whenever you see it.

Me: Like what? What’s your pet peeve?

Him: People who complain all the time.

Me: Um…

I am generally uncomfortable with the concept of a pet peeve. Most of the time, it’s complaining or something we have given ourselves permission to criticize.

When something makes us peevish, we should examine our hearts. Usually, when I find myself in that state, I like to re-label it. I say I am frustrated or irritated. If I track it back to its source, however, I usually find a root of selfishness: discontent, anger, wounded pride or some other form of arrogance.

The antidote for that kind of peevishness is almost always one of two things: grace or gratitude. Has someone stepped on my toes? Are other people doing stupid things? I should extend grace. Am I not getting what I want? I should give thanks for what I have.

And then one day, as I grappled with the grumbling question, I realized that some things do bother me – and they should! Injustice, bullying and things that harm other people are valid and reasonable fodder for peevery.  (Go ahead… say it aloud. You know you want to.)

Pete’s Pet Peeve

In Snow Angels, Pete’s pet peeve (you can say this one, too) is people who are condescending to the homeless vets and other struggling people at the Unity Plenkiss community center. He does need to extend grace to Lisa as she tries to help them, but he is also right to confront and correct her on occasion. He tries to improve the situation instead of condemning her. Pete’s a good guy. And Lisa means well.

I did think of a pet peeve for Susan’s interview. If you want to know what it is, go read it on her website HERE!  Oh, and for those of you whose pet peeve is finding errors in published writing, I’ve given you the gift of using a noun where I should have used an adjective.  You’re welcome. 😉

Snow Angels by Cathe Swanson

If you want to read more about Pete and Lisa, you know where to find them: in Snow Angels, in the Christmas Lights novella collection.  Christmas Lights is just 99 cents. That’s a quarter per book! You won’t find better entertainment value than that.

Christmas Lights - a novella collection



stocking giveaway-mash-up

Christmas Stocking Mash-Up

It began innocently enough–just two friends shopping in Michael’s. We did the usual… you know, finding cool things, spending WAY too much money, laughing!  Talking! But… but then this happened:

Christmas Lights stocking giveaway-mash-up

And today’s the day!

Yep! It’s time! After terrorizing Michael’s with our incessant videos, we bought the stocking and filled that sucker! I’m a sucker for stockings, so that really does fit. Just sayin’.

What’s in this knitted sock of surprises? Well, if I tell you, it won’t be a surprise! Oh, all right.  Here goes! First a couple of pictures….

stocking giveaway

Trip the Light Fantastic

  • A bag of “Life Is Too Short for Bad Coffee” brand coffee!
  • Beeswax lip balm
  • Beeswax lotion (from scandalous “naked bees”).
  • A “complete collection” of Miss Marple books… in miniature. And readable!
  • A set of hand-crafted book-inspired notecards
  • A set of mini notebooks because I love those little things!
  • A notepad for taking notes while reading so you can bless the author with a thoughtful review! (Or do it THIS way and save time and trees!)
  • An absolutely stunning, handmade, beaded bookmark.  Seriously. GORGEOUS.
  • Various author “swag”
  • Chocolate (not shown. I ate it and have to replace it.  Just kidding. Didn’t buy it yet).
  • Fuzzy socks (to keep  your toes warm while you read!)
  • Tea bags (spicy goodness!)
  • Trip the Light Fantastic paperback
  • Snow Angels paperback
  • Christmas Stalkings paperback
  • 21 Days of Christmas hardback

A perfect gift for you or any book-loving friend.  International entries are welcome, but the stocking will only be shipped to a US or APO address.  Sorry.  This thing’s heavy!

Of course, the only way to truly appreciate how this stocking is a “mash-up” of Snow Angels and Christmas Stalkings is to read both books in the Christmas Lights Collection. Of course, we recommend you read ALL the books in the collection.  April’s madcap mystery, Vikki’s heartwarming tale of second-chances and the Lord’s provision.  But… guess what?

There’s More Stocking Goodness…

Sorta.   You see… we have NEWS!!!

