Guest Tim Germain and “The Customs of Christmas”

Today, I bring you something interesting for the the beginning of the holiday season, as many people are starting their Christmas celebrations early this year. I also believe that with so many writers reading this blog, and Christmas being a favorite theme in books, that many will find inspiration and information on pages of The Customs of Christmas.

I am so very happy to have Tim Germain as my guest. Tim and I have a great deal in common. We have deep Christian faith, a strong sense of family and a devotion to traditions.

 I found Tim’s site, “The Customs of Christmas” some years ago, but I had not realized that he has been spreading Christmas joy and information for twenty years. He also has a sister site, “The Customs of Easter”. Let’s find out more.

My easy entertaining and cooking blog, Tonette Joyce: Food, Friends, Family was started on the basic principles of your blog, Tim, that of trying to get people back to family stories and traditions. (Unfortunately, it has gotten sidetracked often to help those who need alternatives to traditional ingredients, which I am glad to do, but I digress).


Thank you for having me, Tonette.  I’m glad you found my sites and are enjoying them.

The Customs of Christmas certainly contains every aspect of the truth and the history of the celebrations of Christmas. It is very informative and is done in simple, clear terms that the whole family can enjoy and use for teaching and discussions.  What were some of the things that you learned while researching the topics? Are there any that you have adopted?

The subject of Christmas customs is large.  When you add all the countries of the world and their Christmas customs to the mix, it’s impossible to learn something you didn’t know before.  For instance, we all hear and sing “The 12 Days of Christmas.”  Then I learn that each of the gifts were possibly codes used to teach Catholic children their catechism.  A kind of fun custom that I learned about was the favorite Christmas dish of Japan.  You must get your order in early if you expect to have KFC for your Christmas dinner.  A strange Christmas custom that I learned about comes from Spain.  On Christmas day a log is placed partly into the fireplace and ordered to “poop.”  To make it “poop” children beat the log with sticks and sing Christmas songs until nuts and candy fall out for everyone to enjoy.

While my family hasn’t adopted any of these customs that I’ve researched we have enjoyed some of them.  One Christmas we celebrated St. Nicholas Day (December 6) with a stollen, a new treat for my family.

In your “Christmas Around the World” page, you expound on the traditions in many countries. Which country do you think does the best job for Christmas?
What is the most unusual tradition that you have found?

Each country has their own special way of celebrating Christmas.  While many of the customs are similar, they add their own flavor to them making them their own.  The Philippines have taken the customs from several cultures and combined them to make a unique Christmas celebration that is all their own.  Christmas in Israel must be something to experience.  Just to celebrate Jesus’ birthday in the country He called home would be beyond amazing.  Personally, I would love to experience Christmas in Germany (many of our Christmas customs came from Germany) with all their Christkindl markets.

ACTUALLY, Today it is 42 days away

I just love your posts. I truly enjoy your commentary and the many links and pages, such as “Carols” and all of the traditions. There is no excuse from your readers not to be able to put on a full Christmas feast with your recipe section, even by those who don’t think that they can cook. (I can, but I still am going to try your ‘No-Bake Fruitcake.’)

What has been your most commented on recipe?

The best comments have been from my family.  Several of the recipes have become part of our family Christmas.  We make several batches of Fantasy Fudge every Christmas.  Other favorites include Black Forest Pie and Chocolate Mint Snow-Tops.  For breakfast Christmas morning we always have Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole.  I tried to change that one year, but my children nearly revolted.  That was a tradition we had to keep. 

I remember one year we made Cinnamon Scented Ornaments.  We had a lot of fun making them and watching the children paint them.  The house smelled so good that Christmas.

On the site are easy, family crafts for Christmas. Where do you get the ideas?

Most of them I got from other Christmas websites.  I saw the Coathanger Christmas Trees being made at a church I attended many years ago.  I made several of them myself to give away as Christmas gifts.  A year or two ago my children and I tried to make the Simple Marbled Christmas Ornaments.  They looked great, but I learned the hard way it takes a long time for them to dry properly.  I closed them up too soon and the paint ran.  The ornaments were ruined.

There are also links to Christmas games with something for just about every learning level.
 You also have fun and interesting puzzles and quizzes, (Christmas I.Q., Santa’s Elf Logic  Quiz,  Christmas One-liners and many others).   Who created these?

Again, most of these I found on other websites.  Santa’s Pack Held 30 Toys is my all-time favorite logic puzzle.  That one came from Reader’s Digest.  I remember solving that puzzle as a young boy. 

You ask your readers for questions and suggestions, Tim. How often do people send ideas to you? Is there anything in particular which you are looking for to add to your site?

Most emails that I receive are from people selling something asking me to put a link to their site.  Some of the best emails came from people who used the information found on my website in unique ways.  The most memorable was from someone who wrote a Christmas play for their church’s Christmas program.  Information from my site was incorporated into the play.

I’ve also found online a newsletter from Central Towers a Presbyterian Homes & Services senior living home in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  They shared information from the 12 Days of Christmas, Nativity Scenes, Candy Canes, Christmas Lights, and Gift Giving pages with their mailing list.

