Tuesday’s Teaser with LoRee Peery

Hiding from Christmas

After her grandparents as forced to live apart through assisted living, and then die within nine days of each other, intrepid entrepreneur Calissa Ladd is devastated. She’s always wanted to experience the same lifelong love modeled by her grandparents, but her heart isn’t where it needs to be as she clings to the past for answers and then starts having vivid dreams of a long-ago time period.

Deferential banker Monte McQueen has loved Calissa since they were children, but he procrastinates making a commitment to her. He stands by as Calissa gets stuck in the past.

Calissa clings to the decrepit homestead that belonged to her family, searching and seeing visions into the past. Will she overcome her skewed beliefs and reclaim her relationship with the Lord as Monte pushes his love of Christmas on her? Or will she forfeit her happily-ever-after?


Read an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Hiding from Christmas

Chapter 3

The girls blew into Calissa’s apartment from the patio entrance, where they toed off their boots.

Hadley tossed a beige envelope on the table in front of Calissa. “Card for you, auntie. Stuck in the front door.”

She’d gone through the garage yesterday upon her return from the homestead, without a glance at the front entrance. Otherwise, she might have seen the envelope herself.

“Something about love, I’ll bet.” Brittany giggled and shrugged out of her hoodie.

Calissa slid off her thimble and accepted it. The paper was damp and cold to the touch. Flimsy. But she made out Monte’s handwriting. “I’ll set it next to the floor vent so it dries off. Then, I’ll open it.”

The girls looked at one another and burst out in song. “Monte and Calissa sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”

“Kids in your generation still say that?” She waited for their giggles to die down. “I need a good three hours’ production from you two today so let’s get crackin’.”

Brittany tossed their coats on the sofa. “Something on the floor, Aunt Calissa. Looks like another card.”

“Oh, it must have slipped out of my purse. It’s also from Monte. Set it on the coffee table, please.”

“Two cards from your man?” Brittany fanned her face with the envelope. “Why don’t you set them out?”

“Because I’m working.”

Hadley took her seat at the long work table Calissa had set up in the dining area, and selected a variety of blue beads with matching thread. “I’m glad you’re getting cards. Hope they’re Christmas. Mom said you need the holiday spirit in your life.”

Calissa scowled. Was Monte pushing Christmas on her by giving cards? She jolted at Hadley’s loud voice.

“Brit, get your butt over here.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re not the boss of me, little sis.”

“Any boss we had wouldn’t treat us the way our aunt does. She gives us something new and sparkly every month to embellish our clothes.”

Calissa smiled at their banter and bent her head over her needle.

Three crystal beads secured.

The girls spoke at once.

“How come Monte sent you two cards?”

“Why aren’t you together now? Even if he is old, he always looks good.”

Out of the mouths of babes. “Girls. We’ve been through this. I can’t tell you why Monte has given me two cards, or why we aren’t engaged. We’ve been friends forever. We’re comfortable together. The romantic side of the guy appears infrequently. He’s a good man. Respected with an admirable job.”

“But you love each other,” Hadley whined. “You’re supposed to get all gooey-eyed and blush when you talk about him.”

They shared a laugh.

“You don’t have to remind us that adult relationships can be complicated.” Brittany grinned at Calissa. “I’ll bet that second card is dry now.”

To settle the subject, Calissa stuck her needle in the denim pocket and retrieved the envelope. She drew out another old-fashioned card. The cover showed a hunched youth laden with gaily-wrapped packages wishing the recipient a Christmas filled with joy. She held it toward the girls then flipped it open.

I want to shower you with Christmas wishes. Just say the word, and I’ll come over to decorate. Love, Monte

“I don’t need help to decorate.” She went to the open galley kitchen and took the cups off the mug tree. Paused. What was wrong with her that kept him from proposing? Should she come right out and ask him if they had a future together? Could the problem be on both their sides? Calissa grabbed a paper punch and strung a narrow ribbon through the hole in the card. She extracted the first one from the envelope Monte gave her at the homestead, and did the same. Now the metal branches of the mug tree were adorned with two cards…they looked lopsided and bare, but too bad. A glance at the girls made her giggle. She shrugged and sat. “I have work to do. Close your mouth, Hadley. A bug could fly in.”

Brittany sputtered and bowed her head over her emerging peacock in varied greens. Her cheeks puffed out. “You may not want to say, but I have to know. Tell us why you don’t like Christmas.”

