Category: Inspiration


( celebrating success – Depositphotos )

 

I’ve checked off another couple of steps this week toward getting this Common Elements Romance Project novella into your hands soon, which is a huge relief! Just a few more to go with this one, which makes me happy. Then I can take a closer look at my goals for the year to see how much adjustment I need to make since I am late on this one. I hate that, starting off the year late on the first goal. It makes me think maybe the rest of the list is unachievable. Or that there is something wrong with me.

But I will look at the rest of the things on my writing goals for the year and see if I need to make any adjustments. I know I need to break things down for myself, month by month and week by week–it’s what works for me. But the overall list may need to be tweaked.

It’s a good week for me to have passed a couple big steps, because I have some fun planned this week. Mid-week, we’ll be going to see one of my favorite bands again, and I can’t wait!

( Daryl Hall & John Oates – Depositphotos )

We haven’t seen them in a few years, so I am really looking forward to this, and our unseasonably warm winter has no bad weather in the forecast for our drive up and back, which is a relief. I was a little worried when we got tickets for a show in February that meant a one hour drive each direction. That means we can safely get to and from the show and enjoy the whole evening.

The other fun I have planned for this week is my monthly writing group dinner. I’ve probably mentioned before that some friends and I get together one night a month and we have dinner and write for a few hours. And we talk–last month’s discussion revolved around the big Romance Writers of America mess that’s been happening since the holidays. Occasionally, whatever is happening in our worlds, whether writing worlds or personal or in the wider world, takes all evening to cover, but mostly we do get in writing time, and it’s always a joy to see writing friends. Writers spend our writing time alone, and while it’s always possible to chat via text or online, getting together in person is like going home to family. Some of us in the group have known one another for twenty years, some less, but everyone fits perfectly into the group. I look forward to our writing night every month.

Before I get to work on another one of those steps for the novella, I have a little story snippet for you, from the novella.

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Hayden bolted for the back door.

Nate followed more slowly, picking up his son’s jacket from the chair inside the door. By the time he reached the bottom step, he heard his son’s voice, then Lucie spoke in reply, though he couldn’t hear the words. When he cleared the lilac bushes, he expected to see Hayden’s shoulders droop.

He was a little surprised to see the two of them walking into the middle of the neighboring yard while Lucie bounced the big yellow ball on one hand. Huh. He would’ve bet on her putting Hayden off. He paused at the open gate between the yards to watch them. They’d stopped, and she crouched in front of Hayden, who chattered a mile a minute. She nodded as she rose.

Hayden jogged backward a few steps, grinning, then held out both hands.

Lucie gave the ball another bounce before she tossed it to him.

His son caught it, giggling. “Too easy,” he shouted. He jumped once, then moved a few more steps away from her. “Ready?”

“Ready!” She leaned forward and held out her hands.

Nate wished he could see her expression.

Hayden lobbed the ball at her, and she caught it before it hit her in the face. He smiled and shook his head when his laughing son danced backward a couple more paces. “Throw it again!”

“You sure you can catch it so far away?” The tease in her voice made Nate relax. Lucie Russo might be a nice woman. Mindi and Harry trusted her, which meant she was okay.

But she seemed to be enjoying his son, genuinely enjoying him. Maybe she had nieces or nephews–she was comfortable, chatting with Hayden as they played catch.

He leaned on the fence to watch.

“Daddy, come play with us!”

Lucie straightened and looked over her shoulder, eyes widening.

Nate felt a little kick in his gut at the appealing image–pink cheeks, green eyes that tipped up at the outer corners, full lower lip dropping a tiny bit. Lucie Russo was pretty.

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Now I’m going to get some more writing tasks done so I can be ready for the next thing on my goals list for the year as soon as I wrap up this novella release–which involves rewriting the second Medusa story.

How are you doing on your goals for the year so far? Better than I am? Or do you need a little encouragement, too?

 

( Deadline – Depositphotos )

I love deadlines. I love having a finite end date for a project. But I have to confess: if it is a self-imposed deadline, I suck.

I used to be a lot better at reaching those–when I was running my husband’s office and working from home, I had writing goals and deadlines for myself every month of the year, and I always made those, and never at the last minute, always with plenty of time.

If I have a work deadline, or, when I sold Hunting Medusa, those are not my deadlines, so I have to meet them.

The past couple of years, though, my self-assigned deadlines have been pretty terrible failures, and I’m not sure why. I still want to make my goals, but because they’re not line-in-the-sand, absolutely necessary to make because someone else is waiting for what I’m working on, I have a really hard time reaching the finish line, and it’s disappointing. I have adjusted my goal-setting for my writing, knowing that I have to think about other commitments that currently pay the bills, but that hasn’t seemed to help.

