Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine December 2022

Page 46 All contents Copyright © the individual authors and used with their permission. All rights reserved.
P. SMITH (Executive Editor / Graphic Design ) SYLVA FAE (Managing Editor / Art Director) WENDY H. JONES (Copy Editor) direct/ SHEENA MACLEOD (Copy Editor) Editorial Contributors
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The Happy Little Christmas Tree by Eileen Rolland
Joyce at Christmas by Jenny Sanders
60 Christmas Cards by Sheena Macleod
96 Golden Years Celebrating 50 by Melanie P. Smith
102 Fear Not by Stan Phillips
29 Trying to Get a Glimpse of Santa by Chantal Bellehumeur
An Illuminated Christmas by Eileen Rolland
65 An Updated Carol by Jenny Sanders
Another Updated Carol by Jenny Sanders
71 John and Marry Stan Phillips
85 Christmas Fibonacci Trees by Maressa Mortimer
90 Scribble and Script by Tracey Challis
91 Orna Ross Interviewed by Wendy H. Jones
8 No Truce by Rhys (Age 15)
15 Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge by Melanie P. Smith
18 Colorful Nature by Sylva Fae
100 Holiday Treats by Melanie P. Smith

Around America in 50 Books by Wendy H. Jones

Birthstone Crystal Grids

Turquoise by Lisa Shambrook

Looking After You This Christmas by Sheena Macleod

24 Classic Movies The Thin Man by Hannah Howe

A Mother’s Christmas Lexicon by John Greeves

The Mouse Family that Live by the Brambles by Sylva Fae

66 Europe by Book by Hannah Howe

Olympiacos Stadium Piraeus Athens by John Greeves

72 Writing Cozy Mysteries by Wendy H. Jones

Silver Birth by Ronesa Aveela

The Golden Age of Hollywood by Hannah Howe

Christmas in 19th Century Ireland by Juliane Weber

86 Play It Again Little Shepherds by Maggie Cobbett

88 Tis the Season to Be Spending by Ruth Leigh

48 Fifty — Flash Fiction by Allison Symes
74 77 1/2 Herbs
20% OFF First Book Promotion with the Fussy Librarian .............................102 Connections eMagazine ........................................................................................103
White to Move—Supplied
............................................................43 Hot Rod Todd Word Find .......................................................................................94
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Mom’s Favorite Kids Zone by Sylva Fae
by Wendy H. Jones and Sheena Macleod

Orna Ross

There can be few people in the publishing industry who have not heard of Orna Ross in her role as the founder of The Alliance of Independent Authors. But there is so much more to Orna than that which is why I was delighted to interview her this month. Thank you Orna, for taking the time to chat to me.

A nice gentle question to start off. How did you come to writing?

As a very angst ridden, Irish teenager, locked up in a convent boarding school. It wasn’t easy to be an independent minded young woman in 1970s Ireland, a dysfunctional theocracy. Reading saved me, showing me there were other ways to live and be.

Writing was the natural progression from reading. The writing notebook was my comfort and my consolation, a place where the world of the imagination was as real as the physical and political goings on around me. I escaped there as often as I could. I’m still escaping there 50 years on!

You are a woman who wears many hats. Let’s start with poetry, what is it about poetry that drew you towards writing it?

There is something very essential and fundemental about the consolations of rhythm and rhyme, as you can see when you rock and soothe a child with

a lullaby. As I started to read and write poetry, certain lines were like mantra to me.

Come away o human child/ to the waters and the wild…”. (WB Yeats)

I can feel their loving fingers/clasp my neck and touch my hair”. (Louisa May Alcott)

Oh my dark Rosaleen/ Do not sigh, do not weep/ The priests are on the ocean green/They march along the deep…” (James Clarence Mangan)

Poetry packs a punch. Coleridge said it was because a poem is the best words in the best order. Wallace Stevens said it was because the poet is the priest of the invisible. Then there’s the musicality. A good poem will simultaneously open our understanding and induce a sense of wonder, while pleasing the ear. The condensation of meaning makes it revelatory, the arrangment of the words hints at the spaces between the words, the lyricism brings it all together and makes it much lighter that saying all


that in prose.

But there’s also the creative intention of the poet. Even a “bad" poem, clogged with cliches, brings us closer to the truth, allows us to express our feelings and the deeper meaning of what it is to be alive on this earth. There’s no such thing as a bad poem, actually. Most of the poems that pour onto Instagram every day don’t work for me but they work for other readers. If one human soul has used words to touch another human soul, that’s poetry.

Poetry has been around for a long time, but it has recently seen a huge resurgence, why do you think that is?

It’s all thanks to the Internet. Poetry can now circulate for free again.

When the only way to access poetry was to buy it in expensive print collections, a myth grew up that “ordinary” readers don’t like poetry. That poetry was dead, full of dead white males poncing around, stressing syllables and using boring, big words. It was outdated and irrelevant. I believe poetry is a primal impulse in us all, actually, but it’s been stifled and repressed by how we were taught poetry at school. This is not new. WH Auden told a great story about two poetry teachers walking in the woods in springtime. On hearing birdsong, one teacher quotes Wordsworth: Teacher 1: Oh cuckoo, shall I call thee bird / or but a wandering voice?

Teacher 2: State the alternative preferred / with reasons for your choice.

That sort of teaching turned a lot of people off poetry but now that people are writing their own poems on social media, we’re rediscovering the joys of reading and writing poetry for ourselves.

#PoetryIsNotDead is a popular hashtag on Instagram.

Your poetry deals with mindfulness and inspiration. Why do you feel these lend themselves to the poetic form?

For me, mindfulness and inspiration are the heart and soul of poetry. Poetry is the expression in words of an inner state I call the create state. Creative spirit, creative presence is what separates a poetic moment in your life from the moments that are less aware, less present, less creative.

From where do you draw your own inspiration for your poetry?

From everywhere. And sometimes, even from nowhere. Occasionally, a poem arrives to mind, fully realised, and all I have to do is write it down. If I had to pick one source of inspiration that’s most significant, I’d say the sea. Everything I’ve learned in life I could’ve learnt easier just by watching the waves.


Is there a particular poetic form that you prefer?

I suppose free verse, I don’t like when composition gets too tricksy, when form becomes the most important thing, and the poet is trying to squash sounds and syllables into the container of form. That can be fun, an interesting intellectual puzzle, but it can move us away from what, for me, poetry is all about.

For that reason, I love the simplicity of haiku. Particularly the 3 7 3 form. It’s so challenging to try to capture the soul of a single moment in that condensed form.

If someone reading this wanted to write poetry what would be your advice to them?

Use social media to write a poem and share it somewhere, and to find and read a poem that you love and share what you liked about it. Repeat and repeat and repeat.

On my Instagram account, @OrnaRoss.poetry I run a poetry contest #indiepoetryplease, where I share a prompt and poems every Friday with my 20K+ poetry lovers. Join us there!

What do you think it is that draws us towards reading poetry?

Poetry is like song, something we own instinctively. Honest and open, it is a life line a direct opening to, engagement with, experience of, life.

You also write novels. Can you tell us about them? Yes indeed. Even though I haven’t published a novel in quite a few years, I think of myself primarily as a novelist. I am returning to publishing fiction in 2023. My novels are literary historical fiction, cross generational mysteries full of buried secrets, with deep characcters and lots of emotional twists.

I’m curious, how do you move from writing poetry to novels and vice versa? To me they seem such diverse forms of writing.

Yes, they are very different, but they feed each other. For the past number of years, I've also been writing a lot of “How To” non fiction, particularly guidebooks for writers through the Alliance of Independent Authors, that one is less easy to transition from.


I manage the switch by having different notebooks, computers and other devices for each and having time buckets dedicated to what I’m working on. But of course, it all falls apart every so often and things don’t go according to plan.

A poem can be written at any time. For fiction, I need concentrated periods of time where I can go deeper. When I’m seriously writing fiction (as I am now) I give over every morning to it. The best way to write a novel the way it is best read by devoting as much time as you can to it, each day.

You are also the founder of the The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). Can you tell us something about this organisation.

The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) is a professional membership association for self publishing authors. A non profit, our mission is ethics and excellence in self publishing and we reinvest our profits back into our organisation for the benefit of our members and the wider indie author community. We have thousands of members all over the world and offer lots of benefits to authors who publish their own books.

Why do you think ALLi is so important in today’s literary landscape?

Digital self publishing has unleashed a wealth of opportunities for authors who are willing to learn the skills of publishing. Because of how books used to be published in the 20th century by third party publishers who essentially treated the author as a supplier, rather than a creative partner there are a lot of myths and misunderstandings about what it means to publish well. Independent “indie” authors are the most enterprising, hardworking and pioneering authors at work today. They need an association that understands their challenges and

achievements and the multi faceted nature of their needs. Most of the traditional author organizations are struggling with that, because they grew up around the old, third party model.

What are the benefits to a writer of joining ALLi?

There’s so much: discounts and deals, education and guidebooks, legal and business advice, contractual vetting, a dedicated literary agent, advisor network, watchdog desk. Membership supports authors through our advocacy campaigns, advisor network, and watchdog desk, as well as direct benefits.

When you join the Alliance of Independent Authors, you’re not just joining an association. You’re becoming part of a movement. Whether you’re publishing your first book or your fiftieth, whether you write fiction, non fiction or poetry, we’re with you every step of the way. alli/ advisors/ watchdog desk/


Let’s get personal. On holiday do you prefer mountain or beach?

Beach. But ideally, one with a mountain not too far away!

What’s your favourite food?

Sorry to be a national stereotype but potato.

If you could go anywhere in the world on holiday, where would it be?

Wherever I’m going next is always the most exciting. Right now, I’m booked to go to New Orleans and surrounds, next year.

If you could go anywhere in the world to write, where would it be?

My current writing space where I look up and see the sea and have all my favourite books, tools and things around me.

What do you like reading in your spare time?

My favourite reading is very much like my favoured writing inspirational poetry and literary historical fiction. On the non fiction front, I track creativity studies and I love a meaty literary biography.

What are you working on at the moment?

A series of literary historical novels about the poet WB Yeats and his muse, the heiress turned Irish revolutionary, Maud, Gonne. It’s an exploration of the nature of true love told in the voice of a rural Irish servant girl turned prostitute.

If Mom’s Favorite Reads, readers could only read one of your books, which one would you recommend they start with?

Stories and Poems for Subscribers. It’s got a bit of everything in there and they can sign up to download it free from my website at freebook.

Thank you for your time. It has been so good getting to know you and find out about your books. Good luck with the new project.

Wendy H. Jones is the award winning, international best selling author of the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries, Cass Claymore Investigates Mysteries, Fergus and Flora Mysteries, Bertie the Buffalo children’s books and the Writing Matters books for writers. She is also a writing and marketing coach and the President of the Scottish Association of Writers. As copy editor for Mom’s, she works hard to ensure content is appropriate and free of grammatical and spelling errors. You can learn more about Wendy on her website:


Allowing Now: A Book of Mindfulness


And goodness knows we are all as welcome as we ever were here, in the holy, flowing hold of now.

This is a book of mindfulness poetry in the tradition of Mary Oliver, Maya Angelou, John O'Donoghue, and Rumi's ancient wisdom.

The thirty poems in this selection are intimately alive to the teachings offered by the smallest life moment.

Some, like the title poem, "Allowing Now," address the topic of mindfulness head on. Others explore themes like self compassion, inter being, and creative acceptance.

These thoughtful and lyrical poems do not shy from life's challenges or pains, but explore with startling clarity and kindness the mysteries of daily experience.

They remind us what it is to live openly and freely, as alert witnesses to the unfolding moment. And how to reach out to others from that place of presence.

In this collection, you'll find poems celebrating the miracle of creation, poems about birth and rebirth, poems about writing and creative flow practice, poems about passion, and perfection.

While not shying away from adversity or suffering, this selection of inspirational poetry takes you deep

inside the perceptions of a poet for whom the ordinary experience is always a treasure, and an opportunity for growth.


These poems are astonishing in both their simplicity and complexity and in the emotions they evoke. From the first poem to the last I found myself drawn in and knowing exactly what the meaning was, or should I say what they meant to me. Because, I believe, everyone who reads this volume will find their own meaning in the words. The words are beautifully written and crafted in order to help the reader find sense of the world. After each poem I was left with a sense of amazement and a feeling that my world had changed, mostly for the better.

Another book which would make a fabulous Christmas present or stocking filler.



Bright Star

Bright Star: Inspirational Poetry for Christmas and Other Beginnings


Bright Star is the first book in the Twelve Poems to Inspire series, a range of gift books for festivals like Valentine’s and Mother’s Day, and life occasions, like bereavement or new beginnings. Bright Star celebrates Christmas, other births, and beginnings of all kinds.

These twelve poems celebrate hope and the returning of light, and encourage us to rejoice in the human capacity to begin again and start over.

In accessible, sometimes conversational, language the poet brings messages from the depth dimension, reassuring us that all is unfolding as it should.

Divided into four sections: Rebirth, Renew, Reconnect, and Rejoice, each poem is chosen and arranged by Orna Ross, and beautifully illustrated with a relevant picture from a contemporary photographer or artist. It is a collection that explores what it truly means to live an inspired life, attuned to all its aspects.

These are the kind of poems you reread often. You can rest on them and build a foundation on them. Experience the wonder of rebirth and starting over, through the powerful pleasure of inspirational poetry.

A beautiful gift for Christmas, or for anyone beginning anew.


This book is evocative as poems often are. Each carefully chosen word brings the reader to the core of the poem, allowing them to see things in a different way. They allow the reader to think. This is not a book which should be rushed through; each poem should be savoured and enjoyed. They should be read again and again and used at times when they are most appropriate.

This is a slim volume but would make a perfect gift or stocking filler for any poetry lover.


No Truce

As the dust turns to a snowy dawn, And innocent church bells hum the Christmas chime, I lay in a soft comforting lawn, Of a family who’s lost home and time. I’m stiff, cold and alone, Here, absent of family and life, All that remains is the blood I loan, In these fields of struggle and strife.

I stare into the mountainous snow, A silhouette of a mother forms, She drops her traumatised head low, Her hand covers a hand recently warm. Tears rush down her face and calm her son, His soul climbs to Heaven and God, Finally, free from suffering, he can run, Along paths his ancestors recently trod.

