Friday, December 28, 2012

Ring In The New Year. . .With Superstition?

Yes....with superstition...or good luck charms. . .or what ever is going to get you to have a GREAT 2013!

So it just might be another day to you, but it marks the start of a new year, a new chance to give things a fresh start. **knocking on wood** I have a pretty good life, and yes, I knocked on wood when I typed that. AND yes, I am very superstitious.

As a matter of fact, I wrote an entire novel based around superstition in my Grandberry Falls novel, Never Tell Your Dreams. The full title was going to be Never Tell Your Dreams Before Breakfast, but that was entirely too long for the cover.


Regardless, I could go on and on about all the superstitious things I do but I'll save that for another day. I do want to talk about what my guys and I do to ring in the new year that gives us that little extra push for a GREAT year!

First off, on New Year's Eve, we eat oranges. Lots of oranges! AND we don't throw away the peel. Then we clean the entire house, top to bottom, base boards, ceiling fans and all. I also start preparing the New Year's day meal of pork medallions, sauerkraut, round cornbread, round cookies. (Be sure the food is round!)



And I load my wallet and my husband's wallet with TWENTY SEVEN one dollar bills. As we all are roaming around getting ready for a New Year's midnight, we only think and speak positive things. My guys and I are NOT allowed to talk negatively about anyone or anything or rehash any bad situation that happened in our life in the past years (and we have a LOT we could keep discussing. . . sigh. . .).
At midnight we make sure all the windows in the house are open and we stand at the door and throw the orange peels into the house.

Now...why do I make sure me and my guys do this?
1) Chinese gold is a symbol of wealth and throwing around gold in the new year is a way to bring wealth into the new year. Orange peels are a symbol of Chinese gold and since I don't have gold, we stand at the front door and throw orange peels into the house. We are throwing money into our house.

2) Isn't it cold at midnight in the dead of winter in Kentucky? Hell yes...but in with the old, out with the new! The house is all cleaned and ready to rid itself of all the negative energy that has come into our house. YES...I HAVE HAD A NEGATIVE VISITOR IN 2012 THAT NEEDS TO BE SWEPT OUT! So, we open our windows and as the new year rolls on the clock, all that negative energy (which if you invite negative people and bad people into your house, you should do this!) goes out with the old year and new positive energy comes in the the new year.

3) Cleaning the house? Well, I keep a clean house anyways, but again, it all goes back to getting rid of the negative. I don't have time for negative, so when we invited a bad soul into our house, it has haunted me for MONTHS! I couldn't wait for the new year to sweep that energy out of my house.

4) Stuff your wallet with 27 one dollar bills and 49 coins of any denomination! This helps me head into the new year feeling full of prosperity  and wealth and it help attract those same things in the new year.

5) Why round food? The circle of luck is never ending. So eat those good luck foods on New Year's day.

You may say it's all hogwash and I won't say it isn't, but it sure does make me feel better on January 1st knowing I didn't just sit around drinking the new year in without trying to make my life better :)

What about you? Do you follow any whacky superstitious traditions? What about superstition on New Years??


BE SURE TO CHECK BACK ON THE TWELVE DAYS OF GIVEAWAYS TO SEE IF YOU WON AND EMAIL ME (you can find my contact information at the above tab). I will not be tracking anyone down....I have to start peeling those oranges!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Twelve Days of Giveaways DAY Fourteen with LK Gardner-Griffie!

I'm very excited to end our TWELVE days of Christmas (okay. . . more like FOURTEEN DAYS!) with author LK Gardner-Griffie! Be sure to leave a comment for a free ecopy of Misfit McCabe! The winner will be announced at the end of the blog on Friday! 







A Gift Remembered

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m always up for a celebration—whether it be a step forward, overcoming a hurdle, or simply a glorious day. There’s enough in this life that is ugly and hurtful, so I want to make sure I’m searching for the bright side of things. Which also makes the holiday season special for me because there is so much to celebrate and it puts my focus back on the things that are important—friends, family, and giving to others.

Several years ago, I was given a gift I will never forget. At the time, I taught in a preschool and loved every minute. I tended to work best with the kids who had “behavior problems” so I had more than my share of the difficult kids. Kelly started late in the year. Her mom had made some wrong choices with her life, and wound up in prison, so grandma and grandpa took in the girls. Kelly was a tough little kid. She didn’t want to show emotions and she’d seen far more than a child should at the age of five. But one of the many things I loved about her was that she was her own person and she stood up for herself and her younger sister.

As Christmas approached, there was the usual frenzy of ornament making, glitter shaking, and preparing for the Christmas program. I knew Kelly would be off for the usual break time, but apparently someone forgot to tell her. The school stayed open during the break time for those parents who worked full time and weren’t able to take the time off, so I was still working, and happened to be in the office when she barreled in, grandma in her wake, even though she was “off” from school.

