Guest Authors: Sweet Romance Reads Group

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This is our monthly week for guest authors, and today I have NINE guest authors who are celebrating a new release with a holiday anthology. I’ve read previous Christmas anthologies from this group because they’re all sweet romance authors like me. If you’re ready for some holiday magic, you might want to check out this collection. You might recognize a few authors from books I’ve previously reviewed. Here’s a quick overview of the stories included:

Sweet Christmas Kisses 5 brings you heartwarming contemporary romances that celebrate the joy of the season around the world, including in snowy Maine and the sun-kissed skies of Florida, the mountains of Colorado, small-town Illinois and South Carolina, New York to San Francisco, and even the glittering lights of Paris and the old-world charm of Florence. The Sweet Christmas Kisses 5 bundle features all-new, standalone novellas that will make you smile and fill your heart with the Christmas spirit.

Christmas With The Poker Group by Beate Boeker, USA Today Bestselling Author. After losing her beloved grandmother and getting dumped by her boyfriend, Sabrina is left feeling like Scrooge this Christmas. She makes a plan to survive the holidays in Florence, only to realize her grieving grandfather has a plan of his own. One that involves the crazy Mantoni family and the distractingly handsome man she’s determined to avoid. It’s beginning to look a lot like a tricky Christmas.

Christmas With The Carmichaels by Christine Bush, USA Today Bestselling Author. Widow and retiree Gabby is ready for a rocking chair. At least according to her daughter. Except maybe she’s not. After getting stranded in a Maine snowstorm with a silver-haired fox, Gabby might find the courage to say “yes” to life once more, and find a Christmas love she never expected.

The Mistletoe Bachelor Auction by Milou Koenings, USA Today bestselling author. When a supermodel with a string of bad news boyfriends “wins” a volunteer firefighter at a charity bachelor auction, Rose and Ryan might both discover they’ve found their perfect Christmas match. A fun and romantic holiday tale set in the fictional town of Green Pines, Illinois.

Sweet Peppermint Kisses by Josie Riviera, USA Today Bestselling Author. Sometimes the best gifts are hiding right under your Christmas tree. His emotions were once trampled flat. Can he throw his heart over the fence toward the ultimate Christmas gift—a future filled with love? A holiday tale about the healing power of love, set in the charming fictional town of Cherish, South Carolina.

Christmas In Paris by Roxanne Rustand, USA Today Bestselling Author. Kindergarten teacher Heather thought all her dreams were coming true—until she was jilted by her fiancé three months before their Christmas wedding. Since the honeymoon to Paris is already paid for, Heather determines to go sans groom and have a great time, no matter what. Love is not part of her travel plans, but when a handsome young doctor literally runs into her on the street, the magic of Christmas in Paris may cause a change of heart.

Second Chance Christmas by Kristin Wallace, USA Today Bestselling Author. Ten years ago, Mia Reynolds and Win Barrington spent one magical Christmas together—until lies and manipulation tore them apart, and left Mia to raise a daughter all on her own. Now, both are back in their hometown of Palm Cove, Florida just in time for the holidays. Once they uncover the truth about what happened, can Mia and Win rediscover love and celebrate a Second Chance Christmas with their daughter?

Ghosts From Christmas Past by Mary Alford, Publisher’s Weekly Bestselling Author. She was the love of his life, until a tragic accident on Christmas Eve left Charlotte Swenson in a coma. For eight years, Sheriff Dylan Parker of Bitter Creek, Colorado has held on to the hope that somehow his love will find a way back to him. And when Charlotte opens her eyes, just days before Christmas, Dylan can’t help but believe a holiday miracle may grant his every wish.

Christmas Pizza To The Rescue by Jean C. Gordon. When a freak winter storm strands them alone at the Team Macachek barracks in Central New York, champion motocross racer Royce Evans and out-of-work investigative reporter turned pizza deliverer Samantha Linder strike a bargain that benefits them both. But when it appears Sam has broken the agreement, will the spirit of Christmas be strong enough to save their blossoming holiday love?