My body relaxes as it recognises a crow, The bird does not chirp nor care for its eggs, Nor feed its cute chicks, For they are riddled with cruel shells. The crow’s head drops and weeps, It has no home, family or food left, Yet, it still announces the morning call, Soldier, and animal, the bird morns all.

I listen for the sounds of Christmas none, I feel for an angel or star nearby none, I taste the air, hunting for turkey none,

However, I feel joy from the sun. Nature engulfs all the dead and dying, Littering them with lights and holy spirits, She carries the emotions of families who are crying, Maybe nature alone knows man’s limits.

To all who have sacrificed, And celebrated Christmas in a trench, I say cheers to every soldier, Be you British, German or French. The plains will echo a Merry Christmas, With my last breath, I wish you good luck in the fray,

And as dawn turns to a silent dusk, Innocent bells cease their ringing and carry me away.


Around America in 50 Books



Tara Westover grew up preparing for the end of the world. She was never put in school, never taken to the doctor. She did not even have a birth certificate until she was nine years old.

This week in our literary tour of the United States, we have reached Idaho and my chosen book is the international bestseller Educated.

At sixteen, to escape her father's radicalism and a violent older brother, Tara left home. What followed was a struggle for self invention, a journey that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes, and the will to change it.

Educated by Tara Westover


This may be one of the most inspirational books I have ever read. For someone

formal schooling and a father who believed it was them against the world, Westover did not let this hold her back, choosing instead to become educated and make her own sense of the world. It is apparent in every carefully crafted word of this book, that she has done just that. This book points to what we can do with our lives if we have the desire and the will to do so. Does it give a sense of Idaho? The answer to that is a definite, yes., especially the backwoods which are described vividly. I would recommend this book to everyone who reads this review and as it is a Christmas issue, it would also make a great Christmas present.

Wendy H. Jones is the award winning, international best selling author of the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries, Cass Claymore Investigates Mysteries, Fergus and Flora Mysteries, Bertie the Buffalo children’s books and the Writing Matters books for writers. She is also a writing and marketing coach and the President of the Scottish Association of Writers. As copy editor for Mom’s, she works hard to ensure content is appropriate and free of grammatical and spelling errors. You can learn more about Wendy on her website: who grew up with no

Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge

18 lake
19 © MPSmith Publishing



1 1/2 Cup Flour

1 tsp baking soda 1 tsp salt

1tsp nutmeg 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1 3/4 Cups Oatmeal 1 Cup Sugar 3/4 Cup Shortening 1 egg 2 Tbsp Milk 4 bananas (well mashed) 3/4 Cups Walnuts 3/4 Cups Chocolate Chips (can substitute raisins)


• Beat shortening and sugar

• Add egg, bananas and milk

• Add dry ingredients

• Mix in oatmeal

• Add chocolate chips and nuts

• Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet

• Bake at 375° for 10 12 minutes

This is a great treat for Santa just add a tall glass of milk.

Or, you can package them up and give them as gifts with a short holiday saying...

“Christmas cookies and happy hearts, this is how the holiday starts.”

Gifts of time and love are the basic ingredients of a truly Merry Christmas.”

“We wish you a delicious Christmas.”

Holiday Treats Submitted by Melanie P. Smith



2 sticks butter

1 bag miniature marshmallows

5 quarts popcorn (popped)

1 cup peanuts

1 cup M&Ms

Small red and green gumdrops (optional)

Red and green fruit leather for bow (optional)


• Melt 2 sticks of butter in microwave on high

• Stir in 1 bag of miniature marshmallows

• Mix until marshmallows are covered in butter, add red or green food coloring until you get the desired color

• Microwave on 50% or low heat starting with 2 minutes and then 15 second intervals until marshmallows are melted

• Pop popcorn and place 5 quarts in a large bowl

• Mix in 1 cup peanuts or M&Ms (can use both)

• Mix in melted marshmallow mixture

• Spray 10” Bundt or angel food cake pan with cooking spray and press popcorn into pan. Recipe makes 2 wreaths so it is easier if you have two pans. If you only have one let sit for 10 15 minutes then place on serving plate.

• Top with gumdrops and add bow, if desired

• Place in freezer or outside during winter — if your area has low temperatures

YIELD 2 Wreaths


14 oz Hersey’s candy bar (can use dark chocolate)

1 large pkg chocolate chips

1 pint marshmallow cream (or 2 7 oz jars Whip)

4 1/2 cups sugar

1 can evaporated milk (can use 14 oz or 13.5 oz can)

1/4 cup butter

Dash of salt

2 cups walnuts (chopped)


• Combine marshmallow cream (or whip), chocolate chips, broken Hershey bar and chopped nuts into a heat-proof bowl. Set aside

• Combine Sugar, evaporated milk, salt and butter into a saucepan and bring to boil. Stir constantly and boil for approximately 8 minutes

• Pour hot mixture into bowl containing chocolate mixture and stir until chocolate is melted and well mixed. It will set up quickly.

• Pour into a well greased (buttered) 9x13 pan

• Let cool and set

• Cut into square pieces


Long before she delved into the world of fantasy and suspense, Melanie P. Smith served nearly three decades in the Special Operations Division at her local sheriff’s office working with SWAT, Search & Rescue, K9, the Motor Unit, Investigations and the Child Abduction Response Team. She now uses that training and knowledge to create stories that are action packed, gripping and realistic. When Melanie’s not writing, she can be found riding her Harley, exploring the wilderness or capturing that next great photo. Learn more about Melanie on Mom’s Favorite Reads website: https://moms favorite authors/melanie p smith

YIELD — 5 pounds

Birthstone Crystal Grids

December Turquoise

With the last New Moon of the year comes a time for new beginnings, for change, and this crystal grid is for Hope, Wisdom, and Change. One of December’s birthstones is the beautiful robin’s egg coloured Turquoise. This grid is centred with a beautiful African Turquoise for hope, change, and transformation. Turquoise, along with Pine needles and Pearl for wisdom, promotes change and growth. Clear Quartz, a stone of clarity and clear thinking, also offers growth and stability. Take time out at the end of the year to think of your future and move forward with a clear head and heart.

You can find out more about the sensory author and artist, who will lift your spirit, steal your heart, and ignite your imagination at: Crystal Grids made by Lisa Shambrook for mindfulness, meditation, and art. Prints of some grids are available at:

She also loves dragons and squirrels.

Lisa Shambrook is an author, artist, and dreamer who loves dragons. Born and raised in vibrant Brighton, England, living by the ocean heavily influenced her lyrical and emotional writing. She now lives in Carmarthen, West Wales, another town rich in legend and lore. A sensory writer, Lisa delves into sensitive subject matters that will lift your spirit and steal your heart.

Find out more at her website and her Etsy shop


Looking After ‘You’ This Christmas

12 Tips for Christmas

There is no doubt that for many, Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. But, if you are anything like me, all the hard work and worry leading up to Christmas Day itself can be stressful and exhausting. After the festivities are over, do you find yourself saying ‘never again’ and then doing the same things over again the following year? If so, you are not alone.

With so much to do in the run up to Christmas and on the day itself, it can be hard to fit everything into an already full schedule. From shopping for those ‘perfect’ gifts, buying everything for Christmas dinner and planning the table and tree decorations, all the while balancing your budget, it can be an extremely busy time. With the festive period looming again, it is awfully easy to push yourself too hard to get everything done with the promise that you will take it easy once it is all over. Don’t bear the brunt of festive burnout. Instead, try to step back and incorporate some self care time for you into your plans. Here are twelve ideas to help you jingle all the way through the festivities.


The Twelve Days of Christmas Self Care

1. Plan ahead Review your to do list and prioritise. Can you leave anything out? If so, delete them. There’s nothing worse than having tasks to do that really don’t matter. Try not to over plan things. Say no to those things that are unnecessary or too much for you to take on.

sachets of moisturising hand and foot cream or a pine scented bath bomb. You get the idea. You may have some things to hand already. Pop them in your box and look forward to pampering yourself with them.

2. Make a self care box of things for you to use and enjoy over the festive period The items you put in your box don’t have to be expensive but should include things that bring you joy. Add little pamper gifts to the box throughout December, such as: sachets of hot chocolate with candy canes to stir with, a festive themed face mask, yummy gingerbreads, spice scented


3. Take time out. Go for a walk – In nature, if possible. Enjoy the fresh air. Take in the sights, sounds and smells of your surroundings and relax away from it all for a bit. Try to do this every day, if you can. Even twenty minutes out walking in a park or woodland can help clear your head. Perhaps you can gather some pine cones to decorate with glitter. You might even find a holly bush filled with ripe, red berries or spot a red breasted robin.

5. Eat healthy meals Give your body the nutrition it needs to keep going In the days leading up to Christmas it is easy to overindulge. It is also easy to miss meals and just grab a snack when you are busy, thinking that you don’t have time. Try not to skip meals. Aim to eat regularly and well. After all, you are the one who is helping to bring the magic of Christmas together for others.

4. Read, read, read Christmas based stories are very popular, particularly Cozy Mysteries. Like a good Christmas movie reading can leave you feeling relaxed and help keep things balanced. Cosy up with a good book, whatever your reading preference. Reading last thing at night before you go to sleep can clear your mind of everything that still has to be done on your to do list and help you drift off to sleep.

6. Watch a Christmas movie There is nothing quite like taking the time to sit down with family or alone and watch a Christmas movie to give you that feel good factor and get you in the mood for Christmas. Curl up on the sofa with a warm blanket and some plump cushions. You might also want to enjoy the hot chocolate from your pamper box (see item 2)

7. Laugh, laugh, laugh – After all, it is meant to be the season to be jolly. Laugh and smile, even if you don’t particularly feel like it. Take a deep


breath and try to see the funny side of things. Perhaps take in a Christmas pantomime or comedy show and give vent to a few ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’s’. There are many known psychological and physical benefits of laughter. And, best of all, it’s free.

8. Get plenty of rest and sleep – Give yourself permission to take a break when you need to. Also try to get good quality sleep. While it can be tempting to stay up to finish some of these jobs on your to do list, try not to. You can always make a fresh start in the morning.

9. Listen to some Christmas music There is no


shortage of popular Christmas songs to listen to. Singing, dancing or doing tasks along to them is even better for lifting your mood. So, turn up your music maker and get rocking around the Christmas tree.

10. Drink plenty of water Staying hydrated will help you keep your energy levels up as well as making you feel better.

11. Check through your to do list again Get others involved in some of the outstanding tasks on your list. Share the festive love. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Find out what others can do and then delegate.

12. Stay Calm Santa may well be coming to town, but remind yourself regularly that it is only for one day. A day that you deserve to enjoy as well as everyone else.

Have a very merry Christmas and be good to yourself.

Sheena Macleod gained a PhD in Mental Health Nursing and an MSc inAdvanced Mental Health Practice from the University of Dundee where she lectured in Mental Health Nursing. She is trained in CBT. When she was diagnosed with lupus, Sheena retired from teaching.


Fear Not

Fear not the sound and fury of the storm that batters the night beyond the window.

And be not afraid of the unknown terrors that lie outside your likelihood to experience them. Being in this world carries with it so much that is out of your control. Things to be wary of. Things to avoid. But don't allow them to impede you as you walk confidently through your time upon this planet.

Be brave, for bravery is needed.

And fear not the storm that rages beyond your window, rather respect its power, and focus on those things that are within your grasp.

Yes, acknowledge that the storm can limit your actions, but it cannot limit YOU.

For you too, are a force of nature, with as much right to exist as any transient storm. And tomorrow will be another day. And you will know there is no need to ever be afraid of life.

Stan Phillips is a poet, musical podcast maker, part time wannabe male model, and occasional stand up comedian. “I used to be a psychotherapist/ counsellor when I had an honest job. I was born into prewar London, and attended 17 schools (my father believed they couldn’t hit a moving target) and I eventually finished up here in Ireland. Still wondering what I will be when I grow up but enjoying writing my quirky poetry as I do so.” Discover more about Stan on Mom’s Favorite Reads website: https://moms favorite authors/stan phillips


Mom’s Favorite Kids Zone

My own little monsters loved bedtime stories. They’d pick out their books, often the same ones over and over, and take it in turns to sit on my knee the optimum position for interacting with the illustrations. Then, they’d snuggle in bed, I’d turn the lights low, and finish on a ‘Mummy story’. Mummy stories were usually guided by my rascals, for example: “Mummy, can we have a story about monsters, but cute ones, and it has to include a rainbow, jam and jumping in puddles?” I would then have to improvise a story incorporating their random requests.

Later, they asked for pictures to go with the stories and helped by drawing pictures of the characters. Rainbow Monsters started as a Mummy Story, but is now an award winning picture book, published by Hatchling Press. My Rainbow Monsters present to you, some of our favourite stories, with maybe a few Mummy stories thrown in.


copies. As you can probably guess by the title, each one contains fifty items to find while out on a walk or a car journey. They cover animals, birds, the countryside as well as towns and villages. The lower numbers are usually easy to spot things, building up to something rare for number fifty.

As well as the interactive aspects of the book, they are beautifully illustrated. As a child, I frequently used the illustrations as reference pictures for my

Violet’s Choices: Find 50 series

Published by Hamlyn Aimed at children of all ages (and fun for grown-ups too)

As it is our 50th celebration edition, I remembered the Find 50 books of my youth. These pocket sized books were originally published in the 1980s but are still just as relevant today. I collected most of them and still have my well read


own artwork. They also inspired many of the treasure hunts I did for my own children while out and about ideal to keep a child entertained on a long car journey. Sadly, I think these are no longer being published, but you can still pick up second hand copies from many online stores and charity shops definitely recommended if you spot them.

The Littlest Owl’s Christmas Rescue

Written and illustrated by

Aimed at ages 6 10

The farm is all locked up for Christmas Eve and the animals are snug and warm in their sheds. Loly is ready to go, but her car is stuck in the snow! How will she get home to her family?

Sylva Fae

The littlest owl knows her friend needs help, but how can an owl move a car? The only way to get Loly back home in time for Christmas is with some teamwork and a sprinkling of magic.

