It Hurts So Good by Anna Willett – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Anna Willett will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

It Hurts so Good
Almost everyone can write, but writing something good is the hard part. So assuming one has the knowledge, knowhow and skill to actually put something good on the page, all that’s left is the myriad of other challenges writing a novel presents.

For some, the hardest part is starting. Facing the blank page and trying to focus a maelstrom of ideas into an attention grabbing first chapter is far from easy. Putting aside the self-doubt and stepping into the unknown takes courage. While for others, finishing a novel is the challenge. Putting in the time and effort necessary to wrangle a ninety thousand word beast into submission can be an overwhelming task. Or some might say creating believable characters that readers are willing to invest in their time and money in, is the stumbling block.

Then there’s those pesky parts we all hate. For me, it’s writing the synopsis. What could be worse than trying to condense ninety or a hundred thousand words into one page? It’s enough to send me screaming from the room or wincing with agony. Whittling a novel down to say five hundred words is like squeezing all the joy and beauty out of the text.

The plain truth is, they’re all right. Everything about writing is hard. Ernest Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at your typewriter and bleed”. Even for a giant of the literary world like Hemingway, writing was painful. Tearing the scab off long buried emotions and pouring your heart onto the page is not for the faint-hearted. Some days, sitting down and plugging away, one agonising word at a time is a writer’s lot.

But with all that said, the question then becomes, why do it? If it’s so hard, painful even, why write? For me, the answer is simple. I write because I love everything about it, even the pain. There’s a sense of satisfaction that comes from creating something out of nothing that’s incomparable. The thrill of building characters and situations born of one’s imagination that then take on a life of their own. There is nothing quite like listening to readers discuss people and situations from your novel, as if they’re real.

The other irresistible lure of writing comes from the days not when you’re bleeding, but when everything’s flowing. The words and ideas come thick and fast. Your fingers are flying over the keyboard and you’re a million miles away from the mundane. In On Writing, Stephen King wrote, “I did it (writing) for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it for ever”. A great deal of joy comes from being fortunate enough to spend your time dreaming up outrageous or terrifying situations and then putting them down on paper. Then sending those pages out for others to read and hopefully enjoy. It’s the best job in the world.

So, what’s the hardest thing about writing? The answer is everything. What’s the best thing about writing? Everything. Strange but true. It’s okay to experience the pain of writing. To sit down at the keyboard and bleed is fine – normal even, as long as there is also joy. Because if you aren’t feeling the joy, it’s going to show in the work. If you didn’t enjoy writing your novel, why would anyone enjoy reading it?

For Milly Birdsworth and Her sister Judith, a two day trip in an isolated area of the National Park seems like an ideal way to mend their tattered relationship. With Milly’s best friend Harper along for moral support and experienced hiker Lucas as their guide, it seems nothing can go wrong.

But when everyone has something to hide, it’s difficult to know who to trust. What starts out as an adventure to bring two sisters together quickly becomes a terrifying ordeal where old wounds are exposed and a deadly tragedy is brought to light. One thing is clear, someone is seeking retribution and won’t stop until the guilty are punished.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

Milly reached for her hand under the sleeping bag. It felt icy. “Anything could be happening. We don’t know it was Harper screaming.” There was so much she wanted to say. So many things she needed to tell her, but now wasn’t the time.

“What’s that?” Judith jumped and squeezed her hand tight enough to cut off the circulation. “In the trees, I… I thought I heard something.”

Milly followed her sister’s gaze. Three metres beyond the fire lay only blackness. It was impossible to see anything, human or animal. Suddenly Milly wondered if the fire was a good idea. If there was someone out there, the light would make the two women clearly visible to anyone watching. They’d be easy targets. Targets for what? Her mind raced in a dozen half-formed directions, all of them ominous. She shuddered and leaned against her sister.

“I don’t hear anything,” Milly whispered. “Maybe it’s an animal. A kangaroo or something.”

About the Author:Anna Willett is the author of Backwoods Ripper and Retribution Ridge. Raised in Western Australia Anna developed a love for fiction at an early age and began writing short stories in high school. Drawn to dark tales, Anna enjoys writing thrillers with strong female characters. When she’s not writing, Anna enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her husband and two children.

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Casket Girl by Maggie Mae Gallagher – Spotlight and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Godess Fish Promotions. Maggie  will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

All he wants is to find a killer…

FBI Special Agent Josh Blake has seen some bizarre cases in his day. His latest case is one for the record books. He has multiple homicides, corpses drained of every ounce of blood, and no suspects. When rumors surface that the French Quarter may be hiding an insidious monster bent on drenching the streets in dead bodies, he must suspend logic and place his trust in the mystical.

