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Merry Christmas and S’Long

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate.

And good bye.

Perhaps you’ve noticed the blog having a series of difficulties resulting in fewer blog posts. It’s been a combination of several factors – technical, writing careers taking unforeseen (but lovely) turns, a few injuries that have since healed and assorted other life intrusions that have interrupted the flow. After some long, hard conversations, we’ve decided to pull the plug and turn out the lights.

Thank you for giving us your time. If you found a new author to enjoy via this site, each of us has a personal blog that a quick search will connect you to. If you’re interested in what I’m up to, you can find me every Friday blogging at Word Whores. It’s clean. Mostly. 😀 My much neglected personal blog is a collection of silly cat stories and tales about boat living and you are always welcome there.

We don’t intend to delete this blog just yet. We may, eventually, but in the spirit of ‘never say never’ we’re leaving it up to preserve the history and the name in case any or all of us find we suddenly have the bandwidth once more. We’re hoping we don’t – it means we’re writing more books. 🙂 We’ll see you in the book store!

The Blind Optimism of Family

Apologies for the late hour of this post. And for missing my post last go around. I was finishing up a book, which was successfully delivered to my editor Monday morning. Which naturally means I’m now sick with one of those colds that makes you wish you could dig out the insides of your own head. Sorry. Too graphic? Yeah. From my side, too.

For the next few weeks, you may notice an awful lot of quiet hereabouts. We’re in the process of planning our themes and posts for the coming year. Stay tuned.

Beyond that and without a theme to rein me in, you get to hear “What I Got for Christmas and Why I Love My Family’s Blind Optimism”.  It goes like this:

My family (Mom, Dad and sister) like to give me clothes for the holidays. I try not to take it as any kind of comment on my sartorial – erm – let’s call them missteps. I love cool clothes. But I *am* a geek. Thus it is that I’m more fashion victim than fashion forward. I’ve made peace with this. Mostly. It’s also one of the benefits of living aboard a boat. No one expects you to wear heels while you’re climbing in and out of a boat. Gel coat and cute shoes just don’t mix – not without one of you going swimming. Sensible boat shoes lead to jeans, which lead to comfy, oversized sweatshirts and well. Pretty soon everyone who knows you, knows to say ‘adult clothes, please’ when they invite you out for dinner. And that means ‘something with no bottom paint on it and no battery acid holes in it’.  Occasionally, such items are in short supply.

So my family gives me clothes. Lovely things. Cute things. Things that are a size 0.

I adore my family, but I am not, nor have I ever been a size 0. Ever. I went straight from a girl’s 14 to a women’s 6. Or 8. Sometimes a 10. The funny part? They ask my size. I tell them. Medium. Size 6. If you’re buying 501s? 30×32.

And yet. every single thing I unwrapped was a size 0 or a small. “Try them on! You wear your clothes too big, anyway!” (Granted. I do. Because I like breathing. And layering. Lots of layering.) “No way will these fit,” I said. “I’m not that tiny.” My sister insisted I was so that little! When I couldn’t get the size 0 jeans over my hips, she shook her head and walked away, muttering, “I could have sworn…”

All of this used to depress me because it seemed like my family didn’t actually see me. They saw what they wanted to see. But it finally occurred to me that it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with their pasts – their aspirations. My sister held on to her jeans from high school – when she was legitimately a size 0. She’s had a child since then and she’s finally coming to terms with the fact that she’ll never be a size 0 again – her body changed in a wonderful way to give life to her daughter. But if SHE can’t be a size 0, damn it, *I* would be! Though, as I pointed out to her while trying on the jeans she’d give me, I’d be a size 0 only if I break both hips and my pelvis.

We laughed and laughed. I put back on my grungy, saggy Levis and she and I went to raid the Christmas cookies.

Tina’s Dark Christmas Elves Are Doing A Give-Away!

Having worked in retails for years I have lost most of my enthusiasm for Christmas. Let me just say that everyone, and I mean everyone from tiny toddler to sweet little granny, goes completely and utterly INSANE at this time of year!!!!

