Winter Blogfest: Annalisa Russo


This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of book (shipping US only) and $10.00 Amazon gift card .

Fa-la-la-La-la! It’s early December as I write this and the day I set aside to decorate for Christmas. Last year, since I wasn’t expecting any company, I made do with a couple of wreaths and called it a day. I realized too late that I would miss the smell of pine, the festive lights, the old manger set, and the all-around good cheer that accompanies a home decorated for the holidays. So, this year I turn on Christmas music and pull out the multitude of boxes from the basement to the tune of Bing Crosby’s, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”

I start with the all-white lights for the tree in my bedroom. Soon, I realize I’m unpacking memories along with ornaments wrapped lovingly in thin, raggedy tissue paper. The box is a mini time capsule: a fragile glass ornament announces Buon Natali, bought for our first tree together in 1966; counted cross-stitched ornaments made and exchanged with friends, some forty years old now; teacher ornaments from former students; ornaments purchased on vacation to remember the occasion. I place them just so—in my favorite spots around the tree.

I think about how children’s memories last longer than most of their presents and of the memories I made with my own children. I wonder if I succeeded in sharing what was in my heart. Some Christmas rituals remain, some just fade away, and some new ones are introduced over the years—the past blended with the present—traditions passed down to sons and daughters, nieces and nephews. And so, hosting the celebration evolves.

Then I turn to my favorite task: setting up the manger—the reason for the season. I nestle the wooden manger among three small lit trees, unwrap the paper mâché figures, and carefully place them, one by one, in the setting, always placing the Babe in last. I hang the golden angel from one of the branches, high above, and all is right with the world.

Holidays don’t always go as planned, but it’s not about being perfect. They may not end as expected or desired, but if they end with shared stories of time spent together and the Child, you have the heart of it.

So, I finish my tasks, make a cup of hot chocolate, and sit in front of the fire to read the mail. I see an old friend’s name on a Christmas card. What a nice end to a lovely day!

Wishing you a stress-free Christmas full of joyful new memories!
Merry Christmas!! Annalisa

Fifth grade math teacher Jillian Magee loves Christmas and all the folderol that goes with it. Unfortunately, the universe seems bent on depriving her of joy in the season. All her well-thought-out plans have gone awry, including her family members, who are all MIA this year. She’s stuck with her awful cat, Buster, and a deep longing for the good old days when her best friend, and first love, lived across the street. Then, a well-intentioned celestial do-gooder shows up in the form of a quirky Jacob Marley—of the female variety. So as Christmas Day draws near, Jillian finds herself careening toward a Yuletide disaster.

Tristán Solano aka Trystan Sol, mega heartthrob and lead keyboardist for a popular rock band heads home, where he finds himself up to his elbows in tinsel and small-town holiday traditions—and everything else he left behind to follow his dreams, including the only girl he ever loved. With more money than he could ever spend in one lifetime, he longs for his old, uncomplicated life back…and for his first friend, Jillie Magee.

Is Jillian destined to have her heart broken again, or can she and Tristan overcome the past and keep each other warm this Christmas?

About the Author: Annalisa Russo is a Midwest girl who grew up in an overpopulated, first-generation Italian family in the burbs of Chicago, the setting for her historical romance novels based in the 20th century. Rags to Rubies, her first stand-alone book, was published in 2012. Annalisa’s first series, The Cavelli Angel Saga, was recently completed with the release of Angel Boy, the fourth book of the series which chronicles the lives of Italian immigrants in the 1920’s and 30’s. Angel Lost, Angel Found, third in the series, was a finalist in the IDA-International Digital Award 2016 for historical romance. Her newest projects include a holiday book, All Hearts Come Home for Christmas, and a stand-alone book, A Girl’s Best Friend due out by end of 2017. Along with a passion for reading and writing, Annalisa enjoys gardening, cooking for company, and frequently invents reasons for traveling. The mother of two grown children, she inherited a narcissistic tabby named Buster who really runs the show.

