Wednesday, December 28, 2016

That Tingling Feeling

When I read a romance, I’m always hoping to get that tingling feeling, the one that hijacks my heart and makes me smile despite myself. 
It comes in layers. First is the light version, as in a meeting scene, when a girl catches gazes with a guy across a crowded room and feels the thread of attraction that connects the two of them.  It’s a feeling of promise based on the unknown and pure hope.
Next is the more anguished version of the tingle, when some twist has pulled the lovers apart, and she feels a pining, a wistful desire that’s unfulfilled. For Gilbert andSullivan fans, it’s captured in Josephine’s lament, “Sorry her lot who loves too well. Heavy the heart that hopes but vainly.”
Then, my favorite version of the tingle happens when the characters meet up again for a prolonged fight over real differences, and you can tell that half the anger is based on disappointment, or betrayal, or heartache.  If the guy ends up proposing during the fight, all the better.  That sort of scene kills me.
Of course, it helps to know everything will work out in the end, and in a romance, it always does. In the best ones, the tingle keeps evolving right along with the characters. That’s what keeps us coming back for more.

Caragh M. O'Brien is the author of The Vault of Dreamers and other young adult novels.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Beginnings by Bonnie Edwards

As we look toward the New Year we hope for new beginnings. We want a fresh start and our good intentions to succeed. A lot of us fail at resolutions and new beginnings turn into regret as the grind of life takes the polish off. Welcome to February!

This is not what we want in books we read. We want those gripping beginnings to hold us and not let go until the satisfying conclusion.

I’m a member of a long time writing group, the Pen Warriors, who retreat 4 times a year to discuss craft, the writing life and our books. For the past few years we’ve discussed and studied strong opening paragraphs.  We even wrote a series of blogs studying good beginnings and why they work. Today I’m dissecting a couple of my own stories.

From Love in a Pawn Shop       

April 1 Seattle, WA

Dane Caldwell ignored his better judgment at 3:45 p.m. and walked across the street into Dixon’s Pawn Shop. Like millions of others in every city in America, the shop sat in a row of storefronts with overhead apartments. Except for the signs, they were all identical. Each one had a door at the side for the apartment stairwells, and he’d bet each one also had a rear entrance to the apartment from an alley in back.
Cops liked to know where the exits were, but since he was here without backup, he’d take the most direct approach and walk in like any other customer. He was so far out of his jurisdiction he might as well be from Mars.

Good beginnings should raise questions in the readers’ minds while feeding background, foreshadowing conflict, introducing character (more than a name…a sense of what makes this person tick), setting and more.

By having my hero ignore his better judgment I’ve introduced internal conflict in the first six words. Then I show his observant nature with a description of a row of businesses we’ve all seen. This is a universal experience or knowledge. Not only do we have a place, we have a sense that it’s an older area of Seattle, and because he’s watching a pawn shop the neighborhood may be seedy. The seediness increases a sense of foreboding. But I don’t say it’s a seedy area, I allow the reader to discern on their own.

In paragraph two we learn Dane is a cop without backup who is out of his jurisdiction. This explains why he should listen to his better judgment, not ignore it.

And then, we have the title of the book which should be fresh in the mind of our reader: Love in a Pawn Shop. Our hero has no idea what he’s stepping into in Dixon’s Pawn Shop, but the reader does. The reader is in on the joke! Will a romance reader continue reading? I tell myself they will.

Not-So-Blue Christmas (2015 only 99c!)

December – Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, Canada

7:40 a.m. and dawn was still too far away to imagine. Not that Kirk Fontaine believed in mornings anymore. The idea of a light sky and sunshine felt foreign and old and impossible, especially above the forty-ninth parallel in mid-December.
Out of the gloom came the tip-tip-tap of running paws along the wooden pier. The woman’s dog must have slipped away from its owner again. The dog with a stalker mentality. No matter where he was on the Nanaimo waterfront, the scruffy little mutt made straight for him. It wasn’t that he didn’t like dogs it was just that this one came with a woman Kirk could barely take his eyes off of.
Coincidentally, I’ve started with the hero again. (Most of my books start with the hero.) In the first paragraph I’ve shown Kirk is in a dark place emotionally. Using words like sunshine felt foreign and old and impossible. Also he doesn’t believe in mornings anymore. I like to think that most people have had periods where they feel this way. Grief or struggles with divorce and family is universal, so I tried to tap into that.
Out of the gloom came the tip-tip-tap of running paws… Something is already coming to save him! A herald of better times is in the sound of the paws. And because the dog has a stalker mentality we know that Kirk can’t escape the change that’s coming his way. Thank goodness! Readers are already rooting for the hero to move on from the darkness. And then, bam…there she is, a woman he can’t take his eyes off of

Invitation to Christmas (2016 on sale for only 99c!)