This is the first time in far too many years that I am not starting my workday at 4.30am in the morning to get to the store by 5am and set it up for Boxing Day madness. To celebrate the wonderful and exciting  (to me at least;)) fact, I am giving away two of my ebooks.

Tell me what you are excited about this Christmas for a chance to win a book of your choice. On Christmas Eve my Dark Elves will help me choose the winners! And let me just say we will have a lot of fun doing it….

Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!

For a little fun:


Tina Christopher

Writer of Sexy Steampunk and Sensuous Sci-Fi available at Ellora’s Cave and Amazon.

The Dark Days of Christmas

What would a dark elf slip into Santa’s bag besides Sabrina’s new book? Why, for the bookish but less romantically inclined, it would have to be an H.P. Lovecraft inspired holiday. The Necronomicon would be a great gift! Who wouldn’t enjoy a little light and mind-destroying reading about the Elder Gods? I’m sure that wouldn’t end badly! Not on Christmas day, right? The insanity would likely require at least 24 hours to take hold. Surely the sacrifices and bloodshed would hold off until Boxing Day.

For the younger, budding cultist, a plush stuffed likeness of Cthulu or the almighty Daigon would be just the thing. The child’s screams of terror in the night insisting that the toys are whispering foul, horrible things? Overactive imagination. Surely! Just note that the links between children receiving these toys causing an increase in playing with matches and various accelerants – totally spurious. Correlation. Causality hasn’t been established.

For the musically inclined, Santa’s cultist elf would slip this CD into the gift pile. It’s a real thing you can order favssrom Cthulu Lives. Of course, maybe all a dark elf would have to do for the gamers on your list is bring the newest MMORPG. Elder Scrolls. Wildstar. You’d never see your game addicted family members again.

Under the Misa’ltoe

mistletoe-sprig1What?

So we’re blogging about Christmas traditions. As a family of seven (yes, shut up) we’ve adapted our traditions as the years have gone by and the children have gotten older. A few things have stayed the same, like I’ll do the dinner at midday, before they have chance to gorge themselves on chocolate. But we tend to forgo the normal Christmas food – last year was the first we got anywhere close to eating turkey, as we had four bird roast.

Christmas mornings start later, thank goodness. We get up and first order of the day is presents. My OH and myself haven’t really bought for each other, but Christmas is about children and not adults in my opinion. Once the living room resembles an explosion in a wrapping paper factory, I’ll ring my parents and have a natter. Then it’s organising lunch and fielding questions on how the new toys work.

Afternoons are for chilling – Christmas television and wine, eventually thinking about what to eat later. Since 2005, roughly six o’clock means a Doctor Who special, which is pretty much my highlight. It will be this year, as I say a tearful ‘goodbye’ to Matt Smith and welcome Peter Capaldi (woot!)

Then it’s more TV and buffet food. I decided many years ago that I’d go for easy options rather than trying to stick to the usual traditions, and as a whole that tactic has worked. We have a quiet family day with very little stress. And I think that’s exactly as it should be.


Misa Buckley is a sci fi geek who escapes the crazy of raising five children by creating imaginary characters who experience adventure, romance and really hot sex on their way to a happily-ever-after. You can keep up to date with Misa’s latest news by following her on Twitter or at her website.

Traditions–the ties that bond

On the eleventh day of Pre-release, the author gave to me…

Traditions.

At Casa Richards there are only a few traditions set in stone. One is the decorations don’t go up until after my Dad’s birthday, on December 6th. For some people the wait for the appropriate time would be agonizing but, for me, not so much. It allows me a little more time to think about it all and make some plans. We’ve moved quite a few times over the last few years, so this year I’m once again trying to figure out where things will go. I need those extra days!

Another tradition is that at some point over the season we’ll get together with all the kids and have hors d’oeuvres for dinner. That started when I worked retail and always worked up until Christmas Eve. Back in those days we had to negotiate with the elder two’s Mum as to when we’d have them and for a number of years we’d have them the day before Christmas. So sometimes I was facing somehow having to produce a feast on a day when I wouldn’t get home until almost 6:30pm. One year I thought, “This is nuts!” and asked if anyone minded us having nibblies instead of a meal. We all enjoyed it so much, we do it every year now. Sometimes on Christmas Eve, sometimes on Boxing Day or even on the 27th, which is my hubby’s birthday.

