Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year End Wrap-Up

Another year is just about over. Yay! I’m more than ready to say goodbye to 2013. It wasn’t a good year for me. And yet, somehow, I still managed to be productive. I wish I’d achieved all of my writing goals, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. Life happens. Another shiny, sparkly new year is about to begin, and anything is possible. 

But first, let’s take a look back…


~  Finished the first draft of Wild Highland Bride in October. I really wanted to be completely done with this novella by my birthday (in December), but I’m not upset that didn't happen. I wrote THE END on the first draft!!! That's a huge accomplishment, and I'm proud of myself.

~ I didn’t earn my RWA Pro status like I hoped. But I will, mark my words.

~ Achieved my goal and read 50 books this year, just in the nick of time.

~ Renewed my Celtic Hearts, RWA and RT Book Reviews Magazine subscription. This is a big investment well worth the expense.

~ Judged for the Celtic Hearts Golden Claddagh Contest for the YA category. I enjoyed this very much. I love to critique!

~ I finally gained a critique partner. I adore Natalie Murphy to pieces. She’s amazing.

~ I critiqued for Nat. She is super talented. Seriously, be prepared to fall in love with her novels. She’s going to be a BIG star in the romance industry. Like Monica McCarty big.

~ Critiqued a friend’s manuscript. He writes creepy thrillers.

~ Won the Celtic Hearts November sprint. The prize was a $25 Amazon gift card. =)

~ Signed up on Pinterest. Aaaannnnd now I'm addicted. *grins sheepishly* It can be a major time suck if you let it, so I make a point of only playing around on there when I'm watching TV. I really like creating storyboards for my WIPs. It jump-starts my creativity. Click here to view.


~ In May my beloved girl Doxie, Ripley, faced a major health crisis. She passed in August, and it broke my heart. I’m still grieving. I think of her and miss her every day.

~ My father (who is terminal) was briefly hospitalized this year, but is now doing well. He's one tough Texan.

~ Sadly, my favorite aunt (also terminal) passed away. =(

~ Enjoyed a girlfriend getaway to Orcas Island with my BFFs in July and visited my sister on the Oregon coast.

~ Became an aunt for the sixth time.

~ Won a Kindle Fire. I'm sharing it with my hubby. We're loving it!

It wasn’t the greatest year; there were simply too many bad moments. I’m looking forward to a new year, to new goals, and new possibilities. I’m going to think positively and keep working hard to make all my dreams come true.

How was your year? Did you achieve your goals?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

An Elizabethan Christmas

Christmas is a time to believe, a time to rejoice, and a time to love. It is a time when every ornament we hang on the tree becomes a memory and part of this magical season. 

Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

There was much celebration in England when Elizabeth I came to the throne. Elizabeth was a vibrant young woman replacing her half-sister Mary I who brought nothing but persecution, cruelty and hardship to England. Her court was solemn and serious, whereas Elizabeth's court was extravagant, luxurious, and full of dancing and entertainment. This carried over into the Christmas celebrations.

The Christmas Feast

Christmas was a time to "eat, drink, and be merry", a time to celebrate and enjoy a little luxury. Those families who could afford a Christmas feast would celebrate it in style with foods like roast goose, turkey, or beef, and Brawn and Mustard (roast wild boar with mustard). Turkey had been eaten at Christmas by some people during Henry VIII's reign, as it was introduced into England at that time, but it had not yet superseded goose which was still the traditional meat of Christmas Day for those who could afford it.

In 1588, Elizabeth I ordered the whole of England to eat goose for their Christmas Dinner to celebrate England's victory over the Armada because it was the first meal she at after the Navy had defeated Spain's ships.

Accompaniments to the roast meat included plum porridge, mince pies and frumenty, a pottage made from boiled, cracked wheat. The Christmas meal was washed down with beer, a popular drink in Tudor times when water as not fit to drink.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

Richer households would have a more luxurious Christmas banquet, which could include roasted swan or peacock displayed as table centerpieces with their feathers and skins put back on. A boar's head may also be used as a table decoration. These centerpieces showed the wealth of the householder.

