Christmas Earworms: O Holy Night

by Leisl Leighton

Asking me what my favourite Christmas carol or song is, is like asking me which is my favourite child, or favourite pet. But, given you’ve asked, I’ve tried to narrow it down.

 I used to be in a madrigals group called the Christmas Belles (yes, I know, don’t groan at me! I didn’t name it.) We sang in shopping centres, retirement homes, hospitals, nursing homes, special functions etc and it was nothing but four female voices acapella. I loved doing this. I was a descant and the songs I loved to sing most were the ones with really tricky harmonies (like “The Virgin Slumber Song”) or the ones with soaring descants (like “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “O Come All Ye Faithful”.)

But I think the one I enjoyed singing the most was one that always brought so many smiles to the faces of the elderly at the retirement villages/nursing homes and the children in the hospitals, and that was “O Holy Night”. I love the simplicity of the verse and then the soaring build of the chorus. Great to sing, wonderful to listen to when done with parts. It has to be one of my favourites. I really love this acapella version:

 

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Christmas Earworms: White Wine in the Sun

by Louise Forster

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Christmas at our place is focused on the youngest members of the family, ages 10, 5, 3, and 11 months. Way before the big day we make a date to string the fairy lights outside. Never as simple as it sounds, is it? Last year it called for nimble fingers and good eyesight. But we had the perfect solution. Bribe the teenagers into helping us untangle the lights. To make sure there were no distractions, we gathered their phones, put them in a zip-lock bag and hid them in the crisper bin amongst the vegetables … yeah.

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After a hearty breakfast we gave them the ball of lights. And they gave us, ‘What the …?’ faces. Pretty soon there was laughter, giggling, elbowing and pointing, because inevitably someone wanted to take a shortcut, which made the untangling even more exasperating; just because it was fun to frustrate those who were too serious. Ignoring urgent suggestions because they were all talking over each other … the mess only worsened.

In the end one of them threw his hands in the air and gave his younger siblings, who were messing about a dirty look, but with an added smirk, showing them they were going to cop it later. Suggestions kept flying out from those that were determined to see this through, despite the fact that by now brains were starting to curdle. ‘No, this bit goes through there, and then that end loops through this gap here, you f-wit …’

I saw my ancient aunt sneak off, a knowing wicked grin on her face as she turned up the volume on Christmas carols. Funnily enough kids started to bob around, adding their own colourful lyrics, and eventually, the untangling lights took a string of grinning, triumphant teenagers down the driveway and back. The fairy lights became a stunning display at night. More so for the adults because we saw them through a haze of great food, wine, and sheer bliss because our family had gathered together, and we were safe. And the littlies thought it was all very magical. And there’s nothing more fulfilling than that.

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Our favourite carols:

Chevy Chase, Lampoon Christmas Vacation and Hallelujah because his lights finally work.

Perfect lyrics for Australia. Christmas photo, by John Williamson

How to make Gravy  by Paul Kelly

And the end of the day, White Wine In the Sun by Tim Minchin.

 


28381In the sequel to Home Truths, Louise Forster returns to the sleepy country town of Tumble Creek with the story of a cop, a teacher and a mystery that will bring them together—or tear them apart.

Art teacher and occasional life model Sofie Dove wants to know what’s up with Brock Stewart. Everything about the ex SAS soldier turned police officer seems to scream passion—and it’s all for her—but he just won’t express it. All she knows is that he has a past that still keeps him up some nights.

After a semi-trailer crashes through Sofie’s house and the driver disappears into thin air, Brock insists he’s the only one who can keep her safe—but can he, when they can’t seem to trust each other?

While Sofie works on figuring out why this man keeps giving her mixed messages, Brock is determined to find out who’s out to get her—as they both find out why falling in love is a bit like being hit by a truck.

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Christmas Earworms: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

by Amy Rose Bennett

I love Christmas time and aside from all the festive food, decorations, and prezzies, I love me a good Christmas carol sing-along! In fact, my whole family loves whacking on anything from Bing Crosby crooning I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas to Michael Bublé’s Christmas album, or a CD featuring renditions of traditional songs by carollers.

Maybe it’s the history buff in me, but I do love the pomp of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. I have fond memories of belting this one out in the school choir many moons ago, so perhaps there’s an element of childhood nostalgia linked to it for me too.

