Authors Fern Michaels, Marie Bostwick, Laura Levine & Cindy Myers Share Their Favorite Holiday Traditions
Secret Santa is a collection of beautiful holiday stories from four beloved and bestselling authors: Fern Michaels, Marie Bostwick, Laura Levine, and Cindy Myers. Today on the NOOK Blog, each author writes about her own cherished Christmas traditions and memories and how they provided inspiration for her work in Secret Santa.
Writing a full length novel as opposed to a Christmas novella is a challenge for me. When I found out I had to write one in the month of July it became even more of a challenge because I live in the South where our temperatures are in the high 90s with humidity. While I might be the Queen of Christmas in December, in July I am a wilted Southern wall flower, but I’m always up for a challenge. I needed a plan, that much I knew right off the bat. I have to say I spent more time getting in the mood, worrying about ambience, setting the scene, and working on my mind set than it took me to write the novella.
Upstairs in my attic where it was 200 degrees I knew we had a Charlie Brown Christmas tree that the kids made when they were little (like 50 years ago). At the time it was just a stick with branches the kids labored over and later became known as our very own Charlie Brown tree. The twigs that passed for branches were held in place with black electrical tape with gold glitter. Some branches had bandages on them, while others had white gauze holding them in place. Splashes of colored paint streaked the main stick. A wrinkled yellow paper star minus one peak was still attached to the top of the stick. It was so ugly it was beautiful standing there in the bucket of sand that somehow was still intact. I lugged it down to my office, got it positioned. Then I ran to the Dollar Store, bought a bag of junk to wrap up to put under the tree (do you have any idea how hard it is to find silver paper with red bows in July? I found it, though!). Next, I turned down my A/C to 50 degrees, built a roaring fire and turned on my jukebox that has every Christmas song known to man, and hung the kid’s stockings on the mantle. I tied bells around my dog’s necks, bundled up in two sweaters, a scarf, and sat down to write.
My kids came every day to check my progress as they eyed the packages under the tree. When I typed the last word, I called the kids to come over for our own Christmas in July. We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and orange cream sickles for dinner. They were kids again for a little while. Talk about Christmas spirit. We had it by the bushel. They loved their one of a kind Dollar Store presents.
Might you ask what I got? I got a cold, and the satisfaction my plan worked. - Fern Michaels
I was fortunate to write the entire first draft of “The Yellow Rose of Christmas,” my story in the Secret Santa holiday anthology, at a beautiful little inn located in Vermont during the first two weeks of December 2012. Getting into the spirit of the season couldn’t have been easier. But, as you may have already guessed from the title, “The Yellow Rose of Christmas” is set in Texas, not Vermont. I had to look beyond snow covered hills, hot chocolate, and sleigh rides for inspiration and think about what unifying themes makes Christmas special for people, no matter where they live.
It didn’t take me long to come up with the answer: family and tradition. For example, two of the characters in my story, Velvet and Silky, sisters who have lived together for decades, always kick off the season by decorating their little house, enjoying cookies and breaking out the Christmas records as they work, putting the nativity set and other decorations in the same places every year.
My family has some similar traditions. For us the holiday season begins with a drive to a friend’s farm to choose and cut our tree, which we decorate with all kinds of ornaments, including some that were hand painted by husband’s mother back in the 1940s. Another important holiday tradition for our family is attending Julotta service, a candlelight religious celebration that begins before the sun rises on Christmas morning and ends with the dawn and a delicious breakfast shared by our church family. In spite of the early hour, I look forward to this every year.
Community celebrations are also important in Too Much, the little town in where “The Yellow Rose of Christmas” is set. The whole town turns out for the annual live nativity put on by the members of the local Methodist congregation. The Christmas Ball, organized by members of the Women’s Club and held in the fellowship hall of the Episcopal church is another can’t-miss holiday tradition for the residents of Too Much. In fact, the Christmas Ball takes on special significance in the story because Velvet’s secret admirer—who has been sending her a single yellow rose every day since Thanksgiving—is supposed to reveal his identity on that night. In a town with a population that barely tops four figures you can imagine how the rumor mill was churning over that piece of information!
