Friday, December 23, 2011

Changing Traditions

The tree is up, the gifts are wrapped, and I'm finally ready for Christmas. Now, I sit here reflecting and thinking of past Christmases when traditions seemed so important.

When I was a child, my dad always cut down a fresh tree and we decorated a week before Christmas. When I got older, my younger sister and I trudged into the woods with him to help pick out a tree. Nowadays, I have an artificial tree and I decorate the Friday after Thanksgiving. Decorating is a lot of work and I put up quite a few. I'm just lazy enough to want to leave them up as long as possible before I have to go to all the trouble of un-decorating.

My artificial tree used to be fat and tall, like the trees from my childhood. Nowadays, my tree is still tall, but not so fat. I got a pencil tree so it'd take up less room--and I needed to make a space for all the presents. Now that Santa doesn't visit my house any more, everything gets wrapped and shoved under the tree--another tradition bites the dust.

We used to go to my grandparent's house for Christmas Eve supper too. My dad's entire family would be there: Uncles, aunts, cousins, even some great aunts and uncles and cousins. The next morning, we'd go back for brunch. As my cousins married and started families of their own, fewer and fewer cousins were able to make it to my grandparent's house. After my younger sister and I got married and had children of our own, we started having Christmas Eve supper at my parents' house and going to my grandparent's the next morning. Even that changed as my children got older. Then my grandparents died, and the family stopped gathering.

Grandparents have a way of holding a family together for the holidays--until the grandchildren start having children of their own. Then a new generation of grandparents begin new traditions. Or so it seems in my family. I don't have grandchildren yet, but my oldest daughter lives in Germany.

Because of the six-hour time difference we now exchange gifts on Christmas Eve morning via SKYPE. After the gift exchange, my daughter runs off with her boyfriend to spend time with his family. My husband and I go to my cousin's house, where I once again see those aunts, uncles and cousins. And we go to my parents' house after lunch on Christmas Day. These days, I work a lot of Christmas mornings for half a day to allow those with children to be home for Santa Claus.

For years now, we've celebrated Christmas with my husband's family the week before Christmas in an effort to eliminate the stress of so many families trying to divide Christmas day into rushed visits. But now that my sister in law lives in Utah, we seldom see her any more.

As I grow older, I find my life changing and those Christmas traditions I cherished as a child must change as well or the meaning of the holiday will get lost. My tree is no longer real, but I have the same ornaments. From the two turtle doves, now slightly mangled by a troublesome cat, to the first ornament I bought as a married woman and my daughters' "My First Christmas" ornaments, the tree still holds some traditions. And while we we no longer rise at the crack of dawn to see what Santa brought, I still get up early on Christmas morning to go to work. And we still go to my parents' house on Christmas Day. But these days, we have our traditional oyster stew for a late lunch or early supper rather than at brunch.

Life changes and it's sometimes stressful. But Christmas isn't about the gifts or the dinners. It's about family and finding time to be with them and remember why we celebrate. So, no matter if your Christmas involves following time-honored traditions, creating new traditions of your own, or just trying to fit as many people into your plans as possible, take time to remember the reason we celebrate.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I have fellow HCRW and TWRP author Laura Browning with me today. Welcome to my blog, Laura and congrats on your new release, Santa's Helper.


In the midst of edits on an upcoming release, trying to finish another WIP and promoting Santa’s Helper, catching the Christmas spirit has been a challenge this year.

It really wasn’t until last night that it dawned on me why decorating the tree is one of my favorite activities. My teenager, for whom high-tech is a watchword, looked at the tree and said, “Why do you keep all of these old ornaments? Why don’t you get some new ones?” 

To which I replied, “Each one of those ornaments holds a memory.”

Sure, I have the requisite number of store-bought decorative balls, the ones that come in the packs of six or twelve, but along with that is the stuffed elf that’s nestled amidst the branches because its hanger has long since disappeared—the very first ornament I received at the age of five. In another spot is a small black horse with a “real” mane and tail. I purchased that during a trip to a botanical garden and zoo when I was six. There are ornaments to commemorate pets, and ornaments that my son made in elementary school. There is an angel my father-in-law gave me that has a tag proclaiming “Class of 1937.” Each year when I put it in a prominent spot near the top of the tree, I remember the man who would slip me “a spot of money, just in case you want to make a pie and need to buy some apples.”

I still smile when I think about that.

My tree might not look like an interior decorator designed it. It certainly doesn’t have any “theme” to it—unless you count the memories of loved ones past and present—and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So last year, when I decided to write a Christmas story, I wanted to touch on themes that matter to me. In this case, a man raising money for charity for all the wrong reasons, and a woman scrambling for money for all the right reasons. That’s how Santa’s Helper, my holiday release from The Wild Rose Press, evolved.

Jack and Merry meet while he’s ringing the bell outside a mall after losing a bet, and she’s rushing in to a part-time job as a Santa’s elf, trying to provide some kind of Christmas for her young son.

