The importance of holiday traditions

Share

A seasonal Monday musing

by Raine Thomas

My love of the holidays started in my childhood. As busy as my mom was while working full time and running our household of six, she always managed to find the time to dig out the holiday decorations from their storage boxes in the garage and get them up so we could all enjoy them. For many years, we had the same disheveled artificial Christmas tree that she decorated with so many strands of lights you got a little shock if you pulled the plug the wrong way. That sad tree is a memory invoking notes of A Charlie Brown Christmas, another tradition in our household.

I also remember spending days in the kitchen with my mom. She had a variety of cookie recipes she made every year. Magic cookie bars, thumbprint cookies, butter balls, lemon squares, and iced sugar cookies were at the top of her list. She’d make enough cookies to put into pretty tins to give our teachers, our neighbors, the mailperson, the garbage collectors, and anyone else she wanted to recognize. Everyone loved them! It helped me and my brothers learn that gifts don’t always have to cost a lot of money to be appreciated. In fact, those gifts requiring time and thoughtfulness are usually among the most beloved!

When I got older, some of my best holiday memories involved going with my mom from store to store looking for bargains on gifts and new decorations to add to our individual households. We would stop for breakfast at the local diner (boy, do I miss their biscuits and gravy!), then venture around the malls and shops of south Atlanta. Once all the shopping was done, we set a day to get together, indulge in some alcoholic holiday cheer, and spend hours wrapping presents together while watching one Christmas movie or another.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

My mom passed away earlier this year. I can’t help but think about all of those traditions now as we venture into our first Christmas without her. My 13-year-old daughter was very close with her grandma, so I know memories of our many Christmases with mom are also at the forefront of her mind.

I’ve come to realize just how important those many holiday traditions were. They weren’t just “traditions.” They were memories in the making. They were moments that we can revisit now and feel joy when otherwise we might be mournful.

Rather than focus on our loss, we’ve decided to focus on happy traditions…those traditions I had with my mom and those we’re creating ourselves. We’ll be making fresh gingerbread cookies and decorating them together. We’re hunting for Christmas movies my daughter hasn’t seen and spending time watching them. We’re playing the Christmas carols we all love every chance we get, and we’ll read the poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore on Christmas Eve.

This time of year invokes a lot of nostalgia, especially in light of my mother’s passing. I’ve been taking time to write about my thoughts and feelings in hopes I can infuse them into a future story, as all life experiences should guide us authors. For now, though, I’ve got cookies to bake…and more importantly, memories to make.

Raine Thomas

Raine Thomas, new adult, young adult and romance

is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen.

Raine is a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Get to know more about Raine on

Share

Seasons’ readings

Share

It’s holiday season at BestSelling Reads

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate and plenty of opportunities to give at this time of year.

Many avid readers are also looking forward to time to spend on their favorite activity: reading!

At BestSelling Reads, we’ve been hard at work providing you with plenty of choices for both giving and reading.

We’ve told you about the newest releases by members.

And we have some seasonal reads for you, as well.

Snogged: A Jenna Ray [Christmas] Story by Kayla Dawn Thomas

Jenna Ray is a vigilante who seeks justice for women whose men betray them—and gets it. In the third story in The Collection, Jenna finds a new client while Christmas shopping.

Nailing a philanderer gets complicated when Jenna also has to content with visiting relatives, unaccustomed holiday decorating and friends who are intent on pushing her into the arms of a certain someone named Thad.

Snogged is the third in the Jenna Ray series. You can get it free by subscribing to the BestSelling Reads email newsletter.

Don’t stop there: get the whole book for your Kindle or Kindle App today.

With a cast of quirky friends, clients, and family, the Jenna Ray Stories will have you laughing and cringing at Jenna’s predicament. Just one warning: think twice before you slip off that ring, boys.

Visit Kayla Dawn Thomas’ author page to see all her books.

The Christmas Well by J.L. Oakley

In this charming essay, a city street is without water three days before Christmas. All the families think Christmas was lost. Then the city brings in a water tank.

Going to get water from the “well” on Christmas Eve becomes a special childhood memory as neighbors young and old fill their buckets and pans and share their joys of the season despite a little more than inconvenience.

Get The Christmas Well on Amazon.

Visit J.L. Oakley’s author page to see all her books.

