Friday, December 31, 2010

A Wing and a Prayer - New for January

Happy New Year everyone.

Where else can you get a .99 cent bargain?  A Wing and a Prayer releases January 1, but if you snoop, you'll find it available today.  I'm overjoyed to have contracted five short stories and one novel with Muse It Up.  While you're perusing my author's page, check out Hurricane Warning, also available...and on sale.

A Wing and a Prayer Blurb:

First Impressions aren’t always what they seem. Just ask Callie Corwin.

On a 747, Callie Corwin, buckles up for her first day as a flight attendant. The full jet carries two passengers who stand out from the others, but for totally different reasons. The handsome cowboy promises to be a pleasant distraction from her performance anxiety, but the dark-skinned gentleman a few rows back sends her up her hackles. She’s been trained on how to recognize a terrorist, and he fits the very description. Will she see jolly old England or the bottom of the sea?

Suzie Housley from Romance Junkies says...This is the second book that I have discovered by Ginger Simpson, and I can guarantee her writing style is one that will keep you highly entertained.

Available now at Muse It Up Publishing.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What He Taught Her by Anne Whitfield


What He Taught Her
by Anne Whitfield
Contemporary Romance
COMING 2011

A sizzling holiday fling with a gorgeous guy tempts Cassie to throw caution to the wind and follow her heart.


Rob Healy has everything he wants, or will have once he’s built his new resort on a small island in the Pacific. A woman in his life isn’t planned at the moment, but when he sees Cassandra Kearns in the foyer looking stiff and out of place amongst the holiday makers his interest is spiked. What is a beautiful woman doing wearing a business suit and holding a laptop doing on an island resort, especially when there are no conferences booked that week?


Cassandra Kearns is fleeing New York and all that makes her comfortable for two idyllic weeks in the tropics. She’s stressed, overtired and close to breaking point. Her divorce is finalized, her daughter is grown and she’s realising that she’s on her own and dare she say it - lonely.


She needs to take some time and recharge her batteries. But how is she to do that? She’s worked 24/7 for years. Does she know how to have fun?


When Cassandra meets Rob she rejects the spark of attraction she feels. A man in her life, after the betrayal of Oliver? She’d rather eat broken glass!


Yet Rob is persistent, he’s funny and he’s gorgeous, but what exactly does he want?


Secrets Revealed by Nick G. Giannaras cover

Secrets Revealed
book 1 in The Relics of Nanthara trilogy
by Nick. G. Giannaras
coming 2011
FANTASY

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Second Chance by Roseanne Dowell cover


A Second Chance by Roseanne Dowell
Sweet Romance
coming June 2011

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Reason to Kill by Nathaniel Tower cover


A Reason to Kill

by Nathaniel Tower
coming 2011 by MuseItUp Publishing
a psychological thriller

What happens when a criminal thinks he is killing for good?

Young hotshot Detective Geminer became a police officer to put away scum like the man who killed his father. His latest case, the Do-Good Killer, chooses his victims based on prior criminal records and thinks their history of crime is justification for his murders. As the isolated Geminer attempts to capture the elusive criminal, cope with the loss of his father, and find normal human relationships, he questions his own motives behind being a police officer and begins to learn that he and his enemy have quite a bit in common.

Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online literary magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short stories have been published in over fifty online and print magazines, and he also has published numerous pieces from his extensive collection of creative non-fiction tales from the classroom. In 2010, his story "The Oaten Hands" was named one of 190 Notable Stories by the storySouth Million Writers Award. A Reason to Kill is his first novel. He currently resides in St. Louis, Missouri with his wife.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Trencarrow Secret by Anita Davison cover


Trencarrow Secret by Anita Davison

Trencarrow, the Hart family's country estate near Penzance in Cornwall contains two nemesis for twenty-year-old Isabel Hart. The lake where she nearly drowned four years before, and The Maze in the gardens of the elegant Queen Anne manor house.

It’s the summer of 1882, and with her forthcoming engagement to her childhood sweetheart imminent, Isabel attempts to put at least one of her fears behind her. However, when she summons the courage to venture inside the maze, she sees something she didn’t anticipate.

As other family secrets are revealed, Isabel is faced with the fact her vibrant, beautiful mother is desperately ill and her cousin, Laura, has developed a clandestine attraction to an enigmatic young man.

Isabel's growing doubts about her fiancé are exacerbated as she finds herself attracted to Viscount Strachan, one of her father's houseguests. Isabel discovers the lives of those around her are anything but ordinary and that her destiny lies in her own hands.

Will she see her way through the maze her life has become, or will she be driven further into her own world?

Coming from MuseItUp Publishing 2011

Make a Joyful Noise

Happy Holidays everyone.  I can't believe how quickly the year has flown by.  I'm scheduling this on the day before Halloween, and by the time you read this, I'll officially be a senior citizen.  I remember when I got angry because the waitress didn't card me when I was fifty-five and ordered from the senior menu. I was certain she would say, "Excuse me, ma'am, but I'll have to see your I.D.  You couldn't possibly be fifty-five."  She didn't give it a second thought.  And as my sister says...what's with the portions.  I just got older, I didn't lose my appetite. *smile*

Here in Tennessee, they card you if you buy beer.  I've been buying a lot lately because checking out makes me feel better.  *lol*  Guess it's time to buy a red hat and go look for new friends.  Anyhow...

I wrote this story a few years back, and I may have posted it on my blog...who knows.  I can't remember where I was five minutes ago, which is why I'm posting my Christmas wishes for you now.  If you don't celebrate Christmas, please apply my good tidings to whatever occasional is special for you. 

Anne Collins curled up in her over-stuffed easy chair and glanced at the daily newspaper. The glass of wine on the end table reflected the crackling fire beyond the hearth. Her workday had prompted her to fill a much larger goblet than normal. If one more person mentioned having a ‘Merry Christmas’, she thought for certain she’d lose control. This year, the yuletide held no reason to celebrate. Her husband, Daniel, lay in the hospital, hanging by a thread. Being festive rated last on her ‘to do’ list.

