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Goodbye 2016

It is with great sadness and regret that I look back on 2016. I know I speak for many when I say this year father-timehas left me feeling more mortal and distressed than any other in a long time. Not only did I lose some good friends and family members, the world lost more 130 great people who left their mark on society. While many of them were entertainers, others were judges, astronauts, sports’ figures, and even a dictator. Among those who died were musicians and actors who impacted my youth, something that has left me feeling very old.

But that wasn’t all. 2016 was a year of natural disasters, too, starting with Jonah, the winter storm that dumped huge amounts of snow along the northeastern coast of North America. Then we had the huge earthquake in Taiwan, the wildfires in Alberta, California, and Tennessee, the massive flooding in Louisiana, the Italian earthquakes, Japaneses, Indonesian and New Zealand earthquakes, the last of which spawned a tsunami, and Hurricane Matthew, just to name a few.

I wish that was all. We also had the various man-made disasters, which included sinkholes, oil leaks, abuse of aboriginal people fighting to protect their land and their lives, and of course the damage in Syria, especially Aleppo. Thousands have died for political and religious ideologies I can’t begin to understand. And of course, the world witnessed what had to be the dirtiest election campaign ever fought anywhere. The mudslinging, allegations of malfeasance, inappropriate behaviors, ranging close to treason, racism, misogyny, etc. left many shaking their heads.

700x475_MainImage_StarDid anything good come from 2016? For me, yes. The highlight of my year was my trip to Denmark, Norway, and Iceland to attend my granddaughter’s confirmation in Oslo. We took a cruise of the Norwegian Fjords. All in all, it was an absolutely wonderful trip, one I would love to repeat someday.

In my publishing life, I finished and released Forever and Always, The White Iris, Hello Again, Desert Deception, and Prove It! I also put Come Home for Christmas, my holiday novella, into paperback. This year, I also talked to a group of students about the writing process and to two groups of ladies about how I got into writing, something I hope to do again one day.

In my personal life, I had a crisis of faith when a beloved minister was forced out of the pulpit. I’ve struggled with this for months, and while I know I need to forgive those responsible and move on, I’m still grieving the loss. One consolation is that our friendship endures and I see or talk to her almost every month.

In this part of the country, we were spared the worst of the bad weather.Personally, I loved the long, hot summer, could’ve done without the frigid temperatures earlier this month and Mother Nature could’ve kept the ice on Boxing Day, but all in all, I’ve been very fortunate.  My children, grandchildren, and other members of my family are well, as am I, something to be grateful for when I think of all the friends facing cancer treatments, surgery, and long periods of recovery.

I guess that explains why Father Time looks so exhausted and worn out at the end of 2016. Surely with only 3 days to go, he won’t cause anymore havoc!

Now, at the end of those three days, we’ll usher in 2017, and for the first time ever, I am not in the least bit optimistic. Many of the horrible things that happened in 2016 will continue to have consequences in 2017. In his Christmas address, Prince Charles alluded to the fact that the world is not far from the conditions in was in before Hitler propelled us into World War II. It’s true that one faction of a religion is hellbent on destroying all of the world’s infidels, one political tyrant has invaded another country, intent on annexing it, while another flexes his muscles with weapon testing, racism and terrorism are at an all-time high, and with the ability to annihilate ourselves, most of us can do nothing but sit and wait.

For me, I pray my family’s good health and happiness will continue as well as that of all my friends. I wish those recovering from illnesses get well quickly. I have books to write and finish, things I can control. I’ll just have to pray that common sense and wisdom prevail. happy-new-year  Let’s hope 2017 is better for everyone.

 

 

 

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Midweek Tease: From Prove It!

MWTease15Welcome to the last midweek tease of 2016. Hard to believe another year has slipped by so quickly. To one and all I wish a happy, healthy, and successful New Year. Thanks to the lovely and talented Angelica Dawson who makes this blog hop possible each week, and to the other writers who give me the opportunity to read bits and pieces out of my area of expertise.  You never cease to amaze me.

This morning, my offering will be even tamer than usual as I share with you the beginning of my newest novel, Prove It! This was written as a Christmas present for my eldest granddaughter who’ll be 16 in January. It’s a YA suspense–not your usual cup of tea, but I hope you’ll enjoy it anyway.

proveit-600x900High school sports can be more dangerous than you think!

Ivy Hill’s track star, Liam Howard, has his future all mapped out: date Hannah Connors, win the New Horizon scholarship, get a spot on the next Olympic team, and then go to medical school. Sounds simple, especially when he’s well on his way to achieving his dream. But someone else has other plans. Ignoring the most recent threatening note, Liam goes out for his regular practice run and is struck by a vehicle and left for dead.

