Christmas in July?

Don’t panic. Nobody is suggesting you rush out and buy all your presents.

Quite the contrary. You know how hectic the holiday season is, right? Something’s gotta give.

For me, that usually comes down to reading time. But the holidays are so emotion-packed and rich with anguish, pathos, and joy, no season (except maybe Valentine’s Day) lends itself to such great storytelling potential.

So, when the wonderful Patricia McLinn invited me to join her and several other Rock Star romance authors in a promo called: Christmas In July, I jumped in–with all bells jingling.

Christmas in July-DS

I’m sure recognize most of these authors. I know you’ll enjoy the books they’d included in this promo. I’d love to hear which books you read and what you thought. (Click on the image to be taken to my Facebook page, where if you hover your cursor over each cover, you’ll find buy links to that book.)

My contribution is Judy Does Christmas–the holiday spin-off from Judy Uncensored.


Here’s a snippet I hope you’ll enjoy:

Judy’s traditional recipe for dealing with stress involved Oreo cookies and ice cream. Her new stress reliever had three parts: stair climber, inclined plank for ab twists and her awesome new headphones to block out everything but JT.

Justin Timberlake–the current king of reinventing oneself–had become her new role model. Despite the fact he was a man–and many years her junior. And he had talent. Still, she appreciated his positive attitude and fearlessness. Those two things, she’d decided, meant the difference between growing old and being old.

She closed her eyes and marched, ignoring the sweat running down the small of her back. Never in a million years could Judy have pictured herself working out in public, much less teaching a workout class.

Her Golden Sneakers group appeared to have gotten along pretty darn well while Judy was on her honeymoon. Judy’s personal trainer and workout mentor, Kelly, had subbed most of the time while training a new helper–Judy’s mother. Judy didn’t quite know what to make of that development. For most of Judy’s life, her mother had been a threat to her self-esteem and peace of mind. Now, Mom was a threat to Judy’s job.

Fortunately, Judy no longer depended on the income from the gym to put groceries on the table. Still, Judy felt slightly irked that Mom appeared to be popular with the class Judy had created.

The music changed and she slowed her pace, as Kelly preached. “Push yourself then plateau before you push again.” Judy lived for plateaus. Nice, even landscape. No hills, no valleys. A steady, even pace so she could check in and take stock.

Heart rate?



Not bad.


F-ed up. Truly f-ed up.

What am I doing at the gym in the middle of the night when my husband’s home alone, reveling in his late wife’s holiday madness?

What disturbed her most about the whole Julie-The-Dead-Queen-of-Christmas scenario was realizing Wiley didn’t see anything wrong in the excess. What if the selective blindness that inured him to his late wife’s foibles was the only thing keeping him from seeing Judy as she truly was? If she pointed out how ridiculous the house looked given the state of the economy and the gravitational pull of so much shit in one place, would he then open his eyes to the fact she had no taste? Or would he accuse her of feeling threatened by a dead woman’s junk?

Worse…what if that was true?

Her heart rate spiked despite the even keel of her pace.

The person on the neighboring machine poked her arm.

Her gaze cut sideways.

“Wiley,” she exclaimed–probably much too loud given her headphones. She ripped them off and hit the red button to stop her machine. “What are you doing here?”

“Watching you walk and mutter to yourself. A hundred bucks says you’re not listening to Christmas carols.”

She held one ear bud up for him to hear. “Rock. Predictable, huh?”

“I heard ‘Grandma Got Run Over’ by a Reindeer twice on the drive over here. I’d forgotten how much I hate that song. It’s going to be a long season.”

He adjusted the speed on his machine and started to run. “Good way to work off my pizza. Glad you thought of it.”

She turned sideways to look at him. “I was running away from…everything. The decorations…the f’n-la-la-la-la was too much for me.”

“I know.”

“I hate your house.”

“I know.”

“I think the pain and the drugs screwed up your late wife’s mind. Nobody’s house should look like that…not even Martha Stewart’s.”

