Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Today brings to a close a entire year of celebrating the publication of my 50th book, THE SHEIKH'S UNSUITABLE BRIDE (just shortlisted by Romantic Times for Best Harlequin Romance of 2008) and what a totally fabulous year it's been. Countless guests, wonderful stories from authors around the world and a book giveaway to make Jeff Bezos weep. Huge thanks to the authors who've generously given their precious time (and books) to make it so special. And huge thanks, too, to those of you who've left wonderful comments, joined in, shared the pain (the thumb!) and the joys (the wedding) and made the whole thing such fun.

We're finishing on a high today with my last guest, Susan Meier.

Susan is the author of over 35 books for Harlequin and Silhouette. Her books have been finalists for Reviewers Choice Awards, National Reader's Choice Awards and Reviewer's Choice Awards and have made both Walden’s Bestseller List for Series Romance and Bookscan.

Susan loves to teach as much as she loves to write and is a popular speaker at RWA chapter conferences. Her article “How to Write a Category Romance” appeared in 2003 Writer’s Digest Novel and Short Story Markets and she's in great demand for workshops at RWA chapters, but she's here this week not to help with the blank page, but to share the "magic" of Christmas. Over to you, Susan.


This time of year, I hear a lot of grumbling and complaining about the commercialism of Christmas. Truth be told, I categorize the complainers into two camps: Those who hate to shop and those who’ve never experienced the magic of Christmas.

When I was young, I spent a Christmas Eve in the back seat of the family car, with five or six of my brothers and sisters, waiting while my dad fixed our car, which had died halfway to the popular discount department store where my parents planned to buy our gifts. In the dark backseat, we whispered to each other that there’d be no Christmas that year. Not only had the money been spent for car parts, but also by the time the car was fixed the stores were closed.

But under the tree the next morning were gifts galore. Things my parents had purchased at a drugstore that stayed open later than the department store. I remember pop beads, a toy medical bag complete with candy pills, and, of course, a doll. Some of my all-time favorite presents. I don’t remember what I got for Christmas most years, but that year sticks out – - because of the magic.

One year, my father worked away from home and because Christmas was on Monday, he had to leave on Christmas Eve. The mood at our dinner table that night was solemn, sad, until my sister went into the living room and under our tree were our presents. Santa, my parents told us, had visited us first since he knew Dad couldn’t be around Christmas morning.

The “how” of all my Christmas magic is transparent when I look back as an adult, but it’s magic all the same. The memories make me smile and also make me realize how far my parents would go, what they would sacrifice to make our Christmas special.

That’s what Christmas magic is all about.

The magic of Christmas isn’t something you can buy at a store or catch in a jar. It’s an unexpected jolt of joy, a sense that anything’s possible – if you believe. Sometimes you feel it from something as simple as having someone open a door with a smile, a merry conversation with a stranger in the checkout line, or a parking space that suddenly opens up when you’re trying to shop on your lunch hour.

Sometimes your heart will be touched. Listening to the choir sing a familiar melody, you suddenly feel lifted. Dropping your coins into the Salvation Army container, you receive a smile of gratitude from a cold, probably hungry, bell ringer and you suddenly realize that lots of people do more than shell out money to make the holiday special for their friends and families, they give time and make sacrifices for needy strangers, people who depend on others for their Christmas magic…and you ask yourself…why haven’t I?

Sometimes the scent of pine cones or fir trees or gingerbread will transport you to a happy time, when you were young and everything was magical and you realize how much your parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends loved you to make all your Christmases special, wonderful.

That’s what we pass on. Our legacy to our kids isn’t a philosophy of success as much as it is the ability to see real magic and to know we’re all magicians.

All it takes is a smile, a helping hand, an open door, more time than money, more love that sacrifices.

That’s the magic of Christmas.

And that’s what my hero, Jared learns in HER BABY’S FIRST CHRISTMAS. Jared has a tragic past, the kind of past that would level most people. He survived by living in denial. But face-to-face with someone who’s suffering in the here and now, longing for the type of family he’s throwing away, Jared not only learns to count his blessings; he also realizes that Elise copes by seeing the magic in everything. But can he learn to see the magic before his time runs out and he must return home for Christmas?