Hannah refuses to believe Liam will never walk or run again, especially when she learns the person behind the accident may be her own track coach. Working with Erik Jenkins, Liam’s best friend, she searches for proof, but Erik vanishes on his way to see the coach. Now, it’s up to her, Liam, and their friends, to find Erik and the evidence they need to put a hit and run driver behind bars. But time may be running out for both Erik and Liam as someone tries to finish the job they started, regardless of collateral damage.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

“I don’t care who’s behind this,” Liam Howard lied angrily, unable to keep his frustration hidden from his best friend. Dropping the phone onto the desk, he yanked his t-shirt over his head before picking up the handset once more.

As different as any two people could possibly be, he and Erik Jenkins had been inseparable from the first day of their sophomore year, drawn together by circumstances beyond their control when they were both chosen to attend Ivy Hills.

“No one’s going to scare me out of competing. I need that scholarship money. My whole future depends on it.”

“Damn it, Liam, if you don’t take this threat seriously, you won’t have a future. This is nothing to joke about. You aren’t an ostrich, even though you can probably run as fast as one,” Erik answered, his voice, even as tinny as it sounded over the phone, conveyed his concern. “Burying your head in the sand won’t make this go away.”

“Tell me something I don’t know. I’m not ignoring the notes; I’m just trying to put them in perspective. They started last spring and other than a few annoying pranks this fall, nothing bad has happened. Someone’s messing with my head, and I won’t let them take this chance away from me. I can’t,” Liam insisted, even though they were doing just that since the most recent note had scared the crap out of him, and he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

He tried to swallow his discomfort. Talking to Erik, who was a doom and gloom kind of person at the best of times, was making matters worse.

“I know you think it’s one of the guys, and I’ll admit some of the students can be jerks, but I can’t believe this is a real threat. It’s just someone trying to yank my chain. It happens all the time.”

“Bull! This is more than routine bullying, and you know it. We get to walk the hallowed halls of Ivy Hills each day, only because of some archaic rule in their charter that insists two boys from the community have to be admitted each four-year cycle. If they could amend that rule, believe me, they would.”

“Maybe that’s true for some of them,” Liam conceded, his heart heavy, knowing how Erik had struggled to make friends these past three years, but it was about to pay off for both of them. “But I can’t see anyone on the track team being involved in something like this. They’re all decent guys.”

“So you say, but since September, your lucky shoes have vanished, your locker was vandalized, your warm-up jacket ripped to shreds, and at your last race, someone filled your water bottles with vinegar. That’s not funny; it’s just plain mean. Who but someone on the track team had access to your stuff? I can’t even get in there, and I’m your best friend. If you’d poured that vinegar on your face, you might’ve blinded yourself.”

“You need to pay closer attention in science class. Vinegar may be an acid, but it’s a mild one. Would’ve been incredibly painful, but wouldn’t have done any permanent damage. Besides, my nose works fine. The minute I opened the cap, I knew it wasn’t water. The smell was too strong to ignore. I’ll admit losing the shoes was a pain and having my locker trashed does bother me, but the coach replaced the shoes a couple of days ago, Caleb gave me some water after the race, Dooley repainted my locker, and Josh is helping me get a new jacket. It’s definitely not someone on the team. They’re as upset by the pranks as I am.”

“Are you willing to stake your life on that? You’re so focused on winning that scholarship next spring when we graduate, you’re ignoring the danger here. For years, freebies, like us, were pretty much ignored, because none of them rocked the boat. The silver-spooned darlings won all the awards, all the medals, and got all of the publicity. You’ve changed that, and someone’s pissed about it.”

“Back the truck up. You’re just as guilty as I am. MIT has accepted your application for that scholarship. If your marks are as good this year as they were last year, you’ll be a shoo-in.”

“Yeah, but that’s different. Sure, it’s a full ticket, but nerds like me don’t generally get the glory. Unlike you, my face won’t be plastered on sports’ magazines all over the country. You could be the next Usain Bolt.”

“You’re exaggerating. I may be fast, but he’s the fastest man on Earth. He’s also got legs eight inches longer than mine.” He laughed. “Seriously, I know things at Ivy Hills haven’t been the best, but they haven’t been that bad.”

Erik’s silence spoke volumes.

“Fine, have it your way. Maybe it was harder for you since you aren’t involved in any sports,” Liam conceded, “but it still makes no sense. The entire school borders on fanaticism when it comes to school accomplishments. Ivy Hills has to be the best, and right now, in track, that’s me. When I win that scholarship in June, the whole school will benefit.”