Christmas Day, Vancouver Island, Canada

Tom Fontaine wanted his father back at work, plain and simple. He had big plans to expand Fontaine Homes and he needed his father there to do it with him. He grabbed his first coffee of the morning and heard his grandmother call from upstairs. “Did I miss them?” she asked.
“Yes, they just left.” His dad and his new girlfriend were on their way to serve up Christmas breakfast at a shelter.
New girlfriend. Shit. His mom had only been dead six months. What was up with finding a new woman already? And in Nanaimo of all places. It was pretty, but still, it was a backwater tourist town perched on the edge of Vancouver Island. In Canada!

This opening differs from the other two. We know exactly what Tom wants and why: wanted his father back at work, plain and simple. He had big plans to expand Fontaine Homes. Tom’s thoughts are all about business…and then…his grandmother’s voice breaks into his thoughts, reminding him subtly that Christmas is about family.

The next paragraph emphasizes that Christmas is about giving: to serve up Christmas breakfast at a shelter.

In paragraph three we get to the crux of Tom’s internal conflict: There’s a new woman in his dad’s life, one who may usurp his dead mother’s place. As with the other openings, I tried to hit a universal.  Then, just to make it worse, this new woman is in a faraway backwater town which will make it even harder for Tom to get what he wants: his father back at work at home.

In preparing this post, I analyzed my openings and have discovered why I so often start my stories with the hero. I believe romance readers want to fall in love with our heroes or want to know what makes them tick right away. At least I hope I’ve got that right!

Bonnie Edwards is planning a big year in 2017 with up to 5 releases (including another Christmas story) If you'd like to be first to learn what's coming out then sign up for her newsletter. or Follow her from her Amazon author page here: 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Cheryl Bolen Asks: What's Your Must-Watch Christmas Flick?

Is there a movie you enjoy re-watching every holiday season? For me, it's White Christmas. I was a very small little girl when the movie came out, and I still remember the thrill of seeing it for the first time and still remember which theatre I attended. (Growing up in Los Angeles, I frequented close to a dozen different movie theatres, including those on famed Hollywood Boulevard.)

The movie is visually appealing. Who can ever forget the gals in their red velvet trimmed with white fur? And what a setting! A snow lodge in Vermont. And, of course, it has romance, memorable songs, and a heart-warming story.

In many ways, it's a remake of an earlier black-and-white movie, Holiday Inn, which also starred Bing Crosby and also featured Irving  Berlin's wonderful music. That movie is my husband's favorite Christmas movie. Despite that it features the classiest guy to ever grace the silver screen, Fred Astaire, it's only my second favorite holiday movie. I'm too loyal to White Christmas.

There are a couple of other Christmas films that I adore. Who doesn't enjoy Ralphie's story in The Christmas Story? Who can ever forget its chop suey Christmas dinner?

And I'm always nostalgic over the television Grinch with narration by  Boris Karloff because it was the first Christmas TV show my firstborn ever watched. Even though it was four decades ago, I vividly remember how mesmerized he was and how hard he giggled when Max the dog put on the reindeer horns. It will always be special to me for those reasons.

Those who love Christmas movies can feast during December over at the Hallmark channel, but give me my old favorites. I'm a traditionalist. -- Cheryl Bolen loves Christmas so much, she's written seven Christmas stories, most of them novellas. Her full-length Christmas novel, His Golden Ring, won the Holt Medallion for Best Historical.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Blessing of Self-Actualization by @lcrandallwriter

It's Christmas time and I could talk about Christmas traditions, Christmas magic, Christmas spirit. The season offers a lot of opportunity for reflection. 

