MIDNIGHT MANZANILLA Winner!
October 31st, 2014

And the winner of the copy of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla is…

… Joan! (Of Comment #71.)

Congratulations, Joan! If you let me know where to send it, I’ll pop your book in the mail to you.

Happy Halloween, all!

Oh, and just for fun, if you’re not a Facebook person, check out these adorable Halloween cards that Sharlene made for me to celebrate The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla!

Manzanilla Halloween

Manzanilla Halloween 2

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up
October 31st, 2014

It’s been a bit of a blurry week (my toddler has decided that sleep is for other people), so I’m having a rather hard time remembering what I’ve read and if I read. But two books stand out:

– Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy, in which a redoubtable young lady reorganizes her relations. Some of Heyer’s best comic side characters are in this novel, including the poet, Augustus Fawnhope (I did not consciously model Augustus Whittlesby on him, but given the Augustus parallel, I wonder if I might have been subconsciously influenced) and the prim Miss Eugenia Wraxton. Do you know who Sophie reminds me of? Sally Fitzhugh. The two are sisters under the skin.

– Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger. I’ve just started this based on recommendations here last week, and… wow. Thanks, you guys.

What have you been reading this week?

In other news, it’s Ask the Author day over on the Bubblebath Reader as we round off a month of The Masque of the Black Tulip. Stop by with all of your Hen and Miles comments and questions!

In other other news, I’ll be announcing the winner of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla here later this afternoon. Stay tuned!

 

Pink Carnation Cookery: Vampire Cookies
October 30th, 2014

This month, in honor of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla and its mysterious hero, Christine brings us… vampire cookies!

I love sugar cookies (and Halloween), so I am very excited to make these.

One other genius bit about this recipe? These cookies contain jam. Raspberry jam.

What more appropriate ingredient could there be for a cookie connected to a member of the Fitzhugh family?

And now… over to Christine!

I’m usually not a huge fan of vampires. In fact, this vampire craze drives me insane. There are a few exceptions, notably Deanna Raybourn’s “The Dead Travel Fast” and Deborah Harkness’ “A Discovery of Witches.” The latest addition to my short list of “vampires” I love? The Duke of Belliston. Is he? Isn’t he? What is going on with that charming, secretive man? In honor of the Duke, and Halloween, Pink Kitchen brings you vampire cookies (brought to you by food.com)!

Note of warning: this recipe requires you to refrigerate the dough for at least an hour, so best not to promise the kids they can help make Halloween cookies only to realize a few steps in that your plan has fallen through. Then you’ll have no cookies and upset children. I made and refrigerated the dough first, then told the child he could help with the cookies.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup butter softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup red jam (strawberry, raspberry, etc.)
Toothpick

Directions:
1. Cream together sugar and butter. (I typically cut back on the butter called for in recipes. I used 1/2 cup and it was fine.)
2. Beat in egg and extracts to the mixture. (Also realized once I opened the lid that the bottle of vanilla extract was completely empty, so I just added more almond.)
3. Add flour and salt and mix everything together until ingredients are just combined.
4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
6. Take out half the dough and roll out on lightly floured surface to about an 1/8 inch. (The comments on the recipe say to only take out as much dough as you need at a time because the dough should be as cold as possible.)
7. Use a cookie cutter (or small glass) to cut 2 inch rounds.
8. Put half the rounds on a cookie sheet then put a teaspoon (or less) of jam in the middle of each round.
9. Cover each with a second round then press down on the edges gently to form the cookies.
10. Use a toothpick to poke two small holes into each cookie, like vampire bites.
11. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are set.
12. Cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack.
13. Optional: dip a toothpick into jam and re-insert into the “bites” to emphasize them, and create a “blood” trail with some of the leftover jam.

Cookies are best the day they’re made (according to the recipe). There’s a sweet spot between when the dough is too hard and when it becomes too soft, so you’ll have to work quickly. The recipe made 25 rounds for me, so I made 24 vampire jam cookies and 1 jam taco cookie. I’m really bad at estimating measurements, but I’m pretty sure I used a lot less than a teaspoon of jam per cookie. I just used whatever looked like a good amount in the middle that wouldn’t ooze out too badly from the sides. I made the “blood” trail on just a few of them to see what they would look like.

photo (42)

Verdict? Good. Really good. Like shockingly way better than expected. Enjoy!

Thank you so much for these, Christine! (And I’m very relieved I’m not the only one who always winds up putting in way less filling than the recipe calls for.)

Do you think we could get Miles to abandon his ginger biscuits for a day and try these instead?

One thing I do know: Turnip is a fan. You had him at raspberry jam….

(Or you would have if Parsnip hadn’t gotten to the cookies first and eaten all the jam out. But I digress.)

Happy almost Halloween, all!

 

Halloween– from the Archives
October 29th, 2014

As part of our Halloween countdown, here’s one of my favorite posts from the archives, on the topic of Halloween costumes.