I wanted to have this novella for the Common Elements Romance Project finished and out in the world before the holidays. The story is finished, but I can’t stop tweaking and revising–every time I look at it, I want to make something else different and better. I could probably do that for the rest of the year. But I’ll feel worse and worse about it, knowing I should be done and way past that on my goals list. So this week is it. The end. Then I am sending it to be formatted. When I have a release date, I’ll announce it first on my Facebook page, and then shout it from the rooftops everywhere else.

So while I go have dinner with my guys before getting back to my last last round of tweaking on this manuscript, I have a little story snippet for you, from Protecting Medusa, second in my Medusa’s Daughters trilogy (also on my self-imposed goal list for this year).

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Philomena parked beside her mother’s house. She’d arrived first, and she needed to get dinner on in a hurry. Once Jason got home, she’d be too distracted to focus on cooking.

She went in the back door, balancing a grocery bag while she reset the alarm system, then hit the light switch with her elbow as she continued into the kitchen.

She took her mother’s cast iron skillet from its hook over the counter and put it on the stove, turning the heat to high and dropping in some ground beef before she shed her coat. As the meat began to sizzle, she put away the rest of the groceries.

She rolled up her sleeves and dug a spatula out of the utensil drawer, but stopped when she heard a creak from upstairs. She waited, then shook her head. It was an old farmhouse. It made noise sometimes.

She stirred the beef in the pan, adding chopped onions she’d picked up at the store–not out of laziness but because she’d known she needed to move quickly after three days away and with an excitable six-year-old on his way home.

The sound came again. She set the spatula on the spoon rest and turned the flame under her pan down to low, then tugged up the hem of her long skirt to pull her dagger from its leather sheath on her thigh.

A loud thud reached her ears, and her heart beat a little faster.

Dear Gods, someone was in the house.

She crept up the back steps, keeping to the edges where she knew her weight wouldn’t make the stairs creak, the smooth handle of her long knife comforting in her sweat-damp hand.

More thumping, accompanied by running water.

She frowned when she got to the top of the steps, wincing as something hit the porcelain bathtub, followed by muffled cursing.

She stuck her head around the corner, but the partially-closed bathroom door at the other end of the hall blocked her view. All she could see were shadows.

Two people? In her mother’s bathroom? She wished she’d grabbed the phone on her way up so she could call the police. No, she should’ve called before she came upstairs. Too late now.

More thumping and a crash.

Her jaw clenched, and she stepped into the hallway, her pulse pounding in her ears.

“I’ve called the police,” she lied, moving slowly along the hall. Frigid air drifted toward her. Either the bathroom window was open, or something was seriously wrong with the furnace vents on the second floor. She frowned, holding tighter to her knife.

A dark blur went out the window, and her eyes widened. It was quite a drop to the ground, even with all the snow mounded below from the big storms so far this winter.

When a naked man with a gun went to look out the window, she froze in the middle of the hall, her dagger shoulder high.

Naked.

She swallowed, and then he turned around. Her lungs stopped working.

“Hello, Philomena. Have I ever told you how much I love a woman who can handle a blade?” He caught the edge of the door and pulled it wide open.

She’d know that voice anywhere, and that face, even if she’d only seen him in photos. Ryder Ware, Jason’s father.

And wow, was she seeing him in person.

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Here’s hoping for a successful, productive week for us all!

 

 

( Silhouette of kissing couple – Depositphotos )

We’ve had a couple of crazy weeks at the day-job, and it occurred to a few of us the other day that we go a long stretch from the end of year holidays (Thanksgiving/Yule/Christmas/New Year) until there is another ‘day off’ holiday. Not that there aren’t holidays–Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day–just that they don’t get work holidays. Our next one is Memorial Day. It’s a long stretch from January 1st until May 25th. I’m kind of glad I have vacation time to fit in all year long, though I’m still going from my long weekend last month until the end of March before my next long weekend. I didn’t plan that well, did I?

This week is Valentine’s Day, the holiday for romance. I have a couple of fun gifts for my husband, things he will appreciate (I hope), because they involve hobbies he enjoys. We won’t be out joining the other people cramming restaurants Friday evening, we don’t necessarily need to do that anymore. Honestly, this is grocery week, so that’s where I will be heading right after work on Friday, before I go home. But we do other things for one another that are more meaningful than a once-a-year holiday. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate a good Valentine’s Day box of chocolate, because I absolutely do–my husband knows where my favorite candy-maker is locally. I’m just saying that after so many years together, there are everyday things that are just as important.

I’m about to go work on some novella things, but I have a snippet of my fifth shifter story for you first.

