Friday, December 22, 2006

All I Want for Christmas Is...Reading Time! Annie West

December 23 and the festive season has started. Baking has been done, shopping ditto, last minute arrangements to see friends and family and today is the first of our celebrations.

There’s so much to look forward to at this time of year: the company, the fun, the fantastic food, the sense of shared goodwill, and, in this house always the books! This is when I catch up on at least some of my reading. Whether from the teetering To Be Read pile beside the bed, from the not-so-secret stash in the spare room, or from the books that have crept onto the coffee table in the living room, waiting to be picked up. And, of course, there are those lovely books given and received just in time for the summer holidays (I live in Australia).

And amongst the books I’d anticipated, I’ve just acquired a few extras, the first copies of my first sheikh story for Presents. I was agog to see the cover and was so pleased with the result. What a lovely present just before Christmas! If I have time after I wade through the mountain of other books I’ve got waiting for me I might just spend a little time with The Sheikh’s Ransomed Bride too. But somehow I think the siren call of all those other stories, with all their delicious secrets, will be too strong. Maybe I’ll just drool over the cover in between reading.

Where ever you are over the holiday season, I hope you manage to get your hands on a good read, or two, or three.

Best wishes to all!


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Michelle Styles: Christmas Traditions

Now that I have sent my Victorian Christmas manuscript off to my editor, I can actually breathe again. I have a fewdays left to get ready for Christmas.

In my house, we combine both the British and American traditions for Christmas, so I am always very interested in finding about other people's Christmas traditions. For me, once is pleasant, twice is coincidence and three times is a tradition.

Many people do not realize that even the date 25 December is traditional. In approximately 323 AD, Pope Julius l formally declared 25 December as the feast day of Christ's birth. He said he was simply confirming the several centuries old tradition. However, the feast day did dovetail nicely with the pagan solstice celebrations such as Saturnalia. The Coptic Christians celebrated the feast of Christ's birth in May. So who knows... but it is a long standing tradition. Because the Eastern Christian church still follows the old Julian calender, they celebrate Christmas Eve on the 6 January or Epiphany. There is a tradition that the Glastonbury thorn which supposedly grew from Joseph of Armathea's staff blooms at midnight on Old Christmas Eve.

The early Christian church added many of the pagan solstice traditions to the feast of Christ's birthday to make it easier for people -- for example decorating houses with evergreens comes from the Roman tradition of Saturnalia, the Yule log from the celebration of Jule in honour of Thor.
Some can be traced back to certain people (or so legend has it) -- the multi-figured creche or crib that is popular in Italy was inspired by St Francis of Assisi. Christmas trees were popularized by Martin Luther. A choirmaster in Cologne in 1670 started handing out white boiled sweets in the shape of canes to those people attending living Creche services. Christmas crackers were started by Tom Smith in 1850. And so it goes.

Does anyone have any special family traditions?

There are many ways to celebrate Christmas, but I hope whatever your traditions you have a Happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.

Michelle Styles

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Vicki Lewis Thompson - Gift Boxes Anonymous

I can’t believe I’m blogging! Thank you, Lee, for enticing me – sounds better than dragging, doesn’t it? – into the blogosphere. I’m basically a blog virgin, so be gentle.

By way of introduction, I’ve written a bunch of books for Harlequin and recently I’ve been writing the Nerd series for St. Martin’s Press. I’ll get a plug in later, but first of all, is everyone finished shopping?

Please don’t tell my editor, but I’m playing major writing hooky these days so I can buy presents. I love the buying part. The crowds, not so much, so I’m going online for some things. But you don’t get to touch your online purchase, which is a definite drawback. I’m a touchy-feely present buyer, even with books.
So I now have a mound of presents, and there’s the wrapping issue. I love the cute gift boxes that make wrapping obsolete, but here’s my problem – I fall in love with the boxes. Is it okay to give a present in a box and then snatch the box and keep it? I have some boxes I don’t want to use for giving presents in case the giftee wants the box, too. Coveting the box for myself sort of defeats the point of buying the boxes in the first place.

Maybe you’re a gift-bag person. Bags are nice, and I feel like keeping some of those, too, but not with the same passion I feel for the boxes. I may start a Gift Boxes Anonymous for those who can’t control their craving.

So happy holidays to the boxers, the baggers and the wrappers. Now here comes the plug. *After* the holidays, I have a book coming out. January 2, to be exact. It’s MY NERDY VALENTINE, and if you get some Christmas money or a B&N gift card . . . That’s all I’m saying.

So, Lee, did I blog okay?


Well, I did my own variation of Dashing Through the Mall last week...I call it power-shopping. Now, truth be told, I hate to shop, but if I have to do it, I go in knowing what I need, get it, then escape as quickly as possible. My kids have all learned the fine art of power-shopping. Unfortunately, my husband has not. And to make matters worse, we were shopping for gifts that involved tools. Yes, I had to take my non-power-shopping husband into Sear's tool department, where row after row of Craftsman tools required that my he weigh their merit next to his own. So, power-shopping wasn't all that powerful. As a matter of fact, it pretty much came to a standstill in Sears. My daughter and I made short excursions into other departments, only to return to see if he was done...and find he wasn't. The good news is, the boy he was tool shopping for will have a very nice Christmas morning!

