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Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest Blogger: Dana Marton

Just yesterday, I was complaining to friends about not being able to find my Christmas spirit. I was telling them how since it's called a Christmas Break, I keep thinking I'll actually get a break, which could not be further from the truth. There's more shopping, cleaning, baking, wrapping, and visiting to be done than ever. I did get some great advice on what to do to get myself in the mood, ranging from egg nog, to committing random acts of kindness to watching Love, Actually. Okay, I'll give those a try. But, seriously? They'll take even more time! And my main problem was having too little time to start with.

Well, be careful what you wish for.

Yesterday evening my daughter and a friend were watching music videos on my computer and managed to download a virus that completely destroyed the computer to the point that it cannot even be turned on. My husband spent the whole night putting together a PC for me from spare parts. All I have today is Internet. (But all my research bookmarks gone.) I still don't know if my files with all my past and future books and all the family photos can be recovered. I don't even have Windows installed on this new unit yet.

But I found my holiday spirit. It came with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I'm grateful that I sent in my copy edits for my next book a few hours before the computer crashed. I'm grateful that I have a husband who stayed up all night so I can at least have email today. I'm grateful that, most likely, he'll be able to recover my files and I don't have to pay several thousand dollars for that someplace else. (He's a software engineer.) And I'm even grateful for the time I have today to go through my email and catch up with all those wonderful friends who've been waiting on a response from me through this last rush job with the next book then the edits. I'm writing everyone. Then I'm going downstairs and decorate the tree that has been standing there all week, waiting for me to find the time. Maybe all this will turn out to have been a blessing in disquise. Well, as long as hubby will get my files back. If not, you'll hear me screaming into the night, wherever you are :-)

Wishing you happy holidays,
Dana Marton

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest Blogger Susan Wiggs

Where Do You Get The Books You Love?

It’s nothing new (pun intended)–used book sales have been a part of the publishing equation ever since the first undergrad sold her first college textbook back to the bookstore in order to get money for Christmas presents. A book is one of those things that is the same whether new or used, content-wise, anyway.

With online swap sites making it ridiculously easy to acquire books for little more than shipping costs, the impact is finally taking a heavy toll on publishers and authors. The book you buy for a penny + shipping is a sale that will never show up on a royalty statement. No one except the reseller and the post office will see a penny from the transaction. Yet it’s not the reader’s job to care about this. Like any responsible person, the reader is probably looking for the most economical way to indulge her passion. I don’t blame her. I’ve bought plenty of second-hand books in my time. The used book I buy today was once manufactured and sold new, and the publisher, bookseller and author each got their cut. Now the book has been released into the wild, and any further readers it finds are simply a bonus. In my genre, books go out of print quickly, often within months of their release, so having them available used is a way to keep the backlist alive. I don’t make money from those sales, but I might find new readers.

The New York Times weighs in here with “Bargain Hunting for Books, and Feeling Sheepish About It” by David Streitfeld. The headline sums up the dilemma. We love books so much that we can’t get enough of them. But we’d go broke, buying everything at premium prices, so we buy used books, even knowing that some publisher’s sales are going to slip, and some author might find herself out of work.

Streitfeld is frank about his motives and methods. He’s an avid reader whose appetite for books conflicts with his sense of responsibility. I do wish the article had offered the obvious solution. People who want books at no cost should borrow them from the library. That way, everybody wins. The reader pays nothing for the book, the library wins a patron, the publisher sells a new book and the writer gets her royalties. Okay, so maybe the independent bookstore is left out of the equation, but in my community, the library and bookstore often cooperate.

These days, many libraries offer the option of downloading an audio or e-book directly to your home computer, so you don’t even have to go anywhere. My new novel, Lakeshore Christmas, is more than a love story featuring food, friends and family. It is also a passionate drama involving an institution near and dear to my heart–the public library. I don’t have to tell you that this most precious of resources is facing serious economic troubles. Please support public libraries this season. See my blog (http://www.susanwiggs.wordpress.com/) for suggestions.

Where do you weigh in on the debate? Do you buy books new to support the industry? Do you buy them used to save money? Or do you use the library?

I clicked the used-book aggregator link in the NYT article to look up my own books. Somebody’s charging $292 for a copy of my novel, The Lightkeeper. Good gawd. I’d sell it to you for half that price.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest Penny Watson

I have been asked many times "What was the inspiration for your book?" My debut novel, Sweet Inspiration, is definitely a departure from a typical paranormal story. It's a 55,000-word light paranormal Christmas-themed, spicy romance about Santa Claus and the North Pole. A bit outside of the box for romantic stories, but also a fun and refreshing reworking of the Santa legend.

