Saturday, December 31, 2016

Endings and Beginnings

 According to ancient Roman myth, Janus is the god of beginnings, passages, gates, transitions, and endings. It seems appropriate that we think of him today as we end one year and transition to another tomorrow. 

Janus is usually represented by a two-faced figure, one looking back and the other looking ahead. For the past week, television and newspapers headlined what happened in 2016. Was it a good year, a bad one, or a mixed bag? Like most years, it depends on what happened to you personally. 

For me, 2016 was a mixed bag. It started out fabulously. My husband and I spent six weeks in Arizona, visiting our son and his family. When we arrived, our newest granddaughter had mastered rolling over and didn’t need to learn how to crawl. Toys that weren’t close were easily reached by rolling and belly-scooching. Her mom decided to give her more room and put toys farther out of reach. To no one’s surprise, Baby Girl learned to crawl. And we were there to witness that milestone. (Later in the year, while visiting our house, she took her first steps alone. Another major event we got to witness.) Considering we live over 2,000 miles away, we were thrilled. Pictures and videos are wonderful but not as exciting as being there.

My writing career stumbled along in 2016. With three partially-finished manuscripts, I couldn’t settle on which one to finish. Each of them seemed overwhelming. When I have a task that’s overwhelming, I freeze. Instead of breaking it into manageable parts, I procrastinate. Finally, I looked at them from a practical standpoint. Which one was farthest along? That’s the one, Mission to New Earth, that I released in August. Despite not finishing another story, I upped my marketing efforts. Along the way, I met many wonderful writers who generously shared space on their blogs and helped promote my new release, and allowed me to return the favor.

Enjoying family, vacations, and good weather made the year fly by. Health-wise, that’s another mixed bag. Admitting that getting older means we can’t (or don’t have the energy to) do what we used to do is a rude awakening. For fun, I joined Goodreads annual Reading Challenge. In 2015, I didn't complete the challenge, more because I didn't log in the books read. This year, I surpassed my goal of reading 75 books. Feeling pretty good about that.

Then there was the world scene. Here in the U.S., we witnessed one of the most contentious elections in my lifetime. Enough said about that. Despite everyone claiming to want “world peace” we have a long way to making it a reality. 


Janus has two faces—one looking back and the other forward. What can we look forward to in 2017? A snowy winter, if predictions are right. Now is a good time to leave Michigan and visit Arizona. LOL Baby Girl isn’t a baby anymore. She’s a toddler who runs. We have to see that in person. If only life revolved solely around family, it would be much easier. But careers, health, government, world affairs occupy our minds. Unless we cut ourselves off from news reports and social media, we can’t escape. Writing about the future (as with my science fiction romance stories) can take my mind off the uncertainty of the world we live in. Reading has always been my escape. So is writing. I can make like an ostrich and bury my head or model myself after Scarlett O’Hara and think about unpleasant things tomorrow. Or face reality.

Do you make goals (resolutions) each year? One of the online classes I took this year was writing a business plan. I wrote one twenty-some years ago when I first started my writing career. Did you know you’re supposed to write one each year? <ducking head> I write (or think about) goals each January, but never incorporate them into a business plan. Writing that plan, including goals and action steps, seems like a good start for the new year.
  
How was your 2016?

Here’s hoping 2017 is a great year. That’s the wonderful thing about the human spirit. We can always hope.

Happy New Year to all the readers and my fellow contributors.



Friday, December 30, 2016

The Most Important Part


Well, I only have two writing projects planned for 2017. That is not very ambitious in the era of 'release a book every two months'! But I'm trying to think clearly about all aspects of my life, and frankly, I am over scheduled! 

The market continues to whip around as though blown by the Wyoming wind, but it has been crazy since I started publishing in 2004. A few times it was crazy good! Other times, not so much. I'm not cutting back because of the market, though I keep hearing of romance authors who are quitting.

For once I have good news on the health front. I seem to have moved on past a two year flare and am contemplating normal things, like writing something besides a short story! Riding a bike on a sunny morning. Working out in a gym and staying up late on a work night!  

Yes, I still have the day job. Sometimes I think it would be great to write full time, but I think the pressure to earn a living would wreck any creativity. Thought about it seriously a few years ago when I made some good money, but the following years weren't as lucrative. Regular pay with benefits is less stressful for me.

Anyway, enough rambling. One of my upcoming projects is a scifi romance in my established series, Diaspora Worlds. I've been thinking about this story for a couple of years and am looking forward to working with the motley crew I cobbled together as my cast of characters.

