Winter Blogfest: Barbara Robinson

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a $25 Amazon E-gift card as a prize to one of the readers who visits the LASR Winterfest blog and comments on my post.

 

A Yule Log on the Eve of the Winter Solstice by Barbara Robinson

As a Christmas tree farmer’s daughter, I am fonder than most of holiday greenery. I still make my own wreaths and garlands, and I still go out to harvest a Christmas tree from our land each year. My husband and I bought a red pick-up back in April, and in a week or two we’ll be coming down off Folly Mountain looking like a 2023 version of those little trucks that decorate throw pillows and wall plaques in Christmas discount stores this time of year. Finding and decorating a Christmas tree is a cherished tradition, and I could write pages about the history, symbolism and beauty of evergreens, but today I thought Id write about the yule log, and the part that this lesser-known tradition plays in my own holiday celebrations.

In its earliest guise, a yule log was a massive thing, dragged into a hall at the darkest time of the year, and meant to burn all through the yuletide celebrations. Pre-dating electricity by more than a millennium, the light from the yule log would have been an important reminder that that sun’s strength would soon increase, and light and life return to the land. Many charmand traditions grew up around the log, like saving a small piece from the previous year to light the new yule log, and some of these have survived with variations into modern times. Now, yule logs might be made from confectionary, or they might be ceramic decorations with electric lights, but some people still use an actual log, decorated with candles and greenery.

We use a birch log, in part because the white birch bark is decorative when paired with greenery and red or white candles, but also because it is deeply symbolic. The rune representing birch is Berkana (Beorc), and it is associated with fertility and new beginnings, holding the promise of the new year ahead. We usually decorate our yule log and leave it on display, then remove the greenery on the eve of the winter solstice so we can light the candles without risk of stray spark igniting the tinder-dry boughs and pinecones. We have been using the same piece of birch for many years now, saving the log and replacing the candles and greenery each yuletide.

After supper, I will light the candles, and watch them burn down until they are spent. In early Anglo-Saxon England, the eve of the winter solstice was known as Modranigt, the night of the Mothers, and it was a time to pay homage to the female ancestral guardian spirits who watch over families and are concerned with fate and destiny. I usually leave a small offering of food for these guardian spirits, in gratitude for their care and protection throughout the year. Though not actively scrying, I think about the year to come as I watch the yule log, and ideas will often come to me as I watch the candle flames dance. Once the candles have burned away, the yule log is safely stowed away for the next year’s celebrations.

For centuries, Gamekeepers have used their magical abilities to create a buffer between the creatures who dwell in the enchanted forest and the sleepy coastal town that sits in its shadow. When Gamekeeper Stan Ross’s magic begins to fail, he must find out what went wrong, then fix it before the two worlds collide. His hit or miss magic has already led to a few close calls so he journeys to the Sacred Isle searching for answers and advice. Finding a cure proves elusive—until Stan encounters a kitchen witch who captivates him body and soul. Lynnette Peters is healing from her own wounds, however, and it isn’t clear whether she’s ready to open herself to the possibility—or the peril—of love.

 

Barbara Robinson is a debut paranormal romance author who writes novels and short stories with an otherworldly flair. She is an unrepentant optimist who believes that lasting love is possible, and her stories feature happily-ever-after endings.

Most of her writing includes an element of magic, rooted in the cultural and spiritual traditions of pre-Christian Europe. She finds inspiration in myths and folktales, poems and ballads, historical sources and academic writing.

She also draws inspiration from nature. Barbara lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, in the shadow of ancient mountains that lie along the Bay of Fundy coast. New Scotland has a magic all its own, with mist covered valleys and wild, windswept shorelines. These rugged vistas shape her story settings, while providing the perfect backdrop for life with her husband, three hounds and a dragon (Pogona Vitticeps).

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Winter Blogfest: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win an Ebook or paperback of The Scarred Santa.

 

Sinner, Saint, and Santa by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

​My uncle, Roy Sontheimer, was both sinner and saint, a mailman who often delivered food or other necessary items to family members or anyone in need. He liked his beer and drank vast quantities of it each evening. Like the rest of the family, he could out curse a sailor on shore leave. He could be loud, even boisterous, but he had a generous heart.

​In 1972, he filled Santa’s shoes as well. After the meat packing plant where my dad had worked since high school, with time out for this Army service closed, our lives changed. After a stint driving a candy and tobacco delivery truck through northeast Kansas, my dad used his experience to become a United States Department of Agriculture meat inspector. Problem was that the jobs were not anywhere close to my hometown of St. Joseph, MO so we moved to the far southwest corner of the state.

