Thursday, December 26, 2013

12 Days of Christmas winners!!

Thanks to everyone who participated in our first Christmas giveaway!!

Winners of an ARC of my new book:

Brandy Jellum
Joanna Hoffman Dursi
Sammy's Book Obsession
MJ Fryer
Mary Jo Toth
Karoline Marie Thurston
Tess Halim
Adrean Garcia
Karlena Lipari
Jenny Kells

Winner of a signed paperback of "Enticed: Book 1 of the Fullerton Family Saga"

Denice Booher

Winner of a $25 gift card:

Renee Elden

All digital prizes except for the Gift Card have been sent to the winners per the emails they listed on Rafflecopter. If you did not receive an email, please let me know ASAP.

Thanks to everyone for playing!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

On the twelfth day of Christmas, your Geevie brings to you...

A favorite holiday song:

One of my very favorites!



A new favorite! Or at least, a new favorite version.



A favorite holiday show/movie:

I don't know if you know this, but Christmas is a very important Wholiday if you belong to the Doctor Whoniverse. There is usually a big holiday special that can introduce you to a new Doctor...



Or say goodbye to an old Doctor...



The writers of Doctor Who know how to do Christmas right, even if they take every benign symbol of the happiest time of year and make them malevolent. Snowmen, Christmas trees, you name it... they've turned it into a villain. My favorite Christmas episodes introduced David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor:



Made me weep like a newborn babe with their take on "A Christmas Carol":



Showed us that the Doctor yields himself to the power of a woman... and the power of a Mum's love...in "The Widow and the Wardrobe":



And introduced us to the most kickass companion of all time:



Basically, if you watch Doctor Who, you're part of a worldwide family that comes together every year to celebrate the holiday with our favorite time traveling alien. It has turned into one of my favorite traditions that I share with my hubby and my best friends, along with millions of other Whovians.

A holiday memory:

When I was growing up, I loved to set out the Christmas decorations. We had the glittery Nativity scenes and snow globes, of course, but aside from putting actual tinsel on the tree, my favorite decoration by far was this quirky Santa with lanky, dangling legs and a hollow body with a chime in it that rang merrily every time you picked him up.



We had it as far back as I can remember.







I don't know what became of him after I moved out, so he remains a lost relic of my childhood Christmas memories. The Elf on the Shelf is hollow comfort for a woman bereft of Jangly, Dangly Santa. Odd, the things you remember most aren't always the gifts.

Sometimes the memory itself is gift enough.

A holiday recipe:

If you're from the South, you've likely heard that eating black-eyed peas on New Year will usher in a prosperous new year. There's just one thing that they don't tell you... black-eyed peas are definitely an acquired taste. I figured out a workaround with Texas Caviar, a dip full of those often offending little critters mixed with onion, tomato and jalapeno to offset the taste.

Happy new year! Bring on 2014!!



TEXAS CAVIAR

Book of the day:

Coming in 2014, a brand new series with an angsty triangle between two very different, but equally compelling brothers. You know all those reasons you love to hate me? Well, you're going to be reminded of each and every one as you read this series that I plan to release in its entirety in early 2014. Book 1 will release January 14 and Book 2 is scheduled for February 4.

I will warn you, though... it comes with a very heavy disclaimer. If you don't care for triangles, cheaters, or need an absolute happy ending... this will not be the series for you. It goes a step beyond where Groupie held back, meaning one character will not make it all the way to the end of Book 3. Add to your TBR... if you dare. ;)

Enticed: Book 1 of the Fullerton Family Saga

Spread some joy!

The greatest gifts you can give are things that cannot be bought from a store. That is the true Christmas miracle, in how it changes you to be a gift to the world around you. You'll be amazed how much the little things transforms the world around you, ultimately changing you in the process. Get greedy for your miracle. Share love, kindness and generosity, not just today but every day of the year.



Share what you can, where you are. Sow seeds of kindness, of empathy... of hope. Be that miracle. You never know whose life you'll change.



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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

On the eleventh day of Christmas, your Geevie brings to you...

A favorite holiday song:

More TSO, because they are made of awesome.



A favorite holiday movie/show:

Can you have Christmas without the Muppets? Perhaps you can, but why on earth would you?



A holiday memory:

The best gift I ever got for Steven...a singing Pug!





Book of the day:

Have you met Mateo?





Only $0.99 for Christmas!! That's $3 off!!


Spread some joy!

And speaking of Houston...let's help out the people that meant so much to Mateo, Lissette and Naomi!

Star of Hope Charity Fundraiser Giveaway

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Monday, December 23, 2013

On the tenth day of Christmas, your Geevie brings to you...

A holiday song:

A happy, positive tune that will drive the bah humbug right out of you with lots of 80s cheer. It's a message good for every single day of the year.



A holiday movie/show:

So I finally got around to watching "It's a Wonderful Life" this year. When I was a kid, I never wanted to be bothered with old movies. When I got over that, I just never timed it right. Whenever I'd see it on the guide, it was usually half-over, and I HAVE to start at the beginning. So year after year would pass and I'd really kind of forget it. This year, the stars aligned and I was finally able to watch a show that fit my sensibilities to a tee.



You had the angst and the near misses for poor George as he put himself dead last to everyone else, and kept seeing his dreams dashed of doing the one thing he wanted to do more than anything: see the world. It really didn't seem that wonderful of a life. When Phoebe Buffay on Friends caught up on all those shows her mother wouldn't let her watch because they were too depressing, she figured it was a safe bet to pick a movie called "It's a Wonderful Life," but was quick to catch on to the irony.

PHOEBE: Hey. Oh thanks for the great movie tip.
MONICA: Did you like it?
PHOEBE: Oh yeah. You know, I don't know if I was happier when um George Bailey destroyed the family business or um, Donna Reid cried, or when the mean pharmacist made his ear bleed.
MONICA: All right, I'll give you the ear thing but don't you think the ending was pretty wonderful?
PHOEBE: I didn't watch the ending, I was too depressed. It just kept getting worse and worse, it should have been called, "It's a sucky life and just when you think it can't suck any more, it does."

Most of the time poor George was fighting off the evil Mr. Potter, who takes everything of what's wrong with our country's economic divide and puts it on the screen in literal black and white. Whereas the Bailey family gave poorer people chances to use what they had to lift out of their economic circumstances, all Potter worried about was money... and the control that came along with it. He proved in 1946 that trickle-down economics only works if you don't have a greedy capitalist elitist hogging the dough. When we see what would have happened without George Bailey's faith in humanity and willingness to put his own financial success behind the success of the community that surrounded him, Pottersville is a lot like modern America. You have angry, stressed citizens working hard to make a dime, and playing harder to escape their dead-end life experiences... and we're supposed to thank our greedy capitalist elitists for the privilege.

Per Jimmy Kimmel:



Politics aside, the message of the movie is one I've been examining very closely recently, one that suggests that we humans aren't driven to compete to be "the best," the "richest," and the most "successful," that success itself is more tied with how we connect to each other. In fact our very existence depends on it, a sentiment reinforced by this beloved Christmas classic.

Toward that end, I recommend everyone watch Tom Shadyac's "I Am," a documentary that challenges us all to figure out if we are part of the solution... or part of the problem.



I guess it boils down to this: do we want to be greedy and miserable like Mr. Potter? Or do we want to be surrounded by love and touched by angels... like George Bailey?

Favorite holiday gift/memory:

After my dad died when I was eleven, my mother worked very hard to make ends meet. This was challenging as a single mother in 1981, especially with my father's end-of-life care. He went into the hospital on December 6, 1980 and died on December 19. Though our bills were steep enough we had to move in with another family to make ends meet, my mother never took government assistance to pay our way. She worked very hard for a very long time, and I'm afraid I didn't make things much easier for her. After years of being spoiled by my dad, it never dawned on me that I might not get what I wanted. Well, Christmas of 1981 offered those first, crucial life lessons. More than anything I wanted a pair of skates. I got...



