Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Advice to Newbie Authors

I was asked “if you could go back in time to before you were first published, what five to ten pieces of advice would you give yourself?”

Yes, I would hope I’d listen to my own advice, but that doesn’t always happen. So easy to go your own way and make your own mistakes, even if there’s a chance you won’t have to.

So what would I do?

Of course, when I sold my first two books there was very little information out there for authors. There was no RWA and you relied heavily on your agent and editor or if you could meet another author. I didn't meet another author for over a year and I attended the very first RWA National conference and discovered "wow, more like me!"

I would make sure to have an agent who would look out for my interests and if that person weren’t, then I’d be on the hunt for someone who did. Yes, listen to your agent, they know the market in ways you don't, but there also has to be give and take and hopefully, they'll listen to you too.

Learning about the creativity side of writing can be easy and talking to other authors can even help there. But the business side is just as important if not more at times. Back then I could read and understand a contract, but I still didn’t know the ins and outs of publishing contracts. If you don’t understand a clause, ask questions.

The best piece of advice I’ve carried with me since high school is “If you don’t understand something, don’t pretend you do. Ask questions.” And after all these years, I still do.

I would tell myself back then that change is good even if it means venturing into new territory. That I can’t be afraid of the prospect. That I should embrace that new territory as a challenge and just go for it.

I would sit myself down with the talk, “Foremost, this is a business, even if you’re doing what you love. But if you keep on learning and doing what it takes, you’ll have the experience of a lifetime.”


Monday, March 30, 2009

Where Are You Today?

Ever feel like you’re everywhere and no where? I’m at the hospital, but not really. I’m at work, but not really. I’m at home and submersed in revisions, so not really home at all. And today, I’m everywhere! Literally! I’m at Star Crossed Romance, Lori Devoti’s party, Rhi’s Reads, and yep, here!

http://star-crossedromance.blogspot.com/ "Sexy Shapeshifters!"


Free book giveaway on Lori Devoti's Blog, winner's choice of Heart of the Wolf or Destiny of the Wolf, so be sure to comment on each blog and have even more of a chance to win. :)


It’s amazing how many places we can be at once and not be at any of them at all. Ever feel that way when you’re driving home and you don’t even realize you’ve bypassed all the places you usually notice on the trip? So where were you when you took that trip? Not really there, were you?

Remember in school when the teacher would ramble on and on and on and your mind would drift? It’s amazing how many places we can truly be at one time. I try to be at that one single physical place when I’m there. But minds are an amazing thing. Sometimes they truly have a mind of their own. Scary isn’t it?

Not when I’m weaving my tales. Then the world is upside down, and it can be. It’s fiction after all. No matter how bad things will get, the reader knows there’s a rainbow at the end of the world.

So let your mind wander. Let it drift into other worlds. It’s okay. It’ll be back. We hope. :)

Terry Spear
Heart of the Wolf
Destiny of the Wolf
To Tempt the Wolf
(Sep 1)
Legend of the White Wolf

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Secondary Characters in Lady Anne and Howl in the Dark

I’ve always been fascinated by the role of secondary characters in novels. What would Jane Austen’s Persuasion be without Sir Walter Elliot and his overweening vanity? Or Jane Eyre without poor, dear Helen Burns, or lively Adèle? Those characters live to serve, in a way. In the best sense, secondary characters provide more than a placemarker, or merely someone for the hero or heroine to talk to. They should mean something to the plot, and they should reflect bits of the primary characters, exposing their strengths and weaknesses along the way.

And so I thought I’d reveal a little about the secondary characters that people Lady Anne and the Howl and the Dark, and the next two installments Lady Anne and the Ghost’s Revenge & Lady Anne and the Gypsy Curse.

Many secondary characters in ‘Howl’ are, I realize, missing someone who has died or disappeared. (Hmm, funny how things can occur to the writer only after they are done writing the books! I never thought about that before I wrote this post.)

These are three:

The Marquess of Darkefell’s mother:

Lady Sophie Darkefell, Dowager Marchioness – Sophie was once a great beauty, a diamond of the London Season. Her marriage to the Marquess of Darkefell was a great coup, but we, as readers, aren’t really sure it made her a happy woman. The great tragedy of her life was not losing her husband, but losing her favorite child, Lord Julius Bestwick, Darkefell’s twin brother. When he died in Upper Canada, a part of her died too.

The Marquess of Darkefell’s sister-in-law, married to his younger brother John for four months:

Lady John BestwickLydia, Lord John Bestwick’s young wife and a friend of Anne’s, has never been taught to think seriously on any subject. The great tragedy of her life is the death of her brother, Captain Reginald Moore, but not because she loved him so much, though she did, but because if he had lived, he would have married Lady Anne, to whom he was betrothed when he died in action in the war with the colonies. Lydia would have benefited enormously from Anne’s good sense and strength. Instead, when her brother’s death severed the close relationship with Anne - they stayed friends, but not nearly as close as the sisters they would have become - Lydia was left to drift into young womanhood, becoming very silly and unsteady along the way without the influence of a much wiser friend.

The Marquess of Darkefell’s secretary:

Mr. Osei Boatin – when Lord Anthony Darkefell plucked Osei Boatin from the frigid waters of the Atlantic (you need to read the book to know how that happened) Osei was grateful and has spent the last few years trying to repay the debt. But not one of those days goes by that he doesn’t think of his sister, seized by slavers at the same time as he, but not aboard the same slave ship. Is she dead? Is she alive? Will he ever know? Once a warrior and a prince, he has become a valued secretary to a powerful man, without whose intervention he would be dead. But no one around Osei is ever quite sure what he is thinking or feeling, for he is reserved and calm. Some people find that off-putting; they're wary and suspicious of him. But Anne immediately finds in him a kindred spirit.

So… I have always found secondary characters fascinating. Do you? Are there any memorable secondary characters in the novels you love?

And… Is your life like a novel? Are there memorable secondary characters in the plot that is your life?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pursuing Dreams

Setting goals....making pitches...getting things done....Springtime, like the New Year, seems to infuse everything with a new energy, doesn't it? The world seems to speed up.

Here in Lancaster, PA, the forsythia are about to bloom, crocuses are beaming bright, and green shoots and blossoms are everywhere on the cusp of bursting. I love this time of year!

