Autumn is my favorite time of the year, but Thanksgiving isn’t. I mean, I like the FamiLee time, and the parades, and the chances to see old friends, but here’s my confession: I hate turkey. And stuffing (how many of you call it "dressing" instead of "stuffing"?). And cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. I don’t even particularly like gravy or green bean casserole. On Thanksgiving, I survive mainly on mashed potatoes (which I love) and pecan pie. It’s a FamiLee joke that when/if I ever have to host Thanksgiving, we’ll be eating Chinese food (which I love).
You might remember that in A Cheyenne Thanksgiving, my heroine Tess is half-Chinese, and her contribution to the Thanksgiving table is a fried-rice dish. This wasn’t a random choice. Some of you may know that my husband is half-Chinese, and the easiest (and yummiest!) dish my Father-in-Law taught me to make is fried rice. What better way to kick off a season of giving (and giveaways!) than with this super-simple “Thanksgiving” (at least as far as I’m concerned) dish?
Mmmmmmm..... Image by JeffreyW
This recipe is my favorite use for leftover Chinese food. The best types to use here are the dishes that are chunks (meat, tofu or non-soggy veggies) swimming in yummy sauces. Separate your food from the sauce and chop it up as small as you want. Warm it (and the separate sauce) up a bit.
Cook the white rice completely, let cool just slightly. Scramble some eggs and set aside.
In a large pan, fry up whatever veggies you’ll want to throw in. Use any kind of oil; veggie oil will work, but peanut or sesame is better. In the pan, toss in your chopped-up carrots/green onions/chopped-up peppers/minced garlic or ginger/green peas, and cook until… well, until they look done. Mix these veggies in with the egg and the chopped leftovers and let sit for a bit.
Add it more oil to the pan and dump in the rice, tossing to coat, and fry it up! When the individual grains are darker and a bit firmer, you know it’s fried enough… so toss in your chopped veggies/egg/Chinese food and mix (see, this is why you needed a large pan). Then pour in your sauce (this is why I told you to reserve it). Oyster sauce works well, but the best choice is the sauce from your leftover takeout! Just pour it over the mixture and toss to coat while on the stove-top.
So. Good. So simple. Mmmmm--mmmmm. I'm hungry now.
Seriously, how could you NOT chose this yumminess over turkey?? Photo by JefferyW
So now that you know my secret—I’d much rather be eating friend rice than stuffing this year—I’ll let you in on the Sexy Scribblers’ giveaway!
Our raffle is for 12 books, many autumn-themed, and all by the Sexy Scribbler authors. Here is a list of the ebooks that will be given away:
Join the rest of the Sexy Scribblers for the Fall Into Romance blog hop, November 15th-22nd.
Grand Prize: a collection of ebooks from the Scribbler authors.
Visit these blogs for more great autumn recipes and stories, as well as more chances to win!
The Black Madonna
Twice yesterday I ran into The Black Madonna. HA, not literally “ran into”, but I like that opening statement. The heroine of my WIP is a Polish Catholic, and I’m tapping into my heritage and history to write it. But yesterday, serendipitously, I learned some new #HistoryWithHeart.
While I was researching St. Kazimierz, I came across a reference to Our Lady of Czestochowa (which I just spelled correctly on my first try, thankyouverymuch), and then, not two hours later, I found a small medallion with her image on it. I thought that was a neat coincidence, and thought to do a little write-up on her.
Photo of original icon and a copy made with clearer features. Both from Wikipedia.
Years ago, I was lucky enough to visit the Jasna Góra Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland, where the icon called The Black Madonna resides. Looking at this photo, you can see why she’s called that; supposedly centuries of candle soot has turned the figures’ skin black (although I’m not so sure they weren’t black to begin with). This icon is said to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist himself (on the planks of the Holy Family’s dining room table, no less) while he spoke to the Virgin Mary about her experiences for his gospel. Legend states it was brought to Constantinople from Jerusalem in 326 CE by St. Helena, where it resided for centuries before being brought to Poland. Art historians claim that it’s not quite that old; probably painted sometime in the sixth century, but agree that it came to Poland from what is now Hungary (they also think that the fleur-de-lis on Mary’s clothes were added later, by one of the kinds of Hungary with French connections).
The miracles associated with the painting are both public and private. In 1382 and then again in 1430 the painting’s home was attacked by enemy looters. The Black Madonna received an arrow in the throat and two sword slashes across her right cheek. It’s said that the man holding the sword fell to the ground in agony, which scared the enemy away. Similarly, in 1655, she’s credited with allowing a force of 250 monks and locals to hold off the invading Swedes (approximately 4000 strong) for well over a month.
Pilgrims at Jasna Gora Monastery's shrine to The Black Madonna. From big-world-out-there.com
Pilgrimages to the shrine have been popular for centuries. When the Russians were closing in on Warsaw in 1920, thousands of devout Catholics made the traditional 9-day pilgrimage to Czestochowa to pray for the city’s safety… the Poles then defeated the Russians at the Battle of Warsaw. And throughout Nazi occupation (and later during the Communist rule), Catholics still made the pilgrimage at great personal risk to themselves. The man who would later become Pope Saint John Paul II made the secret pilgrimage from his home near Krakow to pray before The Black Madonna during Nazi occupation.
When I visited Our Lady of Czestochowa, I wasn’t on a pilgrimage, but just studying the art and architecture of Catholicism (and Judaism too, actually) in Poland. But I had enough respect to cover my hair and sit contemplatively in her presence. No matter your faith, it’s hard not to respect the centuries of devout prayer that wraps around the painting. And it’s impossible not to imagine the thousands—hundreds of thousands—of humans who’ve knelt in that same spot and prayed for miracles and intercession. It’s a humbling experience.
Belief is a powerful force, and in Jasna Góra, it’s tangible.
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The FamiLee just returned from a week with my family. We were all crammed together in a lake house for a week, swimming and boating and relaxing and drinking heavily (that’s what family reunions are for, isn’t it?). It was awesome, and I gained at least 5 pounds. Worth it.
Pictured: Baby Hulk trying to love on Padawan. I hope they recreate this pose in 10 years.
This lake was in the middle-of-nowhere, SC, and to get there, I drove straight south through some tiny towns (well, cross-roads, really) and rural roads. Without cell reception. I got lost three times.
We returned yesterday, and while Baby Hulk was sleeping in the backseat, I decided to treat the “getting lost” as “a scenic detour.” We saw plenty of hay, plenty of horses, and plenty of this:
Seriously. I’m not risking heatstroke just so my lawn looks pretty.
But I got to stop in Buford, SC, at the memorial to the Battle of the Waxhaws, just to see what that was all about. What I thought was just a historic marker on the side of the road turned out to be fairly involved: A marker erected in 1860 to mark the mass gravesite, and then multiple markers placed since then, including two in 1950 and 2005 that repeat the original (now-eroded) marker’s inscription.
So here’s the deal:
The Revolutionary War started in 1775, right? But by 1780, things weren’t going so hot for the Patriots. Charleston, SC (an important port, and I’m not just saying that ‘cause I was born there) was under siege, and called for help from the rest of the colonies. One of the groups that answered that call was the 3rd Virginian Detachment, led by Colonel Abraham Buford. This force of 380 Virginians was marching southward towards Charleston when they got the word that the city had surrendered, meaning that they were the last of the free troops in South Carolina. Obviously, they turned right back around and high-tailed it out of there. They’d made it into Waxhaw country, and were getting close to North Carolina when they decided to rest.
That’s when Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton caught up with them.
Look at that baby face. Hard to imagine that by this point, he’d gained a reputation for ruthlessness and cunning in the face of overwhelming odds. He’s just so fabulous!
Tarleton has a force of about 270 men, and they’d been traveling fast with little rest to catch up with the fleeing Continentals (after Cornwallis commanded that they get all of SC’s backcountry under control). He even sent a messenger forward to catch up with Buford and demand his surrender (Tarleton grossly inflated his force’s numbers, in an attempt to scare Buford). The Virginians refused, but Tarleton’s men caught up with them soon after.
Buford’s mistake was allowing the British forces to come too close before giving the command to fire. They only got off one volley before the British cavalry ran them down, and the (mostly unseasoned new recruits) of the Continental Army were cut down, some while in the process of surrendering. Realizing the battle was lost, Buford attempted to surrender, but the British ignored it, and began what is now known as “Bufford’s Massacre”. Men were not just killed, but hacked apart. One surviving Patriot called it "indiscriminate carnage never surpassed by the most ruthless atrocities of the most barbarous savages". In fact, one of Cornwallis’ aides later said that on that day "the virtue of humanity was totally forgot."
(Because I feel strongly that historians should study both sides of the story, I need to point out that Tarleton had been unhorsed during the battle, and later claimed that it was the shock of seeing their leader apparently wounded that sent his troops into a killing frenzy. He was unable to stop them—he claimed.)
From Wikipedia: "Sketch of the Waxhaw Massacre thought to be for a 19th century lithograph"
The numbers speak for themselves:
The British casualties: 5 killed, 12 wounded
The Continental casualties: 113 killed, 147 wounded (~50 of whom died in the following days)
In fact, there were so many wounded that people came from all over to help care for them. Those people heard the story of "Buford's Massacre", and helped to disseminate the tales of the British brutality when they returned to their homes. Up until that point, many civilians had done their best to remain neutral in the War... but when the story of how Tarleton treated surrendering troops got around, support for the Revolution boomed. The rallying cry "Remember Tarleton's Quarter" became popular, he was cast as the ultimate villain, and of course, the colonies won the war thanks to the popular support.
So I climbed back into the car, and with Baby Hulk sleeping in the backseat, and Padawan ignoring everyone by playing Minecraft on his phone, I started back up towards home. I couldn't help but think about how the sheer number of men killed that day in 1780 resulted in the eventual autonomy of the United States of America.
And how doggone hot it was.
SUMMER READING GIVEAWAY!
It's officially summer! And you know what that means, right? It's time to load your Kindle with new romances to devour during all of your trips to the beach, the mountains, the pool, or just sitting in your backyard. I've teamed up with ten other authors to bring you this chance at an incredible prize! Click on the graphic to be taken to the entry page.
Stay connected with your favorite authors or discover someone new. These authors have joined together to offer a fabulous giveaway:
No really, I've been reading.
Well, I missed my goal to write a blog post in May. You'd think I could manage to write one measly post per month, but it's a struggle, I guess. I wish I could just link my Facebook account here, because I could update that once an hour if necessary.
What's that? You don't really care to find out what I had for breakfast (eggs), what I had for lunch (eggs), what my favorite food is (hint: it's not eggs), how much I like wine (surprisingly, also not my favorite food), what hilariously horrible thing my kids said today, or how my husband thought that last chapter should've ended? Really?
Huh. Well, OK. Then you might be interested in my Facebook author page, where I post my social history finds. And they're great! My most recent post is about how a melting glacier in Italy is revealing relics and perfectly preserved bodies from one of the highest and coldest battles in human history (The White War, during WWI). Isn't that fascinating? And it doesn't have anything to do with wine. <shrug> Usually.
I've been neglecting my blog (big surprise) because I'm hard at work on my next book (more later)... and of course: reading. I don't know about you, but I'm one of those people who re-reads favorites once a year or so. It's like visiting an old friend, and I don't understand how some people can read a great book once and then never touch it again. I've lately been revisiting old May McGoldrick favorites (love me some Scottish romance!), but wanted to try something new, as well.
I picked up Elizabeth Michel's Tricks of the Ton series recently, when we were both guests at the fabulous Carolina Wine & Sign event. I really enjoy her company, and was embarrassed that I hadn't read her books yet. So in between McGoldrick's Percy sisters and their be-kilted heroes, I settled down with some Regency Lords and Ladies.
Readers, Michel's books are wonderful. Fun, flirty, easy-to-read, and interesting. Her characters are lovely, and I lost count of how many times I laughed out loud at their dialogue. Really, it's the humor and wit that make me glad I have these books, because I'm planning on reading them again and again.
...And she's got a new series coming out called the Spare Heirs, which is pretty much the best name for a Regency series EVER. The Infamous Heir, comes out early 2016 (with The Rebel Heir following shortly after). I can't wait to buy those books, and re-read them yearly.
So how about it, readers? Which books do YOU read again and again? Which are your favorites?
150 Years Later
We've noted the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, and Lincoln's assignation, but here's an event that's regularly overshadowed.
(photo courtesy of ThisWeekInTheCivilWar.com)
The explosion of the SS Sultana is the deadliest maritime disaster in US History (not, unfortunately, in the world), killing 1800 people ON ONE STEAMBOAT(whhhhaaaat?). But I'd never heard of her until recently (from a friend doing her dissertation on who's to blame for the incident), because the event itself happened so soon after Lincoln's death, and was largely overshadowed by that incident even in 1865.
What caught my attention originally was the name of the boat. Are any of you fans of old TV shows? How about the late '50s show Yancy Derringer (a suave Confederate riverboat owner returns to his native New Orleans in 1867ish)? The name of Yancy's riverboat is "The Sultana" and in the first season there's an episode about a mysterious rash of riverboat explosions (which cause cotton prices to skyrocket) caused by--you guessed it--mistreated boilers. It's a good show, and I always appreciate knowing the history behind it.
Anyhow, this particular disaster was so devastating because the ship had something like FIVE TIMES the allowable passengers on board. Why? Because they were Union soldiers, being released from Confederate prison camps and on their way home. Any loss of life like this is tragic, but to know that these were men who were finally free? Finally released from their nightmares and were going home? That makes this even more devastating, somehow.
There's still some mystery surrounding the accident, but this article (highly recommend you read it!) does a good job of explaining the details of how an over-loaded boat, listing side-to-side, could cause steam to build to dangerous levels in the boilers.
So today, we remember the tragic loss of the SS Sultana, and those who were aboard her.
Many thanks to the fabulous JA Coffey for her help in making this design--and my 'brand'--beautiful. If you haven't heard of her, go check out her books. She's got a beautiful historical fiction (with romantic elements), and two incredibly sexy contemporary romances. Like, whew-turn-up-the-AC levels of hotness. Seriously. Check out her delicious Southern Seductions series. And then go have a sit-down afterwards... you'll need it.
Did I mention they were super-sexy? :)
Éirinn go Brách!
Hi there, romance readers! This is just a quick post to tell you about a cool collection some of my author friends have put together. It's a totally FREE compilation of 'micro' stories, so you could read them ALL in one sitting, or one every few minutes. It's a cute way to get in the St. Patrick's Day spirit!
Click the picture below to get it for Kindle
...or here to get it for any e-reader.
"‘No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…" (Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man, 1991)
One thing that’s always intrigued me is the way we make a big deal over a celebrity after s/he has died. “Oh, s/he was such an inspiration!” or “I love X about him/her!” and I always wondered: “Why didn’t you post this last week? Last month? Last year? When there was a chance that person could see the influence s/he made on the world?” If I influenced a person, I’d much rather know about it, rather than it being announced after I died.
And then Terry Pratchett died yesterday, and I became a hypocrite. You see, Terry Pratchett is probably the only ‘celebrity’ that has ever really meant anything to me. The only celebrity whose passing I would genuinely mourn. And he’s been dying for a long time (eight years). And I’ve known that. In fact, I drafted a post about it last month… and never posted it. That’s right. I’ve had this post, about how much influence Pratchett had on me and the world, and I didn’t post it when I wanted to. And now it’s too late, because he’s gone, and it becomes just another tribute that he’ll never have the chance to read.
Today, half of my tears are for his death, and half of them are for my tardiness. I’m sorry, Sir Pratchett, that I never told you how much you meant to me.
Drafted Feb. 3, 2015:
Today I got a surprise from past-Me; a small box from Amazon. It was Terry Pratchett’s latest book, a collection of short stories called Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Tales, that I’d pre-ordered months ago and then forgotten. Well, of course I opened it, and despite my vow to wait on the last Discworld book*, I read the first story.
