Monday, December 21, 2015

Like/Dislike Animated Christmas Specials? Grab Some Cocoa and Let's Dish!

by Susanne Dietze

My kids are home this week on Christmas's a fun week of sleeping in, doing crafts, baking (click the link when you're done with this post!) and watching Christmas specials with the family.

Here on the Inkwell, we've shared some of our favorite Christmas movies, but I can't remember dishing on our favorite animated specials before. Many of them were part of my childhood--maybe yours, too--and they're still fun to watch ... although I may not experience them the same way now that I'm an adult.

So let's dish on them. What do you like? What's no longer your favorite?

(I guess I should say SPOILER ALERT. I'm going to chat as if you've watched these shows, too. If you haven't watched any of these shows and want to experience them for yourselves first, come back to this post later.)

(NOTE: This is just a fun conversation.I don't wish to offend anyone by sharing what I like/don't like.)

Growing up, I loved Rudolph (1964). It remains an undisputed favorite. Some reasons I loved it?

  • Rudolph is so sweet!And I like the message: we all have unique gifts.
  • It was visually appealing to me as a kid. I loved the pastel pink-and-blue outfits the elves wear. There's still a big part of me that loves candy-colored Christmas decor.
  • I love when Hermey impersonates a pig. ("Oink, oink." "Put some heart into it, boy!" "Oink! OINK!")
But now that I'm an adult? Well, there are a few things in Rudolph I don't like.
  • Santa is...grumpy, to say the least.Upon seeing newborn Rudolph's "unfortunate" red nose, he makes a snarky comment and dismisses him as unfit. He's also mean to his elves, who work hard rehearsing a song for him, and he is crabby with Mrs. Claus. 
  • It's sexist. This may reflect the times in which the show was produced, but I cringed when my kids heard the narrator insist the womenfolk need to stay home and then later on, rather than mourn Yukon Cornelius, get returned back to Christmastown.
What are your feelings on Rudolph?

Another supremely popular Christmas show is, of course, Charlie Brown (1965). It's never worn out its welcome. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas turns 50 this year, which is cause for celebration. It's even featured on holiday stamps, available from your local post office.

Things I like about it:
  • Linus' reading of the Gospel. It may be the only Gospel message some viewers ever hear. The characters also sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing. That doesn't happen often anymore on TV.
  • Its focus is on the true meaning of Christmas, not commercialism.
  • Adding to that theme, the hilarious uber-greedy Christmas letter Sally dictates to her brother always makes me chuckle.
  • The scene of Charlie Brown skipping, his heart full of love, is sweet.
  • The Vince Guaraldi score!
Things I don't like:
  • The Mean Girls (Lucy and the gang) seem to have come around by the end of the show. For the holiday, anyway. Then it's back to the usual name-calling. Lucy's such a bully.

Another classic produced in the 60's is How The Grinch Saved Christmas (1966). This Dr. Seuss tale is about the Grinch who lives above Who-ville and is determined to steal every last vestige of their Christmas celebration.

I like:
  • The message that Christmas is not about things. Or roast beast.
  • The idea of someone's heart growing multiple sizes.
  • Max the Dog.
  • The way the Whos welcome the Grinch into their community. No shame. No punishment. Just love.
I don't like:
  • The Grinch scared me when I was small. There. I admitted it to the world.

A more-recent show I like? Disney's Prep & Landing (2009). Watching it is a new tradition for me (as is watching one of its sequels, Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice, which usually follows it on TV).

It's the story of Wayne, a Christmas elf who is part of the elite "Prep and Landing" team sent ahead of Santa on Dec 24th to ready homes for the Big Guy's arrival. Wayne's had this job for 227 years and wants a promotion--but he gets a newbie partner, Lanny, instead. And a very, very bad attitude.

Why do I love this show?

