Story Spark: The Fruitcake Challenge by Carrie Fancett Pagels (And Giveaway)

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The Inspiration behind “The Fruitcake Challenge” novella

Book 3 in The Christmas Traditions series with

Cynthia Hickey, Niki Turner, Darlene Franklin, Patti Hall Smith and Jennifer Allee.

Fruitcake Challenge cover jpgI’d been wanting to do a lumberjack and lumber camp story since I’d written “Snowed In,” a short story published in A Cup of Christmas Cheer (Guidepost Books, 2013).  I even pitched this concept for the 2014 collection.

But God spoke to my heart that it wouldn’t be in it. The word count limit was 6500 words, and I convinced myself I could tell this story within that limit. But when I began developing the story with editor Eva Marie Everson this summer, she told me it couldn’t be told in under 35,000 words or so. I told her I was aiming for 20,000. And I did.

As we worked on the project, it soon bore out that Eva Marie was correct—the final novella was 34,000 words!!! None of the other stories in the series are this long, and I’d not meant for it to be so many words, but that was what it took to tell the story.

The inspiration for my heroine Josephine Christy was my mother, Ruby Evelyn Skidmore Fancett, who was a real life cook and who’d lived in a lumber camp part of her growing up years.  My grandmother, Eliza Jane Clark Skidmore, was also an inspiration because she’d been a lumber camp cook for my grandfather, who ran a lumber camp. When I’ve read other Christian romances set in lumber camps I felt the whole story wasn’t told. I didn’t sugar coat the camp experience but I did include how some camps were family camps with men just trying to make a living.

As I got into the character of Jo, it was clear she wanted out of the lumber camp life. And I always sensed this was true of my mother who as soon as she could got a job and lived on her own. My heroine has been lacking hope. And when she meets Tom Jeffries and accepts his challenge to make a fruitcake “as good as” his mother makes, she rises to the occasion but also begins to finally take action to go after her hope in Christ to bring her from the camps and begin a new life. But Tom represents what she says she’d never have—a husband who is a lumberjack.

Teachers, in the 1890s when my story was set, were paid very poorly whereas a hardworking shanty boy could potentially make decent wages for the time. That inspired me to make Tom an educated man who is big and strong, gets into the camp, and becomes a little too cocky for his own good! But he has a heart of gold!

“The Fruitcake Challenge”

When new lumberjack, Tom Jeffries, tells the camp cook, Jo Christy, that he’ll marry her if she can make a fruitcake, “as good as the one my mother makes,” she rises to the occasion. After all, he’s the handsomest, smartest, and strongest axman her camp-boss father has ever had in his camp—and the cockiest. And she intends to bring this lumberjack down a notch or three by refusing his proposal. The fruitcake wars are on! All the shanty boys and Jo’s cooking helpers chip in with their recipes but Jo finds she’ll have to enlist more help—and begins corresponding with Tom’s mother.

Step back in time to 1890, in beautiful Northern Michigan, near the sapphire straits of Mackinac, when the white pines were “white gold” and lumber camps were a way of life. Jo is ready to find another life outside of the camps and plans that don’t include any shanty boys. But will a lumberjack keep her in the very place she’s sworn to leave?

Find Carrie’s books and connect with her at:

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Overcoming with God        Colonial Quills

Author Bio

Carrie brick headshot pmCarrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D., “Hearts Overcoming Through Time,” is an award-winning Christian historical romance author. In 2015, Carrie’s novel Saving the Marquise’s Granddaughter will release with Pelican Book Group. Carrie’s Amazon Christian Historical Romance #1 bestselling novella, The Fruitcake Challenge, released September 2014. Her short story, “Snowed In,” appears in Guidepost Books’ A Christmas Cup of Cheer (2013). She’s the Amazon best-selling and top-rated author of Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance (2013). Her short story, “The Quilting Contest,” appears in Family Fiction’s The Story 2014 anthology. Carrie received Honorable Mention for the 2014 Maggie Awards for Excellence for her unpublished novel Grand Exposé. She is a former psychologist (25 years) and mother of two.

Christmas Traditions Giveaway

Carrie Fancett Pagels is giving a copy of her novella, “The Fruitcake Challenge.” Please leave a comment on this post for a chance to win.

Niki Turner is giving a copy of her novella, “Sadie’s Gift. Please leave a comment on Niki’s post for a chance to win.

For both giveaways, the winners will be randomly chosen from comments left on the respective posts before 11:59 pm (Central time), Sunday, December 14th. Winners will be announced on Monday, December 15th and may select either a paperback or ebook (Kindle or Nook) edition. (USA only for paperback choice.) Thank you for your participation.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete offensive or off-topic comments.

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46 thoughts on “Story Spark: The Fruitcake Challenge by Carrie Fancett Pagels (And Giveaway)

  1. I absolutely loved this book! The perfect blend of humor, historical grit, romance, and faith.

    Thank you for sharing your inspiration for the story, Carrie! Thanks for bringing us this post, Johnnie! 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed the interview and I am looking forward to reading The Fruitcake Challenge. I have a e-copy but would not mind receiving a copy of the paperback which I would donate to our church library. I also like Carrie miss my Mom and Dad especially during the holidays. It’s just not the same.

    • TY Ann! I’m about to bring paperback copies to a local book club group in Yorktown and that’s the first time I’ve had a club read any of my stories so its really fun! You’re right–it isn’t the same. But writing about them has given me some comfort. Have you considered doing that, too?

  3. Loved your post, Carrie!! I knew the basic story behind “The Fruitcake Challenge” , however, learned a couple of new tidbits about it and the lumber camps – from your post. Loved “The Fruitcake Challenge” – a beautiful story!!

    Please don’t enter me in the contest, Johnnie – as I already have both the eBook and paperback of “The Fruitcake Challenge”!!

  4. I love the post. I did not know about “The Fruitcake Challenge”. Would love to read the book. Thank you for the opportunity of this giveaway.

  5. This is such a delightful story, Carrie, and knowing that your mom and grandmother inspired it, even makes it more so! Congrats on a beautifully written story that made us all feel better just for reading it!

      • As a beta reader for Carrie, I can attest to the fact that this one was very different from her others. She shows a lot of versatility, which is so important for an author. I recently read two popular authors’ books that were so similar to their previous books I didn’t finish them. I love for the writing style to be the same, but definitely not the storyline.

        And you’re welcome, Johnnie, and hugs back, Carrie!

      • I really appreciate your follow-up comment, Diana. It’s an important reminder to writers to not get into a rut. I wrote a still unpublished story that I love. Then I wrote another which became my debut novel. That first story has similar plot elements and themes to the published novel. As much as I love the first story, I have to rewrite major sections before I could ever publish it. Thanks again!

  6. “The Fruitcake Challenge” sounds like a wonderful Novella, exciting, loving the outdoors like I do I am excited that it is about a lumber camp. Keep listening to God Carrie you will always finish on top.

    • Hi, Claudia. Don’t you just love that Carrie purposely wrote a lumberjack story with a different and authentic angle that goes beyond the stereotype? Those kinds of insights are essential to a compelling story. Thanks for stopping by.