About McKenna Dean

from shifters to 1950s paranormal investigators to contemporary love stories, romance lives here.

A Resolution I Must Keep

At this time of year, there are a lot of blog posts about getting fit, losing weight, joining a gym, etc. Especially after several solid weeks of overindulgence over the holidays, and the prospect of starting clean with the New Year, many of us formulate grandiose resolutions about reclaiming the bodies of our youth–even if we never had the ‘best’ body before. Even if we never share these resolutions out loud. It’s a promise we make to ourselves. This time, this year will be better than the last. And part of being better means looking our best, right?

For years I’ve been muttering about needing to clean up my diet. Yes, I need to lose some weight–my BMI has crept up into the ‘overweight’ category–but because that weight is evenly distributed and because I am a relatively active person, I didn’t give it much thought unless I needed to get into a swimsuit–and I could find lots of reasons to avoid doing that. Heartburn and digestive issues were annoyances that made me consider changing my eating habits more than once, but my hectic work schedule made it more important for me to to grab something fast and portable than to choose a more healthy meal. The critical thing was to keep going, keep moving. Work at the pace demanded of me.

I wasn’t going to give up an entire afternoon a week of my precious time toward meal prep. I’m a terribly picky eater, so meal services tend to be a waste of money for me. My weight wasn’t keeping me from doing the things I needed to do–in fact, most people looked askance at me when I said I needed to drop some weight, and so I kept putting off doing anything about my health and eating habits until my body said, “No more.”

First it was caffeine. I had to stop drinking any caffeinated drinks about 5 years ago. A cup of tea would send my BP through the roof. Now I’m at the point where I can’t even have a piece of chocolate without a corresponding rise in BP. Are you weeping in sympathy? Because giving up caffeine was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Until I had to give up wine. Yep. One glass of my favorite red makes my BP skyrocket now. I said goodbye to all alcohol recently because it’s just not worth it: feeling as though the beast from Alien is going to burst through your chest at any moment for at least 24 hours after a single glass.

I’ve had workups out the whazoo–including a stress test I passed with flying colors. I’m on medication, and it was working at first. But now the BP is creeping up even on meds. I know that BP can be controlled with diet and exercise, as well as meditation and stress management–and I am working on those things. But I’m resistant to change when it comes to food.

Most of my research indicates that I’m not alone in my struggles with blood pressure–more than 33% of Americans over the age of 40 have hypertension. And though no one in my family has had a stroke or heart attack until they were in their late seventies or eighties, having hypertension definitely increases that risk for me.

I’m also suspicious I could be sliding toward metabolic syndrome. I don’t fit all the parameters, but some of them are there, and honestly, I think given the typical American diet, more of us are at risk than you’d think.

I’ve spent the last few weeks examining the salt content of most packaged foods, and it’s enough to curl your hair. Rice is pretty healthy, right? Salmon, kale, and rice–not a bad dinner by any means. Only that flavored rice packet my husband loves so much contains 45% of the daily recommended allowance of salt. And that whole grain oat cereal that’s gluten free, high in fiber, and comes in those tasty little “o” shapes? 6% of your RDA.8% if you add milk.

Many people believe that it is just as important to restrict sugar as salt when it comes to BP, and if you factor in insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, it makes sense.

Then there is stress. I figure my adrenal glands–which produce the “flight or fight” hormone cortisol–are probably the size of cantelopes right now. My work environment is incredibly stressful, and I’ve had a lot of personal loss over the past couple of years, so I recently made the decision to seek counseling. The first session was productive, if for no other reason than to have someone outside your family blink and say, “What the hell, man?” when they hear your story.

But all these measures have failed to maintain my BP in the normal range and my anxiety about it isn’t helping. So now it is time to finally get serious about changing my diet. No more grabbing cookies or donuts from the break room when the workload gets too hectic. No more fast food lunches. No more relying on prepacked meals or frozen pizza because I’m too damned tired to cook anything (and am a terrible cook to boot) when I get home at night. I’ve got to go clean, which means fresh, non-processed, made-from-scratch, low salt, low carb, low sugar.

I gotta tell you–when you’ve lost so much, when you’re dealing with chronic pain and high stress, you come to rely on your damned rewards. Snagging a cookie from the break room is a reward for surviving a bad encounter with a client or an energy boost to get you through the next five hours of work. A glass of wine when you finally get to sit down to watch some television is a pat on the head for a fulfilling another long day of responsibilities and very little credit for doing so. Popping a pizza in the oven that will present you with hot bread, melted cheese, and spicy sauce in less than 17 minutes is a lifesaver when you’ve hit maximum decision fatigue. Recently, I mentioned to my husband that giving up chocolate, wine, cookies, and bread wasn’t going to make me live longer. It would just seem like it.

At the time, I thought of this as a funny take on a crappy situation. “Oh look, she still has her sense of humor!”

The thing is, I’ve been resenting like hell having to make these changes. I think I’ve been taking the wrong attitude about this, though. The fact I can tell when my BP is up (even if I don’t know why) means I’m in tune with my body. That’s a good thing. I can use that to my advantage. Hypertension won’t be a silent killer in my case because I know it’s there and can take steps to manage it.

And I’m determined to do just that.

So relax–this blog won’t turn into a series of before and after images, with constant updates on my miraculous weight loss or stats on my progress. I probably will share my adventures in cooking because I really am a horrible cook–and I can use any advice or tips you guys see fit to offer. I’m seriously considering getting an Instant Pot, though I’m hesitant because I hear there is a learning curve. What I intend to post here is about baby steps into a healthier me.

Because part of loving who we are is accepting what we cannot change and changing what we can. There may be quite a few things in my life I can’t change right now, but my eating habits aren’t among them. That I can fix.

