Katherine Garbera stopped by the Tule blog to discuss the second book in her Corbyn Sisters of Last Stand series, Texas Christmas Baby!
Have you noticed that no matter what you set out to talk about these days, it all circles back to the covid pandemic (if it didn’t start there in the first place)? I suppose on a publisher’s blog you might expect me to discuss my upcoming books or my writing process or some other such relevant topic. But no. Instead, I’m going to give in to the inevitable and go straight to the covid. Here is my list of top activities that are keeping me sane these days:
- Walks/hikes/bike rides: I need some time outside every day to keep me sane
- Board games: My husband and I have always enjoyed playing Scrabble and cribbage. Last Christmas, though, my daughter and her partner gave us a game called Wingspan, and that has become a real obsession for us. Recently, after discovering The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix (we have 3 more episodes to watch!) we have started playing chess.
- Books: Of course!
- Puzzles: I’ve been watching friends on social media show off the beautiful puzzles they are making, so last week I finally pulled out a puzzle we got from my other daughter last Christmas. The only catch is that this puzzle has 2,000 pieces. Two thousand! I told Mike my estimated date of completion is June 2022.
- Zoom and Facebook: This is how we now keep in touch with out-of-town family and friends. We miss the travel and in-person visits, but at least we can see our loved ones’ faces and hear their voices!
These are some of the things that help get me out of bed every morning (besides coffee!). I’d love to hear how you are keeping sane these days.
When a trinket is not just a trinket
by Amy Andrews
It’s funny how a small thing you can write into a book ends up playing a much bigger role than you ever planned.
In All’s Fair In Love And Chocolate my hero, Reuben, gives the heroine, Vivian, an antique music box for Christmas, sort of similar to the one pictured. Here’s the scene from the book with its description.
The bartender arrived and Vivian gave him her order before turning back to Reuben, her knees brushing his, her gaze falling on the gift bag for the first time. She stared at it for a beat or two with confusion then what looked like trepidation before carefully schooling her expression and raising her eyes to meet his. “I thought we said no Christmas gifts.”
Reuben picked it up by the red raffia handles and placed it in front of her. “It’s not a Christmas present,” he said with a nothing-to-see-here smile. “I swear. I just…saw it today and…thought of you.”
She looked from him to it and back to him again. “You did, huh?”
“Yep.” He nodded. “You’ll understand when you open it.”
If she opened it…She was looking at it like it was a ticking bomb and he wouldn’t be surprised if she refused. The thought irritated him suddenly. He was allowed to fuck her but not buy her something pretty?
“I…” She glanced down then back up again. “I didn’t get you anything.”
Reuben gave a half laugh, a half sigh. “Vivian…I didn’t expect you to get me anything it was just an impulse thing. It’s not for Christmas, I promise.” He nudged it towards her because now he really wanted her to open it. “But I think you’ll like it.”
The bar tender interrupted by putting Vivian’s wine down and she thanked him and took a sip before returning her attention to the gift bag, putting her hand inside and withdrawing the box that was a couple of inches across the base and about four inches high.
It was the original box which, given it was almost eighty years old, has seen better days but he was pleased he hadn’t wrapped it in the Santa paper he’d almost bought for the occasion. She was freaked out enough as it was without getting Santa involved.
Placing the box down on the bar, she opened the top flap, glancing at him as she reached inside to pull the object out before looking back at the music box. Reuben glanced at it again because it was impossible not to. It was quite unlike anything he’d ever seen and here, in the understated elegance of the Graf, the music box with its old fashioned craftsmanship and well…whimsy, looked perfectly at home.
Returning his attention to Vivian, he watched as she examined it, her frown of irritation softening and then dissolving as her expression morphed to one of utter delight. “Ohhh Reuben,” she murmured breathily. “It’s…enchanting.”
It was enchanté. Just like her.
The inch-high, round base was made from milky mother-of-pearl and embellished with swirly clusters of fine silver filigree. Nestling it in her palm, she brought it closer to study it, turning her hand this way and that as her gaze roved over the myriad decorative details.