The Love Clause by Liwen. Y. Ho. He needs a fake girlfriend to advance his career. She needs a pretend date to keep her mom off her case during the holidays. The solution to both of their problems? A contractual relationship with one clause: neither of them can fall in love. A Christmas tale set in romantic San Francisco that will cause this reluctant couple to rethink the “no love” clause.


All nine authors in this boxed set write sweet/wholesome romances and are members of Sweet Romance Reads, a group of authors whose books contain no sex, violence, or strong language. While the emotional stakes are high as the characters’ relationships grow, lovemaking is not described in these stories. Think movies rated G or PG. Therefore, Sweet Christmas Kisses 5 can be enjoyed by romance readers of any age.

Pull up a chair by a cozy fire, pour a cup of hot chocolate and allow these bestselling and award-winning authors to bring the holiday season alive as they warm your heart.

Purchase the book at your favorite online retailer: Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and iTunes.

Connect with the Authors at Sweet Romance Reads at their website and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Goodreads.

Or connect with each of the Sweet Romance Reads Authors individually:

Beate Boeker
Beate Boeker is a USA Today bestselling author with a passion for books that brim over with mischief & humor. She writes sweet, sophisticated romantic fiction and cozy mysteries, many of them set in beautiful Italy. While “Boeker” means “books” in a German dialect, her first name Beate can be translated as “Happy” . . . and with a name that reads “Happy Books,” what else could she do but write novels with a happy ending?
Beate’s links: FacebookTwitter,  Website,  Newsletter

Christine Bush
Christine Bush is an award-winning author of many sweet romances, mysteries, and novellas. When she’s not writing, she can be found teaching Psychology at a local college, working as a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice, or (mostly) spending time with her twelve grandchildren.
Christine’s links: Facebook, Twitter, Website

Jean C. Gordon
Award-winning sweet and inspirational author Jean C. Gordon writes what she knows best — small-town, happily-ever-afters set in, or with characters from, her native Upstate New York.
Jean’s links: Facebook, Twitter, Website, Newsletter

Milou Koenings
USA Today bestselling author Milou Koenings writes heartwarming romance novels because sweet stories with happy endings are like chocolate – they bring joy to the world and so make it a better place. She’s lived all over the world, working as an editor and newspaper columnist, but loves staying home with her family most of all. She’s the author of the Green Pines Romance series.
Milou’s links: Facebook, Twitter, Website, Newsletter

Josie Riviera
Josie Riviera is a USA TODAY bestselling author of contemporary, inspirational, and historical sweet romances that read like Hallmark movies. She lives in the Charlotte, NC, area with her wonderfully supportive husband. They share their home with an adorable shih tzu, who constantly needs grooming, and live in an old house forever needing renovations.
Josie’s links: Website, Facebook, Twitter

Roxanne Rustand
USA Today bestselling author Roxanne Rustand is the author of thirty-five traditionally published novels, plus four indie novels. She was a Golden Heart finalist twice, and a Golden Heart winner in 1995. She has won two RT Magazine Reviewers’ Choice Awards, and was nominated for an RT Magazine Career Achievement Award. Her earlier books were secular, but she now writes sweet indie romance, and inspirational romance for Love Inspired.
Roxanne’s links: Facebook, Twitter, Website, Newsletter

Kristin Wallace
Kristin Wallace is a USA Today bestselling author of inspirational, contemporary and women’s fiction filled with “Love, Laughter and a Leap of Faith.” Her popular series include the Covington Falls Chronicles and Shellwater Key Tales.
Kristin’s links: Facebook, Twitter, Website, Newsletter

Mary Alford
Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author Mary Alford was inspired to become a writer after reading such romantic suspense greats as Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. Creating characters and throwing them into dangerous situations that test their faith was a challenge, but 2012 Mary received “the call” to publish her first book — a dream come true. Today, Mary writes Christian romantic suspense, and small-town contemporary romances.
Mary’s links: Facebook, Twitter, Website

Liwen Y. Ho
Liwen Y. Ho writes sweet and inspirational romance infused with heart, humor, and a taste of home (her Asian roots). She lives in California with her family and blogs about life as a recovering perfectionist.
Liwen’s links: Facebook, Twitter, Website, Newsletter


Posted in Anthologies, Guest, Guest author, Holiday, New Release | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Few of My Favorite Things

I posed this week’s question: Do you still have any of your old toys?