  •  It starts with my favorite puts-me-in-the-Christmas-mood song, Nat King Cole's version of "The Christmas Song".
  • I love, love, love how hapless Lanny says "sorry" whenever he makes a mistake. Which is often. Our family has an inside joke of saying "sorry" just like Lanny.
  • The blink-and-you'll-miss-them messages on the elves' mugs are hilarious.
  • The message of forgiveness and redemption is sweet.
What I don't like?
  • Nothing. Seriously. This has been my favorite animated show for the past few years. Wayne's unlikable for a while but his repentance is heartfelt and sweet.

Shrek the HallsNow for a bit of controversy. Some people hate Shrek and therefore don't care for Shrek the Halls (2007). I like it. Here's why:
  • I like the message that Christmas isn't about any one person, not even our children. It's about something More. (The show doesn't say what that is, but neither does the Grinch. Same theme.)
  • It sounds corny, but when Donkey says there's no wrong way to "do" Christmas, you just "do it", I felt lightened! I don't have to put on the perfect meal, wear the right thing, or live up to someone else's expectations. Family is messy. Christmas can be messy.
  • The scene of Gingy's horrible Christmas, when a Godzilla-like Santa eats his gingerbread girlfriend, is a family classic around here. We quote Gingy, "You weren't there!"
  • Likewise, we love Puss and Boots. When he gets distracted by the ornament...LOL.
What I don't like?

  • Yes, Shrek is crass. There is bodily humor in the episode. If you are turned off by burps, etc, don't watch it.

I feel like I need to include these two because they refer to the real Christmas story, Jesus' birth, and I appreciate that very much. I'm also lumping them together because I seem to like and dislike the same things about them.

Two Rankin/Bass offerings, Little Drummer Boy from 1968 and 1977's Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, are set in Bethlehem when the Savior is born.

I also need to be honest: I haven't watched these two in years.

Likes about them:
  • They're about the birth of Jesus!
  • They show that meeting Jesus forever changes a person!
  • Like Rudolph, they validate our individuality and specialized gifts.
Only available on VHS. Blast from the past!
  • They are both just...sad. My little kid heart broke for the drummer boy and Nestor. And when Nestor's mommy dies...ugh. I still remember her digging up that patch of snow so Nestor will have a warmer place to sleep--I can't go on!
  • I never liked how cherubs are explained as "animal guardian angels" to Nestor. It's not accurate. Most of the time I go with the flow on these sorts of things, but it's always bugged me.

Of the rest of the Rankin/Bass shows I watched in my youth, I dug Santa Claus is Comin' To Town (1970). I still kinda like it for sentimental reasons, even though it's hokey. Why?
  • I love when the elves adopt a baby and name him Kris Kringle. "And he will eat with us and sleep with us and drink warm cocoa with us..." 
  • The Burgermeister Meisterburger is ridiculous, and therefore fun to watch.
  • Young Kris has a red beard. Why do I like that? I don't know. I just do.
  • Maybe it's the romance writer/reader in me, but I loved Kris' Christmas Eve wedding to Jessica. 
  • The scene where a singing Jessica goes through a groovy "transformation" is embarrassing to me (and my kids, who used to hide behind the couch for this part when they watched this show on DVD). The scene is cut from most TV broadcasts nowadays as a time-saving measure, but you know when the scene happened because after Jessica sings about her "world beginning today" etc., her outfit has a bold splash of color and her hair is a brighter shade of red.

Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983) is often found on the Disney Channel. It is a sweet retelling of Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

I like:
  • I love that this maintains the Victorian look and feel that's often shed in modern re-tellings for children.(I'm referring to Barbie, etc, not the Jim Carrey version, which I'm not including in this list because I count that one as a "movie.")
  • Mickey and Minnie have babies!
But other people don't like it:
  • Remember Siskel and Ebert? They gave it two thumbs down! Something about not enough character growth and a lack of irony. (Um, seriously? If you want irony, there are oodles of other versions of A Christmas Carol out there that do the trick.)

Veggie Tales has a few holiday offerings, but my favorite is The Star of Christmas. (Caveat: this one isn't a broadcast special like the previous offerings, but it was a staple in my house when my kids were smaller.) Cavis and Millward (Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber) are producing a musical to debut Christmas Eve, The Princess and the Plumber, illuminated by zillions of newfalngled electric lights (this is "historic" London, after all). They want to "teach London how to love!"

