Monday, December 28, 2009

After The Two Minute Warning

by Sandra Elzie


Okay, so the year is winding down, only a few days more to be able to write 2009 on your checks...assuming you have any money left to spend (g)

Since everyone looks at things differently, I'll ask the following questions.

Are you excited about the new year, a new starting line or are you lamenting the passing of yet another year without achieving what you promised yourself you'd do this year? Should you make new goals when you didn't even accomplish the old ones? Do you tend to look back more than you look forward?

Although I think it's good to learn the lessons of the past, never totally forgetting them lest we have to repeat them later on down the road, but I can tell you from a sports person's point of view, if you waste time and energy looking over your shoulder, it's not only a wast of time and energy, but someone behind you just might use that lapse in your focus to pass you by.

Forget what lies behind and press on toward the goal. Do your best and don't worry about yesterday. Each day can be a new beginning. If you missed your goal of writing 500 words yesterday, forget it! Write 500 today and move on!

So, with this in mind, we have four more days until the new year. Will you waste them...lamenting about other wasted days, or will you use these next four days to kick-start your new goals? In the words of many famous coaches and motivators, “ Get off the sidelines and get in the game!”

This coming year is full of opportunities for you to get your work in front of others. Besides your critique partner or group there are contests and a wide variety of agents and editors just waiting to see what this next year will bring their way.
Take a moment to think about this subject from their point of view. They just might be making a resolution to find the next great novel to break out, but I can guarantee that it won't be yours if you don't get your work in that agent or editor's hands.

Well, team, we're down one touchdown and we're at the two-minute warning. What are we going to do? Get in the game and execute one last fantastic effort or wimp out and allow others to carry our trophy home without a fight?

We can't control all the players...we can't control whether or not we make the goal, but we can control our own individual effort. The difference between a winner and a loser is that the winner gets up one more time after being knocked down.

The final score reflects your effort.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to all of you!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

What is your favorite Holiday memory?

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Susan May - A white Christmas. I woke up at grandmother's house that was built in 1900 on Christmas morning with snow on the ground.

Michelle Newcome - Caroling with my neighbors. There’s nothing quite so magical as seeing people open their door to a ragged group singing their hearts out and seeing the holiday spirit fill them as they stand in their doorway. It’s so rarely done these days and is such a fun thing to do.

Tami Brothers – I have two favorite memories. My first one is when I was a kid. We were not very well off and my parents had to work very hard to provide all of our Christmases. The best one I remember was when they bought all of us girls brand new bicycles. I knew they couldn’t afford them and I honestly don’t know how they actually did it. But I have a picture of that day with all three of us sitting proudly on those bikes with smiles as big as Cheshire cats.

My second favorite Christmas was my son’s second Christmas. I remember Christmas Eve with him playing in a box while all those terrific toys sat untouched to the side. The next morning Santa had a shiny silver scooter sitting by the tree with a colorful array of Tele Tubbies lined up on top of them. What did my wonderful son do? He went right back to that big ol’ box and climbed inside it. That Christmas immediately reminded me of my first favorite Christmas and how my parents always knew just the right thing to get us and how much we always loved those items. It also reminded me that no matter what I think I can afford to buy for my son for the holidays, it’s more important to keep him grounded and understanding the true meaning of Christmas.

Debbie Kaufman - I know that my kids would think that it was one of their first Christmases, and indeed, all of those were very special. But actually, it was the first Christmas my husband and I had together. As a child, most of my Christmas gifts were strictly necessary things under the guise of presents that a beloved Aunt provided. There were no “wants” or “desires” under the tree. But, on that first married Christmas, my new husband bought me several books that I had been wanting. He had been paying close attention to my browsing habits on our visits to the bookstore. For the first time since I was six, there were things under the tree that were picked out with just my desires in mind. I still remember the book titles some thirty-two years later!

Sally Kilpatrick - This question is almost impossible to answer, but, as I thought about it, I realized that almost all of my memories involve food which could explain so much. I wouldn't trade anything for Christmas Eve with my Aunt Mae and Christmas Day with my Granny Rowlett. Those were days when the family gathered in around the table and laughed and ate everything in sight. We also have fondue on Christmas Eve after the kids go to bed; it's really special to be able to share Christmas with both sets of parents at the same time because both my husband and I are only children. Of course, I'm hoping we're creating wonderful memories for our children. Last year Lorelai started putting princess dresses over her pajamas, and I still remember Connor's wide-eyed look when he asked for one train from Santa only to get the train and the train table, too.

Ana Aragon - I’ve already given that in my blog this month—having a baby daughter in December!

Cynthia Hamer - For each daughter's first Christmas, my dad built them toy boxes and burned their names and the date into the wood. I love that they both have these enduring gifts from their grandpa.

Carol Burnside - It’s more like a collage of memories through the years, standout gifts given and received, sweet moments remembered that melt my heart, smells that never fail to evoke more memories and a feeling of familial love.

Nicki Salcedo - This happened one Christmas when I was about 12 years old. My family opened all of our presents in the morning, and then we had family and friends around for Christmas Dinner. Around 8pm , my mom realized that she forgot to wrap and give me my “big” present because she had hidden it so well. It was an awesome microscope kit. What can I say, I’m a science nerd. It was a wonderful surprise, and my Christmas had already been wonderful even without it!

Anna Steffl - In front of my in-laws, my husband gave me a set of Tupperware. I’d asked for it, but still, jeesh, just Tupperware? Then he asked, “Didn’t you leave laundry in the dryer?” The dryer is in the garage...so was my “new” red Volvo S70. I screamed and jumped up and down like I was on the Price is Right.

Tamara DeStefano - I definitely think the above Thanksgiving fiasco of 2002, as we fondly call it, is my favorite holiday memory. Even though it was a battle between snarling waiters and fiery Italians, and even though we were escorted from the premises, we found another restaurant, KILLER CREEK (they have awesome food and service!!) they tool us in last minute, gave us a huge warm room even though the restaurant was packed and fed us until we burst. We had a great time. And they didn't once call the police on us!

Sandy Elzie - One year we bought the three kids bikes and then sent them on a scavenger hunt through the house and ultimately into the garage to find their gift.

Marilyn Baron - My mother frying potato latkes for a family Hanukkah celebration.

Tammy Schubert - Christmas Eve has always been my favorite day. The excitement and festivities reach a high, and all the kids can't wait until morning.

Maxine Davis - Christmas with family was always special. Sort of the storybook version. Happy family, happy times, good food and good fellowship.


JP Stone - We once dressed my darling sheltie, Nessie (RIP, precious girl), in reindeer antlers and Santa boots Christmas morning. They were in her stocking. She looked like she was walking in quicksand—a high step and shake of the leg x 4--so we immediately took them off … but not before suppressing very painful laughter. Poor baby.

Darcy Crowder - Well, we’ve been blessed to have a lot of family around every holiday and most all of my memories are happy ones. But if I had to pick one that stands out, one that I cherish, I’d have to say the last Christmas we shared as a family with my mother-in-law. She’d been battling cancer off and on for many years and this time, we knew, would be our last Christmas all together. Everything we did, said, felt, was so much more poignant, yet there was so much joy. I think about her all the time, but especially at Christmas and how strong a woman she was.

Cici Barnes - 1) Getting TWO dolls for Christmas when I was six. 2) Spending two blessed days with all of my family, relating stories about each other, eating, snoozing and watching the kids' eyes light up.

Linsey Lanier - The first holiday season I spent with hubby right after we were married. Young love. Sweet memories.

Good times. Good times. We'd love to hear about your favorite Holiday memories!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What is it that you 'secretly' want for Christmas? And, do you think you might get it this year?

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JP Stone - I want an Alpha Smart Neo (used), but I know I won’t get it because I won’t tell anyone in my family. Everyone is a little strapped this year and anyway, sometimes it’s more fun to dream. 

Darcy Crowder - LOL. I don’t know that it’s really a secret, but I’ve been warning my husband I’m going to make some design changes on my office soon and this holiday (before the new year) is the deadline I set for myself. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I get enough time to pull it off.