She wants a fresh start…

Isabelle Toussánt left her family home in the bayou five year ago, cutting all ties with her abusive whiskey swilling stepfather, to forge a new life in the French Quarter. Now a successful business owner of Madam Toussánt’s Mystical Gifts in Jackson Square, and a Seer with voodoo roots. The foundation of her new life shatters when one of her employee’s winds up dead and she is dragged into a deadly game where she becomes the target of a serial killer.

A passion neither expected…

Determined to stop the brutal slayings, Josh must rely on the beautiful Isabelle who makes him question everything he has ever known about life and death all while surrendering to a desire hotter than a Bayou night. When Isabelle disappears without a trace, with tourists flocking to the party capital for Halloween, and the body count continues to mount, Josh will be forced to push beyond the boundaries of what he thinks is possible and rescue the woman he loves before it’s too late.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

“Miss Toussánt.” Captain Tremayne addressed her above the din and chaos.

She swung around, her long dark hair, the silky wave of it, shimmering and rippling as she faced the captain. Josh took one look at Miss Isabelle Toussánt and felt like a thoroughbred had just kicked him in the stomach.

She was exotic, with caramel skin and looking taut and lean in her formfitting tank that displayed delicate arms. He sucked in a sharp breath when she glanced at the captain. Cat eyes. The mahogany color reminded Josh of his chestnut mare as a child, Daisy. They were framed by black brows. One of them was currently raised in his direction as she spoke to the captain.

“Yes, Captain Tremayne? Can I interest you in a cup of coffee?” Her voice reminded him of a shot of smooth, single malt whiskey.

“Miss Toussánt, this is Agent Josh Blake with the FBI. He has some questions, if you’re up for them.”

A wounded shadow passed through her magnetic eyes for a moment before she shifted her gaze toward him. The unabridged effect of her stare was electric and compelling, until he found himself immersed in her eyes. Unexpected lust zinged along his spine, not that he would give in to the temptation she presented, but his body resonated with the siren’s call her body echoed.

“Agent, can I interest you in some coffee?” She held up a glass carafe of steaming brew, already half empty.

“Not right now, Miss Toussánt. Thank you for the offer, though,” he murmured gently but firmly. It smelled like heaven, but he didn’t want to coddle her. She needed to understand he was in charge and would dig into her background no matter how sweetly her hips swished as she walked.

“Please call me Isabelle,” she offered with a slight smile, but it didn’t spread to her eyes. No amount of coffee or alcohol would erase the vision of death. He knew what that first time was like, though, the horror of it, the way it twisted your insides. Seeing for the first time how fragile life truly was made you face your own mortality. And, more important, you began to understand that some individuals just wanted to watch the world burn.

“Is there somewhere we can talk privately?” he asked, assessing her response, both verbal and non-verbal, ignoring the intense desire churning in his gut as he studied her. If there was one thing Miss Toussánt was, it was off-limits. It didn’t matter how long it had been since he’d done the horizontal tango. If there was one thing he was strictly by the book on, it was that he never blurred the lines in a case. The evidence either convicted a person or set them free. As it was, she was a witness to a horrific murder, possibly more.

There was something off about her that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. The way her eyes darted nervously around, and she kept wetting her pouty bottom lip. It could be signs of trauma and shock from discovering the body, or it could be she was hiding something. Perhaps she’d witnessed the incident and feared the killer would come back for her if he knew.

“Certainly, follow me.” Isabelle returned the carafe to the coffeemaker, wiped her palms along her skirt and nodded toward a doorway in the far corner.

He would have followed her into hell if it meant listening to her sultry voice some more and siphoning whatever information she had on this case.

About the Author:Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Maggie grew up listening to Cardinals baseball and reading anything she could get her hands on. She remembers her mother saying if only she would read the right type of books instead binging her way through the romance aisles at the bookstore, she’d have been a doctor. While Maggie never did get that doctorate, she graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with an M.A. in History.

Maggie is a bestselling and award-winning author published in multiple fiction genres. She also writes erotic romance under the name Anya Summers. A total geek at her core, when she is not writing, she adores attending the latest comic con or spending time with her family. She currently lives in the Midwest with her two furry felines.

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Don’t miss these exciting titles by Maggie Mae Gallagher!

The Mystic Series
REMEMBER ME
CASKET GIRL

The Cantati Chronicles

RUPTURED
ANOINTED
ASCENDED

And if you like your romance with a bit of spice and kink be sure to check out Maggie Mae Gallagher writing as Anya Summers!

The Dungeon Fantasy Club Series
HER HIGHLAND MASTER, Book 1
TO MASTER AND DEFEND, Book 2
TWO DOMS FOR KARA, Book 3
HIS DRIVEN DOMME, Book 4
HER COUNTRY MASTER, Book 5
LOVE ME, MASTER ME, Book 6
SUBMIT TO ME, Book 7
HER WIRED DOM, Book 8

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Gone But Not Missed by A.R. Kennedy – Spotlight and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. A. R. Kennedy will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Lillian Brannon wakes up on Valentine’s Day in an exact replica of her bedroom but the only item that she believes is authentic is her dog, Laude. She is held captive in her kidnapper’s basement apartment, summoned upstairs once a week for a chaste dinner. But will his kindness last, and more importantly, why isn’t anyone looking for her?

