Category Archives: Holiday

We Beat the Nekkid Guy!

Did that sound weird?

20171114_001731_resizedI was so excited to see this that I immediately took a picture. You see, I’m well aware that our Christmas anthology can be #1 in one hour and #2 in the next. In fact, that’s happened several times since we (Laura Hile, Barbara Cornthwaite, Wendi Sotis, and I) hit #1 Best Seller status (in our category) on Amazon.

I wanted to have that picture to live the moment over and over. I even reverted to my cheerleader days, chanting, “We’re number one! We’re number one!” I nearly tripped over my office and broke another ankle. Ha! It wasn’t pretty.

Now, about that nekkid guy – we didn’t literally beat a nekkid guy, so you can relax now. We don’t plan to take the journey into that particular genre. Ever.


Do you see that third book in the row? That’s a $.99 nekkid guy cover which promises a certain kind of book. Clean books that cost $3.99 rarely beat such an animal. A book just like that one kept my last solo publication, Understanding Elizabeth, from ever reaching #1. I can’t even say the name of that book in polite company. Not in impolite company, either.

The book in the middle is a $.99 anthology. It’s rare to outsell anything which is $.99. That’s another cause for rejoicing.

The middle book and A Very Austen Christmas switch places every time either one of us sells a book or two. I’m okay with that. It’s a mostly clean read with a non-nekkid-guy cover.

At least we’re remaining the #1 new release.

This is a book that friendship built. It was a labor of love and support between friends who’ve never met. I think the four of us should get together soon. What do you think? Should we meet in Oregon (Laura), New York (Wendi), South Carolina (me), or Ireland (Barbara)? Just a hint concerning my vote: my heritage is English/Scots/Irish.


A Very Austen Christmas

Book Launch Tomorrow!

A Very Austen Christmas - 3DIn early June, Laura and I broached the idea of an anthology to include all the authors of Jane Started It, along with our lovely friend, JAFF author Wendi Sotis. Susan Kaye, Pamela Aiden, and Gayle Mills originally intended to be a part of the project, but real life threw several hitches in their plans. Laura Hile, Barbara Cornthwaite, Wendi Sotis, and I kept the dream alive.

Tomorrow, that dream will be realized with the book launch of A Very Austen Christmas, hosted by Claudine Pepe at JustJane1813.  We are very much looking forward to reading Claudine’s review (our first one!), as well as chatting with our readers.

The kindle version is already available for pre-order (to be delivered tomorrow) on Amazon, and the print copy is live, though they are not yet linked together.

Does this sound tempting, lovely readers?

Four favorite authors, four heartwarming stories set in Jane Austen’s Regency world.

Robin Helm, Laura Hile, Wendi Sotis, and Barbara Cornthwaite revisit Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Mansfield Park to deliver the uplifting holiday storytelling you’re looking for.

Her Christmas Gift by Robin Helm
Elizabeth Bennet finds herself snowbound at Rosings with two rejected, but highly eligible, suitors. Does either man have a chance? Will her childhood friend, Meryton’s golden boy, win her affection, or will she accept the master of Pemberley? Perhaps she will refuse them both a second time. Her Christmas Gift deftly combines tension and emotion with humor and romance.

The Christmas Matchmaker by Laura Hile
It’s raining; it’s pouring – and what could be better than a little Christmas matchmaking? So says Emma Woodhouse who is unexpectedly stranded at Netherfield Park. Mr. Darcy disagrees, for she has someone else in mind for adorable Elizabeth Bennet. Amid meddling, misunderstanding, and an unwelcome proposal or two, will True Love find a way?

No Better Gift by Wendi Sotis
On his way to Derbyshire to spend Christmas with his family, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy plans to retrieve an item he left behind during his rushed escape from Netherfield—and the country miss who touched his heart. Finding Meryton practically deserted, he fears the worst. What fate could have fallen upon this once-thriving village in only three weeks? More importantly, was Miss Elizabeth Bennet in danger?

