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A Great Introduction to Stephen King

Stephen King is a master of his genre.  He's published 49 books, all bestsellers.  His movies, unfortunately, never are even a tenth as good as the books.  So for all of you who have avoided him after seeing a crappy adaptation, I URGE you to give this amazing author a try.  And the book to start with is The Stand.

I'd recommend reading this over a vacation, because at over 1,000 pages, it certainly requires an investment of time.  But it is SOOOO worth it!  An apocolyptic tale of the aftermath of a horrible plague, the world is reduced to mere pockets of people.  Panicked survivors have to find each other, figure out how to survive, and on top of all that, there is a terrific supernatural element.  Good and Evil are both contacting people through dreams, urging them to choose a side.  So even though the survivors think they've already gotten through the worst of the apocolypse, turns out there is another one coming.

The relationships are strong, the chilling horror will keep you awake during flu season, and the epic fight between good and evil will keep you on the edge of your seat!

Honeymoon With My Brother - Weekly Book Recommendation

This week's book recommendation is a memoir that would be a terrific read over the long holiday weekend.

Just days before his wedding, Franz Wisner's fiance dumped him.  But why waste a good party?  So he still did the whole 3 day wedding extravaganza, buoyed by the presence of his closest friends and family.  The honeymoon to Costa Rica was already booked, so he dragged along his brother.  Here's where the story really takes off.

They had such a good time - and Franz was smarting from recently been demoted at work - that he convinced his brother to quit his job.  They both sold their houses and took off on a two year globe-trotting adventure. 

Their travels take them all over the world.  But this isn't just a travelogue.  It is raw and honest and funny, and about relationships and personal growth as much as it is unusual cuisine and different cultures.

Spoiler alert - if you feel bad for the poor, dumped groom, he does fall in love again - in his second memoir, How the World Makes Love.

Growing the Writer's Toolbox

At first, I figured that all I needed in order to write a book was my imagination.  That might've been enough to get me motivated, but definitely not enough to get published.  I slowly learned that it truly does take more than just a keyboard in order to write.

The first thing I added to my writer's toolbox was a critique group.  They found my errors, and I learned alot from theirs.  Next came conferences and meetings.  Then books upon books.  Now, with five completed and published books, you'd think my toolbox complete, right?

Ah, but don't forget that we live in an age of technological marvels.  Last night I sat through a presentation on Scrivener.  It is a computer program specifically designed for writers.  Currently I lug around stacks of index cards.  Multicolored printouts of powerpoint presentations.  Scribbled notes and internet pages.  The glory of Scrivener is that it takes all that away from me, puts it in one place with links and templates and calendars and word count goals and every possible tool a writer needs.  It can help you keep a story bible for a series, and links and footnotes. 

Plotter or pantser, Mac or PC, this tool will help you write, structure and revise.  Check it out:  http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php .  Can you write a book without it?  Of course.  But as new and exciting tools become available, we owe it to ourselves to stay current and informed.  And very possibly intrigued.

Strawberry Rhubarb Layer Cake - A Spring Treat!

Sometimes you just have to give in and have dessert.  Luckily, with this delicious recipe from Eating Well, you don't have to feel guilty about it!  Quick, easy & scrumptious, I promise that nobody will guess it is low fat.  Well, lower fat.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg white

Filling

  • 1 1/4 cups diced fresh rhubarb
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup diced fresh strawberries

Frosting

  • 12 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Strawberries, for garnish
  1. To make cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Whisk egg yolks, yogurt, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, oil and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a medium bowl.
  4. Beat the 3 egg whites in a clean bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, beating until stiff and glossy.
  5. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Fold in the yogurt mixture with a whisk until just blended. Whisk one-quarter of the beaten whites into the batter. Fold in remaining whites with a rubber spatula. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Tap the pan on the counter to release air bubbles.
  6. Bake the cake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen edges and invert cake onto rack. Remove the paper and let cool completely.
  7. To make filling: Meanwhile, combine rhubarb, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, cornstarch, pinch of salt and cloves in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cold.
  8. Toss strawberries with the remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar in a bowl. Let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until juicy, about 30 minutes. Drain and discard juice. Stir the strawberries into the rhubarb.
  9. To make frosting & assemble cake: Combine cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla in a mixing bowl; beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. 10. Slice the cake into 2 layers. Place top layer cut-side up on a platter. Spread with the strawberry-rhubarb filling. Top with the remaining layer. 11. Not more than 2 hours before serving, spread top and sides of the cake with the frosting. Garnish with strawberries.

