Highland Arms – released again!

Hello friends,

Are you busy with your Christmas preparations? Cookies baked, shopping list written for the holidays? Or are you trying to escape it all?

We're still fairly calm here. Shopping isn't done yet, though we already have plenty of logs and coal to keep us warm at least. And wine, bubbly and beer chilled. But we'll do the food shop tomorrow. Not looking forward to facing the desperate crowds that pile up their trolleys like there's no tomorrow. Well, in this case, no post-Christmas. We'll see...


Right, so in the midst of all this festive chaos, Highland Arms was re-released through Crooked Cat Publishing. I'll always be grateful to The Wild Rose Press for giving me my first signed contract, but I'm also looking forward to new ventures. Highland Arms is the first in The Highland Chronicles series – a selection of historical romance adventures set in the Scottish Highlands during different time periods.

Highland Arms is set in 1720, five years after the first ill-fated Jacobite rebellion. Danger lurks all around you as the Jacobites are defeated, but not thrashed (like after the '45). So of course, my hero, Rory Cameron, is involved in some way. A rebellious Highlander waiting for his next chance. But along comes Miss Catriona MacKenzie, fresh from Edinburgh. And she pokes her nose into his business affairs, unravelling things that should remain hidden. 

The second book in the series will be Highland Escape (working title). Starting with the battle at Falkirk in July 1198, it tells the tale of a young Scottish knight, Cailean MacKinnon, whose life is saved by an older knight, who then dies in a skirmish. Meanwhile, a group of English knights kidnap the dead man's daughter to marry her off to a mercenary in the pay of King Edward. Cailean manages to kidnap her from the kidnappers and takes her to his remote castle on the isle of Mull. But Isobel isn't the grateful heiress he expected to find, and she soon seeks a way off the island... 

A third book is planned to take place 15 years after Highland Arms, around the time of the infamous '45 rebellion and will be based around a character who appears in Highland Arms as a crafty boy. 

So, have I whetted your appetite? :-) Why not make a start on the series now!

Highland Arms is busy climbing the Amazon charts in the UK already, 
currently at #65 in the Scottish Historical Romance charts.  



Blurb:

Betrayed by her brother’s lies, Catriona MacKenzie is banished from her home to her godmother’s manor in the remote Scottish Highlands. While her family ponders her fate, Catriona’s insatiable curiosity leads her straight into trouble–and into the arms of a notorious Highlander. 

Five years after an ill-fated Jacobite rebellion, Rory Cameron works as a smuggler to raise money for the cause–until Catriona uncovers a plot against him and exposes his activities. Now, Rory is faced with a decision that could either save their lives or destroy both of them. 