The Littlest Owl is based on a real place, a beautiful farm in North Wales, that looks down to the sea. It is a working farm and also home to the Owls Trust. Some of the characters in the story are real too maybe you’ve been there and met the real littlest owl. This is a story of how unlikely friends can work together to help someone in need. It carries a seasonal feelgood message of friendship and kindness.

Mindful Wanders – activities to do when you go for a walk.

As winter sets in, go on a walk in the countryside, or even just around your garden. Make sure you take a bag to collect the interesting things you find.

Look: Can you find 50 different things on your walk? It might be easier to split it up.

Find 10 animals or insects

Find 10 birds

Find 10 different trees

Find 10 different plants

Find 5 different mushrooms

Find 4 signs that people have been there

Find 1 burrow, sett or hole that an animal lives in

Listen: How many different noises can you hear on your walk? Count them, can you hear 50 different noises? It might seem difficult at first but once you start to really listen, you’ll be amazed at just how many things you can hear.

34 Find: How many owls can you find in the picture?

Elf on the Shelf and Friends


In my Christmas story, Messy Christmas, it tells the tale of an elf on the shelf and his friend, the cat on the mat. In honour of Mom’s Favorite Reads 50th edition, here are fifty elf on the shelf like puzzles. Can you guess all fifty?


Classic Movies — The Thin Man

Released in 1934, The Thin Man was based on a Dashiell Hammett novel. The movie, a comedy mystery, starred William Powell and Myrna Loy. Made pre code, some of the scenes and banter would have fallen foul of the censor in later decades. The main highlight of The Thin Man - forget the plot, this is a banter movie was the natural interaction between William Powell and Myrna Loy. Scenes were often ad libbed and shot in one take, which added to the belief that Powell and Loy were a real couple, deeply in love.

Of Myrna Loy, William Powell said, “When we did a scene together, we forgot about technique, camera angles, and microphones. We weren't acting. We were just two people in perfect harmony. Myrna, unlike some actresses who think only of themselves, has the happy faculty of being able to listen while the other fellow says his lines. She has the give and takes of acting that brings out the best.”


Classic Actor: Sidney Poitier (1927 2022)

Must see movie: In the Heat of the Night, 1967, a mystery drama. Poitier played Virgil Tibbs, a detective from Philadelphia drawn into a murder investigation in a small town in Mississippi. At the 40th Academy Awards, the film was nominated for seven Oscars, winning five.

The person: twice married, Sidney Poitier fathered six daughters. In April 1997, he was appointed ambassador from the Bahamas to Japan, a position he held until 2007. From 2002 to 2007, he was also the Bahaman ambassador to UNESCO.

Quote: “If the fabric of the society were different, I would scream to high heaven to play villains and to deal with different images of Negro life that would be more dimensional. But I'll be damned if I do that at this stage of the game (1967).”

Classic Actress: Tippi Hedren (1930 )

Must see movie: Marnie, a 1964 psychological thriller, also starring Sean Connery, based on a novel by Winston Graham (although the endings vary considerably).

The person: Tippi Hedren has a strong commitment to animal rescue, which began in 1969 while she was shooting two films in Africa. She has also set up relief programs worldwide following earthquakes, hurricanes, famine and war.

Quote: “I consider my acting, while not necessarily being method acting, but one that draws upon my own feelings. I thought Marnie was an extremely interesting role to play and a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Hannah Howe is the author of the Sam Smith Mystery Series, the Ann's War Mystery Series and the #1 international bestseller Saving Grace. Hannah's books are published by Goylake Publishing and distributed through Gardners Books to over 300 outlets worldwide. Her books are available in print, as eBooks and audiobooks, and are being translated into ten languages. Discover more on Mom's Favorite Reads website: https://moms favorite authors/hannah howe

The Happy Little Christmas Tree

Little Tree lived on a roundabout at the end of a cul de sac. All the children who lived nearby walked down the street, across the roundabout and along the path that led to their school. Most of the children were too busy running, or playing, or talking to their friends to notice Little Tree.

Holly had just started Playgroup. Granny brought her to the school in the morning and picked her up again at lunchtime. Every time they walked past Little Tree, Holly went over to say hello. Little Tree liked that.

Is Little Tree a Christmas tree?” Holly asked one day.

It’s like a Christmas tree,” Granny said. “It doesn’t change colour or lose its leaves so it’s always green.”

Little Tree didn’t know what a Christmas tree was but it sounded very grand.

The days got colder and Christmas was getting near. All the children were busy doing things before the holidays. Some had made pom poms with different colours of wool and used them to decorate the


school fence. The houses were changing too. Some even had coloured lights that lit up the whole street when it got dark. Little Tree liked that.

Holly looked around and saw all the decorated trees in the houses and she had an idea. Some of the wool had come out of the pom poms the older kids had made and little bits of it were lying on the ground. Holly picked up a few pieces and gently placed them on Little Tree’s branches.

The next day at Playgroup, Holly told her friends what she had done. They all wanted to do something too. Lottie made some card decorations and coloured them with felt pen. Noel found some pine cones and placed them on Little Tree’s branches as he walked home. Billy’s Mum let him bring some tinsel to wrap around Little Tree. Other children saw the decorations and brought ribbons, streamers, flowers and chains of colourful beads.

One day Little Tree looked up and saw the biggest tree ever. It was covered with sparkly lights, colourful baubles and strings of glittery garlands. It looked amazing was inside a house. That couldn’t be right. Little Tree looked around the street. All the houses he could see had beautiful, colourful, decorated trees inside and even outside in the garden. Little Tree wanted to be one of those trees but they were big and he was only little.

Holly and Granny came by on their way home from Playgroup. Holly stopped to talk to Little Tree but she knew something was wrong.

“Why are you sad, Little Tree?” she asked. “It’s nearly Christmas and you’re a Christmas tree.”

Little Tree liked all the bright colours and the decorations but most of all Little Tree liked having the children around, laughing and talking and playing. When the holidays came, the children didn’t have to go to school. But some of them came specially to see Little Tree and say hello. Little Tree liked that.


On Christmas day, after all the presents were opened, Holly went out for a walk with her family. As they got near the cul de sac, Holly began to run and her family followed her. When they got to Little Tree, they all stopped and looked. There on the very top branch was a shiny gold star.

Holly bent down to Little Tree and said, “You might not be the biggest Christmas tree in the street, but you are the most beautiful.”

Little Tree was also the happiest Christmas tree in the whole street, maybe even the whole world.

Over the years Eileen Rolland has written for many voluntary organisations and community groups in addition to work related writing and, of course, her own work. She’s led writing groups and participated in training courses such as Communication Skills (HND) and Professional Writing (HNC). For years she ran a complementary therapy business and taught classes in Tai Chi and Qigong (Chi Gong). She joined the University of the Third Age (U3A) and ran a Writers’ Group and Qigong (Chi Gong) class for five years. Learn more on her website:



Supplied by Chess.Com

White to move. Checkmate in two.

Supplied by the #1 chess website. Used with permission. For more chess puzzles please visit You can find answers for this activity on Page 84


A Mother’s Christmas Lexicon

Christmas words have been borrowed, plundered or hoovered up over the last two millenniums. Here is a short festive tale dedicated to all those wives, mothers and miracle workers who ensure Christmas brings joy and happiness to those around them.

It’s Christmastide (Christmas time) the children are ramracketting (running and leaping) around the house on Christmas morning. It’s certainly not a mum’s day and who shouted out, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life?’ I’m roasting the bubbly-jock (turkey) and the rest of the belly-cheer (fine food for gluttonous eating) and soon notice how the foyle (light dusting of snow) has turned to a heavy fall. Already the landscape is ninguid (snow covered) and I can imagine the crumping (crunching onomatopoeic

sound in frozen snow) as the children's rush outside and start to roll a small snowball (hogamadog) across the garden, watching it grow and turn into a giant snowball. They’ll be back asking for a carrot, an old hat and a scarf next, but at least they’re not under my feet. I’ve been up since five and feel exhausted, even now I could hiemate (hibernate) through the rest of Christmas and New Year.

I’m annoyed, my husband (mein host), that disspeakable yulejade (someone who has left a lot of work to be done) has conveniently disappeared to enjoy another tumbler of glogg (mulled wine with brandy) and sits perched waiting for the first guest to arrive. He’d better not tell me it’s all about ergonomics and organisation! There’s so much to do and I have so little time to scurryfunge (to hastily tidy the house) before the first qualtagh (first


person to turn up) arrives. It will probably be Bob, the apolaustic (total devotion to enjoyment) hedonist, doniferously (gift bearing), a xenium (present for the host/hostess) that he bought last moment from some passing stall. If its anything like last year it won’t be gold, frankincense or myrrh, but will turn out to be the usual toe-cover (cheap and useless present) and will join the other dross bound for the charity shop. You can forget the glad tidings of comfort and joy, once the others arrive, including long lost uncles and bemused aunts left over from the dark ages who on this Noël (variant of French nael) seem intent on overquating (that horrible feeling of over eating). Once the festive dust has settled and I finally get rid of them all, I know they’re all be suffering next day from crapulence (sickness or indisposition resulting from excess drinking and eating). In other words

they’ll be feeling cr*p (the shortened form). Serves them right, isn’t it all about confelicity (joy in another person’s happiness) and aren’t I due some of this magical enchantment? I know when they’ve finally go; they’ll be time for some firkytoodle (festive canoodling) beneath the drudenfuss (mistletoe) once the ‘crawmassing’ (tidying up) and putting away has been done by both of us. He’ll put his arms around me and all will be forgiven, including my earlier murderous intent, after all isn’t it Christmas? Then it’s time for a snerdle (wrapped up cosy and warm in bed) knowing for certain, Christmas comes but once a year. Hallelujah! but tell me why, for goodness sake, we put ourselves through it every year?

John Greeves originally hails from Lincolnshire. He believes in the power of poetry and writing to change people’s lives and the need for language to move and connect people to the modern world. Since retiring from Cardiff University, Greeves works as a freelance journalist who's interested in an eclectic range of topics.

Trying To Get a Glimpse of Santa

Long after receiving good night kisses, Against his now sleeping parents’ wishes, Nathaniel quietly snuck out of bed, And headed downstairs with his plush friend Ted. He tiptoed down the hall to the staircase, And made his way down at a sloth like pace. As Nate headed towards the living room, He heard a shuffling sound that made him zoom. The excited boy expected to see, Santa Clause coming down the chimney,

But instead he found his younger sister, Holding a big black boot made of leather.

Nate sadly thought he'd missed Santa’s visit, Until he noticed the milk and biscuit. There were no presents under the lit tree, And the hanging stockings were still empty.

Nate's sister pointed at the fireplace, Dirt and a jingle bell fell at the base. The children heard ho ho ho's and laughter, Then a man's voice say he'd come back later.


Loud stomping noises came from the rooftop, And silence fell; you could hear a pin drop.

The siblings agreed to pretend to sleep, But after many yawns they fell asleep.

When Nate woke up a few hours later, He saw presents all around his sister.

The stockings were overflowing with treats, Santa's snack was gone and replaced by sweets.

His goal temporarily forgotten, Nate was eager to see what he'd gotten.

He woke up everyone in the household, Making the magic of Christmas unfold.

Next year he would come up with a good plan, To get a glimpse of the jolly old man. Numerous ideas popped into his head, Much later that night when he went to bed.

Chantal Bellehumeur is a Canadian author born in 1981. She has several published novels of various genres as well as numerous short stories, poems and articles featured in compilation books, magazine, plus a local newspaper.

For a complete list of publications, including free reads, visit the following website: https://author chantal /


The Mouse Family that Live by the Brambles

Of all the many articles, interviews and stories I’ve contributed to our fifty magazines, one of my favourites was interviewing photographer, Gez and sharing his amazing wildlife photos. We’ve stayed in contact since that first interview (Mom’s Favorite Reads July 2021 edition), and seeing Gez’s daily videos and photos of the mouse families that live at the bottom of his garden, has brought me great pleasure. Over the years, I’ve seen the trust between Gez and his wild garden visitors grow, and the photographs he produces just get better and better. These are just a few of his photos, but if you want to see more, you can follow him on social media: TikTok: mousefamilybythebrambles


Sylva Fae is a married mum of three from Lancashire, England. She has spent twenty years teaching literacy to adults with learning difficulties and disabilities, and now works from home as a children’s writer and illustrator.

Sylva has published several children’s books and also writes a blog, Sylvanian Ramblings. Her debut book, Rainbow Monsters won the Chanticleer Best in Category award. Discover more about Sylva on Mom’s Favorite Reads website: https://moms favorite authors/sylva fae/



Wow! Here we are at the fiftieth edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. Fifty word stories are called dribbles in flash fiction. Fifty words is a short paragraph and that’s it.

The theme of fifty crops up often in flash fiction and short stories. There are the classic themes of a character celebrating their fiftieth birthday or anniversary (doesn’t need to be a Golden Wedding though that fits). There is always room for those stories. The trick here though is to bring your unique take to it. What stands out about your character and their fiftieth “event”?

Fifty is often seen as a turning point, so do the same for your character. Is this the time in their life they decide to take off and do something different? Why have they left it until now?

Often being free of significant caring responsibilities is a trigger. Equally some become parents at this age, possibly having a second family after a relationship breakdown, (and there are younger grandparents at fifty too) so how does this change their outlook?

Also think about how your character views fifty. Do they see this as a cause for celebration or do they lament middle age? Not everyone takes significant birthdays well and there could be stories here. Now for such a special edition of Mom’s, I am setting not one but two challenges.

Challenge 1: I’d like you to write a flash piece with the theme of Fifty. Usual 300 words for this.


Challenge 2: I’d like you to write a flash piece to exactly 50 words including the title.

Good news you can pick the theme.

Bad news the word count will be checked by me.

I highly recommend checking your word count manually to make sure it is what you think it is. I’ve come across instances where there are discrepancies between what someone thinks they’ve sent and what is sent. For an exact word count requirement, you must be spot on but this exercise is a good one to practice.

Why not have a go at both?

Handy Tip For Second Challenge

When I am writing to a set word count which includes the title, I automatically take off five words from the word count allowance and save that for my title.

For my second challenge aim to make your story come in at the 45 words mark. Then you have five

words for the title. If you don’t need all of those, your spare words can go “back into” your story when you’re editing.

I often find my titles come in at the two or three word mark so that means in turn I have two or three extra words I can put into my tale and still meet the exact word count requirement set.

