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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Busy Week

Stinger and I are in New York this week, celebrating the holidays with some of our nearest and dearest, so my blogging will be sporadic. Which it would've been anyway, since I'm also under deadline and writing like a fiend every day we're here! Except yesterday, when I finished going over the page proofs for On the Steamy Side, the second of the Recipe for Love novels, which will be out in March 2010.

You guys! I *may* have teared up in the middle of the coffeeshop where I was doing the read-through. I was supposed to be looking for typos, and I found some, but mostly what I found was that I still love that story and am happy with the way it turned out, so that was a huge Christmas gift! It can be so difficult, when you're in the midst of writing the story, to really tell how it's going. Page proofs are make-or-break time, where you finally get to read over the entire thing after having had enough time off from it to almost be a fresh pair of eyes. My main reaction after reading is that I can't wait to share Lilah and Devon's story with all of you! Also, relief that I finished the proofs a day early and could get back to writing the third book. LOL

If you're still looking for holiday baking ideas, the New York Times posted this page full of reader-submitted recipes and photos. I would give anything for a fully stocked kitchen and the time to mix up a dozen batches of cookies right now!

What are you guys baking? Let me live vicariously through you as I sit at my desk in my hotel room, dreaming of creaming butter and sugar together...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Call for Submissions!

[This is reposted with permission from Marley Gibson.]

Now looking for submissions for The Christmas Spirit, the sequel to the wildly successful "Christmas Miracles" book. This new project is a book that we have contracted with St. Martin’s Press for the fall of 2011. However, the completed manuscript is due in the spring of 2010. Bestselling author, Debbie Macomber, has agreed to write the foreword.
We seek true stories that emphasize the significance of the Christmas season. So often, we get caught up in the busy-ness of the season—the shopping, the family drama, and the event planning—that we lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. Sometimes, through God's grace or what some call a twist of fate, we're able to step back and grasp the real meaning of Christmas and our lives are enriched. These are the kind of stories we are seeking.
Thanks so much!
Marley = )

***Louisa's note: You will find the story submission guidelines here.***

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More Holiday Spirit

We've talked movies and baking, but another way I like to get into the holiday spirit is by reading holiday-themed stories. My mom started this tradition when I was little by having us all read Charles Dickens's Christmas Carol aloud as a family, and to this day, when December rolls around I start getting the itch for books featuring miracles, mistletoe kisses, and holiday cheer.

I've seen several people asking for recommendations of favorite holiday-themed romances lately, so I thought I'd share a few of mine! Weirdly, they're all historical--but that's purely a coincidence. I'm sure there are some great Christmas contemporaries, and if you know of one, I'd love to hear about it!

The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale
Strictly speaking, not a holiday-themed romance, but a large, important stretch of the book takes place at a Christmas house party. There are surprisingly intoxicating brandied cherries, a game of Victorian-era Secret Santa that goes horribly wrong--or right?, and basically it's one of the best books ever. It was the first big historical romance I read, and it hooked me on romance for life. I even made brandied cherries last year! If you haven't read this yet, you're missing out. It's a classic for a reason.

An Affair Before Christmas
by Eloisa James
This was one of James's Desperate Duchesses novels, and I enjoyed it immensely. It gave a real sense of the time period, down to some of the less pleasant details most historicals gloss right over, and in fact, those details were pivotal to the characters and the plot. Highly unique and very satisfying.



This Wicked Gift by Courtney Milan
A novella in the Heart of Christmas anthology, this is Courtney Milan's debut. Her first full length novel, Proof by Seduction, will be out January 1st, and based on this novella? I'm pre-ordering that sucker. Milan is good! This not your standard bored society lady/ravishing rake/Almack's-and-Hyde-Park historicals. The lack of wealthy dukes is enough to make this book stand out, but what really affected me was the amount of sensual detail. The prose appeals to every single one of the reader's senses, and it's enough to make you feel like you're right there. I loved it.

What are some of your favorite holiday romances?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Smexy Books

One of my favorite book blogs, Smexy Books, posted a review of Can't Stand the Heat! Check it out. Even though it's not the guest reviewer's usual fare, she seems to have enjoyed it quite a bit. Yay! This made my day.

Favorite quote from the review: "A great book to curl up with on a cold winters night with a delicious hot chocolate for a cosy girls night in." Plus lots of other interesting insight and commentary! Go read. And then stay to check out the site if you're not familiar with it; it's really a lot of fun.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Romance Junkies Reviewer's Favorite

I just found out that Can't Stand the Heat is going to be featured as a Reviewer's Favorite for the month of December on the fabulous Romance Junkies website! I love those guys. Their site is big and bold and offers a lot of variety in terms of ways to experience romance novels. I'm so flattered they picked my book! Their original review of CStH was awesome, too.

This just made my week!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Wish List

On some level, I feel like wish lists are cheating. Whenever I ask someone I love to tell me what he or she wants for a birthday or for Christmas, I feel guilty--shouldn't I know what my best friend/sister/parent/husband wants without being told? I get a huge charge out of flying blind and finding that perfect gift I know, without asking, will make someone happy. It's satisfying, the way I imagine deer hunting must be for some: the tension of the search, the thrill of the chase, the eureka moment of discovery, all culminating in the glory of hauling home the prize.

And yet, I recognize that isn't always practical or possible. We aren't mind readers, most of us, and I truly believe it's a courtesy to others to provide a wish list in gift-giving situations, to relieve the pressure of having to hunt down the perfect gift, and the stress of wondering if you're duplicating something your giftee already owns.

I was having a hard time coming up with a list of my own this year. Or even one single thing, when individual people would ask me what I want! After all, my birthday wasn't that long ago, and I got the two cookbooks I'd been lusting after (Ad Hoc at Home and Momofuku) and I couldn't think of anything else I wanted.

Until I started shopping for my friends and family. Now? I'm ready with my list! So here it is. Go nuts.

*Le Creuset Heritage Oval Cocotte-how many recipes call for a covered casserole? SO many, and I usually just use my Dutch oven. Which works okay, I guess, but this thing is sooo pretty.* Bundt pan - It's crazy, I know, but somehow in all my many bakeware shopping sprees, I've never picked up a Bundt pan. I have a tube pan, and round cake pans, and loaf pans, but no Bundt. Clearly, an oversight. This one is pretty!* Top Chef ANYTHING - I'm obsessed. I admit that. But how cool is this stuff? There's a whole Top Chef Cookbook AND a Quickfire cookbook! And a game? How did I not know about this stuff? I also think I might like to have Tom Colicchio's Think Like a Chef. Could be interesting for research.
Does that help? I can't think of anything else right now. Maybe some dangly earrings, and the special edition DVD of the new Star Trek movie. I don't know. I'd actually be pretty happy with donations made in my honor to Equality Federation, Heifer International, or the Metropolitan Opera. Oh, and if you could get Gourmet Magazine started back up, that would be nifty!

