A journalist, and former attorney, Jon Dalton lives in Southwest Florida with his wife (the novelist Tymber Dalton), Kiwi the dog, several cats intent on world domination, and Sheldon the wonder tortoise. Learn more about Jon and his books at his website.
As a non-native Floridian (still a tried and true Buckeye) who’s lived in this state for the past thirty-some years, adjusting to the lack of snow and bone-chilling temperatures took some time.
That said, it still doesn’t feel like Christmas when you have the sun shining and temps in the high seventies or eighties. But when the sun goes down and darkness begins to fall, I can behold a Christmas wonderland outside my front window.
You see, Floridians are no different that anyone else when it comes to decorating for Christmas, and some of us tend to take that further than others.
Yes, I’m one of those.
Nov. 1 is the magic day for me. Down come the few Halloween decorations around the house, and out come the tubs labeled “outside lights.” The yard gets mowed one final time, weeds around the shrubbery are weed whacked, and the area around the carport gets cleared.
Following a project plan developed over the years, the outside decorating proceeds with every tree, shrub and fence bedecked with festive lights. Then comes the placement of the myriad wire and grape animals, along with the three lit trees, and a cloth Frosty the Snowman.
Lastly, the inflatables take a place of honor in the front yard. The collection has grown to a dozen or more of these including Santa, snowmen, Hello Kitty (for my wife), Snoopy, penguins — you get the picture.
This is all made possible by my wife, who, after seeing the display grow and experiencing temporary power outages, steered me to these outside external thingamabobs that are connected to the electrical panel. Voila! No more outages.
The other magic behind this is the myriad extension cords and power strips situated throughout the yard to make it all happen.
The target date is always Thanksgiving night. When darkness falls, I plug in the eight extension cords and an ordinary yard transforms into what I can only describe as a magical scene.
In years past, I’ve used a music box to create a dancing light show, but alas, the music box died this year, so I had to settle for a more mundane, static display. Bad weather this year has also grounded the inflatables on many nights.
So, most nights from Thanksgiving through December, this wondrous scene is on display with the final night being New Year’s Day. That’s the other part of my new tradition. New Year’s Day is the final night absolutely, and on Jan. 2, back out come the tubs and everything gets packed up for another year.
I suppose in a way, going all out on my holiday decorations isn’t unusual as I can remember my father, when I was a child, hanging a string of lights across the front of our house. I vividly remember standing on the ground, holding the strands of lights, while he was up on the ladder stapling then to the house (can we say Clark Griswold?). Thus, I think I can safely say that I came by my all-out decorating honestly.
Ultimately, I look upon this decorating tradition as my way of sharing the joy of the holiday season with others. And sharing, treating others with kindness, is what Christmas is all about with me.
And that leads me to Dancing under the Mistletoe. Under another pen name, I write sweet romances typically set at Christmas. But I wanted a mystery set at Christmas involving my detective, Wolf Mallory. And thinking about the local VA facility in Tampa, the idea of the murder of a member of a VA support group evolved and the book was born with Wolf finding closure for a grieving family.
Best wishes for the New Year!
A Wolf Mallory Mystery
Wolf Mallory thinks life is going to settle down now that he’s proven Vicky wasn’t guilty of murder. Unfortunately, Wolf’s friend Vinnie volunteers him yet again to take a look at a case. And with the holidays approaching, Wolf gives in, hoping to bring a little closure to a murder victim’s family. But when even the police don’t have any leads, Wolf wonders how he’s going to pull a Christmas miracle out of his bag of tricks.