“Humor me for a minute. Let’s say you played it safe and backed down; who would win the next meet?”

“That’s easy. Malcolm Porter from Central. He’s the only one in the state who’s got a chance of beating me—a slim chance since I’ve cleaned his clock in every race we’ve run. There isn’t anyone on the Ivy Hills’ team whose time is even close to mine or his. That’s why having someone from Ivy Hills behind this makes no sense. When I win, the school wins, and the last thing they would want is for a regular high school to snatch that award away from them. This is the first time the school’s even been in the running—pardon the pun.”

“Go ahead and joke all you want to, but someone’s out to get you.”

“Listen to me. If I were to throw a race—and that’s a big ‘if’—I would be in more trouble than you could imagine. We may not be the most popular guys at school, but if I don’t win because I choked, I’ll just be adding to the problems faced by whoever follows us. No one else on the track team needs the New Horizon scholarship, but everyone wants the publicity behind the win. The school doesn’t need the ten grand honorarium to improve its track program, either. Any one of the board members could provide that, and it would be nothing but chump change for them, but the publicity generated by the award and the possibility of adding a runner to the next Olympic trials is huge and can mean endowments and who knows what else. No one from Ivy Hills can be behind this, but if it will make you feel better, if I get another message next week, I’ll show it to the coach.”

“You should show him this one,” Erik stated, his determination clear in the tone of his voice.

“Can’t do that,” Liam said and sighed. “I tossed it before we left the building.” Considering Erik’s unease, maybe he shouldn’t have done it, but if Mom had found that note… “There was no way I wanted Mata Hari to find it when she went through my bag. She still sees checking the backpack each night as part of her ‘mom’ duties.”

“Yeah, if she found it, she would go ballistic and never let you out of her sight again. She can be a tad overprotective.”

“A tad?” Liam laughed so hard he snorted. “That’s like saying Mr. Quigley is a tad overweight, when we all know he tips the scale at close to three hundred pounds. When it comes to my safety, it’s as if I’m still an infant. One of these days, she’s got to ease up.”

“Don’t count on it. She’ll be keeping tabs on you until you’re old and gray.”

Liam sobered. Losing Michael five years ago had changed his parents, especially his mother, but he wasn’t his brother. He was the cautious one, the one who never took chances, but he wasn’t a whining tattletale either. This was his problem, his battle to fight. If he didn’t stand up to the bullies, they would win. He just wished this particular bully had a face.

Thanks for reading. Please stop by and visit this week’s teasers.

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Tuesday Tales: Candy Kayne’s Christmas — From the Word SNOW

badge-for-tt-very-small-1To my Canadian friends Happy Boxing Day–that’s our equivalent to Black Friday. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and as the year winds down to its close, may each of the coming days be merry and bright.

Today I’m continuing with Candy Kayne’s Christmas, using both an image from the selection provided and the word SNOW. I pick up where I left off last week.

Bill smiled indulgently at his grandfather, a man he loved more than any other. “Grandpa, we both know people who still hold grudges against the North for perceived injustices after the Civil War. Tobias may have taken it to extremes, but I’m damned sure he wasn’t the only one.”

“You’re probably right, but what he did was wrong, and I intend to fix it.” The old man pursed his lips. “Tell me more about my great-uncle.”

The last few months, Grandpa had been obsessed with learning everything he could about Zeke Kayne.

“Unfortunately, your great uncle didn’t have any better luck with his progeny than did your grandfather, Jeremiah, his twin. Ezekiel had two sons, Anthony and Jonah, who died in infancy. His son, Anthony Ezekiel, had two children of his own, a girl who died without issue and a son, Robert Ezekiel, took over the family store. He had two children. Marie who died from tuberculosis in her twenties and Jerome, Candace’s father.”

“We haven’t been a very lucky lot, have we?” his grandfather asked, shaking his head.

Bill sighed. His mother, Elizabeth, Luke’s only daughter, had suffered a severe miscarriage after Mavis, his sister, had been born, leaving her unable to bear more children. Wanting some, she and his father, William, had adopted two, himself and his biological brother, Michael. While he hadn’t been born a Kayne, he’d been raised one, and carried the name as his middle name.

“Maybe it’s God’s punishment for the man’s arrogance,” Luke continued, reaching for the coffee mug on the table beside him. “How do you intend to approach her?”

