Advent of Kindness Calendar

If you’ve spent any time on Facebook, you may have seen the Advent of Kindness calendar that’s making the rounds. What a wonderful idea! Here is a version of it I found that was made available:

Advent of Kindness Calendar

Whatever version you use, the idea is the same. Practice random acts of kindness all month in the spirit of Christmas. It’s one way of turning away from the rampant commercialism that can often take over the season.

Neediest Families

Every time at this year I’m reminded of a ritual my family used to do. We were an upper middle class family never lacking in anything physical. (The emotional front was a bit rougher.) My dad had been brought up in dirt-floor poverty in the south and he never forgot his roots. Each year, he would take out the relevant copy of The New York Times and read about that year’s neediest families.

We would choose one as a family, and he would donate to that family. From our family to theirs. In a very real way, it taught me the true essence of this season.

The world could need a little more kindness right now, I think. The New York Times is in their 107th year of the Neediest Cases Fund, so poverty is still with us.

I wish you all the joy in the season, and may you, too, be a recipient of a random act of kindness.

A Christmas Hope -- A Christmas Romance Short Story

Cover--A Christmas HopeA Christmas Hope

Blurb

Struggling entrepreneur Clara Misowski believes in Christmas hope. Artisan cheesemaker Sam Richards hasn’t celebrated in a decade. Will her determination be enough to make him believe in Christmas romance?

Three failed businesses and an abortive marriage have made Clara doubt her ability to make a success of anything. Her latest venture—a tasting party and culinary road trip business she’d named The Perfect Plate—is her last chance at independence. She’s gambling it all on a Christmas weekend in upstate New York.

Sam is comfortable with his border collie, his sheep, and his artisan cheesemaking business. No Christmas cheer needed. He wants no part of Clara’s plan to include his business in her tour. When she shows up to convince him in person, complete with broken down van, her constant good cheer rubs against him like sandpaper.

A Christmas Hope is a very short contemporary Christmas romance. If you like sweet Christmas romance set in a wintry small village and interesting characters, you’ll enjoy this book.

Buy A Christmas Hope for your first sweet taste of the Christmas season.

Available for 99 cents for a limited time.

Amazon | Other Online Retailers

The Story Behind the Story

Jars of Honey

“Jars of Honey at the Minnesota State Fair Agriculture Horticulture Building” by Tony Webster. Creative Commons License.

Around 2003, I completed my coach training at Coach U. At the beginning, I floundered, trying different niches until I found one that actually worked–small business coaching. One of my first clients was Kaycee, a woman who was also trying to discover her exact niche. She had an impeccable style, planned events, and staged parties. We worked together for a few years before she moved on to someone else.

We ran in the same circles and stayed in touch. When she latched onto the idea for The Joyful Table, I was enthralled. Her Facebook page was filled with pictures of small groups of women enjoying themselves as they went behind the scenes of artisan foodmakers–honey producers, cheesemakers, winemakers, and the like. It was genius!

Unfortunately, Kaycee was stricken with cancer, and after a two and a half year battle, she left us. Clara Misowski is my tribute to this amazing, creative, and sweet soul.

Cozy Mystery-- "Broken Bone China" Review


Broken Bone China (A Tea Shop Mystery) by Laura Childs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been an on again, off again, reader of the Tea Shop Mysteries. They are classic cozy mysteries set in Charleston, South Carolina. The amateur sleuth is Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop.

One of the reasons to read cozy mysteries is to be transported to another time and place. Although I have never been to Charleston (on my list!), I have a wonderful sense of it through Laura Child’s beautiful descriptions and attention to detail. I also have a great desire to attend one of Theodosia’s tea parties!

This story begins dramatically, with a hot air balloon explosion and maintains its pace as it follows one red herring after another. The author keeps you guessing in the way that a good mystery should. If I have one complaint, and this is true of many cozies, the author’s asides to the reader can be distracting.

Other than that minor detail, I highly recommend this book if you like cozy mysteries!

