Book Lover’s Blog Hop–Your Free Gift is Below!

Holiday Gift Exchange - Book Lovers Blog Hop Banner

Can it really be that the holidays are upon us? How does this happen every year? Since I was a teenager, I’ve been promising myself that I’d shop early so I could relax and enjoy the season. But it’s never happened. Even the one year I was away from home for Christmas–I spent a year abroad in college–I didn’t get my presents mailed home until right before Christmas, so my family received them in March! Oh well, maybe it’s time for me to admit that I enjoy the last minute running around.

In any case, I’m glad the people who organized this blog hop have their act together. They are offering a $100 AMAZON GIFT CARD, which you can enter to win. Just click on this link for a Rafflecopter giveaway and you’ll see how to enter the giveaway.

My present to you is a pdf of the first two chapters of LIVING BY EAR. Living by Ear is a women’s novel about a Boston musician who gives up her career for the stability of marriage and financial comfort, but then realizes–sixteen years and two teenagers later–that she’s unhappy with some of her choices. So she files for divorce, starts dating, and tries to get back on the music scene.

To receive your first two chapters, please leave your email address in the comments section below and I’ll send the pdf right away. Or, if you prefer not to leave your email address in a public place, you can email me at Whichever works best for you! And if you like the premise of the story, the entire book is available here on Amazon.

Oh, and to get you in the holiday spirit, here’s a video of one of my very favorite Christmas songs. I remember watching this Bing Crosby Christmas Special live with my parents in our living room when I was a kid, and both of them wondering who this strange man named David Bowie was.

Thank you so much for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy the chapters. To find other great sites to visit–all of which are giving out free gifts–please go back to the main site. The full schedule is posted there. And please share the link to the main site ( with your friends so they can get some great presents too!

Peace, and happy holidays to you and your family!



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Moved by Music: Lisa Gott is this Week’s #MusicTuesday Guest

Please welcome Lisa Gott to the blog today! I hope you enjoy her post as much as I do!


lisa_gottMy eyes were closed and my body gently swayed from side to side. My feet barely reached the pedals below. I was four. It was the very first time I had played Für Elise straight through without any errors. And the sound which gently reverberated off the walls of the small music room took a hold of me. Tears were streaming down my face. I felt as though I had died and been reborn in a split second.

My piano teacher squeezed my shoulder and asked me if I was okay. I nodded and told her I was crying because of this. This music. It was the most beautiful thing in the world. And it made my heart cry.

I remember listening to the Somewhere in Time soundtrack for the first time. Lying on the couch and clutching my chest, because the magnificent melody was, quite literally, taking my breath away. I called it “lung music.” I remember pouring my heart out onto a page right after. Just writing and writing and writing. Not really knowing or understanding what was happening, feeling as though I was almost hypnotized. And then looking at what I wrote after and realizing the music had opened a door deep inside of me. And that was were the most beautiful and most sacred of words lived.

For me, music has been meditative. It possesses me. It transports me to another land. I don’t just listen to music, I experience it. With every fiber of my being. And I feel like I have superpowers. Like I have all the clarity in the world. Everything makes sense.

Yet, I’m not one of those writers who listens to music while I write. I simply cannot, because I find its magical wonder devastatingly crippling. Rather, I take a walk or lie on my bed and listen. Let it fill me, consume me. Let it reach inside and pull all the emotions out of me. Let it take me to that beautiful land. And once I’m there, I can turn it off. And create like I never knew I could.

You see, music doesn’t tell me the stories. It doesn’t even inspire them. Like a tornado, the words are constantly swirling, suspended in darkness. I know they’re there, but can barely see them. Can’t reach them. Music is one thing which can calm the storm. Bring the words back into range. And illuminate my soul.

Music makes me feel. Deeply. Reminds me to live. Deeply. So that I can write. Deeply.


Lisa M. Gott is a contemporary literary fiction author. Her stories tell of the human spirit – sometimes sad, sometimes not – most can relate to them on some level or another.

Gott began her writing career under the nom de plume L.M. Stull. Her new name represented not only a new chapter in her personal life, but in her literary one as well.

When she’s not feverishly weaving words, you can find her enjoying nature, spending time with her incredible husband, and, sometimes, sipping a latte. Okay, maybe more than sometimes.

Connect with Lisa on her website, Facebook, and Twitter. You can find more information about Lisa’s books here on Amazon.

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Music and Freedom- #MusicTuesday Guest Post by February Grace


The Music Tuesday series continues with bestselling author February Grace. This post really resonates with me for many reasons, including the fact that “Do They Know It’s Christmas” is one of my very favorite Christmas songs. Thanks so much, February for being my guest today.


new hat 2 - Copy -  tinyYesterday, I tabbed down to my Christmas playlist on my iPad, which stays there all year.

Not that I listen to it all the time: I just find it a comforting reminder to have it there. I was seeking a specific song—or perhaps I should say the specific feelings associated with it.

