Friday, November 30, 2012

Secrets of a Cozy Christmas

By Nancy Jill Thames

As a child, was there a special Christmas you remember? One that stands out among all the rest? When my mother cut up an old white satin formal of hers to make a wedding dress for my doll, that's the Christmas I remember. 

We lived in a tiny house, all five of us, plus a brand new baby brother, making six. But in spite of the cramped quarters, our family spent some of our happiest days living there. Having a ton of neighborhood friends to play with was one reason we children were so happy, but another reason was the way our family celebrated the holidays.

When Christmas came, my parents did their very best to provide as many gifts they could to make us happy. We lacked for nothing because my father made sure we had everything we needed. Not everything we wanted. That's where Christmas came in.

My father read the Christmas story every Christmas Eve from the gospel of Luke, Chapter 2. Afterward, my mother would serve hot Dr. Pepper with lemon as a tradition. We went caroling with church friends, had parties, baked cookies, and hung paper chains all over the house. Gifts were opened on Christmas morning, but we were allowed to open one on Christmas Eve to break the tension.

Growing up, making gingerbread houses wasn't  part of our tradition, but my kids loved making them. As they grew older, I carried on the tradition with my grandchildren. The one you see pictured was made by my grandson two years ago. Instead of making a new one each year, I wrap this one in plastic bags and store it in the top of my closet. If some decorations fall off, I simply glue them back on with a little water.

In my new book "Waiting for Santa," I've written in some of my families Christmas traditions as a way to preserve the legacy. What are the secrets of a cozy Christmas? I believe it's carrying on your own special traditions, whatever they may be. 

Merry Christmas!

~Nancy Jill


Mystery novelist Nancy Jill Thames began publishing Christian fiction in 2010. The author of six books in the Jillian Bradley series, she is an award winning blogger and is listed numerous times on the Author Watch Bestseller’s List, this in addition to winning first place for her Chocolate Cream Pie.

When she isn’t plotting her next book, she spends time with her six grandchildren in two states, tags along with her husband on business trips, and plays classical piano for her own personal enjoyment. She is an active member of the Leander Writers Guild and supports the Central Texas SPCA with a portion of her book sales.

To learn more about the author, visit her blog at http://www.nancy-jill.blogspot.com or email her at jillthames@gmail.com




Thursday, November 29, 2012

THEY'RE BAAACK....

My characters are back and talking to me again.

Now just by way of explanation, in case you haven't read back far enough in the posts, I am not a crazy writer who hears voices...well maybe I am but that has nothing to do with this post. You see when I write, and I get a little off in the plot, my characters start to talk to me to put me back on the right path. It's just a tool my imagination uses to help me through the rough patches.

At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Anyway my main male character, Troy Stenson, decided he didn't like the title of my latest book in progress, The Straw Man Myth.

You know sometimes I wonder why I invented this guy. Well I know why I invented him, I needed a Watson for my Sherlock, the beautiful, cool (do you always be right?) Irene Waters. Still, for someone who's make believe Troy sure has a lot of opinions.

Imaginary men. They're always starting trouble.

Anyway, this all started when I decided I needed some inspiration for this story, which involves
creepy scarecrows, so I found this little guy:


I know, he doesn't exactly fill your heart with terror, but seeing that my books aren't exactly scary either I figured he was the perfect inspiration, and he was. The plot began to come together far easier than it had been, and I'm really happy with it. There will be several revelations in this book as follows:
 
Irene's techno sister Matty will have an expanded role.

Just who Bernie aka Barnaby Youngstown is and what his issues are with The Records Department will become clearer.

And last, but not least....

The Voice will be identified! That's right, God finally let me in on it! Yes, it's a character I've already established in the other books and I hope it's a shocker for you. I would hate for it to be a let down, but I can only promise to do my best.

However, the only thing that bothered me was the title didn't seem right anymore, and that's when Troy decided he had the perfect title which he decided to pop into my head. I'd know that man's voice anywhere, because I made it up. So what is his idea?

The Great Scarecrow Invasion!

The what???

Now I've had some bad ideas in the past, but The Great Scarecrow Invasion? Maybe there's a reason  I'm blaming it on Troy.

I mean it's cheesy, it's terrible, it sounds like a bad 50's monster movie.

IT'S PERFECT!

So that's the title now, The Great Scarecrow Invasion. No more changes. It's just bad enough to be good. Coming as soon as I get it done.

And Troy is very happy.

But Irene, not so much. That girl takes this all very seriously.

Oh well, I guess you can't please all the imaginary people.



