Holiday Romcoms for the win!

With Thanksgiving behind us and December right around the corner, we are getting into the thick of the winter holidays here in the US.

Photo by Ma Bou00eete A Photos on Pexels.com

There is an aura of hope and joy around the holidays, when the world feels a little more magical and dreams can come true. Added to that the importance of friends and family and human connection, it is no wonder there is a boom of romance novels and movies with winter holiday themes. I love stories where love triumphs and hope wins, so I’m a total sucker for a good holiday romance. While I enjoy reading love stories all year round, this is the one time of year where I try to catch the latest movies too.

I have a Netflix subscription so that tends to influence the movies I actually see, but fortunately they have lots of good options. Last year I particularly enjoyed Love Hard and A Castle for Christmas–they were both cute and funny, though with very different themes. This year I’ve already enjoyed Christmas With You. Aimee Garcia is one of my favorite rising stars so I couldn’t miss it. I’ve also got my eye on Noel’s Diary, though it looks a little more serious in tone than a lot of holiday movies.

What about you? Do you enjoy holiday movies or stories? Are there any new ones coming out that you are excited about?


Jaycee Jarvis has been an avid romance reader since devouring all the Sweet Dreams books her middle school library had to offer. Also a fantasy fan from an early age, she often wished those wondrous stories had just a bit more kissing. Now she writes stories with a romantic heart set against a magical backdrop, creating the kind of book she most likes to read.

When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of pets.

Jaycee is a Golden Heart® finalist and author of the Hands of Destin series. The award winning first book in that series, Taxing Courtship, released in June 2018. The final book in that series, Crowning Courtship, came out in May 2021.

Learn more about her around the web:

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Daily Thanksgivings, by Viola Russell

(Viola is busy celebrating the holiday with family, and asked to have her special Thanksgiving message posted today)

On Thanksgiving:

It is important as Americans to celebrate this day as a reminder of our unique heritage and the intricate past we have woven. We are a country made of many peoples with intricate pasts. Every person’s hereditary contribution to the American landscape is unique and shaded with the colors of justice/injustice, freedom/slavery, sacrifice/privilege, and ethnic cultural/American identity. Sadly, Thanksgiving, however, is often fraught with political and even familial tensions.

We in the United States—and elsewhere on other important holidays—have to move past these tensions on events that should be celebratory. Our world has become too fraught with conflict over the most mundane matters. We don’t simply disagree with others over politics; we shoot them or invade their homes with hammers. We don’t simply follow the codes of our own religion; we insist others must follow them as well and enact laws to restrict the rights of others. We shoot gathered groups of people in public places who may not live a lifestyle we approve; we vilify people by race, religion, or ethnicity on social media. Sometimes, it is hard to remain thankful in a world with so much hate. Only today, a university I once attended had to close because of a threat.

Instead of ranting against others, we should count the blessings of our daily lives. We should remain grateful for our daily blessings and not concentrate on the hate we feel for others—if we feel hate. We need to push past the limits of our own gratitude. Most of us do not have perfect lives; however, they are far from imperfect, either. I am no saint. I have had my share of angry, self-righteous, and ungrateful thoughts; however, I have made a promise to myself that I will not dwell on negativity. My husband just celebrated a milestone birthday; we had a very wonderful gathering with a small group of friends. My school voted me Teacher of the Year; my sainted mother would have been so proud! We have not yet sold my rental house (St. Joseph, please come through), but we have the option to rent it if we don’t. We will celebrate Thanksgiving with family out of state this year, and our beloved New Orleans Saints won their last game.

In my writing, I write characters that rise above hatred, crippling challenges, and fear. We need to rise above that paralyzing ingratitude in our own lives as well and count our daily thanksgivings. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all –

Viola Russell

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Earth friendly gifts

It’s late November and everyone is frazzled and freaked by how close it is to Christmas. A month from now and before you know it you will be getting presents from the service station! I’ve tried to gift some earth friendly gifts over the years, and often they end up time saving as well.

Firstly, make yourself a list. You can often bulk purchase for sets of people and online ordering is a wonderful thing. Or you may get a surprise opportunity for an interesting present. For instance, you may be accosted in a shopping mall by a charming young fireman selling their calendars where they hold kittens and puppies. The poor dears couldn’t even afford shirts for the photos! (Full disclosure: I bought 4 that year).

Gift Certificates are always pretty good. Snap them up a few at a time when you are grocery shopping. I find general ones are much easier to spend – you don’t want to send people to a shop out in the middle of nowhere or they can’t find things they like. If all else fails, you can always buy groceries with a generic card.