Apparently she wanted to give me a gift, and wouldn’t let grandma rest until she brought it in. As her grandma told me, she had no idea what Kelly had brought because she had picked it out and wrapped it herself. She thrust a package in my hands, paper wrapped ‘round and ‘round and tape here and there. She gave me a fierce hug, said “Merry Christmas” and then dashed out, not wanting to wait for me to open her gift.

Inside was a stuffed dog, plain canvas, dressed in an engineer outfit. There were a few dirt smudges, and the dog had been well-played with. Tears welled in my eyes, as they do every time I think about her gift, and as they are as I write this. This truly was a gift from her heart. The child who had trouble expressing love for others had given me something obviously special to her. As much as I love sparkly, shiny, blingy type things, this somewhat battered stuffed toy means more to me than any other. Because it reminds me of what the true spirit of Christmas is—gifts from the heart.

Have you ever received a gift from the heart? Tell me about it!!

LK Gardner-Griffie is a two-time teen choice award winning author for her Misfit McCabe series. Daughter to a rocket scientist and an artist, LK combines the traits of both into a quirky yet pragmatic writer. In addition to writing, LK holds down a full-time job with an international transportation company as a process and efficiency expert, and somewhere along the line was abducted by the Zombie Survival Crew and made Commander of the Purple Brigade. Her leisure time is spent with her husband sharing a love of music, singing, and college baseball. She writes into the night with the help of her three long-haired miniature dachshunds.

And in the spirit of giving - I have a story, Tim's Shiner, available on both Wattpad and Figment which will be part of a short story collection called Diary of a Misfit, a companion book to the Misfit McCabe series and available early 2013. I'd love for you to check it out.

Links
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Misfit McCabe Trailer
Nowhere Feels Like Home Trailer

Monday, December 24, 2012

Twelve Days of Giveaways Day THIRTEEN with Karen Cantwell!


Happy Christmas EVE and to the Thirteenth day of TWELVE Days of giveaways! Yes. . .thirteen! And I'm excited to have author Karen Cantwell take us into Christmas Day with her rendition of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas! Be sure to leave a comment to be eligible to win an ebook copy of Karen's new novel, Saturday Night Cleaver! The winner will be posted at the end of tomorrow's blog post!



'Tis the Night Before Christmas
A Barbara Marr spin on a classic

'Tis the night before Christmas, and all through the house, every creature is stirring, even the mouse (trapped in the corner by our cats Indiana Jones and Mildred Pierce).
The stockings are hung from the banister (our chimney mantle fell during the last earthquake...) with care, in hopes that Barb and Howard St. Nicholas, soon will be there.

The children simply will not go to their beds,
Six-year-old Amber is howling that she's been misled;
"You told me Santa was real!" she sings her sad song.
"But Callie just told me it's been you all along!"

"Callie!" I scream while the mouse-chasing cats clatter,
"What?" teen Callie whines. "She watches TeenNick, I didn't think it would matter."
I throw up my hands in a flash of exasperation,
And ponder the legalities of placing a teenager on probation.

Eleven-year-old Bethany shrugs and chimes in,
"I knew Santa was a sham," she says with a grin.
"When I was only three," she guffaws, "it was clear.
Come on! Who believes in flying reindeer?"

I take a deep breath, gather my thoughts very quick,
And point Bethany and Callie upstairs threatening a swift kick.
Then calming Amber down with a kiss and embrace,
Set her on my lap, and make my motherly case:

"See, Santa is real if we believe in our hearts,
And that's something that can't be measured on scales or charts.
Anything is only true, if it's true for you,
So don't listen to your sisters. They're full of doo doo."

"Now what do you say, we rescue that poor little mouse,
Then get you to bed, before Santa flies right past our house."
She smiles and sniffles and rubs her nose with her sleeve,
"That sounds real good, can we call him Steve?"

And thus is the drama in the Marr house Christmas Eve,
I hope yours goes better, doesn't cause you to grieve.
May your holiday be joyous and wondrous and bright.
Merry Christmas to all and to all, a good night!
______

Karen Cantwell is the author of the hilarious Barbara Marr Murder Mystery Series and other Barbara Marr short stories and holiday tales. Her most recent release is Saturday Night Cleaver.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Twelve Days of Giveaways DAY TWELVE with Talli Roland!


Please give a big ole WELCOME to author Talli Roland! I absolutely love her books and HUMOR! You will too!! The Holidays brings a lot of stress and NON exercise. But while with the family or if you are a writer (who doesn't take off for the holidays), it's important to stay fit and not put on those extra POUNDS!!  Be sure to leave a comment to win an ebook copy of her award winning short story MISTLETOE IN MANHATTAN! The winner will be announced at the end of tomorrow's guest post!

