Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, Quirky Stories, Travels Around the World

The Ten Monsters of Christmas

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I would love to bring you good tidings of Christmas this year but instead, I’m bringing you a fun little background of The Ten Monsters of Christmas. Yes, even the nicest of all holidays, the one where we wish everyone peace and joy, has its dark side. Talk about a way to ruin a jolly holiday.

krampus-1085000__340So first, there’s KRAMPUS. Yes, we’ve all heard about him in recent years. He is the evil anti-Santa who walks around carrying a stick, looking for people to beat, especially children who haven’t been obedient. He’s a predominantly European Christmas monster, originating in Austria, but popular celebrations centered around this demon are popping up everywhere, and celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day.

Next comes the merry old JÓLAKÖTTURINN, an evil Icelandic Yule Cat who lurks about the countryside at Christmastime, ready to eat people who haven’t received new Christmas clothes to wear. Apparently, this cat monster is tied to an Icelandic tradition where those who finish all their work on time receive new Christmas clothes, thus making them immune from getting eaten. Like Krampus, the Yule cat is used as a threat to motivate children to work and keep them in line. “You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry…”or you’ll be eaten by the Yule Cat, kiddies.

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  Then there is FRAU PERCHTA an ugly Christmas witch who hangs out around Austria and Germany during the 12 days of Christmas with the express the-witch-641232__340purpose of punishing the sinful by ripping out their internal organs and replacing them with garbage. Now, that’s a lovely Christmas tradition if ever I’ve heard one. 

Not to be outdone by all the other Christmas child punishers, BELSNICKEL, who made it from Germany to live amongst the Pennsylvania Dutch in the U.S. carries a switch to punish the bad children at Christmas. But he does have a good side, as he carries candy to reward the good ones. Knecht Ruprecht and Ru Klaas are also monsters from German folklore who get their holiday jollies by beating children.

Another in the line of the traditional Christmastime children haters is HANS TRAPP from France, who, disguised as a scarecrow, punishes bad children by eating them. Even though he was reportedly killed, it’s said he still visits young children before Christmas to scare them into good behavior.creepy-1217174__340

And, to make matters worse, there’s the evil French butcher PERE FOUETTARD, who, with his wife, lured children into his butcher shop, where he killed, carved, salted and ate them. St. Nicholas did come to the rescue in this story, by taking Pere Fouettard captive and turning him into a servant whose job it was to dole out punishment to bad children on St. Nicholas Day.

Not to be left out, the JÓLASNENIR, or Yule Lads, 13 Icelandic trolls, stole things and caused trouble around Christmastime, so as one might expect, their purpose in life was to scare children into behaving. Somewhere along the way, they met the benevolent Norwegian Julenisse (Santa Claus) and decided to try a little kindness like he showed, by leaving gifts in the shoes of good children. But if you were a bad kid, your shoes were left empty which was a much kinder fate than eaten by the Icelandic Yule Cat.norwegian-troll-210334__340

However, if you get by the Yule Lads, there’s another Icelandic monster to deal with at Christmas –  GRYLA, their mother, and let’s just say, she’s not in line for a Mother of the Year award because she encounters bad children at Christmas, especially the ones who don’t obey their parents, then kidnaps, cooks, and eats them. And, to make matter worse, her precious pet is the dreaded Yule Cat. Talk about the traditions of a family at Christmas.

So, in my family, Christmas has always been about the children. We even have a brand new one, Westin, to welcome into our tradition. He’s going to grow up in a family where Christmas is about love and peace on earth and all the good things associated with the holiday. My wish for him is that there will never be any monsters in his world. And this is my Christmas wish for you…

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FAQs, Foods We Love, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, Quirky Stories

The Truth About Pumpkins

10-12 blog top photoOnce upon a time, there was this cute, somewhat round orange thing attached to a vine, sitting out in the field. Then later, it became the craze, and even the madness of certain segments of society. But, that’s moving too far ahead in the story. So, let’s take it back to 1584, when French explorer Jacques Cartier, who was skipping his way merrily through the St. Lawrence region of North America (aka Canada), reported finding fields of gros melons which, in the English language, translates to big melons. This is when the story gets a little tricky and Google Translate gets confused. The name pumpkin actually originated from the Greek word for large melon which is pepon. Pepon was changed by the French into pompon (who knows why?) then the English changed pompon to pumpion (again, who knows why?) Anyway, after the name was bandied about for a while, American colonists had to get in on the act, so they changed the perfectly good pumpion into pumpkin.