With the discovery of the New World and the Elizabethan voyages to America, the rich were also able to make use of new and exotic fruit and vegetables in their Christmas banquet. Tomatoes and potatoes were mixed with foods like citrus fruits, which were specially imported from Southern European countries.


The Banqueting

This course was another way in which the host of the Christmas feast could flaunt their wealth, their status, and their creativity. Sugar was a luxury cooking ingredient in Tudor times and was rather expensive, so an array of sweet delicacies (such as gilded fruit and collops of bacon) would impress guests. 

Image: BBC.co.uk


Other Christmas Food and Drink

As well as the roast meats and sweet delicacies, the well-to-do Elizabethans would have enjoyed:
  • Christmas pudding – A “pudding” made from meat, spices and oatmeal and then cooked in the gut of a boar.
  • Brussels Sprouts – The wonderful Brussels Sprout made its debut in England in the late 1580s.
  • Gingerbread – Made from bread, ginger, spices, sugar and wine. This made a stiff paste which was then molded.

Image: The Tudor Tattler, Pinterest
  • Mulled wine – Wine heated and infused with sugar and spices.
  • Syllabub – A hot milk drink flavoured with rum or wine and spices.
  • Lambswool – A drink made from mixing hot cider, sherry or ale, apples and spices. The mixture was heated until it “exploded” and formed a white “woolly” head.
  • Tarts and custards for dessert.
  • Quince marmalade.

Elizabethan Spiced Beef Stew
Image: lavenderandlovage.com

Humble Pie

The phrase “to eat humble pie” means to apologize or to face humiliation for your mistake or blunder, but it has its roots in Tudor and Medieval times when servants or lower-class people would use offal (kidneys, intestines, brain, heart or liver) and left-overs to make a pie. The “humbles” would be boiled in a stew with dried fruit, apples, suet, spices, sugar and salt, and then baked in pastry.

Humble Pie
Image: lovelyoldtree.wordpress.com

 Christmas Traditions

Traditions enjoyed at Christmas in Tudor and Elizabethan times included:
  • The Lord of Misrule – A commoner would be chosen as “The Lord of Misrule” and would be in charge of organising the entertainment and revelry for the Twelve Days of Christmas.
  • Mummer’s Plays with music and morris dancing.
  • Decorating with greenery – Holly, ivy and other winter greenery would be brought inside the homes to decorate it.

Image: Pinterest

  • The Yule Log – A Yule or Christmas log would be brought into the home on Christmas Eve and burned throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas. It was considered lucky to start the fire with the remains of last year’s Yule Log.
  • Christmas Carols – Christmas carols were sung on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning around the parish and carollers would be rewarded with money, food or drink.
  • Wassailing – The enjoying of a communal cup of spiced ail. Wassailing has also been linked to blessing the orchards and land, and going round the parish in groups with an empty bowl for householders to fill with spiced ale.
  • Twelfth Day and Night – This was celebrated with a church service commemorating the coming of the Three Kings. A special cake would be baked and then given out to members of the family and household. This cake would contain a bean and whoever found it would be pronounced King of the Bean.

Image: umass.edu

This tradition still exists in countries like Spain, where a Roscon filled with cream and decorated with glace fruit is shared. This cake has little gifts and novelties mixed in with the cream and also contains a bean. Whoever finds the bean is crowned King with the crown that comes with the cake and is considered lucky.


I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thanks for following my posts over the years! May all of your Christmas wishes come true.

 -- Courtesy of The Elizabeth Files --

Monday, December 23, 2013

2014 Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival

The 4th Annual Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival is on the way!


