Saturday, December 28, 2019

New Year Resolutions

Good morning! Today I'd like to talk about creating New Year resolutions. As a writer, I'm always setting goals, it's a good way to keep myself on track. But I tend to shy away from the idea of making New Year resolutions.

Most of these resolutions are related to being more healthy such as: I'm going to start going to the gym  three times a week. Or I'm going to lose ten pounds by March. 

Some are all about being productive.  I'm going to write three more books next year. 

Some are about eating better. I'm going to eat veggies at dinner every night.

Am I the only one who thinks this sets us up for failure? I mean if you don't meet your goals relatively quickly I feel like it's far too easy to give up. Say for example I only get to the gym twice in one week, I'm already a failure even though I may not have been to the gym in months. Going twice is better than never going at all, right?

The same thing could be said for any of the other New Year resolutions.

What if instead we focused on trying to find ways to do things that are more important. Here in our household we are hoping to rejuvenate family game night. It won't be easy because everyone works different schedules, so coordinating will be a challenge. But if we even have one family game night, I'm going to view it as a success.

What about other ways to stay connected with family? I love going to the theater to see musicals. My hope is that I can attend one musical next year with my daughter and my mother-in-law. Should be able to make that happen, right? In Milwaukee we have Miss Saigon and The Lion King playing. Decisions decisions.

Starting off a new year often brings a sense of anticipation. Of hope. Of yes, maybe making some changes in our lives. But maybe these don't really have to be detailed resolutions, but more overall goals. If my one overall goal is to spend more time with my family, then there are a variety of ways I can do that. And if for some reason, I don't get to the theater, but we are able to have a family game night, and maybe host a party along the way, I'll still be spending time with my family.

So this is NOT a New Year resolution but an overall goal. I'd like to spend quality time with my family next year.

Anyone else? I'd love to hear your thoughts. And if you do make New Year resolutions that you've been successful with in the past, let me know. I'm always happy to be proven wrong.

I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed 2020!

Laura Scott

Friday, December 27, 2019

Making Snowflakes by Margaret Daley #sweetromance

Making Snowflakes by Margaret Daley

Can you believe there is a day for making cut out snowflakes? That is—December 27th. I guess that’s because winter has just started and a lot of the world will get snow during the season. But making snowflakes isn’t with ice or water but with paper. So, I decided to see what kind of snowflake I could make. I have seen some beautiful ones made out of paper.

Here is my attempt: 

I’m surprised that I could actually make a neat snowflake. If I can, anyone can, following the instructions this YouTube video has at: I hope to show my granddaughters how to do some of the elegant ones.

I have put series books from Strong Women, Extraordinary Situations (except Deadly Hunt, which is only priced at 99¢), Everyday Heroes, and Daring Escape Series 50% off until January 1st. I have sixteen books on sale. Check it out. My Smashwords page is Follow the instructions at the checkout to get 50% off.
Examples of ones on sale:

Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Perfect Gingerbread House by Susan Alyworth

Thanksgiving in our home is much like the holiday in many other American households. We have the turkey with all the trimmings and invite any of the family who live nearby. This year we had two sons with their combined families who joined us for the day.

Our youngest son, a talented though amateur chef, prepared a "flying pig," his own creation. It began with a turducken (boned chicken inside boned duck inside boned turkey), but then added layers of ham and sausage. He packed different kinds of dressing between the layers of meat. My favorite was the wild rice with sausage, although the fruit stuffing came in a close second. The total  concoction weighed 37 pounds before it went into the oven.

Each of the families added one or more yummy side dishes and everyone brought pies. That gave us a delightful Thanksgiving feast. It also gave us six adults and eight children to enjoy the day. The two eldest grandkids, cousins born two days apart, turned 10 that same week; the baby was 15 months old.

We intended to keep the group through the afternoon, enjoying leftovers and pie into the evening hours. So the challenge: How to keep eight little people entertained through the afternoon, especially considering the weather getting chillier and the darkness coming sooner each evening. That definitely narrowed the chances for outside play. What to do?

We started by having the kiddos decorate the Christmas tree, which we set up the day before. They covered it thoroughly, all the while making sure to keep the breakable and edible ornaments out of the hands of the one- and three-year-olds. Decorating the tree kept everyone busy for the first hour after dinner, but we still had several hours to go. We decided to  build a gingerbread house.

I knew better than to start from scratch. I love gingbread and enjoy making it from a recipe, but with eight assistant cooks in the kitchen? Not a good idea. We planned ahead and bought a kit.

