Let’s Read Holiday Books!

I love to write–and read– Christmas stories. I’m going to list a few that I’ve enjoyed recently, along with my new one, which I’m so thrilled to say received a lovely review from Library Journal!

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I’m working like mad to meet a deadline before the birth of my new grandbaby, so hopefully I’ll be able to share some photos in a week or two. Please feel free to add your holiday reading suggestions in the comments. I’m always looking for new books and authors.

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MONTANA SECRET SANTA, Bk III Love at the Chocolate Shop, Tule Publishing

KINDLE: http://littl.ink/MTSSAmazon

NOOK: http://littl.ink/MTSSBN

iBOOKS: http://littl.ink/MTSSIB

KOBO: http://littl.ink/MTSSKobo

GooglePLAY: http://littl.ink/MTSSPlay 

AMAZONAU: http://littl.ink/MTSSAZAU

AMAZONCA: http://littl.ink/MTSSAZCA

AMAZONUK: http://littl.ink/MTSSAZUK

start reading for FREE: http://littl.ink/MTSSTule


Other great holiday reads, including Dani Collin’s delightful:

Free! Don’t miss out. Click image.

I love all of Jane Porter’s holiday stories, especially this one:

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And don’t miss this wonderful new release from Jean Brashear:

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Click on image for Amazon link to 99¢ special sale, for a short time only!

Happy reading, my friends. See you next Friday…with a new baby in my arms, I hope.

Deb

 

 

 

Holidays on the go?

In case you haven’t heard, Christmas is TWO weeks from TODAY!!

Eek! Lucky for me, this year we’ll be sticking close to home. But that isn’t always the case.

Growing up, I can’t remember ever going anywhere for Christmas. My parents, who owned a taxicab company, celebrated by not taking any taxi calls during the three hours that we spent opening gifts on Christmas morning. In my husband’s family, his parents packed all five boys into the station wagon and drove to Grandma Salonen’s tiny house in a tiny town forty-five miles away. When we ran across some old photos of that time I was amazed to see Grandma’s TV on while there were opening gifts. The Munsters were invited to Christmas? Who knew?

old xmas at grandma

My husband and I try to mix things up. We’ve done the mega-family thing at my late brother’s house. Once, we took our two then-teens to San Diego for four days before Christmas and drove home on Christmas Day. I’ve heard them tell people it was the most memorable Christmas of all, but sometimes, you can’t beat the simple, quiet gathering at home.

Xmas at home

Since our grandchildren arrived, we’ve done the traditional celebrations, as well as a few exceptions. Five years ago, we rented a house on the coast in Aptos, CA. No tree or mantel for the stockings, but we improvised. And Santa found us! We also enjoyed sand, redwoods, beach bikes and games in front of the fire…we all took home a lot of great memories from that one.

xmas on the go Malte

But not everyone has those kinds of memories. The hero of my new book, MONTANA MIRACLE, has set December 25 as his deadline to bid goodbye to his old home. He fully expects his last glimpse of Paradise, Montana, to be in his rearview mirror. He’s headed somewhere warm and completely new in the hopes of creating unique memories to replace the many painful ones. He’s fixing on celebrating with margaritas instead of eggnog…until he meets a very determined pastor who isn’t about to let him turn his back on Christmas.

Welcome to Paradise

Where is your favorite holiday memory located? I’d love to hear. Hope this year’s holiday–wherever it is–shapes up to be one of your best!

Cheers,

Deb

PS: LAST CHANCE TO ENTER THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS Holiday Quiz at Goodreads. Take the quiz (I did really poorly) and you’ll be entered to win 12 books– one from each of the participating authors. How fun is that? Winner will be announced on 12/15. ENTER

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Christmas Music

images-3 I have a love-hate relationship with holiday music. I love certain songs, but hate others–particularly the songs that get played over and over and over and…you know what I mean. If the barking dogs begin to bark Jingle Bells, I run out of the store. If Grandma even comes close to getting run over by a reindeer, I have to leave the room. Same with Alvin and the Chipmunks singing anything, several versions of Santa Baby and most anything by Mannheim Steamroller (saturated my brain in the 1980s).