I wrote this post– eek– seven years ago, back when I was still juggling writing and lawyering. At the time, I was also participating in a group blog called the Access Romance All-A-Blog. On blog days, I’d get up extra early, put on my lawyer uniform of pin stripes and pearls, dash off a post– or, at least, intend to dash off a post. Forty-five minutes later, I’d look at the time, make alarmed noises, go on a mad search for my keys/wallet/office ID, and then scurry off to the office.

The other funny thing about this post? Looking at that date stamp reminds me that, at one point, Eloise was contemporary, or at least pretty close to contemporary. And that I’ve been writing these books for a very long time now….

It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago, does it?

Without further ado, Halloween, 2007 style:


The Costume Less Traveled

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

The genius girls in the office next to mine have come up with a new way to wile away the hours: a Quiz of the Week. Every week, a new question appears on their dry-erase board. Last week, the question was “What Would You Be If You Weren’t a Lawyer?” The answer to that one is easy. A princess. Duh. Someone else put “a frog”, which struck me as going for the wrong end of the fairy tale. But I suppose frogs are always being tossed golden balls and other trinkets by princesses on the lookout for princes in disguise, so it can’t be all that bad, even if you are stuck croaking on a lily pad all day and have to deal with all those snide comments about warts.

But I digress, as usual. This week’s question, appropriately enough, was “What Was Your Weirdest Halloween Costume?” Someone put “a frog”. We seem to have an amphibian leitmotif running– or rather, hopping– through our office.

My Halloween costumes always tended towards the esoteric rather than the amphibian. In college, I belonged to a group which held a “Come as your favorite literary character” party every Halloween. As you can imagine, there was usually a plethora of Scarlett O’Haras in big, hooped skirts (it’s amazing what you can do with three hoola hoops and a roll of duct tape), a few Daisys from The Great Gatsby, and generally at least one Phantom of the Opera lurking in the general vicinity of the punch bowl, searching for a susceptible Christine Daae. The very best costume was that of my friend Evan, who borrowed a burka from a Middle Eastern friend and went as an ink blot.

As for me? Well, let’s just say my costumes were usually greeted with, “Who?” One year, I went as the Belle Dame Sans Merci, complete with a friend dressed in tin foil who was meant to be my “knight at arms, alone and palely loitering”. (There’s nothing like a human prop– among other things, they fetch you drinks.) I got a lot of “the Belle Dame sans WHAT?” Another year, I was Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey (yep, you guessed it, “Catherine WHO?”). For my crowning achievement, I made myself an elaborate eighteenth century gown with panniers so wide I had to sidle sideways through doorways and went as Evelina from Fanny Burney’s novel of that name. Find me someone else who has read Evelina and I will be their friend for life.

As for this year? I think I’m going as a Tired Author, complete with unfinished manuscript pages heavily scored with red ink.

What about you? Do you have Halloween costumes of which you’re particularly proud– or embarrassed? Any plans for this year’s costume?

It may have been seven years, but some things never change: the Tired Author Halloween costume is definitely my pick for this year. (Laptop in one hand, toddler in the other.)

What will you be for Halloween 2014?

We’ve had something old… and tomorrow we’ll have something new! Tune back in tomorrow for a brand new, Halloween-themed installment of Pink Carnation cookery.

 

Teaser Tuesday: putting the Halloween in the Halloween book.
October 28th, 2014

Although I call The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla my Halloween book, I do so with some reservations.

True, it’s set in October, in that season of mist and shrinking daylight hours, of changing leaves and that sudden, sharp chill in the air. And part of the book, the part that’s set in Cambridge (the American one) in 2004, really does deal with Halloween. My modern heroine, Eloise, is having her English boyfriend Colin to visit in her tiny studio apartment in Harvard Square, just in time for the annual grad student Halloween masquerade bash. There’s even a plastic pumpkin filled with those pot-bellied candy corn pumpkins and mini-Twix with bats on the wrappers.

manzanillaBut there’s a caveat: in England in 1806, where the bulk of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla takes place, there is no Halloween, or, at least, not Halloween as we know it.

I did a bit of scrounging around, to see what rituals and practices my characters might have been familiar with, and here’s what I discovered:

The tradition of the evening of October 31st as a night on which ghosts walk goes back a very long time. One version has it that Halloween originated in the Celtic festival of Samhain, a time when the dead wandered among the living, and was later transformed by Pope Gregory IV into a Christian holiday, Hallowmas, in the 9th century. The name “Halloween”, or “Hallowe’en”, comes from the festival of Hallowmas: All Hallows Eve, All Hallows (or All Saints) Day, and All Souls Day, in which the dead are remembered.

The modern holiday of Halloween, with its costumes, jack-o’lanterns, and trick or treating, is generally held to be a mid-nineteenth century Irish export to America. “Mumming and guising” were popular in the Celtic fringe (Ireland, Scotland, and Wales), but they don’t seem to have taken much of a hold in England.