Mystery writer C.L. Ragsdale is the author of The Reboot Files a Christian Mystery Series. A California native, she loves to "surf" the web to research plot details for her fun, quirky stories with just a bit of whopper in them. She has a degree in Theatre Arts which greatly influenced her writing style. Working in various fields as a secretary has allowed her to both master her writing skills and acquire valuable technical knowledge which she uses liberally in her plots. She loves to embroider and knit and is a big fan of the old Scooby Doo cartoons.
Current E-Books
THE REBOOT FILES:  The Mystery of Hurtleberry House, The Island of Living Trees, The Harbinger of Retribution, and The Wrong Ghost.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole



Tired of turkey? Me too! And I absolutely love stuffed cabbage, but who wants to boil the cabbage to peel off the leaves, stuff and roll them? You don't either, huh? Here's your solution:

1 lb. lean ground beef
2 T Olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tblsp finely minced garlic (taste as you go, we love garlic!)
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp sweet Hungarian Paprika
salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 head green cabbage, chopped & steamed
1 can (14.5 oz.) petite dice tomatoes with juice (I used Mexican)
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce (all I had was Spaghetti sauce)
1/4 cup water
1 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups low-fat mozzarella cheese (Sargento)
1 cup cheddar

Cook ground beef, set aside. To skillet, add onion, garlic and spices, including salt and pepper. On low, stir until onions are cooked through, add beef, tomatoes and sauce. Let simmer as the chopped cabbage steams.

Heat oven to 350. Spray 9×11 pan.

Assembly: Layer cabbage (use slotted spoon and let liquid drain), then meat mixture and half the cheese. Repeat layers. Bake with foil tented over top for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake until cheese is golden, ten minutes or so. Let stand for five minutes before cutting.

S. Dionne Moore is the author of the LaTisha Barnhart series of cozy mysteries:Murder on the Ol' BunionsPolly Dent Loses Grip and Your Goose is Cooked. Fun reads with lots of family, food, and attitude. Like LaTisha, S. Dionne loves to cook, and healthy recipes are a plus.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Doctor gets Cozy

What can be cozier than a nice, big, fluffy scarf? Or perhaps a sturdy trench coat to keep out the wind and the rain? Paper bags full of Jelly babies?  Queen Victoria fighting wherewolves? Old fashioned phone booths that are bigger on the inside? Not much that I can think of!

Concrete angels that come to life when you look away, and then zap you into the past when they touch you? That's fairly cozy for aliens...

But not quite as cozy as Agatha Christie and the giant man-wasp.

Dr. Who, series 4, episode 7.

David Tennant stars as the tenth doctor, a Time Lord who runs around time and space fixing little problems that threaten to destroy whole worlds.

In the episode "The Unicorn and the Wasp" Fennella Woolgar stars as the world's most popular novelist, Agatha Christie, who just happens to be attending a dinner party with a cast full of the usual suspects: a kindly old Colonel, a retiring clergy, one "Professor Peach." Any mystery with Agatha Christie's name attached could do no less!

Of course, there was a murder, in the library, with a lead pipe. But who dunnit? And what's with the giant wasp? With The Doctor as the egomaniac detective with uncanny knowledge of the world(s), Donna Noble as the plucky young girl who charges ahead to solve the crime, it's a mashup that fans of British TV, comic sci-fi, and cozy mysteries will all love.

The mystery of who did the killing is rather quickly solved, only to be replaced by "What is this giant wasp, and how do we kill it?" Giving homage to Christie, her little gray cells are the only ones that can sort out this mystery. And when she does, a mystery that has hung over Christie's real life all these years is also "solved."

I loved the humor of this episode, a light note in an otherwise intense era for Dr. Who. It is rather a relief to find that the whole world isn't in danger, that The Doctor isn't brooding over worlds lost, and that his plucky girl detective isn't brooding over love for him.

Woolgar is everything I hope that Christie was in real life. She's beautiful, intelligent, and capable of solving any riddle. In this episode she struggles with self doubt--something that was very real in her personal life in the time this show covers. Part of me hankers to know what really happened when Christie disappeared, but real life is so disappointingly real. The Unicorn and the Wasp, like all of Dr. Who, is an escape, for the viewer and maybe even, a little bit, to the memory of our dear Agatha.

Want to know more about Dr. Who? Check out his wikipedia page.

You can find The Unicorn and the Wasp and a hundred other Dr. Who episodes on Netflix, as well as whole series of Poirot and Miss Marple.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Shotgun Start-the Reason for the Season

By Nancy Jill Thames

If you're like me, thoughts of the Christmas holidays now loom first and foremost your my mind. When should we decorate the house? Or, what does everyone want for Christmas? Turkey or ham (or both) for Christmas Day? Well, Today is Black Friday, the big Christmas shopping kick-off tradition. This launched after my time I'm happy to say. For some, like my sweet sister-in-law, it is a day looked forward to for weeks! For her, whose language of love is giving gifts, this is understandable. 

Gift giving is, sigh, is not how I show love. Shopping for others is difficult and why my family prefers cash, or gift cards. As a grandma, maybe I'm not alone. But when it comes to Christmas, my thoughts turn to God's perfect gift of his only son, Jesus.  

Joseph and Mary's baby is still the most perfect gift anyone could ever give or receive. I accepted Him at the age of eight and a half, and followed Him in baptism the following Sunday evening, February 26, 1956. After I was raised from those waters, joy and purpose filled my life as I found ways to serve Him.  God gave me the gift of music and administration so I became the department pianist and secretary in my Sunday school class.  His gifts, in turn, became my gifts to share. 