But I love making Playlists for my books, and I had a lot of fun with the one for HER FOREVER GIFT, including a stroll down memory lane. (Anybody remember Dolly Parton’s Best Little Whorehouse in Texas?)

Here’s the link: PLAYLIST. I don’t seem to be able to make my YouTube embedding function work. Sorry.

What’s your favorite holiday song? By the way, HER FOREVER GIFT is finally FREE on all platforms. Amazon * Kobo * BN  * iTunes

The system failed him, but she never would.

The system failed him, but she never would.

It’s short, sweet and heartwarming. If you read it and enjoy it, I’d so appreciate your kind review (reviews are vital for Amazon and for procuring advertising). Have a great weekend. And enjoy the music of the season.

Deb

12 books of Christmas

Good merry Friday to you all!

We put up our tree last Sunday and unboxed all the holiday “stuff” we’ve collected over the years. That includes books.

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I have two traditions that I started when my children were babies: a new ornament (usually dated) for each child and one new Christmas book for the family.

Many of those dated ornaments went to each child when they started decorating their own Christmas trees, but, coincidentally, they started having children so I could continue both traditions with my grands.

Storybroads blog 12514 tree

This year, as I watched my granddaughters exclaim over the treasured, well-remembered ornaments, which I let them hang on the tree while I sat back and watched–what a treat!–I felt a pang of bittersweet awareness of time passing. Soon, I’d be boxing up their dated ornaments to give them to hang on trees of their own.

The books provide an interesting dilemma of their own. The girls are turning into avid readers. The books I’ve accumulated since my eldest granddaughter’s birth eleven years ago were age-appropriate at the time. They’re still sweet and charming, but some are too young (I will save them for my newest grandbaby who is scheduled to arrive early next year). I need to step up to a new level of holiday book–and I don’t have any idea what to pick.

Can you suggest any holiday books in the 7-12 year range?

Do you have holiday traditions that you’ve seen change and adapt to your family’s needs?

I’d love to hear from you. I’ll pick two names to receive an e-copy of my sweet holiday novella, MY CHRISTMAS ANGEL.

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Christmas with the Cat (Lynn Kerstan)

Unlike many people, I have no family members or good friends living close by. So in this holiday season, it’s me and Monsieur le Comte de Sevigny. Don’t imagine I’m  deprived or abandoned. I have many good friends, most of them writers like me. They stay in contact (God Bless E-Mail), and my goodest buddies send me large helpings of the World’s Tastiest Pecans. I don’t know what Pat Potter does to make them so crunchy and tasty and wondrous, although I suspect much butter is called for in the recipe. Okay, I know that for a fact.

For my part, I’m brewing a new batch of limoncello to share with my excellent neighbors. When I travel, Thea takes great care of my kittycat. Her husband is the dog walker (lucky Shredder and Petey, both adopted from the local abandoned pets shelter), and John therefore needs a regular supply of baggies for dog poop.That’s my function in this life: save bags for . . . well, you know.

I wanted to get a good picture of my Christmas tree, which brings me a lot of pleasure. During my years of travel, I have collected ornaments from many places in the world, and it brings me joy to remember those voyages. But Sony’s Play Memories Home (the only way to download the pictures) just screws everything up. According to HP, where I bought this computer, it won’t work with Canon cameras, either. Not compatible, they told me . . . after I bought the computer and the camera. I think companies should inform potential buyers of devices incompatible with their products before we lay down our money.

Oh, well. Sunny skies here, temperature in the 70′s, happy tourists enjoying the beach until they dip their toes in the icy water. I’ll be glad when the holidays are over so I can resume my long, healthy walks at the Zoo. Gotta get myself into good shape for the next travel adventure.

Love to you all, whatever you celebrate at this time of year.

