What Says #Christmas To You? by Karen Rose Smith




Holiday preparations can be frantic. Some years Thanksgiving and Christmas creep up on me until I realize time is short to choose presents, wrap them, bake and write my quota a day too. I find myself going through the motions some years until a particular Christmas tradition captures my attention and I stop to appreciate the season and all it means.


 
This year, Idina Menzel's Christmas CD hooked me into feeling the season. Once I listened to it, cookie baking took on a new fervor and more love went into each batch I mixed up. Since this is the first time our adopted cats Halo and Paddington heard music, it was fun to watch their reactions. When I sang along they might have thought I was another cat meowing! But eventually they realized music was just part of the preparations and they should sit on the rug and enjoy it rather than running from it.

I try to buy presents all year so I can choose the right gifts for friends and family. I like to wrap leisurely too, so I can enjoy the process.

When
the final package is mailed, I feel like Santa Claus. Watching close one's eyes light up or smiles break across their faces says "Christmas" to me.

Most of all family flying in for Christmas is what the holiday is about for us. Wreaths, shiny balls and Christmas carols pale in comparison to wrapping my arms around a loved one.

What says "Christmas" to you?







                                                            JAKE'S BRIDE on Amazon

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Halo's Kitten Paddington Turns Five Months Old Today by Karen Rose Smith





Miss Paddington -- Our Christmas Gift

Paddington is five months old today! She is friendly, happy go lucky and wants to be friends with everyone, cat or human. She especially loves to play. Each morning I lay out brown wrapping paper that came packed with cat food. She romps in it, sometimes with her mom Halo joining in. Lately, she is spending a lot of time watching the birds outside the windows. When she gets bored with that, she and our two-year-old cat Zoie play hide and seek with the bedspread hem (when Zoie isn't napping!).

Zoie and Paddy share a special moment.


Paddy and Halo share a hug.




















Halo is settling into our home after six months as if she finally realizes she belongs here. She seems to be able to accept affection more easily and purrs when we pet her. She and Paddington still have a tight bond. They snuggle and sleep together. But Paddington is spending more time apart from her mom, too. Paddy is our early Christmas gift that we'll cherish for years to come.


                                        














©2014 Karen Rose Smith













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New Release FOLLOWING HIS HEART by Donna Fasano Hosted by Karen Rose Smith





Following His Heart
by Donna Fasano
Series: Ocean City Boardwalk, #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: December 12, 2014



Sara Carson is a 30-something widow with a busy life. Two fun-loving best friends, a caring mom who needs her, and a thriving sweet shop. What more could a woman want? But when the ancient plumbing in her shop springs a leak and a gorgeous, dark-eyed stranger rushes to her rescue, hilarity unfolds—and Sara quickly sees exactly what she’s been missing.

Something most peculiar draws Landon Richards to Ocean City, Maryland—and to the lovely Sara. This woman touches his heart like no other, and the two of them explore the heady attraction that pulses between them. But haunting dreams have a way of encroaching on reality, and the strange phenomenon that brings these two together will also threaten to tear them apart.

This is the first book in the Ocean City Boardwalk Series, where life for three enterprising women, Sara, Heather, and Cathy, isn't just fun in the sun—love is waiting on those sandy shores!





USA Today Bestselling Author Donna Fasano has written over 30 romance and women's fiction books that have sold 4 million copies worldwide. Her books have won numerous awards and have been published in nearly 2 dozen languages.


 






©2014 Karen Rose Smith






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Peanut Butter Blossom Holiday #Cookies by Karen Rose Smith



I baked our first holiday favorite cookies today--Peanut Butter Blossoms. What better combination than peanut butter and chocolate buds? They're pretty, too, as well as delicious. This is a small batch--about 30 cookies. Perfect for any family or gathering. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

PEANUT BUTTER BLOSSOM COOKIES

36 chocolate buds--I used Wilbur's because I didn't have to unwrap! I use a mix of dark and milk chocolate
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons granulated sugar separate from above for rolling cookie balls

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. I line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Stir and set aside. In a large mixer bowl beat the shortening and peanut butter with an electric mixer until well-blended. Add 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla and beat until well blended. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture on low speed until it's combined.