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Winter Blogfest: Helen C. Johannes

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle e-book copy of BLOODSTONE, US only.

Coping with the Winter Wonderland…


This is what I do when it’s cold outside—and for us it’s cold and snowy for five months of the year! I stay inside with my handy electric throw blanket. I read, write, and watch movies. And I bake.

Staying inside means planning shopping and errands around the snow/ice/freezing rain forecast and daylight hours. It means cozying up at the kitchen table with a cup of hot tea while DH blows the snow from the driveway. It means watching the neighborhood kids frolic in the park across the street from the warmth of my living room. If it sounds as if I’m a winter hermit, you got it.

My local library is my lifeline. We stop by at least once a week, sometimes more. Old movies and new, new books and old are just the tonic for the winter blahs. I grew up addicted to reading; if it’s in print, I’ll read it. (I read a lot of cereal boxes as a child.) I take a book everywhere. Thank goodness for e-readers!

You’d think since I’m not such a fan of winter, I wouldn’t write winter into my books, but it makes an appearance more often than not. It’s such a useful metaphor for hardship, loneliness, and challenge. The movie Frozen has that absolutely right.

To warm up the house and fill it with delicious smells, I bake: pies, cakes, cookies, breads. There’s nothing like a flavorful treat, fresh from the oven, accompanied by glass of milk or hot beverage. Here’s a favorite recipe of mine that can be enjoyed any time of the year:

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Ingredients
• ½ cup shortening
• ½ cup white sugar
• ½ cup brown sugar, packed
• 2 eggs, beaten
• ¼ cup milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 and 2/3 cups oatmeal
• ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
• ½ cup dried, sweetened cranberries
• 1 and ½ cups flour
• 1 teaspoon soda
• ½ teaspoon salt
Directions
1. Cream shortening with sugars; then add beaten eggs, milk and vanilla extract.
2. Combine mixture with oatmeal, chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
3. Add flour sifted with soda and salt. Beat thoroughly.
4. Drop by teaspoonful onto non-stick baking sheets, two inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350°F. Makes about 3 dozen.


What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death? Years ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones–petrified dragon’s blood–for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can’t hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams… Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father’s rescue. Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man–not a fiend–hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?

About the Author: Helen C. Johannes lives in the Midwest with her husband and grown children. Her first book, THE PRINCE OF VAL-FEYRIDGE, is an EPIC winner in Fantasy Romance. Her second book, BLOODSTONE, is a Launching a Star Winner in Fantasy Romance.

Growing up, she read fairy tales, Tolkien, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare, and Ayn Rand, an unusual mix that undoubtedly explains why the themes, characters, and locales in her writing play out in tales of love and adventure. A member of Romance Writers of America, she credits the friends she has made and the critiques she’s received from her chapter members for encouraging her to achieve her dream of publication. When not working on her next writing project, she teaches English, reads all kinds of fiction, enjoys walks, and travels as often as possible.

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Winter Blogfest: Carrie Lomax

This post is part of Long and Short’s Review Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win one Digital Copy of Holiday Heat (any format, please specify).

 Holiday Heat

With an extended family spread across the United States, the week from Christmas to New Years is a time for us to reunite, relax, and reconnect. I love sharing different traditions. For example, my aunt lives in New Mexico. Each year, she sends us pictures of luminarias—small paper lanterns made with a candle set in sand inside a paper bag—outside her home. When she visits, we put them out in the deep Wisconsin snow.

I lived in New York City for fifteen years, and my husband and I would take visiting family to see the shop windows along 5th Avenue. (Bergdorf Goodman has the best creations. [Link:  http://blog.bergdorfgoodman.com/video/bg-holiday-window-reveal/ ]) And no matter how small our apartment, every year, we’ve had a tree to decorate at Christmas.

After the gifts are open, the week before New Year is a time for visiting and catching up with loved ones near and far. It’s this time away from work and school that I look forward to each year. Which is why I chose this time to set my first Christmas-themed book, Holiday Heat.