Warmth spread throughout the room as the logs on the grate crackled and popped, chasing away the chill brought on by frigid temperatures and two feet of snow outside. Anne grew comfortable and tossed the paper aside. She picked up her white zinfandel and sipped it while reflecting on past holidays.

She always considered her life was full and blessed…until the diagnosis. Daniel never smoked a day in his life. How did he end up with throat cancer? Surely there were plenty of murderers or child molesters God could punish. Why her husband? He was the epitome of everything good.

Tears trickled down her cheeks, and she took a tissue from a nearby box and blotted her face. Hell couldn’t be any worse than watching Daniel waste away, suffering with every breath. The radiation and chemotherapy burned his throat and made it impossible for him to speak.  Seemed an eternity had passed since he flashed that smile she loved so much.

This was the first time in their married life she’d picked out and put up a Christmas tree without him. The anger festering inside made her want to rip it down, burn the gifts, and rant at the Lord for the unfairness, but…

A blast of cold air blew into the room as the door opened. “Hey, Mom, sorry, I’m late, but I stayed after school to finish up a science project.”

A smaller version of her mother, fourteen-year-old Casey slugged inside, stamping her feet on the rug in the foyer to clear the flakes from her boots. Peeling off her coat, she tackled the layer of sweaters beneath. “Boy, it is freezing out there.”

She opened the hall closet and hung everything inside, then turned to her mother with an arched brow. “Do you realize it’s the second week of December and we’re the only house on the block without outside decorations?”

Anne took a sip of wine to hide a grimace. “I know, dear. I just haven’t been in the mood this year.” She looked at her daughter and sighed. Casey was the only reason Anne hadn’t cracked under the stress.

Casey crossed the room and perched on the chair’s arm. “I can help put up the lights, Mom. All we need is a ladder. Dad left the little hooks up from last year.”

Anne shook her head. “We’ll do just fine without lights, Casey. Besides…” She stared into her lap, her eyes blurred with unbidden tears.

“Dad’s going to get better and come home, so why are you acting like he’s gone?” Casey stood and pulled her lips into pout. “You know how much he enjoys the holidays.” Her chocolate eyes glistened in the firelight, her tone demanded an answer.

Anne rose, walked to the mantle and picked up a filigreed picture frame. Looking upon Daniel’s smiling face sent pain stabbing at her heart. The photograph had been taken the year they went to Maui. Now thin and gaunt, he barely resembled the man she saw. It’d been weeks since he’d even acknowledged her presence in the hospital room.

She put the photo back and turned to her daughter. “Casey, I just can’t muster up any Christmas spirit. Your dad isn’t doing very well and I don’t feel very festive.” She returned to her chair and downed the rest of her wine, hoping it would numb her worried mind.

Casey peered down at her. “I know if Dad was standing here, he’d be disappointed that you’ve lost faith. Why have we gone to church all these years if you can’t trust God to take care of things?” She spun and stomped out of the room.

Anne pondered the question. Why couldn’t she trust God? The answer was easy. He’d allowed Dan to get sick in the first place. She stood and wandered into the kitchen, her wine glass in hand. After pouring a re-fill, she gazed out the window over the sink at the drifts of snow in the backyard. The old tire swing Casey used to love still hung from a giant branch now devoid of leaves. The setting sun was lost behind a gray wintry haze, and everything looked frozen. While her mind questioned God’s motives, Anne watched until the last trace of daylight disappeared and darkness fell.

She picked up her goblet and started to turn from the window, but a flash of light caught her eye. Too bright at first, it soon softened, and Anne blinked in disbelief.

The shimmering outline of an angel, dressed all in white, appeared just outside the glass. A glowing halo shone brightly above her head, and the assuring smile on her face sent a peaceful feeling coursing through Anne’s body.

The entity raised her arms, and as if by magic, an orb of light floated from her hands and rose into the heavens. Anne’s gaze followed the star’s trail as it climbed higher, illuminating the yard, the trees, the swing, and the old storage shed in the corner where Dan kept the gardening tools. Anne thought to call her daughter to witness the scene, but couldn’t find the voice to do it. She stood rooted to the spot, her eyes fixed on the wonder outside.

The heavenly creature floated a few feet above the ground and gestured toward the sky. The gray haze was gone and a canopy of stars twinkled above. One stood out above the rest, sending a blaze of light flashing to the ground. In the snowdrift just beyond the trees, Anne beheld another wonder. Unveiled one letter at a time, an invisible hand seemed to etch the glowing word ‘believe’ into the blanket of white. Anne gasped, trying to call out for Casey, but the image, along with the angel, vanished as quickly as they’d appeared. The stars still twinkled brightly overhead, but the yard turned dark again.  Her mouth agape, Anne marveled at lightness in her heart.
***


Casey sat at the desk in her room. Christmas music played softly on her radio, and she struggled to concentrate on her homework.  How could she possibly focus on school when things at home were so depressing? She couldn’t bear to think of life without her dad, and it hurt that her mother had all but given up on his getting better.

With a sigh, Casey stood and walked to the bookshelf across the room. She searched the shelves until she found her Bible. She thumbed through the index, looking for verses pertaining to hope and found Proverbs 3:3-4. Turning to the passage, she read:

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

She’d barely finished when she heard a strange noise coming from downstairs—a heavy thumping sound. Her put her Bible back in its place and tilted her ear to listen. She heard it again. Casey opened her door and the sound became louder. “Mom, what is that,” she called out.

When she received no answer, Casey went to investigate. The noise had stopped but she couldn’t find her mom. She walked through the entire house only to find it empty. A half-filled wine glass sat near the easy chair, but no sight of her mother.

The thumping began again—close and right outside. The porch light cast a strange-looking shadow on the front window. Casey grasped the knob and opened the door just a crack. She saw a ladder and a pair of legs from the knees down. She recognized the fur-lined boots.

“Mom, what are you doing up there?” Casey walked to the edge of the porch and peered up.