Although material gift-giving is hard for me, I've found a way to share God's gift of the Savior with others. By weaving the message of His unspeakable love into my stories, hopefully, this gift will reach people who may have never understood how simple it is to receive the Christ child.

As we begin to celebrate this year, let us remember the reason for the season and be ready to share the gift of Jesus' birth.

May I be the first to wish all of you, dear readers, a Merry Christmas! It begins today. Oh, just a gift idea: "Waiting for Santa" releases next week. For only $2.99, it might be an excellent choice to e-gift your friends and family this holiday season. 

~Nancy Jill



The family has gathered to celebrate Christmas at Jillian’s house in Clover Hills, but Jillian’s plans for a lovely Christmas Eve are rudely interrupted by a power failure. And a homicide. Not only does Aunt Jillian find herself with a house full of company to entertain in the dark, but she also receives a call from Detective Walter Montoya who finds himself in the dark trying to solve the bizarre murder of a worker found dead in a maintenance shed at the power station. With Teddy at her side, Jillian is determined to solve the mystery.





Mystery novelist Nancy Jill Thames began publishing Christian fiction in 2010. The author of six books in the Jillian Bradley series, she is an award winning blogger and is listed numerous times on the Author Watch Bestseller’s List, this in addition to winning first place for her Chocolate Cream Pie. 

When she isn’t plotting her next book, she spends time with her six grandchildren in two states, tags along with her husband on business trips, and plays classical piano for her own personal enjoyment. She is an active member of the Leander Writers Guild and supports the Central Texas SPCA with a portion of her book sales.
Visit her blog at http://www.nancy-jill.blogspot.com or email her at jillthames@gmail.com


 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

You Can Always Trust Your Family For The Truth, Whether You Ask For It Or Not

Thanksgiving - The Day That All Chickens Can Relax!
Well, we have had a week of heartwarming Thanksgiving posts, now that the actual day is here, let me share my feelings on this annual holiday of thanks.
Yeah! It's Turkey Day! Thanksgiving! Food Everywhere! Time to feast until we explode!
Well don't take it that far, but still this is my kind of Holiday. This day is dedicated to eating. Yes we should  give thanks. The Lord is Good. However, not being into the feast on Thanksgiving is like everyone saying they want to eat healthy, but what's the most crowded aisle in the grocery store? The chip and snack aisle! I know because I'm there too. Don't worry, I won't tell. Oh wait, I just did. Sorry my fellow junk food junkies.
Anyway this year my sister is in charge of the festivities. Of course, as in the way of most families everyone has their specialties to contribute to the feast. My sister makes the main meal, my niece makes her special cranberry sauce and the pies. Other family members also contribute as well. My own contribution used to be bringing Mom over so she could make her turkey dumplings which were this side of wonderful. However, with her being gone and being the good, considerate sister that I am I asked the hostess if there was anything I could bring.
She told me to bring the vegetable tray.
So basically I am to clean and cup fresh vegetables, arrange them in an artistic manner (that might be a challenge considering my lack of creativity) and make dip from a package. I just have to make sure I use real sour cream, full fat, no light stuff.
That's a big deal, trust me. The veggies can be healthy, the dip not so much.
Still, she may not have meant it this way (although I highly doubt it) but this is a reflection upon my cooking abilities. My sister gives me the part of the meal where no culinary talent is required whatsoever. You know, I bet she figures I can't possibly mess this up. Oh little does she know, I can always find a way. No on purpose, but it happens.
You know, it's scary how well the woman knows me. I thought Mom only had that knack. Must be genetic.
Not that I'm insulted or anything. I have made no secret of my lack of cooking ability, and as you can see I wasn't exaggerating. Because my whole family knows it, and you can always trust your family for the truth, whether you ask for it or not..
Actually I'm still considering claiming a sprained wrist when I think of the Buttermilk Fudge that is to come. Sorry that's just fear talking. Still, do you think anyone would buy it? I guess not. Well it was an idea. Curses! Foiled Again!
But that's Christmas business, back to Thanksgiving!
So really I consider this to be a win/win situation. I don't have to cook, but I contribute to the feast, I can eat the delicious labors of my family members guilt free, not to mention the yummy leftovers, and no one has to be afraid of food poisoning.
Just kidding, I'm not that bad. Really, everyone is accounted for.
Although, there is that one cousin I haven't heard from in a while...

God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving!




Mystery writer C.L. Ragsdale is the author of The Reboot Files a Christian Mystery Series. A California native, she loves to "surf" the web to research plot details for her fun, quirky stories with just a bit of whopper in them. She has a degree in Theatre Arts which greatly influenced her writing style. Working in various fields as a secretary has allowed her to both master her writing skills and acquire valuable technical knowledge which she uses liberally in her plots. She loves to embroider and knit and is a big fan of the old Scooby Doo cartoons.
Current E-Books
THE REBOOT FILES:  The Mystery of Hurtleberry House, The Island of Living Trees, The Harbinger of Retribution, and The Wrong Ghost.