Lillian’s story is interwoven with that of Nathan, a NYPD officer, who is intrigued by Lillian’s disappearance- how can a young woman be gone for two weeks before a Missing Person Report is filed? Local police believe Lillian has voluntarily abandoned a life she didn’t like. Lillian’s best friend convinces Nathan the authorities are wrong. With no jurisdiction, no resources, and no witnesses, he is compelled by the pictures of Lillian with her sweet smile and sparkling green eyes to obsessively take up the case. Armed with Lillian’s keys and personal information, he spends hours, then days in her home trying to find clues that will lead him to her.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

LILY –

I woke with a terrible headache. The pounding reminded me of the night Annie and I discovered the potency and, the next morning, the after effects of martinis. The smile that thought brought to my face quickly faded when the throbbing intensified.

I feared opening my eyes. Not sure if that would make my head hurt worse and scared what I would see. I tried to recall my evening. I didn’t remember going to bed. Truth was, I didn’t remember coming home.

No. I remembered getting on the elevator. And, arguing on the phone with Annie, before getting on the elevator. And hanging up on Annie as I got on the elevator. But that was it. No getting into my apartment; no getting into my bed. I was trying to remember more when I remembered the most important thing, Laude.

I gradually opened my eyes and there she was. Sitting right next to me, staring at me. Her ears, which usually stood straight up, were down. Her head was down, too. Not exactly cowering but not the usual morning, happy to see you posture of my puppy. It was a bit disconcerting to see those two dark eyes fixed on me, never mind not knowing how long they had been staring at me.

About the Author:This A R Kennedy’s debut series.

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A Minor Deception by Nupur Tustin – Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Nupur will be awarding a a free print copy of the book (Open to US only) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn would like nothing better than to show his principal violinist, Bartó Daboczi, the door. But with the Empress Maria Theresa’s visit scheduled in three weeks, Haydn can ill-afford to lose his surly virtuoso.

But when Bartó disappears—along with all the music composed for the imperial visit—the Kapellmeister is forced to don the role of Kapell-detective, or risk losing his job.

Before long Haydn’s search uncovers pieces of a disturbing puzzle. Bartó, it appears, is more than just a petty thief—and more dangerous. And what seemed like a minor musical mishap could modulate into a major political catastrophe unless Haydn can find his missing virtuoso.

Enjoy an Exclusive Excerpt:

Did Barto leave of his own accord, or was he . . . ?

Haydn began to pace the floor, needing the rhythm of movement to clear his head. He was aware of his brother’s eyes following him as he walked to and fro, head bent, hands clasped behind his back. He stopped at last.

“There are some minor details that make Rosalie’s supposition entirely plausible. Bartó’s constant fear that he was being spied upon. His suspicion of his colleagues. Of Lorenzo, in particular. And the little I picked up from Maria Anna last night about his extreme dread. Of what exactly, I know not. I can only suppose he was making some clandestine plan. To desert his post, perhaps. It is entirely in breach of his contract, so it would have to be clandestine.”

“As to Lorenzo.” Haydn paused, making an effort to collect his thoughts. “This cannot be the first time that Bartó, instead of being in the Rehearsal Room leading the orchestra, is elsewhere. Yet, Lorenzo seems absolutely certain Bartó has left. Never to return.”

Haydn dragged his hand through his wig, unwilling to follow his train of conjecture any further. “Bartó seems to possess a peculiar talent for rubbing people the wrong way. But I am afraid, the animosity he and Lorenzo have for each other could…” He hoped his brother would understand. He could not bring himself to name his fears.

Johann regarded him for an uncomfortable moment. “It was but yesterday that the Estates Director promised dire consequences unless you dismissed Bartó,” he quietly reminded the Kapellmeister. “It would be as plausible to suspect he had some hand in Bartó’s disappearance.”

About the Author: A former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem. The Haydn mysteries are a result of her life-long passion for classical music and its history. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her original compositions, available on ntustin.musicaneo.com.

Her writing includes work for Reuters and CNBC, short stories and freelance articles, and research published in peer-reviewed academic journals. She lives in Southern California with her husband, three rambunctious children, and a pit bull.

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Winter Blogfest: June Summers

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This post is part of Long and Short’s Review Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a
$10 Visa GC.
.

A Christmas Poem
My Christmas focus now will be
On what makes life so grand,
And hopefully you all will see
How living on this land
Is God’s great gift to all of us,
To cherish and adore.
For in our hearts and hands He trusts
Its safety evermore.
 