But he’s running out of time… 

~~~~~ 

Highland Arms is the first in The Highland Chronicles series of historical romance novels set in the Scottish Highlands.


Birthday or Christmas?

Today, as my 2nd part of the fabulous and popular Christmas with the Crooked Cats event, I'm chatting about birthdays. Mine, and that of others. December children.

It's tough being a December birthday child. Or is it? 



Many of my online friends are Sagittarians like me. We're a creative bunch! For example, authors Nicky Wells, Mandy James and Rose McClelland are all pre-Christmas birthday girls. 

But I can see the pity in your eyes. "Poor you," you say. Must be tough getting less attention as everyone is so focused on Christmas. 

And then, "Did your parents not combine celebrations when you were little?" 

Umm, no! From an early age onwards, I pointed out an important difference to my nearest and dearest: Christmas Eve is on the 24th. My birthday is on the 20th! There are three full days in between. They may as well be three months! ;-)

"But don't you get fewer presents?" 

I never thought so. There was equal focus to make my birthday special. It was 'my' day as opposed to Christmas, which was a day for the extended family. I had my birthday parties, later converted into trips into Heidelberg for a burger and some shopping.

As for family Christmas, sadly, there are very few of my relatives left now, so I cherish the memories of my gran's and aunt's cooking. And how many birthday girls and boys can say that they have home-made Christmas cookies on their birthday? I used to love baking with my gran and still have her old cookery books, one dating back to the 1930s when she was in training. I remember good afternoons in her kitchen. Freshly baked cookies!

"But it's dark and cold!" 

You mean it's atmospheric, with festive lights everywhere? Christmas trees, cosy markets, candles and spiced hot chocolate with marshmallows or mulled wine - what more would I want?

OK, for a while I envied my summer birthday friends. Barbecues, outdoor kids' party fun, trips out. But as a true winter girl, I prefer my season. It's even snowed on my birthday now and then. One particular time there was so much, we had a snowball fight and made snow angels. Happy me!

So, to all of you who pity us: don't! We're very happy with our dramatic, warm, cosy season... :-)

Today there's sadly no snow, but hubby and I will be going for a nice meal, followed by drinkies on the Royal Mile! We might even make it to the Christmas market...

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Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!


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PS: Today is also the re-release day for Highland Arms. Exciting! If you love historical adventure with danger and romance set in the windswept Scottish Highlands, check it out! It's now available through Crooked Cat Publishing on Amazon UK, Amazon US and Smashwords! :-) 


Celebrating St Nicholas Day

6th December is St Nicholas Day.

This is not really noted in the UK, but it is commemorated every year in Germany, where I grew up, in a really nice way.

On the night of the 5th to 6th December, kids put one boot outside their bedrooms (yes, I did; well, up to the age of around 12). Legend has it that during the night, St Nicholas fills it with nuts and tangerines, apples and chocolates and a couple of small presents. So, on the morning of the 6th, children find a small treasure when they wake up. :-) (Note: choose a non-smelly boot for better effect!)

But who was St Nicholas? And why does he go around German houses during the night before his name day, dishing out goodies?
Russian Icon of St Nicholas, c. 1500, ( (c) National Museum, Stockholm)
The original Nicholas was Greek bishop of Myra, in Lycia, Asia Minor, around 300 AD. Very little is known about the actual person – even accounts of his parents vary – although it appears he was very religious from an early age onwards. But there are plenty of legends.

He was said to have been very helpful and caring, often saving people from starvation. The number three seems to feature in various stories surrounding him. He is said to have resurrected three children killed by a butcher before he could turn them into pies; then he was rumoured to have saved three sailors during a fierce storm, guiding their ship to a safe haven.

Another (and perhaps the one that many will recognise) was about a poor man who had three daughters he was unable to provide with a dowry. The saint is said to have thrown three purses through a window and the chimney into their house (he was clearly afraid of being turned away!). Now, who does that remind you of? Yup! Good old (well, new-ish) Santa Claus!

Gentile da Fabiano's The dowry for the three virgins ((c) Pinoteca Vaticana)

St Nicholas died on 6th December (343?). He is one of only a few saints whose bones weren't scattered around Christendom. In fact, a number of his bones were transferred during turbulent times from Myra to Bari in Italy, earning him the attribution of Nicholas of Bari. The rest of his bones was collected shortly after. Apparently, Turkey has demanded the bones back. I wouldn't hold my breath.

St Nicholas is still revered by several Christian groups – Catholics, Anglican, Orthodox – in different ways, all across Europe. He is patron saint of aforementioned sailors, as well as bakers and merchants. Oh, and intriguingly of brewers and distillers. Prost!

The celebrations on the night to 6th December may stem from medieval monasteries, where novices dressed up as boy bishops and dished out alms to the community. Dressing up in a monastery sounds dodgy to modern ears, but I'm sure it was all very innocent...

One intriguing bit of information I discovered was that thanks to Martin Luther and his reformation St Nicholas was replaced by the Christkind, the Christ Child, as a giver of presents, in Germany. This was due to the reformation not recognising the sanctity of saints. I grew up thinking the Christkind left my pressies under our Christmas tree on the evening of 24th December (though you pretty quickly realise who's helping him choose them!). Not sure what it's like in the present day, though, with all the Santa media hype.

St Nicholas Day traditions live on in central and eastern Europe, but the emergence of modern-day Santa arriving through a chimney, leaving pressies for kids on the morning of 25th December, Christmas Day for those who haven't heard yet, has taken over.

In Britain, he has pushed Father Christmas, originally a Christmas visitor, not a giver of gifts, out of the way. Guess visitors were too boring and only gifts are deemed suitable to bribe kids (and adults) to behave for one day of the year...

Now, let me see if there's something in my boot this morning! Oh, and Frohe Weihnachten! :-)

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Join me and fellow Crooked Cats as we celebrate the season! Just click on the banner below! 


Christmas with the Crooked Cats

From today up to 6th January 2015, I'm celebrating the winter season with a group of fabulous Crooked Cat authors!
So, come and join us!
Find seasonal short stories and poems, excellent gift ideas and great reading material for the holidays when you finally get to put your feet up! Everyone welcome!

We'll see you there! :-) 

Nicky Wells introduces A Fairy Tale in New York

Today, I'm thrilled to welcome a very special friend, author Nicky Wells. She had the wonderful idea to combine a New York Christmas with a romance of a special kind: he's a rock star! An intriguing mix, don't you agree? I can't wait to read it!

But now, let's hear it from Nicky...


A Fairy Tale in New York… involving snow and a stranded rock star. What on earth inspired this story? I mean, the rock industry is hardly the stuff of fairy tales, or is it?

This is only one of the incredulous reactions I got when I first announced I was writing a Christmas book mixing together  Christmas with my love for rock, music, and fairy tales. Those ingredients go together perfectly, as far as I’m concerned.

Fairy Tale in New York is my version of the perfect Christmas story, and I really went all out on the happiness factor. Everything gets kicked off with an epic snowstorm—and I mean epic, of the ground-all-planes-and-halt-all-transport variety. You see, being snowed in somewhere is on my bucket list. I’ve always fancied being snowed in, if only just for a day. The drama, the excitement, and the snow!! (There’s really not enough snow in the season that the UK optimistically calls ‘winter’.)

Obviously there’s romance, because I’m a hopeless romantic. And true to form, there’s a rock musician because you know how much I love my golden-voiced bad boys. However, this story is about lead singer Jude as much as his girlfriend and baby daughter. Honestly, trust me, it’s a winner!

Last but not least, there’s a whole lot of new experiences for said rock musician that lend the story its panache and gravity. For despite all its good cheer and fluff (yes, fluff, it is a Christmas book after all!), I like to sneak in a message of personal growth and caring for others. Because that’s what Christmas is all about.

But why New York? I’m asked. Why not London, or anywhere else in England?

Well. *coughs, embarrassed* I wanted to take my characters somewhere different. New York City was on Jude and Carrie’s wish list I have to confess that this is in part because ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues is one of Carrie’s favourite Christmas rock tunes (see? Rock and Christmas totally go together!). So I thought…. Why not make their dream come true? After all, granting and fulfilling wishes for one’s characters is one of the perks of being an author-slash-creator. So between us, Carrie, Jude, and I had a lot of fun exploring New York in the snow and discovering some of the differences between an American Christmas and a British one. What’s that they say about being divided by a common language?

In fact, the connection with The Pogues song inspired a whole raft of Christmas-rock-tune related chapter titles, so I invite you to go and work out my playlist. Plus you can have fun playing spot-the-movie-reference bingo—I told you this is an all-out, all-round uninhibited Christmas fun story!


Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Christmas time. I’d love to hear what you think about my Fairy Tale!

