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,
Haldis

 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


PHOTO A



PHOTO B




PHOTO C



PHOTO D



PHOTO E

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.

Yum!

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


Monday, December 11, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 11

Happy Holidays! We've got something especially warm and lovely for your Monday morning. My dear friend  Steve Leonard (who most of you already know if you read his wonderful Adrien English coda last year) has contributed another coda. And to all a Good Night, a peek at Kit Holmes and JX Moriarity from the Holmes & Moriarity series.

It's funny and touching and,er, NSW, so don't walk away from your computer. ;-)


And to All a Good Night!
 




I had just ended my call when the bathroom door opened and J.X. emerged in a billowing John Varvatos-scented cloud of steam. It made me think of those early 1980s MTV music videos; all that was missing here were strobe lights, a soundtrack, and a few doves. With his black hair towel-mussed and still damp, and a plush, pale green towel wrapped low on his lean, tanned hips, he flashed me a rakish smile as he slid over to where I was sitting and leaned in to give me a kiss.

“Just let me shave and the bathroom's all yours,” he said as he pulled away.

“Mmm,” I murmured, enjoying the taste of him on my lips as I reluctantly let him go. “I took a shower while you were at the gym so I just need to change.”

He looked down at the phone still in my hand. “Who were you talking to?”

“Oh,” I said absently as I set the phone down. “That was Adrien.”

“Yeah? How are he and Jake?” He was back in the bathroom, clearing a spot on the mirror with a hand towel.

“They're good. I told him about the books from Irving Butler.”

“Oh? And is he interested?”

“Very,” I replied. Irving Butler was a neighbor who’d passed away a few weeks ago, losing a long battle with cancer. He’d been a diehard Miss Butterwith fan and when he learned from my next door neighbor, Emmaline, that I’d moved in across the street, we struck up a friendship. I was very surprised and touched to learn he left me several books from his large collection.

“He was extremely jealous about the copy of ‘Known Homosexual’ but I told him I was going to surprise my friend Diane with it for her birthday. She’ll be thrilled.”

“I bet,” J.X. commented.

“They’re going to be in Sonoma in a couple of weeks. Adrien owns property outside of Basking and invited us to come down for a few days. I thought we’d go and bring the books with us.”

“I remember Jake talking about renovations the last time I spoke to him,” J.X. said between razor strokes.

“Yes, they finished about a month ago.”

“I've been to Basking before. It's a nice little town. I think you might like it.” 
Man, I look nice!


I watched him as he finished shaving and began to work on his hair. In a matter of seconds he had it artfully mussed, a look that usually took me upwards of ten minutes to achieve. As if he could sense me staring, he turned, his eyes finding mine. “What?”

“Nothing,” I said quickly, shaking my head.

“Kit?” He rinsed his hands and patted them dry. “What is it? You’re not nervous about tonight, are you?”

“What? Oh, no. It's nothing like that.”

“Then what is it?” He sat on the arm of the chair, his brown eyes warm and filled with concern. “Talk to me.”

“Sometimes I can't believe my good fortune, is all,” I said with a shrug, averting my eyes, suddenly self-conscious and not quite able to meet that penetrating gaze of his. It was as if he could see into my soul, and it was unnerving at times. Like now.

“Kit... silly.” He took my chin in the palm of his hand and turned my face to his. He was smiling like the big dope he is, eyes bright and shiny. Then he leaned down and took my mouth with his. “It’s my good fortune too, you know,” he whispered as he kissed me deeply.

That made me smile. Yes, it had been rough going at times, especially in the beginning, but I've truly never been happier than I’ve been this last year with J.X.

I was still thinking about that when he got up and went to his dresser, pulled out socks and underwear, and headed to the walk-in closet to finish dressing.

Nina, J.X.'s ex-wife, was having a Christmas Eve party at her house tonight and then tomorrow, as per family tradition, was the Big Family Dinner at his mother's house.

J.X.'s family was full of traditions and our calendar was filled with events and family get-togethers. There seemed to be a family gathering every couple of weekends and it was kind of nice, actually.

