Thursday, December 31, 2009

Once In A Blue Moon

Yes, really, two auspicious events are happening today...I'm blogging (I know, gasp!) and there is going to be a 'Blue Moon' tonight, this last night of 2009.

A Blue Moon is really just an extra full moon beyond the 12 lunar cycles in a year. It occurs every 2-3yrs, and frequently does have a bluish, milky color to it, owing to dust particles, or swirling snow if you're in Canada, and daresay, the northern midwest of the US (I didn't forget you, Amanda!!). I think it's particularly fitting to have this rare event at the end of the year. It's a gift from Mother Nature, and a visible reminder that something new and exciting will soon follow. As a Cancer, I'm a moon child. I love moon gazing, and if it appears amongst heavy dark skies, I'm thrilled. The more 'angsty' the atmosphere, the more thrilling the charge.

The moon has long been a source of magic, myth and power. I can see why the ancient civilizations, especially the Druids revered, and worshipped it. Imagine viewing a full moon, glowing bright from an oak grove during some ancient Druidic rite? Imagine witnessing the change in the normal silvery radiance into a burning orange glow at the time of harvest. I can imagine the awe of our forebears. I can imagine what they thought of the moon's powers to transform, and the wondered magic it housed.

So, with this rare Blue Moon tonight, I'm convinced that my new year resolutions will be kept. I'm not vowing anything tricky. Yes, I have the standard, I will lose weight, I will eat better and not lack sleep, I will exercise...they're all there in the back of mind. But this year I'm resolving to find some inner peace. Contentment. 2009 has been incredibly good to me, and I have not always been so thankful and gracious for its gifts. In 2010 I will be grateful for what I have, and strive not to yearn for what I may not. I have been incredibly lucky to have such a supportive family and loving husband. I have good friends, and my writing career is taking off. I've gotten that elusive mass market writing contract and I've continued to grow as a writer. I have two wonderful 'sisters' both in friendship and writing with Kristina and Amanda. I also feel a common 'sisterhood' with our LIT visitors and friends. It is enough. More than enough.

So in 2010, I'm striving for an inner peace, and an awakened spirit that allows me to see just how fortunate I really am. It's been long in coming, and tonight, when I look out at the sky, and gaze upon the moon, I'm going to ask for peace and contentment.

To all our LIT visitors, and our readers, on behalf of the LIT ladies and that rakish, outlandish Lord Craven-Moore (who is planning one hell of a rocking Hogmanay!) may you find peace, beauty, and contentment in the new year ahead. I toast to you, a dram of Drambuie so that you may not go thirsty this year, and I pass you a nice fat log of oak, so that your home and hearth may stay warm and cozy!

All the best for 2010 from Amanda, Kristi, and Charlotte...oh, and Lord Craven-Moore, too!!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

LIT Ladies on the 'Net Today....

I'm the featured author over at Erotic Romance Crush Junkies today, talking about the WINTER'S DESIRE anthology--pop over there and comment for a chance to win a copy of the book!

Erotic Romance Crush Junkies

And Amanda has a very special guest at McIntyre's House of Muse today, for her Thursday Coffee Talk series--RT Bookreviews Convention Director Jo Carol Jones is guest blogging, and there's a *very* exciting prize being offered to one lucky commenter!! Go check it out:

McIntyre's House of Muse

Also, if you were waiting for a prize from Lord CM, he finally roused himself and made it to the post office--so goodies are on their way!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blog and contest at FRESH FICTION Today only!

Hope you all are staying warm!!
I'm blogging today over at Fresh Fiction , talking about holiday traditions and the upcoming Winter Solstice! (Dec. 21)

Stop by if you have a sec and be automatically entered to win a copy of Winters Desire!! First in a mini-series of Celtic Spice anthologies from the LIT ladies!

Monday, December 14, 2009

This 'bares' repeating!

I'm sorry this pic has been on display before here at the manor, but honestly it does "bare" repeating!

Lord CM demonstrates a new form of "light bondage"...
Hope your holidays are merry and bright!!

