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Friday, December 30, 2011

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Diane Davis White

Diane Davis White talks about Giving the Christmas Spirit by Keeping the Foster Children of Pine Ridge Warm through the winter!

Hello to all, and happy holidays!

As usual, my blog concerns the children of Pine Ridge Reservation, and this holiday will see many foster children without heat and barely enough winter clothing to go around. I'm hoping to appeal to you all to reach just a bit deeper into your pockets, open your hearts, and give something to help these little ones. They are right here, in the center of the United States of America, still the wealthiest country in the world, yet they are living in 3rd world conditions. Below is a link you can use if you wish to help. And I hope you all do something...even one little candle helps light the darkness.


If you get a chance, stop by and check out my Lakota Moon Series. You'll be introduced to the Lakota way of life, in some small measure, and romance in large doses. Diane Davis White writes historical and contemporary books, and the occasional bit of whimsical fantasy. She has been writing in some capacity since she was old enough to hold a pencil, and her wild imagination was encouraged by her family and close friends.

Now widowed, Diane lives in the South Central Plains and thrives on tales of the old west, Native American Lore being a favorite. Her books are inspired by her late husband whose Chickasaw heritage fascinates her.

Diane not only writes, but she also creates her own book covers and has recently started a small book video business. Stop by and check out her websites and blogs: Leave a comment for the chance to win your choice of download from the Lakota Moon series.

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Vijaya Schartz


by Vijaya Schartz

When you live in Arizona, like me, stories of the Border Patrol abound in the news. Most of those stories are sad and dramatic, a few are humorous. All of them make me think. You see, born in France, I am a legal green card holder, so I understand what it’s like to go through the red tape of immigration. The topic is controversial.

I’m not afraid of controversy. In my stories, however, I stay away from politics to consider only the human factor, the emotional factor, and emotions run high when the stakes are high.

As I researched my novella on many government sites, inquiring about what kind of weapons the officers carried on border patrol, I realized Big Brother was probably watching me, wondering if I was planning something nefarious. I just wanted to get my facts straight. In the story they are, except that I wrote this in 2008, and a few things have changed since then. Still, smugglers run the border every night with drugs, arms, and people, despite sophisticated surveillance and patrols.But after doing all that research, I asked myself what if... What if one of the girls smuggled from Mexico was about to give birth on Christmas eve? What if a group of terrorists planned an attack on the Palo Verde nuclear facility on Christmas day? What if my Border Patrol agent was a rookie, and a woman? What if her partner was corrupt? What if an FBI agent had infiltrated the smugglers’ ring and a big operation was about to come down on Christmas morning?

All my stories have an international flair, and most of my heroines carry weapons, whether blasters, guns, or swords. This one carries a Beretta and a knife in her boot, and she keeps a Glock in the jeep. Yet, as in life, a story wouldn’t be complete without romance. This one is unlikely at first, but become more believable as we learn more about what’s really happening. Some call it romantic suspense, some call it action romance. I just call it A DESPERADO FOR CHRISTMAS.

One of the commenters on this blog will win a pdf version of this story, but if you can’t wait, you can download it for 99 cents in any eBook format at Smashwords at:

Find Vijaya’s other stories at


Vijaya's eBooks at ARe:

Vijaya's Nook bookss at:

Vijaya's books at Smashwords:

Rookie Border Patrol Agent Kaitlin Harrington hates Christmas and all men, since her lover jilted her and she lost her unborn child on Christmas Eve. This year, as she guards the Mexican border in southern Arizona, she encounters more than she can handle. No amount of training prepared Kaitlin to arrest the gorgeous desperado who challenges her. His name is Miguel, a human smuggler fascinated by the green eyes of the feisty auburn-haired beauty bent on impeding his important work. But Miguel is a man of many secrets. On this dangerous adventure through the Arizona desert, anything can and will happen.

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Christine DePetrillo

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…To Be a Cookie
By Christine DePetrillo

Sugar, check. Butter, check. Eggs, check. Chocolate, check. Coconut, check. Rum, check…The list of ingredients is endless, but it’s one of my favorite lists to make.

‘Tis the season for holiday cookies!Every year, I tell myself to cut back. To just make a few different kinds of cookies. To not fill the platters to overflowing.

Every year, I can’t do it. I comb through the recipes and find all sorts of reasons to include specific cookies. So-and-so loves this cookie. It just won’t be the same without that cookie. How could I leave any cookie out of the festivities? It’s simple. I can’t. Here are a few of my favorite holiday cookies that I make every year:

Let’s start with the biscotti. A true cookie of heritage, no holiday cookie platter can call itself Italian with out this treat. I make mine with cranberries and dip half of each cookie in chocolate to add a little variation in texture and taste. I love stirring and soaking up tea with biscotti just to soften things up a bit.

Snowballs, or butterballs as some folks call them, are a great cookie to use for their ability to be popped right into your mouth anytime, anywhere. Sure you get powdered sugar all over yourself, but isn’t it worth the trouble for the buttery goodness, the sweet perfection? I think it is.

To me, macaroons add some class to a cookie tray. The way the coconut gets slightly golden on the lacey edges always makes me want to put on some fancy clothes and go for a waltz. Drizzling thin lines of melted chocolate over the bundled coconut really makes the macaroons look sophisticated.

Snickerdoodles. Well, “snickerdoodles” is just a fun word to say.

Snickerdoodles. Go ahead. You say it. Snickerdoodles. Bet you can’t say it without chuckling, and who doesn’t love a good, Santa-quality, belly laugh during the holidays? I put pure Vermont maple sugar from a company that taps my maple trees in my snickerdoodles (and yes, I’m going to type “snickerdoodles” at least three more times before this paragraph is done, so deal with it). Snickerdoodles are best served with a cold glass of milk, or is it a glass of cold milk? Hmm. Snickerdoodles. I heart snickerdoodles.

Finally, we come to the “adult” cookie on the tray—the rum ball. A holiday kitchen only gets merrier with Captain Morgan in attendance. He’s sexy, he’s devilish, and he makes a cookie every pirate would willingly turn over his loot for a taste. I roll mine in chopped peanuts, coconut, or chocolate sprinkles to offer an assortment of flavor pairings. Snickerdoodle. (Ha! I snuck that one in.)

So, I’m sure this year will be no different than last. I will once again make my ingredients shopping list. I will spend unnecessary amounts of money on said ingredients and trays and plastic wrap and ribbon and gift tags. I will bake, bake, bake until my kitchen floor as a permanent sheen of butter on it. I will inevitably slap my husband’s hand away from snatching samples, and I will love every wonderful moment of it.

The hero of my January Wild Rose Press release, ABRA CADAVER, is offered cookies by the heroine’s mother. Unfortunately, he is unable to eat them or anything else for that matter. I don’t think I’d last very long in his shoes.

Holly Brimmer never expected to be brought back from the dead. After a fatal car crash, a mysterious stranger gives her a second chance at life—but it comes with a price. To stay alive she must pay it forward, accomplish an important deed, thus making her mark in the world. Until she does, her savior is bound to her. Now she has a backyard full of dead bodies and one unwanted houseguest.

Keane Malson kills bad guys to keep the innocent alive, but he’s still a monster. Cursed by a witch moments before an honorable death on the battlefield, he’s lived thousands of years, roaming from place to place with no end in sight. It’s a lonely life…until he meets Holly. When a wanted man targets Holly, Keane will do anything to protect her, even if it’s the last thing he ever does.

About the Author:
Christine DePetrillo spends her days teaching children to love reading and writing and her nights writing about happily ever afters. She fell in love with writing the first time she held a crayon in her hand and realized the blank wall in her bedroom was full of possibilities. Since then, she has been mystified by the magic of words and enjoys playing with them every chance she gets. Visit me at or friend me on Facebook. You can also read my posts on the 4th and 14th of each month at the Roses of Prose blog at

Comment here today with the name of your favorite Christmas cookie, or anything else you’d like to say, and be entered to win a free e-copy of any one of my books, winner’s choice.Happy Cookie Eating!Christine DePetrillo

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Meg Benjamin

Card Bored

The first Christmas cards I did as a newlywed were handwritten. No kidding. I wrote a personal note on every one of those suckers, and I went on doing it for several years after that until kids and job got in the way.

