Nostalgic for Family: One Author’s Approach by Carrie Fancett Pagels

How can an author spend time with family members, over the holidays, when they’ve already gone on to heaven?

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Sounds like a crazy question, doesn’t it? But I’ve found that in writing Christmas stories I’ve been able to revisit with family members by writing about them! When I spend time putting a family members characteristics or situations into a book it is a lot of fun and very nostalgic for me. I was a psychologist for twenty-five years before becoming a fiction author. Hands down–writing about the loved ones I’m missing is so much more therapeutic than simply spending time reviewing old memories, even if I’m fictionalizing them!

For instance in Snowed In, in Guidepost Books A Cup of Christmas Cheer Volume 1, my hero is a WWII veteran inspired by my father and a heroine (inspired by my mother) and little sisters (my aunts). The former infantryman takes his girlfriend and her sisters to his grandmother’s cabin in the countryside, and his bachelor uncle is a little put out, at first, over the visitors. My real life great-grandparents cabin is part of The Tahquamenon Lumbering Museum, in Newberry, Michigan. So during the time when I wrote the story, I shed a few tears at getting to “spend time” with my family over the holidays (even though the loved ones weren’t there and I was writing in the spring and summer!) I listened to a lot of Bing Crosby for the story and imagined how it may have been for my dad, a wounded WWII vet, to have come home from the war, and both his mother and father are gone (my grandmother died when my dad was twelve and his father died during WWII before my dad returned.) So although this was fiction, I enjoyed getting to spend time with a story world populated by my family!

For my Selah award finalist, The Fruitcake Challenge, which was published last year, I once again drew upon my mother’s feisty personality for my heroine Josephine, and Mom’s background in a lumber camp. It was fun imagining what she would do with a guy like the hero, Tom Jeffries, showing up at her camp and challenging her to make a fruitcake “as good as my mother makes” and he’ll marry her! I hadn’t planned on doing any new writing in late 2014 as I’d spent the summer working with several editors on multiple manuscripts, and I thought I needed a break. But the opportunity to have a Christmas story where I could hang out with my spunky mom again was too good to resist! She died five years ago of bile duct/pancreatic cancer. But in my story, I imagined a heroine in a lumber camp with many of her character traits and it was a balm to missing her! (The Fruitcake Challenge was included in a release by Forget-Me-Not Romances as part of an 8-in-1 collection with all of the Christmas Traditions novellas.)

This year I went a little further back in time and included family members I never knew. My grandfather grew up in lower Michigan with his British-born parents. Many of my great-grandmother’s Wenham family members also moved to the area. So although my hero and heroine in this novella aren’t inspired by family, I had fun sneaking in my great-grandparents, grandfather, and great-uncle! Not nearly as therapeutic as the other stories, but still fun! And I included a friend’s husband who departed the earth last year—way too soon. That still doesn’t seem real that he could have died so quickly from that evil thief, cancer. But in this story, part of Carlton lives on.

What about you? Do you have any Christmas traditions that help you remember loved ones who’ve gone on to join Jesus?

GIVEAWAY TIME! One person who leaves a comment will be picked to win a THREE book prize package from Carrie! For an EXTRA chance share this post and leave a comment if you do.

Winner’s package (Void where prohibited by law):

Giveaway starts today, Friday, December 4th and ends Friday, December 11th.

*Giveaway is only open to US residents*

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Former “Yooper” Carrie Fancett Pagels writes Christian historical romances about overcoming. She grew up in Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where many of her stories are set. Possessed with an overactive imagination, that wasn’t “cured” by twenty-five years as a psychologist, she loves bringing characters to life. Carrie and her family reside in Virginia’s Historic Triangle, which is perfect for her fascination with history. Carrie enjoys reading, traveling, baking, and beading—but not all at the same time!



Connect with Carrie:


Blogs: Overcoming With God and Colonial QuillsFacebook Author PageFacebook Personal Page


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108 thoughts on “Nostalgic for Family: One Author’s Approach by Carrie Fancett Pagels

  1. I have taken a break from reading Amish fiction and started reading Holiday fiction (not a norm for me since the holidays depress me LOL) I would love to have these books to add to my collection. I shared the post as well.