Needless to say, I was disappointed. She did the best she could with what she had, but I was too immature and selfish to figure that out at the time. (Feeling pretty shamed about it now, though.) But one gift she could afford to give me was a blue, imitation-leather-bound diary with its own lock and key. I had just discovered the power of words scant months before, so I really didn't understand the true gift I was being given that year. Looking back, I see it was a key to something amazing. I had a place I could share every thought and feeling freely without judgment. For a kid who had been mired in the Southern Baptist church from the womb, this was HUGE. Those blank pages became my friends, and shared with me some painful transitions as I worked my way through my first real crush (unrequited love) and separating from my best friend when we ultimately had to move.

That friend would later give me another diary that helped me through yet another painful era of my adolescence. And these two diaries became the places I could daydream about what I wanted, even when it seemed completely out of reach. They became the place I'd share my deepest, darkest secrets and any pain that might be associated. The diary always understood, even when people around me couldn't.

Today we blog and everyone can see these innermost feelings, but there is significant editing going on to make these thoughts and dreams more acceptable to a wide audience.

Those nonjudgmental diaries from my past were complete freedom of thought, and took me a lot further than a pair of skates would have.

Here's to moms who have a little more wisdom than their children, to show that sometimes the best gift we get is the one we didn't even know we wanted.

A holiday recipe:

I am not a fan of eggs. I'll eat them every once and a while, but usually they're paired with other things to diffuse the taste. I discovered a few years ago I have a slight allergy to sulfur-based antibiotics, so I wonder if the two of those things are related? Either way, when I make eggs it is usually for someone else. Never was this more true than the first Christmas dinner I prepared, where I made deviled eggs for my husband and my mom.

Apparently, I can do it well. It has been a mainstay in our holiday gatherings ever since, whether I eat one or none at all.

Ginger's Southern Deviled Eggs

12 boiled eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise*
2 tbsp mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste
Paprika to garnish

Boil and peel eggs. Halve lengthwise, and put yolks into a bowl. Add mayo, mustard, salt and pepper. Blend and fill egg halves. Top with paprika.

*You can also use Miracle Whip for extra tang. If your eaters are more adventurous, add 1 tbsp of pickle relish, or top with pickled jalapeno slices.



Book of the Day:

I've created a deluxe book bundle of all the books in the Groupie Universe for the holiday season. There's eight books for less than $10, which makes it a great gift option for any of your friends who have not yet been introduced to the series. It will discontinue by January, so if you want to get it (or give it,) do it fast!



Spread some joy!

Clock is also ticking on the Star of Hope Charity Fundraiser through Martini Times! It is a chance to get some of your favorite books from some of your favorite authors, and raise some money for Houston's homeless. Let's do some good. :)

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

On the ninth day of Christmas, your Geevie brings to you...

A favorite holiday song:

More 80s goodness... a Two/Fer!





A favorite holiday movie/show:

A classic for my kids, who grew up with this movie.





A holiday recipe:

What do you get when you add mulling spices to cranberry sauce and pineapple juice? A cup full of awesome!

HOT BUTTERED CRANBERRY PUNCH

Book of the Day:

My most popular series: The Groupie Trilogy. Priced to give OR get for yourself. ;)





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Saturday, December 21, 2013

On the eighth day of Christmas, your Geevie brings to you...

A favorite holiday song:

I was a teen in the 1980s, which I thought sucked at the time. Looking back, I feel blessed to come of age in that wild, weird decade that gave us all permission to march to the beat of our own drum. And if you were REALLY lucky (i.e. smart with a sense of humor) you had this pied piper of weirdness to lead the way.



A favorite holiday movie/show:

And speaking of 1980s clever, irreverent humor...



A holiday recipe:

There are two types of people in the world. Those who love sweet potatoes, and those who don't yet realize they do. Oh, they'll tell you they hate those orange chunks of sweet, yummy goodness, but my theory is that they're all in denial. Perhaps they were introduced to sweet potatoes the way most Americans are... mashed into goop and smothered with sticky melted marshmallows for an ooey, gooey sugar overload.

Well, I'm here to tell you... there's another way.

Maple-Cranberry Sweet Potatoes

(I make it pretty much the same way, except I add nuts. It's autumn in your mouth. Guare-on-teed.)

Book of the day:

If you have a kid on your Christmas shopping list, I humbly offer "Comic Squad" for your consideration.



EXCERPT FROM COMIC SQUAD

Back in her bedroom, Alice lay tummy-down on the bed, and dove into her new – yet nefariously confiscated – comic book. Sure, she'd broken some rules to get it. But Dwight stole from her first. As far as she was concerned, turnabout was fair play.

Just as she withdrew the 3-D glasses from her overalls, a knock came at the door. Before she could answer, Barbara cracked it open and peaked in. “Can I come in?”

“You already are in,” Alice pointed out.

As Barbara opened the door wider she caught sight of Alice's reading material. “Oh, Alice, I thought we'd talked about this. We decided you weren't going to spend so much time on your comic books.”

“You decided,” Alice countered.

Barbara leaned against the door frame. She was tired. She was always tired. “They're a waste of time,” she said as she rubbed her eyes. “They're not real.”

Alice gave her a pointed look. “They're real to me.” Then, “If Dad was here, he'd understand.”

That's when Barbara spotted the family photo by Alice's bed. Her daughter's barb hit its mark. Suddenly overcome with a vulnerability she couldn’t afford to show her daughter, Barbara left the room.

Alice slid out of bed and headed over to the door, where she watched through the crack as her mother disappeared into her own bedroom. Within minutes Barbara was out again, a novel and towel in hand. She disappeared into the bathroom, closed the door behind her, and began running her bath water.

Alice closed her own door and ran back over to pounce on her bed. She sent her father's image a grin. This one's for you, Daddy, she thought as she slipped on the glasses.

She opened the book, and, much as the comic store, shards of light spilled from inside. Bright color crawled up her arms and over her face, and Alice's scream was lost in the howl of the wind.



With Joe Dakota safely tied up in one of the examination rooms, Dr. Horror was free to put the finishing touches on the green potion. Using tongs, he delicately poured it from a beaker into a test tube, and secured it with a cork.

Twitch picked up the beaker to examine the strange, glowing fluid.

“Put that down!” Dr. Horror barked. Twitch was quick to comply. “It's the only batch in existence. All I need is for some nitwit to pour it out… or worse yet, drink it.”

Outside the room Alice suddenly found herself hunched down by the door, the 3-D glasses hanging by one of the straps of her overalls. She looked inside the room, and gasped when she saw Dr. Horror and Twitch, and the bubbling tube of green.

“What would happen if someone drank it?” asked Twitch.

Dr. Horror smirked at him. “You ever dissolved snails with salt?” Twitch nodded. “It's like that.” Dr. Horror spilled a drop of the liquid on the lab table. It bubbled and smoked and sizzled right through the metal surface. “Only it hurts.”

“So what's it going to do to Joe Dakota?”

Dr. Horror chuckled. “Joe who?”

“Joe Dakota. You know. That big, strong guy who comes along and messes up all your plans...”

“I know who, you twit. But after tonight, I think he might be more of a what.”

Alice flattened back against the wall. A million questions flooded her brain at once, the most important of which was how to get out of there without getting caught. The second most important: how to get out and take that strange and dangerous potion with her? She grabbed the magical glasses.

One thing was certain; she could do neither without them. She tucked them into a pocket for safe keeping.

She peered back around the door to find both Dr. Horror and Twitch standing with their backs to her. She knelt down and quietly duck-walked across the room, then hunched down beside their lab table. Listening for their steps going in one direction, she managed to go in the opposite direction, remaining hidden from their view as they turned for the door.

“Come,” Dr. Horror told Twitch, “let's make sure that Joe is safely secured for tonight's main event.”

They departed the room, leaving the beaker and test tube on the table. When she thought the coast was clear, she peered over the edge of the table, her heartbeat so loud it thundered in her ears. She found herself staring directly into the creepy, bubbling, green fluid in the tube.

