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The Spirit of Christmas,
maybe a new drinking game for
Haunting Danielle fans?

Last night my daughter sent me this text: Have you seen The Spirit of Christmas on Netflix??? It’s awfully similar to Haunting Danielle.

The first thing I did—I went online and looked it up and discovered it was a Lifetime movie, released in 2015. The Ghost of Marlow House—the first book in the Haunting Danielle series—was published in 2014.

The second thing I did, I watched the movie. Wow, my daughter was right. The similarities were startling. What were they? That’s where the drinking game comes into play. I think The Spirit of Christmas would be a great movie to watch for a drinking game—every time a Haunting Danielle fan sees a similarity to the book, take a shot!

So you’ll know just how drunk you might get, I’ve decided to list some of the eerie similarities I found.

In the movie, a woman lawyer goes to a B&B to prepare it for an estate sale and finds a ghost in residence. The ghost is not happy with what she is trying to do.

In The Ghost of Marlow House, a woman inherits an estate and intends to turn it into a B&B. The ghost is not happy with what she is trying to do.

In both stories, the woman is a professional with a degree, an attractive brunette, not too tall, with a poor track record in the romance relationship department. In both stories, the woman and ghost are drawn to each other.

In both the book and the movie, the ghost does not know how he died. As it happens, both ghosts were murdered. In both stories, the woman helps him discover what happened to him so he can move on, and in both cases he slowly regains his memory. At the end of both stories, after the ghost understands why and how he died, he decides to stick around. In The Ghost of Marlow House, he sticks around as a ghost—in the movie, he stays as a man. (Don’t ask me how he did that, it was sorta confusing but it had something to do with a curse and a kiss.)

My ghost is named Walt, and the lead woman is Danielle.

In the movie, the ghost is named Daniel and the caretaker is named Walter.

My ghost is from the 1920s and was involved in moonshining—so was the ghost in the movie.

When my Walt is first getting to know Danielle, he asks her about her marital status, and then he calls her an old maid, and she reminds him how the world is different now—In the movie, when the ghosts asks the woman about her marital status, she quickly tells him not to call her an old maid and reminds him how the world is different now.

In my book, Danielle’s best friend is Lily—in the movie, the ghost’s fiancé was named Lilly. In both stories, the love interest of the ghost did not live out her life. In the book, the wife died shortly before Walt, and in the movie, the fiancé  died months after Daniel.

There were also some stark differences between the book and movie. In the movie, Christmas magic comes into play, which explains things like how the movie ghost appears as a man everyone can see—one who eats food. Of course, he can only do this for 12 days around Christmas.

Ironically, Haunting Danielle’s The Ghost Who Came for Christmas has a spirit who employed Christmas magic, enabling the ghost to be seen by all as a live person for a few days around Christmas. Of course, that ghost wasn’t able to stick around like the movie ghost. The Ghost Who Came for Christmas was released around the same time as The Spirit of Christmas.

Is it all just a coincidence? Who am I to ask? After all, I am the clueless author who named one of my Haunting Danielle characters Joe Morelli, not realizing it was the same character name from the popular Stephany Plumb series. And like the Stephany Plumb character, mine is also a cop.

In any case, it might be a fun movie for Haunting Danielle fans to watch. But if you turn it into a drinking game, please have a designated driver!

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Book 6 – The Ghost Who Came for Christmas

 

As of this writing, over on Amazon The Ghost Who Came for Christmas has no 1 or 2-star reviews. 82% of the readers who reviewed the book on Amazon gave it 5-stars, and 17% gave it 4-stars. Just 1% of the Amazon readers who reviewed it gave it 3-stars, and that reviewer called it a “Good Read.”

When surveying subscribers of the Haunting Danielle newsletter (over 1,200), asking which book in the series is their favorite, The Ghost Who Came for Christmas comes in second, after The Ghost of Marlow House.

Unlike the last book—which had a darker Halloween spin—this book brings the reader Christmas magic and according to a number of readers, tears.

This is also the book where Chris is introduced to the series.

Personally, I love a good Christmas story, and I believe this is one that can be read and enjoyed for the holidays without reading any of the previous books in the series.

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The story behind The Story of the Christmas Village

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Twenty-four years ago my father, Walt Johnson, passed away on December 10th. His first name might sound familiar—I borrowed it for one of my lead characters in the Haunting Danielle series.

Our family (my husband and two small children) moved to Lake Havasu (where I had lived as a teenager) in 1991, to help my parents run Havasu Palms. I wrote about that experience in Where the Road Ends, Havasu Palms Recipes and Remembrances, and again in Havasu Palms, A Hostile Takeover.

At the time, my father had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and he would pass away about a year after we moved to Havasu Palms.  The Story of the Christmas Village began shortly before Dad’s last Christmas, in 1991.

