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(advent) Tuesday, December 4

Molly sipped her first cup of Christmas tea and contemplated her kitchen. The rest of the house was quiet; she was the first up, as usual, and CrossCat Farm was on the outskirts of the Cove, with their nearest neighbor over a mile away. Hardly anything broke the stillness, especially in the winter.

She’d left Drew and Schrodinger asleep in the bedroom, slipping from the warm flannel sheets to pad quietly down the long staircase to her sanctuary. Now she sat at the large table, her ceramic mug warming her hands, and tried to imagine how much different it would be if she did turn it into a commercial kitchen.

It wasn’t as big a leap for the farm kitchen as it would have been for her apartment. There, she’d been constrained by what additions or modifications she was able to make, as the apartment had been rented. And renting a store front had been out of her price range, even in the Cove. But now…

We had the water and sewer tested when we bought the farm, and it was only a few years ago, she mused, her gaze wandering over the gleaming steel of her large refrigerator and freezer. I’d have to call Bear to have him schedule the inspection, but that’s easy enough. And then I wouldn’t have to worry about days off or anything like that.

It was a very tempting thought. Over the last few months, given the changes that would be coming in the new year, she had been considering what she wanted to do with her life. While she loved running the cafe in her aunt’s bookstore, Molly had to admit that she was becoming bored with things.

Too much of a good thing, perhaps, she thought, taking another sip. Her favorite tea was flavored with marzipan, cloves, and cinnamon, a blend that she bought from a custom vendor. It had always said Christmas to her, bringing her back to when she was a child, and her great-aunt’s kitchen. Aunt Evelyn had been her grandmother’s cousin, actually, but Molly had always called her Aunt. It was Evelyn who had recognized her talents as a kitchen witch, and had taught her how to make homemade candy and chocolates.

I haven’t done anything with marzipan in a long time, Molly thought now. Perhaps I should change that.

She set her mug on the table and moved over to the large bookcase on the far wall. Drew had built it for her the past summer, surprising her for her birthday. Now it held the treasures of her kitchen: the various cook books inherited and found over her life. She ran one fingertip over the spines, enjoying the feeling of leather and paper, imagining that the recipes nestled inside were whispering to her. The book she was looking for was on the second shelf, a book thickened by years of use near a hot stove and hot water. Her Aunt Evelyn’s candy journal, the recipes tried and tested, written in black ink in a spidery hand. It had come to Molly after Evelyn’s death, along with her other cookbooks, but she hadn’t thought of it in years.

Now she went back to the table and began to leaf through, letting the scents of vanilla and cocoa and almond fill her nose. She still needed to come up with a centerpiece for the bake sale on Friday, after all.

By the time Schrodinger and Drew had staggered into the kitchen looking for tea and breakfast, Molly had drawn up her plans and was on her third cup of tea.

Drew dropped a kiss on the top of her hair. “Good morning, beautiful. What are you working on?”

“Bake sale stuff,” Molly replied, smiling up at him. “I think I know what the centerpiece will be.” She showed him the notes she’d been taking.

“Let me get tea before I try and make sense of that,” Drew said, and she laughed.

Tea, Schrodinger said. Earl Grey, hot. He had managed to jump up into his chair at the table, but his green eyes were still at half-mast. He was definitely not a morning person.

“Yes, captain,” Drew said, putting hot water in the large cappuccino mug the CrossCat preferred. He refilled Molly’s mug as well. “What were you thinking of for breakfast, light of my life?”

“I wasn’t, actually,” she admitted. “Do you have a preference?”

Instead of answering, Drew went and opened the refrigerator. “Well, we’ve got eggs and spinach,” he said. “Do we have any of that fresh mozzarella left?”

“I don’t remember,” Molly said. “If we do, it’s in the cheese drawer.”

He rummaged. “Yep, I found it. And you made pizza dough.”

“Yes, I did,” she said, frowning. “What does that have to do with breakfast?”

Drew gathered up his supplies and went over to the oven. “You can’t tell me you’ve never had breakfast pizza before.”

“Okay, I won’t tell you that, even though it’s true.”

Breakfast…pizza? Schrodinger’s eyes opened a bit more. He adored anything pizza-related.

“It’s how I got through the Gate Academy,” Drew said. “If it could go on a pizza crust, it did. We would go to my aunt’s house once a week and make enough pizza to last us through. Of course, we didn’t have the amazing crust that Molly makes, but I have to admit that I lived on them for three years.”

Thirty minutes later, Molly and Schrodinger looked admiringly at the bubbling masterpiece that Drew set in the middle of the table. He’d partially baked the crust, then laid out sliced tomatoes and shredded spinach instead of sauce. Over that, he’d layered fluffy soft scrambled eggs and slices of freshly-cooked ham, and then he’d put it in the oven to finish. Right before he took it out, he added the fresh mozzarella on top.

“Wow,” Molly said, inhaling the scents. “I would have never thought of this.”

Brilliant, Schrodinger said. Truly inspired.

Once she’d bit into her first piece, Molly had to agree. “I think we need to do this more often.”

After a leisurely breakfast, they cleaned up the kitchen together, and then Drew dropped Molly and Schrodinger off at the bookstore on his way to work. “You’re all set with a ride home, right?” he said, leaning out of the window to get a last kiss.

“Yes,” Molly assured him. “Aunt Margie said she’d take us home.” She kissed him. “Don’t work too hard today.”

“Hah, tell Mal that,” Drew said. “You either.”

“Tell Aunt Margie that,” Molly said, and then stepped back towards the store as he drove off. It was snowing lightly off and on, not really hard, but as if it couldn’t make up its mind. The snowflakes against her skin felt like faery kisses.