Several teachers have included a link to on their class resources pages.  It’s fun finding all the links.

Your other site, The Customs of Easter, seems like natural growth from your devout Christmas site.  I truly enjoyed the superstitions of Hot Cross Buns; (who knew?). The directions and link to the science of dyeing eggs naturally is incredible. Do you get a great deal of feedback on this?

No, I don’t recall any feedback from The Customs of Easter.

 The Easter site also contains great information on the history and changes in Lenten observances, Shrove Tuesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and others, plus a few lesser-known traditions, such as “Carling Sunday” in Scotland.  Are you going to be adding world traditions as you have for Christmas?

Both of my websites are one of my hobbies, and I treat them as a hobby, meaning I probably don’t add as much content as maybe I could or should.  While adding world traditions to the Easter site would be great, I’ve still got a lot of countries to do for the Christmas site.

I seem to recall this and other Christian observations being on the Customs of Christmas site, (like St. Patrick’s Day).  Will they be back?

My Christmas blog site,, may have other holidays and Christian observations there.  I keep the main sites for the specific holiday only.

Tim, is there anything that you would like to add?

How did get it’s name?

A favorite page:
I love old time radio shows from the 1930s to the 1960s or so.  The Christmas radio show The Cinnamon Bear was first aired in 1937 and has been aired on at least one station every year since then.  Because The Cinnamon Bear was aired in 15 minute segments from November 29 to December 24 I created an advent calendar page using the episodes of that radio show.  A friend of mine created the images used to play each day’s episode.

The beginning of my Christmas blog:

Before my Christmas blog went to, my blog was on  My MySpace name for the blog was SD Kluger because he could “answer all your questions because I know all about [Christmas].”  Sometimes I would interact with people who friended me on that site as if I were “Special Deliver Kluger, SD for short.”

Thank you so much for sharing your site and insight with our readers for the Holidays, Tim. I hope that everyone who sees this will check into the links below and get as much out of  your sites as I have.


Posted in America, big plans, blessings, blogging, Christmas, Compilations, experiences, Faith-centered stories, Family, food, Guest, Holiday, holidays, inspiration, interview, Miscellaneous, Random thoughts, research, traditions, winter, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Return of Guest Fox, Lynn Shurr

Have a look at her recent novel, Lady Flora’s Rescue

By Jeff Salter

When I arm-twisted Lynn Shurr into being my Guest Fox on this Hound Day, I had forgotten she was here at 4F1H just over five years ago. But I’ve checked the earlier blog and there’s hardly any over-lap… so enjoy my interview here today and then click below to read her interview with Tonette from five years ago.

I’ve known Lynn – by another name (Carla) – since 1979 when we served together on a focus group for the Louisiana Governor’s Conference on Library and Information Services. In all the years I interacted with Carla – and all those conferences and committees we participated in – I never knew she was a writer. Didn’t learn about Lynn until I retired.

Blurb: Lady Flora’s Rescue

When little Lady Flora first lays eyes on the Duke of Bellevue’s half-Shawnee son brought from the wilds of America, she isn’t the least afraid. To her, Bear Hug, renamed Pearce Longleigh, represents adventure and freedom. Ten years pass before they meet again.

Flora’s belief that she has met her match is squelched when Pearce offers to return to Ohio Territory with her father to claim land for speculation. She invites herself along not knowing he plans to rejoin his mother’s people. When Flora is taken captive by his tribe, will Pearce see she is returned to her own native land? Love must go to war with Freedom.

(Release date: January, 2019)

Author Bio

Once a librarian, now a writer of romance, Lynn Shurr grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country.  She attended a state college and earned a very impractical B.A. in English Literature. Her first job out of school really was working as a cashier in a burger joint. Moving from one humble job to another, she traveled to North Carolina, then Germany, then California where she buckled down and studied for an M.A. in Librarianship.

New degree in hand, she found her first reference job in the Heart of Cajun Country, Lafayette, Louisiana. For her, the old saying, “Once you’ve tasted bayou water, you will always stay here” came true. She raised three children not far from the Bayou Teche and lives there still with her astronomer husband.

When not writing, Lynn likes to paint, cheer for the New Orleans Saints and LSU Tigers, and take long road trips nearly anywhere. Her love of the bayou country, its history and customs, often shows in the background for her books. She also enjoys giving tours at Shadows on the Teche, a National Trust property, where she meets people from around the world.

She is the author of more than thirty romance novels including the popular Sinners sports romance series: Goals for a Sinner, Wish for a Sinner, Kicks for a Sinner, Paradise for a Sinner, Love Letter for a Sinner, Son of a Sinner, She’s a Sinner, Sister of a Sinner, Never a Sinner, The Heart of a Sinner, and the Mardi Gras series: Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, Mardi Gras Madness and Courir de Mardi Gras. She has also written a contemporary western series: The Convent Rose, A Wild Red Rose, Always Yellow Roses, and The Courville Rose. Her two Cajun contemporary romances are A Taste of Bayou Water and Blessings and Curses. Her stand-alone contemporary romance, A Trashy Affair, was an Amazon exclusive. The single titles, A Will of her Own, An Ashy Affair, and A Place Apart and Putty in her Hands are Lynn’s newest single titles. A new historical series, The Longleigh Chronicles, premiered last year with, Lady Flora’s Rescue. The fourth in the group, The Greatest Prize, comes out December first.