Cici Barnes - Not really a secret: I want my lovable, always-on-the- go hubby back to normal. It won't happen by this Christmas Day, but I have every bit of faith that it will be so by next Christmas. It will be the best Christmas present for the rest of my days.

Linsey Lanier - That's easy $12 million. I figure it would be $6 million after taxes. The same amount my first advance will be. Will I get it? Hmm… I'll let someone else answer that. 

Susan May - I never keep my wants secret. If I didn't share what I want I would never get anything.

Michelle Newcome - Four years ago this month both of my children were hospitalized (one for emergency appendicitis and the other for nearly poking his eye out with a marker) within two weeks of each other. Spending time in Children’s Healthcare at Christmas will change forever what you think you “need” or “want.” What I do want is for my children to remain healthy.

Tami Brothers – Okay, so it’s not exactly a secret! I’ve wanted a set of cookie sheets for TWO YEARS NOW!!! Did you hear that, honey? TWO YEARS! I’ve added them to my Christmas wish list and my birthday wish list every year for TWO YEARS! I really hope he takes the hint…

On a side note, my family is not all that creative with their wrapping. I THINK I see a cookie sheet under the tree this year. If I’m wrong, then they did one heck of a job with the wrapping. And if it is not, I’m going to the store the day after Christmas and buying my own darn cookie sheets…

Debbie Kaufman - My “secret” desire is for a Nook. Sony E-reader, or a Kindle. However, my DH doesn’t see the value/understand, so I’m pretty sure I won’t get one. I think I’ll haunt any 2010 contests giving one away! I’d have a better chance!

Sally Kilpatrick - This is a tough one. The older I get the more I understand my grandmother's repeated Christmas wish of simply having everyone healthy and happy. I did ask that I be able to sing at the Christmas service this year because I almost always lose my voice long before then. On a more materialistic note, I've been without an ipod for almost six months. I've gained almost ten pounds and written a fraction of what I wrote the first half of the year. Coincidence? I think not.

Ana Aragon - I don’t need “things.” What I’d really like is an entire two weeks where everyone in the family waits on me and that all the Christmas decorations somehow get put away without my help. And, yes, I think I’m getting it this year (foot surgery)!

Cynthia Hamer - I'd love to quit working and write full time. But the chances of that are, oh, about the same as winning the lottery. LOL!

Carol Burnside - Jewelry, but that’s what I want every year and no I better not get it this year because it’s not at all in the budget.

Nicki Salcedo - It is a writing wish, and I’m keeping it a secret. :)

Anna Steffl - A “new” car. I won’t get it this year.

Sandy Elzie - I have everything I want for Christmas. I have my family, health and love. I have God in my life to lead me and take care of me. That's all I need or want.

Marilyn Baron - My favorite holiday present was one I bought myself. For a donation of $75.00, I adopted a whale shark from the Georgia Aquarium. With it came a personalized adoption certificate, a free pass to the Georgia Aquarium, a limited edition, custom plush whale shark, a whale shark fact sheet and a subscription to Georgia Aquarium's e-newsletter. The $75 gift supports the Aquarium’s ongoing whale shark research programs. When the adoption was finalized, I received notoice that #252 was on his/her way!!!! I e-mailed my two daughters and told them their brother or sister was about to arrive.

Tammy Schubert - This issue is driving my husband nuts. I cannot think of anything that I want for the holidays this year (anniversary, Christmas, birthday and Valentine's day). The pressure to provide him with the gift request lists starts in November and doesn't end until February. No answers come to mind. How long before March comes around?

Maxine Davis - It's a secret.



Now it's your turn. What is it that you secretly want for Christmas????

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Any Holiday disasters you want to share with our readers?

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Anna Steffl - Nope. Disaster free, that’s me.

Tamara DeStefano - My family and I got kicked out of a restaurant on Thanksgiving one year. My mother was freezing because they had put us in a back room with a huge space under an outer door that was letting in sleet. We asked the manager nicely if we could move. He had a literal meltdown (I guess he was stressed because the place was packed) He grabbed my mother's arm (big mistake, we're a family of 22 Italians with tempers to match) Long story short, he called the cops and we were escorted out. The cops were actually annoyed with the manager because supposedly it was the second time he'd called them that day.

Sandy Elzie - Just the cat turning over the tree once.

Marilyn Baron - Thankfully, no

Tammy Schubert - To understand this frightening disaster, you have to understand where I grew up. My home is in the Appalachian mountains on the New York border. My family literally lived on top of a mountain in a remote area surrounded by acres and acres of woods. The local town is off the map because it is such a small place with nothing to do. Here everyone knows everyone else, and nobody locks their doors or thinks twice about crime. People are trusted until they prove they are up to no good. It is just a quiet place to live.

Our town had a part-time, volunteer police officer, who didn't seem to have any working hours. My family had no actual street address. In order to give directions to emergency personnel, we had to say something like, "it's the road in front of Joe's house about five miles down on the right. There's a hidden driveway on that corner by the third oak tree. Go up and to the right. You'll see the house." Assuming the road wasn't a sheet of ice, we could expect them to arrive in about forty minutes or so.

Get the picture?

When I was sixteen, I had a weird experience that just has to be shared. On this particular Christmas Eve, ice storms had passed through the night before. The ice had started melting off during the day, so the roads were clear for the moment. My family was home for the night, and my younger sisters were all wound up about Santa making an appearance later that night.

Around 3 p.m., a stranger showed up at our door. Although it was unusual, I assumed he was there for my dad. I let him in and my dad came out. I returned to my romance book, which was much more interesting.

As it turns out, this man, who was 21 or 22 years old, came to see me. In front of my parents, he asked for permission to go out with me that night. Remember, nobody knew this guy. He said he lived in town, but we had never seen him or heard about him before. My parents, receiving such a courtly request, were so impressed it was nauseating. He completely won them over.

So what's a shy, inexperienced, naïve you woman to do, especially when her parents put the pressure on? Against her better judgment, she decided to make her parents happy and go out with the stranger.

Off I went on this date scared, nervous and unsure. About 15 miles into our 30 mile trip to a nearby town, he confessed it took him six beers before he had the nerve to ask me out.

Did I mention he was driving?

He seemed to be doing fine, but it just made me more uneasy. We finally arrived at Pizza Hut, one of the most fine-dining establishments around. Conversation was stilted and awkward through the entire meal. When we were just about done, he let me in on what he thought was a sweet, endearing secret.

Maybe he'd been reading too many romance novels and misinterpreted how to impress his date.

"I've been waiting a long time to ask you out," he said.

"Oh, really." I blushed, which was my standard reaction back then.

He leaned forward in earnest. His hand almost touched mine. "I've been watching you since you were a kid. Waiting for you to grow up."

I barely suppressed the urge to throw up. Oh My God, were the only words to come to mind. All I could do was nod.

Did I mention I lived in a remote area surrounded by woods with no outdoor lighting? Do you remember what I told you about the town cop?

After a few minutes, I politely pointed out that the weather was changing and the temperature was dropping. I didn't even have to lie. Off we went back towards my home. He wanted to continue the date, but I told him I really needed to go home and spend time with my family. I think by the time he dropped me off he figured out I wasn't interested. His last clue was when I jumped out of the car and sprinted to my house.

To this day, nobody in my family has seen or heard from this guy again. Creepy, don't you think? The morale of the story is to go with your gut instincts, even if that means going against parents' wishes.

Maxine Davis - A friend of mine and I put up my Christmas tree one year while listening to carols and having wine. A loud crash woke me up in the night. The tree had fallen over. Now we celebrate after the tree is decorated.

JP Stone - Because I sport an extended family with strong personalities—and because I believe so very deeply in Karma—I’ll pass on this question.

Darcy Crowder - Actually, no. I can’t think of any disasters. We’ve had some last minute surprises and tight deadlines, but somehow the spirit of the season helps keep it all in perspective.