But what I'm going to discuss is a Christmas book, The Littlest Angel, and its impact on me years ago. I've posted this piece before, but I still feel it's relevant and I feel like sharing it again. 

According to the front page of the book, The Littlest Angel was written in 1939 at the request of Screen Guild producers, who asked Charles Tazwell to "write something" as a backup plan if one of the guild's productions fell through. The crisis that it was created to avert never happened but the story aired on a Christmas radio show. In 1946, the book was released by Childrens Press of Chicago. The story was presented in various forms over the years, from radio, to book, to magazine, to record, to a Hallmark Hall of Fame production in 1969.

A brief summary of the story:

Many, many years ago, a four-year-old boy entered heaven. From his first step into paradise he upset the heavenly peace with his behavior and fairly unangelic antics, though he tried to do what was expected of him. But mostly he missed the things on earth he had enjoyed – trees to climb, streams to fish, and caves to play in – and he longed for the sun and the rain and dark of night and light of dawn.

When he learned of the homesickness the littlest angel was suffering, the Understanding Angel sent a messenger to procure a box of the littlest angel's treasures from earth, and from then on the boy was a happy and angelic angel.

As the birth of baby Jesus approached, the heavens were excited and all angels gathered to place gifts for the holy infant at the feet of God. Even the littlest angel had found a suitable gift and placed it lovingly in the pile of gifts. But when he saw his unsightly box among the other glorious gifts, he felt embarrassed and wanted to take it back and hide it.

When God's hand moved over the selection of gifts, he stopped at the box from the littlest angel. The littlest angel was so afraid as the box was opened and everyone including God saw the gift he offered. It was nothing, he thought. It was simply a butterfly with golden wings, a sky-blue egg, two white stones, and a tooth-marked collar once worn by his dog. He was miserable. To think he'd believed these simple things would be fitting gifts for Jesus.

But God singled out his gifts as the gift that pleased Him most. And the rough, unsightly gift began to glow, rise, and shine brilliantly over the stable where the baby Jesus was born. And all men called it the shining star of Bethlehem.

The message of this book gave me a confidence boost when I was young. It came back to me as an adult, still powerful, and reminded me to be myself and not judge my writing so harshly. We writers give from our hearts and hope others enjoy the stories we create as much as we enjoy writing them. It's important to love our own stories.

I wish you all the blessing of self-actualization, free from harsh self-judgment, this holiday season. May you see the beauty in your gift.

What books have not only entertained you but given you useful insights?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas in the Kitchen...

Some of my fondest memories of the winter holidays revolve around my family...specifically my mother and her sister. Raised in the south, they brought their family traditions to Michigan with them during the automotive boom.

Those traditions included a huge family gathering on Christmas and tons of food. The typical menu looked a bit like this:

·         Roast turkey (filled with herbs and fruit rather than stuffing and basted with Vernor’s ginger ale)
·         Honey/brown sugar glazed ham (long before there were store-bought/spiral sliced)
·         Whipped potatoes (not just mashed but processed with a hand mixer, butter and cream)
·         Sweet potatoes (not that sticky casserole, but sautĂ©ed in butter on the stove top)
·         Green beans (from their summer garden and preserved then cooked with salt pork)
·         Creamed corn (made with corn from their summer garden that they’d frozen)
·         Cornbread/sage stuffing (basted with broth from the drippings)
·         Homemade dinner rolls and biscuits
·         Fresh-cooked cranberry sauce (made with apples)
·         Homemade egg nog

And, then there were the desserts:

·         Coconut layer cake
·         Sweet potato
·         Pumpkin pie
·         Lemon meringue pie
·         Banana pudding
·         Chess cake

~ ~ ~
Both of my boys grew up enjoying the fruits of their grandmother’s and great-aunt’s labor. And, although our immediate family only numbered eleven, somehow all that food disappeared.
~ ~ ~
Now I have grandchildren of my own and one of their favorite holiday treats is my sweet potato pie. I’d like to share that recipe with everyone as my holiday gift to you.

