December.15 Book Rec

This month’s book recommendation: Our Lady of the Lost and Found by Diane Schoemperlen. What better time of year to read a book reflecting on faith, our purpose and direction in life, and what it takes to recharge then keep going?

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Our Lady reads like memoir and narrative in one; the postmodern voice and wink at the beginning of the action further blurs the line of who exactly is talking to us (the author herself? the author’s character?). This just adds to the appeal for me, because the book is a journey of getting to know someone as a friend, and yourself better through that burgeoning friendship. The book and its characters in turn become the mirror for you as you read.

It’s witty and clever without being brittle, meditative and profound without platitudes, and filled facts without ever getting bogged down. (I learned more about Marian science, religious fervor, and history from this than some nonfiction books I’ve read!) It’s a book about women, by a woman, and all their glorious strengths and foibles–and that right there is something to celebrate.

Lastly, Our Lady is a book I read then recommended to my [Catholic] Granny. I knew she’d enjoy it for all the reasons I listed above, and she did. But our conversations about the book, and her feeling heartened I hasn’t lost all my faith (in whatever form) if I would read-like-recommend such a book, are what stays with me most.

Brew a pot of tea and enjoy!

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Friday Fun Five

Happy Friday! This week’s guest is Andrew Grey. Thanks, Andrew — and happy birthday!

To know more about Andrew, check andrewgreybooks.com or find him on Facebook and Twitter. His latest literary triumph is Eyes Only For Me, available here.

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1) If you could have any five guests (historical, famous, etc) at your Thanksgiving table who would it be?

Sir Isaac Newton, Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo, Michael Faraday, Thomas Edison.

2) Cranberry: Relish or jellied?

Definitely relish.

3) A nice brisk walk or a nice long nap to follow a big meal?  Actually both.

I’d go for a walk and then take a nap.

4) What is your favorite word?

Butthead. The one time my mother was speechless was when she was getting on my last nerve and I told her she was being a butthead.

5) What do you hope to be thankful for in 2016?

The continued health of myself and my family.


Andrew grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Andrew GreySince then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and works in information systems for a large corporation.

Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing)  He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

 

Friday Fun Five

Happy Friday! This week’s guest is Rose Archer. Thanks, Rose.

To know more about Rose Archer, find her buried in emails and books, busy writing tantalizing blurbs as Dreamspinner Press’ Blurb Coordinator.

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1) What everyday household chore do you get the most satisfaction from doing?

I like working outside–mowing the grass and doing yard work. I get tan in like five minutes so I can see the difference when I’m done.

2) Stay up all night to finish a Netflix binge or an entire book?

I’ve done both at various times. It depends on my mood and what I’m watching or reading and how much it holds my attention.

3) Shoes: Buy for comfort or buy for cuteness?

Flip-flops to wear from the car to the beach, Chuck Taylors for everything else.

4) What is your favorite word?

Cat 🙂

5) Which US National Landmark resonates with you most? (Monument, nature, building…)

Beaches. I love the sea and get a little depressed if I have to be away from it for too long.


Rose came to Dreamspinner with creativity quite literally seeping out of10603737_828157147223931_9051938848771379356_n her pores. Editing, painting, speculative writing… she loves it all, as evidenced by her MFAs in English and Painting. Even her hobbies are creative: cosplay, anime, collecting ball-joint dolls, and admiring the graphic arts in video games. She likes to travel with her husband and daughter and spends all her extra money on it, and she keeps house for two cats in the northeastern US.

Do Good November.15

Every month I feature a way to give back by sharing things I’ve found meaningful to champion. November is when we start thinking about the holidays, and planning for the good times soon upon us. Some people who look to these holidays feel more than happy anticipation–there’s the stress of wondering where their next meal is going to come from, never mind their Thanksgiving feast. Family-to-Family provides many ways to help these families have better holidays, and better lives every day.

Ways to give: Turkey Drive || Stuff a Shirt for the Homeless at Thanksgiving || Donate

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Mission Statement:

Family-to-Family (F-to-F) is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3), non-profit national hunger and poverty relief organization dedicated to connecting, one-to-one, families with enough to share to impoverished American families with profoundly less. Our program creates a bridge between communities with “more” and some of our country’s poorest areas.