Where better to recover from the heartbreak of a broken engagement than with family?

Though she’s terrified that her family will “lose it” over the engagement that didn’t happen, they’re the supportive rock Alyssa needs. Her own mother plots to hook her up with the hot guy who lives next door. And it’s her sister, Janelle, who sets in motion the dating contest that forces Alyssa and Marc to work through their lack of trust, and find a way forward. Without family, Alyssa and Marc wouldn’t find their New Year happily ever after. Here’s an excerpt:

“Alyssa. I wondered if you were coming home for the holidays.” 

“You did? I mean, of course. I always come back for Christmas.” She felt faint. What fresh hell was this speaking words business? If she did fall over she’d blame it on the balmy weather. Marc never spoke to her, except to tease.

“You didn’t last year.”

“I can’t believe you noticed,” Alyssa blurted. She’d been in Connecticut with Zach’s family.

“I’ve always noticed,” Marc replied with a half-grin that hit her like a tractor-trailer.

This holiday season, I hope you’ll find joy in reconnecting with the people you love, whether you’re celebrating with family or finding a community far from home.

One Unforgettable Christmas Week
A broken engagement.
An ill-advised fling.
A reality-TV-inspired dating contest.

A competition between one woman’s heart and her head — with her future on the line.

The Bachelorette
Alyssa Carlisle arrives home for the holidays nursing a fresh Christmas Eve heartbreak. A hookup with her hot neighbor seems like the perfect rebound. He’s never looked her way, but Marc De Luna’s just what she needs: a no-strings attached, super sexy vacation fling.

She never thought he’d want more. She’d be a fool to believe it. Setting aside her ambition is out of the question.

The (Play) Boy Next Door
Marc’s had it bad for his aloof, ambitious neighbor ever since her family moved in. Her engagement to a rich boyfriend was enough to send him packing for an extended trip — anywhere — as long as it’s far away from any reminder of Alyssa. Now that he’s is out of the picture, Marc ‘s not about to pass up his chance to claim her as his own.

When her ex makes an unexpected appearance, Marc’s got a fight on his hands — and he’ll do whatever it takes to win.

About the Author: Carrie Lomax grew up in the Midwest before moving to New York City for 15 years. She lives in Maryland with two budding readers and her real-life romantic hero.

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Winter Blogfest: Ingrid Hahn

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win tea and a mug for cozying up by the fire to read romance novels this winter!

Christmas

My father taught at a high school where service to the community was one of the most prized values. Every holiday season, the homerooms collected food and gifts for a family in need. One year, several grades before I started high school myself, I rode along and helped him deliver boxes.

Some of the homerooms did a satisfactory job collecting for their family. Some did an outstanding job. And one homeroom, where my father returned to the car for box after box after box, did a such a good job, that the family members cried in wonder and thanks.

It stayed with me, that night. I was too young at the time to be more than a clueless observer without the emotional resources or life experience to process or understand my experience.

It did not leave me, though. In fact, it partially inspired the pivotal part in my first published book, TO WIN A LADY’S HEART. The hero, the Earl of Corbeau, carries on a family Christmas tradition in which he makes a tour of his lands, bringing gifts to tenants, and accepting a gift in return. Not just any gift. Food. Something he will put on his Christmas table and something that the tenant family will put on their Christmas table. In this way, the earl remembers that he is not an arbitrary lord, but has people in his care. A duty he takes extremely seriously.

It’s on a sleigh ride through the snow in which the impoverished heroine—forced into an engagement with the besotted hero whom she doesn’t want to accept because she doesn’t want to marry for money—first begins to reconsider the hero not as a means to an end, but as someone with whom she could build a happy home centered around love.


England, 1811. When John Merrick, the Earl of Corbeau, is caught in a locked storeroom with Lady Grace, he has but one choice—marry her. He cannot bear to tarnish any woman’s reputation, least of all Lady Grace’s.

Lady Grace Landon will do anything to help her mother and sisters, crushed and impoverished by her father’s disgrace. But throwing herself into the arms of her dearest friend’s older brother to trap him in marriage? Never.

