Lost Someone Special This Year?

file0001139247422It was Pepper’s turn to blog, and I’m sure she would have told you about her Thanksgiving with her family, and offered a photo or two of her table decorated for the occasion. Knowing her, she would have included a recipe for something delicious. I’m hoping her daughter or daughter-in-law stepped up and took over the family meal, but I know their hearts are heavy.

After my husband died, that first Thanksgiving I tried to ignore, and I guess I succeeded for I have no memories of that day. But Christmas put our family together. I had a long standing rule that my girls could go with their hubbys’ families for Thanksgiving, but I had them for Christmas Eve! And as that day grew closer, I dreaded it. The thought of cleaning everything, putting up a tree, and cooking that big meal… I didn’t think I had the strength to smile and get through it.

Then one afternoon my daughter called and announced that she was doing Christmas Eve at her house. It was already settled and all I had to do was show up. She was usurping my matriarch position? Go right ahead! I think I called her twenty times to be certain she had not forgotten to get the ingredients for… All I heard was Mom-I-got-it-covered. It was as though she had developed that mantra for me every time I called.

When that fateful day came, I went to her house at the proper time. (Actually, I was late. She called as I was leaving my house and asked me to bring a pie plate. Um, she had borrowed all of mine! I stopped at Walmart and grabbed a few.) The meal was delicious and somehow we all got through it. We laughed and we cried a little, but mostly we laughed. Most of the conversations started with do you remember when? We realized we could enjoy being together, and although we missed hubby/Dad/Grandpa we still had each other. We were still here and filled with life. We had fun. From that point onward, we realized we missed him, but that we could face the holidays without him.

I hope Pepper’s family finds that same peace. I hope they found laughter to overcome the tears. And that they will be able to face Christmas with joy in their hearts.

We don’t forget the ones we love, we just have to learn that we can keep going without them. To all of you who have lost someone special this year… I hope you find some joy in the upcoming holidays. Don’t be afraid to share your memories, to laugh, and to enjoy your family and friends. Because that little firelight inside of us will never go out. We will always miss the ones we loved, but we do learn that we can face the holidays without them. (Just keep plenty of tissues handy.)

Traditions

For many holidays mean a break from work or school, a vacation away from the boring or stressful routine, a time to receive or give gifts,… For me holidays are about getting together with the family.

When I was growing up, my grandmother always gathered us for scrumptious dinners. My mother kept the tradition. Christmas was spent at my parents’ in Boston, Thanksgiving at my aunt’s in New York. We didn’t mind driving for sixteen hours and braving the snow and cold. We knew it would be worth it. We knew that we would be greeted with open arms and delicious treats, but most of all we looked forward to meeting the siblings, cousins, nephews and relatives we haven’t seen for months or years.

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My son is an expert at cooking a fabulous turkey.

My parents’ ranch and my aunt’s split-level house were relatively small and hardly built to accommodate forty people and a dozen kids. But no one complained about lack of space. The children invaded the basement and managed to play their games around or in between the clutter of old furniture, luggage and storage units. The men prepared the drinks and lingered around the bar while most of the women squeezed into the kitchen to help with the last minute preparations. And then a fabulous dinner gathered us all in the dining room and living room.

Happy times are precious but don’t last forever. My father left us and then my aunt and IMG_3051uncle. We stopped traveling to New York and Boston. I took over the Christmas and Thanksgiving gatherings. By then the kids have turned into young adults who often brought their girlfriends or boyfriends. In addition to holidays, we met at weddings and showers. Soon the young families couldn’t afford to travel and my guest list dwindled over the years.

Two years ago, I was happily surprised to see my daughter and her cousins deciding they wanted their children to meet and enjoy the togetherness that has blessed their younger years. The decisions and planning are now handled over text messages. Rather than one generous mother standing in the kitchen for hours and dong all the cooking and baking on her own, the young moms–all career women– share the tasks, and often leave the kitchen to their men.

IMG_5631My mother is no longer with us and the few uncles and aunts left can no longer come. We have become part of the older generation, but the new reunions reflect the same laughter, noise and joy of yonder years, with the parents determined to instill a strong sense of family and bonding within their young families.

