Friday, December 17, 2010

Baby, It’s COLD Outside—Things To Warm You Up

It’s winter and unless you live on a tropical isle (in which case I hate you, lol!), then you’re dealing with cold weather in varying degrees. Some have had blizzards and records cold, some are dealing with the rainy season and cold, others like us, have had both snow and ice—I’ll take the snow any day over the ice storms. What constitutes cold in one area is nothing to someone else in another area and of course cold is relative.

Tis the time of the year when our minds turn to traditions of the season and last minute shopping, the snatch or the carols whispering on the wind, bright festive lights everywhere we look.

So I have a few things to share that might make that a bit warmer and bring a smile to your face.



4 quarts dry red wine (zinfandel, merlot, burgundy, etc.)
1 pint brandy
1 cup sugar
6 cinnamon sticks
12 cloves, whole
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp mace
2 oranges, sliced
1 lemon, sliced


  1. Pour the wine into a large pot and begin heating over low heat.
  2. As it begins to warm, add sugar and spices. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add the brandy.
  4. Heat thoroughly, but do not allow boiling!
  5. Add the lemon and orange.
  6. Steep for about 1 hour over low heat.
  7. You may add more sugar during this time if desired, stirring well so it dissolves.
  8. Serve hot and garnish with orange slices. A stick cinnamon could also be used.
Serves 12-15 (I tend to double this one)

Hot Buttered Rum Mix

Make some and keep in your freezer for an instant warm up on the coldest winter days, and especially for holiday guests.

Prep Time: 15 minutes


1 cup unsalted butter (I do NOT use margarine), softened
1 lb. pkg. powdered sugar, sifted
1 lb. brown sugar
1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened (you can leave this out if you like your coffee black)


In a large bowl beat the butter and the sugars together until smooth. Add the softened ice cream and mix until creamy and well blended. Place this mixture in a freezer container with a tight fitting lid, and store in the freezer for up to 1 month.

To serve: Place heaping 2 tablespoons of the frozen mix in a coffee mug. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons dark rum. Add 6 ounces boiling water and stir until the mixture is melted; serve.

Russian Tea Mix

Prep Time: 15 minutes, Cook Time: 3 minutes,Total Time: 18 minutes


1 cup instant tea powder
2 cups orange flavored drink mix (I use Tang)
3 oz. pkg. unsweetened lemonade powder
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves


In a large bowl, combine instant tea powder, orange drink mix, lemonade powder, sugar, cinnamon and cloves and mix thoroughly with a wire whisk. Store in a sealed jar in a cool place.  To use, combine 3 to 4 tablespoons of the mix with 1 cup boiling or cold water. Adjust amount used to taste.

Diabetic Mix (or you’re watching your weight):

Substitute quart packets of sugar free instant lemonade and sugar free instant Tang or other orange drink and delete the sugar and add your favorite sugar substitute.

Coffee Coyote

Best served in a large coffee mug or a beer mug


1 oz. Brandy
½ oz Kahlua
½ oz of dark cocoa
Fill with the remainder of cup with coffee of your choice

Top with whipped cream

Options: You can also drizzle chocolate, caramel, hazelnut, amaretto syrup over the whipped cream.


The next two weeks I will be sharing holiday stories from various writers, some published and some not, so be sure to stop by and enjoy them!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


“...making it as a writer is sort of like waiting for the right train to come along. While you’re waiting, you’re learning and reading and writing and practicing your craft in any way you can.

My guest today is Marta Perry. Marta has published over thirty books in her career. She writes Amish Suspense for HQN, Pleasant Valley Amish series for Berkley, and romance for Love Inspired.

I agree with Marta, I think the appeal of Amish stories is the simplicity. Their focus is on God, family, and community. There is a certain appeal to simpler times without all the distractions of gizmos of today’s world. An awareness, if you will, of what is truly important in life.

I truly enjoyed her article and I hope you will too. :-)

Years ago, when I first started writing, (and no, I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was!) I had the opportunity to hear Phyllis Whitney speak. She was one of the first authors to hit it big with the romantic suspense genre, and I had been reading her books and admiring her work for years. I was so star-struck at actually seeing her that I probably couldn’t have told at the time what she’d said. But a story she told about how writers find success has stayed with me ever since.

I’m paraphrasing, but basically she said that making it as a writer is sort of like waiting for the right train to come along. While you’re waiting, you’re learning and reading and writing and practicing your craft in any way you can. And if you’re both diligent and lucky, eventually the right train for you will come along—you’ll find that the latest ‘hot’ thing is exactly what you want to write and what you do well, and you’ll be off on your journey.

