Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Happy New Year!

 2020 is on its way out and 2021 is creeping in.

I thought I’d check my Wikipedia and find out the history of New Years. So for those who don’t know, like me, here’s some interesting information on New Year’s.

January 1 is New Year's Day It’s the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar as well as the Julian calendar. In pre-Christian Rome the day was dedicated to Janus, god of gateways and beginnings, for whom January is also named.

The order of months in the Roman calendar was January to December since King Numa Pompilius in about 700 BC. Until 1751 in England and Wales (and all British dominions) the new year started on March 25 – Lady Day, one of the four quarter days (the change to 1 January took place in 1600 in Scotland).  Since then, January 1 has been the first day of the year.

During the Middle Ages several other days were variously taken as the beginning of the calendar year (March, 1 March 25, Easter, September 1, December 25).

 In many countries, such as the Czech Republic, Italy, Spain and the UK,  January 1 is a national holiday.

With the expansion of Western culture to many other places in the world during recent centuries, they have adopted the Gregorian calendar and the 1 January date of New Year has become global, even in countries with their own New Year celebrations on other days (such as Israel, China and India). Many in the countries where Eastern Orthodoxy predominates celebrate both the Gregorian and Julian New Year holidays, with the Gregorian day celebrated as a civic holiday, and the Julian date as the "Old New Year", a religious holiday.

In present day, with most countries now using the Gregorian calendar, New Year's Day is probably the most celebrated public holiday, often observed with fireworks at the stroke of midnight, or the dropping of a ball, a shoe or other devices.

So if you do make New Year’s Goals, finish off your goals for next year watch the ball drop on TV, pour yourself a glass of bubbly and toast the new year. No parties this year. Stay healthy.

May 2021 be a good year where you and yours are healthy, happy and work toward, or reach your goals and Covid is controlled.

Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, December 28, 2020

Alicia Dean and the Friday the 13th Series

 Hello…Alicia Dean here. Myself and twelve other authors (13 total, get it? 😊) each wrote a spooky, suspenseful story in the ‘A Friday the 13th Story’ series. They are stand-alone but have recurring threads and they were all released on Friday, November 13th.

My contribution to the series is titled Blood and Breakfast. Check it out below. And be sure to check out my contest where you can win an Amazon gift card! Find details here: (Contest ends Dec 15, 2020)

All stories in the Friday the 13th series:

Links to Evil by Rolynn Anderson

Till Death by Maureen Bonatch

Blood and Breakfast by Alicia Dean

Retribution by D.J. FitzSimons

Shattered Reflections by Tamrie Foxtail

A Deadly Game by Jannine Gallant

Dead to Rights by Margo Hoornstra

In the Still of the Night by Callie Hutton

Glimpse, the Dinner Guest by Stephen B. King

Scorned by Anna Kittrell

Vanity Kills by Dianne McCartney

Fatal Legacy by Krysta Scott

Azrael’s Chosen by Leah St. James

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Alicia Dean began writing stories as a child. At age 10, she wrote her first ever romance (featuring a hero who looked just like Elvis Presley, and who shared the name of Elvis’ character in the movie, Tickle Me), and she still has the tattered, pencil-written copy. Alicia is from Moore, Oklahoma and now lives in Edmond. She has three grown children and a huge network of supportive friends and family. She writes mostly contemporary suspense and paranormal, but has also written in other genres, including a few vintage historicals.

Other than reading and writing, her passions are Elvis Presley (she almost always works in a mention of him into her stories) and watching (and rewatching) her favorite televisions shows like Ozark, Dexter, Justified, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, and Vampire Diaries. Some of her favorite authors are Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Stephen King, Lee Child, Lisa Gardner, Ridley Pearson, Joseph Finder, and Jonathan Kellerman…to name a few.