Author Contacts:

You may contact Lynn at:

or visit her blog –

She accepts friend requests on Facebook under Carla Lynn Shurr Hostetter. She’d would love to hear from you and have you review her books.


1. How do you explain your early interest in creative writing? Or can you?

[ *** L. S. *** ] — I had early success in writing and starring in a one-person puppet show in the fifth grade. It went on tour of the school. To top that, my poem was chosen to be read at parents’ night in sixth grade. Hey, I discovered something I was good at—because it sure wasn’t math or science. It put what my mother described as my overactive imagination to work in a positive way.

2. You’ve lived in a lot of places: Pennsylvania, Germany, California, Louisiana. What has been the best experience?

[ *** L. S. *** ] — Actually, I love to travel and have new experiences. Every place has its pros and cons. California-lots of free lovely parks and seashore, great for a person with no money. Downside-high cost of living and having my puny belongings stolen three times. Germany-interesting historical places, wonderful pastry and wine. Downside-nearly getting killed on the autobahn and of course coping with a foreign language. While I have settled in Louisiana for a long time, I don’t rule out living elsewhere one day.

3. You’ve held a variety of jobs. Which was your favorite? Which was the worst?

[ *** L. S. *** ] — The worst—definitely working in the burger joint after graduating with my degree in English. The smoke in the air made my eyes water, and I always smelled like French fries. The most interesting of my humble jobs was taking classified ads over the phone. Not only did it hone my typing skills, great for a writer, but you never knew what would come up. My favorite of all: Free mice, great for feeding snakes.

My Bachelor’s Degree was also in English (with minors in History and Speech). I definitely agree that degree was impractical in 1976 and I had basically three options at that point: return to the military, get a masters in English, or go for the library degree. What nudged you (from your other options) toward library school?

I certainly wasn’t going to join the military. I did start an MA in English at UNC but had a professor who started his class by stating, “The only thing you can do with an MA in English is come after my job, so I am going to make you as miserable as possible.”  He did, and he was right. I dropped out of that program and wandered a few more years. When living in California on a shoestring, I used the public library heavily. One day, a young librarian said, “You know you can get a library degree in two years and San Jose State is just down the road.”  I’d lived there long enough to get state tuition at $300 a semester, and I finished my degree in eighteen months by going summers and at night. Librarianship was a perfect fit for me, but no one had suggested it earlier. Of course, I truly wanted to be a writer, but realized how hard that would be to make a living.

4. You’ve done it all: renovating libraries, automating them, and building them. Which is more difficult? Why?

[ *** L. S. *** ] — The hard part is getting funding, but I’d say renovations. You never know what problems will come up, a retaining wall that can’t be moved, having to shift all the books to the meeting room as certain sections were worked on and still stay open. Far easier to build one according to your plans. As for automation, while my library was the second in the state after New Orleans to move to computers, and I implemented that, I soon hired someone who could deal with them far better than I.  Gladly, I turned over my tiny screwdriver to her.

5. If you HAD pursued a career in archaeology, what area of the world would you have most wanted to work in? What time frame of history most interests you?

[ *** L. S. *** ] — I’ve participated in some digs and have realized I really don’t like digging in the dirt in the heat and coping with snakes and mosquitoes. My ideal spot would be Italy as I’ve always been fascinated by ancient Rome and Pompeii. Imagine discovering wonderful treasures and then having a great meal and wine at the end of the day.

I find most historical periods interesting and love doing the research when I am working on a book.  Lady Flora carried me to the wilds of Ohio in the late 1700’s, a time I knew little about. I’d started to write a Regency series in which she is a match-making matron. She stole the show, and so I backtracked and gave her an “origin” story as they say of super heroes.

In a single title, Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, I got to explore the 1920’s, a really fun and fascinating period. That, too, spawned sequels. It’s hard to let characters you love go.

6. What is it about bull-riding that compels you to watch? Have you ever done the riding part?

[ *** L. S. *** ] — I never watched bull-riding until I wanted to find a new kind of hero for my romances. Learning about the sport was very interesting, and I attended several rodeos and followed riders on the PBR circuit as part of my research. Nope, never done the riding part, not even on a mechanical bull. I have no fondness for injuries, and I tell you those guys endanger their lives every time they get on a bull. Most start right out of high school and retire early. The bulls definitely have the advantage. Much harder than football.

7. Recently, I finally read A Trashy Affair — and really enjoyed it. Please share with our readers how your local garbage problem inspired this novel.

[ *** L. S. *** ] — People always ask me where I get my ideas for my plots. Easy, plots are everywhere. Our town got a terrible new garbage collection service where a man bought a few old trucks, low-balled on his bid, and used political influence to get the job. Every bad (though funny) experience Jane has trying to get decent trash collection and recycling happened to me or a friend, like a wheel coming off a cart I’d had to wait six weeks to receive. Despite the title, it is a story about recycling both garbage and people. And no, the hero is not a sexy garbage man. It’s by far my favorite single title, though Merlin and Jane do turn up later in Putty in her Hands as secondary characters. And that one is about restoring old buildings, but is kind of sexy, too.

