Twelve Days of Christmas: Samantha Grace

Banana Pancakes

by Samantha Grace

One of the things I love about being a parent is being in charge of creating happy memories for our kids. I think observing tradition gives everyone a stronger sense of who we are and where we belong. We carry it with us all our lives. The traditions my husband and I observe with our kids are a mix of things from our childhood and new things we wanted to try.

Two of the kids’ favorite traditions are opening one gift on Christmas Eve and banana pancakes on Christmas morning. They love banana pancakes so much they request them year round, but Christmas morning they are a must. (One of my favorite traditions is getting the kids a new ornament every year, and when they have their own homes, they can have the ornaments for their trees.)

The first year I made banana pancakes, I used the recipe out of Sheila Lukins’s All Around the World Cookbook. Now I’ve modified the recipe using a mix to get the pancakes on the table quicker, but her recipe really is superior.

Banana Pancakes

2 cups Krusteaz pancake mix

1 1/3 cups water

¼ cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon cinnamon

2-3 mashed ripe bananas

Combine the pancake mix and water with a whisk. Add brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Fold in mashed bananas. Grease the griddle with a little vegetable oil.  Pour about ¼ cup of batter on the hot griddle, cook until the edges start to look golden, and flip.

I serve Little Smokies with the pancakes Christmas morning. I figure once a year isn’t bad.

 Twice Upon a Time:Summons Duke

Since her father’s untimely death, Felicity Halliday has relied on the medical knowledge learned at his side to treat London’s most disreputable in order to support her family.  Life has been hard, but everything changes the night she is snatched from an alley behind a theatre and tossed into a nobleman’s carriage. 

It has been less than a fortnight since Julian Beckford returned to London after a sojourn in India, and he’s already up to his top-boots in one of his cousin’s mad schemes. When his foolish cousin decides to engage an actress to play his wife over the holidays at Danby Castle, Julian becomes an unwilling party to the lady’s abduction. Along their journey to Yorkshire, Julian makes a stunning discovery about his cousin’s pretend wife and finds it’s possible to love Twice Upon a Time.

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ABMChristmasA Beau Monde Bachelor Christmas:

Join newlywed couples Lord and Lady Norwick, Jake and Amelia Hillary, Daniel and Lisette Hillary, and Isaac and Serafine Tucker for their first Christmas together.

Bibi, the Countess of Norwick, would love to give her husband the one thing he really wants for Christmas: a ceasefire between her and his intractable sister. Facing Lady Troll during the holidays without reinforcements, however, would be foolish, and Bibi is no fool. She calls upon her dearest friends, Amelia and Jake Hillary, and a few more familiar faces to spend Christmas in Kent to help make the season a little brighter. Unfortunately, her guests are distracted by their own challenges this holiday season, and Bibi must find a way to connect with her sister-in-law without their help if she hopes to make Jasper’s Christmas wishes come true.

 

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I love to hear from readers, so if you would like to connect with me, you can find me at the following places:

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Twelve Days of Christmas: Aileen Fish

christmas-gift-red-bow-1The Gift Game…

The one tradition my family continues to carry is what we call the gift game. I’ve heard other families call it various things, but we know what we mean by “gift game”. Everyone brings a gift according to predetermined guidelines. Everyone draws a number from a bowl to determine the order they may choose from the gifts. After the first gift is opened, the next player gets to choose either the opened gift or a wrapped one. If your gift is taken by another player, you get to choose again.

In my family, the goal of the game is to bring a gift that will be fought over. My brother-in-law will steal the most popular gift each year to get a chain of stealing going, so we always hope he draws a high number. It doesn’t matter what the item is, he’ll steal it. It was fun to watch him fight my nieces for a Sephora gift card! Last year the most coveted item was a crocheted afghan made by one of my sisters-in-law. One year it was a chocolate fountain machine. Thanks to thrifty shopping, these both fell under the $20 gift limit.

This year we decided on a white elephant exchange. We’ll all find something around the house we don’t need any more. This announcement came right after my older daughter and I had already sent off boxes of stuff to charity. We discovered we each had one pricey item we hadn’t sent, because we would rather see those items go to someone we know. The family is in for a surprise when they see what we bring!

This gift game has been a wonderful way to deal with rising costs of presents as our family grew. My nieces are now college-age, with typical college-student income. The white elephant idea, or the $20 limit, makes it possible for them to join in on their own, instead of Mom and Dad having to pay their way.

