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“Giving thanks is one way to count your blessings—today and every day of the holiday season.” Debra Salonen

Birthday Brunch at the Ahwahnee

The premier hotel in Yosemite National Park is the Ahwahnee. (Briefly renamed the Majestic during a legal dispute, it’s now back to its real name.)

Photo credit Colleen Slagter

Our dear friends, Fred and Colleen (of beach house fame), celebrate November birthdays, too. So we decided to meet at the Ahwahnee for a joint November birthday brunch. The hotel is renowned for its impressive buffet and I hadn’t tried it before.

Advice: go hungry! We each tried a plethora of delicacies including: eggs Benedict, bagels with smoked salmon and all the toppings, individual omelets, sliced prime rib and/or ham, impeccable bacon, a dozen or so veggie dishes, the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever tasted, a complete salad bar and way-too-caloric dessert bar. Since I’m not a food photographer, I didn’t bother trying to capture any shots. Besides, I was too busy eating.

Afterward, we set off for a stroll toward Mirror Lake (now, empty). The sky was as gorgeous as it comes, and the autumn weather perfect. Paul and I left to return home, but Fred and Colleen spent another night in their Ahwahnee cabin (not the one President Obama stayed in, though 😉) I’ve titled this photo: Sitting where a sitting President may have sat.

And later that evening, Fred and Colleen returned to the dining room for their birthday day dinner. Isn’t this romantic?

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.


This week check out Annie Jones’s THEIR FIRST NOEL and Barbara McMahon’s THE CHRISTMAS LOCKET.


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Corrie Bennington's Christmas list: Find her father, see snow, give grumpy but gorgeous Andy MacFarland a magical Christmas. Andy MacFarland only has one wish: To reopen the Snowy Eaves Inn by Christmas Eve. There's no time for gingerbread houses, snowglobes, tree lighting... or Corrie. Until his matchmaking little sister intervenes...

       “Do the donkey sound again!” Greer squirmed on a stool pulled up to the island in the inn’s spacious kitchen.
       Andy lowered his head. His shoulders lifted and then fell. He groaned. Then he seemed to reach down into the depths of what Corrie decided was the place where his good-guy-who-always-tries-to-put-things-right-and-doesn’t-want-anyone-to-see-him-look-silly met his adoring big-brotherness. He lifted his head as he let out a comical “Eee-yaw! Eee-yaw!”
       Greer clapped her hands and giggled.
       Corrie couldn’t help laughing too. She also couldn’t fight back feeling touched by the sweetness of a tough guy like Andy so willing to prove he could help his little sister reenact the nativity play. She pressed her lips together. Since the first time she had walked into this inn her emotions had gone round and round in an amazing mix of joy, anxiety and nostalgia for things she’d never known.
       And hope. Hope for snow. Hope for finding her father. Hope for finding her own way. Hope for…
       She didn’t even know what she hoped for, only that seeing Andy like this made her want that elusive unnamed thing more than anything she’d ever hoped for before.
       Andy laughed and gave Greer a hug. His gaze flicked up and his eyes met Corrie’s.
       Her breath stopped. She thought she smiled. Maybe she twitched. She knew she blushed by the rush of heat she felt in her face. Flustered, she spun around to hunch over her work to place the last piece of the gingerbread roof in place. “Well, you’ve done it again, Andy.”
       “Come to my rescue.” She stood back to reveal the basic form of the inn held together with thick white royal icing. “Your modifications made all the difference. Everything fits and so far nothing has buckled, slid, collapsed or tilted. Everything is just where it’s supposed to be.”
       “Feels that way, doesn’t it?” he murmured in a way that made her turn her head to meet his gaze.
       Her breath caught in the back of her throat to find him looking, not at the newly constructed inn but directly at her.
       “When do we start decorating?” Greer hoped down off her stool and came close to peer at the inn. She stuck out the tip of her tongue and reached her hand out slowly.
       “What’s this ‘we’ short stuff?” Andy intercepted her by looping his arm around her midsection before she could touch the inn.
       “First things first. We have to make sure it holds together before I start with the fondant, marshmallows, coconut flakes and all that other stuff.”
       “Wow, fondant? Marshmallows? Coconut flakes? Other stuff?” Greer's expression seemed to grow more dreamy with every addition she imagined.
       Andy lifted his sister up and back. She squirmed, more as if she wanted to get a better look than to make an escape. Her legs began to swing with her small feet kicking slightly.
       “I think your inn stands a better chance of holding together if it doesn’t have to share the same space as my little sister here.”
       Corrie wiped her hands on the corner of her apron. “Is that your way of suggesting I get it out of here as soon as possible?”
      “Just the opposite. Suggesting I should get a certain somebody out of here as soon as possible.”
       “I know who you’re talking about.” Greer jabbed her thumb into her chest. “And I only wanted to help decorate.”
       Andy settled her on the floor again and she rushed up to the counter to look longingly at the basic structure of the contest entry inn.
       “It’s no fair.” Greer raised her eyes from counter level to Andy then to Corrie. “I haven’t gotten to decorate anything this year. Not even a Christmas tree. Dumb ol’ renovations. Dumb ol’ inn.”
       Corrie looked up at Andy and without saying a word as much as demanded he explain why that was.
       “The place is such a… I don’t even know where I’d put…” He ran his hand back through his hair. “There hasn’t been any time.”
       Corrie stole a side-long glance at her drying inn then folded her arms over her chest and lifted her chin to challenge the man’s excuses. “There’s now.”
       “Yes!” Greer’s little fist shot up in the air. She started to jump, but caught herself and just did a little wiggle instead.
       Corrie laughed. “And as someone who has spent the better part of the last couple months thinking about decking the halls of this inn, I have a few ideas where to put a Christmas tree.”