She gulped as she reached for it, hesitating only slightly as she spotted the deep hole that one drop had burned into the table’s surface. She’d read the books, she knew what Dr. Horror had created this stuff to do. Just as the original formula had reinforced every cell inside Joe Dakota’s body, reinforcing them with the power to rejuvenate at the least little hint of destruction, this new formula was created to do the opposite. Injecting this potion into a human body would cause each cell to break down and combust. The destruction would be quick and total. That was why she knew she couldn’t take a chance and leave it behind. Just as her hand touched the tube, lightning filled the room and thunder rattled the windows; Alice nearly came up out of her overalls.

Finally, before she could lose her nerve, she grabbed the tube and stuffed it into one of her many pockets and prayed the cork would hold.

She sprinted to the door and checked to see if the hall was clear. She crept out slowly and quietly with no idea where she was heading, but determined to make sure that potion never went anywhere near Joe Dakota.





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Friday, December 20, 2013

On the seventh day of Christmas, your Geevie brings to you...

A favorite holiday song:

The Eagles have been a huge part of my life since I was thirteen years old, when one of my best friends at the time introduced me to them. They'd already broken up by that point, but I inhaled everything they had released. To find their remake of the Christmas classic, "Please Come Home for Christmas" was a gift in and of itself.



Don Henley's voice is buttah on that track, so much so I can't resist singing along... which I did, quite earnestly, when I created the following Christmas video. I'm still waiting for Santa to bring me those pipes. :/



A favorite holiday movie/show:

John Hughes Times 2. How could he POSSIBLY improve upon his megahit, "Home Alone"? By adding the incomparable Tim Curry, of course!!





A holiday recipe:

Broccoli is not for everyone, granted. It's green. It looks like a tree. Which of course makes it the ideal dish for a Christmas gathering. So how do we take this much maligned veggie accessible for the masses? By adding sugar and bacon. Duh.

Broccoli Salad with Bacon and Raisins

A Christmas memory:



When I think back to my early Christmas memories, not everything was always warm and cozy. My family was actually pretty combative on a regular basis, with my mom and my sister on one side of the battlefield, and my dad and I on the other. But in 1978, I got a present that changed all that for one very special Christmas... that gave me the best Christmas of my childhood: time connecting with my family. That gift? A motorized game called "Mr. Mouth." We all had the best time playing this very simple game, and I don't remember laughing as much or enjoying my family as much as this one night. Much later I bought the same game for my kids, but I don't think it meant as much to them as it did to me. Still... I'm a big fan of continuity, and that was a fun tradition to pass along.

I wanted to include a retro commercial, but YouTube offered something oh so much better... a group of people playing this classic game... inebriated. EPIC. (Also... gives me an idea for NYE...)



Book of the day:

In keeping with the Eagles/southern retro theme, my book of the day is my Texas romance "Under Texas Skies." It has a hot alpha cowboy and a marriage of convenience. Merry Christmas. ;)



EXCERPT FROM UNDER TEXAS SKIES

Once they were down in the large basement that had been decorated for use as a recreation room, he handed her the radio. “Where are your emergency supplies?”

“The candles and flashlights are in the top drawer just inside the kitchen.”

He nodded. “Stay here and I’ll be right back.”

Her hand clutched his arm. “Where are you going?”

“To get the supplies,” he answered in a soothing voice. “I’ll be right back,” he assured her with a smile.

She wanted so desperately to be assured as she watched him climb the stairs, but she was truly terrified as she walked over to the futon located against the southern wall. To her right was a full-sized pool table, and to her left was a well-stocked wet bar.

And though she wasn’t much of a drinker, some situations called for a little chemical enhancement. These storms were the reason she kept the bar so full, because it wasn’t the first time she’d hid out in the sanctity of her underground shelter. She stalked promptly across the room and poured herself a glass of straight bourbon. It was down in one gulp.

She closed her eyes and let the liquid warmth flood through her body with a sigh of relief. She opened her eyes again and surroundings. The basement had been her own little addition to the house, built immediately after her parents were killed. She made it large enough she wouldn’t feel the crush of claustrophobia on top of her paranoia, and decorated it with fun and funky mementos that made her laugh, brought her joy, and just generally made her forget that this was where she would come primarily when she felt her life and her home were in danger.

An heirloom quilt covered the futon just across from a full complete entertainment center. When lit, this rich paneled room was homey, eclectic but inviting. Moreover it was safe, and she’d spent many an hour there curled up and panic-stricken, staring at the TV reports on more mediocre storm cells than this. It was all part of living in tornado alley.

Luckily the Double A had only had a few scrapes with tornadoes in more than a hundred years. It only had to be rebuilt once a couple of generations before Jessica’s parents took over the ranch. They had plenty of near misses, but generally the land she lived upon had been considered blessed by all of her ancestors, including her own parents.

With each near miss, however, Jessica worried that her luck would eventually run out. It was like playing Russian Roulette with the weather every time the sky grew dark. Neighboring ranches proved that no one was truly safe from the fickle finger of Mother Nature.

And this time the sky was dark as night, the electricity and the phone were out and a tornado had been spotted on the ground. It was enough to make the little girl in her want to hug her knees to her chest and cry. Where was Dalton? It shouldn’t be taking so long to grab a few candles.

She was about ready to climb the stairs and find him when the door opened, and a fully dressed Dalton began to descend down into the basement. Of course, fully dressed at this point meant he was wearing his jeans with his shirt hanging open, but it was more decent than the blanket by far. Barefoot he trod down the stairs, balancing candles, matches, a couple of flashlights and a blanket.

“What took you so long?” she demanded, her near terror clearly agitating her and keeping her at ill ease. “I changed,” he explained unnecessarily. “And I looked around outside.”

“What?” she shrieked. “Why?”

“There’s nothing in those clouds but heavy rain and lightning,” he assured. “There’s no rotation now, but the storm is moving quickly southeast and there’s no telling what’s behind this cell. We’ll just ride the storm out down here, if that’s okay with you.”

It took her by surprise how easily he took control of the situation but always led her to believe she was in charge. She simply nodded in agreement. Even she wasn’t so foolish to challenge his insubordination that she would emerge from that basement until the last cloud had passed.

He walked around her, placing the supplies on the pool table. Carefully he took the candles over to the bar and entertainment center, lighting enough so the room held a soft glow. He took the blanket, flashlight and radio to the futon, and made himself comfortable as he sat. He cast her a thoughtful glance. “You can sit beside me. I won’t bite.”

“I’m not worried about that,” she replied as she accepted the invitation.

To her surprise he tucked the blanket around both of them. “Then what are you nervous about? You’re wound up so tight I’m afraid you’re going to shatter into a billion pieces.”

“You couldn’t get that lucky,” she retorted. “I told you, it’s the storm.”

“Yeah,” he sighed, resting his arm along the back of the sofa and indirectly around her shoulders. “I guess it would be.”

She knew he was referring to the way her folks died. Painfully she asked, “Did you just find out today?”

He gave an absent shake of the head. “A mutual acquaintance wrote me shortly after it happened.”

She was a little confused by his answer. “Then why did you wait so long to come for a job?” She had believed he’d shown up expecting to find her father. “Someone else could have been running the ranch, for all you knew.”

His eyes met hers in an unreadable expression. “To be honest I wasn’t ready for the commitment of your father’s proposition eight years ago. I was still top of the circuit, and I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of not being tied to one place.”

She smiled. “You make it sound like he proposed marriage, Dalton. It’s only a job. In fact, it’s one of the few jobs where hopping place to place is a sign of diversity rather than instability.”

He smiled too as he looked away. “You should know. You probably have a lot of experience with cowboys by now. As a boss,” he added quickly, feeling her fur begin to rise.

“As a matter of fact, I do,” she agreed. “After I took charge of the ranch I experienced a complete turnover. Everyone saw me as a spoiled little girl and treated me like I didn’t know my own mind. A couple even thought they could sleep their way into my good graces.” She gave him a meaningful look. “Needless to say, they’re all gone now.”

His eyebrow lifted as he asked, “Is that a warning, Miss Austin?”

“Does it need to be, Mr. McBride?”