Subscriptions are available for a lot of things now – magazines, survival supplies, book mystery boxes, makeup etc. You can now set up a subscription on Amazon for things, which I only found out the other day, as I promptly gifted myself a favourite face cream to arrive every two months!

Donations are also a great gift, particularly if you can’t think of something for them, or they are a bit of a minimalist who hates getting Christmas junk. These can vary from charities such as World Vision, wildlife carers and animal shelters. They often provide a nice card. Make sure you check out the charity online shops for other presents such as calendars (teachers like these), pins, clothes etc.

Things that reduce waste are also nice presents. These are things like a reusable coffee cup, cloth makeup wipes, reusable cloth menstrual pads (perhaps save this one for the close family), solid shampoo and conditioner bars, a box of hankies, or a selection of kitchen things like silicon freezer bags, beeswax wraps, silicon baking mats or storage containers. Or an e-reader for a bookworm – load it with all your books if you are an author – and if you know an author – buy all their books as a gift. (Not that I’m hinting at all!)

Or something to help get rid of waste. A compost system, a worm farm, or bokashi bucket for instance. Don’t forget the wrapping – bags that can be used again, brown paper wrapping that can recycle, or wrap in teatowels.

There are also a range of handy power saving devices. Solar power tech is getting better all the time, and there are many more things that are usb and/or solar charged. Torches, lanterns, blow up lights, small emergency radios and also solar phone chargers are all handy, particularly if you get power outages.

A personalised hamper is a minimalist present that is always appreciated. A small reusable container with some snacks they like, and then add in a few things they use – handcream, makeup, a special beer brew, a magazine, or some expensive pet treats they wouldn’t buy generally for their special furry friend. All consumed and little waste.

Or something that makes their life a bit greener. A nice indoor plant, a bee hotel, a few packets of seeds or bulbs, a microgreen grower or a small hydroponic light system. Or a trailer of manure!

Lastly, a gift of love – your time. An afternoon of gardening, a walk and a chat, a coffee. A plate of home baked biscuits or even a bag of groceries or a subscription for monthly toilet paper or something useful for someone you know is struggling a bit. This one gives not only to them, but makes you feel better too.

Anyway, hope this helps any frazzled present buyers. Any other ideas? Post them in the comments and spread the joy.

About Cindy

Cindy Tomamichel is a multi-genre author, with her SMP series Druid’s Portal a time travel action adventure romance set in Roman Britain. Short stories of fantasy, scifi and romance can be found on her website, where she blogs on aspects of world building. The 30 Organizing Tips for Writers provides much needed help for authors trying to navigate social media and build an author platform. Doing NaNo this year? Check out her free book NaNoWriMo Ready. Or pick up a copy of the free Romance Short Stories.

Contact Cindy on

Website: https://www.cindytomamichel.com/  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CindyTomamichelAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CindyTomamichel

Amazon: https://amazon.com/author/cindytomamichel

Newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/AdventureNews

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/cindy-tomamichel

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Thanksgiving with Family and Friends by Susan Hanniford Crowley

Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

My husband is descended from a Mayflower Pilgrim on one side of his family.

Some of you may not know the history of the Pilgrims of Plymouth, Massachusetts. For one thing, the Mayflower was supposed to land in Virginia where there was already an established English colony. Blown off course by storms, they ended up at Plymouth. The captain had tried to find a route south but found little inlets instead and winter was fast approaching, so he left them and took the Mayflower back to England. He didn’t want to be stuck there for the winter. So instead of being welcomed by English people and getting help building homes and obtaining food, the Mayflower’s passengers of men, women, and children were alone in the wilderness.

Half of them died because of the cold and illness. The rest survived because of the kindness of the Wampanoag people. They taught them how to hunt, fish, and plant crops. Their alliance with the Wampanoag tribe created a flourishing Plymouth. When they celebrated the harvest and thanked God, they share their feast with the Wampanoag.

What was on the table of the first Thanksgiving? People aren’t really sure. From the only two documents that survive from that time, we know they ate deer, wildfowl (ducks, geese, homing pigeons, etc., possibly not Turkey), cod, bass, and corn which they used for porridge and cornbread. This comes from the website https://food52.com/blog/20949-what-was-actually-served-at-the-first-thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in my family usually starts in the morning with watching the parades with the grandchildren, then watching children’s shows, while the chefs confer in the kitchen. We usually eat in the late afternoon. It’s a fact of house construction that you can see the tv in the living room from the dining room, so no one missed the football game.

