Guest author Tina Ruiz has a quick dinner and a children’s Christmas story to share this holiday season.
Nothing goes to waste in my kitchen. If I have leftover Italian or French bread it becomes the base for a dinner. And what a dinner it is – easy – quick – delicious. Can’t beat that if you’re on a busy schedule or tight budget.
½ loaf Italian or French bread
1½ cups spaghetti sauce, possibly more
½ lb. Genoa salami or pepperoni, sliced thin
3 – 4 slices fresh tomatoes
1½ cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Split the bread in half lengthwise. Smear spaghetti sauce on the white part of the bread. Lay meat slices on top. Scatter on mozzarella and then Parmesan.
Place the bread on a cookie sheet then pop them into the oven until the cheese melts, and VIOLA, dinner is ready!
A nice treat after the pizza bread is a dish of vanilla ice cream topped with your favorite ice cream topping. It is sooooo good and really hits the spot.
Here’s a brief intro to my children’s Christmas book your little ones will enjoy.
Blitzen was born at the North Pole, but he is unable to fly. Because of that, he is taunted and called names by the other reindeers. Rudy saw what was happening, and he decided to teach Blitzen how to gain some confidence. And with a little magic powder from Santa, Blitzen is not only able to fly, but he becomes part of Santa’s famous team.
Tina Ruiz was born in Germany, but her family moved to Canada when she was in grammar school. She began writing children’s stories when her own were little. Through the years Ruiz wrote twenty-seven books. Most of those stories went into readers for the Canada Board of Education. Two did not. Mayor Shadoe Markley is a story about a ten-year-old girl who becomes Mayor for a Day through a contest at school.
Little did Ruiz know that story would “change the world.” The book came out at early January 1988. By the end of that same month, everyone was calling the mayor’s office at City Hall, trying to get the forms to fill out so their children could participate in the contest. Thirty years later that same contest is still runs at full speed. And not only in Calgary, but all across Canada. The Mayor’s Youth Council is now in charge of the celebrated contest and invites Ruiz to attend and meet the lucky winner. It’s usually followed by a hand-written thank you card from the mayor himself. Recently Ruiz was invited to be part of the Grand Opening of Calgary’s New Library where the mayor shook her hand and introduced her to the attendees.
Tina has worked in television and radio as well as being a professional clown at the Children’s Hospital. She lives in Calgary with her husband who encourages her to write her passion be it high-quality children’s books or intriguing romance.
No matter how hard she tries, Maddie Kelley can’t seem to fit in at Ornamental, a company founded by her great grandfather and his best friend. Now, after yet another screw-up, she’s been sent into the “enemy’s” camp—two hours away from home for the next two months.
A punishment or a blessing?
Her life is turned upside down when the mundane turns unexpected, and she finally discovers where her heart truly lies.
This is the fourth novel set in the fictional Missouri community of Tarryton. Come visit old friends and make some new ones!
Excerpt from Hiding From Christmas
“You can run, but you can’t hide!” My co-worker’s voice bellowed. “I know you’re back here, Maddie.”
Holly Denton lumbered past me, intent on searching the storage closet on the opposite side of the hallway. All the huffing and puffing should have made me feel guilty. I was, after all, the cause of the extra effort she expended.
I should feel guilty but didn’t. Did that make me a bad person? I hoped not.
Besides, I wasn’t hiding. Long before Holly became the official—in her mind—holiday queen of Ornamental, I’d created this secret little nook in the copy supply room. No one knew about it but me… and Daddy. He’d helped set up the false “wall,” brought in a comfy chair, a reading lamp, and an assortment of books. Of course, that had been a long time ago when I’d needed a place to hang out after school. He would never have guessed I’d still be using it fifteen years later when I was supposed to be working. If he was alive, he’d know right where to look.
But if he were, I’m certain I’d no longer need a secret hideaway.
The door to the storage room opened with a whoosh followed by the distinctive sound of the latch catching before it closed with a little bang. When Holly sighed, I pictured the straight line of bangs across her forehead ruffling. The action usually preceded a roll of her dark brown eyes and shake of her head. Her signature expressions when dealing with me. Why she didn’t give up and leave me alone…
Lindy. My sister had to be the driving force behind Holly’s persistence. Now it was my turn to sigh.
I loved this place—not just my special hideaway, but the company. I’d grown up in the offices and hallways of Ornamental, the business my great-grandfather and his best friend, James MacKenna, founded over eighty years ago. Since that time, there had always been a place for family within the company. It had been the families’ bond that made Ornamental a household name. Not like Hallmark, of course, but still well-known. From the humble beginnings of handmade Christmas ornaments, the business branched out into figurines, collectibles of all kinds, everyday knick-knacks—why, we even had a bridal division. If it’s decorative, we not only designed it but made the items right here in the USA!
The MacKennas had always been more on the creative side of things, while the Kelleys’ strengths lay in the business of day-to-day operations. My sister and brother, Jay, fit right in. Me, not so much.
A check of my watch, followed by the vibration of the phone in my pocket, gave me a fifteen minute warning before the meeting with my sister in her office. It was enough time to stop by my cubicle and pick up the folders Lindy would want—probably to pass the work along to someone more qualified to do it than me. Before leaving my sanctuary, I grabbed the Tupperware container of cookies, hoping they’d be the right “softening” agent to quell my sister’s wrath.
Not wrath. Lindy rarely got angry with me. Or, if she did, she managed to hold back so I didn’t actually see it. No, it was more disappointment. Overwhelming disappointment.
I managed to slip out unseen and only had to smile and nod to a few people between my desk and Lindy’s office. Her admin waved me inside without looking up from her monitor. That wasn’t a great sign.
Lindy had her back to the door when I entered. It was obvious she was on the phone and from the “um’s,” “uh huh’s,” along with an occasional “right” and “I see,” I was fairly certain she was speaking with our mom. I closed the door quietly, sending a prayer heavenward that the subject of discussion wasn’t my most recent screw-up.
