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Holiday Memories: Memories of an Austrian Christmas by Victoria Simcox

Holiday Memories is a month long series of heartwarming holiday stories from authors all over the world.  We at As the Pages Turn hope you will enjoy and have a happy holiday full of good and happy memories!


Memories of an Austrian Christmas
by Victoria Simcox

When I was six years old, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a Christmas with my relatives in Austria—my Oma and Opa (grandmother and grandfather) on my mother’s side of the family and my uncle Christian, my mother’s younger brother. Unlike the Americans whose main celebration of Christmas is on the twenty fifth of December, the Austrians is on the twenty fourth, on Christmas Eve. There is a long tradition they hold to that says that the Christkindl (The Christ Child) comes to Earth on the twenty fourth of December and that is the reason they celebrate on that Eve. Saint Nicholas or as they call him in Austria, Niklaus, actually comes before Christmas, either on the fifth or the sixth of December with his opponent the devil, known as Krampus. Together they come to the villager’s doors and ask the children whether they have been good or bad during the year. If the child says they were good, Niklaus may reward them with a small token such as an apple, orange, cookie or some nuts. If the child says that they were bad, Krampus will try to catch and spank him or her. This may sound politically incorrect, but to the Austrians its all in good fun and Niklaus will send the child running before Krampus has a chance to get them. Unfortunately I missed this part of the holiday event because I didn’t arrive in Austria until the week before Christmas. Even so my mother has filled me in on how fun this tradition was for her as a child.

Waking up Christmas Eve morn, I can still faintly remember the sounds and the smells in the air. Oma and my mother clanking around in the small kitchen down stairs preparing the food for the day and the smell of marzipan mingled together with ginger, allspice, and cinnamon filled my senses. Full of joyful wonder I got up and headed down the narrow old squeaky staircase of my grandparent’s small Vienna flat. Half way down I could see the living room, and with great bewilderment, I looked for the Christmas tree, but it was nowhere to be found. Even a few days earlier I had wondered why there wasn’t one up, but with all the excitement of being somewhere different for the holidays, I had forgotten to bring it up. I went into the kitchen and asked my mother why there was no Christmas tree?

If you like this story, click on cover to purchase an even better story by Victoria Simcox!

My mother conversed with my Oma in German, and then in English said to me, “Go now and get dressed. We could use your help in here.” I decided not to pursue asking about the tree seeing how busy they were making marzipan and ginger cookies and a very strong brandy soaked ladyfinger and whip cream cake. Later on that day I was glad that I didn’t, because after coming home in the evening from doing some last minute shopping with my uncle Christian, my sister and I were pleasantly surprised to see, standing in the small dark living room, a beautiful Christmas tree set aglow with real candles on its branches and under it toys for my sister and I. I never questioned my mother about why the tree was put up so late in the holiday until I was an adult and that is when I found out that it is tradition for the Austrians to put the tree up without the children knowing as late as possible on Christmas Eve. The children are sent out to play or do errands and then when they return in the evening they are surprised with a tree and unwrapped presents under it.

Today, my Oma and Opa are no longer with us, but I will never forget the special cozy Christmas I was able to spend with them. As a matter of fact, I still have a gift, a cute, cuddly, stuffed, little yellow lion with a red and white ribbon (the Austrian flag colors) tied in a bow around its neck, a present that my Oma had hand made and gave to me that Christmas Eve more then thirty something years ago.

Victoria, known as Vicki, was born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, to an Austrian immigrant mother, and a Dutch immigrant father. She has one older sister. When she was 7, Vicki moved with her family to British Columbia. Then in her early twenties to Western Washington, where she now resides in Marysville WA. She has been married for almost 20 years, and has 3 children. For the past 10 years, she has home schooled her children, and she also teaches elementary school art. Her other family members are, a Chihuahua, named Pipsy, 2 cats, named Frodo and Fritz, and 1 parakeet, named Pauly. She did have a pet rat named Raymond; when she started writing The Magic Warble, but sad to say, he has since passed away of old age. Vicki enjoys writing, reading, painting watercolors, good movies and just hanging out with friends and family. Her favorite author is C.S. Lewis, and one of her fondest memories is when she was 12. She would sit at the kitchen table, and read the Chronicles of Narnia to her mother while she cooked dinner. These magical stories were very dear to Vicki, and she remembers wishing, If only I could go to Narnia like Lucy and Susan. Vicki hopes that maybe she can touch someone with her story in a similar way.

