Saturday, December 31, 2016

"Where do you get your ideas?"

As we open the new year, every writer I know is making resolutions about the work for the coming season and every would-be writer is dreaming and hoping, wondering how to make the dream happen. Here's one way to get from "I wish" to "I will."

One of the common questions asked in any author interview is "Where do you get your ideas?" Most writers I know have trouble answering this one since, for us, the ideas are everywhere. Life is a constant Niagara Falls flow of ideas. For those of us who think this way, it's odd to hear people ask the question. Often we want to answer, "Don't you get ideas too?"

This makes me think of Son #5. He is a gifted musician, and by "gifted," I mean he truly got music as a gift. It was born in him--which makes Hubby and me wonder what throwback ancestor left that gene lying around. Son 5 learned to play guitar when he was barely a teen. By the time he was old enough for after-school employment, he worked in a music store where he could pick up and play any stringed instrument they had. Just. Like. That. He has since taught himself piano.

When we remarked on his marvelous ability, he usually shined us on with, "It's easy. Anyone can do it." It has taken him time to realize that no, not everyone can do it. Authors are the same way with ideas:  Coming up with ideas is so natural to us that it feels like anyone can do it.

In fact, with a little training, almost anyone can do it. It requires the exercise of imagination, but it's not that hard. If you feel imagination-challenged, just ask, "What if?" Here's how it works for me:
  • On a TV program, I heard the story of 17-year-old Julianne Koepcke who, in 1971, was the only survivor of a plane crash in the Venezuelan rain forest. After a two-mile fall, she hiked out alone. Her story percolated in the back of my mind until one day I asked, "What if a modern teen survived a similar accident, but in the Bolivian part of the rain forest where I've been? And what if she was not alone, but had a companion who required her care?" This idea was the genesis for my newest manuscript, an adventure called RESCUE.
  • A friend chatted about a woman who claims to see ghosts. I thought, "What if a teen who pretended to psychic abilities was actually visited by the spirit of a murdered girl?" That grew into my first mystery story, MAGGIE RISING: Adventures of a Part-Time Psychic.
  • After hearing friends talk about high school reunions, I wondered, "What if a young woman returned to the town where she attended high school only to find that her buddy had grown into a very attractive, interesting man?" It was hardly a new thought, but as the bits and details began filling in, it grew into the first of nine romances set in Rainbow Rock, Arizona. Each of the eight that followed began when I picked a secondary character from a previous book and wondered who would be attractive to that person and how they might meet.
  • While watching a movie remake of Shakespeare's "Hamlet," I suddenly identified with his mother and wondered, "What if she told her own story? Would it sound different?" The result was my one-woman play, GERTRUDE.
Other authors I know have written stories after hearing of a racially-motivated murder and wondering, "What if it happened to my child?" or watching a documentary about Adolf Eichmann and thinking, "What if he lived among us today?" A friend watched a teenaged couple telling their families about the future they planned and imagined what might happen in a similar couple if one of them was diagnosed with a disfiguring illness. The same process, with variations, has led to the creation of just about every fictional story we've ever heard, seen, or read.

If one of your New Year's Resolutions is to improve creativity, here's one possibility. To let your own imagination work as most fiction writers do, just observe what's happening around you and ask, "What if?" Now imagine Dr. Seuss saying, "Oh, the places you'll go!" May we all enjoy the journey.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books and a 15th which is now in production. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at or find her @SusanAylworth, at, or on Pinterest.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Displacement Activity

I am not working on Pavane for Miss Marcher today. Instead, I have swept the balcony, cleaned the kitchen drain, done the extra shopping with a comprehensive list from Dear Hubby who is teaching as usual, talked to several members of my family at great length.

Although Pavane is close to first draft completion, I have sought displacement activity at random for weeks. Today is no different, but I had similar difficulties last week. Also not different: work commitments, family commitments, special requests, time of year: in other words, any excuse.

