Friday, December 20, 2013

Celebrating A Scottish Christmas with Willa Blair

Would You Like to Celebrate a Scottish Christmas?

While Christmas, or Yule as it was once called, is celebrated in modern Scotland with many of the same trimmings as in America, it’s a more subdued affair.  Christmas was banned in Scotland in the mid-16th century because it was seen as a Catholic holiday by the Protestant Reformation.  That ban lasted nearly 400 years, until the 1950s. 

During that bleak time, a few old traditions survived, most derived from ancient midwinter celebrations.  Candles in windows were once meant to light the way to warmth and safety for travelers out in harsh winter weather.  Now candles are everywhere, from windows to Christmas tree branches, though we’ve modernized that fire hazard into strings of LED lights.  

The yule log was borrowed from the early Norse invaders to light the longest night of the year and provide an omen, good or bad, of the coming year in its ashes.  Scots also believed that the fire burning all night kept spirits and sprites from coming down the chimney and entering the house to do mischief.  No wonder Santa Claus didn’t visit. 

How things have changed!  We’re more likely to eat a yule log than light one on fire.  There are many versions of yule log cakes, from the simple jelly roll to gorgeously decorated holiday cakes.


So if Scots didn’t celebrate Christmas, what did they do?  Scotland has a long history of trade with France due to the Auld Alliance, and the term for Scotland’s New Year celebration, Hogmanay, is believed to have been derived from a French phrase for Christmas. Gifts were given for Hogmanay rather than Christmas, and special feasts celebrated it.  On New Year’s Eve, houses were cleaned to clear away the old year.  Candles lit the way for the First Footer, a tradition that survives today.  The first person to enter the house after midnight on New Year’s Eve/Day, preferably a tall, dark-haired, male bearing a gift of food, fuel, or whisky, brings good luck to the house and those within it.  The preference for dark hair may come from the time when light hair was associated with Norse invaders.

Yule logs, outdoor bonfires, and other fire ceremonies may have fallen out of favor, but the modern equivalent - fireworks - are a big part of New Year’s Eve celebrations all over the world. 

Nowadays, Scots celebrate Christmas, Hogmanay, Boxing Day, all the way through Twelfth Night.  So if you want to celebrate the holidays in Scotland, be prepared to stay a while.  If you just want to celebrate like a Scot, stock up on food and single malts, light some candles - or the LED equivalent, invite your friends, and enjoy! Merry Christmas, and have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!


HIGHLAND HEALER  available at The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, B&N, iBook and others

Highland Seer available NOW on Amazon

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It's Over. Whew!

I did it! I can't believe it! 

Here's a reminder for myself and a tip for next year's NaNoWriMo participants: If you use OpenOffice to write your manuscript, your word count will not match the validation word count. My word count had a difference of almost 4,000 words!

So what did I win?

1. An AWESOME sense of accomplishment. 2013 was far from productive in the writing sense. I wrote more words in November than I had in the whole year. By finishing NaNoWriMo, I proved to myself that writing 2,000, or even 5,000, words in one night is possible when you enjoy your story.

2. An AWESOME 'Winner' t-shirt. Well, okay, I didn't actually win the shirt, but it only cost me $16.67 (hehe--get it? That's the number of words per day needed to win NaNoWriMo.) I will wear it proudly.

3. An AWESOME first draft to work with after New Year's Eve. I'm actually looking forward to the editing process on this novel. I may change my views on that after the third round of revisions, but for now, I'm excited.

and last but not least...

4. An AWESOME certificate. I wonder if the certificate will help when I start looking for an agent. Probably not, but it's okay--I love it!

Right now you're thinking: That's a whole lot of AWESOME for one little blog post. Yes. Yes, it is.

Thank you to all of you for your support and encouragement. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday is Thanksgiving. It's also Make Your Own Head Day. Feel free to combine those two holidays any way you see fit, and if you're feeling particularly artistic, by all means take photos and send them to me.

