Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Angels, Actually by Anna J Stewart

This holiday season is especially magical for me.  My first published work, THE CHRISTMAS WISH is included in Harlequin Heartwarming's CHRISTMAS, ACTUALLY anthology (on sale now!).

When fellow Harlequin authors Melinda Curtis, Anna Adams and I first conceived of this idea of three novellas featuring 3 siblings living in Christmas Town, Maine, I had an inkling this would be the story that would finally make my dreams of being a Harlequin author come true. The project just felt "right" and shortly before the holidays last year, we learned it had sold. Makes for a very merry Christmas, indeed.

But I think there might have been some other angels at work.  You see, there's a special angel in my story.  A tree topper angel that plays quite an important role in Callie Banning and Dean Galloway finding their happily ever after under the mistletoe.  That angel was actually inspired by this little lady.
She's a little worn. Her wings are bent; her hair a bit mussed, but she's got character in abundance.  She's definitely seen her share of Christmases and in actuality, she's older than I am.  She was my grandfather's angel.  Except I never knew my grandfather. He died when I was six months old.  But for some reason, I've always felt a special connection to him.  Every year I unwrap his angel to put on the top of what's become our annual Harry Potter Christmas tree (I do 3 trees a year...but I digress). It's never Christmas until she's placed on top of the 3" fake pine. It's like the angels really do sing the moment she's settled on her perch for the coming months (and I say months because I decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving--and then it's a miracle if the decorations are down by Valentine's Day). With all the decor items I have, it seems odd that this little angel encapsulates the season for me. 

Which made the year I couldn't find her all the more terrifying.

For days I searched, wondering where I'd packed her, what box she'd been placed in. Why hadn't I kept her with the tree? Why wasn't she in the box with the ornaments. Why, oh, why didn't I just keep her out all year? It was a long few days until I found her--finally--at the bottom of the cedar chest with the table cloths. Don't ask me how she got there. I haven't got a clue--and I don't remember putting her there. Actually, I wouldn't put it past my grandfather to have sent the minihoonies to hide her from me...just to remind me that he was around, and watching. I was so relieved I cried as I held her again, as the holidays righted themselves again.

So when it came to the special sign my hero Dean needed to show him it was okay to move on from the loss of his wife, that love had found him again in the guise of school teacher Callie, this angel was my inspiration.  She's prettier in my story, more delicate in ways, as that angel was bought for Dean's daughter Eliza when she was a baby. But when I imagine her, she's got the crooked little smile and yarn hair.  Just as Dean's wife is looking down on him, I like to think my grandfather (and grandmother, now, too) is looking down on me, pleased and happy that finally, my dream of being a published author has come true.
I wish I'd known you, Grandpa, and Grandma, I miss you every day.  Thank you for giving me those magical wishes, that guidance of spirit and giving me my Christmas angel every year.  I wish I could remember having this picture taken with the two of you, but knowing you're around, even in spirit, makes my holiday season all the more special. 

What special holiday tradition or item makes your season special? Is there a family recipe you can't do without? An ornament that makes you smile when you pull it out of the box? Whatever your beliefs, however you celebrate...please share. I'd love to know.

Those (non-Heartwarming authors <G>) who post on our blogs from Saturday, Sunday, Monday or today (yes, you can go back and catch up!)  will be entered to win a holiday ornament.  Happy posting!

43 comments:

  1. I loved this post...and your angel. I just now (finally!) got the book ordered! Thanks for sharing your story--I'll bet your grandpa is bragging you up big time Up There. :-)

    I'm an ornament-aholic with a special penchant for snowmen, but one of my favorites isn't a snowman at all. My daughter-in-law made me a tree-topper angel whose gown is fashioned from scraps of Laura's wedding gown.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Liz! Thanks so much for stopping by. :)

      Those tree topper angels...sounds like they're a fave for all of us. :) Happy reading!

      Delete
  2. Love the sentimental post. I'm so glad you found your angel. Christmas is such a special holiday. I like the old-style ornaments and wonder who comes up with some of the garish new decorations. Sorry if people like those. My family has always been big on collecting a meaningful ornament from places we visit. Denny and I started our kids with their own trees when they were each one year old. And they've done the same for their children. I still tie a special ornament on one package for everyone in my immediate family. Our trees just get more abundant and bigger every year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The box of ornaments always feels like a treasure chest to me, Roz. And I love the "tagging" ornaments. I'll have to try that this year. :) Thanks for posting!

