Friday, 5 December 2014

Guest Blogger ~ Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

Christmas has always been a magical time for me. When I was growing up in St. Joseph, Missouri, the elements for the stereotypical holiday were present, snow on the ground, a sweet smelling Douglas Fir decked with tinsel and pretties, holly on the mantelpiece, and family filling the house. The sounds of the season were always important to me, too, from the carols we learned at school or heard in church, the ringing bells from churches downtown, or the occasional caroler. I’ve always wanted to write Christmas fiction and I now have two works to offer, both published this year. The longer work is a love story and it takes place from one holiday season to the next. Events in between threaten the happiness and future of newlyweds Johnny and Jessica. The title, Tidings of Comfort and Joy, comes from one of my favorite carols, the traditional God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

The second is a short work but it too pays homage to the English Christmas traditions. Charles Dickens’ classic tale, A Christmas Carol, captured my fancy as a child and I enjoy watching the many film versions of the story, from my favorite starring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge to the 1940’s versions and even one with Henry Winkler. The Courtship of Ebenezer Scrooge is not just a Christmas tale, however, it’s also a sweet romance.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from my home and heart to yours!

Btw, I live just east of Oklahoma in far southwestern Missouri and in the second of the two Christmas stories, Tidings of Comfort and Joy, my hero has an Oklahoma twang!

~Lee Ann.

The Courtship of Ebenezer Scrooge
Release Date: February 2014

Ebenezer Scrooge changed for the better after three Christmas ghosts impacted his life and heart. His miserly ways vanished as he gained happiness and his family ties with nephew Fred have improved. There’s something missing, however, and when Ebenezer meets Widow Abigail Collins, he realizes what he lacks. He sets out to court Abigail, object marriage and learns the many ways love can further improve his disposition and life!

Short excerpt:
He watched her descend the steps with graceful movements, her bell-shaped skirts swirling in a way he found appealing. Ebenezer caught a brief glimpse of her many petticoats and hid a sly grin. He’d seen a flash of her ankles too and liked it. Before his wicked imagination could get the best of him, he stepped forward, top hat in his hand.
Tidings of Comfort and Joy
Release Date: November 2014

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They met during the holiday season and married in May. Jessica savored every moment of happiness with her beloved husband Johnny but their newlywed bliss is shattered when he’s caught in a storm on the lake on the Fourth of July. First missing, then presumed dead, Johnny Devereaux appears to be gone and everyone mourns him except his wife. Jessica refuses to believe he could be dead and she steadfastly refuses to give up hope that he is alive and will return.

As the months pass, each holiday is another reminder of his absence and it becomes harder to believe but she refuses to yield to despair. As his family, especially his brother Tad, struggles to accept Johnny’s death, only his great-grandmother and bride hang onto their hope. Jessica comes to believe he’ll return to her at Christmas so the holiday takes on new significance as she waits for tidings of comfort and joy.

That first time he came to her old apartment, Jessica had her Christmas decorations out. That slender but elegant tree she'd had since college stood against one wall, decked with all the beautiful and unique ornaments she'd collected. Each one had a special meaning, a memory of someone or something. Twinkling little multi-colored lights framed the mirror on the wall, and a silk bouquet of poinsettias graced her tiny dining table. Five or six Christmas cards hung from a ribbon she put up beside the door, and even to her jaded eyes, it felt festive. The scent of evergreen and holly berry potpourri wafted from a crystal bowl beside the lamp. Even that plastic Santa figure her grandmother bought her when she was about six stood in a place of honor.

She waited, wondering what he might say. In the past, men she dated called it "cute," or "too much," or even labeled it some way that ended up sarcastic. Johnny, still wearing that black-and-red plaid hunting coat, stood looking at it with wonder, and then he smiled.

"It gives me the Christmas spirit just looking at it," he said in that countrified voice she loved so much. "It's pretty, honey, almost as beautiful as you."

Delight as light as champagne bubbles rushed over her. "There's one thing I think you missed."

"What's that?" he asked, looking around, and she pointed up to where she'd hung a little bough of mistletoe, tied with a red bow. He grinned. "Oh, that. Even a country boy like me knows what to do under the mistletoe."

She touched his lips with one finger. "Then do it."

Johnny nestled her against him tightly and, soft as a snowflake, touched his lips to hers. Their lips devoured with yearning, not greed. His kiss became the flame for her inner candle, the trimming for her tree, and the joy of the season wove around them like a benediction, cozy as a flannel blanket on a cold winter's night and as lasting as the stars that spangled the winter night.

Author Bio:
Growing up in historic St. Joseph, Missouri, Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy scribbled her stories from an early age. Her first publicationa poem on the children’s page of the local newspaper – seems to have set her fate. As a full time author, she has more than two dozen full length novels published along with assorted novellas and short fiction. Her publishers include Astraea Press. A contributor to more than two dozen anthologies, her credits include Chicken Soup For The Soul among many collections of short fiction. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Missouri Writers Guild, and the Ozark Writers League. Lee Ann earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Missouri Southern State University as well as an Associate Degree from Crowder College. She has worked in broadcasting, retail, and other fields including education. As a wife and mother of three, she spends her days penning stories, cooking, reading, and other daily duties. She currently makes her home in the Missouri Ozarks, living in what passes for suburbs in a small town and works as a substitute teacher in the local school district.

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