Right now, I'm neck deep in the first draft of my new novel, Halcyon Dream, and frantically trying to get to 50,000 words or more by midnight on Saturday. I'm fairly confident I'll make it to the finish line this year. When the first draft is complete, I'll print the whole mess out and then put it away until January. When I look at it with fresh eyes, I'm sure I'll shake my head quite often, wondering what the heck I was thinking when I wrote it. For now, I just want to get done so that I can enjoy the Christmas season. By enjoy, I mean pulling my hair out every time I think of all the things I need to do. In any case, I'm not there yet.

I've been thinking about what's in store for this blog in 2014. As soon as I figure it all out, I'll let you all know.

The Four for Friday feature was fun, but I'd like to do something new next year.
The Fun Facts feature needs a new theme for 2014. I think I have an idea, but we'll see.

Coming up with fun and interesting posts can be difficult during the best of times, but I find I sometimes devote more time to the research for a post than I do to my manuscripts. The most writing I accomplished in 2013 was my 50,000 NaNoWriMo words. I've noticed a number of blogger/writers with the same concern. I may cut down on the frequency of my posts so that I can be more productive with my writing in 2014.

I'm interested in how you all cope with blogging and writing, especially if you work a full-time job.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know that I'm thankful for each and every one of you, and to wish you all a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Four For Friday--Sheila Deeth

Four For Friday is a weekly feature where guest authors choose one of their own characters to complete four sentences. 

Don't forget: you need to click on the Rafflecopter tabs or else your entries won't count! 

This week's post is by Sheila Deeth from her novel, Bethlehem's Baby

I’m called David, which is pretty cool ‘cause there was a great king called David once, not like that Herod the Great guy my granddad keeps complaining about. King David, he was the sort of king that knew stuff and did stuff and won great battles and all that, and people wrote about him and still sing songs. And he was a shepherd, just like me. So I’m proud to be a David, and one day I think I might grow up to be a king.

  1. The thing I’m most thankful for is my dad, ‘cause lots of my friends haven’t got dads. The Roman soldiers killed ‘em when that evil King Herod told them to, just ‘cause they didn’t think he should be king. And he shouldn’t really be king ‘cause he’s not even one of us. He’s a… Idu… Idiot… I dunno; my granddad could tell you though. He knows that sort of thing.
  2. The best part of a Chanukah meal is remembering how we kicked out the Greeks. Granddad says it was our finest hour. He says we’re going to kick out the Romans one day too and that’ll be our even finester hour. Me, I’m going to be a famous warrior and help and then they’ll let me into the Temple so they can crown me king.
  3. I wish the people in my family were more like kings and royalty though. I know it’s cool to be a shepherd like King David, but King David wasn’t just a shepherd was he? He got to live in a palace and all I get is a tent full of brothers and sisters and my granddad bossing us about.
  4. Temperatures are getting cooler; that means we have to keep the fires burning at night. And Granddad, he just complains and complains and complains. He says his cloak’s not warm enough and the fire makes too much noise and we kids keep disturbing him. But honestly, it’s Granddad keeps disturbing us, except… That’s not Granddad. The whole sky looks like it’s on fire and it sounds like somebody’s singing. I got to go and see!

You can find more of the Five-Minute Bible StoryTM Series on the publisher’s website:

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fun Facts about Make Your Own Head Day

This year, Thanksgiving falls on November 28th. Everyone else's blog is talking about turkeys, pumpkin pie, pilgrims and tryptophan-induced naps. 

That's all fine and good, but another holiday falls on the same day. Have you ever heard of Make Your Own Head Day? Neither had I, but you, my dear friends, will be glad I've done some research and enlightened you about this fun holiday. 

Now, you can amaze your friends and family at the dinner table with your vast knowledge!

Who created Make Your Own Head Day? I'm not really sure.

It could have been in 2007 when this Minnesota State graduate, who was immortalized in 50 pounds of butter, had her 15 minutes of fame on David Letterman. You can read about it here

In any case, Make your own head day is a day to make a likeness of your own head in any creative medium you choose. 

You could draw your head with crayons, markers, pencils, or paint. 

