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Habitat for Humanity is one of my favorite community-based charitable organizations. It’s also the vehicle that re-introduces my hero and heroine in MONTANA BLUEPRINT FOR LOVE. And, although I’ve donated to this great cause in the past, I’ve never actually participated in a build…until now.

Let’s Build a House The Movie:


My second reason for wanting to help is because the family being gifted this new house is my granddaughter Daisy’s stepmom, Sarah (on the left in collage below). I couldn’t think of a more deserving family and I’m so happy and excited for them!!

The work will continue for months to come. If you’d like to know more about Habitat Mariposa, you can check it out here: MariposaHabitat4Humanity

Book “Ghosts” of Holidays Past

As promised, I want to shine the spotlight on a couple of my backlist holiday books—and share some insider secrets. First up, MONTANA MIRACLE.

Here’s something you don’t know about this book. I wrote it twice. First, the version that is available on the market right now, and a second adaptation that is more “Hallmark-friendly.”

What’s the difference?

For one thing, the hero’s backstory is different. I love to write about wounded heroes. That story line isn’t as easy to sell to a format that favors the less-depressing aspects of life. I’m not being critical. For a company to be successful they have to know their market and give their viewers what they want. And guess what? Softening that backstory was surprisingly easy. Alas, even with that change, the story didn’t sell to Hallmark. Perhaps because the heroine is a single mom of a mixed-race teenage daughter and a pastor. 😉 Yep, I like to make things difficult for myself.

That said, I’ve always loved the original version. I love these characters and their connection to my very first Tule Publishing book: Montana Cowgirl.

Here’s a snippet that made me smile.

Montana Miracle © All Rights Reserved

       "Knock. Knock."
      Sam spun around so quickly she nearly upset the rickety wooden office chair. "Gage. I didn't think you were working here today. Don't you have people coming to look at some old cars?"
       "Fell through. I brought Dallas with me to finish up the siding while I worked on the lighting, but..." He held up a low-voltage light she'd bought a month or so earlier. "The casing on this one is broken."
       He walked to the desk and set the unit in front of her.
       Sam's heart rate went a little crazy. His presence filled the tiny room and nearly overwhelmed her senses. Fresh air and spicy aftershave. Outdoor chill still clung to his jacket, but heat from his hands and the look in his eyes countered it. She could tell he hadn't forgotten how close she came to losing both mind and morals Sunday night.
       She'd given herself a stern lecture after he left, and she intended to keep her head firmly attached to her shoulders from now on. After all, it wasn't as if they had any shot at a future together.
       Shoulders straight, back stiff, she examined the dark gray plastic cylinder.
       "These should be waterproof. This one is cracked." Gage leaned over her to point out the hairline fracture near the base of the unit.
       "Damn. Do we need all six? Maybe five would be okay."
       "No," he said emphatically. "I'm done settling. You bought six; you're getting six. I already called Paul Zabrinski and told him about the problem. He said he'd throw in some conduit for free to make up for the drive."
       She stared at the tiny crack. "Okay." She looked up. "Th...thanks," she said, nearly misplacing the word completely when she connected with the intensity of his gaze.
       Longing. Need. Desire.
       Were those what she saw in his eyes or was she projecting her own feelings onto him?
       She licked her suddenly dry lips. No making out. He's leaving in two lousy weeks. Be smart for once in your life.
       Her voice shook, but she managed to say, "I really appreciate your help, Gage."
       Was that businesslike enough?
       His gaze lingered on her mouth a heartbeat or two, but he didn't swoop in and kiss her the way her uncooperative body wanted. He took a step back. "Is there anything else you need while I'm in Marietta?"
       Think. Yes. What? A giant box of condoms? Stop it, dummy. Not happening, so quit. Just quit.
       His beautiful brows went up in a "Well...I'm waiting” look.
       "No," she said, but her gaze went to the calendar. "I mean, yes. I could use two new cookie sheets and maybe a few cute cookie cutouts if you can find some. Makayla and I are going to my cousin Meg's after church on Sunday to decorate cookies."
       She held up one finger. "That reminds me. Meg and Hank need someone to ranch-sit on the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas. I told you about them. They're the ones who offered to take your horses, remember? The family is leaving for Hawaii on Monday and their caretaker can't get there until Wednesday."
       She took a breath and added, "He's paying a hundred dollars a day. I thought you might be interested."
       Gage gave his usual noncommittal shrug. "Sure. Why not? Have them shoot me a text with the details. But I'd better get going or I won't be back before dark. I'd really like to wrap up this job tomorrow, and I still have the roof to do."
       She stood. "I'll walk you out. How's everything working out with Dallas?"
       "He's a great kid. Better than some I've met lately."
       She didn't know what that meant, but he changed the subject by asking if she had her cast lined up for the play.
       "I do, thanks to you. Once the manger began to take shape, I had three women contact me about playing Mary."
       "Cool," he said, holding the stairwell door for her. "Who'd you pick?"
       "Lisa Gamble. She's young and I pray to God she's not too flighty, but I picked her because she's bringing her own Joseph--her fiancé, Adam."
       "Nice," he said, pretending to wipe sweat from his brow.
       "Mary #2 will be on standby, but she's only available two of the days because she's never missed a Marietta Holiday Parade. Not once in her fifty-eight years," Sam added, slowly so he'd get her point.
       "Whoa. I always pictured Mary as younger than fifty-eight when she had Jesus."
       "Ya' think?"
       "How 'bout Mary #3?"
       She made a wobbly gesture with her hand. "Her application came via email and included a photo of a young Jessica Alba-esque face. Since the applicant hasn't followed up with a phone call, as I requested, I've decided #3 is a prankster using the real Jessica Alba's photo."
       "Bummer. She'd make a pretty Mary."

