Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year's Eve!

From my Wilde & Woolly Bears house to yours, Happy New Year's Eve!

It's been a great year for writing and publishing what with Heart of the Wolf making Publishers Weekly's "BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR" and the beautiful cover for Destiny of the Wolf, (formerly Don't Cry Wolf) coming out Mar 1, 2009. The Bite of the Wolf replaces the title Betrayal of the Wolf, and that and another, titled for now, Allure of the Wolf, will both be coming out in the Fall of 2009.

I'm currently working on Plight of the Wolf and Night of the Wolf, and a fan has already listed both on their Listmania at Amazon picked up from a blog I must have done--which means someone actually reads some of my blogs!!! So that was really nice. :) Even though I know the titles will change. I've got to have a working title to work with or nothing will form on the page! :)

The bad news is that my mother has been very ill and I had to sell my home and move in with her. She's now got it's one day at a time.
Because of it, our New Years will be pretty quiet, movies, pink champagne (the really good cheap kind), if she can have some, and baked doritos topped with melted sharp cheese and green olive halfs--something we've been serving as a family treat since the days when the old Star Trek series was on television and we'd have that as our weekly standby in good old Florida.

As our treat to our reading fans, we are starting a new serial story--Cruising for Love, and I will be posting the first of the series on January 2. After that, the Casablanca authors will add to it daily, with a couple of cliff hanger breaks!! While we hear from our important sponsors.... :)
Last year the Casa Babes wrote The Bachelor Auction which was a lot of fun and we hope our readers enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it!
In the meantime, everyone have a safe and happy New Years Eve. I have to work, but hope to be home before all the serious partyiers are out!
Happy New Year's Eve and all my best to everyone for a wonderful new year!
Terry Spear
Heart of the Wolf, Destiny of the Wolf, The Bite of the Wolf

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Eve is Coming!

Are you partying or staying in? And if you’re staying in with your honey and a bottle of champagne, what about cuddling up for some movies that have New Year’s Eve in them?

Some make you laugh. Some make you cry. And all are perfect for that New Year's moment.

Think An Affair to Remember when Deborah Kerr meets Cary Grant on shipboard and they plan to meet at the top of the Empire State Building on New Year’s Eve. Except something happens and their meeting is delayed. Definitely one when you want to clear your tear ducts.

Or Cary Grant in Holiday when he’s engaged to one woman on New Year’s Eve and realizes she’s the wrong one.

The fun When Harry Met Sally with a terrific New Year's Eve scene, and a fun plot. Who can forget Meg Ryan showing just how to fake an orgasm?

Another cute movie is Holiday Affair with Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh that begins just before Christmas and ends New Year’s Eve when the young widow realizes Mitchum is the man for her.

Bridget Jones Diary when Bridget decides on New Year’s Eve to keep a diary.

And a fun classic, After the Thin Man, when Nick and Nora end up in the middle of a murder mystery on New Year’s Eve.

Of course, you could just stay cuddled up and see what happens from there.

Either way, have a wonderful New Year.


Monday, December 29, 2008

What I Got For Christmas, Too

I was trying to come up with something writing related, or story related, but honestly, I'm doing revisions, so I'm kind of writing-ed out. Then I saw Beth's post and thought, "What a good idea," and went with it because the Hubs came through this year in a major way.
Oh, don't get me wrong, he always goes for thoughtful gifts, but this year, he chose thoughtful + practical (and, yes, way more expensive than the budget called for, but sometimes you just have to go with it). Words can't do it justice and I'm worded out any way, so here's the picture:
It has 36 airbags, 12 different massages, and even massages the bottom of your feet--and with synchronized musical massage if you so choose. The only bad part is, it hasn't arrived yet, so I'm suffering through revisions without a proper massage. I know, poor me. LOL.
The thing about this chair is, yes, it's nice. Yes, it's indulgent. But what many of you might not know is that I was in three car accidents in three years, back to back, 19, 20 and 21 years ago. After the first accident, I was partially paralyzed and had to learn to walk again. (All three accidents were not my fault, btw...)
Hubs was part of my therapy. When I was crying in pain after all the physical therapist offices and massage centers were closed for the day, he learned how to do trigger point therapy. He was the one who would poke those darn knotted muscles until they released the fire of lactic acid build up. He was the one who climbed into the tub one night in his work clothes when I couldn't raise my arms above my head to wash my hair and sat there crying silently at how useless I was. (You have to know how positive a person I am to truly understand how utterly devastating this must have been to have reduced me to this point.) He did this for me.
Luckily, those accidents happened when I was young and healed quicker and better than this 20 year older body does, but we were newlyweds. We weren't living around any family, knew next to nothing about health insurance and medical procedures, and muddled through this nightmare together. He learned how to cook so I wouldn't have to stand for long periods of time. He did the laundry and made do with gray socks. He also made do when he wanted to make "something" else... (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). He's put up with a lot.
Luckily, I had no long lasting complications from the accidents, but the body's older, I've been sitting more recently (and, yes, have joined the gym to counteract this inactivity), but the back still has the pains. So he did his research and ordered it all for me.
And if you don't think that's romantic, well, just wait until you've been married 21 years. Trust me, it is.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What I got for Christmas

Seasons greetings everyone!
I hope you all had a good Christmas, full of lots of relaxing time to read a good book, to make memories with family, and to eat plenty of good food.
I'm creating this blog post with one of my Christmas presents, voice recognition software. I had a couple of expensive items on my Christmas list this year (an e-book reader and this voice recognition software), and I could've told you which one my husband would pick to give me. When I explained what I wanted and why I wanted them to my husband, I could almost see the wheels turning in his head.
"An e-book reader would mean she will spend more time reading books, while voice recognition software would mean faster production of books and more income," I'm sure he thought.
I'm guessing for him it was an easy choice which to give me. I'm not complaining though. I wouldn't have put the software on my list if I didn't want it, and I do have several pressing deadlines this year. I'm hoping I can learn to use the software soon (it takes a lot of training), so I can begin really cranking out the pages in January.
So what did you get for Christmas? What was your favorite gift?
The older I get the more I realize the best gift of all is peace and calm for the holidays. Things get so crazy around here with all the shopping and wrapping and parties and appointments, not to mention all our regular responsibilities that sometimes finding a few quiet moments is really a challenge. Or some disaster will happen to mess up our plans.
Case in point, this year on Christmas Eve, we woke up to a broken hot water heater. Water had flooded under our kitchen wall and all over our floor. A few phone calls and three hours later, we had a plumber at our house replacing our old water heater with a new one. The hot water heater isn't exactly what I had planned to get from my husband for Christmas, nor was it what I plan to give him, but as they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men ...
So my wish for you this holiday season is simply this: may you have peace and calm, and may all your best-laid plans come to fruition! Have a happy new year and happy reading in 2009!
Beth Cornelison

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Memories of Christmas '08

Seems rather ridiculous to think of what occurred just two days ago as a ‘memory’ but like it or not the Event is over. Already the weeks of preparation, planning, and purchasing have been swept away with the torn wrapping paper and mealtime remnants. This year’s Christmas day is rapidly being relegated to the data banks as a special happening that will quickly meld and mesh with all the previous Christmas days. I mean, who of you can readily distinguish one year from the next? Who can recall the precise gift list from 5 years ago? Or whether the meal was better in 1998? Until we dig out the photo albums, we probably aren’t going to remember many of the details – unless something dramatic happened, like the year my son choked on a Life Saver and I had to do the Heimlich!

So, while it is fresh in our minds, let’s chat about Christmas of 2008! What made this year special?

