IT’S OUT!

So RETURN TO CHRISTMAS debuted on Friday amid record-breaking temperatures (cold, of course) and more snow. When you write a book there are worlds you want to be in, world that feel absolutely real to you. Actually, the same is true for the books you read, isn’t it? Well, that’s how Return to Christmas feels for me. I’ve always loved Macy’s – when I worked in New York city and went home on the weekends I’d walk down from the Time-Life Building (just across from Radio City) and always, always head into Macy’s before I went two blocks down to Penn Station. They sold fabric on the 8th floor, and you couldn’t charge food (I guess they felt there was no way to collect) and the entire place was a wonder.

There was a great book called THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER about two children who get locked in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which always sounded like pure heaven to me. Only Macy’s is better. I know just what I’d do: sleep in all the beds on the furniture floor, try on the most absurd pieces of clothing, drape myself in jewelry. Macy’s has everything, except, I’m quite sure, fabric, since you can’t buy fabric anywhere but Joanns nowadays. Back then I made my own clothes, including some very strange concoctions like a red satin flamenco dress and an Yves St. Laurent tailored suit. I worked for the Rockefeller Foundation, and they were very tolerant. One day I showed up in hot pants and my mother’s graduation robe and walked the halls like Groucho Marx, and of course I wrote a vampire novel about the denizens of the 41st floor (the title, CORN IS THE GLUE, came from a report I filed that said “Corn is the glue that holds together the lives of the people.” I was so horrified by the clumsiness of that line I had to immortalize it. The business office printed off a bunch of copies for everyone to enjoy.)

No wonder I’ve hard a hard time with regular jobs since then – most of my employers never had a sense of humor.

I lived in NYC to go to rock concerts – I was a rock ‘n roll nun. I saw Iggy Stooge/Iggy Pop in a tiny nightclub singing “I want to be your dog,” the Who when the Fillmore caught fire and Pete Townsend kicked one of NYC’s finest in the balls on stage before being evacuated. I saw Janis Joplin and Tina Turner sing together at Madison Square Garden (before the Stones came on), saw Ray Davies of the Kinks fall on his amplifiers after drinking too much, Eric Clapton in his “Layla” tour. Man, I saw everyone, and for the longest time rock and Macy’s was enough to make me happy, but eventually I had an epiphany, moved to Vermont to a town of 700 hundred where I didn’t know how to drive, and wrote my first book, which sold.

And after all those years I have so many more books to write that I don’t think I’ll ever quit. In fact I can’t imagine not writing – it’s who I am. So there’s tons more to come, but for now, you’ve got RETURN TO CHRISTMAS, my Christmas present to you.

THE COVER

5 days till RETURN TO CHRISTMAS debuts. (I’m counting today and Friday, the day it drops.) I’ve got a cover I adore, things are lining up, but the most important thing is that I wrote a book I love, even if it wasn’t the “smart” thing to do.

Did I ever tell you how much I love “Tin Cup” – the golf movie with Kevin Costner? (No, I don’t play golf). For me it’s a perfect metaphor for my take on creativity, and probably the reason I don’t quite play in the majors. I never, ever make the smart choice. When it comes to writing I go with my gut, every time. I never had a career plan, I’m wary of the very idea, at least as far as I’m concerned. With the books I write, I always lead with my heart.

So here’s the cover. In fact, I’ll show you the three stages. This is the first one – nice mood, but Santa needs to take a hike, and the hero was intrusive.

So I said nix the hero, nix Santa, taller buildings, nix the hat (all those were my original ideas – my cover person is so good). So we next had Mollie alone, looking up at the huge building. I loved this one, but Macy’s isn’t isolated (and for copyright issues we couldn’t use artwork with the real Macy’s).

Nice mood in that, and I loved the trees. But this was the final try, and the winner.

So did I make the right choice?

