Sunday, December 30, 2012

5th Day of Christmas in Song - What Child is This

One of my favorite carols is "What Child is This" because the words are so heartfelt and the music is so stirring to the soul.

William Chatterton Dix wrote the lyrics to the song in 1865. Dix was born in England and wrote over 40 hymns. When he was 29, he was struck by a severe illness and confined to his bed. It was during this time Dix wrote a poem called "The Manger Throne." From this poem, 3 stanzas were taken and set to an English tune, "Greensleeves." Retitled, the song became "What Child is This."

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. She puts white lights on her tree.

Question for you: Do you prefer white lights or colored lights on your tree?

The Faberge Secret

BLURB: Elise Goodwin finds herself face-to-face with danger when she learns the Faberge egg she bought belongs to Russian businessman Dimitri Romanov, but is Dimitri playing a game with Elise's heart to get his heirloom back?


Elise was cold down to her bones. She flicked her scarf around her neck and glanced at her friend, Lucy Vanowen. Lucy was bundled up to the nines in a thick winter coat, a green and gold knit cap, and Thinsulate gloves. Not even Lucy's blonde bangs peeked out from under her cap.

"Burr..." Elise said.
"It's freezing. You are insane," Lucy said. "It's twenty degrees out, and it's only noon." "How do you know?"
"I checked the weather app on my phone."
"Well, we're almost there."
"Let's hope they have a cappuccino bar."


Fabulously written, the story combines elements of mystery, action, love, and tender family moments all at the right places, making a perfect fit. If you want a good story combining history, crime, and passion, "The Faberge Secret" is the book for you. – 5 Stars, Reader's Favorites


Friday, December 28, 2012

The 3rd Day of Christmas in Song - The 1st Noel

The First Noel can be dated back to the 18th Century England, but is probably older as "Noel" is a French meaning Christmas.

As the song is today, it was first published in "Carols Ancient and Modern 1823) and has a Cornish roots.

The lyrics are a vivid narrative of the birth of Jesus.

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. She puts a star on the top of her Christmas tree.

Do you put a star or an angel on the top of your tree?

A Gentleman and A Rogue
Book 2, The Windsor Diaries

Blurb: Will Lady Keira Russell win Queen Victoria's approval for her work with compressed natural gas, or will Edmund ruin Keira's chances with his mischief making?

Opening Paragraph:
Edmund Windsor landed flat on his rump. Frowning, he got to his knees and brushed the dirt off his frock jacket. To his left, he heard his cousin, Alice, grumbling. Good old Alice. It wouldn't be an adventure without her.

Review:  "I was hooked in it and did not want it to end. All of you romantic historical fans don’t miss this one – it is a winner." - 5 Stars, Trudi LoPreto for Reader's Favorites





Wednesday, December 26, 2012

1st Day of Christmas in song

Welcome to my 12 days of Christmas in song!

Traditionally, the 12 days of Christmas start on Christmas (the birth of Jesus) and go through to 6 January, the Feast of the Epiphany, when the 3 Wise Men found Jesus in Bethlehem.

This is the season we listen to our favorite Christmas Carols. I'll be sharing little tidbits and facts along with You Tube Links. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the music these 12 days of Christmas.

The 12 days of Christmas

This song is believed to be older than the official published version. While the origins are unknown, if you go by the text of the song, it implies a French origin, as a red-legged partridge, a native of France, and known to perch in trees, was not introduced to England until 1770.

Did you Know?
In Australia, an alternate version replaced traditional gifts with native Australian animals.

So What's the Meaning?

The 12 Days of Christmas sounds like a nonsense song, but modern "folklore" claims the words were written to help young Catholics with their faith during the time that practicing Catholicism in England was criminalized. (In the 1500's)

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. When it comes to Christmas, she puts up an artificial tree.

Question for you: Do you use a real tree or an artificial one?

Victorian Scoundrel
Book 1, The Windsor Diaries

Blurb: When Alice follows her cousin back through time, she has no idea the mischief she's in for.

