We have a winner!

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Phew. We’re on the other side of the holiday calendar aftermath, where the days blur together in a frenzy of family and food.

So, we’re late, but just in time to give some lucky folks a New Year’s eve present!

We had six books to give away, and here are the lucky winners chosen at random by spinning Robyn Nyx in sickening circles with a highlighter that she then stabbed at a piece of paper with names on it (sorry we didn’t record it.)

So, congrats to:

  • Ally Sauntson
  • Gemma Cayce
  • Linda Carlsson
  • Karen H
  • Pandabree13
  • Hayde

I’ll try and send all of you a message, but if you don’t hear from me, please send me an email so I can hook you up with your new book! (boldstrokesuk@boldstrokesbooks.com)

And with that…happy new year, everyone. See you in 2019.

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Dear Santa, you judgemental bastard…

I mean, who are you to say I’ve been good or bad? Have you walked in my shoes? Did you have to decide whether or not I really wanted that cake? Or the jumper I bought for the friend who will never receive it?

No. And yet there you sit, all judgey in your fat suit (I know you’re actually a beanpole and you’re totally faking it) acting as my present executioner. Do I get that knife I wanted? No. All because I didn’t let that guy in when I was on my way to the chip shop and I was crazy hungry and didn’t want to be delayed.

You can’t tell me you wouldn’t have driven the sleigh over grandma to do the same (and we have musical proof you’ve done it before).

So, you know what, Santa? Keep your ribbons and bows, and I’ll keep the Jack Daniels I would have left out for you (though that ship has sailed, let’s be honest) and you can sneak into people’s houses and rifle through hot-mom’s panty drawer and pretend to be jolly when you really want to sack all the elves and go live in Halloween Town, and I’ll eat my weight in chocolate and pie and popcorn, and we’ll both be as happy as crows on roadkill.

Happy Christmas.

(Oh, and I’m involved in the Christmas giveaway the BSB UK group are doing–leave your name in the comments on this blog or any of the others, or on the FB page, to be entered to win a copy of Escape to Pleasure. And that anthology definitely put me on the naughty list. Totally worth it.)

Do It With People Who Get You by Brey Willows

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Christmas is a strange time for introverts. Well, for this introvert, anyway.

I mean, I love decorating. I love the lights and colors and reindeer in the yard. I love putting up the tree and decorating it with my wife. I love our little Christmas village and scented candles all over the house. I love singing random parts of carols and hearing my wife sing the rest somewhere else in the house.

I love the idea of making lots of yummy food. My wife and I have combined our national dishes to make a BritYank Christmas dinner, and it’s fab.

But…

Then there are the other humans who arrive.

Like many introverts, I can handle small groups. Another couple, or maybe two, is fine. If I know them well. If I don’t, my anxiety kicks in and I start cleaning the house and stressing about what kind of cheese goes with beer and why there aren’t more cracker choices in the UK. I don’t have the right clothing, there aren’t enough comfortable places to sit, what if someone offends someone else, what if I burn the sprouts, what if no one even likes sprouts, what if…

And so on.

This year we’ll have Nic’s parents as well as my mom and possibly our daughter here, and that’s not a horde of people. It’s also a group of people who don’t give a purple rat’s patooty whether or not there’s any dust on the mantle or if there’s a little too much spice in the pie. And they know me–they all know I may need to disappear upstairs for a minute or seventy to get my feet back under me, and they’re good with that.

Christmas is about spending time with the people who get you, who understand that you’re quirky and you’ll want to go to bed by eight-thirty. It’s about getting to be yourself with the people you love for exactly who they are, too.

I hope you all spend time with people who get you.

Merry Christmas.

(Oh, and remember to leave a comment on any of the holiday blogs, including this one, in order to be entered to win a book!)

My (possibly controversial) tips for a great Christmas by Charlie Cochrane

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Don’t make a rod for your own back! Ignore all the pressure to deliver a ‘perfect’ Christmas.

  • See all those magazines full of designer recipes? Stick them in the recycling bin. If your family/guests had a choice between button sprouts with iberico ham and black garlic accompanied by a side order of being shouted at every time they come into the kitchen because the chef is stressed off their head, or a portion of normal sprouts and being smiled at by the chef, I bet they’d prefer the second option.
  • All those programmes about bedecking your house with home-made decorations? Ignore them. Two glasses of bubbly inside everyone and they won’t know handmade from “50p from the charity shop”.
  • Accept help. I was recently at lunch with a group of people where the wives were envious that Mr Cochrane cooks the Christmas lunch whereas their husbands don’t lift a hand. When I innocently suggested that they could make this year a joint cooking venture, they were horrified. “He’d never do it right.” I silently despaired. Couldn’t they just either lower their supposed standards or do a bit of in-kitchen training?