That’s when I succumbed to the lure of the Christmas letter.I’ve been doing Christmas letters for a long time now, since the nineties at least. When I taught desktop publishing, I had access to super neat software and graphics, along with a high quality laser printer, so I could produce some pretty slick-looking letters. Now it’s not quite so easy, but I’m still stuck with doing them.

The problem is that I set the bar pretty high those first few years. I wanted to make up for the fact that I wasn’t writing the cards by hand anymore. So I set it up as a newspaper and I spent a lot of time trying to come up with witty ways of saying “Not much new here, what’s new with you?” along with unusual clip art that I’d scanned in at school.

For a while I even enjoyed doing it, but now, well, not so much.Given my choice, I admit I’d sort of like to skip the whole thing. Between email and cell phones, I’m a lot more in touch with friends and relations than I used to be. If I can’t skip the whole process altogether, I’d love to go digital too. But we have a number of elderly relatives who would be mortally offended if they didn’t get a physical Christmas card in the mail, complete with newsletter. And since I see some of them at Christmas time, I’d hear all about that mortal offense, believe me.So here I am, once again poised at the computer, trying to think of something halfway clever to say about the past year.

It’s not that 2011 wasn’t fun, it’s just that, well, it’s not much fun to write about. And I don’t do graphics anymore—instead I content myself with flashy type.Oh well, if nothing else, I’m helping the USPS pay down its deficit. And who knows, maybe some day I’ll be the one grumping about those young whippersnappers who never remember to send their Christmas cards on time. Only I’ll be checking my email, not trudging to the snail mail box in the snow.

About the Author: Meg Benjamin is the author of the Konigsburg series for Samhain Publishing. Book #3, Be My Baby, won a 2011 EPIC Award for Contemporary Romance. Book #4, Long Time Gone, received the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Indie Press Romance. Book #5, Brand New Me, was a Long and Short Reviews Best Book. Meg lives in Colorado with her DH and two rather large Maine coon kitties (well, partly Maine Coon anyway). Her Web site is You can follow her on Facebook (, and Twitter ( Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for Don't Forget Me, Meg's latest Konigsburg book.

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Margo Hoornstra

How Winter Stirs the Senses

Winter is a great season for our senses, providing all sorts of ideas and impressions. Thoughts of freezing temperatures and barren landscapes suggest discomfort and desolation. Picture a solitary figure out on a cold, dark night.

Winter scenes can easily depict nature’s beauty, snow falling at twilight, quiet winds whispering over a blanket of snow, chilly snowflakes dissolved on warm tongues. Or serve as launch pads for recreation and fun. Children laughing in a playful exchange of snowballs, building ice forts and snow angels.

Imagine skaters on an outdoor rink. Razor sharp blades cut the ice as players clash in hockey. Or maneuver the smooth, intricate grace of a figure skater’s dance moves and spins.

Consider too what’s happening outside provides contrast for what goes on inside, making the imaginary transition from icy cold to toasty warm that much stronger. Sitting beside a blazing fire, nestling under soft, cozy blankets, the sweet aroma as steaming hot chocolate melts marshmallows.

The cold temperatures of winter is a theme which runs through Glad Tidings, my holiday e-book from The Wild Rose Press website, which is also available at and

In the following quotes, cold plays a big part in the story.

When forever friends and soon to be lovers Jake and Bethany are first reunited.

A frigid blast of air dive bombed down his neck and under his suit coat. He put an arm around her shoulders as they stopped in response to a Don’t Walk sign on the opposite side of the street.

When two children they’ve come to care about have disappeared and Jake desperately searches for them.

Jake’s mouth was dry and his face was numb, yet his palms soaked the inside of his leather gloves with sweat. He’d lost feeling in each toe a while ago and the rest of him ached from the ruthless lash of a bitter wind. The abrupt drop in an already record setting low temperature flash-froze the slushy streets into skating rinks.

And would do worse to the fragile skin of a child.

The relief when he finds them hiding.

He dove inside to gather them to him then, helping first one then the other back up onto the dock, he soon had Tina clutched in one arm with Zeke under the other. The key card he fished out of his pocket fit into a metal case beside the door. At the opening click, he hit the handle with his backside and pulled them all into blessed warmth.

And last, the couple’s oblivion to all things cold and snowy as Bethany accepts her love for Jake at last.

The intrusion of another frigid winter breeze should have chilled her to the core, but didn’t. Standing face to face with the man she loved, basking in the warmth of his devotion, her heart opened up to release unhappy memories of Brian and make room for a joy filled future with Jake.

As the snow flies and the temperature plummets: Be good to yourself, snuggle up with a little romance.

About the Author:I have what could be called a happily ever after type of life. I’ve also lived through some here and there exceptional experiences and adversities. The characters in my stories are much the same, in some cases entering the next phase of successful careers and lives. They’re everyday people who have slowed down, paused to smell the roses, who understand at long last what’s important for them in life. A journey all of us must take to our own happily ever after.

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a PDF file of Glad Tidings and a $10.00 gift card to

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Kelly Jamieson

I’ve told this story before but I think it’s worth sharing again because it makes me smile and even get a little teary and helps us all remember what the holiday season is really all about.

Every year at my work the various departments gather food and toys for hampers that are delivered to needy families for the holidays. We get the names of families from the Christmas Cheer Board in our city.

One department put together a beautiful hamper with toys for the three children ages 2, 4, and 7. Every staff member donated their $25 gift certificate for Safeway, which they all receive as a gift from the union here. One of the staff, Brad, had spoken to the mother and arranged delivery. Brad and Dave loaded up Brad’s car and delivered the hamper.

They carried in boxes of food and gifts for the children, making several trips. The children were ecstatic that they were receiving gifts this Christmas, and Brad and Dave felt really good – until they left the home. Then Dave said to Brad, “That lady didn’t speak much English. Didn’t you talk to her on the phone?” Brad replied, “Yes.” Then he paused. “And she spoke perfect English.” They looked at each other, then checked the address they had. To their horror, they realized they had just delivered the hamper to the wrong family!

They didn’t know what to do, but after reflecting and realizing that there was another family still expecting the hamper to be delivered, and the toys had been purchased with those three specific children in mind, they went back into the house. They explained that they’d made a mistake. They actually had to take one of the toys back from a child’s hands, pack things up and take it away. They felt just terrible and the family was distressed, too. What an awful Christmas story!
But wait – it gets better!

When Brad and Dave got back to the office, they told everyone what had happened. The story spread through the building and within an hour, donations started pouring in for another hamper – without being asked, every other department chipped in more food and toys and gift certificates, even another Christmas card was found.
So Brad and Dave returned to the first house later that day and delivered another generous hamper to the family, who were overwhelmed and grateful after the earlier disappointment!

The way everyone immediately jumped in and donated things and helped put it together without even being asked left us all with a very warm, joyful feeling. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Kelly Jamieson is the author of over twenty romance novels and novellas. Her writing has been described as “emotionally complex”, “sweet and satisfying” and “blisteringly sexy”. If she can stop herself from reading or writing, she loves to cook. She has shelves of cookbooks that she reads at length. She also enjoys gardening in the summer, and in the winter she likes to read gardening magazines and seed catalogues (there might be a theme here...) She also loves shopping, especially for clothes and shoes. She loves hearing from readers, so please visit her website at or contact her at

Tell us a Christmas memory you have and be entered into a drawing for a download of All I Want for Christmas.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Paty Jager

Kissing under the Mistletoe

Mistletoe is one of the traditions of the Christmas Season. But did you know—

Mistletoe is an evergreen. The traditions of displaying evergreens at Christmas came about as a way to bring color and the green hope of spring into the home.

This plant however is a parasitic shrub. It grows on trees, living off the host plant. They are not full parasites, since the plants are capable of photosynthesis. But these mistletoe plants are parasitic in the sense that they send a special kind of root system down into their hosts, the trees upon which they grow, in order to extract nutrients from the trees.

Mistletoe has long been regarded as an aphrodisiac and fertility herb. It may also possess abortifacient qualities, which would help explain its association with uninhibited sexuality.

