I have asked three of my author friends to share a holiday tradition, or a Christmas memory with you. Over the next few weeks I want to introduce you these special ladies. Judith Sterling will be sharing this week. The links to her books and where you can find her online will follow her wonderful, unique Christmas memory. I want to thank her for sharing this story with us and welcome her to my blog.
I live in Salem, Massachusetts. I love Halloween and all things autumn, but winter holds just as much magic for me and my family. The snow. The holiday lights. The smell of cookies…varied, copious cookies just waiting to be devoured. And most nights in December, the clang of a bell heralds the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Present standing on the sidewalk outside. He’s part of the Salem Trolley’s “A Christmas Carol” tour, and he always makes me smile.
We love the Dickens classic in our house. My husband Dan reads A Christmas Carol to our twin boys, Connor and Geoffrey, at bedtime, and we watch every film version cable TV affords. The story holds so much optimism and light, both of which we can all agree the world is in desperate need. If a man like Ebenezer Scrooge can find redemption, there’s hope for us all.
When Salem’s Ghost of Christmas Present appears in his flowing robe and holly-wreath headpiece, the city seems a little kinder. The magic of childhood rushes back to me, and I’m filled with the giving spirit. I want to feed the hungry, hug the friendless, and do whatever I can to protect those with little or no voice.
Call me corny, Pollyanna, or any other name you like. I see your point. But I still believe in love and humanity. And I’m grateful for the ability each one of us has to make the world a better place. As an author, I hope my stories do just that, and while we’re speaking of spirits, I’d like to share one story in particular.
Christmastime always makes me think of my maternal grandfather, Poppy. He loved the holidays and died just before Thanksgiving in 2007. My twins were three at the time and only got to meet him once…while he was alive, that is.
In mid-December of that year, Dan and I took them to my parents’ house in Florida for the weekend. Twice during our visit, the boys’ gazes shot to my mom’s side at the same time.
Both of them looked, but it was Geoffrey who spoke. “Poppy,” he said, pointing.
Each time, Mom nodded but said nothing. The boys confirmed what she already sensed.
Later that day, she, Dan, and I were talking by the pool. The boys played close by.
Geoffrey piped up, and his voice was adamant. “No, no, Poppy. Light on.” He glanced to his side while his hands fiddled with a SpiderMan action figure. “No light off, Poppy. Light ON.”
Dan gaped at him. “Did he just say what I think he said?”
Mom turned. “What?”
“I think he was talking to Poppy,” I said.
Wide-eyed, Geoffrey’s gaze traveled up to a point about nine feet high, right beside the pool. “Poppy, why are you flying?”
Mom raised her eyebrows. “Now I heard that!”
Needless to say, the event made her weekend.
On our return home, Geoffrey scampered into the house, then halted in front of our Christmas tree, whose lights were off. He grinned. “Hi, Poppy!”
A minute later—by which time Geoffrey ignored the tree—Connor ran into the house. He stopped and stared at the same spot his twin had.
With a smile, he pointed to it. “Poppy!”
I felt my grandfather’s presence, strong as could be. It was a reminder that those we’ve loved and lost are never far away.
Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season!
Her buy links are the following:
Flight of the Raven
Soul of the Wolf
The Cauldron Stirred
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The first time I saw this image I couldn’t help but wonder what she was thinking about as she looked out into the stormy evening sky. I found myself pondering over it for days. The dark clouds, her still form, and the early morning hour showing up on the clock,all drew me in. Did she see something in the heavens not visible to others? I wanted to know.
The woman in this picture reminds me of a character in my work in progress. Writing inspiration can come in a moment. Something visual or something I hear stirs my imagination and the story is off and running in a whole new direction. This picture became a part of an amazing scene in my latest project. Stretching my writing skills in a whole new direction. I had so much fun writing the scene. My character tried to explain to me what I couldn’t see.
This story also has a new character that got inside of my head. I could see him clearly, his mannerisms, and the way he talked. I can only hope my words do him justice, and my readers get an idea of their own as to how he looks as they listen to his words. Writing is personal, I lose myself in every page that I write, but I find a small piece of myself there too.
About six years ago I was home alone for ten months when my husband went to work in New Jersey after hurricane Sandy. It was during this time of solitude that I found my inner landscape, as I like to think of it. I also found my creativity and this writer was born. Harriet Tubman said “Every great dream begins with a dreamer.” I qualify as a dreamer. I spend a good deal of time dreaming about the folks in my head. Thankful! It is still magic to me.
One of my characters has done it again. Reba, my very prime and matronly character, has managed to pull a few words of wisdom out of that sweet head of hers and has opened a path forward to another book while at the same time sending readers off on another few twists in turns in the story. Where does she come up with this stuff. Lol. I love how her mind works or is it my mind. It all seems to blend together in there.