​Until then, I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood with family, including grandparents and cousins within a few blocks. We left behind our vintage brick home and exchanged it for a mobile home in a trailer park.

​The first Christmas away from home loomed. We had a small tree in our new location, but we would return to St. Joe for the holiday. We would stay at Granny’s house, and she didn’t put up a Christmas tree. Old school to the core, Granny decorated but no tree and she was adamant her custom wouldn’t change. We could celebrate the birth of Christ without one.

​Disappointed did not begin to describe my emotional state. My parents warned me not to complain so I didn’t, at least not when anyone could hear me. We arrived late one December night, a few days before Christmas. When we carried our bags upstairs to sleep in the room my father and uncle had shared as boys, a Douglas fir waited. The crisp evergreen scent greeted us, and I danced with delight.

​I thanked Granny for relenting, but she shook her head. “It wasn’t me – your Uncle Roy said those children have to have a tree. He’s the one who brought it here.”

​We joyfully decorated it the next day, but my uncle’s Santa role had not yet ended.

​Granny always gave me one article of clothing plus a color book with a fresh box of crayons. It was enough and I had no complaints.

​On Christmas morning, however, there was more. I received a doll, the expected gifts, and a small paperback Merriam Webster dictionary as well as a folder with notebook paper. At eleven years old, I yearned to become a writer so these were ideal gifts. I rose from the mess of discarded wrapping paper and ribbons to hug my grandmother but again, she shook her head.

​“I asked your uncle to my Christmas shopping and told him what to buy,” she told me. “He brought all that.”

​As an adult, as a much-published author and writer, I still wonder how my insightful uncle knew the right gift for me. I loved the dictionary so much I carried it with me to school every day, used it to learn new words, and language. Although the one he gave me is long gone, I have a facsimile of it resting on my desk. Merriam Webster hasn’t changed their basic design in years.

​In the decades of Christmas gifts since, I’ve received many presents I loved and some I didn’t like but the simple gift of a dictionary for a young girl with dreams of becoming a writer still resonates. It rocks as much now as it ever did.

​That gift symbolizes for me the true spirit of holiday giving. Given from a generous, loving heart, my dictionary became one of my best gifts of all time, thanks to my uncle, sinner, saint, and sometimes Santa Claus.

Once handsome Rafe Sullivan is left scarred, injured, and with PTSD from his Marine Corps service in Afghanistan. Returning to civilian life is far from smooth, and the burn scars on his right side are extensive. Although he lives close to family, he lives a solitary life and changes jobs more often than most people change their socks. A temporary job as Santa at the mall is presented, but Rafe first rebels, then relents. His Santa gig affects his PTSD. Then he meets Sheena Dunmore. When she doesn’t run from his scars or issues, she intrigues him. An unmasking by some rowdy children is a test of his stamina and spirit. His greatest fear is fire. Will Rafe conquer the fear so he can move forward into the new life he desires?

 

From an early age, Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy scribbled stories, inspired by the books she read, the family tales she heard, and even the conversations she overheard at the beauty shop where her grandmother had a weekly standing appointment. She was the little girl who sat at the feet of the elders and listened.

She spent her early career in broadcast radio, interviewing everyone from politicians to major league baseball players and writing ad copy. In those radio years she began to write short stories and articles, some of which found publication. In 1994 she married Roy Murphy and they had three children, all now grown-up. Lee Ann spent years in the newspaper field as both a journalist and editor and was widowed in 2019.

In late 2020, she hung up her editor’s hat to return to writing fiction. A native of St. Joseph, Missouri, she lives and works in the rugged, mysterious, and beautiful Missouri Ozarks.

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Winter Blogfest: Nan Reinhardt

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Comment and be entered to win e-book copy of Christmas in River’s Edge

Repeat the Sounding Joy…

I love to sing. I can’t sing. I mean I have a truly terrible voice, but I love to sing. Especially at Christmas. So Pandora’s Christmas Classics starts playing at our house before Thanksgiving and NPR gets switched to the Christmas station on the car radio as soon as B105.7 becomes all Christmas music all the time. I’ve played James Taylor’s holiday CD so many times I’m surprised it isn’t worn through and at least four times a week, I hunt for the Eagles version of “Please Come Home for Christmas” on YouTube and play it while I’m working.

Hello, I’m Nan and I am a Christmas music junkie.