Bundled against the weather, her mother hammered at the wooden eave. “I’m putting up Christmas lights. Some of the hooks are loose and I’m tightening them. How about if you get a coat on and check the bulbs in the next strand while I finish hanging these.”

“But… I thought…” Forgetting the cold, Casey picked up a coiled cord and began unraveling it.

“I know, I know. I lost faith for a while,” her mother glanced down and nodded,” but for some strange reason, I’ve found it again. I have a strong feeling that Dad is coming home and we need to be ready.”

Casey smiled up at her mother. “Let me get my coat and I’ll be right back. Tomorrow we can put up the manger scene in the yard.”

“Good idea.” Anne went back to pounding.

Casey paused for a moment and looked to heaven. Her mind wandered to her last week's Sunday School lesson. Make A Joyful Noise Unto the Lord - Psalm 100. "Who would've thought hammering could qualify?" she muttered, then smiled.  Humming “Silent Night,” she headed for the coat closet.  For the first time in weeks, she enjoyed feeling a sense of peace that magnified the joy of the holiday.  Faith would bind their family together; love would sustain them.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A True Christmas Miracle 2010

.
The phone call came in at 6:00 a.m. or rather phone tag, as family called and their lines were busy when we tried to call them back.  My husband grabbed my shoulder as I shook, imagining what could make this ruddy Irishman turn stark white.
Then he said they’d been shot; Patty, his beloved sister, my sister-in-law whom I insisted wear fuschia satin to my wedding, and her husband, who not only provided the gorgeous town car for our wedding, but chauffeured as well and gave us the reception hall as a wedding gift.  Their lives passed before my eyes like watching my favorite movies again.  Then Paul said Deirdre, their daughter, my niece, had been shot as well but she was still breathing. My God, if ever there was a time I prayed, this was it.
Somehow I managed to delay my grief and focus on my niece.  DeeDee had a chance.  The first twenty four hours were critical for swelling and brain damage.  I emailed everyone I knew asking for prayer, and prayer from their friends and their friend’s friends.  Our large family met in the crowded hallway at the ICU in one of the Boston hospitals. 
“What’s the word?” we asked as we blew in from the cold and moved through the throngs of people waiting, crying, grieving.
Twenty four hours. 
After that, she’d be pronounced brain dead and life support would be removed.  A “no resuscitation” order was already in place.   I had to see her.
I lost Paul in the crowd and found myself in the middle of an ICU room surrounded by beeping machines, two priests, DeeDee’s boyfriend,, her brother and two friends.  As I looked at DeeDee, as difficult as it was to see her hooked into every medical unit in the world, I knew she’d make it.  I claimed she’d make it.  I don’t think I allowed myself to think otherwise.  I wasn’t giving up.  Nor was anyone else.

DeeDee in the pink earrings and friend

She looked beautiful, even in her hospital fashion and Martian things sticking out of her head.  I touched her forehead and her feet and she pressed on my hand.  The nurse said that was merely reflex, brain stem activity - primal.  They have to say that – I knew it was more.  The brain scan showed damage to both sides of the brain.  If she lived, it might not be a good thing as her quality of life would be severely compromised.  Still I said no in my heart.  My DeeDee would make it.  She would live and this would change.  They said not to get out hopes up.  Too late, mine were soaring.
The following day they gave her another twenty four hours because she hadn’t improved but she hadn’t gotten any worse.  Others cried.  But some of us figured we had more time for a miracle.
The days blurred together trying to piece together what happened, to making sure we ate and slept because we were all in hyper-drive pulling for her.  Notes poured in from all over the world that friends were praying for DeeDee, too, and sending healing thoughts her way.  We took them all, holding onto them like they were deeds to a house we were making sure the bank gave us. One asked for a Christmas Miracle, I think it was Charlie Volneks’s.  And I thought, yes, that is what we need!
The one thing ringing through my heart was God made DeeDee, he could very well re-make her if he had to.  Others prepared me for the worst as I prepared them for the best.
And then it came.
Our Christmas Miracle.
The original ct scan showed so much damage, we had been called in that first day to say goodbye to her.  The second ct scan showed none of the shrapnel or bone shards had touched her frontal lobe where all regular voluntary life functions come from.  Would she be able to speak?  Yes.  Would she be able to walk?  Yes.  Would she be able to have a normal life?  Of course. It will be awhile, but she will recover completely - the term “complete reversal” was used.  And, of course - Miracle.
When I visited her she woke up and looked at me straight in the eyes.  Her face screwed up and tears came down her face as she tried to speak through the tubes in her mouth.  I knew she was telling me the story and rubbed her arm and told her to rest.  There will be time enough for talking.  She blinked and relaxed, focusing on my eyes.  DeeDee, I said, You can do this.  Every day when you wake up you will feel awful and they will give you pain meds for that but every day is one step closer to feeling better.  She blinked again and seemed to nod.  I prayed for the trauma to break off her and leave in it’s wake a feeling of security.  While her world has been upended in the worst way, love has come from everywhere to fill the gap for her.  Reminding me that often in extreme darkness is when we see light shine the brightest. 
Yesterday she grabbed her uncle’s hand and tried to talk to him as well.  Today I’ll visit her and rub her feet again and feel that first familiar press against my palm.  DeeDee is there, she is awake and aware even if she can’t always say so and she is way beyond primal functionality. 
Whatever men may say, even the best, most educated and experienced, none compare with the one who Christmas is all about, the Great Physician, the Miracle Worker. 
Today we will say goodbye to her parents at their funerals until we see them again in Heaven and Hello to our DeeDee who, along with her brother, give us the spitting images of them.  While we’ve lost Patty and Billy temporarily in this life, we find them again in the hearts and smiles of their children.  That is a double Christmas Miracle.
God bless you all who’ve prayed in any way that you have and please continue to do so.  Life is what Christmas is all about.  Please spend a moment or two hugging someone in honor of DeeDee who is fighting so valiantly to stay with us.  There are many kinds of miracles.  While this one is quite dramatic, I wish you the miracles you need this Christmas Season.
With love and blessings, Merry Christmas!