American Wife - A Riveting Read!

I spent this Sunday touring the West Wing of the White House - so fabulous!  It put me in the mood to recommend a riveting book about a fictional First Family.
First of all, no matter what your political leanings may be, you will enjoy this book.  Yes, it does loosely draw from the life of Laura Bush.  But only as a jumping-off point.  It is about the woman and her relationships, both with her powerful in-laws and her boisterous husband.  It is NOT about politics.

A detailed and fascinating peek behind the closed doors of America's ruling class, it mixes truth and fiction seamlessly.  You will not be able to tear yourself away - both from the scenes in the White House, but equally fascinating, the scenes where she confronts the reality of her marriage.  Especially what it does and doesn't contain.

Narrated in first person, there is a sweeping grandeur to the subject matter that is juxtaposed with intimate reflections.  It is thought provoking and moving and all the characters are wonderfully complex.  I urge you to add it to the top of your must-read pile.

Sexy Chocolate & Romantic Roses

Welcome to this stop on the blog hop!  As a big lover of all things both chocolate and roses, I'm going to give you a bit of both.  First up is a personal story about roses, and then you get a treat - a sneak peek at my WIP, which involves melted chocolate in very naughty places.....
To begin, I'm going to go sickeningly sweet and tell you about my wedding.  My husband and I dated in Minneapolis.  Frigid, right?  So we'd go to the Como Conservatory in the winter to thaw out for a little while and look at the beautiful plants.  It became our special place.
 
When he proposed (by singing to me in a restaurant, with a dozen red roses), we immediately decided to get married at the Conservatory.  In January, because we're just crazy that way - but at least we could promise our guests they'd be warm...for the half hour the ceremony laste, at any rate.  That reflecting pool you see was lined with red and purple roses and tulips, echoed in my bouquet.  Now every year for our anniversary, we give each other roses and tulips.   Remember - romance doesn't end once the wedding ring goes on!

On to the chocolate goodness!  Book one of my Chicago wedding trilogy, Planning for Love, releases on August 1.  Which means I'm just about finished writing book two, A Fine Romance.  The hero is a gourmet chocolatier.  So when I started writing the big love scene, I knew chocolate had to be involved.  Here's a NSFW snippet:
“What are you up to, Sam?”
            “Close your eyes and you’ll find out.”  The minute she obeyed, he pulled a squirt bottle out of the pan of warm water on the stove.  He soooo wanted to stand out from any other guy who’d been lucky enough to see her naked.  For their first time, by-the-numbers sex wouldn’t be enough.  Sam intended to give her an experience she’d never forget. 
           With the same careful precision he used to create the intricate basket weave designs on  wedding cakes, he squeezed the warm, melted chocolate onto her breast in a heart shape.  Then he opened his mouth around that creamy mound and began to lick.  The thick stickiness of the chocolate made him rasp his tongue a little harder as he swirled up, down and around.  Every stroke lashed against her nipple, which instantly hardened to a delicate point.  Mira locked her legs back around his waist.
          That’s…oh my…you know how to get me from zero to sixty in about one heartbeat,” she said breathlessly.  “God, Sam, I feel it everywhere.  Like you crawled into my bloodstream and are licking every inch of my body at once.”
          “Good.”  He was reduced, yet again, to monosyllables.  With his concentration split equally between pleasuring Mira and not exploding like a virgin from the sheer sweetness of her, Sam couldn’t spare any brain power to talk.  He squeezed out another fat drop of chocolate sauce, this time right on the pale pink tip of her other nipple.  Sensitized at this point, she squirmed against him.  Enjoying the view, he waited, and squeezed out another drop. 
          “Please, Sam,” she begged.

Now that I've got you craving chocolate (and maybe my tall, dark and yummy hero!), I shall reward you with the possibility of winning a book!  If you follow this blog and comment, I'll enter you in a drawing to win an e-copy of any of my books - your choice.  They're all displayed on the left of the blog.  I'll announce the winner on May 10th.  In your comment, let me know (because book three of my trilogy centers around a florist - I consider this serious research) what your favorite flowers are to receive in a bouquet.  If not roses, then what?

Please be sure to visit all the other stops on the hop, because 1) it'll be fun, and 2) everyone is giving away prizes!  Go to our fabulous host's blog to see everyone who is participating:  http://leabarrymire.blogspot.com/2012/04/welcome-to-chocolates-and-roses-blog.html