Bill smiled. Looking into the past was fine for the old, but he preferred to look forward. For him, the past was filled with bitter memories. “Like I do any other business venture for this family. Serendipity Construction has purchased an old flour mill. The place has housed several different ventures since it closed its doors in 1934. Most recently, it’s served as a warehouse for Stockton Winery. You may remember I took a preliminary trip there six weeks ago and spoke to a few of the business men. Candace was in New York. What the people I spoke to tell me is that Willow Grove needs something to bring in the tourists during the winter months since they’re plentiful the rest of the year. My idea is to do just that.

“The mill is a beautiful old limestone and granite building with Douglas fir beams, the likes of which I haven’t seen in years. It sits on the river near the falls, at the base of a small mountain. I’ve looked into the logistics, talked to a few operators in the area, and I intend to renovate it, and open a ski resort.” He glanced down at his watch. “Phil Stockton, the owner of the nearby winery, should be informing the business community of Willow Grove about the plans in about an hour. He’s excited about it and willing to put out a new line of wine with the revamped mill on its label providing we agree to sell his wines in the resort’s restaurants. He gave me a couple of bottles, and I’m impressed enough with the quality to agree. I’m on my way back to Willow Grove in a couple of days. Candace has turned the general store into a high end coffee shop. I’m hoping she’ll be excited about the possibility of merging her business with ours. If all works well, the Serendipity Ski Resort should open its doors in time for Christmas a year from now.”

“That’s a pretty tight schedule, isn’t it? It’ll mean a lot of time on the job site. What about Tommy?”

Bill bit his lower lip. He’d hoped to put off discussing this aspect of his plan until after Christmas.

“I’ve bought a house a few miles away from the mill. It needs some work, but I should be able to move in by mid-February. Grandpa, I want to take Tommy up there with me—more than that—I want to stay on and manage the resort. My son lost his mother last year, and I’m away more than I’m home. I’ve been an orphan. I was five when Mom and Dad adopted me. I know what that loneliness feels like.”

“I’ll miss him, and so will Mrs. Hollingsworth,” the old man said, the sorrow in his eyes, heartbreaking. “When will you be back?”

“This time? A couple of days before Christmas. With a little luck, maybe your grandniece will agree to accompany me.” He smiled, hoping his grandfather would see his sincerity. “Mrs. Hollingsworth has enough to do watching her own children. Tommy will be in school most of the day and I’ve already looked into Daycare up there for him. I hope you’ll consider coming up to spend time with us, too.”

His grandfather laughed. Wouldn’t that be something? Another Kayne transplanted up north. I’m not saying I won’t think about it. I haven’t seen snow in years, but these old bones might prefer to wait until warmer weather.”

dec5“It’ll be beautiful there in any season, you’ll see. Think about it. The house is a beautiful off-white, two-story one big enough for all of us to share. I saw pictures of it last winter. The back of the house faces the river and from the front, you can look out on Silver Mountain.”

“By all of us, exactly who do you mean?” his grandfather asked.

Bill’s cheeks heated. He’d seen a picture of the very attractive and delectable Ms. Kayne and looked forward to getting to know her—maybe even in the Biblical sense. After all, they weren’t blood relatives.

That’s it for this week.  Don’t forget to check out all the other delicious stories coming your way today on  Tuesday Tales

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Midweek Tease: Her Christmas Hero

MWTease15Good morning. Welcome to the official first day of winter 2016-2017. Unfortunately, Old Man Winter has had a firm grip on this area for weeks now. It’s also the last Midweek tease before Christmas, so I thought you would enjoy something “in keeping with the situation” as the housekeeper says in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

This morning, my tease comes from Her Christmas Hero.  This is a short read. If after you read this and want more, the digital book is available from all Amazon distributors.  https://www.amazon.com/Her-Christmas-Hero-Susanne-Matthews-ebook/dp/B017TGEVAC

Her Christmas HeroThe blurb:

Widowed mother of four Laurie Wilson gets a shock when a check that was supposed to have been destroyed is cashed, leaving her in a financial lurch just days before Christmas.

Leland Ostler packed his heart in ice years ago and goes through the Christmas season paying lip service to the holiday. When he discovers Laurie Wilson is the girl he was fascinated by in high school and discovers her plight, he determines to make sure that family has the Merry Christmas it deserves.

This morning’s tease:

Laurie Wilson closed the file on her computer and removed her purse from the drawer. Reaching under her desk, she grabbed her boots.

“Please don’t tell me you’re going out for lunch in this,” Cassie said. “You’ve got to be crazy. I don’t understand why the city isn’t completely shut down.”

