Monday, December 17, 2012

My Favorite Christmas with Lisa Orchard

Hello Everyone! I hope all is well with you! My name is Lisa Orchard and I’m here today to share with you my most memorable Christmas. This was a tough one because Christmas is my favorite holiday! So, you guessed it…each one has been memorable. J
I leaned back in my chair, trying to decide which Christmas to write about and I realized that my most memorable Christmas really didn’t happen on December 25th at all…it happened on January 1. J
I was pregnant with my first child and his due date was December 28th, but in all my pregnancy wisdom I knew he was going to come early. He was coming Christmas day! J
Of course, he didn’t and I went about the holidays in my usual fashion albeit with a large belly. When the 28th came and went…I started to get a little anxious. I mean when was this little guy going to arrive?
Then on the 29th I started having labor pains…the doctor had told me when the pains are five minutes apart go to the hospital. So, my husband and I were diligently timing the pains…when they reached the five minute stage we hopped into the car and drove to the hospital.
When we arrived the doctor hooked me up to an IV and my contractions slowed down. He told me…you’re not quite ready. Go home and when the contractions are five minutes apart come back.
So my husband and I climbed into the car and drove home. Now, my husband and I call this the walk of shame…because we thought we were ready but I guess our little guy was really calling the shots. LOL!
The doctor had also given me something to make me sleep so I went home and slept through the night. I woke in the morning and you guessed it…I had labor pains again…or still. J My husband and I timed them…and when they were five minutes apart…we drove to the hospital. J
Of course when I got there the pains slowed down AGAIN and after the doctor examined me…he said, “You’re not quite ready…go home and when the labor pains are five minutes apart come back.”
My husband and I exchanged an embarrassed smile and nodded. We’d heard this before. So, you guessed it…we did the walk of shame again. J
Well, the third time’s a charm… even if you’re not ready to give birth the hospital has to keep you…and wouldn’t you know it my labor pains slowed down AGAIN!
I now believe my little guy was playing a trick on me…because he’s quite a little prankster now! J
He finally arrived on January 1st 2005, and the doctor decided to do a C-section because my baby’s heart rate would slow down during the contractions. A decision they could have made three days earlier, in my opinion. J
But I was just so happy to have my little guy that I didn’t say anything to the doctor…although my husband made a comment about missing the tax deduction for the year…J
So, there you have it! My most memorable Christmas!
Thanks for taking the time to read my post! Feel free to comment and share your most memorable Christmas! I’d love to hear from you!

The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer by Lisa Orchard

In a small town in Michigan, fifteen-year-old Sarah Cole is stuck spending the summer at her Aunt and Uncle’s with her sister, Lacey. She’s not happy with the situation until she befriends a girl named Jackie. The three girls stumble upon the ruthless murder of a reclusive neighborhood woman and what's worse? One of the officers investigating the crime believes the girls are responsible for her death.

Fearing that this officer will frame them for the murder, the girls organize their own detective squad. They become the Super Spies and start their own investigation.  The Super Spies can’t understand why anyone would want to murder the “Cat Lady” until they start digging into her past and discover a horrible crime that happened thirty years ago. They uncover a connection between the two crimes and attempt to bring this information to the police, only to be reprimanded for meddling in the investigation. Not only are the girls upset by the admonition, but they also struggle with the fact that their exuberant investigating could provide a legal loophole allowing the killer to go free. Frustrated by this turn of events, the Super Spies realize it’s up to them to snare the Cat Lady killer.

Or die trying...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Favorite Christmas with Stephanie Taylor

It’s a Wonderful Life

Christmas, for me, isn’t a single memory or event.  It’s a collective memory of traditions and family members throughout the years.

Every year on Christmas Eve, my mom and my grandparents would load up and go in search of an elusive gift my cousin requested.  Then, we’d ride around our small town and look at Christmas lights.  For a little while, my grandfather put up a smorgasbord of lights and sculptures himself, competing with the crazy neighbors on the curve up the street who were something like 130 and had so many lights they had to begin in October.  Or maybe it was because they were slow, I’ll never know. Come to think of it, they’re still alive and well and their lights were up just a few weeks ago when I was in town.  HOW OLD ARE THEY?!

After we had finished with the Christmas lights, I’d always look up at the sky as my family rush back inside from the Georgia cold.  Inevitably, what I know now as a plane, would have a flashing red light and I’d be convinced that it was Rudolph and Santa was, indeed, real.  Even now, I do this, trying to recapture the magic of all the years of my youth.

My mother would tuck me into bed, then I’d get up to throw up from excitement at some point (true story) and fall asleep with my crackers and sprite, dreaming of morning and the barrage of presents under the tree and the arrival of my cousin and uncle, who was really my Santa Claus. Because they both meant Christmas.

Funny how I don’t really remember any certain gift, save one from a few years ago from my uncle.  Sure, I could tell you WHAT I got for many of those Christmas’s, but none of it mattered as much as the feeling of family and contentment during those times.  It took me a long time and having children of my own to realize that, too.

Now, I’m beginning new traditions with my family, in another state, far away from the “home” in which I grew up.  In ways, it’s exciting.  Others, it’s scary.  But mostly, it’s bittersweet.  I wish I could be the little kid again, looking up at the sky.  Now, I enjoy watching my children’s joy on Christmas morning seeing what we’ve bought them.  I hope one day, they can look back and remember everything we’ve done for them…not the gifts or anything else that will fade with time…but the lasting memories of their childhood Christmas’s that will one day be the foundation on which they build their own family traditions.

