Review: Handmade Holidays by ‘Nathan Burgoine

This is my first holiday read of the season, and I don’t feel precipitate in saying that it’s my favourite. It has so many elements that I love—friends to lovers, slow burn, ensemble cast, people taking on the responsibilities of jobs and families, found families… And they’re put together in a way that is not hit you over the head sappy, but genuine. I was not at all surprised that the author drew on his own experiences in writing it. The story, for the most part, feels true.

To be honest, Burgoine had me at ‘origami crane.’ Nick has got a Christmas tree for his apartment and his first Christmas on his own. It’s only when he gets it set up that he realises he doesn’t have any decorations. Enter Haruto, or ‘Ru’ as he is commonly known, with a box of candy canes and an origami crane. The crane is the first piece in a collection that grows along with Nick’s new family.

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I really love the way the crane shows up throughout the story. Cranes have a special meaning for me. I was still living in Japan when my sister got engaged, and for her wedding, I folded one thousand cranes. It was a really positive experience. When you are folding that many cranes, you get into a rhythm. It’s like knitting or any other repetitive activity–it becomes sort of like a meditation. Your fingers are busy but your mind can wander.

At the wedding, the cranes took on a life of their own. My sister loved them and decided to use them in her decorations. We hung them from the roof, we put them on tables as decoration and even placed them among the bushes in her garden—it was an outdoor wedding. The guests loved them and a lot of people took them home as favours. My sister gathered all the ones that we left and kept them, until another friend was having an event and asked if she could use them. I like to think that a few of my cranes are still out there, kicking around, pressed between the pages of a photo album, or maybe sitting on a shelf or a desk.

But yes, digression aside, I thoroughly recommend Handmade Holidays for a seasonal story that will leave you feeling warm and glowy, without drowning you in saccharine sweetness.


Handmade Holidays

At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.

A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born.

As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.

Of course, Nick might have already missed his shot at the one, and it might be too late.

Still, after fifteen Christmases, Nick is ready to risk it all for the best present yet.

Purchase Links:

Ninestar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo 

When you can’t pick *one* favourite Christmas song…

I’ve shared this before, but not on this blog. Yes, it’s an oldie, but there are still people in the world who haven’t seen this, so for them (and those who haven’t seen it in a while): acapella group Straight no Chaser presents the ultimate Christmas song.

Make sure you watch until 2:12 when it really gets next level. You can stop watching after that, but if you do, you have no soul.

The Ugliest Sweater: Live

Not last weekend, the weekend before, I did something for the first time. If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I decided I needed to challenge my fear of putting my work in front of others and really concentrate on getting it out there. I put three pieces into Cold Reads, and pitched and submitted my work to agents. I still haven’t successfully managed to react to someone saying ‘oh, I’d like to read [your story] without immediately telling them everything that is wrong with [my story], but hey. Baby steps.

Not baby steps: reading an excerpt from The Ugliest Sweater to a live audience at the NZSA December Book Buzz and Open Mic.

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Oh this will be easy, I thought. I got up in front of classes of students how many times when I was an English teacher? Not to mention doing presentations at seminars! I’m used to public speaking. This will be a piece of cake.

Yeah, nah. My voice wobbled, and I did that nervous thing when you repeat yourself a lot. Whoops.

Still–I did it! And people laughed at the funny bits, and wow, that was a rush. In retrospect, I’m really glad I chose The Ugliest Sweater to read, because the humour is pretty much immediate. I’m also glad that I chose the NZSA Book Buzz to read at because the audience was primarily other authors and they were definitely a sympathetic audience. I’m definitely going to do this again–and other authors, I encourage you too as well.

 

Cover Reveal: The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert

On this day next week, The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert will be released! I’m really looking forward to sharing it. We get to revisit Jake and Dan, as well as spending time with The Charity Shop Rejects, who, by performing in ugly sweaters, are men after my own heart.

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The cover doesn’t really convey what this story is about. It’s beautiful—I don’t think Ninestar’s cover artist Natasha Snow has made a cover that wasn’t—and does a good job of suggesting seasonal without being overtly about Christmas or one of the other holidays represented by the NineStar Holiday Story Collection. The problem is that when you have a collection of stories that are as different as the NSP Holiday Collection (seriously, we have stories revolving around Christmas tree ornaments to stories revolving around dragons), it’s really hard to come up with something that can really capture all of them.

So how to properly convey the train wreck that is The Charity Shop Rejects? It’s a tough one. A really, really, really tough one. I don’t know if there’s even—

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Okay, nevermind.

The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert.

Mikaal Sarhadi has been in trouble since the moment he met guitarist Declan Hyde. Declan treats music like religion, setting high standards for himself and his bandmates. Mikaal struggles to even step on stage. He will do anything to justify Declan’s belief in him—even if that means ignoring the powerful attraction between them.

