Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Marc Vun Kannon

~ * ~ Holiday Edition ~ * ~
Featuring Vampire Christmas and Steampunk Santa...

Once upon a time, my publisher, Echelon Press, asked some of us authors to write short stories for a charitable purpose, to raise money for a charity that aided people whose houses were destroyed in wildfires. ‘Write a story about fire,’ she said. This was in November sometime, as I recall. I already had a Christmas story I was thinking about writing. Being a fantasy author means you have strange ideas as a result of hearing common songs, or watching ordinary TV shows. (One episode of a spy drama I watch made me think of capturing people’s souls and putting them in boxes.) In this case it was a Christmas song that I heard over a radio. I got the idea of vampires at Christmas.

We all know that Christmas as a holiday is a feast day that was grafted on to an existing tradition among the pagan peoples of Northern Europe. The actual birth date of Christ was probably nowhere near mid-winter, but if they’ve already got a ceremony celebrating renewal and rebirth, hey, go with it. But where did these pagan people get it from? You guessed it, from the vampires. What would they celebrate, and why? What did it mean to them? And most important, how could I bring this all out in a short story? About fire.

It was the fire that did it, I think. The vampires needed a god, even in the original version of the story which never got written. In this version the fire connected immediately to Balder, god of the day, who was killed when his blind brother Hodor, god of night, threw a sprig of mistletoe at him. Well, right away, ideas started popping into my head left and right. Day, night, blood, mistletoe…evil? Well, Loki, the god who gave Hodor the mistletoe, was evil. Are vampires evil, even by association? Could they feel…guilty of some vampiric original sin? Is that what the ceremony was for? To bring this story out into the open I needed a human to discover it, see it, participate in it. What happens to him?

The story that grew out of all this, called ‘Bite Deep’, is a story of evil, sacrifice, and redemption, and is best described thusly: “For lo, unto the vampires this day a Savior is…well, not born, exactly.”

Once upon a different time (last month actually), my publisher again asked for stories, although this time she was looking for Steampunk. Or holiday. I asked her if she wanted steampunk holiday stories. Well, as you can imagine a bit of a challenge grew from this as several of us each decided to write a steampunk holiday story. I think I won, but they were all doing NaNoWriMo at the time so it probably doesn’t count.

Steampunk as a genre is a fusion of SF with a Victorian style culture and tech level. Try to imagine James Bond with gadgets that require wind-up keys and steam engines to work. How does this tie in to Christmas and Santa, you ask? Well I’d love to tell you. Honestly I would, but I don’t remember how I got the idea so I can’t. Some stories I have to wring the ideas out, or wait 6 weeks until an idea occurs to me so I can continue writing. Some stories the ideas cascade and the trick is trying to keep up. This story the idea just seemed so natural, that two elves would be holding a contest to see who could make a better sleigh, traditional elfin magic or the new steam technology.

Not that I wrote that story. Ideas that seem great on paper often fail the Story Logic test and need to go a bit sideways from the original intention. Bite Deep was supposed to be about a party. My steampunk story, which ultimately got named ‘Steampunk Santa’, outgrew the simple contest motif and became a story of friendship and teamwork, as two very dissimilar elves participating in Santa’s contest find themselves up against the same challenges in the workshop. It has the flavor of the old Rankin-Bass specials, which was on purpose, as I found myself narrating the story in Fred Astaire voice and doing the elves in squeaky elf voice. I believe that this is my first try at a third-person style of writing, too, with the narrator who knows all. It’s not my usual style but it fit the story so I went with it.

‘Going with it’ pretty much defines my writing career so far. My only rule when writing is to never do what I’ve already seen done before. Every book I write is different from the one I just finished. Every story I start is an opportunity, a requirement, that I change, learn, grow into some new thing.

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Thanks Marc for being this week's Writer Wednesday guest and for sharing your holiday writing. I love the unique titles! And your idea for Steampunk Santa really does sound like a great holiday classic. My family and I are big fans of all of the Rankin-Bass specials. I wish you all the best in your writing and in the coming year.