Large families can be difficult
I’d even finally managed to acquit myself from the spectacular crash and burn of 'that' Christmas – the Ghost of Christmas-Whatever-the-Hell-Was-I-Thinking – when I'd been sick and bailed in such an inglorious fashion that I still cringe whenever I think of it. But over the course of the past several holidays I'd been forgiven for that trespass, and J.X. and I had even been allowed to host Thanksgiving dinner this year, which had been a great success.

So, even if I did sometimes feel overwhelmed by the size and loudness of the Moriarity clan, they were, for all intents and purposes now, my family, and I never again wanted to do anything that reflected poorly on J.X.

Because I loved him.

Yeah, I really did love him.

“Which one, Kit?” J.X.’s voice broke my reverie and I looked up. He was standing next to my chair wearing nothing but a long-sleeved black Armani shirt – unbuttoned – and white briefs. He held up two ties but I barely noticed them because my eyes were riveted on the bulge in his underwear not two feet away. Directly at eye level. Talk about visions of sugarplums.

“Red or green?” he asked.

“Um, what?”

“Red or...” he broke off with a small chuckle and a sigh. “Kit. Honey. I’m up here.” I sheepishly – and very slowly, I’m not ashamed to add – dragged my gaze upward to find him grinning that crooked smile of his. There were laugh lines at the corners of his eyes and I felt my face redden. Damn, but he was sexy.

“Red or green,” he repeated, waving the ties with emphasis.

“Oh, uh... Green. Definitely green.”

He smiled again and as he turned to go back to the closet, looked over his shoulder and winked. “Keep that thought in mind for later, though,” he said huskily as he disappeared into the closet.

Forget later, I thought, as I rose from my chair and stalked after him, cornering him at the rack that held his shoes.

“Kit,” he gasped in surprise as I spun him around and pushed him against the shelves. “What are you doing?”

My thumb brushed his nipple as my hand slid slowly down his chest and over his abs, stopping
They are definitely going to be late
briefly at the waistband of his Calvins. “What do you think I'm doing,” I asked coyly, gently snapping the elastic.

He was flustered and blushing and I found it adorable. “Bu…but the party -”

“Isn’t for another hour,” I said, tweaking his nipple, which elicited another excited gasp. “And I think we can be late.”

“But...”

I grabbed his with both hands as I sank to my knees.

“Kit…” he rasped breathlessly, his fingers in my hair.

I continued what I was doing, smiling when I heard his head hit the shelves with a thunk.

“Oh, Kit!”

Merry Christmas to me!






Sunday, December 10, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 10

It wouldn't be the Advent Calendar if I didn't share at least one new cocktail recipe this holiday season.

A Dark 'n Stormy is apparently a tropical drink (it hails from Bermuda) but it was my cocktail of choice while in Montreal (and Toronto and Ottawa) and it really has a very festive, holiday zing to it. Plus, it couldn't be more simple to make.

Now the catch with a drink this simple is you need top shelf ingredients. Just sayin.


Dark 'n Stormy 


1 oz. DARK (not spicy) rum (Gosling's Black Seal Rum is recommended)
4 oz. ginger beer (Barrit's Ginger Beer was recommended)
a squirt of fresh lime juice (to taste, in other words) 
tall (high ball) glass

Fill glass with ice. Pour in the ginger beer and leave enough room for the rum. Add the rum. Squirt in some fresh lime juice. Stir gently. Garnish with a lime wedge.



Share your favorite holiday beverage recipe below (it doesn't have to be alcoholic) and I'll randomly pick ten people to receive their choice of one ebook from my backlist. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Friday, December 8, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 8: Missing Scene – The Monet Murders

This is not a coda. Instead, it's a missing scene from The Monet Murders (Book 2 in the Art of Murder series)


**Spoiler alert: this scene takes place after the dramatic events at Camden Castle—and before Jason gets back to Los Angeles.


