New Year's Eve Musings

Whether we stay up to ring in the new year or awaken on January 1st, we not only face a new year, but also a new decade...a decade of possibilities. The following information is from

The earliest recorded New Year's celebration is thought to be in Mesopotamia around 2000 B.C., according to Earth Sky. While the celebrations actually occurred during the vernal equinox in mid-March — as this was considered the start of the new year by the calendar at the time — an eleven-day festival was held that would probably put our current parties to shame. According to, the Ancient Mesopotamian people performed rituals, celebrated the religious victory of the sky god Marduk over the sea goddess Tiamat and either crowned a new king or allowed their old king to continue his reign. 

The new year wasn't always celebrated in January, according to The Ancient Roman calendar used to follow the lunar cycle, and had the new year beginning in March. Sosigenes, an astronomer, convinced Julius Caesar to follow the solar year, instead. From 46 B.C. on, the new year began in January.

Starting the new year in January was partially done to honor the god Janus, for whom the month was named. Since Janus had two faces, he was able to look back into the past and forward into the future simultaneously, making him a great spokesperson for the holiday we celebrate today. 

To read the complete article click HERE.

However you celebrate, stay safe and look forward to all that lies ahead in this new territory of 2020.

A Brand New Decade...A Brand New Start ~ by Darlene Kuncytes

Well, the New Year is upon us. It’s coming!
A new decade…a fresh start.

This past year as an author has been an especially tough one for me. Actually, the past few years have. Writers block. No time. A lot of not so great stuff going on with some authors that kind of took the shine off of the writing community for me.


As this decade grows closer to coming to an end, I realized that I will not let the negativity of a few bad apples dampen my passion for what I do.

I write. It’s what I love. It’s what keeps me sane in a whole lot of ways. Lol. It’s what makes me happy, and at the end of a long, tiring work day…it helps me to escape for a little while.

Anyone who has a love for something, whether it’s music, art, crafts, writing, or whatever, knows that even when we hit a mountain, we still trudge along. Making our way up that incline until it evens out and once again becomes a more even path is our goal.

Nothing in life is ever always easy. Creativity is a fickle beast. She comes and goes like the tides.

What we need to remember is that it’s okay.

An author friend of mine was beating herself up because she just hasn’t felt like putting words to the page. And believe me, I understood where she was coming from. Like I said, I have been fighting that battle. But it can’t be forced. It must come when it’s time.

We have so much going on in our lives that sometimes things get lost in the melee. It will be found again, because it is part of us. It’s in our souls. We simply need to remember to breathe. To take a step back and release the negative energy.

We are approaching a brand-new decade. Let’s make it a point to be kinder and more aware of the things around us. Let’s get our creative juices flowing again, and strive to make this upcoming year a year of change for the better.

A year of maybe doing something small that will affect others in a positive, supportive way.

Find your passion again if it’s strayed away from you, or perhaps find a brand-new passion.

How about in this new year we realize that the possibilities of what we can do are endless! Let’s not short change ourselves or what we can do. Every little ripple we send out there grows and grows and hopefully inspires others to do the same until we make a mighty wave.

Never think that what you do doesn’t matter. Because it does!

So, here’s to 2020. Here’s to looking for the good. Learning from the bad. And making this year a glorious one!

Love and kisses everyone!

See you next year! 😉


How a Mother-Daughter Team Came To Create Children’s Books~by Darlene Panzera

There were several factors leading to the creation of the Riki and J.R. Horse Tales books, but the first notion of creating a children’s book series based on our two horses began back in 2013. My daughter, Samantha, was in college and her homework for her Adobe Illustrator Class was to take a real-life animal and digitally draw it as a cartoon. Samantha chose to draw our two horses, Riki and J.R. When Samantha showed me the finished drawings on her computer, and I saw how adorable the cartoon horses looked, as an author I just knew that we needed to create a story to go along with them.

First, I needed to do some research. I have written many adult fiction books but writing and designing the layout of a children’s picture book is quite different. We studied other children’s books similar to our own style and used them as a guideline. Samantha and I brainstormed back and forth on possible ideas that we could use. We had so much fun, we outlined stories for several books based on our horses and decided to turn it into a series.

