Happy Holidays!

Holiday photo
Gerda, Elsa, and Dean

Dear Faithful Readers,

Best wishes for a wonderful Christmas and holiday season from everyone here in Koontzland. Friends and neighbors and relatives have kindly gifted us with 864 pounds of candy, 621 pounds of cookies, 486 pounds of cake, 165 pounds of nuts, 94 pounds of cheese, and one box of marshmallow baby chicks with edible purple ribbons around their necks (from a cutting-edge, avant-garde friend who lives four months faster than the rest of us and is already at Easter). Because we are health conscious and because, nevertheless, we feel obliged to eat gifts given with such sincere affection, we will adjust our diet to avoid weight gain by giving up toast with breakfast and lettuce at all meals.

Ms. Elsa, who has now shared our home for five months, is celebrating her first Christmas with us. She was an assistance-dog trainee who didn’t quite make it through the program and had a “career change,” becoming a family dog. For sixteen months, she was raised by a prisoner who taught her a long series of basic commands——and how to whittle a pistol out of a bar of soap and blacken it with shoe polish——before she went from the stir to the Canine Companions for Independence center in Oceanside, California, for instruction by specialty trainers. She has no patience for wearing her Santa hat, prefers Johnny Mathis’s Christmas albums to those by either Vanilla Ice or Sid Vicious, and is highly suspicious of the authenticity of the Santa Claus at the mall (she’s launched an Internet petition to force him to reveal his birth certificate).

Happy New Year. Expect me to continue annoying you with a stream of books over the years to come. I’m having more fun than ever writing, having fallen in love with the character Jane Hawk, and I am currently writing the third novel featuring her. And by this time next year, I expect Elsa to be earning her keep as a research assistant or, as an alternative, putting her hard-learned prison smarts to work in a series of bank robberies.

Warmest regards,

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