Ten Ways to Cope with Toxic News Cycles

I went back and forth over how to title this post.

“Unsettling” seemed too anemic a term to describe the insurrection that took place in the Capitol just four days ago. I rejected “apocalyptic” because while it may be true, it felt like hyperbole. “Revolutionary”, while also accurate, is a term most often used to describe the good guys.

But “toxic” fit the bill.

I’ve written about distraction before. A lot, actually. And inability to focus or to find the energy to be creative is nothing new for me. I’ve been struggling with these issues for the last several years–the last four years, to be exact. But the stark reality is this:

Nothing is going to change.

You read that right. I don’t mean that everything is going to remain static; that things will neither get better nor worse. Given our current trajectory, things are probably going to get much worse before they get better, if indeed, they still can. What I mean by this harsh statement is that things are always going to be in turmoil, the news is almost always going to be terrifying, the year that we look forward to with hope as being better than the last is almost certainly to disappoint.

We’re going to have to adapt if we want to live our best lives.

I saw a question making the rounds on Twitter this morning asking if those over 30 could remember so much crammed into a single news cycle. After all, this week brought us both Bean Dad and a violent takeover (at the instigation of the current president and others) of the Capitol while Congress was preparing to certify Biden as the next President of the United States. Yes, both these events happened in the same week. I mention Bean Dad because that already seems like months ago. Life comes at you fast these days.

The response of the over-30 crowd on Twitter was interesting: it’s not just that the news cycles have become shorter with more horrific events. It’s that we can never get completely away from them either.

So the real question is what are we going to do about it?

I took this quote from a post I wrote last February

But I’m noticing a greater tendency on my part not to want to do anything but mess around online. Stay home in front of the laptop or with the phone in hand. If I could order my groceries and do all my banking online, I’d never leave the house on my days off. It’s an effort to put the dogs in the car and take them out for a run in the national forest or go horseback riding–things I used to love doing. I keep looking at my watch and thinking, “I have this block of time I need to use for writing!” only I pick up the phone, and four hours later, I haven’t typed a single word in the WIP.

A few days after posting that, because of the pandemic, my husband and I made the decision to split our households into those who could WFH and those who could not. And now I do order my groceries and do all my banking online. I’ve stopped riding because I didn’t feel comfortable going to a public boarding barn where I was leasing a horse. And while I can still take the dogs out for a run in the woods, I don’t do that nearly as often as I could.

I waste my precious available time doomscrolling.

And again, rather than stating the obvious, the question is what am I (and you) going to do about it?

I snagged this bit of advice (that I should have taken!) from the previous post:

Just in time for this post, I came across this old Twitter thread from former CIA personnel, Cindy Otis. (I know, right? The irony…) In it the OP talks about toxic news cycles and how to cope. She doesn’t advocate ignoring the news–and she’s right, it won’t go away. But she outlines positive steps to take to make yourself feel better. You can check out the link or follow the tips here:

  1. Take Action: Volunteer. A hard one for me, I admit because I’m already on compassion burnout as it is. But that’s why I give money when I can’t give time, and why I focus on local rather than national or international efforts. You need to see the benefits of your kindness. Do it. (I should add here that I participated in a small way in Romancing the Runoff this year, which generated over $400,000 to support getting the vote out in Georgia, and helped flip the Senate–so even small efforts can make a difference!)
  2. Accept Your Limits: The flip side of the first, true. But critical. Remember, if the O2 mask drops down on the plane, you have to put YOUR mask on first before attempting to help others. You can’t do anything if you’ve passed out from lack of air.
  3. Research before Panicking: particularly important in this age of disinformation. Check your facts before sharing that post. For all you know, the crisis you’re sharing may have already been resolved by the time you hit ‘send’. Or it may not even be true.
  4. Get up and Move: that’s right. Unplug. Turn off the phone, go outside, play with the dog, call a friend. Your body and brain needs a break from stressful content but also you need to release that negative energy. Even if you don’t feel like taking a walk, do it. You’ll feel better afterward.
  5. Set Rules: I like this one. No Social Media after a certain time. Only fiction reading at home. Whatever works best for you. Shut out the negative so you can recharge.
  6. Avoid Dark Holes: Don’t go down the rabbit hole of one bad news story after another. Don’t succumb to clickbait. Deal with one thing at a time. Don’t get yourself wound up about the coronavirus and then leap to climate change and then hyperventilate about how unprepared we are for all of this and how the next thirty years is going to break us as a society and species… Ooops. That was kind of specific, I see. You see what I mean, though.
  7. Have Fun, Darn it: Another tough one. It’s hard not to feel guilty having dinner with friends or enjoying a movie when the world is on fire. But the thing is, enjoying those little things is what life is all about. And sharing our fandom squee, or a beautiful photograph, or the joy of bringing home a new puppy or kitten doesn’t mean we’re shallow, terrible people because the world is going to hell in a handbasket and we’re not screaming about it. It’s all part of recharging. It’s all part of making sure we’re rested for the next fight.
  8. I added this one myself: Celebrate Your Wins: No matter how big or small. Because that’s what life is about too. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for sharing about your new book or your concert tickets or pictures from that awesome vacation (pre-pandemic). Because that’s what life’s about too. The things that make us happy.
  9. Adding this one today: Treat doomscrolling like any other addiction.  Because that’s what it is. And believe me, it’s hard to cut yourself off from your phone when you’re supposed to be staying at home because of the pandemic. But if you find yourself unable to stop bingeing on potato chips, perhaps the answer is to stop buying chips. My life seems full of mostly bad habits right now. I’m trying to cope any way I can, and most days I feel like the character from Airplane! You know, “This was the wrong week to give up <insert escalating vice here>. But the only one who can stop me from indulging is me.
  10. Adding this one too: JUST START. If you want to write, knit, paint, do a puzzle, regain fitness, journal, learn a second language, get a degree, whatever. Just. Start. A word after a word after a word is a sentence. If you are stalled out creatively by the endless toxic news cycles, throw out the idea that it must be perfect or that you must complete it by such-and-such date. You may have heard the advice you can’t edit a blank page (Jodi Picoult) or that the water doesn’t flow until the faucet is turned on (Louis L’Amour). Well, it’s true. And if that faucet has been off a long time, at first the water will be tinged with rust and may only trickle out, but given enough time, it will run clear again. But only if you turn the valve.

Now excuse me while I go walk the dogs. I said that in February 2020. I’m saying it again today. Because it’s always the right answer.

My Focus Word for 2021

I’ve been creating focus words and phrases for myself back before it was cool. Before you could readily find small stones with words carved into them, before there were organizations such as myintent.org. Sometimes I would assign an object my focus word as a reminder to myself. Sometimes I would simply decide that this would be the year of living with passion or joy.

Since focus words have become more popular, it’s been easier to not only purchase something tailor-made to carry your intent with you at all times, but also to create your own personal reminder. I even went so far as to purchase a metal stamping kit a few years ago, and while I’m not all that good at it, I confess, I love making these lightweight aluminum bracelets for myself. (Actually, I’m pretty darn good at the stamping, it’s bending the aluminum into a wearable bracelet without screwing it up that’s the problem, even with the special tools for doing that. I need to get a little expert advice on that…)

I’ve written about this concept many, many times. I’ve written about the importance of personal talismans and of using stones to focus my intent. I did a Twitter thread about bringing good energy into your upcoming writing year, and I think the bulk of the advice still holds true today. I wrote about the word I chose for 2020 (and man, does that make me cringe now, even though I still believe in the principles behind the choice). 

I’ve written about the push-me/pull-you relationship I have with the theory of the Law of Attraction, and why it does and does not work for me. And I keep coming back to this: I am my own worst enemy. I’ve made self-deprecation an art form.

USA Today bestselling author and 2018 RITA finalist, Margaret Locke, and I had a conversation about this on Twitter the other day. She had complimented me on ending up on a year-end list with some pretty amazing authors, and my knee-jerk reaction had been to shuffle and say, “I don’t deserve to be there.”

She made me realize that this is common problem among women because we’ve been coached that way. Not just the “You’ll Never Be Good Enough” syndrome that so many of us know from growing up in households with exacting parents, but a condition inherently female because so many women are raised to defer their abilities in a way that men are not. (And I sense a future blog post about this topic someday…)

So I found myself floundering on a word choice for this year. Survival felt too stark, and not the energy I wanted to bring with me into 2021, even if it felt like I’d nailed it. Hope felt too impossible to achieve. I came very close to selecting Believe for this year, because it embodies the things I want to carry with me into 2021–and also because I’ve fallen deeply in love with Ted Lasso. (Note: link contains spoilers) If you haven’t had a chance to watch this charming, earthy show about an American football coach tagged to lead a losing UK soccer team out of their slump, you should check it out. I know, it wasn’t on my top ten shows to watch either, but my husband persuaded me to try it, and after the first episode I wanted to watch the next right away.

And I came very close to choosing Believe simply because of Ted Lasso, and because this word is so flexible. It can be used for so many things: believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. Believe in change, believe in the future of our country. Believe in things getter better in the future.