Author Interview with Keta Diablo

I’m delighted to be hosting bestselling author, Keta Diablo for an interview! Welcome to my blog and thank you for answering my nosy, I mean discerning, questions!  First, please tell us a little about yourself, Keta, and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

I write in several genres. Don’t ask me why, but I guess I like to bounce around a little. I have written western romance, contemporary romance, historical romance and quite a bit of paranormal. It’s funny you’d ask me this question because not long ago I was looking through my back list and discovered ghosts generally make an appearance. It doesn’t seem to matter what genre either. I didn’t consciously realize the ‘ghost’ thing until I perused my books. Hmm. Wonder if it’s because as a child I saw ghosts. And that’s not fiction, but a story for another day. LOL

Here’s my latest ghost story, a contemporary military romance: A Ghost To Die For.

That’s really interesting! I’m tempted into other genres myself, though like you, there are certain themes I prefer.

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

I grew up in the Midwest and still live in the Midwest. For the last fifteen years I’ve lived in a little resort town where it’s very quiet in the winter and teeming with a gazillion tourists in the summer. They arrive in droves to water ski, jet ski, cruise the lakes in their big fancy boats and hit all the quaint local boutiques. Believe it or not they also come to participate in the weekly turtle races. Yes, I said ‘turtle’ races. It’s a huge event here in the summer.

Now that I’d like to see!!

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I’ve been writing for about 15 years. I didn’t write as a child, but there is one incident that planted a seed in my brain about books. When I was in the 6th grade, a teacher gave me a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird and said I should read it. I wasn’t too interested in taking her up on her suggestion, but over spring break, I picked the book up, read the first sentence, “When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow,” and I was hooked. I wanted to know how Jem broke his elbow and what happened next. Guess that’s what we call a great opening hook. I realized while reading that book that I could go anywhere in the world by simply turning the pages. I fell in love with the town, the characters and the sultry heat of the deep South. I kept reading after that, everything I could get my hands on. I often wonder if that teacher hadn’t placed that book on my desk if I would have chosen another profession. Seems to me that’s when I knew one day I’d write a book.

That’s so true about reading–and it saddens me when I see how many kids today wrinkle their nose at the idea of reading a book. You were lucky you had a great teacher who hooked you in.

How would you characterize your stories? As romance, erotica, or something entirely different?

See above – jumping around genres. I also jump around when it comes to heat level. I used to write quite a bit of erotic romance, and then tamed it down to sensual. I’ve written one series of clean historical romance, just because I wanted to try it. I vacillate back and forth in both genre and heat level.

City Boy/Girl or Country Mouse—and why?

Country Lady. I feel safer in the country and enjoy the fact that everyone knows one another. When I go to the grocery store here, they call me by name. When I lived in the city, I’d be lucky to get a smile out of the clerks. lol

I can sympathize–I’m all about the country myself. We’re often told “Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?

I would change that a little – Writers should write what really intrigues them. I’m drawn to Native American history and history of the Old West. I find both topics fascinating, but, of course, I didn’t live back then so I have to do research when writing about either one. That doesn’t mean I know it but it means I’d like to know it. With those subjects, one has to rely on research, lots and lots of research. You think about an author who writes strictly Regency Romance. She/he didn’t live it either, but learned about that specific era because of an intense interest.

Are you a panster or a plotter?  Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?

I’m a panster. I’ve tried note cards, outlines, many different techniques and failed at most. I think about the story in my head for a long, long time. You might say I write the story in my head – the plot – and then I do research about the terrain, the clothing, the weather, whatever finds its way into my characters’ lives. I might make a few notes while I’m writing, but mostly it’s in my head until I plant my butt in the chair and begin writing.

I hear you! I’m a panster myself, though I am trying to be more organized these days! Of the stories you’ve written, which one do you like the most? Which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?

I like all of my stories and have come to like my characters by the time I’m done writing about them. If I’m pressed to choose one, I think it would be Season, Unforgettable. It’s a contemporary romance turned thriller. Readers seem to like that. Several have commented they thought it was a typical boy meets girls romance (hey, so did I until the characters took over) that suddenly turned into an intense thriller. For some reason, that book came easy for me. I know it sounds silly, but the words/plot just flowed from page to page.

What are the three most important things in your life—the things you can’t do without?

My children and grandchildren (I’m counting them as one), my furry feline companion who I rescued 10 years ago. Miss Emma LaPounce is now 16 years old. Her family moved out of town, took their furniture and left her on the doorstep of the animal shelter. I’d visit her often at the shelter and she didn’t want much to do with me. She was so depressed about her family leaving her. One day, I said to her, “I’m taking you home and you and I are going to be best friends.” She must have listened because you won’t ever find her more than one foot away from me when I’m home. She’s has had a wonderful life and I’m so glad I rescued her. Oh, the third thing—I count these as one too—my computer, my Kindle Fire and my writing. Lol.

Emma La Pounce–what a great name and a lovely cat. What a great story, too. 🙂

Do you read reviews? How do you handle a negative review?

I don’t search for them, but once in a while run across them when I’m Amazon. I had a good laugh over my one and only 1 star review. It was for Land of Falling Stars , a Civil War historical romance that received many five star reviews. Did I mention it was EROTIC romance? Well, this person did not like the book at all. She wrote a one paragraph review and used the word “disgusting’ at least seven times. Ya gotta have a sense of humor about that stuff. Clearly, the product description said it was an erotic romance, but she read it anyway and then let me know how disgusted she was over the language and the sex. You can’t please them all. The review is still there on Amazon, and I chuckle every time I read it.

What are you reading now?

