Monday, December 24, 2012

Traditions - The Family Glue

One of my dad's favorite Christmas traditions was a game we played called "Christmas Eve Gift." And even though our family is miles apart this year, by playing the game in family units, somehow, the tradition becomes the glue that binds us together. Here's an excerpt from "Waiting for Santa" that describes how the game is played. Wishing you the Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of Holidays this season.

~Nancy Jill

Paperback $8.99 
 Kindle $3.99
From Chapter 2

    Now, our family plays a game during Christmas called Christmas Eve Gift. The object is to say, “Christmas Eve Gift” to as many family members as you can before they say it to you. If you sat it first to someone, that person is required to buy you an inexpensive present...  a dollar or less.
    The idea began in England years ago when people considered it rude not wish someone Merry Christmas first. The penalty was to give a gift for the rudeness. Our family always goes to great lengths to “get someone’s Christmas Eve Gift” as we would say. We hide, lying in wait for members to arrive for their visits in order to get the jump on them. Someone even placed an alarm clock under my dad’s bed once with a note attached just to get a gift from him later, but the family voted the action unfair.
     After getting each other’s names, everyone piles into cars and heads out to shop for gag gifts, which helps to relieve the children’s suspense waiting for Santa. The presents are normally exchanged after supper on Christmas Eve, and we enjoy the uproar caused by the funny gift selections. Even though Kenny’s condition was serious, our family agreed playing the game would be a good diversion.
    We all bid goodnight, and I went into the kitchen to set out breakfast for the next morning. I set a package of cinnamon rolls I’d purchased earlier on the counter, and prepared coffee to start on a timer. After cutting up fruit, placing it on a pretty platter, I assembled a breakfast casserole and placed both in the refrigerator. This would make tomorrow morning run more smoothly. I turned off all the lights except for the tree. Those I left on for the whole season. After turning off the fire and closing the screen, it was time to get ready for bed. Teddy was so tired I had to carry him into the bedroom and lay him at the foot of the bed.
    The rain began falling softly at first but became heavier as the night wore on. Small claps of thunder woke Teddy several times. Shaking, he cuddled next to me. Cuddle next to me… my thoughts turned to Prentice and the wonderful time we shared today.

    Where had the night gone? I thought I just closed my eyes when two pairs of feet scurried into the room and I heard shouts.
    “Christmas Eve Gift, Aunt Jillian! Christmas Eve Gift.”
    “You got me!” I laughed.
    Sydney and Kevin were thrilled at catching me first. Now they had at least one gift apiece coming tonight. Not wanting to be out shopping on Christmas Eve, the task had been finished well in advance picking up cute gifts at The Dollar Tree and Target. The children ran out, heading straight for the kitchen after I had mentioned cinnamon rolls would be available for breakfast. Better get up and get dressed. Christmas Eve was about to begin.
    Kaitlin poked her head in, holding Preston in his puppy pajamas.
    “Christmas Eve gift,” she called.
    I laughed and told her I’d be ready in a few minutes.
    “Mom and Dad are still asleep,” she said. “You might get theirs if you’re sneaky enough. I’ll see you in the kitchen.”
    Kaitlin—such an impressive young woman. To have three children so well behaved after observing many about town who weren’t was refreshing. Kaitlin may have looked like a pixie, but she was a formidable mother!
    I needed coffee. The more important task, though, happened to be dressing for the day. Luckily, the outfit was hanging in the front of my closet, prepped and ready. A Christmas penguin sweatshirt and black skinny jeans. Preparation. It would be the ticket to serving and entertaining so many loved ones in my lonely little home. After making the bed (as always) and scooping Teddy into my arms, we headed for the kitchen to begin baking pies.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sobering Sensation

Our family visited the recreation of Bethlehem in Burnett, Texas last Sunday - what a moving experience! Eating freshly baked Bethlehem bread, hearing the shepherds announce the birth of a savior in the town square, listening to the priest chant from the Torah...all very moving. We came to the inn, finally, after wandering through shops, homes, and crowded streets (it was the time for the census, you know), and talked with the inn keeper himself. A fearsome Roman soldier stood guard nearby, armed with a steel-tipped spear. He didn't smile once and performed his role so realistically, I was afraid to approach him. The inn keeper shared how cruel the Romans were to the Jewish citizens, taxing them heavily and arresting anyone for the slightest offense. He also shared that there was no room for us in his inn, in fact, he had to turn away a very pregnant young woman and her husband, but gave them the stable in back with clean straw and shelter from the elements. "Funny thing," he said. "Right after they settled in, a bright star arose over the stable. And," he told us, "there were shepherds telling everyone that angels had appeared announcing a king had been born!" The inn keeper chuckled and mused, "Why would a king choose to be born in a poor town like Bethlehem? Doesn't make any sense."