But, as you'd guess, a Christmas pageant is also scheduled that same night, showcasing a famous artifact (the Star of Christmas, of course!). Which event will the royal family attend? Which one will really, truly share the message of how to love?

Why I love this?
  • It's sweet, convicting, and clever. 
  • The lyrics to "Plugged Up Love" sung by the Princess and the Plumber in rehearsal are hilarious.
  • It's set in England! The royal family has a cameo!
Any dislikes here?
  • Can't think of a one. 

Other shows I liked/watched that see airtime still: Frosty the Snowman (1969), The Year Without a Santa Claus ("I'm Mr. Heat Meister,.."), Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974),  and too many others to list here. But I had to stop the list somewhere.

Ones I never really liked? Those Frosty/Rudolph crossovers where they wear orange outfits...

Did I forget your favorites? What do you like/dislike about the shows I mentioned?

Happy watching this week. And baking, and wrapping, and fellow-shipping with family and friends.

I wish you and yours the Merriest of Christmases!


Susanne Dietze is in the mood to watch Prep & Landing. When it's not Christmas break, she writes historical romance, including next month's Austen in Austin Collection. Please visit her website,

Oh, and do click the link for more ideas of things to do with your kids this week!

All photos from

Friday, December 18, 2015

Are You an Old Movie "Purist"?

by C.J. Chase

My family kicked off the holidays this year by watching Miracle on 34th Street. To be honest, I don't like this 1947 classic about a man who might--or might not--really be Santa Claus as much as most people, but I spied it while browsing the library DVD section. Our eight-year-old (adopted from another country two years ago) had never seen it, so I checked it out.

I didn't expect to find two DVDs in the case, but there they were--one for the original black-and-white version and one for a colorized version. And that got me to reminiscing how scandalized some of my older friends and colleagues were "back in the day" when Ted Turner first started broadcasting colorized versions of old movies.

So, here's the question: colorized or black-and-white? Are you a purist who will only watch old movies in their original black-and-white format? Are you a product of modernity who prefers watching in color? Or are you the flexible sort who will try them both?

To get you started, here are two clips of the same scene from my favorite Christmas classic:


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What Happened to Christmas Oranges?

by Anita Mae Draper

I’m missing my Christmas oranges this year. That’s not to say that we don’t have any oranges, they’re just not the same ones I relate to Christmas. Oranges and other subtropical citrus fruit aren’t grown in Canada due to our cold weather and must be shipped in and/or railed in depending on where it is grown. Historically in Canada, there was a lack of oranges in the autumn, and then a burst of excitement as oranges miraculously appeared in time for Christmas.

Christmas morning 1967, Port Arthur, Ontario
Even during the tough times of my childhood, the one thing I could be sure of was finding a green tissue-wrapped orange in the toe of my stocking on Christmas morning. As in the above photo, a bowl of oranges held a spot on our holiday table along with other treats, such as chips and nuts.

Bowl of tissue-wrapped mandarin oranges

The green tissue paper helped develop my anticipation for the fragrant gift inside. I loved the excitement of breaking open that first Christmas orange—the only one I could easily peel due to the skin slipping off the flesh without effort—yet I knew that first juicy bite would have a sour snap to energize my sleepy tastebuds. It was only after eating several segments that I appreciated the tangy sweetness which left me craving for more. 

And this year, I'm really craving them because I can't find any of the Japanese ones, and not many of the Chinese variety, either. It seems we've seen less with each passing year, especially as the original Japanese mandarins competed for space and attention with the Chinese ones. Except I didn't like the Chinese variety or any of the other tangerines that appeared not only at Christmas, but various times of the year. 

The small, sweet mandarins and tangerines we're finding in the stores lately is paler, it has seeds, and the thin skin is so tough that I almost wreck my thumbnail breaking through the surface to peel it. 

