It's already been an interesting Christmas for me. As an author, Christmas begins in the spring (yes, you read that right, spring). That's when writers sit up and go, "Oooo! Christmas is coming! Goody!!!" (We're often that silly and most of us do talk to ourselves...several of us answer back, but we prefer not to admit that.)
Why in spring? Because not only do I then get to start thinking about another romance, I get to think about love at Christmas time. Then, after a bunch of brainstorming, planning, tossing out ideas, and finding new ones, we come to the long, hot summer. (Okay, I live on the Oregon Coast, the long, cool, drippy summer.) While others are complaining about the summer being too hot, cold, short, wet... I'm off in snowy climes in my brain, living the cool life, writing and redrafting. As we entered the fall, I slowly came out of story and back into real time. Time to copyedit, design, and publish.
Maybe I started my Christmas extra early this year. Maybe...I don't know what happened, I just know I had fun doing it. I crawled out of my writerly world (where only story exists and not much consciousness of the world at large) and discovered that I had two (2!!) Christmas romances! I came up with Christmas romance for both my "Angelo's Hearth" foodie contemporary series set in Seattle, and my "Night Stalkers" military romantic suspense series set in Washington, D.C., Vietnam, and Thailand. So, here they are with samples. Hope you enjoy them and have a great(!) Holiday season.
Maria's Christmas Table
Maria Amelia Avico Parrano is beloved by all: her son, his restaurant staff, and the people drawn to her love of life and Italian pastries in the heart of Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Yet after years of warming the hearts of others, Maria wants to cook up a little heat for herself. Until she meets a man who offers so much more.
Hogan Stanford has hidden in his hi-rise condo, watching the world pass by far below. The merest glimpse of Maria draws him back to life again. Basking in her bright light, he realizes what’s to be gained; so much more than he ever imagined.
Hogan offers his heart. Now Maria must decide if she can trust hers.
Hogan loved the city in the morning, before it was filled with people and crowds. Vera had been a night owl, but he was a morning person, often going for long walks while she still slept. Merely one of the thousand complaints she’d leveled at him.
He had leveled only one at her, infidelity. He only discovered in court the vast extent of her attempts to belittle his manhood, never mind their marriage. The worst part was that it had worked. His lawyer had made sure that she walked away without a single dime of his, and he’d crawled into his condo and disappeared.
Well, he was sick of that. It was time for him to climb back out of his hole. And he knew right where he was going to start. The next time he saw Maria, he’d straighten out all this nonsense of his being homeless and destitute. He might be a lost cause, but he didn’t need charity. Not like so many he’d seen. He just needed—
A vision riveted Hogan to the sidewalk by the flower stall at the top of the Market. It was as if his feet had been glued to the brickwork. A woman was walking toward him. She was a vision of fire in the dark, a flame-wrapped wonder with a shock of dark hair that caught red from the streetlights and offered it up as a beacon in the night.
Maria. Before he could react, she had turned down the sidewalk into the Market, a turn that led her away from where he still stood in the shadows.
There would be no better chance than the present. Before he could think of a hundred reasons not to, he called out her name. She turned, and then her face lit with a smile of recognition.
She stopped and waited beneath the bright triple-globe of the antique streetlight that highlighted her like a shop-window ornament.
It took consciously forcing his knees to bend, but he did get his feet moving.
“Good morning, Maria.” It didn’t come out as too much of a croak, just as if he hadn’t used his voice yet today. Didn’t it?
“Good morning. You know, I don’t even know how to call you.”
“Hogan,” Dummy would be bloody appropriate as well. “Hogan Stanford.”
“A pleasure, Hogan Stanford.” She held out a gloved hand which he shook after too long a hesitation.
He had lost all social graces.
“You couldn’t have eaten before leaving the shelter. Aren’t their breakfasts any good?”
“I, uh, wouldn’t know,” he only volunteered afternoons to help with the dinner service.
“Then where do you normally eat?”
He almost turned and pointed up at his condo window. It hung a dozen stories above them and a block to the side. But that felt stupid as if he were too clumsy to speak or explain. He started to form a sentence in his mind.
“You don’t. Well, come with me. We’ll take care of that.” She slipped her hand about his elbow and began to lead him into the Market.
“No, wait, you don’t even know me. I could be—” What, a crazed psycho? Even in her most vile epithets, Vera hadn’t accused him of that. Hogan Q. Milquetoast had been her nickname for him in the courtroom, which had won her little ground with the judge.
Maria stopped and smiled up at him, as if she knew more about him that he did.
“I’m not poor,” he finally blurted out.
“Of course not,” Maria agreed amiably. “There are always people worse off than we are. That’s kind of you, Hogan Stanford.” She made to lead him off again.
The fishmonger, the one always loudly professing his undying love, began opening his shop. Just an easy shout away. He began relaxing on Maria’s behalf, not that she needed protection from him. This was all getting too muddled.
“Maria,” he dug in his heels to keep them in place until this was settled.
She turned to face him once again with absolute patience, as if she were dealing with the feeble-minded. Her face wasn’t angelic. It was far too filled with life to be so described. It was rich with laugh lines, full lips, and the most expressive eyes on the planet. Sophia Loren could envy such eyes.