He chuckled softly. “As long as I’m your employee, I intend to treat you with all the respect you deserve,” he promised. “Like I said earlier, that would be a great deal.”

She didn’t know how to respond to his praise, so she brought the conversation back to its original topic. “You never did answer my question. What brings you here now?”

“Obviously I’m ready for the commitment,” he answered simply. “That and I missed the thunder.”

“You missed thunder?” she repeated.

He nodded. “There’s something almost musical about the sound of rolling thunder. It’s very comforting.”

“I find it very disconcerting,” she said with a slight shudder. “Especially under conditions like these.”

“This kind of thunder is different,” he clarified softly. “This kind of thunder is the kind that makes your heart race and your blood pound so loudly it’s like a raging flood in your ears. You know something is going to happen, but you don’t know what. And you don’t know when.”

His voice went on so smoothly she closed her eyes and relaxed against the back of the sofa. It hardly seemed real as he took her hand in his, his fingers absently rubbing her palm. Her heart did start to pound against her chest, and distantly she could hear the thunder clap and boom outside. “It’s dangerous,” she reminded in a whisper.

“No, Jess,” he murmured somewhere near her ear. “Thunder is never dangerous. It’s only the sound of electricity.”

“Electricity is dangerous,” she insisted.

“It can be,” he agreed, his breath hot against her cheek, the musky smell of his after-shave enveloping her senses. “If you’re not ready for it,” he added.

She could sense that his face was near hers. Instead of covering her slightly parted lips with his own he hesitated with that last sentence as if waiting for her permission.

Slowly she opened her eyes, only to lose herself in those amazing green eyes. She almost groaned from anticipation as she stared at the sensual curve of his mouth. She longed to tell him she was ready for the electricity of his kiss, but she could barely breathe.

With one finger he traced the outline of her jaw, and then traveled down the sinewy line of her neck. “You’re beautiful, Jess,” he whispered. “I have no right to tell you that, but someone needs to. Do you mind?”

She wanted to tell him he was full of it, like she would have told any other man who tried to sell that kind of compliment on someone so bound and determined to be as plain as nature would allow. But at that moment she kind of wanted to believe it. She tried to shake her head in answer to his question, but he mesmerized her. Nervously she licked her lips, and he let out a guttural moan before crushing his mouth on hers.





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Thursday, December 19, 2013

On the sixth day of Christmas, your Geevie brings to you...

A favorite holiday song:

The Trans Siberian Orchestra is a favorite of mine because of their blend of traditional and modern music. One of my favorite Christmas songs was featured on "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," and I will belt this sucker out for six weeks straight - much to the annoyance of anyone in earshot. I'm no singer by far, but this song makes me wish I was. Think it's too late to write Santa a letter? A wish for pipes that work...



A favorite holiday movie/show:

Today's holiday classic is brought to you by the incomparable John Hughes, who penned this 1990 hit in a matter of days. It went on to be the biggest grossing comedy of that year. It proves once again that using time as a measurement of quality in writing makes about as much sense as what pen/software program/outlining process the writer used to write.





A holiday recipe:

This recipe has always been a big hit outside my onion-hating family members, and you can make enough to stuff a turkey AND have enough left over to share with a small army. My mother and my sister used boiled eggs, but I dropped those and added cranberries for a healthier, more festive pop. It's a standard recipe, allowing you to make any variations you like.

Ginger's Holiday Stuffing

3 boxes Jiffy cornbread, prepared
1 bunch of celery, chopped
1 onion, diced
Poultry seasoning to taste
1 can chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup whole, fresh cranberries, boiled for ten minutes in sugar water

Prepare the cornbread according to the box, allow to cool and then crumble into large bowl. Add celery and onion, mix well. Add poultry seasoning liberally until it smells as spicy as you'd like it. Boil cranberries for ten minutes in two cups of water with a tablespoon of sugar. This will reduce the tartness. Drain and add to stuffing. Add this to turkey dry, or add broth to mixture to cook by itself in a casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for twenty minutes or until a nice brown crust forms.

Book of the day:

For the record, the hardest series for me to write thus far has been the Fierce trilogy. It was intensely personal, where I lived through several disastrous life choices I made as a young adult all over again. I also faced my emotional eating disorder as honestly as I ever had, and that was no picnic, no pun intended. Many people wanted to slap poor Jordi repeatedly through the process as she couldn't get her self-esteem shit together. The sad truth is, Jordi is still inside of me in many, many ways. That series was therapeutic... cathartic...painful and honest. It's ugly, but I'm glad I wrote it. If just one girl can stop her own chatterbox and conquer the mountains both Jordi and I had to climb, it was worth the pain.



EXCERPT FROM FIERCE


We were all herded into an auditorium and filed into the darkened rows just beyond the front where all the executives sat. I was relieved to see Dixie, the talk show host who had made a name for herself despite being derided in the media for her weight. She wasn’t as big as I was by any stretch, but I felt an instant camaraderie with her from the instant our eyes met when I entered the room. She gave me a big smile and a slight nod as I walked by.

Once we were seated, another larger woman with short and stylish brown hair took the stage. I recognized her immediately from one of my favorite dating shows a few years back, “Love Plus One.” She had gone onto the show with her best friend to find him a wife, but instead they found each other. Since she was the girl who “didn’t fit in” with all the babes that had been cast, I was rooting for her in particular. She lived the dream so many of us big girls had – to win the hot guy who could have had any girl he wanted… but he chose the one who dared to be different.

This boded well for my audition.

“Hello, everyone,” she greeted with a smile. “My name is Shannon McKenna. I want to thank you so much for coming. I know for many of you this was a leap of faith because you’ve been rejected by the entertainment industry. You’ve faced a lot of gatekeepers in your journey, who tell you that you don’t quite fit in. I know how that feels. Dixie,” she indicated to the media mogul in the front row, “knows how that feels. But we also know something else, something those gatekeepers don’t. It’s a lesson we learned with the success we had with ‘Love Plus One.’ The audience is ready for something different. They’ve had a decade or better seeing all the pretty, pre-packaged, homogenized celebrities take their turn through the revolving door of reality TV. They want to champion those who don’t quite fit in because inside every single one of us is a misfit who doesn’t feel good enough to sit at the cool kids’ table. That’s why it’s time for a cooler kids’ table.”

The butch biker whooped her approval, which made Shannon laugh before she went on. “Thanks to your responses to our ad, we got to review thousands of tapes of people just like you, people stopped short of their dreams because they were told they didn’t have the ‘whole package.’ And as we reviewed these auditions, one thing stood out to us over and over again. You couldn’t care less about becoming a star on our terms. You’re already stars on your own terms. You aren’t interested into being stuffed into the media machine and spit out the other side, primped and trained and styled into something mainstream and ultimately forgettable. Each one of you is here because there is something about you that we could not forget. You had that something extra, that little spark, that attitude that made you more than just some person who could sing. We invited you here today to be a part of a new show that celebrates that attitude.”

I glanced over at Milo who was sitting to my left, then Jace who was sitting to my right. We all believed that we were auditioning for a spot on Dixie’s show, a five minute spot that got our faces out on national TV and hopefully the exposure that followed.

What Shannon was proposing was almost too good to be true.

“You guys have seen reality talent shows before. You know how it works. Thousands of hopefuls get weeded down by industry executives to the types of people they think they can market and sell, then the audience gets to pick their favorite of the lot. Kind of like dating reality TV, these pre-packaged ‘stars’ often fade into the woodwork after the finale. These relationships fall apart because they were simulated and cherry-picked in the first place. People like you wouldn’t make it to the voting round because you never fit into the mold they were trying to refill time and again. Anything alternative was too much of a risk for the gatekeepers to take with their audience. But I trust my audience a little more than that. I want you on a national stage. In order to do that, I have to sell my product to my own media gatekeepers. Every single one of you is here because you offer something unique that I want to incorporate into my brand. I’m going to use your audition tapes to get support for our show, both with network support and label support to give you a career beyond the final curtain of the finale. All I’m asking from you is to show us today what you showed us on your original tapes. I want to see that same attitude that made you more than a singer. It made you a star.”