Website: www.themagicwarble.com

Blog: www.victoriasimcox.blogspot.com

Facebook: Victoria Simcox

youtube book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cax8Pbpa7E

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Interview with Children’s Fantasy Author Victoria Simcox

Victoria SimcoxVictoria, known as Vicki, was born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, to an Austrian immigrant mother, and a Dutch immigrant father. She has one older sister. When she was 7, Vicki moved with her family to British Columbia. Then in her early twenties to Western Washington, where she now resides in Marysville WA. She has been married for almost 20 years, and has 3 children. For the past 10 years, she has home schooled her children, and she also teaches elementary school art. Her other family members are, a Chihuahua, named Pipsy, 2 cats, named Frodo and Fritz, and 1 parakeet, named Pauly. She did have a pet rat named Raymond; when she started writing The Magic Warble, but sad to say, he has since passed away of old age. Vicki enjoys writing, reading, painting watercolors, good movies and just hanging out with friends and family. Her favorite author is C.S. Lewis, and one of her fondest memories is when she was 12. She would sit at the kitchen table, and read the Chronicles of Narnia to her mother while she cooked dinner. These magical stories were very dear to Vicki and she remembers wishing, If only I could go to Narnia like Lucy and Susan. Vicki hopes that maybe she can touch someone with her story in a similar way.

Website: www.themagicwarble.com

Blog: victoriasimcox.blogspot.com

Facebook: Victoria Simcox

youtube book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cax8Pbpa7E

Thank you for this interview Victoria. Can you tell us what your latest book, The Magic Warble, is all about?

My book, The Magic Warble, is a fantasy story, listed as Juvenile fiction, but I feel it is for all ages. I’d say Juvenile and Young adult fiction are still my favorite categories to read.

Growing up reading CS Lewis’s beloved Narnia Chronicles has influenced me in writing The Magic Warble. My story is about a 12 year old girl named Kristina Kingsly, who hates to go to school because she doesn’t fit in. She’s bullied by some of the kids, and they make her daily life miserable. I created this aspect of my main characters life, because as a child, I had experienced dealing with bullies in school myself, and I remember hating to go because of them.

My parents owned their own piano store and they up and moved it many times, so before the age of 13, I had made 5 major moves, and had been to 7 different public schools. I can remember this being difficult for me, especially having to leave friends I had made, and even worse having to make new ones, which I was not good at.

I named the main character “Kristina” after my daughter Kristina, who is now 14. Even so, my book’s character is not characterized after my daughter.  Kristina in The Magic Warble is definitely her own unique person.

In the story, Kristina receives a gift from her teacher at school, and it’s this gift that magically takes her to another world, where she finds out that she not only fits in, but is chosen for a very important task, and if she completes the task, she will change the destiny of the land. Throughout her journey, Kristina meets all kinds of characters, such as dwarfs, gnomes, fairies, talking animals and a teenage boy named Werrien, who ends up going along with her on her adventure. Along her perilous journey, she will not only have her strength tested but her heart as well.

I wrote this story because, I love fairy tales and fantasy stories, and I have a big imagination that I thought I may as well put to good use. Once I got started writing the manuscript, I couldn’t stop. My characters seemed to take on a life of their own and I felt that I owed it to them to finish their story. This may seem a little weird, but when you spend a great amount of time writing a story, you do, or at least I do get very attached to my characters.

Even though The Magic Warble is a fantasy filled with adventure, suspense and intrigue, the underlying message is one of faith, hope, perseverance, friendship and love.