Our members give in a variety of ways. Some welcome the concrete responsibility of shopping, packing, and sending a monthly carton of non-perishable groceries that will provide 7 dinner-type meals to the family they “sponsor”. Some shop for and send only the “monthly drive items” – non-food basic necessities – while contributing a monthly donation to F-to-F, which we use to purchase groceries locally for “their” family.

F-to-F purchases groceries at discounted rates from a constellation of large chain supermarkets and Feeding America food banks to provide food for the families we serve. Each receiving family picks up or has delivered, the box packed especially for them from a community partner in their area, each of whom is affiliated with a local food pantry, outreach organization, school or church.

In an effort to create “possibilities”, F-to-F encourages donors and recipients to connect and communicate when possible and comfortable. We suggest donors reach out to the family we have linked them to with a letter…and often sponsored families write back. We hope that by creating a bond of friendship between families who would otherwise never have had the opportunity to connect, lives will be changed for the better, even if ever so slightly. Currently, F-to-F provides over 12,000 meals per month to over 1,800 struggling moms, dads and kids in 12 states across the U.S.A.

In addition to our core family sponsorship program,   F-to-F has created a constellation of additional giving opportunities, all designed to provide kids, families and adults with meaningful, hands-on giving experiences.

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Happy giving, in whatever way you choose to better your world!

Friday Fun Five

Happy Friday! This week’s guest is Skylar M Cates. Thanks, Skylar.

To know more about Skylar M Cates, find her on Facebook and Twitter. Her latest literary triumph is A Guy’s Thanksgiving, available here.

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1) Do you make sure to follow any superstitious practices about anything–just in case?

Just telling my family I love them before we part for the day.

2) Hot mulled cider or cold hard cider?

Hot mulled cider (even though I live in Florida, drinking the hot stuff lets me imagine some cold weather).

3) Tons of fluffy pillows or one flat pillow only?

Fluffy (although my dog might steal them!).

4) What is your favorite word?

This one is too hard for me to select. I used to like decadent and loquacious for their sound. For meaning? Love!

5) If you could live for one day as a famous person from the past, who would you be?

Walt Whitman


Skylar M. Cates loves a good romance. She is quite happy to drink some coffee, curl up with a good book, and not move all day. Most days, however, Skylar is chasing after her husband, her kids, and her giant dog, Wasabi. skylarSkylar dreams about spending her days writing her novels, walking along the beach, and making more time for her good friends. On a shoestring budget, Skylar traveled all over in her early years. Although, lately, the laundry room is the farthest place she has visited, Skylar still loves to chat with people from all around the globe.

Force Play Tea

My latest novel ‘Force Play’ will be available November 9 from Dreamspinner Press. So of course I’ve blended a tea especially for the book. This tea is perfect for summer, taken hot or iced. Assam–an elevated basic black–with berry and rose essences, and a burst of colorful sprinkles for fun. Like fireworks after the home team wins the game!

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Find it at Adagio fine teas.

And to go with it, here’s a TEAser!


Chapter One

IT WAS the mother of all hangovers. The grandmother. Harmon was aware of precious few things and willed each to disappear: the acidic dryness of his eyes, the intense pounding in his head, and the burning knot at his core, making him feel like he was going to vomit.

He whined and tried to figure out what was going on, where he was, and what had disturbed his misery.

Harmon discovered if he pressed his forehead down and in, the roaring in his ears muffled to dull instead of clanging. He breathed in as deeply as he dared, then held it, and heard pounding that wasn’t coming from his head or heaving guts.

“Go away,” he slurred, lying face-planted in what he’d determined was carpet.

But the knocking persisted, here and there punctuated by the doorbell, until Harmon forced himself onto his palms, then staggered to his feet. He sealed the back of his hand over his mouth and lurched into a wall. Then he decided to stay there as dizziness assailed him and the rancid sourness in his stomach climbed his throat.

“Kiel? Kiel! I know you’re in there! Open the damn door!”