This year is another year I was blessed with to watch my children grow.  I also own a wonderful company with wonderful authors whom I can honestly say are more my friends than anything else.  I’ve truly been blessed and while Christmas is a time of giving for some, it’s a time of quiet reflection for me.  May we all focus our lives not on what we receive, but what we can give of ourselves to other people.

Happy Holidays to all of you!

The Unexpected Choice by Stephanie Taylor

Joey McCrary needs a wife and someone to help him raise his daughter after he made some poor choices in college.  Stacey has always been his friend, and even though she’s a sweet girl, nothing can compare to the feelings he has for his ex.

Joey realizes that he and Stacey can benefit one another.  Joey can provide Stacey with all she’s ever wanted: a family.  But can Stacey teach him a few things along the way, too?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Three Truths and a Lie with JF Jenkins

What's there to say about me? I live in Minnesota, I read a lot of books, play a lot of games, and write any chance I get. I have a son, two fur babies, and a husband. My day job is serving coffee to all of the caffeine addicts.

My eyes are multiple colors.

My family heritage ties me back to at least two different classic literature authors, so writing is obviously in my blood!

I am the only person in my family who did not pursue a medical related job.

My husband and I had a chance meeting of fate when we were younger (12ish) by vacationing in the same location while our parents were at the same conference.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Favorite Christmas with Kay Springsteen

It was 2007. Life had just changed dramatically for about the tenth time in ten years. I'm not talking "got a dog" kind of changes, but the life-altering event kind of change. The kind of change when you learn your first child has a birth defect, or when that child dies kind of change. In 2007, our family completely split apart. Not in a bad way, but because my four living children were all so close in age, the nest emptied with the suddenness of four baby birds flying for the first time in mid-summer. My eldest moved to Michigan to help my elderly mom with whom she was close. My youngest got married. My middle two, who happened to be twins, stayed home but not for long. And through all of this, the economy became so bad that I was on the verge of losing the townhouse I had purchased in 2002. I had JUST managed to get out from under it with enough profit to put a chunk down on a smaller house in the country - but it was hardly the profit I could have made only a year earlier (when I couldn't sell and move because some of my kids were still in school). I didn't know it, but we were about to embark on the kind of adventure movies are made out of. When we moved, I grossly underestimated the amount of truck space we'd need to get all of our stuff moved, and overestimated the amount of space I would have in the new house to fit all that crap into. So we moved rapidly, tossed a TON of stuff (not, in itself such a bad thing) and ended up making not one 450-mile one-way trip with one truck, but two and a half such trips. My older daughter couldn't help, but my twins, my son, and his new wife all dove in and made the move. On December 21, we began, and on December 24 we were finished. I'd slept approximately 6 hours in pieces through that time, but eventually the trucks and our stuff were in the new home. I drove my son and daughter-in-law back from Virginia to Maryland so they could celebrate their first Christmas together. So at 7:30 on Christmas Eve, I found myself and one of my twins, Dora, driving home to our new house in Pamplin, VA. About then, I realized I hadn't gotten anyone a Christmas present. So we stopped at the only place we found open. A Barnes and Noble book store. Books and CDs and DVDs for Christmas, and Godiva chocolate for stocking stuffers. Dora shopped for her and Mary's gifts to me and her own gift to Mary, and I shopped for my gifts to them and something Mary could give Dora - somehow we avoided each other all the way through to the checkout. We arrived home about 11 p.m. Mary had set up a pre-lit Christmas tree a friend had given us that year on top of some of our moving boxes. When we got home we used brown packing paper and packing tape to wrap the presents, and then we used some markers from Mary's art kit to draw on the paper. We set the presents under the tree and went to bed. We had brought a ham with us from our freezer in Maryland, so the next morning when I woke up, I put it in the oven. Only to find out the oven did NOT work.We opened the presents - some really cool surprises there! And we dug out the DVD player and set up the TV and played the DVDs we'd picked out. The problem of dinner loomed, and I really hoped Walmart or some grocery store would be open, so I drove the 15 miles to the nearest town while the twins slept. All I found open was a Sheetz convenience store/gas station. But on the way home, I noticed that a Huddle House restaurant was advertising Christmas dinner. I raced home, grabbed the girls and we went out to Christmas dinner at a local diner. Even though my older daughter wasn't there, nor were my son and new daughter-in-law, and though I had a steak from a diner for Christmas dinner instead of the ham I really wanted, this signaled the fresh start I had needed since discovering I was going to lose our home to the failing economy. And it was one of the best Christmases EVER.

Lady Ivy Plumthorne, elder daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Wythorpe, is a worry to her parents. Desiring only that she be as happily wed as her younger sister, they've spent the past year parading prospective suitors in front of her. When she finds none of the suitors… suitable, her parents despair she will ever find the perfect husband. With Christmas approaching, they find one more prospective suitor, the Duke of Greenbriar. Only problem is, Ivy's already met the man of her dreams… and he's a toymaker.

Noel Phillip Vincent Greenstone, the Twelfth Duke of Greenbriar, wasn't cut out to be a duke. He preferred crafting toys that made children happy. So that's just what he did. And as Phillip Green, he traveled freely about, visiting shops and orphanages, and making no child went without a toy of his or her own. But a few chance meetings with Lady Ivy and he knows he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. The problem is, she needs to marry a nobleman and she only knows him as Phillip the Toymaker. He needs a plan, and fast. The world needs to meet the reclusive Duke of Greenbriar, so Phillip plans his own coming out. But how will Ivy react when she learns the truth?