There was a form of trick or treating: going door to door collecting “soul cakes” to pray for those in purgatory. Bonfires were lit, to guide the souls to heaven or to scare them away from the living, depending upon whom you ask.

The Reformation appears to have put paid to many of these practices in England. In the seventeenth century, the introduction of Guy Fawkes Day—a commemoration of the 1605 plot to blow up King and Parliament—meant that the bonfires moved over a few days, to November 5th. Elements of the older holiday remained in rural communities in England, with bonfires, carved turnip lanterns, bobbing for apples and other traditions which varied by locale, but the gentry did not observe these rituals.

The bottom line? Halloween, as we understand it, would have been unknown to Miss Sally Fitzhugh or the Duke of Belliston, although they might have been aware of the superstitions attached to the night as practiced by the tenants on their estates.

I wasn’t able to use Halloween in the historical part of my narrative, but I did have October itself as an asset– that season of leaves fallings, light dying, mists rising. My historical characters might not have Halloween, but they had the atmosphere of Halloween.

Minus the candy pumpkins, of course.

What’s your favorite part of Halloween?

 

Fall Back in Time– Pink Carnation style!
October 27th, 2014

On November 1, the Historical Romance Network is encouraging everyone to Fall Back in Time by taking pictures of themselves holding their favorite historical romance novels and posting them with the hashtag #FallBackinTime.

HRN

Do you know what would be even more fun?

Fall Back in Time Pink Carnation edition!

Just take a picture of yourself holding your favorite Pink book and post it on November 1 on either my author Facebook page or your own Facebook page with the hashtags #FallBackinTime #PinkCarnation.

If you don’t like appearing in photos, feel free to take a picture of your favorite Pink book with your cat, garden gnome, Halloween pumpkin, or whatever else seizes your fancy. The more creative and silly, the better!

From among everyone who posts a picture on November 1, I’ll choose two people to receive Pink Carnation mugs. (Winners can choose their preferred mug here.) Winners to be chosen and announced on November 2.

Ready, set….

(I can’t wait to see which Pink book will be the most photographed! You just know that Sally and Turnip are already quibbling about this.)

 

A Halloween Give Away!
October 27th, 2014

With Halloween coming up this Friday, it felt only appropriate to have a give away of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, my very first Halloween book.

LW5 (1)

In fact, it’s going to be Halloween week here on the website!

On Tuesday, we’ll have some fun facts about Halloween (or the lack of it) in the early nineteenth century.

On Wednesday, I’ll be reviving my favorite archived post about Halloween costumes.

On Thursday, we have another wonderful Pink Carnation Cookery installment from Christine. In honor of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla: vampire cookies!

And on Friday, I’ll announce our winner!

Now, back to our contest! For the chance to win a copy of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, here’s your question:

What’s your favorite Halloween reading?

One person will be chosen at random to receive a copy of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla. The winner will be announced on Halloween….

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up
October 24th, 2014

This has been a rather sleepy reading week for me. I did something I usually never do: I re-read two of my own books, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily and The Passion of the Purple Plumeria, to make sure that I had various bits of Jack’s and Jane’s backstories right for the upcoming Lure of the Moonflower. It felt very strange to be sitting in jury duty reading my own books.

In non-Pink Carnation reads, there was Jennifer Crusie’s Don’t Look Down, in which a movie shoot goes very, very wrong.

And, after many recommendations here, I am finally, finally starting Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Every now and then, you just need a bit of non-fiction.

What have you been reading this week?

 

For my German readers….
October 23rd, 2014

Weihnachtsherzen: Die schönsten Geschichten zum Fest, the anthology to which I contributed a short story, comes out tomorrow! (24 October.)

U1_978-3-8052-5078-8_Andruck_V2.indd

My short story is called “The Snow Globe”, set in 1920s London.

The anthology is available (in German) in both hardcover and e-book.

 

Teaser Tuesday: THE PINK CARNATION IN LOVE
October 21st, 2014

I have another little secret project that I’ve been itching to tell you about– a Pink Carnation novella!

The Pink Carnation in Love will be appearing in e-form on June 16, 2015.

I’d always wanted to write about the Pink Carnation’s failed love affair with the Chevalier de la Tour d’Argent. (Whom those of you who are current with the series may also know by another name….) I didn’t like the idea of a novel without a happily ever after, but a novella, on the other hand, provides a space for a different sort of story.

The Pink Carnation in Love takes place in Venice in 1807, just a little bit before Pink XII, The Lure of the Moonflower. The title is, of course, a nod to Casanova in Love– because how can one think of Venice without thinking Casanova?

Unlike my earlier Pink Carnation novellas, which were ad hoc productions for my own amusement, this one is being written officially, in conjunction with my publisher, which means that it will be edited, and formatted, and have proper cover art, and all of those fun things.

The talented folks in the Penguin art department are currently hard at work on the cover, so I promise to share it as soon as I have it!