But I wasn’t quite ready to go with believe. I know that because when I was looking up old posts to link here, I ran across another word that clicked with me. I saw it and though, yes. This is it.

Resilience.

It’s a word my husband thinks I have. One I used to think I had, but somehow lost along the way. One that I want to have again. It embodies everything I want from a focus word for 2021. Not giving up. Pressing forward. Taking my dreams, my hopes, and goals and tucking them in my jacket to carry with me. It’s putting one foot in front of the other in deep snow. Taking a deep breath. Tackling what lies ahead: be it a pandemic, a thorny WIP, depression, anxiety, whatever.

I had to take a break from moving forward. My base camp has been pitched on the side of a mountain, a small sliver of space I used to catch my breath, lick my wounds, and recoup from loss. But the summit is still above me, and I can’t stay on this ledge forever. It’s time to start climbing again.

Resilience.

I’m not going to ask you to move off your ledge. I’m not going to ask you to do more than you can in 2021. For many of us, the fact we made it to the ledge and are hanging on is a bloody miracle. You’ll know when it’s time to break camp and climb to the next level.

But I’ll leave the rope dangling for you.

 

 

Dear 2020: I’m Almost out of F*cks To Give

People talk about the liberation in reaching a point where they have zero f*cks to give. I’ve joked about it myself, and laughed when a friend gave me a glass that embraced this concept as well as my love of foxes.

But the truth of the matter is we need people to give a f*ck about things. Important things. We need people to care. To have compassion. To go out of their way to help others. And losing the ability to give those kinds of f*cks is not a good thing, or something to be desired.

Right now my TL is in a stew over a couple of new releases: most notably Bridgerton and Wonder Woman 1984. It’s a measure of how tired I am that neither event–things I might have looked forward to in the past–generates any feeling of excitement or outrage. Back when it was first announced, I was thrilled about a second WW movie, and desperately hoped there would be a way for me to see it when I had no intention of setting foot in a movie theater. I purchased HBO Max just so I could watch it, and I simply… haven’t. WW84 seems to be a disappointment to many (and apparently missed a huge opportunity to make use of 80s music–the soundtrack would have been fabulous!) and as for Bridgerton… Let me preface this by saying I haven’t read the original series, I wasn’t aware of the problematic scene/plot point that has some people up in arms and others defending it, I had no problem with the diverse casting until people pointed out the added egregiousness of the problematic plot point, and given the hostility with which the different camps have taken sides, I’m not sure I will watch this series.

Because I am very close to having zero f*cks to give.

And I don’t mean that in the good way, where you stop worrying about what other people think of you, or you look ahead at the remainder of your life and think, “Screw it. I’m going for it.” Where you dress the way you want and look fabulous, and ignore those stupid advice posts “What Not To Wear After Forty.”

I’m talking about when you don’t give a rat’s ass about anything.

I can’t lay this blame entirely on the pandemic, though that certainly didn’t help. It’s a culmination of chronic stress, both physical and mental, combined with a crapton of grief stuffed into the last four years. And while I can’t blame the current administration for ALL the problems in my life, it strikes me as ironic that the worst four years in my life have been the last four years.

I’ve long detested the obligatory “end-of-year” posts. I dislike looking back on the past year and shouting out about achievements. Mostly because it goes to show how little I’ve accomplished in a given year. I also dislike the concept of New Year’s Resolutions, fed into us by the diet industry, given the enormous number of exercise and weight loss ads suddenly crossing my timeline. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve resolved to do x-y-z only to see that resolution fall by the wayside in a matter of weeks.

My only real resolution this coming year is to survive.

My stories frequently have “life is more than mere survival” as a theme, however. Which has me thinking, what would my characters do, faced with the utter lack of f*cks to give?

Rhett would drop her ray gun in her clutch, whistle up the dog, and ask Peter if he had any ideas on how to stop the invading force from taking over the world. Her lack of f*cks would mean she would go down fighting, looking extremely stylish in the process. And because she has such utter confidence in herself, she’d probably come out on top. She’d definitely be the resistance fighter in any guerilla-war.

Ellie West, knowing she had much to fight for and the ability to do it, would marshal her clan and shift into her glorious dragon-form, taking wing and taking names. You’d regret messing with her found family.

Sarah Atwell is the most like me, I guess. She would continue to work hard, and try to please the people in her life. She’d give of herself until there was no more left to give. She’d nod and back down, struggle with anxiety, plagued with nightmares and borrowing trouble with her fears. The problem is, because she’s savvy and well-read, her fears would be legitimate. And believe me, it’s hard to meditate yourself into a calmer state of mind when you know the odds of your worst fears coming true.

But even Sarah has that underlying backbone that cannot be denied. A line in the sand you must not cross. Sure, it may be a lot closer than most people’s lines. But when push comes to shove, you’d better not cross it. Otherwise you’ll discover that meek, self-effacing, self-doubting woman is a cougar inside.

And so when I was writing this post, thinking of how utterly exhausted I was and how unsustainable certain elements in my life are right now, I remembered I created these characters. They sprang out of characteristics I either possess or admire. They are part of me, even if not the whole me.

And end-of-year bragging posts notwithstanding, I am proud of a few things accomplished in 2020. Some are personal, that I’m not sharing here but brought great happiness to my life in a year where happiness was hard to find. I wrote and published a book in the middle of a pandemic. Another book won a couple of prestigious awards. I participated in Romancing the Runoff, and–along with Stacey Abrams–helped raise $400,000 to support Georgia Senate races.

I voted. I saw the tremendous motivation of a nation to vote for change, for healing, for hope.

And while I didn’t get as much writing done as I would have liked, I am still writing.

Maybe my life is more than the mere survival it feels like right now. So watch out, 2021. As someone almost out of f*cks to give, you don’t want to mess with me.

 

Bishop Takes Knight Named a Finalist in the 2020 N.N. Light Book Awards!

Last night I did something highly unusual for me: I didn’t open up my laptop at all. I checked a few things on my cell phone, but I don’t have access to all my email accounts there, so it wasn’t until this morning that I realized I’d left the laptop in the car overnight during subfreezing temperatures.

When I realized my mistake, I brought my poor laptop inside and let it come to room temperature before turning it on. Which is why I didn’t find out until JUST NOW that Bishop Takes Knight has been named a finalist in the 2020 N.N. Light Book Awards!

This is me, putting my hands over my face to hide my emotions right now because even though 2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for us all, Bishop Takes Knight has consistently been a bright spot in it for me. Thank you, N.N. Light, for such a terrific honor.

Want a little sneak peek at Bishop Takes Knight? Check out this amazing book trailer my husband made for me. He doesn’t know it, but he’s been drafted to do all my book trailers from now on!

 

The Girl Who Lost Her Dream

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who loved polished stones.

She loved the slick feel of them between her fingers, and the way they warmed in her hand. She loved how being spun in a tumbler sanded off the rough outer shell and brought out the beauty within–a kind of Cinderella story for rocks.

She’d learned to identify the dinosaurs by name, and collected plastic models. She resisted the reclassification of the Brontosaurus (and her adult self rejoiced when her belief was vindicated). She moved on to mammals and birds, thumbing well-worn identification guides, learning animal tracks and bird calls as well. 

Her childhood passion for identifying things was on the wane when she discovered geology, but the magic of polished stones stayed with her. A school trip to a mine netted a little velvet sack of rocks that stayed with her through several moves and all through high school, disappearing somewhere after she went away to college. But she always remembered the pleasure those polished stones brought her.

As an adult, she rediscovered that joy again, coming across some polished stones with words engraved on them. She began collecting stones again. A rock tumbled smooth by the Snake River. A piece of quartz that caught the light like a diamond. An amethyst from a park gift shop the last time she took the old dog camping. Bloodstone from the writer’s retreat. Sodalite for creativity. Hematite because it looked like solid mercury. Other stones with words engraved on them: Wisdom, Courage, Serenity, Joy.

The stones that didn’t have words carved into them also got named–secret names that grounded her when she kept them in her pocket: Hope. Love. Kindness. Peace. Strength.

She used to carry them with her one at a time, a talisman in her pocket to remind her to focus on the idea embodied within. But the fear of losing them caused her to leave them on the shelf collecting dust. With time, they got packed away and forgotten, only to turn up again out of the blue after another move.

She spread them out on the bookshelf again, admiring her little hoard.

Then things got bad, not just for her, but for the entire world. Things felt really hard, and she began looking at her talismans again. At a time when she needed it most, she carried Hope, like a little prayer, in her pocket. After feeling hope again for the first time in years, she switched out and began carrying Courage. The smooth stone in her pocket grounded her and gave her strength. So at the end of the week, she selected a new stone to carry: Dream.

It seemed audacious to carry Dream with her, but since she’d chosen audacious as her power word for 2020 (and had sadly not lived up to its promise), she placed the sparkling stone in her pocket and went on about her business.

