Friday, December 25, 2009

The Faithful Christmas Cactus

A friend gave me a small Christmas Cactus several years ago. This is the perfect plant for me, because I don't take great care of my potted plants. In fact, I keep only those I know will survive without my continuous, tender loving care. Often, we're away for days or weeks, and I don't want to bother neighbors with watering my plants. The plant at the top is not mine, but it's a very good facsimile. Mine is actually larger than this one, and it does have the beautiful pink flowers.

 If you're interested in a Christmas Cactus, you might pick one up from a nursery or Home Improvement store. All of them had these plants for sale. Or if you have a friend with one, all you need is a large pot with potting soil, making sure it drains well. You see the small divisions? Each one can be propagated. Pinch off several and simply lay them on the soil and add water.
The Christmas Cactus is not a cactus at all. It is an epiphyte, meaning it is found in the same environment as orchids. Don't let this scare you, because they're not that delicate to grow. An epiphyte lives naturally in the forks of tree limbs where decayed leaves and other natural debris collect.
While directions say to keep it in a cool room--50 degrees F--this can easily be adjusted.
I keep mine on my coverd back porch almost year 'round where it gets plenty of morning sun. By the hot afternoons--often 100 F in Texas!--it enjoys the shade. I often forget to water it, but never fear. It perks right up. Probably, the plant should not be kept wet.
On this day, I bring my plant indoors next to a window so it will get a little sun. In just a few days, the tips turn dark, and very shortly bright pink buds appear. Today, on Christmas Day, the numerous tips hang heavy with glorius pink flowers. New flowers will continue for at least a month. As soon as the weather warms in March, it returns to the back porch.
I love poinsettias, but I don't bother buying them any more because I can't keep them properly. They die. But the Christmas Cactus is an independent sort of plant, just the kind I love.

Blessings on this beautiful Christmas Day.

Celia Yeary
All My Hopes and Dreams--The Wild Rose Press-now
Showdown in Southfork--the Wild Rose Press--now
Texas Blue-The Wild Rose Press--January 29, 2010
Texas Promise--Desert Breeze Publishing--September 2010
Texas True--Desert Breeze Publishing--February 2011

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Perfect Excerpt

Excerpts—we love them, don’t we? There’s no better way to sample an author’s writing style than to read an excerpt. One entire Yahoo Group is devoted to “Excerpts Only for Romance Writers and Readers,” and many authors and readers post there on a daily basis.

However, there is a right way and a wrong way to post the perfect excerpt. Many writers have their own methods, from very long, to very short, somewhere in-between, at times concise, and at others, rambling. What is the best method of selecting a sample of your writing? How can you entice a reader to read your full excerpt? Choose one that contains dialogue or action, not just narrative, and keep it short and simple.

Consider the short story. The guidelines are: limit to a specific time, place, event, interaction, or character’s evolution. It is, in fact, a mini-novel, complete with a beginning, middle, and an ending, i.e., an abbreviated novel.

Attention span is the amount of time a person can concentrate on a task without becoming distracted. Continuous involvement without any lapse at all is as short as eight seconds. The average adult who is engaged in an interesting activity or topic will remain focused for twenty seconds. People are also capable of longer periods up to two and a half hours when they are doing something enjoyable or motivating, such as watching a movie. Researchers have found that the modern adult’s attention span shortens as time goes on. The phenomenon of instant gratification in our technological world deters the attention span even more.

Now consider the excerpt. The guidelines are perhaps the same as those for a short story: one idea, one interaction, in one short time frame, wrapped up with a beginning, middle, and an ending, approximately three hundred words—a mini-short story with a hook at the end.

Here’s a test for you. How many words are in this article to this point? (310) How long did it take to read it? (Average adult-one minute.)

From a short novel for the Wayback, Texas Rodeo Series-Title: Showdown in Southfork.

Excerpt: Cody and Marla

Smiling lazily, he looked her up and down, at her short white shorts, pink stretch T, and red flip-flops. With that salacious grin, he continued back to her hair, hanging to her shoulders in a tangled mass of curls, but right now, there was no time to brush it properly. Some day she would just get it all whacked off and stop worrying about it.

“Stop staring,” she demanded.

“Well, I can hardly keep from it since you’re standing right in front of me.”

“Oh,” she muttered, straightened, and moved to the side.

Cody kept staring at her even though she’d moved out of his direct line of vision.

He drawled, “You know, if there’s anything I like in this world, it’s a woman with red hair.”

“It is not red. And if there’s anything I hate in this world, it’s a man saying my hair’s red. For your information, it’s strawberry blond.”

“Strawberry blond. Whadda you know? Now, I like that even better.”

Narrowing her eyes at him, she said, “Well, I’m just as pleased as punch.”


This short excerpt has three parts: Beginning: Cody stares at Marla while she watches him. Middle: they have a short argument. Ending: She has the last word. It contains 260 words. Reading time: 20 seconds.

