Monday, December 18, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 18

Brrr! Another chilly Monday morning because, regardless of the weather, it's a cold day in hell when you have to work during the holidays. (Okay, maybe I exaggerate.)

This morning we have something sweet and scrumptious from one of my favorite multi-talented peoplz, but I'll let Haldis do her own intro (since she actually went to the trouble to write one)!

When Josh announced she was opening up the advent calendar again this year, I had no clue what I would write…except that it would involve Mr. Pinkerton, of course. It was actually a picture from Josh’s post, a picture by Catherine Dair and a quote from I Spy Something Christmas…which brings me to Dickens…which brings me to a book…and cake…and then I decided we needed The Mysterious…and, well, you get the idea.
And then I decided to color (mostly in the lines) the semi corresponding picture by Johanna Ollila from Love is a Many-Colored Thing.
Enjoy and Happy Holidays,

 Mr. Pinkerton and the Christmas Cake

            Mr. Pinkerton slipped past a pair of booted legs into the sparkling warmth of Ye Olde Book Store. He quickly moved to the side, so as not to be trod upon, and shook off the flakes of snow that had landed on his fur during his sprint from Miss Butterwith’s cottage. He didn’t have time for a proper grooming so he hoped he would dry quickly in the cozy bookstore as the store was nearly full to capacity with many of the village’s residents and also quite a few people that Mr. Pinkerton did not recognize. Geoffrey, the store’s owner, had told Mr. Pinkerton there would be something very special at this year’s holiday party.
Look at the eyes on that thing!
                        Ye Olde Bookstore, always a very comfortable and inviting space, was all decked out for the Holidays with shiny baubles that, when he was younger, he liked to swat, and satiny ribbons that he would chew and pull and roll. But he was older and wiser now and did not engage in such activities. Much. Maybe once….or twice….a day. Anything more he left up to Kit, the resident bookstore cat.
            Speaking of the little Ginger Fury himself, Kit came up and touched his nose to Mr. Pinkerton’s in greeting. And now that he thought about, Kit wasn’t so little anymore. In fact, he had grown up to a rather impressive young cat.
            “Ah, Mr. Pinkerton,” greeted Geoffrey, as he grabbed a towel and started rubbing down Mr. Pinkerton. “We’ll get you cleaned up and then you and Kit can help me play host.”
            “Meow,” agreed Mr. Pinkerton. With the gentle rub-down he was getting, Mr. Pinkerton most likely would agree to anything. He purred and leaned into Geoffrey’s touch.
            “Alright, you two, which one of you wants to ride on my shoulder?” asked Geoffrey
            Mr. Pinkerton, after a glance to Kit to make sure of no objections, sprang up to Geoffrey’s shoulder, being careful not to stick his claws into Geoffrey’s soft knitted jumper. Together they made the rounds greeting several residents before, at last, coming upon one of the visitors.
            “Mr. Winter, welcome! We are so very honored to have you and Professor Crisparkle here tonight,” said Geoffrey
            “Please, call me James,” said Mr. Winter. He gave Mr. Pinkerton a wary once over, but then looked back to Geoffrey.  “You have a lovely store Mr. Alleyn.”
            Who’s Mr. Alleyn? thought Mr. Pinkerton.
            “Oh, please, call me Geoffrey,” answered Geoffrey, apparently also Mr. Alleyn. Mr. Pinkerton found it strange the number of names that humans went by. Even after a year, Mr. Pinkerton still wasn’t used to Geoffrey calling Inspector Appleby ‘Andrew’.
            Soon Geoffrey and Mr. Winter were off on a rather lively and enthusiastic discussion about rare books and Mr. Pinkerton was nearly dislodged from his perch and decided it was probably best to seek a safer vantage point.
He jumped down on to a row of low bookshelves, stopping to sample a sip of eggnog out of an unattended tumbler, and just a small taste of cake on the plate beside it before  surveying the crowd. Kit was busy being the center of attention with Miss Butterwith and Mrs. Fox from down the lane. Inspector Appleby was in a discussion with a tall silver-haired man and a shorter darker-haired man. Mr. Pinkerton leapt across two bookcases to join them just as two other men, one blond and stocky, the other a little taller with glasses, approached Inspector Appleby.
