Posts Tagged ‘Christmas traditions’

Now bring us some figgy pudding

Friday, November 15th, 2013

The Christmas tradition I’m featuring this week is the Christmas pudding, which figures in the newest release in the Cotillion Christmas Traditions series, Helena’s Christmas Beau. I mentioned to my husband that I had incidents with flaming Christmas puddings in my last two Christmas stories, and suddenly he started demanding that I “bring him some figgy pudding.”Christmas pudding

And I married this guy? What the heck is figgy pudding anyway?

For those of us raised to think of pudding as a little cup of Jello® blandness with the texture of baby food, a traditional English Christmas pudding is a completely foreign concept. Just forget “pudding” and think “fruitcake.” But it’s not the dried up prepackaged cake that gets re-gifted for decades. This would be a rich cake full of dried fruit and brandy or other spirits. Ugly as sin, but delicious.

And potentially dangerous. That’s because the traditional way to serve a Christmas pudding (or figgy pudding or plum pudding or whatever you want to call it) is on fire, with a sprig of holly on top.

There are traditions surrounding the making of the pudding, too. The dish was put together on “Stir-up Sunday,” which was traditionally the Sunday before Lent begins, so more than a month before Christmas. Everyone in the household was supposed to take a turn stirring the batter and to make a wish. Sometimes coins would be added, and whoever found them in his or her serving would have good luck for the year, or at least be a few coins richer. After batter was ready, it was poured into a bag and boiled for hours. Then the pudding would be taken out and hung to age for five weeks until the holidays began. The mixture kept so well, in fact, that leftovers could be saved until Easter or even the next Christmas. Maybe that’s where we get the tradition of re-gifting fruitcake.

Helena's Christmas Beau

In this week’s Cotillion Christmas Traditions release, Helena’s Christmas Beau by Aileen Fish, the heroine throws herself heart and soul into Christmas preparations like Stir-up Sunday, but the hero is, well, an anachronistic Scrooge:

Here’s the description:

Facing her second Christmas since the loss of her fiancé, Helena relies on her favorite traditions to bring back the joy of the season. Yet from stir-up day to bringing in the greenery on Christmas Eve, her cousin’s brother-in-law, Duncan, is underfoot, questioning her every action.

As Duncan plays along with the outdated rites, he realizes how much he’s missed Helena’s laughter. When he hears she plans to re-enter the Marriage Mart next spring, he is struck with jealousy. Is he falling in love, or simply under the spell of the holiday season?Aileen Fish

And here’s a little more from the author, Aileen Fish:

What inspired you to start writing? I was always writing when I was a child, and by eight or nine I had announced I wanted to do it when I grew up. When I was twelve, I heard S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders at the age of seventeen, so I started my first novel. I think I got three chapters in. It took a lot of spurts of starting and stopping before I submitted my first novel anywhere, and finally came down to seeing everyone else succeed to make me push hard enough to sell my first novella.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out? Don’t be afraid to change critique groups until you find a group you can work with. Feedback is necessary to improving your writing, but don’t let them change your voice! Write, rewrite, polish then submit.

What comes first: the plot or the characters? Each story is different. Sometimes I come up with a plot idea or a trope, then think about who would work best in this setting. My main focus at the start is the conflict. What will make it difficult for them to get together at the end? That line of thought finalizes the plot and characterization.

Thanks for reading about me and my story!

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Helena’s Christmas Beau will be part of the print anthology, Cotillion Christmas Celebrations, due out December 17, along with my story, Sense of the Season, Twelfth Night Tale by Susana Ellis and last week’s release, Snug in a Snowstorm by Cynthia Moore.

Two more weeks of Christmas traditions to explore!,

 

Ready to think about Christmas yet?

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

I love Halloween, but I love Christmas even more.  While I was a little distressed to find Christmas merchandise out in the stores in August, it doesn’t bother me as much now that the weather is turning cooler and it seems to get darker at a depressingly early hour each day. So if you’re in the mood for a little Christmas–the fun aspects, not the work–I hope you will celebrate with me as we count down the Cotillion Christmas Traditions releases for 2013. Each week, EC Cotillion will release a new Regency short story centering on a Christmas tradition. These stories are traditional both in the sense of the holiday and in the style of writing. The characters will behave like they would in a Jane Austen novel rather than an episode of Regency House Party or Real Housewives of Brighton.TwelveDays of Christmas cover

The first release in this year’s Cotillion collection is “Twelve Days of Christmas” by Barbara Miller, a story about a couple trying to remember Christmas traditions while they deal with runaway brothers.

Here are soBarbara Millerme excerpts from an interview with Barb:

What comes first: plot or characters?

One character comes first and that hero or heroine has to invent their counterpart. I thought up Tamara first and she helped me create the perfect hero for her. She discovers Ash to be flawed but with self-doubt more than anything. It’s not her job to save him but he decides it’s his responsibility to save himself in order to be worthy of her. The plot must serve the characters and their relationship, not the reverse. Plot is easy to fix, but if you make a misstep with character creation you have to start over.

What is your writing method?

I write via a bizarre and scary method I call active outlining. I write all the dialogue first with the connective tissue being bits of synopsis place holding the plot together. Once I get to the end of the patchwork of conversation, it know how it will end and I construct the action or plot. Then I fill in introspection and tagging. Finally I do description and transitions. It’s quick and crazy, but I have to be careful not to turn in too early a draft. Six iterations gets the book close to finished, but I still have places where the editor wants more introspection.

What author has most influenced your writing?

Georgette Heyer was by biggest influence. I was amazed that she could get humor into even the gravest situation. My goal is to get humor into every book. It’s such a part of life it needs to be present in every story.

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 The Twelve Days of Christmas:

Tamara Gifford gets herself invited to Oakley Hall for Christmas to rescue her brother from the reportedly depraved Lord Oakley. When she arrives she discovers that Ashford Steel is a former soldier trying to adjust to governing an estate. He is happy to have his mother and Tamara for company since his brother is supposed to be spending the holiday at Tamara’s house in London.

Though they are both angry at the deception of their brothers they enjoy banding together to find them while Ashford tries to remember the tradition of what Lord Oakley is supposed to do on the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Tamara gives him sound advice about how to go forward with his life rather than looking back. In return he helps her to see that she must make a life for herself and let her brother go. After they locate the young men and rescue them, Tamara agrees to marry Ashford, but what her brother wants to do with the rest of his life could tear apart their hard won love.

[Learn more about the story at http://www.ellorascave.com/twelve-days-of-christmas.html]

Barbara Miller teaches in the Writing Popular Fiction graduate program at Seton Hill University and is Reference Librarian at Mount Pleasant, PA Public Library. She has published historical romances, mysteries, and young adult books and has had two plays performed. You may email scribe@fallsbend.net or visit www.fallsbend.net.

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And so begins my countdown to the Christmas season. There are eight stories in the Cotillion Christmas anthology this year, so it’s an eight-week countdown. And my story, “Sense of the Season,” is the last one (guess who was the last one to turn in her submission?) So get ready to curl up with a cup of hot spiced cider (I like mine with dark rum) and spend some time with seasonal traditions.