Happy shopping. : )

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Holiday Movies

I know I said baking was the thing that most got me into the holiday spirit, and that's true--but music and movies help, too! My family and I have a somewhat eclectic collection of Christmas classics (at least, they're classics as far as we're concerned) that we watch every year. Some of them you might watch, too--some are so weird, you might never have tried them! But all of them are fun, so I'm listing my favorites for you.
It's a Wonderful Life - Still one of the best movies ever made, and egregious overplaying of it all through December can't change that.
The Ref - Possibly the most profane of our holiday faves, Denis Leary is hysterical as a thief who takes the world's most contentious couple hostage. This is a GREAT movie, and almost no one has ever heard of it.
Miracle on 34th St. - The old one, with Maureen O'Hara. It's lovely! Baby Natalie Wood will break your heart. Christmas in Connecticut - Barbara Stanwyck and a memorable cast of secondary characters make this cute romantic comedy about a Martha Stewart-esque writer who doesn't actually know how to cook sparkle! Trapped in Paradise - Nicolas Cage, Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey are brothers--and it just gets less plausible from there. Tons of fun!
Scrooged - Of course. Bill Murray? Stapling antlers to mice heads? David Johansen of the New York Dolls as the Ghost of Christmas Past screaming "It's a BONE!" at a dog in a children's show? I'm there.
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas - Both the cartoon and the Jim Carrey version. I love them.
Mixed Nuts - Steve Martin heads up this incredibly wacky, sweet, slightly sicko movie about a band of do-gooders, a pregnant Juliette Lewis, a cross-dressing Liev Schrieber, and a serial killer. It's a comedy. I swear!
Love Actually - One of our newest additions, and I can't wait to watch it every year. Probably my favorite storyline is Liam Neeson and the adorable little boy who's in love for the first time. But Bill Nighy as the aging rockstar is a close second. Oh, they're all good!
Die Hard - A holiday tradition in my family that I've since found in other families, and it's one of those things that lets me know right away that we can be close friends. Like choosing Pride & Prejudice over Wuthering Heights, or football over baseball. If you watch Die Hard at Christmas, you're my kind of people.

So what are your favorite holiday movies? Anything weird I might not have seen? I love to discover new xmas faves, but I warn you now, anything with stop-animation creeps me out, so I won't be watching that one where Santa is a young Dutchman, or whatever.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Twitter Book Club: Heart Throb by Suzanne Brockmann

Are you into Twitter? I am. I find it a fun way to connect with other writers and readers, share stories and good information, make each other giggle, etc. For those of us who work at home and largely alone, Twitter is a virtual water cooler, a place to gather and gab.

And now, a place to discuss books! Some Twitter friends and I are all planning to read HEART THROB by Suzanne Brockmann, starting today, and tweet our thoughts and reactions under the hashtag #HT. Please feel free to read along and join in the fun! For most of us, it's a re-read, since HEART THROB came out in 1999. It was actually one of the first Brockmann books I ever read, and boy, did she hook me.

Here's the blurb:
Once voted the "Sexiest Man Alive," Jericho Beaumont had dominated the box office before his fall from grace. Now poised for a comeback, he wants the role of Laramie bad enough to sign an outrageous contract with top producer Kate O'Laughlin--one that gives her the authority to supervise JB's every move, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

The last thing Kate wants to do is baby-sit her leading man, and Jericho Beaumont may be more than she can handle. A player in every sense of the word, he is an actor of incredible talent--and a man with a darkly haunted past. Despite her better judgment, Kate's attraction flares into explosive passion, and she is falling fast. But is she being charmed by the real Jericho or the superstar who dazzles the world?

If you want to check out an excerpt, click here.

It's been years since I last read HEART THROB, although I've read it more than once. I remember it for its multi-level daring: conventional wisdom is that readers won't buy romances with movie star heroes, and the subplot romance? Features a young interracial couple.

Brockmann has a background in film, so her movie setting is layered and textured and fascinating--but what really caught me about this book was the subplot. I would venture to say that 95% of my love of the romantic subplot, and using it to push the boundaries of mainstream romance, comes from HEART THROB.

Obviously, I can't wait to reread! I really hope some of you will hop on the Twitter Book Club train too. If it's your first time reading HEART THROB, or your seventh, you're welcome!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bourbon Balls!

My mother's people are from Mississippi. A fine old family (which, if you're Southern, you know has nothing to do with financial status and everything to do with how loooooong your family has been in the same town) that didn't believe in drinking alcohol--but did believe in baking with it. Every December our house would fill to overflowing with Mississippi Nut Cake (aka Whiskey Cake,) bourbon and brandy-soaked fruitcakes, high test eggnog (usually with bourbon), and my childhood favorite, Bourbon Balls. (No Saturday Night Live NPR sketch jokes, please!)

This no-bake treat could not be simpler to make, and it packs huge flavor in a tiny bite. They're extra festive if you happen to have some edible gold powder to add to the mix. Otherwise, just sift some powdered sugar over them and call it a day. All that is really just gilding the lily, anyway, because the real star here is, of course, the booze! Give these a try if, like my family, you enjoy the smoky honey and molasses bite of bourbon. Don't worry, they're not too strong! Just strong enough. ; )

Share them with your fun friends and neighbors, and feel free to share the recipe, too! They make good gifts, are great for a make-ahead dessert platter, and are the perfect final note to a big, holiday meal.

Full disclosure: I have no idea where this recipe originally came from; it's the one my family has been using and tweaking for decades. If you recognize it as your original work, let me know and I'll happily give you proper credit!

Bourbon Balls

2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar (more if you plan to sift a light layer over the finished balls)
2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
1/2 cup pecans, toasted, cooled, then chopped
1/3 cup bourbon (my mama always uses Jack Daniels, but I really like the sweeter flavor of Basil Hayden's or Woodford Reserve)
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon edible gold powder (optional)

Sift together cocoa, 1 tablespoon of the powdered sugar and gold powder, if using, and stir well. Set aside in a small bowl.

Stir together wafer crumbs and pecans. In another bowl, whisk bourbon, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, and honey. Pour into crumb mixture. Stir until well combined.

Form into balls and roll in cocoa mixture. If you didn't use the edible gold powder, you may like to sift a light dusting of powdered sugar over the balls. Or not! Whatever looks good to you. Enjoy!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Getting In the Holiday Mood

Nothing fills me with the holiday spirit quite so much as baking. Bourbon balls, whiskey cake, bourbon-soaked fruitcake (are we sensing a theme, here?) as well as lemon cranberry tea bread, gingerbread cookies, and more. In years past, I've baked most of the gifts we've given out to friends, neighbors, and officemates, not to save money but just for the love of it! Of course, this year, baking gifts feels smart for many reasons--it's something you can do to show people you care about them without spending tons of moolah, and in a lot of ways, I think a gift of cookies or cake you made yourself is more meaningful than something purchased in a store.

My mother's whiskey cake, formally known as Mississippi Nut Cake by my teetotalling Baptist ancestors to gloss over the heavy presence of bourbon, is a universal favorite. I make it every year, and just getting out the nutmeg and the golden raisins, the Jack Daniels and the pecans, makes it feel like Christmas to me.