Our Menu:
Roast Turkey with stuffing
An extra bowl of stuffing
Mashed or Baked Potatoes
Corn
Mixed Vegetables
Cranberry sauce
Pecan or Apple Pie for Dessert (I’m voting for the Pecan Pie!)

Wishing everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving, a great feast shared with family and friends! I am truly grateful.

Smiles,
Susan
Susan Hanniford Crowley

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Back to baking…

My former day job included teaching industry pros (chefs, bakers, caterers) how to bake with traditional French pastry doughs produced by LBA. I occasionally barter tune-up baking sessions for frozen dough. Saw the Star Wars shape and needed to try one.

I like the new (to me) shape and felt it held plenty of filling. I generally bake first then fill, or at least let the dough rise/proof before filling. Avoiding doughy, greasy, unbaked layers – under heavy filling – is my goal.

Sheets of brioche dough were part of the bartered samples, so savory roll ups scented the kitchen. I’m heading to Cancun next week, and froze a few to take on the nearly six hour plane flight. Ham and cheese with veggies are my favorite.

Future plans include drafting a book on techniques and tricks I learned when I met wonderful baking staff who wanted to utilize LBA dough. We’d share successes and learned from one another. LBA uses all butter and premium ingredients, so anytime I can score a few dough samples, I’m more than willing to crack out my rolling pin and teach a few tips.

Wonderful reading for a chilly evening. Happy trails, Sally
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Honoring Veterans with Lovely Digits’ John Brodie

By Jeanine Englert

In Lovely Digits, Constable John Brodie is a man somewhat broken by his past as a soldier and by the secrets of his family. As a former sailor, he has nightmares of former battles and blames himself for the loss of younger men and sailors under his care. Despite this fictional account as seen through hero John Brodie, there are many men and women who suffer with such similar losses or regrets related to their service of their country. The strength and persistence of these men and women amaze me, and I feel indebted beyond what I can express for their service.

I challenge you this coming Veteran’s Day in the United States (November 11th), to find a way to honor those who have died in service to their country and its people or to give back and acknowledge the service of those veterans around you. It can be a verbal or written thanks, a meal paid for without them knowing, a donation of time, goods, or money to a charity that supports current service members, veterans, and/or first responders, or just a prayer for their wellbeing and comfort.

Not sure where to start? One of my favorite nonprofits that support those who currently serve is Operation Gratitude at www.operationgratitude.org. I have been making paracord bracelets on my own and with students for years now, and I am always touched by the emails of thanks we receive by the men and women who serve when they receive their handmade bracelets and notes.

You can also reach out to a local veterans’ nonprofit in your area. The Veterans of Foreign Wars at www.vfw.org is a great place to start. Don’t ever think your giving of goods or donation of time is too small. It only takes a little to show you care a lot.

If you have other ways that you know of to show support, honor, or care for those who currently serve, veterans, and/or first responders, please drop a comment and share below. I would love for our reach of love, support, and gratitude to grow even further!

With many thanks and gratitude to all of those veterans who have served, especially my husband Brian, and those still serving,

 Jeanine

Jeanine Englert’s love affair with mysteries and romance began with Nancy Drew, Murder She Wrote, and her Grandmother’s bookshelves full of romance novels. She is a VIVIAN® and Golden Heart® Finalist as well as a Silver Falchion, Maggie, and Daphne du Maurier Award Winner in historical romance and mystery.

Her Scottish Highland historical and historical romantic suspense novels revolve around characters seeking self-acceptance and redemption. When she isn’t wrangling with her characters on the page, she can be found trying to convince her husband to watch her latest Masterpiece or BBC show obsession. She loves to talk about books, writing, her beloved rescue pups, as well as mysteries and romance with other readers. Visit her website at www.jeaninewrites.com.

Social Media Links –

FB: http://www.facebook.com/JeanineWrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JeanineWrites

Website: https://www.jeaninewrites.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46222432-lovely-digits

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/jeanine-englert?list=abouthttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46222432-lovely-digits

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Happy Halloween!

Today is Halloween here in the US which means it is time for costumes and candy and all things spooky. I really love Halloween because it is such a quirky community celebration, with everyone getting into it in their own way.

Trick-or-treating is a strange and wonderful tradition, and something that happens in one form or another across the whole country. When I was a kid, my family lived abroad for a year and it was really hard to explain this annual fall celebration to my school friends there–and of course we didn’t really experience Halloween that year, because unlike most holidays, it is a community event that can’t be done right with just one family. Dressing-up and asking strangers for candy doesn’t work very well if the strangers aren’t expecting you!

