Today we’re thrilled to host guest mom and fellow author Stacey Joy Netzel at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard. Welcome, Stacey!
I grew up in the country without cable, and back then my idea of video games was the live version of Frogger. Of course, I didn’t make them hop across a busy road—not only did we not have a busy road, but I would never have taken the chance of one of my little frogs or toads getting squashed.
My husband and I wanted our kids to have the same type of childhood, so back to the country we went. We haven’t had cable for the last 13 years, don’t plan on getting it anytime soon, and my kids have also played Frogger of the natural kind. (Again, no real cars are involved. Maybe a few Matchbox ones.) I never really grew out of my love for reptiles and amphibians, so when my kids want to play with them, I’m a total sucker for a cute tree frog face—even if it’s staring up at me from the drain when I’m ready to spit my toothpaste in the sink. And the tree frogs the past couple of years have been all over the place, so I’ve encouraged my kids to enjoy.
This past summer, they built obstacle courses for their toads, had the tree frogs do climbing exercises on my hanging house plants, and fed them by catching flies, grasshoppers, worms and ants. Did you know that toads slurp worms like spaghetti noodles? That was a new one for me and I learn something new just about every day with my kids.
My very imaginative and active children not only keep me on my toes, they also turn frogs into Packer fans and provide me with plenty of material to add into my books. Here’s an excerpt from Mistletoe Mischief that put some my experiences to good use.
Christmas in July at the zoo is the last place single parents Eric Riley and Marissa Wilder expect to find love. Thanks to some mistletoe mischief in the form of their two young daughters and Santa, they discover Mistletoe Rules were not made to be broken.
“Come on, Dad, when are we going to start the campfire?” Reese asked with a hint of a whine.
Marissa couldn’t make herself look away from Eric. Their severed physical connection did nothing to diminish the emotional link still hovering between them. He cleared his throat and ran a hand through his hair before finally transferring his full attention to his daughter.
“Ah…how about right now?”
“Yeah! Let’s go!” Reese dashed back the way they’d come. Like the flip of a switch, she jerked to a stop and retraced her steps. Heather hadn’t even had a chance to move. Reese aimed her flashlight down and leaned over to scoop something off the floor. She shook off the sawdust. “Oh, cool! Mistletoe.”
She didn’t question where it’d come from, just held it over Heather’s head and kissed her on the cheek. The two erupted in giggles. A second later they sprinted across the lawn toward the bonfire pit. “Last one there has to kiss a toad!”
Marissa reached for her crutches before looking up at Eric, a little nervous, but mostly happier than she’d been in a very long time. He extended his arm with a smile that matched the emotions singing inside her heart. She used his strength for balance and handed him the crutches on the other side. Halfway across the yard, he halted with a snap of his fingers.
“I forgot matches.” After a glance toward the occupied girls, he dropped a quick kiss on Marissa’s lips and handed her the crutches. “I’ll be right back.”
He loped back to the house and up the porch stairs by the time Marissa reached the girls. She found a comfortable seat by the fire pit and propped her foot up to ease the throbbing.
Eric returned with a stack of newspaper, matches to light the fire, the makings for s’mores, and a patio chair cushion. The latter he arranged under Marissa’s ankle as Reese cupped her hand and whispered to Heather. When flames had engulfed the wadded newspaper to lick along surfaces of the tee-peed chunks of wood in the fire pit, Eric dragged a chair next to Marissa’s and sat down with a relaxed sigh.
Reese and Heather slithered in between the chairs and faced Eric, each of their faces wreathed in a wide grin. Heather held out her hands, cupped one on top the other. Suppressed merriment threatened to escape from the girls at any moment. Marissa knew they were up to something, but hadn’t been able to decipher any of their covert whispers.
The moment Heather lifted her top hand, a toad leapt onto Eric’s chest.
“What the—!” He jumped back in his seat, sending the girls into a fit of hysterics. By the time they’d contained themselves, he held the toad above his chest, the amphibian’s feet dangling.
It peed on him.
Marissa’s amusement burst free so hard she snorted. Then she couldn’t stop laughing for the life of her.
“Take this thing,” Eric ordered as the toad let loose a couple of frantic chirps.
Reese shook her head. “You were the last one here.”
“I—” Eric broke off with a reluctant chuckle. “Get outta here. I’m not kissing a toad.”
Reese pulled a hand from behind her back. With a triumphant grin, she held the rapidly disintegrating sprig of mistletoe over the toad. Eric gave a bark of laughter as a few pieces of sawdust fell onto his chest. He swung his head in Marissa’s direction, his expression an obvious plea for help.
She shook her head and managed to curb her mirth long enough to say, “Mistletoe rules.”
Eric looked from Marissa, to Reese, to Heather, and finally, with a sigh of resignation, at the toad. “Does she have a name?”
The toad gave three indignant sounding chirps.
“Warts is a boy,” Reese announced.
Award-winning author Stacey Joy Netzel fell in love with books at a young age, so for her the graduation to writing them was natural. An avid reader and fan of movies with a happily ever after, she is thrilled to call herself a full-time writer after 20 years as a travel agent. She writes romantic suspense, contemporary romance, and the occasional paranormal short story just for fun.
She lives in her native Wisconsin with her husband and three children, a couple of horses, and some barn cats. In her limited free time she enjoys gardening, canning, and visiting her parents in Northeastern Wisconsin (Up North) at the family cabin on the lake.