Posts By: Christy Hoss

The Cheer of Free Art

Life hasn’t exactly been what we hoped for the past couple of months. When we were stranded in Ogden, Utah, for two weeks in September while my father-in-law was in the hospital, I felt like I was traveling through a long dark tunnel where the light at the end was always out of my reach.

But once we were able to hit the road, things started to look up. We desperately wanted to get home, so, traveling in our gently used RV, we hit the road as the sun set and drove through the night over the mountain pass just to get out of Utah, finally, and into another state, Wyoming.

It really is true that travelers park at Walmart to sleep. At three in the morning, we pulled into the parking lot between another RV and a big rig for what was left of the night.

The entire experience drained me of energy, joy and hope. Even though I still trusted God, my emotions were harsh and unpredictable with the dark hole of depression threatening to swallow me. But God brought some cheer to my drear when we rolled into an RV park in Kearney, Nebraska.

I was drawn to the park’s little lending library. Maybe I could get lost in choosing a new book to read and if I took one, I’d send them one when I returned home. Instead of picking out a book, what I found was someone’s artwork, neatly packaged in a Ziplock baggie.

I thought it odd to have art mixed in with books until I turned it over to read the backside.

I’d never heard of such a thing as “free art,” but I like the thought behind it. Under normal circumstances, I would not take the art but leave it for someone else more needy. But I truly needed it. It brought me some joy in my darkness. A brighter light in my tunnel. When I look at the art, I am reminded that a stranger was thoughtful enough to bring me kindness when I needed it most.

By the way, there’s a public Facebook Community called Abandoned Art, if you’d like to see examples of free art that people create and find.

To finish the story and get some closure for me, I mailed copies of all my books to the RV hosts with a thank you. I may never meet the person who left the happy little hand-painted picture of birdhouses, but I will never forget how their kindness brought me hope. For that, I am forever grateful.

Book Review: ‘When Stone Wings Fly,’ by Karen Barnett

When Stone Wings Fly: A Smoky Mountains Novel 

Kieran Lucas’s grandmother is slipping into dementia, and when her memory is gone, Kieran’s last tie to the family she barely knows will be lost forever. Worse, flashbacks of her mother’s death torment Granny Mac and there’s precious little Kieran can do to help.

In 1931, the creation of the new Great Smoky Mountains National Park threatens Rosie McCauley’s home. Rosie vows the only way the commission will get her land is if they haul her off in a pine box.

When a compromise offers her and her disabled sister the opportunity to stay for Rosie’s lifetime, her acceptance sets her apart from the other mountain folk. And the bond she’s forming with ornithologist and outsider Benton Fuller only broadens the rift.

Eighty-five years later, Kieran heads back to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to find answers to her great-grandmother’s mysterious death and bring peace to Granny Mac before it’s too late. Park Historian Zach Jensen may be the key to locating both the answers.

But what Kieran needs clashes with the government regulations Zach is sworn to uphold. Can she trust God for a solution to heal this generations-old wound?

My Thoughts

As a former park ranger, author Karen Barnett has found her writing niche. Using national parks as her novel settings comes naturally.

Having moved a short drive from the Smoky Mountains, the setting of her latest novel, Barnett’s carefully crafted words make me feel like I am hiking through the forest with her characters.

From the beginning, the main character’s conflict drew me into the story. She has a disabled sister whom she loves but can cause unwanted troubles adding to financial issues, making for real-life struggles, all wrapped up in a beautiful setting.

The mystery of the past, intertwined with the troubles of the future and a little romance added into the storyline, makes this a recipe for a book that once you start reading, you don’t want to put down until you have reached the last page.

Aiden loves Karen’s mascot, Ranger Bear. Check out Aiden’s blog post, “Ranger Bear Gets a Ride.”

About the Author

Karen Barnett, the award-winning author of eight novels, writes historical romance that sweeps readers into the beauty and adventure of our national parks. A former park ranger and naturalist, she worked at Mount Rainier National Park, Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park, and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.

She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two kids, and three mischievous dachshunds. When not writing, Karen enjoys photography, hiking, public speaking, and decorating crazy birthday cakes.

In 2016, she was named Writer of the Year by the prestigious Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Oregon Christian Writers (OCW) honored her with the Writer of Promise Award in 2013 and a 2014 Cascade Award for her debut novel, Mistaken.

