Thursday, December 31, 2009

Marry Me, Conveniently

One of the first romances I ever read was a marriage of convenience story. It was MARRY IN HASTE by Jane Aiken Hodge. It's been a long time since I've read it, so I remember only snippets, but the one thing I do remember is that it fueled my love of marriage of convenience stories. So much to enjoy about a good marriage of convenience story--the forced proximity, the pretend intimacy that leads to real intimacy, the reluctance to admit it when you've fallen in love with your husband or wife, because doing so breaks the contract you made...

But there's a flipside. It's darned hard to write a good marriage of convenience story in a contemporary setting. It's an old-fashioned concept, easier to sell in periods of history where marriage was more of a contract and less of a love match to begin with.

I've often toyed with the idea of writing a marriage of convenience story in an Intrigue, but so far, I haven't been able to figure out a way to make it work. There are so many other options for people these days besides marriage to solve problems that weren't as easily solved back in the 18th and 19th centuries, for example. A good lawyer could probably get around an unreasonable stipulation in a will, for instance. Or a person could afford to opt out of the will altogether, choosing his freedom over money or property.

So it got me to wondering--do people still love marriage of convenience stories? Can they be written convincingly in contemporary romances? And if you love them, do you have any favorites you'd like to tell us about? And were any of those favorites also contemporary romances?

P. S. - Linda Henderson, Donna Kaufman and Crystal-Rain Love, I still haven't received your mailing address information so I can send you the books you won during the Blog Days of Christmas. Thanks!

(Crossposted at the eHarlequin Intrigue Authors blog).

Monday, December 28, 2009

4 1/2 Stars - "...a conclusion you won't soon forget."

I didn't want to interrupt the Blog Days of Christmas with this news, but I got a great review from Romantic Times for my February book, CHICKASAW COUNTY CAPTIVE. 4 1/2 stars and the following:

County prosecutor Sam Cooper doesn't know who's trying to kidnap his daughter. Detective Kristen Tandy has to fight her own demons to protect the little girl from a specter out of her father's past. Could it be Sam's ex-wife, who suddenly has a very political reason for getting her child back, or the drug-lord father of a man Sam sent to prison? What Sam does know is that his daughter trusts Kristen, and the detective will do anything to keep her safe from a madman. Peppered with multiple suspects, glaring tragedy and searing passion, this first-rate book has a conclusion you won't soon forget.

I'm thrilled, needless to say.

By the way, be sure to check yesterday's winners post. I still need mailing information from some of you, including Chambers, who responded on the blog but didn't email me a mailing address to send the book.

I have several people to send books or gift cards to, and I'm going to try to get them all out in the next week or so.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Final Blog Days of Christmas Winners

Congratulations to the final set of Blog Days of Christmas prize winners!

Marianne Arkins wins Julie Miller's December Intrigue BEAUTY AND THE BADGE. Kea wins Rita Herron's December Intrigue HIS SECRET CHRISTMAS BABY.

And as a freebie thank you, so that everybody who commented at some point this week wins something, Valerie Oakleaf, Margaret, Martha Lawson, Lelia, Dyeve, Angela, Naima Simone, Crystal-Rain Love, Debbie Kaufman and Chambers 35 will all receive an autographed back copy of one of my books, either FORBIDDEN TOUCH or COWBOY ALIBI. If I can find your email addresses through your blog profiles or other sources, I'll try to email you myself. Otherwise, please email me with your snail mail information so I can send the book to you. My email address is

Thanks again for participating in Blog Days of Christmas. You all made it a lot of fun for me.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thank You All.

I want to thank everyone who has been so supportive of my Blog Days of Christmas blog blitz. I've noted in previous blogs that I'm not a natural blogger, mostly for the same reason I'm not prone to journaling. I just don't like to talk about myself that much. Self promotion is difficult for me, but I've come to realize that my books won't get read if I don't get the word out somehow.

I do love hearing from my readers and fellow writers, however. I enjoy getting to know y'all through the comments, and I hope you'll keep coming back throughout next year. I plan to blog a little more regularly next year, because I've enjoyed this blog blitz a lot and I feel like I've made a few new cyberfriends this way. I'd also love for you to tell me in the comments of this post what kind of blog posts you'd like to see more of. Writing tips? A day in the life of a writer? Cat stories? Links to silly You Tube videos? I'd love to know what you're looking for in the blogs you read, so I'll know better how to provide the right kind of content.