Not surprisingly, I end up setting a lot of my novels in the springtime, that time of year when promise seems just around the corner. My May release, Fire Me!, is set in springtime Washington, DC. For those of you who live there or have visited DC in the spring, you know it's especially beautiful, with the feel of a European city in some quarters--tree canopies hanging heavy over streets, cherry blossoms floating in the air.

Springtime always seems to ask a question: what next? And that's the question my protagonist, Anne Wyatt, has to answer by the end of the novel. She starts the story thinking she's headed in one direction and faces a crossroads at the end.

In fact, she had all but abandoned the field in which she'd studied (art) and finds herself constantly questioning that decision by the evening of this one-day tale.

This got me to thinking how many of us start out on one path and end up on another. Believe it or not, I started out as....an opera singer! I studied voice at a music conservatory and then bumped around various performing groups (including the Washington Opera, which performs in the Kennedy Center) before realizing that my true dream was writing.

I arrived at this point by asking myself a simple question -- if you won the Lottery tomorrow, what "work" would you still want to pursue? Writing novels was the answer, as clear and bright as those yellow buds outside my window.

So what vocation would you still pursue, even if you were independently wealthy? I'd love to know!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Setting Goals...Achieving Success!

Every January, we hear about people setting goals for themselves– resolutions to live better, work harder, lose weight, quit procrastinating. The list goes on and on. A key factor in whether a person will be successful in their New Year's endeavors is how that person approaches the benchmark they've set. So now, as the first quarter of the year is drawing to a close, let's look at a few things you can do to help you reach those writing goals you set back in January.
1) Be realistic. If you've never been able to write more than 3 pages a day because of your day job, your health issues, or your family responsibilities, don't set yourself up to fail by setting an unattainable goal of writing 10 pages a day. While you want to stretch yourself, setting the bar too high can quickly lead to frustration and make it too easy to give up.
2) Define your goals in terms of what is within your control. Too often I hear writers say their goal is to sell a book by a certain date or to reach a certain level on a bestsellers list. But as writers, we have no control over the editor who is determining what she wants to buy, nor do we have a say in what readers purchase. If we did, a lot more of us would be best-selling published authors! Instead, resolve to carefully edit your manuscript before sending it out to be sure it is your best writing. Set a goal of sending your work out to a certain number of agents or publishers where your book might fit. These goals are within your control.
3) Set smaller, stepping-stone goals. A huge goal can loom ominously and seem too great to achieve, until you break it down into sub-goals. Does the idea of finishing two full manuscripts in a year strike terror in your heart? What if you considered the idea of writing just 2 pages a day, every day? By the end of the year you'd have over 700 manuscript pages written! That's two books in many markets. Break your overall goal into manageable smaller goals then celebrate (see # 5) as you reach each milestone toward success.
4) Prioritize. If a goal is really important to you, more important than other things that are taking up your time, streamline your life so that you devote time to those tasks that mean the most. Is writing more important to you than knitting? Is reading more important than TV? Is saving for a conference more important than buying your coffee from Starbucks? Look at how you might reorganize your life to give higher priority tasks the time they're due.
5) Reward yourself! I'm a big believer in celebrating every accomplishment. You deserve a pat on the back for every small step along the path to your goal. Celebrations and rewards keep you positive, keep you energized and excited about moving toward that goal. Finish a chapter today? Take a hot soak in a bubble bath to reward yourself. Finally send that manuscript off (and before your deadline too!)? Treat yourself to a frozen mocha or a new pair of earrings. You've earned it!
Whatever it is you want to achieve, goals help give you focus, help keep you motivated and can be measuring marks of your success. So dream big, set your goals high and– as Churchill said– never, never, never give up!
Beth Cornelison

Thursday, March 26, 2009

If a Picture = 1000 Words, Does 2 Picture = 2000 Words?

Yesterday, as most of the romance writing and reading community knows, was the day the Rita and Golden Heart finalists were announced and I had a cyber party on my blog where people could "squee" about their finals, their friends finals, or just release the tension of waiting to hear. I did this because I had such a GREAT time doing it last year. (And I'll be doing it again next year.)

Luckily, I didn't have a pony in this race, (next year = whoooole other story) but I was rooting right along with everyone and hoping to see names I knew.

But I was also celebrating. Because what most people didn't realize was, it was the day my next 2 covers, for Wild Blue Under and Catch of a Lifetime were making their public debut.

And now I'd like to share them with you:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thoughts On Pitches

by Casablanca Editor Deb Werksman

I loved the pitch contest that we did last month. It was a blast to see all the creativity, and a lot of people did a fabulous job of pitching their book in just 50 words.

I haven't received all of the submissions I asked for--besides the original 3 winners, I had asked for about 14 more--so please go back and see if you're one of them.

Here's what's interesting about the submissions I am seeing--sometimes, the experience of reading the book doesn't match the experience of reading the pitch!

I've got pitches that are hilariously funny and clever, but then the book itself is serious, straight contemporary romance. I've got pitches that are historical and the world-building is fascinating, and then the book is character-driven. Make sure your pitch matches your book! It's so much easier to rewrite the pitch to match the book, than to rewrite the book to match the pitch...

And, if I didn't choose you as a winner in the pitch contest, you can still, of course, submit to me, if you believe that your book fits our criteria, which are:

  • c. 90,000 words
  • single title romance in any subgenre
  • a heroine the reader can relate to
  • a hero she can fall in love with
  • a world gets created
  • I can sell it in 2-3 sentences!

Also, in the back of my mind, are Philip Larkin's criteria for the Booker prize--he was a poet laureate, and the Booker prize is one of the most prestigious in literature, so how can I go wrong? I'm paraphrasing here--

  1. can I read it?
  2. if I can read it, can I believe it?
  3. if I can believe it, do I care?
  4. if I care, what is the depth of that caring and how long will it last?

So those criteria speak to the quality of the writing, the plausibility of the world/characters, and the depth of the appeal of the story.

Thank you all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In the Company of Writers

By Robin Kaye

I spent this weekend at a writer’s conference, which is one of my very favorite things to do. I find being in the company of other writers to be invigorating. We all suffer from the same mental problem – we have characters talking to us whether we wish them to or not. Now, to the normal people, this might sound as if we all need psychological help. I think that might be true to some extent. However, I choose to think of myself as a highly functioning insane person. Still, going to writer’s conferences confirms that I’m not alone in my insanity.