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Piper realized she was staring and dragged her gaze away from Joe’s wide chest, back to the book on her lap, flushing hotly. Holy shit.

He cleared his throat. “Sorry, I didn’t realize you were in here.”

“It’s your house,” she mumbled. She heard a soft sound and hoped it was his shirt going on.

“And you’re a guest here.” He cleared his throat again.

She dared a peek and found him watching her, hands in the pockets of his low-slung jeans, a faded blue t-shirt stretched over his chest. “Don’t be silly. You should be able to do as you like in your own house. And we’re only here for a few more days.”

He exhaled roughly. “Really?”

“I spoke to someone this afternoon at a complex in Auburndale, near the office. They have a vacancy.”

“I’ll go with you to look at it.”

She frowned. “That isn’t necessary.”

His mouth flattened. “It is. Is it a shifter complex?”

Piper narrowed her eyes at him. “That doesn’t matter.”

Irritation sparked in his eyes. “It matters, Piper. You can’t take your child somewhere that’s not secure.”

She clamped her jaw shut. Telling him to butt out of her business would be stupid at this point. Without his concern, she’d be scrambling to feed Keely on tips and less than minimum wage hours at a seedy, dive diner. She forced herself to take a slow breath.

Joe sat on the low table in front of her, and she noted the softening of his mouth. “I just want to be sure you two are okay.”

“Why?” She blinked. She hadn’t meant to ask that.

“Because you don’t have anyone else to do it.”

She looked away, stung.

He touched her knee, and she slanted a wary glance at him. “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded. Like I wouldn’t do it otherwise. If I’d realized sooner–”

Piper closed the book and got to her feet. “I’m not your responsibility, Joe. Not the annoying tag-along little sister.” She ignored the burn in her chest and turned away.

He caught her upper arm and swung her back as he stood. “Don’t put words in my mouth, Piper.”

She opened her own mouth to say…something. But she didn’t know what, and it didn’t matter–Joe kissed her. Kissed. Her. Hard, open-mouthed. For a second, she froze, and then realized she was kissing him back.

Stupid, Piper. 

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What are your plans for this Valentine’s Day? Something romantic? Spontaneous? Casual?

 

 

 

 

( hands in form of heart – Depositphotos )

It’s February, which means for the next two weeks, everything will be about pushing romance and gifts for your Valentine. Don’t get me wrong, I love romance and Valentine’s Day (and who doesn’t love a good gift?), but I feel like we should be doing this all year long? Not necessarily the gift part, but if you love someone, let them know, yes? Not just one day a year.

I’m not even talking about saying it constantly. How about some ‘actions speak louder than words’ behavior? A home-cooked meal, a ‘how was your day?’ and listening to the response, or even ‘be careful’ when the loved one is going somewhere. Yes, a gift wrapped in pretty paper is nice, but it isn’t everything.

My maternal grandparents were married for 46 years before my Grandma died, and my paternal grandparents were together 26 years before my Grandpa died. Longevity in romance is a beautiful thing. I never met my dad’s dad, but have heard stories about how much fun my grandparents had together. I knew my mom’s parents well, and they were inspiring. I never doubted that they loved one another, even if they were bickering. When I cleaned out the attic after my aunt died, I found very sweet notes in cards that my Pop-pop had written to my Grandma, reaffirming the affection we all witnessed as kids. That’s the sort of romance many people aspire to. It’s the sort of thing we love in our romance novels, even if we don’t necessarily believe that a gruff Alpha male is going to write love notes to the heroine of his story.

I’m not sure I’ve actually written a hero yet who would compose love notes to his heroine, but maybe I should put that on my to-do list. But for today, I’ll settle for wrapping up another round of revisions on this novella. Before I get to work on that, though, how about a story snippet from Hunting Medusa?

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The sun sank faster behind his left shoulder. True to her word, Andrea had led him on a less meandering route away from their lunch stop, though at just as hasty a pace. Now, nearly two hours later, she was beginning to drag. Their travel this afternoon had led them along sheer rock faces, where they’d held on carefully to keep from tumbling down the mountainside, through thickets of close-set trees that blocked the sunlight, across clear, cool water winding its way down the mountain.

Now they were on fairly level ground, with only the faintest of trails to follow, and a stream tumbled over rocks far below them, its splashing faint from where they trekked. Ahead, Andrea’s pack still bobbed up and down with her steps, but he could see she was tiring. No, that wasn’t correct, he thought. She was exhausted, her shoulders drooping, her steps much slower, but she didn’t stop. She didn’t complain.

“Andrea.”

She glanced over her shoulder at him, and he could see the weariness in her eyes.

“We need to stop for the night.”

She shook her head. “He’s coming.”