The unusual botanical history of mistletoe goes a long way towards explaining the awe in which it was held in the Norse myths. For in spite of not being rooted in the soil, mistletoe remained green throughout the winter, while the trees upon which it grew and upon which it fed did not (the European mistletoe often grows on apple trees; more rarely on oaks). This little plant remaining green while the host plant died fascinated the unscientific masses.

The folklore, and the magical powers of this plant, spread through the centuries It was thought placing a sprig in a baby's cradle would protect the child from faeries. Giving a sprig to the first cow calving after New Year would protect the entire herd.

Ancient Scandinavia and the Norse mythology is where the tale of kissing und the mistletoe started. It was considered a plant of peace in Scandinavian history. If enemies found themselves under mistletoe in the forest they laid down their weapons and called a truce until the next day.

Most say kissing under the mistletoe is an English custom even though there is a story that dates back to Norse mythology. It is about an overprotective mother.

The Norse god Balder was the best loved of all the gods. His mother was Frigga, goddess of love and beauty. She loved her son so much that she wanted to make sure no harm would come to him. So she went through the world, securing promises from everything that sprang from the four elements--fire, water, air, and earth--that they would not harm her beloved Balder.

Leave it to Loki, a sly, evil spirit, to find the loophole. The loophole was mistletoe. He made an arrow from its wood. To make the prank even nastier, he took the arrow to Hoder, Balder's brother, who was blind. Guiding Holder's hand, Loki directed the arrow at Balder's heart, and he fell dead.

Frigga's tears became the mistletoe's white berries. In the version of the story with a happy ending, Balder is restored to life, and Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the reputation of the offending plant--making it a symbol of love and promising to bestow a kiss upon anyone who passes under it.

Is hanging mistletoe a tradition in your family?

My holiday gift to readers is a free novella that can be downloaded from Kindle, Nook. Ibook or Smashwords until January 1st. Christmas Redemption is a western historical romance novella.

Wife, mother, grandmother, and the one who cleans pens and delivers the hay; award winning author Paty Jager and her husband currently farm 350 acres when not dashing around visiting their children and grandchildren. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

Paty Jager is a member of RWA, EPIC, WW, and COWG. Romance publisher Wild Rose Press has published soon to be ten books and a short story. She is venturing into the new world of self-publishing ebooks. She edited for an e-publisher for four and a half years and teaches workshops at conferences, writers meetings, and online.

Her contemporary Western, Perfectly Good Nanny, won the 2008 Eppie for Best Contemporary Romance and Spirit of the Mountain, a historical paranormal set among the Nez Perce, garnered 1st place in the paranormal category of the Lories Best Published Book Contest.

You can learn more about her at her; her website: or on Facebook:!/paty.jager and Twitter: @patyjag.

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Angie Fox

Bethany: Is your house on fire, Clark?

Clark: No, Aunt Bethany. Those are the Christmas lights.

I can't tell you how excited I am that the holiday season is here - I love the lights, the decorations and especially putting up the tree (taking it down is another matter). And so begins the annual Fox family debate - what kind of tree to get.

My husband grew up in an "artificial tree" family. He believes in economy - grab that puppy from the basement, have it up in under a half hour, maybe spray some pine-scent and start decorating.

If only it could be so simple.

For, you see, I tend to channel the spirit of Clark Griswold during the holiday season. And worse, I come from a real tree family. And not just a "tree lot" tree family - my dad had us out early the weekend after Thanksgiving, hoofing it across massive Christmas tree forests, looking for the perfect one. We'd spent all morning walking - and goofing around - but all in search of the not-too-tall, not-too-short, no-bald-spots, does-it-have-the-right-kind-of-needles, long-enough-trunk, my-brother-did-NOT-see-it-first masterpiece of a tree. We'd take turns chopping it down and then my dad would haul it back out of the woods.

The first year we were married, I tried to re-create this tradition with my husband, the spray-on pine scent guy. He was cautiously optimistic. I picked the wrong tree farm. It was literally a long field flanked by other people's backyards. He laughed. And finally, I did too. It was fun. The tree was pretty. And we vowed ... next year would be spectacular.

Then we had one kiddo, and two. My husband began to point out ads for artificial trees - on sale! (Yeah, I'm a sucker for a sale.) But, no. While I'm not going to channel Clark Griswold to the point of dashing out to the woods with two small children and a hack saw, I still need a real tree.

So we head to the lot up at church. My husband talks with the guys, we all pick out a tree and it's just as pretty as the ones we dragged home years ago. But day...I'm going to get these people back out into the woods.

Now what about you? Are you an "artificial tree" person or a "real tree" person? One lucky commenter wins a copy of A Tale of Two Demon Slayers.

Angie Fox is the New York Times bestselling author of several books about vampires, werewolves and things that go bump in the night. Visit Angie at

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Jana Richards

Home for Christmas

I shouldn’t be here. I should be home with my family.

Sarah pushed her cart down the endless hospital corridor, stopping at each patient’s room to distribute medications. The clock at the nurses’ station read 10 a.m. By this time, even her youngest sister Michelle would have dragged herself out of bed to open her Christmas presents. Mom would have been up for hours, of course, stuffing the turkey and getting everything just right for the big family dinner. By noon, her aunts and uncles and cousins would arrive bearing gifts of sweets and other foods. Grandma would tie an apron around her waist and mash potatoes until they were as smooth and frothy as freshly whipped cream and just as tasty.

And she’d miss all of it.

Sarah tried to push away the resentment and loneliness but they persisted, nagging at her like a toothache. As a newly minted registered nurse and low man on the totem pole on her ward, she’d had no choice but to work over Christmas. The other nurses commiserated, but were unwilling to trade shifts. Get used to it, they told her. We’ve all been through it. This is the job you’ve chosen, and it means that at times you’ll have to work when you’d rather be somewhere else.

Easy for them to say, Sarah thought bitterly. They could go home after work and be with their families. They could still celebrate Christmas with their loved ones. Her family was six hundred kilometers away. By the time she arrived at her parents’ home on December 28, all the presents would be opened, the turkey eaten, the relatives gone home.

Homesickness settled in her heart, creating a painful lump in her chest.

She pushed the cart into room 203 and checked her charts; Mrs. Grant was in her seventies and had just had a right hip replacement. She required medication for pain and high blood pressure. She’d had a difficult time the last few days. Immediately after surgery she’d been plagued with a stubborn infection. They’d just gotten the infection under control when she fell trying to get to the washroom on her own, reinjuring her hip and increasing her pain and recovery time. Sarah felt sorry for her; Mrs. Grant probably didn’t want to be in the hospital anymore than she did.

Sarah was surprised to see a small potted Christmas tree adorned with tiny red bows on the stand next to Mrs. Grant’s bed. “Have a holly, jolly Christmas” boomed from a portable stereo. Her patient smiled brightly from under her furry Santa hat.
“Hello, Sarah! Merry Christmas!”

Despite herself, Sarah smiled. “Hello, Mrs. Grant. You’re looking very cheery today.”

“Of course I am. It’s Christmas Day.”

Sarah poured a glass of water and handed her the pills. “Where did you get the little tree from? It’s cute.”

“I ordered it from the florist. Had to do something to put some Christmas spirit into this place. I got some chocolates for visitors, too. ” Mrs. Grant gestured to the windowsill beside her bed to a large, open box of chocolates. “Help yourself.”

Sarah selected a chocolate covered maraschino cherry, her favorite. “Hmm. Delicious. Thank you. That’s a big box. Are you expecting lots of visitors today?”

“No, not really. A lot of the folks in my seniors’ complex don’t drive anymore so they won’t be coming over. And besides, most will be with their families today.”

“What about your family? They must be missing you.”

Mrs. Grant gave a wistful smile. “My husband and I weren’t able to have children of our own. We have three nieces and two nephews but they all live out of town. Ralph died three years ago so I’m on my own now.”

Sarah’s sympathy must have shown on her face. Mrs. Grant wagged her finger. “Now, don’t start feeling sorry for me. I have lots of friends at the seniors’ complex and my nieces and nephews are like my own children. I’ll admit that being in the hospital over Christmas isn’t ideal, but Christmas is what you make of it, isn’t it?”

