Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mistletoe Magic

A Romancing Wisconsin Holiday Story (#2)


Buy Mistletoe Magic in the month of December and 100% of my author royalties for the book will be donated to Happily Ever After, a no-kill animal shelter in Wisconsin.

Christmas recipe for love—combine a matchmaking
 Santa, lots of mistletoe, one iron-clad rule, fated hearts;
mix and stir. The Riley siblings don't stand a chance.

Major Mark Riley plays Court Jester to Janelle Walsh's Snow Queen at the Christmas Parade and is instantly captivated by the cute redhead whose grandpa just happens to be Santa. When Mark learns she's the tenant he evicted from his newly purchased property, it's going to take a little bit of Santa's mistletoe magic to save their romance.


She gave him a quick half-smile and sidestepped toward the wagon. “It was nice to meet you, Major. Thanks for doing such a great job as the jester.”

“You’re welcome, and you can call me Mark, you know.”

“Major’s safer.”

The briefest flash of consternation in her expression told him she hadn’t meant to say that out loud. When her foot landed on the step so she could pull herself up into the driver’s seat, Mark caught her arm and turned her around. She grabbed hold of his shoulder to keep her balance on the narrow step.

“If I don’t do this, it’s going to drive me crazy until I see you again,” he told her in a low voice.

Her throat muscles worked in a hard swallow. “Do what?” A downward flick of her gaze said she knew the answer to her own question.

He let his mouth relax in a slow, confidant smile. One step closer brought him close enough to brace a hand against the wagon on either side of her. “I gotta tell you, pretty as you were as the Snow Queen, elf suits you better—although I do miss those cute, pointy little ears.”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, please.”

He took a moment to let his gaze roam over her face. Snow drifted down silently and their breath mingled in the frigid air. Mark drew out the anticipation of what was to come, enjoying the awareness that warmed the space between them.

“You look like Christmas,” he murmured.

One corner of her mouth twitched. “I’m guessing it’s the costume.”

He shook his head and reached up to twirl a red curl around his finger, watching the silky length wind against his skin before holding her gaze with his. “Red and green, and all wrapped up like a delicious, cinnamon scented present.”

She laughed softly.

Mark closed the remaining few inches, pressing the length of his body to hers. “In fact, I think I need to go find Santa and tell him I’ve been a real good boy this year.”

He spoke the last words a hairsbreadth away from her lips.

"You ain’t been good enough for my granddaughter, sonny.”

Mark froze. Amusement sparkled in Janelle’s eyes. With an inward groan, he took a step back from Janelle and faced the owner of the stern voice. The Santa Claus from the parade stood directly behind him, glaring daggers at Mark over his wire-rimmed glasses, arms crossed over his bellyful of jelly under the jolly red suit. Janelle’s blond-haired cousin, Derek, stood beside him with a similar expression of hostility.

Mark swiveled his head toward Janelle. “Santa’s your grandfather?”

“Pretty cool, hey?”

“Oh, yeah,” he agreed. “Awesome.”

Janelle’s laughter didn’t soften Santa’s countenance. “If you know what’s good fer you, young man, you’ll step aside.”

Mark tensed. He sized up Santa and Derek in one swift glance. Derek stiffened, and his eyes narrowed when they met Mark’s. Mark almost burst out laughing when he realized his military instincts had kicked in out of habit. What the hell was he thinking? Like he’d actually fight the old man or her cousin?

“Easy, Grandpa,” Janelle intervened. “Much as I appreciate it, I can take care of myself. Besides, the major here is perfectly harmless—nothing but a big flirt.”

Mark’s ego took immediate offense. “Hey.”

“Don’t try to deny it. Even Marissa said so.”

Gee, thanks, Marissa. Ah, but wait—they’d been talking about him.

Santa’s bushy white eyebrows mashed together. “Hold on, are you Eric Riley’s brother?”


The man stepped forward with a sudden grin, his hand outstretched. “Why didntcha say so? Butch Walsh, Major. And this here’s my grandson, Derek.”

“Nice to meet you both, but please, the name’s Mark.” He shook hands with them, all the while wondering how his younger brother had gotten in Santa’s good graces and managed to smooth the way for him? That used to be Mark’s job for Eric.

Derek put extra muscle into his handshake. When he let go, he still looked ready to give Mark the third degree and didn’t disappoint. “So, how long are you home on leave for, Major?”

Loose translation: How long before you get the hell out of town? Mark couldn’t help but square his shoulders to meet Derek’s challenging glare. “As of Friday, I no longer report to the United States Armed Forces. I’m returning to Pulaski permanently.”

