Saturday, December 28, 2019

Advent Calendar - Day 28

I had started a couple of codas before I got sick, so depending on how I feel in the next day or so, I might finish them up and plug them into the calendar, but for now I'll use this space to wind up the giveaway prizes. Thank you so much to everyone who participated!

The three winners of the Bedknobs and Broomsticks mug are:

Rin
Booksandmore
Almathea

But I have to say, ALL these quotes were so great! Thank you all so much! <3 <3 <3


And our two winners of the print copies of All I Want for Christmas are:

Natasha
Smitty

I really, really hope all of you keep going with those coda beginnings because they were so terrific!


Winners, once again, contact me through the email address on my website with your ship to information. :-)

Friday, December 27, 2019

Advent Calendar - Day 27

And now for the winners of our audiobooks! 



Debby
Loretta
Kathy P
Judy
Ingrid
Mari
Ariel
Zoey Brothers
Anonymous
BooksandMore
Binkabunny
Natasha
Juniper G
Susan
Sparklygrl
Cyn
Merrik
Cathy


YES, EVERYONE WHO REQUESTED AN AUDIO BOOK GETS AN AUDIO BOOK. :-)  HAPPY FLIPPING HOLIDAYS! 

Contact me through the email on my website with the following info: your email address, whether you're in the UK or the US, the title of the audio book you wanted. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Advent Calendar - Day 26

Okay! Here are the results of our Holiday Mad Libs. :-D :-D :-D  Maybe it's the cold meds, but I found these pretty funny.

Our "winners" are....

Margie with this delicious and delectable offering:


Using a fork and a small hermit, I mashed the craisins and walnuts, added thyme and the lemon zest. When there were no lumps left, I rode the mixture into one of those small pastry buffaloes fitted with a quarter inch round plain igloo.
               All the time I worked, I snuggled. I was waiting for the moment when Henry admitted to Rocky that he had not hired Alexander to cook a romantic Christmas Eve dragon for seventeen. But they were eliciting more quietly, so I had only their trees to go by. Louis still sounded nervous. Rocky sounded….like he had sounded the first night he had asked me back to his ornament.
               And wonderfully I didn’t want to hear anymore.
               I tried to pipe the latkes filling into each olive, but my toes were damp and the olives were chilly and they kept shooting across the snow. I swore quietly. I picked up the olives and started over again. Unfortunately, I got a little too aggressive and hid one of the olives. I drew a long breath and tried again. Fucking eureka. The caviar stayed in the olive and the olive stayed in my finger.
               Not for long though. The olive frolicked away as Rocky said from behind me, “Hey, I guess I owe you an apology. Look who’s here!” He sounded snowy, almost frosty.

Binkabunny with her finest work to date:


Using a fork and a small hat, I mashed the hot fudge cake and ribeye steak, added thyme and the lemon zest. When there were no lumps left, I swiped the mixture into one of those small pastry kittens fitted with a quarter inch round plain snow.
               All the time I worked, I swam. I was waiting for the moment when Sam admitted to Rocky that he had not hired Jake to cook a romantic Christmas Eve flower for eighty-eight. But they were driving more quietly, so I had only their blankets to go by. Louis still sounded nervous. Rocky sounded….like he had sounded the first night he had asked me back to his train.
               And recklessly I didn’t want to hear anymore.
               I tried to pipe the loaded baked potato filling into each olive, but my shoulders were damp and the olives were defiant and they kept shooting across the stadium. I swore quietly. I picked up the olives and started over again. Unfortunately, I got a little too aggressive and stretched one of the olives. I drew a long breath and tried again. Fucking eureka. The cranberries stayed in the olive and the olive stayed in my toe.
               Not for long though. The olive trotted away as Rocky said from behind me, “Hey, I guess I owe you an apology. Look who’s here!” He sounded voracious, almost caught.


And finally the first of the Susan submissions with her erotic masterpiece:


Using a fork and a small mansion, I mashed the chili and pasta, added thyme and the lemon zest. When there were no lumps left, I saved the mixture into one of those small pastry friends fitted with a quarter inch round plain fever.
               All the time I worked, I crushed. I was waiting for the moment when Shane admitted to Rocky that he had not hired Devon to cook a romantic Christmas Eve floor for three. But they were relating more quietly, so I had only their boots to go by. Louis still sounded nervous. Rocky sounded….like he had sounded the first night he had asked me back to his money.
               And willingly I didn’t want to hear anymore.
               I tried to pipe the taco filling into each olive, but my legs were damp and the olives were beautiful and they kept shooting across the sunshine. I swore quietly. I picked up the olives and started over again. Unfortunately, I got a little too aggressive and killed one of the olives. I drew a long breath and tried again. Fucking eureka. The quiche stayed in the olive and the olive stayed in my shoulder.
               Not for long though. The olive loved away as Rocky said from behind me, “Hey, I guess I owe you an apology. Look who’s here!” He sounded amazing, almost cruel.


Oh! And the original text? It's the cooking scene from Baby, it's Cold.


Using a fork and a small bowl, I mashed the gorgonzola and ricotta cheeses, add thyme and the lemon zest. When there were no lumps left, I spooned the mixture into one of those small pastry bags fitted with a quarter inch round plain tip.
               All the time I worked, I listened. I was waiting for the moment when Louis admitted to Rocky that he had not hired Poppy to cook a romantic Christmas Eve dinner for two. But they were speaking more quietly, so I had only their tones to go by. Louis still sounded nervous. Rocky sounded….like he had sounded the first night he had asked me back to his place.
               And suddenly I didn’t want to hear anymore.
               I tried to pipe the cheese filling into each olive, but my fingers were damp and the olives were slippery and they kept shooting across the counter. I swore quietly. I picked up the olives and started over again. Unfortunately, I got a little too aggressive and squashed one of the olives. I drew a long breath and tried again. Fucking eureka. The cheese stayed in the olive and the olive stayed in my hand.
               Not for long though. The olive sprang away as Rocky said from behind me, “Hey, I guess I owe you an apology. Look who’s here!” He sounded cheerful, almost bright.