Grandma Kelley’s Sweet Potato Pie

·         1 lb sweet potato (1 large or 2 medium)
·         ½ cup butter, softened
·         1 cup white sugar
·         ½ cup milk (preferably whole)
·         2 eggs
·         ½ t nutmeg
·         ½ t cinnamon
·         1 t vanilla
·         1 pie crust (9”) unbaked (deep dish is best)

·         Boil sweet potatoes in skin for 40-50 minutes or until done.  Run cold water over the potato until able to handle and then remove skin.
·         Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
·         Break potato apart in large bowl, add butter and mix well with mixer.
·         Stir in remaining ingredients and then beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth.
·         Pour filling into unbaked pie crust.
·         Bake for 55-60 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Pie will puff up like a soufflĂ© and then will sink down when it cools.
·         Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Note: if you have leftover filling, you can bake in a small oven-proof bowl and it makes a great treat as a pudding.
~ ~ ~
Speaking of sharing recipes ...

One of my favorite genres/eras is what's known as "vintage" (think 1950s and 60s). In my recent novella, Bewitched, my heroine's secret weapon just happens to be Choco-blast cookies. And, at the back of the book, I share the recipe with my readers. I've done the same again in my upcoming Valentine's Day novella, Paging Dr. Cupid, my heroine prepares the hero a family-recipe Monte Cristo Sandwich and, again, I've added the recipe to the end of the book. I think I've hooked my editor with this fun promotion style! And, she loves the treats as well.
~ ~ ~

This is it for me until the new year. I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday season ... no matter which holiday you celebrate. May it bring peace and love to you and everyone you care about.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Who won't be coming to dinner on Christmas? @BeckyBarker

    For the first time in more than six decades, I won't be sharing Christmas with either of my parents. We lost Daddy almost fifteen years ago, and lost Mother earlier this year. During their lifetimes, I never failed to spend part of the day with them.They raised six children and taught us all to love the holidays. We were far from wealthy, but Mother and Daddy made it a time for music, lights, excitement and shared happiness.They taught us the real meaning of Christmas. I hope Buzz and I have managed to instill that same joy of the holiday in our three children and six grandchildren.
     Here's a picture of Mother and Daddy a few years before he died. Their smiles are a precious reminder of a lifetime of love and laughter they shared with 85 plus members of our immediate family. (More than 20 grands and 40 great-grands) This year, we have three new additions (including a baby girl due Christmas day) who will never meet their great-great grandparents. Those of us who are able will pass on the love and do some extra cuddling.

     I know we were really blessed to have them in our lives for so many years, and I'm forever thankful that our children grew up knowing their love, as well. There are so many people in the world who have never known the same happiness or have had the pleasure stolen by the loss of loved ones. My heart aches for them. It also aches for the families of veterans whose loved ones are in harms way.
     If you're struggling with a personal loss or have something else stealing your joy this holiday season, please feel free to share your thoughts in a comment. I find it always helps to put your feelings into words. This post is a testament to the everlasting love I always felt for and from my parents. I'm planning to keep the tradition and pass it along. How about you? 

Big hugs for the holidays!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Looking Back ~ Looking Ahead by Marianne Evans

The Gems in the Attic welcome Gem-sister Marianne Evans today. Like the rest of us, she's been busy!

Twenty years. Don’t they go by in a blink? This month I celebrate my 20th anniversary as a published author, thanks to the series of romances called Precious Gems.

My writing journey began long before that milestone, though. Back in fifth grade, I’d scribble along the lined pages of a black-and-white spotted composition book. Each time I handed in my journal I received encouragement and praise: You show depth of feeling, so you drew me into your story. You utilize the senses very well. Your word-use is fantastic.

My love affair with words intensified. In high school I’d deliver hand-written stories to my friends in a chapter-by-chapter progression. These were sweet little romances, because even then, I was taken by the notion of a butterflies-in-the-tummy explosion of happiness when people find their way to one another. Added benefit? My friends read, my friends enjoyed, and my friends asked for more. Hey, who needs math?

Given hindsight, I suppose those prompts should have tripped a few wires about what I was meant to do in this life, but I never thought much about being ‘A Writer.’ I simply enjoyed observation. Word-crafting. Some of my most productive creative moments are the ones spent watching the world around me, absorbing people and snips of conversations then asking myself the all-important question: ‘What if?’ I translate those scenes into the written word because they come alive in my mind and refuse peace until I’ve somehow captured in story what I see in my mind.