He couldn’t deny it. “He isn’t going to get you.”

“Not if I keep moving.” She turned forward again.

He caught her backpack and forced her to stop. “Agaph, we need to rest.” He brushed one hand from her shoulder down her arm. “I won’t let him get you.”

Something flashed through her eyes, too fast for him to decipher, and she shook her head. “Not yet. The cave is only a little farther.”

He sighed as she swung away, trudging along. “How far?”

“Another mile or so.”

He frowned. In another mile, she’d be crawling. He walked faster for a moment, until he was on her heels. “Along the trail?”

She shook her head. “Behind the waterfall.”

He touched her swinging arm lightly. “Are you sure you can make it?”

She glared at him over her shoulder and kept going. Sped up for a few seconds before returning to her tired pace. “I can make it,” she said through gritted teeth.

Kallan smiled grimly. She was determined, his Medusa. Then he thought of the other hunter on their trail. He wouldn’t allow Stavros to have her. Andrea was his, and he’d protect her to the death.

As if she’d heard his musings, Andrea glanced back over her shoulder. “He won’t find the cave.”

He raised one eyebrow. If his cousin was really on their heels, he could find a cave.

“You couldn’t find it even with me, if I didn’t want you to. It’s protected.”

He pondered for several minutes as they walked, and then realized he could hear water that was louder than the stream below. The falls. “Can we go faster?” If Stavros had arrived early, he might already be in the forest, and on their trail. Kallan wanted to have her safely away before dark, when it would be harder for his cousin to track them. But he did wonder how the cave was protected exactly. That might prove problematic.

She squared her shoulders. “Of course.” She picked up her pace a little, and he smiled at her back.

Of course she could. She’d never admit weakness. Not to him. Not even to him. Maybe especially not to him.

Agaph.”

She stumbled, then righted herself, her wide, wary eyes turning back toward him.

“I think I’m falling in love with you.”

Shock widened her eyes more. “What?”

He caught her upper arms. “I said I’m falling in love with you.”

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Now I’m off to revise my (still title-less!) novella for the Common Elements Romance Project so I can get my book cover finished and my formatting set…so I can get you a release date!

What romantic inspirations do you have for this month?

 

 

( Top view of laptop – Depositphotos )

I’m going to miss my deadline.

To be fair, it was a self-imposed one, but I hate missing deadlines, even the ones I’ve given myself. But I am working out the last few big things for the novella release. It will be a few weeks later than I hoped, but it is still going to be out soon.

So I can get back to finalizing these important things for release, I’m leaving you with a little snippet of the novella.

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Hayden gave her a quick hug and then ran back to his book in the living room.

“I really do appreciate this, Lucie,” Nate said from where he stood at the sink.

“It’s nothing, Nate,” she said lightly. “Keeps me from having to spend endless hours on the job search sites and getting more depressed than I already am.” She kept her head down as she buttoned her sweater up to her chin.

“It isn’t nothing to me.”

His firm, quiet tone snared her attention, and her mouth went dry. The shadows in his brown eyes made her curl her fingers around the edges of her sweater to keep from reaching out.

“I’m not accustomed to asking for help.” He cleared his throat. “I appreciate it.”

She swallowed. “It’s no problem,” she whispered. Dammit–hot, attracted to her, and vulnerable. Shit, that was trouble. She took a slow breath. “I’ll see you in the morning then.” She inched toward the door.

A hint of awareness darkened his eyes, but he stayed where he was. “Good night, Lucie.”

She took two more steps, clearing the doorway to the mud room, and a little relief sank into her belly. Until she heard his footsteps behind her.

Within reach of the back door, she whirled around. He stood at the open doorway of the kitchen, undisguised desire in his eyes this time. Her heart skipped a beat, and she felt a quick rush of excitement that she tried to squash as he stepped into the mud room. She held her breath as he took another step. One more. Until he stood a foot away, and her breath rushed out.

He studied her face for a long moment, and she wondered what he saw, what he was looking for. Impulsively, she moved closer to him, noting the way his eyes rounded, and she stretched up to brush a kiss on his mouth, lingered for a second, then stepped back.

“Good night, Nate,” she whispered, reaching behind her for the doorknob.

His dark gaze followed her out the door, and she turned away, feeling a smile curve her lips.

Well, that was nice. She could deal with the repercussions another day, and, for now, be reminded she was still alive.

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As soon as I have my last few things settled, I will let you all know the release date for this novella. What are you working on this week? And are you going to make your deadlines?

 

 

Our weather-guessers promised several inches of snow for our area yesterday. We got a dusting, topped off with a whole lot of sleet. This time of year, the front of our house doesn’t get much sun, so the driveway will probably be icy for a few more days, until the temps go up a little again. But I did get the ice off my car so I can get to work tomorrow, so that’s something, right?