If you would like more information about Marc Vun Kannon or his writing you can stop by his website and his blog. He's got a new release coming out soon!

Coming 2/2011: St. Martin's Moon
The Moon is haunted, but the werewolves don't know that!

A special thanks to all of you readers. I appreciate that you take time out of your busy schedules to stop by. I wish you all the best of luck and health in the coming year.

Happy New Year!

Kristin : )

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Donna Washington

~ * ~ Winter Holiday Edition ~ * ~

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Donna Washington...

I never expected to be a published author. Well, not until I was very old with thinning hair and lots of wisdom to share. I never expected to be a storyteller, either. I attended Northwestern University and Rives Collins, a professor and storyteller, saw me in a piece of theatre where I was playing a storyteller and he announced that I should do it for a living. I became a writer because I was telling stories out in California at a conference and a woman walked up to me and asked me if I’d ever considered writing books. I hadn’t, but she gave me her card and asked me to call her. I put her card in this giant bag I was carrying around and I lost it. Three months later I was cleaning out the bag and found her card. I called her.

“Hi. This is Donna Washington. I met you at a conference out in California a few months ago. You asked me about writing books. Were you serious?”

“Yes. I was just thinking about you.”

My initial thought to her statement was, ‘yeah, right’, but I persevered. “What sort of books do you publish?”

She got really quiet. I decided that she was either embarrassed or insulted. If she published out of her basement, she might be embarrassed. If she didn’t, then she might be insulted that I didn’t know who she was.

“Let me send you some books.” She offered.

That’s when I was certain she published out of her basement. Who would send you a box of books if they were legit?

The next day a courier arrived with a large box of books. I opened the box and on the top was Shel Sivlerstein’s A Light In The Attic. I called her back and apologized all over myself.
Katherine Tegen turned out to be an editor at HarperCollins Children’s books and we began a long collaboration that has produced four books. Our latest project is called Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa, which is published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s books.

Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa came about because I had librarians and teachers all over the country asking me to write a book that happens at Kwanzaa time but is not about Kwanzaa. They wanted a story not a primer. I went back to my storytelling roots and decided to go with a beast fable. In the tradition of Anansi the Spider and Brer Rabbit and Coyote the Trickster I wanted a little fellow who was not afraid to jump into something big. I structured the story around the traditional narrative of a short quest where our hero sets out to accomplish a task and meets creatures along the way that help him or her reach their goal. Because it takes place at Kwanzaa time I wanted to incorporate the themes of community and the importance of stepping up and doing your part to make the world a better place. It also had to be fun and a touch on the gooey side at the end since I want the readers to feel like they’ve had a good hug when they finish. What else are happy holiday books for if not that?

Being a writer is fun, but I don’t always like writing. In fact, sometimes it is like pulling out my fingernails one at a time to get started. If I get to a block in the middle of a story or I know the piece isn’t done but I can’t think of anything else to do to it, I just start writing on something else. Eventually, I clear away the debris and I can continue on the piece that was frustrating me. Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa sat on my laptop for almost three years before it was ready to send to my editor.

Most of my published work is not in picture books. I have contributed a number of articles to books on education, storytelling, storytelling in education, and magazines. At some point I should collect it all up and link to it from my site, but that would require more technical know how than I possess. I should probably ask my fourteen year old to help me.

I am a verbal writer. Very often I have to say it out loud before I can get it onto paper. I talk to myself while I’m in the shower, cleaning house, driving, and doing my nails. Writing is not my primary job. It is a part of me and sometimes I am lucky enough to produce something for publication. In real life I am a full time professional storyteller who travels all over the country and internationally. I do everything from folktales and traditional narratives to personal contemporary stories. I have been writing and telling for twenty-three years and I don’t see an end in sight!

If you are a budding writer or just thinking of getting into the writing business there are lots of people with lots of advice. Here is the advice I offer.

1. Write. Write on a regular basis. Make sure you are spending time working
on your writing. Understand that not everything you write is brilliant and not
everything you write needs to be published. Write for your own enjoyment.