I took great joy in playing around with the standard Santa myth...making Santa into a fitness buff, Mrs. Klaus a bohemian knock-out, the elves a bunch of hard-cussing workers, and Santa's five sons a sexy group of bachelors who all help to run the North Pole. I must admit that there is one source of inspiration from my childhood that helped to mold my novel. The classic 1970 animated holiday film, Santa Claus is Comin' To Town, narrated by Fred Astaire, is the story of Kris Kringle (voiced by Mickey Rooney) and Miss Jessica (voiced by Robie Lester), the future Mrs. Claus.

As much as this children's film is the story about the origins of "Santa Claus", it is also a love story between Kris and Jessica. It's a great little film, filled with villains, magic, a loving elf family, music, and of course the healing power of the Christmas spirit. Jessica is a lovely, strong-willed and loyal woman, with gorgeous red hair (just like my heroine Lucy!), and she is the perfect companion for Kris Kringle. The scene where Jessica and Kris are married in the evergreen forest, with only the animals as witnesses, is a touching and romantic moment. Even as a young girl, I totally appreciated the sweetness of that wedding scene. They are married under the stars, with nature's beauty as the "decorations" for their ceremony. This film really captures the wonder of the holiday for children, and I certainly hope that my Christmas story has captured some of that magic for adults, too.

What is your favorite holiday film/book that really captures the Christmas spirit for you?

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Happy Holidays, Penny

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest Wendy Roberts

Mistletoe and Murder

Ah December … the time for Christmas cheer, goodwill to mankind and, in my world, bloody messes and murder. For the last three years the books in my Ghost Dusters mystery series have been released the first week of December. This series is about a woman who cleans crime scenes for a living and happens to talk to the dead. They’re definitely not your usual holiday tales.

This year, Dead and Kicking hit shelves December 1st and I’m hoping that it’ll find its way into shopping baskets alongside copies of Holiday Decorating for Dummies or Night Before Christmas. Even though my story is lacking in holiday cheer, my readers don’t really seem to mind the distinct lack of candy canes and sugar plums. I like to think of the stories as a welcome relief to all the sweetness abounding throughout the holidays.

Having spent a few days now shoulder-to-shoulder with the masses fighting for the best Walmart deals, I have to tell you that my mind is full of murderous thoughts. I watched a grown woman elbow a small child out of the way to get the last Holiday Barbie and it’s enough to make me think arsenic instead of sugar cookies! So this evening after I put up the mistletoe and have a cup of cheer I’ll sit down and write a little murder plot.

How about you? Anything about the holidays make you think of murder?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest Ann Pearlman

“Christmas Curls”

My sixth Christmas we spent at my Grandmother, Lala’s house with Mum, my great grandmother, who lived with her. We rode from Chicago to Pittsburgh on a train arriving on Christmas eve. The house was decorated for the holiday. The tree was lit up, the fireplace mantel decorated with fresh pineapples and festooned with swags of evergreen. A fire helped to perfume the house with heady fruit and forest.

That Eve, before dinner, I cut out a string of paper dolls. Lala pointed to one and said, “That’s me.” Her gnarled finger moved to the left and she said, “That’s Mum, and that’s your great great grandmother all the way to the distant past, to Eve.” Then she skipped over the figure that was hers and moved to the right. “That’s your Mommy, and you, and your daughter and grandchild off to the unimaginable future.” I stared at the paper figures holding each other’s hands so tight.
What I wanted for Christmas that year, I could not have. Curly hair. Ringlets like some of the girls in my first grade class. Not my straight hair that fell out of the sparse ponytails or crept away from the barrettes that Mom pinned in a vain attempt to keep it neat. But real curly hair.
My aunt, Anne, who was only nine years older, tried to help me out. She wet my hair and wrapped sections in socks, tying the cuff and toe together. I was skeptical of my aunt’s endeavor when I saw my sock curlers scattered across my head.

“It’ll work,” she reassured me.

“Your hair is curly.”

‘I’ve done it for friends.”

That night, I struggled for sleep in my grandmother’s attic and watched car lights from the street sweep across the room revealing the gigantic red roses splattered on the wallpaper. I listened to their sound as they approached and then whooshed away, willing myself to sleep so that Santa and morning would arrive. At least the socks didn’t poke me like bobby pins.

The next morning I was more interested in my curly hair than Christmas. I crept into my aunt’s room and woke her to untie the many socks. “See, I told you it would work.” We stared at each other in her mirrored vanity. I had soft coils all over my head.

When I came downstairs, proud of my curls, dazzling wrappings greeted me. The entire living room and dining room were crowded with red, green, and white boxes tied with glistening bows, adorned with pinecones, vivid miniature fruit, Christmas ornaments. Piles as tall as me. Several crowded together. After all, there were presents to be given out and received for over twenty people.

And my presents, my birthday presents for Christmas is my birthday, were in their own special stack, off to the side, not wrapped in red and green, but gold!

