Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas


As the holiday draws near, activites are picking up around the home. I'll be spending the next week enjoying my family and friends, but before I do, I wanted to take a moment and wish all my cyber-friends a very Merry Christmas and a safe holiday season.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ten Days and Counting

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If you’re stopping by today you must be caught up on your holiday preparations. Good for you. Or, if you’re like me, you’re just chasing your breath. Whatever reason I’m glad you did.

Holidays are a time for family and friends, but with all we seemingly have to do it seems we have little time to spend with the family and friends. Let me tell you a secret, one that will help relieve the stress your feeling. The family and friends will never know or notice what you didn’t get done. They will see all that you did do and will rejoice your efforts.

So this year, I’m baking a limited amount of Christmas cookies and not the piles I normally do. There are always so many left over and I’m the one who eats as many I can before feeding to the birds and deer.

Gifts are numbered this year too.
Everyone will get a wrapped gift, the rest are going into bags or card gifts.

Christmas breakfast will be a crockpot of cream chipped beef which can be made days before and my children love. Christmas dinner went from sit down to buffet, again with many dishes prepared day before. Dishes that are familiar. The holidays are about home.

And, I’m actually thinking of making it a ‘Come home in your sweats or PJ day’.

My family will be fed and have gifts and non-stressed mother. They will be happy!

So do you have any time-saving hints or recipes for this holiday?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Friday's Friend Victoria Gray

I love reading different time periods, and my Friday Friend, Victoria Gray, has done just that. You're going to love her blog and excerpt. Enjoy!

1)You recently had a new release. Could you tell us a little about it?Autumn, my new release with The Wild Rose Press is Angel in My Arms, the story of Amanda Emerson, a Union spy undercover in Richmond, and Steve Dunham, the Union officer she enlists in a daring rescue. The scheme to rescue a double agent
from a Confederate prison where he’s awaiting execution plunges them into danger and sparks an irresistible passion between the roguish officer and the beautiful sable-haired spy. As the treachery surrounding them thickens, every moment he’s with her jeopardizes their lives, but they discover a love that’s worth the risk.
Steve Dunham, the hero in Angel in My Arms, is built like a Viking, has a twinkle in his eye, and he’s got guts. Best of all, he’s the kind of man who’s had his share of women, but when he falls, he falls hard and forever. A seasoned Union operative, he faces danger on a daily basis, but when the woman he loves is threatened, he’ll stop at nothing to keep her safe.
Amanda Emerson, the heroine, is a sable-haired beauty who joined up with a nest of Union spies living in Richmond. She’s skilled at deception, but when she falls for the handsome spy she’s drawn into their latest scheme, there’s no way to hide her feelings. Amanda’s gutsy and tender, a woman who doesn’t even realize how beautiful she is. She doesn’t want to fall for Steve – their love puts both in danger – but some tides are too hard to fight.

2) Did you have to do any special research for the novel?I did extensive research before and while writing the novel. I’d learned many years ago about Elizabeth Van Lew, a Richmond spinster known as Crazy Bet who was actually a Union spy. I modeled one of my characters, the spymaster, Betsy Kincaid, after Crazy Bet, incorporating some of her tactics and the places she frequented into the story. I also researched the historical figures of the time, such as the Confederate first lady, Varina Davis, and the historical landmarks of Richmond, including Libby Prison, the site of the jail escape that is central to the story.

3) Why do you write in the genre you do?I’ve always had a passion for history, so historical romance seems a natural choice. I find myself swept away by the sense of being in another time when chivalry was still in vogue. Setting a story in an historical time period creates a world quite different from the hustle and bustle of twenty-first century life.

4) What was your favorite scene to write?My favorite scene takes place soon after Amanda and Steve have accomplished the rescue. Yearning for Amanda, Steve sneaks into the spymaster’s house and finds her asleep. She stirs to awareness, finding he’s covered her and stoked the fire; his tenderness flares to passion, and they explore the delicious pleasure they can bring one another.

5) What kind of books do you read?I enjoy many different genres. Of course, I love historical romance, especially those set during the Civil War era or Victorian England. I’m also reading a steampunk romance that strikes me as Victorian England with gadgets, and I devour non-fiction that’s related to my writing. One book I’ve pored over recently details actual letters exchanged between soldiers and their loved ones during the Civil War – what a powerful book!