The Orchardist, The Silent Wife, and Only Killer and Thieves. As  you can see my reading tastes are about as scattered as my writing.

Thanks so much for hosting me on you blog. I really enjoyed the questions. I hope your fans, friends and followers will check out my books on my Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Keta-Diablo/e/B002BODURI/

Or follow me on the Net at the following places:

★ Author Home: http://authorketadiablo.com

★ Author Blog: http://ketaskeep.blogspot.com

★Twitter http://www.twitter.com/ketadiablo

★Facebook Author Page https://www.facebook.com/KetaDiablo.Author/

★Goodreads Page https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2620426.Keta_Diablo

★Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/ketadiablo/

★Google+  https://plus.google.com/u/0/112104019710863190872

★ Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/keta-diablo?list=about

About Keta Diablo

Keta lives in the Midwest part of the United States on six acres of gorgeous woodland. When she isn’t writing or gardening she loves to commune with nature. A pair of barn owls returns to the property every year to birth their young and show them off in the high branches of the oak trees. Nothing more adorable than these white fluffy babies with heart-shaped faces. A lifelong animal lover, Keta devotes her time and support to the local animal shelter. Emma LaPounce, a rescued feline, has been her furry companion for the last ten years.

Keta is an award-winning and best-selling author who writes in several genres: Western Romance, Historical Romance, Paranormal Romance and Contemporary Romance. In a past life, she wrote Gay Romance. Her books have received numerous accolades, including RWA contest finalist, Authors After Dark finalist, Top Pick of the Month and Recommended Review from top review sites, and Best Romance Finalist from The Independent Author Network.  

Ps: For some strange reason, ghosts often show up in her stories, no matter the genre.

The Obligatory End-of-2018 Post

I missed a golden opportunity to post last week about my favorite day of the year: Christmas Eve. While Halloween is fun (I love dressing up, and who doesn’t love candy?) Christmas Eve has long held the number one spot for me as far as favorite days of the year. There’s all the lead up to it: the decorations, the shopping, the Christmas songs on the radio, the holiday baking, watching the holiday-themed movies, wrapping presents… I love Christmas Eve because of all the days of the year, it has the most potential, the most expectant hope and joy for the future. I think I love the promise of Christmas Eve more than I love Christmas Day itself.

But Christmas Eve came and went without me commenting on it this year. No big deal. I made cookies, watched movies, and opened presents with the family. It was good.

Now we are entering the time period I like the least of the entire year–the run up to New Year’s Eve.

I dislike New Year’s Eve for many reasons–I’m noise-sensitive and dislike loud holidays in general. I don’t enjoy crowds, I’m not a party-girl, and I have dogs–who also cower during noisy holidays. Shield me from the fireworks and blaring horns. If I do stay up past midnight, it’s because I’m engrossed in a good book and don’t want to put it down just yet.

But I also dislike the year-end retrospectives. Guess what, you’re about to turn another year older. Here’s who died in the past year. Here’s what happened in the world. Here’s what I accomplished in 2018. Cheers to 2019. Rah, rah.

I guess I dislike these kinds of posts because they place such emphasis on the posts we’re already making: trips we’ve taken, achievements in our careers, heck, what we had for lunch today. The end-of-year period has frequently been disappointing to me because I didn’t lose 30 pounds, win the lottery, travel extensively, get nominated for a major award or hit the bestseller list. Somehow, sitting down to figure out what I did achieve stresses how little I got done besides get up, work ten hours, and come home. Day after day.

So yeah, New Year’s Eve doesn’t make the top ten list of favorite holidays. Not even close.

Only this year, as I was answering emails from various people, one of my friends shared a New Year’s Eve tradition that beats the heck out of partying too hard or sitting in front of the TV waiting for the ball to drop. She said she gets together with friends and everyone writes down something they want to leave behind from 2018–as well as what they wish for themselves in 2019–and burn the paper in a bonfire.

I love this idea.

I’ve been spending some time considering what I’d leave behind. Fear, certainly. Depression. A feeling of hopelessness, the sense that it is all downhill from here and that the best of my life is behind me. Sorrow and grief, twin anchors that have been crippling me these past few years. Self-doubt, a silent killer that has been sabotaging dreams and plans as long as I can remember.

What I wish for is a little harder. I’m not used to picturing what I want–I’ve become too good at imagining worst-case scenarios instead. But I’d definitely wish for a return of health–both mental and physical–even it it means having to work at it. Laugh at myself and with others. Put worry behind me–never once has it made a positive difference in my life, it has only done damage. Refill my creative well and dip from its clear, cold water every day. Shut the door on envy and resentment.

Not just merely exist, but actually live.

For the first time in memory, I’m actually looking forward to New Year’s Eve.

How about you? How do you celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next?

Basing Your Story in a Different Time Period: Total Immersion in the 1950s

I get a kick of out writing about different time periods. I love the research, the total immersion in the culture and mindset of the time. Sometimes that’s easier to do than others–Regency society is so far removed from our day to day life now I believe I’d be hard-pressed to make the total immersion method work–but I do enjoy reading books such as What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew. And while they aren’t accurate, a plunge into Georgette Heyer’s books, or watching just about any adaptation of a Jane Austen novel can help you get a feel of time period. Of course, the period in question is more than just the little sliver you’re going to discover without an in-depth dive into research, but it’s a start.

When I wrote a story that took place in the the summer of 1940, I found myself obsessing over the details of the period, to the extent that I read all kinds of books on the subject, watched documentaries, and rented movies either made at that time or depicted that time. When I finally sat down to write the story, the words just flowed out o me. In some ways, it felt like I was watching a movie in my head as I wrote

I adore that feeling.