Cici Barnes - Near disaster: on the way to Grandma's house on Christmas Eve, our 6-year old announced that Santa was bringing him a bike for Christmas. "Santa" had no clue about this. He went to the local hardware store at 6 pm -- the only store still open -- and just happened to find a red bicycle to put under the tree. Whew! Disaster averted.

Linsey Lanier - The time my parents spent all day cooking the holiday turkey with all the fixings, only to cut into the bird at the dinner table and find it frozen in the middle.

Susan May - Tree fell when I was seven months pregnant and I had to put it back up by myself.

Michelle Newcome - When I was very young and newly married to my first husband we had just finished putting up our tree. He was napping on the floor under the tree when our cat decided to launch himself from the couch toward a particularly shiny ornament up high on the tree. Yes, you guess it. The tree came down – complete with yowling cat – right on my ex asleep on the floor. I laughed so hard I peed my pants – he did not appreciate that reaction.

Tami Brothers – The only real disaster I can think of is when my husband and I were first married, we adopted two young cats. As soon as we put up that Christmas tree, we knew we were never going to be able to keep them out of it and were we ever right. We were awakened several times during the month of December to the crashing of the tree each time they knocked it down.

Every year after that we had to figure out how to arrange the tree so that we could tie it to the stairway banister or nail it somehow to the wall. It’s funny to think that most people arrange their decorations by how they will look. Not us. We arranged our holiday decorations according to how easily we could tie the tree to something.

Eighteen years later, we now have to worry about the same type of thing with our new kitten. She’s already been halfway up the tree twice this year. This is the very same tree we had that first Christmas. This is fine because we know exactly what we need to do to keep it upright. It’s kind of funny. At least until the next ornament gets broken.

Debbie Kaufman - The first year I cooked a Christmas turkey, I failed to properly estimate the time it took to cook one. Our Christmas lunch became our Christmas dinner! We all scrounged for snacks and studiously avoided all the side dishes until the main course was ready. Let’s just say that the Christmas stocking candy was decimated by dinner!

Sally Kilpatrick - Early in our marriage, my husband's family traveled to Tennessee to spend Christmas with my family. We had my parents, his parents, and the two of us in one house, and we all passed around a particularly nasty cold. I can't remember opening presents, and I'm not sure how we even all drove home. When the pictures came back, over half of us were wearing Breathe-Right strips so we refer to it as the "Breathe-Right Christmas."

Ana Aragon - Watching my grandson upstage the entire Children’s program this year at church...he was a “little chickie” who flew the coop within 2 minutes and ran around the stage, climbing up on benches. Thankfully, he didn’t upend the set!

Cynthia Hamer - Um...thankfully, haven't had any real disastrous holidays.

Carol Burnside - Well, there was the year my family came to my house for Christmas dinner though it was really too small to accommodate everyone. This was in Texas and we got one of those ice storms that froze up the water lines. Couldn’t flush the toilets, couldn’t shower, no running water at all, but somehow I put dinner on the table for eleven people and we survived it all.

Nicki Salcedo - Spending Christmas Eve with my in-laws in California and Christmas Day with my family in Atlanta . It worked, but red-eye flights are brutal and I can’t really remember much from that Christmas Day because I was so tired.

That's all for us. How about you? Any Holiday disasters you want to share with us??

Monday, December 21, 2009

What is your favorite Holiday song, movie and/or book?

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Sally Kilpatrick - I adore It's a Wonderful Life. It makes me cry every time. I think we all hope that someone could point out to us how our mundane life has actually made a difference in so many other lives. George Bailey's story appeals to our need to make a difference in the world. On the other end of the spectrum, I really like Love, Actually although it pains me to see things work out so poorly for Emma Thompson's character.

Ana Aragon - My favorite movie is Miracle on 34th Street ; my favorite Holiday song is by Vince Vance and the Valiants...All I want for Christmas is you...

Cynthia Hamer - Favorite song is "Oh, Holy Night", current favorite holiday movie would be "The Holiday" and I don't really have a favorite holiday book.

Carol Burnside - I don’t know that I have an absolute favorite movie, but I love re-viewing the old staples plus a few new ones thrown in. Songs: O Holy Night and Jingle Bells (as sung by Bing Crosby).

Nicki Salcedo - “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Best. Movie. Ever. I cry every time I watch it. Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” is a great read. For a laugh try David Sedaris’ “Holidays on Ice”.

Anna Steffl - Charlie Brown Christmas Special and all the great Vince Guaraldi music that goes with it.

Tamara DeStefano - "You'll shoot your eye out kid!" And I love White Christmas by Bing Crosby.


Sandy Elzie - I love music...everything except heavy-metal rock and most rap. So to pick one is tough. Contemporary is probably Pretty Woman and Inspirational is Holy Is Your Name. Top Movie is: Bourne Identity series. Favorite Book: Again, difficult since I love to read, but the one that stands out in my mind is a young adult book I read when I was about 8 or 9...On The Trail To Inca Gold. I've never forgotten it.

Marilyn Baron - "White Christmas"

Tammy Schubert - Without a doubt, it is the hysterical movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Chevy Chases tries to host the perfect Christmas celebration for his family and in-laws. Everything that can go wrong does, along with many more expected disasters. By the time his house is destroyed and kidnapping charges stress everyone out, they end up having a Merry Christmas after all.

Maxine Davis - My all-time favorite Christmas book is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

JP Stone - I like the Grinch theme and Rudolph song. I like the original cartoon Grinch movie, as well as Rudolph (who can resist the Abominable Snowman?), and my absolute favorite Holiday book is, HOW MURRAY SAVED CHRISTMAS –an holiday tale about Murray Kleiner, the Holiday Diner owner, who fills in for an injured Santa. The story is served best with a heavy side of pickles, pastrami and oy.

Darcy Crowder - The Christmas Carol with George C. Scott is my favorite holiday movie, but A Christmas Story (Ralphie) is a close second. It’s been a holiday tradition to watch them every year. We usually watch The Christmas Carol the same night we decorate our tree. As for a song, I absolutely love Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant and Grown-up Christmas List.

Cici Barnes - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – song. White Christmas and Holiday Inn – movies. No particular book.

Linsey Lanier - It's a Wonderful Life. It's old. It's corny. But I love it.

Susan May - Movie- White Christmas. Song - OH, Holy Night

Michelle Newcome - My favorite song is a Bing Crosby and David Bowie duet for Little Drummer Boy. It was done for one of those ubiquitous holiday variety shows of the 70’s. Bing died just two months after it was filmed. It’s one of the most beautiful duets ever – they sing in rounds and the skill represented in that little song is so immense it just makes you cry.




Tami Brothers – My favorite Christmas song is Where Are You Christmas sang by Faith Hill. I love listening to her sing. I also LOVE the song, Who Spiked the Eggnog by Straight No Chaser. See the following video. My favorite movie changes every year, but I’m always on the hunt to find a new Christmas Carol-type movie. My favorite book will always be Skipping Christmas by John Grisham.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

He’s making a list. Checking it twice. Trying to find out…


It’s almost that time! Christmas will be here before we know it.

We’ve had a wonderful first year sharing our thoughts and journeys with all of you. As we begin to wind down for 2009, we can’t help but remember all those great times, and we love that all of you were here to share them with us. Thank you for being dedicated readers to our blog!

Not ready to say goodbye, yet?

Never fear. There’s plenty more tips and treats to come in 2010. Until then, the ladies of the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog will give you another small peek into our various tastes. Check back next week for a series of questions and answers about our Christmas likes. Who knows, we might even surprise you.

Until then, if you didn’t see yesterday’s post make sure to take a look. Nicki Salcedo did a great job of summarizing our year.

Oh, and don’t forget. There’s still time to make that good list. Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Saturday Review


Ghosts of Girlfriend’s Past

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner
Director: Mark Waters
Studio: Warner Bros.
DVD Release Date: September 22, 2009
Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)

Conner Mead has it made. He’s rich, successful and can have any woman he wants. His love em’ and leave em’ attitude is well known in the circle he travels and is actually one of the quirks that draw women to him. For Conner, life just can’t get any better. When he’s invited to attend his brother’s wedding, he heads out with one resolve: to talk him out of making the biggest mistake of his life. What Conner doesn’t know is that he’s about to take a trip through hell and the choices he makes this weekend will determine just how good life could be.

