Is It Too Soon To Talk About Christmas?

It’s not even Halloween, yet. Personally, I have six family birthdays, Halloween, and Thanksgiving to celebrate before I can don the holly and deck my halls. But when it comes to reading holiday romances? It’s never too soon. The Authors of Main Street is a great place to find a sweet romance filled with cocoa-sipping people in sweaters snuggling beneath blankets before roaring fires.

So, even though my house is decorated with faux-spiderwebs, pumpkins, and flashing orange and purple lights, and I’m sipping pumpkin-spice cocoa, I’m still lighting a fire, snuggling beneath quilts, and settling in for a sweet holiday romance.

How about you? What are you reading? Here’s the one I wrote for the Authors of Main Street Christmas box set last here.

Free in Kindle Unlimited

CHAPTER ONE

Mustering courage and outrage, Lauren pulled her Honda up to Triple Arch Bay’s wrought-iron gates. A pair of lions on stone pillars frowned at her. She would not be intimidated. The scam had to stop. Determined to prevent others from falling for the lies and false promises that had robbed her of not only her money but also her dreams, Lauren squared her shoulders and lowered her window to speak to the guard.

A handsome young man about thirty years her junior with the name Sean embroidered above his shirt pocket greeted her. Lauren flashed her most winning smile, the one she trotted out when facing apathetic students or their difficult parents. “I’m here to see Donna Johansson at Iris Lane.”

Sean checked his tablet. “I’m sorry, she didn’t phone you in. Would you like me to call her?”

“No. That’s not necessary. I’m just popping by. I’ll be in and out in a heartbeat.”

“I’m sorry. Without an appointment, I can’t let you pass,” he said.

Lauren changed tactics. “Of course, she’s not going to give me an appointment, Sean.” It had been hard enough to get the woman’s address. “She’s a scam artist.”

The young man quirked an eyebrow and looked mildly interested, but then came back with, “I get it, but even more reason to not let you in, right? I bet this woman really doesn’t want to talk to you. If I let you pass, I’d lose my job.”

Sean was like the troll guarding the bridge. Lauren blinked back tears, and the young man must have noticed.

Leaning forward, he braced his hand on the roof of Lauren’s Honda. “Listen,” he said in a conspiratorial low tone, “the beaches are public, right? If you can find a meter on PCH, you can take the beach until you find the stairs accessing the neighborhood.” He winked at her as if he’d done her a favor.

Lauren had spent the last twenty years living in nearby and not quite as posh Rancho Allegro, a coastal community south of Laguna, and knew there was no such thing as a private beach in California. She also knew outcroppings of rocks protected Triple Arch Bay. To access the bay, she’d either have to swim or pick her way across the shoals. The last thing she wanted to do was arrive at Donna Johansson’s house looking like something that had washed up on the shore.

A horn behind her beeped.

Sean, the troll, slapped the roof of the Honda as if he were patting the head of a well-behaved dog, gave her a toothy smile, and motioned for her to drive away.

Lauren, with a thumping heart, knew what she had to do. She pulled to the side to allow the Tesla behind her to pass, then, putting her foot on the gas, she roared through the gates.

Sean shouted, “Hey!” but no sirens blared. Helicopters didn’t fall out of the sky. Armed security guards didn’t race after her. Gripping the wheel, Lauren barreled down the tiny street, passing the McMansions lining the cliffs overlooking the blue sparkling ocean.

She tightened her grip on the wheel, thinking, Cerulean Skye, you are going to pay.

The GPS guided Lauren to a two-story Cape Cod wannabe surrounded by a white picket fence and a hedge of rosebushes in need of pruning. Closer inspection told her the cherry-red front door and window shutters needed a fresh coat of paint, and the shingle roof also needed updating. Cerulean Skye was having financial troubles.

As well it should.

And, thanks to Lauren, the problems were about to escalate. She thumped her car into park and bolstered her resolve before climbing out and slamming the door behind her.

Cerulean Skye was going to fall. She would make it happen.

q

Princess yapped. Ron shot a glance at the door. A shadow moved on the porch, eliciting another woof and growl from Princess.

His mom’s high heels clacked across the tile and into the entry. She opened the door and waved in her best friend, Lois. Whispers floated Ron’s way, but with his earbuds blasting white noise, he couldn’t make out their conversation. Which was fine; he was even less interested in Lois than he was in Princess.

Mom strode across the room and placed her hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, darling, but I have to go.”

The last word registered. “Go?” Ron removed his earbuds to stare at Mom. She wore a pink pantsuit and carried a white leather bag. She’d parked a pair of suitcases in the entry. “This is sudden.” She hadn’t mentioned travel plans since his arrival last week.

