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Clare writes inspirational romance, usually of a suspenseful nature. Her books are available through her publisher Pelican Book Group and Amazon. She is married with three kids and lives in the UK. She loves watching sci-fi, crime drama, cross stitching, reading and baking.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Wherever You Are - Military Wives Choir





The British charts have been taken by storm over the past week as Wherever You Are entered on Mon 19 Dec and became the Christmas No 1 on Dec 25 - less than a week later.

While their husbands were on active duty in Afghanistan, the wives of bases at Chivenor and Plymouth were visited by Gareth Malone and the BBC as part of a tv series The Choir. He wanted to give the women a voice, something to keep them occupied while their men were fighting thousands of miles away. None of them expected this.

Given the opportunity to perform at the Festival of Remembrance, a week after the men returned, Gareth asked the women for letters they and their husbands had exchanged. The song was composed by Paul Mealor from those letters. The title comes from a bracelet one husband gave his wife before he left.

I can't embed this for some reason click this link, watch the video then come back here. Oh and grab a tissue first. This song has had the Entire Country in tears - more than once.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAMrvw8I2A4

All the money raised from the sale - INCLUDING the tax goes to two charities. The Royal British Legion and SSAFA. Both charities support military families all year around.

The single is released in the US on Dec 27th - http://www.amazon.com/Wherever-Military-Wives-Gareth-Malone/dp/B006DWW4SA/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323379888&sr=8-1-fkmr0

You can follow the Military Wives Choir on Twitter @milwiveschoir and on facebook

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Advent Day 25

Something I wrote last year.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20HoJZecNqM This is Christmas - Kutless

The tall carpenter stood in the stable, looking down at the tiny newborn baby in his arms. Mary, his wife, lay exhausted on the pile of straw beside him. He loved her so much, didn’t think they’d have make it. Especially with everywhere full and Mary in labour. He’d never tell anyone how scared he was the last few hours. And as for delivering the baby himself...

He shuddered. He’d done it, but never again. He sat down slowly, the babe still sleeping peacefully in his arms. The angel said this babe was the son of God. It wasn’t his flesh and blood he knew that. He’d known for months. He’d been ready to divorce Mary, furious that she’d cheated on him, but the angel had set him right on that score. His faith and love for the woman nest to him wasn’t misplaced or in vain.

He stroked the babe’s cheek. “I will protect you, love you, raise you as much as any children I may have in the future with your mother.” He took a deep breath. “Lord, where do I, a mere carpenter, fit into this plan You have? I’m a man...how can I be a father to the Son of God? I know nothing about children or raising them? Surely a rabbi would have been a better choice. I don’t even know the scriptures as much as some men.”

The babe began to cry and he rocked him gently. “Shhh, my son. Let mamma sleep a little longer. She had a hard time birthing you.” For an instant it seemed all the light went from the room, then as the crying lessened the light returned.

Mary stirred. “Joseph...is he okay?”

He smoothed Mary’s hair from her face. “He’s fine, he’s gone back to sleep. Rest, my love, I’ve got him.”

Mary smiled. “You’re a good father. We don’t deserve you. Any other man would have cast us out.”

He kissed her forehead. “You’re my wife and he’s my son. That’s what matters.”

“God sent you to me Joseph,” she whispered. “He wanted you to raise His son here on Earth.”

He looked down at the baby. “A son of my love,” he whispered. “Lord, help us protect your son and help him fulfil his destiny.”

-----

Yannick sat on the hillside—alone. The darkness seemed deeper than before and even the stars seemed dull and boring. Except for that new one which hung over the town, almost as bright as day where it shone. Ever since those shiny sky people appeared singing and raving about a baby born in town—in a stable of all places—nothing had been the same. Everyone had rushed off to see if the story was true. Everyone apart from him. He had to stay here and look after the stupid sheep.

Being the only kid still living at home sucked some times. No make that all the time. Yannick do this. Yannick do that. Yannick go make up the 20 rooms for the unexpected guests this census has brought us. Yannick go feed the animals. Yannick go help your brother with the sheep tonight. Yannick stay here while we go see and see this Saviour who’s been born.

Dawn broke. Strange...that star still shone, bright as anything. Where was everyone? Yannick sat up straight. Was that singing? Over the brow of the hill, came the shepherds. Arms linked and yes they were singing. Yannick shook his head. They lied to him. Made him stay here so they could go get drunk. That was it. He stood up. “I’m going home.”

His brother looked at him. “Mum wants you anyway. Load of work to do at the inn, but you should have seen it. Just like they said. It’s amazing. The baby, the manger...” He began singing the angel’s song again.

Yannick scowled. “Yeah, right. Save it for someone who cares.” He stomped off down the hillside. Anything, even working his fingers to the bone in the inn, would be better than sitting here doing nowt but listening to a load of drunk people singing. He kicked the stone out of the way as he walked. Biggest thing to have hit Bethlehem since the census was announced and he misses it. Ducking and diving his way through the packed streets he made his way to the inn. Packed to the rafters, the noise was incredible.

He ducked inside and made his way to the kitchen. “Mam!”

She appeared with a tray in her hand. “Glad you’re here. Take this to the stable Couple staying in there—turned up on the doorstep last night. Would have turned them away but the young girl was in labour and there was nowhere else for them to go. She had a baby last night. She could probably do with some food. Take this out to them, see if they need anything else. Could probably fetch the midwife to check her over too. Midwife never got there last night...too many other paying babes to birth than fuss over one that couldn’t pay.”

Yannick took the tray. “If they can’t pay the midwife then...”

“It’s paid for tell them. Some bloke last night gave enough cash for board and lodging for them. Soon as we have space I’ll move them inside. Be quick about it. Don’t know what all this fuss is over. It’s a babe. Women have been having them for years. It doesn’t warrant all these visitors especially in the middle of the night.”

Yannick disappeared with the tray, his mother still talking as he left. He loved her to bits, but she sure did yak on and on at times. He headed out the back, best not to argue with her when she was in one of those moods.

Wait a minute... Visitors...baby...stable...Could it be what those shiny sky people were going on about.

He glanced up and shook his head. No...and that star wasn’t shining straight down on him either. He reached the stable and crept inside. “I’ve brought you some food.” He stopped short. There really was a baby lying in the manger too.

A tall man came over to him. He took the tray. “Thank you. I’m Joseph...this is my wife Mary. Thank you for this. How much do we owe now?”

“Nothing...some bloke already paid. Mum says he paid board and lodging so soon as she can she’s moving you inside. He also paid for the midwife to come over later and check you both.” He looked back at the baby.

Mary smiled at him. “Want to see him?”

Yannick crept closer. A stab of disappointment filled him. It was just a baby. Couldn’t be the same one all the fuss was over. Not worth the singing and dancing if it was. “He’s cute. What’s his name?”

“We called him Jesus. You can hold him if you like.”

Yannick picked up the baby.

Mary smiled. “You're the first person to hold him other than us.”

“Really? Thank you. He’s so tiny.”

Joseph smiled. “But he’ll grow up to be a saviour like they promised.”

Yannick looked up. “So this is him? The one the sky people sang about? I thought after all the fuss he’d be bigger or shiner or different, but he’s just a baby.”

The baby opened his eyes and looked directly at Yannick. Those fathomless, bright eyes peered deep into his soul.

Yannick gasped. Those eyes were so old, he knew without a doubt who he was holding. He slowly dropped to his knees. “My Lord,” he whispered. “Those shiny sky people were right.”

