I know I’ve been very neglectful the last couple of weeks posting to the blog, but there really is a good reason.
My new book was holding me hostage.
It sounds crazy, I know, but until you’ve actually attempted to write a novel, you can’t appreciate how much time can be sucked up with an intricately imaginative story. Writing is only half the battle, though. The other half is rewriting, editing, beefing up the story, trimming the fat and making sure the book is the best you can muster.
Ever since my vacation in Arizona, two things have monopolized my attention. If it wasn’t my day job, it was the book. Originally, Sleigh Bells and Slain Belles was scheduled to be released Nov. 1, but when the writing part concluded ahead of schedule, I decided it was best not to slack off for a month and let the tale marinate. I pushed on, only breaking away for my trip (mostly).
As a result, Sleigh Bells and Slain Belles is ready to give you the Christmas love before Halloween has taken hold on society. It might sound like I’m jumping ahead of myself, but if you look at a lot of the new books for sale around this time of the year, you will see a lot of yuletide yarns. When I did my first Christmas-themed novel, An Eagle River Christmas, a few years ago, I released it in October, and sales until the big day in December were brisk. In fact, An Eagle River Christmas still sells quite well in the last three months of the year, even though the book came out several years ago.
It was incredibly exciting to do another Christmas-themed book, as the existing songs and traditions make a festive pattern in the tapestry that is your story. It’s good to only tap into Christmas every once in a while, though, as it can be easy to become redundant with certain lines such as decking someone in the halls or turning the notion about it being the most wonderful time of the year on its ear.
I’ve talked up Sleigh Bells and Slain Belles quite a bit lately, but I’ve held back on publishing excerpts. As such, here is your reward for all of my blathering. Don’t worry if the following excerpt doesn’t entirely convince you—I plan to feature more in the coming weeks. Hope you can buy a copy and enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Zachary walked back into the ballroom and immediately noticed Lena on the scaffolding, tying a string of blue colored lights to one of the chandeliers. She waved and climbed back down.
“Let me get that poster for you, so you can be on your way,” Leah said as she walked past Zachary toward a tool table.
“Sounds good. Are you collecting a lot of coats for the Christmas Coats for Kids Campaign?”
“But of course. Already have commitments from more than a dozen businesses, including yours. I understand Alexander, your assistant, has some coats ready for us.”
The back door swung open, and Meridian Cates and Nelly Huntington, two previous recipients of the Christmas Princess crown and current committee members for the Gingerbread Ball, strutted in. The ball raised money for the Christmas Coats for Kids and was run by the Gresham Ladies Society. Both were dressed in expensive looking fur coats, and Meridian had on a red beret.
“Oh, princess!” Meridian called out as she and Nelly clicked their heels on the ballroom’s hardwood floor. “What are you doing right now?”
“Hello, ladies.” Lena put on a fake smile that seemed to fool the former princesses, but not Zachary. “I’m making sure everything is perfect for the Gingerbread Ball next weekend. It’s our big event of the year, and I am eager to make sure this one is the best ever now that we have the Lonesome Pine Ballroom restored to its former glory.”
Nelly let out a shallow laugh. “You don’t need to handle it personally, though. You are the Christmas Princess. You should let these poor lunkheads deal with the heavy lifting.”
Several men working on the preparations stopped what they were doing and looked at Nelly like she’d just been crowned Gresham’s Forever Bitch, if such a title were to exist. Zachary bit his lip, wondering if one of them was going to make some caustic remark in retaliation. Instead, everyone went back to work.
Lena shook her head. “Now, Nelly. You should realize that it takes good, hard work to pull something like this off. The people of Gresham are proud of their annual Christmas tradition, and they’re proud of this ballroom. In fact, I’m a little disappointed there aren’t more members of the Gresham Ladies Society here to do their part.”
Meridian gasped. “Lena, you don’t seriously think we should get down in the dirt with these laborers, do you?”
“Swinging tools and taping snowflakes to walls is not the same as digging ditches, Meridian. We live in an agricultural area. Women around here have been helping the men folk with dirty work long before the women’s liberation movement ever hit. Why should this be an issue?”
“Because the Gresham Ladies Society has long existed on the tradition of our ladies being thinkers and planners, not painters and laborers. You certainly wouldn’t have seen me hanging lights from chandeliers.” Nelly tossed her blond hair, which made a joke involving blondes and light bulbs pop into Zachary’s head.
“I believe that, Nelly, but just as every princess over the years has been someone different, I intend to stand out as an example that you don’t have to be raised in a rich household with other people catering to your every whim in order to be a Christmas Princess in Gresham.”
Meridian’s brow furrowed. “Who are you to tell us how a princess should be?”
Zachary chuckled. “The current princess.”
Meridian shot Zachary a dirty look. “No one’s talking to you. This is Gresham Ladies Society business, which does not concern you.”
“When it’s conducted at the Lonesome Pine Ballroom, it is. In fact, I wonder what the other ladies in your society would think if you were badgering the Christmas Princess and interfering with what is, according to your own by-laws, her project. Maybe I should give Madge Kleinschmidt a call and get her point of view on the matter.” Zachary reached into his jacket to pull out his cell phone.
Nelly threw up her hands. “That won’t be necessary. I’ll talk with Madge myself. Come on, Meridian. We’re due for lunch at the Pine Cone Club.”
Meridian smiled politely and walked out with Nelly. Lena let out a sigh of relief as the back door gently closed behind them.
(Note to readers: Sleigh Bells and Slain Belles is available on Amazon for $13 in paperback. The e-book version will come out Oct. 14 and will be available on Kindle for $7.)