But the gift game will be the second most joyful event when the family gathers this year. My granddaughter, Zoey, will be enjoying her first Christmas! My mom will be with us, too, so we’ll have four generations present. You can’t get better than that. I’m bringing my tripod so we can take a group photo.

What silly things does your family do when you get together? Are you able to share your holiday with extended family? It takes juggling, but we find a day each year when the majority of us can all be there.

The importance of family at this time of year led me to write The Christmas Wedding Scheme. Their celebration at their country estate was a longer event, running clear through Twelfth Night, but the entire family was there.

wedding scheme smlThe Christmas Wedding Scheme

The Christmas season has always been important to Nash Sinclair. Home from the war and surrounded by his large, loving family, he realizes what is missing from his life: a wife. Not too surprisingly, he is looking at his sister-in-law’s rather becoming (and unmarried) sister when he makes the decision.

Lady Julianna intends to remain unmarried, having no need for a husband to live the life of her dreams. Rather than explain her unusual choice, she insists only a man who slays dragons would suit her, and since dragons don’t exist, neither does her ideal beau.

Not one to turn away from a challenge, Nash enlists the aid of his nieces and nephews in a scheme sure to win Lady Julianna’s affection. But as he comes to know the lady better, he realizes he’s risking his own heart. When did his silly idea become a crucial quest?

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers!

The Viscounts Sweet Temptation (Summons from Yorkshire)summons_from_yorkshire_picture_2 (1)

Lady Harriet Thornhill knows the summons from her grandfather means he’s decided whom she must marry. Determined that she’d only marry a man of her choosing, she stows away in her friend’s father’s carriage, only to find herself alone with young Archibald Napier,Viscount Morley.

Morley’s plans for a quiet Christmas vanish when he discovers the sweet young lady hiding under the blankets in his carriage. As she claims an acquaintance with his sister, he feels duty-bound to see her safely back to her family.

A broken carriage wheel leaves them stranded, and Harriet’s reputation is at stake. Morley’s not ready to take a wife, until he’s told he wouldn’t be a suitable husband for her. With memories of her sweet, tempting kiss filling his thoughts, he prepares to fight for the hand of the woman he believes he could love.

 

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12 Days of Christmas: Christmas in Paradise

IMG_7631If you had asked me a year ago if I would ever want to live in Florida, I would have looked at you like you had three heads. Florida?? Land of alligators and dangling chads?? Are you crazy?!?!

But many of you know that one fateful trip to the Bahamas changed everything. Yes, I know Florida isn’t the Bahamas, but it’s pretty darn close, both in proximity and in “feel.” So, blah, blah, blah, we decided to move here and our original 18-month timeline became 6 months, and well, here we are.

The main thing I was concerned about was how I would feel about wearing flip-flops and going swimming at Christmastime. I love Christmas. This is no secret. And, as most people do, I have always associated this time of year with frigid temps, snow, fireplaces and bundling up, yet still freezing my a** off.

Well, let me tell you…I will NEVER look back. Ever.  (Cue Taylor Swift song, “Weeeeee are never, ever, eveeeeer…getting back together!) You don’t need to be freezing to feel the magic of Christmas. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that I’m way more in the Christmas spirit than I’ve ever been! And those things I love still exist, even here.

For instance, Florida *does* get a little chilly, so I still get to put on a light sweater. And last night, in my light sweater, I ate Grimaldi’s New York pizza al fresco near a blazing heat lamp while watching the Christmas light show! It was MAGICAL!

And this morning, to and from dropping my daughter off at school, I rolled the windows down and blared Christmas music out the windows. Seriously, you haven’t known joy until you’ve had a warm breeze on your face while listening to Bing sing White Christmas.IMG_7678

Oh, and don’t forget snow! Almost every holiday celebration here involves fake snow. But it’s warm! And you don’t have to be bundled up in a gajillion layers of clothing or risk your children getting frostbite!

This last weekend alone was EPIC in terms of Christmas celebrations…breakfast with Santa, holiday boat parade, festival of trees, the children’s holiday festival with petting zoo, tree lightings, etc… We didn’t even make it to all of them though… we had to sleep and eat sometime!!