“Come on, Schrodinger,” she said. “We need to go get marzipan before we go into the kitchen.”

Marzipan? For what? He followed her down the street towards the Merchant’s Square. There was a specialty food store that had come into the Cove over the summer, and Molly knew they’d have what she needed.

Ryder’s Recipes was brightly lit and smelled like chocolate as they stepped into the building, and Molly inhaled happily. Before Ryder had come to the Cove, Molly had had to go to Portland for a lot of the things she couldn’t or didn’t want to make. This was so much more convenient.

Ryder himself, a very tall and thin man with the most luxuriant mustache Molly had ever seen, was behind the counter, chatting with one of her other favorite people.

Captain Brynna Stormsdottir had retired to Carter’s Cove three years earlier, when her father had passed away and she and her son Pavel reconnected. Now, Brynna and her husband Paul were the unofficial grandparents to most of the children in Carter’s Cove, and no small amount of the young adults.

Brynna! Schrodinger bounced up to her, his eyes alight. Is Pavel back yet?

She smiled indulgently down at him. “He is, in fact. Heart’s Desire came back in last night, and he should be alive soon.”


“So tell me, do you have an Advent calendar this year?” Brynna asked.

Oh yes! But we’re not sure from who, Schrodinger said.

At Brynna’s look, Molly explained about the odd circumstances around the calendar.

“But who would steal an Advent calendar?” Brynna said, when the recital was done.

“That’s our question too,” Molly said, then turned to Ryder. “Do you have marzipan? In bulk?”

“How much bulk are we talking?” he asked her, raising one eyebrow.

Molly thought for a moment. “Twenty pounds?”

His jaw dropped. For that matter, so did Brynna’s and Schrodinger’s.

“Twenty…pounds?” Ryder said finally.

“Yes, that should be enough,” Molly said, grinning at his reaction. “I’m making a centerpiece for the bake sale on Friday.”

“Let me look,” Ryder said, disappearing into the back of the store. He came back out five minutes later with a bag.

“You’re in luck,” he said, handing it to her. “I just got in a shipment. Anything else?”

Molly had taken the time while he was looking to gather the rest of the supplies she’d need, and she piled them on the counter. Once she and Schrodinger had paid and said goodbye to Brynna and Ryder, they headed back out to the bookstore.

Normally, Tuesday was her day off, but she’d decided to come in today and let Rose, the young woman who covered her on Tuesdays and Thursdays, cover her on Friday instead. That way, she didn’t have to worry about coming back to the cafe after the bake sale, which was almost guaranteed to wear her out.

Once she’d made sure everyone was taken care of, she went back into the kitchen and began to work on her centerpiece.

By the time the children came in after school, Molly had split the marzipan into several chunks and sculpted the largest into a fireplace. It was drying on the side counter while she worked on other pieces.

“Wow, Molly, what’s that?” Zoey said, as they came in and took their coats off.

“It’s the centerpiece for the bake sale,” Molly said. “I decided to use marzipan this year, and make a Yule log in a fireplace.” She grinned at their looks. “Lily and Kaylee never knew their great-Aunt Evelyn, but I can remember making marzipan candies with her for Christmas when I was your age. And I thought it would be fun.”

“That’s so cool!” Gideon said. “What’s marzipan?”

“It’s almond paste,” Molly said. She broke off pieces of the block in front of her that she hadn’t started shaping yet, and handed it to them.

“It’s sweet!” Lily said.

“It’s like playdoh!” Kaylee said, rolling a bit in her fingers.

“Yes, it is,” Molly agreed. “That’s why I can use it to sculpt things. And everything in this centerpiece will be completely edible. I thought we’d have it Christmas Day for the table.” She looked at Zoey and Gideon. “Since you guys are joining us out at the farm, I thought that would be cool.”

“Oh yes!” they all agreed.

“Now, let’s see what the calendar has in store for you today,” Molly said, dusting the sugar off her hands. She followed the gaggle over to the calendar.

The little cat was waiting for them at the top of the stairs, and now he trotted down jauntily. The room underneath was a bedroom, with a small bed and dresser. It was a little less ornate than some of the other rooms, and Molly guessed it might have been for a servant, but it was still decorated. A little tree was in the corner, decorated with unlit candles and ribbons, and a few little packages were underneath it. One stocking hung from the little fireplace tucked into a corner, and there were a second set of stairs going down. The bed had more ribbons on the top headboard, and a bright patchwork quilt covered the bed.

Wiggling his butt, the cat wormed his way under the bed, and they watched as another present was pushed out the other side. He came out behind it, and proceeded to unwrap it. Smoke rose from the open box and formed the words, “Let there be light.” The candles on the tree began to sparkle, and glow as the smoke swirled around it.

“Wow,” Lily breathed. The smoke dissipated.

“Wait, what’s going on?” Gideon said, frowning. “Is it broken?”

“It didn’t give us anything!” Kaylee said. “What happened?”

They all turned and looked at Molly, who shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know, guys,” she said honestly. “Maybe the people who stole it didn’t finish that room?” Then she looked at the disappointed faces, and said, “Well, you guys will just have to help me today!”

That cheered them up a bit, but Molly felt a faint twinge of worry. Why had the calendar not worked? Or had it, and they just didn’t know? So many questions, and no answers, she thought. I should call Jade later. She might have an idea.

And then the front door opened, and a cheery voice said, “Hello the Bookstore!”


The shout rose from the four children and three animals, and they rushed out the door to tackle the pirate captain, who went down under their enthusiastic greeting. Molly was about to follow when she saw the smoke re-form in the room.