Each book in the Landon Sisters series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed out of order.

Series Order:
Book #1 To Win a Lady’s Heart
Book #2 To Covet a Lady’s Heart

About the Author: Ingrid Hahn is a failed administrative assistant with a B.A. in Art History. Her love of reading has turned her mortgage payment into a book storage fee, which makes her the friend who you never want to ask you for help moving. Though originally from Seattle, she now lives in the metropolitan DC area with her ship-nerd husband, small son, and four opinionated cats. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves knitting, theater, nature walks, travel, history, and is a hopelessly devoted fan of Jane Austen.

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Winter Blogfest: Linda Nightingale

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win Angel Wing Earrings: Ear crawler with crystal drop.

Southern Pecan Pie

As you get older, it feels a bit strange to turn over the holiday celebrations to your children. You’re accustomed to buying and preparing the turkey and other dishes for Thanksgiving and Christmas and hosting the holidays at your home. Then one day your son says that Thanksgiving will be at their house. You take a step back and think, ‘What?’ then perhaps ‘wow, someone else to stand up for hours and do the cooking and serving.’  Thoughts come fast ‘they won’t use the china and silver because they won’t want to hand wash them.

In the end, you relax into the idea and have a wonderful time: 1) with someone else frying the turkey; 2) making the side dishes (except of course they’ve requested you bring the Squash Casserole and Green Bean Casserole—well established staples for the holidays); and 3) sit down while someone else serves a delicious meal that refers back to item 1—you didn’t have to cook!

In the spirit of the holidays, here is the handwritten recipe my mother used for the southern pecan pie she always served at the holidays.  This delicious pie was as traditional to us as the Christmas Pudding is to my British former husband:

Southern Pecan Pie

Mix 1 cup sugar with 1 tablespoon of flour

Add 3 unbeaten eggs, 1 cup white Karo syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla, ¼ lb. margarine, mix well.

Do not heat – place pecans in pie crust and pour mixture over pecans

Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 325 for 45 – 60 minutes (do not overcook)

My book has nothing to do with the holidays unless you count that it is about an angel:

Gylded Wings is a dark fantasy from The Wild Rose Press.

Angels in slavery? Brit Montgomery cannot believe it, until she is sent on a rescue mission to another dimension and witnesses the cruel practice first hand. The angel, Gyldan, is the most beautiful being she’s ever seen. She is drawn to him but sometimes beauty disguises wicked secrets. This man who rocks her world seems more demon than angel.
Gyldan, born into slavery, has one desire—fly free. When he escapes to Earth, he faces an alternate self-realization full of dark glory…and disbelief. Gyldan is bent on experiencing his newfound powers unmindful of the harm to Brit or others.
Confused and hurt by Gyldan’s erratic evil actions, Brit turns away. While Gyldan’s journey of self-discovery pulls him further distant, Brit finds acceptance in a solitary, comfortable life of her own until she realizes the day of reckoning has come. Will Gyldan be her final ruin or has he come back to her with a gift more precious than life itself?

About the Author: Born in South Carolina, Linda has lived in England, Canada, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta and Houston. She’s seen a lot of this country from the windshield of a truck pulling a horse trailer, having bred, trained and showed Andalusian horses for many years.

Linda has won several writing awards, including the Georgia Romance Writers Magnolia Award and the SARA Merritt. She retired from a career as a retired legal assistant, just joined the Houston BMW Club, and the stars in her crown—two wonderful sons. In a former life, she must have had to walk everywhere because today she is into transportation with fine taste in expensive horses and hot cars! She likes to dress up and host formal dinner parties.

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Winter Blogfest: DeeDee Lane

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Starbucks Giftcard.

