Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve Traditions

I can hardly believe it is the last day of 2013! But I'm excited for our traditional Family New Year's Eve party.  We do a chocolate fountain with tons of stuff to dip (I think that's the kids' favorite part of the night) and we do shrimp and snacks while we play board games all night.  It's the one evening I really look forward to all year! (And of course we all toast the new year with sparkling cider in fancy glasses.)

What do you do for your New Year's Eve? Any fun plans for tonight?

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Review Request Don't

(For some reason I am having issues logging into my account, but I still posted today since it's not quite midnight! LOL)

I was supposed to post a review today for a blog tour.  The file was emailed to me two weeks ago and when I tried to open it, I couldn't. I immediately emailed back to tell the tour host that it wouldn't open and they replied and said they would send a different format.  But they never did.  I sent one more follow up email, but didn't hear back and I didn't really think I should have to chase them down. Maybe I should have, but I somehow thought that if the review was important to them, they would make sure I had something to review, you know?

As a book reviewer I get a lot of requests for reviews and my schedule gets filled quickly.  When things like this happen, it is sad, I think, because we all lose---the readers, me, the author, everyone. 

So, if you are hosting a blog tour and someone can't open a file you've sent, please make sure you follow up and get a file that is downloadable to the person you want to review it.  It's just more professional if you do and more fun for everyone concerned!

(I'm finishing off 2013 with Carla Kelly's Miss Billings Treads the Boards.  What are you reading to end off the year?)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Three Sarah Eden Books On Sale!

And while they are not free, they're pretty close at $1.99 on Kindle and they're three books you don't want to miss of hers.

I love Sarah's books (Kiss of a Stranger is still my favorite, though) and when I saw the Kindle sale I knew I had to share with all my readers. (I have no idea how long they are on sale, though, so get them quick!)

The Kiss of a Stranger

 Here's the back copy:

When Crispin, Lord Cavratt, thoroughly and scandalously kisses a serving woman in the garden of a country inn, he assumes the encounter will be of no consequence. But he couldn’t be more mistaken— the maid is not only a lady of birth, she’s the niece of a very large, exceptionally angry gentleman, who claims Crispin has compromised his niece beyond redemption. The dismayed young lord has no choice but to marry Miss Catherine Thorndale, who lacks both money and refinement and assumes all men are as vicious as her guardian uncle. Trapped between an unwanted marriage and a hasty annulment, which would leave his reputation tainted and Catherine’s utterly ruined, Crispin begins guiding his wife’s transformation from a socially petrified country girl to a lady of society.

Their unfolding relationship reveals encouraging surprises for both of them, and privately, each of them wonders if theirs may become a true marriage of the heart. But their hopes are dashed when forces conspire to split asunder what fate has granted, and as a battle of wits escalates into a life-threatening confrontation, will it be possible for Crispin and Catherine to live happily ever after?

Click here if you're interested.

Drops of Gold

Here's the back copy:

When her father dies and leaves her completely destitute, Marion can think of only one thing to do--make a new life for herself. Commencing a life of duplicity, Marion transforms herself into Mary Wood--governess. In possession of a forged letter of recommendation and cloaked in the anonymity of her new identity, she enters a life of self-imposed servitude as teacher and caretaker of young Miss Caroline Jonquil of Farland Meadows. Her idyllic daydream vision of life at the Meadows is dashed when she finds a child desperately in need of hope and a cold and sorrowful home haunted by the past. With her characteristic sunny disposition, Marion casts her spell upon the household and slowly brings to life the long-forgotten joy of those within.

Layton Jonquil is a man tormented by the lies surrounding the death of his late wife, but he cannot deny his growing attraction for the beautiful governess whose goodness and optimism have touched his dormant heart. Their connection grows ever stronger, and despite the impropriety of harboring feelings for a servant, Layton's heart whispers that this is the woman he's destined to love. But when Layton's fears about the past become too much to bear and the falsehoods in which they are entangled threaten to shatter his and Marion's blossoming attachment, will true love conquer all?
Click here if you're interested.

Glimmer of Hope

Here's the back copy:
Stunning Miranda Harford once had the world at her feet. She was young, carefree, and desperately in love. But when her new husband left for London without her, her world fell apart. Devastated by his abandonment, Miranda fled their home, taking residence at her husband’s rarely visited countryside estate. For three years, she lived alone. But now, as the holidays draw near, an unexpected visitor arrives . . .

Carter Alexander Harford, Seventh Viscount Devereaux, is a man driven to succeed. His work is his life, and the position of Prime Minister of England is within reach. But in truth, Carter is a man haunted by lost love. Estranged from his beautiful wife, Carter is shocked to find Miranda—the woman he loved and who he believes left him—in residence at his country home. As plans for a holiday party move forward, the uneasy couple realizes that to avoid further scandal, they must keep up appearances in a charade of marital happiness. Thrust together by fate, it quickly becomes clear that they have both been living beneath a conspired cloud of misunderstanding. As family, career, and social pressures threaten to keep them apart, can love have even a glimmer of hope?
Click here if you're interested.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Boxing Day! What Did Santa Bring You?

In Canada we celebrate Boxing Day and when I was growing up, it was just a day to play with all our new toys and relax. 

Which is what we did today. 

(However, I was a little Grinch-like and started packing up all my Christmas decorations.  I left the tree up, though.)

What did you do today? What did Santa bring to your house?  (I got books that I wanted and a BYU sweatshirt that I love. Woohoo!)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Traditions

It's Christmas Eve! The day when the anticipation has reached its peak. Yay!

Our family tradition is to spend time with family and my husband's parents always do a "toilet paper roll." That means that Grandma rolls up little gifts inside a toilet paper roll (it's a ginormous roll at the end) and then all the kids sit in a circle and it gets unrolled and whatever gifts land in front of the child, that's what they get to take home. So much fun!

I also listen to my favorite Christmas songs.  There are so many great hymns out there, but my favorite fun Christmas song is this one.

