Christmas Wish List for Writers

If you’re wondering what to get for your writing friends for Christmas, there are a few simple things we might all really enjoy. No sweaters, fruitcakes, or winter robes. Forget candles and do-dads.  Jewelry doesn’t make the list. Actually the items on my list don’t really cost anything at all, but possess a value beyond dollars and cents. If you want to make a writer happy, consider the simple things on this list:

dsc02137First. Take the time to read what we write. Nothing pleases me more than to know I have published something that you enjoy reading.



Second. Tell me what you think, particularly if you have enjoyed the book. Though constructive criticism is welcome too, I treasure the collection of notes that have filtered in affirming that my efforts have been appreciated by readers. Among them:

Locally: “I started reading the evening I bought the book. I had to force myself to put it down after the first few chapters and pick up the comics to read so that I would be able to sleep. The next day, I let myself finish it. Wow, what a ride!”

From New Mexico: “I wanted you to know how much we enjoyed your books. Both were page-turners and I was sorry to finish them!”

From Wichita: “Sundrop Sonata kept me intrigued right up to the end. Glad I bought the book.”

From a friend at church: “Do not ever stop writing!”

From Facebook friends: “Finished reading Sundrop Sonata a few days ago. Ludlum and Clancy have nothing on you. It kept me engaged and intrigued to the end. Well done.”

Facebook: “I downloaded your book Sundrop Sonata this afternoon. I just finished it. Excellent!”

Facebook: “Loved your book! Lots of great plot twists, and of course I appreciated the solfege clue. ”

dsc02136Third. If you belong to a book club, submit my titles as featured books. Invite me to speak at your meetings. The actual writing is a solitary activity and I don’t get out much. Speaking engagements allow writers to meet possible readers, connect with new friends and share enthusiasm for literature.

dsc02135Fourth. Recommend the book to the rest of your circle of friends and family. Take it a step further and post reviews online, such as on or Times have changed since I was a young adult with the idealistic dream of writing novels. Today’s world is driven by online reviews. Writers greatly appreciate a short note about their books that anyone can see. Excerpts from my favorite reviews:

“Hold onto your seat. The story leaves the reader breathless and hopeful that Izzy has another heart-thumping adventure in the near future!”

“Isabel (Izzy) Woods is an engaging heroine with flaws and strengths wrapped in a core of determination. I loved her. More please…”

“Couldn’t put this one down! Exciting from the first page until the ending. A MUST read!”

“My test of a good read is looking up from the page and taking a second to figure out where I am and what I should be doing. It’s been a little while since I’ve been pulled in so thoroughly. Thank you for a great read.”

“I found this book a fun read. I am looking forward to Ann’s next book! The story engaged me from the first pages and I hardly had time to work until I finished the book!”

“Wow! What a story….packed with action, compassion and just enough of the technical workings of the piano to draw us in and keep us tied up to the very end. I look forward to another Izzy escapade!”

Sundrop Sonata  is a gripping, can’t-put-it-down novel. I must give a top rating to this thrilling adventure and look forward to Ann’s next work.”

“A whopper of a tale with plenty of twists and turns and suspense. Wheee! what a ride.”

“Excellent mystery story. Kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.”

“This book was a fun and exciting mystery. I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend Sundrop Sonata.

“Read it in one day. Just couldn’t put it down.”

“This was one of the most exciting and compelling mysteries I have ever read, and I have read a lot of good mystery books.”

“Best book I’ve read in a long, long time! I am totally sleep-deprived because I couldn’t put the book down. Just one more chapter…Ann, please write another book!”

“I looked forward to time to read more of it everyday, and now sorry it’s over! Look forward to more from this author.”

Okay. Let’s face it. I like all the reviews and I’m so grateful that folks enjoyed the book enough to write a note about it. It would be interesting now to see how many good reviews mentioning a movie it would take before—oh that’s just a bit over the top.


I do appreciate the feedback. For those who have requested another book, I want you to know I’m working on the next one, which brings me to the final item on my Christmas wish list.

dsc02138Fifth. Time. Oh how I wish I had more time to spend sorting words, knitting them together, and dreaming up the next adventure for Izzy and her family. If you know how to increase the available hours in any day, please send me a few.