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Favorite Christmas with Ruth Hartman

It was Christmas Eve night. It seemed like any other date we’d had up to that evening. Garry picked me up in his old Ford pick-up truck, its brown and tan paint interrupted with small patches of rust. We were going to see a movie, “Reds”, which we both ended up thinking was awful. But since we were young, in love, and liked to kiss during the darkness of the movie, we probably didn’t see much of the movie, anyway J.
I opened the door, now used to the creak of the hinges. When I climbed up into the truck and took my usual place in the passenger seat, I noticed a small, green bag in the plastic cubby between the seats. That’s new. What was he up to? It couldn’t have an engagement ring it. We’d talked about getting engaged on my birthday, more than a month away.
I raised my eyebrows. “What’s this?” I eyed the green bag.
“You weren’t supposed to see that yet.”
I pointed down. “It’s right there. How could I not see it?”
He let out an exaggerated sigh. “Oh all right. Since you saw it, I might as well show you what it is.”
I took a deep breath as he reached for the little bag. Inside, was a tiny green box. Was it…? Could it be…?
As he opened the box, its hinges snapped. I gasped. It really was a ring!
He smiled. “Thought I’d surprise you a little early.” He took it out of the box. The shiny solitaire sparkled as it caught light from the streetlight outside.
Oh, I was surprised, all right. “It’s perfect. Perfect.”
He shrugged. “I paid attention that time we were in the jewelry store.”
“But I never actually picked one out.” I stared at the ring, longing to touch it.
“Still, I watched which ones you looked at the longest.”
I sighed. My Garry. A practical joker by nature, his first impulse is usually to tease me about something. He doesn’t always come right out and say what he’s really feeling. He does it more by his actions. And when he does, it’s always so sweet.
He slipped the ring on my finger. Somehow, it seemed like it belonged there. Like the ring had been made just for me. Just for this very night. The ring fit perfectly. I tried to imagine by big, tall boyfriend going into the jewelry store by himself, not asking for help from the store clerk, just picking out the pretty, dainty diamond ring. I kind of wished I could have seen that, but this way, surprising me, was so much better.
He pulled me close and touched his lips to mine. “I love you. Marry me?”
A tear traveled down my cheek. “I love you, too. You know I’ll marry you.”
We held each other a little while longer. I sighed and put my head under his chin. “Now you know what we have to do.”
He pulled back and looked me. “What?”
“Tell my parents.”
He chuckled. “Yeah. That should be interesting.”
Since I was only eighteen, I didn’t know how they’d react. “I say we wait til tomorrow.”
“Good plan. Everything’s better when you wait til tomorrow.”
“Merry Christmas.”
The kiss we shared sealed our engagement.

Izzy Hodgkin just wants an adventure. Who knew that involved being locked in a closet in 2012, then being transported to 1812 when the door is opened later?

Charles Hamilton Douglas Wade, Duke of Bramblewood Green, thinks he will never find the right woman. When he opens his closet door one day, imagine his surprise to find a woman in there. And she’s from the future!

Will Izzy stick with her plan to return to 2012 America to achieve her goal of financial independence? Or will she and Charles find happiness in 1812?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Favorite Christmas with Brenda Maxfield

Living in Costa Rica meant Christmas without family, Christmas without traditional US food, and Christmas without snowmen. Which was all right, because the pay-off was huge. We enjoyed perfect weather, a month-long school holiday, and fresh tropical fruit every day of December.
However, when we learned that my sister-in-law and her husband were coming to visit on Christmas Day, we rejoiced! Our two kids were over the moon that we’d have actual family with us when we celebrated. I rushed out and bought an extra big chicken to roast. (This was in the mid-1990’s, so many amenities which are now available in Costa Rica weren't at that time.)
We were so excited that we didn’t even mind putting off our usual early morning present opening. Instead, we headed to the airport to pick up family. A huge crowd swarmed the waiting area. We were sandwiched in with the rest of them, our eyes glued to the exit doors. When we saw George and Adah come through, our kids went wild, jumping up and down and yelling, “¡Bienvenidos!”
I noticed that George carried a bulging sportsbag which was so heavy it skimmed the pavement.  He was laughing and had a smug look on his face. “Guess what I’ve got in here?” he asked.
My two kids were hanging on him guessing every bulky gift known to man.
“Nope,” he said. “It’s a frozen turkey and a box of stuffing.”
Wide-eyed, we all skidded to a halt.
“How’d you get a turkey through customs?” my husband asked.
“They did nearly snatch it, but I played dumb and pretended I didn't speak Spanish.  I smiled and nodded a lot. Finally, they gave up and let us through. It’s wrapped in about twenty layers of newspaper, and I think it’s still frozen.”
We stared at him in wonder. And so that year, we had Christmas with family and Christmas with traditional US food.
Sadly, George couldn't bring any snow for a snowman.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

My Favorite Christmas with Lindsay Downs

One day several weeks before Christmas I was scanning the local newspaper and noticed an article which peaked my interest. A local Italian restaurant was opening its doors to the needy for free Christmas dinners.
I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of but to go as a civilian, I’d just be another person working the food line serving up meals.

At the time I was a corporal in the First Company Governors Horse Guards, which is part of the CT National Guard. At the next drill night I spoke to my commanding officer and before I could barely finish he said I was to go with orders to participate.

For those of you not familiar with being “under orders” it has several advantages; it would look good for the unit with the higher ups in the chain of command and I would be in uniform representing not only my unit but the the Army.