I’m sentimental. I’d have more, if they had not been left in storage in another state by a relative of mine, and a few that were thrown out for good reasons and bad, but I do have several.

Here are two:WP_20180703_001

The Scottie dog I have had most of my life. In  fact, I cannot recall ever not having him. Family legend has it that we all went shopping when I was about 2, and it was love at first sight. I would not leave the store without it.

I take that story with a grain of salt; if it’s true, it was the one and only time I got something I wanted. I learned at a very young age that I should not even bother to ask, because I was setting myself up for a let-down. All I can think of is that it probably happened near my birthday.

The bunny was made for me by an aunt-by-marriage when I was about 6. She had gotten a fancy (for the time) new zig-zag sewing machine and tried her hand at making something new. As you can see, she was quite a seamstress. We only lived near each other for a few years, but I also got the benefit of her talents in other ways. She made lovely dresses for her daughter, who was nearly two years older than I, and I welcomed the lovely hand-me-downs.

These take some explanation. They are not toys per se; they are pajama bags.



The pajamas were made of the same material as the backs:

WP_20180703_003 I can still remember that the PJs were incredibly comfortable and while I was sick,(a lot), I lived in them. I could not have been older than 6 when my mother bought them. Why did I hang on to the bags?
They glow in the dark!

The clock never glowed as strongly as Raggedy Ann and it is finally giving up the ghost; no matter how much light, there is now a faint glow for only a few moments. The Raggedy Ann takes a lot more light that it once did to work, and it doesn’t last very long, either, but she still has quite a glow. If you consider that  I just turned 64, they were probably made 60 years ago, it is amazing that they glow at all.

And where would we be without books? Again, most of mine were lost and it still hurts. Almost all are irreplaceable; I’ve tried. Some were reissued by their publishers in ‘updated’ versions, which ruined their charm and destroyed their lovely illustrations. However, this book has been with me since I was 8:

Joan Walsh Anglund’s “A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You”. My mother saw it as she was working my school’s book fair and thought it was perfect for me. It is written for lonely children. It advises that you can find friends sometimes if you look, but even the wind can be your friend, a brook, a tree a white mouse, and of course, a book can be your friend.
It didn’t edify me; it made me sadder, but I loved the illustrations and even back then, I knew that my mother and Ms. Anglund meant well.

I’ve kept some of my kids’ and grandkids’ toys, but I have given more away. Almost all were in very good shape, and why shouldn’t other kids love them and have fun with them?

However, many of the stuffed animals that belonged to my sons are still here, along with a few other toys. I still keep some Barbie things that belong to my granddaughters, (which they have grown beyond). And I don’t think I will ever part with the musical Pooh Bear that used to put my grandson to sleep;( I may start playing it for myself!)

If the kids ever want these, they know where to come.

Posted in authors, Books, childhood, Family, memories, Tonette Joyce, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Those Marvelous Toys

And I’ve Been Able to Keep a Lot More Than You’d Imagine

By Jeff Salter

I had to double-check the 4F1H schedule for this week, because I was 99% sure this topic had been proposed by ME. Nope, it was suggested by Tonette, the Friday Fox. Why did I automatically assume the topic had sprung from my noggin? Glad you asked. Back when I was still working full-time as a public library administrator, I had regular displays – mostly of my own military gear collections – which I’d put on exhibit for a month at one Library facility or another (in our multi-branch system). The very last display I put together (before retirement) was in December of 2005, and featured antique toys. [A suitable theme for the weeks leading up to Christmas, don’t you think?]