Just take a look around and see
The wonders to behold,
Your friends and your dear family-
They’re worth much more than gold:
A mother’s tears of pride and joy,
No words can e’er express,
A love none ever can destroy,
Her newborn at her breast.
As children to adults they grow,
So proud of them are we.
Our faces happy and aglow
To see their destiny:
A graduation, wedding day,
Success in their careers.
And happiness for them we pray
Throughout their coming years.
 
Let’s not forget the wisdom learned
From those who’ve gone before,
For with their knowledge and concern
There’s more world to explore.
We won’t forget our dear grandpa,
Or father, friend now gone.
They taught us well, the rules, the law;
They’re our top echelon.
 
And we could never do without
Our pets that we hold dear,
For animals, there is no doubt
Bring us great joy and cheer.
They listen to our every word
As we unload our cares.
No back-talk from their mouths is heard;
They look at us and stare.
But in that stare they comfort us.
They do not judge our ways.
Accepting what we say in trust-
Their look their love conveys.
 
We cannot let a day go by
Without a special prayer
To soldiers who we so rely,
Our country’s in their care.
They risk their lives for us each day;
They are a special lot.
May God protect them on their way.
They give all that they’ve got.
 
Now let us look around our land
At other miracles:
The mountains, oceans, hills, and sand,
To God we do extol;
The beauty of a setting sun,
What joy to us it brings;
The rising moon when day is done.
God’s gifts are all these things;
A peaceful night beneath the sky,
Or walking in the rain;
A Christmas day with apple pie,
Or strolling down a lane
With fragrance of a new mowed lawn
Adrift in open air;
Or fishing in a sparkling pond
Without a single care;
The changing seasons, winter’s snow,
So crisp and cold at night;
The summer heat as soft winds blow,
The sun so warm and bright;
The colored leaves of autumn trees
As coolness fills the air;
And springtime with the birds and bees,
And flowers everywhere.
 
So this year Christmas is a time
To let our anger go.
And as the distant church bells chime,
Let love and patience grow.
Let’s try to live in harmony
With both our friend and foe.
Remember Jesus is the key.
He is the King, you know.
His birthday is a sacred time
For us to celebrate.
And Christmas cheer to yours from mine.
Let peace to you await.

Were they prank telephone calls in the middle of the night, or was it a desperate cry for help? The calls eventually force Ken Driscoll, a young accountant, to examine what was important in his life. His job? His relationship with his fiancée? Or the life of the boy at the end of the telephone line? Let Freedom Ring deals with two very different lives and their unique intersection in time. Because of a quirky twist of fate, Avery Archer, an eleven-year-old boy, telephones Ken and pleads for help in escaping from his kidnappers. Ken thinks that the boy is playing a sick prank on him, but after several phone calls, Ken truly believes the boy is in danger. When Ken contacts the local police for assistance, he learns that Avery Archer had been abducted sixty-seven years ago and eaten by alligators in a nearby lake.

About the Author: We were a mother and daughter team, collaborating on the writing of this manuscript. June is a mature lady of seventy-six living in rural Orange County, Florida, with her second daughter and family, four dogs, fifteen chickens, five Nigerian Dwarf goats, a horse named Pearl, and 50,000 Italian honey bees. Graduating summa cum laude from Youngstown State University (when it was still Youngstown College), she was an art teacher for several years and now is a part-time staff accountant for a CPA firm, working primarily from home. Wendelin Saunders, June’s daughter, passed away from cancer in 2009. She was a graduate of Illinois Benedictine College with a major in mathematics. She worked for several years at Disney’s Epcot. Before her death she and June ran an animal shelter in their home, which included the forever home for forty dogs, twenty-two cats, and four rabbits.

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Winter Blogfest: A.K. Smith

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This post is part of Long and Short’s Review Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win an e-book version of the new release, A Deep Thing, by A. K. Smith..

10 Ways to Get In the Holiday Spirit
By A.K. Smith, debut author of A Deep Thing (12-19-2016)

Every year, without fail, Christmas and New Year come barreling in at the speed of light. It’s inevitable, we know the date–it never changes–and thanks to retailers across the world, we know it’s coming before the kids start putting on their Halloween costumes. If this is true, why does the “I can’t believe it’s Christmas ALREADY syndrome” happen to me every year? Life happens. NO matter what is looming ahead of us on the calendar, daily routines, and appointments keep piling up. Before we can think about wrapping the presents, we realize, the holiday is already here and whizzing by. Here are ten ways to slow down, enjoy it, and get in the holiday mood.

1. Plan. On December 1st. Get out the calendar, schedule in one hour every day to do something in preparation for the holidays. Write it on your phone, your computer or your paper calendar. When that hour comes, think Holiday.

