Monday, November 30, 2009

Home sweet home

Swedish island wedding

    Speaking of weddings, Once Wed just featured the simplest and sweetest wedding I've ever seen...
    Johan and MeeSook tied the knot on a Swedish island overlooking a lighthouse and the sea.
    They exchanged rings and a kiss. MeeSook's absolutely beautiful dress is from Saja Bridal. Don't you love how it flows in the breeze?
    Next, confetti and Champagne!
    The guests also looked amazing, including the bride's sister in a dyed silk dress and a baby in a flower cap.
    Then the couple waved goodbye to everyone...
    And lived happily ever after. xo

    (Photos by Mikael Olsson. Via OnceWed)Source URL:
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tradition! Tradition!

    by Jo Robertson

    Yesterday we attended a triple baptism. Two of our grandchildren and one of their cousins was being baptized and combined their ceremonies. The entire affair got me thinking about traditions and the things we do as families, communities, or friends to bind us together – the ties that bind, so to speak.

    This, of course, was a religious ceremony, but our traditions don’t have to revolve around religion. Many traditions are tied to family. I've always considered my family my Higher Power. Around sixty people attended the baptism, all but a few of
    them family members, and although it was quite chaotic, it was also a lot of fun.

    One little boy tried to stick his hands in the baptismal font. Babies cried throughout, except for our Emma of course, who behaved perfectly. The piano was notoriously louder than the singers. And all the food at the reception was gone by the time the adults got there! Must’ve been the “other families'” grandchildren.

    My son-in-law’s family goes bowling every Thanksgiving Day and they use this opportunity to take an annual family picture since Mark’s sister is a professional photographer and they’re all together. Many of my friends hassle the nightmare that is Black Friday.

    You’ve noticed that here in the Lair, we’ve begun to have our own traditions. We celebrate our anniversaries quite uproariously with Sven, the Roman boys, and the Golden Rooster all playing prominent parts. We have a Christmas countdown. Even our invitation to guesting authors is a tradition we enjoy and hope our readers do too.

    In The Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye says “And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: TRADITION!"

    What do you readers do to “keep your balance," especially during the hectic holidays? Do you have rituals, ceremonies or traditions that keep you centered during the year?

    Or do you have a favorite holiday recipe you’d like to share with us? Below is one of my favorites for using the left-over turkey and dressing (if you have any!). Thanks to my sis who passed it on to me. Enjoy!


    3 cups cooked turkey (or chicken)
    1 can cream of chicken soup
    1 can cream of celery soup
    1 cup sour cream

    Layer diced turkey in 9x13 pan. Mix soups and sour cream. Spread over turkey. Sprinkle 1 package herb-seasoned stuffing mix over and pour 2 cups chicken broth as needed over dressing. Bake at 350 degrees covered for 30 minutes and 5 minutes more uncovered.
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday Sharing

    by Susan Sey

    So I hosted Thanksgiving this year, although I don't know if "hosted" is the right word. We didn't have anybody over but ourselves. My family gathered in Michigan where my parents live, my husband's family gathered in California where his brother and his family are based. But we stayed home. All by ourselves.

    I'll have been married ten years this coming summer, and it's taken us the full ten to get the hang of this sharing the holidays business. It's no easy thing. You want to respect each other's family traditions while making the space to create your own traditions. Throw in kids, pets, in-laws, limited vacation time and several hundred miles and you've got a real quandry.

    At first we simply switched sides every year. If his family got Christmas, my family got Thanksgiving. The next year we flip-flopped. But we live twelve hours from my folks, and six from his. Then we had a baby. Then we had two. When #2 was born I called a halt to holiday travel. I said, "We love you but we are not leaving this house for the holidays anymore. You are all welcome to come here, I will love having you. But I will not take this show on the road."

    I stuck to my guns on it, too, and people understood. They weren't happy but they got it. Babies aren't easy-going travelling companions, and they require a lot of stuff. A lot of routine. A lot of tending. All easier done where all the equipment is near at hand.

    Then my husband's parents had their 40th wedding anniversary, and all they wanted for a present was a Christmas with everybody together. So we packed up the kiddoes, got on a plane and spent the holidays in California. And it was wonderful.

    The baby was a year old, on her feet and tremendously cute. Her cousins fawned over her and we had a lovely time. I thought, "Goodness, why was I so dead set on never doing this again?"

