Ideas are Everywhere

I have friends who talk about and browse Pinterest all the time. For me, I haven’t quite got there yet. Mainly because I’m a bit afraid I’ll get addicted and it will be one more thing to do on the computer that isn’t writing a book. And believe me, I don’t need any kind of distractions or procrastinations there.

And while the site itself is a fairly new idea, the theory behind it has a much longer history.

Everyone knows the mark of a good teacher is to take an idea from someone else and make it your own. I love doing this. Conferences are a great place to network and grab ideas. The IL Reading Conference is absolutely my all-time favorite teachers’ conference. My curriculum is chock full of things I’ve garnered from this yearly event.

One of my favorite winter holiday traditions is our Historical Society’s Christmas Housewalk. Each year about a half dozen homes in a local neighborhood are opened to the public to tour. On these walks I’ve gathered a lot of great holiday decorating ideas. Last year, I came across a year round decorating idea, which I implemented this past summer. I’m sure it’s not a new idea, but after seeing it in one of the homes on the Walk, I knew I wanted to do something similar in my own home. It’s simple, but it’s become one of our favorite spaces in our home.

Black framed sepia-tones prints from the places we’ve traveled to. These aren’t pictures of us, but photographs of scenery, monuments, and historic places we’ve visited. It was fun tracking down old photos for the project this summer, and I can’t wait to expand the gallery with more photos of upcoming vacations.

Now with writing, this borrowing from other people can get a bit tricky. After all, no one wants to mess with that little thing called plagiarism. It’s definitely not okay to blatantly take someone else’s idea or words and use them as your own. However, as we all know, there really aren’t all that many unique and original storylines out there. Think back to Freshman English class: You have your basic man vs. man, man vs. nature, etc. How many millionaire/secret baby romances have you read? These days it’s shapeshifters and vampires and zombies. It’s what we do with those traditional story lines and conflicts that make our stories unique. And with that, the possibilities are endless.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Available now:
One Great Night from The Wild Rose Press

Valentine’s Day Customs

When I started writing When My Heart Knew aimed for a Valentine’s-themed call for submissions, I knew I wanted to include a holiday custom from the heritage of one of the main characters. So I started in on my research. Because this story would also take place in the setting of two other recent stories, I wanted the heritage different than what I’d used. Vevina, my heroine in Wanderer, Come Home is Irish, and Kell the hero is Norwegian. My heroine in Clari’s Hero is of French descent, and for Trevor the hero, the subject doesn’t come up but I thought of him as a generic mix of Northern European.

I chose Scotland as the home country for hero Dylan MacInnes where he lived for the first twenty years of his life until immigrating to his uncle’s T-south Texas ranch five years earlier. So he was raised around the lore and customs taught by beloved family members from both his Scottish father and his Welsh mother. The tradition from his mother’s family he wishes to carry forward into the budding relationship he has with the heroine, Maisie Treadwell, is that of the lovespoon. The item is tangible evidence of his romantic intent-the wood carving displays his abilities, and the symbols indicate promises he’s making or represent special aspects or events of the couple’s relationship. For example: bells were for marriage, cross for faith, heart for love, horseshoe for luck, lock for security, and wheel for supporting a loved one.

Lovespoon with wheel, heart and lock

BLURB for When My Heart Knew:

Tomboy Maisie Treadwell meets her match in cowboy Dylan MacInnes. From the moment they meet, the sparks and words fly. Of course, if she hadn’t knocked him down and caused an ankle sprain, their relationship might have gone more smoothly. To avoid damaging the reputation of the family’s boarding house, Maisie is ordered to be at the mercy of meeting Dylan’s demands. When they discover a shared interest in adventure stories, a bond is struck. Soon, Maisie can’t wait to spend time reading aloud to the virile man confined to a bed. Until the afternoon she overhears him explaining that his demands were meant to teach her a lesson. Can Dylan find a way to gain her trust again?

COWBOY KISSES

What could be better on a cold Valentine’s Day than to sit down with a book chock full of stories about special cowboys and their ladies? COWBOY KISSES has just what you’re looking for! Eight stories by some fabulous authors who share with you their love stories of the old west!