2. Play holiday music starting December 1st (during your planned hour would be awesome), 25 days of music will get you in the spirit. Pandora, Amazon Music, Spotify all have free Christmas playlists!

3. Watch holiday movies at night or in your spare time. My favorites in case you need suggestions: The Holiday, Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, Serendipity, Love Actually, 12 dates of Christmas. I also love the Hallmark Channel movies and record them.

4. Decorate your home. Find/buy or borrow a tree, hang ornaments on it (size does not matter when it comes to trees, look at Charlie Brown’s tree). Hang up a few lights around your home or bedroom, light a candle, and at night twinkling lights will bring the holiday spirit inside your home.

5. Attend a Holiday service. Whatever your religion, try a holiday service at a local church, synagogue or temple. The message is all the same: peace, love and remembrance.

6. Get cold. If you live near snow, try something wintery, sledding, ice skating, snowman building. If you don’t, find out what event is having fake snow near you. (I live in Phoenix, and the local shopping area has fake snow!)

7. Go Caroling. When’s the last time you tried this? If you haven’t, round up the family, friends or, join a group. The spirit of holiday songs will make you alive.

8. Start a tradition with yourself, your partner or your family. It’s as easy as a special meal, watching a certain movie, or playing a game. Simple is best, repeat it every year.

9. Think of a few special people that may be spending the holiday sick or alone and would enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas card. Spend 15 minutes of your hour to write them a meaningful note the old-fashioned way. Snail Mail and the written word are very special.

10. Light a fire, make a hot beverage (hot chocolate, hot tea or hot toddy,) up to you if you put something in it and grab a good book. Need an idea? Try out my Christmas week release, A Deep Thing, and be taken away to an island, beach and a mysterious jungle to warm up.

What was her husband hiding in the jungles of Mexico?

Rocked by her husband’s tragic death, Kendall Jackson strives to put her life back together. But Ryder, her nineteen-year-old stepson, is bitter and wants nothing to do with her. And she can’t keep the grief at bay. Sometimes, it’s so strong, she wonders if life is worth living.

A call from a cave diver in Mexico gives her hope of mending the relationship with her stepson. Before his death, her husband arranged a diving expedition as a birthday gift for his son. Kendall persuades Ryder to honor his father’s last wish.

From the campus of Western Maryland College to the woods of Camp David and the caves of the Yucatán, Kendall and Ryder take a journey to discover what her husband worked so hard to hide, and to protect his treasured secrets from falling into the wrong hands. The choices they make will decide their fate and the future of others. Will they risk everything for the truth?

About the Author: Mexico has a special place in her heart; it’s where she escaped after walking out on Corporate America and where she fell in love on a sailboat. She is a graduate of Shippensburg University (BA) and has a Master of Arts from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. A.K. has written for various national and international publications and blogs including Flight Network, Examiner.com and has been a monthly travel columnist for Rocky Point Times Newspaper for the last six years. Published in various print publications including two cover features in Mexico Living Magazine she continues to trek the world to experience off-the-beaten-road destinations.

A.K. loves seeing the world; Her goal is to step foot on every continent on Planet Earth (maybe even the moon)—she’s slowly getting there. She treasures her family, friends, and kindness.

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Winter Blogfest: Peggy Chambers

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This post is part of Long and Short’s Review Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Secrets of Sandhill Island..

BaaBa’s Snickerdoodles

Mistletoe hung over the front door – fresh from the woods where my grandfather hunted. He found it high in the trees and brought it down with one crack shot; then bundled it for the house, with plans for Christmas kisses.

In the living room stood the fragrant evergreen with silver icicles draping from bough to fragile balls frosted with spray-on-snow from years gone by. My grandfather’s baritone voice sang carols by the wood burning stove as the tea kettle on top spewed steam to moisturize the air.

The kitchen smelled of cinnamon, oranges, and pine. In the tiny house in northeast Arkansas the kitchen was always the hub of the family gathering. My grandmother baked her famous Snickerdoodles – moist in the middle and crisp on the outside. The coffee pot perked on the antique stove for the adults, a bent and scalded pan heated hot chocolate for the kids. Sometimes she had cinnamon sticks to stir the chocolate – never marshmallows. I don’t know why.

BaaBa’s Snickerdoodles
Mix together:
1 Cup soft shortening
2 eggs
Sift together and stir in:
2 ¾ Cups sifted flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp soda
½ tsp salt

Chill at least two hours (overnight is better). Roll into balls the size of a small walnut (black walnuts, English walnuts don’t grow in Arkansas). Roll in a mixture of 2 tsp. sugar and 2 Tbsp. cinnamon. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until lightly brown but still soft (8 – 10 minutes) in 400-degree oven.

My grandparent’s home was a haven of love and security especially at the holidays. What they lacked in material goods they made up for in family love and hospitality. Family was everything and all were welcome. Merry Christmas wasn’t just a phrase – they meant it for everyone.

