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Friday, December 15, 2017

THE GIFT by Linda Swift

All of my family is musical except me. And it was after a performance of her husband's band at a casino in Tunica, that my daughter had an almost fatal accident. While standing on the sidewalk in the wee hours of morning as he loaded his equipment, she was run down by a casino employee, high on drugs, thrown onto the windshield of his car, which hit a wall and caught fire. She was helicoptered to a trauma hospital in Memphis with multiple injuries. Her dad and I arrived from Kentucky and after an all-day wait, she had hours of surgery. Our first miracle was that she lived.

We stayed in a motel for a month, taking turns with her husband, sitting at her bedside, so that she was never alone for a moment. When word spread that she was injured, fans of her band and her husband's filled her room with flowers. There were so many and the scent was so heavy that one physician who entered remarked "Why, this is like a funeral home." A very inappropriate remark in my opinion!

Still too weak to travel to her home in Nashville, she was moved after a few weeks to a rehab center nearby. And when she was finally given permission to travel, my husband and I went ahead to prepare her condo for an invalid. Both bedrooms were upstairs and not wheelchair accessible so we had to buy a bed for the living room. Her dishwasher didn't work and neither did the stove oven.  Remember, she and her husband traveled with their respective bands and domestic life did not have  priority. But since I was responsible for cooking nutritious meals, I needed proper equipment. 

After a couple of days of frantic shopping for appliances, a bed, and groceries, then a frenzy of cleaning as we had been warned of her wounds getting infected, we fell into bed for a few hours sleep before her homecoming.

Sometime after midnight, I was awakened by a loud noise like someone hitting a wall. I tried to ignore it but it only got louder. Muttering something unprintable, I staggered to the window and looked out. And there by the front steps was a lone figure doing something with wood and a hammer. At first, I couldn't figure it out, and then it dawned on me. A man was building a ramp over the concrete steps.
Something we had not even thought of!

I called my husband to wake up and join me. And together we determined that it was the young man next door. We had met him and his wife and son when we came two days ago and had heard our daughter and husband speak of them before. They had come to Nashville from New York City because he wanted a career in music. For the time being, they were both employed at the nearby mall, where he worked a late shift as a security officer. Since they had lived in a big city, they had no car and both walked the couple of miles to their jobs as they had no other mode of transportation. My daughter and husband had loaned them their car at times for buying groceries and other necessities.

The night was freezing cold and the guy was bundled up in a jacket, sock cap, and gloves as he determinedly hammered away at those boards until he had the ramp finished.  And as I stood there watching with tears in my eyes, I felt such gratitude for this simple gift of kindness. It was truly more beautiful than the roomful of flowers I had tended every day. And even more special because I felt it had been a financial sacrifice to buy the lumber as well as a difficult task to build it in the middle of this frigid night.

My daughter came home, and after a fourth surgery and many more weeks of intensive therapy, she was able to walk again. And the much-used ramp was finally taken down. Now only a few scars remain to remind her and us of that almost fatal night. And this is the second miracle.

The neighbor couple went back to New York City after a time because their family needed them there. And the full time career in music hasn't happened yet. But I remember them from time to time and make a wish that all their dreams may soon come true.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Should old acquaintance be forgot... by Kaye Spencer

2018 is just around the corner. Only eighteen days away, in fact. While I don't have traditions attached to seeing the old year out and the new year in, a good many people around the world will sing a rousing rendition of Robert Burns' Auld Lang Syne in the midnight hour as an optimistic welcome to the New Year and as a sentimental tribute to the Old Year.

But did you know that Robert Burns didn't write the poem for which he is well-known? He wrote down the lyrics to an old Scottish folk song and added to it, which is not unlike Francis Scott Key repurposing the tune of an English tavern ballad then adding the lyrics that became the Star Spangled Banner.

According to the website, "Poems for the New Year", Burns wrote this in a letter to a friend:

“There is an old song and tune which has often thrilled through my soul. You know I am an enthusiast in old Scotch songs. I shall give you the verses on the other sheet... Light be the turf on the breast of the heaven-inspired poet who composed this glorious fragment! There is more of the fire of native genius in it than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians.”

Another tidbit from this website explains, "Though the history of the authorship of the poem is labyrinthine and disputed, Burns is generally credited with penning at least two original stanzas to the version that is most familiar to revelers of the New Year."

