Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 17, 2019

Book Giveaway: SANTA’S SECRET by Denise Brennan-Nelson

Denise Brennan-Nelson has written a new picture book titled, SANTA’S SECRET, Illustrated by Deborah Melmon and published by Sleeping Bear Press. Sleeping Bear Press has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Denise!

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Everyone knows that when Christmas rolls around Santa employs a legion of helpers to ensure the season goes off without a hitch. But between the santas on parade, the santas at the malls, and the ones ringing bells in front of busy department stores…one intrepid investigator wants to know exactly WHO the real Santa is. Armed with a notebook, pencil, and a barrage of questions, can this young detective get to the bottom of Santa’s secret?


One of my favorite questions that I have been asked over the years is, “How do you know when you have an idea that is worth pursuing?”

When it won’t go away.

Sometimes ideas present themselves but don’t stick around for long. Other ideas are persistent and stubborn and continue to return. I agree with author Elizabeth Gilbert in her assessment that inspiration looks for willing partners to work with. Throughout the years, I’ve learned to be a willing partner; open to ideas and inspiration when it comes knocking at my door, or in the case of Santa’s Secret, swooping in on a sleigh.

I was visiting Rooftop Landing Reindeer Farm in Clare, Michigan promoting Good Night, Reindeer. The owner, Dave Aldrich, was describing the Santa’s Reunion they have in October every year. I was instantly curious – a common trait among writers – and wanted to know more. “How many Santas attend? Where are they from? Are kids allowed to see this?” When he laughed and replied, “Why of course, it’s for the kids!” I immediately wondered how they handle the question kids inevitably ask when they see so many Santa Clauses all together: “Who is the REAL Santa?”

Dave supplied me with the inspiration for the story. “We tell them,” he said, “that Santa needs helpers to get the job done.”

When an idea comes calling, it is exhilarating! I ponder it, share it with friends and family, mull it around in my head some more, talk it over with students when visiting schools, and imagine how wonderful it will be when it’s finished. But it also brings a great deal of work, from the very first rough draft to dozens of additional revisions and storyline changes, to the final edits, advertising and marketing, etc.

“Santa’s Reunion” was the original title, and it began as a reunion with all the Santa’s in one building – the way I had pictured it based on Dave’s description. But my editor suggested that perhaps the main character encounters various Santas throughout a day. Storyline changes such as this create additional work, or at least it feels that way when you must let go of one vision and take another path. But being open to suggestions and constructive criticism is part of the process and often leads me to my best work!

When creating the character description for the narrator, I knew early on that she was going to have a curious, questioning mind. She would be a sleuth on a mission to figure out who the real Santa is. From there the story evolved and when she begins to inquire about the Santas she is encountering, Mama informs her that Santa needs helpers to get the job done. When she insists on knowing who the real one is:

Grandma leaned down with an answer for me.

It’s Santa’s secret, just as it should be.

And the title became Santa’s Secret.

More inspiration came from my hometown for the ending. It would take place in a coffeehouse, based on my sister’s business, Uptown Coffeehouse.

We then settled in to a warm coffee shop—

Hot cocoa for me, with marshmallows on top!

Looking over my notes, did I have enough?

Could I solve this case or was it too tough?

But then catching my eye, tucked back in a nook,

sitting all by himself, reading a book—

Was a man with a beard. His coat on the chair.

Weathered black boots . . . I couldn’t help but stare.

He munched on a cookie and sipped on a drink.

There was something about him, I didn’t dare blink.

During the writing of the story, which took about six months, there were numerous calls and emails between me and the publisher; throwing ideas back and forth, deciding minor details, etc. And then, finally, it was off to the illustrator. It’s like handing a baton off in a relay race, “Take it! Run with it!”

I do not get to choose the illustrator, and only rarely do I meet them. When I tell people this, they are flabbergasted! Illustrators are chosen by, and get their guidance from, the publishing company. (Listen closely and you will hear the collective sigh of relief from illustrators everywhere…)

On October 18th, 2018 I saw the sketches for the first time. Deborah Mellon had captured my vision for the main character – an exuberant, curious detective, adorable beyond my imagination! I immediately loved her purple beret, plaid cape, and black-rimmed glasses. And so many other details throughout the story . . . Deborah’s attention to the details is spectacular!

My publisher requests the dedication towards the end of the process. But I always know early on who it is for. Can you guess who I dedicated Santa’s Secret to?

For The Aldrich Family and all of Santa’s Helpers.

When the book was released, it filled me with joy to send them a copy.

I knew they would love it . . .

I hope you do too!

Over the years, I’ve learned some important things about writing and life:

  • Be curious. Ask questions.
  • It takes a village
  • Keep an open heart (to ideas and inspiration)
  • Be patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day
  • Perseverance is key
  • Let go or be dragged
  • You don’t need to have all the answers
  • Elephants don’t bite; mosquitoes do – pay attention to the little things
  • Find out what you love to do and do it!


Denise Brennan-Nelson is an award-winning author of over twenty children’s books including Leopold the LionSomeday is Not a Day of the Week, and the popular Willow Series. She wrote her first book, Buzzy the Bumblebee, after discovering that aeronautically, bumblebees should not be able to fly. She felt it was a wonderful way to inspire people to “bee-lieve” in themselves and their dreams. Denise also shares her enthusiasm for reading and writing in unique school presentations across the country where she encourages both adults and children to tap into their imaginations to create richer, fuller lives.

In addition, Denise serves as a board member on the committee for The Community Foundation for Livingston County.  In doing so she is able to help identify and advise on the needs of the community where she resides with her husband, Bob. They have two children, Rebecca and Rachel, and one dog, Bella who is much more than just a hound dog.

Denise, thank you for sharing you book and Journey with us. The story, the rhyme, and the illustrations work perfectly together. I am sure it will be a big hit during the Christmas holiday with parent and kids.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Denise and Kathy, what a great interview. This sounds like such a great book.
    Congrats. Really looking forward to reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed learning about Denise’s journey to publication with Santa’s Secret. This sounds like a good book for my students. I will share this on Twitter.


  3. Very cute! It’s getting to be that time of year, and this book is perfect! Congratulations! I will share on Twitter and I follow your blog by email, Kathy. 🙂


  4. Love the inspiration for this story and look forward to reading it!


  5. What a perfect new Christmas book! Thanks for the chance to win a copy!
    I’ve tweeted a link to this post:, and pinned an image on Pinterest with a link as well:
    I also follow your blog daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Thanks again, have a great day everyone!!


  6. This sounds like a charming book perfect for the holiday season


  7. Cute premise and illustrations!


  8. What a wonderful story about how the story came to be. Can’t wait to read it.


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