Anyway, because I’m a big fan of historical research, I couldn’t resist delving into the origins of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Apparently, it’s one of the oldest existing carols and harkens back to the 16th century or perhaps earlier; some accounts mention it was written and sung in Christian churches in the 15th century. The composer of the lyrics and tune is unknown. During the 16th century, bands of itinerant musicians-cum-night watchmen known as ‘waits’ may have sung it as they walked London’s streets at Christmas time. Fancy that. A singing town guard! The earliest known printed edition of the carol appeared in 1760 in a broadsheet, Three New Christmas Carols:

God rest you merry, Gentlemen,

Let nothing you dismay,

For Jesus Christ our Saviour

Was born upon this Day.

To save poor souls from Satan’s power,

Which long time had gone astray.

Which brings tidings of comfort and joy.

Charles Dickens also refers to it in A Christmas Carol, published in 1843. “… at the first sound of ‘God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!’, Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”

I love this Bing Crosby version … Enjoy and Seasons Greetings to you all!


28512A sweeping, sexy Highland romance about a wanted Jacobite with a wounded soul, and a spirited Scottish lass on the run.

Robert Grant has returned home to Lochrose Castle in the Highlands to reconcile with his long-estranged father, the Earl of Strathburn. But there is a price on Robert’s head, and his avaricious younger half-brother, Simon, doesn’t want him reclaiming his birthright. And it’s not only Simon and the redcoats that threaten to destroy Robert’s plans after a flame-haired complication of the feminine kind enters the scene…

Jessie Munroe is forced to flee Lochrose Castle after the dissolute Simon Grant tries to coerce her into becoming his mistress. After a fateful encounter with a mysterious and handsome hunter, Robert, in a remote Highland glen, she throws her lot in with the stranger—even though she suspects he is a fugitive. She soon realises that this man is dangerous in an entirely different way to Simon…

Despite their searing attraction, Robert and Jessie struggle to trust each other as they both seek a place to call home. The stakes are high and only one thing is certain: Simon Grant is in pursuit of them both…

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Christmas Earworms: Good King Wenceslas

by Daniel de Lorne

My favourite Christmas carol is Good King Wenceslas. When I was about 10, my cousin and I used to play a lot of Christmas duets on the piano. They were probably simple arrangements, but for me they were filled with a fun type of stress. She played the second part and I had the melody. Good King Wenceslas was my favourite of the lot, especially the part where it goes “Brightly shone the moon that night.” There was something rousing about those notes and I learned the whole lot off by heart.

That year I’d decided we’d have carols on Christmas Day when my family and my cousin’s family would come together to open presents. I’d spent weeks (or maybe it was only days) typing out the words to the carols and arranging them in a booklet, printing seven and colouring in specially designed covers. They were a work of art.

The day arrived and we played about 12 Christmas carols for the family going through a whole lot of the classics – Silent Night, Deck the Halls, Angels We Have Heard on High and of course Good King Wenceslas. All five verses. I’m sure the adults were wondering when it would all end, but they kept that to themselves and we had fun bashing out the tunes.

Years later when I was in Prague I quietly sang Good King Wenceslas while wandering through Wenceslas Square. I don’t think I’d even considered he was a real person before then at age 22.

I was trying to find a cartoon version of Good King Wenceslas that I remember from my childhood but couldn’t find it within the billions of videos on YouTube so here’s an Irish version that’s a lot more sprightly.


24083From the author of the romantic horror debut Beckoning Blood comes the gripping sequel that mixes blood, sex, and magic.

No-one gets to choose who they spend eternity with.

Aurelia d’Arjou has vampires for brothers, but it is as a witch that she comes into her own power, keeping balance and control, using her strength to mitigate the death and pain that her brothers bring. When she is forced to take on the centuries long task of keeping the world safe from the brutal demon that wore her father’s skin, duty dominates her life. But rare happiness comes in the form of a beguiling, flame-haired oracle who makes the perfect companion…but for one thing.

Hame doesn’t want to be an oracle, but when a demon destroys the closest thing to a father he has, he has little choice but to aid Aurelia with his visions. Unable to love her as she would wish, their centuries-old friendship comes under attack when a handsome Welsh witch enters his life – and his heart.

As treachery and betrayal push Hame to choose between his closest friend and his lover, it becomes clear that when it comes to war, love doesn’t always conquer all, and happy endings are never guaranteed.

