New Release: Mountain Laurel Christmas by Jan Sikes @JanSikes3 #Christmas #countrymusic #christmasgifts

Welcome, friends! I’m back after my November break, and delighted to welcome friend and Story Empire colleague, Jan Sikes, to my blog today. Jan has a brand new Christmas release out ready to warm your heart. Be sure to look for my review at the end of this post. Jan is also doing a giveaway which you won’t want to miss. Take it away, Jan!

Giveaway Christmas banner with pine cones, Christmas bulbs and Christmas lights. Giveaway for $20 gift card

What’s in a name? 

Anytime we create a story, readers can often visualize a character simply from their name. 

My character in Mountain Laurel Christmas has three names, and each one affects his personality differently. 

First, his given name, Norbert Angus Roberts, paints a picture of a character unsure of himself and subjected to lots of teasing in his growing-up years.

Excerpt: 

No kid should have to go through life as Norbert Angus. If I lived to be a hundred years old, I’d never understand what possessed Mama and Papa. At least, Papa had shortened it to Bert, but that wasn’t much better in my way of thinking. I took a lot of teasing from the other mountain kids.

Then when he arrives in Nashville, chasing a dream, he introduces himself as Andy Roberts. 

But that name is short-lived.

Excerpt:

 As soon as she hired me, Corinna decided to change my name.

“You’ve got hair as black as coal, and your eyes are as dark as night. I think your stage name should be Cole Knight.”

So, my character became Cole Knight. 

If you are familiar with the music business, you’ll find many artists taking on fake stage names. 

In the country music world, some of the most notable are:

Conway Twitty – Harold Lloyd Jenkins 

Johnny Paycheck – Donald Eugene Lytle

Johnny Bush – John B. Shin

Tim McGraw – Samuel Timothy Smith

Patsy Cline – Virginia Patterson Hensley

Can you think of others? If you created a pen name for yourself, what would it be? 

Teaser ad for Mountain Laurel Christmas by Jan Sikes so ebook on snowy background with Christmas candles and gold star in front

MOUNTAIN LAUREL CHRISTMAS BLURB:

Orphaned, his family torn apart by tragedy, Cole Knight has come a long way from a ramshackle miner’s cabin on the side of the Cumberland Mountain. 

Daring to follow an impossible dream, he’s made it big in the music business. Now, he’s a country music sensation with a huge house, fancy cars, plenty of willing women, money, and adoring fans. He should be on top of the world. Instead, he’s drowning in a swirling pool of self-contempt and relentless guilt.

It’s easier to lose himself in a bottle than face the hard truth…he hasn’t delivered on a promise he made to his father.

It’s almost Christmas, and the sting of failure drives him back to that tiny cabin in the mountains. But has he waited too late to put the shattered pieces back together—to find himself and restore a lost family?  

PURCHASE MOUNTAIN LAUREL CHRISTMAS

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:

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Bio box for author Jan Sikes

REVIEW OF MOUNTAIN LAUREL CHRISTMAS BY MAE CLAIR:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you want a feel-good Christmas story, look no further. Cole Knight is a music superstar with the world at his feet. He has everything he could possibly ever want or need but his heart is hollow. With Christmas around the corner, he finds himself thinking back to his poverty-stricken childhood when times were hard but love of family made life worth living. In the decades since, he’s lost touch with his sister and has no idea what’s become of his younger brother. Circumstances conspire in such a way to give him a second chance and help him rediscover the connections he’s lost.

Told with heart, this is a story that shines a light on what matters most in life. It’s rife with emotion, memories, and the idea of recapturing lost chances. I love how the author brought her characters to life while painting a picture that spans from backwoods squalor to the glitz of the celebrity spotlight. A quick read, this enchanting novella is polished, heartwarming, and all-around entertaining. A beautiful holiday gem!