Shape the dough into 1 inch balls and roll in the granulated sugar. Place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. When you remove the cookies from the oven, immediately set chocolate bud into the middle of the cookie. Cookies will make blossom shape. Remove the cookies with a spatula to a wire rack to cool completely. They take longer to cool than most cookies because the chocolate softens in the warm cookie and has to harden again before storing.

Makes about 30-36 cookies.

Have a wonderful holiday!

Email me at karen@karenrosesmith.com if you'd like to sign up for my newsletter. My January issue of IN TOUCH will have an original cookie recipe for my readers as well as cute kitty photos!

©2014 Karen Rose Smith



                              



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New Release: WICKEDLY WONDERFUL by Deborah Blake Hosted by Karen Rose Smith




Deborah Blake and I are friends. We "found" each other because of our mutual love of cats. She had five and I had four--all rescues. This summer when I took in a pregnant sick stray who had her litter in July, Deborah offered sage advice. We love our fur babies. And we love our work--writing. This week Deborah has a new release and I'd like you to give it a look.

Here is a taste of WICKEDLY WONDERFUL and Deborah.

Blurb...

Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them…

Though she looks like a typical California surfer girl, Beka Yancy is in fact a powerful yet inexperienced witch who’s struggling with her duties as a Baba Yaga. Luckily she has her faithful dragon-turned-dog for moral support, especially when faced with her biggest job yet…

A mysterious toxin is driving the Selkie and Mer from their homes deep in the trenches of Monterey Bay. To investigate, Beka buys her way onto the boat of Marcus Dermott, a battle-scarred former U.S. Marine, and his ailing fisherman father.

While diving for clues, Beka drives Marcus crazy with her flaky New Age ideas and dazzling blue eyes. She thinks he’s rigid and cranky (and way too attractive). Meanwhile, a charming Selkie prince has plans that include Beka. Only by trusting her powers can Beka save the underwater races, pick the right man, and choose the path she’ll follow for the rest of her life…



Deborah Blake has published seven books on modern witchcraft with Llewellyn Worldwide and has an ongoing column in Witches & Pagans Magazine.  When not writing, Deborah runs The Artisans' Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and also works as a jewelry maker, tarot reader, and energy healer. She lives in a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with five cats who supervise all her activities, both magical and mundane.





Deborah Blake links:


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Mason #Kitty at 18 Weeks in His New Home by Karen Rose Smith




I know my readers like to catch up with Halo's kittens and the progress they're making. This week Tia, Mason and Paddington are 18 weeks old!  That hardly seems possible. Tia is bonding tightly with her new family and is much loved.








Since Mason's new mom and dad sent me photos to post, I thought I'd give you an array of Mason pics this week.


As you can see from the first photo, Mason has bonded with his new brother.  They play and sleep together and are wonderful company for each other.  I'm sure Mason will bother his new sisters (who are older) until they love him too.  Cat relationships, like human ones, take time.  Others are instant connection.  Mason and his new brother seemed to have instant connection.

 Mason is a handsome boy!



Mason's new family loves him well.  We couldn't ask for more.


And just so you can peek in on Halo and Paddington...










Love is just a jingle bell away when a sexy toy store owner and a pretty job counselor travel the rocky road to love.


Can a marriage of convenience become a true marriage?  Jake and Sara find the meaning of Christmas in forgiveness.




 A doctor and a Wyoming cowgirl fall in love around the holidays.  Lucy's gift to Zack -- the real meaning of Christmas.


©2014 Karen Rose Smith






                           Karen's Facebook Author Page


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Hellish Haven by L.K. Below--a Dystopian Multicultural Romance








HELLISH HAVEN: A Dystopian Multicultural Romance
by L.K. Below

Two lives. Two realities. But only one truth.