It’s not just the holiday tunes that we all know and love—you know, the ones that send warm little snuggly hugs throughout your whole being? “Winter Wonderland.” “The Christmas Song” (Nat King Cole’s version, of course). “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” “Jingle Bells.” Even the more up-to-date ones like “All I Want for Christmas” and Leonard Cohen’s haunting “Hallelujah,” make me happy.

But it’s the Advent singing that takes me into the holidays with the gladdest heart. All the lovely carols we sing as a part of Sunday worship in December and the special music. “Mary, Did You Know?” “Who Comes This Night?” “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” And of course, “Oh, Holy Night.” My Aunt Ruth Audrey used to sing that beautiful carol every Christmas Eve while my cousin Susie accompanied her on the piano. Aunt Ruth had a gorgeous contralto that sent shivers down your spine when she hit that first “Oh night divine…” As a kid, that’s when I knew it was truly, truly Christmas.

I miss her. I miss those family Christmas Eves and the singing around the piano and lighting the advent candles and Mom reading to us from the second chapter of the gospel of Luke and my grandfather’s turkey dinner on Christmas day. I do what I can to make our Christmases as special as they felt when I was a kid, but even today, it’s the music—the carols, the songs about snow and pie and winter wonderlands and silver bells that truly bring the spirit of the holiday to life for me.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours and if you need a little holiday boost, turn on some Christmas music and sing along. Your heart will thank you.

“You can go home again…

After a painful divorce from her high school sweetheart, triplet Jenny Weaver returns to River’s Edge with her young son. While happy to be reunited with her sisters and working at the family’s marina, she has no intention of jumping into the dating pool, especially going into the holidays. Then Gabe Dawson, once a shy nerd who tutored her in history classes, arrives home transformed into a handsome hunk who makes her pulse race.

Archeologist and history professor Gabe Dawson thought he’d long ago outgrown his teen crush on Jenny. Back in town for a few months to help his mom post surgery, he can’t resist reaching out to Jenny. She’s as beautiful, warm, and funny as he remembered and soon Gabe is reconsidering his future.

Gabe is determined to seize this second chance, but can he convince a very wary Jenny that a globe-trotter is ready to come home for good this Christmas?”

Nan Reinhardt is a USA Today bestselling author of sweet, small-town romantic fiction for Tule Publishing. Her day job is working as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader, however, writing is Nan’s first and most enduring passion. She can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t writing—she wrote her first romance novel at the age of ten and is still writing, but now from the viewpoint of a wiser, slightly rumpled, woman in her prime. Nan lives in the Midwest with her husband of 50 years, where they split their time between a house in the city and a cottage on a lake. Talk to Nan at: nan@nanreinhardt.com

https://nanreinhardt.com/
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https://tulepublishing.com/books/christmas-in-rivers-edge/

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 copy of “Bloodstone”.  (US only.)

 

Christmas Quiche by Helen C. Johannes

Want to use up some of that leftover holiday ham and make a dish that looks as festive as the season? My family’s spinach quiche is a year-round favorite, but the colors, flavors, and warm-the-tummy satisfaction especially suit the season.

Crust: Buy a plain pastry crust or use this recipe to make one from scratch.

1 cup flour

¼ tsp. salt

4 tablespoons shortening (plain or butter flavored)

¼ cup cold water, plus more by teaspoon as needed

Blend the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in the shortening until mixture is crumbly. Add water and blend until mixture can be formed into a ball. Roll out into a circle and press into a 9-inch pie pan, fluting the rim. Set aside.

Filling:

2-3 cups chopped fresh spinach, microwaved 1 ½ minute with 1//2 cup water and drained and set aside

1 small can of mushrooms, drained and chopped

1/3-1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped

1/3 cup chopped ham (or more if desired)

1 8 oz. (2 cups) shredded cheese (I prefer 6-cheese Italian, but any tasty blend will work)

2 tablespoons flour

½ tsp. salt

Dash pepper

3 eggs

1 cup milk

Combine cheese and flour in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Whisk in milk and seasonings. Stir in tomatoes, mushrooms, ham, and spinach. Using a fork, blend in cheese/flour mixture. Pour everything into pie shell. Bake at 360 degrees F for 1 hour. Let stand a couple of minutes before cutting and serving. Makes 8 generous pieces of green and red and golden deliciousness.

 

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?

 

Helen C. Johannes writes award-winning fantasy romance inspired by the fairy tales she grew up reading and the amazing historical places she’s visited in England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany. She writes tales of adventure and romance in fully realized worlds sprung from pure imagination and a lifelong interest in history, culture, and literature. Warriors on horseback, women who refuse to sit idly at home, and passion that cannot be denied or outrun—that’s what readers will find in her books.

