Plastic trees, shag-pile disasters and possible lead paint poisoning – Yes, it’s ‘nearly’ Christmas!

Jo Bartlett Amazon 1Remember when we were kids and the countdown to Christmas was calculated in shopping days? Now that we live in a 24/7 culture, we can just talk in plain old days. Right now, I can tell you there are thirty eight of them left. That still seems like a long time to go, right? And far too early to be talking about Santa Claus, turkeys or over-done sprouts. As far as the latter is concerned, it’s always too early for me. But, since today marks the official release of my Christmas novella, I am going to try to get festive and put you in the mood, in the hope that you might forget yourself, go crazy, splash out 77p and download a copy.

As a believer in you-know-who, in the late 70s, I knew how to write a Christmas list. Although my mum would tell you that her generation knew the true meaning of Christmas – something about a walnut, an orange and being grateful to have them in your stocking – I’m just as likely to tell my children that my childhood spanned the real ‘good old days’, as far as Christmas is concerned. I remember waiting all year for Santa to bring me a Tiny Tears doll and I loved her, when she finally turned up on the 25th December 1978, almost as if her tears weren’t the only ‘real’ thing about her.

These days, my children want everything, but don’t really *want* anything at all. My nine year old will put his initials next to hundreds of things in the Argos catalogue. I’ve told him more than once that it would be quicker, and save ink, if he were to put his initials next to the things he doesn’t want. They get allowances and treats from grandmas and aunts, so, more often than not, they can buy what they want during the course of the year. I feel sorry for them, in a way, as they’ll never know that torturous wait for the one toy they truly want above all others and the sheer joy that accompanies its arrival.

The piles of presents have shrunk in size as my children have grown older, although the price hasn’t. iPods, iPhones, iPads, iReally-wish-I-had-shares-in-Apple, don’t look nearly as impressive in their wrapping as wooden train sets or Barbie’s deluxe town house. But, now that I’m a grown up, at least I get to make some of the decisions. Back in the era that taste forgot, my mum wouldn’t let us have a real Christmas tree, in case the pine needles got stuck in the cream shag-pile carpet. We weren’t allowed to put together the artificial tree until the twenty-something of December, either, and each year that passed the complicated colour coding system (probably lead paint) had flaked off a bit (making construction more tricky) and many of the artificial pine needles had found a new home nestling in the loft insulation.

Now the decorations go up as close to the 1st December as possible and, when the wood burner allows it to survive the M4034S-4211heat, we have a real tree. Not that I’m completely guilt free when it comes to my own children at Christmas. A good example of this would be the card I produced back when my youngest was just a baby – making all four children pose for a nativity scene outside my mum’s garden shed! Now aged, 16, 14, 13 and 9, I would have zero chance of recreating it this year. It’s all about the puckered-lip, fish-faced selfie, as far as my teens are concerned. But this photo is just one of the wonderful memories we have and something we still laugh about almost a decade later.

Four years ago to this very day, I received a cancer diagnosis that changed my life and, because I suddenly realised I was a mere mortal and that time is finite for everyone, I thought about the things I really wanted to do. One of those things was to fulfil a childhood dream of writing a novel and seeing it in print but, most of all, I just wanted to be around to see my children grow up and live to enjoy a misspent retirement with my husband. Christmas, and life in general, would be nothing without my friends, family and those absolutely dearest to me – my husband and children.

‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’ is set in the present day, rather than the 70s, but it’s about those same special bonds and one woman’s search to complete the missing piece of her family. It’s also about the humour in life and the things people do that only those you really love can get away with and live to tell the tale.

Back when I was growing up, you could probably have bought a Sloe Gin Fizz for 77p and maybe even a whiskey chaser but, today, it wouldn’t stretch to a cup of tea in most places. So, for that little bit of warmth, and to kick-start an early Christmas, you could always check out the novella on Amazon instead via this link. Frankly, that’s as hard as my hard sell is likely to get…

Anthology coverTo counter that shameless self-promotion, there are some other fantastic books out at the moment, too, from those I would count on that list of special people in my life this Christmas – my friends – including The Write Romantics’ Anthology, Helen Phifer’s latest in the ‘Annie Graham’ series, Deirdre Palmer (aka Harriet James’) ‘Falling to Earth’, Steve Dunn’s ‘Viking Resurrection’ and debuts by Kerry Fisher, Jane LythellRachael Thomas and Sarah Lewis. Plenty to keep you warm this Christmas yet to come.

An extra-specially merry Christmas to my fantastic beta readers too – Julie, Lynne, Paula, Jennie and Steve – Sharon, for the endless encouragement and cheerleading, plus my old school friends – Sarah, Kate and Claire – who inadvertently helped plant the seeds of the idea for this story.