After seeing his childhood sweetheart, Jenny, Conner is forced to take a trip down memory lane in a Christmas Carol-type adventure. He’s confronted with girlfriends from his past, present and future, and is left after each trip to ponder life without Jenny in it. With the end of the weekend fast approaching, his window of opportunity is starting to close. Will Conner make the right decision? Or will his skewed view on life end up ruining not only his future, but his brother’s as well?

I love anything “Christmas Carol.” It’s rare for me to find a Christmas Carol-type show that I haven’t seen, but each year I look for them. I was thrilled when someone told me about Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. As soon as I realized it stared Matthew McConaughey (oh my!), I knew it would be a keeper. McConaughey and Garner were perfect in their roles. Even though I knew how it had to end, the writers did a great job of giving this story a unique feel. If you are looking for a fun, sexy story where the hero gets exactly what he deserves (you’ll have to watch it to see what I mean), then Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is one you’ll want to see. I LOVED it!

Reviewer: Tami Brothers
Rating: 5 Petit Fours and 3 Hot Tamales


The Princess and the Frog

Starring the voice talents of Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, and Keith David among others (Oprah, John Goodman)

Link to imdb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0780521/
Genre: children’s film

Disney is back, and I have a new favorite princess. The Princess and the Frog is a movie that will, blessedly, entertain the whole family. I wept like a baby at least twice and laughed even more. The three year old keep her feet tapping with all of the music and only got a little antsy with the darker moments. I had worried about whether the characters would end up being stereotypes, but I was pleasantly surprised.

As a writer, I was really impressed with the economy and pacing of the story as well as the emotions mentioned before. The movie is also an excellent study of GMC and of how a hero and a heroine undergo a transformation as a part of genuinely falling in love. I can’t really say enough about the well-drawn characters. Not only are a trumpet-playing gator and a Cajun firefly original ideas, but even supporting characters get some dimension. For example, Lottie, who could easily come across as an unsympathetic spoiled brat, has layers and is ultimately sympathetic. The ideas of racism and segregation are handled with kid gloves, but, hey, it is Disney.

When the film was over, the audience actually applauded, and I gladly joined them. I will definitely be adding this one to my library when it makes the transition from theater to Blue Ray. In the tradition of Enchanted, it takes the fairy tale concept and tweaks the story for a modern twist.

Reviewer: Sally Kilpatrick
Ratings: 5 Petit Fours/1 Hot Tamale

The Alibi Man
by Tami Hoag

Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Bantam Books
ISBN-13: 978-0553583601

A little off genre, "The Alibi Man" is a terrific story by Tami Hoag. It's the second installment in what I hope to be a long series featuring Elena Estes, a tough as horseshoes and rawhide heroine-to-die-for (if you're a suspense writer) who now rides horses on the ranch of a friend who lives in a well-to-do area of Palm Beach, a place for millionaires and professional polo players.

Elena Estes is a former Narcotics detective who lost her job, and nearly her life, in a drug raid gone bad. She blames herself for the death of a fellow officer in the raid and the memories torment her. In the first book, "Dark Horse," a young girl asks Elena to help find her missing sister. Though Elena insists she is not a private detective, she takes the case.

Elena is still insisting she is not a private detective in "The Alibi Man," when she discovers the body of her friend's groom floating in the river, half-eaten by alligators, and determines to find the killer.

Hoag weaves an intricate back-story of parental neglect and an engagement gone very sour into an intriguing mystery. I grieved for Elena as well as the murder victim throughout the book.

Not only brilliant characterization, but one of the best mystery plots I've read. The ending was a shocking surprise, yet believable and full of pathos.

Tami Hoag is a master at toying with the reader's emotions. She's one to learn from.

Reviewed by Linsey Lanier
Rating: 5 Petit Fours & 1 Hot Tamale

The Prince’s Captive Wife
by Marion Lennox

Harlequin Presents
ISBN 13:978-0-373-12851-8

Ten years have passed since Holly Cavanagh last saw Prince Andreas Karedes after he spent six months on her family’s Australian ranch. She never dreamed she’d be kidnapped and dragged into his presence.
With political and economic difficulties about to blow up in the kingdom of Aristo, Holly and Andreas youthful love affair and the loss of their baby could bring the kingdom down. Andreas convinces Holly that marrying him is the only way to avoid disaster.
There has never been anyone else but Andreas for Holly. The problem is she isn’t sure she can live in a royal fish bowl. Andreas finds that what he felt for Holly all those years ago is still alive. He just wishes he’d been there for Holly when their child died. He vows to make it up to her.
Realizing her need to live on the ranch in Australia, Andreas buys it and supplies Holly money to bring the ranch back to what it once was. Despite his royal obligations, Andreas knows Holly is his real family. He joins her in Australia to make a life with her.
The book is a nice little escape, with characters that are likeable. What’s not to like about being wooed by a prince.

Reviewed by: Susan May
Rating: 4 Petit Fours and 3 Hot Tamales

Friday, December 18, 2009

Guest Chef Margie Lawson on Refreshing Sleep

Refreshing Sleep: Not an Oxymoron

Margie Lawson—psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter – applied her psychological expertise to dissect and analyze over a thousand novels. Her resume includes clinical trainer, adjunct professor, sex therapist, director of a counseling center, hypnotherapist, and trauma specialist.

Her psychologically-anchored Deep Editing tools are used by all writers, from newbies to NYT Bestsellers. She teaches writers how to edit for psychological power, how to hook the reader viscerally, how to create a page-turner.

In the last five years, Margie presented over fifty full day Master Classes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. She also offers intense three-day Immersion Master Classes on Deep Editing from her home. She lives in a log home on a mountain-top west of Denver.


Refreshing Sleep: Not an Oxymoron

When is the last time you woke up refreshed?

Is sleep deprivation your norm?

If you are sleep deprived, your moods, relationships, productivity, creativity, health, and safety can be impaired. The cumulative effects of sleep loss are linked to an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.

Just for fun, try this SHEEP DASH, and check your response time.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sleep/sheep/

BEWARE – The Sheep Dash challenge is addictive. Limit yourself to a few tries – and come back to the blog.

Now – click on the link below to assess sleep deprivation by taking the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.

http://www.stanford.edu/~dement/epworth.html

Now that you know more about your response times and your sleep debt, we’ll explore sleep dynamics.

If you’ve slept well, you have the potential to have a super productive, super creative, super happy day. Writers need all three going strong to optimize their success.

Do you have the gift of sleep?

Do you fall asleep within 30 seconds to three minutes of going horizontal?

Or – Does sleep elude you?
If it takes you less than five minutes to fall asleep at night, that means you're sleep deprived. If it takes you between 10 and 15 minutes to fall asleep, you're still tired enough to experience deep sleep, but you’re not excessively fatigued. You don’t experience periods of exhaustion during the day.
Why do we need to get decent sleep?

There are five top answers – and I consider all of them important.

1. Memory Booster – During sleep, your brain organizes memories, which helps you access them when you’re awake.

2. Learning Booster – When you learn new things during the day, sleep helps you process what you learned, locks in the learning

3. Mood Booster – While you’re sleeping, emotions, decision-making, and social interaction get a break. They rest. The more rest you have, the more you may be able to problem solve the next day.

4. Neuron Booster – Neurons that are used each day repair themselves at night. If you don’t make your sleep quota, your nervous system isn’t repaired. When we’re sleep deprived, it’s no wonder we feel like our nerves are fried.

5. Immune System Booster – If sleep deficient, our bodies are open to invasion. We’re vulnerable. Infection and disease take hold.

Our memory, learning, mood, nervous system, and immune system all function better when we get enough sleep.

How much sleep is enough?

Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Refreshing sleep requires a good 7 hours to complete the sleep stages: Drowsiness, Light Sleep, and Deep Sleep, which includes Dream Sleep.