No matter where we live or what our backgrounds are, I think most of us have little holiday traditions and rituals that we look forward to year after year. I know many people who consider reading uplifting Christmas stories an important part of kicking off their festive season. Now there’s a holiday tradition I support one hundred percent! - Marie Bostwick
Laura Levine is unfortunately unable to write anything at this moment, as she is busy sorting her socks, so we’ve asked the co-star of her Jaine Austen Mysteries—Jaine’s cat Prozac—to tell us how Laura got in the holiday spirit while writing her novella, Nightmare On Elf Street.
Laura, get in the holiday spirit? Are you nuts? All she does when she’s writing a book is sit at the computer in her pajamas, cursing and muttering and running to the fridge for inspiration. I, however, was flooded with warm Christmas memories.
I thought back to when I was just a wee kitty, smashing my first Christmas tree ornament, clawing my first Christmas stocking, and leaving my first little surprise for Jaine in her Christmas slippers.
Oh, those were the days!
You should see how cute I looked trying to topple the Christmas tree—oops, hold on a sec. Laura’s calling me. I gotta go see what she wants…
Okay, I’m back. She told me to stop yapping about my memories and start plugging the novella.
What a nag, huh?
I promised her I’d plug the book, so here goes:
Some people might say that Nightmare On Elf Street is a story of what happens when Laura’s heroine, Jaine Austen, gets a job as a Santa’s elf and can’t decide which is worse—having to wear a hideous elf suit, or finding Santa dead next to the Christmas tree. But those people would be wrong! All wrong! Nightmare On Elf Street is, on its most profound level, about moi. A courageous cat who, against her will, gets dragged to the mall to have her picture taken by a professional photographer. It’s an inspiring tale of just how far a cat will go to assert her independence while trolling for snacks.
I’m the real star of the story, and I’m getting pretty darn tired of playing second fiddle to Jaine. Oh, she’s likeable enough. And somehow she’s managed to solve a couple of murders between Chunky Monkey binges. But is she a star? Does she have big green eyes and a cute fuzzy tail? Can she cough up a hairball the size of a cumquat? I think not; which is why I’m starting a campaign to Elect Prozac the Star of Laura’s Mysteries. From now on, I feel each of Laura’s books should be subtitled A Prozac The Cat Mystery.
If you feel the way do (and I’m certain you do), please write Laura at Jaineausten@aol.com and tell her to give me the top billing I so richly deserve. Remember, vote for me for Star of Laura’s Books. If you don’t, I just may leave a little surprise in your slippers.
Ciao for now,
I love Christmas so much I got married at Christmastime. My wedding flowers were red and white poinsettias, and we took some of our wedding photos in front of a giant Christmas tree. Our first Christmas together was spent on our honeymoon, in a little cabin in the woods with mistletoe over the door. We ate wedding cake for breakfast and toasted each other with champagne served in jelly glasses. So Christmas for me is a time of romance, celebration and exciting possibility. Writing “Room at the Inn” reminded me of all these feelings.
I’m lucky enough to live in Colorado, and while I was writing my story set in a Colorado blizzard we did indeed have snow. There’s nothing like snow to put me in the mood to celebrate. A little hot chocolate or spiced tea, some Christmas carols in the background and a pine-scented candle burning on my desk and I was able to slip into that snow-covered landscape where Barb Stanowski ends up having a very different Christmas from the one she’d originally planned.
Christmas is a holiday that is freighted with so much expectation that it’s easy to be disappointed, even depressed, when things don’t turn out as perfect as we may picture them in our minds. We crave those family traditions, favorite foods and familiar decorations. But sometimes, life throws a curve and shakes things up. I wanted to explore that idea in my story, and to show that by embracing the spirit behind the holiday, we can turn the disappointments into something new and wonderful.
However you choose to celebrate—or not celebrate—the holidays, I hope you’ll find a way to see the familiar in a new light and discover new possibilities for yourself and those you love.
Author Tom Clancy continuously drew us into his literary thrill rides, exhibiting a mastery of the genre that few have been able to match. His final novel, Command Authority, written with Mark Greaney, follows U.S. president and former C.I.A. agent Jack Ryan as he investigates the new strong man in Russia, who has some very dark secrets behind his speedy rise to power.
To get the ninth installment in the Jack Ryan series, and other great books by Tom Clancy, click here.Read more...
