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Holiday at Magnolia Bay

HolidayAtMagnoliaBay-SMALLThe holiday season for me is all about home, friends and family. I love decorating my house with items my family and I have collected throughout our travels. The big family dinners and parties with friends make the season. Growing up, I felt a little cheated out of the Hallmark Christmas because my dad was in the military and, more often than not, our holiday consisted of my family of five and whatever pets might be living with us. Don’t get me wrong, I loved “growing up military” but I always felt sad those years—which were most of them—when we couldn’t get together and celebrate with extended family.

This is probably why I can relate to Jenna Huntley, my main character in Holiday at Magnolia Bay. Jenna is a military brat herself, a woman looking for a place to call “home.” She finds it in the small coastal town just south of Charleston, South Carolina. Magnolia Bay is the one place that’s been a constant in her life, the summer vacation destination she and her family visited every year while Jenna was growing up. Now a marine biologist, she works at the town’s Sea Turtle Rescue Center.

Just to make Jenna’s life a little more interesting, I threw in a love interest who’s actually a Navy SEAL. Jenna has sworn off the military life—which means all military men—but the sexy Lieutenant Commander is very potent. Of course she’s attracted to the one guy who she’s vowed to stay away from. Yeah, I’m evil that way.

Drew’s not interested in family, though. In fact, he’s pretty much isolated himself from relationships with everyone in his life because he fears that if something happens to him, there will be collateral damage. He’s set on being alone the rest of his life. Or so he thinks.

sea-turtleBut I couldn’t leave their HEA to fate—or sea turtles, as the case may be—someone had to do a little meddling. I chose an octogenarian spinster for this. The character of Evie Song is named after a fan named Evie who also happens to be a very lively senior citizen herself. I try to name a minor character in each of my books after someone I know but Evie needed to have a bigger role. I’ve never met Evie, but she treats me like she she’s known me all of my life. She sends lovely fan letters and hand sells my books to everyone she meets. If anyone deserves to be immortalized as a character in one of my books, it’s Evie.

You see, Evie, and the friends I’ve collected along my life’s journey, are as much my family as the people I’m actually related to. All those holidays spent on military bases without family? We celebrated with a tribe of friends around us instead. And when we finally did get to celebrate with our relatives we enjoyed those times and savored the memories.

I hope you enjoy Drew and Jenna’s story. As a military brat myself, I love sharing with readers the complexity of life in the military, whether it’s serving in the armed forces or loving someone who’s served. Times are a little crazy right now in our world and I ask that you keep those who serve and their loved ones waiting at home in your hearts.

Grab a copy to curl up with this holiday season!

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O’ Christmas Tree, Are You Real?

charlie brown christmas treeChristmas is about traditions.  I love everything about the holidays: The music, the lights, the food, the decorations, the trees.  Except this year, the whole tree thing has been a little ruined for me.  And, no, I’m not talking about someone in the White House deeming it more politically correct to call the trees “Holiday Trees” and not “Christmas Trees”.   IMG_7967That would be a political rant and this is not the place for that.  No, I’m talking about the paradigm shift regarding the Christmas tree in the Solheim house.  You see, for the first time in 21 years, we’ve gone…artificial.

It pains me to even type it.

This was not a decision made lightly, but more for the welfare of the two men in our house who seem to be unable to tolerate even the faintest scent of pine.  Really, the sneezing and the coughing the Diva and I must endure became so annoying last year that we insisted on a fake tree this Christmas.  Well, one of us did.  The other thought, since her brother would only be home for three days, he could just stay in his room.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this tree is very pretty.  Aside from the fact it smells like plastic.  Yankee Candle to the rescue.  It’s nine feet tall and when it’s lit with the 900 clear lights, it looks like the real thing from the street.  And, our fake Balsam tree was really easy to assemble, light, and decorate.  No sap to peel off the hands or scrapes to bandage from the sharp needles.  Best of all, you can bend the branch to prevent the heavy ornaments from slipping off and shattering on the hard wood floor.  All pluses during this harried season.IMG_7960

But, there’s something besides the smell that’s missing:   The experience of bundling up kids and the dog to go out in search of the perfect Christmas tree.  Some years, the task was easy.  Others, our task took us to more than one tree farm before eventually stopping at the garden center on the way home and getting a tree from the lot.  But each trip added to the special memory of that particular Christmas. So what if the puppy threw up the car and we had to ride two hours home enduring the stench.  Or, if shrink-wrapped inside our tree was a uninvited holiday guest with whiskers and beady eyes.  Those were part of the good times that make up the memories of Christmas past.

IMG_7962Christmas present is filled with busy kids—I mentioned number one is working right up until December 23—and an ailing dog who likely couldn’t get in the truck to make the trek to a tree farm.  So it’s on to new traditions.  IMG_7965Our treasure trove of ornaments—some hand-made in Sunday school or preschool, many acquired during our travels—look just fine on our new, fake tree.  And I think Santa must have been feeling a little sorry for me because I’ve even found a few needles scattered here and there.

Of course, those could be from that devious little Elf on the Shelf…

How about you?  Is your Christmas tree real or artificial?

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