    And since we'd just done one Christmas in California, it was only fair to do the next one in Michigan. So we loaded up the old station wagon and hit the road. We made it to Chicago before my oldest's notoriously touchy stomach decided to act up. I sat backwards in the front seat holding a well-used barf bowl all the way to Detroit, and I remembered why travelling with kids can be problematic.

    I thought to myself, "Next year is an At Home Year." And thus my current philosophy was born. One year for his family--they get to pick whether they want Thanksgiving or Christmas & we show up wherever they say with smiles on our faces. The next year for my family, same deal. But the third year? The third year we stay home. Anybody who wants to join us is welcome but we are not budging.

    This--as you may have guessed--is an At Home Year.

    We've had an incredibly good time. A nice, leisurely dinner on Thanksgiving. A brisk hike along a deer-tracked foot path afterwards. Pie and tea in front of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. We laid around like slugs the day after, and the day after that we hosted a Post-Thanksgiving Left-Overs Potluck for other folks who were sans family for the holiday. We all got together, shared food and conversation, and enjoyed being home.

    And part of that enjoyment is from just being here, where we live, cementing friendships with people we like. But another part of it is knowing that next year, we'll go to our family and be with them. We'll demonstrate our love for them by taking this travelling circus on the road, and sharing their traditions, their homes, their food. And we'll be delighted to do it.

    What about you? How do you share the holidays? Have you ever spent a holiday alone? What are your traditions? Your family's traditions? What did you take from your childhood, and what did you leave behind? How do you balance your family's traditions with your spouse's/partner's?Source URL:
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Friday, November 27, 2009


    by suzanne

    No, I'm not asking for your best Internet forward joke...although I have a great one best told in a bar with an Irish accent. What I want, what I'm craving is a funny book to read. A light-hearted fare or one where there are brilliant moments of comic relief.

    The first Susan Elizabeth Phillips (SEP) book I ever read was NOBODY'S BABY, BUT MINE. Now, this wasn't a slap-stick funny book. But when she removes all the marshmallows from the cereal box to make it more healthy for him and he says, "I've married a cereal killer!", I cracked up! When she insists on driving up the North Carolina mountain in a storm to have her baby, yep, got me laughing out loud! And it also had me back at the bookstore the next day buying everyone of SEP's back list.

    My friend, Jo Davis,(author of TRIAL BY FIRE, UNDER FIRE and HIDDEN FIRE), who reads mostly suspense, claims AIN'T SHE SWEET was the funniest book she can remember reading. One of her favorite parts? When the dog in the front seat beside the heroine farts at her. The heroine thinks, "yep, even the dog hates me.

    Another author who mixes great characters, good story telling, some suspense and comic relief is Julie Garwood. In SAVING GRACE , two clans are trying to live on the same land under the same laird, only they refuse to merge into one clan. Many funny episodes occur as the heroine uses quiet defiance and even tosses shattered crockery to get her point across. I chuckle my way through that book every time I read it. (28 at a last reading.)

    Another dear friend, Sandy Blair, (author of A MAN IN A KILT, A ROUGE IN A KILT, A THIEF IN A KILT and A HIGHLANDER FOR CHRISTMAS) says the funniest book she can remember was Garwood's THE GIFT. What makes it so funny? Sandy says it's knowing what's coming next from the heroine's POV and the hero's exasperated reaction to what he perceives as illogical. Garwood sprinkles these gems throughout all her books. One of the reasons she's one of our favorite feel-good authors.

    Addison Fox, (author of WARRIOR ASCENDED: The Sons of the Zodiac, coming in March 2010), couldn't pinpoint a specific book by Nora Roberts, but says one of her favorite reasons to read Nora's books is her ability to have witty dialogue that relieves some of the suspense and have her readers chuckling in different places throughout her books.

    One of the funniest books I've ever read was Linda Howard's TO DIE FOR. This book works in so many ways. First it is in first person, (not my usual cup of tea), and because we're mostly in the heroine's head we understand why she does the things she does, even if she admits they're stupid. We also get to see the hero's frustrations at her actions, he's banging his head on his desk. This is also a different kind of suspense for Ms. Howard, totally at odds with her usual dark fare. When I was reading it, Rocky-the-wonder-dog was parked on the bed beside me. I laughed so hard the bed shook and he gave me that irritated male dog look (very reminiscent of irritated male human look). I had to stop reading long enough to stop laughing in order to read some more!