Only her pockets were shallow, and at some point, Dream fell out and was lost.

She tried not to let it bother her. After all, wasn’t that the reason she stopped carrying stones with her in the past–fear of losing them? It was inevitable she would misplace one sooner or later. The fact it was DREAM didn’t mean anything. Her dreams weren’t encases in mineral, unable to thrive without a touchstone to activate them. Sure, having dreams had been tough this year–for the last few years, actually. But losing the Dream stone didn’t mean she’d lost her dreams–only that she had lost a rock.

She kept looking for it though. In part because she remembered hearing a ‘clunk’ at some point in the past, and hadn’t put it together with losing the stone until later. But if she heard it fall out of her pocket, that meant it wasn’t in the yard, or lying in the forest after one of her walks. She resigned herself to having lost it forever, though, and told herself that perhaps someone else would find it one day, and it would bring them joy (and maybe even a little nudge in the right direction from the universe).

And then after she’d given up searching for it, she came across it by accident while straightening up, the Dream stone lying beneath a stack of clothing she’d had yet to put away because it simply wasn’t a priority for her.

She snatched the stone up with joy, thrilled to have found her Dream again. She rushed to place it back on the shelf where it would be safe with all the others once more. She wasn’t going to make that mistake again. The stones would stay put, stay safe. But she hesitated as she positioned the stone among the others.

Wisdom. Courage. Faith. Serenity. Joy. Health. Hope. And yes, Dream. Concepts that could not be killed by losing a little rock. Concepts that shouldn’t remain safe at home but should sally forth into the world to do battle, to protect, to inspire. She didn’t need to lock up her stones. She needed a better way to carry them with her. In a small pouch, so they couldn’t easily fall out of her pocket. Safe, but still with her at all times.

She took Dream outside held it in her hand. The sun came out from behind the clouds and set the stone to sparkling.

“This,” she thought. “This is how Dreams are meant to live.”

And because she believes in them, the once-upon-a-time little girl grew up and lived happily ever after.

Bishop’s Gambit Named a Top Pick by The Romance Reviews! #MFRWauthor #MFRWHooks #giveaway

I’m delighted to announce that Bishop’s Gambit (Redclaw Origins Book 2) has been named a Top Pick by The Romance Reviews! You should have seen my face when I read the review! I can’t tell you how much this means to me. I had so much fun writing this story and can’t wait to bring you the next installment, Bishop’s Endgame, planned for the fall of 2021.

Redclaw Origins: The year is 1955. Rebel without a Cause and The Seven Year Itch are playing in the  movie theaters. The Chevy Bel Air is the most popular car in America. Gas is 25 cents a gallon and you can get a hotel room for $4 bucks. This flirty, fun series takes us back to the beginning and shows us how Redclaw Security got started.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

As I’d hoped, my shout caused the bathroom door to explode open as Knight burst out, his skin damp and a towel gathered around his waist.

Well, that wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped for, but the results were astonishing just the same. Momentarily stunned by the gleaming expanse of wet skin, as well as some rather impressive musculature for a scientist, I blanked for a second on the reason I’d called out in the first place.

But just for a second.

I snatched up Stirling’s flowers as the gunman transferred his aim from the dog to Knight. His finger was closing on the trigger when I hurled the vase.

 

To celebrate this news, I’m going to select a winner at random from one commenter to receive an audiobook of my steamy novella, Snowfall, set in the Redclaw universe and read by the dreamy Josh MacCrae. Giveaway closes 9 pm EST Dec 12. If you’re not chosen but you’d like to read Snowfall for free, just sign up for my newsletter! Snowfall is also available for sale on Amazon and as an audiobook (links here on my book page).

Let’s make this fun! What’s your favorite Christmas movie or special (or tradition, if you’re not into watching specials), and why? I watched Last Holiday the other day, and it is definitely a favorite. But around here, it’s not Christmas until we’ve watched the Muppet Christmas Carol!

This post is part of a book hop, so be sure to check out the other posts at the link below!

 

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Celebrating Christmas in Pandemic Times

Celebrating the holidays has always been a little problematic for me.

I grew up in a family where Thanksgiving and Christmas were dominated by my grandmother and her wonderful cooking. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I discovered how much my mother hated these gatherings, due in part, no doubt, to her ongoing internal battle with food–something she passed on to her children, I’m sad to say.

To me, however, the holidays meant food in such abundance and flavors that we never got at home: turkey with all the fixings, ham, mashed potatoes, yams, succotash, collards, and green bean casseroles. Yeast rolls and cornbread. Sausage balls and stuffing. And the desserts! Pumpkin, lemon meringue, chocolate pies, applesauce cake, pound cake, or sour cream cake–take your pick. Not “oh, we’ll have lemon pie one year and pumpkin the next.” No, ALL the desserts mentioned on the same table with the entire extended family there to enjoy it. Everyone came home for the holidays at my grandmother’s house. Everyone.

Because of the tremendous volume of food made, we got bundles of leftovers to take home with us, spreading the joy for two or three days after the holiday was over.

When my grandparents died, there was no one to pick up the mantel of cooking and baking. My mother thought if a little heat was good a lot was better, and given her own food sensitivities (which I’ve inherited, darn it), she stripped most recipes of all seasoning and flavor.

I tried to cook for the family when we got together for the holidays, but my own weak skill set was hampered by the lack of proper cookware–a fact I didn’t realize until I discovered what a difference the right pots and pans could make.

It didn’t help that early in my career, as a single woman with no children, my employers scheduled me to work every holiday under the assumption I didn’t need to celebrate myself.

Decorating seemed pointless–when you live alone, you never drive up to your home and see the welcoming lights of Christmas decorations gleaming through your windows. Not to mention all the work of putting them up, only to have to take them down in a few weeks. Then there was the fact my dog–the first one that was all mine and not a family pet–had this bizarre quirk where she would remove the string of lights from the tree… and pop every bulb. She never touched anything else, but I would come home to find the tree and ornaments in place, and the string of lights on the floor surrounded by bits of broken glass. Weird, right?

She was Practically Perfect in all other respects, however, so I just learned not to put up decorations.

Eventually, I realized that if I wanted to experience the magic and joy of the holidays, I would have to come up with my own traditions. This usually took the place of watching various holiday movies–mostly the old black-and-white classics such as It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas in Connecticut. I’d watched these movies on the AMC channel at my grandmother’s house, and they were part of my Christmas memories, along with the animated television specials: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Oh! And it wasn’t Christmas unless I watched A Christmas Carol in some version, usually with the Muppets (which is the best, IMHO). I listened to Bing Crosby, and in a seasonally driven burst of domesticity, I baked.

After I got married, my husband and I developed our own traditions. He has an advent candle he likes to light each year, and we started putting up a tree again. Neither one of us are huge decorators, and while he probably thinks my taste in holiday movies is dreadful, he cheerfully suffers through my desire to watch them. We don’t go crazy with gifts either, but since we’re both big readers, Christmas usually means a nice cache of books to read though the winter.

This year, because of the pandemic and our family’s decision to split households for safety reasons, once again, I’ve been thrown back to those early days as a young professional when I worked straight through the holidays with only the official day off itself. I find myself struggling to find the Christmas spirit this year–I mean, who isn’t?

I realized the other day, this wasn’t a new phenomenon, however. It’s been quite a few years since I had the time or energy for Christmas. There always seems to be more work before and after a holiday to make up for taking the day off. Somehow there is never enough time to watch my favorite movies, and various determinations to count calories or avoid gluten has cut into my seasonal baking. (It’s not that eating gluten will kill me. It’s just that I only seem to be able to tolerate a small amount these days, and since when has anyone been able to stop with one Snickerdoodle?)

This year, in deference to pandemic-driven anxiety, I’ve been watching new-to-me Christmas movies on Netflix: The Princess Switch, A Christmas Prince, and the even earlier A Princess for Christmas. There’s a certain kind of appeal to the picture-perfect winter settings in mythical kingdoms where all needs are met because there is an insane amount of wealth in the background. The heroines are often hapless but brave, the heroes wealthy and in need of lightening up. It occurred to me while watching yet another scene where the True Meaning of Christmas had nothing to do with the limitless credit cards but the people you spend it with that a) money helps and b) … people weren’t going to get to be with their families this year. 

I have to tell you, instead of feeling comforted by these light movies, I felt sad. I understood why people feel they MUST family during the holidays, even when every recommendation is to stay home and not cross households. I got it because sitting on your couch watching fluffy holiday movies with the dogs feels very lonely when there are people you love that you wish were there. And yet, if we love our families, staying apart this year is exactly what we have to do.

It’s as if the Whos in Whoville woke on Christmas morning without decorations, and presents and roast beast—and without each other too. After living on my own for so long, I’d become accustomed to the level of comfort living with a family of your own choosing can bring.

Suddenly, for me, This Would Not Do.

