Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgivings Past

That's me on Thanksgiving 2010 with the two turkeys I roasted in the oven for the usual crowd. The oven died afterwards. It roasted those two turkeys with its last gasp.

When I was growing up in Cliffwood Beach, my mother went all out for Thanksgiving. She missed her family out in western Pennsylvania on holidays. There was one Thanksgiving when Dad drove us all out in a snowstorm to see my grandparents in Canonsburg, PA. On our arrival, my grandfather told us we were crazy. 😉

Most of the time, Mom cooked the special feast just for six--my father, my sisters, my brother, me and herself. However, there was one memorable Thanksgiving when my brother invited four of his classmates from college to join us. They came from India. One of them was a Muslim, so turkey was fine with him. However, three of them were Hindus and vegetarian. They wound up eating a lot of biscuits.

My mother's preparations for Thanksgiving started off a day ahead when she made three kinds of pies. She made only one mince meat pie for my father, which no one else would eat because nobody else liked mince pie. She also made apple pies and pumpkin pies--all from scratch with her own pie dough. (Rolled pie crusts had not been invented yet.)

My brother, my sisters and I were all Mom's apprentices. Each of us had specific jobs to do. I usually got the job of making the cream sauce for the cauliflower. My brother usually chopped up celery and onions for the stuffing.

Our feast consisted of mashed rutabaga, cauliflower with cream sauce, and onions with cream sauce, too. Having grown up in a house with five brothers, Mom always cooked enough for an army. There was not just the stuffing that went into the turkey, but another pan of stuffing as well. We had corn, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes. And biscuits, of course.

It was a lot of work.

Due to COVID-19, this year is very different. We have been trying to stay safe for eight months so hubby and I will be dining alone. We'll be sharing a three pound turkey breast, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a frozen vegetable mix. (I haven't decided which one yet.) I made cookies for dessert. Hubby isn't fond of pumpkin pie, so I figured I wouldn't bother to make one for just me. Not cooking for a crowd is a lot less work. 

After we eat, we'll get on Zoom with our gang and chat about what they had to eat. Video chats are not the same as real hugs, but for now that's what we need to do. 

Stay safe. 😷


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Guest Post: REDEEMING CHRISTMAS by Carol James

My guest today is Carol James, an author of inspirational fiction who enjoys creating Redemptive Romance. She lives in a small town outside of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, Jim, and a perky Jack Russell "Terrorist," Zoe. Having always loved intriguing stories with happy endings, she was moved to begin writing to encourage others as she'd been encouraged by the works of other authors of inspirational fiction. Her debut novel, Rescuing Faith, has been an Amazon number one best-seller. Carol enjoys spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren, traveling with friends, and serving in the production department at her church. And most days, in the late hours of the night or the wee hours of the morning, she can be found bringing her newest novel to life.  

REDEEMING CHRISTMAS is Carol's latest release! Here's the blurb:

     Novelist Olivia St. Madeleine is intrigued by a handsome and mysterious stranger she sees when she's Christmas shopping. Who exactly is he, and what is his story?

     Gabriel Winter definitely has a story. One he's been running from for years. He's renovating a house next door to a friendly and persuasive grandmother, who is, unbeknownst to him, Olivia's Nana.

    Through Nana's insistence, Liv helps Gabe wallpaper and paint, and in return Gabe fulfills one of Liv's secret childhood dreams. But past hurts and secrets threaten to drive them apart rather than draw them together.

     Will they find the courage to share their secrets with each other and with God, and allow Him to redeem Christmas?


Now for a special treat! A nice long excerpt from the book. Get yourself a cup of hot chocolate and settle down with a cozy blanket. Stay warm and enjoy. ☺



            Liv picked up the Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum Peppermint lotion from the seasonal display. Turning the bottle over, she pretended to read the back label, but she focused her attention on the male customer in the center of the store. 

            The salesgirl stuck to him like a piece of chewing gum on the sole of a shoe in summer. Gooey and annoying. 

            Liv couldnt blame her, though. He was tall with dark brown hair, meticulously combed back from his forehead. His olive skin enhanced his cleft chin. He wore a charcoal gray wool suit with a white shirt, a red and navy striped tie, and black wingtip shoes. Maybe he was an attorney. 

            Common sense told Liv to make her purchase and leave. Intrigue argued she should browse and gather more information. As “Jingle Bells” played over the speaker system, she ignored common sense and crept closer to observe. 

