Christmas in California

Special thanks to WordPress and their update for delaying this post.

I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful it was to spend Christmas back home in the Bay Area with my family. Interspersed with wrapping all the presents I had shipped directly there (yes, I’m aware Amazon wraps, and had I thought about it, I would have had them do it), supervising my son baking gingerbread, and running errands with my dad, we also did tourist stuff.

We were supposed to go up to San Francisco while we were here and ride the trolleys, because although the kids have ridden the trolleys up and down the hills and smelled the wooden brakes burning, they were not old enough to have that momentary fear of what-if-this-time-the-breaks-are-too-thin-and-we-careen-to-our-deaths. Yes, I really do have those thoughts.

We made it into the city one day for a Girls Day of Culture, seeing the San Francisco Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker. If you ever get a chance to enjoy the ballet there, do it. Especially if your Not Wicked Step-Mother has taken the time and money to purchase box seats, and a bottle of champagne. The only thing missing from our Pretty Woman moment was Richard Gere. Who could have been there somewhere, but I wouldn’t have noticed because when not watching the dancing, I was checking out the French Horn section.

Photo of kids at Monterrey Bay Aquarium
Snarky Daughter and Scout Son take time to pose after checking out the wild otters.

So, anyway, we were supposed to go back up to the city with everyone, but that morning, we woke up to huge rainstorms. Which was actually fantastic because that meant we could lounge around the house and wrap 1,453,267 gifts (which are all now residing in an extra suitcase in the belly of the beast we’re waiting to board).

While we missed out on trolleys and Pier 39, and the really tacky touristy stuff of San Francisco, our first day in town was beautiful, exactly what winter in CA should look like, and we wandered around the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. This is a great aquarium. Among otters, sea turtles and a fantastic jelly fish exhibit, you’ll also find a sea horse exhibit (way cooler than you think), and penguins. Yes, penguins.

Photo of Monterrey Bay Aquarium Penguins
They’re not native to Northern California, but I love visiting them.

I don’t really know why the penguins are there since I haven’t seen the penguin feeding show in about 10 years. I just show up and watch them play. The funny thing about the penguins is, that they’re all tagged. To which you immediately think, where do they expect the birds to go? It’s not like they’re going to wander into the coral reef exhibit and not be noticed. But if you look closely at the tags, you learn they’re nametags. Of all the penguin names, the only one I can remember is Bee. Bee the penguin. She was hanging out with Penguin I Can’t Remember the Name Of, and they were having a lot of fun.

Then, there was the ultimate in touristy, walking on Carmel Beach at sunset. In addition to not remembering the trolleys, the kids also don’t remember that I dipped them in the Pacific at an early age. We ended up chasing Scout Son around the beach, trying to get him wet since he was avoiding the water’s edge.

Whatever. We had a wonderful time in CA, partying with family and playing with dogs. We can’t wait to come back, hopefully for good. In the meantime, I’ll be writing on the plane. As soon as they’re sure my laptop isn’t a threat to our ability to fly.

Really, we’re still thinking that’s a possibility during take off?


A Season for Romance Free this Weekend

A Season for Romance Book Cover
They say home is where the heart is…

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And he’s brought you a free copy of A Season for Romance, today through Sunday! It’s currently #12 on Amazon’s Short Story Best Sellers list! Download your copy this weekend and enjoy it on Christmas after all the other presents have been unwrapped. Or if you have a little down time leading in to the big day.

This is our Christmas gift to you. Happy Holidays!


Reading = Housecleaning

So I was supposed to spend the weekend cleaning the house, addressing Christmas cards, knitting a Christmas gift and probably baking some more because after 15 batches of cookies (really don’t think I’m exaggerating) who doesn’t need to bake some more?

Instead, I read Faking It by Jenny Crusie for the 1,345,253 time. Maybe there won’t be a happy ending this time. OK, so yes, I need some new reading material, and no, I have no idea what author to try next. I’m open to suggestions as long as you understand that I like Light. And. Fluffy.