The Magic Warble

The Magic Warble (click on cover to purchase)

Is this your first novel?  If not, how has writing this novel different from writing your first?

This is my first novel.

How difficult was it writing your book?  Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

I would say that writing The Magic Warble was difficult at times because I did experience writers block and I still do. When this happens, my first instinct is to stress out about it, but that only has an adverse effect on my creative writing. What I’ve found works best for me, is to do the exact opposite. I usually take a break from writing for a day or two, and try not to think about it at all. This allows my mind to relax and when I relax new ideas come to me.

How have your fans embraced your latest novel?  Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

I have had many kids tell me that The Magic Warble is their favorite book. One young boy of 10 years old, who reads, but never finishes books, read my book in a couple of days. He said he couldn’t put it down, and that he was going to read it again right after he had finished it. One lady told me that the ending made her cry. Another young girl made me a card, thanking me for writing my story and told me that she could relate to my main character Kristina, who gets bullied at school, for she is experiencing the same thing. I also get asked quite often, when the sequel will be available.

What is your daily writing routine?

I think that I have an unusual daily writing routine. I only write for about 10 minutes at a time, and then get up and do other things like cooking and laundry for about 10 minutes at a time as well. So I’m up and down from my computer about every 10 minutes from morning till night, but this way I get what needs to be done around the house and I get my writing in as well as relieve my back and legs more often from sitting to long.

When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

House work, or homework with my kids. I always look forward to watching a little TV or a good movie at night before I go to bed.

What book changed your life?

I can’t say that any book has changed my life, but the books that have been a great influence on me in writing The Magic Warble is C S Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia

If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

Journey to a Dream. The life of Victoria Simcox

Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

That my underlying theme in The Magic Warble is one of faith, hope, perseverance friendship and love.

Thank you for this interview Victoria.  I wish you much success on your latest release, The Magic Warble!

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Book Excerpt: The Magic Warble by Victoria Simcox

The Magic Warble

The Magic Warble (click on cover to purchase)

Bernovem

Afraid to make a move, Kristina lay curled up in the place where she had been dumped out. The laundry sack was gone. The pile of laundry had been replaced by a pile of leaves, and instead of the basement floor, it seemed to be grass. She cautiously poked her head out the pile of leaves and saw a lovely manicured garden. In the middle of it sat a small cottage made of stones and with a thatched roof. The garden itself was circular and along its perimeter was a dense forest. The weather was slightly cold, and the sky was overcast. A cold breeze blew by her and made her shiver. She felt very strange, being in the garden, and wondered if she was simply dreaming. If this is a dream, I sure hope it’s more exciting than yesterday, she thought.She suddenly heard the sound of whistling again, and when she poked her head out of the pile of leaves, she saw a man—or at least she thought it might be a man—coming around the corner of the cottage. He looked old, and he seemed to be even shorter than herself. He had a stout stature, distinctly sharp facial features, icy blue eyes, pointy ears, a long white beard, and silver hair. Upon his left shoulder he carried a large sack, and in his right hand he held a rake. He walked toward the pile of leaves, and Kristina ducked back down so he wouldn’t see her. He dumped out the large sack onto the pile of leaves, which brought another pile of leaves upon her head. Kristina tried not to move or make a sound.

Then the little man struck a match and was about to throw it on the pile of leaves, right where she was hiding, but she jumped out just before he did so yelling, “Wait! Please don’t throw that
match!”

The little man almost fell backwards. “What in our lady’s name is this?” he said, steadying himself.

“I didn’t mean to end up in your leaf pile,” Kristina said nervously, while backing away. “As a matter of fact, I have no idea how I got here.”

The little man walked closer to her, leaning forward slightly and holding the rake in front of him, as if to protect himself. He stared at Kristina as though he’d never seen anyone like her before.

“You may find this hard to believe,” Kristina said, “but I was only trying to retrieve a little silver ball.”