How to Keep Fit During the Holiday Season… Without Leaving Your Desk


The festive season is a challenging time for sedentary writers. Not only do we have deadlines to meet, but there is plenty of yummy food around to eat! To combat the threat of an ever-expanding butt, I’ve developed a handy set of exercises for writers. No need to embrace the great outdoors – or even get off your chair. Now, you too can have the svelte frame of a commuter, without the commute. Are you ready? Here we go!

The five-fingered salute. Every so often, lift your fingers from the keyboard and make a fist. Open and close your digits several times in quick succession. This is even better when performed near a window in proximity of passers-by to encourage social interaction.

March like you mean it. The ideal exercise to release any frustration when your characters just don’t behave. Sitting on a chair, lift one knee in the air and bring your foot down firmly on the ground, then do the same with your other knee. Repeat for five minutes – or as long as your downstairs neighbours will allow. When you’re finished, you won’t care anymore about your characters’ misdemeanors. You’ll only care about impending repairs needed to the floorboards.

The burning butt-clench. Designed to encourage circulation after long periods of sitting, this exercise has the added benefit of making anyone around you question your need for the loo. Sitting comfortably, lift one buttock off the chair, and clench the cheek that’s touching the surface. Hold for twenty seconds, then repeat with the other butt cheek. You should feel a burning desire never to do this exercise again.

The navel gaze. Tilt your head slowly downwards until your chin touches your chest. Hold for thirty minutes – or until you drift off. This position allows observers to believe you’re engaged in deep thought, while elongating your neck muscles. Repeat until observers get bored and depart.

So there you have it! My tried and true methods to maintaining your pre-holiday shape while keeping your manuscript moving ahead during the festive season.





Talli Roland writes fun, romantic fiction. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine). Despite training as a journalist, Talli soon found she preferred making up her own stories – complete with happy endings. Twice shortlisted for the UK’s Festival of Romance, Talli's novels have also been chosen as Amazon Customer Favourites and top books of the year by industry review websites. She’s a bestseller in Britain and the United States. To learn more about Talli, visit herAmazon Author Page, go to her website, follow her on Twitter, or check out her blog.  










Saturday, December 22, 2012

Twelve Days of Giveaways DAY ELEVEN with Stacey Joy Netzel


I'm soooo excited to feature AUTHOR STACEY JOY NETZEL on my Twelve Days of Giveaways!! This is a special blog where Stacey is paying it forward for the holidays!!! Be sure to leave a comment for you free ecopy of MISTLETOE MATCH-UP!! Be sure to go out and buy your copy or gift a copy of MISTLETOE MAGIC! The winner will be announced at the end of tomorrow's blog post!
**********************************************************************

My new author tradition is to pick one of my Christmas books and donate 100% of my December royalties from that book to someone or somewhere that could use the help. Last year I donated $300.00 from sales of Dragonfly Dreamsand this year I'll be donating much more.

This year's book is MISTLETOE MAGIC. It's Book 2 in my Romancing Wisconsin series, and since my heroine runs a no-kill animal shelter, the recipient of my Dec. royalties is a local Wisconsin shelter; Happily Ever After Animal Sanctuary, Inc

Major Mark Riley plays Court Jester to Janelle Walsh's Snow Queen at the Christmas Parade and is instantly captivated by the cute redhead whose grandpa just happens to be Santa. When Mark learns she's the tenant he evicted from his newly purchased property, it's going to take a little bit of Santa's mistletoe magic to save their romance. 

EXCERPT:

Janelle skipped down the stone steps of the main lodge Tuesday morning, Duke and Daisy on her heels. She paused to give each of the Huskies a warm greeting before continuing into the barn with a light step. She had a big day ahead of her. Regular chores, stalls to get ready for two new horses arriving after lunch, a meeting with the bank to see if her loan application had been approved, and then the present wrapping party at the school that night.

The thought of seeing Mark Riley again had secured a permanent smile on her face. She shouldn’t let herself look forward to the evening in his company so much, but a frown simply couldn’t be summoned. Even the animals sensed something was up. Her whistled Christmas carols while serving their breakfast perked lots of ears.

Including George and Jasper, the dark bays who pulled the parade wagon, there were six horses and one pony currently occupying the twenty-stall structure. The other stalls housed three llamas, one goat with four kids, a buffalo, two sheep and a skunk. A smaller shed out back housed twenty-three cats, not counting strays, with a separate section for chickens and rabbits.

She’d adopted the two huskies this past spring after Maggie passed away, and they had free reign of the property all day while enjoying the shelter of the lodge at night.

Janelle finished cleaning all the enclosures and readied the stalls for the newcomers before noon, which allowed for a short break to sit with the skunk, Rose. Someone had a sense of humor. The striped animal had come to her a few days ago and would leave by the end of the week to go to a lady in Milwaukee who ran an exotic pet rehab/rescue from her home. His previous owners had bought and de-scented him before ever checking if Wisconsin law allowed skunks for pets—which it didn’t.