The second project is a paranormal romance, which I've written before. The difference this time is that it is first person. A romcom, if I can swing it. Scary, but fun. 

I figure, with the market being so nuts, maybe it is time to focus on the WIP, on the story.  A good time to play a little with an idea, get out of my box.

I hope all you authors reading this are fighting discouragement. The arts are never like a nine to five job in corporate America--and that is good! At least you are not working for an idiot! The worst of the day job, like a boss who sets a goal and then puts crazy obstacles in front of the goal. That is not the writer's reality.

As a writer, you can build something to your own specs. Your vision, your execution. You are the mad scientist! 

Maybe you will think it failed because fame and riches didn't follow...It would be super if life was fair. But, just maybe, someone will read your story and get it, see what you did there, that perfect jewel you carved out of nothing! 

Maybe the success of that story was in the story itself.

The story is the part you control. What Amazon is doing, or Mean Author is saying, or Facebook is clamoring about...All outside your control.

But you have the story. And that is the most important part.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Wrapping Up and Moving On with @MeganSlayer #writing #thinking #debating


I've been thinking long and hard about what I wanted to write for this post. An end of the year wrap-up? Maybe a memorial for things lost this year? A plan for 2017? Lots comes to mind. 

In the last few days, a lot has happened. Christmas! Hanukkah! Let's not forget those. The time of joy and giving. Watching the wonder on the faces of those who received a gift--be it an actual item or an act of generosity. I'll cherish that. 

Now, I know. There has been some sadness. The passing of legends, almost legends and those we just plain love. Trust me. My heart breaks for them. I've loved Gene Wilder since the movie Willie Wonka scared the crap out of (I was convinced if I ate the chocolate, I'd end up in the TV, too...and yet I still ate the chocolate.) So many people. So many creative fires dying out. 

But there are always going to be new ones. New fires we don't even realize are there. Maybe you and I are the fires of tomorrow. Who knows.

I'm sad about the closing of a few of my publishers, too. I don't like to speak ill of the closed, but I can honestly say, I didn't have bad feelings towards those who closed or even bad experiences. Would I like to have the endings gone differently? Sure. Who wouldn't? But I can't say the experiences weren't without merit. Maybe that was me still eating that chocolate.

I saw the shuttering of a few businesses I never thought would (Borders, Fictionwise, ARe) and are now gone. Poof! Okay, so not all were lost in 2016, but you get the idea. This biz is nutsy. 

Back to the chocolate, but I'm not giving up on my love of writing. I don't know if I'll ever become that author who hits all of the lists and my book title is on the lips of every reader in the world. That doesn't mean I won't try. It doesn't mean I won't keep telling the stories I've been doing so for the last... golly, I've been writing since 2007 and published since 2009. I'm not one of the longer running authors in the biz, but that chocolate still sure tastes good. 
So what is my plan for the next year? To keep writing. I've got books in the pipeline with multiple houses and fun things planned for the year. I'm not quitting. Not by a long shot and not when I still love the chocolate. Maybe one day I will be shrunken and land on the TV. Maybe not. Either way, I'm still going to keep slogging it out with the boys from Cedarwood, the shifters in the Sanctuary, the Battle Scarred paranormals and my Seeing Me male models. Why not? I get to play with male models in the morning, argue with everyday guys in Cedarwood in the afternoon, then wrestle with lion shifters at night. Sounds like a good gig to me.

What about you? What are your plans for 2017? Anything special? You know where I'll be. Writing, reading and enjoying the ride.

Want something to warm up your winter? Try Reconnecting Christmas! Male models, a little angst and a happy ending (you didn't think I'd keep the happy ending to myself, did you? *G*)

Reconnecting Christmas 
By Megan SlayerM/M, Contemporary, Holiday, RomanceShort StoryFrom MLR Press 
Art by Winterheart Designs 


Oliver McNamara knows exactly what he wants for the holidays--his boyfriend to come home. He wants a nice, romantic Christmas with the man he loves. Will he get his perfect present or a lump of coal on the big day?

If Bert gets his way, this will be a holiday Oliver never forgets. But...being a world famous model means Bert doesn't always set his working hours and giving Oliver what he deserves could be impossible. Can he reconnect with the man he loves over the holidays?

