Saturday, December 31, 2016

History of New Year's ~ Happy New Year! 2017 #NewYearsEve

Happy New Year!  Although often bitterly cold here in the Northeast, I like January--it's my birthday month and my son's.  It can be a chance to relax and renew after the frenetic pace of the holidays.  Plus, there's the whole idea of a fresh start and making resolutions.  

Many of my most popular blog posts have discussed some of the history or mythology behind holiday traditions, for example, St. NickFinding Easter's date, and the Origin of Halloween. For the first week in January, I thought I'd list some facts about New Year's Day and the month of January itself.  (Also, my January birthday is on the 13th - see this post for reasons people fear that number).

New Year's Day is the first day of January according to both the Julian calendar (introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC) and the Gregorian calendar (named for Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in 1582). The difference in these two calendars is a .002% change in the length of the year.

The Roman god Janus,
looking both forward and back
The Julian calendar was based on the Roman Calendar, and the name of the month of January is generally attributed to the Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings and endings, who is depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions: into the past as well as the future.

Since the Gregorian calendar is now used, at least in practice, by most countries, New Year's Day is considered the world's most celebrated public holiday.

The ancient belief that the beginning of an event impacted the whole led people to offer good health and well wishes on this first day of a new year, as the long, dark days surrounding the Winter Solstice were being left behind.  A prosperous January first with plenty of food and drink would hopefully lead to the same for the entire month and year.

Of course, local traditions abound to mark this day, and a big one in the United States is the making of resolutions.  For many people, this involves a commitment to a healthier lifestyle--as a fitness instructor, I see my classes absolutely explode each January!  My own personal resolutions, since I'm also a writer, usually involve devoting more time each day to my craft.  This year, I'm about halfway through a new romantic suspense, and my goal is to finish by March.

If your resolutions include more reading (one of the best stress-reducers, by the way!) - check out my books.  Each one has a mix of steamy romance and spooky suspense--something for everyone.  My fourth novel, Haunted Souls, came out this past June, and was recently voted one of the Top 3 Books of 2016 at Read Freely.  And my debut novel, Silver Lake, is FREE on Kindle if you have Amazon Prime, as part of their new PrimeReading Program. 

 Best wishes, everyone, for a happy, healthy, and peaceful 2017. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My Favorite #Books of 2016 #amreading #amwriting

I can't believe it's time for my annual write-up of favorite books!  I read some really fantastic ones this year, which I'm excited to share.  I enjoy reading almost every genre, so there are a few represented here, but of course I have my preferences.  Some of my picks don't necessarily fall neatly into a single genre, either, and I guess it's no surprise that these are my absolute favorites, given that I also write in a mixture of genres (steamy romance combined with haunting mysteries).  So I'll start with those two novels, which both have elements of three different genres.

Mixed Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Suspense

Who could resist this cover?
The Lost Girls by Heather Young - Parallel stories unfold in this beautiful blend of historical fiction, literary fiction, and suspense.  A little girl's disappearance from the family's summer lake house in 1935 is never solved.  But in her final year of life, one of the girl's older sisters records the story in a journal, which she leaves, along with the house, to her grandniece, Justine.  As Justine fights her own demons by seeking refuge in the remote house on a Minnesota lake, we slowly learn the details of that fateful summer.  This haunting novel captured my attention immediately and kept me turning the pages.  A poignant and captivating debut.

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase.  This book, like The Lost Girls, melds two stories: the lives, and tragedies, of the four Alton children as they spend a summer in the late 1960s at their Cornwall estate, nicknamed Black Rabbit Hall, and the implications of these past events on an engaged couple 30 years later.  Black Rabbit Hall is itself a compelling character, Gothic and atmospheric, a place where time seems suspended.  The prose is beautiful, the writer's voice unique, and the comparisons to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and several of Kate Morton's books are well-deserved.

Historical Romance

Highland Surrender by Tracy Brogan.  A strong-willed beauty must marry the future chief of a clan she despises--for good reason.  But there's much more to this novel than just an enemies-to-lovers trope.  This is a great combination of Scottish history, political intrigue, murder mystery, family secrets, and hot romance.  Plenty of solid conflict, sexual tension, and lush descriptions...if you enjoyed the Outlander series, give this a try! 