A Kiss In Time by Lorrie Farrelly

A Westward Adventure by Kristy McCaffrey

Valentine Angel by Gail L. Jenner

Hearts and Red Ribbons by Gil McDonald

Hunter’s Gamble by C. Marie Bowen

Her Thief of Hearts by Tanya Hanson

Hopes and Dreams by Beverly Wells

BUY LINKS

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

KOBO Books

Smashwords

GIVEAWAY

Do you have a favorite Valentine’s Day custom from your heritage? An electronic copy of Cowboy Kisses will go to one person selected from those who share a comment.

And I Thought Grandmother Was So Old Fashioned……

When I was twenty and Grandmother was the age I am now, I couldn’t imagine ever being as out-of-date as that tiny lady born before the dawn of the Twentieth Century. How could she find knee-length skirts, two-piece bathing suits, and rock ‘n roll distasteful? Now that my own granddaughter is twenty and I am the out-of-date grandmother from another century, I’m seeing the world from different place.

What is my concern, you ask.

So glad you inquired. I’m disgusted, affronted, and apparently in the minority. While running the risk of sounding as old fashioned as my Nineteenth Century grandmother, I want to ask when pathetic writing became the mainstay of a ‘modern masterpiece’. I’d like to know how ‘abuse’ has become synonymous with ‘romance’. Could someone explain  to me how language once kept out of the hearing of small children is now the common  conversation among the playground set? And when did women’s magazines, the ones hanging in racks in the family grocery store, become sex instruction manuals placed eye level to ten-year-old children?

This is the week of Valentine’s Day, that Cupid-hearts-flowers-candy respite from the woes of winter. Love is in the promise of a young man’s glance and an old one’s touch. It’s the innocence of a first crush and the ‘remember when’ of the widow’s memory. At least I thought it was, until a couple of events this week gave me an unpleasant wake-up.

I write romance and I’m proud of my work. I try to create interesting characters who will hold the reader’s attention. Making them live in the mind’s eye is the ultimate goal, but if a reader is simply entertained, I’m satisfied. I believe love between individuals is shown in kindness, respect, care, and support. My hope, every time I begin a story, is to bring my characters to that place. In my mind, a hero is as romantic washing the dog or changing the baby as he is pouring champagne or racing after the distressed damsel. And a heroine is as endearing roofing the house or driving the tractor as she is running through the daisies to her true love. On the other hand, abuse is not romantic. Manipulation is not love. Stalking is not exciting. Ask any woman who has been on the receiving end. So I am appalled that the 50 Shades movie–billed as romantic, exciting, hot, fill-in-your-adjective–has garnered so much anticipation. I read the thing and wondered what generated all the acclaim.  The writing is fourth rate, the characters unbelievable and unsympathetic, and the storyline glorifies a stalker and victim mentality. I have associates who write erotica and do an excellent job of it. The 50 Shades mish-mash is an insult to the professionals who work in that genre.

The other media event that sent shock waves to my mind was the sports magazine that produces an annual swimsuit edition. This year’s offering arrived at the home of my significant other today. He is a mature and intelligent man, interested in golf, baseball, basketball, and though he’s along in years, he  appreciates a lovely girl. Still the cover of the swimsuit edition had him speechless. When I looked at it, I saw why. The gorgeous cover model’s provocative pose  suggested the magazine had more in common with a bordello than a basketball court. And this is a magazine that is often left in the dentist’s or doctor’s waiting room. Am I the only person who finds this tasteless?

All right, I’m not in the swing of the new century which is, I realize not so new. We’ve moved fifteen years into the 2000′s and I suppose I am somewhere in the 1960′s. I have become my grandmother. I plead guilty. But is there something wrong with me that I would prefer not having to watch a ten-year-old page through the naked models of the swimsuit edition while I’m waiting to have my teeth cleaned? Am I somehow unrealistic to hope that my impressionable granddaughter won’t read a book or see a movie that paints an abusive psychopath as romantic and desirable? Am I railing against bathroom vulgarity when it’s only a freer form of speech?