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Winter Blogfest: Marianne Arkins

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a $5 Amazon GC. 

Christmas Traditions by Marianne Arkins

I love traditions.  Growing up we had them for every holiday. For Christmas Eve we were allowed to open one package, and it was always new pajamas (that we then wore for sleeping and Christmas morning, of course). We also always got one ornament from my mom, and then when we turned 18, our ornament box was turned over to us so we could have stuff for our own trees in our own homes.

I’ve tried to continue some of those traditions with my own daughter, though her father had some say in things, so it wasn’t always possible.  That said, she always got to open one gift on Christmas Eve and she always got one ornament (still does, actually, even though she’s 24 years-old).

And it’s always ham for Christmas. Period. Never turkey or prime rib or any other type of meat.  Ham.  I put my foot down on that choice.  For me it’s not Christmas without a ham. And potatoes.  My dad used to make his famous (to me, at least) Portuguese stuffing, but my mom and I were the only ones who liked it and, though I tried making it my first Christmas after I was married, it just wasn’t a hit.  I haven’t made it in years…it’s probably the chicken gizzards (yes, really) that folks had an issue with, lol.

Some of the traditions have fallen by the wayside these days.  But we still open a gift on Christmas Eve.  And we still have ham.  Even when it’s just my adult daughter and I celebrating.  It just wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

What are some of your holiday traditions?

 

Liv is out to prove her high society fiancé is cheating on her. Can she do it without breaking a nail—or falling in love with Mike, the mechanic?

Olivia “Liv” Leigh, wealthy socialite and spa owner, suspects her fiancé of cheating on her. Drastic steps are required to discover whether appearances are deceiving. And if those steps require a bit of stalking, a change of appearance, a hippo-sized dog named Spike, and sacrificing her manicure to clean house for a sexy-but-sloppy man whose neighbor is determined to break several of the strangest Guinness World Records, why should that be a problem?

Mike Peck, a happily single auto mechanic, is more than content sharing his bachelor pad with piles of laundry, dirty dishes, and a sneaky ferret. But when a half-crazed woman in a bad wig shows up on his doorstep, what’s a nice guy to do?

Why, invite her in, unknowingly help her in her search for the truth and, in the process, fall head over heels with a woman who’s never been less his type.

 

Marianne is originally from California but currently living in the lovely state of Utah with her daughter, two dogs, two cats and one adorable foster hamster. She can’t imagine a world without romance or not having stories rattling around in her brain. There are nights when she dreams a complete story and watches it acted out in her head. Those are the times she wakes up and grabs for a notepad to jot down the important parts – without turning on the light – and hopes it’s coherent in the morning.

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The Santa Games by Leanne Treese – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will award a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Reeling from a broken engagement, Andi Carter swears off men. She quits her job in New York and returns home to figure out next steps. Luckily, she quickly finds a job–one that will take her mind off her ex–as a caretaker for an elderly widower, Liam Quinn. Liam is the owner of Christmastown, a holiday-themed amusement park that shut down years ago. But he’s anxious to reopen it, and Andi, loving the concept, throws herself into helping him. It’s the perfect distraction. Bonus: there are no eligible men for miles.

Until Matt Taylor shows up to audit the park.

Matt is handsome, charming, and full of surprises. Even Liam’s notoriously cranky cat, Claus, likes him. Andi works with Matt on a Christmastown project and platonic feelings turn into a full-fledged crush…maybe a little more. She likes this guy. Unbelievably, Matt seems to like her back.

Only she soon discovers that Matt isn’t who he says he is. So now, Andi has another decision to make—run away and start over—again? Or stay, and hear Matt out? After all, Christmas is the season of miracles…

Enjoy an Excerpt

He leans against the railing, his breath smoky. “We should get to know each other then. You could give me a tour of the town. And I could ask you more about the park’s safety protocols.” He winks. “What do you say?”

What do I say? The hot bachelor I was sure would never come to Christmastown is in front of me. But I came here to avoid dating. I need to find myself again and I’d planned to use every ounce of extra energy I had in reimagining an epic – and very safe – holiday-themed amusement park. So, of course, I know what I should say.

Instead what comes out of my mouth is: “How about tonight?”

About the Author:

Leanne Treese is an award-winning author of women’s fiction and romance. Her books have each independently been described as having “all the feels.” When she’s not writing, Leanne loves running, forcing her family to play board games (Settlers of Catan anyone?), and spoiling her beloved dogs. Leanne’s favorite locations include her backyard, the Jersey shore, and anywhere that sells books or coffee, preferably both. A lifelong learner, Leanne’s dream life would include going back to college and majoring in everything.

