Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Movie List

Just for fun, and to avoid actually doing anything constructive, I've made a list of "Christmas Movies" as suggested by.. the internet. Next year, I promise to bring in a "made-for-TV movie' expert, but for now, I'm sticking with box-office productions,
(However...check out my links below!)

The oldies (yes, these were oldies when I was a kid): 
A Christmas Carol 1951, starring Alistair Sim
Christmas in Connecticut 1945, a comedy with Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan
White Christmas 1954, a musical with Bing Crosby. Rosemary Clooney and Danny Kaye
Holiday Inn 1942, a musical with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire
Shop Around The Corner 1940, a romance with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan
The Bishop's Wife 1947, a comedy with Cary Grant and Loretta Young
Miracle on 34th Street 1947  (and again in 1992), with Maureen O'Hara
It's a Wonderful Life 1946,  with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed

And some consider these 'Christmas' tales:
The Apartment 1960, a comedy with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine
Meet Me in St. Louis 1944, a musical with Judy Garland

"More recently" we have:
A Christmas Tale 2008, a dark drama with Catherine Deneuve
Nightmare Before Christmas 1993, a Tim Burton animated movie
Arthur Christmas 2011, animated
Mickey's Christmas Carol 1983, animated
Ernest Saves Christmas 1988, goofball comedy
Prancer 1989, family tale
Elf 2003, comedy with Will Ferrell
Home Alone 1990, comedy with McCauley Culkin
A Christmas Story 1983, with Peter Billingsley and Darrin McGavin
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 1989, comedy with Chevy Chase
Love Actually 2003, adult comedy with Hugh Grant and ensemble cast
Bad Santa 2003, adult comedy with Billy Bob Thornton
Scrooge 1970, with Albert Finney and Alec Guinness
Polar Express 2004, family animated movie
The Santa Clause 1994, comedy with Tim Allen
Fred Claus 2007, comedy with Vince Vaughn
Muppet Christmas Carol 1992, family animated movie
How the Grinch Stole Christmas 1967, family animated movie
Jingle All the Way 1996, comedy with Arnold Schwarzeneggar
Christmas with the Kranks 2004, comedy with Tim Allen
The Holiday 2006, adult comedy-drama

And who can forget these ?classic Christmas stories:
Batman Returns 1992, with Michael Keaton
Die Hard 1988 with Bruce Willis
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang 2005, adult drama with Robert Downey, Jr.
Edward Scissorhands 1990, with Johnny Depp
Gremlins 1984

My favorites are in the first list, and I'll admit to taking my kids to see Home Alone 1 and Ernest Saves Christmas. Thanks to cable tv in the 90s, I've seen plenty of the others, but not all.

What did I forget? What movies will you watch this year? Which movies from the list would you like to see this holiday season and why?

Just for fun, I'm adding links to more Christmas movies that you'll ever need! Go check them out and then come back and Thank Me. Yes, You're Welcome!

Buy Desert Duet for 99cents or Free on KU
Merry Christmas from Humbug. Wish You Were Here!

It’s 1933 in the good old US of A. In the midst of drought, the Depression, and gangsters on the lam, America finds solace in Hollywood's Golden Age. 

Ex-pilot Eugene Tanner, determined to pen the lyrics for the movie industry's first "Best Song" award, books a rushed December stay at the remote Humbug Creek Guest Ranch (A Gold Mine of a Getaway!) Where better to find inspiration for an epic Western, than amid all that trail dust and burnt coffee? 

Thea Knight gives up her short holiday break from the studio’s costume department to play cowgirl hostess at her family’s struggling guest ranch. But instead of helping their witty and handsome guest, she becomes his biggest distraction. Old flames and past regrets take a backseat when the pair become embroiled in a ghost town mystery marring Humbug, Arizona’s rustic Christmas. Thankfully, the cowgirl is as fast with her Winchester as she is with her comebacks.

Follow my Amazon page for all the new releases in 2018!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas Stockings

Handcrafted c 1958-59
The treasured tradition of hanging our stockings brings tangible memories of what we have as well as what we've lost. We've hung our stockings on the staircase, on the mantle, on the wall, and even laid them over the back of a sofa. No matter where we lived, we found somewhere to hang our stockings. A look back through photograph albums shows the year a new stocking was added to the rest and with it the warm feeling of another 'Baby's First Christmas'.