HER BABY’S FIRST CHRISTMAS easily turned into one of the favorite books I’ve written, all because of the magic.

I’d love to hear other Christmas magic stories and I have two copies of HER BABY’S FIRST CHRISTMAS to give to away so step up and share. You're got until midnight Sunday.

Thanks so much for sharing those stories, Susan.

HER BABY'S FIRST CHRISTMAS is available in the UK, Australia and eHarlequin on the sidebar links to Harlequin and Mills & Boon. And is also available Amazon.


Donna Alward said...

Susan guested on my blog this week as well and both posts had me dabbing my eyes.

Great post Susan! And Liz - is it hard to believe the year is nearly over????

Susan said...

Thanks, Donna.

I'm a Christmas freak. Not because of the presents...well, maybe a little...but because I love what the season does to people!

Shopping last night, I met several people who opened doors for me, smled...chatted in the checkout line.

I wish we could be like this all year!


Susan said...

I almost forgot! Congrats on your RT Nomination!

Very exciting and well deserved!


Maryanne said...

Susan, your post was wonderful and inspirational (as was one on Donna's blog.) Thanks for sharing them with us.


Lois said...

I'm another who loved your post -- me, the magic is the scent of the tree when it comes. . . and sometimes simple stuff is the best. One year, I don't remember if it was my Christmas present or birthday since it's the same week, but I got a Rubber Duckie. And not just any rubber duckie, but Ernie's rubber duckie. That's very important, after all. :) Started my duckie collection. . . been at it for, oh, ten years perhaps. Came from my forever love of Ernie and Sesame Street, but still, who cares if I'm soon to be 32. LOL :) But it was a very simple and cheap gift, but oh so loved! :)


Susan said...

I love the memorable gifts. I still have my kids' Christmas tree ornaments made in elementary school. They pasted a school picture on a round ornament and proudly presented them to me.

And let's not forget the tinsel covered toilet paper roll Sarah made in pre-kindergarten. That still hangs on our tree.

I love the memories! Love the stories!

Snookie said...

Hmmm, the magic of Christmaas for me was always the family gathering and the Christmas caroling. We use to have 8 or 9 (family members) go to friends houses and carol. I also love to listen to the children's choirs...

I like Christmas, but I sure don't like the commercialism that has happened to it. May we all never forget that Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of a little child who was born to die for all of us.

Michele L. said...

What a wonderful, sentimental Christmas story Susan! I love Christmas too because of what it stands for, Jesus birthday, and family.

My favorite memories of Christmas' past are when I was little. My parents would bundle me and my brothers up to go to Grandma's house a half hour away. We always had a nice dinner with all our relatives at Grandma's house, we opened presents from our uncles and aunts after we ate, watched Grandma open all her presents, watched tv and talked, then went home.

On the trip home, my brothers and I would fall asleep in the backseat. Dad would wake us up and yell, "Santa just flew by in the sky with his sleigh. See him up there?" We would all be peering out the windows into the dark sky looking for Santa. We would say, "Where, where?" as we craned our necks to look into the sky. Dad would say, "Oh you just missed him!"

Then next morning, when we woke up, we would race out to the living room to look at the Christmas tree and it would be loaded with presents! Oh how magical it all was! My parents really made my Christmas's special!

Napier John said...

Lovely Christmas memories, Susan. I love the way the season seems to light people up, too.

I'm going to be away over the weekend (a trip to Bath as pre-Christmas treat), so I'll catch up on Sunday evening.

Have a good one!

Kate Hardy said...

Lovely post, Susan.

My Christmas story is actually how I started writing for M&B. My daughter was in hospital with bronchiolitis, aged 7 weeks, for her first Christmas. (The really bad day was Christmas Eve, when our 3-y-o son asked from the back of the car if Santa would bring his little sister home for Christmas. That finished me!)

