Back when I was in high school a friend of mine and I would occasionally stop by the Dairy Queen and get a mug of root beer. Back then you could get a big frosted mug of root beer for a quarter. Root beer came in glass mugs at the Dairy Queen back then, and when we were finished with them, the Dairy Queen would wash them and use them for the next customers and the customers after that. That was back when my grandkids tell me my generation was destroying the planet. Not like today when Dairy Queen root beer comes in plastic cups with plastic lids and plastic straws that are used to build plastic islands out in the middle of the ocean. Milk came in glass refillable bottles then, too, as well as most pop, and people would have laughed if you had tried to sell them water in a plastic bottle that became more building material for the islands, and each family had only one car, and most people had never flown on a fuel guzzling, carbon emitting airplane! Destroying the planet my— … But I digress.

We had a friend who worked at the Dairy Queen back then, and depending on how our friendship was doing, he would either pack the refillable glass mugs with so much crushed ice, we’d get maybe two tablespoons of root beer, or he would put in two tablespoons of ice and we would get twice as much root beer as was the norm. Having a friend at the Dairy Queen can be a blessing or a curse depending on how the friendship is going. I guess that applies to more than just root beer when it comes to friendships. We started asking for our root beer with no ice to take the power away from our friend, but the owner figured out quickly that we were getting fifty cents worth of root beer for a quarter and quickly put a stop to that.

Ice is a funny thing. It’s only real purposes are to cool things down, whether it be root beer or a rapidly swelling sprained ankle, and to provide a platform from which to ice fish. When I was a kid, I don’t remember putting ice in my drinks. I drank pop straight from the refillable glass bottle, and at meals our family drank a lot of milk. If we occasionally had Kool-Aid, we drank it neat, no ice. My wife, on the other hand, has an obsession with ice. Anything she drinks will have ice in it, even coffee. Our refrigerator once had a working automatic ice maker. As soon as the ice bin was full, my wife would dump it in a bag and store it in the freezer. We had bags and bags of ice hoarded in the freezer on the off-hand chance that if there was an apocalypse, we would be prepared. Maybe my wife planned on charging hundreds of dollars per cube and making a vast Bloomberg-type fortune. It didn’t happen.

Eventually the ice maker got tired of doing all that work for the little we were paying it. It went on intermittent strikes for a time and finally said to heck with it and outright quit. My wife had to make ice in trays by hand after that. She now just makes sure the ice bin is full, however we currently have six milk jugs of frozen water in the freezer just in case the coronavirus apocalypse thing actually happens. We may be sitting on a potential ice gold mind.

I’ve gotten a lot of good comments from people who have read my new novel, A Death in a Snowstorm, but not a lot of reviews. I see they have reduced the price of the paperback on Amazon, so those of you who were waiting for the sale, now is the time.

  Amazon link

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It’s about this time of year, when we’re going into our fifteenth month of winter, that I start looking forward to spring. Spring is coming. It always does. The weather will warm. The snow will melt. The lakes will thaw, then we’ll be attacked by the monster they call April, and a foot of snow will be dumped on us, and we’ll have to start all over again.

This is the most depressing time of the year. It’s not just that we’ve already endured about a year and a half of snow and cold, but the weather is so erratic. One day will be balmy weather filled with sun where we’ll put on shorts and flip flops, and the next day it will be below zero with penguins knocking on doors wanting to come inside to get out of the cold.

When I was a kid, I was young, stupid and unrealistic when it came to spring. As soon as the snow melted, I was sure spring was on the way. The grass would start to green, and the robins would return. The absolute surest sign of spring. I’d dig out my fishing pole and stow all my cold weather gear away. It was heartbreaking when that late April snowstorm always came and put me back in the ice age. Stupid robins.

Now that I’ve put on a few years, I have changed … I am no longer young. When the snow melts and the trees start to bud out and the grass begins turning green, I still have that same anticipation that spring is here. The logical, mature person in me whispers, “We’ll still have a snowstorm or two.” But that unrealistic kid in me won’t listen to some stupid old man who is not saying what I want to hear. It’s warm out. The robins are back. It is spring, and nothing can convince me otherwise … except April.

