Monday, December 29, 2014


I’m here to talk about holidays. Since we recently celebrated Christmas, holidays are on my mind.

Did you there are hundreds of holidays that are celebrated and/or observed in the United States? We have Federal Holidays which is an authorized holiday that has been recognized by the U.S. government; then there are celebrations and observations; religious observations; state and local municipalities observations; the list can go on and on.

How did these holidays come into existence? What do they all mean? Well, I’m going to tell you.

Federal Holidays
  • New Year's Day is January 1. The celebration of this holiday begins the night before, when Americans gather to wish each other a happy and prosperous coming year. 
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is celebrated on the third Monday in January. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was an African-American clergyman who is recognized for his tireless efforts to win civil rights for all people through nonviolent means. 
  • Washington's Birthday is observed the third Monday of February in honor George Washington, the first President of the United States. This date is commonly called Presidents' Day. 
  • Memorial Day is observed the last Monday of May. It originally honored the people killed in the American Civil War, but has become a day on which the American dead of all wars are remembered. 
  • Independence Day is July 4. This holiday honors the nation's birthday - the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. 
  • Labor Day is the first Monday of September. This holiday honors the nation's working people. For most Americans it marks the end of the summer vacation season and the start of the school year. 
  • Columbus Day is a celebrated on the second Monday in October. The day commemorates October 12, 1492, when Italian navigator Christopher Columbus landed in the New World. The holiday was first proclaimed in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 
  • Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11. This holiday was originally called Armistice Day and established to honor Americans who had served in World War I. It now honors veterans of all wars in which the U.S. has fought. 
  • Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest. Many regard this event as the nation's first Thanksgiving. 
  • Christmas Day is a celebrated on December 25. Christmas is a Christian holiday marking the birth of the Christ Child.

Other Celebrations and Observances
  • Groundhog Day is February 2 and has been celebrated since 1887. On Groundhog Day, crowds gather in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to see if groundhog Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow after emerging from his burrow, thus predicting six more weeks of winter weather. 
  • Valentine's Day is celebrated on February 14. The day was named after an early Christian martyr. The first mass-produced valentine cards were sold in the 1840s. 
  • Earth Day is observed on April 22. First celebrated in 1970 in the United States, it inspired national legislation such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Earth Day is designed to promote ecology, encourage respect for life on earth, and highlight concern over pollution of the soil, air, and water.
  • National Arbor Day was proclaimed as the last Friday in April by President Richard Nixon in 1970. The observance began in 1872, when Nebraska settlers and homesteaders were urged to plant trees on the largely treeless plains. 
  • Mother's Day is the second Sunday of May. President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation in 1914 that started the holiday. He asked Americans to give a public expression of reverence to mothers on this day. Carnations have come to represent Mother's Day, following President William McKinley's habit of always wearing a white carnation, his mother's favorite flower. 
  • Flag Day, celebrated June 14, has been a presidentially proclaimed observance since 1916. Although Flag Day is not a federal holiday, Americans are encouraged to display the flag outside their homes and businesses on this day to honor the history and heritage the American flag represents. Father's Day celebrates fathers every third Sunday of June. 
  • Father's Day began in 1909 in Spokane, Washington, when a daughter requested a special day to honor her father, a Civil War veteran who raised his children after his wife died. The first presidential proclamation honoring fathers was issued in 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson. 
  • September 11, 2001, was a defining moment in American history. On that day, terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners to strike targets in the United States. Nearly 3,000 people died as a consequence of the attacks. Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance are observed on September 11 in honor of the victims of these attacks. 
  • Halloween is celebrated on October 31 where American children dress up in funny or scary costumes and go "trick or treating" by knocking on doors in their neighborhood. Adults might celebrate Halloween with costume parties. 
  • Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is December 7. In 1994, Congress designated this national observance to honor the more than 2,400 military service personnel who died on this date in 1941, during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by Japanese forces.

There are many religious and ethnic celebrations in the United States; even though they are not national holidays. For example, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter, Jews observe their high holy days in September, and Muslims celebrate Ramadan.


My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving where families gather together to enjoy a good meal and good company.

What’s your favorite holiday to celebrate?