If you haven’t read MONTANA MIRACLE, here’s your chance. I’d love to hear what you think. 😉

Purchase MONTANA MIRACLE here!

As promised, here’s another installment of snippets from our 8-book HOLIDAY HEROES collection, which includes complete romance stories from New York Times and USA Today authors Lisa Mondello and Jean Brashear, with award-winning and bestselling authors Rogenna Brewer, Dee Davis, Annie Jones, Kay Lyons, Barbara McMahon, and…me.

Last week was Annie Jones’s THEIR FIRST NOEL and Barbara McMahon’s THE CHRISTMAS LOCKET.

This week is our final installment: the always amazing Jean Brashear and me.

Copyright © All Rights Reserved

Gib Douglas has been on the road a long time, with no place to really call home. When he pays a Christmas visit to relatives in Sweetgrass Springs, the last person he expects to encounter is the girl he loved with all his heart, the girl who’d promised to marry him and love him forever…until she betrayed him and married someone else.

Dulcie Maguire gave up her dreams so that Gib could follow his all those years ago. She made a decent life for herself while watching him soar to success with great pride, never expecting to see him again. Now widowed, she's in dire straits with four children depending on her, when into her life walks Gib again—and she realizes that she’s never gotten over him.

But the man he’s become is not the boy she once knew—and he may never forgive her, once he knows the secret she’s been concealing.