I was plotting my story and trying to figure out why a normal family man would suddenly snap and murder his family. I realized that hallucinations could cause people to do crazy things, so I researched what could make people hallucinate. I discovered that the plant, jimson weed, can cause serious hallucinations. I also wanted to incorporate some kind of an authentic local legend in my story, so I researched legends in various states and came across the Devil’s Footrock in Rhode Island.  I was able to mesh the two–jimson weed and the Devil’s Footrock–to come up with how the husband/father in my story lost his mind and killed his family. It’s so much fun when ideas click and make a story come together. Here’s a photo of Devil’s Foot Rock:

Beverley: Which genre or genres do you write or prefer to write? And why?

Alicia: My very favorite genre to write is suspense/mystery/thriller because that’s what I enjoy reading. Anything creepy, scary and dangerous gets my heart pumping. I love to create evil characters and set them loose. I also enjoy giving them their comeuppance. 😊

Beverley: Who influenced you the most in deciding to become a writer?

Alicia: It’s not really a ‘who’ but a ‘what’. I’ve always loved to read and, for as long as I can remember, my own stories swirled around in my brain. I didn’t really ‘decide’ to become a writer, I had stories inside me that wanted to get out, so I had to become a writer.

Beverley: What gets your creative juices flowing?

Alicia: When I’m already working on a story, reading the previous chapters gets my creative juices flowing. Also, I have a ritual where I listen to rain videos on YouTube and that helps me get in the writing mode.  When I’m first starting a story, my creative juices don’t flow. I just have to force it until I’m in the zone.

Beverley: Do you have a favorite cartoon character? Why?

Alicia: Oh, yes. Two, really. Foghorn Leghorn and Bugs Bunny. Because they are hilarious and Bugs Bunny is so clever and mean.

Beverley: Who would you love most to meet 'in person' and why?

Alicia: Without a doubt, Elvis Presley. I have adored him all my life and he was beautiful and talented and charismatic and kind. As for a living person, this will probably not be a popular answer, but President Trump. It would be amazing to meet the president of our country.

Beverley: If you had an unexpected free day what would you do with it?

Alicia: Well…I guess the obvious answer is write. But I think you mean, free from writing as well. 😊 I would love to spend a day just visiting with my family. I lost a brother two years ago and I wish I’d spent more time with him.

Beverley: What are you working on now?

Alicia: A police procedural, the first in a new series. The working title is “The Eye of a Red-Haired Woman.”

Blurb for Blood and Breakfast:

Determined to boost the sagging ratings of her internet radio show, “A Dark Place,” murder junkie Sasha Gillette checks into the Talley House Bed and Breakfast in North Kingston, Rhode Island. She and her co-host plan to broadcast an episode about the murders that took place there thirteen years earlier on a Friday the 13th, when a man butchered his entire family.

Not long after Sasha arrives, the other guests begin to disappear. Has a killer from the past resurfaced or is there a copycat on the loose?

One of the lone survivors, Sasha f
inds herself trapped with a sadistic killer and, suddenly, murder isn’t as much fun as she thought.

Excerpt from Blood and Breakfast:

“I’m going to look for her. It’s not okay that she’s been gone for hours when she said she’d be back in thirty minutes. Do you know where she was taking her walk?”

“I-in the woods.”

“Well, of course she was,” I muttered. “Agnes, do you have a flashlight I can borrow? And maybe something I can use for a weapon?”

Agnes nodded. “I’ll get you a flashlight. I have a hammer.”

Dorset rose as well. “I’ll go with you.” He cut his gaze to Bradley, but the dufus just sat there without volunteering to help. “Nothing, old chap? Not going to offer to come along?”

“I should stay here in case she comes back,” Bradley murmured but he didn’t look at them. Was he afraid…or feeling guilty?

 I shivered when we stepped outside, drawing my hoodie tighter around my body. The nearly half full moon hovered in the cloudy sky behind the branches of a Tulip tree. Lightning flashed, illuminating the back yard. The icy air held the scent of rain. “We need to hurry,” I told Dorset. “It looks like it might storm.”

