Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Holidays are Coming! #amwriting by Andrea Downing

I know that there are a few holidays between Labor Day and Christmas, but I thought that I’d help to start getting you in the holiday mood.  Sadly, I had to decline joining my esteemed colleagues of The Roses of Prose in their forthcoming—and no doubt wonderful—Christmas stories due to the ongoing time spent on my new house on top of other obligations.  However, I am joining my former colleagues from A Cowboy to Keep in the forthcoming A Christmas Cowboy to Keep, coming out in October.  My own story is A Christmas Carole. So here’s what I’ve been working on folks!

      When single mom Carrie Matheson inherits a Wyoming ranch and moves out of NYC, her six year old son is not happy.  Trying to help Tim settle into life out west isn’t easy, especially when his pleas to Santa begin to get replies from a mysterious correspondent.  Is it the crotchety ranch foreman upon whom she relies so much? Somehow she doesn’t think so….
    Tate Schrugge is amused by his new neighbor when she jogs over with some mis-delivered mail.  But Tate has just finished with a long-term relationship, and the lithe blonde in front of him has just called him Scrooge.
     If these two can get together, it might be the Dickens of a romance.


Now her mind started wandering back to Tate, to her uncle, to any place except work . . .and then suddenly she remembered Tim’s letter to Santa. Oh My Gosh! What the heck did I do with the letter to Santa? No, please tell me it wasn’t in the pile I gave to Scrooge!
She scraped out her chair from the desk and stood, then sat, then stood again. Check the mail box, maybe I’ve left it there, that’s the first thing.
Yanking a coat from her closet, she was halfway down her lane when she saw the mail van pull up and the postal worker reach into her box.
“Wait! Wait!” she screamed, one arm in and one arm out of her coat. “Is there a letter for Santa there?”
The pinched face of the letter carrier stared back at her from the window of the van, as if he were framed for a not too flattering portrait. “Santa?”
“Yes, you know Santa. Big belly, white beard, red outfit?”
“Ma’am,” he drawled. “I don’t look at the mail, I only deliver it. Or collect it from the boxes.”
“Exactly. And my son wrote to Santa and I want to know if his letter is in your collection.”
The young man stared down at something at his feet, his bag she guessed.
“The letters I collected are in the bag now. I can’t go looking through them all. But I don’t recollect taking anything out of your box, only leaving some things there for you.”
Carrie slumped. She watched as the van pulled away, then turned and pulled the letters out of the box for the second time that day.
Please tell me I didn’t give it to Scrooge. Now I have to go ask for it back? Maybe he already put it in his box for the Post Office to deal with? Yes! Post Office first!
Back at the house, she gathered up her car keys, pulled on some gloves and a pompom hat, and headed out.
Cars were overtaking her, they passed her as if she were crawling when the two lane highway narrowed into one. A woman on a mission, she was going along when she spotted the flashing lights of the sheriff’s car in her rear-view mirror.
He tooted her and passed, motioned for her to pull over. Can this day get any worse? Really?
Sitting as calm and demure as she possibly could, she rolled down her window when she saw the patrolman get out of his car with all the time in the world and saunter over to her. He removed a pair of dark glasses and bent into the window.
“Guess I know where the expression a New York minute comes from now, huh?”
“I beg your pardon?” Carrie tried to keep her voice in an even tone, deciding there was no point in getting grumpy with the man.
“You were doing fifty in a forty mile per hour zone. We don’t take kindly to speeding here in Wyoming. Maybe that’s okay in New York—”
Carrie’s mouth hung open, deeply regretting not having re-registered her car as yet with its yellow Empire State plates. She felt the patrolman’s eyes on her, sizing her up. “People were passing me!”
“Well now, I didn’t see anyone pass you. Registration and license please.”
Still feeling as if she were catching flies, she fumbled in her bag for her license and started searching about for the registration.
“You’re a long way from home,” the man said mildly.
“No, no I’m not, in fact. I have a ranch here. The Lazy M? I’ve just moved in.”
“Well. . . .”
At that moment there was the honk of another car and Carrie saw in her rearview mirror a good-sized pickup pull in behind her.
“Hey Grange!” ‘Scrooge’ stuck his head out his window but sent a winning smile in the direction of Carrie’s car.
She watched as the officer strolled over to chat with her neighbor, bending down to his window for a confab. She could just pick up part of what they said.
“Long time no see. . . how’s Katy doing and the new baby? . . .Been working pretty hard . . .”
Oh, for heaven’s sake. Are you two going to shoot the bull all day?
“Looks like you got my new neighbor . . . yeah, well, she’ll settle in… do me a favor.”
Incensed at the time they were taking, Carrie got out of her car and stomped over, her pompom flapping down over one eye. “If you’re going to ticket me . . .” She flicked the apex of her hat out of her eye and held out the license, which the officer took with a sheepish smile on his face.
“Carole Anne Matheson,” he read. “I’ll let you off with a warning this time. You take things a bit slower, Miss New York. We’d hate to see you get hurt.” And with that he handed the license back, tapped his hat, nodded to Tate, and headed back to the patrol car.
Carrie stood watching him go, feeling Tate’s eyes on her. “I suppose I have you to thank for that.”
“Well. A simple thank-you will do. Carole.” He looked rather smug but she realized her heart was jumping out of her chest at the sight of him in his Stetson, and those sapphire eyes peering up at her.
“Please don’t call me that. I hate it.”
“Well, let’s make a deal: you don’t call me Scrooge, I don’t call you Carole. How’s that?”
“Fine. I don’t suppose you found a letter to Santa in amongst the letters I brought over earlier today?”
Tate pulled back in and faced the road. “I may have.”
“Can I have it back? Pretty please?”
Tate leaned back, a pensive look on his face. “Too late,” he said at last. “Post Office collected it.” He lifted a brow, staring up at her.
“Ah, well.”
“I’m sure Santa will get it. And answer. What did you ask for?” He pulled in his lips as if he were trying to stop himself from laughing.
“Very funny,” she replied. “My son wrote it and I have no idea what he asked for.”
Tate tapped the wheel. “Well. I’m sure it’ll be okay.”
“Ya. Thanks.” She started back to her car.
“Hey, wait a minute.”
Carrie pivoted back toward him.
“You owe me one, don’t you?”
“I owe you?”
“As in dinner maybe? For getting you off that speeding ticket. I’ll collect you Saturday. Eight. How’s that?”
The day was just beginning to look a whole lot better.