Edmund Windsor was in a rush. Then again, he was always in a rush and today was no exception. Alice skulked after him, trying to keep up without being seen. Edmund made his way through the halls of the British Time Institute located at Cambridge University near the Cam River and the Queen's College. His quick, long gait was full of purpose, his eyes etched in determination. Alice could barely keep up. She adjusted her glasses, setting them straight on her nose, and continued her pursuit.

Winner: BRONZE 2012 Reader's Favorite Contest, Romance: History

2011 Hope Chest Reviews Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Romance Series

Review: I highly recommend this with highest of 5 stars, and I can't wait until the second Windsor Diaries installment releases! – 5 Stars, Reader's Favorites, Molly E.






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Thursday, December 20, 2012

O, Christmas Tree, Part 2

Viggo Johansen 1891
How did the Christmas tree make it to America?

We all love our Christmas trees. These days Christmas trees, ornaments, and decorations are a million dollar market, but decorated Christmas trees have their origins in Europe and can trace their roots to the 1500's.

Did you know?
The Douglas Fir and Scotch Pine are the two top best selling Christmas trees?

The earliest evidence of trees getting decorated for Christmas comes out of Latvia and Livonia between 1441-1510. Guild Halls would be decorated with sweets to be enjoyed by the apprentices and children.

In the early 1700's, spots of Germany had embraced decorating Christmas trees. European royalty began to accept the custom and when a picture of Queen Victoria with her family was taken for the "Illustrated London Daily," in 1846 Christmas trees were made popular with the general public.

The Christmas tree had a tough start in America.

The pilgrims settled in New England and brought their stoic traditions with them. The Puritans banned Christmas, wanting to get rid of the "pagan mockery" of the observance. Only a church service was allowed. Decorating a tree and singing carols were "heathen" traditions. The stern attitude continued until the early 1800's when the German and Irish immigration trends began to undermine the Puritan legacy.

As early as 1777, Christmas trees started to "peep" out in America. Hessian soldiers as POWs would put them up. Easton, PA, Lancaster, PA, and Wooster, OH were some of the early cities to embrace the custom. August Imgard in Wooster started putting candy canes on the trees in 1947, and we're still putting them on trees today.

Did you know?
Tinsel was created in Germany in 1610. It was made out of silver up until the mid-20th Century.

Early decoration included nuts, apples, paper baskets with almonds, along with popcorn and cranberries stringed together. Quilted snowflakes were also popular. Candles were also placed on Christmas trees symbolic of the stars at night when Jesus was born. (Imagine the fires! Thank goodness for electric lights.)

Did you know?
Since 1923 the US National Christmas tree has been lit on the south lawn of the White House.

Nowadays Christmas tree are a popular way to celebrate the holiday season.

Norway annually gifts a tree to Washington DC as a symbol of friendship between Norway and the US and in gratitude for the United States help during World War II.

Question: Do you have a real tree or an artificial one? Do you theme your tree? When do you put it up? A couple of days before 25 DEC or right after Thanksgiving?

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. Prior to that, she spent 11 years in the US Army, 7 overseas in Germany. She prefers to put a star on the top of her tree. Her 99 cent Christmas story, "Christmas in Bayeux" will take you to Bayeux, France to celebrate Christmas.

Christmas in Bayeux: 99 cent contemporary romance.

Blurb: Aiden travels to Bayeux, France to meet an old friend, Noel. Can she help heal his wounded heart?

Opening Line: A light dusting of snow covered the Renault's window.

4, 5 Star Amazon Reviews:
This was just a wonderful and heart warming read. - Markee Anderson


Friday, December 14, 2012

Welcome Guest Author - Karen Michelle Nutt

Holidays at the Nutt House
By Karen Michelle Nutt

A Glimpse of Christmas Past…

My eldest, Kendra was almost three when the Disney’s Little Mermaid premiered. She loved everything to do with Ariel. For Christmas, Santa brought her all the collector characters. (They were the hard plastic statues.) She was so excited and named off each of the characters as she pulled them out of her stocking. In a cute little voice that only a three year old could have, she said: This is Ariel. And this is Sebastian. Ooh and this is Flounder.” She pulled out King Triton next and we ask her who he was. “He’s…he’s…he’s my father.” We couldn’t help but chuckle. Not only did she love Ariel, she thought she was Ariel. lol

Now she’s twenty-five with a degree in massage therapy and working at a salon. She is also writing a novel. She joined in on NaNo this year. What is her story about? Yep, you guessed it: Mermaids.