“Where the hell did you learn to swim like that?” Sam asked. His voice sounded a little thick, a little indistinct. He was slightly stoned from the painkillers, and Jason smiled to himself. It wasn’t often he had Sam at any kind of disadvantage.

“I used to be a lifeguard. Remember?”

“I remember. That wasn’t…that was…” Sam tailed off, wincing. He cautiously touched the neat white bandage on his forehead.

It was about eight in the evening. They were in bed in a motel in Watertown, which sounded more promising than it was. No. Not true. After the afternoon they’d had, having a few quiet minutes with Sam safe and mostly unhurt, was all Jason could ask for—and more than he’d expected. After a cursory examination, Sam had, against medical advice—no surprise there--checked himself out of the hospital. Places to go and bad guys to catch. Although, and this had been a surprise, he had not fought too hard when Jason insisted he not head straight to Cape Vincent to join in the interrogation of Eric Greenleaf.

“Can I get you anything?” Jason asked. Sam looked pale, and lines of pain were etched around his eyes and mouth. All things considered, he looked great. A lot better than he would have had Greenleaf managed to blow his head off.

“Nah,” Sam muttered. “You being here is exactly what I need.”

Okay. That was definitely the pain meds talking. Jason smothered a grin.


Sam, must have heard something in his silence though, because he cocked a bloodshot eye and then put his hand on Jason’s shoulder, drawing him down. Jason settled his head on Sam’s bare chest, closing his eyes and listening to slow, heavy thump of Sam’s heart.

Thank God. Thank God. What if I’d been too slow? What if I hadn’t been able to find him? Thank God.

He said, “I had asthma when I was a kid. The doctors recommended swimming as a way to strengthen my lungs and just, I don’t know, build me up. So from that day on, my parents had me in the water and involved in every possible aquatic activity known to man or fish.” He shrugged. “And I outgrew it. The asthma, I mean. I love the water.”

“Activities known to man or fish, huh?” Sam dipped his head and kissed Jason’s eyebrow.

That was probably a miss, but Jason would take it. He would take every gesture Sam had to offer.
They were silent for a time. Jason thought Sam had probably drifted off again, but Sam said suddenly, “Did I even remember to thank you?”

“For what?”

Sam laughed and Jason realized he’d been close to dozing himself. He chuckled drowsily. “Oh that? You’re welcome. My pleasure.”

He did not say any time. He was afraid that there might be other times. In his heart, he knew there would be. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 7

BOOO! Er, I mean BRRRR!!!


Or do I?

Happy Holidays! Today I'm giving away a hardcover copy of  Classic Ghost Stories: Spooky Tales to Read at Christmas to one randomly selected lucky reader.  (The book will not be available until after Christmas though, just so you know.)

I don't know about you, but I especially love spooky stories and vintage mysteries around the holidays. There's something peculiarly delightful about that weird blend of cozy and creepy.

To be eligible for this giveaway, share a real life spooky experience with us in the comment section below. It doesn't necessarily have to be your own experience, but you have to have got the story by word-of-mouth. And if it's a eerie story from around the holidays, even better!!!

And in the spirit of sharing spooky stories, here's a link to a three public domain ghost stories which you can read for free. A little something different for you coffee break (just don't walk home from work alone!) ;-)











Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 6

Happy Holidays! It's already the 6th! Holy moly (no pun intended). Have you completed your holiday shopping? I am ALMOST finished, and that's kind of a record given the last few years.

Today's offering is especially entertaining. If you're not a member of my Goodreads group, you're probably unaware of the really fun--and absolutely unique--launch parties we have. One of more entertaining "games" is when members create haiku for the stories. They're clever, often funny, and usually right on point.

KC's and Ulrike's lovely gift to you this morning is no different.



Haiku for Petit Morts

by Ulrike and KC 


Slings and Arrows: 

Three pounds of chocolate
Off balance falling in love 
First stern - then tender







Critic's Choice:

Tree blocking the road
Bizarre things at Faust's mansion
Crispin, Rey, beware!