Mistletoe at Thornton Lacey by Barbara Cornthwaite
When Edmund Bertram realizes that Fanny is the perfect wife for him, he wants to propose without delay. What better time than at Christmas? Ah, but the course of true love never does run smooth …

A Very Austen Christmas - jpeg

The stories are arranged according to length. Mine is really a novella of 30K words, and Laura’s is 24K words. We have decided that we can’t write short stories (insert laugh). Wendi’s is 17K words and Barbara’s is 7K words. Curl up in your PJs with a mug of hot cocoa and enjoy the writing of four friends with quite different styles and story lines.

We hope that Sue, Pamela, and Gayle will be able to join us in our next anthology. (Yes, I just said next anthology!)

Regrets, I Have a Few

The 4th of July is a happy holiday. Picnics and fireworks. My life has been such that I haven’t noticed holidays much. It may change soon, it may not.

Anyway, the 4th is one of those days that has many meanings to many people. To me it’s about freedom and that always leads me to thinking of those who make it possible. I was in the Air Force from January 1977 to January 1981. Me and Jimmy Carter were serving together. My one regret in life is that I didn’t stay in for 20 or more years.

I’m not much on the big regrets. Hurting someone with my imprudent tongue is a biggie, but other than that, there aren’t many things to wish were different.

For those of you who served, thank you. For those serving now, my prayers for you and your families. For those who will serve in the future, you will be doing a great and noble thing.

Photo from the Gary Sinise Foundation. Support if you can.



Father Time

photo (2)It’s Father’s Day, and a corner of my living room is filled with boxes. They contain treasures from an unlikely antique collector, my dad. He loved to tinker. We had a sailboat for the weekends, and our crowded garage housed his sometimes-running classic car. When I was a girl he discovered clocks and the excitement of auctions.

I smile to think of my reserved, book-loving dad–by day an aerospace engineer–caught up in the drama of bidding. He had limits: $25 for a table or wall clock, $125 for a grandfather. But for something special he would go higher. A little. He was, after all, an engineer.

Dad’s been gone twenty-five years. Mom recently downsized to an assisted living apartment, so not every clock could come along. Benjamin Bell, one of the prizes of Dad’s collection, came to me.

The brass face is inscribed with the clockmaker's name: Benjamin Bell Uttoxeter, c. 1761

A shot of “Benny Bell’s” brass works in their traveling box

There are benefits to having a son named Benjamin! Then too, my brother has the moon-face grandfather clock (just visible in the top photo). Growing up, I thought every family should have at least three. We did.

The purchase date (1969) was carefully recorded in my dad’s notebook, price $210. How he would smile to see his clock–a Father’s Day gift to me–here in my house.

Is it too tall?

Here he is in my house, without the hood.

The clockmaker’s name is inscribed on the face, as is customary. In 1761 he was listed as being twenty-four years old. Time for more smiling. Could Mr. Bell of Uttoxeter be an almost-contemporary of Jane Austen’s?

Best of all, 250 years later this clock still works. Okay, so sometimes the hands get hung up, but Mom says it keeps perfect time. The strike, however, is anything but elegant. A hammer crisply strikes an iron coil–clang!

So “Benny Bell” now lives in Oregon, and drama is afoot. This afternoon we will remove the works from their box, set them in the case, and place the hood. And the photo shows the problem.

Is our c. 1980 “energy-saver” ceiling tall enough? The tape measure says maybe. By, like, a half-inch. Here’s hoping!

Happy Father’s Day!

UPDATE: It fits!! With not even two inches to spare!
And to think I almost gave up on having this clock because I thought it wouldn’t.

Laura Hile (1)

Thank you to those who sacrificed their loved ones for the rest of us.true love MGD©

Guest Sons

Facebook has added a “Thankful” button to its gallery of Likes.  It’s Mother’s Day, and the timing is perfect. I could click that thing all day long. My mom has overcome a series of serious illnesses and is doing well, and so are my sons.

But I am also thankful for Guest Sons. I have a number of them, boys who came into my life after school and on weekends. Who played video games and swam in the community pool and ate whatever I served (pizza or lasagna or shepherd’s pie). They belched and cracked jokes and laughed. Oh, how they laughed.