New Year's RevolutionsChristmas Stalkings has a prequel/sequel coming out. That’s right, there’s more of Wendy, Neal, Wanda, Peter, and gang! The book is available for pre-order now and will release on 12.31.16. That’s right.  New Year’s Revolutions, the “rest of the story” releases on New Year’s Eve!  I’ve even got a COOL BONUS for it! Prepare to revolutionize your life in 2017–and watch my progress as I fumble and bumble to do the same!  WOOT!


Baggage ClaimSnow Angels, the delightful story that it is, isn’t the only book Cathe has written. She’s coming out with the second book in the Great Lakes Series: Baggage Claim.  It’s available for pre-order now! and releases on 2.14.16.  Valentine’s Day.  It’s like we’ve got this holiday theme going or something!

Ben’s on a race against time and with the last people he ever thought he’d want helping him. His kids are in hiding, and his own life may be in danger.  Find out what’s going on at Great Lakes Therapy in Baggage Claim!


Spilled Ink Hidden CoverApril Hayman has the next in her Heirlooms of Deception series coming out in Winter of 2017.  That’s right!  There’s more to Trip the Light Fantastic!  See Landry in his natural environment… and meet Ree!  His niece and his arch enemy–his sister!

Stay tuned on April’s site and social media for her upcoming COVER REVEAL!  This is just a mock cover to whet your appetite!


Here’s an image to share! We’d really appreciate it!

stocking giveaway

AND!  We’ve added another book!  Kathy Ide’s 21 Days of Christmas a fiction lover’s devotional!

stocking readers mash up giveaway

(note: links in this post are likely affiliate links which provide a tiny commission for us at no extra cost to you. Thanks!)
Please comment and tell us what you’d like most under the Christmas tree this year (or just wrapped in a shiny bow if trees aren’t your thing. 🙂 )

How and Why to Give a Kindle Book as a Gift

How To Give a Kindle Book as a Gift – and why it’s a good idea

How and Why to Give a Kindle Book as a Gift
Why to give a Kindle Book as a Gift

Everyone knows that books make great gifts, and digital books are especially nice because they are:

  1. Inexpensive – most Kindle books are under $10. Some are much cheaper!
  2. Environmentally friendly – no physical production or transportation cost.
  3. Fast – forgot to shop in advance? Order online and have the gift delivered instantly. You can also schedule the delivery for later, if you are shopping early.
  4. Convenient – shop from home, in the proverbial pajamas.
  5. Abundant – you can find almost any title on Amazon.
  6. Easy to send – you only need the recipient’s email address.
  7. Free to deliver – you don’t have to pay postage.
  8. Clutter-free – many of us have plenty of “stuff” and limited bookshelf space.
  9. Personal – we share books that we think other people will like.
  10. Easy to read – you can read Kindle books on a tablet, phone or computer. Or even a Kindle.
  11. Returnable – if your recipient already has the book or is not interested, they can exchange it for an amazon gift card of the same value.
How to Give a Kindle Book as a Gift

Amazon has two options for gifting kindle books: they will send a personalized email and code directly to the recipient, or they will send it to you so you can print it out and deliver it yourself.

First, find the book you want to send. This is a good one!

How to give a kindle book as a gift

Click on the “Give as a gift” button.

How to give a kindle book as a gift

To send the gift directly to your recipient:

Your recipient’s email address does not have to be the one associated with their amazon kindle account. You can personalize the gift with a message.

How to give a kindle book as a gift

If you would like to send the gift later, you can select the delivery date from the drop-down menu.

How to send a kindle book as a gift

Be sure to preview your message.

How to give a kindle book as a gift

As with all of your own kindle purchases you will get the notification that your purchase is complete. Note that it does not say they emailed your gift to the recipient. It says they sent it to you. Don’t worry. If your gift was scheduled for immediate delivery, they sent it.  You will get a verification email.

How to give a kindle book as a gift

This is what your recipient’s email will look like:

How to give a kindle book as a gift

When they click on the link, they will be asked to sign into their amazon account. They will be sent to the the Kindle Gift Center window, where they enter (copy and paste) their gift claim code into the box.