Katrina is the middle child who loves the movies---anything from the classics to the blockbusters of today. She couldn’t get enough of Lord of the Rings and of course the dashing Legolas was her favorite. I’d find binders with his name scrawled all over it. She’d tack pictures from magazines of him on her walls. Then there was Twilight and she had to have a stocking with Edward Cullen. (She still has it, too.) lol Though her original stocking hangs from the fireplace now.

She’s currently is creating videos and also joined NaNo this year. Her love of fantasy and the paranormal has helped her to create a fascinating story surrounding the Irish werewolf legend.

Vincent is my baby. Though he’s eighteen now and built like a football player. As a child he was the reason safety latches and plug coves were invented. If this kid could put a new toy into the light socket, he would.

When he was too quiet, I knew he was up to no good. I’d ask him, “What are you doing?” and he would respond with, “Something.” And you could bet it was something I wasn’t going to like. One Christmas Santa brought a playhouse for Katrina and Vincent. It was a big plastic one that Santa assembled in the house. One day Vincent was in there by himself, but was awfully quiet. I had to investigate. I opened the window and peek in. “What are you doing?” I asked. He immediately hid something behind his back. “Hand it over,” I told him. And he slowly reveals the item. I almost fell over. It was a kitchen knife. This wasn’t just any knife. It was a large knife that might as well have been a sword. I’m freaking out, but managed to relieve him of the knife without panicking him. I asked him what he thought he was going to do with the knife. He said, “I wanted to cut open a package.”

We had a little talk why he should not use a knife. Locks were immediately placed on the kitchen drawers. I have to say, he was too short to even see into this drawer. He must have just felt around until his little hand clasped the handle.

Today, Vincent is attending the Arts Institute for video design where the only swords he handles are part of the game he’s created. He also works part time with an electrician—so his fascination with light sockets hasn’t quite worn off.

Christmas Present…

The weather is usually comfortable in Southern California and we can enjoy the outdoors. Sometime during the Holiday we like to visit the happiest place on earth: Disneyland! The decorations, the music and the smiling faces always puts everyone in the holiday mood for fun.

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of the Nutt House during the holidays. Since it is a time for giving, I’d like to offer one person a chance to win a PDF copy of one of my books. Winner’s choice!

What do you have to do? I’d love to hear about one of your Christmas Shenanigans, cute story or what you like to do around the holidays. Please remember to leave your email so I may contact you if you should win.

Thank you so much for having me on your lovely blog.
To Everyone: Merry Christmas!! Happy Holidays! And let’s hope the New Year brings us joy!!

About the Author: Whether your reading fancy is paranormal, historical or time travel, all her stories capture the rich array of emotions that accompany the most fabulous human phenomena—falling in love.
Visit the author at:
Stop by her blog for Monday interviews, chats and contests at:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Writing Tips - The Rules

We all enjoy a good romance, but what does a good romantic story aspire to do? I'd like to think the rules are very liberal, but there are two I always keep in mind when putting pen to paper.

#1 Create likable characters

Characters are the heart and soul of any romance novel. The reader needs to fall in love with them as they're falling in love with each other.

If the heroine is rude or crabby to the hero (or even to her friends), she isn't very likable. The same for the hero. It's hard to understand the attraction if they're not "likable." They've got to embody certain traits – honesty, sincerity, protectiveness, kindness, and a willingness to help others. They've got to be "good" people at heart.

#2 HEA

Readers expect a story that's hopeful, honest, and uplifting. If a romance doesn't do that, it isn't a romance. A romance story should leave a reader believing in Happily Ever After (HEA) or at least offer hope for HEA. If it doesn't, it's a mainstream fiction.

Enjoy the Holidays!

