Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Carol Pouliot on Christmas Traditions

DEBORAH CROMBIE: We're getting into the spirit of the season today with Carol Pouliot, author of the Blackwell and Watson Time Travel Mysteries. This series has such a great premise, a fold in time that allows modern day journalist Olivia Watson and Depression-era cop Steven Blackwell to connect via a doorway in Olivia's (formerly Steven's) house. (My love of magical doorways goes back to Narnia, I'm sure!) As RSVP TO MURDER is set at Christmas, Carol is sharing some of her own cherished Christmas traditions with us! (And I have to add that this cover is absolutely fabulous. I'd like a poster of it.)



CAROL POULIOT: Thank you so much for hosting me today on Jungle Reds, Debs. I’m thrilled to be here and to talk about Christmas traditions!!

Every year as I turn the calendar to December 1st, I sense a familiar tingle. Christmas is coming! I can't pack up my fall decorations fast enough. I clean the house from top to bottom and strip it down to bare bones—throw pillows tossed into a closet and knickknacks swept off the kitchen windowsill. I get an almost magical sense when I open the door to my Christmas closet and start gathering up the wooden Santas that my Mom painted, a small sleigh—glossy red, black, and gold—crafted by my Dad, and a tiny Santa Claus clinging to a miniature Eiffel Tower, a gift from my niece the year I took her to Paris.



During the holidays, I read a lot of children's books. I think this probably started when I was a kid. My parents read voraciously, and I inherited their love of reading. It wasn't Christmas in our house if we didn't get a book! So now, I dig out my Little Golden Books, as well as the others I’ve acquired over the years. I go to the library and check out a bagful. I stack them on the ottoman near my favorite chair and, as the weeks go by, I read each one, savoring the stories, pouring over the illustrations.



 

One of my favorite childhood traditions is something my sister and I continue to this day. Most years, my mother would buy a new ornament or two for the tree. One year, she bought a beautiful red glass ball with the sides cut out. My sister and I thought it looked like someone had taken a bite out of a juicy apple and named it "The Apple Core." Because there were only two of us, my sister and I each had our own designated side of the tree. Every Christmas morning when we hurried down the stairs into the living room, we knew which gifts were ours. The year of The Apple Core caused a serious discussion. My sister and I both loved it and we both wanted it on our side of the tree. To be honest, I don't remember who got it that first time, but every Christmas after we took turns—one year she had it hanging on her side of the tree, the next, it adorned my side. Fast forward to when my sister got married and moved to her own house. What do we do with The Apple Core? We decided to share it. Again, I don't remember who got first dibs, but one of us took it for five years then, on that fifth Christmas, wrapped it, put a bow on it, and handed it over as a gift to the other. We have been doing this for fifty years. It's one of my most cherished traditions.




We all acquire beloved traditions over a lifetime. My new book, RSVP to Murder, is a Christmas mystery. My main characters, Steven and Olivia, are a couple now, and I knew I wanted them to begin their own holiday rituals. It was a lot of fun deciding what to choose for them—like giving a gift to a loved one.

Reds and Readers, what are your favorite holiday traditions?


RSVP TO MURDER - A new twist on the English country house mystery.

Embarking on their most daring time-travel experiment to date, Depression-era cop Steven Blackwell and his 21st-century partner-in-crime Olivia Watson travel to the Adirondack Mountains for a Christmas party at one of the legendary Great Camps. Their host, a wealthy New York publisher, has planned a weekend filled with holiday activities, but, as the last guest arrives, temperatures plummet, and a blizzard hits. Before long, the area is buried in snow, the roads are impassable, and the publisher is poisoned.

Unwilling to wait until the local police arrive, the victim’s widow convinces Steven to launch an unofficial investigation. Soon, a family member goes missing, and Steven and Olivia discover a second victim. Trapped with a killer, Steven and Olivia race against the clock before the murderer strikes again.

Carol Pouliot writes the acclaimed Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, traditional police procedurals with a time-travel twist and a seemingly impossible relationship between a Depression-era cop and a 21st-century journalist. With their fast pace and unexpected twists and turns, the books have earned praise from readers and mystery authors alike. Carol is a founding member of Sleuths and Sidekicks, Co-chair of the Murderous March Mystery Conference, and President of her Sisters in Crime chapter. Sign up for Carol’s newsletter and learn more at https://www.carolpouliot.com and https://www.sleuthsandsidekicks.com


72 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Carol, on you newest book . . . Christmas settings always make stories a bit more special. I'm looking forward to reading it.