Scott, our oldest, was twelve that year, and our youngest, Elizabeth, was nine. It was a few weeks before Christmas, and I needed to give them something to do, so I handed them a stack of index cards, scissors, tape, and colored markers, and told them to make a village. And they did. They created an imaginative Christmas village, complete with a windmill, bridge, and houses with lights on the eves and cozy fireplaces inside the homes.image025

My mother was quite impressed with her grandchildren’s accomplishment, and proudly arranged the village around her Christmas tree. When Christmas was over, she carefully packed the village away in a large cardboard box.

Time passed. The years rolled by. Dad was gone, we lost Havasu Palms, and we were now living across the lake in Lake Havasu City.

Mom was visiting my sister when Don and I decided to empty the storage unit we had been renting. One of the boxes we found there contained the Christmas village.  Mom had given me strict instructions to take care in handling her precious village.

Unfortunately, the storage box was huge, and we had nowhere to keep it. I came up with an idea—photograph the village and write a story about it, which I would then self-publish as a Christmas gift for Mom.

I never intended for the book to be anything other than a gift for Mom. I never intended to offer it to the public. But then my sister happened.

Before my sister Lynn retired a couple of years ago, she was an elementary school teacher—over the years teaching first, second, and kindergarten classes. That year I gave Mom the book, I also gave a copy to my sister. Lynn did something with the book that I never expected. She read it to her class every year before Christmas, and her students loved it!  After reading the book with the class, she image039would have them make their own village with index cards.

Lynn urged me to publish the book. Actually, she wanted me to package it with index cards and markers.  I met her half way, and self-published the book, first through Lulu and then with Amazon.

It’s never been a big seller. Some who’ve read it, love it—and get what it’s about. After reading the book with their young children some readers get out the index cards and markers, and the real fun begins. Of course, there are some who pick up the book and scowl, wondering why I bothered publishing an obviously personal story that only my family could enjoy.

But of course…not every book appeals to every reader. Not even The Story of the Christmas Village.

Looking for a ghostly Christmas tale?

How about a really good chocolate Christmas cookie?

christmas winter background with wooden planks

Christmas is just eleven days away,  and if you’re looking for a cozy Christmas book to curl up with,  check out The Ghost Who Came for Christmas.

While I advise reading the books in the Haunting Danielle series in order (this is Book 6), it isn’t critical for enjoying the story.

With a house full over the Christmas holiday, Danielle has been spending a great deal of her time baking—recreating culinary memories and holiday traditions from her childhood. One of those is a chocolate drop cookie borrowed from my own childhood.

If you are in the mood for baking, here’s the recipe.

Chocolate Drop Cookies

This cookie was a Christmas tradition when I was a child. During the holidays my paternal grandmother, Madeline, would fill a roasting pan with chocolate chip cookies and the chocolate drop cookie. My father (the original Walt) loved both, yet I believe the chocolate drop was his favorite. These are moist cake-like cookies, a delight to any chocolate lover! But don’t over-bake!

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg (beaten)
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (dissolved in 1/2 teaspoon of warm water)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate (melted)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375º. Cream together sugar and shortening. Stir in egg, milk, then remaining ingredients, one by one. Blend well. Drop by teaspoonful on cookie sheet. Bake for 8-9 minutes (Do not overcook!) Frost while warm. About 3 dozen cookies.

Chocolate Drop Cookie Frosting

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons cream or milk
2 squares unsweetened chocolate (melted)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend together sugar and cream. Add melted chocolate, stir well. Add vanilla, mix thoroughly. Frost warm cookies.

 

Our Family’s Christmas Book, Wrapping up the Year

Christmas BookBefore we wrap up the year there is one thing we always do—write in our Christmas Book. It’s a family tradition we started 24 years ago. The Christmas Book is something like an annual family diary. Initially, it began by each member in the family sitting down on Christmas night and writing a page in the book. Our daughter was nine when we started the tradition, and our son was twelve. In those first years, they normally told about gifts they received along with drawings. For Don and I, we recapped Christmas and the year.

One might assume I started the tradition; after all, I’m the writer in the family. But actually, it was my husband, who wanted to start a Christmas family tradition of our own.

When our children became adults and moved out of the house, they would write in the book when they came home for Christmas—and when they married, I gave them their own books. I don’t think they are as faithful as we are in writing in their books, and I think someday they will regret not capturing all those memories. Of course, they’ve spent the last few years with a cell phone in their hand—one with a camera—so their lives are pretty much captured in pictures.

Pictures are nice—but so is a written account of our lives—something we have in our Christmas Book.

Stay safe tonight—and Happy New Year!

(Photo: Don, Scott, and Elizabeth, the first year writing in the family’s Christmas Book. 1991, Wrightwood, California.)