The little man’s eyes grew wide. “A little silver ball, you say.”

“Yes, Sir I…”

The little man seemed impatient. “Well, go on. Go on, spit it out.”

“My teacher, Miss Hensley, gave it to me on the last day of school. It was a Christmas gift,” Kristina continued.

The little man twirled his beard around one finger as he thought for a moment. Then he looked up at her and, seeming relieved, said, “Why, yes, of course! How soon I lose my memory.” He dropped his rake on the ground.

“I’m very sorry if I upset you,” Kristina said.

“No, no. No worries! Come with me to my cottage, and we’ll have a nice cup of tea. I could use a little break anyway. My back’s about killin’ me,” he said, stretching backwards.

He picked up his rake, and then put it down on top of a wheelbarrow that was nearby. Then he motioned for Kristina to follow him. Kristina wasn’t sure if she should trust him, but he seemed friendly enough, so she walked after him. When they arrived at the cottage, he pushed open the small wooden door, and they went inside. He took a lantern down from a hook on the wall and led the way into the front room. There was a fire burning in a fireplace, and it made the room—probably the living room—feel cozy and warm. Kristina noticed that everything in the room was smaller than normal.

“Come, child, sit down,” the little man said, pointing to a small couch. “Now, how about that cup of tea?”

“Oh, yes, please. I’m a little chilly and that would warm me up,” Kristina said.

The little man picked up a basket filled with tiny red flowers.

Then he took a big handful of them and dropped them into a black kettle that was sitting on top of the fire. As the flowers fell in, the water in the kettle spat out the top.

“Now, then, let’s discuss matters while we wait on our tea,” he said, sitting down in an armchair across from Kristina. “This little silver ball… do you have it with you?” he asked, while lighting a pipe.

“Yes, I have it in my pocket. Would you like to see it?” Kristina asked.

“Yes, but let me get the tea for us first.” He got up and poured tea into two cups and handed one to her. The tea was fluorescent red, and Kristina had to squint because of its brightness.

“I’ve never seen tea like this before. Its color is such a brilliant red,” Kristina said. She took a sip of it. “Yum, this is very good.

I would say it tastes like…” She paused for a moment and then continued. “Well, actually, I can’t describe it at all, but it is very delicious.”

“It’s fairy blossom, very hard to come by nowadays,” the little man said as he sat back down. He took a big puff off his pipe, then stuck out his knuckle-swollen hand and said, “The name’s
Rumalock.”

Kristina took hold of his hand and shook it. “I don’t mean to ask a silly question or seem rude, but are you a human?”

Rumalock chuckled and said, “No, I am what you would call a dwarf.”

“I’ve heard of dwarfs in fairy tales.” She looked a little embarrassed.

“I never thought they… or, I mean, you were real. I mean, no one I know of has ever met one,” she said, getting a little tongue-tied and turning red. “I hope that I’m not saying the wrong things.”

Rumalock chuckled again. “No need to feel bashful, my dear. I’m sure you don’t run into many dwarfs where you come from, and for that matter, I guess, I could say that I don’t get the chance
to meet many of your type either.”

Kristina took another sip of her tea and then said, “My name is Kristina.”

“Pleased to meet you, Kristina,” Rumalock said. “Now, should we take a look at this little ball?”

“Oh, yes, of course.” She took it out of her pocket and dropped it onto the palm of his hand. He held his eyeglasses with his other hand and peered down at it. He rolled it around and then clasped his hand tightly shut around it.

“Yup! It is the one,” he said. “This, my dear, is a very special day, to say the least.”

“Oh, why’s that?” Kristina asked, looking a little confused.

“This little ball is called the Magic Warble. It is what everyone in our land has been waiting for, for many years,” Rumalock said excitedly. Then, looking very serious, he narrowed his eyes.

“After it was given to you, did anyone else come into contact with it or even with anything that it was stored in?”

Kristina had to think for a moment and then answered, “Yes, three people, to be exact. Wait a minute, four, actually, if you include my pet rat, Raymond.” She started to count on her fingers.