Last weekend, while knitting and writing and laying out the annual Christmas letter, I spent Saturday night and some of Sunday watching all those romantic Christmas specials on the Hallmark Channel. The living room was a little insipid by the end. But I balanced that out with the “oh no, I’m still without a day job and what am I going to do with my life” thoughts, so I think it was pretty much situation normal around here.

Last night, still wanting some Christmas cheer, and something funny to make me forget the horror of this week, I thought, “hey, I caught some of The Family Stone last weekend, that was pretty funny.” And it has Dermot Mulroney in it, and his photo was pinned up next to my computer while I wrote The Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge, so yummy and funny. Sounded good.

The scene I caught was the spilling of the strata in the kitchen, which is, it turns out, pretty much the only funny scene in the movie. Oops. Spoiler alert (although why you’d need one since this movie has been out forever is beyond me): The. Mother. Dies.

Not so much on the Christmas cheer. I tried to go back to the Hallmark Channel after that in hopes I could cheer myself up, but it was no use. I watched this week’s Grey’s Anatomy instead. I was batting 0 for 3 last night.

Hence, picking up Faking It again. I’d picked it up the other night because I wanted something I wouldn’t fall into. It’s not like I can’t recite the story by heart at this point. So I figured I’d be able to put it down any time and do housework.

Yes, I totally lied to myself. I was able to put it down a lot, but I found myself taking very long meals so I could read while I ate. Or ignore my empty plate for an hour and read. It’s now 10:45, I’ve been up for three hours, and the only thing that’s been cleaned in the house is me.

But that’s OK because I have the house to myself. Just me, three cats, a dog and a fish until this evening. And during the holiday season, I think it’s important to have a little down time for ourselves. Don’t you agree? Besides, now I can put the book back on the bookshelf. That counts as housecleaning, right?


The Tree: Final Update and Miscellaneous Holiday Junk

Quite the title, I know.

photo of kitten stealing Christmas ornament
That’s Athena, stealing one of my favorite ornaments that my mom made 30 years ago.

So, you waited and wondered about the Tree vs. Kitten Saga and how the tree has fared. When last I shared, Rex was eating the ten year old plastic tree from Michael’s. I have to say, this tree still looks really good for ten years, and so far the kittens have not managed to rip off any of it. Although there was one small piece that fell off during the building process and Athena thinks that’s the Best. Toy. Ever. Since she’s keeping it under the couch, I really don’t care.

After a week, the cats have mostly given up on stealing the ornaments, because they have discovered curling ribbon. And they love them some curling ribbon. Don’t freak. They’re not eating it. Athena just pulls it off the gifts one piece at a time and lays it at my feet. Which is almost as cute (in a can I kill you now, that took hours sort of way) as when she took the bow of MY gift and brought it to the dog. Who immediately told her quite loudly where she could stick that bow. And I don’t think it was back on my present.

kitten with christmas light in his mouth
Yes, as soon as I took the photo I got the lights out of his mouth. You can’t really tell, but his mouth was glowing.

But by far, the best holiday memory so far with these two has got to be when I looked up and Rex’s mouth was glowing yellow because, yes, he was eating the Christmas tree lights. Rex, in case you’ve forgotten, only has three legs because when he was a few weeks old, be apparently decided he needed to investigate an outdoor folding chair and got caught in it. By the time someone found him (this was pre-me, so no bad pet owner letters, please), it was too late to save his leg.

You’d think that would be a learning experience and he wouldn’t continue investigating everything. But no. He’s currently plotting his escape back into the out of doors to catch a bird. Yes, I did put the cat tree right in front of the bird feeder so the cats would have entertainment. And so would I.

In other Christmas news, I am finally able to prove that the space-time continuum is messed up in Wal-Mart. When I walked in this morning to get a $5 Dirty Santa gift (seriously guys, $5?) for a Boy Scout dinner… OK, now I have to explain the Dirty Santa thing because otherwise this sounds really bad. You know the game where you can keep your gift or steal someone else’s? It has a name. Dirty Santa. I did not name it.