I don’t remember everything I got. I know the adults were eager to see my reaction and I always smiled, even though I thought the baby dolls were strange and lifeless. I later spent hours building log houses with Lincoln log but could not appreciate my creations in the chaos of the day. I loved the pencils with my name on them. I carefully saved the bows and pressed the paper.

The adults listened to the radio. I helped Lala set the table for dinner, helped her pass out her pecan butter balls and Stollen.

After dinner, after the roast beef, and green beans, and homemade mashed potatoes, and trays of pickles, olives, spiced peaches and candied crab apples, after the desert we called ‘a kiss’ which was a baked meringue filled with ice cream and maroons, I grinned and opened my birthday presents.

And then my last present-- a box wrapped in printed paper with a hand tied bow.

“This is from Mum,” Lala said. Mum sat on a Queen Anne chair, her hands cupping the arms, her back straight. Wisps of white hair struggled out of her hairpins. Blue veins mapped the backs of her hands, rode up her sinewy arms. Each joint of her fingers was tipped with bulges, her nails blunt. She smiled at me and nodded, her lips curved as she worked her hands massaging the knuckles of one with the other. My last present. The last one for an entire year.

I unwrapped the box to find a doll’s wardrobe covered with wallpaper of plump red roses and sprigs of lilac. I opened the top drawer on the left, pulling the ivory knob, and, laying like fallen rose petals, were doll’s peach slip with a ruffle, an eyelet pinafore. The next drawer held a dotted dress with sash, trimmed with tiny lace around the collar and a ruffle at the hem. Next to it was a matching bonnet banded with miniature yellow velvet flowers.

The middle drawer was divided. Pajamas. Bathrobe. A little Red Riding Hood cape. A pink silk dress, a flowered dress. Pantaloons. Slips. All old fashioned clothes.

“Mum made this, made this by hand,” my mother said. I squinted at the stitches no larger than the machine ones holding my dress together.

The bottom drawer was turned into a bed with pink quilted sides, a pillow and blanket of white trimmed in lace. The doll was made of china, a red painted circle mouth, long wavy hair, eyes that opened and closed with painted long eyelashes. She was dressed in pink silk dress, the collar, ruffle at the hem edged in minuscule lace. On her head was a pink crocheted hat with pale roses and ribbons. Over her shoulder was a matching purse that opened with a pearl button to reveal a hand crochet handkerchief.

Mum blinked her eyes behind glasses that magnified her pupils.

I carefully examined the clothes and hugged her, smelling lavender and talcum. Her hard hands gently patted my shoulder as she kissed my cheek. “You like it?” she asked.

“Oh, yes.” The love proven by the tiny stitches, the spectacular wardrobe belied the somewhat taciturn woman. Perhaps it was the exhaustion of age.

Later, Lala pulled me aside and told me that Mum had been a famous seamstress with people pleading with her to do their fancy clothes. “This is her last. Her fingers ache and her eyes have trouble seeing her own stitches.” Lala’s hands rested on my shoulders. “You have received the last gift, her last sewing.”

At six, I didn’t understand the treasure I’d been given. I only sensed the love and hard work and talent.

“You must be very careful.”

I was. I did not play with dolls much, but I appreciated the honor of the present.

“They’re museum quality,” my father said, almost half handedly.

“Save them and your children can enjoy them, too,” my mother suggested.

Only occasionally would I open the flowered chest, carefully remove the doll and dress her in different underwear, slip, dress and bonnet of a by gone era. I examined the delicate precise stitches, the clever crochet, the stiffening in the brim of the bonnet. Carefully, I unbuttoned the tiny pearl and welcomed the detailed handkerchief inside. I imagined the doll walking across bridges and meeting boys. Going to parties and being the belle of the ball. I imagined Mum sitting on that Queen Anne chair with petals of fabric fashioning the wardrobe. And then I slid her back in her drawer to sleep. She was a sleeping beauty.

Other dolls were added, one that my brother won that could wear the clothes. A china doll who almost instantly got her head smashed.

And then I was a mother with daughters of my own. On special occasions, birthdays, holidays, or when they were sick, I pulled down the treasure chest, took out the doll with the clothes made by their great great grandmother and we played together. Yes, they had their Barbies but there was something magical about the old-fashioned, hand stitched clothes. The clothes fit a Madame Alexander doll perfectly, and she snuggled in the bed next the one Mum had given me whose hair was now mostly worn off, but her eyes still blinked. And then my granddaughters carefully dressed the doll with clothes that their great great great grandmother had made. All those years. All those loving times spent between the generations. The worn china dolls still the most fascinating.

Maybe it was the garments themselves. Maybe somehow Mum’s love for me and her hopes for the future, in which she would not be around, were stitched into the fabric to hold the magic of her experience and hard hopes. But there they are, evidence of a great grandmother’s love and efforts for her progeny. Like that string of paper dolls stretching from the past into the future. Of my presents as a child, all those toys, all the clothes, only this and a few books remain. This and a book that Mum also gave me of Snow White when I was only three. I know this, because it is signed to Baby Ann and dated.