“Yes,” she said. “You don’t mind taking care of Princess, do you?”

Ron and Princess exchanged glances. The standard poodle curled her lip. Ron stared at the dog with distaste. “What? You mean feed her?” Princess lived on a diet of smelly canned food. Just looking at it made his stomach churn. Listening to the dog wolf down her food was the worst thing about staying at his mom’s house.

Mom ruffled Princess’s ears. “And walk her and make sure you’re here when the groomer comes.”

He’d have to pick up her poop? Not going to happen. “How long are you going to be gone?” If it was more than a day or two, Princess was definitely going to a pet hotel.

Mom shot Lois a glance. “I can’t say.”

“Where are you going?” Ron asked.

“Belize.”

“Belize? This time of year?” It would be sweltering in mid-August, and Mom hated breaking a sweat. That was why she played golf and not tennis.

“London,” Lois chirped.

Thanks to an ample number of yoga sessions and plastic surgeries, both Lois and Mom looked closer to his age than their own. Their Botox cheeks and fat bee-stung lips made him twitchy and uncomfortable.

“Which is it? Belize or London?” Ron pulled away from his computer to study the trio before him. Two of them were lying. “Why can’t you take Princess with you?”

Lois tapped her size-six shoe on the floor and glared at Ron.

Mom dropped a kiss on his cheek and patted his shoulder. “You two will be just fine.” She breezed for the door and picked up her bags, leaving a waft of nose-tickling perfume in her wake. “Don’t try to call, I may be out of service for a while.”

The front door opened and slammed. Moments later, someone started a car engine.

“That was unusual,” Ron told Princess.

The poodle stalked across the room and flopped onto her bed without looking at him. If he were to get a dog of his own, he’d choose an easygoing Golden Retriever or a well-trained Labrador. Poodles, especially ones trimmed in what Mom called the Lion Cut, were too fussy. Mom spent much more on grooming Princess than Ron did on himself. Which wasn’t too surprising. In Boston, Ron had been going to Marv at the barbershop specializing in military cuts for years. With a pang, he realized that since he was relocating to Southern California, he’d have to find another barber.

He hated change.

Drumming his fingers, he tried to refocus on his research, but the riddle of Mom’s strange behavior puzzled him like a buzzing gnat. He hit a contact on his phone. Moments later, Margo answered.

“Where’s Mom going?” Ron asked.

“I don’t know,” Margo returned. “The spa? The store?”

“No, she had bags. Told me to take care of her dog.”

“Didn’t you ask her?”

“She told me Belize, but Lois said London.”

“That’s weird. She didn’t mention any travel plans yesterday. In fact,” Margo paused as if checking a calendar, “we have a tee time tomorrow at noon.”

Ron grunted. He despised golf. Mostly because golfers paraded around in such ridiculous clothes—his sister being the exception. Ron yearned, for not the first time, for Mom to be more like the seventy-five-year-old women who stayed at home to garden, knit, or bake cookies, and less like Lois.

“Try phoning her,” Ron said. “Maybe she’ll be more forthcoming with you.” He ended the call without a goodbye.

Princess stirred on her bed. She lifted her pointy snout and sniffed the air as if something foul had blown in. Princess disliked most things and people, including Ron. Shaking her head and making the bell around her neck jingle, she scrambled to her paws before trotting from the room. A low growl gurgled in her throat. Princess yipped.

Ron ignored the dog and went back to his current project. Since the success of his last patent, he no longer needed an income, but he did need the mental challenge only research provided.

Yipping turned to barking. Princess dashed into the room. Standing a foot away from Ron with her lion’s mane quivering and her paws spread, she woofed a panicked warning.

“Relax,” Ron growled, adjusting his earbuds and upping the volume of the white noise.

Princess sprinted back to the front entry. Her barking escalated to frenzy mode. Ron waited for the bell to ring, announcing the arrival of a package. Mom seemed to average about three deliveries a week.

Only half paying attention, Ron listened to Princess scrambling down the hall, through the kitchen, into the laundry room, and banging out her doggy door. When he heard a woman squeal, he reluctantly took out his earbuds.

Ron peeked out the window and saw a woman scrambling toward his brother-in-law’s vintage T-Bird. Snarling and snapping, Princess circled the car. The woman jumped onto the back bumper and leaped onto the car’s rooftop. Her red skirt pushed up her thighs. One foot wore a wedge-heel shoe, and the other was bare.