After an exhaustive search of my photo files, I cannot locate any photos, however — which saddens me. This 2005 display included many antique toys from my colleagues and friends, as well as several from my mother and mother-in-law — many of them dated back to the early 1900s. But at least a third of that entire display consisted of my own childhood toys.

How Did So Many of My Toys Survive?

Read back over the Tuesday and Wednesday posts this week and you’ll see a discussion about the keen sense of LOSS when a child has grown, gone away to college (or wherever) and returned home to find their TREASURES gone (or damaged). In my own case, I’m pretty sure it was during my freshman college year, two states distant, when my Dad cleaned out the attic and hauled nearly everything to Goodwill. I no longer remember everything that vanished in that operation, but among those treasures were three vintage wooden and metal (toy) rifles… which I’d played with for years.

By some miracle – which I’m still partly unclear about – a lot of my other toys survived that purge. Possibly I’d placed them in the sizeable wooden footlocker with other things like high school reports and themes, my own poems and stories, and important papers like score sheets for college entrance exams. Not sure. But wherever I’d stashed my other toys, they were still safe and sound when I discovered the loss of those toy rifles and other treasures.

Passing Along to My Son

Another somber chapter to this whole subject was when our toddler son was beginning to play with toys, I turned over to him some of those treasures I’d enjoyed for years and lovingly protected for a decade or so. Sadly, for two different reasons, I suppose, many of them broke in his hands. Reason # 1: they were old and brittle… and had been stored in extreme attic heat of southeast Louisiana summers. Reason # 2: he was too young to be careful and (obviously) too young to have any recognition or appreciation that Toy X had been a particular favorite of his father’s.

But I quickly learned my lesson and reclaimed those toys which had survived his too-early custody. [I held no grudge against my son, of course. In my haste to share with him the enjoyment of my treasures, I had introduced them while he was still too young (and too uncoordinated). He was at the age (pre-school, as I recall, or maybe kindergarten) when toys stomp around roughly or occasionally fly through the air.]

But I learned a lesson. I boxed up those treasures of mine and let him play with the new, sturdy Fischer-Price gizmos (his grandparents bought him) which easily stood up to the abuse of a child that age.


I never could find a properly-sized rider for that black stallion. The white horse had a Native American rider. The knights and cowboys were approximately the same scale — about 54 mm — but I can’t find any of my original cowboys.

My Earliest Toys

Discussed here are some of the treasures I still possess — which I retrieved from storage for these new photos.

* Received (while in kindergarten) for birthday or Christmas of 1955 — a metal fire truck. Originally it had two metal ladders (each about five inches long); also, a metal compartment with a rubber bladder inside, & a teeny fire hose. [Those accessories have long vanished].

* Also from the Macon years, a large plastic horse. Originally it had a bridle & complete saddle (with stirrups). For years, my mom and I looked for a RIDER for this horse, but none could be found in the proper scale. Years later, when my son was acquiring new toys, one of the companies introduced an 11-inch-tall character named Johnny West, who had a horse almost the exact size of my black stallion. Kind of ironic that my horse spent my entire childhood seeking a rider, and when my son came along, there were (correctly-sized) riders in every store with a toy department. [My son got Mr. West and his arch-enemy, Black Bart, along with other figures, as I recall.]

* I no longer recall WHY I wanted this, but my mom acceded to my desire for an actual “cow bell” (used as a toy). I’m sure the rest of the family HATED this loud, clangy toy, BTW. This was also around my kindergarten year… and possibly was influenced by a TV character on the Howdy-Dowdy Show.


Most of my original squad. You can easily see why the disparity in scale bothered me. The tank should have been large enough for most of these soldiers to ride on its rear deck — in other words, at least three times the size of this toy.