“Don’t you trust me?” it said.

(advent) Monday, December 3

“What is that?” Molly asked, as Aunt Margie came into the tea room holding a large box. Behind her, Uncle Art had an equally large box. “And what do you expect me to do with it?”

“You? Nothing.” Aunt Margie set the box on the nearest table and wiped sweat from her brow. “These are for the children when they get out of school.”

Schrodinger had been watching from his cat bed. Now he got up and padded over to them. Are you planning on shipping us somewhere?

“Not yet,” Uncle Art said, winking at Molly over Schrodinger’s head. “That depends on how you guys behave.”

“Nonsense,” Aunt Margie said, elbowing her husband in his large belly. “We’re doing nothing of the sort. These are from my friend Ruth.”

Molly’s eyes widened. “You mean the lady who makes those gorgeous quilts?”

Aunt Margie nodded. “That’s not all she does – she’s got a craft store in her house, practically, and thought that if you guys were going to decorate this year, you might need some supplies.”

Oooohhhhh! Schrodinger stood up on his hind legs and sniffed the boxes. I wonder what’s in there!

“Knowing Ruth, it could be anything,” Aunt Margie told him. “But you need to wait until the others are here.”

Scarcely had the words left her mouth when two things happened simultaneously: the front door crashed opened and Lily and Kaylee, followed closely by Zoey, Gideon, Jack, and Aurora came piling in; and DC called Aunt Margie’s name from the back of the store.

“Boss, it’s here! Shall I have them bring it up?”

“Yes,” Aunt Margie called back. “Go ahead.”

“Can they use the front door? It’s a straight line to the stairs that way.”

“Yes, send them in.” Aunt Margie and Uncle Art went to hold open the door, leaving Schrodinger and Molly to explain the boxes to the amazed children.

Or start to, anyways. The large blue mailbox coming through the front doors quickly gathered everyone’s attention.

“It’s here, it’s here!” Kaylee shouted. “Santa sent the mailbox!”

Of course he did, Schrodinger said. Did you think he would forget?

It was well-known that Santa Claus and Aunt Margie had a special friendship. Every year, the big blue mailbox would appear up in the upper level of CrossWinds Books, and there was a table set up for anyone who wanted to send a letter to Santa. Molly had often wondered how her aunt seemed to have (and had always had) a direct line to the North Pole. Aunt Margie and Uncle Art never said, but the Santa that had come to the store to hear the requests of young and old since Molly had been a child was never a substitute, and the four little men who carried the mailbox on a litter as if it were a head of state were most definitely not human. Pointed ears stuck up around their knit caps, the bells on the tips of their curly-toed shoes jingled merrily, and their cheeks glowed red in the cold. There was a slightly taller man in front of them, his tunic frosted with silvery snow and golden bells, and he led them up the stairs through the hush that had fallen upon the crowd. Usually, the mailbox came in when the store had yet to open, but just like it seemed everything was this year, they were apparently running late.

As the procession disappeared up the stairs, Molly shook herself out of her trance and turned back to the children. “Let them put it down before you go running up,” she said.

“We can’t go up yet anyways. We have to do the calendar,” Gideon said.

“Yes! Maybe we can go back and see what that weird lot was,” Kaylee said, clapping her hands. “Let’s go see what’s in the next room!”

They all went into the kitchen. The cat in the Advent calendar was asleep on the seat of the sleigh. Zoey said, “Good afternoon, little cat! What do you have for us today?”

To Molly’s surprise, this woke the cat up. It sat up and blinked, then wiped a paw across its whiskers and stretched, a long, languorous extension of its back and claws. Then it jumped down, nosed the rocking horse in farewell, and padded into the next room. This attic room, in addition to having stairs going down to the next floor, had a fire place with a fire burning merrily in it, and there were bookcases all around the room. It rather reminded Molly of the bookstore, except for the fact that instead of books, the shelves held an entire town of ceramic houses, nestled in clouds of white snow. Lights twinkled in the dim room, the only other light the fire in the grate. The cat moved to a desk that was sitting near to the fire and jumped up on the chair.

“Maybe he’s going to write a letter to Santa too?” Lily said, her voice soft.

It looked possible. The desk was an old roll-top model, richly polished wood. When the cat nosed up the lid, they saw it was liberally stocked for any writing needs: there was a pot of ink, stacks of what might have been parchment or vellum, along with envelopes, stamps, and feathered quill pens stuck into the various cubbie holes in the back. After a few moments of considering the options, the cat reached out with a delicate paw deep into one of the holes that Molly had thought was empty, and tugged. Whatever it was resisted a little, but after a few moments, a rolled piece of paper came out attached to one claw.

Using its paws to hold the top two corners down, it nimbly jumped up and unrolled the scroll using its back paws. Once the sheet was flat (courtesy of a cat butt sitting on it), it looked out at the children and winked, then tapped the parchment with its paw. The expected smoke floated up and out of the paper.

“Time to write your letter for Santa! This should help!”

The words spun together and arrowed out of the attic room into the kitchen, where it paused briefly before shooting up the stairs to the second floor of the bookstore, the children in hot pursuit. Left alone in the kitchen, Molly looked over at the cat sitting on the desk. It was now cleaning its paws.

“I don’t suppose you could tell me who stole the calendar, could you?” she said.

She wasn’t expecting an answer, but the cat winked at her, and patted the parchment again. More smoke, and the letters said, “Don’t worry. It’s Christmas, after all.”

And then they dissipated. While she watched, the cat yawned, and curled up to sleep again.