Tomorrow, I'll post the final list of winners of the blog blitz, so check back for the results. And if you're on Facebook or Twitter, why don't you friend me or follow me? I'm pagraves on Twitter. I'm Paula Graves on Facebook, and there's a link to my Facebook fan page right here on my blog.

And while I'm being all self-promoty, don't forget you can order CASE FILE: CANYON CREEK, WYOMING right now on eHarlequin. It will be available on Kindle on 1/1/10 and will be available in bookstores and online at other book stores on 1/12/10. Romantic Times BookReview gave CASE FILE: CANYON CREEK, WYOMING 4 stars, calling it "terrifyingly intense."

CHICKASAW COUNTY CAPTIVE goes on sale on eHarlequin on 1/1/10 and is available elsewhere on 2/9/10. It should be available 2/1/10 on Kindle. I just learned that Romantic Times gave CHICKASAW COUNTY CAPTIVE 4 1/2 stars! "Peppered with multiple suspects, glaring tragedy and searing passion, this first-rate book has a conclusion you won't soon forget. "

Finally, if you read these two books and love them, be sure to mark your calendars for August and September 2010, when the next two Cooper Justice books become available from Harlequin Intrigue. ONE TOUGH MARINE will be out in August and BACHELOR SHERIFF in September. And remember, if you like my writing, tell a couple of romance-reading friends about my books and direct them here to my blog or to my website. Word of mouth is the best kind of advertising. (Plus, they can go to my website for a free read and see for themselves if they like my writing).

Thanks again, everyone! You've made the Blog Days of Christmas a lot of fun for me! Please check back--I have guest blogs and also some Writerspace chats coming up, and I'll be posting the information about them here as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to You and Yours

Luke 2: 4 - 14

(4) So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. (5) He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (6) While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, (7) and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

(8) And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. (9) An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (10) But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (11) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. (12) This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

(13) Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, (14) "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

I wish the wonderful blessings of this day on you and yours. Have a very merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!"

I'm recycling this post from 2007 because nothing has changed. A CHRISTMAS STORY is still my favorite movie, and the things I love about it, listed below, are the same today as they were two years ago. So read and enjoy, and then tell me all about your favorite Christmas movies in the comments.

If forced to choose my favorite Christmas movie of all time, I think I'd really have to go with A CHRISTMAS STORY. .

One of the cable stations--TNT? TBS?--marathons it every Christmas, and I usually watch it at least twice over the course of the day. There's just so much to love about its insanity-Ralphie's bunny suit:

Flick's tongue on the flagpole:

Ralphie's visit with Santa:

The Leg Lamp:

And do not miss the Chinese restaurant carolers singing Deck the Halls.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Carol of the (Hand)Bells.

A while back, before my knee and back problems made standing for long periods of time too excruciating to bear, I was a member of my church handbell choir. It was a lot of fun and at times, quite challenging. It's rather like being one (or, really, two, since you usually play at least two bells at a time) of the keys on a piano keyboard, and for music to happen, every key has to do their job just right or it all falls apart.

Anyway, when it works well, it can be beautiful to listen to and also fun to watch. So, here are a few handbell performances of Christmas music that I enjoyed listening to on You Tube.

Sleigh Ride

Carol of the Bells

Nutcracker Suite on handbells

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

And this one has nothing to do with Christmas, but dude. It's Stairway to Heaven on handbells. I couldn't leave it out in all good conscience.

How about you? Have you ever played in a handbell choir? Any fun You Tube handbell links you want to share? Comment and you could win a copy of Rita Herron's HIS SECRET CHRISTMAS BABY.

Also, I'm blogging today over at the Intrigue Author's Blog at eHarlequin. Please drop by--it's all about the kisses.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December Intrigue Spotlight

His Secret Christmas Baby by Rita Herron

Investigator Derrick McKinney's quiet bachelor life was shattered when the son he just learned existed was abducted right out from under the watchful eye of his beautiful guardian. And although she was left unconscious and heartbroken, someone feared Brianna Honeycutt saw more than she claimed, placing her life in danger. Working together, Derrick now had to push aside the long-buried attraction he'd always felt for Brianna. More determined than ever to end this nightmare and put a smile back on Brianna's face, Derrick vowed he'd stop at nothing to bring his baby home in time for Christmas….

Monday, December 21, 2009

Recycled Christmas Tree

And by recycled, I mean this blog post. I posted the same thing in 2007, but I'm bringing it back for an encore because it's still funny and we still talk about it in my family.

