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Holiday Music

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Ok, maybe this is not politically correct, and some will disagree with me; but I have to say I love Christmas music.
I grew up during a time when all kids sang Christmas carols no matter what religion you were. It was part of the school music programs. In high school, I enjoyed chorus with my friends Barb, Judy, Gail and Sherry–and many of us are Jewish. We sang the songs you rarely hear today in schools–songs like “Gloria” (in Latin) and “Silent Night” as well as “Winter Wonderland” and modern Christmas music. The music was lovely and we enjoyed practicing and participating in vocal concerts.
One of my favorite memories of college was my sophomore year, when there was a sing along at our student center just before our holiday break; and my friend Janet and I belted out “The 12 Days of Christmas” along with dozens of other students. (I can still name all 12 gifts).
I enjoy listening to the music in my car and when I hear Burl Ive’s “Holly Jolly Christmas” on the radio that’s when I know the holiday season has begun!
Some of this music is so beautiful, and I think it’s a shame that in our striving to be politically correct, we have cut many of these songs from school programs. I don’t see why they can’t be included if you balance some religious songs out with modern holiday songs and songs about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and winter.
Last year on 101.5 I heard a song I never heard before–about lighting a single candle, sung by a school in a competition. Does anyone know the name of the song? I’d like to hear it again.
People of all religions go to museums and admire religious paintings because they are works of art. Why can’t we admire Christmas carols because they are works of art too–beautiful music that sounds good?
My favorite songs to sing when I was in chorus were “Go Tell it on the Mountain” (becuase of the harmony) and “The 12 Days of Christmas” (because it is FUN!). My favorite to sing along with in the car is “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”  And of course I love Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song!
So do you think Christmas songs should be included in holiday programs? And what’s yoru favorite to sing along with or listen to?
Happy Holidays everyone!
Roni Denholtz

Lightsoflove

The last time I blogged, we were bracing for Hurricane Sandy, and some people, who shall remain nameless, thought I was going a little overboard in my preparations.  I’ll say this–they later thanked me for stocking up on canned goods and water!   Anyway, I hope everyone fared well during the storm.  Aside from no power, minor damage, and a household of sick people, we made out okay.

Since I had been so prepared, my Nook was fully charged, and I had batteries in my book-light.   I read several books and I’m here to reveal some of my favorites.  First, I read The Witness by Nora Roberts.  It’s a romantic suspense of four hundred and eighty-eight pages.  The heroine witnesses an event that changes her life forever.  I have never read a book of Nora’s that I didn’t like, and this one was no exception.   Then I read a couple of more books that were mediocre until I dived into Lisa Scottoline’s Daddy’s Girl.  Lisa spoke at a New Jersey Romance Writers Conference a few years back and I had bought this book.  Since then, I have read others of hers that I truly enjoyed, but I must have forgotten about this one.  Anyway, Daddy’s Girl was the best thriller I’ve read in ages.  The main character, Nat, is a law professor who happens to visit a prison on the day a riot breaks out and someone dies.  She becomes suspect number one and spends most of the book trying to prove her innocence.  Loved it!

After the storm and all the devastation, I’m not sure what possessed me, but I started to purge and organize my house.  Maybe because so people lost everything, I decided my family has entire too much stuff.  So I attacked my To-Be-Read piles of books.  First, I pulled out several I knew I would probably never read.  In addition to some books I had already decided needed to be donated, I made a separate bag of other books and gave them to a friend.  She is an avid and quick reader, so I asked her to return to me any books that she designated spectacular-must-reads.

Next, I searched for holiday themed books and found three.  I read Holiday Hideout, a collection of novellas, the common thread being a rental cabin that seems to spark romances between couples.  Vicki Lewis Thompson wrote about Thanksgiving, Jill Shalvis, about Christmas, and Julie Kenner about New Year’s.  All were enjoyable, cute and sexy stories.

Now my immediate reading list plan includes the two holiday romances I found buried in my piles, Robin Carr’s Bring Me Home for Christmas and Lakeshore Christmas by Susan Wiggs, and newer titles Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom for my bookclub, Take Me Home by Nancy Herkness, and Jane Porter’s The Good Woman.  This novel is part of the Brennan Sisters Trilogy.

I’m so looking forward to reading all these selections under the twinkling lights of my Christmas tree.