This Thanksgiving has been marked by sadness as we mourned the loss of our dear Pepper Phillips, one of the Authors of Main Street. We remember her thrive and support, her positive attitude and courage, and we cherish the memories.

But life goes on and traditions remain.

 N Y T MD Christmas Papa (2)

Christmas Papa

Single mother Monica Roland has her life on the right track. Until Michael kisses her.

Michael Wheeler is a workaholic businessman who travels the world and enjoys his freedom. Fed up with empty promises, Monica pledges to keep her twin boys’ care and her own studies above all else. Moving on with her life, she lands a dream assignment in Paris. Just when Michael decides to give up his wanderings and settle in Kentucky.

How can he convince her that a demanding career doesn’t preclude love?

Happy Thanksgiving – Giving Thanks

As we all know, giving thanks is part of our lives. We give thanks for our family, our friends, our blessings. No one knows this better than I do.

I’m grateful each day that I wake up, and am blessed with another day. That my family, my friends and acquaintances are safe and sound. That we are all as healthy as we are and will hopefully remain so.

I’m thankful for family and friends in my life. I’m thankful for family and friends that filled my life, but have now gone on to a better place. May I carry their memory and love in my heart for each of them. I wish the same for you.

Stephanie Queen wrote a tribute to Donna Caubarreaux AKA Pepper Phillips on Monday, 23. You can find the post below.

Pepper Phillips

Pepper was such an inspiration and bright light in my life, as well as the Authors of Main Street. I will miss her terribly. May she rest in peace. My prayers go out to her family and friends.

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share a couple of easy and Southern recipes with you.

This Potato Salad is tried and true for many, many years. Once you’ve made it a couple of times, you’ll find it not so daunting. I hope you enjoy!

Southern Potato Salad

Feeds approximately 20-25 people

My sister-in-law, Pat Garrett, makes the best potato salad in the world. This is a variation of her delicious dish.

10 lbs. Red Potatoes (or Russet, your choice)(peeled or not, your preference) dice small or medium

1 extra large Red Onion diced small (Buy an extra small red onion, in case you need more)

4 large stalks celery (including tops) wash, dry then slice thinly or you can dice very small

2 jars cubed dill pickles (Not sweet) (can use dill relish, but not as tasty) Drain well

1 tbsp. salt

4 level tbsp. yellow mustard (or to taste)

5 or 6 large boiled eggs, refrigerate to cool.

About 4 cups mayo. You may need more mayo, depends on how dry the mix is once you fold into potatoes, celery, onion and pickles. (I use Hellman’s. I believe it makes a taste difference. You don’t want a thin or sweet mayo)

Step 1: Add peeled (or not) diced potatoes to pot, cover with water, add 3 or 4 tbsp. salt. Bring to a boil, turn down to low to simmer for about 15 min. Check potato for doneness after 10 minutes with a fork. If getting soft, take off heat and drain. Do not rinse. In a 2 gal. bowl, refrigerate potatoes to cool. Takes about 30 minutes or so. If some are a little warm, that’s okay. Push potatoes from side to side a couple of times with an extra large spoon to help cool. Do not stir. They won’t be chunky, but will be too much like mashed potatoes.

Step 2: While potatoes are cooking, boil eggs, peel and separate whites from yolks. Dice or chop egg whites. Mash yolks, with a fork not a blender or the mixture will be gritty, into about 2 or 3 heaping tbsp. of mayo until smooth. (As you would for deviled eggs) Stir in 3 or 4 level tsp. mustard into mixture. In bowl, mix 4 cups mayo with the mustard mix, add egg yolk mixture, then fold in egg whites. Refrigerate.

Step 3: Drain 2 jars cubed Dill Pickles. Dice onions, and celery. Add all ingredients to mayo and mustard mixture. Refrigerate.

Step 4: After potatoes are cooled, remove from refrigerator. Using a spatula to get all the mixture from bowl, gently fold in mayo mixture to potatoes. Do not stir too hard, you’ll have mashed potato salad.

