I don’t know about you, but in our little corner of the world it’s been hot most days for the better part of a month. In fact, our hottest day was 116. Whew!
It’s kind of fun to watch Christmas movies and read Christmas-themed books this time of year for no other reason than to convince myself it’s not really as hot outside as it really is.
In fact, I’m working on some Christmas books that will release this holiday season and would love to hear your thoughts about what you enjoy most in a Christmas romance? What are some of your favorites? Do you like holiday romances that are tender and sweet or romantic comedies? Do you enjoy a touch of magic in them or prefer them to be more grounded in reality? What makes you pick up a Christmas book and read it in the middle of the summer?
If you were going to write a Christmas romance, what one thing would you definitely include?
One holiday series I wrote a few years ago was such fun for me. The books were inspired by a Christmas carol, The Friendly Beasts, and I had a blast figuring out ways to incorporate all the animals from the song into the set of four stories.
The first story begins with a meeting among the animals on Christmas Eve. They are a nativity, discussing the their humans and how they can help them fall in love. The ringleader is a sassy camel named Lolly.
“Any other business?” Ivy asked.
“We really do need to find a donkey,” Lolly said as one of the humans picked up a toddler and set it on Cam’s back. The pony froze mid-chew then dropped his belly so the little boy almost fell off. “One good with children.”
“I concur,” Jasper said, smoothing his feathers.
“We don’t need to vote on it, but everyone should take the initiative to search for a donkey. If one is located, Jasper can communicate to all of us on the matter.” Ivy glanced up at the bird then back to Lolly. “Anything else to discuss?”
“No. I move to adjourn the meeting.” Lolly narrowed her gaze as the adults continued inching closer to her.
“Meeting adjourned and none too soon,” Ivy said, stretching her neck toward the costumed humans heading their way. “And for goodness sakes, Shep, don’t fall into the manger this year.”
“It wasn’t my fault,” the sheep protested. “The mule we had last year knocked me into it on purpose.”
“And that’s why we’ve got Cam this year.” Lolly turned from her friends to the people trying to take a photo of their child in front of the fence. “You want a photo op with your little darlings? I’ll give you a photo op you won’t ever forget.” She leaned over the fence and opened her mouth, dropping it over the closest child’s head.
Ivy mooed with laughter while Shep and Jasper joined in the amusement.
“Taste good, did it?” Ivy asked when Rhett ran over and extracted the child from Lolly’s mouth, handing the girl back to her mother. Lolly ignored his admonishments for her to behave and quit treating the kids like giant lollipops.
“Like peppermint and strawberries mixed with fuzz,” Lolly said, sticking out her tongue and spitting as everyone ducked. She grinned and turned back to her fellow Friendly Beasts of Faraday members. “I can’t wait until next year. It’s going to be the best, most magical Christmas ever.”
For a limited time, get a digital copy of Scent of Cedar FREE! You’ll find Lolly and the story of her humans on Amazon.
Did you know January 23 is National Handwriting Day? It’s true! The celebration began back in 1977 when the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association established the day to promote the use of pens, pencils, and paper. It also happens to be the birthday of John Hancock, a man remembered for his stylish signature on the Declaration of Independence. In fact, in the U.S., his name became a synonym for one’s signature.
As technology pervades (invades!) more and more of our daily life, it seems we write things by hand less and less.
There’s just something about writing something by hand that is almost therapeutic. And it’s an art that is quickly becoming lost.
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love getting something handwritten in the mail, whether it’s a card or a letter. Even a sticky note with a message written in Captain Cavedweller’s chicken scratch handwriting brightens my day.
Writing a letter is an art – from choosing the card or paper to the writing utensil, to the words that are expressed.
Writing a letter does require a little more effort than sending a quick text, but think about how personal a letter can be. How special it is to the recipient. How meaningful and appreciated even the simplest message of “I’m thinking of you” is to someone who loves you.