Princess bounded about, yipping and growling. The woman’s white button-down blouse had come undone, affording him a tantalizing glance of her lacy white bra. Ron, feeling unsure and a little like a voyeur, forced himself to stop watching the woman and her popping buttons and search for the missing shoe. Ah, there it was, beside the left tire.

Clearly, he had to do something. If nothing else, retrieve Princess. Could the woman press charges? Technically, she was trespassing – and interrupting his work. Once again, he, who had earned two PhDs from ivy-league schools, had been bested by the dog. After stomping to the laundry room, Ron grabbed Princess’s faux-diamond-studded pink leash off the hook by the door and headed out.

He froze in the driveway. Why did this woman, despite the look of terror on her face, the mussed hair, and the frantically waving limbs, seem familiar? They had met, he was sure of it.

Their eyes locked. Ron tried to shake himself free from her gaze, but her seething anger paralyzed him.

“Is this your dog?” she called over Princess’s incessant noise.

“No.” Technically, it wasn’t a lie, although he was responsible for her until Mom’s return. “But I know where she lives.”

“Where’s her owner?”

“Obviously, not here.” Ron strode across the lawn. The dangling leash bounced against his thigh with every step. “Princess! Hush!”

The dog pranced away from him.

Mrs. Hickson, Mom’s octogenarian neighbor, wearing a pink fluffy housecoat and a pair of knitted socks, emerged from her house and frowned when Princess sprang over the picket fence and landed in a flowerbed. “Ron!” Mrs. Hickson barked.

Princess galloped around Mrs. Hickson’s yard, kicking up dirt and turf and knocking over garden gnomes.

The woman slid off the car, buttoned her blouse to conceal her bra, and smoothed down her skirt. She narrowed her eyes at Ron, studying him. Did she recognize him, too?

“Your shoe is under that tire.” Ron pointed to the wedged-heel lying on its side and looking, somehow, forlorn.

“Thank you,” she spat out.

Ron froze, mesmerized, when she squatted to retrieve her lost heel.

Princess, though, clearly made up for Ron’s immobility with her own exuberance.

“Control this animal!” Mrs. Hickson screamed. “Or I’ll call the shelter.”

Ron wished she would, although he couldn’t admit this to anyone. “Princess!” He slapped his thigh to get the dog’s attention.

Princess took one long, taunting look at him before vaulting over the picket fence and tearing down the street. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on the perspective, the tree-lined streets in the quiet neighborhood had little traffic this time of day, other than the surfboard-toting teenagers and wetsuit-clad retired businessmen.

“She is your dog!” The woman had readjusted all her clothes but still wore the livid expression. Her hair had been swept up in a bun at the back of her neck the last time he’d seen her. Now, it framed her face in a messy cloud of curls. Her cheeks were vivid pink. Last time, she’d had on dark red lipstick. He liked women in lipstick, but they terrified him when they frowned.

Or smiled, for that matter.

“No, she’s not.” Ron stepped closer to inspect Chuck’s car. The T-Bird was his gear-headed brother-in-law’s latest acquisition. Ron had no idea why Chuck had parked it in Mom’s driveway, but he had a pretty good idea how Chuck would react if he knew a strange woman had been rolling around on top of it. He’d blow a gasket.

Somehow, Ron needed to corner and fetch Princess, but despite the anger rolling off this woman, he couldn’t pull himself away. What was the draw? Her beauty? Could he be that shallow? Her puzzling familiarity? The last had to be it. Where and how had they met? After all, Ron had just moved to Laguna two weeks earlier. He hadn’t even closed on his condo yet. That was why he’d taken residence at Mom’s and co-existed with Princess.

Which explained what he was doing here, but not why the woman had taken a perch on his brother-in-law’s car. “What are you doing here?” Ron asked.

“I’m looking for Donna Johansson.” Her words came out in angry little huffs. It would be cute if she wasn’t so frightening.

“Donna is away for a…while.” He made a calculated guess given the number of bags Mom had taken.

The woman’s eyes narrowed to slits. “You know her?”

“It’s a tight-knit community,” he hedged. “Donna has lived here for more than thirty years.” Mom had won the house in the divorce, despite the fact that it had been in Dad’s family for generations.

“I need to talk to her,” the woman ground out. “Immediately.”

“If you give me your number, I can have her call you.”

“Why don’t you just give me her number?”

Knowing Mom would be furious if he did, Ron balked. “It’ll be better if I pass your number on to her.”

The woman sucked in a deep breath before saying, “She won’t return my call.”

Probably not, Ron silently acknowledged, but he, at least, would have done his part. “It’s the best I can do.”