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Holidays Are Gone - or Are They? by Debra H. Goldstein

The Holidays are Gone - or Are They?
by Debra H. Goldstein

The 2014 holidays, no matter what your faith, have come and gone. The Chanukah lights no longer burn.  Remnants of Christmas packages have been shoved into trashcans and folks are beginning to turn off their outdoor lights to save on their power bills.  It will be at least six to nine months before radio stations and merchants try to get us back into the holiday spirit.  That’s a shame.

It is nice to feel festive.  Sharing gifts, eggnog, singing of songs, and general merriment is fun.  There is a wonderful feeling when families come together whether in person, through computer links, or on the phone.  Even the television ads hone in on the warmth people share at this time of the year.

My heart goes out to those who don’t have enough to eat, a place to go, a hand to hold.  What these people are lacking is never so evident as during this time of the year.  Red kettles and bells, letters with enclosed envelopes, or requests to “come on down and serve a meal,” bombard us.

Although the holidays have ended – pick one to respond to.  I bet, even if only for a few minutes, you’ll feel the joy of the holiday season again.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

In Pursuit of Boredom

by Bethany Maines

‘Tis the day before Christmas and all through the house all the adults were panicking because… apparently, that’s what adults do?  I swear when I was a kid there was not this much holiday panic. Did my parents just have it more together?  I remember the cleaning freak-out of throwing everything in a closet moments before guests arrive, but I don’t remember all of this “NOT ENOUGH TIME.” 

I don’t mind being old. There are those that say I’ve been a grumpy old man since I was 21.  Which I dispute; I’m not a man for one thing.  And I don’t believe I’m grumpy, so much as, based in a reality that doesn’t like to admit idiots.  Anyway, I don’t mind being old.  There’s lots of wisdom to be gained in the aging process, but I do wish we could go back to the childhood days when I used to get bored.  Being bored takes an extended amount of time.  You have to have a good run of nothing to do and Wheel of Fortune re-runs to get well and truly bored.  And who has time for that anymore?  I have a hard time squeezing in the hours to read a good book (let alone write one)!

So for Christmas, if you want to give me a gift – don’t. Or better yet, give me the gift of not asking me to do anything. Just join me on the couch for another viewing of Die Hard (a great Christmas movie) and pass the cookie tin.  I wish the same to you and yours this holiday season! 

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

OMG, I'm Doing an Audio Book!

by Sally C. Berneathy

I am in the process of getting my first audio book out there. As a self-published author, the whole process is up to me. Yikes! It’s simple to upload a formatted document to Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords and CreateSpace. But an audio book involves somebody reading the entire book and magically making that recording available for download by the world!

However, several readers have asked me about audio books, so I finally decided to give it a try. I heard from other Indie published authors that I could offer a 50/50 royalty split and not have to spend any up-front money. Since this is my first effort and I expected to sell maybe a dozen copies, I decided that was the way to go.

I put the information about the book out there, including an excerpt, and after a couple of days, I had five auditions reading that excerpt. I was on my way!

Several friends suggested I narrate the book myself since my main character sounds a lot like me. (No surprise there; I write her dialogue!)

I am a frustrated actress and love making speeches and telling stories. But I have no professional experience and would have no idea how to go about making a recording or having it edited. That was never an option. I was thrilled to have five narrators to choose from.

I went offline for three days, unplugged my computer and moved all my furniture to have my carpet cleaned. When I got back online, I had over forty auditions, some very good. Now I had a tough choice!

During the ensuing week, I listened to those auditions over and over…and the new ones that kept coming in…up to a total of sixty-two. I became incredibly tired of listening to that same excerpt from my book over and over and over! It’s disconcerting to hear someone else read my words aloud, but after listening that many times, I decided it was the most horrible writing ever done by anybody in the history of the world and should be deleted from my book sooner rather than later!

As I caught up on the emails accumulated while I was offline, I realized why I’d had such an influx of auditions. Amazon offered a $100 per narrator hour stipend for my book in addition to the royalty sharing I offered! Suddenly the project went from an experimental lark to see if I could sell a few copies to a real audio book that Amazon believed would make both of us a lot of money. Choosing a narrator became a serious task.

Immediately I dragged out a copy of that book and began another round of edits (somewhere around number 578) with the idea of rewriting sentences that read all right on the page but would not come across so well when spoken aloud. This was a learning experience for future books. Note to self: It doesn’t matter if a reader can puzzle out a multi-phrase sentence after rereading it half a dozen times! Not good! Short, simple sentences. Reserve the complex for legal documents.