“It’s just a little sleet and snow,” she answered, smiling at her best friend. “We had far worse weather than this when I worked in Buffalo. Besides, it’s supposed to let up later this afternoon.” She exchanged her leather pumps for her worn knee-high boots. Her feet would be soaking wet by the time she got back. She should’ve bought those waterproof boots on sale last week, but Michael had needed basketball shoes. How could a boy’s feet grow so quickly?

She frowned, hoping the weather gods were right. If it got worse … The last thing she needed was for the schools to close early. Mrs. Bingley, the neighbor who babysat for her when the kids were sick or had a professional activity day, was still visiting her daughter out west and wouldn’t be back for another three or four days. Laurie had used up all of this year’s sick leave and vacation time, and she couldn’t afford a day without pay this close to Christmas.

“I have to go over to Caswell’s and pick up the tablets I ordered for the kids. Since the price was so good, they’ll sell like hot cakes, and Mrs. C. promised to set four aside as long as I got in there before five today.”

“That was nice of her. You’re such a good mommy,” Cassie said. “Don’t forget to grab a sandwich or something while you’re out. You’re losing weight again. The one thing those kids of yours don’t need is a sick mother.”

“You’re preaching to the choir. I’ll be fine. Christmas this year is important. It has to be the best one ever, and you know it.”

“Frank was a jerk. I won’t speak ill of the dead, but those kids are better off without a father like that, and a man who beats on his wife, don’t even get me started.”

“He wasn’t always like that,” Laurie said, falling back into her abused wife persona and defending the man. She shook her head. No. Months of counseling had taught her not to make excuses for him. “Be nice; without Frank, I wouldn’t have those kids, and I can’t imagine life without them.”

“Fine. The sperm donor did do something right, even if it was for the wrong reasons since all he wanted to do was keep you under his thumb, but I’ll never forgive the man for treating you and those angels that way. Dying was the best thing he ever did for you guys. You’d better get going. You’ve only got an hour. I’ll cover for you if you’re a few minutes late.”

“Thanks, Cassie. You’re the best.”

Laurie hurried to the closet, took out her cornflower-blue coat, slipped it on, tying the hot-pink scarf around her neck, and jamming the matching cap down on her head. She rushed down the hall as quickly as the heels on her boots would allow and turned the corner, running right into a solid wall of muscle and fine wool.

“Whoa, there. Where’s the fire?” he asked, holding her upright.

“Sorry, sir,” she said, avoiding eye contact with the man a good six inches taller than her own five-foot eight inch frame. He let go of her arms where the skin burned beneath his touch even through the three layers that separated the flesh. She bent down and grabbed her purse, noting the strap had broken. Damn. Something else that would need to be replaced. Why was it she constantly ran out of money before she ran out of things to spend the money on?

She nodded and mumbled a second apology, escaping into the elevator as soon as the doors opened, making sure to keep her eyes averted. Of all the people to run into: Leland Ostler, the firm’s CEO, and Mrs. Colter, his administrative assistant. No doubt the woman would be clock-watching until Laurie was behind her desk once more.

Moving as swiftly as she could along the slush covered sidewalk, Laurie kept her head down watching for icy spots that could end up in an embarrassing spill. Cassie was right, it was much worse out here than she’d imagined. The possibility school would be over earlier than expected worried her. Mike had a key, but a ten-year-old wasn’t an adequate babysitter for his nine, eight, and six year old siblings. It was only for a couple of hours, but who knew how many things could go wrong in that short time period? Marcia, the neighbor’s teenage daughter, usually went into the house and stayed with the children until Laurie got home, but the teen had finished school last week and gone south with her family.

Stop borrowing trouble. It’s Christmas. The sleet will stop. Think positive.

Now, don’t forget to visit the rest of this week’s teasers.

#MidWeekTease December 21, 2016

This is a Blog Hop!


 

 

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Tuesday Tales: Candy Kayne’s Christmas–From a Picture.

badge-for-tt-very-small-1Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tale. Since I’m working from a picture prompt, you snippet is only 300 words long. Candy has no idea what’s in store for her.

This week, you get a sneak peek at Bill the hero of the piece. Here’s my inspiration. dec-1

Bill Lamont smiled indulgently at the man sitting in the wheelchair in front of the fireplace, the mantel of which was decorated with pine cones, golden glass balls, sprigs of pine, and artificial snow. Grandpa Luke was a Southern gentleman who took pride in his family and its heritage, even when it surprised the hell out of him. As usual, he was bundled up against the cold, all seventy degrees of it this afternoon.

“And you’re certain it’s her?” he asked.

