Hi guys! We have S.A. Stovall popping in today to introduce you to her upcoming release Thirty-One Days and Legos, we have a brilliant guest post from S.A. and a great excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
Thirty-One Days and Legos
Park rangers Carter and Owen Williams have decided to expand their family and adopt two brothers—boys they rescued a year before when they tried to escape the foster system and flee to Canada. After completing their parenting classes, Carter, a reserved man who enjoys the simple life, swears he’ll be the best father possible. His patience is tested, however, when one brother adopts a cat out of the snowy Voyageurs National Park and the other brother refuses to talk about what’s bothering him.
Owen wants to make sure their first Christmas together is a special one, and he decides all of December should be a celebration. He has an activity planned for each of the thirty-one days, but none of them seem to go off without a hitch. The cat has fleas, the boys need to attend a court hearing, and Carter is more than a little overwhelmed.
But Carter is 100 percent determined to make his new family work. He just has no idea how….
Hello everyone! This is SA Stovall with my latest Christmas novella, Thirty-One Days and Legos!
Some people have asked me why I write Christmas stories, and I wanted to take a moment for Personal Story Time to reflect on what I enjoy about the holiday season. I grew up poor. My father died when I was young, and my mother raised me as best she could. While sometimes we didn’t have food in the house, the one month of the year my mother made excellent was December.
No matter what, my mother delivered a Christmas Eve feast, a beautiful tree, and presents for all the kids. I honestly thought Santa had to exist, because I remember, as a child, thinking, “My mom could never afford this.”
It’s because of my mother’s great efforts to keep the holiday season special that I remember it as the best part of the year—the one time everything went right and things were magical.
When I write my Christmas stories, I keep this feeling alive. I love Christmas stories that capture the goodness of humanity, and I love stories where people with hard lives find something special (for obvious reasons).
Thirty-One Days and Legos is a story about two men adopting a pair of brothers and trying their hardest to make Christmas magical. One of them, Owen, decides every day of December will be its own mini-Christmas, while the other (grumpier one), Carter, struggles to maintain discipline and order in his new life as a parent. They adopt a cat (on accident – his name is Legos) and more craziness ensues. Trust me when I say, it captures the essence I love so much about the season.
Another fun fact, true fact: Thirty-One Days and Legos is a sequel to Ranger Station Haven, a short story in a Christmas anthology one year ago. Ranger Station Haven featured the same two men working their job—park rangers—but their Christmas turned exciting when six runaway foster kids got lost in the park.
Owen, while great with kids, gets hurt will trying to save them, so it’s up to Carter (who dislikes both kids and Christmas) to keep his partner okay and make sure the kids are cared for. Carter goes from being a complete Grinch to a man who realizes that Christmas might have something special about it after all (and trust me, the transformation happens in the most unexpected ways).
Ranger Station Haven received such a warm and positive response that I had to write a sequel. Thirty-One Days and Legos takes place a year later, when Owen and Carter adopt two of the runaway kids from the previous story. Don’t worry, if you’ve never read Ranger Station Haven, you don’t need to in order to enjoy Thirty-One Days and Legos (but I would recommend you check them both out together!)
Overall, they represent my love for the holiday season, and my belief that humanity has a great number of surprises so long as we’re willing to give love a try. I know it’s cheesy, but I stick by my convictions! Joyful Christmas stories all around!
So please enjoy Thirty-One Days and Legos and have a great holiday season!
THE LOCAL community college is the last place I want to be. It’s a shabby building built in the seventies with yellowing paint, dirty windows, and cracked cement. Everything about it, right down to the flicking streetlight out front, feels sad and pathetic.
“What’s that frown for?” Owen asks as he steps out of the truck. “Tonight is our last night. Aren’t you ecstatic?”
“Whoopee,” I drawl, twirling a finger around in the air.
“Oh, come on. Don’t be like that. This is exciting!”
“As exciting as having a tooth pulled.”
Owen walks around our 2010 Ford pickup and pats me on the shoulder. I avoid making eye contact with him as I lock the vehicle and start toward the neglected building. The Minnesota night sky is clear and filled with stars. It’s a better sight than the building, that’s for sure. Nice weather for mid-October, but chilly. Makes me wish our classes took place outside. Then again, I wish almost everything took place outside—nature has a way of soothing even the most troubled of souls.
“Tonight’s topic is sustainable parenting,” Owen says. He shoves his hands into his jean pockets and offers me a smile.
“Yeah, just what I need,” I reply, “someone to tell me how to parent.”
“We’ve never been parents before. It’s a reasonable requirement for adoption.”
“They don’t make pregnant women take parenting classes,” I say, restraining my irritation but failing to keep my volume low. “Some sixteen-year-old can get knocked up and raise her kid however she wants, but two fully grown men with careers have to pass a whole host of parenting classes before they can adopt a kid? Bullshit.”