With eleven books published, a twelfth should be straightforward but this one has always caused trouble, perhaps because the subject matter and historical period are more challenging than others I have undertaken. 

The characters are no problem, they have behaved admirably from Page One. If I wanted to write a character-driven story, I would be done and dusted. But, from the beginning, the other story elements make writing a bit harder. Some of those are the period research although this historical period is well-documented.

That can prove to be a barrier to creative narrative: you dare not question, dispute or fail the historical authorities. Even if the focus of the story is not the accepted written history, many readers will expect the appropriate tributes and markers. When I first mentioned I was writing a novel set in this period of American history, one colleague responded "You had better be on the right side of history then."

The "right side of history" is entirely dependent on which side the consumer of your fictional tale prefers: another good excuse to delay finishing the book.

The historical writer, Ursula Renee, has many good suggestions for researching historical material. The trouble is getting involved in research can be an end in itself. Many writers are notoriously easy to sidetrack with the shiny baubles of getting the traveling fashions,  men's hats, vehicles, soap products of the era right.

All of these distractions are what the screenwriter and author of The War of Art, Steven Pressfield, calls "resistance". You know you are resistant to finishing your book when finding room on your desk for that new pencil holder much more compelling than working on that tricky scene where your protagonists have to come to grips with the conflict between their knowledge and their desires.

I have recommended Pressfield's book to writers, actors, artists of all kinds. The gist of the book is simple: "Do your work." Accept that you have a job to do and do it. Manage your job as if you are the employee, hold yourself responsible.

I have set a deadline to finish. The only one I can blame if I don't meet that deadline is the same person who is, at this very moment, doing something/anything to put off doing the work.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Nostalgia Time!

Christmas is a time for nostalgia--for entertaining the ghosts of Christmas Past and Present and trying to titillate the ghost of Christmas Future, hoping to catch a glimpse as he flutters by. We work at making memories, so it shouldn't surprise us when those memories come full circle and we see our children and later, our grandchildren, repeating the same traditions.

When I was a child, my parents had a basic rule: no one could approach the tree on Christmas morning until the whole family was together. My hubby liked the idea, so we continued it with our family, but our kids took it a step further. They picked one bedroom where the whole crowd gathered, some in sleeping bags on the floor. Then when the first of them stirred, they woke the others. Since the rule said we had to be there too, they woke us by singing Christmas carols down the hallway. It was a lovely way to awaken each December 25.

Now some of our grandchildren huddle together on Christmas Eve and wake their parents with carols the following morning. Some have also continued a tradition begun with my mother and carried down through my family: homemade cinnamon rolls with egg nog, mulled cider, and/or hot chocolate as a mid-morning brunch after the gifts are opened. Both are traditions worth emulating.

We had other traditions we weren't so eager to pass down, such as the stay-up-until-early-hours-putting-toys-together marathon. I hope none of our children are carrying that one forward. Then there's the tradition no one else has needed, the one in which my birthday present appears under the tree wrapped in non-Christmas paper, the peculiar joys brought on by a Christmas-week birth.

Other traditions are shared by some of the next generation and fondly remembered by others. The pipe bells, made for me as a gift by my sister-in-law in a style similar to those made years before for my mother, are a Christmas Eve tradition. When we gather around the fireplace, we share around the bells and laugh as we try to keep rhythm on familiar carols.

Of course there are also the familiar recipes: fudge and caramels by the pound, certain kinds of brittle and divinity only made at Christmas time, pumpkin bread, holiday pudding, and a wide variety of others. Each has its memories and different family members promise "it wouldn't be Christmas" without one combination or another. Since we add to them every year (the newest is Coconutty Christmas Pie), the list of sugary treats seems to grow as rapidly as our waistlines and we always have something to resolve for the new year.

