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.

Elf Invasion!

Guess who I found sitting on my deck the other frosty morning! Elves! And more Elves! Seven elves to be exact. Wow. What was the deal? Seven?

I figured they’d stopped by to check on the kids since Christmas is just a few weeks away. You know, to make sure the kids are being good these last critical days before Santa arrives. But noooo! They said they weren’t here for the kids–that they were no Elf on the Shelf. Nope. They said they were here because they wanted to see what my latest book in my Studs 4 Hire series, ELF TROUBLE, was all about.

What? Santa’s elves read romance? How cool is that?!

After a quick introduction, (left to right)  Conrad, Percy, Hermey, Nadene, Eugene and Dora, they scurried into the house and decided to scope out a few things to see if we’re ready for Christmas. Honestly, I think they got a little be ornery as the photo on the right attests. Especially, Percy. Can you see him diving into my daughter’s stocking clear on the right? I think Percy needs an elf watching him to keep him honest and out of trouble! ;-)

But, they did settle down, well . . .at least Nadene and Eugene did. They sat quietly while the rest of the gang climbed the Christmas tree like Simon’s Cat in Santa Claws! I watched in horror, worried they’d knock our keepsake ornaments off the tree, but fortunately, not one ornament or icicle was disturbed. Must be some kind of elf magic.

Then the Grinch grumbled from his rocking chair in the corner and they all settled down in a hurry and gathered round to see what their old friend had to say. Here he and Hermey wave and smile for the camera, then the Grinch grabs a copy of ELF TROUBLE and ends up being one of the best promoters I could ask for!

Be sure and watch for more adventures with the Seven Elves. I’ll be sharing on Facebook and Twitter up until Christmas!

I hope you are having a great holiday season and are finding some time to enjoy a good holiday romance or two!

Sherry James
www.sherryjames.com

The Power of Soup

Does anyone else hear a report of incoming cold and wet weather and instinctively think I’ve got to get a pot of soup started? Well, that was me this morning. I knew we had rain expected but my husband has a super-specific weather app that said we’re getting snow by tomorrow. Since we’ve only had a scant half inch of snow and maybe 3-4 inches of rain so far this year, our area is due for some moisture. Many of you may have snow falling already and others may look through a nearby window and see blinding sunlight.

As I was chopping potatoes, celery, carrots, asparagus and leeks to pile into the crock pot, I couldn’t help thinking of pioneers and frontier families and how the women might have prepared for bad weather. Of course, they wouldn’t have a 72-hour warning that a storm was going to hit on Friday but be gone by Saturday. I have no clue if wild animals give any indication of the coming storm, like they do in front of a prairie or forest fire. I’d assume in winter most would be burrowed in their dens. So pioneers had to use other signs like horses and cattle huddling together, ice on the water bucket, rigid ropes. And everyone knows when gloves are needed and the regular winter coat isn’t keeping out the chilled air well enough.

In research for my historical stories, I’ve read journal accounts where a pot of something was kept over the fire all the time. When times were good, the smell of roasting meat would fill the air. When times were lean, maybe the scent was of earthy simmering root vegetables. Anyone remember the children’s book Stone Soup? Great lesson on everyone pitching in for the good of the group. Soup is forgiving—the recipe can be only a couple ingredients like stock and pureed squash, or you can toss in leftovers from the previous week’s meals. The ingredients really don’t matter much—what matters is the instinct to prepare something warm to combat the cold outside. For anyone who’s interested, here’s a recipe for the soup I created right before I sat down to write this post.

Potato Soup

8 cups stock (I use the stock gel cups from Knorr, but you could use 2 bouillon cubes)

3 large potatoes, peeled and diced

3 stalks celery, diced (I also chop the leaves)

3 leeks, cut once lengthwise (white part only) then sliced (1 large onion diced could be substituted)

3 carrots, peeled and diced

12 asparagus stub ends, diced (bottom 3-4 inches, peeled)

1 tsp each marjoram, dill seed, caraway seed + ½ tsp paprika

Cook on high heat for 5-6 hours until vegetables are tender. Right before serving, add 2 tsp of dried (or 1 T fresh) parsley. Scoop out 1 cup of broth and mix with ¾1-1/4 cup dried milk powder (I use blender) and then add back to pot and stir. Makes at least 10 servings. I like to serve with fresh oatmeal or wheat muffins and a plate of cut-up fruit.

My family has often commented on how good soup smells as it’s cooking (I swear men love the scent of onions), and I notice how we linger around the table when soup is served. No matter what holiday you celebrate this month, consider including a big pot of soup on your menu.

Linda’s latest release is a western historical short story title Clari’s Hero in the Present For A Cowboy anthology from Prairie Rose Publications.