Some people seem to need less sleep, others seem to need more. If you’re sleeping more than 8 hours per night, it could be a symptom of depression. That topic is deeper than this lecture will go. Either talk to your doctor, pursue psychological therapy, or both.

If you consistently sleep less than 7 hours, you may have issues with weight gain as well as immune system problems. Work on improving your sleep patterns.

STOP and THINK. What did you just read?

If you don’t get 7 hours of sleep, you’re more prone to weight gain.

RIGHT.

That piece of data may motivate some people to get 7 hours of sleep.

The impact of sleep deprivation hits hardest 24 hours later. If you only slept 3 hours on Thursday night, you may feel a little tired on Friday. You could get 7 hours of sleep Friday night, but feel beyond exhaustion on Saturday.

That’s why students and athletes are encouraged to get good sleep for the two nights leading up to a college entrance exam or a demanding sports event.

What if you have insomnia? Either you can’t fall asleep or you awaken after a few hours and can’t get back to sleep.

What can you do to improve your sleep?

NO NAPS! Or – no more than a 15 – 30 minute POWER NAP

WATCH YOUR CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL -- none to some

CHECK YOUR IRON LEVEL – you may be low

GO AFTER SUNLIGHT EARLY IN THE DAY – or use one of those cool natural
sunshine lamps – sunshine will help regulate your bio-clock.

What if you wake up and you can’t get back to sleep?

BORE YOURSELF -- think of something mindless, like counting a mountain of cotton balls

LEAVE YOUR BED – read something bland, listen to environmental music, return to bed when you’re sleepy

SLEEP is a big topic with more areas to explore. There are dozens of things you can do to improve your sleep.

Here’s my TOP TEN LIST you can follow to set yourself up for refreshing sleep:

1. Limit caffeine -- none to little morning through mid-afternoon, and none after 4PM

2. Limit alcohol (none to one drink). Alcohol has a rebound effect. It may help you fall asleep, but you’ll pop awake 4 to 5 hours later, and have difficulty going back to sleep

3. Exercise 45 minutes each day, but not within three hours of going to bed

4. Give yourself a minimum of 15 minutes of TRANSITION TIME before bed. Read or do something simple or mindless before you go to bed.

5. Soak in a warm bath for 10 - 15 minutes before going to bed.

6. Drink warm milk (no chocolate) – OR -- eat turkey (on empty stomach)
That doesn’t mean have a turkey sandwich or turkey and dressing. Just a piece of turkey, plain.

7. Avoid over-eating at dinner time – AND -- avoid a sugar-loaded snack before bed.

8. Go to bed at about the same time each night.

9. Tell yourself five positive things before you go to sleep.

10. Give yourself FIVE minutes of STRESS FREE FOCUS TIME first thing every morning. Literally set a timer and think about how you’ll take charge of your day in a positive way. Knowing you’ve got this ease-into-your-day in your schedule each morning alleviates some of your subconscious stress at night. You’ll sleep better.

CHIME IN:

What do you do, or what can you do, to improve your sleep?

I will respond to posts several times today and this evening.

Anyone who posts a comment TODAY has a chance to WIN a LECTURE PACKET from one of my on-line classes

1. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors

2. Empowering Characters' Emotions

3. Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More

4. Digging Deep Into the EDITS System

5. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist

6. Powering Up Body Language in Real Life: Projecting a Professional Persona When Pitching and Presenting

I’ll post the LECTURE PACKET WINNERS tonight, at 8:00PM Mountain Time.

In January, I’m teaching Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors, a power-packed on-line course that helps writers access their strengths—and empower creativity and productivity. Lectures from each of my on-line courses are offered as Lecture Packets through PayPal from my web site. Lecture Packets are $22; I donate $5 per Lecture Packet for ALS (my cousin).

Please visit www.MargieLawson.com and click on Lecture Packets to read the course descriptions.

If you’re interested in a sample of deep editing, I include Deep Editing Analyses in each issue of my monthly newsletter. To receive my newsletter, click on SUBSCRIBE on the home page of my web site, www.MargieLawson.com

A big THANK YOU to Debbie Kaufmann for inviting me to guest blog for the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales today.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Year in the Life of Petit Fours and Hot Tamales


by Nicki Salcedo

I wish you knew all of us. We are a diverse group of women brought together by a common goal. The love of writing. Since words are our passion read what we say to find out all you need to know about us.

Ana Aragón Thursday, October 15, 2009 Taking a Machete to your WIP
So when the editor I pitched to asked me to send the full manuscript, I knew what I had to do...yeah, get rid of the prologue and start the book with Chapter 3. If you need to get rid of 20,000 words, that's a good place to start.

Anna Steffl Tuesday, May 5, 2009 Having Cake and Eating It, Too
I do labor to find occasional metaphors and similes that match my characters’ ways of seeing the world. I like to think that when I do use them, they really sparkle, are my characters’ north stars.

Carol Burnside Monday, November 9, 2009 Subtext and an invitation
As we get to know each other, we compartmentalize our personal lives from business less and less. Some are more cautious than others, but eventually we expose tiny bits of ourselves.

Cici Barnes Tuesday, June 30, 2009 Now that the honeymoon is over . . .
So goes the way of entering into the wedded bliss of writing. You cross the threshold into the world of words, pecking out ideas that have sprouted in your mind.

Cinthia Hamer Wednesday, December 2, 2009 Looking Backward . . . Looking Inward
There are times in life when you must take leaps of faith; times when you just gracefully accept whatever gifts are given. . . .And to think, I almost let it slip through my fingers.

Darcy Crowder Thursday, August 13, 2009 The Little Things
It’s the small details that can have the biggest impact, show us who a character is, make us care. From the clothing choices they make, to the kind of art they have hanging on their wall. . . .The answers to these types of questions are what make characters come alive; relatable in their similarities, fascinating in their differences.

Debbie Kaufman Wednesday, May 20, 2009 SPACE, THE FINAL FRONTIER
By the time the time Captain Kirk started his famous “Space the Final Frontier” voice-over, I would be sitting cross-legged on my sofa within reaching distance of the TV dial. . . .Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Bones, Sulu, Uhura, Chekov, Scotty, and assorted others faithfully kept me company once a week.

J Perry Stone Wednesday, October 14, 2009 Why EQ Is More Important Than IQ
Even before an author can bang out a scene, she must observe interaction around her and participate in it if she ever has a hope of expressing genuine emotion through her words.

Monday, April 20, 2009 Making The Writing Muse Your Bitch
Try to write as best you can, of course, but don’t crucify yourself when you don’t. If you do, in the long run you’ll be hurting yourself far more than if you just shrugged and chalked it up to a crap writing day. Everyone writes crap. EVERYONE who writes, writes crap.

Linsey Lanier Tuesday, March 3, 2009 Beware the Smiling One
It might be an indication that I need therapy, but I love creating villains. I love getting into their heads and figuring out what makes them tick. The villains in my books have included a sadistic son of a Nazi, a psychotic wife abuser, and in my current WIP, a Chicago Outfit mob boss who's something of a cross between Tony Soprano and Hannibal Lechter.

Marilyn Baron Thursday, April 23, 2009 Would a Rose by any other Name Smell as Sweet?
I was born without a sense of smell, a trait I inherited from my grandmother. I think that puts me at a disadvantage. In writing workshops I learned the importance of capturing all of the five senses. How can my writing describe the hero’s “pungent aftershave,” or the fact that the heroine “carries the scent of cinnamon,” when I have no personal experience in that area?

Maxine Davis Monday, July 20, 2009 Conflict in Fiction
Conflict is what makes us want to read the story. Conflict creates suspense. It hooks the reader. Conflict makes us love or hate the characters. It is the plot, the reason we read the book. There must be a struggle that we fear will end the relationship, yet we must keep reading to see how the struggle will be resolved and that resolve can leave us laughing, crying, or sighing.

Michelle Newcome Monday, April 27, 2009 Faded Glory Stretch – The Way America Lives
Our glory has certainly faded a bit, both as a nation and as individuals. I could look at this through any number of lenses – political, economic, inventive – but I use words so I’m going to stick with the world of words.