There’s a picture of me taken that night. I sit in front of the fireplace with the doll in my hand. She wears the flowered dress and bonnet. I’m already in my pajamas. If you look closely, you can see that I still have a few curls left in my hair.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest HelenKay Dimon

This lady has proven that it is hotter anywhere she chooses to write about! Welcome to our blog - HelenKay Dimon!!

I have no idea where November went...or May, for that matter. This entire year has been a big, racing blur. But it's hard to be upset about being perpetually behind or anything else right now because it's the holiday season! I love this time of year. Something about all the lights and the Christmas music playing in restaurants and bookstores puts me in a good mood.

It's also easy to be a little extra merry when I have releases out around the holidays. This year I have two – a single title, HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO, and a novella in the holiday anthology KISSING SANTA CLAUS. I remember writing the Christmas-themed novella, "It's Hotter At Christmas" at the beginning of the year. I wasn't feeling all that Christmassy then. See, it was after the holidays. The tree was down and the gifts put away. Jumping into the holiday spirit at that point was a bit tough.

Well, it would have been except that I was writing about one of my favorite places – Kauai, Hawaii. Yep, a Christmas novella based in warm and sunny Hawaii. Instead of snow and gloves I talk about fireworks over the Pacific Ocean and hiking Waimea Canyon. Not exactly what people think about when they imagine Christmas morning. But for me it worked because I love Hawaii as much as I love Christmas. My husband grew up there, my in-laws live there and my hubby proposed to me there. It's special. Writing a Christmas novella set there reminded me that the holidays are really about being with the people you love, in the place that you love. Hawaii turned out to be the perfect setting for a holiday happily ever after.

Is any going away for the holidays? Anyone escaping to somewhere warm? And does anyone want to win a copy of the Christmas anthology I was in last year, TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT? I'll select a winner from those who comment here.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Christmas Parade Guest - Red Garnier

Reader's, let us welcome the lovely Red Garnier!

Keeping your cool during the holidays . . .

Oh my goodness, Christmas is upon us! When I was younger, it would feel like decades passed between one Christmas and another, and now that I’m older it seems that I’m barely recuperated from a holiday when I’m greeted with the next.

There’s tons to do, and so little time to do it.

This year, December was a big month for me. After almost a year and a half after finishing my first full length single title, it finally released. My family moved, so getting settled in a new household has taken up most my time during the past couple of months.
Between book promotion, gift purchases, house cleaning, and writing deadlines, I tell myself that I’m not stressed and yet there are a few telltale signs that I am: little sleep, hair loss, anxiety, and a ball full of energy that keeps simmering inside me without release.

So how to cope with the tornado of Christmas and all it brings with it?

Here are a few things I’m trying.

1. Holiday music – they do bring the cheer. We all know the songs, and yet usually my kids are the only ones to listen to it. It’s amazing how much peace and contentment “Jingle Bells” brings!

2. Extra hot showers – a soak in the bathtub or an extra hot shower instantly loosens up all the taught muscles in my back. Sometimes I wish I could stay soaking in a warm bath all day!
3. Lists – they’re proving to be extremely helpful in organizing my time. My mind keeps spinning with all my things to do, and yet once I put thoughts to paper, there’s an immediate and wonderful sense of relief.
4. 5 minutes a day – that’s it. Five minutes to just breathe, relax, and try to pull myself together. I used to be a smoker – and sometimes, I admit I still crave a cigarette. But what I’ve discovered I most crave is maybe not the tobacco itself but the five minutes you get to sit down and inhale and relax and hear yourself think.
5. Snuggling – after a hectic day, your heart is pumping faster, your nerves are frazzled, and the last thing you think you should be doing is sitting down to snuggle with your loved ones. But that’s just what I’m doing, and wow, it feels so good. And it works! Snuggle with the kids or with hubby and three minutes later I feel the stress start to dissipate.

Holidays are beautiful times that come and go so quickly, I’m determined to enjoy mine to the fullest this year. I plan to forget all the things I have to do and just enjoy a moment of health, love, family, and happiness. And I wish the same for you!

What are you doing to keep your cool during Holiday Season?

Don’t be shy and share your tips with us. A randomly chosen commenter will win a Redlightbooks.com relaxation kit – complete with lotion, CD, and black sleep shape mask!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

It Is That Time of Year!!!

Hello, everyone!! It is that time of year again!! The Christmas Parade is just around the corner and TRRC is gearing up!! On the schedule so far we have:

December 4 Red Garnier

December 10 Helen Kay Dimon

December 14 Ann Pearlman

December 15 Wendy Roberts

December 16 Penny Watson

Be sure to join us and see what they have to say!!