Tuesday, December 27, 2011

An Adult Version of Harry Potter

This week I'm enjoying The Magician King by Lev Grossman.  It's a sequel to the 2009 The Magicians.  For those of you bemoaning the fact there wasn't a new Harry Potter movie or book out this holiday season, The Magicians might help ease you over the hump.
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he's still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.

He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin's fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.

At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren't black and white, love and sex aren't simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Romance - Does It Work For You?

When people ask me how I got into writing romance, I shrug and tell the it's because I have a squishy heart filled with flowers and rainbows.  I looooove romance, the schmaltzier the better.  Therefore it should come as no surprise that I adore watching all the Christmas movies featured on ABC Family, the Hallmark channel and Lifetime.  Yup, I am that woman.  Love 'em all.  Maybe it is the emphasis on large family gatherings (I'm an only child), or the way the small towns twinkle under a frosting of snow (I'm from Los Angeles, where it usually hit 68 degrees on December 25 - geez, my childhood really messed with my world-view, didn't it?), but they make me happy.

So why not write a Christmas-themed romance?  The holiday does come every year, so demand would be high for my book, and it would have a guaranteed shelf life.  As a side note, my local library has a wait list 12 people long for Christie Ridgway's Must Love Mistletoe, and it came out five years ago.  It isn't as trendy as, say, vampires, so the road to publication might be a tad less crowded.  And I'm certainly a big fan of the subject matter. 

I thought about it for a few days in August, when I was mulling which project to embark upon next.  Perhaps the sticky heat of the Ocean City beach wasn't the ideal time or place to mull, but I don't think it colored my decision.  I don't want to write a Christmas romance.  At least, not now.  Not because I'd have to play carols for six months straight and drive my husband bonkers.  Not because I'd gain ten pounds from eating spritz cookies and calling it 'research'.  Despite all the sound business reasons to give it a whirl, I'm passing because I don't want to ruin Christmas. 

Romance novels are full of love and sex, sure, but they are also full of conflict.  And I just can't do it.  I can't inject heart-wrenching conflict into my favorite merry season.  Perfectly happy to see the result when others do it, but I don't have it in me.  I can't be the one to knowingly ruin Christmas, even if I'd be the one to make it all happy snowflakes and wrapped engagement rings in the end.  Does that make me a wuss?  Maybe.  But there are lots of other holidays out there for me to explore.  I'll make sure to be open to any stray story ideas on New Year's Eve...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Color Coordinated Christmas Salad

Are you one of the people who thinks there's never enough red and green this time of year?  If so, and you're still planning the big Christmas feast, this recipe will be right up your alley.  Cooking Light is the genius behind this Warm Spinach Salad with Mushroom Vinaigrette.  The bright green spinach and almost burgundy radicchio make every salad plate accordingly festive - and it's yummy, too!


  • 6 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups torn radicchio
  • 2 tablespoons (1/2-inch) sliced green onions
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 hard-cooked large eggs, quartered lengthwise


Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl.
Remove and discard stems from mushrooms, reserving caps. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushroom caps; sauté 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add sage, thyme, and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
Pour mushroom mixture over spinach mixture, tossing well to coat. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Place about 1 cup salad on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 2 egg quarters.  Serves 4

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Angels vs. Humans

The Christmas season strikes me as the perfect time of year to recommend Angelology by Danielle Trussoni.
An innocent nun (well, that's sort of redundant, isn't it?) discovers proof that angels once truly existed - and might still.  The Rockefellers (yup, those Rockefellers) have hunted these artifacts for decades.  Suddenly she's swept into the middle of a war as old as time between the Nephilim, the evil children of angels, and humans.  How are we supposed to fight a war most of humanity doesn't even know exists?  These aren't your feel good, white-winged Christmas carol angels.  They are hard core beings, who've nursed a grudge for centuries until their bitterness colors every decision.  (Don't worry - there are still some good angels out there!) This book is full of intrigue, action, suspense, mythology and an epic amount of brilliantly conceived world building.  Sort of a National Treasure meets DaVinci code meets Greek mythology.  Give it a try!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday!