A few days from now we'll be looking forward to another joyous Christmas with much of our family here to share it. We'll be enjoying old traditions and making new ones. Whatever the holiday means to you and yours, I wish you merriment, joy, and peace.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at or find her @SusanAylworth, at, or on Pinterest.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Too Much To Do--Not Enough Time

by Fran McNabb

It’s that time of the year again—shopping, baking, holiday parties, traveling, wrapping gifts—that
time of the year when the mind becomes a blur and down-time is nonexistent. Is there a way to get through it and still find the enjoyment that is meant to be?

When I was a working mom, I seemed to handle the stress of the holidays much better. Maybe I was more organized. Let’s face it. When a person has the responsibility of work and family, organization is essential. Now that I’m retired, you’d think there would be more time to do the things that I want to do and things that need to be done and less stress associated with it. Nope. Not true.

Now that I am no longer a fulltime teacher and a mom with growing boys, I do cherish my time at home, but that doesn’t mean I’m any more organized and ready for the holidays. Why is that? Do other women (and men) experience the same frenzy that I find myself in during the holidays?

Is it because we try to do too much because we have the time to do it? Is it because others expect more of us? I think it’s because my brain is still active (that’s a good thing) and thinks my body is still young and able to do all it wants to do. I’ll make a confession: I’m at the end of my sixth decade, but I do sometimes forget that. I’m an author and I still have all these wonderful plans for more books to write, contests to enter, blogs to write, edits to do, and on and on, but when it comes down to it, I can’t do it all, or maybe I just don’t have the energy to do it all.

So at this time of the year when everyone is rushing around, I think we all need to take inventory of the things in our lives that need to be done or want to do. Whether it’s finishing that next manuscript or actually having our Christmas list finished early, maybe a little organization and realization of what we can do is needed.

Can’t finish something? Don’t stress. Decide what's important. Rewrite your list of to-do-chores and do only those things that are necessary. Christmas is a time of joy. Don’t let stress take that joy away.

FRAN MCNABB writes sweet romance, with eight books available and four “searching for a home.” Her first book, A LIGHT IN THE DARK , is a Christmas themed story set in the mountains of W. Virginia. It was published in 2006 by Avalon Publishing and is now available through Montlake Publishing. .Visit Fran at or at


Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Lights of the Christmas Season

I love the Christmas season. It’s my favorite time of year for more reasons than I can enumerate here. But I love almost every aspect except one—but online shopping has been a boon that spares me most of the only part I really dislike – fighting traffic and crowds around retail areas.

My poor attempt to get a picture of the balls on
a tree in my side yard.
Among the many things that make Christmas special are the light displays. I still remember from my childhood times when my parents would load us all in the car and we’d drive around gaping at the wonderful lights arranged on house and garages. It helped that I grew up in a New York City suburb on Long Island with a high population density and houses spaced close together. There were always spectacular displays to see. We would normally take a trip into the city, meaning Manhattan, at least once during the season to visit relatives there, and that was even more of a treat. Whatever its defects and blemishes visible by daylight, the city turns into a kind of fairyland at night—at least in the eyes of a child.

Perhaps that’s why I’m still a sucker for amazing light displays, even the over-the-top tackiness of houses decked in basement-to-ceiling lights, icicles, blinkers, inflatable snowmen, reindeers and Santas, even spotlights and nets.

My all-time favorite light display, however, is the one that goes on in my own neighborhood this time each year.

The entire area is decked out with lighted tree balls, many hung high up in the trees and thickly enough to turn the entire neighborhood magical. The balls are made from chicken wire, then strung
with lights. When hoisted into the tree they become shining moons in rainbow colors.

Sadly they don’t photograph well. Even professionals struggle to capture the beauty and majesty of them.  There are a few here that give you the idea but mostly it’s something you have to experience.

The only downside is that attracts a lot of traffic to a neighborhood that isn’t really built for it.  But the gaping tourists are the price we pay for the loveliest non-commercial display anywhere!