I may be the little old lady, doddering along in my print dress and tennies, nattering about ‘In my day, you young whippersnapper, we did things right.’ And perhaps all of this is just the way things evolve as the world sheds its worn-out Victorian prudery. Maybe so. But let’s applaud good writing and label schlock  what it is. Let’s recognize cheap exploitation and not dignify it by calling it a ‘love story’. If we are going to pose lovely young women in a provocative manner, let’s not pretend the result is a sports magazine. And if we are going to use language once thought only suitable for the bar or barnyard, let’s recognize that the small ears around us are going to hear, young minds are going to remember, and young lips will repeat what they hear. Some of us are still shocked to hear a five year old grandniece drop a series of f-bombs at the ice cream party.

Okay, I’ve vented my disgust with the present. I believe I’ll go read a nice Tudor historical and rage at parents who used their children as political pawns. Maybe there will be a juicy palace intrigue. Or a good war among rival cousins. That should take my mind off the Twenty-first Century for a while. Thanks for letting me have the podium.

Fleeta Cunningham

Resolutions and Happiness… by Niecey Roy

Ramblings of a Writer…

It’s a snow day today, so while I’m in my office looking out at the beautiful white snow (beautiful, because I don’t have to go out and trudge through it, ha!) I’m taking a moment to reflect on all the amazing things that’s happened in the last two years.
I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I accepted my first publishing contract. It was exhilarating and a little overwhelming at the same time. As in Now What???

It’s been a whirlwind ever since, and a big learning curve. Because I didn’t just want to be a writer who wrote…I wanted to be a writer in charge of her own business. I’m independent like that. I like to know that everything I build is truly mine. I like to be in charge and I’m a little bossy… I always knew I would never be happy unless I owned my own business :)

So here I am, four books published later, and I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor. They didn’t come without stress, sleepless nights, tears, and there were – as much as I hate to admit it – days I wondered if I was in way over my head. If maybe I took the wrong route with my career. Publishing is a very competitive field. There are so many talented authors out there.

After publishing my latest book, I was terrified. Book 4…if people don’t like it, then what? I sat down and thought of all the things that might go wrong and realized that it really didn’t matter. I’ve always been a writer. I’ve always known I would spend the rest of my life writing. Regardless of whether my books end up on the New York Times Best-seller’s list or not… I will continue to write. It’s what makes me happy.

I’m doing a lot of different things in my life to be able to afford to live this dream. Many writers I know have other jobs as well. I started a Thirty-One business, and I am blissfully happy in my new small business. It fits with my lifestyle, with all the things that I enjoy (bags & purses & shopping, oh my!) and it gives me the flexibility I need to also write.

I made a resolution in December that THIS YEAR 2015 was a year for CHANGE and for me in roping in MY happiness. I did that with Thirty-One and in making necessary decisions and changes as a professional writer. (Cutting out social media and concentrating on my writing is one of those BIG changes.)

This writer is happy. It feels like it has taken years for me to get to this point where I can feel confident in where I’m at. I’ve taken control of my writing business, I’ve chosen a secondary career as a Thirty-One Consultant that makes me feel strong and confident and successful. I’ve even started eating healthier, and am finally feeling and seeing the results

This is going to be a great year!

How about you? Have you made any resolutions for 2015?

Smooches!

Niecey Roy

~ Reluctantly In Love ~

NRLove3BookCover6x9_HIGH.jpg

White picket fences and fairy tale endings aren’t in Roxanna Moss’s vocabulary. If she’s learned anything at all from her parents’ failed relationships, it’s to keep a lid on her emotions and the walls secure around her heart. As a PI in training by day and a writer by night, she doesn’t have time for a relationship, anyway.

What she didn’t plan on was Dr. Walker…

Chase Walker’s piercing blue eyes and sexy smile make it difficult to keep her heart in check. Even solving the biggest case of her career can’t distract her from the irresistible man heating up her sheets. Chase has her questioning everything she thought she knew about relationships, and denial can’t change the fact that she’s falling madly, deeply, and reluctantly in love.

Amazon:  http://bit.ly/ReluctantlyInLoveAMAZONKINDLE

iBooks:  http://bit.ly/ReluctantlyInLoveIBOOKS

Nook: http://bit.ly/ReluctantlyInLoveNook

Kobo: http://bit.ly/ReluctantlyInLoveKOBO

ARe: http://bit.ly/ReluctantlyInLoveARe

Off and Running

Here we are twenty-six days into the new year, and I have to say 2015 is off to a great start.