Oh, but it did! Until I visited Bethlehem and saw for myself how truly humble a place it was, I never really felt how much God cares only that we accept and love Him for Him alone - not what He's able to give us, or how important we can feel because we belong to a rich king. And yet, He owns everything, so we truly are rich. In spite of this season's tragedies, including a fire that destroyed three entire apartment buildings in Austin this morning, let us remember that although suffering and oppression (like the Roman soldiers) will always remain, so will the love and mercy of God our Heavenly Father. May His peace rule in our hearts this season and in the year to come.

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

~Nancy Jill

Monday, December 17, 2012

In the Wake of Sadness - There is Hope

Once upon a time, there lived a happy young couple, friends of ours, who had two adorable little girls, aged five and three. Their dad was a successful business man, and their mom was a pretty young housewife with a radiant smile. The couple took their little girls to Sunday School and church every Sunday, and lived exemplary lives.

One day, as the little family was running errands and doing some Saturday shopping, they came to a stoplight. Just as their car stopped, a drunk driver rear-ended them, sending one little girl through the front windshield and the other through a back seat window. Both children died on impact, leaving the young couple in a state of utter shock and disbelief.

After the funerals, the couple attended the court session for the young man who was responsible for killing their little girls. But because they were Christians, they openly forgave the man and he walked free.

Unlike many who suffer tragic loss and live in never-ending grief, this couple chose to accept the deaths of their two daughters and trusted God to work His will for them. And He did.

I believe it was only about two years after the tragedy that a son was born to them, and later, another son was added to their family. Since we moved away, that was the last update I had on this couple.

The way they handled the horrible incident has stayed with me through the years. When I hear of gunmen ending peoples lives so senselessly as in this past week in Oregon and Connecticut, I pray that those who mourn will be comforted. Not only do I pray for God to comfort them, I pray they will seek God's perfect will for their lives as they have to move on.

I've been criticized for sharing my faith on occasion in the Jillian Bradley Mysteries, but when I've seen God's hand in the lives of people I know, seen the way He answers prayer and meets our needs, I cannot help but share about His wonderful love.

Thanks for letting me share this week. And thank you for continued prayer for the friends and families who lost their loved ones. 

If you have similar stories of  families conquering grief, I'd love to hear them.

~Nancy Jill

Monday, December 10, 2012

Teddy and Napoleon

So what's the deal with Teddy, anyway? Well, it just so happens that Teddy is the bright spot in Jillian Bradley's life. He's her constant companion, and I do mean constant! Where ever Jillian goes, Teddy goes - wearing a red-rhinestone collar and matching leash. Jillian carries her Yorkie companion in a cheetah tote (a gift from Celeste Osborn, a character in the first book) to hotels, restaurants, and art galleries. Teddy goes with her on a cruise, to church on occasion, and accompanies her and Detective Walter Montoya as they investigate homicides.
    Although a solo character in "Murder in Half Moon Bay," Teddy makes a new friend in each of the books that follow. There's Lila, the Maltese in "The Ghost Orchid Murder," Ambrose, the mastiff in "From the Clutches of Evil," Goliath, the cat, in "The Mark of Eden," and Fancy, the apricot poodle in "Pacific Beach." And in my new book, "Waiting for Santa," Teddy must play host to Jillian's dog-nephew, Napoleon, a young pug puppy. 
     If you like to read about animal antics, you may enjoy The Jillian Bradley Mystery Series. 

Paperback $8.99  
Here's an excerpt from 
"Waiting for Santa."