The only other thing that I’m honor-bound to do is make Jamaican-style Christmas pudding. Most people hear those words and wince, but our pudding starts with fruit (raisins, prunes, etc.) that have been soaked in rum and wine…usually all year. Yeah. If I ever said I wasn’t making puddings I think I’d have a mutiny on my hands.

Old traditions, passed on from generation to generation, keep us in touch with our pasts, while the new ones help make sense of our present. In my new book, Jaguar in the Sun, book four in the Unveiled Seductions series, the heroine is facing a tradition she won’t survive. Yet there is no thought of shirking it, because she knows everyone is depending on her to follow through. I’ll freely admit that, in the midst of the craziness that the Christmas season sometime can be, following through on some of the traditions (especially the two day pudding bake!) feels like a chore, but in the end it’s worth the effort. Seeing the smiles and hearing the sighs of appreciation make it all good!

Enjoy the following preview and Happy Holidays to All!!

Anya

jaguarinthesun_9781419947193_msr_1Blurb:

Cassandra Solinar has a bucket list and jaguar god Xbal Montegro is on it. About to undergo an essential rite she won’t survive, she wants to wring every ounce of pleasure out of the time left. Including discovering if Xbal’s sex magic technique is as good as rumored.

It’s no hardship for Xbal to accept Cassandra’s invitation for one erotic encounter, but far more difficult to let her go once he gets a taste of the explosive passion between them. Now he’s determined to hold on to her, no matter what.

Cassie can’t tell Xbal the truth about what she’s about to do. It’s illegal, but without her death the entire world will perish. It’s a job she’s been preparing for from birth, but the loss will be greater now. For in Xbal she finds a soul-deep connection she doesn’t want to lose, and the one thing she made a point of not putting on her bucket list—love.

A Romantica® paranormal erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave

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Journeys Through Seduction

Anya Richards/Anya Delvay books available from Samhain Publishing, Ellora’s Cave, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters Indigo.

Tradition of Change

We’re a family cut adrift from our roots. Dad was in the military. When he enlisted, he left his Midwestern family behind. He married my southern mother and ended up being stationed far, far away from *her* family. They started a family of their own – by adopting cats. I was a distant second thought. At least you know I come by the cat thing honesty. Regardless, the point is that my folks came from two very different cultural holiday traditions. They had kids in a state as far away from their respective families as the Air Force could possibly send them. Alaska. In 1964 (fortunately after the massive earthquake).

We moved often. Including overseas to Iceland. Each place we lived had it’s own set of traditions.

So we cherry picked. Nothing was sacred. Some of the food came from my dad’s family. Most came from mom’s. Everything else? Totally up for grabs. In Iceland, post Christmas, there’s a midwinter/early spring holiday wherein kids put a shoe in a window sill. In the morning, the shoe is filled with candy, treats and coins. My folks were willing to play that game, but only while we were in Iceland. Once we got back to the states, that was over. 🙂 We settled in the US after Dad retired and we fell into a set of traditions – maybe habits. They weathered me getting married – even reached out to encompass my husband’s family, and welcomed my younger sister’s baby into the mix.

But these days, change is once again the name of the holidays. For all of us. My husband’s family moved to sunshine. Florida. After last holiday season, my husband and I looked at my folks, you know, the only people with an actual house, and we realized they were exhausted after hosting the holidays. Mom had been doing most of the holiday cooking for the past fifty years.

It was time to cut my parents a break. Either my sister or I had to step up and host, or we had to come up with some new traditions again. I live on a boat with an oven the size of a bread box and maybe 400 square feet of living space. My sister lives in a trailer with her daughter. She has a real oven, but no more space than I have.

So this Thanksgiving, we’re going out for our dinner. I’m still at Mom and Dad’s doing the holiday baking. For Christmas? We’re not sure yet. Yes. My folks will put up a Christmas tree (for the granddaughter – but the girl is old enough now to do a bunch of the work herself). My husband and I will likely sail the boat over for the week of the Christmas holiday. But at this point? We’re playing tradition by ear, because really? All my life, my parents attempted to make my weird, nomadic childhood as normal as possible. Now, they’re in their 70s. It’s my turn to make their lives as easy and comfortable as possible.

