This week here at RR, we’re going to be kicking off the holiday season just a bit early! We’re holding a contest to celebrate the release of the Harlequin anthology Mistletoe Kisses, featuring stories by Elizabeth Rolls, Deborah Hale, and our own Diane Gaston. Starting Monday, comment on posts all week for the chance to win 1 of 3 autographed copies. Check here tomorrow for more details!

I’m so excited about this anthology! Every year at this time, I used to buy the annual Signet Regency Christmas anthology (sadly missing this year), and hoard it away for an emergency. The emergency usually consists of Holiday Bickering Relatives Overload (the dreaded HBRO), or acute psychosis on hearing “Jingle Bell Rock” one too many times. The only cure is a cup of hot cider, a fleece-y throw blanket, and a Regency Christmas novella where there is no “Jingle Bell Rock” (and won’t be for more than a hundred years. Lucky Regency people). I’m happy to have my emergency stash this year in the form of my own copy of Mistletoe Kisses.

When I was lucky enough to get to write a couple of Christmas novellas myself (“A Partridge in a Pear Tree” in Regency Christmas, see cover on this post, and “Upon a Midnight Clear” in Regency Christmas Magic), I was very excited, but didn’t realize the unique challenge it would pose. For one thing, I was researching holiday traditions in July, when it was 100 degrees outside. I was thinking about swimming pools and flip flops, not snow and holly and wassail bowls! Listening to the Chieftain’s Christmas CD over and over helped. For another, the shorter word count presents its own challenges in characterization and plot developement. The characters still have to be well-rounded, the plot fairly complex, plus all that darned Christmas Cheer in under 50,000 words. But I did enjoy it very much, particularly with Upon a Midnight Clear because it featured my own favorite heroine (of my own devising, that is!)–Antoinette Duvall. The Jamaican daughter of a freed slave, she appeared as the heroine’s friend in A Loving Spirit. I liked her so much, and wanted her to find her own happy ending. She nagged me for it through a few more books, before she finally found her dashing naval captain one snowy Christmas night. Helping Antoinette have a cheerful holiday made me hope for one of my own. Even in July.

Another reason I’m so excited about this anthology (Warning! This post now becomes All About Me!) is that I found out I’m going to be joining Diane in her Gaston guise as a Harlequin author! Last week they bought 3 of my historical romances, 2 Renaissance-set and 1 Regency. Look for the first one, A Kiss of Poison (Renaissance Venice during Carnival! Masks and poinson and intrigue–plus really great clothes!) in the summer of ’07 from Harlequin Historicals. I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot more about it from me before then. 🙂

Be sure and visit us all this week for the contest! And let us know what some of YOUR favorite Christmas novellas have been.