Our idea for book one in the series Riki and J.R.: The Big Bad Scary Mud Puddle was derived from our Morgan horse Riki, who was absolutely terrified of mud puddles, while our younger Paint horse J.R. loved splashing through knee deep mud puddles on the trail. The story is mostly made up from our imaginations, told from the horses’ point of view. But we liked taking some real-life elements and creating our own fictional world. 

Since my previous adult novels at this point had only been traditionally published, I got to learn how to self-publish for the first time with Riki and J.R.: The Big Bad Scary Mud Puddle. Using more online research and Samantha’s multi-media tech skills, we uploaded the book to Amazon and Barnes and Noble as an ebook. However, finding a company that could give us print copies with the sizing we wanted was a challenge. We tried several different options before eventually switching to Ingram Spark’s Lightning Source to fulfill our Print on Demand Paperback version of our book and added a Hardcover version.

Samantha used Adobe Illustrator for the initial creation of the cartoon horses but later on in the production process she brought the Smart Object Vectorized Files of the horses into Adobe Photoshop where she was able to add more of the embellishing touches to the graphics. In Adobe Photoshop, Samantha used a Wacom drawing tablet and was able to use different paintbrushes, and textures in the computer to paint the grass, trees, clouds, and other backgrounds. With hair strand photoshop brushes Samantha was able to draw the horses’ manes flowing in the wind. With all the different layers, brushes, and effects Adobe Photoshop has to offer she was able to create more advanced digital paintings than what could be achieved just by sticking with only Adobe Illustrator. Samantha used a lot of different lighting and digital painting techniques in photoshop that she learned after taking a specialized clinic taught by one of the designers behind the World of Warcraft Posters and video game artwork. 

Riki and J.R.: The Big Bad Scary Mud Puddle took about 3 years to create since Samantha was still nailing down the process and learned a lot of new techniques along the way. 

Book two, Riki and J.R.: The 1/2 Eaten Apple Tree came together much more quickly. Samantha was able to create all the graphics for the 32-page story and format the book for both ePub and Print within two months. 

We currently have several more stories with Riki and J.R. planned, including a Christmas special that we are hoping to release in 2020.

We also developed a website with photos of the real Riki and J.R., an online store to buy Riki and J.R. merchandise, and plan to have downloads and fun things for kids to see and do that pertain to the series. 

Darlene Panzera is a multi-published author of books that "inspire people to laugh, value relationships, and pursue their dreams." Her career launched with THE BET, a sweet contemporary romance included in bestselling author Debbie Macomber's FAMILY AFFAIR. Darlene is a member of RWA and the Northwest Christian Writers Association. She loves coaching new writers, camping and hiking with her family, feeding her horses carrots, and writing stories for children of all ages with her daughter, Samantha. 

Samantha Panzera graduated from Olympic College in Bremerton, Washington with an Associate in Technical Arts, Digital Media Arts and Certificates in Photography and Photoshop. She loves spending time with her horses and often takes off on trail rides in the woods behind the local stable. When not at the barn she loves hiking mountains, backpacking far out into the wilderness, snowboarding, kayaking, and working on the latest blog post for her travel blog Adventure Hike Travel and creating children’s books. 

The moments in-between~by Joanne Jaytanie

So, here we are. A new year just around the bend. Not only a new year. A new decade. I don’t know about you, but a new decade sounds daunting to me. Where did this decade go? 

We’ve all aged ten years. We’ve experienced fabulous years and painful years. It’s natural, I suppose, to recall the best and the worst of every year. To focus on the tears you’ve shed and the celebrations you’ve basked in. 

But what about all the little, everyday things in-between? Enjoying a conversation and a cup of coffee with a friend. Taking a walk with your dog in the quiet morning before the world around you wakes. Discovering your next favorite book or movie. Making a new friend. Welcoming a new puppy or kitty into the family. Finding a new hobby. 

When you stop and think about it, it’s the small stuff that serves as the glue to hold your day, your week, and even your year together. These are the moments that fill in and all around the milestones of your life. 

Revel in your milestones. But don’t forget to appreciate the everyday moments, for they are the foundation of our lives.

Wishing you a joyous 2020 filled with magical moments and a magnificent milestone or two. 