Happy Holidays,

Elizabeth

This week we welcome guest blogger Nancy Herkness! A multi-published author from New Jersey who grew up in West Virginia, Nancy has a new release hot off the press–“Take Me Home.” I personally can’t wait to read this book since I’ve read all her others and really loved them. Reading, Writing and Ruminations sat down with Nancy and asked her some questions. If you have others, let us know and she’ll answer them!
What kind of romances do you write?
I write mostly contemporary romances with one foray into romantic suspense (Music of the Night). My first three books were set in the New York metro area, but I’ve gone back to my roots in the mountains of West Virginia with my new series. (I love saying “series” since Montlake Romance bought all three of my “whisper horse” novels. It’s my first series ever!)
Do you plot out your novel or write by the seat of your pants?
How I wish I plotted out my novel! But no, I have to noodle around, go off in wrong directions, change characters’ motivations mid-book, etc. I tried very hard to plot a book once but it killed all the joy for me and I never got past the fifth chapter. It has to be a voyage of discovery or I get bored.
So I start with the two main characters, often developing the hero first for some reason. I build in at least one conflict as I flesh out those characters and add other obstacles as I write. Generally, I have an ending in mind and I write toward that.
What I love about my method are the moments of revelation. In my current WIP (nearly finished now), my heroine has led a very sheltered life before she arrives in Sanctuary, WV. I had some superficial reasons why but I was missing something profound. One day I was working on chapter seven or thereabouts when it just burst into my brain. I jumped out of my chair, leapt around my office a few times, crowing at my cleverness, then sat down to rework the prior six chapters to include it.


You have a done a lot of research for your novels—for example, researching meteorites for “Shower of Stars.” Do you do research before writing or while writing or both? Do you enjoy this aspect of the writing process?
Doesn’t every writer love to do research? It’s the best kind of procrastination because you can justify the time you spend on it by saying it’s necessary for the book. I’ve done such fun things in the name of adding authenticity to my books: walking the George Washington Bridge, spending two days in the Smithsonian’s meteorite exhibit, sitting on stage for a rehearsal at Carnegie Hall.
My West Virginia series is a different kind of research: I’m mining my memories of my childhood in the mountains—and layering in a few new additions, of course.
I also do research on the fly when I’m writing. When I decide to introduce a new element into my story, I instantly check it for accuracy before I get too far down the road in the plot. Google is my friend.
Tell us a little bit about your new series—how you got the idea, what you’re most excited about, and your plans for the series!
Oh, thank you for bringing up that word again…and I didn’t even have to pay you! My new series is set in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia where I grew up. The town of Sanctuary is fictional but it strongly resembles my real hometown of Lewisburg.
In addition, I came up with the concept of a whisper horse. A whisper horse is the special creature you can tell all your troubles to so you don’t have to carry the burden alone. You can’t talk to just any horse; there’s one meant for you. A character in each of the books finds her/his whisper horse in Sanctuary at Healing Springs Stables.
The idea came from my real pony Papoose who was my constant companion all through my younger years. When I was upset or angsty, I would pour my problems into his ears. If you know horses, you’ll know their ears are very eloquent, so I felt I had a sympathetic listener.
Right now the series is three books long: Take Me Home (Nov. 2012), Country Roads (nearly finished), and The Place I Belong (merely a germ of an idea). I hope it will continue on past those three, although I’ve nearly run out of John Denver lyrics for my titles.
I’m having a blast revisiting characters from the first book in the second book. As I reader, I’ve always enjoyed that, but I’m finding it even more exciting as a writer. I was delighted when one of my critique partners read a scene from Country Roads in which the lead characters from Take Me Home appeared and commented, “It is so great to see Claire and Tim again! Now I understand why readers get hooked on a series.” Music to my ears!
THANK YOU Nancy!

Hurricane Sandy is on her way!  According to all the reports, this approaching storm is like no other we have seen here on the East Coast.  At least it’s one we haven’t experienced for decades.

Now my husband and I have completely different philosophies about such matters.  My motto is, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”  His is, “Don’t fix it unless it’s broken.”

Sometimes I wonder how we’ve been married so long.  I’m not obsessive; I mean I don’t own gas masks and have a stash of Cipro in my cabinet.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, by the way.)  But he’s watching the news, and yelling at the TV, “Wolf, wolf, wolf.”  You know, I swear, if it weren’t for me, he’d be the old guy with the beard you see on TV who’s determined to ride out the storm when everyone else has evacuated because he believes all the meteorologists are crying, “Wolf!”

Last year, during Hurricane Irene, my town became an island and we lost power for days.  It was horrible!  People’s homes were condemned.   So I don’t think I’m overreacting in the least.

Even though he thinks I’m a worry wart, he agreed to do a food shop.  He also agreed it was time to invest in a generator.  Of course, by the time this revelation hit, no generators were left.  Also disturbing was the fact that the grocery store was out of water.