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Advent day 24


Twas The Night Before Jesus Came

Anonymous

Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house
not a creature was praying, not one in the house.
Their bibles were lain on the shelf without care,
in hopes that Jesus would not come there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed,
not once ever kneeling or bowing a head;
And mom in her rocker with baby on her lap,
was watching the late show while I took a nap;

When out of the East there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter;
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
threw open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The light of His face made me cover my head,
it was Jesus returning, just like He said.
And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth,
I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.

In the book of life, which He held in His hand,
was written the name of every saved man.
He spoke not a word as He searched for my name,
when He said, "It's not here!" my head hung in shame.

The people whose names had been written with love,
He gathered to take to His Father above.
With those who were ready He rose without a sound,
while all the rest were left standing around.

I fell to my knees, but it was too late:
I had waited too long and thus sealed my fate.
I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight.
Oh, if only I had been ready tonight.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear,
the coming of Jesus is drawing near.
There's only one life and when the last name is called,
we'll find that the bible was true after all.


And spare a thought for those in Afghanistan / deployed abroad and their families left at home.
See this post here for what its like.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Advent day 23 - Delia Latham pt 3


Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
© 2011 Delia Latham

Part 1 if you missed it
Part 2 if you missed it


Part 3

Raising her gaze to his, not even bothering to bemoan what she knew must be a swollen, splotchy, make-up stained face, Jo shook her head.
"You're here now. What has changed?"
"Monty Colafax was killed yesterday in a shoot-out with police and FBI. He won't be bothering me or anyone I love, ever again."
"Oh." Jo digested this information slowly. "What about his people?"
Dean shrugged. "FBI says with him out of the picture, the operation will almost certainly dissolve. Immediately. However…" He lifted her chin and met her gaze. "If you'll have me back, Jo—and you can't possibly know how much I hope you will—I'd feel much safer somewhere else. Some other town, even another state."
"Another state?" Jo's mind whirled. It was too much, too fast. "Just…leave?"
"Just leave. With me. And become Mrs. Paul Kent." Dean eased her away from his chest, far enough to place a hand on each of her shoulders and pin her under a pleading gaze. "Do you love me enough to do that, Jo?"
She caught her breath and held it, and a sudden weird silence fell between them.
No sound at all. Just the pounding of her heart and the spinning of her mind.
Until Mariah Carey burst in with the lilting melody and oh-so-appropriate lyrics of "All I Want for Christmas is You."
The somewhat cheesy words echoed deep within Jo's heart. He really was all she wanted for Christmas—for every Christmas, the rest of her life.
She tucked her lip between her teeth and scooted closer to Dean.
No, not Dean. Paul.
"I rather liked the sound of Mrs. Dean Barrister."
He chuckled. "So did I. But I can live with Mrs. Paul Kent, as long as she's you."
"Yeah?" She leaned in to place a soft kiss just at the corner of his lips. "Well, she is."
"She is?" He jumped up, tugged her up beside him, then hauled her into his arms. The kiss he gave her then removed any doubt about whether or not he loved her.
He did. Jo felt it in every inch of her body.
"Jo, darlin', I've wanted to hold you in my arms for so long."
"And I have wanted to be in your arms, for just as long."
"Are ya sure ya still love me?" Dean spoke as if in jest, but Jo read the deep seriousness of the query in his eyes.
"As sure as I've ever been about anything in my life," she whispered. "I love you Dean…or Paul, or whoever you are."
"Doesn't matter what you call me, darlin'—at least, not for the moment. All that matters is that you stay in my arms forever."
"I can handle that." She pulled his face close to hers just as Brenda Lee's all-too-familiar voice filled the room.
Grinning, Jo changed direction—took his hand and pulled him closer to the big tree in the corner.
Obviously puzzled, he nevertheless followed her across the room. "Where we goin', darlin'?"
"Right here." She took his hands in hers and swayed to the upbeat melody. "I feel like rockin' around the Christmas tree. Join me?"
Dean's deep rumble of laughter caught her by the heartstrings, and Jo knew without a single doubt that he'd hold them forever.
With a sudden, unexpected motion, he spun her around one way and then the other before pulling her back into his arms. "I'll rock with you any day, anytime, anywhere, Jo Leigh Callihan. That said…"
He danced her across the room in the silence between songs, stopping under the arch between the kitchen and living room.
"What are you doing?" Jo said, laughing at his antics.
He pointed upward, and she lifted her gaze, bursting into laughter when she spotted the sprig of mistletoe hanging above her head.
As if on cue, music once again filled the air. Jo gasped at the familiar lyrics, rendered in the familiar gravelly voice of Randy Travis.
"Meet me under the mistletoe on midnight, Christmas Eve…"
"Hmm." Dean lowered his head and nuzzled her neck as he pulled her closer. "Seems like maybe we're exactly where we're s'pose to be, right at this moment."
"Seems that way," Jo murmured.
And then there was only the sweet Christmas music, dancing and swirling around them as their lips met and they melted against each other.
But all Jo heard was the pounding of her heart and the singing of her soul.
He could be Dean or Clark or Santa Claus. She didn't give a fig what this man called himself, where they lived, or what signature she used to sign their checks. He was still the only man she would ever love.
Every day, every year, every Christmas.
And through every single, silly Christmas song.

(c) Delia Latham 2011

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Kisses From Heaven

Kisses from Heaven
My Free Read is now available HERE


Collecting the cat from the vet should be simple. Right? Not when the paths are icy and the local Christian vet is drop dead gorgeous. Kady Harris has done as much as she could to win his heart and failed.

Rory O’Leary figured he’d missed his chance with the beautiful girl who sits opposite him in church -- after all, she's married. Until he learns things aren’t what they seem when she winds up injured in his arms.

Someone once called snowflakes 'kisses from heaven.' Can a snow covered landscape covered in God's kisses work it's spirit of love on Kady and Rory?

I haz a release date :D

And I can see my editor cringing over my bad grammar from here LOL


After The Fire hits an unsuspecting world on Feb 17th 2012. Avaliable as both Print and Ebook.

Blurb:

Private Investigator, Freddie Flynn, wants nothing to do with the man who left her fifteen years ago, or the God he left her for. Especially if the reports of corruption within the high ranking levels of the company are true.

Finding missionary life unfulfilling, Jason Bryant returns to Headley Cross and takes a position in the same firm as Freddie. Wanting to make amends, he is halted by a file which states she’s a traitor.

Thrown together on a case that could cost them everything, including their lives, can they see beyond their hurt and work together? Is all lost in the fire? Or will they find forgiveness in the still small voice of love.

Excerpt:
She paused. "I’m sorry, Jason. I shouldn’t have said all that stuff, and I shouldn’t have been rude to you. I suppose you called the office and told the boss I’m working the forbidden case?"

"Now why would I do that?" He looked at her over the coffee cup. His tone was abrupt, and she knew he was mad at her. 

"Because you’re the vice president, and I’m defying orders."

Jason gave her a long hard look. "Yes I am, and yes you are. But no, I haven’t rung the office. I rang the boss before I left work. He knows you’re undercover on one of the cases, but I didn’t tell him which, because I didn’t know at the time."

"You can’t tell him." Fear knotted her stomach, and the tiny bit of sandwich she’d eaten felt like a ten-pound rock. 

"Why not? Because he specifically said to leave the Rafferty case alone?"

"Partly. I can’t tell you. I’m sorry. You have to trust that I have a very good reason."

Jason ate silently and finished his lunch, so deep in thought that Freddie could almost see the cogs turning in his mind. For the first time in her career, she had crossed the line and was dragging someone else down with her.

