Free Holiday Story

I don’t know about you, but I love, love, love the holidays. Even though I’m in Sunny California, I still dream of  the white Christmases of my childhood. I remember as a little girl, I would sit at the window wrapped in my blanket, determined to stay awake until Santa arrived. Because of course, i wanted to see him with my own eyes. More often than not, I woke up Christmas morning with my face stuck to an ice cold window and a stiff neck. That darn Santa never did let me catch sight of him.

Another thing I love about the holidays is giving gifts. It’s so fun to see people’s faces light up in anticipation of what is in the brightly wrapped and ribboned package, isn’t it?

As my gift to you I wanted to give you a holiday story called, Sally & Gem.

You can download it at Noisetrade or Instafreebie

The story comes in PDF, Mobi, and ePub file formats. If you do not have a Kindle or eReader you can download kindle for pc, tablet, or phone here.

And an ePub can be read with Digital Editions as well as an eReader.

And a PDF can be read on your phone, pc, laptop, or tablet.

Please feel free to share this post and/or the download links to the story with friends or family. I love spreading holiday cheer.

Big love and Happy Happy Holidays.

Annie

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Indie Spotlight on Paranormal Mystery Writer Casi McLean

Piper Taylor concedes she’ll never fall in love, until a treacherous storm spirals her into the arms of the handsome Nick Cramer. Unrelenting remorse over a past relationship haunts Nick, but he can’t deny the mysterious connection and hot desire Piper evokes.

The allure of a secret portal hidden beneath Atlanta’s Lake Lanier tempts him into seizing the opportunity to change his mistakes. But his time slip triggers consequences beyond his wildest dreams.

Can Piper avoid the international espionage and terrorism of 2001 New York, find Nick, and bring him home before he alters the fabric of time, or will the lovers drift forever Beyond The Mist 

 

How a ‘Wrinkle in Time’ Inspired my Writing Career

For as long as I remember, I’ve loved the idea of supernatural. Not blatant horror stories, vampires, sci-fi aliens, or other worldly fantasy, but the notion of “what if” that entices imagination into believing there’s more than what meets the eye.

My fourth grade teacher nudged the author within me when she read aloud Madeleine L’Engles, A Wrinkle In Time. The enchanting story opened the door to my future. I read every time travel story I could get my hands on and watched every time slip movie. The question niggled at me. If time travel was “a thing” how would the concept likely occur?

Years later, when I heard about the eerie lore attached to Atlanta’s Lake Sidney Lanier, a man-made lake located in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, the tales fascinated me. Plagued with mysterious disappearances, freak accidents, strange phenomenon, and ghostly occurrences, the lake became the perfect setting for my passion to bloom.

What if the construction created more than a lake? What if the excavation triggered a seismic shift, which when given enough energy, opened a portal to a different dimension…a rip in time connecting past to future? I loved the possibilities. I envisioned a town that time forgot and the history and creepy tales attached to the rural area that sleeps beneath Atlanta’s famous lake, became book one of my Lake Lanier Mysteries, Beneath The Lake.

Homes, churches and buildings still linger beneath the surface, abandoned by displaced families and businesses. The moonshiners of the 1940’s added built-in suspense and sparked the birth of NASCAR. Looper Speedway, a half-mile dirt track where bootleggers competed with their souped-up cars, bared its cement stands in a recent draught. And there’s a Lady of the Lake who haunts the ghost town. Some say she lures victims to her watery grave. The truth is, swimmers get trapped among the deadfall of sheered-off trees and town remains. Even expert divers get tangled beneath the murky surface, hence the lake’s unnerving label: Lanier never gives up its dead.

I moved to Lake Lanier last year and my home overlooks a beautiful cove. The glimmering lake is a solace for me. Taking walks on trails around lake, and talking to neighbors who have lived in the area for generations feeds my muse. There’s no telling how many tales Lake Lanier Mysteries will yield, but if this inspiration should ever dry up, my passion for a touch of supernatural will keep me submerged in fodder. For now, Between The Shadows, book three, flourishes as my current work in progress. This story slips back to 1865 Georgia at the end of the Civil War, where two more Reynolds Cove characters promise to lure you into their own romantic suspense. I hope you all will join us as Lake Lanier Mysteries continues.

I love venues where I can talk about the inspiration behind writing. Thank you so much for hosting me, Anita. And thanks for reading everyone.