“Early retirement?” Derek sneered.

“Personal choice.”

“Oh, is that what they call it these days?”

Mark’s anger exploded like a flash-bang. “Listen here you sonofabitch—I served my time, including six months in Afghanistan and two tours in Iraq. Don’t you dare suggest I haven’t done enough for my country.”

“Easy boys,” Santa warned.

Janelle jumped down between them at the same time Derek took a step forward. “Derek, knock it off. Both of you are going a little overboard.”

Mark glanced from her to Derek, consciously relaxing his clenched fists. “You’re right, I apologize.”

Derek’s lips remained clamped in a tight line.

Janelle shot him a dirty look before stepping forward to hug and kiss her grandpa on the cheek. “I’m going to try to beat the worst of the snow. Tell Grandma I hope she feels better soon.”

“I will. Drive safe, sweetheart, and be sure to give us a quick ring when yer home.”

She nodded. Mark stood aside so she could climb into the wagon. Once she’d brushed the snow from her seat and settled down, he moved closer and spoke in a low voice. “I’d like to see you again.”

She shifted her gaze over his shoulder before meeting his eyes with a soft smile. “Okay.”

“Janelle,” Derek protested from behind.

Mark ignored him. “When?”

“Is Tuesday too soon?”

“It’s not soon enough.”

“Don’t be a kiss-ass, Major.”

He grinned, determined to have her using his name by the end of Tuesday evening. “What time can I pick you up?”

“How about we meet at Figaro’s Pizza to pick up some dinner about six.”

“Sounds like a plan. I’ll be looking forward to it.”

“Me, too.” After one last smile for the men behind him, Janelle lightly snapped the reins and sent the horses into motion with a jingle of their bells. Mark watched her glide away through the falling snow before turning to face Santa Butch and Derek.

“You’d better not mess with her,” Derek warned. Without waiting for a reply, he spun on his boot heel and stalked back inside.

“Don’t mind him none,” Santa said, bushy brows drawn together in a frown. “He’s got issues with anything military.”

Mark still felt like a first-class jackass for flying off the handle so fast, but the thing was, Derek’s comments had struck a sore spot he didn’t want to fully acknowledge. As he and Santa Butch followed Derek more slowly, Mark ran a hand through his outgrown crew-cut to disperse the melting snow.

“I take it Janelle and him are close?”

“Them two’ve been through a lot together,” the old man confirmed. “That’s why he’s so protective of her.”

Mark stepped ahead to open the gym door.

On his way past, Santa clapped him on the shoulder with a grin, his eyes alight with a twinkle. “Lucky fer you, though, I like yer brother.”


Read the rest of the story, and the series...

Amazon, BN, Apple, ARe, Kobo, SW

(This novella previously published in the anthology Mistletoe Rules
2010 Winner Write Touch Readers' Award)


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mistletoe Mischief

A Romancing Wisconsin Holiday Story (#1)
Christmas recipe for love—combine a matchmaking
Santa, lots of mistletoe, one iron-clad rule, fated hearts;
mix and stir. The Riley siblings don't stand a chance.


Christmas in July at the zoo is the last place single parents Eric Riley and Marissa Wilder expect to find love. Thanks to some mistletoe mischief in the form of their two young daughters and Santa, they discover mistletoe rules were not made to be broken. 

EXCERPT: (Brief scene history-Eric was one of the no-show chaperones who arrived later)

“Whoa—what the heck did you do?”

Eric’s voice rumbled in his chest against her back, but Marissa was too busy biting back a whimper of agony to enjoy the feel of the strong arms that’d caught her.

“My stupid heel wedged in the boards before, and I twisted my ankle when Heather almost went over the railing.”

And with that one single step just now, the throbbing pain she’d been trying to will away exploded into a thousand sharp knives stabbing at her ankle. Adrenaline had kept her oblivious until after she held Heather safe in her arms, and then, she’d hoped the pain would fade if she gave it a few minutes.

Obviously not.

“Mom? What’s the matter?”

Heather stood in front of them with an anxious expression. Marissa wiped the moisture from her eyes and gave her daughter a reassuring smile. “I hurt my ankle a little, but it’s okay, I’ll be fine.”

The knives had dulled slightly, receding enough to let the details of Eric’s hard, muscular body register on her consciousness. He helped her straighten, and her body slid up along his chest in the process. A wave of heat crashed over her.

“Can you stand?” he asked.