Advent day 22 - Beth Cato


There is just something about the smell of gingerbread at Christmastime. There is also something about the taste of gingerbread at Christmastime. There are a billion different recipes out there featuring combinations of ginger and molasses. Some are for functional gingerbread, such as for building a house. Others are cookies, either dropped or made into men or other shapes. Others make actual bread in loaf form or as bars.

I've tried a number of recipes over the years. When it comes down to TASTE, this is the best by far. It also helps that they are super-easy to make and also travel well; when my husband was in the Navy, I even mailed these to him during deployments! The sealed-up bars remained soft and delicious, even after a week of abuse in transit.

EASY GINGERBREAD BARS

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
3 tablespoons molasses
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
For the top: 2 tablespoons sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl and combine until creamy. Then, add everything except the sugar.

2. For easy clean-up, I recommend placing parchment paper in a jelly roll pan or bar pan. Press the dough into the pan and even it out as much as possible. Sprinkle the sugar over the top.

3. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, or until very light brown at the edges. Cool completely. Try not to drool on the pan as you stand over it to breathe in the wonderful smell. Cut gingerbread into bars and enjoy!

Beth Cato is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, poetry, and essays. She bakes evil, naughty cookies that destroy diets and cause much weeping and gnashing of teeth when it's time to step on the scale. You can read more of her writing (and find the occasional recipe) at bethcato.com

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

blogging all over the place


Today I have a guest blog here - http://lasrguest.blogspot.com/
mine is here
But there are over 100 authors being spotlighted between 19 and 30 Dec and every single one is giving away something. The more you comment the more likely you are to win.
All commenters on my post go into a draw on Dec 30th to win a PDF copy of Time's Arrow

My friend and fellow author Marianne Evans has reviewed Time's Arrow here

Another friend and fellow author Delia Latham has reviewed Cassie's Wedding Dress and Season For Miracles here

Advent day 21 - Robin Bayne


Christmas Eve Vigil                           

by Robin Bayne


“Mom-Mom, I hear him,” I whispered, sitting up slightly in bed. With the covers sliding off, I leaned toward the other twin bed where my grandmother slept, or tried to, during my all night vigil watching for Santa. Cool air touched my skin, but my excitement warmed me. “I hear something on the roof.”

I still recall the sweet scent of her beauty-salon hair-do, as she shook her head and whispered for me to go to sleep, or Santa couldn’t come visit our house. Mom-Mom stayed overnight every Christmas Eve, it was a family tradition. I was no more than five at the time, but the memories of that dark night have never faded.  I knew Santa was out there, somewhere, nearby, and likely to sweep in close when I wasn’t looking. I had been good all year, and had faith that Santa knew that.

Deeper in the night, I looked over and saw my grandmother, appearing to be sitting upright in a rocking chair. When I woke her to tell her this, she wasn’t pleased.

“Robin, please go to sleep.” She still whispered, but with an edge to her voice now. “You’re trying too hard. You know he’ll be here.”

I tried to comply, I really did. I could then perceive that she was indeed laying down, not sitting in a chair. But as I lay there, staring into blackness, my belief grew stronger that Santa was with me, whether or not I could see or hear him. Most children in our country are lucky, they will have their beliefs confirmed on Christmas morning. As adults, we need to keep our faith as well, our faith that God is always with us, whether we physically see Him or not.

We celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas, the one whom we are really accountable too. Jesus knows who has been naughty and who has been nice. When we stare into long moments of blackness, we need to keep the childlike wonder fresh, and know that He could be on our roof at any time. Even better than Santa, God is with us everyday.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Advent day 20

Christmas is a busy time with lots of wrapping and decorating...and baking. As standard now I make my own bread sauce and cranberry sauce. And today I'm going to share the recipes with you.

Bread Sauce

Dad makes the most amazing bread sauce ever. I asked him how to make it, as I'd forgotten to buy any.

3 slices bread, including crusts. Tear into small pieces then make into breadcrumbs. (I use a tiny food mixer - it's actually hubby's coffee grinder. He had to buy a new one lol.)
Place into a saucepan with some onion salt.
Add mik.
Bring to boil.
Simmer gently for 2-3 minutes.

I looked at him. "How much milk?"
He grinned. "You'll know."

Funnily enough yeah, you do know.


Cranberry sauce


300g pack fresh cranberries
Juice and finely grated zest of 2 clementines
110g light brown muscovado sugar
2 tbsp orange juice or port

Method
Place the cranberries and the juice and zest of the clementines into a small pan with 150ml cold water to cover. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes until the cranberries have softened and started to burst.
Add the sugar and orange juice or port, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for a further 5-7 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Transfer the sauce to a small bowl and serve warm or cold.
Keeps for up to 3 months in the fridge.



And...

Today only  you can get Season For Miracles for $1. That's over 1/4 of its normal price. My first novel.



Blurb:

A Killer lurks in Headley Cross…

…And Holly Carmichael is the only woman to survive his attack. Now she lives in fear, searching for normalcy and trying to put her life back together. When she meets Kyle Stevens, he turns her world upside-down. He’s as exasperating as he is appealing. How can Holly make sense of her awakening feelings when she’s so unsure of Kyle? His voice is familiar, he’s left-handed, and he wears the serial killer’s cologne. Who is he…really? As Holly struggles to restore her damaged faith, she must find the strength to trust once again—in Kyle and in God.

Kyle Stevens isn’t ready to live again. Racked by guilt, he’s afraid to feel. His sole focus is finding the Headley Cross serial killer—his girlfriend's murderer. That is, until he meets Holly Carmichael. He’s drawn to Holly, vows to protect her where he failed to protect his former love. But Holly makes him feel again, emotions quickly morphing into something much more dangerous to his hardened heart.

When the serial killer returns to finish what he started, only a miracle can save them…but then, it's the Season for Miracles.


Extract

Kyle’s voice came from a long way off, and Holly had to concentrate to hear it. “I’m sorry, Holly. He’s normally pretty well behaved, but he’s never seen snow before and is a little over-excited. Plus he was on his own all day yesterday. Are you all right?”

Holly nodded. The headache upped a notch. That was a stupid thing to do.

“Can you stand?”

She moved her head a little as Kyle helped her to her feet. She brushed the snow from her coat and tried to focus on the man. His hat, pulled down over his ears, hid his hair. Her head pounded, stars danced in front of her eyes, and it was all she could do to stand upright.

I want to sit down. Please, let me sit down. The words echoed in her mind, but she wasn’t sure she’d said them aloud. He didn’t respond.

His deep voice reverberated as he pulled off his glove. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

Holly nodded for a third time. She had a huge lump in her throat and she struggled to breathe. Her legs didn’t want to hold up, but she didn’t want a fuss. Fingers tingled inside her glove where he held her hand. His grip kept her upright.

Kyle’s other hand cradled the back of her head. Holly winced as he found and examined the lump. His touch increased the pain by a magnitude of five. Kyle checked his fingers and relief crossed his face at the lack of blood. “Holly? Please, say something. Otherwise I’ll have to assume Orion ate your tongue.”

----
Don't forget to check out the holiday extravaganza at http://www.pelicanbookgroup.com. Either a new book or special offer every day til Christmas.


Monday, 19 December 2011

LASR blog fest

From today til end of Dec there's a lot going on HERE. Today my friend and fellow author Delia Latham is there. I'm there on the 21st Dec.

Each day there will be a guest post and a book give away. Come over and see what the different authors have to say.