Letters build relationships in a way, a personal caring way, that text messages and emails never will. It’s something tangible that can be held in the recipient’s hand. Whether it’s a card full of glittery sparkles or a formal piece of heavy parchment, what really matters is the message conveyed from your hand to the heart of the reader.
In my sweet historical romance, The Christmas Wish, the heroine, Brynn, writes anonymous letters to people in the town of Hardman. Her only goal is to offer encouragement and cheer to the recipients.
Here’s a little excerpt from the book:
Percy had heard about someone writing letters full of positivity and hope to people in town. His parents had been the recipients of one a year ago, and his mother proudly kept the letter in the desk in the apartment. It was one of the first things she showed him when he returned home.
The handwriting was sometimes shaky, which made Percy wonder if it was an elderly person, but the turns of phrase the writer used hinted at someone younger.
Regardless, the wisher’s identity remained a mystery that Percy rather hoped continued. It gave the people in Hardman something happy to focus on and look forward to since a letter popped up once a week and no one could guess who would be the next recipient.
He glanced at Brynn as the conversation shifted to the holiday season and noticed her looking quite pleased. He wondered if it had something to do with the wisher or the way her grandfather continued to cast adoring glances at Dora Granger.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if there were more Brynn’s in the world?
I’m going to try to be more like her, and write by hand more personal notes this year.
What about you?
Do you write notes for friends and loved ones? Do you enjoy receiving them?
Do you have a favorite note or card that you’ve kept as a keepsake?
Post your answer for a chance to win a handwritten note from me!
New Year’s Eve spent on the farm during my growing up years meant an array of tasty snacks, a bucket full of confetti made by yours truly from newspapers I spent an hour cutting into teeny pieces and spent twice as long cleaning up the next morning, and the family gathered in our family room around a cozy fire as we waited for the clock to strike midnight.
Mom would serve a variety of chips and dip, meat and cheese with crackers, and there were always cookies and candies left over from Christmas. Those crazy people who wanted healthy options would find a veggie tray and apple slices.
When midnight arrived, we’d all grab big handfuls of confetti and dump it all over my dad, who knew it was coming but took it all in good-natured stride.
Captain Cavedweller got in our family craziness a few years before we moved too far away to join in the fun. While my family loved ranch dip the best, CC was a big fan of a particular brand of dill pickle dip.
Then the manufacturer stopped making it and it was a sad, sad day for CC.
Fast forward to a few years ago when I happened upon a recipe for dill pickle dip. It tastes exactly like the dip he used to love so much. Best part? It’s so easy to make!
If you love dill pickles, you are sure to enjoy this dip.
The ingredients are simple and few.
You start by draining the pickles on paper towels. It’s important they are dry and not overly juicy.
Then you just chop them into little bits of pickle-y goodness.
Stir in the remaining ingredients, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour (but overnight is even better because the flavors have time to blend).
2 cups of Nalley Dill hamburger chips, drained and blotted dry
2-3 tablespoons pickle juice
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Drain juice from pickles, set aside. Place pickles on paper towels, blotting dry (if they aren’t dry, your dip will be runny). Pulse them in the food processor to chop or chop by hand.
Mix pickles, sour cream, mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce. Slowly add pickle juice until dip is a good consistency. The more juice you add, the better the pickle flavor – just don’t overdo or you’ll have runny dip.
Serve with potato chips or crackers.
Refrigerate any leftovers.
Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups of dip.
Wishing you a Happy New Year filled with joy, health, success, and blessings!
Don’t you just love all the decadent goodies at Christmas time? I do. Probably more than I should. But, hey, that’s what New Year’s is for, right? No counting calories until January 1. It’s a Christmas law. Or should be.
My hubby always buys Christmas M&Ms to fill my candy bowl and, of course, I have to have the Christmas-wrapped Dove dark chocolates on hand.
Some of my favorite things to bake at Christmas include snickerdoodles, butter toffee, and shortbread. But the one goody that gets made every year without fail are my Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispies. Super easy to make and scrumptious to eat.