Here are the first two, familiar, stanzas as Burns recorded them:

Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns

    Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
    And never brought to mind?
    Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
    And auld lang syne!

    Chorus.-For auld lang syne, my dear,
    For auld lang syne.
    We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
    For auld lang syne.

So, from me, in southeastern Colorado, to you, wherever you may be on New Years Eve, here is a bagpipe presention of Auld Lang Syne performed by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

Until next year,

Kaye Spencer

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Wave

By Kristy McCaffrey

The Wave
On a chilly December day I embarked on a hike with my dad to see The Wave. While you may envision us searching for an ocean overlook, this swell of nature exists along the Arizona/Utah border among the bottom of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the upper section of Arizona’s Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area. And after that mouthful, all you really need to know is that it’s a really cool-looking sandstone alcove.

To enter the North Coyote Butte Special Management Area, where The Wave is located, you must have a permit. Only 20 people per day are allowed—10 through a lottery system and 10 for walk-in permits submitted the previous day. It took my dad two tries to gain two permits and to my great fortune he invited me along. To understand this you must know that my younger sister is a ski patroller, nurse, gun-toting park ranger, and well-versed in search and rescue. I, however, am a writer. Who would you choose to take into the wilderness? Exactly, not me. So I was thrilled by the invite. I might not be able to save my dad should he fall from a cliff, but I’d be able to inscribe my thoughts about it later.

We arrive the day before in Page, Arizona, and stay the night in a hotel. We arise early the next morning, find a Denny’s open at 6 a.m., and eat a hearty breakfast since our day packs aren’t filled with anything hot and tasty. The drive to the Wire Pass parking lot—the start of the trail head—is about 43 miles from Page. The last 8 miles are on a dirt road that is impassable when wet, the red clay turning into a slippery muck. With the day overcast and the air a bit misty, the fact that we threw a few sleeping bags into the back of my dad’s truck at the last minute suddenly seems like a good idea.

You are required to sign the roster before hiking into
the wilderness. Unfortunately people have died here during
the summer months. It's important to carry enough water.
The parking lot houses a restroom and a sign-in, likely to find those who enter and never return. But this wouldn’t be us since we feel well-equipped with a very detailed map provided by the Bureau of Land Management, a compass, and a GPS. But the start of the trail head soon leads to a non-trail. We don’t pay close enough attention to the landmarks provided on the map and manage to spend the first hour in the wrong direction. Of course the GPS indicated we were moving farther away from our target rather than closer, but in my defense it was the first time I’d used the GPS app on my smartphone. I figured we were taking a circuitous route that would eventually bring us to where we needed to be. Our detour did lead to an awesome slot canyon, however. And after backtracking we were soon headed in the right direction. We made certain we nailed every landmark thereafter.

The view as you hike to The Wave.
The 5.5 mile hike scrambling over sandy hills and red rock takes us about 2 hours, the terrain offering sweeping views of sandstone pillars, red rock buttes, tiny cacti growing in crevices, and giant juniper trees standing vigil. It’s a desolate and quiet place, far from civilization.

At last we climb a hill just below a prominent landmark called “the Black Crack” and enter the alcove known as The Wave. The undulating swells of sandstone greet us and we’re awed, but admittedly slightly confused. Is this all there is? I think we both thought it would be more like a bowl viewed from above. Another hiker arrives and having been here before explains the layout. We must climb to above the alcove to find the picture-perfect spot, the one that he stakes out with his tripod and camera for the next several hours. I’m using my small handheld camera until my dad drops and jams it, then I switch to my phone camera. Even with our less technical approach to photo-taking we still get awesome and surreal pictures. The rock flows like water around us and the eye can hardly believe it’s authentic. We find the Second Wave and Hamburger Rock (per the hiker’s directions) and snap more photos. My dad wants to climb ever higher, but I’m beginning to feel tired and cold so I hang back. I begin to worry that he might come rolling off that cliff after all but he soon returns in one piece.

Hamburger Rock
The Second Wave

There are dinosaur tracks in the area but we decide the GPS coordinates will likely send us on a wild goose chase clinging to the sides of the cliffs, and we can’t muster enough enthusiasm to warrant the search. Instead we drop into the small canyon below, exploring the narrowing curves of the walls as they close in on us. We eat lunch here, somewhat sheltered from the wind, and decide to begin our return hike.