  2. I actually have never thought about doing that but this year with my mom having passed a few months ago, I will have to think about how we can do that. Have a blessed day.

    1. ROBIN, my upcoming release, “Saving the Marquise’s Granddaughter”, was written five years ago after my mother died of horrible cancer after suffering through a horrid Whipple procedure. It was absolutely therapeutic for me and I encourage you to try writing through this. Blessings!

    1. JAMIE, if you love hunky lumberjacks, the Northwoods, and God and romance then you would be one happy girl!!! If you don’t win, the ebook collection is on SALE right now and I think you can get all three of the Christy Lumber Camp books for under $3 what a steal! blessings!

  3. Thank you for the giveaway. I love holiday reading. I just finished your book A Christmas Gift for Rebecca. I loved it.
    Merry Christmas.

  4. I mostly read Amish fiction so I have to say Carrie that I haven’t read any of your books but they look like great reads. Thank you for the opportunity to win them. I love Christmas books too.


  5. I have Christmas ornaments from my Grandma, Mother and sister. As I’m hanging them on the tree and think about the the love and laughter we shared in our time together. Those are precious memories to me.

  6. I dearly love all of your Novel’s. I read every night that I go to bed for approx. 2-3 hrs because once I start reading the Amish Novel I have a hard time laying it aside for another day. When my Husband passed away 2-yrs 4-months ago, I found by reading at night time eased my mind somewhat and it was easier to get some well needed sleep, so I continue to read all of the Novel’s that I can find about the Amish living as I enjoy them tremendously. You are a very good author, so keep on writing the wonderful, awesome Novels that you do. Have a great day.

    1. I also wanted to comment I love all of your Novel’s rather it be Amish or otherwise as they are so family connected and keeps my interest. Thank you again.

  7. My favorite books are the Amish novels but I do love to read the Christmas themed books. I read for the enjoyment and pleasure . I like a book that I know will not contain inappropriate language and content. If my grandchildren pick up one of my books I can rest easy because they will not find inappropriate reading material in my house. Thank God for Christian writers.

  8. I for sure would enjoy reading these; the nostalgic bent of people gone on will make them more enjoyable. I can see where including them in the stories helps to bring them to mind and hug them again in your heart. I do that, too.

    1. The Guidepost Books’ “A Cup of Christmas Cheer” collection was wonderfully nostalgic and I really enjoyed contributing to that a couple of years back! These stories, for this giveaway, are definitely in the same vein! Blessings!

  9. I’ve not read any of your books..YET, I sure would love to though…I do read Amish Fiction a lot, but I am always open minded to read other books. Your books do look appealing to read. Thanks for the opportunity to have the chance to win, Thank you.. I will be sharing this as well.

    1. Hi KELLY! Nice to meet you here on Sarah’s lovely blog! I write Christian Historical Romance. I did contribute to a contemporary as a favor to a friend but I don’t do too well with that and I think it showed 🙁 That one is free on Amazon!

    1. AWESOME LINDA!!! Thanks! My books are all on sale right now so if you don’t win you can pick them up for a small amount!!! Regularly $10 for three ebooks and I think right now you can get all for under $3!!!

  10. Thank you so much for the opportunity to get lost in some great books! I’ve shared with a family member… I’m sure if one of us is chosen we’ll be passing these around!

  11. We have discussed starting traditions to remember my dad, however we haven’t actually started yet. I love reading Amish novels, and haven’t had a new book for a while. These would be well read if I was blessed to win as the ladies in our church pass around and share!! 🙂 God bless and Merry Christmas!!

    1. That is how I started reading Christian fiction after a long drought, LUANN, many years ago! The ladies at church were talking about Jan Karon’s books and I started reading. Then the Left Behind series! Blessings! Merry Christmas!

  12. I love to read! I’m reading Sarah’s books right now. I have a Kindle Cloud reader so that I have access to the books. I would love to win your books~

    1. SARAH is a talented author, TAMMY! I am delighted that you may have the chance to read my books. All three of the Christy Lumber Camp Series books should be available for only 99 cents each by later tonight! And if you win you can choose paperback if that suits you better!