The LIT Ladies

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Its All in the Details: Dec. 8 A visit with author, Victoria Janssen

My apologies to Victoria-(*stomping snow off boots) I'm afriad this midwestern storm and all the hoopla surrounding it has adled my barin and I forgot today was Tuesday! And that Victoria was getting in to the manor!!  Come on where its warm and let me take off my gloves and scarf...brrr...the snow is picking up in intensity out there, so my guess is that Victoria--like it or not, you're here for at least a day or two!!  Maybe you could share some of your fav holiday recipes as well--you dont have to make them--eating them is good enough for me!;)

So wrap your hands around your warm cuppa and help me welcome the talented Victoria Janssen to the LIT Manor!  And, btw, Victoria, I was in a Barnes & Noble last week and picked up the book in real life!!  Looks like a great read!

A fellow Spice author and with an imagination like no other, Victoria has brought to the reading world a bevy of fantasy, sensuality and history in her work! Her latest release, MOONLIGHT MISTRESS is another in her line-up of steamy, smart reads! Weclome, Victoria! Please tell us about your new release and what inspired this story. I see the cover gods at Spice once again were amazing in their gift! What a tantalizing cover!

 It's great to be back at Lust in Time!
My new book from Harlequin Spice, a historical with werewolves, is titled The Moonlight Mistress and it's out this month. I've been amusing myself by going through my copy and re-reading my favorite moments, many of which are bits of historical detail. I love the tiny bits best.

See, I am a total geek and really love research for its own sake. It grieves me that I don't have time to read every one of my research books cover to cover…I buy rather more research books than I really need, and some of them are only peripherally related to the topics of my novels, but they're all just so interesting! And that's not even counting the books I check out of the library.

Just in case some of you readers are research geeks as well, here are my favorite World War One historical bits from The Moonlight Mistress and where I found them. I think that often the most interesting details, that give the greatest sense of realism to the narrative, are not the most major. It's the tiny, unusual facts that stand out for the reader.

The novel's opening line is "There were no trains to Strasbourg." And this is absolutely true. When the first declarations of war were flying back and forth, all sorts of daily activities were affected. I pored over Lyn Macdonald's 1914: The Days of Hope, which is a collection of first-person accounts placed into chronological order. One of those accounts, from the very day Germany declared war, mentioned in passing that there were no trains to Strasbourg. I couldn't shake that bit of information from my head; something about the specificity of it, and the narrator's shock that things were not as they should be, perfectly summed up for me the feelings of a character who's just found out they are stranded. I never considered using another opening.

"Best of all, there was a shower…with brass fittings on three walls in the shape of lily blossoms, and tiled in green-and-white patterns like lacework." Though I took liberties with the decorative elements, this idea of this period-appropriate shower originated in one I actually saw, at Casa Loma in Toronto; the real shower actually had six taps at three different levels. As a side note, the fancy ducal stables in The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover were based on stables I saw at Casa Loma.

The extensive section on the arrival of the British Expeditionary Force in France, and the subsequent battle and retreat, was mostly drawn from first-person accounts in Macdonald's 1914 with some fragments of information coming from several more general accounts of the First World War, including John Keegan's The First World War and, to a lesser extent, Paths of Glory: The French Army 1914-18. The fate of the regiment's boy trumpeters – to be left behind when their regiment sailed to war – came directly from the first-person accounts, as did the information that bandsmen might be assigned to be stretcher bearers. More than one account mentioned that many of the soldiers had new, ill-fitting boots. Even the crops growing in the fields the soldiers passed were all noticed by contemporary observers.

Many of the quotidian details about the lives of the British soldiers I drew from Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front 1914-1918 by Richard Holmes, including small economic facts such as this one: "…Lincoln owed Hailey a guinea sixpence, enough for a new overcoat."

Finally, most of the information about the hospital where Lucilla goes to work were extrapolated from The Women of Royaumont: A Scottish Women's Hospital on the Western Front and several other volumes about or written by British nurses and VADs. After taking the basic information, that there were hospitals staffed almost entirely by women, I blended details from different sources to suit my purposes, combining occurrences and locations. For instance, "She managed a greeting in Hindustani; her phrases were limited, but efficient" was drawn from a first-person account by a nurse who served on a hospital train, in Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front: 1914-1915. Shipment and supply problems at Royaumont led me to include this bit of detail: "Tanks of nitrous oxide were procured, but some of the tanks of oxygen needed to mix with it had leaked and arrived empty, and had to be replaced."