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Fitting the Financier by Rebecca Austin – Spotlight and Giveaway

 

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Robecca Austin who is celebrating today’s release of Fitting the Financier, a Man of the Month novella.

If opposites attract, she’s made for me. She’s my match.
The perfect combination of sassy, sweet, and sexy. She’s also my daughter’s best friend, off limits.

I have no plans to visit the small town or partake in the festivities of mistletoes and pumpkin spice lattes this Christmas. For good reason. One look into her stormy gray eyes and I’ll want no one except her to fill the void in my life.

But when Naomi needs an investor that’s more ruthless than nice, how can I say no?

She thinks I’m helping her out of charity, but she’s wrong. I can crush bullies, and using that power is the distraction I need to break my forbidden desires for her.

The MAN OF THE MONTH CLUB is a steamy small-town collection featuring a new hottie (or two!) every month. In 2023, escape to Candy Cane Key, Florida, and celebrate ALL the holidays with your favorite group of romance authors and their delicious men. Can’t wait to see you there!

Enjoy an Excerpt

“You’re staring.” He passes me a pouch.

“Am I?” The peanuts are warm in my hand. The scent of caramelized sugar tickles my nose.

“Now you’re flushing. If I didn’t know better I’d say you’re having naughty thoughts about the side of my digits.”

I choke on a nut. My eyes water. “I think the reference is to shoe sizes.” I make a point to glance at his snickers.

“Twelves, baby.” He wiggles a brow.

This time I chomp on the nut before it goes anywhere near my throat. “I was thinking your hands belong to a mechanic not a person working in city hall.”

“Give me half a chance and I can show you what these hands are good for.”

“Travis…” I flush, not because I’m a prude, but because despite the lovely evening, Charity’s dad is at the edge of my thoughts. I blame Charity for mentioning him, for convincing him to visit Candy Cane. Most of all, I blame myself for falling for a man who didn’t know I existed beyond being his daughter’s best friend.

“Get your head out of the gutter,” Travis says with a smile that I wished set my heart on fire. “I noticed you didn’t have any Christmas decorations up yet. Any later and the entire town will write to the big man himself.” He glances around him, then whispers. “Or worse, put a complaint in with the city.”

I groan. He’s only half joking. Candy Cane had a Chrsitmas committee of four grandmothers that took their positions as seriously as the mayor. There hasn’t been a change in membership since Carter was president and unless one died, their word is law when it comes to Christmas.

“I’ve just been—”

“Hey, no need to explain.”

But I want to. Want to share my good news with someone other than Charity. “I recently received good news that will help my business.”

“That’s amazing.”

“And nerve racking but it’s an opportunity to grow.”

“You’re not trying to let me down easily, are you?” He searched my face.

I shook my head. “No.” This is my chance to have a fresh beginning all around. It is definitely time I put a stop to this madness I feel for Nathan and get a hold of my love life. I realize that I went about my dating life the wrong way. Pushing Travis away or engrossing myself in work isn’t the answer to forgetting Nathan Dawan. Dating is. Nights like tonight are. We are at the end of the path. The end of a beautiful evening. “Sorry it took so long to make tonight happen.”

He paused, taking my hand. I stared at our hands. This was nice in a gentle, reassuring sort of way. My middle didn’t flutter from the mere thought of him and his name didn’t have my pulse racing. “You’re worth the wait Naomi Waters.”

We’re caught in a loop of staring into each other’s eyes. I will myself to relax, drown in the blue sea staring back at me but all I see are Nathan’s dark intense eyes that mimic the howling winds of a category four hurricane.
Travis leans in and my stomach flutters. The feeling is so unexpected that my eyes widen instead of closing in anticipation of our first kiss and I gasp. He tosses his peanuts aside to cup my cheek. My lips part to tell him to wait…that I’m not ready, but no words escape.

Not a single one.

The distance closes between us and I slam my eyes such, too afraid he’ll see my thoughts for another man in my eyes. The first kiss I’d shamelessly envisioned having with him.

“You really shouldn’t litter,” came an icy tone.

Shit. Shit. I’m even hearing his voice. Squeezing my eyes tighter, I pucker my lips like a tenth grader and concentrate on what is about to happen.

“Naomi!” Nathan growls, the sound bouncing behind my eyelids. I try harder to block him out. He’s only in your imagination.

I count to five and wait.