Learn more about Karen at

The Author Reads – Book Review of ‘The Hem of His Garment: Reaching Out to God When Pain Overwhelms,’ by Dr. Michelle Bengtson

Hope for When the Pain Won’t Quit

Everyone experiences pain at times. It can manifest physically, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually. It can follow tragic accidents, great loss, sudden betrayal, or unexpected and unwanted change.

Often it is temporary. But what do you do when it isn’t? When the pain just won’t go away, when healing does not come, when the grief and hurt settle in?

Drawing on her own experience of chronic pain and her years as a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson provides a countercultural perspective on pain.

Offering hope without any false promises or empty platitudes, Dr. Bengtson unwraps the complex emotional aspects of dealing with pain. She gives you permission to question God, helps you identify the lies you’ve believed about your pain, and reorients your perception based on the truth of God’s Word.

Each chapter ends with a recommended playlist, reflection questions, and a prayer. Your pain may not change, but your experience of it can.

My Thoughts

Dr. Michelle Bengtson has a heart to help people, especially those who are hurting, both physically, mentally and emotionally.

This is clearly the message found in her previous books, and she has done it yet again in The Hem of His Garment.

Bengtson has written this book despite her own physical pain. She offers to link arms with those in pain, bringing hope. The choice is to hang on to it and Bengtson offers objective ways to put hope into action so one is not just reading about a solution but taking action upon one.

Chapter topics include how to focus, lamenting, relating to God and dealing with His silence.

Anyone looking for relief from any type of pain can find something to bring them hope through reading this book. Bengtson shares her heart with her readers so not one of them should feel alone in their pain.

About the Author

Dr. Michelle Bengtson entertained several dreams in her life: becoming a doctor, having children and writing a book.

She studied neuroscience, becoming a board-certified neuropsychologist almost 30 years ago. A few years later, the birth of her first son brought her second dream into reality.

God planted the third dream in her heart as a young girl. A few years ago, she published her first book, multi-award winning Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression.

Since then, she authored three more books including the award-winning Hope Prevails Bible Study and award-winning Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises. Today Is Going to be a Good Day: 90 Promises From God to Start Your Day Off Right, released through Revell in May, 2022.

She expanded her vision and became an international speaker, podcast host, and coach with a mission to restore hope, renew minds and empower others to live in their God-given identity.

Learn more at

Writers Need Writers

There are Facebook groups for every cause, or, if you are old-school like me, there are in-person groups, also known as support groups.

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I quickly learned I need other diabetics and started a support and education group that met twice a month.

When I first expressed my desire to write, a friend invited me to a writing critique group, where I met my good friend, Michelle Ule.

The group inspired me to attend writing conferences where I learned the craft and met hundreds of writers and others in the business.

The same friend who invited me to the writer group, a few years later started another writing group.

When we moved to Tennessee, I wished I could have taken my writing friends with me.

They helped me make decisions concerning my middle-grade novel series, The Rubber Band, and were very encouraging, inspiring me to keep writing on a regular basis. I missed them terribly and felt I would never find another group.

But God has answered the desire of my heart. I am pleased to have hosted a writing critique group with my friends Sharon Schuller Kiser and Laurie Herlich. We spent nearly four hours talking shop and going over our red-lined submissions.

Sharon Schuller Kiser, Christy Hoss and Laurie Herlich

Every writing group is unique and I count all of my writing experiences as useful and educational, but mostly, I value the relationships that have come from them.

I need my writing friends to keep me going and am thankful for each and every one of them.

The Author Reads – Book Review of ‘THAT End of Lilac Lane,’ by Sharon Schuller Kiser

About the Book

That End of Lilac Lane 

Five-year-old Sarah Emily is abandoned under the sharp-pointed black iron letters ORPHAN ASYLUM OF LANDER. Timothy, a scruffy orphan boy, finds her on the doorstep, coaxes her inside—and a friendship begins.

Growing up under the cruel hand of the headmistress has left Sarah Emily desperate to find out if an orphan is worth anything to anyone. And why was she abandoned? She and Timothy will be pushed out into the world and wonder what life will hold for them.

The only clue to her past is one picture of her parents in an old mahogany box. But when a new crime opens the door to an old one, Sarah Emily discovers a terrible truth. She’ll do anything to keep it to herself—even from Timothy. However, secrets have a way of causing trouble…and danger.

My Thoughts

For those who love to read historical fiction, this is a must-read.

This is Sharon Schuller Kiser’s debut novel, and it is the first in a series. Kiser has crafted an excellent story, fully researched, that brings the reader to the era with a mere one-line description. It is like walking in the characters’ shoes or right beside them.