Two hearts will always find a way to become one especially with a little Christmas cheer involved.  Available from MLR Press: http://www.mlrbooks.com/Bookstore.php?bookid=MSRECCHRAvailable now from Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Reconnecting-Christmas-Seeing-Me-Book-ebook/dp/B01N1ST25O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483020198&sr=8-1&keywords=Reconnecting+Christmas+Megan+SlayerBarnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/reconnecting-christmas-megan-slayer/1125312220?ean=2940157606893Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/reconnecting-christmas
http://wendizwaduk.com/indexMegan.htm
Megan Slayer - It's Always Fun to Squirm
Subscribe to our newsletter ~ http://ymlp.com/xgjmjumygmgj 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Have you tried the Hansel? He’s Delicious: Food and Fairy Tales by L. A. Kelley

Still wrestling with Christmas leftovers? Ever wonder why food is such a common element in fairy tales? It isn’t difficult to find a mention, particularly in the original, uncensored versions. Food is not only frequently featured, but may also be the catalyst to the action. Goldilocks without the porridge would be just another tale about a simple breaking and entering gone horribly awry. Why did a little girl feel the need to sit down in a stranger’s home and help herself to a meal? Where were her parents? Could it be they left Goldilocks to forage on her own and she simply took advantage of an opportunity?

Everyone has felt a hunger pang or two, but not the tearing misery of a slow death by starvation. Not so in the Middle Ages. Fairy tales originated as oral folktales from the lower classes. Food was featured prominently because dying from hunger was a constant threat for the peasantry. On the other hand, tales to entertain the gentry were romantic quests for adventure. Dinner wasn’t a concern. The poor survived on a meager diet of items such as bread, root vegetables like turnips and onions, peas, and an occasional egg or apple. Pease porridge was not only served hot and then cold, but also in the pot nine days old. You can imagine the smell. Meat was rare since the nobility owned most of the hunting and fishing grounds, not to mention taxes were often collected in foodstuffs or livestock. It was good to be the king.

Famine was common, but even in good years life was often brutish and short, especially for children. Fairy tales can tell a lot about life in the Dark Ages. Children were commonly left unsupervised and expected to shoulder adult burdens at a very young age. Little Red Riding Hood’s mother sent her though a wild, predator infested woods with nothing more than a basket of goodies for granny. No camouflage gear or even a good stout club for protection. If she got eaten, oh well. There were plenty more hungry mouths at home to take her place.

Often, an empty belly set a fairy tale in motion, and hunger went hand-in-hand with child abandonment. In Grimm’s tales if you happened to be a stepchild, your happy days were numbered. Hansel and Gretel didn’t traipse into the woods on a carefree lark. They were willingly dumped by their father and stepmother—not once, but several times before they finally got lost. Gretel was even suspicious about the old “What a lovely day to take a family stroll through the woods” thing and she packed her pockets with stones for the first outing. Too bad she used breadcrumbs in the second. The birds were starving too.

Food could also serve as temptation to a hungry person; the witch’s house was made of candy, the Evil Queen offered Snow White a perfect apple. Rapunzel’s mother is overcome by a craving for rampion, a vegetable similar to a radish. It sounds nutty (chocolate, yes, but who craves radishes?) until you realize food preservation was sketchy. A fistful of rampions may have been the first fresh vegetable she’d eaten in months.

As if the threat of starvation didn’t hang in the air, characters in fairy tales also had to watch out for cannibalism. The witch in Hansel and Gretel wasn’t planning to enslave the children. She was planning to munch on them with, perhaps, a tasty bĂ©arnaise sauce on the side. Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb actually were ingested for a time. Fortunately fairy tales often ended well. Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb were rescued. Gretel saved her brother. Not surprisingly, the happy ending often came with a feast. The children who had been turned into gingerbread didn’t require psychological counseling to get over the trauma. They simply ate the witch’s house (and probably the witch, too, who was roasting in the oven.)

Nothing dulls a good appetite. I’ll bet those Christmas leftovers are looking better than ever now.


L. A. Kelley writes sci-fy/fantasy adventure books with humor, romance, and a touch of sass.
FACEBOOK  

email: l.a.kelley.author@gmail.com

Monday, December 26, 2016

Get Back to Work

Christmas is over and the holiday craziness has settled down. Family dinners are done, Christmas parties are done, and the hectic last minute shopping and gift exchanges are done. It’s time to take a breath. Clear your mind and shake loose all the demands of the holiday season. I know that the last thing you want to do is think about your writing, but like any job it’s time to get back to work.

Even if you don’t get back to your computer, use the time between now and New Years to let your imagination build. Think of those new ideas and possible plot twists you never thought of to take hold and solidify, then sit at your lap top and start writing. Write anything. I find writing a stream of consciousness gets me started. It doesn’t have to be good, just run your fingers across the keys until something starts to form in your mind.