(Is it bad that I hope it's in your head all day? *grins*)

I was reading a bit this morning and found this article by Jason Wright with different holiday traditions.  Some of these were so fun and unusual! If you want to read them all, click here (I especially liked the Timmy one, haha!)

Do you have any fun Christmas traditions? What are you doing today?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Three Book Reviews!

Today I'd like to tell you about three books I've read recently.  (NetGalley provided these titles to me for an honest review.)

The first is Take Me Home for Christmas by Brenda Novak.  I've read a lot of Brenda Novak's work because I shared a booksigning with her once and really enjoyed her personality.  This book is part of her Whiskey Creek series and is the story of Sophia DeBussy. I've wondered about her throughout the series because she's sort of on the fringes of the core group of friends after she broke Ted's heart when they were younger. She married a man who abuses her and she pays every day for the choice she made to marry him.  Then, while on vacation, her husband goes missing and she finds out that he's on the run from the FBI and they are practically penniless.  Sophia is forced to look for work to pay the bills and Ted takes pity on her because it's Christmas, but he vows not to get emotionally involved. He's been there, done that.  The tension between them is palpable and the situations they find themselves in were emotionally wrenching and well done. I enjoyed this one.

I loved how strong, yet vulnerable Sophia was as she faced the harsh judgments of those around her. Some townspeople were so awful, I was glad she at least had Ted in her corner.  I liked the character of Ted and how well-developed the romance was as each of them worked to overcome their emotional scars of the past.  For my gentle readers, there were a couple of sexual situations, but they were few and easily skipped over.  This was a nice Christmas story intertwined with the Whiskey Creek series that highlights forgiveness and compassion during this season.

Here is the back copy:

Christmas is a time for remembering….

Too bad all memories aren't pleasant. Everyone in Whiskey Creek remembers Sophia DeBussi as the town's Mean Girl. Especially Ted Dixon, whose love she once scorned.

But Sophia has paid the price for her youthful transgressions. The man she did marry was rich and powerful but abusive. So when he goes missing, she secretly hopes he'll never come back—until she learns that he died running from an FBI probe of his investment firm. Not only has he left Sophia penniless, he's left her to face all the townspeople he cheated….

Sophia is reduced to looking for any kind of work to pay the bills and support her daughter. With no other options, she becomes housekeeper for none other than Ted, now a successful suspense writer. He can't bring himself to turn his back on her, not at Christmas, but he refuses to get emotionally involved. He learned his lesson the last time.

Or will the season of love and forgiveness give them both another chance at happiness?

The next one is A Wicked Pursuit by Isabella Bradford.  Harry Fitzroy is the future Duke of Breconridge and must take a bride---and he's chosen the toast of the season Lady Julia Barclay.  He goes to her family home, but she takes him on an excursion that ends with him terribly injured.  Lady Julia's sister Augusta is the one who cares for him while he recuperates (because Julia can't handle "sick" people) and he begins to see that the "plain" sister is more his match than Lady Julia ever would be.

I loved the character of Augusta, she was so down to earth and happy with her lot in life, completely opposite of her sister. But when Augusta meets Harry and her world is turned upside down for both good and bad, her resiliency really shone through. It was interesting watching the repartee between her and Harry and the conversations were one of the drawing points of the book for me.  I wondered if they would be able to overcome society's opinions and move forward with the relationship and really have a chance to make it with all they had against them.  It was a romance  (and for my gentle readers there were a few sexual situations) but it had a lot more intelligence to it than some historicals I've read in the past.

Here is the back copy:

In Isabella Bradford’s enthralling new trilogy, three noble brothers—London’s most scandalous rakes—are about to do the unthinkable: settle down. Harry Fitzroy, Earl of Hargreave, is the first to meet his match and lose his heart . . . to a lady he least expected.

As the eldest son of the Duke of Breconridge, Harry Fitzroy is duty-bound to marry—and marry well. Giving up his rakish ways for the pleasures of a bride’s bed becomes a delightful prospect when Harry chooses beautiful Lady Julia Barclay, the catch of the season. But a fall from his horse puts a serious crimp in his plans. Abandoned by Julia before he can propose, the unlucky bachelor finds himself trapped in the country in the care of Julia’s younger sister.

Harry has never met a woman like Lady Augusta. Utterly without artifice, Gus is clever and capable, and seems to care not a fig for society. After a taboo kiss awakens passion that takes them both by surprise, Harry realizes he’d almost given his heart to the wrong sister. While London tongues wag, he’ll use his most seductive powers of persuasion to convince the reluctant Gus that she belongs with him—as his equal, his love, his wife.

The third one is Lethal Lawman by Carla Cassidy.  I really wanted to like this one because it had all the elements of a good suspense story---a woman returning to her small hometown to lick her wounds after her marriage ends, but finds herself being stalked and shot at.  A handsome detective comes to her rescue as they try to unravel who is stalking her.

The best part of the book was Detective Frank Delaney.  His wife had committed suicide years earlier and he has been dealing with guilt ever since. His character was the best developed and most sympathetic.  The heroine had so much potential with all she'd been through, but by the middle of the book I had a hard time with her motives. She doesn't want a relationship, wait, yes she does, but it has to be her way or the highway.  She was so confusing and her dialogue was really stilted in several areas.  The plot was somewhat predictable, but the ending saved it with the way Frank reacted and how sweet he was to her.  For my gentle readers there was one brief sexual situation that was easy to skip over.

Here is the back copy:

Marlene Marcoli made the mistake of falling in love and almost lost her life. Hoping to put her abusive marriage behind her, Marlene moves to Wolf Creek, Pennsylvania. But danger follows her once again when her apartment is vandalized. To make matters worse, the sexy detective working the case is distracting her beyond reason.