    When we were growing up, we always went Christmas caroling, but that seems to have become a tradition left in the past. However, we do still go to midnight Christmas Eve candlelight service . . . .

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    1. Thanks, Joan. I love the idea of caroling. When I was teaching, I sang carols in French with my students on the last day before Christmas vacation. It was always fun.

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  2. I love the cover. Very classy.

    Traditions are all over the place for me during December. Big one is the color red. Grandma Dale always had a flocked tree with red ornaments. Red satin and glass balls, red velvet bowls and red birds. I finally found a couple great red birds for my sister's tree and mine. I started taking the season of Advent to decorate my home. A little something each Sunday ending with my little tree on the Sunday closest to Christmas. Mom always put our tree up the Sunday closest to Christmas. At church, I've been turning off the lights during the singing of Silent Night for pretty all my adult life. I took over from my brother, who took over from our dad.

    Okay, now I'm off to find this new book..

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    1. I love red, too, Deana. I really like your idea of linking the Sundays of Advent with your decorating. I might do that next year. I hope you enjoy the book!! I had so much fun writing it.

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  3. Congratulations on the new book, Carol, and thanks for sharing some of your traditions! I love that you and your sister swap that pretty ornament back and forth.

    Baking my grandmothers' and mother's Christmas cookies is a big part of the holiday for me. I also put an electric candle in each window of our antique house and set up the nativity scene my mother hand painted. Ours has become eclectic over the years. Snoopy, Garfield, Bert, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg have joined the crowd, plus a tiny plastic chicken, little drunk elves on the roof of the stable, and more. It makes me smile to see them all clustered around the manger.



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    1. I now also always watch the Call the Midwife special on Christmas night!

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    2. Edith, thank you for reminding me. That is another favorite Christmas tradition in our family.

      Diana

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    3. Thanks, Edith. Your comment about Christmas cookies brings back cherished memories of my sister and me frosting and decorating my Mom's cookies. Thanks for that!! Love your manger idea.

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    4. Yes, Edith, Call the Midwife and Doctor Who!!

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  4. Great news about the new book, Carol.

    My parents, my sister and I, and several other families went door-to-door caroling together when I was a child, but as Joan says, that seems to be a thing of the past, at least in Switzerland. One of the most common Swiss Christmas traditions is to bake eight, ten, or twelve kinds of Christmas cookies! With our son no longer living at home, my husband and I are content with one sort; this year, I'll probably bake chocolate shortbread rounds. I always make candied almonds, which need to be stirred for a very long time while the sugar caramelizes and then disappear fast.

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    1. Thanks, Kim. You had me at shortbread!! My favorite type of cookie. If only we lived closer, I'd be knocking on your door - with a Christmas carol, of course!

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  5. Wow, I love time travel and mysteries. How have I never heard of this series?

    I love the idea of your Santa collection but I'm not much of a decorator. We pretty much stick to a tree and not much else.

    I would say the two big things in our family that have become traditions are - homemade Christmas cookies (gingersnaps made with bits of crystallized ginger are a must) and a a very silly children's books called THE NIGHT BEFORE THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Natasha Wing. I wanted to start a tradition of reading Christmasy and seasonal books to my children in December but this is the only one that really stuck. It's a very silly children's book (done to the rhyme scheme of "The Night Before Christmas') and it's all about everything going wrong - Mom's sick, the mall is insane, etc. It ends on a very sweet note. My youngest is 11 and we still always have to read it on Christmas Eve Eve. ;-)

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    1. I love your idea of silly Christmas books. I have a suggestion to add to your collection - Three French Hens by Margie Palatini and Richard Egielski. It's hilarious and the illustraions are fabulous!! Glad to know you like time travel and mysteries. I hope you enjoy my books!

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    2. Carol, I saw the cover of Three French Hens in your children’s book collection, but didn’t realize it’s a Margie Palatini creation!! As a retired children’s librarian, I’m a big fan of Ms. Palatini!! As a reader, I, too, love time travel books so am heading to find the first in your series! Congratulations on your new book!! — Pat S

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    3. If you already like her work, you'll LOVE this one! Thanks, I hope you enjoy my book.

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  6. CAROL: Congratulations on the new book! Time travel to a manor house whose guests are trapped by a Christmas blizzard sounds right up my alley, especially during this time of year. I enjoy reading holiday mysteries.