Photo credits: morguefile.com and Facebook folder

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Miracles: A Parting Statement by Kayla from LURKERS

Do you believe in Christmas miracles? A week ago, I would have said no. But then again, I didn't believe that the Apocalypse really would come on December 21st, 2012.

But now, seeing that all of the adults in Toronto -- no, wait. All of the adults in the world! -- have gone missing, I really want to start believing in Christmas miracles.

Because how long are we supposed to still survive without our parents? Yeah, I'm sixteen (almost), but I don't have a job. Even if I was making money, the stores aren't open to buy food. Some people are taking it anyway, but that's wrong, right?

I bet right about now, you're wondering who "we" is. Not only am I in charge of surviving through gang fights, our house burning down, and discovering how to make everything right again, but I'm also saddled with my eight-year-old brother. My eight-year-old diabetic brother. After the disaster with our house, I don't know how I'm going to be able to care for him. I don't even know anything about his diabetes! Mom always handled that sort of thing, and I didn't have to.

So yeah, right about now, I need a Christmas miracle. I guess Jackson is something of a miracle in himself. I mean, we're so lucky we met him. Not only does he know a whole lot more about Josh's illness than I do, but he's our best bet of finding out what happened. He's this scientific genius, after all. If only his creepy cousin Morris wasn't hanging around all the time...

More than anything, I want a real Christmas miracle to come knocking on our door. What will we do if our parents aren't back by December 25th?

Do you believe in Christmas miracles?


-Kayla, from Lurkers


Lindsay Below writes young adult and middle grade fiction. Her young adult science-fiction novel, Lurkers is due for release from MuseItUp on July 1st, 2011, followed shortly by her middle grade novel, Same Old Lie. Visit her online at www.lbelow.net

Twelve Baked Goods of Christmas - Recipe 12: Christmas Morning Crepes

Alright, you caught me. This isn't technically a baked good. But who doesn't like to eat something sweet on Christmas morning? Personally, crepes are my favorite dish. They're also my specialty, and they can suit anyone's tastes, since you can put anything inside them.

Now the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
butter or oil to grease pan

Please note: If you're making this for a family of four or more, you might want to consider doubling or tripling the recipe. This one only makes about 12 crepes, and I've found that 12 is almost never enough!

Instructions:

Measure flour, sugar, baking powder, salt into a bowl. Stir in milk, eggs, and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

Grease a frying pan with butter or cooking oil. I use canola, personally. Using a ladle, pour about 1/4 cup of batter into pan. Tilt pan until batter covers the bottom (these will be thin -- you want them to be!). As the crepe cooks, make sure to jostle the pan a bit to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom. It should slide easily. When lightly browned, flip the crepe with a spatula (I own an extra-huge spatula for this because my flipping talents are zilch). When other side is browned, remove from heat and put on a plate (repeat until batter is gone).

Now this is the fun part! Bring out the jellies, jams, peanut butter, nutella, honey, fresh fruit, whipped cream, chocolate syrup, maple syrup -- you name it. Fill crepe with spreads, fresh fruit, custard, or cream (or nothing at all, like my mother enjoys them), roll it up tightly and drizzle with syrup. For a festive touch, bring out the crushed candy cane to sprinkle on top!

These are a delightfully sinful breakfast food that the whole family will love. I'm salivating just thinking about it.

Happy holidays everyone!


Lindsay Below writes young adult and middle grade fiction. Her young adult science-fiction novel, Lurkers is due for release from MuseItUp on July 1st, 2011, followed shortly by her middle grade novel, Same Old Lie. Visit her online at www.lbelow.net.

Twelve Baked Goods of Christmas - Recipe 11: Peppermint Cheese Cake

Ingredients:



1 cup Honey Maid Graham Crumbs
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp butter, melted

3 pkg. Cream Cheese, softened
3 eggs
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract

1/2 cup crushed candy canes



Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Mix crumbs, 3 tbsp. sugar and butter; press firmly onto bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes.

Beat cream cheese, sugar, and peppermint extract with electric mixer.  Add eggs, one at a time. Pour over baked crust.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until center is almost set. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes. Run knife rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim. Refrigerate 4 hrs.

Enjoy!


Lindsay Below writes young adult and middle grade fiction. Her young adult science-fiction novel, Lurkers is due for release from MuseItUp on July 1st, 2011, followed shortly by her middle grade novel, Same Old Lie. Visit her online at www.lbelow.net

Twelve Baked Goods of Christmas - Recipe 10: Ginger Peppermint Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup crushed candy cane
granulated (white) sugar


Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Cream brown sugar, shortening, vanilla, and egg. Stir in ginger, flour, baking soda, and salt. Fold in crushed candy cane.

Shape dough into one-inch balls. Roll in granulated (white) sugar before placing on cookie sheet (I always spray my cookie sheet with cooking spray). Flatten with fork or flat-bottomed glass, greased and dipped in granulated sugar.

Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove to cooling rack.

Enjoy!

Lindsay Below writes young adult and middle grade fiction. Her young adult science-fiction novel, Lurkers is due for release from MuseItUp on July 1st, 2011, followed shortly by her middle grade novel, Same Old Lie. Visit her online at www.lbelow.net

Twelve Baked Goods of Christmas - Recipe 9: Peppermint Twist Brownies

These are the best brownies EVER. Make them all year round (just omit the crushed candy cane).

Ingredients:

7 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 cup butter
3 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup flour
1 pkg. chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon salt


Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. 

Melt butter in microwave. Stir in cocoa. Add sugar and eggs.  Stir in flour.

Spread in a 13x9-inch pan.   Sprinkle (liberally) with chocolate chips.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Once cooled, add frosting as below:


Frosting Ingredients:

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup cocoa
2 cups confectioners' (icing) sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp milk

Instructions:

Melt butter in microwave. Stir in chocolate and vanilla. Blend in sugar. Add milk until icing is spreading consistency.