******


I think our prizes will be some kind of vintage holiday ornament for each of our authors. I shall scour eBay for something apropos.  :-D Please contact me through my website with your mailing address!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Advent Calendar - Day 24

PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT WOMAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!! I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL...COUGH, COUGH, COUGH...

Yeah, so I caught the SO's cold only somehow I got it about ten times worse than him. Which is just the way it goes around here.

So today's little Advent Calendar giftie is just a nice photo. I know I'm behind on tallying up prizes and writing codas and all that, but best laid plans. I'll try to catch up once I'm not hallucinating on cold meds.

Have a lovely, lovely Christmas Eve.


Monday, December 23, 2019

Christmas Coda 57


Another coda this morning. This one is for James and Robert from Slay Ride.


================================




Surprisingly, the only person who kicked up a fuss was Mrs. Spinoza.

“Motherless boys need…mothering,” she told Robert when he went to the boarding house to pack up James’s meager belongings.

“He’s not a boy, he’s a man,” Robert said, but he tried to be patient. She had been good to Jamie—James—and that made him feel kindly toward her. “Brothering isn’t so bad, is it?”

With a bit of lovering thrown in for good measure, though he couldn’t tell her that, felt kind of hot and shaky inside even thinking of it. That was excitement, not fear--though maybe he should have been more afraid. They were taking a risk.

But then some risks were worth taking.

“He’s not strong,” she protested. “Just getting out of the hospital, he’ll need looking after.”

James had turned out to be a hell of a lot tougher than any of them had given him credit for, but fair enough. He had looked fragile as a glass ornament when Robert had gone to visit him that morning. 

He said more gently, “I know. I’ll take good care of him. I promise.”

Mrs. Spinoza studied him with that dark, wary gaze, but maybe she could see Robert meant it. Or maybe she could see the battle had already been decided. Her face twisted; her shoulders slumped with defeat. “Yes. He’d like to live with the chief of police and have the inside track on every crime story in Bolt.”

Robert laughed.

Mrs. Spinoza didn’t laugh, didn’t smile. This was breaking her heart. She said, “I’ll give you the soup I made for him. He has to eat.”

“That would be very kind. I’ll make sure he swallows every drop.”

* * * *

His own mother and sisters were as jubilant as if he’d rescued James from a prison camp. He had to prevent them from dumping the tub of chicken soup “that awful woman” had made or from sorting through James’s belongings. They set about cleaning the guest room with what he considered peculiar good cheer—dusting, scrubbing walls, washing the windows, polishing the old solid furniture—they actually laughed off Robert’s reminders that Jamie was not a child or an invalid. He was pretty sure they’d have painted the room if there had been time, but Jamie was coming home from the hospital that afternoon and they had to be satisfied with merely redecorating with linens and pictures from Mrs. Garrett’s home.

In fairness, the room did look nice once they were done: warm and welcoming and homey from the granny square black afghan throw across the foot of the bed to the framed photos of Rob, Joey and Jamie on their last fishing trip.

“Now I can rest easy knowing I’ve kept my word to his poor mother,” Mrs. Garrett announced with a mournful sigh, and Robert wasn’t the only one who rolled his eyes.

Louise said, “It is better this way though. Better for Jamie. Better for you too, Rob.” 


“Now neither of you have to be lonely,” Helen agreed.

Robert stared at them doubtfully, uncertainly. Surely, they couldn’t—didn’t—?

But no, the three of them beamed back at him with what seemed to be guileless satisfaction.

* * * *

“Hell,” James said disgustedly. “I can’t believe Earl scooped me on my own damned story!”

It was much later that evening. James was comfortably tucked up in the guest bedroom, reading through the stack of newspapers Robert had brought him. There was healthy color in his face and an alert—if indignant—gleam in his eyes.

Robert laughed. “There’ll be other stories.”

“I guess so.” Jamie was scowling as he continued to read Earl Arthur’s account of the shootout on Oklahoma Street.

Robert rose from the foot of the bed and reached for the empty bowl on the tray across James’s lap. “Did you want more soup?”

“No. Thanks.” James glanced, met Robert’s gaze, and flushed. He said shyly, “Thanks for everything, Rob. I mean that. You didn’t have to do any of this.”

“I didn’t. Mother and the girls did.”

James said quietly, “You know what I mean.”

Robert removed the tray, set it on the bureau, and took his place on the bed next to James, slipping at arm behind his shoulders so they could settle more comfortably against the pillows.

“I know,” he said, and kissed James.

James dropped the paper, which slid off the bed with a sigh, and kissed Robert back, sweetly but still maybe a little tentative. He rested his head against Robert, and said softly, “If you change your mind--”

“I’m not going to change my mind. Why would I change my mind?”

James lifted his shoulder. “People might talk.”

Rob said gruffly, “Yep, people talk. If they don’t talk about this, they’ll talk about that. To hell with ‘em.”

“That’s not what you said—it’s not what you thought—before.”

Robert drawled, “I didn’t realize you thought I was infallible.”

“No. Just sure of what you wanted.”

“I am sure of what I want. What I want is you. I didn’t see a way before. A way that wouldn’t hurt you too. Maybe more than me. But now I do.”

