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Friday, December 2, 2016

Maria Grace Shares a special Christmas Treat with Darcyholic Diversions.

Maria Grace Shares a special Christmas Treat with Darcyholic Diversions.

(I am grateful to have have Maria Grace with us today, sharing a holiday exerpt with us.  Be sure to comment for a chance to win a drawing! ~~BTCole)

Thanks so much for inviting me Barb! It is great to visit with you again. I’m thrilled to be able to share an excerpt from ‘The Darcy’s First Christmas’, as Elizabeth experiences her first yule log. I’m also thrilled to be able to give away an ebook copy of the novella to a commenter on this post.


Elizabeth’s First Yule Log

Elizabeth sat in the upstairs sitting room, reading. Now things were returned to normal, a few minutes on her own proved pleasant, not isolating. Earlier that day, Darcy and Fitzwilliam had taken the children and Georgiana to cut decorations for the house. Evergreen boughs and Christmas roses adorned the mantle and filled vases on the tables throughout the house, the fruits of those labors.
What a change a few days and an alteration in company made. Though there had been a few frenzied moments in planning, all in all, peace had returned and with it a sense of the Christmastide season.
Mrs. Reynolds peeked into the room. “It is almost here, madam. The Pemberley tradition is for the family to gather in the parlor.”
Darcy and Fitzwilliam arrived a moment later.
“Come, my lady, your chariot waits.” Fitzwilliam bowed.
“I am quite capable in getting to the stairs on my own. I have become quite handy with these walking sticks now. Perhaps I might suggest them as a new fashionable accessory for the ton.”
Fitzwilliam sniggered. “Do not say that too loudly. All it would take is one of Almack's patronesses to appear in company with them. The next day everyone will be clamoring for them. You might speak to Bingley. There could be a fortune to be made in selling fashionable walking sticks to ladies.”
Darcy snickered.
Oh, how lovely it was to hear him in good humor once again. The house was glum and dreary without his laughter.
They carried her downstairs to the parlor where the Gardiners awaited.
Soon she would attempt the stairs on her own. The novelty in being carried had worn off. She longed for the freedom to come and go as she pleased. Darcy, though, would probably regret the loss of the excuse to be so close to her in public. She would miss that, too.
The fragrance of evergreens enveloped them, the room bearing a veritable forest of boughs, decked with gay red and white ribbons. Mama decorated this way too. More than anything, this brought the feelings of the Yuletide season to life.
Georgiana pressed her nose to the glass. “I see them coming!”
The children crowded around her. They had never seen a Yule log before. In town, the Gardiners celebrated with a Yule candle.
“Is the hot cider ready?” Elizabeth asked.
“Yes, madam, and there is bread and cheese in the kitchen for the men,” Mrs. Reynolds answered as she walked past the parlor door.
Elizabeth craned her neck to see out the window. A team of horses and several farmers, trundled up to the front of the house, a huge log chained to the team.
The front door groaned open and clanking chains and men’s voices filled the ground floor.
Elizabeth sat on the couch farthest from the door and gathered the children to her. They pressed close, eyes wide at the sight of the men wrestling the enormous log up to the fireplace.
Surely it would not fit. No, there was simply no way.
The children gasped and applauded.
How had they made it fit?
Darcy smiled at her from the other side of the room. He had promised her it would fit and was gloating in the glory of being right.
Dear man.
Darcy and Fitzwilliam thanked the men for their efforts, and Sampson ushered them back to the kitchen for an ample measure of Pemberley’s hospitality.
“That is the biggest Yule log I have ever seen,” Aunt Gardiner beckoned the children closer to the fireplace.
“Where did it come from, sir?” Matthew, the oldest, tugged Darcy’s coat sleeve.
Darcy hunkered down beside him. What an excellent father he would make.
“We have a cooper on the estate. The Yule log has always come from there. It is a log not suitable to his purposes, made a gift, suitable to ours.”
“Surely it is large enough to smolder until Twelfth Night,” Elizabeth said.
“That is the plan,” Darcy said. “Each year, it is the job of the youngest hall boy to sleep in the parlor from Christmas Eve until Twelfth Night. He tends the Yule fire and ensures it remains lit until throughout.”
“Do not fear, madam, the lad is well rewarded for his efforts, with all the apples he can roast and toast and cheese he can stuff himself with.” Fitzwilliam winked.
Elizabeth giggled.
Darcy waved them all close to the fireplace. He opened a silver box on the mantle and removed two crystal bottles and a silver box. He anointed the log with oil, wine and salt.
“May the fire of this log warm the cold; may the hungry be fed; may the weary find rest and may all enjoy heaven's peace.”
He opened a second silver box and extended it toward them. “This is what remains of the last Yule log.”
Ashes filled the box. Along one side lay a long splinter.
“Fitzwilliam, would you care to light the log?”
Fitzwilliam rubbed his hands together briskly. “Afraid that you might not be able to manage to start it on the first try yourself, old man?”
Darcy snorted, but held his peace.
Elizabeth snickered.
How like boys they were. But it was good. Fitzwilliam brought out a youthful, almost playful side in Darcy, one that needed release far more often. True, it was a mite prickly, but that could be shaped and softened with time and practice.
Fitzwilliam hunkered down beside the Yule log. Shadows drifted across his face. He stiffened and stared into the fireplace.
Darcy crouched beside him. “Are you well? Should I not have asked you to do this?”
Fitzwilliam swallowed hard and worked at words. “I … I … I can do this.” His hands shook
“Let us do it together.” Darcy moved close beside him and whispered to Fitzwilliam.
Elizabeth closed her eyes to listen better. He was reminding Fitzwilliam of boyhood times. Times spent in their hunting lodge, of Yule logs past. Of pleasant, peaceful things.
Slowly the trembling stopped, and Fitzwilliam began to breathe more normally.
Together, they struck the spark and fanned it into life. They lit the splinter and nursed the burgeoning blaze until the log burned, too.
Darcy stood and arranged the group around Elizabeth. He extended his hand toward her, and they joined hands in a circle.
“Let us consider the year past. Our faults, mistakes and bad choices. Let us allow the flames to consume those that we may begin the coming year with a clean slate. With that as our starting place, let us purpose to improve our faults, correct our mistakes and make improved choices.”
He squeezed her hand hard and peeked at her from the corner of his eyes. She squeezed his hand back.
This was a tradition different to her family’s. But it was very pleasing and she would look forward to it in the coming years.
They lingered a moment longer then released the circle.
A pair of maids entered bearing trays of cider, apples for roasting, bread and cheese for toasting.
Darcy tossed Fitzwilliam an apple. “You may have the honors of tending the roasting apples.”
Fitzwilliam bit into it instead. Darcy laughed heartily.
Yes, this was the sound to launch a proper Yuletide upon.