My tenth release with The Wild Rose Press made its world-wide debut on January 14. One Great Night is an ebook novella and sports what might be my favorite cover of all my releases. The cover artist captured the look and feel of the story perfectly: fun, flirty, and sexy.

The tag line reads: She’s ready, he’s not; it’s a battle of the sexes with a twist.

Blurb:
At twenty-seven, Chloe Harris has never had a night of really great sex. Before she turns thirty she wants to check that particular item off of her bucket list. She’s known Jason her whole life. More importantly, she trusts him. Who better to help her with her plan?

Call him a bit old-fashioned, but Jason Williams has never had a one-night stand. And he’s not about to start with his best friend’s baby sister. To save Chloe from herself, he’ll pretend to go along with her crazy scheme. But what happens when the charade becomes all too real? For his libido and his heart.

Available from TWRP, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

The fun didn’t stop with a new release. I also managed to complete (in about 17 days) the first draft of a new story. I established a new writing routine, didn’t stop along the way to do much editing, and wrote chronologically from beginning to end. Three very new approaches to writing for me. I’ll be working on edits this coming week, so we’ll see if the new method worked as well as it seemed to.

With January off to such a great start, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

YOU AND ME AGAINST THE WORLD

To most of the world she’s known as Miss Jean.  In the family she’s called Grandmother, GM, ‘the mother-person’ , or The Queen Mum. She’s my mother and in about ten days I expect we will be celebrating her ninety-first birthday. Yes, I said ninety-first birthday.  We’ve been together for a very long time. She was still a teenager when she married my dad in the turbulence of World War II and not quite out of her teens when I was born. Her young husband was overseas and wouldn’t know me outside of letters and the rare picture until I was two. During those long months we were alone,  she and I somehow set the pattern for the way our lives would run for about three-quarters of a century. “You and me against the world.” Those words were the lyrics of a popular song, and they became our anthem.

All of my life we’ve been almost the same age. When I was thirteen and skating up a storm at our local rink, I could look across the floor and see a slightly older version of myself skating with the same enthusiasm. My mother looked terrific in a short skirt and sweater spinning around the rink. When I was a little older and spending Saturday night at the country club dance, I might notice that one more time, while I’d been shopping in her closet, my red-haired mother had done a little shopping in mine. There were advantages to both of us being a size three! You and me, Miss Jean, out there clearing the dance floor. She taught me the Texas Two Step and I taught her the Twist! We were eighteen, twenty, maybe twenty-one. Whatever age, we shared it.

She was my best friend. We did almost everything together.  We read the same books, shopped in the same stores, hung out with the same people. Once we were even seeing the same man–not that either of us was serious about him–we were just encouraging him to record that song he wrote. And twice (each) we got married within a week of each other. Sadly only one of those matrimonial experiences worked out. We were still pretty much the same age, I guess, not ready to be adults.

Our professional alliance was more successful. We designed and made wedding gowns for about twenty-five years. I sketched and cut, she stitched, I pressed, and she handled the paperwork. We had hundreds of weddings, sometimes five a month, and attended every one of them. Frequently we sewed all night, often for three nights running, to finish a gown; fortunately we were both chronic insomniacs. At three in the morning we might be sitting in the middle of the floor, sheets spread all around us, whipping beads and sequins on the train of a gown that was going down the aisle that night. But it would be everything our bride dreamed it would be, somehow.  We were young, we were invincible. “You and me against the world.” No matter what the obstacle.

Next week she’ll be ninety-one. Her hair is still red–though it owes a good bit to Revlon these days. Her eyes are still black and shoe-button bright.  These days her dancing partner is her walker and skating is restricted to the rolling chair that gets her into the shower. Parkinsons has robbed her fingers of their ability to handle needles and silken fabrics. But she’s taught my granddaughter to crochet and do simple embroidery. She still has a string of gentlemen friends. Some are attendants, some are medical personnel, and one or two are fellow residents of the retirement home where she lives, but all of them are her admirers. Her charm hasn’t faded and her charisma is as strong as ever. Flirtation isn’t a pastime, it’s a lifestyle. We aren’t the same age anymore. I think she’s younger than I am.