Thanks for visiting to cheer on Jan with her new release. Don’t forgot to leave a comment below to enter her giveaway and wish her well with Mountain Laurel Christmas! If you enjoy heartwarming holiday reads, this short tale is just ONE CLICK away!

Happy Halloween and NaNoWriMo

Black cat silhouetted against large, partially full moon

Happy Halloween! As I’ve done for the last several years, I’m going to be vanishing offline for the month of November to participate in NaNoWriMo. I’ve woefully neglected my WIP for most of 2021, and hope to make significant wordcount progress during the insanity that is NaNo. Wish me luck!

You’ll still see me at Story Empire, and I have a few guests already scheduled with new releases. I may also pop in now and again to comment on a blog post, but for the most part, I’ll be AWOL throughout November.

I couldn’t vanish without wishing everyone a Happy Halloween. If you’re a writer, whether you’re participating in NaNo or not, I hope your muse is kind and showers you with inspiration and word count. I’ll catch you on the flip side of November! 🙂

Off the Radar Today

Hey, everyone! This spot is usually filled with a Book Review Tuesday post, but I’m going to be off the radar today, celebrating my DH’s birthday. As I type this, the weather is supposed to be beautiful–full sun and low sixties. Given the wind and rain we had last week, I’ve got my fingers crossed the forecast will hold true (I’m typing this a few days ahead).

I’m closing comments and won’t be able to visit posts today, though I will try to catch up tomorrow. I’ve got a special guest on Thursday I hope you’ll come back for, and I have two exceptional books up for review next week.

Until then–have a good one, and happy Tuesday!

A beam of light shines out from an open book

Happy Halloween and a Break for NaNoWriMo

Illuminated home garden path patio lights with halloween pumpkin lanterns

Happy Halloween! Wishing you plenty of treats and no tricks!

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m going to take a break from blogging for the month of November. I’m focusing on NaNoWriMo and attempting to finish a WIP that has been languishing far too long (wish me luck!).

I’ll be popping in at Story Empire from time to time, and hopefully, can make a few rounds of the blogosphere as well–especially if I get stuck. Although I’m hoping that won’t happen…er, the getting stuck part. Please pardon my absence.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Halloween. Regardless if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, or working at your own pace, I hope your muse is extra generous. See you in a month. 🙂

Presenting: Oh, Baubles by @harmony_kent #NewRelease #ChristmasNovella #ChristmasRomance #CleanRomance

Are you in the holiday spirit? I’ll be the first to admit I turn into a sentimental sap for the entire month of December. I’m kind of a sentimental sap the whole year, but I’m extra sappy during the Christmas holidays. Among other things, I love reading Christmas stories (and watching holiday movies). Which is why I’m excited to be part of Harmony Kent’s blog tour for her new release, Oh, Baubles. I’ll let her tell you about the book, but be sure to check out my review at the end of this post!

Book cover for Oh, Baubles, a Christmas romance novella by Harmony Kent shows Christmas bulbs with silhouette of embracing couple in a large bulb topped by a red bow

Hi everyone, Harmony here. I’m so thrilled to be visiting with Mae today to tell you about my latest book, a Christmas Romance Novella. It’s a fun, quick read at around 80 pages, and I had fun crafting this one. Below is a ‘sneek peek’ from Chapter 3 of ‘Oh Baubles.’


The line rang once, twice, three times, and more. On and on. Eventually, after sixteen full rings, it went to voicemail. Flustered, John hung up and cursed himself. How stupid could he be? If she reported him, he wouldn’t just lose his job but his whole career. Was some woman worth that? No. But then Charlie wasn’t just some woman, was she? No, she was a whole lot more than that. And John felt as though he would never feel happy again unless he at least took this chance and told her how he felt. So, with another heave in of air, he redialled—ready for the voicemail this time.

‘You’ve reached … Charlene Matthers … She cannot take your call right now. Please, leave a message after the tone.’

John waited for the tone, and sweat pooled in his arm pits and palms, and a cold droplet oozed down his spine. Then he caught an unpleasant whiff of man-pits. He’d have to do something about that as soon as he’d hung up. At last, the beep sounded.