So I got up early this morning and went through all my old recipes, and after rejecting the ones that required rolling out dough, specialized equipment, or included vague directions of “add flour sufficient to handle dough” (I mean, seriously, is that three cups? Four? Five? Who knows?), I went with my tried-and-true favorites: Nestle’s Tollhouse Cookies and Snickerdoodles. Any cookies I broke, squashed, or burned ended up in my personal stash. I packed a selection to take into work. And then I packaged the rest and drove out to where my husband is staying. I wound up on the doorstep holding a tin of cookies in lieu of a boombox a la John Cusack in Say Anything.

I didn’t go inside. We didn’t throw caution to the winds and break our self-imposed separation of households. We sat outside, wearing masks, speaking of nothing consequential and at the same time everything that was important. Because Christmas really isn’t about palaces in Aldovia or switching places with someone in order to see how the other half lives. Christmas can come without ribbons. It comes without tags. It comes without packages, boxes or bags.

It’s what we make of it.

Isn’t everything?

 

Bring on the Holiday Stories: New Releases for the 2020 Season!

Anyone who knows me knows I am a complete sucker for holiday stories and movies. This year I feel the pull even harder than usual. I want those small town Christmas stories, complete with snow, second-chances, and happily ever afters. I want the Scrooge-like billionaire to find the true meaning of Christmas–and true love along the way. I want lovers to meet across the ages–at Regency house parties, Victorian gatherings, and through magical time-traveling events. I want heroines to throw caution to the winds to take a chance on life–and love. I want to see mysterious seniors offer excellent advice and give nudges for lovers to move in the right direction–closer to each other. I crave mad dashes through airports (something I don’t ever want in real life), crowds parting to reveal one’s true love after you thought you’d missed them, and unexpected proposals to the applause of the unplanned audience.

I suspect I’d pay for a holiday-themed streaming channel. I know I feel the urge to start reading and watching holiday entertainment with the first crunch of dead leaves underfoot in October until the daffodils bloom in March. But I’m also a believer in celebrating the holiday at hand before galloping off to the next one. So now that Thanksgiving is over here in the US, I feel completely justified in doing my annual seasonal new release showcase. Here, in no particular order, are a list of happy-making stories for you to check out this season with something for everyone, from sweet to spicy and everything in between.

Holiday anthologies are my personal catnip and The Heart of the Season: An ATA Anthology is full of heartwarming stories across genres about finding love and joy at this time of year. 

THE HEART OF THE SEASON is a jolt of joy you cannot wait to unwrap for the holidays. Let your heart be merry and bright as you dive into this multi-genre collection of short stories centered on the themes of love and joy during the holidays.

Explore a foreign café, wild mountain ranges, big city lights, and homey firesides. Keep turning the pages to read the stories of love, redemption, sacrifice, and kindness reminding you that THE HEART OF THE SEASON lives within us all!

Can a private investigator recover a family’s stolen gifts?

Could kittens help create a love connection?

Will a widow rekindle her love for the holidays and find romance once more?

Should a single mother give her daughter a Christmas during the apocalypse?

★   ★   ★

“Apocalyptic Christmas” by Courtney Konstantin

“Melt Into Me” by Allison K. Garcia

“Paul Dupré: A Cajun Country Christmas” by Karen Lopez

“Christmas Delivery” by M. T. Decker

“The Christmas Guest” by Lindsay Detwiler

“Last Wishes in Cowboy Country” by R. K. Fultz

“The Pilfered Presents” by Tom Fowler

“Christmas, Cocoa, and Keychains” by N. Terry

“The Smallest of Gifts” by K. McCoy

“Miracle Dawn” by Myria Wild

“Kindness and Fresh Snow” by Katrina Rosemond

Christmas Cookies at the Cat Café: a Furrever Friends Sweet Romance

by Kris Bock 

Christmas isn’t the same since Diane’s kids grew up and her husband died – so when her high school sweetheart comes back to town, maybe it’s time for some cozy new holiday traditions.

Diane had a great marriage and a wonderful life. Now she’s a widow at 53, and her grown children are encouraging her to slow down and do less – but she wants more. She starts planning for a new career by arranging a photo shoot at the cat café her daughters run. Unfortunately, the cats won’t cooperate.

Rick loved Diane in high school, but he chose to travel the world while she settled down with another man. Now he’s back for a visit, but he’s not planning to stay – even if Diane still tugs at him. He’ll help her get what she wants from life, and then he’ll say goodbye.

Rick temps Diane to quit her job, sell her house, and travel. But she can’t leave the people she loves so dearly, the family that might still need her just a little bit. Diane tempts Rick to end his wandering ways, but he can’t simply step into the hole left by her husband’s death. As the weeks pass from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the holiday season brings out complicated emotions.

Can Diane and Rick find a way to make a new life together while holding onto the best parts of the past? They’ll need more than attraction and affection. They might even need a Christmas miracle.

The Furrever Friends Sweet Romance series features the workers and customers at a small-town cat café, and the adorable cats and kittens looking for their forever homes. Each book is a complete story with a happy ending for one couple (and maybe more than one rescued cat). These sweet romances will leave you with the warm feeling of cuddling a purring cat.

Excerpt

The cat did not want to wear a hat.

“Come on, Miles, it’s for your own good,” Diane muttered. “I’m not trying to insult your feline dignity. I’m trying to find you a forever home. Wouldn’t that be nice?”

Once again, Diane got the cat settled on a table against the autumn backdrop. Miles seemed perfectly content to sit there and watch the proceedings. But as soon as Diane tried to put the sunflower hat on the cat’s head, he dropped and flailed as if touched by flaming thorns rather than soft felt. Miles wrestled with the hat as Diane rushed to wake up her cell phone. Maybe she could get something cute, with the cat chewing a sunflower petal.

Diane aimed the camera. The hat sailed to the floor.

Miles leapt off the table, streaked across the room, climbed one of the cat trees, and calmly perched on a platform staring out the window, pointedly ignoring her.

“That Cat in the Hat book is nonsense,” Diane said. “I used to get a diaper on a squirming baby in under a minute. You’d think I could get one cat to wear a lousy hat or at least pose nicely.”

Visit the Furrever Friends Sweet Romance series page on Amazon.

Price: $2.99 Free with KU.

Heat Level: sweet and clean

Kris Bock

Website

Amazon US page or Amazon UK page. (For other countries click here.)

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

GoodReads Author Page

BookBub

Author Bio: Kris Bock writes novels of romance, mystery, and suspense. Her Furrever Friends Sweet Romance series features the employees and customers at a cat café. Watch as they fall in love with each other and with shelter cats. The series begins with Coffee and Crushes at the Cat Café. Sign up for the Kris Bock newsletter and get Lions and Love at the Cat Café, a free sweet romance novella complete at 35 pages.

Kris also writes romantic suspense set in the Southwestern U.S. If you love Mary Stewart or Barbara Michaels, try Kris Bock’s stories of treasure hunting, archaeology, and intrigue in the Southwest.

Don’t Mess with Christmas (Dr. Brogan Corkie Matchmaking Doctor Book 4)

Author: Linda O’Connor

Sweet PG-13

Medical Humorous Contemporary Romance

Dr. Brogan Corkie is happily semi-retired from medicine and now has time for other hobbies. Her passion for food is second only to her skill at matchmaking!

Parker Roy grew up in the middle of four brothers and has lived with enough testosterone to last her a lifetime. She’s finally moved out and made a life of her own. Between putting the finishing touches on the set for Mapleton’s Christmas play, plowing snow, and transforming her hydroponic greenhouse into a Christmas wonderland, it’s ramping up to be a hectic season.

Dr. Julian Murphy, the only allergist in town, has his eye on the woman behind the set design of the holiday play. He’s volunteering backstage in the hope of getting to know her. There’s a bit of a snag when she’s referred to his clinic for a rash – doctors aren’t allowed to date their patients – but Dr. Brogan Corkie doesn’t see it as an insurmountable problem and steps in to give their romance a nudge. She’d better be right because, if not, it could seriously mess with Christmas.

The allergist or the rash– which itch does Parker want to scratch?

ASIN B08L1DHDMS

Buy Links:

E-book link:   https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08L1DHDMS

Paperback link:  https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Brogan-Corkie-Matchmaking-Doctor/dp/1988955165/

Bio

Award-winning author Linda O’Connor started writing romantic comedies when she needed a creative outlet other than subtly rearranging the displays at a local home décor store. Her books have enjoyed bestseller status. When not writing, she’s a physician at an Urgent Care Clinic. She shares her medical knowledge in fast-paced, well-written, sexy romances – with an unexpected twist. Her favourite prescription to write? Laugh every day. Love every minute.

Website https://www.lindaoconnor.net

Twitter https://twitter.com/LindaOConnor98

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LindaOConnorAuthor

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/795688.Linda_O_Connor

Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Linda-OConnor/e/B00S7CNLEA

Excerpt

“Pleased to meet you, Julian Murphy.” His hand was warm around hers, and when he moved his thumb in a subtle caress, a shiver went down her spine. “Julian Murphy,” she murmured. She tilted her head and narrowed her eyes at him. “Are you a doctor?”

