Into a New Year

New Year letter

You have no idea how many times I have started this blog only to discard it all. Writing an end-of-the-year reflection is not easy, it turns out. A lot has happened this year. It was not the best year of my life, but there were some pearls hidden in the muck of 2015.

I will start with the bad because I want to finish this piece with something positive. I’ve always prided myself of being an optimist, the kind of person who always looks for the silver lining and hangs on to it for dear life. It’s the only way I know of surviving some of the curve balls life throws at you. The year that is now ending has really tested me and I admit that there has been too many times lately when I have trouble finding that little gold nugget and hanging on to it.

As I get older I realize that with every passing year both my family and my husband’s will lose more and more loved ones. It’s the natural circle of life, but knowing this doesn’t make it any easier. This year my husband lost his two parents within the space of six months and I lost two wonderful in-laws. Hard to believe they won’t be here anymore. On my side of the family, I lost one of my aunts. She was always a constant presence in my life growing up.  She is sorely missed. I also lost my sweet dachshund, Shorty. He was so much more than a dog. He was family and my best friend, the one who was always there for me, no questions asked. I miss him every day.

The world itself seems to have lost its way with all the senseless acts of violence here and abroad. Sometimes it looks like we have regressed a few hundred years instead of advancing into the future. How do you wrap your head around what happened in Paris? Or San Bernadino? Or Turkey? How do you reconcile the images of Syrian refugees risking their lives to desperately flee the daily horrors of their own regime? Every morning, when I tune in to my favorite classical music radio station the first thing out of the news reporter’s mouth always starts with “this many people were killed today in an attack somewhere in the world.” Bad news have overwhelmed most of us this year and dragged our spirits down.

On a more personal note, and after twelve years of relative bliss, my work environment turned toxic this year. In a matter of a few weeks I went from waking up in the morning excited to face another day at work to having to (sometimes literally) drag myself out of bed to face another day in emotional hell. For a very calm person who always kept her cool under pressure, 2015 turned out to be the year I started having anxiety attacks at the mere mention of work. Opening a work email became the equivalent of opening Pandora’s box and my general health went down the toilet with it. I have spent more time at the doctor’s office this year than ever. There is a silver lining in this one though (even though it is not any consolation); in this hellish process, which started around Spring break and has not stopped yet, I know now who my real friends are and that it is time for me to move on with my life.

Amongst all the bad things there were some hidden gems (like the ones I just listed above). This was the year I managed to finally go visit my mom and sister. It had been three years since I had seen them. With the ever-rising prices of airplane tickets it is not easy living an ocean apart from your family. Seeing them, my nephews, my native country was bliss. While my husband basked in the sun at the beach every morning I was more than happy to just visit and catch up over a cup of espresso and a pastry.

There were some people, besides my family, who were there for me more times than I care to admit. They may not even have realized how much they were giving me by just smiling or being who they are. Thank you Kathie and Darlene, my wonderful Sippy Cup writer friends, my amazing yoga teacher Aliya, Denise, Susan, Sylvia, Doris, and Pam (your smiles, kind words, and jokes have made my life just a little brighter) and the extraordinary ladies of my Meetup group. You guys are AWESOME!

Last, but not least, this was the year I signed a publishing contract. I won’t dwell on it because I’m sure you are all tired of hearing about it by now 🙂   But needless to say I’m on cloud nine. What better way to start a new year than seeing your work come into fruition? The best thing about this though is that I am finally able to pay tribute to my father and the faith he had in me by writing under our family name, Reis.

It’s time now for you to tell me how your year went. Comment away please and have yourself an amazing new year.

Raise your glasses to 2016.

May it be the year the world finds peace and you find true happiness.

champagne2

 

 

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Till Death Us Do Part

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NOW AVAILABLE from @limitlessbooks – Till Death Do Us Part by @cristina_slough!