You’re going to have to fight your desire to procrastinate, but don’t give in to it. Make yourself a sandwich with the leftover ham and sit down at your computer. Don’t be discouraged if your work isn’t what it usually is. Like your body, your mind needs exercise. You start small and with each word and each key stroke your imagination gets stronger.

Now it’s time to build your momentum. Keep going and soon a flash flood of ideas and imagination will break through and flow over the desert of dry rocks and sand. Trust me it will happen, but you have to get to the computer first. You can do it. I have faith in you.

My blog may be short but you have work to do.


Have a great New Year.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to and from all my friends at
Paranormal Romantics!



Friday, December 23, 2016

The Secret Life of a Writer by Francesca Quarto

The Secret Life of a Writer

by Francesca Quarto
The cue at the bottom of this blog page, warns me that "this section cannot remain empty", as if I would attempt to post a blog with only a title and no more substance than a patch of fog below it.
I have to fight my way through the unsubstantial, but dense fog, that creeps through my head on occasion, proving beyond a doubt I can lose my way as a writer.
Wanting to write Urban Fantasy was not a conscious choice,made casually over a bowl of Cheerios one morning.  I didn't reflect on the commitment to the creative process needed to achieve even a modicum of good writing.
There was no mental epiphany, when I knew in my every fiber, that I would be an author of a book, let alone a series.
You might recall from your younger days of watching "Sesame Street" how Kermit the frog always bemoaned the fact that "it wasn't easy to be green".  To my mind, being a writer is as close as one ever gets to being green!  
A solitary, pensive figure, perched on a lily pad in the midst of a pond filled with fabulous writers, skillful practitioners of the art of telling a beautifully woven tale. And then...there's you!
The challenge to one who would dare enter the pond, making even small ripples of acknowledgement along the way, is not to stand out, but to stand up to the slings and arrows that might fly your way.  Hardening one's ego with a good coating of humility can go just so far, but in the final analysis, you must stand firm and say, "I wrote it!  I own it!" 
I looked at some poetry I had written in the throes of my angst-ridden youth, and nearly gagged on the purple prose that oozed from between the lines.  What started out as a brief excursion down memory lane, ended up being a crisis of confidence.  If I could write that kind of crap then, how was I doing now?
After several minutes of self-examination I decided then and there that what I wrote was the inner me reaching out from some secret place in my being; a place where flowers can shoot darts at you if you stop to smell the roses and werewolves are always hungry for seconds.  
As for my poetry, I found some that was actually appealing to my critical ear, so I may dust it off and stash it in that secret place where my heart beats with the joy of finding the just the right word! 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Shake Up the Holidays—and the New Year by Guest Sorchia DuBois

Shake Up the Holidays—and the New Year

In the Northern Hemisphere, we celebrate a variety of winter holidays from November to February by observing traditions dating to the Middle Ages and earlier. You can trace many Winter celebrations all the way back to the Roman festival of Saturnalia as long ago as 600 BC. And you can bet the Romans got it from somewhere before that.

The idea was to celebrate the return of the Sun. The Winter Solstice can occur anytime between  December 21-23. Leading up to the Solstice, you party like there’s no tomorrow, because if the sun doesn’t come back, there won’t be. After the Solstice you party because you’ve been given a one-year reprieve from a slow death by cold and hunger.  Even in these so-called modern times, I am immensely relieved when the Solstice goes off without a hitch.

And consider how much better the Winter celebrations became back in those dark, dark days when humans discovered everything from juniper berries to potatoes to cabbage to grapes can be fermented and bottled. Then came distillation and––bang!––the party livened up even more. But tracing the positive correlation between winter celebrations and the evolution of bottled spirits would be an entirely different post.

What I want to talk about are the ingrained traditions that go along with this time of year—traditions of immense antiquity tied to the uncertainty of survival in long ago times. Traditions so ingrained that we do them automatically—whether we want to or not.
We gather with family, we decorate the house, and we drink an excessive amount of eggnog (or maybe just straight nog.)  This is all well and good. My point is that we may fall into habits that don’t serve us as well as they once did.

Personally, I’ve done Christmas trees. I’ve done caroling and Christmas parades and turkey with all the trimmings. Some of it was great and some of it was not. Most of it I did because it was expected which isn’t a bad thing, but there comes a time when you need to tweak the expected.

Einstein said the definition of madness is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. Well, I’m not totally satisfied with the results of all the traditions I’ve observed in the last mumblety-something years.