About the Author: Robecca Austin is the author of happy ever after romance stories. She enjoys crafting tales of sassy heroines and alpha heroes that have a soft center.

She writes historical romance and billionaire romance stories.

You can find her outside enjoying nature and lots of sunshine when there are no bugs. When she’s not writing her next novel, she’s busy battling Cystic Fibrosis and hugging family. She lives and works in Canada.

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Happiness Awaits You in Your Second Act—It’s Never Too Late! by K.L. Brady – Guest Blog and Giveaeway

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

Happiness Awaits You in Your Second Act—It’s Never Too Late!

Women from Madeleine Albright to Oprah Winfrey, “You can have it all, just not all at once.” For years, a lot of Generation Xers like me thought we could have it all—and thought we did have it all until we realized we didn’t. The “just not all at once” part had been excluded from the discussion. At the age of 40 (I’m not 50ish), I realize I’d spent my life pursuing the “American dream” at the expense of following my calling. Can anyone relate? I had the colonial, the car, a little bit of financial security, and a 9 to 5 job I’d achieved a lot of success—experienced high from upward mobility. But was I happy? Truly happy? That kind of happy where wise folks say (and I’ll paraphrase), “You never work a day in your life if you love what you do”? Nope. I was not living that life.

Enter the second act.

At the age of 39 ½, I wrote my first book, The Bum Magnet. The venture was as cathartic as it was entertaining and funny. I invested long days and longer hours, completely engrossed in drafting the story of Charisse. But writing it helped me realize what “You’ll never work in a day if you love what you do” really meant. I’ve been writing ever since. I didn’t quit my day job because I love to pay my mortgage and eat, but there is a fulfillment and joy that I get from every word I type that I never get from any other endeavor.

The Nick Before Christmas, at its core, is a story about a woman who hit the big 5-0 and is, frankly, threatened (by her deceased mother in angel form) into pursuing her second act—and she’s got to do it by Christmas Eve. She can either discover her true calling or spend the rest of her life in a Groundhog Day repeat of really crappy days. But in discovering her true calling, in following the path laid out for her through her blessings and gifts she hadn’t explored, she opens herself up to a new world of joy, fulfillment, and “the one” that got away. Through this quest, she realizes what’s truly valuable to her.

I found my second act, just not fully in the way I imagined it. I’d love to quit my job and write fulltime, but I like to eat…and so I haven’t quit my 9 to 5 job. So, I’ve learned, for some, if you embrace imbalance and patience, you can have it all…and at the same time…sort of. Ultimately, the point is, happiness may await you in your second act. Don’t be afraid to discover it—no matter how old you are.

Will an angel’s dire warning, a quest to discover a second act by Christmas Eve, and a touch of Christmas Magic lead Nickie Wright back to the one that got away?

Nickie Wright is ready to celebrate the big 5-0 for Christmas in July, but a hot flash leads her to a sobering revelation: her life has hit rock bottom. Her successes–the home and the car–feel empty. Her vision board has been a waste of time, her job is unfulfilling, and she’s mulling over a proposal from Smith, who she’s not sure she likes. The best day of her life spirals into the worst. During a near-death experience, a meeting with her guardian angel presents Nickie with an ultimatum – either go to heaven or return to Earth and find her second act by Christmas Eve. If she fails, her future’s bleak — her life will be filled with days no better than her worst.

Her second act sets her on a collision path with Evan Goodman, the man who makes her content, and Jordan Devlin, the first love who drives her crazy. She’s torn between two worlds–contentment and safety, passion and excitement.

Time is running out for Nickie.

She only has from Christmas in July until Christmas Eve to find her calling, follow her dreams, and figure out which romantic interest will help Nickie embrace the best of herself.

The Nick Before Christmas is the perfect romantic comedy to help you find your calling and renew your faith. It delivers unforgettable moments of self-discovery and romance. It’s an enchanting story to fill your heart with joy this Christmas.

Enjoy an Excerpt

The voice and the name paralyzed her.

One person (in this world or any other) referred to her by that name.

It couldn’t be her.

“Nickie Boo?”

Her body stiffened. She was more shocked than afraid. Uncontrollable streams of tears flushed from her eyes. She glanced from side to side. No one. Nothing, but the faint hope of seeing her mother again after fate stole her only chance for goodbye. Nickie found out about her mother’s illness only six weeks before her death and thought she had more time.

“Mommy?”

Almost as soon as she called out to Nickie Boo once more, an angelic form descended from the sky in a dramatic drop; her arms were folded across her chest. Upon first look Nickie couldn’t discern the face, but her voice was exactly the same as she remembered.