Most of the sixty-two auditions were very good, very professional. I eliminated the two with British accents since my books are set in Kansas City, and I eliminated the ones with soft voices, the ones that would work better for romance novels. Finally I had the choices narrowed down to twenty-three and simply could not rule out any more. I sought help. I sent the auditions to various friends to get their opinions.

Most of my friends agreed on the number one choice, a lady named Sarianna. She WAS Lindsay, my heroine. She sounded, they said, like me except in a professional way.

My boyfriend presented me with a spreadsheet putting the twenty-three finalists in order, rating each one on a scale of one through ten, and commenting on each of them. Sarianna was third down the list and only got an eight. I told him many of my friends liked her best. He replied, “She’s okay, but there’s just something about her voice that irritates me. I couldn’t stand to listen to her for an entire book.”

Oh, well, all righty, then! When I told him my friends thought she sounded like me, he declared she absolutely did not. (Too late! He got in a world of trouble over that one!)

Sarianna accepted my offer, and we have been working together on the audio book. She records portions and sends them to me for my approval as to her interpretation of the various characters.

Sunday we Skyped (my first Skype!) and discussed the main characters. She’s doing an amazing job, but we did have to talk about the Texas accent thing. One of my main characters is from Dallas, and I had to explain that people from Dallas do not sound like the characters on the TV show! She had me read a couple of lines and studied my accent. I was very impressed with the way she analyzed my pronounciation of each word then replicated the sounds. My friend and I made a great choice. She is an incredibly talented professional.

Knowing that Sarianna is utilizing her expertise to bring my words to life gives me a lot more confidence about this entire project. Upon her advice, I have decided not to delete that passage I listened to a thousand times. But that means I’ll have to listen to it again when the book is finished and I give my final approval! NOT looking forward to that!


Friday, December 19, 2014

A Real Murderer and a Dog Hero

by Linda Rodriguez
I write murder mysteries for a living. My Skeet Bannion mystery series (Every Last Secret, Every Broken Trust, and Every Hidden Fear) is set in the greater Kansas City metropolitan area. For these books, I make up crimes and murderers entirely out of my imagination, but I have had real experience with a murderer in my life.

When I was a young mother pregnant with my second child while my first baby was about eight months old, we lived in a small rental house and behind us stood an old two-story apartment building while next door the land sloped away to a small woods before ending below us in a busy urban street. One weekend before I was pregnant with that second baby, my husband and I arrived home from a weekend visit with relatives to discover a dog in terrible condition that had been apparently dumped at the woods edge of our yard.

A pale yellow mix of probably golden Labrador and some kind of hound, this dog had all four of his legs pulled up to his head and was trussed with a flea collar that had been fastened around all four legs and his neck before he was thrown out of a car. We assumed they were aiming for the woods, but the dog was heavier than the unknown villains thought and landed short of the woods in our yard. The poor dog had obviously struggled, and the flea collar with its poisons had cut through the flesh of his neck and two of his legs. The poisons of the collar were entering the bloodstream there, turning the bloody flesh a greenish tinge. It didn’t seem he would have much chance of survival.

We were desperately poor and had no car and no money for a vet, even if we’d had some way to carry a large dog to one. But I couldn’t let the poor dog die without at least trying to help him. My husband was sure the dog would bite me, but I had lots of experience at doctoring animals and believed after looking into his eyes that this dog knew I was going to help him. I sent my husband for scissors, hydrogen peroxide, and clean cloths from my rag pile. Then, talking to the dog the whole time to keep him calm, I cut through the flea collar and freed him from it. He lay there, limp as if he’d given up, but gave me a look of gratitude and licked my hand when I put it near his head. Next, I had to clean out his wounds with the peroxide, and that was painful. The poor guy just whined and whimpered but never offered me any hostility as I had to hurt him. Once I had him cleaned up, I had my husband, who was still afraid of him, carry him up to the house where I made the injured dog a bed. And over the next several weeks, I cared for him as he healed, always carrying scars from his ordeal.

We called the unprepossessing fellow Plain, short for Just Plain Dog. Plain became a cheerful, loving member of our family. This was in the days when all people let their dogs roam free, but Plain stayed near home most of the time. The only exception was when the mailman came on his rounds. He would park at our house to start his route and had asked if Plain could accompany him. Plain kept all the other dogs at bay while the postman did his job, and at the end of the route, when they arrived back at our house, the mailman gave him a treat and told me what a good dog he was. I knew that, of course.

