Saturday, December 30, 2017

2018 - Slow Down and Calm Down by Denise Devine

I don't know about you, but I'm glad 2017 is over. It was a challenging year for me! I wasn't prepared for many of the issues that came my way and I often found myself wishing I lived in a cave somewhere in the wilderness. Someplace where no one could call, email or text me. Where I didn't have to make dinner every night. Where I could go into the bathroom, soak in a hot tub and not have a cat whining on the other side of the door.

Sound familiar to you?

I dealt with my brother's health, two remodeling projects, several major trips and book deadlines. I had big family dinners on holidays, lawn and garden work, babysitting the grandkids and I even watched my neighbors' kids for a few days so they could take a weekend trip. Then there were RWA chapter meetings, critique group meetings twice a month, monthly press releases, Facebook meetings, book signings and PAN meetings...

You get the idea. My schedule was a mess. The worst part was that many of my commitments weren't even on my calendar. Either I forgot to jot them down or I simply forgot to check--because there was so much stuff piled on top of my planner that I couldn't see it! I missed a couple important appointments because of my sloppiness and had to apologize all over the place.

This year is already looking as busy as last year so something has to change. I have to delete things from my life that waste time and stop sitting on social media late at night. I've been thinking about this for a few days and have come up with a short list of ideas. Simple, everyday changes that can eliminate confusion and last minute rushing. And apologies.

1. Keep a list of important deadlines (like books due and vacation dates) taped on the wall just above my calendar so I can see in advance how much time I have (or have left) to get a project done.
2. Keep the planner updated and don't lay any papers on it. (This is a no-brainer, but sometimes you have to point it out to yourself before you make it a priority.)
3. At the end of each month, look over the next month to see what is coming up and sync my purse calendar with my big planner.
4. Write things down AS SOON AS I THINK OF IT. I have ADD and I can't tell you how frustrating it is to think of a major detail concerning something (often a book!)  while I'm doing something else, only to forget it right away.
5. Go to bed earlier so I can get up earlier! I never get to bed before midnight and I need to start going to bed at 10pm.
6. No more scrolling through Facebook, reading mindless posts (I made chicken for dinner tonight...).

This is a start, but it's enough to get me on the right track. As the title of this blog indicates, 2018 is going to be a year where I slow down and calm down.

What about you? What positive changes are you making for 2018?


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  Denise Devine is a USA TODAY bestselling author of contemporary romance, romantic comedy and she also writes inspirational fiction. She wrote her first book, a mystery, at thirteen and has been writing ever since. She writes about true love, happy endings and stories that touch your heart.


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Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Slate is Clean, Sort of ~ by Magdalena Scott

On December 26th, I dismantled my vintage aluminum Christmas tree, and took down the hand-stitched and sequined "Joy" banner that was a gift years ago. Jingle bells and the brilliant red bow were removed from my all-season door wreath, and the mistletoe I kept forgetting about was muttered at and jerked out of its spot above the door. These and the other decorations are all stowed away for next year. (Even the mistletoe. Surely next year I'll remember to look up, all innocent-like, and say, "Oooh! Mistletoe!" at the correct moment.)

I had a lovely Christmas. It was filled with family, friends, beautiful music, and delicious food. But the minimalist in me delights in removing the extraneous. Although I greatly enjoyed my decorations, after a month they had begun to look and feel like clutter to me.

Making Space

When I took the four boxes (the smallest of which contains the tree) out of the closet the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I decided they wouldn't go back in until there was space on a lower shelf.

It wasn't a great idea to be on tiptoes on my little step stool to get them from the top shelf in my ten-foot-high closet, and I refused to re-enact that dangerous move. (A bad ankle sprain in September helps me be realistic about some things.) The boxes sat out longer than I'd like (talk about clutter!) but before holiday guests arrived, I re-arranged things enough to nestle them one shelf lower.

The decluttering and re-arranging hasn't ended yet. I'd love for it to continue indefinitely!

But here's my guilty admission. I'm hosting a luncheon on New Year's Day, and was shifting some dishes around looking for a better way to store them...

Guess Who Still Owns a Deviled Egg Plate

Yep--that would be me. I also unearthed the big etched-glass plate that would have been perfect for serving something somewhere in the last five years. When I didn't find it (whenever that was) in the only place it could possibly be, I decided the beautiful antique had sold at our auction.

Nope--not sold. Just over-owned. You would think (or at least, I would think) that, as limited as my storage space is, and as much as I've embraced minimalism, I wouldn't get all weird about whether or not a specific item answers roll call.

Sigh. Somebody still has work to do. And part of it is mental work. It's much easier to shift stuff in a closet than it is to shift thinking. But hey--I'm up for it. And I'm excited about it! Do you know why?