  13. I would love to read an author that is new to me. This will be a hard holiday season at our house. We have lost far too many too young this year and are trying so hard to keep memories alive in children’s hearts

  14. I love Christmas, the most important holiday of the year, lots of celebrations including birthdays on this month. Family gatherings and having fun. I would love to win your books. I love reading, it helps my English as being deaf, tend to leave some words out and when I read, I see how words are put together as it makes me write better. 🙂

    1. DARLENE, that is pretty neat how you realize reading improves your speech and writing! Is English also your second language? The best writers are those who read the most, in my opinion. It isn’t just about grammar and all that, it is also about having a feel for a story that resonates with readers! Blessings and Merry Christmas!

    1. Thanks MARILYN! I really enjoyed writing them although I could have done without the emergency open gall bladder surgery and hospitalization in the middle of the series! God is good. He helped me! Blessings!

    1. JOAN, I was blessed to have great covers designed by Cynthia Hickey. I also had wonderful critique partners, editors, beta readers, advance readers, and promo team members! It really takes a village to get a book out there! I appreciate SARAH having me on her lovely blog! Merry Christmas!

  15. I make a cake ever year that my Mom made and so did my Grandma’s. It would not be Christmas with out this cake of my Moms

    1. ANDREA, thanks! It’s a compliment when people tell me my books kept them up all night reading but on the other hand — I worry about them!! The entire series is only $2.97 for the Christy Family Lumber Camp Series this weekend – The Fruitcake challenge ebook has a different cover for the series though.

  16. We have always had Christmas dinner at my home. This year, I am not able to fix the food, so maybe my granddaughter will cook at my house, like she did this Thanksgiving Day. Just being with family will be a blessing.

  17. I LOVE reading Sarah’s books, and would love to win, and read, ypur 3 book pkg, that you are offering! Christmas is just around the corner again….and I miss my Mom after 20 years …THIS Christmas! We found out about two weeks before Christmas that she had cancer, and buried her just a day or two before Christmas! Time does ease some of the pain, but it is always right there, especially around Christmas, her birthday in Feb. and Mother’s Day.
    Blessings to you…….Merry Christmas! CJ

  18. I have been reading the Plain Fame series, I am right now reading number 4 and hate to see it end I spend the last two days reading 2 an3 an I love Amish books especially written by Sarah Price but I would so love win the books she is giving. I also looked into the back an saw that there is going to be a number 5 but it doesn’t say when.
    Keep the books coming Sarah an I will keep reading.
    always Karen

  19. My mom passed 5 years ago. We usually have cranberry sauce in her honour she loved it. We also go to the cemetery to her grave as a family.

  20. Carrie, I have never read your books but would love to win them. If I don’t win, I will head over to Amazon to purchase. Thank you for the chance. God Bless You! Have a wonderful Christmas.

  21. So cool that you are a Yooper. I’m from Southwest Michigan and love the UP, it is so beautiful up there. Would really enjoy reading your works. Have a happy holiday season.

    1. High Five DIANNE!!! I love it when people know what a Yooper is!!! It is a gorgeous place to have grown up! What an interesting thing, though, to have ended up back here in VA which is where much of my family immigrated to in colonial times! Merry Christmas!!!

  22. How we include our departed family members into our holiday traditions, where to start? My husband and I are of the age, where both parents have joined Jesus in the Spirit World. In our memories and traditions, they are still with us, they never really left, only the physical form they inhabited ceased to function. My mother used to make the best Christmas meal, she would take an eye of round, poke holes in it, stuff it with olives, garlic, onion, capers, and spices, wrap it in cheese cloth and let it rest in the fridge over night, and all the flavors melded into the roast, and it is delicious. After she was gone, I started making this as our Christmas meal, in her memory and honor, while I am preparing it, I talk to my mother, thank her for all the love she gave, and I endeavor to put as much love in it as she did. My grandmother had Christmas ornaments, these are now antiques, when she joined Jesus, I was given the ornaments, and now they decorate our tree, each one I touch, I can still feel her presence on them, and when I look at our decorated tree, and can almost see her admiring it also, and know she is will with us as well as in our memories.