Another great gift, and one maybe better suited to a family with members under the age of 21, is this Walnut Crown Coffeecake. This recipe comes from Martha Wertz, a great cook and my mother's best friend, and it is divine.

Walnut Crown Coffeecake

In a bowl combine 1/3 cup ground walnuts with 3 TBS sifted light brown sugar. Butter a 2 1/2 cup Kugelhupf pan or tube pan (I use a regular bundt cake pan) and coat it with the walnut mixture. Into a bowl sift together 2 cups sifted flour, 1 3/4 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. In another bowl beat 1 egg and add 1 cup buttermilk, 2/3 cup melted butter, cooled and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture until the batter is smooth. Turn into the prepared pan and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees F) for 1 hour or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, turn it out on a wire rack, and let it cool completely. Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and foil and let it stand at room temp. for up to 7 days.


Note: This cake was one of several recipes that were meant to get better and better as they age. I have never kept it up to 7 days, but it has been good at all stages. It is also so rich that it is meant to fall a little as it cooks. I think I bake it in a larger pan than the recipe anticipates, so check it after 30-40 minutes of baking. It is sometimes so tender that it falls apart, but the crumbs taste great.


So what holiday baking traditions do you hold to every year, or do you try something new? I always want to make at least one thing I've never made before; this year, I think it's going to be these pistachio cranberry icebox cookies.


If you've got a great holiday recipe, please feel free to share!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Top Chef Rehash

**SPOILER ALERT** I will be talking about what happened in last night's episode of Top Chef. If you haven't watched it yet, DON'T KEEP READING!













Now then. I assume we've all seen part one of the season finale of Top Chef, yes? Last chance to bail.

It was a tough episode for me to watch. This season is unique in that all of the final four chefs have been frontrunners at one point or another, and I actually think each of them is a talented chef who will go far in his or her career. Kevin is a sweetheart, although I think he sometimes plays it too safe. Bryan brings a level of professionalism and manages to combine technique with solid ideas. Michael, who can sometimes be a pain, does think about food in a way that appeals to me--for instance, in last night's Quickfire when the challenge was about using grapes, he took it to the extreme by using the branches, the leaves, and the fruit. I like how hard he works, and how risky he is, but I don't love his younger-brother attitude and the way he's always got something to prove.

And then there's Jen, who is the only one who rivals Michael in terms of intensity. In Hannibal Lechter's terms, she's a deep roller, someone for whom failure is personal and all-encompassing. No one is harder on Jen than Jen. She psychs herself out.

I loved her. Her food at the beginning of the season always sounded amazing, and very delicate--a thoughtful layering of flavors and textures that did her mentor, Eric Ripert of the perfect hair and sexy French accent, very proud. Then she make a mistake or two and went into a shame spiral, only managing to pull herself out of it by the skin of her teeth in time to make the final four.

I'd hoped the six-week hiatus would be good for her, give her a chance to get her confidence back, and that did appear to happen. She was like the old Jen last night, uncompromising and sure of herself, dedicated to winning. I was so happy--until I realized how much of her we were seeing; every other confessional was from her, which if you watch as much reality TV as I shamefully do, you know means we were being set up to watch her go. Still, I hoped against hope (even though they had her talk about why she was on Top Chef--for her mother--the kiss of death!) and the dishes she made for the crush party sounded fabulous. The judges didn't love her vegetarian option, sure, but they raved about the Sonoma duck. It's "duckiness," how the accompaniments supported but didn't overwhelm the flavor of the bird, etc. I had hope!

Until they got in the judging room and Tom asked her to talk about why she confited the meat instead of grilling it, as she'd originally intended. And Jen said she hadn't been paying close attention to the wood-burning grill and the fire died out, so she had to do something else. When asked if she was happy with the way the dish turned out, she said she wished she could've used the grill for the smoky flavor, even though she'd said while serving it that she loved the way it turned out and thought it might even have been better as a confit dish.

That was what did her in. She had the opportunity to cast her decision to confit the duck in a positive light, and instead she downplayed the dish and played up her own inattention. The story could've been that the grill wasn't working so she had to make a change on the fly, but hey! It came out so great, she ended up loving it more because the confit was part of what enhanced that duck flavor all the judges loved so much! Instead, the story the judges took away was that she was unfocused and scattered in the kitchen, and that maybe the duck could've been better.

It made me think about story, and the ways that memories and perceptions can be colored by the details we add later. The dish was the dish was the dish. They loved it when they were eating it, but by the time they got to Judges Table, they were looking for more details from her to bolster their opinion, which was based on a memory. And instead of giving them a positive story, she gave them a negative one.

I've seen this happen on other shows; on America's Next Top Model, often a girl who's consistently delivered better photo shoots will be sent home in favor of a girl who "wants it more." Gordon Ramsay, on Hell's Kitchen, is particularly susceptible to the story of an inexperienced young cook who works hard and learns a lot while on the job.

As much as the judges on Top Chef try to base their decisions on the food, they're human. And humans crave context.

So Jen went home, and I felt awful for her. But I also took a lesson from her--modesty is all well and good, but in a situation like that? Stand by your work.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thanksgiving Yum

And now, a pictorial tour of my delicious southern Thanksgiving dinner at The Homestead in Virginia!

I started off with oyster stew--very traditional in my family, and this was an excellent version. One of the best things I ate! Creamy and luscious, the oysters tender and briny--just about perfect.Then we moved on to salads. The banquet table groaned under the weight of the many bowls of different cold side dishes, everything from divinity (the ubiquitous fruit salad with tiny marshmallows--not my favorite) to marinated roasted vegetables. I chose (starting from the top and going clockwise) rosemary cashews and spiced walnuts, house-smoked salmon with dill cream sauce, shredded carrot and raising salad (too heavy on the nutmeg this year, sad,) sliced potato salad that I didn't love, a very mayonnaisey and delicious seven layer salad with peas and cheddar, and a delicious potato salad with bacon. Next, the main event: the turkey! My little confession is that I'm not a huge fan of turkey, especially in banquet hall settings like this. The bird is so easy to dry out, and extra time on the carving board under a heat lamp doesn't usually improve the situation. I chose dark meat to try to mitigate the problem, but it didn't really help. The cranberry sauce was pretty good, though! I also took a little venison stew (bottom of the picture) and I absolutely had to try their little stuffed quail! So cute, and much juicier than the turkey. That's it on the top right, next to the extremely traditional brown sauce. I forced down some sweet potatoes, again for the sake of tradition, but they were mashed and covered with gooey marshmallows, which is far from my favorite preparation. The second best bit of the entire meal is on that plate on the bottom left--the green bean casserole topped with crunchy fried onions! Totally delicious; I could've eaten a whole plate of nothing but that.Except I had to save room for dessert! The Homestead's dessert option are always varied and plentiful. I never seem to enjoy anyone's pumpkin pie but my mother's, so I avoided that and picked pecan instead, which was great. Also a key lime tartlet, because I can never resist key lime anything, and generous portion of apple cranberry cobbler, topped with a boozy and delicious creme anglaise. Yum!In case you're wondering, no, I did not clean all these plates! I picked lots of different things so I could try a bit of each, but the only things I finished were the green bean casserole, the potato salad with bacon, the smoked salmon, and the key lime tart.

