Monthly Archives: December 2015

Holiday at Magnolia Bay

HolidayAtMagnoliaBay-SMALLThe holiday season for me is all about home, friends and family. I love decorating my house with items my family and I have collected throughout our travels. The big family dinners and parties with friends make the season. Growing up, I felt a little cheated out of the Hallmark Christmas because my dad was in the military and, more often than not, our holiday consisted of my family of five and whatever pets might be living with us. Don’t get me wrong, I loved “growing up military” but I always felt sad those years—which were most of them—when we couldn’t get together and celebrate with extended family.

This is probably why I can relate to Jenna Huntley, my main character in Holiday at Magnolia Bay. Jenna is a military brat herself, a woman looking for a place to call “home.” She finds it in the small coastal town just south of Charleston, South Carolina. Magnolia Bay is the one place that’s been a constant in her life, the summer vacation destination she and her family visited every year while Jenna was growing up. Now a marine biologist, she works at the town’s Sea Turtle Rescue Center.

Just to make Jenna’s life a little more interesting, I threw in a love interest who’s actually a Navy SEAL. Jenna has sworn off the military life—which means all military men—but the sexy Lieutenant Commander is very potent. Of course she’s attracted to the one guy who she’s vowed to stay away from. Yeah, I’m evil that way.

Drew’s not interested in family, though. In fact, he’s pretty much isolated himself from relationships with everyone in his life because he fears that if something happens to him, there will be collateral damage. He’s set on being alone the rest of his life. Or so he thinks.

sea-turtleBut I couldn’t leave their HEA to fate—or sea turtles, as the case may be—someone had to do a little meddling. I chose an octogenarian spinster for this. The character of Evie Song is named after a fan named Evie who also happens to be a very lively senior citizen herself. I try to name a minor character in each of my books after someone I know but Evie needed to have a bigger role. I’ve never met Evie, but she treats me like she she’s known me all of my life. She sends lovely fan letters and hand sells my books to everyone she meets. If anyone deserves to be immortalized as a character in one of my books, it’s Evie.

You see, Evie, and the friends I’ve collected along my life’s journey, are as much my family as the people I’m actually related to. All those holidays spent on military bases without family? We celebrated with a tribe of friends around us instead. And when we finally did get to celebrate with our relatives we enjoyed those times and savored the memories.

I hope you enjoy Drew and Jenna’s story. As a military brat myself, I love sharing with readers the complexity of life in the military, whether it’s serving in the armed forces or loving someone who’s served. Times are a little crazy right now in our world and I ask that you keep those who serve and their loved ones waiting at home in your hearts.

Grab a copy to curl up with this holiday season!

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Christmas Call to Action

Gold ornaments with a shiny heart in the centerIt’s difficult to avoid Christmas carols on the radio this time of year. My favorite, as I mentioned last year, is the Little Drummer Boy. I like it because it’s about more than praise and worship. It’s active. It’s about putting your talents to use in service of God. And I think that’s a wonderful message, regardless of what faith you belong to.

Most of the major world religions focus on loving and caring for one another. Christianity is no exception. Jesus’ last commandment before the crucifixion was “Love one another as I have loved you.” In the last chapter of the gospel, Jesus says three times to Peter, “Do you love me?…Feed my sheep.”

The holidays are a good time for people of all religions—or no religion—to put aside their selfish desires and serve others with humility: feeding the hungry, taking in strangers, visiting the sick, or whatever they’re called to do. Even if it’s just playing their drum to bring joy to the world.

Do you have any holiday traditions that involve serving others?

Image Copyright: funlovingvolvo / 123RF Stock Photo

Spirit of the Season

Like Kimberly, I’m looking at Christmas in a new light this year. My kids are teenagers now, and while they haven’t lost all of their magical appreciation for the season, they do have a very frank understanding of Santa which significantly alters the gift-giving angle. After all, the reason for the season isn’t gifts, its God. Jesus.

Kids are great

Makes a gal feel kind of superficial and materialistic focusing on the shopping business. So I won’t. This year isn’t going to be about finding the perfect gift, the one that lights up their faces on Christmas morning. Nope. There will be gifts Christmas morning, but greatly reduced. I’ll carry the sentiment through Christmas dinner. As hostess for the family gathering, I’ve asked the relatives to dispense with our customary gift exchange. It only adds chaos to the evening, anyway. I mean, we’re talking 25 people for dinner and my house is far from a mansion. Trust me when I tell you it gets a little crazy. And to exchange gifts right before we’re serving a home-cooked meal? Double the chaos. We need all hands on deck to carve the turkey, make the gravy, toast the marshmallows atop the sweet potatoes, warm the veggies… The list goes on.

gingerbread house

Recently, I discovered that one family in our community celebrates the season without gifts. For themselves, that is, including their kids. Instead, they wrap a gift box, cut a slit in the top, then deposit money into it throughout the month. A week before Christmas, they take the money and buy food for the hungry, clothes for the homeless; wherever they see a need, they fill it.

I like it. It embraces the charitable spirit of the season and reminds me it’s time to focus on the basics. Family, friends, charity, hospitality, song and prayer. How about you? Any changes this season to your celebration?

Bringing the Christmas cheer

It’s three weeks until Christmas, y’all, and I’ve not put a single decoration out. Not one. There are no lights on my house, no tree in my living room, no wreaths on my door, and let’s not even talk about the pumpkins rotting on my front porch. I know, I know. I need to get busy, but honestly, the idea exhausts me.

When the kids were little, I used to go all out. I hung stockings and made my own table arrangements and put trees in every room and draped everything in greenery. I cooked and even baked.

But now that the kids are older, I can’t talk myself into lugging a couple of boxes up from the basement. When did the holidays get to be such a chore?

If I step back and consider things rationally, it’s not the decorating that’s made Christmas lose it’s sparkle for me, but the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality that pushes me to do it. Because here’s the thing. I’m done keeping up. I have nothing to prove to anyone, the Joneses or otherwise. The Joneses can suck it.

So maybe this year, any lights I put up should be because I think they’re pretty. Any tree I put up should be so that I can admire my favorite ornaments. And any food I make should be because my family and I want to eat — oh, who am I kidding? I’ll probably order the food, but the point is, I don’t have to do anything. The only people I care to please are the ones under my own roof.

And when I think about it that way, the holidays suddenly don’t seem so exhausting.

Smile How You Want, When You Want

rowan

Axel Muench/imdb

This lovely girl at left is Rowan Blanchard, a fourteen-year-old actress from a current Disney Channel show.

I saw last night that, according to an article on HuffPost Women, she gets a lot of flack from media and fans for not smiling more often. She has in response made a statement, simply saying, she’ll smile when she wants to!

I get it. Because why is a smile the obligation? Who is that important to, and for what reason?

My two daughters — just a bit younger than Miss Blanchard — have close-lipped, sweet smiles. And every fall, every year, the school picture photographers require that they bear their teeth for the camera, which is not natural for either of them on command. They end up feeling self-conscious, then unhappy with their pictures, and every year I resent those photographers for accepting nothing short of a huge, unrealistic expression based on what I can only assume are rote and rigid ideals, which don’t at all capture my girls in the way they want remembered. Again, for what reason?

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See? My girls are smiling. And beautifully, I might add.

Why can’t children — those in the public eye — everyone — choose for themselves when to smile and how?

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