I'm so pleased to welcome author Margot Johnson, who is going to tell us about her new holiday romance. She's also sharing an excerpt from the book and a wonderful Christmas cookie recipe. I have to say, it's put me in a festive mood! Enjoy!
Margot Johnson grew up in a family of writers and has always loved books and writing. She is the author of two, sweet romance novels--LOVE TAKES FLIGHT and LOVE LEADS THE WAY and the Christmas novella LET IT SNOWBALL. Her characters can't possibly find their happy endings...or can they?
Before turning her focus to the fun writing life, Margot held leadership roles in human resources and communications. Her motto is "Dream big and work hard." When not writing, she loves to connect with family and friends, volunteer with SK Writers Guild, and walk at least 10,000 steps a day (except when it's minus 40!)
She lives in the Canadian prairies with her amazing husband and beloved golden retriever.
From the Author
My writing tip: Don’t wait for the perfect idea or ideal moment. Just sit at your keyboard and write!
Inspiration for this story: I live in a place where winter storms and frigid weather are common. I also love Christmas.
Last year during lockdown, my husband and I couldn’t visit friends and family in person, so we delivered Christmas light necklaces to their doors and then connected online. We also bundled up for a walk on a minus forty degree day. I can imagine my characters Merilee and Ross sharing similar adventures.
One wish: I love hearing feedback from readers. I wish everyone who reads Let it Snowball would post a review.
I write feel-good stories about women who chase their dreams and bump into romance along the way. They live in small communities near my home in the Canadian prairies, and they count on an eclectic mix of family and friends to make their lives interesting and fun.
My new release is available as an eBook on Amazon and major online bookstores. I hope you agree it’s a fun way to celebrate the Christmas season!
In my story, the heroine, Merilee, shares her famous cookie recipe for chocolate snowballs – see below). Maybe you’ll want to add it to your Christmas baking list.
Website: margotjohnson.ca Facebook: MargotJohnsonAuthor Twitter: @AuthorMargot
Christmas tours brim with lights, cookies, and…unexpected romance?
Divorced, empty nester Merilee is on a roll. Filled with scrumptious cookies and old-fashioned fun, her Christmas bus tours aim to add festive spirit to her hometown and new meaning to her lackluster life. Too bad her reserved driver slams the brakes on fun.
Widowed farmer Ross needs a little joy to combat his December blues. Behind the wheel, he wears a Santa suit but can't muster a convincing ho-ho-ho. Too many memories block his road to happiness…until irrepressible Merilee sparks a snowstorm of unexpected feelings.
In two weeks of holiday tours, Ross might drive Merilee crazy…or will romance snowball inside their lonely hearts?
Excerpt from Let it Snowball
After a short drive, the busload arrived at their first stop. “You’re in for a treat.” Merilee leapt up, leaned over, and gave directions on where to park. Absorbing Ross’s delicious scent, clean like snow infused with a trace of peppermint, she jerked back and steadied her breath. Sudden, shocking warmth flooded her insides. Now where was she? She paused to gather her wayward thoughts.
“These rules apply for each stop so we can all enjoy the goodies inside and still keep the tour on schedule. You are free to choose from several platters of cookies. If you would like to sample other kinds or take some home, you can purchase as many as you’d like. We’ll stay for thirty minutes, and then I’ll jingle.” She demonstrated with a string of bells. “Last one back on the bus has to tell a joke or lead a song. If you agree, shout snowball.”
“Snowball.” In a chorus of voices, the group hollered back the right answer.
She lowered the mic. “What about you, Santa?”
He shifted the gear into Park. “Nobody’s going anywhere without me.” He straightened his hat and quirked a fluffy eyebrow.
She smiled, folded her arms, and tapped a foot. Her boots were pretty eye-catching covered in green and red toppers with bells on the toes. Maybe she could cajole him into some good-natured joking. “Santa, you know what happens to kids who don’t behave. You don’t want to end up on the Naughty List, do you?”
“Snowball.” He kept a straight face.
Let it Snowball
Love Takes Flight
Love Leads the Way
Merilee’s Famous Chocolate Snowballs
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup 2% or whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Add egg, milk, and vanilla and mix well.
Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
Gradually add to creamed mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Shape into 1 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets and bake until tops crackle (7-8 minutes).
