Thursday, December 14, 2017

Profound Reality by Juliana Aragon Fatula


Aragon Siblings with my Dad, Julian Aragon





This holiday season I'm going big. Big decorations, big parties, big big big.

I haven't celebrated Christmas in years and  years never mind why. It's sad. But this year I have reason to celebrate and I'm going to. I feel like I've been saving up for this one Christmas and I'm going to finally get my celebration on.

I'm spiritual; not religious. Christmas isn't about going to church for me. For me it's about remembering loved ones, family memories of holidays, spending time with my husband, son, pets, friends. It's not about materials, shopping, buying...The holiday has gotten out of hand and it's about so much other than what it should be.

When I was a kid, we got one toy and a big bag of fruit, nuts and candy. We went to see Santie Claus at the movie theatre and we saw the reindeer. My parents had ten mouths to feed and they managed to keep our bellies full and smiles on our faces at Christmas.

This year, I'm going to remember what it used to feel like to decorate a real tree with popcorn garland and to build a snowman out front (if it snows), to give to the bell ringers and the less fortunate.

I have enough of everything. I don't need more stuff. I need to finish my book and that's where my priorities are this December 2017.

If I accomplish my goal and reach my deadline, I'll be ready to party and ring in the new year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

National Writing Month

By Bethany Maines

National Novel Writing Month, officially abbreviated to NaNoWriMo, is now over and many of my writer friends are crawling out of their holes with fingers permanently curved into the typing position and blinking around at the world that they left behind.  Essentially, we’re all Gollum.  What did we learn?  What did we accomplish? Other than scoliosis and arthritic fingers.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write fifty thousand words, the general baseline amount for a complete novel. I’ve completed a NaNoWriMo before, but my goal this year was to complete about half the word count and outline the rest of a novel that’s been lingering out on the edges for awhile.  I didn’t make it.  I made the word count, but I filled it on two different projects, neither of which was what I set out to work on. 

One project was a holiday short story for a holiday giveaway with several other authors I know from my time at the Girlfriend’s Book Club.  (Enter below).  I’ll also be sending my story to everyone in my Reader’s Group, whether they win the raffle or not.  So that was not time wasted!  But it wasn’t exactly the challenge I was setting out to meet.


I think the interesting thing about NaNoWriMo is that imposition of an immovable deadline.  There is no flex and no one you can complain to if you’re not going to make it. We all deal with deadlines (even self-imposed deadlines) in different ways.  Some of us rise to the occasion, some of us rail against “the man” and some of us quietly head out of the office for a drink.  I think you could safely say that I headed out for happy hour.  So now I’m scrambling to reapply my deadline to December.  That outline still needs to be written, my rough draft still needs to be started.  Will I make it?  We’ll find out in January.

Enter to win one of 50 copies of Baby it's Cold Outside, a not-for-sale collection of holiday stories from USA Today & Kindle Bestselling Authors!  Including Oh, Holy Night - The Christmas Season is a lot more dangerous than it used to be.Violet Harper is usually found at her local Starbucks. Roman Knox is usually carrying a gun. Tonight they’re both in a bank and there’s a body on the floor. It’s a mess, but maybe a Christmas miracle can get them out of the bank and into love.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A ROSE IS A ROSE, BUT IS A NAME A NAME?

By AB Plum

Still waiting for the winner of my November giveaway to contact me with names for two characters in my next novel, Broken-Hearted Many.

In case I don’t hear before blog deadline, I’ll ponder a bit on one of my favorite topics: Naming characters.

Feller Gowdy is a name I hope to use someday. Feller will have to be an unusual guy to carry around such a handle. Hero or villain? Seems likely he’d have endured teasing his entire life. What were his parents thinking? Of course, with a surname like Gowdy, what first name actually fits? Big Feller? Little Feller? Funny Feller?

For years I've kept a file of unusual names. Still, I've used very few of them. I can't quite figure out the profile for a woman named Apple. Is she a Pippin? Or a Granny Smith?

Names from the Bible jump out at me most frequently. So many of them come with meanings that can serve to give life to a character. Or not.

Consider Methusalah. Abendego. Job.  

Names most of us recognize. But did you know that Gad is a real Biblical moniker? Probably highly respected in the day—just as Basemath was for girls. Admittedly, I shy away from many names found in the Old Testament.

But I like Michaelmeaning “gift from God.” In my dark, psychological thriller, The Dispensable Wife, I kept my tongue in cheek each time I wrote Michael Romanov’s name.

Anna and Sophia, both derived from Greek names, sound soft and pleasing together. They mean "grace" and "wisdom." AnnaSophia Romanov is married to Michael. Again, I chose the name for its irony relative to both characters.

Choosing a name for main characters always presents me with a challenge. The process reminds me of choosing baby names. In a few instances—not with my bio kids—I’ve changed a character’s name. Why?

Maybe because unlike roses, a name is not a name by any other name.

Go on, figure that out. I dare you!

As 2017 closes, I hope you have more good memories than bad. May you find time in 2018 to read and read and read—no matter the characters’ names.
**************
AB Plum composes lists of names off the fast ramp in Silicon Valley while she walks and dances and reads Peanuts and For Better or Worse most days in her daily newspaper. Her latest novel, The Dispensable Wife is available on Amazon.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Holiday Traditions

Someone should have told me.

I didn’t realize that if I did the same thing for a few years in a row, I was beginning an unbreakable tradition. But I did. And now, the Mulherns have the same thing for breakfast every Christmas morning.

Not that I’m complaining. The recipes are easy and delicious (unlike Ellison, the heroine of my novels, I can make a Bundt cake). I turn on the oven when kids stir and pop the soufflé into the oven when we start opening presents.

I pair the soufflé and cake with fresh fruit and lots of coffee (of course).

Sausage Soufflé

·      1 pound sausage -  browned and drained
·      6 slices of best quality bread – cubed
·      ¼ cup cheddar cheese
·      1 teaspoon dry mustard
·      ½ teaspoon salt
·      4 eggs
·      2 cups milk


Beat eggs, milk, mustard and salt. Add sausage and bread. Mix well and pour into a greased 10 x6 ½ x 2-inch casserole dish and refrigerate overnight.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, covered with foil. Reduce heat to 325, remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes.


Cinnamon Bundt Cake

            Filling
·      ½ cup light brown sugar
·      2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Cake
·      1 package plain yellow cake mix (I prefer Duncan Hines)
·      1 package vanilla pudding mix
·      ¾ cup vegetable oil
·      ¾ cup water
·      4 large eggs
·      1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I always use Vain vanilla)

Glaze
·      1 cup confectioners’ sugar sifted
·      2 tablespoons milk
·      ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a Bundt pan, then dust with flour, shaking out the excess.

For the filling – combine ingredients in a small bowl (you could add nuts – if I did my youngest wouldn’t eat it).

Place the cake mix, pudding, oil, water, eggs and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low for one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for two minutes. The batter should look thick and smooth.

Pour one-third of the batter into the prepared pan.

Scatter half of the filling over the batter.

Pour another third of the batter over the filling.

Scatter the remaining filling.

Pour the remaining batter, smoothing it out with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 58 to 60 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes then run a sharp knife around the edges of the cake and invert the pan.

Cool an additional 30 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze. Place all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until smooth.

Place the cooked cake on a serving platter and drizzle the glaze over the top.

This cake can be stored under a glass cake dome for up to a week. It won’t last that long.




Wishing you and yours the merriest, jolliest of holiday seasons.

















Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders. 

She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean--and she's got an active imagination. Truth is--she's an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.