The end of an unforgettable year.

We’ve all read the jokes and seen the memes about what a dumpster fire this year has been; heck, now that it’s December 12th, we’ve almost lived through it! So what else is there to say about 2020? It’s been hard. Just every last thing about it has been ridiculously challenging.

I know we’ve all been impacted by it in such different ways, and I feel like someone who is incredibly fortunate to have a job and my health (as well as that of my family), so all I can say is that it’s cast a pall over everything and that sometimes the days felt like we were swimming through thick mud. Fallen by the wayside were motivation, joy, and creativity, and I think we’ve all had to dig deep this time of year to pull forth the kind of holiday cheer that’s normally elicited by Christmas music or holiday traditions. For many of us (myself included) that meant putting up the tree and the lights way too early, but the glow of colorful lights glinting off gaudy ornaments is what’s keeping me going right now. That and my favorite Christmas songs on repeat.

As far as writing, that’s part of that “lack of creativity and motivation” I mentioned earlier. There were so many days I wanted to put my fingers on my keyboard and write. I tried. I looked at the early days of quarantine and the long summer as time to really roll up my sleeves and get stuff done, but there were days–soooo many days–when all I could do was pick up a book and read. Tie on my shoes and walk for miles. Watch reruns of The Golden Girls and drink coffee. But now that we’re wrapping up The Craziest Year of All Time, I’m looking back and thinking, “Wow. I managed to put out four books this year!” Granted, I wrote most of Year of the Rabbit about seven years ago, and just about all of Lights, Camera, Love before that, but still, adding four books to my published catalog this year is going to be something I look at as a win. And I wrote Hearts Ahoy entirely during quarantine, which sometimes felt like trying to get blood from a stone!

Not to mention that I just put out the 8th full-length book in the Christmas Key series this week–Dancing Barefoot. Every time I think about ending Christmas Key and moving on to something else, I realize that I’m not ready to let go yet. To me, the place is real. The people are real. Each time I sit down and start to write about the characters who live there, I’m transported and I realize that to say goodbye to them would be a loss for me, and frankly, I still need them. So there’ll be a book 9 (that’s a 100% guarantee, since the cover is already done and waiting for publication!) and there will also be more romance novels. At the beginning of 2020 I set the lofty goal of publishing 10 romance novels this year, but I’m okay with getting two out–I really am! I have the covers for the next two romances set in stone as well, so that keeps me moving forward. I’m not setting any goals for 2021 just yet because 2020 isn’t even done and who knows what the next 19 days will bring (Seriously! Remember how many days this year we all went, “And what fresh hell is THIS?”), but I’m feeling creative again! So get ready for more from me…lots more!

In the meantime, happy holidays to you and yours, and I wish you health, happiness, and only good things in 2021!

Stephanie

The series that I want to write forever.

I’ve officially been writing Christmas Key books now for ten years, and I find that it’s the easiest thing to just fall right into. I can take a break from writing about Holly and her neighbors, but the minute I open up a fresh document and start typing, I’m transported to an island paradise and I’m living amongst these people as if they’re real humans. I mean, to me, they truly are real humans!

I’ve detailed my journey with Christmas Key in the past, but I’m still amazed at how many years I spent turning that first book over in my mind and re-working it. I submitted it to Harlequin Romance in 2009 and got a request to read more, but ultimately they passed, saying that the book had less to do with a solid romance between the main characters, and more to do with the island and its inhabitants. Which is absolutely true, and definitely what I love most about the books!

I’m currently seven full-length books into the series and I’m working on the third novella (after writing short “how did they get to Christmas Key” background novellas on both Jake and Coco, I’m now working on one about Bonnie. It’s been fun to choose a timeframe in each character’s past and to look at their lives more closely, and this one is no exception! I’m writing about what brought Bonnie to the island, about when she arrives and starts to get to know everyone, and about her budding friendship with a seventeen-year-old Holly, who will ultimately grow up to be mayor and the main character of the series.

Novellas are fast and fun to write, so I’m hoping to get this done and released in the next month or so, and then I’m on to other projects (including Book 8 of the Christmas Key series!) I hope summer finds you well and that you’re reading all kinds of interesting things!