Wishing you the joy at Christmas my family felt. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and those you love.

On a tiny island in a ramshackle beach house, Meg, an heiress, is hiding from her family’s dubious past. Her true love, Evan, died thirty years ago in a storm at sea, she thought. Did her father really have her lover killed and if so does everyone on the island know about it but Meg?

Alex must try to befriend Meg’s son Jon if he is ever to win Meg over. And with his past problems with women, he wonders why he even tries. After all, he is just a starving artist and has little to offer her.

Now that Alex has warmed her heart again, Meg realizes she has friends and a life outside her vegetable garden. But, who is blackmailing her?

About the Author: Peggy Chambers calls Enid, Oklahoma home. She has been writing for several years and is an award winning, twice published author, always working on another. She spends her days working in an office and her nights and weekends making up stories. She has two children, five grandchildren and lives with her husband and dog. She attended Phillips University, the University of Central Oklahoma and is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. She is a member of the Enid Writers’ Club, Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc., Oklahoma Women Bloggers and Ozark Writers’ League. There is always another story weaving itself around in her brain trying to come out. There aren’t enough hours in the day!

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Winter Blogfest: Jo A. Hiestand

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This post is part of Long and Short’s Review Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the mystery “On the Twelfth Night of Christmas,” a copy of the companion cookbook “Cider, Swords and Straw,” a silver charm (drummer drumming), London graphics fashion scarf, and a Union Jack-design tea towel..

A Toast to Twelfth Night
by Jo A. Hiestand

I love customs. I love knowing how, when and why they started. I like the link going back all these centuries, making me part of the long line of revelers.

One tradition I like is Twelfth Night. January 5. Not to be confused with Epiphany, which is January 6. Twelfth Night marks the last of the twelve days of feasting and merry-making during the Christmas season.

Most of us know the song the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” This is what the song is marking down—the twelve days of the Christmas season, from Christmas Day, Day #1, to Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night, lying between the end of the old year and the new one, was a perfect time for fortune telling, to see what the new year would bring. If an apple peeling was thrown over an unmarried girl’s shoulder, the peeling would supposedly fall into the shape of the initial of the first name of her future husband.

Twelfth Night in England was also a time for wassail, the potent apple-based drink. Wassail comes from the old Saxon word Was Haile! To Your Health! Wassail is made with ale, roasted apples, eggs, sugar, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. It’s drunk hot. Wassail is also known by the name “Lambs Wool” because the apples, after sitting in the hot liquid for so long, tend to soften, lose shape, and appear as little balls of whitish lambs wool. Another version of the name suggests it comes from the Irish ‘la mas nbhal,’ meaning ‘the feast of the apple-gathering.’ La mas nbhal is pronounced ‘Lammas ool’ and evolved into ‘lamb’s wool.’ Each person would scoop an apple out of the wassail bowl and, on eating it, express his wish for future luck to all present.

Apples were important to a farmer’s economy. To ensure a good apple crop the following autumn, the custom of wassailing the apple trees developed. It occurs either on Twelfth Night or New Year’s Eve. A bowl of cider is carried to the apple orchard. Large portions of mulled cider are poured onto the roots of the largest tree there. Slices of toast that have been soaked in the wassail are placed on the tree branches, perhaps to tempt the birds into eating the bread and sparing the apple buds. People blow horns, bang on kettles and fire guns to frighten off malicious spirits.

Toast is very important in the wassailing of the trees and also in the wassail drink itself. Pieces of toast are floated in the wassail bowl as the drink is served; this is where our phrase “to present a toast” or “to toast someone” comes from.
During the Twelfth Night celebration, a traditional cake is eaten. In addition to the usual cake ingredients, the cake uses white rum, raisins, citron, candied orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemons and almonds. It is iced with a frosting of rum, sugar, butter, egg yolks, and almond extract. Prior to baking, a dried bean and a dried pea are inserted into the batter in the cake pan. When baked and presented at the table, the cake is cut and a slice handed to every guest.

The man getting the bean in his slice becomes Bean King; the woman receiving the dried pea in her slice becomes Queen. They are king and queen for the duration of the night’s festivities and preside over the revels that follow. The King and Queen direct people to go on ludicrous errands or perform funny things, usually outside each person’s character.

The Lord of Misrule presided over this festival, which symbolized the world turned upside down. On Twelfth Night the King and all nobility would take the part of peasants, while they, in turn, played at being the aristocracy. At midnight the merriment of the Bean King and Queen and the evening’s comical commands ended, and the topsy-turvy misrule would reverse to normality. The world was set right again, each person in his or her proper station in life.

It all seems like it was glorious fun. I, for one, offer a toast to it all.

