The holidays richly contain many different kinds of segments. There’s the decorating. Of course there’s the shopping. There’s the cooking. There’s the card-writing. There are outings to visit family or friends. Sometimes there’s travel. Sometimes there are house guests. Whatever the circumstances, there always seem to be elements of excitement and frustration, pressure and relaxation, laughter and sentimentality.
For me, there comes a moment sometime during the holidays when what I long for is the perfect book to read. I prowl the shelves and night stands searching for the perfect volume. If I don’t find it at home, I start searching the bookstore or library shelves—or an e-reader store these days—until the right tale captures my attention.
Once I have the book in hand (downloaded or paper), I choose a spot to get comfy—maybe the living room couch which, during this season, is draped with an especially plush red blanket; maybe the den with its recliner and its cozy fireplace. Then, cup of Christmas-tea sweetened with honey close by, I hunker down for a read that will draw me into the particular sense of wonder and magic, secrets and revelations, remembrance and inspiration that remind me what the soul of the holidays is all about, and that move me forward into my next spiritual step.
This may seem like a tall order, but we’re blessed with several stories that measure up. Top of my list is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. For most of my life, my dad made a practice of performing it for the family. Some years, we all performed it together either on stage or as a radio broadcast. Then there’s O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi. Three years ago, I spent an early Christmas in New York with a dear friend while we did an author event together. We took ourselves to Pete’s Tavern in Irving Place where the story was written, two authors grinning foolishly at the knowledge a writer we admired had sat right where we were sitting. Richard Paul Evans has made a career of writing holiday stories that touch the heart, starting with his Christmas Box. Debbie Macomber loves Christmas and has written several charming tales including The Perfect Christmas.
One year, I began to hear Christmas stories that hadn’t yet been written, and knew I’d have to start typing them myself. It wasn’t the easiest vacation that year, since the stories wouldn’t leave me alone. But it was very rewarding to dot the final i and cross the ultimate t. This year, my publishers wanted to bring out my first e-book holiday story, and it gets published today.
Whose Angel Key Ring is one of those tales that contains the aforementioned elements: secrets and sentimentality. It also contains expectation and resolution. The experience of writing it was something like peering in the window of Calma, the fictional estate where it’s set. For me, the setting is as tangible as Christmas itself. It’s a special property I first began imagining during many childhood visits to Santa Barbara. During the early 1980s the fictional property evolved as I spent time at Love Songs, a gorgeous enclave of buildings where I recorded the hit song “Sumahama” with Mike Love of the Beach Boys. By the time my radio drama Milford-Haven U.S.A. was on the air, “Calma” was fully developed. Now for the first time—thanks to artist Mary Helsaple’s extraordinary talent—my readers can actually see the charming cottage overlooking the ocean bluff where resides the Calvin family’s trusted retainer—a man who’s part diplomat, all discretion, and the keeper of family secrets large and small. And what is that key ring with its cherub that dangles from his mail box? To find out, you’ll have to cozy up to your Kindle or Nook for a quick download—free during the holidays. Only then will you know . . . whose angel key ring it really is.
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