The woman strode over, fussed through her purse, then slapped a business card into his hand.

Lauren Hallstrom, author with Cerulean Skye Publishing

Ron felt slightly sick. Cerulean Skye Publishing—Mom’s latest venture. Until a few years ago, Mom had been a real estate agent. Before that, a make-up artist selling fifty-dollar tubes of lipstick. And before that, she’d been an organization guru. Mom had the ability to reinvent herself more than anyone he knew. Maybe that was why his biologist father had fallen in love with her. She was more chameleon than human.

There were things about himself that Ron would change if he could—like the ability to converse with lovely women parked on cars—but he lacked the skill. He was more like his father than his mother in that regard.

With another angry huff, the woman turned on her pretty wedged heels and limped away from him without another backward glance. He watched as she tossed her lone shoe into the Honda, climbed in after it, started the engine, and rumbled away.

He stared after her as memory returned. He’d first seen her at a literary event two years ago. He’d gone to try and meet up with Mom. Back then, he’d been a professor at MIT, and a conference had brought him to California. He’d taken the opportunity to meet up with Mom, but the only time she’d been able to see him was during what she called a literature soiree. Lauren had been playing the piano. Rachmaninoff, one of his favorite composers. Joseph, his mentor, had always listened to classical music at the lab while he worked, and Ron had carried on the tradition even after Joseph had retired.

Ron stood rooted in the driveway, caught in the flash of memory…

Mom spotted him and lifted a bony arm to wave him over. With heavy feet, he navigated the room, skirting past the tables where people in fancy clothes sat sipping wine and nibbling on pretentious pieces of food posing as art.

“Darling!” Mom stood to embrace him in a scrawny hug. Had she always been so brittle? He chided himself for not visiting more often.

She pulled away and laced her fingers through his. “I’m so glad we could connect.” Releasing his hand, she ushered him toward her table.

Ron pushed his fingers through his hair. “I wish I could stay longer.”

She reclaimed her chair and motioned for Ron to take the seat beside her. “And I wish I hadn’t already committed to this soiree.” She lowered her voice. “Thanks to Lois, we were able to smuggle you in.”

Ron sat beside Mom.

“You remember Lois, darling?” Mom laid her hand on her friend’s arm.

“Of course,” Ron said. “How are you, Lois?”

Lois studied him with shrewd eyes and stretched her plump lips into a smile that was as fake as her boobs. “I’m well.”

Ron considered the plate before him. It held what looked like a scallop, topped with a cherry tomato and some sort of green and orange shoots. A puce-colored sauce had been drizzled across the plate. His stomach, in want of a chicken breast, growled.

Ron glanced around at their tablemates—two women who each had two stacks of books at their elbows as if their towers were competing for height, a man lost in thought scribbling on a notepad, another man in Coke-bottle-lens glasses with his nose buried in a spy novel. These were true bookworms. Mom and Lois didn’t fit at this table.

Music began to play. Most around him paid little attention to the swell of sound coming from the corner of the room, but Ron swiveled to take in the woman at the piano. She really was lovely. Willowy, blonde, pink-cheeked. Her fingers stroked the keys with grace. Could he muster the nerve to talk to her? No. What would be the point? His work was in Massachusetts, and she and her piano were in Orange County.

A middle-aged woman in a red dress stopped beside Lois. “I’m so excited about this,” she gushed. “I emailed you my manuscript immediately after our conversation. Did you get it?”

Lois plastered on a polite smile and winked at Mom. “Let me see.” Lois pulled her phone out of her Kate Spade bag and tapped on it. “Why, yes. Here it is. Hadley Brighton, right?”

The woman’s expression fell. “No, Mary Hadley. I sent you The Tales from the Edge.”

“That’s right.” Lois regained her composure. “Riveting.” Lois laid her hand on Mom’s arm. “Do you remember my telling you about it?” She turned back to Mary. “This is Donna Johansson. She’s the mastermind behind Cerulean Skye Publishing.”

“You’re a publisher?” Mary placed her hand on her heart as if to slow its beating.

Wait. What? Ron forgot all about Rachmaninoff and the lovely woman at the piano, and he turned his attention to Mom. The realtor. Not publisher.

“She’s definitely someone to know,” Lois said.

Everyone else at the table lasered their attention on Mom. She flushed beneath their collective gazes.

“I’ve never heard of Cerulean Skye Publishing,” the woman with the tallest stack of books said.

Me neither, Ron thought.

That was the first he’d ever heard of Cerulean Skye Publishing. Now, as he watched the retreating Honda, he wished it had been the last. Just like he wished this wouldn’t be the last he’d see of the lovely Lauren Hallstrom.