For me, knowing I’d be going to my mother’s home to a huge Christmas dinner, being able to help those less fortunate was very emotional for me.

At my mother’s house I helped her prepare the meal and without a doubt it was the best every and the last she’d ever have. She died in July of the next year.

It’s these two events, above all, which make December 25, 1996 my most memorable.

If I hear one more debutante declare that they will never marry unless it is for love, well. I shall break my quill! And we all know what happens when I break my quill. Things become very upsetting and it isn’t long before I--- Well, that is quite another story. Let this author, this matriarch, this paragon of society guide you with her infinite wisdom. It is apparent that many of you have gotten this silly notion of love in your head, most likely from American influence, and please do not get me started on those savages. The point, young dears, is that love, is silly. Take for example Lady Aleece, poor young dear never stood a chance! Can you imagine being mauled in public? By a commoner no less? Although, rumors have been running rampant that this very delicious commoner is in fact the Marquess of Somerset, I have my doubts. For one thing, a Marquess should be more unfortunate looking which is clearly not the case with Somerset. Let this be a lesson dear readers. If you marry for love, there is a very big chance that you will end up with your heart broken, or in that wretched commoners case—kidnapped (though many believe he should have been killed for even breathing the same air as our fair lady). Dear readers, have I taught you nothing this holiday season?—Mrs. Peabody’s Society Papers.

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Favorite Christmas with Elaine Cantrell

The last Christmas my father was alive he baked a fruit cake to bring to my house for Christmas dinner. I know what you’re thinking: fruit cake. My father loved to bake. If you’d ever eaten his fruit cake you wouldn’t turn your nose up at it.

Anyway, he only brought half of the cake. He said, “I decided to freeze half of it for you to have next year. I don’t think I’ll be here.”

Everyone pooh poohed him even though he did have some health issues, but Daddy was right. He died in March of the following year.

As Christmas rolled around my stepmother said, “We still have the fruit cake that David baked. I’ll bring it.”
Those words struck terror into my heart. How could we eat the last thing my father baked? Once it was gone there would never be any more. The cherries and nuts that decorated the top had been placed there by his own hands in a pattern of his own design. It wasn’t right to eat it!

But on the other hand, how could we not enjoy it as he had wished us to do? Wasn’t that why he cut it in half the previous Christmas?

I went back and forth in my mind for several weeks, but the issue was decided a week before Christmas. The cemetery where my father is buried hosts a remembrance ceremony right before Christmas each year. They put candles in white paper bags on each grave, and after playing a carol and having a prayer, relatives of the dead light candles in remembrance of their loved ones.

My heart felt like a lump of ice in my chest as I joined my stepmother at the cemetery. This was the first Christmas without my father.  I had always been a Daddy’s girl so my father’s death, had cast a long shadow over my holiday. As we lighted the candle on my mother and father’s grave, my stepmother said, “It’s his first Christmas in Heaven.”

I thought about that for a long time. Wasn’t Dad’s Christmas far grander and more glorious that anything I could imagine? Wasn’t he singing with the angel choir as all of Heaven celebrated the birth of our Lord?
I looked at that candle, and for the first time since March I thought of something besides funerals and felt something other than loss. I felt grateful for having had such a wonderful parent.  Even though we’re parted for a while, one day we’ll meet again. When we do, I intend to tell him how much I enjoyed that last fruitcake.

Liesel Wolf has a secret, a dangerous secret she’ll go to any lengths to conceal.  When she’s paired in a charity game with sexy marshal Andy Bryce, a man with secrets of his own, her carefully constructed world comes crashing down, and Liesel’s on a collision course with her past.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Favorite Christmas with Kristin Vayden

 My best Christmas Ever was the year 2007 and 2008.You'll see why.

 On December 21, 2007 I married my tall, dark and handsome hubby with the killer blue eyes.  He took me to a beautiful resort perched on a waterfall and we came home Christmas eve. Even now when I think of it, I get chills. It was so romantic and perfect.  I am so blessed. Little did I know that day would be special for another reason altogether.

 The snow was falling in white puffy flakes and the road was covered completely on December 21, 2008.  I awoke a little after midnight with back labor and was praying it was the real thing.  As I watched the snow fall I was thankful my midwife only lived a few blocks away. With the snow falling as rapidly as it was, I was afraid she'd have to wear snowshoes to my house rather than drive her car.  As morning approached, the air warmed and my midwife was able to drive to my house.  A few hours later, my beautiful daughter was born, on my one year wedding anniversary.

 We had a quiet Christmas home with our new little girl.

Lady Grace Hashiver has perfected the art of hiding behind a sarcastic whit when it comes to dealing with the rakish Ewan Emmett Duke of Greys, her childhood tormentor. Her whit protects her from betraying the attraction and desire she feels whenever she is around him.

Ewan Emmett, Duke of Greys is perfectly thrilled to torment Grace at every opportunity, until an old acquaintance begins an honest suit for Grace’s hand.  When Ewan begins to feel the pangs of jealousy causing him to question his reasons for his constant teasing of Grace, he discovers a depth of emotion he didn’t know he harbored towards the golden haired beauty.  Suddenly he is no longer the tease, but on the receiving end of the torment as he wonders if he‘s to late to fight for her love.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Three Truths and a Lie with Myrna Parks

Like most writers of fiction, I can be quiet good at deception. For those who respond to my three truths and a lie, I promise to send you my favorite recipe for southern pecan pie. To the first person who guesses correctly, I will send you a package of fresh pecans processed by Kentucky Nut Corporation; a company owned and operated by a member of my church. I might even throw in a jar of their special chocolate-dipped pecans, which I warn you, can easily lead to an addiction.

