Feeling Overwhelmed?

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I love Christmas but I also know that the Christmas season can be overwhelming. Too many things to do. Too many places to go. And too many good things to eat.  At the moment, Christmas is quickly approaching and that means COOKIES! I love all things sweet but Christmas Cookies are a weakness of mine. And my husband makes wonderful cookies so….

I’m so close to my weight goal–only a few more pounds to go. And it seems as if I’m surrounded by Christmas Cookies everywhere I go–except my WW meeting. I’ve been taking the all or nothing approach when it comes to Christmas Cookies this year, meaning nothing. An all or nothing approach isn’t really helpful in most areas of our life and that’s very true when it comes to weight loss. And I know that most of the time.

But this year is different. The last thing I want to do is sabotage myself but it’s a bit overwhelming to think about NO COOKIES during the holiday season. That made me think about other times when I was overwhelmed.

One of those was when I worked as a speech pathologist for schools. Any job in the education field is a bit overwhelming but being a speech pathologist is certainly one of those because there’s two parts to our job, first is to provide therapy for the students. But the other part of the job is to evaluate students who might need therapy as well as to provide ongoing evaluations to my current students while still providing service for my current students. Each year the evaluation process became more complicated and time-consuming, thus more and more overwhelming.

One of the things I learned to do was not to focus on all the evaluations that needed to be done during the year and making myself even more overwhelmed. Instead each month I would make a list of the students who needed evaluated that month–which made the process more than manageable. All the evaluations would get done on time!

That’s when it came to me. I’ve been worrying about how to get through the whole Christmas season without Christmas Cookies. But I don’t have to worry about saying no to cookies for the next 2-3 weeks, I only have to say no at the next event. It’s about keeping the focus on the present and not worrying about the future. That’s manageable–I can do that.

About now, you might be saying, “so what.” Hold on, I’m getting there.

It’s good to plan and have long-range goals but that’s not always true for every situation. Sometimes, it’s better to take the one day at a time approach. Losing weight is a good example, but I can think of others as well. Cleaning house is one. I don’t like cleaning but if I focus on only cleaning a few things each day, it makes it manageable. And what about writing a book?

When I start to write a new book, I look at the completely blank screen and it’s overwhelming. So I block that out and write the first word, then the first sentence, the first page, and before I know it I have the first chapter finished.

The holiday season can be overwhelming and before we know it, we’ve lost our Christmas spirit and that’s no fun at all. So I suggest you make a list, check it twice, and then do the next thing that needs done. Focus on one thing at a time and enjoy the season!

MERRY CHRISTMAS & GOOD READING!

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Christmas Extravaganza is here!

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Every year my publisher has a Christmas Extravaganza! It’s old and new Christmas-themed novellas in every genre you’d want to read–romance; suspense; cozy mysteries; and even women’s fiction. And most, if not all the titles, are only 99 cents! I can’t give a list of all the books but if you go to Amazon and type in Christmas Extravaganza, the titles will come up for you.

I’ll be posting the pictures of my own Christmas Tree Extravaganza soon. In the meantime, I thought I’d talk about my Christmas-themed books. I’ve discovered I like writing stories  with a Christmas setting but still have mystery and suspense. The Christmas Stalking was my first novella that included a Christmas theme, then came The Christmas Angel Thief and No Home for the Holidays.  At the moment, I’m working on two more Christmas stories for next Christmas!

              

Anyway…I thought I’d share the prologue to The Christmas Stalking with everyone. My publisher cut this part out of the story because she likes the Christmas Extravaganza novellas to be on the short side of a novella.

AMAZON LINK

The Christmas Stalking–Prologue

 

Her hand froze mid-air as she reached for the door knob. Her pulse ramped up. Destiny Martin had always considered herself brave, but she’d discovered that wasn’t quite as true as she’d always believed.

The knock came again.

“Destiny, I can’t get in. Type in the security code so you can open the door.”

Recognizing the voice, she let out a breath. She giggled at the thought of locking her manager out of his own apartment.

Careful to stay out of sight in case anyone was watching, she opened the door. Mark walked in, his hands full of mail, packages, and grocery bags. She slammed the door shut, hoping no one had seen her in that brief second.

“How’re you feeling, sweetikins?” One of the bags fell from Mark’s grasp.

Bending down, she retrieved it. “Sad and lonely. Just like my songs.”

“Why? I’m here and you’ve got tons of friends. Not to mention the millions—no billions of fans.”