I digress. So, I walk in to Wal-Mart and they have some XX days til Christmas light up sign going. This must be for men because there isn’t a woman in the world who doesn’t know how many days she has left to pull the perfect holiday off again this year. SO, in I go. 16 Days til Christmas. Now that seems off to me, but it’s 8something AM, and I’m grumbling about being unemployed and still having to get up at 6:30 each day, and we’re lucky I know it’s Tuesday, let alone what the date is. I mean yesterday I posted something for the school that happens THIS Thursday and listed a date from last week.

OK, so 16. Seems off. I walk by a few minutes later, and now it’s 13 Days Til Christmas. Which also seems wrong and now I’m doing the math because I swear I’ve only been wandering around the store for ten minutes looking for a cheap gift someone would actually want. But this does prove that time has no meaning in Wal-Mart. And when I left, yes, some good soul had actually fixed the sign and we were at 14 days.

14 Days of Baking, Knitting, Christmas letter writing, baking, eating, singing carols…

Happy Holidays! Hope you’re staying sane as you face the season.


Ta-da! A Holiday Anthology and I’m Guest Blogging Today

A Season for Romance Book Cover
They say home is where the heart is…

Yes, that’s me doing the happy dance in the kitchen, while trying not to spill my morning cup of tea. No, I will not be sharing photos of me post-yoga and pre-shower. Even with the Dunkin’ Donut, it’s not a pretty picture!

So, here’s the exciting news of the day: my holiday anthology, A Season for Romance, is out!!! This is a fun collection of short stories that take place between Thankgsiving and New Year’s Eve.

If you ever wondered how Grandma Vi got her matchmaking start, you can watch as she tries her hand with Jessica’s parents, in Meddling with Mistletoe. You’ll remember Jessica from my first book, The Heiress and Her Fake Fiance. There was a throw-away line in there about how Vi locked Jessica’s parents in a wine cellar at a Christmas party. When the offer to participate in the anthology came along, I knew it was time to share their story.

Romantic Suspense author, VR Marks brings us The Sheriff’s Proposal. We meet Sheriff Cochran in her first novel, The Thief, but we don’t learn exactly how he feels about Ruth Williams, the owner of the local diner, until her annual Thanksgiving feast in The Sheriff’s Proposal.

When Ethan Myers, an award-winning photographer short on inspiration, leaves his studio for the road, he’s shocked to run into the one woman he’s never forgotten, in the contemporary sweet story, Finding the Focus, by Jay Keelan.

And finally, we have Snow-Covered Resolutions by Regan Black, a fantastic paranormal romance/fantasy/Young Adult author. It’s New Year’s Eve and all of the Pixie Chicks have someone special to kiss at midnight – except Austin. In this season of resolutions will she stick to hers, or will the snow-covered magic of Hobbitville sweep her up in a whole new adventure?

We’re guest blogging today at Romance Bandits, so stop by. I’ll be checking in throughout the day while I wrap presents and bake a ton of Christmas cookies! And did I mention there will be book giveaways?


The Christmas Tree, Phase 2

So, when last we spoke of the holiday season, I was cooking a turkey and wondering what my cats were doing to the naked Christmas tree at home.

To look at them right now, you’d think they were innocent.


photo of cats sleeping
Sophie and Rex are look innocent now


photo of a kitten asleep
Athena never does anything wrong… or so she says.

But after 5:00pm, that’s no longer the case, as evidenced here, when Stumpasaurus Rex decided he needed to investigate the dishwasher. He ends up in there at least twice a week. No idea why.


photo of a cat sitting in a dishwasher
Rex checks to make sure the dishes are clean before we put them in the dishwasher

Last night, with the room spinning due to an inner ear thing I have going on, I decided it was time to put the lights on the tree. What’s not to like about vertigo, a step stool, and electricity?