The twittering amongst the twenty or so people who sat in the auditorium flittered in my ears like the buzzing of mosquitos. She had made it sound so easy. Sing, make it to the show, become a star. But it wasn’t that easy, right? Wasn’t the viewing audience just another, even harsher gatekeeper? Who out there in conservative America would vote for any one of us?

The drag queen with the purple hair was the first to audition, which didn’t make me feel any better. “My name is Lavender Snow,” she purred into the microphone. “And baby, I’m a star.” She launched into a super sexual R&B hit song as she danced across the stage. She didn’t need lights to follow her or a band to back her up. She was a one-woman show all on her own.

I would have voted for her.

Next up was Pepper, the butch biker in her 60s, who knocked out a flawless Janis Joplin tune with all the growl and angst that only true suffering could have inspired.

These weren’t just singers. They had presence. I was starting to see what Shannon had been talking about.

And I was suddenly very self-conscious that I could even be in their midst.

While Milo went to perform his Broadway showstopper, Jace leaned toward me. “Don’t be nervous. You’ll do fine.”

“Nervous? Who’s nervous?” I managed as I bit every last fingernail to the nub.

He chuckled. “First major audition?” he asked.

I nodded, but then shook my head. “I’ve been to auditions before. It’s just this is my first real call-back.”

He nodded back. “Mine too. But look at it this way. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have something they liked. Just channel whatever it was that you did in your audition tape. That’s what made them say yes in the first place.”

The very thought made me queasy. What had I done? Was it any different than anything else I’d done? All I did was open my mouth and sing. I didn’t dance like Lavender, I couldn’t growl and deliver like Pepper.

And, as it turned out, I didn’t have an emotional backstory of triumph over tragedy like Jace. When he took the stage and introduced himself, he was asked about his leg. He gave the harrowing description of what he had gone through in Iraq as a soldier, where he nearly lost his life thanks to a roadside bomb.

He pulled a gold chain up from under his shirt. “This is my dad’s wedding ring. My mother gave it to me after he died in battle, serving in the Gulf War. I was only three at the time so I don’t even remember my dad. But I knew he was a man of honor, one who was willing to sacrifice it all for the sake of those he loved, and the principles he held dear. He was a huge reason I decided to go into the Army, and an even bigger reason that I knew I had to be ready to go to war if ever my country needed me. I kept this around my neck every single day I was in Iraq. He was my guardian angel every day of my service. I know it was because of him that I lost my leg and not my life that day.”

I saw Shannon wipe a tear away as she listened.

“After something traumatic like that happens, the initial response is to wonder ‘why me?’ You’re forced to run down a list of everything you can’t do anymore. Instead, I discovered things about myself I never would have known had I not lost the leg. It was while I was in therapy that I started to sing,” he said. “It helped take my mind off the pain. It gave me strength. If I was having a challenging day, I’d pick something powerful to sing and let it just bubble up from some hidden place inside of me. It really healed me from the inside out. That’s the power of music. In the end, I’m glad I was given this gift,” he said, before he launched into a beautiful song about how a broken road can lead you to where you are supposed to go.

There were tears in my eyes as he finished, and I was on my feet just like the execs in the front row.

Finally it was my turn. My own legs shook as I walked up to the stage. Even in this hodge-podge group, I still felt like I stood out. What could I offer? What chance did I have?

Then I thought about what Jace had said about the music, how it gives one strength and power from some hidden reservoir deep within. It had always been my saving grace, even in Iowa. When I was sad, or scared, or feeling down, music was my best and truest friend.

I had no idea what I was going to sing right up to the time I opened my mouth. I was so inspired by Jace’s story that I found myself singing the first notes of the National Anthem. It was a vocally challenging song to sing, but I just let it rip and went for it. I was either going to nail it or fail spectacularly. Either way I knew this was my chance to go big or go home. There was no one else on stage I had to worry about overshadowing with my big, booming voice; this was truly my first time to really shine. I blasted down the rafters in ways that would have made my mother scowl with disdain all the way from Iowa.

I got teary as I finished, and didn’t even realize the people in the auditorium had sprung to their feet. I had given only myself, and was encouraged and rewarded with the applause of my equally talented peers. Even in this group of budding superstars, there was room for me.

It was the first time that I felt there had been room for me anywhere. Finally I had been Jordi… and it had been enough.



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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On the fifth day of Christmas, your Geevie brings to you...

A favorite holiday song:

My favorite traditional Christmas hymn is, by far, 'O Holy Night.'" As a Christian myself, it has great meaning to me. It epitomizes the hope of Christ in a rousing carol that, when sung well, never ceases to bring a tear to my eye. My favorite version is from Martina McBride, simply because her voice is so powerful. She doesn't even need musical accompaniment.



A favorite holiday movie/show:

I'm going to take a little detour today in this segment and change this section to a book, and add a Christmas memory. I heard yesterday that author Janet Dailey passed away, and it hit me pretty hard. She was a crucial part of my development as a romance writer, and reader, from the first time I opened one of her books. I realize much later that there was a controversy of admitted plagiarism on her part, which I do not endorse/support/excuse. This was more of what her earlier writing meant to me as a very lonely pre-teen.

My dad died in 1980. In fact, that anniversary is coming up on the 19th, which was also his birthday, ironically enough. I was super close to my dad, who, because of advanced age and health issues, stayed home to raise me while my mom worked. We were a very progressive family for the 1970s, but it was truly out of necessity. My dad and I were as thick as thieves and he loved me unconditionally. I've said before that I never knew anything at all was wrong with me until after he died, because his voice was the strongest and the loudest telling me I was perfect just the way I was.



After he died, that voice silenced. I wasn't close to my mom or my sister, which left me virtually alone to manage the grief and the loss. This was tricky terrain for an eleven-year-old. Fortunately, around this time, my Aunt Gertrude realized that I loved to read and gave me all her cast-off books by the dozens. She read Harlequin romances, so she had piles of those white-cover books all over her house, and I inhaled them as fast as I got them. I remember the first book I read was English, written some time in the 1960s, about a shy, virginal governess who moved in with a handsome, rich man to help him care for his son. I honor this first book with a variation on that story in my upcoming book, "Enticed: Book 1 of the Fullerton Family Saga," although my tale stretches out into a trilogy that is far more contemporary, the heroine far more sophisticated, and the sex scenes way more saucy. Mostly because there are, in fact, sex scenes. There's also the backdrop of money/politics/power, a frustrating triangle between two very different brothers and a murder.

No plagiarism here!

Romance novels have certain tried and true plot devices that repeat over and over, obviously, so many books I read entertained me for the minute but didn't stay with me long enough to remember titles/authors, much like the first book I mentioned above. I didn't even recognize author voice in most of them because they all followed very predictable formulas: a virginal girl, an alpha male, and no sex until after they fell in love. (Which was long after you turned the last page.) Janet Dailey's early books also followed this same pattern, but the biggest difference is that they fit into a much bigger storytelling idea.

The first book I read was Six White Horses, which remains a perennial favorite. It was set in Oklahoma, which felt familiar to me as a Texan. It was probably the first romance I read that was set close to home, and I liked that familiarity. I didn't know it at the time that it was part of a much, much bigger series. Janet and her husband Bill embarked on a tour of America, to set one book in each of the 50 states. This is her Americana series, and for a little eleven-year-old stuck within the sad four walls of her bedroom, this was my plane ticket to see a larger chunk of the world around me. Her books were very detailed about the places in which her books were set, so I embarked upon this tour with her as I got a 50-book education of romance across our Untied States. She was the first romance author I remember deliberately seeking out and reading everything I could get my grubby little paws on. I especially liked when she'd reference familiar characters in different books, a tradition I'm proud to honor as I expand my own storytelling universe.

And she was another big believer in the romance of Christmas, penning many a holiday title, like "Mistletoe and Holly."



Though I stopped reading her books around my later teens, when she went on to write more mainstream romance rather than Harlequin and Silhouette, she remained a strong influence on what I wanted to do with my own writing career, as well as a fond reader memory. From 1980 to around 1986, when I myself graduated to Danielle Steel, et al, she was virtually my "aunt Janet" who babysat me when I was lonely, keeping me endlessly entertained with tales from her travels.