: : NEW RELEASE : :
TILL DEATH US DO PART by Cristina Slough
Genre: #Military #RomanticSuspense
Publisher: Limitless Publishing

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: : SYNOPSIS : :
The fateful day Mimi Marcus has dreaded begins with a phone call…

The wife of a U.S. Marine, Mimi spent countless nights worried that her husband Joel would fall in the line of duty. He had fought valiantly and served his country with honor. That’s exactly what they tell her when they deliver the news—Joel was taken by the enemy in Afghanistan. Her husband is dead.

In desperate need of closure, Mimi travels to the one place Joel still has ties—The Marcus Ranch in Texas, inherited by his handsome younger brother Austin.

New beginnings are only an illusion…

The closer Mimi grows to the Marcus family, the more she considers it home. But when suspicions of Joel’s past surface, Austin refuses to disclose family secrets—even to his brother’s widow. It’s only by accident she uncovers evidence of Joel’s tainted past. Devastated by his lies and betrayal, she slowly opens up to Austin, and together they unfold layers of pain and grief.

Mimi is sure she’ll never love again, but is Austin the man to prove her wrong? Then the unthinkable happens…

Just as Mimi finds new hope in a future with Austin, Joel returns home from war. Enraged, traumatized, and teetering on the edge of insanity, Joel confesses to a history of deception, revealing yet another secret—this one too terrible to forgive.

In an awful twist of fate, Joel proves marriage vows are made to be honored.
No matter what.

: : PURCHASE LINKS : :
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1I8kkmM
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1ScVckq
Paperback Amazon: http://amzn.to/1YJrCu3

: : MEET THE AUTHOR : : 
Novelist, movie addict, and animal lover, Cristina Slough is the author of:

Till Death Us Do Part, her debut novel.

Cristina has always been a bookworm, rarely seen without a pen and paper in her hand, she loves delving into a literacy fictional world of her own.

At the age of 11, her junior school teacher told her mother that she would be wasting her life if she didn’t become an author. Throughout her teenage years and beyond, her parents spurred her on to keep writing. She later began a career in commercial real estate, working in London’s West End, a corporate bubble where she was unable to fuel her passion to write.

It was on her Californian honeymoon in 2012 that the bug to write was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. After visiting Yosemite National Park she was inspired by the natural beauty of the land that surrounded her. Holding a special place in her heart, Yosemite would later be written into her debut novel.

She finally gave up the ‘big smoke’ when her son, Lucas, was born in October 2013.

When Lucas was a newborn, Cristina was told to sleep when the baby sleeps. She never could. There was a calling inside her to write. After getting to grips with her new role as a mother, she began working a psychological thriller, but she couldn’t fully connect to the characters she created. She ditched the manuscript and started Till Death Us Do Part(Limitless Publishing, 2015).

Cristina is married to Adam, who runs a successful business; together they share their Bedfordshire home with their son, crazy white German Shepherd and three spoiled cats. They can be found trekking through woodlands, or around the many shops Cristina loves to explore. As a family, they love to travel frequently, the United States being a firm favourite.

Limitless Publishing: http://www.limitlesspublishing.net/authors/cristina-slough/
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/cristina_slough
Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/cristinasloughauthor

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Christmas Past

My name stems from the Portuguese word for Christmas (Natal) and it means literally “From Christmas”. I always thought it was appropriate because I have always been Christmas-crazy. Now, I don’t go crazy like I used to when my kids were little and I still believed I could somehow offer them a fraction of the magic my parents gave me during this beautiful time of the year. I think I largely failed, but if I was able to make Yuletide even a smidgen as magical as in my childhood days, then it was well worth it.

My dad was the original Santa Claus. This quiet, non-demonstrative man turned the holiday season into something truly out of this world for my sister and I. Every year we had a big search for the perfect extra cast member for one of my dad’s elaborate nativity scenes. I wish I had a picture of one of them, but all I have left from those days are my memories. So, I will try to paint you a picture instead.