At the start, storytelling didn’t strike me as being much of a big deal. Believe me, if I could do it, anyone could do it. I didn’t recognize the gift, and what I feel is God’s purpose through that gift. My love of romance, along with the voices in my head and heart, led me to publication with Precious Gems...twenty years to the date of this blog post. Friends & Lovers ‘dropped’ at Wal-Mart in November of 1996.

What a ride. Following three releases with Kensington, an explosion in e-book publication led me to The Wild Rose Press. I loved it, but I’ll be honest. I wasn’t fulfilled. Kensington and Wild Rose were wonderful, but God kept tapping my shoulder, urging me toward a different path. I longed to write Christian inspirational romance and fiction but couldn’t develop the right story to tell. Also, I wondered what qualified me to write stories from a Christian world view.

Coming to terms with those questions caused an explosive paradigm shift, a surge of both creative inspiration and a long-term relationship with a Christian publisher I love. As I move forward into the next two decades, I want to offer you what I discovered in navigating this long, tricky, draining, but oh, so fulfilling path. Don’t be afraid of that inner voice. Follow your calling. When instinct speaks up, when prompts refuse to be squelched, pay attention and move to new shores. Be brave and bold. Explore…succeed, fail, rise, succeed some more.

It can happen—I’m living proof!


Marianne Evans is an award-winning author of Christian romance and fiction. Her hope is to spread the faith-affirming message of God’s love through the stories He prompts her to create.
Readers laude her work as “Riveting,” “Realistic and true to heart,” “Compelling.” Her Christian women’s fiction debut, Devotion, earned the Bookseller’s Best Award as well as the Heart of Excellence Award. Hearts Communion earned a win for Best Romance from the Christian Small Publisher's Association. She is also a two-time recipient of the Selah Award for her books Then & Now and Finding Home.
Marianne is a lifelong resident of Michigan and an active member of Romance Writers of America, most notably the Greater Detroit Chapter where she served two terms as President.

Twitter: MarEvansAuthor


Ashley Coratini is bucking her family, and the odds, by embracing the chance to pursue a dream. During a three-week trip to Florence, Italy, she’s determined to immerse herself in the world of art and to explore the gifts God has given her.

Widower Luca DeRosa owns and operates a premiere art gallery at the heart of Florence. He’s just over a year away from turning forty, but doesn’t mind the milestone. He enjoys a life spent raising his five-year-old son and scouting artistic talent. When he comes upon Ashley, he’s captivated by her artistic skills and fluid grace, and he sees to it that Ashley’s dreams take off at high velocity.
But as love blooms, questions mount. Will Ashley embrace her gifts and a life in Italy that’s worlds different than the one waiting at home in America? Can Luca trust his heart and instincts enough to embrace the love of a vibrant young woman whose spirit speaks to him so deeply?
What comes next when the dreams they dare to dream really might come true…?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Writer's Life by Karen Kelley

If you're a writer then someone has probably told you at least once during your career that they have a horrible life and you should write their story. This has happened to me more than once. I was terribly flattered they enjoyed my writing so much they thought I would be the perfect candidate to write their life story.

Then I began to wonder. Had they really read my books? I put a lot of comedy in my stories and yes, explicit love scenes. For some reason, when I explained this to them, they got the strangest look on their faces. I usually never hear from them again.

I was at a family reunion once and a lot of us were sitting around the table. My sister in law raised her eyebrows and haughtily commented, 'Karen writes those kind of books'. She then said something referring to my sex life. I can't remember exactly what she said, but I went into shock, right before I died laughing. I told her I didn't know she read 'those kind of books' but I was glad she apparently enjoyed them.

Getting fan mail is really cool--most of the time. I once got an e-mail from a gentleman who said he'd read Southern Comfort three times and just knew there was a message in there for him. He was about to read it backwards and was certain he would find it. Okayyyy....

I procrastinate when it's time to go to work. Make no mistake about it, writing is work! I grumble and gripe. I put my ear buds in and turn on my music. I open the file with my current work in progress. I start writing.

Something magical happens. I lose myself in the story. I fall in love with my characters. That's what it's all about and I wouldn't want to do anything else.