In no time at all, we realized the standard approach of carefully following the lines and decorating according to the design on the package was never going to work. We passed out the parts of the house, one per child, and gave them the freedom to decorate however they liked. We also quickly saw that the frosting that came with the kit wasn't going to do the trick. There wasn't enough and with only one frosting bag to go around, seven little people waited and fussed while one took her (or his) time with the frosting bag.

Our resident chef made some royal icing which he divided into several bags and we passed them around the table. When the candy that came with the kit ran low, I scrounged up some leftovers from Halloween. In the end, every child except the youngest got an opportunity to decorate something.

The resulting house is nothing like the kit's designers intended. Each half of the roof looks quite different from the other. The front wall is nothing like the back wall, and the two side walls are even more different. The tree in the front "yard" is nicely decorated, thanks to one of our five-year-olds, but the gingerbread man who is supposed to reside here is gone. The three-year-old made him so enticing that he ate him on the spot.

Our gingerbread house has become a permanent centerpiece for our dining room table since Thanksgiving Day. It may not be what the designers planned, but we think it's perfect.

Susan is the author of 20 novels. Her newest series explores the four seasons in nearby locales.  Paris in the Springtime and Sunny's Summer are available now. Look for Amber in Autumn and Winter Skye, both coming early in 2020 in e-book and paperback. Find her at 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas from the Authors at Sweet Romance Reads

I want to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year. This time of year is special to me. It's a time to pause and cherish our God, family and friends. May your Christmas be filled with joy and blessings. 
Margaret Daley

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
Jean C. Gordon

Christmas blessings from me to all of you! My hope is that everyone gets to spend time with their families and loved ones, the best Christmas gift ever.
Laura Scott

May your holiday memories be sweet, your heart full, and your conversations with friends and loved ones full of meaning. Wishing all of our readers a joyful Christmas!
Josie Riviera

Here's wishing you and your loved ones all the best the spirit of Christmas can bring. May you enjoy a Merry Christmas and the happiest of new years. Feliz Navidad. Ya-aa-teh Keshmish. Mele Kalikimaka. Buon Natale! 
Susan Aylworth

May your Christmas be filled with peace and joy. Wishing you all the best. Merry Christmas!
Kimberly Rose Johnson

Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas. Remember: Jesus is the reason for the Season!
Vickie McDonough

I hope you have a blessed Christmas celebration with those you love. May the coming year bring every happiness and wish fulfilled.
Kristin Wallace

I wish you a blessed Christmas with the warmth of family and friends and the wonder of Christ's birth. And of course since you've been good--Santa!
Lyn Cote

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Chanukah and a New Year filled with love and joy!
Alicia Street

May this festive season sparkle and shine, may all of your wishes and dreams come true, and may you feel this happiness all year round. Merry Christmas blessings to all of you!
Laura Ashwood

Merry Christmas, everyone! May your hearts rejoice and may your day be filled with gladness.
Cindy Flores Martinez

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Christmas Gala by Pat Simmons

When I worked in corporate America, the company Christmas party was not to be missed! The food and prizes were worth spending more time with a cast of characters disguised as coworkers. Recently, a Baltimore real estate company handed out more than ten million dollars in Christmas bonuses to its employees. After that story broke, I wonder how many people applied to St. John Properties. How can any employer top that?
Once when I worked at a radio station, management gave away big electronic gifts at a festive gathering.
My last employer that hosted Christmas parties asked employees whether they wanted a holiday party or gift cards. Talk about take the money and run, the gift cards won out. Since I’m self-employed as an author, I miss out on those holiday parties.
Then last year, my church hosted a Christmas gala. We dressed up, played games, won prizes, ate well, and smiled for the cameras. Now, it’s an annual event. The highlight of the night was taking pictures that created priceless memories. Two church members who we call “saints” were in many photos in 2018, both passed away unexpectedly earlier this year. As we celebrate the holidays, remember we only get one life. Be thankful, kind to strangers and enjoy family while we have them.
Merry Christmas to all.
Check out our selfies and photos on Facebook at #BTCgala2019. 