My new novel A Death in a Snowstorm is about people trying to make things into what they want them to be. I appreciate those of you who have read the book. I’d really, really appreciate someone doing a review.


  Amazon Link     

Beacon Publishing Group Link

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My new novel A Death in a Snowstorm was released last Friday by Beacon Publishing Group. Since it was released, Amazon has raised the price on the paperback copy. I don’t know why, and last time I checked they were sold out of paperback copies. The publisher only gives them so many copies at a time. Which means the response had to have been good. They will get more in. You can still get the book at other outlets and at certain bookstores. You can even order it through Walmart. A list of the places selling the book are at the Beacon Publishing Group site. Here is a LINK.

Many of you have already ordered the book and a few have read it. If you have read the book, I would very much appreciate you doing a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Reviews are the fuel that drives book sales. People want to know if the book is any good, or if they are wasting their money, before they buy it. Sometimes people don’t even mind being conned into buying something that’s not good as long as they know they aren’t the only ones getting duped.

I know writing a review intimidates some people, but were not talking a long elaborate book report like we all had to do in seventh grade. You don’t even need to tell people what the book is about. There is enough stuff on line for them to figure that out. All it has to be is something simple. One sentence works:

“Great book that changed my life forever and cured a persistent boil problem.”

“Only fell asleep twice while reading it.”

“I had a sneaky suspicion all along that the butler did it, which was weird since there wasn’t a butler.”

“I didn’t throw up once while reading it, but I did gag a couple times and developed a persistent boil problem.”

If you didn’t like the book, go ahead and say so, or if you had a problem with parts of it or found a plot hole, you can say that, too. I don’t mind a negative review as long as it’s honest and constructive. I’ve been doing this a long time. I know I’m not perfect, and if you don’t believe me, ask my wife. You don’t even have to use your real name when you do a review if you’re afraid I’ll hunt you down. Amazon allows you to use pseudonyms. Of course if you liked the book, I would appreciate you mentioning that, too.

So a big thank you to everyone who has ordered the book. I hope you’ll enjoy it, and get started on that book report … I mean book review.

Joel Jurrens Amazon author page

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When my wife and I were first married, we were young headstrong individuals. Those strong heads occasionally butted against each other resulting in disagreements. When I say occasionally I of course mean once a day or so. Don’t think by that last statement I’m suggesting our marriage started out as a happily-ever-after fairytale relationship. There were times when we argued a lot more than the once-a-day Utopia I suggested above. Every couple starts off in a false sense of euphoria. That stage of love when you say stupid things like, “I will do anyting my widdle snuggy bunny wants.” For some couples this period lasts the entire marriage. For others, the period is far shorter. The euphoria period for my wife and I would have barely made it through the halftime of a Vikings/Packers game.

Married couples often come into conflict. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s a fact. If there are not certain times when you wish your partner was dead, you are not really in love. (I’m joking of course. I’ve never wished death or injury upon my wife, so remember that if you’re ever subpoenaed to testify in court.)

Too many couples go into relationships with the expectations that everything will always be flowers, butterflies, and “My widdle snuggy bunny will do anyting I want forever.” Hint: Just using that sickly-sweet baby voice can be enough to end a relationship, so stop it.

Conflict actually makes a marriage stronger. It’s not the arguing that makes it stronger. It’s resolving the differences and coming to compromises. In any argument, my wife and I always brought it to a conclusion and put it behind us when one of us would ultimately say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry. We’ll do it your way.” And my wife would reply, “That’s okay. I forgive you.”

When we started having kids, the arguments decreased dramatically. We still disagreed about things, we just no longer had the energy to do anything about it. Most of our yelling had to be reserved for the kids. Now that we are empty nesters and have been married forever, we still have conflicts. But we are older now and the conflicts are resolved quickly. One of us leaves the room and the conflict is over. It is sort of like when I go downstairs to get a jar of sauerkraut and stand around for fifteen minutes wondering why I went downstairs. You can’t be mad about something if you can’t remember what you were mad about.

In storytelling conflict is a good thing. It makes dialogue pop. It gives characters motivation. My new novel A Death in a Snowstorm is full of conflict: between the main character Special Agent Aaron Barnum and the local sheriff; between Aaron and the sheriff’s sergeant; between Aaron and the DNR officer; between the sheriff and witnesses; between the sheriff and the road crew foreman … I could go on, but check it out for yourself. It comes out this Friday February 7.

