Saturday, December 27, 2014

New Year's Celebrations

New Year's Day is Thursday…welcome to 2015.  This has become a traditional time of celebration.  We party on New Year's Eve and celebrate the moment the clock strikes midnight signaling the beginning of a new year.

And, of course, when the year 2000 arrived we celebrated for twenty-four hours as each time zone around the earth welcomed the new millennium on live television broadcasts.

But why and how did the New Year's celebrations become part of our annual routine?  The earliest recorded account of a celebration in honor of the new year dates back four thousand years to ancient Babylon.  For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox announced the arrival of the new year.  They celebrated this spring time event with a massive 11 day religious festival called Akitu.  It was during this time that a new king was crowned or the current ruler's mandate renewed.

Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed more sophisticated calendars with the first day of the year associated with an agricultural or astronomical event.  For example, in Egypt the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius.  In China, the new year occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice…a day they still celebrate.

The early Roman calendar had 10 months and 304 days with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox.  Tradition holds that it was created by Romulus, the founder of Rome, in the eighth century B.C.  Numa Pompilius, a later king, is credited with adding the months of Januarius and Februarius.  Over the ensuing centuries, the Roman calendar grew out of sync with the sun.  In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar used today by most countries.

As part of his reform, Julius Caesar declared January 1 as the first day of the year and Romans celebrated by exchanging gifts, decorating their homes, and attending raucous parties.  In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced January 1 as the first day of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 as the anniversary of Christ's birth and March 25 as the Feast of the Annunciation.  It was Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 who re-established January 1 as New Year's Day.

In many countries, New Year's celebrations begin on New Year's Eve and continue into the early hours of January 1st.  These celebrations often include specific foods that are said to bring good luck for the coming year—grapes in Spain, round fruits in the Philippines, suckling pig in Austria, soba noodles in Japan, rice pudding in Norway, and black-eyed peas in the southern United States.  Other customs that are common worldwide include making new year resolutions (a practice started by the Babylonians) and watching fireworks displays.

In the United States, the most famous New Year's tradition is the dropping of the giant ball in New York City's Times Square.  This event, first instituted in 1906, occurs at the stroke of midnight.  The original giant ball was made of iron and wood weighing 400 pounds.  A total of 7 versions of the Ball have been designed over the more than a century since the first drop of the ball occurred.

Today's giant ball is a brightly patterned sphere 12 feet in diameter and weighing nearly 12,000 pounds.  Each year, the 2688 intricate Waterford crystals that make up the skin of the huge orb are replaced with new ones.  For this year's design, 288 of the Waterford triangles introduce the new Gift of Fortitude design utilizing diamond cuts on either side of a crystal pillar to represent the inner attributes of resolve, courage and spirit that's necessary to triumph over adversity.  The remaining 2400 crystal triangles feature the Gift of Imagination design with a series of intricate wedge cuts that are mirrored reflections of each other inspiring our imagination.

The 2,688 triangles are bolted to 672 LED modules which are attached to the aluminum frame of the ball.  The ball is capable of displaying a palette of more than 16 million colors and billions of patterns that create a spectacular kaleidoscope effect as the ball drops down a flagpole at the stroke of midnight Eastern Standard Time.

So, however you celebrate the arrival of the new year…whether you go out to a party, have family or a few friends to your home, or simply curl up by a cozy fire and watch the festivities on television…I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year.

And peace on earth.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

'Twas The Night Before Christmas…

Although many believe this to be the title of the popular Christmas poem, the actual title is An Account Of A Visit From St. Nicholas.  The long poem, written by Clement Moore in 1822 as a present for his three daughters, has become a Christmas staple.  Moore, an Episcopal minister, was initially hesitant about publishing his poem due to its frivolous content.

The poem, first published anonymously in the Troy, New York, Sentinel on December 23, 1823, had been submitted by a friend of Moore's.  It was first attributed to Moore in 1837 and finally openly acknowledged by Moore himself in 1844.

Four handwritten copies of the poem are known to exist, three in museums and the fourth (written and signed by Clement Clarke Moore as a gift to a friend in 1860) was sold by one private collector to another in December 2006 for a reported $280,000.

Moore's poem is largely responsible for today's image of Santa Claus as a "right jolly old elf" who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve in a sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer.  A rotund fellow who entered via the chimney and left toys for good boys and girls.