When I was a kid, I'd spend most mornings watching PBS Kids' shows - Barney, Sesame Street, Arthur, Thomas and Friends, and countless others. Along with being so much fun to watch, PBS Kids' shows are super educational - and you can bet their apps are as well! Today's App Buzz features three apps that are part of a fantastic 50% off sale of all PBS Kids' apps through the end of the day.
Explore your house and play doctor with Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood - from the hit TV show! Your kids love watching Daniel Tiger play and learn on PBS, and now they can join him in this interactive app. You can help Daniel get ready for bed or for a bath, or play Doctor Daniel and learn how to do a check-up!
Take an amazing trip while learning your letters with SUPER WHY ABC Adventures! With 5 interactive games, your child can learn upper- and lowercase letters, the order of the alphabet, and more while helping some letter-loving superheros complete missions around the world. Take pictures of safari animals A-Z with Alpha Pig, or swim in the ocean with Princess Presto while matching letters to their respective sounds.
Your children love the show Peg + Cat - and now it's a great math and music app: Peg + Cat Big Gig! You can learn to play songs on the ukulele with Peg, Cat and all of their fun friends, write your own music and learn basic mathematical equations.
For more PBS KIDS' apps on sale, click here.
Today's Free Fridays book selection is Beauty and the Wolf by Marina Myles - a sexy paranormal romance that will warm you up on the coldest of nights.
Isabella loves her new husband, the wealthy and powerful Lord Draven Winthrop, but not everyone feels the same. Many fear him and the dark, magical secrets that lie beneath his brooding stare...but Isabella has ancient secrets of her own, and they're about to get her into huge trouble. A gypsy curse and a mother's scorn await the couple as they race against the clock to avoid a horrifying fate.
Today's Free Fridays app selection is the Yatzy game app by Agile Fusion - a fun twist on the beloved dice game.
You can forget about looking for tiny pencils and all those hard-to-find dice - because this version of Yatzy is on your NOOK! Score the highest amount of points by rolling the 5 dice to create different combinations, and try to get a true yatzy by rolling 5 of a kind! Play against your device, or play with friends. It's never been easier to enjoy this classic American game.
Special to this week's Free Fridays: Smallville Season 11 #1 on NOOK Comics! The first issue of the celebrated series about Clark Kent and his superhero alter ego, Superman, is free today for NOOK users, featuring our beautiful graphic display with zoom view.
Each week, we ask our featured author to recommend a book or author that you may want to check out. Since authors are such passionate readers themselves, we thought you might like to find out what they love to read, too! Here’s what Marina recommends:
From its opening scene with breakneck action and raw sensuality, to its tender ending, Fated (Book One in the Dark Protectors series) had me from the get-go.
Talen Kayrs is a vampire sent to protect Cara Paulsen and her four-year-old daughter, Janie from a band of monsters known as the Kurjans. It turns out these Kurjans are mortal enemies of Talen’s ancient vampire tribe. However, uber-hot Talen is no ordinary vampire. He can go out in the sun, has eyes that glow a luminescent gold, only drinks blood during sex or a fight, and craves one woman: his predestined soul mate (which makes Fated the perfect title).
The Kurjans want Janie for her psychic abilities, and Cara for her power to block emotion, so when Cara learns she is Talen’s potential mate, the stakes skyrocket. Will the Kurjans want her more if she marries Talen? Will consummating their union protect Cara as much as Talen promises?
I marveled at how expertly Rebecca Zanetti fills every page with conflict and how masterfully she weaves sexual tension into each exchange between Cara and Talen. Being a mother, I naturally scrutinized the heroine’s relationship with her daughter, but I found it believable and heart-warming. All in all, Fated is ideal to curl up with on a rainy day—just be sure to buckle your seat belt for one hell of a roller coaster ride!Read more...
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! While you're getting ready to have a lovely meal later with family and friends, we wanted to let you know that we've decided to start Black Friday...today!
Online only today, we're offering amazing deals: get the NOOK® Simple Touch for just $39, and the NOOK® HD starting at just $79!
Supplies are limited, so while the turkey's in the oven, go online, start shopping, and get ready to enjoy hours of reading and entertainment.
You can find all Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals here.Read more...
Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has won the hearts of millions of readers with her no-nonsense attitude and relentless pursuit of criminals on the run, and she's back and better than ever in Janet Evanovich's newest novel, Takedown Twenty, now available on NOOK.
Powerful mob boss and suspected murderer Salvatore "Uncle Sunny" Sunucchi is Stephanie's latest target, but getting involved with the Mafia is risky - even for a pro like Stephanie. Can she outsmart the family, or will she end up sleeping with the fishes?
For more Stephanie Plum and other novels by Janet Evanovich, click here.
Bestselling author Hannah Howell has created an entire romantic universe with her Murray family sagas, following the Scottish clan as they fight battles, make and break alliances, and fall in love with roguish lords and ladies. Her latest addition to the series, Highland Master, profiles Lady Triona McKee as she struggles to save her family's cherished land from a vengeful cousin, while attracting the attention of a battle-scarred knight. Today on the NOOK Blog, Hannah delves into the story behind her beloved series.
The Murray series began with the tales of three brothers: Balfour, Nigel, and Eric. They are the patriarchs of the clan. They were struggling to survive and in a constant battle with an old enemy, but one by one they found the peace and happiness they craved.
Next were the stories of the three daughters, one from each of the patriarchs. After that came a son, a cousin, an inlaw, and, now, even a grandchild. The choice of the next story after the first two trilogies was easy enough. There was always one character that would slip into whatever Murray tale I was working on, slyly demanding his or her story. That is when the series began to expand to include the past. The clan, however, remains the tie that binds the whole series together, from the first book down through all that has followed.
Medieval Scotland is the stage the Murray clan struts on. I am sometimes amazed at how widely the tales have spread out from the first one. The small clan ruled by three brothers has definitely grown, gaining allies, power, enemies, and wealth along the way. Despite how far they go, how convoluted those ties to the patriarchs become, it all still harkens back to those first three men. One thing that remains in all the stories: the strong familial bond.
Each Murray tale is its own story, the plot unconnected to the previous ones. Each can be read alone without needing to go all the way back to the beginning to find the thread of some storyline. These are stories of a clan, a family, and all the members of it, whether they are ones of the blood or the heart. The stage may belong to the Murray clan, but they allow friends and allies the use of it from time to time, especially when that person is undoubtedly soon to join the clan in some way.
Highland Master is the tale of Sir Brett Murray, the son of Nigel and Gisele from Highland Honor. He is rumored to be a rogue, as most Murray men are, and very late to settle down. Then he meets Lady Triona and his chivalrous instincts stir to life, along with a strong dose of lust. As with all the rest of his kinsmen and women, he finds the path to happiness twisted and somewhat rocky. There are also several people from past books who make an appearance to give him aid, whether he welcomes it or not. Readers of the series may enjoy their visit with these characters.
I love writing the Murray stories. I often feel as much a part of the clan as the characters I write about. Highland Master shows how, no matter how many years have passed, the ties between the growing number of Murrays remain strong and true.Read more...
Turkey Day is this Thursday (!) and I am so excited to celebrate this glorious holiday with family and friends – and to eat my mother’s amazing stuffing. NOOK has plenty of great Thanksgiving-themed apps to get us all in the holiday spirit, from exciting games to festive wallpaper to helpful recipes to prepare you for the big meal.
Free Fridays: A Darcy Christmas by Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan and Carolyn Eberhart and the Survival Run with Bear Grylls app
Today's Free Fridays book selection is A Darcy Christmas by Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan, and Carolyn Eberhart - a holiday tribute to the master storyteller Jane Austen, in the spirit of the season!
This collection of novellas celebrates the magic of Christmas paired with the timeless love stories of one of England's most renowned novelists. Relive the romance of Pride and Prejudice with a holiday twist. A must for any Jane Austen fan.
Today's Free Fridays app selection is Survival Run with Bear Grylls by F84 Games - an action-packed game app where you race for your life against a ferocious grizzly bear!
There's danger around every corner and Bear Grylls (Man Vs. Wild) knows how to handle it - but do you? Run through different nature settings and collect coins and other prizes like Rocket Boots and Jetpacks to survive, and unlock nine different versions of Bear to fight against the relentless wilderness. Bear against bear - it's never been more fun!