Soldiers and Battles

* As a kid, I spent a lot of time playing out scenarios featuring soldiers and battles. I still have many of my original plastic soldiers. My “squad” of WW2 soldiers numbered only about a dozen or so… and they were from at least three different sets. Several are Tim-Mee brand; others are un-marked. They vary in size from about 54mm to 65mm.

* Along with the soldiers, I had a hard rubber tank & half-track, both modeled after WW2 vehicles. The tank – a Sherman, I think – is by Auburn. I bought them (with my own, earned money) at Morgan & Lindsey, a local “dime store,” for 25 cents each. One thing which always bothered me was that the soldiers and vehicles were in such vastly different scales. For those soldiers (averaging about 60mm), the toy vehicles should have been about three times their current size.

* My interest in military figures was not limited to WW2, of course. I also had two or three knights & horses. Knights were rubber; horses were hard plastic. Originally, they possessed things like swords and spears… and possibly shields. But along the way, those accessories were lost.

* Continuing my interest in military figures, I was swept up in the commercial fervor of the initial year of the American Civil War centennial, 1961-65. I never acquired a set of those soldiers, but did possess a couple of individuals — can’t recall if they were blue or gray. Along the way, I traded some firecrackers to a neighbor [who’d just received a brand new CW set] and thereby acquired a plastic cannon, this one missing its breech piece & spring (which would have allowed tiny plastic projectiles to be “fired”).


These toy guns would fire “caps” which made a BANG and bit of smoke when the hammer struck the little packet of gunpowder.

Cowboy Stuff — Western Influence

Westerns – both in movies and on TV – were quite the thing when I was a kid.

* In addition to that enormous black stallion mentioned above, I evidently had an interest in horses generally. The smallest of these were in the same scale as my knights and my cowboys and Indians (mentioned below). The grey is hard plastic (by Bergen); others were rubber. About three times their size are white plastic horses [no maker indicated] which originally had Native American riders — long since missing.

* Definitely among my all-time favorite toys was the used “Stallion 38” model “six-shooter” by Nichols — which I got in trade from my brother, after the trigger/hammer spring had broken. The cylinder holds six cartridges & actually revolves. Inside these “bullets” were “caps” (thin paper packets with a tiny blob of gunpowder). Pull the trigger & BANG (just noise & a bit of smoke, but of course no projectile came out!)

* Made popular during the New Orleans set TV series, Yancy Derringer, these little single shot cap guns were (briefly) all the rage. I had two of these derringers — one was a “Dyna-Mite” model by Nichols. The one pictured is marked only with an “H”.

* When you’re pretending to be Roy Rogers or the town sheriff, you often need to lock up assorted outlaws. To that end, I acquired a set of sturdy jail-house keys, which I put to good use… cleaning up our little neighborhood.


Tops and Yo-Yos required skill and practice. Interesting how different the mid-1950s “spacemen” looked from our actual astronauts merely a decade later. The cowbell was real and I’m sure my family HATED it.

Skill and Competition

Among the games and activities we played at home and school recess were those which required learning a skill, practicing endlessly, and competing with others (in a variety of games).

* During my middle elementary years, it was important to be able to properly spin wooden tops, with metal tips (which some kids actually SHARPENED). The current generation of kids might be baffled by a piece of carved wood activated with wound string and a flick of the wrist. As I recall, a good top could be purchased for under a dollar.

* Another toy requiring skill and dedicated practice was the wooden yo-yo — and I had several. My favorite was the butterfly model. Pictured here is the “Tournament” model by Duncan. I think you could get nearly any model for about a dollar, with the fancy ones maybe another fifty cents. The manufacturer – and/or certain larger toy stores – would occasionally sponsor competitions. Interestingly, some of the best competitors were grown men! It kinda took the “amateur” fun out of things to have adult males winning yo-yo prizes.


Got the fire truck in kindergarten. After an eye injury and an accumulation of scar tissue on my left side required me to see two different specialists in New Orleans, my mom would buy me one of those tiny, five cent, vehicles in the foreground… for being a “good boy” in the doctor’s office.