We never had a huge tree, but underneath it, there spread a large nativity scene, complete with sand, moss, a river, and many figurines that my father painstakingly collected throughout the years. These were not the expensive collector’s pieces you see in Christmas stores around here. They were humble little painted clay figurines he bought at the local stores, but when all of it was put together they took a life of their own.

First we had to collect the sand and the fresh moss for the set. My grandfather would take me and my sister on hunting trips to the beach for sand and pebbles and along the wealthy streets above the railway for moss. The houses there had yards fenced in natural rock walls, a rich environment for moss to grow. We would scrape it off the rocks and collect it carefully inside a box to bring home.

My father would spread a large plastic sheet on the floor, under and around the tree, place pieces of aluminum foil here and there (the basis for the river and lakes), tape some Christmas lights to the surface and then cover the whole thing in sand, edged by the smooth, round beach pebbles. A bridge was placed over the river and a swan swam in the miniature lake where a lavadeira (laundry woman) washed her clothes. The shepherds kept watch over their flock of sheep feeding on mounds of moss, the farmers carried their basket of vegetables, children played in the sand. From afar, the three magi formed a procession heading to where the North Star shone over the manger. An angel sang to the holy family watching over the baby Jesus asleep in the hay and kept warm by the humble cow’s and donkey’s breath. At night, my father would turn on the switch and the whole scene twinkled as if stars were illuminating it. It was pure magic.

Normally Christmas Eve was spent in my aunt Natalina’s (I was named after her) and uncle Zé’s house where my grandma would prepare a meal worth of a king. I remember whole days spent in the kitchen with my mom, my grandmas, my aunt Filomena and my cousin Alice cooking, baking, and chatting. The air was always rich with the delicious smells of Christmas and work felt more like fun. In Portugal it is traditional not to eat the full meal until midnight, so we would snack all day on the huge array of sweets and other goodies; walnuts, figs, pinenuts, coscorões (cinnamon-covered friters) ,  sonhos (sugary donut-type fritters), rabanadas (French toast soaked in a port-wine syrup), chocolates, chestnuts, bolo rei (king’s cake)…it was a feast that would last a few days. For dinner, the traditional bacalhau (salted cod) with potatoes and vegetables was served. Meat was reserved for Christmas Day.

On TV we watched the Nutcracker and American Christmas specials (some already pretty old even then) with Bing Crosby, and movie classics. In the wee hours of the night we went home, placed our shoes outside the door for Santa and lined our chimney, so that Santa would not get his red coat dirty. Christmas morning was worth waiting all year. My dad, with the limited money he had, always managed to buy the right toys and make it special for both of us. Like I said, the original Santa Claus.

It was a family time that I don’t think I totally appreciated then, but I now recall with love and nostalgia. Most of my family is gone to celebrate with the angels; my aunt Natalina, my uncle Zé, my grandparents, my aunt Filomena, my amazing dad. But they will live forever in my memory and Christmas will always have a special place in my heart.

So, have yourself a very merry Christmas and make sure to cherish the time you have with your family because you wink and it’s gone. Those are the moments life is worth living for, so go forth and be merry 🙂

(Feel free to share your most cherished family traditions/memories in the comments. I would love to hear from you all)

#CoverReveal – WE WILL ALWAYS HAVE THE CLOSET by Natalina Reis

It’s finally here; my book cover Reveal ! Yay!

Book Lover in Florida

Petra Galatas sees the world through rose-colored glasses…
 
Petra has always chosen to see the best in people. Even her ex-husband’s extramarital affairs couldn’t destroy her faith in humanity. However, as much as she craves love, she’s not ready to trust another man with her heart.
 
The last place Petra thought she’d meet a guy was a closet in her ex-husband’s house…
 
While investigating Jonas Linden for millions of dollars in art fraud, Sam Corra’s clues lead him into the most unlikely of places—Jonas’ closet. Even less likely was meeting a woman there…a beautiful woman with honey skin and big brown eyes. Though neither of them divulge the reason they’re there, there’s an instant mutual attraction. And when Sam pursues her, he discovers the beautiful woman is none other than Jonas Linden’s ex-wife.
 