Until next time...


Why I Love Writing Medieval Romance ~ by Mary Morgan

I’ve often been asked this question, “Why Medieval romance? Why not Regency, Victorian, or Western?” In truth, I love them all, but my heart belongs to one. It started when my fingers opened a book about the great Irish King, Brian Boru (941-1014A.D.). His story is legendary, especially with the people of Ireland. King Brian led the Irish to the peak of their Golden Age—from poetry, arts, saints, and scholars. A spark ignited within my soul for more. 

I sought out tales of knights in shining armor and folk heroes,delving into a life teeming with richness, though at times harsh and violent. Yet it wasn’t until I devoured the history of Brian Boru that I became immersed in medieval life. From there, I treasured tales of life in castles, traveling on horseback, studying foods and herbs. My list is endless and always growing on medieval ways. Yes, there are even days when I long to travel back in time and explore the history, lore, and beliefs.

When I finally took my first trip to Scotland sixteen years ago, the birth of a series—the Dragon Knights was born. I was sitting on a boulder in the Highlands surrounded by the magic and the mists of the land. However, on the second half of my trip, I visited Ireland. As I wandered the soft rolling hills in various shades of green, the land spoke to my soul and urged me to place the Dragon Knights here, too. It would be several more years before I decided on both countries--Scotland and Ireland--as part of my stories. A perfect solution to a problem I had been debating on for the Dragon Knights.

Therefore, when it came time to pen these stories, it only made sense for me to place them all in a medieval setting. One might say I live vicariously through my characters. It’s a love affair with all things medieval. And in finding my own knight in shining armor (happily married for 36 years), I shall always weave a tale with a “happy ever after” ending.

Award-winning Celtic paranormal and fantasy romance author,
Author Mary Morgan
Mary Morgan, resides in Northern California with her own knight in shining armor. However, during her travels to Scotland, England, and Ireland, she left a part of her soul in one of these countries and vows to return.

Mary's passion for books started at an early age along with an overactive imagination. Inspired by her love for history and ancient Celtic mythology, her tales are filled with powerful warriors, brave women, magic, and romance. It wasn't until the closure of Borders Books where Mary worked that she found her true calling by writing romance. Now, the worlds she created in her mind are coming to life within her stories.

If you enjoy history, tortured heroes, and a wee bit of magic, then time-travel within the pages of her books. You can contact Mary through one of the links below.

Merry Christmas

Regardless of how you celebrate, from all of us to all of you we wish you a wonderful Christmas filled with much joy, love, and peace.

     Joanne Jaytanie-Duncan
                                                Grace Augustine

                         Founding Members:
                         Jacquolyn McMurray
                         Ralph Duncan
                         Kristine Raymond
                         Linda Boulanger
                         Kim Hornsby
                         Cynthia Land 
                         Ruth Ross Saucier
                         Darlene Kuncytes
                         Marj Ivancic
                         Lexa Fisher
                         Dennis Green
                         Chad Elliott
                         Lori Crecelius Roberts

     Contributing Members:
     Andi Lawrencovna
     Jennifer Daniels
     Brian Player
     Minnie Birch

A Visit From St. Nicholas ~ by Clement Clarke Moore

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'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Recipe of the Month ~ by Grace Augustine

So, it's two days before the BIG day. Two days before you must
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have those cookies on the plate for Santa. Two days before family and friends arrive. Two days of cleaning, decorating, and BAKING!

If you're like me, I always leave the latter for last. When I was in my 30's I looked forward to this time of year. I'd put plates of goodies together for neighbors, my mechanic, the mail people, just about anyone in my life I wanted to thank for their help and service throughout the year.

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Over the past 40 years, I've gathered many tried and true traditional goodies. I'm sure you all have your family favorites, too. Whether it is Grandma's Gingerbread, Aunt Nellie's Snowballs, or Pete's Tom and Jerry mix, we all bring our best when it comes to Christmas treats.

One of my favorites to bake is cranberry nut bread--so convenient to put in the baby loaf pans, wrap in plastic, choose a fancy ribbon and tie a bow. The recipe is below.

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Remember to take time for yourself, put on some holiday tunes and sing-a-long, but most of all  remember the reason for this season. From my home to yours, I wish you many blessings. See you in 2020

Merry Christmas!