Julian nodded. “I am.”

“An allergist at Gateway General?”

“Guilty.”

Parker pulled her hand back and put her hands on her hips. “I tried to get a referral to see you. You refused.”

His lips twitched. “Yes, that’s true.”

“Why? Dr. Corkie said she’d never seen it in all the years she’s practiced medicine.”

Julian put his hands in his pockets. “Well, there’s a rule against doctors dating patients. It’s ill-advised and frowned upon by the College of Physicians of Ontario.”

Parker scoffed. “Well, good for you. What does that have to do with me?”

“Parker, would you like to have dinner with me?”

Title: First Class Christmas

Author: Katy Eeten

Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance

Blurb:

When Mandy Brockman flies home from her friend’s destination wedding, her heart is on empty at the thought of spending Christmas alone. It doesn’t help that her ex is on the plane, seemingly unaffected by their breakup. But the kind-hearted man seated next to her seems to have it all together—and he’s handsome to boot. She knows her emotional healing won’t come in the form of another guy, but will the source of this man’s peace and joy help Mandy find the Christmas she’s looking for?

CJ Hawkins is captivated by the beautiful, feisty woman he meets on his flight. The only thing is, she’s fresh out of a relationship, and he has no interest in being anyone’s rebound. But the more he learns about Mandy, the more he’s drawn to her unique mixture of compassion and spunk.

Can he figure out how to make their relationship take off before this First Class Christmas is grounded forever?

Excerpt:

Once the bill was squared away, they stood to leave, retrieving their coats from the coat check on the way out. The thought of leaving CJ only to return to her lonely apartment brought the same sense of emptiness they’d been talking about earlier. She tried to shake it off. Out in the parking lot, he walked her to her car.

“I’d love to see you again, but I have plans tonight. Although…” his voice trailed off.

Mandy narrowed her eyes. What wasn’t he saying? “Although…?”

A small smile crept to his face. “You should totally come with.”

She was intrigued. “Where to?” They arrived at her car, and she turned to face him with her back against the driver’s side back door.

He waggled his eyebrows. “To fill that emptiness in your heart.”

She tilted her head, giving him a dubious look. “What makes you so sure?”

CJ placed one hand on the car behind her on her left, and then another on her right, pinning her in place between his arms. Their bodies were only inches away from each other. “Do you trust me?” She could hear the smile in his voice.

Taking a deep breath, Mandy kept her gaze on CJ’s. The truth was, she did. But that fact scared her a little. She pressed her lips together before responding. “Yes.”

He gave a flirty lift to his eyebrows. “Good.”

Author Bio:

Katy Eeten is married to a Pastor and is the mom of two boys, ages 12 and 9. She lives with her family in southeast Wisconsin, despite her dislike for cold weather. She works full time in corporate America, but her true passion is writing.

 

In addition to First Class Christmas, she has three other Christian Romances available on Amazon. When she’s not working or writing, she can be found taking walks or bike rides with her kids, baking goodies, playing the piano, or spending time with her family.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon = https://www.amazon.com/First-Class-Christmas-Holiday-Extravaganza-ebook/dp/B08KSJHMW4

B&N = https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/first-class-christmas-katy-eeten/1137850777?ean=9781522303251

Kobo = https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=First%20Class%20Christmas%20(Katy%20Eeten)&ac=1&acp=katy%20eeten&ac.title=First%20Class%20Christmas&ac.author=Katy%20Eeten

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KatyEeten/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/KatyEeten

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/KatyEeten/

Website: https://katyeeten.wordpress.com/

 

SLEIGH BELLS RING by Jessica James

 

BLURB:

Best friends go their separate ways, only to end up on the same ranch at Christmas. A best friend, second chance, cowboy Christmas love story set on a ranch in Montana.

 

Returning to her family’s Montana ranch after a ten-year absence, Jordyn Dunaway pitches in to help her mother create the special holiday magic for which the exclusive ranch is renowned. But when she discovers that her best friend growing up—the man she has never forgotten—is employed as a ranch hand, the holiday season turns into something she never imagined.

Chad Devlin was falling into a deep abyss after being medically discharged from the military. When his old employer invited him back as a ranch hand, he found himself recovering both physically and mentally…that is until he was blindsided by the return of the ranch owner’s daughter.

The rocky relationship of the former best friends takes a back seat as the future of the family-owned ranch is threatened. If Jordyn and Chad don’t put their painful pasts behind them, they might lose the ranch they both call home. Can misunderstandings, mistrust, and lost years be forgotten when the magic of Christmas is in the air?

Find out with the help of beautiful mountain vistas, warm Western hospitality, and the magical meaning of a special sleigh bell that ties both Jordyn and Chad to the past—and the future.

 

SPECIAL NOTE: Author Jessica James has partnered with the family-owned business Magical Bells to offer a 20 percent discount off their beautiful sleigh bells. No need for a coupon, the total will be fixed on checkout with this link: https://magicalbells.com/discount/SleighBellsRing

 

EXCERPT:

 

Chad Devlin leaned one broad shoulder against the porch post of the bunkhouse as a limousine pulled through the elegant arched gateway. “Another guest just arrived for the Christmas gala,” he said to no one in particular.

“Another city slicker you mean.” The man standing beside him sent a slug of tobacco onto the dirt near the steps as the car drove slowly up the gravel driveway to the main house about a hundred yards away.

Chad lifted the hat off his brow and scowled at the brown smudge on the ground, but didn’t say anything. Judd had been warned by Mrs. Dunaway about spitting anywhere he pleased, any number of times. It wasn’t exactly the type of thing that wealthy folks wanted to see when they were getting away from it all on this high-priced luxury ranch in the middle-of-nowhere, Montana. And it wasn’t behavior that one would expect from a man who was in charge of dozens of ranch hands.

With his eyes glued on the woman getting out of the car, Chad took a step forward, causing the coffee in his mug to slurp over the top. “Is that Jordyn Dunaway?”

Judd let out a whistle as the long-legged blonde accepted the suitcase handed to her by the driver. “I’ve only seen pictures.” Judd leaned forward and squinted as if to lessen the distance between them. “You know her?”

Chad grew silent and merely shrugged, angry that he’d expressed any emotion and let down his guard. He hadn’t seen Jordyn Dunaway since she’d left for a job in New York City more than a decade ago. Was that really her? Had she really come back home after all this time?

The woman paused on the porch and swept the golden tumble of hair off her shoulders, an action that flaunted a regal confidence and stately poise. Chad mumbled under his breath as another splash of hot coffee breached the top of the trembling mug, burning his hand.

Trying to slow the pace of his heart, Chad looked away and took a deep breath. Would Jordyn remember their last night together? Would she even remember him after traveling around the world and being away from the ranch for so long?

His gaze went back to the main house, but the door had already closed behind her.

Squeezing his temples, Chad tried to stop the memories. He even closed his eyes in a futile attempt to block the images that were branded in his mind as the best—and the worst—moments of his life.

 

LINKS:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08GPPRQQR

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1040135?ref=jessicajames

Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/sleigh-bells-ring-a-magical-cowboy-christmas-romance/id1529351162?uo=4&mt=11&at=1010lv47

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/sleigh-bells-ring-a-magical-cowboy-christmas-romance

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jessica_James_Sleigh_Bells_Ring?id=H5j5DwAAQBAJ

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sleigh-bells-ring-jessica-james/1137551912?ean=2940162758273

All Retailers: https://books2read.com/u/bxnyPl

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55152871-sleigh-bells-ring

 

Jessica James Bio:

Jessica James is an award-winning author of patriotic suspense, historical fiction, and heartwarming Southern small town fiction. She is a four-time winner of the John Esten Cooke Award for Fiction, and has won more than a dozen other literary awards. She writes inspirational novels with emotional plots, fascinating characters, unforeseen twists, and touches of heart-warming romance. Her books are available in hundreds of libraries including Harvard and the U.S. Naval Academy.

 

 

CONNECT WITH JESSICA:

Newsletter Signup: https://www.subscribepage.com/jessicajamesnews

 Website: https://www.jessicajamesbooks.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001IYTXOG

BookBub : https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jessica-james

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorjessicajames/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/586216.Jessica_James

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RomanticHistoricalFiction

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/southernromance/

 

 Harmony’s Embrace

Series: Deerbourne Inn

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Release Date: November 16th, 2020

ASIN: B08L73TB9C

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Length: 40k

Heat Rating: 3 Flames

Blurb

Divorced dad Birley Haynes is too busy raising his children and running his family’s music academy to start a relationship. Then Harmony Holdich, his high school sweetheart, returns home to Willow Springs, Vermont for Christmas and falls into his bed. She brings light and fun back into his life, but he can’t brush aside the threatening incidents around his workplace.

Harmony hadn’t expected a complication like Birley, especially so soon after the death of her unfaithful husband. With her life a mess, she plans to move across the country and start over. All she can offer him is a fling, but her heart yearns for more.

When the threats rise, how will Birley keep his children safe and convince Harmony to give love another chance?