The good news for me this week is I took a couple days off from the day-job. I can have a break (last week was insane, and we weren’t expecting that), and I can get some things done at home. I’m doing the same thing again in March, June, and September, and I still have to figure out where to plug in another 40+ hours of vacation time that I can’t carry over into next year, so I may sneak in another long weekend or two. We’ll see. This week, my first day off will be a combo of fun and tasks: I’m having lunch with eldest, then working on a small project at his house, before I head to my monthly writing group dinner. Then the second day, I’ll get another task or two done here at home, maybe something I wanted to do ages ago, like shredding paper and cleaning off my dressers. I might even go use my gift card for an hour on the massage table, if I feel like I got enough work done.

Of course, the big aim for a four-day weekend is writing time. Hopefully when I’m back here to chat next weekend, it will be with an update on how productive my four days were.

Before I head off to work on finishing some revisions, I have a little story snippet for you, this week from my first shifter story.

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When he let the conversation flag for a moment, the band that had begun playing in the next room half an hour ago caught her attention. If her toe-tapping and faint smile were any indication, they were playing a song she liked.

Even better.

Harley got to his feet and held out his hand. “Come dance with me.”

Wariness clouded her eyes instantly.

“Please. You looked like this is a song you enjoy, so dance with me.”

Evidently her normal logic was a little clouded by the wine she’d consumed and by how tired she was, because she put one hand in his, her fingers sending heat over his palm and up his arm.

He didn’t want to spook her, not so soon, but he pulled her as near as he dared when they stepped onto the dance floor, setting his free hand on her hip to guide her steps, and she put her own free hand on his shoulder.

She smelled good. Something vaguely citrusy, and, beneath that, Tessa. He inhaled deeply, rubbing his thumb across the back of her hand.

She shivered.

The song, and therefore the dance, wasn’t nearly long enough, but Harley knew not to push his luck when she stepped back at the end of it. Warm color tinted her cheeks, and she didn’t meet his gaze. “I really do need to get some sleep, Harley.”

“I did promise, didn’t I?” He consoled himself with the notion that this was only his first move in what would be a very long game.

He didn’t even protest when she remained mostly quiet for the drive back to the house in the dusky summer evening. They walked into the house in silence. She shot him a curious glance when he continued at her side up the stairs. “Thank you for feeding me, Harley,” she said when they reached the first landing.

“No problem.” He touched her elbow, and she resumed walking along the hallway to the guest room she always used.

She swallowed as she turned to face him.

He gave in to the urge to brush a strand of hair away from her temple, and watched her eyes widen, surprise darkening them.

Harley bent nearer. Her hand shot up, so his mouth ran into it. He lifted one eyebrow.

“What are you doing?” Her voice quavered just a little.

He smiled against her palm, enjoying the warmth of her skin. “Kissing you good-night. It’s customary at the end of a date.”

Her eyes widened still more. “We’re not dating.”

He kissed her palm. “I believe we just returned from a dinner date. Dancing and drinks.” He inhaled her scent, and his desire kicked up a few more notches.

Her throat worked as she swallowed, color tinting her cheeks. “I think this is a bad idea.”

He stifled another smile at the way her voice shook and instead flicked his tongue out to taste her skin.

Her breath caught.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea.” He nibbled his way across her palm to her thumb. “You taste good. I can’t wait to taste your mouth.”

Her breathing resumed, much faster now. “Harley.”

He caught her hand and eased it to the wall beside her head as he closed the distance between them so only an inch separated their lips. “Yes, Tessa?”

Emotion swirled in her wide green eyes. He scented her burgeoning arousal in the air, and his body tightened in response.

He waited several heartbeats, watching her gaze slide to his mouth, and noted the way her tongue flicked out at the corner of her lips. Then he ducked in to kiss her.

She tasted better than he’d imagined. Warm and sweet. Her lips parted easily under his, but he deliberately kept the kiss light. She was already spooked, wary. If he dove in head-first, she’d run away fast.

Not that he doubted he could catch her. Easily.

When he finally lifted his head, her eyes were shut, and her lips parted and wet. Tempting him to bend back and take them again. Just briefly. Then he released her. It took a few seconds before her lashes fluttered up, and her hand slowly dropped to her side.

Harley banked the urge to press closer. The scant space between them already had his senses reeling. He waited until her eyes cleared slightly. “Sleep well, little Tessa,” he said softly, taking a step back. The cooler air flowing between them did nothing to dampen his arousal.

Or hers, judging by the flush on her face and the wild pulse beating in the hollow of her throat. She swallowed hard and reached behind her for the doorknob. “Good night.” It came out a hoarse whisper.