Frost brownies. Sprinkle with crushed candy cane, as desired.

Enjoy!


Lindsay Below writes young adult and middle grade fiction. Her young adult science-fiction novel, Lurkers is due for release from MuseItUp on July 1st, 2011, followed shortly by her middle grade novel, Same Old Lie. Visit her online at www.lbelow.net

Twelve Baked Goods of Christmas - Recipe 8: Chocolate Peppermint Roll

I'll be perfectly honest with you, this is just a chocolate roll with crushed candy canes mixed into the whipping cream. I thought about adding peppermint jelly (2/3 cup) instead of the whipping cream, but that didn't appeal much to me, so I decided on something simpler this year. If you'd like to try it with a white roll instead of chocolate, just omit the cocoa.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup whipped cream
     crushed candy cane
     confectioners' (icing) sugar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line jelly roll pan (15 1/2x10 1/2x1 inch) with aluminum foil or wax paper; grease. In a pinch, a cookie sheet works fine for this.

Stir flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Beat eggs in mixer bowl for 5 mins or until very thick and the color of lemons. Gradually beat in sugar. On low speed, blend in water and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture, beating just until batter is smooth. Pour into pan, making sure to spread into corners.

Bake 12 to 15 mins or until pick inserted into center comes out clean. While baking, prepare a clean dishtowel by sprinkling it with confectioners' sugar. Loosen cake from edges of pan and overturn onto the towel. Carefully remove the foil/wax paper. If necessary, trim off stiff edges.

While hot, roll cake in towel. This is so that it will be easier to roll once cooled. Cool on a wire rack.

Unroll cake, remove towel. Stir crushed peppermint into whipped cream. Spread whipped cream over cake. Roll. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Enjoy!

Lindsay Below writes young adult and middle grade fiction. Her young adult science-fiction novel, Lurkers is due for release from MuseItUp on July 1st, 2011, followed shortly by her middle grade novel, Same Old Lie. Visit her online at www.lbelow.net.

Twelve Baked Goods of Christmas - Recipe 7: Sugar Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

This is a great snack to make with the kids. I used to love to make sugar cookies with my mom -- and who doesn't love ice cream?


Ingredients:

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Ice cream

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Cream shortening, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Blend in flour, baking powder, and salt.

Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

Roll out dough on lightly floured board. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters (or, if you don't have any, the rims of wine glasses or champagne flutes work in a pinch). Make sure these shapes are symmetrical for best results. Place on cookie sheet (I always spray my cookie sheets with cooking spray) and sprinkle with colored sprinkles (I use red and green). Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until light brown. Remove to cooling rack.

Freeze cookies for at least 1 hr, or until firm. Once frozen, spread ice cream between two cookies. Press together and freeze again. Serve cold.


Vanilla ice cream works great with this recipe, or if you can find a holiday favorite (such as candy cane or eggnog), that will also help to make it festive!


Enjoy!

 Lindsay Below writes young adult and middle grade fiction. Her young adult science-fiction novel, Lurkers is due for release from MuseItUp on July 1st, 2011, followed shortly by her middle grade novel, Same Old Lie. Visit her online at www.lbelow.net.

Twelve Baked Goods of Christmas - Recipe 6: Eggs-in-a-Nest

This one is my boyfriend's favorite (though I'm not a big fan of marshmallows).

Ingredients:

1/2 cup melted butter
5 tbsp cocoa
1 can condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup graham wafer crumbs
1 cup rolled oats
1 & 1/2 cups coconut
Approximately 30 large marshmallows


Instructions:

Mix together all ingredients but the marshmallows and coconut.

Coat each marshmallow in the mixture, then roll in coconut.

Freeze for at least 4 hrs (or overnight). Remove from freezer and cut in half with a sharp knife.

Enjoy!


Lindsay Below writes young adult and middle grade fiction. Her young adult science-fiction novel, Lurkers is due for release from MuseItUp on July 1st, 2011, followed shortly by her middle grade novel, Same Old Lie. Visit her online at www.lbelow.net.  

Twelve Baked Goods of Christmas - Recipe 5: Christmas Pinwheel Cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened
1 cup confectioners' (icing) sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups flour
2 tsp peppermint extract
red or green food coloring


Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Cream butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir in flour until evenly mixed.

Remove half of dough. Add peppermint extract and food coloring (whichever color desired) to other half of dough; mix well.


Divide dough into four balls: two white, two colored. If dough seems too soft for rolling, refrigerate 10 mins. Roll out each ball into 8x12-inch rectangle. Place colored rectangle on top of white rectangle and lightly press together. Then tightly roll the two rectangles into a roll. Repeat with the other two balls. 

Chill for one hour. After dough is firm, slice into thin (1/4-1/2 inch) slices and place on cookie sheet (I always spray my cookie sheets with cooking spray). Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown. Sprinkle with crushed peppermint if desired. Remove to cooling rack.

Enjoy!


Lindsay Below writes young adult and middle grade fiction. Her young adult science-fiction novel, Lurkers is due for release from MuseItUp on July 1st, 2011, followed shortly by her middle grade novel, Same Old Lie. Visit her online at www.lbelow.net

Twelve Baked Goods of Christmas - Recipe 4: Low Fat Jell-O Candy Cane Cake

Note: This recipe makes two cakes. It is doubled up to accommodate for the shape of the cake.

Ingredients:

2 cake flavored cake mixes** (Lemon or Orange is best, though they're not particularly Christmas-y)
8 eggs (or a low-fat egg substitute)
1 1/2 cups vegetable/canola oil

2 pkgs Jell-O (flavor to match the flavor of the cake mix: Lemon/Orange, etc.)
2 cups boiling water.


**It is very important that you use cake mixes. I baked this from scratch once and it didn't turn out right


Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Blend cake mix, eggs, and oil. In a separate bowl, prepare Jell-O with boiling water (please note that the additional 1 cup cool water stated on the package is not necessary). Add gradually to cake mix and stir well.