    Until my father became too weak, he used to recite the story of Christ’s birth every Christmas Eve, when he lite the last Advent Candle, after he joined Jesus, I kept his tradition, and recite the story as I lite the last Advent Candle.

    My husband’s mother would read the Gospel of Mark on Christmas Day before we bowed our heads to give thanks for the food before Christmas dinner. My husband now does this to keep this tradition and honor his mother. His father would lead the family in singing Christmas carols as he decorated the Christmas tree each year, after he joined Jesus, the following Christmas my husband started singing Christmas carols as he decorated our tree, even though now it is only a small tabletop tree, we sing all the carols, to honor his father’s memory and tradition.

    I would so love to win this set of books, thank you for this and have a Blessed Christmas.

    1. MARION, you were so incredibly BLESSED by your family and the traditions! Wow! BTW, I read your mom’s recipe to my guys and both Sonny and Daddy want me to make this now!!! I’ll have to find you and let you know how it turns out as it sounds delicious! God bless and keep you!!!

  23. I have let life get way too busy to read lately. I was just thinking that a good holiday book is what is needed. Thank you for that opportunity.
    I will be glad to share so others also have that chance. Nothing like a good book for the holidays.

  24. have not read any of your books..awesome!…. my mom has aways had in window…the three candles still doing that…she passed away 35 years ago

    1. WILMA, I write Christian historical romance, not Amish, but I do have some Amish characters in an upcoming release. I love that cover with the candles! Cynthia Hickey designed it and she does beautiful covers doesn’t she? Merry Christmas!

  25. I would love to add these books to my collection. I have loved to read fiction for many years. You have a wonderful style about your writing. Christmas novels are my absolute favorite. They are heart warming, sometimes heart breaking but they bring back so many memories and some times I start new memories from ideas from your books. Christmas is my favorite holiday. I have been in the decorating party business for over 34 years. When in sales you meet many people and you touch many lives as well as many touch mine. My parties end this week and pick up back in January. I make my home into a decorating comfort zone. Most important is the Celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. If you have him in your life there couldn’t be a more special celebration along with family & friends.

    1. LINDA, Wow, thanks for your kind words, which I hope are for me! My writing voice and still is a little different but I’ve been so blessed to have numerous readers tell me how they loved my style, so thank you! And that is so cool about getting ideas from my books (or do you mean Sarah’s?) In any event, Merry Christmas!

  26. A tradition that we keep for Christmas is that everyone get woke up at 5AM. My dad started this when our kids were little and even though he is looking down on us from heaven, we still do it. Love and miss him so very much.

    1. ACK DEBBIE!!! I’d be pretty mad if my hubs or my dad had woke me up 5AM! I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and I’m pretty stiff in the morning. But that is cool that your dad loved Christmas so much that he wanted you kids up to celebrate the Savior’s birth! A nice reminder for your kids that Christ is first in Christmas! Blessings!

  27. Carrie, this post was really interesting. What a great perspective! I remember loved ones whom I have outlived on earth, when I decorate my Christmas tree. I hang mementos from my mom, my grandmother and my husband on the tree among the other ornaments. For example, my husband’s dress watch from his college alma mater, is one of the family favorites. I also have a Christmas apron that was my mother’s. I sometimes wear it during the Thanksgiving-Christmas season. She was a wonderful cook, who enjoyed serving her family–a great example for me.

  28. Hi Carrie, thank you for sharing and a chance to win. I also shared this post. I have enjoyed your books very much and look forward to reading future books. Have a wonderful holiday season. Blessings

  29. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog, Carrie! The winner of the THREE book prize package is Tonda Marcum. Congratulations!! 🙂

  30. THANKS for hosting me, SARAH, This is such a blessing to readers to have all these holiday posts by authors! God bless you for that! Thanking God for the healing He has given you! Merry Christmas!!! Congrats to TONDA!

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