In a time long before bullying was recognized as a problem, Kiser’s story brings in the ultimate bully, who uses her position to oppress the children of the orphanage in her charge.

Sarah Emily possesses a bright and contagious positive attitude that, despite the difficulties thrown at her, helps her conquer and move on.

This is not just a story of a poor little orphan girl. It is a page-turner full of surprise challenges and impossible odds. I laughed and cried all in one chapter. It is a wonderful summer read I highly recommend.

Buy the book on Amazon.

About the Author

Sharon Schuller Kiser and her husband happily live in a tiny speck of a town in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. After having hundreds of non-fiction magazine articles published, she finally listened to the characters whispering in her ear wrote her first novel.

Sharon is also a speaker, a storyteller, and for six years she hosted a motivational syndicated radio show.

She wants her words to inspire people to believe in the power of prayer and for them to know their lives and value are complete in Jesus.

If she’s not with friends and family, you may find her on the porch sipping sweet tea and letting the majestic mountains refresh her soul.

The Author Reads – Book Review of ‘Runaround Sue,’ by Jennifer Lyn Cary

About the Book

Runaround Sue

She gave away something precious. He lost a part of himself.

Can they find a way to help each other heal?

Sue is hiding out until she is sure her former reputation won’t destroy what she’s trying to rebuild. Unfortunately, that means this brilliant wordsmith turned semi-hermit is working beneath her potential and dealing with stress every time her office door opens.

The last thing she needs to do is greet some biker guy who sets her nerves to jumping just by being in the same room. And if his hairy face isn’t enough to put her off, the mere fact that he’s male is.

So why does she keep ending up in his presence?

Mac is home from Viet Nam and if he never thinks about that place again, it will be too soon. Instead he’s returned to his music that got him through his teen years, his exotic senior trip overseas (thanks to his Uncle Sam), and the deep wound that he brought home with him.

Using his GI bill to further his music understanding has pushed him outside his comfort zone, but the leggy secretary at his professor’s office is tempting him with other ideas he thought he’d shelved for good.

Even if she gets flustered every time he runs into her.

What will it take for her to give him a chance? Or is she more wounded than he is?

Return to 1972 Kokomo, Indiana, for the third installment of The Weather Girls Wedding Shoppe and Venue series—Runaround Sue—and what happens when people discover who God has called them to be.

You will love Runaround Sue, inspired by Dion and the Belmonts’ 1960s hit song, because everyone understands about facing fears with a do-over.

My Thoughts

I loved following the characters Jennifer Lyn Cary created in her Weather Girls series and now she takes the adventures and shenanigans farther with Runaround Sue.

You will be transported back to the seventies and the music will spin around in your mind as you read page after page. The descriptions will create a movie for your mind from page one to the last word. This is another page-turner. Any book – or all of them in this series – makes for a great summer read. Take your pick.

About the Author

Historical Christian romance author Jennifer Lynn Cary likes to say you can take the girl out of Indiana, but you can’t take the Hoosier out of the girl.

She is also a direct descendant of Davy Crockett, which, along with her Indy upbringing, adds fodder to her sweet/clean books.

She and her husband make their home in Arizona where she shares her tales of heritage and small-town life memories with her grandchildren.

Contact Jennifer at

More Reviews of Books by Jennifer Lynn Cary

Sunny: The Weather Girls Series, Book 1

Stormy: The Weather Girls Series, Book 2

Sylvia’s Mother, The Weather Girls Wedding Shoppe and Venue series, Book 2

Book Review of ‘Handpicked,’ by Serina Marshall

Allie Rose always knew she was unique, but she is about to find out just how special she really is. See, Allie was adopted!

And no matter what anyone says about her new mom and dad, Allie will learn the importance and the magic of being specially HANDPICKED. Sometimes, all it takes is a little love and sunshine to grow – and it helps to know that “home” is the garden where you are lovingly planted and cared for most.

My thoughts

Adoption is an important part of keeping society afloat and there is always a need for adoptive parents. In the second book of The Rubber Band series, (The Rubber Band Stretches: Rock’s Story) Rocky hopes to be adopted one day by his foster parents.

Handpicked is a story based upon the author’s actual experience. Serina Marshall was adopted by her grandparents in her preschool years. In our world today, grandparents sometimes step up and raise second families.

This cheerful and colorfully illustrated book will be a great resource for adoptive parents to introduce the subject of adoption, and will certainly inspire confidence in adopted children. It will be a great resource to any library or children’s counseling groups.