For the Lathans it largely proceeded like previous years….. We never get snow here in the central valley of California – thank God – but it was gloomy and rained buckets all day. That was cool as it does feel more Christmassy when the weather is bad! The gift unwrapping went slowly, stretching for over an hour! My kids, who are now 20 and 16, have finally learned to appreciate the joy in extending the drama and in watching others open their presents. I can say that alone made this year a sort-of milestone! I miraculously managed to actually surprise my husband with a gift he was not expecting: a back massager with heat that fits into his desk chair. By noon we had it all cleaned up – severely upsetting the cat who thinks the piles of paper and bows are for his express pleasure – and were enjoying our new toys. My son’s friends began filing over to play their new video games and pray for a break in the rain so they could ride their new skateboards (they eventually got lucky). My daughter and I were predictably being lazy, watching ‘Lost in Austen’ and listening to her new ‘Twilight’ soundtrack. My moderately OCD hubby did not relax into the massager until all the mess was discarded and items put away. The luncheon hors d’oeurve platters were pulled out and decimated, rendering us additionally lethargic and filling the gap until our traditional dinner of ham and fixings. Phone calls to family members far away were engaged in, and the late evening movie entertainment was ‘WALL-E.’

Aside from surprising my DH, gradual present opening, and foul weather, Christmas 2008 was fairly unremarkable and would probably fade into the general happy holiday scrapbook indistinguishable from the rest. Except for two things: One, I spent part of the day working on the edits submitted by Deb for my second book, "Journeys Beyond Pemberley." Since she only had about 10 issues to look into, that did not take too long, but was very exciting nevertheless! Two, and the main reason this Christmas will never be forgotten, is that my son’s best friend had a grand mal seizure while playing video games in our house! It was utterly terrifying and wholly unexpected as he does not have a known seizure disorder. Thankfully I am a nurse so know what to do in such instances, handling crisis well, but this is a boy I have known like my own son for some 12 years! 911 was called, his mom was sent for, and the EMTs arrived in less than 10 minutes. He spent the day in the hospital having tests run, but was home by late evening with follow-up for later. Thank God for that! But all things considered, I think I would rather have the uneventful, even boring Christmas that is forgotten in the mist of time.

Now, share your Christmas adventures for posterity sake. I just hope they were merry all the way around!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Reflection Week

Happy Day-After-Christmas. The wrapping was torn from the presents without care in hope that an (iPod) inside would be there. (Insert tech gadget here.) Isn't it so fun to get what you want for Christmas? It's even better to get the life you want, all year around.

Wanna hear the good news? It's *not* just the day after Christmas; it's the beginning of Reflection Week. This is how it works. You start thinking about all the things that really rocked in '08 in your life. As they say, you can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been. When I started the ATHENA Institute in '06, I started facilitating workshops in five life areas - so that's a nice starting point for reflection. Grab a notebook and do a list of whatever comes to mind in these areas: Body, Mind/Spirit, Home, Work, Relationships.

For example, under Body, I'd list that I started working out in October, and did a fairly good job of cutting out fast food. Hey, at least it's now the exception. Under Home, I could list what I made progress on - keeping the house clutter-free EXCEPT for major clutter zones, bedroom and closet. New carpet, etc. I'd circle what needs improvement, but not stress about that yet. This is just a time to reflect. We'll save the strategic planning for January 1st.
The point of the Reflection Week is twofold: 1. To see that you've really accomplished a lot in each area of your life, because even small steps of progress count. 2. It aids in gratitude which aids in happiness which aids in not thinking your life sucks at year's end. I think that's a nice place to end up.

If you believe in the law of attraction, you know that you first have to list and concentrate on what you want out of life for it to come to you. To me, this is logical and not at all spacey. But even if you think it's a little spacey, why not give it a try? You'd be surprised how it "feels" like things you've been wanting start coming to you when you focus on them.

In January, I'm kicking off a free life coach series called, "Create Your Own Renaissance," on my website to do just that: figure out the changes we want in our life and make them happen. Ramona, my protagonist in Dating da Vinci, goes through a renaissance, but it doesn't just fall into her lap. (Though da Vinci does walk into her classroom.) She had to take advantage of things that came her way and get out of her comfort zone to make the rest, like her Ph.D., happen. What things did she have to let go of to make room for new things in her life? What would you have to do?

Here's wishing you a wonderful Reflection Week. Go ahead and finish off the food, then take a nice walk in nature and relish both. Isn't it great to be able to eat? To walk?
I'll see you on my website and back here on January 9th. Thanks for a Great '08!

(pictured: my son, catching some air. Why not give that a try, too?)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to All

The Casa Babes are taking the day off to spend the holiday with their REAL families, so here we give you some Christmas cheer, Casa style. Enjoy! We'll be back on Friday.

Linda Wisdom
1. What are you asking for from Santa? A Kindle, bath and body goodies and clothes.
2. What is the best gift you have given someone else either this year or in years past? Last year I gave my editor and agent their very own Fluff and Puff slippers. So far their toes have been safe!

Marie Force
1. What are you asking for from Santa? A new purse! My DH has been slowing improving my previously sadly lacking purse collection. Looking forward to seeing what this year brings.
2. What is the best gift you have given someone else either this year or in years past? My favorite gift I ever gave anyone was the year I got the DH the sewing machine he'd been wanting for years. I giggled all the way out of Sears with it and he went nuts over it. He considers it a, ahem, power tool. You go girl!

Loucinda McGary
1. What are you asking for from Santa? To be a year younger instead of a year older! Okay, I guess I won't get that, so how bout keeping me and my friends and family healthy and happy at least until next Christmas?

2. What is the best gift you have given someone else either this year or in years past? About ten years ago, my co-workers and I decided to participate in an "Adopt a Family" program. We all enjoyed it so much that we did it every year. Since I quit my day job, the DH and I pick two or three kids names off a local charity's "giving tree." We try to pick teenagers because most people tend to buy toys for the younger children. We buy these kids gifts in lieu of giving each other something.

Mary Margaret Daughtridge
1. What are you asking for from Santa? I don't know. I'd rather be surprised.
2. What is the best gift you have given someone else either this year or in years past? Ten or so years ago I accepted a commission for a painting of a son driving a tractor. In time it was finished, and the patrons loved it. Sadly, it was destroyed in a house fire. When I was cleaning out my old house, I came across a study I did for the painting. Sending that study to them, as a gift, was one of the best feelings I've had in a long time.

Michele Ann Young
1. What are you asking for from Santa? forty-eight hours in every day. And if he can't do that I'd like new winter boots.
2. What is the best gift you have given someone else either this year or in years past? Buying my computer illiterate dh a laptop. He's hooked and wired and plugged in.

Robin Kaye
1. What are you asking for from Santa? Nothing.
2. What is the best gift you have given someone else either this year or in years past? I knit my mother a sweater coat with hand-died yarn that was just to die for. It turned out so beautifully, it's been 16 years and she still treasures it. I see it every time she comes to visit in the fall or winter.

Sharon Lathan
1. What are you asking for from Santa? It doesn't matter since my Mr. Darcy always buys me extravagant stuff I do not need!
2. What is the best gift you have given someone else either this year or in years past? OK, sappy alert, but I would have to say it was presenting my family with our son, nearly 16 years ago now!

Christina Harlin
1. What are you asking for from Santa? I have been so lucky this year, I can’t think of a thing. I hope I can find wonderful gifts for everyone I love.
2. What is the best gift you have given someone else either this year or in years past? My best gift ever was the Smith-Corona typewriter I received when I was 13. I typed stories on it every day for the next seven years.

Cheryl Brooks
1. What are you asking for from Santa? Nuthin'
2. What is the best gift you have given someone else either this year or in years past? My son's Wii that I had to go through all kinds of hell to get!