After a chance meeting with Brandon, Declan’s estranged brother, reveals just how much Declan will sacrifice for his music, Mikaal wonders if he can even call himself a musician. Worse, drummer Hiro’s visa application has been denied. With time running out for The Charity Shop Rejects, Mikaal must conquer his stage fright or lose music—and Declan—entirely.

Preorder from NineStar Press or Amazon (coming to other vendors from December 18th).

November Done: December To-do

I feel like I’m finally shaking off a funk, and coming back into the light. Nothing’s wrong. I haven’t been down, or at least, I haven’t had a reason to be sad. I just wasn’t my usual self. I think this is the result of finishing Big Freelance Project (the first draft anyway) on Tuesday and spending the afternoon getting my flamingos in a row. Having some relaxed time without feeling that there was work I should be doing was clearly necessary!

December is going to be a very busy month, even without taking on any new freelance project. Big Freelance project will need a tidy up, and I want to finish not one, but two drafts–but I’m getting ahead of myself.

23 October 2019 • 9_00 pmThe Cable Yacht Club

November Goals:

  • Morgen Prince Complete First Draft. (45,499/75,000 words)-Nope! Currently 55,421/75,000 words, but that is 55,000 more words than I had at the start of November.
  • Freelance Project 9/12 chapters  Done! Waiting client feedback.
  • Get back into blogging  I’m going to mark this as a success!
  • Return Edits of Dead Wrong (1200 em-dashes). Well, I talked about this…Did not actually do it.

Note to self: Next time you decide to do NaNoWriMo… do not take on a freelance project requiring you to write 40,000 words in a month at the same time. It just doesn’t work.

December Goals:

  • Morgen Prince Complete first draft, tidy and send to editor!
  • Dead Wrong edits and cover request
  • Tweak plot to Murder Isn’t Art
  • Outline The Case of the Very Forthright Letter that Peregrine Should Not Have Written and think of a better title
  • Look at Over Familiar and sigh a lot, and then think about an outline
  • Finish drafting one of the above
  • blog
  • Have a birthday
  • Release The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert
  • Read 11 books to reach my goal of reading 100 books in 2017

December hasn’t even properly started, and I feel like I need a nap…

Ugly Sweater Season.

Ages ago, probably in December 2015, I was so excited by the release of my first published book, The Ugliest Sweater, that I set up a google alert to let me know if anyone talked about it. In the two years since, I have not received one alert about my story. Instead, at this time of year my inbox explodes with newspaper headlines like the following:

Runners Don Ugly Sweaters For Annual Race: Syracuse Ugly Sweater 5k.

And it makes me really, really happy. If you click on the link, you’ll get a photo of the ugly sweaters in action. Even better, part of the proceeds raised by these horrible sweaters went to the Rescue Mission. I also get Ugly Sweaters of all varieties showing up in my Facebook feed.

If the time of year is getting to you, or you find all the bad news overwhelming, why not Google ugly sweaters and see what you find? Even Chuck Tingle’s in on it (admittedly with a handsome sweater):

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Love Is Real Handsome Holiday Sweater from Chuck Tingle’s Shirts For Buds.

I dare you to look at this sweater, and be miserable. It’s physically impossible, right? So as November turns into December and the seasonal madness begins, just remember–the sweaters have your back.

Curses, Foiled Again! by Sera Trevor Out Now!

I have been looking forward to today almost as much as Sera! I was lucky enough to beta-read Curses, Foiled Again! and have watched Felix and John’s progress right from the start. I really enjoyed the unique mixture of vampires and old Hollywood, while John’s cynicism and Felix’s obliviousness just ticked all my boxes. This isn’t your typical romance or even your typical vampire romance, but if you like characters with baggage, quirky plots and dark humour, then you will love it, just like I do.

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Felix is a vampire—a fierce creature of the night who strikes terror into the hearts of everyone unlucky enough to become his prey. Or at least, that’s what he thought was true, until he met John. John is completely unimpressed with Felix, much to his dismay. Felix becomes fixated on proving his ferocity to John—and when that doesn’t work, he strives to make any impression on him at all.

John is a witch, and as all witches know, vampires are notoriously stupid creatures who only have the power to hurt those who fear them. Besides, he’s under a curse much more frightening than any vampire. Felix’s desperate attempts to impress him annoy John at first, but gradually, they become sort of endearing.  Because of his curse, John has pushed everyone in his life away. But Felix can’t be hurt, so there’s no harm in letting him hang around.

Felix is technically dead. John has nothing left to live for. But together, they might have a shot at life.

This dark and witty vampire romance for adults is complete at 100,000 words, with no cliffhanger. Despite some dark twists and turns, it ends with a solid HEA.

Ninestar | Amazon |Smashwords | Kobo | iBooks

 

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