Christmas is a time of family gatherings, lots of food, presents, decorations and activities. Humans show love through food, lavishing goodies onto our friends and family.
For our pets, particularly dogs and cats, Christmas is also exciting with lots of coming and going, delicious smells, and interesting additions to the house such as baubles, gifts, and a tree. With a bit of care and planning, your pet will enjoy a safe and stress free day as well.
This time of year puts makes us generous, and sharing our lovely Christmas food and nibbles with our pet seems harmless. A few berries (some dogs and cats adore blueberries!) and raw vegetables such as carrots, green beans and zucchini are generally a safe option. Whilst cooked meat is not very beneficial to dogs and cats (their gut works best with raw), a snippet of turkey or lean piece of pork might satisfy our need to spoil them.
Because our pets are so important, it is worth knowing what to avoid and keeping an eye on guests so that this special day doesn’t turn into an emergency dash to the vet. My list is not exhaustive, so google is your friend to get a full rundown, but foods to forbid include: cooked bones, highly salted/processed or fatty meats, chocolate (any amount may be toxic), grapes/sultanas, seeds from stone fruit, avocados, onion, cheese/dairy (most dogs are lactose intolerant), alcohol, caffeine, corn cobs, any product containing Xylitol, pretzels/chips, pudding/cake, cherries, nutmeg.
Christmas trees are delightful for cats, in particular, but I remember two of our dogs removing every bauble they could reach one year whilst we were out. As cute as it is to see them play around a tree, lights and decorations do pose some risk, so keep an eye on them.
Some pets love the added excitement of visitors and the displacement of normal events, but for others, stress can become a real problem. If your pet is one of these, find them a part of the house they can retreat to without intrusion, somewhere quiet and with their favourite bed and toy. New pets – often kittens and puppies – may be overwhelmed by the double whammy of leaving their birth home and being part of a new, highly stimulating environment. Ensure they have plenty of ‘quiet time’, a secure place to be, and not too much handling by people they don’t know.
What makes a great Christmas present for a pet? Our Labrador, Maverick, would say ‘everything’! This year he is getting a new Kong, an interactive toy, a Christmas soft penguin, and one packet of air dried treats. He loves unwrapping his gifts, so we ensure no paper or sticky tape makes it into his tummy.
When selecting gifts, either for your pet or someone else’s, look for well-made, branded toys such as Kong, Chuck-it, Tuffy, Rogz, and Aussie Dog. Cats love the Catit and Kong Cat range. Avoid generic tennis balls (can be toxic) and cheap plastic/rubber toys.
Deer antlers, cow’s hooves, and goat horns make wonderful long lasting chews that suit most dogs and are a safer option if given unsupervised.
I’d love to hear what you have planned for Christmas with your pet! Leave your comments below to go into the running to win an e-copy of The Stationmaster’s Cottage and its sequel, Jasmine Sea. In these books, you’ll meet Randall, the golden retriever, who also loves Christmas time.
Enter the draw for the Rafflecopter prizes and you could be in for lots of shopping fun at Amazon, plus loads of fabulous books! Did you visit Leesa Bow’s blog yesterday? And remember to check in with Darcy Delaney tomorrow.
The members of this coastal romance group are authors and readers who love reading romance by the water, whether it be the ocean, a lake, a tropical island or any other body of water where our heroes and heroines fall in love and live happily ever after!
Some of our authors have combined their resources and planned this Christmas blog hop. Once the blog begins you have the opportunity of winning by going to their blog post for the day (Each author will post until Christmas Eve) and commenting on their post to go in the draw to win a book. Then by clicking on the raffle copter link above, you will be entered in the grand prize draw for a $150 Amazon gift card.
Prizes Drawn on Christmas Eve.
First prize: $150 Amazon gift card
Second prize: 30 ebooks
Each comment on each author’s blog will go in the draw for an e-book from that author.
So what are you waiting for? Come visit, get clicking, commenting and enter EVERY day.
You will discover some wonderful new authors and some awesome books too!
It’s like an advent calendar so bookmark this page and open a blog every day on the calendar below until Christmas! The more blogs you read, the more entries you have, and the more chances of winning the fabulous prize!
Update! Chill with a Book awarded The Stationmaster’s Cottage with Book of the Month. Thank you, Pauline and the readers.
The Stationmaster’s Cottage just received a Reader’s Choice award from Chill with a Book.
“Enthralling, gripping, more turns than a roundabout.”
“Totally engaging, not over sugary with the romance and the mystery of the truth behind the family secrets was better handled than some mystery novels. Worked well as a stand alone and did not leave you unsatisfied at the end, more ready to read book two!”