My Challenge One Story Fifty is the New Forty

You’re trying to cheer me up, Stella. Fifty is the new forty what rubbish! Fifty is fifty as in old.’

People used to not reach this age at all, Rosie. Count your blessings.’

‘You’ll tell me next I have fifty of those!’

At least I would think. When are you going out again?’

Tomorrow night. We’ll be trying that new restaurant. Heard good things about it.’

Who said they could never imagine dating again after David’s accident?’


‘All right, all right. Do you think David would approve, Stella? He’s only been gone a year and…’

‘Oh yes. He’d have never wanted you to sit and mope. Your Frank seems nice. It’s good he doesn’t want to rush anything. And the way he broke the news about David to you, he couldn’t have been kinder.’

‘He’s a widower himself, lost his Rebecca when I lost David, so he knows the score here. I must admit I still don’t understand why David was giving her a lift home. Frank doesn’t understand that either.’

‘Perhaps some things are not meant to be explained. You and Frank getting together it could be a new start for you both after such sadness,



‘A new start at fifty, Rosie. Not such a bad age, is it?’

My Challenge Two Story The Best Laid Plan

I wanted to walk ten thousand steps. I trained. My plan went wrong. What do you do when hunger strikes as you pass that gorgeous shop? You sneak off for coffee and chocolate cake as I did. How many steps did I do? I did fifty.



Allison Symes, who loves reading and writing quirky fiction, is published by Chapeltown Books, CafeLit, and Bridge House Publishing. Her flash fiction collections, Tripping The Flash Fantastic and From Light to Dark and Back Again are out in Kindle and paperback. She has been a winner of the Waterloo Arts Festival writing competition three years in a row where the brief was to write to a set theme to a 1000 words maximum.



maybe it’s time for a change.

I’d never used my English degree, but over the years I’d kept up reading all sorts of literature, so I signed up for a PGCE teacher training course. Then I’d apply for a job teaching a subject I loved.

I also sold all those silly gadgets in the garage on eBay, just keeping a few necessities, and with the money I booked myself onto a dancing course. That would get me out of the house and meeting people.

Something had to be done. My daughter had just told me that I‘d achieved nothing in my life. All I’d done was bring up her and her brother. She was going to be a doctor and make a difference in the world. I pointed out that being a stay at home mum may have helped her do well at school, but she dismissed it with a shrug.

In truth, I hadn’t wanted to stay at home, but Colin had suggested it was for the best. That was before he left me, for ‘an intelligent and exciting’ twenty six year old, the day before my forty ninth birthday. Since then, I’ve managed to get a teaching assistant’s job in a primary school, which I was proud of,

What I needed now was a holiday, after all those years of looking after a family and thinking of other people’s needs, so I booked a fortnight in Barcelona.

When the children came to celebrate my birthday, they were surprised at all the changes I was making, but they were pleased for me.

At the hotel in Barcelona, I met a woman, Maggie, travelling on her own, and we toured the art galleries and museums together. Over paella and too much wine, we made a list of fifty places we are going to visit in the future. There’s no rush. The second part of my life is just beginning.


Breathing in the scent of pine and oranges, he allowed his eyes to roam the room, imprinting the scene into his memory for future enjoyment.

Paper chains, cards, candles and holly all vied for his attention which, instead, rested on the nativity scene. For fifty years, his mother had placed the figures around the manger where the Christ child lay. This year he was allowed to help. How strange that heaven should invade earth so quietly. Transfixed, he joined the shepherds and wise men in silent thanks.

Christmas was almost here.

Waking in the silent darkness, Jack stretched. The reassuring rustle of a Christmas stocking brought weeks of anticipation into imminent reality. A dilemma: turn over and go back to sleep or explore the contents now?

Resolved to wait, he slipped out of bed and tugged on his dressing gown before navigating the stairs to the silence below.

Strange shapes resolved themselves into pieces of furniture as his eyes adjusted. The whole house seemed to hold its breath; still no sound from upstairs.

Tentatively, he crossed the room and felt for a switch. He heard himself gasp as the space came to life in the glow of a hundred fairy lights: the best Christmas tree they’d ever had. Baubles swung, reflecting the beauty in his young eyes; tawdry tinsel became festive lace, and the star atop it all stood sentinel: confidently drawing all comers into its festive embrace.

Jack took it all in; eyes large with wonder and delight. Beneath the tree, coloured presents jostled for his attention, whispering of what was to come. He dared not touch nor break the magic of the moment, yet the temptation to explore the intriguing shapes was strong. He thrust his hands determinedly behind his back.

Ron’s Brilliant Bucket By Joyce Anne Harvey

Pictures had been reminisced over and cake eaten. It was just as he shoved golden balloons into the trunk, Ron made his decision.

After some procrastination, Ron found himself at his laptop and finished preparing his spreadsheet.

‘I’m off to the mall,’ said Jean, popping her head round the door. ‘OIivia needs new jeans.’

Ron wasn’t so sure but Jean loved spending time with the grandkids.

‘We’ll go out for dinner?’ he asked, picturing steak. Jean nodded and blew him a kiss.

Ron looked at the first box to complete. Go and buy yourself something, he typed thinking of Jean’s


outing. That wasn’t smart enough. He pressed delete and tried again. Go and buy yourself a sweater for winter. But his daughter knitted him one each Thanksgiving. And when it got too cold, they ended up at his nephew’s in Florida.

He could write a book. But what about? Ron thought more. He had a ride on mower. They’d been to Victoria Falls. Taken a helicopter ride over the reefs. Maybe the number would help. What could he buy fifty of? Fishing hooks came to mind.

Unlike his father, he’d never enjoyed heaving a carp into a hammock. Fifty beers? But he couldn’t drink with his tablets. He could replenish the storm supplies: buy fifty gallons of water instead. Ron looked outside. The roses he’d bought Jean, especially from England, had begun to bloom. Apricot buds covered the glossy dark leaves. They’d been shipped over from a nursery just for her. Jean would say he was silly. But maybe not, if… The list grew. Soon the town would be full of color. He’d help at the shelter and run for school board. The fiftieth task being something special, a plaque he’d engraved with the message: ‘Honey, I did this for you’.

The repetition of fifty seemed too significant to ignore and I adopted it as my lucky coin. It sat in the bottom of my purse, never to be spent, but there to bring a smile whenever I handed out pocket money to my girls.

“Mum, I’m off to Cadets now,” my daughter called through to the kitchen where I was chopping veggies. “I grabbed some change from your purse…see you later.”

I heard the rattle of dropped keys, the clatter of things being knocked over in her hasty exit, then I winced as the door slammed loudly. ‘That child’s a walking disaster,’ I chuckled to myself thinking about the wake of destruction she’d no doubt left then her words registered... Change from my purse! I ran to the front room; my purse was open on the table empty! My lucky fifty pence had gone.

I pulled open the door, already knowing she was long gone. I was right, the street was empty. Sadly, I closed the door, and picked up the boots and bags she’d knocked over in her hasty exit. I grabbed the purse to put it away and checked again, hoping to see my lucky fifty pence, but as expected, it wasn’t there.

‘It’s only a coin, it doesn’t really matter,’ I told myself sadly as I shuffled back towards the kitchen. ‘If it’s meant to be, it'll find its way back.’

My toe caught something. It skittered across the wooden floor, bounced off the skirting board and glinted in the shadows my coin! As I put my treasured fifty away, I gave silent thanks for having a clumsy child. It clearly was meant to be my lucky coin.

It appeared in a handful of change on my fiftieth birthday a fiftieth anniversary fifty pence piece.

Lucky Coin By Sylva Fae

Fifty Word Challenge

Presents piled high, names double checked. Her duty done, she slips out of the room. Did he hear her sigh? It doesn’t matter. Her sigh will be the least of his worries in the morning. Her mind stays with the special Christmas gift, showing that extra, coloured line.

Office bully, Julie, hands out parcels and the unwrapping flurry begins. Colleagues mask their surprise, nobody dares voice the mistakes.

My turn. I gush thanks for the expensive hamper, a stark contrast to Julie’s poundshop socks. Her disdainful sneer's a worthy reward for my switching of the labels.


A Mother’s Love

I keep and treasure photos of you as a baby, growing into adulthood, in the family album. They are my company when you are far away. Memories of holidays and happy times are so precious to me, but will I lose you as my Alzheimer’s disease progresses?

When they said there was no room at the inn, did they realize their mistake? I only suggested the stable out of pity for that poor woman; already in labor and exhausted by travel. There was just something about her… and that baby. I’ll never forget it.

The jar wasn’t in the jellies or holiday aisle. It didn't sound hard. But with one day to go there was more to do than had been done. Perhaps it wasn’t that?

Lucy grabbed a bag from the freezer. And didn’t wait to see her neighbour’s reaction

Mrs Simmons’ Request By Joyce Anne Harvey The First Christmas By Jenny Sanders

Joyce at Christmas

Oh my goodness; I’ve had to turn the telly off. I can’t stand it anymore. Have you been watching? Adverts! That’s all that seems to be on at the moment. Loud and brash they are, all shouting at me to buy stuff for Christmas.

I’ve got a good three weeks yet, but they’re already urging me to splash out on fancy food and drink that would give me indigestion well into the new year. They’d do better to be advertising those pink indigestion tablets you used to get. My husband, Tom, always kept a little tube of those in his pocket; very handy. And the toys! Have you seen them? Who spends that much on their kids? Honestly; it’s indecent. Seems to me their message is that the more you spend, the more you must love them. What a lot of nonsense! Everyone’s competing with everyone else to get the newest, loudest, brightest, flashiest model of anything and everything. Not much peace and goodwill there. Anyway, we all know kids would rather play with the wrapping and the box.

I could just change the channel, I suppose, but it will be

more of the same: Christmas specials, fake snow, and forced cheerfulness.

Hark at me; I sound like a right old Ebenezer Scrooge, don’t I? Bah; humbug! No, that’s not me at all. I love Christmas; I just don’t want to start it weeks in advance. It takes the glitter out of it for me. Same with Easter. I don’t want hot cross buns in February, thank you very much.


Of course, we all think the old Christmases were the best, don’t we? The ones from our childhood, when it always snowed and the family cuddled up together in a warm house of love and laughter. It can’t always have been that way. I think we know that really. Often it was just cold and grey like any other English winter day and we probably squabbled like starlings.

them once the twelve days are over like you used to be able to do. They just get tossed onto the street these days. I know the Council comes along and shreds them in some noisy machine, but it seems a waste to me when we’re all being urged to recycle and such.

I see the newsagent has got one of those fiber optic trees up; you know, where the branches change color every few seconds. I don’t fancy one of those; too frenetic for me think I’d go cross eyed in two minutes flat. I like a good old plain green one. It doesn’t have to be real; an artificial one is just as good. They last forever – just as well if you’ve seen the prices of the real ones and they don’t shed all over your carpet either. Anyway, they don’t seem to sell them with roots anymore, so you can’t plant

I do remember our Dad getting a tree with roots on it one Christmas Eve, when we still lived up on the moors. We were all little then but he bought it home so proudly. Someone had come to the farm with the last few they hadn’t shifted in town and he didn’t want to take back to clutter up his yard.

We couldn’t believe our luck. We’d made those old fashioned paper chains from sticky strips. Remember those? You had to lick the ends and loop them together, but we always ended up splodging flour and water glue on them because the sticky bit didn’t work. Anyway, we hung some of those on our special tree and cut out snowflakes from folded newspaper. I remember Mum taking the smallest dolly we had, and making her a dress out of silver baking foil so she could be the fairy on the top. It was magical.

There was still rationing then, but because Dad was working on the farm with Grandad, we had access to things like meat and eggs, so we were spoilt. We ate a big roast meal and Mum cobbled together a Christmas pudding padded out with stale bread


soaked in milk and sweetened with carrots. We had lots of those from the veggie patch and even some dried apples from the orchard.

I don’t think presents featured as prominently as they seem to be these days. We all had something knitted by Granny Wilson probably made out of one of Grandad’s old jumpers which she’d unpicked. Dad would carve us something: a toy train or an animal for the boys and Mum made me a pair of wooden dolls out of old fashioned clothes pegs and fabric leftovers. I carried those around with me for years until they fell apart. It’s all batteries and flashing lights now.

I wonder what this year will be like? My friend Viv will be here after we’ve been to the service at church. I can hear the bells ringing from my bed; have I ever told you that? Of course, they ring every Sunday, but there’s something special about hearing them on Christmas morning. I’ll just pop a chicken in the oven for us; roast some potatoes and boil a bit of veg. We don’t need a whacking great turkey. We can fancy it up with some bread sauce and cranberry jelly. She’s making a trifle and I’ll do some mince pies. A whole pudding is too much, but that’ll be lovely and I’ll pick up some double cream for a treat. My mouth’s watering already.

I had thought I’d be going to Matthew and Hilary’s this year. You know he’s a surgeon? She’s something in obstetrics. You don’t like to ask for details, do you? Anyway, there’s something peculiar about their shifts and it just doesn’t work. Corinne and Steve and their two are off to his parents in Wales this year, but they’ll come through on Christmas Eve. That’ll be nice. We’ll just have some soup and I’ll make some seasonal shortbread. Star shaped, I


expect. The kids love that. I didn’t think I’d know what to do with teenagers, but really, they’re just people aren’t they?

and what they’re wearing. You can tell a lot by looking at someone’s shoes you know. My mother taught me that. A real give away.

Connor, my grandson handsome boy is taller than his mum these days; can you believe it? Must be from his dad’s side. He makes me laugh and, my goodness, he can find his way around a computer. He showed me something the last time they came. I was mesmerized. Honestly, his fingers moved so fast on the keyboard, and all manner of exciting pictures and films came up.

And Hailey well, she turned thirteen this past year and spends most of her life on her phone. I think she does Instachat, or something; and the Facebook thing. Seems like a waste of time to me. Honestly, no one has that many friends. If I want to talk to Viv, I ring her up properly or go round for a cup of tea. Or she comes here. Why mess about on a screen when you can do that?

I suppose if you’re a long way away from your family, that’s a bit different. Especially at Christmas. Doesn’t work for me of course, as I’ve only got the old sort of phone. Perhaps I’ll get one of those fancy ones for Christmas myself. That’d be a turn up for the books wouldn’t it?