    Jane Graves, a romantic comedy author, (HOT WHEELS AND HIGH HEELS, TALL TALES AND WEDDING VEILS), points to any book by Jennifer Crusie. Jane says, "I always feel a special sense of delight at her word choice, her sentence structure, and especially her dialogue. Her books are just flat-out fun to read, sentence after sentence, page after page. They're not funny in a laugh-out-loud way, at least not to me. They're She's one of the few authors out there who can entertain me with almost every sentence she writes." My daughter, Alison, agrees whole heartily.

    In fact, the idea for this blog originally titled, "where have all the funny books gone?", came from my daughter. She was going through a pregnancy, was home on maternity leave a few weeks early and was looking for books to read. She asked me, "Mom, I'm tired of reading serious, dark books. I want to laugh. I need a funny book, do you know of any?"

    So, I need some help.

    Who would you like to read? What writer makes you laugh? Who do you read when you want a good chuckle or to relieve some of the stress in your own life?Source URL:
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Wild Heart Booty

    by Nancy

    Today's guest, Lori Brighton, is giving away three copies of her fabulous debut, Wild Heart!

    The winners are:

    Louisa Cornell

    Congratulations! Please email contact information to Lori via the link on her website. Thanks to everyone who stopped in today.Source URL:
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Peek at a Wild Heart

    Today Kensington debut author Lori Brighton makes her first visit to the Lair. Lori’s first book, a Victorian paranormal called Wild Heart, is out now. Welcome, Lori! We love Call stories in the Lair. Would you like to share yours?

    I’d been writing for over 6 years with lots and lots of rejections. As a last resort, I entered Wild Heart in a few writing contests. In one contest the final judge was Hilary Sares, formally at Kensington. She ended up not only giving me first place, but also requesting the full. Almost four months went by and I hadn’t heard a word. I figured the request would be yet another rejection and moved on, attempting to figure out where I wanted to go in my writing career. Then the phone rang. The caller I.D. said New York, but I knew no one and so didn’t answer. It was only later after listening to my messages that I realized it was Hilary and she wanted to buy my book!

    That's a great story! Would it be fair to call Wild Heart a Beauty and the Beast story? Tell us about the hero and heroine of Wild Heart.

    Ah, the fairytales! I love Beauty and the Beast, it’s probably my favorite. I’d always thought of Wild Heart more as a Tarzan/Jungle Book sort of story, but actually you’re right. In Beauty and the Beast, Belle ‘saves’ the Beast and that’s sort of how it is in my book.

    Leo is very alpha male. I tried to keep him true to life; what a real person would be like if they’d experienced what he has. On a trip to India, his parents were murdered. He was forced to stay in hiding in a country he knew nothing about. Much like The Count of Monte Cristo (one of my favorite books), vengeance has kept him going. He’s very determined and blunt, but he’s also very honest and loyal. He definitely doesn’t let people push him around.

    Ella is the opposite. She’s very sweet and caring. She’s always been told what to do because she’s a woman and she’s poor. She’s almost too caring at times. She also has an underlying sense of guilt because of her powers. A tiny part of her thinks that perhaps her abilities are evil.
    When she meets Leo, he teaches her to believe in herself, and she teaches him to let go of the past and see the beauty around him.

    What’s the biggest problem these two characters have?

    Internally, Ella has to learn to accept her abilities and realize that her gift is not a sin, but a blessing. Leo, on the other hand, has to learn to accept love and the beauty around him, while letting go of his need for revenge.

    Externally, there is a plot that involves secret societies and power hungry people intent on getting rid of Leo and using Ella’s abilities for their own greedy purposes. It’s definitely a life or death situation kind of book.

    Did you have particular inspiration for this story?

    This is going to sound odd, but the Disney Cartoon Tarzan. My son was watching the movie a few years back. Around the same time, I saw a documentary on Discovery or some equally educational channel about feral children. I’d seen them both rather close together and thought, hmm, what it would it be like if my hero had been lost in the wild during his childhood? I also tend to like more alpha males and you couldn’t get a male more alpha than one who had survived on his own in a foreign country.

    Can we have a peek inside the book?

    Definitely! Here’s an excerpt:

    “I’m safer with you.”

    “Are you?”

    She held his gaze even though she couldn’t make out his emotions. They hadn’t been alone in days. The silly thing was, she missed him.

    “Do you trust me?” he asked her again.

    Warmth settled around her chest, squeezing her heart, and suddenly she knew and she could no longer deny her feelings. “I do.”

    He didn’t smile, he didn’t smirk, and she was left wondering how her words made him feel.

    “Come here, Ella.”

    She stiffened in surprise. “Where? What do you mean?”

    He patted the seat next to him. “Here.”