My late father used to pinch a penny until it screamed, and then pinch it some more. So when it came to Christmas trees, there was no fun little trip to the Christmas tree lot or farm to be had. And back when I was younger, artificial trees weren't so much in vogue as they are now.

So one Christmas, when I was about 15, my father and my younger brother went out looking for a Christmas tree. What they came back with is the stuff of family legend.

I really have no idea what kind of tree it was. It wasn't a Douglas fir or anything like that. It also wasn't a typical southern long leaf pine sapling, if the needles were anything to go by. And speaking of its foliage, it was, to be generous, sparse.

The tree was about six feet tall, and very, very skinny. There was no gently sloping line from a narrow tip to a full bottom. It was the Olive Oyl of Christmas trees, one thin silhouette from bottom to top, with a handful of sharp, jutting branches like a dozen skinny arms. It managed to stay upright until we hung the first ball. Clearly, the tree was incapable of standing by itself. So my mother, ever practical and ingenious—and well aware that my father would under no circumstances admit that the tree he brought home was anything less that what it should be—decided that we could temporarily sew the top of the tree to the top of the draperies standing right behind it. The thread would keep the tree upright as we applied the decorations.

With the tree fortified, we finished decorating it. Of course, we used about half the decorations we would usually use, and no combination of decorations--more garland than balls, more balls than garland--made it look any less anorexic. But it was a Christmas tree, and there were presents under it on Christmas. And we had something to talk about for years.

Which we did on a regular basis, for the pitiful little Christmas tree had one particular feature that added to the longevity of its memory, long after the pitiful sapling was hauled away in the January garbage. It was quite a shedder, dropping needles at an alarming rate. And the needles were as sharp as sewing needles, stabbing into bare toes and feet like heat-seeking missiles. We vacuumed, hand picked needles out, vaccuumed some more, and yet for YEARS afterwards, some unsuspecting bare foot would happen upon a needle in the carpet and the owner would cry out, "Damned Christmas Tree!"

(originally posted December 21, 2007)

Do you have any Christmas tree stories? Comment and you could win a copy of Julie Miller's BEAUTY AND THE BADGE.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This week's Winners

Another week of the Blog Blitz is over, and here are the prize winners for this week:

Linda Henderson wins a copy of Debra Webb's December Intrigue, FIRST NIGHT.

Sherry James wins a copy of Dani Sinclair's December Intrigue, POLICE PROTECTOR.

Jemi Fraser wins a $10 Barnes and Noble gift card. You can use it online at if you don't have a store up in your neck of the woods.

Congratulations, all! Jemi, I have your contact information, but Linda and Sherry, please email me your snail mail information so I can send your prizes to you.

Now, a couple more notes of interest...One, I'm a fairly regular poster over on the eHarlequin Intrigue Authors blog, along with a lot of other great Intrigue authors, including some of the authors whose books I've featured this month, like Julie Miller. Other Intrigue bloggers include the fabulous Dana Marton, Mallory Kane, B. J. Daniels, la grande dame of Intrigues, the beautiful Rebecca York, Patricia Rosemoor, Carol Ericson, Kerry Connor, Tracy Montoya--I think the whole Intrigue crew is just a wonderful bunch of authors, and the more I get to know them, the more I'm proud to be one of their number. I know everybody's crazy busy, especially these days, but if you're an Intrigue fan and you haven't checked out the blog, you're missing out.

And some upcoming dates of note for me over the next few weeks:


12/23/09 - Blog on Intrigue Authors Blog


1/1/10 - Chickasaw County Captive available for purchase on eHarlequin

1/8/10 - Blog on Intrigue Authors Blog

1/12/10 - CASE FILE: CANYON CREEK, WYOMING available at most major booksellers

1/13/10 - Blog on Intrigue Authors Blog

1/15/10 - Blog on Romance Junkies

1/22/10 - Blog on Intrigue Authors Blog

1/31/10 - Blog on Running with Quills


2/3/10 - Blog on Riding with the Top Down blog

2/5/10 - Blog on Intrigue Authors Blog

2/9/10 - CHICKASAW COUNTY CAPTIVE available at most major booksellers

2/13/10 - Blog on Pink Heart Society Blog

2/19/10 - Blog on Intrigue Authors Blog

2/27/10 - Author panel at Southern Magic meeting

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blue Christmas

I know red, green and gold are the traditional Christmas colors, but I'm a sucker for anything blue. Blue trees, blue ornaments on a silver tree, blue ornaments on a green tree—if it's blue, I'm for it.

My family is not quite as enamored of blue as I am, alas, so it's hard to get much as much blue on the family tree as I would like.