He’s on a mission to prove Jonas’ guilt. She’s determined to prove his…

View original post 426 more words

A Tribute

 

 

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Marty Bell  1943-2015

It’s hard to talk about someone who just passed on to the great beyond. Images of what they were before they became just an empty shell and what they meant to those around them fight with the knowledge they are no longer around. When my dad passed away very suddenly (he literally got up in the morning, dropped and died) about 15 years ago, I was torn between accepting it and irrationally fighting reality. For me, my dad was still alive and will always be. He lives in my heart and my memory. Isn’t that what we all want? To leave a part of us behind when we depart from this world for good?

If this is true then my mother-in-law, Marty, who just passed away a couple days ago, will be alive for a long time. She has nine children, all of whom love her dearly.  Six siblings will hold her in their hearts as well. Then, there are all others—family and friends—whose lives she touched one way or another. Just like my dad, who was the original Santa Claus, Marty will live on in each Christmas ornament we put on the tree, on each Christmas carol we sing, in each gift we unwrap.

She will be missed by many and remembered by even more. You were part of my life for the past thirty years and I can’t tell you how much I appreciated how you welcomed me, a foreign stranger, into your family all those years ago. May you have all the peace you deserve next to your loving husband up where time has lost its meaning and worries are a thing of the past. I’m sure you will be teaching the angels to dance the Whip Nana and a song or two. We love you.

My husband slightly changed a poem by Christy Ann Martine to read during the funeral mass for his mom. Here’s his version:

“She’s in the sun, the wind, the rain.

She’s in the air that we breathe.

With every breath we take,

she paints a picture of hope and cheer.

There’s no more pain, no more fear.

You’ll see her in the clouds above,

hear her whisper words of love.

They are together once again,

bragging proudly about all of us to the end.”

Sweet On You

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#CoverReveal – Coming Jan. 26th from @limitlessbooks!
#SweetOnYou by @mariannericeaut
Series: The Wilde Sisters #1
Publisher: Limitless Publishing

Designed by TOJ PUBLISHING SERVICESwww.tojpublishing.com

|| SYNOPSIS ||
An extravagant cake design brings small town baker Trent Kipson to fame…

After gaining social media exposure of his culinary art, Trent’s cake design goes viral. Soon he’s contacted by the Cooking Network to host a new show in California. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for the owner of a modest shop in Portland, Maine, and the financial freedom the network offers could be the answer to all of his monetary problems.

Fitness instructor Rayne Wilde wants the life every small-town girl dreams of…

Rayne wishes for a future full of romance and the pitter-patter of little feet. She wants it all, including a white picket fence and a dog named Spot—which is exactly why she refuses to sleep with Trent, the sexy man who attends her Zumba classes. After a series of dead-end relationships, this time she really is in love. Trent is special, and the fear of letting him slip through her fingers keeps her advances at bay.

Life is waiting—all it takes is a leap of faith…

As their friendship grows and skeletons creep out of their closets, their relationship is put to the test. Stakes get higher, and the spark between them burns hotter than ever before.

Can they handle the heat when life-changing secrets are exposed, or will the fear of being burned send them on two different paths?

|| Cover Designer ||
TOJ Publishing Services: https://www.facebook.com/TOJPublishingServices

|| About the author ||
Marianne Rice writes contemporary romances set in small New England towns. Her heroes are big and strong, yet value family and humor, while her heroines are smart, sexy, sometimes a little bit sassy, and are often battling a strong internal conflict. Together, they deal with real life issues and always, always, find everlasting love. When she’s not writing, Marianne spends her time buying shoes, eating chocolate, chauffeuring her herd of children to their varying sporting events, and when there’s time, cuddling with her husband, a drink in one hand, a romance book in the other.

