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…
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
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!

Romantic Times Convention!

Well, I think I’m finally settled after a crazy week in Chicago, which was followed by a crazy week trying to get our 2-year-old resettled at home (she spent the week with Grandma and Grandpa)

I apologize for the delay in this post, but in addition to dealing with a slightly crazy kid, I’ve also been very hard at work at the next installment of The Daring Debutante’s series. The Gypsy Bride is well under way, and I’m having SO much fun writing it! I do hope everyone will have as much fun reading it 🙂

Anyhoo, a few quick highlights of my week in Chicago…

1) Getting to be with my “girlz”, Ava Stone and Tammy Falkner (who collectively make up Lydia Dare), Jane Charles, Catherine Gayle, Erin Knightly, Samantha Grace and Rose Gordon — some of my very best friends in the world! We were nearly inseparable and had SO much fun together!

2) Getting to spend time with some other authors that I love and admire, like Deb Marlowe, Sabrina Jeffries, Heather Snow and L.J. Charles, and getting to meet tons more fabulous authors!

3) Getting to sign my books at a BIG book signing!

4) Getting to taste all kinds of alcoholic Regency beverages! That was a really fun workshop, and it made me VERY grateful that I live in 2012. It also makes me wonder what people will think of Cosmos and Mudslides 200 years from now! LOL!

5) Playing “Who Wants to be a Duchess” led by Ava Stone, Sabrina Jeffries, Deb Marlowe and Tammy Falkner. My hubby and I both made it to baroness status and walked around the rest of the day in our boas 🙂

6) Meeting readers!!! Fans are what make all the hard work worth while, and meeting them in person is the greatest thing in the world!

7) Forcing my fellow cohorts in the new Timeless Quills Historical Romance group to join in a photo shoot. I love the camera, from both sides, but I’m pretty much alone in that area. Ha!

Here are some pics from the week! Hope you enjoy!

RWA Nationals: Wednesday

As I sit here and write this blog, it is 7:11am on Thursday morning, and I am beat! And honestly, yesterday wasn’t that big of a day for me!

I moseyed into the city around 10am and spent the morning catching up with my critique partners (read: laughing like hyenas). Then it was off to the Keynote Luncheon, where Madeline Hunter spoke brilliantly on the current market.

Of course, the highlight of her speech (for me) was when she brought up that controversial term: self-publishing. She talked about when she first joined RWA and she was on the PAN loop, there was a great deal of fear. Fear about the rules. Am I following them properly? Do I have to take this bit out or change this part because it’s not in compliance with one of the many, oftentimes made-up rules that have been set forth? She’s noticed that the fear has diminished almost completely with the dawn of self-publishing. And my favorite line: I don’t think there’s an author in this room who isn’t happy to have the option of self-publishing in their back pocket. Amen, sister!

I know you’re all wondering how the food was, and I personally think it was leaps and bounds better than last year’s. That weird bone-in chicken they served last year was inedible. This year, we had a lovely chicken breast on a bed of polenta with a side of spinach.

Lunch

The biggest downside this year is, of course, the lack of dessert. Argh! Ah well…that’s all we get at the awards ceremony Friday night, so I’ll just make up for it then.

 

 

 

 
After lunch, I took Amy de Trempe to find a charger for her phone at one of the electronics stores on 8th Avenue, where I was, for the second time in 24 hours, told that I look exactly like Molly Ringwold. Story of my life.

Back at the hotel it was time for Keeping it Real: Regency Research Georgette Heyer Could Believe In. This was a great workshop put on by Jennifer Kloester, author of Georgette Heyer’s Regency World (which is a fabulous reference book for us Regency authors!), and the incomparable Sabrina Jefferies (who later spent a lot of time with my daughter and even put one of her bracelets on her wrist. It was a moment for me.) They both talked a lot about research and the current Regency market, and that dreaded word came up again: self-publishing. How funny that a year ago, that word didn’t really even exist at a conference like RWA! Now it’s on the tip of everyone’s tongues!