“Is that MORE stone?” Drew asked, watching the truck rumble through the Gate arch. He and his best friend Luke were standing by the control panels, making certain the Gate cycled properly through its various Roads.

“Yep. New building going in downtown,” Luke said, his fingers dancing over the keyboard in front of him. “There should be two more trucks behind this one.”

There were, and Drew checked them off on his tablet, waving the driver through. He watched the behemoths trundle out into the cold Cove air. “Isn’t it weird to be building in the winter, though?” he said. “I mean, seriously, won’t it be difficult?”

Luke looked up and raised his dark eyebrows. “Considering they’re using dwarven stone, not really. I’m betting they’ve got stone masons coming from the mines, or the nearby village, to work it. I would, anyways.”

“But it’s cold out,” Drew said.

“It’s winter in Maine. If it was warm, I’d be worried.” Luke shrugged. “Don’t forget, it’s magic. They don’t worry as much about the weather when they’re doing things like that.” He turned back to his schedule. “Looks like we’ve got passengers next.”

“From where?” Drew asked, craning his head to see the notes on the screen.

“Rovaniemi, according to the manifest.” Luke tapped a few more keys. “Looks to be a winter realm as well, not quite Earth-adjacent, but nearby. Humanoid, high magic, major exports are handcrafts and reindeer herding. Makes sense that they’d be relocating here.”


“Yeah, there’s a message from the town council that they’ve been approved to move to the Cove,” Luke said. Because of the Gates in the Cove, there was a bit more to moving to the Cove than just moving, especially from other Realms.

“Well, I’ll have to let Molly know, so she can bake something.” Drew traced a sigil on the tablet he was holding, spinning the Gate to connect with another Road. Once the lights on his tablet turned green, he said, “We’re good to go.”

Luke tapped on the keyboard, and Drew watched as a large cart pulled by two immense reindeer came through the stone arch. “Good lord,” he breathed. “Is that where Old Man Winter gets his?”

It certainly looked like it. The two reindeer towered over him as he stepped up to the cart, and Drew wasn’t exactly short. Muscles rippled under their shaggy grey coats and they stamped their cloven hooves as if impatient to be on. Long leather straps of brown and dark red connected them to the cart.

To his surprise, it was an older woman driving the cart, her face nearly hidden by the large woolen hat that drooped low over her sparkling eyes. “Sure, and this is a welcome!” Her voice was rich and full, with hints of laughter peeking around the edges. “I think I shall like this place!”

She stuck out a mittened hand, and Drew, a little bemused, took it. “Welcome to the Cove,” he said. “I’m Drew McIntyre, deputy Station Manager, and if you need anything, please let us know. Do you have a place to stay set up?”

“Sure do,” she said, shaking his hand briskly. “My friend Brynna is expecting me. Name’s Kris, and I’m very pleased to meet you, Drew McIntyre. You’re friends with young Pavel, correct?”

Drew chuckled a bit to hear Pavel called “young,” but said, “Yes, ma’am, I am.”

“Ain’t no ma’am here,” she corrected him. “Just Kris. Is your wife the kitchen witch, then?”

And how am I not surprised she knows of Molly? “She is. She’ll most likely be by with a welcome package of her own, especially if you’re friends with Brynna.”

Kris’ smile became even broader and she nodded. “Good, good. She’s special, and I’m dearly looking forward to meeting her.” Then she cocked her head. “Is that it, then? I’m good to go?”

“Yes,” Drew said, backing up a bit. “Enjoy your stay in the Cove!”

“Oh yes, I intend to.” Kris shook her reins, and clucked to the reindeer. As she moved off, he heard her say, “I most definitely intend to.”

(advent) Sunday, December 2

“So wait a minute,” Drew McIntyre said, frowning at his wife, his tea mug stopped halfway to his mouth. “Someone broke into the Snow Queen’s palace?”

“That’s what she said,” Molly said, concentrating on her icing. She had a tray of glazed snowflake sugar cookies in front of her, and she was laying down thin stripes of white in an intricate design. Once she was done, she had edible glitter to sprinkle over them.

“But why?”

Molly paused in her icing to shrug. “That’s as good a question as any. Jade did mention that she was concerned someone would want to interfere with the charging of the wards on the Cove, but if that was the case, then why send it on to the children?”

Drew turned on his stool to look at the open kitchen door, which is where they’d hung the Advent Calendar. The little cat was asleep under the Christmas tree in the first attic room. “Could they have tampered with it?”

“If they did, she couldn’t tell.” Molly laid aside the icing bag and picked up the shaker jar of glitter. “And Jack came by later to check too. As far as either of them knows, whoever stole it just finished the spells. They didn’t add anything that they could find.”

“So weird.” Drew shook his head and finally remembered to put his tea mug down. “And the activities?”

“Well, yesterday nothing really happened, so we went ahead with the plan. They helped me cut out all the snowflakes and snowmen for the bake sale.” Molly finished dusting the glitter over the snowflakes and laid the tray on the far counter. Then she retrieved the second one. “As far as we know, it should follow the list.”

When she had first offered the idea of the Advent Calendar to Jade, Molly had given her a list of activities the children could do, so the Snow Queen could construct the magic. All the little bits and pieces that had been put together for this year had still been within the calendar, which allayed her concern a bit. Still, they were all being watchful.

“That’s good.” Drew looked at his watch. “Okay, much as I’d like to sit here and watch you be amazing all day, I have to get back to the Station. Mal said the mines have been working overtime and there’s a seven or eight cart load coming through.”

“Wow, I wonder why?”

He shrugged. “Must be a big order. It’s all stone, too.”