My advice is to step off the beaten holiday path—no matter what holiday you celebrate. Create your own tradition and add it to the things you truly love to do. Savor the warmth and love of this season, but add something unique to the party—something only you can pull off. Put your stamp on the holidays and build vibrant memories that last as long as the ancient celebration of Saturnalia.

From this Saturnalia forward, I will be returning to things I love but have ignored. I’ll be decreasing the clutter––emotionally, physically, spiritually—and looking for opportunities to go rogue. Is this the first sign of what my children refer to as my “inevitable slide into insanity?”

Probably. But one woman’s insanity is another’s chocolate bon bon with a wine chaser.

Visit me at www.SorchiaDuBois to see how my year of living divergently works out. Happy Holidays to one and all and may your New Year be filled with joy and love and charmingly peculiar adventures.

Speaking of peculiar adventures (see how smoothly I did that?), Zoraida Grey and the Family Stones is the beginning of an adventure that takes Zoraida from her cozy, comfy home in Arkansas to Scotland, the Caribbean, the Yucatan jungle, and back again as she battles crazy sorcerors, a voodoo priestess, and the evil influence of a powerful crystal. She must choose the path for herself, but two beguiling Scottish witches tempt her in different directions.

How far is she willing to go to protect the ones she loves? Can she find the strength to take charge of her own life?

Here’s a tiny excerpt for starters:

“I think you are a throwback.” Shea’s eyes are every bit as hypnotic as Michael’s. His peculiar blue aura glows steady and bright. He leans closer, lowering his voice, speaking as much inside my head as out. “I think she saw the light of the old ones on your brow. I think she trained you day by day, teaching you the old magic, giving you as much of her soul as she could part with and still live. I think she wove spells into your hair and fed you with lotus blossoms.” My heart thumps so loudly I’m sure he can hear it. “I think you are her last hope.”

“Last hope for what?” Air seems in short supply, seeping into my lungs by the teaspoonful.
“Strangely, you may be Michael’s last hope as well. And mine.”

Grab a copy as a gift or indulge yourself. Zoraida’s adventure continues with Zoraida Grey and the Voodoo Queen  and Zoraida Grey and the Pictish Runes in 2017.

Buy Links:
Wild Rose Press: http://bit.ly/ZGandFSWR
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/ZGandFSBN


About the Author:

Sorchia Dubois lives in the piney forest of the Missouri Ozarks with eight cats. She edits technical writing and fiction part time, but she spends at least five hours per day tapping out paranormal romance, Gothic murder, and Scottish thrillers.

A proud member of the Ross clan, Sorchia incorporates all things Celtic (especially Scottish) into her works. She can often be found swilling Scotch at Scottish festivals.  

Follow Sorchia on social media.

Blog/Website:  www.SorchiaDubois.com


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Elves...from Santa to Tolkien

We have kids, so, like many families these days, we have Elf-on-the-Shelf. Actually, we have two. Cookie and Rocky come every year like clockwork and my kids love to find where those scamps hide each morning. And of course, starting on the 21st, they'll leave elf gifts under my kids' pillows for the last few days leading up to Christmas.

In the meantime, (yes this is elf related) I am working on novella for my Legendary Consultants series. It will be a Christmastime release titled To Thine Own Elf Be True. I'll start writing this story sometime around March, but I'm already doing my pre-work to determine the details. For me that means researching elf lore and deciding on how my own elven world will work.

Which got me thinking...how are Santa's Elves so different from, for example, Tolkien's Elves? And what other kinds of elves are out there? I thought I'd share some of my early findings starting with what wikipedia says on the topic (I'll be researching this with more sources, of course, but I'm just getting started):

Historical Origin
According to wikipedia, the concept of elves seems to have started in Norse mythology and grown in common belief in medieval Germanic countries. There are many different accounts, but most accounts agree that elves were "magical beings with supernatural powers." The character of elves seems to differ between regions and time periods, though most seem to point to elves being more harmful than good--playing tricks on humans and deceiving them.

First Documented Elves - Good Looking, Magical
The first elves appearing in manuscripts show up in medieval England where they are sometimes linked with nymphs. However, most often they are tiny, invisible demons who afflict humans and livestock with illness. They had a medical term for it: elf-shot. Sounds a lot like cupid right, but not with a good reason?

In Middle English, they take on more human forms, gather some sexual allure, and start to blend with fairies. For example, we see them in Geoffrey Chaucer's satirical Sir Thopas where the title character sets out in quest of the 'elf-queen', who dwells in the 'countree of the Faerie'.