I hope you fall in love with my latest series about six women who decide to go on a scavenger hunt for the perfect man.

Book 1: Roped
Book 2: Confessions
Book 3: Tempted
Coming in January Book 4: Undressed


Best Wishes,
Karen Kelley (sign up for my newsletter group and I'll give you a free book)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Getting Creative with a New Release by @MaddieJames

I came to a realization this week -- I haven't had a release in a little over three months. Now, I've had a lot of life happen in the past six months (like we all do) and my writing has taken a back seat. I've tried to get motivated. I attempted to do NaNoWriMo. Fail. I downloaded the Write-o-meter app for my phone to remind me to write everyday. I keep swiping the reminder away. I signed up for My Write Club to try to keep up the little bit of momentum I had gained with NaNo. I keep forgetting to update my page.

Small momentum gained from NaNo. I didn't win but I did realize one thing: My average writing day is now about 500 words a day. I can't seem to get many more words than that. So okay, I'll just roll with it. 500 words is better than none. Right?

Maybe not having a release doesn't sound like a big deal, but the moment I realized that was the case, was the same moment I looked at my tanking sales figures on Amazon.

Bleh. Not good.

No recent release. Sales tank. It's been slightly over 90 days since the last novella went up on my KDP dashboard. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm not going to tempt fate any longer so I created a release.

Created? Yes. I scoured my files to see if there was anything -- any Work-in-Progress -- I could speed along. Nada. I had two stories half finished. Another one a third of the way done. Nothing close enough to get up there ASAP. I had to get creative.

Creativity is my forte, right? Sure. I'll buy that. So what to do?

I have boxed sets. I've serialized one of my novels. I've had to get creative before. What now? I created a Romance Sampler, with a twist. Here is what I came up with:

This Romance Sampler is a collection of firsts--three first in series complete novellas or novels, plus sample first chapters of some of my single title works. I've also provided a first "sneak peek" into an upcoming novel, yet to be released, and an erotic romance novella that you can find only in this collection (not yet released elsewhere!).

Inside this collection you will find the following "first in series" books:

Bed, Breakfast and You (contemporary/romantic comedy novella)
Entranced (time travel/suspense novel)
Double Trouble for the Wedding Planner (contemporary erotic romance/menage novella)

The first chapters of these romantic suspense novels:
Tempt Me
A Perfect Escape

The first chapter of my western romance novel, Rawhide and Roses, and a sneak peek at the first chapter of this upcoming western romance novel, The Cowboy's Secret Baby (the sequel to Rawhide and Roses)

And a Bonus! Also included in the sampler is a full-length erotic romance novella, available ONLY in this sampler, The Spy Who Topped Me. And the best part? Right now it's all only $0.99.

Currently available at AMAZON | KOBO. Watch for B&N and IBOOKS coming any moment!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Hope and love—the spirit of Christmas and a good romance novel by Jan Scarbrough #GemsInAttic

Why do we run ourselves ragged before the Christmas holidays? Why do we shop until we drop? Decorate the house inside and out? Fret over new Elf on the Shelf ideas?

Because we have wonderful Christmas memories of family gatherings at grandmother’s house, toys from Santa under the tree, church pageants and choir concerts, and volunteers at red kettles ringing bells in the cold.

We want our holidays to be happy, warm with love, laughter, and hope. We have fun giving to others, not receiving. The smiles of our children and grandchildren are reward for our efforts.

But what happens to people whose lives are in flux? Maybe they are alone at Christmas. Unhappy. Sad. It’s not a pleasant picture in real life, but it’s exactly the kind of picture we authors enjoy painting with characters we love to torture.

Such a character is actress Dawn Smith. A small town girl from Legend, Tennessee, Dawn is famous. Her success in Hollywood came easily. Now things have changed. She needs to get away from the bright lights, but even though she escapes to her hometown, she can’t face family this time of year.

But being a character in a romance novel, my tortured heroine does not remain alone! Why should she when I love happy endings?

Enter Clint Roberts dressed as Santa, a former high school football hero and affable, fun-loving bachelor with a big-time crush on superstar Dawn Smith.

Will they have a happily ever after ending? What do you think?

Hope and love—that’s the beauty of a romance novel and the Christmas season. Without them both, our lives are cheerless.