We spent Christmas at her bedside, and I left the Christmas dinner cooking in the oven on auto. We tried to smile and laugh for our son, but it was tough. The way I got through it was to write my first medical romance in longhand when she was asleep.

She came home the following week - and that's when we celebrated Christmas. A week late, but we got our Christmas wish: the youngest member of our family, home safely.

But the magic didn't finish there. M&B accepted my book on her first birthday and it was published on her second birthday.

Now she's eight, going on eighteen! She still believes in Father Christmas (and her brother, who doesn't, goes along so as not to spoil it for her), and my favourite bit of the day is when both children bounce into our bedroom at ridiculous o'clock, clutching full stockings and yelling, "Happy Christmas, I love you." Because that's what it's all about :o)

Karen Kish said...

What a wonderful post, Susan! Thank you.

I believe in magic, especially when it occurs at the most unexpected times. Mine was when I was feeding my mother who has advanced Alzheimer's. It's been years since she recognized me as her daughter and has long since lost the ability to talk. But on a whim, I asked her if she could say my name "Karen". Of course I was met with silence. For the next forty-five minutes I continued to feed her (she's a slow eater) but as we were finishing up she turned toward me, smiled and said my name as clear as day. She had struggled for forty-five minutes for her mind to map the path to speech and I spent the next fifteen blubbering like a baby. That was a magical moment and I couldn't have asked for a more precious Christmas present.

Michelle Douglas said...

Liz - huge congratulations on the RT nomination. The Sheikh's Unsuitable Bride was one of my fave romances of the last year.

Susan - what a beautiful post (though I am afraid I'm one of those people who hate to shop!). Still, I can't forget the magic of decorating the Christmas tree as a child. I think it was my favourite thing in the world. It makes me smile just remembering it.

Dena said...

I enjoyed your post Susan. The magic for me is being gathered as a family especially in these hectic times when things go too fast, it's always nice to spend quality time with the people you love most in the world.

robynl said...

Mom could decorate the spindliest of trees to look like a million dollars; she had talent and could make ornaments(crafts) such as felt Santa booties, sleighs made out of popsicle sticks and painted red, etc. The week before Christmas out would come the fruit cakes, a carmel like candy, some jellies, oranges and the bowl of nuts to be cracked. Dad held a contest to see who could peel their orange in one big peel(no pieces) and see who could find a small piece of orange which he called a piggie(small piece attached to a bigger segment. We had a fun time and this was our Christmas magic.

Maureen said...

That was a great post. It reminds me of the time I woke up at 3 am Christmas morning to see my parents sleeping next to the tree surrounded by wrapping paper and tape and no presents. I woke them up in tears to tell them that Santa had not come. They were quite startled and assured me he was simply running late and I had to go back to sleep and then there would be presents, which, of course, there were.

Susan said...

I loved all the Christmas stories! Thank you all for sharing.

I have to admit, I've been a shopaholic the last few days. But I'm almost done shopping.

I keep looking around corners for the unexpected Christmas magic and today the nice man standing behind me at Starbucks bought my coffee!

We stood in line, eying the cranberry bars, talking about our cholesterol levels and how we were both ordering only decaff. LOL

And he paid for my coffee. What a nice guy!


Susan said...

Karen and Kate, your stories brought tears to my eyes.

Karen, I had an aunt who had Altzheimers so I know the emptiness the disease can bring to a family. I can imagine the emotion brought by having her say your name.

And, Kate, we spent a Christmas in Geisinger Medical Center when my son was six.

I'm so glad (and I'm sure your readers are too!) that you not only penned the book, but that Mills and Boon bought it!

What a lovely end to that story!


Susan said...


My mother's church choir still carols! My mom (75 now) stays in the church hall making pizza and hot cocoa for their return.

She lives on the outskirts of a small town, and the townspeople tell her that the caroling brings back so many memories that they can't imagine Christmas without it!


Susan said...

Karen Kish and Snookie won the drawing!

Each receive a copy of my book and a sample box of candy from the candy factory I toured as research to write next year's Christmas story.

I'll need snail mail addresses from Karen and Snookie!

Thanks everyone for stopping by.