BTW I'm also HERE today :)

Advent day 19 - Delia Latham

Today I bring you part two of Delia's story. If you missed part one - where were you? LOL - it's HERE


Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree 
Part Two
© 2011 Delia Latham


"Wait!"
Jo grabbed a handful of Dean's jacket and jerked him backward. "You're leaving? Just like that? Without explaining yourself?" She fisted both hands and planted them on her hips, only to lift one and dash away a hot tear that dared to escape.
Dean sighed, but one corner of his firm, precisely curved lips quirked upward in that familiar, I'm-trying-not-to-laugh semi-grin that haunted her every time she closed her eyes. Right now she narrowed them in a threatening glare.
"Well now, darlin', I don't rightly know what to do here. Am I stayin' or goin'?"
Jo crossed her arms, partly reacting to the chill from the open door, and partly to keep from wrapping them around him.
"You're staying, just long enough to tell me where you've been—and I hope you were busy, since you obviously didn't have time to make a phone call. Not one!"
She sucked in a shaky breath and shut the door when Dean backed away from it. From the other room, Bing Crosby crooned, "I'll ...be home…for Christmas."
"Argh!" Jo gave a tiny stomp of her foot, and Dean's quirky half-grin turned into a full-blown one. He hiked one brow, and Jo suddenly remembered how he'd always called that unattractive stomping habit of hers a "Jo Leigh mini fit."
"Don't you dare say it!" She stomped the other one, no more able to keep it from happening than she was to prevent another tear from rolling down her cheek.
Dean's cheeky grin disappeared in an instant, and now she remembered how he'd always hated to see her cry. Well, too bad, because sometime between leaving the department store and arriving here, she'd lost every ounce of self-control she ever possessed.
"Aww, darlin', don't cry. Please don't cry!" Dean dropped his expensive leather jacket right down on the floor and stretched a tentative hand toward Jo.
Was he going to try and kiss her? She stiffened, not knowing whether to hope he was or pray he wasn't. Because if he did, she wouldn't be able to stop him in her current state of spinelessness.
But he simply caught the wayward tear on his thumb and brought it to his lips, where he proceeded to tease her senses by pressing an absolutely beautiful kiss onto it. "I never intended to make you cry, darlin'."
"Well, you did!" Jo flounced across the room. Flounced. Like a silly teenage girl in a huff. "You did make me cry, Dean. Night after night after endless night."
She dropped onto the sofa, pulled her feet up under her and covered them with an afghan.
Dean indicated the cushion next to her. "May I?"
"Suit yourself." She sniffled, hating herself for being so transparent.
Dean lowered himself onto the empty space and turned to face her. His blue-gray eyes reflected all the love she had longed for during the agonizing months of the past year, and she didn't understand. She knew that look. She knew what it meant.
But it didn't make sense. If he loved her, why had he abandoned her as he had?
She drew a shuddering breath and set her jaw, trying to strengthen her own weakening resolve. "Talk."
And he did. For half an hour, he talked. She learned how, on the morning of the day he left her, he had witnessed the assassination of a married couple by a man everyone in the city knew, but could not prove, to be a major crime lord. Dean explained how he'd thought the man might have caught a glimpse of him as he made his own escape, and about his panicked flight to the police department. He related how the FBI took the case right out of the hands of local law enforcement and whisked him off for hours of grueling interrogation.
He paused then, and held out his hand. Jo placed hers into it, while tears streamed down her face and dripped off the tip of her chin.
"They told me I had to go under the grid, Jo…not just to save my own life, but the lives of anyone who meant anything to me. Especially you. Because this guy wouldn't hesitate to use you as a tool to get to me—or simply kill you to send me a message."
His voice thickened, and he cleared his throat. "If I had to say good-bye to you forever, that's what I'd do to keep him from finding you, Jo."
"But he didn't know who you were, Dean. I don't get it."
"There's always a chance that someone in the police force, or within the FBI, is dirty. Money talks, and there  was no guarantee that someone wouldn't sell me out—if not for money, then to protect someone they loved." He shook his head. "It was the only way I could know you'd be safe, Jo. I had to get as far away from you as possible, as quickly as I could get there. They helped me…put me in Witness Protection, and gave me a new identity. A new job. A whole new life."
He tugged on her hand, and Jo found herself melting into his embrace.
"A lonely, awful new life with no Jo. Oh, darlin', I missed you! You can't imagine how many times I picked up the phone to call you, just to hear your voice…but I never did, because calls can be traced. I couldn't do anything that held even the slightest possibility of creating a trail back to you."
Jo snuggled into his arms while harsh sobs wracked her body. Dean held her, gently rubbed her back, pushed the hair off her damp face, and kissed her forehead, her temples, the top of her head, while muttering comforting words into her ear.
She sniffled and sniffed and worked on gaining her composure, and even managed a weak grin when the rest of the world broke in with a rousing blast of "Jingle Bell Rock" from her stereo.
"Where on earth did you find this CD?"
"Buried under all your other ones." Dean grinned. "One look at your apartment and I knew I had to get some Christmas spirit in here. Fastest way I know to do that is with music. But of course…" His cheeky grin nearly stopped her heart. "I couldn't stop there."
Jo groaned, but couldn't prevent a tiny upward tilt of her lips. "I noticed. Happy-happy-joy-joy."

to be continued.....

Don't forget to check out the holiday extravaganza at http://www.pelicanbookgroup.com. Either a new book or special offer every day til Christmas.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Advent day 18 - Tanya Hanson


Today we have author Tanya Hanson and her new book - Right to Bragg.

Blurb:
Disowned by her family, Tiffany Vickers faces a lonely Christmas and takes great comfort in the baby boy in her care. Her faith is in tatters, and she guards her heart against the baby's uncle, handsome cowboy, Bragg Martin. It's the season for forgiveness, and while Bragg longs to open his heart and family to the lovely nanny, he doesn't understand her interest in his arch enemy. Saving a man's life and saving Tiffany's faith bring the couple together...and home to Hearts Crossing Ranch.

Excerpt:

“Shhhhhh. Matty’s asleep.” She was already twisting a long scarf around her neck. “John’s getting me at seven. Everybody’s home from college. We have our first mini-reunion out at the Double D…”

Mini-reunion? What was that about? She’d been out of high school, what, six months?

“…and I’m heading toward the Bumble Bee for a manicure and highlights in my hair.”

“What’s wrong with your hair the way it is?” Bragg asked, frowning at her long curls wound tight like a scrub pad. Of all the kids, only she had gotten Grim-Gram’s dark red hair.

A big-time eye roll. “I gotta go. Matty’s been a real good boy. He won’t be a bit of trouble.”

“I hope not.” He noticed Rachel’s unlit fireplace. “I was all set for a long winter’s nap.”

“Then get back to it.” She grabbed her purse. “Get some shut eye in while he naps.”

“What?” News to him. Didn’t a babysitter watch out every second?

Chelsea shrugged. “It’s what mommies do. Catch some Z’s while the baby sleeps. You’ll hear him on the baby monitor.” She hugged him quick and pointed toward something he vaguely recognized from her babyhood. Ma and Pa’s little afterthought, there were sixteen years between her and their oldest brother Hooper, and seven between him, second youngest, and her.

“All righty. You take care out there. I think something wicked this way comes.”

Her eyes grew big. “Sounds like a horror movie.”

“Blizzard. Feel it in my bones.” He kissed her cheek and she left. After hanging his thick jacket and hat on a rack, then set to building a fire.

