Monday, November 26, 2012

First the Good News... and then the Other Good News!

It's been a long time in the making, my friends, but with exactly one week until the release of A TASTE FOR SCANDAL (squee!!), I am finally revealing the single greatest giveaway in the history of giveaways! (Seriously-the $450 million powerball has nothing on this!) 
Take a deep breath, rub those hands together with anticipation, and prepare to be blown away:

Click HERE for the Historical Romance Palooza page!

Now, on with today's blog.

When I was growing up, there was one of those old school Walmarts on the outskirts of town, relegated to the back corner of the sparsely populated shopping center.  In those days, there were no gleaming, towering Super Walmart behemoths, stocked with every food and sundry imaginable. No crisp-screened televisions lined the back, and the food section was comprised of peanut butter, Russell Stover assorted chocolate boxes, and enough Cheetos and Doritos to turn stain the fingers of half the population of Oldham County.

In short, it was kind of a dump.

Not that I cared. As an awkward, frizzy-haired girl with hand-me-down clothes and a gap between her front teeth big enough to store a popsicle stick, I never felt particularly out of place. In fact, I liked the prospect of exploring the toy section, skirting the odds and ends in the hardware department, and smelling the many scents of White Rain shampoos and conditioner.  The yellow-hued lights and dingy floor tiles were no matter to me—the prices there were such that I actually had a prayer of ending up with a new sweatshirt or small toy. 

My sister, on the other hand, experienced shame and humiliation on an epic scale anytime Mom stopped in. She hated Walmart, despising the prospect of being seen by someone of consequence. Never mind the fact that, in order to be seen, the seer would also have to be at Walmart. It was social ruin in her head, and that was reason enough to remain slumped in the backseat of our car while Mom and I shopped.

I didn't get it. Why wouldn't you want to pay low prices and get most everything you needed in one trip? Those excursions with my mother would lead to trips there on my own. When I actually started buying books, as opposed to just getting them from the library, it was my first stop. By then, the stores had transitioned to the bright and airy places we know today, with happy-face signs and miles of aisles to peruse. The prices were unbeatable, and the selection tended towards the authors I liked to read. Even when I was an Environmental Specialist and I used to make supply runs for twine, duct tape, and the odd tarp or folding knife, I'd always pause by the books to to pick up a good read for my hotel room.

Well it appears, my dear readers, that my long time loyalty has come around. I am thrilled to announce that I will not only just be in Walmart as a shopper—I'll soon be on their shelves! That's right—A Taste for Scandal will be in Walmart this December (as well as Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million, and all the online retailers.).  I don't know if I can properly convey my excitement about this—it has been a long held dream to see my books grace those shelves. Hopefully it will make it easier for readers to discover me *fingers crossed*.
My only question is... will I be able to get my sister to join me in our local store to giggle over it? ;)

So tell me - where do you tend to buy your books these days?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ghosts of Thanksgiving Day Past

-->As posted on Lady Scribes today <-->

This year, my hubby and I will be avoiding the Thanksgiving traffic jams, and are opting to stay home for Turkey day.  We’re thrilled to avoid the nearly ten hour drive to our hometown, even if it does mean missing out on time with our loved ones. And it’s not like we won’t see them—the world is a better place through the magic of Skype and FaceTime :)
When I was young, however, staying home wasn’t an option.  Oh no, every year we would pack up the car and take the 800 mile trek up to see my mother’s family in the suburbs of Chicago.
This was in the days before minivans, personal game devices, and that miracle known as the DVD/TV combo. It was just me, my older siblings, and my parents jammed into a car like the poor schmucks we were, pretending to like travel Yatzie minus two die and lap-top card games of War and Go Fish.
The trip seemed utterly interminable, but eventually we would pull into my grandparents short driveway, not even coming to a full stop before the doors were thrown open and we exploded from the car like popped corn.
Once inside, the familiar sound of football was the soundtrack to our reunion as everyone hugged Nana and Papa, and us kids covertly scouted out the ever-present candy dishes. There, sugar coated gumdrops and forbidden mini candy bars languished, calling to us like the sirens they were.  To us, the consumers of whole wheat bread and all natural peanut butter, my grandparent’s house was the Mecca of all things deliciously bad for us.
Wildwood cream soda would soon appear, blue and red striped bendy straws poking from their open tops. Salami sandwiches were next, complete with Italian dressing and insanely delicious white bread.  Even as we ate these sinful treats, my sister and I would already be focused on the next morning—Thanksgiving!—when we’d wake up to a box of Dunkin Donuts, procured by our Papa and complete with the cream filled powdered donuts that were surely the most wonderful things on the planet.
With powdery lips, full bellies, and the waning sounds of the Macy’s parade in the background, we’d get ready to head to my uncle’s house, where even more family awaited. There, the aroma of turkey greeted us before we even opened the door, as did the whirl of a hand mixer and the din of laughter. Our cousins, seen once a year like clockwork, would greet us at the door, and the rest of the afternoon would be a game of dodging responsibilities, namely setting the table and carrying folding chairs from the basement.
The food would be plentiful, the conversation boisterous, and the passage of time inevitable.  This yearly ritual, repeated for at least a decade, would set the bar for Thanksgivings for the rest of my life.  It’s been years since I’ve made it back to Chicago, and even longer since I was a carefree kid, happy to enjoy the moments that would linger in my memories for the rest of my life, but I’ll never forget those trips of yesteryear.
This year, I may not repeat the traditions of my childhood, but I’ll certainly be thinking about them. As my husband and dear friend join me at my own dining room table, I’ll be happy to make more memories to look back on years from now. Although. . . just for fun, I may see if I can talk my husband into an early morning Dunkin Donuts run ;)

What are your favorite Thanksgiving memories? Do you have a certain food or dish that takes you back? And are you planning on braving the holiday traffic to visit others this year?