Phyllis Whitney had written career books for young adults and ‘little’ romantic mysteries for years, never thinking of herself as anything but a working writer. Then, almost out of the blue, the romantic suspense craze hit, and she was ready to jump onto that train. A number of New York Times bestsellers later, she was still a bit bemused by how it all happened!

Taken as I was by Phyllis’s story, I certainly never expected that lesson to apply to my own writing life. I was working along, writing the series books I love for Love Inspired and Love Inspired suspense, and feeling terribly fortunate to have someone actually pay me for doing the thing I loved best in the world. I wasn’t really expecting anything else. Then, in an existing story set in my native rural Pennsylvania, I introduced a few Amish characters, wondering what my editor would say to that.

Her reaction was immediate—do more of that! The popularity of Amish fiction had just begun, and to my surprise, I found I was ready to jump on that train. I’d already built an audience for my work, and suddenly something in my own backyard, something that fit my own Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and lifestyle, was exactly what editors were looking for. Every publisher wanted an Amish author for his or her list, and there I was, ready and waiting.

No one has been able to fully explain the current popularity of Amish fiction. Why, in the midst of a wave of paranormal romances, would stories about simple families living without most of modern technology suddenly find a place?

My own feeling is that many of us are drowning in a sea of technological advances and constant input. The internet and the twenty-four hour news channels feed us a continuing diet of scary stories, and while what’s happening half-way around the world engrosses us, we don’t find the time for face-to-face interaction with the people around us. Maybe, especially in a time of economic uncertainty, we experience a longing to live for a few hours in a simpler society, where families are close to each other and people can work together without the interruptions technology brings. Maybe we can even draw strength from visiting a community in which people still have time to talk and are ready to drop everything to help a neighbor.

The ironic thing about the popularity of Amish fiction is that it has developed around a group of people who really want to be left alone to live separate from the world, as their faith teaches them. For the writer, this is a touchy business. I value my relationships with Plain People, and I try to write about them honestly and with respect. I can only hope I’m managing to do that in a way that doesn’t offend.

Like Whitney, I’m still a bit bemused, even as I’m writing a series of Amish romance trade books for Berkley and an Amish suspense series for HQN Books. Still, as she said, I was ready to jump on board when my train came along.

Someone more mathematically minded than I am could probably create an equation from this. Maybe Preparation + Opportunity + Timing = Success!

I’m not saying that every career is meant to go in this direction, but I do believe there’s something almost magical about the results when the one subject about which you’re prepared to write, about which you can be most knowledgeable and passionate, suddenly penetrates the popular culture and creates an opportunity that couldn’t come in any other way.

Murder In Plain Sight Blurb:

There are secrets buried in Amish country...

Did a sweet-faced Amish teenager brutally murder a young woman? To save her career, big-city lawyer Jessica Langdon is determined to defend him—against the community’s bitter and even violent outrage. Yet without an understanding of Amish culture, Jessica must rely on arrogant businessman Trey Morgan, who has ties to the Amish community—and believes in the boy’s guilt.

Jessica has threats coming from all sides: a local fanatic, stirred up by the biased publicity of the case; the dead girl’s boyfriend; even from the person she’s learned to trust the most, Trey Morgan. But just when Jessica fears she’s placed her trust in the wrong man, Trey saves her life. And now they must both reach into a dangerous past to protect everyone’s future—including their own. EXCERPT

Marta Perry realized she wanted to be a writer at age eight, when she read her first Nancy Drew novel. Most girls reached the end of that book wanting to be Nancy. Marta wanted to be the person who created the story.

The dream lay hidden for years while she pursued other career goals, but eventually it re-surfaced, and she began to write, beginning with short children’s stories for Sunday school take-home papers. After seeing hundreds of her short stories published in a variety of magazines, Marta finally started work on the novel she’d always wanted to write. Thirty-some published novels later, she still feels the same excitement when she begins a new book.

A lifetime spent in rural Pennsylvania and her own Pennsylvania Dutch roots led Marta to the books she writes now about the Amish. The Pleasant Valley Amish series from Berkley Books are longer, more complex emotional stories with Amish main characters, while the Amish Suspense series from HQN Books are more adventure-filled books set in Pennsylvania Amish country. She also writes a Love Inspired series, The Bodine Family, set on the South Carolina coast where she and her husband have a second home.

Marta lives with her husband in a century-old farmhouse in the Pennsylvania countryside, but spends winters at their vacation home in South Carolina. When she’s not writing, she’s active in the life of her church and enjoys traveling and spending time with her three children and six beautiful grandchildren.