Favorite Christmas Gift

For years I yearned for ice skates…not just any ice skates but I wanted the white ones, with white laces, figure skating ice skates. With lots of brothers around I had my choice of blank and brown hockey type ice skates. I dreamed of the white ones, laced together and slung over my shoulder as we ventured out over snow encrusted fields to a nearby pond. Sure I learned to skate using the hockey skates and had a blast on our winter time outings, but those hand me down skates were just not the same. I knew if I could have the white skates, I’d twirl and whirl like the Olympic figure skaters I loved to watch. Looking back I’m sure my parent’s reluctance to buy me ice skates was mostly to do with my growing feet. From one year to the next my feet were changing size rapidly. I would imagine buying new skates every winter was not in our family budget.

Until…
One Christmas morning, under the tree I found a heavy, square, box with my name on it. I knew immediately what it was and eagerly tore off the wrapping. After church and Christmas dinner we trooped out to the pond. In the Wisconsin cold and wind I felt nothing but anticipation for my first “real” skate. It was magical; my feet were so light they skimmed on the ice. I did discover these were a bit less sturdy then the hockey variety I was used to. I spent a good part of the first hour on my backside. Still it is a wonderful memory, of a gift I anticipated and then was even better in reality then in my imaginings.
May your holiday time bring you joy on ice and anywhere else you happen to land!


My Traveling Man – Alice Hanstrom prefers books to people, facts over feelings, and in her world, “adventure” is just a word in the dictionary. That is until the night she braves shadowed hallways of the Cowboy and Western Museum in pursuit of a long-lost diary. Her search of an antique covered wagon halts abruptly when the museum slips Alice back in time.
Thomas Bristol is an experienced wagon master. On a daily basis he deals with cholera, exhausted oxen, and river rapids on the treacherous journey to Oregon Territory. But he’s completely flummoxed when a mysterious woman appears in Big Blue River.
On the trail, Alice and Thomas strive to balance his love of roaming adventure and her desire for predictable orderliness. As the wagon train reaches Independence Rock, the sparks between them catch fire. But can such different people become equal partners in love…and can their love survive the slip in time?
My Traveling Man is the fourth installment in the Slip in Time Series

About the Author: DeeDee Lane is a Seattle author and a member of Romance Writers of America. Her mystery scenarios and characters turn up on boat cruises and many corporate and private events around Puget Sound. She and her husband love to go on road trips, especially if there’s time to check out a tinfoil rooster or the largest truck stop in the world. Originally from central Wisconsin, DeeDee was raised on a farm and surrounded with book shelves filled with Louis L’Amour tales and other stories of the West. DeeDee is author of the Slip in Time series including My Mountain Man, My Gambling Man, My Law Man, and My Traveling Man. Also check out an interactive blog DeeDee just started with a group of eight other Wild Rose Press authors: www.novelconcepts1.blogspot.com

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Winter Blogfest: Peggy Chambers

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Secrets of Sandhill Island to a winner within the United States.

Stocking

Many years ago, my mother had a very “crafty” friend (one who enjoys crafts) who made stockings for my parents at Christmas.  They were already grandparents, and past the time for stockings, but it could have been they were enjoyed with too much eggnog. However it happened, the stockings were darling. The man’s stocking looked like a bare foot with an extra-large big toe, but the women’s stocking was a very lady-like boot.

Years later I found them in her sewing basket when I cleaned out her home.  They were too cute to throw away.

As life will do, my life changed dramatically after my parents died and my children married, divorced, and married again.  I inherited extra (and I will say fabulous) grandchildren.  They were half grown and had other grandmothers, but I still considered them mine.  And they were hard to buy for at Christmas. Then I remembered the stockings.

I used to sew a lot.  I made my wedding dress and my daughter’s wedding dress.  But the sewing machine had been gathering dust in the corner for some time and I was out of practice. I pulled the two stockings from the bottom of the sewing basket and made patterns from them.  Then I dug through the old fabric that was held captive in my grandmother’s antique dowry trunk sitting at the end of my bed.  I found velvets, satins, bits of fur, sparkles, ribbons, and other things to make four new stockings that I hoped the grandkids would think were their very own.