When I was a child, I had two reoccurring dreams: I would someday swim the English Channel and that I could fly as free as a bird. You might possibly learn a great deal about a person by their dreams, their jobs and their hobbies. Happy Guessing!

  1. I once ran a successful catering service from my converted garage.
  2. One of my easiest jobs was delivering books on a bookmobile.
  3. I have enjoyed hang-gliding over the Atlantic Ocean.
  4. Skydiving is one of my favorite hobbies.  

Desperate to prove to her rich, patronizing relatives she can make a name for herself as a writer, Bethany Ashton returns to Sacramento with a manuscript nestled inside her briefcase and a tight-lipped smile of determination on her peach-tinted lips. Hoping to enlist the aid of successful writer and speaker, Adrian Adams, to publish her first novel, Beth attends an international writer’s conference where the author is scheduled to speak. However, when she discovers her registration isn’t valid and all the sessions are full, she impulsively fibs and tells the matron in charge that she is married to one of the seminar lecturers, the handsome man she sat next to on the plane. It gets her through security and into restricted areas.

Carter Phillips loves to laugh at the eccentricities of others. On his flight to California, when he encounters an aspiring young author who unwittingly pulls him into a make-believe marriage that offers all of the pitfalls of matrimony but none of the perks, Carter finds himself embroiled in a dilemma that is no laughing matter. Especially when he falls in love with his pretend wife.

 Two people bound together by a set of circumstances that produces more fabrications than a crooked politician on the trail to reelection, Truth and Circumstances is a humorous tale of a damsel determined to be distressed, and the handsome stranger who reluctantly, and repeatedly, comes to her rescue.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Favorite Christmas with Jeff Salter

Merry Christmas to All … and to All a Good Night!
By Jeff Salter
            Perhaps my most vivid Christmas memories from childhood were consecutive years when I was in Elementary School. For probably three or four years, my family drove to Mandeville [La.] to tour the wards of the Southeast Louisiana [Mental] Hospital and sing Christmas carols to the patients. On Christmas Eve.
Preacher’s kid
            I should explain. My Dad was Protestant Chaplain at SoLoHo and he organized the hospital staff and their families to do this for their patients. He’d mimeographed selected carols into slender song books and my recollection is that almost all the staff (not on duty) – from the top administrators to the housekeeping teams – participated eagerly.
            After congregating somewhere in the facility, we all toured every ward (except, probably, the most dangerous) and sang a few carols in each. Some of the patients joined in. But some just sat or stood … and watched. Whether they participated or merely listened, I believe even the most medicated patients knew what was going on … and likely appreciated it.
            Remember, the late 1950s was well before the massive deinstitutionalization of mental patients — some of those individuals may have been hospitalized for many years. It’s possible some of them had never experienced a ‘regular’ Christmas with a ‘typical’ family.
            I no longer recall how many other children were caroling with us – my younger sister and older brother and me – but I’m sure there were several because I remember some of the ‘staff children’ in other contexts.
Some time prior to one of these caroling episodes, we learned that my Dad’s keester had been kicked by a patient. It was not completely uncommon for hospital staff to be accosted by some of the more agitated patients … though most were reasonably behaved when we were present. However, that business of being kicked-in-the-keester rose alarms with my older brother and me. At his suggestion – and with my full concurrence – as we caroled in each ward that evening, my brother and I kept our backs glued to the walls. Nobody was going to sneak up behind us!
At the end of at least one of these caroling episodes on the wards, we also went from house to house – on the hospital’s fenced and gated grounds – to several small brick cottages where certain staff lived with their families. At some of these, we were invited in for refreshments. [I assume, now, that this was pre-arranged ... but at the time it always surprised me.]
The Remains of the Eve
I don’t remember the ‘clock’ aspects of this experience. It was always dark when we got home, but I’m not sure when we started. Many of the patients were in robes and what looked like PJs, so it may have been evening when we got there. Or, perhaps those patients wore robes and PJs most of the time. Not sure.
            Anyway, once we got home from caroling each Christmas Eve night, my Mom made hot cocoa. Not poured from an envelope into boiling water. This was the good stuff: whole milk warmed in a sauce-pan on the stove … with rich, powdered Hershey’s cocoa mixed in. And I think she added sugar, since the Hershey’s was for baking. However she prepared it, that cocoa is still the best-tasting hot chocolate I can remember over a span of six decades so far.
            After hot cocoa was served, we gathered around our family tree in the living room and opened our Christmas presents.
Meant quite a lot
As I said, these caroling ventures at the mental hospital were undertaken “for the patients” … but I firmly believe it meant quite a lot to the staff and their families. As I phrased it in my 1983 account of those childhood years: “… the experience was as warming to our hearts as the cocoa was to our tummies when we got home.”
            I hope I never forget that warm feeling … or the true reason for this season. Merry Christmas to everyone … and May God Bless You!

When Kris awakens in a costume, behind wooden bars inside a pitch-black community center, her only available rescuer is the hung-over new guy in town (who’s dressed as a pirate).  Problem is:  she’s sworn-off men, especially buccaneers.