The more the form came into view, the more visible the feathery wings appeared. But the face, she knew the face like her own. Same auburn skin, same bright eyes, same natural thick hair. Her mother’s eyes smiled but her lips didn’t, at least not at first.

“It’s me, Cupcake. Merry Birthday.”

An inexplicable calm washed over her…on the outside. Inside she was scared crapless. Nickie reached for the angel’s arm and pinched her, gently. “Are you real, or am I crazy?”

“Yes,” her mother replied, “and yes.”

Mom angel?

Nickie laughed. No one else could make her chuckle in the middle of paralyzing panic and fear.

About the Author:USA Today Bestselling author K. L. Brady is a D.C. native and award-winning author of 20 novels. She self-published her first book, THE BUM MAGNET, after an Oprah “live your best life” moment, which was picked up by Simon & Schuster in a two-book deal. She’s been publishing romantic comedies ever since.

K.L. is a Washington football fan and professed nerd-girl who loves all things Star Trek, Star Wars, and Big Bang Theory. She lives to write stories involving hilarious quirky characters looking for love. She’s hard at work on her next several projects, including Sincerely, Santa, a heartfelt romantic comedy that also celebrates the special friendship between her late mother and grandmother.

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What Would I Tell a New Author? by Joshua Lange – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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What would I tell a new author?

The best piece of advice I could give a new author is to trust your vision.

What often happens is that when we conceive of an idea, we’re excited, and so we want to share it. We want to tell our family and friends. So we gather everyone up and we gush, we talk about this wonderful, brand-new idea we’ve thought of, and that we want to share with the world.

When we do that, I feel, what happens is that, because everyone has an opinion, people will try to change your vision.

They’ll say, “oh, you need to do this!” and “oh, you need to change that!” or “that doesn’t work; what about this?” It’ll be anything, from the title, to a character’s name, or motivation — people will find anything that they want to alter.

Soon enough, at least in my experience, because of the pressure, or deflation we feel when someone doesn’t like our idea, our idea can then change or shift, and I feel at that point, you’ve lost something. There’s something very special, very powerful about that initial fire we pull from our soul; that initial vision of the story we see in the mind’s eye. And that is the vision I would recommend authors try to preserve.

Write. Write as much as you can, as far as you can, ideally through your first draft. And then, you can go ask for help, and share your idea. By then, it’ll be done.

Obviously, there are some exceptions — if you feel you need grammar or spelling help, or if you have writer’s block, and you need a gentle shove, that’s different. But, again, I advise any aspiring authors to try their best to preserve their original vision, because it’s a beautiful thing.


Julien Allais, a French Catholic, prays for only one thing: to kneel before God in the Holy Land of Jerusalem, far from his home in Constantinople, the capital of the Christian world in AD 1096. Joining the silver-clad Crusaders arriving from the west to free the Holy Land seems like the answer to his prayers.

Young and untrained, Julien is soon captured, abandoned by the knights he had trusted. Despite what he was told, his Muslim captors are not Godless fiends. Ahtmar, a boy near his own age, is among his captors, and Ahtmar’s sister Zahra tends to Julien’s wounds. As Julien’s feelings for Zahra and respect for Ahtmar grow, he questions everything he thought he knew. The Jerusalem they describe is a bustling city ruled by the Turks for the sake of all residents, no matter their faith. It doesn’t need to be freed – it needs to be protected from the Crusaders who will destroy it in the name of their faith.

As Julien and his captors travel to Jerusalem, a forbidden love between Julien and Zahra is born. This love will change them both. Will it have the power to change a world at war?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Chapter 1 June, 1096 — Constantinople

With my hands clasped and my eyes closed, I prayed. Lord, please protect my father and I. Bless us so that we might get by – even if it’s only for a few more months. Please, lift our spirits and ease our burdens. I squeezed my eyes shut tighter, pushed my knees firmly into the cold floor, and sat up straighter, as if that would somehow hasten my communication with heaven. I want to travel to Jerusalem. I want to complete my pilgrimage. Please, dear God, allow this to happen. Allow us to find our way to your holy city.

My next thoughts had been my heaviest, and I hesitated in sharing them with God, even though He already knew. Father says I should be content. He says I should simply wait until a path to Jerusalem opens. But it doesn’t feel like it’s that simple. Please, guide me, Lord… Amen.

I gazed up at the impossibly high ceiling, which was marked with delicate, colorful paintings of Jesus, and a clear window that was like a view to heaven itself. The dusk sunlight beamed down upon the hundreds of loyal church followers and cast many of us in a deep, orange light.