So I started wondering what happened. I was hoping my research would give a definite reason, such as a Pacific typhoon, the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami combination, or even a trading dispute. Instead, my search led me on a different quest—the history of what Canadians call Christmas orange.

I knew that the mandarin orange was first brought to Canada about 1890 by Japanese workers who received them in parcels in the weeks heading up to Christmas. I was quite surprised then, to find that the first mention of them was not in a Canadian newspaper, but in a 1901 and 1916 American one.

In Canada, the oranges were shipped across the Pacific in 9 pound wooden crates and unloaded in Vancouver.

Christmas mandarin oranges being unloaded from the ship, S.S. American Mail. VPL Accession Number: 81110. Courtesy of Vancouver Public Library

I found a 1926 article in the Montreal Gazette reporting that 1,452,000 oranges filling eleven Canadian National rail cars were on their way from Vancouver, British Columbia on Canada's west coast. So approx 40 yrs after the first oranges came across, special trains of refrigerated  cars were needed to carry the shipment across the nation.

The Montreal Gazette - Dec 4, 1926

That led me on a search for an image of one of the specially marked trains, dubbed the Orange Express, but it seems they're as elusive as the old Silk Express Trains. The following image is a bit murky, but it's the only one I was able to locate of an orange train. 

The Japanese orange trade was so successful that a 1931 Drummondville, Quebec newspaper, reporting on an article from the Canadian prairie province of Manitoba, said that over 2 million oranges crossed the citrus-starved Canadian landscape by Dec 7th of that year.

The Drummondville Spokesman - Dec 7, 1931 

And then Canada joined WW 2 and Japan was our enemy. The trans-Pacific orange shipments stopped, and Canadian parents told their children that everything was fine. But Christmas wasn't the same. Even with the availability of tangerines shipped in from Florida, Canadians felt the loss of their beloved Christmas orange. 

When the war ended, countries worked to restore their economies and Canada renewed trade with Japan. But Canadians felt the loss of  their servicemen and women who'd given their lives for freedom, and resentment against the Japanese people was hard to put down. 

Japanese oranges were scarce during the 1947 Christmas season, but by 1948 they were back with a new name. In an attempt to take the onus off their origin, they were introduced as Japanese mandarin oranges.  

We didn't care what they were called, our special Christmas orange was back—more than 3 shiploads of them filling over 32 freight cars. And that was just the beginning of the resurgence of its popularity.

I read that the orange express trains had special markings, but the only one I found was a 1978 CP Rail boxcar marked, Mandarin Orange Express. Only one car carried this paint scheme in a shipment of almost 60 cars. As before, it was elusive to photograph and apparently it has been out of service for some years. I don't know where I found this photo, so if it's yours, please let me know so I can give you the credit.

Which brings me back to my original question... what happened to our favourite Christmas orange? 

Did you receive an orange in your stocking? Care to share?

Giveaway #1
Leave a comment and you will be entered in a draw for a trio of hand-knitted Christmas bells similar to the ones below but with different colours. Deadline for this draw will be midnight, Dec 20th, 2015.

Giveaway #2
On Dec 21, 2015, I will draw one person's name from my quarterly newsletter mailing list, and that person ​will win the pictured Christmas Bell Trio, specially knitted for this draw by my mom. 
If you'd like to add your name to my mailing list, visit my website Contest page.

Since one giveaway is for leaving a comment here, and the other giveaway is for subscribing to my newsletter mailing list, there is a chance that one person will win both bell trios. 


Anita Mae Draper's stories are written under the western skies where she lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. Romantic Refinements, a novella in Austen in Austin Volume 1, WhiteFire Publishing, will be released January 15, 2016.  Anita is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita Mae at

Friday, December 11, 2015

Books Make Great Christmas Gifts

 by Dina Sleiman

If you're a book lover like me, you probably realize that books make great Christmas presents. You can hand select books that you think your friends will enjoy, especially hardback and early editions. Giving Christian fiction as a gift can be a subtle way to reach out to those in your life who don't yet know the Lord or who are struggling in their faith. Or, you can buy a book that you loved in bulk and give it to most everyone on your Christmas list. For this purpose I generally choose inspirational nonfiction, since it can bless a broad variety of people.