2. Read. Read and read and read and read and notice how work is put together. What
is it you like about your favorite books or articles? What do you dislike about
others. What do you want to emulate, what do you want to avoid?

3. Think. Think about what you want to write and come up with different ways to approach the same idea. Think up more ideas than you can ever write in a lifetime and make notes about them. File them away and take them out every now and then and look at them.

4. Listen. Sometimes we get upset if someone doesn’t like our work. Listen to what they say. You can’t please everyone, but you might learn a thing or two about how other people perceive your work if you listen. Yes, you may get offended. Yes, you may shut your computer and vow not to write again. Yes, you may sulk for a few days. We can’t help that sort of thing, it is just who we are as artists. Take a deep breath, get over being offended and get on with it.

5. Be Realistic. Right now, on your laptop, you may have the next Harry Potter or you might have the next Winnie the Pooh, or you might have the next Where the Wild Things are or you might have the next Lord of the Rings, or A River Runs Through It, or Ivanhoe but probably not. I’m not saying you don’t, I’m just saying the odds are low. So, keep your sights on the stars and keep writing, but if you don’t become a gazillionaire the first time someone buys an article or a book, don’t be crushed.

6. Enjoy the ride. Not everyone can or wants to do this job!

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Thank you Donna. That was great! I love that you added some very useful advice. It seems like it would be common sense, but as a writer I know how easy it can be to lose sight of why you started to write in the first place. I also love how you sometimes have a hard time making yourself sit down to write. The fact that Lil Rabbit's Kwanzaa took so long is an inspiration to me. I often take breaks from frustrating projects and go back to them when I can see it more clearly. So it's nice to see a successful outcome to all that hard work.

As always, I want to thank all of you for stopping by. If you're curious, as I was, Kwanzaa is a week long celebration honoring universal African heritage and culture. It is observed from December 26 to January 1. More information can be found at The Official Kwanzaa Website.

Happy Holidays!

Kristin :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Donna Henes

~*~ Winter Holiday Edition ~*~

The Sun is Born
By Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman

Wrapped in the dark womb of the weather, it is not difficult to imagine the terrifying prospect of the permanent demise of the sun and the consequent loss of light, the loss of heat. The loss of life. Without the comfort of the familiar cyclical pattern, the approach of each winter with its attendant chiaroscuro would be agonizing. The tension intensified by the chill.

With the death of the sun, the world would be cast back to the state that it occupied before creation, the abstract condition of chaos. The black void. The Great Uterine Darkness. It is from this elemental ether that the old creatrix goddesses are said to have brought forth all that is. This sacred spark of creative potential that is contained within the primordial womb is one of humanity's oldest concepts. The visual symbol which represents it, a dot enclosed within the circle, is also extremely ancient. Still in common use today, it is the astronomical notation for the sun.

Among the most archaic images of the sun is the brilliant radiance that clothes the Great Goddess. The great Mother of the pre-Islamic peoples of Southern Arabia was the sun, Atthar, or Al-Ilat (later to become Allah). In Mesopotamia, She was called Arinna, Queen of Heaven. The Vikings named Her Sol, the old Germanic tribes, Sunna, the Celts, Sul or Sulis. The Goddess Sun was known among the societies of Siberia and North America.

She is Sun Sister to the Inuit, Sun Woman to the Australian Arunta, Akewa to the Toba of Argentina The sun has retained its archaic feminine gender in Northern Europe and Arab nations as well as in Japan. To this day, members of the Japanese royal family trace their shining descent to Amaterasu Omikami, the Heaven Illuminating Goddess.

According to legend, Amaterasu Omikami withdrew into a cave to hide from the irritating antics of Her bothersome brother, Susu-wo-no, the Storm God. Her action plunged the world into darkness and the people panicked. They begged, beseeched, implored the Sun Goddess to come back, but to no avail. At last, on the Winter Solstice, Alarming Woman, a sacred clown, succeeded in charming, teasing and finally yanking Her out, as if from an earthy birth canal, and reinstating on Her rightful celestial throne.