One day, no matter how I close my eyes to the inevitable, another part of our anthem will become real. One of us will be left to carry on. One of us will be gone. And then remembering will have to do. Remembering–the week we spent gadding about New Orleans, dancing second line behind a green umbrella–the Hawaiian cruise we took to see the orchids and the lava flow–the night we smuggled her kitten into a classy hotel, then had to hunt the little scamp up when she slipped out the door unseen–the day I flew to Phoenix to help her move back to Texas and found she’d saved all the packing till I got there, then dashed off to have her hair done–the weekend we ran away from home because some unwelcome relatives decided to arrive unexpectedly–all the times we looked across the room and without a single word, shared a whole conversation.  Remember the time we…oh, didn’t we just…weren’t we something…

Miss Jean, GM, The Queen Mum, she’s all of them. And my best friend, my business partner,  and once in awhile, my mother. In her mind it’s always been ‘You and me against the world.” And that’s been a pretty good partnership, created a grade A memory album. Not bad for three-quarters of a century, more or less….

Fleeta Cunningham

Happy 80th Birthday, Elvis!

Since January 8th is Elvis’ 80th Birthday, I thought I’d share a little bit about the Elvis connection with my second Studs 4 Hire novel, WOMAN IN CHARGE. You know—the story behind the story! Elvis doesn’t get just a mere mention in the book, but is really the catalyst that throws Casey Burrows and Alex Roy together, pulls them apart, then brings them back together again.

Here’s a sneak peek.

EXCERPT

“Your home is really amazing, Heather,” Alex said. “It looks like it’s straight out of one of those gothic novels my aunt used to read.”

“I know. Isn’t it appalling?” Heather mumbled. “I’m so tired of living in a mausoleum.”

“That’s why we’re here,” Casey said, anxious to get this over with so she had an excuse to indulge in the chocolate and strawberry margaritas she’d fantasized about earlier. “We’ll have your home brightened up and updated in no time.”

“It’s so exciting.” Heather clapped her hands in excitement, her Flamingo pink nails glowing like neon orbs in the dimly lit room. “Alex, I just know with your expertise, you’ll make this place perfect for my Elvis conventions.”

Slowly, Alex turned around, his eyes narrowed in question. “Elvis conventions?”

Oh. Shit. Casey cringed.

“Excuse me, Mrs. Gridmore.” The man who’d taken their coats earlier stood at the edge of the foyer. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but you have an important phone call.”

“Take a message, Joey.”

Joey? The butler who looked like he’d swallowed lemons for breakfast that morning was named Joey? Casey sighed. Leave it to Heather.

“Normally I would, ma’am, but it’s in regard to that Elvis jumpsuit coming up for auction next week.”

Heather squealed. “Oh, at last, I’ve been waiting months for this. Excuse me. I have to take this call. Casey, fill Alex in on all we’ve talked about so far, will you?”

“Sure.”

Heather trotted toward the door, her heels clicking on the marble. There was no missing the appreciative gleam in Alex’s eyes as he watched that personally trained butt of Heather’s sashay out of sight. But his appreciation vanished within seconds as he turned to Casey. A frown tugged at his handsome lips. “Elvis jumpsuit? Elvis conventions? Why do I have the feeling I’ve been left in the dark about this project?”

“Left in the dark? Alex.” A nervous laugh escaped her withering voice. “I told you, Heather likes to entertain.” Alex moved toward Casey, purpose in his steps. He reminded her of a Rottweiler who’d had its bone taken away. “Didn’t I?”

“What’s going on here?” he asked, his voice low and hard.

Casey swallowed. Here it comes. She braced herself, ready for him to express his dissatisfaction.

“Casey…what haven’t you told me?” he said into her ear, his tone menacing. The feel of his warm breath against her skin sent her senses reeling. A wave of desire washed over her like a sudden summer storm, weakening her knees.

Dangerous, a tiny fragment of her brain whispered. Very dangerous.

***

Okay. So why Elvis?