Detective Frank Delaney hasn't been interested in dating since his wife died—until Marlene comes to town. Irresistibly drawn to the blonde, he's got to find a way to make her trust him. And when Marlene's life is threatened, Frank must race to protect her—if they both hope to have a second chance at love.
I'm trying to reach my goal of 113 books for this year and I am really close---I have five more to go.  How many books did you read this year?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Four Favorite Short Christmas Stories

Thank you so much for entering my giveaway yesterday! You all have met some incredible people! I loved reading all your stories. You are so lucky!

I put all your names in a hat and the winner of Sheri Dew's new book, Women and the Priesthood, is:


Congratulations, Tamera! If you could email me your address, I will make sure you get your prize. (My email is juliecoulterbellon@gmail.com)

Thanks to everyone who participated. You are amazing!

There's so many great Christmas stories going around this time of year. I thought I would share four of my favorite ones. *gets out tissues* They help me remember the true spirit of Christmas and remind me that there is good in the world. The hustle and bustle don't matter, but the people around us do.


Some time ago a mother punished her 5 year old daughter for wasting a roll of expensive good wrapping paper.

Money was tight and she became even more upset when the child used the gold paper to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree.

Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift box to her mother the next morning and said, "This is for you, Momma."

The mother was embarrassed by her earlier over reaction, but her anger flared again when she opened the box and found it was empty.

She spoke to her daughter in a harsh manner. "Don't you know young lady, when you give someone a present there's supposed to be something inside the package?"

She had tears in her eyes and said, "Oh Momma, it's not empty! I blew kisses into it until it was full."

The mother was crushed. She fell to her knees and put her arms around the little girl, and she begged her for forgiveness for her thoughtless anger.

An accident took the life of the child only a short time later, and it is told that the mother kept that gold box by her bed for all the years of her life. Whenever she was discouraged or faced difficult problems, she would open the box and take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.

In a very real sense, each of us, as human beings, have been given a Golden Box filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children, family, friends, and God. There is no more precious possession anyone could hold.

Friends are like angels who lift us to our feet, when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.

Author Unknown

The Christmas Gift

A friend of mine named Paul received an automobile from his brother as a Christmas present. On Christmas Eve when Paul came out of his office, a street urchin was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it. "Is this your car, Mister?" he asked.

Paul nodded. "My brother gave it to me for Christmas." The boy was astounded. "You mean your brother gave it to you and it didn't cost you nothing? Boy, I wish..." He hesitated.

Of course Paul knew what he was going to wish for. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the lad said jarred Paul all the way down to his heels. "I wish," the boy went on, "that I could be a brother like that."

Paul looked at the boy in astonishment, then impulsively he added, "Would you like to take a ride in my automobile?"

"Oh yes, I'd love that."

After a short ride, the boy turned and with his eyes aglow, said, "Mister, would you mind driving in front on my house?"

Paul smiled a little. He thought he knew what the lad wanted. He wanted to show his neighbors that he could ride home in a big automobile. But Paul was wrong again. "Will you stop where those two steps are?" the boy asked.

He ran up the steps. Then in a little while Paul heard him coming back, but he was not coming fast. He was carrying his little crippled brother. He sat him down on the bottom step, then sort of squeezed up against him and pointed to the car.

"There she is, Buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas and it didn't cost him a cent. And some day I'm gonna give you one just like it... then you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I've been trying to tell you about."

Paul got out and lifted the lad to the front seat of his car. The shingled-eyed older brother climbed in beside him and the three of them began a memorable holiday ride.

That Christmas Eve, Paul learned what Jesus meant when he had said, "It's more blessed to give...."

Author unknown

And for our military men and women who won't be with their loved ones this Christmas . . . you are not forgotten. Please know that.

Please Take Care of My Dog

They told me the big black Lab's name was Reggie as I looked at him lying in his pen. The shelter was clean, no-kill, and the people really friendly. I'd only been inthe area for six months, but everywhere I went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open. Everyone waves when you pass them on the street. But something was still missing as I attempted to settle in to my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn't hurt.

Give me someone to talk to. And I had just seen Reggie's advertisement on the local news. The shelter said they had received numerous calls right after, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn't look like "Lab people," whatever that meant.. They must've thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis balls, his dishes, and a sealed letter from his previous owner. See, Reggie and I didn't really hit it off when we got home. We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home). Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too. Maybe we were too much alike.

For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis balls - he wouldn't go anywhere without two stuffed in his mouth) got tossed in with all of my other unpacked boxes. I guess I didn't really think he'd need all his old stuff, that I'd get him new things once he settled in, but it became pretty clear pretty soon that he wasn't going to. I tried the normal commands the shelter told me he knew, ones like "sit" and "stay" and "come" and "heel," and he'd follow them - when he felt like it. He never really seemed to listen when I called his name - sure, he'd look in my direction after the fourth of fifth time I said it, but then he'd just go back to doing whatever.

When I'd ask again, you could almost see him sigh and then grudgingly obey. This just wasn't going to work. He chewed a couple shoes and some unpacked boxes. I was a little too stern with him and he resented it, I could tell.

The friction got so bad that I couldn't wait for the two weeks to be up, and when it was, I was in full-on search mode for my cell phone amid all of my unpacked stuff. I remembered leaving it on the stack of boxes for the guest room, but I also mumbled, rather cynically, that the "damn dog probably hid it on me." Finally I found it, but before I could punch up the shelter's number, I also found his pad and other toys from the shelter.

I tossed the pad in Reggie's direction and he snuffed it and wagged, some of the most enthusiasm I'd seen since bringing him home. But then I called, "Hey, Reggie, you like that? Come here and I'll give you a treat." Instead, he sort of glanced in my direction - maybe "glared" is more accurate - and then gave a discontented sigh and flopped down with his back to me.

Well, that's not going to do it either, I thought. And I punched the shelter phone number. But I hung up when I saw the sealed envelope. I had completely forgotten about that, too. "Okay, Reggie," I said out loud, "let's see if your previous owner has any advice.".........

_______To Whoever Gets My Dog: Well, I can't say that I'm happy you're reading this, a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie's new owner. I'm not even happy writing it. If you're reading this, it means I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab after dropping him off at the shelter. He knew something was different.