It's Time for a Clean Slate

Did you read Mary Alford's post here yesterday, about 2018? If not, take a moment and do so.

I won't ask for your resolutions; Mary has already begun that conversation. I will ask, what are you leaving behind in 2017? I'm leaving over-commitment, lack of organization, and negative thinking. When the clock strikes midnight and the new year begins, I will not carry those heavy burdens with me into 2018.

Incidentally, another thing that will not accompany me into the new year is an item received at the extended-family gift exchange on Christmas night. Due to some confusion, I didn't end up with a gift. And that, my friends, was the very best I could have hoped for. Instead of having a new belonging to read instructions about, store, dust, etc., I left the gathering with empty hands but a heart full of memories.

If you're interested in simplifying your life, I have a suggested reading list on my website. You can find it here:

I also wrote a romance about a young woman who realizes she can't reinvent herself after a near-fatal car wreck unless she leaves behind the burdens that tie her to the past. Find Emily's Dreams here.

Until we meet again,

Happy reading!
Magdalena Scott

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

It's Almost 2018

With just a few days remaining in 2017, I can't believe it’s almost time for a brand new year.

At this time of year, as 2017 comes to a close, is a time of reflecting back over the passing year. For me, it’s been one filled with good things and some not so good, but through it all I can say I was truly blessed this year. What will 2018 bring? Who knows? It’s a brand new slate and anything can happen.

So what are your goals for the New Year?  

Publishers Weekly Bestselling Author Mary Alford grew up in a small Texas town famous for, well not much of anything really. Being the baby of the family and quite a bit younger than her brothers and sister, Mary had plenty of time to entertain herself. Making up stories seem to come natural to her. As a pre-teen, Mary discovered Christian romance novels and knew instinctively that was what she wanted to do with her over-active imagination. She wrote her first novel as a teen, (it’s tucked away somewhere never to see the light of day), but never really pursued her writing career seriously until a few years later, when she wrote her first Christian romance and was hooked. Today, Mary still lives in Texas, and still writes about romance. In fact, she can’t think of anything else she’d rather do. Learn more about Mary Alford at: where you can sign up for her newsletter. Also feel free to send her an email to

Christmas In Delaney Mountain, A Christmas Romantic Suspense novella
Kara Edwards has been looking over her shoulder for years. After being kidnapped and held hostage by a man who claimed to be her late husband’s friend, she’s no longer in the trusting business. She moves to Delaney Mountain with one expectation: to outrun her stalker. Never does she expect to meet a man like David Delaney—one who not only makes her want to trust again, but to love again, too. David Delaney is drawn to Kara from the first moment he meets her. There’s an attractive strength behind her no-nonsense caution and independence. He knows Kara is running from something, but nothing prepares him for what she has to say. When Eli Redford escapes from prison, Kara and David find themselves on one side of a Christmas Eve showdown that brings everything to a deadly head.


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And remember to join the Sweet Romance Reads Café too.


Happy New Year!

Mary Alford

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Christian CHRISTmas Poem by Pat Simmons

‘Twas the night, or day, before Christ came and all through the land,
Not one mischief deed was brewing, all had clean hands,
The bridesmaids were waiting with oil in their lamps,
In hopes that Jesus would soon appear in their camps,
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of King Jesus on a horse danced in their heads,
After Mama had prayed and I had fasted, we closed our eyes, because nothing was the matter.
When suddenly, a shout from above summoned us awake,
before I could blink, our bodies did quake,
I shed my earthly shell and floated away like an angel.
Not only me, but many who had died in Christ thousands of years earlier.
God shouted, and call’d us by name: “Come on, Pat, Moses, Abraham, and Eve! Cain too.
On Paul, Peter, Mary and Joseph too,
I was born and died for all of you not to lose…”
To the heavens above to the hell below, King Jesus will reign forever, and this must know.

As a child, I had memorized Clement Clarke Moore’s 1900s original version. As an adult, CHRISTmas lives within me year round.
All six of my Christmas titles are filled with inspiration to remind readers the reason for the season. I hope you will download one today.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


Pat Simmons has celebrated ten years as a published author with more than thirty titles. She is a self-proclaimed genealogy sleuth who is passionate about researching her ancestors and then casting them in starring roles in her novels.
She is a three-time recipient of the Romance Slam Jam Emma Rodgers Award for Best Inspirational Romance. Pat describes the evidence of the gift of the Holy Ghost as an amazing, unforgettable, life-altering experience.
Pat holds a B.S. in mass communications from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She has worked in various media positions for more than twenty years. Currently, she oversees the media publicity for the annual RT Booklovers Conventions.
She has been a featured speaker and workshop presenter at various venues across the country and converted her sofa-strapped sports fanatic husband into an amateur travel agent, untrained bodyguard, GPS-guided chauffeur.
Readers may learn more about Pat and her books by connecting with her on social media,, or by contacting her at

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Traditions by Julie Jarnagin

With a young family, Christmas is a fun time in our house. One of the things I've loved seeing is the Christmas traditions my family is beginning to adopt. Here are a few of our favorites.