Pour half the cake mix into a 9x13 pan. Pour the other half into a bunt pan (I'm lucky enough to own a flat-topped bunt pan; this works well).

Bake for 20-25 mins or until center springs back when touched.

Let cool. Once cool, cut the 9x13 cake in half lengthwise. Cut the bunt cake in half as well. Arrange the half-circle cake at the top of one 9x13 strip (please note: you'll need a long pan for this. A strip of cardboard wrapped in tin foil or wax paper works well as a substitute). Repeat with the second cake.

Frost with cool whip or dream whip. If desired, sprinkle crushed candy cane over the dream whip for the stripes.

Enjoy!

Lindsay Below writes young adult and middle grade fiction. Her young adult science-fiction novel, Lurkers is due for release from MuseItUp on July 1st, 2011, followed shortly by her middle grade novel, Same Old Lie. Visit her online at www.lbelow.net

Twelve Baked Goods of Christmas - Recipe 3: Peppermint Apple Crumble

Sounds like an odd combination, doesn't it? Well, I'm on a candy cane kick this year, so try it if you dare!

Ingredients:

6 medium apples, sliced (6 cups)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup butter or margarine
crushed peppermint candy cane


Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Spread apples in an 8-inch square pan (I always spray this with cooking spray).

Mix brown sugar, flour, oats, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over apples.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender when pierced with fork. Sprinkle with crushed candy cane. Serve warm with ice cream if desired.

Note: Butterscotch candy canes also make this a delight. Personally, I like it better but it's just not as festive, is it?


Lindsay Below writes young adult and middle grade fiction. Her young adult science-fiction novel, Lurkers is due for release from MuseItUp on July 1st, 2011, followed shortly by her middle grade novel, Same Old Lie. Visit her online at www.lbelow.net

Twelve Baked Goods of Christmas - Recipe 2: Microwavable Fudge

This is the best fudge recipe I've come across. Of course, it's also the one that my mother makes, so that could be why :)

Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter, softened
2/3  cup  Carnation evaporated miilk
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups icing sugar
1  teaspoon vanilla
1/2   cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions:

Mix butter, brown sugar and milk in large microwavable bowl.

Cook on high in the microwave for 10 minutes, stopping every two minutes to stir.

Let stand for 5 minutes.  Add icing sugar, vanilla and nuts and mix with electric mixer until smooth.  Pour into pan, let cool and enjoy!

Note: Make sure all measurements are exact for best results. Press down gently on brown sugar and icing sugar when measuring. Replace walnuts with crushed candy cane for a festive touch.

Lindsay Below writes young adult and middle grade fiction. Her young adult science-fiction novel, Lurkers is due for release from MuseItUp on July 1st, 2011, followed shortly by her middle grade novel, Same Old Lie. Visit her online at www.lbelow.net

Twelve Baked Goods of Christmas - Recipe 1: Candy Cane Cookies

This has always been a holiday favorite of mine -- and it's a perfect thing to do with the kids! I know I always loved to make these cookies with my mom. And the recipe:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup confectioners' (icing) sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red food color
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy cane
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar


Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Mix butter, shortening, confectioners' sugar, egg, almond extract, and vanilla. Blend in flour and salt.

Divide dough in half; mix red food coloring into one half.

Shape 1 tsp dough from each half into 4-inch ropes. (Hint: Roll on lightly floured board for smooth, even ropes.) Place ropes side by side. Pressing the tips together, twine the two ropes together and press together lightly. Set on cookie sheet (I always spray cookie sheets with cooking spray), and curve top of rope to form candy cane handle.

Bake 7-10 minutes or until very light brown. Mix crushed candy cane and granulated sugar. Sprinkle cookies with sugar mix and remove to cooling rack.

Enjoy!


Lindsay Below writes young adult and middle grade fiction. Her young adult science-fiction novel, Lurkers is due for release from MuseItUp on July 1st, 2011, followed shortly by her middle grade novel, Same Old Lie. Visit her online at www.lbelow.net

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Writing Comedy

Writing Comedy
by
Heather Haven 

In my far-off youth and for as long as I can remember, the heart of a comedy writer lurked inside of me. I wanted nothing more than to be writing funny quips for people, like Woody Allen did for Sid Caesar on Your Show Of Shows. Just to make it clear, I wasn’t nearly as impressed by Allen’s fore into his own comedy shows, record albums or even the movies in which he starred. What impressed me most was when he wrote words for performers that made an audience laugh. I couldn’t imagine a greater existence.

I got my wish on one of my very first jobs as a writer in New York City writing for No Soap Radio. As the name implies, we wrote funny ads and commercials for radio, worked with talented actors, and got paid a weekly salary! Does it get any better than that? Of course, the weekly stipend was so little I often had to decide if I would pay my rent or the phone bill, but by golly, I was a comedy writer.

It was a short-lived chapter of my life, hardly more than a year, but I learned a lot. Among other things, I learned some words are automatically funnier than others, like words beginning with the letter ‘k.’

Possibly that’s why we have the long, illustrious lineage of the Earl of Orange and not the Earl of Kumquat. If an earl had been called the latter, it might have exacted a few chuckles from the serfs. Back in the Middle Ages, it didn’t due to snicker at an earl. He might lop off your head, bed your wife, sell your children, take your livestock, and burn down your thatched-roofed cottage. Not that peerage always did those sorts of things, but I’ve heard stories.

I’ve learned it’s best not to upset the powers that be by calling them any word beginning with the letter ‘k.’ Except for maybe the word ‘king.’ For some reason, being called a king doesn’t seem to bother anybody. Although to hear Robin Hood tell it, King John was a bad ‘un and it might have had something to do with the letter ‘k.’ If R.H. was still around, we could ask him.

But I seem to be riffing here. Comedy writers tend to do that. Start with a subject and see where it lands you. Where was I? Hmmmm. Ah! 

Happy Holidays, everybody! Nothing funny about that. See? No ‘k.’