Judi Fennell
1. What are you asking for from Santa? I don't ask Santa. I pretty much get what I want during the year and let Christmas be all about the kids.
2. What is the best gift you have given someone else either this year or in years past? Hands down it was giving the kids a puppy on Christmas morning. I know all the "experts" say you shouldn't do this, but we'd just lost our older dog three months prior and the one blind, deaf dog left was so pitiful without his "seeing eye dog" buddy. And the kids really wanted a puppy. And, yeah, okay, maybe I did too. LOL. I picked her up Christmas Eve and took her to my parents' house so we could all go to church together. Then after the kids were asleep, I picked her up, brought her home and slept with her in the basement because I didn't want her crying all night. She didn't. She was perfect. My husband got the kids in the living room the next morning and I brought up this cute little red cocker spaniel with a big bow on - in a basket. She sat so still they didn't realize she was real until I set the basket on the floor and she moved. Then, oh my gosh! The squeals! The tears! The shrieks of joy and laughter! It was amazing! I play that video back every so often just to relive it. Any gifts they got after the puppy were just extraneous. Until, however, we got to the end and my husband said (this was all planned, so no surprise for me), "Let's give Mom her birthday present." (My birthday is in February.) They looked at him a little funny. They looked at him even funnier when I opened a box just like one we'd already opened: with a leash, a dog collar, some dog toys and treats. One of my kids whispered, "Mom, you already got all that stuff," feeling very sorry for me but not wanting to hurt Dad's feelings. I replied, "I did? Hmmm...I guess so. Can you tell me what this name tag says on the new collar?" Yep, you guessed it. Different name. It took them a few seconds but then all their eyes lit up: "You got us TWO puppies?" Yes we did. The other one was from a different litter and too young to come home. I'm a firm believer in a dog needs a friend as well and two are actually easier than one. It was a great Christmas!

Beth Cornelison
1. What are you asking for from Santa? Ebook reader, Dragon Naturally Speaking
2. What is the best gift you have given someone else either this year or in years past? I gave my husband a copy of our wedding picture in an engraved frame with the wedding date for his he has no excuse to forget our anniversary!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Eve

Every year, when Christmas Eve finally arrives, I sit back and think, I love this day.

Christmas is wonderful, but the day itself is always gone in a flash of brightly colored frenzy, leaving both children and adults semi-catatonic by noon. Christmas Eve, though...that's where the magic is, at least for me. And that's why this day, not tomorrow, is my favorite day of the year.

The stockings hang over the fireplace, ready to be filled. The tree glows gently, every beautiful present still wrapped beneath it. For once, the children are anxious to get to bed (but not before they've made sure, via NORAD's Santa Tracker, that the man himself is definitely on his way). The promise of Christmas is everywhere, the bayberry-scented air thick with it. It's finally here. Well, almost. But it's the anticipation, as we romance writers know well, that final instant before the thing we've been waiting for, that's really the most poignant...and often, the most fun.

The beauty of Christmas blooms fully tonight, though like most of the best things, it's a tiny bit sad. By tomorrow night, it will all be over for another year. But not now...not yet. Now is filled with the breathless anticipation of children, hoping to hear the faint sound of a sleigh bell echoing through the night. Now is filled with magic. And tonight, through my children, I get to be a child again too. It's a precious, precious gift.

Tomorrow we'll all be caught up in the joyful, noisy whirl of Christmas day, hopefully full of loved ones and piles of torn wrapping paper. So tonight, before bed, take a few minutes to snuggle up by the tree with a mug of cocoa, a blanket, and your favorite holiday memories. Tomorrow is about the giving and receiving. But tonight is all about the feeling that the Christmas season brings. And you can bet that I'll be up just a little bit late, remembering...and savoring the touch of the Christmas spirit as it passes through on its way back to the North Pole for another year.

Enjoy one more night of magic. Hope you all wake up to something wonderful. And have a very merry Christmas:-)


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Fun!

It's been an interesting Christmas season so far. My cards are going out late, people who've gotten presents from me in the past will find their stockings empty, and those gifts that I have bought aren't wrapped yet. Why? Not due to a lack of funds, but because nearly all of my spare time has been swallowed up by this crazy second job I've gotten myself into.

However, in spite of the madness, some really cool things have happened. I received my very first Christmas card from a reader. Not an email, mind you, but a real card! She had won a copy of Warrior in a contest, and then utilized that return address label after I shipped it to her. This is something that I know I'll keep in my memorabilia box for a long, long time. In other news, Rogue has a dynamite new cover, and Lover now has a new title, Outcast, which I like very much. I've also started a new blog, which, though tons of fun, is also very time consuming.

On a slightly bizarre note, Slave has been nominated for a writing award given by the NLA--that's the National Leather Association. Don't guess I need to tell you why they liked it. . . . You just never know what audience you'll reach out and touch in this business.

I turned the copyedits for Outcast in on time, but finishing Fugitive by the end of January seems almost impossible now, but I'll do it. When I finally get going on the big action scene, I know I'll get swallowed up in it and keep going until I'm done.

This time I'm not going to worry so much about how perfect it is, because this will not be my last chance to fix things. There will be changes requested, some minor and some that only seem that way. One tiny little alteration can sometimes cause a ripple effect throughout the entire book. Other changes are more broad, like the personality of a character, but sometimes it just takes deciding which detail is the most important. In Outcast, one of the changes requested was to a scene where the dog gets to eat cake. Well, originally, it was just a regular white cake, but then I introduced a new character who was a baker, and so, the cake was changed to a decadent chocolate. But chocolate isn't good for dogs, so the decision was made to have him eat something else, but it just didn't feel right. The dog wanted to eat cake, for heaven's sake! So, the obvious choice was to take the chocolate out of the cake, rather than the cake out of the dog!

Never let it be said that writers don't pay enough attention to detail. Sometimes we get so bogged down in it that we can't find our way back out.

But enough about that. It's time for some fun!
So, break out the eggnog, the cookies, the rum!
Christmas is coming, it'll be the best yet,
Though often we don't like the presents we get.
But Santa has something all wrapped up in hay
In hopes that you might have some fun where you lay.
It's not in a stocking, it's not in a box,
But it comes guaranteed to knock off your socks!
Now I hear him exclaim as he turns out the light,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!

Hey, I never claimed to be a poet. . . . .

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays

No post today about what you should be doing--enjoy the holiday season!

But don't think I won't have info to tell you in the New Year! :-) 2009 is going to be a big year for Sourcebooks, which means being more aggressive and thinking even further outside the box... I'm excited to get started on the Spring season!

Hugs to all,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Family Holiday Traditions

By Robin Kaye

Most of my family traditions revolve around food. I know, it's not surprising to you who have come to know me. I thought I'd share two of my favorite holiday recipes.  

Hot Buttered Rum

1 pint vanilla bean ice cream
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon lemon peel
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice

Beat mixture until smooth. This can be kept frozen to use whenever you want.

To make a cup, take two heaping tablespoons of the mixture, add once ounce dark or light rum and approximately 1/2 cup boiling water. Stir and serve with a cinnamon stick or candy cane.

The second recipie is for something my grandmother used to call pingulata. I've heard it called Struffoli or Honey Balls elsewhere. This is an incredible dessert only made at Christmas time. It's small balls of fried dough covered with honey and sprinkles. It's decedent. I remember the few years I lived away from my Sicilian grandparents, my Nana would send a box with oranges, grapefruit and lemons from their trees and a package of pingulata. The pingulata was always the highlight of the holidays for me. 


3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon butter - softened
1 cup honey
1/2 cup + 1 teaspoon sugar

vegetable  oil for deep-frying

Beat together eggs, butter, 1 teaspoon sugar until foamy. Add baking powder and flour.
Work the mixture into a soft dough with your hands and divide into 4 pieces.
On a floured surfase, roll each piece into a rope about the width of your pointer finger. Cut the ropes into about 3/4 inch pieces. Dust the pieces with flour, shake off the excess.

Heat oil to 375 degrees F in a deep fryer. Fry the Pingulata a few handfuls at a time until they puff up and turn golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel to drain. 

Combine honey and the 1/2 cup of sugar in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Keep warm over low heat. Add the balls a few at a time, turn them with a wooden spoon to coat all sides. Transfer the balls to a large platter and mound them into a pyramid, shaping with wet hands. Sprinkle with the colored sprinkles and let stand for 1 - 2 hours. Then just break off a few pieces with your hands and eat. Oh yeah, and you'll want to invite me. Yum!