Other cultures see the Goddess not as the sun Herself, but as the mother of the sun. The bringer forth, the protector and controller, the guiding light of the sun and its cycles. According to Maori myth, the sun dies each night and returns to the cave/womb of the deep to bathe in the maternal uterine waters of life from which he is re-born each morning. The Hindu Fire God, Agni, is described as "He who swells in the mother."

It is on the Winter Solstice, the day when the light begins to lengthen and re-gain power that the archetypal Great Mother gave birth to the sun who is Her son. The great Egyptian Mother Goddess, Isis, gave birth to Her son Horus, the Sun God, on the Winter Solstice. On the same day, Leta gave birth to the bright, shining Apollo and Demeter, and the Great Mother Earth Goddess, bore Dionysus. The shortest day was also the birthday of the Invincible Sun in Rome, Dies Natalis Invictis Solis, as well as that of Mithra, the Persian god of light and guardian against evil.

Christ, too, is a luminous son, the latest descendant of the ancient matriarchal mystery of the nativity of the sun/son. Since the gospel does not mention the exact date of His birth, it was not celebrated by the early church. It seems clear that when the Church, in the fourth century AD, adopted December 25 as His birthday, it was in order to transfer the heathen devotions honoring the birth of the sun to Him who was called "the sun of righteousness."

The return of the retreating sun, which retrieves us from the dark of night, the pitch of winter, is a microcosmic recreation of the origination of the universe, the first birth of the sun. The Winter Solstice is an anniversary celebration of creation. Since the earliest of human times, it has been both natural and necessary for folks to join together in the warmth and glow of community in order to welcome the return of light to a world that is surrounded by dark. And through the imitative gesture of lighting fires, like so many solar birthday candles, we do our annual part to rekindle the spirit of hope in our hearts.

Donna Henes is an internationally renowned urban shaman, ritual expert, award-winning author, popular speaker and workshop leader whose joyful celebrations of celestial events have introduced ancient traditional rituals and contemporary ceremonies to millions of people in more than 100 cities since 1972. The New Yorker magazine calls her "The unofficial commissioner of public spirit of New York."
She is the author of Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles and Celebrations as well as three other books, a CD, and an acclaimed Ezine. Currently she writes for The Huffington Post, Beliefnet and UPI Religion and
Spirituality Forum. Mama Donna, as she is affectionately called, maintains a ceremonial center, spirit shop, ritual practice and consultancy in Exotic Brooklyn, NY where she works with individuals, groups, institutions, municipalities and corporations to create meaningful ceremonies for every imaginable occasion.

Watch her videos:

Read her on the Huffington Post:

Read her on Beliefnet:

Connect with her on Facebook:

Follow her on Twitter:

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Thank you Mama Donna for sharing the rich history of the Winter Solstice with us. I remember reading a Japanese story about this. I tried to look it up, because I can not remember the name, and couldn't find it. I'll keep looking.

Also, I know today is not Wednesday, but it is the Winter Solstice. So grab a cup of cocoa or whatever your favorite cool weather beverage is and say CHEERS! at exactly 6:38 PM (EST).

Happy Winter Solstice!

Kristin : )

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Ann Pearlman

~*~ Winter Holiday Edition ~*~

Writing about Christmas
by Ann Pearlman

I stumbled on writing about Christmas. I didn’t mean to. For some time, thoughts of writing a novel about a party, women’s friendships, and compressing the time to one day tugged at my mind. These thoughts were all separate. And then, ten years ago, I was the Cookie virgin at a cookie exchange. I realized immediately that the party could be the perfect setting for a novel coalescing all three elements. The ice cream on top is the Holiday season enfolding the themes that are nascent during that time. And so the idea for the Christmas Cookie Club, a novel, was born.

When I came home from that first party, I wrote down my dream for the book. Twelve women from various backgrounds, dealing with diverse problems. There had to be issues about fertility and pregnancy and birth, and issues about death and endurance through hard times, the perennial darkness of winter.