There are other ways that the larger community gets in on Halloween too, with local farms offering hay rides and corn mazes. My family tries to make it to the pumpkin patch every year to pick out carving pumpkins–one of my favorite traditions of the holiday!

Where I live now, Halloween is even more of a neighborhood event since we’ve turned it into a block party with hot cider and lots of socializing to go along with the usual trick-or-treating. It makes for a festive evening for everyone, and it wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of lots of families and friends.

What about you? Do you celebrate Halloween? What are your favorite spooky fall traditions? Do you have any other favorite holidays with distinctive ways to celebrate?


Jaycee Jarvis has been an avid romance reader since devouring all the Sweet Dreams books her middle school library had to offer. Also a fantasy fan from an early age, she often wished those wondrous stories had just a bit more kissing. Now she writes stories with a romantic heart set against a magical backdrop, creating the kind of book she most likes to read.

When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of pets.

Jaycee is a Golden Heart® finalist and author of the Hands of Destin series. The award winning first book in that series, Taxing Courtship, released in June 2018. The final book in that series, Crowning Courtship, came out in May 2021.

Learn more about her around the web:

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The Allure of Online

I dedicate several hours each morning to writing and editing. I have a daily log of word count and make sure to spend time every day (including weekends) doing something writing related. It fills my soul and keeps my mind from whirling in unhealthy directions. What’s more fun, finding inventive ways to torture my characters or obsess about a mistake I made ten years ago that I can’t change? Anyone? Bueller?

Recently, though, I discovered Reddit. Specifically, the AITA (Am I the A**h**e) and BORU (Best of Redditor Updates) forums. When I say it’s a rabbit hole, I mean it. The seductive lure of lives gone wrong and people reaching out for advice on an Internet forum is something I never thought I’d get sucked into, but here I am.

Honestly, some of those stories make me despair for humanity. Some tales are worse than others, of course, and some are funny, but the number of stories about toxic partners, toxic parents, narcissistic siblings and crazy neighbors initially made me want to dig a bunker in my back yard and hide away from all humanity.

It’s a microcosm of the world, I realize that. Most people are decent and want to do the right thing. Even those on these subforums sometimes realize their mistakes after being piled on by a bunch of Internet strangers. Sometimes they don’t. And those stories, while often entertaining, are also sad. These are people lives being dragged down by whatever situations they are writing in about and they can be so awful that all you can do is hope that the person survived.

I haven’t been one of those people who uses research as a way not to write. I make myself finish my targets for the day before doing whatever else is on my plate. But I admit the allure of reading “just one more story” is hard to resist. I have to limit myself so that rabbit hole doesn’t become a cavern.

One thing I do know – whatever is going on in my life, I won’t be turning to a Reddit forum to find out what to do. That stuff lives forever!

What about you? Any good tales?

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Interview with Jude Mooney 

Interview with Jude Mooney  by Viola Russell

When I first began writing From Ice Wagon to Club House, I had no intention of writing a series; however, the Mooney family invaded my consciousness in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Jude and his family became flesh and blood to me. Here I imagine an interview with him as Viola the reporter questions Jude about his extraordinary life. 

Interview with Jude Mooney:

Viola: Mr. Mooney, you’ve driven an ice wagon, fought in WWI, participated in the Irish war for independence, sold bootleg liquor, trained race horses, and run an illegal booking operation. How did you venture into so many enterprises?

Jude Mooney: I grew up poor. In 1915 New Orleans, I was a poor boy lucky to have a job on the ice wagon. I didn’t have a great deal of education, and in those days, most people only had iceboxes to keep their food cold. My buddy Pete and I sold ice to New Orleans households. Working with Pete made it bearable. 

Viola: How did you find yourself in Ireland during the Irish Rebellion?

Jude Mooney: Well, I was always a kid who wanted more. I wasn’t easily satisfied.  Pete and I started working in Storyville. My mother and father were very respectable, pious. Hell, I was, too, but my brother’s death had already hurt our family and put us in debt. We needed money. My parents still didn’t approve of Storyville, and when they found out what I was doing at night, they were furious. I jumped a ship, working my way back to my family in Ireland. It was there that I fought for Ireland and met my Maeve, my rose. 

Viola: Yet you joined the British Army to fight during WWI.

Jude: I did. Maeve and I argued, and I joined because I was so furious with her. While I was in France, I saw some things I hope I’d never see again.

Viola: You reunited with Maeve. 

Jude: She was beautiful. I loved her. We fought together during the Easter Rebellion. She was a woman of fire. When I returned from France, I found out she’d had my twins, Daniel and Paul. 

Viola: You returned to New Orleans. 