So what did you have alongside your bird? Did you try anything new or stick to the old standby favorites? Anything you'll definitely make again?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful

There's a lot to be thankful for this year. My handsome husband and my immediate family top the list; without his encouragement and support, my parents' cheerleading and unconditional love, and my sister's friendship, I'd probably be an entirely different, much less interesting person.

Of course, in this year of my debut novel, I'm very thankful for my fabulous, savvy agent, Deidre Knight, and my lovely, smart editor, Rose Hilliard, and for the chance they gave me to write what I love and share it with the world.

And speaking of writing, I'd be nothing without my book buddies. I've talked about Roxanne St. Claire and Kristen Painter before, but really, I can't thank them enough for all the fun, gossip, brainstorming, and butt-kicking!

My best friend, Meg, also needs a mention--she of the tantalizing food photos and enviable cooking techniques, not to mention intelligence, wit, and charm. I'm grateful to have such a warm, caring, generous-hearted woman in my life.

I'm thankful for the gift of passion for my work, and my love of food and cooking. I'm thankful for the books that taught me to love reading and romance. Essentially, I'm thankful for all the love in my life, and for more blessings than I can even name.

I'm damn lucky, and I know it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Foolproof Recipes

I love recipes that seem entirely impossible to screw up. The lamb hash I made last night is one of those--I originally found it in Craig Claiborne's New York Times Cookbook, but I've made it several times, several different ways, and it always turns out yummy.

Here's the original post I wrote about it, which appeared several months ago on the TKA blog:

Lamb Hash (Adapted from THE NEW YORK TIMES COOKBOOK by Craig Claiborne)

Ingredients:

1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, minced
2 tbsp chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
2 slices bacon, cooked till crisp, then cooled and chopped
1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
1 cup canned beef broth
1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream, approximately
2 tbsp finely grated sharp cheese, like Parmesan or Gruyere

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a large, heavy skillet (one that has a lid and is safe for both stovetop and oven) over medium high heat until the pan is almost smoking, then add the ground lamb. Stir the lamb with a wooden spoon to break it up, add salt and pepper to taste, then cook until all pink is gone. You'll get better color and caramelization if you don't stir the lamb too much, and if your skillet is large enough to give the meat plenty of room to sear rather than steam.

Remove the lamb from the pan and drain on paper towels. Allow to cool.

Wipe out the skillet and return to stovetop. Add the butter and melt over medium heat until the foam has subsided. Then add the minced onion, garlic, and chopped bacon. Stir it around to coat everything in the melted butter, then add the lamb, beef broth, and tomato sauce. Salt and pepper the whole thing, cover the skillet, and bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning.
*The recipe can be completed up to 1 day ahead of time up to this point, then the hash can be brought to room temperature and then refrigerated. To reheat, bring the hash back up to room temperature and preheat the broiler before continuing.*

Lightly butter 6-8 ramekins (depending on their size) and portion the cooked hash into them. Cover each portion with a tablespoon of cream and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Brown under a preheated broiler.
Served with a simple green salad and a good vinaigrette, this hash makes a lovely lunch or light supper. And the individual portions make it attractive enough to serve to guests. We drank an Oregon Pinot Noir with it, which was delicious.

****
Last night, I had leftover pan-fried lamb chops, so I diced that up instead of dealing with the ground lamb. Also, I had no stock or meat gravy or anything like that to deglaze the pan after sauteeing the onions and bacon, so I used red wine. The results were slightly purple, very fragrant, and utterly scrumptious! I have a friend who has made this several times for her family; it's a huge hit with her kids, no matter what she does with it. I think she's added mushrooms, stuff like that. (We're having the leftovers this morning for breakfast, heated up with a poached egg on top! Yummmm...)

So let your imagination run wild! If you try this, and vary it in some fun way, I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chicago Memories

I'm such a blog delinquent this week! Things have been a little nuts. Not too likely to calm down before Thanksgiving, though, so I guess I'd better suck it up.

Chicago was amazing; it was awesome to see my friends and to have them with us as we tasted our way through some of the world's best restaurants. No exaggeration: Charlie Trotter's, Tru, and Alinea are each, in their own ways, totally top flight and fabulous.

At Trotter's, we sat at the Chef's Table, which is an experience I highly recommend if you're at all interested in the goings-on in a professional kitchen. This one was clearly very well run and organized, possibly aided by the fact that it's an all tasting menu, so there are a limited number of items available for any given table at any given time, which naturally cuts down on chaos. We were *this* close to real live working chefs!That right there is what is sometimes called "the pass", or where dishes are passed from the flat-top/oven side of the kitchen to the server side. There was very little of the shouting and drama you see on shows like Hell's Kitchen at Charlie Trotter's; it was much more like a well choreographed dance. Which is not to say that it operated in the zen-like silence many people have described in Thomas Keller's kitchens--there was a little laughter and joking, some back and forth and chatter. But for the most part, there was a comfortable air of good organization and calm focus.

The food? Oh, right! I guess you want to hear about that, too! *grin* Well, here's the menu, but it doesn't quite convey the delicious abstractness of some of these dishes, many of which involved combinations I never would've imagined myself. With a few exceptions, the surprising flavors paired up extraordinarily well--and speaking of pairings, the sommelier did an outstanding job of choosing the perfect wines to accompany each little bite.

Hmm. Can you read any of that? For the record, the best dish was the Grilled Rabbit Loin with Shallot Confit and Pickled Mustard Seeds--the rich earthiness of the perfectly tender meat was underscored beautifully by the caramelized sweetness of the shallot and the tiny-but-sharp bite of the mustard. A perfect dish.

For a more complete, detailed writeup of the meal, check out my food blogger bff's post. Meg is a great food photographer, as well, so mouthwatering images abound. Ditto to everything she said. ; )

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Windy City Ho!

I'm heading to Chicago tomorrow for a long weekend organized by my dear, sweet husband. In case you didn't hear, I turned thirty a few weeks ago, and to celebrate, my best friend Meg (aka Queenie) is meeting us out there, along with one of our closest friends from college and his very cool wife. I'm so excited! And of course, all we've really planned so far is where we'll eat. The first night is dinner at the famous, venerable Charlie Trotter's, and it's extra special because we're eating at the chef's table! I'm hoping this means what it sometimes does--a table actually inside the kitchen where we get to watch the cooks in action. Whatever the setup is, I know it will be a blast, and I can't wait to taste the food that put Chicago on the map as a major culinary destination.
Our other dinner plans are equally exciting: Alinea and Tru. Described as upscale Mediterranean-influenced French food, Tru has won a James Beard Award and countless other accolades, and is widely considered one of the best restaurants Chicago has to offer.