I remember, it was 1984. Bob Geldof put together a huge group of the most incredible musicians to record a song to benefit those starving in Africa.

The original Band Aid, 1984

From the first time I heard the chorus of Do They Know It’s Christmas (’84) by Band Aid I was completely hooked. Bono? Simon LeBon? Paul Young? So many others, singing together for such a great cause?

I wanted so much to love that song. Only, I wasn’t allowed to love it.

It was a Christmas song, and in 1984 at the age of thirteen, I was still forbidden from having anything to do with anything that had anything to do with Christmas. Or any other holiday.

It wasn’t only holiday music and celebrating that was forbidden, however. Not long before that, the leaders of the religion I was raised in decided to crack down on the youth, especially, expressing themselves and their emotions by being able to choose what kind of music they were allowed to listen to. At a large convention, a speech was delivered specifically targeting music they said encouraged drug use, promiscuity, adult themes or rebellion, or even patriotism. We were warned of backwards messages recorded into albums that would supposedly turn us toward the service of the devil. We were told we must remove all such music from our homes, and lives, immediately.

I remember my parents taking us home that day, then getting a giant garbage bag and tossing in record after record. I will never forget my sisters’ silent tears as they watched their Queen, ELO, and Styx albums, among others, go into the trash. When they were finished, there was almost nothing left.

I remember being very careful what I listened to from that point on; I had grown up on the music of my sisters (and knew all the words— still do) but by the time I reached my own teen years, it was bands like a-ha and Duran Duran that were at the top of my favorites list. Still I knew some of the material wouldn’t be acceptable to my parents, so I used to listen to music with headphones only, or, once I was old enough to drive alone, in the car where no one else could hear.

I also remember being sixteen, and blasting Do They Know It’s Christmas in the car and singing along.

It was the first Christmas song I ever learned all the words to.

It was only years later I realized just how much choosing the music you listen to is associated with who you are, and your personal freedom to be who that is. The religious leaders were right when they said that music is powerful and can sway people’s emotions, because when the time came that I was ready to leave the restrictive life I’d been raised in and prepared to do so—knowing it would cost me everything to do it—I had songs that were ‘anthems’ to me to help me get through it all. I still do.

So listening now, as often as I want and as loud as I want to a song like Do They Know It’s Christmas brings back strong, deep feelings in me.

I wish I could go back in time and hug that sad, good little girl and tell her that it would be okay eventually. Though it would cost her everything, she would find her way to freedom.

I wish I could hug all those who travel a similar path and long for freedom the same thing.

Music is a powerful thing, and can give you strength in ways you least expect.

For me, it reminds me to always be who I am, because we only get one shot a life, we should be allowed to decide for ourselves what we believe, what we celebrate, and what we want to sing.

Sing loud, everyone. Sing loud, and be you.

~February Grace

You can find February Grace on Twitter @FebruaryGrace. She is the author of GODSPEED, OF STARDUST, and IN STARLIGHT, published by Booktrope. UPON A TIME is coming in Spring, 2015, and WISHING CROSS STATION is in progress.
You can also learn more about her and her writing by visiting her blog:


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The Easiest Crockpot Vegetable Soup for 4


All soup ingredients except rice and bread

Good morning!

I don’t normally share recipes on this blog, but I just got in from walking the dog in 17 degree (F) weather, and decided to get out the crockpot and make some vegetable soup for dinner. My family is composed of some diverse eaters–vegetarians, meat lovers, generally fussy folks–but this soup makes everyone happy. Or at least everyone eats it, and that’s saying something in my house.


Rice & bread

A couple of other things I like about this soup:

1. As long as we have basic staples in stock, it can be made without shopping

2. All the cooking can take place in the crockpot. In other words, no sautéing or precooking anything is necessary. You can make the broth any way you like. (Full disclosure: I like to use Knorr vegetable b0ullion, which involves boiling water in a pot and dissolving the cubes in it before adding it to the crockpot.) But canned broth also works great.

3. It’s pretty much impossible to screw up. The only caveat is to make sure you don’t use too much rice. If you do, your soup will become more like a stew. Which might be great for some people, but my family likes lots of broth for bread dipping.

4. Like many crockpot meals, it can be kept warm for several hours after it finishes cooking. This is great for my family, which sometimes needs to eat in shifts to accommodate busy schedules.

So here goes. The ingredients are :

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (or the equivalent amount of minced or crushed garlic in a jar)
  • 2 or 3 average sized carrots, peeled and chopped, or half a bag of baby carrots
  • 2 average sized potatoes, peeled and cut up
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth (can be homemade, made from bouillion cubes, or canned)
  • 1 14 oz can of any kind of beans (chick peas, pinto beans, black beans, whatever you like)
  • 1/3 cup of brown rice (or any rice)
  • 1 14oz can of diced or stewed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons of dried basil, or a handful of fresh, chopped basil
  • black pepper, to taste
  • a loaf of crusty bread for dipping

And that’s it. Throw everything in the crockpot, cook on low for eight hours, and you’ll have dinner for four hungry people. I don’t know what it says about me, but I love pressing those buttons on the crockpot and hearing it begin to cook. There’s something very freeing about knowing that I don’t have to think about dinner again until it’s time to eat.