However, I was finishing up a book tour, and then another project (a biography of a Crip gang leader…. As different from a cookie exchange as night from day) intervened.

Each December though, I returned to fleshing out the dream of the cookie club novel. I stole a way an hour or so on Christmas. Why Christmas? Because it is my birthday and dreaming of the book was a birthday present to myself.

Amazing how we forge ahead with projects without full awareness of the factors that motivate us, because I did not make the connection between writing a novel about Christmas and the fact that it was my birthday. I didn’t connect those dots until interviewers asked me why a novel about Christmas and I faced all my ambivalence about the holiday. As any adult whose birthday is on Christmas will tell you, it’s a difficult birthday. No one wants to be bothered when they’re busy with the requirements and pressures of the holiday. When I became a mother, my children’s excitement about the holidays dwarfed any interest in my birthday, which was so much in the way we couldn’t even figure out when to celebrate it. I thought about moving it to mid June, but then I gave birth to a daughter that day!

Such a change from when I was a child and thought the entire country was celebrating my birthday. My family, determined that I wouldn’t feel ignored by the holiday, made the day magical. My grandmother, who also had a grandmother born on Dec. 25, told me that for her, Christmas celebrated the birth of every baby and the importance of each one of us. Now to make the holiday season both more exciting and more complicated, my family was Jewish. My grandmother had embraced my grandfather’s people and religion, but shared her own interpretation of Christmas with her family and friends. So the season celebrated Chanukah, Christmas, and my birthday.

The cookie club contained the best of my childhood Holidays. The love and family friendship between the women were obvious. Because we take turns telling the story of the cookie that is always emblematic about the year, we’re aware of each other’s lives and appreciate our strength and enormous skills and talents. This openness creates bonding and love. The joy, celebration, and excitement are the best of the holiday. The cookies themselves are from the heart, not from a store. The fact that we donate to a charity during the bleakest time of the year enhances the importance of making something for anonymous others.

As 2008 started I could feel the country tumble economically, to fray at its edges. Warnings about another depression increased as the housing bubble burst, as companies closed, and people became unemployed. It affected us most harshly in Michigan. The novel about light regardless of dark times, people’s spirit to endure and enjoy, pulling together in spite of it all and giving to others beckoned, a spark of love in harshness.

I determined to finish it before the new year, hoping its message would be a salve for some of us. I wrote every day from Thanksgiving until Jan 2, each and every day. On my birthday, I wrote the acknowledgements, honoring all those who helped me.

So I write about the Christmas because it can be such a time of love, giving, family and community. In spite of all the darkness we need this beacon of light.

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Thank you Ann for this inspiring post. I love the idea of your book and the tie in cookbook. Christmas is my favorite time of year, but then again, it's not my birthday :) We have friends with that birthday and know how hard it can be to celebrate it properly during such a busy time of year. Anyone wanting more information about Ann or her books can stop by her website

Thanks to all you loyal readers out there. You know who you are. And thanks to all who are new to my blog. Welcome and I hope you enjoy. I wish you all a very happy and healthy holiday season.

Kristin *<( : )

Monday, December 13, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Phillipa Ashley

~ * ~ Winter Holiday Edition ~ * ~


Phillipa Ashley

Many thanks to Kristin for asking me to tell you about My Writing Journey.

I actually took a very winding route to being a writer. You could say that I meandered along the byways for 40 years before suddenly jumping onto the freeway in a rocket-powered car!

You see, I never wanted, hoped or dreamed of becoming a novelist until 2005. Although I’ve always loved books and studied English Literature at university, the thought of writing a novel never entered my head. I thought that kind of thing was for geniuses like Jane Austen. I didn’t realise that ordinary people like me could do it too.

After university, I did become a writer, but of the non-fiction variety, working in advertising and in journalism. And so it continued until one night in November 2004…

Everything changed when I watched a BBC TV miniseries called North & South. This Victorian drama focused on the passionate romance between two strong characters, John Thornton and Margaret Hale.

