I didn’t believe in Santa as a kid. In my home, Christmas was focused on the religious aspect. I clearly remember our church nativity plays. I did receive gifts for Christmas, and I remember going to one of those Santa photos in the mall. My favorite part of Christmas was going to get a real tree with my Dad. I loved the whole trip-picking a tree; the pine smell; fitting the tree it into the car. LOL One year I got one of those tacky dancing Santas for my Mom as a joke. My mother does full scale Martha Stewart Level decorating. I have a child and two cats, so it’s strictly dollar store ornaments around these parts. But we have cookies! Lots of cookies.
Telling a book lover to choose is a nearby impossible task. I’d just make the whole time capsule and underground bunker library which will hopefully last long past human descendants are a recognizable species.
All Tomorrow’s: this is a very strange yet wonderful SF piece about possible human futures. It’s for hardcore SF fans to read through and an acquired taste, but I think it should be around.
The Lord of the Rings: Arguably the entire fantasy genre started because of this.
1984/ Animal Farm: I’d pick one because it’s the same message really.
Parable Series/ Octavia Butler: because it’s eerily accurate predictions about many of the strains and social ills of her fictional future California are actually true.
Interesting Times/ Terry Pratchett: any of his discworld series but this is my favorite.
To be Taught if Fortunate/ Becky Chambers: I bought it this year and have already read it twice.
Nightfall/Isaac Asimov: because it’s the first SF novel I read and made me love the genre.
Dune/Frank Herbert: it’s not always the easiest read but it has influenced a lot of modern space opera.
Dexter Cole worked hard at his job as a personal chef. He pressed his hands down to tightly seal the container on one of his signature vegan soups. He hoped his client was eating as she should. Her immune system needed the boost that you got from salads made from fresh ingredients. He was grateful for his job. She gave him free reign of the kitchen and the menu as long as he agreed to come to her exclusively on Tuesdays and Fridays to prepare the week’s meals. She had exacting standards but was an excellent employer.
When he first gotten the referral he almost hadn’t believed it. The Angela Redmond. He was too young, but his father had been a fan of hers and everyone knew her Christmas hit. It was practically a standard when the holiday season rolled around. Apparently she’d played a the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past in one of millions of reimagined versions of A Christmas Carol. The movie itself hadn’t been anything memorable, but the song was.
No, he hadn’t asked for an autograph because that was a quick way to get fired. The good personal chef positions went to people who kept their mouths shut and did not invade the clients privacy.
Angela had asked him to prepare extra for the Christmas holidays. Not the main Christmas dinner which was a catered affair at some ballroom in the city, but a smaller dinner party on Christmas Eve so he had gone all out. Her daughter Charlotte was inviting a few friends of hers; a few notable members from one of the diva’s charity clubs; a mega church pastor and his wife. It was about a dozen people and the budget was more than generous.
Nature is always my first choice to recharge. I have several spots I like to visit. Usually walks, but lately I’ve gotten more interesting in cycling. Currently, I just have a regular street bicycle, but I am saving up to get a hybrid road bicycle ( and helmet!) to travel further. Once things open up and I get fully vaccinated (yes, I believe in getting vaccinated) I plan to cycle with a friend of mine who lives in another prefecture. Taking a bicycle ride with my daughter also helps to recharge. It’s a good mother-daughter activity and gives us some positive bonding time. The upheaval of the last year has been hard on her emotionally, so quality time is good.
I like baking cookies to recharge-but I am trying not to run to food every time I stress out. It gets to be a bad habit.
Reading is relaxing, and a particularly good book helps me recharge. I just finished The Thursday Murder Club, which was hilarious! A good comedy movie also helps me recharge. (Galaxy Quest, Dodgeball).
This week I’m continuing my Christmas mystery story of aging pop starlet Angela Redmond.
Impact, sphere, fashion, gesture, hobby
There was no denying Angela Redmond’s impact on music and fashion, Jeremy Oshima thought with a sigh, but why did she have to be so difficult to work with? He’d been standing outside in the cold for fifteen minutes. It was a nice porch, and it covered the cold wind, but still she could have called.
He was being paid handsomely to ghost write Redmond’s autobiography. It wasn’t his usually sphere of expertise. Jeremy specialized in true crime books-several of which had been optioned-under the name P.G. Grant. The main reason he agreed to this was because his publisher was looking for someone after three others had declined. He now knew why.
The car finally pulled up, Angela’s harried daughter Charlotte looked as if she wanted to keep driving and ram it up to the side of the house. He couldn’t blame her. He could only imagine the horror show a day out with Angela must be. He felt sorry for Charlotte. She didn’t strike him as having any friends, hobbies, or interests. Charlotte was the youngest of Angela’s children, at least officially. He’d done some digging around and found that might not be true. An interesting phone call with a man named Martin Quinn had revealed quite a bit about Ms. Angela Redmond that her carefully crafted persona had not revealed.