How to give a kindle book as a gift

When they click on the “Go get your gift!” button, they get this page:

How to give a kindle book as a gift

After they click “Accept Kindle Gift”, the book will be in their kindle library and they get the usual page:

How to give a kindle book as a gift

You will get an email notifying you that the book has been claimed.

How to give a kindle book as a gift

You can also check your Amazon account, under Digital orders, to see if it has been claimed or not.

How to give a kindle book as a gift

To deliver it yourself:

If you want to give a Kindle book as a gift but add a more personal touch, you can have Amazon will send the email code to you.


You can dress up your email by adding pictures or more text and then forwarding it to your gift recipient, or you can print it out and enclose it in a card for mailing.

How to give a kindle book as a gift

The rest of that process is the same as the first option.

It’s not hard to give a Kindle book as a gift… it only looks complex because I showed so many screen shots from the perspectives of both the giver and the recipient! The step-by-step instructions make it a very simple and quick process.

By the way…

A person could, of course, look up the price of the book on Amazon, but the price is not shown in the gift card or claim windows.  If the recipient does not want the book, they can exchange it for an Amazon gift card of the same value (in which case they would learn the value of the gift).





Nativity Scene Christmas Lights giveaway

Christmas Lights ~ Enter to Win this Gorgeous Nativity Scene


Christmas Lights is finally here, and we have a great giveaway to share with our readers!

We like to celebrate our new releases this way, and it’s especially fitting during the holiday season. It was hard to find just the right prize, but we all fell in love with a handcrafted nativity scene we found on!
Isn’t it beautiful? This lovely backlit Christmas silhouette scene will be a favorite with children and grandchildren for years! Handmade in Ukraine, this nativity artist ships worldwide, so this giveaway is open to readers in all countries!

Nativity Scene Christmas Lights giveaway

Each of three pieces is 8″ tall, 20″ long and 5.5″ deep, so the complete set can cover a fireplace mantel or you can display the pieces separately. Use battery-operated votive candles or a string of lights to create a three-dimensional display of silhouette and shadows. Enter by October 23rd for a chance to win this gorgeous nativity scene. In addition, we will also be giving away two $5 Amazon gift cards – just in time for Christmas shopping!


We think you will enjoy Christmas Lights. In a variety of genres, the four “light” reads in this novella collection will warm your heart and ignite your Christmas spirit! Most of all, we look forward to sharing the one true Light of Christmas with you.

Nativity Scene - Christmas Lights Giveaway

Christmas Lights ~ A Novella Collection

Vikki Kestell is the author of the acclaimed inspirational series, A Prairie Heritage, a compelling saga of family, faith, and great courage. Vikki’s contribution to this collection, The Heart of Joy, asks, “Can true, enduring love happen twice in a lifetime?”

Cathe Swanson: Author of contemporary mystery and romantic suspense, Cathe brings us Snow Angels. This debut novel is an entertaining companion novella and introduction to her upcoming Great Lakes series.

April Hayman: Author of Heirlooms of Deception series, debuts with Trip the Light Fantastic. This novella features mystery, humor, and “divine intervention.”

Chautona Havig: As the author of the Amazon bestselling Aggie’s Inheritance, Past Forward, and HearthLand series, Chautona brings humor, stalkings, and stockings to this collection with Christmas Stalkings.

Enter Below to Win the Handcrafted Nativity Scene

Nativity Scene - Christmas Lights giveaway

This is going to be a popular prize, so enter soon! No purchase is necessary to enter the giveaway, but there are easy ways to improve your chances of winning. Just follow the prompts in the promosimple form!

Christmas Recipes That We Love (And You Will Too!)

I’m not going to lie…I love to eat and my favorite time to do so is on the holidays. My mother’s side of the family is from the South, so all their Christmas recipes are creamy, cheesy, hammy, and/or yeasty. Just thinking about all that yummy goodness makes my stomach rumble for more.