I have packed up his pad and toys before and set them by the back door before a trip, but this time... it's like he knew something was wrong. And something is wrong... which is why I have to go to try to make it right. So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he with you. First, he loves tennis balls, the more the merrier.

Sometimes I think he's part squirrel, the way he hordes them. He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there. Hasn't done it yet. Doesn't matter where you throw them, he'll bound after it, so be careful - really don't do it by any roads. I made that mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly. Next, commands.

Maybe the shelter staff already told you, but I'll go over them again: Reggie knows the obvious ones - "sit," "stay," "come," "heel." He knows hand signals: "back" to turn around and go back when you put your hand straight up; and "over" i f you put your hand out right or left. "Shake" for shaking water off, and "paw" for a high-five. He does "down" when he feels like lying down - I bet you could work on that with him some more.

He knows "ball" and "food" and "bone" and "treat" like nobody's business. I trained Reggie with small food treats. Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of hot dog. Feeding schedule: twice a day, once about seven in the morning, and again at six in the evening. Regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand. He's up on his shots. Call the clinic on 9th Street and update his info with yours; they'll make sure to send you reminders for when he's due. Be forewarned: Reggie hates the vet. Good luck getting him in the car - I don't know how he knows when it's time to go to the vet, but he knows.

Finally, give him some time. I've never been married, so it's only been Reggie and me for his whole life. He's gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can. He sits well in the backseat, and he doesn't bark or complain. He just loves to be around people, and me most especially.

Which means that this transition is going to be hard, with him going to live with someone new. And that's why I need to share one more bit of info with you.... His name's not Reggie. I don't know what made me do it, but when I dropped him off at the shelter, I told them his name was Reggie. He's a smart dog, he'll get used to it and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt, but I just couldn't bear to give them his real name.

For me to do that, it seemed so final, that handing him over to the shelter was as good as me admitting that I'd never see him again. And if I end up coming back, getting him, and tearing up this letter, it means everything's fine. But if someone else is reading it, well... well it means that his new owner should know his real name. It'll help you bond with him. Who knows, maybe you'll even notice a change in his demeanor if he's been giving you problems.

His real name is Tank because that is what I drive. Again, if you're reading this and you're from the area, maybe my name has been on the news. I told the shelter that they couldn't make "Reggie" available for adoption until they received word from my company commander. See, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could've left Tank with... and it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq , that they make one phone call to the shelter... in the "event"... to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption.

Luckily, my colonel is a dog guy, too, and he knew where my platoon was headed. He said he'd do it personally. And if you're reading this, then he made good on his word. Well, this letter is getting to downright depressing, even though, frankly, I'm just writing it for my dog. I couldn't imagine if I was writing it for a wife and kids and family, but still, Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family.

And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he loved me. That unconditional love from a dog is what I took with me to Iraq as an inspiration to do something selfless, to protect innocent people from those who would do terrible things... and to keep those terrible people from coming over here.

If I had to give up Tank in order to do it, I am glad to have done so. He was my example of service and of love. I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades. All right, that's enough. I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter. I don't think I'll say another good-bye to Tank, though. I cried too much the first time. Maybe I'll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth. Good luck with Tank. Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight - every night - from me. Thank you, Paul Mallory.

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. Sure I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies.

Flags had been at half-mast all summer. I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog. "Hey, Tank," I said quietly. The dog's head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright. "C'mere boy." He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor. He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn't heard in months.

"Tank," I whispered. His tail swished. I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him. I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.

"It's me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me." Tank reached up and licked my cheek. "So what daya say we play some ball? His ears perked again. "Yeah? Ball? You like that? Ball?" Tank tore from my hands and disappeared in the next room. And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.

Isaac’s Story

By Julianne Donaldson—LDS Living, November/December 2013

It all started with a flat tire on my husband’s car. I had driven it for miles before noticing it was flat, and by that time, it was a goner. So I found myself driving my husband to work on a chilly morning at the beginning of December, worrying about how I was going to pay for Christmas and car repairs, stressing about my growing seasonal to-do list, and feeling overwhelmed and mistreated by fate.
While I waited at a stoplight, I noticed a kid with a bike standing by a gas station across the street. He was small —just about the size of my 11-year-old. He was all alone, in the cold. And something about him called to me.

I pulled over and asked him if he needed help. After a brief inspection, it was clear that his bike could not be fixed without a welder. So I lifted his bike into the back of my van and drove him to school.
Isaac didn’t say much, but he was polite. I noticed that he was wearing a light jacket in 30 degree (Fahrenheit) weather and that his jeans had holes within the holes. He thanked me when I dropped him off at Northwest Middle School. As I watched him struggle to carry his broken bike into the school, I felt an unmistakable tug on my heart.

When I got home, I called his school and talked to the secretary about him. She confirmed all of my suspicions —that his family was struggling, that Christmas would be hard for them, and that he couldn’t get to school without a bike. She told me, too, that his mother was in the hospital and that there was no adult in the home to come to his rescue.

When I hung up the phone, the tug on my heart had turned into a concrete goal: I wanted to find a bike for Isaac. I wished I could buy him a bike, but I didn’t have the money for it. So I went on Facebook and asked my friends if anyone had a spare bike for a small 8th grade boy. Nobody did. I called around. I thought about visiting the D.I. Then an idea came to me — I had more than just friends on Facebook. I had readers as well. So I went back to Facebook, this time on my author page, and I told my readers a little about Isaac and asked if anyone had a spare bike. One reader wrote, “No, but I have five dollars.” Another commented, “I have five dollars too.” “I do too.”

An idea grew within me —an idea so powerful and important that I could not see the ends of it. That night I wrote about Isaac on my blog, and I asked something scary of this unknown group of readers. I asked them to trust me. I told them that if they desired to donate money to Isaac’s cause, then I would make sure it was put to good use.