Just Desserts:

Chocolates vengeance filled
Melt against Tug's cheerfulness
Leaving Ridge perplexed




Other Peoples Weddings:

Accused of murder
When taking chocolate hostage
Sheriff Valentine



Sort of Stranger than Fiction:

Rashly spoken words
Extra virgin olive oil

Finally happy


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 5

Happy Holidays!

Today we have six winners (yes, I doubled the number) of a signed print copy of IF ONLY IN MY DREAMS. That's the new print collection of my five Christmas-themed novellas (all but one in print for the first time).

Our winners are:
Ingrid
Mini
jcollyer
Linda Nasuta
booksandmore
riverdaughter


Please drop me a line through my website contact page or Facebook or Goodreads with your snail mail address.

And if you didn't get a prezzie this time, don't despair. Santa's little elves have many more giveaways in mind this month.

Meanwhile, this morning's holiday treat is about twenty minutes of vintage B&W holiday shorts.




Monday, December 4, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 4

Happy Holidays!

Today I'm thrilled to bring you an offering of fiction.

Meg Perry, author of the Jamie Brodie mystery series has contributed a wee bit of a story called "Paternity" which crosses the worlds of Jamie Brodie with that of Adrien English. Grab yourself a nice hot cuppa and duck down behind your cubicle for a few enjoyable minutes of holiday cheer.

Paternity

Young Research Library, UCLA
The end of each term in an academic library is an idyllic time...for the librarians. Students are furiously writing final papers and studying for exams, fueled by vast quantities of caffeine and panic. Instructors are buried to their elbows in those papers and exams, up against the university’s deadline for turning in grades, bitching to whomever will listen about how much student writing sucks.
At the library reference desk, however, a sense of peace reigns. The students’ research is done; they couldn’t write those final papers otherwise. Faculty are too busy grading papers to work on their own writing and research.
We librarians still cover our reference shifts, though; right up until the library closes for the holidays. Just in case.
It was December. There were two days left in fall quarter. It was nearing 2:00 when the kid approached the desk. Clinton Kenneally had already come, bestowed upon us his word of the day (levivah, meaning a fried potato pancake served on Hanukkah), and gone. I was scooted back from the desk, my feet propped on the garbage can, reading an advance copy of Oscar Wilde and Classical Antiquity. Beside me, Liz Nguyen was on her phone, in a five-way text conversation with her mom, aunt, and cousins about Christmas dinner.
The kid - young man - that appeared before us seemed to be agitated, yet also came across as oddly defiant. He was older than an undergraduate. He was tall and blond, with wispy facial hair. His deep tan didn’t fit with his overall presentation, which was that of a roadie for an impoverished garage band. He was wearing baggy black pants, a green t-shirt with a peace symbol, a ratty gray hoodie, and John Lennon glasses complete with blue lenses.
He looked vaguely familiar. That wasn’t surprising. If he was a UCLA student, he’d probably visited the reference desk before.
His straggly hair was flopping into his eyes, and he kept pushing it out of the way. He planted himself in front of us, looking back and forth between Liz and me, his expression a mixture of anguish and challenge.
Liz dropped her phone into her lap; I lowered my feet from the garbage can and swung around to face front. Liz said, “Hi. Can we help you?”
“You have to help me.”
Liz had been in a snarky mood all day. I saw her tip her head to respond in a manner that might not be entirely empathetic, and jumped in before she could. “That’s what we’re here for. What can we do for you?”
“I need information about paternity testing.”
Okay, that wasn’t a query we’d heard before, here in the graduate social sciences library. I said, “Did you know that we have a medical library on campus? They might…”
No.” He gripped the edge of our desk, his knuckles white. “I need information for laypeople. I need to be able to understand it. But it has to be peer reviewed.”
So he knew what peer review was. He must be a graduate student. I said, “Why don’t you sit down?”
He glared at me. “Can you help me or not?” His voice cracked on the word not.
I figured the guy either needed a hug or a whack in the head. I tried to project an air of calm and serenity. “Yes, and I’m going to, but it’ll take a few minutes. Why don’t you sit down? You’ll be more comfortable.” As would I.
He dropped heavily into the chair across from me. I wiggled my mouse to activate the screen and re-entered my credentials. “I’m Jamie, and this is Liz. What’s your name?”
“Angus.” He started gnawing on the knuckle of his left forefinger.
I adopted my finest Highland accent. “Aye, it’s a good Scottish name, that.”
He blinked at me. “What?”
“Never mind.” I turned to the king of general-subject databases, Academic Search Complete, and typed paternity testing.
Apropos of nothing, it seemed, Angus asked me, “Do you have a girlfriend?”
“Uh - no.” I held up my left hand. “Married to a man.”
Liz said, “Me, too.”
Angus muttered, “Shit,” and fell silent.
I scanned through the results that the database had produced. “Jeez. One study - and it’s from China. What the hell is wrong with Academic Search Complete?”
Liz said, “Dunno. Try CINAHL.” 