Remember those adorable, innocent balls of fluff? I don’t know where they were. Demons replaced them. And in case you wondered, no, LED lights do not stay lit any better than regular tree lights. I know this because Athena and Rex were all about loosening random LEDs on the strand so that sections of the lights would go off and I’d have to sit down and fight the stupid strand again.

Yes, I do know that Christmas tree lights are strung by hand (yes, really), and if I had to do that, they would never work. So I am thankful when the things work at all. But if these cats want to be on Santa’s Nice List, they really need to leave the damn tree alone.

Tune in later this week as we start the Broken Ornament Pool. Once the lights were on the tree, the cats seemed to lose interest, but we’ll see what 5:03 has in store for me tonight. They are, after all, still trying to eat the tree.

As an aside, are you looking for the perfect gift for a writer? Yeah, I wasn’t either. I mean, really that would be a bigger MacBook Pro… Sorry, I was working on my Christmas List.

So, a few weeks ago, in some part of my cyber-life I was complaining about maybe needing some of those tip-less gloves so I could write with warm hands. I didn’t think anything else about it. But on Wednesday night, we found ourselves at World Market, looking for wine for the rest of the week.

I was pretty focused on Sauvignon Blanc, so I wasn’t paying much attention when my friend said, “Hey, they have a whole selection of gloves for you!” Sure enough, there must have been 15 pairs to choose from.

Writer Friend got me this pair for Christmas. If you look closely, you’ll see what appears to be an elf hat buttoned on them. Don’t give me grief. I was focused on wine. Pulled the gloves out this morning and realized those “hats” turn them into fully functional mittens!


photo of fingerless gloves
The ultimate gift for cold writers

Awesome! And so much more useful that the cat’s version of a muff, where they lay down on my hands and keyboard while I try to work!


Only 27 days, 13 hours left til Christmas! I have a lot of knitting/baking/wrapping to do between now and then. Are you ready?


Building the Tree

You know you’ve been out of work too long when…

  • You’re excited about Michael Strahan’s new dressing room reveal tomorrow;
  • You know which Twilight star is dumber than a post, which one is the post, and which one actually has a brain. And uses it;
  • You no longer stop typing when a cat lies (lays?) across your arms;
  • You have to go to The Oatmeal to figure out if it should be lays or lies. (It’s lies.)
Photo of kids building a fake Christmas tree
“Yeah! We’re building the tree!!!”

I know you’re all shocked because this is two posts in two days, as opposed to my usual once a week/month/lifetime routine I’ve had going lately. But I knew you all wanted to know how the tree building went.

First, boys do not know how to fluff trees. Shocked, I am. Especially since I’ve been re-teaching this skill for five years. So I went through the refresher. Some branches have to point forward to cover the florist wire, some to the left, some to the right, some down so we have a full tree. And still, the skill does not come naturally to those with a Y chromosome.

OK, this tree is 11 years old, so it gave up on full years ago. But it was a really good tree I got for about $2.32 when I worked at Michael’s because that was more fun than potty training one of my children. Yes, I really chose retail during the holiday season over potty training a child. And I wonder why I haven’t been nominated for Mom of the Year.

photo of Kids building a Christmas Tree
Scout Son tries to fluff like Snarky Daughter. Yes, I see she is wearing a barcode on her elbow. Yes, I have the Photoshop skills to fix it, but why miss this opportunity to embarrass her?

Back to the tree. Rockefeller Center’s got nothing on this 7.5-foot plastic concoction currently sitting in my living room. Snarky Daughter, being a girl, was all about the fluffing.

You know what’s really depressing? A Christmas tree without stuff on it. So we built the tree and Stumpasaurus Rex immediately tried to figure out how to scale the tree. Given that he’s missing a back leg and can’t jump well, you’d think I could breathe a sigh of relief. The problem is, he’s muscle. Since he can’t launch himself, he pulls himself up things. He is regularly at the top of the 6-foot cat tree.

Which is the other reason I was worried about the tree. Given that they already have one thing to climb in the room, would the cats see the difference?  I really expected a cat as a tree topper.

