NOVEMBER

Celebrating Holiday Romance Authors

11/26 Kathleen Lawless 11/28 Sophie Bartow

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Ah, The Life of a Writer!

 



By: Kathleen Lawless

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The life of a writer is a very solitary one.  We work away, just us and the computer screen and our imagination, creating worlds and characters and stories that we hope will enhance the reading pleasure of many.

 

I have never written a Christmas story, so when the call came to join with nine other writers and create the perfect New England Christmas town, I was ready for the fun.  Emails flew back and forth, fast and furious.  The Town Square, known as the Common was created.  A date agreed upon for the annual Christmas Tree Light Up Festivities.  Hot chocolate?  Of course.  Sleigh rides?  Absolutely!  Snowman building competition?  You bet! 

 

Shops and shopkeepers and their locations were shared and pinpointed.  A Christmas tree farm here.  A frozen skating pond there.  And what about a B&B, described in detail and given a prime location in our perfect town?

 

Once the setting was nailed down, each author gave birth to her story.  And thus, we presented to the world, CHRISTMAS COMES TO DICKENS.  WE hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing our stories in this unique setting.  https://books2read.com/DickensChristmas 

My Story, HOLLY’S WISH, was inspired by my favorite childhood Christmas book, The Story of Holly and Ivy.  I still read it every year during the holidays.  Because with Christmas magic in the air, anything is possible.



Excerpt from HOLLY’S WISH By Kathleen Lawless

“You should never underestimate the power of wishing for what you want. It always worked for me,” Kris said.

“Oh, I do,” Holly said blithely. “Every shooting star, new moon, and birthday candle.  You name it, I send my wish out there. It’s not my fault no one seems to be listening.”

“Your time will come,” Kris said.

As Kris spoke, the shop door opened with a tinkle of overhead bells. Holly looked over to see a tall, dark-hair man stamping snow off his feet. She took a second look, because, truthfully there weren’t a lot of good-looking men in town. Something about him seemed familiar, but before Holly could get a good look he turned away. She was left with an impression of a square jaw, pronounced cheekbones, with a straight, masculine nose nicely balanced above full lips. Maybe she had taken his photo at some point.

When he passed her in the aisle without a second look, she figured she must be mistaken. She paused at the door for one last look, but his back was toward her.  Typical man, doing his Christmas shopping at the last minute.

I hope you fall in love with every one of our Christmas stories and Dickens.

MILLIE’S AWESOME HOLIDAY MIRACLE by Top 100 Author Nancy Fraser - Can one little girl fill the holiday season with enough miracles for everyone? This story will warm your heart.

MIRACLE AT HOLLY HILL INN by Top 100 Author Maddie James - Ariana is looking for the perfect Christmas. Instead, she finds a Scrooge. Will two days snowbound at Holly Hill Inn bring them together?

HOLIDAY HEARTS by Top 100 Author Caroline Clemmons - Laura is funny, beautiful, and smart. She’s not about to date her boss. Can Ward convince her he’s not just looking for a holiday fling?

THE TINSEL TANGO by Best Selling Author Bonnie Edwards - She needs R&R. He teaches Tango. Or does he? Can love survive secrets & hidden agendas when a dance teacher is exposed as a wealthy tycoon?

WISDOM OF THE HEART by USA Today Best Selling Author Liz Flaherty - Best friends fell in love in high school. But life, families & distance happened along the way. Could they still be in love?

OPERATION SNOWBALL by Best Selling Author Kathryn Hills - Returning home to Dickens is hard for Army veteran, John Gridley. The last thing he expects to find is love with a pretty widow.

ANGEL KISSES AND HOLIDAY WISHES by Best Selling Author Peggy Jaeger - Sage left years ago, leaving Keith's heart in tatters. She's back as his grandmother’s doctor. Is there hope for them?

HOLLY’S WISH by Top 100 Author Kathleen Lawless - What if the girl who got away is standing right in front of you? Years ago, they shared one magical Christmas Eve. Is it too late for them now?

HOLIDAY HEART WISHES by Best Selling Author Lucinda Race - Vera picks up Tony, a stranded motorist, on her way back to Dickens. Will they discover their heart wishes can come true at Christmas?

SANTA’S WISH by Best Selling Author Jan Scarbrough - Will Christmas magic help them overcome the obstacles of her dashed career ambitions and his grief so they can find a second chance at love?

