Crafting Christmas Letters #writerslife #holidaycheer #amwriting


Our tree in 2012. We used to cut our own when the kids lived at home.

It’s only a few days until Christmas and I’m so excited! After all the years I’ve celebrated, the anticipation of watching my family and friends receive their gifts still brings joy to my heart. One of the many annual tasks to prepare for the holidays is writing the letter to accompany our Christmas cards. It’s mainly been my task, since I’m the writer in the house, for the nearly thirty years I’ve been married to my loving hubby. He does the lights, after all, so I can handle perusing our year’s highlights and challenges and choosing which to share and which to skip or summarize. Then he’ll add his two cents and off it goes!


Some years are easier than others to write. My goal is to make it informative without being depressing (everybody has issues we must work through, right?) and yet not overly Pollyanna either. In fact, one friend wrote to us that after reading our letters over the years, when he’s faced with a challenge of his own he wonders to himself “what would Chris do?” to resolve the issue. Yep, we’ve most definitely faced our fair share of troubles and problems, but I always look for the positive outcome. Thus my desire to not sugarcoat the letter.

Not everyone receives the letter, either. I have to go through the list and decide who would want to know about our year, both accomplishments and adventures. I can only hope that I make the choice correctly since I don’t want to bother friends with our family and personal insights.

I thought I’d share a few lines from past years to see what you all think of them. To show the kinds of details I include in order to reach out and connect with family and certain close friends.

From 2012:

After a 4-day writers’ conference in Atlanta that Betty attended in early October, we left to journey back to Massanutten on October 12, taking a roundabout way through Athens, GA, to visit [our daughter], then across South Carolina, stopping at The Cowpens Battlefield and Brattonsville, both American Revolution historic sites for Betty’s research. We were excited to welcome Betty’s lifetime best friend and her husband to visit with us at Massanutten for a night there.

The day after we came home, the second edition of Hometown Heroines, with a new cover and subtitle (True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure), was released as an ebook. As we write this, the paperback version is days away from being available as well.

From 2013:

Meanwhile, September brought more doctor appointments and diagnostic tests for [my father-in-law] as he continued to feel worse over the summer. Finally it was decided he should have heart valve repair surgery, which they did robotically in Birmingham the end of October after we got home from Massanutten. We stayed at the hospital’s guest suites while he had surgery and during his longer than expected recovery: two weeks instead of the expected one week. He is recovering, after a couple setbacks and adjustments.

While we were “on the road” for three weeks, [our son] stayed at the house and took care of the animals and plants, brought in the mail and the newspaper, and ate our food <grin>. We had to make a couple of trips home to get clean clothes and more books to read, but we felt it necessary to remain with Phil and advocate for his welfare as long as he was admitted.

From 2014:

Holiday greetings to you and yours! As the year winds down, we hope you’ll take some time to reflect on the joys and positive moments you’ve enjoyed since last Christmas. Our year has been filled with beginnings and setbacks, but through it all we’ve been healthy & safe.

Our first setback occurred just before last Christmas when Chris’s dad had a stroke. He was in the hospital for 9 days before being released to skilled care. Chris has been very busy this year, juggling his job, a myriad of chores and tasks around the house, and caring for [hid dad]. Some of the burden around the house stemmed from a water pipe bursting in the pool house in January that we didn’t notice for 2 days, which meant totally redoing the interior of the building. New wallboard, molding, flooring, and heating system had to be put in, but Chris had to oversee what the contractors were doing. Thankfully, the home owners insurance covered most of the cost.

From 2015:

Betty continues to research and write historical fiction stories, both women’s fiction and romances. She signed with a literary agent in January, which will hopefully facilitate the sale and publication of many books to come. The 3rd book in the A More Perfect Union series and her 5th novel, Samantha’s Secret, released in April. The 4th and last book in the series, Evelyn’s Promise, will release in February 2016. The children’s Literary Classics organization presented Betty with a gold medal for best gender specific young adult book for Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure in Las Vegas in October in conjunction with the Vegas Valley Book Festival. What a great and humbling experience, too.