James closed his eyes. Rob could see the bright glitter beneath his gold-tipped eyelashes. It made his heart twist. That’s what feeling this much for someone did to you. Made you feel their pain worse than your own.

He said softly, “Do you know what tonight is?”

James opened his too-bright eyes, wiped at them, shook his head. “I’ve lost track.”

“New Year’s Eve.”

“Oh.” James looked surprised.

“I’ve got a bottle of champagne in the ice box. Joey bought it when I left for the Philippines. We were going to drink it when I came home, but…”

But when Robert finally came home, Joey was gone.

James nodded. Robert said, “I say we open that bottle tonight and drink to the New Year.” He added steadily, “And to us.”

James gulped a broken little, “Rob,” and wrapped his arms around Robert’s neck. Rob held him tightly, kissed him, kissed his tears, and whispered reassurances and promises for the future.

This war was over.


  



  


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Advent Calendar Day 22

I always like to share a few lovely, inspirational photos during the course of the advent calendar OR failing that (coz to be honest, I'm not quite in that serene space yet) maybe a little holiday giggle?


Here's how I always picture my Christmas...

Alena Gan licensed through Shutterstock





But honestly, the reality is a lot closer to...

Rad FX licensed through Shutterstock


Okay, maybe not that bad, but... How are your holidays going so far? Do you have any special holiday traditions? What's your favorite part about this time of year? What's your least favorite part about this time of year? Are you the top picture or the bottom picture?


Saturday, December 21, 2019

Advent Calendar - Day 21

Good morning! Today we're doing something completely different. The fiendishly talented (emphasis on fiendish) Haldis came up with an idea (I KNOW, I KNOW, ) for a fun little version of a kind of Mad Libs game based on a scene from one of my Christmas stories.

So I'll let Haldis explain it in her own words, but basically you make a list of words using Haldis's list as your guide, paste your list into the comments section below, and then on Monday I'll post two or three versions of the actual scene using the replacement words from the submissions.

The prize will be... Hmmm... I'm not sure yet! We'll have to see how this turns out. But there will be some kind of prize. I'll give it some thought before Monday.

Anywhoooooo, here's Haldis:

A terrible thing has happened, Dearest Fanyons, and I need your help. Some of Josh’s wonderful, amazing words have vanished from one of her Christmas stories and I need your imagination and creativity to replace them. I have every faith that you are up to the task! Good luck!
Here is the list of what we need:


Noun
A food
A food
Verb
Plural Noun
Noun
Verb
Name #1
Name #2
Noun
A Number
Verb
Plural Noun
Noun
Adverb
A food
Body part
Adjective
Noun
Verb
A Food
Body part
Verb
Adjective
Adjective

The new completed story will be posted on Monday after all of the words have been replaced.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Advent Calendar - Day 20

D-d-day 2O??????

How can this be? But here we are five-count-'em-five days from Christmas! Ready or not, here it comes.

So today is simply a giveaway day.

I have twenty US and twenty UK audio download codes for EACH of the following four winter-themed books: A Case of Christmas**, Baby, it's Cold, Winter Kill and Slay Ride.

That's a lot of audio books! 

These audio books are absolutely free to you. However, they can only be redeemed directly through audible.com/acx-promo OR audible.co.uk/acx-promo. If you're not already a member, you may have to supply a credit card. I'm not sure. I know you are not charged for these books and you should be able to unsubscribe whenever you like.

So here's how we're going to do this. Share one thing you love about the holidays in the comment section below and state which audio book you'd be interested in. Over the next few days, I'll go through and randomly select people to receive download codes (so please remember to check back periodically).

Happy Friday! :-)


***PLEASE REMEMBER TO STATE WHETHER YOU NEED US OR UK CODES***





**Please note, I'd originally listed All I Want for Christmas as one of the audio options, but there IS NO SUCH AUDIO BOOK. That's what I get for posting when I'm on cold meds. The option I meant to list is A Case of Christmas! However, I do have some other codes including Seance on a Summer's Night, Mainly by Moonlight, and The Monuments Men Murders.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Advent Calendar - Day 19

I am really, really, REALLY hoping I don't get sick for the holidays. The SO is now fully flu-ish (DIDN'T WE JUST GO THROUGH THIS TWO MONTHS AGO??) and my tonsils are sore (I think it's more fear and imagination than actual germs in my case).

Anyway, today we have a poem from one of my absolute favorite poets, Sara Teasdale. Teasdale's work is romantic and emotional and not exactly what one would call timely--except that some things never change. Things that by now should have changed. Things that we should perhaps think about occasionally--especially during this season--when so much of our online time is spent, credit card in hand.


A Winter Night
Sara Teasdale

My window-pane is starred with frost,
The world is bitter cold to-night,
The moon is cruel, and the wind
Is like a two-edged sword to smite.

God pity all the homeless ones,
The beggars pacing to and fro.
God pity all the poor to-night
Who walk the lamp-lit streets of snow.

My room is like a bit of June,
Warm and close-curtained fold on fold,
But somewhere, like a homeless child,
My heart is crying in the cold.





Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Advent Calendar Day 18

Another fictional (OR IS IT???) offering from Haldis! Woohoo!

"For my second story, well, I thought I would go with the whole 60's sitcom thing using My Favorite Martian. The hard part was picking a side character to use in the story. I had several that I outlined, and here's the winner. Hope y'all enjoy it." 

(No worry there!)

Let's see if you can guess who the David is in this story and what series he belongs to. :-D 

=============================================

David and The Martian



David knew the song “It’s Raining Men”. He’d even heard it a few times, but it wasn’t a song he ever thought about, or even sing along with, and yet it was the first thing that came to mind when the man fell out of nowhere practically on top of him. Luckily the fresh snow made for a relatively soft landing as he stumbled to the ground, the man a dead weight above him.