8. Your descriptions are beautifully done. How do you know how much description is too little, too much, or just right?

[ *** L. S. *** ] — I love writing descriptions. My editor tells me when I’ve gone overboard and makes me cut it back to a couple of paragraphs at the most. I don’t think I’ve ever written too little.

9. I’ve also read at least two of your Sinners series. I can’t remember if this was in one of your titles or in all that I’ve read, but I recall a lot of sensory details about Louisiana foods. Is food one of your special interests?

[ *** L. S. *** ] — To be honest, I’m not much of a cook, but the food in Louisiana is so good and really is an obsession around here. People rarely get together without discussing or consuming food. Again, one of my editors asked if I needed so much culinary description, and I said yes. I’ve had readers tell me they want to come to Louisiana to experience those meals.

10. I didn’t remember this from the Sinners books, but in this recent one I noticed several “bedroom” scenes that didn’t shy away from detail. How would you describe the “heat” level of that book?

[ *** L. S. *** ] — To me, sex is part of life and love, but I rarely receive more than three flames out of five in most reviews. Usually, there are two or three explicit sex scenes, but all are there to move the plot forward, not simply to be provocative. People can always skim them. I’m far better known for my plots and characters than I am for sex scenes.

11. What is the heat level of Lady Flora’s Rescue?

[ *** L. S. *** ] — I’d say it’s a two. They are far too busy with their adventures to have much time for it—and of course there are historical constraints. I did have one reader complain about the lack of sex in the book.  My Mardi Gras series has very little sex, but some of the single titles are hotter. It often depends on the character.

12. Lady Flora occupies Book One of the Longleigh Chronicles. How many titles do you predict for this series? How do you decide when a story will be stand-alone or will be part of a larger series? Does this series stop with Book Five, The Greatest Prize?

[ *** L. S. *** ] — For now, The Longleigh Chronicles is projected to have ten titles, one for each of Flora’s offspring.  So far, four are in print with number five, The Greatest Prize due out December first. It’s an especially good one. But, as Flora adores match making, it could go beyond that. As I said, I have a hard time saying bye to characters I love. As for deciding which will spin off into series, I need to have a long story line like my Sinners sports romances that follow the career of a quarterback and then of his children. Sometimes, my characters jump into the single titles or another series. One of my bull riders recently showed up in Dream for a Sinner, giving my nerdy hero some macho competition.

13. Do you have a question you’d like to ask our blog readers today?

[ *** L. S. *** ] — Yes. I am far better known for my contemporary romances which sell well. I’ve noticed there doesn’t seem to be as much interest in the historical books.  Though I love writing them, they take considerably more time due to the research required. Why do you prefer one over the other?

[JLS # 514]

Posted in Miscellaneous | 13 Comments

Dance With Me

GENRE:  YA (Fantasy)



Don’t tell anyone, but Kelli spends all her free time listening to folk music. Ok, it’s not what you’d expect from a popular fifteen-year-old, but that’s why she doesn’t want the whole world to know.

When Kelli follows the mysterious Tam Lane, she finds herself in a place where folk songs come to life. As she comes to terms with the world, she makes friends, uses her privilege to help others, and even falls in love.

But Kelli has forgotten the fates which await so many characters in the songs, and she soon finds herself surrounded by heartbreak. Determined to protect the people she has left, can Kelli change a fate which has been sung for centuries?



“So, what is Carterhaugh?”

“It’s in the Scottish borders,” he replied. “You must have heard of it before, Kelli.”

Kelli thought about it. The name sounded familiar, but she knew nothing about Scotland to speak of, and certainly nothing beyond the visitor attractions in Edinburgh. “I’ve heard of it, but I don’t know where.”

“Well, it’s a kind of gateway,” Tam explained. “There are beautiful gardens, and the land is very fertile so it is said that any seed to touch the earth will grow into the greatest of its kind. It was the birthplace of the ancient kings.”

“What does that have to do with me?” Kelli asked. “Or with Jehovah’s Witnesses for that matter?”

“Nothing at all,” Tam replied. “But you must have asked about it for a reason.”

“Yes, I did,” Kelli said, thrusting the magazine back into Tam’s hands with her thumb marking the last page. It fell open as Tam took it from her, and a picture of smiling children covered most of the back page, with the title ‘Bible Questions Answered’ and a small amount of text. 


“It was there!” Kelli said, a shiver running down her spine. She flicked through the magazine, but the page was nowhere to be seen. “It was there. There was a picture of a wood and a river.”

“That is Carterhaugh,” Tam said. “The birthplace of kings. You should go there. You’d like it.”

“How would you know?”

A Word With the Author

Did you always want to be an author?

I’m never quite sure if I am an author! What’s the difference between an “author” and a “writer”? I always knew that I wanted to write – ever since I was little! But I’m not sure at what point I started to wish I could be an author… I think that’s a tricky one, especially as I’m currently in a job which makes me happy.