Christmas Recipes That We Love

Better than all that food though is how it brings a family together. It doesn’t take much for me to remember Christmas supper (dinner to you Northerners) when my Grandmother was still with us.

In our family, we start with finger foods, like pickles, olives, and veggies. When Grandmother called us to the table, we’d sit down to a meal of glazed ham with pineapple rings and cherries, steaming yeast rolls fresh out of the oven, mashed potatoes swimming in butter, giblet gravy, cornbread dressing with so much sage it bit you back, candied yams with either brown sugar and pecans or slightly toasted marshmallows depending on how Grandmother felt that day, green beans with bacon, and creamed corn. We’d also have a salad as a nod to healthier eating. Seriously, though, who did we think we were kidding?

After we demolished that and had a good long while to digest, we set into the desserts. My favorite to this day is Grandmother’s coconut cake and homemade custard. I make it every year for my family but the only ones who eat it are my husband and myself, which means more for us. I guess my kids don’t get the allure of a good Christmas coconut cake.

There would be pecan pie encrusted with sugar glazed pecans and possibly a banana pie made with real bananas and custard — none of that store bought pudding for us! And a clever adult or two scattered cookies, candy, and chocolate treats about to keep the kids happy.

It’s all delicious and fattening but I don’t care. It’s my favorite time of year made even better with delicious food.

9 Christmas Recipes

If you’re interested in making your own Southern Christmas supper, grab a recipe and start cooking ASAP. You need to practice before Christ’s birthday, now don’t you?

What is your favorite Christmas dish? Post them in the comments!

Neal’s Hot Chocolate: The Cheater Gourmet

Just don’t call him that to his face.  He might not like it!

neal's hot chocolate

In Christmas Stalkings, Neal Kirkpatrick tries, or so it seems, to sweeten his disposition with a cup of doctored hot chocolate.  I spent quite a bit of time trying to come up with the version I imagined him using and I did it!

Neal’s Cheater Gourmet Hot Chocolate


(makes 2 mugs or 1 large mug)

  • 2 hot chocolate packets (I used Swiss Miss)
  • 3 TBS Hershey’s cocoa powder
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 capful (small bottle) of almond extract
  • Redi-whip (or whipping cream to whip your own)


Heat the milk on medium-low until near boiling.  Add all ingredients and stir continually.  Just before boiling, pour into your mug(s) and top with whipped cream.  Cocoa powder sprinkled on top is optional but looks quite “gourmet.”


stalkings quote

THIS… is what Wendy thinks of Mr. “You don’t know how to make a decent cup of hot chocolate.”  For more quotes from the book, visit my Pinterest board for Christmas Stalkings!

To read all the books for an insanely low price, purchase The Christmas Lights Collection while it’s still on sale for just 0.99!

Click the bird to tweet! tweet it!

Snow Angels and The Real World

Snow Angels is the story of a young woman who gets roped into serving Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter. The story flowed from my fingertips to the keyboard, and I was several chapters into it before I realized that it wasn’t working.

When I conceived the idea, I wanted to use the Milwaukee Rescue Mission (but set in Chicago) as the model for my setting. I was inspired by my limited involvement and knowledge of that and other ministries as well as the experiences of my husband, who has spent many years working with “troubled youth” and the juvenile justice system. I wanted to write a story about real, human people going through hard times, finding hope and love, with funny scenes as well as the sad stories.

Snow Angels by Cathe SwansonAs I researched homeless shelters and other rescue missions, it became increasingly clear that I could not set my lighthearted Christmas romance—especially a short novella!—in that setting. The scope of those ministries is beyond amazing. They meet needs I didn’t know existed. Thousands of staff members and volunteers pour themselves into serving others. The more I learn, the more humbled I am. There is certainly love and hope and humor there, but it feels disrespectful to try to create an entertaining, happily-ever-after story in 45,000 words.

So I scaled back. I have more experience with small-city ministries, decaying blue-collar neighborhoods, as well as senior centers and a few years of working with elderly people, so I created the Unity Plenkiss Community Center. We live between Milwaukee and Chicago, but at least one of the other Great Lakes books is set on the Indiana/Illinois border so I chose Chicago for the setting of the book.