RETURN TO CHRISTMAS

It’s coming! Winter, Christmas, and my first new book in more than a year, RETURN TO CHRISTMAS. I couldn’t come up with a title for the longest time – I was calling it 34th Street Time Warp, and More than a Miracle, and Macy’s Time Travel. With those clues you can probably guess what it’s about – my intrepid but troubled modern New York woman walks through Macy’s giant revolving doors and finds herself back in 1947, and she can’t get back out again. There’s a grumpy artist with PTSD who’s determined to look out for her, and just as determined not to fall in love with her. And Mollie, my heroine, doesn’t know what she wants (though she suspects it’s the artist).

I’ve had this idea for a dozen years, hoping to write it as a novella, and then when the market changed I thought I’d whip it up for Christmas 2017. Turned out it wanted to be an entire book, not just a novella, so I had the full mss. done by late fall 2018. Got mixed readings – adoration and “oh, no” (the latter from someone important, which was disheartening) so I put it to one side, worked on new stuff, and then decided I loved the book so much I’d put it out on my own. I trimmed the “Oh, no,” stuff, and I gotta say I adore it.

So it’s coming out on November 15th, eight days away, and I’m happy. Just waiting for the cover. and all shall be revealed.

Even better, Belle Books had just reprinted my RITA-winning earlier Christmas book, FALLEN ANGEL (there should be teaser chapter of RETURN TO CHRISTMAS in it, as well as vice versa). https://amzn.to/2Csc9Y5 So you can absolutely wallow in an Anne Stuart Christmas!

I’ll post the cover for RETURN TO CHRISTMAS as soon as I get it, but in the meantime, FALLING ANGEL is a treat and a half (and there’s always BEWITCHING HOUR for more Christmas delights. I’m an absolute sucker for Christmas, and dark heroes deserve Christmas just as much as Beta heroes do.

It’s Freaking Cold!

My spirits are not at an all-time high. It’s so damned cold in Vermont – after the winter from hell we’re still freezing our asses of. We haven’t been able to have coffee out on our deck yet, It hasn’t gotten above 50 in a couple of days, and the wind’s blowing. Now I’m someone who’s not keen on warm climates, but this is ridiculous.

But I soldier on, trying to be cheerful between a million doctor appointments (nothing lethal) and a peculiar case of insecurity, not something I usually suffer from. I’ve been doubting myself lately, with a little help from my (not) friends, and wandering between too many projects, all of which I love, instead of sitting down and finishing one. I blame the weather (seriously – in Northern Vermont it’s been criminal), and the pain (always a challenge) and chemistry (I come from the biologically bonkers on both side of my family), but I gotta do something about it. If I’m not writing, not telling myself a story, it feels like something’s missing, something’s wrong.

I have one brilliant book written that needs some more revising to be completely wonderful. Well, it already is wonderful, and fortunately I’m not a perfectionist, but this is so good (I really love it) that it’s worth being extra careful.

And I have : 1 historical (The Absolutely, Positively Worst Man in England), 1 modern (revenge fantasy), 1 slightly Indiana Jones-ish, one Mary Stewart Gothic. Maybe I should throw a dart. Or ask for a sign.

Years ago, I was under contract for a number of books, but I wanted to write one more ICE book and my publisher wasn’t interested (silly people!) So it was write On Thin Ice on spec for indie publishing or concentrate on the contracted stuff, and I was really torn, so I asked the universe for a sign. I was driving in the car at the time, and Bruce Coburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” came on. It couldn’t have been clearer.

So I guess I need another sign. I need to figure out how to escape back into my happy place. Any of you out there psychic? I’ll take signs from anyone.

In the meantime, I’ve just republished the House of Rohan series, starting with Reckless, though they’ve just given me back the rights to Ruthless so that’ll be out in a little more than a month and the short story, Wicked House of Rohan, is coming back to me this fall. I’ve also gotten the rights back to Hidden Honor and oh, my heavens, The Devil’s Waltz! I freaking love the book. So lots of reprints and masses of new audio. Lots of stuff going on.