He waited while she fumbled with the door, resisting the urge to grab her for one more kiss. He watched her back into the bedroom, her wide eyes fixed on his face until she pushed the door shut.

He grinned, feeling his pulse race. Tessa tasted incredible. And he wanted more.

He’d have to think hard about his next move in this game, because he didn’t intend to let her get away. Not just yet.

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What does your week look like? All work and no play? Or are you getting in some time to do something you enjoy? Maybe some overdue chores? Do you need an accountability buddy?

 

 

 

( 2020 new year – Depositphotos )

Just a few days now until the new year starts. Are you all ready? It isn’t just a new year, but a whole new decade starts this week, so it seems like a bigger deal than just every other New Year’s Day, doesn’t it?

That said, I am still working on my writing goals for the year. I had second thoughts about my list last week, about what I think I can really accomplish in the new year, so I took another look at them and made some adjustments. My plan is to wrap those up today and reprint my bright goal sheets for my planner and my bulletin board. My other project for today is to whittle down my choices for my word of the year. I don’t think I’ll get the list down to one today, but I still have a couple of days to do that. Today I’ll be happy to get it into single digits.

So I can get back to new year plans, I have a little story snippet today from my Common Elements Romance Project novella.

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She’d spent half the night staring up at the darkness and worrying that she’d chosen wrong. What if she’d imagined the interest? What if she’d just made a huge mistake?

Lucie had been at the kitchen table with the teapot for two hours already, and was contemplating heating water for more tea when the knock sounded at the back door at eight-thirty. Her breath caught. Time to face the music. She bundled her sweater tighter as she got to her feet and went to open the door.

“Hi, Lucie!” Hayden bounded into the room, dragging his teddy bear by one leg. “I had cereal for breakfast today. What did you eat?”

She smiled, turning to watch him even though she was aware of his father stepping into the house. “I didn’t have breakfast, just tea.”

The little boy frowned. “Grandma says breakfast is im…imp…important,” he said carefully. “You shoulda had some of my cereal.”

She stifled a chuckle. “Thanks, Hayden. I’ll make up for it later.”

Nate closed the door, and her urge to laugh vanished as she glanced back.

“Good morning.” She blushed.

His somber gaze locked on hers. “Good morning. Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

She nodded. “Of course. We’ll be fine. I think we might bake cookies this morning. Or bread. Maybe both.” She shut her mouth to keep from chattering on stupidly.

The corner of his mouth twitched. “I’ll pop in when I finish staining these cabinets. You might be ready to get rid of him by then.”

She blinked.

“And maybe we could talk about last night,” he added in an undertone that made more heat rush to her face.

“Um…”

He grinned, and the dimple made her breath catch.

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Are you still hashing out your 2020 goals, or are you ready for the new year to start?

 

( Photo on Trends Hype )

( family at feast – Depositphotos )

In the coming week or two, there will be lots of scenes like the one above all over the country and the world. We used to have large family holidays when I was growing up, with grandparents, sometimes aunts and uncles and cousins, too. Holidays are a lot easier for kids than for the adults, aren’t they? All the kids have to do is wait until the big day, though that seems interminable to a six-year-old, whether it’s a birthday or Christmas. Kids don’t see all the work leading up to the holiday, even if they “help” to decorate cookies. I remember cookie-baking days, and I’m sure we made even more work for my mom with our help decorating sand tarts and gingerbread men.

Over the years, our gatherings have grown smaller for holidays and birthdays. Siblings and cousins scatter for school and then jobs. Older family members are no longer with us. These days for holidays and birthdays, it is usually just the four of us. Small, cozy holidays are a lot different than long-ago holidays, but still a nice way to spend a day, with closest family gathered around the table for a good meal.

I have a little holiday snippet from my fourth tiger shifter story for you today.

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Laney looked like she might cry.

Anton tamped down the urge to smile.
“Oh,” she said after a few seconds, “you really shouldn’t have, Lareina.”

“Nonsense.” His aunt hugged her tight with one arm. “You’re family now. And they’ll look much better on you than sitting in a locked box.”

Laney’s gaze flicked to his, and he grinned at her.

“Put them on, dear.” His aunt winked at him. “Let’s see.”

Reluctantly, Laney took the earrings out of the box and fumbled them on.

“Perfect,” Lareina said firmly.

Laney murmured another thank-you, but he’d bet she was wishing for a way out.

“And they’ll go with Mom’s necklace,” he said helpfully.

Laney shot him a drop-dead look, which he ignored, crossing to sit on the arm of the loveseat beside her. He brushed her hair back to see the platinum and emerald dangling from her ear. “Very pretty.” He leaned down and feathered a kiss at her temple.