‘Hey, Miss Matt—Charlene … Charlie, erm, this is John. John Andrews? Erm, oh god, I … er …’ He cleared his throat, determined to see this through before the damn machine cut him off. ‘Charlie, this is John. I’m sorry I haven’t called. Idiot that I am, I completely forgot to give you my number. The thing is … I want to see you again. Um, not in clinic. Oh, hell. I like you.’ He took a breath and wiped sweat from his brow. His words were all wrong.

‘Charlie, I don’t know what else to do, so I’m just gonna blurt it out … I love you. There, I’ve said it now. If you never want to hear from me again, or see me, I get it. Just don’t, please, report me. Lol. Ahem … I’m sorry I left things so long. I was a stupid damn coward. But I love you and want to get to know you better. The real you, not the hospital you.’ Flustered beyond belief now, and out of breath, John hung up, disappointed with himself. He’d messed that up badly. And only after he’d disconnected did he remember that he could have pressed the hash key and done a re-record. Too late now.


Book Description:
After a tragic accident one Christmas, Charlene loses her husband and her leg.

Scarred and damaged, the losses leave her lost and reeling, and a long recovery lies ahead of her.

When John, a hot young physiotherapist, comes into her life with his ripped abs and good-god good-looks, she can’t imagine he’d give somebody like her a second glance.

Then she falls for him.

Can Charlene overcome all obstacles to gain back her life and find true love once more?

Find out in this fun-filled, clean Christmas romance novella from award-winning author Harmony Kent.

Oh Baubles is available on Amazon for just 99c/99p And the link is: http://mybook.to/OhBaubles


This is a short, enchanting story sure to warm the heart. Charlene, a young widow, requires physical therapy due to a tragic accident in her past. She feels an immediate connection with John, her PT, but can’t believe he’d spare a second glance for her. Although this is a romantic story, I really enjoyed seeing the progression in Charlene’s character from beginning to end. The author delivered that change—and the build up of romance—in a believable manner. Watching Charlene transform as the book progresses is like watching a beautiful buttery emerge from a cocoon. With its holiday setting, Oh, Baubles makes a charming novella for the holidays, but it will leave you with a warm feeling any time of year. Lovely! MY REVIEW:
This is a short, enchanting story sure to warm the heart. Charlene, a young widow, requires physical therapy due to a tragic accident in her past. She feels an immediate connection with John, her PT, but can’t believe he’d spare a second glance for her.

Although this is a romantic story, I really enjoyed seeing the progression in Charlene’s character from beginning to end. The author delivered that change—and the build up of romance—in a believable manner. Watching Charlene transform as the book progresses is like watching a beautiful butterfly emerge from a cocoon. With its holiday setting, Oh, Baubles makes a charming novella for the holidays, but it will leave you with a warm feeling any time of year. 5 Lovely stars!


About the Author:
After spending around thirteen years as an ordained Buddhist monk, living in a Zen Buddhist temple, and six years after a life-changing injury following a surgical error, Harmony Kent returned to the world at the tender age of forty.

Now, she is famous for her laughter, and has made quite the name for herself … she’s also, um, a writer … and fairly well known for that too. She’s even won a few awards. Harmony lives in rural Cornwall with her ever-present sense of humour, adorable husband, and quirky neighbours. Harmony is passionate about supporting her fellow authors.

To Learn More About Harmony Check Out:
WebsiteStory Empire (co-authored) | Amazon Author Page | Twitter | LinkedIn | Goodreads | BookBub | bio box for author, Harmony Kent

Wednesday Weirdness: Black Cat, a White Hair, and a Wish

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over imageWelcome to the first Wednesday Weirdness of December. At the mention of black cats, most people immediately think of witches, familiars, superstitions, and Halloween. But there is another legend, and because I love both cats and folklore, I couldn’t resist spinning both into a tale called Food for Poe.

