Finally Friday: making memories…

My family and I are about to embark on an early Christmas adventure. Wish me luck, a pocketful of sanity and lots of smiles.

I consider myself very fortunate. My husband and I have never allowed the holidays to lock us into any one tradition. We’ve taken our kids to San Diego (photo below)  to “sleep over the ocean,” we’ve stayed in vacation rentals in San Simeon, Shelter Cove and Aptos, California, with enough rooms to accommodate our whole family. We’ve stayed home so we could invite extended family members to a potluck feast. Our feeling is: It’s all good, if we can be together.

This year, two of our granddaughters will be traveling to Detroit to spend the holidays with their maternal grandparents. While we’ll miss them something fierce, we’ve decided not to let ourselves get locked into a date. Christmas Eve #1 will be tomorrow — ice skating, anyone? Christmas #1 will be Sunday morning. Cardamom rolls and presents–for a select few. 😉

Christmas #2 (Dec. 25th) will be far more low-key, freeing us up to take a hike, see a movie, book dinner out or visit family in the area.

What are your holiday plans/traditions? Flexible or set in stone?

The Romani family in my Betting On Love series has deeply rooted traditions and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed writing this scene from Book IV: A MATCH MADE IN VEGAS. Here’s a small taste of it. Enjoy!

“Ho, ho, ho,” a booming voice said from the street behind her. “Merry Christmas.”

Alexa whirled about. “Santa,” she exclaimed. “You scared me.”

“Perhaps that’s because you haven’t been a good girl this year,” the large-bellied man in a red suit and full, shiny white beard said. From his lack of stature—and because her mother had warned her ahead of time—Alexa knew the portly character was her uncle, Claude.

She put down her sack and rushed to him, hugging him soundly. “Oh, Santa, you know better than that. I’m Saint Alexa, in some circles.”

Her uncle’s hearty laugh touched her deeply, giving her the first real taste of holiday spirit. The merry twinkle in his eyes was probably from the many Christmas lights on the eaves of the houses, but for a second, she almost saw her father behind the lush beard and mustache. “Well, if that’s true, then I expect you’ll be getting a very special gift beneath your tree tonight, my dear. Very special, indeed.”

She laughed and patted his shoulder. “So, you got my letter, then? You know what I want?”

His white gloves squeezed her arm and, keeping in character, he said, “That I do, my girl. That I do. Now, I must be on my way. The rein-ponies are waiting.”

“Rein-ponies?” He just waved and kept walking. His black cowboy boots clicked on the sidewalk.

Her mother had mentioned something about Claude rigging up his pony cart to resemble a sleigh. Her heart suddenly felt lighter than it had been in days; she picked up her bag and went inside.

“Hey, everybody, I just bumped into a guy in a red suit outside. Who’s got the number for our Neighborhood Watch?”

Children’s squeals and shouts echoed throughout the house as Maya, Luca, Gemilla and half a dozen second- and third-cousins stampeded to the windows to look for Santa.

“Way to go, Alexa,” Grace teased. “We were just gonna feed them.”

“Sorry,” Alexa said, handing her bag of wrapped gifts to Gregor. In a soft voice, she asked, “How come you’re not out helping with the sleigh?”

“Nick and Mark volunteered so I could stay with MaryAnn,” he answered in an equally quiet tone.

Mark’s here already? She glanced around and, sure enough, there was Braden standing between Luca and Maya peering out a window. And sitting on the sofa, as demurely as a princess, was Gregor’s wife. She scooted forward slightly, looking interested in what the children were doing.

“Wow. MaryAnn looks great,” Alexa whispered. “Better than great. She looks like her old self.”

Gregor beamed as if Santa had handed him the best gift of all. “I know. I think she’s going to make it. I really do.” Alexa gave him a quick hug then dashed to the couch to talk to the woman she’d once considered a dear friend. They’d lost a lot of the closeness over the years—from work and pressures only MaryAnn truly understood, but Alexa was determined to be a better friend to MaryAnn in the future.

“Welcome home, stranger,” she said, sitting down. “Santa really has granted us our collective wish—to have you back, safe and sound.”

MaryAnn smiled tearfully. “Thank you, Alexa. It’s good to be here. I honestly wasn’t sure this day would ever happen, but Gregor promised me it would, and I guess that’s what I needed—someone who really believed in me.”

They talked a bit longer, until Grace walked into the room and shook one of Alexa’s sleigh bells to get everyone’s attention. “Dinner is served,” she said theatrically, then added, “Santa won’t come until the last plate is in the dishwasher, so let’s move it, people.”

Read on: Books2Read

Happy weekend, my friends! Ho, ho, ho…

Deb

First Kiss: Tuesday – MONTANA SECRET SANTA

‘Tis the season…to stroll down memory lane. It was my great privilege to be part of a six author, twelve book series called Love at the Chocolate Shop. And, lucky me, I was given the privilege of writing Book #3, which takes place in December. In case you missed it, here’s a snippet from MONTANA SECRET SANTA (©Tule Publishing).