SANTA’S KISS is on sale now for 99 cents at these retailers.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Who and What is Ginger?  by Kathleen Lawless#GemsInAttic

Ginger itself has a  long history dating back more than 5,000 years and has been traded throughout history longer than most other spices.  It is a flowering plant whose rhizome or root is widely used as a spice and long-credited with medicinal properties.

Remember how our mothers used to give us ginger ale for the flu or tummy ache?  I'm not sure how much actual ginger Mr. Schweppes put into the pop, but since ginger had historically been credited for its benefits to stomach upsets and flu-like symptoms, they were on the right track.  It was more than just a soft drink treat when we were sick.

Today ginger, in all its forms; fresh, dried, liquid and ground is easily accessible and affordable, but in the 14th century its cost was equivalent to a livestock purchase.

Redheads are sometimes referred to as gingers, thanks to finger-flavored foods which show an auburn/red twinge.  For those of us who grew up watching Gilligan's Island it was pretty apparent, even on a black and white TV, that Ginger had red hair.

Edible gingerbread houses originated in Germany during the 16th century and became associated with Christmas.  Did the confection inspire the story of Hansel and Gretel or was it the other way around?  No one is clear.

What is clear is that ginger, be it flavoring bread, cookies, edible houses or spicing up dozens of culinary dishes, is synonymous with Christmas.  I love the smell of ginger-anything in the oven permeating the house over the holidays.  And since the grown-up children still come home for Christmas I find this gingerbread cookie recipe perfect.  I make it ahead, form it into logs which I refrigerate so I can slice off a few or a bunch of cookies to bake whenever I want.  The house smells great and the kids' tummies are happy.

Ready-When-You-Are Ginger Snaps
3/4 cup dark brown sugar packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup minced candied ginger (optional)
21/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsps. ground ginger
1 tsp each baking soda and cinnamon
1/4 tsp each ground nutmeg, cloves and salt.

Cream the sugar and butter, add the eggs one at a time and beat. Stir in almonds and candied ginger. add your combined dry ingredients and mix well.  Dough will be stiff.  Form into round logs about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.  Wrap tightly in wax paper and plastic and refrigerate at least 12 hours.
Slice into 1/4 rounds and bake 350 10-12 minutes until lightly browned and crisped.  

What I would really like to know is how ginger morphed into 'gingerly'.  I don't see any connection at all to the heated spice, fiery redheads, or witches with edible houses.  Gingerly today means cautious and careful, apparently originating from the Latin word 'gentius' which means well-born. 
So no real connection to my favorite Christmas spice, as I lift my cookies gingerly from the oven and onto a rack to cool. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


 I was hunkered down by the little garden area around my mailbox, planting bulbs and carrying on a lively conversation with the people in my head—out loud—when I looked up to realize my neighbor was standing behind me.  I replayed the last few minutes in my mind, but was forced to admit that I had indeed been reciting both sides of a lively argument complete with hand gestures such as waving my little shovel to emphasize the more important points.

So I just smiled and pretended nothing unusual was going on.

Image result for free clipart screaming woman Surely such a scenario is familiar to my fellow writers, many of whom admit that they have people in their heads doing all sorts of interesting things.  And many of whom are surprised to learn that not everyone enjoys the same experience.

I recently saw a story on the news about a phenomenon called “maladaptive daydreaming,” and I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for my fellow authors.
It seems that the habit of getting lost in the stories in one’s head, of constructing elaborate scenarios and forgetting one’s surroundings is considered a disorder.

I’ve read a bit of research by clinical psychology professor Eli Somer, who first identified this syndrome and named it.  Some of the signs are excessive (who decides what’s excessive?) daydreaming that often begins in childhood, and daydreaming that is detailed and elaborate.  Daydreamers may talk, laugh, cry, make gestures and lie in bed for hours daydreaming, either in the morning of instead of going to sleep. They may even forget to eat or shower.  They may become emotionally attached to the characters they imagine, even though they know the characters aren’t real.

Sound familiar?

I talked this over with some of the people who live in my head and they assured me it’s all right to continue my maladaptive lifestyle—at least if I wanted to continue my writing.  Let’s just hope nobody comes along and tries to cure our favorite authors.

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