BIO: Award winning author, Casi McLean, pens novels to stir the soul with romance, suspense, and a sprinkle of magic. Her writing crosses genres from ethereal, captivating shorts with eerie twist endings to believable time slips, mystical plots, and sensual romantic suspense. Her novel Beneath The Lake, is the 2016 winner of the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for BEST Romantic Suspense.  If you’d like to learn more about Cassi you can visit her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Surviving the Creek Fire

LA City firefighters put out hot spots in the Skirball Fire on a canyon along Linda Flora Drive in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, on Wednesday, December 6, 2017.
(Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

You may have heard that we’ve been having a lot of fires in CA this week. Unless you live in a cave, I doubt you’d been able to avoid the coverage. And sadly, the media likes to play up the worst aspects of a devastating event like this and get people even more worked up than they already are. So, I thought I would just tell you my story – perhaps it will provide a little perspective.

Monday night the winds were high and my friend and I went to dinner. We were even making jokes about how ‘wind’ was southern California’s version of winter. We’d heard about the Ventura fires of course, but they were far far away.

Tuesday morning, the wind wasn’t so funny. Around 8 AM my room mate told me we had some smoke and a few little flare ups on the hillside just down the street from us. I heard the helicopters flying above and was confident they’d snuff them out quickly. Just after 9 AM, the police came to our door and told us we had to evacuate.

Shock. Even during the Station House fire, which was horrendous, we hadn’t been told to evac.

Things went from somewhat concerned to flat out terrified in moments. I stood in the middle of my room trying to figure out what to take with me, feeling like a hand was pushing me out the door at the same time. When people say things about your mind spinning, this was it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so scared.

I ran around tossing things in a bag—toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, my external hard drive, charger, kindle. Then I had to think about my pets. I have a little dog but also two cats. There was nowhere to take any of them. And with all the commotion – the cats were hiding and I couldn’t find them.

The only thing I could do was put out a lot of food and water and hope like hell nothing would happen to the house. I threw what I could into a bag, put my dog in her carrier and piled everything into the car. Of course I had no idea where I was going. The one shelter in the area was already full. The other shelter was on the other side of the red flag zone, and the two friends who I might stay with were smack in the middle of things.

As I drove toward the street corner, I saw my room mate outside a neighbor’s house and stopped to ask him why he was just standing there. They all said they were staying. I was torn. Should I stay or should I go? Though there was a fair amount of visible smoke and a few flare ups on the hillside (a somewhat common sight when you live up here) we didn’t really seem to be in any danger. And I had nowhere to go. I also knew if I left, the chances of being able to get back in where slim to none. So I pulled back in the drive, leaving all my stuff in there, and went back into the house. I settled the dog and then joined my neighbors.

Photo by Ben Kuo on Unsplash

As the day went on, we saw more fire. Closer. We saw huge billowing clouds of black and brown smoke. We saw flare ups on the hillside and in the Wash (a dry riverbed that runs behind our house). But we also saw the helicopters racing back and forth dropping water and retardant.

I turned on the news. I scoured the internet for any updates about our fire and where it was but more importantly where it was headed. I cringed every time the wind gusted and rattled the rafters.

I called my two friends. One was okay. The other had flames shooting up behind her house.

Throughout the day it was a cycle of calling my friends for updates on their situation, watching news coverage, gathering outside with neighbors to watch the firefighters, and praying. A lot of praying.

I went on face book to update friends and family so they wouldn’t think I was dead or trapped.

My eyes burned, I smelled of smoke, my lungs hurt. My body ached. My mind raced.

We climbed up on ladders and kept eye on the Wash and the hills. We hosed each others’ roofs and lawns and the causeway behind the houses. We reassured each other. We cried. We – none of us – really slept that night. The helicopters flew all night. In the darkness the hills glowed like live coals, orange and hot. Nothing seemed real.

For the next three days, our lives were about keeping watch, praying, checking in with friends, trying to get damage reports, hoping nobody would end up homeless. It was a weird kind of prison. I’d committed to staying and I couldn’t leave.

BUT the thing that I started to notice as time passed was the way the media was reporting the fires. I noticed that they kept putting up pictures from the first day as though that were still happening, they only showed the scariest and worst images they could find. Not once did I see them take a crew to an area where things were okay, where neighbors were helping each other, where people were keeping vigil, protecting each other and their homes.

And to me, that is the story that should be being told. Yes, the fires are God awful and I pray that they are all out very soon. And my heart breaks for those who have lost everything. But it’s times like these where you really see and feel other people’s humanity, their hearts, and their love.

We are out of danger and our evac has been lifted.