A black cat sitting on red ribbon and surrounded by Christmas decorationsIs it weird? Oh, yes. It’s been compared to a cross between Night Gallery and Hallmark. For even more of a mash-up, it’s also a Christmas story.

But what about the legend? I’ll let that unfold naturally. In the scene below, Quinn Easterly, encounters a strange old woman in the grocery store, where she has stopped to pick up food for her newly adopted cat, Poe:

“There’s a legend about black cats.” The woman eyed her critically, continuing as if she hadn’t spoken. “Not the witch legend or the Halloween stuff you hear as a kid.”

What an odd discussion to be having on Christmas Eve with a snow storm brewing outside. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to talk.” Quinn started to withdraw, then stopped. There was something in the woman’s manner that made her hesitate. The store bustled with activity, but no one drew near. Not a single person ventured into the aisle where they stood conversing over colorful plush mice, boxes of dried meal, and sparkly ribbons adorned with bells.

“Every pure black cat has a single white hair.” The woman’s voice was low as if she dispensed a timeless secret. “Remove the hair without being scratched and you’re permitted a wish—health or wealth, but you can’t have both. And you must make the wish before midnight on Christmas Eve. Health or wealth. Do you understand?”

Quinn felt caught in a twisted dream. “I—”

The woman pulled her closer. “Beware, girl. Healing often attracts one of the Dark Things. Changelings. Creatures that pattern themselves from the thoughts of others. They live in cesspools, drainpipes, and hollow logs. Anywhere that’s dark.”

The hair prickled on the nape of Quinn’s neck. She glanced over her shoulder hoping to find someone else in the aisle, but it remained eerily deserted as though she stood in a corridor severed from the rest of the store.  What she needed was an escape route.

“I’m sorry, but I have to leave.”

“So go already,” a disgruntled male voice chided.

Quinn blinked, startled to find the old woman gone, the aisle behind her suddenly overflowing with people and shopping carts. A mother and two children shuffled past, the youngest trailing a caramel-colored stuffed bear by the arm.

“Look, lady, either pick something or get out of the way.” The grating voice acted like a chisel on the edge of Quinn’s thoughts. The speaker was squat and barrel-chested, pushing a cart loaded with ten-pound bags of dog food.

Quinn smiled politely and shuffled aside.


I admit to twining three separate legends together to suit my own purposes, but the folklore about black cats, a white hair, and a wish for health or wealth is from an old wive’s tale. There’s nothing involving Christmas Eve or midnight, but both seemed like a good fit.

As one reviewer said:

“It is a tale of love, hope, compassion, faith, superstition, and suspense with a touch of horror… I was hooked from the start. If it was up to me, I’d make it into a Christmas movie and watch it every year.”

Cover of FOOD FOR POE with cute young couple and a black cat.And here’s the blurb:
When a blizzard strands Quinn Easterly at a handsome stranger’s house on Christmas Eve, she doesn’t realize her newly adopted cat, Poe, is the catalyst responsible for bringing them together.

Breck Lansing gave up on relationships after his wife, unable to cope with their daughter’s illness, left him. But the pretty blonde he rescues from a snowstorm has him rethinking his stance—especially when Quinn’s arrival coincides with a dramatic change in Sophie’s health.

Unfortunately, that change also attracts something only whispered about in folklore. Together, Quinn and Breck must defeat a sinister creature intent on claiming the ultimate payment.

Warning: A clever black cat, Christmas magic, and paranormal trouble


I rarely promote this little Christmas novella, but can’t resist splashing it around a bit in December. If you’re interested, you can grab it from Amazon for .99c through this LINK.

Are you familiar with the folklore I used in this story? It’s also been said the reverse is true—every pure white cat has a single black hair, although I don’t know what wish is granted should the hair be removed. If you like Hallmark Christmas stories and cats, along with a bit of the bizarre, I hope you’ll give Poe a try.