Harmon winced. The angry voice sounded like his agent, but he had no clue why Trent would be here. It was the All-Star Break, and Harmon was most definitely on break. He hadn’t been voted to the team and he told himself he didn’t care. He was in a nosedive midway through the season. But he was also bound to a contract with a high-profile, high-priced team, so it wasn’t like Trent would come calling to talk to him about potential trade options.

Propped up by the wall, he slid his way to the door. He’d figured out by now he was at home—his luxury high-rise apartment secured by a mint contract in the Bigs a year ago. That was when he was still a top-ranked prospect who played a mean third base and hit for power. Last season he’d stormed into the majors and made a name for himself.

He had an explosive, showy rookie year playing. He was explosive and showy too, and so long as his performance on the field matched his antics, the fans ate up every bit of his show. These days the home crowd booed his plate appearances and yapped about him in sports blog comment sections.

This was his sophomore season, and he scuffled, watching his batting average drop and drop while his playing time on the field followed. Media outlets started calling him a fluke, a cancer in the clubhouse, and his teammates resented him for being a huge paycheck with nothing to back it. He felt acute shame and inexplicable powerlessness because he couldn’t pinpoint or fix his decline. Instead he hid his anxieties with arrogance.

Harmon was lean and strong, a physical powerhouse thanks to endless hours running drills and lifting weights. Sensitive and eager to please, he was also quick-witted and could be easily likeable. The sensitivity had been drummed out of him as he was molded into a prototypical baseball superstar, the eagerness to please manipulated into results. For years he cranked through drills and training—from T-ball to Little League to the only freshman on high school varsity. He picked a college most likely to be scouted from, and as soon as he had a contract offer, moved onto the majors. Now he was an enigma of known talent and skills he couldn’t deliver on and a guarded personality no one enjoyed.

He jammed his shoulder against the doorframe and unlocked the condo’s door. Trent burst in past him and slammed it shut again.

“Just what on God’s pretty green earth were you thinking, Harmon?” Trent’s skin was an awful puce color under his spray-on tan, his high temper and nerves showing in every agitated movement. He raked a glance up and down Harmon—blood-shot eyes, two days’ worth of stubble, unsteadily leaning against the wall—then huffed and stalked across the room.

Trent threw the curtains open and midday light flooded in. Harmon shielded his eyes, grumbled as he detoured through his gleaming, never-used kitchen for an energy drink, and then dropped onto his couch. It was uncomfortable and incredibly stylish. Trent stood there fuming.

Harmon shook his head and drank half the can in one long, sloppy swallow. He had no idea why Trent was here, never mind what would have his agent so pissed off. His subpar play shouldn’t even matter to Trent. Payday would come, regardless of his recent backslide into painful mediocrity.

“You could have at least answered your damn phone.”

“Don’t know where it is,” Harmon offered and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. He peered at his shirt and remembered putting it on for dinner. He thought that was most probably last night. He had no memory of the meal and what happened after—how he’d gotten back and why he’d been passed out, dead to the world in his living room. There was no explanation in mind for why his agent, of all people, should be here looking ready to throttle him.

Trent squeezed the bridge of his nose, then rooted around a messy side table, found the remote, and turned on the TV. It blared, and Trent flipped to one of the all-sports networks. When the advertisements ended, one of the anchors hosting a roundtable talk show nodded.

“Stay tuned for our picks to win the Home Run Derby and a pitching breakdown from both sides of the league, but first, more on our top story of the day. This has taken not only the baseball world by storm, but has sent ripples of surprise and speculation throughout professional sports and beyond.

“All season we’ve been wondering: what is wrong with rookie phenom Harmon ‘Hawk’ Kiel? New revelations about the controversial star infielder might finally give us some insight. It would appear that not only is Kiel out for the All-Star Break, he decided to be out in a big way! After bumping and grinding at a local hotspot, he turned up at ManCover, an upscale gay bar infamous in the city. That’s when this happened and these pictures, uploaded to a fellow reveler’s Twitter account, went viral.”

Images flashed on the television, and Harmon’s entire existence narrowed down to a fine, tenuous point. He stopped hearing the pounding in his head, the television, and Trent’s continued tirade. His hands went numb, and his whole body became weightless and cold.

