So Long November—Hello December

Thanksgiving came and moved away like a whirlwind. In fact the past three months, I think I moved through a fog to get where I am today.

Poof! And I’m here. Lol.

I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and special, as well it should be.

Thanksgiving is all about being with those you love. If you can’t physically be with loved ones, lock them away in your heart and hold their memories close. Whether they are close or far away.

It isn’t quite December yet, but close enough. Christmas is going to be here before we can snap our fingers! Many parts of the country have already seen snow or will before Christmas. There are those who either like or dislike snow.

I’m one of snow-lovers. I do agree though, that any area can be blasted with too much snow, then the thing of beauty can become dangerous.

I hope everyone has the best Christmas ever this year. If we’re lucky here in mid-Georgia, we’ll have a white Christmas. I hope so anyway.

And so–gather ‘round a roaring fire and toast your loved ones with a nice cup of Hot Chocolate.

Thanksgiving 2018

happy-thanksgiving-imagesHello fellow writers, readers and travelers.

I’ve been traveling more this fall, which is a blessing. With that comes more to do at work and at home before voyaging again. I’m used to this in the summer. Not so used to it when the dark is rising and it’s time to slow down and enjoy this wonderful time. It’s the time when creativity sparks and storytelling and story consumption reign.

Fall means new TV series (story enjoyment). Fall means snuggling under a blanket or near a fire reading that which brings us joy.

Fall means Thanksgiving.

And, inherent at Thanksgiving are the stories we have of those who are with us in spirit, those prior holidays where weird, wonderful and sometimes painful events occurred.

 

Thanksgiving is my favorite time to remember my childhood holidays – back when my mom added sour cream and fruit layers to perfectly good Jello. When my maternal grandmother put meat in pastry and called it pie. And, when my paternal grandmother let me snag a piece of fruit from the fruit and brandy mixture she kept fermenting on the counter that would become her “Friendship Bread”. My grandma, with my hindrance she chose to call help, made several dozen tiny loaves of Friendship Bread which she gave to those she loved. These were precious gifts of her time, her love and her esteem.

I think about my grandma every day. When I make this bread I do so with love, and a naughty smile as I add an extra splash of the good stuff just for her.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with wonderful memories while you make new ones to cherish.

Here’s my grandmother’s Friendship Bread recipe. WARNING, If you eat too much fruit before baking the loaves, you’ll get a headache.

fruit bread

Irma’s Friendship Bread

Day 1: Add 1.5 cups of starter or Brandy if this is your first batch, and another 1.5 cups of Brandy to 1 Qt. of diced peaches with juice in a very large mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with paper towel. Stir once each day for 10 days.

 

Day 11: Add 2.5 cups of sugar and a 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple with juice to the mixture. Stir once daily for 10 days.pineapple

Day 21: Add 2.5 cups of sugar, 20 oz. of maraschino cherries with juice, and 1 large can of diced apricots to the mixture. Stir once daily for 10 days.

 

Day 31: Drain the juice from the mixture and save for use as starter. Grandma gave away 1.5 cups of starter with each loaf of bread so that the recipient could help spread the friendship. Mix the drained fruit, 1 dozen eggs, 3 boxes of white or yellow cake mix (without pudding), 3 small boxes of vanilla pudding, 2 cups of oil, and 3 cups of chopped walnuts. Prepare 1 lb. bread pans, fill pans 3/4 full and bake at 325 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I hope that you have a chance to spread a little “Friendship”,

Leigh

I Can’t Blog Today

Here’s why. Friday evening, I was carrying a load of laundry down the stairs when I slipped and landed hard on my bottom. I felt the impact travel up my spine to the base of my skull. After sitting on the step, whimpering in shock and pain for a mInjured female employee working in the officeinute or so, I got up and carried on. But I suppose my body isn’t as resilient as it used to be. I woke up Saturday with an aching neck and shoulders. Still, I didn’t want it to slow me down. I went with my family to a Christmas bazaar at our local Orthodox church, but before long I felt dizzy and had to sit down for a while. (Those Russian ladies were so friendly and sweet, offering me tea and asking if I needed anything.) Thankfully, the dizziness went away, and I decided what I really needed was rest.

When I got home, I curled up and watched Bridget Jones’s Baby. (Funny movie! I recommend it.) I’m not used to sitting around on weekends and I can’t really relax. I hate not being productive and knowing I’m falling behind in my to-do list. I had shopping, cleaning and baking to do, as well as editing for clients and a bit of research and writing for myself. I had trouble sleeping and ended up watching Iron Man in the middle of the night (not quite the right thing for putting you to sleep, I’ll admit).