10-12 blog1By that time, the poor little orange thing said, “Enough!” So, what was thought to be an exclusive North American or Canadian or Upper New York vine that sprouted orange globes (even though seeds were discovered that could have put the pepon-pumpion-pumpkin in Mexico as early as 7000 B.C.) was finally, and somewhat unfirmly, established as a North American fruit. Or, squash. Or, melon. Or, placemats (as the indigenous North American populations used them.)

This is where I could skip ahead to where pumpkins turned into latte and the stuffing for certain popular sandwich cookies, but that leaves out a lot of history. Like the origins of the pumpkin pie, when the early colonists sliced off the pumpkin 10-12 blog carvingtop, removed the seeds, and then filled the hollow cavity with milk, spices and honey then baked it in the hot ashes of a dying fire. Or how the traditional turnip and potato jack-o-lanterns gave way to the big orange thing when Stingy Jack convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin so Jack could pay for his drinks at the local pub.

The Devil, being who he was, liked that type of shenanigan, so he did what Jack asked of him. But Jack decided to keep the money for himself and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Score one for Jack. Except, being basically a stupid man, he eventually freed the Devil, 10-12 blog vintage devilunder the condition that Mr. D would leave Jack alone for a year, and in that year, not claim Jack’s soul if he died. Well, that turned out pretty good for Jack, so in another year he decided to try more trickery on the big D, who was, apparently too dumb to know better when Jack asked him to climb a tree and pick him some fruit. But while the D guy was up that tree picking away, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree so that the D dude couldn’t come down until he promised Jack he wouldn’t  bother him for ten more years.10-12 blog devil umpkin

Sadly, Jack died shortly after his deal, but he wasn’t allowed into heaven because he was judged to be as unsavory as his D buddy was. But, Jack’s D buddy wouldn’t let him go to the warm place either, and instead banished him into the dark of night with only a burning coal, otherwise known as an emblem of hellfire, to light his way. But because that coal was too hot to handle, 10-12 blog coalJack put it in a carved-out turnip (or potato if that’s your carb of choice. Or, if you’re British, the ever-popular beet was also Jack-approved) and he’s been wandering the Earth with his root vegetable ever since, at first calling himself, Jack of the Lantern. But as many of us do, he took on a pseudonym –  Jack O’ Lantern.10-12 blog turnip

Then, of course, when he reached America carrying his rather small tool, the Americans, as only they would do, decided that larger was definitely better. And that’s how Jack went from toting around a fairly lightweight turnip/potato/beet to a rather heavy and awkward pumpkin. 

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Now that we know the absolute truth about the origins of the pumpkin and the Jack O’ Lantern, let’s look at what years of research has taught us about the pumpkin:

– Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini.
– Pumpkins are low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. They are good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, protein, and iron.
– The heaviest pumpkin in its original form weighed 1,810 lb 8 oz.10-12 blog pumpkin flower
– Pumpkin flowers are edible.
– The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
– The pumpkin spice latte drink made popular by a certain famous coffee chain 10-12 blog pumpkin lattedidn’t contain actual pumpkin pulp until 2015, but now it boasts the exact measure of a tad bit of pulp. Also, in a good year, this drink generates $80 million in sales. Oh, and those sought-after sandwich cookies with tasty pumpkin spice filling – no pumpkin in those whatsoever.

Which brings me to the point of this blog. My new book, SECOND CHANCE WITH HER ARMY DOC, out now, has no pumpkin in it either. Not in reference, not in a sample of the actual fruit, vegetable or whatever the heck it is. Why? Because this author doesn’t like pumpkin. But, I like my book, so please have a look at a story about what it takes for a lost love to be found again. And I don’t mean pumpkin love.