1. Christmas Cookies - I'm not a big baker, but I cheat by buying slice and bakes and several different kinds of icing. We'll make just enough for dessert after dinner and let the kids decorate them with icing and candy.

2. Christmas Lights - We love to go look at beautiful Christmas lights. We moved states this year, so we weren't able to go to our regular spot. Instead, we headed to New Orleans for the Celebration in the Oaks. They had a train ride and a lot of fun things for the kids.

3. Christmas Pajamas - It's amazing how excited the kids get about a new set of Christmas pajamas, and they look adorable running around in them before Christmas.

4. Christmas Eve Eve Church Service - Christmas Eve is on Sunday this year, so we figured we could go to our regular church service, but our nine-year-old doesn't forget tradition easily. He insisted that we go to the Saturday service instead.

5. Live Nativity - This was our first year to go to a live nativity, but I'm sure it won't be our last. The kids loved seeing the actors and live animals reenacting the first Christmas.

6. Christmas Movies - Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we record almost every Christmas movie we can find on our DVR and watch one most nights. Some of our favorites are Home Alone, Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Santa Clause and Christmas with the Kranks.

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions? 

Julie Jarnagin is a USA Today bestselling author of sweet and inspirational romance. She grew up in a small Oklahoma town where her family farmed and ranched. These days she lives in a not-so-big city with her amazing husband and two young sons who tolerate all her nerdy quirks. Julie earned a B.A. in Journalism / Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Meg - Beach Brides Series: Meg Mullen's community theater is on the verge of closing if she can't raise the money to save it, but she's running out of time and needs a miracle. Television producer, Elliot Campbell, finds a message in a bottle from the perfect female contestant for his reality dating show. All he has to do is talk Meg into taking the job, convince her to choose one of the contenders, and figure out how to keep from falling in love with her himself. 

Have you signed up for Sweet Romance Reads newsletter? It's full of great info and fun stuff from our authors. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Yule Log Cake Recipe

In my holiday novella for Sweet Christmas Kisses 4, my heroine is a pastry chef. For the Green Pines winter carnival, she bakes a whole menu of spectacular things.

strawberry and cream santas on yule log
Masatsu, cc-by-sa-2.0.
I grew up above my aunt and uncle's bakery in Belgium, where no holiday meal is complete without the obligatory yule log for desert. (Which in my case, also doubled as my birthday cake.) This time of year was crazy hectic, with all hands on deck to bake, decorate, and package the thousands of yule log orders.
Staff, apprentices, and every available family member was drafted into the assembly-line production. Of course, as a kid, I complained about it, but I have so many great memories now!

The bakery is no more, but the recipes live on...

The truth is that as spectacular as they are, yule logs are really easy to bake. It's the decorating that takes a little talent.

The basic thing you need is a genoise cake. Here's the recipe:

Genoise Cake Recipe


4 eggs, separated

100 grams sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

4 tablespoons warm water

100 grams flour

25 grams corn starch

1 pinch baking powder

1 tsp of sugar or cocoa powder

1) Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla essence and warm water until frothy.
2) Beat egg whites until stiff.

3) Add to egg yolks and fold together.

4) Sift remaining ingredients over mixture and fold in.

5) Cover a sheet pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper.

6) Pour batter over paper, spread evenly in a rectangular shape.

7) Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit (225 degrees Celsius) for 10 minutes.

8) Spread parchment paper over a clean towel.

9) Sprinkle 1 tsp of sugar (or cocoa powder and sugar) over the paper. This is to keep the cake from sticking to the paper.
10) Remove the cake from the oven and immediately turn it over onto the prepared parchment paper.

11) Use a towel moistened with ice-cold water to wipe the surface of the parchment paper adhering to the cake – this will help you peel off the paper more easily.

12) Carefully peel off the paper on which the cake was baked. Immediately roll up the cake in the paper-lined towel, starting from a narrow side.

13) Allow to cool, seam side down.

chocolate yule log with plastic moose
 Plastic moose? Kelly Sue DeConnick, cc-by-sa-2.0.
Now you get to decide how to fill and decorate your yule log.

For an ice cream yule log, I love filling the roll with pistachio ice cream, then frosting the outside with coffee or mocha ice cream or frosting.

Soften the ice cream before using it, and be careful not to break the cake as you unroll it. (If you crack the cake, don’t worry – you’ll cover it up with frosting!)