There was a pocket Realm on the western edge of the Cove, where the granite mine that had stood there for years mixed and mingled with a mine that held far more exotic metals and materials. A clan of dwarves had lived there for as long as anyone knew, and supplied the surrounding Realms with enchanted generators, building materials, and occasionally jewelry.

“Good for them,” Molly said now, kissing her husband gently as he came around the edge of the island and hugged her. “There’s a package in the refrigerator for you to take back. Mal said you were running low on sandwich rolls.”

“Have you ever thought of just being a personal baker for the Cove?” Drew said, retrieving the cloth bag. “You’d never lack for customers.”

“We’d have to make our kitchen at home commercial grade,” she said. “That’s a lot of work.”

“I take it you’ve thought of it, then.”

She nodded. “That was actually the plan when I got out of college. But it was so expensive – this was the compromise.”

“That was also some years ago, and you aren’t doing it alone this time,” Drew said. “Might be time to revisit it.”

“Maybe.” They shared a secret smile, and then he sighed.

“Okay, enough bespelling me, witch. Work calls.” Drew kissed her once more and headed out.

Molly went back to her decorating, but her mind wasn’t on the task. Luckily, her fingers knew how to do it without her conscious thought. The same thoughts wound through her head. Who had stolen the Advent calendar? And why? And what had they done to it?

“Molly? Are you here?” Kaylee’s voice broke through her musings.

“Where else would I be?” she said, smiling at them as all the children gathered around her. “There’s a bake sale coming!”

“Can we have a cookie?” Gideon asked. “For quality control.”

Molly laughed at that, but nodded. “Go ahead. I’m done with these ones.”

As each child reached for a cookie, she pulled out some of the special doggy cookies that she always had for Aurora and Jack, since sugar wasn’t good for them. “Are you guys ready to see what the calendar has in store for you today?”

“Always!” Lily and Zoey said together.

“Molly, it’s snowing outside again!” Kaylee said.

“What did you expect?” her sister said. “It’s winter.”

Kaylee stuck her tongue out at Lily. “But it wasn’t snowing earlier! And we don’t know if she’s been outside.”

Look! The cat’s awake!

Schrodinger’s shout interrupted what could have been the beginning of an argument, for which Molly was grateful. They all clustered around the calendar, where the little cat was indeed awake.
It wandered through a door into the next attic room, which did not have a tree in it.

Instead, there was a rocking horse that was attached to a small sleigh, garlands of evergreens and bright red apples connecting the two. The cat nosed the rocking horse, who shook its head and mane and whinnied.

“Wow, everything in this house is magical!” Zoey said softly.

“I wish I could live there,” Gideon agreed. “That’s an amazing house.”

Molly silently agreed. The house was gorgeous.

After greeting the rocking horse, the cat jumped into the sleigh. There was a bag on the back of the sleigh, very reminiscent of Santa’s sack, and he stuck his head in it. After a few moments, he pulled out a long scarf that he then wrapped around his neck, and a jaunty Santa hat that he put on his head. More smoke came out of the bag, and once again, Molly smelled pine and cinnamon.

The smoke formed letters that said, “It’s a winter wonderland! Get out and enjoy it!”

Then, to their astonishment, the smoke formed into a sparkling ball and shot out of the calendar to hover above the children. It formed more words: “Follow me!” and then zoomed out of the door.

“Well, go!” Molly said, as the others gaped at it. “You don’t want to lose sight of it, do you?”

Schrodinger, Jack, and Aurora were already in hot pursuit, and Molly heard the front door open. We’ll keep it in sight! The CrossCat’s voice was excited. Get your coats and follow our voices!


The ball of sparkling smoke moved faster than they had expected, but it left a trail of brilliant sparks floating in the air that was easy to follow, even through the snow. The air was crisp and cold, but Schrodinger’s nose filled with the scent of pine trees and cinnamon that seemed to be the calendar’s signature this year.

Where do you think it’s going? Aurora ran easily next to him, the two of them trailing Jack, who was in full hound mode and baying happily.

I’ll bet it’s something to do with sledding! Schrodinger said, as they wove through trees in the park across the road from the bookstore.

Being on the rocky Maine coast, there were plenty of hills in Carter’s Cove to sled on in the winter, but the ball of smoke didn’t seem to be heading to any of the ones that they were familiar with. A stray thought from Lily crossed his mind: the kids were in their coats and mittens, and the sparkles were still visible to them. Which made sense, when he thought about it. What good was a track that they couldn’t follow?

Wow, you guys! Wait until you see this!
Jack’s baying increased, and when Schrodinger and Aurora burst out of the trees next to him, they understood why.

There was a large mound of snow, almost a mountain, and atop it, balanced as if waiting for them, was a large tobaggon.

They gave us a sled big enough for all of us! Aurora barked happily. Indeed, the sled was huge, but even it was dwarfed by the mound of snow it sat upon.

“Where did the snow mountain come from?” Zoey asked, as the kids hurried up beside them. “This wasn’t here yesterday!”

They all looked around. “I think it came from there!” Lily said, pointed to a vacant lot across the road from the edge of the park. “Look, it’s been all cleared!”

The sled forgotten for a moment, they went to the edge of the park. “What was here before?” Gideon asked, as they looked at the cleaned lot. It was large, and even now, with the snow falling around them, the ground was bare.

“They must have a spell on it,” Kaylee whispered. “Look, you can see the snow melting!”

Not melting, Schrodinger said. It’s being put onto the mountain!

And so it was. As they looked, the sled moved a bit, and the hill got even longer and higher.

“Let’s go!” Gideon said. “This is going to be awesome!”