As always, wishing you health and happiness, and a recipe for Toasted Pumpkin Seeds if that’s your thing:10-12 blog seeds
– 1 1/2 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds
– 2 teaspoons melted butter
– 1 pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees  F (150 degrees C).
2. Toss seeds in a bowl with the melted butter and salt. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown; stir occasionally.
3. Makes 6 servings. Nutrition per serving: 83 calories; 4.5 g fat; 8.6 g carbohydrates; 3 g protein; 4 mg cholesterol; 12 mg sodium.

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Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Adjustments

I’ve been pretty good with my social media stuff, not expressing opinions about much of anything, even when I’ve had plenty of words and opinions. I don’t engage in debate or argument, though. That’s just me. Everybody’s entitled to what they want to believe, and I subscribe to the ‘live and let live’ philosophy. But as good as I’ve been, I do have some thoughts about the personal adjustments I’ve had to make simply to keep my mouth (or my typing fingers) tuned off.silence-1715729__340

Now, here’s my opinion pushing its way through. I think that’s what more of us should do. Not the closing mouth part so much as the adjusting part. For me, not expressing my opinions publicly has been rough because I’m an opinionated person by nature. Too opinionated, according to my husband. But, I’ve worked really hard to keep it to myself these past couple of years, and it’s actually quite nice to realize that I can sit back, listen, and possibly learn a thing or two I wouldn’t have, had I not adjusted my old attitude and turned it into something better. sculpture-3365574__340

To me, adjustment is about what do in our lives every day to get ourselves through to the next day. It would be nice if things slowed down, or even stopped sometimes. It would also be nice to think that when we wake up in the world today, we’ll wake up in the very same world tomorrow. But that doesn’t happen, does it? Next week I’ll wake up a year older than I’ve been for the past 365 days. I’m perfectly fine with the age I am now, but no matter how hard I fight against the marching of time, I’m going to have to adjust to being another age.pexels-photo-1095601

Years ago, I thought the whole cell phone thing was stupid. Why do people have to stay in touch every minute of every day? I didn’t have one, didn’t want one. But, I finally gave in. Don’t remember why. Just remember that I did. I didn’t use it much, though because mentally, I wasn’t able to make that adjustment yet. Or, maybe I just didn’t want to. Whatever the case, I carried it around for a year, turned off most of the time, and wondered why I was paying such a ridiculously high price for something I wasn’t using. So, eventually ,I turned it on and opened up a different kind of world for myself. And while I don’t consider myself one of those obsessives who buries her nose in her phone every minute of every day, I do find that it comes in handy because I allowed myself to adjust and, due to that, my cell phone became the means by which my kids can call and text more often. And I can stay better in touch with friends. It’s an adjustment that has enhanced my life, even though I was dragged into it practically kicking and screaming.

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My phone-obsessive family

 

Technology aside, we’re called on to make so many other adjustments. I adjusted to life without a mother, then without a father. I’ve adjusted to life after I went from walking to crutches to a wheelchair. I’m adjusting to a spotty amnesia that resulted from an illness I had a couple of years ago. Most of all, I’m constantly adjusting to all the things that playmobil-442954__340surround my life, good or bad. I have to, or I’ll find myself encased in a life so small that it will eventually squeeze me in and trap me there. And I don’t want to be trapped because there are so many great, new experiences out there for me to have, if I allow them in. If I adjust.

Adjustment is defined as an adaptation to a particular condition, position, or purpose. Roget lists some of its antonyms as: disarrange, disorganize, disturb, disorder, confuse, worsen. Aren’t those ugly words? They’re sure not words I want in my life. When you look at the entire list of antonyms, it gives you acid indigestion or angst, or both. But the synonyms are so nice: accommodate, fine-tune, compose, harmonize, redress, rectify. All things I’d much rather do than disarrange or worsen. Sure, adjusting isn’t always easy, or pretty. Sometimes it goes against our natural grain or our preconceived beliefs and notions. But it’s also a means to growth and, in this day and age, we do have to grow in order to survive. That’s just the way the world is, now. Actually, it’s the way the world has always been. caveman-159964__340If not, we’d still be starting our fires with a flint (if we’d even adjusted ourselves to the point that we had fire) and hunting our dinner with a club or a spear.