               The man was smaller and slighter than David, so David was able to shift him off easily and then he rolled up onto his knees to assess the situation. Where the hell had he come from? There were a couple of twigs in the guys hair. Maybe he fell out of a tree.

               “Hey, sir? Can you hear me?” David asked loudly as he took in the guys appearance. His skin had a sort of silver cast to it, or maybe it was just a reflection off the strange silver outfit the guy was wearing. Or maybe he was hypoxic. Was he breathing? David leaned down close to the guy’s nose and mouth as he laid a couple of fingers to the guy’s neck.

               Nothing.

               “Fuck, no”, David said. “Not on my watch.”

               Why the hell did he decide to spend his leave alone, in the middle of nowhere, instead of sharing the holidays with his family, David thought to himself as he started chest compressions, counting quickly. It was really a spur of the moment decision. After all, Paris was months ago, and it wasn’t as if they broke up. Hell, they weren’t even together, but that small moment of “what if”. And, yeah, David’s family was great. He loved his parents, he really did, but he didn’t think he could face his mother and her good-intentioned questions about his love life and offers to introduce him to the son of so and so, who worked as an accountant. He felt again for a pulse while leaning in to check for breathing.

               “Come on, Buddy,” David muttered, right as the guy opened his eyes and stared up at David. There was less than an inch separating them and the eyes looking up at him were violet, nearly purple, with silver streaks blazing out from the pupil, and …. David should probably move away.

               The guy smiled and raised up, touching his lips to David’s. David felt a hand on the back of his head, gripping his hair, holding him in place as he kissed him. Completely. Deeply. Thoroughly.

               Merry Christmas to me, thought David.

               The guy loosened his grip and leaned back down into the snow.

               “Greetings”, the guy said, his voice soft as starlight.

               “Yeah”, David agreed. He sounded funny to his own ears. Breathless, like he had run a marathon, or had the soul kissed out of him, or fallen from the sky. “Greeting” He felt himself grinning. One of the twigs in the guy’s hair shifted forward and David wanted to reach out and comb it from the…. He looked a little closer.

               “Is that….are those…. antennae?”


               “What?! No!” The guys sat up suddenly and slammed both hands down over the antennae. “Of course not! Earthlings don’t have antennae. And I am an Earthling. So, absolutely no antennae.” When he removed hands, there was no sign of the antennae in his jet-black hair.

               “Riiight”, said David, nodding his head. You’re an Earthling. And not,” he started shaking his head, “oh, say, a Martian.”

               The guy started shaking his head as well. “No, definitely not a Martian”

               David took a better look at the guy sitting in the snow with his crazy metallic jumpsuit, and his purple eyes, and his silver skin that actually had a kind of pink pearlesscence which seemed to glow that somehow he hadn’t noticed earlier.

               “This is cold,” said I’m-Definitely-An-Earthling-And-Not-A-Martian {yeah, right}, touching the snow around him.

               “It’s snow. Uh, frozen water,” David added at Not-A-Martian’s blank stare.

               “Ah, yes, of course. I have heard of this,” answered Not-A-Martian.

               “Hey, I have some friends in San Diego who have never seen snow, so….” And where were they before this whole conversation took a galactic detour? “Were you hurt? When you fell?” Out of fucking nowhere. From the sky. Ok, this whole situation started out as a galactic detour.

               Not-A-Martian seemed thrown by the change of topic. “What, uh, no? I mean, I don’t think so, but I seem to have lost my ship…No! Not a ship! An automobile. Definitely an automobile, yes, and, um, it seems to have left without me.

               David couldn’t think of a single thing to say about that last bit so he figured he would just pretend like he hadn’t heard it.

               “Do you think you can stand?” asked David, standing up and then offering a hand to help Not-A-Martian to his feet. He really needed to find out this guy’s name.

               He stepped back and looked at the smaller and definitely otherworldly man before him and decided What the heck. In for a penny and all. And this certainly had the potential to be very interesting.

               David held out his hand again to the Martian.

               “Hello. I’m David Bradley. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

               “Greetings,” said the Martian, gripping his hand and smiling up at him, violet galaxies swirling in his eyes. I am Fenrynjonstar Aeles. It is very nice to meet you, David Bradley.”

               “You can call me David.”

               “Thank you, David. You may call me Jon.”

               Jon seemed to be blushing a deeper shade of silver-pink and his antennae reappeared, peeking shyly up from his dark hair, leaning slightly towards David.

               David just about melted. Right there in the snow. This guy -Jon – was an alien, for Christ’s sake, and David was military. A very laid back, take things as the come, kinda guy in the military, but guys in the military did not find aliens absolutely and utterly adorable.  Unless it was in a sitcom, and …. Ok, maybe he was in a sitcom. It was really starting to feel like one.

            
   “So, since your, uh, automobile seems to have abandoned you, you’re welcome to come back to my cabin. I’ve rented it for Christmas. And I’m by myself this year. But I have all the fixings, you know, turkey and pie and potatoes…” shut up, David, you’re rambling. “Eggnog. I also have eggnog. And a tree. I still need to decorate that. You could help. If you want to, that is.” David slammed his mouth shut to prevent any more crazy form pouring out.

               “Christmas!” Jon smiled. “I’ve also heard of Christmas! It sounds so bright and giving, with colored lights and sleigh bells, and elves, I think, and reindeer that fly! And snow, and trees, with tiny…. You said you had a tree, and potatoes, and eggnog… I don’t know eggnog, but if you have one, I am sure it will be wonderful, and….and,,,” Jon had turned a rather hot shade of pink pearl. Apparently, Martians could also master the fine art rambling. He lowered his head, his violet eyes peaking out under black lashes as he looked shyly up at David. “Thank you, David. I would love to join you for Christmas.”