Previously, I wrote about the fun of researching slang of the 1950s for my WIP, Bishop Takes Knight. Today, I’d like to share a little about the movies I’m watching. For the purposes of the story, I’m limiting myself to movies that took place before 1955, which is a bit of a bummer, since there are some terrific movies I have to leave out. While Godzilla was released in Japan in 1954, it wasn’t released in North America until 1956, which means I can’t have my characters watch it–nor can I have them refer to the sublime Forbidden Planet, which was also released in 1956. If you have never seen Forbidden Planet, beg, borrow, or steal a copy. For a ‘cheesy’ 1950s sci-fi movie, it is amazing. Both of these films would have been fun to reference, and especially useful to the story. As it was, I had to have one character mention the Japanese version of the film and tell the others what the movie was about.

But in general terms, there are some terrific movies out there that suit my purposes well. For getting a feel of the 1950s, there’s nothing like indulging in Roman Holiday. Audrey Hepburn shines in the role of the sheltered princess who kicks over the traces and goes on an unlicensed jaunt during a royal tour. Gregory Peck is perfect as the jaded ex-pat American journalist who collects Hepburn like a stray kitten off a park bench and then fights with his conscience as to whether to protect Hepburn or get the story of a lifetime. Neither expects to fall in love along the way. I confess, both my heroine and hero pull some traits from the leads in this film.

For sheer joyful exuberance, there’s 1952’s Singing in the Rain. It has to be one of my all-time favorite Gene Kelly movies. Not just one of the best movies of the decade, it’s now considered one of the top 50 movies of all time. How can you resist the story of a pair of headliners of silent films making the transition to talkies–only to discover one half of the team doesn’t have the voice for it? When new talent Kathy Selden does the voice overs, Lina Lamont’s screechy tones are mercifully hidden from her fans. But it’s the fantastic dancing and singing by Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly that earn this film its place in cinematic history. While it is set in 1927, the film has 1950s production values stamped all over it. It is the musical all others must measure up to. From Singing in the Rain, I gleaned the rhythm of snappy banter, and the intimacy that late night brainstorming sessions can create.

One of the most frighteningly intense movies I’ve ever seen has to be Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Face it, Hitchcock owned the 50s. Some think his 1959 outing Vertigo is his best, but for sheer nail-biting anxiety, the last thirty minutes of 1954’s Rear Window is hard to beat. Jimmy Stewart plays the likable “Jeff” Jeffries–a photographer housebound due to a broken leg. Boredom and his observer’s eye lead him to spy on his neighbors, but when he suspects one of his neighbors killed his wife, Jeff enlists his society girlfriend to do a little onsite investigation. Seriously, when you watch this, make sure you have the lights on and the doors locked. It’s that intense! I wanted some of that feel to my story too.

At first glance, this would seem a widely diverse set of movies to pull elements from for a story about a paranormal agency that collects alien artifacts! Maybe a little Warehouse-13 would be more in keeping. Not to worry, I watched that too!

If researching for a story has taken you down a rabbit hole of movies and television shows, I’d like to hear about it! I think it’s the best part of being a writer. Or if you’ve read something that made you want to learn more about a specific time period or historical event, I want to know about that, too!

One of a Kind Christmas by Lexie Post: Book Tour and Giveaway!

One of a Kind Christmas
A Christmas Carol Book #4
By Lexi Post

Lexi has a $25 Gift Card to giveaway during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win. You may find the tour locations here https://goo.gl/sPP5CV.

About One of a Kind Christmas:

For her to love him, he must face a spirit, an archangel…and himself.

The spirit of Cameron Douglas has totally screwed-up…again. Now, he has to fix his mess in one night with the help of his best friend and somehow encourage his widow to move on.
Holly Douglas is anguished that this is the last Christmas she’ll be visited by her late husband, Cameron. For three years he’s sent her the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, and they‘ve helped her cope with her loss. But now all that ends, and she doesn’t understand why he must push her away.

Ethan Stewart has been in love with Holly since Cameron’s death, but she isolated herself from everyone, including him. Then something changed, and he was welcomed back as her friend. But he wants more— to love her openly, and most of all to make her happy again. Though he loved his best friend like a brother and will do anything for Holly, as he’s pulled into the spirit world, he discovers the price they must pay for their chance at forever…and it just might be too high.

Releases Day December 5, 2018

Buy Links for One of a Kind Christmas:

Excerpt:

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before opening them. “I miss Cam. It was as if we were two parts of the same soul. I lived vicariously through him even while I worried constantly about him. It was one of the reasons I was constantly warning him to be careful. I was afraid to lose him.”
Ethan looked away and rubbed the back of his neck. “And then I did.”
She felt as if her heart were breaking all over again, not for her but for Ethan. He was so good to her. He even loved her. And she… “Ethan, I understand.”
His gaze returned to hers. Though she couldn’t see his face clearly, the limited light reflected off the sheen in his eyes.
She placed her hand on his cheek and rising on her toes brushed her lips across his in a feather-light kiss. She only meant to give comfort, but a spark of something else hit her heart.
She remained there, her lips close to his but not touching, wanting more but afraid to ask.
Ethan remained absolutely still, his breath mixing with her own.
He loved her but would never push her. It wasn’t his nature. She could walk away right now, but to what?
Nothing.
She stared at his mouth in the dim light. She wanted to live again. She wanted to feel again. Tilting her head, she pressed her lips more firmly against his, moving her hand down his stubbled jaw and behind his neck to pull him closer.
Ethan’s lips opened, and she slipped her tongue between them.
As his arms came around her, it was like waking from a dream. A slow burn flowed through her veins as he took control of the kiss and explored her mouth with his tongue. It was an unhurried exploration and heat built in her belly. When he pulled back to lick the underside of her top lip, she took her first deep breath. As she exhaled, tingles spread throughout her body.
He kissed the corners of her mouth before leaning his forehead against her own. “Ye catch my blood on fire, lass.”