So I slept in way too late on Sunday, putting me even further behind in everything, but I was still too sore, stiff and tired to accomplish a lot. I’m sure I’ll be fine in a few days. Who knew that falling on your rump could be such a pain in the neck! So that’s why I have no time for blogging today.

Oh, wait, look at that – I blogged!

November at Our House–Thanksgiving Traditions

  “Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”
― Herman MelvilleMoby-Dick

I don’t have an urge to go to sea in November, but I do agree the days can be gray. I love the holiday season, but because I love Thanksgiving, I don’t want to treat it like the pickle in the middle stuck between Halloween and Christmas (I love those holidays, too.)

Here are some of our family’s Thanksgiving traditions:

Tate Turkey Trot--Thanksgiving morning, we all run around the Rancho Santa Margarita Lake. My oldest son’s girlfriend coined our new phrase: Thighs before pies! This year, I’ve been told that there will be medals.

Candy Corn Gratitude–Before the big meal, we place three candy corns beside each plate and we take turns expressing three things we’re grateful for before we eat each corn. (And we can’t repeat anyone else.)

Boy Pie Baking Contest–All adult men are required to bake a pie. My oldest son has won every year even though last year my husband decided to make two different pies to try and skew his odds of winning.

The Day After Turkey Pizzas— You might think that these are pizzas made with turkey, but you would be wrong. Turkey pizzas are individual pizzas made to look like a turkey. Think olive eyes, pineapple beaks, and colorful bell peppers wings.

My daughter is a professional photographer and here’s her blog post about our family’s Thanksgiving. (Her pictures are better than mine.) http://thebarnettes.blogspot.com/2016/12/happy-thanksgiving.html

Of course, as a reader, I don’t despair the long nights and grayish days. I welcome them as the perfect time for snuggling up with a good book. Or two. Or three….
thumbnail_The billionareAbove all else, Letty detests liars. A good girl through and through, she’s always tried to walk a straight line, which hasn’t been easy given her father walked a crooked path that led him to prison.
Wes is attracted to Letty the moment he meets her. One of the things he loves about her is she thinks he’s just a beach bum working at the local hotel and she’s okay with him just as (she thinks) he is.
But when Betty the beagle gets kidnapped, the budding romance goes off the rails and Wes and Letty are forced fess up to their lies and exaggerations before their problems (and beagles) get completely out of hand and off leash.
And, of course, I have to mention the Authors of Main Street newest box set:
box set wishes
Everyone believes in Christmas Wishes… right?

For the heroes and heroines in Christmas Wishes on Main Street, it’s not quite that simple.

The Authors of Main Street and Indie Artist Press are thrilled to offer the latest collection in what has become a holiday tradition. Sweet romances in smaller packages, just right for the busy holiday season when you just need a break to pull you out of the madness. So snuggle up with your favorite warm drink and let Authors of Main handle the rest. 

What are you reading? I’ve been hard at work on my romantic comedy Billionaire series,  but tomorrow I’m plunging into new waters. A friend and I are starting a new series that we’re calling miraculous realism. Here’s our tag line: (it’s still a work in progress.)
The stories the weary world needs now…
 
Debbie Macomber’s happily-ever-afters meet the miraculous realism of Nicolas Sparks in these heart-warming and sometimes gut-wrenching stories that witness of the goodness in all of us.
Greta and I are writing the book together with two point of view characters and we’re going to the beach to do it. Two and a half days of intense writing…I’ve never done something like this before and I’m curious to see what we can accomplish.
Of course, the beach in November can be gray and drizzly, but I love it when the slate steel of the ocean perfectly matches the sky and the horizon is a blur so you can’t tell where the world ends and the sky begins. The boats look like they’re floating. November has its blessings and I hope you and your family are enjoying all the season brings.

I am thankful for . . .

Here in the United States it is that time of year to remember to be thankful for all we have. I would like to think I remember all year long, but alas, sometimes it takes the holidays to remind me of all I have, all I’ve had, and all I will have in the future. God willing!!

I am thankful for my soulmate, my friend, the love of my life–my husband. He has put up with a lot over the years, but from time to time, he goes beyond the call of duty and surprises me yet again.

I can’t drive at night, I have no night vision at all. The lines on the road are blurry and the cars are big, dark blobs around me. I had a chance to meet some fellow writers and do a write-in at the local Barnes & Noble. It isn’t far, but it is across town and it was dark at 6 o’clock when the event started. So, the husband drove me over and spent 2 1/2 hours in the car in the parking lot waiting for me.