You could sculpt your head using clay, Play-doh, tin foil, Rice Krispies, Legos, styrofoam, or even plant matter. Let your imagination fly!

Or since this year, the holiday falls on Thanksgiving, you could be more traditional and use butter. 

Display your head on your dining room table and have your guests use the butter on their biscuits. You may want to take a photo of your buttery creation before everyone digs in, though.

Come to think of it, feel free to send me photos of your work. No matter what medium you use. If I get enough entries, I will run a contest. The photos will be posted in December, and you can all vote on your favorite. The winner will receive a $10 Amazon gift card! You can use it to buy books, art supplies, and believe it or not, BUTTER! 

Send your entries to my e-mail: dee stan 62 @ g mail dot com 

(It's written that way to confuse the bots. Leave out the spaces and replace the word 'dot' with a dot.)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Four For Friday--Kim Curley

Four For Friday is a weekly feature where guest authors choose one of their own characters to complete four sentences. 

Don't forget: you need to click on the Rafflecopter tabs or else your entries won't count! 

This week's post is by Kim Curley

Her character, Erin is from "Faith" a short story that appears in Earth's End

Erin grew up near Charlottesville, Virginia. A homeschooled child, Erin excelled in all of her classes and tested highly in sciences. While her father, Glen Hunter, spent his waking hours at the Leander McCormick Observatory studying astronomy, Erin focused on genetics and the study of DNA. Although she never officially obtained a degree, Erin is a geneticist. Since the upheaval of the earth, Erin has diligently shared her science skills with the remaining survivors, called Lemurians to insure a healthy, and safe, future for mankind.

1. The thing I’m most thankful for is my new, extended family! They have been a joy and inspiration to me through the most difficult time in my life. Besides losing both parents, and the near destruction of the earth, we had many dark days. But, the Lemurian’s gave me focus in what I need to do today, and they reminded me to keep faith and hope alive for a better tomorrow.

2. The best part about the Thanksgiving meal is the harvest, which is year ‘round now! My favorite food is the strawberries. They’re as big as your hands and oh, so, sweet!

3. I wish the people in my family were more… I don’t wish for my family to be anything more than what and who they are. I love them dearly! They’ve given me courage through diversity, and unconditional love at all times.

4. Temperatures are getting a bit cooler, that means harvesting and gathering seeds from plants to continue propagation. Although it sounds like all we do is work, this is down time for us. This is an opportunity to relax a bit in the evenings, visiting with family and friends, both near and far. 

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My NaNoWriMo Word Count May Not Increase Tonight.

Seventeen years ago on 11/12, at 1:00pm, on an island in the Caribbean, with 30 mph winds, during a storm that lasted 10 days, I married my best friend. 

He's the man of my dreams, who supports me in everything I do, (especially when I'm glued to my keyboard, writing and blogging) and I don't know what I would do without him. 

We've weathered some storms through the years, much like on our wedding day, but through it all, we knew we were right for each other.

Isn't it wonderful when you know you've found your soul mate?

Happy Anniversary to us. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Four For Friday--Alice Ayden

Four For Friday is a weekly feature where guest authors choose one of their own characters to complete four sentences. 

Don't forget: you need to click on the Rafflecopter tabs or else your entries won't count! 

This week's post is by Alice Ayden from her Ausmor Plantation Series

The winner will get their choice of a Kindle copy of BEAUTIFUL WHISPERS or MISSING 6.

I’m Jane Austen. No, not that Jane, but I am a huge fan! My last name just happens to be Austen, and my mom named me Jane after her favorite aunt. I live with my family on a working Virginia Plantation that’s been in my family since before the Revolutionary War. There are plenty of secrets at the Plantation: spirits roam the halls, there’s a hidden cellar, a killer might be lurking, one of my aunts hates me, my cousin is a twirloholic, and I can’t seem to remember the handsome handyman that’s just come back – that’s because I tripped on the stairs (I think) and lost the last 6 months of my memory.