Atop the base protruding from its outer circular edge were four exquisite mother-of-pearl panels abutted to form a semi-circular screen. On the outside they had the same swirly silver filigree embellishments. On the inside a glossy hand painted scene of a snowy wood graced the panels. Dark green pine trees, their branches and tops laden with snow formed the perfect backdrop as they towered over the two, inch-high figures, placed in the centre of the piece on a mirrored floor that was tarnished in a spot or two.
It was a man and a woman dressed in old fashioned clothes similar to what the carollers had worn at the Stroll. They were standing in a waltzing position but they weren’t dancing. Ice skates were on their feet and their scarves and her hair and dress blew out behind them to indicate movement.
They were skating. On a lake. Surrounded by a wood.
“There’s a winder on the bottom,” Reuben reached for it. “May I?”
She nodded and Reuben took it, surprised all over again at how heavy it was for such a small object. Flipping it over, he turned the winder, and set it down on the bar. Irving Berlin’s classic tune White Christmas wafted into the air clear and high with a crinkly, timeless quality that harked back to the days of pianolas and smoky saloons.
The couple in the middle turned around and around, skating in circles and Reuben watched Vivian, watched the myriad expressions flit across her face as she smiled. “It reminded me of ice skating on Miracle Lake with you,” he said. “I thought it’d be a nice memento of your time here in Marietta.”
“Oh yes.” She dragged her eyes off the music box as the winder wound down and the couple slowed. “It’s the most perfect thing.” She slid her hand on top of his, her brown eyes dancing with pleasure. “Thank you, Reuben.” She leaned in and kissed him, her hand sliding onto his face, her fingers pushing into his hair. “It’s so…thoughtful. I will treasure it.”
Which was exactly what he’d hoped for when he’d bought it.
“Then my work here is done,” he said, keeping his voice light and teasing because his heart was filling with something heavier and more serious and they didn’t need that.
“Sir? Madam?” The bar tender interrupted. “Your table is ready?”
Being a bit of an antique nut, I had a lot of fun researching this little trinket! I knew what I wanted it to look like in my head and was utterly delighted when I found similar objects to drool over! But, aside from the pure and utter gorgeousness of the gift, it went on to play a much bigger role in the story. In the end, it’s the music box that becomes the catalyst for Vivian to re-examine certain things.
I can’t say much more because spoilers, suffice to say that Reuben sure knew what he was doing when he purchased it for Vivian ☺
And if you’d like to check out more inspirations for the book, why not drop in to my Pinterest board here – https://www.pinterest.com.au/amyandrewsbooks/mareitta-xmas/
Happy autumn, Tule Readers,
Hugs to you all!
No matter what is going on in the world, books are always my go-to destresser, and I definitely needed them this year.
With the holidays approaching, I’m excited to share my new release, HOME SWEET CHRISTMAS. In the town of Hollybrook, residents eagerly anticipate the grand finale of the Christmas Eve Spectacular at The Candy Manor. The Victorian mansion houses the Hunters’ gourmet chocolate and confection business. Even though Kayla Hunter lives in the city, she returns to her hometown each year to help her grandparents with the event preparations. This year is different, though. Not only have her grandparents decided to retire, but they’re leaving her and Dominick Rowe, a family friend and town lawyer, to oversee all of the arrangements.
I loved writing these characters and enjoyed how their opposing personalities come together for one common goal. Kayla Hunter is so organized and structured that she sometimes misses out on the fun of spontaneity. As Hollybrook’s lawyer, Dominick Rowe is a business professional through and through, but there’s something magical about being in the moment and following your heart that makes things all come together uniquely. The scene below is from the beginning of the book when Kayla and Dominick begin turning The Candy Manor into a winter wonderland.
He found her in the next room, sitting among half a dozen boxes of décor, brows adorably drawn together just as he had imagined. She had a list at her feet. A really long, complicated-looking list. The bows were stacked in one corner, opposite a tangle of garlands. A trio of reindeer were positioned near her knees, and a Rubbermaid tote bursting with colorful ornaments sat behind her.