Rex is crafty. He spent the evening under the tree trying to figure out how to get up the clothing hanger branches. We’d be watching TV and all of a sudden some part of the tree would start shaking.

Photo of kitten exploring Christmas Tree
“Finally, you brought the trees inside! Where are the birds and squirrels?”

I had a glass of wine and generally ignored it. Athena, Goddess of Christmas Trees, felt that this tree was like any other plant (real or fake) in the house and it was meant to be eaten. For that, I grabbed a spray bottle and shot her with water. She was not amused. I expect a retaliatory hairball any time now.

This morning, I’m staring at an empty tree and the cats are totally. Ignoring. It. Totally. Like, OMG.

I may speed up the process and add lights. So tune in next time (I almost wrote tomorrow, but that seemed like a promise I was going to blog tomorrow, hahahaha) to see what’s going on with holiday preparations.

And find out if I mess with Bon Appetite’s Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe or if I keep it pure for Thanksgiving.


40 Days Til Christmas

40 days and 14 hours. That’s how long we have until Christmas. Yes, I’m a little surprised that I was able to Google days til Christmas and come up with a Christmas Countdown clock. I shouldn’t be, but it seems like there are better programming choices than that.

Anyway, Christmas. 40.5 days of shopping left. I know. There are a ton of you who haven’t given this any thought yet. Clearly none of you are flying home for the holidays. But we are, and that means I have to do a ton more planning for the holiday than I’d like.

There are the folks I don’t normally see but this year I’ll have to find a nice gift for. Hard to do when you see each other every other year. These are the people in my life who would, on this coast, get homemade Irish Cream truffles, sea salt scrubs, knit scarves or some other Pinterest-inspired gift. But since I have to get it across the country without breakage, I have to either buy supplies/bottles and ship them to California and spend a day in the kitchen there, or I have to make it here and pack it very carefully. And hope TSA doesn’t decide they want softer hands and spiced pecans.

Of course, next week I’ll be writing that great holiday favorite: the family Christmas letter.

Photo of kids with Christmas tree
Scout Son and Snarky Daughter try looking cute in front of the Christmas tree.

Being a freelance writer gives me a leg up on most in that department because I have InDesign so I can put together something nice and spend an extra 100 hours making sure everything lines up perfectly. Because I know you’re all going to pull out rulers and check to see if the spacing is equal on all columns.

My letter comes and goes depending on the news. The year my mom died and I was getting divorced I didn’t do the letter. Merry Christmas! May Death and Destruction Stay with Me, Not with You! Somehow, I couldn’t find a lot of happy to share that year.

This year, even with the loss of a job, I feel like there’s good news. Snarky Daughter and Scout Son each get a column in the newsletter, so I only have to find about 300 words of happy, and with two books coming out this month, I think I can wing it.

But that’s next week. This week, I’m cruising Pinterest for cool homemade gift ideas, making a shopping list for pies for Thanksgiving. And putting up the Christmas tree. Tonight. No ornaments or lights, just the tree. I want to see what the kittens will do to it. I fully expect to find Rex sleeping at the top tomorrow morning. I’ll keep you posted.

Feel free to start the pool on how many times the cats knock it over.

What’s that? Why am I putting up a tree when I won’t be here?

That’s a really good question. The answer involves pitiful faces on sweet children who want to decorate for the season.

Whatever. I have gifts to work on.


Christmas Reviews or The Evil Empire? Which Would You Face?

Christmas at my house means Star Wars. This year we had Star Wars coffee mugs, t-shirts from Vader and more video games than I can count. We even had Star Wars hot chocolate. Scout Son sagely informed me that there are only three Star Wars games that we do not currently own. He wasn’t asking for them, mind you, he’s analytical. He knows these things and feels the need to share.

Christmas came for me when my daughter got an Amazon gift card. After all the gifts were open, she went to the computer to carefully consider her purchases. Funny how when it’s their money the kids have to think about what they’re buying. When it’s my money, it’s how fast can we get the stuff into the cart.