Through the bleakest part of winter -- January 10, 2014 through the end of February -- the Winter Writing Festival can keep your creative fires burning, with support, advice, inspiration, lots of sprinting in the chat room, fun prizes for participants, and as much virtual hot chocolate (and virtual cookies!) as you please.  

Here's the best part: unlike NaNoWriMo and other writing challenges that have a one-size-fits-all approach, the Ruby Winter Writing Festival is designed for you. No matter what stage you're at right now (brainstorming, plotting, free-writing, fast-drafting, slow-drafting, revising, layering, polishing, or any combination of the above) the Ruby Winter Writing Festival can give you fuel for your winter writing fire.

It works on a point system, with a goal of earning one point per day. Everyone gets a bonus point on the first day for stopping by the Ruby blog and making a public commitment to take part in the Festival. Then, for each of the 50 days of the Festival (including January 10), you work to earn an additional point -- and you define what it takes to earn that point. 

I've taken part in the Winter Writing Festival the past three years. It's fabulous for productivity, especially if you take part in some of the writing sprints. You can write X number or words or pages. Do deep revising on Y number of pages. Polish Z number of pages. Keep your butt in your chair and your hands on your keyboard for S number of minutes or hours. Any of these goals earn you a point.


For those of you who can't predictably work daily but know you can accomplish a goal by the end of the week, the Festival is officially giving you permission to set a weekly instead of a daily goal, and then give yourself 7 points when you make it!

Check in on the Ruby blog every Friday during the Festival to report your progress. If you reach the end of February with at least 50 points, YOU WIN!

Click here for full details.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Caught On The Cover (3)

This month RT Book Reviews blog featured several of my favorite celebrities -- Channing Tatum!! -- "caught on the cover," their likenesses spotted on some November new releases. Check 'em out:


We swear this isn't just an excuse to post one of the best photos of Channing Tatum in existence.


So Carrie didn't fare so well in her Sound of Music reviews, but that gentleman seems pleased to see her.


David! What would Victoria say?!


We can't get no … satisfaction … until we finish … this great novel!


As if you needed another reason to try Katie McGarry, look at this hot cover! (You're welcome.)


 This one's for you, General Hospital fans. Rick does live in LA now, right?!


Monday, December 16, 2013

The Stuff of Legends

Jonas Armstrong as Robin
BBC's Robin Hood (2006-)

Errol Flynn, a legend in his own time, might have sported green tights, short green doublet with dagged edges, and a neat green cap (so he'd be well camouflaged in the forest) in his portrayal of the famous folk hero, but the real Robin Hood is a mystery.

Errol Flynn as Robin Hood
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian with Errol Flynn
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

He supposedly conducted guerilla warfare from his hideaway in Sherwood Forest, robbing the Norman rich and feeding the Saxon poor, for over a century. If he was real, perhaps Sherwood Forest had a hidden fountain of youth.

Russel Crowe as Robin Hood (2010)
Russell Crowe with Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian
Robin Hood (2010)

Slightly missing the point, when sixteenth century King Henry VIII wondered what the simple folk do to break the monotony of everyday life, he dressed up like Robin, rounded up his band of merry courtiers and hid behind the doors of Catherine of Aragon's bedchamber--waiting to scare her ladies.

~ Courtesy of Let There Be Clothes by Lynn Schnurnberger ~
Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday: The Raider

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a way to show off the books you can't wait to be released.  This week I choose...

Highland Guard, Book 8

Author - Monica McCarty
Genre - Historical Romance
Publisher - Ballantine Books
Release Date - February 25, 2014

Of all Bruce’s elite warriors, Robert “Raider” Boyd is the most formidable. A true patriot whose bare hands are a deadly weapon, Robbie is the fiercest enforcer of the Guard. His hatred of the English has been honed to a razor sharp edge. But vengeance proves bittersweet when his enemy’s beautiful sister falls into his hands and he finds himself fighting temptation—a battle he badly wants to lose.

