Same Old Patty, New Tricks? Maybe? I hope? (by Patty Blount)

 As Allie Burton pointed out in her excellent post of January 16th, we writers sometimes have to switch things up, try something new, to freshen up stale writing. 

In my case, I don't think it's the writing that's stale. 

It's me.

I'm stale. I haven't had a book release since 2018. That's a long time, especially for YA authors. In those years, my reading audience started AND completed high school. 

There's an old saying, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." It's not just tears. It's all the feels -- all emotion in general. If I'm bored by it, so shall you be. 

So...I'm mixing things up. I'm starting over. I found a new agent and wrote a romantic suspense. That was surprisingly hard and I enjoyed it so plan to make it a series. 

I also wrote a YA rom/com about a girl who hates her Christmas birthday and decides to strike all things Christmas. Trying to write humor during COVID wasn't easy but you know what? It was therapy. I decided during Pandemic Year One that I would NOT incorporate COVID into my stories. I may change my mind at some point, but for right now, NOT thinking about the thing I can't help thinking about is keeping me sane. 

So here's a sneak peek at The Christmas Strike. I hope you find it funny. Lie to me if you must. 

THE SECOND WE ARRIVED HOME from the mall, Mom disappeared into the kitchen. Within minutes, the scents of vanilla, sugar, and gingerbread wafted through the house and my heart sank in a combination of knee-buckling relief and blood-burning fury. 

Mom was baking? Oh, this was bad. Very, very bad.

There was no denying it, no pretending I’d misunderstood her. The signs were all here and they were as clear as a Christmas bell. 
Even though she promised we’d skip this year, Mom must have entered the Holiday Spirit Award competition.

I said a bad word under my breath as the chill skated down my spine. Once the Christmas twinkle appeared in my mother’s eye, nothing else mattered, a fact made painfully aware to me every year since the town began this award. Last year, poor Holly caught a stomach bug and Mom left me alone with her, holding a barf bucket, so she could still make one of the events. 

“Noelle!” She shouted. “I need your help in here!”

The sounds of Christmas music floated out and disappointment flooded through me on a tsunami wave. This was not a drill—we were now at Elf-Con 3 and the situation was looking worse with every minute. 

Slowly, I headed for the kitchen, stopping at the door when I heard Dad on the speakerphone. 

“Ricki, honey, I’m not sure about this. I mean, we did promise.” That was Dad, his voice tinny.

“Kevin, it’ll be fine. Noelle will understand. We’ll make it up to her. We’ll do a huge catered birthday party. She’ll love that,” Mom countered. 

No. I would hate that. 

I wanted the day at the museum with a couple of friends and maybe a nice dinner out someplace because it was low key. That was me in a two words or less. 
“…and I thought we’d put a new tree in that room, one he might like to trim himself,” she was saying. 

“Okay, I’ll bring home a small tree.”

“Thanks, that would be a big help. I wanted to buy the tree earlier, but Crystal insisted we go to the boutique for her holiday outfit and well—“

It wasn’t for a holiday outfit! It was for my birthday outing. 

“It’s no problem. There are two lots nearby,” Dad said. 

“Well, good. Nick says Quintin’s never really had a family Christmas. As soon as I heard that, I checked the rules and learned he can participate as a member of our family, because he’ll be with us for longer than three days, so could you bring home more flour and molasses for the gingerbread contest? Oh! And extra tape for the gift-wrap contest.” 

“Will do. Bye, honey.” 

She ended the call and flipped on the stand mixer. “Noelle!” 
Tears stung again. 

My mother’s promises were like the egg whites she was currently whipping into frothy meringue—filled with air. 
I stepped into view and waited for her to notice me. 

She wore a red apron trimmed in white, a perfect match to the little red bells that jingled from her ears. Two trays of frozen lasagna waited their turn in the oven. On the counter, she fitted blades into a second mixer—a handheld one, this time. We'd been home for less than five minutes. How in the name of Kris Kringle had she done all this already? Her dark hair was pinned up and streaked with flour. She measured cream of tartar into the stand mixer while operating the hand-held mixer with the other hand and finally caught sight of me lurking in the doorway. 

“Noelle, good. Finally! Didn’t you hear me calling you? Start doing those dishes. I’m incredibly behind schedule and need to get dinner moving so we can get straight to decorating the cookies as soon as we finish eating. The cookie contest is in two days so there will be plenty of time for do-overs.” 

Dinner. Decorating. Do-overs?
No. No. No!

I didn’t know why but I still couldn’t believe what I heard. I mean, I had enough evidence in hand. Maybe it was the child in me who still believed in Santa when I said, “You said we’d skip the contests this year. You said we’d have a nice relaxing holiday. You said my birthday could be top priority this year.” 

I flicked the power off for the stand mixer so I could hear her reply. She gave me a sharp look. 

“Yes, yes, I know,” she waved a hand like we were talking about something insignificant, like whether to use salted or sweet butter in the icing. “But that was before Nick brought home his roommate. Now that Quintin will be spending the mid-semester break with us, I want to make sure Christmas is special for him.” 

Special for him? 
That was so nice, but what about me? 