I also love blue on my Christmas cards and Christmas wrapping paper.

Do you like have a particular color scheme you like to play with for Christmas? Metallics? Are you a green fiend? Or maybe it's a particular item that fuels your obsession, like Santas, stars or Nativity scenes.

Confess your Christmas fetish right here in the comments and you could win a $10 Barnes and Noble Gift Card.

And if you haven't commented on the other threads where prizes are being given away, it's not too late. I won't be drawing winners on any of them until late this evening. So get to posting--you could still be a winner!

Friday, December 18, 2009

December Intrigue Spotlight

Beauty and the Badge by Julie Miller

When girl next door Beth Rogers pounded on Detective Kevin Grove's door in the middle of the night, she awakened not only the cop, but also the die-hard protector. His spunky neighbor had uncovered scandalous secrets about a murder and someone was threatening to silence her…permanently.

After one heartbreak too many, Kevin was ready to call it quits. With his brawn and tough-guy looks, no woman had been able to see the caring soul that lurked beneath. But with one look into Beth's frightened eyes, the true-blue hero couldn't turn her away. Now, with every step leading them closer to danger, the safest place was in each other's arms.

About Julie Miller.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Back when I was a kid...

I wrote earlier about how much I loved Christmas morning as a kid. Most of the reason, of course, was that I couldn't wait to unwrap all those presents I'd been anticipating.

So today, I'm going to share some of my favorite toys of Christmas past.

Although I went tomboy in my pre-teens, when I was a very little girl, I was obsessed with dolls. I loved them, especially the ones that were more "real." I didn't like the hard plastic dolls. Give me the soft rubber skin of Baby Tender Love. I still remember how I lit up when I realized Baby Tender Love had soft nylon "skin" that almost felt like a real live baby. I started badgering my parents to get me one for Christmas, and I suffered great angst waiting to find out if they would actually do it. When I found Baby Tenderlove lying under the tree, I was ecstatic.

Technically, this was actually my brother's Christmas gift, but it didn't take long for me to commandeer Joe for my own purposes. You see, Barbie needed a boyfriend. And Ken? Kent wasn't gettin' it done. My Barbie had it bad for G.I. Joe with Kung Fu Grip. He was hairy, scarred and carried a big gun.
Clearly, I was prepping to write for Intrigue even back then.

They had me at "You can even pick up pictures..."

Misty of Chincoteague doll

This was during my horse phase. I loved the book Misty of Chincoteague and absolutely had to have the figurine. After all, Barbie and G.I. Joe needed transportation, and Joe categorically refused to ride in the pink Corvette.
So, what about you? What were some of your favorite Christmas gifts when you were a kid? Tell us in the comments and I'll draw for someone to win a copy of Dani Sinclair's December Intrigue, Police Protector!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Top 5 "If I had a Million Dollars" Christmas Wishes

Let's think about our Top Five "If I had a million dollars" Christmas wishes.

Now, here are the ground rules.

1. We know a million dollars doesn't get us as far as it used to, so you won't be able to buy your own 747 jet or anything like that. However, do use your entire million on each of the five--we're going for conspicuous consumption here.

2. Second, be relatively honest. Saying you'd give it all to charity? Unless you're Mother Theresa, nobody's buyin' that. So for our purposes, nobody is in need of charity. This is fantasy.

3. Third, this is a tax free zone and investment free zone. Don't try to figure out how much Uncle Sam would get. It's not like he's using the money wisely these days anyway. And investments and savings make for a boring blog. (I know--my first stab at this involved a lot of savings accounts and IRAs and put me right to sleep. This isn't real life, remember? In this game, we're going to pretend that we're debt free and have every basic need attended to.

4. Keep it clean. If you're going to spend it on making Gerard Butler your sex slave for a month, please don't go into any graphic details, okay?

Now, here's my top five list, in no particular order:

1. I'd travel the world for as long as the money held out. I'd love to go to the British Isles, to Australia, to all fifty United States (I've been to a few, but there are plenty I'd like to see). I'd visit a friend who lives in Zimbabwe, (because if we're dealing in fantasy, we're going to pretend it's a safe place to visit). And I'd visit the region of Patagonia, in southern Argentina, because it sounds like a fascinating place.

2. I'd buy a house or build a house with the biggest bathroom ever. I've never lived in a house with a big bathroom. Ever. I see marble floors, an enormous clawfoot tub, a separate shower, enough floor space that you could hold a cotillion there...