I hope you have good one, too, and watch out for those pine needles in the shag-pile.

Jo x


14 thoughts on “Plastic trees, shag-pile disasters and possible lead paint poisoning – Yes, it’s ‘nearly’ Christmas!

  1. I grinned all the way through that, Jo, as you painted the picture of my childhood too. For me, it was a Baby Needs You and a Girl’s World. I longed for them and was beside myself when I finally got them. I never got a Mr Frosty set or a game of Mousetrap that I desperately wanted. Mind you, hubby got me the latter a few years ago and I lost patience trying to work out how it all fit together so I never played it!

    Wishing you much deserved success with “The Gift …” It’s a lovely read and I’m honoured to have beta read it. Already excited for the next one to come out!

    Congratulations. Enjoy your launch day and how far you’ve travelled since your life-changing diagnosis four years ago. Thinking of you.

    Jessica xx

    • Ah, Jessica, I never got the Sindy three story town-house I wanted, either! Apparently, Mr Frosty is a huge disappointment too, so I don’t think you missed out on too much. Glad the blog post brought back happy memories and thanks for all your support xx

  2. I so remember pine needles in the shag pile! And, slippers, shoes & socks too!!! I always wanted a post office set and never got one, but I did get the nurses uniform by going to be a grown-up nurse. I loved your story ‘The Gift..” It was a brilliant read and very special to read it first. I hope it’s going to be the story that keeps on giving too, because I want to know what’s yet to come! xx

    • Thanks Lynne 🙂 I can just see you in your nurse’s uniform handing out TLC to your dollies and teddies! Really glad you enjoyed TGOCYTC and thank you for all your support xx

  3. Lovely blog…adore the photo! Yes, pouting is in at my house as well, or in the case of the 15yo, no photos at all! Happy launch day, my lovely. Thanks for the mention, you really don’t have to counter your promo – we’re all allowed a bit of a trumpet toot on launch day – but says a lot about you that you do. xx

    • Thanks, Kerry, I’m a bit too British, I think, and not terribly good at selling myself! I’m glad I’m not the only one with pouting teens 🙂 Thanks for your support and lovely comments xx

  4. Jo I was smiling away to myself reading that, I love the picture of the kids as well. Why did I never think of making mind do that? I’ve just finished reading The Gift Of Christmas Yet To Come and it was amazing, I smiled, I cried but most of all I felt a warm fuzzy feeling inside me that made me get up and go and tune the radio onto Smooth Xmas radio station. So thank you I’m feeling all Christmassy now and typing away to Wham’s Last Christmas – perfect.

    Helen xx

    • I’m glad it made you smile and thanks so much for taking time out of your hectic schedule to read and review the novella. Your support means so much, especially when I know just how busy you are. You’re a top lady, Helen Phifer! xx

  5. Hi Jo
    Happy publication day! I’m so delighted for you and I’m absolutely certain that The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come will bring your wonderful wit and warmth to lots of lucky readers. I know I’m in for a treat and I’m looking forward to downloading it later.
    Love Alys xx

  6. Thanks, Alys. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think, as I really value your opinion. It’s been an exhausting but fun day and I’ve had lots of lovely support, not least from my wonderful Write Romantic buddies xx

  7. Happy publication day, Jo! I hope you’ve had a fabulous time. Such a special occasion!
    You have every right to promote The Gift…seems to me that everyone who’s read it so far has loved it. Trust me to be at work all day and not have had time yet. I’m very annoyed. It arrived on my Kindle this morning and I’m dying to read it but I want to read it all in one go so haven’t started it yet.
    I know I’m in for a real treat! You’re a lovely writer and a lovely person and you deserve all the praise I know you’re going to get. Very proud of you. X
    ps Tiny Tears was adorable wasn’t she! 🙂

    • Thanks, Sharon. I hope you get a nice long break to have a read soon and I hope it turns out to be good enough way to use your leisure time 🙂 Thank you so much for all your support and being a fabulous cheerleader! xx

  8. A day to remember, Jo! Very best of luck to you with the novella, and all your future publications. I just hope I can be as supportive of you as you have always been to me. xxxx And on the subject of Christmas memories, the first present I remember really, really wanting was a black doll. Funny when you think this was, ahem, about 1950, I couldn’t have been more than three years old, and I can only think I got the idea from a book. The doll duly arrived, dressed in bright orange hand-knitted clothes.

    • Thanks Deirdre, you’ve all been brilliant and really supportive 🙂 My mum used to sing a song to me about a black dolly called Topsie, which probably wouldn’t be considered politically correct these days, but I always wanted a Topsie dolly too and sadly never got one xx

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