I hope that you and your family had a marvelous Christmas holiday whether together in person or in spirit. Keep enjoying those leftover goodies, and go ahead and make a few more. Don’t forget . . . calories don’t count until January 1!
The Fillies have wrapped their last gift and baked their last treat. While they wait for old St. Nick, they’re remembering a favorite Christmas.
We’d love for you to share one of yours.
A favorite family tradition began by accident. When the children were small, I habitually bought Christmas presents throughout the year and hid them. The problem was, some presents were invariably forgotten until after Christmas. One gloomy January, while organizing my closet, I found a set of cars I’d intended Santa to leave under the tree. Not knowing how else to handle it, I entered the room where the boys were playing and announced, “Look what Santa left on the roof.”
Needless to say, the unexpected gift was a big hit. Every year after that, Santa left something on the housetop. The funny thing is, no one ever thought to ask what Mom was doing on the roof.
Christmas is all about family, and last year we tried something a little different. Instead of a big gift under the tree, we decided to give the kids a big experience. So the day after Christmas we piled in the car and drove 2.5 hours to Fort Worth. There we watched the latest Star Wars movie in IMAX, ate an early dinner at The Cheesecake Factory (browsing in the Barnes & Noble next door while we waited for our table to be ready), then finished the trip by doing an escape room. We had never done one before, but we loved working together to solve the puzzles and figure out the clues to the fantasy storyline. We even managed to solve it with a little grace from the operator who let us go a few minutes over our hour limit. Not knowing what would lie ahead the next year in 2020, I’m so thankful for this Christmas memory of travel and family fun!
My best Christmas was a bit different – it was the year my dad quit drinking. After a horrible night of blood (he fell and cut his head – 18 stitches) and screaming (mom, at him), under the tree the next morning, he promised us he’d taken his last drink. We didn’t believe him – we’d heard it many times before. But good to his word, he didn’t, from then until he passed away, fifteen years later. Best. Gift. Ever.
One of the enduring memories that stands out for me of Christmas–every year–was how we had to orchestrate everything on Christmas morning so we could get it all on film! My dad loved to take pictures and developed a lot of his own pictures when he had time. BUT…he loved technology, too, and when those Super 8 movie cameras came out, he must have been first in line to get one. Every Christmas, he’d hook up the light bar and get the camera rolling. We’d all stumble out of bed, bleary-eyed, anxious to see what Santa had left for us (by that time, I was the only one left in our house that believed in Santa, since my sisters were older). Mom would invariably be calling, “WAIT! I have to put on some lipstick! Let me do something with my hair!” I would be chomping at the bit to start ripping and tearing my presents open, and of course, my older sisters were heaving sighs of frustration at the whole affair. Dad would yell, “COME ON, EL WANDA!” She’d yell back, “JUST A MINUTE! I’M COMING!” It’s so funny now–I can see what a comedy that would have been to an outsider–and it was so predictable. Every. Single. Year.
My favorite Christmas was when I was about eight years old. My dad had been in an explosion at work around September and received 3rd degree burns on his face and hands. My mom spent many days and nights sitting with him and we didn’t know if he’d make it. On Christmas Eve my mom was back at the hospital and my oldest sister who was married stayed with me and my younger sister. As I went to bed that night, nothing seemed right. I didn’t know how we’d make it if my dad died. And I didn’t know if there would any gifts the next morning. Mom barely paid us any attention and worry sat in her eyes. When me and my sister woke up on Christmas Day, there were gifts and I knew we hadn’t been overlooked. Then my mom came and told us that our daddy was going to live and that was the best present of all. He was released from the hospital three months later. This memory has stuck with me and I’m always amazed by the power of God’s love. Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you find your own miracle.
After 45 years of marriage, four daughters, and now ten grandchildren, my treasure chest of precious Christmas memories is overflowing. But there is one that stands out.