Badly burned four years ago by a player who ruined her financially, Kris Prima’s heart is locked down as tightly as her lifestyle is confined by those massive debts.  When first assisted by recent newcomer Ryan Hazzard, Kris is resentful, slightly afraid, and determined never again to trust men.  But when court-ordered community service brings them together once more, she begins to appreciate Ryan’s charm, good looks, and capable manner.

With all the rumors and assumptions which followed Ryan from a large metropolitan area, how can small-town Kris even begin to trust him?  And why won’t he explain any of those situations?  Through her efforts to learn Ryan’s mysterious past, they share further experiences:  many comedic, one quite dangerous, and others very tender.  Despite several misunderstandings, Kris’s bottled-up feelings slowly re-awaken and she finally learns enough about Ryan to know she wants him in her life somehow. Kris regains her ability to trust a man and her heart is freed from its jail.

Monday, December 3, 2012


…or at least a chance to win some! It’s a Christmas Regency blog hop, with each participating author giving away copies of her Astraea Press ebook at each stop on the tour. Plus, enter here for more chances to win:

First prize: FIVE Regency Christmas ebooks
Second prize: THREE ebooks
Third prize: one ebook

Winners can select their prizes from this list:
A Christmas Surprise (Lindsay Downs)
Ghosts of Winters Past (Christina Graham Parker)
Partridge and the Peartree (Patricia Kiyono)
Redeeming the Deception of Grace (Kristin Vayden)
Scandal on Half Moon Street (Vivian Roycroft)
The Devil Duke Takes a Bride (Rachel Van Dyken)
The Duke of Christmas Past (Kim Bowman)
The Toymaker (Kay Springsteen)
Time for a Duke (Ruth J. Hartman)
Two Turtledoves (Leah Sanders)
Vidal’s Honor (Sherry Gloag)

Each author has her own rules on each blog, so be sure to read the fine print on each stop. To enter here on the AP blog, just leave a comment below.

Ready? Here’s the blog hop entry link. Let’s visit Kim Bowman and The Duke of Christmas Past. Rumor has it the infamous Mrs. Peabody has something to say about Miss Tess Warren… but Mrs. Peabody has something delicious to say about everything that’s going on!

My Favorite Christmas with Sherry Gloag

My son’s first Christmas was special.  Not only did he, at six months old, have a fascination for everything bright and shiny, but he brought back the magic of Christmas to me and his dad.

Recently we spent the day with him and his partner and new baby, and although Christmas is a way of yet, as I write, her curiosity with her surroundings, we’d gone out for a meal, reminded me of her father’s reactions on his first Christmas.

Give a baby/toddler a gift and they’ll play with the wrappings and packaging for hours after offering a cursory glance at the item.  It’s the way of babies and young animals J

But our grandchild’s expressions were a delight to watch.  Yes, I know, you’re thinking, well every child’s face is expressive, and that’s true, but I’ve never seen a six-and-a-half month chid look as though they are fathoming out the intricacies of what they are watching in quite the way my son’s child does. Surroundings and people are forgotten and the focus slims down to what is in front of her.

Once again, I was gifted with the memory that the riches and magic of Christmas are not measured by the size and price-tag of the gift, but the gift of seeing life through the uncomplicated eyes of a young child.
So, my son’s reactions on his first Christmas are constantly re-gifted to me when I watch his children approach and experience their own first Christmas.

When plunged into a world of spies, agents and espionage during the Peninsula wars, Honor, Lady Beaumont, flees for her life when the French capture her husband at Salamanca, and relies on his batman to arrange her safe passage back to England.

Viscount Charles Vidal is ordered by Robert Dumas, the First Lord of the Admiralty, to travel to Spain and escort the only woman he’s ever loved, Lord Devlin Beaumont’s widow back home before the French discover her whereabouts.

Their journey is fraught by danger, least of all knowing whether they are surrounded by friends or foe. Will they survive long enough to explore the possibility of a future together or will whispers of treason be enough to see Honor dispatched to Tyburn first?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Favorite Christmas with Samantha Combs

I have been blessed with wonderful Christmases in my life.  In fact, I became engaged to my husband of 11+ years on a memorable Christmas morning.  But there is one holiday which stands out not because of what I had, but because of what I didn’t.

Four years ago this coming Christmas, my husband and I were in a very bad financial state.  Hubs had lost his job, not yet found a new one, and we were barely surviving.  It became clear to us sometime in November that there was not going to be any money left over for Christmas.  I was despondent.  How would I celebrate Christmas with my kids if there were not so many presents under the tree that you could hardly cross the living room?  Having so many holidays filled with excess, I was ill-equipped and nearly incapable of having any other kind.

My husband and I sat down and tried to make a budget for at least a Christmas dinner.  We discovered even that would be hard.  We pared the dinner down to a turkey breast and a few vegetables.  We put on a brave face and decided to be happy for what we could do.  We hugged and promised it would get better and that as long as we had each other and the children, we had everything we needed.

It seems the moment we made that mental and spiritual change of attitude, things around us began to change.  We went to a Christmas party with my side of the family, an annual gathering, and were stunned by the gift of cash from two uncles.  We could have a lovely dinner and get the kids a few things!

Then, my husband got the call from a job he had been vying and testing for.  He would be hired after the holidays!  When he called with the news, I was driving.  I was so overcome with emotion, I had to pull over on the side of the road.  It was there that I had the first epiphany of that holiday season; I was blessed.  I had never felt that before and the feeling was as powerful as a Pacific ocean wave.