Still, it would be wonderful to be able to write full time and be all the things which come with being an author. One of my main aims is for some wonderful filmmaker to turn my creations into a movie which I can go and watch in our local cinema!

Tell us about the publication of your first book.

My first book, The Backwater, was published in November 2018 and launched at an event at John O’Groats. I remember the event really clearly, because it was on the same day that I finished my first teacher placement. I was so tired, but grinned my way through it and actually had a great time, even getting to sign a few books. 
Later on, Crowvus entered The Backwater into the Wishing Shelf Book Awards. I have to say, I forgot all about it until the list of finalists was released and mine was on it! I couldn’t believe it! I needed a lot of persuasion that the competition organisers hadn’t just made a typing error!

Besides yourself, who is your favorite author in the genre you write in?

I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s work, and have read nearly his entire canon. I feel like he mastered the genre of crossover fiction, which is where I would slot Dance With Me. My favourite is The Graveyard Book, which is just a genius work of fiction and, in my opinion, a much better alternative to The Jungle Book.

What’s the best part of being an author? The worst?
I love getting to know my characters. The process of creating a whole world around these individuals is just so much fun! You can do whatever you like to them, and they will never fall out with you: the ideal friendship!! I love meeting people who have read my work as well, although I get a bit bashful, because they’ve experienced that world too.

The worst thing about being an author is the quantity of rejection. I never sent Dance With Me to any agents or publishers – it is being published by Crowvus, which is owned by my family. The reason? I spent months submitting another novel to agents and, even after initial interest, it was all just rejection. You need skin like a rhinocerous to be an author.

What are you working on now?

I keep a list of all the stories I have on the go! But my main one at the moment is about Sir Kay, the foster-brother of King Arthur. It follows him through his life, from the moment that Arthur is brought to the house, to the sword in the stone. I am really enjoying writing it, and especially doing all the associated research. Names are very important in the story, so I’ve been studying weird and wonderful names from a whole host of civilisations! 

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Judith was born in Orkney, grew up in Lincolnshire and now lives in the far north of Scotland. Her writing is inspired by the experiences of her life so far and she loves picking up on quirks and immortalising them in fiction.

Judith’s new book, Dance With Me, combines her love of folk music and creative writing, and finds her main character in a world where folk songs come to life. Her debut book, The Backwater, was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2019.

When she isn’t writing, Judith is a primary school teacher who enjoys crafting and music, as well as being a generally doting spaniel owner.




Buy link:

Posted in Miscellaneous | 7 Comments

Guest Authors: Meredith Bond and Pru Warren and the Writers’ Block Party Podcast

I love finding authors who find unique ways of reaching their audiences. Recently, I heard about a podcast featuring Meredith Bond, a fellow member of Marketing for Romance Writers group. I immediately contacted her for more information, and she kindly offered to share with us what she and her partner Pru Warren do each week at The Writers’ Block Party! First, let’s meet the two podcasters:

Meredith Bond has been both traditionally and self-published. She has written over twenty Regency romance and paranormal romance books and three works of non-fiction. After teaching writing and self-publishing since 2005 both in person and on-line, she now owns and runs her own formatting and coaching business, Anessa Books, where she not only makes the words of her clients look beautiful on page and screen, but guides new authors through the sometimes complicated process of writing and self-publishing.
You can find Meredith on her website and on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Bookbub, and through her newsletter.

Pru Warren is the eager novice of the duet–glomming on to Meredith Bond in an attempt to learn as much as possible about the self-publishing world from an experienced author and book coach. Yes, she knows how lucky she is!

Pru writes romantic comedies, and hopes to publish her first book (“Cyn and the Peanut Butter Cup”) in January, 2021. She has diligently set up a website and a newsletter, in the hopes of gathering up a group of readers who would rather giggle than frown, who enjoy a book with hot sex scenes when appropriate, and who hope no one ever discovers just how much time they’re wasting in delicious procrastination. Ah–THESE are my people!
You can find Pru at her website and on Facebook and Amazon.

So now that you’ve met the ladies on the Writers’ Block Party Podcast, let’s “listen in” for a sample of their banter. Today, they’re talking about their podcast!

Merry: Pru, how would you describe our podcast?

Pru:     I’d say I’m a vampire for knowledge attempting to suck all the book-publishing truths out of you that I can get before you notice what a drain on society I am.

Merry: And I’d say you’re an as-yet unpublished romance author who needs some guidance.

Pru:     Guidance from someone who has published so many books she’s not quite sure how many she’s got on her author’s shelf.

Merry: That’s important to you, huh?

Pru:     My authorial shelf is EMPTY, Merry! Of COURSE I’m fixated on your entire bookcase, overflowing into tantalizing piles on the floor. A few novellas wedged in casually across the tops of larger books. You’re a magnet and I’m an iron filing; I can barely unstick myself from you!

Merry: So you’re saying that our podcast is…

Pru:     …one idiot and one guru. And I spend half an hour a week exposing the depths of my ignorance as the stand-in for all the hopeful would-be authors out there. There are a LOT of us who want a single book on the author shelf!