Ah, the first kiss.  Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, often unexpected.  Today's excerpt is from my recently released book, Cruising Toward Love.  At least, it should be their first kiss, but a few things go wrong the second before their lips touch.  Here's the moment where it is all still good....

Reed laced his fingers tighter through her hair, tilted her head back to get the angle just so. This could be his only shot at tasting her, and he didn’t intend for it to be anything less than perfect. He might not be the bad boy she imagined, but he knew his way around a pair of lips. Eagerly he lowered his mouth to hers, but stopped a hair’s breadth away. Reed waited.  Sure enough, her lips parted in anticipation.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Unavoidable Sex

I'm enjoying my WIP quite a bit. At 30,000+ words in, I know the voice of all the characters, and I'm deeply embedded in the story, so the words flow out rather easily. This is the fun part. Choosing and tying together all the different threads of the plot and characterizations was difficult, but now it has all come together and I am sort of letting creative gravity carry me forward.  I love this part!
Except....there is one more hurdle to cross. One more Kilimanjaro sized speed bump to cross. The sex scene. I call it unavoidable for two reasons: I write romance and it is expected, and the character arc is leading there with flashing runway lights.  After all, they've kind of been infected by a sex demon, and they're falling in love. Its gotta happen! And it has to happen in the next two chapters.

Of course, because I'm a plotter, I know exactly how it will happen. The overall scene, I mean. But I don't know how IT will happen. The act itself. The dirty deed. Who's on top, when they switch, etc. Whether to have it in the heroine's POV, or the hero's.  This is the part I hate. My official least favorite part of being a romance writer. Having sex is spectacular, talking about it is fun, reading it is great, but writing about it can be extraordinarily painful.

Suddenly your options for description and dialogue are limited to a set number of body parts. Then it becomes a numbers game. How many times have I said kiss and lips? How many times did he stroke or caress her breast - because it can't happen too many times in a row. My old friend the thesaurus only helps so much. Tingle, quiver, shiver, thrill, chill.....same thing. No repeats! Lick, touch, slide (I'll never use fondle, because I can't stand the word - it has a very negative connotation to me), brush, lave - there aren't that many options. He's excited, she's atingle, and now what the heck happens? It can't sound too clinical, but it still needs to sound realistic, since I don't write Regency novels where things can be cloaked in euphemisms. But I still need to sneak in the romance, since of course their joining will be like none before, opening both of them to the realization of true love. That is a lot of pressure to put on the simple act of inserting Tab A into Slot B!

Please tell me I'm not the only one. That somebody else out there thinks the sex scene is one of the most difficult pieces of the writing craft. And now I'm going to dig up my sex scene music from my last book, and hope it still gets the job done this time around.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Need a Reprieve from Winter?

Winter might not be here yet according to the calendar, but ooh baby, it's cold outside!  Slippers are now mandatory, and afghans are heaped on every couch and the bed.  Thanks to questionable insulation in our 150+ year old house, we even have to run a space heater in the bathroom in the morning.  If you're like me and are already frozen to the core, I've got the perfect book for you.
The Cactus Eaters is an hysterical travel memoir which chronicles a two person attempt to hike a trail that runs from Mexico to Canada.  2,650 long, dusty, hot, bear-infested miles in all.  The author and his girlfriend have never even shared an apartment, but foresee no issues with spending six months trapped together 24/7.  (Spoiler alert - it doesn't all go well!). 

Their lack of preparation and experience causes problems almost immediately.  Many reviewers sited this couple as too stupid to have survived this adventure.  Well, they did survive, but their misfortunes are a gift to readers.  Because truly, when a guy 'accidentally' bites into a cactus and gets 50 spines lodged in his tongue (and most importantly, you know he's okay because he wrote the book), you will laugh until you cry.

The prose is tight, the descriptions utterly evocative, and the humor self-deprecating and witty.  Mr. White takes you along with him, to where you almost feel the aching, blistered feet and dusty desert air.  This will also make a great stocking stuffer, as this book will appeal to all ages and both sexes. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday!