I recently read a book that I loved. It spoke to me. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley is brilliant. The writing is beautiful, but the thing I loved most about it was that the heroine, Carrie, was a writer. I felt as if Susanna was writing about me--a much more successful version of me of course, a version who can afford to live and write in the place she’s writing about which is a dream of mine. Carrie is writing a historical novel about the Jacobite uprising in 1708. Carrie thinks the novel would take place mostly in France so she goes there, rents a place to live and begins writing the book. But nothing comes to her. Her characters aren’t speaking to her, even though she is writing and researching and doing all the right things. To me, it seemed as if she was just going through the motions--writing, but not feeling it. There is nothing more frustrating than to be stuck and not know how to make your characters talk to you. It’s like trying to find a light switch in a pitch-black room. You just feel your way around blindly with your hands out in front of you looking for a switch or a lamp while bumping into furniture and getting bruised and battered before you finally find the light.

I remember telling my husband all about The Winter Sea, saying it was the first book about a writer that was written by someone who knew writers. Which is weird, because all authors are writers but I hadn’t felt that connection before. I wondered why that was.

So I’m wondering, to all you writers out there, have you ever read a book about a writer you identified with? And when you get stuck and you’re going through the motions but your characters aren’t speaking to you, what do you do to turn on the light? And to those of you who are not writers, to all of you doctors, lawyers, teachers, publicists, astrophysicists, whatever your occupation, have you read books that you identified with? Have you found a book in which the writer totally got it?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday Inspiration

I may never have mentioned it, but as someone with a degree in English (Secondary Ed/English concentration, actually), I'm not only a lover of literture...I've gotten swept away by a fair number of poems, as well, some of which are as inspiring as the most beautiful pieces of music. I thought, for this Monday, I'd share one of my very favorites. Like much of my favorite poetry, it's moving, lyrical, wistful, and its imagery, speaking of love captured in one of its fleeting moments of perfection in a decidedly imperfect world, has always rung true for me. The picture, which I put up recently on Wickedly Romantic, is also by an artist I've always liked, an early twentieth century illustrator named Maxfield Parrish. This piece is called Sleeping Beauty...I thought it fit:-) Hope the picture and the poem help start your week off with something lovely. And if you're a poetry lover, are there any special poems you carry with you?



by W.H Auden

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit's carnal ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreaded cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of welcome show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find our mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness find you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

OMG it's Mama Jackson!

As you all know, I wasn’t a devout romance fan all my life, but I owe me persistent curiosity to the genre because there have always been a MILLION romance novels in the house because of one lady: My Mom! I decided to interview her about her love of this genre, force her to take a picture (isn’t she the prettiest?), and have a chat with the authors books she gets to read before everyone else does (I share my ARCs with her).

1. What made you start reading romance? I was walking home from school when I was in the fourth grade and there was a book in the street. I picked it up to see if it belonged to anyone I knew, but there was no name in the cover. Because it was a thin, little book I read it. It was a Harlequin Romance and I’ve been a romance reader ever since. I think back now and am thankful it was that book. If it hadn’t been, I would have learned too much, too early and really fast!

2. Do you remember one of your earlier favorite books? That first book was Meet on My Ground. I kept it forever and then one day I went to re-read it when I was in college and I couldn’t find it! One of these days I’m going to see if I can find a copy of it. It’s old…

3. What is your favorite type of romance story? I’m more into the traditional story lines with a twist. I think I’m too “concrete” to understand some of the futuristic stories and too “scaredy cat” for some of the paranormal ones. I can enjoy those books if they have a hint of paranormal, etc. As you know – put a baby in the story line and I’m yours. I’m old-fashioned, so the baby can’t be either of theirs (unless they did it for humanitarian reasons and something happened to the other person) or the baby can be both of theirs for whatever reason. The story line has to be strong to justify bringing those two together to make a family for the baby. I don’t care, as long as they love each other and baby makes three.

4. What do you look for in a heroine? Do you like her to be similar to you, or do you want someone completely different? I like my heroine to be smart, nice, independent and ordinary looking, but not know that she’s beautiful. Then the smart, confident, gotta be wealthy hunk brings out the best in her and she brings out the humanness in him. Or, I like my heroine to be a little ditzy, but she’s really smart in a klutzy way and she helps “Mr. High and Mighty”, straitlaced, nerdy hunk appreciate life. By the way, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

5. Are you more of an alpha male kind of a hero – or do you like a tortured soul looking for redemption (I suppose those two can go hand in hand, but you get the idea)? As you can tell from my earlier answer I like both and I think they do go hand in hand. I won’t my “hero” to appear to have it all, but flawed enough to know (when brought to his attention by the heroine) that material things are nothing without family and friends. I don’t want them to be so flawed that they can only be fixed in the pages of a romance novel either! I like them to be likeable and normal.

6. OK, so this is probably going to be weird, but we can’t talk about romance novels without talking about sex scenes! Don’t you find them to be a little bit awkward? Or am I just a romance reader newbie? Sometimes I think the scenes are too much info, but for the most part I like them J. I find it awkward when I think about my daughter reading the same books that her grandmother is reading! As I mentioned before, I’m happy my first romance book was innocent. That goes to show you how old that book is.

7. Where do you buy books? And do reviews sway what you buy? I buy books everywhere! Garage sales, department stores, grocery stores, on-line, library sales, always at the airport and I borrow from train station exchanges, friends and relatives. Reviews will make me read a book, but I’ve never “not” read a book if it captures my attention even if it received a bad review. I like to make my own decisions.

8. Word on the street is that you have an idea for a romance novel? Do you have an questions for our lovely published author? Or for their amazing publicist? J First of all I’d like to acknowledge what they’ve done. Because they’ve already answered the questions that have kept me back from making that leap! So… my hat’s off to all of you. Here are a few of the many questions: When do you find the time to write? How do you frame that opening sentence? Do you use an outline or just write? How many times do you change direction while writing or do you go with the original thought? Casababes, feel free to answer these questions in the comments!

To the publicist – Are you my daughter? I’m amazed (not surprised) that you’re doing so much so early! Your father and I are so proud of you! By the way, where’s your book??? Thank you, Mom! I wouldn’t be here without you and Dad and Alex. My book is still tucked away in my head. One day, it will come out J

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Writer's Life

By: Marie Force

Writing is a lonely, solitary pursuit. For months, even years, we spend large chunks of time with imaginary characters who, for the time they're with us, are as important to us as any of the "real" people in our lives. When I'm neck-deep in a book and it's going well, I wake up thinking about what I'm going to write that day and go to sleep thinking about what comes next. Often, I even dream about it. I force myself out of the bubble to work the day job and to take care of my family. But when I'm making beds or driving or drying my hair, I'm plotting. Despite this immersion, for all the time that I'm taken over by a story, only my family and a close friend or two even know it's happening.

