Winter Blogfest: Becky Lower

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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 $5 Amazon gift card..

Christmas All Year Long

My siblings and I are very close to one another, especially now since our parents have passed on. But we are spread all over the country with jobs, spouses, and children and can only manage to get together once or twice a year.

A few years ago, we decided that regardless of what the calendar says, it’s Thanksgiving and Christmas blended together whenever we can manage to get together. This year, it happened in November. My brother and his wife came to Ohio from California, my baby sister and her husband drove up from North Carolina and joined me and my other two sisters who live locally. We exchanged gifts, ate turkey, celebrated life, and said goodbye to one who didn’t make it through the year. So what if the temperature was in the 60s and there wasn’t a snowflake to be found? We told stories about our childhood experiences, joked and laughed, helped each other out. We decided rather than a full-blown Thanksgiving meal, which would fill up one entire day, this year we’d all go to Bob Evans and have their turkey dinner instead. It gave us more precious time with each other. But we have had the complete turkey with all the trimmings in previous years, in September or October or March, whenever we could manage it.

The moral of this story is to take whatever together time you can get. Don’t wait for the calendar to tell you it’s time to party. Grab it by the horns whenever you can. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Penny Beedle’s outlook on Christmas, as her favorite holiday, was destroyed by a messy breakup years earlier and a botched wedding last year—both on Christmas Eve. But since she and her sister now own a greeting card store, and the holidays are their crazy selling season, she has to put on a happy face.

Del Madison has loved Penny since kindergarten. Commissioned by a big greeting card company for a line of Christmas and Valentine’s cards, he has to emerge from behind his alter ego and unveil himself to the public. He chooses Penny Beedle’s shop for the big reveal. If he plays his cards right, he just might gain Penny as part of his life.

About the Author: Amazon best-selling author Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for 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 on a covered wagon headed west or in present day small town America. Historical and contemporary romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a member of the Historic and Contemporary RWA chapters. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University, and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary.

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Buy the book at Amazon.

Winter Blogfest: Tena Stetler

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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 $10.00 Amazon Gift Card..

Holiday Traditions

Whew, another year has flown by at the speed of light. All I could do was catch hold of its tail and be catapulted into my computer chair hoping to finish my Winter & Christmas blogs before the bell of Christmas present tolls.

No sooner had we put the fifth wheel trailer in storage than the holidays began. Rather than a stormy Halloween, it was a balmy 60 degrees when I turned the scary sounds CD off along with the fog machine and porch light. We were out of candy.
In a blink of an eye, I gotta quit blinking, it was time to prepare the Thanksgiving feast. Our family is small and our pets, a dog, parrot, box turtle and guinea pig participate. Not at the table, of course they have their own bowls. We remember what we are thankful for, including my wonderful readers, and hope the coming years will be as blessed. I think traditions are what make the holidays special. Don’t you?

As for my family, we put up the tree, Christmas decorations inside and out, the weekend after Thanksgiving. Or try to if Mother Nature cooperates. No, it’s not a real tree, only because I’m allergic. We watch Christmas movies throughout December and make candy such as Divinity, Fantasy Fudge, and Beaver Dams.

What are Beaver Dams, you ask. The recipe calls for a package of butterscotch chips, melt them in a double boiler, stir in half-package of crispy Chow Mein Noodles and one-half can of cocktail peanuts. Spoon the concoction onto foil and let set. They look like beaver dams hence the name. YUMMY.

This year I’m going try my hand at gingerbread cookies. Haven’t had a lot of luck in previous years getting a good tasting cookie. Do any of you have a favorite recipe that I could try? Feel free to leave the recipe in the comments section.

Then it’s on to New Years and resolutions. We make them attainable. Last year I was lucky enough to make my writing goals and resolutions of 5,500 or more words written per week, two book contracts, I got four. Whew! What a wonderful year. Except the catastrophic softball sized hail that totaled our truck, roof and required major repairs on the RV. That wasn’t much fun and going forward into 2017, I resolve to never allow such a storm in my neighborhood. Okay, that’s probably one of those resolutions that will be broken as soon as spring arrives. So I retract that one. Don’t want to spoil my nearly perfect record.

In 2017, I plan lots of fun walks with the dog and more play time with our parrot. Above all enjoy each day while working towards my professional goals, but schedule more time to spend with family and friends. Life is short, you are never guaranteed tomorrow.