That's a bit of what I lost yesterday, and it was a sad day indeed. So I had to honor that, and her, here in the blog. Rest in peace, Aunt Janet. Thanks for keeping me company during the loneliest part of my life. And thanks most of all for daring me to dream.<3

A favorite holiday recipe:

More cookies!!

THUMBPRINT COOKIES

Book of the day:

Christmas had a very special meaning for Vanni and Andy, my hero and heroine in "Groupie." Since Vanni was a December baby, I could play around a lot with the occasion for significant points in their courtship... like when she flew to New York City for the first time, thinking that they would finally consummate their long distance flirtation just in time for the holiday/his birthday. She ran into a supermodel-shaped buzz saw by the name of Lourdes instead.

EXCERPT FROM GROUPIE:



The minute I entered the posh penthouse apartment I took another glass of champagne from a uniformed waiter to fill my tank of confidence. The music thundered around the elegant living room where several familiar faces lingered.

Was that…? Could that be…? I didn’t know he was dating her… and where is her husband?

Iris would bend toward me every now and then to fill me in on all the hottest gossip. But the only real story I wanted to hear was about Lourdes. Would she make it to this glamorous affair?

And would I be demoted from Cinderella back down to the Ugly Stepsister the minute she walked through the door?

Alana and Iain arrived, arm in arm, looking like normal people in love amidst all the Celebots that were milling around trying to network. I got a quick peck on the cheek from both Alana and Iain before they made their way further into the fray.

Jasper came by with Athena draped on his arm. She was an exotic creature with long, black hair and big brown eyes. Her lips were full and her curves were luscious as they undulated under her silk mermaid dress that dipped low in the front. She murmured her hello graciously, but it was fairly evident she didn’t bother to even learn my name before she went on to the next guest.

All the players were in place except for one. Okay, two. And the longer I had to wait for their appearance the more anxious I got. I snagged another glass of champagne as the waiter went by, but avoided the hors d'oeuvre tray. My stomach felt as though it was literally in a knot and I didn’t feel that vomit would make a very good addition to my otherwise stylish ensemble.

About a half hour after the party had started, and nearly an hour after Iris and I had arrived, Vanni entered with Lourdes on his arm.

His hair was styled and fairly controlled for the mane that it was. He wore close-fitting pants, no leather, and a long silky shirt. All his “bling” was in place, rings on every finger, black and jade bracelets on either wrist, with two necklaces visible above the unbuttoned top of his shirt.

As hot as he looked – like any rock star would – my eyes were riveted to Lourdes. She was at least five-foot-ten, and her stiletto heels put her at almost eye level with Vanni, who I already knew stood six-foot-three. Her hair was teased even more than mine, flowing all around her bare shoulders exposed from her halter dress.

The red number cut across each breast, revealing substantial side-boob from either angle, and then criss-crossed across her tanned and toned abdomen. The hemline was short, which made her long legs seem even longer.

She looked ready to lounge across a luxury car in a 1980s music video, the quintessential asset on the arm of any rock star. I tried not to feel frumpy in comparison, but I became acutely aware of each bulge over my ample frame. I tightened the shawl around my shoulders and stopped just short of covering up my cleavage.

It wasn’t the arsenal of sex appeal that Lourdes may have possessed, but I knew how to work what I had.

And I already knew that he was a big fan.

He smiled our direction when he caught sight of Iris and me, and herded his arm candy our direction. He kissed Iris on the cheek and me very dangerously near the corner of my mouth in greeting. He then turned to introduce me to his date.

“Andy, this is Lourdes. Lourdes, this is my friend Andy I told you about.”

The word “friend” hit me like a punch in the gut. I also had a hard time overlooking the fact he had talked to her about me, but not vice versa. I plastered a smile on my face and stuck out my hand. “Nice to meet you.”

She smiled as she limply put her hand in mine. “You’re the writer I’ve heard so much about. I can’t wait for us to sit down for an interview.”

“Me either,” I said, and that was the God’s honest truth.

“No business tonight,” Vanni decided as he plucked a couple of glasses off of the waiter’s tray. He handed the extra one to Lourdes. “Tonight we enjoy the fruits of our labor.” He smiled at Lourdes before he took a swig from his glass.

Something unspoken and intimate passed between them, and it was very hard to read. Objectively, at least. If they were announcing an engagement I was taking my ball and going home.

Mercifully they glided over to where Jasper and Athena stood, where the four of them laughed gaily and engaged in an animated conversation I couldn’t hear. I turned to Iris but she had already flitted away to work the room.

Iris never stopped working, even when she was having fun.

I stood rather conspicuously in the middle of the room whereupon I plotted my escape. The heels I was wearing weren’t especially high, I could probably get away with shimmying down the fire escape if I could just inch my way over to the window. I turned around and right into Yael, who looked as uncomfortable to be there as I was. It probably had a lot to do with his carefully cultivated Goth image, but at that moment I was relieved to know I wasn’t the only one who didn’t quite fit in.

Yael was a music nerd. He didn’t care much about success and all the trappings. I had to respect that. More importantly he was also a great backup strategy to my epic fire escape plan. After an uncomfortable moment I blurted, “You want to go somewhere and get our interview out of the way?” I offered, even though I hadn’t packed my interviewing material anywhere in my gown.

“Shit, yes,” he sighed in relief. Like me he didn’t feel comfortable unless he was doing something aside from just holding down the floor. He followed me as we wound our way through the crowded room out onto the balcony.

He took a deep breath as he closed the door behind him. “I hate parties,” he stated unnecessarily. “I’d much rather have stayed at the studio.”

“Command performance?” I asked with a slight grin.

“You know it,” he said as he leaned onto the concrete balcony wall overlooking the view of Manhattan. It was on fire with a million little lights, and the breeze gently lifted our hair from our shoulders as it drifted by.

“You hit the fast lane pretty quick,” I stated as I looked out over the city. “Is it everything you thought it would be?”

He smirked. “Unfortunately.”

“Vanni seems to enjoy it,” I mentioned offhand.

“That’s because he’s meant to be the star. He gets off on the fame and the adoration. That’s why we don’t get in his way much.”

I glanced at Yael, to see if there was any underlying bitterness. But the comment was issued more matter-of-fact. Resigned, even. “I just want to play. As long as nothing gets in the way of that, we’re cool.”

“You’ll pardon me for saying so but I think that the band is big enough for more than one star. You bring a polished edge to the music.”

He looked away, clearly uncomfortable by the praise. “I could be better. I want to be better. That’s what it’s about, you know? Music is evolution.”

I nodded. I totally got what he was saying.

“As long as I learn, as long as I grow, that’s all that really matters to me. Success just means we have the money to keep doing it.” He glanced back at me then, looked me straight in the eye. “That’s what I want my interview to say.”

I smiled. “And it shall.”

He gave me a small nod and then glanced back at the party in full swing behind the patio doors. “I guess I gotta get back. You coming?”

I shook my head. After several glasses of champagne I liked how the night air was clearing my head. “I think I just want to gather my thoughts.”

He gave me a small smile, perhaps the most genuine I’d ever received from him, and left me alone. I sucked in a big deep breath. Maybe Yael nailed it. It was all about getting paid to do what you love, simply so you could grow and do it better.

I couldn’t begrudge my career, as slow moving as it was. I got paid to do what I liked to do, and combine my passions doing it.

It was a pretty sweet life.

I had a smile on my face when a voice came from behind my ear. “Penny for your thoughts.”

I turned to fall headlong into Vanni’s dark eyes, still rimmed black with eyeliner. I knew that look was soon going to be the death of me. “Just thinking about life,” I murmured.

He held a hand to his chest, looking emotionally wounded. “And here I thought you were thinking about me.”

I laughed. “Get over yourself, pal.”

He didn’t stop smiling as he brushed my hair out of my face. Just the touch of his hand on my skin sent an electrical charge right to my core. “I was thinking about you.” His eyes traveled over my face, stopping briefly on my mouth, then lower to my dress and all it revealed. “You look amazing, Andy.”

