Friday, December 19, 2014

The Peruvian Jungle Christmas Cat

by Amanda Forester

It's Christmas time and I'm innocently writing away when my cat, an extra large cat I must add, begins to bat at my hands with his large furry paw.  Miles the cat has decided I have been spending enough time at the keyboard and I must take time to pet him. Now. 

So I give his fuzzy head a scratch and attempt to return to my writing.  Again, the large, furry paw blocks my attempts and demands my attention.  I need to write, so we work out a compromise.  He will let me type, if I write him into the book.  Thus, Miles the cat makes a cameo appearance in Winter Wedding and becomes the unwanted Christmas present from our heroine, Penelope, who has rescued him from the freezing London streets, to the Dowager Duchess of Marchford.  Enjoy!

“That done be the largest cat I ever saw,” said one of the grooms, coming in from the cold.

“What are you gonna name it, miss?” asked a footman.

“Miles,” said Penelope without a second thought. “Because there are miles of cat here.”

The kitchen staff laughed and all gathered around the Christmas cat-dog. After a hearty feeding for the cat and some debate over whether Christmas syllabub or wassail punch should be served at dinner, and it being decided to prepare both, Penelope returned upstairs, a large bundle of damp cat in her arms.

Upon reaching the main floor, Penelope found a labyrinth of danger. Somewhere was the dowager, who must be avoided at all costs—a stray cat in her pristine household would be an abhorrence. And somewhere else lurked the duke. To make matters difficult, he had hung a maze of tiny bundles of mistletoe overhead. Not content with simply hanging it in doorways, he had constructed a web of string from which dangerous bundles of mistletoe hung at random intervals.

The real question was, did she want to get caught?

Well, did she? Clearly she had much too much cat in her arms for rational thought. Penelope took a breath and stole softly across the hall to the main stairs, one eye looking for the duke or dowager and the other eye nervously glancing above her. Miles, the enormous cat, chose that inopportune moment to make a rather large meow, which echoed loudly down the hall.

“What was that?” came the voice of the dowager from the sitting room.

“I shall go see,” replied the duke.

Nothing for it but to run. And run she did, except when she got to the stairs, she encountered a difficult problem with her hands full of cat, her wet slippers slick on the marble floor, and a meowing animal who did not appreciate the ride. She stepped on her skirts and went down on the stairs with a bump and a hiss.

“What the blazes…” Marchford stood above her. “Is that a dog?”

“No, actually,” said Penelope, trying to untangle her foot from the hem of her skirt. “It is a cat.”

“A what?” The dowager walked up and poked the damp creature with her cane before Penelope could pick it up again. Miles growled, looking more disreputable than ever.

Marchford glanced between the dowager and Penelope, his eyes narrowing. Penelope sighed. So much for her Christmas cat. She was certain she would be told to remove the beast, but the dowager just then noticed the web of mistletoe above her head.

“My stars and garters, what have you done?” exclaimed the dowager.

“I have mistletoed the house,” said Marchford defiantly. “I have decided that if I choose to decorate my home like a tradesman, I shall do it to distinction.”

“You have decided what?” the dowager’s voice was like ice.

“Too bad you have seen your Christmas present early,” said Marchford swiftly changing the subject.

“My present?” asked the dowager, slightly mollified, looking back at him and Penelope and the monstrosity in her arms in a distracted way.

“Yes, your present,” said Penelope. She had no idea where Marchford was going with this, but she took his lead.

“The extremely rare Peruvian jungle house cat,” said Marchford.

“The Peruvian jungle house what?” The dowager rapped her cane on the marble floor in irritation.

“The jungle house cat, from deepest Peru,” said Penelope. For all she knew it could be from Peru.

“That is a dog,” dismissed the dowager.

Miles, the Peruvian jungle house cat, meowed in complaint.

“Is that really a cat? I don’t want that thing,” exclaimed the dowager.

“I can keep it until later,” suggested Penelope.

“You can send that Peruvian beast back to—”

“Oh look, mistletoe!” declared Marchford. Penelope almost jumped into his arms, but Marchford turned and kissed his grandmother on the cheek.

Penelope took the clue, picked up her skirts and ran up the stairs. “Merry Christmas to all!” she called as she fled.

Merry Christmas from the myself and Miles the Peruvian Jungle House Cat.  May you all have a blessed holiday.

