07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hated, Now Love the Holidays

by M. L. Buchman

Christmas. I grew up in a Jewish household with a Christmas tree...and that had nothing to do with the problems. Some people's families are dysfunctional, some are just plain crazy. Mine was the latter, but they packed 99.9% of the craziness into the holiday season...and not in a good way. (My big sister was way smarter than me...still is. Thinking back, I'm not sure that she left her room for the entire month of December. See? Way smart.)

Scroll forward a decade. It took my best friends years to convince me to come over for Christmas. (Let's just say I was a little gun shy.) When no emotional explosions occurred I started to think this season had potential.

Another decade on and I met an amazing lady with a six-year-old daughter. Wow! Who ever knew that Christmas could be such a cool holiday? Actual reindeer bells rattled on the roof over the kids bedroom. Great story books read while piled together on the couch. Letters from Santa. (Might have written a few of those myself in later years following the Tolkien tradition. Tolkien's are worth it just for the illustrations, though his letters are awesome as well. My illustrations...well, not so much.)

So, when I started writing romances, I will admit that I had been, reluctantly, converted into believing that Christmas was kind of cool. I fought it the whole way. But...I may have written a few Christmas novels in recent times. Maybe some Night Stalkers Christmas romantic suspense and perhaps another in my Angelo's Hearth contemporary foodie romance series.

And I just might have maybe enjoyed writing some short stories as well (though don't press me on the enjoying part of that):

Where all this is leading is the story of my latest Christmas novel. It's little picture is up above, but here, I'll repeat it for you because it just released today and a new release always makes me giggle because I just can't get enough of it (and yes, a grown man, I do giggle).

In Christmas at Peleliu Cove I took on a Jewish Christmas. I didn't even think about it until I was well into writing in the book . And I had an absolute blast! Maybe I finally outgrew all of that familial angst (Whew! About time.) It was a chance to take my romantic suspense world, my Jewish heroine, and Christmas all in the same hovercraft sleigh. I can't remember the last time I was this merry about writing a book.

And over the years, I've come to realize that is the secret of both writing for a career and of Christmas...Unbridled Merriness! Here's an example:

Nika Maier and the crew are waiting in the Well Deck, a cavernous space inside the amphibious assault carrier the USS Peleliu). They have been preparing their LCAC (landing craft air cushion) hovercraft for a possible mission when Craftmaster Chief Petty Officer Sly Stowell returns with the news.

“Make ‘er ready,” Sly’s call echoed down the ramp before he made the last turn into view at the head of the Well Deck. It was the same words he used to start every live mission. A training exercise started, “Let’s go prove we still know how.”

“Way ahead of you, Chief,” Nika replied as he swung into view at a quick stride. Then she couldn’t resist, “Had it all inspected and prepped before any of these jokers even showed up.” She nodded toward the rest of the crew.

“What?” Tom exclaimed and Dave just looked bummed. Jerome nodded as if to say, “Of course you did.”

She heard the distant sound of several small engines coughing to life up in the garages and her pulse picked up its pace. “What kind of heat are we packing tonight?” She and Jerome had to make sure that any vehicles were positioned so that the LCAC’s loading was properly balanced and she’d fly true.

“Lots of little heat, Petty Officer Maier,” a deep voice wrapped in a soft Southern deeper and richer than Sly’s called out from the head of the loading ramp. “Fast and dirty heat. And a pair of RSOVs just in case.” Ranger Spec Ops Vehicles—they absolutely confirmed there was action tonight.

Nika glanced up the ramp to see Lieutenant Clint Barstowe arrive close behind Sly. The commander of the 75th Rangers platoon was a big man, and loaded for bear. Combat uniform, armored vest, and enough magazines for his rifle to take out an entire platoon of bad guys himself. He looked incredible. Not overly handsome, just damned good looking. Strong shoulders on a powerful frame. But mostly he radiated power—dark and dangerous. It wasn’t that you didn’t want to meet him in a trashy alley; even in broad daylight you’d best pray he was on your side.

His helmet was snagged on his belt, hooked over the butt of his knife. His service piece on the other hip and a rifle over his shoulder.

Then he totally spoiled the pretty picture by wearing a red Santa hat complete with white fur trim and pom-pom perched atop his Ranger-short black hair.

# # #

“Need to grow a white beard if you’re planning to live up to that hat, Lieutenant. Besides, you’re a little early there. And aren’t you from Arkansas? Do they even have Christmas that far south?”

Clint grinned at the heckler in surprise. Maier was always teasing people, but it was the first time she’d aimed a jibe at him in the eighteen months he’d been aboard.

“You snickering at my festive fedora, Petty Officer Nika Maier? Thanksgiving is a week gone; it’s December now. Where’s your Christmas spirit, Petty Officer?”

“I’m Jewish, Lieutenant. And we’re in the Southern Mediterranean where it’s seventy-eight Fahrenheit.”

“And you’re using that as an excuse not to be merry?”

“As I said, sir, Jewish. Against our religion to be merry because we don’t need an excuse to feel someone is out to get us—we already know they are. Besides, that’s not a fedora without a brim and an indented crown.” She picked up a three-foot steel pry bar used for tightening the vehicle tie-down chains and waved it at him, revealing a surprising strength in her slender frame. “Be glad to fix the latter problem for you,” her cheerful tone completely belied her prior declaration regarding merriness.

“And you never had a Christmas tree? I can only pity the poor, neglected child.”

“Might have had a Hanukkah bush, sir. Might have had pretty lights on it. Maybe even presents that were opened on December 25th. But I promise, I wasn’t merry about it.”
Wishing you immense merriness and a terribly cheerful turkey day!


Judith Ashley said...

Love the banter between Nika Maier hand Lt. Barstowe. The holiday season can be the best or the worst of times. I've had the opportunity in my life to participate in both kinds. Most however, fall somewhere in the middle with good and bad days. While tempers flared and snarky comments could abound, the food was always delicious.

M. L. Buchman said...

Hi Judith,
I know all about the variations. But since finding my lady, even during the very leanest years (we had a truly Charlie Brown tree one year), she always finds a way to make it special. Of course, as you know, don't get me started on her or my kid or I'll never stop saying cheerful things. They're what I'm thankful for first and foremost every day.

Sarah Raplee said...

Love the excerpt, Matt! Now I gotta go download the book!