3. I'd take a few years off from my day job and write full time. With a million dollars, I could pay the bills while I wrote. I figure on a million, I could write full time for about ten years and still take care of my family. That would be heaven. (I know this kind of violates rule #3 I set above, but writing full time is a major wish of mine that circumstances won't allow for at the moment).

4. I'd pay for the trapping and spaying/neutering of as many stray feral cats in my area as possible. There are so many wild cats out there having kittens that either grow up to exacerbate the stray problem or end up as road kill. I've rescued numerous of these feral offspring over the years, but I'm just one person and I can't possibly keep up. So if I could put even a little dent in the feral cat population in my area, it would be a million well spent. (Does that violate rule 2 a little? I'm not sure I care. I love cats, and I really might use the money this way, if I had it).

5. I'd spend it on books, DVDs and CDs. The entire Dean Koontz collection. All of Dick Francis's books. I'd grab all of Jayne Ann Krentz's backlist I haven't read. I'd give Christina Dodd and Teresa Medeiros books a try, because they're both hilarious on Twitter. I'd buy full Seasons of my favorite shows, past and present--Scarecrow and Mrs. King, which I hear is finally coming out on DVD. All the seasons of Homicide: Life on the Street. Every Jane Austen adaptation available. All the great classic books I haven't read. (In this fantasy, we're going to pretend I have a huge house with a ginormous library and a big media room with lots of storage space).

So that's it. My million is spent, five times over. Now it's your turn. What would YOU do with a million dollars?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Two of my favorite Christmas videos

I was going to do a Top 5 Funniest Christmas videos, but I couldn't really find five that I thought were THAT funny. So I'm just going to share a couple I love.

First up, Robert Earl Keene's "Merry Christmas From the Family." I think this one is probably a little funnier if you're from the South and don't exactly fit into the whole Junior League social set (like me)...

And one of my all time favorites--the infamous Straight No Chaser version of The 12 Days of Christmas. Hang in there past the 3rd verse. You won't regret it.

Do you have any fun or funny Christmas music videos? Share them in the comments, and I'll pick a commenter to win Debra Webb's December Intrigue, First Night!

Monday, December 14, 2009

December Intrigue Spotlight

Police Protector by Dani Sinclair

Finding three children locked in a saferoom wasn't how Lucan O'Shay planned to spend the holidays. Taking the children and their feisty aunt into his home…well, if that's what it took to serve and protect, that's what he would do. Never mind that the aunt, Kyra Wolfstead, was making him crazy. But someone was trying to kill her and take the children. Not on Lucan's watch.

It would take all of Lucan's expertise and self-control to give Kyra and the kids a safe Christmas under his own personal house arrest. But what scared this tough Irish cop the most was his growing hope that this sentence was for life….

About Dani Sinclair.

Edited because I had the wrong book cover and title. Oops! This blogging every day thing? STRESSFUL. Especially for an anti-social curmudgeon like me!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winners so far, plus a new chance to win

Three contests, three winners!

My email address is linked on my website. Click on the "Contact" link and send me an email with your mailing address, and I'll send y'all your prizes.

First up--the winner of Carla Cassidy's December Intrigue, Scene of the Crime: Bridgewater, Texas is Misty Wright!

The winner of the $10 Barnes and Noble gift card is Louisa Cornell!

And the winner of Cassie Miles' December Intrigue, Secluded with the Cowboy, is Kea.

Congratulations and send me your information so I can get your prizes out to you.

Now, in celebration of the Crimson Tide's Mark Ingram winning the first ever Heisman Trophy for the University of Alabama, leave a comment on this post telling me who you were rooting for in the Heisman race (or tell me you weren't rooting for anyone at all), and I'll draw a winner from the commenters for another $10 Barnes and Noble gift card.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Traditions: Handel's Messiah

For me, it's just not Christmas until I've listened to at least some of Handel's Messiah.

Everyone knows the Hallelujah Chorus, of course, but I have other favorites:

Glory to God:

For Unto Us a Child is Born:

Ev'ry Valley Shall Be Exalted:

And, yeah, okay, it just wouldn't be Christmas without the Hallelujah Chorus:

One of my favorite live performances was at Samford University, my alma mater, several years ago. The University Chorale, the A Cappella Choir and a group of alumni who'd been in the various university choirs joined together to present Messiah. It was enthralling.

Enjoy the music!