So, here’s a practice adjustment to try. Tomorrow morning when you wake up scowling because you hate getting up in the morning, take ten seconds and smile. No, not a grudging smile. Make it a genuine one because you’re facing a new day with new possibilities. Be glad for those ten seconds. Make that smile your daily adjustment. Give yourself ten or maybe twenty seconds of smiling, with a couple of happy thoughts thrown in for good measure. Do this every morning and soon something as simple as a ten-second smile will become part of your daily routine. Sure, it may seem silly, but it may also be the baby step you need toward a much bigger adjustment you’ll have to make at some other time. And I promise you, your life is going to be filled with adjustments no matter what you do. How you handle them, though, is what will make the difference between being miserable and finding a place where you can be happy or, at least, happier than you would be if you refuse to budge. 12_1491875521537 (004)So, get over it, get on with it. Get around it, get through it. Change it, fix it. Budge, adjust. Make it accommodate your life and the lives of the people around you. Embrace it. Hate it, if you have to. But find a way to make it work. In the end, if you don’t, you’re the one who gets hurt, or left behind. That’s not where you really want to find yourself, is it?

Now my blatant promo for the day: Bachelor Doc, Unexpected Dad is out this month. It’s all about an Army doc who is faced with several big adjustments in his life, and how he confronts them. It’s available in all the usual places. 9781474075282

So, until next time, wishing you health & happiness.

Dianne

Foods We Love, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations

Another Year…

 

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I hardly feel 34, but I’m all that and then some. What’s 34 in my life, though, is my marriage. I don’t come from a family of hugely successful marriages, and those that did make it as long as mine has were bumpy. But then, all marriages have bumps. Mine certainly does. Eating is one of them. I’m as picky as it gets when it comes to food. Joel will eat anything that’s put in front of him with the exception of liver. Funny thing is, I love liver. But I gave it up when I got married because what’s the point in cooking something nobody in the family likes? It wasn’t a big compromise. I mean, liver is just liver. Right? pexels-photo-925330

The bigger thing here is the compromise. Occasionally, Joel will take me to a restaurant that serves liver if I promise never, ever to cook it again. That’s what 34 years gets you—a nice restaurant meal of beef liver while your husband sits at another table so as not to gag over your food choice.

But, 34 years is about more than a culinary compromise. It’s about ignoring the quirks. Joel overlooks my little OCD compulsions, like needing to have everything around me put in its proper place, while I overlook the fact that, after 34 years, he still can’t find his car keys. Or his phone. Or his glasses. “Dianne, do you know where I put my…” Funny thing is, I usually do know. pexels-photo-256273His inconsistency is part of my consistency. It’s not the theme of the love stories I write, but I’ll bet if you could project 34 years into any one of my happily-ever-afters, there will be a few “Do you know where I put my glasses, keys, wallet, dentures, watch, phone, pants, shoes or whatever?” That’s also what 34 years gets you. And it’s not a bad thing, to be honest. Especially in my family, where 34 years is almost an impossibility.

34 years also brings with it the peace of mind that the future isn’t so imposing or unknown when your husband, wife, partner or companion is taking that journey with you. Your likes are much more the same after so many years. Or, at least, if they’re not, you’ve learned to smile and endure. Your goals are more aligned. Your expectations have turned into a parallel journey, rather then two separate ones struggling to meet somewhere along the way. And, there’s comfort. Knowing that if you forget to take your twenty pills every night before you go to bed he will bring them to you is comforting. So is the snore that wakes you up in the middle of the night and tells you he’s there. pexels-photo-212269