NOTE: If you’re going to add more salt, add it to the mayo mix, so you won’t need to stir potatoes more than necessary. Do not add more than a tbsp. of salt to mayo, as it’s salty, plus the mustard and pickles are salty. Add more to taste, if needed.

This one is for the kids, but I still love them!

Chocolate Dumplings

My mom used to make these for us when she had no other dessert in the house. We loved them and could hardly wait for them to finish cooking. When the need arose, Mom’s imagination kicked in, and she could come up with about anything.

2 c. sugar

4 tbsp. cocoa

5 c. water

2 c. whole milk

1 tbsp. pure vanilla

If you like a richer sauce, use more milk and less water.

Mix all ingredients into a large kettle. Bring to a boil. Then mix a bowl of dough. Drop the dough with a spoon into the boiling mixture.

For the dumplings, Mom simply made biscuit dough. Mom’s biscuits are the best ever.

Bisquick is a speedy substitute for homemade biscuit mix. Use whichever you prefer.

4 cups bisquick

1 1/3 cup milk

Mix and drop by tbsp. into a slow boil of the chocolate mix. Cover and simmer approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Check once to make sure it isn’t becoming dry. Enjoy with a dip of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of Cool Whip.

On Thanksgiving, I hope your heart is filled with love and gratitude for all you are blessed with. Of course this is something we think of throughout the year, but on this special day, may your heart and mind overflow with joy. My heart is full, and my wish is that yours is too.

Enjoy your loved ones on this special day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank You and Goodbye to a Dear Friend: Pepper Phillips by Stephanie Queen

Pepper Phillips

Pepper Phillips

Today I was going to write a Thanksgiving note—something with the usual wise guy commentary from Myren my chauffeur. Instead, I will write about the passing of a treasured friend, one of us Authors from Main Street, Pepper Phillips. But it’ll still be a thanksgiving of sorts, because how could I not be grateful that we had her company and enjoyed her Joie de Vivre for the past three and a half years?

I was surprised five days ago when I read my email and it said Pepper, the lively spark plug of our group, was slipping away—fast. I thought, “No, that can’t be—she just got back from the hospital and was gong to be okay—wasn’t she?”

That’s what she wanted us to think. She didn’t say how serious it was. She took care of us until the very end. She had some AoMS business to take care of and she did it. She has a novella in the current Christmas on Main Street boxed set. She’d been sending emails and not complaining about being sick—only mentioning a temporary hospital visit in between talk of writing business.

At least that’s how it seemed to me. Maybe I was in denial. That could be. I’m notorious for putting the most positive possible spin on whatever bad thing is going on.
And now, without a chance to say goodbye, Pepper is gone.

The problem is that she didn’t seem anywhere near ready to go. She was too vital, too active and in the thick of things and making plans to do more. She was our spark plug. She was energetic and proud and never complained. (Now I wish she had—just a little—but that’s selfish of me.) To say that I will miss her and that I’m profoundly saddened by her passing seems too small to cover how I feel.

We all feel that way, all of us on Main Street, her many friends, and most especially her huge and beloved family. My heart goes out to all of us. A light has gone out here on Main Street, but I know Pepper will glow on in our hearts and memories.

Thank you for being you, Pepper.

Cherry Pie-Cake, Easiest Holiday Dessert Ever by Joan Reeves

Happy Thanksgiving CardLess than a week to Thanksgiving, and I’m in the holiday mood. I’ve been cleaning, sprucing up the guest room, and hanging the rest of the art that has been stacked in an upstairs closet for almost 2 years. With all that done, my thoughts turned to food. Yum, my favorite part of planning.

I have a dozen guests arriving next week so I started thinking about the menu—not just for Thanksgiving Day itself, but for the day before and the days after.

I like to have a dessert each evening, but I like something that doesn’t take a lot of preparation and work. I’d rather spend time with my visitors than stuck in the kitchen. So here’s my family’s favorite go-to dessert for one of the dinners before the big feast day.