Just a few snippets to share as this year winds down. I hope you have a very happy holiday season and enjoy time with family and friends, or doing what brings joy into your heart. Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Remember to grab your copy of my next release while it’s only $1.99! Only a few more weeks until it releases on January 10 and then the price will go up to $3.99.

undying_love_600x900When architect Meredith Reed inherits her family’s plantation after the devastating loss of her own family, she must choose how to move on with her life. Keep the plantation? Not a good idea. Sell it? Better. Turn it into a memorial park? Better yet. But can she go against her family traditions and the hunky but irate lawyer?

Max Chandler needs two things to complete his life plan: become a senior partner and find his soul mate. He’s due a promotion once his legislation to protect the county’s historic properties is approved. The wife part he finds more challenging, having never met the right woman. If only the talented, attractive, aloof Meredith didn’t want to destroy the very property he cherishes.

While Meredith struggles to reconcile her past and future, will she learn a lesson from the spectral Lady in Blue in time to save both her family and home from destruction?



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On Being Flexible and Caring #WritersLife #FamilyFirst #amwriting #books #romance #histfic

There’s a saying that humans make plans and God laughs. He is probably in hysterics then, if that’s the case. I always make plans, but I know that they are subject to change with little or no notice. But having made the plan, I know where to adjust. To be flexible and adaptable. That’s the key for me.

business-planI’m very fortunate to have the kind of career that allows me to work wherever I am. (There are also drawbacks but that’s a different story…) I’ve posted before about creating my business plan to have an idea of when things need to be done. I’ve been working to that plan for several months and am on track to meet my goals.

But when my brother’s wife suffered a life-threatening situation that landed her in Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, I knew it was a matter of time before I made a trip back to Maryland. To be there to bolster my brother’s morale and do what I could to help them during this crisis. Automatically, I started contemplating whether I could flex my plans to accommodate a possible trip. I determined I could but kept to my plan until I knew for certain.

“Suddenly” then on the Saturday evening after Thanksgiving, I found myself packing for the 800+ mile one-way drive to my home state. Naturally, my laptop and manuscript I’m working on were added to the pile of clothes and books I took with me. I planned to arrive on Monday, stay a couple of days, then be home by Thursday. I contacted my dearest friend to see if I could stay with her and her family while in town, but their schedule was too crammed. So I made a reservation to stay at a hotel instead. Having my own space would allow me to work when not needed by my brother, too.

I arrived at my brother’s late Monday afternoon and dragged him out to dinner that evening. Where he could tell me what was going on. He didn’t know much except how worried he was about his wife’s condition and the uncertainty of her and their future together. She is his third wife; the second died from breast cancer so he was even more concerned.

We made plans to meet up in the morning and go see my sister-in-law. I wondered if his confusion was warranted due to lack of communication or if he wasn’t understanding the technical aspects of the treatment plan. But the situation was far more unsettled and unclear than I had anticipated. One thing I’m good at is asking questions and getting things done as a result. I quickly discovered they didn’t know what the nurses/doctors were actually doing to treat her condition, nor did they know what the treatment plan was. Before too long, we had answers to those questions. Trust me on that!

That’s when I found out a delicate, “difficult” procedure was planned to fix the “huge” hemorrhage caused by a brain aneurysm for Thursday afternoon. Which ended up being scheduled for 6 p.m. (really? that late?) and would last about 3 hours. Well, I couldn’t leave on Wednesday knowing that my brother would be waiting, alone, for hours while his wife had this surgery. So I extended my stay. Thankfully, my friend’s schedule allowed for me to stay with them, which was a nice bonus for making the trip.

working-at-dennys-westminster-2016Wednesday, after visiting my sister-in-law for several hours and dropping my brother off at his apartment, I snuck away from everyone for a couple hours at the Denny’s in Westminster. Amidst the chatter of the waitstaff and the few other mid-afternoon customers, I worked on the final revisions to Haunted Melody which will release next year. I kept my phone handy in case my brother should need me but focused on the story’s characters and interactions. Once my friend’s errands had been completed, I went to her house for the evening.

working-at-westminster-ag-center-2016On Thursday, I didn’t need to pick my brother up until 2 p.m., and my friend had errands to run, so I spent a couple hours at the local public library working and then after I had a quick stop at Subway for my lunch, stopped at the Ag Center to work for about 45 minutes before I needed to drive down to get my brother and go spend the rest of the day at the hospital. (I also slipped in a stop at Hoffman’s Ice Cream for a crave-worthy homemade raspberry scoop! Yum!)