Well . . . I’d been an Elvis fan since I was a kid. And, I thought it would be just plain fun. This is a romantic comedy, after all! Besides, Elvis was, and still is in my opinion, cool! Not to mention he was hot! Sexy. Charismatic. That Memphis boy had the looks, the moves, and when you combined those elements with that smooth southern voice of his, he was a man born to melt women all the way down to their toes. Watch his 1968 Comeback Special and you’ll know exactly what I mean! Kind of hard to imagine him as an 80 year-old, isn’t it?!

But, as I dove into my research to re familiarized myself with Elvis, I quickly began to see what a truly, amazing talent and generous soul he was.  And as an adult I developed a whole new appreciation for this man and became an even bigger fan.

But, unfortunately, at the time I was writing WOMAN IN CHARGE I had yet to make it to Graceland, and there was no way I could jet away right then like Casey and Alex to do the research live and in person. So, I dusted off my Elvis LP’s to create the mood, and dug into my research via the internet, videos, books—some of which I already had in my collection, by asking some friends to share their personal experiences about visiting Elvis’ home and grave site, and by contacting the archives department at Graceland. My thanks to the wonderful archive staff for graciously answering all of my questions.

Once the book was complete, my husband and I finally did have a chance to take a trip to Graceland. We stayed at the Heartbreak Hotel like Casey and Alex, and I splurged on VIP passes for us. After all, this trip was on my bucket list and I wasn’t cheapening out on anything!

We had a fantastic time touring the house and grounds and all Graceland has to offer. The VIP passes were a great bonus because they gave us unlimited access to tour the house as many times as we wanted. Let me tell ya, this fact alone was worth the VIP price. The first time we went through the place was packed, making it difficult to see everything. But when we went through a second time the crowds had thinned and we were one of the few couples in the house. We had time to stop and appreciate Elvis’ home, soak it all in, catching small details we’d missed earlier in the day. We stood outside the Music and Jungle Rooms and marveled at the thought of so many great songs being recorded there, and the amazing number of other famous people who had walked those carpets and sat in those chairs. It was also kind of sad that those days were now nothing more than memories of the past.

If you’ve never been to Graceland, one thing you might find surprising is the home is actually smaller than it appears in photos. But it was still a thrill to finally have a chance to walk the same halls and paths as such a great entertainer as Elvis. The experience gave me goosebumps!

His presence is very strong, and you can’t help but think he will show up at any moment. As I stood in front of the house I kept wondering if I was going to see him peek through the curtains from his bedroom window on the upper right of the house!

Our visit wouldn’t be complete, of course, until paying our respects at his grave. Again, I couldn’t help but  feel sad Elvis had died so young, and that Lisa Marie had to face the sorrow and pain of losing her father at such a young age. And I couldn’t help but feel a little sad for myself for never having had the chance to see him in person. Standing at the foot of his grave was as close as I was ever going to get.

Before we left, I, too, wrote a short message amongst the many others on the stone wall surrounding Graceland. Guess I had to prove not only to the world I was there, but to myself!

Besides wanting to visit Graceland as a fan, I also wanted visit to make sure I’d done my research correctly, and had accurately depicted the property in my book. I’m proud to say I accomplished my goal. I did get the facts right! Even the description of the swimming pool!

I hope you enjoy my collection of photos from our trip.

Have you ever been to Graceland? If so, what was your favorite thing about it? Did you write your name on the front wall?

Happy Birthday, Elvis! Have a great January, everyone! I’ll see you back here in February.
Sherry James

Want to read WOMAN IN CHARGE? It’s available at your favorite online bookseller either as a standalone title, or in the Studs 4 Hire boxed set.

Alex Roy is used to building classy timber frame homes for the elite, but his last business association with a woman left him in debt and his heart in shreds. Is he so desperate to earn a paycheck and reclaim his business that he’ll swallow his pride and design a shrine to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll in a widow’s mansion? And what about Casey Burrows, the woman who wants to hire him to do the job for the wealthy widow? Alex has an eye for good lines—and Casey’s are curving in all the right places. But can he handle the job and walk away with his heart and reputation unscathed? Or will he end up as a permanent resident in Heartbreak Hotel?