What are some of your holiday traditions and New Year’s Resolutions? Do you make or keep them? Here’s wishing each and everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Prosperous New Year!

Elemental witch, Pepper McKay and former Navy SEAL, Lathen Quartz have built Lobster Cove Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on enchanted McKay land. During a romantic interlude on Halloween night, Pepper happily agrees to become Lathen’s wife. What better day than Winter Solstice for their wedding in a town that loves celebrations and Christmas. However, planning a wedding and operating their wildlife center takes a toll on both Pepper and Lathen.

When the couple takes a much-needed break for Thanksgiving with family in Colorado, a Maine snowstorm fills the center with injured wildlife. Lathen finds himself drawn into a covert military mission, while trying to deal with issues concerning friends and family. Pepper wants to cancel the wedding. Is she having second thoughts? Will the nosy McKay ghosts, Lathen’s werewolf pack, Pepper’s parents, and her best friend help or hinder the wedding and holiday plans?

About the Author: Tena Stetler is a paranormal romance and cozy mystery author with an over-active imagination. She wrote her first vampire romance as a tween, to the chagrin of her mother and the delight of her friends. With the Rocky Mountains outside her window, Tena sits at her computer surrounded by a wide array of paranormal creatures telling her their tales. Colorado is her home; shared with her husband of many moons, a brilliant Chow Chow, a spoiled parrot and a forty-year-old box turtle. Any winter evening, you can find her curled up in front of a crackling fire with a good book, a mug of hot chocolate and a big bowl of popcorn. Her books tell tales of magical kick-ass women and mystical alpha males that dare to love them.

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Winter Blogfest: Sarah Hadley Brook

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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 $20 Bath and Bodyworks Gift Card..

A Christmas Eve Gift
Sixth grade was a very difficult year. My parents divorced and my dad remarried just weeks later. My younger brother had been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and he was bullied mercilessly. On top of that, the medications his doctors put him on cost $800.00 a month over what insurance would pay.

My mom was a teacher, but also held a part-time job after school several days a week and when the Christmas season arrived, she took a third job at the mall. Even at that age, I realized we were barely making ends meet.

On Christmas Eve, we piled into our old car, nicknamed “Curly Top” because of the peeling vinyl roof, and headed to the mall. My brother was going to see Santa and we were going to purchase a few small Christmas gifts.

There were only a couple of hours left before closing, but the mall was packed. While my mom and brother waited in line for Santa, I was allowed to walk down a few stores by myself and do some shopping. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember what I purchased. I have a vague recollection of some stickers for my brother, but I’m not sure.

What I do remember was hearing the announcement that the mall was closing and my mom guiding us through the maze of people and out to the car. The sun had gone down and the parking lot lights were on, illuminating the small patches of snow leftover from the day before. The temperature had dropped significantly and we were all anxious to get home and get ready for Christmas morning.

Except that when my mom turned the key nothing happened. She tried again. Nothing. What were we going to do? Cell phones weren’t around in the 80s.

The parking lot was quickly emptying so we hurried to the mall entrance. No luck. The doors were already locked.
And then it started snowing. My brother was excited, but I remember looking at my mom and knowing the snow was the last thing we needed. She smiled and said we would be fine. My brother believed her. I didn’t. I had become quite cynical over the past year.

We hiked back to our car, now one of the last cars in the lot and climbed in. It was just as cold inside as it was outside.
My mom sat up front while my brother and I stayed quiet in the back. I wasn’t sure what she would do. She smiled and told us again that we would be fine. As an adult, I wonder now if she was as terrified as I felt back then. But her smile warmed me. I still didn’t completely believe her, but I trusted her.

And then we saw him. A large man on a security vehicle. It may have been a golf cart, I’m not sure. He pulled up beside us and my mom rolled her window down.

Once he found out the situation, he radioed in and had someone call our neighbor. Soon we were heading home with our nice neighbor, leaving our car at the mall to be rescued another day.

Christmas morning came and my brother and I tore into our gifts and our mom made pancakes for breakfast. I’m sure I liked my gifts that morning, but I had already received the best gift of all on Christmas Eve.

My mom gave me strength that night. She showed courage and refused to let the world get her down. I don’t know how she did it, but she never let us see her down. She could have broken down and cried, yelled, or let that be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. But she didn’t.