I set the Tupperware on my sister’s desk at about the same time she whirled around to face me.
“Mom, Maddie’s here now. I’ll put you on speaker.” She pressed a button on her desk phone. “Can you hear me okay?”
“Thank you, Lindy.” Mom’s voice was clear and steady as always—not even the slightest hint of being upset or concerned. “Hello, dear. How are you this morning?”
“A little embarrassed about—”
“Let’s just put that behind us, shall we? We all know you’re doing your best, Maddie. We’ll find something more up your alley. Your own little niche. You’ll see.”
With that, there was no more “shop-talk,” as my mom always referred to it. The three of us talked a little about Thanksgiving, which was less than a month away, and how good it would be to have the whole family together for the long weekend. As Lindy and Mom chatted about the need to support my brother and his new wife as they embarked on hosting their first Kelley family holiday, I made myself comfortable. They’d be awhile.
Want to read more? You can find Hiding from Christmas in the boxed set
MURDER, MYSTERIES, & ROMANCE IN TARRYTOWN, MISSOURI
Hiding from Christmas is one of the four books in Murder, Mysteries, & Romance in Tarryton, Missouri. This four-book boxed set contains the full-length books that take place in the fictional Missouri town of Tarryton. The books include The Case of the Bouncing Grandma, The Case of the Mystified M.D. (both cozy mysteries from the Bouncing Grandma Mystery Series), The Wedding Barter (a romance with a twist), and Hiding From Christmas (a fun, light romance).
Or look for Hiding from Christmas as a single book at AMAZON
Either way you’ll get a fun read!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alice K. Arenz has been writing since she was a child. Her earliest publications were in the small, family-owned newspaper where her articles, essays, and poems were frequently included. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Arenz is a Carol Award winner and two-time finalist. She writes “clean” fiction as well as Christian fiction in a variety of genres and lengths.
What’s a Christmas festival without gingerbread house contests or hot chocolate without whipped cream?
Winterberry Falls, VT is the place to be for the Christmas season in my debut novel, SNOWBOUND IN WINTERBERRY FALLS. My heroine crashes into town during the busiest time of the year – their Merry Month of Mistletoe. Readers can expect to be inundated with the scents, sights and sounds of Christmas (so grab a cup of hot chocolate and your favourite Christmas cookies while you settle down to read).
One of my favourite Christmas shortbread cookies to make are from my self-adopted Grandma (I really wanted her to be mine!). These are roll-out cookies, so have a bit of fun with your cutters. This recipe works well without coloured sugars, but they’re also yummy with a healthy sprinkle on top!
GRANDMA EDYTHE’S SHORTBREADS
1 cup of packed brown sugar
2 cups of butter, softened
4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
Warm the oven to 350F.
Blend together brown sugar, softened butter in a medium to large bowl. Mix flour and baking soda together. Add dry ingredients into the butter/sugar bowl, adding one cup at a time and mix.
Lightly flour hard rolling surface. Break off a handful of cookie dough and roll out to approximately ¼ inch thick. Press cookie cutters into dough and place cut-outs on baking sheet, leaving ½ inch between cut-outs. (optional: Decorate with coloured sugar)
Bake for 10-15 minutes. Cookies are done when edges start to brown slightly.
Let cookies cool and then enjoy!
Yield depends on size of cookie cutters used.
While you’re waiting for the cookies to bake, check out the magical town Ann has created in her book.
SNOWBOUND IN WINTERBERRY FALLS
Unwrapping their past – one secret at a time.
Owning her own PR firm is all reporter Stephanie Clark wants for Christmas, but the idea of running a prestigious election campaign in the country’s capital throws her stomach into knots. A last minute vacation road trip to focus and seek God’s direction for her life ends up in disaster when she gets caught in the worst snowstorm to hit Vermont in over a decade, crashing her into a small town and the one person she’d rather forget.
Former photojournalist Jason Miller hadn’t planned on being solely responsible for saving his family business from financial ruin. He’s barely keeping the newspaper in print, his News Editor has gone AWOL during the town’s most celebrated holiday festival, and reports of missing Christmas decorations have everyone on edge.
When a desperate knock at the newsroom door brings a ghost from Christmas past back into his life, can Jason make up for his prior behavior without breaking his promise to Stephanie’s father? Will Stephanie’s quest to solve the town’s Christmas caper—and uncover the truth about Jason’s disappearance—cost her everything she’s ever wanted?
ANN BRODEUR is an award-winning novelist who writes inspirational and contemporary romances offering sweet hope and happy endings.
When she’s not reading, writing, chasing after her kids or enjoying long chats with her husband, Ann can be found drinking coffee, that’s been reheated several times throughout the day. She aspires to someday drink a hot beverage in one sitting.
FIND ANN ONLINE
Join other readers in finding out the latest news from Ann and for bookish fun, by signing up for my newsletter on my website: http://brodeurwrites.com/
I love to write about second chances in love, especially about older people falling in love and overcoming complications and our culture’s politically correct expectations. Heck, old –‘ers’ hearts can do flipflops, too. I refuse to refer to them as elders. Sorry.
Her Secret Santa was especially fun to write because I modeled my favorite character after my granddaughter. It was doubly fun because the idea for the story came from my oldest high school friend, Sandy, who played Mrs. Claus a few years ago.
Sandy is a talented vocalist who sang at our wedding. But mostly she is a fun person who loves a challenge. Comfortable in the limelight, she loves to perform and has even named her little dog Diva. I don’t know if Sandy confides in her vanity mirror like Patti does, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she does. Sandy was the perfect inspiration for this story. Of course the book is dedicated to her.
Here is a teaser from the story.
What did Colin’s kiss, and his comment about brave, mean? . . . Had she done the right thing taking the Mrs. Santa job, or even applying for it? Was she too old to fall in love again? Was Colin?
