It’s Almost Here…Are You Ready?

So many things are happening at once that I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. The recently released Christmas on Main Street Collection. The soon to be released Sweetwater Springs Christmas Anthology, which includes my first ever attempt at writing something historical. My own soon to be released book, #5 in the Lone Star Cowboys series.

Since this past June, I’ve had so much going on that sometimes I don’t know if I’m coming or going. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I have no idea if we’re having it at my house or if we’re going elsewhere. But the stores don’t really want me to think too much about that. That isn’t where the real money is. They want me to think about…CHRISTMAS! Even before Halloween got here, the decorations were out. The toy aisles were rearranged, expanded, and overflowing with toys.

WAIT! I’m not ready. Not yet. I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to decorate my house this year with a rambunctious, mannerless Great Dane puppy in residence. (Not mine, my daughter’s.) It’s already destroyed two couches, an ottoman, a live indoor tree, my favorite sweatshirt, the silver necklace hubby gave me for Christmas two years ago, several pillows, a quilt, dishes (that she knocked off the counter and broke), and my arms, which look like I’ve been in a battle with barbed wire.

Merlin

Don’t let that sweet, innocent face fool you. This is from three months ago. She’s now three feet taller, thirty pounds heavier, and runs like a race horse. Through the house, through the yard, through my office… Oh, and did I mention her name is Merlin? Hmmm, maybe that’s why she’s such a devil.

Where can I put the tree that she won’t destroy it? Or the presents? What about my stuffed snowmen? My breakable display pieces? How will I put out a brunch buffet Christmas morning, as is our tradition? What do I do about my son and his girlfriend who are coming home for Christmas, when the dog has taken over my house and leaves a trail of destruction behind her?

Thank goodness that cup of coffee she knocked over on my desk didn’t land on my laptop. You’d have heard me scream all the way from Texas.

The day after Thanksgiving? Yeah, I’ll start thinking about Christmas then. Not before. Until then, I have a book to finish.

What about you? Have you started shopping already? Got your decorations up? When do you start thinking about Christmas?

If you need help getting in the mood for the holidays, grab your copy of Christmas on Main Street by the Authors of Main Street, on sale now.

AoMSX 800x500 S The Christmas Wish by Tori Scott S

Remembrance Day – by Susan R. Hughes

37093_remembrance-poppy1In Canada, every November 11 on Remembrance Day, it’s our custom to wear poppies on our lapels. At 11 a.m. we observe a minute of silence. In elementary school we were instructed to spend that minute thinking about all those who died during the major wars in which our nation participated (WWI, WWII, Korea) and I have done this faithfully every year since.

Each of the books in my Music Box series takes place in the aftermath of a war — WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam (the third and fourth books are yet to be completed). I’ve always had the utmost respect for members of our armed forces and have never forgotten the sacrifices they’ve made, even though these wars occurred before I was born. The numbers of young men we lost in the world wars was staggering. I often think about their families—especially parents who lost all their sons at once—and I think about the soldiers who came home and had to deal with painful memories as they carried on with their lives.

There are some people who object to Remembrance Day, thinking we are glorifying war. They couldn’t be more wrong. It’s a day to remember the tragedy of war and to thank those who risked or gave their lives for the freedom we enjoy today. There’s an old saying – “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

In elementary school we all learned the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written during WWI by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. It refers to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers, and this is why we wear poppies to this day. The poem always touches me, no matter how many times I read it.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial, Ottawa

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial, Ottawa

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

Dracula – Jill James

So, I lost a few of my favorite shows this season; Fringe and Alphas. I have very eclectic tastes in television watching: CSI, Bones, Ghost Hunters, Haven, and Hawaii 5-0 (ok, can’t resist Alex O’Loughlin) So, I was feeling the loss of some good sci-fi. Granted, Dracula isn’t really science fiction, but he’s not really fact either. The new show has this steampunk feel to the show, taking place on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. The world of Dracula has a flavor of a world just on the edge of change. And also displays the uber-hot Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

dracula

The dialogue is witty and snarky at the same time. The characters pop off the screen. The costuming and sets are spot on for the feel of London on the edge of the turn of the century. I’m going to really be paying attention, because they make Dracula seem like a misunderstood, can’t help he is a vampire and the Industrialists, feeding off the poor are seen as the bad guys in this story.

What exciting new shows have you found this season? If you are a writer, what show concept do you wish you had written, or has gotten you excited to write?

TheChristmasCon 200x300Jill James, writer of contemporary and paranormal romance.

The Christmas Con is available separately and in the boxed set
Christmas on Main Street with the Authors of Main Street

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Fall Back Time ChangeAre you thinking Thanksgiving? Christmas? Hanukkah?

For me, it’s the ‘Fall Back’ moment when I get to turn my clock back an hour. Humming the old Andy Williams tune, I flit happily through the house on that dear November day and reset all my clocks. And then for the extra hour, I sleep.

williams-andy-Yep. And I swear my dreams are even sweeter.