    His gaze burned into her, a predatory amber in the dim light of the carriage, and she couldn’t quite seem to catch her breath. He reeked of danger, yet mesmerized by the glint in his eyes, she crossed the small area to sit beside him. Why, she couldn’t say. Perhaps, she merely wanted to see what he’d do next.

    And then he surprised her. Leo reached out and trailed his finger down the side of her face. A delicate touch that sent shivers over her skin. “In India hands are very important,” he said softly. To stress his point, his fingers trailed down her arms. Slowly, he pulled the white gloves from her fingers, one by one. When her hands were naked and exposed, he stroked the sensitive skin of her palm. That familiar ache grew in the pit of her belly, swirling, tightening, lower…lower.

    “They paint beautiful, intricate designs over their hands.” His thumb stroked her wrist, melting her muscles and she sank into the plush cushion of the seat.

    Wow! When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

    I’m always writing! Seriously, I’ll be buried with my laptop. lol. But when my husband and son can get me away from the computer, I like to hike and travel. We go to state parks a lot. I also like to draw and paint, but haven’t done that much lately.

    What’s next for you?

    I have a lot of ideas for some new books and can’t wait to get started, just have to decide which to do! I might even try some Young Adult.

    But the next book that will be out is my second Kensington book, not slated until the beginning of 2011! It will be a spinoff of Wild Heart. It’s an action/adventure romance that takes place in India and still has that paranormal element. The hero is Colin, a secondary character in Wild Heart. I had a lot of fun writing this book and can’t wait for it to hit shelves. I’m hoping to put an excerpt on my website soon.

    Thanks so much elfreda ica, for letting me blog! It’s been great fun! Since I’m a debut author and I’m in favor of supporting debut authors, let’s share! Besides my own AMAZING book, tell us about a debut author/book you’ve discovered this year! Leave a comment or just say hello, three people will win a copy of my debut book Wild Heart!

    For more about Lori and her work, visit her website. Thanks for joining us, Lori!Source URL:
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Bandit Booty and Trivia Answers

    A big thank-you to everyone who stopped in and kept me company today. Y'all are the best!

    First the trivia answers: As Pissenlit noted, the Silver Surfer's real name is Norrin Radd.

    His beloved was Shalla Bal.

    Agricola aquam portat = The farmer carries water. (Agricola = farmer; aquam = object form of water , and I can't remember the name for that form; portat = he carries).

    And now, for the booty--I also found a Courtney Milan/Tessa Dare sampler I picked up somewhere and had never unboxed. So the winners are:

    A sampler of SFF novels goes to Pissenlit, and one to Keira.

    The historical sampler goes to Jane.

    Winners can email snail mail info to me me via the link at the top of the blog. Please be sure to put my name and Thanksgiving in the subject line.

    Congratulations to the winners and thanks again to everyone who stopped by.Source URL:
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Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Laeti Congregamur

    by Nancy

    No, that's not gibberish in the title. It's how the first line of the hymn "We Gather Together," my Thanksgiving favorite, translates into Latin. My high school Latin teacher provided translations of that hymn along with "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "Ruldolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." I no longer remember the rest of it, but there's a full Latin translation of the lyrics here.

    This is all a lead-in, of course, to the fact that it's Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a time when many Americans "gather together" with family and friends to commemorate the things and people for which we're grateful. Our blog community gathers daily, and I hope some of you will pop in today to join me and the gladiators and the cabana boys and maybe take the rooster home for a visit. Sometimes we're thoughtful, sometimes we have fun, and sometimes we mix our moods. No matter what feeling rules a particular day, I'm grateful for the Lair and its denizens, actual and virtual (because, really, there's power in imagination), and for all our buddies.

    Just FYI, Sven and Demetrius are currently squabbling over who gets to carve the turkey, with Demetrius maintaining that his sword will do much better than that "dinky little knife" Sven is holding (it's a carving knife, actually, "dinky" only in relation to a sword). I'm just keeping my head down, trying to be invisible. They're the last two I want to referee between, and asking the rooster to help would be like throwing thermite on a fire.

    When I was growing up, my mom worked at the college I later attended. Her secretarial position in the registrar's office let her get to know a lot of students. Those who lived too far away to go home for Thanksgiving often wound up at our dining room table. While I didn't always appreciate that at the time, I'm now thankful for the way those guests broadened my perspective on holidays and taught me to look beyond my immediate circle on such occasions.

