By Alex Erickson

Friends and family. It’s the main focus of Death by French Roast, the latest book in my Bookstore Café series. And when I say friends, what I really mean is, friends who might as well be family. Tight knit groups that have each other’s backs. It’s what helps keep us sane when the rest of the world is going bonkers around us, right?

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But now, in these times, it’s harder than ever to get together with those friends and family members. Precautions must be taken, and in some cases, loved ones need to be avoided for their own protection. With the holidays coming up, it makes it harder to stay away. How are we to have that big Thanksgiving dinner with grandparents who are at high risk? Or what about the adults with jobs that put them on the front lines? What about Halloween and the kids walking the neighborhood, going door to door? And then there’s Christmas and all the family traditions that go along with it. Can we really not get together then?

It’s not easy to make these decisions. Some families can move forward like normal and have little to no risk. Other’s . . . not so much.

This year, it’ll be easy to become overwhelmed. You want to see those family members and friends, want to make sure your kids can get their candy and presents, as they do every other year. Stress will likely be high, as will frustrations. Many people will be torn between doing what they feel is natural and what they believe is right. They’ll feel as if they’re letting others down if they don’t make the trip to Thanksgiving this year, or if they miss Christmas dinner, all because they want to stay safe, or protect those they love.

Just breathe.

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Go outside. Find a place where no one can bother you, and relax. Take a moment with your favorite candy bar or comfort food. Let the stress flow from you and focus on what you can control, not what you can’t do.

Sure, maybe you can’t visit the grandparents this year, but why not set them up with a chat with the kids online? No, it’s not the same, but you’ll get to see them, as will the children, and they’ll appreciate the contact. Find new, innovative ways to handle gift exchanges. Set up the meet in a large building or house where social distancing can be easily enforced, while still getting that socialization that we all crave, no matter how introverted we might be.

Remember, like they do in Death by French Roast, most friends and families will do whatever they can to protect one another from harm. If that means keeping your distance for a few more months, many people will understand. Those who care about you want you to be safe, just as much as they want to avoid getting sick themselves. Remember that. You aren’t letting anyone down, not if you are upfront about your concerns.

And, please, take the time to breathe. Take care of yourself and those you love most.

In the end, it’s all that really matters.

Krissy Hancock runs a bookstore-café in Pine Hills, Ohio, but she’ll be setting up shop as a sleuth when she discovers a long-unsolved murder . . .
Krissy’s helping a friend clean out her late mother’s house when she learns that although the deceased died peacefully at an advanced age, her brother did not. In fact, Wade was killed more than thirty years ago, and the case was never closed. What surprises Krissy even more is that she has a personal connection to the story—her friend Rita was seeing Wade at the time, scandalizing the town with the couple’s large age difference.
With an older Rita now part of Krissy’s writing group—and another member with police experience—she starts digging up gossip, talking to the victim’s local coffee klatsch, and trying to find real clues amid the old rumors. But things just seem to grow muddier as she fights to identify whodunit . . .