Merry: What I know, I will gladly share.

Pru:     Yep; I’m absolutely counting on it!

Merry: Can you outline the boundaries of your quest?

Pru:     You mean—just how stupid am I? Well, I have questions about the craft of writing. About the editorial process. About finding an agent or deciding to self-publish. I want to know about author newsletters and marketing. And promotions—have we talked about promotions yet? I want to know how to appease the Amazon gods. I want a walk-through of the actual act of self-publishing. Like, what you actually DO. I want to learn about keywords and tag lines and book descriptions. What makes a good cover? How do you find beta readers? Can you con another author out of a blurb/testimonial?

Merry: Take a breath; you’re turning blue.

Pru:     I have a LOT of questions, and you and I only tackle one issue a week, for only half an hour! Now granted—that’s a perfect length for someone on the treadmill or doing the laundry or whatever. But I need more weeks! More half hours!

Merry: You’re getting a tad hysterical.

Pru:     How do I create a GLOBAL PUBLISHING EMPIRE?? Tell me, Merry!!

Merry: Okay, I think that’s enough for now. Maybe you should go lie down in a dark room for a while. Try a cool, damp cloth over your eyes.

Pru:     So much to learn…

Merry: This has been the Writers’ Block Party Podcast team of Meredith Bond and Pru Warren. We release new episodes every Friday morning, and can be found on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Play, Alexa, and Tune-In. Please like us, subscribe, and ask your questions so Pru knows she isn’t the only one hyperventilating over how much there is to learn. You’ll find us at Thanks!

This conversation lies purely within Pru Warren’s extremely funny, creative mind. In fact, what actually happened was that I heard a great presentation on podcasts at the RWA National Virtual conference and thought, “Wow! What a great idea! I’d love to start a podcast, but I really don’t want to do it alone. Who’s funny, clever, and is new to publishing who might do this with me? But of course! Pru Warren!”

I called Pru, begged, pleaded, cajoled and then realized she was saying “Yes, yes, yes! A hundred times… are you listening to me? I said yes!”

We decided to make it a conversation where she—as a novice—throws all her questions at me. I, having been in the “business” for over fifteen years, answer them to the best of my ability. We really hope that this interesting and educational for other authors.

If you think you might like the hear some of the craziness that is Pru trying to figure out how to become a published author and all that entails while I attempt to calm and explain, please join us every Friday wherever you listen to podcasts. And truly, don’t hesitate to throw in your own questions because Pru, while she does have a lot, has not yet cornered the market on questions.

You can find us at


Posted in author interview, Guest author, Guest author post, Patricia Kiyono, publishing, The Author Life, writers, writing | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

“Let Other Pens Dwell on Guilt and Misery”

I found the quote above from Jane Austen, which rather fits our crew this week when we addressed this week’s topic:

“What are some of your small guilty pleasures?”

We are some pretty innocent folk here who also really don’t have alot to feel guilty about!

But I had to stop and think.

With my health problems a lot of former “Comfort Foods” are now verboten; (what a horrible thing to have happen to someone who had an Italian mother!)

Still, I indulge myself in picking up specialty items and trying/developing new recipes. Yes, that is fun to me, (wasabi mayo, pomegranate molasses, new grains to try!) The guilty part? There are specialty items in my cabinet that I really picked up on impulse and have no clue what I was thinking of when I bought them.(Canned mango? Pate of pork? Frozen coconut pieces?)

Not that I don’t do so well  that my doctor tells me to cheat on my diet a bit for the holidays…and I do. (Guilty! I cheat more than I should.)

I do allow myself definite play-time/reading time at bedtime. The Husband retired and has so far refused to try to get into an ‘early-to-bed-early to rise’ rhythm, (despite how much he didn’t seem to like his late shift). So, he sits up and reads for a while, after he is on the PC, which is something that he just added to his routine. I change games around to keep my mind thinking in different ways.

I found that my mind had become rusty in some areas. Not good, so I tell myself that I am exercising my brain.

 [That’s usually after we have spent a while watching shows or movies, so it gets to be quite late. This is something we do far too much of since his retirement, but to re-see old shows where the subtleties may have been lost on me or to see a movie again after decades, or even new-to-me old ones.(We watched “Hondo” with John Wayne the other night. I can’t believe that I never saw this one before.]

What is guilty about it? I don’t get enough sleep, or sleep a  bit later than I should, when I could be getting more done in the mornings, (like writing).

The biggest SURPRISE indulgence to even myself is the time that I steal once in a while to do some ‘window shopping’ online, looking at clothes and jewelry. I never wore much jewelry; I never could carry off big blig. Even with a big lottery win, I would never feel comfortable buying gemstones, but goodness, after doing a little research and seeing what is gorgeous out there, I do allow myself a short time to do some real ‘grazing’.

I now understand why women have always gone crazy for jewelry. (That took me long enough!)

And I truly do only allow myself only a short time to indulge.

But I make the most of it. I’ve learned a lot about cultures as well, so the time is really not lost.