“What??”
She made a “tsk” sound and turned to her own computer. “You didn’t take a class in medical research?”
“No, I didn’t. Why would I? Why would you?” Liz was a political science subject specialist; my area was history.
“So I’d know where to find health information for my own use, duh. What do you do when you want to look up something about your asthma?”
“I ask Karen Lewis to do it.” Karen worked at the Biomedical Library. “Why…”
Angus smacked the desk, making me jump. “Are you helping me or not?
Liz frowned at him. “Yes, I’m helping you. Cool your jets.”
The phrase produced a burst of cackling laughter from Angus. I was starting to wonder if he was in a manic phase. “Cool your jets? How old are you?”
Liz slowly lifted her hands from the keyboard, crossed her arms, and cast her “evil eye” expression onto Angus. “You are an incredibly rude young man. For your information, that is a phrase that I picked up from my parents.”
Angus quailed in the force of Liz’s fierce scowl, demonstrating that he retained some shred of sanity and self-preservation. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It’s just…” He took a deep breath. “Yesterday, I found out that my girlfriend is pregnant.”
I said, “Um - congratulations?”
Angus slumped in his seat. “My life is a fucking disaster.”
Liz asked, “Is the baby yours?”
He snorted. “You’re one to talk about rude.”
I needed to end this confrontation before it deteriorated. “She didn’t mean it that way. We’re just trying to help, right, Liz?”
Liz was still frowning at Angus, her arms still tightly crossed. “Yeah. Sure.”
I said, “You asked about paternity testing, so…”
Angus removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “I don’t care if it’s not mine. I want to marry her. I’ll raise the baby as my own. But Natalie...she’s crazy right now. And her family hates me.”
Sounded like the definition of a fucking disaster to me, all right. I said, “I have a couple of articles here about the legal and social ramifications of paternity testing. I’ll print them for you. Liz, you’re checking CINAHL, right?”
“Right.” She turned back to her computer with one last baleful glance at Angus.
I sent the articles to the printer under the desk. “If her family knows the baby’s yours, maybe their attitude toward you will improve.”
“Yeah, right.” Angus was gnawing his knuckle again. “Her stepmother won’t say my name. Calls me that boy. Her father’s never even spoken to me. Her stepbrother is my boss, and he’ll probably fire me as soon as the holidays are over. Although he said he wouldn’t.”
Being married to a psychologist, I was steeped in the belief that airing your problems had the power to improve your outlook. I decided to keep the conversation going. “Where do you work?”
“Cloak and Dagger Books. It’s a…”
Aha. That’s where I recognized him from. I said, “A mystery bookstore in Pasadena. I’ve been there several times. I think I’ve seen you there.”
Angus looked warily hopeful. “Yeah? Do you know Adrien?”
“Only to say hello to when I’m in the shop. He seems like a decent guy.”
“He is. Most of the time. But his boyfriend kind of hates me, too.”
“Why?”
He winced. “He - um - arrested me once.”
Oh. That would certainly color one’s perceptions. I was deciding how to respond to that when Liz said, “CINAHL wasn’t an improvement. But there’s an article here on the ethics of paternity testing. I’ll print it.”
I said, “And I’ll print this Chinese study for you, too.”
The printer whirred, spitting out pages. Angus appeared to be even more morose than when he’d arrived. I said, “There’s another benefit to paternity testing. If the baby is yours, the other guy can’t appear at some point in the future and demand parental rights or custody.”
Angus sat up straighter. “Yes. That’s mostly why I want the test. Warren is a scumbag loser asshole. He cheated on her. He wants her to have an abortion. I don’t want him to have any contact with my kid.”
I asked, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but...how sure are you that the baby’s yours?”
He shrugged. “I’m not. Natalie says it could be either of us. I told you, she’s crazy emotional.”
Liz said, “Discovering that you’re pregnant can do that. Take it easy with her.”
“I’m trying.”
I stacked the articles and stapled each one. “There you go. If you have any questions after you read them… Are you a UCLA student?” Maybe he could avail himself of the campus counseling services.
“I was. I - uh - kinda got off track.”
Not surprising, with the whole arrest thing. I said, “You’re girlfriend’s going to need to see a doctor. If you have any questions about these articles, you should discuss them with him or her.”
“Yeah, okay.” Angus riffled through the papers, then stood. “Thanks for your help.”
I said, “You’re welcome. Good luck. And happy holidays.”
He grunted and walked away.
Once he was out of view Liz said, “Whoa. That kid has issues.”
“Ya think? I hope he’s the dad, though. If Angus thinks the other guy is a loser…”
Liz snorted a laugh. “Seriously.”
Her phone beeped. She read the screen and said, “Oh, hell to the no. We are not eating lasagna on Christmas…” and began to text furiously.