The maid ran out to help the daughter bring in the bags. Angela walked up to him and smiled. “I’m so sorry I’m late, “ she said. When you looked at her you would think it was sincere. Her smile was wide and her eyelashes fluttered, and she said it all so sweetly. He’d learned it was all and act but he played his role.
“We need to get started,” he said gesturing for her to go to their usual work room. It was a spacious study near the back of the house. It didn’t look as if it had really been used, to be honest, and he seriously doubted Angela had read any of the books. The maid would bring in some tea soon. It was the usual routine.
“It took us so long. The was so much to do. I went to the gallery to look over a few newer exhibits. Supporting local artists is passion of mine,” she went on for a while but Jeremy tuned most of it out as he set down his laptop. He’d take notes on paper while she talked because she hated him typing away. It was one of her many quirks.
He took out his latest legal pad where he had the name MartinQuinn, written and underlined. Might as well start with him first, he thought wickedly, and see how she reacts. This wasn’t the same as true crime but it was getting more interesting by the day.
Charlotte saw the light turn green and dashed across the crosswalk, feeling some of the eggnog latte swish out of her mug and down on her hands. She waited until she was safe on the other side, and sloppily tried to wipe of her right hand with the edge of her sweater. Not the best option, but she had no way to put it down. She drank it all down quick. She wished she had something stronger to drink-even though she knew full well alcohol did not agree with her.
It’s just a wreath. It’s just a little Christmas shopping with your mother.
Wasn’t this supposed to be joyous and exciting? Didn’t all those Lifetime movies show mother’s and daughter’s sharing heartfelt holiday secrets.
Her rucksack was on her back and she plunged back into the cool air conditioning of the Knots & Knits. Her mother was still there, of course, drumming her fingers on the wood counter as the woman behind it stared wide eyed.
“I was very specific with your manager about how I wanted them framed.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’m so sorry ma’am.”
The framed family portraits were only one of a long list of Christmas related purchases. Charlotte had no idea why the portraits were so important. Her mother, Angela, rarely had a holiday that wasn’t on the road when she was growing up. She’d lived with her dad and stepmom and spent every holiday with them. Her mother’s absence was barely noticed.
Until this year when her dad had suggested she spend the holidays with her mother. This was the biggest mistake of her life.
The strains of holiday music played in the background. It was faint, but she recognized her mother’s voice. Whatever her faults Angela Redmond’s soprano was the envy of angels.
“My daughter’s back finally,” her mother walked over to her. “ I need to send all the details and addresses…”
“ I put it all in your phone,” Charlotte sighed.
“Don’t sigh dear it’s not attractive,” her mother said sharply handing her phone over.
“What’s that on your sweater,” her mother hissed in her ear. “Coffee. I didn’t teach you better than to walk around with coffee stains.”
Clearly she’d been hoping against hope that it wouldn’t be noticed.
“I spilled it in the parking lot.”
“All over yourself. You smell like a dessert. I can’t believe this.” Her mother reached into her handbag.
“I can’t be expected to work this thing Charlotte. You do it.” She handed it over to, nodded to the harried woman- behind the counter-and walked down the next aisle.
Charlotte didn’t sigh. She bit her lip to keep from screaming as her mother high heels make a clicker clack retreat.
Emma heard the squeal of tires as her brother Michael finally pulled up. Finally. She almost thought he wouldn’t come. When he stepped out of his car, dressed in a clean white shirt and pants with clear-eyed and well rested, she was content. He had come. For now, they were all together.
There were too many people in the house, but Emma had spent all morning with her aunt and uncle getting ready. It was mostly family but lots of other people in the neighborhood had come around to join the fun with them on the new digital screen her husband had bought just for the occasion. Mom and Dad, of course, got to go to Texas and see her other brother launch, but the rest of them watched like everyone else. Her son had the streaming set up from his computer.
“You came,” Emma said, hugging her brother tight as he came in the door. He was too thin, she noticed as she put her arms around him. The older brother who used to pick her up and swing her around as a child now felt fragile under her touch. Tell me you’re really better. Tell me you’re well now Michael. She wanted to say but kept her mouth shut. It was the wrong time to digress into the should have beens and should have done’s. He was here now, right? That was all that mattered.
“Michael’s here,” she said pulling him into the main room. They gathered around him-the cousins he hadn’t seen in a while and the people from church who’d heard about him. The minister was older now with more gray in his hair and all he said was “glad to see you son.”
For a minute, she worried that Michael would lash out or run and she held her breath for those few uneasy seconds. But he only smiled.
“Glad to see you,” with a pat on the back in the tough male hugs. She wondered if the minister noticed how thin and frail he’d gotten. But if he did he said nothing. Or maybe he’s seen it before. These prodigal son’s returned – a little less than they used to be.
“I can’t believe my nephew is going into outer space,” Aunt Delia said trying to rearrange the throw pillows to give herself room on the sofa. Emma kind of winced as she just threw one on her floor and sat her bulk down making a huge dent in the middle.