~~~~~

Blurb

Fairy Tale in New York


New York. A restaurant near Park Avenue. It’s early evening, and dusk is falling. So is the snow. Jude and Carrie are only killing time while they wait for their flight to London. They don’t know yet that their life will never be the same.

When rock star Jude gets stranded in New York with his family on Christmas Eve, he has no idea that he is setting in motion a chain of events that will turn their Christmas into the most magical one yet…

No good deed goes unpunished, or so it seems to Jude and Carrie on the morning of the twenty-fourth of December. The previous day, they gave up their London-bound flights to someone in crisis. And now, a spectacular whiteout is grounding all planes, and Jude, Carrie, and baby Maya are stuck far from home.

Tired, hungry, and just a little panicked, Jude loads his family into a cab and returns to their hotel. But there’s no room at the inn, and not even a platinum credit card will make a difference. Snow is falling heavily, and the family is facing a very bleak night indeed.

How do you celebrate Christmas with no place to stay, no food, and no presents? Join Jude, Carrie, Maya and a cast of colourful characters in this fairy tale story of Yuletide in New York.


Fairy Tale in New York is now available in Kindle and paperback editions from all Amazon domains, including: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

****Stop press!! To celebrate the launch of Fairy Tale of New York, Nicky Wells is offering her previous Christmas novella, Spirits of Christmas, completely FREE on Kindle from 8 November until 14 November! 
And that’s not all! Fallen for Rock will be only £0.77/$0.99 from 10 November until 16 November. Go on, treat yourself!****

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 About Nicky Wells: Romance that Rocks Your World!



Ultimate rock chick author Nicky Wells writes romance with rock stars—because there’s no better romantic hero than a golden-voiced bad boy with a secret soft heart and a magical stage presence!

Nicky’s books offer glitzy, glamorous romance with rock stars—imagine Bridget Jones ROCKS Notting Hill! If you’ve ever had a crush on any kind of celebrity, you’ll connect with Nicky’s heroes and their leading ladies.

Born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993 and currently lives in Lincoln with her husband and their two boys. Nicky loves listening to rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When she’s not writing, she’s a wife, mother, occasional knitter, and regular contributor at Siren 107.3 FM with her own monthly show. Rock on!



Did you know? There’s a single out now by Nicky’s fictional rock band Tuscq come to life!  “Love Me Better” is available for download from Amazon, iTunes and many other places.