Nicki Salcedo Wednesday, January 14, 2009 Some Dance to Remember
Why do we write (or read for that matter)? . . . . Some write to remember. Some write to forget.

Sally Kilpatrick Tuesday, April 28, 2009 It's All About the Story
Hi. My name is Sally, (Hi, Sally) and I’m addicted to playing with words. I’m addicted to letting my ability to turn a phrase distract me from crafting deep, heart-felt conflicts.

Sandra Elzie Tuesday, August 11, 2009 FICTION WRITERS ARE PROFESSIONAL LIARS
Your character must stay the course and your story must move with “singleness of mind” toward a conclusion, not straying down rabbit trails or getting bogged down with useless chatter.

Susan May Wednesday, May 6, 2009 Graduating
Graduating is a step forward to the next challenge. Enjoy your accomplishments but don’t stop what you are doing instead make the next step forward to where you want out of your writing life.

Tamara DeStefano Sunday, May 10, 2009 Aspen Exposé -- Group Novel -- Chapter Two
Kissing her left something to be desired—the rest of her.

Thursday, May 26, 2009
Tamara and the Three Critique Partners
As Tamara looks back on that fateful day five years ago, she doesn't remember a noisy tavern, a trio of witches, or their unending chatter. What she does recall are three irreplaceable women, Novel Knights, The Triple F's, who smiled warmly, welcomed her into their midst and taught her to believe in her talent.

Tami Brothers Tuesday, April 14, 2009 A Blessing in Disguise
I’m a full-time college student, a wife, a mother, and a writer. Add to that my recent addition of full-time employment in Corporate America and it’s easy to see how there isn’t time or room for a whole lot of extra in my life right now.

Sunday, March 22, 2009 Writing Challenge
Monday, October 5, 2009 PF&HTs Treasure Hunt Kickoff!

Tammy Schubert Monday, November 30, 2009 Pay it Back by Paying It Forward
Once his words of wisdom were conveyed, he promptly got up, waved and headed off. . . .How many of us would have done the same? How many of us would take a little bit of risk on without expecting anything in return?

Thanks for learning about my blog sisters through their words this year. Whose words have impacted you most in 2009? What did you write that you are most proud of? We hope to see you again in 2010. Happy Writing and Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Linsey's Year-End Review

I'll admit it. I'm not so bright and cheery as I usually am this time of year.

I don't know why. End of year ennui. Fin de decade. Or maybe I'm just tired. As Juice Newton might say, 2009's been a little bit hard on me. Especially after events like Kate Duffy's passing and Mercer Crook's accident (thankfully, he's recovering - CiCi, you and your family are still in our thoughts).

But there were bright spots in 2009, too. Like contests. Blog sister Debbie Kaufman took first place in Chicago's Fire and Ice. I took second in Mid Michigan's Happily Ever After contest. And then there was Carol's grand slam - finaling in 3 out of 3 contests. Did I miss anyone?

Oh yes... That night in early October when Pam Mantovani switched the order of the ceremony, and the last winner of the night was announced. I can still hear the crowd exploding into applause and see them jumping to their feet as our own Nicki Salcedo took the stage, placing first in the Single Title category of the Maggies.

I'll look back to that night whenever I need inspiration.

And then, way back over a year ago, Tami Brothers caught me at a GRW meeting and asked me if I wanted to be part of a blog group she was starting. My brain said "Blog? I don't have time for a blog." But my head nodded, seemingly of its own accord. I'm glad it did.

It was December 31 when we began by posting our goals for the year. Remember? If not, take a look.

Now, it's almost a year later, and I have twelve months of wonderful memories with some fantastic ladies.

And my list for 2009? All in all, I'm pleased with what I've accomplished this year. I got a lot done. I feel I'm a better, stronger writer. I learned more than I ever could have imagined in 2009, not only here at PF&HT, but at events like Deb Dixon's workshop, Dianna Love and Mary Buckham's workshop, and other presentations at our own Moonlight and Magnolias conference.

Maybe 2009 wasn't so bad after all.

What will 2010 bring? Sorrow? Joy? A contract from an editor? Who knows? But I'm ready to face it with courage and hope.

How about you?


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The End

That title, The End, conjures a few images in my head. Especially now when 2009 is quickly drawing to a close.

The end of the year.

It's been a good one for me.

My sister gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, her third child, second son.

My other sister, ten years my junior is pregnant with her second child. She wants a girl (cross your fingers)

My own children are healthy, thank God for that and I've been blessed, so far because they are also good kids. The pesemist in me says, so far. They're teenagers, 16 and 13 and I'm always wondering when they might start acting out, dye their hair green, peirce something, open a Meth lab in the basement.

But...So far, so good. No green hair, no nose, navel or tongue peircings, and thankfully, no Meth.

I have a wonderful family, sweet, funny, children, a devoted, loving husband and for that I am truly thankful.

To me, The End also means this...

I FINISHED MY SECOND NOVEL!!

Five years ago I came up with the idea for this novel. I started it like I do all of my books, with eagerness and excitement. But then in true Tamara form, the story fell by the wayside after another idea popped into my mind. So after only a few months of writing, I set aside my novel and started another.

A few times over the five years I revisited Sophie White (my heroine). I'd write a page or two, maybe a chapter and much to my critique partner's chagrin, I'd go weeks without handing anything in for them to read. I'd bounce back and forth, working on two or three novels at a time, not really putting much effort into finishing any of them.

For those of you who know me, I've mentioned this many times. 9 partially finished manuscripts languish in the darkest corners of my laptop's electronic brain.

So in September I decided that was enough. I'm going to finish Sophie White and enter her in the Golden Heart.

Half done, I was sure I could make the deadline.

But...

I didn't.

I missed the date without really having tried hard to make it.

I was so close though, more than half finished. So I decided to keep plugging along and complete the novel for GRW's finish the book contest.

I wrote everyday for 2 weeks. I even turned off the TV for hours and hours. (I have the TV on in the house even when I'm not watching. I'm a shameless boob tube lover)

The final week before the Georgia Romance Writer's annual Christmas party I shifted into high gear and wrote 115 pages in 4 days.
And then I actually did it. I finished Sophie White, a book I truly love, with characters I truly adore.
2009 is coming to an end, but I'm excited. 2010 will be a brand new year. Full of goals and hopes and dreams that I plan on fulfilling. In those last four days before the GRW party I showed myself, proved to myself, that I can do it. I can finish something.
Sure I finished one novel before, but I'd always thought of it as just a fluke. But it wasn't. This second completed manuscript is next in line, number 2. One of many to come.

The words, The End don't have to be negative.
They can be positive too.
Like with the end of 2009. January first will brings with it the birth of a new year and the bright future it holds for each one of us.
And of course the end of a novel brings closure, accomplishment and true joy.

Meet 2010 with open arms. Look at this new year as the beginning of something amazing so that you too will be able to write...The End.

Thank you so much for stopping by.
Keep writing, keep dreaming and keep doing your very best.
Have a brilliant, productive day,
Tamara

Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 . . . And Away It Goes

by Maxine Davis

It’s the end of the year and, for me, nostalgia sets in about the year that’s nearly over or one of the years in the past. The other day my niece said, “My dress is the same color as my favorite dress of Grandmother’s. I miss Grandmother and Granddaddy.” I do too, but it got me to thinking about my own Grandmother and Granddaddy – and one very special dress that I had . . . .

Flour Sack Dresses and Colas in the Cooler

Nostalgia - The term nostalgia describes a longing for the past, often in idealized form. The key words here are “often in idealized form.”

When I was small, my sister and I, before my brother’s entry into the world, would visit my grandparents every summer. No TV, but we loved it. Using a broom to clear away the pine straw and use it for borders, we’d make ‘rooms’ in the pine thicket and play there for hours. Sometimes these were hospital rooms, sometimes a house. Two bricks and a board was the sofa. We’d sit there and enjoy make-believe tea and sometimes real cookies on pieces of broken plates. I loved that imaginary world where visitors would come for a visit and sit and talk. I knew everyone just loved Roopville in Heard County and thought the world of Walter and Christina (my grandparents.) It never hurt that some of these friends would often bring an imaginary handsome prince with them. Ah, the good life.