Snow started to fall. Well, Chelsea was no slouch driving in it. Tricks of the trade when you lived in these parts. The fire took hold quick after he lit the piped-in gas, and he guffawed, recalling campfires he started from scratch on the family’s city-slicker wagon train tours. Rachel had one of those silly blankets with arms hanging off the back of the couch, and he climbed in it and curled up. Ah, kinda cozy. Maybe it wasn’t such a silly thing at all. His eyes closed.

Suddenly he was jerked back into real life when freezing air blasted his face and a baby’s howls smacked his ears. But the fuzz of sleep still clogged him. Who was the dream angel bending over him?

Tiffany Vickers. His heart hammered—both from being startled and because of how pretty she looked. Brown hair paintbrushed by the sun, gray eyes flecked with gold like the dark of dawn giving way to sunrise.

“What…what’s going on?” He pushed her away and struggled to get up, all tied up in the yards of fleece.

“Just a sec.” She left in a whiff of perfume. “I’ll get Matt.”

Finally on his feet, Bragg started after her. The baby was his responsibility, after all.

“You know each other, don’t you?” She called out.

Then somebody shut the front door, and Bragg turned to see who. Whom. The man facing him had Bragg’s heart drumming now in beats of rage.

Tony O’Neal. The swim coach who had led him down the road of steroid temptation. Oh yeah. Bragg knew him. Tony O’Neal had also brought Daisy, Pike’s new bride, to heartbreak and ridicule.

What was Tiffany Vickers, who didn’t date anybody, doing with the worst thing ever to happen to Mountain Cove?

My Review:
In Right To Bragg, Ms Hanson gives us another wonderful story from Hearts Crossing Ranch. Full of Christmas spirit, second chances, forgiveness, tears and laughter, this book is a delight from cover to cover. Set against amazing scenery, Bragg and Tiffany's story is brought to life so vividly, they linger long after the last page is turned. A heart warming, not to mention heart wrenching story you won't want to miss.


Bio:
After reading Little Women for the first time when she was eight, Tanya Hanson realized she had writing inside of her.  An English teacher and author of five historical Western romances, she is especially thankful to the Lord to have sold her very first contemporary inspirational Western to White Rose. A California native, she enjoys traveling with her firefighter husband, especially Hawaii and the East Coast.  Her son and daughter are both happily married, and the latest love of her life is her three-year-old grandson.  
Please catch up with her at www.tanyahanson.com and www.petticoatsandpistols.com

----

Also today you can pick up a copy of The Cactus are Lowing by Emily Brevard FREE.
A family in turmoil copes with a sudden turn of events during the holiday season. But just as God said And a little child shall lead them, so does the child in this story lead them to heal their wounds. The cactus may not be lowing anyplace else, but they are in the Raymond household.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

advent day 17 - JoAnn Carter

Today we have author JoAnn Carter and her new release Hidden Paths.

Well, here we are at the close of another story... Hidden Paths. I have to chuckle a bit at the irony of the situation. You see, that's the perfect title for my own personal journey that the Lord has been guiding me through.
Although I have other books in circulation, this was the very first story I ever drafted fifteen years ago. I started writing on a whim. Don't ask me why. In fact, have you ever watched Night at the Museum? The first time we saw that movie I cracked up. I am so like that museum director. Some days it seems as if I can't put a complete thought -- let alone sentence -- together to save my life. Couple that with dyslexia and grammar and spelling that would make any English major cringe and... yup, that's me. Yet, here I find myself, walking down the path that once seemed so elusive and hidden to me.

Quite a few years after I wrote this book, I went to a writer's retreat. I prayed and prayed that God would show me what He wanted me to do and give me direction. I knew writing was something I enjoyed but was this what God wanted me to do? I struggled with that, and to be honest, still do on occasion.
I walked away from that weekend with as many questions as I arrived with. I was so discouraged. Didn't God hear me? I wanted to follow His will for my life, yet felt like He was far away and unwilling to give me the direction I so desperately craved.

He had heard my prayers, yet I was too close to the situation to see that He had been, was, and still is guiding me. I stand amazed as I think about this now... God has led me to friends who had a passion for the craft of writing and the gift of encouragement. I've been blessed with a family who supports my writing endeavors, and I've learned a ton of stuff along the way... I could go on, but I'm sure you get the gist.
What I've come to realize is I don't need to have everything figured out. I serve an awesome God who knows what's best for me. Sometimes I may not particularly care for what needs to be done. The road may seem long and hard and the mountains too big to scale. Yet, God loves me too much to let me settle for the easy road where I would forget where true strength is found.

Perhaps like me, you have been struggling with direction in your own life. I would like to challenge you to place your hand (and your life) in God's hands and allow Him to plot your course. You might find yourself in for a crazy ride -- on a path, like Julie, that you would have never imagined.
And that, my friends is my Christmas prayer for you. That you would follow the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strenght. Have a wonderful holiday season!


Hidden Paths a Young Adult/Adult Inspirational Romance

Blurb:
Staying in Vermont on the family farm wasn’t what JULIE HEMMINGWAY had envisioned for her life. After all, she had just spent two years at the community college in preparation to join a mission agency to use her nursing skills overseas. However, those plans quickly change when her father suffers a massive heart attack and dies. Out of necessity, she stays at home to help her mom manage the farm.
To help make ends meet, Julie accepts a new job at a construction company where many unexpected things happen, including working with the handsome, ADAM JACOBS. Will Julie learn that she can trust in God and the path He has planned for her life – even when it looks totally different than what she expected?

EXCERPT:
Julie Hemmingway's thoughts centered on one thing -- and one thing only -- the letter which had arrived yesterday. Her dreams were coming true at last. She hummed a little Christmas tune and pushed her cart to the return rack. Scooping up her bags, Julie turned to walk out of the grocery store. The next thing she knew, her face was planted against a wool sweater and a coat's zipper. The paper bag filled with groceries crushed against her midsection with a sickening crunch. Thankfully, with a firm grip, she somehow managed to hold onto the second bag. She stood stunned for a moment. Please tell me I didn't just run into the person behind me.

"Are you okay?" His warm bass voice vibrated through his chest and beat against her cheek.

So much for that wish.

Julie wrapped her arm tighter around the bag resting between them to prevent it from plummeting to the floor and pushed herself back.

The guy gently gripped her forearms to steady her. "I'm sorry. I should have been paying closer attention to where I was going." He pointed with his thumb toward the colored lights twinkling merrily in the window. "I was looking at the decorations. They're amazing."

Julie let her gaze travel up until she met his blue eyes. The second bag, which had managed to escape the fiasco, slipped out of her grasp. She looked down in horror at the mess on the floor. "Oh man, it looks like I just did some decorating of my own -- but not the pretty or festive kind." She groaned. "I think that bag had my eggs."

"If that's the case, they're now scrambled." He took the bag, with lettuce spewing over the side, away from her and stepped back to assess the damage. "Or at least, sunny-side up."

Julie grinned at his quick wit as she kicked loose coffee beans off the top of her shoe.

With a crooked smile, he introduced himself. "I'm Adam." Before Julie could tell him her name, he plucked a piece of lettuce draped over her sleeve like a scarf. "I must say, these lovely, um... accessories, don't do your beautiful coat justice."

Julie, caught between his humor and her self-consciousness, tried to think of something -- anything -- to say. Unfortunately, her mind was as blank as a school chalkboard over summer vacation. If only she could attribute this temporary loss of words to the near fall. However, that wouldn't be totally honest.
Perhaps it was his disposition, his good looks, or ease with himself, but something about him intrigued her.
The man seemed larger than life and although the groceries had been smashed between them, no food clung to his clothes as they did to hers. In fact, he looked like he could have stepped out from a magazine page.
"Let's get this stuff picked up." He stooped to retrieve a can of soup that had rolled toward the door.