Palm Trees & Snowflakes by Scott Bury

In Honolulu, where the palm trees are strung with lights for the holidays, FBI Special Agents Vanessa Storm and Alan Terakawa have their hands full trying to stop the deadly flow of snowflake, the newest designer drug. Faulty intel brings the agents into a deadly firefight, which yields even more puzzles. Time is running out to stop this lethal flood.

Get Palm Trees & Snowflakes on Amazon.

Visit Scott Bury’s author page to see all his books.

Mistletoe Promises by Kayla Dawn Thomas

A Seasons of Love novella available exclusively through the author’s website.

Bert Gregory is about to make her fashion design debut, but unlike in her dreams, it’s not on the runway at Fashion Week. Instead, she’s commissioned to create bridesmaid gowns and a wedding dress for a friend. She never imagined enjoying such work, but could it be, she’s been chasing the wrong dream?

Meanwhile, Christine Eber finds herself falling in love with a cowboy. Having loved and lost years ago, Christine is afraid of making any permanent commitments. That fear of loss might make her miss out on the best life has to offer.

Is the Christmas magic in the air enough to help them let go of old dreams and forge ahead with new and better ones?

Sign up for Kayla Dawn Thomas’ newsletter and get your free copy of Mistletoe Promises.

Share

Bookshots: Stories read with the speed of light

Share

It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.

Photo by MILKOVÍ on Unsplash

By Caleb Pirtle III

Several years ago, something happened.

And I don’t know why.

My writing changed.

My style changed.

I began writing short.

Then shorter.

I didn’t sit down one morning, stare down at my keyboard, and say, “Well, I think that sentence would work better if it were shorter.”

But there they were.

Scattered on the page.

Short words.

Short sentences.

Short paragraphs.

Short chapters.

Shorter books.

Jump into the story.

Don’t tarry.

Leave when the story is told.

Now, apparently, the great James Patterson agreed with me.

Patterson launched a whole new line of books.

He called them Bookshots.

They were short, 40,000-word novellas designed to be read quickly and cheaply and at one sitting.

You can race through these, Patterson says.

They’re like reading a movie.

He calls them stories at the speed of light.

Patterson says he wants to tap into a new market: the twenty-seven percent of Americans who have not read a book of any kind in the past year.

Why?

Books, they say, are too long.

Hardcover books, they say, are too expensive.

In reality, Patterson brought back the dime novel.

In today’s hectic, fast-paced, impatient world, there’s no reason to write long when short can do the job much better.

For example, I no longer write a chapter describing the sunset.

I merely write: “The sun fell red like blood beyond the trees and into the river.”

No more.

No less.

I don’t need to write a thousand words to describe the sun going down.

We’ve all seen it go down.

We know how it looks.

We know what it does.

My latest release is Lonely Night to Die, which has three noir thrillers written as novellas.

Each one stars the same character.

He’s CIA.

He’s rogue.

The CIA wants him dead.

Patterson would call them bookshots.

I won’t disagree.

More and more, I am embracing the admonition that’s it’s best to enter a story late and leave early.

Others in the writing profession have been doing it for a long time.

As August Wilson said, “The simpler you say it, the more eloquent it is.”

And Josh Billings pointed out, “There’s great power in words if you don’t hitch too many of them together.”

Even Thomas Jefferson had an opinion: “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

As far as Baltasar Gracian was concerned, “Good things, when short, are twice as good.”

John Rushkin believed, “Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them, and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them.”

Said Diderot: “Pithy sentences are like sharp nails driving truth into our memory.”

Mark Twain warned, “As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.”

And Friedrich Nietzsche summed it up by writing: “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.”

When it’s all said and done, however, I prefer the insights of Arthur Plotnik and Robert Southey.

Said Plotnik: “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside of you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.”

Southey then drove the point home: “It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.”

That says it all.

No need to write anything more.

I’ll quit.

And let Southey’s words burn and be read at James Patterson’s speed of light.

Caleb Pirtle III

began his career writing about history and travel. He learned quickly, however, that what happens is never as important as those who make it happen. Many of those people have made their way into his novels.

He is the author of more than 65 published books, including the new noir suspense thrillers, Golgotha ConnectionSecrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of Lies and Night Side of Dark. His other novels include Back Side of a Blue Moon and Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever

He has written such award winners as “XIT: The American Cowboy,” “Callaway Gardens: the Unending Season,” “The Grandest Day,” “Echoes from Forgotten Streets,” and “Spirit of a Winner.” His nonfiction works include Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk and No Experience Required.

