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It’s that time of year again—for Christmas cards. I love to get them and I do my best to send them. As I have for the past couple of years, I send a photo collage of my family (sometimes to their dismay when I pick a shot they’re not crazy about). I got a thumbs-up from everyone this time, and I’d like to share it with you—think of all the postage I’m saving. 😉

As promised, here’s a super simple sweet/tart cake recipe that I served at Thanksgiving and the family loved it so much, I’m making it again for our Christmas brunch. Even people who aren’t fans of cranberries loved this cake. And I’ve decided to vary it a bit for Christmas with chopped walnuts and mini-chocolate chips.

Recipe: Cranberry Christmas Cake


  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 12 oz fresh cranberries
  • optional: nuts, chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 5-7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. Because the eggs work as your leavening agent in this recipe, it’s very important that you don’t skip this step. This mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl. Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Add the cranberries and stir to mix throughout.

  2. Spread in a buttered 9x13 pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting. Enjoy!

Book “Ghosts” of Holidays Past

Do you enjoy reading a book featuring “older” protagonists? (By older, I mean not in their twenties? 😉) Well, I love writing a story with a heroine and/or hero who has some interesting life experience under her or his belt. And one of my personal favorite is: MONTANA MAVERICK. (In hindsight, that’s not a very holiday-ish title, but the story opens on Christmas Eve…in a blizzard…and a cabin in the mountains…and a frantic Hank Firestone trying to save a baby…swoon.

Be careful what you wish for-
Meg Zabrinski wants a child. She's a successful scientist, a well-known environmental advocate, and a tenured professor. She doesn't need a man in her life to make this happen. But having a baby alone is a weighty decision, so she retreats to her isolated mountain cabin to write and think. When Henry Firestone--an old foe from her distant past--drops out of the sky on Christmas Eve with three young children and a baby, Meg tells herself she'd be crazy not to consider all her options--especially when she's always nursed a secret crush on the handsome rancher. Although the sparks between them ignite a mutual passion, Henry makes it clear he's done having children. Falling in love with Henry Firestone and his beautiful family would require Meg to give up her dream. Can the Lone Wolf assimilate into a new pack, or was this Big Sky Maverick meant to be alone?

They say timing is everything-
Henry Firestone doesn't recognize the "angel in snowshoes" who comes to his rescue in the middle of a blizzard, immediately, but Meg Z. knows him. Twenty years earlier, the media paired them as rivals to the death. Meg championed the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone, while Henry argued just as passionately that wolves would put ranchers on the Endangered Species List. She's still beautiful, independent and headstrong, and Henry's now free to admit that he always had a thing for her. Unfortunately, he's fighting for sole custody of his late daughter's four children. They are his biggest priority. He'd do anything to keep his family together--even sleep with the enemy in hopes that she might join his cause.

Montana Maverick © All Rights Reserved

I always wanted to start a book with: “It was a dark and stormy night”…then twist the heck out of it. Here’s how that worked out.