 

Keep them entertained but don’t kill yourself in the process

  • Keeping your family/guests playing games or some other activity reduces the risk of them getting into an argument about who said what about whom at Maureen’s wedding or whatever the latest family drama was.
  • Avoid games like Monopoly that drag on endlessly and take up space. You’re better off with things like Balderdash which can be picked up and put down again, and also doesn’t need a table to play at. We’ve also had hours of fun with a roulette set and some bags of 1p coins. You’d be amazed how competitive people can get over their 27p winnings.
  • You don’t have to spend a ton (£80 for a Christmas murder mystery game?) to produce top-notch fun. Download a quiz from the internet and get people into teams to play it. Ask everyone to bring a picture of when they were babies – display them and try to guess who’s who. If yours is a purely family get together, old holiday snaps are great fun. Which year was this? Where was the picture taken?

 

Charlie’s top tip?

One of the complaints about Christmas day is the fact you spend because they’re totally stuffed. We have a break after the main course while the pudding cooks, all of us sitting at the table and having our annual family quiz. This serves the practical purpose of getting our appetites up again as well as allowing more time for the sociable consumption of wine.

Whatever you do at Christmas, have a great one and make sure you look after yourself, especially if you’re the person who traditionally looks after everyone else.

 

 

Website: http://www.charliecochrane.co.uk

FB: https://www.facebook.com/charlie.cochrane.18

Twitter: https://twitter.com/charliecochrane

Biog: Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Riptide, Endeavour and Bold Strokes, among others.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.

Win a book!

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We hope you’ve been enjoying the BSB UK author blogs as head toward the winter holiday.

Now it’s your turn to win! And, it’s super simple…

All you have to do is leave a comment (or even just your name, if you’ve spent all your words on things like Christmas shopping or parties or family or writing cards…) on one of the blogs, on this blog, or on our FB post, and we’ll throw your name into a hat to win a book!

  • Brey Willows will be giving away an ebook–reader’s choice!
  • Robyn Nyx will be giving away a copy of Music City Dreamers, her newest hot romance, to a UK reader.
  • Jenny Frame will be giving away a copy of Unexpected, and she’ll choose the winner on the 26th of December. Just go to her FB page and wish her a Christmas full of surprises!
  • I. Beacham will be giving away a signed copy of Soul Survivor and Salvation.
  • Crin Claxton will be giving away one of her books, reader’s choice!
  • And you can win a copy of Escape to Pleasure: Lesbian Travel Erotica
  • Gun Brooke is running a fantastic advent story calendar giveaway over on her site, and you should definitely have a look over there!

Good luck! We’ll pick the winners on the 23rd!

 

We are Family by Crin Claxton

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I am pagan. Coming up to the Winter Solstice, spirit is pulling me into the longest night where I can dream, slow down, tuck-up, hibernate.

Except I can’t. I’m so busy life is flashing past and the reason for that is Christmas. My birth family celebrates Christmas. I was brought up with Christmas and while there’s no religious association for me there are traditions I treasure. Traditions I want to access my seven year old into.  Presents and stockings and special food, sparkling lights and thinking of others. And above all of those things is family.

I am blessed with a birth family that accepts my sexuality and my butch gender. They embraced our wedding and our baby’s naming. I also have a family of siblings, aun/cles and cousins of choice. Friends who I stick by and come back to through good times and bad. They are family. Queer people are good at making family where we find it.

So this week, this crazy, hectic last week of school, working on a big project week, we were out celebrating with family when we should have been home sleeping.

My partner, also known as Her Royal Ladymadam. our child, for the purposes of this blog, Himself Junior, and myself met with HJ’s chosen aunt, Rita Foi. We met in busy Oxford Street to see the lights and Selfridges window display. The world was there buffeting us on the streaky pavement. The world except for Rita. Rita is always late. We expect it. Rita’s never going to change. And we love her. Years of conversations and life events flow between us. We queued for 30 minutes to get a table. Himself Junior was practically asleep by the time his cod goujons arrived but we made that precious time.

Last night we met my dad, Himself Senior, again in town, again for a meal. This time we booked. We had to book 5pm, the time we’d agreed to meet. I texted and called him all day without reply. I wasn’t especially worried. Himself Senior has just started dialysis. When he’s hooked up he can’t answer his phone. Yesterday was a dialysis day.

By 16:55 standing in the British Library not seeing Himself Senior I started to worry. He’s new to dialysis. He’s been in hospital twice this year. He’s tripped and fallen a couple of times. He lives on his own in Bedfordshire and he’s 89. I reasoned he’d forgotten his phone. I tried to quell the image of him lying semi-conscious or worse on a cold kitchen floor.

By 17:30 I had left messages for my sister and was unsuccessfully calling the dialysis unit in Bedford. The phrase: “I’m trying to locate my father” was poised on my lips. And then I saw him. I have never been more relieved to see the back of a familiar overcoat.