“Dude!” Jazz, his barefoot surfer neighbor dressed in a wetsuit approached and shook Ron out of the memory. Jazz had tied his surfboard’s cord around Princess’s collar. “You gotta keep this dog locked up. She was scaring all the kids at the park. She snarfed some old lady’s sandwich.”

Princess, with her tongue lolling, gave Ron a haughty look. Ron clipped on the dog’s leash and untied the surfboard cord. “Thanks, Jazz” he said, “It won’t happen again.” Although, he didn’t know if that was a promise he could keep, but he would try. Just like he would try to see Lauren Hallstrom again.

PrepTober and Nanowrimo

PrepTober – When you take the month of October to prep for November and Nanowrimo.

Nanowrimo – National Novel Writing Month – Endeavour to write for 30 days and 50,000 words in November.

I’ve done Nano (for short) at least 7 times over the years. I’ve won a few years, got close a few years, and fell off the wagon way short of the end line a few times. If nothing else, I have more words at the end of November than I had at the beginning.

Do you set goals for yourself? Do you meet them? Do you try?


Jill James, NaNoWriMo participant

Sneak-a-Peek

Fall is in the air! Cool crisp breezes rustle through the trees and across the deck as I enjoy a steaming cup of coffee. I’m without doubt ready for the cool-down. I know all of you are, too.

In the middle of finishing CHRISTMAS IN THE COUNTRY, I thought I’d add a bit of the story today.

I hope you enjoy Kami and Cal’s adventure.

CHRISTMAS in the COUNTRY

Chapter 1

“What are you doing out here in the middle of a snowstorm anyway?” Cal Nelson closed Kami Waters’ car trunk, then pulled the heavy suitcase’s lever up to wheel it into the house.

“Not that it should matter to you, but I was headed to my sister’s cabin outside of Cedar, for an extended rest. According to my GPS…it’s around twenty miles from here.”

He halted at the steps leading up to the wrap-a-round porch. “Did you not listen to the weather report before venturing into the mountains?”

Kami rolled her eyes, while spitting snowflakes whooshed around them, then stared him down. “Haven’t you ever done anything on the spur of the moment?”

“Okay. I admit to times I’ve taken the short means around several trips. But I at least checked the forecast beforehand.”

“I guess I’m not as capable as you,” she said, then kicked at a half frozen patch of snow on the porch.

“Oh, come on. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. I apologize.”

“Fine. You’re forgiven.”

Cal pushed open the door and invited Kami in out of the cold. “Welcome to my home.”

“You’re a kind man. Thank you.” A rush of warmth escaped from the room. Kami glanced around and eyeballed a roaring fireplace in the middle of a large, expertly decorated living space.

“You’re welcome. Do you know how lucky you are to have run out of gas here? Here in front of the Inn?”

“Undeniably a stroke of luck. Or perhaps my guardian angel rode with me,” she said, then held the door for him and stood aside. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to warm by the fire a bit.”

“Not at all. I’ll throw on another log, then make some Hot Chocolate.”

“I haven’t had Hot Chocolate in a long time. Sounds great.”

“I’ll be right back,” he said. “Make yourself at home.”

Several comfy sofas and chairs skillfully placed around a crackling fireplace, presented a warm and inviting room. Soft Christmas carols played in the background. A scent of sweetness wafted from the kitchen into the living room. Kami wrapped her arms around her chest and reminisced as a faint hint of cinnamon filled the air. The scent was etched in her mind as she envisioned her mom’s kitchen and a platter of cookies on the island. She missed her mom.

After a few minutes Cal pushed open the kitchen’s door carrying a large tray. “Would you mind moving those magazines?” he asked.

“Sure,” she answered.

On the tray was a beautiful rose painted china tea pot and three china cups. Beside them were serving plates and a covered serving tray.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, Dana?”

“You forgot the silverware.”

“Bring them in, please.” Cal laughed and winked at Kami

“Kami, I’d like you to meet my daughter, Dana. Dana this is Ms. Kami Waters.”

“Pleased to meet you ma’am.” Dana picked up the serving tray and offered it to Kami. “Would you care to try one of these muffins? Daddy helped me make them.”

Kami accepted one, peeled back the paper wrap and bit into a forkful of the soft sweetness. “They’re amazing! You’re a wonderful baker, young lady.”

Dana hung her head, then glanced at Kami as her lips trembled through a gentle smile. “My mom used to let me bake with her every so often.”

Used to? Kami glanced at Cal.

