To all my readers … myspace graphic comments

Christmas gift suggestions:

To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.

                              Oren Arnold

Hey, Santa! Thanks for the Early Prezzy!

I got an early present yesterday, from The Romance Studio. My erotic novella, Private Property, was nominated for three different CAPA awards (that’s the Cupid and Psyche Awards). The story itself is up for Best Contemporary Erotic Romance, and I’m personally nominated as Favorite Erotic Author. The third nomination is for Private Property’s cover. It’s been nominated in the Ariana Overton Award for Best Cover Art category.> Kudos to Natalie Winters, it sure is a classy cover!

I’m not sure how the nomination or voting process works, but from what I gather, the reviewers over at The Romance Studio nominated me, and they will determine the winners amongst themselves from the list of nominees.

I’ll be honest in admitting that I doubt I have a hope in heck of winning any of the categories – not up against such fantastic authors as Lauren Dane, Lorelei James, Maya Banks and Jaci Burton. But it really is a thrill just to be nominated. Yes, I know, I can see you rolling your eyes at that one, but this is the first time I’ve ever been nominated, so I’m going to savor them as the validation that I CAN write despite the number of times I mutter “this is crap” as I’m writing those first drafts.

The entire list of nominated books is here.  You may recognize quite a few of the names as authors who have been my guests over the past year. Congratulations to Inez Kelley for Jinxed, Ann Lory for her Bait and Switch, Ava Gray (who visited here as Ann Aguirre) for Skin Game, Maya Banks for her Sweet Seduction, Jaci Burton for her Unraveled, Lorelei James for — takes a deep breath — Raw, Rough and Ready, Miss Firecracker and Shoulda Been A Cowboy, fellow TRW member Morgan Ashbury’s Wanton Wager, Cat Johnson’s Unridden, Eliza Gayle’s Purgatory, Shelley Munro for her Fringe Benefits, and to Deidre Knight (and upcoming guest blogger) for her Red Kiss. Congrats also to my fellow Snippet Saturday authors – Lauren Dane, Anya Bast, Moira Rogers who I’d love to have as guests one day.

I really wanted to congratulate each Samhain author who was nominated, but frankly, there are quite a few of us and since the list is already up over on The Romance Studio, and it’s almost time for me to go pick up Curly from work as I write this, I’m wimping out and asking you to go over there and take a look for yourself.

Since it’s Christmas Eve, and I’m going to be spending today trying out some new sugarless recipes (I know, what’s the point?) I’ll leave you with a video that never fails to make me laugh out loud.

I’m not sure if it’s the lyrics themselves or if the noises they use to bleep out the swear or even that Australian accent that tickles my fancy, but it’s become a Christmas staple around the Braemel household. This is the censored version, but you know what they’re saying despite the strange noises. In fact, at times I think it’s funnier than the real words.

Crystal Rain Love knows the Real Meaning of Christmas

Finding The Real Meaning Of Christmas

It’s almost Christmas. And I’m not crying. I really thought I would have been this year. You see, I lost my job of ten years last August and my world went spiraling out of control. Was I scared? You bet. I was petrified. How would I pay for my house? Feed my kids? Put Christmas presents under the tree? Who would help me?

I was very surprised who did and didn’t, and these surprises taught me a few things.

First off, my mom was right. She was. I have to admit it. My brother and I used to fight like cats and dogs and she’d tsk at us, telling us, “One day you will be each other’s best friends.” We looked at her like she was crazy, then made faces at each other and went right on fighting. But she was right. More than anyone, my brother was there for me like no one else. And I admit it. He is my best friend. I never saw that one coming.

You know who else was there when I needed them? People I really didn’t know. Which taught me there are still truly good people in the world, something I really needed to know during this ordeal. Authors I didn’t really know read a few tweets I’d posted about being upset after getting off the phone with my mortgage company and bought my books, then suggested all their followers buy the books. It didn’t really drum up a lot of sales, but it touched my heart and gave me hope, which was batter than the royalties I would have gotten. Another author I’d met through my publisher, but never physically met, offered to send gift cards for gas or food, and offered to help me get Christmas presents for my kids. Fortunately, by then the unemployment had come in, but the thought of someone I barely knew offering something so generous… I really needed that.

And, my faith was reaffirmed more than ever, because through it all I prayed to be able to keep a roof over my kids’ heads and food in their stomachs. God came through, as always. Even when he worked through strangers.

I now have a Christmas tree put up and it is loaded up with presents. My children will not be disappointed on Christmas morning, but the greatest gift they received this year, was something you can’t put under the tree. They learned the most valuable lesson you can learn this time of year: That it is better to give than to receive.