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Wacky But Tested Ideas for Author Self Promotion

by Victoria M. Johnson

If you're a published author, or soon to become one, then it's likely you've pondered about announcing to the world the availability of your brilliant book that you labored long and hard over.  Welcome to the territory of book promotion.

Lucky for you, award-winning author and editor Valerie Estelle Frankel is an expert at creative book promotion and she compiled an anthology of wacky, unconventional, but effective promotion strategies for authors.

The BEST thing is that she is offering the anthology for FREE over at Smashwords.

I was pleased to receive the invite to participate in the anthology.  I hope you'll enjoy my Christmastime story.  I am amongst the twenty authors who contributed a unique approach to gaining attention for their new release. This ebook has everything from silly hats to sandwich board costumes. There's plenty of up-to-date social media advice -- Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and blogging. There's also advice for KDP free days and linking your book with bestsellers. See how one author got reviews and how another arranged bookstore events.

The just released ebook is currently only at Smashwords (for FREE) and will soon become available at other online retailers.  Download it and take a look.  I'm sure you'll find some inspiration for your next book promotion.

Have you ever done anything out of the ordinary to promote your book?  Let us know in the comments below.

Wacky But Tested Ideas for Author Self Promotion
-->Victoria M. Johnson knew by the time she was ten that she wanted to be a writer.  She loves telling stories and she's happiest when creating new characters and new plots.  Avalon Books and Montlake Romance published Victoria's fiction debut, The Doctor’s Dilemma, (A 2012 Bookseller’s Best double finalist).  Her other fiction book is a collection of romance short stories titled, The Substitute Bride and a novella, Hot Hawaiian Christmas. She is also the writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries.   Visit Victoria's website at for inspiration and tips and find her Amazon author page or connect with her on Pinterest and Twitter.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Decisions, Decisions… And AN ANNOUNCEMENT!

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

I’m not good at decisions. The way I dither over a menu when we eat out drives The Husband absolutely wild. Neither do I like doing publicity – for myself; I used to be in the advertising industry and am very good at it – for other people. Like? I loathe doing publicity, either for myself or for others. I was raised in a time and a place and a family that believed blowing one’s own horn was both vulgar and classless.

However… with the world the way it is and – more importantly – with my assistant (also known as The Husband) and my webmistress (the talented and irreplaceable Jane Akshar) suggesting (i.e., demanding) I become more involved with the rest of the world, I have caved in and decided to do a newsletter. (There will be a button on my website in a few days where everyone can subscribe, or just let me know and I’ll have one of them add you manually.)

Believing in research, I immediately subscribed to a big bunch of authors’ newsletters at random – and was absolutely astonished. I always thought newsletters were for important news, or at the most a monthly affair where the author could keep in touch with their fans. Apparently I was very wrong, for very many of these authors think nothing of sending out ‘newsletters’ or ‘friendly contacts’ or ‘updates’ as often as 3-4 times a week, often flogging the same book over and over!

My Lord, how can anyone think of so much to say about themselves and their work? (To tell the truth, most of it was kind of boring…) And so much of it was about giving away their books. While I recognize the occasional freebie campaign is an accepted marketing tool, isn’t that much freebie giveaway contraindicative to the concept of being a professional writer?

And most of all, how do they find the time to do all that and still have time to write?

I don’t get it.

So – if you do decide to subscribe to my newsletter (and I hope you do) please be assured that I won’t stuff your email box. I intend to send one only when it contains something truly newsworthy – a new novel release, for example, or a major event.

For example – if I had my newsletter already up and running, I would very happily publicize this :

On December 14, the Boekhandel De Kleine Johannes (which in my nearly non-existant Dutch/German means Dear John Bookseller – if different, please let me know) in Louvain, the university town of Belgium, is having a literary evening featuring my dear friend Dr. Dirk Huyge, Director of the Belgian Archaeological Mission to El Kab and Curator of Prehistoric and Early Dynastic Egypt at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels. Dirk will be talking mostly about his work as an archeologist in Egypt but also about how he became a character in my traditional Janis Patterson mystery A KILLING AT EL KAB. I am even invited to participate by Skype! (The Husband and I even looked into going over so we could attend the event, but it was just impossible, both financially and scheduling-wise.)