But no matter where you live, I hope you find the joy and love of the holiday season in your hearts! And to help you get in the mood, we’re kicking off our 12 Days of Christmas giveaway today! Every day, for the next 12 days, I’ll be featuring an author from the Regency Christmas Summons Series here on my blog. Stop by and learn about their favorite holiday traditions, read about their story in the collection, and leave a comment to WIN!

Win what? you may ask! I’ll be giving away a $25 gift card to the book seller of your choice. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win!* Winner will be announced December 21, 2012.

So now it’s your turn! Do you love the winter? Do you embrace the cold? Or would you be just as happy to spend Christmas in a tropical paradise? IMG_8069

*One comment per blog entry = a potential twelve entries.

A SUMMONS FROM THE DUKE…

Summons Duke

In Loving Mister Lockwell (Regency Christmas Summons, Vol. 2), Lady Isabel Whitton has no use for people other than her twin sister — she much prefers the company of her books. So when she discovers that all her cousins from near and far have been summoned to her home, Danby Castle, for Christmas, she isn’t pleased. To make matters even worse, the deplorable Mister Lockwell has come uninvited.

Damien Lockwell, 3rd son of the Earl of Totterdown, has invited himself to Yorkshire for Christmas. Spending the holiday with the Whittons seems far preferable to watching his father drink himself into a stupor. And Lady Isabel proves to be just the kind of entertainment he was looking for — she’s smart as a whip and quite the most unique creature he’s ever met — not to mention she despises him, which is the most thrilling part of all for a man like Damien.

Available NOW at these major retailers…
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New Release: A Love For All Seasons

Get all three of Jerrica’s most beloved novellas in one, tidy package! A Love for All Seasons includes her stories from A Summons from the Duke, The Betting Season and A Season to Remember.

LOVING MR. LOCKWELL (Originally from Summons from the Duke)…
Lady Isabel Whitton has no use for people other than her twin sister — she much prefers the company of her books. So when she discovers that all her cousins from near and far have been summoned to her home, Danby Castle, for Christmas, she isn’t pleased. To make matters even worse, the deplorable Mister Lockwell has come uninvited. * Damien Lockwell, 3rd son of the Earl of Totterdown, has invited himself to Yorkshire for Christmas. Spending the holiday with the Whittons seems far preferable to watching his father drink himself into a stupor. And Lady Isabel proves to be just the kind of entertainment he was looking for — she’s smart as a whip and quite the most unique creature he’s ever met — not to mention she despises him, which is the most thrilling part of all for a man like Damien.

THE MARRIAGE TRAP (Originally from The Betting Season)…

When Miss Patience Findley discovers, at her first ball of her first Season, just how much her father’s scandal has affected her chances of marriage, she resigns herself to being alone and dying a spinster. That is, until she hears that her friends’ names have landed in the Betting Book at White’s. In a moment of desperation, she asks her reprobate cousin to place a bet on her behalf, in hopes of trapping an unsuspecting gentleman into marriage.

Tristan Wallford, Lord Swaffham, loves a good challenge. So when his friend, Rowan Findley, claims that his cousin Patience cannot be cured of her melancholy state, Tristan lays a bet that he will be the one to cure her. He could certainly use the money, after all. But as the game begins, Tristan begins to realize that not only does Miss Findley not need curing, but she might be worth trapping for himself.

A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS (Originally from A Season to Remember)…
Penelope Bartlett has had a rough year, to say the least. She lost her eldest brother and her father in one fell swoop, and to make matters worse she had to miss out on her very first London Season. Now she’s in the thick of the Little Season and all she wants to do is run away. It’s torture to watch her siblings fall in love and she’s simply not in the mood to make merry with all of them. Especially when they treat her as if she’s still a little girl in leading strings. 
* Enter Drake Lockwell, Viscount Flitwick. He, too, is typically eager to escape crowded ballrooms and matchmaking mamas in favor of his own company in a deserted garden or library. But a chance meeting in his brother’s garden one night changes everything. Miss Bartlett is young and impetuous, yet he can’t help but fall prey to her charms. Perhaps she will be the one to finally mend the hole in his heart…

Or will his secrets be more than Penelope is able to handle?

Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords!

NEW RELEASE!

I’ve teamed up once again with my fellow Regency cohorts to write  A SEASON TO REMEMBER!