Calissa poked her needle from the bottom up through the denim fabric before answering. “It’s not that I don’t care for it, exactly. I don’t see a reason to take time for all the hoopla.” And I hate to relive the devastating disappointment of my teen years over and over.

“Tell us about Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa and where Grandma grew up.” Brittany made her statement with her needle poised in the air.

Both girls loved hearing the stories about their grandparents. Hadley had mentioned more than once that Calissa’s stories made the pictures of various people in old family photo albums more real to them.

Calissa chose a black bead to accent the purple peacock. “Yes, my mom, your grandmother, was the youngest of a large family. Due to the wide span of ages between the siblings, the oldest was married and living in the house with his wife, when your grandmother came along. Your great-grandfather built the house and added on a couple times to accommodate everyone.”

“All of them in the same house.” Hadley tossed her hair over her shoulder. “I hope they each had their own room. I wouldn’t want to share a room with Brittany.”

“And I’d never share a room with you,” Brittany said with mock sarcasm. “Ewwww.”

“Well, Grandpa farmed, so I’ll bet the only time you’d be in your rooms would be to sleep. Everyone helped back then. Kids worked on the farm, just as adults did. There were hard years and snowed-in times, but there was always love. And enough to eat, because they grew their own food, including meat. They canned everything themselves, vegetables and fruits too.”

“Sounds like hard work all the time to me.” Hadley grimaced. “And that house is nothing special. Mom’s driven by there a couple times.”

“Mom says you love the place.” Brittany stood to reach a spool of turquoise thread.

“Yes.” Calissa exhaled. “Somehow the building and the land settle me. Knowing who lived there once breathes a sense of belonging to my soul. Our ancestors thrived between the crumbling walls of that place. They fused their lives together as they shared warmth from the fireplace and whispered dreams beneath piled-on quilts in the beds above the parlor.” Calissa’s fancy imaginings had taken her right out of her own apartment.

“It sounds like something I could write about in my journal.” Brittany grinned. “There’s always a teacher who wants to know if we discovered new adventures or did anything exciting over Christmas break.”

“Would you drive us out there, auntie?” Hadley raised her head. “Maybe we could get our Christmas essays done early.”

“I’d be glad to drive you out. The place isn’t pretty. Don’t make fun of me, though. I look through the knot holes of the aged wood and glassless windows and feel love. I don’t see the rot. I see roots.”

*

Those roots called to her, even in her dreams, a longing that wouldn’t let Calissa go. Today, she drove the boxes of filled orders to the post office, and then headed over the familiar country roads. Cold weather allowed only glimpses of green grass now. Naked tree branches beckoned her nearer the abandoned house.

Calissa bypassed the front room window. She approached the original entrance, and propped open the door with a rock. She scanned the rectangular room, noting doorways and faint remnants of torn, floral wallpaper. The stone fireplace against the far wall drew her closer, and she walked into the house farther than she’d ever dared.

No glowing embers came to life. No fire sparked burning logs to glow. The vision of Grandma and Grandpa didn’t repeat itself the same as on her last visit.

Carissa blinked. A chill ran up her spine. Not a dangerous, scary kind, but one of intense yearning. She glanced over her shoulder. And froze.

In the corner before a raggedy branched cedar tree decorated in gold balls and dripping icicle trim, her grandparents appeared. They laughed with open smiles. Grandma’s eyes were squinted shut, and her hands were on Grandpa’s shoulders. Even seated in the chair, he seemed tall.

Happy. Their happiness rang from the rafters.

The deep desire for lasting love and a sense of belonging created an ache within, strong enough to stun Calissa. She swiped a gloved hand over her eyes, positive time travel was an incorrect assumption. They obviously couldn’t see her. The cedar scent of the Christmas tree filled the December air. The great love between the handsome man and joyful woman washed through Calissa’s heart. Her senses were more alive than they’d ever been.

The fairy-tale scene faded.

Monte would never believe her. Why did she think of him? Deep down, she wanted to be happy with him the same way she remembered the love of her grandparents. Did he balk at commitment due to his parents?

Calissa pivoted. Her toe struck a loose hearth stone. She bent to fix it back in place but it wouldn’t resettle. Hefting it for a better angle, she eyed a rusty tin rather than finely ground mortar. Trembling with anticipation, she shook the box to loosen the dirt, and withdrew it.