So, she’s carefully shopping. Except for one thing. When she opened up our Amazon account, she looked at me and said, “Mom, can I buy your book?”

Merry Christmas to me! My kid wants to buy my book! Umm…hmm… My daughter wants to read my book?

Don’t get me wrong. I know she reads romance novels, and I’m fine with it. But now she’s going to read the one I wrote. That just seems like it’s skating on the line of Too Much Information. But it was so sweet, I couldn’t say no.

Luckily, Snarky Daughter reads about five books at a time, so there’s a really good chance I’ll never hear about this again. And it helps my sales numbers. Heaven help me if she decides to review it. Worse, what if it doesn’t hold up? What if she doesn’t like it?

Have I mentioned that writers are neurotic? Yes, it takes guts to put our books out there for people to read. But the reality is, once it’s out there, we can sort of ignore its existence and just accept the checks when they come in. If we don’t think about the fact that people are reading the books, we can get through the day.

On Christmas Eve, I got the email from Amazon that someone had reviewed The Heiress and Her Fake Fiancé. Remember that feeling you got in school when your teacher handed back the big assignment, but you hadn’t looked at the grade yet? Multiply that by 1,000 and you’ve got what a writer feels when they get a review.

I got the email in the middle of canceling a credit card, baking cookies, and last-minute wrapping. In the middle of all the holiday hoopla, I was not prepared to face a review. Who am I kidding? In the middle of winning the lottery I wouldn’t be prepared to face a review.

Please have it be someone I know. Please have it be someone I know…

Armed with a Hot Buttered Rum, I clicked on the link. Paranormal romance author, Regan Black, reviewed my book. I looked at the stars. Woo-hoo! A five-star review! And with that, I closed the computer and went back to making cookies. No, I didn’t read it right then. I couldn’t. Seriously, I had about a million more packages to wrap, and fingers to burn making pralines (another story) before I could go to bed and hope the reindeer dancing on the roof didn’t wake me up.

I did finally face the review, which is lovely, by the way. Even knowing it was going to be good, I still had pralines in hand. You never know when you’re going to need them! Because facing Darth Vader is easier than facing a review.

I should know. We face him daily, thanks to Santa.

Happy Holidays!


Six Shopping Days Left Until Sanity Returns

Six shopping days left. I think I’m done. Having said that, four cousins and a kid I have never met will appear, needing some sort of gift. But right now, I almost feel like I’ve got the holidays under control.


Never mind that there’s frosting and wrapping paper stuck to my hair. Cakes have been baked. Irish Cream Truffles are done, just waiting to be packaged each night and dropped off with the neighbors. All that’s left is baking cookies with the kids… and wrapping the last of the presents. Which would be all the easier if Amazon would deliver the last of the gifts.

There was a nasty rumor from the USPS that they’d be on my doorstep sometime this afternoon. These are the same people who tell me I can send flat rate packages from my door, but apparently only if I live in a cottage, because I can’t do it here. And though I have searched the yard, the garage and even *gasp* the mailbox, there is no package to be found. These are also the people who ran out of stamps. I kid you not. Out of stamps.

I can’t complain too much about that because without the stamps there’s really no reason to get on those Christmas cards tonight. Hey, last year the annual update became a Valentine’s Day letter, but I did get it out.

So tonight I am taking a break. Peace on Earth. Good will to men, women and children. All of which will be had if I relax and enjoy the twinkling lights on my tree, enjoy a cup of cocoa and play Lego Star Wars with Scout Son.

Tomorrow I will add photos to the letter and start addressing envelopes. Maybe the Post Office will even get stamps and find the missing Christmas present that they logged in to our post office on Saturday. But when they wonder why they’re going bankrupt, I will point to days like today. While singing the 12 Days of Christmas in line at UPS.

Shameless Holiday Joy Moment: If you haven’t heard them and need a laugh, YouTube Straight No Chaser and listen to Christmas Can-Can or their rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas. I laughed so hard I almost had to pull the car off the road.

Merry, merry!