            “Fraser Fortune, from The Mysterious” said the blond man, holding out a hand to Inspector Appleby. “I was hoping for a word with you, Inspector.
            “Uh, the mysterious what?” asked Inspector Appleby, shaking Fraser Fortune’s hand.
            The man with Fraser Fortune snorted.
            “This is my partner, Drew,” said Fraser Fortune, while glaring at Drew, though it looked like he was trying not to laugh.
 “Ah yes, The Mysterious. I have watched your show, Mr. Fortune,” said the silvered haired man. He had an accent form the Southern United States, as soft and smooth as cream. He held his hand out to Frasier Fortune. “I’m Stephen, and this is my boyfriend, Mark.”
“Nice to meet you both, and please, call me Fraser,” said Fraser Fortune.
“So Frasier,” asked Mark. “Are you here tonight hoping to get a glimpse of the Ghost of Christmas Past, or perhaps of Christmas Yet to Come?” He had a certain glint in his eye, like a hunter, thought Mr. Pinkerton. Very like a cat.
“Well, actually no,” answered Fraser. He looked a bit sheepish.
“We’re here about a crime solving cat and a botanist. We were hoping for an interview,” said Drew and he grinned over at Fraser. “
 “I’m sure Mr. Pinkerton would give you an interview,” said Inspector Appleby
“Mr. Pinkerton? I’m guessing he’s the botanist?” asked Fraser.
“No,” stated Inspector Appleby. “He’s the cat. What do you think, Mr. Pinkerton?”
“Meow,” agreed Mr. Pinkerton. He was feeling particularly agreeable this evening. Perhaps it was the friendly, festive atmosphere of the gathering. Then again, maybe it was the spiked eggnog.
            Inspector Appleby leaned in close to Mr. Pinkerton and whispered, rather loudly, “You’ve got a bit of cake in your whiskers, Mr. Pinkerton.”
            Mr. Pinkerton gave a quick lick to his paw and a hasty swipe down his face hoping he dislodged the errant crumb and then turned his attention back to Fraser Fortune.
            “Meow,” greeted Mr. Pinkerton.
 “Uh…..” said Fraser, staring open-mouthed at Mr. Pinkerton.
Well, thought Mr. Pinkerton, this was going to be an engaging interview.
Fraser Fortune continued to stare at Mr. Pinkerton.
Mr. Pinkerton stared back at Fraser Fortune.
“What’s the matter, dear?” whispered Drew to Fraser Fortune. “Never interviewed a crime-solving cat before?”
Fraser Fortune turned his glare on Drew, but Mr. Pinkerton could see the fond smile that played on his lips.
“Well, at least it’s not an ocelot,” said Mr. Winter, who approached from the side with Geoffrey.
“We’re ready to start the reading,” said Geoffrey, before anyone could ask about the ocelot. “You sure you don’t want to do it?” Geoffrey asked Mr. Winter.
“Oh, no, Sedge is much better at that kind of thing,” answered Mr. Winter.
Geoffrey moved over to where a man sat in a high back chair with a red leather book in his lap.
“Good evening, everyone,” called Geoffrey. “It’s the moment we have all been waiting for.” Geoffrey grinned at the crowd. “I’ve always wanted to say that. It is my honor to introduce Professor Sedgewick Crisparkle and the reading of The Christmas Cake.”  Geoffrey clapped with the rest of the audience as he stepped away and rejoined Inspector Appleby.
“The Christmas Cake, by Charles Dickens,” read Professor Sedgewick Crisparkle in a warm clear voice. He opened the book, turned a page. “Our story begins with a fallen star. But the star is not the story,”
Mr. Pinkerton settled in to listen to the story as Kit came and curled up next to him. Miss Butterwith joined him and absently started stroking his fur as she listened to Professor Sedgwick Crisparkle. Mr. Pinkerton began to purr. With Kit next to him, his favorite person standing to one side, and Inspector Appleby and Geoffrey on the other, and surrounded by all of his friends, both old and new, Mr. Pinkerton could not have asked for a better Christmas and he thought of the words of another Dickens story that Miss Butterwith had read to him.
God bless us, every one!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 17

Good morning! I'm running a little late today. I woke up with a scratchy throat. UH OH. NOT NOW. I still have a short story to write and a book to finish, but my Christmas shopping is not only done, it's mostly wrapped and shipped. So in theory I can relax and enjoy being sick--er, enjoy the holidays.