In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast used Moore's poem as the basis to create a likeness of Santa Claus that matches today's image.  The cartoon, which appeared in Harper's Weekly, depicted Santa with a full white beard, a red suit trimmed in white fur, and a large bag filled with toys.  He also gave Santa his North Pole workshop, elves, and Mrs. Claus.

Over the years, there has been some controversy about the authorship of the poem.  There are those who contend that Henry Livingston, Jr., was the true author.  Livingston was distantly related to Moore's wife.  But the general consensus continues to be that Clement Clarke Moore is the true author.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL

We all know Charles Dickens' story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his visits from the three ghosts on Christmas Eve.  A story of redemption—a miserly man whose concept of the Christmas spirit is "Bah, Humbug!"  Then his life is turned around after a visit from three Christmas ghosts—one from his past to remind him of what was and the promise of what could have been, one from his present to open his eyes to what he had become and how others felt about him, and one from the future to show him where he was headed if he didn't change his ways.

From a writer's perspective, it was the first time a story had been told from the point-of-view of a character within that story.  Point-of-view—something vital for today's writer of fiction.

The novella, first published in London on December 9, 1843, has been a staple of the Christmas season as a movie, television show, or play for well over a century.

This year, Hallmark's cable movie channel started showing non-stop Christmas movies early in November.  After noticing A CHRISTMAS CAROL for the third time, three different films, I wondered how many different versions of Dickens' story there were.  So, I did what I usually do when I want a quick answer to something…I Googled it.

And the results came as quite a surprise.  Things I knew, things I had known but forgotten, and things I never knew.  Twenty-eight films, twenty-three television productions, plus other miscellaneous offerings such as staged plays.  Live action, animation, a 3D computer generated images version from Disney in 2009, and even a couple where the character of Scrooge was portrayed as being female.

The first filming of A CHRISTMAS CAROL was a fifteen minute silent movie made in 1908 followed by two other silent versions made in 1910 and 1913.  There have been the straight theatrical films, musical versions, and animated versions with favorite and very familiar cartoon characters taking on the roles of Dickens' famous characters.  Of the twenty-eight movies, ten were released under Dickens' exact original title of A CHRISTMAS CAROL as were six of the twenty-three television productions.

Even though all the various productions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL tell Dickens' story of Scrooge and the visits from the three ghosts, many had their own unique twist and flavor of the original.  I think my favorite is a 1970 theatrical musical version titled SCROOGE which stars Albert Finney as the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge who learns the lessons of the spirit of the Christmas season.

Wishing everyone a joyous holiday season, happy new year, and most of all—Peace On Earth.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

THE MILLIONAIRE'S CHRISTMAS WISH—a conversation with Chance and Marcie

In honor of the season, I'd like to introduce you to Chance Fowler and Marcie Roper and tell you a bit about their Christmas story.

Harlequin has reissued 16 of my backlist titles in ebook.  THE MILLIONAIRE'S CHRISTMAS WISH is a Silhouette Desire originally released in print December 1998 and currently available in ebook.

Good morning Chance and Marcie.  I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.

Chance:  Thank you, Shawna.  It was nice of you to invite us.  So…what would you like to know?

My first question is for whichever of you wants to answer it.  How did the two of you meet?

Chance:  (Winks at Marcie) Do you want to take that one?

Marcie:  My pleasure.  I was minding my own business, doing a little window shopping on my way back to my car from the book store, when he came along and accosted me in broad daylight.  He grabbed me against my will then proceeded to kiss me.  I was truly shocked and also a little frightened.  I had no idea who he was or why he had forced himself on me.

Chance:  Wait a minute…in my defense that wasn't quite the way it happened.

Marcie:  (grins) My way sounds more mysterious…and more interesting.

Did he literally grab you on the street, a total stranger, and kiss you for no reason?

Marcie:  Oh, yes…that's exactly what he did.

Chance:  Well…not really…not like that.

Ah, ha!  What's the true story?

Chance:  I was being followed by another one of those tabloid photographers who were always trying to get candid pictures of me that they could exploit.

As sole heir to the Fowler Industries fortune, an eligible bachelor leading a very high profile life including yacht racing and making the rounds of the club scene always with a beautiful woman on your arm, I can see where there would be an interest in your activities.