Pat Simmons has penned more thirty plus titles. She is a self-proclaimed genealogy sleuth who is passionate about casting her ancestors in starring roles. She is a three-time recipient of the RSJ Emma Rodgers Award for Best Inspirational Romance. Pat describes the evidence of the gift of the Holy Ghost as a life-altering experience. She has been a featured speaker and workshop presenter at various venues. Pat has converted her sofa-strapped sports fanatical husband into an amateur travel agent, untrained bodyguard, and GPS-guided chauffeur. Pat holds a B.S. in mass communications from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. Visit her at

More Christian Christmas stories:

Monday, December 23, 2019

Creating Holiday Memories by Laura Ashwood

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the memories that are created each year. When I think about Christmas, I am flooded with memories. When I was little, my grandparents on my mom's side lived in a tiny duplex and when the whole family would come for the holidays (they had 9 kids, so do that math!) we were stacked in like cord wood. No one even thought of getting a hotel. My bed was a little palette on the floor under the sink in the laundry/storage room with my cousin next to me in the narrow aisle between the shelves and the sink with another cousin at her feet in front of the washing machine. Those were great times. We'd giggle all night long, never caring where we were, just that we were there. It's coming back to my grandparent's on my dad's side after midnight mass on Christmas Eve and everyone else would be in the living room or getting ready for bed but my grandma and I would cut into a loaf of fresh baked bread and slather it with butter and a slice of cheese and have our own special treat. To this day (they also had 9 kids, so the house was FULL), I still can't believe we were able to have that special time alone.

Now that my grandparents are gone and I am a grandparent myself, it's important to me to create memories for my kids and grandkids that they can look back on. Part of the way I do that is in creating the atmosphere.

A beautifully decorated tree that fills the room with it's glowing lights and subtle pine smell brings me back to Christmases past without even trying. The ornaments I've inherited and will pass along are displayed front and center. The Mr. and Mrs. Claus to the left of the tree belonged to my husband's parents and bring a piece of them into the house.

The other thing I do is bake. I remember baking and frosting cookies with my mom as a child and being excited as an adult to go back "home" so I could eat those same frosted cookies.  Now that we have grown kids and grandkids, they can come "home" and have that same experience.

This year I made "baby Yoda" cookies for my daughter, who may have a tiny obsession with that character. I also made our family favorite, caramel puffcorn and yes, that IS a chihuahua cookie hiding with the baby Yodas.

The recipe for caramel puffcorn is:

1 bag (9 oz) Old Dutch Puffcorn
1 1/4 c brown sugar
1 cup butter
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 250°F. Over med heat, heat butter, sugar and syrup until sugar is melted. Once mixture has melted, remove from heat and whisk in the baking soda (this will cause the mixture to foam). Dump the puffcorn into a large roasting pan and pour caramel mixture over the puffcorn. I use a large heat-proof spatula (scraper) to gently stir until mixed. Place uncovered in oven for 45 minutes, stirring at least every 15 minutes. Remove from oven, pour on wax paper and spread out as much as you can. Cool, break apart and Enjoy.

What do you do to create holiday memories at your house?

May the good times and treasures of the present become the golden memories of tomorrow. Wish you lots of love, joy, and happiness. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

xo, Laura

This is my Gus "helping" us decorate our tree...

Just in time for your new year planning, I'm giving away to my readers not one, but FOUR of them on my blog! Good luck!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sweet Romance Reads Bargain Books by Margaret Daley, Laura Scott, Josie Riviera, and Kristin Wallace

An Act of Love—99¢ (FREE for KU readers) to December 27thA Christmas Story

By Margaret Daley
When Dr. Max Connors discovers he has a thirteen-year-old daughter who was adopted by a family years ago, he feels betrayed. He locates where his daughter lives and decides to move to Tallgrass, Oklahoma, although he doesn’t know if he will reveal who he is. Rachel Howard, the widowed mother, is struggling with raising her daughter, Taylor, who has problems that interfere with her schooling. As neighbors, Max becomes involved with Rachel and Taylor and ends up helping them when he can. As Christmas nears and his feelings toward Rachel grow, Max must make a decision. Will Max’s secret destroy his dream to have a family?

Christmas Reunion by Laura Scott $0.99

Sarah Franklin is desperate to get her son safely to Crystal Lake, but driving off the road in a blizzard wasn't part of the plan. When a deputy comes to her rescue, she's stunned to recognize her summer crush, Ian Kramer.

Ian Kramer doesn't understand why Sarah has come back ten years after the best summer of his life, especially in the middle of a snow storm two days before Christmas. When he discovers she's on the run from her ex-husband, Ian vows to keep Sarah and her son, safe.