The church was supported by stunning pillars and walls made of stone and marble, and featured stained glass windows that depicted the miracle that was the life of Jesus. They showed him bearing the crown of thorns, suffering on the cross, healing the sick, and returning to life – they were all a reminder that our pain was nothing in the grand scheme of things. A person-sized crucifix watched over me from the far end of the room.

I concluded my prayers feeling energized but unsatisfied. I didn’t allow my impatience to get the best of me, though, especially inside this house of salvation. I darted by the Greek citizens in their brightly colored dalmatic tunics and headed outside.

The city had been truly unbelievable. A far cry from France, where things were held together mainly by wood and farmland. Here, the Greeks had a towering fortress surrounded by stone walls and towers, compact and circular. The buildings were largely tall and secure, like ever-watchful stone trees. It was packed with citizens along the bustling main street.

The Greeks visited shopping stalls and restaurants, bought new clothing and loudly made trades. Even after being there for a year, Constantinople had remained truly foreign to me. The noise of shopkeepers hailing potential customers and the nearly blindingly bright colors of clothing in yellows, blues, and purples were enough to distract me on my way home.

It was hard not to get absorbed in the beauty of the city, but truly, I had been an outsider to Byzantium, and as part of the Catholic Church, it hadn’t exactly been the warmest welcome for my father and I. Even now, I remember the hostile glares and turned up noses from the purple-wearing nobles. I remember looking down at my own unassuming, tan tunic, picking at it, feeling how ragged it was, and most of all, how inferior I’d felt.

About the AuthorBorn and raised on Long Island, Joshua has had a love for storytelling since he was young. He grew up with the larger-than-life characters and silly stories in pro wrestling and got lost in complex role-playing video games, and finally manifested his love at age 18 when he wrote his first book.

Joshua often reflects on the bigger picture in life and thinks most people are good, decent, and worthy. Love, unity, and respect are his core ideals, and they are woven into all of his writing.

He currently lives on Long Island with a loving family, which is he truly grateful for.

You can follow current projects, or catch up with him on social media; he is always open to making new friends!

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Light of Gods by Miriam Newman – Spotlight and Giveaway

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In ages gone by, the gods of the mountains had split the earth in two. Now that passage must form a barrier against invaders. Javrik, clan chieftain’s son, has known his wife for only a month when he must defend her. Arman, soldier from a far-off land, finds himself fighting for people he never knew existed. The lives of nomads, raiders, warriors and lovers are changed forever in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain.

Enjoy an Excerpt

The chestnut, uncharacteristically, took a misstep and then another. He had been going on a loose rein, but now he raised his head and Javrik tensed instantly. The sun was long past its zenith, but bright enough. There would be no concealment for any rider who left the woods or the walls, so he pulled up in the shelter of some stones that were still standing and waited, short sword in hand. He carried a bow, the sword and a dagger. Araks had never made armor. He had a fast horse, but that was no defense against an arrow.

He had no defense of any meaningful kind against what he saw emerge from the woods. An Omani cavalry officer in full battle gear rode towards him at a flat-footed walk, and Javrik made a small sign of supplication to his gods because it was like looking at a ghost. They had assumed not one of those men still lived, yet here was one with armor, sword and spear, riding a horse capable of knocking his horse flat and running him over. It was what they were trained to do.

The officer‘s bay charger stopped instantly, perhaps twenty paces from him. Javrik had not even seen the rider signal the horse. The horse wore armor, too, on its most vulnerable spots, gleaming in the sunlight. A single mounted Omani cavalryman was said to be worth three of any other because you could stop them only with a crossbow or a spear, neither of which he had.

“Hola,” Javrik said, using the universal greeting, then switching to Omani, hoping it was good enough. “I have no quarrel with you.”

The officer removed his helmet; he had understood. He was older than Javrik but still young, with dark curly hair and a typical Omani profile—bold features, olive skin. And clean-shaven, which meant he was from a city somewhere.

“Nor I with you,” he said.

About the Author Fantasy poetry driven by myths and legends has been my passion for as long as I can remember. I was published in poetry before catching the romance writing bug. I bring that background to my writing along with a lifelong addiction to horses, an 18 year career in various areas of psychiatric social services and many trips to Ireland, where I nurture my muse. My published works range from contemporary fantasy romance to fantasy historical, futuristic, science fiction and historical romance. Currently I live in rural Pennsylvania with a “motley crew” of rescue animals. You can see my books at my website.

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