Welcome to Six Sentence Sunday!  Today's excerpt is from Chapter Six of Cruising Toward Love (which coincidentally, makes a great stocking stuffer!).  Callie gets one look at the ship's photographer and instantly wants more...

“Yummy. Do you mind if I call dibs?” Callie asked as they crossed the gangplank.
“I think you already did. Looked to me like you not only called dibs, but boxed him up, added a bow, and expect him to arrive in your stateroom right along with your luggage.”
“The brochure said, and I quote, this ship will cater to your every need. And my need is for a tall, slightly nerdy hunk.” Callie winked.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Murder in a Winter Wonderland

I adore Christmas - the carols, the sappy holiday movies, the over-the-top decorations always give me a thrill.  But every now and then all the schmaltz gets to you (usually by your third trip to the mall and the fourth time your computer crashes in the middle of a huge internet order).  So here's a book that still gives you a winter wonderland setting, but with the icy sting of murder.
Stephen White is a prolific mystery author.  All his books revolve around Alan Gregory, a Boulder, CO psychologist.  I think the series is up to #16 by now, and they are all terrific.  This particular book is a great introduction to the wonderful cast of recurring characters, married with a taut suspense plot.  You can count on finding strong character development, amazing setting details and subtle humor in all of his books.

This mystery starts off with a literal bang when there's a shooting in his office.  A subplot covers the unusual treatment Alan Gregory offers a young patient who survived a ripped from the headlines plane crash.  Alan has a complicated love life that adds to the dramatic tension assailing him from all sides as his partner is attacked, Alan barely survives a brush with death, his office is broken into, and about a dozen other moral, ethical and action-packed twists and turns, all leading to one heck of a climax.  I highly encourage you to discover the grittier side of Colorado and try to unravel this mystery.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday!

Welcome to Six Sentence Sunday!  Today's excerpt comes straight from a big, Greek rehearsal dinner, where things heat up between the best man and the maid of honor - neither of which can stand the other.  Here's bit of Chapter Three of Cruising Toward Love:

Slowly, he dragged his finger down, down the straight line of her sternum to trace along the top of her neckline. First one side, then the other, finishing by dipping into the hollow between her breasts.
“The way you look in that dress—especially since most of your good parts are on display out of the dress—standing next to me is the last place I think you should be. I’m picturing more of a horizontal position. With me on top. At least for starters.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

If You Like Hugh Laurie's Piercing Blue Eyes.....

Hugh Laurie is very nerd-sexy.  He's got killer blue eyes, a deliciously hot accent, and on the rare occasion he unveils it in public, a wonderful smile.  However, he's also got a rapier wit and knows his way around a story.
Oh, you didn't know that in addition to being an actor and a musician that he's a novelist?  Yup, this Renaissance man can write!  In fact, as much as I love House, I can't wait for it to end so he can get back to writing.  This book is a hysterical spy caper that revels in its British-ness.  Think of it as James Bond, very lightened.  Laugh out loud funny.  It starts with an ex-Scots Guard being offered a job to assassinate someone.  Not only does he turn down this lucrative offer, but he goes to warn the intended victim.  Who of course has the requisite sultry daughter to be seduced.  Sarcastic, witty, and with a riveting and fast-paced international terror action packed plot, this is a MUST READ!!!!! 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekend Treat: Garlic Chicken (or Turkey!) Pizza

Chances are you have a considerable amount of leftover turkey in your frig.  And as yummy as they are, the thought of another turkey sandwich or white turkey chili leaves you cold.  Here's a fabulous Cooking Light recipe to jazz up your leftovers.  Or, if you truly don't have any turkey left, just follow the recipe as written and use cooked chicken (I actually prefer thighs to breasts - it is up to you!).  Super easy, super fast, and super yummy.


  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (16-ounce) Italian cheese-flavored pizza crust (such as Boboli)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 cup chopped plum tomato
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions


Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine first 3 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Place crust on a baking sheet; brush vinegar mixture over crust. Top with chicken, tomato, and mushrooms; sprinkle with cheeses and green onions.
Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until cheeses melt.