But, after 34 years, is there still excitement? Sure. Maybe it’s not always the breathless anticipation you felt when you were a newlywed, but there’s something to be said about the excitement of stumbling upon a winery you’ve never hear of and discovering it has a wine you both love or finding that secret little patch of morel mushrooms and making plans to return to that very same spot next year. basket-515186_1280What 34 years brings you is the hope that, at 35 years, your morels will still be your little secret, and that your kids will all come home every Wednesday night for dinner. And for those among your family or friends who didn’t work hard to achieve 34—and yes, it’s hard work—they’ll never know what they’ve missed. So, as Joel and I head into 35, we’ll celebrate by having dinner at the same restaurant we’ve had our anniversary dinner at for at least the past decade. I’ll order the same thing (not liver) I always order, and he’ll complain because they discontinued his favorite beer the way he complains about that every year. beer-2695358__340[1]34 years is good. It’s not one of the “special” numbers you celebrate. No one will throw you a party. But then, who needs a party anyway? In all the ways that count, 34 years has been the real party.

Happy anniversary, Joel! The first 34 have been great!

DD

By the way, I have a book coming out in August. It’s all about a couple who will definitely make it to 34 years, and go beyond that. Check it out!

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Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Scorpions & Other Unexpected Things

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We just got back from a nice holiday in Tennessee. We stay in the same cabin every time we go, and I must say, it’s awesome. Three stories, hot tub, jacuzzi, pool table, fully-stocked kitchen. The best part is that this cabin sits on the top of a mountain. And the bears…can’t forget to mention the bears that come prowling at night, looking for food. Last time we were there, one of them came up on the porch and banged the trash cans against the house. I thought it was pretty awesome. The rest of the people who were with us (we always take a gang along because the cabin’s so big) didn’t agree with me. teddy-214687__340[1]
But, I like the bears and all the other creatures we’re warned to be careful around. This year, however, we encountered a creature I’m not too fond of. When my niece and her five-year-old daughter went to bed one night, they turned back the covers and found…a scorpion! Jennifer, my niece, jumped out of bed screaming while, at the same time, trying to take pictures. MacKenzie, on the other hand, simply came upstairs and said to my hubby Joel, “I think we have a problem downstairs. Would you please go fix it?” She was, as they say, cool as a cucumber. My thought was: When did MacKenzie get so mature? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
While everybody in the cabin was freaking out in some manner because one small scorpion had invaded us, MacKenzie was being practical. She asked if she could crawl in bed with me because she didn’t have shoes on and she didn’t want to accidentally step on a scorpion.
It was interesting, and often unexpected watching MacKenzie. We see her at least once a week, and I suppose the changes sneak up when we’re not noticing. She went ice skating for the first time. Normally, MacKenzie is reluctant to try new things, so Joel was anticipating tears and resistance, and he was prepared to get some good pictures of that. But Mack surprised us all by pulling herself the whole way around the rink, then saying afterwards, “I think I’ll do that again sometime.” Same thing with riding the tram. She simply got on and rode to the mid-point of the mountain. But the best was the Alpine slide. She had to take a ski lift up, then slide all the way back down. Again, the bets were in that Mack wouldn’t do it. But she did, and she loved it.ski-lift-933588__340
It’s fun watching the changes in her, but it’s also a little sad that she’s growing up so quickly. But, that’s part of the process, like it or not. Everything changes. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the not so good and sometimes because that’s just the way it goes.

As a writer, I see changes in what I do. Not too long ago I went back and read some of the first book I ever wrote for Harlequin, The Doctor Dilemma. It was good, but it certainly isn’t anything I would write today. In fact, after I’d read a little of it, I was surprised how much my style has changed. Some of that comes with experience or maturity, and some, I believe, is a natural process. Our children grow up (although sometimes I wonder about that) and our writing grows as well. It’s a good thing, I think. But, it can also be painful because maturing in any aspect of our lives isn’t always easy. I had to mature in some of my word choices when I’m around MacKenzie because she catches on much quicker than I prefer.

But that’s OK, because as I’ve come to realize, we’re never quite as mature as we think we are, and luckily, the maturation process is never-ending. Meaning, maybe the next time one of us finds a scorpion in bed, we’ll act more like MacKenzie and less like the cabin full of screaming, blithering idiots all of us turned into.