"Let's." That was better than the alternative -- to stand and stare at him. The sooner this mess was cleaned up, the sooner she could leave and move on with the dream which had, up until the last few moments ago, been her sole focus. Once again, her heart galloped at thought of the acceptance letter. Her desire to become a missionary was nothing new. Rather, her heart and imagination were captured ever since a speaker, who worked in Africa, gave a presentation at her church when she was twelve. Now she was close to seeing it come to fruition.

Julie sighed. She couldn't wait to share the news from New Hope Missions with her grandmother, who was visiting for the holidays. She sank her teeth into her lower lip, hoping to hide the goofy grin that threatened to escape.

Adam turned, and whack! -- they collided again. She rubbed her head. That's what I get for daydreaming.
The whole situation suddenly reminded her of an episode of one of her father's favorite old-time television shows with one guy bopping another on the head.

Adam winked. "Jinx."

Mirth bubbled in the pit of her stomach until she couldn't help but laugh. She shook her head and stuffed a cantaloupe into a bag. "I am so sorry. My bad this time. I was thinking about something else." She narrowed her eyes. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"Nah, I have a pretty hard head." He reached for another bag and began to fill it with the groceries. "But I guess you found that out for yourself."

Julie rubbed her scalp. "I guess I did... the hard way," she chuckled.

The store manager rushed over with new bags and began to help pick up the groceries as well. "I saw it happen. Are you two all right? We need to hang a mirror or something over the door. This isn't the first time this has happened."

Adam gave a teasing grin. "You mean she does this all the time?"

Julie's jaw dropped, and the manager laughed. "No, no. Of course not. Other customers have had similar run-ins." He gave them both the once-over. "You sure you're all right?"

Nodding toward Julie, Adam answered for both of them. "We're fine."

"Follow me to the courtesy counter," the manager motioned. "I'll replace or reimburse you for the broken eggs and whatever else has been damaged."

How much does pride cost?

Julie ducked her head.

The manager continued, "What would you prefer?"

Julie had no idea what she looked like, but she knew how she felt -- a big, sticky, eggy mess, albeit a mess who was impatient to get home. "I think I'll just stop back later if that's okay."

"Sure. Just don't forget your receipt."

"Got it." Julie nodded toward Adam, "Thank you for helping me corral my groceries."

"My pleasure."

She turned and ran out the door, leaving traces of egg to mark her path. As she raced through the parking lot, she couldn't help but think about how she had clung to the stranger's arm and then whacked him in the head. Some days it felt like she could tackle anything the world sent her way, and other days -- well, it made her realize how woefully inadequate she still was.

Julie had been so sure of everything when she opened the letter this morning. But now that her elusive dream was about to become a reality, doubts about her future whispered and wrapped long, spindle-like bands around her heart. She wasn't quite twenty yet -- fresh out of community college. Did she really think she was prepared to join others of great faith in the mission field?

Yet, the light of her hopes and dreams flickered again then set ablaze the shadows that threatened to lurk. She pushed back her shoulders. Guatemala, here I come!

or at amazon.com and Barnes and Noble as well as other e-book retailers.

BIO:
JoAnn Carter writes stories that will encourage your faith through her inspirational romances. She resides in Vermont with her wonderful husband and four children. JoAnn is available for speaking engagements to book clubs, reader groups, library groups, women's ministry events, school events and church retreats.
You can visit her HERE


Friday, 16 December 2011

Advent day 16 - Merry Stahel

Today we have Merry Stahel. Her new novel is releasing on Dec 19th


BLURB:
Dea Lacey is on the run. Scared and alone, she has to protect her endangered nephew. If she can find Garrett's father, perhaps he'll keep the boy safe and learn to love the child she'd trade her life to keep.

Jesse McTavish has lost his family. Abandoning his faith, the seeds of destruction are sown. As he struggles with grief, the last thing he needs is a woman showing up with a child who's the mirror image of his dead son. But he can neither ignore nor reject the woman and child who threaten to break through the protective shield he's built around his heart.

Through the ensuing storm of pain and loss, Christmas teaches Dea and Jesse about faith and forgiveness.

Sanctuary may be what we ask for, but God gives us so much more.
EXCERPT:


A second chance.

Aunt Amelia was aware of Dea’s life crumbling away. How had the woman known they weren’t safe? How many people had seen and known and felt pity?

And now Dea felt nothing. Well, almost nothing. Fear ate at her daily and was a constant companion. But with Aunt Amelia’s legacy, maybe the fear would go away.

A Christmas present. Dea remembered Christmases with Aunt Amelia when her own parents were alive. But not here. Uncle Owen was a minister, and they’d lived other places while Dea was growing up. They’d shared every Christmas since Dea could remember. Owen and Dea’s father were twins and the two women they’d married were sisters. But now they were all gone.

“Mommy can I go look outside?” Garrett’s happy tone dissolved her depressing thoughts.

“Yes, you can.” Dea looked at her little son, seeing the bright smile and feeling the knife twist in her gut.
What kind of mother let her son live in fear?

Her kind.

Dea stopped the thought. No more self-pity. No more recriminations. Life was starting over now. Garrett could be happy. He could play outside without fear.

“I like this place, Mommy,” Garrett said shyly. “Is it really all ours?”

“It’s really all ours.” Dea took a shaky breath. “You stay away from the road, OK? And just do a little exploring. It’s getting dark. I’ll start unpacking the car and see about dinner.”

“OK!” Garrett punched the air and shot out the door.

Dea looked around one more time and then sent a small thought up to Aunt Amelia and God.

Keep us safe.

She was on the fourth trip from the car when Garrett popped into the kitchen.

“There’s a donkey in the graveyard.”

“They buried a donkey in the cemetery?” Dea looked him in consternation. “And how do you know it’s a donkey?”

“No!” Garrett started laughing.

Dea looked on in shocked amazement. Garrett hadn’t given that belly-rolling-from-the-gut laugh in over a year.

“It’s a live donkey,” Garrett finally sputtered.

“A live donkey?” Dea let the bewilderment wash over her. Was he getting sick again? Delusional? Was he talking to his imaginary friend Alex and making up stories again?

“Yes.” He nodded. “He’s nice.”

“How do you know?”

“I petted him.” Garrett smiled, and Dea shook herself mentally. It was a real smile. The delight in his eyes sparkled. She’d not seen it in quite a while.

“The chicken wouldn’t let me pet her, though.”

“The chicken?” She said it faintly, sure now he was getting sick. She couldn’t afford a doctor right now. Or medications. The ever-present fear clawed in her brain.

“Yes. Her name is Mary.”

OK. Time out.

Garrett had obviously eaten something that did not agree with his delicate system. Her six-year-old son was delusional enough to believe someone named chickens. She wondered if there was a doctor in David, Oklahoma, population 457.

“I named her that because she’s riding on the donkey’s back.”

That did it. She’d make the doctor look at Garrett, and she’d figure out the payments later. Fear was blooming again. She couldn’t lose Garrett. He was too precious.

“The donkey’s name is Nat…handle.”

“Garrett, I think maybe we better go see the doctor.” Dea put a hand to his forehead. She wasn’t sure if she should pray he was delusional because of a fever, or not. Maybe the stress of the last year had caused Garrett’s mind to finally snap. With an imaginary friend, some doctors thought Garrett already had a form of mental illness.

“OK, but will you come see the donkey first?”

“Garrett…”

“Please, Mommy?”

He rarely appealed to her for anything; Dea’s heart caved.

