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.
I’d had a restless night with dreams of dying reindeer, divorcing parents and surly Santa’s, so to savor my unexpected work break I walked to the coffeehouse to enjoy Polartown’s streets and homes decorated like Victorian Christmas cards. Quaint boutiques, gaslight lamps and horse-drawn sleighs rimmed St. Nicholas Square, alight with trillions of twinkle lights. The seventy-five foot Colorado spruce, however, remained dark in preparation of the tree lighting ceremony on Christmas Eve. Pausing beside two street vendors to appreciate the aromas of roasting chestnuts and grilled brats permeating the air, I smiled at the brat vendor, but he scowled and pointed to where ketchup and sweet pickles were slashed from his condiments sign. My Sugar Ban.
Now aware of every glare, bump, rude gesture and comment, I felt especially bad when a children’s street choir, singing “Away in the Manager,” stuck out their tongues as I passed.
In the Square, Flurry Michaels spoke to WGRM’s camera. “There’s something scary-bad going on with Polartown.” I paused with a dozen others. “Our normal high this time of year is minus fifteen. Currently, Polartown registers—” Her expression twisted with fright. “Minus nine!”
The crowd wheezed. I rolled my eyes. Flurry has a severe weather phobia. Ice storms, tornadoes, thunder, lightning—rain—triggers her alarm.
As I approached the Café PolarCap’s twelve-foot-high red doors, the empty showcase window, habitually filled with a scenic wonderland of baked goods, attested to the seriousness of my Sugar Ban. I joined the long line, typical for the PolarCap. Hearty PolarTownies don’t mind queuing up for twenty minutes in the cold. Sometimes it takes that long to decide what to order. However, without jeweled tarts, Artisan pastries and brownie towers iced with Dutch chocolate to occupy my attention, within minutes I fought impatience. I would also have to be deaf not to hear the comments:
“For breakfast I craved oatmeal with brown sugar before I remembered I’d die if I ate a bowl. Plus, I’d be executed for eating sugar.”
“I have the worst headache. Hot cocoa always kills the pain. I miss my hot cocoa.”
“I wish that fricken barista would pick up his speed. I need my fricken coffee. I need a fricken slice of Zwetschenkuchen. I don’t care if Queen Holly lops off my head. Why have a head if you can’t enjoy a fricken slice of fricken Zwetschenkuchen with a cup of fricken coffee!”
I had banned sugar in a moment of supreme fury. Sugar screws with SuperNatural creatures. Kris, Noak and Dad’s addictions added fuel to my fire. Mayor Torfi had warned my ban would make me unpopular, but I didn’t care. The reindeer had been deliberately poisoned.
Bright E-Light reflected off the Café window to stab my eyes. I had the mother of all headaches, though I couldn’t blame it on stress. I, too, was a sugar addict. Then the Klokkentoren chimed fifty-five hours to Eve Launch, and I knew headaches and citizen outrage would be worth it if the reindeer survived.
Strong perfume drew my attention to a woman exiting the café with a større-sized coffee. She wore a colossal, veiled hat depicting the Twelve Days of Christmas. Pecan Sandee.
“Don’t splurge on a fancy wedding dress, Holly,” she had told me upon hearing of my engagement to Kris. “If I can’t have him, neither will you.”
I tugged at my scarf. My hot flashes seemed to ignite with my frustration. Last night I’d flashed to the point of soaking the sheets. Each time I awoke, it took me forever to fall back asleep, irritated to find Kris not in bed with me; foggy because I’d done something to tick him off, but couldn’t recall what it was. Of course, memory of how I’d traumatized him ricocheted back this morning. Making whoopee before I’d pulled the rug out from under him had been underhanded, but as mad as I was, I loved him, and it had been too long since we’d been intimate.
Dr. Havelock said hot flashes were Nature’s way of cooling my body. I knew that. What I hadn’t known was the extent to which Nature would set a blow torch to me. I wondered if I could blame it on Dad.
Royal Thorne followed Sandee, sipping his fyrreunse-sized coffee. He appeared well-rested, his black hair combed, goatee manicured, dark coat free of reindeer hair. He saw me and startled. “M-morning, Madam President!” He refers to me in public as ‘Madam President.’ Since in private he looks down his pin-straight nose, I assume he does it to mock my authority. I forced a smile. He’s an arrogant donkey, but a necessary one.