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Friday Five: Catherine Evans

Evans_CatherineAuthor: Catherine Evans
First published with Escape: 2016
Favourite romance trope: Friends to Lovers
Ideal hero (in three words): Honest, fun, generous
Ideal heroine (in three words): Independent, down-to-earth, loyal
Latest book: The Healing Season, and in February, Long Game

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

I wanted to write, but I had no idea what I wanted to write about, other than Australia. I read romance, but not only romances, as I read anything with writing on a page. I was writing stories, a member of the NSW Writers Centre, and entering contests in writing associations and not winning. I entered a Romance Writers of Australia contest and they gave feedback…using terminology I didn’t even understand! I became a member, learned all I could about writing, writing romance, and the romance genre. I was hooked.

How do you write? What is your process like?

My process is a mess, but it’s my mess! I get an ideaoften just a scene with two peopleand I start to write. Then I start thinking about what happened, and why, and who are these people. Things get tossed around in my head, or on paper, and I see where it goes. Then I stop at some point when I’ve messed it up. I go back to the start and try to work out what’s wrong. This continues until I get to the end of the story—sometimes I need help from writing friends or editors to un-mess myself!

What was the best writing advice you ever received?

When you finish, put it in a drawer for a while. I see so much more when I’ve got some distance from my story. I can edit it with some perspective. Flaws and holes jump out at me, making them easier to fix.

Where is your favourite place to write? 

I write mostly in my ‘office’, but I also like to go outside if I’m stuck to get some fresh air and nature inspiration, so the back yard or the beach are my go-to places. I usually write straight to my desktop, but if I’m stuck, I’ll scribble in a notebook and I’ve been known to send emails to myself from my mobile device, especially if I’m in bed and half asleep when an idea hits me!


Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at? 

Swimming. I love it and always have. A swimming teacher told Mum when I was kid, “She may not be fast, but she’d swim all day.” Stick me in water and I’m happy. I began scuba diving at age 20. Diving and snorkelling are magical. It’s a completely different world below the surface and I’m so comfortable in that world. I find it the most relaxing activity…until I have to waddle back up the beach!

 


32510 (1)Does she dare pursue all her dreams?

Everyone in Grong Grong knows Cress Kennedy’s childhood dream is to play Aussie Rules Football, so when the Sydney Sirens sign her in the new Women’s Aussie Rules competition, she heads to the big city to pursue her dream. But no one in Grong Grong knows of Cress’s other dreams: the ones that revolve entirely around Quin Fitzpatrick.

Quin Fitzpatrick left Grong Grong as an eighteen-year-old to play Aussie Rules in Sydney, but after eight years the shine has gone from the lifestyle. When his best friend’s little sister follows in his country-to-city footsteps, he promises to look after her. She can stay with him and he’ll protect her as best he can. Besides, Watercress is the little sister he never had.

But Cress is all grown up now and playing Women’s Aussie Rules, and it’s about time that Quin sees her as a woman too…

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Christmas Earworms: River

by Amanda Knight

I didn’t realise how tricky I’d find the task of narrowing down my faves Chrissy song… I’ve realised the ones that came to mind first are the more melancholy ones, and the gleeful, wide-eyed wonder tunes that remind me magic happens were later!
Fave One:
Robert Downey Jr – River – sung on Ally McBeal (original Joni Mitchell)
Why: I always find the Christmas season a mix of emotion… the year I heard this song (and this version) had been one where some of those very serious ‘life’ experiences that make their dark mark on your heart and soul had happened.  Starts with Jingle Bells and reminds me of the few years as a little person where magic truly happened, a time when things were simpler but also how life just doesn’t play out as expected, and Christmas always makes me think about that.
 Fave Two:
Gene Autry version – Here Comes Santa Claus
Why: In movies, department stores and over PA systems in schools – this song makes me smile, jiggle and wiggle and imagine myself in a perfect christmas scenario with snow, glitter, hot cocoa and the smell of cinnamon everywhere! It is my heart happy christmas song!

 


31096 (3)A taut debut novel about a wounded soldier, a courageous doctor, and a dog in desperate need of a rescue

Soldier, surgeon, traitor, dog…

When Sergeant Nate Calloway is carried into the field hospital with no memory of how he got there or where the other members of his unit are,  Australian army surgeon, Captain Beth Harper cares only about repairing his broken body. But it’s clear that something went terribly wrong on the other side of the wire, and as Nate slowly recovers, he becomes more and more anxious to return to duty, go back into the field, and rescue his friends, his unit, and the bomb detection dog that he loves.

