Release Blitz: Romancing the Holidays, Volume 2

Title: Romancing the Holidays, Volume 2 
Authors: Debby Grahl, Melody Johnson, Elise Darby, Barbara Whitaker, Maggie FitzRoy, Leah Miles, Karen Renee, Sara Walker, Vickey Wollan, Gloria Ferguson, Abigail Sharpe, Laura Salas, P.K. Brent, Candese Nieves
Genre: Contemporary/Historical/PNR/Romance Suspense, YA
Release Date: September 22, 2021
Cover Design: Glowing Moon Designs




Looking for a Happily Ever After? How about fourteen of them?! Romancing the Holidays, Volume 2 is a collection of romantic short stories all with the happy ending you crave. Genres include: contemporary, historical, paranormal, romantic suspense and young adult.

And what better time to find romance than during the holidays? Escape into these Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Three Kings Day and Valentine’s Day adventures, and swoon anew with each couple as they fall in love.

Proceeds from this anthology benefit First Coast Romance Writers, a non-profit chapter of Romance Writers of America that helps writers hone their craft and expand their knowledge of the publishing industry.



Debby Grahl – Fall into Magic

Sabrina patted Priscilla’s shoulder. “Your turn will come. You’re only eighteen. There’s plenty of time for you to meet the right man.”

Priscilla hesitated. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure, what?”

“If I meet someone I’m attracted to, how do I tell him I’m a witch?”

“That’s a tricky one. I was fortunate that Jake came from a family who’d experienced ghosts and magic. My advice would be, if he loves you, he will accept you for what you are. But I’d break it to him gently.”

Priscilla grinned. “I’d imagine so. Perhaps I’ll meet a nice warlock and won’t have to worry.


Vickey Wollan – The Secret Santa Surprise

“What?!”

She turned away to make it harder for him to retrieve his glasses. “Your lenses don’t have a prescription.”

Her stunned confusion allowed Brad to overtake her and hug her from behind as he gently grasped his frames. He whispered in her ear. “Why did you do that? What gave it away?”

She trembled in his arms as his hot breath glided through her hair.

Maggie FitzRoy – Christmas Peril, Christmas Promise

Piper stood at the edge of frozen Lyons Lake, admiring it, and its surrounding beauty. The lake’s sun-kissed surface sparkled, as if sprinkled with diamonds. The evergreens along the shore rose majestically toward the sky, their branches draped in snow. Long shadows cast by birch trees wove intricate patterns across the ice.

Ahead, Rob captured the scene. Then pointed his big camera her way.

Click.

She laughed. “You just took a picture of me.”

He twitched his lips in a guilty smile and fiddled with the camera’s long lens. “Just one,” he said, his voice soft and teasing. “Something to remember you by, Piper.”

In the frigid air, Piper went hot. She’d only known this man a few days, but it felt like forever.


Melody Johnson – Fated by Fire

Rumor had it Dr. Marcus Kyle could siphon as well as merge magic, and if he chose to, he had the power to drain entire covens to husks with a single, powerful flex of his will.

In her vivid and increasingly—frighteningly—accurate visions, he was often testing the limits of that power in a parody of Carrie, wearing the blood of his slaughtered witches and warlocks with trembling glee.

In reality, his cheeks dimpled when he smiled.

Jen stood to face him, leaving her lug wrench on the asphalt where she’d dropped it mid-spin at the sight of him. No need to call attention to the fact that in addition to the lug wrench, she’d also dropped her car, having stuttered on her levitation spell. Goddess help her if he’d noticed.

He paused at her rear tire, looking a bit sheepish. “You’ll have to excuse the get up. I was on my way to a costume party, but I couldn’t pass by without asking if you might need help changing that tire?”

Breathe. She’d seen Dr. Kyle’s face in her mind’s eye for years, but her visions hadn’t prepared her for the heat of his direct gaze nor the distraction of his angled jaw. From the curls of his faux hawk to his perfect teeth, beaming at her from behind those lush, parted lips, and every smooth-as-caramel, baby-faced feature in between, he was fresh and friendly. Adorable, even.

She supposed the wrath and violence in her visions had prevented her from truly appreciating his appearance because before this moment, she would have described Dr. Marcus Kyle as dangerous, vicious, and volatile. Now that he was before her in the flesh, the phrase “cutie pie” came to mind.

And holy mother of Earth and Rain, she wanted a bite.