Celia Yeary

Book Titles:

All My Hopes and Dreams

Showdown in Southfork

Texas Blue
The Wild Rose Press

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fruitcake Gets Bum Rap

“Fruitcake Gets Bum Rap”-a quirky individual who gets shuttled off to jail on an imaginary charge.

No, not that kind of fruitcake. I would never use such a politically incorrect term to define someone who might resemble my Great-aunt Lizzie who made pies out of left-over jams and jellies. I’m referring to the type of cake made from candied fruits and nuts that some insist on baking or buying to give as Christmas gifts. You’ve heard Jay Leno make fun of a family tradition of giving this cake, where one recipient says, “Why, thank yew sooo much! I just love fruitcake.” Then that person proceeds in wrapping it anew and giving it to someone else. The same cake is passed around for years—and never deteriorates!

I, for one, really, really do love fruitcake. Admittedly, some are better than others, but even the cheap ones that come in a decorative tin and sold in your local discount store have something to offer. At Christmas parties, someone always contributes a plate of dark sliced fruitcake, perhaps a little dry, forlorn, skipped over by guests as they select a tidbit here, a morsel there. Me? I’ll take a piece of the cake every time.

My mother made an excellent fruit cake back in the fifties and sixties. She used the common candied cherries and pineapple and citron, sometimes dyed green, raisins, and lots of good old Texas pecans. She would buy a big sack of pecans as early as she could in the fall, and Daddy cracked every one and picked out the nutmeats. Fresh pecans make a big difference. Since we were teetotalers at home, Mother would tell Daddy to buy a bottle of whiskey—she said whiskey, but probably meant bourbon—when he next had to work over the state line in New Mexico. Most of the South Plains counties were “dry.” After soaking the 10-inch-tube-pan cake two weeks in the alcoholic beverage, let me tell you, that was a good fruitcake. I especially enjoyed it for breakfast with a hot cup of black coffee.

Years later, I found my own recipe for fruitcake. I’d like to share it with you.


3 cups chopped Texas pecans
1 ½ cups halved maraschino cherries
1 cup dark raisins- ½ cup light raisins
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup white sugar
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
3 eggs
2 Tbs. apricot brandy

½ cup apricot brandy, for soaking

Combine nuts and fruits. Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add to nut mixture, tossing to coat well. Beat eggs till frothy; add the 2 Tbs. brandy. Pour egg mixture over fruit mixture; mix well. Pour batter into greased and floured 9 x 5 x 3 loaf dish or pan. Bake in 300 degree oven 1 hour and 45 minutes. (If you use a dark pan, perhaps lower the temperature a few degrees or test for doneness a few minutes early.)

When the cake cools, wrap in clean cheese-cloth. Dribble apricot Brandy over all sides until soaked. Wrap in aluminum foil. You may add more brandy later, if you wish. Store the cake at least a week.

Enjoy! And Merry Christmas.

Celia Yeary

SHOWDOWN IN SOUTHFORK: eBook available at:

Print and eBook available at:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Review of Texas Authors Day

Welcome To Texas Authors Day
San Marcos Public Library

Celia and friends:
Celia Yeary (left), Diana Castillleja (middle), and Terri Clamons (right)
Diana lives near San Marcos, and she and I have visited more than once. I was so glad to see a familiar face! Terri, my good friend, is a new author, and she stopped by to say hello during her book-buying spree.

This is a small portion of our beautiful, spacious library. The staff keeps the library well-stocked, organizes children's programs, offers computer classes, schedules musical programs in the public room, and allows volunteers to use the computers to help residents with tax returns.
NOTE: The lovely young blond woman is Julliette Kruger, who writes children's books.

The young man is a fourth-grader who attends Crockett Elementary School. He was a reporter that day, interviewing a few authors, asking thoughtful questions, listening intently, and meticulously writing his notes. He impressed me!
NOTE: I'm seated at the table with Diana behind the man with the blue shirt.

To showcase the variety of authors who participated in Texas Authors Day, I'll introduce three of them, including myself.

Left Seated: Diana Castilleja--stay-at-home mom who is IVed to her computer, author of sixteen romance novels: Paranormal, Fantasy, Contemporary--available from Tease Publications.

Right Seated: Phil Irwin aka The Whiskey Rebel--part-time writer and musician, author of "Job Jumper," available from Phil, PO Box 1781, San Marcos, Texas 78666.

Right Standing: Mr. Bill Soyars--retired cattle rancher, born-again Christian, a true Texas gentleman, author of "A Passionate Trail," available at Hastings in San Marcos.

Left Standing: Celia Yeary, an accidental author, life-long Texan, author of Western Historical Romance novels, available from or .

Thank you for checking out our Texas Authors Day. Forty-four authors of every genre from several cities participated. Visitors came and went, with a surge around three o'clock. The event was organized by library staff member, Robin Wood. She also created the lovely posters for us, provided bottled water, as well as punch and cookies. It's Texas, spelled H-o-s-p-i-t-a-l-i-t-y!
Celia Yeary

SHOWDOWN IN SOUTHFORK: Western Contemporary Romance:
eBook available at:

ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS-a Western Historical Romance—

Print and eBook available at: