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Archive for 'Christmas'

Merry Christmas!
Monday, December 25th, 2023

The Countdown on Christmas Eve! Plus, Open Contests!
Sunday, December 24th, 2023

Last night was funny. We watched a comedy that just wasn’t great (The Family Plan), but we were all together, which was nice. The 10-year-old was stretched out on the rug in front of the Christmas tree, eyeing the presents under the tree. She’s so on edge, so ready for Santa to come. Whether she truly believes or not, she won’t let go of the thought of his existence because like I did with my kids, I told them that when the stop believing, he stops coming. So, my kids NEVER admitted they didn’t believe. And despite the fact she’s ten, and most of her friends have said they don’t believe, she still wants to leave out milk and cookies and carrots tonight. As soon as she heads to bed, Mom and the 19-year-old will be smuggling the Barbie Dream House into the living room and adding fairy lights to make it extra special sparkly. It’s fun for the older ones, too.

Then tomorrow morning, we have to get up at 4 AM. Why such a godawful time? The SIL’s night shift at the PD will end, and because we don’t want to torture him with getting up a couple of hours later because the 10-year-old can’t wait to open presents, we’ll instead wake her up early so he can participate while he’s still awake.

And you know what? I can’t wait for that alarm to go off. My job will be to make hot chocolate for everyone. My dd’s job will be to go around and turn on all the Christmas and fairy lights. Then we’ll shake the kid awake and tell her Santa came. I can’t wait!

BTW, if you’re looking for a GOOD Christmas movie to watch, try A Biltmore Christmas. It’s a Hallmark movie, so yes, it’s heavy on the sappy romance, but it was actually very good. Even the 19-year-old was in love with the hero by the end.

So, for those of you who celebrate Christmas, here’s wishing you a merry one!

Open Contests & Giveaways

  1. FREE Book! Close Encounter of the Carnal Kind! Get your copy!This ends soon! Get your FREE novelette before the offer expires!
  2. Word Search: Dr. Who Companions (Contest) — Win an Amazon gift card!
  3. Favorite Christmas Songs (Contest) — “I’m Just Ken” — What is this yummy goodness? — Win an Amazon gift card!
  4. Saturday Puzzle-Contest: Christmas Morning — Win an Amazon gift card!
Saturday Puzzle-Contest: Christmas Morning
Saturday, December 23rd, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…Mary Ann Clarkson!

This is the last Christmas-themed puzzle before the big day! My daughter and I have everything wrapped. The groceries for our special meal have been bought! Last night, I finished the last bit of work I intend to do until the day after Christmas. (Yes, not much rest for the weary when you’re a writer!)  So, from here on out, I will be enjoying spending time with family.

The image I chose for the puzzle depicts the fun of Christmas morning. In our house, we do adult Christmas before Christmas morning because we don’t want anything getting in the way of enjoying watching them open their presents. We’ll have screwdrivers and scissors standing by to install batteries and take apart the packages (why do dolls always have so many wires attached to the packaging?!).

For a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card, share your plans for Christmas morning!

Favorite Christmas Songs (Contest) — “I’m Just Ken” — What is this yummy goodness?
Friday, December 22nd, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…Sandra Marlow!

I’ve been doing my Christmas Advent Countdown on Facebook, and one of the questions I posed to folks was: What is your favorite Christmas song? 

I had several in the back of mind to choose for my own, until I opened up my emails and saw a link to Ryan Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken (Merry Christmas, Barbie).” I’m in love with this!

I guess it’s because the whole “Barbenheimer” thing this past summer was soooo much fun. Yes, I saw Oppenheimer then Barbie, and I bought the T-shirt!

Anyway, I’m sharing the new video here! Enjoy! And even if you already told me on Facebook, you can enter to win a $5 Amazon gift card by naming your favorite Christmas song here in the comments. 

Saturday Puzzle-Contest — More Christmas Cheer
Saturday, December 16th, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…Beverly!