Other Books in the Series:

A Christmas Carol Book 1, Pleasures of Christmas Past is on sale for only $.99!

Pleasures of Christmas Past (A Christmas Carol Book 1) by [Post, Lexi]

Jessica is assigned a hot, Scottish mentor who confuses her heart. But will he protect her soul?

Buy Links for Pleasures of Christmas Past:

Desires of Christmas Present (A Christmas Carol Book 2)

Desires of Christmas Present (A Christmas Carol Book 2) by [Post, Lexi]

Sometimes not knowing is better…for everyone.

Temptations of Christmas Future (A Christmas Carol Book 3)

Temptations of Christmas Future (A Christmas Carol Book 3) by [Post, Lexi]

He set out to prove the future was far worse than she imagined. Now he wished it wasn’t.

About the Author:

Lexi Post is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of romance inspired by the classics. She spent years in higher education taking and teaching courses about the classical literature she loved. From Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death” to Tolstoy’s War and Peace, she’s read, studied, and taught wonderful classics.
But Lexi’s first love is romance novels so she married her two first loves, romance and the classics. From hot paranormals to sizzling cowboys to hunks from out of this world, Lexi provides a sensuous experience with a “whole lotta story.”
Lexi is living her own happily ever after with her husband and her cat in Florida. She makes her own ice cream every weekend, loves bright colors, and you will never see her without a hat.


Lexi’s Social Links:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Christmas Ballet by Constance Bretes: Book Tour and Giveaway!

The Christmas Ballet
By Constance Bretes

Constance has 2 $10 gift certificates to Paparazzi Accessories to giveaway during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win one of the prize packages. You may find the tour locations here https://goo.gl/taJJDH.

About The Christmas Ballet:

Laura Hemmingway cut herself off from men and her family when the man she loved married her sister. She moved across the country and was doing just fine until she received a devastating call to return to New York. She had to face the death of her sister, her sister’s little girl, Maria, and Maria’s father, Stefan—the man she had once loved. She figured she would pay her respects and leave as soon as possible. She never anticipated on the beautiful little girl stealing her heart. And she never expected that seeing Stefan again after twelve years would stir up old feelings.

Stefan’s life was complete. He had a successful career as an attorney, a beautiful wife and an adorable six-year-old daughter. Although he and his wife had been married in name only for the past several years, he cared for her deeply. Then her unexpected death brought him face-to-face with his former lover, and the guilt he’d carried for years.
Stefan is still in love with Laura and wants to give her everything she deserves. He and Maria are racing against time to convince Laura to stay with them in New York.

Can a little girl’s love, and the true magic of Christmas, help Stefan convince Laura to stay and give their relationship another chance?

Content Warning: contains some sexual content
Genre – Contemporary Romance
Heat Level – Hot

Excerpt from The Christmas Ballet:

He smiled as he thought about the look on her face when he’d stroked her. Maybe she was more interested in him than she either believed or cared to be.
Then he thought of something. “One more thing, Laura,” he called out to her, and she stopped at the door and turned around.
“On the nineteenth, the law firm is hosting the annual Christmas party. It’s quite grand and lasts all evening long.”
“You want me to be sure to be available to babysit Maria,” Laura said.
“No. I want you to plan to come with me.”
“What?”
“Remember that beautiful, green, velvet dress we saw at Macy’s? I want you to get that dress, and the accessories to go with it, and attend the party with me.”
“Stefan, really. You know I don’t go to those types of events, and I don’t wear those kinds of clothes. I’m not comfortable with either of those things.”
“You need to get comfortable.” He smiled.
“This is not a part of a job for the nanny and teacher. It’s out of the range of the job description. You need to get Ginger to go with you. I’m not going.” She gave him a defiant look.
“Laura, I want to take you to this event. I’m not taking no for an answer. I will arrange for Rhonda to take you shopping to help you get what you need. You will charge all the purchases to a credit card I will give you that’s for your use only. This is the first of many social parties you will be attending.”
He watched her as she clenched her hands into fists and released them.
“Who do you think you will get to care for Maria on these…occasions?”
“Usually Lillian is available.”
“Stefan, it’s my job to care for Maria, not be your date to your parties. I don’t like being told what I will or won’t do. I don’t like social parties, and I don’t like wearing expensive clothes. It’s not me, and you’re not going to change me.”
“I don’t want to change you. I want you to attend an event by my side. It won’t hurt you to have some beautiful clothing to show your feminine side. I want the world to see the beauty I see. Be glad I want to show you off. Some men might decide they don’t want others to see what they see.”
“Flattery doesn’t work with me. You can tell me what to do as far as Maria is concerned, but my personal life is off limits to you.”
“That’s good to know. At least I know you won’t get carried away and escape my grasp by someone making flattering remarks to you. Your personal life interests me.”
“Stefan, you just don’t get it. I am not going to this party,” she said, enunciating each word slowly and carefully. “Besides, your mother would be horrified to see me walk in with you.” Her face hardened as she stared at him.
“Look at it this way—you’d be doing me a big favor.”
“How?” She raised an eyebrow.
“I’m not interested in the other women that come to this social party looking for an eligible bachelor. With you on my arm, it would send a clear message to all the others that I’m taken.”
“God, you’re impossible. Ginger is more than capable of providing you that kind of service.”
“I don’t want Ginger. You have the grace, quiet beauty, and finesse I want in a date, and I will not take no for an answer. After Maria’s recital, you and Rhonda will set a shopping date. And one more thing. When you get your hair done, I’d like you to wear it down.” He smiled at her.
“This is not going to happen.” She put her hands on her hips and glared at him.
“It will. I’ll just have Maria work on you.” He eyed her.
“What?”
Stefan grinned. “You heard me. You’d never turn down anything from Maria.”
“Grrrr.” She growled and stomped up the stairs.
He laced his hands and put them behind his head. Oh yeah, it’ll be a night she’ll never forget.

