Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Lethal Consequences by Elisabeth Naughton + #Giveaway

When I was growing up, my parents would never put the tree up until a week or so before Christmas. On the night we decorated, my mom would make lots of different appetizers and my brothers and I would hang ornaments while my parents watched. After (because this was back in the olden days before DVD players and even VCRs…we weren’t rich enough to afford one of those!), we’d gather around the TV and watch whatever holiday special was airing that night. My very favorite holiday show was the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. And I was always happy when we put the tree up on the night it was aired. The Grinch reminds me of tree trimming, laughter, and spending time with my family. I especially love watching it with my own kids now that I’m older.

What’s your favorite holiday special or movie from when you were a kid?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on How To Plan A Wedding for A Royal Spy by Vanessa Kelly + #Giveaway

I come from a big, boisterous family so I have many happy holiday memories. Of course, there were a few stinkers along the way, since boisterous families can also get into arguments over politics, family dynamics, or how good/bad the local sports teams are performing. Then there are the meals that went tragically wrong, like the time my mother made a goose for Christmas. It started out looking plump enough for a family of ten, but then shrunk down to a tragic mini-bird while roasting.

But one of my fondest holiday memories doesn’t involve family or Christmas. It happened one New Year’s Eve when I went to New York City to visit friends from my undergraduate days. I stayed with my old roommate in his tiny and fairly shabby apartment in a not great part of town. In a moment of weakness, my roomie decided to throw a New Year’s Eve party, even though he’s not normally someone into the party scene.

As for me, New Year’s was usually at the bottom of my holiday list—I rarely had a date for the big night or a good party to attend. Frankly, it was one holiday I was often happy to forget.

My roomie passed the word among his friends and co-workers, fully expecting that very few people would show. After all, it was the biggest party night of the year. Why trek to a crappy part of town and squeeze into a tiny apartment with morose people with nothing better to do? Still, we stocked up on snacks and alcohol, figuring we’d have leftovers to send home with the few, loyal friends who showed.

But here’s something else you need to know. My old roommate worked in professional theater, as did most of our friends. Which meant that anyone who did show up would be pretty interesting. And that was certainly the case with the early guests. After a drink or two and a few off-hand comments, we began joking about which actor/actress or famous movie character each of us resembled (I was tagged as Rene Russo).

Well, before you could say Auld Lang Syne, our little joke developed into a game, growing with each guest who arrived. And the guests did arrive, in substantial numbers. Each time someone walked through the door, we made a group decision about which actor or character that guest most resembled—with, of course, the expectation that the new arrival would adopt that persona for the rest of the night.

Crazy, right? Yep, and people LOVED it. The next thing you knew we had a party with Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Indiana Jones, and other iconic actors and characters. It was amazing, hilarious, and so much fun. People threw themselves into their roles and the party went on until the wee hours of the morning. In fact, no one wanted to break character or leave—it was celebrity extravaganza.

But all good things must come to an end and we finally rolled the last guest out the door very close to dawn. My old roomie and I were exhausted, but it was worth the hangover and the cleanup. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a more entertaining party, and it was a truly wonderful way to ring in the New Year.

Are there any holidays you don’t like to celebrate?

Monday, December 15, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on All I Want For Christmas Is Blue by Shana Galen + #Giveaway

Snow on Christmas Eve

For many of you, snow on Christmas Eve isn’t anything unusual. In Houston, it’s pretty rare. That’s why the snowfall of Christmas Eve 2004 is particularly memorable to me.

My birthday is December 25, but my family tradition has always been to celebrate it Christmas Eve. That year was particularly special to me because I’d just met my future husband. We’d started dating a few months before, and I’d asked him to go to dinner with my family for my birthday. We’d all shared a lovely dinner at a small Italian restaurant in downtown Houston. We’d had a window seat, and were enjoying wine and dessert when the first flakes began to fall. My family is originally from Michigan, so we knew right away what we were seeing. My husband is a native Houstonian and didn’t believe us at first.

But when we stepped out into the night and the big flakes fell softly onto our shoulders and outstretched hands, there was no denying we’d been given an early Christmas gift. The streets had quickly been covered with a light dusting of snow, and we walked along them, marveling at the blanket of whiteness. Chances were the snow would be gone by morning, and we wanted to enjoy every moment of the unusual wintry weather.

I don’t know what gifts I received that year (I’m still trying to forget the hideous scarf my mom had knitted me) or what food we ate for Christmas dinner, but I’ll never forget holding hands with the man I was falling in love with and strolling the dark, snow-swept streets together.

I love blue and silver during the holidays. What are your favorite Christmas colors?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on The Duke of Dark Desires by Miranda Neville + #Giveaway

My earliest holiday memories are of early mornings. Very early mornings. So early that some of them could be called late nights.

