Beat Your Winter Blues: Authors by the Fireside

January–April 2012

I’m thrilled to be hosting the Beat Your Winter Blues Blog Tour this week! I’ve got Heidi Cullinan, Ellis Carrington, JL Merrow, and Andrew Grey talking about our hearths and homes this week. Remember that commenting on any BYWB post gets you entered into the big grand prize drawing at the end of April and commenting this week can win you a shiny signed print copy of my novel The Boy Next Door or an e-copy of any book from my backlist! (Comment by the end of the day Saturday and I’ll announce the winner Sunday!)

And don’t miss these! Ellis Carrington’s Immortal Valentine; JL Merrow’s Midnight in Berlin and a story in Dreamspinner’s Two Tickets to Paradise Anthology.

Let’s hear what the authors have to say:

JL Merrow: Thinking of sitting by the fireside always takes me back to my childhood. Fellow Brits of, shall we say, a certain age may remember something called the Three Day Week and power cuts by the bushel. I’m sure it was all very vexing for the grown-ups, but for a child, it was rather special. We ate tea by the light of a gas lantern; I got to take a real candle up to bed (and amazingly, managed not to set myself on fire with it). And in between, I got to play by the light of the gas fire, its warm orange glow spilling over a small patch of hearth.

Of course, it melted my plastic ride-on London bus a bit, but you can’t have everything!

Andrew Grey: Last winter, we lost power for the better part of an evening on one of the coldest nights of the year. We live in a century old home and have a fireplace in our parlor, so after lighting some candles, I lit a fire and got blankets and pillows, creating a bed of sorts in front of the fireplace before pulling the pocket doors closed. Dominic and I spent the evening curled together in our nest of pillows and blankets, talking quietly as we watched the fire. At about bed time, I left the warmth of our room to brave the wind to get more firewood. When I returned we were preparing to sleep in front of the fire when the power returned. Now I’d like to say that we turned off all the lights and slept together in front of the fire. But practicality won out, as did the thought of being stiff for days from sleeping on the floor, so instead we let the fire burn down and then went up to bed.

Heidi Cullinan: Our house has a fireplace, the good old-fashioned wood-burning kind. As a huge, old ash tree had to be taken down (before it fell on our house) shortly after we moved in, we have wood enough until my daughter gets through college.

We love our fireplace. Anytime it’s a cold winter’s night and we’re all home for a lazy afternoon and evening, we’ll stoke the fire, put on some movies, and camp out in the warmth. The cats love the fireplace even more than we do, fighting over prime spots and passing out sprawled on rugs until their fur heats to boiling. Our particular fireplace, the chimney sweep tells me, is very efficient and clean, which means we don’t see him very often to clean it and it sends most of the heat out to us. This usually results in us sitting in the TV room in T-shirts and then shuddering when we have to go to the kitchen for supplies. Which mostly results in us trying hard not to leave at all.

Ellis Carrington: I love getting together with friends. My favorite by the fireside thing in the winter is some good music, some snacks, and a few bottles of wine while we all gab or play board games or watch a ridiculous movie. It’s so easy, in the winter, to hole up and stay solitary. Especially for us reader/writer types. But even introverts need human contact. When all else fails though, I’m content to curl up with a mug of something hot and an even hotter novel–one by any of the authors on this tour would do it for me–and get transported to someplace warmer.

My cat snuggles under the blankets during the week the heat was out.

Kate McMurray: I’ve spent my entire adult life living in apartments in which fire—except for the bonfire my neighbors had this summer, which I’m pretty sure was illegal—is not really a welcome thing. Having a fireplace or wood-burning stove sure would have come in handy the week early this winter when we didn’t have heat, which was of course the one week this winter that it actually snowed.

When I was growing up, we rented two floors from a landlord with questionable taste. The place had random extensions built on and bizarre foreign plants in the yard and was painted a bright salmon color. My bedroom, actually, had once been part of the dining room, but someone a generation or two before us built a wall through the middle, and this meant that my bed was pushed against a wall that shared some space with the fireplace. The fireplace we never used. There was a raccoon living in the chimney and my mother is a Buddhist who couldn’t bring herself to call in exterminators, so I would hear the raccoon scratching around in there every night. It was when the raccoon had babies that we finally felt compelled to act, and long story short, there was a comic escapade involving my mother, the landlord, and some guy the landlord hired making a huge racket in the dining room and chasing the raccoons out, and after all THAT, we had a functional fireplace. (Although, we lived in a densely populated suburb where there weren’t exactly a lot of spare trees, so logs for the fire came from the grocery store. Romantic, eh?) Still, I have a few fond memories of cold days and hot chocolate sitting around that fireplace in the dining room.

Tell us about your hearths in the comments!