We usually give some coins to the Salvation Army as we pass them on our way into the grocery store, but this year we gave bills. Ones. Fives, whatever. Why? Because at one point we didn’t have them, but now we do. We aren’t rich, but we have food on the table and gifts under our tree. We don’t need the few extra bills in our pockets.

And this year we didn’t just buy gifts for our loved ones. We went to the store and the kids each picked out a present they would love for themselves… and we took those toys to the firestation. The kids walked in and put the toys in the Toys For Tots bin and were told by the firemen how much their donations were appreciated.

My oldest came out, sat in the car, and said, “I can’t believe how good that felt. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this good in my life. This is the best thing we’ve ever done at Christmas.” 

They got it. At such a young age, they got IT. After knowing what it was like to worry about not having anything, they understood the importance of helping those who need it. They learned the beauty of giving to someone you don’t know, and they learned gratitude.

They learned that Christmas is not about the presents, but the faith, hope, and love that is shared and celebrated.

You know, I probably will cry this year, but happy tears. My children learned a valuable lesson about generosity that they will hopefully teach their own children, and I can take pride in that. And though I’ll be sad as I think about my daddy who passed away and can no longer celebrate with us, I know my Father in heaven carried me through this year and I can always find solace in the fact that that one will always be with us, every day, every moment, of our lives. And even though I have yet to be hired elsewhere, I know it will be alright. God will take care of us, even if he sometimes chooses to get to us through strangers.

Merry Christmas & God Bless!


Time’s running out!

Just a quick reminder that the Rocking around the Raven Christmas Tree contest will be closing on December 24th, so if you want to get your entry in, you’d better do it before Thursday night.

Also week 3 of the Samhellion contest ends soon too – with a Kindle eReader as the prize, it’s worth it to enter.  Week 4 will start December 24th, and the prize will be a Sony Reader.

Also, while I’m going to be posting in a rather hit-and-miss fashion over the holidays, I’ll still be hosting my guest bloggers.  Tomorrow Crystal Rain Love is my guest–she’s not plugging a book, but talking about finding the true holiday spirit (it’s really one you shouldn’t miss, especially if you’re jaded by Christmas this year)  Next week the gracious Victoria Janssen is visiting. Let’s show them some real holiday spirit!

Stuck for a present idea? Save a life!

While the US eastern seaboard digs out from the dumping of snow they got, we’re enjoying a sunny day with no snow. I shouldn’t gloat, we get our fair share, but frankly, I’m glad we didn’t get any of that blizzard this time.

I’m going to re-run a post I did last year, for those last minute gift ideas you may need — because although it’s an unglamorous present, it can save lives.

An Unglamorous Present
(originally posted December 7, 2008)

A few years back, I was Christmas shopping for my sister and parents. Since they’re hard to shop for, I decided to buy a decidedly unglamorous present. I bought them each a carbon monoxide detector (I think I also bought them smoke alarms too – this was before Ontario law required every house to have a smoke alarm on each floor.) I’d forgotten completely about it until my sister happened to mention it earlier this year.

That conversation came to mind the other day when I was reading a news report from south-western Ontario that a police constable had been found in her house unconscious, her family – husband and two children – dead. With my writer’s imagination, I automatically figured either it was a murder-suicide that we hear so much about these days, or some form of foul play – perhaps someone she’d arrested had set out to ‘punish’ her. (Yes, writers can have very sick imaginations.)
It was nothing so sinister. They died of carbon monoxide poisoning due to a blocked exhaust pipe connected to their gas fireplace.

In other words, they were totally preventable deaths. A true tragedy.

We have a carbon monoxide detector outside of our bedrooms – I insisted on it when we bought our first house with a built-in garage. Of course, once we got settled, the cars never actually managed to fit into the garage for all our boxes and camping gear so car exhaust has never been a problem. But now Guitar Hero stores his motorcycle in there, and has on occasion warmed it up inside. Even with the door to the garage open, and the inside door to the house closed, I can still smell its exhaust. So I mentioned that perhaps I should buy a second unit for the family room that leads to the garage.

Once I read that report of the police constable and her family , I decided to buy one for the basement as well. (It’s recommended carbon monoxide detectors be placed on each level of your home but not within 5 feet fuel burning appliances, or near cooking or bathing areas or you’ll have a lot of false alarms.)

The other thing I need to do? Have the fireplace chimney checked. I’d never realized that a gas burning fireplace needed to be swept the same way a wood burning fireplace did. I figured it was a clean-burning fuel, so what was the problem? Apart from birds’ nests and squirrels that is …

So if you have someone hard to shop for, or someone you care a lot about, buy them a completely unglamorous present. Buy them – and yourself – something that could save lives.

Oh, and don’t forget to change the batteries on your smoke alarms regularly too.