With Christmas fast approaching, I thought why not ease you all into the spirit of the holiday with ten chapters from my novel, KRINGLE. Yes! Ten free chapters for you to enjoy running Monday through Thursday until November 16th. Hope you enjoy!
To catch up on the story I’ve added the Links to the end of this post.
He was half-way across the Square when his feet stopped moving. The unnaturally bright E-light stabbed him blind. While waiting for his feet to start up again, he wondered why Santa didn’t wear sunglasses. Sounded like a kindergarten joke.
Q: Why does Santa want sunglasses for Christmas?
A: Because he’s guilty!
He admired the exquisite detail Lars Utgaard used on Candy’s sculpture to capture her perpetual dewy freshness: her pouty mouth, lush eyelashes; the tiny snot droplet trembling at the end of her nose. He told the person beside him, “I destroyed my sleigh and planted evidence to blame Brannoc. He’s going down.” His stomach flipped. He’d just confessed!
“What’re you mumbling about?” Swathed in dramatic black despite the unusual heat, Malkorka snarled, “Candy’s face is destroyed because of you. Her eyes are swollen. What did you say to make her cry?”
“I didn’t make her cry. Brannoc did.”
“Bunk! Brannoc is wonderful. I quit! I’m dedicating my life to the pageant.” With dramatic flourish, she jumped on her broom and flew away.
Townies passed him with hostile glares. He forced out a few ‘Ho-Ho-Ho’s.’ Then a snowball struck his head, followed by a dozen more. Softened by the unusual heat wave, they slipped down his shirt like stealth ice missiles. One took out Joost.
Kris seized the opportunity to act normal after his walk on the Dark Side by exchanging volley with Oskar and the boys from Woodworks, now employed as street custodians due to recession cutbacks. The brutality behind their play gave him pause, but he told himself it was all done in fun.
“Fun times are over, Toy Boy.” Joost sounded like Father Nature.
“I’d kill for a Nip Nap,” Kris said. If anyone understood sugar addiction, it was elves.
“I’d like to kill your Missus too, laddie,” called MacGuffin. “Paavo and Lennart failed, but I’ll get the job done. Gimme a shout when you’re ready to off her.” The Scotsman sliced a finger across his throat.
Kris threw another snowball. It missed his target to explode off Comfort and Joy’s picture window. Cookie scowled at him through the glass. He wished she would stop making him feel like an ogre for being traditional enough not to want a female Santa, but he was her father, so he was obligated to charm her into liking him again.
“Back to work, boys.” Another slush ball struck his neck. This one contained a rock. Ducking to avoid a concussion, Kris entered the Grille, transformed from a historic vaudeville and movie theater into a 1920’s-style restaurant. The wood and marble ambiance included a forty-foot art glass bar, cozy leather booths and an intricate theatre ceiling complete with a large movie screen projecting classic favorites.
After placing his order at the counter for soup and a pasty, Kris spotted Royal Thorne in a booth talking into his elFone. Kris checked his watch. It had been ninety minutes since the Research techs said Thorne went to lunch.
Someone abruptly slammed into him, throwing him off balance and into Mrs. Snowberger’s lap. Her feathery-white hair, beakish nose and saucer-size eyes had inspired him in the third grade to dub her Mrs. Snow-Owl.
“Sorry, Mrs. S.”
“How ’bout, ‘Sorry, Nokomis?’” Bemidji’s sister, aka the WIDGET Woman, stood over him. “Do I look invisible to you?” Her Native complexion offset fiery eyes and red lipstick. She looked twenty, but had called William the Conqueror ‘William the Bastard’ and the insult had stuck. Today her raven hair trailed in a zillion micro-braids down her back.
“You ran into me,” Kris pointed out.
Fists on her hips, Nokomis said to Mrs. Snowberger, “Did I?” The teacher nervously shook her head. Kris noticed Nokomis’s braids were actually a zillion micro-snakes.
Nokomis crossed her arms. “I’ve outfitted your sleigh with self-resonant back-up alarm oscillator circuitry. Maybe I should finagle you one for moving forward, eh? Listen up. You need to make a guest appearance in the Staging Room before Eve Launch to go over my changes.”
Kris’s heart performed an Olympic triple salchow. “I don’t want any changes.” He already knew what changes. A tattle-tale voice that could destroy him.
“Don’t soil your tidy-whities. Nothing thorny, but I wouldn’t want you to punch a button, thinking you’re activating the GPS when it’s really the ejector seat.”
Kris swallowed hard. “I-I don’t have time to meet with you.”
“Well, make time, Toy Boy. Have Joy bag your lunch and let’s go. Now.”
“No!” Heads turned in their direction. Kris swallowed. It was like choking down a burning Yule log.
“You got better things to do?” Suspicion filled her eyes.
He bit his tongue to keep from confessing everything: sleigh destruction, secret candy stash; the two lumps of coal he’d put in little Jimmy Haley’s stocking instead of one. “N-no. I’m just hungry. I-I wanted soup.”