Then I was pregnant again, and it was summer. Most days after I finished my housework, I’d set up the playpen out in the yard, put my baby in it and sit beside her with a book, Plain curled at my feet. Often, we saw a young man passing on his way to meet his girlfriend in the apartment house behind us. I’d met her a few times, and we’d talked about books and men. I liked her, and he seemed nice, always nodding or waving as he passed. The last time I talked with her, she mentioned they’d had an argument and she’d broken up with him. She also said he always talked her into taking him back, but she wouldn’t fall for that this time. So when I saw him heading her way again a few days later, I hid a smile. Obviously, he’d once again talked her out of the breakup.

After almost an hour, he returned, this time rushing through our yard, looking distraught and angry. When I saw him, my first thought was that they’d had another fight. He stopped inside my yard, staring at me in a strange way, as if he hadn’t expected to see us there. Suddenly, Plain began to growl and rose to stand in front of me as the young guy came toward the baby and me. Plain never barked but obviously set himself to spring on the young man, growling ferociously the whole time. I had never seen this side of my sweet dog. The guy apparently thought twice about approaching us and headed back toward the apartment house, returning shortly in his girlfriend’s green MG, roaring down the street past us with Plain now barking loudly, as well as growling. I calmed him down once the car disappeared around a corner, and he once again became my sweet Plain.

Imagine my surprise when the homicide detectives came around later that day. My neighbor had been raped and murdered by her ex-boyfriend just before he tried to cross my yard in his getaway. The detectives thought he probably would have killed me so I couldn’t tell anyone I’d seen him there that day if Plain hadn’t been there to drive him off. They had a huge manhunt for him, and he was eventually found in another state and arrested. He killed himself in jail before he could come to trial.

Perhaps the seeds of my mysteries were laid that day with the everyday mundane suddenly turning ominous and violent. But one thing I know is that my dear Just Plain Dog had most likely saved my life and my unborn son’s and maybe my little daughter’s, as well. Plain had a long, happy life with us ahead of him, and when his time to leave us finally came, he was surrounded by my husband, the two children he’d saved, and me, all weeping inconsolably at losing our loyal friend.

Every dog I’ve ever had since then has always been a rescue, usually one on death row at the pound. There is no loyalty and companionship I’ve found like that a rescue dog will give to you. That’s why I gave my protagonist Skeet Bannion a rescue collie named Lady and a rescue cat named Wilma Mankiller.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

In 2015 I want to...

In 2015, I Want To...
By Laura Bradford

By the time I'm next here, we'll be into the middle of January (wow) and the whole "new year" concept will be getting a bit stale. So let's chat about that now, shall we?

For the last few years, my friend (fellow Stiletto Gang member, Lynn Cahoon) and I have been exchanging yearly professional goals. In those goals we talk about projects we want to start/finish, conferences we want to attend, the financial aspect we think/want to reach, etc. The following year, we have an accountability phone call where we go through those goals--point by point--and see how we did.

To say I've come to really enjoy this goal session each year would be a bit of an understatement. I guess, in many ways, it's like a giant to-do list (which I adore)...with an accompanying phone call (with my buddy, no less) to talk about all those fun little checkmarks that have ended up in the "done" column by the end of the year.

Some years, I've come really close to checking everything off (remember, there are a lot of "want-to-do" items on there). Some years, a particular item just didn't even come close to happening. But this year? Every item is getting a big check next to it!

That's right, I accomplished every one of the goals I set for myself, although one of the things got subbed out by something equally wonderful yet totally unseen when I first wrote my goals at this time last year.

Now, my mind is in the early stages of planning my 2015--what I want/need to do, where I want/need to go, etc. Knowing I hit everything this year is giving me a little bit of a daring streak, although whether that will remain when it comes time to actually write them and file them with Lynn remains to be seen.

So tell me, do you write professional goals each year? Do you share them with anyone?


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

KK Exposed—Author Interview

By Kay Kendall

Here is a revealing interview I did some months back with Kings River Life, the California-based online weekly magazine. See if you can spot the secret I divulge!