It had a dramatic effect on me too. I was so transfixed that suddenly, I decided to write a modern fanfic based on the TV series. I posted my story anonymously on an internet fansite and to my amazement, lots of people wanted to read it.

By a strange quirk of fate, I’d stumbled through the magic door into the world of romantic fiction and I’ve never looked back since.

A year later, I’d written my first full-length novel – the book which eventually became Dating Mr. December.

Dating Mr. December focuses on the lives of a mountain rescue team. We have a holiday home in the Lake District of England, in fact there’s a base a few minutes’ walk away. The local team had just raised money for a new HQ and that set me thinking of how they might have raised the money – in my fictional world at least! I wanted to explore what might happen if a slick city girl entered that world with an outrageous proposal…

A year later, I’d sent the manuscript to a London literary agent and she sold it to a UK publisher. Then, a US TV producer saw it on Amazon and decided to make a movie out of it. Called 12 men of Christmas, the film my book inspired is currently airing on Lifetime.

Now Sourcebooks are bringing all four of my novels to the USA and I hope the most exciting part of the journey is still to come…

Phillipa Ashley studied English Language and Literature at Oxford before becoming a freelance copywriter and journalist. DATING MR. DECEMBER (called DECENT EXPOSURE in the UK) was the basis of last year’s Lifetime TV Movie “The 12 Men of Christmas.” She lives with her husband and daughter in Staffordshire, UK. For more information, please visit , follow her on Twitter or find her on Facebook!

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Thank you Phillipa for being my Writer Wednesday guest this week. I have seen the Lifetime movie, The Twelve Men of December with Kristin Chenoweth and loved it, so I'm looking forward to reading the book that it was based on, Dating Mr. December. Congratulations to you on your successes and with your future writing.

Also, thanks to all who took time out of your busy day to stop by. Hope the holiday season brings you happiness and good health.

Kristin *<( :o)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Kim Levin & John O'Neill

~ * ~ Winter Holiday Edition ~ * ~

A few years back, my publishing company asked if my husband, John O’Neill and I would be interested in working on a holiday book featuring my dog images. Having published a number of pet photography books at this time, it seemed like it would be a lot of fun to write and photograph a book featuring dogs during the holidays.

I gathered many of my favorite dog subjects and asked their owners if I could take their portraits. Some of the scenarios were quite funny. Here’s one of Corky with a big bow around her neck:

Big Red Bows

Another favorite was Dodger in his little booties:

Warm Mittens

Here’s one of my favorite images of my dog Charlie being hit by a snowball:

Snowball Fights

Getting dogs to do the silliest things was part of the fun:

Old-fashion sleigh rides

And of course, the holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without a pug in antlers at Rockefeller Center!

The Christmas spirit

I even took pictures of a group of dogs ice skating, sitting on Santa’s lap and sipping hot chocolate. Hound for the Holidays was a lot of fun to write as well. The text captures all of things we can enjoy during the holidays – the things that really matter: fireside chats, frosty mornings, fresh snow, window shopping, welcoming wreaths, catching snowflakes on your tongue, snowmen and candy canes.

John and I have published four books together over the years, and we have learned that working together really is a collaborative process. I usually take the pictures first, and then he writes to the photographs.

We hope you enjoy our tribute to the holidays.

Happy Holidays!
Kim Levin & John O’Neill

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Thank you Kim and John for being my guests this week and thanks for sharing some adorable pictures of dogs enjoying the holiday season. This is such a cute book. I have some dog lovers in mind that would love to get this as a gift.

For more books, information, and pictures stop by Kim's website and blog...

Happy Holidays!

Kristin *<( :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Review: If I could keep you little...

If I could keep you little...

Those words alone just grabbed the attention of every parent, grandparent, and pretty much anyone who's had their heart captured by the beautiful innocence of a child. Those eyes wide open to the world and looking up at you with all of the trust and love they can muster. Those first wobbly steps and choppy blending of sounds as they begin to give words to their surroundings. These moments remind me of a simpler time, a time of exciting firsts. You know, that magical time before kids learned the words, NO or WHY NOT.