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As always, wishing you health & happiness!

Dianne

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, The Writing Life

WINTER & RUTS & CHANGES (or not)

I admit thi2-9-18 blog 1s freely—I HATE winter. Hate snow. Hate cold weather. Hate gray skies and Indiana is practically always gray during the winter. I stay here because my family is here, my husband owns a business here and we have a good life here. Except for when it gets cold. And, to me, cold is anything under 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). Well, maybe I’m not quite that bad, but my family does know me to be a little eccentric on the numbers of layers I wear, and the lengths to which I’ll go to stay warm.

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As winters go, this one hasn’t been amongst the worst. Still, I don’t go out much. But I do have a very nice window in my office that gives me my winter view of the world. Sure, I go a little crazy staying inside as much as I do, but not because of the cold so much as that when I coop myself up, I start noticing things in my house I don’t normally notice.

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Now, here’s another true confession. I’m a creature of habit. I don’t move furniture around in my house, don’t even re-arrange the books on my shelves. Had you walked into my house 14 years ago, when we bought it, you’d have seen the same things in the places they are now. When I bought a new sofa a couple years ago, it went in the exact same place the old one did. And the books on my shelves—don’t even go there, because if I look up from my office chair and see one that’s not where it’s supposed to be, I move it back. Immediately. Let me tell you, my kids had fun with this idiosyncrasy of mine when they were young. Even today, grown and married, they can’t resist switching a couple books around, or moving the rocking chair in the living room a foot in one direction or the other.2-9-18 blog 4

So, anyway, I’ve spent a lot of time staring out my window this winter, as well as staring at the surroundings in my house. But, inspiration hit. I decided it was time to make some changes. Out of the blue, I was prompted to move my 100+ dictionaries from the bookcase on the left to the one on the right. (My office has 12 bookcases.) More than that, I decided to take my paperbacks and move them to the bottom shelf and put my trade paperbacks on the top. Then—rearrange the objects on my desk.

Two days of intermittent work, and my office was finally different. Now, the average eye might not discern the differences. But to me, it’s like I’m in a whole new setting and honestly, I’m not fond of it yet. I’ve toyed with the idea of moving things back, given some thought to moving only half of everything back to see if that doesn’t bother me so much. Looked at this situation every way I can, and I came to a disturbing conclusion…I like being in my rut. It’s my comfort zone. It’s where I live and where I function best.

I remembering watching one of the singing contest shows, feeling sorry for the poor contestants who just didn’t quite get it—according to the judges. There was always constant criticism from them telling the singers to change the song, shake it up, make it their own. That was their advice, over and over. And it got me thinking about my office, my rut, and if I really need to shake it up. Then, I asked myself: if I’m comfortable in my rut, what’s wrong with that? If the competing singer liked singing the song without changing it, what’s wrong with that?

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Sometimes, I think we tend to change things simply for the sake of changing them. My office, for example. I’m happy there. Happy with my 100+ dictionaries on the left bookshelf. But I shook it up, and there was no reason to do that. It’s like that in my writing, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people ask me if I get tired writing what I write, and should I try something else? The answer is…no. I’m where I want to be on so many different levels, and that includes my writing. It includes my dictionaries, too. Which is why, after I post this blog, I’m going to shake it up, make it my own, and change things by moving them back the way they were. Why? Because that’s where they belong. That’s where I belong.

In a world that’s going crazy around us right now, where we feel like we’re losing more and more control, I find my ruts a very nice place in which to dwell, especially on a cold, winter’s day. So, tell me. Do you have ruts in which you’re happy to exist?

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I had two books come out in January. They’re available to purchase in all the usual places. And, especially good to read if you’re caught up in a cold winter like I am and prefer to stay cozy inside.