Even though we knew about the new job, and had a bit of spare cash thanks to my uncles, we vowed not to spend a dime on ourselves and we didn’t.  I shopped for a few bits for the kids at Big Lots instead of the huge department stores and was astonished by how many others were doing the same.  It was my first inclination of where the economy was headed.  While the mall parking lots were bare, parking at the local Big Lots was almost riotous.  Cars in the parking spaces were another indication.  Mercedes, Lexus, BMW’s.  It occurred to me rich people were rich because they spent well.  More enlightenment.  It changed the way I shopped forever.

Christmas morning we held our breaths as the kids tore down the stairs.  Would they realize it was sparse and that with the exception of two gifts, the presents were all from their grandparents?  That we had none for ourselves?  No, not a chance.  At 5 and 2 years of age, brightly wrapped boxes and bags were too exciting to notice.  This was also enlightening to me.  They didn’t care!  Mind-boggling.

In the quiet of the aftermath of a lovely Christmas dinner with family, and after tucking our kids into bed, my husband and I sat and hugged in front of the fire.  I had no new jewelry, no new clothes, nothing from under the tree.  But I didn’t care.  I felt like the luckiest woman in the world.  My husband and I had weathered another storm and come out stronger on the other end.  I had learned the true meaning of the season.  Christmas 2007 was the best Christmas I ever had.

Book Two in the Spellbound series continues the love story of Logan and Serena.  Having previously dispatched Christophe, the dark demon trying to capture and kidnap Serena for her special witch DNA in Book One, the two lovers believe they are now free to plan and live their lives together.  Or are they?

When an innocent mistake made by their newlywed friends frees the way for Christophe to return, their idyllic attempt at happiness is marred by the nightmare they must outsmart, finally, to achieve the happily ever after they deserve.

They know they can rely on their coven to be there for them, and some new friends and additions to the family, as they once again embark on an epic battle that will secure their life, their love, and their future together.  Once, they were Spellbound, now their story continues, for love, forever, for Everspell.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My Favorite Christmas with B.G. Lashbrooks

The previous Christmas I went home from my family’s home angry at the world, my family, at myself and my husband, and even at God…though I wasn’t sure I still believed. I was not a militant or hardcore Christian. I don’t go to church every Sunday but I knew what the Bible says and I knew what I sort of believed to be true.

But that Christmas…that was the breaking point for me.  My husband and I had been together for five years. And for the last year, had been trying for a child.

It wasn’t happening, and it was mostly because of my body and the fact that we were on wildly conflicting work schedules.

But that year, my extended family welcomed 6 babies into my family and seeing these babies was highly upsetting for me. It felt like I had failed and that it wasn’t fair.  My husband and I were older, more responsible, more financially stable, and more educated people. We had our own home to offer a child and we could easily support one.

Yet we could not make one.

I went home that night and straight to bed, upset and hurting. I remember praying that God give us a child before the next Christmas. Praying harder for that than anything I’d ever prayed for before…and not truly believing it would happen.

My confused body just simply stopped working after that. Yet there was no clear medical reason for what was going on. My husband and I decided it was time to take a break, to give me a chance to alleviate some of the stress that trying had placed on me and to give us a chance to pay off some bills and get some breathing room.

By this time I was working part time and focusing on my writing career and had no health insurance. It kind of made sense to wait until I could get on my husband’s policy during the open enrollment period–8 months away.

Fast forward to April…my body still wasn’t working–at least not obviously.  I was still stressed but not as much, I was just tired. Extremely tired.  I just shrugged it off and started taking vitamins again. I’d struggled with anemia in the past–many times–and that had always made me tired, too.  Usually after about a week of the iron-fortified vitamins I started feeling better. Not this time. I was still tired, so I started taking afternoon naps instead of working on my novel.  I thought nothing else of it.

May rolled around and I was still tired, so I started going to bed a bit earlier. I love sleeping and love long naps–so I did what I wanted and slept. And slept.  And slept some more.

On May 11th I found the last of the pregnancy tests I’d purchased when we were trying to conceive. I’d hidden it in the corner of the shelf, but I’d always known it was there.  Taunting me. Teasing me. Reminding me every time I stepped into the bathroom that I couldn’t do it.

I decided to get rid of the test, yet the frugal, practical side of me couldn’t see throwing away a test that had been unused. So I decided to use it, just to reiterate my own failure and as a joke since my husband and I had started taking precautions (though I secretly thought they were unnecessary) and to just get the damned test out of my sight and out of my house.

So I took the test. And I watched it like I had so many others. It took less than 10 seconds of the required three minutes for a positive result to appear.

I had never been so terrified in my life.  I was terrified that I’d imagined it, terrified that it was a test malfunction, terrified that it was true. So I stared at the test and stared at it in a state of shock I cannot with any words describe.

So I went into the bedroom and woke my husband. My simple “I need you in here for a moment…” is a conversation starter I will never forget. He stumbled into the kitchen (he does not wake easy) and I pushed the test across the island to him…he stared at it. Then he asked what it was…then he focused on the simple white stick.

He asked if it was for real. Then he stumbled back to bed.

Huh? Not the response I expected.  A few minutes later he popped his head back outside the bedroom door…”Did you just…”

“Yeah…” Not the greatest response, but I still hadn’t put it into words just what the test signified.

“We’ll talk when I wake up.” He worked night shift and had to work that night.

Sounded good to me–I needed time to process and I always had trouble processing when other people–including my husband–were around.

Well, I processed by going to the store (I don’t remember the drive) and buying seven more tests.  By five o’clock our kitchen counter was littered with positive tests, pink, blue, digital, plus–they were all there for my husband to see when he woke up.