Remove to wire racks and cool. Roll in icing sugar.
A remarkable post from author Anna M. Taylor. Welcome, Anna!
The Past Is Always With Us
One of the last times I was able to visit New York, I stood on the Brooklyn Promenade and gazed across the East River to where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood. As I did, a line from William Faulkner’s Requiem for A Nun struck me: “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” As a lover of history I've always known this to be true. The question is what effect should it have on the present?
On that same trip I visited the African Burial Ground National Monument and Federal Hall National Memorial in lower Manhattan. This is history which people took the time to erect solid reminders to so the past would be with us in a concrete way. But I also did a walking tour of African and African-American historical sites in the area which don't even have a plaque to mark the spot where that history happened. Spots like the corner of Ann & William Streets where nothing remains of the African Free School founded in 1787 for forty boys and girls. Not even a plaque. For years I had walked those streets surrounded by the ghosts of that history and the unsung stories of others who inhabited those streets long before I did. What would I be sensitive to if I had walked those streets to and from work aware of the ghosts who still lingered there? Would my outlook on life be different?
In Requiem For A Nun one character tries to escape her past by claiming she’s no longer the person she was. But the lawyer who speaks the line is telling her you can’t escape the past. It’s always present. For my mind that’s not always bad. Energy from the past can be used for good or ill; which one depends on your level of awareness. It’s no wonder then that as Anna M. Taylor I enjoy writing stories dealing with spirits or supernatural energy to be more accurate. Humans enter a situation, oblivious to or in denial about the past that is not dead, that is not past. Their level of awareness, i.e. ability to accept that alternate and concurrent reality, determines if things are going to end up good for them or ill. That level of awareness or denial is what I write about in my Haunted Harlem series.
Having been a minister I’m already predisposed to accept realities that go beyond the five senses. After all, the core belief of my religion is that over 2000 years ago a man named Jesus was crucified, died and was buried only to live again. It’s not just the knowledge of that sacrifice that gives the Christian power, but the belief that the energy released through that act reaches through time and enables me to heal through the laying on of hands or cast out demons by invoking Jesus’ name. It’s as if a nuclear bomb had been set off 2,000 years ago and the aftershocks from the blast are still being experienced. The energy of unrequited love leaves its own aftershocks that only love fulfilled can dissipate.
I bring this view on the world to bear in my ghost story/romances because I believe only actions motivated by love have the power to right all wrongs, see justice is done no matter how long it has been denied. I know that’s also why second chance is my favorite romance trope and shows up in all my stories. In coming back, repenting, forgiving, trying again we harness the energy of that past and can affect positive change in the present. The past is always with us, but I hope you agree with me and my romances that doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact it can be a mighty force for good.
Only love can face down those things not dreamt of in our philosophies
Ten years ago no one -- not even the man who said he loved her -- believed Sankofa Lawford's claim that she had been brutally attacked by a ghost. Ten years later an assault on a new victim brings her back to Harlem to a mother going mad, a brother at his wits’ end and a former love who wants a second chance. Sankofa longs for her family to be whole again, for love to be hers again, but not if she must relive the emotional pain created by memories of that night.
Mitchell Emerson is convinced science and reason can account for the ghostly happenings at Umoja House. He resolves to find an explanation that will not only satisfy him but earn back Sankofa’s trust and love. Instead, his own beliefs are shaken when he sees the ghost for himself.
Now reluctant allies, Mitchell and Sankofa learn her family was more than a little in love with death. Their search for the ghost draws them together but discovering sixty years of lies and secrets pulls them apart. As their hopes for happily ever after and dispersing the evil stalking Umoja House slip beyond their grasp, Mitchell and Sankofa find an unexpected source of help: the ghost itself.
Available at Amazon.
Excerpt: A Little in Love with Death by Anna M. Taylor
They all jumped at Wanda Lawford’s high pitched squeal. He strode in and pulled up a chair.
“Good afternoon, Wanda. It’s so good to see you.”
She clasped his hand against her cheek. Her rocking stilled and calm descended. She stroked his hand and repeated his name with each stroke.
“Mitchell,” she purred.
He gentled her into a hug as he glanced toward the open door. Relief registered on Langston’s face; shock on Sankofa’s. He eased back and placed a hand on Wanda’s shoulder.