And I find that it releives stress.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Posted in big plans, clothing, Dealing with stress, experiences, Family, food, imagination, inspiration, Life, Miscellaneous, movies, reading, time management, Tonette Joyce, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

No Guilt At All

What Exactly Are Guilty Pleasures?

By Jeff Salter

It’s taken me a while to get a handle on this week’s topic — guilty pleasures. I’m not sure what I previously thought it meant, but I suppose I considered a guilty pleasure to be something that seems otherwise out of “character” – in the sense that we tend to stereotype people (and their tastes) – for a certain individual to enjoy. Along the lines of: “You wouldn’t probably expect this of me, but I really dig collecting skunk pelts.” A better example might be if a stereotypical, unmarried, elderly female librarian were a loud, rabid, obnoxious fan of pro wrestling. [And, yes, I can talk about librarians, because I was one for 30 years.]

According to Wiki, a guilty pleasure “is something, such as a film, a television program or a piece of music, that one enjoys despite understanding that it is not generally held in high regard, or is seen as unusual or weird. For example, a person may secretly like a movie but will admit that particular movie is poorly made and/or generally seen as ‘not good’. It can also be used to refer to one’s taste for foods that are considered to be advisable to avoid, especially for health reasons. Fashion, video games, music, theatre, television series, films, food and fetishes can be examples of guilty pleasures.”

I’m still not sure where the “guilt” part comes into play. If any of us love or enjoy something that’s a little weird, why should we feel guilty about it? To each his/her own… right?

I mean, I happen to enjoy chocolate (whether it’s ice cream, Hershey bars, or M&M Peanuts)… but I don’t have the slightest sense of guilt about it.

I still possess a few of my childhood toys from the 1950s… but don’t have a twinge of guilt.

I enjoy collecting books – in many different genres – but feel no fault.

I built up a fairly substantial collection of comic books several years ago… but don’t sense any guilt.

I’ve spent a few decades collecting and displaying military items from as far back as the Spanish-American War… but I don’t feel guilty.

Are those hobbies out-of-the-ordinary in any way? I’m not sure.

I know plenty of people who collect things that I might consider a bit off-the-wall, but I can’t see where they should feel guilty about it. I figure… to each his own. I recently read a story about a guy who collects very expensive masks from some of the big-time Hollywood horror movie franchises. That’s not my cup of tea, but there’s no reason for him to feel guilty about it… unless he’s not paying his other bills and obligations in order to buy those high-dollar masks.

So instead of classifying things that interest me as “guilty pleasures,” I think I’ll just consider them as collections / activities which give me a degree of pleasure. But to anyone who imagines my choices are more off-the-wall than their choices, I plead, “Not guilty!”


What about YOU? What are your pleasures that may not fit neatly into someone else’s mindset? Does that bring you any guilt?

[JLS # 513]

Posted in Miscellaneous | 13 Comments

Guilty Pleasures

One of my guilty pleasures involves clothes. More specifically wedding dresses. I just like to look at them. I spend far too much time on the TV watching people choose the perfect dress. I don’t know for sure when I developed this obsession, but I imagine it was in my childhood when I was given bride doll in a pretty dress. She was at least eighteen inches high, and I thought she was just beautiful. Why do I feel guilty about this? Because I could be writing, editing, or cleaning my house. Do I intend to change my ways? Uh, no.

I also like fast food. I feel guilty even thinking about it, but whenever I can justify it I’m headed to Burger King, Wendy’s, or Bojangles. My husband does much better. He tries to avoid fast food when he can, but if I want it, he’ll eat it with me. Sigh. Another thing to feel guilty about. I’m ruining the poor man’s diet.

However, my obsession with fast food is nothing compared to my obsession with pork rinds. Yep, you read that right. You can even see me holding my favorite brand in the picture. They’re barbecued which makes them better. This is odd too. For the majority of my life, pork rinds did not pass my lips. I considered them to be the lowest form of snack. Well, all of that changed one fall evening when my husband came home from the grocery store with a bag of them. “Try this,” he said.

I have no idea why I did it, but I tried it. Not too bad. I tried a second, then a third and fourth. I was hooked. They were absolutely delicious. My dog Rascal wanted one, and he liked it as much as I did. It’s funny about Rascal though. No matter how much he begged I’d never give him more than two or three because he had a sensitive stomach. Well, one night I decided I’d give them to him as long as he’d eat them. The two of us almost finished off a bag, but the last time I offered him one, he turned his head and refused it. As far as I know he never touched another pork rind in his life.

Readers, we all have guilty pleasures. Do tell us about yours.

Posted in Miscellaneous | 8 Comments

Christmas Already?

This week, we’re talking guilty pleasures. It took me awhile to figure out what mine could be. There isn’t anything that I really feel falls under that definition. Then I realized it is my love for Christmas. I do Christmas all year, I don’t leave the decorations up. Those come down the day after Epiphany and don’t go up again until the day after Thanksgiving. Christmas cards don’t get sent out until some time between the day after Thanksgiving and December 1. All the Christmas crafts and projects usually wait until after Halloween. The fun Christmas activities, like Polar Express night wait until after Thanksgiving.

