Favorite Christmas Stories

Last Chance Christmas Ballby Mary Jo

The original Christmas story is of the journey to Bethlehem and the newborn infant who was laid in a manger, and the holiday has been inspiring Christmas stories ever since. They are stories of warmth, family, and love, of kindness and reconciliation.  One of the most famous is the poem "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" written in 1823 by Clement Clark Moore.  The depictions of Santa Claus, the chimney, and the sleigh pulled by reindeer have helped shape the imagery of American Christmases ever after. 

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Eight Writers Walk into a Regency-Era Ballroom…

Last chanceNicola here. Over the past few weeks we’ve been sharing excerpts from our Word Wench Christmas Anthology, The Last Chance Christmas Ball (which is currently still on special offer in the US and Canada in the run up to the festive season – you can find it here!) A number of commenters have asked about the process we went through writing the book as a group project (thank you!), so we’ve updated a post from 2015 when the anthology first came out explaining a bit about this and about the individual stories that we came up with. Today's blog title actually came from a review of the anthology that was in Publisher's Weekly: Eight Writers (collectively known as the Word Wenches) walk into a ballroom and wreak fabulous, shimmering holiday mischief all over the place."

Jo Beverley, who drew together the original post, described it as “fun: at times the sort of fun you get from a camping holiday with unpredictable weather and odd creatures invading the tent.*G*” Which is to say that it wasn’t without its challenges. Some of these were logistical. We’re based around the world. Even within the US there’s a considerable time difference between east coast and west coast, but then we add in England, which is five hours ahead of the east coast and eight hours ahead of California. Pat was getting up when Jo Beverley and I were thinking about dinner, and Anne, in Australia, was going to bed round about the time America woke up! Even in this modern age we often had to wait many hours for the answer to a continuity query.

In addition, of course, we are all strong-minded authors who enjoyed a good discussion over many, many plot points and other issues! But we did have fun, and as you'll see, we all love Christmas stories.

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In the Bleak Midwinter: The Last Chance Christmas Ball

Belsay Gloomed by AnneBy Mary Jo

Eight authors collaborating on an anthology is not the simplest of projects, but we Wenches thought it would be fun to work together, and The Last Chance Christmas Ball (now on sale for a mere 99 cents!) was the result. Our Kensington editor, Alicia Condon, suggested we might do something like a holiday ball where our characters can meet and mingle. This sounded like a fine idea, so we agreed. We had no idea how much work it would be to integrate the stories into a larger framework!

Jo Beverley created a wiki for us so we could add information about the characters and setting so instead of constantly asking things like the name of the butler or the village, we could look it up. This was very convenient.

Then the negotiations began! We talked about our requirements. Susan King, for example, specializes in Scotland so we created a setting in Northumberland, which is next door to Scotland in far northeastern England. A certain kind of great house was required. A promising house was found and modified. I casually talked about how we could have a wounded soldier in the tower as an example of what we could do, and then realized I really did want to write a wounded soldier in the tower!

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A Season for Marriage

Last chanceNicola here, continuing our Sunday excerpts from The Last Chance Christmas Ball, (the e-book is on special sale right now for only $.99!) Here's the setting: Christmas 1815. Upstairs and downstairs, Holbourne Abbey is abuzz with preparations for a grand ball to celebrate the year’s most festive—and romantic—holiday. For at the top of each guest’s wish list is a last chance to find true love before the New Year… My story is A Season for Marriage… Lady Caroline  Camden is unhappily married to a brilliant MP whose work is his life. In love with her husband and resigned to the fact that he will never love her, Caroline runs back home to Holbourne Abbey, hoping that her old family home will work its magic on her marriage and that against the odds, she and Piers may find happiness…

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Christmas snippets

Anne here, starting something a little bit different. We're putting up Sunday posts containing an excerpt from our stories in the Last Chance Christmas Ball — one each Sunday in the lead-up to Christmas. Last ChanceXmasBall

The anthology was such a fun—and sometimes tricky— thing to do. We wenches had written a Christmas anthology before with a linking theme, but for this one we decided all the stories would be linked to an event, based around an annual Christmas ball, held by Lady Holbourne known as Lady Holly to her friends.

The emails flew back and forth as we tossed around ideas, made plans and thrashed out the details of the setting. Some of us wrote interweaving stories, some of us made our stories linked, but separate, several of us had our people not actually make it to the ball. But we all had such fun doing it, we wanted to share it again.

Here's the blurb for the collection:  Christmas 1815. Upstairs and downstairs, Holbourne Abbey is abuzz with preparations for a grand ball to celebrate the year’s most festive—and romantic—holiday. For at the top of each guest’s wish list is a last chance to find true love before the New Year…

My story is called Mistletoe Kisses, and it's about Allie Fenton, a young woman who, for various reasons, has never been able to attend a ball. Now orphaned and on the shelf, she's planning to become a teacher at a girl's seminary in Bath. But first there's her last Christmas at home and then, Lady Holly's famous annual Christmas ball. 

Here's a short excerpt:

"You'll come to my Christmas ball, then," Lady Holly told her. "Don't bother trying to think up any excuses — you're coming and that's that. Your year of mourning will be up, and you have no reason to stay here moldering away when I've gathered an excellent range of eligible gentlemen for your perusal."

Allie laughed. "For my perusal? As if I'm going shopping?"

"That's exactly what you'll be doing."

"Don't the gentlemen have any say in it?"

The old lady sniffed. "Women have been making men believe they have a choice for generations. Now don't be frivolous, Allie — I am determined to give you one last chance to find a husband before you go off and bury yourself in this, this school of yours." She pronounced 'school' as if she really meant 'zoo.'

Allie smiled. For all her caustic tone, Lady Holly had a very kind heart. "I would love to attend your ball, Lady Holly. . . "

The old lady frowned. "I hear a 'but' coming."

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