Holiday Hearts Volume 2 by Josie Riviera is only 99¢, a regular $9.99 value (free for KU readers)

Savor the magic of 3 sweet holiday romances—exclusively in one boxed set!!
Included in the set are:

Grab your copy today before price goes up.

Beloved Enemy, a heartwarming Christmas novella
On sale for 99¢. Free on Kindle Unlimited.

As a Union sniper, killing has become easy for Captain Christmas “Chris” Haley. After four long years of fighting against his own countrymen, the once naïve farm boy is now a war-hardened soldier whose faith in God is shaken. Chris is ready to set aside his rifle and return to his Kansas farm. But will his family accept the man he’s become—angry and unsure if he still believes in God?

Chris struggles with being home. His mother's pretty caregiver catches his eye and begins to give him a reason to go on each day. In spite of his bitterness, his heart is softening. But what happens when he learns the secret Hannah is keeping?

Available on Amazon

Christmas in Shellwater Key Box Set (includes 3 holiday novellas)
Free on Kindle Unlimited

Spend Christmas in sunny Florida. No ticket required! A New Christmas Box Set featuring 3 holiday tales filled with laughter, tears and the magic of Christmas. 

Christmas in Shellwater Key…
- A woman who thought life & love had passed her by…
- A single mom-to-be without a room at the inn…
- A heartbroken widow who learns she can find a second chance at love…

Finding You At Christmas, Falling For You At Christmas, Loving You At Christmas 

Friday, December 20, 2019

How to make Snowflake Ornaments by Janice Lynn

I can't believe Christmas is almost here. I mean, wasn't it just Thanksgiving last week? No? Sure seems as if it was. Last night, we had Christmas at my parents. I love Christmas at my parents. I guess most people do. The food, the people, the laughter, the way my mom has her house Christmasfied, all of it. As I walked through her house tonight, I snapped pictures of some of her trees, of her Christmas village, of some of her wall hangings, etc. My mom has it going on, y'all. Like, seriously, Hallmark should hire her to decorate their sets. She loves Christmas almost as much as Sarah Smith does in my Hallmark Publishing sweet romance, Wrapped Up in Christmas. And, like Sarah, my mom has been busy making snowflakes this Christmas. She and the ladies in her ladies' class at church do a Dorcas Project and this past month they made snowflakes to give out to widows and at the nursing home. Even my 85 year old grandmother got in on the snowflake making. The snowflakes they're making are the same ones Sarah & the Butterflies make in Wrapped Up in Christmas and are the same ones I made with Cameron Mathison on the Hallmark Channel's Home & Family show in November. I've had a lot of people ask me about them. Some have sent photos of ones they've made. I love, love, love seeing them. I thought it would be fun to do a how to make the snowflakes post.

1.) Start with a sheet of plastic canvas. You'll cut a 19 squares by 19 squares block.

2.) Next you'll cut this pattern out from your block. To achieve this, you'll go over 5 blocks, down 2 blocks, over 2 blocks, down 3 blocks, then over 5 blocks, then up 3 blocks, over 2 blocks, up 2 blocks, then over 5 blocks. At that point, you should be at the corner of your square. You'll repeat this process for each side. Sounds complicated, I know, but once you do it a time or two, it's actually pretty simple.

3.) At this point, I take yarn and sew around the edges of the pattern. I usually make a design with the yarn. You'll need 2 cut pieces for each snowflake. The center of 2 piece will be covered by the other piece so you will only need to sew/decorate the center of 1 of 2 pieces.              
4.) I've included a few pictures to try to show you how the 2 pieces snap together by you pushing the corners of one piece through to the back of the second piece. Doing this gives your snowflake a 3-dimensional look and really adds to the beauty of the ornament. 

4.) Time to add some sparkle. On this, get creative. I have glitter, sequins, & beads shown here, but you can use anything to bling up your snowflake.

You can add a hook and hang on your tree or you can sit them around on trays or on tables. I've used them to decorate presents in the past--which a character in Wrapped Up in Christmas mentions doing also. The most important things to remember, though, is to keep in mind that every snowflake is different & unique in real life, so yours will be, too, and to have fun. 

 If any of you have made plastic canvas snowflakes, I'd love to see photos of some of the ones you've made. I'll post a photo in the comments of one my niece made using colored glitter glue. I've been making these since I was a teen, but I love seeing what other people come up with in their designs. :)

Do you have any fun holiday crafts that you make? Or that you've seen and think are cool?