Kat Martin's New Romantic Suspense: Wait Until Dark

Wait Until Dark

Cover-Wait Until Dark(Maximum Security)

Kat Martin

P.I. Jonah Wolfe knows trouble when he sees it. So when April Vale storms into his office at Maximum Security, all his warning signs flash red. April’s been accused of murder, except she has no memory of how she woke up in her coworker’s bed–drenched in his blood–shot with her gun. As the campaign manager for the mayor, April’s job is on the line. Even worse, her life may be on the line if she doesn’t figure out who’s trying to frame her.

The clock is ticking and the pair must find the killer… before April winds up dead.

Buy Now

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play | iTunes

About the Story

Wait Until Dark is a novella, part of a new series set in Dallas that begins with The Conspiracy. Chase Garrett is the mega rich owner of Maximum Security, a company whose clients cater to the Dallas elite. The office is staffed by private detectives, bail enforcement agents, and personal security specialists. Chase also owns branches in Phoenix and San Diego.

Chase’s younger brother, Brandon, works with Chase at The Max, while middle brother, Reese, runs Garrett Enterprises, the family’s billion-dollar business.

In Wait Until Dark, Jonah Wolfe is one of the private investigators who works for Chase. Wolfe’s client, April Vale, is a beautiful redhead accused of murder. Marketing director for the mayor of Dallas, April woke up naked in bed with the mayor’s campaign manager. David Dean was also naked, his body covered in blood from a bullet hole in his chest–a shot fired from April’s gun.

It’s up to Wolfe–with April’s help–to find the truth of what happened the night of the murder. All the while they struggle with a powerful attraction they can’t afford to feel. Not when April’s life is in danger. Not when Jonah is determined to keep her safe.

About Kat Martin

Kat-Martin-Headshot-2017-(275x20

New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in anthropology and also studied history. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her western-author husband, L. J. Martin, Kat has written sixty-five historical and contemporary romantic suspense novels. More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Her last novel, BEYOND CONTROL, hit both big lists … NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER LIST as well as the USA TODAY BEST-SELLING BOOKS LIST. Kat is currently at work on her next romantic suspense.

WEBSITE
http://www.katmartin.com/

VIDEO LINK
https://youtu.be/I9vEWYddAug

CONTEST LINKS

MONTHLY CONTEST: https://www.katmartin.com/monthly-contest/
For October, Kat Martin is giving away a copy of AGAINST THE NIGHT to two winners (winner’s choice of eBook or print format).

WAIT UNTIL DARK — eBook on sale November 1st, but available for pre-order now!
Don’t miss the thrilling prequel to New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin’s brand-new series, Maximum Security!

SOCIAL MEDIA

Twitter: https://twitter.com/katmartinauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KatMartinAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40241946-wait-until-dark

Location Influences my Stories

Cover -- A Christmas HopeNo matter where my stories are set, location is a big factor in their telling. I’ve lived a lot of places and traveled many more. Almost every place has made an impression, from the concrete sidewalks of New York City to the pounding surf in California.

My upcoming Christmas re-release is set in upstate New York. So many memories from that place. My parents had friends and relatives from that area, and we used to visit, particularly when fall foliage was at its height. Rolling valleys of trees, fields, and dairy cows remain in my mind, along with the bright contrast of red barns against the grass.

I missed Woodstock (I was on a boat going to Europe), but a few years later when I was a camp counselor in the Catskills, several of us went to the town for dinner and drinks more than once. It was a hippie happening place back then, long hair, skirts, and vague smiles commonplace.

Later, I took short weekend trips to the Finger Lakes, Albany, and visited some of the small towns. No matter where I went up there, though, the images of red barns, stone houses, and dairy cattle remained.

When this story was first published in 2012, I had a strong image of what the cover should look like, but it never quite fit. Eastern barns are different from western barns, and I really wanted a border collie on the front cover. Now that I am self-publishing the book, I have a cover closer to what I had in mind.

I don’t know if those red barns and dairy cattle are still there, but they will forever be upstate New York in my mind.

heart of romance

Struggling entrepreneur Clara Misowski believes in Christmas hope. Artisan cheesemaker Sam Richards hasn’t celebrated in a decade. Will her determination be enough to make him believe in Christmas romance?

Three failed businesses and an abortive marriage have made Clara doubt her ability to make a success of anything. Her latest venture—a tasting party and culinary road trip business she’d named The Perfect Plate—is her last chance at independence. She’s gambling it all on a Christmas weekend in upstate New York.