He shook his head and reached for Dana. “You did wonderful honey, and you also did most of the work. They taste so much like Mom’s muffins.”

“Thanks, Daddy,” she said, then hugged him.

After they finished eating, Dana began to gather the dishes.

“Leave those, hon. I’ll take care of them. Would you check out room four and make sure it’s presentable? We’re full except rooms four and six.”

“How many rooms do you have?” Kami asked.

“The Inn has fourteen available rooms, plus we have our living quarters on the East wing,” Cal remarked.

“Sure. Then Ms. Waters is staying over?”

“Until the storm is over.” Cal ruffled Dana’s blond curls. “We can’t leave her out in the cold, now can we?”

“Of course not, Daddy. It isn’t Christian not to help out,” Dana responded.

Kami reached for her suitcase, but Cal grasped it with a firm grip. “I’ll bring it up in a few minutes after you inspect the rooms.”

“It’s a bit early, but I’ll say goodnight, then. Today has been rather trying. Dana can let you know which room she chooses.”

“Breakfast is between six and eight. Don’t be late.” Cal grinned. “I’m kidding. If you sleep in, I’ll keep a plate warm for you. Come hungry. You won’t be sorry.”

Kami leaned down and whispered to Dana. “What do you think? Is it worth getting up early for breakfast? I normally have a smoothie or a diet chocolate shake.”

“Oh. Just wait. The food is incredible. Even I like most of the dishes.” Dana giggled and gave Kami a thumbs up, then bounced upstairs.

Until next time, I wish you music, butterflies…and most of all…I wish you love.

September is the new January

I saw this on a news program this morning. The idea is that people are getting through summer, kids go back to school, and you see the last quarter of the year happening. So you decide to make changes in your life just like for the New Year.

As a writer, I do find myself doing that too. I see what projects are in their final stages and maybe I can finish them before the end of the year. I check which projects I had hoped to finish and see if that is doable.

For the finish of the year, I’m hoping to finish ghost paranormal romance #3 and get going on #4 for that series. If I don’t finish the shapeshifter romance for this year, hopefully it will be the beginning of next year. The Christmas story is done and just needs a cover. The horror story I’m hoping to put up on Kindle Vella is moving along and MAY be up before the end of the year.

What are your plans for the rest of 2021?


Jill James, author of the Ghost Releasers, Inc. series of paranormal ghost romances

Could you live Off Grid?

Just a thought,

I admire anyone who has the gumption to live off grid…anywhere. But…I would imagine Alaska is probably the hardest place ever. There are other places that have similar weather or perhaps even worse.

These folks have more grit than I do. I grew up tough along the way, but never was life anything close to what I’ve watched on Homesteading. The Raney’s, and other families, are amazing.

There are several different programs that air, and I’m amazed by each one.

I think Christmas stories could be written easier in the midst of a snowstorm!

*************************************

It takes a lot of imagination to write about snow and Christmas in August heat. Or any other heat for that matter! But that’s my schedule. After ten Christmas stories, you’d think it gets easier, but not necessarily.

Lol Gotta roll with the punches.

This year my book is Christmas in the Country. I’m bringing forward memories, and actual conversations with family and friends to add a taste of the past.

Praying for a release around December, 2021.

Enjoy this short blurb from the story.

Blurb CHRISTMAS in the COUNTRY

Kami Waters is a strong, independent woman. She’d built her exclusive client list through hard work and long hours devoted to the Baker, Rabun, & Roberts Law Firm of Atlanta, to attain partner.

She’d done whatever it took, legal and within reason, nothing stood in her way. Nothing.

Ignored, once again, in favor of becoming partner, she’d had enough. She’d chosen to acquire a leave of absence from the firm and consider her future. As she reflected over the years, pleasure in her position and an emptiness were pooled.

Where was she headed? There had to be more to life than committing herself to nothing but a position that offered too little contentment. Precise in her previous decisions, yet in many ways neglectful, she’d allowed herself to fall astray into the world of hustle and bustle.

At the isolated country Overlook Country Inn, where she has no desire to be, she soon realizes what her life is missing. Home, family, and love.

Burned-out ER physician Cal Nelson, and single-father to an eleven-year-old daughter, Dana, had made a similar choice of his own. After his wife had passed away, he’d left a successful practice to purchase the Overlook Country Inn in the North Georgia mountains.

While he and the business were doing well, what he hadn’t expected was to encounter lovely Kami Waters during a shutdown snowstorm. She may be the one to make him want to rethink going forward.

Stay well and safe!

Until next time…I wish you music, butterflies, and most of all…I wish you love.