Alinea is Grant Achatz's cutting-edge restaurant dedicated to exploring the best of new techniques married with classical flavors. It was named one of the world's fifty best restaurants last year, and I can't wait to find out why! Our college friends have been there and described it as one of the most singularly amazing culinary experiences of their lives. Take a look at that picture gallery, folks! Yes, it's food (the image to the left is apparently hearts of palm,) and I'm going to eat it! I promise to take pictures. Unless it feel super awkward, then I probably won't. But Meg will! She never lets awkwardness stop her from capturing the food on film, which is why she's a much better food blogger than I ever will be.

I want to hit up a great sushi bar while I'm there, because I'm craving chirashi like you wouldn't believe, and of course no trip to Chicago would be complete with a hot dog! Any Windy City readers out there want to weigh in on not-to-be-missed Chicago hotspots? Doesn't have to be food--even I will probably have to take a break from eating at some point!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Even Newer Cover Look!

Right after I posted the cover for ON THE STEAMY SIDE, I got an email from my editor saying they'd decided to tweak some of the colors. They wanted to add a little more color to warm it up, and they showed me several options. Here's the one I liked the best, and it's the final, final version of the STEAMY cover!
What do you think? I adore it. I think the blue makes it even more fun than it was before, and I love the way the title looks now.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My First Radio Interview!

I'm going to be on the radio! Well, sort of. BlogTalkRadio, so it's more of a live streaming audio kind of thing, with chatroom. I'm super excited! We're going to talk about Can't Stand the Heat, of course, but it's pretty unstructured and chatty. So if you come to the chatroom to hang out while listening, you can post questions and I'll do my best to answer them. I'm kind of nervous! But mostly thrilled.

Here are the details: Tonight at 9:30 PM (EST), go to BlogTalkRadio! I'll be there, reading an excerpt from CStH (any requests? They have a "Mature" ratings. Rowr!) and ready to chat with the lovely host, Cat Johnson, and anyone else who shows up. There *might* be swag in it for the chatroom folks...

What: BlogTalkRadio's What's Hot in Romance Show, guest starring ME!
When: Tonight, 11/9, 9:30 PM (EST)
Where: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Whats-Hot-In-Romance

Friday, November 6, 2009

Blog Tour: Victoria Janssen

Ha! Bet you thought I was done with this guest blogging business, didn't you? Well, I've got a couple more scheduled, which is awesome for you--more chances to win an awesome Can't Stand the Heat apron, a set of cute red spatulas, and a signed copy of the book!

Today I'm over at Victoria Janssen's blog, talking about research--how I sucked at it for a long time, and how I eventually unlocked the secret to doing it well...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Three Decades

I'm 30 years old today. And what have I learned? Here are thirty random things:

1.) You can't make new old friends.
2.) You can make best friends at any time of your life.
3.) No best friend can replace your sister.
4.) If you make the choice to feel good in the long run rather than the choice to feel good in the moment, you will rarely regret it.
5.) Regrets are for suckers.
6.) Everyone judges books by their covers.
7.) Covers featuring brides, dogs, and/or Nazi symbolism sell. Especially brides on a beach. With a dog! And a Luftwaffe strike in the background!
8.) Write the book that makes you happy to sit down at the computer ever day.
9.) Ignore trends. By the time you're aware of them, they're probably almost over anyway.
10.) It's better to focus on people's good qualities than on their flaws.
11.) There are people who think toilet paper should always be oriented with the end of the roll at the back, and people who think it should always be at the front. No one thinks it doesn't matter.
12.) I am an omnivore, meant to eat meat, vegetables and grains. Eliminating any of those makes me feel crappy.
13.) The Ramones are the best band in the history of the world.
14.) But the Sex Pistols could totally take them in a fight.
15.) There's no thrill on earth like holding your first book in your hands, all shiny and new. Unless it's seeing it on a shelf in a bookstore. Or in someone ELSE's hands, and they're reading it!
16.) Readers are awesome.
17.) If you taste what you're cooking and think it needs something, try adding acid (like lemon juice) before you add salt.
18.) Recipes, like love, should be shared rather than hoarded.
19.) There is no professional relationship more important in a writer's career than the one between author and agent.
20.) New technologies should be embraced, but not to the exclusion of the old ways.
21.) In general, inclusivity is better than exclusivity.
22.) As of this moment, I'd rather live under the rule of law in Iowa than California or Maine.
23.) Everyone has a mission--if there's something you feel compelled to stand up for, no matter what, that's it for you.
24.) Anticipation is half the pleasure.
25.) You can never have too many books.
26.) If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write.
27.) The best way to be happy is to act happy--the very act of smiling triggers the feeling itself.
28.) Perseverance actually does pay off.
29.) My husband is the smartest, funniest, sweetest man alive.
30.) I'm one of the luckiest women ever to walk the earth.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bunco Babes Gone Wild!


A brand new book in Maria Geraci's hilarious, heart-warming series about the Bunco Babes of Whispering Bay, Florida is out today! You guys should be super excited, because I was lucky enough to get to read an early, pre-pub copy of this one, and it is to die for. Like a classic movie, this book brings out the full range of emotions: laughter, sympathy, tears, and oh-my-dear-sweet-hotness romance! The hero is so memorable, I've had dreams about him. Seriously, you must run right out and buy it. Delicious! Here's the blurb:

BUNCO BABES GONE WILD by Maria Geraci

Georgia Meyer needs some time to think—and what better place to get her head on straight than Whispering Bay, Florida, in the company of her sister Frida and her sister’s Bunco friends, better known as the Bunco Babes? Georgia’s boyfriend—and boss—Spencer Moody made a slight miscalculation in the romance department and gave her a calculator instead of an engagement ring. So she needs some sisterly advice, in between rolling dice and drinking frozen margaritas, as to her next move.

While considering subtracting Spencer, Georgia meets the very handsome Dave Hernandez. Unfortunately when a Bunco night gets a little out of hand, Georgia reveals more of herself to Dave than she intended. Now, as she helps the Babes prepare for a Bunco Black Tie fundraiser, she needs to search her heart—and keep her shirt on—long enough to decide if a love affair with Dave might be a dream come true or just a flash in the pan.

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Cover Look!

St. Martin's has totally revamped my cover look for the second installment of my Recipe for Love series, and I couldn't be more pleased. Not that I didn't adore the Can't Stand the Heat cover, because I did! And got loads of positive feedback on it. But this new cover, for On the Steamy Side, out next March, has a slightly more sophisticated look without sacrificing the fun and sexiness. I get all giddy and swoony every time I look at it!

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vintage Romance

Never say Twitter is a pointless waste of time! Without it, I might never have found out about eHarlequin.com's brilliant idea of selling stationary featuring some of their fabulous, wacky, yet somehow chic classic romance covers.

I absolutely adore these! Especially the spiral-bound notebooks and composition books. How could looking at these not inspire you? It's wild how many of them feature guns. In one of them, the heroine appears to be throwing the gun at the hero? Villain? Who knows!

People on my gift list: Be prepared to see a few these again come Christmas morning. I bet the postcard tins make awesome stocking stuffers.

Do you ever get your holiday shopping done early? Or are you more like me, scrambling at the last minute and paying through the nose for rush shipping?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Book Signing!