       "Did you know when you made the call for two tires and a splash at Phoenix that it would lock you into the points lead?"
       Gib glanced over at the speaker, a young girl of maybe twelve or thirteen, he'd guess, wearing his team's cap with her dark ponytail sticking out the back. Pretty insightful question for a kid. "No," he admitted. "But we needed to get off pit road ahead of the 87 car."
       "Is it true that all the teams in your shop get victory bonuses, no matter which team wins?" Her eyes were blue and slightly tilted up at the corners. Somehow they seemed familiar.
       He nodded. "I think it's a good policy."
       "It seems odd to me. You're racing against the others in your shop."
       "It's not an easy balance," he admitted. Tempers could fly in his very competitive business, and no one was more driven to win than him, but he couldn't lead a team if he couldn't control himself.
       "So after a race, when your team loses and—"
       "Torie!" A younger African-American boy skidded to a halt beside her. "Mom says come eat. The rest of us are nearly finished."
       The girl named Torie looked exasperated. "Not yet, Andre," she whispered fiercely.
       "You're gonna be in trouble," Andre said. "We have to get Bobby home soon, you know."
       "I know, but I just need to—" Her cheeks were fiery red. "Don't you know who this is?" she muttered.
       Gib crouched down to the boy's level. "It's my fault," he said, extending his hand for a shake. "Hi, Andre. I'm Gib Douglas, crew chief of the No. 91 car. Your sister and I were just talking racing."
       The boy took his hand but rolled his eyes. "That's practically all she ever talks about." Then his gaze widened. "The 91—wow! You're the champions!"
       "We are," Gib agreed.
       "That's really cool," Andre said. Then he frowned. "But I'm supposed to bring her back. It's a school night, so we have to get home. Our mom's right over there." He pointed behind Gib.
       "Well, I don't want to get Torie in trouble." Gib rose. "You suppose it would help if I explained?"
       Torie's eyes were the wide ones now. "Would you?"
       Gib glanced at his aunt and uncle. They nodded and smiled. "You go right ahead, son," his Uncle Raymond said. "We'll get a booth but wait to order."
       "I won't be a second," he promised. "Andre, how about you lead us?" He glanced at Torie and winked.
       "Sure!" Andre took off like a shot.
       "Slow down—" Torie ordered, then sighed as the boy did exactly the opposite.
       "So you follow racing," Gib began. "When did you start?"
       She ducked her head shyly. "I can't remember when I didn't. I watched with my dad when I was little. I've seen nearly every one of your races." She smiled up at him. "I want to be in NASCAR someday."
       "As a driver?" he asked. "There are more women on the track now than ever."
       "Drivers aren't the most important part of the team," she insisted. "They come and go. I'd like to own a team."
       Gib's eyebrows flew upward. "That's quite a goal you've got there."
       She slanted him a decidedly sassy look. "You don't believe I can?"
       Gib laughed and clapped her on the shoulder. "I'd be a fool to bet against you, I'm beginning to think." They traded smiles. "So do you go to the races much?"
       Those eyes that seemed so familiar darkened. "I've never been to one." She shrugged. "My mom can't afford it." Her features grew determined. "But I'm saving my money for the spring Texas race. Mom doesn't like racing, but she won't let me go alone. If I can save enough for all of us to have tickets, I'm hoping I can change her mind." She glanced ahead. "Uh-oh."
       "Young lady, you know we have to go soon."
       That voice. Gib went very still.
       "But Mom—" Torie protested. "This is—"
       Even as Gib was turning to face the woman who'd spoken, something deep in his gut was telling him her identity before he ever took a look.
       And when he did, his heart stumbled, even as the ashes of anger and hurt sparked to life again. The curly brown hair was shorter now, but the eyes—her daughter's eyes—still possessed the power to level him. To strike straight at his soul.
       She stood there, holding the hands of a small Asian girl and an undernourished little boy. Her face had lost all color. "Gib." Her voice was barely a whisper.
       He wanted to hate her for breaking his heart. Wanted to make her explain why she'd betrayed him.
       But "Hello, Dulcie," was all he could manage.

Stay in touch with Jean Brashear: www.facebook.com/AuthorJeanBrashear

Copyright © All Rights Reserved

Man up and come out of hiding—or the dream dies.

As the dreaded holidays approach, Rufus Miller breaks his golden rule: silence. Sentinel Pass’s resident recluse may be a social outcast with rusty people skills, but with his late brother’s legacy hanging in the balance, he’ll try anything to sell his Dream Houses—the rustic, three-dimensional “dream catchers” he creates from branches and bark. To fully engage the Christmas market, he requires a marketing ninja. Rachel Grey drives a Porsche and dresses like a runway model who made a wrong turn at Denver, but her positivity could woo a hermit crab from its shell. Maybe she’s the answer to a wish he’s never allowed himself to make.

Is her new client a living, breathing Sasquatch—or Santa Claus in the making?

Rachel Grey’s career re-boot in the Black Hills of South Dakota requires a big, splashy marketing campaign. Discovering this year’s “must have” Christmas gift—a novel, one-of-a-kind sort of “wishing jar” to hold secrets, hopes and dreams written on rolled slips of paper—could be just the ticket. Convincing backwoods artisan and self-imposed outcast Rufus Miller to shed his disguise and rejoin humanity brings unexpected benefits—like falling in love. Until Rufus’s past—and true identity—threatens to ruin everything.