            His brown eyes studied every move the clerk made, as if he were considering her as possible dating material. But that made no sense. Esscential Scents was a womens store. Why would he be sizing up one woman while he was shopping for another? 

            Because he wasnt shopping. A policeman. Maybe he was an undercover cop posing as an attorney, trying to sneak some information out of the salesgirl. No, that couldnt be right, either. So far, the sales clerk had done all the talking. But then again, the best investigators were good listeners. 

            Miss Bubblegum rested a hand on his forearm while she gestured toward the mountainous display of home and body products in the center of the store. “And this is our most popular fragrance, Scent-uous. A wonderful choice to pamper that special lady in your life.” 

            The man slowly stepped away and crossed his arms over his chest. “Well, I—” 

            The salesgirl turned and gestured toward the right-hand wall. “Or what about these? Air and Sun. Part of our new Earth Esscentials, all-natural collection. Very popular among the professional crowd.” 

            His gaze focused on the clerk. In silence, he nodded. 

            Liv recognized the look of panic in the girls eyes. When she was in college, shed worked on commission in a clothing store. The clerk knew she was losing the sale. But what she didnt know was that she wasnt losing anything. Because it wasnt a real sale. 

            The girl turned toward the other side of the store. “Or how about…” 

            Or a secret agent. Maybe he was a secret agent whod ducked into the store to avoid the men who were following him, and he had no intention of buying anything. He was simply hiding. Liv glanced back over her shoulder. No fishy characters lurked outside the store entrance. But of course, professional spies looked just like a next-door neighbor. Nothing suspicious about them.

            James Bond spoke, minus the British accent, “Hey, thanks for your help, but I think Id just like to browse a little…if thats OK.” 

            “Oh, sure. Of course. Enjoy looking around. Im Candy, if you need anything.” 

            And who would she be if he didnt need anything? 

            “Thanks, Candy. I appreciate your time.” 

            As the chime signaled the arrival of a new customer, a new male customer, Candy dropped 007 like a sun-scorched rock and scooted across the store toward the entry. 

            The spy wandered through the tables toward the display framed by evergreen garland and white twinkling lights on the left wall. His jacket was cut full enough to hide his shoulder holster. He slid his hands into his pants pockets as he pretended to study the lotions and perfumes stacked to the ceiling. 

            This was her chance. Liv strolled up beside him. “Overwhelming, isnt it?” 

            He turned toward her. His brow wrinkled in surprise, and then a smile lit his face. "Sure is. Must be over a hundred different choices.” 

            Curiosity fluttered her stomach. Shed get to the bottom of this. “So, are you shopping for anyone in particular?” 

            “A friend.” 

            “I see. A good friend?” 

            He pursed his lips and looked far away as he constructed his cover story. He leaned his head to the side. “Not yet. But Im working on it.” 

            A vague response. 

            She nodded. “Age?” 

            “Mine?” He raised his eyebrows and grinned. 

            Trying to distract her with humor. A good ploy. “No, your lady friend.” 

            “Whoa, there. Ive learned never to try and guess a ladys age.” 

            Slick. “I can suggest some general scents that would be popular with most women, but if you could give me a ballpark age, I can point you toward some that might be more appropriate.” She picked up a bottle of shower gel from the display in front of them. “For instance, this Cotton Candy scent would not go over well with a mature woman.” 

            As he removed his hands from his pockets, his brown eyes sparkled. “Youre right. OK. Seventy. Ish.” 

            “Seventy? Ish? Really?” 

            He nodded. 

            “Then this”—she returned the Cotton Candy gel to the display—“would be completely wrong. What you want is a classic scent.” She led him across the showroom to the back corner. Liv gestured toward the left side of the display like a gameshow hostess. “Lavender. In fact, thats why I came into the store. To buy some as a Christmas gift for my grandmother.” She grasped the tester and spritzed some of the perfume onto a card. Then she waved it through the air for him to smell. “My nana loves it.” 

            He smiled. “Soft and old-fashioned. Classic.” 

            “This next one, Texas Rose, is my nanas second favorite.” 

            He followed her farther back, “Do you work here?” 

            “Me? No. Im just a customer.” 

            “Well, maybe you should,” he muttered. 

            Whether he intended her to hear it or not, she caught his barely audible response. Shed pretend she hadnt heard him to give him a chance to elaborate. “Pardon?” 