Limitless Publishing: http://www.limitlesspublishing.net/authors/marianne-rice/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MarianneRiceaut
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mariannericeaut
Website: http://www.mariannerice.com/

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Without you by Lindsay Detwiler

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Without You

By Lindsay Detwiler

On the surface, Jenna Landsen has it all…

She’s smart, beautiful, confident, and married to Camden Landsen, who happens to be drop dead sexy and just as successful. But after five long years, all the success in the world hasn’t brought the romantic spark back into her marriage. Jenna fears it never will.

When life gives you lemons, open a bakery and name it Vi’s…

Violet Streiff made the exact mistake her mother warned against—she fell in love with Liam Coffman, a charming finance major. When he left her heartbroken to further his career, Violet drowned her sorrows by opening a bakery, and now relies on Bob, her eighteen-pound cat, for warmth at night instead of a sexy man.

To find love, sometimes you first have to discover yourself…

When Jenna’s job offers an extended trip to New York, she packs her bags and takes a two-month vacation from life. The chance of her marriage surviving looks grim, until the surprise of a lifetime throws a wrench in her plans to stay in the Big Apple for good.

You can bend the rules—but sooner or later they’ll break…

When Violet meets a gloomy but totally drool-worthy guy named Camden in her shop, she’s sure her luck has changed. There’s no denying the chemistry, but he’s married, and that’s a major problem. Violet isn’t a homewrecker. Still, staying away from Camden proves nearly impossible. That is, until his wife comes home.

Without you cover

Two women.

Two men.

Double the chance to find love in the most unexpected places—or double the chance for disaster.

Lindsay D

About the Author

I am a high school English teacher, an author, and a fan of anything pink. I am truly the English teacher cliché; I love cats, reading, Shakespeare, and Poe. I currently live in my hometown with my husband Chad; our cats Arya, Amelia, Alice, Bob, and Marjorie; and our Mastiff Henry.

As the author of two novels, Voice of Innocence and Without You, I have many inspirations in my life as a writer. My parents instilled in me a value for education and reading from the time I could talk. One of my earliest memories is sitting with my parents as they taught me to sound out words. My husband has also inspired me to pursue my dream of writing. I met Chad in an art class when we were only twelve. He has shown me that love is real, is enduring, and is our most important ally in this sometimes harsh world. He has supported me through this entire process, believing in my writing even before I believed in it myself.

My hope is that by becoming a published author, I can inspire some of my students and other aspiring writers to pursue their own passions. I want them to see that any dream can be attained, and publishing a novel isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Find the Author Here: Website * Facebook * Twitter

Advice for Debut Authors-Guest Blog

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I’m proud to present a guest blog written by Cristina Slough, author of Till Death Us Do Part being released on December 29, 2015 Enjoy !

Publishing is such a cut throat industry, as with everything. If you want to be successful, you have to constantly network. Sink or swim.

Next time you hold a debut novel, take a moment to think about the long journey it’s had before it reached your hands. It started as a little seed of an idea in the writers head. The pages will have been typed, deleted, re-typed, moved around a hundred times over.

The writer may have drank enough caffeine to sink a ship, just to write that one last page. It’s endured heartbreak as the writer has sent their baby off to query combat. Hoping to win over an agent or publisher, only to be rejected. Or worse, ignored.

Then, something magical happens. The moment the writer has been waiting for. An agent or publisher has said that simple, but powerful three-letter-word. YES.

The legal stuff follows: Contracts, negotiations, blah blah blah…

The book you hold is the result of a writer that didn’t give up. Then there is a team of people that turn a manuscript into a real book. Editors, designers, proofreaders, formatters, printers, digital experts. Ahhh, the list goes on. You get the idea, don’t you?

The journey doesn’t stop once the book is born.

The book is out there with all the other books, some of them are major superstars: Jodi Picoult, Stephen King, Jackie Collins, and *deep breath* E.L James.