I had my first solo bookstore signing this weekend, which was tons of fun. I wore the earrings Kristen Painter made for me, for luck! They totally worked. I met some very interesting readers, sold multiple copies to friends from church (yikes!) who hadn't bought it yet, and gave out dozens of cookies. A good time was had by all! It was a busy weekend; we also had a Halloween party to attend. I dressed up as Julia Child, mostly because I had everything I needed for it already. And also because I love her. Here's how it turned out! I know, I wouldn't win any lookalike contests. But I had fun! If you can't make it out, that's a whisk I'm holding up so proudly. And yes, if you look closely, there's a spot on my shirt where I spilled red wine.
This is my favorite part:Do you have any Halloween parties coming up? What costume are you planning?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Lonely Road

Writing is a solitary job. We sit at our desks and plunk away at the keyboard, and if we're lucky, the characters we're writing about will come alive enough to make us feel like we're getting some human interaction! But even with that, sometimes you just need a real live person.

I've been fortunate enough to meet lots of wonderful, funny, smart women during the course of my journey to publication. From my fabulous agent, Deidre Knight, to my first critique partners, Mel Francis and Maria Geraci, and beta readers like Kate Pearce and Nicole Montreuil. All of them have helped and supported me in too many ways to mention here. But lately, some of the best, brightest, and most vital support has come from my near-daily emails with two very special people: Kristen Painter and Roxanne St. Claire.

We talk, we laugh, we gossip (what? Moi? Never!), and above all, we provide each other with a safe, open, warm-hearted place to seek advice and encouragement. No one on the planet gets me giggling like Kristen, or kicks my butt harder when I need it. If I were 100% honest, every one of my books should be dedicated to her. And Rocki! She's quite possibly one of the savviest women I've ever met--and the most generous with her advice. She's never steered me wrong, and I know she never will because Rocki is a true friend. When she gives me her opinion, I know without a shadow of a doubt that it comes from a place of honesty, integrity, and caring. I would really, really like to be Rocki when I grow up.

On days when I can't remember why I wanted to be a writer, and can't imagine what my editor ever saw in me, Rocki and Kristen are there. And all I can think is: I'm so proud to call these women my friends.

Thanks, guys! I love you both.

The Great Costume Debate

I have a Halloween party to go to tomorrow, and have I thought about a costume? Nope. Not even a little. Anyone have any ideas? I'm really just not going to run out and buy anything for it, so I'm looking for things that can be cobbled together out of my closet. I wish all you lovely blog followers could come over and rifle through dresses and shoes with me!

Normally, I love dressing up, but this year I'm feeling so unenergized about it. Which is a little bit deadline sickness, but also I think it's where I live. I'm at the end of a fairly newly developed street without very many houses. I don't expect we'll get many trick-or-treaters. And it just feels like Halloween isn't really happening this year.

Maybe once I get knee-deep in my closet and start sifting through options, maybe I'll get more excited. Wish I had motorcycle boots and could go punk or something! That would be fun. Hmm...is it too late for overnight delivery from Nordstrom.com?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Tour: Writerspace

Even if you don't love to cook, you probably have a favorite cookbook. At least, before I started cooking in a serious way, I definitely did! It was more of a sentimental choice than anything else--the old version of the Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer. My mother made biscuits, cornbread, pancakes, waffles, and cookies out of that cookbook throughout my childhood. I associate it with being happy and nurtured. Now that I'm nurturing my own family, Joy of Cooking no longer makes my top 5 list--it's outdated and funny, very '50s feeling and full of things I'll never be interested in cooking--but I still go back to it for those same dishes my mother used it for. There's no better recipe in the world for butter roll cookies, and the bacon cornmeal waffles are to die for!

Want to see which cookbooks DO make my top 5 list? Check it out at Writerspace, where I want to hear where you get your favorite recipes. I'm giving away an apron, spatulas, and signed copy of Can't Stand the Heat, so come on down!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Not Exactly Blog Tour

It's not a quite a guest post, but the fabulous Tessa Dare and I are over on Dear Author today discussing our frequently maligned heroines, and what it takes to make a heroine likable. The comment thread is chock full of interesting theories and ideas! I'm loving reading through it. Check it out!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Blog Tour: Romance Junkies

Ever wonder what goes into the recipes in books like mine? I'm over at Romance Junkies today, talking about my creative process in the kitchen! If you've got a favorite personal recipe, come on over and share with us. You'll be entered in the drawing for an apron, set of cute spatulas, and a signed copy of Can't Stand the Heat! Plus, you'll get to see some awesome recipes contributed by other commenters. Win!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Which Bunco Babe are You?

Before I met Maria Geraci, I had never heard of bunco. It's true! But once I read her fun, funny first book, Bunco Babes Tell All, I was desperate to try it. What could be more fun than a group of women, a pitcher full of margaritas, and a game of chance? Not much, as I found out at RT '09, where Maria hosted a fabulous bunco party that got the whole room up and laughing and vowing to start their own bunco groups.

Now, to celebrate the upcoming release of Maria's second book, Bunco Babes Gone Wild, she's created this hysterical quiz to determine with character you are! I had to share. I LOVE quizzes. Plus, if you take this one, you're entered to win a signed copy of Bunco Babes Tell All (which, if you haven't read it yet, you are totally missing out!) and a $50 gift certificate to Borders!

Take the quiz here.

I'm a Shea, by the way. ; )

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Blog Tour: Romance Writer's Revenge

Today's guest blog turned out to be quite the wild ride--I'm over at Romance Writer's Revenge, and you'll never guess who turned up to chat with me! I'll give you a hint: he's the sexiest pirate of them all...and a surprisingly astute interviewer.

Seriously, you have to check this one out, it's hysterical. And there's a giveaway! Apron, spatulas, Can't Stand the Heat...you know the drill.

In other news, Holly Zachariah, the Columbus Dispatch blogger who interviewed me yesterday, posted a review of CStH that I absolutely adore! Check it out.

Interview: Columbus Dispatch

Holly Zacharia over at the Columbus Dispatch runs a blog called Private Passions for the newspaper's website. We talked about first books, the road to publication, and writing advice; here's the result of that interview! As someone who loves newspapers, it's pretty exciting to me to get interviewed by a real live journalist. I hope I don't sound like a doofus. Feel free to tell me I do in the comments. : )

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Recipe Testing

I've got the copyedited manuscript of ON THE STEAMY SIDE on my desk, which means not only is it time to dive back in and polish it up to a high gloss--it's time to test the recipes I'll be including in the back of the book.

Hopefully, the process will be a little easier this time, because I have a cunning plan. Since Lilah Jane Tunkle, my heroine, hails from the exact same part of Virginia I come from (what a coincidence!) I'm going to be updating and modernizing several oooold family recipes from my mother's side. Her people are from Mississippi, but I figure the southern flavors will translate to Virginia just fine. Even better? I conned Mama into doing some of the testing for me! One of our family's favorite holiday desserts shows up in OtSS, and she's been wanting to tweak that recipe for years. That's going to save me some time (and calories) but I have to admit to being sad not to have the excuse to gorge myself on different variations on Delmonico Pudding, a crazy delicious concoction of almond macaroons soaked in vanilla custard and covered with meringue. Traditionally sprinkled with chopped pecans and red and green candied fruit (it's a Christmas dessert!) Mama and I are thinking of subbing in pine nuts and/or crystallized ginger. I await the results with interest...