. . .
Was she ready for love again? Was Colin? She knew so little about him, other than he was a Santa who cuddled children and a grandpa who cared. Surely God had orchestrated their situation. Hadn’t the teen boy who’d collected the application she’d filled out for Mrs. Santa looked at her in a strange way and said, “Good luck”? Silly thought, and she didn’t believe in superstition. But she did believe in signs. The Bible had many. Maybe she should get back to reading the Word every morning. That, and to find out more about Colin.
I hope readers enjoy the humor in HER SECRET SANTA and the loving, but sometimes colliding, personalities of Patti and her precocious eleven-year-old granddaughter, Tabitha. They make a unique team of Mrs. Santa and Elf Tabitha who not only fixes Patti’s knitting mistakes but guides her down the path to love. Oops! Is Tabby right? Did Patti kiss the wrong Santa?
About the Author:
Bonnie Engstrom lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with her Santa Dave of fifty-five years. He grumbles putting the nine-foot tree up, but proudly anchors the angel on top. They live near four of their six grandchildren who spend Christmas with them. The other two live on the beach in Costa Rica and surf with their dad, even on Christmas Day. Pura Vida!
Welcome to Wednesday Writers! Today we have another holiday book. A Contemporary Christian Christmas romance by Jennifer Chastain, entitled The Mistletoe Contract. Now that’s an intriguing title. Read on to discover the story behind Jennifer’s Christmas book and an excerpt from The Mistletoe Contract. Welcome, Jennifer!
What is your favorite holiday? Mine? Hands down, it would have to be Christmas. I love a cheery fire in the fireplace, turning off all the lights in the house, except the lights on the Christmas tree, and watching a Christmas movie. The scents of pine and cinnamon permeate the house.
After I attended a writing camp three years ago, I had an idea for a Christmas book. I like to read marriage of convenience stories and I’m a fan of Married at First Sight, a reality show where couples are matched and don’t meet each other until their wedding day. The participants go through a rigorous vetting process and are matched on compatibilities as well as temperament and life goals.
After coming up with the general story idea, I knew I wanted to write a sweet, marriage of convenience, second chance romance that took place during the Christmas holidays. As I delved into Nate and Meredith’s stories, their hopes and dreams slowly came into focus. But for my couple, I added the element of faith, since God is the only one who can heal our hurts. I spoke with my writing friend a couple of times and once we hammered out the details for the story outline, I sat down to write. As I wrote, I noticed that there is a little bit of myself in both Nate and Meredith. I even included a real town in the story, McAdenville, NC. This small town is nestled close to the NC/SC line and used to be an old mill town. After the mills closed, McAdenville had to reinvent itself. So, the town became known as “Christmas Town USA”. The entire town is decorated in Christmas lights, homes have elaborate displays in their front yards, and carols are played over the loudspeakers in the center of town. The lights are so bright, the entire town is seen from miles away. Now, people drive from hundreds of miles away, just to walk through the town, look at the lights, and spend time with their families. This town evokes a slower pace that seems to have gotten lost in the hustle and bustle of preparing for the holidays.
Christmas is a time of rebirth and renewal. After all, Christ was born to give us new life. I wanted these same themes of redemption, renewal and second chances to be evidenced not only in this sweet, contemporary romance but in all my stories. My prayer for all my readers is that they (and you) will experience the love, peace, and joy that only faith in Jesus can bring. Merry Christmas!
The Mistletoe Contract
By Jennifer Chastain
Confirmed bachelor, Nathan Rutledge shut his heart to romance when he was forced to break the heart of the only woman he loved. Now, with his father’s retirement from the family conglomerate, the torch has been passed to him. But there are two problems—first, he needs a wife in order to take over the family business. Second, someone has been embezzling company funds. With the pressure mounting, and time expiring to find both a wife he can trust and the thief, Nate needs a Christmas miracle.
Forensic Accountant, Meredith Mitchell’s life is in a shambles. Her mother needs a lifesaving transplant, Mom’s medical bills have bankrupted Meredith’s meager savings, and she’s sold everything of value, but it’s still not enough. Worse, she’s now tasked with discovering accounting errors for a new client—none other than Nathan Rutledge—the same man who gave her a broken heart for Christmas eight years ago.
Meredith wants to run. Nate wants the chance to right his wrongs. When he proposes a modern-day marriage of convenience, she balks at the idea. But he desperately needs a wife, and she really needs the money he offers. Is this the answer to her prayers? Or will this mutually beneficial arrangement re-open old wounds that can’t be healed?
Meredith closed the door with a soft click and propped herself against the wall. Tilting her head up, she released a huge sigh. She hated lying to her mother. Weariness settled deep in her bones. Her to-do list for the wedding grew with each passing hour. She had a lot to accomplish between now and Friday morning.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
Meredith’s eyes popped open. “Nate! You scared me!” Facing off with her fiancé, she straightened her spine. “What’re you doing here?”
His back against the wall, he crossed his ankles. Even after working all day, Nate still appeared fresh. When she glanced at her gray dress pants, the red sauce stain from her rushed dinner glared at her. She was wrinkly… and frumpy.
Nate frowned, his gaze roving over her.
Meredith moved her purse from her shoulder and held it in front of the stain. “I’m sorry. That was unkind.”
“I didn’t mean to intrude.”
She pulled herself up to her full height. “You didn’t. It’s… I didn’t expect to see you.” At least, not until their wedding day, giving her a couple of days to steel her emotions against his all-American boy-next-door charm. Why did he have to ruin her well-thought-out plan? His nearness sent her pulse into overdrive.
Nate turned toward her and rested one hand on the wall above her head. He was so close she saw the golden flecks ringing his pupils. “Can’t a guy see his fiancée before the wedding?” The low timbre of Nate’s voice raised goose bumps on her arms, and her heart rate kicked up another notch.