1. The thing I’m most thankful for is...

Definitely my family. They put up with all my craziness (and I have a lot of it with the pesky amnesia, I’m convinced someone’s following me, and I keep having flashbacks to a cellar). I’m always grateful to my cousins (Evan and Lillia) who have my back, my cat, Fanny Dingo, who watches over me, and for being able to live in such an amazing house.

2. The best part about the Thanksgiving meal is...

That my aunt, Bitty, didn’t cook any of it. She thinks she’s a cook, but I don’t consider chocolate covered cauliflower a delicacy. Luckily, Mrs. Hodghes is the best cook, and she likes me so we always have amazing food. Plus tourists like to visit to see how the family celebrated back in the day.

3. I wish the people in my family were more...

I wrote many versions for this answer, but ended up chucking them all. For all the bugaboos, I wouldn’t really change any of my family. My cousin, Lillia, twirls, my other cousin, Evan, is the smartest person I know, Mrs. Kiness protects, Grand Maeve has never met a man she couldn’t tempt, Uncle V is obsessed with Canada, Aunt Bitty tries to poison everyone every year, but I wouldn’t be who I am without any of them.

4. Temperatures are getting cooler, that means...

Fires in the fireplaces which only scares Mrs. Kiness more because she thinks every pop is one of the spirits haunting her. It also means hot cocoa with lots of marshmallows, fudge, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate covered... Wait, I’m suspecting a theme here.


Please leave a comment and tell us which book you would like if you are the winner!

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day 5--NaNoWriMo and I are still in the dating phase.

Today is Day 5. As of twelve hours ago, my word count is 5455. Hopefully after finishing this blog post, the count is up to 8000. We'll see.

In 2009, I signed up and finished a really horrible first draft.

In 2010, I was so excited about starting again. It turned out not to be so wonderful the second time around. With only one day to go, I gave up.

In 2011, I didn't participate, but wished others well and even shared my own Recipe for Nano Success

In 2012, I didn't even think about it.

This year, I was reluctant to sign up for NaNoWriMo. Ok, honestly? I forgot all about it. Then, I read somebody's Facebook status about doing the challenge. I logged onto the site and told myself that if I can't remember my ID and password, I wouldn't be upset about it. BUT I did remember. AND I got it right on the first try. It was a sign. So I signed up.

 Being a typical pantster, I never outline. I usually just go with the flow. When I do NaNo, I start out like gangbusters and then trudge through the middle. This is the time when I either give up, or write a whole lot of junk.

This year, I worked a little smarter. I signed up at and entered all my characters and scenes. Now, every night, I know exactly which scene I'm working on. So far, it's working. I haven't stared down a blank screen or blinking cursor yet.

This year, NaNo and I are very compatible. We really like each other. Everything is going smoothly. I'm polite and dainty and on my best behavior. NaNo is a real gentlemen. The conversation is flowing, and we're getting to know each other. So far...

Are you doing the NaNo challenge? Would you like another buddy? Let's face it, we all need buddies who are understanding when the relationship starts getting rocky. Add me to your list--Denise0616.

Don't know how to add a buddy? Leave your screen name in the comments and I'll find you.

Wish us luck!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Four For Friday--Jennifer Chow

Four For Friday is a weekly feature where guest authors choose one of their own characters to complete four sentences. 

Don't forget: you need to click on the Rafflecopter tabs or else your entries won't count! 

This week's post is by the beautiful, Jennifer Chow from her novel, The 228 Legacy.

My name is Silk Lu, and I’m 55 years old. I’m from Taiwan (raised in Taipei, but then I moved to Kaohsiung). Now, I live in this town called Fairview, near Los Angeles. I have one daughter, Lisa, who is too Americanized. I also have one granddaughter Abbey, the pride and joy of my existence.

1. The thing I’m most thankful for 

is freedom. I escaped Taiwan during the crazy time when we transitioned from Japanese to Chinese Kuomintang rule. I love how the United States gave me a fresh start. Nobody knew my background, and I could deny it myself. I could start fresh, without my past haunting me…or so I thought.