It never seizes to amaze me when my characters give me the way forward in the story. I love watching new characters come to life and the story unfold page after page. It keeps me intrigued. I have to know how the book will end so I keep writing. I’m not a plotter. I admit it. I don’t have drawings,(except my crude drawing of Blue Cove) or outlines, and I never know from the beginning what the end of the book will be. The first sentence hits me and I’m off and running. It may not be the best way to write, but somehow it has worked for me. When I hit a bump, I wait and listen; read and re-read until something they say jumps out at me. Even a picture can often jump-start the story and I hold on through all the twists and turns.
In my work in progress I’m working on a new character that I’m loving. He’s unique and unlike any other character I have conjured up so far. I love his actions, and manner of speaking. He’s slowly evolving and letting me know why he’s important to the story.
One scene leads to another, words fill the pages, and before you know I’m hooked. I do love this writing gig, even though at times it can be brutal trying to get all the words clamoring in my head out on paper. When I write the words “The End” there is a sense of satisfaction that I did it.
I attended the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference this past weekend. My head is still spinning with all the great things that I learned and experienced. One of the highlights for me was having lunch with the President, Editor and Chief of The Wild Rose Press, Rhonda Penders and fourteen other authors in the area who call Wild Rose Press their home. The Wild Rose is a great small publisher who treats their authors well. I am pleased to be one of their authors for all five of my books with a sixth being considered now.
My husband and I have been remodeling a space that we are moving into. It’s a lot of work, but something that needed to be done. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint, and a new floor can do. I wish is was as simple with the chaos that can be seen in our world. If only I could do a few cosmetic tweaks to repair the expanding tension on our earth. I think what is needed is a collective look in a giant mirror to check out how truly messy we have become. A quick glance over our shoulder to make sure we see ourselves and actions as someone else might see them. Or as the old saying goes to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
I’m a bit naïve at times, but I do believe Love is powerful, and in the end, Love wins. I try hard to practice it and even when I fail, I keep trying. It seems like a small thing to do in the face of such enormous challenges. But practice goes a long way and so does taking a hard look in the mirror to see how I measure up.
A.D. Williams said; “Love has the power to cure, to heal, to calm, to change, and to unite. Use this power often.” It’s hard to believe when staring in the face of anger and hatred that love can make any difference at all. But one soft voice added to another, and so on, can. Love only needs a willing heart and hands through which to show itself.
The down side of remodeling or loving is, you can always see more that needs done. A seemingly endless task. It takes work! But, the results are worth it.
We are moving again; part two in our downsizing adventure. The first time was leaving a house we had lived in for over twenty years. We’ve been here for four. Smart would have been to move every year so we couldn’t accumulate more stuff. Have you ever noticed that stuff has a way of multiplying? Especially, if you put it in a dark closet or a sealed box. I honestly believe there is a conspiracy afoot to keep us buying more things to add to our collections. It is the way those pesky boxes continue to grow even when we are not watching them. If only our savings would multiply the same way.
I’m finding I can live with a lot less than I thought. If I haven’t tasted it, worn it, or used it in the past year it is gone. Seems like a simple enough motto even for me. The most amazing thing about sorting through everything, besides taking a break to sit and rest, is that amidst all the trash I have found a few treasures. I found a picture of my parents on their wedding day. Definitely a keeper for my family.
I found a picture of my great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Franklin and Becky Hurst along with my two great aunts Mary and Jane when they were little girls. I’m not sure who the baby is. I think some research is order. What fun I’m having and of course, wasting time for as long as I can, before I have to get back to packing. I couldn’t resist a few more pictures, including me way back when, and that’s all I’m going to say. No more trips down memory lane. Back to work!
There are days when I don’t know if life is passing me by or simply trying to run me over. Every once in a while I have to push the pause button and take time out to breathe. It’s not like I’m thinking about the deep meaning of it all. I gave up on that years ago. Greater minds than mine have written volumes and failed to give full understanding to the narrative. Rather, I like to see it as a time of reflection; a rare chance to explore the accumulation of small victories which give days their own personal meaning; small slices of sweetness that make life tolerable and worth living. It’s about seeing the possibilities where there are none visible and letting myself soar on the hope of those possibilities.
The amazing thing about living is there are always new things to learn, new people to meet, and new things to see. An eagle landed on the roof across the street from us last night. The small birds fussed around her but she was unmoved. When she had enough she simply spread her wings and flew away. What a beautiful sight to watch the shadow her wingspan cast as she took off in flight.