(advent) Saturday, December 1

The box was waiting for Molly McIntyre and Schrodinger Barrett when they came back from an early lunch with Molly’s husband Drew. Molly took one look at the barely-suppressed excitement in the faces of the four children and two dogs that were arranged around the table and smiled. “Well, I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t stop at the grocery store,” she said. “These guys look like they’re going to explode if they have to wait much longer.”

If that box is what I think it is, I don’t blame them! Schrodinger bounded into the tea room. Come on, Molly! Don’t you want to see what kind of Advent calendar they sent us??

“Of course I do!”

Christmas in Carter’s Cove, Maine, had always been one of Molly’s favorite seasons, but the last few years had definitely been highlights, thanks in large part to the magical Advent calendars from the Cove’s protectors, the Snow Queen and Jack Frost. Now, Molly hurried after the CrossCat, eager to see what this year’s adventures would bring.

“We’ve been waiting FOREVER for you guys to come back!” Kaylee Barrett said, bouncing in her seat, her brown hair falling into her eyes. “This came right after you left!”

“But we waited to open it!” her older sister Lily added. “Because that’s what it says.” She pointed to the box. “Zette was very specific.”

Indeed, across the top of the box was written: “To Lily and Kaylee Barrett, Zoey Allard, Gideon Fable, Schrodinger Barrett, Jack, and Aurora. Do not open until you are all together!”

“Wow,” Molly said, pulling her coat off. “It must be very special! I wonder what they have planned for you guys this year.” She draped her coat over one of the chairs and then gestured to them. “Well, what are you waiting for?”

Four pairs of hands and one set of claws reached out to the box (Jack and Aurora just watched, of course, since their paws weren’t suited for this), and the tape quickly succumbed to their efforts. There was a slight pause, and then a small wisp of what looked like smoke curled up from the box, to Molly’s slight concern.

“Did she send us a DRAGON?” Gideon asked, his eyes wide.

I doubt it, Schrodinger said, but even his voice was unsure. Dragons are sentient beings, and you don’t give them as gifts.

“But then what is it?” Zoey asked, looking at the others. “What else would SMOKE?”

They all shrugged.

“Maybe you should look into it,” Molly said, moving over and doing just that. To her surprise, the only thing in the box was a tightly rolled tube. She pulled it out. As she did so, another wisp of smoke curled up and around her, redolent of pine and cinnamon.

“What is it?” Lily asked.

“I don’t know,” Molly admitted. The tube was a cardboard poster tube, sealed on either end with green and gold wax embossed with jingle bells, snowflakes, and acorns. She cracked one, releasing a bit more smoke, and privately wondered just what the Snow Queen and Jack had decided to do. Although this feels more like Old Man Winter’s style, she thought.

Inside the tube was a soft roll of fabric. Molly unrolled it and they all crowded around her as she laid it out on the table top, moving the packing materials aside.

“Oh, how pretty!” Zoey said, reaching out a finger to gently touch the richly-embroidered scene. Molly could only marvel at the craftsmanship in front of her.

The scene was a Victorian house, all decorated for Christmas, one room for each day. Each room had a different theme for the decorations, and they all seemed to move, sparkle, and glow. Now it was apparent where the little wisps of smoke had come from – candles danced on mantels, tables, and chandeliers, and every room seemed to have a fireplace alight.

“But how does it work?” Gideon asked, peering closely at it. He frowned.

“Magic, of course!” Kaylee said. “Duh.”

“No, I mean, how do we use it?” Gideon replied. “There’s no windows or pockets or anything for us to open.” He leaned over so close to the tapestry that his nose nearly touched it. “It’s missing something!”

What’s that on the bottom? Jack said, speaking for the first time. The pouch?

Molly saw what he was referring to. A small embroidered pouch hung from the bottom right corner, attached by a green and gold braided cord. She opened the pouch and shook the contents into her hand.

“Is that a cat?” Kaylee asked, as Molly blinked. “It is! It looks like you, Schrodinger!”

“But I don’t understand!” Gideon said. “What does that have to do with any….” His voice trailed off as the little cat stirred, stretched, and yawned on Molly’s palm. It really did look like a miniature CrossCat, complete with the tufts on its ears and Schrodinger’s bright green eyes. Then, as they watched, the cat leaped up and onto the tapestry – and then merged into it.

“Oh my!” Lily breathed, as the cat prowled around the attic, obviously looking for something. The attic was split into three rooms, and the room he landed in was stocked with toys and wrapped boxes. In one corner, a tiny evergreen tree sparkled, covered in silver snowflakes and golden acorns. The floor was covered with a fluffy white carpet that was almost, but not quite, snow, and garlands of snowflakes hung from the rafters. There was no fireplace, but a little candle burned in the one window.

“What’s he looking for?” Zoey said, watching the little cat, who was now deep in a pile of presents, digging for something.

Molly was about to reply when the door to CrossWinds Books blew open, distracting her. She turned to see the Snow Queen, Jade herself, come in, looking unusually upset. She was normally the most serene person Molly knew.

“I’m so sorry, children! I don’t -” And then she gasped as she saw the tapestry. “How did you get that?”

“You sent it to us?” Gideon said, wrinkling his brow. “Didn’t you?”

Jade shook her head, shedding snowflakes from her icy blonde hair. “No, I didn’t. I was on my way here to apologize. The Advent Calendar we were working on, that calendar,” and she pointed to the tapestry, “was stolen from my workroom two days ago. I’ve been looking all over for it.”

“Stolen?” Molly said. “By who?”

“I don’t know,” Jade said. She came over to the calendar and laid a hand on the tapestry. “We had just finished laying the groundwork magic on it and left it to finish overnight. When I unlocked the workroom the next morning, it was gone. Nothing else was taken.”