I'm going to be doing through and picking the winners of the previous giveaways (not counting the Buche de Noel, which was decided days ago), which I'll list at the bottom of their individual posts.

Today's offering  comes from the talented and terrific Dianne Thies of Lyrical Lines Proofreading and Book Covers. Di is a long time friend and one of my own proofreaders.

Which book inspired it? Can you guess? ;-D

Whether you're shopping or wrapping or relaxing with a wintry beverage of your choice, have a wonderful day (and evening)!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 16

Guten Morgen und Frohe Weihnachten!

This morning's giveaway was donated by my lovely friend Sabine, who many of you know from our Facebook and Goodreads gatherings. Sabine thought it would be a nice surprise to do something specifically for European readers, who are so often left out of online giveaways.

She's donating two  50 € amazon gift cards and four 25 € amazon gift cards -- a total of six gift cards -- which means we'll be selecting six lucky winners from this morning's commenters.

Sabine, thank you so much for your generosity!

To make it a little more fun, match the holiday scenes below with your best guess as to the most likely romantic pairing:

1 - Mike and Barry from Halloween is Murder
2 - Finn and Blair from Plenty of Fish
3 - Jesse and Rocky from Baby, it's Cold
4 - Austin and Jeff from A Vintage Affair
5 - Elliot and Tucker from the All's Fair series






Friday, December 15, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 15

Good morning!

We're getting SO close to the holiday! So close that even the calmest and most serene of us (and that would not be me, by the way) are probably starting to feel some strain.

So here is something just for you.

I have TEN audio codes to give away for SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS (the final Adrien English audio book -- narrated by the wonderful Kale Williams).

Four codes are for fans who have never tried my audio books. Speak up in the comment section and I'll randomly pick four winners.

Six codes are for those of you who already know and love my audio books (which means you probably already bought this one, but that's okay because you can use the code on any of my audiobooks).

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 14

Did you see the moon last night? Gorgeous! Be sure you take a few minutes to look out the window and enjoy the beauty of the night sky.

And how appropriate for today's terrific offering. Natasha Chesterbrook has generously written a coda to Halloween is Murder. :-)

I want to take a moment to say thank you to Natasha and all the authors and artists and readers who have contributed so far to this year's calendar. It really makes for a wonderful event. Even I can't wait to see what every day brings.

 All Saint’s Day

Natasha Chesterbrook

I woke with a start and the dissipating image of elongated teeth and sharpened claws inches from my neck chasing my subconscious mind into a desperate gasp for oxygen and sanity. My hand reflexively grasped my neck as I stilled my body’s reaction. Awareness quickly overtook me and I darted my gaze to Mike’s sleeping form next to mine, his bare, broad back with those clearly defined muscles in repose. Willing my breathing to slow, I leaned into his heat, taking as much warmth and strength from it as I dared without disturbing him. My eyes had just fluttered closed feeling the drowse of sleep start to retake me when I heard that deep and familiar rumble, “You okay?” So much for my undercover skills, so to speak.

“Yeah,” I rasped out much too quickly. Compounding the obvious lie, I added, “I’m fine.”

I waited. Mike lay still for minutes, what seemed like hours, while I forced my heart to stopped
spooky sleigh in the woods
beating out of my chest and hoped my desire to be “fine” would manifest itself to be truth. Mike was never one to press or even ask questions. A man of action more than words, he rolled over and just looked at me.

All at once, the night before came to me in a flash. Memories of that first brutal taking where we both fought for control over something neither of us could stop much less contain. My breath hitched recalling that first release, both of us crying out as if in pain or fear or need. It was probably all three but after, I found it wasn’t enough. Not even close. And so we began again almost immediately, the second time with purpose and desire to just enjoy.