I cut, pinned, sewed, and graded seam allowances turning the tiny toes (now I know why the first one used felt and topstitched the stocking).  Some of the toes looked a little like they had arthritis.  But I tied bows on them and made one look like a court jester.  The two lady’s boots faired a little better.  It was fun dressing them up with pearls and sparkles.  I even added a high-heel to the pattern and the boots had only had one turn, not five toes.  When they were finished, I somehow imagined they would look better.

I THINK the grandkids liked them.  The older ones – from a big city – thought the handmade gift was precious, even if a little deformed.  They were not used to homemade (I mean handmade) items.  Maybe I made an impression as grandmother number three.

But, I think my sewing days may be over. I used to have more patience.

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, published author, always working on another. There aren’t enough hours in the day. She has two children, five grandchildren and lives with her husband and dog. She adores travel and the great outdoors, even if it is just taking the dog for a walk and once ate wart hog pizza for lunch when she followed her husband across deepest, darkest Africa. She even climbed the pyramids at Chichen Itza.

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., and Oklahoma Women Bloggers. There is always another story weaving itself around in her brain trying to come out.

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Winter Blogfest: C. J. Anthony

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card.

My Favorite Time of the Year

The End-of-Year Holiday Trifecta (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s) is my favorite time of the year—except for the weather being colder and wetter (depending where you live). But this is the one time of year I will forgive Mother Nature, even for snow; in fact I have even been heard to say snow is pretty during the holidays.

The year is winding down, but we have all these celebrations to get in before the very end. It can be a very rushed stressful time for a lot of folks. Not matter what is going on for me at the time, the holidays always lift me up. They are something to look forward to, to bring some cheer and light into my world.

Christmas is obviously the big holiday but I combine the three together because let’s face it, they do kind of run together.

Thanksgiving gets saddled with the kickoff. These days with stores bringing out the Christmas decorations and sales as soon as Halloween is over, quite frankly the poor holiday almost gets swept aside.  But Thanksgiving has its moments. For me, it is the Peanuts Thanksgiving special—I know, EVERYONE loves the Christmas special, but the Thanksgiving one is my favorite. Not sure why, other than I love that Snoopy helps serve a feast of popcorn, toast and jelly beans to Charlie Brown’s friends, then turns around after they’re gone and shares a full turkey feast—including pumpkin pie—with his little buddy Woodstock.

My other favorite of Thanksgiving is making my mom’s pumpkin pie. It is the BEST and most yummiest. If you like a spicy pumpkin pie then this would not be the one for you. The spice is much lighter and the pie more creamy than a traditional pie. (It’s actually the recipe from the Libby pumpkin pie can, minus the cloves and substituting real milk for the condensed milk)

On to Christmas…well, I have to say I start getting in the mood early. As I write this, it is the middle of November and I am ready to start breaking out the Christmas music! I do keep it to myself; I try not to annoy those who aren’t quite in the spirit yet. And I don’t put my tree up until Thanksgiving weekend. But I have already done a little shopping for new Christmas ornaments and such.

Most of my family Christmas traditions are pretty low key. I do make a few varieties of Christmas cookies, and some fudge. Christmas dinner is at my aunt’s house. It’s my mother’s side of the family and we’re Italian so no turkey or stuffing. We have pasta and sauce and a few other family dishes. The rest of Christmas Eve/Christmas Day I like just doing nothing…relaxing on the couch with the tree lights glowing, watching Christmas movies or reading a good book (usually a good M/M Christmas story.)

And then we have New Year’s bringing up the rear, literally the Trifecta Hangover, LOL. Everyone’s kind of done with the holidays, but not quite. Some folks start taking down their trees and decorations. (I always wait till after New Year’s Day.) Some people go all out for fancy New Year’s Eve parties and others stay home in their P.J.s and watch the ball drop.

For me New Year’s Eve is important because I love the real symbolism and spirit behind it. To reflect on the past year, and all that has happened—good and bad—and to celebrate the fresh start and optimism that comes with starting a whole new year.

