One of the things I love about writing Christmas stories is the lack of stress on my part. I don’t have to worry that these packages won’t be in the mail on time or worse that the recipients won’t like what I’ve chosen. My characters are the ones who need to get those cards selected, addressed, stamped, and to the post office. In addition, it costs me nothing, at least if you don’t count the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to come up with the ideas for cards, gifts, and of course the food.

In Forever, Book 3 of my Spy vs. Spook series, (I’ll be giving away a free e-book of this novel) the penultimate chapter is My Christmas Always, and it touches on all these things.

Mark Vincent, spy extraordinaire, talks about the cards he’s gotten. The Boss (and yeah, it’s in caps *g*) gives him a simple white card with a cardinal on a pine branch in the upper middle. Included is Mark’s bonus, along with the notice that he’s now Director of Interior Affairs. Granger (the cross-dressing spy) sends him one that shows Santa with his red trousers down around his ankles, his coat covering the important bits, and a big grin, with the words Oral sex is always a great last-minute gift. Matheson and Theo (the agent who works under him and his former landlord) send a card with Santa and his sleigh hanging off an outhouse, and Santa yelling, “I said the Schmidt house, goddammit!” (I actually have that card. *cough*)

There are lots more cards, from Quinton Mann, Mark’s lover, from Portia, Quinn’s mother, from Mark’s family, and other people he knows and cares about. (and shhh. You didn’t hear me say anything about him doing anything so sappy!) But let’s get to the gifts.

Mark gives Quinn a 1796 pattern British Light Cavalry saber that belonged to an ancestor who fought with the Duke of Wellington. He surprises Quinn’s mother with a portrait of her, her son, and her deceased husband. For Quinn’s uncle, Mark finds a model kit of the USS Constitution, including brass cannons and a flag with fifteen stars. What’s funny about this is Mark telling Quinn he’s been a little busy and hasn’t been able to do much research. Actually, when I wrote it, Mark was simply going to give Quinn’s uncle some handkerchiefs. *falls down laughing* As for Gregor Novotny, Portia’s chief cook and bottle washer (and her bodyguard), Mark orders a pair of white socks with red lettering on each one: Big Bad Gregor’s Sock, and Big Bad Gregor’s Other Sock. The Boss’s gift is the original pulp magazines with the Edgar Rice Burroughs serial, Under the Moons of Mars, which became the first three John Carter books.

Except for the socks, these are all pricey gifts—I could never find them, let alone afford them. But Mark can, and the people he gives them to love them. Well, not Gregor, but he and Mark have a hate/hate relationship going on. He gives Mark a s’mores mug; it looks like a gigantic marshmallow with chocolate chips for eyes and a graham cracker for a nose.

Now for a quick look at their Christmas dinner: rack of lamb with a mustard, breadcrumbs, and herb topping, orzo with olives and pepper sauce, roasted asparagus, roasted potatoes with rosemary, and steamed broccoli. And for dessert (supplied by Mark, of course)—drum roll, please!—a Chocolate Orgasm, from Rosie’s Bakery in Cambridge, MA. (And if you ever have the opportunity to try it, I highly recommend it!)

I didn’t mention the Christmas tree, did I? It’s a live one, ten feet tall (who’s got a ceiling that can accommodate it?), blue spruce, Douglas-fir, or whatever grabs my fancy. Guess who won’t have to vacuum up the dried needles when it comes time to take it down? Yep.

Let me tell you, gentle reader—this was one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had.

And I think Mark would agree with that.

About the Author: Tinnean has been writing since the third grade, where she was inspired to try her hand at epic poetry. Fortunately, that epic poem didn’t survive the passage of time; however, her love of writing not only survived but thrived, and in high school she became a member of the magazine staff, where she contributed a number of stories.

It was with the advent of the family’s second computer—the first intimidated everyone—that her writing took off, enhanced in part by fanfiction, but mostly by the wonder that is copy and paste. While involved in fandom, she was nominated for both Rerun and Light My Fire Awards. Now she concentrates on her original characters.

A New Yorker at heart, she resides in southwest Florida with her husband and two computers.

Ernest Hemingway’s words reflect Tinnean’s devotion to her craft: “Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure, only death can stop it.”

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