What is the most unexpected, unique, "Peruvian jungle house cat" present you have ever received?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Something Amazing

Amazing doesn’t just mean “really good.” 

Here’s my definition of Amazing:
Amazing is surprising, delightful, new. It opens up new worlds and is a product of true creation. It’s also universal. Amazing speaks to the human spirit. 

What is your definition of Amazing, and/or: 

·         What is the most AMAZING romance novel you’ve read in the past month? 

·         What is the most amazing romance novel your best friend read in your last month? 

·         How about your mother? Your friend from work? Your Goodreads friend?

·         What is the amazing romance novel that you’ve heard about but haven’t read yet?   
·         What is the most amazing romance you’ve ever read?

·         Which of your own books is the most amazing one for you—either because of the process of writing it, or because of the way it turned out, or something else?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Tradition by Linda Broday

Christmas has always been very special. As a child, I looked forward to the gifts. Now that I'm older, it's the time spent with family and all the laughter that fills my soul.

Since none of my family lives close, it's often months or sometimes a  year between visits, but we always manage to get together at Christmas.

My favorite ones are when it snows and the world outside looks like a beautiful wonderland that sparkles with magic.

We bake up a storm, filling every nook and cranny of the house with delicious aromas. In my family, eating is one thing we do best. Before she passed on, my mama used to spend the whole month of December making wonderful desserts and homemade soups. And of course, her fruit cake. That was a tradition for as long as I can remember. It wasn't Christmas without that. No one cooked like my mama.

On Christmas Eve we put on music and sing. It's always a running joke about who is worse at carrying a tune, but it doesn't much matter. You won't find any of us on The Voice.

Gift-opening doesn't happen until Christmas morning after church services but it's always a time of more laughter and much eating.

It's a special time for us and over far too soon.

While the characters in my upcoming book TEXAS MAIL ORDER BRIDE don't have an opportunity to celebrate the holiday, this is how they might do it.

Cooper Thorne would gripe about having to cut down a tree, but then he'd pull Delta Dandridge under a sprig of mistletoe and kiss her silly and that would lead to other things. Probably after a few hours pass, he'd trudge to the barn with a big smile on his face and get the ax.

I'm sure there'd be much more kissing as they decorate the tree. But knowing them, they'd probably leave it half done and go off to snuggle.

They are a pair. But love makes people act pretty crazy.

I'm sure their gifts would be of a personal nature and best opened in private. Yet, Delta would put a sack of lemon drops under tree since he loves them.

Texas Mail Order Bride releases on January 6 but is available for preorder.

I'd love to hear your Christmas traditions. 

Click HERE for the Amazon link.

Click HERE for Barnes and Noble.

Monday, December 15, 2014

DECK THE HALLS...By Michele Summers

Yep, it’s that time of year. You’re either in the throes of decorating or you’ve decided to bag it and uncork another bottle of wine. *hiccup* As an interior designer, the Christmas season becomes one of my busiest times of year. I’m either nagging my workrooms to get those pillows stuffed and window treatments hung or I’m trudging from house to house with ladder in tow, decorating my clients’ homes for the holidays…most especially their trees. There have been years where I’ve decorated as many as twelve different trees, ranging from 9’-14’ each with their own theme and color scheme. Not including my own trees for my kids. So, I feel pretty good about offering up some decorating tips. 

Maybe these will come in handy:

    Lights…more is more! At least 100 lights/foot. If you have an 8’ tree, you should have at the very least 8 strands of 100 lights. I usually do even more. And the best way to string them is in and out from the inside near the trunk to the edge of the branches. The deeper you place the lights, the more the tree glows and sets off your other ornaments. Another great trick, if you have the energy, is to wrap the trunk in lights which looks amazing.
   Ribbon: Should always go up after the lights. That way you can tuck it in and wrap it around without breaking your ornaments.
   Tree Topper: Place this before you start decorating; again to avoid breaking any other ornaments.

   Plain balls: Tuck inside the tree near the trunk to catch the light and to save the outer limbs for your special ornaments
   Special Ornaments: Deserve their special branch. If they’re family heirlooms or expensive Christopher Radko’s, secure them with pipe cleaner. I don’t trust flimsy ornament hooks.
  Artificial Trees: You can never have too much. They seem to absorb ornaments and the more you put on them the better they 

Hope this helped. (And yes, I'm done for this season...will be baking next) What are some of your decorating tips? Love to learn something new every year.