6) How do you spend your down time?When I’m not writing or working at my day job, I enjoy walking and hiking, cycling, and getting away to the mountains or the beach with my husband. I’m also a movie buff – I especially love comedies. Most of my movie “keepers” are films that make me laugh.

7) Are you a goal setter?Absolutely. I set long-term and short-term goals for my writing and other aspects of my life. One of my new goals is to run a 5K. I’ve started a running program that is designed to work me up to a 5K (3.1 mile) non-stop run. At this point, I can handle intervals of 5 minutes running and 2 minutes walking with no trouble…the next short term goal here is to shorten the walking intervals to 1 minute, and so on. By the spring, I should be running a 5K with no trouble.

8) What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve done?The most adventurous thing I’ve ever done was a hike in the Blue Ridge Parkway out to a rock formation that my husband had read about in one of those lovely guidebooks that make everything sound like a spring picnic. Hiking normally isn’t all that adventurous for me, but this particular route involved navigating a few segments where there are narrow ledges with sheer drops – I have a fairly pronounced fear of heights, so these were not fun for me. I persevered, gritting my teeth, I observed my husband was having the time of his life while I was literally white-knuckled with fright. Collapsing onto a fallen tree after making it past the last of these ledges, my husband was kind enough to point out a very large snake skin – the fact that the skin looked very fresh and had rattles at the end put a quick end to my respite. That hike proved a little too adventurous for my tastes, and it’s not an experience I’m looking to duplicate any time soon.


Amanda Emerson must break her cousin, a notorious double agent, out of a Confederate prison before his imminent execution. She’s a skilled Union operative, but for this mission, she needs a man. Even a man who looks and acts like a Viking warrior.
Caught with Rebel battle plans and set for a hanging, Union spy Steve Dunham isn’t about to refuse the assistance of the sable-haired beauty who shows up at the jail and slips him the keys to his cell. Of course, she’s there for a reason besides saving his neck - he’s the key to her plan.
He may be trading one noose for another, but he won’t forsake her. The spoils of his victory will be her surrender. And the terms of surrender will be sweet.

Buy Links:
Angel in My Arms is available from The Wild Rose Press (print - and e-book -, and other retailers including:
Digibooks Café (,
All Romance E-Books (, (Kindle - and print -


Amanda sank into a chair and gazed into the crackling flames. Her heart ached. And there was only one cure for it.
A cure that would not come tonight. She’d outgrown childish Christmas wishes many years ago. She knew better than to hope for a miracle that would not come.
Kate padded across the floor, her footsteps soundless against the braided rug. “Joshua will be here to take me home shortly. I’ll return in the morning.”
“You belong with your family,” Amanda said. “Betsy and I will be fine. We’ve—”
A rap against the door cut through her words.
“Don’t tell me Captain Reed has returned,” Betsy muttered, eyeing Kate with a critical glare as she marched to the door with impatient strides.
She mumbled a few words to the unseen visitor and closed the door almost as quickly as she’d opened it.
“It seems I was wrong.” Betsy placed a wrapped package in Amanda’s hand. “You have an admirer.”
“I don’t know,” Betsy said with a reluctant smile. “The messenger didn’t say who’d sent him. Only that this was for Mandy.”
Amanda was sure her heart skipped a beat.
She unwrapped the package with slow, careful motions, intending to savor this moment, the pleasure of discovery.
Her lower lip quivered as she removed her gift. Ivory hair combs, exquisitely carved. Amanda examined her treasure with the wonder of a child on Christmas morning. She slid the combs into her hair.
A folded slip of paper lay within the box.
Amanda read the boldly scrawled message. She’d been so very wrong.
Her wish had been granted.
Someday I’ll hold you again.
Steve shoved his hands in his coat pockets and braced himself against the cold. The warmth of his room at Lily’s Place beckoned him, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave. Not just yet.
The boy he’d paid to deliver Amanda’s gift ran to him, reported the deed had been done, and rushed home, a silver coin clutched in his grimy hand.
Home. How many years had it been since he’d even had a home? Ten…no, eleven. He’d never been in one place long enough to put down roots, not since he left Boston.
With his collar turned up and his hat slung low to obscure his face, Steve skulked through the streets of a city where he didn’t belong. The truth broadsided him with the merciless force of a cannon ball. One week past his twenty-ninth birthday, he had no wife, no child, and a rented room in a brothel in which to lay his head.
A few weeks ago, he wouldn’t have given a damn. He’d never needed anything beyond a warm bed and a willing woman.
But nothing had been the same since he’d first laid eyes on Amanda.
Even in her prim and proper gray dress, she’d robbed him of breath. She hadn’t known that. Until he kissed her.
Longing speared his heart. He was in love with a woman he had no right to want. His partner’s sister. A beauty who could have her choice of who would give her every comfort she deserved. Amanda deserved so much more than he could ever give.
But that didn’t change a damned thing.
He couldn’t stop himself from loving her.