When I was offered the chance to review Marianne Richmond's new book If I could keep you little... I was immediately reminded of those sweet firsts with each of my kids. So, of course I said yes.

I expected to tear up while reading it, which I did, but not for the reasons I thought. Marianne does a great job preserving those milestone memories with her words and her own illustrations. She also helps you recognize that there are more memories to come, and each is as important to our children as those very first moments are to us. That's a great message, because if given the actual choice, we would not want to hold our children back from becoming the strong, independent, and hopefully happy people they are meant to be.

I love this book and think it would make an excellent addition to any family's library. But don't just take my word for it. Here's what other reviewers are saying...

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading.

Kristin :)

* If I Could Keep You Little... by Marianne Richmond was published in November, 2010 by Sourcebooks. This copy was given to me by a publicist to be considered for review. No payments or promises of positive reviews were exchanged. My review is my own opinion of the book.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Anne Perry

~*~ Winter Holidays Edition ~*~

My first Christmas novella, A Christmas Journey, was more or less an accident. I had a story of a murder mystery, inside a journey of expiation for a sin of spite. We all say and do things that result in something far worse than we intended. If there was anything we could do to wipe it out, we would. But how many of us would make that journey towards forgiveness if we don't have to, but to accompany a friend? Can you give anyone a greater gift?

I intended it as a short story, but my publisher preferred it as a novella, approximately a hundred and fifty pages. It was surprisingly successful, and I was asked to do another Christmas novella, with a similar theme suited to Christmas. I chose the three wise men, updated to the nineteenth century, willing to give one gift, and asked to give another, far greater, but which in the end would bring them extraordinary happiness.

I have written one each year since then, set in different areas of Britain or Ireland, and always on some theme such as grace, hope, redemption, compassion, a sense of belonging or homecoming. As time goes by it is getting more difficult to think of a different theme. But perhaps it only takes a little more time, and concentration on the multitude of gifts that lie in the meaning of Christ's life, and ultimately his death and resurrection – which to me is what Christmas means.

This year's novella is called a Christmas Odyssey, and was inspired by a kind of cross between the Prodigal Son, returning home after years of debauchery, and the journey through hell depicted in Dante's Inferno.

The three unlikely heroes and an elderly and highly respectable inventor, a reformed brothel keeper of unknown age, and a young man not fully qualified but into practices as a doctor among the poor and desperate. They are brought together by chance in the beginning, and their relationship strengthens and becomes a mutual understanding and respect by the end.

They go into an underworld of drugs and degradation in alleys, tunnels and cellars beneath London, in search of a 'prodigal son' of one of the mathematician's friends, now too old and too ill to go himself, and knowing that his sin would flee him anyway.

The journey is dangerous and at times tragic. They find that the young man appears to have committed a grisly murder, and in order to bring the young man home, the heroes must solve the crime, and prove the 'prodigal son' innocent. They must also defeat the 'Shadow Man' who holds many people in a kind of bondage to drugs and blackmail.

The end is dramatic, life-threatening, offering the 'prodigal son' a chance to choose again, and redeem himself. Christmas is sorrow and starlight, bells ringing, and a chance to come home and be welcome.

It was fun to write, uplifting to think about and extraordinarily satisfying to complete. I hope people reading it will think 'It's never too late to come home'.

I suppose after this Christmas I will know if at least for some people it worked.

Thank you for asking.

Anne Perry

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Thank you Anne for sharing your Christmas novellas with us. They sound very intriguing. I'm sure you will continue to create more inspirational stories. Anyone interested in finding out more about Anne Perry or her work can do so by visiting her website. Anne Perry

A special thanks to all of you who have stopped by. For many of us this is a very busy time. I appreciate you giving me some of it. I wish you and yours the happiest holiday season. I don't think it matters what you celebrate, it matters who you celebrate with.

Kristin : )