Thankfully, no one I know personally lost anything, nor was anyone injured. In fact, in the Creek Fire, the last I read it was only 15 homes that were lost. Not the 30 or 40 they kept reporting. We did lose some animals, horses mostly, and that’s terrible, but no people.

And I truly believe that our staying made a difference – that the constant watching, the watering, the working together kept our area safer and maybe even saved a few homes.

From the bottom of my heart I thank anyone who uttered a prayer for us – friends, family and strangers alike. We felt your prayers, we really did – and they helped.

If you can, please donate to relief organizations to help the victims. So many people were not as lucky as we were and need so much help. Ventura Country United Way, Salvation Army Ventura, LA Country Animals

And so my friends, thank you again, and I pray that this never happens to you or anyone you love.

Annie

Book Review – The Grave by Diane M Dickson

The GraveThe Grave by Diane M. Dickson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my second book from Diane Dixon and I have to say I’m becoming a fan. It’s so nice to find a new writer whose style and work you really like.

This is a story of two very broken people who somehow find solace in one another. In a very odd yet poetic way they save each other. It’s hard to say much about the story without giving spoilers so I’ll say I read it in under two evenings. A real page turner. And the writing itself is such a joy to read that it makes you want to keep going.

My only problem with the book was it got a little head hoppy starting at about the halfway mark. Which caused some confusion for me – also there were a few places when it seems like there should’ve been a scene break and there wasn’t.

Although of the two books I’ve read from this author, I would recommend her to anyone.

View all my reviews

Free or Almost Free Things to do During the Holidays That Won’t Stress You Out

I don’t know about you but I am so over, stressing myself out because of Christmas. Worrying about the perfect gifts, the perfect meal, the perfect venue just guarantees your holiday is gonna be stressed.

To this day, I remember childhood Christmases where my mother was so intent on creating the perfect everything that she was utterly miserable by the time the day arrived. It still makes me sad that because she tried so hard to make Christmas wonderful for everyone else that she missed the joy herself.

Christmas is the time for family, fun, and reflection.

I offer the following ideas as some easy but fun and peace inducing activities to indulge in this holiday season.

Collect pine cones. They are everywhere. Even here in Southern California we have lots of pine trees. They come in all sizes, smell wonderful, are great fire starters for the fireplace, and make great elements in decorating and craft projects. Plus the walking in the cool air and doing something as simple as collecting pine cones will give your mind and body time to breathe and relax.

Tour the neighborhood for light displays. When the weather turns cold we tend to shelter inside and we tend to eat heavier foods too. Why not bundle up after dinner with the kids, a friend, or your special someone and do a little walking tour of the neighborhood lights. In my neighborhood, we have quite a few people who go all out and something about sparkling lights or entire Santa Workshops shining in the night makes the air feel magical. Plus you burn a few of those Christmas cookies off while you’re at it.

Baking parties/cookie swaps. I love the idea of baking parties and if you have a big kitchen or a friend has, that’s definitely something that can be fun do with some friends. Especially if you have a nice bottle of wine or mulled cider. But you can also work out a cooperative with friends and family. Instead of making all the many treats and dishes you make every year, get with some friends or family members and work out swaps. You make the sugar cookies, your sister makes the pumpkin loaves, your mom the jello mold and so on. It’s actually easier to make a lot of one thing that a little of a lot of things. And when it comes time to swap it’s fun.

Sign up for Book Bub or Instafreebie and get some free books to read by the fire. The colder weather also makes people slow down and want to curl up with a good book. Book Bub and Instafreebie (as well as other sites) are free to sign up for and you can choose from free and discounted books (from traditional best sellers to brand new indie authors) to download. All you need after that is some warm fuzzy socks and a mug of hot chocolate.

Christmas movie cooperative/marathon. Personally, I have a huge collection of Christmas movies and there is at least a few days during the holiday season that I want to just watch sweet Christmas movies. Work out a little lending library among friends and family to share your Christmas movies. Or just cook up some popcorn and hot chocolate and host a Christmas movie marathon. You can even make it a potluck.

Take winter photos. We’ve all seen them – those beautiful winter wonderland photos that all seem to possess some magic in them. Why not create some of your own? Grab your phone or your camera and just take a walk. Find something that strikes your eye and take few snaps at different angles. You get some fresh air, burn a few calories and come home with some possibly beautiful photos that you can use in holiday cards or as prints. Free online photo editing sites like Canva, iPiccy, and Pxlr can help you further enhance and design with your photos.