      Delete
  3. Congrats on the release Anna! Can't wait to read it:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jen! And I have yours on my Kindle waiting for some free time! Happy holidays to all of us

      Delete
  4. There are some special ornaments that my kids made that I always put on the tree. Fortunately about 5 years ago I gave them to my youngest daughter with all my holiday decorations and it's a good thing I did. When the tornado hit here in 2011 my oldest daughter and myself lost our homes and basically everything. Since my youngest had all the decorations they were safe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So sorry to hear you lost your home, Linda. I can imagine those ornaments and decorations are even more special now. Hope you have a lovely holiday season...and thank you for posting. Appreciate you stopping by.

      Delete
  5. What a sweet story. So glad you found her, although it's amazing you did with her packed away with the tablecloths. :-) I make porcelain ornaments--angels and doves, snowflakes, even a kissing mouse on a candy cane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OOoh, Patricia, I'd love to see some! I used to paint ceramic ornaments ages ago, but I gave them all away . A kissing mouse on a candy cane. Too cute! Thank you for stopping by.

      Delete
  6. Anna, that is the sweetest story. I just love it! I decorate one side of my tree with all of the ornaments my kids (now in their thirties) made in pre-school and school. Each one brings back special memories of their youth. I've downloaded the book and can't wait to read it and truly get into the holiday spirit. Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI Cindy! Great to see you here! Thank you for posting. :)

      Oooh, that sounds like an amazing tree! I have one I was given back in 1975, it's a star (and has the year on it) and it's always a special memory that accompanies it when it comes out of the ornament box. :) Happy reading!

      Delete
  7. Anna, I am so excited for you! Congratulations again! :-) I wonder if you'll be putting up so many trees in a few years. LOL I

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Brenda!! Your encouragement over the years has been so important and invaluable to me. :)

      And...well, I"m decorating on Thanksgiving while the turkey roasts...whatever ends up that day, will be about it, LOL. I'm thinking maybe only 2 trees this year. Thank you for visiting!

      Delete
  8. I have Christmas ornaments that date back to my grandparents as well...and I have the golden oldies of recipes...that must be made year after year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deb, I can only imagine what your kitchen smells like during the holidays--you always bake and cook such yummy treats! Yay for traditions. :) Thanks for posting!

      Delete
  9. Every time I hear you talk about your angel, it makes me smile.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She's so cute...I've had to start leaving her out where I can see her during the year so she doesn't hide from me again! It's kind of become Where's Waldo, angel version, in the house. :)

      Delete
  10. I have new traditions this year as for the first time since I married my husband, we are spending Chrimbo at home. Slightly nervous as I haven't cooked a Christmas lunch in over a decade now. I think one of the traditions is to ask each of my children to choose a decoration to put on the Christmas cake. Hoping you have a lovely Christmas, Amanda ward UK. mrsajward@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI Manda! Thanks so much for stopping by! The opportunity to start new traditions! How exciting! That sounds like a lovely way to spend the holiday season. :) Hope you have a great one.

      Delete
  11. I keep sharing the post on my FB feed with my friends and leaving comments there. I don't know how I missed this! Congratulations ladies :-) I love reading Christmas books and can't wait to read this one. Melissa, I plan to add some gifts to the wedding couple on Pinterest, but right after it started, I was sick for a week :-( Anna, I like decorating Thanksgiving night, however this year I am having trouble waiting to decorate. It takes me about a week to get everything up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL, Dianne--I actually said something to my mom about starting early this year. I just love enjoying them once they're up! But it does take a lot of work. Two years ago I did everything in one day, so I know it can be done...except it just about killed me . Hope you're feeling better--and have a great holiday season.

      Delete
  12. Anna, what a beautiful story! That angel is absolutely precious. I think my favorite Christmas tradition is allowing my nieces and nephews to open their gifts from us on Christmas Eve. It eases some of the waiting for them and I feel like they really appreciate those gifts before the Christmas morning crazies set in(:

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, the Xmas eve gift opening. I remember those growing up. As long as it wasn't underwear or socks! But there's nothing like that Xmas morning excitement (mine never died down ). Thanks for posting!