The Senator reigns all-powerful in a manifested picture-perfect world. No worries. No wars. Only the unspoken threat of oblivion if you step a toe out of line. On the other side of the divide, the rebels face a debilitating war against an invulnerable robotic army. Every day is a struggle to earn back their freedoms. Freedom to feel. Freedom of speech. Freedom of thought.

Sergeant Grant Baker is pivotal to the war effort. But ever since his wife’s abduction, he’s been walking around in as much of a daze as the Senator’s brainwashed citizens. Then Eva reappears—without memories of him or their son. And he’s willing to do anything to keep her. Even if it means jeopardizing the war.

Eva doesn’t know which side to believe. Her predictable life as a single nurse, or the man claiming to be her husband. All she knows is she needs to discover how to end the war, quickly. If she doesn’t choose sides soon, she may lose the man—and the life—she never knew she wanted.


INTERVIEW with L.K. Below

When did you first begin writing?

The first time I can recall putting pen to paper to craft a story was in the third grade, for a school project. Needless to say, I loved it, and from that moment forth started keeping notebooks with stories and worlds of my own.

What was the first story you ever wrote? Did it teach you anything relevant to your writing today?

The first story I wrote, for that school project in third grade, was about a pet dinosaur named Kooky who I lost and later found in my sock drawer. At that time, my friend had challenged me to write the most pages, a challenge which I lost. But I also continued the story past the natural stopping point. If I had ended the story upon finding Kooky the first time, I would have had a full-fledged short story with a beginning, middle, climax, and ending. Instead, I forced more story out and the story ended up being worse than it could have been if I wasn’t simply trying to write pages.

It was an important lesson for me. Not every story will be as complex as a full-length book. I write a lot of novellas now, not only because I love reading them (they’re easy to fit into my busy schedule) but because I don’t force a story past its natural stopping point, no matter what the length happens to be.

What was your favorite book as a child?

As I child, I loved many books. When I was ten years old, I used to sit under a tree at recess and read Tamora Pierce books. To this day, she is one of my favorite authors. When I was younger, my dad and I used to read to each other before bed; we devoured the Chronicles of Narnia that way. We also read a few adult fantasy books about dragons.

Which author did you read growing up who inspired you to become a writer?

There is a magic in books that I’ve loved ever since I learned to read. Tamora Pierce wrote some excellent fantasy books that I’ve read and re-read so many times, they’re now dog-eared. If I had to point to one author in particular who opened my imagination to other worlds and stories, it would be her.

Why do you think reading is important, especially while young?

Reading shapes who you are as a person. I believe this strongly. By reading, you open yourself to other possibilities. It’s important not only to read widely, but to read books about people whose situations are different from your own. One of the books that stuck with me strongly is John Peel’s The Secret of Dragonhome. I loved this book because the main character was a vegetarian, like me. Unlike the negative attention I was getting for making that choice at fourteen, the book presented it as a perfectly rational lifestyle for the heroine to live. The book, largely about a war between countries and the fear of people who were different, promoted the message that we are all the same at heart. When the main character crosses the border into enemy territory, she doesn’t find differences, she doesn’t find monsters. She finds a people who are the same as she is. This book shaped my outlook about inclusivity and guided me into becoming the person I am.

Who was the biggest influence on your writing?

While I was in high school, around the time I started writing seriously, I had several wonderful people who encouraged me to write. My parents were one, though my mom didn’t like fantasy and my dad didn’t like romance. My English teacher, who founded a writing club in the school with me, also contributed to my love of books and of writing. Last but certainly not least, my best friend from high school was a bookworm just like me and read everything I wrote, though she herself never wrote a book past its prologue. I remember once writing a book and handing it to the boy I liked to read, who also loved books. Support systems are essential, and I had ample encouragement and motivation to continue in those days, which was vital to spurring me on to this path.

What advice do you have to those who have kids interested in writing?

Read, read, and read some more. Find people who also like reading, and get feedback. Write the books that you would love to read. Find a writing club, if you can. Don’t do it alone, and don’t give up.