  Amazon Link


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When I was young I did not have an internal clock—that thing inside a person that tells them when to wake up. I cannot remember ever waking up on my own when I was young. Either I would have to set an alarm, or more often, my mother would come in my bedroom and yell, “Get up or you’ll be late for school.” I did not immediately pop out of bed, because there were days I figured I could learn as much laying there in bed as I would in class, and most days I was right.

I worked night shifts for about twenty of the twenty-six years I was in law enforcement and usually existed on about six hours of sleep a day. I would hit the bed at six am and be awake by noon. I still didn’t have an internal clock; I had a neighbor with two barking dogs outside my bedroom window.

Since my wife has retired, she no longer has an internal clock either. She sets an alarm every day. It goes off with pleasant music from some radio station. Trying to wake her from a sound sleep with soft music is like trying to stop an M1 Abrams tank with a pea shooter. Most days she doesn’t get up until her real alarm, me, comes in and asks her if she set the alarm for a specific reason, or if she just wanted to annoy me.

Now that I have retired, by six am, I am up, drinking coffee and writing something. I now have an internal clock. It’s called an aging bladder. It doesn’t have a snooze setting, and I’ll be darned if I can get the thing set to go off at the right time. Usually by six, I say to heck with it and get up.

I think the reason my internal clock is out of whack is due to all the years I spent working night shifts. I worked four days of ten hour shifts and had the next three days off. I didn’t want to stay up until six on my days off so I did not have a specific time I slept or woke up on a daily basis. Working nights in a small rural sheriff’s office is different from working in a big city department—I’ve tried detailing the difference in most of my novels. We had our busy times, but week nights in the middle of the winter were slow. Sometimes I would drive for hours without seeing car lights, and the only tire tracks on the frosted county blacktops were mine.

During these slow times, I started sitting on an agricultural farm service in our county that sat out in the middle of nowhere. For those of you who don’t know, an Ag service is a place where they sell fertilizer and pesticides to farmers. They also sell anhydrous ammonia which is used to grow corn … and make methamphetamine. When it was slow, I would take my thermos of coffee, turn on the radio and watch for a few hours to see if anyone came with bad intentions. Over the years I did catch a few people trying to steal anhydrous to make meth.

My new novel, A Death in a Snowstorm, opens with a young deputy doing surveillance on an Ag service. Where it ends is, fortunately, somewhere I never had to go. The novel is due out February 7th.

  Check out all my books  Joel Jurrens Author Page on Amazon

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Cabin fever: extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time __Merriam-Webster

As Iowa winters go, this has truly been one of them. We are at that time of the year where the thermometer makes its plunge into the bring-your-brass-monkeys-inside territory. To add to the enjoyment, when the weather does warm, it of course brings the snowstorms. I live in the town where the word blizzard was reportedly first used. A little known rule of grammar is the word blizzard should always be preceded by an expletive, and I’m not talking darn blizzard.

The problem is, when it gets this cold, no one wants to venture outdoors. (My wife doesn’t even want to go SHOPPING!!!!) If you do bundle up like Nanook of the North and leave the warmth of your house, there’s just not that much to do except shovel snow which is fun for the first three minutes. I know some of you living down in the sissy South where cold means below sixty degrees, are thinking, why can’t you build a snowman, have snowball fights, ice fish or go sledding? Let me explain to you cold weather rookies that snow has to reach a temperature where it starts to melt before it will stick together. It needs the liquid moisture. You could take a spray bottle of water and squirt snow so it would stick together, but in these kind of temperatures, a snowball would quickly turn into an ice ball, which is considered a deadly weapon in twelve states and California. So that eliminates the first two of your suggestions.

When I was younger, I ice fished and sledded in temperatures well below zero. What I found was it is possible to get a brain freeze without actually eating ice cream. Just breath through your mouth and the cold penetrates the skull and works its way deep into the brain. It’s been a few years since I’ve ice fished or sledded, and still every now and then a chunk of ice will pop out of my ear. My wife says it explains a lot. I don’t know what she means, but there are many things I don’t understand anymore. I’m sure it’s because of the frozen parts of my brain.