“I know.” His breath remained even, not the slightest bit stressed. This pissed her off more than his pleasant if condescending replies.

“Then why are you here?”

“To tell you you’re right. I was blinded by tradition. Caught up in the moment. When you left, I finally started to see the place through your eyes. Kinda over the top, isn’t it?”

She’d never been comfortable defending her opinions. “Some people probably think it’s nice.”

“Well, you don’t. And you’re the only one who counts. In my opinion.”

Judy couldn’t reply at first. Her throat swelled with emotion. So, she gave him a light punch on the shoulder. “Wanna go home and take a steam shower together?”

He didn’t look at her, but his grin came through loud and clear.


:-) That’s my girl. I do love Judy Banger. Hope you will, too.



There’ll Be Some Changes Made (Lynn Kerstan)

I’ve never put much credit in astrology, never mind that the qualities attributed to a Sagittarius suit me to a T. But now and again, what I’m dealing with and what astrologers say I’m dealing with coincide (I call it coincidence!), as if the stars had aligned.

One of my favorite people, Teresa Hill (writes for Harlequin as Sally Tyler Hayes), a woman of many talents, posted this today. Mind you, she also says “I always tell people I know just enough about astrology to be dangerous.” Here’s what got my attention:

Solar Eclipse

-“We’re in the midst of 3 eclipses, June 1 lunar, June 15 solar and the last, July 1 lunar that includes the alignment called the Cardinal Cross, basically a lot of planets in opposition (think tug of war) in the cardinal signs ( signs where we take action) which equals a lot of changes getting ready to happen. (It’s a preview of the alignments we’ll see peaking in 2012.)

Eclipses are times when the universe looks at us and . . . says, -You really want to keep doing that? Because if you don’t, it’s time to stop. Now. And you think, No, I really don’t want to do this anymore. I can’t. And you finally stop.

Cardinal Cross

Or the universe says, Do you really want to do this? Because if you do, get on with it. And basically gives you a little shove forward. Like you’re standing on the edge of a stage, scared to go on and not sure if you can, and that shove puts you actually on the stage in front of all those people. So, people are feeling the pressure to make a lot of decisions, to take action, very soon.”-

Not long ago I heard that voice, before I read Teresa’s words, and I listened. After consideration and prayer, I made some essential (but often difficult) changes.

1. Eat Healthy. Check! Really! Nearly all the time. Never mind the potato chips.

2. Exercise. Sigh, not yet. Jazzercise starts at 7:30am in the summer, and I am a lucubrator. That’s a fancy word for “night worker.” I can’t fall asleep at 2am and get up at 6am to get caffeinated, dressed, and work out for an hour. When “June Gloom” weather is gone, I’ll do water aerobics at 9am three or four times a week.

3.  Eliminate time sinks. This is the tough one. Much as I have loved singing with the Chorale for the past two years, it gobbles up far more time and creative energy than I can spare. No more.  It hurt a lot to leave it behind, but I also felt relieved, as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

I need that time and energy for writing, now that I feel able (and eager!) to write for the first time since 2008, the Year of Doom. Between shingles, post-herpetic neuropathy, and lymphoma, I was a train wreck and stayed that way for nearly three years. From past experience with chemo, I knew the focus I needed to write would take a long time to return. After my first bout with cancer in 2000, it took a year and a half.

Andromeda, a Rodin sculpture

This time, it took much longer. When I griped about that to my oncologist, he told me that chemo is cumulative. Effects from both treatments linger and reinforce one another. Grrrr.

Until now. Of a sudden, I’m rarin’ to go. No longer feeling chained, like Andromeda, to a rock (in my case, the rock of bad health, fear, and discouragement). No Perseus will show up to rescue me. I’m on my own. So I’m making hard decisions, setting goals, choosing a path to reach them, and feeling optimistic. I might even get around to decluttering!

But mostly, I’m clearing the decks for some serious writing and other projects. More about that next time.

Any life-changes going on for you? We pilgrims need compadres!