“Now, what’s this I hear about you not wanting to take your medicine?”
“Can’t…mustn’t.” She closed her eyes and snuggled against his chest. “Have to be awake, have to be ready.” She sat up suddenly and stared at him. “Are my pastor now?”
“No, Wanda. Still awaiting my lay pastor commissioning.”
She teared. “But, soon?” Her voice quivered.
“Good. Can’t trust my memory sometimes.” She surveyed the room. “This isn’t my room.”
“Not your bedroom, no. Wanda, we want you to come home. Don’t you want to come home?”
She shook her head. “No. Can’t go home…don’t want to go home. Only death there. Only death. I’m not in love with death anymore. Not even a little.”
She clutched his lapel and pointed a shaky finger at Sankofa.
“Keep her safe, Mitchell. Only you can keep her safe.”
Mitchell glanced at Sankofa. Tears he longed to wipe away shone in her eyes. Wanda clutched his hands, shook them until she had his attention.
“Promise, Mitchell. Promise me.”
“Good. Good.” Wanda laid her head against his chest and sighed. “Sankofa still loves you. I know it. I know it. I know—”
She stiffened, then cupped his face in her hands and pinned him with her gaze.
“Them that tell don’t know and them that know don’t tell.”
Sankofa sobbed and hurried from the room.
Mitchell laid his cheek against the top of Wanda’s head. Her scented talc took him back to Easter hugs and Christmas kisses that made the holidays of his youth bearable. He lowered his voice.
“Wanda, I’ve got a secret to share with you. Can I?”
She nodded and pulled him closer. Mischief twinkled where madness once gleamed. He cupped his hand so it sheltered her ear.
“I love Sankofa, too.”
“But you left her.” A frown distended her lips. She gripped his arms so tightly he cringed. “You left her.”
“And have regretted that decision every day since.” He swallowed, the truth of his betrayal still bitter.
Wanda’s frown transformed into a teary smile. “But you came back. The others didn’t return, but you did. You did. I knew you would.” She searched his face then nodded for emphasis. “I knew you would.”
He looked to the nurse who held the pill cup and water to her.
“Here, Wanda.” He pointed to the pill cup. “Won’t you take them for me?”
She sniffed at the cup, eyed the nurse with a frown but took the pills. One by one she swallowed each capsule with a sip of water.
“Thank you.” Mitchell kissed her forehead. “They’ll help you rest. We can talk some more after you’ve rested.”
He helped her lay down on the bed. She sighed then smiled.
“Mitchell. You marry Sankofa. Married to you, she’ll be safe. Promise me. Promise.”
He held her hand. “There’s nothing I’d like better, Wanda. But that’s not up to me.”
Displeasure lined her tiny face. “She won’t be protected without marriage, Mitchell. I know. Marry her. Marry her...”
The repeated phrase faded to a whisper then ceased when she fell asleep. He eased his hand from hers and stood. How many times had she comforted him during his troubled teen years? He smoothed the sheet around her, grateful to be able to return the favor.
Langston stood at the door but didn’t enter. “Now I know she’s crazy.”
Mitchell started, angered by the look of contempt on Langston’s face.
“Don’t talk about your mother like that.”
Langston ignored him. “No way in hell Sankofa would have you now. Not after what you put her through.”
Mitchell let off an unsteady breath then moved so he and Langston stood nose to nose.
“After what I put Sankofa through, there’s no way I’d let her, even if she wanted to.”
Available at Amazon.
About the Author
A native New Yorker now a relocated-to-the-Southwest romance-writing retired minister. I came across a saying which I’ve framed: do more of what makes you happy. That’s writing. I write in three romance subgenres: as Anna Taylor I write Christian inspirational, as Anna M. Taylor I write gothic and as Michal Scott I write erotic (mainly historical). I’ve had nine works published since I debuted with Through A Glass Darkly, my first Christian inspirational in 2008. Last year I dove into the self-publishing waters with my Haunted Harlem novella series. This year I’ve participated in Falling Hard, my second Passionate Ink anthology and Cowboys, my third Delilah Devlin Boy’s Behaving Badly anthology.
Anna M. Taylor website
Anna M. Taylor Amazon Author Page
Anna M. Taylor FB Author Page