“Do you think it’s safe?” Molly said. “Or should we not do any more?” She ignored the cries of dismay from around her. “Jade?”

The Snow Queen frowned, obviously concentrating on the calendar. The little cat was still digging in the pile, only the tuft of his tail visible.

“I don’t sense anything malevolent,” she said finally, taking her hand away. “I think it should be okay, but keep an eye on it.” Jade looked up at Molly. “We’ll be doing the same.”

“Yay!” Kaylee and Gideon cheered. “It wouldn’t have been fun without a calendar!”

“Look!” Zoey said, pointing to the room.

The little cat was pulling something from the pile, moving backwards slowly. As they watched, he got the present free of the pile, and nudged it until it was upright. Then he grabbed the ribbon on the top in his teeth and yanked it open. The box fell apart, and a shower of sparks filled the air. They drifted out of the tapestry and formed the words “Welcome to Christmas,” then reformed into “Are you ready for a mystery?”

(writing/personal) Thoughts on a grey November day

Winter has come to New England.

Christmas is coming officially now. It’s one month out from today, and my world is full of melting snow at the moment. The November rain won’t last, though – they’re already talking more white stuff for Tuesday, and my joints tell me that this year will be cold. Normally, I’d be back in bed, covers over my head, begging for spring. And I will probably get there on some days this year.

But not now. This year, for some odd reason, I’m not dreading the snow. I’m not counting down the days until it all melts, and I’m not hiding in my room. Part of that is probably because I have a new neurologist and better meds to help with both the depression and the migraines. My knees are achy, but considering the damage I’ve done to both of them, that’s not going to change any time soon. I’m even not worried about driving into work.

There’s a sort of zen peace around me now, and I’m embracing it. This winter is for rediscovering myself. I want to write every day, whether it be a blog post, or a story, or a letter to someone that may or may not get sent. I’m crocheting and cross-stitching in the evenings while I listen to BBC Worldwide (I’ve dropped my cable TV and my land line phone). I’m working on cleaning out my house. I want to read more books.

Today in my daily pages, I set myself a goal: to read in a book every day. And then to decide if I am keeping the book, or giving it away. I’m going to track it on my Goodreads page, just to see how many books I can get through. 

I’ve also decided on some upcoming projects that I’ll be working on after Winter Mysteries is done. I have a short story I want to send in for a contest, and I think I’m in the right headspace to finally write both Resonant Frequencies and Bluebird’s Lament this year. I’m going to crochet some blankets, and try my first sweater.

And I’m giving myself permission to rest this winter. It’s a time for regaining my strength and my center for the coming spring.

Wednesday words (personal/writing)

I adore black cats.

It’s Wednesday! This is my off day, and because it’s a weekday, it tends to be my “OMGIneedtorunalltheerrands!” day. Not this week. I’m taking a day to myself, because this weekend is wedding #2 (last weekend was wedding #1), and I’ve got farther to drive for this one. Dad and I are heading down to Pennsylvania! Send me enough good vibes that I make it through.

So today, I’m doing laundry, maybe a bit of writing (although I don’t know) and resting. There’s probably going to be some World of Warcraft later. There’s definitely going to be work on Conri’s trim, but mostly, today is the day to scale Mt. Doom – I mean, Mt. Laundry. That means that I get to listen to podcasts! I’m working my way through several, including Living with the Gods and A Pagan Heart in Maine. We’ll see what today’s playlist holds.

Whole30 and food news


I did a Whole30 in January and February of this year, and it pretty much changed my life. So much so that since then, I’ve listened to the audiobooks at least twice each (no, seriously, I have both It Starts with Food and Food Freedom Forever! on my Audible and I’ve listened to both recently, again), and I’m about to buy The Whole30. It’s amazing how different just eating real food has been. And it’s had an effect on my writing, which is why I feel I might be going overboard a bit in my love for it, but seriously, it has. So much so that I’m starting another round on June 1, not because I feel like I’m slipping (although by then, I might be) but because I want to enjoy all the fresh fruits and vegetables that will start coming in to the farmer’s markets, and because by then, I’ll have done my two cons and will need a bit of a reset.


And yes, this is a writing blog, but I wanted to talk about how your health in general affects your writing. While there is a certain weird glamour in being “artistic” and drunk/stoned and generally unhealthy, in the long run, it doesn’t bode well for your creative endeavors. Seriously. Take care of your body, and you’ll be able to be creative for a long time.


It doesn’t have to be Whole30, either. Find a lifestyle that works for you, and don’t get caught up in the minutiae of what you “Should” be doing. I know one writer who has a little foot pedal set-up in front of his couch. He bikes while he watches TV. Another writer I know runs (actually, quite a few of them do, now that I think of it). I’m hoping to get my bike going this summer, and getting a pair of roller skates. What about you guys? What are you going to do to get healthy?

(personal/writing/food/health) Yes, I can eat salads – in short, a month on Whole30 with Crohns

On January 4, 2018, I started my second attempt at a Whole30. I had made it 9 days in September before my guts rebelled, but I was determined this time (and better prepared, to be honest), and I completed the 30 day reset on February 2, 2018. I’m in the re-introduction phase now, to see what foods I’ll be adding back into my regular eating rotation, and what foods will be saved for when it’s really worth it.


I have Crohn’s disease, which is typically a disease that restricts your eating to very bland, very easy to digest foods. I personally have lived on the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) when I’m having a flare. The Whole30 involves cutting out all grains, all legumes, all dairy, all alcohol, all added sugar for 30 days. Doesn’t really sound like they’d go together, do they? I was skeptical too. Trust me.