She taught me what it meant to be strong and believe in yourself. That night helped shape how I looked at things the rest of my life. The best gifts don’t necessarily come in boxes or bags adorned with ribbons and sparkles. Sometimes they come to us when we least expect it.

Matthew Blick is almost thirty years old, and he hates the thought of another holiday alone. He has become a bit of a wet blanket when Christmas rolls around every year. So much so that even his five-year-old niece, Hannah, knows something needs to change. She asks the department store Santa to bring her uncle a man to love, and when Santa sees her uncle, he formulates a plan to set that possibility in motion.

Santa shows up at Matthew’s house and at first Matthew can’t place him, but then the memories of his first kiss flood his mind and he is shocked to find that Santa is the man he has carried a torch for since high school. Will this twist of fate help Matthew change his view on the holidays? Only a kiss can tell.

About the Author: Sarah Hadley Brook lives smack-dab in the middle of the Heartland and is the mother of two wonderful young men, as well as two cats. During the day, she works in the nonprofit world, but reserves evenings for her hobby-turned-passion of writing, letting the characters she conjures in her mind take the lead and show her where the story will go. When not working or writing, she can be found reading, working on dollhouses, trying her hand at new recipes, or watching old movies and musicals. In her ideal world, Christmas would come at least twice a year, Rock Hudson and Doris Day would have costarred in more than three movies, and chocolate would be a daily necessity. She dreams of traveling to Scotland some day and visiting the places her ancestors lived. Sarah believes in “Happily Ever After” and strives to ensure her characters find their own happiness in love and life.

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Winter Blogfest: Carrie Pulkinen

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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 copy of Reawakened...

Speculaas

My husband is from the Netherlands, so in addition to celebrating Christmas on December 25th, we also celebrate Sinterklaas at the beginning of the month. It’s a Dutch tradition for children to put their shoes out at night, and in the morning, they’ll find little gifts from Sinterklaas.

Dutch Sinterklaas candy as pepernoten and chocolate letter with hat of Black piet

Dutch Sinterklaas candy as pepernoten and chocolate letter with hat of Black piet

I was fortunate enough to be in Holland last year when Sinterklaas arrived by boat. There were parades, music, and dancing, and lots of strooigoed, a mixture of cookies and other sweets that’s thrown to children during the celebration.

One of my favorite treats from this time of year is Speculaas, a spiced gingerbread-type of cookie. I found a delicious recipe to make them at home, and my children and I make them every year. They are so good, I wanted to share a recipe.

Speculaas

Ingredients
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper*
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

*note: I’ve seen several recipes that don’t call for pepper at all. I personally like the kick it gives the cookies, but you can leave it out.

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

3. Cream butter, sugars, baking soda, salt, and spices on medium speed until the batter is uniform in color, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

4. Add the vanilla extract and egg, and beat on medium speed until blended. Scrape the sides of the bowl again.

5. Add the flour. Beat on medium speed until well blended. Chill for 20 minutes.

6. Roll the dough out until 1/4 inch thick with a rolling pin, cut out cookies in whatever shape you like and place on the baking sheet.

7. Bake the cookies 9-11 minutes or until golden brown on the edges. Let them cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. The cookies will harden as they cool.

Makes about 50 two-inch cookies. Bigger cookies may require a couple of extra minutes in the oven.

reawakened_w10903_medJules Hume lives in a world where magic is a myth and supernatural creatures are fiction—or so she thinks. As a strong, independent woman, a relationship is the last thing she needs. Then she meets Ian Kincaid, a mysteriously sexy bachelor with otherworldly charm. She’s instantly enamored of him, drawn by an inexplicable magnetism. Ian awakens something magical inside her, opening her mind to things she never thought possible. Things that shouldn’t be possible. But Ian has secrets Jules is better off not knowing. The truth will tear her world apart, making her question everything she once knew to be real.

About the Author: Carrie Pulkinen has always been fascinated with the paranormal. Of course, when you grow up next door to a cemetery, the dead (and the undead) are hard to ignore. She lives in Texas with her husband, two daughters, and a chihuahua with an underbite.

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Winter Blogfest: Cheryel Hutton

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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 PDF copy of Keepers of Legend, a novella set in the Smoky Mountains shortly after the sleeping dragons awaken–and everything changes..