Question: Authors: Do you have any "rules" you'd like to add? What "rules" work for you?
Readers:  What do you like to find in your romance? Would you consider Nicholas Sparks a "romantic" author, women's fiction, or mainstream romance? 

Reference: On Writing Romance, by Leigh Michaels, F&W Publications, ISBN: 978-1-58297-6983. 2007. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Now Available in Print - The Hungarian

Now available in PRINT: The Hungarian

BLURB: Matthias harbors a dark secret, but when Katherine comes into his life he risks everything (including his secret) for her love.

You Gotta Read Reviews - You Need to Read, Lupa
I was so very happily surprised by this book. The characters are enchanting, the scenes are vividly written, and the story has a fantastic flow.

Happily Ever After Reviews,  5 Cups
"This is an excellent book and I think fans of both the paranormal and historical romances will really, really enjoy it." 

Hope Chest Reviews - 4 Hearts
Overall, The Hungarian was a pretty good read. Stephanie Burkhart is good at telling an interesting story that holds my attention.

Sizzling Hot Book Reviews, 5 Hearts
"I highly recommend The Hungarian, even if you aren't that interested in the paranormal such as werewolves. The romantic tale of The Hungarian is enough to win over anyone."

Reader's Favorites, 5 Stars
"This book is extremely entertaining. The plot is sensual and romantic."

Coffee Time Romance, 3 Cups
"Ms. Burkhart tells this tale in such a voice that we can practically feel the waves of emotions both characters are feeling coming off the pages."


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Writing Tips: Hook, Line & Sold!

For me, a "hook" is that one sentence (or two, no more than) that sells your book to whoever you're talking to. (Some other marketing material may also refer to the "hook" as a "pitch")

Take yesterday for me. I went to get my hair cut and styled and brought my writing notebook. My stylist said, "Whatcha' doing?"

"Writing a book."

"What's it about?"

I've got 1 chance to tell her about my book and "hook" her in and grab her interest.

Now that's a challenge. You, the author, have 1 sentence (possibility 2) to "sell" your book to either a reader, an agent, a publisher, a representative at a book store whom you're trying to arrange a book signing.

Your hook better be pretty "snazzy" to grab that person's attention.

The pros? A 1 line sentence about your book is easy to remember and easy to draw on when people ask.

The challenge – your hook needs to be in an "active" voice, not a passive one. Active voice will grab that potential buyer, where a passive voice may make them snooze.

What's an active voice? Stay away from "was" "has been" and "to be" as verbs. When crafting your sentence use a thesaurus to give you "active" verb word choices. Stay away from "ly" adverbs. The stronger your verb, the less you need an "ly" adverb.

It usually takes me a good 20-30 minutes focused time to develop my hook.

When people (in person) ask, "Hey, what's your children's book, The Giving Meadow, about?"

I say: "It's about a caterpillar who travels through a meadow learning to share and care. Young children really enjoy the story.

I have a 99 cent short story called Journey of the Heart.

Here's my blurb: Can World War II veteran James help Rachel save her winery or will he drift out of her life the same way he drifted in?

I usually use that blurb when I'm on the Internet. If I'm in person, my hook is a lot more "conversational."

"Rachel's going to lose her winery, and only has one chance to save it – World War II vet James. Does he care enough to stick around?"

I usually try to end the "hook" with a question if I can – inviting the person to find out the answer by buying the book.

Question: Do you use hooks? How to come up with your hooks? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

My Pen Ran Out Ink - My 2012 NaNoWriMo Adventure

I hate feeling overwhelmed. I'm a writer, I love to write, but I've discovered it's not wise to over commit yourself. Last year I contracted 5 books. What was I thinking?

When National Novel Writing Month started creeping around the corner, I knew I had to commit to it. I'm down to 3 contracts, but even still, finding the time to write is challenging. This was my opportunity to catch up.

About two weeks out I started researching my project, Book 3 in the Moldavian Moon series, Sunrise Over Brasov. The paper flew. The ink spilled. Character bios. Thank goodness for Google images. I stocked up on pens, paper, French Roast Coffee and ink cartridges. I drew maps and outlined a plot. Come 1 NOV I was ready to write. My goal? 5 handwritten pages a day.