After that it was mingle time for me with my critique partners. We held court in the bar, where we could talk about our days while pointing out the authors, agents and editors we knew – it’s a fun game!

Eric brought the baby in, which was a good time, too. She flirted with friends and strangers alike, and was just her usual cute self 🙂 But by 6pm, I was wiped out, so our little family hopped back on the train and came home for a quiet evening and early bedtime.

And now, it’s time to hit the ground running again! I better pack some Emergen-Cs in my bag today! I’m definitely going to need them!

RWA Nationals: Tuesday Night

Admittedly, I didn’t do any truly conference-related activities yesterday. Eric and I headed into the city around 6 and met my critique partners in the bar at the hotel. We gabbed until it was time to board one of the glass elevators to take us to the Goddess Blog party.

Let me tell you, I’m so glad I’m not in the hotel. I think my commute from Jersey City takes less time. They have the elevators on some kind of odd system. You can’t press a button once you’re inside. You have to “call” for the elevator by indicating on a giant keypad which floor you’re going to. It tells you which elevator to take, and that elevator is programmed to take you to your floor…and to also drop off/pick up about 30 other people that are crammed into that elevator with you. I don’t mind the heights so much, but I do mind the heat and crowding. I was sweating like a whore in church!

The Goddess Blog party was fun. They handed out tiaras, and there was a great spread of fruit and sandwiches. I got to meet Julia London, and Suzanne Enoch was running around welcoming everyone. I briefly got to say hi to Sabrina Jefferies, too. But we had to duck out after our brief appearance because this was our big Critique Group Dinner night.

(First, a couple party pictures…)

Amy de Trempe and me 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heather Boyd, Samantha Grace and Jodie Pearson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eric and I led our group of 14 several blocks down to Dallas BBQ. This place is huge and cheap. They had no problem seating all 14 of us immediately. And when I say immediately, I mean, we never really even stopped walking. This place is a well-oiled machine. The guy at the entrance gets your headcount and sends your party up the escalator, where another guy is waiting for you. That guy sends you to the girl on the other side of the restaurant and she leads you to your table that has been expertly set up in the 30 seconds it’s taken your party to get up the escalator.

Our fabulous waiter, George, was so sweet and super patient. The only real snafu came when they tried to put 4 racks of ribs (with fries) in front of Eric.

George: Didn’t you order 4 racks?
Eric: Ah, no, man. Just the one.
George: Oh, man. I could have sworn you said 4 racks.
Eric: (realization dawns) Oh, no! I said full rack. Not four.

Lol. Hopefully some of the incredibly hard-working staff got to enjoy the other 3 racks of ribs.

Everyone really seemed to love the food, which was a big relief. It’s no easy task planning a dinner for 14 people. But I was hopeful that the Texas-sized margaritas would make up for any food-related drawbacks 🙂

But alas, all good things must come to an end, and Eric and I were on a time crunch to get the nanny home by a fairly decent hour. Unfortunately, we didn’t leave quite enough time to make our train, despite the fact we were in a full sprint (with me in brand new sandals) for about 5 blocks. Thank god for our 5K training last fall or I never would have made it. But even at that, we missed our train. We stared longingly and out of breath as we watched it pull out of the station, while we were still on the other side of the turnstiles.

Ah, well…we caught the next one and sent nanny home in a cab. We’ll know to leave an extra 30 seconds next time.

RWA Week: Lady Jane’s Salon

I was SO excited for this amazing Lady Jane’s event last night. The hubby and I were there for the inaugural LJ salon more than two years ago, and we went every month until I got too pregnant to waddle into the city. This was our first time back since the baby was born, and boy, was it a crazy night!