Since writing makes us hungry, we also compiled some of our favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes in IT’S A DICKENS OF A COOKIE.  Yours to download FREE.  https://books2read.com/dickens-cookie        Happy Thanksgiving All!



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steamy or sweet, as long as there’s a romance, an alpha male or a cowboy Kathleen reads and writes them all One of her heroes, Steele, is a modern-day cowboy, so when she was dating on-line and met a man called Steel— Well, he’s not a cowboy but his is an alpha male and her forever hero. Which is why all of her stories end Happily Ever After. Not that she can ever stick to just one genre. So many stories to tell—never enough time. With close to 30 published novels to her credit, she enjoys pushing the boundaries of traditional romance into historical romance, erotic romance, romantic suspense, women’s fiction and stories for young adults. Something for everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Discovering the Holidays

 by M. L. Buchman

I was born into a house divided.

Okay, not Shakespeare, but definitely two attitudes about Christmas. My Mom adored the tree and decorations. Dad, well, calling him a humbug might be kindly. It made Christmas such a stressful time that I avoided invitations and Christmas parties for most of the decade after college. Friends eventually convinced me it might possibly maybe even be a time of fun and food...perhaps. (Oy vey! Even for someone technically Jewish, I was slow to catch on. And no, it wasn't being Jewish that bothered Dad, he just reveled in being grumpy about Christmas.)

Then I got a family: wife and stepkid (6yo). OMG! Talk about a world transformed. My wife starts watching for Christmas ideas in...January! (What's up with that?) She's the queen of the perfect present. And there are a thousand little household traditions wrapped around the event. The December road trip up to the faux-Bavarian resort town of Leavenworth, WA to listen to the band playing carols in a snowy gazebo while sipping hot cocoa, and buying that year's new ornament at their massive Christmas store. 

My first Christmas en famille was beyond revelatory! Sleigh bells from the family's old Nova Scotia farm (dating back before the American Revolution) were rattled across the rooftop soon after the kid went to bed. Trees, treats, food...those few, perfect presents were far more important than any bounty my upper middle class upbringing might have garnered.

I fell in LOVE with Christmas! Now, even in January, yes, I have my eyes out for that one perfect thing to be hidden away until the season catches up with us once again. With the kid grown and gone (and sadly unable to visit this year, but we aren't focusing on that), and us having happily downsized significantly, our little Christmas tree only gets the very best ornaments from decades of gathering.

Why it took me a decade from that first-ever real Christmas to write my first Christmas novel, I'll never know! But, without my really noticing, it became an entire series and I never looked back.

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And more happened in the middle of that.

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But it didn't stop there.

One day, I looked down at my 100+ short stories and realized, there was a whole lot of Christmas there. 

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Have I become a complete and total Christmas freak? You be the judge. Just make sure you're signed up for my newsletter, so that you'll be reminded of when I post my free Christmas short story on Dec. 14th. ...and, there just may be two Christmas tales this year. :) 

Yeah, that's how much a family changed my life for the better. In a thousand ways, but one of those was most definitely celebrating the spirit of Christmas. And I do my very best to pass that on to you with my words. I hope this season finds you safe and happy.

USA Today and Amazon #1 Bestseller M. L. "Matt" Buchman has 60+ action-adventure thriller and military romance novels, 100 short stories, and lotsa audiobooks. PW says: “Tom Clancy fans open to a strong female lead will clamor for more.” Booklist declared: “3X Top 10 of the Year.” A project manager with a geophysics degree, he’s designed and built houses, flown and jumped out of planes, solo-sailed a 50’ sailboat, and bicycled solo around the world…and he quilts. More at: www.mlbuchman.com.










Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Mutts and Mistletoe Book Review (Redux) by Sarah Raplee


Review of Mutts and Mistletoe by Natalie Cox

From the first page of this laugh-out-loud Holiday Romance set in the English countryside, British Author Natalie Cox had me smiling at her heroine’s Ten Things I Hate About Christmas list. Told in the first person, the story gives the reader access to Charlie’s thoughts (gently snarky) as well as her words and actions. This adds an extra layer of humor to the hilarious fish-out-of-water mix.

Charlie’s seemingly stable urban life is overturned in a flash when she discovers her live-in boyfriend has been cheating on her with his personal trainer for over a year. Charlie struggles to make sense of what happened.