 

 

 

‘Tis the Season (Anne Stuart)

It’s Christmas.  My favorite time of year, I have to admit.  I’ve tried to restrain myself — I only made my fifth Christmas quilt, crocheted Christmas hair ties. dug out the Christmas purse I made, sewed a new tree skirt for my son’s family, strung popcorn, made two kinds of cookies and two kinds of pumpkin bread with my 6 year old grandson.  Yesterday.  (Well, not the quilt yesterday — that’s been a long time in the making — but everything else, and I was exhausted last night.  But happy.

Of course the floor is now littered with popcorn and polar fleece and the kitchen is a disaster zone.  And I have to brave the ice and do a major job of shopping.  But I can do it.  I am Christmas Woman, hear me roar.

I’ve decided the best way to deal with Christmas is pull a kind of zen-like calm around me.  My daughter isn’t coming home this year (first time she hasn’t been with us as Christmas), my extended family is dead.  But my son, his fiancee and my grandson will be here, and there’ll be a granddaughter in April, and that’s the best possible thing.  I’m a happy camper.

I had three good books come out this year, along with reprints of some of my favorite books, and that will continue into the new year (the reprints).  And my brain is already bubbling with new ideas, including finally taking care of Emma and Brandon Rohan.

So all is calm, all is bright.  I’m going to celebrate this year without dwelling on what I don’t have, and get my butt to church on Christmas Eve come snowstorm or ice storm (the things that have stopped me the last two weeks).

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and I hope you can treasure what you have without feeling too overwhelmed by all the things you have to do.  Do what you can and leave the rest.  Happiness is lowered expectations.

Enjoy!

My Pre-Christmas Weekend (Lynn Kerstan)

Stuff is dangling from my cat tree. Same kind of stuff that’s hanging from a real tree that shows up here now and again.

It’s been raining all day, something one can rarely say about San Diego. No exercise walk in the Zoo for me, alas.

But I’m still floating on air after a wonderful weekend. On Friday, I had a long, luxurious, delicious lunch, seasoned with the company of two friends I’ve treasured since high school (the Academy of Our Lady of Peace), from which we graduated together. After that, all three of us entered the convent. Dottie and I joined the Sisters of St. Joseph (who taught at the school), and Diane went to the Carmelites. I only lasted two and a half years, fearful they’d assign me to teach second grade. Dottie, (who did get assigned to second grade for a time) remained twenty-four years. During those years, she earned a doctorate in psychology and after leaving the religious order, went into private practice. I’m not sure how long Diane remained a nun. On exiting, she married and gave birth to several children and is a grandma many times over. She’s also a gifted artist and great fun to be with.

I can’t remember when I’ve laughed so much as I did at that lunch, which lasted several hours. Late that afternoon, I drove in rush-hour traffic to the University of San Diego, my alma mater, where I joined a sing-along of Handel’s Messiah.

The following Monday, I shopped for ingredients to make a salad that is always popular at a pot-luck lunch or supper. That evening, the Writers Group I’ve belonged to for many years continued my good times. Smart people, writers or the spouses of writers, gathered for a really fun evening. Two of them are professional musicians and brought their guitars for some entertainment. Not long after, I was singing one of my favorite songs from my distant past as a singer: House of the Rising Sun. I am now semi-tempted to drag out my guitar and suffer the pain of playing it without calluses on my fingertips. I helped pay my expenses in grad school by plucking and singing, but that was decades ago.  I don’t even remember how to tune a guitar. But I have a friend who can help me.

Sorry for the lack of pictures. I’m having problems with Picasa and can boast all the technical expertise of a raisin. And whatever you celebrate this time of year, I wish every one of you a glorious end to 2013

Bonus recipe for a luscious, healthy Broccoli-Cauliflower salad: Chop the broc and cauliflower in big and little pieces. Add walnuts, raisins or craisins, and crumbled , crispy bacon (optional). Toss with dressing (make it ahead of time): 1 cup mayo, 1 half cup sugar, 2 tsp white vinegar. It’s really tasty and healthy and a big success everywhere I take it for a party.