The Inkies have written tons of great books that would make amazing presents, including many Christmas novellas, books, and collections. Check out our books in the feature in the right hand column or search our names on amazon. And here are a few Inky written Christmas favorites to get you started (any Inkies feel free to add more.) Take special note of Debra Marvin's debut release novella, Desert Duet!!!

Desert Duet
A Wild Goose Chase Christmas
Mistletoe Memories Novella Collection
Christmas Traditions Novella Collection
Gold, Frankincense, and Murder

Ebooks Make Great Gifts Too!
Several above are only available as ebooks. While books are fairly typical gifts, perhaps you've never considered giving ebooks. All you need is the recipient's email address to send an ebook as a gift from amazon or barnesandnoble, just be sure you know which type of ereader they use before ordering. You can order now and schedule for a Christmas delivery or catch a good sale between now and Christmas. Ebooks are also perfect for last minute shoppers. You can order an ebook on Christmas day for a friend across the country and still get it to them in time.

Right now my Love in Three-Quarter Time, a Zondervan ebook original, is on sale for $1.99, and many of the Inky novellas are available for as low as $.99. Why fight the crowds at the mall when books make such great gifts?

What books have you received as gifts?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Special Guest Jan Elder and a Giveaway!

Please welcome author Jan Elder to Inkwell Inspirations! Jan's second novella, A Semi-Precious Christmas, released Dec. 1, just in time for holiday reading! Leave a comment below for a chance to win an ebook or PDF copy!

NIKI: Hi Jan! Tell us a little about your latest story. It's quite an adventure! 

JAN: My latest release, A Semi-Precious Christmas, is a contemporary Christian novella. Here’s a blurb about the plot:

"On a bright, crisp December morning, jewelry store manager, Peridot Keaton-Jones, arrives at work expecting to find her beloved uncle, Marty. Instead, she’s greeted by the muzzle of a gun pressed to her temple. When thugs assault her, threaten her life, and steal thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, Peri can only pray her uncle is late for the first time in his life.

Christopher Lane is a TV news cameraman in the right place at the right time. He witnesses the heist, calls the police, and offers help when Peri needs it most. She can't deny her attraction, but is he really her hero, or is he just after a story? And with Christmas right around the corner, can Peri and Chris avert a holiday disaster?"

NIKI: I have a particular soft spot for heroines with unusual names. 

Did something specific in your own life inspire this tale?

JAN: I got the idea from an incident featured on the local news. Right down the street from where my husband and I live, thugs robbed a high-end jewelry store, getting away with thousands of dollars worth of jewelry. We stopped by a few days later and the saleswoman we’re friends with told us the whole story, including her terror at having a gun pointed at her face. 

I got to thinking how I would feel and react if I were in the same situation. I put myself in my friend’s shoes and tried to relive the moment. What thoughts ran through her mind when confronted with her own mortality? What kind of people were the robbers? Had they been in jail before? Had they hurt anyone else? Everyone has good sides and bad sides. I wanted the reader to wonder, was there any good in them?

NIKI:   I'm glad to know someone else finds story ideas in random news items!

What’s your favorite holiday and why? (It doesn’t have to be Christmas, even though this novella is Christmas-themed!)

JAN: Sorry Christmas, but my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love everything about it. The scrumptious food, (oh, how I love the turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, not to mention the pie, glorious pie!) the warmth of a gathering of family and friends (my husband’s family gets together, plus my 92-year-old mother is included—thank you sister-in-law Karen.) But most of all it’s a time when I thank God for all of my many blessings. The gift of His love and salvation makes life worth living and all the rest is just gravy. J

NIKI: I'm a fan of holidays that don't involve lots of requirements and expectations. Thanksgiving is a good one!

What does your writing schedule look like?

JAN: I have a full time job so my writing time is limited to mostly weekends. I’m also a night person and my most creative time of the day is after the sun goes down.
Sometimes the two don’t work well together so Monday mornings can be rough! 