However, through the year you can find me doing my Christmas shopping. I’ll go to the register with a cart full of toys that I found on clearance. The cashier might make a comment about how some little boy is going to be very happy or ask if there is a birthday. I’ll respond with, “Oh its for Christmas.” I usually get all sorts of looks but I don’t care anymore. My Christmas shopping for the next year starts in January when all the after Christmas sales are going on. I love a good deal. I also love finding something that I know someone will love and being able to get it for them. Once gifts are bought I will have a few different wrapping days in the year. That way little eyes don’t find them.

I listen to Christmas music, watching movies, and read books all year round too. It isn’t all the time. Usually when I need a little pick me up. It is so uplifting and spiritually healing. If I’m having a rough night and can’t get to sleep I will put on a movie and let the joy fill the empty night.

I did put on Christmas music in October while I was baking this year. My daughter came downstairs. ” Did I sleep through the rest of October?” I laughed. “It isn’t even Halloween yet, Mom.” That didn’t stop her from singing along though.

So while I might hear people say “Christmas already?” I no longer care. Christmas is such a wonderful time of year, it brings people together, there is so much joy and caring in the air. Why wouldn’t I want that all year long?

Posted in Miscellaneous | 9 Comments

Yes, I’m Guilty

Chocolate is the perfect guilty pleasure – for me.

One thing I’m constantly battling is procrastination, and I’ve discovered that I avoid tasks by engaging in several activities that bring me joy, although the time, money, and/or calories may or may not be good for me. So this week, I asked my fellow bloggers “What are some of your small guilty pleasures?” 

I would say that snacking is one behavior that consumes a lot more of my time than it should. No, I’m not a slow muncher, but when you add in the time I spend thinking about food, going to the kitchen, talking myself out of it, returning to the refrigerator, repeating the last two steps several times, finally deciding on “just a little bit,” preparing a healthy portion, consuming the calories, and then berating myself afterward, then snacking takes up a LOT of time. Chocolate, of course, is my number one choice, so I try to have very limited quantities in the house. Holidays tend to crush that strategy, and my waistline is proof of that.

Online word games are another way I tend to avoid doing what I should be doing. Word Crossy and Words With Friends are my current favorites. I used to keep a puzzle book with me (crosswords, sudoku, word puzzles) to keep myself entertained when in waiting rooms or in the car, but now I simply open these apps on my phone or ipad. I probably spend a half hour or so each morning, another half hour at lunchtime, and a good hour each evening on them. If I didn’t indulge in these, I suppose I might have a cleaner house or maybe better sleep, but what would be the fun in that?

Reading has always been an escape for me. From the time I got my first library card, I’ve loved to learn about other places both real and imagined. Since I have so many other things I like to do, and many more that I MUST do, I need to keep myself from reading for pleasure until after 9 or 10 pm. That gives me a good two to three hours of reading on days when I have no evening plans (since mid-March, that’s every day!). If it’s a good book, midnight comes and goes and I read a lot longer. Whenever I finish reading a book I tend to sleep well, because I’ve lived through a journey, enduring whatever trials the main characters have fought against, and seen them through to the other side. When reading a romance, there’s almost always a happy ending that has me sighing and drifting off into peaceful slumber. So in essence, reading is necessary for my well-being, although the amount of time I spend doing it might be considered unusual.

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

Posted in Daily life, decisions, food, Life, lifestyles, Patricia Kiyono, reading | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Three Stories For Your Consideration

I wrote a longer post earlier in the week to post for today, but I got to thinking: It’s Halloween tomorrow, so I decided that I would take a moment and ask for comments  on no less than three supernatural stories that I have started, (two nearly completed. Just as I start to truly knuckle-down to get my writings finished/polished, life gets complicated again, or shall I say, gets more complicated.)

I know that the characters will intrude on each other and make the final decision for me about who gets to the finish line first, but which would you most likely be interested in reading first, (or perhaps: which one is the least unpalatable to you?)

Please consider:

 1) A guardian angel tries to justify the comedy of errors that occur when another guardian rightly foils a foolish attempt by the first to unduly influence the second angel’s charge whiletrying to save a marriage.

2) A magician finds his tricks working better than ever, despite his beautiful assistant’s erratic behavior. He discovers that he has help from another source.

3) A hapless young woman has one small problem after another, and can’t quite get a grasp on why she has unlikely impulses and feelings of reproach. (Based on the actual story of a friend.)

The first two are close to completion, (but far from edited).  The third is only begun, but that story won’t leave me alone. I have tried to block it out, and so I am not even sure how it will play out.

The first one is short novel length, (I think); the other two are even shorter. The second one is definitely a short story.

I realize that this post and the summaries are truly brief, but I did them on the fly, with Halloween in mind.

What do you think? 

Do you think that you’d be interested in any of these?

Please let me know.

Posted in big plans, blessings, Books, characters, Daily life, Dealing with stress, experiences, Faith-centered stories, Family, fantasy, imagination, magic shows, novels, paranormal, reading, reading preferences, screwball comedy, short stories, Tonette Joyce, using talents, writing, writing from experiences | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments