Happy Holidays!

The holidays are upon us! Really – if you aren’t already celebrating, you will be in a few days. The Christmas Spirit is alive and well in my house – how can it not be with a 15 year old and a 7 year old bouncing off the walls?
Personally, I do like this time of year – everyone is happy, generous, smiling. People say thank you and wish you a happy holiday. Most of my shopping is done, so I haven’t had to deal with too many irritated shoppers – I take a day or two off every year in early December to do marathon trips, and this year, I was extremely successful on both trips and knocked just about everyone off my list. Everything else was purchased online.
The tree and Christmas City are set up, the cookies are baked, presents are in the process of being wrapped. Christmas songs, both traditional and modern, are being played most of the time. The Chipmunks are heavy in the rotation – with kids, what do you expect?
I haven’t been this organized in several years. It feels weird. I’m used to having to run around for days for the one person who I can’t figure out what to get. Scrambling to assemble plates of cookies to give, ship or bring. Making sure the kids have holiday clothes that fit for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  We celebrate both days equally – and the festivities begin after church on Christmas Eve.
With my husband’s family, we do the traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Although, since certain people who were the only ones to eat certain dishes are no longer with us, a few of the fishes have fallen by the wayside – like the octopus cooked in its own ink. I still remember that first Christmas Eve with his family, when DH, who was only my boyfriend at the time, brought me into the kitchen to show me. His grandfather was the only one who ate that. I couldn’t even look at it – and I’m a daring eater. I’ll try/eat just about anything. Except spinach. And peas. But oddly, I love pea soup. Anyway….
After dinner, we all gather around and open our presents, then go back for dessert and packing up the mountains of toys the kids have accumulated. Get home around midnight, spend a few hours playing Santa and setting up, then fall asleep before we are awakened before dawn to see what Santa left.
After breakfast, we head out to spend the day with my family. My mother, being Irish, has her own take on the Feast. We call it the Feast of the Seven Potatoes. She makes mashed, candied sweets (though that has now become my responsibility), au gratin, and boiled. It’s not really seven, but it’s become a running joke in our little corner of the world. We could add fries, and maybe has browns, I suppose, but that would be overkill. Or maybe not. I’ll have to bring that up and see how it’s received. Of course, Mom serves lots of other things too – her Merlot sauce to accompany the filet roast is to die for, and she makes really awesome stuffing (to go with the turkey breast – there’s a lot of us).  
When it’s all done, and we’re crashing back at home, it’s hard to believe that for all the weeks of prep, it’s over in two short days. You think back, and realize what a blur the month of December has been. The kids’ excitement level lowers considerably, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s is spent in a fairly calm manner. I especially like the fact my company shuts down every year for that week, so it’s easy to recharge the batteries then.

In honor of this giving season, my gift to you is a copy of one of my titles – tell me about your traditions and you could win one of your choice. 

I wish you all a joyous holiday season and I hope you enjoy every moment with lots of love and laughter! And I hope the upcoming New Year brings lots of success and happiness!

Warrior’s Vengeance

As we near the end of another year, I’ve found that I’ve made significant progress on wrapping up two manuscripts, starting a third and writing a couple of short stories. Not as bad as I thought when I consider how much valuable writing time was sacrificed over the year. One of the books I finished this year is a medieval-set erotic romance, Warrior’s Vengeance. This story was a tricky one to write, and to be honest, at times it left me drained. Involving the kidnapping and forced seduction of the heroine, Marissa Langley, the tale skates along, and sometimes seems to cross, the lines of consent.
To be honest, the hero, Ian McCallum, does not treat Marissa nicely. Yet, to be fair, he harbors one hell of a grudge – she is the daughter of his enemy, a man whose warriors raped and murdered Ian’s wife, murdered his small son, and basically decimated his village and clan. Kidnapping Marissa and forcing her to be his slave is justified, in his mind. Marissa, on the other hand, cannot believe her father could do such things. Truth is, back in 1307, that’s exactly what men like her father did. They were ruthless, murdering and raping innocents, and generally not caring who got caught in the crossfire of their wars. Kind of similar to how things work in various parts of the world today. Certainly there were honorable men who sought to protect those who could not protect themselves, but even those men were merciless when it came to meting out the justice they felt was deserved. Ian is a man much like Marissa’s father. One who employs brutal justice, and seeks revenge. Those goals held powerful sway on the men of that time, just as much as their lust for power and money.
But there is a difference in Ian. He feels guilt, true remorse over some of his ill-treatment of Marissa. Not that his guilt will turn him from his avowed path of vengeance – he will still do what he believes he needs to – but he does have regrets. Marissa, after learning what Ian’s suffered, understands what drives him, what compels him to behave as he does toward her. She is, after all, a woman of the time. She happens to have been raised alongside one of her brothers, can handle a sword as well as any man, and knows what drives the men in her life, even if she believes them to be more honorable than is claimed by their enemies.
I’ve had very mixed reactions to this story from the various places it’s been sent. Contests, editors, and some critique partners. There is no middle ground with this story – it’s either loved, or reviled. I consider it to be forced seduction, and there were those who agreed. Then there were those who disagreed. Strongly, in some cases. I had an absolutely lovely rejection from an editor who explained exactly why she had issues with the content. One of the nicest rejections I ever received. And I understood her point, and why she felt the way she did.  In the contests I entered, overwhelmingly, the story was received very well. I did have an angry judge harshly reprimand me for the content, but others were salivating for more.  Perhaps because it was historical, and set in that brutal era, they were able to put aside the requirements of today’s society for complete, clear-as-day consent. Perhaps it’s just a fantasy they like to read about. Either way, they wanted more. With those reactions, I was torn as to what I wanted to do with the book. I could make drastic changes, but I wasn’t sure I was up to that. Or I could see if I could find a publisher who wanted edgier, more raw stories. I decided I’d start with the latter option, and go from there.
Well, Warrior’s Vengeance has found a home, and a bit quicker than I anticipated. Pink Flamingo Publications has accepted it for release sometime in the spring or summer of 2012. I have no other details at this point, but I’m just thrilled that Ian and Marissa’s story will be available for readers who like a good, old-fashioned “bodice ripper.”  Stay tuned – as I get more information, I’ll share it here.