I’m not sure how far back these go – maybe to age four or five. My brother, sister and I (my two eldest sisters having grown too august to participate in this silliness) would be put to bed on December 24th trembling with excitement and desperate longing for Christmas Day to be here at last. I’ve never been an early riser but the minute my little brother (or elder sister) nudged me I’d be wide awake. Never mind that it was pitch dark and cold and about 3 am.

We knew we’d be in big trouble if we woke our parents before dawn, but we were allowed to open our stockings. (I suspect this was a compromise negotiated by the big sisters at some point before they became old and cynical.) I can’t remember when I realized that Father Christmas (as Brits call Santa Claus) was actually Mum and Dad. I wondered why he used the same wrapping paper as them (my mother was a mad recycler and the same paper—rather crumpled—appeared year after year) until it eventually occurred to me that it was No Coincidence. We didn’t have very fancy stockings—mostly practical things, a small toy or two, and a clementine in the toe of the sock. The fruit, and perhaps a chocolate bar, came in very useful when there were several hours until breakfast.
One year my brother and I got so out of control with excitement that we started running around the passageway whooping and my father came out to speak to us. I don’t remember what he said (probably nothing too threatening) but we were chastened enough to return to bed, for about ten minutes.

Then one year my brother came to my room. “It’s Christmas,” he said. “Get up.”
“Go away,” I said, rolled over and went back to sleep.
I had turned into my eldest sisters.

How excited are you about the holidays? Are you still a four-year-old at heart?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Unwrapping Her Perfect Match by Kat Latham + #Giveaway

In October 2002, I started falling in love with a good friend of mine. We met while living in Prague and teaching English at the same school. I had no money to fly back to my family in San Diego for Christmas, so I was thrilled when my friend-turned-boyfriend asked me to go to England and spend Christmas with his family instead.

We’d been going out for only ten days when I bought my flight to meet his family. Talk about getting serious quickly!

During that trip, I met his dad (I’d met his mum when she visited Prague a few weeks before Christmas), two of his brothers, his sister-in-law and baby niece, and lots of his friends. I ate my weight in British Christmas foods I’d never heard of before (hot Christmas pudding with rum butter—ohmygod amazing!). We even went to his friend’s wedding together, my first British wedding and first experience of the long, cheeky wedding speeches British men make!

But my favorite memory is arriving at his parents’ house for the first time. Our flight had been delayed, and we’d arrived really late. His parents picked us up from the airport and drove us an hour back to their house in rural Norfolk. His brother Simon had arrived from Japan earlier that day and waited at home for us to arrive.

When we pulled up to the house, everything was dark—no street lights, no lights outside the house—except for the brightly lit living room, where Simon stood wearing nothing but his socks and underpants. Talk about a memorable introduction to my future brother-in-law!

Have you ever spent the holidays at someone else’s house? If so, what differences did you notice? Did they have different traditions? I hope you’ll enter my giveaway. You could win my Christmas novella UNWRAPPING HER PERFECT MATCH, which features a hot English rugby player whose French daughter comes to visit him for the first time. Except he can’t speak French and she can’t speak English. Good thing the nurse he just met is fluent in both languages!

Friday, December 12, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Dirty Rowdy Thing by Christina Lauren + #Giveaway

Christina: This is pretty silly, but I remember the year I got a Cabbage Patch doll (a real one, thank you very much. My parent’s faked me out the year before), and a bright yellow Sony Sport Walkman, with Madonna’s Like A Virgin on cassette. Yes, cassette. The Walkman and Madonna were both from my Aunt and my mother was not amused.

Lauren: The best was the year we woke up and the Christmas tree was all wonky and the presents flattened because my dad and uncle had too much eggnog and fell into the tree while building my sisters new bike.

What's one of your favorite holiday memories?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December Joyathon 2014: Spotlight on Bound By His Desire by Nicole Flockton + #Giveaway

From the moment I was born I’ve always spent Christmas with my family and extended family. My earliest memories are waking up really early, opening presents and then going to my Grandma’s and waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

My dad was all about getting there early to help out. Me, all I remember is that it seemed hours and hours before my cousins started to arrive. Breakfast at my Grandma’s was always loud and crowded and fun. It’s not Christmas without it.

Fast forward many years and I’m now living in Houston away from my family. Even after five years of being away, Christmas without the rushing out the door to breakfast is weird.

But now we have the chance make so many new Christmas memories. This year we’re actually going to be at Disney World. I mean who doesn’t want to spend Christmas Day at the happiest place on Earth?

Being from Australia, spending a Christmas in Colorado and having a white Christmas was a lot of fun.

Last year was unique too. We spent it driving to New Orleans. I don’t think I’ve ever spend a Christmas in the car!

One thing I’m learning. And it’s taking time. That every day it’s an opportunity to make brand new exciting memories. So while I may miss the family Christmas I grew up with. I’m giving my kids fabulous Christmas Memories that I hope will bring them lots of joy and smiles when they think about them when they’re older.

If you could travel anywhere for New Years Eve – where would you go?