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Day A Jewish Girl Discovered Christmas!





The Day a Jewish Girl Discovered Christmas

When I was a little girl growing up in Brooklyn my family celebrated Chanukah and so did all of my Jewish friends. In the fifties celebrating Chanukah meant lighting the candles each night on the menorah, eating latkes my mother had made and spinning the dreidel I got on the first night for a present. Along with the dreidel I might have gotten chocolate gelt (coins) wrapped in gold paper or new mittens in one big package. So each night there was no inviting tree, no presents in brightly colored paper and bows and no Christmas cookies. There were only the brightly colored candles filling the menorah and the spinning dreidel.

I used to long for Christmas things. I wanted to have my place decorated and a big tree in the middle with colored lights and tinsel and presents underneath in patterned shiny paper with big bows. Don’t get me wrong. I liked Chanukah. What child wouldn’t love being given a present each night? I liked watching the lighted candles and I liked the story behind it of Judah Maccabee and how he and his sons saved the temple when the Romans destroyed and desecrated it. In Sunday school I learned how the Maccabees cleaned up the temple and found oil to keep the eternal lamp burning. But they thought it would only burn for one day. Instead it burned for eight days. This was such a miracle it was decided to have a holiday to celebrate The Festival of Lights or Chanukah. But I wanted the thrill of seeing that lighted Christmas tree.

My friend, Geraldine Potenza, whose father was our superintendent, told me about her Christmas tree so much that my mouth was drooling from needing to see it. So she invited me to her apartment and when we opened the door it was instant Christmas. As we walked into the place the first thing you saw was this beautiful, lighted and decorated fresh evergreen that filled the small living room with a pine odor as if I were in a pine forest. The tree was magical with bubbling lights and small colored ones. Everyone’s presents were under the tree and Christmas music was playing. Until I went to Disneyland later in my life I never had such an experience. And for a few minutes as I sat in that pine scented room I understood what Christmas was all about for my friends.

That night when we lit the candles I celebrated the miracle of Chanukah and decided that though I didn’t believe in the why of Christmas I did love the joy of it. When I got married my husband and I decided to get a tree and celebrate Christmas since though he was Jewish too, his family had a tree every year. So we decorated it and we exchanged presents as well as celebrating Chanukah. But when I saw the tree actually decorated and in my home it wasn’t the same. We never had a Christmas tree again, though when we had children, we did celebrate Christmas with stockings and a big present. My daughters and I would put out the milk and cookies for Santa and I’d read The Night Before Christmas to my youngest daughter. Then in the morning they would wake to stuffed stockings and the present they had asked Santa for underneath the stockings. Of course, the milk and cookies were gone.:)

The Glasses: A Christmas Story



The Glasses
by Rebecca Ryals Russell


            Susie jumped up and down on her skinny ten-year-old legs. “Can we get one for our shared-room, Mommy? Please? I love watching the colored lights flashing from my bed at night.” She looked up with puppy-dog eyes.
            Jeannie smiled, “I suppose. You mind, Josh? Lenny?” she asked the twins. At fifteen they seldom cared about anything but she still made it a point to ask. The red-headed twins shook their heads without raising eyes from the eGame they were occupied with at the moment.
            “You boys coming?” Jeannie asked, her green eyes hopeful. They shook their heads in unison. She sighed.
            Several hours later they arrived home with four magnificent fir trees. Each a lush ten feet tall. Mathew placed them into the stands and he and Jeannie put them into place in each room. The first went into the kids’ Shared room, where the boys still played their game. The second went into the dining room centered in a bay window. The third was placed in the family entertainment room beside the wall-screen.

            Susie squealed with joy as they brought out the boxes of decorations, placing a set beside each tree. She dug into the kids’ boxes and began decorating ‘her’ tree, glaring often at the lazy twins who ignored her.
            Jeannie & Mathew placed the last tree, the loveliest, into its traditional place beside the fireplace in the living room. The room was Jeannie’s favorite because of all of the memories it held. She studied the various collectible figurines remembering the occasions connected with each. Mathew wrapped his warm arms around her, nuzzled her neck and whispered, “I love you.” She squeezed him back.
            By dinner time all of the trees except the living room had been decorated and stood in multicolored glory in darkened rooms.
            The next day Susie and Jeannie began the annual baking marathon. For several days they holed up in the kitchen clattering and chattering as incredible aromas emanated forth. Occasionally Susie would stroll through the house carrying a small platter of sweets for the men to try, but none were allowed to enter the kitchen under penalty of a shrill tongue lashing. After a week the two emerged and the stacks of Christmas tins filled with every conceivable convection, stood testament to their efforts. Susie carefully doled the treats daily making sure to keep plenty for Christmas Day when extended family would arrive.
            Now that the main trees were decorated and baking done, the women decided it was time to decorate outside. The twins begrudgingly turned off their game and sullenly followed Mathew to the attic where they hauled out bins of additional decorations. The girls watched while the men hung wreaths and exterior lights on the eaves and trees.

            After dark Susie turned off the lights inside and out. Mathew flipped the breaker and, as usual, they all gasped at the breathtaking display of colored lights and moving figures scattered across the yard and roof. Peeking from every window electric candles flickered and tiny figures waved at passersby.  Susie clapped and danced a jig, swinging first on Jeannie’s arm then Mathew’s. She avoided the twins who stood emotionlessly watching her.
            The next day Susie sent virtual Christmas cards to everyone she knew. Then she holed up in her bedroom making and wrapping presents for everyone coming over the holidays. The twins took a few minutes to wrap their few gifts for the family. Jeannie even took advantage of the quiet to wrap her gifts as well. Each tree received a sprinkling of colorful boxes and bags glittering invitingly in the dancing lights.
            The following day was Christmas Eve. The house began to fill with guests as extended family arrived. Parades blared on entertainment screens throughout the house.  Jeannie, Susie and others again clattered and banged in the kitchen creating enticing aromas that drew the men only to get shoved back until time to eat. Carols rang out via speakers in the kitchen and the women sang along.  The men gathered to watch sporting events on the wall screen.
            Mid-afternoon the long dining table filled to bursting with every traditional food the women could remember. The smells drifted into the entertainment room drawing the men to the table even before Susie could yell at them to come eat. Everyone stood for a moment staring in awe at the abundance and praying. Then the room was filled with a cacophony of laughter, clanking silver on china and light banter. Susie glanced at Jeannie who was beaming red from the heat of the kitchen as well as the pleasure of the moment. Susie grinned and laughed, too.