We always lay out a table of snacks to munch on during gift-opening. Several years ago, I used our Christmas dinner centerpiece to showcase the snacks on the dining room table. With four slender red candles tucked amongst faux evergreen in a lead-crystal base, the flickering candlelight effect was lovely. We retreated into the living room to open gifts.
About an hour in, I heard a tiny POP. With all the conversation, no one even noticed, but I KNEW. I flew off the couch, leapt over a pile of presents, careened around the chair, raced into the dining room, and sure enough, one of the slender candles had tipped over into the evergreens and caught fire.
I kept running to the kitchen for my sleek, white fire extinguisher, but alas, my thumb wasn’t quite strong enough to push the button. Now that my family had run in, too, I thrust the fire extinguisher into my able-bodied son-in-law’s hand and grabbed a box of Arm & Hammer baking soda out of the cupboard. By then, the fire extinguisher was spraying like a trooper, I added a large swath of the Arm & Hammer for good measure, and within moments, the fire was out.
But every plate of those savory snacks was ruined. So was my lead-crystal base and the rest of the centerpiece, and we had to have the dining room table top re-done.
It could have been much worse, of course. Thank goodness that POP! saved the day, and I’m convinced the Christ Child helped me hear it when no one else did.
When I was five years old, my parents moved up the hill on our farm into the new house they’d spent a year building. It was my mom’s dream home with plenty of room for all of us and for guests, too. That year started a tradition that lasted for more than twenty years of my parents hosting Christmas for thirty to fifty people, depending on which side of the family was coming.
One Christmas in particular stands out so well in my mind. About ten feet out the back door of the house was a big hill we could sled down and at the bottom was a pond where we liked to ice skate. I’d gotten a brand-new bright orange plastic toboggan that morning and was ready to test it out. Right after lunch, once the gifts had been opened and the mess cleared away, most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins poured outside to join in the fun. My dad and brother ran snowmobiles as a “taxi” service, carrying sledders from the bottom of the hill back up to the top. Some chose to skate and others stood outside and watched.
We were out there for hours, laughing and having such a great time. The sledding hill seemed to get slicker with each run and finally Mom decided everyone had been out in the cold long enough and drew us in with the promise of hot chocolate and wealth of desserts. Two of my cousins (who were grown and married with their own kids), decided to take one more run down the hill. They grabbed my old toboggan, jumped on it together, and down the hill they sailed in a great impression of Clark Griswold. They hit a big bump, the toboggan broke in two, and off the went in different directions. One landed in the ditch and the other crashed with a face full of snow. I was so glad they hadn’t been on my new toboggan!
I’m so grateful for all the wonderful childhood memories I have of special holidays at home with my parents and extended family.
Oh, how I love Christmas! One of my most memorable Christmas Eve’s occurred when I was a third grader. I’m the oldest of four girls. Daddy had just bought a brand spankin’ new Chevy.
We could hardly wait until Christmas morning to see what Santa brought us. I recall waking up to not only a huge snowstorm where drifts had covered Daddy’s new car, but nothing from Santa Claus under the tree. How horrible!
While Mama fixed us hot chocolate with extra marshmallows, Daddy explained everything to us. The snow was so heavy that Santa couldn’t get in our door because of the snow, so he put all of our presents in the trunk of the car.
Well, after breakfast, Daddy dug out while Mama kept us preoccupied by doing a jigsaw puzzle. Sure enough Santa had left our gifts, just like Daddy said. I’m still confused because if Santa and his elves make all of the gifts in his workshop, how in the heck did they end up in Sears and Roebuck boxes. But you know, it was a wonderful white Christmas and I’ll never forget it.
Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Can you believe Christmas is just a few short days away? December just really got away from me. I only just managed to get my tree decorated and stockings on the mantel this past Sunday. But better late than never I suppose.