Learn more about Victoria at:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hard Candy Christmas

I can handle holiday shopping, especially when the spirit of Christmas fills the air and finds its way into the hearts of the other shoppers. When a stranger smiles, remembers the manners his or her mother taught them and wishes you Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday, it’s magical.

Yesterday, my husband and I ventured outside of our small town and went to the big city for a few gifts that aren't stocked on our Five & Dime shelves in rural America and surprisingly that is exactly the experience we enjoyed. A true sense of Christmas.

Maybe it's the tough financial times we've all experienced over the past year that has made us realize what is truly important. It's not the number of gifts you receive or give on December 25th that is important but rather the smile and twinkle of the person offering you a hug and kiss, for no other reason than they love you. Even a cyber-hug.

It will be a hard-candy Christmas in my house. We’re watching our pennies, and I must say, I haven't been so excited about the festivities for a number of years. We are well. We have a warm home and the cupboard is not empty. So we’re good. And with the extra dollars we’ve found or been able to save, we’ve decided to help others instead of buying another toy or article of clothing that would most likely find its way into the spring yard sale box.

My happiest memory as a child was if the years when we received only one or two gifts and a candy cane or an orange. There wasn’t a pile of gifts. I remember them well. One year I received a fuzzy, pink housecoat and slippers. Another year a Susie Smart Doll. I loved that doll. And one year, Sants showed up early with a stereo and a Christmas album. On Christmas morning, we each received a record. I got the Beatles. I have wonderful memories of listening to the Christmas album my mom played over and over while baking sugar cut-out cookies and driving my parents nuts listening to Paul, John, George and Ringo.

My DH and I hope that what we’ve been able to put aside and give will make the season happy for a few others. Perphaps they will have a treasured memory.

So, as you shop, please remember the true meaning of the season. Find it in your hearts to help someone, and look others in the eye, smile and wish them all a Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Friday's Friend Vivi Andrews

Today, I welcome one of my darling Ruby-Slippered sisters and world traveler, Vivi Andrews. Vivi amazes me. She is such a profilic writer, and oh so fun. Please welcome her.

Hi, I’m Vivi and I love the holidays. You know that Andy Williams song The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Yep, that’s how I feel about the Season of Giving. Even though the temperatures are dropping, hearts seem warmer and more open. It’s a time of year when all of us – no matter our age – can reacquaint ourselves with the sense of magic that we might think we’re too grown up for during the rest of the year.

But it isn’t all candy canes and mistletoe. As countless Christmas movies filled with mishaps tell us, the holidays are also a time when our stresses can be amplified and swallow up our visions of sugarplums. Those To Do lists can feel a mile long – shopping, decorating, baking, caroling… and still keeping up with your day-to-day life? Good luck!

And it isn’t just the time crunch we’re feeling. Presents aren’t cheap and we’re in a recession. Even though Angel Trees and Adopt-a-Family programs are great ways to help those whose holidays might be a little darker this year, there are still going to be too many of us struggling under a stack of holiday bills come January.
And then there’s family. Even if you come from a wonderful, big, boisterous, amazing family like mine, it can still be stressful coordinating all the zany holiday gatherings. And for those who aren’t fortunate enough to be blessed with big loving families that get along well together, the holidays can be a time of keen loneliness and intense stress at tense family gatherings.

I still believe this season is the most wonderful time of the year, but there will also be times in our holiday stresses when we could all use a little pick-me-up.
That’s how I was approached for the holiday paranormal collection I’m a part of with Carina Press. They were looking for books that would be a fun escape from the holiday mayhem. I was flattered to be asked and delighted by the chance to write a story that featured my favorite season – even if I didn’t really go the traditional holiday route with No Angel.

My heroine Sasha finds herself on an angelic quest to march through Hell (literally) to rescue her boyfriend on Christmas Eve. And then if she succeeds, she still has to bring him to meet her parents on Christmas morning! The stress of introducing a significant other to her folks is bad enough, but add demonic minions to the mix and it becomes a holiday ride that breaks the mold – and hopefully gives the reader a few giggles as a break from the stresses of the most wonderful time of the year.
Are you gearing up for the holidays or ready for a break from the madness already? Do you love this season or think it’s just overhyped commercialism at work?