Sam is comfortable with his border collie, his sheep, and his artisan cheesemaking business. No Christmas cheer needed. He wants no part of Clara’s plan to include his business in her tour. When she shows up to convince him in person, complete with broken down van, her constant good cheer rubs against him like sandpaper.

A Christmas Hope is a very short contemporary Christmas romance. If you like sweet Christmas romance set in a wintry small village and interesting characters, you’ll enjoy this book.

Coming Soon

Hope for the Future -- Working Together

Like many Americans, I am a bit stressed at the moment. The lack of ability to have a civil discourse, and the lack of respect for others is getting to me. When that happens, I need news about what IS working.

Glasnevin Cemetery

Glasnevin Cemetery, creative commons license by William Murphy

So here is a bit of news about people working together to create a better world: successfully addressing stormwater pollution in a Catholic cemetery in Washington D.C. Now, that might not sound like much, but when you think about the engineering involved, the traditions of the church, and the emotions that surround death, it can be difficult to imagine bringing disparate groups together for a solid solution.

Enter The Nature Conservancy. I have been a member for several decades and I joined because I was impressed by their notion that all parties have a stake in the state of our environmental world. If you wanted to talk about forests, you needed to include loggers; grasslands–cattle ranchers; oceans–fishermen. People were not only part of the equation, they had to be considered in the solution.

Not only are all parties considered when they work together, the various groups work together. TNC is quite accomplished in bringing people together to develop a solution. Often, as in this case, the solution generates revenue for the community in which the change takes place. I encourage you to click this link and read more about this environmental improvement solution.

And the Romance?

So what does this have to do with romance?

The older I get, the more convinced I am that romance doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Unfortunately, political parties have become the new proving grounds for “I wouldn’t let my daughter marry a …” Recently, I made a Facebook connection with a man I’d dated in high school. We recently agreed to amicably “unfriend” each other. There were just too many differences.

Just as love bridged the Capulets and Montagues in Romeo and Juliet, love is going to have to help heal this divide. Until then, we can always find people fighting for the same cause, maybe from different perspectives, who might have a little time for romance.

See you in the next book …

 

American History: The Oregon Trail Book Review

The Oregon Trail: A New American JourneyThe Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We stumbled across the Oregon Trail at Scotts Bluff this past summer and it really took hold of my imagination. I quickly learned this was the one book to read. I couldn’t imagine how it was the page-turner that everyone kept describing. Now I know.

If you want to understand a seminal piece of American history, as well as reading a compelling story of a man’s journey to recreate an 19th century experience in the 21st century, do yourself a favor and read this book.

View all my reviews

2 Foodies on the Road: Frankenmuth

Frankenmeuth sign

Frankenmuth is a small town in the “thumb” of Michigan known for three things—Bavarian kitsch, chicken dinners, and Christmas. Whether it’s truly Bavarian is a matter of opinion, but it has kitsch down flat. It’s full of shops with over-priced merchandise, but there are treasures to be found and experiences to be had.

Cass River FrankenmeuthThe first bit of luck we had was our hotel, Marv Herzog Hotel (http://www.marvherzog.com/). This well-laid out entry space was beautifully decorated, spacious, and airy. The man at the reception desk was pleasant and helpful. He quickly determined we were not candidates for one of the bustling chicken restaurants for dinner, but suggested a nearby restaurant that was quieter.

We had a little balcony overlooking the river, a very pleasant place to sit in the shade of a hot day and watch tour boats and sweating kayakers flow up and down the water. When we’d rested, we participated in the beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvres on the patio. The beverages were average and the food heavy on sausage and cheese, but a nice touch.

As for the name? Marv Herzog was a popular accordion player born in Frankenmuth.

Old Christmas Station FrankenmuthDinner was at The Old Christmas Station (http://www.christmas-past-collector.com/) a short walk from the hotel. It was indeed quiet! Our waiter, Ryan, did a wonderful job, in spite of the fact that he was also handling a party in another room. We had the chicken flambé, which was excellent comfort food and beautifully presented. The restaurant’s owner checked on how we were doing and we had a pleasant conversation. The emphasis seemed to be on hospitality leading to a relaxed experience. The restaurant is not inexpensive, but a good value.