Once the book is finished, you expect the world to pause to acknowledge this enormous accomplishment. But in my experience it goes something like this: "That's awesome, Mom. Congratulations! What's for dinner?" It can take months, years, and, in some cases, a lifetime before anyone knows that you've created this place and these people and these situations that you hope will touch just one reader. In the case of Love at First Flight, I overheard the conversation that spurred the idea for the book ten years ago. I finished writing it three years ago in an all-night marathon of creative energy that's never been replicated. Three years is a LONG time to wait to share something you're so proud of and so excited about with the world. It's a long time to wait to find out if anyone likes it, if the passages that made you cry as you wrote them will make someone else cry when they read them.

So then what's in it for us? Other than the thrill of creating that world and those characters, where's the pay off? Since Line of Scrimmage came out last September, I've discovered that the ultimate reward is in hearing from people I've never met who tell me they were touched by Ryan and Susannah's story. This week, Donna, one of the faithful followers of this blog as well as my personal blog and Cheryl's sent me this note:

You caught me on the 1st yard line and ran me down the field for a Touch Down!!!! OMG!!!! This is truly a Game Winner.
I haven’t read a book this good since LaVeryle Spencer.
Ryan and Susannah were so real. Their true love, and anger, tears and laughter, trust and distrust, pain and sorrow, their unbelievable sizzling chemistry. It’s a totally believable story, the focus was not just the love relationship between a man and a woman. It was about family and forgiveness. These “ordinary” people are warm and vulnerable and you portrayed them so sympathetically. I loved Ryan from the first handoff of the ball. I never let go. He had this fire, warmth, strength, and he was downright sexy. I loved Susannah, hated Susannah and I wanted to just shake her. She was sweet, savvy, strong, and vulnerable at the same time.
I understand her distrust, but Ryan was so unbelievably in love and devoted to her and with putting that marriage and their life back together. He was a wonderful Hero.
And Henry was a total Creep. I wish Susannah’s dad would have punched him in the head. All I could think about was the bowtie and Pee Wee Herman. He made my skin crawl. A excellent, selfish, rotten villain.
But Ryan Sanderson is the kind of person and professional athlete that you can look up to. You sure put a lot of life’s hard lessons in this book. You wrote a fabulous book and I can’t say enough great things about this book and your style of writing and I see a wonderful career in contemporary romance. This will be a best seller. I can’t say more than, you blew me away. And you’re awesome. I can’t wait to read the next book. You deserve a Super book Ring.

Can you spell P-A-Y-O-F-F? Thank you, Donna—and the many others—who have written to me about Line of Scrimmage, for your kind words, for your appreciation of what I was trying to do with the story of a marriage in crisis, and for making all the time and energy that went into creating Ryan and Susannah so entirely worth it. Nothing in my life, short of the joy I take in my children, can match the feeling of getting an e-mail like Donna's, letting me know that my book connected with that one reader.

To Donna and all the others who've taken the time to write to me since last September, thank you so much for making this writer's life complete. You were well worth the wait.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Time Boundaries

posted by Aunty Cindy aka Loucinda McGary

Not long ago, I was guesting at an online readers community. One of the commenters said that she felt The Wild Sight, in addition to being a contemporary romantic suspense, had a very distinctive historical flavor, particularly in the scenes where the hero interacts with Bronze Age Celts in his 'visions.'

I loved reading this comment because that was exactly what I was trying to achieve in those scenes! Some reviewers have gone so far as to label The Wild Sight as a time-travel novel. While I don't think this is exactly accurate (especially in comparison to traditional time-travel romances like Diana Gabaldon's Outlander or Jude Deveraux's Knight In Shining Armor), I did purposely set out to stretch the time boundaries within my story.

The shadowy world that Donovan inhabits in his 'visions' is called 'between' by one of his childhood compatriots who happens to be a Celtic Druid. Spirits and visions that inhabit this 'between' world can be decades or centuries old, or completely present day. That was my way of stretching the boundaries of time to fit the constructs of my story.

In my September release, The Treasures of Venice, I go one step farther. In this book, I actually have dual story lines that take place in Venice. The contemporary romantic suspense story features a couple who may or may not be reincarnated 15th century Venetian lovers. And then there are actual scenes in 1485 Venice of the star-crossed Renaissance pair. The two story lines parallel each other in terms of the characters' relationships and some of the things that happen to them.

Talk about pushing those boundaries! And yes, I did set quite a task for myself, but as it turned out, a lot of the parallelism just happened without much conscious effort from me. I'm only the writer after all! (wink) Gotta love when the characters and story 'take over.'

What about you? What do you think about books that stretch time boundaries? Have you done any boundary pushing lately? Please share!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Background Check

by Mary Margret Daughtridge


Don’t you love that word? I do. It means the appearance of being true. It perfectly encapsulates the goal of my research. I'm not a reporter. I write fiction. I don’t do research to make my stories accurate. I do it to make my stories seem true. Wherever facts and the needs of my story march together I choose facts—but anytime they don’t, I freely blend them with my imagination.
Still, I often wonder, when I read another writer’s work, which are parts are real and which not. So here's a little background on the background of SEALed With a Promise.

Sessoms’ Corner, NC where Aunt Lilly Hale Sessoms’ stately old home sits, is a product of my imagination that mingles many places I’ve been to in my life.
Not populous or organized enough to be called a village, it is a cluster of farmhouses and perhaps a country store miles outside of “town.” The technical term (not that you probably care, but I need to show off my research) for such locations is census designated place name.
The “corner” in Sessoms’ Corner refers to a nearby crossroads. Spivey’s CornerNC is one such place name which has achieved national fame for its hog-calling contest. I confess I’ve always loved the name and cheerfully adapted it to my use, however, I’ve never been there and don’t know anyone from there.

The Sessom’s Corner of my imagination lies between Goldsboro and Wilmington. The traditions of Southern hospitality are still strong in such places. When there's a wedding, almost all of the guests are from out of town. Close and distant kin rally to provide housing and entertainment for the guests, so that that duty doesn’t fall on the bride’s family. Since she lives at the homeplace, to uphold the family’s honor, Aunt Lilly Hale feels she must host a wedding breakfast for the bride, despite the wedding’s rushed nature.