Elizabethan Era - Small
In Elizabethan England, the concept of elves eventually mixed up with that of fairies, while German folklore most often mixed them together with dwarves. The influence of Shakespeare and Michael Drayton made elves and fairies very small creatures, and had a lasting effect seen in fairy tales about elves collected in the modern period.

Victorian Era - Pointed Ears & Stocking Caps
English and German literary traditions both influenced the British Victorian image of elves, which appeared in illustrations as tiny men and women with pointed ears and stocking caps.

1800s - Santa's Elves
Mostly thanks to the poem now referred to as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, we now got the Christmastime concept of Santa's elves. Again tiny creatures with pointed ears and stocking caps, they help Santa in his toy shop.

1900s - Tolkien's Elves
Most modern fantasy elves draw their concept from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. These elves tend to be human sized, but more beautiful and wiser than humans, with sharper senses and perceptions. They are said to be gifted in magic, mentally sharp and lovers of nature, art, and song. However, they kept their pointy ears from the Victoria Era.

Modern Day - Changing It Up, But Still the Same
Still, we do see some alternate concepts of elves in modern day literature and movies. Sort of. Each new take still incorporates many of the now-standard ideas of elves. For example, J.K. Rowling's depiction in her Harry Potter novels puts elves back to being little, magical creatures with pointed ears, but more humbled in the role of servant-slaves. Or, in the animated movie Rise of the Guardians, Santa's elves are still tiny with pointed ears and stocking caps, but they're not the true helpers. Instead abominable snowmen are the actual workers.


What are your favorite concepts of eleven lore? Do you like the pointed ears? Are you more drawn to the magical aspects? Do you have a favorite elf from literary or movie depiction? What do you think I should incorporate into my upcoming story?


Monday, December 19, 2016

Paranormal Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pie by C.J. Burright

Okay, so it's not necessarily paranormal, but the fact this particular recipe is allergy free and still delicious makes it darn close. Back in days ye olden days of yore, I could eat anything and have zero worries about burning it off, allergic reactions, or skeptical ingredients. Nowadays…not so much. Not only am I careful about calories (I work out so I can drink wine and eat chips once in a while, don't judge), but there’s also a gluten factor going on. Top it off with dairy, egg, and cane sugar allergies, let’s just say getting dinner with me is tons of fun.

Honestly, besides missing out on the bread at Italian restaurants, it’s really not that bad. And I feel great, so giving up a few foods is worth it and cooking has become quite the adventure. In the spirit of all my fellow allergy free cooks and food enthusiasts, I thought I’d share the AF dessert recipe I’m making for Christmas dinner. Push your skepticism aside. It’s delectable, trust me.

C.J.'s Paranormal Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pie

Ingredients
Crust: 7.9 oz Allergy free chocolate chip cookies (Enjoy Life is pretty awesome)
2 Tbsp coconut palm sugar
1/3 C melted Earth Balance
Filling:
6 oz imitation cream cheese (sounds delicious, right?)
1 C creamy peanut butter
1 C powdered sugar (I use 1 C coconut sugar w/ 1 tbsp cornstarch powdered to perfection in my food processor)
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ C whipped topping (So Delicious works great)
¾ C mini dairy free chocolate chips (another Enjoy Life staple)
Directions
For the crust, preheat oven to 375 degrees and non-stick spray your pie pan. Toss the cookies (heh) in your food processor and pulse until they’re coarse crumbs. 

Whisk the crumbs with the palm sugar, add melted butter and blend. Press all that cookie-crumbly goodness into your pie plate and bake for 9 minutes.

For the filling, beat the wannabe cream cheese, peanut butter, powdered coconut sugar, and vanilla on medium until combined. Fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture. It looks (and tastes) like peanut butter cookie dough.

Next, oh so gently, stir in the chocolate chips and then coax it all into your cooled crust. 


Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Then demolish.

What's your favorite holiday dessert? And if you're a fellow allergic-type, share your woe with me. I'll sympathize, promise.

Wishing you all a scrumptious Christmas and spicy New Year!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Christmas Pickle Legend by Author Elizabeth Alsobrooks


I have read so many blog posts recently that dealt with holiday traditions, stories and photos, that I felt inspired to get into the spirit myself. After all, I finally did some holiday baking myself, and hubby is outside hanging lights. We may even put the tree up. Did I mention that we procrastinate? Never mind. He has promised to sing carols to me, so all is forgiven.