He nodded. “I’d say let’s split up to cover more ground, but with one flashlight and hammer, and with the odd happenings lately, maybe we should stick together.”

“Agreed.” My teeth chattered, though it wasn’t all that cold.

We walked along the wood line, shouting for Macy, shining the flashlight between the trees. Nothing. As if by mutual agreement, we entered the woods. I shuddered, not only concerned about a potential maniac, but also leery of whatever creatures might be scurrying around at my feet. I was a city girl and didn’t even own a pet. I was not okay with encountering an animal, of any kind.

We searched for another half hour with no sign of Macy. We were deep into the woods when the sky opened up and doused us with buckets of rain. Thunder rumbled and more lightning flashed. We gave up and hurried back to the house.

The others were waiting for us.

“Anything?” Bradley asked, his voice high-pitched with anxiety. He seemed much more concerned about Macy than he had been about his wife.

“Not a sign,” I said. “We need to call the police.”

“I did.” Agnes was seated in the forest green wing chair in the corner of the library. “They took the information but said she’s an adult and can leave any time she wants.” She rose. “We waited dinner for you. Let’s eat.”

A pall hung over the room as we ate in silence, the air thick with fear and confusion.

Afterward, I excused myself and headed upstairs, anxiety weighing on me. I had an overwhelming feeling that I wouldn’t sleep a wink. Nor would anyone else.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Christmas Eve - The Night Before Christmas


Christmas Eve is the evening or entire day before Christmas Day and Christmas Eve is widely observed as a full or partial holiday in anticipation of Christmas Day. Christmas celebrations in Western Christianity have long begun on Christmas Eve, due in part to the Christian liturgical day starting at sunset, a practice inherited from Jewish tradition and based on the story of Creation in the Book of Genesis. Many churches still ring their church bells and hold prayers in the evening, Midnight Mass is celebrated on Christmas Eve, traditionally at midnight, in commemoration of his birth.

It’s been a challenging year. Many people have died. Others are still struggling with their recovery. Business are struggling or closed. For many Christmas will be spent alone or only with close family living in the house. Our normal has disappeared. Next Christmas we will hopefully back to family and friends celebrating together. I’m one who will be home celebrating with my husband. I felt I wanted something normal. Here’s the poem I’m sure most people know and love at Christmas.

Please enjoy and have a Safe, Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season!

'Twas the night before Christmas,

By Clement Clarke Moore  

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds;

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,

Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,

When what to my wondering eyes did appear,

But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,

With a little old driver so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the housetop the coursers they flew

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly

That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”  

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Christmas Movies and Writing

I write contemporary romantic suspense. This holiday season, because of Covid, the US/Canada border is closed. I couldn’t head south to avoid the cold. So, I’m here in the snow and cold. And we have a Covid lockdown. I’m stuck in the house. I should be writing but I’m binging on Christmas movies. I think it’s part of Covid isolation and fatigue. It’s not the classics I’m watching like Miracle on 34th St, It’s a Wonderful Life, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Scrooge, etc. I’m calling it research. (I’m hiding as I confess this.)                                                                                                                                                I’m watching hours of the Hallmark type Christmas stories. Do you know how many of those are on every day? I find it interesting. The stories read more like earlier romance. The h/h don’t kiss until the final scene when The End comes up. There’s no sex or sexual intimacy. There’s very little touching. There’s conflict, a plot that revolves around a conflict. The h/h goals and their conflict and a romance triangle. All is resolved in the end and we have the HEA ending. Usually the ending is the h/h kissing in front of Christmas trees and decorations. Sigh…

I enjoy these movies. They take you out of the world we live in these days. I can’t believe the Christmas decorations in each movie. The houses are lighted up inside and out. My house is decorated but nothing like the movie houses. It takes you into a magical world. They’re feel-good stories. The characters all smile, with their sparkling white teeth. But It’s nice to see smiles. In the real-world smiles and laughter aren’t that common these days. I’m wondering if maybe I need to write this type or romance. I could still throw in a murder and a body but keep the romance more innocent showing hope to the reader.

