I have to admit to being a New Year Scrooge.  Whenever I hear about New Year celebrations I want to shout “Bah humbug!” and go and hide in a dark corner somewhere.

Why?  Well, we’re at the end of another year, one year older – and we’re supposed to celebrate? No, no, no, this is all wrong!!

Maybe it’s because as I get older I’m more conscious of time passing, but mostly it’s because I don’t like to be told what to do.  At New Year, we’re supposed to be happy.  End of story.  This forced jollity really grates on me and makes me want to do the opposite.  Okay, so I’m contrary, but why should I have to be happy about it if I don’t want to?  It’s a free world.

I don’t mind other people being happy obviously and I like a good party as much as the next person, but not for this reason.  Why not just have a party for the sake of having fun and being with friends?  That’s a much better idea IMO.

So I won’t be going crazy this year either, but there is one tradition I like to follow at New Year – that of making a wish on a Daruma.  Many moons ago, when I lived in Japan for a while, I was told that at New Year you buy a small papier maché model of Daruma (see photo – according to Wikipedia he is modelled after Bodhidharma the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism and is a symbol of perseverance and good luck).  You then make a wish for the coming year and draw in one of his eyes.  If, by the end of the year, he’s fulfilled your wish, you give him another eye.  If not, I guess he remains one-eyed for the rest of time. 

I’m not even sure if this is a bona fide Japanese tradition (anyone else know for sure??), but it appeals to me and very occasionally the Daruma actually grants my wish.  (Although I have a lot of one-eyed ones in my cupboards!)

Now all I have to do is decide what should I wish for this year.  Hmm, tricky …

Hope 2010 is a good year for everyone though!

This is a crazy time of year to start a blog, there are probably a million other things I should be doing – like buying presents for my offspring I hear them cry.  Well, for once, I finished my present buying a whole week before Christmas – that must be a first!  Either that, or I’ve forgotten something, but since I can’t remember what that is, too bad.  Is this the onset of senility or just general Christmas-induced craziness?  Hopefully the latter.

Christmas in our household is pretty confusing anyway because I’m half Swedish and that complicates matters no end.  Swedes celebrate on Christmas Eve with a huge “smörgåsbord” containing things like ham, meatballs, pickled herring, cheese, salt beef and loads of other things.  Since I was used to that, celebrating with a turkey (and on the wrong day!) seemed weird to me when I first moved to England, so we started doing both.

Two Christmases?  Not such a good idea really.  It means twice the amount of cooking, twice the amount of eating and (obviously) twice the amount of putting on weight.  Sadly, not double rations of presents though (I wish!).  For the past couple of years I’ve therefore tried to stop this over-the-top celebrating, but so far, I’m not doing too well.

“But we can’t have Christmas without Swedish meatballs?  And what about the pickled herring?  And the saffron buns?  It’s not Christmas without those!”  These are the replies I get whenever I try to raise the subject.  So we compromise – not a full smörgåsbord, but a few favourite dishes to savour on Boxing Day when everyone’s sick to death of turkey anyway.

And then there’s the porridge.  Porridge??   You’re probably thinking, is she nuts?  Nope.  Swedes have rice porridge with sugar and cinnamon as a sort of dessert at Christmas, at least my family does, and there is no way it would be Christmas without it.  Trust me.  So at some point, we’ll have that, probably when we’re sick to death of meatballs and herring as well.

So will there be time for anything other than eating?  Well, as always, I’m hoping to curl up with a good book and some chocolate – okay, that’s not necessary, but hey, it’s Christmas!.  And maybe watch one of the DVD’s that will undoubtedly be someone’s present (I know because I bought it).  A perfect Christmas?  Well, as close to it as you can get I guess although I’m determined that one year I am going to have one of those “real old-fashioned fun-filled family Christmases” (to quote Mr. Griswold in National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation”) with a house full of people, silly games and over-the-top party clothes.  Sounds like hard work actually, but might be worth it?  We’ll see.

I suppose every would-be blogger has to have a first post to fill this blank empty space that looks so daunting, but what better way for an author to start a blog than by saying “I’ve been signed”!?!?  Well, that’s how I’m starting mine anyway and I’m absolutely delighted to finally be able to share this news with the world.

Choc Lit is the wonderful publisher who have offered to publish my novel Trade Winds – a historical romance set partly in Sweden, partly in the Far East.  I couldn’t quite believe it when I got the much-longed-for e-mail to say they’d like to discuss offering me a contract.  It’s something every author dreams of and it’s impossible to describe the feeling when it happens.  Here’s how they announced it to the world:-

Choc Lit Adds a Historical to its Selection!

Christina Courtenay is the latest new author to secure a publishing deal with women’s fiction specialist Choc Lit. Choc Lit will publish her novel Trade Winds ready for the 2010 Summer market. It will be their first historical women’s title. 

“This is Christina’s debut novel, however she is a talented writer of novellas with two published and a third to be published in 2010. We’re delighted to have Christina join the selection and add a new taste! We’ve been searching for the right historical for some time and Trade Winds is a perfect match for our selection. It’s a gripping story with a Captain Jack Sparrow type hero – except more manly of course!” stated Lyn Vernham, Choc Lit’s Marketing Director.

Trade Winds is based loosely around the Swedish East India Company’s first journey to China in 1731. When a reckless young Scotsman wins a ship in a game of chance, he sails to Sweden to make his fortune. Here he meets a strong-willed merchant’s daughter who has been swindled out of her inheritance.  They embark on a disastrous marriage of convenience and ultimately a daring voyage to the Far East.

Their website (www.choc-lit.co.uk) says that Choc Lit is “where heroes are like chocolate – irresistible!”, and I certainly hope that’s true of the hero I’ve created.  But I’ll leave it up my future readers to decide.

For now, it’s back to reality, which means doing some rewrites.  I don’t mind because hopefully it will make for a better book and at the moment, every step of the way towards publication day feels exciting!