Friday, December 11, 2009

December Intrigue Spotlight

First Night by Debra Webb

As far as Christmas packages went, Brandon Thomas was one tall drink of water. And at the moment he was in over his too-handsome head. He'd showed up at the Colby offices covered in blood and desperate for help unraveling a mystery of murder. Luckily for Brandon, Merri Walters was a determined investigator not about to let an innocent bystander get railroaded—especially so close to Christmas.

With careful coaxing, Merri learned that Brandon unknowingly possessed information high-level people wanted to keep secret. Now, the only challenge was keeping Brandon at arm's length in order to make sure they both stayed alive to see the New Year.

About Debra Webb.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Top 5 Favorite Traditional Christmas Songs

I love Christmas carols and Christmas songs. But as I've mentioned before, I'm not an entirely traditional type of person, even at Christmas. I like things, well, weird and different.

So I think for this year's Top 5 Favorite Traditional Christmas Carols, I'm going to pick traditional songs done in a not-so-traditional way.

So, in no particular order....

1. Silent Night

I've never seen this version of Silent Night before I started searching YouTube for examples of the carol. But I like it! The visuals are freaky, the guys look like the guys who live down the street and keep crazy hours. And pitbulls. Yet the song itself has a sweet, melancholy air that's appropriate for a song about the quiet arrival of a savior who was ultimately born to die.

2. God Rest You Merry Gentlemen

I love this version, by Barenaked Ladies, featuring Sarah McLachlan. It's a quirky Canadian take on an old English carol. The perky rhythm picks up on the hopeful lyrics, while Sarah Lachlan's haunting voice underscores the hint of melancholy in the minor key of the carol. Sorry the song cuts off abruptly at the end in the video.

3. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

This particular version is performed by Enya, whose voice gives this old Christmas song a hint of skin-tingling mysticism. Appropriate, since the song's lyrics are taken from the Old Testament prophecy regarding the advent of the Messiah.

4. Carol of the Bells

Dude, it's the ukelele. And it's pretty amazing. John King plays the stew out of what looks like a kid's toy on one of the hardest songs in the Christmas repertoire.

5. O Come All Ye Faithful

I picked this particular version because I think the euphonium is a beautiful instrument. It's kin to the baritone horn, which was one of the two instruments I played in my high school band.

There are so many versions of this carol out there, including one by Twisted Sister that I almost linked to, but the video was just too strange for me. Yes, there's such a thing as too strange for me.

So, of the traditional carols out there, which are your favorites?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Top 5 Favorite Holiday Foods

I've blogged before about my Weight Watchers journey, haven't I? Why yes, yes I have. (By the way, I've lost 115 pounds since last February).

So you can say I'm a fan of food.

And there's just something about Christmas food, isn't there? Some of it isn't even that good (coughfruitcakecough), but still, it flies off the grocery store shelves anyway.

So, in no particular order, here are my Top 5 Favorite Christmas Foods:

1. Candy Canes

You're no longer limited to the old red and white peppermint sticks. Now, candymakers offer the holiday staple in all sorts of flavors and colors. Yum.

2. Swiss Colony's Cheese Spreads
Back when I was still eating this kind of food, one of my favorite times of year was when someone would send a Swiss Colony basket full of these delicious flavored cheese spreads. Smoked Cheddar was a personal favorite.
3. Cornbread Dressing

Cornbread, onions, celery, sage, eggs, chicken broth and bits of turkey, baked to a golden brown. What's not to love?
4. Hickory Farms Gift Baskets

Summer Sausage! Smoked Gouda! Little Jelly Jars! It's a smorgasbord of holiday cheer.
5. Danish Butter Cookies

Even the crappy brands are worth a nibble. But the Royal Dansk brand? Yum, yum, yum.
That's a weird set of holiday foods, isn't it? But there you have it. Those are my favorites.
What are yours? Leave your list in the comments, and I'll draw from the list of commenters for a copy of Secluded with the Cowboy by Cassie Miles.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

December Intrigue Spotlight

Secluded with the Cowboy by Cassie Miles

Colorado rancher Dylan Carlisle had eagerly awaited the safe return of his kidnapped wife. But now that Nicole was finally back home, it seemed the tension that existed before her abduction was still between them. Except now she was being more secretive than ever. Before long, Dylan discovered someone still tracked Nicole's every move, preventing her from moving past her recent trauma and sharing his joys of the holiday season. As Nicole began to let down her guard and trust her husband's protective embrace, Dylan finally felt hopeful about their previously unsettled future. Until she dropped the ultimate bombshell on him and he realized just how much he had to lose.

About Cassie Miles.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Day that Will Live in Infamy

It's been over 50 years now since the attack on Pearl Harbor. Most of the survivors of the attack are gone now, so it's up to the rest of us to remember for them.