 

Reuniting with the man who broke her heart has never felt so right.

 

Excerpt

Dear God. His heart slammed harder. He’d died and gone to Heaven.

Harmony stretched her arms above her head and danced in the middle of the living room. Her hips pulsated with the beat of the music. Twisty locks of her hair bounced around her shoulders. She winked, then glided her hands across her breasts and stomach, daring his gaze to follow.

Birley licked his lips. The organ pressing against his zipper throbbed. Sweat slicked his nape. He dropped his scarf beside her purse, jacket, and beanie on the coffee table.

“Dance with me?”

Her husky entreaty ricocheted through him like a ping-pong ball. How could he deny her? He gripped her waist. She slid her arms around him. They swayed, their bodies a scant inch apart. She nuzzled his neck, her breath fanning his skin. His hair prickled. The air crackled around them. He shuddered and held her tighter.

“I’ve missed this.”

His chest heaved. He struggled to fill his lungs with air. “Dancing?”

“Dancing with you.” Harmony stroked his clean-shaven jaw. “I’m sorry things didn’t work out with you and Susannah, but I wouldn’t trade this moment for anything.”

Oh, God. He kissed her and swept his tongue past her parting lips. Delicious. The taste of chocolate and wine clung to her breath. He nibbled and licked the smooth slope of her neck.

“Birley, yes.” She ducked her head and claimed his mouth with hers. Then she feathered kisses across his face. “I need your hands, your mouth, your scent all over me. Take me, Birley. Hard, soft, I don’t care.”

Fuck. Her breathy plea wrapped around his heart and shot blood to his groin. She eased back, drawing him with her. The wall halted her retreat, and he trapped her between it and his body. Their tongues dueled and teeth clanked. Heat sizzled through his veins and pulsed through every organ. Her body writhed against his. Was she trying to drive him mad? He snapped open the fasteners of her pants and slid his finger beneath the waistband of her insulated leggings. Silk brushed his skin, then he slipped into her warmth.

 

Add to Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55691564-harmony-s-embrace

Check it out on BookBubhttps://www.bookbub.com/books/harmony-s-embrace-deerbourne-inn-by-amber-daulton

 

Purchase Links

 

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Harmonys-Embrace-Deerbourne-Amber-Daulton-ebook/dp/B08L73TB9C/

Barnes and Noble – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/harmonys-embrace-amber-daulton/1137951572

Apple/iBooks – https://books.apple.com/us/book/harmonys-embrace/id1539081673

Kobo –  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/harmony-s-embrace

Google Play – https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=1M8HEAAAQBAJ

Universal link – https://books2read.com/u/bPX6kR

 

Now Taking Sign Ups for my Newsletter, Amber Daulton Romance

 

https://emailoctopus.com/lists/9d60a166-f2ea-11ea-a3d0-06b4694bee2a/forms/subscribe

About the Author

 

Amber Daulton is the author of the romantic-suspense series Arresting Onyx and several standalone novellas. Her books are published through The Wild Rose Press, Books to Go Now, and Daulton Publishing, and are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats.

She lives in North Carolina with her husband and demanding cats.

 

Social Media Links

 

Website – https://amberdaulton.wordpress.com/

Facebook Author Page – https://www.facebook.com/amber.daulton.author

Twitter – https://twitter.com/AmberDaulton1

Street Team – https://www.facebook.com/groups/572204316296198/

Pinterest – https://pinterest.com/amberdaulton5/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6624921.Amber_Daulton

Amazon Author Page – https://amzn.to/14JoZff

Book Bub – https://www.bookbub.com/authors/amber-daulton

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/amberdaultonauthor1/

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/pub/amber-daulton/87/538/368

The Wild Rose Press – https://www.thewildrosepress.com/authors/amber-daulton

The Last Christmas by Seelie Kay

Release Date: December 11, 2020

Publisher: Extasy Books

Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance, three flames

Why did you write “The Last Christmas?” 

My father is 94-years-old and as you might expect, has had a number of serious medical, age-related events. Each time, we were told to prepare for his death. Each time, he survived. The fact was, my Dad wasn’t ready to die. And his children and his grandchildren weren’t ready to let him go either. So I started thinking about terminal diagnoses and how they are really a best guess, not a guarantee. That, of course, led to thoughts how a terminal diagnosis often causes people to give up and prematurely mourn the death of the person who is ill. I wondered how that impacted the outcome. And because I was preparing to write a holiday book, I also started thinking about the power of family, and how, time after time, families are capable of creating miracles.

That led me to “The Last Christmas.” Christmas truly is a time for miracles, and thought it important that everyone be able to experience one through the tale of the Wright Family. 

Blurb:

When the doctors say there’s no hope, Santa begs to differ. After all, he claims, miracles are love combined with action to get the desired result. And at Christmas time, everyone deserves a miracle!

David Wright is dying from cancer. He is not expected to see another Christmas. At least that’s what the medical professionals say. Fortunately, Santa begs to differ. After all, modern medicine is nothing more than a best guess. Santa believes anything is possible until you give up. When Santa tells David’s wife, Joan, that heaven is full and she has to keep her husband alive, she is beside herself. She has no medical skills. How can she save anyone’s life? Set your skepticism aside as Santa embraces a family already mourning their father’s terminal diagnosis and teaches them that a Christmas miracle doesn’t always require heavenly intervention. Sometimes, all it takes is a family with enough love to create their own. As Santa says, a true miracle is when love combines with action to get the desired results. And only humans are capable of that. Will Santa’s words fall on deaf ears? Or will Team Wright find a way to save their father’s life?

Excerpt:

 It’s not about you, it’s about him, Joan,” a grumbly voice said. “You’re looking at this all wrong.”

Joan turned so fast she almost lost her balance. She glared at the old man who had spoken. He was around seventy, with ruddy cheeks and twinkling blue eyes. And thick white hair. Lots of white hair. Flowing over his shoulders, winding up in a very lush beard. On top of his head was perched a brightly colored red knit hat. She frowned. “Wait a minute. You’re Santa Claus. Without the red suit, but clearly, you’re him. I’d know you anywhere.”

The man bowed and with a smile, said, “At your service.” He gestured toward a park across the street. “Let’s take a walk.”

“Oh, no. I’m not going anywhere with you.” Joan shook her head. “I didn’t mean you actually were Santa Claus. Everyone knows he doesn’t exist. I just meant you looked like him. You’re just a man who looks like him. I don’t know you. Why would I…” She glared at him. “You’re not even wearing a red suit. And since when has Santa taken up armchair psychiatry?”  She ran a hand through her blonde hair. “I must be hallucinating.” Despite her objections, she followed him across the street.

Santa laughed. “My dear, I have been dispensing advice since I was old enough to talk and make people listen. God chose my role a long time ago and I have gotten very good at it.” He looked toward the heavens. “Sorry, old boy. Still working on that humility!” He chuckled. “Man never stops reminding me.” He smiled at Joan. “Do you sense any ill-intentions from me? Of course not. I’m Santa. All I want to do is talk.”

Joan reached out and touched his shoulder.

He laughed again. A laugh that came directly from his belly. “Yes, I’m real. Well, as real as a centuries-old spirit gets. I even eat all those cookies children leave me each year. And let me tell you, that’s a heavenly feat.” Again, he looked skyward. “Yes, sir, I am well aware that borders on gluttony. A sin. You know darn well it has nothing to do with gluttony and everything to do with the magic of Christmas, an affirmation that Santa is real. I do it for the children.” He smiled at Joan. “Sometimes, He gets a little overbearing with his angels.”

He smirked. “Even God has his faults. He is by no means perfect.” A strong wind swirled through the plaza, nearly catching his knitted cap. He clapped his hand on his head to hold it down. He whispered, “And he doesn’t take criticism too well, either.”

Joan stared at the man. Surely, she was losing it. Santa a spirit, an angel? He and God didn’t even travel in the same circles. She shook her head, trying to make the hallucination go away.

Santa sighed. “I know, I know. You’ve been taught that I’m not real. That I’m a myth. That’s a rumor started by Satan himself, the old devil. He can’t stand the fact that people embrace the goodness in the world. And that I spread good cheer. He would much rather unleash a plague and make people miserable. He hates Christmas. He hates that the birth of Christ is celebrated, and his birth, well, is not. He really can’t stand the fact that love binds people so tightly during the holidays.” Santa shook his fist toward the ground. “The fool pouts all through the holidays.” He then sat up straight and gazed at Joan. “Christmas is really about love, you know. All kinds of love. The type of love he’ll never have. Love of family, love of children, love of—”

“What the heck do you want?” Joan blurted. “People are starting to stare.”

