Shannon here: I’m excited! My first novella releases today. I’m sharing my inspiration for Coastal Christmas Charade, which is included in Candy Cane Wishes & Saltwater Dreams, a collection of five novellas by five different authors. From now through Oct 12th, I’ll be hosting my coauthors. Comment on any post dated Sept 28th to Oct 12th to enter the drawing for a copy of the collection. Deadline: Oct 23rd, 11:59 pm central time.
I’ve long wanted to write a beach romance. And since I’m known for writing cowboy romance, I thought it would be a lot of fun to write a cowboy beach romance. So when the publishing company I edit for decided to publish novellas, I got my chance. Candy Cane Wishes & Saltwater Dreams is a collection of 5 novellas by 5 authors, all set at Christmas on different beaches.
My novella is titled, Coastal Christmas Charade set on Surfside Beach, Texas. When I googled Best Shelling in Texas, Surfside Beach popped up. I’ve long made a practice of setting books in places I want to visit. Then during the writing or editorial process, I visit my setting. This time, life happened and I never made it to Surfside Beach. Thankfully, there’s the internet. Through research, I found details and pictures to bring my setting to life. I still plan to visit, hopefully next spring.
I learned you can rent a horse for romantic beach rides. So of course, I created a fictional business for my hero, Jace, to own. My heroine, Lark, is there to sell her family inn. I’ve always loved inns and bed and breakfasts set in old two-story mansions. And then there’s pretend romance, one of my favorite tropes, along with childhood acquaintances. Mix it all together and Coastal Christmas Charade was born. Here’s how Lark and Jace met or, should I say, remet:
Excerpt from Coastal Christmas Charade by Shannon Taylor Vannatter:
“This will never do.” Lark scanned the massive great room. The week after Thanksgiving and no Christmas decorations, with a winter wonderland wedding scheduled for next week. How had Gran and Gramps had any guests with the Shell House Inn in such a state of indifference? They’d obviously lost interest long before they officially retired. Though they slept soundly in their private quarters, their hearts were already in Dallas.
“Yip.” Peaches’ ears perked as she paced at the front door.
“Shh, you’ll wake up the old folks.” Lark nabbed her leash.
Peaches went into Pomeranian orbit, bouncing around her feet.
“You have to be still if you want to walk. Sit.”
The little orange powder puff sat.
“Good girl.” Lark snapped the leash in place and scratched behind Peaches’ ears. “I need somebody to cover this place in lights before the bride, who’s more high-strung than you are, arrives. But a walk comes first.” She opened the door, and Peaches shot out at warp speed, pulling the slack tight. Straight
toward the water.
“At least we think alike.” Lark sighed, breathing in the ocean air as the gentle swish of the tide rolled in. Even though Christmas was right around the corner, here at Surfside Beach, Texas, the sunny, seventy-degree day tempted her to kick off her shoes and wade the coastline. A breeze off the water whipped her hair about her face, soothing her stress level.
But being here also reminded her of the last summer she’d spent here as a teen. The dark-haired boy with thick glasses. And their kiss. Surprisingly sweet and promising. Until he’d learned the truth about her. Her cheeks heated. If only she could find him and apologize, explain her shallow teen reasoning for going along with the dare.
A racket sounded behind her. Like the steady rumbling thud of horse hooves? Lark turned around. A pale golden horse with a lone rider thundered toward her. Her pulse spiked. Should she stand still or dodge?
“Yip, yip, yip.” Peaches launched into incessant barking.
The horse reared up with a panicked neigh.
“Whoa, girl.” A man’s voice soothed. Just before he sprawled into the sand.
Free of her rider, the horse pawed the ground, stopped long enough to drop foul-smelling-fertilizer, then bolted on along the shore.
“Nice.” The man sat up, spitting sand.
“What are you doing?” Lark stooped to pick up a still-agitated Peaches.
“Testing a horse.”
“This is a public beach. You can’t do that here.” She pointed at the manure.
“No worries.” He stood, dusted himself off. “I’ll take care of it.”
A younger man caught up with them, used a contraption with a blue bag on the end to scoop up the stench and tie it off.