Suddenly, a new challenge, as the new book on the block has to shout loud to be noticed (aka marketing). Whether this be in a bookshop or online, if you pick the book up, it has somehow captured your attention.

If you like the blurb, you’ll buy the book.

A writer can only hope that their words have brought the story to life for you.

Long gone are the days when authors are given huge marketing budgets. Unless you are already a household name, or your book has been made into a movie. Believe it or not, much of the marketing is now up to the author. This is especially true for debuts. It’s not easy singing your own praises, telling people how fantastic your book is.

So, think about leaving an honest review, especially if it’s a book you loved reading. In the world of social media, you can reach out to people like never before. A reader praising a book is the best review an author can ever wish to have!

Writing Therapy

first wordsI love writing, that’s not a secret. I take great joy thinking of words and putting them together to form sentences which then turn into stories. I just finished the last edit for my book (that will be published in January) and I keep thinking, “Wow, did I really write that? I have some skills!” Okay, okay I would never say that out loud, but it is very rewarding to read your own work and realize you can actually write. It’s not too different from the joy and pride of being a parent. In fact, many writers refer to their books as their babies. They are not kidding. They ARE their babies and as I am getting ready to put mine out into the world, I am delighted and scared out of my wits. What if people don’t like it? The reasonable side of me knows there will be people who most definitely won’t like my novel. They may even hate it with a passion. I also know that some of those individuals will be ruthless when leaving a review. You know you shouldn’t worry about that because some will love it and enjoy it, but you still worry yourself sick.

Releasing a book it’s a bit like walking naked into a room full of people. You are in a very vulnerable position, you’re exposed. A lot of yourself, that you care to admit it or not, went into the writing of that book. So, in some ways you are giving away secrets, parts of you never shared with anyone before. It’s nerve wrecking and liberating at the same time.

Almost exactly one year ago I decided to participate in the National Novel Writing Month. I had no idea whether I would be able to finish it or not. In fact, at first I didn’t even have a story. I had a piece of flash fiction I had written for my local writing group, the fabulous Sippy Cups and Semantics and that was all. I am not much of a planner when it comes to writing. I do a sketchy plan (very sketchy) and then I just run with it. So on November 1, 2014 I had a little over one thousand words, the beginning of what I was hoping would be a romance. I had nothing. I had two characters, a mystery that even I didn’t know what it was, and a title. It was one of the most exhilarating months of my life. I wrote every chance I got; first thing in the morning before going to work, during my lunch break, right after work and into the wee hours of the morning. On November 31 I had a fifty-thousand novel written. I felt awesome. The proud “mom” of a full size baby novel.

I saw the same positive effects of writing in the eyes of a few of my students this week. I managed to convince a select small group of 5th graders to do the Young Writers Program for NaNoWriMo. A couple of these students I knew enjoyed writing and there was a good chance they would love the challenge, but in the same group there was also a few kids who normally will tell you they hate writing. Writing is boring, writing is hard work, why do we have to write? I was surprised and delighted when they accepted the challenge and I was even more surprised with the results. Only one met his goal but they all wrote and they all shared tidbits of their story with me and with each other. They had flights of fancy and plot twists planned, characters drawn in their heads, settings picked. They took every occasion they could find during the month of November to tell me when something changed in their stories. And when I came to congratulate them for a job well done and to tell them I would love to read what they came up with, I got hugs and thank yous and “can we keep doing this?” I was floored. Were these the same kids who claimed to hate writing? Somehow writing or even just planning their stories gave these students a sense of freedom. Freedom to be themselves, to give their imaginations a wide rein, to just dream.

For the past few months, life has been complicated to put it mildly. People I cared about and thought cared about me turned out to be fair weather friends. My job, which I had loved, became a place I have to drag myself to every morning and where I second guess myself constantly. Through it all writing has sustained me and given me the motivation to get up in the morning and look forward to the future. Writing (with a little help from yoga) it’s my therapy.