At the ripe old age of thirty-one, she’s lost (or had stolen) four years of her life, and she wants to make the most of what remains. But her self-confidence has been shaken. Her romantic heart is battered and bruised. She’d rather be alone than live with someone she can’t trust.

Charlie’s plans to hole up alone over Christmas with a bottle of Chardonnay and watch Audrey Hepburn movies is blown to smithereens when her apartment building blows up from a gas leak. Suffering from a concussion and temporarily homeless, she agrees to stay with her cousin Jez in the country while she recovers. Jez runs a high-end boarding kennel, Cozy Canine Cottages.

Unfortunately, Charlie has no experience with country living, and her only experience with dogs was with her mother’s third ex-husband’s over-indulged and under-disciplined pugs. At five years old, she experienced them chewing up her dolls, constantly trying to hump her leg and getting the attention she craved. Nothing to love there as far as she is concerned.

Charlie finds herself a fish out of water, but being an adventurous soul, she gamely tries to fit in with Jez and Slab (ancient Poodle), Hulk (spunky Pomeranian), Malcom (nervous, deaf Great Dane), Judd (three-time national champion Irish Setter), The Twins (two huge Alaskan Malamute sled dogs) and Peggy (very pregnant beagle).

When Jez’s long-term internet romantic partner gives her two weeks in the Arctic together for Christmas, and none of Jez’s friends can kennel-sit for her, Charlie gamely volunteers. After all, how hard can it be?

Plus, the pay is REALLY good.

When the boiler in the kennel building breaks down, Charlie must bring all the dogs into the house with her so they don’t freeze to death. Jez’s off-beat local friends rally round to help and before she knows it, Charlie begins to appreciate and enjoy the company of canines.

Unfortunately, every time Charlie runs into the handsome-but-prickly vet, he seems to get the impression she’s reckless and irresponsible. But he has such sexy forearms…and she’s learned he had his heart broken, too.

Natalie Cox has an amazing comic voice. Her characters are interesting and relatable, including the dogs. The plot has plenty of fun twists and turns with a heartwarming and happy ending.

I read Mutts and Mistletoe in bed the first time, and woke my husband multiple times laughing out loud. Two weeks later, I read the story again because it was soooo funny. I laughed just as much the second time around.

This book goes on my ‘keeper’ shelf! ~ Sarah McDermed

(First posted 11-26-2019; Still my favorite Holiday Romance. Reading again now...and still laughing 0ut loud!)


Available in Print, Audible, E-book. Can be found at all the large print and e-book retailers, and in many languages.


Monday, November 23, 2020

A 2020 Holiday to Remember

 By Courtney Pierce

Romance is supposed to fill the air during the holidays. Senses come alive with the sweet and savory scents of cooking and candles. Warm flames in the fireplace dance to the accompaniment of floating snowflakes outside. Family and friends gather to reflect on the year’s accomplishments and challenges, for which we offer tight hugs of congratulations or sympathy. For a writer, all of these sacred rituals frame an inspiring story of holiday romance.  

What a difference this 2020 holiday season will be from 2019. How in the heck does one cancel Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hannukah? State governors are like mean 'ole Grinches from Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Last year I was hopeful and believed right was right, no matter what stood in the way. I had a clear set of convictions and personal goals: my writing, my health, my marriage, and to raise a teenager with a solid set of principles. We worked and frequented our favorite restaurants. My stepdaughter went to school every day. I tucked the holiday grocery list in my purse, ran errands, and ticked off the completion of home projects. 

And get this . . . my uncovered face connected with the expressions of fellow residents I didn’t know. As an American, freedom of thought was a given, a right never to be questioned. Livelihoods couldn’t be cancelled over a Tweet. 

I took this rock-solid normalcy for granted.

As writers, we use the issues of the dayboth personal and environmentalas emotional guides to create our stories. To make the words connect, we incorporate the relevant and current. Historical novels must adhere to the details of their time period, too. While Fantasy and Magical Realism novels enjoy more flexibility, there are still rules about what magic can and can't do. I imagine there will be a resurgence of books with themes similar to The Hunger Games in the coming months. Can one of them be turned into a holiday book about the sheer will to secretly decorate a Christmas tree? I may have to write it.

One of my favorite themes is for my character to do the wrong thing to fight for what's right.

Cartoon: Cayman Compass
So how are writers to deal with our sudden loss of personal freedoms in their stories, especially romance ones? The current social obstacles get in the way when describing the build-up to a long-awaited kiss. Slipping off a face mask doesn’t match the impact of peeling off a blouse. An intimate candlelit dinner for two in a quiet restaurant isn't allowed, so the evening is reduced to a grab-and-go meal picked up at the curb? I just can't bypass the appetizer flirt and go straight to the doggie bag. Is a budding couple supposed to sit in the car and drip sauce on their lap? Rub hand sanitizer on their hands before they reach across the console? 

Oh, the ridiculousness of it all. A skip over the juicy parts isn't acceptable. We writers have to make some serious choices about our novels-in-progress.

Before the pandemic, I struggled to ratchet up the conflict in my current draft of Big Sky Talk. The story needed deeper emotion and gut-wrenching introspection. Over the past ten months, I got that inspiration in spades, so much so that I became a bit psychologically paralyzed. Dealing with masks, social distancing, and lockdowns became irrelevant noise that would only distract readers from the story. Also, once the CoVid-19 vaccine is in wide distribution, any social restrictions written into the prose would make the book dated. Unless the genre is a thriller about a pandemic, books that include physical restrictions will end up in the bargain bin. A blip. A flash of time that we all want to forget, never mind read about.

The choice became clear. 

Cover Art: Rosalind McFarland
Big Sky Talk is set in a pre-pandemic time period of 2019. It will be current, but free to tell the story. However, I have started to infuse the resulting emotion of the pandemic’s oppression into my main character of Aubrey Cenderon. She feels helpless, frustrated, and isolated. Aubrey suffers a self-imposed lockdown in an attempt to block out her inability to take a chance on love. She restricts her own freedoms and dons an emotional mask, not a physical one. She becomes disillusioned that the world isn’t what she thought it was. Touch is scary and the risk of entering into a relationship fills her with insecurity.

The psychological impact of behavioral restriction has been both challenging and inspiring. After I took all of my personal frustrations out on my character, I didn’t feel victimized anymore. But through the process, Aubrey became my friend and counselor. As she grew and stepped into the light, so did I.

Little Cindy Lou Who was so right about it being impossible for the Grinch to steal her Christmas.  Holiday light continues to flicker deep within us. It can’t be bought, boxed, or bowed.

 

Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Kalispell, Montana with her husband, stepdaughter, and their brainiac cat. 
Courtney writes for the baby boomer audience. She spent 28 years as an executive in the entertainment industry and used her time in a theater seat to create stories that are filled with heart, humor, and mystery. She studied craft and storytelling at the Attic Institute and has completed the Hawthorne Fellows Program for writing and publishing. Active in the writing community, Courtney is a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and on the Advisory Council of the Independent Publishing Resource Center. She is a member of Willamette Writers, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and Authors of the Flathead. The Executrix received the Library Journal Self-E recommendation seal.

Print and E-books are available through most major online retailers, including Amazon.com.
Check out all of Courtney's books: 


New York Times best-selling author Karen Karbo says, "Courtney Pierce spins a madcap tale of family grudges, sisterly love, unexpected romance, mysterious mobsters and dog love. Reading Indigo Lake is like drinking champagne with a chaser of Mountain Dew. Pure Delight."

Coming in 2021!

When Aubrey Cenderon moves to Montana after the death of her father, the peace and quiet of Big Sky Country becomes complicated with a knock on the door from the sheriff. An injured grizzly bear is on the loose and it must be eliminated before it kills again. The sheriff's insistence that she buy a gun for protection will present Aubrey with some serious soul-searching, because the grizzly-on-the-run is hunting her too . . . for a different reason.



 


Saturday, November 21, 2020

A Holiday Rom Com about family, food, and finding a dead body in the freezer

 I know...not the way you were expecting that title to go, right? Hee Hee

I love a good Holiday romance book. I'd much rather read than watch the never ending holiday movies on Hallmark, and now Lifetime and Netflix. Those are all pretty generic and look and sound the same to me. I much prefer losing myself in a good holiday romcom or a women's fiction story about the holidays and family.