Sarah suddenly felt ashamed. She’d done nothing but whine and feel sorry for herself for missing Christmas day with her family. This likely wouldn’t be the last holiday she’d be separated from them. Like Mrs. Grant said, she needed to make the best of it. Maybe she could start with an attitude adjustment.

“Yes, you’re right, Christmas is what you make of it. Can I borrow your hat for a while?”

Mrs. Grant handed it to her. “Of course. What do you plan to do with it?”

Sarah popped it on her head. “Spread a little cheer, I hope. Merry Christmas, Mrs. Grant.”

“Merry Christmas, Sarah.”

She pushed her cart down the corridor once more, her heart a little lighter. “Ho, ho, ho, everyone! Merry Christmas! Here comes Nurse Santa! Merry Christmas!”

About the Author: Jana Richards has tried her hand at many writing projects over the years, from magazine articles and short stories to full-length paranormal suspense and romantic comedy. She loves to create characters with a sense of humor, but also a serious side. She believes there’s nothing more interesting then peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick.

When not writing up a storm, working at her day job as an Office Administrator, or dealing with ever present mountains of laundry, Jana can be found on the local golf course pursuing her newest hobby.

Jana lives in Western Canada with her husband Warren, and a highly spoiled Pug/Terrier cross named Lou. You can reach her through her website at

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a download of The Girl Most Likely

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Sophia Knightly

Hi, I'm Sophia Knightly. I wrote SOLD ON YOU, a romantic comedy set during Christmas, because it's my favorite holiday. Today, I'll choose a random guest to receive a FREE ebook copy of SOLD ON YOU. To be eligible, please post a comment about what you look forward to most during the holidays.

I'll start the ball rolling...I most look forward to spending time with my family, cooking, laughing and eating homemade delicious treats. When my daughters are home for Christmas, we bake cookies and make Italian rum balls together as we watch classic movies on TCM -- one of our favorites is "Meet Me In ST. Louis". On Christmas Eve, we make homemade gnocchi and braciole. Our version of Italian braciole is made with a butterflied pork tenderloin that is filled with garlic, parsly, grated cheese, pine nuts and golden raisins and rolled up. It is then simmered in a tomato sauce until it is very tender. Mmm, delicious!

What do you most look forward to during the holidays? Post here for all to enjoy!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Stacey Joy Netzel


A couple years ago, once the gift giving became nothing more than exchanging gift cards, our family stopped exchanging gifts at Christmas and began donating to local shelters and associations of our choice. I don't say charity because I don't look at it as charity. We've been blessed with a healthy family and truly have what we need to be happy, so we knew it was time to give to others who might need a little help. There may come a day we're that family, but for now, we are happy to help where we can.

My Christmas novella Dragonfly Dreams is a story all about the true Spirit of Christmas and in that spirit, I'm donating all my author profits from this book for the month of December to family friends who can use a little help.

Let me introduce you to the White Family, and share what they're going through in Becky's own words.

Becky, Bob, Kayden, Karder, and Kamden

The onset of Lyme Disease has changed our lives dramatically. I never knew very much about Lyme Disease until my family was diagnosed with it. What has Lyme Disease done to our lives?? Some of our daily symptoms due to Lyme consist of; migraines, anxiety, dizziness, blurred vision, joint pain, sensitivity to light, fatigue, heart palpitations, jaw pain, burning in extremities and so on.

Lyme Disease has not only affected our family physically, it has affected us financially as well. Lyme Disease needs aggressive, ongoing treatment. Majority of Lyme treatment and testing for Lyme Disease is expensive and not covered by Insurance.

We as a family are daily trying to educate ourselves on Lyme Disease. If it hadn't been for our own research, we might not have ever figured out what was wrong with us. Our Hopes and Dreams from this point on are to not only be a healthy, energetic family again, but to also educate others about this horrible disease.
Thank you to Bob and Becky for helping to spread the word about this disease. You will help others to a more speedy diagnosis, and hopefully soon your family will be healthy again! I can't imagine my kids having to deal with those symptoms and how helpless I'd feel not being able to relieve their pain.

My goal is to sell 250 copies of Dragonfly Dreams, which would allow me to donate $500. I can't do this alone and need your help!

So I’m asking you to:

1. Please pick up a copy of Dragonfly Dreams for just $2.99. I know it's an over-used cliche, but that's less than a large latte at the local coffee shop, or a Big Mac, or you get the picture...

2. Know someone with an ereader or a smart phone? Gift them a copy via Amazon or Barnes & Noble using the button "Give as a Gift" under the buy button.

3. Please spread the word via email to any of your friends who might do the same, and post on your blog, FB, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.

All we need is 250 people to buy just one copy! That's nothing when you think about how many readers are out there! I have a running tab on the top right side of my blog so everyone can see where we're at for the month.

Don't have an ereader? You can still help!

Even if you don’t have an ereader, you can still read the book on your computer, Smart phone, or tablet. Amazon Kindle and BN Nook have free PC applications that can be downloaded on the computer and other devices so you can read ebooks. Smashwords has the PDF file that also can be read directly on your computer.

So, what's the book about, you ask?? Here's the blurb.

Can a family connection to the ill-fated Titanic bring new hope to sinking dreams?

With his antique shop on the brink of bankruptcy, Jake Coburn knows he shouldn’t buy costume jewelry at a price that won’t turn a profit. Then again, it’s Christmas, and he hasn’t been able to say no to Loral Evan’s since the first time she entered his shop.

Desperation is what drives Loral Evans to sell precious family heirlooms, but Jake’s offer of one thousand dollars for a dragonfly brooch she knows is fake stings her pride. If only she could afford to walk away from the handsome antique dealer.

During a season of giving, Loral learns there’s a big difference between pride and dignity, and Jake’s determination to do the right thing brings rewards beyond what either of them ever dreamed of.

Where can you get the book?? Click a link...

Amazon, BN, Smashwords, ARe, Breakthrough Bookstore

(Smashwords offers the ebook in formats for Kobo, Sony, iBooks, and other devices.)

Also, if the title sounds familiar to some of you, yes this is the same Christmas novella I released four years ago with TWRP. (Nominated at LASR for Best Short eBook 2007) I’ve re-edited, added an epilogue, and had a beautiful new cover designed. A second read might just be worth it and you can help out at the same time.

On the other hand, I also realize that times are tough for everyone, so at the very least, some “Likes” and tags on Amazon and/or Barnes and Noble would be greatly appreciated, too. What does that do? It increases the book's visibility so hopefully more readers can find it online and purchase a copy.

Lastly, I ask you to keep the White's and their extended family ~ my cousin Jimmy, my aunt, uncle, and other cousins in the Tiemann Family ~ in your prayers for hope and comfort.

If you have someone you would like added to our prayers, leave a comment with their name. We may not know each other, but additional people praying loved one's names is always a good thing.

Thank you all very much for your help and Merry Christmas!

I’ll give away 3 copies of Dragonfly Dreams today (because every sale counts toward the goal!), so make sure to leave a comment with your contact information.

Stacey Joy Netzel

Wisconsin native Stacey Joy Netzel fell in love with books at a young age, so for her the graduation to writing them was natural. A member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and Wisconsin Romance Writers (WisRWA), she credits her parents for encouraging her dreams of becoming a published author, as well as the very talented friends she’s made in WisRWA since joining in 2004. Her books have received numerous 5 Star reviews from reviewers and readers alike, and her Christmas anthology, MISTLETOE RULES, took 1st place in WisRWA's 2010 Write Touch Readers' Award. Check out her romantic suspense Colorado Trust Series, Trust in the Lawe, Shattered trust, and Shadowed Trust. Other titles include: Lost In Italy, Ditched Again, Welcome to Redemption Series, Chasin’ Mason, Dragonfly Dreams, If Tombstones Could Talk.

An avid reader and big fan of movies with happy endings, Stacey lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three children, a couple horses and some barn cats. She works part-time as a travel agent, and in her limited free time she enjoys gardening, canning, and visiting her parents in Northeastern Wisconsin (Up North) at their cabin on the lake.