The challenge isn't actually the writing. Juliet, my muse, is fired up, has the strawberries stocked up, and is ready to go. It's finding THE TIME. Juliet will throw a hissy fit if I don't find THE TIME to write. I hate it when my muse gets mad at me.

November 1st came and I hit the paper writing. Words flowed like a rushing river onto the paper. The hero, Michael, re-kidnapped the heroine, Rosa, from the evil werewolf's fortress. I even fit in a day to meet with my NaNoWriMo buddy, Jenifer Ranieri at Panera.

Then my pen ran out of ink.
Juliet forced me to use a pencil.

My son, Joe, had a tumbling and trampoline class and his regular gymnastic class. Taxi service time.
Juliet made me take my laptop.

My son, Andrew, had basketball practice and Hip Hop Dance.
Juliet got mad when I told her I watching football on Sundays.

She pushed me toward the paper, whispered sweet nothings into my ear, promised me Lindor chocolates, and made me neglect my emails. I've got one account with over 700 emails.

THE TIME threatened to derail my progress, but Juliet kept me steady. My 6-year-old hid my thesaurus under couch because he wanted "Mommy" time, but Juliet found it.

I'm tired, weary, my fingers ache and I have a couple more gray hairs because I was stressed out to the max, but I did it. I'm a NaNoWriMo winner!

My treat? Lindor truffles and French Roast coffee from Starbucks. Actually, I'm hoping to give Jen Ranieri a buzz. Maybe we can go to lunch to celebrate if THE TIME lets me. He's a demanding beast right now.

The good news? I have over 50K on "Sunrise Over Brasov." There's more to write, but I'm pleased with the plot and characters. Now I can slow down and smell the roses.

The bad news?

I have to catch up on over 700 emails. Juliet tells me there's a button called delete. I'm not so sure.

For those who took the challenge and won, Juliet wants to invite you to a party. (Not at my house!) She's serving strawberries and chocolate.

For those who took the challenge and didn't quiet finish, Juliet says she's available for hire at a fee.

She's a taskmaster, just so you know.

I'd love to hear about your NaNoWriMo experience. Did you write with others in your region? What region do you come from? Give a shout out. Did you hang out at the coffee shop? Run out of ink, too? Share your word count and your story!
Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD, a taxi service for her boys, and addicted to dark chocolate and strawberries. The first book in the Moldavian Moon series is "The Wolf's Torment." Can Mihai save his family from an evil werewolf that threatens to destroy their happiness?

Here's a sample from the opening of Sunrise Over Brasov:

Several gunshots and piercing screams forced Rosa from the comfort of her bed. Uncertainty knotted in her stomach. What was happening? Flinging off the covers, she rushed to the window and pushed aside the heavy drapes. The thunderous noise made her pulse erratic. 
Frost had collected on the thick windowpane. Outside, several gun muzzles flashed – or was it nistal root exploding? She couldn't be sure. Overhead, a waxing half moon appeared just over the Brasov skyline. Rose worried her lower lip. The battle continued, but who would attack the fortress? 

She glanced at the mechanical brass clock on the table next to the fireplace. Five-thirty in the morning. The logs in the fireplace smoldered, threatening to flame out. Sunrise would come soon. She approached the chair next to her bed and slid her robe over her shoulders, crossing her arms over her chest to keep warm. Should she determine if Clement needed help, or should she check on Rickard? This fighting might trigger a change in him.

The door flung open and a man stepped into her room. Who was he? The vaguely familiar scent of sandalwood and pine filled her senses. Her heartbeat spiked, but she held her ground and set her chin, determined not to show him an ounce of fear. 
There was no denying his masculinity. He was tall and his massive shoulders filled out the cloak he wore. Most of his facial features were enveloped by shadows, but she could make out his penetrating amber-hazel eyes through the darkness. A soft gasp escaped her. 

He raised his hand and lowered his hood. An inherent strength filled his profile. Confidence. Concern. Relief. 
Rosa's breath jammed in her throat. He looked familiar. He smelled familiar. 
"Rosa, it's Michael. Let's go."

"I'm not going anywhere with you."