In the nine years she’d worked with her friend Maggie in the animal rescue business, Janelle had never dealt with a tame skunk, but information on the internet told her she needed to show the little fella lots of love. If she’d needed to keep him longer than a week, she would’ve set him up inside the lodge with her, but for now, the stall would have to do. Apparently, skunks were like mischievous two-year-old toddlers, and she’d have to childproof the entire lodge before bringing him inside.

The curious, friendly little creature was nothing like she thought a skunk would be. Yesterday she’d removed her old winter coat only to have the little guy drag it into the pet carrier she’d provided for his den. He’d tugged and pushed until the material was stuffed inside just so, and this morning he’d been snuggled up so nice and cozy, she didn’t have the heart to reclaim the jacket.

After about an hour of playtime, the critter was tuckered out and crawled up to cuddle against her neck for a nap. His soft fur tickled her skin.

“If I had more time to spend with you, I’d keep you here little guy,” she murmured. “But things will be better for you where you’re going. You’ll get all the love you need.”

Her stomach reminded her she’d missed lunch just as the dogs started barking. Janelle set the skunk in his makeshift den and smiled at his sleepy blinks. Once she stepped outside, the dogs quieted. Her grandpa parked his truck and horse trailer next to the large double doors of the barn. Looked like she’d have to wait on lunch.

Janelle waved when her grandpa got out and fed Duke treats from his pockets. Daisy hung back at a safe distance. Butch tossed a couple treats her way while Janelle stepped up to the passenger side of the truck and opened the door. “Hi, Grandma.”

Judy Walsh climbed down from her seat. “Are you all ready for us?” 

Janelle nodded. “Yep. You look like you’re feeling much better than you were on Saturday.”

“I am, thank you. Though I hear I missed quite the show from a certain young man.”

Janelle grinned. “It was definitely entertaining.”

“And you’re seeing him again tonight?”

“Grandpa.” She scowled at Butch across the truck bed. “You don’t leave nothing out, do you?”

“Yer grandma demanded details, Janey. You know what that’s like.”

They all laughed. Indeed she did. Judy pulled her into a tight hug. “It’s about time you start dating again.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Grandma.”

“I’m not, don’t worry. However, any brother of Eric Riley’s—”

“Grandma,” Janelle cut in with a warning tone.

A loud commotion sounded from inside the trailer. Powerful hooves struck repeatedly against the back doors. Janelle faced the trailer with raised eyebrows. “Whoa.”

Judy wrapped an arm around Janelle’s waist. They walked over to join Butch by the barn entrance. “That would be Zara. She’s going to be a handful, so you’ll need to be very careful.”

“I can hear that.” Janelle didn’t mind the challenge. She was just thankful her grandmother had decided to drop the subject of her upcoming non-date.

They worked for the next half hour getting the new horses into their stalls and settled—or as settled as the little black mare, Zara, would get. Thank God for reinforced stalls. Janelle fought tears more than once at the sight of the two horses’ malnourished bodies, every rib visible even through their thick winter coats. While the chestnut thoroughbred was calm, listless even, the black mare had a spirit that refused to be broken. The scars and more recent welts on her shoulders and hindquarters told the story of how her previous owner had tried to break her. Janelle set her jaw, thinking how just once she’d like to get that person alone for five minutes.

After her grandparents left, she spent the rest of the afternoon with the horses, hoping to get them somewhat used to their new home before she had to leave for the evening. The chestnut perked up a little and ate the small amount of grain she poured in the feedbox, but the black mare stayed at the rear of the stall with her ears pinned back against her head.