“Yes. I went through all the birth records myself. That ancestry site and knowing exactly where Ezekiel settled made the search easier. I’m sure that’s why your great-grandmother noted it on the margin of the page. It must’ve torn her apart to read that letter and know her husband wouldn’t allow her to correspond with her last surviving child. Candace Marie Kayne is the last surviving descendant of Ezekiel Kayne. She was born in Willow Grove, New York, on August 10, 1985. Her mother, also named Candace, died from complications of childbirth. The last male Kayne, her father, Jerome Ezekiel Kayne, died four years ago in June. He was sixty-five. Candace was married to a stockbroker named Judson Montrose. They divorced four years ago, but had no children.”

Luke shook his head. “Damn shame when a marriage falls apart, but no one can predict the future.”

Bill frowned. “Maybe not predict it, but you seem determined to influence it.”

“Not influence it, Bill, correct it, and by doing so, I hope to right an injustice. Had I found that old Bible years ago, I might’ve been able to reconcile this family a lot sooner. My great-grandfather, Tobias, must’ve been a mule-headed son of a bitch. Imagine, turning your back on your only living son because of a political argument.”

That’s it for this week.  Don’t forget to check out all the other delicious stories coming your way today on  Tuesday Tales

 

 

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Midweek Tease: A Little Bit of Christmas Cheer from Come Home For Christmas

MWTease15Hello again. Well, we’re officially 11 days from Christmas and I’m almost ready! The biggest part of the gifts are wrapped and I’m waiting on deliveries from the online world to finish up. Let’s just hope they get here on time!

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Midweek Tease brought to you by the lovely and talented Angelica Dawson. Here, each week a group of talented authors share a snippet of their work with you. Many write far steamier books than I do, and that’s the wonder of this blog. There’s something for everyone.

This week, I thought I’d share a scene from Come Home For Christmas. The event is based on something that really happened to me!

come-home-for-christmas“What kind of pizza do you like? I like Hawaiian.”

The quick change of topic had Krista’s brain scrambling to catch up.

“I do, too,” although in reality the idea of pineapple swimming in grease and cheese made her queasy.

“Yes!”

After placing two large frozen Hawaiian pizzas in the basket, Leah led her around to the meat aisle.

The overhead sign clearly proclaimed the location of the turkey. Krista rolled her eyes.

Why do they always place them in deep freezers?

Hopefully, she’d be able to get one close to the top. Krista looked into the bin and realized it was almost empty. There were only three turkeys left, each one about the same size as the child beside her, reminding her of a scene from A Christmas Carol. Oh well, Ethan would have left over turkey until Easter.

“Get a big one,” Leah said. “Everybody comes to dinner on Christmas.”

Of course they do.

Some things, like Mama’s crèche and fudge, didn’t change. Seven Oaks had always been the holiday hub. Mom had hosted the parties, and she’d been gone before the next Christmas. Had Krista stayed at Seven Oaks, she’d have been the official holiday hostess. Now, would she get the job by default?

Who says God doesn’t have a strange sense of humor?

Bending into the freezer, Krista reached for the icy cold but not frozen bird in the bottom. Stretching a little harder, up on her tip toes, she still couldn’t reach it. Leveraging herself on the edge of the chest, she managed to get her hands around the bird, and then it happened. The heaviness of the bird shifted her weight, and she was stuck half-in, half-out of the freezer, ass in the air.

Lord, kill me now.

Letting go of the bird, she tried to push herself off the lip of the freezer, but the button on her coat seemed to be caught on something.

This is just frigging wonderful.

“Leah, go get your daddy. I’m stuck.” She groaned, bent her knees, and kicked frantically, trying to get some momentum to pull herself up.

“Daddy, come quickly,” Leah yelled at the top of her voice, making sure everyone in the store, and anyone walking by outside, could hear her. “Krista fell into the freezer.”

The sound of several pairs of running feet added to her mortification.

“Need a lift?” Ethan asked.

She grabbed the bird just as he put his arms around her waist, pulling her upright, turkey and all.

“Thank you,” she said with all the dignity she could muster, praying no one had used a cellphone to take a picture of the crazy lady head first in the turkey freezer. Of course, it was her face not her ass that was famous, so she might get away with it.

Hope you had a good laugh!

Want to read more about Krista’s adventures?

Now, please drop over and visit the rest of this week’s teasers.

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Tuesday Tales: Candy Kayne’s Christmas Continued. From the Word BAR

badge-for-tt-very-small-1Welcome back to Tuesday Tales and the second instalment of Candy Kayne’s Christmas. Today, I’m picking up where I left off last week. Since this is a word cue, you get a bigger chunk of story. Apologies since it’s a little long, but necessary for what’s to be! As I said, along with the word, BAR, I also used one of the images provided for us this season.

dec6

What was it people said about going home? Either you could never go back, or it was where you were loved no matter what. Funny how those two sayings were so completely opposite one another, but sadly, like her great-great-grandfather, she’d learned which one was true. The problem was while she’d accepted it, he never had, and had died in the hope the family would be reunited one day. Fat chance!