Roll up the cake, and place it, seam side down, on a serving plate or tray.

Spread frosting or ice cream over the cake, covering ends as well. Using the tines of a fork, mark lines in the frosting to simulate wood grain. Sprinkle 1 tsp. cocoa powder over the cake. Store the yule log in the freezer. Take out of the freezer for a few minutes only before serving, and decorate with frosted berries, mistletoe leaves, plastic reindeer, or meringue mushrooms.

If ice cream strikes me as too chilly, I love filling the log with raspberries or strawberries and cream, and spreading a thickly beaten crème fraiche or chocolate seven-minute frosting on the outside. The white cream makes a perfect setting for decorations, like little raspberry "mushrooms" and the tacky but absolutely required plastic reindeer!

Bon appétit and happy holidays!
And remember that if you need to curl up with something warm and cozy to read, Sweet Christmas Kisses 4 (and 3, and 2, and 1) are just the thing!

Milou Koenings is a USA Today bestselling author. She writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with a happy ending bring more joy into the world and so make it a better place.

Her other Green Pines sweet romances, I Love You Three, Reclaiming Home, The Kampala Peppermint Twist and Sweet Blizzard are available on, iBooks, Nook, Kobo and all your favorite e-book retailers.

Sign up for her newsletter, so you'll be first to know about new releases!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Date & Apple Squares

For me, Christmas is the season of apples and walnuts, and this is one of my favorite recipes for the season. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do!

Cooking apples 1 lb
Shelled walnuts 2 oz
Stoned dates 4 oz
100% wholemeal self-raising flour 4 oz
raw brown sugar 4 oz (you can take less if you prefer it not too sweet)
clear honey 1 tbsp
melted butter or margarine 1 oz
1 egg
1 pinch of salt

Dice the apples, chop the walnuts and dates, mix well with remaining ingredients. Spread mixture into a lightly greased 8'' square shallow tin.

Bake in the oven at 400F for about 30 minutes until golden and risen.
Cut into squares and serve warm with fresh or soured cream.

I love the combination of the fruity, sweet squares with crème fraîche / sour cream.

Serves 4-6

I discovered this recipe during my studies in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Enjoy and while you're at it, don't forget that it's best combined with a good book - and what better book in this season than a collection of heart-warming Christmas stories?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Ready for Christmas? A Wish and A Sale

I hope you have fun plans for the holidays, and your preparations for Christmas are well underway. I love the point when I’m finally out of time and I declare that whatever isn’t done, doesn’t need to be done. I give myself permission NOT to fret over it, and to simply ENJOY myself. I wish that joy for you ~ that not only will your holidays be joyful, but each day leading up to the holidays, as well. It’s the ‘stop and smell the roses’ principle. But if you don’t have time to stop, at least slow down and breathe deeply. You might catch a scent of evergreen and vanilla.

If you have a few gifts yet to purchase, I’d like to highlight some sales for the book lovers on your list.

THE MEMORY OF BUTTERFLIES is on sale at half-price in Ebook ($1.99) for the month of December. The trade paperback format is also on sale for $6.99 at the time I’m writing this. I hope you’ll check them out:  THE MEMORY OF BUTTERFLIES is about love, family, secrets and forgiveness ~ and how far a person might go to protect her loved ones?

If you’re seeking <$5 books for teacher or neighbor gifts, take a look at the Emerald Isle, NC novellas in trade paperback ~ each 4.99:

BEACH WALK (also available in Ebook and Large Print) 
LARGE Print (7.99):
Kelli was taken in by a kind stranger, Margie. 12 years later, Margie dies & Kelli's life must change again, but how far will Kelli go to keep the life she has come to love?

BEACH CHRISTMAS (also available in Ebook) 
Jessie Dawson tries to recreate the perfect Christmas for her family ~ without consulting them. She may need to rethink her Christmas wishes.

If you have readers on your list who can benefit from a larger print, BEACH RENTAL and BEACH WINDS, as well as my newest release, BEACH WEDDING, are now available in a larger print format.
BEACH RENTAL (Large Print)
BEACH WINDS (Large Print)

I wish you all love, joy and fun throughout the holidays, a very Merry Christmas, and an amazing New Year.

Grace Greene


Grace Greene is an award-winning and USA Today bestselling author of women’s fiction and contemporary romance set in her native Virginia (Kincaid’s Hope, Cub Creek, The Happiness In Between, The Memory of Butterflies) and the breezy beaches of Emerald Isle, North Carolina (Beach Rental, Beach Winds, Beach Walk, Beach Christmas). Her debut novel, Beach Rental, and the sequel, Beach Winds, are both Top Picks by RT Book Reviews magazine. For more about the author and her books, visit or connect with her on Twitter @Grace_Greene and on Facebook at