Okay, now that I've totally ratted out my husband's tool obsession, I have to confess, there is one store in the mall that is my downfall. A store I can't manage to power-shop through. The bookstore! Our is a Borders Express with some of the nicest employees ever! I always go into the store, smile at them and set off with the best of power-shopping intentions. I find the book I want, and feeling smug in my power-shopping abilities, head toward the cash register and...a book calls to me. It demands I pick it up and admire the cover, check out the back blurb, maybe skim a few pages. I swear, it's like a siren's song, befuddling me to the point I forget all about power-shopping and the fact I hate shopping as they weave a spell and make me not only pick them up, but by them...a quantity of them. I used to read a book a day easily. But now that I write, I don't have as much time, so my speed has slowed down, but that hasn't slowed my purchasing. I have a TBR (to be read) pile that's growing on its own! Last time I went in for a couple presents, and ended up buying myself Norah Ephron's, I Feel Bad About My Neck. What a riot! I couldn't put it down. Hope you all are making headway with your holiday preparations!


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Auto-Buys versus Stand-by Reads

The other day I was talking to die-hard romance reader. We were discussing favorite authors and when I named one of my absolute favorites, the reader said, “She used to be on my auto-buy, but now she’s my comfort read.”

I never made the distinction between auto-buy and comfort read before, so I asked what she meant. To her, there is more urgency in an auto-buy. An auto-buy happens because she’s heard the buzz, or the story sounds so intriguing, or she’s been waiting impatiently for these characters’ stories. Whatever the reason, she simply must have it and read it right away when it comes out.

A comfort read, on the other hand, is more of a standby. The reader puts the book to the side, and has it waiting until she needs a pick-me-up or if she just finished a book that disappointed her. What’s important to the reader about the standby is that she knows what kind of story she’s going to get, and she knows the author won’t disappoint.

That got me thinking. I visit the bookstore and library a lot, but I don’t often feel a sense of urgency about a book or author. I do, however, have quite a few comfort reads. I’ll buy a book and not read it right away because I want to use it as a reward, or I want to read it all in one sitting. There are lots of reasons why an author is a comfort read for me.

I should have asked the reader how many auto-buy authors—the ones that gave her the initial rush—became comfort reads, and how many have fallen off of her list altogether. I sense that auto-buys are like a flash of excitement, but comfort reads keep her happy as she waits for the next auto-buy.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Helen Bianchin

I made it! With a lot of help from Lee (thanks, Lee, for the invitation).

The year is winding down, and here in south-east Queensland, "downunder", it's sub-tropical weather, with high temperatures, late afternoon storms. Traffic is hectic, shopping centres and malls crowded ... and I should have been sensible and begun Christmas shopping way before this!
Next year, I'm going to do it right (sound familiar?!), and have my daughter and two daughters-in-law compile a "wish-list" for the children months before December. Picture a slightly frazzled woman fighting for space along the numerous aisles of Toys 'R Us!

The Christmas decorations were assembled in the house today, and the festive cards are beginning to arrive. I love this time of year when we play catch-up with far away friends, their annual news and photos. Today there was a card from BC Canada, with a photo of a friend's grandchildren rugged up building a snowman! All I could see were little round pink faces peeking out from the coverall snow gear.

The second book for the year went in to Harlequin last month, and editorial have selected "The Greek Tycoon's Virgin Wife" as a title. Release date to be announced. Meantime, "The Marriage Possession" will be out in April 2007. I've assembled and sent off a synopsis for the first book in 2008 ... the hero is a sexy Spaniard with part of the story set in Madrid!

Kate Walker has Sid, the cat. (Hi, Kate). I have two cats ... Birmans (a choc-point and a seal-point) who like to think their presence on my desk is integral to my creative process. They have sheepskin beds on my office floor ... but no, it has to be the desk!

Best wishes to all

Friday, December 01, 2006

Did somebody say Christmas shopping?

It was Kate Walker was it not? She of the fantabulous Christmas prize pack? Just out there mentioning Christmas shopping like it was a good thing. * whimper whimper* Less than a month to go, and I am in the process of blithely ignoring it.

I bought a couple of faaaabulous gifts early on, ones that I know the receivers will adore, and thus I convinced myself I was on some kind of roll. I have only now realised that two gifts does not constitute a roll.

A start. It constitutes a start. But where does it end? I have a crazy mother who still fills the room under the Christmas tree to exploding point while my in-laws see Christmas as a chance for a huge lunch but don't do much in the way of gifts. So do we buy gifts in accordance with each of the different familys' traditions? Then there is the whole where do we have breakfast, and where do we have lunch, and where do we sleep dilemma that becomes a part and parcel of each holiday once you get married...

Okay, stopping for breath... One deep breath. Two. And you know what? It's okay. It's all good.

The buzz is in the air. Musak in shopping malls has changed. Everywhere you look there is the hint of tinsel. I have clothes laid out on my bed in preparation for a Christmas party tonight.

This next month is quite simply full of joy. I'll be far too busy, I'll eat too much chocolate, drink too much champagne, spend too much money, get not enough sleep and enjoy each and every second of it!

The fact that I have a book due in six days, five Pink Heart Society posts this month, as well as all the parties and chocolate and champagne is beside the point ;).

Big deep breaths...


Reviewers' choice winner for Best Tender Romance (UK) first half of 2005 @ Out now through Silhouette Romance.