About the Author:
Constance Bretes is an author of contemporary romance and suspense. Her romance books are often set in different parts of the country, but her favorite site is Montana. She retired from the State of Michigan after 38-plus years of service and now writes and researches full time. She is married to her best friend and has recently moved from Montana to Alabama. Her hobbies include basket weaving, sapphire digging, and checking out old ghost towns.

Constance’s Social Links:

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Snatching Diana by Seelie Kay Book Tour and Giveaway!

Snatching Dianna
Feisty Lawyers Book 1
By Seelie Kay
 
Seelie will be giving away some great ebooks for this tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win one of the prize packages. You may find the tour locations here
 

About Snatching Dianna:

 
The hours are counting down as investigators try to prove that Dianna Murphy has been snatched. Unfortunately, without witnesses and solid evidence, all the police really know is that she is missing.
 
When suburban Milwaukee law student Dianna Murphy fails to connect with her roommate, there is no real evidence that she has been snatched. Until Law Professor Janet MacLachlan, a former covert agent, discovers a single clue, one that points to a taking by a slave trafficking cartel. In a race against time, Janet recruits her husband, secret agent Cade Matthews, small-town Police Chief David Manders and his wife, criminal defense attorney Julianna Constant, and other law students to uncover the truth. Can they prove she has been taken, before Dianna disappears without a trace?
 
Romantic Suspense (Three Flames)

Buy Links:
 
Barnes and Noble:  Coming soon

 


Excerpt:
 
After what seemed like hours in the sweltering van, it lurched to a stop.
 
Dianna heard a man bark orders. A door to the van opened and someone pulled the rope from her feet, then removed her hood. She took a deep breath.  A man grabbed her by the arm, forced to her feet, and pulled from the van. Dianna stumbled when she hit the ground. The stones were hot and her feet were covered by athletic socks, no shoes. Show no weakness.
 
Dianna immediately surveyed her surroundings. It was still night, but she was in a well-lit courtyard. A large stone mansion stood in front of her. She looked to her right, then her left. The courtyard was enclosed by a large stone fence, at least eight feet high. A fortress. Fortunately, Dianna was a rock-climber. She could rappel over the fence with the right equipment. All she would need was something to serve as a pick, maybe a rope. A knife, a screwdriver, even a fork. Keep your eyes and ears open. Be ready.
 
A large black man, dressed in a white suit and a maroon turban, walked out of the front door and down the stairs. He stopped and flashed a malevolent smile. He flung his arms wide and in a cultured baritone boomed, “Welcome to paradise, ladies. I hope you enjoy your stay.”
 
Some of the guards laughed.
 
“Crikey,” Tillie muttered. “Sounds like a blasted genie.”
 
Dianna glanced sideways and for the first time, got a look at her new friend. She was tall and thin, her body well defined. She looked strong and aware, almost fierce. Her eyes seemed to be studying the place, taking everything in. She showed no fear. Instead, she seemed interested. Something was off. Tillie did not act like a victim as the others did. She was not cowed. Was she a cop? Or like Dianna, someone who would not permit themselves to be broken?
 
There was only one thing of which Dianna was certain. She had found a friend. A useful one.
 
 
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 multiple works of fiction, including the Kinky Briefs series, The Garage Dweller, A Touchdown to Remember, and The President’s Wife.
 
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:
 
 
 

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Thanksgiving on a Small Scale

The holidays were a Big Deal when I was a kid. My grandparents went all out–baking and cooking a giant feast for the entire family–and we’d come from all over, driving hours or flying in just to spend a few hours gathered around that table groaning with food.

A Thanksgiving turkey, roasted to perfection. A choice between mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes (so naturally you had to do a little of both). Sausage balls and something my grandmother called “dressing”, which was a sort of fried stuffing. Yeast rolls fresh from the oven and dripping with butter. Green beans cooked for hours with bacon and onion until they melted in your mouth. Succotash. Creamed corn. Streamed ‘greens’, which might be spinach one year and mustard greens the next. Cornbread made with buttermilk and fried in an iron skillet until the edges turned crispy. Ham biscuits (both regular and country) on sweet Hawaiian rolls.

And the desserts! At least two cakes–usually a pound cake or sour cream cake and a coconut one, too. Three pies–either pecan or lemon chess and a French silk chocolate pie. Sweet potato pie was another common choice, though I preferred pumpkin myself.

We’d stuff ourselves to bursting, and then the kids would play games (or go see a movie when we were older) while the men watched football and the women packed the food so that everyone could take some with them and sat in the kitchen talking. When the sun began to sink in the sky, we’d load up the car and drive home, replete with food and taking enough leftovers with us to last us at least another week.

We’d repeat the entire cycle again in December, only there would be the added excitement of Christmas gifts and my grandmother’s much-loved decorations to look forward to as well. The magic of pulling up to her house and seeing the brightly lit tree glowing in the window is the hallmark of my Christmases Past.

I loved these visits–they stand out as bright memories in my childhood.