DS Brenna Taylor and DCI Geoffrey Graham are summoned to investigate a drowning in a wintry pond during a family 12th Night party. The case quickly turns personal for the CID team, for one of their own detectives becomes prime suspect, and Brenna finds herself caught between the police investigation and her belief in DS Mark Salt’s innocence. Yet even her faith is strained when Mark’s parody of “The 12 Days of Christmas” hints that he was having an affair with his murdered sister-in-law, Mercedes. It’s easy to believe Mark’s guilt: he attracts women like Christmas presents entice kids. As the investigation progresses, other ‘attractions’ in his past are revealed, and Mark’s guilt intensifies with each one. Had he accidentally killed Mercedes to stop her from leaving the family business–or was the motive personal, perhaps involving the woman with whom he had a brief, passionate affair, the fiancée of Mercedes’ brother? Now that Brenna finally views Mark as a human being, will she lose him if he’s charged with murder?

About the Author: A month-long trip to England during her college years introduced Jo to the joys of Things British. Since then, she has been lured back nearly a dozen times, and lived there during her professional folk singing stint. This intimate knowledge of Britain forms the backbone of both the Taylor & Graham mysteries and the McLaren cold case mystery series.

Jo’s insistence for accuracy, from police methods and location layout to the general feel of the area, has driven her innumerable times to Derbyshire for research. These explorations and conferences with police friends provide the detail filling the books.

In 1999 Jo returned to Webster University to major in English. She graduated in 2001 with a BA degree and departmental honors.
Her cat Tennyson shares her St. Louis home.

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Winter Blogfest: Joanne Guidoccio

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This post is part of Long and Short’s Review Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win an ebook of A Season for Killing Blondes..

EARTH FRIENDLY GIFTS

When selecting a gift for a special friend or relative, I try to think and act with the Earth in mind. Instead of spending countless hours searching for that perfect item or gadget that will eventually be relegated to a drawer or closet, I stop and consider what would be appreciated. Mindful gift giving that creates deeper connections and honors environmental values does not require a lot of money or effort.

Consider the following tips:

• Find out what your friend or relative has always dreamed of doing. Writers, artists, and actors would appreciate sessions with professional coaches. Book time in a recording studio for your favorite vocalist or musician.

• Provide opportunities to try out new hobbies or interests. These could include gift certificates for yoga and Pilates studios, golf lessons, scrapbooking, horseback riding, scuba diving sessions, and hot air balloon rides.

• Give parents and grandparents gifts that have sentimental value. You could ask a local artist or artistically inclined relative to paint a picture of the family house or cottage. Have the picture framed and presented at a family gathering. Alternatively, you could commission an embroidered or calligraphic family tree.

• Invite all the children and grandchildren to spend a day scrapbooking or organizing pictures into collages at your parents’ home. Have all the supplies on hand and clear several large tables. Encourage everyone to share the stories behind the pictures and interact as they prepare the scrapbooks and collages. Prepare a simple lunch and have snacks on hand.

• Help the college student in your circle. Fill a reusable bag or basket with Fair Trade, organic coffee and chocolate, green tea, healthy snacks (almonds, walnuts, and pecans), a nut cracker and a cookbook. Include gift certificates for health food stores, organic restaurants and other green retailers in her new community.

• Create gift baskets that support her favorite pastime. If she is a gardener, fill an attractive watering can with seeds, kneeling pads, a gardener’s tool belt, gloves, a pruning kit, and other hand tools. Gourmet cooks will appreciate receiving the latest kitchen gadgets, books, platters, bowls and other items that will improve and enhance their culinary creations.

• Give gift certificates for her favorite restaurant, movie theatre, health food store, beauty salon or spa. If finances permit, give certificates for massages, reflexology and Reiki sessions.

• Release expectations. We all want our efforts to be appreciated, but sometimes, the gift does not fit or it is simply not liked. Consider including a variation of the following message on the card: “This gift is given to you because it reminded me of your unique self. This gift is given freely with no expectations. If, at any time, this gift no longer brings you smiles and good feelings, feel free to pass it along to someone else, thereby practicing a more clutter free life and feeling the joy of letting go!” (Professional Organizer, Marlo Nikkila)

Hours before the opening of her career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the body of golden girl, Carrie Ann Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside Gilda’s office. Gilda’s life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former high school crush, conducts the investigation. When three more dead blondes turn up, all brutally strangled and deposited near Gilda’s favorite haunts, she is pegged as a prime suspect for the murders.

Frustrated by Carlo’s chilly detective persona and the mean girl antics of Carrie Ann’s meddling relatives, Gilda decides to launch her own investigation. She discovers a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga instructor in need of anger management training, a lecherous photographer, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.

As the puzzle pieces fall into place, shocking revelations emerge, forcing Gilda to confront the envy and deceit she has long overlooked.