Caleb earned a journalism degree from The University of Texas and became the first student at the university to win the national William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. As a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he received both the Texas Headliner’s and Associated Press Awards.

He served as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine, and his travel writing was given the National Discover America Award three times. For more than two decades, Pirtle was editorial director for a custom publishing company in Dallas.

He has also written teleplays for network television.

Find more about Caleb at his:

BestsellingReads author page    |    Amazon Author Page    |    Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

Share

Lest we forget

Share

On this day in 1918, the guns finally stopped at the end of the bloodiest war humankind had yet seen.

The First World War changed the way we think about war and the people who had to fight them. That meant it changed the way we talk and write about the experiences of the people in it.

In 1915, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a physician with the 1st Brigade of the Canadian Field Army wrote In Flanders Fields after the death of his friend at the Second Battle of Ypres. It has become the most quoted poem about war around the world.

For Remembrance Day, also called Armistice Day and Veterans Day, BestSelling Reads presents this poem.

Lest we forget.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Share

Momentous Monday: Two brand-new titles from BestSelling Reads

Share

That’s right! There are two new titles available right now from two of your favorite BestSelling Reads authors. Don’t wait—these would make perfect gifts for the avid readers on your list.

Wicked Truth: Cursed Coven 

by Corinne O’Flynn 

When Ivy Winter meets Anton Stavros, “star-crossed lovers” seems like child’s play.

I used to be fine with the idea of an arranged marriage. As a “Winter Witch”, it’s important to marry well and preserve the family’s magical line. But that all goes out the window when my cat, Mr. Burroughs, decides a random dude in the park is the catnip he’s always dreamed of. Anton Stavros is the only person Mr. Burroughs has ever liked besides me, and seeing them together ignites unexpected fire inside my body. He’s tall, dark, wickedly handsome, and absolutely off-limits to someone like me.

So why do I keep saying yes to him?

After dodging my would-be suitor, it feels like a sign when Anton is waiting for me at my door. The ‘yes’ comes easy and I find myself falling into his dreamy eyes and muscled arms. But morning brings reality like a wrecking ball, decimating any fantasy I had of me and Anton. Between my family and my legacy, there’s no hope for us.

When a dark curse makes me realize what I want is more important than what’s expected, I have to make a choice. Do I defy my family for a man I barely know? Or do I follow the path laid out for me from birth? Is it already too late?

Get it from Amazon.

What Had To Be Done

By DelSheree Gladden

Everyone has bad days. Anna Elizondo is going on three years of bad days.

It started with her mother’s illness and eventual death, continued with a decision that ruined a friendship, and culminated in her father announcing they were broke and moving away right before her senior year of high school.

Maybe a fresh start will turn things around.

Or maybe it will put her face to face with her former best friend Felix and the hatred in he still carries for her.

The only bright spot in Anna’s move to Santa Fe is meeting her new swim coach, a long-time hero who has big plans for her athletic career. The pool is her refuge, but she can’t hide there forever. Living in a small town makes it impossible to stay out of Felix’s way, and unlikely their history will remain just between them for long. If Anna can’t find a way to make things at least tolerable with Felix, it’s going to be a very long summer.

Read more on the author’s website.

Get it from Amazon.

Subscribe for up-to-date news

Just hit the Subscribe button to the right to stay informed about new releases and announcements from all our members—and get a free book in the process!

Share

Horror Family Style

Share

Hallowe’en musings

By M.L. Doyle

My siblings and I have always enjoyed having the bejesus scared out of us.

Our mother sometimes worked a swing shift. Our dad worked odd hours so we never really knew when or if he’d be home. By the time my older sister was about 12, my middle sister, my brother who was the youngest, and myself – all of us about two years apart from the next one — were pretty much on our own after school, living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, casseroles warmed in the oven (there weren’t any microwaves back then), or stovetop cooked cans of tomato soup.

Growing up in Minnesota, there are many days when it’s just too dang cold to go outside. While alone in the house, our most favorite thing to do was to watch scary movies. Of course this is before VCRs, or DVRs or even cable. We had five measly channels to choose from, but somehow, we were able to find movies that scratched that horror itch. On Sundays, when the weekly listings came out, we would go on a search making note of any movies that might make us scream in terror and then plan all activities around it.