The way back isn’t difficult but the landmarks are not easily discernible, blending into one another in a blur of red rock upon red rock. We reference the map and GPS frequently. My dad attempts a few compass readings but the simple device is deceptive. In our weary state we realize neither of us really knows how to use a compass. Luckily my phone battery is still above fifty percent. We’re soon sitting in a warm car.

My dad and I at The Wave
All day I faced my own insecurity about entering the wilderness, a nagging worry carried forward from childhood that I’m not the adventurous daughter, that my dad would be better off here with my sister, whose entire life is an ode to Mother Nature herself. But I’m pleased that I was able to put these doubts aside. I embrace the challenges instead of complaining at their presence. The day unfolds in the only way it can, from one moment to the next, and within that is a happiness that sits with me now and into the days that follow. My dad and I had an immensely good time. And to honor his choice to invite me along, I now do what I do best—I write.

To all my lovely readers and writer friends, I wish you all the merriest of holidays and a bright 2018!! See you in January ~

Connect with Kristy

Monday, December 11, 2017

It's That Time of Year!


With only fourteen days left on the Advent calendar, we can officially say CHRISTMAS IS COMING—and it’s coming on FAST!

In my home—a house full of church musicians!—fourteen days means only two more weeks to get all the choir music learned and polished. Two more concerts and three added performances with our local chorale. And somewhere in there, I’ll finish my shopping and plan the food for our traditional post-Christmas Eve worship gathering.

Personally, I like Christmas, even though it’s just about the craziest, busiest time of the year in our home. I love the music, the way people seem to smile more, how strangers wish you a good day or Merry Christmas just because you pass them in the grocery store aisle.

Christmas is also my favorite time of the year for the hymns and songs we sing. Old favorites like Silent Night, Angels We Have Heard on High and Jingle Bells, to some new ones you’d probably not recognize—like Mrs. Claus and Jumble Bells, a pig-Latin version of the old standard.

Do you like Christmas? Why? What is it about this season that you love? What is it that says “it’s almost Christmas” to you?

From my home to yours, may you have a very blessed & merry Christmas!


Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin Mother and child
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Three Days of One Knight Stands - Sunday edition

Deborah Macgillivray - A Marriage Made In Hell

  Essence of the game is deception...

When her half-sister refuses to marry the powerful earl of Hellborne, Greyson de Verre, Lesslyn de Sancerre sees the chance to have a life, a home and a husband of her own, so she agrees to take her sister's place.  Her sister, in turn, is off to elope with the man she has fallen in love with.  Everything appears fated in this pact the two women seal.  What seemed like a logical solution at the time soon becomes a battle to keep ahead of the lies.  Lesslyn quickly learns plots and schemes are easily concocted, but realities arising from the falsehoods are a different matter altogether.  Especially, when she is quickly falling in love with Greyson de Verre...her husband to be. 
Commanded to wed by royal decree...

When Edward Plantagenet demands you must marry, you have little options...or do you?  King Edward has commanded that the earl of Hellborne must marry the heiress of Sancerre.  After all a bargain is a bargain—even if the earl views the coming marriage with disdain.  Only, the enigmatic lord of Hellborne needs must wed on Yuletide. . .so wed he matter what.   
Even if it is a Marriage Made in Hell. . .

Lindsay Townsend - Sir Constantine and the Changeling
He had hurt and betrayed her in the worst way possible. Could Kari and Constantine save their marriage? In a medieval world that believed in God, saints, spirits and the fey, there were also darker forces to be feared. Malicious fairies could steal human babies away or substitue their own children—changelings. Kari and Constantine have been apart for two years, he on crusade in the Holy Land, she left behind in his lands to raise their unborn child alone. When her husband returns with his Templar brother Hadrian in tow, the separation she and Constantine have endured, plus Hadrian’s evil influence, leads to terrible accusations between them. Her husband thinks now that her beloved baby son Valentine might be a changeling. In the face of such a charge, and remembering an older tragedy, Kari feels she has no choice but to flee Constantine’s homeland and retreat to her own country of the high waterlands.   Constantine follows her. Realising what he has done, he begs his wife to return with him, but can Kari trust him again? And will he ever accept Valentine as his true son? At the time of Yule, many things are possible, and as Kari and Constantine strive to rebuild their relationship, the snows, an old hut and the Yule Goat will all play vital parts.