            “Sorry. Just thinking out loud. Thanks so much. Youve been very helpful, and I dont want to keep you from your shopping.” 

            She was dismissed. Shed failed in her mission. “Youre welcome. Enjoy.” She grasped a floral travel bag filled with an array of Luscious Lavender products and headed toward the register. Once she paid, her Christmas shopping would be completed. 


            Liv perched on the wrought-iron cafe chair outside the mall coffee shop and sipped her peppermint mocha. Her journal lay open on the table before her. This had been the last available spot, but she couldnt have chosen a better one. Its placement was perfect for people-watching. A sea of mankind surged up and down the mall corridors. She loved shopping this time of year. Trips to the mall offered plenty of material for work. 

            A young father, most likely, with two preschool children nibbling on cookies sat a few tables over. Hed probably picked them up from daycare and brought them here to shop for a surprise Christmas gift for their mother. The cookies were bribery to ensure their silence. 

            Or perhaps he was a widower. This was the first Christmas after his wife had died. He was fighting to overcome past memories and make this season joyous for his children. But it was hard. Painful. How could he hold everything together? Livs eyes burned as tears threatened. The little girl had her mothers blonde hair and blue— 

            “Hello, again.” 

            Liv jumped at the greeting. Shed been so lost in thought that she hadnt noticed the attorney-cop-spy now standing beside her table. He held a paper cup from the coffee shop in one hand and a large shopping bag from Esscential Scents in the other. 

            “Hi. Well, looks like you found something.” 

            “I did. Thanks to you and your guidance.” He scanned the seating area. 

            She looked again too. Still no empty tables. A captive audience could produce an abundance of information. "Please, wont you have a seat?” 


            As he sat and placed his package on the concrete floor beside his chair, his suit coat fluttered open. No shoulder holster after all. His gun must be jammed in his waistband behind his back or in an ankle holster. 

            "Im Gabe.” 

            She grasped his offered hand—his smooth, well-manicured offered hand. Secret agenting must pay well. ”Liv. Nice to meet you.” She nodded toward his shopping bag. “So what did you decide on?” 

            “I went with the lavender.” 

            “Good choice.” 

            His gaze rested on her open journal. “Looks like you might be in the middle of something.” 

            “People-watching. The journals in case I observe something I need to record.” 

            As he sipped his coffee, his chocolate eyes sparkled. “Private detective?” He grinned. 

            She returned his smile. “Writer.” 

            “Really? Have anything published?” 

            “A few novels.” 

            “Anything I might have heard of?” 

            “I doubt it. No offense, but youre not exactly my target audience. I write romance.” 

            “Oh, so I get it. Men arent romantic.”                       

            “My heroes are very romantic.” 

            “But not real men.” 

            “Lets just say romance is not the genre of choice for most real’ men. Action, sci-fi, mystery. Stuff like that. But a smart man could learn an awful lot about women by reading a romance novel or two.” 

            “Ill keep that in mind.” He nodded. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and glanced at the display. “Duty calls.” 

            Definitely an undercover cop. 

            He inserted his hand into his inner jacket pocket and extracted a business card. He held it out to her. “In case you ever want to change careers and go into sales, my companys always looking for good people. From what I saw earlier, youd be quite a success.” 

            She studied his card. Gabriel Winter, CEO, Sales Solutions, Placing people in perfect places. “Your busy season, huh?” 

            “Not really. The last thing my customers want to see this time of year is some sales rep coming in to take them away from their buying customers.” 

            She winked. “I meant your name.” 

            “Oh. That.” Smile lines radiated from his eyes. “Most people dont even catch it, but of course you would. Your lifes all about words.” He stood. “Would you happen to have one of your cards on you?” 

            She reached into the side pocket of her purse, withdrew a business card, and offered it to him. 

            He studied the rose and gray rectangle. “Olivia St. Madeleine, Novelist, Creating Beauty from Ashes.” As he raised his eyebrows, his gaze met hers. “You were destined to be a romance writer from birth. Your parents chose the perfect name.” 

            “Actually, my agent did. My real names Olivia Slootsky. Dont get me wrong. Its a fine name, but I ask you, whos going to believe a person with that last name writes romances?” 

            He chuckled. “Well, Olivia St. Madeleine Slootsky, thanks again. Running into you has been the best part of my day. Have a happy holiday.” 