      "It was a dark and stormy night."
      The seven words taunted Meg from the blank, white page of her new document. The curser flashed. Flashed. Flashed.
      "Type more inanities," it silently mocked.
      Meg Zabrinski shook her head and laughed.
      "If I can't do better than that, I might as well not even start," she muttered.
      She used the delete key to erase the words, and then set her laptop on the low table beside her recliner and got up. She'd been sitting for fifteen minutes trying to find the right opening to the young-adult novel she wanted to write. The one she'd told everyone she planned to write while on sabbatical from her job as a tenured professor of science and ecology at the University of Montana.
      She paced back and forth in front of the fireplace, rubbing her chilly hands to keep the blood moving.
      So maybe hiding out in a snowbound cabin high on a mountain in western Montana wasn't the best idea, but she had to do something before her entire life passed her by.
      Did that sound desperate? Probably.
      Was she?
      Yes. Yes, she was. Desperate to do the one thing she couldn't do alone. Have a baby.
      And she knew herself well enough to know that if she'd been in Missoula right now, she'd have dumped the writing project by the wayside to begin the IVF—In Vitro Fertilization process. She'd done the research. She had the money. She wouldn't be forty for another year. If she started soon enough, she could have a baby before her next birthday in November. But...
      Did she really, truly, honestly want to be a single mom? That was the question she planned to answer while she wrote her book.
      Am I cut out to raise a child alone? That was the other question she had to answer.
      Not that she wouldn't have the support of her family. The Zabrinskis rallied like few others when one of their own needed help. But at the end of the day, she'd be the one who had to handle all the demands—especially the emotional side of child rearing—without a mate.
      Her sister was a single mom now. And Mia would be the first to admit motherhood was tough and parenting alone sucked at times.
      Both Mia and their younger brother, Paul, who also was divorced, had had partners when their children were babies. What Meg was considering involved purchasing sperm from an anonymous donor. If the procedure worked, she'd be alone from the conception to delivery...and everything that came later.
      A fierce gust of wind hit the thick, extremely well insulated walls of her log home, drawing her attention away from her dilemma. She walked toward the picture window, now hidden behind heavy, lined drapes. She felt the temperature drop just by reaching between the folds of material to peek outside.
      A blast of white hit the glass making her blink. "Oh," she said, shivering. "One of those."
      Montana came by its reputation for fierce winter storms honestly. This storm first arrived as shaved ice pellets--the kind that burn when it touched unprotected skin. Meg knew because she'd been topping off her firewood when the first ice crystals hit.
      She stepped closer to the glass and pulled the curtains tight behind her so she could see into the night without the reflection of the light obscuring her view. Thirty-foot pines encircled her home site. Smaller babies, some already ten feet tall, bowed to the weight of the snow like peasants stooped with heavy loads on their backs. The dusk-to-dawn light at the peak of her garage roof shown like a pale white strobe.
      "What a terrible night," she murmured, hurrying back to the warmth of the fire. No one in his or her right mind would go into that tempest on purpose.
      Suddenly, an idea for the opening of her story began to take shape in her mind. She added another log on the fire and closed the door of the energy-efficient stove then walked to her chair.
      As she reached for her laptop, she heard a peculiar, unnatural, high-pitched whine that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up.
      The wind?
      She opened her laptop to the blank page of her word processing program. She knew I she wanted to write but getting started was driving her mad.
      Maybe all those people who told me I couldn't write a novel were right, she thought.
      "Maybe I should stick to teaching," she murmured.
      But her characters—children based on the Big Sky Mavericks—were so alive in her imagination. The four main protagonists may have been founded on Meg and her siblings, but somewhere along the way, they'd become unique individuals with important stories to tell.
      Some nights their chatter kept her awake. She'd filled a notebook with handwritten notes and scenes and descriptions. She'd ignored them as long as she could. Now was her time.
      She rested her fingers on exactly the right place on the keyboard and started to type:
      Jonah had a message to deliver.
      Death was coming. Not the single act of the cold steely Grim Reaper. No. A massive fireball as loud and fierce as a small bomb. It would take out everyone in its path.
      If the children he'd been sent to protect were going to survive, they needed to run.
      Suddenly, a boom, louder and scarier than the explosion in her imagination, made her house shiver. Added to the cry of the wind came a horrible screech of metal, like the hands of God twisting a bridge above her head.
      Meg pressed backward into her chair, hands clenching the armrests.
      Her heart beat so loudly in her ears she couldn't distinguish between the natural fierceness of the story and whatever else was going on in the skies above her.
      She bolted from the chair to race to the door off the kitchen. Bracing for the worst, she stepped into the unheated mudroom. The outer door handle burned with cold, but she wrenched it open and looked outside.
      No distant rumble of ice and death shaking the ground. Whatever triggered that sound, it wasn't an avalanche.
      She cocked her head and closed her eyes to listen beyond the wind. An engine. An engine in trouble. Whatever the engine propelled—an airplane or helicopter, she assumed, was falling from the sky.
      Death was coming. And it wasn't the death of her imagination.

If you haven’t read MONTANA MAVERICK, here’s your chance. I hope you fall in love with Hank and Meg the way I did.


In case you didn’t notice, the three “Ghosts of Christmas past” so far, have been from my Tule Publishing collection (to which I’m adding 3 new titles in 2020). I feel so blessed to be part of this rich and wildly romantic franchise. If you’d like to check out some of the awesome authors and titles available from Tule (pronounced too-lee), here’s a blog my friend Kelsey McKnight put together to celebrate this awesome community: Marietta Bound

A reader just let me know how much she enjoyed reading HOLIDAY HEROES. She said, “It’s a cool mix of romance and suspense. I wasn’t expecting that!” I really love when we can surprise readers…in a good way. In fact, we’re enjoying this collaboration so much, there’s talk of a new holiday anthology in 2020—one that will contain new novellas that tie to existing series. Fingers crossed.

Purchase HOLIDAY HEROES now!
Kindle | Nook | Kobo | Apple Books

DON’T FORGET: This collection will only be available until January 15th.

Last week’s Q&A was: Are you traveling this holiday season: Y or N?

Roughly 1 in 4 answered YES. I totally get why people make the effort to travel during the holidays, but I feel very fortunate to be able to stick close to home and still see all my family and friends. To those who make this journey, please travel with care and get home safely.

My two randomly selected winners this week are:

Sandy Gaylor – NO
Nikki Simon – YES

(Sandy and Nikki congrats. Please email me your pick of either a $5 Starbucks or a $5 Amazon gift card.)


This week’s Q&A: Do you send Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year cards?

Coming from a long line of postal workers, for those who answer YES, I thank you. 😉

(Two winners will be chosen by random drawing to receive either a $5 Starbucks gift card or a $5 Amazon gift card. Please reply the usual ways: email or on my DebraSalonenAuthor Facebook page.)

However you celebrate, make it a good one, everyone!


Next week: All Aboard AMTRAK, Ghosts from Holiday Books Past, Part 4.



Copyright © 2019 Debra Salonen