Why I’m a Christmas Junkie by Rachelle Ayala @mimisgang1 #mgtab

Christmas in 1965, I’m the one in the blue.

Recently, a friend asked me why I write so many Christmas romances. [I’m working on #24]. I thought back to my earliest Christmas memories and why this holiday is so special to me that I start singing Christmas carols in July. It turns out that I’m nostalgic for all the Christmases past and the family fun times and memories.

Back in the 1960s, Christmas thoughts started with the arrival of the Sears Wish Book. We would take turns flipping through the entire catalog and dog ear the pages. Although we rarely got anything from the actual wish book, it was fun to keep hoping for that rock tumbler and be happy with the clothes or books found under the tree. I do remember getting the Lite Brite set and Spirograph. Even though my family wasn’t religious, we were always reminded that it was Jesus’s birthday first but that He gave gifts to us.

Back then, we worked on Christmas plays at school and made ornaments during crafts time. I was in the orchestra and we played Christmas music like Little Town of Bethlehem. The Christmas cartoons, Charlie Brown, Rudolph, the Grinch, the Little Drummer Boy, etc. were always highly anticipated. We’d go to our friends’ houses to watch them together. Sometimes, the parks and recreation would show a movie and have a tree lighting. Everyone wished everyone a “Merry Christmas” and our mailboxes were flooded with Christmas cards and letters.

Christmas morning was always exciting as it was hard to go to sleep the night before. Even though we lived in a small tract home in Southern California, my siblings and I wondered if we could hear the reindeer land on the roof. We were worried that my mother stored books and magazines in the fireplace and there wouldn’t be any room for Santa. Never thought what my friends who had actual fires in their fireplace would do.

On Christmas morning, we had to eat breakfast and get dressed first before venturing into the living room where the tree stood. That was the rule at our house. No opening presents in PJs. After the pictures are taken, the carols sung, we’d open our presents and yell out our thank yous to aunts and uncles [even if they weren’t there]. People would drop by [they didn’t need to call or text before coming], and then we’d run outside to share our toys with our friends. Some would have new bikes. Others skateboards, a baseball, or a board game. In the background, my dad played albums by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. I also remember Mele Kalikimaka was one of my favorite songs and imagined Christmas in Hawaii [wrote about it in Seashells & Mistletoe].

What are some of your favorite Christmas memories? Why do you like to read Christmas romances all year round? What do you miss about Christmases past? What do you look forward to on Christmas day?

I love living everyone’s Christmas fantasies by reading Christmas romances and love stories. This year, we at Authors’ Billboard have eleven Christmas stories for you in Unforgettable Christmas Miracles. Each author brings a different and interesting perspective to this favorite of all holidays. Mine is crazy and off the deep end. Nick’s Christmas Ride where two irascible Texas Hold’em playing ancestors, three social media narcissists, an old-time fiddler, and a flying car seem kind of normal for Nick Jolly and Hayley Brockman’s unexpected Christmas Creek romance.

Unforgettable Miracles – brought to you by Authors’ Billboard

Travel with Mona to Hungary

We visited Hungary twice, the first time while on a cruise along the Danube River and the second time as part of a land tour through Eastern Europe. I enjoyed both visits and can’t wait to return.

The capital, Budapest also called the ‘Queen of the Danube’ is bisected by the Danube. A 19th-century Chain Bridge connects the hilly Buda district with flat Pest. Buda was the kernel of settlement in the Middle Ages, and the cobbled streets and Gothic houses of the castle town have preserved their old layout. Until the late 18th century, Pest remained a tiny enclave, but then its population exploded, leaving Buda far behind. In the latter half of the 20th century, growth has been more evenly distributed between the two parts. There are so many landmarks to visit.

As we cruised toward Budapest, we encountered a steep limestone escarpment overlooking the Danube. It provided a panoramic view of the whole city. At the top stood the Citadella—built by the Austrian army in the mid-19th century in order to keep watch over the town. Today it serves as a hotel and restaurant and doubles as the stage for a splendid fireworks display on St. Stephen’s Day (August 20). 

Sights include the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, the Buda Castle hilltop complex, and the stately Hungarian Parliament Building.