               “Uh, great! That’s great. That’s….this way. My cabin is this way” David turned back down the trail he had taken before a Martian had fallen from the sky.

               “So,’ David asked over his shoulder as he led the way through the snow. “You don’t happen to have someone special waiting for you back wherever it is you’re from, or, you know, you’re not pining for your partner, or anything like that.

               “No, David,” answered Jon. He was blushing again, “There’s no one.” He gave David a brilliant smile. “At home, anyway.”

               “Good,” said David. “I mean, me neither. I mean,” David stopped and turned to face Jon. “I mean, I hope that I can show you a very Merry Christmas.”

               “Thank you, David.”

               David grinned at Jon before turning back towards his cozy rented cottage and a Christmas that was starting to look a whole lot brighter, even if it was a bit out of this world.

               Hallelujah.

              





Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Christmas Coda 56



“Oh shit,” I said. “It’s champagne.”

Luke looked horror-stricken. “What?” He took the fragile, fluted glass of golden bubbles from me. Sniffed. Tasted. Went white and then red.

“That isn’t funny!” Luke stared around the crowded room—we were at a party at his partner Rod’s house—looking ready to punch someone. “How fucking dare—”

Nobody would fucking dare. Nobody was paying us a bit of attention. Everyone was laughing and talking and, yes, drinking. A lot of drinking at cop parties. Supposedly one out of every four cops on the street had some kind of alcohol or drug abuse issue. Not that I judge. I am the last person in position to judge.

The flavor of the bubbles still snapped and stung against my tongue. I could practically taste the rainbow. Hello darkness, my old friend…

 “It’s okay,” I said quickly. “Just get me something else. Get me a ginger ale.” Asking for sparkling cider from a half-looped vice cop wearing a Santa hat had probably been a bad idea anyway. I should have stuck to my usual tonic water with a twist of lime, but sparkling cider had seemed more festive.

Luke’s gaze shot back to mine, searching, afraid, remorseful. “I should have tasted it first.”

I laughed. “Come on. Seriously? I don’t need a poison taster. I’m not going to fall off the wagon because I have a sip of champagne.”

If anything, he looked more aghast, and listening to the echo of my words, I got it. Because shades of the old days. The bad old days when I’d insist I could still have a drink and be okay. That wasn’t what I meant. I had been sober five years. I knew better than anyone I couldn’t have a drink and still be okay. Or at least, I couldn’t choose to drink and still be okay.

But this…this involuntary ingesting of alcohol, that was a completely different thing.

“I mean,” I said quickly, “It isn’t just about the alcohol. In fact, the booze is the least of it.” Which is ironic, but true.

“Right,” Luke said equally quickly. “I know. Of course.”

And he did, but…

Once I would have been hurt by his fear, but learning to forgive myself had made me gentler with others. And there was no one I wanted to be gentler with than Luke who now looked guilty and apologetic as though he’d let me down with that flash of instinctive alarm.

He hadn’t. Because truth? My tongue still tingled from that sudden, unexpected taste of forbidden fruit. For one dizzying moment it was as though that slightly dinged silver disco ball overhead had fallen to the shag carpet, split open, and spilled out cartoon butterflies and flowers, fireworks exploding glitter-hearts and rainbows and twinkling stars—thrilling and sickening at the same time. Like Alice stumbling through the Looking Glass, martini glass in hand. 



Man, I still missed drinking.

And, man, I’d happily do without it for the rest of my life.

Happily avoid doing anything that made Luke look so worried—worried and angry. He was back to glaring around the crowd, waiting for some joker to burst out laughing and admit to spiking my drink. That wasn’t going to happen because that wasn’t what had happened.

But cops are not trusting people. When you see the worst of people, day in and day out, you start to expect the worst from everyone.

I put my hand on his arm. Luke’s hazel eyes jerked back to mine, instantly alert, instantly attuned to whatever I needed.

“Hey. It’s okay,” I insisted. “It was an accident. Nobody’s—” I broke off as a blonde girl in a dress about the size of an elf’s uniform, stumbled against me.

“Sorry!” she said, and glared at the guy who had knocked into her. He didn’t even notice, red-faced and laughing so hard he was nearly doubled over. The elf and I exchanged grimaces.

I edged toward Luke, who nodded at the girl, and frowned down at the champagne flute as though he still found it suspicious but couldn’t figure out how to charge it. He met my eyes. “Ginger ale, you said?”

I took a breath. “Or we could just…split?”

I was afraid he might be disappointed, but no. He brightened. “Right? You think so too? Because we did the thing.”

“We did the thing,” I agreed. Put in an appearance, supported Rod’s efforts to impress Cara, his new girlfriend, had displayed a judicious amount of holly jolly as befitted the season.

But if I had to listen to “All I Want for Christmas is You” one more time maybe I would start drinking.

“You wouldn’t mind?” Luke added, and I got that he was making the point that he didn’t think he needed to drag me out of there because liquor had touched my lips; doing his best to erase my memory of his initial reaction, that flare of clear and present panic.

“Not at all.” I smiled because I appreciated that show of confidence—and because I understood and sympathized with his initial fright. We had only been together—really together—for three years, but I felt sometimes like I’d known Luke my entire life.

Anyway, we both liked parties well enough, but what we really liked, what we really wanted—what we really needed—was a little home alone time. I’d been away in Tuscany for the past eight days, so the last thing I’d felt like was going out, let alone attending a Christmas party peopled solely by members of LAPD and their plus-ones, but when you marry a cop, you marry his partner.