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Margay Leah Justice

It’s Not the Holiday, It’s How You Celebrate It
By Margay Leah Justice

This time of year as we celebrate Thanksgiving with Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday shopping and are constantly barraged by special deals and holiday cheer, we often get so caught up in the commercialization of the holiday that we tend to forget what it’s all about. I admit I go into panic mode the first time I see a holiday-themed commercial on TV and start worrying about all the things that are yet to be done – who doesn’t? With this store telling you they can give you a deal on that and that program telling you what is the Must Have gift of the season, it’s so easy to get so caught up in the Must Have-Buy Now for less mentality of the season that your nerves end up in a bundle to rival that of the Christmas tree lights you just had to keep from last year to save on the cost this year. And what do we do with those lights? Toss them in the trash and buy new ones because they’re just not worth the effort to unravel them and, ultimately, one of them is not going to work anyhow, which throws the rest off. But what do we do when we take the tree down after New Year’s? Bundle the lights away with the ornaments to put back on the tree next year, you know, to save a little money.

Next year: Push Play and repeat on your Holidays-Make-Me-Crazy recorder.

Lost in the brightly-colored wrappings, perky bows, tinsel and mistletoe is the message of the holiday season. We are so caught up in the process of getting the perfect gift at the best price to give to the most deserving at the gathering to beat every other gathering that came before that we forget one simple fact. The holiday isn’t about how much money you save – or spend – or how well you decorate or plan a gathering. It’s about how you actually celebrate the day. It’s about the people you surround yourself with when you pass on the traditions that were passed on to you. Do you think Mary and Joseph were worried about how the manger looked when all of those people came to visit after the birth of their son? Did Mary have to leave Thanksgiving dinner early to go stand in line at the local Best Buy until it opened on Black Friday so she could get a killer deal on a iPad? So why do we? When did this holiday season become all about getting the best gift for or from someone and not about why we celebrate it in the first place?

For me, one of the best memories I have about Christmas happened during one of the most trying times in my life. I found myself without a home, so I was living in a hotel room with my two young daughters as we waited for a spot to open up in a local shelter. We didn’t have much of anything then – certainly not enough to celebrate the holiday – but we got through it with the help of strangers who donated gifts to us. But what made this day really special was how my older daughter (who was about 11 at the time) made our Christmas tree. She drew it – on notebook paper. Not just one piece, but several, each piece containing a part of the tree. Then she aligned them all together, like a puzzle, and taped the whole to the wall. We didn’t have much, but we did have the spirit of the season and it took my young daughter to remind me of what it truly means to celebrate the season. Now, some years later, as I find myself in difficult circumstances again, my daughters both remind me that it’s not about the gifts that are exchanged on that day. It’s about the people whom you choose to spend the day with – they are the true gifts of the season. Of every season.

About the Author: Descended from the same bloodline that spawned the likes of James Russell, Amy and Robert Lowell, Margay Leah Justice was fated to be a writer herself from a young age. But even before she knew that there was a name for what she was doing, she knew one thing: She had a deep and unconditional love for the written word. A love that would challenge her in times of need, abandon her in times of distress, and rediscover her in times of hope. Through her writing, Margay has learned to cope with every curve ball life has thrown her, including the challenges of single parenting, the harsh realities of living in a shelter, coping with the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, and the roller coaster ride of dealing with a child who suffers from bipolar disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. But along the way she has rediscovered the amazing power of words.

Margay currently lives in Massachusetts with her two daughters, two cats, and a myriad of characters who vie for her attention and demand that their own stories be told.

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a download of Sloane Wolf.

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Meg Bellamy

A Touch of Chanukah by Meg Bellamy

Homecoming, my contemporary romance from The Wild Rose Press, concludes with a big, happy Christmas celebration for Julie and Dan. Glenys, Julie’s New York roommate, adores Christmas and goes all out to celebrate. A big part of the specialness of Christmas this year for Glenys is meeting Steve, a guy who will bring a touch of Chanukah to her holidays in the future.

Chanukah, which is also known as the Feast of Lights, is a celebration that often coincides with Christmas, as it will in 2011, lasting from December 21st to the 28th. As with Christmas and New Year, the holiday begins the evening before the day of, so people celebrating Chanukah will light the first candle after sundown December 20th. The dates vary in different years because they’re based on the Hebrew calendar, which is lunar (our standard calendar in solar). Chanukah (which can be spelled several different ways) can start as early as Thanksgiving or, as in this year, as late as very close to Christmas.

Celebrating Chanukah is pretty simple, so Glenys won’t be too challenged when she adds another step to her already hectic Christmas preparations. Every night of the eight Chanukah “eves”, she and Steve will light their special Chanukah menorah which has holders for eight candles plus a “helper” called the shamesh. On the first night, they’ll light the shamesh, which they’ll use to light the first candle. On each subsequent night, they’ll add another candle until the eighth night, when the light from the menorah is at its the brightest.

If Glenys wants to prepare special Chanukah food for Steve, she’ll make him latkes, yummy potato pancakes to be served with applesauce and/or sour cream (or she may buy frozen ones or use a mix if she’s really pressed for time). Jelly doughnuts called sufganiyot and chocolate coins are other holiday treats. As to gifts each night—Glenys and Steve will have to work that one out. Usually, though, it’s only the kids who get a gift each night, as it’s the kids who play with the dreidel, a spinning top that’s the main Chanukah toy.

Glenys loves holidays and she loves Steve. She’s up to her elbows in recipes for latkes and is currently shopping for a menorah as they prepare to celebrate their first holiday season together. They, along with Julie and Dan, join me in wishing you the happiest of holidays and a wonderful New Year.

About the Author: Along with her husband, her family and her books, language is Meg’s passion. In fact, by day she’s a mild-mannered language teacher. Currently she teaches ESL (English as a Second Language) to international students, but in her early teaching days, her main subject was French. Though her French is a bit rusty these days, she figures a trip to France would help fix that. She’s also studied Russian, Spanish and Italian. This love of language spills over into her writing craft and appreciation for books.—and travel!

Meg gets to satisfy the travel bug with trips to England—as often as possible!— to visit her son, daughter-in-law and grandsons. It’s great when Lee, her DH, also goes because driving on the left side of the road doesn’t intimidate him—talk about your basic hero type! Meg also has to travel to see her daughter, who lives in New Jersey—a mere continent away from Meg’s home in Northern California.

Being a published member of the community of writers with her contemporary romances and women’s fiction is the fulfillment of one of Meg’s most cherished dreams. Her first Meg release, Homecoming, was released this year by The Wild Rose Press.

Please leave a comment for the chance to win a download of Homecoming.

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Jennie Marsland

Boston’s Christmas Tree

Every Christmas tree is special, but the magnificent evergreen that glitters each year in Boston’s Prudential Plaza is unique. It’s a holiday symbol with a deeper meaning, a special gift in remembrance of help provided in a time of desperate need many years ago.

The year was 1917, and much of the world was at war. North along the Atlantic coast from Boston, the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, bustled with activity as convoys bound for Europe with troops and supplies prepared for the dangerous crossing. Traffic on Halifax Harbour had never been so busy. All vessels had to come and go during daylight hours, as submarine nets were drawn across the Harbour’s mouth at night. Amid the bustle, the city looked forward to Christmas. The economy was booming and the shops were full of festive goods to cheer yet another wartime holiday.

On the morning of December 6th, as men set off for work and children made their way to school, two ships collided in the Harbour. One of them, the French vessel Mont Blanc, was fully loaded with explosives – TNT, picric acid, airplane fuel and gun cotton. The collision sparked a fire. Knowing their deadly cargo, the crew of Mont Blanc took to the lifeboats and left the ship to drift into a pier in Halifax’s industrial North End. At 9:04 am Mont Blanc detonated in what is still the largest non-natural, non-atomic explosion in recorded history.

The North End was devastated. Homes and businesses were blown away, and ships touched bottom as the Harbour parted with the force of the blast. Over a thousand people were killed instantly and a thousand more died later of their injuries, but horrific as the loss of life was, it would have been much worse but for the bravery of Vince Coleman, a railway telegraph operator who sacrificed his life to send a warning message to an oncoming train. Thanks to Coleman, the whole world quickly got word of the disaster. Response was overwhelming, especially from the state of Massachusetts, where so many Nova Scotians had family ties.