The lid was rusted shut.

*

Back in her apartment, Calissa ignored the cards from Monte. She cleared a collection of glass bottles from an antique gate leg table near the patio door and spread newspapers. Over it, and then positioned the tin on the pages. Using a hammer and screwdriver to loosen rust along the edges, she pried off the lid.

Christmas came at her from all sides. She put away her tools, brushed the powdered rust debris and dirt into the trash, and lifted out a vintage card. More lay beneath. Though holiday themed, the whimsical pictures and clever words drew a smile. Predominantly red and green on tan or white backgrounds, a Santa on one card, and a pretty girl with golden curls adorned the other. The models smiled their greetings of love and joy and goodwill. Why had the cards been stored under a loose hearth stone at the homestead?

As much as she longed to explore them one by one, orders awaited. She headed for the work table, but Monte’s cards caught her eye. She reached for her phone to text a thank-you.

The phone rang.

“Hi, Monte. I’ll put you on speaker and pick up my needle.”

“That’s fine. I’m looking at the empty lobby. How are you this sunny December day?”

“I hope you aren’t upset about this, but I’ve been back to the homestead twice since our picnic.”

“You’re too smart to go inside, I hope. That house isn’t safe, Calissa.”

“I was careful. And as weird as this sounds, I’ve had some sort of visions or something unexplainable.” She relayed both to him.

Monte went silent. She wanted to see his face.

“I know that it’s a little girl’s dream to imagine them dying together.” She drew in a quivery breath. “True love is so hard to find these days.”

“Marriages don’t last. If they do, one tolerates the other. Love becomes a figment of the other’s imagination.”

She hated the bitterness that colored Monte’s tone. “I’m sorry you have such a jaded attitude toward marriage.”

“We’ve talked about it enough over the years.”

Calissa pictured Monte running his hand down his tie.

“I’ve seen my share of financial messes between divorced couples,” he ground out.

“I get that. Let’s talk about this later. We both have work to do. And I want to show you what I found at the house.” If she didn’t have a needle in her hand, she’d slap her forehead. “Thanks for calling. And thanks for the cards.”

“Will the girls be there to work tonight, or can I bring food so we can talk?”

“They have a church youth gathering tonight so supper sounds good. If you make that a Reuben sandwich, we can dig into my discovery together.”

“I hope you’re about done going out there. It isn’t healthy for you, or safe, at the homestead, especially after dark. And it certainly doesn’t do you any good to continually dwell on your grandparents as much as you do. High school was over ten years ago.”

“It’s not unhealthy to search for the meaning of love.”

“You’ll find it if you renew your relationship with God and change your attitude toward Christmas.”

He repeated that topic as much as she talked about Grandma and Grandpa.


About Loree

Christian romance author LoRee Peery writes to feel alive, as a way of contributing, and to pass forward the hope of rescue from sin. She writes of redeeming grace with a sense of place. LoRee clings to 1 John 5:4 and prays her family sees that faith. She has authored the Frivolities Series and other e-books. Her desire for readers, the same as for her characters, is to discover where they fit in this life journey to best work out the Lord’s life plan. She is who she is by the grace of God: Christian, country girl, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend, and author. She’s been a reader since before kindergarten. Connect with LoRee through these links:

www.loreepeery.com

Twitter

Facebook

Find her publications at Pelican Book Group And Amazon

Friday’s Feature with Mary Felkins

Mary Felkins

Today I have Mary Felkins talking about her new book, Call to Love and answering a few questions. Welcome, Mary. Let’s get started.

Tell us about your favorite character in your new book.

Oh, my! This is as difficult as choosing from among my own children, but I admit to having had the most fun writing Stephen, Tom’s athletic, rascally, and witty 14-year old son. The inspiration for Stephen came from own son who was about the same age when I first started writing Call to Love. My son also had a close friend his age who was overly prideful at times. On occasion, Mrs. Felkins felt the need to bring him down a peg or two so I created “The Humility Score” mentioned in the book. I still keep in touch with my son’s friend and I still assign him a low score (on a scale of 1 – 10) if I think he’s getting a big head. Lots of fun and smiles with it!

Do you read the reviews and comments of your readers? How important are reviews to authors?