Friday, November 25, 2011

You're Never Too Old For A Field Trip

I'm getting up from my laptop this weekend and taking a field trip to Cape May, NJ.  It is the setting for the next three books I'm writing.  My husband and I visited there a few years ago on our anniversary and loved it.  Whenever I travel, something in my brain clicks. I think soaking up the different atmosphere just kicks my brain into overdrive. But all I come up with are possibilities. A general gee this is a great setting feel. Then I have to put my nose to the grindstone and figure out what the heck will happen there. It is a constant battle of rubbing the brain cells together while thinking what if?
The problem is that I shouldn't have to make this trip.  I wrote my first book, Carolina Heat, after a two day visit to Charleston.  The bulk of the book was written years after our visit.  And yet one of the things reviewers praised most was my sense of setting.  Why?  Because the feel of the city got under my skin.  The humidity as thick as a wet blanket, making it hard to breathe.  The slower pace of speaking, the amazing architecture, and the manners that only come from generations of practice all added up to something particular to that locale.  Evoking a setting in my next three books was just as easy.

But right now, I'm 20,000 words in and so far, this plot could take place near any beach.  As I mentioned, we loved Cape May, and I did get a germ of a story idea while there.  But aside from its colorful, gingerbread mansions and the beach, I can't put my finger on what makes Cape May stand out from every other Mid-Atlantic beach town.  And if I don't feel it, I can't transmit it to my readers.  To me, the setting is a supporting character - vitally important to a rich, vibrant book.

So I'm off on a field trip.  I'm going to visit the lighthouse, a WWII bunker, a winery, a pedestrian mall, a gorgeous hotel where John Philip Sousa used to perform, and a few restaurants.  Oh, and, if I plan it right, stroll Sunset Beach at sunset.  I will soak in the local flavor, come hell or high water.  I'm spending the night in one of those gingerbready-looking mansions, and I won't leave until I know I can transport you there in a few sentences.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Would You Climb A 14,000 Foot Mountain?

I'm a couch potato. Sure, I drag myself to the gym several times a week, but exercise is NOT my idea of a good time.  Mark Obmascik felt the same way when his twelve year old son pestered him into climbing a mountain.  He figured it would be a good bonding experience, and that he'd probably survive.

For your reading pleasure today, I present Halfway to Heaven, the story of - in his own words - a fat, mid-40s journalist who decides to scale all 54 of America's 14,000+ peaks...in a single year.  The author is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, so I assure you the prose is crisp and funny and honest.  Without any training, he leaps into the insular world of climbing.

Even in the middle of summer, each mountain is treacherous with snow and ice.  He has to somehow drum up climbing buddies (and many of his friends won't commit more than once).  Despite the constant danger, lack of sleep and oxygen, every mountain is a fresh and different story, laced with fascinating tidbits of Colorado history, climbing lore, and juggling a midlife crisis, a scared wife and an almost teenage son.  Obmascik loses weight, gains confidence, strengthens friendships, and provides a vicarious adventure enjoyable to all.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Treat: Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

This time of year, everyone is searching for a new, exciting cookie recipe.  For a birthday party last night, I whipped up a batch of these from Bon Appetit.  The birthday boy (37 years old!) gobbled down 7 of them.  Four of us managed to eat the entire batch.  Yup, Bon Appetit never lets me down.
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup natural no-stir crunchy (or chunky) peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 2.1-ounce Butterfinger candy bar, chopped (scant 1/2 cup) 
Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and reheat to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat peanut butter, butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and brown sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla extract, then flour mixture (dough will look crumbly). Stir in bittersweet chocolate chips and chopped Butterfinger candy.
Place remaining 1/4 cup sugar in small bowl. Using 1 1/2 tablespoons dough for each cookie, roll dough between palms to form balls. Roll balls in sugar and place on prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Using bottom of glass or measuring cup, press cookies into 1/3-inch-thick rounds.
Bake cookies until edges are golden brown, 15 to 16 minutes, reversing sheets halfway through cooking time for even baking. Transfer parchment paper with cookies to rack and cool.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Getting Involved - A Way to Give Back, That Gives to You

This time of year there is much talk about being grateful.  Authors are grateful for their contracts, their agents, their critique partners, their long-suffering and patient families.  Readers are grateful for back to back releases, and extra time to be curled up with a favorite book.