The Darcys' First Christmas

Sweet, Austen-inspired treats, perfect with a cup of tea.

Full of hope and ripe with possibility, Christmastide tales refresh the heart with optimism and anticipation.

Elizabeth anxiously anticipates her new duties as mistress of Pemberley. Darcy is confident of her success, but she cannot bring herself to share his optimism.

Unexpected guests unsettle all her plans and offer her the perfect Christmastide gift, shattered confidence.

Can she and Darcy overcome their misunderstandings and salvage their first Christmastide together?  

From the award winning author of Given Good Principles, Remember the Past and Mistaking Her Character, Sweet Tea short stories offer the perfect bite to transport readers back to the Regency era for the first days of new love.



Author Bio:
Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six new novels in the works, attended seven period balls, sewn eight Regency era costumes, shared her life with nine cats through the years and published her tenth book last year.

She can be contacted at:
Facebook:
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On Amazon.com:
Random Bits of Fascination (http://RandomBitsofFascination.com)
Austen Variations (http://AustenVariations.com)
English Historical Fiction Authors
On Twitter @WriteMariaGrace



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

An Austenesque Holiday Season! First in a Series of Holiday Gift Special Features: Featuring Janet Taylor’s 2017 Calendar

An Austenesque Holiday Season!First in a Series of Holiday Gift Special Features:Featuring Janet Taylor’s 2017 Calendar 

by Barbara Tiller Cole 


If a magical transport could transport us to the Northpole this time of year we might catch Santa checking his list twice for your name!  Have you been naughty or nice?  Maybe it isn’t too late for you to convince him not to leave you a stocking full of coal.  But, if you aren’t so sure what Santa’s decision will be, then it might be time to buy some things for yourself or drop some hints to your family.  Perhaps it might be time for you to purchase some Austenesque gifts for your friends? 