My Website:

No Angel Blurb: When Sasha's boyfriend, Jay, is sucked through a fiery vortex to Hell, an angel reveals that Sasha's been chosen as the Champion of Virtue in the battle for his immortal soul. As a perennial offender on Santa's naughty list, Sasha can't believe she's anyone's idea of a girl fighting on the side of the angels. But if she doesn't save Jay, he'll be stuck in Hell forever!
Jay—aka Jevroth—isn't surprised to find himself back in Hell. His visa to visit the mortal plane expired three months ago, but to steal more time with Sasha he's been ignoring his mother's demands that he come home to spend time with his new stepfather: Lucifer.

Sasha has until dawn on the twenty-fifth of December to fight the Legions of Hell and rescue Jay, or be trapped there for eternity herself. But now she must decide if the lying son-of-a-demon is even worth saving...

No Angel Link:

No Angel Excerpt:

Chapter One - Cloudy with a Chance of Angels

On the day Sasha Christian’s boyfriend got sucked into the fiery maw of Hell, she baked cookies.

This is not to say baking cookies will trigger abduction into the Underworld, but it is important to understand that this was not the sort of day on which one might expect one’s significant other to be kidnapped by demonic forces.

It was a Tuesday. And Christmas Eve.

Thirty minutes prior to the abduction, Sasha stood in the ten-items-or-less line at Ralph’s, holding a single bottle of molasses and fighting the temptation to count the items in the basket of the woman in front of her.

If she counted even eleven items, Sasha didn’t think she’d be able to stop herself from tackling the woman and bludgeoning her with her own canned yams until she retreated in blood-spattered shame to the three-mile-long non-express line. Since this would likely result in Sasha’s ejection from Ralph’s and force her to locate another grocery open at four-twenty on Christmas Eve where she could buy unsulfated molasses to finish her gingerbread cookies, she decided it was best to avert her eyes.

Instead, Sasha concentrated on the flat-screen above the checkstand where a twenty-four-hour news channel recapped the holiday frenzy in a highlight reel. Tinsel, holly, rosy-cheeked celebrity faces, blah blah blah.

She’d already seen the segment twice. Her oh-so-brilliant idea to pop out to the store had turned into a marathon shopping expedition. Just finding a parking space had taken more time than she’d planned for the entire trip.

Damn holiday crowds.

Sasha gritted her teeth and reminded herself that she loved the holidays. Jay was the Grinch in their relationship. During the rest of the year she might be the misanthropic one, but at Christmastime she was Tiny Tim, bouncing around God-bless-us-ing everyone…when she wasn’t entertaining violent fantasies about women who got in the ten-items-or-less line with at least eleven items, making her even later than she already was.

Four-twenty. Jay was due at her place in ten minutes and instead of the Christmas utopia she’d planned as a surprise for her bah-humbug boyfriend, he would find an empty apartment with a bowl of gingerbread goo in the kitchen.

If the apartment was still there at all. Sasha was reasonably certain she’d left the oven on.

The fact the news channel hadn’t broken in with a live aerial shot of her apartment building in flames was somewhat comforting. The holiday montage continued with footage of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels from earlier that afternoon.
A slow, panning shot of the courtyard showed a throng worthy of Times Square on New Year’s Eve, jostling and chorusing a barely identifiable rendition of “Hark the Herald” as they stared skyward. The first angel mass always did draw a crowd.
Dark clouds—imported from Seattle for the occasion, no doubt—layered the Los Angeles sky above the blocky, geometric cathedral. On cue, as the bells began to peal, a hole opened in the clouds like a camera iris widening. Spears of sunlight streaked down to gild the tan stone of the cathedral, lighting the alabaster cross that thrust out over the plaza, but no one in the crowded courtyard was looking at the building.

All eyes were on the gap expanding in the clouds as a figure appeared, riding the rays of light.

Gold-kissed wings spread wide in an eight-foot span to slow his approach until the white-robed figure seemed to float on his graceful descent from the heavens
Sasha rolled her eyes. How cliché can you get? Trust an angel to play it up for the crowd. The holier-than-thou bastards were worse than starlets when it came to mugging for the cameras.