Viv would laugh her socks off. Imagine me sitting on the bus texting away. I can’t see it myself. Think of all the things I’d miss if I wasn’t looking out of the window. I like to see who else is on the bus as well,

All this thinking has made me thirsty; must be time for a cuppa. Then perhaps I should think about writing some Christmas cards. When’s the last posting date?

This will be the last year I use stamps with the Queen’s profile on them, I think. Oh my, how we’ll miss her. That was the saddest thing that’s happened this year. She’ll leave a big gap in our lives, even though I never met her. I can’t imagine tuning in to hear The King’s Speech on Christmas Day. Someone told me that’s a film. Either way, Viv and I will be glued to it at 3pm as usual, armed with a glass of sherry just before we tuck in to lunch.


I’ll give her a box of Black Magic chocolates and she’ll probably give me a book she’s found in one of her charity shop excursions. We’re creatures of habit, us. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy carols too. I listen to the lessons and carols from King’s College, Cambridge on the radio. That’s my tradition. It’s beautiful; sung from the heart. It’s always uplifting; gets me in the Christmas mood. We could all do with some light and hope couldn’t we? I like to think we’d all have room for Jesus in

our suburban inns if He came calling. Some say it’s a fairy tale, but I don’t think so. Without truth and forgiveness where would we be? I love that Christmassy name too: Emmanuel - God with us. That’s such a comfort, in dark days and bright.

I’m not sure how many Christmases I have left, truth to tell, but I do plan to enjoy this one. I hope you do too.

Happy Christmas!

Jenny Sanders is a writer, speaker, encourager and mentor. She loves writing, reading and walking in nature whenever she can. For the past several years she’s lived between the beautiful cities of Bath, UK and Cape Town, S Africa. Her exciting and humorous new children’s book The Magnificent Moustache and Other Stories is now available published by The Conrad Press.


An Illuminated Christmas

We finally got the tree up Well, it’s been a busy year We climbed the ladder to the loft To get down all the gear.

I brought down Christmas jumpers, Cushions, towels and more. I even found the box of cards I bought the year before.

I also found two Christmas trees A large on and a small And a box of coloured baubles That would fill the village hall.

With boxes, bags and plastic crates

I wrestled and I wrangled Then found the bag of Christmas lights That had to be untangled.

At last we got it sorted Though it was a massive feat We put them up where they belong The whole house looks a treat.

We’ve strung some lights above the door That change from white to blue And flickering golden fairy lights On all the bushes too.

The tree, it sits in splendour In the corner of the room It twinkles there the whole night through Dispelling any gloom.

With wine in hand, we sat to rest But though we tried with all our might We could not see the TV screen For all the blinking light.

Over the years Eileen Rolland has written for many voluntary organisations and community groups in addition to work related writing and, of course, her own work. She’s led writing groups and participated in training courses such as Communication Skills (HND) and Professional Writing (HNC). For years she ran a complementary therapy business and taught classes in Tai Chi and Qigong (Chi Gong). She joined the University of the Third Age (U3A) and ran a Writers’ Group and Qigong (Chi Gong) class for five years. Learn more on her website:


Olympiacos Stadium Piraeus Athens

You can play it safe, enclosed in a tourist bubble insulated from the day to day reality of life on the street or you can take a chance and get out there with the locals. It’s just a matter of calculating the odds and having a plan B at hand when you’re abroad. I see the bus from Athens to the Piraeus disappear into the distance. I have no idea how I’ll return to the hotel in central Athens. I’m told Olympiacos FC will be playing S.C Freiburg a German team in the Europa Cup and I’m curious to learn more. Olympiacos Piraeus and Panathinaikos are the two most successful teams in Greece. A bitter rivalry exits between them to such an extent that away fans are banned from each other clubs.

I’m not sure exactly what I have in mind when I visit the stadium, is it to take some photographs and then what? “Signomi, (excuse me)” I say, asking a couple for direction to the stadium which can be seen in the distance but with various impassable obstacles blocking the way. First a fence, then a series of parallel railway tracks and beyond a busy flyover looming high in the sky. “How do I get there” pointing to the stadium. I’m directed to a side street past and then to a footbridge over the railway lines, with further twists and turns to follow, before another footbridge, which will lead me to the stadium. Olympiacos was founded in 1925 after the merger of two local clubs. They play in red and white. Red symbolises passion and white is for purity. Locals nickname them “Thros,” meaning legend or “Erythrolefki” meaning “red whites.” Their modern stadium was reconstructed in 2004 and has a capacity of 32,115 and is named after Georgios Karaiskakis a Greek national icon of the 19th century.

Football is an international language and I see fans queueing for tickets for tonight’s game early in the afternoon. It’s certainly a temptation but will involve more than a ticket alone. You have to become a member and be issued with a membership card. The office is five minutes away on the other side of the stadium. I produce my passport to prove my identity, hand over ten Euros, receive my membership, which then allows me now to buy a ticket.

Olympiacos Piraeus is one of the most decorated teams in the world with over 75 titles and are one of the most successful clubs in Greece having won 44 league titles, 27 Greek Cups and 4 Greek Super Cups. I queue for my ticket brandishing my membership like I’m a regular and pay 35 Euros which compares very favourably to Premier League prices. It’s half past four on September 15th and I have three and a bit hours before kick off. I haven’t figured out how I am going to return to Athens tonight, but first I want to have a look round. There’s a certain amount of time I can spend in the club shop, purchasing a scarf, so I’m not mistaken for one of the visiting German fans and photographing the stadium, especially the infamous Gate 7.


Olympiacos has one of the most forbidding football atmospheres in Europe. After a match against AEK Athens, 21 home fans sadly lost their lives when they were crushed to death at this particular gate. Olympiacos FC had humbled their opponents with a 6 goals to nil win in 1981 and the on rush of fans led to this dreadful outcome. The tribute in the stadium entails 21 black seats forming the number 7 close to the spot where the tragic accident happened.

and seen the gradual emergence of what I take to be riot police. The ultras share the same name as the gate in which they stand. Tifos, flags and red flares are part of every game accompanied with intimidating cries that emanates from their side of the ground.

I decide to put my travel arrangements in order before the game starts. The station isn’t far away and has an automated ticket machine, so I can purchase a ticket and check out the platform and the route back after the match. It’s a warm day with temperatures in the high twenties and I’m starting to feel foot weary. The long afternoon turns to early evening and I find myself talking to a number of Olympiacos fans. Football is on the agenda. They’re not happy with the present manager, Carlos Corberán former manager of Huddersfield Town. Their own Delphic oracle predicts he’s due for the sack, which turns out to be true just a few days later. After only 11 matches and 7 weeks, Carlos Corberán is axed. A simple one line press release was all that was required and stated: “Olympiacos FC announce the end of cooperation with Carlos Corbéran.” That they didn’t even bother to put the accent in the right place on his surname which speaks volume about the club’s attitude, who will except nothing less than that of being Greek champions.

Today, the majority of the fans come from the city of Piraeus, while a sizeable number come from Athens and other parts of Greece. In the olden days Olympiacos FC had mainly working class supporters but the composition has changed over time. They have fierce ultras known as the Gate 7 who always make their presence felt. I’ve clocked 4 large police buses on the other side with protective windows


The game kicks off under a pyrotechnic display with multiple red flares lit with impunity at the far end of the ground. You could describe the atmosphere as super chalarí (relaxed) when it comes to any attempt to dampen down the flares, or enforcing a smoking ban in the stadium. I’m able to share the game with my son who is watching the game in the UK.

Kick off isn’t until 7.45, but shortly I hear what I perceive as gun shots, while I’m sitting outside with a beer and a snack talking to other fans. They seem unaffected by a squad of police kitted up with helmets and shields who suddenly appear in a game of cat and mouse with the ultras who are throwing fireworks and flares. Is this typical? The explosions continue, “More nuisance and bravado,” a Greek supporter tells me before he turns down another offer of a beer. He’s not a great fan of Greek Mythos or Fix Hellas beers and prefers the micro brewery beers on his parent’s island of Evia. He introduces me to others friends and football stories are soon voiced, players swapped, highlights described and handshakes exchanged before we go to the stands.

Unfortunately, Olympiacos on this occasion have lost their bite and lose 3 nil to S.C. Freiberg who have bossed the game from the start. This doesn’t seem to have dampened down the ultras at the far end who carry on with their antics as they leave the ground. At the station, one of them lets off a fire extinguisher on the opposite platform. The first trains arrive and make a mockery of the game of sardines. I picked a later one which is less packed and head back to Omonia Square, seven or so stops up the line before I alight to a different normality.

John Greeves originally hails from Lincolnshire. He believes in the power of poetry and writing to change people’s lives and the need for language to move and connect people to the modern world. Since retiring from Cardiff University, Greeves works as a freelance journalist who's interested in an eclectic range of topics.


An Updated Carol

With apologies to Edward Caswell 1858 See Amid The Winter’s Snow

See amid the winter’s snow Faithful pilgrims in the pew Weary from demanding days Countries which have lost their way

Bethlehem seems long ago Real change is deathly slow Singing hearts have lost their breath All around is bleak with death.

Say, ye rulers what you may Failing to bring hope today Ancient ways are long forgot No one’s happy with their lot

Bethlehem seems long ago Real change is deathly slow

Can we hope for better things Will we ever sing again?

Christmas is a good excuse Indulge in turkey or roast goose. Forget your sorrow if you can: Drink, embrace your fellow man

Bethlehem seems long ago Real change is deathly slow Can the truth of Bethlehem Change our hearts and come again?

There the Christ child on the hay Brought us hope that Christmas Day He’s the one to change our hearts Salvation dawns with a fresh start

God and man in tune at last Forgiveness for our hurting past Freedom now to worship Him Jesus Christ the King of Kings.

Another Updated Carol


apologies to Philip Brooks 1868

O Little Town of Bethlehem

O Christmas night so sparkling and bright

Our hearts are filled with joy

Though trouble comes in all its forms Here lies the Christmas boy. Upon the straw in manger bare The everlasting Light Our hopes and fears through many years Are met in thee tonight.

Both morning stars and evening light Proclaim the message still: In Christ is found our light and life The cure for every ill.

The ancient story lives afresh Come hear the angels sing.

No force on earth can still their voice Hear how with hope they ring.

The grace of God, His love and peace

Around the world is given Thousands of us have found this truth

The gift of God from heaven. And all around the turning globe In places far and near Yes, every creed and culture hears The message loud and clear

O ancient tale of Bethlehem. Live in our hearts today Forgive our sin and enter in To you we call and pray May Christmas angels sing again Their truth clear as a bell O come to us, abide with us Our Lord Emmanuel

Jenny Sanders is a writer, speaker, encourager and mentor. She loves writing, reading and walking in nature whenever she can. For the past several years she’s lived between the beautiful cities of Bath, UK and Cape Town, S Africa. Her exciting and humorous new children’s book The Magnificent Moustache and Other Stories is now available published by The Conrad Press.


Europe by Book

I’ll Push

You: A Journey

of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair

Two best friends, 500 miles, one wheelchair, and the challenge of a lifetime.

Friendship takes on new meaning in this true story of Justin and Patrick, born less than two days apart in the same hospital. Best friends their whole lives, they grew up together, went to school together, and were best man in each other’s weddings. When Justin was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease that robbed him of the use of his arms and legs, Patrick was there, helping to feed and care for him in ways he’d never imagined. Determined to live life to the fullest, the friends refused to give into despair or let physical limitations control what was possible for Justin.

So when Justin heard about the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile trek through Spain, he wondered aloud to Patrick whether the two of them could ever do it. Patrick’s immediate response was: “I’ll push you.”

I’ll Push You is the real life story of this incredible journey. A travel adventure full of love, humor, and spiritual truth, it exemplifies what every friendship

is meant to be and shows what it means to never find yourself alone. You’ll discover how love and faith can push past all limits and make us the best versions of ourselves.


Celtic Mythology: History for Kids by Dinobibi Publishing

No mythology is more magical than Celtic mythology. The Celts of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales created an imaginative world full of fairies, sea monsters, and nature gods. In Ireland especially, the land and culture are alive with stories from the past. People living there who believed in strong, powerful gods, fairy folk who were sometimes up to no good, and all sorts of supernatural beings who lived alongside humans.

Hannah Howe is the author of the Sam Smith Mystery Series, the Ann's War Mystery Series and the #1 international bestseller Saving Grace. Hannah's books are published by Goylake Publishing and distributed through Gardners Books to over 300 outlets worldwide. Her books are available in print, as eBooks and audiobooks, and are being translated into ten languages. Discover more on Mom's Favorite Reads website: https://moms favorite authors/hannah howe

Writing Cozy Mysteries

Before looking at the topic of writing cozy mysteries, I think it is important to address what it is and why authors write in the genre. In its broadest term a cozy mystery is a sub genre of the mystery genre, one where the reader is not left terrified at the end but believes that all is still well with the world. As to why we should write them, they are growing in popularity and often outsell other sub genres, perhaps because they evoke a feeling of warmth whilst flirting on the edge of danger. I would add, they are also a pleasure to write, bringing in aspects of romance, family and friendship as well as that of mystery. It is a fine balance of the familiar and the unfamiliar, which can pose a challenge to the writer. How does one address that balance so the reader is left feeling satisfied in every way? The cozy mystery reader is also voracious and can read several books a week, so it is not a genre that can be ignored.

Last, but very much not least, cozy mysteries are enjoyable, at least I think so. When I was asked to be a part of the Deadly Traditions anthology, I was delighted, as I love both cozies and Christmas, so what a fabulous combination.

Hints and Tips for Writing a Cozy Mystery

Setting most cozy mysteries use a small town, beach or rural setting, although not all do. British villages or American small towns are perfect for cozy mysteries because in these settings most of the residents know each other. I know of one author, Shawn Reilly Simmons, who sets her Red Carpet Catering Company cozies in movie sets where the main character caters to the actors and crew. That is a perfect adaptation of the small town setting. Within the setting the books often have a sub


setting such as a hotel, vineyard, library or bookshop, amongst many others. For

Deadly Traditions I used the North Pole and Santa’s Workshop as my setting.