“Soup?” Nokomis arched a brow. “You’re getting loud over soup?”
Mrs. Snowberger tapped his shoulder. “Get off my lap or I’ll charge you rent.”
Shivering with panic, sweating with fright, Kris headed for Thorne’s booth where Wilde glowered at his father. As Kris slid in beside Wilde, Royal Thorne disconnected his call. “There’s no change. Not good. Worried sick. Frantic!” He grabbed Kris’s shirt. “The expense is killing my budget. I need the Fountain Fund back. Statim!”
“Give your bills to Holly.” Kris pried him loose. “Cure the reindeer, no matter the cost.”
Thorne stared at his son. His elFone rang. He read the ID, and paled. “Gotta take this. Private.”
Kris thought he’d never seen Thorne so upset. For all his arrogance and insensitivity, the jerk must really love the reindeer.
“How’s Candy, Mr. Kringle?” Wilde moved to follow Kris.
Thorne grabbed his son’s arm. “Sit, you piece of alces fetens stercus!”
Kris left father and son glowering at one another. Today It’s a Wonderful Life filled the movie screen with George Bailey wishing he had never been born.
I hear ya, George. Kris was almost to Cookie’s booth when a diminutive man with a big head, wild white hair and oversized mustache stopped him. “Your test results for myocardial infarction were elevated, but not critical.”
“Great. Holly will give me back sugar and we’ll all have a heckuva Christmas.”
Dr. Arbor Havelock continued, “However, your blood pressure is high.”
Heads turned. Kris cringed. “Not here, Doc. Patient confidentiality, remember?”
Havelock gestured for Kris to sit in a booth. “Your symptoms were real when I saw you. Even now your pupils are dilated. You’re flushed, hoarse and sweaty. Stick out your tongue.” Kris did. “Not like you’re nine and mad at Mrs. Snowberger. I want to see if your tongue is coated.” He flattened his tongue. “What have you eaten? I’ve noticed numerous green mouths around town. Gumdrops? You can confess. Patient confidentiality.”
“Back in the 80’s I put two lumps of coal in Jimmy Haley’s stocking.”
Havelock’s eyes narrowed. “Have you blacked out again?”
“Yah. No. I-I could have been unconscious at the time.”
“Blurry vision? Rapid heartbeat? Dizziness?”
Yes to all that, but Havelock had license to impound him like a stray dog. “Feeling fine. Hunky dory. Jim Dandy. Loosey Goosey. Hokey Pokey.” Havelock stared. Kris bit his tongue and tasted penny-lemon. The surrounding tables began to rotate like a carousel. Cookie road past astride a zebra. Joost straddled Mrs. Snowberger. Kris wanted to shake his head like a mad cow, but froze every muscle and road it out.
Havelock gazed at him, dangerously observant. “The night you had symptoms, when did they begin? After dinner?”
“I skipped dinner. Worked late.”
Havelock wrote on his napkin. “You didn’t eat anything?”
“Nothing much. A Sub-Zero bar. Peppermints. Some OTT lemon buttermilk pie. Crackers with Vegemite. A cudighi. Some Ding Dongs. Fruitcake. Jar of balsamic chutney.”
Havelock crumbled his napkin. “I’ll rerun your tests myself. You might have worms.”
Kris left Havelock to join Cookie, absorbed in a book. “Whatcha reading?”
She scowled over the top of Career Choices for Overachievers. “What would you expect a girl to read? White Gloves and Party Manners?”
Like Holly, Cookie rode the horse until it dropped dead. “Look, honey. I’m sorry.”
“Where are we having Mom’s party? I asked if you wanted to cancel. You said no.” She flipped day planner pages. “I’ll book the hall. I’m doing it all anyway. Decorations. Invitations. Flowers. Food. Imu pit! Everyone is busy, but not little Cookie-monster. She’s got loads of free time cuz she’s a girl.”
Somewhat distracted by Oskar’s appearance in the window, thumbs in his ears, fingers wiggling, tongue sticking out, Kris asked, “Hear any good jokes?”
“No.” Cookie’s pen slashed paper.
“I’m sorry about yesterday morning. I handled you all wrong.”
Cookie’s eyes flamed. “You handled me? I’m being handled?”
“No! No. What I meant was, was— I-I-I… Aye yi yi yi.”
Joy banged down a bowl of congealed potato soup. “Thanks to your sugar abuse we’re all suffering. Hope you choke.”
“I ordered a pasty and…” Kris met her violent eyes. “Uh, thanks.”
A tap drew his attention to Oskar, licking the window. What the ffffudge?
“What’s wrong?” Joy asked Cookie. “You look upset.”
“Dad won’t let me be Santa cuz I’m a girl.”
Joy’s lip curled. “It’s the Twenty-First Century, Kringle. The only difference between a male and female Santa is lipstick.” Joy had come out of the closet in fifth grade to lead a militant feminist movement through Polartown Elementary. Joy made Chaz Bono look dainty.
“No more free lunches.” She slapped a bill on the table. “That’s what you ate over the past year. Pay before you leave, or I’ll hunt you down like a trophy buck.”