It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways - Well-written and eye-opening, this book is filled with valuable information presented in an easy to understand and often humorous way, despite the seriousness of the topic.  How our bodies and hormones react to the processed food that has become so prevalent in our society is explained in layman's terms, and a guide is offered to help "reset" your metabolism to experience positive changes in health, energy levels, and eating habits (and for many people, weight loss is an inevitable side-effect from cutting out so many harmful foods).  If you haven't heard of Whole30, it's basically an eating plan that focuses on only natural and healthy foods, to be initially followed for one month.  My experience about halfway through the month I did it can be found here.  


Angels Burning by Tawni O'Dell.  I love every word Tawni O'Dell writes.  She's done it again, combining past secrets, a new mystery, family bonds, and compelling characters into a beautifully written page-turner set against the struggling, and often dying, mining towns of Pennsylvania.  In this book, the discovery of a teenage girl's body leads a small-town police chief on a daunting and intriguing quest for justice. 

Historical Fiction

The Wars of the Roses Series by Conn Iggulden: Stormbird, Trinity, Bloodline, and Ravenspur: Rise of the Tudors.  Since we were getting ready for a trip to London, I wanted to immerse myself in a book involving some English history.  Having remembered another favorite (fantasy) series of mine, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin (see my 2015 post), was inspired by the Wars of the Roses, a did a Google search and found this series.  I was hooked immediately--this author brings each battle to life in a way that makes you feel like you are there.  But aside from that, we are given enough information to understand the characters' goals and motivations, along with the incidents that lead up to the various conflicts.  The settings are described in amazing detail and the pacing is very well done.  These books truly enhanced my experience in London, especially our visit to The London Tower.

If you're interested in any of my past lists, see:

Favorite books of 2012

Favorite books of 2013

Favorite books of 2014

Favorite books of 2015

I'm thrilled that my 2016 release, Haunted Souls, recently ended up on a list too...this military romance + ghost mystery set on Cape Cod came in second among the Top 10 Books of 2016 at Read Freely! 

Hope I've offered some helpful recommendations for readers here--and I'm always looking for great new reads, so feel free to share your favorites in the Comments section below.  Happy reading and Happy 2017! 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

History of St. Nick~ #Christmas #ChristmasEve Traditions

I love doing posts about the origins of our holidays and the reasons we celebrate in certain ways or fear certain dates. Some of my most popular posts have been on the Origin of HalloweenFinding Easter's DateThe Number 13, and Origins of Superstitions.

When my kids were younger, I taught Sunday fact, a passage from the Book of Genesis about the Nephilim, the offspring of male angels and human women, inspired my Young Adult Paranormal Romance DIVINE FALL.  For years, I taught the class every week, and my favorite lessons touched on the historical and religious roots of our holidays.  The lesson on Saint Nicholas was obviously something I made sure we discussed every December.  While most people are familiar with the story of Jesus's birth in Bethlehem, many are unaware of how a 4th century Bishop influenced the legend of Santa Claus.

Saint Nicholas, or Nikolaos of Myra, was a bishop in an ancient town in Lycia--now Demre, in the Antalya Province of Turkey. One of his most well-known deeds involved giving unexpected gifts, one of which landed in a stocking.  In the story, Nicholas wanted to help three young girls, whose father had no money for their dowries.  At that point in history, such a fate would result in a life of prostitution. Not wanting to embarrass the poor father, Nicholas threw bags of gold coins through the windows.  In one version of the tale, the father laid in wait to discover who was doing this...and so instead of throwing the third bag through the window, Nicholas dropped it down the chimney, and it landed in a stocking hung to dry by the fire.

Sinterklaas rides
a white horse
The Dutch figure of Sinterklass is based upon Saint Nick, and he more resembles the white-bearded man in red we're all familiar with. In turn, our Santa Claus is derived from Sinterklass, and it's widely believed that he was introduced to North America around the time of the Revolutionary War, by inhabitants of New York City, which was once New Amsterdam, a Dutch colony.