Karen Renee – Holiday Fixation (An O-Town Short Story)

He shook my hands. “I’m in Miami tomorrow until the twenty-sixth. I’m serious, Switzer. One week. If, by the thirty-first, you don’t feel like I do, it’s done.”

I wrenched my eyes from his earnest ones and stared out a nearby dark window. He had lost his mind. His hands squeezed mine, I looked back to him.

“People don’t decide things in a week, Alex.”

His face turned just enough that I knew he conceded the point. “You ever notice I don’t call Ramsey, Otero, or Silva direct?”

I had, but I’d never wasted time trying to figure him out. “So?”

He shot me a look that I figured made perjurers think twice. “I call them direct when you’re out of the office, Dee. Any other time, I hit the mainline just to spar with you. Maybe it’s sick, maybe it isn’t, but it trips my trigger and I know it does the same for you.”

I closed my eyes for a moment. When I opened them, his brows rose in warning. “Actually, it—”

He yanked me forward. “You lie to me, I’ll kiss you.”

I squinted. “You wouldn’t.”

He shrugged one shoulder. “Might do it any damn way.”

My eyes widened reflexively, and he chuckled.

Dammit! I had to control myself. Just then, I felt the ticket in his palm.

I smiled, full and wide at him. His eyes flared until I twisted my fingers, grabbing my ticket.

“Happy Holidays, Chavira,” I said, standing.

I strutted four steps before he grabbed my wrist to whirl me around.

“Nice move, Deanne.” With his free hand, he cupped my cheek. “But, you should pay more attention, sweetheart.”

His eyes gazed up, and mine followed. A small bouquet of mistletoe hung above us. I felt my blood drain and lightheadedness hit me.

“Heard you’re superstitious, so we better not tempt fate,” he murmured.

His lips caressed mine with deceptive gentleness. As obnoxious, pushy, and aggressive as he was, there was no way he kissed like that, all gentle and tentative. Then his hand at my wrist let go, he cupped my other cheek to hold me steady, and I found I was right. Deceptive. He got pushy and his tongue plundered my mouth. His hands let go so his arms could wrap around me.

I put my hands on his shoulders but stopped myself from sliding my arms around him. Even if I enjoyed his kiss –and I did– this wasn’t right. I pushed away to break things off.

Against the laws of nature, his face looked even more handsome with heat, lust, and desire written all over it. The sight took my breath away, but I had to get away from him.

“Good night,” I whispered.


Barbara Whitaker – Thanks for the Doughnuts

“I’ll just go help Delores.” Maybe she could play the records while Delores danced.

Cliff grabbed her arm. “Not yet.”

That arrogant, possessive grin again. She pulled her arm from his grasp. The caveman hadn’t changed.

The music started again. A slow tune.

“Remember this one?”

His arm slipped around her shoulder, and, despite her instinct to pull away, she didn’t.

That song. She blinked.

He swept her into his arms, held her tightly as they danced. The song from before. His strong arms and hard chest.

“Remember?” he whispered.

The same chill raced down her spine. “No!” She tried to pull away from him.

He tightened his grip. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, “I don’t want to frighten you.”

“Let me go,” she ground out through clenched teeth.

“Not yet. Just relax and dance with me. Please.”

She looked up and met his gaze. Something was different about him. Still frightening but somehow changed.


P.K. Brent – True Love Found

Look at that adorable, goofy smile! I think Alan is flirting with me! If he’d flirted with me two decades ago, my junior high heart would have melted. But now? I’m too busy to deal with complications. Yet he is cute with that curly hair, big green eyes, and brilliant dorkiness. I can’t help it – Alan Corbin is adorable!


Laura Salas – Love on Calle Ocho


“Camels?” Maddie looked around as if expecting the big mammals to show up from the different walking trails in the park.

“Yes, for the Three Kings’ camels.” Victoria jumped in front of Maddie, twirling as she spoke.

“Ah. I see.” But her furrowed forehead said otherwise. She looked at Carlos, waiting for an explanation.

“Victor and Victoria, what do you do with the grass?” he asked.

“So silly, uncle. You know what we do!” Victoria twirled again.

“I know, but I want you children to explain to Miss Maddie. She doesn’t know.”

Victor’s eyes widened. “How can you not know?”

Maddie shrugged and smiled good-naturedly, but Carlos still intervened.