Yes, I do read them but wearing a mighty thick skin, realizing reviews are opinions as vast and unique as the people who write them. Most authors refuse to read reviews for fear of negative ones, but this being my debut, I think it’s important to get a feel for how my work has impacted readers so I can consider this for future books.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

I could easily see a little of myself in every character, even the grumpy barista, Agnes Blumenshein of Co-Zee’s Coffee Shop. At the start, I spend a good bit of time creating my heroine and hero’s dark moment story from which they develop a wound, lie, and fear. While I may not have experienced the same event, I can often relate to the emotional impact it might have. As I write, the Spirit of God whispers through me, formulating thoughts that develop the character’s dialogue and emotion. My hero, Tom, is a divorced law enforcement officer left to raise his adolescent son on his own. Nothing of that is relatable to me personally, but the unforgiveness he bears toward his ex for leaving him high and dry is very relatable in other circumstances I’ve experienced.

Some people believe that being a published author is glamorous, is that true?

Ha. Glamorous is getting all gussied up and being whisked off to a big gala in a stretch limo, greeted by red carpet, doormen… cameras flashing. Not to say there aren’t glamorous moments associated with success, such as receiving an award on stage, but most of writing is a hard and, sometimes, lonely journey. In the quietness and obscurity associated with the call to write, all glory goes to God. There’s great sweetness in being obedient to it, knowing He is sovereign over where our words will go and to whom they will have impact.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Have you met any of them and found yourself having a fan-girl moment?

I’m a fan of Rachel Hauck and Susan May Warren’s writing. I’ve coached with these inspirational romance authors on several occasions during 5-day intensive writing retreats, Destin, Florida. In fact, the initial framework for Call to Love was created during brainstorming sessions with them.


    Call to Love

What if saying yes to love means trusting the kind of man you said you’d never marry?

What if pursuing a woman’s heart means restoring a painful past?

Tracy Cassidy, a fiercely independent ED nurse, must choose between her dream job or staying in her hometown to help support her mother’s faltering ministry. Even if it means risking her heart in love with the kind of man she said she’d never marry.

Why sign up to be Laurelton’s next cop widow?

Tom DeLaney, a hyper-vigilant cop and new hire from Texas, is wearied by years of failed rescue attempts to save his marriage to his ex. A free man, he moves to the foothills of North Carolina. Thing is, he hadn’t expected to fall for Tracy, his supervisor’s sister. But when his adolescent son is diagnosed with a chronic illness, he faces the risk of loving another woman with keep-out issues.

Fears related to the death of Tracy’s cop father and Tom’s inability to forgive the past threaten to sabotage any chance at love.

To trust again means surrender. Will they risk their hearts and answer the call?


Get your copy at any of these places

Amazon E-book https://amzn.to/2mZcLAb

Barnes&Noble https://bit.ly/2nm0TJ8

Apple Books https://apple.co/2mIzhNW

Google Play https://bit.ly/2nvoOWu

Pelican Book Store www.pelicanbookgroup.com


About Mary

Mary A. Felkins is an inspirational romance author, devotional writer, and contributor to an on-line Bible study magazine. Her debut, inspirational romance novel, Call To Love, (www.pelicanbookgroup) releases November 15th, 2019.

Raised in Houston, Texas–and forever a Lone Star girl-she and her husband Bruce moved to the foothills of North Carolina in 1997. They have four adolescent to young adult-ish children. She can be lured from her writing cave if presented with a large, unopened bag of Pnut M&Ms or to watch an episode of Fixer Upper. A surprise appearance by her teen idol, Donny Osmond, would also do the trick, although she’d likely pass out.

If, upon introduction, she likes your first or last name, expect to see it show up in one of her novels.

To receive Mary’s weekly story-style devotions and quarterly book news via email, subscribe on her website, www.maryfelkins.com

Wednesday’s Writer with LoRee Peery

LoRee Peery

Today I have multi-published author, LoRee Peery, answering some fun questions and talking about her new book, Without a Home. Welcome, LoRee.

When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or full-time profession?

The first thing I remember wanting to “be” was a ballerina. That wish was never an option once my parents said they didn’t have one dollar a week for lessons (for piano, either, so I taught myself the treble clef). I wanted to be a missionary as a tween, and later a music teacher. Life has a way of changing direction and I found myself a young mother. My mother taught me to read by reading to me and I still obsessively devour books, one right after another. My desire to write happened in the 1980s when I slammed a magazine on my lap and said, “I could write better than this.” I wonder if my husband has ever regretted his challenge, “Why don’t you?”