Buy links: 

“The Last Christmas” is scheduled for release in December 11, 2020and will be available from all major booksellers, including–

Extasy BooksPreorder Link Available November 27, 2020

 About Seelie Kay: 

Seelie Kay is a nom de plume for a writer, editor, and author with more than 30 years of experience in law, journalism, marketing, and public relations. When she writes about love and lust in the legal world, something kinky is bound to happen!  In possession of a wicked pen and an overly inquisitive mind, Ms. Kay is the author of 18 works of fiction, including the Kinky Briefs series, the Feisty Lawyers series, The Garage Dweller, A Touchdown to Remember, The President’s Wife, The White House Wedding, and The President’s Daughter. 

When not spinning her kinky tales, Ms. Kay ghostwrites nonfiction for lawyers and other professionals. She resides in a bucolic exurb outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she shares a home with her son and enjoys opera, gourmet cooking, organic gardening, and an occasional bottle of red wine.

Ms. Kay is an MS warrior and ruthlessly battles the disease on a daily basis. Her message to those diagnosed with MS:  Never give up. You define MS, it does not define you! 

Author links: 

Website:  https://www.seeliekay.com

Blog:  https://www.seeliekay.blogspot.com

Twitter: @SeelieKay https://twitter.com/SeelieKay

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/seelie.kay.77

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/seeliekay51/

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Seelie-Kay/e/B074RDRWNZ/

The Holiday Mermaid

A Sea of Love story in the Desire Me Again romance anthology by BVS

Fantasy Romance

9,000 words

#paranormalromance #romance #RomanceReaders #RomanceNovel #RomanceBooks #romancenovels #fantasy #lovestory #Magic #mermaids #Christmas #bvsbooks #PNR #AmReading #books #Book #Yule #ebooks #Kindle

 

Love comes in many shapes

 

Blurb

The hopeless romantic believes that a soulmate exists for each of us. That there is one person who makes us feel how good it is to love them. For some couples, things trigger them to push that love away. They find out too late they’ve lost true-love. Sometimes genuine love deserves a second-chance at the happy ending that eluded them the first time.

Desire Me Again is an eclectic assortment of short stories exploring a second-chance at love. The collection is as diverse as the authors who wrote them. Here’s a chance to read the work of talented writers you may not have read before. Within these pages, there are blends of tender, often moving and thought-provoking stories.

The Holiday Mermaid, a seasonal fantasy romance by Alice Renaud: Adam fell for surfer girl Rowena the second he saw her. But just as their summer fling was becoming serious, she left him without any explanation. Now, with Christmas just a few days away, she’s back… and Adam discovers that she’s a shape-shifting mermaid, from a Clan that hates humans. Can he love her as she is? Can she brave her family to be with Adam for good, not just for Christmas?

Buy Links

https://amzn.to/34NstC7

 

Bio

Alice lives in London, UK, with her husband and son. By day she’s a compliance manager for a pharmaceutical company. By night she writes fantasy romance about shape shifting mermen, water monsters and time-travelling witches. Her first book, “A Merman’s Choice,” was published in January 2019 by Black Velvet Seductions. It is the first book in the Sea of Love fantasy romance trilogy, inspired by the landscapes and legends of Brittany and Wales. The second book, “Music for a Merman,” and the third, “Mermaids Marry in Green,” are out now. Alice has also contributed short stories to the BVS anthologies “Mystic Desire” and “Desire Me Again,” both available now. Alice loves reading and writing stories, and sharing them with anyone who’s interested! 

 

Social Media Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AliceRenaudAuthorRomance/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alicerauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18670218.Alice_Renaud

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/alice-renaud

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Renaud/e/B07L52P17B

Website: https://nomadauthors.com/alicerenaud/alicebooks.html

 

 Yuletide with the Rookie by Fran Thomas

The course of true love never did run smooth.

Baseball rookie Brett Hoak is spending the off-season teaching kids to ice skate. The knockout big sis of one of his pupils is a bonus.

Leeanne Corey was sure teaching was her best career path. Now, she’s having second thoughts.

When Brett shares a secret and needs Leeanne’s help, she can’t refuse. But losing her heart to a jock again isn’t in her plans.

MY BOOK was NOMINATED AS ROMANCE NOVEL OF 2019 BY READERS CHOICE.

SECRET DESIRES is now on sale at Audible.com and on iTunes. Now, you can listen to Margo’s story and cheer her on as you commute to work or sit back and adjust your headsets at home. It is also available on B&N.com and Amazon.com –eBook and paper.

                                                            SECRET DESIRES

ISBN: 978-0-9984099-1-7

                        Nothing in Margo Simmons’s life comes easy. She can’t claim the inheritance on a condo apartment her uncle has left to her until she is gainfully employed in a job for a year. She meets the man of her dreams but anguishes over a loving relationship because he is still emotionally tied to his deceased wife. With great difficulty, she becomes the guardian to a recently orphaned child she had been tutoring.   Margo evolves from an insecure, newbie elementary teacher into a woman determined to fulfill the secret desires locked in her heart. My story speaks to anyone who has suffered a loss and had to start over.

J.L. Regen’s book was inspired by a real life story of lovers who join hearts against many odds. She lives in the New York metropolitan area, is a published photojournalist, has short suspense stories online, and has taught English as a Second Language to students around the globe. This is her first contemporary romance. She has also published three nonfiction books and is crafting a historical suspense set in World War II.

Contact: J. L. Regen

 Writerjr1044@gmail.com

Website: www.Joansbookshelf.com

JOIN MY MAILING LIST: FOR UPDATES ON FUTURE SUSPENSE TITLES, LEAVE YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION ON MY WEBSITE.

Cover by Karen Phillips who resides in California and has a diversified list of clients.

  1. L. is available for interviews and book readings/signings in your area.

Dear Family: It May Be A While Before We Meet Again

The other night, my husband and I had another conversation about the surge in Covid-19 cases, and whether we were doing everything in our power to keep our family safe.

See, back when when first began hearing about this virus, I knew it was going to be bad. Call me paranoid, but one of the reasons I’ve always feared zombie movies is because I realized “zombies” were a metaphor for a pandemic–and that falls in the category of one of my worst nightmares. So in January, when the news began speaking of a serious new virus emerging in China, I sat up and took notice. I began buying an extra item of the things we used most each time we went grocery shopping. Hey, if you’ve ever tried to get bread and milk when the weather channel calls for a coating of ice around here, you know that was a prudent move.

This was the disinfectant aisle at the local store back in March–but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Shortly after Valentine’s Day, I told my husband he should start working from home, even though his workplace hadn’t issued the order yet. We made the decision to split our family into two households as well–with my husband and the high risk family members in one home and me (an essential worker) staying on the farm to take care of the animals. We understood the need to flatten the curve and to protect the high risk family members as much as possible. I was the one most likely to bring something home, given my interaction with the public and the inability to work from home, and let me tell you, the steps you need to take every day to protect yourself under those circumstances is exhausting–and I’m not one of the people on the front lines. My heart breaks for the medical professionals who are being ground to dust by this terrible, relentless pandemic. I know just how lucky I am.

It doesn’t hurt that I’m not by nature a social person. Sure, I enjoy the company of friends and family. I miss not going to conventions this year. But even when I’m having fun doing such things, I need frequent breaks from people and I don’t enjoy big crowds. I don’t need people the way some of my friends do–as long as I have access to the small group of people I do need. I can wait for a movie to be released on DVD, or am willing to pay extra to see it live-streamed instead. I prefer hiking to shopping, and as for the holidays? Well, growing up with a mother who was anti-holiday has prepared me for shrugging them off and not making a big deal about them. It’s okay. They’ll be there next year.

My husband and I still got together once a week: socially distanced and outside. We’d grill burgers or steaks and sit in our well-ventilated mosquito tent until after dark, reading, talking, or playing board games. In a way, it was a throwback to a simpler, quieter, pre-internet time–and I will look back on those evenings with fondness in the future, I know.

As the days got shorter and a brisk chill entered the air, we moved our gatherings inside. Masked at first, but as time went by, we just stopped wearing them. Our social circle was still quite small. A week passed between each visit, so there was plenty of time to develop symptoms and avoid contact if necessary, right?

We were still being safe, right?

But then the case numbers began surging again–worse than they were when we first began touting “flatten the curve.” Worse than the worst projections of an incompetent and corrupt administration. I began to wonder if we were really being all that safe or smart. The whole reason we decided to split the family was about reducing the risks. Our indoor meetings, even though they met the state guidelines for gatherings, started to feel wrong. As if I were saying, “I know you have a severe allergy, but I only put one or two peanuts in this recipe. It’s not like I used a whole jar of peanut butter.”

Then came the widespread discussions about gathering for Thanksgiving–and I found myself telling friends and neighbors planning to travel to visit family that it was a really bad idea. But were we really being any smarter, safer? I was no longer sure.

Then there was the recent conversation I had with friends–all of whom believe in the necessity of vaccinations–and the unlikelihood of seeing widespread vaccination when we can’t even get people to wear masks. We aren’t going to even begin to get back to some semblance of normal without widespread vaccination against Covid-19… and I just don’t see that happening in large enough numbers to make a difference.