Lady Rosalin Clifford
barely recognizes the rebel prisoner she saved from execution six years ago. Though her girlish ideals for fairness have matured into a passion for justice, Rosalin believes she betrayed her brother when she helped this dangerous man escape.  Now, her traitorous act has as come back to haunt her. But she can’t deny the longing this tormented warrior ignites in her, or deny the passion that turns sworn enemies into lovers. But is the gentle love of a true English Rose enough to free Scotland’s most brutal warrior from a path of vengeance—before it’s too late?

This cover is as awesome as this series.
-- Book blurb from author's website --
Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Flesh Start

Once upon a time stockings came in only two colors: black for the winter, white for the summer. But short skirts made stockings an important fashion accessory and in 1922 "flesh-colored" stockings were available--as long as your flesh was pinkish-beige. 

Image: Pinterest
Image: wearinghistory.blog
Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby (2013)

It would be another twenty-five years before brown and black-skinned legs were acknowledged.

Image: collectorsweekly.com
Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

Also in 1922, French count Chardonnet brought "artificial silk" to America. The new fabric, called vicose, was made by pushing nitro-cellulose through a machine-run jet. Vicose was cheaper than silk and sexier than cotton so the Flapper Girl could show off her Charleston legs without spending a fortune.
Image: Pinterest
Image: aneekasimonis92.wordpress.com

On February 16, 1937, Dr. Wallace Hume Carothers received patent number 2,071,251 for a new miracle fabric called "nylon". Little could he suspect that on May 15, 1940, when the first nylon stockings (which were sheerer than silk) went on sale they prompted a veritable run on U. S. department stores. It was reported that 780,000 were sold on the first day alone.

Image: Pinterest

Kate Winslet in Mildred Pierce (2011)

Alas, wartime shortages would soon forced women to replace their precious  nylons with leg makeup.

Image: 1900.org.uk
Image: pennydreadfulvintage.com

~ Courtesy of Let There Be Clothes by Lynn Schnurnberger ~
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday: The Knight

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a way to show off the books you can't wait to be released.  This week I choose...

A Highland Guard Novella

Author - Monica McCarty
Genre - Historical Romance
Release Date - December 17 , 2013

Stripped of his lands by the English king who killed his father, James Douglas will do whatever it takes to see his clan’s honor and fortune restored. The ambitious young knight, whose dark visage, powerful stature, and ferocity in battle has earned him the epitaph “the Black,” knows he must use fear, force, and intimidation to defeat the English, put Robert the Bruce on Scotland’s throne, and restore the honor of the Douglas name. Nothing and no one will get in his way. Not even the lass who captured his heart in childhood and still holds it in her delicate hands.

Joanna Dicson has loved James Douglas for as long as she can remember. That she is “only” the daughter of the marshal of Douglas Castle has never concerned her. Yet even as James’s ruthless reputation grows, and despite the warnings of others to guard her heart—and her virtue—against him, Joanna never dreams he will turn on her. He loves her and would never hurt her.

But when James returns to Douglas to force the English garrison from his castle, Joanna learns that their love is nothing against his ambition. His marriage—like everything else—will be a means of bettering his clan. Heartbroken and humiliated, Joanna is left alone with a secret that may destroy them both.

The only thing I can say about this first-ever Highland Guard novella is: YAY!

 -- Book blurb from author's website --
Monday, December 2, 2013

December Releases

I love December. It's my birthday month! Peppermint hot chocolate, twinkly tights, good cheer, and snow are in season. Plus, December is the best time of the year to curl up with a cozy blanket and read a good book. Here are a couple of new releases I'd be happy to find under my tree on Christmas morning:



Never Trust a Pirate
by Anne Stuart
December 3
A Gentleman 'Til Midnight by Alison DeLaine
December 31

I love a good pirate romance.



  Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan December 17

This is the fourth book in the Darkest London series. Book one was great. I really need to read books 2 and 3 next year.

What's on your must-read list this month?