The pictures were blurry, and he was unkempt, but it was unmistakably him. His dark hair, usually slicked and styled, was an unruly mop. The stare of his usually sharp and quick brown eyes was unfocused. His cheeks, usually high with color from mischief or exertion, were blotchy and sweaty. Interested onlookers with cell phones made the most of his drunken inhibitions, his who-even-cares attitude, and the undeniable draw of his celebrity. His shirt hung unbuttoned, and his pants were clinging low on his hips. In one picture he grinned and pointed with a lazy hand at the back of some guy’s head buried in his exposed lap; in another he was kissing a man he didn’t recognize while getting a good handful of ass.

There were more pictures, accompanied by captions from the citizen photographers, but those went past without Harmon seeing. None were X-rated, but it was undeniably more than a rowdy good time being had. Harmon blinked and suffocated wordlessly. He could hear his strangled breath, the way it echoed in his chest, and the hitch that stuttered as his pulse sped while his insides churned. He swallowed several times and began to turn inside out.

Harmon let his drink fall and ran to his nearest bathroom, puked, and didn’t stop.

November.15 Book Rec

This month’s book recommendation: The Melting Heart by Claudia Jameson. I’m a shameless devotee of Harlequin’s original romance line, especially of a certain era. Jameson is part of that era. While I enjoy many of her books–her style and basic plot type–this one is a favorite for me.

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The Melting Heart hits a lot of my thematic happy places: plucky heroine, reclusive hero, enforced domesticity, emotional angst that isn’t contrived, and a love that’s earned after the imperfect leads learn one another, grow a mutual appreciation, and then fight to be together.

This is a comfort read for me. I’ve revisited it many times for company on a quiet day (quiet lonely, quiet content, quiet rain, quiet traveling…). It’s gentle, thoughtful, and rewarding. Just right for a quiet autumn day.

Brew a pot of tea and enjoy!

Friday Fun Five

Happy Friday! In the spirit and celebration of Halloween, this week is a special Spooky edition of Friday Fun Five.

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Five writers each answer these two Spooky questions:

1) What was your best/favorite Halloween costume as a kid?
2) What is your favorite spooky word?


Lyla Bellatas

1) My favorite costume was this ballet outfit I had. Light blue satin. I still remember it. Tulle, short skirt. Loved it. I usually like witchy outfits but this year my husband and I are going to be painted Day of the Dead.
2) Witch. Magick Spell.

Elle Brownlee

1) One year the weather was awful: cold with sleet and whipping wind. Instead of wearing our long-planned costumes, I put on my snowsuit, added a black trashbag like a poncho over the top, and donned the ballcap we bought for my dad as a gag gift–a moose head and antlers. My sister got into a huge plaid coat, a hat with earflaps, and carried a stick. We were the Moose and Hunter! We ended up having the best time; people loved the weather-savvy costumes, and since not many other trick-or-treaters braved the weather, so we scored a ton of candy too.
2) Preternatural. Wraith. Macabre.

Alyssa Cole

1) My fave costume was my kindergarten mermaid costume that my mom sewed herself and which made me feel like a *real* mermaid. Except for the not knowing how to swim part.
2) My fave spooky word: tintinabulation. Not spooky in itself, but it’s always had a sinister bent to me after reading it in a work by Edgar Allen Poe.

Poppy Dennison

1) Strawberry Shortcake (wouldn’t you know! *g*).
2) Ghastly.

Kate McMurray

1) When I was 12 or 13, I went as a cow with a halo, or a holy cow. I made the costume myself; I was pretty proud of that.
2) Creepy was the first thing that came to mine, but eerie and spine-tingling are good ones, too.

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Friday Fun Five

Happy Friday! This week’s guest is DeAnna C Zankich. Thanks, DeAnna.

To know more about DeAnna C Zankich, follow her blog or see what she’s up to on Pinterest and Facebook. Her most recent literary triumph is Honey in the Rock, the first in her Arabesque series, available here.

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1) Is there a song you will always rewind to hear again once it’s played?