Ann’s books may be ordered here:

The Last Letter: November 25, 1942


Dear Folks,

I expect that you will get this just about on Dad’s birthday so I’m sending my best wishes now. Have you had much snow yet? I can’t tell you anything about the weather here.


Have you heard any  more about Soltz Prichard? I can well imagine that military life would be quite hard for him. I have known one or two fellows about like him but so far as I know, they are still sticking it out in the navy.

PICT0862What would all of you like to have for Christmas? I don’t have much of an opportunity to buy anything but I want to send something to all of you.

It is time for me to go to work now so I’ll send this on its way.

Lester, and probably most sailors, visited the ship's post office frequently.

Love to all



None of them knew it at the time, but this letter held the last words Lester would ever share with his family.

Christmas Day in 1941


Inside this card from Christmas 1941 is a message from John Downes, Rear Admiral USN, Commanding.

“It it my privilege and pleasure to extend Christmas greetings to the officers and men at the Naval Training Station and to their loved ones at home.

During the coming year we will be bound together even more closely, by the united efforts of all, to defend and preserve our American way of life.

It is my sincere wish that each of you may have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

The following page included a menu for the CHRISTMAS DAY DINNER at the US Naval Training Station.

Cream of Tomato Soup

Saltine Crackers

Roast Tom Turkey                              Oyster Dressing

Baked Spiced Ham

Candied Sweet Potatoes

Giblet Gravy                                 Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Sweet Pickles           Stuffed Celery             Ripe Olives

Fruit Cake             Hot Mince Meat Pie            Fruit

Hot Rolls               Butter                 Coffee

Candy                Nuts


The back page listed Christmas Church Services. Those on Christmas Eve, December 24th for the Main Station included Protestant services at 2300: Candlelight Choir and Carol Service followed by celebration of Holy Communion, at the Drill Hall, Building no. 4.

Catholic services were at 2400: Midnight Mass in the Auditorium of Building No. 3.

Services on Christmas Day, December 25th for the First Regiment included Protestant services at 1000: Christmas Service, Drill Hall, Building No. 4. Frank Lash Captain, USN, Senior Chaplain.

Catholic service also at 1000: Christmas Mass, Auditorium of Building No. 3.  Additional Christmas Masses to be held at 0715 and 0915 in the Hospital Chapel.

Though no personal note from Lester exists, he evidently was able to celebrate Christmas at the training station with other Navy personnel. The note from the commander echoed the tension felt across the country as troops and sailors readied themselves for battle in World War II.  No doubt many prayers were lifted that Christmas season for peace on earth and a quick end to the escalating conflict around the world.

Holiday Blues

It happened again last night. I tossed in bed, unable to sleep, trying to still the voices in my head. They pointed out every flaw I’ve ever had, identified my weaknesses, my insufficiencies. Whispers in my mind invited me to retire from civilization, to crawl into my cozy hole and give up on the crazy madhouse of insanity the world has become.

The landscape outside is painted in drab colors. Temperatures plunge into single digits. Winter has arrived, and with it, the holiday blues. I wonder how many others struggle to step through each day, as if dragging buckets of sand with each foot. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe joyfulness of the season is forced into shadows of a heart that weeps silently with unforgotten pain and memories of Christmases long ago when excitement was real.

Those who brace themselves for another season without the presence of a dear one must number in the millions. There are new widows and widowers every year, as well as newly bereft parents, and children who will never share another holiday with a parent. There are friends who miss best friends forever, treasured aunts or uncles or grandparents now living only in memories. There are beloved pets who now wait for their owners at the rainbow bridge, not to mention people who have lost other treasures. Marriages, relationships, and friendships have gone sour. Some people have lost their robust health. Some are disfigured with scars of character in a culture that worships a narrow definition of beauty. Some have lost the vitality of youth and grieve for days that will never return. Some mourn the loss of dreams, of visions they once harbored about the way life should be and never was. Do they all struggle to remain cheerful like I do?