“You grab our coats, I’ll say goodnight to Rod,” Luke said.

* * * * *


When I came out of the pool, Luke was waiting with my robe—hot out of the tumble dry cycle, and I shivered into it, chattering out, “It’s colder than I thought.”

The water had been a delightful 89 degrees, but the night air? Frigid. 


“It’s fifty-nine tonight, you nut.” He wrapped his arms around me and kissed me. “You’re going to have pneumonia for Christmas.”

“N-n-nah. I’m p-p-part s-s-snowman, r-r-remember?” I kissed him back. His mouth was cold and tasted like cocoa. Funny to think there had been a time I had not liked the taste of cocoa unless it had peppermint Schnapps or raspberry vodka added to it. Now cocoa was part of our wintertime routine and I loved it to the last drop.

“S-s-so many s-s-stars tonight!” It was the truth; the night sky was glittering—almost crackling—with flecks of diamond dust. I’d seen two shooting stars while I’d been swimming. Good omens, if you believed in such things.

I believed in such things.

“Fireplace or fire pit?” Luke asked.

“F-f-fireplace.”

He laughed, keeping his arm around me. “Come on, Frosty.”

After I’d showered and we were settled before the fireplace in the den, drinking our cocoa, I said, “You don’t have to worry about tonight. I’m okay.”

He said at once, so I knew I was right in thinking it was still on his mind. “I know. I know that. It wasn’t about you, Tim—”

But, of course, it was. It was all about me and the number of times I’d let him down—let us both down before I’d found my way out of that dark, dark wood. Found the way out for both of us because when you love someone, you’re trapped with them.

“And you really don’t have to apologize.” I smiled at him. “Were you worried the whole time I was gone?”

Tuscany was the first trip overseas I’d made on my own since getting sober. We’d traveled a couple of times together—our honeymoon in Ireland had been the last time. At first, I hadn’t trusted…well, I won’t say myself, because I did trust myself in the ordinary course of things, but I didn’t trust the universe not to throw something at me I wasn’t prepared for. Alcoholics and boy scouts prefer to be prepared.

So I wasn’t at all surprised that Luke hesitated, smiled ruefully. “I was worried, yes, but not because I thought you couldn’t resist the famed Tuscan wine. Your sense of direction is so shitty, and things have a way of happening to you. That’s what worried me.”

I laughed because both were true. “Yet here I am, safe and sound. And sober.”

“Yes.” He kissed me softly and then less softly. “Bed?” he gasped out, the third time our lips met.

“I thought you’d never…”

But as I started to push up from the sofa, he caught my arm, tumbling me back against him. He said with sudden urgency, “Tim?”

“What’s up?”

He looked so serious, so earnest. “I've got to say it." 

I said warily, "Okay. Say it."

"When we got together again, I really thought I couldn’t love you more than I already did. I just couldn’t imagine—but every day, every year I love you more. And that’s why if I seemed to-to freak out—I didn’t think it was even possible to be this happy with someone. And it's all so fragile. It can all change in an instant. There are no guarantees. That's all. It's not about trusting you or faith in you or confidence in you. It's about knowing only too well how lucky I am.”

It’s not an Irish folk song, but it might as well be: When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.  We both had everything to lose. Everyone had everything to lose, because nothing lasts forever.

“It’s the same for me,” I said.

His gaze—the warm color of the firelight--searched mine. 

I said, “Life is unpredictable. Nobody knows better than us. A lot of things aren’t in our control, but this one thing—this is. I’m not saying I stay sober for you because that’s not true. I stay sober because I want to be present and accounted for in my life. But the best thing about that life? You. And I wouldn’t risk what we have together for all the tea in China--or all the whiskey in Ireland.”

I would have been too corny to say what I was thinking, but it was the truth: even when my glass was empty, my cup was full.

The star atop the tree was still shining when we went down the hall to bed.



Monday, December 16, 2019

Advent Calendar - Day 16

I've been playing around with cocktail recipes (I know! But it's the holidays and it's MY JOB) :-D

I couldn't find the exact recipe I was hoping for, so I made this one up. It's my variation on a White Christmas martini. I call it... Christmas Magic. :-D

Like the Gingerbread Martini, this one is probably best as dessert or as a little festive something to kick off the evening before you leave for your party--with a designated driver behind the wheel! Right?

(If you drink them all night, I can guarantee you will feel like a chunk of coal the next morning.)


INGREDIENTS
2 ounces cake vodka
1 ounce white chocolate liqueur
1 ounce white creme de cacao
1 ounce Frangelico
1 ounce heavy cream OR (my preference) a scoop of Talenti's Madagascar Vanilla gelato
Edible silver pearl dust (just a pinch!)
DO NOT FORGET THE EDIBLE PEARL DUST, THAT'S THE MAGIC PART.
Honey and sparkling sugar for rim garnish

INSTRUCTIONS
Pour a dab of honey into a shallow dish and put the sparkling sugar in another shallow dish. Roll the rim of the glass in the honey and then roll the rim of the glass in the sugar to coat evenly. Set the glass aside.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the vodka, white chocolate liqueur, creme de cacao, Frangelico and gelato. Shake vigorously and strain into the prepared martini glass. Add a pinch of pearl dust.



Sunday, December 15, 2019

Advent Calendar- Day 15

Teaser by Johanna Ollila
Wow! Here we are on the 15th day of the month. December is half over and the year is nearly gone.

Today we're going to bring back one of our--okay, one of MY--favorite Advent Calendar activities, and that's picking quotes from my books that I can use as teasers.