Hot August Nights

Since 1986 (except for last year) Reno, Nevada has hosted Hot August Nights. Classic cars, classic rock and roll, and amazing fun. This year we saw and heard a Boston tribute band, Herman’s Hermits (with Peter Noone), the Beach Boys tribute band, the Bee Gees tribute band, and The Commodores. We had to flip a coin to decide between The Commodores and Chubby Checker. Our house was filled with visitors, but we had fun from morning to night.

Another great part of the week-long event is the vendors. Food, t-shirts, arts & crafts galore. There was soft-serve ice cream with flavor swirls. Butter pecan was the best! I got a beautiful mother-of-pearl bracelet, a Tiger’s eye worry stone, and an old-fashioned plaque of Disneyland. The graphics of the plaque just bring to mind that first trip to The Happiest Place on Earth.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of Disneyland. When we first moved to California in 1971, we visited Disneyland 7 times that first year!! I remember being so mad because my dad went to Disneyland one time with friends when my brother and I were teenagers and didn’t take us! 😦

Old or young, every day is a day to make new memories!!!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer and collecting memories of your own.


Jill James, author of the new release, Ghostly Deceptions, book 2 of the Ghost Releasers, Inc. series.

Grandma’s Apron

I’ve thought of my sweet Grandma a lot lately. This was partially written a few years back. I’d forgotten about writing the memory, so I pulled up the file and found it.

There’s so much more I could write, but this short piece will suffice for now. I hope you enjoy Grandma’s Apron. If you’re blessed to still have your grandmother, show her some love.

Grandma’s Apron

The scent of steaming cornbread baking, prepared from freshly ground cornmeal, pulls me toward the kitchen. With a smile, I make my way down the hall and follow the aroma.

Grandma beams, then gathers me into a gentle hug. She points toward the sink for me to wash my hands. She seats me at the table, then returns with a cold glass of milk. A generous slice of cornbread sits before me. Grandma slices it open and spreads home-churned butter between the layers.

I reach for a spoon to collect a serving of honey, along with the honeycomb. My mouth waters at the first taste of sweet buttermilk crumbs that melt on mytongue. Delectable.

Undeniably Grandma Mabel’s baking, and cooking, is by far the most excellent.

Later on the back porch steps, after finishing off a sweet potato, I lick sticky fingers. Despite my mother’s persistent protests, Grandma grins, then hands me an entire bag of brown sugar.

Grandma fans herself with the tail of her apron, swipes at the sweat on her forehead. She eases her weary bones down beside me on the stoop of an rambling, old white, home-place in Murphy, North Carolina.

She wraps me in a sweet hug and sings AMAZING GRACE. I, of course, think that’s where a little piece of Heaven exists. Tightly snuggled in her loving arms and Jesus loving spirit.

She flips the underside tip of her apron again, and wipes beads of moisture from her forehead. Both her hands grasp the other end, then flaps the apron like a big fan to cool the both of us.

Grandma’s arms fold around me again in a Teddy bear hug while she smiles and kisses me soundly. Her soft, graying hair is swept back in a knot, while escaped damp tendrils curl around her sweet-scented neck. She smells so delicious, like Ivory soap, cookie dough and strong coffee all at the same time.

I never want to leave her warm embrace.

We are uprooted from our moment when the roar of hearty laughter compels us to focus on the activity near the barn. We remember Grandpa is out back with the other men cleaning out chicken houses.

Grandma flips an end of her apron and wipes brown sugar from my chin. “Come a couple of months, we’ll be busy, Child,” she says, then nods toward the men. “Once the weather gets cold enough, hog killing day won’t be far into the future.”

Yeah, like she wasn’t busy every single minute of her life?

We watch as Grandpa walks to the edge of the garden, then slings a deceased, long black snake over the fence. I ask him why he does this, but I don’t recall his answer. Now, I’ve heard some did it because they believed it would bring rain. All I remembered was a long, black snake too close for comfort and Grandma telling him to stop scaring the kids. Then, she’d gather John and me in the folds of that homemade apron we rarely saw her without.

My brother, John, and I are ushered inside the barn to shuck corn to help fill the bins. We had no idea it was actually work. Grandpa always made sure we enjoyed any chore he set us to do. I remember his throaty laughter and the forever twinkle in his eyes.

At a long dinner table, every space is filled with fresh vegetables from the garden and meat they’d raised. I stare at the feast. Fried chicken, potatoes, corn, okra, tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers, biscuits, corn bread and the list goes on. Never had I seen so much food at one time, but the men worked hard from sunrise until sundown and required nourishment. There was always some chore waiting to complete on a farm.