    I love the Christmas tree ornament tradition shared with your sister.

    No siblings or family here, and no Christmas tree since I was a kid. But I still bake the same Christmas cookies and almond stollen with marzipan each year to enjoy and give out as gifts.

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    1. Thanks, Grace. Enjoy your cookies! They sound yummy.

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  7. Carol, I can't wait to read this new book in your series!

    I don't know that I have any Christmas traditions anymore really. After the big extended family gathering ended 7 years ago, most Xmas stuff just disappeared for me.

    For a couple years, I went to a movie on Xmas Day but the pandemic put an end to that.

    Watching something on Netflix at my friend Ann's house and going to my sister's for dinner is about as close as I get to "tradition" nowadays.

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    1. Thanks, Jay. I hope you enjoy it. Yes, the pandemic really put paid to a lot of traditions that never came back. Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy the day!!

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    2. That sounds like a pretty good day to me, Jay!

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    3. A couple years back Christmas Day at Ann's house was streaming the final season of Lucifer on Netflix. I loved the irony of that.

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  8. I like that cover, too. I've always liked stories with "portals" to another time or world. Congratulations on the new Adventure.

    I don't have a lot of Xmas traditions these days, although it's my favorite holiday. Mainly putting up the tree and a few touches through the house while playing Xmas music.

    As a kid though, the big thrill (apart from presents, of course) was making gingerbread men. These weren't the generic cookie cutter men trimmed in frosting. My mother would make the dough and my brother and I would create these crazy elves leaping, waving their arms, doing the splits, dancing on one toe. Once they were baked, then we frosted them: red jackets, caps and pants, trimmed in white, like Santa. Cloves for eyes. Those little silver candy bbs for buttons. And when the icing hardened, they were sooo delicious. These days, no time for that, and my husband has to watch his sugar, but they make great memories.

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    1. Oh my goodness, Elizabeth, I love your elf cookies! That sounds like a blast. Thanks, I love my new cover, too!

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    2. Elizabeth, what wonderful idea. I'll bet my artistic granddaughter would love doing something like that!

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    3. Deborah, I think she would, yes. And with all that icing, she'd enjoy eating them! :-)

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  9. Since covid hit a few years back, I've not decorated as much. I am much more low key for all the holidays as far as decorations go. As the years have gone by, I find Christmas to be too commercial. It is all about buying stuff ... see tv commercials, stores, etc. I remember as a child we got a few presents from Santa, usually a big gift like a bike or transistor radio (!) and a few smaller gifts. We also always went to church. A lot of cards and front lawn decorations were more religious than today - at least it seems.

    Best of luck and congrats Carol on your new book. Sounds intriguing.

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    1. Thank you for your good wishes on RSVP to Murder. I know what you mean about the holiday being too commercial. And thanks for your comment about your transistor radio. I remember them fondly.

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  10. Love the Apple Core story, Carol. And I just found a cache of our Christmas books yesterday. Stacked in a cupboard when we moved in four and a half years ago, and forgotten. They are now out and displayed once more.

    Since my daughters all moved away, and we have spent so many years at the home with the grandkid for Christmas, most of our traditions are kaput, making way for others' traditions. I did put up a tree this year, for the first time in ages, and kept my personal tradition of putting up about a dozen very special ornaments: the "firsts" for each of the girls and my grandson, plus one I had made commemorating the year Steve and I got married, and a couple others. I always used to make Hungarian coffeecake on Christmas morning, but that got changed to Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls years ago, alas. However, they get served on my Spode Christmas tree plates. Looking forward to getting those out.

    Congratulations on your new book, Carol. The series sounds wildly creative!

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    1. Thanks, Karen. I have some Christmas Spode dishes, too, and I love using them at this time of year. Glad I was able to remind you of the books!! I hope you enjoy getting lost in them again.

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  11. The apple core ornament story is just heartwarming and lovely. It was very cool that your parents let each of you decorate half of the tree, and passing the apple core back and forth is one of the sweetest traditions I've heard of.

    Your series sounds like lots of fun. Do Olivia and Steven each pass through the door or does it only swing one way? I'm off to look for book #1 in your series.

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comments, Judy. Having our own sides of the tree saved my mother from writing out all those pesky "To:...and From:..." tags. I'm sure it was valuable time spent accomplishing other holiday things. I hope you enjoy my books!!