From now until Christmas, Darcyholic Diversions will be featuring posts to enhance your Austenesque Christmas.

The first stop is with Janet Taylor.  You may remember Janet’s post here, confirming her Darcyholism, but if you don’t here is the link to her post:

http://www.darcyholicdiversions.com/2012/02/guest-post-and-give-away-by-janet.html

A blessing for the type of work I had for awhile was the gift of travel.  It has allowed me to meet many Austen enthusiasts, authors and artists.  One of the specials friends I have made along my journey is Janet Taylor.   The first time was in Austen as we shared a meal at a restaurant where Janis Joplin got her start, Threadgills.  While eating great Texas country fare, we talked about her art and her dreams of what how she would like to use that art. 

Barbara, Jan Hahn and Janet Taylor
          By the next time I met her, that dream was coming through.  Janet brought along Jan Hahn.  So all three of us got to visit in Saledo Texas that day.  Saledo is a charming artists community just North of the hill district.  It was during this meeting that she talked about her first calendar. 

Film has brought alive the characters from our favorite Austen novels, and Janet’s calendar for 2017 feature those heroes.   The 2017 calendar features the men of Austen for just $12.00.  The link below will allow you to see some of the illustrations from the calendar:   


If you don’t want to take a chance that Santa may not bring you your copy, you can order a copy of your very own, or perhaps 10 for friends at the following link:


For a chance to post your story here at Darcyholic Diversions, please share in the comments section your secret wish.  What do you want Santa to bring you this holiday season.  What Austen gift would you like to receive?  Let your imagination run wild!  Can’t promise you will get it, but we can all dream can’t we?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

AUTHOR JACK CALDWELL DISCUSSES CHRISTMAS IN NEW ORLEANS WITH AN EXCERPT FROM CRESCENT CITY


AUTHOR JACK CALDWELL DISCUSSES CHRISTMAS IN NEW ORLEANS WITH AN EXCERPT FROM CRESCENT CITY

(A Very Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!  As you enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend please comment on Jack's post

Louisiana being what it is—own language, parishes instead of counties, different legal system, best food on the planet—it should not come as a great surprise that there are unique ways of observing the Christmas season that are found only there.
You should understand that New Orleans and South Louisiana is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.  It’s the Christmas Season down there, not the “Holiday Season.” That doesn’t mean we leave out our Jewish friends, as you will see.
You should also understand that there is a difference between New Orleans and Cajun Country.  New Orleans is the cosmopolitan, almost European, major city in the state.  To the south and west stretch the swamps, farms, and prairies where the country folk—Cajuns—reside.  They are different from New Orleanians, and they will be the first to tell you that.
Because they are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is big there.  Really big.  Standing-room only big.  Go to Mass twice a year big.  Everyone goes home to prepare for the visit by Santa, otherwise known as Père Noël or Papa Noel. 
Christmas concerts are held at St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter and at the beautiful
plantations homes lining the Mississippi River, like Oak Alley.
Since this is New Orleans, food is all-important.  Réveillon dinners, special four and five course prix fixe menus served only during the Advent season, are available at most of the restaurants in town.  Lately, Bûche de Noel, a French Christmas cake shaped like a log, have become popular.
Our Jewish friends are not forgotten.  Traditional Israeli music is played at the annual ceremony of Lighting of the Menorah at the Riverwalk in Spanish Plaza when a 12-foot Menorah is lit.
The best thing about Christmas in Louisiana is that it is NOT done for tourists.  We put on these celebrations and displays for ourselves.  While we are very happy to share with visitors, we would do these things even if no one outside of our community came.  It is part and parcel of who Louisianians are.  It is real—just like the great people of the great state of Louisiana.