First Coast Romance Writers, an affiliate of Romance Writers of America®, is an organization for both published and unpublished writers, as well as any individuals involved in the writing/publishing industry. The membership includes writers of all levels, from those working on their first manuscripts to award-winning authors

The chapter is dedicated to promoting excellence in romantic fiction through monthly meetings and workshops in a comfortable forum where published and unpublished writers share knowledge about the constantly evolving publishing industry.

FCRW strives to help writers become published and establish careers with innovative programs, networking opportunities and pertinent information on effective marketing techniques for members’ novels.


HOSTED BY:


 
HOSTED BY:






Looking for a Happily Ever After? How about fourteen of them?! Romancing the Holidays, Volume 2 is a collection of romantic short stories all with the happy ending you crave. Genres include: contemporary, historical, paranormal, romantic suspense and young adult.

And what better time to find romance than during the holidays? Escape into these Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Three Kings Day and Valentine’s Day adventures, and swoon anew with each couple as they fall in love.

Proceeds from this anthology benefit First Coast Romance Writers, a non-profit chapter of Romance Writers of America that helps writers hone their craft and expand their knowledge of the publishing industry.


Romancing the Holidays – Volume 2

Author Q & A

Karen Renee – Holiday Fixation (An O-Town Short Story) 

Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? I chose New Year’s Eve because it’s a time of reflection and preparing for new beginnings. Not to mention, Alex is determined for Deanne to try a new beginning with him. 

Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story?  I read a news story about a married man in Texas who was leading three lives [engaged to two other women]. It was one of those stories where fact was definitely stranger than fiction. He was proposing to women after two or three dates! I struggled to wrap my mind around it, and I knew that was a situation Deanne had dodged. Or so she thought.

Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? I don’t have a process for creating my characters. They typically come to me, and it’s a matter of them revealing themselves. If they’re being coy, I might interview them or introduce them to spunkier characters who will draw them out of their shell, but I don’t create them so much as they show up in my mind.

Deanne first appears in two of my other books in a very ancillary capacity since she’s the administrative assistant at a private investigation firm. I didn’t know much about her at the time of those books, other than her being a hard worker and a computer whiz of sorts. By the end of Abrupt Changes, she hinted to me that she had a story to be told. 

As for Alex, I knew he had worked at Otero-Silva Investigations years prior to Deanne working there, but he left the firm to get his law degree. He lives to needle Deanne, and when he finds out she’s in trouble, he finally gets serious about exploring things with her.

Question 4: Was there a secondary character that helped this story come to life? Clint Ramsey, one of the investigators Deanne works with, plays a part in the story coming to life. He knows Deanne has a problem and forces her to confront it. He also tries to keep Alex away from her since Alex and Deanne don’t get along.

Question 5: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantser?  How does that help you create? I’m a complete pantser. It helps me because it gives me (and my characters) the freedom to figure out the story as we go.

Vickey Wollan – The Secret Santa Surprise

Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? There are so many cute details surrounding Christmas celebrations. They help me to create entertaining plots.

Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? I wanted to try to write in the young adult genre and needing thirty hours of community service to qualify for Florida’s Bright Futures college scholarship was the fact that got me started. 

Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? I wanted Yvette and Brad to be in opposing high school clicks so I could utilize the enemies to first date trope. The I used the professor archetype for Brad and the boss archetype for Yvette. Then I added personal quirks and wounds to create their motivation.

Question 4: Was there a secondary character that helped this story come to life? Absolutely, Big Red, the football captain with red hair, helps to create the conflict and provide backstory so the reader understands the relevance of the conflict. 

Question 5: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantster?  How does that help you create? I’m definitely a plotter. But while I’m bringing what I put in an outline to life the pantster in me come alive as well.

P.K. Brent – True Love Found

Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story?  Valentine’s Day is my birthday! I also have a heart-shaped birthmark.

Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? My first job, at age 16, was in an Italian bakery, so I know a lot about bakeries. I write paranormals and wanted extra sweet characters for romance anthology stories, thus fairies are the best choice. My 2020 anthology story featured a fairy, so I continue with fairies. Down the road I will feature a brownie.  These are very shy paranormal characters who sneakily live in a home and do cleaning and repairs but do not want to be seen.

Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? I have no idea!

Question 4: Was there a secondary character that helped this story come to life?  Yes! I plan to write every FCRW anthology story in this same world, each one featuring a 2ndary character from my current 2021 anthology story. My next story will feature my wealthy fairy woman, Faye, going broke and making it alone in the human world without her wealth and only her friends for support. She will rent the vacant apartment mentioned in my current story (in Marielle’s double house where Aunt Nina used to live).