Here's a good overview of what happened, from a Navy History site.

This site offers some first person recollections of the day.

Pearl Harbor Casualty List.

You can always depend on National Geographic for a good multimedia retrospective.

And while we're remembering the fallen heroes of World War II, let's not forget the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines still out there in the field, risking their lives for this country. If you're in the mood for giving this holiday season, here are a few good military-related charities:

If you're a veteran or a member of the U.S. Military reading this blog, thank you for your service.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

We Interrupt the Christmas Blogging...

Sorry for the non-Christmas post, but I just had to say this.


Although, did Tim Tebow have to cry so prettily and make me feel sorry for him?

For more on the details of game, be sure to check out And congratulations to Greg McElroy for an outstanding game behind center. He really came into his own in the SEC Championship game, and the best thing is, he's back for 2010!

Love this quote from Alabama coach Nick Saban, since I believe it can apply to almost any endeavor in life, whether it's playing football or becoming a writer:

"We told the players a story (Friday) about Sugar Ray Leonard, who actually said, 'The first time I fought in a championship fight, I lost. But the thing I remember about the second time I fought for the championship and won was I had an unrelenting, not-to-be-denied, intangible attitude, and I was going to have to do it for 15 rounds and go toe-to-toe, and that's what made me win.'

"I think there are a lot of examples out there today of the way our players competed and played in the game that showed that kind of resiliency, and that's what it takes to be a champion."

Now, back to your regularly scheduled Christmas...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

I'm Dreaming (Futilely) of a White Christmas, plus contest

As I was writing this blog post ahead of time, about a week ago, I had no idea that, ironically, this post would fall on the first snow of this season. It wasn't much; we have a very pretty dusting of snow on the ground and the trees outside. But snow is snow, and for what it's worth, there's some of the cold white stuff on the ground outside. But will there be a white Christmas here?


I know I'm going to lose you northerners with this one, but here's the bittersweet truth about Christmas in the South: it almost never snows. In fact, the only reason I included the word "almost" is that I suppose it's remotely possible that somewhere, in some hilly hamlet of the South, it might have snowed on Christmas once in the last fifty years. But as a rule? Nope. No snow on Christmas if you live in the deep South.

Contrary to what today's weather situation might suggest, we rarely get snow at all. There's today's dusting. And we had about a half an inch here in central Alabama earlier this year; I even blogged about it. But there have been many years where we didn't see a flake. But snow is generally localized--you might get a band of heavy rain that hits just when the temperatures are low enough to produce snow, but it's never widespread, it's extremely rare, and it usually melts within hours.

Down here in the South, we get ragged a lot about not being able to cope with snow. Whole cities shut down even with an inch or so of the white stuff. But in our defense, snow of any significance is so rare that trying to prepare the city for dealing with snow would be cost-inefficient. Why buy snow tires or snow chains when you almost never get snow? Why purchase and maintain snow plows when there's never any snow to plow? And how on earth could a Southerner hone his snow driving skills when he can go years without seeing a single flake?

One of these days, maybe, if I live long enough, I'll see it snow on Christmas here in Alabama.

I'm just not holding my breath.

Does it snow for Christmas where you live ? Do you have any White Christmas stories? Share them with the rest of us.I'm going to randomly choose one commenter on this blog post to win a $10 Barnes and Noble gift card, so get to posting!


Here's what our dusting looked like this morning:

If you're wondering what that tangle of vines is there in the bottom of the photo, that's what's left of last summer's tomato plants, left to go fallow over the winter. You can see a small orangish ball at the bottom right—that's a marigold bloom covered with a crust of snow.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Like a Kid on Christmas

When I was a kid, I approached Christmas like a general at war: I planned covert reconnaissance, engaged in psy-ops, even struck strategic alliances with my siblings to make sure that Christmas met our expectations. It was all about the gifts, baby.

I knew that opening presents before the whole family was awake was forbidden, but patience was never one of my strong suits. As soon as I woke on Christmas morning, and there was even a hint of morning light on the horizon, I'd sneak out of my bedroom and into the living room for a peek.

Oh, the new-toy smell of Christmas mornings! As a kid, there was nothing more glorious and magical than to enter the room that had, the night before, been just another living room and find a wondrous bounty of toys and gifts arrayed under the tree. My family was strictly lower middle-class, at best, but my parents always found away to make sure my brother and sister and I had a magical Christmas.