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 VALENTINE’S DAY GIVEAWAY! 
Don’t miss our VALENTINE’S DAY GIVEAWAY which is running until the 13th February 2018. More details at:

https://loveisthebestmedicine.wordpress.com/valentines-day-giveaway-2018

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As always, wishing you health & happiness & comfortable ruts…

Dianne

http://www.Dianne-Drake.comDianneDrake@earthlink.net * @DianneDrake http://www.facebook.com/DianneDrakeAuthor

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, The Writing Life

A Family’s Legacy

Mt NeboI’ve had a hard time this month deciding the topic of my blog. First, because it’s autumn where I live, I thought something about the season might be in order. You know, insert a pumpkin recipe or how to make cinnamon applesauce. Maybe something about a trip to the apple orchard. This is my favorite time of the year and blogging about it would be a natural for me. But, I’ve blogged IMAG0410autumn in the past, so I bypassed that topic. Then, I thought about word choices…why we use the often-odd configuration of words we do. For example, I saw a sign offering horseback riding lessons. At first, it seemed innocent enough. But then my mind started whirling with things like why call it horseback riding? Seriously, does anybody 20170812_151024_resizedever ride the chest of a horse? Next thing I knew, I was in the mental middle of a Michael McIntyre-ish comedy routine. Could almost picture myself pacing back and forth across the stage with him.

Sadly, the real topic came to me at a family funeral. My father-in-law was buried just over a week ago, and the Despain family gathered from places near and far to pay tribute.  It was a nice service done with full military accolades, and I’ll admit I korean-war-memorial-1809436__340[1]got a little choked up at the rifle salute and the playing of Taps. The weather was perfect, the people in attendance all respectful. As funeral services go, this was a very nice one. But, it wasn’t the funeral that caught my interest. It was the family stories that came afterwards, in the wee hours, sitting at the kitchen table, and at breakfast, and other odd times when the family was gathered. The stories were funny and sad, and they captured the essence of a man no one there knew in his entirety. What struck me was that the stories were only circulated among the older members of the family. The younger ones didn’t care.  They weren’t there. They didn’t listen.  And, I think that’s typical. As generations pass, so do the things that maybe only a generation ago were important.

I think about my grandmothers. One was a suffragette. I’m proud of that fact. In a lot of ways, knowing what my grandmother did has defined me. But, I don’t know the stories of her marches. Don’t know what made her want to get involved, or why my grandfather would have allowed it. I don’t even know where she marched. And, that’s my loss. My other grandmother told me of the times she and her family would covered-wagon-1675111__340[1]go on vacation in a covered wagon. They would be flanked by Native Americans as they were wandering outside the established United States in the early part of the 20th century, into one of the territories. And, my grandmother would sneak off and play with the Native American children who would come along to, what was essentially, escort, my grandmother’s family to a place where most people of the time didn’t dare go. I certainly know that story, but I don’t know why my grandmother’s family vacationed where they did, I have no idea what their covered wagon looked like, or why she knew and played with the children of the Natives sent out to flank them. Again, my loss.

Certainly, the old always gives way to the new. I understand that. But when I look at the photograph of my suffragette grandmother and see how much MacKenzie (who would be her great-great granddaughter) resembles her, I realize that my loss goes far beyond me. I can’t tell MacKenzie the stories of who her great-great grandmother was because, in a large sense I don’t know. I never took the time to ask.

And when I listened to the stories of my father-in-law, many of which were new to the majority of his six children, I wondered if anything of his life other than a few photos would be passed down, or whether those odd moments, when only the oldest of the family gathered around, would be the end of a legacy.

As a writer, I’m all for capturing those moments, writing them down – or, at least, the highlight of them. But I haven’t done that. Why? Because I never asked, and now the people I would have asked are gone, as is most of their legacy. Is a family legacy important? To the outside world—no. To the family—in some instances, yes. Overall, I don’t really know, but I hope it is. Because, for me, in another generation or two, I’d like to think that my family might sit around the still-life-379858__340[1]kitchen table where someone would say, “Dianne…yes, I remember hearing about her. Wasn’t she the one who wrote some books?”

R.I.P. Richard Steele Despain. You are missed.

No books coming out this month, but look for me in January, when both REUNITED WITH HER ARMY DOC and HEALING HER BOSS’S HEART will be out!

As always, wishing you health & happiness. And maybe a little bit of family history. 

Dianne