“I don’t eat at the shelter, because I volunteer there. I help out, I don’t want to take their food.”
“And you dress…”
He looked down and reassessed his clothes from an outsider’s perspective, she’d judged him as broke because his clothes were old and worn. That wasn’t it at all. He shrugged, “I dress…comfortably.”
Maria covered her mouth with two gloved fingers of her free hand. In moments, he could see the look of consternation turning into a smile.
He smiled in response.
“Well, that’s one on me, isn’t it?” Her hand remained wrapped in the crook of his elbow. “Well, Mr. Stanford, I said that I was going to make you breakfast and I am. Come along.”Kindle, AMZ Print, Kobo, Nook, iBook, Your favorite local bookseller
NAME: Kim-Ly Geneviève Beauchamp
JOB: UNESCO World Heritage Chief of Unit for Southeast Asia
MISSION: To protect a Cambodian temple
NAME: Peter Matthews
JOB: President of the United States of America
MISSION: Stability in Southeast Asia
They met at the United Nations, two people from different worlds. Peter Matthews is D.C. born and bred. Since the tragic death of his wife two years before, he has become the most eligible bachelor on the planet. Genny Beauchamp is a French-Vietnamese beauty, with an intelligence that dazzles Peter.
Little do they know that not only their hearts, but their very lives will be on the line this Christmas season.
“Do I detect a note of Christmas cynicism in my guest?” President Peter Matthews did his best to make it sound like a tease.
Kim-Ly Geneviève Beauchamp stopped in place, halfway to the White House, as if her feet had just frozen to the ground. Geneviève, lit warmly by the soft lights, stood amid the fluttering snow that graced her hair like momentary stars.
The Secret Service flowed smoothly around them. Within moments they were as good as standing alone. The agents circled about them, facing outward. The rest of the staffers continued on their way to warmer climes and hot coffee indoors.
“No,” she looked directly at him for the first time this evening.
Somehow, Peter had forgotten her eyes over the months since their prior meeting. Golden skin, elegant features, and rich brown hair that flowed down gloriously, practically to her elbows, were what drew your attention if you had even a hint of a Y-chromosome. But it was her green eyes that appeared to hide nothing that were her most startling feature.
“You misinterpret. I’m never a cynic about Christmas. You detect a note of caution because I don’t know what you want from me, Mr. President. I am the UNESCO Chief of Unit for Southeast Asia World Heritage Sites. I am not political, I am specifically not political. So, therefore I am cautious, as I do not understand why I am here.”
He smiled. He’d asked himself that exact same question. What had he been hoping for when he invited her? The fragment of an answer he’d come up with had influenced how he’d altered tonight’s speech.
“You are here because I truly enjoyed meeting you and I wanted to see you again. I’m only sorry it didn’t happen sooner.”
She studied him for several long moments, her expression unreadable. He remembered that from their meeting at the U.N. This was a woman in absolute control of her own emotions. Not to mention her facial expressions.
“And that is all that you are intending?” She didn’t radiate the doubt she must be feeling. She made it sound as if it were a simple question.
Peter nodded, “That’s all. That encompasses the vast extent of my nefarious hidden agenda.”
“Ah. I understand now, Mr. President,” her soft smile appeared for the first time since he’d lit the tree.
Peter always loved watching the crowd in that brilliant moment when he lit the National Christmas Tree. That shared held breath when the decorations were lit and the year’s design was revealed to the nation. He had worked with the designer and they’d created a red-and-white spiral of thirteen wide bands that swooped upward to a star-studded blue top, with a traditional golden star at the pinnacle. They’d overlapped the red and white strings between each stripe, wiring them into something called a “chase” unit, which caused the lines to shift slightly about the tree. The tree looked like a flag unfurling in the breeze.
No ornaments other than the fifty “stars” in the field of blue, each a shining image of the fifty states’ official mammals. If the news agencies didn’t catch onto that bit of whimsy in a day or so, the designer would tip someone off. His personal favorite was the Maine Moose with the Washington State Orca coming a close second.
But tonight Peter had watched only Kim-Ly Geneviève Beauchamp of Vietnam as he pressed the button that lit the tree. She had become glorious in that moment. Her smile radiating as brightly as the kajillion Christmas lights.
“If that is indeed the entire scope of your plan, Mr. President, what you should do is offer me a gentleman’s escort. Then perhaps we can start this conversation once again.” She made it sound as simple as that.Kindle, AMZ Print, Kobo, Nook, iBook, AMZ Audio, iTunes Audio, Your favorite local bookseller
Also, my Night Stalkers #3 "Wait Until Dark" military romantic suspense is a Featured November Title at Amazon all month (read as deeply discounted to $1.99 and widely advertised) to boost pre-orders for the launch of #4 "Take Over at Midnight" on December 3rd. It has also been discounted to match on several other sites. Grab it while you can!
Kindle, AMZ Print, Kobo, Nook, iBook, Your favorite local bookseller
[On a side note, if you want to see something about how the covers evolved, I just did a post on that at my own site.]