So, because I love to read Holiday RomComs so much, I tend to pen a new one every year or so. Scheduling and contracts prevent me from doing one a year - which is what I'd love to do. This year's entry, MISTLETOE, MOBSTERS, & MOZZARELLA,  is another San Valentino family Christmas story concerning the Gracie and Louie branch of the family tree. These two lovebirds have been together over 40 years, have weathered medical and financial crises together and still look at one another as if the other hung the moon.

Don't you just love that?? I know I do.



They have 6 kids - 5 obnoxious boys and 1 daughter, the eldest child, Madonna. Donna, as everyone calls her, is her father's rock in so many ways. She manages the deli he owns, she's a calming influence for her mother's sometimes crazy behavior, and she practically raised all her younger brothers.

Donna has dreams and aspirations that, unfortunately, don't fit into her family's needs or desires. But a girl can dream...and dream Donna does.

One morning a few weeks before Christmas, she opens the store for the day and finds the dead body of one the employees stored in the freezer. This starts a string of events, not the least of which is the arrival on the scene of the one guy Donna has never been able to get out of her mind. Tony Roma is the investigating detective in the murder case and the moment she sees him she's transported back to the time they were teenagers.

Tony is assigned to work undercover in the deli to ferret out the killer and Madonna is quickly losing her mind - and heart. The story evolves into a tale about forgiveness, moving forward, and clinging to family when you need them the most, but breaking free to be your own person.



Now, some of that may sound like a heavy read, but believe me - MISTLETOE, MOBSTERS, & MOZZARELLA is anything but heavy!!! 

I released the book in October because I wanted to get a jump on holiday sales - and reading. There's nothing better than opening your ereader after a day of working or frantic holiday shopping, making a cup of tea, and taking a break for an hour to lose yourself in a witty, charming and satisfying book.

I've got another post on 11/27 about Holiday romance books I like to recommend ( not, necessarily my own, Heehee) so check back then and see what I'm reading this year.

Toodles for now and happy reading - Holiday and otherwise.



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Thursday, November 19, 2020

Cosmic Christmas Chronicles #scifi #romance


 Hi, I'm Pippa Jay, author of sci-fi and supernatural stories to engage your emotions. Since I've already been lucky enough to share a few Christmas stories ready for the holiday, I thought I'd add a few more to tempt you!

Four-year-old Maggie Bock loves living aboard her parents’ space cruiser, but it’s almost Christmas. What if Santa doesn’t know where she is now? Someone will have to find him and tell him, of course. But when she stows away on her mother’s transport to Terr, she sets off a chain of events that brings the holidays to the Atlantis.

Join Maggie and her family for a hilarious and heart-warming adventure as Matirans and Terrians come together to celebrate what makes the holiday season so very special.

(Blue Christmas is a companion story to my novel Prophecy, Book One of the Prophecy Series. This story takes place three months after the end of Prophecy.)

Stranded on Earth after a hyperdrive malfunction, the five surviving members of the Zau’gaut’s crew learn to blend in and survive on a backwater world. Opening a seasonal decorating company, their captain hopes it will help them blend in while learning about Earther culture. Despite Earth’s primitive state, they find themselves growing attached to the planet and its people. When one crew member takes a chance and finds himself growing attached to a certain human woman, the crew begins to wonder if being stranded on Earth means they must also give up their chances at finding love.

Our heart has its own compass. It knows where we should be heading, even if the rest of us doesn’t. Through loss and love, our heart’s compass guides us through life, often to somewhere completely unexpected. When the world ends, the heart’s compass of several people has them headed in directions they may have never traveled otherwise.

Each book in the series is a stand-alone story, but is written within the same fictional setting in which the Earth has just been struck with several massive solar flares. All modern technology has been rendered inoperable. Cars, computers, city infrastructure, phones – all gone in an instant and without warning. In the days directly following the end of the modern world, people must learn to depend on each other, and on their heart’s compass, if they hope to survive.

She doesn’t want a lot for Christmas…

Claire Otton dreads spending another holiday alone. When her best friend convinces her to approach the sexy mall Santa, she takes the chance and asks him out, hoping for so much more.

He’s waiting under the mistletoe…

Although Andreas Castellanos blends in on Earth, he knows he will never belong. But when the gorgeous woman he’d been staring at invites him to dinner, he has a hard time saying no.

All they’re asking for…

Can these two lonely souls find magic together or will their secrets steal their chance of a happy Christmas?

To find more, please visit the SFR Station.