“Actually he’s going into orbit which is not the same thing,” her son rigorously followed all news about his uncle’s upcoming mission. She was proud of that, but wished he’d learned more tact.
Micheal went over to his nephew, folding up his six foot frame and sitting down beside his nephew.
“You’re right,” he said.
“And you built the ship,” her son said.
“Only some,” he said in a soft voice with only the faintest of smiles, “only some. Can’t have my twin up there in space riding on a second rate craft.” Her son chuckled at that and for a moment, a moment of the most beautiful sound Emma had heard in years, Michael laughed too.
I’m back. Still working on my vampire. I like him, so maybe I’ll sit down and try to write a story. Maybe a M/M /vampire/cozy mystery hybrid.
Resort, time, rush, retreat, axis
Anaximander was getting impatient waiting for the sun to go down. The study library was cool and stacked with volumes of books from floor to ceiling. On any given day, he’d be more than happy to retreat into the corner, book in hand, and let the hours pass.
But now he had a potential thrall, and an adventure, and being stuck in here with others of his kind was less than thrilling. Most of these vampires were staid and respectable aka dull, and had no interest in venturing out until midnight. It’s not that they couldn’t. A vampire did not burn in the sunlight as per legend, but it was really, really uncomfortable and it dulled the senses. A vampire in the afternoon was blinded by the light and irritable. And the days lasted so long in the summer.
When had the axis of the vampire world shifted down south? Back in the days of old it was in gloomy European castles. In his day, the nightlife of New York or the seedier districts of Hollywood. Now, it was all New Orleans and various parts of Louisiana. He’d have never expected the the best vampire resorts would now be located in this region of the country. He’ d been born (back when he was human) in South Carolina and had fled as soon as possible; joining the rush of all the ‘colored’ folk as they were called then- to better lives in the Chicago, Harlem, or even California if you were lucky and good looking-which he was. He had a different name then, and was featured in a few of the motion pictures. It had been a very different time.
You would think being on a stakeout with a vampire would be easy, Oliver thought, as he pushed back the seat to give himself a little leg room. It was his friend’s Honda and a bit cramped. His partner in crime so to speak was the vampire Anaximander.
Anaximander was in the backseat lying perfectly still. He had on a green shirt and black slacks. Two hours ago he’d almost ruined the whole operation racing into the parking lot in a luxury classic car. Oliver had to remind him that it didn’t really blend in. The entire concept of the stakeout was to blend in.
“I don’t quite understand why we’re doing this Oliver,” Anaximander’s voice made him jump. The vampire didn’t move or breathe so it always startled him,
“I need answers. Mr. Hargreaves was murdered. I was shot and coincidentally Mrs. Hargreaves takes a fatal tumble down her steps? Nope. I don’t believe in that many coincidences.”
“Maybe the amulet really is cursed,” Anaximander said.
“I don’t believe in curses.” Not generally. There were always stories shared among art thieves such as himself about cursed objects but those were usually of the angry mummy variety. This amulet was a tacky object made of emeralds by a dead Texas billionaire with more money than taste.
“And until recently you didn’t believe in vampires but here we are,” he smile his roguish grin.
They’d agreed to meet and do surveillance of the Hargreaves estate together because for reasons Oliver still didn’t quite understand, Anaximander felt Oliver was fated to be his thrall. As such the vampire had taken it upon himself to ‘guard and protect in timeless devotion’ as per vampire code. Anaximander was devastatingly handsome and Oliver was definitely attracted-but it was too much to take in. He’d hold off for now.
But he couldn’t seem to get Anaximander to stop guarding him.
Oliver groaned as he tried to sit up. A sharp pain hit him. He tried to ignore it. He sat up and the pain raced back down through him. He lay back down. It hurt worse than he thought.
He’d never been shot before. He’d never been beaten to a pulp. He’d never been left for dead. And all three had happened in what was the worst afternoon of his life. He’d taken a foolish risk trying to tail the Hargreaves brother. He’d never do that again.
Now that he looked around he realized he was surrounded by fluffy pillows and thick covers. There was a window open to let in some cool air, but was now just cold. Very cold. He finally noticed he absence of any clothing other than a pair of underwear. What the heck? And they didn’t even look like his.
He struggled to remember. He was with Anaximander. He remembered a mysterious doctor pulling the bullet out of him. As Anaximander was whispering in his ear. “I’ll heal you.” There had been a short pinch to his neck. Teeth. A warm sensation flooded his body. He word “Thrall,” echoed around in his head.
Oliver took a deep breath, determined to sit up again. His throat was parched. His bladder was full. He decided the latter had priority. He winced and yelped in pain this time but pushed through it to get his feet to the floor. He stood up just as the door swung open.
“You must be careful,” it was the vampire Anaximander. “Your situation is delicate.”