My grandparents loved it too, but to them it was life—hard work and all. Granddaddy and Grandmother had a huge farm, about 100 acres, where they grew cotton and raised pigs, a few cows, and always a few cats. Being so far out in the country, there was a Grocery Truck that came by every couple of weeks. There was also a Library Truck that came by. We could pick a book and get lost in an adventure. Although all that was—sort of—interesting to me, I really loved it when we got to walk up the road to Cook’s General Store. Now that was a place I loved!

After the long walk there (actually, you could see it from their yard) we’d sit outside on the benches that lined the porch and catch our breath. No one went with us; no need. We were perfectly safe. Of course, it was always coincidence that Granddaddy would stop by in the truck just after we got there. Inside, Elsie Cook would say, “You girls know where the Coke box is.” Inside were different sodas, NuGrape being my favorite. They were sitting in ice water. Now that is a cold drink. We could go back outside or sit on the benches around the coal heater. I can just imagine the things that old coal heater heard—crops, kinfolk, new babies. Back then I couldn’t understand why we girls weren’t allowed to spit in the spittoon beside it.

One of the staples of the general store was flour. After all, families had biscuits with just about every meal. These twenty-pound bags of flour came in ‘beautiful’ cotton sacks. Sometimes grandmother would give my mother some of the matching sacks and mother would sew us dresses. I had one that I called my Buttons and Bows dress. It was navy blue with pink and yellow buttons and bows. Beautiful! Even some of the girls at school asked where I got my Buttons and Bows Dress. No one cared that it was from flour sacks. It was just pretty.

Fond memories? Yes. Would I want to go back to that way of life? No. Visiting it in memory is enough for me. And somehow I don’t think that a flour sack dress would be as gorgeous today as it was then.

Do you have fond memories of growing up? Did you have a special dress that your mother had to sneak away from you to wash it? Now, if I only had a NuGrape to drink . . .

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winner of Debby Giusti's Christmas Peril

Congratulations to LINDA HENDERSON, our blog winner for a copy of Debby Giusti's CHRISTMAS PERIL.

Linda, please contact me at dlkaufman@bellsouth.net so we can get your book to you!

Also, for those of you who left comments on Friday after Debby had to leave town for a friend's funeral, Debby has graciously returned to answer all comments and questions. Just check her blog post for your reply.

Don't forget to visit Debby at her website: www.DebbyGiusti.com

The Party's Over...Or is it just getting started?

Join us again next week as we continue to look back on 2009. And pop in over the holidays for some surprises.

Monday, December 14: Maxine Davis
Tuesday, December 15: Tamara DeStefano
Wednesday, December 16: Linsey LanierLinsey's Year-End Review
Thursday, December 17: Nicki Salcedo A Year in the Life of Petit Fours and Hot Tamales
Friday, December 18: Guest Chef:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Saturday Review


The Duke’s Boardroom Affair
by Michelle Celmer
Harlequin Silhouette Desire
ISBN 13-978-0-373-76919-3

Duke Charles Mead’s family destroyed Victoria Houghton’s family business and now she must work for the very man that planned the takeover.
Mallory wants nothing to do with the royal playboy lawyer despite his efforts to charm her. Charles pursues Victoria, but she pushes him away until she finds out that her father had deceived her about his part in the failure of their hotel. Victoria decides to live for herself, accepting Charles’s advances. At a birthday party for Charles’s father, Victoria discovers she loves Charles and tells him. He makes no response. Victoria leaves the party and makes plans to move away. Charles, after some soul searching, goes after Victoria asking her to stay, and marry him. Charles is a character that makes the reader smile. He is not the usual stuffy royal. He knows how to have fun.

A fun, quick read. The characters are very likeable.

4 Petit Fours and 3 Hot Tamales
Reviewed by Susan May


Rainwater
By Sandra Brown

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-1-4391-7277-3
Genre: Women’s Fiction

This gem of a book is a departure for Sandra Brown. She usually writes hard hitting suspense and does a great job with her storyline and characterization. I have read everything she’s written, so I looked forward to her latest book, Rainwater. This was a short, but beautifully written story, more along the lines of women’s fiction. It is about a woman, Ella Barron, who runs a boardinghouse in Texas and the affect on her life of a new boarder, David Rainwater, who brings out feelings she doesn’t expect. There is a romance; an uplifting story about hardship during the Depression; a mother’s unflagging love for a challenging child, and how she fights to give him the best life can offer; suspense as we’ve come to expect from Brown and a twist at the end.

Sandra Brown took a chance by not sticking to the type of book she is usually known for and as far as I’m concerned, she hit a home run. She should probably try this again. Here is a story that is set in 1934 – not considered a desired time period for a romance – contains no torrid love scenes, but is beautiful and moving. That just shows as writers we don’t have to be pigeonholed; that we can succeed by trying our hand at something new. I’m glad Sandra Brown did.

Reviewed by: Marilyn Baron
Rating: 5 Petit Fours & 2 Hot Tamales

Friday, December 11, 2009

Guest Blogger Debby Giusti Guides Us To MAKING A SALE IN THE NEW YEAR


MAKING A SALE IN THE NEW YEAR
By Debby Giusti

Thank you for inviting me to Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. You gals have created a fun blog community that is attracting interest in the writing world. Marketing guru, Seth Godin, in his book, TRIBES, talks about the far-reaching effectiveness of interactive online sites to generate sales for a particular product. Your product is the written word. People—including editors—are, no doubt, watching. The buzz you’ve created on the blog will lead to success with your submissions as well.

True story…in 2005, I banded together with fourteen other hopeful inspirational writers seeking publication. We call ourselves The Seekers, and since we’re spread across the country, we keep in touch on a yahoo loop. Two years ago, we decided to reach out to other writers on the road to publication and started our Seekerville blog, www.seekerville.blogspot.com.

Initially, our focus was on contests, but we eventually spread our wings and now interview editors, agents and best-selling authors and feature information on a wide range of publishing topics. The goal is for all the Seekers to get off our fictional “upubbed island” with a sale. Many Christian editors visit our site on a regular basis, and one even requested a submission when she was guest blogging.

To date, eleven Seekers have received The Call, and the others are close, with full manuscripts sitting on editors’ desks. I wish the same success for all of you, which brings me to today’s topic: Writing category books to achieve that first sale.

Shortly after I joined Georgia Romance Writers, I took Nancy Knight’s workshop, Once Begun is Half Done, at Arts Station in Stone Mountain, GA. As most of you know, Nancy is a fantastic teacher and encourager. She suggested I write what I know, and I took her words to heart.

As an Army wife, I had spent two years with my hubby at the National Training Center in the middle of the Mojave Desert at Fort Irwin, CA. The training area is as large as the state of Rhode Island, and maneuver units—tank and mechanized infantry battalions, cavalry squadrons and support units--trained in the grueling and dangerous environment on twenty-two day rotations. The man I love headed the Armor Task Force that put the visiting units through massive battles and provided minute-by-minute feedback and evaluation. Hubby and his men were only home four days between each rotation, and the schedule never varied so life was challenging for the military and their families as well.

When we left the desert, I wanted to capture the essence of that unique two-year assignment and set my first suspense at the NTC. I killed a general and wove a web of corruption that spread from the Mojave Desert to Forces Command Headquarters in Atlanta.

Needing to find a home for my newly penned manuscript, I attended my first M&M conference. An agent requested the story, and I thought my career was ready to explode. Of course, I had a lot to learn and was soon rejected.

Four manuscripts followed--all single title suspense. Although I received positive rejections, I eventually realized 100,000 words was too broad a scope. I needed to focus on a basic love story between a hero and heroine. My next manuscript was a category-length romantic suspense targeted for Harlequin Intrigue.

About the time I completed the story, then Steeple Hill senior editor Krista Stroever spoke at a GRW meeting and talked about the Love Inspired Suspense line. After the meeting, a few of us pitched, and Krista said she’d like to take a look at my partial, if I added a faith arc.