“It’s okay, Zara, we’ve got plenty of time,” Janelle said softly.

~~~~~

So here’s the deal:

·         Mistletoe Mischief is FREE: Amazon, BN, Apple, ARe, Kobo, SW
·         Mistletoe Magic is just $2.99 and 100% of my December royalties for this book goes to HEA Charity: Amazon, BN, Apple, ARe, Kobo, SW
·         Mistletoe Match-Up is also just $2.99: Amazon, BN, Apple, ARe, Kobo, SW

 











Grab your copies today, or gift the books to a friend.
Better yet - do both and enjoy!


Rose says, "Thank you!"
Christmas is a season of giving; What's your favorite charity?

Stacey Joy Netzel

Website and Blog:  http://www.StaceyJoyNetzel.com


Award-winning author Stacey Joy Netzel fell in love with books at a young age, so for her the graduation to writing them was natural. An avid reader and fan of movies with a happily ever after, she is thrilled to call herself a full-time writer after 20 years as a travel agent. She writes romantic suspense, contemporary romance, and the occasional paranormal romance short story. Colorado is one of her favorite settings for her books, followed closely by Wisconsin and Italy.
She lives in her native Wisconsin with her husband and three children, a couple horses and some barn cats. In her limited free time she enjoys gardening, canning, and visiting her parents in Northeastern Wisconsin (Up North) at the family cabin on the lake.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Twelve Days of Giveaways DAY TEN with Barbara Silkstone!


Happy Friday! Today I'm excited to have mystery writer, Barbara Silkstone on our TENTH day of giveaways! Not only is she a great women's sleuth, she's funny! Be sure to leave a comment to be eligible to win a free ebook copy of her novel, London Broil!
The winner will be announced at the end of tomorrow's blog.




Marbles in the Medicine Chest

My second ex-husband or “Double-X” came equipped with a best friend, Andrew. They were two peas in a pod. Frick & Frack.  Joined at the hip. Andrew owned a chain of jewelry stores but never spent any time there. He and Double-X would water-ski eighteen hours a day using my house as a mini Club Med. Double-X and I had been married less than a year. I was still sensitive to his tender male ego and worried about making him feel less than manly by forcing him to live in my house on the bay. His friends descended on Friday and left on Sunday night. I reluctantly welcomed the gypsy troop of wandering water-skiers, but there was something slightly off with Andrew. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it.
After a particularly grueling day of sun and fun, Andrew, the jewelry store mogul, announced he had become a house painter. He placed ads, ordered business cards, and even bought himself painters’ jumpsuits for his skinny little body. And soon he had customers. I was intrigued.
It was the Sunday before Christmas. Double X, Andrew, and the gypsies were getting ready to water-ski. I sat next to Andrew on my dock. “Why did you start painting houses?” I asked. The skinny little toad looked me right in the eye and said, “People leave me alone in their homes all day while I paint. I like going through their drawers and closets. I find the most interesting things.”
I shuddered. Andrew made my skin crawl.
Now his new profession made sense. It always rankled me whenever Andrew used the potty at my house, he would always wander into the master bathroom. I’d gently suggest he use the guest bath or the powder room. It soon became a contest between us. He’d stand as if heading for the bathroom, and I’d dash to body-block my bedroom door.  
Double-X looked like a storm cloud had settled on his face when I told him what I’d learned about Andrew’s Paint & Snoop business.  “Andrew’s just joking.  He paints walls because he likes the exercise,” Double X said. I could see this chat was not going to lead to any great reformation.
I took a firm stance, “I don’t want Andrew to use our master bedroom bath. He’s snooping in my private girl stuff.  He’s looking in our medicine chest.”
Double-X puffed up to twice his size. “Andrew would never snoop. He would never look in our medicine chest. You’re paranoid.”
“We’ll see.”
The next Saturday while Andrew and Double-X were out and about setting up for a water-ski event to be held at the house, I swung into action. I purchased two bags of glass marbles…kids’ marbles. I cleared out the medicine chest, and oh so carefully filled one shelf with both bags of marbles. Shelving marbles is very challenging work. The technique takes great eye-hand coordination, a skill I lack. It took me two hours of rabid concentration along with an invention made of cardboard and two teaspoons. After countless tries, fueled by my desire to prove Andrew was snooping, I finally loaded the medicine chest with both bags of marbles.
I placed a baby monitor on the bathroom counter behind a decorative plant. The speaker end of the monitor sat on a patio coffee table in the middle of the gypsies’ drinks. No one noticed it as they sat and sipped, après-ski.
The time came for Andrew to prowl. He got up and headed to my master bedroom. I faked a blocking move so he wouldn’t get suspicious, but let him gain access to my bathroom.
Turning up the volume on the baby monitor receiver, I sat down with the guests, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. The sound of piddle, then a flush, called the gypsies to attention. They looked high, they looked low, and they looked at their drinks. They scratched their heads. Double-X frowned.
Just as all eyes zeroed in on the baby monitor speaker, one hundred glass marbles hit the granite bathroom counter with a confirming clatter.
Never underestimate a Woman Sleuth. J


Barbara Silkstone is the best-selling author of The Fractured Fairy Tales series that currently includes: The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters; Wendy and the Lost Boys; Zo White and the Seven Morphs, and London Broil. Coming soon: Cold Case Morphs.