NIKI: I can relate! I think a lot of readers would be surprised to know how many of their favorite writers have "real" jobs on the side that keep them quite busy.

What other stories do you have available?

JAN: My first book, Manila Marriage App, is also a contemporary Christian romance. The novella released in April 2015 and it’s part of Pelican’s Passport to Romance series. Here’s a bit about the plot:

It all began as a lark. Shay Callahan’s life was just fine, thank you, but when the seemingly misogynistic missionary, Timothy Flynn, places an advertisement for a wife in a Christian magazine, she decides to give it a whirl and sends in the five-page application. Why not? After all, she’s not currently seeing anyone, and this man truly needs to be taught a lesson.

Finding out she’s Dr. Flynn’s pick of the litter, Shay hops on a plane and flies to The Philippines. The strategy is to jet in, enjoy an exciting two-week vacation, and jet out again, all at his expense. Instead, her plan backfires. The handsome missionary man is not what he seems, and the foreign land has far more to offer than she could imagine.

Embark on a tropical adventure with Shay that challenges everything she believes.

Oh, and Niki, your book, Santiago Sol, a scintillating story set in exotic South American, is part of the same series! For those of you who haven’t read it, check it out. I highly recommend it!

NIKI: Thank you! You have been such an encouragement to me with the Passport to Romance series. Manila Marriage App was too much fun! (Here's the link: )

Favorite Christmas memory, song, book, or recipe?

JAN: Would it be silly to say that I love the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? I have great memories of being a little girl snuggled in her jammies watching the television special with my family. In fact, I love it so much my dear husband bought me a copy for Christmas a couple of years ago. Now both of us watch it every Christmas along with a plate of sugar cookies and a cup of cocoa.    

NIKI: Not silly at all! In fact, my hubby and I just watched Rudolph tonight. It's hard to believe it's been around since 1965!

Thank you for coming to visit all of us, and sharing your latest release! I'm looking forward to many more to come!

For all of you looking for an exciting and romantic Christmas read, download your own copy of Semi-Precious Christmas HERE for just 99¢!

About Jan: Jan Elder is a contemporary Christian romance writer. With a zeal for telling stories other women can relate to, she strives to write the kind of book that will strengthen the reader’s faith, while also providing an entertaining and engrossing love story.
Besides writing romance, she enjoys the occasional hazelnut cappuccino while watching Turner Classic Movies. Always an avid reader, she devours books voraciously, both Christian and secular. She was born a cat-lover, and all novels present and future will include a feline in some way or another.
Happily married for twelve years to loving (and supportive) husband, Steve, the two live in central Maryland along with Jamie (a tuxedo cat), and Shu-Shu (a tortoiseshell cat). On the weekends, Jan and Steve comb the nearby countryside in search of the perfect ice cream flavor.

Connect with Jan at:

Friday, December 4, 2015

Chapel Springs Survival by Ane Mulligan


The second book in my Chapel Lake series, Chapel Springs Survival, came from a real life event—and became a mother's retribution. Insert creepy music and evil laughter.
 The day started out normal, boring even. Then I got a phone call from our eldest son.

"Hey, Mom. I emailed you some pictures. Take a look and call me back." Click. He hung up. Without asking how I was.

I hurried to my computer. I opened his email, and the first photo was of a nice looking, very Latin appearing young woman. Something told me she wasn't from here. I clicked on the second photo—a photo with her in a wedding dress. I hit speed dial.

It seems our eldest son, a widower with two children, had gotten himself a 21st Century mail order bride. He met her in a chat room for women in Columbia, South America, to meet and marry American men. They communicated for a year, then he flew to Columbia and married her. Without us knowing anything. He came back and spent the next year trying to get her into the U.S. legally.

Did I mention it was without us knowing anything?

He didn't tell us until she got here. Our two grandchildren knew. His brother knew. But we didn't. Do you remember that old margarine commercial, where the woman said, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” and zapped someone? That’s what I said. I told him for not telling me, it was going in a book. And it did.