Out of all the characters you’ve written about, is there one that is your favorite?

During the brainstorming and initial writing phases, the heroine I’m writing about is my favorite. Once in a while I like the hero better. I totally identified with the heroine of the book that will remain in a tote. Abby went home to her hometown to solve the case of her father’s “accidental” death. That story took ten years to complete and was cathartic in dealing with my father’s unsolved homicide. I self-published Touches of Time in 2016, and the Lord used that book to finally give me peace concerning the cold case. There’s probably a little bit of me or someone close to me in all my female protagonists. I enjoyed writing about Geneva and Lanae, older heroines in the Frivolities Series.

Have you ever received a rejection?

Oh, my goodness. Countless. That magazine I slapped on my lap had published a short romance. I fired off first versions without rewrites of countless short romances. I still attempt Woman’s World on occasion, but their silence is a rejection. Somewhere I have a tote with a heap of those rejections. (And wonder why I still have them.) Even after the publication of several books, my editor didn’t care for the heroine of my upcoming release Courting Country, and didn’t accept without a rewrite.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to an unpublished writer?

If the desire to write comes from the Lord, He put that desire in your heart. I tried to quit writing several times. A long time ago I heard an author say she couldn’t not write. And that’s the way it is with me. So never give up. Be tenacious. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep piling up rejections. Most importantly, keep praying. I didn’t get my first contract until I dealt with a spiritual condition of bitterness. Our writing journey is an individual one according to God’s time, like everything else in our lives.

Do you ever talk about your next project or do you like to keep it a secret?

Hmm. It depends. I’m a writer who can only work on one story at a time. Often as elements of a future tale come to me, I jot notes for when I’m ready for that project. During the brainstorming phase, I may ask friends or readers particular questions, but I usually don’t talk about a project unless I’m well into it.

How long does it take you to write a book?

It varies. For a novella such as the Christmas Extravaganza stories, I give myself a month and shoot for 20,000 words. It may take a couple more months before I have what I consider a finished project. Other times, it takes longer. I think I worked on my first time travel, Cowboy Just in Time (release date unknown), for a year. During that writing the historic rancher’s daughter kept raising her hand for me to tell her story, and Future of My Heart took less time because the heroine was a character in the first story. Due to my husband’s health, my own pain and surgeries in recent years, as well as a large family when anything can take me away from my desk, I always finish a story before I send it off.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Oh, gosh, I used to do so much! I still hope to get back to sewing, especially strip quilting and/or quilted wall hangings. I did get in my rock gardens and mess with my flowers this last summer, but mostly I switch out décor in the house according to the season or holiday. I love spending time one-on-one with grandchildren, walking outdoors or just sitting on the deck or porch. But always when I’m not doing something else, I’m reading. I used to think I’d go through and reread all the books on my shelves, but I went through those and took away 500 that I knew I’d never look at again. I LOVE that I have over 500 titles on my Kindle. I should probably reread those!!

Where do you get your ideas for your books?

Readers love to know the answer to this question. I used to be curious as well, unable to comprehend how big name authors have 80-100 books available. Ideas are everywhere. A Blessed Blue Christmas originated with a picture. Meet in the Middle happened because I heard a pig squeal. I try to keep an open mind, listen for snippets of dialogue (where the title Hiding from Christmas originated) during TV shows, and “eavesdrop” out in public. (I’ve heard some outlandish things.) I’ve penned story notes during sermons when my mind wandered, but have gleaned from those messages for certain stories. I once kept newspaper articles, but there are ideas in TV news and of course a person can find almost anything on the Internet, so now I just have an idea notebook. Life around us and the past abound with stories to tell.

Thank you so much for being here today, LoRee. It’s always great to have you.

Thank you, Theresa, for hosting me today. I wish all your readers a thankful Thanksgiving and hopeful Christmas.


LoRee’s new book is out now ! Get it at AMAZON.


~~About LoRee~~

I am thankful my mother read to me, enabling me to read at age four. Life is as hard as it is pleasurable and I love to read stories about true-to-life characters. The desire to write should never be ignored, I am so glad I kept returning to the blank page. I am blessed to live under God’s redeeming grace, and to experience Nebraska’s sense of place. www.loreepeery.com