It’s an honest worry. For the Whole30, your meals consist of protein, vegetables, fruits, and a plated fat. I could still have potatoes, and cauliflower makes yummy rice. I couldn’t put honey in my tea when my throat was sore. I couldn’t use my beloved gingerbread syrup. It wasn’t easy.


No, that’s an understatement. It was damn hard, and I almost gave up a couple of times. I was lucky to have K-J, Shannon, Amber, and the rest of my friends in my Food Freedom Group talk me off the ledge a few times, mostly when I was frustrated with life and wanted nothing more than to crawl into a bottle of rum and not come out. They pointed out how far I’d come, how good I was feeling otherwise, and how I would sabotage everything I’d done in one moment of frustration. And they were right.


You can’t do Whole30 without a strong support system, in my personal opinion. And not just for the frustrating moments. Your support system is there to suggest new recipes when you would rather spork your eyes out than eat another damn egg, or to help you with ideas for what to eat when you go out. They cheer you on with all the non-scale victories that you see along the way. And they help you soldier on when you feel like you should just give up.


The other thing about Whole30 is that it’s NOT a weight loss program. It’s about changing your relationship with food – learning what affects your body in a good way and what doesn’t, and learning not to reward or comfort yourself with food. The weight loss happens, but it’s not the point of the program. You actually are not supposed to weigh yourself at all during the 30 days.


So, back to the Crohn’s. I was a little apprehensive, but I decided I was going to do it. All of it. No hedging. At the beginning of my first one, I hadn’t been able to eat many raw veggies or fruits at all in years. Most of my meals were carb-heavy, and I hated the way I felt. As I sit here now, after the reset, I’m eating salads almost every day, with no issues. I have vegetables at every meal. I have discovered my love of coconut butter and I don’t even miss chocolate. And I have kicked my caffeine demon and my sugar dragon into a deep cave, where they are sleeping peacefully.


I’m also down 18 pounds, but that’s kind of beside the point. I have energy again. My guts don’t hurt. I sleep better. My mind is clearer. I feel more connected to people, and more compassionate. I have the ability now to stop and think before I say or do something. I don’t use food as a reward.


This isn’t over, though. I know this is a journey, and the only “end” is when I take my last breath. I’m not on a diet. I’m changing my relationship with food, and relationships continue to evolve. While I had a very positive experience with it this time, I still take my Crohn’s medication daily. I checked with my GI and my PCP before I started this. I would recommend you do the same.


But I would recommend, if you think it would help, and your doctors agree, to give it a try. I’ll be there to cheer you on. I’m already looking forward to this summer, when hopefully my dad will be doing this with me. If you decide to try it, please let me know!


In other news, I’ve decided that I need to start writing again. My friend Robert has called this year the Year of Teaching for his embroidery. I think this year for me is the Year of Writing. I have books and stories to tell. And honestly. I just feel better when I write. I did delete my Patreon account (I might set it up again later, but I don’t feel that I can do it now) but I did start a Ko-Fi account. You can donate there if you’d like. The link to buy me a cup of tea or whatever is here. I’ve set it up on the website as well.


I’ll be at RavenCon in April, and Balticon in May. I’m not sure what else I’m doing for cons this year, but we’ll see. Want me at your con? Drop me a line and let me know.

(personal/writing/advent) 2018 – my first full year alone

I swear this year is going to be better. I won’t let it be the same way it was last year. I won’t.


But things are going to have to change. I’m realizing how hard it is to do things on my own – not just in terms of emotionally (because it IS hard, even if you are okay with being alone, which I am), but in financial terms. My hat is off to all you folks who have been doing this all along. I thought it was hard with two incomes. It’s so much worse with one. And it doesn’t seem like the bills get any less.


There are a few silver linings for the year coming up: I can work from home when I need to, which means no more real days missed due to weather or illness. My Crohns’ disease is under control, and I’m getting healthier every day.


I start my Whole30 food program today, so there will be random posts about that. I’m still trying to figure out how to post automatically to Facebook from here, but I’ll just have to do it manually until I can get into the guts of my website. Which I will have to do anyways, because I’m going to redesign the entire site.


In writerly news, I did cancel my Patreon. I’m contemplating several things, including maybe putting a tip jar out here on the site for right now. I don’t feel that I give enough right now to make a Patreon practical for me or fair to my readers. I might also get a Ko-Fe page, but I don’t know right now.


I’m working on the new Advent story – I will finish it by the end of January for you all. I promise. Then there are the proofs of Winter’s Storms to go through, the cover to finalize, and that will be out by April 20, which is RavenCon! And I’ll be there that weekend, with calendars and copies of both books, and Schrodinger, of course. He might even get a new hat or vest for the occasion.


I’m also now accepting new clients for proofreading only. My rates are:

-Up to 10k is $25

-Every additional 5K is $10

I do fiction, non-fiction, whatever. Poetry might be weird, but I’ll give it a shot. Here’s what I do for proof-reading:
I go through and pick out any misspelled words, missing words and/or phrases, and make sure your heroine’s hair hasn’t gone from blonde to brunette without a dye job in the middle of the story. I also tend to correct punctuation, mostly commas and things like that.


If you’re interested in that, please drop me a line at and we’ll talk. Turnaround is based on how big your project is.


I guess that’s it. Happy New Year folks.

Living in interesting times

For those who may not know, my father had his left hip replaced on Monday. So this week I’ve been in caretaker mode. Luckily my family has been awesome with helping, but the upshot is that I’m working from his house and sleeping in my old bedroom for the week.


Interesting times indeed.