“A lovely easy read. I started this novel and did not put it down until I finished it.”
Five stars on Amazon UK. Thank you, Pauline and the lovely readers from Chill with a Book.
Jasmine Sea swept into the finals after winning the Romance Cover round.
Against fierce competition, including bestselling novels and authors, Jasmine Sea finished in 2nd place overall.
Many thanks to all who voted, encouraged and otherwise supported Jasmine Sea.
Congratulations to the winner, written by USA Today bestselling author James Acton.
The Stationmaster’s Cottage is one of twenty six books shortlisted for BooksGoSocial Reader’s Choice Book of 2017.
What an incredible honour to be alongside some wonderful writers and their books. If I was a judge, it would be a daunting task to find just one, but it is up to readers to decide.
Public voting is underway. If you’d like to be part of the decision, simply follow the link, leave you name and email, and then select from the shortlisted books which are below in author alphabetical order. It is easy to opt out of receiving emails from BGS once completed, unless you wish to enjoy their recommended reading.
I feel as though I’m asking for votes a lot lately, after such incredible support for Jasmine Sea in Kobo’s cover contest not only got it into the finals, but made it #1 romance cover!
The Reader’s Choice winner will be announced on 22nd December, so there is not much time to wait!
Thank you BooksGoSocial for an amazing opportunity.
Again, here is the link: Reader’s Choice Book of 2017.
Thirty amazing romance writers have got together to give you the chance to win an incredible Christmas gift!
Each day until Christmas Eve, a different author will post a Christmas or coastal blog on their website. Leave a comment for the chance to win one of their own fabulous books.
Then, click on the Rafflecopter link below, go into the draw for the grand prize of a $150 Amazon gift card.
Check out the participating authors and remember, leave a comment, share and tweet for multiple chances to win this stunning prize.
Ann B Harrison
Jenn J Mcleod
Phillipa Nefri Clark
Join our Coastal Romance Facebook group to meet authors and readers who simply love the water, romance, and a good read.
Get sharing, commenting and reading!
Jasmine Sea is one of Kobo’s top 10 Romance covers of 2017! What an incredible honour and it makes me so proud of Jade from Steam Power Studios for her wonderful design. To be one of the finalists overall, it needs as many votes as possible. One click and you are not asked for your details. So, please take a look and if you love Jasmine Sea’s cover, please vote. Each one matters!
“I can’t wait another minute!” Martha’s eyes sparkled as she reached for Thomas’ hand.
“Always impatient.” Thomas kissed her fingers. “What will you be like at the airport?”
“I quite like airports. Good place to read. Now where is my ticket?”
“Where it will be safe.” He tapped his jacket. “Can’t have it falling into the ocean.”
“Never let me forget it, will you?”
The words were meant to be under her breath, but Thomas heard. With a grin, he checked his watch. “Hope those two get back before the bus arrives.”
Martha bit her lip and he took her hand again. “She’ll be here when we return.”
“But, what if she isn’t? I’ve only just found her.”
“Now, come on. Why wouldn’t she stay? She has the cottage and Martin. And really, who would leave Randall?”
“You’re leaving him.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t go.”
“Thomas! I’m being serious. What if something happens?”
“It won’t. Listen to me. Better yet, turn around.”
Hand in hand, Christie and Martin hurried out of a Green Bay shop. Christie said something and Martin burst into laughter.
Thomas put his arm around Martha’s shoulders. “Never heard the boy laugh that way until she came along.” He glanced behind. “Our ride’s arriving.”
“Oh, I’m sorry we took so long!” Christie threw her arms around Martha as the bus pulled in. “I wanted you to take this.” She held out a box. “It’s a small camera. All you need to do is point and shoot.”
“I shall miss you, dear!” Martha kissed Christie’s cheek, then reached for Martin. “You too, young man.”
Martin offered his cheek. “We’ll miss you as well.”
“What about me?” Thomas demanded.
“What about you?”
“Hmm. Trying to get rid of me so you keep the dog.”
“Randall is already my dog, Granddad.”
Passengers alighted from the bus and the driver followed, opening the cavity underneath. Martin and Thomas carried the luggage over and helped stow it.
Martha whispered to Christie. “Stay safe, my darling girl.”
“Of course I will!” Christie hugged her great aunt. “Enjoy Ireland, take lots of photos, and when you get home we can work out where you two will be living.”
“Have a perfectly fine house in the mountains.” Thomas held his arms out for Christie. “That’s where my bride and I will be.”