Yes, I will mention this again in my newsletter! When it comes out.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Of All Things to Be Thankful For

few years ago, I wrote a post about this season of Thanksgiving as it is particular to (and peculiar of) the United States. Throughout the world, the end of the year is seen as a time to reflect on what has happened and how we can approach the coming year. This reflective time is linked to human dependence on the cycles of growth and harvest.

Although we are no longer dependent on an agrarian society since growing periods are extended throughout the year with greatly improved transportation and methods of farming, we are intrinsically linked to an understanding of life cycles. 

Spring is activity. Summer is watching. Fall is harvesting. Winter is preparing.

In ancient times, the new year began in Spring, not the dead of winter. September was the seventh month, October the eighth, November the ninth and December the tenth—as the Latin origin of their names evidences.  Winter begins in December, with one solstice and ends in March with another.

The pace of our lives has accelerated to such a degree that we are increasingly impatient for the next big thing and our enterprise allows us to create the environment for “immediate gratification” to be a realistic expectation.

But what is lost?

In some of our lifetimes, the advances in human enterprise went from driving a horse and cart to the potential of a trip to the moon, from kerosene lamps to laser lighting, from newsprint dailies to online “nano-secondlies,” from celluloid film chemical processing to digital instant-view.

What have we lost through this immediacy?

That peculiar excitement of waiting for the wedding photos to come back from the photographer’s shop all set out in a white satin album; the months of being a newly acquired author before your book is released while you bask in the glow of success; the days spent travelling to a new location through territories you have never visited before, meeting people you will never see again but will always remember for their kindness or otherwise; the hours, weeks, years of effort to be able to buy your own home or pay off the mortgage; that childlike wonder of “Are we there yet?”


While I was still in college, one of my classmates advised her friends: “Have no expectations. That way you cannot be disappointed.” Even then, that seemed like very poor advice for anyone of any age and certainly not for the “Under Thirties.” Without expectation there is no need for achievement.

I am forever thankful that I rejected her advice. When I was fourteen, I ‘expected’ to live in Europe. I did, for thirty years. When I was twenty, I expected to be published. I worked hard on a short story and it was published and later broadcast on National Public Radio. At the age of twenty-nine, I expected to marry a Welshman I had known for two weeks. We’ve been married long enough to be enjoying grandchildren.

Good things come from expectation and anticipation is the delectable time of wishing, hoping and making it happen. Enjoy the time you wait for the good things, even more good things happen in the interim.

Disappointment is short-lived unless you allow it to be the sum-total of having no expectations. In that way, disappointment becomes a lifetime wasted.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Scents of the Season

That holiday time of year is upon us again and, even if we weren't aware of the calendar, the aromas in the air would remind us.

Nature starts the process. Here in northern California, some trees still have leaves although the process of "deciduating" has begun. (We have used this term ever since our brilliant five-year-old granddaughter decided to turn the word deciduous into an active verb. Why not? It fits.) The leaves on the ground, spattered by yesterday's light rain, smell like autumn--that light scent of mouldering that, at least in its early stages, is rich and vaguely herbal. While some trees still have leaves, my roses still have flowers which add their scent to the mix while the last of the lavender blossoms chime in, the underlying leaf scent mixed with deep, vivid florals.

This is the rainy season where I live and, this year at least, the weather is cooperating. (I'm secretly holding out hope that this will be the drought-breaker year.) When the breeze picks up, blowing out of the south, the scent of fresh water is in the air. As a side benefit, these mixed-weather days also provide us with heart-breaker sunsets, almost impossibly beautiful.

Holiday baking has begun in my kitchen and elsewhere, adding scents of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, chocolate, yeasty breads, fresh-ground wheat and citrus. My husband has begun lighting his favorite holiday-scented candles, adding their hints of spice and pine.