Merry! Merry!

Michele Summers

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas in Kansas City by Terri Austin

Here in Kansas City (Missouri, not Kansas—we natives feel very strongly about the distinction) we’re only known for a couple of things: Walt Disney spent his formative years here and our proud title as The City of Fountains. 

 The latter was started by visionary, J.C. Nicols. He took the once murky swamp of Brush Creek and turned it into the country’s first shopping center in 1923. Influenced by Seville, Spain, the architecture has a Spanish feel, with decorative tiles and mosaics, and of course, fountains around every corner.

Our holiday season kicks off with one major event—the Plaza Lighting Ceremony. On Thanksgiving night, after massive amounts of food have been consumed and the football game is over, the ceremony begins with great fanfare. 

Every year is the same—people start gathering early, stamping their feet in the cold, patiently waiting. Parking is always a nightmare. There’s not a bathroom to be had. But that never deters people from showing up.

Everyone I know has a childhood story about their parents bundling them in the car, braving the traffic to find a parking spot miles away, and trekking toward the heart of the Plaza to watch the lights turn on. 

I always feel a little sentimental this time of year, so this is my love letter to you, K.C. Mwah! Happy Holidays, everyone!

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Harte Family Christmas

I thought, given the season, I'd share some Harte family traditions and fun.

We typically get a real tree each year. Then I put the hooks on the kids' ornaments and they hang them. I love looking at hand prints from kindergarten, old pictures and fun crafts they've made through the years.

I get gingerbread kits for the kids to put together. And trust me, they aren't that easy. Granted, I should have baked the gingerbread myself, but Betty Crocker doesn't live with us, and I'm super busy. Besides that, my boys would eat them before they'd ever become houses. Sadly, we lost a house due to poor frosting practices, but these three survived.

And of course we have a Nativity set. I love these Jim Shore figurines I got a few years ago.

What really matters, to the kids at least (geesh), is the Advent calendar. It costs an arm and a leg, but Lego remains their favorite. When I was growing up, my family used to get a secret advent friend (with only four in our family, it was pretty obvious who was who). Then for the season, you had to do something nice for your secret friend each day. A nice note, a toy, a kind gesture. Fast forward to the present day. We still work on kind gestures, but the Legos make every morning super exciting. I did mention I have boys, right?

And finally, on Christmas Eve we attend Mass. Afterward, the kids are quivering bundles of energy, and it's all I can do to get them into bed for the night--right after we set out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa and sprinkle some "magic oats" for the reindeer outside. Then I spend an hour or two wrapping presents. The next morning (at an ungodly hour), I am woken by eager beavers dying to open presents. We give thanks for all that we have, then they get to tearing through paper and boxes.

That's when I realize I have to take down all the decorations in a few more days and figure out what I want to focus on for the new year. Clean slate, I say. Every year. *grin* Bring on 2015!

No matter what holiday you celebrate, what are some of your traditions?

Happy holidays!

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

I like watching the flow of nature’s cycles. I’m so inspired by Earth’s beautiful and amazing and intricate creatures and rhythms. Right now, it’s ten days until the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year for us northern hemisphere folks.

The word solstice comes from Middle English, derived from the Latin solstitium (sol sun + -stit-, -stes standing; akin to Latin stare to stand). The sun actually seems to “stand” at the solstice. It pauses for about three days, rising and setting at nearly the same points on the horizon. 

Where I live, sunrise is currently around 6:45 a.m. and sunset about 4:45 p.m. So, fourteen hours of darkness and ten of daylight. Sometimes those nights feel long. (Nothing like the constant dark at the North Pole though! Not sure I could handle that.)

People have been thinking about the winter solstice for millennia. Ancient stone monuments like Stonehenge mark its alignment. It’s no wonder that many cultures have traditions to celebrate it. Some stay awake throughout the longest night and welcome the next morning’s sunrise as a new beginning.  Some decree bright, noisy celebrations to drive back the dark. For me, the winter solstice is a good time to take stock. I think about the year past, consider what’s ready to wither away in my life and what might be waiting to unfold. I remember that no seed sprouts without a time in the dark.

Here’s the gift of a Margaret Atwood poem about this time of year.