2. The best part about the Thanksgiving meal is

—actually I don’t like the traditional American meal. What is the big fuss over a huge, bland bird baked in the oven and smothered with butter? Personally, I’d prefer a nice dish of steamed fish, served with a soy sauce concoction and garnished with ginger and scallions. There is nothing that compares with fresh seafood, and I should know—I used to live near a port in Taiwan.

3. I wish the people in my family were more

appreciative of the Taiwanese culture. I’m doing the best that I can, trying to teach them the language and customs. My daughter never seemed to catch on, but at least my granddaughter is making an effort, and I can see a lot of potential in her.

4. Temperatures are getting cooler, that means that it’s time for 

the fall foliage to come in. Fairview has real maple trees in this nice neighborhood in town. I’ve always wanted to take a little break from my vineyard work to marvel at the beautiful colors on the trees.


Jennifer J. Chow, an Asian-American writer, holds a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a Master’s in Social Welfare from UCLA. Her geriatric work experience has informed her stories.  She lives near Los Angeles, California. To learn more about Jennifer and her novel, please visit her website.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NaNoWriMo Craziness

Yes, yes. I know. Halloween is this Thursday. While everyone is handing out candy to cute little boys dressed as Minions and sweet little girls dressed as Disney Princesses, I'll be organizing my character lists and preparing myself to start writing at 12:01 am during NaNoWriMo.

What's NaNoWriMo you ask? It's short for 'National Novel Writing Month,' but it's definitely INTERnational. People from all over the world sit down and attempt to write 50,000 words by November 30th. The site has a wealth of information, and if you're feeling brave, there's still time to sign up and write your novel in one month. Come on! Why don't you join me?

My first year was 2009. I completed a really bad novel that didn't follow any rules. It's in my bottom drawer. In 2010, I didn't finish, but I was pretty close. In 2011, I signed up, but didn't write. In 2012, I stayed away from all things NaNoWriMo. No way was I getting sucked in.

I'm convinced it's that 'Accountability' thing. You know--where you voice your intentions in order to keep yourself accountable for your actions. I know NNWM is a personal thing, but I always feel like I let someone down (besides myself) if I don't finish.

I work better under pressure, but what if I can't do it? What if I don't finish? What if I can't write 1667 words a day for 30 days? This is the first month of the Holiday season! When will I shop? When will I clean my house for Thanksgiving? How will I cook all that stuff I'm serving on Thanksgiving day?

Well, I know the answer...if you want something bad enough, you MAKE time. I do most of my Christmas shopping online anyway. Besides, who will complain if my house is less than spotless? Do I really need to make 6 different vegetables when only 5 people are coming for dinner?

I took the plunge. I signed up for NaNoWriMo in November. Yes, that's this Friday. I know, I know, but I haven't done much writing this year. I have a main character who is constantly chattering in my ear, but I can't seem to find the time to sit down and write her story. NaNoWriMo is a great way to dive into the writing pool. We'll see...Maybe I'll do a really big belly flop. Maybe I can't write 1667 words a day for 30 days, but maybe I CAN.

If you'll be participating and want to add me as your buddy, my user name is denise0616. Look me up! If not, you can still keep track of my progress on the blue widget above my picture.

NaNoWriMo scares me! So does this guy...

Wish me luck! Oh and Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Writing And Accountability Partners

Keep Calm and SAY IT OUT LOUD Poster 

Accountability--An obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions.

Whenever I plan on doing something important, like losing weight or staying smoke-free, I find that voicing my intention helps to keep me on track. Talking about my plans takes that random idea out of my head and flings it into the universe, making it an attainable goal. I think it works--I've been smoke-free for almost 4 months.

The same is true for writing. For the most part, it's is a solo endeavor, and unless you have to meet a deadline, there is no one to answer to. Writing is not a team sport, but there's no reason you can't have cheerleaders.

Partner--One associated with another, especially in an action.

Having an accountability partner is invaluable for me.  I need someone to answer to, brainstorm ideas with, discuss my fears, celebrate accomplishments and yes, commiserate with about rejections. Having a partner helps me get back in the zone even with all the trials and tribulations of everyday life. And sometimes, a partner is great for pulling you out of that writer's block slump we all get into. I have two partners, and I'd like to think I help them as much as they help me.