For further giggles and a touch of true fiction try: The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men and One Woman.
Silkstone’s writing has been described as “perfectly paced and pitched – shades of Janet Evanovich and Carl Hiaasen – without seeming remotely derivative. Fast moving action that shoots from the hip with bullet-proof characterization.”

Barbara Silkstone loves to hear from her readers.
You can write to her at: barbara_silkstone@yahoo.com

Blog:  Barbara Silkstone   http://bit.ly/M2Cs7Q     
Barbara Silkstone’s Amazon Author’s page


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Twelve Days of Giveaways DAY NINE with Cheryl Shireman!


Please welcome Cheryl Shireman to the NINE DAY! Be sure to leave a comment to be eligible to win an ecopy of Cheryl's novel, COPPER MOON! The winner will be announced at the end of tomorrow's blog.

Christmas Tree Sap

There we are, my parents and me, looking for a Christmas tree. I am ten, a skinny girl with waist-length hair (rarely brushed), and all legs and arms. I’m wearing last year’s coat and the sleeves are too short. There is snow on the ground. My feet are cold because I’ve forgotten to wear my boots.
We crunch through the gas station parking lot, circling the various spruce and pine trees that they have trucked in to sell. It is Saturday morning and everyone in Northern Indiana seems to be intent on buying a tree on that particular day. My Dad is a long-distance truck driver. If we don’t buy a tree today, I know we won’t shop again until next weekend because he has a load ready to take to Shreveport. I am optimistic. We will find a tree today and it will be perfect!
We weave through the trees, looking for our tree. My dad smokes a Lucky Strike and wears his “funk cap,” a black hat made of fake leather and fake fur. It can be worn with the flaps pulled down over your ears, or with the flaps snapped up over the top of the hat. On this day, like most days, the flaps are up. For the rest of my life, when I see a hat of this type, I will think of it as a funk cap. I have no idea where that particular nickname came from, and it will not be until 2012 that I realize these hats are called trapper hats.
My mom wears the lightest of coats, unzipped, but pulled together to ward off the cold morning chill. She wears a pair of inexpensive vinyl slip on shoes she bought from G.L. Perry, no socks. To this day, I have never seen my mother wear socks. Or gloves. She always seems cold.
Bursting with holiday excitement, I bounce from tree to tree. “How about this one? This one looks good! Look at this one!” I am intent on taking a tree home, certain that we must buy a tree today. If we wait until next Saturday, all of the good ones will be taken. Or, worse yet, all of the trees will be gone! It is a recurring theme in my life.
My parents ignore me, probably knowing I just want a tree - any tree! I have very little discernment and am filled with a sense of urgency. My dad suggests driving to another gas station that might be selling trees. I immediately begin praising the closest tree. “This one is beautiful! It’s perfect! Look at this one!”
My dad pulls it away from the other trees for a better look. “It’s not bad,” he concedes.
My mother walks around the tree. “There’s a big hole in the back.”
“We could put the bad side toward the wall,” I offer. We always put the bad side toward the wall; so really, the tree only has to look good on one side.
My mom shakes her head. “No.” She always has final say on the trees. Which is probably a good thing. One year me and my dad went by ourselves to get the tree and came home with a tree only Charlie Brown could love.
We briefly look at a couple more trees and then my dad says the dreaded words, “Let’s go someplace else.”
Despondent, I move back toward the car, certain that we are making a huge mistake. I glance over my shoulder, silently apologizing to the trees that we will not take home. I wonder what happens to the trees that do not find their way into a house. I think about asking my dad, but keep quiet, deciding I’d rather not know. Before we pull out of the gas station I am hopeful again. We are onto another group of trees. Surely, we will find a tree today.
We decide on a chubby little tree at the next gas station. Riding home in the car, I am already imagining draping silver icicles over the branches.
My mom retrieves the metal Christmas tree holder out of the garage. My father trims some of the lower branches on the tree so there will be room for presents. He wrestles the tree into the metal holder, twisting the screws into the trunk to secure the tree. Invariably, every year, he will adjust the tree several times as my mother tells him, “It’s still crooked.” Eventually they will realize the trunk of the tree is crooked and settle for a slightly titled tree. He fills the tree holder with water and we all stand back to look at the tree, only slightly disheartened. It seems so much bigger in the house. It almost touches a chair on one side and blocks half of the television screen, depending on where you are sitting. It also blocks the only window in the living room.
Soon, we accept reality. It won’t be in the living room that long, and once we get the decorations on, you won’t even notice the lean. We spend the next hour putting lights and decorations on the tree. The lights are the big bulbs that used to be on trees years ago. We won’t plug them in until we are all done decorating because they get so hot they can burn your arm if you brush up against them. We use an assortment of ornaments; mostly glass ones that we have had for years. Almost every year one is dropped and broken. The remaining ornaments are a bit worse for wear, many of them scratched and faded from years of use.