After dinner we gather on the front of a wrap-a-round porch and listen to Bible readings, and then sing hymns. It was family time. A time for love and laughter and harmony. A time for tired bones and achy joints to rest.

That is until sunrise the next morning and the work would start all over again. Grandma and Grandpa were hard workers and their family always came first. Early mornings the house was toasty with the smell of coffee, of sausage frying or bacon or ham, or a combination, hot biscuits and gravy, fried potatoes, and fried apples stirred the household to greet the day.

There was always prayer before meals and before going to bed. I can’t remember a time there wasn’t prayer at any time it was needed, or if Grandma simply wanted to pray. Grandma even prayed, talked to God, or sang while she cooked or did housework.

Our fingers are tender from shucking corn, and Grandma rubs funny smelling liniment on them before we go to bed. Her beds are made with feather blankets and we snuggle together to stay warm while Grandma tells us a story.

Grandma then prays us to sleep.

*********************

I hope you enjoyed the memory.

Of all the stories my mother used to tell me, I think this is the most memorable. Grandma and Grandpa would walk several miles from North Carolina into Tennessee, to deliver fresh vegetables, meat and fully cooked food to a family who had little or none. Whatever Grandma and Grandpa had, they shared. And if a family needed nursing, the two of them were one of the first to make sure the family was taken care of properly.

In the fifties, windows were left open and rarely did anyone even think to lock their doors at night. Because of trust in small communities, there was no need.

Grandma Mabel, was the glue that held her family together. A good woman, a priceless mother and dedicated wife. A woman who made a difference in her home as well as in her church and community.

Life revolved around family and God.

Her husband and children called her blessed.

These are a few of my memories.

I hope all of you have special memories of your grandparents. Share with us if you’d like. 

Until next time…I wish you Music, Butterflies and most of all…I wish you Love.

 

Christmas in July

Most years I’m writing my Christmas book about this time and trying to figure out how to write about snow, holidays, and chilly weather when it is so hot that I’m sticking to my leather office chair. LOL

This year I’m working on other projects because my Christmas book for this year was done in January!!

I worked on Trapped in Christmas during Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) last November. Finished up after Christmas 2020 and edited in January.

The pandemic and quarantine sucked for life and people, but did something for my writing. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, I read and I wrote more than ever before. I’m trying to keep those habits now that we can go and do things and see people. The time locked away in our homes taught me we have all the time in the world, it just matters how you use it.


Jill James, author of Trapped in Christmas, coming Christmas 2021

So Long June, Hello July

I don’t know about you, but for me this year has flown by. It’s so hard to believe tomorrow is July 1.

Tomorrow would have been Princess Diana’s 60th birthday. On that day, and together, Prince Harry and Prince William will unveil their mother’s statue in a special corner of Kensington Palace’s garden. The gardens are absolutely beautiful as was Princess Diana.

The unveiling should prove to be an emotional memory for Diana’s two sons. I hope it’s a happy one, though there will also be sadness in Prince Harry and Prince William’s hearts.

I look forward to seeing the statue and hope all goes well.

Now that July 4th is up and coming in a few days, I’m sure most everyone has plans for an exciting and happy holiday.

We don’t have plans, yet. With COVID still erupting in certain parts of the country, we’ve downplayed several locations. We may stay home and clean closets. Or maybe we’ll defrost the freezer. Lol Fun? Not really!

Whatever plans you have please be safe and enjoy your time away.

Better Things to Come

What a weird, awful year it’s been. Now that people are being vaccinated and things are starting to open up, I have to hope that we’re on our way back to normal life – even if normal might never be quite what it was before 2020. It’s hard not to get impatient when there are still so many restrictions in place. I miss seeing (and hugging) my friends and family, going to the movies, and taking the kids places other than the local park. Rather than get bogged down in frustration, I’ve been trying to focus on the little things I can enjoy every day – listening to music, cuddling my cat, and writing. I don’t quite trust Mother Nature not to throw us another curve ball, but I have to be cautiously optimistic that 2022 will be much better.

One thing I’m looking forward to is my participation in the Last Chance Beach line of romance novels. My book is due for release in the fall of 2022. I’ve barely started writing it, but I have developed the main characters and an outline. Each Last Chance Beach romance is a stand-alone book that takes place in a common setting.

The first book in this line to be released is Deceptively Yours by Joan Reeves, a very talented and highly respected NY Times and USA Today bestselling author. It’s a sizzling Romantic Suspense about lost love, second chances, redemption, and a woman and a man who are destined to be together. Available now!