Each week, we ask our featured author to recommend a book or author that you may want to check out. Since authors are such passionate readers themselves, we thought you might like to find out what they love to read, too! Here’s what Amanda Grange recommends:
I heartily recommend Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer. It's a lively, sparkling Regency romance with a spirited heroine who pits her wits against the arrogant hero, leading to much hilarity and a satisfyingly happy ending. Best of all, Heyer wrote a whole series of Regency romances, all full of bright, lively characters and hilarious plots. They make perfect winter tonics!Read more...
Love Rocks is a look at new self-published romance titles from the community at Rock*It Reads.Today's author, Lila DiPasqua, is a national bestselling author of wicked & witty historical romance novels for Penguin/Berkley, as well as self-published works. She is best known for her critically acclaimed Fiery Tales series. Watch for her upcoming holiday novella (part of the Fiery Tales series) The Duke's Match Girl, a steamy, romantic retelling of The Little Match Girl (out Dec. 1, 2013).
The Christmas season is upon us. You’d like to start a new series. Try something different. But do you really have the time to invest? Especially when your Christmas list is long. And you still haven’t figured out what to get Uncle Bob (He’s always so difficult to buy for.)
I have a soft spot for historical romance novels. It’s what I write, after all. And there’s a wonderful trend that I love—the historical romance novella written as a standalone story that’s part an existing series. Or in some cases, used to launch a new series.
What better way to sample a brand new series that’s caught your eye than to dive into a novella?
The great thing about indie publishing is that the author has total creative control. She can do something outside the box. Here are a couple of historical novellas that don’t feature your usual British aristocratic hero.
Oh, these heroes are definitely handsome. Irresistible and refreshingly different.
A Night of Forever by Lori Brighton
Who is Aidan Callaghan? Mary Ellen James is intent on uncovering the truth about the mysterious man. But as she soon finds out, some things are best left buried in the past.
In this historical romance novella, Mary Ellen is a sensible woman. She is looking for a man with a title and wealth, not because she’s shallow. But because she’s known the realities of living life while lacking both. Her brother-in-law’s friend is mysterious. And seemingly without means. So why can’t she stop thinking about Aidan? He’s all wrong for her.
In more ways than one.
You see, Aidan is a vampire. Yeah, that’s going to put a monkey wrench in her plans. This is a fast paced novella, with great chemistry between Mary Ellen and Aiden. She’s brave. He’s protective. Add in suspense and action and you’ve got a delightful read. I’m definitely going to check our Lori Brighton’s other books in The Night Series.
Romancing Lady Stone by Delilah Marvelle
At forty, Lady Cecilia Evangeline Stone thinks she has everything a woman could ever want. A title, a fortune, and four children who make her proud. After a marriage of convenience that was anything but convenient, she has no desire to complicate her life by including a man in it again. When her eldest son announces his engagement to a Russian actress in Saint Petersburg, Cecilia sets out to do what any good mother would do: stop the wedding. Unfortunately, destiny has other plans.
Konstantin Alexie Levin never considered himself to be a villain. In fact, he considers himself to be a Russian gentleman. Having grown up in a refined and well-educated family that embraced criminal life to avoid debtor's prison, the only thing preventing him from knowing happiness is the rest of the world. Everything changes, however, when Konstantin is given a chance to start life anew and travel to London to collect an unexpected reward for saving a man's life. To his surprise, he is about to become a hero at midnight to a beautiful aristocrat who desperately needs his help. The problem is...he wants to do more than save Lady Stone. He wants to make the woman his, all his.
Oh, how I loved Konstantin! He’s Russian. A former criminal. A little dangerous. And a man who definitely knows how to come to a woman’s aid. He is what every hero is made of. A chance encounter in a carriage puts him in the path of a beautiful, yet older woman, Cecilia. She’s been drugged, robbed and stranded in Russia. He doesn’t hesitate to help her find her son. Yet, the longer they’re together, the more compatible you see they are—despite the age difference. And their very different backgrounds.
I adored the story behind Konstantin’s prized pocket watch and his belief in destiny. Romancing Lady Stone is part of Delilah Marvelle’s School of Gallantry series. I’m now very eager to read her upcoming Whipping Society series!