And then the miracle occurred. People gave. They gave so much. Most of them were strangers to me, but they donated time and money, bags of clothes, a bike ordered and delivered to my door, offers to help, encouragement, and prayers.

After two days, the money pouring in was reaching alarming levels. I put a stop to the donations, and then I spent the next three weeks shopping for Isaac’s family for Christmas. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier shopping.

A week before Christmas, my husband and I loaded up the minivan and drove to Northwest Middle School with a new bike, clothes for Isaac and his siblings and his sick mom, groceries, gift cards, and wrapped presents. I also presented the school with the leftover donated money, which they could use for any other students in need.

But Isaac wasn’t at school that day. He was at home taking care of his sick mom. His counselors stood in that cold parking lot and told me that Isaac’s mom was going to die very soon. It would be their last Christmas together as a family.
I cried when I heard that. I cried all the way home, and when I think about Isaac, I still find more tears to cry.

I’ve thought a lot about fate since then —about my flat tire and Isaac’s broken bike bringing the two of us together on a day and during a season when we needed each other the most. Isaac needed to know that even though he was alone, he was never forgotten. And I needed to know that there are Isaacs all around us, that generosity from strangers can change the world, and that Christmas is utterly, unfailingly about love.

(Julianne Donaldson is the author of Edenbrooke and Blackmoore.)

I hope you are all feeling the joy of the season and that we can remember the "reason for the season."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sheri Dew Booksigning Announcement & A Chance to Win Her New Book!

I am so excited to share this with you because I've had a chance to meet and chat with Sheri Dew and she is an amazing woman and author.  She has so much energy and it was a meeting I won't soon forget.  She has a new book out called Women and the Priesthood and if you comment on this post and tell me about a time you met someone you admired, then you will be entered into a drawing to win the book!

Here's the announcement:

Author and speaker Sheri Dew will be at the Deseret Book store at University Village on Saturday, December 21st from 10-11 a.m. She is the author of several books including: Go Forward with Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley, No Doubt About It, Are We Not All Mothers?, The Beginning of Better Days and the recently released Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes.

What: Sheri Dew’s one and only signing this season!

Where: University Village Deseret Book, 1076 S 750 East, Orem, UT 84097

When: Saturday, Dec. 21, 10-11 a.m.

Find out more by clicking here

So, don't forget, just one comment to tell me about a time you met someone you admired and your name goes in a hat to win Women and the Priesthood by Sheri Dew.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Word Count Wednesday

I think I'm going to have to break down and write the first chapter of the Captain's story.  It is coming to me so vividly in the details, I know I'm going to have to break my hiatus or lose it.  A part of me has sort of missed the regular writing, though, so maybe that's part of it.

When you take a writing break, do you have a lot of ideas come to you? Is it because of the rest you are taking, do you think?  Or the muse just likes to strike at the most inopportune time? LOL

What are you working on? How's your writing going?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hawaii Five-O Pearl Harbor Episode Review

Hawaii Five-O did an episode this past week where they recreated the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. It was so incredibly well-done, it really felt like I was there. So many lives were changed that morning and it still gives me chills to think about what happened there.

Flash forward to present day where Steve is attending a memorial ceremony with the Pearl Harbor survivors. He notices that there's a lone man watching, and as the ceremony ends he sees the lone man pulling a gun on one of the survivors.  He tackles the guy and asks him what he's doing and the man answers that he's avenging his father's murder.

This episode had everything---action, backstory, mystery, and an education on what happened to Japanese Americans on American soil.  I loved that it wasn't heavy-handed, but truly depicted the bewilderment of those who were sent to the internment camps.  The gunman, David Toriyama, says that his father's murder was covered up because he was Japanese and Steve says he'll look into it.

They go to see the man that David believes killed his father and at first, the man seems racist, but then his daughter comes in and she's obviously Japanese, so that theory doesn't fly.  They try to sift through records to find an incident report and come across some rat eaten ones. They take it to Fong to see if they can glean anything (and I'm so glad they didn't kill Fong off). As they are going through David's pictures, Steve sees one of his grandfather and wonders why that picture would be in the Toriyama family photos. David can't really remember.

They all go back to the internment site and David relives the day of the murder.  When he hears the gunshot he goes to the tent to see his father dead and their family katana gone. Steve gets some information from Fong that leads them to a detective and his old records, and with a few more twists it is finally revealed that the real killer was the brother to the head guard at the camp. Steve goes to the killer's grandson's home and the katana is there. He retrieves it and takes it back to David.

The final scene is back at the memorial site and David meets Steve there. He remembered why Steve's grandfather's picture was in his family album. He was coming to their home to be tutored because he was going to try to be an officer and was studying for the exam.  The last night David saw him was Dec. 6th, when he gave David a baseball glove, which he now gives to Steve. A great emotional touch to end the episode.

I love TV that educates without banging us over the head with it. This one was so beautifully directed and acted, it was a standout for the season. So, so good.

Monday, December 16, 2013

My Top Picks for 2013

I was going through the list of books I read in 2013 and thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite books I read this year. Since 18 is my favorite number, I narrowed it down to 18, but it was hard! There were so many good ones. Here are my picks.

Finding Sheba by Heather Moore
My Name Used to Be Muhammed by Tito Momen
Longing for Home by Sarah Eden
Drops of Gold by Sarah Eden
I, Spy by Jordan McCollum
Lifestyles of the Great and Spacious by John Bytheway
Esther by H.B. Moore
Blood Relations by Michaelbrent Collings
The Unbounded series by Teyla Branton
The Timeless Romance Anthologies Heather Moore, Sarah Eden, Annette Lyon
The Aliso Creek series by Heather Moore
Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson
My Own Mr. Darcy by Karey White
Her Hesitant Heart by Carla Kelly
The Grecian Princess by N.C. Allen
Rocky Road by Josi Kilpack
Lord Trowbridge's Angel by G.G. Vandagriff
Where the River Once Flowed by Jennie Hansen

What were your favorite books this year?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Major Friday Book Bargains!