    Some of the students Mom befriended became friends of our family, too. I recently saw a couple of them at a gathering of the women in my college class. We go to the beach for a weekend every year, whoever can turn up. Even though there were comparatively few women in our class, I didn't know most of them well. I transferred in as a sophomore and so missed the orientation that would've brought me into contact with them.

    I'm pleased to have made, after all these years, friends among the women I missed getting to know the first time around. So I'm grateful to Sue M. and Ann "Wicked" for pushing me to go the first time and for all the women who've participated during the years for weekends of camaraderie and memory. And to Van for posing with me and the Silver Surfer in the photo at the bottom of the blog (with only minimal wine involved).

    My high school friends have started a community on Facebook to connect those of us who used to live near each other but have since scattered. I appreciate the ability to keep in touch with old friends and our collective past even though the level of activity on Facebook sometimes makes my mind go "tilt."

    Reading comic books ignited my imagination. If a couple of guys from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, hadn't invented Superman, the superhero from whom all others flowed, I wouldn't have had that stimulus. So I give thanks for the creators of the many imaginary worlds I love and for the friends I've made through fandom and writing.

    I'm grateful for the education that made me an insatiable history geek and for scholars and hobbyists who feed that interest. And for the dh's willingness to carry home suitcases full of books. As we had brunch on our honeymoon in San Francisco, on the first full day of our married life, we looked down from the glass-sided restaurant atop a hotel and were jointly thrilled to discover a bookstore a few blocks over. We went there immediately afterward and added to the total weight of our luggage. We spent our first New Year's together with him building and staining bookshelves in our living room because our joint book collection kept growing.

    A few years later, as we walked through Gatwick Airport to catch our flight home, he had to stop every few feet and renew his grip on the suitcase. The woman behind him said, in a friendly voice, "What are you carrying--bricks?" He said, "No. Books." And sort of forced a smile. If he wishes the customs agent hadn't shared the news that books were duty free (at least then--except for dealers, I think--but that may have changed), he sweetly keeps that to himself.

    And of course I'm grateful to have the dh and the boy (who once replied to a question about what he wanted to do when he grew up by thinking a moment and then saying, "I'd like to be someone who doesn't get arrested," a goal his father and I heartily support and for which we are thankful). The boy is taller than I am now and never loses an opportunity to remind me.

    Our lives are enriched by our friends and extended families, who're also celebrating at their homes today. And, foolish as this may sound to some of you, by our yellow lab, the latest in the string of dogs who discovered they could be bosses of us.

    We're having dinner with friends, who are contributing fabulous brownies for dessert. Since I'm utterly incapable of creating such a thing "from scratch," I'm grateful for people who can and for the warmth this family's presence will add to our table.

    What are you doing today? Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving memory? A holiday that seemed bound for disaster but turned out well after all, or vice-versa? Have you made a friend later in life that you missed out on the first time around?

    Do you love the Silver Surfer? Do you remember the name of his girlfriend, whom he never stopped missing? Do you have a friend who'd be willing to join you and the Surfer in a photo?

    I have SFF samplers from DragonCon for two commenters today. To kick off the holiday season, I'm also including below the recipe for the dh's holiday favorite. Every year, his late mother made her Aunt Lillian's [Cringe-Proof] Fruitcake (as adapted, so it doesn't feed a battalion, by the dh's sister and brother-in-law).

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

    Aunt Lillian's Fruit Cake (Cringe-Proof, according to Nancy's dh)
    his makes a spice cake with candied fruit and nuts in it.

    Be sure to check ingredient list and adapt for any allergies. We use one large loaf pan and two small ones, filling them a couple of inches each, per batch. This cake does not rise.

    Warning: Requires very large bowl to mix

    Overnight, soak the following in inexpensive brandy:
    1/2 cup chopped dates
    1/2 cup raisins
    1/2 cup chopped nuts
    1 and 1/2 cups candied fruit (often sold as fruit cake mixture)
    1/4 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
    1 tsp. grated orange peel

    Mix the following and cream well:
    1/2 cup shortening (butter)
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup white sugar

    2 beaten eggs
    1/2 cup pineapple juice
    1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
    1 and 1/3 cups flour
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. baking powder

    Mix well, then drain the brandy-soaked fruit and add it;

    Mix well, then put into greased and paper-lined pans (use either parchment paper or brown paper);
    Bake for about 3 hours at 275 degrees (Fahrenheit);
    Test doneness with a toothpick--cake should not be doughy;
    When cool, remove from pan and wrap in brandy-soaked dish towel (optional). Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until serving, sprinkling brandy on the cake every few days if desired.

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Have a fabulous holiday weekend

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