            As he turned and walked toward the exit door, she reached for her journal and her pen. His mahogany eyes blazed with merriment. The warmth of his smile sent delicious shivers down her spine

You can find REDEEMING CHRISTMAS at the buy links below:





Apple Books:

Google Books:

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Amazing Grace

     I've always loved hymns. The lyrics seem to be embedded in my soul. I find the songs to be comforting in trying times. Often, when trouble comes I'll sing the words of a hymn. Praying is good but there's an old saying, attributed to St. Augustine, that he who sings prays twice. I believe it. I've tested the theory and found it effective--at least for me.

     One of my favorite hymns is “Amazing Grace.” I know all the words. I've used it as a running theme in two of my books, Patriot's Courage and A Rush of Light. The hymn was written in 1772 by John Newton, a man who lost his mother at an early age and became a sailor at the age of 11. Eventually, he converted and became an Anglican minister. You can find that story HERE.

     When I first started working, I bought a Chevy Nova. I was so delighted to own a car and have the freedom to go places. One evening, the college where I earned my degree was having a show. That was in Jersey City, more than thirty miles away. One of my high school friends still lived nearby and I asked her if she would like to go with me. She was willing.  

     The trip went fine until I pulled off the Turnpike and started to weave my way through the local streets of Jersey City, my car sputtered and carried on as if it was going to die. I had no idea what was wrong with it. I did not have AAA, and back in those days, cellphones had not been invented. So, I started to sing “Amazing Grace,” which annoyed my friend but I did not want to get stuck in an unfamiliar part of Jersey City--at night. 

     The car continue to move—haltingly. My grandfather lived a block away from the college, so that's where I went. I explained the situation to him and decided to leave the car there for the night. My father worked at the Jersey Journal, but he worked nights. I figured we could work something out the next day. In the meantime, my friend and I would take a bus home from Port Authority in New York after the show. 

     I don't remember the show. I worried too much about my car and getting home. I knew how to get to NYC and I knew which bus to take. I just had no idea where it was located in the Port Authority building. 

     When the show was over, my friend and I walked back outside and saw a pool of blood on the steps of the auditorium. Evidently, during the show, someone had been slashed with a knife. That heightened my anxiety. I was so glad I had a friend to travel with me. I kept thinking the words of  “Amazing Grace” over and over in my head as we made our way to Port Authority. Once we arrived there, we had to ask a few people were the bus was located, but we did find it, bought tickets and headed home. 

      As it turned out, my car needed new spark plugs, but other than that it was fine. But I believe “Amazing Grace” saved the day for me.


Thursday, November 05, 2020

A New Contract!

I received a contract from Pelican Book Group for Home Somewhere. I was so delighted I even put on some makeup for this photo to sign the contract. 😄 As you can see, I now have gray hair--though I prefer to call the color Pandemic Blonde. 

I don't know when Home Somewhere will be released. There are always several rounds of edits to go through and Pelican Book Group has a schedule for releases. But at some point, I'll let everyone know as the time draws near. 

Home Somewhere is a contemporary Christian romance, which begins in New York City and then moves to the Pine Barrens in New Jersey. 

Here's the blurb:

Thea Ahern lands a job at a gossip magazine in NYC—a job she desperately needs. When she witnesses a man attack another on the subway, she stops the bleeding on the injured man. Hailed as the Angel of the L Train, people notice her striking resemblance to a once famous actress. This sparks a renewed interest in Paris Hulette and her whereabouts. What happened to the award-winning actress after her husband shot her?


Thea’s coworker, John, shields her from the ensuing media frenzy and she falls for him. But it is John’s boss who orders him to investigate Thea. When the boss is murdered, John is thrust into the spotlight along with Thea and his past is revealed. Can he be forgiven? Can Thea ever trust him again?


I'm sure my editor will work up a better blurb than that, but for now that's the general idea. While it will take a considerable amount of time for the book to be available, I have plenty of other books for folks to read. One of my long-time friends recently read Daddy Wanted and called me to tell me the book could be a Hallmark movie. That was so nice to hear! So, for those of you who are Hallmark movie fans, I would suggest you read Daddy Wanted. 

At the moment, I am in the process of reissuing A Rush of Light, which was originally published by Awe-Struck Publishing in 2005. A few paperbacks are still available here and there, but I intend to have a nice, updated cover.

After that, I hope to start working on another book because writing is fun. 😁