I love shining a spotlight on other authors and other books too. Today, we're showcasing Jenny Carlisle's newest release (one of my editing babies). Love Never Fails is the third in her series (fourth if you count the novella in A Gift For All Time, which I do). Y'all, this series is so sweet, and I just love the fictional town and all its people. But this story also deals with some heavy stuff. See what Jenny has to say about it.
A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9 NJKV
“It’s over. He’ll never be able to do anything.” My husband’s boss expressed hopelessness as we stepped outside the hospital waiting room. His brother and business partner was being treated for a severe spinal injury. The doctors were preparing the family for the possibility of paralysis.
“We don’t know that yet.” I said. “The doctors will tell him about the next steps. There are so many possibilities for a normal life.” Even as I spoke these words, I knew the road ahead would be rough. In a way, the concerned brother was right. Nothing would be the same ever again.
What's a Christmas story without children? Obviously it can be done, but are they as much fun? I don't think so.
Needless to say, all of my Christmas stories have ended up having children involved. A few years ago, in the Candy Cane Wishes collection, my hero was a single dad dealing with his tween and her attitude. This year, my Christmas story, Mama Dated Santa, has Mark. He's the nephew of Trudy, my heroine. And he's a fun-loving four-year-old who adores Santa. Because that's a really fun age at Christmas.
Some neat facts: I also have a nephew named Mark, but he's no longer four, so except for the name, there's not much else in common with the one in my book. The man I call Santa now is also named Mark. See how that all works?
When I think of Christmas, two flavors come to mind. Peppermint and gingerbread.
I'm sure some people want to include eggnog in there too, but it's not one I prefer.
Needless to say, when writing a Christmas novel, there was going to be some seasonal flavors mixed in. Of course, I don't think I realized Trudy was going to run away with one of them. That's right. My characters sometimes take over my stories.
You see, Trudy loves peppermint. To the point that she puts it in her hot chocolate and her coffee. And her truffles. And decorates in that theme too. She just can't help herself.
When I started writing Mama Dated Santa, I didn't have a ton of direction. Mostly what I knew was the title and that my main characters were both well, not into the holiday spirit. But as I got to know Trudy, I realized she had been at one point. Then, I just had to figure out what ruined it for her. Of course, with her mom being a widow, it was pretty obvious it was going to have something to do with her dad.
Okay, so then I started exploring her relationship with her Dad. Sure, he loved Christmas. But what made it so special to do Christmas with him? Then, she let me know about their bucket lists.
(Yes. My characters talk to me.)
So, what is a holiday bucket list?
By now, you've probably heard quite a bit of my story about how I came up with Mama Dated Santa. How my mother-in-law dated a guy in college who grew up to be Santa now. She probably never even knew about it because we didn't find out until after she'd passed away.
Funny enough, though, she LOVED all things Santa. These pictures are just part of her collection that she'd get out every Christmas. Ornaments, knick-knacks, a wreath, even a big shelf-sitter. They ranged from cute to classic and every style in between. And every time I see a Santa, I think of her. Just no helping it.
The very first Christmas after my mother-in-law passed away, I was setting the table and put out one too many plates. I was so used to setting one for her, as well, that I naturally just counted to that number. And when I realized what I had done, I had to stop for a minute. Because the pain was raw.
It's been six years. I no longer set the wrong amount of plates at the table, but I still have those moments when I stop and blink a few times and have to catch my breath. Because I still miss her.
Grief is real. And it doesn't really go away. It just isn't as sharp after a while. It dulls just enough to be able to catch you off guard, in my opinion.
Last year was the first time my father-in-law had put out most of my mother-in-law's Santa collection. And it just made it feel like a part of her was still with us.
A toy store at Christmas. Sounds frenetic, doesn't it? Definitely busy and chaotic.
But not Russo's Toy Emporium. Not at the beginning of Mama Dated Santa, anyway. Instead, it's suffering the fate of many brick-and-mortar stores today, losing business and unable to keep up.
That's why, when Trudy walks in on Black Friday, she's blown away by the lack of customers ... and the poor dilapidated Christmas tree in the Santa section. But it's not her responsibility to help such a mess.
Not until her Mom gets her involved, that is.
When you think Christmas story, you probably think somewhere up north, where there's at least a chance of snow. Why would anyone set a Christmas story smackdab in the middle of Texas? If they get any cold precipitation, it's more likely than not going to be ice.
And yet, that's where my story, Mama Dated Santa, is set. Why?
Well, I have several reasons. The first is, I didn't set it in Temple to begin with.
Are you confused?
Hang with me. I'll explain. When I first wrote it, I set it in Waco. Thanks to some famous HGTV stars, that town has become quite known over the last few years. And I love how they're revamping their downtown area. It was perfect. Except it was just a bit bigger than I needed.
This is a place for me to tell you about what I'm writing, talk about the process or where some of my ideas came from, or even have other authors come in and talk about their books.
Authors I Love to Read (in no particular order)