[Below is an excerpt from ELYSIAN DREAMS: Volume Two of CRESCENT CITY, my Jane Austen based trilogy about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. It contains elements of Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, and Emma. Even with the slight change of names, you can see the S&S influence here:]
December, 2004
One of the most beautiful and least known festival seasons in Louisiana is the local celebration of Christmas. Towns across the state hold charming, understated events to mark the end of the year. The north Louisiana city of Natchitoches is renowned for lighting its downtown along the Cane River the whole month long. Along the lower Mississippi River, families and groups build huge, fanciful bonfires on the river levees to light the way for Papa Noel on Christmas Eve. Plantation homes all across the state put on their holiday best and hold Christmas caroling concerts.
In New Orleans, the celebration is unique. The great mansions along St. Charles Avenue are
dressed in a charming Victorian style. Creole restaurants offer traditional Réveillon dinners—special three- and four-course dinners served only at Christmas. A subtle loveliness descends on the city as it prepares not only for the birth of the Savior, but the madness of New Year’s and the Sugar Bowl crowds.
***
City Park in New Orleans is one of the largest urban parks in the nation. At over thirteen hundred acres, it is home to the Museum of Art, three golf courses, two stadiums, the Storyland children’s area, nine athletic fields, eleven miles of lagoons, lakes, and bayous, and the world's largest collection of mature live oak trees.
A grand tradition every year is Celebration in the Oaks, when New Orleans’ City Park is turned
into a wonderland of lights hanging from the famous live oaks. Dr. Chris Breaux knew the charming display was best enjoyed by horse-drawn carriage, which was why he was bundled up with Marianne Dashwood on a chilly winter’s night.
His fiancée huddled close, her nose securely in his neck. “This is wonderful, sugar. Thank you for thinking of it.”
He held her tighter. “We locals sometimes forget we have things like Celebration in the Oaks. You warm enough?”
Her hand began exploring. “If I get cold, I’ll just heat up my ol’ hot water bottle.”
“Watch it, honey. We’re not alone.”
“Don’t mind me, folks,” chuckled the driver. “Y’all enjoy yourselves.”
Chris still thought it would be a good idea to change the subject. “Your mom is okay with you staying in the city for the holidays?”
Marianne nodded. “She knows my singing career is important. We have a lot of gigs between Christmas and New Year’s with the bowl game and all.”
“We’ll run up to Jackson in January,” Chris promised.
“What about your folks?”

He kissed her nose. “They know you’re important, chère. Besides, I’ve got a surprise.”
She jerked her head up. “What is it? Tell me!”
“My mom and dad are coming to the city Monday and staying in my spare bedroom through Christmas. They want to see one of your shows.”
“They are! Wonderful!” They kissed until they were both breathless.
“Chris, let’s go home after the ride, okay?”
“Sure. Are you cold?”
She whispered in his ear. “With your folks coming over, there won’t be any overnighters for a while. I need me some Cajun lovin’ to see me through the holidays.”
“Right,” he whispered back. Louder, he requested, “Driver, you can speed it up.”
The man laughed. “Happens every time.”


Unfortunately, carriage rides are no longer offered during Celebration in the Oaks. But I couldn’t resist sharing this except. It was fun while it lasted.



The CRESCENT CITY trilogy is available in print and ebook from your favorite on-line bookseller.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jack Caldwell, born and raised in the Bayou County of Louisiana, is an author, amateur historian, professional economic development consultant, playwright, and like many Cajuns, a darn good cook.
His nickname—The Cajun Cheesehead—came from his devotion to his two favorite NFL teams: the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. (Every now and then, Jack has to play the DVD again to make sure the Saints really won in 2010.)
When not writing or traveling with Barbara, Jack attempts to play golf. A devout convert to Roman Catholicism, Jack is married with three grown sons.
Jack's blog postings—The Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles— appear regularly at Austen Variations.
FOLLOW JACK HERE:
Web site – Ramblings of a Cajun in Exile – https://cajuncheesehead.com/
Blog – Austen Variations – http://austenvariations.com/
It takes a real man to write historical romance, so let me tell you a story.