Oh. And there’s still a cat. He’s gotten into the spirit of this season of change. He decided to contribute to Thanksgiving Dinner. Behold, Nicadeimos, the mighty hunter and his offerings for the feast:

grasshopperFirst – grasshopper. Crunchy!

ShrewSecond: the shrew. He is SUCH a good provider. 🙂

Sleigh Bells, the Big Guy and Finding Faith

Well, my darling MANhandlers, I have to say I would make a much larger effort to catch Santa coming down the chimney if he looked like this. Enjoy!

My parents are awesome on an epic level. I love them with a ferocity that defies basic description. It’s always been this way, even when I passed through the dreaded Teenager of Doom years. They are, quite frankly, amazing. But, because they are human and subject to human flaws, there were a handful of serious Parenting Fail moments growing up. The one I want to touch on was the day they told me Santa didn’t exist. I’ll never forget the moment. I had recently defended Santa to a classmate who insisted Santa was his dad and was bothered the classmate, Ryan McSomething-or-Other, proved so insistent. Jackass, right? That first forkful of crow was hard to get down. Here’s how it went down.

My parents were wheeling a small BMX bike up the front walk and I followed behind. (I’d been at a neighbor’s house while they were shopping.)
Mom: “Don’t tell your brother about the bike. It’s from Santa.”
Me: O_o … “Huh?”
Mom: “The bike. It’s from Santa. Don’t tell Andy.”
Me: “How is it from Santa?”
Mom: O_o … “You know we’re Santa.” (← statement of fact)
Me: (trembling chin) “You’re what?”
Mom: “Santa. Your dad and I are Santa. You knew that.”
Me: …

This didn’t bode well for the Easter Bunny, and I knew it with that crystal clarity inherent to life-altering moments.

I suppose I was a wee bit cynical that Christmas. Oh, I didn’t blow it for my brother with a casual, “Everything we’ve ever believed is a lie.” No, I let him have his excitement and his moment of wonder as I sat back and smoked a cigarette and sipped my scotch and contemplated the meaning of life. Not really. (C’mon. I was, like, eight. I didn’t like scotch yet.) In my mind, the moment was captured something like this:

 

 

“Don’t mind me. I’m just sitting over here living a lie, thanks.”

 

 

 

But this was the moment a tradition was born. My parents pulled me aside and told me that, as long I continued to believe in the beautiful mystery of Santa and maintained the Christmas spirit, the jolly red-suited big guy would continue to visit — ad nauseum. I chose right then to give up drinking and smoking and simply hold out hope the ‘rents were telling the truth. I remember easing back into the moment and feeling a little of the Christmas spirit revive in me.

It became a holiday tradition that my brother and I would sit down at the tree on Christmas Eve and shake our presents, trying to guess what we’d be opening come morning and then we’d lay a little wager about what Santa would bring. When he moved to Florida this year, at age 36, I realized I wouldn’t have that. I’m going to miss it. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on Santa, though. Nope. No way. I’ve even got my husband believing. We hang stockings every year and, lo and behold, they’re filled every Christmas morning and there are special presents for us, whether it’s around our tree or Mom and Dad’s.

Santa and I have come to a gradual understanding over the years. It’s pretty much: I get fantastic presents in exchange for faith based on cookies, time and tradition.

I can live with that.

Christmas Recipes: Cranberry Cake

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” I love Christmas. I love buying presents and seeing my children’s eyes light up. I could do without the endless TV adverts, but that’s what the mute button is for, right? 😀

Christmas is also an excuse for me to roll out all my cranberry recipes. I love cranberries. I love the colour, the smell, the taste and will add them to every thing going, be that drinks, dinner sauces or desserts. So today I’m sharing a recipe I found last year for a Cranberry Upside Down Cake that makes a great centrepiece alternative to Christmas Pudding (a good thing since I’m very allergic to nuts) and it serves up to 12 people, so it’s good for big get-togethers!

cranberry-cakeIngredients

  • 110g butter
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 350g fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 110g brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 175ml soured cream

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas 4. Generously grease a 23cm springform cake tin. Wrap aluminium foil around the outside of the bottom to prevent leaking.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in 300g caster sugar, water and cinnamon until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and then add the cranberries. Stir to coat with the sauce, then pour into the prepared tin.
  3. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, beat the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter with 100g caster sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla and soured cream. Mix in the dry ingredients. Pour the mixture over the cranberries in the tin.
  4. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the outer edge. Invert onto a serving plate and remove the springform tin.