About the Author: In 2008, Joanne took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes paranormal romance, cozy mysteries, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

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Channeling your inner Jess Fletcher by T.C. Lotempio – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. T. C. Lotempio will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Channeling your inner Jess Fletcher
T. C. Lotempio

If you’re a fan of mystery series, and MURDER SHE WROTE in particular, you might have heard of something called “Cabot Cove Syndrome”. Which is a term for a locale or a person whom death and mystery seems to stalk – ad nauseum!

Not a funny thing when you’re a writer of said mysteries! Plotting a mystery, particularly a murder mystery, is hard enough work! How many bodies can one stumble on before you get a “body magnet” label attached to you, as Nora Charles in my Nick and Nora series has! (although sometimes it’s hard to tell whether she or her cat, Nick, is the body magnet).

Becoming a BM could be construed as a problem when writing a cozy series. How does one avoid boring the reader? Well, one way is to alternate the murder weapon – this time, a gun; next time, a knife, the time after that, poison—and so on. Alternate the mode of discovery as well. And even though the Nick and Nora series always starts out with a murder in its prolog, sometimes it’s good to wait a bit to have a murder occur in the body of the story until readers become invested in your characters! If they build up a rapport with your sleuth, they might be a tad more forgiving as to why so many folks come up dead in his/her balliwick!

Expand your character’s horizons, if at all possible. If you can send your sleuth on a trip to stumble across dead bodies, all the better! To quote Wikipedia:
— From a statistical perspective, coincidences are inevitable and often less remarkable than they may appear intuitively –

In short, where murders occur – and why – are just one of those things you can’t explain, one of life’s little mysteries. Which is my response when cynical readers remark on Nora’s penchant for coming across a dead body – or two, or three.

Sit back and enjoy the ride, and if you have to, channel your inner Jessica. You might end up solving the crime right along with our sleuth!

While catering a gala for the Cruz Museum, Nora Charles agrees to look into the disappearance of director Violet Crenshaw’s niece, a case previously undertaken by her frisky feline friend Nick’s former owner, a private eye whose whereabouts are also currently unknown.

As Nora and her curious cat Nick pull at the string of clues, they begin to unravel a twisted tale of coded messages, theft, false identities, murder, and international espionage. Nora dares to hope that the labyrinth of leads will not only help them locate the missing young woman, but also solve the disappearance of the detective. That’s if Nora can stay alive long enough to find him…

Enjoy an Excerpt:

“Yes, so you needn’t worry about anything, Nora, other than preparing your excellent food,” Nan remarked and then added with a twinkle in her eye, “unless you think the grimoire and its history might make a good story for that magazine you write for.”

“NOIR. It might. I’ll ask Louis.” Louis Blondell, the owner and editor of the online true crime magazine I wrote part time for, was always eager for any article that smacked of mystery – plus I owed him two articles already. I tucked the tip about previous theft attempts away, determined to do a bit of research on my own regardless of whether or not he’d be interested – although knowing Louis, I was sure he would be. “I can name some of the sandwiches and main dishes after the more popular characters in Arthurian mythology. I’ll just need to do some research on them – and I know just the person to help me.”

“Splendid!” Nan clasped her hands in front of her. “And several food critics will be there – they’re patrons of the museum – so it will be a wonderful opportunity for your shop, Nora. Why, you might generate more business than you can handle.”

“An increase in business is not a bad thing.” Violet glanced at her watch and rose. “We’d best get going. The exhibit manager is waiting for us back at the museum. Apparently there are many cases to unload. At this rate we may have to move the exhibit the Red Room.”

Nan shrugged into her fleece jacket. “We’ll give you a key to the kitchen, so you can just stop in anytime to look it over or whatever. You can pick it up later, and do let me know if there’s anything you’ll need.”

Nan bustled out the door, Violet trailing at a slower pace. She paused to lay her hand on my shoulder. “I hear you’ve become quite the sleuth. I heard what you did for your sister, and I read the account of the Grainger case. Very impressive. Like that sort of work, do you?”

“I do. Then again, I enjoyed tracking down leads when I was a true crime reporter so I guess it’s really not that much of a stretch.”

She nodded. “Well, then, when you’ve got a bit of time to spare, stop by my office. There’s a matter I’d like to discuss with you that the sleuth in you should find quite a challenge.” She looked at me, and I caught a glimmer of a twinkle in her eye. “It involves a disappearance, and there’s even the possibility it might also involve…a murder.”

About the Author:While Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic. She (and ROCCO, albeit he’s uncredited) pen the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime – the first volume, MEOW IF ITS MURDER, debuted Dec. 2, 2014. Followed by #2, CLAWS FOR ALARM. #3, CRIME AND CATNIP, is out this December. She, Rocco and Maxx make their home in Clifton, New Jersey, just twenty minutes from the Big Apple – New York.

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