Within a day, a train loaded with relief supplies, doctors and nurses set out for the stricken city. They relieved Halifax’s exhausted medical personnel and remained to provide aid and distribute supplies until the casualties had been cared for and aid began to arrive from other sources. There is no doubt that without the help provided by Massachusetts, one of the worst disasters of the twentieth century would have caused even more hardship and suffering.

Nova Scotia has not forgotten. And so, every year, we send a carefully chosen, towering tree to “the Boston States” to stand in Prudential Plaza, a reminder that kinship and generosity know no borders.

About the Author:Jennie Marsland is a teacher, a painter, a musician and, for most of her life, a writer. She fell in love with words at a very early age and the affair has been life-long. She enjoys writing songs and poetry as well as fiction.

Jennie is a history buff as well as an unashamed romantic. Glimpses of the past spark her imagination, and she believes in happily ever after. A resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the last thirty years, she lives with her husband, their cat Emily and their outrageously spoiled Duck-Tolling Retrievers, Chance and Echo.
Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a download of Shattered.

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Frances Pauli

Holiday Indulgence

One of the things I love the most about writing holiday romances is that I can engage in a little bit of personal indulgence. Rather like the chocolate truffles I allow myself to sneak this time of year, my holiday stories tend to be somewhat self-soothing.

I’m not sure why, to be honest, but something about holiday romance really appeals to me. Perhaps it’s all the comfort and joy already filling the atmosphere, but it seems like you just can’t be too sweet at this time of year. You can’t be too merry, or too joyous or have too much fantasy. You can really go for it on the holiday magic, and it works.

People expect enormous happily ever afters at Christmas. They expect tears of joy, miraculous reunions, wonderful lives. Delivering that feels good any time of year, but at the holidays it just spills over to my own warm and fuzzy feelings as well.

If it’s truly better to give than to receive, (which holds true of anything except chocolate, really) then perhaps giving a little sparkle of Christmas joy to my characters, readers, and yes, myself, isn’t such a bad thing. All I know is I can’t stop. Like those truffles, writing holiday magic is addictive. It stirs up all the mystery and magic that Christmas held for me as a child and makes the holiday feel special again, like anything can happen. Because in a Christmas romance, of course, anything can.

Thank heavens. Ring the bells, light the candles and get ready for romance with all the tinsel and trim. I get holly jolly just thinking about it.

Thanks for having me,

Frances writes speculative fiction and romance for Mundania Press, Awe-Struck and Devine Destinies. Her holiday romance, Twelve Dances, involves nutcrackers, oboes and a healthy dose of happily ever after. She's offering a copy of the e-book to one lucky visitor today. Leave a comment to enter.

Twelve Dances
by Frances Pauli

Some dreams are too good to be true. Is Clara’s too true to be good?

When Clara adds a brand new nutcracker to her favorite Christmas collection, she immediately starts having vivid, recurring dreams about her twelve wooden princes. As the holiday nears, her infatuation with the new nutcracker grows into a flirtation that sets the rest of the little soldiers against her. Dancing through an impossibly real battle in her sleep and dodging her infuriating family during the day, Clara’s holidays take a spin toward disaster. If she can survive both and make it to Christmas Eve in one piece, will Clara get to dance with the one prince she actually wants? And even if she does, what happens when the holiday passes, and the nutcrackers are packed away for another year?

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: P.R. Mason

What would your favorite characters be doing for Christmas?
By: P.R. Mason

For me, some literary characters are so vivid they live in my head for days, months and even years after I've read a novel. Recently, while re-reading my favorite J.K. Rowling book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it occurred to me to wonder how Voldemort—pre-final demise,of course—would spend Christmas Eve. My bet is that he would decorate a giant spruce with glass ornaments of Harry's face which he would then blast into smithereens one-by-one with a wave of his wand. He'd probably also be casting a cruciatus curse on anyone who didn't agree the holiday should be renamed Voldemas.

How about Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice? Sadly, he probably wouldn't be swimming semi-naked in the pond at Pemberley as Colin Firth did in the BBC version of the book since the English weather at this time of year would be prohibitive. But I can picture a pre-humbled Darcy attending a country-dance near Longbourne and turning up his nose at the informality of the occasion, the rustically shabby nature of the decorations, and the boisterousness of the celebrating company. Of course, the post-humbled Darcy would be enjoying a family Christmas with Elizabeth and the Bingleys. He'd probably be sitting cross-legged on the floor, quite enjoying the informality of playing with the children.

Katniss from Hunger Games—if the holiday existed in her dystopian world—would probably spend Christmas Eve hunting for enough food to feed her family and as many others in the village that she could manage.

Prince Leopold, the villain of my novel Entanglements, was the son of Queen Victoria. A failed medical procedure, intended to cure his hemophilia, accidentally transformed him into a vampire. But that doesn't mean he wouldn't want to celebrate Christmas. The prince views himself as extremely civilized and dedicated to duty. So his Christmas would be traditional. He'd be relaxing near a roaring fire in the ornate drawing room of his palace, admiring the decorated Tannenbaum and sipping a warm drink. Of course, his drink would be mulled blood instead of wine. And we probably wouldn't want to know about the ingredients of the pudding.

The heroine of Entanglements, Kizzy, a teen who has been devastated by a family tragedy and accidentally opens a vortex to an alternate dimension, would probably refuse to celebrate Christmas at all. Kizzy wouldn't see anything about her world she'd want to celebrate. That's her attitude as the novel opens, but by the end...Well, I hope you'll read Entanglements and see for yourself.

Barnes and Noble:

What about your favorite characters? What do you think they'd be doing for Christmas? Post a comment and be entered to win a free copy ebook copy of Entanglements in the format of your choosing.

Author bio: P.R. Mason writes steamy contemporary and paranormal romance under the name Patricia Mason and young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy as P.R. Mason. She escaped from the snowy Midwest winters of her youth by moving to Savannah, Georgia, where her home is ruled by two black cats. For more titles by the author, visit You can also follow the author @prmason on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Elaine Cantrell

Christmas Kisses

Clint took a step closer to her. Goodness, why hadn’t she noticed how warm the room was behind that curtain? She didn’t like being so close to him either, but for some reason she didn’t move away.

“Look above your head,” he said.

Rachel looked up and saw a sprig of mistletoe tied to a ceiling fan with a long piece of red yarn.

“That’s mistletoe, Rachel.”

“So? I imagine the high school kids tied it there so they could steal kisses.”

Why do we do it? Kiss people under the mistletoe, I mean. We don’t kiss people under holly or ivy or any other plant I can think of, so why mistletoe? Actually, there are a lot of reasons why.

Since ancient times, mistletoe figured prominently in European folklore. The ancient Druids considered it to be a sacred plant. They thought it could cure illness, serve as an antidote to poisons, and protect you against witches. People often hung it from the ceiling to prevent witches or evil spirits from entering the house. Better yet, mistletoe was thought to be an aphrodisiac.

Kissing under the mistletoe comes from traditions in several different places. The Greeks loved mistletoe. They used it in all their festival and weddings. If a couple who were in love exchanged a kiss under the mistletoe, it was the same thing as a proposal. It also predicted happiness for the couple.

The Anglo-Saxons associated mistletoe with Freya, the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. According to their tradition, a man had to kiss any girl he found standing under the mistletoe which hung from the ceiling. Every time a man kissed her, he took a berry from the bunch. When the last berry vanished, the kissing had to stop.

In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace. If two enemies met under the mistletoe, they had to declare a truce until the next day. This applied to warring spouses too.

It’s also interesting to know how the plant got its name. People noticed that mistletoe often grew where birds had pooped on tree branches. Mistel is the Anglo-Saxon word for dung, and tan is the word for twig, so mistletoe really means dung on a twig. (Too much information?)

Be careful not to eat mistletoe, though. Contrary to what the Druids believed it isn’t a cure for disease, and people have been known to get really sick from eating it or drinking mistletoe tea. However, nobody ever died from a kiss under the mistletoe, so kiss away!