Cynthia Breeding – Twelfth Knight

Isobel De Lacy’s guardian, Baron Roger De Lacy, is set to join King Richard in Outremer directly after the winter Solstice.  Before he leaves he wants to make sure his niece is married. His groom of choice is Sir Guy of Gisborne, henchman to the Sheriff of Nottingham, and notorious for being heavy-fisted.
            Isobel would rather sacrifice herself to the Great Horned God before that happened.
            While gathering holly in the woods, she stumbles across an injured knight and takes him back to the castle to be looked after.  He turns out to be Sir William of Barnsdale, nephew to the Earl of Huntingdon. Isobel hatches a plan. The powerful earl can keep her safe from Gisborne and, when Sir William chivalrously agrees to help her escape, she decides perhaps the auld gods have sent her a Yuletide gift.
            But as they ride through Sherwood Forest, she finds that “gift” to be much more than she had anticipated.

Angela Raines - Gunvar’s Gift

The clashing of cultures, the memory of childhood, each pulled at Gerold and Annika as fate and a bit of magic conspired to bring them together. 

Gerold and his friends are among a group fighting the Northmen who have invaded their country, and for Gerold it is even more personal. 

Annika, a Shield Maiden in the army of Northmen is out for revenge with those who killed her beloved father, Gunvar.  Could love and understanding bring about miracles at such a special time of year? 


Keena Kincaid - Five Yules

The New One: Waleran de Marche promised not to marry her, but it was a vow he couldn’t keep. Cateline de Armiens possesses the land and coin he needs to distance himself from his father and the coming war in England.
Cate is tired of broken promises and betrayal. When Wal vows to keep her safe and secure, she ignores his promise and welcomes his departure on royal errands. In his absence, she creates a home without him, and finds his return each Yule an annoyance, not a joyful homecoming.

But when the king’s enemy takes her hostage, she will learn just how far her husband will go to keep his word to protect her—but will he reach her in time to save her life and their marriage or will this be their last Yule?

Patti Sherry-Crews - The Protector

 What can Juliana Basset, the daughter of an English merchant, have done to put her in the sights of the most powerful men in the country? It’s not what’s she’s done but what she knows. She harbors a secret that could topple the monarchy. A knight, Sir William, is sent to take her into protection until things settle down.

Stowing her away in a convent until things settle down seems like a good idea. Except Juliana stumbles upon yet another secret while there. Things are not adding up at the convent—literally. When she can't help but dig around, the place of sanctuary could be the death of her. Trying to keep the lovely lady out of harm's way turns out to be more of a challenge than Sir William anticipated.


Beverly Wells - The Gift

Sir Geoffrey Eton, captain of Sir Royce’s regiment is a hardened, gruff warrior. All his life he served England, protected others, and trained men. Tavern wenches satisfied his occasional needs. There simply was no necessity for a wife. Orphan, Heather Douglas grew up in an abbey in Scotland, loving life.

When she joins her best friend at the Scotland castle granted to Royce, she brings her smiles and laughter. She also brings her flawed leg, her stubbornness and determination. Will her bright smile and charm be the weapons to finally take down the mighty warrior Geoffrey’s resistance?  


 Dawn Thompson – A Wish Under a Yuletide Moon

It was under the cold Yuletide moon when Garlon Trivelyan, Knight of the Realm, heard the sirens keen—just before the ship hit Land’s End shoals.  As the galley broke apart, he felt something keeping him afloat in the icy waters, nudging him toward shore.  He suddenly found himself on the beach, his arm deeply wounded.  His blood black under the silver moonlight.  Garlon knew he was dying so he made a wish to live, never remotely believing that final request could be answered.  Too late he recalled the warning: be careful for what you wish.
Annalee, the goddess of the wishing well, heard the mortal’s plea—and answered it.  Now Garlon Trevilyan was trapped in the land of the Fae on the night of Yule, where magic could save a dying man’s life.  But at what price?

Answer today's question to win a beautiful Tradesize print copy of One Winter Knight

Sunday’s Question:

If you had to go back in time to the era of Knights and Ladies, and could only take three things from your modern world to make life easier, what would they be?

Sunday Win a copy of One Yuletide Knight


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Happy Holidays!!!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Three Days of One Knight Stands - Saturday

Lindsay Townsend – Sir Thomas and the Snow Troll
Two lost souls, striving through long winter nights and days, find each other—but can they begin to truly live?