Those memories erased any that my nightmare had brought forth, replacing fear and revulsion with desire and heat. Mike was a man worth remembering, to savor when this affair had long died away. The roughness of his hands contrasting with the lush terrain his mouth made. The intensity of his gaze fought with his almost muteness throughout the encounter. His passion clearly wrought in the single shout of my name when he climaxed. It has felt surreal almost enrapture. Even if we never had this again, I wanted those memories etched into my soul.

Now he just looked at me, unmoved, no emotion except perhaps a bit of skepticism on his face. But maybe something else. Regret?

I looked away and sat up, taking in the early morning shadows just creeping in between the slats of the blinds. The coolness of the night still hung in the air fighting to retain its hold on the world as if a door to another much colder place had been left open but was now slowly closing. With only a few hours of sleep I wanted nothing so much as to sink back into the heat within the bedsheets that Mike wore like a second skin. My bedsheets, my skin.

Only when I started to rise did his hand reach out and clasp my wrist. I flinched and he immediately retreated.

“Changed your mind?” Looking away but glancing back, Mike was uncharacteristically tentative.

“What? About... you? No. Never.”

Now he stared at me or I should say more precisely he stared at my mouth. And then I could see it, just a hint, not fear exactly but wariness like he’d been down this road before and it never lead to anywhere good. What it wasn’t was regret. And I wondered what he was seeing on my face at that moment. Did he think I was the one with regrets? Sure, last night had changed things and sometimes seeing is harder than being blind but here was Mike and no way did I want to be blind to him anymore.

I laid back down, pulled myself into him and rested my head on his shoulder. His muscles only relaxed after I breathed a deep sigh of comfort and rested my hand on his hip. His arms encircled me and just as drowsiness once again claimed its hold on me, I heard him murmur, “Mianach i gcónaí.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 13

Good morning!

I was glancing through All I Want for Christmas last night, and I stopped at Christmas Coda 37 (Colin and Thomas of  "The French Have a Word For It"). Clearly I was hungry, because the idea for Buche de Noel stuck in my mind.

Now I've never actually had Buche de Noel, but it certainly does look decadent and delicious!

Listen to this description:

The bûche de Noël is a French holiday favorite, inspired by the giant yule logs that were traditionally burned on Christmas Eve. The bakers at the small, family-owned We Take the Cake bakery have handcrafted this one with their best-selling chocolate génoise cake, rolled with rich coffee buttercream and finished with chocolate cream cheese frosting "bark." Whimsical berry-laden fondant holly leaves and crisp meringue/marzipan mushrooms add festive flourish.


So today's giveaway--limited to readers in the US, unfortunately--is a Buche de Noel from Williams and Sonoma. It's going to be tight pulling this one off, so be sure to check back to see if you've won because we have very few days to get the order in!

To be eligible for this particular giveaway you must live in the US and you must contribute your very favorite holiday recipe in the comment section below.  I'll be choosing the winner tomorrow morning, so don't put off contributing your recipe in the comment section!


Please note: our winners are Karen and Julie Bouchard. Karen and Julie, I need your mailing addresses!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 12

Happy Hanukkah (Chanukah)!

Today a poem and a picture. But first, fun facts about Hannukkah.

Chanukah Lights Tonight

 Steven Schneider

Our annual prairie Chanukah party— 
latkes, kugel, cherry blintzes. 
Friends arrive from nearby towns 
and dance the twist to “Chanukah Lights Tonight,” 
spin like a dreidel to a klezmer hit. 

The candles flicker in the window. 
Outside, ponderosa pines are tied in red bows. 
If you squint, 
the neighbors’ Christmas lights 
look like the Omaha skyline. 

The smell of oil is in the air. 
We drift off to childhood 
where we spent our gelt 
on baseball cards and matinees, 
cream sodas and potato knishes. 

No delis in our neighborhood, 
only the wind howling over the crushed corn stalks. 
Inside, we try to sweep the darkness out, 
waiting for the Messiah to knock, 
wanting to know if he can join the party.

by Nina Mikrukova licensed thru Shutterstock