I jump the gun and start draping the silver icicles on the tips of the branches before all of the ornaments are on the tree. It is a greedy move, but like I said, the icicles are my favorite part. I scoop the icicles that fall onto the floor, careful to use every one. My dad puts the star on top and then plugs in the lights. We stand back, the three of us, this little family, and survey the results. The tree is beautiful. A little crooked, donning tacky silver icicles and scratched ornaments, but truly beautiful.
Day by day, the presents will slowly appear under the tree, each adding a bit more joy. On Christmas morning I will wake extra early and rush out to the living room to find more presents from Santa. We will spend Christmas morning opening gifts next to the crooked little tree and it will be a perfect morning. So full of love and joy that you couldn’t squeeze in one more ounce.
When I have kids, we will continue the tradition, all of us decorating the tree together, all of us gathering around the tree to open presents.
Now, as I write this, my children are all grown and married. My husband and I live in an empty nest. This cold December morning I am working from our family room in the basement. I can see a Christmas tree. It is not a “real” tree. I gave up real Christmas trees very soon after I was first married. I hated the sap. I hated the pine needles that always got stuck in my socks. But, most of all, I hated the sight of that Christmas tree lying next to the road on trash day. It seemed so cold - just discarding the tree like that after it had served us so well. So, I switched to artificial trees.
From where I write (while The Christmas Story plays on the television), I can see the Red Tree. It is decorated with red and white ornaments and assorted Rudolph-themed figures. Upstairs, on the main floor, there is a twelve-foot Gold and White tree. In the dining room is the Green Tree. The Blue Tree is on the second floor. All of the trees are full sized (or bigger!). A small tree is on my kitchen counter, another small tree sits next to our living room fireplace.
If you are counting, that is six Christmas trees. My husband shakes his head in disgust, certain I am a Christmas tree hoarder. I might be.
I’m not quite sure why, but I love Christmas trees. Just walking through the Christmas section of a store can bring tears to my eyes. More than once, my husband has commented, “You’re such a sap.”
A couple of weeks ago I took my three-year-old granddaughter Christmas shopping. We bought Christmas presents for her parents. We also bought one more thing. Her first Christmas tree. She picked it out herself and chose pink ornaments to decorate it. It is a little taller than her and she loves it. I have a picture of her hugging the tree. Priceless. Together, we decorated her tree. So, now I have seven trees in my house. When she gets older, I will give the tree to her to take to her college dorm or apartment. I hope she will remember decorating it with me. I hope she will keep those memories in a special place where they will never fade. A place where Christmas is always only a few days away, presents are waiting to be opened, and family is near.

Do you have a Christmas tree tradition?


Website             http://cherylshireman.com/
Twitter                        https://twitter.com/cherylshireman
Facebook            http://www.facebook.com/cherylshireman



Cheryl is currently working on the Cooper Moon series of novels (there is a Christmas tree scene in the second book of the series!).

Cooper Moon: The Calling link - http://www.amazon.com/Cooper-Moon-The-Calling-Volume/dp/1478153652

Cooper Moon: The Temptation link - http://www.amazon.com/Cooper-Moon-Temptation-Cheryl-Shireman/dp/1625660081



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Twelve Days of Giveaways DAY EIGHT with Claude Bouchard!

This is a real TREAT today! Claude Bouchard has written an amazing cookbook with a GREAT title....but don't let it fool you! Be sure to leave a comment to win your free ebook copy of SOMETHING'S COOKING!

About the origin of Something’s Cooking: It started as a joke during an online chat with a group of writer friends as we were discussing the popularity of romance, erotica and cookbooks on some Amazon top lists. The discussion ended but the thought lingered so I figured, "Why not?" I proceeded to select ten recipes I'd made countless times before and, under the pseudonyms, Réal E. Hotte and Dasha Sugah, wrote ten corresponding faux-erotica short stories. It should be noted that each story contains explicit cooking activities which may suggest erotica but never once does anyone actually ‘get it on’. What follows is the final short story and recipe from Something’s Cooking. Bon appétit!


I Want Something Rich and Creamy to Pleasure Myself

The tall hunk walked into Monica's tiny bakery, unknowingly about to cause her heart to skip as it had so many times since he had started showing up at her fledgling business three weeks earlier.
Left speechless by his astonishing attractiveness as of his first visit, Monica had quickly ordered one of her assistants to cater to his needs. Such events had subsequently occurred time and again as this Adonis shamelessly ventured forth day after day to be served by one then another of Monica's young, attractive assistants, all of whom jumped at the chance to interact with this living legend of manhood.
Her business, being one of servicing the needs of those desiring baked goods, had quickly led her to having staff on hand to serve those seeking a warm, hot breakfast bun or croissant, then leaving for the better portion of the day during which she could handle her small kitchen solo, baking the fabulous desserts for the dinner pleasures of her late afternoon customers.