Another of my favorite groups of toys was vehicles of various sizes and types. I’ve already noted the large fire truck, one of my earliest toys. But I also had a metal VW, a plastic Model T (by Plasticraft), and a TootsieToy racing car. In the smallest scale, under an inch long, were the metal cars Mom bought at a downtown New Orleans “dime store” (for five cents apiece) as a reward for me behaving during numerous trips to an eye specialist and a radiation specialist — for two different medical issues… both in the late 1950s.


No toy collection would be complete without a cigar box to held souvenirs, knick-knacks, oddities, & other assorted “treasures.” The oldest one I still possess dates to around 1960, I guess.

You’ll notice a mid-1950s concept of a Spaceman in one of the photos. I had about four different individuals in this set and they were popular because of all the low-budget Sci-Fic films of that era.


What about YOU? What were your favorite childhood toys? Do you still have any of them?

[JLS # 401]

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Dad, How Could You?

One Christmas Eve a long time ago, Santa came to my house and left a doll family under my tree. I was so thrilled! I had a mommy and daddy doll and a baby doll. The mama doll was a bride doll in a gorgeous dress. She was around eighteen inches tall, and the dad doll was a bit taller. The baby was smaller of course.

My sister also received a doll family, but she got the bridesmaid doll instead of a bride. I remember thinking the pink bridesmaid dress was prettier than the bride’s dress.

Santa had also gone to a seamstress who had made a wardrobe for each of the dolls. I can still remember how beautiful the clothes were. One of my favorite pieces for my bride was a blue cape with a hood edged in white fur. Oh, the dolls were spectacular!

My sister and I played with them for years before we finally outgrew them. We left them in the containers we had been given for them, and that’s where I expected mine to be when I went looking for them. I had my own house and wanted the dolls. To my surprise they were gone.

It seems that my dad had given them to a cousin who sold them at a flea market! I was devastated. One of my greatest childhood treasures was gone.  So do I have any of my toys left?

No toys, but I do still have some of my books. I owned The Black Stallion series, The My Friend Flicka trilogy, The Trixie Belden books, and various others. All of those titles are proudly displayed on my nicest bookshelf, and sometimes I’ll pull one out and just take a read down memory lane.


What about you? Any toys or books left at your house?

Trixie Belden

Posted in Books, childhood, Christmas, Elaine Cantrell, memories, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Memories Passed Down

This week we’re talking about old toys that we still have. When I was growing up I used take stuffed animals with me everywhere. I had a floor to ceiling book case filled with stuffed animals. When I was in the fourth or fifth grade my dad was in the hospital. My youngest brother and I went to stay with our grandparents on the farm. Grandma picked me up from school that day (it was toward the end of the school year so my brother and I simply ended the  year two weeks early that way my grandparents didn’t have to drive us back to town every day). When we got out to the farm I was so upset because I didn’t have my favorite teddy bear. My grandma brought down an old brown bear that had been loved for many years. He was no longer fluffy but his fur had been worn almost completely away. She said it had been her bear when she was a little girl. I got to sleep with that bear while we stayed there until my parents returned home. Grandma allowed me to name the bear so he became June Rose (looking back its an odd name for a bear that I always referred to as a boy but I wanted to name it after my grandma). I was the only grandkid who ever got to sleep with this bear or hold it. When my grandma passed away the bear became mine. It stayed on my bed until I reached the age of 22. Then after my divorce it came back out at the time I had a basement bedroom at my sister’s house while I tried to get back on my feet. During a large summer storm the sump pump went out. It took several days to get the basement dried out. Much to my dismay I found June Rose on the floor soaked through. All of the stuffing had to be removed. He is still at my sister’s house, she keeps saying that she will fix him for me. I think it is time that I find a person who can fix old toys. That was the best bear in the world and I would love to be able to give him to a grandchild of my own someday (or maybe even to my youngest who still sleeps with a stuffed animal).