Folks, this is why I write romance novels. I don’t know what good thing I did in a former life to deserve him, but I’m so glad I have him.

What are you thankful for this year? In your life?


Jill James, hopeless romantic

The Blues Before the Book Releases

All the pesky thoughts fly through an author’s brain as a book gets ready to release, the self doubts, the worries…it causes the blues. If you’re an author, you’re not alone, but if you’re a reader, you get to patiently wait for the book as though it’s an early Christmas gift that will land in your lap. But while we wait for that book to fall into your hands…

Is the book good enough? That depends on quite a few elements.

Is the story any good? It’s usually not the story that is lacking, but rather the way the story is crafted together. It’s something that few people do automatically unless they are voracious readers. They pick up the way stories flow with the various plot elements, and how they arc through the story. I think most of it is mentored into us. (I am so lucky to have had some wonderful mentors over the years.)

Is it well edited? That one is tough. I’ve known plenty of authors who have paid for and received terrible edits.Why? Because their own grammar skills are lacking and they are totally dependent on the editor. I’ve also seen authors who blindly accept an editor’s suggestion. The editor might make suggestion here and that affects something else.

But once we’ve reached a certain point, then we can only wait for the readers to decide.

That’s where I am…times two!

My contemporary, full length novel Silent Journey is available on NetGalley. If you love to read, this site is perfect! You’ll get to read about to be released, books from major publishers for free. They only ask for reviews once you sign up.

https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/146924

Silent Journey

This is not the finalized copy, it’s still in edits, nor is it the final cover. Wait until you see the cover! The hero is everything you want except you might have a problem understanding him. He understands you so why…? He’s Deaf. He’s Deaf of Deaf. So come step into his shoes as he faces a world geared to those with hearing, and join the woman who has so much to learn.

Enjoy a little snippet of Silent Journey.

Aldo’s was situated across the street between an art gallery and an upscale boutique. Taped on the door was a warning. Silent Spaghetti Supper Tonight, Absolutely no talking allowed! Public welcome.

“Here goes.” Ashley opened the door and held it for Savannah. The place was strangely quiet. Not completely devoid of sound, because there was still the sound of movement and dishes. But there wasn’t even music playing softly in the background. A hostess held up two fingers and, when Ashley nodded, the woman picked up the menus and led them to a table.

The table contained another warning about no talking, a small pad of paper with Aldo’s logo, and a plastic-coated sheet with some suggestions should they need help. The menu was simple: spaghetti: white, rosé, red with meat, or marinara, with a choice of plain, meatballs, shredded chicken, or sausage. Then there were some specialty items such as shrimp, but they couldn’t use their meal cards with those. Savannah chose the creamy rosé sauce with chicken. Then she looked around.

That’s when she realized there were sounds, vocal sounds, just not words. They were primitive sounds. The slapping of hands, low dissonance of grunts, and punctuated higher notes that were almost animalistic. It was disconcerting and fascinating at the same time.

Most of those in attendance were using sign language. Now she knew why Professor Stockton gave extra credit for attending. A redheaded waiter came to their table. Savannah instantly recognized him as Andy. He frequented the coffee shop in the technology building where she often stopped between classes. She smiled at him and pointed to the items she wanted, but then couldn’t figure out how to tell him she wanted unsweetened iced tea with lemon. Finally she took the pad of paper on the table and wrote it. Andy grinned and signed what she had written. She lifted her eyebrows at him, and he shook his head as though admonishing her.

Next to what she had written, he wrote: You will learn. Is this your first semester signing?

She nodded.

Ashley did a little better and Andy left them.

All the normal small talk was gone. She wanted to sneak her phone from her purse, but there was a huge warning not to use phones or to allow them to ring. It was a little boring staring at Ashley who seemed to be struggling with the same silence.

Andy brought their drinks and salads to the table. The salad was appealing, not that horrible shredded lettuce that was served in the cafeteria. This was mixed greens with lots of feta crumbles and Kalamata olives. About half way through her salad, Savannah stopped with her loaded fork poised in front of her face.

Across the room, there was a young man sitting with an older couple, a female around his age, and a younger female teen. Maybe it’s his family. He was a golden blond and the only description Savannah could think of was drop-dead gorgeous. He was signing with one hand as he ate. The younger girl seemed to be playing with him, as though they were teasing. Someone must have chastised the teen by the look on her face and the way she sat back in her seat.

Ashley touched Savannah’s arm and made a face as if to ask what was happening.

Savannah lowered her fork and motioned for Ashley to look behind her.