“As long as you don’t let go.” The moment the breathless words escaped, her cheeks flamed. She sounded as turned on as she suddenly felt. Their daughters stood three feet away, for heaven’s sake! Staring at their parents with big, round eyes.

“I won’t let go,” Eric promised. “Take a couple slow, deep breaths and I’ll carry you to that bench down there.”

Marissa focused her gaze toward the bottom of the steps. Thank God. He thought her breathlessness stemmed from the pain. A few moments ago, yes. Now? Not so much. And no way she’d let him carry her.

“I can walk.”

“It’ll be easier if—”

The zoo employee who’d checked on Heather earlier had noticed their group again. “Is everything okay?” the young man asked. “Should I call for the medical cart?”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Eric said. “Thanks.”

“I’ll walk,” Marissa insisted when the employee lifted his walkie-talkie.

“Fine, you walk,” Eric relented. But then he still nodded to the employee to make the call before stooping slightly to fit his shoulder under hers. His arm curved around her waist for support. “Let’s go. Girls, wait for us at the bottom.”

With his help, Marissa hobbled toward the stairs. She didn’t know which was worse, her unsteady balance in the strappy sandals, or the riot of sensations radiating from his large hand spanning her waist. In an attempt to gain some equilibrium, she put weight on her right foot again. Pain attacked with a vengeance and she sucked her breath through her teeth.

A low growl of annoyance sounded deep in Eric’s throat. “I need to look at your ankle sooner rather than later, and at the rate we’re going, it’ll take you a half hour to get down the stairs. Now hang on.”

He scooped her into his arms, leaving her no option but to cling to his neck. At five feet seven inches without shoes, she must weigh three times what his daughter did, yet he strode down the platform steps as if she were as light as his six year old daughter.

“What possessed you to wear heels to the zoo anyway?” he muttered.

She stiffened in his arms. “I’ll give you two guesses. One, I’m an airhead who enjoys people looking at her like she’s an idiot. Or two, I was supposed to work today, ran late and missed the bus at school, drove Heather here to meet her class where Patti begged me to help because three of her chaperones didn’t show up and after one look at my daughter’s face, I knew I couldn’t disappoint her.” She took a much-needed breath of air. “So I stayed in my stupid high heels.”

He’d descended the stairs and stood by the bench by now, but made no move to set her down. A slight frown creased his tanned brow.

Marissa lifted her eyebrows when his guilty gray gaze met hers. “Any other questions?”



Read the rest of the story, and the series...

(This novella previously published in the anthology Mistletoe Rules
2010 Winner Write Touch Readers' Award)


Monday, September 17, 2012

Kid Classic

Older pic, but this is the lake
I just want to share something fun with you today. So we were up North at the cabin this past weekend, and after a filling dinner of yummy lasagna and awesome garlic bread, we decided to clean up the kitchen before dessert. Now, usually, we make the kids do the dishes since there's not a whole heck of a lot they do up there besides swim, eat, and play, but they ran outside as soon as they were done eating, and I decided to get to washing so we could enjoy treats later without having to do clean up after.

So my sister Bridgette is rinsing and drying, and my dad even agreed to pick up a towel after I asked him to pitch in (yes, believe it or not, Santa Butch was doing dishes!!), and we get to the point where we're almost done...

The screen door on the porch facing the lake slams, we hear the thump of little footsteps through the living room, and my son slides to a stop in the kitchen. Did he ask us adults if he could help?

Ha Ha Ha! Of course not. He's only nine after all.

Instead he asks...

Get ready for it...

"Is dessert open?"

Is dessert open?

Yes, that is exactly what he said. *grin* After we were done laughing, we finished the dishes and opened dessert!

We enjoyed apple pie and ice cream, and Double Chocolate Mocha Trifle while watching clips of the Ellen show on a laptop at the table. Yeah, we really go all out on desserts in our family. Why just have one when you can have two? (sorry, no pictures) Ellen was the proverbial icing on the cake.

Adding to our fun that day...we had an acorn war that lasted over a half hour. That's right--acorn war. It seems to be a bumper year for acorns on the oak trees (which probably means a long, hard winter after our previous mild one), and one of the kids tossed an acorn as a joke, which led to someone tossing back, and within minutes we all joined in. Santa Butch, Uncle Jeff, Aunt Bridgette, mom (me) and kids.

The single rule was you could only throw one  at a time, but even then, those little suckers sting. Especially if you were bent over to reload your ammo. Big butts make prime targets! (mine included LOL) Um...might have something to do with our double desserts, but I ain't admitting nuthin!

Hope you had a great weekend and found some time for some fun of your own.