Unfortunately, the procedure that evening did not happen – I feel for the patient who had complications requiring the surgeon’s continued attention. They were going to reschedule but there was no way to know when so late in the evening (it was 9 p.m. when we found out) on a Thursday. If they didn’t do it the next day, it would be the following week most likely. I couldn’t stay that long. So I reluctantly decided to head home the next day. But my brother kept me posted as to when she went into surgery at about 6 p.m. Friday evening and on Saturday morning called to tell me that everything went well even though she was in surgery for 6 hours instead of 3-4 hours.

While I was only able to stay four days with my brother, I feel like I did help him through the toughest part when she had been in the hospital for a week and had no clue as to how long she’d stay and what was going on. From my perspective, it made me feel good to be able to be there for my brother and his wife. To demonstrate through my actions, not just my words, that I love and care about them.

Family first is the motto that I live by and is a characteristic that I instill in my characters as well. Our ties to family are important. It saddens me that I have very tenuous ties to my eldest brother, but his service in Viet Nam really changed him in ways I don’t really understand. I rarely “speak” to him but at least I know he’s alive. (Thank goodness for Facebook messages!) I’m grateful to have contact with my two sisters and of course my other brother. As well as my hubby’s family and my cousins (I got to see one of them on my way home for a few minutes). Knowing where we come from is why I’m a genealogy fan, too. And why I did the research and paperwork necessary to become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

Now it’s your turn. How do you stay in touch with your family? Is there someone you wish you could be more in contact with than you are now?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

By the way, Emily’s Vow is currently on 99 pennies for the ebook. Now’s your chance to get your copy at a discount it if you haven’t already!

Emily's Vow Finalist SealEmily Sullivan’s greatest fear is dying in childbirth, as did her twin sister and their mother. Despite her half-hearted protests, her father insists Frank Thomson is the perfect man for both her protection from the vengeful British and as a husband. Frank always loved Emily despite her refusal to return his affections. A patriot spy posing as a loyalist officer, when Frank learns Emily’s been imprisoned for her father’s privateering, he risks his own neck to free his love.

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Thanks to American Veterans! #VeteransDay #kindle #nook #book #sale

50% of my earnings will be donated to thank a veteran!

In honor of Veterans Day,  Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Courage is on sale for only $1.99 for the ebook (Kindle and Nook). But that’s not all. Fifty percent of what I earn on sales of this title from today through November 20th will be donated to Operation Gratitude as a way for me to thank some of the many veterans who have served America.

My family has a very strong history of serving our country. My father served in WWII as a tech sergeant on Guadalcanal. My brothers and oldest sister also served in the army, air force, and navy.

On my husband’s side of the family, his brother, father, uncle, and grandfather were all officers in the army, serving in many different countries all over the world. His mother’s father and grandfather were also officers in the army. In fact, his parents met while their parents were stationed in China.

I thank each and every man and woman who stepped up to protect and defend our country, our people, and the people of other countries under duress through no fault of their own. It’s a huge sacrifice to be separated from family and friends, from their “normal” routines, and all that brings them comfort. So thank you!

Please help me thank them by picking up a copy of Hometown Heroines— whether an ebook on sale or the paperback which is not discounted but that only serves to raise more money—to show the servicemen and servicewomen we care about them. Feel free to share this with your friends and family so we can work together to raise a bit of money to help this worthwhile charity.

Tell me about the veterans or active duty people in your life, or if you are a veteran or active duty. I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks! Happy Veterans Day!


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Literary Classics International Book Awards - Youth Award Winning Book
Literary Classics International Book Awards – Youth Award Winning Book

About Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Courage

During the 1800s, daring and courageous girls across America left their unique mark on history.

Milly Cooper galloped 9 miles through hostile Indian Territory to summon help when Fort Cooper was under attack.

Belle Boyd risked her life spying for the Rebels during the Civil War.

Kate Shelly, when she was 15, crawled across a nearly washed-out railroad bridge during a ferocious thunderstorm to warn the next train.

Lucille Mulhall, age 14, outperformed cowboys to become the World’s First Famous Cowgirl.

These are just a few of the inspiring true stories inside Hometown Heroines—American Girls who faced danger and adversity and made a difference in their world.