Heroes’ Square: We walked through the statue complex of Hősök tere. Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square) stands out for its iconic, towering pillar and Millenium Monument complex that dates back to 1896. The complex honors Hungary’s 7 founding figures, together with a few other important national leaders. The square serves as a convenient central point for exploring the city.

Tombs of the Heroes

The Hungarian Parliament Building is the grand icon of Hungary’s democratic government. The majestic, neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament Building dates back to 1904 and looms over the Pest side of the Danube River. It’s the largest building in the country. Viewed from aboard river cruises or the western bank of the Danube, the structure’s reflection on the calm river surface adds to the breathtaking panorama. Its turrets and arches make up most of its façade and with Renaissance and Baroque interiors. Group tours are available at the visitor center.

The picture I took on a cloudy, rainy day from the river cruise ship.
Picture from the web

The Royal Palace in Buda: It now houses the National Széchényi Library, Budapest History Museum, and the Hungarian National Gallery. 

We had a tour of the palace

St. Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica named after the first King of Hungary, King Stephen I. With its impressive architecture and decorations, it is a popular tourist destination and place of worship and also holds regular concerts. We visited the interior during the day and admired the illuminated façade during our night tour of the city.

The Fisherman’s Bastion, world-famous for its turrets and for spires is one of the most well-known attractions of the Buda Castle area and provides perhaps the most beautiful panorama of the city from the Buda side over the river Danube.

The Liberty Statue or Freedom Statue is a monument on the Gellért Hill in Budapest.

The Freedom Statue by night.
A view of the Danube, bridge, and Parliament by night.

There are so many statues in Budapest. I enjoyed two that were not famous!

Although we traveled twice to Hungary, we couldn’t see everything in Budapest. If I ever return, I would like to swim in Széchenyi Thermal Baths, the largest mineral bath in Europe, shop in the Great Market Hall, and listen to a Liszt symphony.

Love You Doc Series – New Release

Dr. Robert Olson was a well-known cardiac surgeon and heart transplant specialist who lived in Florida. His wife Janice was a nurse. Robert and Janice deeply cared for their close-knit family and encouraged their children to follow in their footsteps. At home, all they talked about was hospital, patients, surgery, recovery, etcetera…

Sure enough, their four kids studied medicine. The oldest brother, Nathan, became an orthopedic surgeon and worked in Boston. His brother Aidan finished a residency in neurosurgery and accepted a position in Cincinnati. Their sister, Sophia, was an ER doc, and the youngest sibling, Liam, was still in med school when their dad died.

In the four novels of this box, these successful doctors faced their share of problems before finding their HEA.

A Character Study- #NewRelease #NARomance @jacqbiggar

Character Study- Renée

A blogging friend of mine likes to do an introduction to her characters before the release of her books, so I thought I’d do one today.

Image by Shahid Shafiq from Pixabay

Renée Thomas is the most serious and oldest at twenty-one. Her sister, Izzy- Elizabeth Mae Thomas- is two and a half years younger. She’s the moody, intense one of the family. Last, but not least, is their brother Benjamin. At nearly twelve years younger than Renée, Ben is the baby they love to spoil.

As children, Renée and Izzy did everything together, climbing trees, biking, sharing clothes, and secrets. But the night of Renée’s high school graduation and Izzy’s sixteenth birthday, that changed.

Renée is betrayed by her long-time boyfriend, Simon, her sister suddenly hates her guts, and she witnesses her father’s suicide.

Unable to handle the terrible chain of events, Renée leaves town, heading to California and her accepted application to UC Berkeley.

Two years later it’s Renée’s mom who is gone and she is forced to return to face her demons.

Two years later

The town looks the same as when I left for college. The Welcome to Smuggler’s Cove, pop. 7562, sign bows with the weight of the old town’s worries on its aged wooden frame. God, I’m glad I escaped.

My second-hand SUV chugs up the hill and over the bridge. Chinook, the river named after the salmon who travel hundreds of miles to spawn in its muddy brown water, gurgles over the rocks far below. Giant rubber tubes in a rainbow of colors filled with laughing teens dot the surface. I’d joined them many times to get away from the oppression at home.

Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay

Home.