Jerrica Knight-Catania’s A Penny For Your Thoughts

Penelope Bartlett has had a rough year, to say the least. She lost her eldest brother and her father in one fell swoop, and to make matters worse she had to miss out on her very first London Season. Now she’s in the thick of the Little Season and all she wants to do is run away. It’s torture to watch her siblings fall in love and she’s simply not in the mood to make merry with all of them. Especially when they treat her as if she’s still a little girl in leading strings. 
* Enter Drake Lockwell, Viscount Flitwick. He, too, is typically eager to escape crowded ballrooms and matchmaking mamas in favor of his own company in a deserted garden or library. But a chance meeting in his brother’s garden one night changes everything. Miss Bartlett is young and impetuous, yet he can’t help but fall prey to her charms. Perhaps she will be the one to finally mend the hole in his heart…

Or will his secrets be more than Penelope is able to handle?

ENJOY THIS STORY, ALONG WITH 3 OTHERS IN…A SEASON TO REMEMBER!

Practice Makes Perfect! (And GIVEAWAY!)

I had an epiphany the other day. One of those light bulb moments that made me stop and go, “Wow! What a great way of looking at things!”

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, trying to avoid cleaning and packing for our big move, when I came across a post from one of my favorite “gurus,” John Asseraf. He describes himself as “a spiritual entrepreneur, philanthropist and teacher with an insatiable passion for brain research, quantum physics and helping others achieve and live their ideal life.” He’s written many NY Times Best Selling books, and it’s just inspiring to read his posts or watch him speak.

So, naturally, when I came across a post of his, I stopped to read it.

I love watching the Olympics. Getting to see these athletes get to compete after years of training is so powerful for me as a metaphor re what it takes to be the top or one of the best in your field. What amount of practice do you do to prepare to be your best? These Athletes are a great reminder for me.

Great, right? But I didn’t think too much of it. Not until I scrolled through the comments and saw this one from one of his followers:

John, the one thing that I like about your post is that you mention the ‘…amount of practice’ as opposed to the amount of ‘hard work’ it takes to be the best. This may just seem like a play on words but really, if it’s your dream to become the best at your passion, it’s no longer work. When I watch all those brilliant athletes, I see ppl who have identified their dreams and that, to me, is an achievement in itself…

Boy, is that a fantastic way of breaking things down?

Now, I come from a mindset already of “Work smarter, not harder.” I’ve always eschewed the idea of “Work hard, play hard.” And I certainly don’t believe that a person’s income is or has to be directly related to the amount of “hard work” they put in.

But still, there have been plenty of days when pumping out a couple pages of my manuscript felt like grueling work! That’s right. Not just hard work…grueling work!

Part of this comes as a result of the pressure of wanting to earn money at what I do. And oftentimes, that takes the fun out of things.

I remember as a young girl and a teenager that I would spend countless hours in my room singing, dancing, rehearsing monologues, all in preparation to be a big Broadway star. But as soon as graduating college became contingent on my doing those things, and eventually paying the bills, as well…well, it became work. In my mind, when I rehearsed a monologue, it wasn’t just to satisfy my own burning desire to learn and perform, it was to get a very important piece of paper from the Manhattan School of Music. When I attempted to perfect a song, it was to get a job so that I could pay my bills. And all that felt very much like work.

When I first started writing in my late 20s (having burnt out completely in the performance arena), boy, was that fun! My hubby was working long weekend hours at the time, so as soon as he would leave for the day, I would put on a frilly dress and my tiara (yes, I have a tiara!), sit down at my desk and go! Friends would call me to meet up for coffee or lunch, but I didn’t want to leave my desk. I wanted to play with my imaginary friends.

On top of that, I spent hours and hours and hours reading, researching, going to the library and the bookstore to find more reading material that involved Regency England.

I. Was. Obsessed.

And I really felt that giving back and helping others would help me hone my craft even better, so I spent even more hours critiquing manuscripts for my colleagues.

And then I got a publishing contract.

And then I had a kid.

And then I self-published some more books.

And my kid became a toddler.

And now, writing feels like a whole heck of a lot of work.

But what if I changed my perspective on it? What if I looked at my writing time as an opportunity to practice something that I truly love to do. To hone a skill, just for my own satisfaction? I’m my own boss anyway, so it’s not like I have to write to deadlines or anything. But I do have an obligation to my readers to write to the best of my ability, don’t I? So why, when I don’t have time or financial constraints, would I write for any other reason than to hone my craft and be the best I can be?