There isn’t any mistletoe in my new Christmas release The Table in the Window, but let’s have a drawing for a copy anyway. Leave a comment, and I’ll toss your name in the hat. If I draw your name, you win. The book is a short novella and can be bought at Astraea Press or at

Oh, in case you’re wondering, the little snippet at the top of the article is from my yet-to-be released novel The Sentence.

About the Author: Elaine Cantrell was born and raised in South Carolina. She holds a Master’s Degree in Personnel Services from Clemson University and is a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary sorority for women educators. She is also a member of Romance Writers of America and EPIC authors. Her first novel, A New Leaf, was the 2003 winner of the Timeless Love Contest and was published in 2004 by Oak Tree Books. At present she teaches high school social studies. She spends her spare time collecting vintage Christmas ornaments, reading, and playing with her grandchildren.

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Anne Holly

Snow, Bison, Aurora Borealis and Other Northern Delights by Anne Holly

I grew up on a steady diet of Western romances – the scrub of Texas, the mountains of Montana, the wilds of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, the Dakotas, even Oregon once or twice. It seemed in the romance world of my youth, you could be one of a few things – a cowboy in the West, a business man in the East, or a British/Greek/Australian tycoon… Or a woman who loved one of the above, of course. That’s kind of limited, I suppose, considering the vast, worldwide community of people who love romance. I’m glad things are changing to better reflect us readers.

As a writer, I gravitate towards nature, so I guess Westerns should come naturally to me. In fact, I did write a book set in the beautiful “mountains of Montana” this year, Charity. But the problem is, I’m Canadian. I love the nature right here, too. And we have lots and lots of it to praise. It’s not better; it’s just home. And I would love to see it used more often as a backdrop to passion.

In Canada, we can use six months worth of snow as an excuse to stay in and snuggle. We have the Northern Lights under which to fall in love. Vast skies and open places, rivers and oceans, and rugged coasts. Deep forests and quiet fields. As someone who has traveled a bit around the country, and grew up near the sea in the woods, and loves winter – all of these things inspire me. And all of these things scream “Romance!” to me.

So, is “the Northern romance” Canada’s version of “the Western”? If so, it hasn’t really caught on, though we see more “Western romances set in Canada’s West” than we did before. One reviewer of my Northern romance, Strings Attached, asked, “Who knew Canada’s North could be so romantic?” Well, I guess I did.

Margaret Atwood claimed that authentic Canadian stories are marked with the quest for survival. Well, where better to set a tale of survival than in the North? And, for me, survival is tied with love and partnership – two against the odds makes for compelling romance.

Strings Attached is set in northern Manitoba, on a ranch in the dead of winter under those Northern Lights. When my couple, Theo and Josie, embrace under the ribbons of gold and green dancing across the sky, it’s a natural call to happily ever after. The isolation (or, as I prefer, solitude), the cold outside fought off by warm fires, the partnered struggle against the elements – seems like all the ingredients for love, to me.

Though, I admit those novels from my youth must have had a strong affect on me. After all, the hero of Strings Attached is an Australian, and the heroine is a woman who loves him. She also happens to be a Canadian bison rancher, though, so I guess that’s my twist.

Winter well, friends, and all the best for the holidays. - AH

Anne Holly is a Canadian writer of romance and erotic-romance, as well as a mother and teacher. She has been published by Wild Horse Press, Decadent Publishing and Rebel Ink Press, and in 2012 by Pink Petal Books. Anne’s work is characterized by its unusual heroes, sweet/spicy balance, witty dialogue, responsible citizenship, and its positive, optimistic nature. She has found a particular niche in holiday romance. You may visit Anne at her blog or website, or find her on GoodReads, Facebook and Twitter (@anneholly2010). Sign up for her newsletter here. Email her at

Please comment for your chance to win a copy of Strings Attached on Kindle.

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Anne Ashby

A Different Type of Christmas

One filled with sun and sand and surf – or mucking about around the pool.

I’d love to invite you to share Christmas Day dinner with my family. Our choice of meal might seem a little strange but I’m sure you’ll appreciate the subtle changes that have occurred over the last twenty or so years, when you feel the temperature outside. Our Christmas is in mid summer, so themes here in New Zealand are more likely to be bound up with barbecues or picnics at the beach or time spent around the pool in the backyard, rather than being stuck inside with ovens adding to heat.

No longer do the women in my family rise at the crack of dawn to prepare the heavy roast dinners of lamb, (or turkey, beef, pork or ham), with all the expected hot vegetable accompaniments before heading off to morning church service. Gone also are the plum duffs, the Christmas puddings filled with coins for the children to find. Instead our fare will consist of steak, chicken nibbles/kebabs, sausages, ham, meat patties, usually marinating from the evening before and ready to throw onto the barbie minutes before eating. New season potatoes and salads abound. Any and every concoction of salad, green, slaw, rice, pasta, carrot. Each year new varieties pop up as yet another recipe is experimented with. Many of these are also made on Christmas Eve, so again lightening the workload for Christmas morning.

Then there is the dessert. Ahh, my favourite part of Christmas is the dessert. I go crazy and make far too many, something my husband feels honour bound to point out every year. Just as I feel bound to ignore his insidious comments every year. My table will be filled with jelly (jello), pavlova, ambrosia (a sweet here), cheesecake, fruit whip, strawberries, fresh fruit salad, cream, ice cream along with whatever else someone might want to make. All of them cold, all of them prepared well before hand. Our tableware might be paper/plastic, depending on the venue and the emphasis remains on no-one slaving the day away. A dip in the sea or the pool is great for rejuvenating oneself after that very necessary afternoon nap. And heating up the leftovers is just a couple of minutes job on the barbie and there’s tea all sorted for anyone who's got their appetite back.

Traditional Christmas dinner still exists for many New Zealand households, our family has just elected to develop a dinner more fitting for our season. Merry Christmas everyone.

About the Author: Hi, I’m a contemporary traditional/sweet author from New Zealand, published with The Wild Rose Press. I grew up in a very small coastal town in Southland, New Zealand’s southern-most province. An eagerness to travel, fostered by my mother, led me to join the Royal NZ Navy where I enjoyed a very satisfying career. I have been fortunate to have travelled extensively and lived in Singapore and Maryland USA.

I began writing contemporary romances when my youngest child started school. I enjoy including family issues, genealogy, rugby and/or snippets from my past military life in my stories. I endeavour to bring something of my beautiful country to romance readers everywhere, so New Zealand always features in my stories, normally as the setting. When not reading or writing, I find plenty to occupy my time with my family commitments. I currently live in Auckland with my husband and two of our four children.

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a download of Time to Bury the Past

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Brenda Whiteside

I wish Christmas came every day. The end of the year holidays are absolutely, without a doubt, all the way round my favorite time of year. Starting with Thanksgiving and through the New Year, there is static in the year – static that draws us together, sticks us to each other with an electric joy that is brighter than the strings of lights we drape around the tree.

My Christmas memories are rich and plenty. The year my sister finally sat on Santa’s lap was a good one. Little Debbie was always too shy and would never follow big sister Brenda on the path to the jolly old elf. Grown up Debra finally got the nerve to slide onto the fat man’s lap – she was forty years old.

I’ve lived in many places from California to Germany. How Christmas is celebrated, how it looks in different parts of the world makes for good memories.

I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. December is a great time of year in Phoenix – the sweltering heat replaced by mild temps and sunny skies. Tossing the football around, playing baseball or riding the new bike on Christmas Day seemed perfectly natural to us desert rats. How totally incongruous it was for us to sing songs about dreaming of a white Christmas, but we did.

After I was married, we spent three Christmas holidays in Germany. Those have to be some of my fondest memories. The Germans have some marvelous traditions. The Christmas tree has its origins there. We would stroll along the streets of Nuremburg with lights and decorations galore. And on every other corner would be bratwurst stands selling not only the juicy brats in buns but also hot, spiced red wine. The traditions vary a bit in different parts of Germany. Christkindl brings gifts to children, but there is also a St. Nicholas Eve on December 6th. An old tradition, still practiced in the Nuremburg area was for children to leave their shoes outside and St. Nicholas would fill them with fruit, nuts and candy if they had been good. I can still smell and taste Christmas in Germany.