I’m happy to say it includes a bit of mistletoe mischief:

With the entire table pressed into taste-testing service, Jonah stood and motioned for Krista to follow him across the room to an open space near a gorgeous holiday display. “Mom assured me this Santa thing won’t take every hour of every day. She said it’s gotten a lot easier since your partner set up an online presence.”

Krista tried not to inhale too deeply because his scent–a combination of winter fresh air, chocolate, and hint of pine–was too distracting. “We might consider creating a private Facebook group and doing the initial critique process for wishes there.”

He held up a hand for a high-five. “Great idea. Then, a few of us can meet here each morning to brainstorm ways to fill the agreed upon wishes and set a budget.”

The touch of his palm connected in a weird way that made her close her fingers in a fist as she dropped her hand to her side. “I may not be able to make every…” She pictured the check. “I’ll be here.”

“Me, too. It’ll be the incentive I need to walk the dogs early. Tonight, I’ll set up an overall plan and flowchart so we can track when and how our requests come in. We’ll need to do the same for the income side of things. I’m curious as to why the donation well suddenly went dry. The sooner we get our account set up online, the sooner we can track things in real time.”

Krista found his analytical approach reassuring. His grand gesture with the check might have had a bit of the theater behind it, but his approach to business was a lot like her own.

“Simple and transparent works for me. As I said earlier, my family is in show business. Nothing is ever straightforward when you’re surrounded by thespians.”

He moved a smidgen closer. “Simplicity of design is key to both my inventions and my business strategy. When I start overthinking something, I step back for a new perspective. I usually hop on my bike. Exercise is a great distraction for an overactive mind.”

“Well, this is Montana. Your bike riding is going to be limited to cycling in the gym for the next few months.”

She chewed on her bottom lip debating about how frank to be. He’d given her ten thousand reasons to say yes to this partnership, but what exactly would that involve? Her inner bullshit reader said he had to have another agenda. And she sure as heck never considered herself a spokesperson for Christmas.

“Blue Sky is my baby. Christmas is a one-off. Four weeks. Blow and go. It’s over and done and I’m looking at a new month, a new intern and no jobs lined up.”

“What about your partner? Is she out of the picture completely?”

Krista didn’t know and the not knowing kept her awake at night. She hated ambiguity. Black and white. Bottom line. Profit and loss. Those were her touchstones.

“Amanda should be able to provide backup by phone. But I want you to know that Blue Sky will always be my first priority.”

He held out his hand. “Understood.”

She shook it twice, intending to let go and return to their table, but as Sage passed by on her way to the counter, she said, “Mistletoe.”

“Huh?”

“What?”

Sage pointed up. “House rules. A kiss is mandatory.”

Krista groaned. She’d witnessed this bit of holiday mischief several times when she’d been in the shop. “But–“

Before she could express her protest, Jonah wrapped his arms around her–not unlike the way he had when he broke her fall. Only this time, he was in front of her. And his lips hovered an inch from hers, waiting for permission.

She closed her eyes and leaned in to get the silly kiss over.

The instant his lips touched hers, the magnitude of her mistake hit. Not only had Jonah Andrews been drinking her favorite cocoa, but the sweetness mixed with his natural chemistry created a potent combination that made her knees turn rubbery and her heart begin to pound. She kissed him back because she was powerless to do otherwise.

Luckily, a smattering of applause brought her back to her senses.

Cheeks burning, she turned and bowed. Being the daughter of an actor had to be good for something, right?

If you’re intrigued and want to read more, the first chapter is free at Tule Publishing, click here to: READ MORE.

Or if you missed it last year, you can purchase from the retailer of your choice here: BOOKS2READ

Either way, I hope you’ll check out the Love at the Chocolate Shop Facebook page, where I’ll be running some giveaways this month, including free recipe cards like this one.

Happy reading!

Deb

Finally Friday: seeing red…or pink!

 I promised some dear readers that I would have print copies of PRINCE CHARMING UNDERCOVER ready to give and send by Dec.1. And, low and behold a green Grinch box arrived from Amazon on my doorstep on 12/1.

Hurray.

Wait. Not so fast. What happened to my beautiful cover? My hero and heroine look as though they’ve been hanging out in the Vegas desert for much too long. I immediately pulled out my over-price Proof Copy, which I’d used as the basis for my order. Side-by-side, there’s a bit of a difference, eh?

I spent an hour trying contact Amazon’s KDP division to express my dismay about this difference, but every time I tried to add this image, it would kick me out. I quit after the fourth try. (A part of me wonders if they make the complaint process ridiculously challenging just so people will give up. Sigh.)

I am still going to give away these books as prizes this month at various blogs. I will pray that this was a one-off and not the norm. Maybe I can blame it on the Grinch.

Any customer service foibles you’d care to share to make me feel better?

Deb

PS: Remembering Pearl Harbor today — and my grandniece’s birthday! Happy day, Leah!