The typical “salon” has around 30-50 people in attendance. It’s quiet, and intimate, and pretty romantic, which is why the hubby and I always loved to go for a date night. Last night was a little different though…

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the head count was close to 200. It was a mad house! There was barely room to move, and I was literally pushing people down to get to the bar. Ha! We arrived right at 7pm to find my critique group ladies (who I haven’t seen in at least a year, some of them 2) huddled on couches in the atrium area of Madam X. Everyone looked wonderful, though that “glow” they had could have been sweat – it was roiling!

We had plenty of time to catch up (read: laugh like hyenas) while we waited for the readings to begin. Up first was Leanna Renee Hieber – she’s one of the founders of LJS, and an extraordinary reader, to boot. Of course, her background is in theater, and fittingly, her first book is being adapted into a Broadway musical.

Next up was Karen Rose, whose reading elicited a lot of “Ewww”s and “Blech”s from the audience. She writes crime novels, and she’s quite good with her descriptions…maybe a little too good!

Last up before intermission was Sarah Maclean. Her Regency voice is fun and frivolous, and she has a wonderful sense of humor. She’s definitely going on my TBR list!

Now it’s confession time…even though I told everyone to eat before they came, they didn’t. So at intermission our little group ducked out to get dinner next door at Jane (and I’m just now getting the irony in that). So yes, we missed the headliner – Eloisa James – but at this point, I’ve heard her speak about 5 times so it wasn’t a big deal to have to miss it. She’s wonderful, by the way, so if you haven’t heard her speak or read, I highly recommend you find an opportunity to do so 😉

So all in all, it was a fun night and I was thrilled to see my wonderful friends and critique partners again. I’m so glad I have another 4 days with them!

Tonight we’ll be hitting up the Goddess Blog party and then we’ll have our annual critique group dinner. I promise to post pictures!

RWA Nationals: The Preparation

Okay, so this year I’m lucky enough to have RWA in my backyard, so to speak. I merely have to hop on the subway and I will arrive at the conference every morning after a short 30-minute commute. Not too shabby when thinking about past years.

Two years ago, for my first RWA conference, I was 5-months pregnant with our daughter. I spent weeks plotting out my favorite maternity outfits, getting my business cards made up, as well as “Coming Soon” postcards with my first release’s cover on them. The hotel and airfare were booked nearly 6 months in advance, the car service was set to pick us up at 6am, and the bags were packed with great (adequate) precision. By the time we left for the airport, I was ready to conquer DC.

Last year was a bit different. We had a 7-month-old baby, which meant lots of extra planning. Not only that, but it meant detours – to Atlanta (family) and south Georgia (best friend). It also meant prepping the husband to take care of the baby alone on conference days, and it meant booking trips to parks, and lining up childcare so we could go to said parks. The packing was the worst. There’s video of me lying on the floor days before we had to leave, my feet in the air, giggling about how I was supposed to be packing but that I wasn’t and we were all going to have to be naked on our trip. (No, that video will not ever see the light of day, so don’t ask.) But when I finally got my butt in gear, it was a remarkable amount of stuff. Did I mention we had a 7-month-old? Going to a Disney compound with a human that can only eat formula and purees is quite the challenge. Her food took up about 70% of our luggage space. Tack on the stroller, car seat, snap ‘n go, and pack ‘n play to several pieces of luggage, and you have a challenging situation. If it hadn’t been for the kindness of strangers, it would have been necessary for one of us to become an octopus. Thank god she requires a lot less stuff now that she’s getting older!

But fast forward to now – this week – the week before Nationals is to start – and I’ve done nothing. No preparation whatsoever, other than deciding on where my critique group’s dinner will take place. Oh, and I’ve made sure the baby has adequate nanny/daddy coverage, too. But I couldn’t begin to tell you where my business cards are. I have no promotional materials for my books. And since I mainly wear workout gear every day, I’m pretty sure my wardrobe is not up to snuff. I made a list a while back of the workshops I plan to attend, but hell if I know where it is. Oh, and the best part is that the morning after the conference ends, we have to hop in a rental car to go to CT for 4 days with the in-laws. Ack! I am SO not ready for next week to begin.