****

Dea stood there with her mouth hanging open.

There was a donkey in the graveyard.

With a chicken on its back.

The donkey was chomping placidly on the grass near a leaning headstone. It was totally unconcerned that the little brown hen was settled as if she was in a nest getting ready to lay an egg.
Mary.

Of course. Mary had ridden on a donkey, and Garrett had remembered the Christmas story.

The donkey had a leather halter and Dea looked at the tooling on the side. Nathaniel. The donkey’s name was Nathaniel.

“Nat. Come here,” Garrett said.

The donkey looked up. The animal stared deep into Dea’s eyes and seemed to weigh something in his mind.
Finally, he looked at Garrett, and Dea swore there was a slight smile on that donkey’s face. He ambled over to her son and leaned down to get stroked.

“See?” Garrett giggled as Nathaniel ran his velvet lips over the boy’s fingers. “I told you he was nice.”

“He must belong around here somewhere.”

“He belongs right here,” Garrett said firmly.

“How do you know?” Dea hoped they’d not have a battle over keeping a donkey. And a chicken. She had spent the last of her money on food for herself and Garrett. She couldn’t afford another mouth to feed.

“He just does.”

And that was another wonder. She’d not heard that stubborn tone from Garrett in a long time. The one that said he would get his way no matter what.

Dea decided to stave off the argument for another day. “We need to go eat dinner,”
Maybe Nathaniel and Mary’s owner would show up and take them away before she had to tell Garrett he didn’t own a donkey. And a chicken.

You can buy it here.

releases on the 19th Dec

BIO:
Merry Stahel lives in a little house in the woods of the Midwest, surrounded by wild animals. Owned by three dogs and three cats, she sings for her church's Praise Team, and dabbles in quilting and sewing. Occasionally, she packs up and takes trips with her husband of thirty-three years to parts unknown, just for the adventure. You can reach her at merrystahel@gmail.com.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Author interview - Nicola Beaumont

Today we have author Nicola Beaumont with us. Nicola has written several books including The Lighthouse which I am spotlighting today.




BLURB:

DANGEROUS LIAISON...

Rachel is in love with her best friend, but when Malachi doesn't seem interested, she turns to an international stranger whom she meets on the internet. At first, conversation is just a pastime, but soon, romantic fantasies form in her mind. Why not consider a man who travels across an ocean to meet her-a man who makes her feel wanted? After all, Malachi might as well be a world away-even if his concern does seem genuine when he warns her about the intriguing Frenchman.

RESCUE ON THE WAY... Malachi has sworn not to interfere in Rachel's relationship, but he's in love with the head-strong woman who is determined to continue her budding romance...Yet, Malachi senses something isn't right about the playboy who has suddenly consumed Rachel's time, so he vows to save her from the stranger-and herself-even if it means losing her forever.

My Review:

5 stars

A thrilling read from cover to cover, the story of unrequited love between Malachi and Rachel is told in a wonderful mix of flashbacks and real time. The characters are so real and vivid I found myself wanting to bash their heads together on more than one occasion.

There is enough tension and emotion in this story to keep the reader riveted to the pages. A wonderful story to curl up with on a dark evening.

Buy link

On to the interview…

Are there any fun tid-bits about this story you can share with us?

This story came to me when I was looking at stock photos. I found a very cool picture of a lighthouse and I wanted to use it on a cover, so I decided I needed to write a story to go with it. Ironically, I did not end up using that photo. By the time the story was finished, the photo didn’t fit it.

How did you decide on the setting?

Since I knew ahead of time that I wanted to involve a lighthouse, I knew the setting had to be coastal. Although, I never name the setting in the story, I did use Oregon as a guideline. . .thank you Google Earth.

Where were you born?

In Chiswick. (London, England)

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Not sure where I’d actually live permanently. I wouldn’t mind spending a bit of time in Scotland just looking at scenery and listening to people speak. I do love a Scottish brogue.

What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you or you witnessed that made you laugh so hard you couldn’t catch your breath? I have an odd sense of humour (many often don’t get it), so really anything can set me to laughing that hard. Sometimes, it’s just the way someone looks at me.

That’s just the English sense of humour. No one gets mine either

What hidden talent do you possess outside of writing... something you do for fun, but are good at?

I’m really good at irritating people. If I could figure out a way to generate income from it, I’d be a millionaire. I do it all the time without even trying, and I can even do it in my sleep. It’s a gift.

Something else we have in common lol

What music groups/artists blast from your CD player while you write?

While I’m writing initially, if there’s music on at all, it’s probably Mozart or Beethoven. If I’m reworking scenes, it’s probably Kutless or Kutless…unless it’s Kutless.

What are you most passionate about, other than writing?

Truth and justice. And my most beloved Jesus.

Name some of your most favourite things.

Raindrops on roses. Whiskers on kittens. :) I actually do like those things, but music and books are neck-and-neck in the absolute favourite department. I also love Colorado in autumn when the leaves are changing. It’s just a beautiful display of God’s awesome creation.

What got you interested in writing?

I read a category romance novel and thought, “I could write one of these easy.” I was wrong, by the way. Not as easy as it appears, and I have plenty of those first and embarrassing manuscripts to prove it. Sometimes I think about having submitted the absolute drivel I wrote in the beginning, and I still cringe with embarrassment. But, learning to write is a process.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

Don’t give up, but don’t be impatient, either. It takes a lot of hard work and time to hone writing skills. Learn to understand plotting, characterization, how to pull emotion out of a reader. It’s not about throwing together a string of sentences and “telling” a story. It’s about weaving an alternate reality that makes a reader want to be there. Being able to do that takes inherent talent, learned skill, and then some Providence.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

Conflict and characterization. It’s almost terrible to say it, but if a book is rife with believable conflict and is alive with memorable, emotive characters, the rest of the plot won’t matter much. Readers will flock to that book.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Actually sitting down to write. Ideas flow like mad, but actually taking the time to formulate a viable piece of fiction is sometimes the hardest thing. –There’s a tid-bit of advice for aspiring writers: Actually write, even if it’s not good and polished. Start a manuscript and finish it.

What do you do in your spare time? (Assuming you have any ;-) )

Ha-ha-ha. I sleep in my spare time.

Do you hate how you look in pictures?

I wouldn’t say “hate,” but there are very few pics of me for a reason.

You can erase any horrible experience from your past. What will it be?

I wouldn’t erase anything. Even the horrible experiences helped to make me the person I am today. I may not be the best person, but who knows what I would be without everything that’s come before. “Worse” is always a possibility.

When you looked in the mirror this morning, what was the first thing you thought?

I didn’t think anything. I just ran away screaming.

What were you doing at midnight last night?

You have to ask? I was reading. :) And I probably had some music on, too.

Have you ever eaten a crayon?

I don’t think so, but I’ve eaten some food that made me wonder if I’d eaten a crayon, and yes, I was the cook.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?

Rattlesnake. Made me wish I’d eaten a crayon.

What is your heritage?

Heinz 57 Variety

Have you ever cried during a movie?

Of course not…except for those times when I did.

Do you sleep with the light on?

Only when I forget to turn it off.

If you could see anyone tomorrow (dead or alive), who would it be?

There are so many. I’d like to have a long conversation with St. John, the beloved apostle. Tomorrow, though, I’d like to see my kids and grandkids. They live very far away.

Nicola’s bio:

Nicola is first and foremost, a Christian. Without Christ, she would be nothing else. Secondly, she is a wife and mother. Finally, she is a lover of books and music, and so had no choice but to create both. Born in England to an English mother and an American father, Nicola spent much of her childhood outside of the United States. Now she resides in the Southwest, in a 100 year-old house that provides great ambiance for writing and composing.