When I first thought of what I might produce for this post, I let my thoughts run to the Christmases of my youth. And one of the first memories that came to me was of my momma in the kitchen making Christmas candy, so called because she only made these treats at Christmastime. She would make fudge, pralines, divinity, and bar cookies. There was one in particular that was my very favorite. I know everyone thinks of pecans when you think of pralines but they do come in other flavors as well. One of these flavors is coconut. Since I’ve never been much of a fan of pecans, these were a real favorite of mine. And come to think of it, I’ve never seen coconut pralines anywhere else – just those produced by my mom and grandmother.
And the fun part of these candies, besides the fact that they were oh so delicious, was that momma would buy fresh coconuts still in the shells and once she cracked them open, drained the milk (which I loved!) and dug out the meat, she would give them to me and my younger sister to peel and grate. with a hand crank grater. My sister and I really enjoyed this, especially since once the pieces got too small to work with we would eat them – so yummy! I still have that old grater to this day, though I haven’t used it in years.
And here is the recipe, named for my Mom:
Shirley’s Coconut Pralines
2 cups of sugar
¼ teaspoon of salt
½ cup of whole milk (coconut milk can be substituted for all or part)
2 cups of shredded coconut
½ teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract
Combine the first 3 ingredients in a 2-quart or larger saucepan.
Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
Continue cooking, without stirring, until contents reach the soft ball stage (235-240°).
Stir in the shredded coconut; then continue cooking until it reaches the soft ball stage again.
Remove from the stove and allow to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.
Stir in the extract and then beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens and turns creamy in color.
Quickly, before the candy hardens, drop by rounded tablespoons onto waxed paper, forming patties. Let cool before removing from wax paper.
Wishing you all a joyous and blessed Christmas regardless of your circumstances.
Hi everyone! I’m kicking off our week of Book Scootin’ Holiday Favorites with a giveaway and a great recipe to go along with my favorite holiday memory! Hope you enjoy hearing about how my cousin and I “run into some trouble” when we were kids, and why it’s my favorite holiday memory now. I’m giving away a copy of GAMBLING ON A COWBOY to a lucky commenter, and there is a wonderful recipe for Milky Way Cake coming up in this post as well, so please read on, and be sure to leave a comment!
When I was a little girl, I begged my parents for a sister—or even a BROTHER—just someone that I could have to play with. My sisters were 12 and 10 when I was born, so by the time I was in first grade, my oldest sister was off to college, and two years later, my middle sister followed. I had a lot of friends, but it wasn’t the same as having a little sister or brother—and that was what I wanted.
Mom was the eldest of eleven children in her family. I think she was really tired by the time I came along—she was 35 when I was born and had two older daughters entering new phases of their lives that were so different than mine. When I mentioned a younger sibling (which was very often!) she’d say, “You have a lot of cousins! You have a lot of friends! I just don’t know about a little brother or sister, Cheryl.”
I had to be content with my friends and cousins as the younger sibling never materialized. Even after I asked SANTA for one, I still didn’t get one, or a pony, either.
But Mom was right about my cousins and friends. I had many, many cousins that were about my age and always saw one another on the big holidays, Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving.
Those were the holidays when ALL my cousins and aunts and uncles gathered, and to me, that was almost as wonderful as getting up on Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought.
My favorite Christmas memory happened one Christmas Day when we’d all gathered at my grandparents’ house for Christmas dinner. We’d driven down there after getting up early to open gifts, packing the car, and excitedly getting on the road. I was beyond thrilled, because my cousin Julia was going to be there. With her belonging to a military family, they weren’t always able to make to these gatherings, but this year, they would be there! And though we usually managed to spend a week at each other’s houses in the summer, that had been so long—especially for a 10-year-old lonely little girl!
Julia was a few months older than I, and we were always “partners in crime” when we were able to get together. When she happened to spot an entire package of Milky Way candy bars in the refrigerator and whispered to me “There are SIX of them!” I knew we had to get those candy bars and have them all to ourselves. But how? Julia had three younger siblings at the time, and of course, there were MANY other cousins there. It had to just be the two of us, or we might be discovered.