What about you? Are you packed and ready to go already? Or are you just as scattered as I am? Share your getting ready tips with me, please! Maybe it’ll help me figure out what the heck I need to do before next week! 🙂

 

RWA Nationals: NYC Eating, Shopping, etc…

Hi all!

Well, the time is drawing nigh! Nationals is upon us…just a few more weeks until 2,000+ romance writers descend upon my hometown of NYC. I can’t wait! In preparation, I’ve been compiling lists of places to eat, places to shop, and things to do while you’re visiting us. Hubby and I were on our way to see a show the other day, and I started taking notes of all the great places there are in Times Square and the surrounding neighborhoods. Places that are often forgotten about if they aren’t right in front of your face. So, without further ado, here’s my list of stuff you might want to know about…

Budget Eating…

Just because you’re on a budget or in a hurry doesn’t mean you have to eat at McDonald’s! Here are some spots that offer what I consider upscale fast food…

Chipotle Mexican Grill – this one is a mere .3 miles from the Marriot! My favorite thing here is the veggie burrito bowl – it’ll run you about $7, but you won’t have to eat again for 3 days! Ha!

25 West 45th Street

New York, NY 10036

Cosi – This is a great sandwich/soup/salad place that turns into a full-service restaurant at night, with booze and everything. The Signature Salad is TDF, but just FYI – it’s not at all waist-friendly! If you’re looking for the Weight Watchers-friendly meal there, get the half Turkey Light sandwich and the half soup (I l.o.v.e. the artichoke soup!). .3 miles from hotel…

1633 Broadway

New York, NY 10019

Baja Fresh – .2 miles from the hotel, this Mexican cantina is a favorite from out west! With light, fresh fare, you’ll be walking on air as you walk down Broadway!

1441 Broadway

New York, NY 10018

Famous Famiglia – Looking for that famous NY slice? Pop on up to this legendary pizza joint, just .2 miles from the hotel. 1 slice, 1 order garlic knots and 1 diet coke (to off-set the calories in the pizza and knots, of course) and you’re good to go!

1630 Broadway at 50th St.

New York, NY 10019

Dallas BBQ – if you have a little more time to spare, but still don’t want to break the bank, this BBQ staple of NY is even good enough for this southern gal! My favorite thing here: Quarter rotisserie chicken (white meat, honey basted) with yellow rice and corn bread (slathered in butter, of course.) It’s more food than you could possibly eat for $7.50 (plus tax+tip) Oh, and if you want to get your drink on, go for a Texas sized Strawberry Margarita…yum! .2 miles from hotel…

241 West 42nd Street

Jamba Juice – if you’re really in a hurry or not terribly hungry or just want to drink your fruits/veggies, Jamba Juice is there for you! It’s .1 mile from the hotel, and it’s open until at least midnight every night!

712 7th Ave.

The Counter – I’ve talked about it before, but it bears repeating. This build-your-own burger joint is awesome, and they have a full bar, too! They also have plenty of vegetarian options if you’re not a carnivore. .2 miles from hotel…

1451 Broadway

KFCNo, I’m not talking about Kentucky Fried Chicken, I’m talking about Korean Fried Chicken! This amazing double-fried chicken is like nothing you’ve ever eaten! You’ll never be able to look at buffalo wings the same way again! Ask for a sample first before you order a whole thing of the spicy wings, and if you do go spicy, don’t touch your eyes until you’ve washed your hands at least 5 times. Personally, I love the non-spicy wings the best! Be prepared though…you may have sticker shock when you see the prices, but trust me…it’s worth it!

Try Bon Chon – 207 W. 38th St. New York, NY 10018 (.4 miles from hotel)  or Kyochon 319 5th Ave, New York (.8 miles from hotel.) (The atmosphere at Kyochon is pretty great, so if you don’t mind the walk, I recommend going there!)

Okay, I’ll be back with the next part of my list…