“While your wallet is open, you can handle paying my bill.” Cookie left in a huff.
Tired of licking, Oskar now performed cartwheels. His fellow Woodworkers joined in, the answer to what MacGuffin wore under his kilt irrevocably burned onto Kris’s retinas.
His elFone rang. “Kringle.”
Holly! She knew he’d destroyed his sleigh. She had filed for divorce and was running off with Brannoc.
“I just remembered I was to meet you for lunch. I got caught up in several unexpected meetings. Now I’m buried under paperwork.”
Kris looked at the inedible glop before him. While she’d been running his family’s business, he’d been destroying it.
“Guess what? Our dentist filed a lawsuit against me.” Her laughter touched his heart.
“For not flossing?”
“For loss of revenue over my Sugar Ban. His business is built on tooth decay.”
Her voice soothed his boiling brain. “Petra said elves attacked you. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Be honest. Did I do wrong by banning sugar?”
Holly never second-guessed herself. His heart throbbed. “No. You weren’t wrong.”
“Did you hear about the melted candles and the torched trees?” He braced for her to add Santa’s sleigh. “Was it done by the same person, ya think?”
“Hard to tell,” he whispered.
“Before another incident occurs, we need to talk. Would you bring me lunch? Again, I’m real sorry I stood you up.”
“No, don’t apologize. I actually got caught up in…stuff too, so… You want a turkey on whole grain with cranberry sauce?”
“That’ll work. Be sure to eat a hot meal. You looked feverish earlier. You could be coming down with something.”
“Love you, Kringle.”
“Love you, too.” He had misunderstood. She wasn’t having an affair with Brannoc.
“She’s been a wicked nag lately.” Joost slid into the booth. “’Memba when ya washed yer red sweater with her undies? ’Memba when ya left milk on the counter all night? How’ve ya lived fifty-five years without her supervising yer every move? Mebbe yer lacking, eh? Mebbe Fairy-man has what an aging beauty like yer missus needs.”
Kris stared into the Square where Flurry Michaels emoted for WGRM’s camera. Around her Townies had shucked their chukes, toukes, choppers and swampers, unheard of this time of year. Then he spied Cooper with his grandfather, their heads together in serious discussion. His son’s enigmatic expression made Kris wonder what they were discussing. Probably the top ten ways to jar California loose from the coastline.
His iridescent wings flowing from his red tee, Brannoc crossed the Square, scowling. The sleigh mutilation had yet to be discovered. Too early to point fingers. What had upset him? The answer came as a delightful surprise. Holding her tiara in place, Candy chased after Brannoc. Kris palmed his chin to watch.
“I’d like a pasty with tomato soup, please,” said a familiar voice.
Kris dove under the table. With his insane need to confess, he didn’t need his cousin-the-cop anywhere near.
Size twenty boots came into view. “Got your list?”
~ * ~
Holly Kringle has a very full plate. She is Highest Mayor of Polartown and President of Kringle Enterprises–the company that puts the ‘Merry’ in Christmas and the ‘Happy’ in Holidays. She is also the mother of teenagers and wife to Kris Kringle–the World’s Biggest Kid. When the reindeer are poisoned three days before Eve Launch, Holly adds amateur detective to her resume. With just about everyone in Polartown under suspicion, she doesn’t have time to dwell on employee problems, personal family issues, her 50th birthday, or investigate her husband’s highly suspicious behavior. If Dancer dies, her soulmate Dasher won’t want to live without her. And like a pod of whales beaching on the shore, the remaining Famous Eight will surely follow.
10 KRINGLE chapters will post Monday through Thursday until November 16th. Naturally there is my hope that you will be caught up in the story to want to buy the book, either paperback or ebook, and to make it so much more enticing to you, I’ve dropped the prices. Plus every penny of profit will benefit cats from a local colony. All of my fur babies, except for Herman, came from that colony. While I cannot afford to adopt another cat — when I took in Candy, Elly and Chevy over the past 12 months with Els and Chev being FIV+, that brought the Wonderpurr Gang up to 13 — I would never turn away a hungry animal who wanders into my yard, especially in winter.
Hope that sounds enticing to you Christmas novel readers. And if it does, I have created three ways for you to purchase KRINGLE, if you so desire.
KINDLE eBooks – If you enjoy ebooks, KRINGLE is available on Kindle for $3.99 with a generous royalty profit of $2.73 for the kitties.
Amazon.com – You can purchase the paperback for $7.95 where the royalty is .54 (grrr) and shipping is about $4.59.
CREATESPACE – I’ve set up a Createspace store specifically for KRINGLE readers. There the book is priced at $7.95 with a royalty of $2.13 and standard shipping is about $3.59.
I hope you enjoy the ten free chapters. And if you do, please tell your friends. Better yet…buy a book, either as a gift for yourself, or for someone on your gift list who enjoys campy, funny, holiday mysteries.
Love to you all!
Kim, Herman, Dori
and the Wonderpurr Gang