Later, as I grew older and gained a more mature understanding of the holiday, I came to find more joy in the true spiritual meaning of the holiday than in finding presents under the tree. But I've never forgotten the excitement of tiptoeing into the living room and fidning that Baby Tender Love or those brand new Trixie Belden books waiting under the tree for me that cold, dark Christmas pre-dawn.

What are some of your favorite Christmas memories from childhood?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Top 5 Most Interesting U.S. Christmas Traditions, Plus Contest

I think I've blogged before about how non-traditional my family is about Christmas, despite being religious and conservative. I think it's really that we're pretty no-fuss people, and celebrations get so elaborate and complicated.

But I do enjoy hearing about other people's traditions. So I did a little research about Christmas traditions in the United States, just to see what other Americans were doing for the Christmas season.

So without further delay, my Top 5 Most Interesting Christmas Traditions in America, in no particular order:

1. Las Posadas - New Mexico and Arizona

This 9-day celebration (Dec. 16th through Christmas Eve) commemorates the Biblical journey Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem, and their search for a place to stay. The event includes a candle-lit procession and a colorful pageant that usually features the children of the town, and culminates in a big feast on Christmas Eve.

More information on Las Posadas can be found here, here and here.

3. Reveillon - New Orleans

Reveillon, or "awakening" in French, was a Creole custom, borrowed from their French ancestors. After a day of religious fasting on Christmas Eve, the Creoles would come home from Midnight Mass and enjoy an elaborate feast to break the fast. The feast would go on through the night, ending in the early morning hours.

Though it's not celebrated the same way today, since not as many people observe religious fasts, many local New Orleans restaurants still offer Reveillon dinners during the Christmas season.
More here.

4. Christmas Luau - Hawaii

Mele Kalikimaka! The greeting is actually a Hawaiianization of the English "Merry Christmas," which the natives apparently had trouble pronouncing when Christian missionaries introduced the tradition to the islands back in the 1800s.

While most of Hawaii's Christmas Traditions were introduced by the Christian missionaries who arrived there in the 1800s, there was a New Year's festival already celebrated there by the natives, called Makahiki. When the holiday was Christianized to include Christmas, many of the food traditions of the holiday became part of the Hawaiian Christmas tradition.

5. The Mummers Parade - New Year's Day - Philadelphia

Though technically, this is a New Year's Day tradition, it comes out of a Swedish tradition of "Second Day Christmas," featuring post-Christmas visits to friends. The custom expanded to include New Year's Day as well, including a noisy and colorful parade to welcome the new year. There's a good history of the celebration here.

For Philadelphia, the Mummers Parade is as significant and distinctive as Mardi Gras is to New Orleans.

So, how about y'all? What are some of your favorite holiday traditions, here in the US or wherever you live? Please post all about them in the comments and share a little Christmas spirit with the rest of us. Or, if you celebrate a different holiday, like Hannukah, around this time of year, tell us about those traditions as well.

Need the pot sweetened a little bit? I'm going to select one lucky commenter to win a copy of Carla Cassidy's Scene of the Crime: Bridgewater, Texas, which I featured on yesterday's blog post.

So get to commenting!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

December Intrigue Spotlight

Scene of the Crime: Bridgewater, Texas by Carla Cassidy

When Sheriff Matt Buchanan discovers FBI profiler Jenna Taylor snooping around his crime scene, he isn't pleased. The last thing he needs is the FBI meddling. But Jenna is determined to find her best friend's murderer, and she won't be bullied out of town. Then the madman strikes again. His calling card? A red rose.

Realizing they're dealing with a serial killer, Matt accepts Jenna's help. But when Jenna becomes the madman's target, the danger—and their unrelenting attraction—is imminent. Will Jenna find safety in Matt's arms—or will the next rose she receives be her last?

About Carla Cassidy.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Welcome to the Blog Days of Christmas

For twenty-five days straight (I hope!), I plan to blog about Christmas traditions, songs, foods and memories. I'm also going to highlight the six fabulous Harlequin Intrigues available this month and tell you a little about the stories and the authors.

From time to time, I'll post a "Five" list--such as "Five Cheesiest Christmas songs," "Five favorite Christmas foods," and "Five favorite Christmas movies." I hope you'll chime in with your favorites as well.

Also I'll be giving away prizes, including gift certificates, free books, Barnes and Noble gift cards and more!

So please, join me for the Blog Days of Christmas, and be sure to tell your friends!

Plus, don't forget that today's the day that CASE FILE: CANYON CREEK, WYOMING goes on sale at Order your copy today!