Cherry Pie-Cake

This is a dump cake. I call it a pie-cake because it’s not quite a pie, but not quite a cake either. It’s just a delicious, super easy dessert. Your guests will love it. Serves 12-16.

Ingredients

  • 1 Duncan Hines Yellow cake mix
  • 1 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple in syrup (must be syrup)
  • 1 can Cherry Pie Filling
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 stick of butter, cut in slices

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease a 13x9x2 sheet cake pan or a pretty casserole dish.
  • Dump the undrained crushed pineapple into the pan and spread evenly over the bottom.
  • Spoon the pie filling over the pineapple and spread it as evenly as possible.
  • Sprinkle the box of dry cake mix over the layers and spread it out evenly.
  • Sprinkle the pecans over the cake mix layer.
  • Place the pieces of butter around the top.
  • Bake for 48-53 minutes.
  • Serve warm or cooled.
  • Prepare to collect the compliments!

Jane (I'm Still Single) Jones by Joan ReevesNeed a Break from the Festivities?

Consider JANE (I’m Still Single) JONES, a romantic comedy all about family and friends. Reader Review: “These are two of the most delightful characters on the printed page.

“Jane thinks she’s worldly NYC but is very much the Louisiana belle—and Morgan…well what can you say, the perfect all grown up, hunky former nerd.

“Joan Reeves is at her very best with these two and the entire small town of delightful characters. It’s delightful, delicious, sexy and adorable.”

JANE (I’m Still Single) JONES is available in ebook at: All Romance Ebooks * Amazon Kindle * iBooks * Kobo * Nook * Smashwords. Also available in audiobook at Audible and iTunes.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and showers of blessings for which to give thanks each and every day.

Post Script

Joan Reeves is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives her “happily ever after” with her husband in the Lone Star State. Visit Joan at her Amazon Author PageSlingWords, her blog; and sign up for Wordplay, her email mailing list.

Fork in the Road

In the words of the late, great, Yogi Berra, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it”. I’m taking it.

yogi

This last year has been incredibly altering for me on a personal level. I’ve been wrapped up in the emotion of losing both my parents and dealing with their estates, which has been anything but straightforward or painless. What I’ve found?…it’s rarely a good thing to live in your own head, but it can be useful for storytelling.

story1
So where does Yogi come in? His levity and wit smacked me on the head during my once-a-month writers group lunch. I was handing over ideas and photos for cover art for my February 2016 release of: THE MAGICIAN’S CHALICE, which I anticipated to be billed as: “Book Four of the Warrior Chronicles”. After giving my vision for the cover to the group and giving them my spiel about how the Warrior series has grown from straightforward romance to romance with more adventure-fantasy elements, a new thought emerged from the group, which I embraced.

question

This newest Warrior book will be the first in a line of Damselfly Society Novels. The title is: THE MAGICIAN’S CHALICE: A Damselfly Society Novel. I love it! It also frees me to celebrate the fork in the road and proceed down both—a continuation of a family line I love and the new path life and vocation are taking them down. I’m excited in a fresh new way about a story that had been tripping me up a bit because I was constantly trying to tame the wilder elements for a mainstream contemporary romance audience. Now I don’t have to….well not in this book, anyway.

SAVING CHANCE: A Shute Pond Novel is set to come out in April 2016. This novel is aimed directly at those who love contemporary romance with a small town twist. I love this story, which stalled when my mother died and is now looking bright again. This cover will have the same sort of feel that my cover for: SECOND CHANCES has. I love this cover!

SecondChances-BN

The Damselfly Society was introduced in the third Warrior Chronicles Book, DEFENDING DESTINY. All three Warrior books have similar covers. THE MAGICIAN’S CHALICE’s cover will be more Celtic…it will have a chalice somewhere on the cover—grin. I’m excited about this journey and will share excerpts, cover art and exact release information as the time grows nearer, which will be after promotions for AoMS’s Christmas books which I will say are numerous and exceptional, so dive into the holiday season with some fantastic AoMS seasonal reads!