Butterflies fluttered in her stomach, and she licked her dry lips before her gaze settled on his mouth. “Yeah, sure.”
Nate’s free hand came up and traced a line down her cheek. Meredith closed her eyes. She had to stop this flood of emotion. Why was he doing this to her? His spicy cologne wafted between them. Comforted her. Shoot. Nate smelled good.
“Nate… please… someone will see us.” Meredith swallowed hard, and her breaths came in short gasps.
“This is supposed to be a business relationship. No funny business. You promised.” Meredith scooted out from under his arm and hurried down the tiled hallway, her steps echoing in the empty space. She needed air. And personal space. “Is there a reason you stopped by?”
Nate fell in step beside Meredith. She scampered down the hall to the elevator bank.
Nate touched her arm, and they stood facing each other in front of the elevator. “Have a cup of coffee with me?” His blue eyes held a glimmer of amusement.
Shock or maybe desire rooted Meredith’s feet to the floor.
The elevator door opened, and two nurses in scrubs emerged. Meredith entered and jabbed the first-floor button. When she looked up into the polished steel doors, she met Nate’s steady gaze. Turning to face him, she crossed her arms. “Why, Nate? What are you trying to do to me? We have an agreement.”
Nate matched her stance, a smirk on his face. “I have no clue what you’re talking about.”
Meredith snorted, and her lips stretched into a sneer. “Oh, come on. You cannot seriously be this clueless.”
He stepped closer, his hands in his pockets, causing her to back up a couple of steps. “This attraction—you’re not immune to it, either, are you?”
Shaking her head, Meredith braced her back against the elevator car. “No, you’re wrong. This isn’t the type of relationship you’re thinking about.” She bit her lower lip.
Nate’s warm breath whispered against her ear, and chill bumps raced up and down her arms. “But it could be. Think of how much fun we’d have.”
His nearness muddled her mind. But she was older now. Wiser. Fool me once and all that. She’d be doggoned if he’d fool her again with his sweet talk. Before she answered, the elevator doors opened with a whoosh. Saved by the bell.
Meredith darted into the parking deck. “I don’t think so,” she said over her shoulder. “I’ll
see you tomorrow at 4:00 to finalize the details.”
Want to read more? You can find The Mistletoe Contract at
Ever since she was a little girl, living in her small town in New York State, Jennifer has been a voracious reader. During the summer months, she would ride her bike to their library and return with a basketful of books. Her dad’s job moved them to Charlotte, NC in her teen years, but the memories of growing up in a small community have stayed with her. A Yankee transplant, she has grown to love the grace and charm of the South. In fact, she even married a native Charlottean.
For the past five years, she and her husband have been host parents to several
international high school students. They have experienced the joy of seeing these students blossom into young adulthood.
Jennifer is a member of ACFW, ACFW-NC, and My Book Therapy/Novel Academy. Several of her other stories were finalists in the Blue Ridge Mountains Foundations contest and she was a finalist in the Touched by Love contest, sponsored by the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of RWA. Her contemporary romance stories contain the themes of redemption, grace, forgiveness, and second chances.
A hopeful romantic, Jennifer loves dark chocolate, Diet Coke, old movies, and a good romantic movie. She loves to experiment with new recipes in the kitchen, and when not cooking, she’s reading. Growing up in the snowy North, Christmas has always been her favorite holiday, with the scents of cinnamon, vanilla, and pine scenting the air.
She and her husband have been married for over 25 years, and they are permitted to coexist with their black rescue cat.
Today’s Christmas Read book is A Kiss Under the Mistletoe by June Foster. June will be sharing how her sweet contemporary romance A Kiss Under the Mistletoe was born and an excerpt from the book. Welcome, June!
I love to write stories about identical twins and the mishaps that come their way. I also love to feature a slightly overweight heroine. Probably because I want my girl to struggle with some of the same problems many women of today, including me, deal with. A Kiss Under the Mistletoe contains both elements.
So, when my editor called for a Christmas story about a mistake under the mistletoe, the wheels in my head started churning. What if a really good-looking youth pastor had a brother that looked exactly like him but differed in every other way? Maybe he’d be an alcoholic or a player. What if the youth pastor’s parents always forced him into the role of the good guy, and he’d accommodated them since he was a boy? Afterall, Carson Shumate had to make up for the shenanigans his brother pulled. What if one day he finally got tired of playing the role?
Then I had to ask the same questions, the what-if game concerning my heroine. This is a strategy many authors use to plan their plots. My friend and fellow writer, Fay Lamb, put me onto this method.
So, I asked my heroine, Noel Kendrick, if she trusted men, and she answered emphatically no. She went on to explain. Her father left her mother when Noel was twelve without a word to Noel. Then in college, her boyfriend misled her by dating another girl at the same time. And to make it worse, the guy was a youth pastor.
So, now I’ve set the scene for when Noel meets Carson. Now I know why she fools him into believing she’s a clerk at the local grocery store just to tease him. I also know why she’s even more suspicious of him when she sees him loading beer into his car when he’d assured her he didn’t drink.
I hope you’ll want to read A Kiss Under the Mistletoe and discover all the mishaps under the mistletoe Noel and Carson experience.
A Kiss Under the Mistletoe
By June Foster
The men in Noel Kendrick’s life have always lied to her. When she accepts her pastor’s plea to head the Christmas nativity scene project, she doesn’t realize the job requires her to work with Carson Shumate, the handsome youth pastor with midnight blue eyes. Despite her efforts to keep her emotional distance, she falls hard after a kiss under the mistletoe.
But Carson has a secret of his own. If he reveals the truth about his identical twin to his church, he fears they will fire him, and he could lose Noel.
A Kiss Under the Mistletoe is the sequel to An Unexpected Family.
Carson? What? She walked closer and peered at his midnight blue eyes, shapely nose, and the lips that had so recently kissed her.
The blond glanced up at him as if he were the most wonderful man in the world and tiptoed to whisper in his ear.