“So it would be Graham Kepler, Hester Crumeful, Davina Pavey, Raymond, and, of course, me.”

“My, my, that many, and a rat also. I haven’t seen one of those little fellows in years. This could make matters very complicated,” Rumalock said.

“How so?” Kristina asked.

Rumalock placed the Magic Warble back in Kristina’s hand and said, “After the Magic Warble was given to you, whoever touched it or even anything it touched, like a container it may have been resting in, will be brought here.”

“Where is here?” Kristina asked.

“The place you are in, child, is called Bernovem,” Rumalock answered. He took another long drag of his pipe and blew out a large number of perfectly round smoke rings. Then he got out of his
chair, walked to the fireplace, and took a dusty book off the mantel.

“What is that?” Kristina asked.

“This, my dear, is the Book of Prophecy, and it is the only one in the whole land of Bernovem.” He opened it and ran his finger along the page. “Ah ha! Here it is, just as predicted: Kristina
Kingsly,” he said.

“Do you mean I’m in that book?” Kristina asked, getting up off the couch to take a look inside it.

Rumalock pointed his finger on the page. “Is your name Kristina Kingsly?” he asked, while glancing up at her through his round glasses.

“Yes,” she answered, looking puzzled. “But how come I’ve never heard of Bernovem?”

“Bernovem is a land very far from your land, or any other, as a matter of fact. It’s in a totally different galaxy than where you are from. You see, child, you have been brought here by the Magic Warble to deliver it to its resting place.”

Kristina’s face went pale.

“Is something the matter?” Rumalock asked her.

“I’m just worried that I won’t know where to bring it,” Kristina said.

“I thought you might feel that way. I must tell you that I can’t promise you that your journey will be a smooth one, but if you trust that the Magic Warble will lead you to where it needs to go,
you should be fine. And besides, you might even get some help along the way.”

Kristina looked back into the book. “Why are so many of the pages blank?” she asked.

“Oh that’s because the prophecies in this book will only appear on the pages a few minutes before they actually come to pass. Look here—it says, ‘Kristina’s scrape on her arm was healed.’”

“How could that be? The scrape is right here on my arm. It couldn’t possibly heal within a few minutes,” she said, showing him the scrape she had gotten from falling on the icy sidewalk the morning before.

“Ah! But are you sure? Give me your arm.” Rumalock said.

Kristina stretched her arm out, and Rumalock poured a few drops of his tea onto her scrape.

“Ouch! What are you doing? That’s very hot!” she said, shaking her arm to relieve the pain.

“Take a look at your scrape now,” Rumalock said excitedly.

“It’s gone!”

“That’s right! The tea is also magic.”

“This is all so cool,” Kristina said excitedly.

“Yes, yes, I suppose you could say that,” Rumalock said as he placed the Book of Prophecy back on the mantel. “Now, child, you look hungry. How about a nice warm meal?”

“I’d like that very much,” Kristina said.

Kristina ate a delicious meal of cheese, brown bread, boiled potatoes, and the best chocolate cake she had ever tasted. Afterward, while sitting by the crackling fire, she still could hardly believe
where she was or how she had gotten there, but she was much too sleepy to figure it out. She took the Magic Warble out of her pocket to take another look at it, and when she stared down at it; her sleepy eyes suddenly grew two sizes bigger.

“The Magic Warble! Its color has changed. It used to be tarnished silver, but now it is light purple,” she said.

“Yes, of course, Kristina, it is all part of its journey,” Rumalock said. He sat across from her in his armchair, smoking his pipe.

“All part of the journey?” Kristina repeated, yawning. Her eyes grew so heavy that she couldn’t keep them open any longer. Once she fell asleep, Rumalock got up, and placed a warm woolen blanket over her. Then he blew out his lantern and left the room.

–Book excerpt from The Magic Warble by Victoria Simcox. You can visit the author’s website at www.themagicwarble.com

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