Not to be defeated, I searched three more stores and got the last two cases of water.  Just before me, an elderly man had gotten three cases with the help of some woman.  Otherwise, I would have taken the last five cases.  I have a house full of people and this water will only last a few days.  All the while, there was this guy there staring at the elderly man and myself like we were crazy.  As I looked at his sparsely filled cart, I wanted to shout at him, “Why are you looking at us like we’re certifiable?  Haven’t you heard about this storm coming?”  Then I secretly wondered if he and my husband were in cahoots with each other.

I got home, checked for batteries, flashlights, and candles, and put water in the tub.  We’ve cooked food, put away lawn furniture, and I feel we’ve prepared as best as we can.  So now, I’m sitting at home, writing, reading, wishing for the best, and secretly hoping my husband is right.

Fondly,

Elizabeth

The weekend of October 11-14th, Elizabeth John and I were at the New Jersey Romance Writers’ conference!
What a conference! It was fabulous! Truly one of the best NJ has ever done.
It started Thursday with the conference committee getting things ready and a quick lunch. Then I went on to the airport to pick up Heather Graham and her husband Dennis! Coming back to the hotel, we were stuck in rush hour traffic, but I didn’t care–they are such gracious and fascinating people and we talked and talked.
Thursday night there was a dinner with some of our keynote speakers–Heather, Sabrina Jeffries and Susan Wiggs. I got to sit next to Sabrina Jeffries and learned a lot about what an intesesting life she’s led–but it was also full of hardships.
Friday morning I helped here and there, and then Elizabteh joined me. En route to lunch we ran into Heather and she and Dennis joined us for the buffet lunch–again, the conversation just flowed and we had such fun!


Then the conference started in earnest. I moderated Christine Bush’s First timers’ workshop–always lots of laughs. then on to the Published Author’s retreat. First Mary Jo Putney spoke about the state of the publishing industry. Then we broke into Roundtable discussions. I attended Jade Lee’s roundtable on social media and Heather’s Graham’s on the things that drive us crazy in this business. Both were informative, relaxing (you get to have chocolate-covered pretzels and wine and really let your hair down) and the conversation was interesting and lively.  The roundtables give published authors a chance to talk about our industry.  NJRW was one of the first groups to offer these roundtables.
After that, we got ready for the Awards ceremony. My book “Borrowing the Bride” was nominated for a Golden Leaf award. I didn’t win, but I was so flattered to be nominated–competition is fierce for this award. And I got to hang out with some old friends I hand’t seen for a while and meet some new people!


Saturday started bright and early with breakfast and Sabrina Jeffries’ motivating speech. Then on to the special workshop given by Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick. Then I had an editor and an agent appointment, both of which went well.
Lunch was great fun. I sat at a table with other Golden Leaf finalists and we got to hear Heather Graham’s fascinating and inspirational speech. Then, more workshops, the literacy booksigning, and dinner with friends! And of course there was the after party at night with dancing and karaoke. So much fun!
I came home from the conference totally inspired, exhausted but energized at the same time.
Since then I have been writing every day!
I’m looking forward to next year’s conference already!
With enthusiasm,
Roni Denholtz

Boy was that one amazing weekend! Tiring, crowded yes, but fun. I have to say, I’ve never been to a conference of such magnitude where I drove in every day rather than staying at a local hotel.

Dave and I started out on Thursday afternoon to go in and he’d suggested we take the ferry over to the city. Now, you have to understand that oftentimes even going someplace we’ve been to before, when we are together we get lost. I’ll tell him to take exit whatsit and instead he’ll take interchange whichamacallit and next thing you know we’re lost and arguing over the matter. So, when he suggested the ferry, I was none to keen on the idea, even less so when I pulled the directions off yahoo and say all the toll roads, bare rights and multiple exits all within about a mile of each other. Um…how about a large dose of NO.Finally I convinced him to just take the way he always goes in and we’d just park in Hoboken and take the PATH over. So, we’re driving down JFK Blvd in Weehawken, and there is the sign for the NY WaterFerry. We look at each other and he says, “You want to try it.” – I’m like, “Sure, since it’s right there.”

I pulled out the directions I’d printed and noticed we were now on the roads given by said directions, but without using one toll road or taking exits that were all mushed up together. I’m like…all right, why did they make these directions 5 x harder than they had to be? It didn’t make any sense. However, the weather was fine, if not a bit nippy, and it was a good day to be on the water. Not to mention the view going over on the ferry is spectacular.

We met up with our friends Malorie and walked around and shopped while waiting on her sister, Taylor, to get out of classes as NYU. Met up with our friend, Glenn Whitmore. Can I tell you how much fun we had this weekend? There were some spots of fail on the part of the organizers, but all in all, it was a good show. There were over a hundred thousand people at the event, which if you saw the crowds down on the grand concourse headed toward Artists Alley, you’d believe those numbers to be true.