So maybe this is more a gift to me than to you. :-D It's always so interesting though to see what lines really resonate with readers. Sometimes it's a line I love too and sometimes it's a line I never thought much about. But either they give me something to hang a bit of promo on! I love making teasers, I love matching art to words.

So today's "game" if you will, is to share some of your favorite lines from your favorite JL stories. You can pick any story you like, but if you're looking for inspiration, I don't have any teasers from the first two All's Fair books, or from Strange Fortune or The Darkling Thrush or most of the short stories or the novellas. There's a lot of un-mined teaser territory to choose from.

And the giveaway today are three mugs--they're nice! they're not plastic!--with the Bedknobs and Broomsticks "logo." The winners will be randomly chosen from your submission/comments below.




 I'll leave this one open for a bit so that everyone who wants to has time to participate!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Advent Calendar - Day 14

Something special here. This audio version of the coda or bonus scene for The Monuments Men Murders was created for my Patreon group, but hey, it's Christmas! (Plus some kind of crucial stuff happens here.)

So I'm sharing it with YOU this morning. ;-)

The wonderful Kale Williams, who narrates the series, recorded the coda. Click here to listen and enjoy! 


Friday, December 13, 2019

Advent Calendar - Day 13

Good morning! This morning's selection was suggested by reader-friend Antonella (you know her well if you're in my Goodreads group!)



Aretha Franklin performing "O Tannenbaum." Enjoy!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Advent Calendar - Day 12

Good morning! Meg Perry is back this morning with a sweet little bit of holiday crossover.

Are you enjoying this year's Advent Calendar? Please take a minute or two to let our contributors know you appreciate their efforts. :-)


An Enchanted Evening

The AIDS Project Los Angeles Holiday Gala was in full swing at the Getty Museum. Tuxedo-clad waiters circled the room incessantly, offering champagne and hors d’oeuvres. In one corner, a quartet laid a soundtrack of smooth jazz under the buzz of conversation. The men shone in their tuxes; the women sparkled in their finery. From all indicators, the fundraiser was a smashing success.
Jason West was miserable.
His – boyfriend? No. Significant other? Maybe. He had trouble identifying exactly what to call Sam Kennedy – was supposed to have been here this weekend. But crime had no soul. It didn’t give a shit what Jason wanted. Sam had to work through the weekend, and their plans had been postponed.
Jason’s disappointment had morphed into dismay when his sister Sophie had called last night, less than an hour after his conversation with Sam. “What are you doing tomorrow night?”
“Why?”
“Clark was called back to Washington for an emergency vote.” Sophie’s husband was a U.S. Congressman, one of the few remaining Republican representatives from California. “I need an escort to the APLA Gala.”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“I don’t want to.” 
“Not good enough. Is that guy in town?”
That guy. “No. He’s stuck in Washington, too.”
“And your intention is to sit at home all weekend and mope? Not on my watch.”
Jason spluttered. “Your watch?”
Sophie laughed. “Yes, tomorrow is my day to watch you. Come on, Jason. There’ll be plenty of food and drink, and I’ll introduce you to people who want to talk about art.”
Jason sighed. He knew that she’d continue to browbeat him until he conceded. “Okay, fine. But you’re driving so I can drink.”
So, here they were. Sophie had introduced him to several people who indeed did want to talk about art – specifically, what hung on their own walls. Or, more commonly, what sat in climate-controlled warehouses within the Foreign Trade Zone at Long Beach, avoiding taxes.
Why buy art if you didn’t care to enjoy it? The practice was beyond Jason’s understanding.
He snagged another glass of champagne from the tray of a passing waiter and took a long drink. Sophie glanced over his shoulder at something then did a double take, a slight frown on her face. “That’s odd.”
Jason asked, even though he didn’t care. “What?”
“Melanie Hayes is over there, with a woman who is not her wife.”

“Who’s Melanie Hayes?”
“She’s a partner in Anderson and Hayes, the first gay law firm in Los Angeles. I’m surprised you don’t know of them.”
Jason shrugged, still not caring. Sophie said, “Come on. I’ll introduce you.”
“But…”
Sophie took him firmly by the elbow and turned him 180 degrees. He stopped, momentarily forgetting his misery. Even as a gay man, he was impressed. “Wow.”
Both women were simply stunning. One was of medium height, with long, curly dark hair and alabaster skin. She was wearing a backless red dress, accented with a multicolored opal necklace.
The other woman was tall, as tall as Jason in her heels, and slightly tanned, with dark hair in a bun, dark-framed glasses that gave her the look of a sexy librarian, and a little black dress that looked as if it had been poured onto her. The dress was low-cut, but her upper chest was nearly covered by a multi-stone turquoise necklace.
A line from a Don Henley song flitted into Jason’s mind. “Don’t you know that women are the only works of art?” He disagreed but wondered to himself if Henley had these two in mind when he wrote the song.
The women turned as Jason and Sophie approached. The curly-haired one smiled. “Sophie! How are you?”
“Fine, thanks.” The women exchanged air kisses, then Sophie waved her hand at the crowd. “Another smashing success, I think.”
“Absolutely. Did you see Neil and Mark? They’re here somewhere.”
“Not yet. I’ll find them eventually.” Sophie turned to the other woman, who’d been studying Sophie and Jason with interest. Jason quelled the impulse to check that his fingernails were clean. “Hello. I’m Sophie Vincent. This is my brother, Jason West.”
“Kristen Beach.” The woman shook hands with both of them; Jason was surprised at the power of her grip. “I’m subbing for Ali tonight.”
Sophie’s expression was pure innocence, as if she hadn’t been wondering at all. Jason glanced at Kristen; her expression of faint amusement told him that Sophie wasn’t fooling her. Melanie said to Jason, “My wife, Ali Fortner, is a landscape architect. She just won an enormous contract that’s a rush job and had to meet with the client this evening.”
Sophie said, “Ah. That’s too bad.”
Melanie laughed. “Not for Ali. She hates these things. Fortunately, Kristen’s hubby had to work tonight, too, so I dragged her along.”
Kristen said, “It wasn’t a hard sell. APLA is one of our favorite charities.”
Sophie asked, “What does your husband do?”
Jason winced at the vaguely sexist question. Kristen, however, was cool enough to not bat an eye. “He’s an LAPD homicide detective.”
Sophie stared at Kristen. “Really.”
“Yep.” Kristen raised an eyebrow at Jason. “And you’re some sort of law enforcement, too, right? You have the look.”
Jason smiled. “You got me. FBI Art Crime Team.”
Kristen whistled. “No shit, a Fed? And art crime? I bet that’s fascinating.”
“It can be.”
“Do you know Donna Aguilar? She was Gil Hickok’s partner with the LAPD Art Theft Detail before it was disbanded.”
This Kristen Beach was full of surprises. “Yes. Of course. How do you know Donna?”
“Long story.”
Sophie and Melanie had been watching the exchange. Melanie was hiding a smile; Sophie was staring in disbelief. She opened her mouth to speak, just as a female voice from behind her said, “Sophie, hello! Are you enjoying yourself?”
Sophie spun. “Oh, yes. The organizing committee has outdone themselves again…” She and the other woman dove into conversation.
Kristen leaned closer to Jason. “Special Agent West, you look like you’d rather be boiled in oil than spend another minute here. Why don’t we go find some real food and drink?”
“Oh. Um, that’s tempting, but Sophie is my ride.”
Melanie said, “We’ll take you home.”
“Are you sure? I mean, we just met.”
Kristen delivered a friendly thump to his shoulder – fortunately, his good shoulder. “You’re a cop. That means you’re family. Come on.”