He leaned forward and nuzzled her neck.
Noel couldn’t move, transfixed by the surreal scene before her. Then reality smacked her in the face, stinging her cheeks.
Carson peered down into the eyes of another woman as if enthralled by her presence.
The absurd truth impacted her like a slap to the face. He’d looked at Noel the same way. The facts slowly washed over her. Carson wasn’t who she’d thought he was.
After he released the woman, he glanced in Noel’s direction as if he’d never seen her before.
Noel crept closer, first unbelief, then anger mixed with jealousy, threatened to explode. She dug her nails into her palms until it hurt. How could he kiss another woman after he’d promised he’d never do anything to hurt her? She’d been such a fool to believe him, to trust him. He even acted as if he didn’t care whether she saw him or not.
She closed the distance between him and the girl, fury creating a fireball in her gut, begging to be released. She’d believed him when he’d said he found her overweight body alluring. Ha. He cuddled a woman with an attractively thin shape. A burning tear fell to her cheek.
Noel tried to take a breath, but the effort didn’t force air to the bottom of her lungs.
Now standing no more than five feet from them, Noel glared. There was no denying the man in front of her was Carson Shumate. “I can’t believe it.” The words gushed like water rushing along a rain-swollen river.
Carson’s eyes grew large, and he stared at her. The creep. He never thought she’d spot him in Riverview, no doubt.
“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your other girlfriend?”
“Other girl friend?” Carson took a few steps away from the girl. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play innocent with me.” Noel couldn’t gain control. She turned toward the petite woman. “You may want to know your boyfriend is a player. He’s been stringing me along while he’s with you.”
The other woman glared at Carson. “Is that true?”
“No.” He raised his palms like a thief in surrender. “Let me explain.”
Noel puffed a fast breath. Carson had denied dating her.
She wasn’t about to stand for his concocted story, trying to get himself out of trouble. As one last blast of anger shot through her, her hand obeyed the command her emotions ordered. She tightened her fist and punched him hard, under the sternum.
“Arg.” Carson grabbed his stomach and bent forward.
When he straightened, the girlfriend whacked his cheek. “You jerk. Don’t bother calling me anymore.”
Want to read more? You can find A Kiss Under the Mistletoe at
An award-winning author, June Foster is also a retired teacher with a BA in Education and a MA in counseling. She is the mother of two and grandmother of ten. June began writing Christian romance in 2010. She penned her first novel on her Toshiba laptop as she and her husband traveled the US in their RV. Her adventures provide a rich source of information for her novels. She brags about visiting a location before it becomes the setting in her next book.
To date, June has written twenty-two contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels and novellas. She loves to compose stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. June uses her training in counseling and her Christian beliefs in creating characters who find freedom to live godly lives. She’s published with Winged Publications. Visit June at www.junefoster.com to see a complete list of her books.
Christmas is coming and it’s time for Christmas Reads! I love Christmas, Christmas books, and Christmas movies. So For the next few Thursdays I’ll be sharing Christmas Reads, and some Christmas book excerpts, courtesy of the book authors, with you. First up on the holiday blog is Christina Sinisi with her sweet, inspirational Christmas novella
Christmas on Ocracoke.
Welcome, Christina! Please tell the readers the origin of your Christmas book.
I’d be happy to share that story, Catherine.
Christmas on Ocracoke happened because of a series of lovely coincidences. First, my sister and her husband purchased a vacation home on Hatteras Island large enough for the whole family to spend holidays together without having to split time between hotels. The purchase actually happened last fall, but I was too swamped with grading to come over Thanksgiving. So, my first visit was for the week between Christmas and New Year of 2019. While there, I drove my mother and myself on to the ferry and we visited Ocracoke Island.
Ocracoke Island, for those of you don’t know much about the Outer Banks—and I was one of you, is the most southern inhabited island of the long, thin streak of islands that make up the Outer Banks. It’s only reached by boat and it was hit hard by Hurricane Dorian last September. Even though the hurricane had also come through the Charleston area, I’d put it out of my mind. Driving down that two lane strip of road on the island, the effects of unbridled nature were all too obvious. There were mountains of debris in several stacks, nestled between trees standing tall as if they’d shaken off the damage where silly humans couldn’t. My mother and I (and my sister, her husband, and daughter in a separate truck) drove to a restaurant I’d found in the little newspaper that advertised to be opened but wasn’t. It was boarded up and may never reopen. The beauty of the island and the harsh circumstances–I fell in love.
The story came about because the drive from Charleston to this little island that looks to be just above South Carolina’s border the way a pelican flies takes eight hours! I was stunned. The miles of bridges and the strips of land between the ocean and the sound–it truly feels like you’re going to another planet. It felt like anyone moving there would be starting a whole new life. Then, why would someone start all over like that? Why would someone move to what feels like the edge of civilization?
She would have to be running from something, or someone. Thus, Annie Hanahan was born. She has a son because there needs to be a really important motive and there is no stronger motive than protecting one’s child (writes a mother). Plus, I love having a child steal the show.
The hero is the man needed for the job in such a circumstance as a devastating hurricane. A man who can fix things and is willing to step up in an emergency. Trey lives there (in a house that strangely resembles my sister’s rental if you’d like to reserve a week) part time, and he is a man of faith who serves others. I don’t know about you, but I fell for him fast!
Christmas on Ocracoke
By Christina Sinisi
Reeling from the upheaval of a failed marriage, Annie Hanahan is desperate for a new start—and when she inherits a cottage on Ocracoke Island, she may finally get it. Without a second thought, she packs up and leaves everything behind: her first name, her job, and her ex-husband, because more than anything, she wants to get her son away. Maybe now she can get her son away from his father’s partying and neglectful ways. But when she arrives in the Outer Banks, she finds the island—and her promised refuge—ravaged by Hurricane Dorian.