Of course, many other sources have combined to shape both the modern-day image of Santa Claus and the various legends and traditions which have evolved (decorating trees, sleighs pulled by reindeer, winter feasts and festivals, etc.).  Those will be topics for another day and another blog!

I'm hoping my blog readers who celebrate Christmas have finished the gift-buying and food preparation that comes along with the holiday, and have some time to relax and enjoy the magic of the season.  And if you need a book to help you de-stress, check out one of my novels - each one is filled with romance, mystery, and suspense - something for everyone! Also perfect as a last-minute gift, since all you need to send someone a Kindle copy is an email address.  Each one is less that the price of a card, and DIVINE FALL is only 99 cents right now!  If you're an Amazon Prime member, you can get SILVER LAKE free for a limited time, thanks to its inclusion in their new Prime Reading program.  The tabs at the top of the page will take you to the blurb for each book, but I've also included Amazon links below. Happiest of holidays!

HAUNTED SOULS - my latest release! Steamy military romance mixed with spooky suspense - recently named one of the Top 3 Books of 2016 at Read Freely!

SILVER LAKE - A haunting, an old flame, and secrets from the past (a #1 Kindle Bestseller)

GULL HARBOR - A dangerous ghost and an ex-boyfriend await Claire in Cape Cod's Gull Harbor (a #1 Kindle Bestseller)

DIVINE FALL - Romance, Revenge, and a Rogue Fallen Angel (award-winning Young Adult - this one is suitable for ages 13+)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

#HAUNTED SOULS made Top 3 Best #Books 2016! #amreading #amwriting

Earlier in the year, Read Freely, a website that highlights small-press and indie books, invited people to nominate their favorite titles for their annual "The 50 Best Indie Books" contest.  Titles had to meet the requirement of being published either by a small press outside the "Big 5" or be self-published, with a release date in 2016.  When the nominations closed, I was thrilled to hear my romance/ghost story Haunted Souls was one of 100 books to make the Finals round.  Voting then opened up for about three weeks in order to whittle that list down to the Top 50.

An exciting addition this year was the introduction of a cash prize for the Top 3 winners--something most authors would be especially grateful for this time of year!  So with the incentive of the honor of making the list, plus a monetary award, competition was bound to be fierce!  And it was--apparently, over 10,000 votes were cast, according to the site.

I did my best to make sure my readers knew about the contest and had the link information.  Thankfully, I have a Street Team that helps me spread news about my books online, and a number of wonderful friends active on social media who wanted to share the contest information as well. Family members sent emails to those who've read my books. For the past 20 years, I have worked at an all-women's gym, teaching classes, and many of the members have been supporting my writing journey since I began my first manuscript.  In addition, the owner is kind enough to allow me to sell my paperbacks at the gym, and I've done a number of books signings there as well.  Many of the members and employees who read my novels were eager to help by signing up to vote.

I picked up new readers as well along the way, which is one of the great things about these contests--your title lands on the radar of people who haven't heard of your book before as word spreads.  In fact, I found a new fan who took the time to email me about how much she enjoyed my latest novel and compare my work to her favorite romance authors: Julia Kent, Marie Force, Kristan Higgins and Jill Shalvis.  Quite an honor! That made my day.

The contest closed December 16, and the results trickled in day by day, starting with 50-41, then 40-31, etc.  Each day I both wanted to see my cover in the results and didn't want to see it...because if I didn't see it, maybe I made the next highest group.  Last night, before I could even check (okay, before I hit refresh for the hundredth time to see if the final 10 results had been posted), I got a text full of excited emojis from one of my friends, announcing I'd won $200.  If that was true, I knew I'd come in within the Top 3, in second place.  I sprinted to the computer to check, and it was there!  My book had come in at 2nd place in a competition that began with 100 books--very exciting! 

Happy Dance!