I think spring is a fairly common time for the doldrums to hit. I gotta just slap myself out of it and get back to what I love. Somebody, give me a sign. Or a shove.

Why It’s Great to be a Writer

I wrote my first … lemme see … god, I think it’s 16 … books on a typewriter. The very first one might have been on a manual one – that was back in the days when an IBM Selectric was a wet dream. And I actually liked typing – I liked having the pages pile up beside me, I liked the click of the keys and the sound of them hitting the … roller? It had a special name — platten? (I just went and looked it up – I was close. Platen.) Ah, the good old days. I used yellow newsprint for my early draft, because my mentor did, and onion skin for the final draft which was a big nono but I did it anyway.

And so it goes. Stories helped me survive a … shall we say difficult … upbringing. Think Mommie Dearest crossed with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf crossed with Lost Weekend and you get the picture. But I could always retreat into books, and into my own stories, and I could survive. Maybe my siblings didn’t have that escape. (They both died young from their various addiction issues, as did my father).

But those stories kept me going my entire life (so far). When I was going through infertility and every month discovered that I wasn’t pregnant I would curl up in my big bed with a comforter and reread Georgette Heyer and make it through the day. When I was a suicidal teenager I watched a new tv western (trust me, it was brilliant) and fell so in love with the world that I decided it was worth living. (By the time the show was cancelled I was past suicidal thoughts and none have returned for more than 50 years, thank goodness.

If a story is going strong then life is wonderful – there are days when I can’t wait to get to the computer (yes, I upgraded) to find out what my people are doing. In fact, that’s what gets me there every day. That, and discipline, which I had to discover myself due to the aforementioned upbringing. My worlds, as dark as they might be, are always a safe place for me.

Two things really brought that home in the past few years, one mundane, one existential. I was stuck in an oral surgeon’s office, having two teeth removed. When I went in I hadn’t realized I wasn’t going to have anesthesia, and I sat there, clutching the armrests, tears rolling down my face, in an absolute panic. Desperate to distract myself, I threw my mind into my latest characters, and the panic began to fade. The surgeon did something new and horrible (no physical pain, mind you) and the panic came slamming back, so once more I raced back to my story world. It wasn’t until the third time this happened that I realized what was happening. That world brought me calm and peace even in really dire circumstances.

The other was at a really low time in my life. I’ve got Major Depression as a diagnosis, no surprise with a father and a family history of Bi-Polar Disorder and a mother who had a borderline personality plus a family history of depression. In general I have an excellent medical cocktail and a real enjoyment of life, but occasionally the black cloud breaks through.

A few years ago life was so bleak and hopeless, and I was so trapped, that I drove home from visiting my BFF Crusie, weeping (and it’s a long drive). I tried to think of anything that could bring me hope, peace or joy (I always fight the blues like mad) and there was absolutely nothing – everything was disaster and despair. Until I thought of what I was writing. Thought of the other books I wanted to write, the stories and worlds that were there for me. Remembering story, the movies that never failed to transport me, the books that kept me alive in my childhood, the characters I had waiting for me, was a ray of hope that made the weeping stop. When there had been nothing but devastation there was suddenly wonder.

I used to annoy cancer survivors by saying that the perfect book at the right time can cure cancer. (They ignore the fact that I’m a cancer survivor). But man, it’s true. When you get the perfect story, either reading or writing or even watching on a screen, it puts you in the zone so squarely that I think healing endorphins flood our bodies. Or maybe it’s pixie dust.

Whatever it is, it’s magic

In honor of that magic I’m going to recommend books every month that will cure whatever dark cloud is swallowing you up. Books that can silence Donald Trump and wipe out the southern legislators. Books that turn Mitch McConnell into turtle soup and William Barr into a toadstool.

Was there ever a time we needed magic more? Another friend, Kathleen Gilles Seidel, said she never aimed to change people’s lives with her books, she simply wanted to change their afternoon. With enough good afternoons you can survive anything.