The hero, Chief Petty Officer Caleb "Do-Lord" Dulaude is the wedding’s best man. Raised in poverty by a single mom, his adult life has been spent in the Navy. In Aunt Lilly Hale’s house he encounters a culture and a set of family values he’s never before experienced. Ironically, his nickname, acquired during SEAL training, actually makes him seem like less of a stranger to the Sessomses. In eastern North Carolina men go to their graves with nicknames like "Choo-choo" and "Potlikker" with no loss of dignity. Only Emmie, the heroine, objects to the name and insists on calling him Caleb.

The Victorian house pictured above is now a B&B located near Edenton NC. It has the solid, prosperous, rooted look I imagined for Aunt Lilly Hale’s house.

Wilmington, NC is absolutely real, and its beautifully restored historic district with houses dating from the early 1700’s to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s is one of my favorite places to visit. A story whispers to me from every house. Here it is dressed up in spring finery. [below]

I wanted Emmie to live in the historic section of Wilmingotn, but on a UNC-W instructor’s salary, there was no way she could afford it.

But I had another idea. In Eastern NC although occasionally houses in town were built with servants' quarters on a ground or basement floor, as a rule servants lived in a detached house in back of the main house. The houses were tiny—little more than two or three-room huts, really. Often they were crudely constructed, but sometimes they were built to be in keeping with the main house, although much scaled down and simplified.

The servants are gone now and the quarters with them, but in places like Wilmington a little architectural gem can still be found, and, if you have connections (and Emmie does) can be rented. I don't have a picture, but the tiny houses do exist.

My biggest setting challenge for SEALed With A Promise was coming up with a house for Senator Calhoun, Do-Lord's Nemesis, to live in. Located in Wilmington, it’s style, location, and layout were hugely significant to the plot. It needed to be elegant and massively scaled, not so much gracious as grand, and to have no architectural references to plantation or ocean port roots. I had the scene outlined but although I knew what the house should feel like, I needed detail, real details, to give it verisimilitude. That meant I had to make another research trip to Wilmington. Oh well. Writers must accept these hardships.

One glance at the Graystone Inn [left]and I knew I had found it.
The house, originally the Bridger’s Mansion, was built in 1905. The Bridgers’ fortune came from railroads. It’s constructed of sandstone quarried in Indiana, and, built to impress, it’s so massive it’s hard to find a photograph that does it justice. Here’s another picture.

Today, it’s a B&B. The owner, Richard Moore, showed me through it, and even discussed with me which upstairs bathroom window would be best to rappel out of in order to reach the roof of a side porch. And where one would land, if one missed the porch, and fell.

Here’s the dining room [left] where Do-Lord and Emmie have dinner with the senator and his family.

The entry and reception room with Palladian windows set an important scene.
Some architectural detail Emmie remarks on. [above]

An article on the settings I choose for SEALed With a Promise wouldn’t be complete without discussion of the background behind the buff bod on the cover.

A cover isn't really intended to be a story illustration but readers sometimes assume it is. As anyone who's ever been there knows, there are no mountains in the vicinity of Wilmington—and not even I could imagine any. The landscape around Wilmington is flat. I mean F.L.A.T.

Here's a shot of Wilmington’s waterfront. The water in the foreground is the Cape Fear River. In the distance you can see the church spire which dominates the downtown Wilmington skyscape and which plays a role in the story.
So how do you mix the real and the imaginary to achieve verisimilitude? You paranormal writers aren't off the hook. That's just a different kind of verisimilitude.
For those who aren't writers, is there a place you've always thought would be a great setting for a book?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


This is where I am; that space between what was and what will be, but not quite in the now. I'm told that living in the now is a good thing, but don't we find solace in the knowledge that the next moment will come whether we plan for it or not? Don't we find some excitement in the not knowing whether we will live another twenty years or whether this next breath will be our last?

I believe inspiration lies somewhere between the the now and the future. It's that moment when, fingers poised above the keyboard, the writer hesitates before the words begin to flow. Do I consciously think about what I will write next? More often than not, I don't, because when I do, it never feels as real or as pertinent as it will if I just start writing--letting the creative juices flow, as it were. I open my mind and visualize where I am, who is there, and then what they will say and do comes naturally.

Is it magic, what happens as we write, or is it something anyone can do? I believe that everyone has at least one story to tell, but it takes practice to be able to do it well. Some have the talent, while others focus on the craft. The truly great writers have all three--talent, craft, and tale--while the rest of us limp along with one or two.

Is this just so much bullshit? Probably. I had absolutely no idea what I would write about today. My mind was in limbo, just waiting for that spark of inspiration. Right now, I'm hot, tired, and probably ate too much tapioca pudding, which is something I've been craving ever since I saw "New in Town." If you've seen that movie, you're probably experiencing the same phenomenon. I've discovered that it's quite good mixed with bananas or strawberries, topped with whipped cream, or right out of the tub. Either way, those Kozy Shack pudding people are getting an awful lot of my money these days.

If all of this sounds insane, I'm not surprised. I always get a little crazy in February and March--lack of sunlight or something--but spring is hovering out there right now, somewhere between the now and the next breath. I'll be better by April. I hope.

What about you? Do you go bonkers this time of year? Have you been craving anything lately? Or do you even know what you're craving? Inquiring minds want to know. . .

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Embracing Inspiration

by Sharon Lathan

Over three years ago now something happened that changed my life. I walked into a movie theater and saw the 2005 adaptation of “Pride & Prejudice” by Joe Wright. Many, many times over the past years, and especially lately as I am promoting my debut novel, I have discussed the various reasons why this movie touched me. I have eloquently expressed the beauty of the cinematography, the fabulous acting, the passion and drama that leapt off the screen, and so on in a dozen different ways and with varied language. Some readers know precisely what I am relating as they felt it too, while others shake their heads in bafflement.

I love talking about the movie and do so with reverence because it was the doorway through which I learned about Jane Austen. I know that not everyone concurs with my awe for Joe Wright’s creation. Many bow down at the altar of Andrew Davies and his brilliant decision to put Colin Firth into a wet shirt! Others rabidly defend the idea that life begins and ends with the original novel. Whatever.

All I know for absolutely certainty is that something miraculous switched on inside of me. Visions danced within my brain; conversations between characters played like a looping recorder; places that I had never been took on shape and substance; phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and whole chapters materialized on the pages of my imagination.

