With graduation season looming, this is a great time of year to read Commencement, by J. Courtney Sullivan, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It is a terrific portrait of friendship, as well as a lovely reminder of the halcyon days of undergrad life. That being said, I felt as if I was peeking into the author's mental underwear drawer. It was such an intimate portrait of life at Smith College, clearly peppered with many, many true life details. When you turn the last page, you feel as if you've been matriculated from Smith - the reader knows it inside and out. All its time-honored traditions, both big and small, ridiculous and rich, are exposed. Overall, it made for a deliciously layered read. But I still squirmed at the obvious pockets of reality. More importantly, I wondered how many Smithies were reading it and squirming.
When a book is set in a real place, or depicts real events and people, there is always a tightrope that must be delicately trod. There is a deep sense of responsibility to get every detail right - or else the wrath of a reader - who swears your two block walk to the ocean really takes four blocks and that ruined the whole book for her - may fall upon you. Of course, I feel that onus in my fictional locales as well. Much planning is required to convince a reader your setting is real, and even more detail for them to imagine it from scratch.
But I don't ever want the reader to feel as though they've peeked into my life. I've got a friend who constantly lobbies to be used as a character in my books. That is NEVER going to happen. Oh, he'd make a terrific character, don't get me wrong. But his larger-than-life personality would be too tempting to inflate into a caricature, and I'm quite positive hurt feelings would ensue. All the book sales in the world aren't worth that happening.
On the other side of the coin, I'm about to release a book about a wedding planner. Yes, I've got years of experience under my belt, and I've worked in a few actual vignettes. The difference (and what I hope will protect me from any threat of litigation) is that I don't believe they are singular experiences. Yes, the high maintenance mother of the bride complained the size of the meat at the reception was different than what she had at the tasting three months earlier. I worked it into a funny scene. But I'm willing to bet there are fifty caterers out there who've harbored this same complaint. The point being that it isn't just my real life on display; rather, reality in general.
Do you use real people and experiences in your books? As a reader, has any book's obvious dip into reality made you uncomfortable?
There is a flamboyant best friend, who runs the neighboring New Age shop, an ex-cop boyfriend (spoiler alert - if you stick with the series, you will see their relationship develop in a very satisfying way, and yet with many surprising twists), a light-hearted tone but some very smart investigating. As the series continues, deeper issues are covered, so it really does stay fresh. In this book, one of China's best friends commits suicide...and yet China doesn't doesn't buy that explanation for her death...especially once more bodies start stacking up. You will learn lots of interesting tidbits about herbs and become an instant fan of this smart, independent, wise-cracking heroine.
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 pound spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
* 1/2 cup sliced pepperoncini plus 1 cup liquid from jar
* 1/2 cup chopped shallots
* 2 garlic cloves, chopped
* 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
* 1 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1 teaspoon dried basil
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1 24-ounce jar marinara sauce
* 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
* 1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
* 8 ounces penne pasta
* 3 tablespoons grated Asiago cheese
* Sliced fresh basil (for garnish)
* Additional grated Asiago cheese
Heat oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Add sausage; cook until browned, breaking into pieces, about 4 minutes. Add peperoncini, shallots, and next 6 ingredients; cook until shallots are tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add pepperoncini liquid; stir until most of liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add Marinara, cream, and shrimp. Cook until shrimp are cooked through, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in another large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring often. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Transfer pasta and 3 tablespoons cheese to pot with sauce; stir to incorporate. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with basil and additional cheese.
- It is okay to wear jeans and sassy shirts (if you aren't on a panel). I felt overdressed much of the time. Probably because there were so many people in full corsets and bustles, decked out in full steampunk regalia.
- Do not write under a pen name, unless you have a STRONG reason (strict job, old-school family) to do so. Even if you are jumping genres, many of your readers will follow you, if they can find you...by keeping your same name.
- For some unknown reason, people want to see shapeshifter horse stories. They don't strike me as particularly sexy and powerful like wolves and leopards, but the people have spoken!
- It is worth getting up at the crack of dawn to go to the mystery breakfast. Tons of great books, but even better, wonderful stories from the thriller authors. Rosemary Harris started writing mysteries when a mummified corpse was discovered in the woods near her house in Connecticut. LOVE learning tidbits like that!