I hope all your dreams come true, and that you and yours have a joyous holiday season full of love, family, food and fun.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Present - Part 3

By Christina Harlin
Continued from December 4, 2008

There was the briefest moment of hesitation from her and then she sighed and melted against him, her slim pale arms winding around his neck and her lips parting beneath his. Blake, who had half-expected her to withdraw and slap him, or teleport him to another awkward scenario, hauled her into a deep and penetrating kiss. He could drown in the sweet golden smell of her, the long languorous stroking of her mouth against his. His hands molded to her back, feeling the tawny smooth skin beneath the very thin film of her golden gown, then stroked up her bare shoulders to wind into the heavy silk of her hair. Her tongue beckoned his to penetrate deeper into her mouth, and she arched her back so that her body—

Then someone turned a page. Dimly he recalled that they were standing in the room with his ex-fiancĂ©e, who was waiting on her husband. Holly heard it to, because abruptly she pulled back, disentangling herself from him with an “Oh my goodness. Well. That was . . . my apologies, Blake. I really shouldn’t have. That is, it’s not professional. That is, it’s been a rather long time since I kissed anyone, and I shouldn’t have.”

Blake glanced to the oblivious Tabitha, then back to Holly’s face. He was breathing hard and there was a deep hungry ache in the pit of his stomach that he hadn’t felt in years, and that he wasn’t sure he’d ever felt so strongly. If Holly had been watching him for as long as she said, the relationship must have been strangely mutual because he felt as if he’d known her for years. Something occurred to him and he asked, puzzled, “A shark and a bicycle?”

In another pop of changing reality, they were standing on a busy city sidewalk, snowflakes drifting around them as shoppers moved back and forth in a Christmas Eve rush. The world was alight with holiday decorations, music and excited voices. Blake felt as if he’d been dropped into a movie scene.

“I was a photojournalist for a newspaper in an eastern seaboard town,” Holly explained. “Someone caught a shark down at the docks, so I drove down to get a shot of it. But word had gotten out and people were coming from all over to see the shark, especially kids. A girl on her bicycle was so excited that she shot out in front of me through an intersection and I swerved to miss her, and drove right into a bus.”

Blake, who had never heard anyone relate the tale of their own death before, was at a loss for words. He almost told her he was sorry, but then said, “It was a traffic accident. You died in a car crash.”


“But you say that it was an unfortunate incident with a shark and a bicycle.”

“It was.”

“You just say it that way to make your death sound more interesting, don’t you?”

Holly pursed her lips. “No I don’t.”

“Sure you do,” he teased. “What’s the matter, does everyone you work with have a more interesting death?”

“Can’t be that interesting,” she muttered. “Took you half an hour to ask about it.”

“I think it’s so cute that you embellish your death.”

Holly glanced around them with her fair cheeks flaming. “You should be nicer to me. I’m doing you a huge favor.”

“Showing me the error of my ways?”

“No, giving you time to shop.” She gestured at the glowing windows of the department store in front of them. “I have a certain amount of play within the time/space continuum, and I want you to be able to take real presents to your niece and nephews tomorrow.”

“Am I solid now?” He referred to his whole body, though certain parts of him felt more solid than others, thanks to their embrace of a minute before. He waved at a passing stranger. “Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas!” the stranger called back.

Blake started in surprise. Then he said to Holly, “I can’t go shopping in my bathrobe.”

“You can shop in your bathrobe, or you can go to Christmas dinner empty-handed.” Holly produced something else out the folds of her gown. A handful of cash—a lot of cash. “Here, use this.”

“Ghosts use money?”

“It’s not mine. I just took it out of your bank account. Now, think like a kid, not like an adult shopping for a kid, and try to enjoy yourself.”

At first Blake did not enjoy himself, because department stores were unfamiliar to him and the atmosphere of last minute shoppers was oppressive. Luckily, so hurried were the employees and shoppers that no one seemed to take any notice at all of his strange attire, or that fact that he was accompanied by a beautiful woman in a long golden negligee that was, if anything, less appropriate than his own pajamas. Maybe they could not see her? It was not until he observed, with something like horror, the consumer nightmare of toy department that he felt the gleam of inspiration. “Wait. This is wrong. We need camping supplies.”

“Camping supplies?” exclaimed Holly.

“Logan is a budding outdoorsman. And can you do me a favor? Go to the luggage department and find a complete set of luggage for a young woman, something with a designer label. Tracy is a jetsetter.”

“Tracy is nine.”

“Then pick out something lightweight.”

“Are you encouraging these kids to run away from home?” Holly asked dubiously.

“Meet me in art supplies in fifteen minutes!” he cried, rushing away toward the outdoors department.

Holly did as he asked, turning up in art supplies as scheduled with a harried young clerk wheeling six lovely little fawn-colored pieces of luggage. Blake at this point looked like a man about to go on a hike, with a rugged backpack, rolled sleeping bag and outdoor lantern slung over his shoulder. “We need an easel, a big one, some canvases, a set of oil paints.” These were for Henry, his nephew the aspiring artist. “A drop cloth too,” he said, in deference to Henry’s mother. With these bulky purchases and an additional clerk in tow, they went to a cashier to pay.

As they waited in the long line he said to Holly, “Can you use a little of your mojo and somehow magically transport this stuff to the trunk of my car?”

Holly seemed about to argue until she looked carefully at the sparkle in his eyes. Then she relented. “I can probably arrange that. Christmas Past is still in the greenroom in case we needed him again.” When they got to the counter Blake unloaded the supplies on his back, and Holly could see one actual toy among all these things: a stuffed animal poking its head out of the top of the backpack.

“What is that, a fish?” she asked, stroking its peek-a-boo nose.

“It’s a shark,” said Blake with a wink. “That one is for you.”


When she returned him to his own bedroom, Holly held the toy shark with a red ribbon decorating its neck. She exclaimed, “I haven’t gotten a Christmas gift since . . .well, since my last Christmas alive.” She gave the plushy shark an affectionate squeeze. “But it’s mean of you to tease me, still.”

“I’m not teasing you, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed about how you died. You gave your own life rather than hurting that girl on the bike.”

“Oh, my,” said Holly. “Well really it was just a reflex, I didn’t have time to think it through that carefully.”

“Now who’s selling herself short?” Blake’s gaze was warm on her face. “So you have to leave me now?”

“Yes,” she replied with a sigh. “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is due in about five minutes, to really drive our point home.”

“It is necessary? I understand what you’ve been saying. I have to embrace my passion, and once I do, I’ll be able to embrace everything in my life. I get it.”

“Regulations state that you have a Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,” insisted Holly. “These lessons don’t work well unless there’s a really good jolt at the end of it.”

“I got a pretty good jolt when I kissed you.”

Hurriedly Holly looked away. Blake took a step toward her and said, “How about we give Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come the night off, and you spend the rest of it with me?”

She pretended to be shocked, but it didn’t come off well against the rapid rise and fall of her chest. “Blake, we only just met.”

“No we didn’t. You’ve been watching me for a long time, and I’ve felt you watching me. You’re that voice I’ve been hearing, the one that has been telling me that I should try to be happy.”

Her eyes flew to his face. “How did you know?”

“Because every time I’ve heard that voice, I’ve smelled sugar cookies.” He came another step closer, reached out and took her chin in his fingers. “You’re the most beautiful ghost I’ve ever seen.”

He lowered his head and kissed her gently, the stuffed shark squishing between them. Holly relaxed into the embrace, a moan deep in her throat that made Blake want to chase it right to its source and pull it long and slow out of her. His mouth left her lips to trace a hot sweet line down her neck to the hollow of her throat. As he did, Holly murmured, “You’ve only met two ghosts, and the other one was Christmas Past.”