The things to mourn mount in number as we age until they could easily overwhelm us with grief, especially at the holidays. Given the vast array of personal loss, I wonder sometimes if anyone can escape the cold, clawing fingers of holiday blues that spread around the heart and threaten to snuff out the season’s joy. Are we all simply seduced by the advertisers to make ourselves feel better in the stores? Shop until we drop. Buy. Buy. Buy. I have yet to see the frenzy of Christmas shopping make anyone truly feel better. Are we all simply  just going through the motions, with no regard for the long-range consequences?

And yet—and yet—the actions involved in going through the motions can bring healing. Getting up and dragging myself through the day’s routine can be a salve for those forever-wounds. Taking steps to bring a moment of cheer to someone else can lighten my  load and brighten the day’s drab landscape. Choices made in honor of missing loved ones ease the pain of their absence.

So, I smile. Even when I have to make myself smile. I stand a little taller. I pull my shoulders back and put a spring into my gait. When I reach out to others, the gesture warms my own heart. Perhaps it warms them too. Somehow, in some mystifying way, the joy and the peace inherent in the season finds its way into a small crevice in my armor. I am one step closer to feeling whole again.PICT0862

Some things I have tried at various times in the past to help vanquish the blues include (but are not limited to):

1.    Take a box of my homemade cookies to someone who wouldn’t expect them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2.    Focus on the music of the season. Play it every chance I get, in every way possible, on every instrument I have. Piano arrangements, dulcimer music, handbell choirs or small ensembles, even recordings–all can bring joy through beautiful melodies.

3.    Contribute whatever pocket change I have every single time I encounter a bell ringer for the Salvation Army.

Parlor at the Cattle Baron Inn.
Parlor at the Cattle Baron Inn.
Cattle Baron Inn Bed and Breakfast, Howard, Kansas
Cattle Baron Inn Bed and Breakfast, Howard, Kansas

4.   Expand my horizons. Do something I’ve never done before, like booking an overnight stay at a nearby bed-and-breakfast.

5.    Take a long walk in a natural setting. Walk until I see something new, or think of a totally new thought.

6.   Renew an old friendship or make a new friend.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To all who struggle to find cheer during the holiday season, may you feel a moment of peace now and then to comfort your heart.

Christmas is a family time



I baked cookies yesterday.  Funny how simple things flood my mind with memories.  The recipes are family traditions.  Using recipe cards hand-written by my parents or grandmother, I find myself thinking of them.  Their contributions to our holiday table continue long past their days on earth.

Many memories of Mother involve simple, delicious, baked goods.  She was known for fixing a certain apple coffee cake whenever any of her progeny visited—and sending it home with us.  In a visit with my younger sister on the sixty-second anniversary of their wedding, we noted how this same recipe has found its way into the next generation or two.  Mother would be pleased.

Grandma Georgia baked cookies.  Her son, my dad, was a cookie lover.  In his retirement years, he mastered his mother’s recipes and shared the products with the rest of us.  Keeping the tradition, I pulled out the recipe for molasses sugar cookies and whipped up a batch.  The smells and the tastes coming from my oven brought Daddy and Grandma vividly to mind.



Somehow, I ended up with my grandmother’s recipe box.  It is full of recipe cards in her own handwriting.   The collection is precious beyond words.  Gone from earth more than twenty years, it’s almost as if she lives within those inked cards.

Expert cooks from my past also provided recipes for contentment and success in life.  Ironically, their lessons become more clear the longer I live without them.

Christmas is a family time and I find myself missing my parents very much.  Through memories and traditions, they live in my heart.  My children scatter across the miles to establish homes of their own.  Some of these traditions live in their lives also.  We weave threads that show up in tapestries that link different generations together.  It’s hard to predict when the connections will show up in the lives of our children.  But when they do, it’s like Christmas any day in my heart.

Thank you, Mother and Daddy.  Thank you, Grandma Georgia and Grandmother Mary.  I remember you at Christmas time with deep gratitude.