My mother lovingly crafted my felt stocking in the late 1950's when I was only a couple of years old.  Back then, my stocking held hard candy, mixed nuts in the shell, and a Christmas orange in the toe. If it wasn't for the plastic liner sewed between the outer felt layers, there would have been a sticky mess at the end of the season. But all we had to do was wipe off the plastic and then store it until the next year. 

My stocking came with me when I married and so I carried on the tradition by making a stocking for my new husband, Nelson. The year was 1976 and the quality of felt had changed since my mom had made my stocking. Using mine as a pattern, I crafted Nelson a green one. My skills weren't as neat as my mom's, yet as a young bride, I knew the simple act of providing my husband with a Christmas stocking was the start of our own traditions.

Crystal Draper and stockings, 1980
Two years later, after the birth of our first child, I crafted another stocking, red like mine, for our baby girl, Crystal. Again, the quality of felt wasn't thick like mine, and I still hadn't improved my cutting skills, but it was a Christmas stocking made with love and the tradition continued. 

When our next child, Jessica, was born in 1991 crafting felt had thinned to the point that I no longer trusted it, so I doubled the front and back. Because plastic bags had also thinned, I lined the stocking with the thick plastic from a diaper package. This made for a very sturdy stocking - almost too sturdy as it didn't have the same "give" as the first 3 stockings and couldn't hold as much. 

Nick's birth in 1995 gave me the opportunity to make another green stocking. This time, however, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that crafting felt was all the rage since manufacturers had started producing a thick, quality product. Nick's stocking was an ease to make, except for cutting out the letters where the 's' still gave me a problem. 

Four stockings handcrafted by Anita Mae Draper, photo taken 2009
By 1998, our 4th and final child, Jeremiah, was born. At the time, we lived in a small house across from our commercial greenhouse operation. It was a family-run business that kept us very busy. Crystal graduated and moved away, taking her Christmas stocking with her. And with 3 kids and the business, I didn't get around to making a stocking for Jeremiah, or JJ as we call him. 

During the next couple of years, both Nelson and Crystal lost their stockings. Crystal's went missing during a move. 

We couldn't figure out where Nelson's had gone since it never left the house. But one day we moved our fridge and there on the floor behind it was a green stocking with clear evidence that a mouse had been chewing on it. Apparently, Nelson had placed his stocking on top of the fridge for some reason and it had fallen behind. The candy and chocolate smell must have drawn one of the errant mice that occasionally live in our unfinished basement because if you look close at the image of his stocking, you can see gnaw-holes near the top edge and smaller ones near the heel. 

A few years ago we retired our handcrafted stockings although still we hang the four of them as reminders of Christmases past, of the stocking that came back, and the one that didn't. 

This week as I was helping JJ hang the old stockings on the wall across from the store-bought bigger ones, I told him that I was going to write a post about our tradition of crafting a stocking as each new member of the family came into it.

Without missing a beat, JJ looked at me and said, "I hope you're going to tell them that I haven't got mine yet." 

Whoops. At 19, JJ should have received one years ago. He's never complained, but clearly he's missing this part of the family tradition. I rearranged the stockings so they'd hang better.  "Well then, one of these days I may surprise you." 

Yes, indeed. One of these days I'm going to make a buy some green, red, yellow and white crafting felt and create a stocking for JJ, or Jereminiah, or whatever name he wants on it. As long as I don't have to cut an 's' I'll be fine. 

What about you? Are there any traditions you followed for years and then stopped? Why?


Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are written under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details.  Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience.  Discover more at:

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Elves

'Twas the week before Christmas, and up at the North Pole...

Elves are working hard!

Sewing, gluing, hammering, piecing--those elves really put their all into making toys for the children of the world.

But it wasn't always that way, at least, to our knowledge.

The first mention of elves living at the North Pole was in the 1823 poem that helped shape the western view of Santa Claus, Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas," or "The Night Before Christmas." Santa Claus is referred to as a "jolly old elf."
1912 edition. Public Domain
Apparently, the idea of elves stuck--at least with Americans. In 1850 Louisa May Alcott wrote a book called "Christmas Elves," but it wasn't published. , but never published a book entitled Christmas Elves. In 1857, Harper's Weekly published a poem called "The Wonders of Santa Claus," which tells how Santa "keeps a great many elves at work/ All working with all their might/ To make a million of pretty things/ Cakes, sugar-plums, and toys/ To fill the stockings, hung up you know/ By the little girls and boys."
Thomas Nast's "Merry Old Santa Claus." Public Domain
In 1873, Godey's Lady's Book featured a cover illustration of Santa, toys and elves: "Here we have an idea of the preparations that are made to supply the young folks with toys at Christmas time." Godey's Lady's Book proved rather influential in influencing Christmas customs, including the Christmas Tree. Here, in an 1850 issue, is Prince Albert, Queen Victoria, and their children around their family tree.