When their parents died in a tragic car accident, Trey Kingsley dropped out of college to raise his sister. Now that she’s grown and moved away, it’s his turn to find a life of his own. As a contractor who has given so much of his time to helping Ocracoke recover from the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, it surprises no one when he offers to help the beautiful newcomer, but something is holding her back. Life keeps throwing them together, though, or perhaps God’s hand is giving them a nudge. Will a little bit of divine intervention be enough for a Merry Christmas on Ocracoke?
Annie scanned what seemed like a deserted island at this time of night. Charleston was on the coast, but Hatteras was a different world. There was a stoplight a few blocks away, and a few shops had interior lights glowing, but overall, there was a sense of being at the end of the world.
And Ocracoke was south, farther away from everything.
She breathed in air pregnant with salt and moisture and let it go. James would be safe in the SUV while she dragged their suitcases upstairs. He slept with his neck at a jagged angle, his forehead heavy against the side of the car seat. Tenderness stopped her in her tracks for a minute, or maybe it was sheer exhaustion.
The sound of tires bouncing over the speed bump at the entrance to the motel broke her out of her reverie. The man driving the extended cab monstrosity lifted his chin in greeting and parked a couple of spots down the line.
Annie ducked her head and gathered James’s things. She lingered for a few seconds until she heard the truck door slam shut, waiting for the man to go inside and disappear. Hoisting the heavy diaper bag on one shoulder, she juggled her purse and overnight bag on the other.
“Hey, let me help you with that.”
The deep baritone caught her off guard, and she did a little dance, startled.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. I just wondered if you could use some help carrying stuff. Promise I’m not a creep. I could just carry your bags to the top of the stairs, drop them off.”
Annie narrowed her eyes. “How would you know my room is at the top of the stairs?”
The man leaned against the cab of his truck, jean-clad legs outlined by the waving street lamps. He held out two hands, palms up in surrender. “Nothing diabolical. When I checked in earlier, the girl said the only room left after that was next to mine. Yeah, I know, she should never have said that, but she did, and she’s young.”
Annie’s whole head dropped in shock. “She did what? I can’t believe.”
The diaper bag slipped off her shoulder, and she almost lost the bag. The man crossed the gap between them with a few fast steps and caught the bag before it hit the ground. “Here, let me get that. I saw the car seat earlier, so I’m betting you want to get that little one to bed.”
“Yeah, has your foot dried yet?”
“I’m sorry?” Annie knew she was tired, but this man couldn’t be the one who’d come to her rescue earlier. “That was you, back in Florence?”
“Yeah, thought I’d get it out there. The coincidence is crazy. And I promise you that I didn’t follow you all the way here. I have a construction company, do work out here. Plus, I got here before you did.”
Annie swayed where she stood. “Okay. This is weird. What’s your name? Did you say?”
“Trey, Trey Kingsley,” he said and shifted bags to stick out a hand. “I’m working on a rental house, checked into the motel long term while I’m working. Jenny’s just got comfortable with me since I’m almost a local now.”
“Nice to meet you, Trey.” She shook his hand, barely making physical contact. She’d play nice, get her stuff to her door, and then triple lock it with a chair propped against the handle. “Um, thank you for the help.”
“You’re welcome.” He shifted the bags and stepped out of the way, waiting for her to retrieve James. “Normally, when one person gives their name, the other returns the favor.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I must be more tired than I thought. That last part of the drive was a killer.” She blinked at her horrible choice of words. She babbled to cover up her nervousness, which never worked. “I’ve never been here before, so it was actually a little bit terrifying, no streetlights, and the ocean right on the other side of the dunes like that.”
Trey chuckled. “So, I don’t get your name? That’s okay, I get it. You don’t know me, midnight, cheap motel.”
Annie’s mind blanked, and she stared at the hollows in his cheeks, shadowed in the dim street lights, and beyond all reason, she trusted him. “Sorry. Yes, all those things, but no. My name’s Annie.”
“Good to meet you, Annie.” Trey gave a nod as if to emphasize the point and led the way up the metal steps, his work boots thudding with each riser. “I’m staying here because any remodeling work needs to be done in the off season. The rental houses are pretty booked up here in the summer.”
Annie hesitated, not taking the leap to tell him why she was here on this chilly November night. “Well, this is my room. You can just drop the stuff there.”
Trey grinned, and now in the brighter light, she got the full impact of his dark red hair and bright blue eyes. “Well, it was nice to meet you, Annie. If you need anything, I’m right next door in 202. Otherwise, I’ll see you at breakfast?”
Annie fought to keep her eyelids from closing on her as she stood in place, hand clutching the doorknob. “I don’t know if I’ll make it. I may be sleeping in for a change.”
Trey nodded, exuding charm and maybe mischief. “Well, on that note, I’ll be heading away from your door. Good night, Annie.”
Annie found herself alternating between staring at James’s diaper bag and watching Trey walk away. She’d had enough southern charm to last her a lifetime, but it didn’t stop her from enjoying the view.
A member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, Christina Sinisi writes stories about families, both the broken and blessed. Her works include a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest and the American Title IV Contest in which she appeared in the top ten in the Romantic Times magazine. Her published books include The Christmas Confusion and the upcoming Sweet Summer, the first two books in the Summer Creek Series, as well as Christmas On Ocracoke. By day, she is a psychology professor and lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with her husband and two children and cat Chessie.
Welcome to Wednesday Writers! Today’s guest is Tori Higa, author and illustrator of The Christmas Color (picture book). Tori will be talking about the story behind her children’s picture book. Just in time for Christmas you’ll get a peek at the reason red is a Christmas color. Welcome, Tori!
Years ago, when my son was little, I was volunteering in his kindergarten classroom during the holiday season when his teacher explained the reason for the color of red at Christmastime – it reminds us of the blood Jesus shed on the cross for us.