The Authors:

Ellis Carrington is a wild child who hates to color in the lines, but who lives and loves passionately. She can be found in and around the Washington D.C. area, swilling Starbucks and saying inappropriate things out loud in public. Her greatest loves are good friends, good music, and of course reading M/M romance.Find out more at

Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there.  When she isn’t writing, Heidi enjoys knitting, reading, movies, TV shows on DVD, and all kinds of music.  She has a husband, a daughter, and too many cats. Find Heidi on the Web: Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and her website.

Andrew Grey grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and works in information systems for a large corporation. Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing) He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle,, Pennsylvania.  You can find out more at , on facebook, twitter, or email him at

When Kate McMurray is not writing, she works as an editor with a decade of experience in the publishing industry. She has a BA in English lit that she’s still amazed translated into an actual career. Among other things, Kate is crafty (mostly knitting and sewing, but she also wields power tools), she plays the violin, and she is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her at

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.  She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again.  Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne. She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour. Find JL Merrow online at:

Sixteen authors are here to do their best to make your winter brighter in January, February, March, and April. (Unless you’re south of the equator, and then we’ll just be jealous of your summer.) Every Wednesday will be a new stop on the tour (see schedule below). Be sure to leave a comment at each stop for up to sixteen chances at the grand prize: a $200 USD gift certificate to the e-retailer of your choice. Also keep an eye out for links to individual authors’ sites on their release dates for a chance to win some free books.


January 11: How We Beat the Winter Blues (hosted by Coffee & Porn in the Morning)

January 18: Favorite Wintertime Activities (hosted by Josephine Myles)

January 25: Join us for a January getaway (hosted by Andrew Grey)

February 1: Winter in My Backyard (hosted by Lou Harper)

February 8: “If I could get away right now, I’d go to…” (hosted by Ellis Carrington)

February 15: Valentine’s Day (hosted by J.L. Merrow)

February 22: Authors by the Fireside (hosted by Kate McMurray)

February 29: Join us for a February getaway (hosted by Z.A. Maxfield)

March 7: Things to Do in a Blizzard (hosted by S.A. Meade)

March 14: St. Patrick’s Day (hosted by Clare London)

March 21: Spring Break (hosted by Blaine Arden)

March 28: Join us for a March Getaway (hosted by Tales from the Writing Cave)

April 4: Favorite Winter Movies (hosted byStumbling Over Chaos)

April 11: Signs of Spring (hosted by J.P. Barnaby)

April 18: Join us for an April Getaway (hosted by Marie Sexton)

April 25: Farewell (hosted by Joyfully Jay)

April 30: Grand Prize Announcement (hosted by Heidi Cullinan)


Every week we’ll also let you know what books are recently released and about to be released, complete with links to giveaways.

26 thoughts on “Beat Your Winter Blues: Authors by the Fireside

  1. Lisa says:

    We actually have a wood burning stove in our living room. It sits on a raised brick hearth. The hearth is tall enough that you can sit on it and the stove has a glass front door so you can see the fire burning. It’s the type that will heat the whole house. You can even cook or warm food or drinks up on it if you had to. We made grilled cheese sandwiches on it one year when the electricity went out.

    It makes the living room feel very cozy. I love to curl up on the couch and read or watch TV after I’ve started a fire. Sometimes I get so comfortable in there that I end up sleeping on the couch all night. My cat takes advantage of it, too. He loves to stretch out on the floor in front of it. The stove is not getting as much use right now due to a rather mild winter.

  2. Savannah Miller says:

    I’m so jealousy of your fireplace stories! Sadly the best I can do is a fake little electric fireplace in my living room, and the hubby never lets me use it saying it will mess with the thermostat and say its warmer in our house then it is 🙁 he is a bully!! Thanks everyone for sharing your stories I really enjoyed them!

  3. Melora says:

    I grew up with a wood stove, but I never associate it with a fireside image since, unlike Lisa’s, ours was a huge black box with no window. It was great at it’s job, heating the whole house, unfortunately it sat in front of the actual fireplace which was boarded over to keep the smoke in the chimney.

  4. Trix says:

    We got one of those gas fireplaces, and I’m always kind of amazed at how cool it is to just turn it on and have a nice fire going. I do miss the smell of wood, but I’s get allergies so it’s just as well.

  5. Yvette says:

    We do not have a fire place nor have I ever had one, but when the power went out last year for three days, being bundled to the nines was kind of fun in a strange sort of way! Although, let’s not try that again 🙂

  6. Sarah says:

    I vaguely remember sitting by the fire at my gran’s house – mostly just remember being warm and happy watching the coals glow.
    I’m in a flat so no fireplace for me. My parents have a gas fire now, but before that they had a coal fire – lots of dust during the winter and getting it lit for the first time in the autumn was always a bit of a performance. I still miss being curled up in front of it, usually sharing space with the cats 🙂

  7. choccy_grl says:

    I don’t have a fire of any kind, however I’ve just finished writing a story where one of the characters is a chimney sweep!