Why did you decide to become a published author?

In high school, the only thing I could think about doing was writing. I had books in me and they had to come out. I’m also a practical person, and upon graduating high school, when I didn’t have the money up front to go back to school, I opted not to put myself in debt. While I worked, saving money, I also wrote. I read books, and got positive responses to my own work. I decided I wanted more people to read it. I want to keep writing, and my dream job was to be able to do only that, writing. So I took the plunge, and here I am.

How do you celebrate the completion of a book or a sale to a publisher?

Chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. Maybe a little wine, too.

What is the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in your career?

My biggest obstacle was a lack of support at home. My late husband didn’t approve -- and went out of his way to actively discourage my writing. For the two years prior to his death, I wrote in secret for fear he would find out, and didn’t end up writing much at all.

What inspired you to write romance?

My best friend from high school was a bookworm like me. Only, instead of the fantasy I read (which she still liked occasionally), she was a romance junkie. She slipped me a Sherrilyn Kenyon book to show me how my love of fantasy could translate to her love of romance. I loved the book, and from that moment forward, started to get my own ideas. I wrote romance, she and my mom read it, and I haven’t looked back since.

What was the first romance book you ever wrote? Was it published?

The first romance I ever wrote was a paranormal romance about a demon who falls in love with a ballet dancer. It was not published, or ever sent out on submission…to be honest, I find the concept a little bit corny. But I am still proud to have written it. That’s how you learn.

How old were you when you read your first romance book?

I was fifteen or sixteen when my best friend slipped me a Sherrilyn Kenyon book. From that moment, I had to read all the rest of the Dark Hunter series. Can you blame me?

What is your writing process?

I am in no way a plotter. I’ve tried it, but I prefer to write the first draft of a book as though I’m reading it for the first time. Once the book is all the way down on the page, I use it to form an outline and discover if there are any holes I need to fill in, or unnecessary scenes that need to be taken out. Then come revisions, revisions, revisions, some feedback from my cherished critique partner, and more revisions before I send it to my editor.

How long does it take you to finish a book?

I like to finish the first draft of a book in a month. Sometimes I write faster, sometimes books need time to sit and ferment. Editing takes me another month, if not more, before the book is ready to be seen by someone aside from myself.

How do you find the time to write?

I don’t find time. I make the time. Days can get incredibly busy, especially if working a day job. I take a few moments for myself in the morning before my day begins, in order to write. On days I have “off,” I usually devote to writing as well.

What is the hardest part of writing?

The hardest part of writing, I consider to be maintaining the discipline to finish a book. I have so many new ideas bouncing through my head at any given time that I’m always tempted to stop what I’m doing and start something new. It’s partly why I try to write so fast, so I won’t set aside a project until I reach “The End”.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Inspiration is a funny thing. I commonly get ideas while sleeping or doing yoga, something that quiets the mind and lets me think. I also get ideas from things I see in real life, or even by reading over old stories. The book I’m currently working on started out as a half-finished book from 2010…until I decided it would work much better this way. Now it has new characters, a new setting, and a new plot line…so it really isn’t anything like the old version at all.

Do you write from experience?

I write wherever the characters take me. Sometimes that is from a place I’ve experienced. Sometimes I need to research to know exactly what would happen. That’s the beauty of books: anything can happen. 

Do you have any advice for a budding author?

Writing for publication takes persistence. You have to keep going when things don’t seem to be going your way, whether the rejection letters are piling up or you have poor sales numbers or you read a bad review. You have to keep going because otherwise, you fail. This game is all about persistence and sticking with it.

What’s next for you?

One thing you’ll notice if you read my books is that I like to write in a wide range of subgenres. I follow where the characters lead. I recently finished a historical romance with a spunky protagonist and I’m working on a romantic suspense at the time of writing this. The best way to know what I have next on the radar is to check my website, www.lbelow.net, or follow me on Twitter @LBelowtheauthor.




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