I found out many years later that my mother loathed these gatherings with the power of a thousand burning suns and resented the family tradition that insisted we go every year. When my grandparents died, the huge family gatherings died with them. My mother hated cooking and was of the opinion that holidays shouldn’t be about food or giving gifts. Holiday gatherings became stilted affairs in which we either ate out (which caused a chorus of complaints) or I attempted to make my grandmother’s traditional dishes (which also caused a chorus of complaints). My grandmother’s cooking was a hard act to follow. I tried to hang on to the old recipes, but my mother gave away the cookbook that contained most of them.

After my father’s death, all pretense of gathering for Thanksgiving stopped. My mother began taking part in a big community feast operated by her church each Thanksgiving. They opened the doors to the town and invited everyone to come. The church ladies outdid themselves preparing their very best desserts, and the church paid a caterer to bring in platters of turkey and all the fixings. For three years I went down to the church with my mother to help serve the community–and for three years, my mother forbade me to fix a plate and sit down with everyone else. It didn’t matter that every other member of the congregation, including the minister and his family, was taking part in the feast. As far as my mother was concerned, the food was for the ‘poor people’ and I didn’t need to eat any of it. 

Finally, I quoted 1 Timothy 5:18 at her: For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.

After that, she snippily informed me I no longer had to come down to the church on Thanksgiving Day.

As a single person, it was hard to get excited about the holidays. I frequently was expected to work anyway. I stopped cooking the family favorites, especially after the loss of the cookbook. Thanksgiving (and to a certain degree, Christmas as well) became just another day.

When I first got married, I made an effort to go back to lavish Thanksgiving meals, but truth be told, I’m not that great a cook. Work remained unforgiving when it came to scheduling, and the thought of all that preparation for a meal that would be eaten in less than twenty minutes seemed too much. My husband’s kids were teenagers when we met–now they’ve gone off to college and have their own plans. So why bother, right?

The truth of the matter, for the first time in a long time, I find myself thinking differently about the coming holiday. The last couple of years have been rough, but our family seems to be moving into a better place right now. Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I find myself wanting to make a little more effort than usual for Thanksgiving this week. Because the truth is, I am thankful. I’m thankful our family has reached a kind of resting spot on a steep uphill climb. I’m thankful for a roof over our heads and jobs that (mostly) pay the bills. Everyone is in reasonably good health at the moment, and life is pretty darn okay. My life partner is also my best friend, and I am thankful every day for that.

And that seems worth honoring by baking a few pies.

It’s a Winter Wonderland Giveaway!

Hello My Awesome Readers,

The annual Winter Wonderland romance reader event is on!

 

Ready to Win? I’ve teamed up with Night Owl Romance and other authors to bring you the chance to win a Kindle, Amazon cards, SpaFinder.com cards, Sephora.com cards and eBooks.

 

During this event I’m going to help you find some great new books. Make sure to check my novel Ghost of a Chance along the way. 

 

The grand prize is a Kindle Fire HD 8 w/Alexa!

 

Enter the giveaway at: http://bit.ly/NorWinter2018

 

What a wonderful Christmas gift, eh? And even if you don’t win, there are fabulous deals on great stories so it really is a win-win for everyone! Since the weather outside is frightful, let’s sit down in front of a fire with some delightful hot reads to warm us up!

 

 

Cool! 50s Slang That Lingers On

I’m spending a lot of time doing research these days. I decided to set the WIP in the 1950s, and this has me scrambling to look up things such as when certain movies were released, and what songs were on the Top 40 in August of 1955.

When I write a story with a historical setting, I like to immerse myself in the culture of the time. Once I spent over a month reading books and watching documentaries on WW2 when I wrote a story partly set in 1940. So now I’ve been perusing sites that describe ladies undergarments, searching for real landmarks to use in the story, diving in to the fascinating world of nightclubs, and so on.

Somehow, I never expected slang to be a big part of the story. Mostly because one character is British–and I thought his style of speech wouldn’t lend itself to much American slang. The other character is a former society girl–ditto, right?

But not really. Slang is so pervasive in our culture, we don’t really recognize when we use it or not–see example above “ditto”. The society girl would also have a much greater tendency to use slang than I thought. But there are expressions and phrases that have only come into being in the last thirty to forty years or so–and while they may sound right at first, you can’t use the phrase “get the bugs out” if it didn’t come into popular use before the advent of widespread software design.

So I’ve been spending a lot of time checking out websites that serve as slang dictionaries. One of the most interesting things I’ve discovered is not how much things have changed but how much has stayed the same. Sure, 50s slang had a way of adding words instead of reducing them–for example, “Are you writing a book?” was used to tell someone they were asking too many questions and “agitate the gravel” was to leave in a hurry. Today, we’re far more likely to reduce our speech to acronyms, such as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and YOLO (You Only Live Once)–probably because texting is so popular, and these acronyms save time and characters when typing. Interestingly enough, I rarely use acronyms. I wasn’t much of a texter until I got a smart phone with a microphone–and now I dictate my texts, so acronyms don’t come into it very often. I can’t help but wonder if changes in technology will affect patterns of slang again in the future.

But one of the most fascinating things I discovered in my searches is how much has lingered on from previous popular turns of phrase. We still say “cool” to denote someone who is calm under pressure but also someone who is up-to-the-minute fashionable or impressive in some way–someone we’d like to emulate. The biggest difference between the use of “cool” in the 50s vs now seems to be the pronunciation, with the cool kids today stretching out the vowels.

Another holdover is “pad” to refer to someone’s home. Though perhaps not in use quite as much as cool, we still hear places referred to as bachelor pads from time to time. On occasion, I also still hear people refer to kids as ankle-biters, despite the fact the speaker wasn’t born until the 80s. And when someone wrecks their car beyond repair, we still say it’s been totaled.