Monday, November 12, 2012

A House is a House is a ...

Growing up in suburban America, my idea of what constitutes a mansion was formed mainly by the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Dallas. Big, airy houses with fluted, two-story pillars framing fancy double doors. They had vaulted ceilings and pools out back and extra room for a long suffering servant or two.
That’s not to say that I didn’t know about castles and manor houses in lands far, far away, but my brain simply couldn’t imagine the true scale of these places.  Corridors so long and winding one could become lost? Preposterous. Wings so far apart that you could have a ball in one wing and sleep soundly in the other? Crazy talk.  I honestly couldn’t picture these things when reading my beloved historical romances, set in the sprawling country homes and massive townhouses of England.
But a few years ago, I got my first glimpse of just such a home when my mom and I decided to visit the Biltmore House in Asheville North Carolina.  And my, oh my, did it open my eyes! The scale? Beyond massive. The house and furnishings? Spectacular does not begin to describe it. Walls covered in hand tooled leather? Check. A dining hall with its own pipe organ? Check. A huge, ten-foot deep indoor pool? Check. Servant’s quarters large enough to house thirty-five permanent servants and another thirty visiting servants? Check.  
In a word? Magical :) Visiting America’s largest private home is an event, one that I hope you have the chance to participate in some day.  This time around, I got to enjoy a day with my friend, critique partner, and fellow Regency writer Catherine Gayle.  It was her first time there, which made it doubly fun for me.  We were there for almost six hours, and I swear we only sat down once, and that was for lunch (in the refurbished stables, mind you!). The rest of the time we were walking, walking, walking—and even then, we only saw the public parts of the house! 
This trip was a total blast, and I am feeling all kinds of inspired.  I think, perhaps, my heroine may get lost on the way back to her room on a dark and stormy night... ;)
For a little treat, here are some of the pictures I took while on our trip. Oh, and the best part? Totally a tax write off! Gotta love research, baby!

So tell me - have you been to the Biltmore? Or any other truly massive old home? If not, where would you like to visit?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Woohoo - Today's the Day!!

Guess what today is...

(No, not election day well. Well, yes, it is that, but that's not nearly as exciting as....)

The release day for MISS MISTLETOE!!!

I'm so excited about my very first novella :-)) Miss Mistletoe picks up where More Than a Stranger left off—at Evie and Benedict's wedding! Evie's cousin Cece has come to witness the nuptials, only to be confronted with the one man she had hoped to never see again . . . 

Cece’s heart slammed abruptly against her ribs. Dear Lord, it couldn’t be! Stifling a gasp, she jumped around the corner into the drawing room. She pressed herself against the wall, keeping out of sight as she tried to breathe past the tightness of her throat.
Her eyes were playing tricks on her, surely. She blinked several times, then rubbed them for good measure. Holding her breath, she leaned cautiously forward until she could just make out the people in the hall. There he was—Finn!
She ducked back out of view, pressing both hands to her face in horror. What was he even doing here? He was good friends with Richard, of course, but had more of a passing acquaintance with Evie. . . . Cece dropped her hands. Of course—he had gone to Eton with Richard. Mr. Hastings was a friend from Eton. She nearly groaned. Yes, wouldn’t it be just her luck that they were all perfectly delightful friends with one another.
Mercy be—how was she going to face him?
She closed her eyes against the fresh wave of mortification that washed through her. She didn’t want to think on that night five years ago, didn’t even want to conjure the memories of the scent of cinnamon flavoring the air, the swirling snow outside the windows, the glossy green bough of Viscum album hanging above her. . . . It was over, in the past—she had practically been a child, for heaven’s sake!
The sounds of the group began to recede as they made their way outside. She had to get herself together; she couldn’t very well miss the wedding just because the man who represented the single most awful moment of her entire life just happened to be party to the festivities. She was a grown woman. She had matured leaps and bounds since that embarrassing, ill-advised indiscretion five years ago.
Although not so much, apparently, that she could face him. No matter how sternly she told herself to leave her hiding place and make her way to the carriage, she could not seem to separate herself from the wall.
“Miss McCrea?”
Cece sucked in a startled breath. She’d know that smooth, dark timbre anywhere. It had haunted her dreams for half a decade, after all. Why, oh, why was he the one looking for her? She shook her head. It didn’t matter.
“Miss McCrea?” he said again, much closer this time.
She couldn’t just stand there, cowering in the drawing room like some sort of criminal. She was a proper woman now, and she had to act as one. Straightening her spine, she took two swift breaths, licked her lips, and emerged from her hiding spot.


 I hope you enjoy this light, sweet Christmas read—it's specially written to make you smile during the rush of the Christmas season :-)  Have you ever kissed anyone special under the mistletoe? Fess up!  Or better yet, if there is someone you wish you could find beneath the mistletoe?

And on a side note... am I the only one who is reeling about the fact that it is already November??