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  12. Congratulations on the book, Carol. Love the story about the ornament. I always have to put up the nativity set my grandfather painted as well as a few special ornaments either from my childhood or my kids'.

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    1. Thanks, Liz. How wonderful to have a nativity set that your grandfather painted. That makes it so special.

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  13. Congratulations on the book and welcome to Jungle Reds, Carol. Love the premise of time travel. Added your book to my Christmas reading list.

    Question: Is Olivia's great-grandfather Steven? I wondered if there was another connection besides them meeting through time travel.

    Love your story about the Apple Core tree decorating tradition.

    Where do I get started on holiday traditions? So many to choose from. As a child, I loved opening the doors to the Advent Calendar from Catholic school. Always decorated our house with Christmas cards hanging on a string across the doorways above our heads.

    And I used to buy Christmas placemats at after Christmas sales. Now I have a beautiful collection of placemats. Before the pandemic, we had Tree Trimming parties.

    Always baked Christmas cookies, which is a favorite Christmas tradition of mine. Now I love baking Gingerbread cookies. I misplaced the recipe. Perhaps Celia has a recipe for Gingerbread cookies? I still send out Christmas cards to family and friends.

    And lastly, I love this new tradition of Jokabokflod, the Icelandic tradition of giving Books on Christmas Eve.

    Diana

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    1. Diana, thank you for sharing all these lovely ideas. My family enjoyed an Icelandic/Scandinavian Christmas a few years ago - books and chocolate. It was a fun change. I hope you enjoy my books!

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  14. Carol, congratulations on the new book. I have to agree, that cover is just perfect.

    Debs, I know this is slightly off the appointed topic, but you mentioned a love of magical doorways. If you haven't already read it, I strongly urge you to pick up Alix E. Harrow's TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY, published in 2019. I guess it has to be classified as fantasy, but it starts off more like historical fiction and by the time the fantastical elements are really at the forefront, the story and characters will have even non-fantasy readers totally engaged. And magical doorways are a central part of the plot.

    I am feeling a little ungrounded at Christmas this year. My mother and sister provided many of our strongest traditions, and now Mom is gone and sis is in the early stages of dementia. I have not felt able to step into the breach with those old traditions, and the few traditions my son, husband and I developed as an immediate family feel a little lackluster this year. I think I need to do some journaling and figure out how to create some new experiences to fill the void for the future.

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    1. Susan, I listened to Ten Thousand Doors of January last year and absolutely loved it. It's narrated by January LaVoy, who is terrific. What an original world Alix Harrow created in this book!

      And it is hard to create new traditions, but I'm sure you will find things that will be treasured, too.

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    2. Susan, I'm putting this book on my list. Thanks for the tip. And I love my new cover, too! As Debs says, it's hard creating new traditions but before you know they''ll just be "traditions." I wish you a lovely holiday.

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    3. Susan, I remember that first Christmas without my mom who died a week after Thanksgiving a couple years ago. She was the biggest tradition keeper. I had moved into a new apartment, everything was in storage. There was no room for a tree but I took one Christmas box out of storage. That one box was all I needed to put a bit of Christmas into the apartment. Maybe if you find that one box of item from the past you can find a bit of Christmas for you. I hope you have a peaceful season.

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    4. Susan, you will find your way to a new 'normal' for Christmas. Wishing you peace and joy in the coming season.

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  15. That cover would be a great poster! My favorite Christmas tradition is probably making sugar cookies. aprilbluetx at yahoo dot com

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    1. Thanks, April. I ight just have to make a poster of this cover. Great idea. The cookies sound delicious. Bon app├ętit!

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  16. Can't wait to read this! I am a sucker for any book having to do with the Adirondacks, and add in a Great Camp, who could resist?

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    1. Thank! I hope you enjoy it. I had a lot of fun writing it.

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    2. Thanks very much. I hope you ejoy it. I loved writing it.

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  17. What a fabulous tradition! I confess, when I scrolled down I thought the ornament was an apple, too. Didn't think too much of it, I'm German. My tree always sports a pickle (whoever finds it gets an extra gift) and a pretzel. Go figure! Best wishes for a very Happy holiday! Looking forward to reading RSVP to murder.

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    1. Danke, Kait. Frohe Weinachten! Hope you enjoy my book.