Last night’s First Annual Ugly Sweater/White Elephant Gift Christmas Party was a huge success! The gifts were hilarious. Mine was epic. I won’t say what it was because it’s political in nature, and everyone watched my face to see how I’d react. Perfect gift, actually. Then we moved on to party games, like rolling a can on the table to stop in front of a little, cheap gift we wanted, picking up uncooked beans with chopsticks, charades… There were finger foods, of course! So much fun. And I say “First Annual” because everyone agreed this would be added to our list of Christmas family traditions. Any excuse for a family party in the Devlin house. 🙂 (My dd and I talked about what other holidays we could pump up with some party fun, too.)

Anyway, this is the last partial week of school, and then the kids will be underfoot for the holiday. Yay! And yikes, too. I still have to wrap gifts and get them under the tree. I’m always last doing it.

On to the Puzzle!

For a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card, solve the puzzle then tell me how close you are to being finished with Christmas/Holiday preparations!

Genevive Chamblee: Holiday Crud — 5 Ways to Avoid It!
Friday, December 15th, 2023

If you read the title and thought I was speaking of all the holiday rubbish that no one needs or ever asked for being sold by department stores and online, I’d say that is a pretty good guess. However, it’s incorrect. The holiday crud I’m referring to is bodily sickness.

Several years ago, I began to recognize a pattern in myself of becoming sick on Christmas Day or shortly after that. Initially, I thought it might have been some psychosomatic way to avoid those family members I didn’t wish to interact with. While this was a convenient offshoot, it wasn’t the reason it manifested.

After brief introspection and evaluation of circumstances, I quickly realized my very real illness was a byproduct of stress. Mentally, I would compile anxiety regarding creating a wonderful Christmas experience for everyone. This included everything from preparing holiday snacks to cooking to cleaning and preparing my home for visitors to decorating (interior and exterior) to purchasing the perfect gift. I had addresses to collect for all the Christmas cards to mail, outfits to assemble for events, and hair and nail appointments to look my best on the big day. In truth, I didn’t give two wooden nickels about the majority of these things. I only cared because others told me I should—others expected it of me. Left alone, I would have made it a PJ and given heartfelt, sappy homemade gifts as seen on Hallmark holiday movies. However, that wasn’t the kind of environment I was raised in. Sadly, much emphasis was placed on material items and public/social appearances. Thus, I would do my best to meet these expectations.

Begin Phase Two.

To accomplish these numerous tasks, I would run myself ragged and jump through a football field of burning hoops. Store after store, I would walk until I felt my arches falling. My eyeballs would bulge and water from scanning the internet. My head would ache from gift wrapping. (How many times can a roll of tape be lost in one sitting? And why is it so difficult to find the correct size box?) My muscles screamed at me from scrubbing. None of these things I found fun or rewarding. And by the time Christmas arrived, all I felt was tired and relieved. This is when I both mentally and physically would crash. My body responded the only way it knew, and that usually was with some type of respiratory illness.

Some family members would accuse me of faking sick by drumming it up all in my mind. “Oh, she’s not really ill. She’s just being lazy,” some would whisper. I didn’t know laziness came with fevers and congestion and lasted a week. Apparently, my wallet didn’t know it, either, when I had to pay for after-hours clinic care. And also, I apparently was good at tricking medical staff into hearing congestion in my chest and giving me diagnoses (e.g., pharyngitis, strep throat, and the flu). Then, one year, a physician informed me that my immune system was pretty crappy, and he suspected that when stressed, I would weaken it so much that it could not fight off infection. As a result, I was catching anything airborne that blew in my direction. He suggested that I should do less over the holidays and allow myself more time to rest.

Of course, I didn’t listen, at first, until one year I became especially ill. Actually, it wasn’t the illness that did me in. It was the nonproductive cough that lingered for weeks after. It was so deep that I felt I had swallowed a box of matches with each breath. I literally walked around clutching my chest like Fred G. Sanford. During the day it was bad, but at night, it became unbearable. Well, I learned my lesson.

The following year, I decided to take heed and began holiday preparations early. Instead of sorting through Christmas cards and trying to best match the design and card to each person, I purchased a box of assorted designs from the dollar store and randomly added the names. I cut the amount of Christmas treats I made in half, only decorated the interior, and put a time limit on the time I spent gift shopping. I still ended up getting sick that year but not nearly as severe as previous years.