Share a little bit of yourself. I know I know, we’re all so busy with everything during the holidays but don’t forget your elderly neighbors or family members who can’t get out much. Offer to shovel their sidewalk. Make an extra batch of cookies or increase that soup recipe and bring it to a shut in or local shelter. Or offer to read at the community center or local library. Giving of yourself really costs so little and can mean so much to another person.

Indie Spotlight on Horror & YA Author, Ron Chapman

For anyone who’s lost a parent or a loved one, Never Forget is an emotional roller coaster that will grab you by your heart and hit home. As a father of three, Chapman struggles to recall his forgotten childhood memories with his father that he locked away so long ago, while at the same time, creating memories with his own sons.

Never Forget is a true story with a twist. Stay to the end to find out the twist. A box of tissue is recommended.

Stepping Outside the Horror & YA Box to Write About Family

My is Ron Chapman and I’m an Amazon bestseller of horror and YA. A while ago, I decided to step outside of the box and write about a different subject matter than I usually write about—a subject that’s been bothering me since I was a kid. It’s also a subject that is dear to my heart.

Some people fear heights, spiders, snakes or even intimacy. Me though, I fear being forgotten by my kids and to me, that is the worse kind of fear anyone could experience.

My fear of being forgotten didn’t happen overnight. This fear of being forgotten happened in two stages of my life.

The first stage was when my father died. I think I was 15 or 16 at the time.  It was hard for me to handle and understand. I always looked up to my father. He was my hero and then when he was taken from me, it was as if someone had ripped my heart out. My hero, my protector was gone. The passing of my father hit me so hard that I took all the memories we had as a father and son and shut them away hoping that maybe it would make the loss of my father a little easier.

I was wrong.

Not a day has gone by since I was a kid that I don’t think about my father. The memories of my father and me are still locked away and lost. I remember fragments of a father and son but that’s it.

The second stage was when I became a father. I don’t want my sons to ever forget the memories of their father like I did mine. Over the years, I’ve tried to build lasting memories so that my sons will be able to look back on life when they have their own kids and say, “I remember when my dad did this with me.” Or “I remember doing this with my dad.”

There will come a time in my kid’s lives when I will no longer be there for them and all they will have will be their memories of the times we had as father and son. I want my kids to remember the times with their father as if it were just minutes ago.

My kids are my life. They are what makes my heart beat. It pains me to think that one day my kids will be out on their own with their own family. Oh sure, I’ll have my loving wife by my side, but it just won’t be the same.

Never Forget is a story I felt had to be written and shared with everyone. If there’s a lesson to be learned from the story, it’s that life can be short in so many ways. People come and people go, especially the ones you love—so build those lasting memories and hold on to them. Never forget them.

BIO: Ron Chapman is a man of many hats, depending on the day. Some days he’s a construction worker, a pirate, or a swimming coach. He’s even tried his hand at being a doll and toy maker. He can even be found walking with the dead.Being a part time god isn’t bad either, creating worlds one moment then turning around and destroying, the next.

He also has a license to kill and will not hesitate to do so. You see… he’s a writer that loves to write horror stories and not just any run of the mill horror stories. He walks a thin line with his stories between being dark and twisted madness. He will take your nightmares and turn them into fantasies and dreams. There is no happily ever after in his stories but there are however, happy endings. Not the ones you would expect though. Beware, if you get on his wrong side he may just write you into a story and deal with you that way.

If you want to know more about this wild man, follow him on Twitter @RonMtDew and/or Instagram @Ronchapman69.

 

 

 

 

Indie Spotlight on Indie Author of Spiritual and Supernatural Fiction P.S. Winn

Journeys is the story of a young man who, because of a car wreck, has a near death experience. While Josh walked through that valley of the shadow of death, doorways opened. Arriving on the other side, Josh is told he has to return because an evil presence stepped through and made its’ way to earth and Josh’s hometown. Josh’s obligation is to find and destroy the evil. Josh returns and finds he was given some very unique gifts and two special friends to help him on his journey.

Writing – an Incredible Journey

When I began writing, trying to somehow preserve the words and ideas in my heart and floating in my head, I had no idea where it would lead. Now I have published fifty books in five years. One of the questions I am asked most is which book was my favorite to write. To me, that is like asking which of my seven children is my favorite. I love them all, but each has their own reason for being special. The same goes for the stories I write. The book I think took me on the most interesting journey is “Obligations.”

For me, there is a distinct link between the spiritual and the supernatural. That connection twists and weaves itself through many of the books I write.

I also think the books I write for preschoolers are important. Children who read do better in life. I have four books I hope instill the love of reading in young ones and also teach lessons that are essential.