Everything ready to cook

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Music Tuesday: Guest Post by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson


Music Tuesday continues today with a great post by best-selling author Carolyn Ridder Aspenson. You can learn more about Carolyn and her books below.


215116_1032422377524_1510_nIt’s 1973. A seven year old me dances around the front room of my childhood home to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. My father snaps pictures with his Polaroid camera. I stand on my tiptoes, spin in circles and then fall back into the rust colored velvet chair, dizzy and happy. My father hands me a bottle of Dr. Pepper® and a hand full of Whoppers®, which I stuff into my mouth like a chipmunk gathering nuts for the winter.

It’s 1998. A thirty two year old me dances with my dad to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline at my wedding reception. He tells me he loves me and is proud of me. I ask him if he’s got any Dr. Pepper® and Whoppers®.

It’s 2014. My father has been gone nearly five years now and every time I listen to Sweet Caroline, I cry. Sometimes the tears are happy, each one a testament to an unconditional love like no other. Sometimes they’re filled with an indescribable loss, a pain that never truly ends. My father loved music and those nights with him made me love music, too.

For me, music is a time machine. One song played on the radio can transport me back to a different time, a different place and flood me with emotions. Neil Diamond represents my childhood, that time when the whole world was that front room and my father was the man of my dreams. When I hear Separate Ways by Journey, I’m suddenly a teenager again, filled with angst and drama as I scream Don’t Stop Believing at the top of my lungs.

My husband considers music nothing more than background noise, something I’ve never understood. Music inspires me. I have my go to songs for cleaning, exercising, writing, missing my mom and dad, the birth of my son. Music reminds me of friends, of good times, even bad times. I can’t listen to BoDeans without thinking my friend Tammy and the fun we had driving to their concerts or dancing up on stage with the band.

Music reminds me of my life experiences. It gives me a taste of the past and a peek into the future. It tugs at my heartstrings and reminds me of how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown.

Music makes me feel and I can’t help but think that’s what it’s supposed to do.


Carolyn’s recently published novella, The Inn at Laurel Creek is a contemporary romance featuring a musician. While writing the story, Carolyn created the following playlist for motivation.

 The Inn at Laurel Creek Playlist

  1. Jason Mraz I’m Yours

  1. BoDeans Naked

  1. Paul Carrack I Need You

  1. Al Green Let’s Stay Together

  1. Misteridge Hopes & Dreams

  1. George Strait I Cross My Heart

  1. Matt Nathanson

  1. Ray LaMontagne You Are the Best Thing

Booktrope Editions author Carolyn Ridder Aspenson is the Amazon and Barnes & Noble best selling author of Unfinished Business; An Angela Panther Novel and Unbreakable Bonds; An Angela Panther Novel. Aspenson has also released the contemporary romance novella The Inn At Laurel Creek and Santa’s Gift, a Cumming Christmas Novella. Her next novel, Uncharted Territory; An Angela Panther Novel will be released in February 2015.

Find out more about Carolyn at, or Follow Carolyn on twitter at @awritingwoman


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The Struggling Artist: Balancing Writing with Parenthood by Mary Rowen

Mary Rowen:

Today, I’m honored to be part of Lisa Gott’s “Struggling Artist” blog series.

Originally posted on Lisa M. Gott:

“The struggle is real, Mom.”

My daughter says that whenever I get stressed out about writing. And yeah, I get it. First world problems. I’m a lucky person. Lucky to be able to write, lucky to have an education, lucky to be healthy, lucky I don’t work in a sweatshop. I’ve got two great kids and a husband who loves and supports us financially. We’ve got good friends, a great extended family, a dog and a cat.

So I’ll be the first to admit that my writing “struggles” are smaller than microscopic when compared to the issues facing our planet these days. Global warming, disease, terrorism, starvation, poverty, war. Oh, and just to add to the insignificance of it all, let me add that most of my “struggles” happen inside my own brain.

On the other hand, I’ve only got one brain, and it’s my goal to do something useful…

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#BlackFriday-#CyberMonday LIVING BY EAR is #99cents

mike_lbeDear Readers,

If you’re shopping from home and looking for a great gift for a woman (or yourself!), the Kindle version of LIVING BY EAR is having its first ever $.99 cent promo. The promo runs from Black Friday through Cyber Monday (Monday, December 1.)

Here’s a link to the sale.

A friend (thank you, Charlotte!) also pointed out that if you’re gifting a Kindle book, you can print out the cover art and blurb from Amazon, and make a little card! I love that idea!!

And if you’d like to join a Thunderclap to help the sale on Monday, here’s a link explaining what that’s about. It doesn’t cost anything. All it takes is a few clicks and it will help a lot!

Thanks so much and happy shopping!

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