“Mom, we planned the museum outing weeks ago and—“

“Oh, the museum.” She wiped her hands on her apron and grabbed the calendar from its home on the refrigerator door. “The 26th won’t work, because that’s the day of the Christmas Lights Walk. You can’t go on the 25th, obviously, and the 24th is out because we have the award announcement. The 23rd could still work if it’s before three o’clock…” 

The pang in my chest felt like my heart cracked down the center. “You said. No, actually you promised we’d—” 

She flicked on the hand held mixer. 

Rage lurked just under that pang of disappointment. I snatched the bag of flour just as Mom reached for it. I’d meant to toss the whole damn sack into the trash. Yeah, I know it was childish and immature, but desperate times/desperate measures and all that.
That’s when Nick walked in followed by someone…well, tall. 

That’s all I could tell you about his roommate. 

The rest of him was obscured by the cloud formed by half the damn sack of flour I’d somehow squeezed all over him.

Like I said. This was bad. This was very, very bad.

I coughed, sputtered, rubbed my eyes while Nick’s mom kept pressing a damp paper towel to my eyes. 

“Noelle, what is the matter with you?” She shouted. 

“You promised.” 

A second voice answered—one dangerously close to tears. I recognized that sound. Bronwyn could whip up tears like a magician could whip a rabbit from his hat. But, I had to admit, these tears sounded real.

“You promised! You looked me right in the eye and you promised you would NOT do exactly what you’re doing!” 
Oh, these were real tears, all right. There was more than just pain in her voice. There was betrayal so bitter, I could practically taste it. I met Nick’s eyes and he looked mortified. 

“Noelle, for God’s sake, chill out,” he snapped. “This is my roommate and friend, Quintin. Q, this is my sister, Noelle.” 


Nick. Noelle. Garland? The whole family had Christmas names? Oh my--

“Quintin, I’m sorry for my daughter’s behavior.” Nick’s mom wiped and dabbed at my face.

Noelle spun. “My behavior? I’m not the one who broke her promise.” 

Her mother slapped a hand to the counter. “You are the one who covered a guest in our house in half a sack of flour and are making him feel more uncomfortable by the second. Stop behaving like a toddler and apologize.”

I blinked a few more times and was able to see clearly for the first time since I walked into the Garland kitchen. When Nick and I arrived here earlier, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The house was straight out of a holiday movie. The exterior was just like that of several other homes in the area; two front-facing gables that framed a large center front door and a porch on one side. But inside, the house felt large and cozy at the same time. The scent of evergreen was the first thing that hit me. Nick rolled his eyes, said his parents put up a tree in every room and he wasn’t kidding. He gave me a tour and when we got to the kitchen, my jaw dropped. 

Nick’s mom—I’d been invited to call her Erica—looked like the host of one of those cooking competition shows. She had the whole space organized for a baking marathon. The large island in the center of the room had been covered with pans, trays, bowls, bags, boxes and jars. The scents of vanilla, gingerbread, and sugar filled the air even as the flour clogged my pores. 
Now, it looked like a bomb had exploded. 

Flour dusted every surface near the *cough* blast radius—except for where Noelle, Erica, and I stood. Noelle’s body was outlined in flour on a cabinet door and let me just say, wow. A laugh bubbled inside me but I swallowed it down because the other thing that hung in the air besides all the flour was tension.
I had no idea what Nick and I just walked in on, but it was obviously painful for Nick’s sister. Tears ran down her face, clearing paths through the flour, but it was her eyes that did me in. They were light brown and the pool of tears swimming in them made them look bottomless. The expression there wasn’t just hurt feelings. It was a stark echo—a raw and naked been-there/done-that scar comprised of past injustices layered over old wounds. 

It was exhaustion. 

I shifted my gaze to Erica Garland, still trying to clean my face. It struck me how she’d never once looked at her daughter while all of this went down. Whatever this is was a long and frustrating story and I was now in the middle of it. 


I had parents who never saw me, either. Misery loves company. Wasn’t that how the old saying goes? Nick must have recognized the kindred spirit in me when he invited me home. 

I took the towel and stepped back from Erica Garland’s attempts to clean me. “What…um. What promise did you break?” I asked, looking directly into her eyes. 

Erica’s eyes, that same light brown I’d seen on Nick and Noelle, narrowed at me. But this wasn’t my house. She wasn’t my mom. So with courage I rarely felt when dealing with my own parents, I didn’t break the gaze. Noelle’s head whipped around and from the corner of my eye, I could tell she was dumbfounded by my question. 

After about thirty seconds, Erica stammered and shifted. “Oh, it’s silly. Don’t worry about it. You caught us in the middle of it, but you’re our guest. Go upstairs to wash up and change. I can wash your shirt, if you like. Or Noelle will,” she added with a glare at her daughter.


Nick’s sister rushed by me, leaving a cloud of flour in her wake. 

“Nick. Hand me another towel and let’s clean this up.”
I left Erica and Nick and followed Noelle.
Past injustices layered over old wounds. 
I needed to find out more.


  1. I'll buy it as soon as it's available.

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