We made our plan, got into the kitchen, and slipped that bag of Milky Ways out of the refrigerator and under Julia’s coat. Then, out we went through the backdoor. There were some marvelous woods behind Granny and Granddad’s house…if we could just get out there and get hidden before some of the younger kids tried to follow us! We ran—oh, how we ran in that cold air, so joyous to be together again, and even more thrilled to be doing something we just KNEW we’d get away with! No one had seen us take those candy bars, we were certain of it. We had also had the good fortune of getting out into the woods without hearing one of our mothers call to us, or even being saddled with younger cousins! How had we managed to do it all? The stars were aligned!
We found a good place to sit, and broke open that bag of candy bars. Let me tell you, no first bite of candy before or since had ever tasted so wonderful. Why? Because we’d gotten away with it! And we were sharing it together. We sat and giggled and caught up with “girl talk”, and we ate three candy bars each. By the time we got to Milky Way #3 for each of us, we were not nearly as enthusiastic about eating them as we’d been in the beginning, but what could we do? We couldn’t leave evidence. We couldn’t take them back. We couldn’t bear to just throw them away!
So we ate them. Then, we started back to Granny and Granddad’s house very slowly. Things were not so wonderful anymore. We both were feeling rather green around the gills, and…what if we HADN’T gotten away with it after all?
We had started to feel awfully guilty.
We knew each other well enough to know that was what was wrong with both of us, aside from the fact that we had eaten way too much chocolate and caramel.
When we came in the back door, we realized immediately that we’d been discovered. Our Aunt Joyce was livid. She’d brought those Milky Way bars to make her wonderful Milky Way Cake. Now, dessert was ruined for everyone because we had been so selfish. And back then, there was no way to replace them—nothing was open on Christmas Day.
There was no need for punishment. We were suffering enough as it was, since everyone knew what we’d done. And you certainly did not want to disappoint Aunt Joyce—which we had done in spades. Oh, there were other desserts (not that we wanted anything to eat for a very long time, and certainly nothing sweet!) but no Milky Way Cake that year.
That night as we laid on a pallet on the floor, Julia said quietly, “Can you believe we ate SIX Milky Way bars? And we didn’t throw up?”
I still laugh when I think about that. It was quite an accomplishment! Though it wasn’t funny at the time, that’s become my favorite Christmas memory!
Here’s the recipe for that scrumptious Milky Way Cake that’s close to the one our Aunt Joyce WOULD have made that year if we hadn’t eaten her candy bars!
MILKY WAY CAKE RECIPE (and above image of cake!) from CookItEasy.net
sugar – 2 c
eggs – 4 item
vanilla – 1 tsp
chopped nuts – 1 c
stick margarine – 1 item
semi-sweet chocolate chips – 6 oz
evaporated milk – 1 c
soda – 1/2 tsp
sticks margarine – 2 item
marshmallow cream – 1 c
Milky Way candy bars – 8 item
How to make milky way cake:
2 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. evaporated milk
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. marshmallow cream
1 stick margarine
Dissolve soda in buttermilk.
Melt 1 stick margarine and all 8 candy bars in double boiler. Set aside.
Cream sugar, 1 stick margarine, and eggs. Beat well. Add alternately the flour and buttermilk with soda. Always begin and end with flour. Add vanilla, nuts, and candy bar mixture. In a tube pan, bake at 325° for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Frosting: Cook sugar, milk and margarine to soft ball stage. Remove from heat. Add chocolate chips, vanilla and marshmallow cream. Stir well. Cool slightly and spread on cooled cake.
AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!
I’m offering a giveaway today of the GAMBLING ON A COWBOY boxed set from Prairie Rose Publications, a collection of SIX book-length novels from Kaye Spencer, Agnes Alexander, Patti Sherry-Crews, Tracy Garrett, Becky Lower, and yours truly. Just share a comment about a favorite Christmas memory and I will enter you in the drawing! Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas holiday with lots of fun, laughter, and love–and be sure to join us here at P&P every day for more Boot-Scootin’ Favorites to come!