A writer was born, even before I thought of sitting down at the computer and typing a single thing.

We celebrate artistic endeavors in this country. To the chagrin of many and great controversy in some cases we bestow vast quantities of tax dollars to the arts. As parents we encourage our children to learn a musical instrument, take ballet, try to oil paint, etc. because we not only want them to appreciate that mysterious world but we also secretly hope the next Rembrandt or Baryshnikov has sprung from our loins. All of us are enamored with at least one artistic field: classical music, opera, sculpture, cinema, literature – or perhaps several areas interest us and move our souls. Where would we be, personally or as a society, without the arts as a part of our culture?

Not every actor will win an Oscar. Not every writer will win a Pulitzer. Most artists never receive great accolades and will probably not be remembered a hundred years after they die. Yet all of them played a part in the whole and deserve a modicum of appreciation for their contribution. And all of them began somewhere with a tiny seed deep inside that was waiting for the water of inspiration.

For me that dormant seed was germinated by a movie. Go figure! An amazing world opened up for me. A passion flamed that is fulfilling not only to me but to the multitude of readers who will enjoy my novels. I know who planted the seed and I thank Him every day. But I also know how my Divine-implanted gift was sparked into life, and I will defend that inspiration to the end.

How about you? How was your gift birthed? What inspired you?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Meet Lady Anne Addison!

Hi, all. First, let me introduce myself: I am a new author to Sourcebooks. My name is Donna Lea Simpson (aka Donna Simpson in my previous life as a Regency author with Zebra), and I write (mostly) historical romance. Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark, set in the Georgian era in England, will be released April First, no fooling!

I thought for my first blog entry with the Casa Babes I would introduce the two main characters of the Lady Anne series, Lady Anne Addison and Lord Anthony Darkefell.

A few weeks ago I was looking for something on Amazon.com… a review clip from one of my Regencies, maybe? And I came across a newer reader review of one of my older novelettes in an anthology called ‘Untameable’, one of the Zebra Regency themed anthologies. My story was entitled ‘A Rogue’s Rescue’. The heroine was Miss Ariadne Lambert, a spinster of humble appearance, but determination and grit. Jaimey Grant, the Amazon reviewer, said she gave my story five out of five for the heroine, and when I thought back, I realized something.

Lady Anne Addison, the heroine of the Lady Anne stories, had her origins in Ariadne, a lady I have never forgotten, really, because I, like Jaimey, just love the heroine who is smart, not a pushover, gutsy, determined and who possesses all the attributes of a woman you would want to be friends with; she’s loyal, caring and relentlessly honest. Even though she’s plain, she knows she is a woman of worth and sterling quality.

There are lots of differences, of course. Anne is titled and wealthy, while Ariadne was in possession of a modest fortune inherited from an employer. But both, importantly, value themselves too much, despite a complete awareness of their plainness, to ever settle for a marriage of convenience.

Lady Anne Addison is the only daughter of the Earl and Countess of Harecross, Kent. She was engaged once when she was young and has never forgotten her narrow escape from a marriage that would have been a disaster for her. She’s a little gun shy for that very reason, knowing that as that rare bird, a woman of independent means and a lot of freedom (as long as she plays within the rules of a proper Georgian lady) she stands to lose it all in an unwise marriage.

Marrying the wrong kind of man—domineering, commanding, difficult—would be lethal to her happiness and freedom.

Lord Anthony, the Marquess of Darkefell, (Yorkshire) is domineering, commanding and difficult, strong both physically and in spirit. He is committed to his position and his family (which consists of his mother, the dowager Marchioness, and his brother John and John’s new wife) so when a series of deaths happen on his land and rumors of a werewolf seen, sheep slaughtered, all that kind of nonsense happen, he is beside himself with fury. When his brother’s silly wife, Lydia, invites her friend, Lady Anne Addison, to investigate, he sets himself to the task of distracting her from snooping into his family’s affairs. No outsider is going to poke around his family business.

He has one secret weapon that he discovers early on; Lady Anne Addison is powerfully attracted to him. He can befuddle her senses by using that passionate attraction, and does so every chance he gets, using kisses and caresses to confuse and divert her focus away from the murder. It becomes a tug of war between two intelligent, rational and stubborn people.

But Anne is really not a pushover, even faced with her indubitable sensual attraction toward the extremely dark and handsome Lord Darkefell. She has matured since she let herself be pushed into an engagement when she was eighteen. The knowledge that she would be miserable that very moment if her marriage had occurred makes her cautious. Men rule the world, maybe, so why would she put herself in a man’s power, especially one with a mercurial temper accustomed to making people do whatever he wants?

In other words, someone like Darkefell.

I was given a gift with Lady Anne and Darkefell, in that I was allowed the opportunity to have their passionate and tumultuous relationship develop over the course of the first three books, Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark – April 2009, Lady Anne and the Ghost’s RevengeAugust 2009, and Lady Anne and the Gypsy CurseNovember 2009. I hope readers are as entertained by these two unlikely lovers as I am!

I have a brand new website to celebrate this wonderful new series. My website is: http://www.donnaleasimpson.com/

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Living in the World of Fantasy for Real

Wolves are territorial animals, just like humans are, really. Just think, if people trespass across your property, don't you get a little annoyed? Years ago, my dad built a wall to keep people from cutting across our corner property in Florida, where they ruined the grass by creating dirt paths. I think shrubs (prickly, if nothing else) would have sufficed. LOL

I've been doing some research in the area of Maine, and thought it quite fascinating that private owners allow snowmobilers to "trespass" on their land in order to let others enjoy winter activities in the area. I'm not sure I'd like to hear the peace and quiet of my property disturbed by the sound of snowmobilers, but I do think it's nice that property owners are generous enough to allow this.

When I was driving home from the romance writers conference at Shreveport, Louisiana back to Texas, I was thinking about the wolves in my stories and how they could not very well run free in the areas I was driving through. Why not? At least in the case of the roads I was driving on, a lot of land was fenced for cattle, horses, even saw emu and pygmy horses on two different ranches, and several farms that grow corn and rye grass also were fenced. So fences would be a hindrance for wolves who love to set up their own territories, and wouldn't appreciate being hemmed in by man-made devices.