How long have you been writing?    
I began with my own version of “The Night Before Christmas” at age seven. Later I wrote essays,lots of English major/then history grad student papers, then news releases and annual reports during my long career as a public relations executive. In 1998 I began writing fiction. Gloria Steinem said it best: “Writing is the only thing I do that I don’t feel like I should be doing something else.”

When did your first novel come out and what was it about? My first novel is DESOLATION ROW—AN AUSTIN STARR MYSTERY, published in March 2013 by Stairway Press of Seattle. After Austin marries her college boyfriend, they move from their native Texas to a foreign country. She has trouble coping with so much change—and then her husband is jailed for murder. Alone, far from home, Austin must find the real killer. When she also becomes a captive, things go from bad to worse. Danger stalks two young lives and a new marriage. This fraught love story rages through social upheaval and anti-war protests. Canada in 1968—surprisingly hazardous.

Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?  My first completed fiction manuscript was a literary novel. It did not sell. I put it away and gave up writing fiction, but only temporarily. I still felt called to write so I took up genre writing. I devoured nothing but mysteries for two whole years and then began to write my own.

Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work? I’m an anomaly in this modern world. I love learning about the past. It helps me understand how we got from back there to here. If I can tell an entertaining story that has some accurate historical detail to it, then I figure it’s an easy way to help people swallow some history that I think they should be aware of.

Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can? Pretty much I write whenever I can. That said, I do have a pattern, based on sharing a house with a husband who is now retired and, although respectful of my writing life, deserves attention. Generally I write from noon until six in the evening.  

Do you outline or just wing it? I work from a basic outline. It’s like a road map. I know the basic route but add colorful detail—and red herrings—as I travel down that road.

 If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write? I work routinely from noon to about six p.m. However, in an ideal world I’d continue into late night. When I’m revising for publication under an editor’s hand—a stage I adore—then I can write for forty-eight hours straight—with brief timeouts for an occasional nap.  

Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Oh heck yes! Almost everyone does!

Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?  A well-respected publishing house for mysteries almost took my book, DESOLATION ROW. Three editors liked it, the fourth—the head honcho—did not. When she and I talked on the phone, she voiced two quibbles. First, she didn’t like that it was set in Canada, since “Americans don’t want to read about Canada.” (I bit my tongue to keep from saying—“You’ve heard of Louise Penny, haven’t you?”) Then she said that my writing about draft resisters during the Vietnam War did not tally with her memories. She concluded by saying that she usually didn’t revisit a manuscript, but if I made some changes, she would review mine again. I thanked her and hung up. She and I would not have been a marriage made in publishing heaven. Two weeks later I had a contract from Ken Coffman, publisher of Stairway Books in Seattle. He and his crew are ideal to work with. 

What are your future writing goals?  I’ve embarked on my Austin Starr mystery series. My next will be out in June 2015, RAINY DAY WOMEN. I plan at a minimum four books and hope for even more. God willing and the creeks don’t rise…as the saying goes in Texas.

What kind of research do you do?  Because I write about an era that I lived through, I do little research. I write from memory, and then when I throw in specific place details or real historical figures, I do a bit of online research to ensure accuracy. For DESOLATION ROW, I had a justice of the Ontario Supreme Court read it to ensure accurate representation of the criminal justice system in Toronto in 1968.

What do you read?  Historical fiction, the occasional literary novel, and masses of mysteries and spy stories. Also well-written thrillers, but I’m picky about those. Most of them are just slam-bang things so they don’t interest me much. However, my favorite novels of all time are JANE EYRE and ANNA KARENINA. 

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?  I married a Canadian and lived in Canada for two decades, an American in an unexpectedly different land. I also was offered work with the CIA, but decided to study history in graduate school instead. The spy world has always fascinated me, still does, but now I’m glad I didn’t end up there. But I sure do love it in fiction.  

Kay Kendall set DESOLATION ROW--AN AUSTIN STARR MYSTERY in 1968. The sequel is Rainy Day Women, will be out in 2015. Her amateur sleuth Austin Starr must prove her best friend didn't murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. A fan of historical mysteries, Kay wants to do for the 1960s what novelist Jacqueline Winspear accomplishes for England in the 930s–write atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit of the age. Kay's an award-winning international PR executive living in Texas with husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Allergic to bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too. 


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Neighborhood Bookstore

As promised I'm giving my report on how my day at The Neighborhood Bookstore turned out.