Today a TON of authors are offering their books for free or at a major discount. There are some great titles and enough variety for every book lover on your list.

This is a sale not to be missed!

Click here to see all the books being offered.  Happy shopping!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

It's Been a Tough Week

I had a blog ready for today, I truly did. But it's been a stressful week and I must admit, I was having a hard time focusing. 

To tell you the truth, I have written this blog about ten times, telling you about the things that happened this week and how they affected me, but it comes across as complaining so I deleted it.  Suffice it to say, I am learning to turn the other cheek.  It's harder than it sounds sometimes.

I did have a funny experience at the post office today, though. I was standing in line (and it was a very long line) filled with people of all ages. I settled in for the wait, when the guy three people in front of me turned around and started talking to the rest of us about how we should just embrace plutocracy in America. "Since we're already on the road," he says, "let's just embrace it! Let's no longer say we're a democracy, let's say, hey, we're a plutocracy and be proud of it."

When no one said anything, but just stared at him, he turned around to talk to the people in front of him and got about the same reaction. When it was his turn at the counter, he tried to recruit the postal worker into embracing plutocracy, but he just smiled and said, "thanks for coming in, sir." Since the guy didn't get any recruits, he left, looking a little dejected.

Part of me wonders what the guy would have done if one of us had dropped our packages and said, "YES! *I* embrace plutocracy! I'm so glad I came to the post office today!" But you know what? It did make the wait feel shorter and it was definitely interesting. Maybe I'll have to put that in a book sometime.

So, after a difficult week, I think I'm going to try to focus on the happy things in my life and get some perspective.  Maybe I need to be like the plutocracy guy---start advocating something (not plutocracy, of course) but something good. Like looking for joy in small moments or something like that. What do you think?

How do you get past a tough week?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Word Count Wednesday--Do You Write During the Holidays?

Well, I felt really stupid writing that title of Word Count Wednesday because we all know I'm on a writing hiatus and my word count is zero. However, I did have a plot twist for the Captain's story come to me and the first chapter specifics. I probably should write that down. Soon. Before I forget it.  I quite liked how it looked in my head.

Do you write during the holiday season? How is your word count coming along?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Some Scrambled Thoughts

Sadly, I have no shows to review today. Sigh. I love Monday nights, except when it's the winter break. So, today I thought I'd share some random thoughts with you.

First of all, I got a great review today on Pocket Full of Posies, and you can read it here  It was a great way to start out my day. Thank you Rachel!

I've been reading Secrets by Erin Klingler and it is so good! The plot is intricate and the characters have some great depth to them. I'm about halfway through and thinking I might curl up this afternoon and read another chapter. Or five.

I've also been trying some cookie recipes from Pinterest and seriously, I must be picking terrible recipes or doing something wrong because they never look like the picture.  My boys still eat them, though, so they can't taste that bad, right?

My little girl looked up at me today and said, "Mom, do you know what you're good at?" And since she's been a witness to my craft and baking fails lately, I was afraid, but I said, "What?" and she smiled really big and said, "Sharing. You're a good sharer." And I think my heart melted on the spot. I will take being a good sharer any day of the week.

I've also been drinking a lot of hot chocolate until I feel all sloshy inside. I think my new favorite is candycane hot chocolate, but I saw a raspberry cheesecake flavor in the store yesterday that I want to try.

So what have you been up to lately? Any news/thoughts/opinions to share?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Studio C DVD Review--You Gotta See This!

studio c tour 

Studio C DVD

Studio C

I'm doing something a little different today in reviewing Seasons 1 and 2 of the hilarious BYUtv sketch comedy series, Studio C, featuring Whitney, Mallory, Jason, Matt, and the rest of the cast.  To tell you the truth, my family loved this sketch comedy before I did, but once I sat down and watched these DVDs, I quickly saw what had them laughing so hard. Facebook friends, the Superman adoption one, the awkward doorstep scene were SO FUNNY! It's good clean comedy that I can watch with my whole family and had a great deal of laughs doing so.  This is highly recommended by anyone who loves to laugh.

From the blog tour, "Studio C is pulling out all the stops with two full seasons of enough rip-roaring hilarity to make you spit milk out of your nose. Travel back to the moment it all began and watch some of the very first Studio C sketches, plus two never-before-seen features! Includes popular episodes featuring
  • Presidential Shoulder Angel
  • Facebook Friends Song
  • Flirting Academy
  • Captain Literally
  • The Center for People That YouTube Made Infamous
  • Candy Land Character Conference
  • Bollyside
  • Dana’s Dead
  • And many more!
Special Features
  • Exclusive Feature: “Just Jeremy Date”
  • Exclusive Sketch: “Substitute Miss Frizzle”
  • Season 2 Outtakes
Studio C is a hit sketch comedy series that the whole family can enjoy. Like the popular TV show Saturday Night Live, the cast performs original sketches that parody American culture and the hilariously awkward moments of everyday life; but with a refreshingly wholesome yet hilarious spin. With their huge fan-base and increasing popularity, Studio C aims to produce clean, family-oriented comedy for a national audience.

Purchase Amazon * Deseret Book


Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 12/31/13 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Freebie

Today's Friday Freebie is a romantic suspense ebook by Rachel Nunes, A Bid for Love.

Here is the back copy:

Cassi is the head buyer for a prestigious art gallery in California. Jared is a buyer for an exclusive New York gallery. Sparks fly as the two come head to head in a bidding war for a hideous but very expensive Indian Buddha.

Cassi and Jared are both determined to win the statue, but others also want the Buddha—at any cost. Thugs, art forgers, the FBI, or Jared’s beautiful and alluring boss . . . who will end up with the statue? During a string of hair-raising exploits, Cassi and Jared are forced to develop a tentative friendship that deepens into romance. Will they survive long enough to see it through?

Best-selling author Rachel Ann Nunes has crafted a wonderfully intriguing and romantic drama in this fast-moving novel, bringing two idealistic people together from opposite edges of the continent and allowing them, in their own way, to find an unexpected connection to their Christian faith and each other. In the end, their very lives depend on the trust they’ve developed.