Here’s an excerpt from Santa’s Helper:

 Merry sipped her coffee and angled her head at him. “You know, the first night I saw you, you didn’t look like the bell ringer type. And even though you’ve changed out of the fancy clothes, you still don’t look the type. How did you end up doing it…and doing it every night?”

Jack laughed. “I lost a bet with my employees and had to take over all their shifts.”

He watched in fascination as color stained her creamy cheeks. “Well, I’m glad. I’ve liked being able to bring you coffee and getting to know you.”

“I have another week, Merry.”

Her eyes widened. Was that hope he saw there? Gladness? “You do?”

He nodded before touching the delicate skin inside her wrist. “I want to kiss you. Will you let me?”
He watched her hesitate, and then she nodded. He smiled and scooped the last bit of brownie and ice
cream. “Here. It’s yours.” Her eyes held his as she slid the sweet from the spoon. Jack dropped the spoon into the bowl. “Let’s go,” he growled.

Santa’s Helper is available from The Wild Rose Press. You can also find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I’d love to hear some of your holiday memories. Leave a comment. You can also check out my website: for a look at some of my other releases. Most of all – I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Somewhere--Beth Trissel

Beth Trissel, cyber friend and fellow Wild Rose Press author lives in the mountains of Virgina where she pens amazing stories of love rich in history. Her time travel romance, Somewhere My Love earned it's place on my keeper shelf.

So, please help me welcome Beth as she shares a bit about her latest book in the Somewhere series...

My fascination with the past and those who have gone before me is the ongoing inspiration behind my historical and light paranormal, time travel romances.  I’ve done a great deal of research into family genealogy and come from well-documented English/Scots-Irish folk with a smidgen of French in the meld, a Norman knight who sailed with William the Conqueror.  One family line goes directly back to Geoffrey Chaucer.  And there’s a puritan line with involvement in the Salem Witch Trials—my apologies to Susannah Martin’s descendants--but that’s another story.  In my recent light paranormal release, Somewhere the Bells Ring, I more deeply explored my Virginia roots.

Somewhere the Bells Ring is book three in my Somewhere’ series (not necessary to read these in order) with a Christmas theme.   Set in the old family homeplace where my father was born and raised, a beautiful plantation home from the early 19th century, the story opens in 1968 during the tumultuous age of hippies, Vietnam, and some of the best darn rock music ever written.  From that nostalgic year, the story flashes back to an earlier era, 1918 and the end of World War One.  Having a Marine Corps Captain Grandfather who distinguished himself in France in the thick of the fighting during The Great War and then tragically died when my father was only three definitely influenced this story.  

If you enjoy an intriguing mystery set in vintage America with Gothic overtones and heart-tugging romance then Somewhere the Bells Ring is for you.  And did I mention the ghost?

Blurb: Caught with pot in her dorm room, Bailey Randolph is exiled to a relative's ancestral home in Virginia to straighten herself out. Banishment to Maple Hill is dismal, until a ghost appears requesting her help. Bailey is frightened but intrigued. Then her girlhood crush, Eric Burke, arrives and suddenly Maple Hill isn't so bad.

To Eric, wounded in Vietnam, his military career shattered, this homecoming feels no less like exile. But when he finds Bailey at Maple Hill, her fairy-like beauty gives him reason to hope--until she tells him about the ghost haunting the house. Then he wonders if her one experiment with pot has made her crazy.

As Bailey and Eric draw closer, he agrees to help her find a long-forgotten Christmas gift the ghost wants. But will the magic of Christmas be enough to make Eric believe--in Bailey and the ghost--before the Christmas bells ring?~

“Bailey.” He spoke softly, so as not to startle her.

She turned toward him. In her long, white nightgown, hair tumbled down around her, wearing that lost look, she bore an unnerving resemblance to the mysterious woman in Wilkie Collins’ classic mystery, The Woman in White. Eric fervently hoped the similarity ended there. As he recalled from the novel, that unfortunate lady had been unhinged.

Leaving the door ajar, he stepped inside. “We missed you at breakfast.”
She answered distractedly. “I wasn’t hungry.”

He limped to where she stood, the hitch in his leg a little less pronounced today. Maybe he was getting stronger. “Why are you here, looking for ghosts?”

“Or a door to the past.”

He tried to coax a smile to her trembling lips. “Did you check inside the wardrobe?”

“Eric, I’m being serious.”

“That’s what worries me.” Leaning on his cane with one arm, he closed his other around her shoulders and drew her against him. Such a natural act, and she accepted his embrace without pulling back. She smelled of flowers from her perfume and wood smoke. “Mercy, child,” he said in his best imitation of Ella, “it’s as cold as a tomb in here.”

“It wasn’t last night.”~

***Available in various eBook formats from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon Kindle, All Romance Ebooks, Barnes & Noble’s Nookbook and other online booksellers.