It’s Time for the Twelve Brides of Christmas

It’s hard to believe. Here it is Christmas again. My favorite gift is always books–whether reading or writing them. This year I was especially excited when my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, asked me to join eleven other authors in contributing to the Christmas anthology they called “The Twelve Brides of Christmas”. Each of us was asked to take one verse of the old carol and create a story that would represent that verse. I was given the third verse, the one about the three French hens. As the representative vintage author, I’d be placing my story against some event of the twentieth century. The ideas fell together and I found myself telling the story of Kay and Jeremy, two young people who had their future plans shattered by the bombs that fell on Pearl Harbor and began World War II. The “French Hens”, Kay’s grandmother and aunts, stirred the mix and added their own bit of drama. It’s a sweet, heartwarming Christmas story of love and sacrifice and a wedding that just couldn’t happen–well, not without a helping hand from the French hens and an unexpected assist from an angle in uniform. I’m giving away an electronic copy to the reader who leaves me the best comment about a Christmas romance.

Eleven other authors contributed to the Twelve Brides of Christmas. One of them is Kallie Lane whose story  “The Mystery of the Claddagh Rings” — the golden rings verse of the carol–has suspense, romance, and a fabulous setting. I can’t wait to find out how it all comes out.   Here’s the Blurb:         

Worried about her family, Fiona returns home to find her mother in danger when the Claddagh rings resurface along with the hit men searching for them. Approached by an FBI agent who offers to protect her in exchange for the rings, she must decide–trust a mysterious stranger who is not all he seems. Or go it alone and maybe lose everything–even her life.

Under pressure to retrieve the rings, Agent O’Shea is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, even if it means putting Fiona in the crossfire. He never imagines her strength and spirit will touch his heart, leaving him with a choice–give in to his desire for her or ignore the danger she is in to clear his father’s name.

As they join forces to beat the odds, will he be able to keep her safe–or will he surrender to the legacy of the Claddagh rings and let her g0?

For more discussion of ”The Twelve Brides of Christmas” from the authors, and for lots of prizes including a Kindle e-reader, join us  on Facebook at THE TWELVE BRIDES OF CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY PARTY, Wednesday, Dec. 10, from 6:00-10:00.

Happy holidays,

Fleeta Cunningham

Thanksgivings Great and Small

I like Thanksgiving. Focusing on gratitude for the people and love we do have reminds us that we can each make a difference in someone’s life. I’d like to think that starting the Christmas season by giving thanks for what we already have makes that holiday even more meaningful.

There are so many happy memories of large family Thanksgivings from my childhood, and later ones with my husband’s family. My mom and my husband both come from families of six kids, so I grew up with a lot of cousins, and now have numerous nephews and nieces. As a kid, large Thanksgivings were great. There were lots of people, including cousins, and lots of appetizers to eat while my mom, aunts and grandma were too busy talking and arguing with each other to tell us kids not to spoil our dinners. The men were officially keeping an eye on us, but were usually too focused on football to really pay close attention. This meant optimum play time in between trips to the kitchen to whine ‘When is it going to be ready?’

My in-laws also have noisy gatherings, but these days it would be bad form for me to sneak under the dining room table and play Barbies. But there are still appetizers, with the bonus of adult beverages. And we all watch football while our assorted offspring try to spoil their dinners and occupy themselves. These days, my children and some of their cousins are old enough for their own adult beverages, but they do still ask how soon dinner will be ready.

In contrast, this year I had a teeny tiny Thanksgiving dinner for five – besides my mom, I invited the one aunt and uncle still living nearby. There was still plenty of noise – my mom & aunt saw to that as they debated which businesses were located where in Grand Rapids, MN in 1940. I don’t even how the subject came up. We were talking about who lived in which school district, then poof – one hijacked conversation!

This is usually where any meal with my mother’s family gets interesting, both for comedy potential and new tidbits of information. One, my mother and her siblings will present any statement, no matter how illogical, if they think it will strengthen their point. This leads to comments like “Well, that can’t be true because Daddy hated sandwiches!” during a discussion of my grandfather’s travels during the Depression. (After losing the farm, he left home to find work on the west coast to support his brood. And possibly to escape the bickering.)

During similar disputes, I learned that my Aunt Betty loved to hitchhike when she was in college (granted it was a safer time then, but seriously, what was she thinking?? Did my grandma know about this??) and that my Aunt Helen was convinced as a child that she could fly if she just jumped off something high enough. (It took a bad experience with a shed and broken leg to disabuse her of the notion.) This year, I learned that my grandparents stayed in Grand Rapids for a few years after they lost the farm, instead of coming to Omaha right away, which is what I’d always thought was the case. Family stories like this are priceless.

Now that Thanksgiving for this year is past, I’m spending a quiet day writing (and maybe doing a little internet shopping). Tonight, it’s time to start getting out the Christmas decorations!! Bring on the eggnog and carols!

What’s your preference? Get into the holiday spirit early or wait till it’s closer to the day?

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