I am blessed to have grown up in a Christian household, but I was never told of the symbolism for the popular Christmas color. I learned this as an adult and I felt inspired and encouraged. I want all children to know from a young age about the symbolic meaning of red at Christmas. And for that simple reason, I wrote The Christmas Color.
As I wrote the book I did some research on the history of the color of red, which is the color most associated with Christmas. I learned how hundreds of years ago many different cultures decorated for their winter festivities with holly leaves and red holly berries because it was a readily available plant during the cold and dark months. Christians then gave it symbolism and used it as a teaching tool. They explained how the sharp holly leaves represent Jesus’ crown of thorns and the red berries symbolize His shed blood on the cross for our sins.
Today, we see traditional red everywhere during the Christmas season (from Santa’s red clothes to Rudolph’s shiny red nose, and everything in between); but it all points back to the symbolism of the red holly berries starting centuries ago.
I wrote The Christmas Color because I have a deep desire for kids to know about the reason we see so much red at Christmastime today. I want them to notice and enjoy the color and all of the festivities, but I also want them to think about the important symbolism and be encouraged in it.
During the holidays especially, it should be at the forefront of our minds that Christmas red is meant to remind us of Jesus’ ultimate loving sacrifice. We should not only ponder His birth during this time of year, but His life, death, and resurrection as well. The simple and powerful color of red can help us do just that.
The Christmas Color
By Tori Higa
Have you ever wondered why the Christmas color is red?
From Santa’s red clothes to Rudolph’s shiny red nose, from the berries we pick to sweet peppermint sticks, the color of Christmas is red! But why do so many of our favorite traditions come together in this particular hue? Debut author-illustrator Tori Higa has an insightful answer that will warm your heart and remind readers young and old of the true Reason for the season.
Do you want share the story of The Christmas Color with your children or grandchildren? You can find Tori’s book at
Tori Higa is inspired by her faith, family & friends, coffee shops and people-watching, and all things vintage. She has always loved making art and recently began pairing her hand-crafted pictures with the stories she writes to share with young kids. She considers it a high honor to make books to inspire kids and encourage their faith journey. She currently lives in California with her husband, two kids, and a puppy named Edie.
Welcome to Wednesday Writers and welcome to my guest author Julie Arduini! Christmas, which is only—dare I even say it?—58 days away, is in the air today as Julie brings us and excerpt from her very special Christmas book Restoring Christmas, whose theme is about
Highlighting the Misunderstood World of Special Needs Students
One of the most exciting aspects of this time of year is the release of Christmas romances. Hallmark knows their popularity; they are now showing movies outside of December. I love losing myself in a love story surrounded by snow and sleigh bells.
In 2018 I was honored to participate in a Christmas box set. Although it is no longer available, my novella, Restoring Christmas, has been re-released in both print and Kindle format. I had so much fun writing this story using another Upstate NY area and characters who need to surrender their issues and come together to save a beloved tourist attraction in fictional Geneseo Valley.
One element I used in Restoring Christmas was having the hero, Kevin Holt, bring his students with special needs to help at the failing Christmas mansion. These young teens wanted to make a difference, and Holly Christmas had to decide if she would let go of her pride and allow the community to come in for help. What I enjoyed about Holly was she approached the special needs class with love and a little anxiety, and I think that’s normal.
I have volunteered with ministries that involve families with special needs and in Restoring Christmas, I was intentional in not giving specific diagnoses because sometimes an issue isn’t visible, and people are misunderstood. Sometimes touch is very important, and in other cases, even a pat on the shoulder can be scary. Changes to schedules are a big deal sometimes, and so are different noises we might take for granted. For Holly, she wants to be understanding, but the mansion her parents worked on for years as the premiere Christmas stop each year holds a lot of valuable items. Will the students break things? Will there be tantrums that interrupt her deadlines? How will Holly handle it all and how involved will Kevin be in the process?
Answering those questions truly were a delight. There is so much I love about Restoring Christmas, and one was that I was able to bring awareness to the special needs community. I also gave a nod to my hometown, Corning, with the mention of glass ornaments. More than anything, I believe there’s a sweet romance readers can escape with.
Do you have a connection with the special needs community? If so, you are in the presence of the most amazing group God created.
By Julie Arduini
Filled with grief and regret, Holly Christmas returns to Geneseo Valley and the family business, The Christmas Mansion. Can Kevin Holt restore her love for the season and the memories she left behind?
If Holly Christmas’ heart was in charge, returning to Geneseo Valley never would have happened. She slowed her Subaru Forester and blinked away fresh tears. The car shook as Holly wavered between the brake and accelerator. If memories alone could steer, the car would be parked in the lot she had played in since she could walk.
With her uncle expecting her, she cruised into the parking area adjacent to the family business. Holly found a space to stop thanks to faded yellow lines. Dabbing her eyes and cheeks with a tissue, she grabbed her planner, slung her purse over her shoulder, and got out. With a deep breath, she faced the historic mansion ahead of her.
The crunch of late September leaves marked her tentative steps toward the main entrance. Glancing ahead, she noted the overgrown weeds and bushes out front in desperate need of a pruning. The once red and white striped pole showed rust spots and the red faded to pink. The sign that once proudly displayed the tourist destination was now a rotted piece of splinter. The engraving was more of a petri dish for moss and algae, making it barely readable.
Welcome to Christmas Mansion.
Holly stopped, a shudder zigzagged from head to toe. Re-gaining her balance, she kept her focus on the cement steps as she sidestepped a jagged chunk in the path. The porch still featured the wooden soldier she stood next to every year to mark how much she’d grown. The stiff greeter was a shell of his former holiday glory, nearly as faded as everything else. She opened the almost pink colored door and sighed at the sound of a sinister squeak. This isn’t the Christmas Mansion. It’s a Halloween spook house.
Fighting the urge to run back to her car and her life in Ohio, Holly cleared her throat. “Uncle Nick? It’s Holly. Are you here?”