"Hello?" The rich, baritone call came as she busied herself, preparing sweet fare for her well-to-do clientele in the coming hours. She was alone. None of her staff was around to help her...
"Yes, can I help you?" Monica replied, rushing out of the kitchen to find herself face to face with Adonis and exclaiming. "Oh my God, it’s you!"
"Do I know you?" the delectable creature inquired.
"I want to know you... I'm sorry," Monica stammered. "I meant, I want, uh, how can I help you?"
"I want something rich and creamy to pleasure myself," replied Adonis in a confident tone. "Can you satisfy me?"
"Squeeeee!" Monica exclaimed before getting a grip on herself and clearing her throat. "I'll do whatever I can to satisfy your needs."
"Excellent," Adonis replied, taking in her tight, lithe form with a seductive smile. "Show me what you can do."
Wordlessly, she led him into the kitchen, guiding him to a comfortable chair by her main work station.
"You just relax, big boy," she purred, "And I'll show you exactly what I can do..."
As he watched her, she proceeded to melt her butter and stir it up, somewhat vigorously, with Graham cracker crumbs and sugar. He licked his lips as she laid the mixture in a pan, pressing it firmly before sliding it into her hot oven.
"Ohh, baby," he murmured.
"Sshhhh," she replied with a teasing smile. "You ain't seen nothing yet."
He watched her, fascinated, as she pulled a large bowl towards her across the counter. Awed by her technique, he gazed upon her as she further softened the already warmed cream cheese then, with the mixer, started slowly blending it with flour and salt.
"What's your name, woman?" he demanded hoarsely.
"Shut your mouth," she commanded with a knowing swing of her hips. "Watch and learn, big man."
Excited and stimulated by his voyeurism, she proceeded to slide in an egg yolk at a time, increasing the speed as she went. Hearing his breathing accelerating as he observed her, she gradually added cream, sugar and vanilla.
"You're killing me, doll," he moaned.
"You want it rich and creamy, baby?" she cooed. "Then let Monica do her thing until it's like you want it."
He groaned as she beat the egg whites into stiff peaks then slowly folded them into the creamy cheese mixture.
“Faster,” he begged.
“It’s much better slow,” she teased. “Watch this.”
Raising her dripping beaters out of her mixing bowl, she grasped it with both hands and let her rich batter ooze onto her golden Graham crust.
"Monica, I just can’t take it anymore," he pleaded as he watched her glistening body working before him.
"Just a couple more hours, sugar," she soothed. "This is going in my hot oven while I whip up a glaze to make it nice and sweet for my man."


Recipe: Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 16 oz cream cheese (softened)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup 15% cream

Makin’ it

  • Mix Graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar (2 tbsp).
  • Layer in bottom of spring pan or Pyrex dish and bake at 350F for 10 minutes.
  • With a mixer, blend cream cheese, flour and salt.
  • Continue mixing while adding egg yolks, one at a time.
  • Still mixing, gradually add cream then sugar and vanilla.
  • Once mixture is smooth, beat egg whites until stiff, firm peaks form.
  • Fold in egg whites into cheese mixture.
  • Pour into Graham crust lined pan or dish and bake 1 hour at 325F.
  • Remove from oven and let cool.

Fruit Glaze

Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/2 cups strawberries (can be substituted with any other berry, pineapple chunks, kiwi, etc)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Makin’ it

  • Mash/purée 1/2 cup fruit.
  • Combine with 1/4 cup water and sugar in pot.
  • Bring to a boil on medium heat an cook 15 minutes stirring constantly.
  • Mix cornstarch with 1/4 cup cold water.
  • Stir into hot mixture and continue cooking/stirring until thickened.
  • Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Mix in remaining fruit.
  • Pour and spread glaze on cheesecake.

Refrigerate until serving.


I was born in MontrealCanada, where I still reside with my spouse, Joanne. I completed my studies in human resources, accounting and management at McGill University and worked in various management capacities in the fields of HR and finance for a handful of firms for what seemed like decades, because it was. I should also mention I love pizza, but who doesn't and, in my opinion, nothing rocks more than cooking on the grill.

My first stab at writing was in 1995, the result being my first novel, Vigilante. This was subsequently followed by The Consultant (1996) and Mind Games (1997), all of the same series.

Professional obligations and other creative interests led me away from writing for a number of years but I found myself busy at the keyboard in 2009 with The Homeless Killer after having finally published my first three novels. I then followed up with 6 Hours 42 Minutes in 2011, also part of the VIGILANTE Series born from Vigilante. In July 2011, I released ASYLUM, my first stand-alone novel and Discreet Activities, my sixth VIGILANTE Series crime thriller was published in January 2012. In October 2012, I penned and released Something’s Cooking, a faux-erotica parody and cookbook under the pseudonyms Ré
al E. Hotte and Dasha Sugah. I think I'm really starting to like this writing thing.

Besides writing, editing and promoting my work, I also spend some artistic energy with my five guitars, oil paints and watercolours. Other passions include cooking (big time with fine wine to go with it, of course), reading, traveling and working out just enough to stay fit. It should also be noted that following several years of practice, I now excel at being cat furniture for Krystalle and Midnight, or so they tell me.

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