Christmas on the beaches of California was about as different from Germany as you could get. Red Hawaiian shirts, glitzy decorations and the warm Santa Ana winds lent a wholly different kind of season in Santa Barbara. That year, my husband was a student, my son was not quite two and we were as poor as the Cratchits. But we were also rich with love. My son was just as happy with a new coloring book and a package of plastic army men as he would have been with a new electronic toy.

And talk about glitzy – how about Christmas in Las Vegas? Glitzy and the desert, yes, but add to that snow. We actually had a white Christmas that year!

The last couple of decades have been spent in Minnesota. After the white Christmases of Germany, I was ecstatic to be back to a winter wonderland. Minnesotans know a thing or two about the season. Minneapolis has a holiday parade in the evenings on Nicolett Mall. The Mall by itself is glittery for the season and the parade makes it magical. St. Paul’s Winter Carnival doesn’t start until after the New Year but helps drag out the holidays that much longer. There is an ice carving competition worth braving the cold to see. My husband and I belong to a club that has a holiday party that takes over a hotel, everyone dresses in island garb and we forget for one night about the subzero temps outside. The highlight is Santa Mon’s visit.

We’re one of those crazy couples who give their dog a couple of presents. Rusty loves Christmas as much as I do, but he’s more into getting than giving. He sniffs out his new stuffed toys and opens the packages. He smiles. Really!

We’ve also spent Christmas in a hotel room in San Francisco with a two-foot high plastic tree and on the road between Miami and Phoenix, but wherever we’ve been one thing is the same – that magical feeling the season brings. And that’s all I need under my Christmas tree.

I have another reason to feel this season is particularly magical. I have three releases this month! One is a short ebook or long estory – however you want to categorize it, called Tattoos, Leather and Studs. If you’ve ever been on a blind date, you’ll enjoy Rachael’s experience. I have two stories in the Christmas Anthology called Warm Christmas Wishes. My stories are "An Elfin Secret" about a little girl who discovers her real daddy is Santa Clause (hmmmm…Mommy did more than kiss Santa under the mistletoe) and "On the Way to the Snow Ball" which tells the story of a surprise encounter in an elevator. And last, but not least, is my full-length novel, Honey On White Bread, a coming of age story set in 1945. I consider this to be one rich Christmas season for me!

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the giving. So I’d like to give away an e-book, Honey On White Bread. This is the book of my heart so I hope it touches yours. Please leave a comment and we’ll draw for the winner.

However you celebrate this time of year, I hope you get a little something special under your Christmas tree.

About the Author: Convinced she was born to be an artist, Brenda never took her love of writing seriously. And then one day, sometime after college, marriage to a man doing a stint in the army and the birth of her son, she found more satisfaction filling a blank page with words than an empty canvas with color. She left her paints behind. After publishing several short stories, she turned to writing novels. Regardless of the length of her story, the characters drive her forward, taking her on their journey of discovery and love.

Brenda and her husband are gypsies at heart currently making Minnesota their home and sharing it with their dog, Rusty. When she’s not at her laptop writing, she enjoys hiking, motorcycle riding and the company of good friends.

She loves to hear from readers. Find her at or “like” her on Facebook at

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Heather Hiestand

Christmas is such a female holiday. Stores are full of pretty dresses for the babies, girls and women. Everything is beautifully decorated, baked goods abound, and of course, all the good chocolate comes out.

For my extended family celebration, I stand in the massive line at See’s Candies to pick up treats, now that the family members who sent Fannie Mae chocolates and loved Frangos are no longer with us. Beautiful, boxed chocolates is one family tradition I’m not willing to sacrifice, even though those chocolate lines get so long I’ve chatted with people long enough to exchange phone numbers with them!

Another thing we women get? Christmas-themed reading material! Cooking, fashion and lifestyle magazines all feature the season, cozy mystery series have holiday themed releases, and of course, Christmas romance novels start showing up around October. I start hoarding them and have a Christmas reading fest every December. I never see my husband’s truck, 4-wheeler and gun magazines featuring the holidays. Poor guys! It’s almost impossible to find a nice holiday outfit for them and their reading material is dull too. Women get to enjoy this time of year in many forms.

Heather Hiestand’s Christmas purchases for 2011:

*Marian’s Christmas Wish by Carla Kelly

*His Mistress by Christmas by Victoria Alexander

*A Clockwork Christmas – a Carina Press anthology

*Christmas by Michael Bublé

*Melissa and Doug Wooden Nativity Set (hey, I have a toddler!)

And what do I recommend for gifts? My new holiday story, steampunk romance novella Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas—which of course released in October.

What are you stuffing into stockings this Christmas? Leave me a comment below. Once commenter will win an electronic copy of my sweet holiday romance, “Victoriana.”

Heather Hiestand is the author of seven novels as well as many novellas and short stories. Her imagination keeps her entertained with romance, mystery and futuristic/fantasy story ideas, many of which eventually become words on a page. She lives in Washington State with her husband and son. For more information, see her website at

Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas Blurb:

Housemaid Linet Fenna would rather be an air pirate than a servant. When she finds the ladder to an airship dangling outside her garret window on Christmas Eve, 1892, she ascends to the skies above London on her late father’s flagship dirigible, the Christmas. The new captain is someone she never expected to see again, a dangerous, sexy foe. Is the Fenna family nemesis offering Linet her heart’s desire or a dastardly trap?

Captain Andrew’s motivations are as foggy as the coal-soaked sky. Prime Minister Gladstone’s Blockaders, a horde of automen and a teenage girl named Hatchet want Linet to fail in her quest to discover what happened to her missing family, but she is determined to have a happy Christmas.

Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas links:


Monday, December 26, 2011

Stuff Your Stocking Blogfest: Linda LaRoque

A Christmas Memory from 1967

I can still hear my mother’s chuckles….

My husband and I married on December 23, 1967. Yes, I know, that’s too close to Christmas. People are busy with the holidays. We heard all sorts of complaints from family and friends, but we were in love and the date suited our time schedule.

Larry was in the Army and I had one month left in college before graduation. Money was tight, almost non-existent, to be more exact. I’d sold my flute to buy my white silk wedding suit. My mother had a nice watch on layaway for my graduation gift, and she let me use what she’d paid down to buy Larry’s ring. He’d sold his TI stock to buy my rings. Alas, if we’d kept the stock, we might be rich today!

The night before the wedding, my brother and his wife delivered a wedding gift, a big box wrapped in Christmas paper, for us before going over to my aunt’s to spend the night. I wasn’t supposed to open it until after the wedding. It sat on top of the piano calling my name...Linda…open me, Linda. You know you want to.

My step-father had gone to bed and Mama, Larry and I sat in the living room talking. I wanted to know what was in the box. Larry said leave it until tomorrow. Mama and I exchanged glances and giggles and set about carefully removing the tape on one end of the box.

Years ago, Mama had been so excited about the doll she bought me for Christmas, that she showed it to me in advance. I’ll never forget her pulling that beautiful baby from the cabinet above the refrigerator. So, I can truthfully say, my Christmas curiosity was inherited, or instilled by my mother. Over the years, I’d been known to un-wrap gifts and carefully reseal them—without getting caught, I might add.

We successfully un-wrapped the entire package to reveal a beautiful set of Teflon cookware with copper colored lids. Not real copper but it was a beautiful set. I was thrilled as we didn’t have cookware. Mama and I, amid ripped paper, groans, and titters of laughter, put it all back together and on top of the piano.

My bother didn’t find out until many years later. Age has lessened my curiosity, just a smidgen, but just in case, Larry doesn’t put my gifts out until almost time to open them. He doesn’t trust me! Can you imagine?

About the Author:Linda LaRoque is a Texas girl, but the first time she got on a horse, it tossed her in the road dislocating her right shoulder. Forty years passed before she got on another, but it was older, slower, and she was wiser. Plus, her students looked on and it was important to save face.

A retired teacher who loves West Texas, its flora and fauna, and its people, Linda’s stories paint pictures of life, love, and learning set against the raw landscape of ranches and rural communities in Texas and the Midwest. She is a member of RWA, her local chapter of HOTRWA, NTRWA and Texas Mountain Trail Writers.

Please leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a download of A Marshall of Her Own.