He was tired, woozy from the dialysis. Her Royal Ladymadam sat him down while I tried to stop Himself Junior abseiling down a long flight of stairs. We had tea. We silently mourned the lovely restaurant booking but mostly thanked the Goddess. We then rang around restaurants being told we could get a table at 9pm.

We battled a sudden and terrible storm across the St Pancras Hotel forecourt to throw ourselves at the mercy of Carluccios. Her Royal Ladymadam was magnificent. “I have an 89 year old and a 7 year old in my party,” she said with a charming smile and a look of expectance.

We were bumped up from an outside table so chilly they had rugs draped over the chairs to the coveted inside. Where it was all steamed up windows and red wine and spaghetti meatballs.

I wanted Himself Senior to stay over but he insisted on going home. Family is respecting my father’s decisions. Family is watching Himself Senior disappear down the escalator, still unsteady on his feet.

To me Family means tolerance and respect. It’s support and patience and unconditional love. Unconditional love hurts the least and lasts the longest. Family is letting be and sometimes letting go.

I shall be having the quietest Winter Solstice possible. Before embracing a blessed and busy Christmas.

I wish for you the holiday season you wish for yourself. May it be all you hope for.

Christmas Ambivalence by Gun Brooke

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There were years when Christmas, or I should say, the time leading up to Christmas, seemed like a chore, rather than a happy, glowing month. Being Swedish, we live in a very secular society, and most people (IMHO) celebrate Christmas as a present-giving/receiving holiday with tons of food, rather than a religious event.

As a kid and a young woman, I was very traditional in my approach, and if things weren’t just right, just like it had always been, Christmas was threatened, and my life destroyed—yes, I know, dramatic much? And for some reason, when I was in my thirties, the pendulum swung the other way, and if I hadn’t had kids, I could have gone without Christmas. I barely saw the point.

I felt bad for it. I mean, I really wanted to experience the wonder of the holidays again, feel the anticipation, and sort of be like the kid I once was. Regaining some of that took some effort.

In 2007, our daughter and son-in-law bestowed upon us our first grandchild (they’ve added three more since then) and we also got two bonus-granddaughters in one go. Suddenly there were little kids around who were literally bouncing with anticipation. This turned out to be inspiring as I could focus on them, rather than my own “failure” at achieving Christmas spirit for myself.

So, I took stock! What was it that I missed the most about feeling Christmassy? I wasn’t going to clutter the house with porcelain Santa figurines, or drag in a damn tree in our tiny house, but surely there had to be other things? I figured, scents! Scented candles, baking bread and pastries, and making caramel. That turned the Christmas feeling up a notch, for sure.

Food—yes, of course—but only two staples on the Christmas buffet per person. You know, “the two things it’s not Christmas if we don’t have”. For me, the ham and the red and brown cabbage. For Elon, pickled herrings in several flavors and home-made bread, for Henrik, also ham and the special Edamer cheese. Satsumas, chocolates, saffron buns, gingerbread snaps, and, of course, glögg (mulled wine). And—most importantly—JULMUST. It is a soft drink that outsells Coca-Cola in Sweden during the holidays. (I think you can get it worldwide at Ikea where it is called “Vintersaga”.)

The third thing that helped was splurging on lights for the garden and indoors. It automatically gave me a fairytale feeling, something I truly respond to as a romance writer. (And perhaps as a sci fi writer as well, since some lights look like faraway stars.)

So, the taste, scents, and the lights, of Christmas helped me along, but mainly it was the arrival of grandkids. I realized it was the nudge I needed to get back to a place of where I used to be. To see them so excited, waiting for Santa (Jultomten) and be just as happy for their siblings when they open their presents, as for their own, it made me feel what they felt.

I know it sounds like a cliché, but I firmly believe that I needed a reminder of the holidays being a time of giving. Not fancy presents, but of my time. In planning, in baking, in sitting down with the kids and doing some Christmas crafts—all of that gave me back some of my own childhood anticipation.

For me it was important to get out of the “what’s the point” funk I was in for quite a while after our own children grew up. Perhaps I truly needed to actually see the holidays through the eyes of a child to remember how I used to feel, and still remove the musts, the demands, and the pressure of trying to make things “perfect”.

Everything I have written above gives me pause. I was in a funk because of my own doing, but there are people out there who have nobody during the holidays (or any other day) and though I found my way back to the warm, fuzzy feelings…it pains me that there are people who perhaps never will. If we know of anyone who has nowhere to be, or nobody to visit them, during the holidays—do reach out.

Perhaps we can help someone else feel like the holiday season means something and that they matter.

I wish for everyone to have a great season, no matter how you choose to celebrate, or not to, and for you to have that sense of wonder that comes with being with the people that we love.

 

Gun