I tend to hold back a little of the sauce and then brush the cake once it’s cooled just to give it a fresh, glazed look. I’ve also halved the ingredients and made separate servings in ramkin bowls. Happy Christmas!


Misa Buckley is a sci fi geek who escapes the crazy of raising five children by creating imaginary characters who experience adventure, romance and really hot sex on their way to a happily-ever-after. You can keep up to date with Misa’s latest news by following her on Twitter or at her website.

Moravian Christmas Cookies

This may surprise some of you, but I am a CHRISTMAS NUT.

Nope, not religious. I’m talking the whole tacky ornament, Santa loving, Grinch adoring, stockings-and-ugly-sweaters kind of Christmas nut.

I ADORE Christmas. I love getting together with my family, giving them the most fabulous presents I can come up with, eating, cooking, laughing, and sneaking around playing Santa.

When I was little, my parents had to make a rule for me. We couldn’t open presents until 5:30am. That didn’t stop me getting up at 1:00, 2:30, 3:25, and 4:59.

Yeah. This is a lifelong condition.

So, it is with a sense of great jubilation that I share with you my single favorite Christmas cookie recipe.

OMNOMNOMNOM

OMNOMNOMNOM

 

Warning: These cookies taste like you just jammed a sleigh-full of delicious and spice into your mouth. Also, one batch makes about a trillion cookies. But, good news. The batter can stay refrigerated for up to two MONTHS. (not a typo.) Yay for liquor-laced cookie dough!!!

And, without further ado…

 

MORAVIAN CHRISTMAS COOKIES

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cups Shortening

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed Dark Brown Sugar

A five pound bag of flour (you won’t use all this in the dough, but you will need the vast majority by the time you’re done. Think of the rolling out. These cookies are a commitment, but it’s like marrying an ancient billionaire. Pain in the hoo-ha for the short term, but CRAZY AWESOME later!!)

4 cups of Molasses

3/4 cup Brandy

2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda

2 tablespoons Milk

1 teaspoon White Vinegar

2 tablespoons Cinnamon

2 tablespoons Nutmeg

2 tablespoons Cloves

1 tablespoon Ginger

 

Directions, in case you’re not scared enough now. IT’S WORTH IT!!

 

In a big bowl, mix together shortening, brown sugar, and 3 cups flour. Add molasses and brandy. In a separate bowl, dissolve baking soda in milk and mix in vinegar. Add to molasses batter with all the assorted spices. Now here’s where it becomes a workout. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough. Your arms will be exhausted, and you may give up too soon. That is okay. Refrigerate at least overnight, but up to two months! Liquorrrrrrrrrrrrrr. 🙂

When you’re ready to bake, let a chunk of the dough come up to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. If your oven runs hot, you may want to knock it down to 260. You know your oven. I don’t. Moving on!

On a floured board roll out dough to 1/8 of an inch thick. If too sticky, add more flour. If too dry, add more dough. Cut 3 inch cookies. I recommend using parchment paper on your baking sheets, also, btw. Bake them for ten minutes total, the first five on the bottom rack, and the last five on the top rack. Remove and cool.

 

These cookies will turn you into a bakery, but they make your house smell of nutmeg and cinnamon and ginger and cloves. AMAZEBALLS. And the taste? They’re much better the next day. The spices ping your tongue. Yeah, so they’re a lot of work. Yeah, so they have about seventeen ingredients. THEY ARE SO WORTH IT.

 

Christmas is a commitment, people. Your December 25th can be just like every other day of your life, or it can be special. MINE WILL BE SPECIAL, DAMMIT!!

 

*omnomnomnomnomnom*

 

 

 

 

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