Happy holidays, everyone!

 

Manic Monday (Anne Stuart)

Where have I been, you ask with a yawn?  Writing madly.  I had to finished the third book of my trilogy for Montlake.  This one is NEVER MARRY A VISCOUNT and it’s nothing but fun and sex (what else could you ask for?).  But man, I’ve been working my ass off writing it.

Books are funny — each one demands you write it a certain one.  Sometimes they want to be written longhand with a fountain pen and purple ink.  Sometimes they want marathon stints at the computer.  Sometimes they want you outside, near water, sometimes in your office, sometimes at the library or Starbucks, sometimes hidden up your bedroom.  And there’s no fighting it.  The words just don’t come easily unless you listen to the Girls in the Basement.  (Though I’m thinking of renaming my muse. In truth, my muse is probably male, tall and dangerous.  That’s what makes me write.)

This book wanted to be written in my office at surprising short stints.  Short but steady.  I needed to get in there and write about 5 pages a day (when I’m working hard and on a roll I used to do 10 to 15 pages a day and even more).  I just wrote at a leisurely pace, every day, and the story kept showing up.  I even cut back on my usual insane marathon when I finished the book (thought I did write 16,500 words in two days.  Still, that’s not much for me on the day that I finish a book).

Now I’m working on the revisions and being leisurely about that.  Fortunately the book doesn’t come out until September, so there’s plenty of time, but I’m interested to see what the next book will demand.  If it wants a Starbucks I’m in trouble — it’s 65 miles away.  If it wants the library it’s only open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and then from ten to four, which doesn’t coincide with my usual writing time (which is first thing in the morning after email and checking what new books are out in audio).

But the good thing is, I don’t have to face a deadline until the new year.  Next week the whole family is going to Disney World (we’re staying at the Animal Kingdom) and we’ll celebrate my birthday, my daughter’s upcoming graduation after ten years in college (please, God), and the approaching arrival of my granddaughter, Alison (named after my late sister).  And we get to take my grandson for the first time (he’s six)!   It should be fabulous.

If anyone has any recommendations let me know.  We’re staying a week, taking it easy and enjoying ourselves, with no need to rush anywhere.  It’s going o be glorious, and it’ll be our Christmas (the eternal college student will go back to S.F. and stay there for Christmas).

So pass on any Disney ideas.  I guess I get to celebrate finishing a book as well.  Wouldn’t it be glorious if I could take a trip every time I finishing a book?

‘Tis the Season To Be Jolly (Anne Stuart)

Yeah, I know I’ve been erratic in my posting. That’s because, my children, I suffer from the Big D. Depression. I’ve had a perfect cocktail of anti-depressants the last few years — they got me through my sister’s death and my husband’s heart attack without collapsing, and I’ve been able to soldier on pretty well through the last few years of financial stress. But my mother’s death did me in, and I’ve been moaning and weeping and wandering around, unable to work. I’ve been a mess.
I’m beginning to see the light again, but being in the season of jolly can make things difficult. Everyone’s ‘ho ho hoing’ and I’m weeping.
Not bah humbug, though. I adore Christmas, everything about it. It’s the season of light returning to darkness (in almost every tradition) and I need the light to return to my darkness. I want joy to the world, I want to deck the halls.
I gotta be patient. I’m seeing glimmers of cheer through all the gloom, though I spent a lot of time sobbing yesterday and the day before. I’ve got a million things to do, and while a few of them are fun, lots of them are pure stress.
So I have tasks set before me:
1. Do the things I enjoy
2. Don’t do the things I think I “must” do (at least in terms of the holiday). This means only bake if I want to, shop if I want to, clean if I want to. People can find there way around the mess.
3. Try to move outside myself. Go to church (I’m an uber-liberal protestant but a believer) and look at the bigger picture. Do things to help other people instead of worrying so much about my mood.
4. In fact, don’t think about how bad I feel. It’s a given — ignore it.
5. Write a holiday story so I can totally immerse myself in the season. I really really love Christmas, and I hate the thought of losing it while things are tough. If I can go into a fictional world that isn’t contracted I can remember why I love writing and why I love Christmas.