I could go on, but I think I've made my point. At the start of a project, you never know what details you might need and which sources might have the best details, so it's best to check out a wide range, and to pay close attention to everything.


So true, Victoria  and the more detail , the more real it becomes for all of us as readers as well as writers, I think. Thanks for stopping by today and sharing with us the backstage process of this fascinating book! I think I have another for my TBR pile!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

CHEERS! Holiday Drinks.....

Still talking holiday entertaining here at LIT--wish I was as clever as Amanda and could post in verse form, but alas....I have no poetic talents whatsoever!

I know Amanda and Charlotte will likely have some exciting holiday libations to share, but I thought I'd share my favorite, family-friendly holiday punch--a recipe that my mom submitted to Southern Living magazine back when I was a kid, and they published it!

I serve this wonderfully flavorful, fragrant punch in a beautiful cut-glass punch bowl with matching little punch glasses, and it's generally the centerpiece of my buffet table, surrounded by holiday greenery.


Laurie's Cranberry-Cinnamon Punch

1 lb. fresh cranberries
4.5 to 5 qts. water, divided
2 1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. to 1 c. hot cinnamon candies (i.e. "Red Hots")
2 whole cloves
1 (12 oz.) can frozen orange juice concentrate, undiluted
juice of 3 lemons

Carefully sort and wash cranberries; cook in 1 qt. water until skins burst (about 5 min.). Strain off juice and set aside.

Combine 1 qt. water, sugar, candies, and cloves; heat, stirring until candies have dissolved.

Combine cranberry juice, sugar mixture, orange juice concentrate, lemon juice, and 2 1/2 to 3 qts. water; stir well. Chill. Yields about 5 qts.

You can garnish the punch with slices of orange or lemon, if you'd like. Oh, and it's also delicious served hot! (that's how I drink the leftovers!)

Okay, your turn--share some of your favorite holiday drinks (non-alcoholic or alcoholic!) in the comments!

And in the meantime, I'll leave you with this....Enya singing "Oíche Chiúin" ("Silent Night" in Gaelic). When I was writing "Lover's Dawn," I listened to this track over and over again, to help set the mood. It's perhaps my new favorite piece of holiday music (and you can find it on her "And Winter Came" album).

Friday, December 4, 2009

Seasonal delights short story: Finding the Holiday Log

"Okay, I found it!!" she screamed as she rushed in all bundled from the early morning chill. "I had to walk in the knee deep snow--uphill,both ways to get it...but I got it!"

"I got "it" this morning too, my sweeting." Lord CM glanced with a smile at Kristi. "What blazing scheme have you got stirring in that head of yours now, Amanda?"

Charolotte appeared at the door, her hair dischelved, a smile on her face.

"The log! I found the log!" Amanda spoke enthusiasitically.

Lord C.M. chuckled. "Ladies,there is no need to search the countryside for the perfect yule log. Why, I have it right here..."

"Stop!" Charlotte held up her hand. "I need coffee first and plenty of it!" She stumbled to the cupboard and fumbled for her favorite cup. "I really need a big one this morning," she muttered, purusing the array of mugs.

Lord C.M. sipped his steaming cuppa and grinned. "That can be arranged, my dear."

"Do you think of nothing else?" Amanda tossed at Lord C.M. as she swept into the kitchen beginning to collect her ingredients.

The sultry Lord of the manor, clad only in his festive red silk boxers, grabbed Amanda's arm, hauling her against his brick-like chest. "Only when forced, my love. And you know I like it that way, too."

Tempted to take him up on his offer, Amanda sighed. "I promised to share this recipe with our guests. Now are you going to help me , or continue to be a sexy pest and detour me?"

"Is that a choice?" he asked with a smirk.