So that’s my plan. As soon as we’re settled in our new home and I’m ready to start writing again, I’m going to attempt to go about it with a different mind set. I’m going to try to recapture those early days when writing was something I was doing to fulfill my soul, not fill my bank account. And who knows, maybe that’s what it will take for me to write the “next great American novel.” 🙂

So, those are my thoughts for the day…I hope they’ve been inspiring 🙂 What do you think? Do you struggle with certain things because you think of them as work? Do you think a shift in your mindset regarding those things would help make them feel less arduous and more fun or satisfying?

GIVEAWAY:

Leave a relevant comment below, I’ll give you one entry in my super duper awesome giveaway! (Relevant means that comments like “Great post” or “Please enter me in the giveaway” do NOT count!)

What’s the giveaway, you ask??

Well, I have in my possession the entire DVD box set of A&E Romance Classics *gasp* *cheers* *applause* For those who aren’t sure what that entails, here are the deets:

Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice

Jane Austen’s Emma

A&E’s Original Movie Victoria & Albert

Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

R.D. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone

Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe

and the Baroness D’Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel

But wait! There are more ways to win!! For every one of the following actions, you will get one entry in the giveaway…

Like me on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter

Like TimelessQuills on Facebook

Follow TimelessQuills on Twitter

So that makes FIVE ways to win! Good luck, everyone!! I’ll announce the winner on Monday, August 20!

Last Chance: SALE!

**ONLY 1 DAY LEFT!!**

Christmas in July SALE!

The Wetherby Brides are heating up your summer with a hot sale! For Kindle only, get all 4 books for just $3! The  Wary Widow is still FREE and the other three books – A Gentleman Never Tells, More than a Governess and The Bedeviled Bride are just $0.99! But only through July 31, so act fast!

Happy Reading!!

Christmas in July SALE!

**ONLY 6 DAYS LEFT!!**

Christmas in July SALE!

The Wetherby Brides are heating up your summer with a hot sale! For Kindle only, get all 4 books for just $3! The  Wary Widow is still FREE and the other three books – A Gentleman Never Tells, More than a Governess and The Bedeviled Bride are just $0.99! But only through July 31, so act fast!

Happy Reading!!

Gretna Green

I came to a point in my new WIP yesterday where I needed some resources on anvil weddings at Gretna Green. When you type “Gretna Green” or “Anvil Weddings” into Google, you get the Wikipedia listing, along with a ton of hotels that want you to come and have a wedding with them now. Not 200 years ago.

So, of course, I went to my trusted writing group and asked if anybody had any good resources for my research. The fantastic Aileen Fish came back with the most amazing link! It’s to a book that you can read right online for free called The Gretna Green Memoirs by Robert Elliot. If you’re a history buff like me, you won’t be able to put this book down. Tale after tale of real couples running away to Gretna Green, and all the drama that surrounds it. Not even the writers on Desperate Housewives could have come up with this much drama.

Admittedly, I’m still only a few stories in, so I can’t speak for the entire book…but so far, it’s been pretty riveting. Possibly my favorite piece of research ever!

Get the book here: The Gretna Green Memoirs by Robert Elliot

New Release: The Gypsy Bride

I’m so excited to announce the release of my latest historical romance novel, The Gypsy Bride! The second book in the Daring Debutantes series, this extra-long novella is an exciting romp through Regency England–

Engaged to a reprehensible baron, Bianca Manning knows she must do something to escape her fate. She decides that a Romany camp is the last place her mad fiance would think to look for her.

The last thing Emilian Carrol needs is a spirited Englishwoman in his life, but he can’t seem to say no when she begs to hide out in his tribe’s camp. And maybe she’s just the thing he needs to help heal his wounded heart.

Thomas Barclay, future Viscount Grantham, is bored to tears and looking for a distraction. When his old friend Baron Tisbury asks for help in tracking down his missing fiancee, Tom decides to make himself useful and goes in search of the wayward girl.

Caught between two worlds, Bianca must figure out which man holds the keys to her heart.

When I set out to write the Daring Debutante series, I wanted to do something different. I didn’t want to write another traditional, formulaic historical romance. I wanted to branch outside the norm, do things with my stories and my characters that probably would not have actually happened in Regency England, but that weren’t completely outside the realm of possibilities. So you won’t find magic or werewolves here, but you will find gutsy heroines, and heroes that you will fall in love with.

The Gypsy Bride is available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords!

And if you missed the first installment of the Daring Debutantes series, click here to find links for The Robber Bride!