“Thanks Wesley, if you’ll catch her, I’ll handle that.”
“Sorry, ma’am.” Wesley winced, handed over the gadget, and hurried after the horse.
Her jaw gaped and she forced it closed. “Isn’t riding a horse on the beach against some law or something?”
“Not at all. In fact, I’m assessing a new mare for Romantic Beach Rides.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.” Peaches squirmed and Lark set her back down.
“I assure you, I’m not. Our services are quite popular.”
“She could have run me down.” A complaint would be launched first thing in the morning. The beach was no place for horses.
“Horses try not to step on people.” He adjusted his Stetson. “But I apologize for startling you. She’s feisty and got away from me. Normally, our horses don’t run and are quite tame. We won’t be buying her.” He pointed at her feet. “What about you? Are you prepared for that?”
A pungent odor warned her before she ever glanced down, where Peaches hunched in a most unladylike position. Heat warmed Lark’s face.
Award winning author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has over a dozen published titles. A romance reader since her teens, she hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as she demonstrates that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does.
She gleans fodder for her fiction in rural Arkansas where she spent her teenage summers working the concession stand with her rodeo announcing dad and married a Texan who morphed into a pastor. Shannon is Scrivenings Press Acquisitions/Content Editor. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her husband and son, flea marketing, and doing craft projects. Learn more & connect:
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About the novella collection – Candy Cane Wishes and Saltwater Dreams by Amy Anguish, Hope Toler Dougherty, Linda Fulkerson, Regina Rudd Merrick and Shannon Taylor Vannatter
Mistletoe Make-believe by Amy Anguish – Charlie Hill’s family thinks his daughter Hailey needs a mom–to the point they won’t get off his back until he finds her one. Desperate to be free from their nagging, he asks a stranger to pretend she’s his girlfriend during the holidays. When romance author Samantha Arwine takes a working vacation to St. Simons Island over Christmas, she never dreamed she’d be involved in a real-life romance. Are the sparks between her and Charlie real? Or is her imagination over-acting … again?
A Hatteras Surprise by Hope Toler Dougherty – Ginny Stowe spent years tending a childhood hurt that dictated her college study and work. Can time with an island visitor with ties to her past heal lingering wounds and lead her toward a happy Christmas … and more? Ben Daniels intends to hire a new branch manager for a Hatteras Island bank, then hurry back to his promotion and Christmas in Charlotte. Spending time with a beautiful local, however, might force him to adjust his sails.
A Pennie for Your Thoughts by Linda Fulkerson – When the Lakeshore Homeowner’s Association threatens to condemn the cabin Pennie Vaughn inherited from her foster mother, her only hope of funding the needed repairs lies in winning a travel blog contest. Trouble is, Pennie never goes anywhere. Should she use the all-expenses paid Hawaiian vacation offered to her by her ex-fiancé? The trip that would have been their honeymoon?
Mr. Sandman by Regina Rudd Merrick – Events manager Taylor Fordham’s happily-ever-after was snatched from her, and she’s saying no to romance and Christmas. When she meets two new friends—the cute new chef at Pilot Oaks and a contributor on a sci-fi fan fiction website who enjoys debate—her resolve begins to waver. Just when she thinks she can loosen her grip on thoughts of love, a crisis pulls her back. There’s no way she’s going to risk her heart again.
Coastal Christmas Charade by Shannon Taylor Vannatter – Lark Pendleton is banking on a high-society wedding to make her grandparent’s inn at Surfside Beach, Texas the venue to attract buyers. Tasked with sprucing up the inn, she hires Jace Wilder, whose heart she once broke. When the bride and groom turn out to be Lark’s high school nemesis and ex-boyfriend, she and Jace embark on a pretend romance to save the wedding. But when real feelings emerge, can they overcome past hurts?
Check out the book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-spm0_wQcZ0
Can’t wait for the drawing? Worried you won’t win? Get your copy now!
Question for Readers: Have you ever spent Christmas at the beach? Would you like to? Where is your dream beach?
Come back Oct 1st for Regina Merrick!