Stay in touch with Annie Jones: www.facebook.com/anniejones.author

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Zach doesn't find the homecoming he expects when he pulls out all the stops to get home for Christmas. Chasing after Caitlin is not how he planned to spend his holiday. Things have a way of going off track, unless a determined man can find a way to change the past. It’ll take a miracle to bridge the gap between them. Will the locket prove to be the key? Or will the new year find them going their separate ways once again—this time forever?

       Caitlin Brandenburg drove swiftly through the Virginia countryside anxious to reach her destination. She ignored the rows of trees lining the road, raising their barren branches to the winter sky. It was a beautiful day—cold, clear and sunny. She should have been enjoying the scenery, but heartache was her companion and she never gave a thought to anything but reaching the house at the end of the journey.
       The place she'd loved as a child and sought it's comfort to escape to now that things were unraveling.
       She’d left Washington, D.C., that morning after months of soul searching. It wasn’t easy walking out on a marriage. Yet for a woman married six years, it hadn't been as hard as she expected. Out of all that time, her husband had only been home a total of one year, seven months, two weeks and three days. She’d counted it up.
       She’d spent two summers in Europe, to be closer Zach. But even then, he’d rarely been able to spend more than a few days at a time with her.
       What kind of marriage was that? For all intents and purposes she was a single person unable to have a normal social life because of a legal tie to a man half a world away.
       Time to change all that.
       She felt as if she were cutting a part of herself out with a dull knife.
       Caitlin noted the highway sign flashing by. She was drawing closer to her turnoff. The exit that would take her to the house her aunt Sally had left to her upon her death last summer.
       Zach came home for the funeral. That added three days to the tally. Then he’d left. She hadn’t wanted him to go, had begged him to stay, but some skirmish captured the world’s attention and off he went to report it.
       He'd been a news correspondent for a dozen years, always in some hot spot—whether because of a natural disaster or man-made war. She should be used to it. But she'd wanted him to stay just a little longer and he'd deemed the news more important than his wife's request.
       Aunt Sally’s death had been the catalyst for this final decision. She'd been Caitlin’s last living relative. There was no one else. And Caitlin wasn't getting any younger. If she wanted children to live on after she was gone, she needed to do something about it soon.
       She’d talked to Zach several times on Skype this fall, e-mailed him almost daily—at least at first. He didn’t want to discuss family matters long distance. Wait until he came home, he said. And then he hadn't returned home—even when she asked him to make an effort for Christmas.

Stay in touch with Barbara McMahon: www.facebook.com/AuthorBarbaraMcMahon

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 shop Black Friday sales? Y or N?

The overwhelming reply was NO. I do applaud those daring few who venture out to brick and mortar stores on the Friday after Thanksgiving, but I will be home putting up my tree. 😉

My two randomly selected winners this week are:

Ollie Woods – NO
Astrogirl – NO

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


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

(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.)

Thanks for keeping in touch. As the hectic holiday season begins, remember: Breathe deeply and often. 😉


Next week: Let’s Build a House, the final pair of snippets: Jean Brashear and me, plus“Ghosts” from Holiday Books Past, Part 1.



Copyright © 2019 Debra Salonen