Cranberry Nut Bread

2-1/2 C non-self-rising flour
1 C granulated sugar
3-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp grated orange peel
3Tbsp cooking oil
1/2 C milk
3/4 C orange juice
1 egg
1 C finely chopped walnuts 
1 C chopped fresh cranberries

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan or two 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2, or 4-6 baby loaf pans.
3. Measure all ingredients into large mixer bowl.
4. Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.
5. Pour into pans.
6. Bake for 55 to 65 min. or until inserted wooden pick in center comes out clean.
7. Cool 5 min. before removing from pans to cooling rack.
8. Cool thoroughly before serving.

Date Nut Bread: Omit orange peel, orange juice, and cranberries. Increase milk to 1-1/4 C. and add 1 C. chopped dates.
Apricot Nut Bread: Substitute apricots for cranberries.

Kitty Christmas Tree by Ruth Ross Saucier

                It was an ugly tree.  Charlie Brown had better ones.  But it was cheap, and our poor-student purses rejoiced in that. And it was tall. For the first time, we were living in a place with twelve-foot ceilings, and this one would graze the top. It was big around, too, but we had room; so it came home with us that year.

                Once we got it inside, though, its true dimensions became clear.  It was nearly as wide as it was tall and it dwarfed the living room.  So we cut the bottom two feet off, where the branches ranged the widest and mooshed it into a corner. 

               Still too big. But surely if we put the flattest side into the corner, we could make do?

                Well, the mostly-flat side had one huge branch sticking out.  But if you removed that branch, the tree could be crammed in the corner, leaving two-thirds of the room to live in.  But wait: there was a huge hole on the side now facing the room. So, in a fit of optimistic creativity we cut off the long  branch and duct taped it to the other side of the tree to fill the hole.  Yup. Duct tape.

            And it worked, too. With the bottom trimmed and the hole filled, the dumpy tree actually looked good.  Probably a C+, and with lights and decorations, it actually looked quite nice.

Until the cats discovered it. We had two white cats, picked up as strays. One had two blue eyes, the other a gold eye and and a blue eye. They were littermates, and the brother with the blue eyes [Guiseppe] was deaf, and big, and a holy terror. And he loved the whole idea of his own tree to climb. 

For the next two weeks we had to reconstruct that tree every day. Guiseppe would scamper up that tree like he was a kitten, and his 15 pounds would crash that tree, trash and scatter the ornaments, and knock the transplanted branch off altogether. Every day meant more and more dying fir needles, water cleanup and replacement, and crunched glass. And every day we would duct tape the branch on and replace the ornaments.

By the time Christmas came, it was past time to retire that tree, but to this day I remember it vividly—every messy bit of it.

The Creative Urge ~ by Lexa Fisher

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
I love to cook, but making Christmas cookies and other sweet treats leaves me with a guilty conscience at this time of year. I hear so many friends complain of too much sugar during the holidays. What to do? Turn the kitchen into an apothecary!

One of my favorite non-edible gifts to make is the shower fizzy. With just a few ingredients, they are easy to assemble. A silicone mold works best so the fizzies are easy to pop out without crumbling. Put a fizzy in the back of your shower and enjoy the scent as it melts. This time of year, the cold and sinus relief fizzy is ideal.

Goat's Milk Peppermint Soap

Another easy option is melt-and-pour soap. A glass loaf pan or even a cupcake pan make great molds if you don't want to buy specially shaped designs. Like the shower fizzy, the options with melt-and-pour soaps are endless! Check out Pinterest for wonderful ideas like this one.


Chapsticks are easy to make in the kitchen, too! I prefer to add a bit of honey when I make them. Recipes like the one linked are easy to find on Pinterest. I've also dabbled in candles, whipped body butter, and scouring powder--all without putting a pound on my gift recipients.

All grown in my yard.

With a garden full of herbs, there are many possibilities for herbal gifts. Pictured are purple sage, sage, bay leaf, winter and summer savory, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and an herbal salt made from many of these herbs. These fresh herbs can also easily be dried in a microwave at 30 second intervals and then bottled for gifts. Herbal salt made from the same fresh herbs (lower left) gives a depth of flavor in many dishes.