“It isn’t settled yet!” Martha tapped him on the shoulder. “Come on, old man.”
The driver climbed back into the bus. Thomas guided Martha up the steps, his hand on her elbow. They found seats at the front and settled in as the front door closed with a whoosh.
Here they were, beginning their honeymoon. Martha reached for Thomas’ hand as the bus left town. The man who had haunted her dreams for a lifetime was finally her husband.
The last time she had been on this road, in this direction, she had been running away – in December, 1967.
Martha had no idea why they had to leave almost before dawn, but Patrick, her father, was insistent. He liked to take his time, to be careful through the hairpins.
She couldn’t remember the whole family going to Melbourne together; certainly not since her early childhood. Now, though, her mother Lilian sat beside Patrick, keeping half an eye on his speed. Dorothy dozed beside Martha.
This felt wrong. Every mile took her further away from Thomas. Further away from making up with him. Almost a week ago, in the midst of a violent storm, she had broken their engagement after seeing him with her near-naked best friend. Ex best friend.
His words went round and round her head. “I will wait for you, Martha! Every morning at the end of the jetty.”
Their jetty. The one she had slipped off during the storm, into waves which sucked her under and would have claimed her life. But Thomas found her.
Why, oh why, did her pride do this? Make her say things she didn’t mean and, even worse, take action like now. This was no simple visit to the city. Martha was staying with Dorothy for a while, until she worked out her future. Lilian was joining them.
“We will spend some lovely time together. Just the three girls seeing what Melbourne has to offer.” Lilian had been so excited that Martha allowed herself to be talked into this. After all, it was only for a little while, until Thomas apologised and made everything better.
Now, Martha blinked a few times to clear her vision and reminded herself she was in a much happier part of her life. The bus wound smoothly around those same curves, a vivid blue ocean on one side and saltbush on the other.
“What are you thinking?”
Martha smiled up at Thomas. “I can’t wait to show you my little house in Ireland. Introduce you to my friends. It’s so pretty you will want to paint all the time.”
He squeezed her hand. “Anything else?”
The same engagement ring she’d thrown into the sand during the storm was again on her finger, exactly where it was meant to be. Even if now her hands were aged and her once strong body weakened with each passing year.
Tears brimmed. “So much lost time.”
“Then we shall make sure that not another moment is wasted. My beautiful girl, time doesn’t matter anyway. Now, tell me more about Ireland.”
Christie and Martin waved until the bus was out of sight. As one, they lowered their arms. Martin reached out and pulled Christie in for a cuddle. “They’ll be fine.”
“Of course they will.”
“Thomas is very responsible and careful.”
“And Martha is well travelled. She knows airports and passports and all the stuff Thomas doesn’t.”
“Yes. So you can stop worrying.”
Christie leaned back a little to look at Martin. “Me?”
“Well, I’m not worried.”
“Though I am concerned that pile of junk Thomas drives won’t make it back to River’s End.”
Christie giggled. “No wonder they insisted on catching the bus. I doubt it would have got to Melbourne.”
“If you had a sensible car with room for the luggage, we could have driven them all the way.”
“Me? What about if you just had a car, instead of a decrepit motorbike! And don’t knock my beautiful Lotus!” She slid her arms around his neck. “You are impossible. But I do love you.”
“Which is a good thing, or else you’d be walking home. Insulting my most prized possession.”
Christie raised herself on her toes to touch her lips to his. “Anyway, they’ll be home in a few weeks. And I’ve got a cottage to renovate.”
Martin took her hand as they walked down the road to where Thomas’ old Land Rover was parked. “Thomas is determined they’ll live at his place.”
“But you’ve said it is old and run-down now. Surely moving into town will be better for them?”
“Do you think we’ll make it back without a stop to cool it down?” Martin opened the passenger door for Christie.
She hopped in. “Shall we make a bet?”
“Nope. Let’s just hope for the best.” Behind the wheel, Martin turned the key. After a splutter, the motor roared. With a bit of force, he got it into gear and onto the road.
“Did you know that my great-grandfather’s grandfather won Palmerston House in a game of poker?” Christie asked.
“A good reason not to gamble.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Imagine suddenly having a property through nothing more than luck and being in the right place at the right time.”
Martin glanced across in amusement. “Yes, imagine.”
“You mean the cottage? I guess so. Much as I love it, sometimes it feels like a great weight. You know, all the tragedy around it and now, all the work it needs.”
“Anything good about it?”
Christie’s face lit up. “Nothing at all. Except bringing me to River’s End to meet the love of my life.”