When chasing an interesting story’s origin, I ran across this wonderful Christmas traditions and cultural norms page: http://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/usa.shtml and of course I had to read the USA page. I found out a lot of things about cultural traditions in my own country that I found interesting, not the least of which was my husband's excited comment that finally he would be able to find some delicious and inexpensive Christmas Tamales, is actually a tradition here in the southwest. But most amusing and intriguing to me was the Christmas Pickle! Here's the story:


As with Hallmark, it seems the truth of this tradition may have originated in commerce, but it’s still fun to think of having one on my tree. I wish I’d known of this while my kids were young, but I may have to get one, just for fun! The “legend” is that it originated in Germany and it was a pickle ornament hidden on the tree, way back in the branches so it wasn’t easy to see, and whoever found it first got an extra present from St. Nicolas. More fun than finding Easter eggs!

Here’s the poem:

The Christmas Pickle
To start a tradition that will surely last,
Here's the story about the pickle of glass.
The night before Christmas, it's hung on the tree
While everyone's sleeping, it's done secretly.
And on Christmas morning, when you arise,
The first one to find it will get a surprise!
A family tradition for all to share,

You'll look for the pickle year after year.

And of course you must hear the Christmas Pickle Carol!

I hope you enjoyed this USA Christmas tradition as much as I did! Happy Holidays!

video

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Loving Christmas ~ #LynnCrain #amwriting #TimeTravel

Hi everyone!

Hope your holidays are all you ever want. I have spent my life in quite a few different places for Christmas but the best I have ever seen is in Europe. And that’s why I wrote a story set around the holidays in Austria.

When I first went there, I didn’t know what to expect but the country grew on me. I find that I’m missing it even more this year than I thought. We had special little places to go, guhlwien to drink and friends to visit.

Not that we don’t have those things here…we do…but there it was magical. And to share some of that magic with you, I want to share a part from my story, Her Magical Vienna Christmas. It is in the Holiday Magic anthology and it’s available at all major ebook venues. Don’t forget to get your copy today! Here’s the setup:

Cryptographer Elizabeth “Lizzie” Camden is more in tune with numbers, cyphers and puzzles than she is with the real world. When her job takes her back in time to 1874 Vienna, she’s more than surprised to find Michael Sondervan there as well. She hadn’t seen him since college when he broke her heart.

Michael has always regretted the way things turned out between him and Lizzie. When he needs someone to figure out the cryptic warning, he knows he needs the best. And Lizzie is the best. Giving her a magical Vienna Christmas in the bargain, he hopes will bring them together and prove his love to the only woman for him.

I loved writing about Lizzie and Michael as the rediscover their love for each other, for history and the life they plan to have. Vienna is a wonderful place to write about and I love revisiting it again and again. Here’s an excerpt from this wonderful story:



Even with the snow falling, the Graben was a hub-bub of activity. Although the shops didn’t look that different on the outside from what existed in her reality, she knew they would be totally devastated in World War II. It wasn’t until much later, in the 1950s, that they would finally be allowed to stand on their own when the last Russian left the city. So much history and she was privileged enough to see it.
Lizzie gripped Michael’s arm when she saw police beating starving people and even children. Some of them appeared so pathetic as she looked at their rag-tag appearances. Their clothes were hardly warm enough for a cold winter. She tugged fiercely toward one of them but Michael held her in place.
“Look at me,” he whispered in her ear. When she turned, he kissed her again. “Remember this is how people were, not how people are in our time. We have come a long way.”
She nodded and kept her eyes on the ground in front of her. Finally, they turned off the main thoroughfare and down the side street of Jungferngasse, then again down a little path. Hidden away from the street was a small bookstore.
“This appears to be the place. Shall we go in, darling?”
She smiled as he pulled the door open for her. Inside there were many bookshelves and even books stacked on the floor. Lizzie managed to push herself in, though the fit was tight right at the door. Picking up a tome or two, she was surprised to see originals of some titles. Even then certain books in mathematics or physics were treasures. Gently replacing one of the books, she waved her hand in front of her face as the dust rose. It looked as if some of these hadn’t been dusted in weeks.
Proceeding to where she suspected the proprietor might be, she continued to gaze around to see if anything else caught her eye. Maybe his having a page from an Enigma machine code book was just a fluke regardless of what Derrick had told them. Turning around, her astonishment grew as she didn’t see anyone minding the store. Turning to Michael, she heard a thump behind her, much like a fist connecting to flesh. The feverish whispers in German made her lift her finger to her lips and point in the direction of a door.

This anthology is available now and along with my great story, you’ll be getting four other wonderful Christmas heart warmers.