Mr. McSharky was given a comfortable place to wait on Blake’s dresser as Blake guided Holly to his bed, following her down onto the rumpled blankets she had pulled him from earlier that night. He pushed a strap of her golden gown off one creamy shoulder, dropped a hot kiss there and said against her ear, “I have been wondering all night, what kind of underwear a ghost might have on under something like this.”

“You’re kind of a kinky devil, aren’t you?” asked Holly with a giggle, then she rolled him over and was sitting astride him, her gown slipping off her shoulders, her hair ablaze in the dim glow of his bedside lamp. Just as she was about to wriggle out of her gown completely, there came a sharp knock on his bedroom door.

Holly and Blake jumped, looking wildly to the source of the noise.

“Who is it?” shouted Blake.

“Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,” replied a voice with a heavy Brooklyn accent. “I’m your three o’clock.”

“We’re not finished,” said Holly, straightening her straps. “Could you come back in a couple hours, Marv?”

“A couple hours!” cried the disembodied voice through the door. “Holly, come on, what’s takin’ so long?”

With an apologetic look at Blake, Holly climbed off the bed and rushed to the door. She opened it a crack, giving Blake a glimpse of a bulky figure in a black cloak and hood. “I really don’t think we’ll need to do the future thing tonight, Marv. Blake has promised that he’s going to embrace my passion—his passion, and, um, find joy.”

Marv peered out from under the black hood at his coworker. “Fine time to tell me. I coulda gone to the Who-Saves-Santa mystery party.”

“You can still make it in time for the reveal,” Holly brightly suggested.

Marv harrumphed and, grumbling, “I knew this one only needed a good—” he vanished from sight, leaving glittering dust motes behind him. Holly closed the door and turned back to Blake, propped on his elbows on his bed.
“Come back here,” he pleaded.

She did so, effortlessly losing her gown as she crossed the room. As to underwear, it seemed that this particular ghost wasn’t in the habit of wearing any.

“I promise I’m not the man I was,” said Blake.

She slipped onto the bed beside him, curled into his embrace. “You’re only saying that because I’m here to help you. We’ve got to fix you good.”

“Speaking of which, what are you doing for Christmas tomorrow?”

“My schedule is wide open. I only work one night a year.”

“That’s good. Cause it might take a long time to set me straight.”

“There must be a finale tonight,” said a stern Holly. She warned, “Prepare yourself for the jolt of a lifetime.”

He couldn’t help himself. He had to say it. “God bless us, everyone.” Then Holly stopped his laughter with a kiss.

The End
Happy Holidays, and thanks for reading!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sourcebooks Acquiring Editor Deb Werksman

As we go into this holiday season, there's uncertainty in the air. Will some of our favorite retailers still be around in the new year? What about our own jobs and those of our loved ones? Will our savings accounts ever recover from the beating they've taken this fall?

I believe we're in the midst of a cultural revolution, and no one knows what's going to happen next. That's scary, but it's also exciting. Each one of us has an enormous amount of power to SAY how the future's going to go, because when it's all up for grabs, people who forge ahead with vision and excitement stand out and opportunities abound.

Here at Sourcebooks, we're seeing an enormous amount of opportunity--to increase our market share, to work with talented people, and to think differently about how the book industry and marketplace can and should function.

We're particularly excited about the opportunities in the romance category, and we're acquiring aggressively:
*new authors with something distinctive and exciting in their work
*established authors who want to take a new direction or are looking for a new publishing home
*classic backlist books that have been off the market and readers and booksellers miss them

So, even with all the uncertainty ahead, you'll be seeing us building our list, building our authors, building our authors' readership.
We're looking for:
Single title romance (series/trilogies too!) in all subgenres:
*romantic suspense
*erotic romance

minimum 90,000 words, please

*a heroine the reader can identify with
*a hero she can fall in love with
*a world gets created
*a "hook" so I can sell the book in 2-3 sentences

Send synopsis and full manuscript (Word .doc files preferred) to!

Can't wait to read you! Come and dance in our revolution! (Remember the Emma Goldman quote "If I can't dance, it's not my revolution"?)

Meanwhile, have a WONDERFUL holiday season, full of love and romance.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Another Year Above Ground

posted by Aunty Cindy aka Loucinda McGary

That's what a former boss of mine used to say instead of Happy Birthday. Only within the last few years have I begun to appreciate the significance.

Yes, today is my birthday, and no, I don't wanna talk about it, particularly my age, which really is older than dirt!

And yes, it truly SUX to have your birthday the week before Christmas. First you have to wait ALL YEAR to get any presents, then they all come at once. Second, your birthday gets lost in the shuffle. Parties never come off because everyone is BUSY with the holidays. The weather is crappy (great rationalization to move to the Southern Hemisphere!). Forget anything that's not Christmas themed. My mother was the only person who NEVER wrapped my birthday present in Christmas paper. Sometimes she had to use the comic section of the newspaper, but NEVER Christmas paper.

Finally, DO NOT get me started on the people who try to pull the old "This is your birthday and Christmas present COMBINED" scam! Of course your old Aunty has the perfect cure for that one. I just smile and say, "Really? This is YOUR birthday and Christmas present COMBINED." And when the person looks shocked and says, "But my birthday is in July!" I simply reply, "Too bad."

In recent years, my favorite way to spend my birthday (besides hiding under the bed in the fetal position) has been on board a cruise ship. I've done this twice in the past four years and highly recommend it! The wait staff (who are generally young, good-looking men with accents) make a fuss, bring me my own little cake and sing to me. AHHH! Doesn't get much better than that!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to all you other December Babies! May you NEVER receive a combined birthday and Christmas present.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas, Wedding Anniversaries and The Call

Today is my wedding anniversary and also the 29th anniversary of the day I sold my first two books. Talk about a holiday season where I partied big time! My husband thought that meant he didn’t have to get me an anniversary gift, but I straightened him out on that real fast.

That day I had just been to lunch with a client, and ironically even discussing my writing and he’d wished me good luck and hoped the books would sell. I returned to my office where not long after my agent called to let me know that a new romance line, Silhouette Romance, wanted to buy my books. I think the whole building heard me.

I started writing full time the following February when my boss fired me for selling the books. But trust me, she received payback in a way I couldn’t have even conceived. So karma does work!

So much has happened over the years and I’ve always been thankful that I could write the stories that live in my head and bring the characters to life. Some readers have turned into very good friends, a couple have even adopted me as their aunt and other authors and editors have been added to the growing group I call friends and even family.

Writing is a solitary business. I didn’t even meet another writer for over a year when I attended a regional writer’s conference. All of a sudden I met people who did what I did, who understood me.

There have been many books and conferences since then. And I’ve learned a lot along the way and still learning. That’s the best part, still learning.

And every year I thank all my readers for picking up my books and letting me continue doing what I love most. And it never seems to fail that a day I feel down I hear from a reader that they enjoyed my book.

So have a wonderful holiday season, please buy a book (and no, it doesn’t have to be mine, but it would be nice :} for a friend or yourself, and remember, all those lovely treats out there have no calories or fat grams this time of year.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Christmas Card



Topsail Island

A favorite painting of a favorite time of day.

Rafts and sand chairs are stacked for the night. Up and down the beach hamburgers are grilling and tomatoes are being sliced.

The noon's heat is past. The snapping breeze dies to soft puffs that send aromas of hamburger grilling and tomatoes being sliced, while the last of the daylight slips off behind the cottages.

Wishing you pleasant hours, peace, and the smell of good food cooking.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Thanks for a wonderful year,

Mary Margret

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Regency Christmas

God bless the master of this house
The mistress also,
And all the little children
That round the table go.

Old English Christmas rhyme.

Just for fun, I thought I would take you back in time for a glimpse at Christmas in Regency England. These notes are taken from Victorie Count De Soligny LETTERS ON ENGLAND and represent Christmas in London in 1817.

The Count tells us that the arrival of Christmas day is announced by sprigs of evergreens such as laurel, bay, ilex, holly all over the house. Holly is stuck in the windows and over the mantelpieces, and wreaths of them hung against the walls.