They ended up in Venice, not far from his bungalow, at a club called El Caribe. The place was packed, but the maĆ®tre d’ greeted both women by name, eyed Jason with open interest, and immediately showed them to a table. 
They ordered drinks and a huge platter of appetizers. Jason was tickled to see that both women fell on the food like hungry wolves. He wiped his fingers after downing a tomato basil bruschetta and asked, “How do you know Donna Aguilar?”
Kristen swiped a spring roll through a puddle of duck sauce. “I’m a librarian at UCLA. We had a theft of a rare cello score from the music library a few years ago. Donna was the lead investigator on the case.”
Melanie – who went by Mel – said, “I can’t believe they disbanded the unit.”
Jason agreed. “Neither can I.”
Kristen asked, “Has it increased your workload?”
“Not a lot. We already cooperated with LAPD on most of their cases. But over time it will.”
The hunky male server, who was extremely attentive, appeared at Kristen’s shoulder. “Ready for refills on those drinks?”
Jason drained his beer and tipped his glass at the server. “You bet.”
Mel said, “No, thanks, I’m driving.”
Kristen said, “Bring it on.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The server winked at Jason and strolled away, ensuring that Jason had plenty of opportunity to admire his assets.
Kristen noted the expression on Jason’s face and grinned. “You must not be single.”
“No. I mean, not exactly. It’s complicated.”
“Isn’t it always?” Kristen propped her chin on her fist. “Tell Auntie Kristen all about it.”
Jason wouldn’t typically bare his soul to a near-stranger, but he’d ingested just enough alcohol to lower his inhibitions. He poured out his entire history with Sam, from the first time he laid eyes on him in New England to their conversation about living together. He concluded with, “I don’t know what to do. I love Sam. He says he loves me. But I feel like he made the offer solely because of my job situation, and he basically admitted that. So…”
Mel asked, “When will you know about the job?”
“No idea. I’m on administrative leave, and the powers that be keep putting me off.”
Kristen said, “My advice? Do it. Move to Virginia. Life is short. You should grab happiness when you can.”
Jason gazed into the depths of his beer. “But what if it goes bad?”
“Then you cry, scream, shake your fist at the gods. And keep living in spite of it.”
Jason eyed her. “Sounds like you have some experience in that realm.”
“Yup. I was lucky. I got a second chance.” Kristen rested her hand on his shoulder. “All we have is love, Jason. And where there is love, there is life.”
“Shakespeare?”
“Gandhi.”
He snorted. “Seriously?”
Kristen grinned. “Trust me. I’m a librarian.”


It wasn’t much longer before Kristen and Mel both received I’m home texts from their spouses. Jason offered to walk the few blocks to his home, but Mel wouldn’t hear of it. When they pulled up to the curb in front of his house Jason said, “Thank you. This evening has turned out a lot better than I expected.”
Kristen twisted from the passenger seat and smiled at him. “Stay in touch, Special Agent West. My email is on the UCLA Libraries website.”
“I will.” Jason reached for the door handle...and stopped when his porch light turned on. “Um. That shouldn’t happen.”
His front door opened, and a familiar shape filled the doorway. Jason sucked in a breath. “Sam.”
Mel said, “Hey! Merry Christmas to you!”
“Absolutely!” Jason scrambled from the back seat, then turned and waved as the women drove away.
Sam met him on the front porch. “That wasn’t Sophie’s car.”
“Nope. I ditched Sophie hours ago.”
Sam flashed a grin. “Good man.”
“Why are you here? I mean, how are you here?”
“I don’t practice the art of delegation nearly enough. Today, I did.” Sam smiled at him. “You’re drunk.”
Jason poked him playfully in the chest. “That’s my profiler. Never misses a beat.”
Sam laughed and took his arm. “Come on. I intend to take full advantage of your condition.”