When she turned back to Savannah, Ashley grinned and fanned her face.

Silent Spaghetti Supper is getting interesting. But Savannah decided that catching the eye of such a guy wasn’t going to be easy when he was across the room, and not looking in her direction.

She ate her spaghetti and instantly rated it the best she had ever tasted. But she kept watching the table across the room with the hopes that he would look at her. The young man left, never once gazing in her direction. As he walked away, it felt as though something had been pulled from within her.

Ashley tapped her foot against Savannah’s. In Ashley’s hand was the pad of paper with the words, Stop staring!

Savannah snatched the pad and wrote, I want a date with that guy.

Ashley stifled a laugh, but a small sound squeaked out, causing several people to look in the direction of the table.

Savannah ran her hand over her forehead hoping to shield herself from the deadly glares. I didn’t do it. But we know who hears us.

When she was certain she could no longer eat another bite, Andy placed a small plate of grapes, apple slices, and sharp cheese on their table. Between Ashley and Savannah, they ate every speck. Oh, roll me out of here after this meal.

That night Savannah tossed and turned in her bed. She attempted to tell herself it had to have been all the food she had consumed, but deep inside she was certain it was that guy. It was like a magnet pulling them together, but he must not have felt it. It’s the food. I’m not used to eating that much.

No longer did she walk the campus oblivious to the students around her. Now she scanned the landscape for him. Nothing. It was as though he didn’t exist and had merely been a figment of her imagination.

 

My other book is part of the Authors of Main Street Boxed set, Christmas Wishes on Main Street. There’s a second Joe Wags book called Christmas Paws. Yes, Flint returns as he opens another Joe Wags. Paisley has found her dream job managing a coffee cafe where dogs were welcome.

Paisley forced her body to vacate the bed. All I need is another ten minutes. Her mind pushed her to get into her shower, but her body was refusing to cooperate. Her shoulder blades and her hips must have joined forces as she slept because they were saying no to all movement. The simple act of getting dressed and going to work became an endurance challenge worthy of reality TV.

Flint had warned her that Saturday would be twice as busy as Friday. She couldn’t imagine being busier. She set up the brew stations, made certain the ice machine was working, emptied the dishwasher from last night, and checked to be sure everything was prepped and ready to go.

A man waited outside the door with his big dog. She didn’t know what kind of dog it was, but she assumed it was a fancy breed because it looked too cute with its reddish coat. She had another three minutes to go on the clock, but she opened the door anyway. “Come on in, coffee is still brewing, but the pooch food is ready as are the doggie drinks.”

“I’ll get a couple of those dog cookies for her, and I’ll take a plain, black coffee as soon as it’s ready. Is it still a quarter?”

“Yes, this whole weekend. Every penny we take in goes to the shelter.”

The man nodded and dropped a twenty into the jar.

“Thanks, that was very generous.”

He chuckled. “I’m a gold medallion supporter. The shelter gets me for a whole lot more than that.”

She passed him the dog cookies and then a cup of freshly brewed coffee. “Stick around. We have free Internet.”

“We just finished our morning run. Furthermore, it’s Saturday. I don’t want to go near a computer on the weekend. I get enough of it during the week.”

“Wow, I thought everyone was lost without their computer.”

“Not me. There might be internet on my phone, but I don’t use it.”

She kept waiting on other customers, and continued to converse with him. “Here let me give you another cup.”

“Are you doing that to see if I’ll drop another twenty in the jar?”

“No. I’m doing it because you already dropped a twenty.” She smiled brightly. “Let me guess, you have a wife, two kids, a cat and a dog, and you live in one of those big houses off of Claymont Road.”

“You only got one right – the house. I’ve got a grown son and a furry daughter.” He looked at his dog.

“Oh dear, I have one word for your daughter. Wax.”

“She goes to the groomer once a month. She can stick with the usual.” He sipped his coffee. “Okay, my turn to guess; husband, three kids, your mother-in-law, two cats, and a house that’s too small for all of you.”

“Not even close. The husband is an ex, and there’s a reason for that. His mother is welcome to get on her broom and leave town as long as she doesn’t come to Fullerton. I’ve got two girls, no animals, and for the first time in my life, I’ve got an apartment that is actually roomy.”

“How old are your girls?”

“One just turned eighteen, and the other is four months from being sixteen.”

“Ouch. That’s a difficult age for them and for their adult.”

She turned her back to him long enough to start brewing more coffee.

“I’ll let you do your work. See you later.”

She turned around to wave, but he was gone. He’d left too soon. She didn’t even know his name.