She gave him a look—the same one her teachers used when she’d told them she would be a famous country music star someday. “Billions? I don’t think so, Mark. Let’s not get carried away.”

Mark shrugged. “Okay. Millions.”

“They love Destiny not me.” She sighed. “They have no idea who I am. I’m not even sure I know who I am anymore. Holly Stone doesn’t even exist as far as the world is concerned.”

Mark winked. “She does and I like her just fine. You’ve got the holiday blues.”

She plopped on his sofa. “Is it any wonder? I’m stuck here and can’t even go outside. Not that it matters, it still wouldn’t feel like Christmas.” Nashville might be all decked out in Christmas cheer but it just wasn’t cold enough. Christmas just wasn’t Christmas without some snow.

“If you don’t like it here, pick another place.” Mark’s voice was quiet.

She’d hurt his feelings. She grinned. “I didn’t mean it like that, sweetikins. Of course, I love being here with you. You’re so kind to let me stay here.” Now that her own home wasn’t so safe.

“Holidays can be tough.”

She set the bag on the coffee table. Not for him. He didn’t spend every Christmas alone, pretending to be busy. He went home to his huge family at Christmas. He’d invited her to go this year but that wasn’t happening.“How am I supposed to live my life if I’m hiding in your condo? Like I’m the one who did something wrong. Why can’t they find this guy?”

“Give them time.”

She turned toward him, hands on her hips. Her voice broke. “I’m so tired of all of this… of imposing on you… of not being in my home. But most of all, I’m tired of being afraid.”

“I know it’s scary, but you’re safe here.  I can find you a nicer place if you want. I know this isn’t the luxury you’re used to.”

Mark wasn’t getting it. “Don’t be ridiculous, your condo is wonderful. More amenities and gadgets than any one person would ever need. But I’m not used to being cooped up all the time.”

“It won’t be much longer, sweetikins. I promise.”

“You’re right. I have no intention of missing the concert. I’ve never missed one in my life, and I’m not about to start. Mr. Psycho Stalker or not. Especially since this is for charity.”

“It’s not—”

She held up a hand. “It’s not open for debate. I’m doing that concert and that’s final. My life. My choice.”

“I know but—”

“I’m done with this discussion.”  Turning up her southern accent, she smiled. “Whatdjabringme, sweetikins?” She grabbed at the bags in his hands.

He laughed as he handed one to her. “A few things. I stopped by your house for your mail, and then went to the store for your favorite snacks.”

“Oooh, sounds good. I hope you stopped at that deli with the great shrimp dip.”

“You know I did. You can check out the mail while I put the food away.”

“I love how you spoil me. Besides the food in your fridge is disgusting.”

“That hurts. It really does. I share my home with you. And all you do is hurt me. Not very nice.” He shook his head with feigned sadness.

“Whatever. Let me see my mail.”

He pointed at the plastic grocery bag filled with mail on the coffee table and continued to the kitchen with the grocery bags. “Oh, and that package is for you, too.”

Ignoring the mail, she picked up the box. “Probably a Christmas present from one of my billions of adoring fans.” She sat down and picked it up. “Is it safe?”

“Security said it was fine. No bomb.”

She shook her head. “Can you believe you even said those words? The guy’s an overzealous fan, he’s not going to hurt me.”

He poked his head out from the kitchen. “Tell that to John Lennon, sweetikins.”

Her stomach somersaulted. “I’m done with Mr. Psycho Stalker controlling my life. I’ve been thinking.”

Mark walked out of the kitchen. “I do not like the sound of that. Whenever you say that, it always means more work for me.”

She picked at the tape on the brown wrapped package. “Not this time.”

“What’s your idea?”

“After the concert, Destiny is going to disappear. About time I take a vacation. It’s been a long time since I had one. And you can take one, too.”

Instead of a smile, worry lines appeared on Mark’s forehead. “Where are you going?”

She shook her head. “I’m not even saying the destination out loud. That way no one can follow me.”

Mark stared at her. “That’s not a good idea. I need to know where you are.”

“Why?”

“Because I always know where you are. It’s my job and besides I’ll miss you.”

Uh-oh, she didn’t like the sounds of that. Mark was her manager and friend—nothing more. They’d been spending too much time together. Definitely time for a change.