Sir Thomas no longer knows who he is, or even who his natural father is. Adrift, Thomas sets out on a winter journey to discover more, finding adventure and passion on the way that he ever expected. Fiery Ruth, a young woman who has escaped a terrible servitude to live alone in the northern forest, is proud of her independence from all others...but can Thomas protect her from the dreaded and terrible Snow Troll?

Deborah Macgillivray — ARROW TO THE HEART (a Dragons of Challon ™ novella)

In the season of Yuletide, when the Holly and Oak Kings battle, the magic of love can be an arrow to the heart.

Fletcher St. Giles had always felt alone.  But being a bastard rarely troubled his mind…until Lady Geljon Seacrest came to the mighty fortress of Coinnleir Wood.  Though Geljon was betrothed to another, she vexed him at every turn, following him like a shadow.  With little to offer a woman of her station, Fletcher kept his distance.  Only, denied love became an arrow to the heart.  In the season of Yuletide, all things are possible…and even wishes of the heart can be granted.

Patti Sherry-Crews  To Play With Cats

Will he give up his dreams to follow his heart?

Caterina Glanville is sent to live in the household of the earl in order to make a match. Life at the castle is not easy—and is complicated by the arrival of a handsome knight just before Christmas. Sir Hugh De Lacy is determined to make his own fortune. Rebuffed by a lady who can give him both wealth and title, he gets her attention by courting Cat. But Cat is a match that speaks to his heart. Will he choose wealth over love?  And when Cat finds she's been used, can she forgive Hugh?

Cynthia Breeding – Capture Her Heart

She had no idea her captor would capture her heart.

When Kaitlin Coltan is abducted, she assumes Adair MacDouglas is after a ransom.  Instead, her captor tells her he is after something far more important—revenge.  Kaitlin’s brother has taken Adair’s sister’s virginity—and returning Kate to her family ruined is the only just reward he can think of. But Adair is increasingly attracted to her and less willing to seek revenge, after all. Now, he must explain that to Kaitlin’s father and brother when they catch up to him—with a sword at his throat.

 Linda Carroll-Bradd – A Promise Kept

Will opposing political beliefs and family loyalty keep the lovers apart?

Thordia Ulfsdottir can’t wait for her brother to request payment for the sword he crafted—the money is needed for food. She demands an audience with the earl, but is thwarted by a knight. Rory MacGuignard flirts, thinking she’s come to provide entertainment. Realizing his mistake, Rory arranges a temporary job for this poor, but proud, woman. 

Time spent in his company softens Thordia’s heart, but political upheaval and family loyalty rip them apart. Can Thordia find a way back to Rory’s side?

 Beverly Wells — The Chalice 

Might the quest for the Chalice finally bring these two lonely, longing hearts together?

A brave, valiant knight he be, yet a foolish, vain man when faced with true love. She had loved him from afar, but could she now injure him to aid her mother? Might the quest for the chalice finally bring these two lonely, longing hearts together?

Cheryl Pierson My Forever Love

She only wants to marry her forever love…is that too much to ask?

Her mother’s plans for an arranged marriage send Noelle Breasal running into the woods to fend for herself at a nearby cabin. When a wounded soldier shows up in a snowstorm, she has no choice but to care for him—even when she realizes he may be the man she’s avoiding. Logan O’Malley swears to defend her from an evil rival for her hand, Dalon McTierney, when he finds them at the cottage

 An unavoidable fight to the death may see Noelle losing her forever love before she has a chance to claim him!

Keena Kincaid – Beyond All Else

His honor is the only reason she is alive, but his misplaced chivalry could get them both killed.

War. Murder. Alais of Roundtree hides amidst the chaos of civil war, stealing her daily bread and barely keeping ahead of pursuers. Grym, Earl of Warfield, finds the captured female thief an amusing break from the hunt for his brother’s murderer—until he realizes she has information he needs. Honor dictates his actions, but his interest in the thief takes a turn just as his brother’s killer targets him. 

Will he listen to Alais’s warnings or will he hold to honor and lose everything?

Answer today's question to win a beautiful Tradesize print copy of One Winter Knight

Saturday’s Question:  
Would you like to go back into Medieval Times?
Why yes or no?
Be sure to come back on Sunday 

Sunday Win a copy of One Yuletide Knight


One Grand Prize Winner of all three books