And of course, I love making my own Christmas cards. Happy holidays!

An Interview with Daniel Travers CEO of Redideo

Tell us a little about yourself (where you’re from, if you have a job apart from your craft, family, etc.)

Hi everyone! Thanks for taking the time to take a small peek into
Daniel Travers/Redideo
my life.

I’m originally from the Midwest but currently, live in Southern California.

Probably one of the most common questions I get is, “What does ‘Redideo’ mean?” The word may look funny at first, but it’s pronounced “ruh-did-e-o.” It’s a fusion of the words red, radio and video to morph my once red hair, aural, and visual communication skills.

Growing up, staying out of mischief was sometimes a struggle for me but art and music were two things in my life that I could always count on. I was attracted to urban art and underground music and eventually found focus by earning a BFA in New Media from the Kansas City Art Institute. I currently work for a broadcast media company and do art on the side.

What are your most significant challenges when you create?

Not having enough time in the day! Maybe once I’m retired I can pursue art full-time, but for now, I have to focus on what pays the bills. So, I guess you could add funding for art supplies to the list as well.

What inspires you?

That’s a pretty big question! It can vary from day to day and it
Photo: Redideo
really depends on what kind of art I’m creating at the moment. Inspiration can come from something that someone says, or I read, music I hear or, maybe I see it and subconsciously it sits in the back of my brain just waiting to come out.

My environment obviously has a big influence on inspiration. If I’m having a bad day, I may want to produce something more aggressive or however it relates to my mood. Or, I may have a thought about current events, science or the progression of art in general that makes me want to do a more conceptual piece.

In the end, it really depends on the project.

When did you first know without a doubt that what you do today is what you wish to share with the world?

I’ve been doing art for as long as I can remember, and it’s always
Photo: Redideo
had a rewarding effect on me which encouraged me to do more. I wouldn’t say it came naturally, but it just seemed like the right thing to do and pursue.

At this point, I think it’s more about sharing the growth (or lack of haha) and how different events in my life and the world have an effect on my creative endeavors and interpretations.

To be honest, sometimes I wonder if I should be doing something else. But, I think it’s only natural to evaluate what you’re investing your time into.

What is your favorite medium to work with and why?

I honestly don’t have one favorite medium to work in. I like to
Photo: Redideo
experiment and change things up which ultimately contributes to my overall growth as an artist. And then when I have that idea down the road that meshes more than one medium, hopefully, I’ll know how to do it.

But, if I had to name one, it would probably be acrylic painting or drawing. They were some of my first go-to’s and give me nostalgia.

I love doing digital art, but sometimes it’s hard to measure something you can’t physically put your hands on or feel like you put your personal energy into it.

Who would play you in a film about your life?

Brad Pitt, probably. Not because I think I’m a good looking guy, but because he’s from the Midwest as well and he’s played a lot of diverse roles (some better than others). My second pick would probably be Jack Nicholson. He’s just a classy, charismatic guy with a lot of personality.

Have you ever decided after completing a piece of artwork to totally trash it and start over?

All of the time! I’m probably my own worst critic and ¾ of my art is never seen by anyone but me. Art is obviously subjective, but I usually have a vision in mind and some kind of standard for myself. It’s hard to describe what each of those are exactly for every piece just because they’re all different.

What encouragement and advice could you offer to someone wanting to promote their artwork?

Don’t compare yourself to others! I find myself doing it at times, but I have to stop myself. It’s only natural. But, you never know how that person got to be where they are and the things they had to do to achieve it. So, believe in yourself…. Which leads me to the next piece of advice I’ll give… marketing. Marketing is a huge part of the equation and people will not find your art if it’s collecting dust in your house. Get out there and network, talk with people, and utilize social media. If you’re not good talking with people, find someone who is to help you.

I also love a quote Andy Warhol once said, “Don't think about
Photo: Redideo
making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

To connect with Daniel and Redideo, click the links below.

**All photos property of Daniel Travers/Redideo and may not be reproduced without permission.


  Foiled and hand-colored card   I continue to bring in cards to the food bank where I volunteer weekly. Since we are past Mother’s Day, I’v...