Growing older, I think, makes us either grouchy or more reflective. I’ve chosen the second. I don’t want to miss any of the moments, (if I can help it) that are there to remind me even in the messiness of it all, life is a beautiful thing. Sunsets are breathtaking, children are wonderful, and grandchildren are the best. When the fussy little things around me become a distraction I need to spread my wings and soar or sail either way works for me.
I love when someone takes the time to write me letter regarding one of my books and they talk about the characters as if they were real. I received one of those letters not to long ago.
The letter began by saying: “Thank you for the hours of pure pleasure. I enjoyed my read immensely. I found myself excited just to get to the next chapter. Keep on writing, all your readers are looking forward to see what is the next mystery in Blue Cove.”
She goes on to say.”I would love to see Jessie and Matt tie the knot, they are meant for each other. Also, I’m so elated to see Katie has “maybe” found here true love. Thank you for all your hard work. One of your biggest fans.”
I’ll admit this made me smile and continues to, every time I read it. My characters are real to me. They hang out in my head on daily basis and the thought they have brought someone else pleasure is amazing to me. Jessie and Matt nudge me along and help me tell their story. They’ve set this crazy imagination of mine free. From a Bible teacher to a murder mystery writer, with a little romance thrown, in I finally feel at home in my mind. The strange thing is I was never a mystery reader. I’ve surprised even myself.
This letter got me thinking once again about all things Blue Cove and the support all of my readers have shown me. These four will soon be joined by book number five in the series, Only A Shadow. For all the books you’ve purchased and the reviews written, the words thank you hardly seem enough, but it’s the best I have. THANK YOU!
A new book will soon be out. Here’s the blurb and a teaser from “Only a Shadow”.
Trouble rears its head once again in Blue Cove and dashes straight into Jessie’s store in the person of a battered young woman fleeing her abusive spouse. Jessie finds herself pulled into another case as a body is discovered in the church dumpster, and the dead woman’s ghost takes up a vigil in Jessie’s place of business.
Is the dead woman connected to the frightened and battered girl who took refuge in the store? Matt and Jessie’s search for the killer leads them to their victim’s family, members of a strange religious group that lives off the grid outside of town. Add to the mix a crypt in the woods on a foggy night, Jessie’s abduction, a couple of angry and abusive husbands, and the resident ghost, and they will have their hands full solving this crime.
Will Matt and Jessie’s love for each other keep them grounded until justice can be served?
“Her eyes focused on a small structure in the midst of the trees. Its outline emerged through the spooky mist as she ran closer. What she saw stopped her in her tracks. Sinister in appearance, gothic in nature, its small spires and gargoyles stood watch and seemed to be staring at her. Creepy, and the fog didn’t help. The gate creaked as she opened it to go inside. The building was smaller than it looked from a distance. Was it a small chapel? It didn’t feel like any church she had ever been in. Maybe it was someone’s tomb. She shivered. A strange odor met her when she opened the door. Incense, perhaps. The light from her headlamp told an eerie story as it danced on the walls. It settled on a strange stone slab in the center of the aisle, which had something smeared all over it. Oh, this was worse than she had thought. She slumped to the floor. She had stumbled into something awful and didn’t want to be trapped here.”
A new contract is signed on another book. A blurb is finished along with the infamous tag line. In every book that I write there is a subject tucked in it somewhere, which is near and dear to my heart. From human trafficking to domestic violence, life constantly dishes up some hard stuff for people to overcome. Because of it there are limitless storylines with everyday people who are the real heroes and heroines.
I’ve often wondered with all the pain, sickness, and suffering that humanity experiences why we are not kinder and more humane in our treatment of one other. The old saying “Do unto others” is something we should consider all the time. You can’t live long on this earth without the need for someone’s compassion in your own life. It seems to me we should go out of our way to make it easier on one another to survive and not harder.
I’m grateful for the many kindnesses shown me. I realize the pull and tug to blame the other for my lot in life is great, but as my mom used to tell me life is what you make it. I do have choices and those choices have consequences which I must take responsibility for. My life is not perfect, but its mine. I’ve made a choice to be kind because I know how kindness has impacted me. I have chosen to reduce my faith to its simplest form…Love God, and love my neighbor as myself. There is so much freedom in living this out. I like to smile at strangers, listen to someone tell me how their life is going, and let go of the wrongs that have been done to me. I find it freeing to enjoy music, dance as way of joyous expression, and glean from the younger generations. The millennials have got a lot of things right. I don’t always get it right, but I keep trying. I’m in competition with myself to be the best version of me I can be.
Life is a veritable smorgasbord with all kinds of things to choose from. Some are life giving and others not so much. Some I choose and others I just get. I may not always be able to control what I face, but I can control my reaction to it.