Exhaling a long breath, she turned to his aunt. “They’re lovely.”

Anton rubbed his hand in a small circle between her shoulder blades, feeling a little of the tension ease.

His aunt patted her knee. “Why don’t I refill your glass? I need to check the bread anyway.”

He waited until Lareina had bustled away with Laney’s half-empty wineglass, then he claimed the spot beside his mate. “What’s wrong?”

She met his gaze, then dropped her gaze after a moment. “It’s too much.”

He dragged in a slow breath. “It’s family.”

She swallowed. “But I’m–”

“My mate,” he said firmly, and her gaze snapped back up to his.

She clamped her teeth on her lower lip.

Anton set one hand at the back of her neck and leaned closer. “Merry Christmas, Laney,” he whispered.

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Now I have some eggnog cookies that need to be put into a cookie tin if the glaze has set, and some fudge that needs cut. Here’s hoping that your holidays this week, no matter which ones you celebrate, are wonderful and filled with family and friends you love. And I hope you all find a few moments of quiet to catch your breath, too!

 

( tea with Christmas Cookies – Depositphotos )

 

 

My to-do list isn’t quite as bad as the poor woman above, but it feels like it some days. I’m winding down a mini-vacation right now, and I feel like I haven’t accomplished nearly enough for as many days as I’ve been home.

To be fair, my time off was over the Thanksgiving weekend, so I spent the day before and the day of in the kitchen for a large chunk of the day, and washing dishes for days. I did wrap up a small project yesterday that I started a couple weeks ago. Today, I’ve cleared a bunch of things out of my in-boxes, but not much else, though I am heading back to Revision-land shortly. That leaves tomorrow, my last day before I head back to the day-job, to get the laundry done, and try to knock out something else from my to-do list. I’m not sure what yet. I’ll have to give it some thought.

Before I lose myself in revisions again, though, I have a little story snippet to share with you, from Hunting Medusa.

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Andrea rested her head on her folded arms on the kitchen table, only half listening to Kallan typing on his keyboard. She didn’t want to die just yet. She knew for sure she didn’t want to be mutilated before she died.

But she didn’t look forward to killing the Harvester either.

She never should have had sex with him. She knew it. She’d known it beforehand.

And she should definitely not still want him.

When the phone rang, it was a relief. For a few seconds. Until she realized it was Thalia. “My cousin.” She didn’t think she needed to explain her mental caller I.D. to him.

Kallan held her gaze for a long moment. “Don’t try to let her know what’s going on,” he said at last. “I know where a lot of your cousins are located, and I’m not the only one.”

Her heart pounded harder at the implication, but she got to her feet and picked up the receiver. “Hello, Thalia. How are you?”

“I’m fine, Andi, but I think you need to get away for a while.”

She frowned, feeling Kallan’s presence behind her. Close behind her. Close enough to hear her conversation. “What do you mean?” His body heat teased her.

“The Harvesters are out and about. I’m afraid for you.”

Andi shut her eyes for a second, then opened them again when he put his hands on her shoulders. She shot him a glare and moved away, back toward the table. “I’m fine.”

“Please don’t ignore this, Andi. You know I’m hardly ever wrong.”

That was true. But she wondered if her cousin realized she was very often late with her flashes of intuition. Far too late in this case. “Okay. I’ll give it some thought, all right? Mom said something the other day about visiting.” Gods, had it only been two days ago? “And Aunt Lydia just called yesterday too. I could go to see either of them if anything seems odd.”

His hands settled on her shoulders again, massaging the tense muscles there.

She didn’t bother to shrug him off this time. He was persistent. “I could even come visit with you,” she teased, forcing a lightness into her tone.

Her cousin cleared her throat. “I actually have company right now,” she said after a moment, and Andi could almost see her blushing. “You remember I met someone in Athens last summer? Well, he’s come again to stay for a while.” Even over the phone, the emotion in Thalia’s voice was obvious.

One more cousin safe—none of the cousins who’d fallen in love ever had the curse land on their heads. A tiny bit of relief made her relax further under Kallan’s touch. “That’s terrific, Thalia. When do the rest of us get to meet him?”

“We’re talking dates,” the other woman said, a hint of a smile in her tone now. “I’ll be sure to let you know.”

“Good. And thanks for the warning. I miss you.”

“I miss you, too. I’ve got to go, Andi. Talk to you soon. But promise you’ll be careful. Danger is coming from more than one direction.”

She pushed the off button on the phone and shut her eyes, ignoring the slight sting in them. She was not envious of Thalia’s good fortune. She was just in an impossible situation here.

His warm breath brushed the top of her head a second before his lips. “That was good.”