I hope everyone reading this has a wonderful holiday, however and whatever you choose to celebrate. But most importantly I hope everyone finds their own piece of happiness this season.

Share your thoughts on the holidays in the comments below, and if you feel like a fun holiday read check out my book Falling for Santa Claus.

When Jack Frost’s aunt dies and leaves him her house in the tiny town of Great Falls, Jack seizes the opportunity to escape the rat race of Chicago for the quaint village he loved as a child. On his first night he’s welcomed by a baseball bat and a trespassing warning from Nick St. James—longtime Great Falls resident and infamous curmudgeon.

Jack wants to give Nick the benefit of the doubt—he can’t deny his attraction to the big man—but after several run-ins with Nick’s grumpiness and closed-off heart, he’s ready to give up. Only after discovering the secret Nick’s been covering up for years does he vow to break through Nick’s walls to find the loving man hiding behind them.

About the Author: C. J. Anthony grew up watching soap operas and reading piles of books. She attributes her love of reading and romance to her mother, who not only taught her to read but also made countless trips to the library lugging piles of books home for her. It wasn’t a far jump to start writing her own stories, early childhood tales about flower families and traveling to the moon with her best friend.

C. J.’s favorite stories to read and write include “opposites attract” pairings—couples who appear to be an odd couple to the rest of the world, but fit together perfectly, finding their own happily-ever-after with a little hard work and a whole lot of love.
Not surprisingly, C. J. is a big lover of rom coms—she’ll gladly take Julia Roberts standing in front of Hugh Grant asking him to love her over car crashes and shoot-em-up movies any day. She also watches way too much TV and every singing reality show there is. She loves music of all genres and attending live concerts.

She spends most of her time juggling a day job and a commute and freelance and falling asleep on her couch, dreaming of a day when she can write all day in her pajamas while living in a house by the beach.

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Winter Blogfest: Pam Binder

This post is part of Long and Short Review’s Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a Matchmaker Cafe coffee/tea mug filled to the brim with chocolate.

Welcome Brownies – Or – How to Bridge Story Lines

This is the first entry in my blog series that combines chocolate and the craft of writing. The first topic is how to bridge story lines.

As I celebrate the release of the third book in the Matchmaker Café series, Falling in Love with Emma, about a French baker who wonders if she will ever get out of the friend-zone with the man who owns a fish market, it seemed appropriate to write a food-themed blog that combines chocolate and the craft of writing. Chocolate because it’s mentioned in every book I write, and the craft of writing because I teach writing and am always pushing myself to improve. I also wanted this blog to be about writing tips, so what better place than to talk about the “Welcome Brownies,” and what they mean.

As the story opens, we see both of our characters in their element. Bjorn has just returned from fishing in Alaska, and Emma is up at dawn, baking for a big event in the town where they live. But they are in the friend-zone, with no hope of breaking out of the rut. I also have two story lines. The first involves Emma and Bjorn, and the second is the reoccurring story about three sisters from Scotland who own a matchmaking business. The trick was how to get these two stories together.

I needed to create a bridge between story lines. After an event with Emma’s grandmother that left Emma in charge of the bakery, I opened my cookbook and found the perfect recipe I could use to create the bridge. The recipe page was frayed at the edges, torn and scotched taped together. It was a recipe for brownies and was my family’s favorite. It brought back a wave of warm memories. I’d bake these brownies for all occasions, including when new neighbors arrived in our neighborhood, or to bring to a friend. It was the perfect solution. Emma’s grandmother, and one of the story’s mentors, tells Emma to bring over a batch of “Welcome Brownies” to the Retail Village’s newest tenants, the three sisters, who own The Matchmaker Café. Welcome Brownies was the perfect solution. Naturally, the sisters invited Emma inside…and the story takes off…

Please check out book three in the Matchmaker Café series, Falling in Love with Emma and let me know what you think. I have posted the recipe for Welcome Brownies below.