She smiled. “Yeah, right. You must be so tired of me cramping your style and besides, you deserve a vacation, too. You work—”

Mark’s eyes darkened, his voice firm. “I don’t want a vacation. I want to keep you safe. And I can’t do that if I don’t know where you are.”

“It’s a great idea and you know it. You’re just grumpy you didn’t think of it first.”

Mark walked out of the kitchen. “Don’t you trust me?”

“Of course I do, but I’m still not telling you.” She tore open the wrapping on the box in her lap. It revealed a gift box with boughs of dark green holly and bright red berries. “Do you think someone remembered my real name is Holly?”

She lifted up the box lid. Screaming, she jumped up.

A dead cat rolled out.

 

If you want to know what happens after the dead cat, you’ll have to buy the book–but it’s only 99 cents!

AMAZON LINK

MERRY CHRISTMAS & GOOD READING!

PUZZLE PUZZLE HOUSE Giveaway Winners!

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I want to thank everyone who entered the contest for the Amazon Gift Card and the other goodies. So here’s the winners…

 

$25 Amazon Gift Card and choice of one my books plus Devotions from Puzzle House.–Congratulations Tammy Doherty!

These 5 lucky winners win their choice of one of my books as well as Devotions from Puzzle House:

Linda Moffit

Lelandandbecky

Beth Nagy

Joan Arming

Pamela

These 5 lucky winners receive a copy of Devotions from Puzzle House

MimiOnLife

FishingJan

Danielle H.

DK Stevens

sbmcmh

 

So…I have a bit of surprise for all my winners! Devotions from Puzzle House has been free on Amazon these past few days so you might have already “bought” it. It doesn’t seem like much of a prize since it was free but…my publisher put one of my books, GAME ON, on sale these past few days and it’s still on sale for 99 cents! Not only that but it’s the #1 Christian suspense/mystery on Amazon at the moment. So instead of giving you Devotions from Puzzle House, I’m going to give all 11 winners a Kindle copy of Game On. If you still want an ecopy of Devotions from Puzzle House, I’ll be glad to send you that as well.

AMAZON LINK

For those who won a book from me, the gift of Game On doesn’t affect your other choice so use the contact form to let me know what other book you’d like. You can choose any book except the Sisters by Choice trilogy even Puzzle House. Thanks everyone for entering! If you didn’t win, you can still purchase Game On right now for 99 cents!

GOD BLESS & GOOD READING!

 

 

 

The 25 Days of Christmas Family Devotional–Ruth O’Neil

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It’s the middle of November and you know what that means! Christmas is coming. My guest writer today is Ruth O’Neil. She’s sharing a favorite Christmas memory as part of her blog tour for her book–The 25 Days of Christmas Family Devotional.

AMAZON LINK

Ruth O’Neil has been a freelance writer for 20-plus years. She sees everything as a writing opportunity in disguise, whether it is an interesting character, setting, or situation. You can find her book series “What a Difference a Year Makes” on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or her website (http://ruthoneil.weebly.com/). You can also visit her on her blog at http://ruths-real-life.blogspot.com/. When she’s not writing or homeschooling her kids, Ruth spends her time quilting, reading, scrapbooking, camping and hiking with her family.

And now let’s hear from Ruth O”Neil:

“I remember events b what we had to eat.”

That’s a quote from one of my sisters that proves we are related. I think the same way. Food was, and still is, a very important part of our lives, whether it’s celebrating a big holiday such as Christmas, or simply a girls’ weekend together.

We usually had Christmas dinner at my grandparents’ house when I was growing up. Grandma spent days baking entirely too much food. (I have taken up that tradition for myself, but at least I don’t have to cook for a few days afterward!) Grandma usually fixed turkey and ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, applesauce, rolls, coleslaw, and many other things. She would fix everyone’s favorites whether we could eat it all or not. That was Christmas afternoon and evening.

Christmas morning was spent at home and Mom would always make a special breakfast. Sometimes it was homemade cinnamon rolls or sticky buns, other times it was her famous braided bread. That braided bread has been a Christmas morning tradition in my home ever since the first Christmas my husband and I were married.

While food for the holidays is something that is very important to me, there is something better. It’s being together as a family and thinking of things we can do for others. That’s a big part of what my newest book is about. This book is a perfect way for families to spend time together during the Christmas season thinking of and doing for others. It’s meant to be read through in 25 days. Each day contains a story for children, devotion, song, and activity to work on together.