(*You see, Sir Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease many years ago, and that means that his writing has slowed down significantly. That means that one day—maybe one day soon—he’ll be gone, and there will be no more new Pratchett books. That means that there will be a time when I read one of his books for the first time, and it’ll be my last-ever chance to do that. And call me foolish, but I want to savor that moment, to be aware of it. So his last Discworld book Raising Steam is still sitting on my shelf, untouched. But this collection—short stories he wrote as a teenager, bound together in an effort to please his fans—didn’t count towards that Ceremony, I figured. So I read the first chapter.)
I quickly realized that while these weren’t earth-shattering, they were still fun stories. Stories that I’d like to share with my oldest son who, since starting Kindergarten in the fall, has become as voracious a reader as his mother. These are cute stories with morals and knights and dragons and humor.
Pretty much everything I’d come to expect from Terry Pratchett.
You see, I’m something of a Pratchett Expert. I first read his books as a tween (only we didn’t call that age “tweens” back then), and have read them multiple times since then. His Discworld books have become something of a Sacred Text for me. Sure, they’re fantasy, and not even high fantasy… but they’re much more than that. They’re satire and spoof and sociology and hilarious. They’re about the way we interact with each other and our world and events, and they’re chock-full of clever, pithy, oh-so-quotable sayings (ask me about Vimes’ “Boots Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness” sometime).
So yes: Terry Pratchett’s books have influenced the way I think about the world, and about people around me. Terry Pratchett’s books have taught me how to find myself, and how to develop my own beliefs.
Terry Pratchett’s books have shaped me into the person I am today.
So you see, Terry Pratchett’s books really are something of Sacred Texts to me.
I’ve read them for years and years. I’ve lived my life by them.
I’ve quoted them and trusted them when I needed guidance.
I’ve relied on their advice.
They’ve made me me.
And that’s remarkable, considering that the plots themselves are made up of dwarves and trolls and bitter cops and snarky witches (although Granny’s never been my favorite) and an orangutan librarian. While the plots are fun, it’s the writing that makes the books remarkable, and Pratchett’s clever way of viewing the world around him (this is why his books don’t translate well to movies).
So very soon, I’ll be able to introduce my son to that world. I’ll start simple, with this collection of short stories. The plots will be fun, and readable, and probably not as good as Pratchett's later work. But they’ll be enough to interest him. And maybe in a few years, I’ll take my son into my library, and I’ll point to the three solid shelves of Pratchett books, and I’ll describe the plots, and help him choose which one to start with. It’ll be a big moment for me; introducing my son to something that I love and something that’s had so much of an effect on me.
And because he’s my mini-me, I fully expect them to shape his life the way they shaped mine.
And I’ll be proud if they do.
So there it is. There’s the post I wrote last month about how much of an influence Terry Pratchett (or his books, at least) has had on my life. And I feel so guilty that I never posted it, although I know it’s unlikely he would have ever read it.
Now he’s gone, and even though we were all expecting it, it’s still hard to accept. I’ve cried more genuine tears over the last day than I expected to. I never even knew the man… but he shaped me in ways he probably never imagined. So yeah, I’ve been crying, but at least those tears aren’t selfish. Eight years ago, when his diagnosis was announced, that’s when I—and other fans—mourned the end of the Discworld books (he’s been wrapping up and winding down in the books since then). We’ve known for a while that his writing career was finishing up… so these tears... these tears are just for him.
Because I know that his books are still there on my shelf. I know that I can still read them—not that I need to, because I have most of them memorized. I know that I’m still the same person that they helped make me. I can still read them.
But last night, after I finished my latest novel, I stood in front of my book shelf, and picked up Pratchett book after Pratchett book. And put them back. I guess I’m not ready to dive back into the Discworld just yet.
Knowing that he’s not there.
Thank you, Sir Pratchett, for your legacy. I will do my best to share it--even if it's only with my children--so that your ripples continue on.
Historical Romance is