When creating a new world, things like this have to be considered. :) In fact, while I'm working on my stories, I truly have wolf on the brain. :)

When my library manager mentioned making some signs for Easter, she wanted to include eggs; I wanted to include wolf pups. She just laughed. But I was serious. Wolf pups, like many new baby animals, come in the spring! :) Luckily, my co-workers understand me, so I can get away with speaking wolf whenever I want. In fact, whenever there are any books on wolves, my co-workers think of me.

What about you? Have you ever fallen in love with a book and couldn't quit thinking about it? If you're a writer, do you find that your world follows you around wherever you go?

Have a super Sunday, everyone! And look around your area. Would any of the places you live be a good locale for a wolf pack? :)

Terry Spear

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Succulent Dishes for the Romance Blow Out

It isn’t every day that we get the chance to provide food for a Romance party. We Casablanca writers take our romance very seriously – and our food! Tasty dishes are our forte, so when the opportunity arose to serve up something spicy, hot, delectable, and addicting for Publishers Weekly’s Barbara Vey’s Bash for her second anniversary of “Behind the Book,” we rose to the challenge. It had to be pleasing to the palate, every morsel mouthwatering, pleasurable while partaking, extremely satisfying when completed, and also make one hungry for more. Are we still talking about food? Maybe! We will let you decide what you now crave – either way, the desired gratification can be found at our blog. Books to the left….. recipes below……. Read on, let your imaginations go wild, and be sure to click over to Barbara’s Romance Blow Out to join in the fun. Everyone is invited! There are dozens of giveaways (including the Casablanca novels), numerous hosts and special guests, hunks galore roaming the halls, and a costume ball! You would not want to miss it.

Hot & Spicy Spaghetti for Cold Nights & Hot Dates & Wolfish Delight
** The first time I had this spaghetti, my aunt made it because my boyfriend was of Italian descent. It was so good I’ve been making my own version ever since. (She made her own version from scratch also!) By Terry Spear

1 lb Pre-cooked Italian Sausage (I use hot, but any variety works)

29 oz can of Tomato Sauce
1 Red Bell Pepper

1 Green Bell Pepper
1 Medium Onion
1 Tbsp Italian Herb Spices
(can be Oregano)
1 Tsp Garlic Salt, or ¼ Clove of Garlic

7 Small Fresh Mushrooms

1/8 Tsp Pickling Sp

1) Combine all ingredients and cook on low until peppers, onions, mushrooms are tender and sausage is heated thoroughly. Variations on the theme can work just fine if guests don’t like some of the items in the recipe and it’s still a tasty dinner for when nothing else appeals but something hot and spicy!
2) Cook nood
les of choice- spinach and whole grain add to the health benefit. Top the cooked noodles with the hot and spicy sauce and top the sauce with Grated Cheese to please anyone with Wolfish appetites! Serves 4-6.

Elizabeth Darcy’s Venison Frumenty for the Discerning Man’s Palate
**Frumenty (also known as Furmenty) is an easy-to-make wheat porridge. It was used in medieval times as an accompaniment to meat dishes and also as a breakfast cereal. By Sharon Lathan

Ingredients for meat stew
4lbs venison, cut as preferred
1 large turnip, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
2 onions, sliced
2 tsp chopped fresh parsley

Place the meat in a large saucepan an
d cover with hot stock or hot salted water. Bring quickly to a boil, skim grease, and then add vegetables. Lower heat and simmer until tender (2-3 hours depending on the size/cut of meat). Option: If preferred, roast venison haunch in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes/lb., basting frequently with melted butter. Slice meat and serve with frumenty.

Ingredients for frume
1 cup whole grain wheat, kibbled or cracked (bulgar)

4 cups water

1 cup heavy cr
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tbsp brown sugar, molasses, or honey (as preferred)
1 tsp cinnamon

Raisins, mixed dried fruit (optional)

1) Soak the wheat overnight in water in a warm place; or Bring water to a boil then add wheat, reducing to a slow simmer until wheat soft.

2) Drain off water; then cook whea
t in cream adding egg yolk, sugar/honey, cinnamon, and fruits if desired. Simmer slowly for 20-40 minutes until preferred consistency. May add additional milk if mixture too stiff.
3) Season sparingly with salt to taste.
Serve with sliced venison. **Frumenty can be made ahead and reheated with extra milk added.

Line of Scrimmage Buffalo Chicken Dip
**Perfect for Tailgating Parties. By Marie Force

One package precooked chicken (in the deli area with hot dogs)
One package of shredded cheddar cheese

One bottle blue cheese dressing
One bottle buffalo chicken sauce

Dice the chicken into small pieces.
Add most of the blue cheese and most of the shredded cheddar.
Add the buffalo sauce to taste, the m
ore you add the hotter it is.
Stir ingredients
and pour into a shallow casserole dish.
Bake at 350 until it bubbles. Serve hot with Scoops corn chips.

As Good as Sex Brownies
**Do you doubt it? Me neithe
r! By Linda Wisdom

2 cup flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup shortening

1 cup strong brew
ed coffee or water
1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

Frosting Ingredients
1/2 cup
2 tbsp. cocoa

1/4 cup milk

3 1/2 cup pow
dered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1) Combine flour and sugar; set aside. In heavy pan, combine butter, shortening, coffee or water and cocoa. Stir and heat to boiling. Pour boiling mixture over the flou
r and sugar in the large bowl. Add the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Mix well using wooden spoon or high speed on mixer. Pour into well buttered 17x1/2x11 jelly roll pan. Bake at 400 for 20 min. or until brownies done in center.
2) While brownies bake, prepare the frosting. In pan, combine butter, cocoa, and milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Mix in powdered sugar and add vanilla; stir until smooth. Pour warm frosting over brownies as soon as you take them out of oven. *If you want thicker frosting, halve again, or double, the ingredients

Cat's Out-of-this-World Cookies
**This recipe was developed by a fan of "Slave," the first book in the Cat Star Chronicles series. By Cheryl Brooks

2 cups unbleached Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
2/3 cup unsalted Butter, softened
2 cups firmly packed Brown Sugar
2 lg. Eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 cup M&M Candies

Preheat oven to 350 (325 if using a glass baking pan). Lightly grease a 13"x9" baking pan.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
In a large bowl cream the butter and brown sugar. Mix in eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Mix in the vanilla. Gently mix in the dry ingredients, until well combined. Stir in the M&Ms.
Spread evenly into prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting into bars. Yield: 3-4 dozen, depending on size of bar. Can be frozen.