I'll be dedicating myself to the other recipes from the story: a Mexican street corn salad, and cheddar date rolls. Off to the grocery store now! Wish me luck finding dates.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Blog Tour: Fresh Fiction

I'm over at Fresh Fiction today talking about character inspiration, and of course, the hero of CStH, Adam Temple. Because I just can't shut up about him. Is it bad that I'm maybe an eensy teensy bit in love with my own fictional creation? But come on--in my head, he looks like this!
But in chef's whites. Nom nom nom...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Heartbroken in Ohio

We got home last night from our schlep around the country, and this morning woke up to the devastatingly sad news that my favorite, beloved Gourmet magazine is closing its doors after nearly 70 years.

There had been rumors, yes, but I tried not to listen. It was too sad to contemplate! With a history that began in 1940, and one of the food world's brightest lights, Ruth Reichl, at the helm, how could Gourmet ever die?

I don't know what I'm going to do without that thrill of opening the mail every month and seeing a jewel-toned cover depicting fabulous, tempting food. And the articles! I learned more about what's going on in our country today from Gourmet magazine than I do from most newspapers. I can't even bear to think about the recipes. I'm now hoping against hope that the wonderful Gourmet.com website will stay operational and vital...but without the magazine's resources, how vital can it be?

What a sad day. I think, in honor of the occasion, I'll bake their featured recipe for the week, spiced applesauce cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. That *might* make me feel better.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Blog Tour: Romance Reader At Heart

I'm blogging over at the Novel Thoughts blog for Romance Reader at Heart. They wanted an interview with my hero, Adam Temple, so I thought I'd give my fictional food magazine, Delicieux, a crack at him! Come check it out, and comment to win an apron, spatulas, you know the drill.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Blog Tour: A Book Blogger's Diary

I'm over at Book Blogger's Diary today, talking about how I got into romance, and more importantly, how I learned to be proud of it! Come share your story with me. How did you discover romance novels? There are prizes...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

TKA Author Chat Tonight!

****Breaking News****

Stop the presses! I've got an author chat tonight over at the TKA website! I'm so excited, and this is my chance to finally get it right, considering my first solo author chat at Writerspace was a bit of a disaster, since I couldn't manage to actually get into the chatroom myself and had to have Roxanne St. Claire relay my responses to questions. Which she did beautifully, but it was frustrating, to say the least.

So. I've got something to prove at the chat tonight, and I plan to make it the best evah! We're giving away the gorgeous Can't Stand the Heat apron, a set of red spatulas, and a signed copy of the book, so you definitely don't want to miss it.

All the info you need to access the chat is HERE. It's tonight, 9 pm EST! Be there or be square.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Whirlwind

The launch party--oh, man, where to begin? It was scrumptious, luscious, thrilling, exciting, heartwarming, and exhausting. Here's how you know I was having a ball: I have no pictures. None! Not to worry, though, there were several people snapping shot after shot of the packed Blue Hill dining room, and I'll supposedly be getting those pics sometime soon. I promise I'll share the ones that make me look gorgeous and poised! The ones that show me looking giddy and goofy will be deleted instantly.

My week in NYC was fabulous; I had dinner at the Bread Bar at Tabla with my gorgeous editor and fantastic agent, where we spent three hours drinking, eating, and brainstorming titles and plot ideas. EVERY brainstorming session should be just like that. I also reconnected with old friends, tried new restaurants and food I never could've imagined, like the insane tasting menu at Wylie Dufresne's famed molecular gastronomy playroom, WD-50, and doing research.

Then, two days after the party, we flew across the country to San Francisco for a week in Napa, where we're helping a friend celebrate her birthday. It's a rough job, I know, but someone has to do it. I'm spending the afternoon incorporating all my new culinary school knowledge into my existing manuscript for the third Recipe for Love novel.

What are you up to?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Book Launch Party

It's finally here! Tonight is the night I officially kick off my new Recipe for Love series with a launch party at Blue Hill. The party guests will be friends, family, book bloggers, food bloggers, reviewers, publishing peeps, and some assorted media. There might be video cameras. I feel just a whiff of Cinderella coming on...

Pictures will be posted in the next few days--of the food, if nothing else. Here's the menu-in-progress Blue Hill's chefs drew up, based on what's available and looking good at the farmer's markets this week:

Passed Hors d’oeuvres
Pork Belly Skewers
House made Charcuterie
Vegetables on the Fence
Shots of Corn Soup and Blue Hill V8
Tomato Burgers
Oysters and Tomatoes

Passed Small Plates
Stone Barns Chicken Wings
Marinated Cherry Tomatoes with tomato sorbet

Passed Sweets
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Cheesecake with berries
Skewered Truffles
Concord Grape Soup with yogurt sorbet

We'll also be featuring the two cocktails from Can't Stand the Heat: the "Miranda", champagne with raspberries and rose-infused vodka, and GINger Lemonade--recipes for both are in the back of the book, and I can't wait to reenact the first scene when everyone in the restaurant is tipsy on pink fizzy drinks!

And I absolutely CANNOT wait for the pork belly skewers, and to find out what makes those chicken wings all New York fancy...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blog Tour: Romancing the Blog

I'm over at one of my favorite smarty pants book blogs today, Romancing the Blog, where I'm talking about The Happy Hero! As opposed to the dark, brooding, silently suffering hero. Come weigh in on your favorite romance heroes...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blog Tour: Drey's Library

I've got lots to tell you (and many pictures to show) from our trip upstate to the Culinary Institute of America yesterday, but it's going to have to wait. The lovely Drey, of Drey's Library fame, interviewed me! Her questions were fun and insightful--check it out to see if my answers lived up to them. (Hint: they don't. But I tried!)

We're giving away a Can't Stand the Heat apron and spatula set, so check it out! There are multiple ways to win--comment for one entry, follow Drey for an extra, and share the post through Twitter or Facebook for two extra entries! Genius, no?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back in NYC!

It's so good to be enjoying my favorite island getaway: Manhattan! Landed at LaGuardia last night and immediately ran into the longest cab line in the history of ever. But that's okay, because I'm home!

I slipped back into my city skin fairly easily; jumpstarted the process by taking the F train to West 4th. Oy. But it was all worth it to get to my fabulous sushi dinner at a hole-in-the-wall joint on West 23rd! I had chirashi so beautiful and succulent that I couldn't pause long enough to get a picture. The salmon was buttery and delicious, the toro tuna melted on my tongue, and the sushi rice was warm and tangy. My friend and I followed it up with a hike around Chelsea looking for the perfect Ben & Jerry's ice cream to take back to his apartment, where we discussed video games, comics, love, relationships, boys, and writing.