Just like Penn and Teller, Bonnie and Clyde, Lewis and Clark, or Thelma and Louise, having a partner keeps you focused, keeps you on task, but it also makes life more fun.

Do you have an accountability partner?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fun Facts about Candy Corn

October 30th is National Candy Corn Day!!

It's that time of year--when children of all ages go house to house dressed in costumes of their favorite superheroes, villains, and monsters. When parents raid their children's goody bags for all the best candy. (My favorite was Snickers. I told my kid they had peanut butter in it, and that she didn't like peanut butter.) When every store stocks its shelves with bags of candy, especially candy corn.

Made from sugar, corn syrup, carnauba wax and water, the candy corn is either loved or hated. Now that I'm older, I could take it or leave it, but it is one of the iconic symbols of Halloween. Each piece of candy corn is approximately three times the size of a real corn kernel, and each serving contains about 130 calories.

Each year, Americans consume enough candy corn to circle the Earth 4.25 times. Personally, I liked to eat them one at a time, biting off each color separately. This year, there will be 9 billion colorful little kernels produced.

--Did you know that Hersheys's made Candy Corn Kisses?

They are discontinued, but there is a Facebook page asking for them to come back. Check it out! Bring Back Hershey's Candy Corn Kisses There are only 39 fans, but maybe we can all like the page and get them to come back for next Halloween.

--Did you know there are things you can make from your leftover candy corn? Click on the photo for 9 yummy recipes.

--How about a recipe for bars that look like candy corn?

--And of course, what's a party without candy corn Jello shots? They seem like a lot of work, but if you MUST make them, here's a great recipe!

Now I'm getting hungry. What about you? Do you like candy corn?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Four For Friday--Willa Blair

Four For Friday is a weekly feature where guest authors choose one of their own characters to complete four sentences. 

Don't forget: you need to click on the Rafflecopter tabs or else your entries won't count! 

This week's post is by Willa Blair from her new novel, Highland Seer.

My name is Donal MacNabb, arms master and husband to Ellie, Laird MacKyrie.  People will tell ye I'm a skeptic. 'Tis true I used to trust my five senses and little else - until I met the Lathan Healer. I didna trust my his laird’s fascination with the healer he brought home from the invading army, but I came to believe her talent was real.  So when I met Ellie MacKyrie, her Sight wasna quite as hard to swallow as the fact that she was laird of her clan and wanted me to be her consort. Other than my skill with a sword, I had nothing to offer - no lands, wealth or armies. But Ellie became my soul. With her, I found my true home and learned to trust my heart as well as my senses.

1. The spookiest thing that ever happened was on All Hallows many years gone.  I heard a banshee scream. There are those who will say I heard a wildcat or an eagle.  I heard a banshee.  When ye hear one, someone near to ye is going to die. My sister’s husband died that night of the fever that took my sister a day later. Aye, the banshee screamed twice.

2. When I was younger, I wanted to be a warrior and to fight for my clan.  I became one - a bloody good one. I’ve fought for my clan and my adopted clans many times over the years.  And the lads I’ve trained to fight with fists and weapons are still alive today.

3. I used to think if I were wealthy, I would improve the clan’s weapons and defenses.  Now that I am, I'm doing that, and seeing to the welfare of the bairns left fatherless by the King’s folly at Flodden.  

4. My favorite food?  I dinna think I have one.  I’ve spent years traveling and fighting and I’ve learned to eat just about anything when hungry.  I enjoy an ale by the fire on a cold evening, and a wee dram doesna go amiss.  Lately, I’ve developed a liking for MacKyrie whisky.  Fortunately, we have a good supply of it.


Willa Blair is the best-selling and award-winning author of Scottish romance with a paranormal twist, set in the 16th century Highlands, when the old ways, and old talents, still shaped events. If you'd like to learn more about Willa and her books, visit her blog.

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