2 sq. unsweetened chocolate (2 oz)

1/4 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt (I use 1/4 tsp. salt)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a square pan 8x8x2″. Melt chocolate and butter over hot water. (It says this in the recipe, but I never have. I melt in a saucepan and just watch over it). Take the pan off the stove and beat in the sugar and eggs. Blend flour, baking powder and stir in. Spread in pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until slight imprint remains when touched lightly with finger. Cool slightly and cut into squares. Makes 16 2″ squares.

Falling in Love with Emma – A match made in time.
Ever since the sudden death of her mother left Emma in charge of caring for her grandmother and the family’s French bakery, she has survived by rejecting change. The last thing she want is an ex-boyfriend with commitment issues.
Bjorn has made a mess of things. He returned from fishing in Alaska believing his relationship with Emma would go back to the way things were, only to have Emma smash a pie in his face. but when Bjorn learns she is in danger, he leaps at the chance to save the woman he loves, even if she wants nothing to do with him.

About the Author: Pam Binder is an award-winning Amazon and New York Times Best-selling author. Pam believes in smiles, Irish and Scottish myths and like Wonder Woman, the power of love. Pam writes historical fiction, contemporary fiction, young adult and time travel fantasy.

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Winter Blogfest: Becky Lower

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win an E-book copy of Winning Violet and a $5 Amazon gift card.

Warm Memories

I grew up surrounded by siblings. Four girls and one boy were crowded into a tiny house in the middle of nowhere, Ohio and money was always tight. Despite our circumstances, we always looked forward to Christmas and our presents. Mom and Dad managed to stretch every dollar and interspersed practical gifts like a new lunch pail and saddle shoes with a doll cradle and a baby carriage. I don’t remember much about the presents, but I do remember the warm family that surrounded me. Here’s a picture of us digging into our gifts.

Mom and Dad are gone now and the five of us children are nearing retirement, but we lean on each other in adulthood to continue our family traditions. We’re located all over the country now, so we have Thanksgiving whenever we get three or more of us together and Christmas presents can happen any day of the year. It may not be the same nuclear family that was such a staple as we grew up, but it’s as warm as I remember and each visit from a sister or brother is poignant.

Most of the stories I write are about families, the larger the better. My first series, the Cotillion Ball Saga, features nine upper-class children in America in the 1850s and 1860s. My next work, the Flower Girl series, is about four sisters in Regency England who work for their father at his nursery and landscaping business. The girls–Iris, Violet, Lily and Poppy–are eager to tell their stories. Winning Violet releases on Christmas Day, with Losing Lily being planned for release in June, 2018.

Everything’s coming up roses for an English miss and an American gentleman in this delightful new series from the author of the Cotillion Ball saga!

After British soldiers killed his wife and child during the War of 1812, Parker Sinclair vowed to never set foot on English soil. But as Thomas Jefferson’s landscaper, one must sometimes make the ultimate sacrifice. The last thing Parker expects to find is an educated English beauty who can teach him so much more than how to plant a magnificent garden.

An expert at cross-pollinating roses, Violet Wilson’s dreams of becoming the first woman recognized by the Royal Horticultural Society are fading because she’s afraid to leave the quiet solitude of her family’s nursery. Distrustful of men after a traumatic encounter, she’s not keen on disrupting her routine to help the American landscaper, but she soon blossoms under his kindness and respect.

As they fall in love, can this shrinking Violet take the risk of leaving behind all she knows for a new life with Parker? Or is he considering a different ending altogether?

About the Author: Amazon best-selling author Becky Lower has traveled the United States in search of great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it in America on a covered wagon headed west or in Regency England. Her Cotillion Ball Series features the nine children from an upscale New York family prior to and during the Civil War. Her first Regency, A Regency Yuletide, received the Crowned Heart and has been nominated for the prestigious RONE award from InD’Tale Magazine. A regular contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After section, her books have been featured in the column on eight separate occasions. Becky loves to hear from her readers at beckylowerauthor@gmail.com. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com

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Buy the book at Amazon.