The next morning we strolled the town, stopping in shops and enjoying the atmosphere. One find was the Frankenmuth Woolen Mill. (https://wool-bedding.com/) As a knitter and aspiring spinner, I thoroughly enjoyed the brightly-lit store full of beautiful bedding, wool, and other comforting things. Another fun stop was the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus (https://frankenmuthcheesehaus.com/), kid-friendly and full of an array of cheese and sausages. Our favorite was a cheddar and horseradish spread.

Brommers FrankenmeuthYou can’t visit Frankenmuth without going to Bronner’s (https://www.bronners.com/), a football field’s worth of everything Christmas, including any type of ornament you can imagine … or not. (The toilet baffled us.)

Hungry, we stopped by Wang’s Bistro (http://www.wangsbistrofrankenmuth.com/ ) and enjoyed fresh sushi and sashimi in an attractive array. We split a lunch special which provided ample food on a hot day at a bargain price.

Wang's Bistro Frankenmuth

Kitschy and charming, Frankenmuth is worth a brief visit during your Michigan visit.

Coming Soon: A Short Suspense Story Set in Nevada

Chasing the Tumbleweed CoverChasing the Tumbleweed

A short suspense story

Opening an abandoned ice chest on a lonely Nevada highway might be her worst decision yet.

According to her former boyfriend in Salt Lake City, Laurie Bevin isn’t good at anything. With her meager possessions and newly minted degree in American History, she puts her pride in the trunk of her aging Celica and heads home. Not eager to admit failure to her successful LA parents, she takes the back roads through Nevada. Her curiosity leads to a carjacking … and possibly worse.

Forest ranger Jeff Dawson is dedicated to the only thing in his life for the past eight years—his job. The isolated stretches of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest suit him just fine. Except today there’s a killer loose in the region he guards. No matter what, he plans to set things to right.

Faced with a madman who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, Laurie needs to call on all her inner resources if help doesn’t get to her in time. Will Jeff be able to outsmart the killer, or will he become a victim, too?

Chasing the Tumbleweed is a very short suspense story with an undercurrent of romance. If you like Western suspense with a woman in danger who must help save herself, you’ll enjoy this book.

2 Foodies on the Road: Breweries

On our current roadtrip, we’ve explored two breweries — on in Glendive, MT, the other in Two Harbors, MN.

Cross Country Brewing

“Glendive’s Original Brewery”
www.facebook.com/xcbrews/
Est. 2013; Open 2017
320 E. Allard, Glendive, MT
406-377-BREW

Cross Country Brewing GlendiveSmall and rustic retreat from a hot summer day located in an industrial section of Glendive. A lot of regulars appeared to be in attendance, chatting and playing cribbage with their brew.A delightful stop after we explored a bit of Makoshika State Park.

It’s always wonderful when a brewery gives me a sample before I purchase. I don’t know much about beer, so it’s all learning. In addition to beer by the glass, there are growlers available.

We had:

  • Red Ale: A nutty flavor, palate-cleansing, especially nice on a hot summer day.
  • Well-Tempered Bach: Caramel taste, light beer.

Castle Danger Brewing

Creating a North Shore Experience
Est. 2011
https://www.castledangerbrewery.com/
17 7th Street
Two Harbors MN
(218) 834-5800

Castle Danger Brewing growlerOnce again looking for a respite from the heat of our Gooseberry Falls campsite on the north shore of Lake Superior, we found Castle Danger Brewing. Best of all–they had Wi-Fi! (We have working vacations, so an air-conditioned spot with Wi-Fi is a wonderful find.) The brewery is a popular spot, with tourists coming in waves even on a Monday afternoon in July. Long tables allow for fellowship and large parties.

We had:

  • Honey Raspberry Wheat: Refreshing on a hot summer afternoon, a touch of sweet without being overpowering.
  • Red Hop: Darker notes with a cleansing after taste
  • We took a growler of Ode IPA back to our campsite. A classic IPA, it was a bit on the yeasty side.

~~

My husband and I like to travel and explore back roads. A lot of the time we make pots of food before hand, freeze them, and cart them along. We eat well (carbonara, lasagna, beef stew, etc.) with minimum fuss and expense.

We also try new restaurants, wineries and breweries. From time to time, we’ll post reviews.