When I read Chuck Wendig’s Twitter thread about the widespread sense of entitlement we as a nation have these days, it was both depressing and infuriating. He spoke of people who would tell you in one breath about a social life scarcely any different than the one they lived before the pandemic and in the next breath say how serious things were and how careful they were being. Um, no you’re not. Not really.

It didn’t help much to know that my husband and I realized we weren’t being careful enough and that–at least for the time being–we needed to go back to only meeting outside wearing masks and truly keeping our social distance again. Because though on a smaller scale, we’d been behaving much like the people Wendig took issue with.

I have to pause here and say there isn’t any virtue in remaining virus-free. It isn’t because of clean living or moral superiority. Perhaps that’s the fatal flaw in our attempt to shame people into wearing masks because I do think on some level, both sides of the argument try to make this about virtue. It isn’t. It’s about science and the spread of disease. It’s about taking precautions and understanding that even under the best of circumstances, precautions can fail. But that doesn’t mean you don’t take them.

I found a measure of comfort in this excellent post by Linda K Sienkiewicz on Setting Limits in a Pandemic. She had some wise things to say about walking the fine line among friends and family who disagree with the perimeters you set for yourself in this perilous time.

It made me more comfortable with the conclusion my family came to this past weekend, and reinforced our decision to be stricter with our interactions instead of lapsing along with so much of the rest of the world. So this is my declaration of intent to continue to self-isolate. Yes, there are members of my extended family that we would love to see–seniors that may not have that many more holidays who want to see us too–and I’m planning for the day when we can visit them again. But not now. Not any time soon. I’d rather be overly cautious out of love than too lenient for the same. If that sounds like I]m assigning virtue to the decision, I don’t mean to do so. We’re just trying to make decisions we can live with. Literally.

 

Stop The Information Overload Bus: I Want to Get Off

Photo by energepic.com from Pexels

This morning, as I was checking my inbox over breakfast, I told my husband I finally understood why some people ghosted their own lives, walking away from everything. There are days when it all seems like Too Much. Those days come with increasingly frequency lately. I’m sure it has something to do with the greater degree of responsibility I have in my life now compared to even ten years ago, but there’s a reason I chose ten years as my marker and not fifteen or twenty. See, it was about ten years ago that I began publishing my original stories.

Prior to that, my online presence was relatively small. I had a list of friends I kept in touch with via email. I had a livejournal account where I interacted with another handful of friends. I posted fanfic to some of the big archives. I had a Blackberry, the primary use of which was to make phone calls.

But with becoming a published author, I had to have a social media presence, and there followed Facebook pages, Twitter, a website, Tumblr, and eventually, reluctantly (and then embraced with more enthusiasm as it became my happy place), Instagram. I created livejournal accounts for my pen names, switched to Dreamwidth when livejournal got taken over by the Russians, and then deleted my accounts on that platform because hardly anyone was there. I made pages on Bookbub, Amazon, and Goodreads. I maintain a ghostly presence on Tumblr because the platform just doesn’t appeal to me very much but I have friends who use it. I belong to groups on Discord I forget to visit. I snagged real estate on other sites I thought I might use/need at some point–does anyone remember Ello? Just this morning I got a reminder to respond to a friend request on MeWe, a site which I’ve never fully utilized, in part because the name reminds me of PeeWee Herman and that just makes me shudder. But as an alternative to the invasive and amoral Facebook, it’s starting to have more appeal.

And because I have different email accounts (personal, professional, fandom, and pen names, current and retired) on any given day, I have over 600 emails in my combined inboxes. In part, because I sign up for courses on craft and marketing with the assumption that I need the information (mostly I do) and in the hopes that this One Thing will make the difference and that This Time the latest book release will be a smashing success and I can finally step down from a job that no longer brings me joy or satisfaction and I can write FT. Only the backlog of coursework, much of which are daily videos averaging 40-50 minutes in length, weighs on me. As does the money I’ve wasted on courses I haven’t made the time to finish.

It’s also due to the email lists I’m on. Because, as every author is told, your email lists are gold. You must have one, you must provide entertaining information, value for the following. Don’t worry about boring your followers or overwhelming them with posts because they are just sitting at their computers waiting for your newsletter to brighten their day.

Um, I can tell you I’m not doing that. I belong to dozens of email lists that I never open. I signed up as part of something else, or to support someone, or even because they are a favorite author and I want to know the moment they drop a new release… and I have to tell you, if I can’t manage to open a newsletter from a favorite Big Name Author then I have less hope for someone opening one of mine.

On any given day, I have blog posts (like this one) to write, marketing/craft videos to watch, I need to make the rounds on social media (and yes, I do schedule things in advance, but like meal planning, that in and of itself can swallow an entire afternoon to get a month’s worth of posts), submit review requests, answer emails (why is it my friends and family always come in last on this list?), reply to comments, and yes, write. You’d think the writing would come first, wouldn’t you? But it hasn’t been. I’m in a writing slump. Some days I’m enthusiastic and I pound out a few words. More often I open the document and stare at the blinking cursor. Writing these past few years has been like pulling teeth with a pair of rusty pliers and no anesthesia. I know it can be done, but I don’t look forward to it and I doubt it’s my best work.

Scarcely a day goes by when I’m not invited to join this group or that platform or I’m advised to have a presence on x-y-z, particularly the newer sites like storyorigin which are designed to help you network with other authors. But it all feels like a catch-22, you know? Managing my time and presence on all these sites is a full-time job and I already have a FT job. I’m like the solo business owner who recognizes that the workload is too much for one person but it won’t quite support a second salary yet. Do you keep growing or pull back? Work yourself to death or hire PT help you can’t afford?

These days a big part of the problem is an inability to focus. I start a video but pause it to throw a load of laundry in the washer. I come back to the video, but decide I really should be writing. The words won’t flow so I decide to schedule blog posts instead. A few hours later I come back to the story but the words still aren’t there. Is it the story itself? Is it me as a writer? Is my brain simply turning to mush?

I honestly believe it’s because there is too much noise. Not literally, although there’s a lot of that too. I think collectively our brains are on overdrive with too much information to process every day. In the past, this feeling would have been my cue to get up from the keyboard and take the dogs for a run, or unplug from social media for a few days and immerse myself in my characters’ universe. But the problem is this time, I don’t want to do those things either. I can’t settle. I can’t focus.

I said to my husband this morning that we were in limbo, and that’s true. That’s what this feels like, this everlasting holding of one’s breath. Ten years ago, I was a much happier person. Uninformed, living in my own little bubble of privilege, but happier. I need to stay informed so I can take action on the things I can do something about–but there are a lot of things going on in the world right now that I have no control over–and perhaps I need to take a break from updates on those things. I strongly suspect one day we’ll learn that doomscrolling also provides some weird sort of feedback, a negative version of the dopamine hits you get when someone likes or comments on your posts.

So if you’re having trouble focusing on whatever is important to you right now: your NaNo project, your WIP, your book launch, a family issue, some work-related thing, something you’ve committed to but feel is getting away from you, take a little advice here. Unless it relates to whatever it is you need to get done, turn off the news. Stop checking out social media. Oh, you’re an author with a big launch coming up and you MUST make your presence known/felt? Schedule what you can in advance and go back to what’s really important. There are far bigger and scarier things threatening to end the world than lack of your social media presence.

Ruthlessly purge your email lists. If you’re not opening it, you’re just deadweight on someone’s list. Clean out your inbox. Those emails you’ve been saving to read at some future date? If they’re more than 6 months old and didn’t come from friends or family, purge it. Not using Discord, or Snapchat, or Twitter or Tumblr? Delete the apps from your phone. Trust me, you’ll feel so much relief from taking these steps.

Pick three sites to maintain a presence on. For me, it’s currently Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I have some real issues with Facebook’s policies and information mining, and I suspect it’s worse than we know, but for authors, a Facebook presence is considered necessary. I crosspost to as many things as possible to save time. For the time being, I intend to stay off SM as much as possible, using something like Hootsuite to manage my posts. I know, I know, interacting on these sites is The Key to building your audience organically and growing your brand (yikes, I typed that as “your bland” initially–Freudian much?) but so is writing your next bloody story!! For me, the only way to deal with the “squirrel brain” I have right now is to dam up the information overflow pipe and let that crap stream on without me.

I hate scheduling stuff because my life is so rigidly scheduled all the time, but using a daily planner helps me find blocks of time I didn’t know I had, while at the same time keeps me from spinning my wheels too long in one space without traction. If I block off 30-40 minutes for a task–like watching a craft/marketing video or working on a book trailer, etc–and that time runs out, I can decide if I will use the next block of time to complete it or move on. Sometimes the answer is MOVE ON. Just like cleaning your house, writing a book, or climbing a mountain–depending on the size of the project– some things are meant to be tackled a piece at a time. A piece plus a piece plus a piece becomes a whole.

The world is a scary place. Always has been for many, but these days we all have more information about just how scary it is and how directly that frightening thing can impact us. We need to learn how to utilize that information without letting it freeze us into inactivity. Time to calm that limbic system down again. Take a deep breath and put your phone down.