The only way Nate can be released to active duty is if a doctor agrees to accompany him, and Beth surprises everyone by volunteering. Her role is to monitor Nate and take him right back to hospital the instant that his health deteriorates enough to put their rescue operation at risk. But as she stays close, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to his courage, his determination, and his commitment to his fellow soldiers.

Instead of a straightforward recovery, however, Nate and Beth soon realise they’ve stumbled on a tangled web of deceit and danger, and the enemy is no longer outside the wire. He is one of their own, a traitor, and he has them in his scope.

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Exclusive Excerpt 2: My Lady Governess

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One knight, one runaway heiress, one rollicking romance:  A breath of fresh air in Regency romance!

Miss Frome.” He smothered his incredulity. “Are you telling me you’re a fallen woman?”

She cringed. “Yes, my lord.”

 Rubbish.”

 I beg your pardon?” She shot blue daggers at him, even as he straightened up to look down on her in more ways than one.

 Rubbish. If you must lie to me, try not to insult my intelligence so brazenly. I can tell a fallen woman, Miss Frome, and you aren’t it.”

 Clinging to her ridiculous defence, the blonde put up a good fight. “How dare you? I am what I say! How dare you disbelieve me on such a subject? You’re insulting,” she raged on, really panicking now and saying anything in desperation. “I’ve been the worst hussy you’ve ever met!”

Tam eyed the worst hussy he’d ever met, and went from curious about her to all-out determined that he’d find out what the hell lay behind this; under no circumstances was this little blonde idiot being letting out on her own. A fallen woman…dear God.  And this was the girl he was going to marry. She wasn’t what he had ever expected, nor what he would ever have chosen. She wasn’t his type – he liked blondes, but he liked them tall, languid and experienced, not five feet one, energetic and with as much as sense as one of his geese.

She was noisy. She was rude. She was also about to learn that telling fantastical lies to him was a very bad idea.

It only took him two seconds. Before she knew what he was about, he seized her by her shoulders, pulling her out of the chair and up into his hold, where he kissed her fast but expertly, and with impressive power.  Barely given time to gasp, she made one cut-off sound of shock before her knees rather satisfyingly seemed to give way and she surrendered. He let go to watch as she dropped back into the chair gasping; she choked, turned a dozen shades of scarlet, trembled violently, then sat with her hands clenched, speechless and with no idea where to look. Certainly not at Tam, who leaned back against the table again and didn’t have to say a word.

No, he hadn’t thought so. Fallen woman, his backside. 

My Lady Governess is available for pre-order now!

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Christmas Earworms: White Christmas

by JC Harroway

It’s pretty brutal challenge to choose only ONE Christmas song, because I am a total Christmas-o-phile…(the internet failed to provide a real, scientific term for this condition) and adore all things Christmas. My obsession generally begins in November, when I force myself to hold off decorating the house and playing the Christmas playlist (which contains everything from traditional carols to Michael Buble and Mariah Carey) until the first of December. After that, all bets are off!

So, after much consideration, I have chosen White Christmas—the 1954 movie version sung by Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye/Rosemary Clooney/Vera Ellen.

My grandmother loved this movie, and watching it with her became a favorite Christmas tradition of my childhood. We would snuggle on the sofa, crack open the tin of Christmas chocolates and have a good old sing-a-long. I love the vintage glamour of the film, even now—the costumes, the locations, the soundtrack—so magical in every way. Like my Nana before me, I own a DVD version of the movie, continuing the tradition.

Enjoy!


32235 (2)Before you can heal, you must accept that you’ve been broken…

When an accident leaves her with severe burns, Captain Eden Archer has one goal — to get back to full fitness and her duties at her United Nations job. Eden is not a joiner, but the Ruby Challenge — a four-day hike across Nevada’s Ruby Mountains — seems like a great way to boost her rehabilitation, and to prove herself ready and able to move on. She just has to get through the pre-challenge medical.

As a doctor in Accident and Emergency, Dan Barbour is used to dealing with people in pain, people in denial, and people who don’t much like doctors, but the prickly servicewoman who dismisses his medical skills awakens an interest that has long been dormant.

The Ruby Mountain hike is as much about the emotional challenge as the physical, and as Eden and Dan find themselves getting closer and closer, they both face enormous obstacles. Eden protects her heart with distance and reserve; Dan keeps everyone at bay by being wholly unavailable. But if they stay true to their old course, they will lose the one chance at a real connection, the one chance to really find someone to love.

