Saturday, December 23, 2017

Cozy Christmas Reads: Allie's story

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of "A Brilliant Christmas" by Allie Pleiter

 I take a deep, expectant breath as I wander into my building's upstairs lobby. It's a quiet old room—full of big windows, overstuffed chairs, and afternoon sunshine. I imagine there was a time when this was called a "parlor" back in the day when a seventeen-story building marveled as a "skyscraper."
Warm sunshine greets me, but the promising solace and silence is broken by the presence of a large—no huge—green lizard.
What? Who left their miniature dragon out in the sun?
It's been one of those days. Actually, it's been one of those weeks, and I wanted some peaceful time to sit and knit in my favorite hiding spot. "Now there's something you don't see every day," I quip, mostly to hide my annoyance.
"A sunny day in Chicago in December?" a deep voice with a British accent calls from behind the high-backed chair that is usually my favorite perch. "It's bloody arctic out there."
"Actually, I was talking about your lizard," I reply. "And we have lots of sunny winter days in Chicago." I walk farther into the room as a pair of jeans and black boots—both looking expensively distressed—come into view. "You know he's illegal, don't you?” I advise. Trust me, if pets were permitted in this building, I'd have adopted a herd of cats by now.
He leans around the chair back to look at me. I've never seen blue-black eyes like that before. They're striking. Stormy and intense under that mop of tousled black hair. There's a carefully calculated wildness to this guy's appearance that makes me wonder if the lizard is a beloved pet, or just the perfect shock-value accessory.
He reaches for the big green beast with the blatant affection my grandmother shows her cats. Definitely pet. Weird pet, but beloved. Still illegal, either way.
"Marilyn has a special dispensation."
The hundred-dollar word makes me laugh. "I thought only the Pope could give dispensations."
"Well, evidently the maintenance man can as well, provided you plunk down an obscenely large pet deposit."
Lou? Our super has all the compassion of a red-light camera. That must have been a hefty sum. "Marilyn, huh? She like the sun?"
"It's a must-have for iguanas. They get sick if you don't give them enough. That wasn't much of a challenge in L.A., but here..." he scoffs.
I sit down in the other high-back chair. The pair of chairs face the set of deliciously big windows that make this room the haven I often seek. It's the tenth floor, so the height helps me to remember the rat race down on the street isn't all there is to life. When you've got a job that's a one-hundred-percent uphill battle, you've got to do a little "mood maintenance." A lot, actually. Usually, an hour of quiet—maybe even prayerful—knitting in this sunny space is enough to recharge my batteries. I came up here for "Be Still My Soul," and wound up with "Animal Planet." Still, friendliness counts for something so I ask, "You're new here?"
"An extended stay."
Not "spending the holidays," but "an extended stay." There's just enough edge to his words to tell me there's a story there, but he doesn't elaborate.
Do iguanas bite? I can't remember, so I chance it and extend my hand anyway. "I'm Zoe."
He starts to extend a hand—one with a really interesting silver ring, then freezes mid-gesture with a look of alarm on his face. "Zoe what?"
Do British introductions require last names? "Zoe Walters," I reply slowly, wondering just how bad it would look to retract my hand.
"Oh," he gulps, eyes wide, "you're her." The hand that ought to be shaking mine runs through his hair, while Marilyn's big froggish eyes roll to me with such a snide expression that I brace for dragon smoke to shoot from her nostrils.
"I'm who?" I ask, stunned by his reaction.
"From the thing," he says, waving his hand, "at the museum. The class."
Almost everyone in the building knows I run The Brick House, a neighborhood arts program a few blocks away. I know, because they all wonder how I can afford to live here on a not-for-profit salary, and most of them aren't particularly subtle about how they ask. Grandma—the one with the cats—helps my sister and I hold down the cost of our apartment here. Not that it's any of their business.
Nor is it Mister Lizard Guy's, who still hasn't told me his name or why mine is such cause for alarm.
Oh, you've got to be kidding me.
I don't know why I didn't figure it out immediately, except for the fact that I never in a thousand years dreamed Nigel Langdon would be living in my building. I pictured Nigel Langdon a whole lot different than how he actually looks.
Things just got really interesting.
"You're Nigel Langdon?" Oops, probably shouldn't have asked that with quite the air of surprise I just did. One ought to treat the famous television animator recently down on his luck with a bit more class than a shocked American question mark.
"Most people recognize me." He flops back against the chair. "Or did.”

Blurb for Allie's story, A Brilliant Christmas (included in the book  "I'll Be Home For Christmas: Four Inspirational Holiday Novellas"): 

Zoe Walters pours her heart and soul into the community arts center she runs. Her kids could benefit so much from the brilliant talents of animator Nigel Langdon—if he weren’t such a legendary grump. 

The next six weeks of his artist-in-residency look like they’ll ruin Zoe’s Christmas for sure. And certainly, things get off to a rocky start until Zoe discovers the great big heart—and the deep hurt—Nigel’s been hiding under that crusty exterior. It turns out Nigel can see through to Zoe’s deepest wounds as well. 

When the arts center is threatened, Nigel and Zoe come together not only to save the organization, but to discover a love and the brilliant Christmas no one ever expected.

Book Review for 
"I'll Be Home For Christmas: Four Inspirational Holiday Novellas" (entire story collection): 

From small towns to the larger city of Chicago and from first impressions to first loves, I’ll Be Home for Christmas includes for novella collections to warm your heart.

Even though each of the stories in this collection is standalone (which go with each author’s separate book series), the collection is delightful and fun. From two people pretending to be together and a matchmaking relative, an ex-NFLer, ex-convict who wants to make a difference in the lives of young people but doesn’t feel worthy of the job, a famous cartoonist who has fallen in the public’s eye and takes an artist-in-residency position in Chicago, and first loves who are tricked into spending the holiday in Florida, each of the characters may just get more than they ever dreamed of for Christmas.

Filled with hope, family, friendships, and some laughter, I’ll Be Home for Christmas embodies what Christmas should look like. It’s never about the gifts under the tree but the relationships around the table. ~Review written by Suzanne Waltner on Amazon.


Author bio: An avid knitter, coffee junkie and unreformed chocoholic, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction working on as many as four novels at a time.

The enthusiastic but slightly untidy bestselling author of over thirty books, Allie spends her days writing, buying yarn, and finding new ways to avoid housework. Allie hails from Connecticut, moved to the midwest to attend Northwestern University, and currently lives outside Chicago, Illinois.

The “dare from a friend” to begin writing has produced a seventeen-year career with over 1.3 million books sold. In addition to writing, Allie maintains an active writing productivity coaching practice and speaks regularly on faith, the creative process, women’s issues, and her very favorite topic—time management for writers. 

Visit her website at to learn more.

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  1. This Christmas couldn’t be more brilliant. I was surrounded by friends and family and that makes it all worthwhile!


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