This was not a real bookstore but a home with 8 authors setting up displays in different rooms of the house: in the open small office, the living room, a den, and another living room--that's where I was with two others.

The kitchen saw the most action because that's where the coffee, wine and various delicious snacks were available.

Every author promoted in her own way--and I know announcement were left at the local small theater, several libraries, given out at book clubs and writing groups, and of course announcements on Facebook and Twitter.

A sign that just said Book Store with an arrow was put on the corner of the main street and the one where the house was. Another at the other end, and one in front of the house.

Several people came because they saw the signs, a couple who were on a Christmas home tour and just decided to add the bookstore as an extra stop.

I shared a table with another author, and having my display rack worked out great.

A steady flow of people came in the open front door and flowed through the house from 12 to 5.

I was delighted to see old friends and met a lot of people.

And I'm sure you want to know how sales went--far better than many venues--I sold 25 books, maybe more because I wasn't very good at keeping track.

We did have someone who took credit cards, so if folks didn't want to pay in cash--most did--we could accept credit card sales.

One man--a fan of both series--came with a list of my books he and his wife already had, and he bought those they didn't.

Another young man came in specifically looking for me because he loves my books and had seen that I would be at this event in a newspaper article. He bought two books he didn't have anymore.

A woman I hadn't seen for years came specifically to see me--and she bought two of my latest books.

People I didn't know who loved mysteries bought a copy or two of my books.

Toward the end of the day, our hostess made a pot of soup, so between the wonderful snacks and the soup, we were well nourished.

It was a great day, and our hostess plans to do this again in the spring.

And that's my report on the Neighborhood Bookstore.


Monday, December 15, 2014


Sandra Ardoin

Previously, Sandra Ardoin has published short stories and devotional work. Her fondness for horses and westerns led her to write The Yuletide Angel, a delightful holiday romance novella taking place in the 1890s, and available through Amazon.

The publisher, Lighthouse of the Carolinas, matched Sandra with a good friend of mine, Susan F. Craft, who is both a wonderful editor and author. Susan’s award-winning The Chamomile is available through Amazon, and she has two post-Revolutionary War novels being published by Lighthouse of the Carolinas in 2015.

I asked these two engaging authors if they would tell us a little about the writing and publication of The Yuletide Angel. Here’s a brief summary of the story:

As Christmas approaches in Meadowmead, the residents anticipate visits from the Yuletide Angel, an unknown benefactor who leaves packages on the doorsteps of the needy. While others speculate about the identity of the Yuletide Angel, grocer Hugh Barnes has discovered it is his quiet, socially awkward neighbor, Violet Madison, a spinster who keeps house for her brother. Hugh takes it upon himself to be Violet’s secret protector during her nighttime journeys. When Violet’s brother announces his engagement, Violet decides to support herself by seeking to sell her baked goods and Hugh gives her the opportunity at his store. While Violet encounters resistance from her family, Hugh must deal with a visit from his brother Kit, who previously betrayed Hugh by stealing Hugh’s sweetheart.

Can Violet find the courage to do what she believes is right? Can Hugh forgive his brother’s past transgression? Can Violet and Hugh find happiness with each other? All these questions will have readers rapidly turning pages.

Sandra, how did you develop the idea for this story and why did you decide to focus on Violet and Hugh?

Paula, thank you for inviting me to talk about The Yuletide Angel.

I set out to write a Christmas novella and tried on various plots and characters, both historical and contemporary. Among the ideas, I wrote about 1,800 words set in the late 1800s (what became, basically, the first two scenes of the novella). However, with no clue what the story was actually about, I settled on writing a contemporary. Lacking a chapter of finishing, I decided I disliked the story and went back to peruse the previous ideas. When I read what I had written on the historical, everything clicked, and I knew this was the one God had in mind.

In Violet’s original scene, she was much less accepting of her brother’s engagement, but I felt her character was headed for trouble—that she’d be too unlikable. Also, Hugh’s first scene began as an exercise in mood, so I needed a reason for him to be out late at night. That’s when the secretive Yuletide Angel was born.

Currently, you are working on a novel about Hugh’s brother Kit. Did you always plan to write about Kit or did your fascination with him grow as you wrote The Yuletide Angel?