Buy Woman In Charge at Amazon

Buy Boxed Set at Amazon

A Blessed and Beefy Christmas

If you’re in a part of the world that celebrates it, Happy Boxing Day! If this is the day you go out and hit sales and make your returns, I wish you successful forays! For me, it’s the second day of the Christmas season, a day on which I do not cook and do minimal cleaning. This year is especially nice because I am off from my day job. I’ll be back at work tomorrow morning, but for today it’s just me and the sweat suit, baby! Am I feeling all Bah and Humbug about the just-passed holiday? Heck no!!!

This turned out to be one of those Christmases that I will look back on with immense joy. Everything got done, my family adjusted gracefully to new needs for some of us. Married Daughter must now take her in-laws’ celebrations into account. For my sweetie and me, that was never a problem, because his family’s big gathering is Christmas Eve and mine does Christmas morning. My father and stepmother went to visit her grandchildren out of town, and when they return, we’ll celebrate with them.

This year reminded me of the pleasure (for me) of doing prep work with someone. My daughters baked cookies together at Married’s house, and then College Daughter and I baked a couple of batches together. She and I discovered that neither of us are particularly fond of making sugar cookies, and decided to make extra spritzers instead. (Spritzers forever! Yum, yum, yummy!) She made two batches of excellent microwave fudge as well. We decided to add it to the holiday recipe file at once. This was the year we decided to wrap in the family room instead of the cold basement, which was tremendously messy while we did it, but was more fun, not to mention warmer.

I spent a lot of the 23rd and 24th – days off for me – in the kitchen, and it paid off. Appetizers for Christmas Eve were prepared ahead of time, as were brunch sides for Christmas morning (my mother offered to make her signature egg casserole for the main hot dish, which saved time for me and was a mouth-watering treat on the big day). And I put Christmas dinner in the slow cooker ahead of time too.

Yes, the slow cooker. When the baton for hosting my family’s Christmas brunch was passed to me, I didn’t mind, but I was NOT doing brunch and a full Christmas dinner on the same day! I make a batch of beef bourguignon and we can eat whenever we’re hungry, early or late. So much less stress. Here’s the recipe I use. It’s based on my mother-in-law’s family recipe, adapted for a slow cooker:

2 pounds of cut up beef stew meat

3-5 slices of bacon

4 – 6 carrots, depending on your family’s taste

12 pearl onions or one medium onion, cut in chunks

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

½ bay leaf

2 minced garlic cloves

½ tsp. thymeFresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

Rice, egg noodles or baking potatoes

Dry red wine: Never use a wine to cook with that you wouldn’t drink! Merlot and Shiraz are my choices. I can  find bottles for under $10 and they’re the right ‘weight’ for this dish. You could go with a pinot noir, but I find them too light for my personal taste. Red zinfandels are not heavy enough.

  1. Cut up your carrots. You can slice them, chunk them or julienne them, whichever your preference is. Place in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels. At least three of the slices need to go into the bourguignon. You can munch part of the extra or share it with anyone who comes into the kitchen saying ‘Do I smell bacon?’
  3. There should be 1 – 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan. I get low-fat bacon, so I always end up with 1. If you do too, melt a tablespoon of butter in the pan to get to 2 T of fats.
  4. Sauté your onions in the hot fat until they are translucent (for chopped) or become slightly browned (for pearl). Transfer to the slow cooker with a slotted spoon. Don’t pour out the fat!
  5. Brown your meat in the skillet, one pound at a time. It’s okay if some of the pieces get a little caramelization on them. As the pieces brown, transfer them to the cooker, on top of the onions & carrots.
  6. Once the meat is in, add the minced garlic, then sprinkle the flour over it, followed by the salt, pepper, and thyme.
  7. Pour ¾ of the wine over everything.
  8. Put lid on the crock & refrigerate until you’re ready to cook. I put mine on high about 2 p.m. for dinner around six-ish. You can put it on low for 10-12 hours, depending on your slow cooker’s directions.
  9. An hour before serving, add the sliced mushrooms.
  10. Cook your rice or egg noodles or bake your potatoes. I would just as soon eat my bourguignon without anything else, but my sweetie insists that it must be over something. My choice would be potatoes, his would be egg noodles – the traditional choice his mom uses. I loathe egg noodles outside of chicken soup, so we compromise and eat ours over rice.