Before I could ask for a reindeer update, Thorne gestured with his ludicrous, forty-ounce cup. “Beware too much caffeine. Hot flashes are triggered by coffee consumption.” His voice carried in the still air. “By eliminating coffee, you can reduce breast tenderness, nervousness and irritability.” Shock stoked my inner furnace. “Many of the symptoms associated with menopause,” Thorne said to those in line behind me, “including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, osteoporosis and risk of heart attack, are exacerbated by coffee.”
My heartbeat thrumpted with rabbit-like ferocity. How had he learned my private business?
“Also, caffeine consumed while pregnant is known to affect the fetus as it crosses the placental barrier. It can hinder brain growth.” He smirked. “You must have learned that after Candy’s birth. Cooper and Cookie appear academically well adjusted.”
A bray of laughter had me turning to see Tattle reporter Nattie Blather, her carrot-orange hair wild about her freckled face. My hot flash ignited like wild fire. As the women around me tore off their hats and gloves, I wrenched off my scarf. I wanted to strangle Thorne with it, but with witnesses, I wouldn’t look sane, much less presidential.
“I have a production snafu,” I said to Thorne. “I’m taking coffee to…” His eyes glazed with disinterest. “How are the rein—”
“Two things, Madam President.” His brusque interruption drew attention. “One: Scotchie is interfering with my treatment of my animals.”
I scowled. The reindeer are sentient creatures with intelligence that surpasses most humans. Calling them animals degraded them to ruminant livestock. Thorne knows how I feel about his use of the derogatory name. And I know he uses it to emphasize his power over me.
“He’s underfoot. My staff is repeatedly tripping over him.” As though offended by odor, he pinched his nose. “Scotchie undermines my authority and confuses my staff. He’s created unnecessary tension. His hostility and resistance of my authority has become extreme and therefore, counteracts my treatment methods.”
So many words when the gist was, Scotchie was being a pest.
“This morning, when I began treatment to purge sugar from my animals, Scotchie destroyed the antidote.”
My breath caught. “What did he say?” echoed around me.
Thorne leaned into me. “How did he know to check for sugar? My theory: He didn’t want to waste time with tests when he already knew the answer.”
“You’re implying Scotchie sugared the oats?” I asked.
Thorne lifted his nose. “Everyone knows, if you thought me incompetent you’d fire me. And Scotchie, who has a SuperNatural medical degree—who is retiring in January—would have my job—the job he’s always wanted—at last!”
I wanted to argue his theory sounded absurd. Except it didn’t.
“Scotchie needs to retire, Madam President. Now! It wouldn’t look good on your record if you ignored his menace and the animals died.”
I blinked. Had Thorne just threatened me?
“Two: Again. I question your decision to divert the Fountain Funds from their designated target, namely my animals. In lieu of the peril we now face, the funds need to be returned to my budget. Statim. Iam. Confestim!”
Thorne uses Latin to emphasize his point. It ticks me off. Like Scotchie’s memorandums against Thorne, Thorne had honed his own memo-writing skills on my decision to change the Fountain Funds distribution target. Coins from the Town Square fountain are used for reindeer care. In November I’d discovered the fountain surplus exceeded Thorne’s needs. In lieu of economic hard times, I’d diverted that money for holiday cheer. Thus the Merry Makes Merit Award was born with padded bonuses and a new cappuccino-maker for the break room.
“The cost of treatment will put me in the red.” Thorne leaned into my personal space. Emotion kindled his cold eyes. “The Funds will be returned to me. To rehabilitate the animals. I’m sure the elves will be happy to sacrifice their cappuccinos to secure the future of Christmas.”
My temperature spiraling, I flung my coat at the woman behind me and pulled Thorne out of earshot. “First of all, the funds will not be retracted. My employees will keep their bonuses and their cappuccinos. Secondly, I will personally pay for the reindeer’s care if you run out of money. However, I reviewed your books. You have enough accrued to pave our streets in gold without going into the red.”
His expression twitched between shock and outrage. “I didn’t give you p-permission to review my b-books.”