If you love romance and excitement, you’ll be captivated by A Bid for Love.

And click here for the link if you are interested in downloading your copy!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Marketing Guide for Indie Authors

A few weeks ago I talked about marketing tips for writers.  You can refresh your memory of my thoughts here

Since then I've had a few people ask where they should start in the process and felt like they wanted more detail.  They also wanted more ideas on how to reach a target audience and what promos were good to start with.

I started writing up a blog post on it, then thought I would just link you to one of the more detailed posts I've seen on it by Stephanie Fowers. She goes through step by step of how to build and online presence, how to find your target audience, and gives a plethora of promo ideas.  You can see it all here

Once you're done with that, there was another post recently that lists all the promo sites you can list your ebook on and they had a fairly extensive review of each one as well.  You can read that here

Like I said in my original marketing post a few weeks ago, though, there is no magic marketing bullet.  You have to find what works for you, but it is helpful to know what's out there and where to start.

If you have any other marketing ideas that you've seen and liked, let me know in the comments section!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

It Should Be a Word Count Wednesday, But Let's Chat Instead

Well, it should be a word count Wednesday, but as you all know, I'm taking a mini-break from writing. So my word count is zero and will be zero for a while.  But don't hesitate to tell me how you did!  Did you win NaNo?

Instead of writing I've been quilting (my first large quilt).  I think I mentioned that last week, actually. Here's a picture of it almost done.  Not too bad for my first try, but there is definitely room for improvement on the next one.  :)

I've also been getting out my Christmas cards and making 120 Family Home Evening packets for my ward.   And, you know, being a mom and wife and stuff like that.  It's a good break for me and one that I think I needed.

So, pull up a chair and I'll give you some hot cocoa.  Tell me how you've been!  What have you been up to?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Blacklist with James Spader

So, this is usually the day I'd do a Castle review, but Castle is done until January, so I thought I'd ask if any of you are watching the show The Blacklist?  (This show is totally a cross between two of my other favorite shows 24 and Alias.  It's that good.)

It stars James Spader (who played the smarmy guy in Pretty in Pink and a really grey, but awesome character in The Practice. Loved him!) and Megan Boone who I've never heard of before, but both of them totally make this show.

James Spader plays Raymond Reddington one of the most wanted on the FBI most wanted list.  He turns himself in one day and says he'll only talk to Agent Liz Keen played by Megan Boone.  Agent Keen has a husband, is trying to adopt a baby, is a profiler, and seems to have a somewhat of a normal life until she meets Reddington.

So far the show has been about Reddington helping the FBI (Agent Keen) bring down these awesomely bad criminals, yet still running his own agenda.  There are secrets galore and everyone seems to have a skeleton in their closet.  I love all the action (although at times it's a bit too gory for me with blood spray etc., and I turn away, but I'm sensitive to that stuff so it might not bother other people) and I love the mystery of what the relationship really is between Red and Liz.  But that is just one of the many questions I have.  I also want to know what's going on with Liz's husband? Bad guy? Good guy? Who's the apple-eating spy across the road? Who's the mole? Inquiring minds want to know! And that's what makes this one of the best written shows I've seen in a while.

Last night's Fall Finale was amazing.  In Part One, Spader delivers this speech to the FBI agent Ressler (that he's trying to save from a horrific leg wound) that was nothing short of Emmy-worthy. Spader OWNS this role and he was made for it.  His acting is superb, right down to facial expressions and voice inflections. Megan Boone seems to be the every-woman, yet there's something about her that is endearing and makes her attempts to figure things out very realistic.

I really can't wait to see where they're going to take this, but alas, I shall have to wait until January.

Do you watch?  Which James Spader role is your all-time favorite that you've seen him in? (I think mine is The Practice.)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Triple Book Review

I have been doing a lot of reading lately and I'm so excited to share some of the gems I've found.

First, I'd like to tell you about In Love and War: A Collection of Love Stories by Carla Kelly.  Carla is such a master storyteller and takes ordinary people and gives us a peek into their lives.  The love stories are the warm, fuzzy kind and I read all four of the stories in one sitting, they were so good.  Highly recommended for any romance-lover on your list.

The first story is about a Quaker widow from America who has come to address the British Admiralty for a paper proving her husband's death was during an act of war. Through a series of misunderstandings she meets the brother to a marquess who has come back from Waterloo with an injury and a dismal future.  The dialogue between these two was sparkling and I really enjoyed the story.

The second is about a thirty-two year old spinster from a "Quality" family who meets an America sea captain.  This story had so many sweet scenes to it and some surprising ones, too.  I love how real the captain seemed and it made me smile to see his reactions to the spinster.

The third is about a major who returns to England with a French orphan.  He takes her to his friend's wedding and isn't well-received, except for a captain's widow who is also the bride's sister.  Hearts are opened and it brought a smile to my face  Another great story of ordinary people finding love in unexpected places.

The last is about a veteran who runs a hotel and has a seemingly dull life until one of his guests seems to turn everything upside down.  There's even a little twist that I did not see coming and of course a sweet story of love.

Here is the back copy:

Beloved romance writer Carla Kelly shares a treasured collection of stories starring dashing war heroes and the sassy heroines who can't help but fall for them. From daring sea captains to genteel lords, there's a little something for every heart's fancy. Readers everywhere will adore these four regency romances---now available together for the first time in one can't-miss ebook!

The second book I'd like to tell you about is The Timeless Romance Anthology: European Collection. This is a compilation of six historical novellas, each one a little different.

The first one, War of Hearts, was set during a war in Finland and while the setting was well done and the characters well-written, I just couldn't get into the story. It's about a woman who is sent to report on the war and she finds out her ex-boyfriend who just dumped her, is also her photographer.