Question 5: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantster?  How does that help you create?  I am a pantster.  Sob! I try to be a plotter but I am doomed to be a pantster. The plus side is my stories are extra creative and a little unusual. But I suffer! Due to spontaneity and lack of planning, I always have things to fix.

Maggie FitzRoy – Christmas Peril, Christmas Promise

Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? Christmas is for me the most romantic holiday of the year. It’s all about love.

Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? I write historical romance (American) and am now writing historical romantic suspense. So I needed a story that included love, danger, and Christmas. That takes place in the past. At a romantic location with snow. I live in Florida, so the ultimate Christmas romance for me includes snow. Christmas Peril, Christmas Promise takes place in December 1954 at a rural lodge in Maine.

Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? My hero is a private investigator, since my story is romantic suspense. And my heroine is a strong-willed heiress who realizes the man of her dreams is not who he seems, which puts her in danger.

Question 4: Was there a secondary character that helped this story come to life? Yes. The sister of my hero is a secondary character in this story, and she will be the heroine of a series I am planning to begin writing soon.

Question 5: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantser?  How does that help you create? I am a plotter. I create the plot and characters and a few-sentence working outline for each scene, so I know where I’m going as I write. It’s like laying out a map and deciding the key places I want to visit before reaching my destination. Then, once I actually start traveling, I learn a lot more about each place when I get to it, and am open to exploring it more, or veering off to somewhere else nearby that I hadn’t even known existed. So plotting for me allows me to relax when I write, because I know where I’m ultimately going—and how I’ll get there. With a lot of discovery and creative options along the way. 

Melody Johnson – Fated by Fire

Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? Fated by Fire is the third short story in my Witchy Business series, each romance occurring on Halloween night. This installment features two main characters: Jenavieve St. Clair, a young witch whose unnervingly accurate visions consistently cast Marcus Kyle as the harbinger of death and destruction, and Marcus, a powerful warlock of a rival coven. When Marcus stops to assist a stranded driver change a flat tire, the last person he expects to face is Jenavieve. Crossing paths with her is unsettling, but perhaps fate has intervened on his behalf, granting him the opportunity to prove to her that he’s just a man, not the monster that her visions predict him to be. What better holiday than Halloween to stage this magical, fated romance?

Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? As my backlog of novels can attest, I’m a huge paranormal and sci-fi romance fan. My Night Blood series features vampires, my Love Beyond series features aliens, and the reason I’m so drawn to the genre besides the obvious—danger, action, and adventure—is the world building. I love taking a beloved genre and putting my spin on it with my rules in a world of my creation. For a while now, I’ve been drawn to shows like Charmed and American Horror Story (I’m a huge TV and movie buff in addition to being a book worm!), and gothic romance is a genre adjacent to my paranormal alley. So inspired, I decided to create my own witchy series. 

Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? When I develop my main characters, the hero and heroine in particular, I always do so as a pair, so that I can mirror, balance and create conflict in their personalities and backstories. For Jen and Marcus in particular, I really wanted to explore the ideas of fate vs. freewill and the inaccuracy of first impressions. Jen met Marcus years ago in her visions, but never in person. In her mind’s eye, she sees him as a monster in a parody of Carrie, wearing the blood of his slaughtered witches and warlocks with trembling glee. But the adorable man who stops to assist her change a flat fire is the antithesis of what she expects. Likewise, Marcus is unnerved by Jen’s visions long before ever meeting her in person. Despite her predictions of doom and gloom, Marcus has no intension of hurting anyone. Their false preconceptions of one another allowed me as an author to really up the ante on their “enemies to lovers” romance.

Question 4: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantser?  How does that help you create? I’m a pantser who forces herself to plot. I’ve made the mistake of pantsing my way through an entire book, and the end result was not a pretty sight. In order to get from point A to a logical point B, I need to know what point B actually is, but how my characters get to that destination is typically discovered as I write it. Specifically, for Fated by Fire, I knew that Jen and Marcus would know of one another before physically meeting and that their forced proximity would spark feelings of fear and resentment. I knew that Marcus would be motivated to prove Jen wrong, and that Jen would need a powerful motivation, like a new vision of Marcus killing people at a Halloween party, to keep her glued to his side. However, I didn’t know how her vision would resolve in reality until I wrote the story and discovered the ending for myself.