Jude: My parents were here. So was my sister Jean. Pete was back from the war. He was U. S. Army and ha lost an arm, and he then married Jean. 

Viola: And you bootlegged.

Jude: We would have starved during the Depression. My mother was horrified, but I’d learned a few things from my time in Storyville and Ireland. You had to look out for yourself. Respectability is a luxury only rich men can afford. That was the case in Storyville. So many of those girls were poor girls trying to survive. That was true of Maureen. 

Viola: Who was Maureen? 

Jude: A gorgeous Irish girl making her way in the world. Her life and mine would be linked forever—much to her tragic end, I’m sure. Then, her lovely daughter Nieve—well, that was after my Maeve–. I don’t regret anything I did, but my sins were visited on my sons and my family. Daniel and Paul lived lives even more daring than mine, and their adventures began when they defended my bootlegging business. My little girl Aoife, who I tried so hard to protect, also loved excitement and freedom. In the end, you really can’t live your children’s lives. Their mistakes are their own. 

Viola: Any parting thoughts?

Jude: I have no regrets.  I was born in Ireland, the Mother Land. I loved her and my New Orleans. I fought for Ireland and made my fortune in New Orleans. My children have carried on my legacy. They have fought for freedom while loving life and seizing it by the throat. 

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The Write Word with Wareeze

Ghosts Add Dimension

Thank you for joining me and welcome to the Soul Mate Publishing Blog. I write historical romance under the pen name Wareeze Woodson. I love history, all the romance of another era regardless of the hardships of the times. Therefore, I write historical romance with a twist of suspense.

At this point in time I have seven novels available on Amazon and the Soul Mate Publishing website. My first novel forward: Conduct Unbecoming of a Gentleman, An Enduring Love, A Lady’s Vanishing Choices, Captured by the Viscount, The Earl’s Scandalous Wager, After She Became a Lady, and my historical western romance, Bittersweep all listed on my website:www.wareezewoodson.com

Halloween will soon be upon us…trick or treat…candy, costumes…and ghostly happening. Sitting at my computer and thinking of hauntings, apparitions, and such I turned the key on one of my music boxes. One of my collection of nearly one hundred. The sound cast me into another world, the world of dreams and writing about those imaginings. The music also called to mind a recent incident when the chime scared me witless in the middle of the night. Earlier in the day, I twisted the key, but no music was forthcoming. Sad because the music box that had meant so much to me was now broken, I put the porcelain box aside. In the wee hours of the morning, the chimes came alive waking me from a sound sleep. My breath caught in my throat, and I sat up in bed frozen with my heart pounding for an entire minute. Ah, the idea for a story.

Romance can and often does include such creatures as ghosts. My ghost story weaves its way into my latest romance, Vanessa. Not yet published but I shall be finished with the writing very soon (keeping my fingers crossed.)

VANESSA

After all these years, her music box, the one Uncle Charlie had given her on her birthday of six and ten, still sat on her dresser, craved with a figurine of a lady on top. Delicate and so lovely, the statuette had her hand raise in a dance position. Uncle Charlie had a watch maker constrict the musical components much as a clock works and placed a figurine on top. Vanessa ambled across the patterned rug and reached over to fingered one raised hand of the dancing lady. With barely a touch, three notes of music chimed forth from the box. The figurine whirled. Startled by the music and the unexpected movement, Vanessa bit back a scream. To her knowledge, no one had wound the music box for ages and having the notes peal out so unexpectantly left her slightly unsettled. Vanessa glanced into her mirror only to have the statuette stare back at her. She drew a long, shaky breath and turned away. After a moment’s consideration, she shook her head at her own shocking want of conduct. She must bring her imagination under control.

With unwavering determination, she twisted around and picked up the music box. Without a pause, she wound the key enough for the song to play entirely and stood there until the last delicate note faded away. With that, Vanessa nodded in satisfaction and opened the clothespress to decide which garment she intended to wear to dinner. Perhaps her guardian would return tonight, and she must appear at her best for him.

This was the first visit of the ghost. Spooky don’t you think? The music box sat untouched for three years or more and now the much-treasured box played for her. Was the chiming a warning of danger or of things to come…what? The details of the haunting add spice to the story of love, danger, intrigue, and above all, happy endings.

Thank you for taking the time to share this brief moment with me and Soul Mate Publishing. For more information about me and my writing, I have added the address of my website, face book, good reads, and twitter.

Respectfully,

Wareeze Woodson

Website: www.wareezewoodson.com

Face book: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wareeze-woodson/52372775689755

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/wareeze

twitter: https://twitter.com/@wareeze

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