So here I am trapped indoors because of the cold with the boredom of cabin fever quickly overwhelming me. In my new novel, A Death in a Snowstorm, I have two people also trapped in a cabin, but it’s not because of the cold. I’ll get into that later.

A Death in a Snowstorm is available now for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Bam, Hudson Booksellers, Indigo, Powell’s, and Indie Bound. Available everywhere February 7.

Amazon author page for Joel Jurrens

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When I was young I had very few winter survival skills. The only real one was that I had the brains of pocket lint, which sometimes can be a definite advantage. I’ve said in other posts that I have an inner mountain man (link: MY MOUNTAIN MAN) who is tough as beef jerky and just as dumb. Even back then, he was with me. There’s a lot to be said for a doughty old man who has the smarts of a thumb tack. It’s the old mind over matter thing: If you don’t have a mind it doesn’t matter.

The advantage of not being too bright is that I didn’t realize how cold it was. This was before the days of wind chills where they took a chilly twenty degree day and turned it into a twenty below zero Articmageddon. Back then when the thermometer said it was twenty degrees, I foolishly assumed it was twenty degrees. Stupid thermometer. If I had known how cold it really was, I never would have went outside.

I spent a lot of time outdoors in the cold in those days, because there was nothing to do indoors. We didn’t have the internet, video games or cell phones. There was some TV, but nothing in the daytime that any self-respecting young boy would admit to watching. I remember going into the house one afternoon and my mother and two older sisters were sobbing with real tears shining on their cheeks.

“What happened?” I asked. My father was at work, and I panicked thinking something had happened to him.

“Sam got stabbed,” my oldest sister wailed, “and he could die.”

“Oh please God, no,” I said. Fear numbed me. I asked the only question my terror-numbed mind could manage. “Sam who?”

“Sam on Search for Tomorrow,” my sister said indignantly, as if I were the silly one crying over a soap opera. Keep in mind that these were the same people who made fun of professional wrestling fans for getting riled up when Mad Dog Vachon did something nasty. (I don’t know if Sam ever made it, and to this day, I don’t care.)

When I was a kid, the cold didn’t bothered me much, because as I said, I believed the lying thermometer, and I didn’t know it was that cold. Sometimes my fingers or toes would get cold, but eventually they went numb, and I ignored them. I once frostbit my ankle, my pant leg worked up without me knowing and exposed my skin to the bitter ten below zero cold—that’s seven hundred fifty-three below in wind chill. A six-inch patch of skin turned pearly white, red then bluish as if it was bruised and finally sloughed off in thin patches of dried black skin. All the guys thought it was really neat, and all the girls thought it was really gross. When you’re a young teenage boy, it just doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Over the years I’ve learned different rules for surviving in the cold: dress in layers, stay hydrated and avoid sweating or wetting your pants (moisture is not your friend in the cold).  My wife has her own winter survival rule: Don’t go outside. Which, considering everything we have that’s inside now, probably makes her smarter than the average bear, especially if it’s a polar bear.

In my new novel A Death in a Snowstorm I take a city boy detective whose total winter survival experience consist of having gone ice fishing once, and I throw him out in the cold and make him spend the night there, and that’s when things start getting interesting. The book is due out February 7. It looks as if they are going to offer it free for awhile if you have Kindle Unlimited. Check it out. Amazon link: A Death in a Snowstorm.

  Joel Jurrens Amazon Author’s page


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I hate math because I’m not very good at it. I never have been. The problem with math is, it is too rigid. They expect you to come up with the same answer EVERY time you do a problem. If they say 36X36 equals 1296. It has to always equal 1296. What fun is that? There’s no creativity. As a writer, I need to let my imagination run wild. Every now and then 36X36 should equal 492 or maybe 12,896. And often with me, it does, because I’m not very good at math.
I<p style=”text-indent:30px;”> n school my teachers encouraged me to take math courses to try and improve what couldn’t be improved. It was like trying to make a toad into a butterfly. I took basic algebra as a freshman, and for half the semester, I thought polynomial equations were problems thought up by the native people of Hawaii. I somehow made it through algebra, and while arraigning my curriculum for high school classes, a maniacal guidance counselor suggested I confront my math problem by taking geometry. I thought, what the heck. Anything has to be easier than algebra. Thinking back, that was like a man saying anything has to be better than a paper cut right before a camel kicks him in the crotch.