Now, I have to tell you that any similarity between our son's story and my book stops there. Our daughter-in-law turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to our Michael. We adore her and our two step-grandsons and the newest Mulligan grandson.

Now, that wouldn't have made a good story. There was no conflict. But add Claire Bennett into that mix, and there's plenty. To find out how it turns out, be sure to buy Chapel Springs Survival, out now!


ANE MULLIGAN writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Novelist and playwright, Ane is the executive director of Players Guild@Sugar Hill, a new community theater and president of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a dog of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane at her website, Novel Rocket, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+


A mail-order bride, a town overrun with tourists, and illegal art.  How on earth will Claire and Chapel Springs survive?

Claire Bennett's Operation Marriage Revival succeeded and life is good. That is until the mayor's brother blabs a secret: Claire's nineteen-year-old son has married a Brazilian mail order bride. When Claire tries to welcome her, she's ridiculed, rebuffed, and rejected. Loving this girl is like hugging a prickly cactus.

Lydia Smith is happily living alone and running her spa—then the widow on the hill becomes a blushing bride. Then her groom's adult son moves in—on everything.

From the first sighting of a country music star in The Painted Loon, Chapel Springs is inundated with stargazers, causing residents to flee the area. When her best friends put their house on the market, Claire is forced to do something or lose the closest thing to a sister she’s got. With her son's future at stake and the town's problems to solve, it's Claire's who needs a guardian angel.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December Again

It’s December.

For a lot of people, despite taking time off from work for the holidays, it’s the busiest time of the year. You have to send Christmas cards, making sure you don’t forget anyone – at least not anyone who sent you a card last year. You have to go all over town to buy presents, especially to all those little out-of-the-way shops you never go to any other time of the year. You have to make sure the house is sparkling clean for company. You have to put decorations on every weight-bearing item in- and outside your home. You have to wrap presents. You have to buy at least three times more food than anyone can eat, and it must take hours to prepare and be timed perfectly so it’s all ready at the same time. And, while your guests are sleeping off their over-feasting, you have to clean up all the dishes and pots and pans, pack up all the leftovers (remembering to parcel out some of the choicest bits for people to take home with them).
And besides your own festivities, there are usually myriad parties and events to attend. There’s a party at school (which means you have to make something for little Johnny to take) and a party at the office (which means you have to make something for you or for little Johnny’s daddy to take – perhaps both). There’s your family and his family to keep happy, even when they schedule must-attend events at the same time on the same day. There are Christmas lights to see and Santa to visit and a production of “The Nutcracker” is a must, not to mention Christmas band concerts and school plays and even football playoffs for the high school team. You have to fight through miserable traffic and, sometimes, miserable weather to get it all done. But you have to get it all done, right?  Ummmm, right?


Trust me on this one, you don’t.

Sure there are people counting on you, and you don’t want to disappoint anyone. But it’s really okay if you don’t do everything. You don’t have to be a Martha scrambling to get it all done. It’s okay to be Mary and just bask in the wonder and joy of the One who is the reason we have Christmas in the first place.

You don’t have to have a huge feast. And if you do, you don’t have to do it all yourself. Recruit everyone to help you. And, if nothing else, make sure they help you clean up.

Don’t miss your little ones’ concerts and plays. They’re only little once, and you’ll be surprised how quickly they’re gone.

Spend time with your parents and grandparents if you have them. They won’t be around forever either. But in both cases, you’ll most likely find that they would rather have the gift of you than any other gift you could give them. They will remember good times spent with you much longer than that toy that broke before New Year’s Day or the sweater that was stuffed into the back of a drawer and forgotten.

You don’t have to go to every party, every gathering, every event you’re invited to. Give yourself time to breathe. Take time to enjoy the season. Take time to relax. Whatever time you have off from work should be a time of refreshing, not a beat down. Do the things you want to do, not because you have to, but because you enjoy them. And remember to be thankful.

Have a truly merry Christmas!

DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, as well as Letters in the Attic, The Key in the Attic, The Diary in the Attic and The Legacy in the Attic, contemporary mysteries. Her new series of Drew Farthering Mysteries debuted in the Summer of 2013 with Rules of Murder, followed by Death by the Book and Murder at the Mikado in 2014 from Bethany House. Another Drew Farthering Mystery, Dressed for Death, is due out in Spring of 2016. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Congratulations to Jennifer AlLee, Niki Turner, and Gina Welborn for being spotlighted in USA Today Life!

Romance Unlaced: Novellas bring us historical holiday spirit

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the busiest time of the year for me. I am one of those people who hates lists, but during the holidays I make them. My reading changes, too. It is not that I read less. I just read differently. I am more apt to read shorter works that I can fit neatly into the hours I carve out for myself here and there.
Historical romance writers must know this, because they keep providing me with lots of novellas themed to Christmas celebrations. It is fun to read about the holiday spirit as these characters interact against a historical Christmas backdrop. A few hours with one of these novellas and I get a double fix — historical romance, and a cozy holiday world.
Here is a list of some of the historical Christmas anthologies available new this season. Give one a try!
Scroll down the list to read about CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS, the Amazon bestselling collection which features novellas from Jennifer, Niki, and Gina.
EIGHT CBA and Amazon Bestselling and Award-Winning Authors present heartwarming novellas of Christmases gone by, where the true meaning of the season warms your heart and love flows as fast as apple cider. Includes a brand new release, “Eleven Pipers Piping,” and also Selah Award finalist, “The Fruitcake Challenge.” Grab your favorite drink, no matter the temperature outside, curl up in a cozy chair and lose yourself in holiday romance.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The First Thanksgiving

For the past several years, I’ve taken late November as an opportunity to write about Thanksgiving—the holiday and the practice of giving thanks. (See here. And here. Oh, and here too.) Let’s just call it my little attempt to preserve an official day of thanks to God from being swallowed by retailers’ desire to maximize Christmas profits. This year, we’re traveling to the South for our bit of Thanksgiving trivia, so to get you in the mood, here’s a bluegrass version of Turkey in the Straw for your listening enjoyment while you read.

The South, you say? But everyone knows the Pilgrims and Indians celebrated the first Thanksgiving in modern-day Massachusetts. That’s what all the books say in school. 

One of the things I’ve always found amusing about living in Virginia is the annual The-First-Thanksgiving-Was-in-Virginia November classic that appears in local papers across the state. You’d think home of such famous places as Jamestown (site of the first permanent English settlement in North America), Yorktown (site of the British surrender in America’s revolution), Appomattox (site of the end of the American Civil War), Arlington (perhaps the most famous military cemetery in the world), not to mention some of the world’s most famous historical figures (Washington and Jefferson top that list) would let Massachusetts have this one. But no.

You see, there was a thanksgiving observation in Virginia on December 4, 1619—while the
17th century re-enactors at Jamestown, VA
Pilgrims were still in Europe—when a group of Englishman landed at an area called the Berkeley Hundred in the fledgling Virginia colony. (The various “Hundreds” in early Virginia derive their name from the hundred-acre tracts the Virginia Company awarded to investors who brought settlers to the colony.) The new arrivals' charter decreed that “
the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

Berkeley Hundred later became Berkeley Plantation. The manor house on the current site was built in 1726. Benjamin Harrison (signer of the Declaration of Independence) and William Henry Harrison (ninth president of the United States) were both born there.

From what I’ve been able to find, the Thanksgiving observance at Berkeley was more a prayer service than a harvest feast. That makes sense since people who had just arrived probably wouldn’t have squandered limited provisions on a feast when they had to wait nearly a year until their first harvest.

With Thanksgiving sometimes turning into a Day of Gluttony and Sports, I kind of like the idea of returning it a simple prayer service. However, when it comes to the who-got-there-first argument, I’m going to give this one to Massachusetts since it seems the Virginia thanksgiving was localized to a particular place/group and not colony-wide. Besides, can you imagine how difficult it would be to keep Thanksgiving separated from Christmas if we celebrated it in December?

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