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!

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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.


Welcome to Rosanne Bittner

Today, I welcome author Rosanne Bittner, whose latest release, Desperate Hearts, is out now. Rosanne chats about reading and writing - she's on to her 60th novel! That's got your interest, hasn't it?!

Over to Rosanne!


Good morning from Rosanne Bittner!  

I am always happy to visit other blogs related to romance writing and reading, something we all love!  I hope you will pick up a copy of my September (2014) book, DESPERATE HEARTS, a great “wild-west” action romance set in the little gold town of Alder, Montana.  I know you will love the hero, Mitch Brady, a vigilante who is tough on the outside but so caring on the inside.  Mitch can be a ruthless, unforgiving lawman when it comes to men who harm others for no good reason, especially those who harm women, but on the inside he just wants to love and be loved and find a woman with whom he can finally settle.  Along comes heroine Elizabeth Wainright, who arrives in Alder under mysterious circumstances.  Beautiful and alone, Mitch decides he needs to watch out for this young woman who has managed to grab at his heart.  He wants her for himself, but little does he know that Elizabeth is running from the law and a cruel relative back in New York City!  Through the story Elizabeth has to learn to trust Mitch, and he in turn has to learn the truth about this woman with whom he’s fallen in love. 
     DESPERATE HEARTS is my 59th published novel.  I’ve been writing over 30 years and have won numerous writing awards.  Most of my books are about America’s Old West of the 1800’s, an era of unbelievable growth in America, and packed with food for plot, from the building of the Transcontinental Railroad to the discovery of gold, the settlement of endless untamed country, battles with Native Americans (and I’ve written stories about the history of Native Americans, told mostly from their point of view), the Mexican War, and even the Civil War touched on the West.  I have also written about the French & Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and border wars that took place between states before the breakout of the Civil War.  My goal has always been to relate real American history through fictitious characters in an exciting way, and from reader feedback I receive, I know I have accomplished that goal.
     I have lived in southwest Michigan my whole life.  It’s a beautiful state, and we are only about 10 minutes from Lake Michigan, one of the 7 wonders of the world.  Yes, there is a lot to be said for Michigan, but for some reason my heart has always been “out West.”  Maybe it’s because I grew up on TV westerns and lots of western movies and western heroes like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.  All I ever wanted to read was books about pioneers and Indians.  If not for all my family being here and helping run a family business here, I would love to be living out in the Rockies.  Instead, my husband and I have traveled the west extensively for about 30 years, and I have visited every place I’ve written about.  I can tell that my love for American history and America’s West shines through in my stories, because so many readers tell me they feel like they were “right there” in my stories and that the characters seem so real.
     The first book I remember reading that truly made me want to write about pioneers is A LANTERN IN HER HAND by Bess Streeter Aldrich.  It’s the story of a woman who gave up all her own dreams of being an artist and a singer to go settle in Nebraska with her husband, following his dreams of becoming a big landowner and farmer, rather than following her own dreams.  When they settle in Nebraska, there is absolutely nothing there and no  close neighbors, and this book really hits deeply at the heart with how lonely pioneer women were when having to live in such remote areas.  It’s just a beautiful story that is unforgettable.  I was 14 when I read that book, and it has stayed with me all these years.
     I hope you will pick up DESPERATE HEARTS and let me know what you think – and watch for my 60th book next July – DO NOT FORSAKE ME.  It’s a sequel to OUTLAW HEARTS, and a fabulous love story – the saga of a wanted man and the woman who becomes his rock and his strength, and who teaches this man what love is all about.  DO NOT FORSAKE ME is a gritty, sometimes hard-to-read western that depicts the depths of love between a man and a woman who have to face danger and demons together.  The demons are things from Jake’s past that have haunted him all his life, and which he finally faces in DO NOT FORSAKE ME. You won’t want to miss this story, coming from Sourcebooks, with gorgeous, sweeping covers by Jon Paul!
     Thanks again, and happy reading!


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Thank you, Rosanne, for such a fascinating post. Many congratulations on reaching such an impressive milestone – 60 books! A fab reason to celebrate. :-)


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SHE’S A WOMAN WITH A SECRET

Elizabeth Wainwright is on the run. Accused of a murder she didn’t commit, she has no choice but to cut ties with her old life and flee West. The last thing she wants is attention, but when her stagecoach is attacked, she suddenly finds herself under the fierce protection of one of Montana’s famed vigilantes…whether she likes it or not.
HE’S A MAN WITH A CODE
Lawman Mitch Brady is sworn to uphold justice in the wild lands of 1860’s Montana. He’s never met a man he’s feared, and he’s never met a woman more desperately in need of his help. Something’s shaken the secretive Elizabeth, but as he gets to know the beautiful city belle, he finds the only thing he wants more than her safety…is her trust.
Buy Links: 

Amazon  Barnes & Noble   Kobo  iBooks  

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