Instead of focusing on the 'thanks' part of Thanksgiving, I want to talk about the 'giving'.  Last night I was voted onto the Board of Directors of my local Romance Writers of America chapter.  Whether you look at it as a great honor or a voluntary year of indentured servitude to the organization (I'm hoping it is the former!), it is my way of giving back to a group that supports me year round.  The beautiful part of this is that no matter how much of my time I give to others, I receive (almost) as much back.  New frienships, strengthened existing friendships, unbelievable networking, and so much more.  Writing is a particularly solitary occupation, so seize every opportunity to mix and mingle with your peers.

Getting on the Board of any organization to which you belong is a great idea.  There are positions for people with loads of experience, as well as positions that relative newcomers can snap up.  It is a wonderful training ground, and a great way to immerse yourself (otherwise known as trial by fire!).

Now, to be more engaged, you certainly don't need to commit yourself to a leadership position (although I highly recommend it).  As a more low-key example, we recently wrapped up a contest.  Participation as a judge meant critiquing four 20 page-long entries; you could knock them off in an afternoon, or spread out over four weeks.  In other words, the time committment was negligible.  But you always improve as a writer by reading other works, not to mention that you are helping out each entrant to grow, and pursue their dream.  Think about that for a minute - being a stepping stone along the path to realizing a lifelong dream.  That is HUGE!  Talk about good karma.  And who couldn't use some good karma?

Give of yourself.  Becoming more engaged simultaneously gives to others while the experience is a gift to you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Would You Retire If You Could?

I've got another non-romance recommendation for you in Early Bird, although it does contain a search for love and sex, along with many laugh out loud moments.  So many of us toil for a paycheck (yup, I'm at work right now!).  Some enjoy it, others simply want to pay the mortgage and afford a few dinners out.  Others work to sock away plenty for retirement.  But what if you didn't have to? 
In this hilarious memoir, after being a writer for David Letterman, Mr. Rothman 'retires' at 28.  He opts to move to a Boca Raton retirement village.  Yes, he embraces everything cliched about retirement, including early bird dinners, shuffleboard, and finding his place in the very hierarchical community.  There are wonderful character sketches of his new neighbors.  Plus, he has to figure out how to date a woman his own age while living the life of an 80 year old.  

I have friends who swear they'll retire at 40.  While I'm not thrilled when my alarm clock goes off every day, I do enjoy mingling with people, and having a purpose.  If we won the lottery tonight (oh yes, I bought a ticket!) and my husband could quit his job, I don't know what he'd do.  Sure, he'd golf more often, but I think he'd be at a loss fairly quickly.  Bored, even.  What about you?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend Treat - Orange Marmalade Layer Cake

I began subscribing to Cooking Light many years ago.  Back then, their desserts were bad, because you could tell they were 'light' recipes.  Not anymore!  They found their sweet-tooth groove.  So I wanted to share with all of you a birthday cake I made yesterday from, yes Cooking Light.  It is low fat, low calorie, and freakishly delicious.  For those of you like me who don't read to the end of the recipe until it is too late, be warned - this must be made ahead of time to chill.


  • Cooking spray
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 9 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar orange marmalade, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed


Preheat oven to 350°.
Coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray, and line bottoms of the pans with wax paper.
Lightly spoon sifted cake flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine sifted flour, baking soda, and salt (I also added a tbsp of allspice and a tsp of ginger - made all the difference!), stirring with a whisk. Place butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Gradually add 1 3/4 cups sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until well blended. Beat in orange rind and vanilla. Add egg whites, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
Combine buttermilk and milk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared pans; sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 20 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
Combine juice and 1/4 cup sugar; stir until sugar dissolves. Pierce the cake layers liberally with a wooden pick. Slowly drizzle juice mixture over cake layers.
Carefully place 1 layer on a plate; spread with 1/3 cup marmalade. Top with remaining layer; spread remaining marmalade on top of cake. Fold sour cream into whipped topping; spread over sides of cake. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Take a Spin Around the Stripper Pole

Romance novels are great.  I love them whole-heartedly.  Can't ever get enough.  However, it behooves both readers and writers to stretch themselves into other genres.  Every week, I'm going to share a recommendation to help you explore the vast non-romance world.