I scoffed. “Say that to someone who hasn’t seen your date.”

He leaned forward on the railing much like Yael had done. “So is that it? You’re mad about Lourdes?”

I leaned forward too. “How could I be mad about Lourdes? I didn’t even know about her until yesterday.”

He turned to face me. I tried my best not to look at the wisps of hair poking out of his unbuttoned shirt. “There wasn’t anything to tell.”

“Oh I think there’s plenty to tell,” I corrected. I turned toward him and leaned on my elbow, mirroring his body language. “Jasper was all too eager to hand me a giant file full of press clippings about your whirlwind romance.”

Vanni didn’t even look chagrined by the news. If anything, he looked amused. “That doesn’t surprise me in the least.” He leaned a little closer. “Tip number one: everyone wants something. You have to know what that is to really know what’s going on.”

“And what do you want?” I asked before I could stop myself.

He leaned even closer, until our torsos touched. I was mesmerized by the look in his eyes, and the close proximity of that full mouth I had only dreamed about kissing. For a second I couldn’t even breathe. “I want a lot of things. Success. Acclaim. Happiness. You,” he added softly, and potently, as his gaze drifted to my mouth. I knew he was thinking about kissing me, I could see it in his face.

The intimacy of the moment was electrically charged.

I wanted to scream, “Why?” but all words were locked in my throat. All I could do was think about the remaining few inches between his mouth and my own. This wasn’t a dream. It wasn’t a fantasy.

His kiss was mine to take.

The wind blew my hair across my face, and he was quick to brush it away. It interrupted the moment enough I could gather my wits and say, “You have a funny way of showing it, Mr. Carnevale.”

With a chuckle he leaned in and kissed the top of my nose. “Before you go back to Nashville,” he promised, “You will have no doubt.”



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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

On the fourth day of Christmas, your Geevie brings to you...

A favorite holiday song:

Just a little 80s diddy, the quintessential ode to lost love. Haven't we all been there? (Say... like Andy in "Groupie"?)



A favorite holiday movie/show:

I can't even get into how much I love "Bloom County." I discovered it one Sunday morning when the creator of the comic strip used his Royal Purpleness (aka Prince) to wake up one of the characters courtesy of a loud alarm clock. As a devoted Prince fan, I immediately grew fond of anyone who would reference him, so I ended up looking for that strip every single week. After that I bought the books, I inhaled the weekly and daily installments in the newspaper... I even began my collection of Opuses (Opi?) in a shameless display of penguin lust*.

1985



2006



Don't judge us for our love.

I even played the heck out of the little vinyl floppy record that came as an insert in the 1987 collection of toons "Billy and the Boingers Bootleg", in which our favorite BC characters decide to form a glam metal band to make $$ quick. I still know the songs by heart and have been known to randomly belt them out with little to no provocation. When I found the following on YouTube, I squealed like a twitterpated Belieber who just got retweeted.



In all the years I circled the idea of getting a tattoo and couldn't figure out what image I wanted permanently etched into my body, this image was what finally convinced me to commit to the idea, only personalized with my books surrounding my favorite penguin. (And I will get this once I land on the NYT best seller list. Mark my words.)



There's an excellent chance that you missed the 1991 Bloom County TV Christmas Special, "A Wish for Wings That Work," the story in which our earthbound penguin Opus asks Santa Claus for a Christmas miracle... to finally know what it is like to fly. It is a heartwarming tale that is silly and irreverent, like many a Bloom County fan (myself included.) It doesn't get played much anymore (if at all) but it remains a holiday favorite for this stalwart BC fan.



A holiday recipe:

Another family favorite on my holiday table is a lime jello salad that my mother made as far back as I remember. It's tangy and sweet, with a burst of pineapple in almost every creamy bite. Since pineapple was my very favorite fruit growing up, I started dreaming of this sweet, green treat by Halloween. That it also allowed me to sneak what was left in the 7-Up can once my mom was done with it was just icing on the cake, figuratively speaking. Soda was a special treat when I was a kid because my mom never allowed them in the house. She was afraid they'd make me fat. Instead I was hooked up to a perennial IV drip of sweet tea, the house wine of the south.



Needless to say, I carried this tradition forward when I took over holiday cooking. We have this every year without fail, which allowed me to give my kids a tiny slice of my childhood. I've tried to minimize the caloric damage with sugar free or fat free ingredients and it really doesn't lose any of its sparkle. Feel free to experiment, but make plenty to share.



Geevie's Holiday Lime Jello

1 large box lime jello mix
6 oz cream cheese, cubed
1 can pineapple tidbits
1 can 7-Up

Measure one cup of boiling water into dry jello mix and stir until jello is dissolved. Add cubed cream cheese and beat with mixer until blended. Drain pineapple juice into measuring cup, fill to one cup with 7-Up and add to jello mixture. Add pineapple and chill until set, preferably overnight.

Book of the day:

"Love Plus One" was the first Rubenesque romance I tackled, plopping a shy size-12 introvert in the middle of a televised dating show with the handsome best friend she thought was way out of her league. I wrote it in 2007, around the time I was overdosing on shows like "The Bachelor" and "Rock of Love," so ... me being me... I hopped right into the reality TV sandbox and created a story a little more accessible to girls who never got cast on the show. It remained my most popular book until "Groupie" came along, and ultimately my favorite L+1 characters popped up in Mogul and the Fierce trilogy. As I'm writing Book #2 of the Fullerton Family Saga, Shannon, Jake and Jorge all make an appearance (as do Vanni, Graham and Jace,) further expanding the Groupie universe that began a long time ago with a heroine a lot like me.



EXCERPT OF LOVE PLUS ONE:


She waited for Jake in the living room. As the clock ticked closer to the time he was due to arrive, Shannon became more and more excited. She had looked forward to this date more than she could have consciously admitted, and now that it was here she didn't want to think of anything else but spending time with her very best friend.

All that crush business... it was just an act.

Right?

She had herself fooled right up until he walked in the door. Like Shannon he was dressed casually, and no one wore casual quite like Jake Dalton. It was so much more than just how he looked, but how he carried himself. His aura radiated kindness, generosity, self-confidence.

She'd always known that. What was new was the way she noticed how his dark lashes framed his amazing blue eyes, or the large strong hand that reached out for her... the way he smelled as he bent in for a hug.

Jake was a hugger. He gave some of the best hugs around. They weren't stingy, shy hugs. They were full body, head to toe bear hugs.

She found herself fully aware of how his body felt molded against her own. Despite her size, his arms were big enough to sweep her into an embrace that engulfed her. She felt safer there than she had ever felt anywhere in the whole world.

At least until she felt the immediate emptiness the minute he pulled away, but his eyes held her fast and refused to let her go. She could tell how happy he was to see her. Try as she might, she didn't remember him looking at Kayleigh this way.

That made her happier than she'd been all week.

They ducked inside the limo and were alone at last.

Except for the camera, but Shannon was quickly learning how easy that was to forget.

They sat close together, comfortable old friends.

“I've missed you,” he said. “I don't know what to do with my nights without my favorite IM buddy.”

She laughed. “I've seen the video. You have plenty to keep you busy.”

An embarrassed grin crossed his face. “Well, you know.”

She nodded. She knew. As much as he'd begun this journey to help her reclaim what Rex stole, he was still human.

“So what's it like for you? I don't get to see any tapes,” he reminded her.

Purple feathers and misplaced underwear flashed in her mind. “Thank God.”

That got his attention. “Okay. Now you have to tell me.”

Her entire face turned red as she shook her head. “No way, buster. That's not how this game is played.”

“You know,” he said, donning his best German accent, “ve have vays of making you talk.” He held up two hands in prime tickle position, which made her giggle before he even touched her.

“You wouldn't dare!”

He dared. He dove right in and tickled her until she was laughing so hard she could barely breathe. “Okay, okay!” she gasped. “Uncle!”