Once I incorporated inspirational elements into my work, I realized I’d found my genre. To test the effectiveness of my new direction, I entered three contests where Steeple Hill editors were the final round judges. I won the contests, received requests from each judge and before long the telephone rang. Krista wanted to buy my story.

With my sixth Love Inspired Suspense out this month, I know switching from mainstream to category was a good decision for me.

So what’s my point? For those of you writing single title books, if you are receiving good rejections letters and getting to the final round in contests but not making a sale, consider switching to category romance. The word count is short, the focus is on a powerful love story between the hero and heroine and secondary characters and subplots are kept to a minimum.

Bring the hero and heroine together in an action-packed opening and have the sparks fly. Create opposing goals and load on the conflict. Let the black moment seem hopeless and add a climax that has the readers—and the editors--on the edge of their seats. End with a happily ever after that leaves them yearning to read more. By focusing on the two main characters, you’ll identify weaknesses in your manuscript that can easily be strengthened and end up with a story that sizzles.

Another advantage to category books is the built-in readership and low price point. Distribution is great, and many lines have book clubs that increase sales numbers, especially for debut authors just starting out.

I’ll be online throughout the day so let’s talk about your writing and what you plan to accomplish in the New Year. My hope is that 2010 includes a sale for each of you.

Leave a comment and your email address to be entered into a drawing for CHRISTMAS PERIL.
Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti
www.DebbyGiusti.com
www.seekerville.blogspot.com
www.ladiesofsuspense.blogspot.com

Need stocking stuffers for friends and family?
CHRISTMAS PERIL is on sale now, featuring two action-packed stories: Merry Mayhem by Margaret Daley and Yule Die by Debby Giusti.
Here’s a peak at Debby’s Magnolia Medical novella:
It’s hardly a happy holiday for medical researcher Callie Evans…until she discovers her ailing patient is her long-lost brother. And he’s being watched by undercover police officer Joe Petrecelli. When the trio is abducted by a cadre of bad guys, Joe and Callie will have to fight to keep her brother—and themselves—alive.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Made Progress


I’m a fan of goals. I set them for the year, for the month, even for the day. My biggest problem is I tend to set my goals too high. This year’s bar wasn’t any different.

Two thousand and nine was an interesting year for my family and me. In March, my youngest son had heart surgery again. We fully expected him to die, thankfully he did not, but he did put a kink in my goal plans. Six weeks after my son came home my husband had back surgery. I had turn from a writer into a nurse, fighting the job change all the way. In May, my daughter graduated from college and in August got married. Oh, I forgot, the child with heart problems got a pacemaker in June. My writing life didn’t really get started for the year until September.

Now, that I’ve shared all my excuses, I can tell the truth. No, I didn’t reach my goals. They were pray more. Can we ever do enough of that? Write two romances. I will have one of those finished by the time you read this. Sell one romance. I’ve not sold, but I did receive a request for a full manuscript and will be send it to London in January. Sell another nonfiction. I haven’t done that, but I do have the proposal written. I plan to polish it and send it out in January. Lose 60 pounds. If anything I’ve gained weight. Hospitals and worry are not conducive to weight loss.

I’ll be keeping the same goals for the new year, possibly adding a few more. Maybe 2010 is the year that I reach one of my goals, or if the stars a line, the family gets it together, I give up nursing and I just ignore anything that gets in my way--I can say I reached all my goals.

At least I have a plan.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Looking back at 2009

By Carol Burnside


Last year, when we started the behind-the-scenes work for this blog, I could barely see tomorrow, let alone a year ahead, so I never posted my goals on the blog. However, I do set goals and keep up with them during the year. I have a whole spreadsheet devoted to it.

Due to the move, large chunks of the first six months were set aside for getting settled in my new house, unpacking, painting, and decorating until it was to my level of ‘livable’, so I didn’t get as much writing done as I’d hoped. It seems I’m always shooting for impossible goals and fall short, which is demoralizing.

That said, I have accomplished some things, which I’ve listed below.
• Feb. – received ‘pass’ on submitted full.
• Completed a novella that grew up to be a novel.
• I submitted 2 manuscripts in 3 contests and finaled in all. So far, the results are: 3rd place with a requested full from an editor; Revised that manuscript according to the editors notes and submitted it; 2nd place with notation from agent on what to revise. Gotta love that! and the last contest is yet to be determined.
• Submitted a short story to Glimmer Train – they passed.
• Participated in the October Treasure Hunt on this blog
• Began another novel (25% finished)
• Added 184 pgs to various short stories I have in the works. (My writing ADD kicking in here.)

I haven’t yet determined exactly what I’ll shoot for in 2010. I do know that it will include more submissions and more realistic goals. I would like to
• complete more pages than I did this year,
• finish another novel
• finish 1-2 of those short stories/novellas I have in the works
• blog more on my personal blog http://carolburnside.blogspot.com and
• enter more contests.

So, what do you think? Sound realistic and reachable to you?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Magic Wand of Writing Success


Some of us are already looking back at 2009 as if it were the last drunken party guest of a very tired host. While I’m enjoying the holiday season, I’m also just a little impatient to “get on with it,” as if the upcoming New Year were a magical transition into a whole new me.

Yep, a magical transition. Well, the truth is that maybe it could be if I could ever get organized enough to figure out where I put that damn magic wand. You know the one. The one we would wave -- if we could. It’s the same wand that would cheat us out of the growth that we can only accomplish through a plan and work. There, I’ve said it. Two four letter words. PLAN and WORK. That’s how to construct the real magic wand: plan and work . (I left out the “hard” for those of you who are especially squeamish about work.)

So, three days ago at eight o’clock on a Saturday morning, my critique partner and I sat down and had what we in the South like to call a little “Come to Jesus” meeting. For those of you without the drawl and a true aversion to grits, that means that we made a serious assessment of ourselves. We got real.

We first took a hard look at our 2009 goals and, for the most part, we were pleased. I had finished my first novel, entered the Golden Heart, and sent a partial to an agent. I also attended GRW’s Moonlight and Magnolias writing conference, took one on-line class, and strategically submitted my work to contests for feedback. My critique partner's accomplishments were more impressive, but I won’t steal her thunder in my post!

Next, we drew up our writing goals for 2010. Now, I could tell you all about my goals, but I’d rather talk about how to set them. What I’m hoping is that, with a few simple guidelines, you too can set realistic, practical goals for the upcoming year. No magic wand needed!

Here are four guidelines on how to set realistic goals:

1. Set a goal that you have a reasonable chance of controlling. For example, My goal is to submit my recently finished romantic suspense to anywhere between 6-10 agents whose preferences are in my genre and with whom I feel I would be compatible. NOTE: My goal is NOT to get an agent. Sure, I want that from a purely business point of view. But, I can’t control is whether or not one of these agents wants to represent my work. So, my goal is to research and make my submissions. Make sure any goal you set is under your control.

2. Set a specific writing goal and break it down with deadlines. One of my writing goals is to finish my revisions on Redemption By Blood no later than the end of February. I’m allowing for the fact that holidays and life are standing between me and my goal. I’m also allowing for the fact that without a deadline, it won’t get done. Practically ever

3. Plan for feedback, but choose your venues wisely. I plan to enter three specific contests next year because of the excellent, practical feedback I received from them last year. Oh, trust me, I know all about the “other” feedback that you can get from contest judges. I choose not to let that stop me. I also plan to continue in an online critique group and with my critique partner.

4. Choose your conferences and on-line courses based on your own professional development plan. For more on a professional development plan go read Tammy Schubert’s post on having one at http://petitfoursandhottamales.blogspot.com/2009/01/take-charge-of-your-writing-career.html

My guidelines aren't exactly new or innovative. But, I'd like to think that they'd help you to wrap up the 2009 party and get on your way to tossing out the last of those drunken guests so you can set realistic writing goals for next year without the aid of a magic wand.

Now, let's hear about what other guidelines you feel should make the list. Or tell me about one of your specific writing goals for 2010.