As the winter dusk creeps across the sky and shadows begin to fill the yard, I see the reflections of the Christmas tree lights in the window and so I find myself pondering on the year just past. Like all years, it was, as Charles Dickens once wrote, the best of times and the worst of times. 2023 was a time of transition and change. Although I resist change, I have learned that life is an ongoing process and that whether or not I like it, change is a part of that.
normalcy, I think of the New Year as a clean page and uncharted territory. A new year offers opportunities and many people often make resolutions for change.
I seldom make New Years resolutions but I sometimes set goals and make plans although I have learned that even the best-laid plans can go awry. Another thing that I have learned is that I never know what an incoming year might bring or what may happen.
my children, all grown, will gather with me to enjoy pork, a traditional dish
for prosperity, black-eyed peas seasoned Southern style with bacon and onions,
other side dishes, and cake. Some years I bake a confection from scratch, an
old-fashioned cherry layer cake. It’s often used as a Christmas cake but since
my later mother celebrated her birthday each December 25th, we often
had a birthday cake with red and green decorations. Her grandparents started
the tradition when she was a child, to make sure her birthday wasn’t lost in
the holiday magic. I’ve often baked the cake for New Year’s Day and plan to
again this year.
those who might want to try a vintage dessert, here’s the recipe:
2 cups white sugar
½ cup vegetable shortening
3 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg or cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1 can dark sweet, pitted cherries (not pie filling)
Cream sugar with shortening, then add eggs and blend well.
Sift together flour, spice, and baking powder, add into creamed mixture alternately with milk.
Fold in the dark, sweet, pitted cherries but reserve the juice for the icing.
Blend well and spread in two prepared 8-inch cake pans and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
While cake is baking, prepare icing with 1 cup shortening, two cups powdered sugar, a dash of salt, a teaspoon of vanilla and the reserved cherry juice.
Frost when cool, stacking layers on top of each other.
January, named for the two-faced Roman
god of transitions, gates, and doors, often represented the life versus death
struggle as well. It’s joined the ranks of my least favorite months because my
father left this world in January in 2009 and my husband departed ten years and
a few days later. Widowhood was never something I aspired to gain but as I will
soon mark the five-year milestone, I’ve adapted as much as anyone ever does.
At the time my husband passed, I was
editor for two regional newspapers in southwest Missouri. As the staff dwindled
due to ongoing budget cuts, changes in ownership, and the decline of
newspapers, I became a one-woman machine. I wrote most of the paper, including
sports, which is not my forte. I laid out each edition and sent it to press.
When the opportunity arrived from Gannett, the parent company, for a severance
package, I accepted it willingly to focus on my writing career.
My long-term dream of becoming an
author hit pay dirt in 2010 with my first novel, Wolfe’s Lady, (Evernight
Publishing) which debuted in the last days of December. As my media job demanded increasing hours and
my husband’s health declined, my output slowed and I had a hiatus in my author
career. I returned with fresh publications in 2021. I ended the year with my
two most recent titles in October, Huck’s Legacy and in November, The
I have four titles under contract so
far in 2024 and more to come.
One of those upcoming releases is in edits now, The Cowboy’s Last Chance. The tag line is “Eight seconds is the span of time for a bull rider to win or lose, live or sometimes die.”
I’ll share the gorgeous cover now – I
love the use of color, the theme, and overall presentation. Kudos go to the
cover artist, Tina Lynn Stout.
On this last day of the outgoing year,
though, my focus is on 2024. I may reflect on auld lange syne, like the
traditional song heard so often at this time, but I look forward to the new, to
the blank slate, and the unknown that awaits. As I remember those who left this
world in January, I offer a shout out to my dad, Jerry Sontheimer, who
introduced me to life and taught me there is no such word as can’t. Because of
him, I can and will continue. I also offer a word to my late husband, Roy
Murphy, who said "I do" and did.
In closing, I wish all the happiest in
the coming year. May your heart’s desires come to pass.
To keep up with what’s new (and old)
with me, follow my Amazon author page here:
From an early age, Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy scribbled stories, inspired by the books she read, the family tales she heard, and even the conversations she overheard at the beauty shop where her grandmother had a weekly standing appointment. She was the little girl who sat at the feet of the elders and listened.
author, she has published more than sixty novels and novellas written as both
Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy and as Patrice Wayne for historical fiction. She is
also the author of a new Faery Folk series from Evernight Publishing writing as
Liathán O'Murchadha. Her current
publishers include The Wild Rose Press, World Castle Publishing, and Evernight
spent her early career in broadcast radio, interviewing everyone from
politicians to major league baseball players and writing ad copy. In those radio years she began to write short
stories and articles, some of which found publication. In 1994 she married Roy
Murphy and they had three children, all now grown-up. Lee Ann spent years in
the newspaper field as both a journalist and editor and was widowed in 2019.
late 2020, she hung up her editor’s hat to return to writing fiction. A native
of St. Joseph, Missouri, she lives and works in the rugged, mysterious, and
beautiful Missouri Ozarks
Lee Ann Murphy