Fast forward a few weeks and I am extremely sick and had been diagnosed with hyperemesis–or extreme morning sickness. I was definitely pregnant, we’d had an ultrasound and been given a due date of Dec. 27.  I’m sick, tired, and terrified but we are also extremely excited.

Around fifteen weeks I get violently ill (more so than with the hyperemesis), with a hidden kidney infection and spend three days/two nights hospitalized. But I get another ultrasound—and I feel the baby move for the first time.

At 20 weeks we are scheduled for the big gender ultrasound.  All of the grandparents and my sister are waiting to find out the results. Our results via ultrasound–it was definitely a baby.  A mischievous baby who’d refused to hold still long enough to show us whether our nursery would be pink or blue.

Disappointed…but my biggest concern before the ultrasound was that there would be something wrong with my baby. After the ultrasound I didn’t care that we hadn’t found out the gender, I was just thrilled to see little arms and legs waving around wildly.

On my 30th birthday, we went in for another ultrasound…mainly to ensure that our baby didn’t have an overly large head (my husband had had a larger head at birth) and was in a good birth position. He’d gotten stuck, and I was terrified our little one would too!

It was very clear from the screen that our baby would be wearing a lot of pink clothing.

On December 14th I went on maternity leave because although my job was easy, I was getting too tired by the end of my shift.  At this point I was 37 weeks and a few days pregnant.

The next ten days were filled with naps and doctor’s appointments.

My body once again refused to work. I wasn’t dilating at all.  So it looked like I would be spending Christmas the size of a whale. No big deal, I was just excited to have a baby coming and though I was tired and hurting and ready for it to be over with, I was also glad to not have to go through labor yet.  I’d spent most of this pregnancy terrified, so why wouldn’t I be terrified of delivery?

On Dec. 23rd I go in again to get checked, only to be told there was no change.

No dilation and I would not be getting my baby before Christmas…

Christmas Eve, I sleep in.  By this point my husband was sleeping in the nursery on a rollaway mattress because I was horrible to sleep with (I lost count of the number of times I’d kicked him or hit him in my sleep, poor man!).

Enter one determined Border collie…

She kept licking my hand and then my face, whimpering and jumping around on the bed. I just assumed my husband had overslept and Liberty just couldn’t hold it anymore.

I just wanted to sleep!

A 39 week 5 day pregnant woman just wants as much sleep as she can get.

As I rolled over,  I felt a trickle. I stood up and walked into the living room…by the time I got there I realized something truly wasn’t right.

I was bleeding, and it wasn’t minor.

I went to the restroom just as my water broke. But it wasn’t just amniotic fluid. I was passing blood clots. I pushed Liberty out of the way–she was standing outside the nursery whimpering–and opened the door to the nursery and told my husband I was bleeding. I don’t think his knees even bent; he just sort of floated up. While he put on his shoes and used the restroom I had time to grab the hospital bag and my coat. To call my mom to come clean up the blood and to take care of the dogs. Five minutes later we were on our way to the hospital.

I was calm. He was terrified.

I wasn’t in any pain, and more importantly, the baby was moving around like crazy. She was ok and that meant everything.

By 10:30 we were there, and they rushed me past the admitting desk and straight up to the labor and delivery floor. I was a bloody mess, after all.

And then the bleeding stopped. I was not dilated any more than I had been the day before.

I felt pretty good. And strangely calm.

They hooked me up to IVs of fluids and pitocin to increase the contractions and their strength. I could feel some contractions, very minor ones. But still no dilation.

An hour later my doctor arrives to tell me the baby’s heart rate was dropping more after every contraction. And I still hadn’t dilated.
Once again, my body was not working. Big surprise, right?

We discussed options. At 4p.m. the surgical team had arrived and I was prepped and on my way back for the surgery. The anesthesiologist did the epidural and I was numb. My husband was led in. He and the anesthesiologist stayed by my head, talking to me while they did the surgery. I asked the anesthesiologist how long on average a c-section would take.

“Let’s see…” Was his reply.

A few minutes later he returned…”Three minutes…”

I heard my baby crying as they cleaned her up.

They handed her to her daddy and he held her next to my face. That first upside down view of her little face is one I will never forget.

It was 4:15 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

We named her Evalyn, a name we had picked out a few years before we’d started trying. We hadn’t known our Evie would arrive on Christmas Eve.

The little baby I had prayed so hard for on Christmas day the year before had made it by the next Christmas–with less than eight hours to spare.

Christmas Evie was here…and an answer to her mother’s prayers.

No Room At the Inn by B.G. Lashbrooks
Greta Nole loved the old hotel more than any other place on earth. If the new owners close it down, she'd be out of a job and her beloved hotel would be gone forever. She'd do whatever she had to do to get the hotel in tiptop shape before the new owner arrived after Christmas. But first she had to survive Stormzilla, the nastiest snowstorm to hit southern Indiana in years.

Owen Levi III had no clue why his father would buy such a relic as the Jubilee--and then send Owen out there to check it out so close to Christmas. Had his dad finally lost his mind? The hotel was nothing more than an albatross around Levi Industries' neck and the only recommendation Owen could make was to tear it down! Quick.  Owen's staring out the window, mentally going over what would need to be done to even get the hotel habitable when he sees an idiot woman walking through the storm. When she trips and hits her head Owen's outside to rescue her faster than he can think.

Greta and Owen have tangled over hotels before, and neither would ever admit defeat!