There had been nothing civil about the Civil War. Ideologies had torn families apart, and some of those riffs had never mended. Despite the fact Zeke had been the only one to survive, his father refused to allow him on the plantation since he’d sided with the Yankees. One hundred and fifty-years later, some of those hatreds still persisted. Hurt more deeply than anyone could imagine, Ezekiel Kayne had walked away from his heritage and moved north to seek his future.

Eventually, he’d settled in Willow Grove, New York, and had opened a small general store in what was then a thriving village thanks to the nearby falls on the White River, which provided water power for lumber and flour mills, distilleries, and tanneries. In 1885, a small Edison hydroelectric plant had opened, one of the few in the state. The denizens of Willow Grove had visions of their little town growing into a great city like Albany or Buffalo, maybe even New York, but sadly, their dreams never amounted to much. When the markets crashed in 1929, so did Willow Grove. The factories closed and other than the neighboring farmers, few people stayed in the central New York state village.

Among the businesses that did survive was Kayne’s General Store. The store, now a heritage building and tourist destination on its own, had been in business more than one hundred and thirty years, and a Kayne had run it, although, truth be told, it had evolved along with the rest of the family. Four years ago her father, the last male in Ezekiel Kayne’s line, had passed away. The fact the love of his life had died giving birth to his only child, a girl, had been heartbreaking for him, but Candace had never felt unloved or second rate, and now that she was truly alone in the world, she missed him terribly.

Dad had named her after her mother and while she’d hated being called Candy Kayne, it had never been said maliciously. There might still be Kaynes living in Georgia, the place her great-great-grandfather had persisted in calling home—a tradition continued by those who’d followed in his wake—but she’d never met one and wasn’t likely to. The only real home she’d ever known, was here in Willow Grove. It was a shame none of them had understood that. Dreaming about what couldn’t be only brought pain and frustration as she’d learned all too well.

After a bitter divorce that had scorched her heart and soul, Candace had reclaimed her maiden name and left Manhattan, where she’d worked as an editor for one of the premier publishing houses, and returned to her hometown to lick her wounds, only to lose the last of her family within months of her return. Thanks to the advances in technology and the nature of her job, she’d stayed on with Seven Seas Publishing, which was why dismal winter sales didn’t really bother her, and she could indulge in her two passions any time she wanted to—coffee and reading.

Today, Willow Grove was located in the heart of tourist country with wineries, camping, hiking, and boating on the nearby lakes and rivers, attracting thousands of people each summer. In the fall, while business wasn’t as brisk, it had picked up in recent years since the wineries offered fall foliage tours and specials, but without a ski resort nearby, the village didn’t get much tourist traffic during the winter months. Things started to pick up in May, but from November to April, Willow Grove was as sleepy a village as you could get.

Wiping her hands on her apron, she went into the living room and turned on the Christmas tree lights. After she’d buried her father, she’d expected to live in the cabin he’d built for her mother and run the store which was leaking money at an incredible rate. It hadn’t taken long for the isolation and unreliable Internet and power to force her to reconsider her choices. She’d sold the cabin to one of the nearby winery owners, and had used the money to renovate the building that was now hers and turn a losing proposition into a winning one.

While she couldn’t do anything to the outside because of its heritage designation, she could redo the interior to suit herself. She’d renovated the upstairs storage area into a loft every bit as luxurious as the one she and Judson had owned in Manhattan, decorating it not with the sleek, cold, modern designs her ex-husband had preferred, but with the cozy, cheery, stuffed chairs and antique wooden furniture her mother had collected years ago. Downstairs, she’d kept the entrance as it was, but the store had been renamed. Hanging from the black wrought-iron bar was a sign that read Kayne’s Quarters.

When you stepped inside, it was like coming into someone’s home. The large foyer opened up into four individual stores and the freight lift that took her up to her loft. In its heyday, it had served as a cargo elevator, used to bring stock and supplies upstairs for storage and then down again when needed. She’d painted the doors to resemble the wood-paneled walls down there, and upstairs, she’d hidden it behind double doors since it opened into her living room area. In addition to her coffee business, there was Nate’s Gallery, a boutique that sold hand-made carvings, Sally’s Sweet Shop, specializing in handmade candies and chocolates, and Cathy’s Candles and Quilts, similarly all hand-dipped or handmade.