From Nathan's era, here are Guest Sons Nathan, Tyler, Luke, and Sean

Here is Nathan with “Guest Sons” Tyler, Luke, and Sean. Their beloved choir director made them form a quartet, and he coached them. They sounded great!

“Mom, you should make shepherd’s pie for Stephen.” I heard this several years ago, when Nathan’s pal Stephen was on leave from the Navy. “He loves your cooking,” Nathan added. Excuse me, my cooking? I am a utility cook, flinging out meals on a skinflint budget. Surely Stephen was mistaken!  But I got busy in the kitchen just the same.

Michael with Will

Michael with “Guest Son” Will (Photo: Sue Blackwell)

It’s not that these Guest Sons were ungrateful–no hungry teen ever is. It’s just that I never realized how much they enjoyed hanging out at our place. Nothing special was offered. The boys’ shared bedroom was cramped at best–especially with all those scrounged TVs in there. Through the closed door I could hear hooting and hollering as they played Super Smash Brothers Melee for hours.

Hospitality, not entertainment, was all I had to offer. An open door. And in they came. Now I miss having them around.

Ben (center, flanked by brothers) and Guest Sons Sam, Tyler, Ryan, and Brent

Ben (center, flanked by brothers Nathan and Michael) and “Guest Sons” Sam, Tyler, Ryan, and Brent (Alexandra Grace Photography)

What I gave to them was Guy Time. Apparently that was what they needed most. This scene, from Susan Elizabeth Phillips‘ Match Me If You Can, captures the feel of those days at our apartment. Yeah, she gets it.

When did my house turn into a hangout for every grossly overpaid, terminally pampered professional football player in northern Illinois?”

“We like it here,” Jason said. “It reminds us of home.”

“Plus, no women around.” Leandro Collins, the Bears’ first-string tight end emerged from the office munching on a bag of chips. “There’s times when you need a rest from the ladies.”

Annabelle shot out her arm and smacked him in the side of the head. “Don’t forget who you’re talking to.”

Leandro had a short fuse, and he’d been known to take out a ref here and there when he didn’t like a call, but the tight end merely rubbed the side of his head and grimaced. “Just like my mama.”

“Mine, too,” Tremaine said with happy nod.

Annabelle spun on Heath. “Their mother! I’m thirty-one years old, and I remind them of their mothers.”

“You act like my mother,” Sean pointed out, unwisely as it transpired, because he got a swat in the head next.

Do you have Guest Sons and Guest Daughters? Know that you are loved by them as well. Happy Mother’s Day!

Laura Hile (1)

Wedding photo: Alexandra Grace Photography

Trading Places

Friday was a day of surprises. A day of trading places.

At 2:00 that afternoon, my son, Nathan, drove me to my pre-op appointment at an office next to the hospital. This is for the second surgery. Tuesday’s was textbook perfect. I am back to normal, as you will see.

But by 5:00, he felt nauseous and decided not to attend Good Friday service. Just before church started, I got a call. Where was the thermometer? In my purse, of course. Sepsis Recovery Girl always carries a thermometer in her purse.

Since we live seven blocks from church, I went right home. His temperature was normal. But his next statement was a stunner.

Photo: KOIN 6

Photo: KOIN 6

“Mom, I think I have appendicitis.” It was very early in the game, but he wanted to check it out. Off we went to Urgent Care before it closed. In turn, we were sent to the Emergency room.

And so six hours later, Nathan and I had traded places. Driving down the same freeway to the hospital, only in my car, with me at the wheel. We have been smiling about that since.

Who knows what a day will bring forth? Nathan intended to spend Saturday (yesterday) doing his taxes. Instead he had surgery. He is doing splendidly, by the way. His older brother, Michael, is on his way now to pick him up.

Easter is all about trading places, isn’t it? Jesus bore our sin. And if we put our faith in Him, He gives to us His righteousness. Our “trading places” for the drive to the hospital was amusing. But Jesus’ offer to trade wickedness for holiness is amazing.

Easter dinner will be a little different at our house this year. So many reasons to give thanks and rejoice. To you and your family, a blessed Easter.

Laura Hile (1)