You may all remember Juno as a heartwarming and funny film that rocked the box office a few years ago.  What didn't get much coverage was that the writer spent a year prior to her big Hollywood break as a stripper in Minneapolis.  For fun. Not for drugs, not for money, not because she came from a broken family - just because she wanted to know what it was like.

Candy Girl is Diablo Cody's memoir of that crazy year.  It is a funny, fascinating behind-the-scenes peek.  Caution - it is not for the prudish.  One of my book club members actually stopped reading it on an airplane, for fear of what the flight attendant might glimpse on a page.  She is beyond frank in all of her descriptions.  That raw quality is part of what makes this book so compelling.
It might not make for appropriate conversation over the Thanksgiving turkey, but it will definitely lead to great conversation over a bottle of wine!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weekend Treat - Pumpkin Honey Beer Bread

In our house, Sunday is the day when much cooking happens.  We make a recipe plan for the week, go shopping, and go to town in the kitchen.  This time of year, that includes a few extra treats, such as pie or bread. 

This is a recipe for a quick bread, which means no yeast, no waiting for it rise.  Feel free to tweak it to your taste - I go heavy on the spices, and instead of honey beer, used a maple beer from our Canada vacation in the spring (plus, you get to drink the rest of the bottle!).  You can give the second loaf away, or wrap up and freeze for up to two months.  Delicious for breakfast, and the best part is that this wonderful recipe is from Cooking Light, which makes it a guiltless way to kick off the holidays.  Enjoy!
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (feel free to swap in a cup of whole wheat flour)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup ground flaxseed
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup honey beer (at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • Cooking spray


  • 1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  • 2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, salt, and next 4 ingredients (through pumpkin pie spice) in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk.
  • 3. Combine 1/2 cup water and flaxseed.
  • 4. Place sugar and next 4 ingredients (through eggs) in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until well blended. Add flaxseed mixture and pumpkin; beat at low speed just until blended. Add flour mixture; beat just until combined. Divide batter between 2 (9 x 5–inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Words Are Magical or The Lingering Funk

As a writer, I have the utmost respect for words.  Words are magical.  They can inspire love, anger, hatred, forgiveness, hilarity - the list goes on endlessly.  There are seven times more words in the English language than in French (they definitely got the short end of the stick on that one!).  The Japanese have one word for both foot and leg - must make it awkward when visiting the doctor. 

I visited the doctor today.  My karmic punishment for taking care of my sick husband?  Not only catching his cold, but upgrading it to a sinus infection.  My doctor labeled it The Lingering Funk.  Immediately my brain went into overdrive.  Sure, it was the perfect description of my hacking cough and stuffiness. 

But...the words could also describe that stench in my back yard I used awaken to that said skunks partied there overnight.  Or the depression that lingers after eating an entire carton of ice cream in one sitting post-breakup.  A biochemist who studied and named vitamins (okay, I had to look that one up, but it's true!).  Or the most kick-ass name ever for a jazz group.

So yes, I walked out of that doctor's office still sniffly, but also jazzed by the wonderous possibilities of words.  I like the musicality of my Lingering Funk.  Now it's your turn.  What phrases set your mind spinning?

Doing the Happy Dance

Nobody (well, nobody sane, anyway) sets out to be a writer for the fame and fortune.  We toil because we love it.  We write because we can't not write.  And yet I'll shamelessly admit there is a not so small part of me that does crave, if not adulation, then at least a pat on the back.  So I'm very excited to share with you the best review I've ever received on any of my books:  http://bit.ly/rQHIFl .  My thrill isn't at the hope that this review sells more books, or gets tweeted around the blogosphere.  I'm dancing around the room with a permagrin because my words made this reader happy for a few hours.  Put a smile on her face.  For me, that is the ultimate authorial satisfaction.