When I read a novel, I invariably find a secondary character or two I want to get to know better. It’s no different when I write. I needed a problem/conflict for Hugh, so I gave him trouble with his younger brother over an incident that happened five years earlier. Once Kit appeared, I kept mulling over ways in which I could give him his own happy-ever-after. That book, tentatively titled A Reluctant Melody, is scheduled for an early 2016 release. It brings Kit together with the woman with whom he once betrayed Hugh—fireworks in the making!

Will Hugh and Violet appear in Kit’s story or in future stories of their own?

Hugh and Violet will not appear in A Reluctant Melody, although they are mentioned several times since so much of the backstory involves Hugh. As for future stories …?
Susan F. Craft
Susan, with your love of history and romance, I can see how you were an excellent editor for Sandra. Please tell us how you came to take on editing duties with Lighthouse of the Carolinas.

My selection by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas to work as one of their editors was one of those “for such a time as this” moments, when pieces of a puzzle came together in God’s perfect timing.

Over the past 35 years, I’ve strived to hone my craft by reading books about writing, attending conferences and workshops, and being a member of a writers’ critique group. I’ve learned quite a lot (and have more to learn), and wondered how I could share that knowledge.

After LPC decided to publish two of my historical suspense novels next year, I began a cordial relationship with staff members, who were impressed with the quality of my novels as far as the writing, editing, and especially the spelling, grammar, and formatting. Through conversations with LPC, they asked if I would like to be an editor for them.

The timing was right in that I recently retired after working fulltime 45 years. Can you imagine my joy? I get to work–from my home—with excellent authors and to read historical fiction–and get paid for it.

What did you most enjoy learning about the historical period when Sandra’s novella takes place?

My area of historical expertise includes the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War, so when I was asked to edit The Yuletide Angel, which takes place in 1890, I wondered how much research I’d have to do. Which was fine with me, because I’d rather research than write.
I had fun learning about the history of glass making. This came about because Sandra mentions the “plate-glass window” in Hugh’s store. I wondered if that was a modern term, and set about my research journey. I was fascinated by learning about the use of glass as a building material on display at The Crystal Palace of 1851, built by Joseph Paxton to house the Great Exhibition. 

Because this blog is The Stiletto Gang, shoes and accessories are frequent topics of discussion. Sandra, let me ask you to respond to a question that Susan suggested. At Violet’s brother’s wedding, what kinds of shoes would the bride and Violet be wearing?

Good question and one I didn’t address in the story, so I’ll do so here. Lila, the bride, wore ivory satin tie shoes with floral-patterned beadwork to match the beadwork on her ivory satin gown. By this time, Violet was becoming more bold in her choice of attire and shaking off the black in favor of brighter colors like red. However, she didn’t want to show up the bride and chose a velvet dress of deep purple and matching purple satin pumps with a purple bow on top. Both pairs of shoes had a thick, flared heel no higher than two inches. It’s amazing how fashion is repeated over time. It isn’t uncommon to see similar heels today. You’ll find examples on my Pinterest board for The Yuletide Angel.

Susan, here’s a similar question for you: in your Revolutionary War novel, The Chamomile, a wedding occurs. What shoes did your bride wear and what special accessory did she carry?

I had such fun chatting with naturalist, Rudy Mancke, asking him, “The wedding between Lilyan Cameron and Nicholas Xanthakos takes place in May 1781 in the South Carolina swamps near Charleston. What would my bride carry in her bouquet?” When Rudy mentioned that orchids grow wild in those swamps, my scene was born. In that scene, Brigadier General Francis Marion, Nicholas’s commander, has one of his men present Lilyan with an orchid he spent hours searching for in the swamps. The other camp followers offer Lilyan a blue mantua dress, a kerchief, and slippers. Her brother, Andrew, drapes the clan Cameron scarf across her shoulder and pins it with the clan brooch.

Thank you both for being with us today. Please let me highly recommend Sandra Ardoin’s and Susan F. Craft’s work. They each portray fascinating characters and convey historical periods in excellent narratives. Treat yourselves and others to their stories.

A legislative attorney and former law librarian, Paula Gail Benson’s short stories have been published in Kings River Life, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, Mystery Times Ten 2013 (Buddhapuss Ink), A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder (Dark Oak Press and Media, 2014). Her most recent story, “Moving On,” appears in A Shaker of Margaritas: That Mysterious Woman (November 2014).