My family gamely gamely stays up  extra late on Most Wonderful Time of the Year Eve, but I laugh at their foolishness and have happy dreams to gird me for the times ahead.

I’ll need that extra sleep for all the busyness to come…turkey thawing, pumpkin mashing, toy store wrestling matches, etc. And in the midst of all the holiday insanity rush, I’ll be seeking to replicate that once-a-year haven of relaxation…by reading. That’s the other great escape, and it provides sweet dreams of another kind.

What will I be reading this holiday season? I’m so glad you asked!

aomsx-198-header.jpgChristmas On Main Street. Ah yes, a dash of love and romance will keep the holiday grumpies at bay and finish out the season on a lovely note. Heck, it might even sustain until the next Most Wonderful Day of the Year…

 

Cowboys and Indians

The Rifleman, Wagon Train, The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Rawhide, The Virginian. I grew up on those TV shows. I had a knife, fork, and spoon set with Hopalong Cassidy on the handles. It was something leftover from my brothers.

I had a shiny metal gun with a wooden looking handle that fit into a fancy tooled leather holster, and I fed a roll of cap paper into it so it would make a sharp bang when I pulled the trigger. And I had the felt cowboy hat and matching leather vest.

At the bottom of my toy box I had a leather band that wrapped my head and contained dyed feathers in the most outrageous colors. It came with a tomahawk. The wooden handle contained more of those colorful feathers and the blade end was made of rubber. I wasn’t allowed to throw it, probably because of the handle. I also had a rubber knife and I wasn’t allowed to throw that either.

The other thing I wasn’t allowed to do was scream while I was playing. It scared my mother and she feared for my life. That roll of paper caps had to last, so most of the time I didn’t use them. We merely shouted bang-bang. And the Indian always had to fall. No one ever wanted to be the Indian. The Indians were always the bad guys and they always got shot. The cowboys were the victors.

I was six years old when I saw my very first Native American. He was Navajo, and he wore jeans and a regular shirt. My mother wanted to kill me for I looked right at him and asked if he were a real Indian. He frowned and my mother apologized to the man. I had no clue why she was upset with me. This man, who probably wasn’t much more than twenty years old, mesmerized me. At that young age, I knew he was handsome and so completely different from the blond men in my family. Yet he wasn’t wearing buckskins or feathers. He didn’t look like the Indians on TV – he looked like a regular man only darker with beautiful dark hair and a lock that fell across his forehead. I can still see him clearly in my mind.

That encounter made me very aware that what was portrayed on TV wasn’t very realistic. At the tender age of six, I learned an important lesson about stereotyping. And I began to look for books that contained real stories of Indians. Unfortunately there wasn’t much available and soon my fascination waned. It lay dormant for years.

When I started seriously writing, my first stories, which have never been released, are about a young girl whose father and aunt are Native Americans. That tale sent me scouring the web for information. It also opened my eyes to things I never knew about our Native Americans.

How could I write about the west and not include our Native Americans? There are plenty who still live on the reservations, andA Snowy Christmas in Wyoming many more who live down the street, work for local companies, send their children to the neighborhood school, take the family skiing over the winter holiday, and have never attended a powwow in their life. When I wrote A Snowy Christmas in Wyoming, I made the hero tall, dark, handsome, and a Crow. Why a Crow? The reservation is nearby.

The back-story in that book goes all the way back to the Coleman family who settled in Wyoming in the late 1840’s. But when readers began to ask for the diary, I had to seriously start researching the history of Wyoming and the Crow tribe. I’m hoping to have that book out before the end of this year.

Debra Holland knew I was working on the Diary of Clare Coleman when she asked me to be part of her Sweetwater Springs Christmas anthology. I was allowed to use my own characters, but since Debra’s story is set in 1895, I had to use the grandson (Frank) of Clare and Jessie Coleman. That prompted a new round of research into the history and clothing of the time period.

Writing for the anthology set off another story. A Rancher’s Woman should be available by the 18th of this month. It’s about a young woman and her growth from victim to independence, and a 3c30192rCrow Indian who wanted to do more for his people by establishing a ranch on the reservation. It’s the story of his hardships and prejudices that he faced along the way, and the feeling of living between a white man’s world and his heritage as a proud Crow. It was a time when the only good Indian was a dead Indian and it was illegal to marry anyone of color. Yet, in spite of the problems, their love continued to grow.

You know me, I can’t write a fluffy romance. I’m glad I picked the Crow tribe when I started writing because the more I learn about the tribe; the more I respect and love them for their amazing lib of congress Crowheritage. This isn’t a whitewashed Victorian story. Instead, it’s a glimpse of real western life in the late 1890’s. A man caught between two worlds who had fallen in love and the woman who loved him. I promise, love has nothing to do with the color of our skin or our social status. I dare you not to fall in love with this wonderful, intelligent, proud, and brazen Native American.