One of the tropes of the cozy mystery is that the main sleuth cannot be a member of the police or law enforcement. Often it is a single woman with a sidekick who is usually a friend or a romantic interest. One author, Hope Callaghan, has a group of women who are the sleuths in her Garden Girls Small Town Mysteries. My sleuth in Deadly Traditions is Mrs Claus with her sidekicks being the female elves.

Romantic Interest Talking of romantic interests they are often someone involved in law enforcement which allows the sleuth to gain access to information to which they would not normally be privy. There is usually a romantic interest but sometimes there is not, such as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.

Murder Usually there is a murder but there doesn’t always have to be. If there is it should happen off piste with no graphic descriptions. Yes, say there is blood but don’t focus on it.

Sub genres There are more sub genres of cozy mysteries than you could ever imagine. Name a craft or hobby and there will be a cozy mystery series which has been written about it.

Food and wine cozies are extremely popular and usually contain recipes or wine recommendations respectively. Who can resist a book called Silence of the Flans or Dial M for Mousse? Both of these

are by Laura Bradford. I also love Assault and Beadery one of the books in the Cora Crafts Mysteries by Mollie Cox Bryan. In my Deadly Traditions story, Mrs Claus Saves Christmas, there are no recipes, but I did include references to Scandinavian food to give it that cozy feel. Yes, Santa and the gang eat a lot of cake and biscuits. I am sure you can work out that writing cozy mysteries can be a lot of fun.

Humour Many cozy mysteries are humorous, and many are extremely funny. Weaving in humour adds to the overall warm feeling that the genre brings. In my opinion, two of the best authors of humorous cozy mysteries are Donna Andrews with her Meg Langslow Mysteries, and Janet Evanovich with her Stephanie Plum Series. Both of these series have me weeping with laughter.

Characters the characters should always feel like they are the people next door. Even the less likeable characters should feel like the type of people you meet every day in any small town. They hold


Clues and Misdirection

These are crucial. The mystery must be strong. If all the other elements are in place but the mystery does not live up to them, the reader will put the book down. The book needs to live up to its name.

jobs like the rest of us postwomen, librarians, cooks, waitresses, bookshop owners, and in my case Mr and Mrs Claus in fact anyone who the general public open up to and who notice things. Generally, the nosier they are, the better. The reader should feel like they know them well and they have become friends by the end of the book. In other words, the reader should relate to them. I know I have read through an entire series because I liked the main characters. An example of this is The Dead End Job Mysteries by Elaine Viets. I read books 1 13 one after the other and loved them.

Series Cozy mysteries lend themselves to series. In fact, any writer of the genre should be writing series as readers will devour them.

When someone reads a cozy mystery, it should feel like being enclosed in a warm blanket that comforts and makes the reader feel like they are in the presence of someone who will make the world better again. Any cozy mystery worth its salt should be pure escapism. Both reading them and writing them is a great feeling as you immerse yourself in a world which is familiar and at the same time different. If you want to write them then the best place is to read several before you start, to get a feel for the genre. The ones I recommend are a good start. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Wendy H. Jones is the award winning, international best selling author of the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries, Cass Claymore Investigates Mysteries, Fergus and Flora Mysteries, Bertie the Buffalo children’s books and the Writing Matters books for writers. She is also a writing and marketing coach and the President of the Scottish Association of Writers. As copy editor for Mom’s, she works hard to ensure content is appropriate and free of grammatical and spelling errors. You can learn more about Wendy on her website:


Deadly Traditions

Have Yourself A DEADLY Little Christmas

Snuggle up this festive season with this new cozy mystery collection. Deadly Traditions: A Cozy Mystery Christmas Anthology.


Celebrate the holidays with mistletoe, mayhem, and murder. Join twelve authors as they cozy up by the fire with their festive short mysteries that feature treasured holiday traditions. Serve up a slice of fatal fruitcake and deck the halls with danger, because the holiday season has never been so much fun. With twelve fabulous authors contributing to Deadly Traditions: A Cozy Mystery Christmas Anthology, set during the holiday season, how can you possibly go wrong? Sit back and relax and maybe nibble on a cookie or two.

Includes Larceny and Gingerbread Lattes by Justine Maxwell

When her town’s annual gingerbread house competition erupts into chaos, coffee truck barista and amateur sleuth Hazel Hewitt can’t help but stick her nose in. Who is responsible for this Christmas calamity? And is there a bigger mystery afoot?

Killing The Carol by Sam Cheever

FaLaLaLala the songbird’s dead. It seems like a bad joke. I mean, Carol Ling? What cruelty of parental whim would make people name a kid Carol when her last name was Ling? But that’s not really the point, is it? the point is her death. Or really murder. Somebody must have decided that killing Carol was the best way to er kill caroling. If anything would induce me to murder it’s hearing myself caterwauling Christmas songs in front of an endless array of unfortunate victims. The term, “mating cats” comes to mind. Though, I’m pretty sure mating cats are more in tune than I am.

O Deadly Night by Estelle Richards

Gwen Russo, a retired opera singer, runs into trouble while caroling in the snow at her new retirement community.

Silent Snickerdoodle by Ellie Ballard

When restaurateur and reluctant sleuth Marnie Tipton enters the Clear Springs Holiday Cookie Exchange, she expects more fierce competition than friendly exchange. But when the contest judge suddenly collapses, Marnie suspects a Grinch has come late?

Santa Claus Is Not Coming To Town by Sage So

It’s three days before Christmas, and Santa is nowhere to be found. Can grinchy aspiring forensic sleuth Audrey Nott follow the clues to find the jolly old elf before the holiday falls to fragments?


Yourself A Scary Little Christmas by Gayle Leeson

Max, the Ghostly Fashionista, tells a story about how her dad’s past came back to haunt him one Christmas Eve.

A Pickle In A Pear Tree by Erin Scoggins

A yacht decked out in tinsel. A romantic Christmas


proposal. ‘Tis the season for a holiday heist this bride to be won’t soon forget.

Mrs Claus Saves Christmas by Wendy H. Jones

Enjoy a virtual visit to the North Pole. The elves are on strike, there’s been a murder in the North Pole, and to top it all, Rudolph’s been arrested. With just three days to go, Christmas is on the brink of disaster. With the only option being to cancel Christmas, Santa doesn’t know which way to turn next but the indomitable Mrs Claus steps in. Will millions of children wake up to empty stockings on Christmas Day or will Mrs Claus solve the crime and save Christmas?

A Christmas Dinner To Die For by Sheena Macleod

A Christmas Day dinner in the Scottish village of Pine Meadows turns into a murder most fowl when one of the guests is found dead. Christmas is coming and retired teacher, Holly Barnes’s, to do list is growing fatter than the poultry farmer’s geese. But she couldn’t be more excited, it’s her favourite time of year. As well as helping to organise the Church Christmas Carol Concert, Holly is hosting a Christmas Day meal using her mother’s recipes, which are to die for. When one of her guests is murdered, the sleepy Scottish village of Pine Meadows is thrown into chaos. With only three days to go before her friends arrive and another one of them may be murdered, Holly is compelled to turn sleuth and investigate. She discovers mysterious goings on in the night. Are foxes after the poultry or is something more sinister going on? Can Holly discover the identity of the killer in time or is her festive meal destined to become a Christmas dinner to die for?

Christmas Card and Feathered by Mollie Cox Bryan

Welcome to Victoria Town, Va., where Victoriana meets murder… Christmas is a busy time in the quaint Victoria Town, Va., with the residents preparing for shoppers and festivities. Irene Calhoun, owner of “Mourning Arts,” is preparing to host a Christmas card making party for the women of the town. Stumbling over a dead body in her back office was not in the plan. Irene feels a sense of responsibility because the body was found in her shop and the police are getting nowhere. She rolls up her sleeves and pieces together a curious puzzle, its deadly pieces consisting of betrayal, drugs…and chickens.

A Little Christmas Villainy by Melicity Pope

When Holly Sharpe agrees to escape L.A. for a winter break at her English friend’s family villa in Italy, she finds herself unravelling a series of mysterious events threatening to ruin Christmas. Will Christmas in Italy end up a “Fatale Natale”?

Mistletoe And Murder by Dianne Ascroft

Marge Kirkwood gets more than she bargained for under the mistletoe at the Fenwater Association Christmas party: a bothersome blast from the past, and a murder to investigate. A nostalgic festive mystery set in small town Canada in 1983.

This original collection of festive cozies produced by Grace Abraham Publishing is available for a limited time only.


77 1/2 Magical Healing Herbs — Silver Birch

Venture into the magical, healing world of herbs and embrace the power of nature. This article is taken from the book 77 ½ Magical Healing Herbs, which is an introduction to herbs found in a special Midsummer’s wreath. This is an especially enchanting time of year. Among the Bulgarians, the day is called Eniovden. You may think herbs are only for spicing up food and healing the body and mind, but they have other uses, as well. This unique herbal book is an essential guide for tapping into the power of herbs. It highlights centuries of lore and historical facts about healing and magical uses of herbs from Slavic and other traditions.

Please see the medical and magical disclaimers before you try any of the recipes from the book.

Betula pendula Silver birch

Description: The silver birch grows around 82 feet (25 meters) tall. The tree’s thin, papery bark peels off in layers, its tender shoots are bumpy, and its triangular shaped leaves are coarse and double toothed. In autumn, the leaves turn yellow and fall off. The silver birch bears catkins, slim, cylindrical flowers that form in clusters and produce small winged seeds.

History and Traditions: The genus name is Latin for “birch,” and the specific name comes from the Latin pendere for “to hang.” The word “birch” derives from the Proto Indo European root bhereg , which means “to shine, bright, white.” This definition appropriately defines the silver birch’s bark, which is

bright white with black fissures. Betula pendula is often confused with the similar Betula alba (white birch), whose bark is a grayer color. Birch is called a pioneer species, because it’s often one of the first plants to re grow in fire ravaged locations and has been said to be among those that first repopulated rocky land when Ice Age glaciers receded. The tree has an important role in many cultures. In Slavic folklore, it’s the tree of sorrow and new life. Ancient Romans, among others, worshipped the sacred tree as a goddess. During Samhain, Celts drove away the spirits of the old year with birch twigs. Other cultures thought of birch as the tree of the dead.

Habitat and Distribution: Native to Europe and Asia and introduced to North America. The tree is often found on mountains and along crags. In Bulgaria,


you can find it in forests at the base of foothills.

Growth: Tree. The plant thrives in cool climates but requires plenty of sunlight. It has shallow roots, so it does best in dry, sandy soil.

Harvesting: Leaves and bark are used. Leaf buds are collected in April and May before they burst. Leaves are harvested in spring, both before the tree flowers and afterward, and the bark is gathered in early spring. All of its products should be stored in dry, ventilated areas.

Medical Use: Substances in birch bark have anti inflammatory, antiviral, and anti cancer properties and are being studied by medical professionals for possible treatment. In folk medicine, components of birch are remedies for many ailments, such as improving metabolism, lowering blood pressure, and reducing cholesterol. The leaves and sap help dissolve kidney stones, but this remedy also irritates the kidneys, so use it only under professional

medical supervision. Ointments made from the sap treat skin problems (eczema, warts, psoriasis) but are likely to irritate dry skin. The bark, applied externally, is believed to ease muscle pain. Birch has also been used for rheumatism, gout, and leprosy. People drink an infusion made from young birch leaves to treat things such as nervous disorders and colic, and drink it as a stimulant, anti inflammatory agent, antiseptic, and for vitamins.

Rituals and Magical Use: Since it is one of the first plants to come into leaf in spring, birch is symbolic of purification, innocence, and renewal of life as nature awakens. Many traditions use birch to ensure health, love, and happiness for those with new beginnings, such as births, weddings, and new home constructions. Birch is made into a dousing rod to find minerals, buried treasure, and water. Even more magical is the belief that birch energizes people and can prolong youth and slow aging. Merely being near a birch tree can make a sick


person feel better. Birch protects people against physical and spiritual misfortunes. Its newly sprouted twigs are strong talismans that can not only cure diseases, but also break spells. People put babies in swings made of birch to protect the infants from evil charms. Having a birch grow near your home is welcome, because it will chase away nightmares. Other Use: Sap from the tree is made into a drink, similar to the process of extracting sap from maples. Fragrant birch twigs are tools to lightly beat one’s body in Finnish saunas. Furniture, plywood, skis, window frames, broom handles, kitchen utensils, and more are made from the wood, and bast shoes from the bark. An extract from birch is found in bath oils, face creams, shampoos, and shaving creams. The bark is applied decoratively to floral bouquets. Ground birch bark was a staple in Sweden for making bread during famines.

Other Names: Warty birch, European white birch, East Asian white birch.

Aromatic: Ground leaf buds have a pleasant aroma but tart taste. The leaves have no smell and are slightly bitter. The bark also lacks an odor and is bitter.

CAUTION: Children or pregnant or lactating women should not use. Birch products can also hurt kidneys and irritate dry skin.

How to Make an Infusion

Chop 2 Tablespoons of birch leaves or 1 Tablespoon of birch buds and boil in 0.5 liter of water. Let the liquid stand for an hour before straining. Drink 150 ml before meals, four times a day. You can add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to alkalize the liquid (Petrova).


How to Make a Decoction

Boil 1 Tablespoon of birch bark for 10 minutes in 0.5 liter of water before straining. Drink 150 ml before meals four times a day. You can also use the decoction in a bath to treat chronic skin rashes, eczema, and psoriasis. Or wash your hair with it to help prevent hair loss and dandruff.


Herbs are powerful, but they can also be dangerous.

MEDICAL LIABILITY DISCLAIMER: The information in this article, in the book and on our website is not intended to be medical advice, nor does it claim that the herbs listed are safe or effective to use in the manners described. It is not meant to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease. It is merely a brief summary of various herbal folk remedies and how they have been used in the past and may still be used today. With the exception of a few personal recipes, we have not tried any of these remedies and cannot verify their effectiveness or safety.

MAGICAL DISCLAIMER: Magical ingredients and spells are for entertainment only. We have not tried any of these remedies, nor do we make any claims as to their effectiveness or safety.

77 and a Half Herbs?

The wheels in your mind have probably been turning as you think, “77½ herbs is an odd number.”