Apple pie, the classic all-American favorite, is one of my favorites too, but enough work that I usually reserve its creation for the holiday season, that delightful time of year when the aroma of baking apples mixed with cinnamon and nutmeg fills the kitchen and diffuses through the whole house. Hence the visions of sugar plums that dance in our heads as we sleep.

Of course the stores have to get into the act. Each shop we enter has its own version of holiday scent to share. It's often said that scent is the most evocative of all our senses, calling to mind our past experiences with that same aroma. No wonder this scent-sational season fills me with nostalgia.

As I move through these coming weeks--cooking and baking, humming carols and swimming in nostalgic memory--I will be enjoying the sights of the season, but it's the scents that will bring autumn, Thanksgiving, and Christmas home. I will breathe deeply, smell, and remember with joy.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at or find her @SusanAylworth, at, or on Pinterest.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Cultivating Gratitude

I don’t know if the old saying that age brings wisdom is true, but the advancing years to seem to bring some deeper level of self-awareness. Is that the same thing? Probably not, but it’s what I’ve got. And now that I’m in my seventh decade of life, there are a few things I’ve realized that seem useful to share.

One of the great revelations of my life was the recognition that no one else could be responsible for my happiness. At one time I was seriously depressed, stuck in a job I hated because my family needed my income, so miserable that I wondered if life really was worth living. And then one day I realized that my family needed a healthy and functioning me more than they needed my income. I took a huge leap of faith and quit the job. Fortunately I found another one that made me much happier in short order.

That incident really brought home to me that I needed to take control of my own life. If things weren’t right, it was up to me make them better as best I could. I couldn’t wait for someone else to tell me to do what I needed to do for myself.

I’ve also learned that in most situations, I have a decision about how I want to view it – glass half empty or glass half full. Some things are irretrievably bad.  I’ve had family members die, pets die, serious illnesses, and other bad events. You go through the grieving process – the denial, the anger, the bargaining, etc. And eventually you accept. You can choose to continue in the grief or you can take a more positive view. It can be hard at times, but there is always something to be learned and gained from even the most awful events.

I’ve spent time I now regret being jealous of people who had things better than I did, people who were richer, more attractive, smarter, or more personable. It irritates me to think of the time I wasted on that.

Now, when I’m tempted by those things, I remind myself of how fortunate I am. By the standards of the U.S., I’m middle middle-class, but by the standards of much of the world, I am rich. I’ve never been completely without food or clean drinking water. My house is warm and water-proof. My clothes don’t have designer labels, but neither are they worn to threads or shreds.

I have family who care for me, and a few good friends. I’ve had some great experiences. In the most important ways, I am rich. I just have to remind myself of that fact every now and again.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Autumn: A glimpse from the water

By Fran McNabb

 Transition is a nice way of describing the months we call autumn. Summer has ended, school has started, football is rolling along, and winter is just around the corner. I have a love-hate relationship with the season.

I love the color change in the few trees that actually lose their leaves in the fall. I live on the Gulf Coast so we miss out on the breathtaking colors that our northern neighbors experience, but we have just enough falling leaves to remind us that we’re in a different season. Here on the coast fall fishing is fantastic, but with football we tend to have a conflict. Yes, that’s one of the things I dislike because I love to fish. My husband is an avid fan and attends every home game and a few road games for the university where we each attended.

The warm days of fall still offer quite a few boating days. Last week my husband and I took a short
boat cruise to one of the beachside restaurants. The wind had picked up making the ride a little bumpy, but it still was a gorgeous day. Not many boats were out so we had the waterways to ourselves. Warm sunshine and birds following the boat hoping for a morsel of food made the bumpy ride a minor inconvenience. I love being on the boat with my husband. He understands I’m a wimp and don’t like to be knocked around so he slowed the boat down, put on some music and together we enjoyed the afternoon. What better way to spend a beautiful autumn afternoon.

