I am absolutely thrilled to have Sue-Ellen on my blog today. Many of you know that Sue-Ellen hosted me on her blog Tartan Ink (http://tartaninkblog.wordpress.com/) on the release day for Highland Solution. That turned out to be the start of a great friendship! Her newest release, a seasonal novella, Once Upon a Highland Christmas simply had to be one of the books in my Christmas Giveaway prize package! Leave a comment on by blog before noon on December 20 to be entered (see the Events or Drawings page of this website for complete details).
Thanks so much for having me here today, Ceci. I love that you included other writers in your giveaway and I’m delighted to be one of them. Christmas is a season of giving, and you’re making readers very happy with the chance to win lots of great books.
Speaking of which, don’t you just love holiday stories? I’d always wanted to do one and really enjoyed writing Once Upon a Highland Christmas. So many things I love abound at this time of year and it was so much fun weaving these elements into the tale. The spirit of Christmas, combined with the usual prerequisites of romance, is a heady mix.
Here’s a sampling of everything I believe must be present to give a story a wonderful “holiday feel”…
As I love atmosphere, a charming, ‘enchanted’ setting is an absolute must. Also a hint of fairytale for sparkle and magic. While the holidays can happen anywhere, my personal taste requires cold and snow, brittle air laced with the scent of pine, frosty nights and glittering stars, delicious baked goods and a scrumptious feast at a lavishly-set table, enjoyed by candlelight. A cheery fire is also desired, as is the joy of the season. The rest comes from within: the goodness of man that so easily spills forth now, softening hearts, spreading gladness, and bringing love.
I enjoy all kind of holiday stories, but a Christmas tale set in medieval Scotland will really make my heart pound.
One of the reasons I enjoyed writing Once Upon A Highland Christmas so much was because the hours spent at the keyboard whisked me back in time to the magical, oh-so-atmospheric world I love so much: Scotland of long ago. Back then, the season was ‘what it was,’ a time to celebrate the simple joys the holiday. There weren’t any mad Black Friday rushes, no stress caused by maxing out your credit cards, no carols playing everywhere months before the festive season began.
When it did arrive, the anticipation and excitement was palpable. Feasts and revels were held, kith and kin gathered, decorations were real holly and ivy, and mistletoe, all imbued with rich lore and meaning, and not the often-garish plastic holiday trappings seen today. Good cheer was had by all, merry was made, and a frosty night full of stars and wonder (as appreciated by Grim and Breena in the mini-excerpt from Once Upon A Highland Christmas) held more magic than can ever be found on a busy, over-decorated modern-day city street at Christmas.
I loved ‘being in’ medieval Scotland with Grim and Breena.
In real life, I miss the simple joys of my childhood Christmases. Little pleasures that made the holidays so very special: turning back the daily flap on a glittery, colorful Advent calendar, staying up late on Dec. 24th to open one gift from under the tree while watching Santa and his reindeer appear on the TV weatherman’s radar screen. Really exciting for me was setting out cookies and milk for Santa before going to bed. On Christmas morning, the plate of crumbs and empty glass proved his existence.
I’m not fond of how commercialized the holidays are these days. And I enjoy recapturing the ‘coziness’ of Christmases past by doing things like re-reading Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol every year and also making my mother’s Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas Cookies. My grandmother and my mother baked a lot at Christmas and some of my fondest holiday memories are coming home from school to find them aproned, flour-dusted, and busy in the kitchen, the whole house smelling of sugar and spice.
My mother’s sugar cookies required a night in the refrigerator and I would always sneak a few nibbles of the chilled dough. I still do, I freely admit. And each stolen bite takes me back to Christmases of old. I love that, and promise the dough is as good as the cookies.
If you’d like to try them, here’s the recipe:
Sue-Ellen’s Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas Cookies
1 lb. butter
1 lb. sugar (4 cups)
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. baking soda
4 to 4 1/2 Cups flour
Enough flour to roll
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Dissolve the baking soda in the sour cream and add to the mixture. Sift in flour until the dough is stiff enough to handle (not tacky).
Roll out on a floured board and cut with cookie cutters. Decorate with colored sugar.
Bake at 350 about 10 minutes.
Enjoy! (remember to try the chilled dough)
Ceci, thank you so much for inviting me here today. It was fun, and I’m wishing everyone a Christmas full of joy and magic. Highland magic, of course!
Sue-Ellen Welfonder is a USA Today Bestselling author who writes Scottish medieval romances for Grand Central Publishing. As time allows, she also writes as Allie Mackay, penning contemporary paranormals, mostly set in the Scottish Highlands.
Her twenty-year airline career allowed her to see the world, but it was always to Scotland that she returned. She spent fifteen years living in Europe, using that time to explore as many castle ruins, medieval abbeys, and stone circles, as possible. Anything ancient, crumbling, or lichened caught her eye. She still visits Scotland when she can as such trips give her inspiration for new books.
Proud of her own Hebridean ancestry, she belongs to two clan societies and never misses a chance to attend Highland Games. In addition to Scotland, her greatest passions are medieval history, the paranormal, nature, and animals. She enjoys long walks and bicycling, loves haggis, and writes at a 450-year-old desk that once stood in a Bavarian castle.
Amazon: Once Upon a Highland Christmas
Once Upon a Highland Christmas
In A Magical Season…
As a lass who has lost everything, Breena O’ Doherty’s only wish for Christmas is to brighten the holidays at her new Highland home, Duncreag Castle, where the MacNab laird is determined not to celebrate. Hoping to bring joy to the clan she dearly loves, she’s stunned to see her efforts thwarted by the ruggedly handsome Highlander who secretly holds her heart.
Love Is The Greatest Gift Of All
Grim Mackintosh, Duncreag’s captain of the guard, knows he isn’t a man to stir female hearts. But he’s shocked when Breena believes he’s been stealing her festive decorations. Having admired her from afar, he seizes an unexpected chance to kiss her beneath the mistletoe. His boldness spurs a quest to bring Christmas joy to Duncreag. Together, they travel across the sparkling, snow-clad hills where passion soon blazes between them. But more than holiday magic is afoot in the Highlands. Can their love survive a secret danger from the past? Or will the wonder of the season give them the happily-ever-after they deserve?
Mini Excerpt from Once Upon a Highland Christmas
Set-Up ~ Grim has taken Breena to a little-used chamber in one of the castle’s highest towers, wanting her to enjoy the view. He may also wish to let her know how deeply he feels for her.
Grim caught Breena’s wrist, led her into the nearest embrasure. “It is said one can see all of Scotland from up here. Though”—he slid his arm about her waist, drawing her close as they approached the tall window arch—“I’ll own that’s stretching the truth a bit. Even so, the view is splendid.”
“I have no words.” Breena set her hands on the cold stone of the ledge, stunned by the snowy expanse before her. The soaring peaks that surrounded Duncreag, cutting off the stronghold from the rest of the world, glistened with the sheen of ice crystals. In the distance, other hills, moorland, and glens sprawled blue-white in every direction, each ripple of the land sparkling, the whole of the Highlands kissed by a light haze of frosty mist.
But it was the glitter of stars that took her breath.
“The stars.” She glanced up at Grim. “They’re everywhere, more than I have ever seen.”
He nodded, looking pleased. “Indeed. And the crescent moon is allowing them their glory.”
Breena turned back to the window. “It’s almost too beautiful.”
“Indeed, my lady.” Grim’s words flowed through her, sweeter than honeyed mead. “I wanted you to see the night sky from here. I wished that because you should know that if every one of those stars were to fall from the heavens, their brilliance could not outshine you.”
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