And in the kitchen, or the servants' hall, a large bunch of mistletoe is suspended from the ceiling, underneath which the maidens are liable to be kissed, if they are caught by the male part of the household. (At our house, we hang mistletoe in our hallway, and there is much kissing as people enter the house.)

Parties and visiting occurred among in every class of life. On Christmas day gatherings are chiefly confined to the houses of the heads of families, where all the junior and collateral branches are invited, and, occasionally, a few intimate friends, are called upon to join the party.

Christmas dinner always includes s an enormous piece of roasted beef at the bottom of the table in the first course, an almost equally enormous plum-pudding in the centre in the last course, and a quantity of a certain kind of pastry called mince pies. The latter of these dishes, the mince pies, are never introduced at an English dinner except at this particular period.

After dinner the younger members of the family are admitted into the drawing-room. The elder portion of the company converse, or play at cards, or sit still and look on. The youthful play, or sing, or make up a little dance to the piano; and the children join in such games and sports as lead to comic results; such as forfeits, blind-man's buff, hunt the slipper, the game of the goose, snap dragon, or push pin, and dancing,.—making as much noise, and acting and talking as much nonsense, as they please.

The party breaks up at a rather early hour, on account of the children who are present, and who on this occasion are permitted to remain till the rest of the company retire.

There were a great many more traditions at Christmas, but these were the things that stood out for a Frenchman visiting London during the Regency.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, or an enjoyable holiday season, and wish you all the best for the New Year.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Don't Cry, wait, DESTINY OF THE WOLF! Coming March 1st!!

Okay, Don't Cry Wolf miracously transformed from a orange hues book cover into a cool blue Destiny of the Wolf. Like it?
I LOVE it. What about you?
I'd say the destiny of the wolves has got to be assured, if all the guys have abs like these. Sigh. :)
Destiny of the Wolf is coming March 1st!! :)

All she wants is the truth…
Lelandi Wildhaven is determined to discover the
truth about her beloved sister’s mysterious death.
But everyone thinks she’s out to make a bid
for her sister’s widowed mate…
He’s a pack leader tormented by memories...
Darien Silver blames himself for his mate’s death.
When her twin arrives in his town, he finds himself
bewitched, and when someone attempts to silence
her, he realizes that protecting the beautiful stranger
might be the only way to protect his pack…
and himself…
Praise for Terry Spear’s Heart of the Wolf:
“The vulpine couple’s chemistry crackles off the page.”
—Publisher’s Weekly
“Centers on pack problems in a refreshingly straightforward
way. The characters are well drawn and believable, which
makes the contemporary plotline of love and life among the
lupus garou seem, well, realistic.”
—The Romantic Times
“A sensual, action-packed read that you won’t want to miss.”
—Shape Shifter Romance
“Full of action, adventure, suspense, and romance…one of
the best werewolf stories I’ve read!”—Fallen Angel Reviews

Terry Spear
Heart of the Wolf
Destiny of the Wolf (Mar 1)
Bite of the Wolf

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Memories

By: Marie Force

This is the story of a tuna can. On a cold winter day in 1972, a first grade girl took a tuna can to school for an art project. She cut out parts and pieces of old Christmas cards and glued them to the can. When her masterpiece was finished, she affixed ribbon to it, and a Christmas tree ornament was born. She took it home and proudly presented it to her mother, who oohed and ahhed and said all the right things—and then promptly relegated the masterpiece to the BACK of the tree. Oh the INSULT!

So the girl did the only thing a girl could do and moved it to the front where it belonged. Off she went to school. While she was gone, her mother did the unimaginable and RETURNED the tuna can to the BACK of the tree! And so it went, just about every Christmas season for the 32 years that followed. From front to back the sad little tuna can would travel in a battle of wills that was never discussed, acknowledged, or shared with anyone else.

The girl grew up, got married, and moved overseas with her new husband. She missed three straight Christmases at home. Ironically, in every photo of her parents' Christmas tree from those years, the tuna can sat front and center—finally getting the respect it so richly deserved. But when the girl came home for Christmas with her own family for the first time in four years, the tuna can was once again relegated to the back of the bus. Game on!

This is the girl's fifth Christmas without her mother, and the tuna can enjoys its premium spot at the front of her tree. No one moves it to the back anymore. The girl is thinking this could be the year she lets her daughter know that it is now her job to relocate the tuna can. It's probably time.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

’Tis the season…

Winter is my favorite time of year. I know, I’m crazy. But I did elect to go to Penn State because it was snowing the day I went for a visit—April 29. (Well, okay. That was only one of the reasons, but still…) In the four years I was there, I never hated the snow. I was the first one out in the quad making a snowman or taking part in snow fights. Even with my (ridiculously) long driveway nowadays, I’d rather shovel it by hand then use the tractor. (Although, that is fun if the chains stay on.)

People talk about the sense of isolation in the winter, with being closed in, but I love it. I turn on the fireplace (note to self: next house, have a wood-burning fireplace. Gas is nice, but it just doesn’t have the same effect.) and curl up on the sofa in my office with my laptop and wool blanket (from Mom’s trip to Ireland – thanks, Mom!) and tap away at the keyboard. I just discovered my local cable provider has a channel that is just a fireplace, complete with crackling, logs shifting, sparks, the hiss of a real fire…

I’ll make a cup of hot chocolate and stir it with one of the candy canes I buy after Christmas every year for this purpose. Nothing beats peppermint in hot chocolate on a cold, snowy day. Turn on some Christmas carols (The Ventures is a favorite) and delve into my manuscript.

So, today, the fireplace is on. The fireplace channel is on. The hot chocolate is steaming next to me as the candy cane melts. My blanket is warm and comfy and the laptop is fired up…

So...where’s the snow?

What’s your favorite way/time/season to write?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas recipe

Greetings to all!
As I write this post, I'm sipping on one of my favorite holiday drinks, a hot mug of wassail. What does wassail have to do with writing or books? Well...nothing really, except it is a tasty treat to enjoy on a cold day while you read the latest Casablanca release. :-)

So here's the recipe so you can make your own wassail!

Spiced Wassail

1 qt. cranberry juice
1 qt. apple cider
1 qt. strong tea
2 cups orange juice
3/4 lemon juice
1 cup sugar
3 sticks of cinnamon
Heat almost to boiling and let simmer several minutes to steep the flavor from the cinnamon and cloves.
Serve hot.
A nice side benefit of wassail is it is full of vitamin C, which is especially helpful in this season of colds! Cheers and happy reading!
Beth Cornelison

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Christmas Novel Passage

by Sharon Lathan
In keeping with the holiday theme, I thought I would post part of the Christmas chapter from my novel, "Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Two Shall Become One." I did edit out quite a bit to keep it fairly manageable, but fear it is still rather long. I hope I have not exceeded the allotted limit! This is a taste of the Darcys first Christmas together. Enjoy!

Lizzy did not rouse at the knock to their door but did at the hoarse rumble of Darcy’s voice, felt as well as heard through his chest where her head lay. She stretched and nestled closer to his side, his arms immediately tightening their grip.

“Is it morning already?” she asked sleepily and yawned expansively.

“I fear so.” He nudged her gently, rolling to his side with her in his embrace until he could see her face. “Happy Christmas, Mrs. Darcy,” he murmured with a tender kiss as he stroked her hair.

“Hmmm … Happy Christmas, beloved. Must we rise straight away? Or do we have time to cuddle for a spell?”

“I believe an obligatory episode of Christmas cuddling is in order,” he said with a smile.

With a mixture of joy for the holiday and regret at departing their warm bed, the Darcys embarked upon their day. Lizzy joined her husband in their sitting room, having bathed and dressed, stunning Darcy as she approached in a resplendent gown of cream and emerald green taffeta. Marguerite had once again dressed Elizabeth’s hair elaborately, clips with emeralds and diamonds sparkling nearly as brightly as her fine eyes.