Then there is one toy that has been used by every kid in my family. My parents got it when my older sister was little. All of their kids used it. We all said it was ours. It was a little blue Ford tractor. I loved pedaling that thing up and down the sidewalk. It was better than a bike! Everyone wanted to drive a tractor like Grandpa and Dad so we all wanted that one. When we had kids all of our kids have ridden on it. The pure joy that each of the kids have had as they got to ride on it. Now it is sitting in the garage waiting for the next generation to enjoy it.

Here’s a picture of Quinlan riding the tractor when he was just itty bitty.


I love telling my kids the stories that go along with items that have been passed down through the years and they love hearing them.  Do you have any toys from your childhood?

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Gathering Around the Campfire

DISCLAIMER: This is the wrong topic for this week. For some reason, I thought today was October 1. So I guess I’m going to have to write about this week’s topic next month!

This week’s topic is one I suggested: campfire or bonfire memories. Not being an outdoors type of person, I don’t participate in either of them now. We don’t have a fire pit here, and the groups I belong to are not inclined to meet outdoors. But I have some fond memories of times when I did.

Camp Fire manual

This manual was well-used. I loved earning all those pretty beads!

Back in grade school, I belonged to the Camp Fire Girls. During the summer, my parents would send me to Camp Keewano, located in the central part of Michigan’s lower peninsula near the Huron-Manistee National Forest. The camp is no longer in operation, but I remember having a lot of fun doing crafts, singing, and sitting around the fire in the evening. Our counselors would tell us stories and I remember thinking how much fun it was to be around girls rather than just my two brothers.

In high school, we’d have bonfires to celebrate Homecoming. Since I was a student council officer I’d attend those, and have a great time. It was a time of optimism and enthusiasm that I loved. I didn’t attend the bonfires in college, probably because I didn’t want to go alone and didn’t know anyone else who went. In the end it’s probably good that I stayed behind, because my definition of partying activities differed from that of many others.

Rocky Mountains

I didn’t take this picture, but I saw some amazing scenery during my trip to the Rockies.

While I was in high school I joined a group of culturally diverse teenagers on a backpacking trip through the Rocky Mountains. A local filmmaker wanted to make a travelogue and recruited area teens, and I represented the very small Asian contingent. This was my first taste of real camping – we hiked, ate food prepared over the fire, and slept on the ground. I didn’t particularly enjoy the last part, but in the evening before we turned in, we’d sit around the fire and chat. Since my high school wasn’t particularly diverse, I found it interesting to learn about the ways others families did things. One particularly memorable evening, one of the older participants tried to hypnotize the rest of us. It didn’t work on me, but I remember watching some of the others as they sat up, but were unable to raise their arms!

The last time I sat around a fire was around twenty years ago. My daughters and I drove to New York State to visit my brother and his family. He had a fire pit in his backyard and one evening we sat around it, roasting marshmallows and chatting. He’s also a musician, and he took out one of his saxophones and started playing. It was a nice, relaxing evening after a day of sight-seeing and shopping.

In general, I find gatherings around the fire to be relaxing (except when hungry insects are in attendance), and fun, when you’re with people you enjoy. But I don’t enjoy them enough to go to the trouble of creating one. I appreciate daytime social events because I can see people’s faces, and for the most part I enjoy indoor gatherings because they’re generally bug-less. I suppose part of that is because I’m getting older and fussier.

What are your memories of fireside gatherings?


Posted in Family, friends, lifestyles, memories, Patricia Kiyono, youth | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Initially Speaking

Speaking…or writing.

A recent guest of mine decided to use his first initial instead of his full first name for publishing and on his professional sites. His reasoning was that no one calls him by his first name, so why encourage people to do so?

It made me reflect on myself and others.