Godey's Lady's Book, public domain

Since then, elves seem to strictly wear pointy hats over their pointy ears that match their pointy shoes. They've been associated with Christmas by everyone from Norman Rockwell to the movie "Elf."
Hermey the Elf, who'd rather be a dentist in "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Public Domain
In other countries, however, elves don't do the work of assisting Santa Claus. He's helped by nisse in Scandinavian countries (they look like garden gnomes), Zwarte Pieten in Belgium and the Netherlands, Yule Lads in Iceland, and various other apprentices.

Christmas is about far more than elves, of course. It's about Jesus, incarnate, man divine, coming to dwell with us. But in our culture, there's a lot more tacked on, and it causes some stress. Clearly, Christmas is a task few of us can handle alone.

Perhaps we can be inspired to "Be an Elf" this week. Help someone out. Carry a package, open a door, pay for a stranger's coffee. Be a servant.

Even if we don't get to wear a pointy hat.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

With Miss Austen's birthday this weekend, we thought we'd revisit the unfailing legacy of Austen and her literature. She's become as intriguing as her heroines!

...then enter in our giveaway of the two Austen in Austin volumes--now available in ebook BOXED SETS at 99cents each!  You can certainly buy them here: (Buy separately or the set at $1.98!)

or you can play along and enter our random drawing, below! 

It involves pie.

In today’s publishing world, readers and reviewers might not be kind to Miss Austen. Literature wants a grittier underbelly. Popular fiction wants sweaty passion, blood and corruption. Romance needs a cute meet by page three.  After a couple of decades of writing and finding her style, Jane Austen’s family helped her find a publisher. Books were uncommonly expensive at the time, and although she wrote under a pseudonym, “By a Lady”, some readers in the upper crust of society knew of her name. Sense and Sensibility was published in 1811, Pride and Prejudice in 1813, Mansfield Park 1814, and Emma in 1815.
First issue of the Quarterly Review

Austen by her sister Cassandra (wikipedia)
During that time, a novel might merit no more than a mention--title and date of publishing—in a newspaper. Jane Austen’s writing did manage to get a few reviews, most focusing on ‘the moral lessons’ (according to Wikipedia). I’ve been unable to find them myself. Emma, being the later one, received the most interest and was reviewed in 1816 in The Quarterly Review by Sir Walter Scott. He included her ability to “give a correct and striking representation of that which is daily taking place around him.” Later in his private journal he wrote, “What a pity such a gifted creature died so early.”

Jane Austen put her final touch on two more novels for publication, Northanger Abbey 1817 and Persuasion 1817 before her death (published posthumously). Afterward, the Quarterly Review’s Richard Whately penned a glowing review of all her work. It was around this time that her family wrote a biography, and by the 1830s, her fame had grown along with a new appetite for her fiction. From that time on, her books have never been out of print. Despite her nephew’s (new) biography of her in 1870, Victorians went crazy for Dickens, Gaskell and their compatriots. Some criticized Austen’s work as lacking what I might call ‘tooth’. Popular fiction at the time showed all the warts of society—Dickens being the chief purveyor of it. Austen, they claimed, played down the dark side as if unable or uninterested. Consider my much loved Bronte sisters!
Chawton House (wikipedia)
Of course that criticism too fell away. By the late 19th century Jane Austen was again looked on as a champion, even a feminist, for her focus on the limited choices of women tied only to the fortune of a caretaker or husband. Novelist Margaret Oliphant called her “full of subtle power, keenness, finesse, and self-restraint.” Austen became a window into women’s minds that had been left shadowed by male authors.  By the 20th century, Austen readers considered themselves a class above the readers of cheap fiction, and universities around the world began Austen studies. Adding to the discussion, popular novelist Mark Twain held her work in disdain, claiming a private library could be made better simply by excluding her books!

In 1913, Austen descendants again published a thorough family biography including as many letters and articles as could be found. Her books always sold, plays were created and by 1940 the first solid production of her work came about in the visual medium. 

We now have over a thousand fan fiction books and over sixty television and theater presentations.  Thank you and Happy Birthday, Miss Austen!