The money she collected from the leases covered the utilities and taxes on the building with enough remaining for groceries each month. With the settlement she’d received from Judson, the money from the sale of the cabin, the income from her editing job, the leases, and the profits generated by Kayne’s Coffee, she was in better financial shape than ever. Small consolation when all her dreams of a family and a happily ever after had vanished in a quagmire of lies and deceit.

Pulling out the bowl of icing, she separated it into three batches and added red food coloring to one and green to another, leaving the third one white. As soon as the colored icing was mixed, she placed the colors in separate bags, each with a small tip, and began the process of covering the sugar cookie with alternating red, green, and white stripes.

It had been Sally’s idea that the four of them should join the cookie extravaganza this year. While she’d been less than thrilled, Candace had gone along with it. Normally, Sally closed up shop for the winter months and vacationed in Florida, but her daughter was due any day, and she wouldn’t be seeking the heat this winter. She would be offering bell-shaped biscuits. Nate usually spent the winter months rebuilding his inventory and had agreed to play along when his wife Amy volunteered to help out. She was looking after supplying his reindeer-shaped cookies. Cathy had opted for candle-shaped cookies, having thrown aside a few designs that were just a bit too phallic to be in good taste, so to speak.

Each of the other twelve shops involved in the promotion had selected a different themed cookie, so no two were alike. With a twenty-dollar purchase, the patron received a real cookie and a similar sticker on a cookie extravaganza card, as well as a ballot put into the drum for the shop’s prize. In her case, the reward was a Swiss-made, French press coffee maker and a voucher for one pound of freshly roasted and ground coffee beans each month for a year. Once a person made a purchase from each of the twelve shops involved, their completed card went into a draw for a seven-day Caribbean cruise. Flyers had gone up at all the wineries and resorts within a hundred miles.

trainEarlier today, she, Sally, Amy, and Cathy had decorated the foyer to look like the inside of someone’s home. Candace had purchased an electric fireplace and a few comfy chairs for the area to replace the checkered tables and chairs that supplied sitting rooms out of the heat for the various summer visitors. Unable to stop herself, she’d set up the antique train set near the window, the one she’d painted to resemble the little train in one of her author’s children’s books, A Christmas Train for Tonio. Finally, she’d set up a coffee and cocoa bar, where patrons could have a cup of either one, free with any purchase. Sally, Nate and Cathy had each contributed items from their various shops to enhance the décor, and Silver’s Hardware had sold them a Christmas tree at half-price. She’d almost dismissed having one upstairs, but the room had seemed barren, so she’d bought herself a small one anyway.

After she finished icing the twenty-fourth cookie, she placed the remaining frosting in sealed containers in the fridge, and placed the decorated cookies on the counter to allow them to harden and dry. Reaching for the December twelfth treat in her Advent calendar, Candace walked over to the table, turned on the radio, and looked outside. It was only four o’clock, but much darker than it should be thanks to the heavy cloud cover. The snow, which had started early this morning, was still coming down hard, coating everything in white. No doubt the roads were a mess by now and would be even worse come morning. It looked as if the kids would have a snow day.

“So much for the first day of the cookie extravaganza,” she said aloud, before she began humming along to the Bing Crosby tune on the radio. “No need to dream of a white Christmas now.”

She unwrapped the chocolate, and placed the small square on her tongue, eager to discover today’s surprise. Sally had made and sold several of these calendars this year. No one was ever too old to look forward to the holidays. As the chocolate melted, the taste of pineapple and cocoa filled her mouth. Sally’s handiwork never ceased to amaze her. Each milk chocolate square looked exactly like the other, and yet it had a flavor unique onto itself.

Walking back to her bedroom, she changed into long-johns, wool socks, and jeans, and put on a turtleneck sweater and a sweatshirt. There was a meeting at the Stockton Winery at five and if she expected to get there on time, she needed to get out and start shoveling. The plow had probably passed by now, depositing its load of snow across her driveway as it always did.

Satisfied everything was as it should be, Candace grabbed her hat, gloves, scarf and coat, slipped on her boots and opened the double doors to the elevator.

The cold took her breath away, but she had to admit, seeing everything with a fresh coat of pristine snow reminded her why she loved winter. Her snooty relatives in Georgia or wherever south they lived could keep the heat. Humming another Bing Crosby tune from the old movie she’d watched last night, she reached for the shovel and attacked the eight inches of fluffy white stuff blocking her driveway.

That’s it for this week. Come back next Tuesday for more.

Please take the time now to check out the other selections on  Tuesday Tales