Chance:  Since I was on my way to one of my special projects, I had to lose the guy following me.  I was looking for a place to duck away from him…hide in plain sight, so to speak.  As soon as I rounded a corner and was out of his sight for a few seconds, I turned my reversible jacket inside out to a different color, but there wasn't any place for me to hide.  My intention was to put my arm around her shoulder so it would look like we were a couple window shopping together, but for some strange reason she objected.  So I did what I had to do.  The photographer ran on down the street without paying any attention to a couple kissing in front of a store window.  I tried to explain to Marcie, but she ran off without listening.

Marcie:  It was later that I discovered who he was…Take-A-Chance Fowler, as the media referred to him.  Major playboy, always being photographed with different women, yacht racing, seen at all the trendy clubs.  In other words, a spoiled rich guy living off the family wealth who had never done an honest day's work in his life.

Chance:  Definitely not a very flattering assessment of someone she didn't even know.  I was determined to set her straight and change that erroneous assumption.

Take-A-Chance?  Where did that come from?

Chance:  One of those stupid tags the press pinned on me.  "Always willing to take a chance on some wild stunt."

Marcie:  I can't begin to tell you how embarrassed I was when he told me Chance was his legal first name, not some cute little nickname.  It was his mother's maiden name.  And the more I found out about the real person behind all those tabloid headlines, the more impressed I was and the more I liked him.

You mentioned your special projects.  What did you mean by that?

Chance:  I have several projects I finance and am actively involved with, things I don't want the media to know about.  I don't want the other people involved to find their pictures and names on the front page of a tabloid newspaper.

What type of projects?

Chance:  (flashes a sly grin) You can find out all about them in the book.

Marcie, did you encounter any unusual problems when you began dating someone of Chance's…uh…notoriety?

Marcie:  (furrows her brow in a moment of concentration) Well, there were some uncomfortable moments with his family, such as the Christmas dinner at his father's house—

Chance:  (laughs) Merely uncomfortable?  That's an understatement!

Is there more to the family story than you're saying?

Marcie:  You mean other than his father being responsible for driving a wedge between us that nearly destroyed our relationship?

Chance:  My family is synonymous with the word dysfunctional.  They're the personification of that old joke…look up the word dysfunctional in the dictionary and you find their picture.  You'll find out all about them when you read the book.

I'd ask you to explain, but I already know what you're going to say.

Marcie:  (laughs) You have to read the book!

Thank you, Marcie and Chance.

THE MILLIONAIRE'S CHRISTMAS WISH, a Silhouette Desire by Shawna Delacorte reissued by Harlequin in ebook and available at (do search for author name Shawna Delacorte).  Also available from Amazon for Kindle and Barnes & Noble for Nook and other online retailers.  Additional information and excerpts available on my website

When millionaire Chance Fowler first kissed the pretty stranger in his arms, he'd only meant to dodge the photographers who'd tailed him. Then she ran off—but he couldn't forget her tempting taste on his lips. So he sought out the tantalizing woman who'd ignited his long-dormant desire….

Lovely Marcie Roper was the first woman to close her eyes to Chance's fortune. And though she'd captivated the jaded tycoon, Marcie yearned for what his wealth couldn't buy—a man who would say "I do" and mean it forever. Could Marcie convince Chance that love—for the right woman—would last a lifetime?

Inside Front Cover Excerpt:
She was certainly different from the type of women he usually encountered. Her eyes sparked with the fire of emotion and her stance declared a very appealing independence. Yes, indeed. Marcie Roper was quite different—a breath of fresh air. He recalled the way she felt in his arms, the taste of her delicious mouth. He fought the almost overwhelming desire to pull her into his arms and kiss her again.

He watched her walk away from him—for the second time since he first encountered her. She had turned out to be a very intriguing woman. He already knew about the golden flecks in her hazel eyes, her soft pliable lips, her addictive taste and how good she felt in his arms. And now he knew she was certainly a challenge—and Chance had never been one to back down from a challenge.
Text Copyright © 1998 by SKDennison, Inc.  Cover Art Copyright © 1998 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

Check out my Shawna Delacorte website for more excerpts from THE MILLIONAIRE'S CHRISTMAS WISH and my other Harlequin ebook reissues.