Thanks, Ruth, for sharing a memory and information about your new book, The 25 Days of Christmas Family Devotional. It sounds like a wonderful book for the holidays!

God Bless & Good Reading!

 

 

 

 

The Christmas Admirer–A Book Review

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So a few weeks ago, Laura Hilton was my Friday Friend and she was here talking about her new book Christmas Admirer.

I read the book so wanted to review it for my readers. Keep in mind that Amish fiction is not my favorite genre but I do read it and enjoy it from time to time. So what’s the verdict on The Christmas Admirer?

I LOVED IT! It’s actually one of the best Amish stories I’ve read. Laura Hilton has crafted a wonderful story. I loved the authenticity of the characters along with the plot. One of my biggest complaints about Amish fiction is that it’s not all that realistic. I happen to live in Amish country in Ohio and so I know a little bit about the culture. Laura Hilton kept it real while still creating a great story with a Christmas theme. My only complaint–it ended a little too soon!

Great job, Laura.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

GOD BLESS & GOOD READING!

My Friday Friend–Sara Foust

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And once again, my Friday Friend is not on a Friday–oh well. Anyway I want to welcome Sara L. Foust.

Sara writes Inspirational Romantic Suspense from a mini-farm in East Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and their five homeschooled children. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Tennessee Mountain Writers. Her debut novel Callum’s Compass won second place in Deep River Books’ 2017 Writer’s Contest. She also has a story, “Leap of Faith,” appearing in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. Sara finds inspiration in her faith, her family, and the beauty of nature. When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, camping, and spending time outdoors with her family. To learn more about her and her work or to become a part of her email friend’s group, please visit www.saralfoust.com.

Blurb:

KAT WILLIAMS’S brother died in a gruesome accident in the mountains of East Tennessee. She blames herself.

RYAN JENKINS’S fiancée was murdered. He couldn’t protect her.

With the death of her brother, Kat believes she is unworthy of love from anyone—even God. When a good friend elicits a promise that she will stop living in the past and then leaves her clues to a real-life treasure hunt, Kat embarks on an adventure chock-full of danger. To find the treasure, Kat will have to survive wild animals—and even wilder men. Can she rely on Ryan, the handsome wildlife officer assigned to protect her . . . without falling in love?

Ryan swore off love when his fiancée was murdered, but feelings long-buried rise to the surface around Kat. He volunteers to help with her treasure hunt, vowing to keep her safe. Together they venture deep into caves and tunnels . . . and even deeper into the depths of their unplumbed hearts.

 

Amazon Link:    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076B9PBZL

Thanks for stopping by, Sara.

GOD BLESS & GOOD READING!

 

Friday Friend–Laura V. Hilton

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 Laura V. Hilton is my Friday Friend (and yes, I know it’s Saturday!) and an award-winning, sought-after author with almost twenty Amish, contemporary, and historical romances. When she’s not writing, she reviews books for her blogs, and writes devotionals for blog posts for Seriously Write and Putting on the New. Laura and her pastor-husband have five children and a hyper dog named Skye. They currently live in Arkansas. One son is in the U.S. Coast Guard. She is a pastor’s wife, and home schools her two youngest children. When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys reading, and visiting lighthouses and waterfalls. Her favorite season is winter, her favorite holiday is Christmas.

I’m excited to have Laura as my Friday Friend. I usually do a post or blog about their new book, but today we’re doing an interview with Laura about her Christmas novella, The Christmas Admirer.

Interview with Laura Hilton, author of The Christmas Admirer:

 

Amazon Link

What inspired you to write The Christmas Admirer?   My publisher was interested in another Christmas story, this one set in Jamesport. I had two characters left unclaimed at the singing after a wedding in The Amish Wanderer. One of them had her story told in Love by the Numbers, coming in February. I wondered at the other girl’s story and started writing it.

 

What is this story about? Paint a picture of the setting and explain why it’s special.  The story is set in Jamesport, Missouri, and it is a real life Amish community. My blurb is:

 Benaiah Troyer has loved Susanna King for as long as he can remember, but other than a lone summer filled with romantic buggy rides, marrying her remains an elusive dream. When his parents died in an accident a year ago, he broke up with her—for her own good. After all, they left him as the sole caregiver for his three younger sisters and his grandparents. What woman wants to step into a ready-made family like his? Still, he leaves her monthly gifts from “A Secret Admirer,” hoping she’ll know that someone loves her, even though he isn’t free to step forward.