- All it took was a single hour panel discussion for me to form a huge girl-crush on Nalini Singh. Brilliant author, funny, engaging, and a fantastic Australian accent? She's the total package.
- When you and 2,000 other people are wearing lanyards, you're going to spend a good part of the day staring straight at someone's boobs. And they at yours. Don't feel weird about it, no matter how low-cut their top. Even if they are spilling out of a corset and aren't wearing a shirt at all.
- Book signings are absolutely thrilling - I can't tell if I had more fun as an author, or if the devoted readers had a better time grabbing every title in sight. It is a win/win for everyone.
- Taking my husband along was the right choice. We didn't get to spend a ton of time together, but he still had a fun time in Chicago, and came to dinner with a bunch of us. It gave him a great sense of scope of the convention, and brought him up to speed with everything in the writing world.
- J.R. Ward and Jessica Andersen are a must-see panel. If they ever swing through your town, drop everything and go see them. They curse like sailors and are refreshingly open about their writing processes (and they drop spoilers......).
- You WILL stand in line. For panels, for signings, for parties. On the other hand, standing in line forces you to chat with new and interesting people. I, however, had the worst convention accessory ever (crutches), so lines were my enemy. Wear comfy shoes, not cute shoes. Trust me.
- When you take advantage and talk to EVERYONE, opportunities open up. You may not realize until later that you've chatted with a NYT bestselling author. That is the beauty of networking. If you're shy, well, suck it up. This is your best chance to make new contacts.
- As always, hang out in the bar and/or restaurant. Everyone will end up walking by you and chatting. TOTALLY worth blowing $14 on a single, watered down cocktail.
When Marcella Raines' twin brother dies, she honors his request to be buried at sea, never expecting the violent storm that swamps her boat. Though she's gravely injured--and still emotionally damaged from her recent divorce--Ella fights to survive.
Zephyros Martius is the Supreme God of the West Wind and Spring, but being the strongest Anemoi hasn't protected him from betrayal and loss. Worse, he's sure his brother Eurus is behind it. When Zeph's heartbreak whips up a storm that shipwrecks a human, his guilt forces him to save her.
Ella is drawn to the vulnerability Zeph hides beneath his otherworldly masculinity and ancient blue eyes. And her honesty, empathy, and unique, calming influence leave Zeph wanting...everything. When Eurus threatens Ella, she and Zeph struggle to let go of the past, defend their future, and embrace what they most want--a love that can be trusted.
WEST OF WANT EXCERPT:
So, what d’ya think? Want more Zephyros and Ella? Visit more participating sites to read all the excerpts, meet the characters, see the the West of Want romance trading cards, and enter to win! Thanks for reading! July 10 can’t get here soon enough for me! *grins*
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Voted Breakout Author of the Year in the 2011 GraveTells Readers’ Choice Awards, Laura is a bestselling and award-winning author paranormal and contemporary romance. Hearts in Darkness is the EPIC eBook Award Winner for Best Novella, Forever Freed won the NJRW Golden Leaf Award for Best Paranormal of 2011, and North of Need, the first book in the Hearts of the Anemoi series, was named GraveTells’ Best Book of 2011 and won their 5-STAR Gold Heart Award, and won Sizzling Hot Read of the Year at Sizzling Hot Books. Laura lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.
I used whiskey instead of bourbon - basically, whatever is in your liquor cabinet will work. Thanks so much to the folks at Southern Living for dreaming this up!
Brown Sugar-Bourbon Baked Ham
- YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings
- COOK TIME:2 Hours, 30 Minutes
- PREP TIME:15 Minutes
- 1 (6- to 8-lb.) fully cooked, bone-in ham
- 48 whole cloves
- 1 (16-oz.) package brown sugar
- 1 cup spicy brown mustard (or dijon, which I used and was sublime)
- 1 cup cola soft drink
- 3/4 cup bourbon
2. Stir together brown sugar and next 3 ingredients; spoon mixture over ham.
3. Bake at 350° on lowest oven rack 2 hours and 30 minutes, basting with pan juices every 15 to 20 minutes. Remove ham from oven, and let stand 20 minutes before slicing.