“I don’t need permission. Nerissa left you three messages to set up a meeting with me. You ignored her. You left town and forwarded your calls to Dova. She brought me your books. Next time answer your phone.”
I retrieved my coat, then pulled my elFone from the pocket to call Scotchie. I didn’t believe he had sugared the oats, but I needed to dot my i’s and cross my t’s should Thorne pursue his accusation in court. Scotchie’s voice mail picked up. He hates technology.
Minutes later I entered the café. Since I was responsible for the naked showcase I understood why the owner glared at me. In a world where Starbuck’s is king, Café PolarCap rules Polartown. The reason is the freshness of the coffee. The owner, Linders, claims the beans arrive still hot and are not ground until they’re brewed. The woodsy, earth-tone interior is furnished with overstuffed chairs in shades of caramel, mocha and cinnamon. The open fire-pit’s minty-cocoa aroma induces customers to linger. Unfortunately I had the demands of Final Week Rush waiting, not to mention reindeer fighting for their lives. I also needed to write Erik’s suspect list, though I struggled to add names, other than Thorne’s, and only then because I despised him. But I didn’t suspect him any more than I suspected Scotchie.
“Is this necessary?” A wild-eyed woman with four cranky preschoolers approached me. “This!” She jiggled her coffee, slopping foam onto her hand. “I get through my day because toffee coffee keeps me sane, but with your idjet Sugar Ban, I have a dreadful headache, and so do my babies. What kind o’ mother do you think I can be from jail, because I tell ya, missus, I’m ready to break the law and get me some real sugar.”
Nearby coffee addicts grumbled with agreement, but before I could explain children would be healthier without sugar, she moved on.
A flash of red drew my attention to my mother at the head of the line. LaRoux Sommet had been a beauty in her prime, but marriage to Kingston Cooper had taken its toll. Whether she followed through with divorce was anyone’s guess. Mom’s wishy-washiness is legendary. Ever since Dad criticized her choice of wedding gown, cake and invitations, Mom has had trouble making decisions. Whether to order Lo Mein or Moo Goo Gai from Poo Ping’s Palace can take forever.
Actually, the restaurant is called Ping’s Palace, but years ago Cooper called it ‘Poo Ping’s’, and now the whole town does, too. Mr. Ping always adds twenty percent to our bill. We don’t have the nerve to complain.
As Mom batted her lashes, the handsome barista handed her a latte, and then waved her off with a smile. I blocked her from passing. Her guilty-green eyes revealed she had indeed flirted for a freebie. “How can I excuse your behavior when I disapprove of Candy’s?”
She grinned. “To have a man look at me with sassy eyes and give me a present because I smiled? It felt good, chére. You should try it.”
Aware of eavesdroppers, I whispered, “My flirting skills are rusty.”
She blinked. “How sad.”
It had occurred to me last night, after seducing Kris before hitting him with bad news, that my sex life had become stale. But, sad? Maybe I was no longer fun.
Besides her impish grin, I noticed Mom looked different. “You’re wearing red lipstick.”
She handed me her coffee to root through her bag. “It’s called Vamp.”
I also noticed she wore a hip-length fur coat, an heirloom long banished to her closet. “Is that Rouge Sommet’s coat?”
At age thirteen, Mom’s 14th Century French ancestor became the paradigm for Little Red Riding Hood after slaying a wolf who intercepted her on the way to her grandmother’s home. The wolf was slain by Rouge, not the huntsman who appeared in later versions penned by chauvinists who weren’t there, and the hide became a coat.
“On our first date Kingston claimed to be allergic.” Mom rooted through her bag. “I never believed him. He was intimidated. C’est tout! By the coat and the woman wearing it. Cannot marry a woman who stands up for herself. Not The King.” She withdrew four skeins of yarn. “I know it’s early for booties and blankets, but which do you think suits either sex? Lavender and mint-green, or yellow and periwinkle?”
I almost dropped her coffee. Brannoc’s method for guiding Candy toward maturity had impressed me. If at nineteen she still abused her name for freebies, as her mother I had done all I could and it was time to pass the baton. But, to imagine Candy with a baby… That would make me a grandmother!
Mom’s eyes sparkled with fire. “I want the bébé to call me Ma Mie. I will have her call Kingston Papa Crotte. He is too arrogant to translate.”
~ * ~
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