"For now," she replied, swatting his firm backside. Kristi and Charlotte joined in the fun!

"This may be the best holiday ever," Lord C.M. laughed as he held out his arms to gather the three women to him.

"Our guests, Lord C.M...." Amanda reminded him.

"Ah yes, come sit here and read me your list. Let us find what is so delightful about this log recipe of yours." He said patting his knee.

"Very well." The three gathered in the cozy booth of the kitchen nook and followed along as Amanda read.

Dried Beef Log

Lord C. M. chuckled. "Hardly dried."

"Hush," Kristi scolded him. "Go on, Amanda."

"You need:
1/2 lb of dried beef, sliced between 1/4 and 1/8 of an inch.
1 lb. Velveeta cheese
3 oz. cream cheese
6 slices of bacon (cooked and crumbled)
Line a jelly roll pan with wax paper, lay out beef slices, slightlt overlapping pieces.
Melt cheeses (in microwave or on stove) and pour over the beef. Sprinkle the bacon bits
on the melted cheese and roll-starting at edges--the width of the pan. Wrap waxed paper roll in foil, tuck ends and refrigerate. Flavors meld as it chills. Unwrap the log...

"I like the sound of that!" Lord C.M. interjected.

"Do you remember the year we got the giant red bow and..." Charolotte giggled.

"Can I finish, please?" Amanda asked offering the two an exasperated  side-glance. She was determined to get through this recipe!

"Unwrap the log and slice in 1/4 inch slices. Serve alone or on crackers or cocktail breads."

"What in blazes in a "cocktail bread?" Lord C.M. grabbed the recipe from Amanda's hand.

"Certainly not one size fits all, my lord," Kristi purred.

"We'll explain later," Amanda said. "But doesnt this sound delicious to make for the season?"

"Indeed, anything the three of you stirs up in the kitchen makes me weak in the knees," Lord C.M. offered chaste kisses all around. "We'd better get started then!"

"Indeed," Amanda stated with a smile. "We love it when you're on your knees!"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday Traditions...and Appetizers Galore!

It was Christmas Eve. Aisling laid her head back on the chaise longue’s tasseled pillow and stared up at the ceiling, listening to the sounds of bustling activity below. Her father had arrived home that very morning, Jack the day before. The entire household was now in a tizzy, preparing for the Wainscott’s annual Christmas Eve open house.

At that very moment, Aisling’s mother was downstairs with the housekeeper, making certain that every little light on the Christmas tree was twinkling brightly, that every red velvet bow was straight, that the eggnog was perfect and the wassail just so.

In no time, their guests would begin to arrive. A buffet supper would be served, followed by a pantomime, and then a concert featuring traditional holiday music. The evening’s festivities would conclude at the stroke of midnight when the musicians played “Silent Night.” Each guest would light a taper and form a processional through the house and out the front door, where they’d all gather in the drive and stare up at the night sky for a few moments before blowing out their candles, gathering their coats, and heading back to their own homes.

These events had happened in precisely that order as far back as Aisling could remember.

--From “Lover’s Dawn” in WINTER’ DESIRE

‘Tis the Season….to entertain! And what better way than with delicious appetizers? Make enough of a variety, and you can even call it a light meal. When I was growing up, my parents traditionally invited over friends on Christmas Eve for appetizers and dessert, and I can’t even imagine Christmas Eve without my mom’s sausage balls (yum—but unfortunately they can’t pull double-duty as a Hanukkah treat). I’ve since added a couple new favorites to my appetizer repertoire, roasted red pepper tartlets and spinach artichoke dip. This year, I plan to continue the tradition of inviting over friends for a little pre-holiday cheer, and you can bet the three recipes below will be served! Enjoy!

Sausage Balls

2 c. Bisquick
12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
1 lb. sausage (hot or mild, depending on taste—I use Jimmy Dean brand)

Grate the cheese, the finer the better. Mix all ingredients and roll into bite-size
Balls. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 min. Can be frozen and reheated.