And you’re right. But it’s a special, magical number, referring to herbs gathered on Eniovden, June 24, when Bulgarians celebrate Midsummer’s Day. If you want to find out the secret of the half herb, you’ll have to read the book. aveela/77 1 2 magical healing herbs the secret power of herbs

Ronesa Aveela is “the creative power of two.” Two authors that is. The main force behind the work, the creative genius, was born in Bulgaria and moved to the US in the 1990s. She grew up with stories of wild Samodivi, Kikimora, the dragons Zmey and Lamia, Baba Yaga, and much more. Her writing partner was born and raised in the New England area. She has a background in writing and editing, as well as having a love of all things from different cultures. She’s learned so much about Bulgarian culture, folklore, and rituals, and writes to share that knowledge with others.

https://moms favorite authors/ronesa aveela/


The Golden Age of Hollywood

Eva Marie Saint was born on July 4, 1924. Her ancestors were Quakers. In a career spanning over 70 years, she won numerous awards and appeared in countless movie, television and theatre productions.

Eva often rejected prominent movie roles. Instead, she preferred to focus on her family she and her husband Jeffrey Hayden were married for 64 years and roles she found creatively satisfying.

One of Eva’s most notable roles was Eve Kendall in North by Northwest. Alfred Hitchcock, director of North by Northwest, reckoned that Eva should have concentrated on ‘glamorous’ roles, not ‘kitchen sink’ roles. She could certainly do glamour, but I think she found the down to earth roles more satisfying. A personal favourite of mine is her performance as Anna Hedler in 36 Hours, a psychological World War Two drama, which also starred James Garner. Now aged 98, Eva Marie Saint can be regarded as the last link with the Golden Age of Hollywood.


Must see Eva Marie Saint movie, On The Waterfront, 1954, her stunning debut starring opposite Marlon Brando.

Howe is the author of the Sam Smith Mystery Series, the Ann's War Mystery Series and the #1 international bestseller Saving Grace. Hannah's books are published by Goylake Publishing and distributed through Gardners Books to over 300 outlets worldwide. Her books are available in print, as eBooks and audiobooks, and are being translated into ten languages. Discover more on Mom's Favorite Reads website: https://moms favorite authors/hannah howe
CHESS ANSWER: (1) Qa7 Qxa7 (2) Bb5#

John and Mary

John and Mary were lucky.

They inherited a beautiful house, with a lovely garden in which all manner of fruit and vegetables grew in abundance. Not too much though, but enough to keep them fed for the rest of their lives.

If they were careful.

Content John and Mary. And they had enough resources to heat the beautiful house in the winter. And keep it cool in the summer.

John and Mary moved in, and for a while all went well. Weeks turned into months as they fed carefully, only eating what grew in their lovely garden, and planting seeds to replace what they consumed.

Sensible John and Mary.

They watched the birds and bees flutter amid the trees and flowers. And butterflies brought bright colour to their lives as they sat on the verandah to watch the sun set on their magical days.

Happy John and Mary. But, as time passed, the children they had been blessed with filled the house with friends and frolicking. And more rooms needed to be lit and heated, and more food from the garden needed to be consumed.

Worried John and Mary.

For there was only so much land. Only so much space for growing fruit and vegetables and flowers. And soon the food began to run out.

Hungry John and Mary. So what they did, was to chop down the trees, and pull up the hedges, and rip out the flower beds, to make space for growing food.

And the birds stopped flying in. And the bees stopped bumbling by. And the butterflies stopped filling the garden with glory.

And John and Mary had to work harder and harder for less and less.

Poor John and Mary.

They looked at their beautiful house, overcrowded, noisy, too cold in the winter, too warm in the summer, and began to starve a little.

Looked at their once lovely, abundant garden and sat and watched it turn to dust.

And didn't know what to do about it until it was too late. (almost?)

Unlucky John and Mary.

Stan Phillips is a poet, musical podcast maker, part time wannabe male model, and occasional stand up comedian. “I used to be a psychotherapist/ counsellor when I had an honest job. I was born into prewar London, and attended 17 schools (my father believed they couldn’t hit a moving target) and I eventually finished up here in Ireland. Still wondering what I will be when I grow up but enjoying writing my quirky poetry as I do so.” Discover more about Stan on Mom’s Favorite Reads website: https://moms favorite authors/stan phillips


Christmas in 19th Century Ireland

On a dark hillside, a flickering candle alights, followed by another and another. Before long, the countryside is dotted with small twinkling flames, like a shower of stars descended from the heavens. Such a scene would have greeted many an Irish family on their way to midnight mass on Christmas eve in the 19th century. With dim turf fires warming cottages in those days, the Irish countryside would have been dark as pitch on a regular winter night, making the Christmas transformation all the more spectacular. Tradition had it that candles were placed in all the windows on Christmas Eve, to light the way for the Christ Child on this holy night and to make for some magical scenery besides.

Homes were also decorated with evergreen branches, an ancient ritual promising the return of spring in the darkness of winter, while nativity scenes were played out in straw and wood. And what is a good Christmas celebration without a feast? Crispy roast goose with bread stuffing, spiced beef and boiled ham were a welcome addition to buttery winter vegetables for those who could afford it. Finished off with a Christmas cake generously drenched in whiskey, leftovers were made to last as long as possible over the twelve days of Christmas to maintain a festive air.

On the day after Christmas, folks would dress in old clothes and adorn themselves with bits of straw in celebration of St. Stephen’s Day. Visiting neighbouring cottages, these “wrenboys” would sing, dance and play music in exchange for food and drink, or the occasional coin – a tradition still maintained in some places in Ireland today. When the New Year was welcomed a few days later, everyone stayed up until midnight, leaving cottage doors open to let the air from the old year out and from the new year in.


Of course, farm and housework could not be neglected between these various celebrations, as normal life with its everyday chores continued alongside. It was also customary to give cottages a thorough cleaning and whitewash in the days leading up to Christmas, which no doubt added to the anticipation felt as the last day of Christmas drew near a day eagerly awaited by the women in particular. Nollaig na mBan, also known as Little Christmas or Women’s Christmas, was a day on which the women got together to celebrate while the men stayed at home and took care of the children and the household.

Now that seems like an excellent way to round out the festive season!

Nollaig shona duit!

Did you know?

Christmas trees started becoming popular in Great Britain in the 19th century, after Queen Victory adopted the tradition from her German husband, Prince Albert. Evergreen trees were decorated with confectionary and paper creations, as well as small candles. Although beautiful, the lit candles were something of a hazard. With no fool-proof method of attaching them, the candles could easily set fire to the tree and, indeed, Christmas tree fires were a common occurrence until the invention of artificial lights.

Juliane Weber is a scientist turned historical fiction writer, and author of the Irish Fortune Series. Her stories take readers on action packed romantic adventures amid the captivating scenery and folklore of 19th century Ireland.

Get the first two books for FREE from 15 19 December! Find out more at


Play It Again, Little Shepherds!

The countdown is underway. Baubles, bright lights, crackers, department store Santas, excessive drinking and eating, going into debt but no, surely ‘T’ is for tea towels at this time of year and we all know what that implies. Yes, the Nativity Play, which never fails to inspire tears of joy and laughter.

Who can resist the small lisping angel, halo askew, who announces the coming of the Baby Jesus? Well, you might be surprised at the competiveness and one upwomanship that can strike in the run up to Christmas. Years ago, when I was chosen to be the Angel Gabriel, the halo I was given had gold paper on both sides so that I could turn round and make a dignified exit. The rest of the Heavenly Host had to keep their backs firmly to the wall and their mothers were furious. Accusations of favouritism flew around until the vicar, in despair, had to cycle to Woolworth’s for more gold paper.

Had things changed by the time my own children came along? Not that I ever noticed. Considerable lobbying took place in the weeks leading up to casting the main parts, with mothers falling over each other to offer their assistance. One woman I knew secured the part of Joseph for each of her sons in turn by offering the use of the family donkey, but only if Stephen, Stuart, Simon etc. could lead him into Bethlehem. The pecking order was soon established, from glorious angels bedecked with tinsel to humble shepherds trailing their fathers’ dressing gowns and mothers’ best tea towels.

A mother one year was in tears because her son had been given the part of Third King, which made him an also ran in her eyes. Another was furious when her daughter, as the Innkeeper’s wife, had no lines and was told to reject the weary travellers


with only a firm shake of the head. This, I discovered later, was because the previous child with the part had thought it rude to turn them away and invited them in for a ‘nice cup of tea’, reducing the audience to helpless laughter.

Of course, we had bored shepherds picking their noses and shoving their tea towels into their dressing gown pockets, exasperated angels punching each other, Mary yanking the baby out of the manger by its foot, Joseph losing his beard and his temper and at least one of the Kings refusing to hand over his gift.

Scenery wobbled, nervous children forgot their lines and were elbowed in the ribs by their neighbours, the donkey pooed on stage and the leading shepherd skidded to a halt just as the front row of the audience braced itself for the impact. None of this mattered. Mistakes were all part of the experience and no self respecting parent should care.

Eyes fixed dotingly on our own children, we missed most of it anyway, at least until the video went on sale. I wish I had one of the time when our younger son, taking part in his first Sunday School play as the little lamb, broke from the restraining hand of the First Shepherd (his older brother) who was leading him down the aisle and disappeared. The play continued and I suddenly became aware that the congregation’s attention had switched from a hillside near Bethlehem to the pulpit. A small head appeared over the top and a piping voice began to sing, “I’m the king of the castle”. Everyone thought it was hilarious and ‘little lost sheep’ jokes flew around for months afterwards.

There have been many discussions in recent years about the appropriateness of nativity plays now that people in our society hold many different religious beliefs or none at all, but I for one hope that this long cherished tradition will endure.

AYorkshire girl through and through, Maggie Cobbett lives on the edge of the Dales. With five books to her credit, she also writes short stories, features and even the occasional poem. Her many travels, as well as careers in modern language teaching and television background work, have furnished an inexhaustible supply of inspiration.


Christmas Fibonacci Trees

Living with Trauma vs Christmas Dreams.

Rain Screams

Wrong food

Hate Christmas

Wrong wrapping paper

Too many presents to unbox

My stack was higher last year and where is my pony


Broken Days Ruined Again

Snow Smiles Christmas Perfect day

Many special hugs

Marshmallows and a hot fire Beautiful presents just for me to enjoy in peace Gifts Loved Days Shine Again

Maressa Mortimer is Dutch but lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, England with her husband and four (adopted) children. Maressa is a homeschool mum as well as a pastor’s wife, so her writing has to be done in the evening when peace and quiet descend on the house once more. She loves writing Christian fiction, as it’s a great way to explore faith in daily life. All of Maressa’s books are available from her website,, Amazon or local bookshops.


Scribble and Script — 50th


50 issues, let’s celebrate

With a golden star

Let’s make sure this is seen

Wide and far

Hey you

You’re special you know

You’re very well liked

Terribly so

Oh no

You don’t think you are?

You sparkle and sprinkle Your light like a star


Can you feel the crescent of me

Holding you through the night Snuggling around your soft fur Bathing you in moonlight

Know when I’m with you my dear I’ll keep you warm and snug

Keeping you out of darkness Wrapping you in my hug

Hi I’m Tracey from The Copper Mouse. I am a creator of bespoke cards, gifts and whimsical characters. I started out making gifts for friends then developed this into a business. I have illustrated 2 books for an author and would love to write/illustrate my own. Examples of my work can be found on social media pages by searching for @thecoppermouse.


Tis the Season to be Spending...

Back in October, I received an email from a well known homeware shop. Whoever does their marketing and content writing is very, very good at it. By dint of some enthusiastic clicking (yes, of course I’d like to shop sustainable Christmas) I found myself gazing at a list of items which puzzled me somewhat.

Who, for example, purchases something calling itself a Wicker Tree Skirt (also available in grey, wicker, red velvet and bafflingly, ivory faux fur?) Why would I deck my tree with wood effect stag’s heads or a 10cm hanging hedgehog decoration? By the time I got to the standing fox with telescopic legs, the shapes and colours were starting to strobe before my eyes.

I trawled through all the items on sale. They were all very pretty, but what you might call, “the reason we have Christmas in the first place” wasn’t very well represented. I could “shop Crafted Christmas” or go back to my Essex roots with “Sparkle and Shine,” or come over all on trend with “Scandi Christmas” (minus the snowdrifts and hygge, presumably).

It’s a road well trodden, and don’t worry, this isn’t going to be yet another of those pieces bemoaning the over commercialisation of Christmas. We all get that. No one is forcing me to give in to the siren song of the retailers cashing in on the Christmas rush.

Last year, cautiously hoping that the restrictions of lockdown might be drawing to a close, like many others we celebrated Christmas with the extended family. We haven’t brought our kids up to expect piles and piles of presents and they are refreshingly non materialistic.

I asked the eldest (then 18) what he’d like.

“I don’t need anything, Mum. Maybe just some clothes. And some more Lynx Africa. If that’s OK.”


It occurred to me that buying something which would help people in dire need might be the way forward. I’ve gone through years of panic buying last minute “just because” gifts because I was worried about not having enough parcels on the day. I gave that up in my thirties when I realised that it wasn’t all about the stuff. As a freelance writer, I get to interview some truly inspirational people and last year I spoke to an amazing chap who works for Mission Without Borders, a charity which helps the very poorest people in Eastern Europe. What he told me about what’s going on our doorstep horrified me. This was before the current war in Ukraine really got going, but already, it featured as one of the six poorest countries in Europe.

I bought vouchers for all my godchildren and my own three, and I asked anyone who gives me a

present to donate to the charity. Reading stories of children huddled in freezing houses nursing their sick mother and wondering where their next meal is coming from broke my heart. The only ray of light for them comes when a local representative of the charity comes trudging through the snow with a bag of food for them.

Everyone got it. No one said they’d rather have had a new phone or the latest gadget. We had stockings and turkey and Carols from Kings’ and parcels and the Queen’s Speech. But we also had the knowledge that we’d made a difference to some people we’d never meet.

Wicker Tree Skirt? You’re all right, thanks. Standing fox with telescopic legs? I’m good. I’m going to make this Yuletide season truly merry with my focus firmly away from what the big corporates want me to buy.

Merry Christmas!