She glanced around the lobby, the same register with a bell sound she pushed as a teen after a customer purchase. Dusty shelves housed a potpourri of holiday items—candles, snow globes, and ornaments thrown together in complete chaos.
Before she could investigate further, a shuffle echoed from the hallway and her uncle entered. “Holly? I can’t believe it, right here in Upstate New York. What an answer to prayer.” The cobalt blue glint in his eyes reminded her of her father.
She stepped into her uncle’s hug, surprised by his emotion as he held onto her arms and gazed into her eyes. “I don’t know about answer to prayer, but things changed with my job, and I thought it was a good time to help out.” She waved her hands with animation. “Here I am!”
The younger Christmas brother nodded. “I’ve tried to keep things going after your father passed, but I can’t even fit into his Santa suit.”
Holly smiled as she glanced at his thin frame. “A few cookies from Mrs. Olson will take care of that.” The volunteer greeter was a Geneseo Valley legend for her sugar cookies.
His smile disappeared. “You didn’t hear? Mrs. Olson passed in July. That’s one of the many things I need to do—find a new greeter. Then there’s a landscaping team. I know it’s September, but it won’t be long until school kids visit.” He scratched his balding head. “I did take care of one thing. I arranged for a group from a local school to get the gift shop back in order. Your father was so beloved as Chris Christmas that everyone seemed to overlook the haphazard way he organized the shop.”
Holly attempted to tame the rolling waves in her stomach. Mrs. Olson was a Christmas Mansion staple as much as her father was all about dressing up as Santa and entertaining. Her grin didn’t last long. She didn’t need to tour the mansion to know the entire place was a mess. The financial state most likely wasn’t much better. “Great. The students will have their work cut out for them. I still have unpacking to do at the house, but the place still opens at eight on weekdays, right?”
Uncle Nick hesitated. “Yes, but…”
She fished the keys out of her purse. “Great. I’ll be ready to start tomorrow.” Before she could find her sunglasses, the front door burst open and a choir of adolescent chatter filled the lobby. Kids who looked to be around junior high age swarmed the area, pointing at the shelves and leaning on the glass case that housed the register. “Uncle Nick?”
Before he could speak, among the chaos emerged a man with a red and black plaid flannel shirt. His wavy black locks bobbed as he whistled. All the students froze and focused on him with the same intensity Holly gave. The mesmerizing stranger pulled out his phone, opened a screen, and traced his finger down the screen before looking up. “Hi. I’m supposed to meet with a Nick Christmas?”
Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to find freedom in Christ by surrendering the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the contemporary romance series SURRENDERING TIME, (Entrusted, Entangled, Engaged,) as well as the stand-alone novellas, MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN and RESTORING CHRISTMAS. She also shares her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. Her other latest release, YOU’RE BRILLIANT, is for girls ages 10-100, written with her teenaged daughter, Hannah, and is book 3 in their SURRENDERING STINKIN’ THINKIN’ series. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read, as well as monthly with Inspy Romance. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to opt in to her content full of resources and giveaway opportunities.
Christmas is coming and there’s nothing I like better during the holiday season than a good Christmas romance (or movie). So, on Wednesdays and Thursdays I’m filling out the year with a variety of Christmas romance book posts. Today’s guest is Jolene Navarro. She’ll be sharing her book The Texan’s Surprise Return and a bit about her family’s Christmas tradition.
BTW, Jolene, you’re talking about one of my favorite foods–TAMALES!
Hola from the Texas Hill Country. I’m Jolene Navarro and I’m honored to be visiting today. As a writer I love pulling from family traditions. My stories are a celebration of family. In my current release, The Texan’s Surprise Return, not only do they eat tamales on Christmas Eve, they make dozens upon dozens on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
It’s one of my favorite scenes. The hero is trying to reconnect with his family after a near death experience that created a brain injury.
Four generations (including his triple sons) gather in the kitchen to create an assembly line as they make each tamale. This is a common holiday event in the Navarro house.
Growing up my family didn’t make our own tamales, but when we gathered for Christmas Eve the main attraction was the tamales. Growing up, I thought everyone celebrated Christmas Eve with tamales.
Since then I learned it was more of a Texas thing. But I still take our traditions and customs for granted. That was brought home recently when I created a potluck list for my writing group, I included tamales (by the dozen) to sign up to bring. They are listed as such: Tamales doz.
One of our new members asked what that meant. She is from far up the east coast. This is the answer she received from another member: “1 dozen tamales…it’s considered a holiday food around here. Forget drugs. A good tamale maker/supplier is worth their weight in gold. LOL (Although, HEB works in a pinch).”
This is true. The best tamales I’ve ever eaten were made by my husband’s family, led by his mother. She made spreading the masa onto the corn husk look easy (it’s not). They made them with a mix of beef and pork (Fresh from the ranch). They can come stuffed with chicken and bean too.
The best and the most fun way to make them is with generations working as a team and lots of laughter.
Do you have a custom or tradition that you family celebrates that the rest of the country is not aware of? Maybe you are from Texas. Do you celebrate with tamales?
The Texan’s Surprise Return.
by Jolene Navarro
His greatest Christmas gifts…
“Is that you? You’re…you’re alive.” An unforgettable family reunion for the holidays.
For three years, Xavier De La Rosa’s family thought he was dead. Now Xavier is back home in Texas for Christmas and finds a wife he can’t remember and adorable triplets he never knew existed. Can Xavier reclaim his memories and the love he left behind…before he returns to the job that nearly killed him?
Jolene, a seventh-generation Texan, knows, as much as the world changes, people stay the same. Good and evil. Vow-keepers and heart breakers. Jolene married a vow-keeper who showed her that dancing in the rain never gets old.
Her life, much like her stories, is filled with faith, family, laughter, dirty dishes and all of life’s wonderful messiness. She loves spending time with her four kids, and can be found at jolenenavarrowriter.com