Red Pepper Tartlets

4 c. roasted red pepper strips (approx. 6 med. Sized peppers) OR 2 7oz. jars roasted red peppers, drained.
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. minced fresh Italian parsley
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. capers, drained
1 med. clove garlic, smashed, peeled, and mashed to a paste with
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 small container ricotta cheese (optional)
1 package pre-made phyllo tartlet shells (I get these in my grocer’s freezer aisle)

Arrange drained peppers on a double layer of paper towels, and let them dry while preparing the recipe. Combine the remaining ingredients—except for pastry shells and ricotta cheese!—in the work bowl of a food processor. Process until the capers and parsley are very finely chopped. Add the drained peppers and process using on/off pulses, until the peppers are coarsely chopped. Stop several times to scrape down the sides of the work bowl to make sure mixture is evenly chopped. Check seasonings and adjust as necessary. Keep mixture in refrigerator till ready to serve—then remove to room temp. for 30 min.

Prepare phyllo tartlet shells as directed on the packaging. Then, fill each shell with a spoonful of red pepper mixture, and top with a dollop of ricotta cheese, if you like. Heat briefly before serving.

Alternately, you can simply make the red pepper mixture and serve it as a dip—delicious with chunks of sourdough bread, or even tortilla chips.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

2 6 oz. jars marinated artichoke hearts (drain, but reserve liquid for consistency)
2-3 cloves garlic chopped fine
1 10 oz. pkg. chopped spinach (defrosted and drained well)
1 lb. hot pepper cheese (Monterey Jack with chilies is good)
3 yellow chilies or jalapenos boiled for 20 min. and then chopped (do not discard seeds--you can substitute a few bits of jarred jalapenos for above, chopped, to taste)
½ bunch cilantro (optional—I hate cilantro, so I omit)
½ cup low-fat mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients and add just enough liquid from artichoke hearts to moisten.
Pour into small casserole dish that has been lightly sprayed with Pam.
Bake uncovered for 30 min. at 350 degrees. Serve with tortilla chips.

What are some of your favorite holiday appetizers? Please share in the comments section!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Seasonal Delights: Cinnamon Ornaments

Every room was alive with the scents of the solstice season. Roped pine branches curled around the railings from the keep entrance to the upper chambers. Bright red-berried mistletoe festoned the fragrant greenery and brought the gaiety of the holiday to the entire castle.

It was, as it had been for as long as I could remember, my most favorite time of year. My mother had dreamed that I would marry on the full moon of the solstice. And with the king's blessing, allowing the ceremony here at Durwain, in a small way she would be here, if only in spirit.~Winter Awakening in Winter's Desire-A. McIntyre

Like Sabeline, I have many memories of Christmas's past that bring me joy to recall and I look forward to passing them on to my grandchildren some day-until then I'd like to share them with you!

This is a "primitives" recipe that I used to make with my kids when they were small. They also make wonderful room scents all year long as you can cut them into any shape that you'd like. They add a nice touch to gift tags or to those small gifts. Especially nice for teachers, Sunday school helpers, or neighbors and attach with a box of homemade goodies!

The recipe:
1 cup of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground all-spice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 cup of applesauce

Mix dry ingredients. Add applesauce a little at a time (Mixture should have consistency of play-dough, so you can work it with your hands.) If mixture is to dry, add 1-2 tablespoons of applesauce. Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness on an ungreased surface. If mixture is too sticky to handle, sprinkle surface with a bit of cinnamon.

Use sharp-edged cookie cutters to cut out as desired. Place on level surface (I leave mine on the cookie sheet of cutting board) and air-dry for 4-5 days.(Turn them once half way through)

 Recipe makes about two dozen ornaments, depending on the size of the cookie cutter. Use the end of a straw or small round stick to create a hole that you can put wire or ribbon through after it's dry. Ornaments will lighten in color as they dry.

You'll enjoy the fresh aromatic scent for months to come, and on a tree they are really beautiful with strung cranberries and popcorn. Or for a lovely centerpiece, make a few and add to a wooden bowl filled with cloved oranges and fresh evergreen boughs!

Share your favorite ornament or decorative recipe and be entered to win a multi-author signed copy of the beautiful Winter's Desire coverflat!

Nollaig shona!