If you write romance – suspense, sci-fi- steampunk, paranormal, whatever, what do you think? Should we go back in time and write more about feelings and love than sexual conflict? I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have a chance to share while getting ready for a different and non-hallmark Christmas..

Friday, December 18, 2020

A Merry Covid Christmas

Robyn came up with another interesting topic for our group blog this December. Write a short story, flash fiction, or use an excerpt from one of your books. I was going to use an excerpt from one of my books but then I thought I’d try and write a short Christmas story. I hope you enjoy it.
A Merry Covid Christmas

Sarah switched on the Christmas tree lights. The tree stood in its usual place in the corner where it had stood for the last thirty years. The nativity scene sat on the end table by the new couch. Well, sort of new. She’d replaced the twenty-five- year-old one five years ago.

It was a comfortable room like most of the rooms in the house she and Tom had raised their two children. Every Christmas had been family time. Even when Carol and Steve had left for college and moved out, they always made it back for Christmas. Two years ago, Tom had died. It had been difficult that year, but Steve, and Carol and her family had come home. This year there would be no family. A sigh slipped out.

Familiar Christmas songs played softly in the background. There had never been a Christmas quite like this one. Covid wasn’t family friendly. No Christmas Eve at church, although she had watched it on the computer. No family get togethers, and for many people no food.

She’d had a bad spell a week ago after talking with Carol. She felt sorry for herself. She’d be alone. No sense putting up the tree or decorating. No family for dinner. She hadn’t even planned to cook a dinner. Why bother?

Then she shook it off. Carol and Steve were worried about her. First that she was a high risk for Covid, and second that being alone for Christmas she’d be depressed. She didn’t want them to worry about her and ruin their own Christmas. There were so many people worse off. People who couldn’t pay rent or their mortgage and might lose their homes. Others who couldn’t buy food. And those who had family members who were ill.

No, she would not wallow in pity. She’d dragged out the tree and decorations. She’d baked dozens of cookies and tarts, boxed them and sent them to Carol and Steve. She’d sent dozens off to The Mustard Seed and the food bank. She’d order everything for a big dinner. A turkey was in the oven and dinner with all the trimmings would be ready soon. The wonderful smell of Christmas filled the house. Small, divided boxes lined the counter ready for the turkey dinners.

It had been a busy week. It felt good. Sarah sang along with ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ as she pulled the turkey out of the oven and made gravy while it cooled and then mashed potatoes. She sliced the turkey, packed the boxes, added the Brussels, and filled a small plate for herself.

The taxi arrived.

“I’m so glad you can do this. Here’s a list of the addresses.” She gave him the piece of paper. Sarah had contacted a couple of agencies to get the list, mostly single mothers, and the elderly. “I typed it so you wouldn’t have trouble reading it.”

The driver took the list and scanned it.

Sarah brought the large bags with the dinners from the kitchen and handed them to the driver.

“How much do I owe to deliver all these?” Sarah opened her purse.

“You made dinner for all these people?” he asked.

Sarah nodded. “So many people need help these days. This isn’t much but hopefully it will bring a little Christmas to a few people.”

“Lady, if you can do all that, I can deliver them. No charge.”


“Really. Merry Christmas. I’ll see if I can get them delivered before they all get too cold.” He hurried back to the taxi and drove off.

“Merry Christmas and thank you.” Sarah called after him. She smiled.

Back in the kitchen Sarah got her plate of food. She gave it a quick zap in the microwave. She smiled. She’d be eating alone but it didn’t feel so bad. The smile lasted and she hoped that some people would enjoy a special turkey dinner. She was one of the lucky people with a home, food and her health. There would be next year for the family Christmas. And she wouldn’t eat alone. There was Zoom with Carol, Josh, and the grand kids.

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Margaret Fielan                                   Rhobin L Courtright