Ruth is a novelist and freelance writer, the author of “The Diary of Isabella M Smugge”, “The Trials of Isabella M Smugge” and “The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge”. She writes for a number of businesses and charities and blogs at She has abnormally narrow sinuses and a morbid fear of raw tomatoes, but has decided not to let this get in the way of a meaningful life. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter at ruthleighwrites and at her website,


Word Find

Though I love dreaming up and putting together my Siberian Husky themed children’s illustrated picture story books, Adventures of Hot Rod Todd, I don’t think of myself as an ‘author’ or as a ‘writer’. ‘Story teller’ sounds better.

My books are so dependent upon the illustrations. That’s where illustrator Cameo Anderson http:// comes in. Cameo really can see into my mind’s eye interpreting my often rambling page descriptions into works of art; there’s a saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words” and with a children’s book that is so important and Cameo nails it every time and then some.

So, for your enjoyment, here is a page from the Coloring Book featuring some of the characters and scenes from the books. Coloring Book

Adrian S. Czarnecki is a semi retired writer of Siberian Husky oriented children’s books based on an actual litter of 6 puppies born to his Dam Empress Maya and Sire Damien Czar on March 14th 2019.

Born in Huddersfield, England, Adrian has travelled the world extensively pursuing careers in journalism, photography, PR / Marketing as well as print and sales. Adrian now lives in Idaho, USA with his wife Meta and their Siberian Huskies who keep them on their toes.

FREE PDF download available via website

Christmas Cards

Snow filled clouds gathered outside the high rise flats. Inside, in a small sitting room on the ninth floor, Janie MacKay’s gaze drifted back to the official looking envelope on the mantelpiece. Sitting beside the letter, a clock mocked her as it ticked off the minutes until the contents came into force. Many others throughout Scotland would have received the same standard letter. The only difference would be the name and address on it, she thought.

Chewing on a fingernail, she wondered what to do. She had grown up in the care system and learned early to let other people make decisions for her. Her mother had died when Janie was two years old, and she had no idea who her father was. Having been moved about between foster homes, she had grown up feeling on the periphery of life. Though she was made welcome in these people’s homes, she had no recollection of what it felt like to be a ‘real’ member of a family.

Ten years ago, when she turned sixteen, a social worker had brought her and her meagre possessions to this flat. A sitting area, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom within the large multi story complex soon became her home. She’d been taught to cook,

shop and clean. No sooner had she stepped through the door that first day, when a large van arrived with the new ‘white goods’ and household basics that she was entitled to from the Council; a fridge freezer, washing machine, cooker, bed, chairs, and more. She had stroked it all, unable to believe her eyes. Every week she received unemployment benefit and, by setting some aside, had saved enough for a second hand multi media screen with a built in social network box.

Janie looked over at the media screen. She recalled the soaps she used to watch, the dramas and sitcoms. She missed them all. Her electricity had been


cut off over three months ago. Sometimes she replayed her favourite media programmes in her head.

Janie’s attention returned to the mock mantelpiece, and a distant memory of a similar one filled with Christmas cards flashed before her eyes. Unable to help herself, she lifted the letter down and re read it. Tomorrow, the 14th December 2036 she would receive her last phased payment of unemployment benefit. The government no longer had the funds to pay benefits of any kind. Arrangements had been put in place to drop off a food parcel to her twice a week. She could remain in her flat, but no services or repairs would be provided.

Janie’s low mood deepened. She had been blighted by depression for years; unable to work she had found ways to exist on her own. Though she had had lots of virtual people she chatted to on her social network box, she had no real time friends

who could help her now. With no electricity, she had been unable to log in. She missed her friends from the therapy group, the members of the exercise class, her chat site ‘buddies’. At the flick of a switch, they had been removed from her life. The pain she felt had been no less acute than if they had all suddenly died. She had grieved for each and every one of them.

These people had seemed real to her then; they had been the centre of her life. She had been delighted by each of the virtual birthday and Christmas cards they had sent her. In her mind, she had visualised their hands passing their cards to her in friendship. With no real time social outlets, they had made life liveable. Apart from food shopping, she rarely ventured outside.

Truth hit her like a punch in the chest; she was isolated and lonely, and had been since she moved here. People surrounded her in the numerous flats


throughout the complex, but she had never spoken to one of them. Like her, they were unemployed and rarely ventured out, and when they did they kept their heads bowed low.

Sighing, Janie pulled on a warm coat and made her way outside. It was late and starting to get dark. She needed to think, plan what to do. While she walked around the multi story building, she picked up an armful of twigs. Returning to the front entrance, she sat down and scrunched the letter in

her hands. Using a twig, she dug a small hole and placed the letter into the stony ground. She flicked her lighter and lit the paper. Then, she settled twigs on top.

Sitting cross legged in front of the fire, she started to sing. Gently at first, then her voice rose as it did when she sang along to the social media church. Soon, other people from the complex gathered beside her and joined in the song. Most brought wood for the fire. As their voices filled the air, Janie felt a sense of exhilaration she had never felt before. It was as if her spirit had been set free.

The following evening, they gathered around the fire again and told each other stories; some dramatic, some funny. When soft flurries of snow started to fall, Janie looked up and let the flakes glide onto her face. She couldn’t remember the last time it had snowed in December. She wondered if it was a sign; an omen.


Evening after evening, Janie joined the others who gathered around the fire outside their building. Within a week, they had started to meet during the day. Together, they pooled their resources and provided for each other. A group soon formed, to carry out household repairs. Another group set up, to alter, refashion or repair clothes. Janie joined a group who looked after the children; so, their parents could work in a particular group. Someone even suggested pooling a small sum of money, to buy seeds to plant in the spring.

As Janie glanced around the smiling faces surrounding her, she realised that these people had become her real time friends. She could hardly remember any of the virtual people she used to speak to on her social network box. They had been no more real than the virtual Christmas cards they had sent her. Thinking of this made her recall the pens and paper she had in a drawer. She hoped she had enough sheets of paper to make each of her new friends a real Christmas card. She would start making them tomorrow.

On Christmas morning, Janie found an envelope that had been pushed under her door. Brushing back a tear, she opened it and placed her Christmas card on the mantelpiece. When she joined the others around the fire, she handed out her home made cards. Later, someone dragged out a fake Christmas tree, and the children decorated it with ribbons made from strips cut from an old sheet.

Sitting around the fire with the others, Janie Mackay looked up at the star filled sky; a sky filled with hope. A few weeks ago, she had grieved for the loss of her virtual friends; never again would she see their light shine. Today, she knew this star would never go out. She recalled what she had read about her ancestors being cleared from their homes and sent to live on the barren cliff edges in the remote highlands of Scotland. They had survived losing their homes and became stronger in the process, and so would she.

Sheena Macleod gained a PhD in Mental Health Nursing and an MSc in Advanced Mental Health Practice from the University of Dundee where she lectured in Mental Health Nursing. She is trained in CBT. When she was diagnosed with lupus, Sheena retired from teaching.


Colorful Nature


Golden Years — Celebrating 50

She sat in her favorite chair, sparkling lights twinkled behind her, the smell of freshly cut pine from the Christmas tree her grandkids decorated the previous evening wafted through the room, a warm fire crackled in the antique stove, and a hot cup of tea sat on the small table just waiting to be sipped.

She flipped open the cover on the cozy mystery with eager anticipation. She received the novel two nights ago from her daughter. It was a gift for her 50th birthday. She forced the frown away, suddenly feeling old and tired; but she wouldn’t let something as trivial as age dampen her mood.

She was going to snuggle in front of the fire and get lost in the adventure. With a grin, she flipped to the first page, and relaxed.

The instant she read the first paragraph, she was hooked. The world around her faded away and she walked alongside the heroine down the cobblestone sidewalk, passed friendly neighbors, and could practically smell the succulent aroma of freshly baked bread from the local shop as she got lost in the story of murder, amateur sleuthing, and the quintessential, charming, sexy hero.

She absently sipped her tea, flipped the page, gathered more clues, and worked to solve the puzzle before the author revealed the culprit.

She didn’t notice when the sun settled behind the horizon. Or, when her husband slipped inside and silently made his way to the study. She was too busy enjoying the story and the uninterrupted time to relax. She was too busy enjoying every minute of her golden years.

We are excited to announce that Goylake Publishing has teamed up with the Fussy Librarian and in partnership we are offering you 20% off your first book promotion with the Fussy Librarian. To qualify for this promotion, your book must be either permafree or listed free during a special offer.

In our experience, the Fussy Librarian is the best book promoter in the business. When we promote with him, our free books always reach the top five of Amazon’s genre charts, most often they reach the top three. We promote with the Fussy Librarian every month and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

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Connections eMagazine is a FREE quarterly publication founded by authors Melanie P. Smith and Rhoda D’Ettore. It is currently produced entirely by Editor, Melanie P. Smith. Over the years, the magazine has evolved and it now features promos, freebies, blog articles, and short stories in every issue. Discover more about Connections eMagazine on their website here: landing/

EditorInChief HannahHowe

TheEditor-in-Chiefisthekeyfigureineverypublication. HannahHoweworkscloselywiththeeditorialstafftoensurethe successofeachpublication. SheistheauthoroftheSamSmithMysterySeries,theAnn’sWarMysterySeriesandSavingGrace. GettoknowmoreaboutHannah,herprojectsandherworkonMom’sFavoriteReadswebsitehere: https://moms favorite authors/hannah howe/


TheExecutiveEditor/GraphicDesignerisresponsiblefordevelopingthelayoutanddesignofMFReMagazine. She alsoworkshardtocreatenewcoverseachmonththatcapturestheessenceofeachpublication. InadditiontotheeditorialstaffofMom’sFavoriteReads,MelanieP.SmithalsoproducesConnectionseMagazine. Sheisamulti genreauthorof CriminalSuspense,PoliceProcedural,FantasyandRomancenovels. GettoknowmoreaboutMelanie,herprojects, andherworkonMom’sFavoriteReadswebsitehere: https://moms favorite authors/melanie p smith/

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OurManagingEditoroverseesthephysicalcontentofthemagazineandcoordinatestheproductionschedule. Sheadministersthedaytodayoperationsofthepublication,managessubmissions,setsrealisticschedulesandorganizeseach editionofthemagazine.Sylvaisisresponsiblefortheamazinggraphicsthatappearthroughoutthepublicationeach month. Sheworkshardtoensuretheimagescapturethespiritandmessageourauthor'sconveyintheirarticlesandstories. Inaddition,AsCopyEditor,Sylvaworkshardbehindthescenestocorrectanygrammatical,typosandspellingerrorsthroughoutthemagazine. SylvaFae Mumof three,fairywoodlandowner,andauthorofchildren’sbooks. https://moms favorite authors/sylva fae/

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OurCopyEditorsforMom’sworkhardtoensurecontentisappropriateandfreeofgrammaticalandspellingerrors. WendyH.JonesisalsoourFeatureEditorandworkshardtoprovidecontentthatisinteresting,informativeandprofessional. She’stheawardwinning,internationalbest-sellingauthoroftheDIShonaMcKenzieMysteries,CassClaymore InvestigatesMysteries,FergusandFloraMysteries,BertietheBuffalochildren’sbooksandtheWritingMattersbooksfor writers.SheisalsoawritingandmarketingcoachandthePresidentoftheScottishAssociationofWriters. Youcanlearn moreaboutWendyonherwebsite: SheenaMacleodlecturedattheUniversityofDundee,whereshegainedherPhD.Shenowlivesinaseasidetownin Scotland.ReignoftheMarionettesisherfirstnovel.Shecurrentlyhastwoadditionalbooks:TearsofStrathnaverand WomenofCourage AForgottenFigure FrancesConnolly.YoucanlearnmoreaboutSheenaonherwebsite: https://www.sheenas



Allison Symes works diligently each month togenerate flash fiction writing promptsthat will stimulate creativity in our authors and entertain our readers. As Story Editor, she also ensures each entry is professional and polished. Allison Symes is an award winning, published flash fiction and short story writer. She also writes a weekly column on topics of interest for writers for online magazine, Chandler's Ford Today. Allison's fiction has appeared in anthologies (CafeLit and Bridge House Publishing) over many years. Allison judges competitions, runs workshops, and is always happy to talk/write about flash fiction writing.

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OurMarketingDirector,GrantLeishman,overseesmarketingcampaignsandsocialmediaengagementforourmagazine. Afteranexcitingcareerinaccountingandjournalism,henowfocusesonhistruecalling writing.Gettoknowmore aboutGrantonMom’sFavoriteReadswebsitehere: https://moms favorite authors/grant leishman/

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page 102

Tis the Season to Be Spending by Ruth Leigh

pages 92-95

Christmas Cards by Sheena Macleod

pages 96-99

Scribble and Script by Tracey Challis

page 91

Christmas Fibonacci Trees by Maressa Mortimer

page 90

Play It Again Little Shepherds by Maggie Cobbett

pages 88-89

77 1/2 Herbs — Silver Birth by Ronesa Aveela

pages 80-84

Christmas in 19th Century Ireland by Juliane Weber

pages 86-87

John and Marry Stan Phillips

page 85

Writing Cozy Mysteries by Wendy H. Jones

pages 74-76

Deadly Traditions by Wendy H. Jones and Sheena Macleod

pages 77-79

Europe by Book by Hannah Howe

pages 72-73

Another Updated Carol by Jenny Sanders

page 71

Olympiacos Stadium Piraeus Athens by John Greeves

pages 66-70

An Illuminated Christmas by Eileen Rolland

page 65

Joyce at Christmas by Jenny Sanders

pages 60-64

Fifty — Flash Fiction by Allison Symes

pages 52-59

Trying to Get a Glimpse of Santa by Chantal Bellehumeur

pages 46-47

White to Move—Supplied by

pages 43-45

The Mouse Family that Live by the Brambles by Sylva Fae

pages 48-51

The Happy Little Christmas Tree by Eileen Rolland

pages 40-42

Looking After You This Christmas by Sheena Macleod

pages 24-28

Around America in 50 Books by Wendy H. Jones

pages 16-17

Mom’s Favorite Kids Zone by Sylva Fae

pages 30-37

Interviewed by Wendy H. Jones

pages 8-15

Holiday Treats by Melanie P. Smith

pages 20-22

Fear Not by Stan Phillips

page 29

Classic Movies — The Thin Man by Hannah Howe

pages 38-39

Birthstone Crystal Grids — Turquoise by Lisa Shambrook

page 23
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