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  18. What a wonderful story! And I love how you have us time travel for our holiday traditions… my stepfather used to read us a from A Child’s Christmas in Wales, every Christmas Eve, and I have to say, way back then , I had no idea why.
    But I think my favorite tradition is talking with my family about traditions! “Remember that time….?” it’s always such a wonderful, beginning to a sentence. And yes, indeed, it is time travel! Congratulations on your new book. I am such a fan, as you know, and the cover is amazing.

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    1. I used to read A Child's Christmas in Wales aloud every year when Kayti was growing up. Now I just read it to myself, usually the very last thing on Christmas Eve. The language is so gorgeous. (And I've passed the tradition on to Duncan and Gemma and their kids.)

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    2. I never thought of time travel like that but you are so right! I love reminiscing about "old" times, too, Hank. And thank you for your kind comments!! Merry Christmas.

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    3. I'll have to look into A Child's Christmas in Wales. It sounds so interesting.

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  19. Carol, you had me at "Adirondacks Great Camp." I wish I could add heart-eye emojis to my comment! My kids have been asking me what books I want for Christmas; adding RSVP TO MURDER to the list!

    Also, I applaud your ability, not only to share the Apple Core with your sister (for 50 years!) but to get it back and forth all that time without breakage! I don't think I'd dare try it...

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    1. Julia, every year when we pass it back to the other one, I always hold my breath. I try not to think of the circs when it might get broken. Thanks for your lovely comment. I hope you enjoy the book. Of course, there's LOTS of snow in it. :)

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  20. Congratulations on your latest publication! I have a stack of children's Christmas books (Arthur, Max and Ruby, Holly and Ivy, the Jolly Postman, the Grinch) I put out every year. Now that my kids are establishing their own homes, they're picking and choosing their own traditions, mostly food-related (Christmas morning brunch casseroles). And Christmas crackers. It's not Christmas without jokes, toys, and tissue paper hats.

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    1. Yes, Christmas crackers are a must in our house, too! And they must POP!

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    2. Margaret, glad to "meet" another fan of children's books. And crackers! Yes, we always do them at my house, too. I have lots of photos of my family in those tissue paper hats!!

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  21. Carol, you have so many wonderful traditions, and I know you love Christmas. It strikes me that going back to read childhood stories at Christmas time is another kind of time travel, which seems to be a special magic you have. I look forward to reading your new Christmas mystery because it's an intriguing sounding take on the locked house mystery in which the killer must be among us! Merry Christmas to you.

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    1. Yes, I agree about the time travel, Susan. Lovely thought. And Merry Christmas to you!

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    2. Thanks, Susan. I hope you enjoy it. You and Hank are on the same wave-length with time travel and memories. Merry Christmas to you, too.

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  22. What a lovely tradition to share with your sister, Carol. And I love that you've extended your love of the holiday to your characters. How fun!

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    1. Thanks, Jenn. Believe it or not, it took me ages to finally decide which traditions to give them. It was a lot of fun!

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  23. Carol, your time travel series sounds wonderful. I am going to look for it. How smart to make the contemporary person female. She will definitely keep the Depression era man in line! Every Christmas I haul out our book, The Cajun Night Before Christmas, set in the Louisiana swamps. A pirogue pulled by alligators. It's delightful

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    1. Your book sounds intriguing, Pat!! I'll have to check it out. I hope you enjoy my series. Thank you.

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  24. So brilliant! Connecting your characters via time travel. and it gives you a gigantic palette to work from. Growing up my favorite thing was decorating the tree. And listening to my mother complaining about how great it was that everyone helped put it up but she was left alone to take it down. (She used that same excuse for why we never had a dog... we'd play with it but she'd end up having to walk it.

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    1. Hallie, I'm sure your mother was not alone in her complaints. Yes, I'm taking them to a new period of time in the next book in the series. Now, I have to research la Belle Epoque in Paris!

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  25. Carol! I know Carol in person! Finally an author I know. Now, I definitely recommend Carol's books to everyone. She is a fantastic author. I first met her at my old job after I read a wonderful article she wrote about a sweater. I contacted her and we met in person. Buy all of her books - you won't be disappointed.

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    1. Hi, Pam!! Thank you SO MUCH for your lovely comments. I'm thrilled that you still enjoy the books. We'll have to connect sometime soon. Merry Christmas.

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  26. Holiday traditions are the best (and easiest!)

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  27. OMG what a great cover! Congrats on another new release sis!

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