As I was enjoying the ride, I thought about all the pleasant days we spend together on the boat with each season bringing a different experience. Soon it will be much cooler and our days will have to be selected carefully for a boat ride, but today that wasn’t the case. From the channel through the bayou I enjoyed the changing colors of the wooded areas. We watched a bird, either an osprey or an eagle, soar with the breeze well above us. The wind created a rippling effect on the water catching the sunlight. My youngest son used to tell my mother that the sparkles were like diamonds on the water. He was right. Today there were diamonds all around us. I was rich in the beauty that nature was providing.

I use these coastal scenes in some of my books. It’s hard for an author not to include what she knows and what she experiences and especially what she loves. I’m glad to be able to share the joy I get from where I live.

Am I lucky? You bet. Will I be sad when winter gets here and I’ll have to look at the boat on the boat lift and wish I was out on the water? Again, that’s a “You bet.” Every season has its good parts. Autumn offers a lot to all of us no matter where you live. I hope your fall days are filled with the joys of the season.

FRAN MCNABB writes tender romances and uses the setting of the Gulf Coast in several of them. At present she has eight books available with her latest books being published with Montlake Publishing and The Wild Rose Press. Check her out at or at



Saturday, November 5, 2016

How to Carve a Turkey and Other Essential Thanksgiving Tips

by Victoria M. Johnson

Well, it's that time of year when we put away the Halloween decorations and think about the Thanksgiving holiday and our meal plans.  Many of us are busy juggling work and children and other responsibilities and don't stress out over the big dinner until the last minute (two days before Thanksgiving).  Are you one of those who rush to the grocery store only to find gigantic frozen turkeys that need three days to thaw?  Or have you found the right size turkey but your mind is blank on what to serve with it?  There are plenty of details involved in serving a delicious and satisfying Thanksgiving meal, especially if you also have to prepare for guests. 

Fortunately, there are experts out there who are ready with tips and recipes to help us with all those details.  It doesn't matter if this is your first time hosting or if you've run dry from hosting year-after-year.  I've found ideas and inspiration to help make your dinner the best ever.

First things first.  Here's a short video to get you in the mood for turkey.

How to Carve a Turkey

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

For savory dishes like Lemon Pepper Green Beans, Southern Candied Sweet Potatoes, and Holiday Cranberry Sauce head over to the AllRecipes website. 

The Country Living website has ideas for 100 classic Thanksgiving side dishes such as Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Salad, Rosemary Monkey Bread Stuffing, and Apple Walnut Stuffing.
Wondering what beverage to serve with your feast?  Not to worry. The New York Times has you covered with this article: 

Where you'll find insight such as, "Do not worry if you don’t have enough stemware. Thanksgiving is not the time for these sorts of concerns. Serve wine in tumblers, if you like."

Thanksgiving Desert

For dessert, you can't go wrong with pumpkin pie.  Other pies work, too.  But why mess with tradition unless you want to surprise your guests with a scrumptious variation such as Streusel Topped Pumpkin Pie.  Or instead how about wowing them with Pumpkin Spice Donut Holes?

The experts even have recipe ideas for vegan and vegetarian menus.  Just visit the Serious Eats website for tasty options.
After all that preparation, cooking, and hosting, you should now sit back, enjoy your friends and family, and most of all, count your blessings.  That's what the holiday is all about.

Victoria M. Johnson knew by the time she was ten that she wanted to be a writer.  She loves telling stories and she's happiest when creating new characters and new plots.  Avalon Books and Montlake Romance published Victoria's fiction debut, The Doctor’s Dilemma, (A 2012 Bookseller’s Best double finalist).  Her other fiction book is a collection of romance short stories titled, The Substitute Bride and a novella, Hot Hawaiian Christmas. She is also the writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries.   Visit Victoria's website at for inspiration and tips and find her Amazon author page or connect with her on Pinterest and Twitter.