I’m a child of the ‘70’s and one song that reminds of happy times as a kid is “Follow You Follow Me” by Genesis. It would be worn out on my iPod if it were possible to do that. And lately, I’ve been obsessing over the theme song for the Starz series ‘Outlander’. The composer, Bear McCreary, rearranged a Celtic folk song into something purely magical. It evokes not only Scotland (which has always called my soul and person), but also the deep wanderlust at the core of all explorers. I play that song to death.

2) Live for a year in the Elizabethan Age or the Gilded Age?

Definitely Elizabethan. The history of the time was exhilarating and I just know I would rock those dresses.

3) Soup or sandwich?

Soup that eats like a sandwich.

4) What is your favorite word?

Detritus. Come on, it’s a great word.

5) Which Greek God fascinates you the most?

Demeter. I’ve played with her traditional description as the goddess of the harvest in my book series. Where the original intent of her worship was about agriculture, I tweak that meaning into referencing the harvest of one’s personal growth.  There’s a secret sexual society in my story who are on a mutual path of self-discovery; they use Demeter as their emblem.


DeAnna wrote her first story when she was nine about an evil stray cat who liked to shred laundry.deanna zankich From there, she experimented with acting, singing, journalism and modern dance, but always came back to her first passion–writing. She’s written three novels but the first one will likely be the last published. She’s a TV nerd and a reluctant, fidgety reader, but once a book hooks her, she plows through ravenously. Her literary heroes are Fitzgerald, Hemingway, McInerney, Tartt and King — she loves ghost stories but fears the dark. DeAnna is a long time resident of West Hollywood, California who really wishes she had freckles. She has a BA in Creative Writing/Novel from CSU Long Beach, and studied writing at Cambridge University in the UK. That’s probably where she became such an incurable Anglophile. Arabesque and its cast chose her as their storyteller almost fifteen years ago and the project has been a labor of love ever since.

Friday Fun Five

Happy Friday! This week’s guest is Anne Regan. Thanks, Anne.

Anne Regan is Executive Editor at Dreamspinner Press and manages the Harmony Ink Press teen LGBTQ+ fiction imprint. Her duties include submission review, editing, social media (Facebook! Twitter! Tumblr! Oh my!), and whatever else Elizabeth tells her to do. You can find her on Facebook both on her own and at the Harmony Ink page.

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1) Is there anything you thought you’d never dream of doing, but then have?

Leaving my evil day job at the beginning of this year to work full-time at Dreamspinner. It had been in the plans for at least the past three years and didn’t happen for various reasons, but at the end of January I finally pulled the plug. It didn’t help that my husband was unexpectedly downsized from his job a few months later and we went from three salaries to one, but he’s back working now, and it’s wonderful being able to focus all my energy on something I love.

2) Which store shopping spree would you rather have: arts & crafts or home & building supply?

The local Home Depot store is exactly 1.4 miles from my house. I know this because my husband shops there at least twice a week. When he was job hunting. I told him he should apply there since he has every aisle in the place memorized. We bought our home almost new when we moved to Texas, but that was 20+ years ago and like any aging property (myself included!) it has lots of little things that need repair. I also have a closet full of artsy-craftsy things I used to work on before Dreamspinner that I haven’t touched in years, so I’d definitely opt for the building supply spree. It’s good to keep my husband happy!

3) Sweet or salty snacks?

Can I cheat and say a little of both? I’m not much for purely sweet, but dark chocolate covered nut clusters? Nirvana.

4) What is your favorite word?

It may sound saccharine, but: love.  It makes everything better.

5) How would you spend an ideal rainy day?

In front of a warm fire with my six adopted sisters, reading, writing, and just being together. We usually plan an annual retreat every summer but it didn’t happen this year, and I missed it terribly. I’m looking forward to seeing most of them at the end of this month. There’s so much positive energy generated when we’re together that it fuels me for the rest of the year.


Anne Regan earned a BA in English and education before her student teaching convinced her she didn’t want a career Anne Selfie Respect 0315disciplining other people’s children. She’s spent the next thirtysome years in corporate America, moving between roles of increasing responsibility in IT project management, developing training curricula, and drafting user manuals. Anne has been part of Dreamspinner Press since its inception in 2006. She is currently Executive Editor of Harmony Ink Press, works with DSP Publications, and does anything else Elizabeth tells her needs done.