Darcy caught his breath and then smiled expansively. He took her hands, kissing each palm. “Lovely, Mrs. Darcy.”

“Thank you, Mr. Darcy,” She curtseyed. “You are quite dashing as well, husband. I believe Samuel and Marguerite are consorting again.” She laughed, fingering the emerald green waistcoat he wore.

“Heaven forbid we clashed. Come, my love, our guests await and I am famished.”

Traversing corridors and staircases abounding with greenery, ribbons, and candles, along with the surfeit of mistletoe balls, the Lathrops joined the Darcys and the Matlocks, all attired in their holiday finery. Christmas greetings flowed. Georgiana, Col. Fitzwilliam, and the Gardiners were already in the dining room partaking of the fabulous Christmas morning spread. Mrs. Langton had cooked three versions of the traditional Christmas pudding frumenty as well as a vast array of sweet rolls and pastries. Further greetings ensued as Darcy went directly to the coffee and then piled his plate with food, pausing for a tender kiss to Georgiana’s cheek.

“Happy Christmas, brother.”

“Happy Christmas, my dear. All is well, Georgie?”

“Very well. Shall be better still once I open my presents from you,” she teased shyly, earning a raised eyebrow.

“Was I required to supply a present today? Must have slipped my mind.”

She giggled. “Nothing ever slips your mind, brother. I have no fears.”

“Or is it that you have been peeking in the parlor again?” he asked with a stern expression, causing Georgiana to blush and stare intently at her plate. Darcy laughed. “Father was not able to break you of the habit, so I shall not try. Nonetheless, you must bear the anticipation along with the rest of us until after church.”

The modest chapel of Pemberley was an old yet beautiful structure located an easy distance from the manor in a small, unnamed village exclusively for the needs of Pemberley’s workers. In fair weather the family would walk to church. Today, however, although the sky was mostly cloud free, the wind was brisk and snow had covered the ground some two inches deep, so the carriages were employed. Lizzy had previously attended services twice with Darcy since their marriage.

The Pemberley party arrived at the church and was greeted by Mr. Bertram and his wife Sarah. Lizzy liked the elderly couple, Pastor Bertram being a serious quiet man of few words and his wife the quintessential grandmotherly type. Milling about the courtyard were the inhabitants of Pemberley and the nearby communities who attended services here. Naturally Christmas brought forth a substantially larger crowd than normally seen. Lizzy was amused to note Darcy assuming his Master of Pemberley pose, reserved, somewhat aloof, and serious, as he greeted people with a curt nod and isolated comments.

Georgiana, on the arm of her cousin, shyly greeted a number of the wives and children she and Lizzy had met during their visits. Darcy cocked one brow in pleased surprise and smiled faintly.

The church was decorated with holly branches and festive candles. The service itself centered around the birth of Christ, unsurprisingly, with carols and readings from the Holy scriptures as well as a short missive from the Book of Common Prayer and one of John Wesley’s sermons on the Epiphany. To the delight of all, the service ended with a short play recounting the story of Mary and Joseph searching for the elusive inn in Nazareth, live donkey and all, as performed by the children of the parish. It was thoroughly adorable, despite the uncooperative ass and the Christ babe who refused to cease wailing. The entire congregation exited with laughter and smiles of joy.

With extreme effort, Darcy had forced himself not to inundate Lizzy with gifts. He knew she retained a residual discomfort regarding his wealth, their wealth in fact, although she was hesitant to regard it so, and he sensitively acknowledged her delicacy. Therefore, he avoided jewelry or furs or anything else overly expensive, opting for personal items. He bought her books he knew she wanted, a stationery set with her new name printed on the letterhead, two gowns, a shawl of exquisite Chinese silk, and a letter seal with ‘E.D.’ entwined amid the Darcy crest. This latter gift brought tears to her eyes. The combination of her initials boldly and permanently displayed with the ancient family symbol touched her, lending a magnified reality to her station and the history involved. Unfortunately the setting was inappropriate for her to thank him as she wished, so she settled for a dazzling smile and fleeting caress to his hand.

For Darcy, Lizzy felt that luck had been on her side. Marguerite had directed her to a bookstore in Matlock and, after she introduced herself to the owner, he had diligently applied himself to obtaining whatever she wished. Then, while strolling randomly down the sidewalk, she had spied the perfect gift in a shop window. The remaining two purchases had been purposefully sought. Thus, Darcy was jubilant to unwrap three books he coveted: Admiral Horatio Nelson’s Letters and Dispatches, Walter Scott’s Tales of My Landlord, and a volume of poems by Thomas Gray.

“Elizabeth, how did you acquire Tales of My Landlord? It was published not a month ago!”

“I charmed Mr. Stevens. Promised him Mr. Darcy of Pemberley would inform all his friends how accommodating he was. Then I fluttered my lashes.”

Darcy laughed. “Well, however you managed it, I do thank you. This is wonderful.”

Lizzy handed him the smaller gifts: a new dressage horse whip and saddle blanket, and a waistcoat of pale blue to match his eyes, strangely enough the one color he did not already own. Her final gift rendered Darcy speechless. It was an eighteen-inch-tall, intricately carved ebony statue of a rearing stallion with a man mounted. The workmanship was unparalleled.

Darcy sat with mouth fallen open. Lord Matlock and Col. Fitzwilliam leapt from their chairs, converging on Darcy and the statue with combined enthusiasm and expressions of awe.

“Unbelievable!” exclaimed the Earl. “Wherever did you find this, Elizabeth?”

Richard was equally amazed and blurted before Lizzy could respond to Lord Matlock’s inquiry, “It is a Ferrier! You found a piece by Lambert Ferrier in Lambton?”

All eyes were on Lizzy, her husband’s breathtaking in the delight and love they showed. She blushed. “Matlock, actually, at that little shop on Second Street …”

“Landry’s establishment?” Richard interrupted in astonishment and Lizzy nodded. “I have never seen anything of this quality in there.” He whistled sharply. “Fortunate day for you, Darcy. Your wife possesses the luck of the Irish to stumble across a Ferrier in Matlock! Now I am truly jealous of you.” He smiled and winked at Lizzy. Lord Matlock was caressing the statue as if were made of gold, and Darcy continued to stare at her, his eyes teary.

Lizzy was flabbergasted by the response. All Landry had said was that it was a collector’s piece. Lizzy knew little of art, so even if he had told her it was a Ferrier, it would have meant nothing. She only recognized fine craftsmanship in a general way and had been struck mostly by the faint resemblance to Parsifal and her husband in the statue.

She smiled at Darcy. “It surely was blind luck, William, I confess. I merely thought you would appreciate the figure as it mirrors Parsifal and you. I may not particularly care for your horse, but he is an elegant and noble creature … as are you,” she finished in a whisper. Darcy was overwhelmed as the entire room faded from his consciousness. He leaned over, taking his wife’s chin in his fingers, and kissed her lightly. He met her eyes and was further lost. Only the abrupt sound of his uncle clearing his throat broke his concentration, and he blushed scarlet as he pulled away from Lizzy’s lips with effort.

“Yes, well, job well done, Elizabeth, well done,” declared the Earl as he resumed his seat, grinning broadly.

Christmas dinner was served promptly at four. The feast lavishing the table eclipsed the last evening’s repast. There was enough food to satisfy twice as many diners: venison, goose, turkey, an assortment of vegetables, gravies, rare fruits such as oranges and pomegranates imported for the occasion, breads, souse, trifle, fruit and plum cakes, and a variety of pies. The remains of their banquet, as well as from the servants’ feast, which would occur later in the evening, were to be distributed to the two orphanages in the vicinity and the neediest tenants on Boxing Day. The courses were proffered in spaced intervals, allowing time for digestion and conversation.

The weather had deteriorated substantially, with snow swirling and drifting as the wind howled. An after-dinner stroll in the garden was unfeasible and therefore deferred in favor of a ramble through the Sculpture Gallery, Portrait Hall, and conservatory.