Check out the link below to see the Top 10 of Read Freely's 50 Best Indie Books of 2016, and find some new reads for the holidays! Last but not at all least, a HUGE thank you to everyone who voted - we're all busy these days, especially with all the winter holidays, so I very much appreciate your taking the time to support me.  Thanks! xo

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Getting Published~ Featured in Cape Cod article! #amwriting #writingtips

I had a lot of events scheduled throughout the fall, several of which involved appearing with two fellow authors who write for my publisher.  In November, we spoke together as a panel at the monthly "A Book in the Hand" event in Dennis on Cape Cod.  Our presentation was designed to offer advice to aspiring writers on getting published, and we were also able to share our individual stories.  It was a well-attended event, and we fielded many questions from the audience.

Kevin Symmons, Kathryn Knight, and Katie O'Sullivan at
A Book in The Hand
A reporter from the Cape Cod Times was there as well, and she used some of our discussion for her article "So You Want to Get Published", which appeared in the Cape Books section on December 4, 2016.  I was both mentioned and quoted, which was very exciting.  

The link to the article is below for anyone who would like to read it!  As I tell my writing classes, the most important thing is to finish that book...nothing can happen until it's done!  Everyone has a different writing method (mine is slow, with edits made along the way...hence the not surprising major NaNoWriMo fail), but one thing holds true for everyone: the words will not magically appear by themselves.  So, Butt in Chair, Fingers on Key Board is some of the best advice out there.  For more info on the later stages, here is the article:

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Last Days to Vote Best #Indie #Books 2016! #amwriting

"These two are smokin' hot!" ~Romance 4 the Beach Reviews
Each year, Read Freely accepts nominations for the 50 Best Small Press and Indie Books of 2016, and from all the initial nominations, the list is whittled down to 100 titles in 11 categories.  From there, half will make the final 50.  I’m thrilled to announce Haunted Souls made the list in the Romance category!  This is a steamy military romance with a spooky mystery on the side, set on Cape Cod and published by The Wild Rose Press.  I’m hoping visitors to my blog will take a second to vote for my book along with their other choices—you get 2 votes per category—and help small and indie authors gain more visibility for their books!  Voting is easy, and while an email address is required to keep people from voting multiple times, it is very safe.  In fact, you don’t even get an email confirmation, just a page on the site that says “Thank you for voting”.

Best part?  Three voters will receive a $50 Amazon gift card!

This contest closes on December 16, so don't miss your chance to weigh in and also get entered for the gift cards.  I’d so appreciate a vote for Haunted Souls, and the link to the Romance category is here: Read Freely – Romance.  Thank you!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

#Free Holiday #Recipe Book from the Authors of #TWRP

Every December, my publisher's marketing director takes on an additional challenge - putting together the annual holiday recipe book, a gift for our readers.  The authors vote on a theme, and then contribute recipes within the various categories.  This year's theme is comfort food, and we'd love to share our tried and tested favorites with you!  The electronic version is free, all you need is an account at our online store, which is easy to create if you don't have one yet.  Our categories are listed below, along with the link to get your free recipe book - I hope you enjoy the 2016 Holiday Garden Gourmet!


Soups & Stews
Breads, Biscuits, & Muffins
Salads & Sides
Cookies & Bars

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Pick the 50 Best #Books + Win a #Giftcard! #amwriting #amreading

"These two are smokin' hot!" - Romance 4 the Beach
Each year, Read Freely accepts nominations for the 50 Best Small Press and Indie Books of 2016, and from all the initial nominations, the list is whittled down to 100 titles in 11 categories.  I’m thrilled to announce Haunted Souls made the list in the Romance category!  This is a steamy military romance with a spooky mystery on the side, set on Cape Cod and published by The Wild Rose Press.  I’m hoping visitors to my blog will take a second to vote for my book along with their other choices—you get 2 votes per category—and help small and indie authors gain more visibility for their books!  Voting is easy, and while an email address is required to keep people from voting multiple times, it is very safe.  In fact, you don’t even get an email confirmation, just a page on the site that says “Thank you for voting”.

Best part?  Three voters will receive a $50 Amazon gift card!

I’d so appreciate votes for Haunted Souls, and the link to the Romance category is here: Read Freely – Romance.  Thank you!