Question 5: How was this story different compared to what you typically write? Paranormal romance is my go-to genre, but usually, I write full-length novels. Writing my Witchy Business short stories is both fun and challenging. Fun because writing them is a bit like a naughty affair, taking a break from the project I’m currently working on to return to a world I’m already in love with, but challenging because I have to develop a relationship, motivation, and high stakes, and find a satisfying resolution, in only thirty pages. In this limited space, no action or word can go wasted. Everything, from character description and their banter to setting and action, needs to drive the plot to its conclusion. Compared to the long-distance pace of writing a novel, writing short stories has the intensity of a sprint. It’s exhilarating, and I’m actually planning to use what I learned from this experience to infuse my full-length novels with a similar intensity. 

Abigail Sharpe – New Year’s Ex-pectations

Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? The new year is a time of resolutions and new beginnings, of hope and of promise.  A second chance romance seemed the perfect fit!

Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? Molly is the sister to Riley, the hero of Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy.  She spent so much time trying to find love for him and put herself on pause because of a painful divorce.  I always wanted a happy ending for her, and there could be no other hero for her other than the love of her life.

Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? Molly was easy, since she had been around for a few years.  Dustin was harder, and it took me a few iterations to get him right.  I wrote until I found what worked for them. 

Question 4: Was there a secondary character that helped this story come to life? Molly herself!  She’s a good sister, a good mother figure to her younger siblings, and had so much to give.  I couldn’t leave her hanging there, waiting and waiting.  This anthology gave me a great opportunity to get her ex-husband into gear. 

Question 5: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantster?  I need to know a few things about my characters before I get started, beyond eye color and where they grew up.  The two most important ones are the goal they have for the story (beyond falling in love) and what happened to them when they were younger that colors the way they see the world.  Other than that, I just write.

Barbara Whitaker – Thanks for the Doughnuts

Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? Thanksgiving evokes thoughts of family gathered around the table for a feast, but for a soldier on the front in 1944, who’d been living on K Rations, it was a lonely time. A visit from a Red Cross Clubmobile, especially during holidays, lifted their spirits.

Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? A dear friend told me once that when she met her husband, she didn’t like him at first. She said she couldn’t stand him until she fell in love with him. I thought it would make an interesting beginning to a love story.

Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? I read accounts of the women who manned the Red Cross Clubmobiles. Their strong personalities and determination to support the troops helped to create Faye, Marie and Delores. As for Cliff, I’ve read so much about the WWII soldiers and listened to their oral histories that it wasn’t hard to come up with a soldier for the story.

Question 4: Was there a secondary character that helped this story come to life? The other two Red Cross girls, Marie and Delores, added a lot to the story.

Question 5: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantster? I’m a little of both. I like to lay out the story all the way through, but not in a formal outline. Then I kind of “pants” my way through the scenes. It is a little messy and requires revisions but it works for me. 

Laura Salas – Love on Calle Ocho

Question 1: Why did you choose the holiday you wrote about in your short story? I chose Three Kings Day because I wanted to bring to light what I felt was an obscure holiday in the US. When I was growing up in Venezuela, school didn’t resume from Christmas break until after January 6 in observance of Three Kings Day. I was surprised to find out that school resumes in the US right after New Year’s Day. 

Question 2: What inspired you to write this short story? Love. I wanted a strong hero who would win and melt the heart of a wounded heroine. Of course, in the end they helped each other out, but isn’t that how love works? 

Question 3: How did you go about creating your two main characters? Their faces and their key personality traits came to me first. After those initial basic character sketches, I used Nina Harrington’s How to Plot Romance Fiction to work on their fears and wounds and on the romance story itself. 

Question 4: Was there a secondary character that helped this story come to life?  I’d say tío Gonzalo. His fun nature brought spice into the story.

Question 5: Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantster?  I am both. I must have the beginning, middle and end figured out, as well as the main characters, but everything else will come as I type.




First Coast Romance Writers, an affiliate of Romance Writers of America®, is an organization for both published and unpublished writers, as well as any individuals involved in the writing/publishing industry. The membership includes writers of all levels, from those working on their first manuscripts to award-winning authors

The chapter is dedicated to promoting excellence in romantic fiction through monthly meetings and workshops in a comfortable forum where published and unpublished writers share knowledge about the constantly evolving publishing industry.

FCRW strives to help writers become published and establish careers with innovative programs, networking opportunities and pertinent information on effective marketing techniques for members’ novels.


HOSTED BY:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.