            Around midnight Jeannie and Mathew sat in the silent living room holding hands. She playfully plopped her legs over his.
            “Another wonderful Christmas,” she sighed.
            “Yep. You’re wonderful,” he kissed her. “Ready?”
            They rose and slowly began decorating the final tree. As each layer of lights or decorations went on, they nibbled at the picnic spread on a blanket before the blazing fire. They cuddled and laughed softly. This was their private Christmas moment. Once the tree was finished, they lay on the blanket in the soft glow of the fire and colored lights.
            “Merry Christmas, Mathew,” Jeannie whispered. “I love you.”
            “I love you, too.”
           
            A silver-haired old woman sits on the crumbled steps of a building, long collapsed and decaying. Weeds and grasses have overgrown the shapes of structures creating a soft vista from the once rugged hardscape. The entire city as far as she can see is flattened and empty. She is alone.
Her watery gray eyes cloud over as she lifts the glasses to her face again. She pushes the tiny red button at the side. Instantly a soft light fills her eyes and she sees a skinny ten-year-old version of herself hopping up and down with excitement as she asks her mother for a Christmas tree of her own. A slow smile spreads across the wrinkled leathery face.

      Rebecca Ryals Russell is a MG/YA Fantasy Author. Her debut novel Odessa, Book 1 of the YA Seraphym Wars Series is due out April 2011 by MuseItUp Publishing. Book 1 of the MG Stardust Warriors Series, Zarena is due out July 2011 by MuseItUp Publishing. Check her website at Official Website of Rebecca Ryals Russell, Author for more about other upcoming releases as well as her WIP.



Sunday, December 12, 2010

December Babies, By LJ Holmes

December Babies



By


LJ Holmes






My first e-book, SANTA IS A LADY released from Muse It Up Publishing...

...on December 1st and I have a lot in common with my main character Angie Brightwell. Like Angie I LOVE the magic of Christmas and decorating to my heart’s content. (Follow the link below to my cover blog for SANTA IS A LADY for some pretty spectacular pictures of Christmas splendor.)






I am the third of four children and the only girl. The two brothers older than me were born in October and November with me following in December. One would think, giving this pecking order that my youngest brother would have been born in January, but of course that was not to be. HE was born in September.






September, October, and November…you can bet your bottom dollar and win the grand prize, that the brothers always got really, really great gifts on their birthdays, but me…well my birthday is JUST thirteen days before Christmas, so my birthday had to be balanced with the nearing expenditures of Christmas.





I know there are a lot of December babies out there who can relate to being somewhat underappreciated on their birthdays with Christmas looming so close. We get mittens, socks, and scarves while the others get stereos, television sets, and the like.






Given this you’d think I’d have developed a strong HATE of Christmas, but the fact is I love it. On my birthday despite the PRACTICAL presents, I got to go into the attic, bring down the boxes of outdoor and indoor decorations, and go wild creating my own winter wonderland. Growing up in a BIG house meant I had a HUGE canvas to work my luminary magic on.







I wish I had actual pictures to share of my maturing enchantment, but back in those days we only had regular cameras and I’m afraid when my Dad sold the house and moved to Florida, he got rid of much of the memorabilia. The above picture, though, is close to what I would create.






In the years since my childhood joy, the only thing I never scrimped on as I raised my two children alone and without outside help, was the Christmas decorations and presents…but again, I do not have pictures that show the extravaganza I created even in limited space. I can tell you that neighbors would snap pictures of what I made and send them to their relations in other Countries because I LOVED making Christmas come alive in sparkly magnificence. (I'd start in August, after all, so by Christmas I would have a Christmas showplace.)







I do have a few pictures of the outside at the very early stages of my creativity but it shows none of the glittering elegance when the lights were illuminated. I also have a few of the indoor, small, but well decorated artificial tree I and my children created shown in the two pictures above.






I have since stopped. One year we had some rabid squirrels trawling our complex.

Within fifteen minutes of my stringing my elaborate lights, they would attack and eat through them all. After spending over $100.00 within just one week, to replace their feeding frenzies, I gave up the war and declared defeat. (The only things they could not destroy were the heavy rope lights, but rope lights only allow you to be minimally creative.)






Since the kamikaze squirrels chewed apart my outside decorations,

the natural aging of this body has made inside decorating far too much of a challenge as well. No more teetering on porch railings while stretching to staple lights to the under-hangs. But I still LOVE the twinkling wonderment of Christmas...

...and, although I was born a December baby, Christmas will always be a magical time in my memories and my reality.






Merry Christmas Everyone










To Santa Is A Lady Cover blog, click on link...

http://linsownblog.blogspot.com/2010/07/cover-day-keeps-skeptics-away-quince.html

Friday, December 10, 2010

Far From Home World


The black of space serves as a perfect foil for memories of snow filled skies while the stars, so brightly shining, echo words from an ancient carol.



And the distance, unfathomable to planet-bound shepherds and beasts of burden, instills a longing for my cinnamon scented home filled with family, friends and the laughter of children.



Strange how scents, sounds, memories and tradition can tether a person
no matter how far they may roam.


*

*

*

But as I look away from all that I miss and love, I can’t help but sing to
the Almighty as, bearing gifts of praise and wonder, I too follow a star.



Well, what did you expect? I'm a science fiction writer.



Happy Holidays



The Fireborn Chronicles: Resonances

--Man, Machine & the Paranormal---

If destiny forges you to a task, is that slavery?