I am feeling particularly blessed this Thanksgiving for all those in my life who constantly add value to it. Thank you all. Here’s hoping that when that fork presents itself, we all seize the moment and take it.

Blessings to you all this Thanksgiving.

Leigh

Let’s Pause to Talk about Commas by Susan R. Hughes

Commas can be sneaky little beasts. They do far more than simply indicate a pause in a sentence, and a writer should never underestimate the importance of using them correctly. Misusing a comma can change the meaning of your sentence and, at the very least, make your otherwise fine writing look sloppy and unprofessional. Although a good editor will clean up a writer’s punctuation, I’ve often seen comma errors crop up in published books, blog posts and blurbs. Here are a few examples of common mistakes.

Restrictive Appositive

I see this error all the time in romance novel blurbs:

INCORRECT: Eminent psychiatrist, Dr. Grady Turner, knew it was wrong to fall in love with a patient.

An appositive is a group of words that identify or explain a noun or pronoun; the appositive is called restrictive if removing it changes the meaning of the sentence. In the example above, “Dr. Grady Turner” is a restrictive appositive — if you remove the words, the sentence makes no sense. A restrictive appositive does not use commas.

CORRECT: Eminent psychiatrist Dr. Grady Turner knew it was wrong to fall in love with a patient.

On the other hand, a nonrestrictive appositive provides additional information about the noun or pronoun, but can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence. A nonrestrictive appositive is set off by commas. In the example below, “an eminent psychiatrist” is the nonrestrictive appositive.

CORRECT: Dr. Grady Turner, an eminent psychiatrist, knew it was wrong to fall in love with a patient.

The Listing Comma

The listing comma basically replaces the word “and”. It can be used in a list of adjectives that all modify the same noun. For example:

CORRECT: He longed to kiss her plump, glossy lips.

In the above example, the comma could be replaced by “and” the sentence would still. However, I’ve often seen examples like this:

INCORRECT: He gave her an antique, gold necklace.

INCORRECT: She wore a red, lace bra.

You couldn’t replace the comma with “and” in either example. In the first example, “gold” modifies necklace, but “antique” modifies “gold necklace”, so the modifiers are not both modifying the same noun.

CORRECT: He gave her an antique gold necklace.

CORRECT: She wore a red lace bra.

Beginning a Sentence with a Conjunction

Despite what your teacher may have told you, it’s OK to start a sentence with “And” or “But.” Just don’t use a comma after it.

INCORRECT: Wendy knew it was wrong to stare at him. But, he was so handsome, she could not take her eyes off him.

CORRECT: Wendy knew it was wrong to stare at him. But he was so handsome, she could not take her eyes off him.

However, you should use a comma if the conjunction is followed by a pair of commas enclosing a parenthetical phrase:

CORRECT: Wendy was drawn to his looks. But, handsome as he was, she could not stand his personality.

Introductory Elements

An introductory element is a clause, phrase or word that appears before the main clause of the sentence. An introductory element can be offset by a comma, but it isn’t always necessary. You may, if you choose, omit the comma after a brief introductory element:

CORRECT: By evening, they were in love.

ALSO CORRECT: By evening they were in love.

CORRECT: Briefly, he explained his reasons.

ALSO CORRECT: Briefly he explained his reasons.

This decision sometimes depends on whether or not you want the reader to take a pause. For instance, when “Of course” comes at the beginning of a sentence, don’t use a comma if the phrase is being used emphatically, especially in speech:

INCORRECT: “Of course, I love you,” she sobbed.

CORRECT: “Of course I love you,” she sobbed.

 In fiction, depending on your writing style, there is room to bend the rules of punctuation (Stephen King’s comma splices used to drive me nuts until I got used to his style). But it must be done with specific intent, not haphazardly, so that you don’t confuse the reader or come across as careless. Know the rules before you break them! If you’re ever in doubt, there are tons of resources, both in print and online, to help you master comma usage.

Finally, to lighten a rather dry and serious post, here’s a corny comma joke:

What’s the difference between a cat and a comma?

One has claws at the ends of its paws; the other has a pause at the end of a clause.