Stacey Joy Netzel

Oh...and if you're wondering about Santa Butch, go meet the fiction behind reality. Check out Mistletoe Mischief at Amazon, BN, Apple

Friday, September 14, 2012

LOST IN ITALY gets a new cover!

I loved my original cover for LOST IN ITALY, the model pics were so absolutely perfect for how I pictured my characters...

...but, alas, it was time to give it a new look that better fit the Romantic Suspense genre, and this is what Kim Killion of Hot Damn Designs designed for me.
And the full front and back for the print version...
Much as I'd have loved to keep the hot guy pic, he just didn't fit. So enjoy him here, or on my Twitter page. :)
"Yeah, we're looking at you, buddy!"
Get your copy of Lost In Italy today and have a great day!
(Psst--check out the cover on the left side for buy links)
Stacey Joy Netzel

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tomatoes: final canning update

So, tomatoes were next...
Some funky tomatoes this year, but they didn't affect the quality :)

Tomatoes; batch 1
became this first batch of 16 quarts and 4 pints of spaghetti sauce.

Batch 2


became 13 quarts and 8 pints of sloppy joe sauce.
(4 quarts and 8 pints salsa not pictured) 

Batch 3
and THESE...
(pint and quart jars inserted for size reference)
became 16 pints of diced tomatoes
10 quarts of salsa
20 quarts and 17 pints of spaghetti
...with a bit left over

 Batch 3 was a looooooonnnnnnng day. 7:15am to 9:30pm--with help from the kids! But all the jars sealed, and at the end of the season, I have a pantry FULL of yummy canned goods.

There are still a ton of tomatoes in my garden. I've given buckets to my sisters, and am debating trying a batch of ketchup, though I'm a bit canned out.

(update--Batch 4 on Friday gave us 7 quarts and 7 pints more of salsa. I did try the ketchup and though it was pretty good, the time sacrificed was not worth the yield for one batch.)

Till next year...

Stacey Joy Netzel

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


The kids spent some time at grandma and grandpa's and came home with a bucket full of blackberries, so my 10 yr old daughter decided to make a pie from scratch. Crust and all. Here's a few pictures...
Double checking the measurements

Making the crust

All those blackberries ~ filling's the best part
(or would've been if Mom had remembered to add some flour)

Ready to bake
(extra crust is for cinnamon-sugar crust cutouts--they were GOOD!)

All done!

So, even though I read the directions wrong and forgot to have her add flour to the filling which made it a bit watery, it was still delicious. She can bake me a pie any day! Thanks Morgan!

Stacey Joy Netzel

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Out with the Old, in with the "New"

This is me on August 31st, 2012, saying goodbye after close to 17 years doing corporate travel for the same company. (20 years in the travel business.)

Loved the flowers, will miss the girls and travelers, and the cake was Yummy!

And this is me September 4th, 2012, my first day as a FULL-TIME WRITER!!!

I cleaned my desk just for the occasion. Usually it's buried.

The title and what I wrote above is a tad misleading because I've been writing for over 10 years now, and for at least the last 5 years I've put in full time hours+ on my writing in addition to working the part-time day job, but there's something to be said for knowing that it's OFFICIAL and I won't be driving in to the other job anymore.

It's all on me now...

Yikes! I better get to work!

I hope you all have a great week ~ I plan to. It also helps that the kids are back to school!!! *grin*

Stacey Joy Netzel

Winner(s) for my Romancing the Blog Hop Stop

Good Tuesday morning everyone!

My hubby did the honors of picking my winners. And yes, I originally had just one prize listed, but seeing as today is my first official day as a Full Time Writer, I'm celebrating with some bonus prizes.

First Prize Party Lite Candles:  JEAN MP

3 bonus winners get their choice of ebook from my backlist:
     1. CRYSTAL73  (random draw from hubby)
     2. JENESE LEON for being the first commentor on the post
     3. JESSICA for squeaking in at 11:59pm last night.

I will contact each of you via your email addresses to get you squared away.

THANKS to all who hopped on by. Hope you're resting today. *grin*

Have a wonderful week!

Stacey Joy Netzel

Oh, and here's the listing for the overall hop grand prizes:

After over 9,000 comments the Romancing the Blog Hop has some grand prize winners!!  Congrats!

Grand Prize Winners:

Kindle Fire Winner:
Laurie Goudge
(from It's the Journey that Counts's Blog)

$130 Amazon Gift Card:
(from Carrie Ann Ryan's Blog)

Swag Pack:
 (from Dana Delamar's Blog)