A broken-hearted doctor and a reluctant patient should be a match made in heaven, but are Eden and Dan strong enough to find courage outside of their respective battlefields and expose their hearts?

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Footy Fever

by Catherine Evans

I remember my first AFL game. It was not long after the Sydney Swans ‘invaded’ Sydney. I grew up in Sydney in a sports-loving family who believed rugby league was the best game. We watched the AFL Grand Final on TV, but didn’t follow it otherwise. Then in the 1980s, South Melbourne packed up and moved into Sydney to become the Sydney Swans. It caused quite a stir in Sydney.

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We didn’t often attend live games for any sport. There were lots of reasons for this, but cost was what was always mentioned. Now I think back, I have three younger sisters who weren’t as sports mad as I was, and although they would have come for the day out, they wouldn’t have been quite as caught up in whatever sport we watched. That may have been a contributing factor.

I was into new experiences, and I wanted to go to the SCG and see what all the hype was about a live AFL game. I wasn’t old enough to head off on my own, yet no one I knew was interested.

Until Sister M.

Yep, a nun, religious sister.

I didn’t pick her for a sports nut, but she’d come from Victoria and had been an Essendon fan. So when the Swans played Essendon, we decided we’d go. We knew her through church, and my parents often had her visiting, so I knew her quite well, or I thought I did!

She parked in some nearby convent and we walked to the SCG. I didn’t want to be seen as a convert to AFL, so I wore my rugby league gear (the colours of neither team I was to watch). On the way to the ground, there were a lot of men running around in a grassy area. Sister Margaret grabbed my arm, gasped and stopped dead.

Nuns, perving, who knew?

But then this voice yells, “Sister M?” and this guy came flying over. He wrapped her in a hug and deposited her back on the ground. A guy in red and black. A guy who towered over both of us, with shoulders a mile wide full of muscles. A guy whose face I knew (I didn’t know many) because he was the blooming pin-up boy (possibly captain) for the Essendon team.

They chatted, I tried to keep my eyes inside my head.

It turned out that in Melbourne, his family had been very good friends with her, kind of similarly to my family. Except rather than just meeting at church, she’d taught this Essendon star and his brother, who by this stage had also appeared.

The game? Yeah, I can’t tell you much about that. I remember Essendon won. I remember Sister M was horrified that the Sydney crowd didn’t yell enough, or at the right things. I also remember that she, a huge fan, could not answer a simple question for me about the game – why does the time clock count the wrong way? It took me years to get that answered!

Have you been to an AFL game? Do you remember your first?


32510 (1)Does she dare pursue all her dreams?

Everyone in Grong Grong knows Cress Kennedy’s childhood dream is to play Aussie Rules Football, so when the Sydney Sirens sign her in the new Women’s Aussie Rules competition, she heads to the big city to pursue her dream. But no one in Grong Grong knows of Cress’s other dreams: the ones that revolve entirely around Quin Fitzpatrick.

Quin Fitzpatrick left Grong Grong as an eighteen-year-old to play Aussie Rules in Sydney, but after eight years the shine has gone from the lifestyle. When his best friend’s little sister follows in his country-to-city footsteps, he promises to look after her. She can stay with him and he’ll protect her as best he can. Besides, Watercress is the little sister he never had.

But Cress is all grown up now and playing Women’s Aussie Rules, and it’s about time that Quin sees her as a woman too…

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Feed Your Reader: A Royal Affair

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A chance meeting, a misunderstanding, and a second chance for a royal love affair…

Once, King Gabriel was bewitched by a violet-eyed beauty at a masquerade ball, but she left the function without a trace…not even a slipper. Now, Cinderella has a name. Fate has thrown India Hamilton right in Gabriel’s path, and he’s determined to expose her as the gold-digger he knows her to be.

But Gabriel’s attempt at revenge soon loses its appeal as he spends more time with India. Her generous actions and smart control of his sister’s foundation suggest a strong, kind woman, undeserving of his scorn and anger. It soon becomes clear that this is not a Cinderella story at all: India is a beauty, and Gabriel has been behaving like a beast.

“Really loved their romance … couldn’t put the book down.” – Sissy H, NetGalley

“The attraction and chemistry of these characters pulled me in … I couldn’t put it down! There is so much to say but, I believe this book is better enjoyed without divulging too much information about it.” – Sue, NetGalley 

“Wow, just wow, couldn’t put it down. I read it in one sitting. I can’t wait for more from [Alyssa] as always her books only get better with each one.” – Melinda S, NetGalley

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