Shopped some. Found Blakes 7 on DVD along with Continuum, nabbed both of those. Talked with artists and writers at their individual booths. Met the lovely and awesome Cerece Rennie Murphy, a self-pubbed author and owner of LionSky publishing. Talked with her a while about publishing and having a booth at the con. Didn’t have card with me, so promised to come back and meet up with her again.

Day two Dave and I went to see Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld novels, speak. Wasn’t too pleased that they had this little old, soft spoken man in an open hall where other events were going on around him. (Big NYCCfail). But on the upside, got to hear a reading of his new book Dodger, which is not set in Discworld, but goes into the life and times of the Artful Dodger from Dickens’s “Oliver Twist.” – He went into a bit of the history of the character and how he researched. Interesting stuff.

Dave got a couple of his hardback graphic novel collections signed by the amazing and super nice George Perez, a comic legend. It’s really cut to watch Dave around these guys he grew up reading, his like a 12 year old kid again.

Day three – Saturday the crowds were out en mass. There were so many people it was hard to squeeze our way through the crowd to even find our friends. But I did. At the Quidditch pitch. Yes, that’s right…everyone’s favorite sport from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is now a real sport. (Check this out, NYU has their own Quidditch team – isn’t that awesome?) So, me and Mals watched the exhibition game while Dave walked around and took pics. Then I had to go upstairs to an area called The Block and get fitted for my fangs by none other than Father Sebastian. Let me just say what a nice guy he is. Very interesting and informative to talk to. We got into a discussion about publishing and books (he’s published works in esoteric non-fiction). Oh, and the fangs turned out fabulous. I really can’t wait to wear them at Author’s After Dark in Savannah, GA in 2013.

Also, met Vickie from the Robot Museum. So cool. What a lovely and fun lady she is – had a great chat with her about cons, crowds and books.

Day four – Bought a lovely fun, rocketship pendant from Vickie. Went back to talk to Cerece and found out how the con went for her. She did amazing! So, a big happy dance for her. Bought a book from her and got a hug. Gave her my card and shared info on other conferences around the country. Got Mike Mignola to autograph a couple of our Hellboy graphic novels. Nice guy, but I found I had really nothing to say to him. I just kind of went blank. And if you knew me…you’d know that doesn’t happen often. I can talk to a post and think of things to say.

All in all it was a wonderful time. Well worth the money spent and even greater for the times shared with friends. I will be back…oh, yes…I will be back. I think I’m planning on snagging a table of my own next year and going in as a vendor.

-Kat

This last weekend I hosted my sixth holistic fair, the second one this year, and the first ever in the month of October.  Over the course of the last five years the fair held in May has had only one weather mishap — light rain.  Other than that, the weather has always been really good and very accommodating.  I say accommodating because I do my best to connect with the forces of nature and express my desire to serve the Highest Good with the events that I hold.  I know that the expansion of consciousness, the exposure to new ways of thinking, new modalities of healing, and new expressions of creative energy all aid the Highest Good, and that is what my One Spirit Festival is all about.
So, with that in mind I set my intention yearly for lovely weather on each of the festival days.  This year the weatherman was not on board.  Last week he predicted a 70% chance of rain all day in our little corner of the world, Clinton, New Jersey.  And it was going to be cold.  We had a pretty potent prayer chain set-up, all of the over forty exhibitors, many of whom are metaphysical practitioners, their families, and many of those who planned to attend.  By mid-week the prediction was down to a 50% chance of rain — we were gaining ground!

Then came Friday morning and the weatherman, who was not part of our prayer chain, bumped the probability up to 80%.  We prayed harder and I called all my outdoor vendors and made sure everyone had a tent.  Two friends lent extra tents and we were covered, but not delighted to need them.

Then came Sunday.  Mr. Weatherman said the rain would start after 10 a.m., so everyone had a clear shot at setting up without the added complication of rain and mud and wet leaves.  Ten a.m. came and went and there was no rain.  There was no rain at all until 7 p.m. and then it was light and did not interfere with the final stages of packing up and going home.  It was a successful day.

I will not again doubt the power of focused thought.  Maybe we didn’t get balmy, but we didn’t get the 7″ of snow we had last year at this time, and we didn’t get the projected downpours the areas around us got this year.  I am so very grateful that we got “dry!”

And I do believe the Highest Good was served in many ways, not the lest of which was the way the weather worked out.  It was a lesson for all of us — a lesson in faith and a lesson in focused thought.

May all your lessons be as positive!

Christina

P.S. The website for the event is this: http://www.OneSpiritFestival.org, just copy and paste to see what we were up to!

One Spirit Festival Fall 2012