A Christmas Cowboy to Keep goes into pre-orders on October 15 at Amazon.


Brenda Whiteside said...

What a fun story! Love the premise and what you've shared. Put a smile on my face. Good luck!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Clever, clever, Andi. You have a nice turn of words in the title and your cute Dickens line. Cowboys at Christmas...perfect!

Leah St. James said...

I'm smiling, too! Love the excerpt, the characters...the setting. And I could almost hear the characters in the part about the big city girl "speeding" in Montana. You'll be sure to give us a link when the pre-order is up, I hope?

Jannine Gallant said...

Sounds like a fun story, Andi! Good luck with this group project!

Alison Henderson said...

We'll miss you, but this is a great project. Best of luck!

Andrea Downing said...

Always happy to put a smile on someone's face, especially someone I know and whose opinion I respect. Thanks Brenda.

Andrea Downing said...

Hey Rolynn, I'd say cowboys are good any ol' time of the year, but thanks for the sentiment--and the compliment.

Andrea Downing said...

Leah, of COURSE I'll be here with a link! And glad you liked the excerpt. Thanks!

Andrea Downing said...

Thanks Jannine. The first anthology together did very well so we thought we'd give it another go. I hope it succeeds!

Andrea Downing said...

Alison, so sweet to say you'll miss me. Thanks. I was very sorry not to have time to write another Christmas story with you guys.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Great way to get us into the holiday spirit. Put a smile on my face too. You have me pulling for Tate and Carrie. Best of luck with this project.

Andrea Downing said...

Thanks Margo. Here in NY, the temps are slowly dropping and I'm soon headed to WY where they'll definitely be a bit cooler. Still work to do, smarten up the ms. though.

Diane Burton said...

Cute premise. Love the excerpt. Sounds like a great holiday story.