Susanna has never gotten over losing Benaiah, and hopes he’s her secret admirer, but now the clock is ticking. Susanna’s father is remarrying in January and his wife-to-be doesn’t want to leave her Amish community and family in Iowa. So when Susanna’s daed sells his glass-blowing business to his right-hand man, Benaiah, she’s left with three options: 1) Go with Daed to his new home with a new frau and step-kinner, 2) Flush out her mysterious secret admirer, or 3) Resign herself to life as an old maid. She doesn’t want to follow Daed where his new frau is leading him. And number three isn’t happening. Marrying Benaiah is her greatest desire—but he broke her heart, and now he treats her like a pesky younger sister. Can she make him see her as a woman, one who could stand by his side as he cares for his family?

As Christmas approaches, Susanna and her friends start making gingerbread houses for select members of the community. Susanna plans for hers to go to Benaiah’s family. But while her gingerbread may find a home—will her heart?

Did you go on a research trip for writing this story? If not then describe what you did to make it believable.  I did go on research trips. I went to Jamesport initially when I researched for The Snow Globe and took pictures. And I went to a glassblowers shop in Springfield, Missouri to research that.

Benaiah Troyer is an interesting name for your story’s hero. How did you create it? Benaiah is a biblical hero who became King David’s bodyguard.  He has quite an interesting background and like King David has killed his own share of lions.

Describe Benaiah. What’s he like? Share his personality, passion and flaws.  Benaiah is the artistic type. Quiet, yet strong. He loves creating, he loves his family, but he doesn’t have enough faith that God will care for his needs—let alone everyone he’s responsible for. I know I can relate and I’m sure others can.

Susanna King is the heroine of your story. What’s she like? Describe her personality, looks and heart.  Susanna is driven. She wants what she wants and she will try to do it by hook or by crook. Which puts her and Benaiah and her father at odds because she’s butting heads with them.  She has honey blond hair, greenish-grey eyes and is average height.

Why does Benaiah love Susanna? Benaiah has loved Susanna since they were twelve and she helped him memorize lines for the Christmas play. They were best friends growing up which grew naturally into love.

What is it about Benaiah that draws Susanna into a relationship with him?  She admires how he always put her first, how he treated her and her grandmother, and like I said, their friendship grew naturally into love.

Why does marrying Susanna feel like “an elusive dream” to Benaiah?  His parents died, leaving him responsible for four younger sisters and his grandparents. He has a very limited income, little money for extras, and his home is a rundown rental. He doesn’t want to give up her life of ease and plenty to live in his reality of hardship. Not only that, but Susanna’s dad, a widower, is remarrying and moving him-and Susanna- to another state.

How has the pain of Benaiah’s past shaped his present?  It made him grow up and put the needs of his family before his own.

Why is Susanna’s “greatest desire” to marry Benaiah?  They’ve been together since they were twelve. They’ve courted since they were sixteen. They were promised to be married in the fall the year his parents died and changed it. Her love for him didn’t die. But she had to convince him she was willing to do whatever was necessary to win him.

What are the unique roadblocks that Benaiah and Susanna face on their journey to happily ever after?  Susanna’s dad is moving to Iowa , Benaiah is losing everything—including his job since he works for Susanna’s dad—and his home, and reality is scary.

What is the significance of gingerbread houses in this story?  I read a story once that included love potions and out of curiosity I looked up the ingredients. They are basically almost the same as for gingerbread. And since it is Christmas and a gingerbread house is a tradition in our family, that was a fun addition. It also worked into the faith message on Susanna’s part.

What was your favorite part of writing The Christmas Admirer? Why?  Benaiah and Susanna were such fun! Being madly in love but being forced apart yet together added tons of tension.

What do you want your readers to remember most about this story? The faith message is up to God, but what I came away with is God is bigger than the strongest lions you may face.

If you could spend Christmas Day with Benaiah and Susanna, what do you think that experience would include?  Tons of yummy food, laughter and family.

What is your favorite Christmas holiday treat (food or beverage)? Why?  My maternal grandma came from the Amish and she had these wonderful old fashioned sour cream cookies. I love them. We make some every year.

Do you have any closing comments?  Thank you for joining us, I hope you have the Merriest of Christmases with you and yours.

Thanks for the interview, Laura and Merry Christmas a few months early! Those cookies sound wonderful! Do you think you could share the recipe with my readers in the comment section?

GOD BLESS & GOOD READING!