Heart in Two Places

Another winter stands poised to slide in on autumn’s chill. I wait, my heart tugged two ways. In one direction, hills rise to form the Smoky Mountains, a quilt of green, red, yellow, brown and orange around their shoulders. Majestic. Royal. I grew up in Tennessee, I love the state, and for me it will always be my true home.

In the other direction is my new home. Northeast Florida. Here there are no mountains, no colorful mantle of leaves. The landscape is flat, the leaves stay green, there’s barely a chill in the air. Still, this is home too. I love getting up in the morning knowing the most I’ll need is a sweater. I love looking forward to the next few months and not worrying about freezing cold, ice, snow. I know a lot of people love winter’s frigid days, but I’m not one of them.

Sometimes I feel almost physically torn, as if one foot is in Tennessee and one in Florida. That’s quite a stretch for short-legged me. Then there’s the guilt when I feel like I’m not being true to a place where my family roots are planted. Maybe that’s why I have little desire to set my stories anywhere but Tennessee. I may love the bright sunny days my body enjoys in Florida, but my heart loves watching my characters face challenges, discover themselves, and fall in love at the foot of the Smoky Mountains.

Will I ever set a book in Florida? Sure. But I’m in no hurry. There’s a saying in the South, why fix it if it ain’t broke? For now, my characters and I are happy watching the leaves in my mind turn brilliant fall colors. And that’s just fine in my book.

If she can’t believe what she sees, can she believe what she feels?

When photojournalist Stephie Stephanova visits Ugly Creek, Tennessee to help her best friend, Madison, she expects a boring visit. Then she snaps a photo of something she shouldn’t have seen–and falls for a man she definitely shouldn’t have.

Jake Blackwood can deal with his scarred face, though not with his scarred past. A savvy antiques store owner with an eye for the finer things, he’s never seen anything so fine as Stephie. But his history with Madison hampers his desire to get closer. So does Stephie’s relentless curiosity about his oddball town.

As Stephie probes Ugly Creek’s mysteries, she’s torn between loyalty to Madison and her feelings for Jake. But when her snapshot threatens the secret at the heart of Ugly Creek, Stephie realizes she will sacrifice anything to protect Jake and the town he loves.

About the Author: Cheryel Hutton is a Southern girl to the core. She was born in Tennessee, and has spent most of her life there. There among the hills and valleys at the foot of the Smoky Mountains, she found abundant inspiration for the stories she writes.

Recently she and her husband moved near Jacksonville, Florida, where they’re enjoying the sunshine, warm weather, and—relative—nearness to the ocean. Here Cheryel is discovering new inspiration and spends her time transcribing stories told to her by a muse who happens to be a dragon.

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Buy the book at The Wild Rose Press.

Winter Blogfest: Judy Ann Davis

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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 Amazon gifted copy of “Under Starry Skies.”..

A Polish-American Christmas

For people of Polish ancestry, Christmas Eve is a special night. It is a night of magic when animals are said to talk and people have the power to predict the future. It’s a time for families to gather and reconcile any differences, and to remember loved ones who have gone before them. It’s call Wigilia (vee-GELL-yah) which means, “vigil,” or waiting for the birth of Baby Jesus.

As dusk approaches, the mother of the family places a lighted candle in the window to welcome the Christ Child. Straw or hay, a reminder of Christ’s birth in a stable, is placed under a white linen tablecloth, which symbolizes Mary’s veil which became the Babe’s swaddling cloth. The eldest woman of the house places the blessed Communion-like wafers called oplatki (Oh-PWAHT-kee) on a fine china or silver plate. In modern times, straw and evergreens are assembled on a serving platter and covered with a white napkin. The oplatki is then placed on the napkin.

An extra place is set of any weary stranger who happens to pass by, in the same way Joseph wandered from home to home looking for a place for Mary to give birth, and in memory of those who are departed. (The extra place is also set in hopes that Christ will dine with the family.)

After sunset, the youngest child is sent to watch for the first star. This is why the wigilia dinner is also known as the Star Supper. Only then are the candles on the table lit and the dinner begun. But not a morsel is eaten before the “breaking of the oplatki.”

The eldest family member takes the wafer, breaks it and shares it with the next eldest with wishes for good health and prosperity, and a kiss on each cheek. Each person then exchanges oplatki with everyone else at the table. It can be a very emotional time as grudges are forgotten and deceased family members are remembered.

Instead of sending Christmas cards to friends and family not present, Poles send oplatki, first tearing off a small corner to show that the donor has broken it with them as a token of affection. In America, Polish families often enclose oplatki in their Christmas cards.