About the author

Serina Marshall has spilled words across the writing spectrum. From newspapers to magazines, to anthologies, to speeches and blogs; she puts ink to her thoughts.

Born and raised in the foothills of East Tennessee, Marshall came back to Tennessee and her roots by way of Orlando, Florida, after working as an entertainment lead and trainer at Universal Studios. Marshall views every day as an adventure and every experience as a story.

Thumbs Up!

Closing my eyes, I can see where I was like it was yesterday.

My fourth-grade class lined up on the staircase, waiting for our teacher’s instructions. The girl next to me pulled up my hand and thrust it under my first-crush’s nose, saying, “Chad, look how fat Christy’s fingers are.”

I’d never paid attention to my fingers before, but sure enough, when I examined them, my thumb was stubby and huge with four matching fingers.

I pulled my hand back in humiliation. Ever since that day I tucked my thumb under my fingers, hoping no one would notice my oddly shaped digits.

They are called “hammer” thumbs, a genetic defect that even my high school biology teacher pointed out. I’m the only female in my family to have inherited them. When asked if I could change anything about my body, I knew the answer instantly.

After moving to California in 1987, I discovered a life-changing miracle: acrylic nails. This discovery transformed my life. I no longer hid my thumbs but became confident enough to untuck them.

Getting my nails done on a regular basis is now an important part of my survival. For example: typing this story goes much faster with longer nails.

On the last day of the Blue Lake Christian Writers Retreat, a sweet young lady politely showed me she had thumbs like mine. I immediately embraced her, laughed and cried as we shared stories of dealing with people’s opinions.

Zariah and I are now ‘thumb’ sisters forever.

So, I inherited a genetic defect, passed down from my daddy. He went to Heaven on Christmas Day of 2020. I miss him terribly but think of him often, especially when I look at my thumbs. He gave me a gift that keeps on giving.

These hammer thumbs will keep typing stories and inspiring others no matter what. For that reason alone, I’ll give a thumbs up.

It’s an Obsession!

Confession time. I am drawn to these things. They seem to find me everywhere I go. The latest is called ‘portable’ because it comes with a lid to enclose and carry it.

I must refrain from purchasing them as I am running out of room to display them.

Sadly, I find them in disarray, broken up for their parts; their old keys recycled into jewelry.

But sometimes I receive them in perfect condition, like this one my sister won at an auction in Minnesota.

Another one added to my collection is housed in a special case. It was a Christmas gift from my sister that had to wait until we were moved before its construction and took three of us over several days to put together.

Perhaps my obsession with these is how the smell of dried-up ink ribbon brings me back to my Daddy’s typewriter that looked much like this one.

It was stored in the entryway closet, and he let me play on it from time to time. Could it be that Daddy’s old college term-paper-typing, no correctional tape machine, inspired a young girl to become a writer?

I’ll save that for a future story.

What about you?

Do you collect typewriters, or have one (or more) from “the olden days” on display or stored in closets? Do you actually use a manual typewriter? Share your favorite typewriter memory in the comments.


Dumpster Diving Diva

Growing up in a small Northern Minnesota town, we would often travel 50 miles west to the closest large city to see doctors, an orthodontist and other specialists. My parents loved shopping at K-Mart, having great fun hoping for a good ‘Blue Light Special.’

On the other hand, my young self was more interested in getting an Icee to drink if it was in the budget.

One trip, I picked up a flyer describing what one can acquire with Icee points that are diamond shapes on the sides of the cups. I set my eyes on the giant stuffed Icee Bear. But the cups we could afford only had one point.

My Icee Bear required 1,000 points! Impossible to a young elementary school girl. But I remember literally feeling a large light bulb turn on above my head as I walked past a public ashtray. Sitting in its sand was a discarded large Icee cup with three diamond-shaped points calling my name.

While my parents shopped, I ran through the store raiding every ashtray and trashcan I could find. I could have been labeled an environmentalist as I walked the entire parking lot salvaging every cup I found (yes, even the tire-marked squished ones).

It took a few trips but before I knew it I had enough Icee points to fill ten sheets of one hundred and send off for my bear.

When he arrived in the mail, my sister decided she wanted one. Just when I thought my dumpster diving days were over, I started all over again for the next 1,000 points.

By the way, I never actually dove into a dumpster, but I did dig around in a few public trash cans. Let’s just say that when I really want something, I dive right in!