Words seem to go in and out of fashion, and date us as writers, even though we may be writing in a different time period or our main character is of a different age than we are. If I were to write a story featuring teenagers, I’d have to do a study of slang much as I’m doing right now for my 50s characters.

Also, different groups have their own slang, which may or may not make it into the general lexicon. If you’re writing about hot-rodders, surfers, or Regency dandies, you must keep that in mind.

While this is by no means a complete compilation, here is a list of 50s slang posted by the Lincoln-Sudbury High School (compiled, no doubt, as a homework assignment):

Actor: show-off

Agitate the Gravel: to leave (hot-rodders)

Ankle Biter: a child

Ape: (used with “go”) to explode or be really mad

Baby: cute girls, term of address for either sex

Back seat bingo: necking in a car

Bad news: depressing person

Bash: great party

Big Daddy: an older person

Big tickle: really funny

Bit: an act

Blast: a good time

Blow off: to defeat in a race (hot-rodders)

Boss: great

Bread: money

Bug: “you bug me” – to bother

Burn rubber: to accelerate hard and fast

Cast an eyeball: to look

Cat: a hip person

Chariot: car

Chrome-plated: dressed up

Circled: married

Classy chassis: great body

Cloud 9:  really happy

Clutched: rejected

Clyde: term of address, usually for a normal person (Beats)

Cook, Cookin’: doing it well

Cooties: imaginary infestations of the truly un-cool

Cranked: excited (Beats)

Crazy: “Like crazy, man” implies an especially good thing

Cream: originally, to dent a car.  Later, to badly damage

Cruisin’ for a bruisin’: looking for trouble

Cut out: leave

Daddy-o: term of address (Beats)

Dibs: a claim – as in “got dibs” on that seat

Dig: to understand; to approve

Dolly: cute girl

Don’t have a cow: don’t get so excited

Drag: (hot-rodders) a short car race (Beats); a bore

Eyeball: look around

Fake out: a bad date

Fast: someone who was sexually active

Fat city: a great thing or place; happy

Fire up: start your engine

Flat out: fast as you can

Flat-top: men’s hairstyle (a crewcut which is flat across the top)

Flick: a movie

Flip: to get very excited

Floor it: push the accelerator to the floor

Fracture: to amuse

Fream: someone who doesn’t fit in

Frosted: angry

Get bent!: disparaging remark as in “drop dead”

Gig: work, job (Beats)

Go for pinks: a drag race where the stakes are the car’s pink slip

Goof: someone who makes mistakes

Goose it: accelerate the car fully

Greaser: a guy with tons of grease in his hair

Grody: sloppy or messy

Hang: as in “hang out” which means to do very little

Haul ass: drive very fast

Heat: police (Beats)

Hep: with it, cool

Hip: someone who is cool, in the know

Hopped up: a car modified for speed

Horn: telephone

Hottie: a very fast car

Illuminations: good ideas, thoughts

In orbit: in the know

Jacked up: car with a raised rear end

Jacketed: going steady

Jelly Roll: men’s hair combed up and forward on both sides, brought together in the middle of the forehead

Kick: a fun or good thing; a fad

Kill: to really impress

Knuckle sandwich: a fist in the face

Later: goodbye

Lay a patch: to accelerate so rapidly that you leave a patch of rubber on the road

Make out: a kissing session

Make the scene: to attend a party or activity

Mirror warmer: a piece of pastel fabric (often cashmere) tied around the rear view mirror. (A 1950s version of the Medieval wearing your lady’s colors.)

Most: a in “the most” – high praise usually of the opposite sex

Nerd: same as now

Nest: a hair-do

Nod: drift off to sleep

Nosebleed: stupid

No sweat: no problem

Nowhere: opposite of cool (Beats)

Nuggets: loose change

Odd ball: someone a bit off the norm

On the stick: pulled together. Bright, prepared…

Pad: home

Paper shaker: cheerleader or Pom Pom girl

Party pooper: no fun at all

Passion pit: Drive-in movie theater

Peepers: glasses

Pile up Z’s: get some sleep

Pound: beat up

Punch it: release the clutch quickly do as to get a fast start

Put down: to say bad things about someone

Radioactive: very popular

Rag top: a convertible car

Rap: to tattle on someone (Beats)

Rattle your cage: get upset

Raunchy: messy or gross in some way

Razz my berries: excite or impress me

Real gone: very much in love. Also unstable.

Reds: the Communists

Right-o: okay

Rock: a diamond

Rocket: a car

Rod: a car

Royal shaft: badly or unfairly treated

Scream: go fast

Shot down: failed

Shucks, shuckster: a deceiver, liar or cheat

Sides: vinyl records

Sing: to tattle or inform on someone (Beats)

Souped up: a car modified to go fast

Spaz: someone who is uncoordinated, a clutz

Split: leave

Square: a regular, normal person.  A conformist.

Stacked: a well-endowed woman

Subterranean: a hipster (used by both Ginsberg and Kerouac – Beats)

Tank: a large sedan (usually driven by parents)

Tear ass: drive (or go) very fast

Threads: clothes

Tight: good friends

Total: to completely destroy, most often in reference to a car

Unreal: exceptional

Wail: go fast

Wazoo: your rear end

Weed: a cigarette

Wet rag: someone who’s just no fun

Word from the bird: the truth (Beats)

What’s your tale, nightingale?: What’s the story?

Wheelie: lift the car’s front wheels off the ground by rapid acceleration

I also found the following lists useful:

1950s slang by fiftiesweb.com

20 Slang Terms from the 1950s No One Uses Anymore

Your Guide to 1950s Slang

You’ll find a lot of overlap in the lists–presumably because they all relied on the same source material. If you come across a different and more complete list, I’d love to hear about it!