Any of you feeling the blues? I know people don’t tend to talk about clinical depression, but hell, I talk about anything I feel like talking about. I don’t have much of a filter.

So I’m going to do my best to feel jolly. If any of you have any hints, please pass ‘em along.

I’ll let you know how I’m doing next week.

2011 Wind-Down (Maggie)

Do I look stressed to you? This is me, Christmas shopping!

It’s December 1st, for crying out loud!  And it should be a time of winding down.  Does it feel to you like a time of winding down? No, not to me either. More like a time of “OMG, the year’s almost over, and look at all this stuff I need to get done before it is!” But it is a time of waning. The days are waning shorter, we’re already in the period of greatest darkness, which is inherently a slower, quieter time. And though we, as a culture, seem to have decided to fill what should be our slowing down time with hustle-bustle holidays, in a lot of ways, we can embrace the real energy of the season. The energy of slowing, of easing, of reflecting.

I have as much to do as anyone before the holidays. My tree isn’t yet up, decorations aren’t quite finished, shopping isn’t quite done (maybe half). I have a short-short (60 pages or so) prequel to write and a new proposal to tweak a bit over the next week or so. And then I need to begin on the next book, and somehow have it finished by February.

And yet, I’m easing. No, I am not making this up. Yes, you can find some ease too. Here are my tips for easing on down the holiday road. (See how I worked two songs into line? I know, clever, right? Thank you.)

Tips for finding time to bask in December:

1. Find a short (10 minute) guided meditation, or make your own instrumental play list that does it for you,

Here's what I wear to run errands

and put it on the computer, smartphone or tablet that’s closest to you at work. Keep a good set of headphones nearby as well. Then, when you have a short break, pop those headphones on and hit play. Block out the world and give yourself the gift of ten minutes of bliss.

2. Do as much of your shopping online as you possibly can. I do almost all of it that way. Feet up, warm cocoa mug in my hands, wrapped in my Snuggy cocoon, click, click, done. (That’s another song, sort of.)

3. Treat your body like the temple it is by exercising it. Nothing gets rid of stress like a brisk walk/run/skip/jog outdoors. When you can’t get out, hit the treadmill inside. Or pop in a video and dance to the oldies. No, mall walking doesn’t count. It’s stress-full, not stress-free.

4. Wrap gifts a few a day, so you don’t have an all out wrapping frenzy at the end.

5. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT get all out of sorts with people who can’t comply with your schedule of holiday gatherings. And do not get all out of sorts with yourself for not being able to comply with all of theirs. Go where you can, stay until you feel like leaving, leak love from every pore, and no one will be mad at you. (And if anyone is, do not let it bother you.)

5. Grab an extra box of chocolates or basket of fruit for emergency gifts. If you don’t need them, you can use them yourself, but if you do, boy will you be glad you have them!

6. Give yourself permission to be as giddy as a kid. Catch that holiday spirit. Wear your Santa hat or reindeer antlers to the grocery store. Play the John Denver and the Muppets Christmas CD in your car and sing along at the top of your lungs. You cannot be stressed out while shouting “Run Run Reindeer!” along with Animal. Can you?

Relax. It doesn’t have to be perfect, never has been, never will be. It’s just supposed to be fun. Strive for that, not perfection and you’ll enjoy your holidays so much more!

Most of all, let yourself ease into the flow of the rhythms of winter. Go to bed earlier. Snuggle more. Rest more. Celebrate more. Relish more. Enjoy more. Love more.

Remember, no matter your faith, this season is about the promise that even in the midst of what seems to be darkness and death, light and life are being reborn. That promise will never be broken. So relax in the knowing of it, and let that knowing warm your heart.

Click for my favorite holiday treat!