  8. Sarah S says:

    Wish we had a wood burning fire… In fact I don’t know anyone that does I think they are pretty rare in the uk.

    Coal fires are more the norm but again not many people have them any more

  9. Jeremy Pack says:

    I live in a house that was built in 1886 and our sole source of heat is a fireplace in the living room. After a year of chopping wood and struggling with matches, I decided I enough was enough and had a gas stove installed. Fire the way Mother Nature intended: via remote control. All was bliss and flowers until the day the pilot light went out just as I was getting ready for a night on the town. Hair spray, cologne, and open flame are not happy bedfellows. Lost a good set of eyebrows and a great haircut that night. Nowadays, I let my partner Jason manage the pilot and I operate the remote control from a safe distance.

  10. Collette Nicole says:

    No fire place, but when there was a Hurricane and we didn’t have power for a few days we used one of those portable gas stoves to keep warm and cook. It was an experience that’s for sure! 🙂

  11. Nancy S says:

    A couple of years ago during The Big Ice Storm our power was out for a week. We had to depend on the fireplace for heat and cooking as the kitchen range is electric. That got old in a hurry. It took two of us to cook, one hold the pan and the other stirring or flipping. We would also heat water for sponge baths (water heater electric also). I really don’t know how anyone could have made through that mess without a fireplace. We were running out of wood and starting to eye the dining table when the power came back on.

  12. Tracy says:

    I remember more than a few fires at my grandparents’ as a child…piles of cousins (literally; there were about a dozen of us within a 5-year age range and we piled together like puppies). And now, the house my husband and I bought has a fireplace — sadly, we’ve never used it in the three years we’ve lived here. We’re in coastal Georgia, and it just never really gets that cold.

  13. Ann Roberts says:

    Growing up we didn’t have a fireplace, but we did have an extra heat source for super-cold winters in Ohio, a Kerosene heater. I remember we’d (my sister, the cats, and I) would pile up together on a throw-rug in front of it and watch cartoons on Saturday morning! My mother was a fun, crazy kind of woman. She wanted us to experience fireplace fun, even though we lived in a type of apartment at the time. I remember her taking my sister, the cats, and me down to the park to make breakfast one wintery morning in a huge stone fireplace that you usually had to reserve. No one reserved that area in the off season, and no one would question a woman making pancakes with Siamese cats on leashes, anyway!

  14. Elin Gregory says:

    You can’t beat a good open fire! Makes fabulous toast.

    I like the idea of authors huddling round their fires thinking beautiful thoughts to put on paper later. 🙂

  15. Majken says:

    Ack, I have never lived in a house with a fireplace, we had one at my boarding school though and we snuggled up in blankets in that room in the evenings, playing board games or singing, very cosy (and now I miss my friends from back then *sigh*)
    If I ever get a house, I want a fireplace of some sort

  16. Jason says:

    I love fireplaces but we have never lived anywhere cold enough to use one more than a few times a year. 🙁

  17. Joan says:

    The only fire in my home comes from scented candles. I have one lighten right now – cinnamon and apple scent. It’s very nice.

  18. melanie marshall says:

    I have always had a fireplace. When I was 4, the house we lived in had a fireplace open to both the living room and family room. Perfect for a small person to crawl in, shut the metal chain curtains and imagine she was in a fantasy world. Our fireplaces always held stockings for Christmas, and antique horse brasses that moved from mantle to mantle as we switched houses. Now I am living in the house my parents built with a mantle that stretches the width of the room and holds Nutcrackers at Christmas. I cannot imagine my life without one.

  19. Liam Grey says:

    We had a fireplace growing up, and I loved sitting and watching the fire. It was double-sided and opened onto both the living room and the dining room. After one of the glass doors broke for the 3rd or 4th time, Dad replaced it with a wood stove. All the warmth, none of the pretty flames.

    Two apartments ago I had a gas stove, but I rarely turned it on. Living in SoCal the weather rarely demanded it, and it never quite lit all the way across, so it made me nervous.

    Wood can get really expensive, but I wouldn’t mind a gas one again. Maybe I’ll have to put that on the “would be nice” list for the next apartment.

  20. Anne says:

    I love fireplaces and fires, but have never had one ecept while camping. My mother, who had one in her childhood home, says they’re a pain in the a$$ to keep clean. That’s mom, practical to the end.

  21. Stevie Carroll says:

    I always meant to get the fire going in my previous house, but never quite dared to ask how much getting the chimney relined would actually cost.

    One day I’ll live in an old house again and actually do something about it next time.

  22. Joanne B says:

    We have a wood burning fireplace, but never use it. I don’t know why… too much trouble I guess. We usually just light some candles. Makes it smell nice.

  23. Yvonne B. says:

    We have a fireplace, but – living in Florida – it hasn’t really gotten much use.

    One winter about 15 or so years ago, we turned the A/C (way) down in winter, brought in a few (store bought) logs and burned them in the fireplace.

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