I could have taken that geometry course in a mud hut in Uganda with the teacher speaking nothing but Swahili and understood as much as I did taking it here in the good old USA. In fact, I think there were days when the teacher was speaking Swahili—I’m told it’s the national language of geometry. All I can remember about that geometry class, other than trying to sharpen the metal on a pencil eraser enough to slit my wrists, is the Pythagorean Theorem: The square of the hypotenuse is equivalent to the sum of the square of base and height of the triangle, a2+b2=c2. Proud of me? I still don’t have a clue what it means. I even used Mr. Pythagoras’s little theorem when I did accident investigations, but all I did then was plug numbers into equations and let the scientific calculator or computer do the work. We didn’t have that back when I was in school.

When I was in college, I had a professor who was always on me about showing all my work. Why? Was my logical question. I had all I could do to get an answer. What was the difference how I got it?

“Because,” he’d say in a monotone voice that could put you to sleep while sitting in a tub of ice water. “If you get the wrong answer, I want to know what you did wrong, and if you get the right answer, I want to know if you found it the correct way.”

So the ones I got wrong I would show my calculations, and the ones I got right, I would draw a little sketch of me peeking at the paper of the smart girl sitting next to me.

My wife is good at math and bookkeeping. She made a living doing it for years. Her job required accuracy and putting the decimal in the right place every time. She handled a lot of other people’s money and never went to prison once, so she must be good at it. (Either at being accurate or hiding the embezzlement. Just joking.)

None of the heroes or heroines in my books are super, duper egghead types. Most of them are slightly above average in intelligence but no more. They are street wise and good at their jobs. But they would struggle with integers. In my latest book A Death in a Snowstorm, I have an egghead forensic pathologist who paid for pre-med and med school by modeling. She knows polynomial and even Tahitian equations. She is a beautiful, smart woman who intimidates the heck out of our hero detective at so many different levels, and she’s not even the woman who gives him the biggest problems.

February 7th is the release date for the new novel. Mark it on your calendars.

Amazon link

Barnes and Noble link

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It is time again for my list of New Year’s Resolutions that I do on a regular basis, which means whenever I can think of something. I have a few ground rules. There won’t be anything pretentious. I’m not trying to impress anyone. There is nothing grandiose or noble that will tug at your heart strings and give you a big aww-moment. I’m not working for world peace or trying to make politicians work as hard for the people who elected them as they work for whichever political party they belong. To be a bona fide resolution, there has to be a legitimate chance of success, and I have a better chance of belching butterflies or making farts smell like roses than making either of the above happen. So here we go. This year there is only one.

I’m going to make it to a college bowl game. I know. You’re going to tell me that the tickets I can afford to buy will put me so far away from the field that if I were in Iowa’s Nile Kinnick Stadium, the kid’s in the children’s hospital would be turning around to wave at me at the end of the first quarter. I don’t care. There are definite advantages to seeing a game live. There’s the camaraderie of the fans, the excitement of being there with no commercials or instant editing by some director, and most importantly, it is usually at a place where it is seventy-five degrees in late December or early January. I live in northern Iowa where it gets cold. Up here we do not dress like Eskimos when it drops down to a bone-numbing sixty-five degrees; we dig out the shorts and the tank tops. My grandson once played in the University of Iowa marching band. We went to some of the football games to watch the little dots with trombones march around on the field at halftime while we tried to figure out which dot was him. My wife, who was never a sport’s fan, got into football. Now she watches it regularly on TV, although she has a long ways to go to be a true aficionado of the sport. The other day I walked into the room just as they were ejecting a player from the game.
Me: What happened?
My wife: They’re making him leave the game.
Me: What did he do?
My wife: He was naughty.

That’s Mom’s football rules. I’m sure if she had her way, she’d give the player a good scolding then make him go to his room, sit in a corner and think about what he did. Wait a minute. When they eject a player, they make them leave the field. Maybe they actually make him go to his room?

When my grandson played in the Hawkeye Band, the team went to the Pinstripe Bowl which is played in New York in an open air stadium that does not get to seventy-five degrees in January. We took a pass, but this next year might be different.

Just a little PSA. For those of you who are planning on going out partying tonight, take it from someone who spent many New Year’s Eves working on the law enforcement side. Every police officer out there assumes that anyone driving after midnight is drunk. They will stop you for any reason they can find. It’s not that they get a free toaster if they get enough drunk drivers. It is because they would much rather process a drunk driver than process a fatality accident. I was the accident investigator for my department for most of my career. It is not fun getting called out on New Year’s Eve and having to deal with screaming, injured people, blood and/or body parts. If you are going to drink, use a designated driver, and that means someone who has not had ANYTHING alcoholic to drink. You would be amazed at the number of cars I stopped where the drunkest person in the car was the one driving. Stay safe and stay alive, or how are you going to read my new book A Death in a Snowstorm which is available for pre-order now on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble, and is available everywhere February 7?


Amazon link

Barnes and Noble link

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Everything in this post has been extensively researched for five minutes. Every fact is true and correct except for the stuff I made up.

Tis the season again. A time of presents and family togetherness as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It has become the number one holiday in this country and has brought religion to many people, e.g., retail business owners, even the secular ones, get down on their knees and thank God for Christmas on a regular basis. But in early Christianity, the birth of Jesus was not considered that important. Only two of the four Gospels even mention it, and at that time, celebrating birthdays, even the Messiah’s, was a big no-no. It was considered a pagan custom like sacrificing goats and watching professional wrestling.

Nobody knows exactly when Jesus was born. A Scythian monk, Dionysius Exiguus, calculated what he believed was the year of Jesus’s birth, but not the exact day—his best guess was a Tuesday. In the early fourth century, Pope Julius declared that Jesus was born on December 25th. It sparked a big controversy, because the date coincided with a wild Roman celebration, Saturnalia or Dies Solis Invicti Nati (literal translation: “party ‘til you puke”). Many people believed the date had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus, and the Pope had picked that date to give Christians their own holiday to celebrate instead of celebrating a pagan one. I’m not going to comment, because this blog tries to avoid controversy, and because it would have taken too much work to research it and take a side.

At first it was called The Feast of The Nativity and finally Christ’s Mass which became Christmas. Other names were tried, i.e., The Three Kings Day, Bright Star in the Sky Day, and Give Me a Bunch of Presents Day, but they didn’t work out. (Fat Dude Comes Down the Chimney Day never stood a chance.)

Christmas back then was not the Christmas we celebrate now. It was a wild, drunken public celebration that resembled Mardis Gras more than the quiet holiday we know today. The Puritans hated Christmas, and when they seized power in England, they vowed to get rid of it. In 1645, Oliver “Scrooge” Cromwell banned Christmas in England. The country did without Christmas until King Charles regained the throne and removed the ban. There was much rejoicing and public drunkenness in the streets on that great day.

The Puritans in America were even worse than Cromwell when it came to Christmas. In Boston from 1659 to 1681, Christmas was outlawed. If you were found in possession of a black market Christmas tree, holly, jingle bells or were caught watching It’s a Wonderful Life, you were arrested, put in stocks in the public square and force-fed fruit cake and lutefisk until you barfed.

Christmas was slow to catch on in The United States. In the 19th Century, it evolved and became more civilized. With help from Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas (1822) and Dicken’s A Christmas Carol (1843), the holiday was transformed. It went from being a raucous, drunken public celebration where women lifted their shirts to get Christmas tree ornaments, to a peace on earth, good-will toward men, family-based holiday where nobody lifts their shirt–except maybe Granny when she’d had too much Manischewitz, and believe me, nobody wants to see that.

In 1870, Christmas was declared a national holiday in the US, and that gets us to where we are today. So enjoy the holiday and your time with family. Always remember, “it is more blessed to give than to receive”, but receiving is a lot more fun.

Merry Christmas, and in the spirit of the holidays, I won’t plug my new novel, A Death in a Snowstorm, which is available for pre-order now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and comes out everywhere February 7th. After the holidays, I’ll tell you about the audio book version that goes into production after the first of the year, but for now, just enjoy the holiday.

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