I slam the front door open and stomp across the tacky green tiles of the school. Owen follows close—stopping once to make sure the front door doesn’t swing back hard when it closes—and keeps his smile about him.
“Well, that sixteen-year-old won’t have the tools we do,” he says. “We’re going to learn about the first signs of burnout, the three layers of stress, and how a parent’s stress affects the whole family. Sounds like valuable information to me.”
He recites everything verbatim from the damn pamphlet the class offered. How many times did he read it? Too many.
I huff as I round the hall corner, heading straight for our classroom. The dim fluorescent lights grate my eyes. “I know how to manage my stress, thank you very much. And I know how to take care of a couple of kids. You watch ’em close, you take ’em to school, you discipline ’em when they get out of line, and you feed ’em.”
“You realize we’re adopting human children and not dogs, right?” Owen asks as he lifts an eyebrow. “I’m gonna need you to say it, Carter.”
“I know we’re not talking about dogs,” I snap.
But there can’t be that much difference between young kids and dogs. Right? What more could a kid need?
As I reach the classroom door, Owen steps in front of me. He’s a big guy—thick with muscle and shaped like a barrel—and I’m no pushover, but I’m not getting past him if he makes a deal of it. I stare at him, his gray-blue eyes searching mine.
“Carter,” he begins, his voice low and serious, “this was your idea.”
“I—” For a moment I stop and take a breath. “I remember.”
“Are you regretting going through with this? We still have time to back out if you are. The kids aren’t going to be with us for a couple of months.”
“I’m not regretting anything. This is what I want.” I narrow my gaze. “It’s what you want too, right?”
“Then why are we talking about this again?”
Owen closes the distance between us and wraps his arms around my body in a gentle embrace. Flustered, I glance over my shoulder. There’s no one in the halls, but that doesn’t diminish the heat I feel welling in my face.
“What’re you doing?” I mutter. “You know I don’t like to publicly—”
“What’s bothering you, Carter?” Owen interjects, his low voice right in my ear, the dirty-blond stubble of his chin grazing the side of my face. He tightens his grip around me, and I half return the gesture, a lump in my throat since the moment he spoke. “You’ve been tense and irritable for the last few weeks.”
I don’t know how he does it, but the mix of his warm tone and hot breath melts my indignation. I search my thoughts for an earnest answer, unable to deny Owen anything. “I… I don’t know. I guess… I’m nervous.”
“Nervous? You?” He chuckles. “Together we’re going to parent the hell out of those kids.”
I can’t stop myself from smiling. “Is that so?” Owen’s optimism knows no bounds.
He kisses my neck. “Of course. We’re at the top of our classes. No one compares.”
“These classes aren’t graded,” I drawl, growing redder by the minute.
“That’s only to prevent us from embarrassing everyone else with our high scores.”
I chuckle. “How can you let loose with lines like that?”
And does he have to be so blatant with his affection? I’ve never been comfortable outright displaying everything I feel, and this is taking it to a whole new level. We’re in the middle of a school, for Christ’s sake. I know it’s a school for adults, but still.
The door to the classroom opens, and I jump away from Owen, coughing to cover up the sudden movement. Owen smiles wide and turns around, unfazed by the presence of another.
“Hello, Mrs. Ginger,” he says. “It’s so good to see you again.”
The older woman returns the smile, the age lines on her face matching the gesture. “Oh, if it isn’t Owen and Carter Williams. I’m so glad you two are here tonight. This is an important class—sustainable parenting is crucial to successful adoptions.”
“That’s exactly what I was telling Carter! We’re ready for anything. Bring on the parenting strategies!” Owen straightens himself and walks into the classroom with his head held high.
Mrs. Ginger laughs into her palm and then turns to me. “He brings good energy to the class.”
He brings good energy to everything he does. Hell, I can’t even stay mad at the situation. Despite our being forced to take these classes, I think Owen might be right. I should just try to embrace every aspect of being a parent.
“Yeah, Owen is a good guy,” I say, forcing myself to sound cheery. “Thank you for having us in class.”
“The pleasure is mine.”
I walk into the classroom, keeping in mind that I need to stay positive and stress-free. I’m taking these classes to prove I’m a capable father. I know I am—these classes aren’t hard—and I need to remember that children will follow my example. I can’t set a bad one.
With Owen by my side, what could go wrong?
S.A. Stovall grew up in California’s central valley with a single mother and little brother. Despite no one in her family having a degree higher than a GED, she put herself through college (earning a BA in History), and then continued on to law school where she obtained her Juris Doctorate.
As a child, Stovall’s favorite novel was Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. The adventure on a deserted island opened her mind to ideas and realities she had never given thought before—and it was the moment Stovall realized that story telling (specifically fiction) became her passion. Anything that told a story, be it a movie, book, video game or comic, she had to experience. Now, as a professor and author, Stovall wants to add her voice to the myriad of stories in the world, and she hopes you enjoy.
You can contact her at the following locations.