The most important book I believe I have written is based on a true story. The man the story is about is an inventor who patented an invention that could burn garbage with no pollution and was creating an electrical charge in the process. The man, whose name had to be changed, wanted to clean our air while giving people cheap or free energy. Government bureaucrats with their big oil backers suppressed the idea and the man.

I wonder how many other great ideas have been silenced and how many important inventions suffered “Suppression” in the same way.

Although I love all my books, I give credit for the success I’ve had to the readers. Their vivid imaginations take the stories to new levels. A person who loves that journey of grabbing a book and sinking into the depths adds a different dimension. I think each reader sees the story a bit differently in their own minds. The story becomes personal to them and even better than I can imagine. The same reason the books are always better than the movies. The reader makes their own movie in their mind as they read and no two step away with the same pictures.

I believe, as a writer, I blend my own experiences into the stories I create. Along with that, I leave a piece of my heart, soul and life in each book. I think the reader does the same.

With each book, written and then read, that connection is what makes each book unique.

My health problems are making it harder for me to write. I write all the stories longhand before I struggle to type the words. That is beginning to be a bigger challenge to continue than I would like.

I hope with some innovative technologies and personal ingenuity I will produce more books. Maybe not another fifty in five years, but it is the sharing of the stories that float through my mind with readers that makes writing an incredible journey.

I have to thank my husband for his support, my children and grandchildren for input and believing in me. I have amazing friends, on-line and off who keep me going when I struggle. They are my life line and I am blessed to have them. Not only is writing an  incredible journey, but so is life.

P.S. Winn started writing when her husband had several heart attacks. He was told to move to a lower elevation. He wanted to go home to Montana and be by family. So, that is where they are now after spending thirty years in Utah.

P.S. is also an avid top ten reader on GoodReads and you can find the books she’s read and written there. If you would like to learn more about P.S. you can follow her on Facebook, join her Journeys Facebook group, and visit her GoodReads author page.

 

What’s the story with the eBook cover design?

Some of you may have noticed there is a new page called eBook Cover Design on this blog. Perhaps you scratched your head, wondering what on earth I’m up to this time. Let me explain…

About halfway through my new series ah…er…trilogy I realized that due to budgetary restraints I would not be able to hire a book cover designer. I know, I know, you must NEVER design your own book covers. All the experts say so.

Still, authors do all the time and granted many of those covers are not so great, but some of them are pretty good. And let’s be honest, some of the so-called professional covers leave much to be desired. And top of that I figured if it was good enough for Hugh Howey, then it was good enough for me.

The Learning Experience

Realizing I’d have to do my own covers I set out to learn myself something about book covers and design. What I thought would be a relatively short learning curve turned out to be a months long self edu-ma-cation. And man did I make some pretty awful ugly covers for a while. But I kept at it.

I practiced. I learned Canva and then Pxlr. Then I discovered you can’t get high resolution covers from those platforms, which was why even the covers that started to look pretty good still had that grainy amateur look about them. Finally, I faced facts and taught myself GIMP. Also a free shareware but with many similar capabilities as Photo Shop.

I read Derek Murphy’s book “Book Cover Design Secrets” (highly recommend by the way if you want to learn about book cover design). And I just kept at it.

Somewhere along the way, things gelled and I realized I’d learned how to design book covers. (Soon, I’ll show you the covers for the new series but not today.) Anyway, after all the time, study, and practice I also realized that I really enjoyed designing covers. I find it relaxing and it feeds a creative urge I’ve always had to create ‘art.’ Not art as in the written word but you know art art.

Paying it Forward

While all this was happening, I’d also gotten to know a lot of indie authors and have made some great friends in that regard. Who have helped me in so many ways. And like me, many of them are operating on limited budgets and resources are stretched thin.

In case you were unaware, there is a real cottage industry out there selling stuff to writers (especially indies) – from magic formulas that will make you a best seller to how to format eBooks, to marketing, to email lists, and so on. Some of these services are great, some of them are exploitative, and some are quite expensive for an indie author struggling along.

So, long story short, I decided to offer pre-made covers at the nominal fee of $25. Along with the cover you get some customization, your title, your name and tagline, we could change font colors and things like that. Mostly, I just wanted to offer indie authors a decent cover that they could afford and would be somewhat unique (that didn’t look like all the other pre-mades) to them and their story.

So that’s the story. If any of these covers ring your bell, feel free to drop me a line and we’ll make it happen. If not, I may be able to do a custom cover for you for just a bit more. And even if you don’t need or want a book cover they might be fun to look at.

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Have a great weekend.

Annie ❤