But where in Chicago? It truly is a city like no other! I could never do justice to its rich and diverse culture, so instead of setting my little ministry in one of the many distinctive and unique Chicago neighborhoods or suburbs, I decided to create a small neighborhood of my own. It’s probably closest to Hegewisch, or even Calumet City, so I gave it some of those demographics.

The characters in Snow Angels aren’t based on actual individuals, but they do represent a few of the people you might find in the area. I have tried to portray them as ordinary humans with dignity and personality instead of making them into stereotypes. I’ve had fun with them, but if they were real, they would probably need a helping hand.

We are a military family, so the problem of homeless vets, especially those with PTSD, is something I am familiar with, but I was shocked to see the high number of homeless female veterans. Fortunately, the issue is getting more attention recently and being addressed by a number of government and community organizations. If you know a veteran who needs assistance, encourage—or help them!—to visit their local VA representative. There are good people there.

The Unity Plenkiss Community Center can’t fix the very real problems found in this area, but it can provide a warm place to sit down, a few hot meals, encouragement and activities for the young people, a safe haven for women in crisis, food and clothing for those with a need, tutoring, companionship and information about available resources. Like all such ministries, they are always in need of volunteers and money and wish they could do more. I hope you enjoy getting to know the people of Maly Park and are—just maybe!—inspired to become a snow angel in your own community.








  • Association of Gospel Rescue Mission – Find a Rescue Mission in your area.



The Christmas Lights Collection Debuts!

Something magical happens on Thanksgiving day.  In homes all over the country, families gather, friends without anywhere to go find themselves folded into families as if a testament to the Psalmist’s words.  I’ve always loved those words, “God places the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6 NLT).  Laughter, gratitude, and often mountains of food fill the day.  Football, family stories, Uncle Herbert’s trademarked jokes that even the toddlers know the punchline to.

christmas lights- turkey

Later, as the day draws to a close, as cars load up with children on the trip back home from Grandma’s or Aunt June’s, as Grandma redistributes the single slices in half a dozen pie tins into one motley circle on a cake dome, it happens.  Often, we don’t even know what “it” is.  But a shift forms in the air.

In our hearts.

People all over America rise at ungodly hours and brave freezing temperatures to stand in line for sales that will stretch their Christmas budget. Still others wait until the sun shines and brave the cold to haul out boxes and plastic totes loaded with lights–Christmas lights.

Christmas Lights - a novella collection

All white–with or without icicles.  Vibrant colors that blink. And of course, just blue, just pink, just green, gold, purple.

Over the next few days, yard decor springs up on lawns all over the country. Candles appear in windows.  In some homes, advent readings begin.

It’s easy to be pulled into the hectic side of the season–the race to find the perfect gift, the flurry of activities, the baking! Time becomes a precious commodity to be spent with the same judicious care as the gift and charity budgets.

However, if we don’t take small moments to refresh and reflect, if we don’t take the time to pause and appreciate, it becomes easy to see this wonderful season as a burden. As a matter of fact, often it becomes just another series of check boxes in our frenetic dance to finally complete our never-ending “to-do” lists.

Christmas Lights Collection

That’s where The Christmas Lights Collection comes in.

Four short novellas in a variety of genres–that’s all they are.  Just four stories to quiet your heart and soul as you embrace the beauty of the season.  Inside, you’ll find Vikki Kestell’s historical romance and a reminder that the Lord’s plans are always just what we need.  We’ll introduce you to Cathe Swanson’s unlikely romance about a woman who sets out to do one good deed as she is drawn into the lives of a cast of eccentric elderly people.   And you don’t want to miss meeting April Hayman and her southern madcap mystery.  And you’ll find my book, Christmas Stalkings, a Christian fiction novella that blends comedy, suspense, and a garnish of romance.

We hope that through these light Christmas stories, to lighten and brighten your hearts, so we offer you this collection. Merry Christmas! And a happy, light read!

chautona havig