When I first started to write for public consumption, I wrote song lyrics. I had them copyrighted and entered a major contest under the name of “T. Joyce”. “Tonette” not only sticks out and I wasn’t ready to be that recognized,  since I wrote the songs from a male point of view, I didn’t want an obviously feminine name to throw anyone off. I guess that was fairly successful, since I received an award and when the certificate came in the mail, it was addressed to “MR. T. Joyce”.

I’m not the only one to try that.

J. R. Rowling used her initials because she felt that boys would be less likely to read her stories if they knew that they were written by a ‘Joanne Kathleen’.

I imagine that you can list many writers yourself who are known by their initials: A.A. Milne, C.S. Lewis, H.G. Wells, we could go on and on; I don’t know their reasons.

Several authors I know have gone to using initials even after they have been published under their first names. Most of these have been because their writings have taken a turn in another direction. A few reasons were because they changed from more serious works to lighter writing, i.e.: non-fiction to fiction, or ‘cozy’ mysteries to grittier work. A few wrote sweet romances and then decided to go in for more graphic ‘love scenes’, so the initials went on the new ones, so that their readers would quickly know what to expect.

What brings other people to use their initials in daily life?

Once a friend sat in a waiting area in an airport for a long time hoping to meet a doctor who had been paged. The man paged had the same unusual last name as the friend and it was a long time before the friend thought to inquire at the courtesy desk for a message he had been waiting for from his own brother. The page had been for my friend David all along. His brother had asked for “D.R. Lastname” to be summoned to the phone, but the written message was misunderstood by the announcer. It would not be the last time such a mistake would happen.

My father had the misfortune to have, what seemed to be for most Americans, three possible first names, with a last name that seemed the least likely to be at the end. All of us have had our names turned around. (Except for my brother John, who would have gotten off easy, had he not joined the Marines and had the drill instructors enjoy calling him “Joycie”.) So more often than not, Dad would identify himself as “I.J. Joyce”, to avoid any mixing up in the order of “Irwin Jackson Joyce”, and so as not to be mistaken for a woman, to boot. Conversely, when I tried to use “T.M.”, I was called “Tim”.

My mother, who had an unusual name herself, favored my brother, obviously. My sister and I have uncommon names. My sister has a middle name which I am under strict direction not to reveal. Suffice it to say that my mother made a name out of a cutsie (in her mind) family nickname. She did not think it through and take into account how it would be taken out in the world. It is not vulgar, but very odd, and my sister begged to only use her middle initial until she married.( I think she married relatively young to a fellow with a common last name to make things easier for herself, and so that “Joyce” could slip into the middle-name slot.)

A friend from the old neighborhood whom we knew as “Cissie” has for the past 40+ years only allowed herself to be known as “Cee”, for “C” . (A ‘sissy’ she is not!)

I knew a man who everyone called “H”, (pronounced “AYCH”). I always thought it was awkward. You’d think they could come up with a nickname, wouldn’t you?

I have a cousin, Jay, with whom I became acquainted with only about five years ago. He’s a great guy and I could not believe that I had no knowledge of him at all, until I realized that I did know him, from a picture of him as a child, taken with a mutual uncle. The confusion happened because in the photo he was identified as “Jim”. I had seen him all of my life. No one knows why he switched to “J”/ “Jay”, as there are no other Jims or Jameses in the family.

Years ago a neighbor of mine in Colorado dropped in on his way to work. \ We knew him also as “Jay”. However, I looked at his badge and it said “R. Lastname”. We had become very friendly, so I asked, ”Why, if you are “Jay”, does your nametag say ‘R’?”
“Well”, he said, “my name is Raymond James Lastname, Jr. They used to call me Junior, then they called me Raymond, Jr, then they called me Ray, Jr, then it turned into R.J., then they ended up calling me “Jay”.
Good thing my husband was there to continue talking to him and that the man needed to leave for work. He had no idea how close he came to Bill Saulga’s comedy routine and I could not keep biting my tongue for much longer to keep from laughing out loud:

Do you use your initials? Do you write under your initials?

Do you have any friends who prefer first initials to their names?

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