       Looking at Rachel, he wondered what his life would have been like if he’d gone the normal route: college, marriage, kids and career. Fame and fortune didn’t guarantee happiness. That much he knew for certain.
       “A good day all around, wouldn’t you say?” she said, joining him with a satisfied smile on her face as Clive’s truck pulled out of the driveway.
       He agreed but didn’t say so.
       “When’s the party?”
       Her slight hesitation made him think she might be regretting their bargain. “Tomorrow night. Sixish. Not much time, huh? Do you…need anything?” The pink in her cheeks from the chilly breeze turned a slightly deeper shade. “Like clothes? This isn’t black tie or anything, but my dress is sorta glitzy. I wouldn’t want you to feel out of place.”
       She was beautiful when she was flustered. She had no way of knowing he had an entire walk-in closet filled with high-end designer clothes, including shoes that cost more than the entire shipment that just left.
       She clapped her hands to her face. “Oh, pooh. Don’t listen to me. Wear whatever you like. And you don’t have to shave if you don’t want to. Really. That was rude and insensitive on my part. I must have been channeling Mom. I’m thankful you agreed to go with me.”
       Rufus ran his fingers over his beard. He hadn’t intentionally set out to create a new persona when he moved here, but as his hair grew back after his chemo treatments, he’d found comfort in the normalcy it provided. Long hair hid his scars; a beard made him look less gaunt after the considerable weight loss. Now, both were conveniences that kept people at bay. Everyone except Rachel.
       “I’ll shave.”
       She still looked worried. “My mother tends to put a lot of stock in appearances, but I don’t. At least, that’s what I’d like to believe. So, please, don’t change a single thing about yourself for my sake.” She reached out and touched his arm. “And I promise to do my best not to let her hurt your feelings.”
       That made him smile. She was worried about him. When was the last time someone worried about how he felt? He couldn’t remember.
       “I lived in New York. Thick skin comes with the territory.”
       Her relief was obvious, but he could tell she still had reservations. He could have cited examples of the reviews he’d received over the years:
       “His nose is too large.”
       “His ears are too small.”
       “His ass is great but there’s a tiny bit of muscle bulk on his upper thigh I’d like him to lose. By Friday.”
       The last edict had been issued by an art director on a Wednesday. Rufus had laughed. Marianne had actually called around to see if there was such a thing as instant liposuction of muscle.
       Rachel shifted from side to side, drawing his attention to the fact she wasn’t dressed in five layers of wool, as he was. She wore black pants and boots, but she’d left her jacket in the shop. Her Nordic design sweater had nice lines but didn’t look very warm.
       “Cup of tea?” he asked, his voice catching slightly.
       She hadn’t been inside the main house since that accidental-naked-bathtub moment.
       Her gaze shot toward the porch. “Oh. Uh…no, thanks. I think I’ll head into Rapid. A few last-minute gifts for my future nephews.”
       Kat’s sons. Rufus had seen them from a distance. They looked like nice kids. The younger one reminded him of his brother.
       He walked beside her as they hurried toward the shop. Curious, he asked, “What are you buying them?”
       “Mother got them each a new electronic something or other. She wanted me to pick out some games for them, but I haven’t been a kid for a long time. I told her I had something else in mind.”
       She made an adorable face that looked pretty kidlike to him. “I don’t, of course. I’m hoping something will jump out at me when I get to the store.”
       “Do they like sports or fishing? Those were my go-to gifts for my brother.”
       She brightened.
       “Fishing poles. That’s a great idea. But if it flops, I’m blaming you.”
       To his surprise, Rufus found he didn’t mind. In fact, it felt good to be part of something. Even something as small as giving the wrong advice for a Christmas present.
       Had he been missing that kind of connection for a while or had meeting Rachel been the catalyst for change? He didn’t know, but he did know that he was looking forward to this party.

Connect with Deb at: www.facebook.com/DebraSalonenAuthor

Purchase HOLIDAY HEROES now!
Kindle | Nook | Kobo | Apple Books

DON’T FORGET: This collection will only be available until January 15th.

Last week’s Q&A was: Do you put up a Christmas tree? Y or N?

My answer was yes—like a great number of you! But my little tree isn’t in the same league as my friend Jackie, who hosts a “Ladies Holiday Luncheon” every year. Her tree is sporting 385 ornaments. Wow, right?

My two randomly selected winners this week are:

Anna Smith – YES
Jennifer Garcia – YES

(Anna and Jennifer congrats. Please email me your pick of either a $5 Starbucks or a $5 Amazon gift card.)


This week’s Q&A: A friend and I joke about this debate every year, so please help settle the question: Is DIE HARD a “Christmas” movie—Yes or No? 😉

(Two winners will be chosen by random drawing to receive either a $5 Starbucks gift card or a $5 Amazon gift card. Please reply the usual ways: email or on my DebraSalonenAuthor Facebook page.)

Hold on to your Santa hats—and sanity, December is here!


Next week: Ghosts from Holiday Books Past, Part 2.



Copyright © 2019 Debra Salonen