Mercifully he stopped, but he didn't move. As she caught her breath she realized that he had her pinned against the seat, their faces mere inches apart. Time seemed to stand still as she stared into those baby blues up close. She had dreamed of being in his arms like this, but nothing compared to actually being there.

“Well?” he whispered with a crooked grin.

“Well what?” she whispered back, having completely forgotten the original line of questioning.

Jake seemed extremely amused. He didn't move an inch. “What goes on at the Bachelorette Pad when I'm not around?”

“Oh,” she said. She licked her lips which drew his gaze that direction. The butterflies in her stomach clog danced their way to her feet when his eyes briefly glanced down at her mouth.

“Gossiping. Grooming. Sacred shaving rituals. You know. Girl stuff.”

He nodded, but he didn't look as if he believed her.

And he also didn't look like he had any intention to move.

Only Shannon couldn't take it anymore and she scooted out from underneath him to open the tiny refrigerator. “Soda?” she asked without looking him in the eye.

It crossed her mind only briefly that if Kayleigh had been in her position she'd have taken full advantage of the situation. The date wouldn't have even made it from the back seat.

But Shannon wasn't Kayleigh. And no one knew that better than Jake.





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Monday, December 16, 2013

On the third day of Christmas, your Geevie brings to you...

A favorite holiday song:

Another one from the "Love to Laugh" files, I defy anyone to remain stone-faced to the following tune. It is completely absurd with its juxtaposition of silly delivery of sad lyrics, and the listener in the background just sells it with contagious laughter you can't help but mimic. Plus it's Looney Tunes. What's not to love? (If you heard that in Daffy's voice, you're doubly awesome.)



A favorite holiday movie/show:

John Hughes was/is a personal hero of mine. I loved the way he blended humor and laughter with heart and soul. His movies were the forerunners to shows like "Modern Family" and "The Goldbergs." If comedy didn't intimidate me so much to write, this is the level of perfection I would aspire to as a storyteller. And it fits Christmas like a glove, which you'll find him not once but three times on my list. We'll start with the Griswolds.



A holiday recipe:

More cookies! Bake and share!

SUGAR COOKIES

A Christmas memory:

In 2005, becoming a published writer was still a dream waiting to be realized for me. My favorite elf, my husband Steven (whose birthday is today by the way,) wasn't very covert in his plan to professionally bind one of my manuscripts as a Christmas present. He insisted he needed a first draft to do it, which, as any writer will take you, isn't exactly the draft we want to immortalize. It's ridden with flaws that, when you revisit the material, will make you cringe... especially after years pass and you grow as a writer. But he was insistent and I finally relented. I knew what the heavy present was under the tree, and I hoped that I could muster the enthusiasm he wanted the minute I opened the gift.

What I couldn't have predicted was the powerful impact seeing my name in print for the first time would have on me. I wept shamelessly as I stared down at the book in my lap, physical proof of my lifelong dream. I have often said I wouldn't have have realized this dream without Steven... my Graham, my hero, my partner and my friend. His passion to make me happy is unparallelled, and this gift was proof positive of that. It's fitting that the content inside was imperfect, because that was how he found me. It was good enough, because *I* was good enough. And he made it beautiful in the same way he made me beautiful, warts and all. There could be no better gift than that.



The book of the day:

What else?





EXCERPT FROM MY IMMORTAL


The minute he walked in from the other room, clad in an elegant suit, his hair long and wild about his shoulders, the rest of the world seemed to fade away. What had been and what would be seemed insignificant to what was. All that mattered was they were there in that moment together. Adele had quickly learned from nearly losing Dani that the present was all anyone ever has. He approached, drinking her in his burning gaze. Her breath caught in her throat as he took her hand in his and brought it to his lips. She shivered though his skin was warm. “You look wonderful,” he murmured.

She shook her head. She was wearing jeans and an old ratty sweater. She didn’t even wear a speck of makeup. She was white as a ghost, making the circles under her eyes stand out even more. “You lie so effortlessly, Mr. Sterling,” she kidded.

He held a free hand to his chest. “On my honor. I wouldn’t lie about that.”

Her eyebrow cocked. “And what would you lie about?”

He just laughed. “Always the reporter.” He led her toward a beautifully set table. “Come. Let’s eat.”

He pulled out her chair and let her sit. He reached around her, so close she could feel the heat from his body, and took the silver dome from her plate. “I hope you like quail.”

“I love it,” she answered. “How did you know?”

He shrugged as he sat. “Call it a lucky hunch.” He uncovered his own meal. “I used to do quite a bit of hunting when I was younger.”

The memory seemed to pain him. “For her?” she asked quietly.

His eyes shot to hers. “How did you know?”

She shrugged. “Lucky hunch.” Thaddeus approached with a bottle of champagne. “What’s the occasion?”

Thaddeus popped the cork and filled her glass while consuming her with his eyes. It was almost tiresome how on the spot he made her feel.

Nicholas didn’t bother to answer as Thaddeus filled his glass. Their eyes met – a silent duel as Nicholas sent him from the room with nothing more than a look of disapproval.

Nicholas waited until Thaddeus had gone before holding his glass up to her. “That you finally answered my messages and joined me again.”

She held up her glass, unable to tear her eyes from him as she sipped the champagne. “How could I not reward your tenacity? It’s a quality I can appreciate.”

She proved her point as she relentlessly grilled him on his background over the course of their dinner. He answered every question calmly and directly. Every time he tried to turn the table to have her talk about herself, she would give him a vague answer and then meet it with more questions.

By the end of their meal, she knew when he had started Sterling International, how he’d built it from the ground up, acquiring other companies along the way, turning himself into a self-made millionaire through his world travels.

What she still didn’t know anything about was Nicholas the man.

“What are your parents like?” she asked, swirling the last of the champagne in her glass.

“Dead,” he answered simply. There was no pain, no mourning, just a simple statement of fact. “They died long before I enjoyed true success. A shame, but life is like that, isn’t it?”

He saddened her when he talked like that. This was clearly a man deadened by the weight of his losses. “And what about your love?” she queried softly.

There was a slight pause. “The same,” he finally answered. His eyes misted over as he looked at her. She could feel his sadness sweep across the table. He scooted his chair back and walked toward her, offering her a hand. “How about some fresh air?”

She nodded and allowed him to lead her onto the balcony that overlooked the city. “Have you ever heard of the red string of fate?” he asked as they leaned together along the stone railing. She shook her head. “There is an Eastern legend that says we are tied to significant people in our lives by a red string around our ankles. Destiny links people who are supposed to find each other, help each other, and even love each other, by this unbreakable cord. It knows no distance, no time, no circumstance. No matter what happens, this string will never break.” He glanced toward the sky. “Maybe I believe it because I have to, but I believe that red string will restore what was once stolen.” He glanced down at her upturned face. “Do you believe in destiny, Adele?”

“I never did,” she said softly as she lost herself in his eyes. “But life has a way of testing our beliefs, doesn’t it?”

He gave her a slow smile. “Indeed.” He reached out with his hand to brush her hair from her face as the wind danced around them. “Maybe it’s silly to believe in anything more than the here and now. All we really have for sure is this moment,” he added.

There was a question there, but Adele couldn’t even remember why she was supposed to turn away from it. In her heart she agreed, her life had been a series of wasted moments. She knew that the moment she had found Dani dying in the forest. Now that a much nicer moment was before her again, promising more than just the absolute loneliness she’d always known, she wondered if it was a moment worth seizing. This showed in her eyes. Like a current between them, Nicholas pulled her into his strong arms.

No words were needed as her body melted against him. All remaining doubts melted to nothingness as she wound her arms around his neck and met his kiss with equal passion. His mouth was warm as it covered her full, parted lips, capturing her soft sigh. Fire raced through her veins until she went up like a bottle rocket when he took full possession of her mouth. Her fingers clutched handfuls of hair as he lifted her to him, the force between them raw and electrifying. When he pulled away she could barely stand.

“I’ve wanted to do that since I first laid eyes on you,” he muttered into her hair.

Her head tilted back. “So what took you so long?”

He groaned as he bent for another scorching kiss.



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