She wanted to tell him to go screw himself. She wanted a weapon to swing at him. She wanted him to wrap his arms around her and carry her down onto the nearest flat surface.

Her eyes popped open. Damned hormones.

His hands slid down her sides and wrapped around her, settling her back against his chest as if he’d read her mind. She hoped he didn’t have that ability.

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I think before I call it a day today, I am going to take a little time to make a list of my to-dos, the musts and the would-be-nices. That will make it easier to prioritize the next few weeks before the new year starts.

Who else needs to get a lot done in the next few weeks? Do you have a game plan to do everything? I can always use some new ideas, if you’re willing to share.

 

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the U.S. I’ve spent some of the past two days in the kitchen–my final loaf of sage and onion bread is baking in my bread machine right now for the stuffing we’ll eat on Thursday and the house smells so good right now. I almost hate to wait four days to sample the bread. But I will, and I’ll be grateful for it on Thanksgiving.

We don’t always think about the good things in our lives, the things we have that others envy because they don’t have them. I’ve been trying to be more aware of all of the positive in my life, all of the people and things I have in my life that are worth some gratitude. Family, good friends, a home, a job I like, food to eat. The list is long.

I grumble like many others about household chores, like dish washing, but those dirty dishes mean we ate. Or the laundry, but those dirty clothes mean we have plenty of clothing. Bill paying, but those utility bills mean we have a roof over our heads. It’s all a matter of perspective. Some days, it’s harder to frame those things positively. But I’m working on it.

This week, I am thankful for my family and the dinner we’ll share on Thursday. I will be thankful for Thanksgiving dinners past, spent with extended family I don’t see much anymore, or who are no longer with us–I am thankful we had time together when they were still here.

I am thankful for the season’s first snowfall earlier today, even though the sun came out and melted all of it away–I got to watch it come down, big, fat, wet snowflakes that piled up quickly and made the neighborhood look like winter, just for a little while. I’m thankful I get to write the stories I love, for my friends who also write and get me.

I can keep going, but I’ll stop here. I have a little story snippet to share with you, from my fourth shifter story.

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Laney looked like she might cry.

Anton tamped down the urge to smile.

“Oh,” she said after a few seconds, “you really shouldn’t have, Lareina.”

“Nonsense.” His aunt hugged her tight with one arm. “You’re family now. And they’ll look much better on you than sitting in a locked box.”

Laney’s gaze flicked to his, and he grinned at her.

“Put them on, dear.” His aunt winked at him. “Let’s see.”

Reluctantly, Laney took the earrings out of the box and fumbled them on.

“Perfect,” Lareina said firmly.

Laney murmured another thank-you, but he’d bet she was wishing for a way out.

“And they’ll go with Mom’s necklace,” he said helpfully.

Laney shot him a drop-dead look, which he ignored, crossing to sit on the arm of the loveseat beside her. He brushed her hair back to see the platinum and emerald dangling from her ear. “Very pretty.” He leaned down and feathered a kiss at her temple.

Exhaling a long breath, she turned to his aunt. “They’re lovely.”

Anton rubbed his hand in a small circle between her shoulder blades, feeling a little of the tension ease.

His aunt patted her knee. “Why don’t I refill your glass? I need to check the bread anyway.”

He waited until Lareina had bustled away with Laney’s half-empty wineglass, then he claimed the spot beside his mate. “What’s wrong?”

She met his gaze, then dropped her gaze after a moment. “It’s too much.”

He dragged in a slow breath. “It’s family.”

She swallowed. “But I’m–”

“My mate,” he said firmly, and her gaze snapped back up to his.

She clamped her teeth on her lower lip.

Anton set one hand at the back of her neck and leaned closer. “Merry Christmas, Laney,” he whispered.

She shut her eyes, but not before he caught a glimpse of tears.

Anton kissed her lightly, wondering if she would kiss him back. She did, but only for a moment then leaned away, blushing. He touched her jaw, holding her shiny gaze. “You okay?”

She nodded once, swallowing.

“It’s a lot,” he mused, “all of them.”

Laney shrugged, looking away. “Not so bad. There was always a houseful when I was at home.”

Of course. “How did you spend the last two Christmases?”

She nibbled at her lower lip for a second. “I worked the first one, and last year I spent the day at a homeless shelter, serving dinner. Less lonely, plus I got to remind myself things really weren’t so bad for me.” She shrugged once more.

Anton wished again that he’d done more damage to Shepley the other night. He wrapped one arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer.

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Now I’m going to go find something for dinner that doesn’t involve leftovers to take up space in the refrigerator (the turkey is taking up a lot of space there right now), and then I’m going back to my revisions.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving week? I would love to know!