  Sydney rescued Napoleon from the laundry room and brought him in to play with Teddy. Teddy tolerated Napoleon’s being a puppy, but looked at me as if to say, “How long do I have to puppy sit?”
   “Now Teddy,” I said. “It’s Christmas Eve so behave and don’t worry, Napoleon is still young—he’ll be asleep soon.” 
   Teddy didn’t appear to be convinced. He sighed and lay on the floor, tolerating Napoleon trying to wrestle with him and chewing on his ear occasionally.

Do you enjoy animal antics in novels? What are some of your favorites?

Tune in for upcoming posts about 
"Waiting for Santa"

12/17 - "THE DATE"                                             
12/24 - "CHRISTMAS EVE"                                 
12/31 - "NEW YEARS EVE"


Mystery novelist Nancy Jill Thames began publishing Christian fiction in 2010. The author of six books in the Jillian Bradley series, she is an award winning blogger and is listed numerous times on the Author Watch Bestseller’s List, this in addition to winning first place for her Chocolate Cream Pie. 

When she isn’t plotting her next book, she spends time with her six grandchildren in two states, tags along with her husband on business trips, and plays classical piano for her own personal enjoyment. She is an active member of the Leander Writers Guild and supports the Central Texas SPCA with a portion of her book sales. 

Nancy Jill is busy working on book 7 "The Ruby of Siam" a mystery taking place in London,England. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Announcing Book 6 in NOOK!

Paperback $8.99
Kindle $2.99
Nook Book $2.99

Snuggle up with a good book this season, and find out what mystery Jillian and Teddy are up to solving this Christmas. Will Jillian find love, heartbreak, or both? (No fair reading the last page!)   

 The Cast

JILLIAN BRADLEY - Amateur sleuth, beloved aunt, and a widow at  present, Jillian is growing tired of writing her gardening column for three syndications. She is also tired of her widow status.

TEDDY - Jillian's Yorkie companion - an intelligent little dog who uses his instincts to sniff out clues when his mistress is on a case. He isn't happy that the pug "Napoleon" is coming for Christmas.

DETECTIVE WALTER MONTOYA - A young friend of Jillian's who is about to become a father for the first time. He and Jillian work together to find the killer, or is there more than one?

ERNIE STOKES - The victim found at the San Delta Power Plant who was to have played Santa for Jillian on Christmas Eve. Why was he so hated by everyone?

HAL NOLAN - Station operator for San Delta Power Plant who adores Teddy. Easy going and friendly, perhaps, but is he hiding something?

MARY TATE - A real looker and a bit of an actress - was her past life a motive for murder?

IVY WEINTRAUB - Worked her way up in the business end at San Delta Power but wanted more. Would she kill to get what she wanted?

NATHAN GOULD - An lonely accountant for the power company who saw a chance to better himself financially, but do the police think it was a motive for murder?

JASON OSBORN - Haunted by a mistake from his past, did the engineer kill to rid himself of the one man who knew?

OWEN HARPER - Successful manager of the power plant and devoted husband and father, what really happened when the power went off?

PRENTICE DUVAL - A successful art dealer who takes more than a passing fancy at Jillian this Christmas. Is he getting serious?

DR. VINCENT FONTAINE - Jillian's love interest from the past who turns up unexpectedly this Christmas to see her one more time. Will he get a second chance?


12/17 - THE DATE                                             
Author Nancy Jill Thames
12/24 - CHRISTMAS EVE                                 

Available now on in paperback, Kindle and Nook!

Saturday, December 1, 2012



After a heart-to-heart talk with my sweet hubby, I've decided to combine two of my blogs. As of today, "Queen of Afternoon Tea" Celebrity Author Interviews will appear as a page on my Cozy Mystery Author, Nancy Jill Thames blog. Simply click the page tab Queen of Afternoon Tea at the top to find previous interviews and posts. Interviews in the future will be added here. Thank you for your understanding!

During the move this month, I will be pouring myself cups of tea and sharing details of my new book "Waiting for Santa." And since I'm always watching my weight, there will be no "snackie-poos" - only lovely cups of steaming hot tea. 

I hope you join me each week and discover what's going on in the lives of Jillian and her Yorkie companion, Teddy. 

Merry Christmas!

~Nancy Jill