      Delete
  13. I love your post, Anna! And what a wonderful photo. My favorite decoration is our Nativity set. I blogged about this once - lost the shepherds and the creche building in a move. Found a beautiful new set at half price and bought it - then discovered it was half price because it was missing the shepherds and the building! We lived without the shepherds, but that Christmas - our first in Astoria only two years after we'd adopted the kids - my husband and the kids made the building out of Lincoln Logs. It had special significance for me because it was sort of cobbled together, like out lives. But it came out so beautifully (as did our lives) that we still do it today! Wish your angel could visit and sit on top of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My angel would love to visit your creche! What a beautiful story! Somewhere I actually have my grandfather's white porcelain set. I haven't gotten it out in years, but maybe I will this year--in honor of you. :) Thank you for stopping by today.

      Delete
  14. My family purchases an ornament every year with the year on it. It is a tradition my parents started 30 years ago when they got married We (my sister and I) have continued the tradition with our children. Its a HUGE deal we all go out and decide as a family what ornament to buy. Sometimes the ornament reflects an important event for the year (the birth of a child, or a graduation) and sometimes its just an ornament that makes us all smile. My kids are 7/8 and 3 and love helping pick out not only our ornament but my parents ornament as well. When we decorate the tree their are stories associated with the ornaments and we love retelling them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a wonderful way to remember those years and events! Stories like this are so special. IT's why I love this time of year. Family history comes alive. Thank you so much for stopping by.

      Delete
  15. Great post. I love Christmas. I started life as an elementary school teacher. I have ornaments I received as gifts and I have ornaments that were made for me by my brownie troop. Now my son's ornaments take up the tree.
    I, too, have an angel at the top.
    Grandparents are special.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Pam! I actually have an ornament my first grade teacher gave me...reversal! LOL. I bet you have some lovely memories of those times and those students. Thank you for coming by today. :)

      Delete
  16. Congrats, Anna! I loved hearing about your angel and grandpa. Each of my kids has their own ornament theme (Penguin, Snowman, Polar Bear), plus there are the ones they've hand made themselves. Decorating is always a trip down memory lane.

    Mega success wishes to you, Anna and Mel on the book!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rula! Thank you so much for coming by today. :) Looks like ornaments are the way most of us celebrate our families and memories. Love the themed children . Gotta keep that in mind!

      Delete
  17. Feel honored, my dear, that I read your blog as you know we don't celebrate Christmas right now. I couldn't resist reading this Christmas story and I was touched reading it. Yes, I do have a Christmas recipe and two of them are still done every year even tho no other decorations make it out of the box. My mother-in-law made her special fruitcakes and Ken's favorite cheese torte every Christmas. I have made three batches of six fruitcakes every year and given the cakes to people in our community that have been kind to us during the year and our loved ones who like fruitcakes. Now that we are here in Wisconsin I can share them with people who've had them in the far past and new friends as well.

    Best of luck with your sales. You are such a talented writer and I am so very proud of you. Huggles!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mama Marlene!! I was just thinking about you the other day--thank you SO much for commenting and visiting. And yes, I'm very honored, LOL. And your fruitcakes are amazing (and I don't usually like fruitcake!). We miss you--and thank you for reading. Can't wait for your next book. Hugs back!!

      Delete
  18. Replies
    1. Thank you, Dana! Wonderful to be here. :)

      Delete
  19. What a beautiful inspiration for such a sweet point in the story. I love that you draw on such personal things for your writing. Thanks for sharing!

    Oh - and 3 Christmas trees? Seriously?!?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Abigail!! LOL. Yep. 3. Probably not this year tho...we'll see . At least some of them are small (ish). See you soon!

      Delete
  20. Anna, I've come to expect side-splitting funny posts from you. This post is incredibly touching. No question, I have to read CHRISTMAS, ACTUALLY.

    I didn't realize it was your first published work. Congratulations . . . especially considering how successful it already is!

    Best wishes for much more success.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kate! :) I like to shake things up occasionally, LOL. Keeps people on their toes. Thanks so much for posting and stopping by...I've got A Child's Christmas waiting for me on my Kindle! Can't wait to read!

      Delete
  21. Love your story of your grandpa and the angel he left you. She is absolutely adorable. How could you not love and cherish her? My favorite is a crystal star ornament that I love seeing again every year.

    ReplyDelete
  22. And the winners are.... Dianne Wagner, Darlene Holley, and Denise Stout Holcomb! Congratulations! We will be in touch with you soon to get your contact information. Thank you everyone who participated! :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. Anna, I'm late, but I had to tell you how much I enjoyed your post. Love the story behind the angel, and I love the idea of your grandpa watching over you. Writing Christmas, Actually with you and Melinda truly was a gift!

    ReplyDelete