 If you already own one or both of these boxed sets, you can still enter, and we will GIFT YOUR FAVORITE AUSTEN FAN with one instead! Or just play along for fun. Because who doesn't have a favorite Austen villain?  TWO RANDOM WINNERS courtesy of Anita Mae Draper and Niki Turner.

1) First,  use this link and"Visit" (like, follow) INKWELL INSPIRATIONS FACEBOOK page. When twelve authors are producing books, this is the best place to keep up with us! (And allows us to contact you if you are a winner in our drawing! no need to leave emails!)

2) Answer this question in the comments: Which Austen character would you most like to be the recipient of a pie-in-the-face?  And why? oh, and what kind of pie? ha ha. If you don't have a character in mind, ask us to suggest one!

The giveaway ends  12/23 . Remember, to enter, give us an answer in your comment and visit the Inkwell Facebook page, so we can contact you!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Book vs. Movie

This post was originally intended to be about an author that my family has read for years. Her most famous work was made into a movie a few years ago, and I had intended to say, “Don’t judge her work by the movie. The book was better.”

The book was better. We hear that all the time when a novel is adapted for screen. It’s become such a truism in our culture, you can buy t-shirts, coffee mugs, and phone covers with the phrase emblazoned on them.

My youngest discovered the truth of that this past summer. He wanted to see the Harry Potter movies. Since some of them are rated PG-13, and he’s not yet 13, we told him he could only see them once he’d read the books. And that was when he learned—the books were better.

So, I thought it might be fun to turn this on its head and ask, Can you think of any instances where you liked the movie better than the book it was based on?

The only one that comes readily to my mind is North and South. If you’ve read the book by Elizabeth Gaskell, you probably noticed the script writers changed the ending. Personally, I think they tied up the lose ends better than Gaskell did.

The floor is now open for your nominations! 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Smugglers, Spies, Lords and Ladies from Susanne Dietze

Have you tried a Regency?

Smugglers and soldiers, lords and ladies, governesses and their wards, dinner parties, dancing the waltz, carriage rides, and beautiful gowns...

Enjoy these books with historical love stories set between 1810-1820 in the United Kingdom.

The Regency Brides Collection from Barbour

Romance is a delicate dance bound by rules and expectations in Regency England...
Seven couples must navigate society’s gauntlet to secure the hand of true love....

Charity and Luke are strangers who were forced to marry three years ago.
Adelaide and Walter share a love of music and disdain for elitism.
Caroline and Henry are thrown together by three orphans.
Helen and Isaac harbor his unlikely secret.
Esther is empowered to choose between two men.
Sophia is determined not to choose a man like Nash.
Jamie and William face a daunting London season together.

Will their faith grow and love prevail in a time when both were considered luxuries the elite could not afford?

Includes "Three Little Matchmakers" by Susanne Dietze.

The Reluctant Guardian from Love Inspired Historical

When Gemma Lyfeld inadvertently interrupts a dangerous smuggling operation in her English village, she's rescued by a mysterious Scottish spy. Now with criminals after her and her hopes for an expected marriage proposal recently dashed, she will make her society debut in London. But not without the man tasked with protecting her…

Covert government agent Tavin Knox must keep Gemma safe from the criminals who think she can identify them—a mission he never wanted. But as he escorts her and her rascally nephews around London, the lovely English lass proves braver than he ever imagined. Suddenly, the spy who works alone has one Season to become the family man he never dreamed he'd be.

A Mother for His Family from Love Inspired Historical (Available 1/18)

Lady Helena Stanhope’s reputation is in tatters…and she’s lost any hope for a “respectable” ton marriage. An arranged union is the only solution. But once Helena weds formidable Scottish widower John Gordon, Lord Ardoch, and encounters his four mischievous children, she’s determined to help her new, ever-surprising family. Even if she’s sure love is too much to ask for.

All John needs is someone to mother his admittedly unruly brood. He never imagined that beautiful Lady Helena would be a woman of irresistible spirit, caring and warmth. Or that facing down their pasts would give them so much in common. Now, as danger threatens, John will do whatever it takes to convince Helena their future together—and his love—are for always.

Visit Amazon for your copy!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

What Inspired Me?

Top Ten Influences on the Creation of The Drew Farthering Mysteries

    I have been in love with the Golden Age of Crime Fiction for decades. I’ve also been a big fan of the great movies of the 1930s for about as long. Add to that my enjoyment of humorous wordplay, mix it all together, and you get The Drew Farthering Mysteries. I once had a review that said, “If Bertie Wooster and Jessica Fletcher had a love child, it would be Drew Farthering.” I love that quote. It’s hysterical and it’s absolutely true!  So, if you’d like to trace Drew back to his entertainment roots, here are the most influential ones.