“Kayla?” he said softly. She let out a shriek and dropped the pen she was holding. “Sorry. I was calling to you. I brought pizza. I know it’s still a bit early, but we can always warm it up.”
“That sounds amazing. Thanks.” She lowered the clipboard and tried to stand, but she had wedged herself in with bags and boxes.
“Do you need me to dig you out of that avalanche of good cheer?” He’d kind of hoped she had embellished the amount of work that needed to be done, but there were a whole lot of decorations at her feet.
“Very funny. This is only six boxes of stuff.” She combed her fingers through her hair, pushing the strands away from her face. The honeyed strands caught the light, shimmering against the rich chestnut color as she moved. “I’d hoped to get so much more done, but we had a rush of shoppers right before closing.”
“There’s more than this?” How could someone accumulate so many decorations?
She let out an amused hmph. “Yeah, there’s more.” She stood, brushed off her knees, and gestured toward the hall. “Let’s go up to the attic and figure out what we’re dealing with.”
For the next thirty minutes, they battled back cobwebs and crawled through tight spaces to bring the Christmas boxes down to the second floor from the attic.
“Twenty-three boxes, to be exact,” Dominick said, as he handed Kayla the last container. He was impressed by the amount of seasonal décor packed in the attic—and slightly horrified.
“Looks like Gram hit the end-of-season sales last winter.” Kayla held the large box to her chest and glanced around for a place to put it down. “Hard.”
“Hang on. I’ll get that.” He made his way down the fold-up stairs and took the box from her when he was within reach.
“Thanks for helping me get these down. I’m going to have to sort through and devise a plan of attack. I think it’s pretty safe to say we won’t be doing much decorating tonight.” Her forehead creased, and he couldn’t help but want to make her laugh, so it disappeared.
“Why not? We’ll take these down to the main floor and get started.” He was already moving, but she reached out and laid a hand on his arm.
“I was making a list, sorting everything so we could decide where to put it all.” A predictable blush colored her cheeks, and she let her hand fall to her side. “It needs to be magical.”
There was something so intriguing about a woman who seemed as practical as they came talking about creating magic for others. His parents had given him a gift or two around the holidays, but there was no time for trees, lights, or decorations. “Can’t we just, you know, wing it?” he asked.
Her eyes widened. “I’d rather strategize. Make sure we’re doing it right the first time.”
“Or we can get creative.” He grinned, enjoying the back and forth. “The results might surprise you.”
“I’m not a big fan of surprises,” she muttered, and grabbed a four-foot-tall nutcracker from atop the boxes.
“You don’t say.” He chuckled and was rewarded with a smile. “How about I start taking these boxes down and unpacking? You can do what you need to do with the list. Note things down while I take them out. Teamwork.”
She blew out a breath, gusting up a piece of her hair. Would it feel soft between his fingers if he brushed it away? They stood in the quiet hall of the manor, her butterscotch eyes locked on his. Her expression softened, and he could hear his heartbeat drumming in his ears. He lifted his hand and smoothed some attic cobwebs from her hair. She made a little noise, a sharp intake of breath, and for a moment, time seemed to hang in the balance. They could’ve been outside, wind and snow whipping at their skin, or on the sidewalk of a busy street. It wouldn’t have mattered. All he could see was her.
Decorating for the holidays always makes me very nostalgic (I usually end up a blubbering mess). If we were decorating for the holidays together, I’d probably show you my favorite ornament, a gold heart with a picture of our childhood dog, Taffy. It’s a tear-jerker for sure, but it brings back great memories of skating on the frozen pond behind our house, Taffy bounding through the snow behind us with her favorite yellow ball clutched in her teeth. On Christmas morning, she’d snort around the discarded wrapping paper looking for treats.
GIVEAWAY CLOSED 11/9/20
For a chance to win a signed copy of HOME SWEET CHRISTMAS and a $15 Amazon gift card, tell me about your favorite holiday decoration in the comments. Winner will be selected on Monday, November 9th (US only).
All of my love and warm holiday wishes,