Today, Meg and I are heading upstate to the Culinary Institute of America, where I will pester culinary students with inane questions and sample their cooking at one of the CIA restaurants. Yay! Report tomorrow.

Side note: Meg, the best friend evah, just brought me a plum ginger scone from Two Little Red Hens bakery. Oh. My. God.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Blog Tour: Plot Monkeys


Some of my favorite writers in the world have gathered together to do a blog, and they call it Plot Monkeys. When Julie Leto asked me to guest post on their Saturday Craft blog, I was so excited! I thought about my post for weeks before writing it; I hope you enjoy the topic: secondary romances, or subplots. Come on over and talk about what you like, what you don't, and how you think they work to make a series pop! Plus, comment for a chance to win an apron, spatulas, and a signed copy of CStH!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blog Tour: Love Romances and More

Today's guest blog post is brought to you by Love Romances and More! Check it out, they asked me some tough, fascinating questions and I dished all over the place.

In other news, my revisions are IN for On the Steamy Side (yay!) and I'm about to head down to Columbus, OH for the COFW conference. If you're in the area, please stop by the huge multi-author book signing tomorrow night at 6:30 at the Holiday Inn Worthington. I'm looking forward to meeting some readers, hearing some wonderful speakers like Roxanne St. Claire, and hanging with my writing buddies. There *may* be wine and gossip involved. If you don't hear from me for a week, send out a search party...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blog Tour: Romance Novel TV


I'm over at Romance Novel TV today talking about cooking, and why I write contemporary romance! (Short answer: Cuz I wanna.) For the long answer, check out my post. Leave a comment with a great fall recipe and/or a kitchen disaster story, and you'll be entered in the drawing for my Cool Culinary Gift pack: apron, spatulas, cookbook, oh my!

Come on, you know you've got some tale of culinary woe and misfortune to share. Even Julia Child occasionally burned the beurre noisette...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thriller Rules

In case you need a smile today (Patrick Swayze *sob*) here's a fabulous, amazing, wonderful video of 905 nerds doing Thriller. I'm not kidding! Nearly 1,000 DragonCon attendees, in costumes from such varied fandoms I couldn't possibly name more than three, gathered together to attempt to break the Guiness world record for largest group of people doing Thriller. I hope to God they won, because they definitely deserve it. This is made of win!

Monday, September 14, 2009

BBAW Contest and Book Giveaway

I'm not running it, though, Jessica over at Racy Romance Reviews is. She's been nominated in the category of Best Romance Review Blog in the much-discussed Book Blogger Appreciation Week contest, and, to celebrate, she's giving away three cooking-themed romances. Including mine! As stoked as I am for one commenter to win a copy of Can't Stand the Heat along with Delicious by Sherry Thomas and Burning Up by Sarah Mayberry--honestly, I'm mainly giddy to be included with two such wonderful authors. I know. It's better to give than to receive. But still. Me! With Sherry Thomas! And Sarah Mayberry! Because Jessica loves all our books! Squee!

Also? Can't wait to read through the comment thread, because the way you enter the drawing is to leave your favorite recipe. Yay, recipe thread!!

You know you've got something you're dying to share, and you know you want a prize pack of books that will make you desperate to get in the kitchen and cook. So hop on over and enter to win!

Friday, September 11, 2009

America's Next Top Model is Back!

Sorry, I know I've been MIA this week. Got to get my revisions for ON THE STEAMY SIDE done and off my desk! In the interests of keeping my body and mind limber, however, I did work out for an hour this morning while watching my DVRed season premier of America's Next Top Model.

Fabulous.

I don't know why I'm so obsessed with this show, and frankly, I've stopped questioning it. The addiction is a fact of my life now. I deal with it as best I can. One of the ways I deal with it is by blogging about it, so here goes.

Cycle 13 (The Short Girls) Random Thoughts and First Impressions:

Amber. Holy crazypants, thank the sweet Lord for whatever "personal issues" kept her out of the house. I was not going to be able to handle her particular brand of nutso for too long.

Bianca. Already driving me insane. Stop whining! Also, she's such a Nenna lookalike! Which brings me to my next point--all the girls are starting to look like girls from previous seasons. Courtney is plucky and adorable, but she looks just like Kim (the original ANTM lesbian). Erin reminds me of someone, can't think who--as does freaky Nicole. I'm starting to sympathize with modeling agencies. "Is there nothing fresh and exciting?! Get out, all of you!"

Laura. Love! She castrates cows! And the comment, "Nobody cheats on me" totally cracked me up. She is definitely my early favorite.

Tyra. Looking hot! Girl, I would love to know how you slimmed down. And I like the darker hair, too. But the harem pants at panel? Not so much.

Chanel Iman. Cute. Seems nice. Not like a total airhead. But I miss Paulina! Couldn't they have scrapped the enormous bankable logo mailbox and kept La Porizkova?

Hmm, what else? Was weird to have makeovers in the very first episode, but I guess since no one got anything drastic done, it would've been hard to stretch it out. I think the right girl went home, and agreed with the Best Photo of the Week (for once.) Really, none of the photos sucked too badly--I think maybe they've started going easier on the girls in their early shoots. Remember the good old days when the fresh-off-the-bus modelettes would have to embody, like, disenfranchisement? That was a true trial by fire. I wonder if Tyra is letting her sympathy for the little'uns get in the way. Maybe she wants to give even the girls who flame out early a couple of nice shots for their portfolios.

Anyway, it's a darn good thing I didn't have two episodes DVRed, because I would totally be marathoning it! Can't wait till next Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Blog Tour: Murder She Writes

I know, I'm such a gaddabout! I promise, tomorrow I'll be right back here at home base, talking about what we had for dinner last night or something--but today! Today, I'm over at one of my favorite blogs, Murder She Writes, where such romantic suspense luminaries as Roxanne St. Claire, Allison Brennan, Debra Webb, and Toni McGee Causey come together to discuss life, love, and plotting. These ladies are sharp--I had to bring my 'A' game for this one! Come see.

And comment for a chance to win a CStH apron, spatulas, and a signed copy of the book!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Blog Tour: Borders True Romance


Today I'm over at Borders True Romance! If you haven't gotten enough of me on video this week, stop by and visit--there's an interview with me and Borders romance expert Sue Grimshaw. The blog post answers several burning questions about Can't Stand the Heat. For instance, what kind of underpants does the hero wear? For this stunning reveal, and more, check out the Borders site!

Also, a comment on the Borders post enters you to win a very cool culinary-themed prize. Spatulas, apron, and a cookbook featuring some of my very own recipes alongside recipes from today's top chefs. Who doesn't need another apron? Especially one that says CAN'T STAND THE HEAT on it! You know you want it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Author Talk!

My very own Author Talk video! That's right, I was lucky enough to score an interview with the two hottest girls on the internet, Jill Monroe and Gena Showalter. "The Show Where Authors Talk to Other Authors" was filmed a few months ago--just long enough that I'd forgotten exactly how funny Gena and Jill were. Enjoy, and try not to choke yourself laughing, like I did!


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