I reopened my book and propped my feet on the garbage can.



***

Find out more about Meg and her work here! 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 3

Happy December 3rd!

Today's Advent Calendar entry is a download of a very cool little Irish Christmas song called "Christmas in Carrick" recorded by The Browne Sisters & George Cavanaugh (AKA me and my kinfolk). The album is called Christmas Travelers, but it's long out of print.

You can download an mp3 of the song right here (it will download directly to your computer, so if it doesn't start playing, be sure to check your download folder).

Christmas in Carrick
The Clancy Brothers

On the road the frost is glistening.
People stream from Midnight Mass.
Friendly candles glow in windows.
Strangers greet you as you pass.
Home then to the laden table;
Ham and goose and pints of beer,
Whisky handed 'round in tumblers,
Christmas comes but once a year!

Puddings made with eggs and treacle,
Seeded raisins and ground suet,
Sated breadcrumbs and mixed spices,
Grated rind and plenty fruit,
Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg,
Porter, brandy, and old ale.
Don't forget the wine and whisky!
Christmas comes but once a year!

Women fussing in the kitchen,
Lay the food on every plate.
Men impatient in the hallway,
Guinness and porter while we wait.
Who cares if we work tomorrow?
Now's the time to spread good cheer!
Pass the punch around the table!
Christmas comes but once a year!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 2

Today's Advent Calendar offering is a link to YouTube and the 1971 animated version of A Christmas Carol featuring Alistair Sim and Michael Redgrave.

The vintage-style animation is really gorgeous and it takes about half an hour to watch.

Enjoy!




Friday, December 1, 2017

Advent Calendar Day 1

Happy Holidays!

Welcome to my Annual Advent Calendar Holiday Extravaganza. ;-)

We've already received a couple of lovely fictional morsels for your enjoyment. Every morning there will be something to start your day off with a smile. Maybe I'll share a favorite holiday song or a lovely photo or maybe I'll give something away. Some days we'll have fiction, some days we'll have art, but one thing for sure, every day will have something for you to enjoy. 

There really is nothing for you to do but show up and enjoy. It's just my way of saying Thank You.

Today I'm giving away three signed copies of If Only In My Dreams. This is a print collection of my five Christmas novellas--most of them never in print before. Just share what you like best about the holiday season in the comment section below, and I'll randomly pick three of you to win a signed copy of If Only in My Dreams.