In some regions of Poland, at the end of the supper, Father Christmas, known as The Starman who is very often the parish priest in disguise, accompanied by singing Starboys, pays a visit. He brings rewards to good children from Starland, and scolds the naughty ones, who eventually get their reward, too.

Typical food dishes on Christmas Eve include borscht, mushroom dishes, herring, white fish, meatless cabbage rolls, gingerbread cookies, pierogis, poppy seed rolls, spice cake, fruit, chocolates, tangerines, and cognac, liqueurs, and vodka made into a variety of drinks.

Hired as the town’s school teacher, Maria O’Donnell and her sister Abigail arrive in the Colorado Territory in 1875, only to find the uncle they were to stay with has been murdered.

Rancher Tye Ashmore is content with life until he meets quiet and beautiful Maria. He falls in love at first sight, but her reluctance to jeopardize her teaching position by accepting his marriage proposal only makes him more determined to make her part of his life.

When their lives are threatened by gunshots and a gunnysack of dangerous wildlife, Tye believes he is the target of an unknown enemy. Not until Maria receives written threats urging her to leave does she realize she might be the target instead of the handsome rancher.

With the help of Tye, Abigail, and a wily Indian called Two Bears, Maria works to uncover her uncle’s killer and put aside her fears. But will she discover happiness and true love under Colorado’s starry skies?

About the Author: Judy Ann Davis began her career in writing as a copy and continuity writer for radio and television in Scranton, PA. She holds a degree in Journalism and Communications and has written for industry and education throughout her career.

Over a dozen of her short stories have appeared in various literary and small magazines, and anthologies, and have received numerous awards. She has written three novels and one novella to date.

When Judy Ann is not behind a computer, you can find her looking for anything humorous to make her laugh or swinging a golf club where the chuckles are few.

She is a member of Pennwriters, Inc. and Romance Writers of America, and lives in Central PA.

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Winter Blogfest: Carolyn Rae

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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 digital copy of Protected by Love ..

The times they are a changing, but we can still celebrate Christmas

Christmas used to be having the grandchildren decorating the tree and serving them cookies. Christmas eve used to be taking the family to a late candlelight service at church.

Now the grandchildren are grown and have traditions of their own and my husband and I need to put up and decorate the tree ourselves and watch how many cookies we eat. And because we live in Texas, we occasionally have colorful trees in December, it seldom snows.

So, it’s time for mixing old and new traditions. We’ll still put up the tree, even though dragging out the box and untangling the lights makes my dear husband grumble. I will make at least one batch of Christmas cookies. With the cookie press, it’s easy. I may have to tempt him with a steak dinner out, but we will celebrate Christmas.

One thing that hasn’t changed. My daughters and at least one grandchild will be here to open presents and eat dinner. I will still enjoy fixing turkey with dressing, cranberry gelatin salad, which my mother always served and baking pecan pie as I have always done.

I have listed the recipe for cranberry salad below. You may want to add that to your tradition. I’d rather have it than cranberry sauce.

Cranberry Salad

2 cups fresh cranberries
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
2 cups of sugar (I use 1 cup Splenda and 1 cup sugar)
1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 packages of lime gelatin (I use sugar free)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup chopped celery – optional

Grind the cranberries and oranges together. (I put a pie pan lined with paper towel below the grinder to catch the drips) Add sugar and sweetener, and stir into ground cranberries and oranges. Put in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water and stir into fruit. Add nuts and celery and pour into mold. Chill four hours. Unmold by immersing mold or 30-60 seconds in a bowl of hot water.

Tossed aside in favor of her sister, a determined Valerie Trumbull reluctantly teams up with her ex-fiance’s brother, Matt Larson, to hunt her missing sister south of the Texas border. Valerie expects him to be a jerk like his brother, but Matt compliments her and says he finds her sexy. When she awakes on a narrow cot in their Mexican prison cell, she is warmed by his arms around her.

Attorney Matt Larson is attracted to Valerie, but she argues constantly with him about his plans to find her sister. Valerie also disappears and he sets everything aside to find her. When she’s delivered, half alive, to his office in a wooden shipping crate, he realizes how much she means to him. Can they manage to compromise while searching for her sister?

About the Author: Carolyn Rae follows her passion, writing romantic suspense where bullets are flying, people are dying, and lovers are resisting attraction until they can escape the danger following them.