The second one was The Earl of Oaksey Takes a Wife and it's a little spinoff of G.G. Vandagriff's story, Lord Trowbridge's Angel.  We find out what happens to Melissa when there's a misunderstanding with her new husband and she finds out he is penniless and only married her for her money. Working it out has a few surprising twists and turns for the couple!

The third one, Gift of Love, was one of my favorites.  It's the story about a man who has lost three wives and cannot even bear to think of loving someone else.  His friend Stuart convinces him to marry his sister who has been in a convent all this time, so he has someone to care for his daughter. I loved the tentative understanding between the main characters and how love finally blossoms. I really wish this one had been full length because it was so very well done.

The fourth one was A Lesson in Love.  Lucy and Reed seem happily married, but both are upset when they realize that they don't see eye to eye on attending social functions now that they are wed.  The extended family steps in to "help" the situation and there are some funny situations that arise. Some really cute scenes and a sweet ending.

The fifth one was An Ocean Away.  This one was sigh-worthy.  Gina sneaks out to read novels in the garden, but her handsome neighbor catches her.  They share some breathless moments until Gina's father finds out who she's been associating with---his enemy!  A really great read that I loved!

The sixth one was What Happens in Venice and though it was hard to choose, I think this one was my favorite. Mysterious and romantic with a hero to die for. Evangeline is in Venice with her horrid step-family, but she's trying to enjoy the trip anyway.  She meets a fellow art lover and spends some quality time with him.  A mini-mystery unfolds with danger and villains rearing up to meet our hero and heroine at every turn. Love, love, loved this story!

Here is the back copy:

Amazon #1 Bestselling series in *New Release* for Clean Romance

Six Award-Winning Authors have contributed new stories to A Timeless Romance Anthology: European Collection. Readers will love this collection of six historical romance novellas set in Europe, all with one thing in common: Romance.

In War of Hearts, Annette Lyon’s exciting novella, Anna, a journalist, is desperate to escape the magazine where Pete, her now-former boyfriend, also works. Heartbroken and still in love with him, Anna snags an assignment to cover the Winter War in Finland. She arrives at a snowy Finnish battlefront only to discover that Pete is already there—as her photographer. She’s determined to be professional about the situation until a battle breaks out in camp, putting her and Pete in harm’s way and putting their love to the test.

In G.G. Vandagriff’s enchanting novella, The Earl of Oaksey Takes a Wife, Melissa Burroughs is the new Countess of Oaksey. Her whirlwind romance and subsequent elopement was worth every divine moment, even if her parents did disapprove. When Melissa learns about her new husband’s apparently empty pockets, she wonders if the intimacy they’ve shared is only the ruse of a fortune-hunter. Melissa is devastated and determines to live a separate life from her new husband. But the Earl has other plans, which do not include staying away from his wife.

In Michele Paige Holmes’ charming story, Gift of Love, Ethan Mooreleigh knows he’ll never love another woman after the loss of his beloved wife. Yet he needs a male heir to inherit his vast fortune. Ethan’s best friend, Stuart, has an idea and retrieves his sister, Amelia, who has been living in a convent since the tragic death of her parents. Amelia only agrees to enter into the contract marriage because there’s a child involved, Ethan’s neglected three-year-old daughter. When Amelia meets Ethan for the first time at the altar, she realizes that the last thing she wants her marriage to be is loveless. But winning a man whose heart is still broken may be impossible.

A Lesson in Love, a delightful novella by Sarah M. Eden, captures the uncertainties of newlywed life. Lucy Stanthorpe arrives for the London Season, planning to attend every ball and musicale with her new husband, Reed, only to discover he has no intention of taking part in the social whirl. Spurred on by their family and friends, Lucy and Reed each formulate increasingly outlandish plans to teach the other a lesson in appreciation. Their battle of wills threatens to pull the young couple apart unless they can both soften their stubborn hearts.

In An Ocean Away, Heather B. Moore’s captivating story, Gina Graydon knows the last thing she’ll attract on her holiday in France is an eligible bachelor. Tall, outspoken, and with a weakness for laughing at the wrong moment, not to mention being much too occupied with reading gothic romances, Gina decides she’d rather live in her fictional world. Besides, the only man who pays attention to her at the resort hotel happens to be her father’s worst enemy. And that is far from romantic. Reading in a secluded garden, and dreaming about the perfect kiss, all keep Gina much too busy to consider Mr. Edmund Donaldson any sort of hero.

Nancy Campbell Allen’s entrancing novella, What Happens in Venice, follows Evangeline Stuart as she determines to enjoy her vacation in Venice—her first and likely her last since she lives under the strict confines of her step-father’s control. When she meets the mysterious and romantic Conte Bellini, who happens to be Italy’s most eligible bachelor, she decides he is all part of the dream of visiting Venice. It’s impossible for her to believe that his interest in her is anything more than kindness to a foreign visitor. But when he discovers the true betrayal of her step-father, Evangeline learns the Conte may be the one person with the power to restore her happiness.

The third book is G.G. Vandagriff's new regency, The Baron and the Bluestocking.  Vandagriff's books always feature strong heroines and a hero that is flawed, but someone you want to cheer for, and this one is no different.  Christian Elliott has opened an orphanage for girls and he meets Miss Whitcombe who is a teacher there.  She has some shocking feminist ideas and is rude to him whenever he is around her.  But there is a reason for Helene's feelings and when Christian finds out, he wants to help, but she definitely wants to stand on her own two feet.  There are some fun misunderstandings, danger, mayhem, and romance all thrown in to make a wonderful story.  A great afternoon read.

Here is the back copy:

In the world of the Regency, Christian Elliott, Baron Shrewsbury has it all. Helene Whitcombe has nothing except a prickly slate of feminist principles and a job as a schoolteacher in Lord Shrewsbury’s Orphanage for Girls. Pride on both sides separates them, but that doesn’t stop the fierce attraction that builds between this unlikely pair. Can the penniless vicar’s daughter humble the haughty baron? Or will her uncomfortable principles and his high place in society prove to be insuperable barriers to love?