Once in a blue moon, I get a crazy idea that I have to pursue.
My latest was thinking I could publishing another children’s book for the holiday season this year, but without a fabulous illustrator.
I wanted to do the whole book myself – the story, the graphics – everything.
Especially when I can’t draw, not even a lick.
Thank goodness for graphic design programs and YouTube tutorials!
I started kicking around the idea of a children’s book based off two little animal characters from my Baker City Bridessweet historical series. I wanted them to be the stars of the show.
Ollie is a raccoon and Tip is a fox, and they both got to play the part of a hero in their respective stories right alongside the human hero.
I knew I wanted this story to rhyme, because who doesn’t enjoy reading a rhyming book. My little nephew and his joy of rhyming stories is what inspired that idea.
I knew I wanted a hidden character on each page of the book, which turned out to be a cardinal. My mom loved cardinals and it’s my little way of including her in the story even though she’s no longer with us.
And I wanted the book to be something special for my readers to enjoy for Christmas.
Once I sat down and wrote the story, it was time to dig in and start working on the illustrations. When I dove into this project, I had no idea how much I would learn and how far this would stretch my talents (and sometimes my patience!).
But it was a lot of fun, so I thought I’d show you few samples of how the book came together.
Using Adobe Photoshop, I used photographs of foxes and raccoons and through a process (of about a dozen steps for each photo), I turned the photographs into graphics. Then I turned each graphic into a full-page illustration.
I truly enjoyed working on this sweet little story full of Christmas cheer and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it. You can find it on Amazon in digital, hardback, and paperback versions. It’s also enrolled in Kindle Unlimited for those with subscriptions.
What is your favorite children’s Christmas story?
I used to love reading The Littlest Angel and The Littlest Christmas Tree.
Here’s something I learned recently that I sure could have used in Christmases past when my kids were younger! Searching for the perfect gifts, the ones that “everyone” would be getting, made for a stressful time—not the relaxed, easy-going holidays we always imagined in our minds. You know, the Norman Rockwell scenes we all believed our Christmas holidays should look like—but that was before Playstation, X-Box, iPad…the list goes on.
A couple of years ago, I read something that really opened my eyes and made me wish for this bit of wisdom much earlier in my life. A simple Christmas list like this would have surely made life easier and less stressful—what do you think?
“Something they want
Something they need;
Something to wear,
Something to read.”
Problem solved! FOUR GIFTS! No, I’m shaking my head. I know I couldn’t have limited it to four gifts—not “back then”, anyway. Now that my kids are 34 and 31, this is a lot easier to follow and keep to! “Toys” are more expensive—as is everything. Clothing, wants, needs – yes, even books!
Maybe that’s why we enjoy writing and reading historical western romance—those were simpler times and the expectations were not so great. My parents grew up during the Great Depression in the Dustbowl days of Oklahoma’s history. Their families were so poor—and, coming from the same small town, Mom and Dad knew each other—and everyone else in that area—from the time they were born.
Mom talked about how sparse the Christmases were, but how happy they managed to be, in spite of it all. I imagine, with her being the eldest of eleven kids, her Christmas was especially small. She mentioned that the girls got a doll and a pair of shoes. If times were “good”, they got ribbon candy and an orange in their stockings.
When I was growing up in the 60’s-70’s, Mom kept up that tradition of always getting me a doll. When I got too old for baby dolls, she switched to the Madame Alexander collectible dolls. By that time/age, I was on to other things—blacklights, posters, incense, record albums, and of course, bell bottom jeans and “smock tops” to wear! Did I mention crayons? There was nothing more wonderful than getting the HUGE box of crayons and new coloring books—I don’t think I ever outgrew those. I would still sit down today and take joy in coloring!
This is BABY FIRST STEP–I got her when I was about 9 or so–she really walked (with the help of 2 “C” batteries!) I named my Baby First Step “Christy” — which was the most beautiful name I’d ever heard and I wished so much my parents had named me that at the time!