I’d love to wish you all a happy holiday season. Please join me next month!


Lynn

Friday, December 16, 2016

What's in a Name?

By Sandy Wright


What's in a name?

The right name can reveal your character in an instant. It can also add depth to your story. It can brand your character for readers, to such an extent that their particular name can never be reused by anyone else. Think about James Bond. Sherlock Holmes. Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore, and Severus Snape. Atticus Finch. Huckleberry Finn. Scarlet O'Hara.

I think naming my book characters is fun and a chance to stretch my imagination.  I already know quite a bit about them, so I can pick a name that fits their life and personality. A name that will help readers identify them and set expectations for them.

There are name generators and baby naming sites to find character names, but I don't use them.

My biggest naming challenge in my first book, Song of the Ancients, was to name three major characters. The names had to be specific because their histories were and fates were intertwined. Of course, they didn't know that until the end of the book, so the names were also major foreshadowing.
1. Main female character, Samantha Danroe – her last means "truth speaker."
2. Main male character - Nicholas Orenda.  I liked the sound of the first and last together.  Half-way through the book, I discovered that Orenda is an Iroquois word that translates as "great spirit" or "magical power." Perfect for Nicholas, who is a witch from one of the nine original Traditional families.
3. The third character is a mythical Lakota woman who is the originator of an ancient prophecy that is woven throughout the story. I named her Wakenda Ondear. Wakenda is the Lakota term for their "Great Spirit" that resides in and of all living things. Ondear is Spanish and means to undulate or ripple, which was the way I thought of her spirit in the book, having a ripple effect on every person who learned of her prophecy.

And the clincher for these three characters: Their last names are anagrams. Did you figure that at when you looked at them?

Some names are just plain fun. A secondary character in my first book, Rumor Vargas, is now the protagonist in my second book. She is Hispanic, but she says her mom was a 60s hippie and named her after a song.

Several secondary characters in both books were developed and named with help from fans and friends on Facebook, NaNoWriMo and other sites. For example, Jaco Hunsley, an eccentric older man in Song of the Ancients, crafts fine furniture with a twist: each one has a hidden compartment, built to blend into the flaws in the wood. He made a cabinet for Nicholas's aunt, and we find a major clue in that hidden drawer. I was "gifted" both Jaco's name and his profession from an "adopt a character" thread in the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) a couple of years ago. Everything else I built upon that thread.

This year, I have asked Facebook friends to recommend names and descriptions of two characters for my current book-in-progress. Last fall, they helped me name the elderly Hispanic woman who runs Hope House, a house for Mexican refugees who need lodging and food after illegally crossing the border into Arizona. We ending up calling her Senora G., my writing short-cut for Senora Lupe Gutierrez, and contributed name.

Last week, Facebook readers again came to my rescue, contributing a description and fleshing out my backstory for the Cochise County Medical Examiner, Shep Peterson. He is now described in chapter 10 as a, "silver wolf of a man with the wire-rim glasses and a faint Scottish brogue." Readers also gave me his reason for working in the middle-of-nowhere Arizona, despite his medical degree from Stanford, one of the most prestigious med schools in the nation. They told me he owns a small ranch and breeds horses, his true work of love. I placed the ranch near Oro Valley just north of Tucson, and am having him breed Quarter horses. His breeding lines and credentials for raising roping horses are legendary on the rodeo circuit from Cheyenne to Dodge City. His son, Robbie, works as a cattle roper on the circuit currently, but Peterson knows he will return to his dad's ranch to work when he retires from rodeo riding. And, voila! A new character is born!

The moral of this blog is, dear reader, never think for a moment that your comments fall on a writer's deaf ears. We are looking for characters and names everywhere. In the phone book, obituaries and immigration records. In movie credits (one of my personal favorites), and in casual conversations.

So if you see a Facebook post from me that starts, "Dear friends, I'm looking for a name and information on a character for my book…" Please read and comment. You may be the inspiration for a character in the next chapter!

Good reading.

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Sandy Wright moved to Arizona 17 years ago and fell in love with the southwest desert, including its Native American influences. After a trip to Sedona, the germ of a novel was born.

“I love to take ordinary characters and put them in extraordinary situations that change their view of the world.”

Her first novel, Song of the Ancients, introduces witchcraft and shamanism seen through the eyes of an ordinary woman.  Readers interested in witchcraft—or just a dark, eerie tale—will enjoy this paranormal suspense, written by a real-life Wiccan High Priestess.

Song of the Ancients is available on Amazon in print and ebook.

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