I thought I was alone in this until recently when I was having lunch with a group of friends and the topic came up. Being who I am, after the discussion, I began researching, and this phenomenon isn’t uncommon.

  1. Exposure to large crowds while shopping and traveling. Viruses and bacteria can loom anywhere. However, the body is amazing. When we are exposed to some conditions long enough, we build up a tolerance or immunity to it. But when we travel or in large crowds, we are subjected new viruses and bacteria. Thus, the probability of contracting an airborne illness or a germ from an infected surface increases. If avoiding crowds isn’t something that you can or want to do, you may want to avoid people who are visibly sick or touch surfaces that are known to have not been cleaned.
  2. Forgetting to wash hands. How many surfaces do we touch when in public (e.g., opening doors, removing items from shelves, handshaking, etc.)? This act can transfer germs from a surface onto our hands. Then, without thinking, we may touch our mouth, eyes, or nose—increasing the probability of making us sick. Now, let’s be clear. Will failing to wash one’s hands after touching a public surface always result in illness? No. In fact, I don’t know scientific odds for that. But can it happen? Yes. Does it sometimes happen? Yes. Does handwashing help prevent it? Yes.
  3. A frequent change in temperature. When researching, the information found listed this as going from inside to outside. However, I’m going to take this a step further and go out on a limb to include something that isn’t research-based. I live in the deep south, and anyone in this area can tell you it’s like a Heidi Klum Project Runway intro: One day you’re in a sauna. The next day you’re out on a witch’s boobie. Mother Nature is a bipolar roller coaster. It has literally snowed on day, and the next shot up into the 80s. Mostly, it is warm, but when the temps get to bouncing, noses get to running. There’s not much one can do about Mother Nature’s fluctuation but dressing appropriately to maintain a constant body temp from one setting to the next helps.
  4. Lack of sleep. This one is easy. Being well rested can help stave off illness.
  5. Reduce stress. Give yourself the grace to not have to do it all during the holidays. When possible, delegate tasks to people you trust and know will get the job done. Simplify tasks (e.g., purchasing prewrapped gifts, doing meal prep in advance, reducing number of purchases, etc.). Every little bit helps.

Read the rest of this entry »

A. Catherine Noon: Six Geese Laid
Friday, December 8th, 2023

Dear Reader, I am so excited! I finally managed to get the manuscript up for Six Geese Laid! Thank you so much to Delilah for welcoming me back to share it with you.

This was a fun one for Rachel Wilder and I to do. It was originally written for the WROTE podcast and performed by Vance Bastien. He did such an amazing job with it! Hearing our words spoken out loud was a new experience for us.

The story came about because our friend, J. Scott Coatsworth, asked me if I’d like to contribute something for the podcast, and I thought, hey, that sounds fun! So we wrote it really fast during Thanksgiving week while we were at a family reunion.

The thing about writing fast is that it allows you to avoid the inner critic. There is power in drafting, which one learns when doing things like National Novel Writing Month ( If I stop to wonder, “Is this spelled right?” “Is this the right way to say this?” “Would this really happen?” I lose the magic of the story. If I listen to the narrative I see in my head, and stay curious, then I can navigate from one piece to the next. “And then what happens?” “What would he say?” “How does that look?” I’ve heard it described as driving at night: you can’t see the whole journey, but you can see what’s in your headlights, and you can get from one end of a state to the other that way.

The other thing I enjoyed about writing this is that it’s a humorous story. It’s based in our Chicagoland Shifters world, and while there are times where things are funny, that series is urban fantasy – so, dark, angsty, and sexy. This story is a different vibe, and that was fun to experiment with going in. Short stories are always a challenge for novelists, because they need to be a full story: that means, a beginning, a middle, and an end or resolution. I find that difficult to do in a short format.

You’ll have to judge for yourself whether we hit the mark or not. But whether you decide to read it or not, I want you to know, Dear Reader, from the bottom of my heart: thank you for reading. Us authors work hard to tell stories that entertain and we are ever so fortunate to have readers like you that like to read.

Buy links (if you see your favorite retailer isn’t listed here, please drop me a note in the comments).

Barnes and Noble:


“My own experience has taught me this: if you wait for the perfect moment when all is safe and assured it may never arrive.”
~ Maurice Chevalier | | |