It’s been nearly two years since I left and would’ve been longer if I had my choice. Hard on the heels of guilt come the ever-ready tears. Fact is, while I soaked up the west coast sunshine and campus life, my little sister had taken over the reins of the house, getting my brother to school, paying the bills, and caring for Mom.

This is the story of two sisters torn apart by unspeakable horror and brought together by tragedy. Can family ties overcome the pain of betrayal?

Letting Go: The Defiant Sisters- Book 1

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B3R41NWF

International: https://books2read.com/Letting-Go-Defiant-Sisters

TBR: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61269995-letting-go–the-defiant-sisters-book-1

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/letting-go-the-defiant-sisters-book1-the-defiant-sisters-duet-by-jacquie-biggar

A coming-of-age novel about the pain of misconceptions and learning from them.

 When life gives you lemons…

Izzy

Mom is barely in the grave and the prodigal child is here to pick the bones clean.

I don’t want her here. My sister’s defection is a wound that won’t heal and her return simply rubs at the scabs covering my heart.

I’ve managed just fine without her. She can go back to her fancy college and forget about us- that’s what she does best anyway.

If only I didn’t need her help. Or miss her so much.

Renée

The day my dad committed suicide I ran. I’ve been running ever since.

Going home is supposed to be the answer. Instead, it makes me question every thoughtless decision I’ve made.

My sister hates me. My little brother barely knows me. And Simon… is engaged.

None of it matters- or so I tell myself. I’m here to make amends and face a past haunted by regret.

As long as I can convince myself to stay.

Letting Go is a young adult romance dealing with tragedy, restitution, and love in all its aspects. The story relates to sensitive topics that may be triggering for some readers.

7 ways to show someone they matter #RachelleAyala #mgtab @Mimisgang1

Photo by cottonbro: https://www.pexels.com/photo/mother-and-daughter-in-the-kitchen-table-5491324/

These days it seems we’re busier than ever. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I wake up I have things to do. There’s running the household to running a business while trying to find time for exercise and writing. Many times, I’ll think about what I can do for a friend or a family member without actually doing it. However, thinking is not the same as doing, and while you can tell someone you love them or were thinking about them, they’ll feel like they really mattered to you if you do something to show them. It’s the same concept of “Show, don’t tell” in writing.

Here are seven simple ways you can show someone they matter to you.

  • Call them or drop by for a visit. Your most valuable possession is your time. Calling a friend or a relative to wish them a happy birthday or taking them out for lunch shows you value being with them. It’s not just the “thought” that counts, but your presence.
  • Invite them to an outing. It could be a walk in the park, or a trip to Chinatown to pick up spices, or the neighborhood repertory theater, or a church activity, or a meet-an-author book-signing. Experiencing something new together is a great way to discover more about another person.
  • Cook a meal together. One of the funnest activities I did with a friend back in college days was to shop and try out a new recipe every Friday evening. We both learned how to cook and endured burned dishes and lots of laughs. Two cooks are always more fun than one.
  • Offer to babysit or do a household/yard chore. Lending a helping hand is a great way to show someone you value them. Maybe they’re new parents or bought a fixer-upper. Many hands truly make short and cheerful work.
  • Listen while they speak and draw out the silent ones. Being interested in a person shows them they matter. Listening carefully and drawing them out shows that you respect their ideas and thoughts.
  • Give up your seat on the bus or your place in line. Putting another person ahead of you shows them they matter to you. You’ll likely be rewarded with a smile and friendly words, and even if it’s only a grunt, you gave someone else first place for that short moment.
  • Respect their opinions and wishes. Everyone has their opinion and wishes, whether you agree with them or not. Respecting another person’s thoughts and feelings shows how you esteem them as an individual with their own agency.

What are some of the ways you show someone they matter? Enter them in the comments.

One of the best ways to tell an author she matters is to email her your thoughts about her book and/or write a review. It shows that her story or nonfiction made a difference in your life, and that’s ultimately what we’re here for–touching other lives and making a positive difference in the world.

Photo by RODNAE Productions: https://www.pexels.com/photo/mother-and-daughter-smiling-while-looking-at-each-other-holding-mugs-8489007/