This is the solstice, the still point

of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year's threshold
and unlocking, where past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar.
Taking hands like children
lost in a six-dimensional
forest, we step across.
Margaret Atwood

May your holidays be wonderful!

Jane Ashford

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Like Me! Like Me!

As the publishing business continues to change, authors are ever-more reliant on social media. Great for me. I love interacting with my friends and readers here, on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, at my website... I could go on and on. But it's not as easy as it looks.

We don't want to just shout at you "Buy my book" all day. Or "Buy my friend's book!" We do want to share stories, pictures, funny things, cat pictures (I do dog pictures, allergic to cats), and learn more about you in the comments.

That's why we love comments. It's not all about us when you comment. It's actually very hard to be that into ourselves. We prefer the interaction over the promo. Thank you all for commenting! Thanks for being my friend. Writing is such a lonely profession.

I'm having a contest now. If you go on out to my Facebook and click "like," you will become part of my community, from which I will choose one random winner to receive Downton Abbey Season One on DVD and a $25 gift card from Amazon or once I hit 2000 Likes (I'm getting closer). We have fun over there!

There's Tantalizing Tuesday, with inspiring hero types.

Witty Wednesday, where I share funny things I find around, or cool quotes to make me look smarter.

Thirsty Thursday cocktail recipes (some are even non-alcoholic, no guarantees).

Sometimes I share a book recommendation or two, because I'm a reader, too.

I would love to get to know you better! If you comment here before 9 PM EST, I'll be choosing a random commenter to win a $10 gift card (Amazon, BN, your choice). And remember, you're being a big help to the authors you love when you join in, comment, review. Thank you, thank you!

An Affair Downstairs (Thornbrook Park Book 2) comes out on January 6th! Just in time for the new Downton Abbey season. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Only Gift That Matters by Grace Burrowes

Do you have travel plans for the holidays? Maybe you're not driving or flying a great distance, maybe you're simply adding some different names to your holiday guest list, or attending a gathering you haven't been invited to in previous years, or trying a different recipe for fruitcake.
Did you find some new catalogs to shop from? A new store at the mall that has the BEST baked goods? 

My holidays have taken a slightly adventurous turn, though I'm not traveling beyond Western Maryland. After nearly three dozen historical titles, I'm looking forward to the release of a trilogy of contemporary romances in January, February, and March. Last month we issued the first novella, Kiss and Tell, for $.99 and this month's novella, A Kiss For Luck, is available for FREE. Next month's title, A Single Kiss, is my first full length contemporary romance, and I'm hoping my readers love it as much as I do.

A walk on the contemporary side has helped me see all of my writing in a different light. I've fallen into historical vocabulary, historical social mores, and historical devices, that I hadn't realized had become so ingrained. For my contemporary series, the heroes are lawyers, private investigators, and I'm thinking of having my next hero be a judge. 
Those guys aren't going to confide in their horses or cut a dash turning down the candlelit ballroom dance floor, but they might grouse out loud to their dog or their cat--or to each other. 

Because like a holiday gathering, the exact spices in the eggnog aren't what make the holiday, and the wreath on the door isn't what makes people feel welcome. Winter holidays, regardless of which faith tradition you observe them in, are all about the love. So too, has writing a contemporary series helped me see that no matter the setting, the time period, or the particular characters involved, it's all about the love.

Dunstan Cromarty, from Kiss and Tell, is a Scottish attorney who's chosen to make his home the wilds of rural Maryland, but he has a streak of stubborn loyalty any of my historical lairds or lasses would recognize. Gideon Granville, from A Kiss for Luck, came to the US from Britain as a teenager, but his courtly manners and gentleman's intuition would have served him well in a Regency ballroom. 

And the Knightley brothers, Trenton, James and MacKenzie, have the same protectiveness and brusque honesty with each other that Windhams, Lonely Lords, and MacGregors expect from their siblings and sidekicks. 

Like the best holidays, the joy we take in a good romance is not a matter of the trappings or outward details, or even the dark chocolate marzipan, it's about the love. It's all about the love. 

Read an excerpt of Kiss and Tell.
Read an excerpt of Kiss for Luck.
Read an excerpt of A Single Kiss

What's the one, fixed tradition you observe every year, the one you'd hate to see fall by the wayside? Is there an aspect of the holidays you WOULD like see set aside? To one commenter, I'll send a $50 Amex gift card. 

Happy Holidays! 
Grace Burrowes