Visit Nicola

Check out her other titles http://www.pelicanbookgroup.com/ec/.

Right now her book Hyacinths in Winter is on sale.

Advent day 15 - Tara Manderino

From the Heart

by Tara Manderino © 2009

Shoving his hands deeper into his coat pockets, and hunching his shoulders to pull his coat collar closer to his neck, Steven stared at the animated display in the store window. Nearly life-sized penguins wearing brightly colored toboggan hats rode up the escalator, and slid down the plastic slope, waddled across the silver pond to start all over again. Smaller home sets of the display were stacked strategically in the display area. The wind ruffled his hair, and he took it as a cue to move to the displays on the side of the building where nearby buildings made a windbreak. He stopped to watch the animated figures decorating the Christmas trees.

Steven had always enjoyed this time of the year, looking at the displays, sharing the warmth of the season and the people he would meet. The glow of the light from the department store window was usually enough to send a warmth through him, but not this year. He shoved his hands deeper into his pockets, and ignoring the sounds of cars and buses on the street behind him, gave a lingering look at the display, and then moved to the next one. He wanted the warmth that came from the familiar scenes, one after the other. He made his way back to the penguins. They brought a smile to his lips in spite of the chill, and he knew they would do the same for his youngest brother, 4 year old Nicholas. He caught himself with that thought. When he had he started thinking of Nicholas as his brother?

At 16, Steven was the oldest in what they now called a blended family. He snorted at that as he stepped away from the window and headed toward the fast food mart where he worked after school. What a stupid name for a bunch of people who were forced to live together. Now with his father gone, he was the one forced to live with Michelle and her family. His own mother had been gone before he called her mom. He should be glad to help Michelle out, after all he had a place to live, but now he was the only one old enough to help earn money. He would rather be doing a dozen other things, but he knew his responsibility;

Lord knew he heard it often enough. He really didn’t have anything to do with Michelle’s 10 year old twins, but Nicholas had been a wide smiling, drooling baby when he came to live with them. He hadn’t lost that smile in four years. He would adore that penguin toy, but twenty dollars was not something he had to spare. He frowned, disgusted with the situation, as he opened the door to the food mart.

“Yo, Steve, you haven’t even clocked in yet. Why the look?’

Steven smoothed his brow as he headed to the back of the store. “Just the whole holiday season, Franklin.”

The boy working the register chuckled. “I hear that,” he said before turning to wait on a customer.

Concentrating on stocking the shelves, Steven waited for the spate of after work customers to leave before making his way over to the counter and talking with Franklin. The kid was a year older than Steven, but his growing up years were different than Steven’s own. While he felt his childhood had been cut short, in his eyes, Franklin never had any.

He flicked the little packages of mistletoe hanging on the board resting on the counter. “I really hate this time of year.”

“You’re crazy. This is a great time. Most people seem a little nicer.”

“You really think so?” Steven rested his elbows on the counter and leaned forward, lifting his feet off the floor. “I think people are more stressed. You know, what to get people for a Christmas present. Who to buy things for and there’s not enough money.”

Franklin shrugged. “We don’t do that, so it’s not a problem.” He waved Steven aside when another customer came into the store.

Not buy presents? Steven couldn’t even imagine not exchanging presents. “Isn’t that what Christmas was all about?

Franklin shook his head and gave Steven a half smile when he asked. “Haven’t you learned anything?”

“What? You mean Christmas is peace on earth and goodwill to men, that kind of stuff?” It was his turn to shake his head. “You don’t believe that, do you? That’s a story for those church people to make them feel good.”

Two more people entered the store and Steven left to find the mop. This time of the year brought in slush and water from the melting snow each time the door opened.

He leaned on the handle as he talked to Franklin. Was there something that he didn’t know? “Come on, seriously, what are you getting your brother and sister for Christmas? I know they’re little kids yet. You have to get them something.”

Franklin gave him a self-conscious smile. “Okay, I did get them something. I’ve been saving a long time. I think I have enough money to get Jackson and Janelle new coats.”

“New coats?” Steven knew he sounded stupid, especially when Franklin looked at him as if he was confused by his tone. But new coats? How was that a Christmas present? “Oh, you mean like those team coats?”

“No, new coats. I don’t think those kids ever had new ones that they picked out. I’m going to take them shopping and let them get the ones they want.”

“I’m sure they’ll enjoy that.” He knew his voice sounded flat, but he couldn’t imagine any kid would think that was fun. Well, maybe Harley, Michelle’s daughter would. She loved clothes.

“What about your mama? What are you getting her?”

“Why do you care?”

“I’m trying to get some ideas here. I never got Michelle anything.” He shrugged, “And I don’t know what to get Nicholas. He’s too little not to have Christmas.”

“What are you talking about? Christmas is coming.”

Steven rolled his eyes. “There you go, all that church stuff again.” He walked away and started doing the other chores that needed done in the store. Franklin could get too preachy if you let him.

A few days later, and a few days closer to Christmas, he and Franklin were working together again. “Did you get your shopping done,” Franklin teased him.

Steven shook his head. “I don’t have the money, I told you.”

Leaning against the counter and crossing his arms, Franklin shook his head. “What are we going to do with you? You said it yourself, the kids are little, you have to give them something.”

How many different ways could he say that he couldn’t afford it? Even when he said it again, Franklin shook his head.

“Gifts are from the heart.” He thumped his chest with his fist.

Was that what the coats were, he wondered. Maybe. “But this should be fun stuff, something special, especially for little kids.”

“Hey, Baby Jesus wasn’t born just for fun stuff.”

“Come on, he had kings give him great gifts, gold and all that other stuff.” That was all he could remember.

“Gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

“See, gold is rich stuff. I don’t know about the other stuff.”

“They’re costly spices.”

Steven braced his legs and crossed his arms as he looked at Franklin. “How come you know all that stuff?”

“Because it’s all in the Christmas story.”

“I don’t remember that. All I remember is Ralphie.” He relaxed his stance and headed for the back for cleaning supplies, but stopped when Franklin let out a bellow of laughter.

“I meant the real Christmas story. The one all of the Christmas carols are about.” Suddenly, he stopped and snapped his fingers. “You know, one of my favorite Christmas Carols is The Little Drummer Boy.” At Steven’s blank look, Franklin sang a bit of it until comprehension dawned.

“I don’t remember all of the words.”

“But you should know that the little drummer boy couldn’t afford to give the Baby Jesus anything, so he played a song for him on his drum.”

When the bell over the door rang, Franklin went back to the register. “Think about it,” he said.

Not that he had much time to think, but by Christmas morning, he did have a gift ready. Maybe he couldn’t afford that penguin on the slide, but he had found a small stuffed penguin that he hoped Nicholas would like. To make his gift one from the heart, he had created a song, especially about Nicholas and the penguin.

With tears in her eyes, Michelle told him that his present was the most precious Nicholas could have received. The smile on the little boy’s face said the same. When Nicholas threw his arms around Steven and gave him a bear hug, Steven realized what Franklin had meant when he said Christmas was in his heart.


Bio:

Author Tara Manderino loves to create stories and situations for the people running around in her head. She first began writing in third grade when she realized she couldn't afford her reading habit. Her novels include Regency, U.S. Historical, paranormal/vampire and inspirational.

Tara resides in her native town in southwestern Pennsylvania. When she’s not writing her own stories, or reading, Tara likes to bake, watch old movies, and do a variety of crafts.

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