She taught home economics, family living, and English in Michigan, Illinois, and Texas. In Texas she taught and supervised ironwork, painting, and carpentry inmates at a federal prison, where she wrote and directed videos on nutrition and fair fighting for couples. She also worked as a paralegal in Dallas and Fort Worth.

Carolyn Rae is the author of Searching for Love, a romantic suspense novel, and has a Witness Protection Series trilogy, Hiding from Love, Protected by Love, and Tempted by Love. She is also an author of There IS Life After Lettuce, a cookbook for heart patients and diabetics.

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Buy the book at Amazon.

Winter Blogfest: Mariah Lynne

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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 necklace in honor of The Duchess’ Necklace..

THE CHRISTMAS DOLL

One Christmas season, a long time ago, I was a little girl who loved her dolls. They had their own outfits, accessories, and some even had their own little beds in my room. I always thought every little girl had at least one doll. All my friends did so I never thought anything different.

It was the Sunday before Christmas and my father took me to church service after Sunday School to see a special choir of children from an orphanage in Rome. They were in the US to visit and perform at several churches along the East Coast.

marytatarian2Some of the families such as mine volunteered to take a child home for dinner. The week before, my mother asked to see a photo of the young lady because she wanted to buy some clothes for her to take home. When I looked at the photo, I saw a skinny eight year named Marianna. We were the same age and the same height. We both had dark curly hair and dark brown eyes. Except for where and how we lived, and the fact that I was chubby, we could have been sisters.

I was excited to have Marianna come for dinner and happy that my mother bought her clothes. After we ate Sunday lunch, I took her into my bedroom to see and play with my toys. Her eyes grew huge and began to tear up. I understood a little Italian enough to get the just of a conversation. She walked over to my window bench where my dolls “lived” and picked one up and hugged it.

The doll named Anna was one of my favorites. Dressed in a pink and white gingham dress, she had blonde hair I could comb. Marianna hugged Anna and refused to let her go. She said she never had a doll before, let alone one as “bella” as this one.

Well I was not a happy camper. I yelled at her, “Let Anna go. That doll is mine.” She refused and asked me to please give Anna to her. That made me more upset. Enough so my father heard me and came in to see what was wrong.

I told him about Anna and how that doll was not going anywhere let alone Rome. He walked over to Marianna and had her give him the doll. He then said in Italian to her that he knew I would be happy to give it to her. After all, I had so much…a good home, loving parents, and so many other dolls. He handed it back to her and she hugged him like he just gave her the world.

I watched in silence at first furious but after a few minutes digested what he said. I never realized how lucky I was. I too went over and hugged Marianna. She taught me a most important lesson about giving and love I will never forget. This holiday season we should all care about those less fortunate and try to help in whatever manner we can.

Best wishes for a happy holiday season. I hope you spend it with family and friends.

shadows_full-jpeg-croppedImagine being kidnapped and transported back in time to a 16th century French castle.

Danielle deForet, a beautiful rare antiques dealer, is tricked into completing an appraisal on a rare French piece, when to her surprise its owner casts a spell sending them both back to 1559. Danielle learns she is the crucial link for a royal spell and finds herself guarded by a handsome knight, Aidan. They soon fall in love, and he plans a risky escape.

Georgina, once a seer, now a mannequin in Danielle’s shop, was turned to wood by that same wizard. Her body stilled, her mind sharp, she is the lovers’ only hope to escape. If she intervenes, and the wizard finds out, he will stop at nothing to make his spell succeed, even if it means destroying Georgina, Danielle, and Aidan.

About the Author:Ever dream of traveling through time? Mariah Lynne does. She writes stories that take her readers along on exciting journeys. Travel to distant times and beautiful places with strong-willed independent heroines whose memorable tales will entertain with twisted plots that often dabble in the paranormal and even murder. All of her novellas, THE LOVE GYPSY, THE DUCHESS’ NECKLACE (coming in print and e-book March 2017), and SHADOWS ACROSS TIME fit that description to a T.

A Graduate of Syracuse University, Mariah lives on a beautiful Florida Gulf Coast Island loves where she lives making Southwest Florida play a role in every story. When she is not writing, she enjoys swimming, traveling and spending time with her husband and dolphin hunting dog, Max. She is a member of The Southwest Florida Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America.

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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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Buy the book at Amazon.