This smells heavenly while it’s cooking! We don’t just have it for Christmas – it’s a delicious meal to come home to any week night.

What’s your favorite holiday dish?

It’s Beginning to Look…

We don’t have a fireplace, but our stockings are hung from the window top.
The halls have been decked for weeks.
The exterior illumination is shining brightly.
The shopping is done.
The presents are wrapped and under the tree.
The cookies are baked.
The annual Christmas party with friends was last night.
Oh, and most importantly, it’s the beginning of two weeks off.
Yep, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
If only there was a bit of snow on the ground. Nothing too major that would make getting around a nightmare. Just enough for a White Christmas.
And for your holiday reading pleasure:
A Christmas to Remember

Mistletoe and Folly – A FREE read

Christmas Carol - by Morgan Mandel – FREE until December 24.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Until next time,
Happy Reading!
Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

On the First and Second Day of Christmas

The Twelve Brides of Christmas begins with Jan Romes’ delightful story “Big on Christmas”.  What a charming way to begin the Christmas season. Here’s the blurb:

Born to convention-shucking parents, Cassie Newman thirsts for normal. Leaving L.A. with a secret, she finds herself in Woodstock, VT–a town rich with  Christmas tradition. She’s not big on Christmas but Woodstock feels like a perfect fit.  Landing a job with Stennet’s Hardware, she tried to forget the world she knew, but Luke Stennet’s small-town charm makes her even more aware of the life she’s never had.

Luke has his hands full with running the store and caring for his dad. He’s attracted to Cassie but he doesn’t have time for a relationship. Things are starting to go right be he harbors a secret of his own that has the potential to turn everything upside down.  Once their secrets are revealed will it kill the chemistry and send Cassie back to L.A.? Or will she fight for her and stay firmly planted in a place big on Christmas?

Jan Romes is a hopeless romantic who grew up in northwest Ohio with eight zany siblings. Married to her high school sweetheart for more years than seems possible, she’s also a proud mom, mother-in-law and grandmother. She like to read all genres, writes witty contemporary romance, and enjoys gardening and finding new ways to stay fit.

You can find Jan’s charming story, and the other “Twelve Brides of Christmas”  at Amazon, The Wild Rose Press, and Barnes & Noble.

You can visit Jan at www.authorjanromes.com

The second day of Christmas is represented in the Twelve Brides Series by Barbara Edwards “Late for the Wedding”. Talk about complications–this couple has them. Here’s the blurb:

Heather Green will do anything to make her twin’s wedding perfect. Despite an impending nor’easter, she sets out with the wedding dress, cake, favors and cake topper in her car. As the snow piles up, her car is wrecked and she barely misses injury in a major accident. Nicholas Burnes would rather be ensconced with his latest cuddle than drive a tow truck, but his brother needs his help. He reluctantly agrees to help Heather find a way to the wedding locale, but when the storm closes the roads, he ends up offering her shelter in his penthouse. Warm and rested at last, Nick and Heather explore their powerful attraction to each other, only to part when he delivers her, on time, to her sister’s wedding. But weddings breed weddings…

Barbara says of herself–

I’m a native New Englander. I’m a graduate of the University of Hartford with a Master’s degree in Public Administration. I write poetry for myself and novels when I need to tell a longer tale. I’m fascinated by the past so naturally I turned to writing historical romance. The dark paranormal stories evolve from nightmares. The romance comes from my belief in people’s basic goodness and longing for love.

I lived in Florida for several year and am past president of the Central Florida Romance Writers and a member of Romance Writers of America.

When I returned to Connecticut, I founded the Charter Oak Romance Writers, a chapter of the Romance Writers of America, along with several close friends.

My husband is a retired Police Sergeant.  We share an interest in Civil War re-enacting and travel the Eastern states to participate in events. I love visiting museums, galleries, and battle sites, gathering information for my stories.

I taught Romance Writing at Manchester Community College for three years.

I’m fond of gardening and growing antique roses with limited success.

Most of my exercise is when my Belgian Shepherd, Dixie, demands a walk.

Please follow, friend, or like me. I love to hear from my readers.

You can contact Barbara at her website barbaraedwards. net.

“Late for the Wedding” is available from Amazon and The Wild Rose Press.

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