Dracula, The Werewolf, The Blob, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Monster from the Surf, Godzilla, The Creature From the Black Lagoon. We’d sit side by side on the sofa, a shared blanket clutched to our chins, looking forward to the thing that would make us jump and scream.

As we grew older, the fright somehow changed to hilarity. By the time The War of the Gargantuas,  came out, we were ready to laugh, and laugh hard. The story is about two Godzilla-sized creatures, hairy and monstrous looking, who rise from the sea, one good and one evil. At one point in the film, a woman is in a rooftop lounge singing a song that includes the line, “… the wooooords get stuck in my throat.” She repeats the line over and over. “The wooooords get stuck in my throat.”

Then one of the Gargantuas picks her up, eat her and spit out her clothes. To this day, all we have to do is sing that line and we all crack up.  

As we grew older, our tastes developed and the reruns of The Mummy, or the Three Stooges or Charlie Chan versions of those films didn’t interest us anymore. We wanted the truly scary films, like The Thing. That Artic mission, the discovery of the space ship under the ice, the isolation, the killer vegetable and the dry wit and snappy dialogue, had all the makings of a classic. The remakes have never lived up to the original black and white.

Another favorite starts with a little blond girl, obviously in shock and standing alone in the debris of her destroyed home, clutching a stuffed animal. Someone asks her what happened. All she can do is scream THEM! Those giant ants were no joke. 

Alfred Hitchcock rocked our world. The Birds, Rear Window, even his TV show became a favorite. My brother had to work hard to convince me to watch Halloween. I don’t know why I ever hesitated. Then I started reading Stephen King –Carrie, Cujo, It—I couldn’t put them down. Since we’d always had dogs and cats for pets, Pet Sematery was particularly horrifying for me.

One Saturday morning, I got up early to find my older sister sitting at the kitchen table, her eyes bloodshot, her hands clenched in front of her. She looked like she hadn’t slept all night. I asked her what was wrong. She said she’d been to a movie the night before with some friends. “The Exorcist,” she said, then refused to say more. She’d seen it the first night it was released. I think she’s still scared from it.

We’ve never really grown out of our love of fear. Several years ago, I went home to Minneapolis just so I could go with my siblings and a few friends to a place called Scream Town. The massive, outdoor park had five different themed areas, darkened and filled with things and people that jumped out at you. We were, by far, the most senior people at the theme park, all of us in our late 50s and early 60s. We didn’t care. It may be our age that made so much of it hilarious.

From Scream Town, Minnesota

In one room, you had to walk through a space with what looked like bodies wrapped in plastic, hanging from the ceiling. They were so numerous, you had to bump and bang your way through this horror, the “bodies” swinging sickeningly. We clutched each other, heads ducked, stumbling around in the dark, and laughing our asses off, screaming too.

In another place, you rounded a corner to come face to face with a man in a glass-encased electric chair. The red light in the small booth where he sat cast a horrific, shadowy glow over him. The rubbery, trembling and smoking dummy, wrapped in a straightjacket, its mouth gapping open with chilling screams piped out of the box, was so life-like he was fascinating.

We made our brother go first, hanging onto his jacket while we made our way through the corn maze, then stood fascinated at the sight of a cow suspended in air as if it was being sucked up by a UFO. Scream Town does not skimp on the props or makeup.

Now, every year when Halloween rolls around, I think about Scream Town and think about my family and consider flying home for the holiday where we have every excuse to act ridiculous, scream at the top of our lungs and laugh until our bellies hurt.

M.L. Doyle, military mystery, erotica and urban fantasy

M.L. Doyle

calls on her years of serving as an Army Reservist to write about women in combat boots. She co-authored the memoirs of two brave soldiers to ensure their stories keep their proper place in history. Her work with Spec. (Ret) Shoshana Johnson, an African-American POW of the Iraq War, was finalist in the NAACP Image Award. She also co-authored with Brig. Gen (Ret.) Julia Cleckley the story of her rise through Army ranks from humble beginnings and despite great personal tragedy.

Mary has written the three-book Master Sergeant Harper mystery series, and Limited Partnerships, a four-novella erotic romance series. Her latest release, The Bonding Blade, is the second book in her Desert Goddess urban fantasy series.

Mary’s essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The War Horse, The Wrath-Bearing Tree, The Goodman project and O-Dark Thirty.

Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.com.

Share