Entering the conservatory at the very end of the northern annex was akin to stepping into summer. The snow continued to fall, blanketing the ground and the glass roof, yet the flowers and bushes inside bloomed. The room was perpetually warm and humid, fragrant and colorful. The group impulsively broke up as they strolled among the greenery. Darcy purposefully steered Lizzy to a far corner well concealed by an enormous weeping maple and pulled her into his arms. He held her against his chest and she closed her eyes in happiness, devouring his heat and strength.

“Are you enjoying your first Christmas at Pemberley, my love?” He inquired, resonant voice vibrating in her ear.

“I am enjoying my first Christmas with you, beloved. We could be on the moon and I would be delirious with joy. William, I have not had the opportunity to thank you properly for your gifts.” She tilted her face up to meet his eyes. “The gowns are lovely; the shawl is stunning; you know how I love books; and the stationery set is perfect and useful. Mostly I must tell you how touched I am by the seal. I am a Darcy! I know it is ridiculous, yet I still forget at times. I suppose I have been a Bennet for too long.” She laughed and he smiled.

“Have no fear, Mrs. Darcy, I shall remind you a hundred times a day if need be. I will never allow you to forget you are mine.” He tenderly caressed her cheek, then cupped her face with his hands and lavished light pecks all over her features.

Col. Fitzwilliam’s voice from around the tree successfully quashed any further romantic enticements, sadly. Darcy frowned and scowled at his cousin in annoyance, Richard merely raising one eyebrow and pointedly ignoring him. Lizzy took Georgiana’s arm and, with Lizzy giving her husband an amused glance, the sisters resumed their walk.

“Fine day, Darcy, wouldn’t you agree?” Richard asked with a grin.

“Tremendous,” Darcy replied with dripping sarcasm and Richard laughed.

I hope you liked it! Just a taste. The entire Christmas, as well as the other first months of matrimony for the Darcys, can be read in full by March of 2009. Yeah!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My 1st (Virtual) Christmas

Here we are - me in front of my big Mac, you in front of your tech tube, connecting again via the dub-dub-dub. Though the world wide web and e-mail have been around for me since 1993, I feel like this is my first e-Christmas. Sure, I've got real life plans here in the real world, but I'm gonna be straight up Midwest honest with you now: my e-life is much bigger and sexier than my real life. I know. Shocking, right? I mean, what's not to love about my toddler chasing the shih tzu around the house right now? Who doesn't appreciate that you get to work all day in black work-out pants and a cotton T? I don't have a lick of makeup on, and my hair is in a ponytail. My "real life" friends are either working or caring for their kiddos, or like me, both.

But on the web? Ooh, baby. On the web, I can be superwoman 24/7. Author Malena always has her hair done, her makeup on, her smile stuck on her powdered face. (Sure, I'm tiny - on Facebook I'm a 1/2 inch square.) But I'm saying witty things my toddler could care less about. I'm beaming into lives through my videos. I'm talking about the JOY PROJECT on my web site in writing and on videos. It's bits of me, captured in time. But it's more than that. It's Connection 2.0. We don't have the time or the time-traveling abilities to get to know everyone on Facebook or Twitter or the WWW in real life, but we don't need too, either. I treasure when I can meet an e-friend in real life, but that doesn't mean that our virtual relationship is fake, either. We can send private messages, we can share posts, favorite links, notes and more. That's real. So when I post my family greeting card on my social networking site, the meaning is the same as if I snail mailed you one to your home. Consider yourself welcome to e-seat yourself in that real-life chair in my library pictured in this post.

So to my e-friends, I treasure you. To my real-life friends and family far away - I'll be Skyping you to see what Santa brought you for Christmas. I'm toasting us and our virtual holiday season with some Sooner Champagne - 1/2 pomegranate juice and 1/2 champagne. Yes, serve it at your next real life holiday gathering, but tell everyone you learned about it from your cool e-friend with the non-stop smile.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Benefits of Dreaming Big

Amazing. Just a couple of years ago, I would never have believed that I'd be in this picture. And yet there I was on Saturday, signing my books alongside the lovely Marie Force and Robin Kaye at the B&N in Baltimore's inner harbor (and by the way, Robin and Marie, you guys are SO much fun, and I'm so glad I got to hang out with you!). It was a little slow, since it was windy and freezing outside (and eventually, snowing), but I don't think I could ever be bored in company like that. If ever there were two women born to write witty contemporary romance, it's Marie and Robin. The laughter kept me warm. Which is good, since we were seated very near the front doors. That's me on the right, with the big smile and the frozen cleavage, shortly before I mooched Robin's scarf.

Casa Babes rock even more in person. DC is going to be a blast this year!

But anyway, as I sat there on Saturday, sampling our buffet of Hershey's kisses and dishing about everything from writer's block to the horrors of pubescent girls to hot Kiwis, I looked around at the shelves and stacks of books, and the beautiful pile of books in front of me. And I realized that this was a big event for me in a lot of ways. It was my very first booksigning, which was huge, of course. But it also marked what a very long way I've come. Today, I'm a published author. But it all started when I was just a sickly little girl, laid up in bed with her nose stuck in a book.

Everyone's romance with Romance started somewhere. With me, it was early, and no wonder. As a child, I was pretty well stuck with living in my imagination. I was a severe asthmatic even as a toddler, often dependent on medicine to breathe normally all the way through high school. Add to that substantial environmental allergies, life-threatening food allergies (nuts), and the simple fact that we lived in Northern New York (otherwise known as the mold and pollen capitol of the universe), and my health as a child was at best precarious, at worst frightening. In kindergarten, a lung nearly collapsed from pneumonia. I was on a first name basis with all of the nurses on the children's floor at the hospital. I'm still amazed that my parents (my mom, thankfully, also a nurse) had two more kids after me. Because I was, in a word, a mess.

But I dreamed big. I could only run in my imagination, but I was reading at a fourth grade level by the time I was four years old. In retrospect, it seems only fair that God gave me something I could do in my massive amounts of spare time. I actually remember the moment of discovery, when I was three, that I could read...and I do mean "discovery," because I never had to try. It was more just realizing the ability was there. Strange but true. Anyway, I remember picking up a book of Disney stories (which I, as a major packrat, still have), opening it to a random page, and realizing that the markings on the page all made sense. It was a story! And I could read it! It was as though a thousand doors were flung wide all at once, and the burst of wonder and joy I felt in that instant has resonated through my life to this day. I might not have been able to play in the snow or jump in piles of crisp Fall leaves without winding up gasping for air, but from then on, I had a way to have adventures that were even better. Is it any wonder I gravitated to fantasy and tales of the supernatural? If my mind was going to escape the confines of the house for a while, I loved it best when it was a grand and fantastic journey. Still do, in fact.

And so it went, until eventually, inevitably, I found Romance. My mom, a certified Romance junkie, had gone out and splurged on A Knight in Shining Armor by Judith McNaught, newly released in hardcover. I was a sixth grader, already a precocious reader and completely intrigued by the premise of the new book in the house. A modern-day heroine and a medieval knight? Time travel? Happily ever after? I had to read it. My mom, bless her, was happy to share. And that was it for me. Once you get to fill in the blanks of all your childhood fairy tales, I don't think you ever really look back. And even then, I remember thinking, "Maybe I could write a book like this someday."

That's where my writing comes from. Those little girls, the pale kid with an inhaler in one hand and Grimm's Fairy Tales in the other, and the shy, dorky pre-teen with a poodle perm and a copy of Julie Garwood's latest historical, have kept me writing from the heart...and they got me all the way to that booksigning on Saturday, healthy, less dorky (on the outside, at least), and surrounded by new journeys I had put to paper all on my own. It's been a long road, for sure, with hopefully a long way to go yet, but I can't help but think that given her druthers, the little girl I was would have been thrilled to end up right where I am.

Sometimes, it just hits you. And it's amazing.

Now it's your turn, readers and writers: when did the romance with Romance begin for you? have a wonderful week!