1.    First and foremost and without a close second would be the works of Dame Agatha Christie. And first and foremost of these would be the delightful cases of Hercules Poirot. The books are wonderful, thought-provoking reads, and the inestimable David Suchet portrays him on television with humor, warmth, intelligence, and absolute perfection.

2.    A huge influence on the relationship between Drew and his beloved Madeline was the Thin Man series of movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy (beginning in 1934). They are a loving married couple who obviously enjoy each other’s company along with solving mysteries. The snappy banter between them is always a delight.

3.    P. G. Wodehouse’s hysterical Jeeves and Wooster, impeccably portrayed by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, had a definite impact on Drew’s sense of humor (and mine). The books and the television series are both well worth checking out.

4.    Albert Campion, the mild-mannered sleuth created by Margery Allingham, was a delightful surprise to me when I discovered him several years ago. I had never heard of this series (shame on me!), but I absolutely devoured it once it came to my attention. Allingham’s plots fit together like fine watchworks, and the television adaptation starring Peter Davison is brilliant. Brian Glover as his hardboiled valet (he was a cat burglar until he lost his figure) alone is worth the price of admission.

5.     Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None might be the most perfectly plotted mystery ever written. Unfortunately, I saw the 1945 film version before I read the book, so I didn’t get the joy of reading the story without already knowing the solution. It would certainly take a cleverer person than I am to read that book, having no knowledge of it beforehand, and be able to solve the mystery.

6.    I can never decide if And Then There Were None or Murder on the Orient Express is my favorite of Christie’s works. Again, if I hadn’t seen the 1974 film version of this story, I would have loved to try to solve the case as presented in the book. As with ATTWN, the plot is meticulously crafted. I’m not sure why the script writer for the 2017 film version found it necessary to make so many changes to the story and to the characters.

7.    Drew and Madeline’s relationship owes much to the romantic comedies of the 1930s. One of the greatest of these is My Man Godfrey, also starring the dapper William Powell as a blueblood who’s dropped out of society and who, quite by accident, becomes a butler in a rich but troubled home. It’s a screwball comedy with a warm heart, and it definitely inspired a character or two in Drew’s most recent adventure.

8.    Another of the great romantic comedies of the ‘30s is Bringing Up Baby. Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn are hilarious as a mild-mannered archeologist and the ditzy society girl who is determined to make him see they’re perfect for each other.

9.    One of Alfred Hitchcock’s early movies is the 1939 version of The 39 Steps. It features Robert Donat as an innocent man on the run from a ring of spies and, being one of Hitchcock’s, the film has plenty of suspense as well as romance and ironic humor.

10.    Last but certainly not least is Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey. Lord Peter’s adventures, besides being fabulously entertaining, provide an excellent and intelligent look into the life of a British aristocrat and the mysteries are always a challenge to solve. I’m sorry the television series with Edward Petherbridge covered only three of Sayers’ novels.

So there you have it, the ten things that most influenced the creation of Drew Farthering and his adventures. I have to commend the BBC for making such lushly beautiful television series for so many classic mysteries. More than just reading the books that inspired them, these series let me see and hear England of the 1930s. Similarly, movies made in America during the 30s let me see and hear what that time was like. They and the books of that time period have all inspired my series as well as British Drew and American Madeline.

Don't forget you can WIN ALL SIX of Drew's adventures! Check out the tour HERE:


[Please note that this list was also featured on the Forgotten Winds blog, but since it's my favorite, I thought I'd add it here, too.]

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Freebie and Two Sales

December 3 - 6 only! Desert Duet is Free.
Click here to buy (er buy for $0.00 that is...)

But, hold on, here's more great deals!

The Nosy Parker Mysteries, regularly 3.99, are 99cents and 1.99  (Dec 1-5, 2017 only)

for 99Cents

Click here to buy the Counterfeit Clue, 1.99, by Lisa Karon Richardson

And... Austen in Austen Vol 1  and Vol 2 (were $3.99) are now digital boxed sets with a new low price!  99cents!

 Click here to buy Vol 1  by Gina Welborn, Anita Mae Draper, Susanne Dietze and Debra E. Marvin

Click here to buy Vol 2 by Suzie Johnson, Niki Turner, Dina Sleiman and Lisa Karon Richardson

and so I might as well throw in...

includes Desert Duet and four other sweet stories set in Christmasy-named towns.

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We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.