Martin squeezed her leg. Now out of Green Bay, the twisting road took his attention and Christie was content to gaze out at the ocean. Never did the powerful majesty of the sea fail to touch her. Some deep, primal part of her soul needed to be near it.
Born in the outback, her first sight of the ocean was at the age of seven from the aeroplane that had brought her to Melbourne after her parents died. She went to the beach at St Kilda for the first time a few months later. Gran forbade her to swim in the sea, her fury terrifying Christie the one and only time she disobeyed.
“Hmm? Oh, just thinking.”
“About me, I hope.”
“Kind of. More about the ocean. But if you were in the ocean, I’d be thinking about you.”
Christie sneaked a glance at him. Dressed in a checked shirt with rolled-up sleeves and his favourite jeans, he was so good-looking that keeping her hands to herself was a struggle. “I didn’t know you could drive.”
“Why wouldn’t I drive?”
“You don’t have a car.”
“Not a fan of cars.”
“Well, you drive really well.”
“I probably observe the speed limit and conditions a bit more than you do, young lady.”
“To celebrate Martha and Thomas heading to Ireland, shall we go out for dinner?”
“Changing the subject.” Martin observed. “Okay. Let’s go and toast their honeymoon. Their incredibly overdue honeymoon.”
The River’s End sign came into view. Martin slowed, indicated, and turned into Christie’s street. The old Land Rover complained in the lower gear, but was great for navigating the potholes on the other side of the disused railway line.
In the driveway, Martin let the motor idle. “At the pub tonight?”
“Sounds good. I’ll walk down.”
Martin leaned over and touched Christie’s face. “I love you, sweetheart. Thomas and Martha will have the time of their lives. So, we need to be living ours.” He kissed Christie with a sweet tenderness. Heart racing, she closed her eyes and surrendered to the knowledge that she was loved. Absolutely loved.
My ideas arrive unsummoned… a scent in the air might spark a memory of some childhood moment, or a dream prompts a hurried scrawl on a notepad upon waking. I’ve been known to stop in the middle of a supermarket and tap a phrase into my phone, then finish the shopping in a daze of musings.
I am sensitive to atmosphere and emotions, so it is no surprise that music and songs contribute to my creative process. The way that a song evokes feelings surely is a kind of magic. No two people will respond the same way, yet the notes are identical and the words don’t change.
Many years ago, two incredible songs haunted me. They played with my mind, filling it with visions. From one, I saw a windswept beach where a young man pledged to wait for his true love, no matter where she went in the world. From the other, powerful images of the same man, much older, with only his memories and oil paints.
When I began writing The Stationmaster’s Cottage, I had those scenes imprinted in my head, along with that of the real cottage nearby, memories of drizzly grey graveyards overlooking wild seas, and the need to include a dog just as my favourite childhood books had.
It was a stop-start process and I put the novel away for years. When I returned, it demanded more clarity and mood. I added Love’s Divine by Seal and most of Coldplay’s Ghost Stories, an album which I recently discovered was themed similarly to Cottage.
Would I have written The Stationmaster’s Cottage without those songs? Yes. It isn’t as simple as relying on any one thing. But I believe it is so beautiful in its connection to its surroundings and so compelling in its narrative, because those songs exist.
One day, I’d love to tell their creators and performers how much they’ve given me. Until then, I hope you will click the links and enjoy the music.
For me, romance is not a category. On the contrary, it encompasses our lives, from that sweet moment of first love to a longed for trip on the Orient Express, filling our hearts when we least expect it.
Romance and love are not exclusive to each other. One can love deeply without romance. Or feel that delicious flutter of excitement about a person, song, or experience with no expectation of love.
Defining romance is like defining the wind. We feel it. We don’t know when it will touch us or how much it will blow us about. A romantic dinner evokes images of an intimate restaurant, roses, champagne, and holding hands. Yet, romance may be found on the ocean, alone in a yacht with whales and dolphins as our company.
Adding romance to a novel is easy yet ridiculously hard, because all of us respond differently. Some go weak at the knees when the prince sweeps the young woman off her feet. Others love a complicated story with messy endings. Or thrillers that only have a hint of romance, leaving us wondering what happened once the book finishes.
There is a fine line between too much and just right and it always comes down to the characters. For example, Christie is suspicious of expensive gifts and overt displays of affection. That’s what Derek and Gran used in place of real emotion. So, where would that leave a potential suitor if he failed to understand that?
I would love to hear what defines romance from you. Is it a perfect night out? That little, unexpected gift? An adventure with or without a loved one? Or perhaps the first rush of attraction when eyes meet across a room?
Tell me, what is your perfect romance?