In my story, THE DEVIL AND MISS JULIA JACKSON, the heroine has fled her home in Georgia to get away from a distant family member. Filled with a sense of propriety, she scarcely knows what to ask for when the hero, rancher Devlin Campbell, asks her what she might like for Christmas. Even though they’ve made the hasty decision to marry to avoid the scandalous talk that might otherwise surround them, they don’t know one another very well yet—certainly not well enough for Julia to mention anything personal she might want or need—even though she has arrived in Indian Territory with not much more than the clothes on her back. What does she ask for? Take a look…
EXCERPT FROM THE DEVIL AND MISS JULIA JACKSON:
Something had changed. Julia felt it. His touch was more…possessive. The bitterness seemed to have disappeared, only to be replaced by lines of weariness, instead. What had happened in the short space of time since he’d left?
“Got anything left to make for breakfast?”
Before she could respond, he went on. “We’ll head for town here in a bit. Gotta take the prisoners in.”
“I have my list…it’s long.”
He laughed. “Good thing there are so many of us going. Still too treacherous for a wagon, but maybe we can pack what you need back on the horses.”
She brightened. “That will be wonderful, Dev. Thank you.” What a relief to hear him offer, with no complaint. She breathed deep, knowing this Christmas was going to be special for everyone. But it was especially important for the children.
“And…what would you like for Christmas, Julie?”
His voice was rich, low, and somehow, his question was reassuring. It had been so long since she’d thought of wanting anything for herself—even necessities—that she struggled to think of how she should respond.
“I—maybe some new pan grips for the kitchen—”
Dev stood looking at her in shock. “Pan grips—you mean pot holders?”
She nodded, and he laughed in disbelief. “Well, I tell you what, Miss Julia Jackson. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a man who buys his betrothed pan grips for Christmas.” He leveled a narrow look at her. “You better think of something other than…pan grips.” Shaking his head, he started for the door. “I’ll go gather eggs. At least, we’ll have those for breakfast if nothing else.” He grabbed his coat from the wall peg and shrugged into it. Just before he closed the door behind him, Julia heard him mutter, “Pan grips.”
Asking for any kind of personal gift would mean…reciprocating. And she had nothing to give him. If only he knew how she’d had to scrimp, even with the money he’d sent her—to get here! She had a blessed five dollars left, saved back in case she and Lauralee hadn’t been able to make it to the Flying C and had to stay in town.
How could she tell her soon-to-be husband that she needed—everything? She had bought one dress for herself and one for Lauralee. The first new dress Julia had had in over two years. And in those past two years, she’d embarrassingly filled out in certain places. And even grown taller. She was an excellent seamstress and had done all she could. The older dresses she possessed were tight, and shorter than was decent. But Julia supposed a man would take no notice of that. Dev would probably not realize that it wasn’t the fact that her clothing was woefully out of fashion, but that it was bordering indecency, that embarrassed her.
What were your childhood Christmases like? I miss those days! As soon as it was a “borderline” decent hour on Christmas morning, my best friend, Jane, who lived down the street, would call—or I would call her—and we’d excitedly talk about what we got and when we might get together to play. Those were simple joys—just sharing our new gifts with one another and enjoying each other’s company.
Here’s a picture of me with Jane playing in the sandbox one cool day when I was 7 and Jane was 8. Jane is gone now, but I will never forget the wonderful friend she was and the memories we made together.
Please leave a comment to be entered in my drawing for a digital copy of THE DEVIL AND MISS JULIA JACKSON! If you can’t wait to see if you won, you can snap up your copy at Amazon—and it’s also available in paperback.
ALSO, The Devil and Miss Julia Jackson recently was included as part of a wonderful digital boxed set from Prairie Rose Publications, GAMBLING ON A COWBOY, now available for only .99! Other authors in the set include Kaye Spencer, Agnes Alexander, Patti Sherry-Crews, Tracy Garrett, and Becky Lower!