Sexy Scallops Scallopini
** A recipe for the Mer-minded among us. Or anyone who enjoys scallops. By Judi Fennell


1 lb. sea scallops

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple

1 /4 cup finely chopped red pepper

1 cup white wi
ne (the sweeter the better)
1 tablespoon cho
pped garlic
Salt and pepper

Red oak lettuce as garnish

Season scallops with salt, pepper. Arrange washed/dried red oak leaves on a serving plate as a bed. Heat oil in pan. When oil starts to sizzle add scallops. Sear until golden on both sides. Don’t overcook. Set aside on bed of lettuce when finished. Add chopped garlic and red peppers to oil. Cook until just before garlic turns golden then add the wine. Simmer 1 minute. Add pineapple and stir to coat. Serve warm pineapple/wine mixture over scallops. **For a salad flair, add thinly slivered almonds and toss with finely shredded oak lettuce as bed. Drizzle fresh pineapple juice mixed with a dash of lemon juice as dressing.

Aunt Lilly Hale Sessoms’ Tipsy Cake
** Aunt Lilly Hale believes blood ties alone do not make a family. Keeping a family together requires conscious, intelligent choices, as well as balanced values. Tipsy Cake is a “good time” food. This is food that says, “Stick with this family. We will indulge you just often enough to be good for you. Our love is rich. Our time together is sweet yet always varied, and salty enough to satisfy.” By Mary Margret Daughtridge

You will need:

1 store-bought angel food cake torn into 2-3inch chunks
One pint of regular, not
heavy, whipping cream - whipped
One cup toasted pecan pieces and 12 perfect halves for decoration

Sherry: Cocktail, dry, crème
—whatever you like
1 recipe Boiled Cus


1) The evening before: Sprinkle cake pieces liberally with sherry, all surfaces! Make the boiled custard, keep in frig until needed.
2) *Boiled Custard directions – Combine in saucepan: 4 lightly beaten eggs, ½ cup sugar, and 2 cups whole milk.
Stir constantly over low heat until mixture thickens and coats a metal spoon. Remove from heat and instantly transfer the pot to a bowl of ice water to stop the custard from cooking. Stir until cool. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla.
3) Toast pecans in a shallow baking pan at 375; sprinkle liberally with butter and salt while cooking, stirring occasionally until deep tan (not brown!). Remove from butter once cooled and keep in an airtight container.
4) Using a pretty bowl, four or five hours before serving assemble cake (will become soggy if done too far ahead.) Layer cake chunks, pecans, custard, and whipped cream, then nutmeg. Repeat 3 times. Decorate with swirls of whipped cream, sprinkled nutmeg, and pecan halves. Refrigerate. Can be frozen for up to an hour before serving. Serves 24.

Safe for Kissin’ Chicken Piccata
**For the domestic God who loves Italian. Or the Italian domestic God lover! By Robin Kaye

4 chicken breasts halves or buy
the thinly sliced chicken breast cutlets
2 tablespoons Olive oil

4 lemons, juiced
1 stick of but
1 cup Vermouth
1/3 cups Capers

1 can artichoke hearts-quartered.

1 lb. Fettuccini

Garlic lemon pepper (is a mixture of garlic powder and lemon pepper, 50/50)


1) Bring pasta water to a boil, salt well. 2) Cut the chicken breast halves horizontally, butterflying them. If the breasts are large, you might want to cut each into 2 pieces. Pound chicken until thin and flour with a mixture of flour, salt and garlic lemon pepper.
3) Add pasta to water and cook as dire
4) In hot frying pan, plac
e olive oil and over high heat, sauté/brown chicken breast on both sides. Remove from pan and place on a warmed platter, keep warm. 5) Deglaze pan with vermouth, add the juice of 4 lemons, the capers, artichoke hearts, and butter. Return chicken to pan and simmer to bring the temperature back up and make sure it’s cooked. When done, put chicken on a platter, reserve a small amount of sauce and pour the remaining sauce over fettuccini.

Get a Man Irish Boxty
**A traditional potato pancake made infamous in the old rhyme my hero Donovan recited to my heroine Rylie in The Wild Sight by Loucinda McGary:
Boxty on the griddle,
Boxty in the pan.

If you can't ma
ke boxty,
You'll never get a man.
1 1/2 cups grated raw potatoes
1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup leftover mashed potatoes

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil

1) Toss the grated potatoes with flour in a large bowl. Stir in mashed potatoes until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and milk; mix into the potatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add some chopped onion if you're feeling adventurous.
2) Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop in the potato mixture, forming patties about 2 inches in diameter. Fry on both sides until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Serve warm.

Love Bitten Apple Cake
**For people who, like Carly Silver and Gideon MacInnes, just can't resist a little forbidden fruit. Best enjoyed with someone you find utterly tempting! By Kendra Leigh Castle

4 cups sliced apples

2 cups sugar

2 cups fl
1&1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

2 eggs

3/4 cup oil
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Stir apples and sugar together, and then add dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, oil and vanilla together. Stir the egg mixture into the apple mixture. Pour into a greased 13x9 pan, and bake for 50 minutes. Serve each piece of cake with warm sauce.

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan, and stir while bringing the sauce to a boil. Let boil for approx. 3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour by the spoonful over each piece of cake.

Jane Austen’s Favorite Bath Bun
**In its hey-day Bath had it all and was also home to Jane Austen for a number of years. Today’s Bath Bun is a sorry affair compared to its ancestors, however. And while Sally Lunn lays claim to their origin, others trace it back to recipes for caraway seed cake. Elizabeth Raffald’s 1769 recipe for Bath cakes, which were yeast-leavened rolls made with butter, cream and caraway seeds (in the form of caraway comfits – sugar coated seeds) seems to be close to the original recipe which might have been enjoyed by dearest Jane. Don’t let the idea of using yeast scare you, this is not difficult, it just requires patience. By Michele Ann Young


450g white flour (strong bread flour - part plain flour will work)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons caster sugar

225g butter

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

15 g yeast (fresh) or 7g (dried)

280g warm milk

For the glazing:
1 tablespoon milk

2 tablespoons caster sugar

Brown sugar granules for coffee, lightly crushed in a mortar

1) Add the salt and sugar to the flour, then rub in the butter. Stir through the caraway seeds.

2) If using dried yeast, add this to the butter rubbed flour. If using fresh, first liven it up by adding it to the warm milk.

3) Add the milk and mix ‘to a light dough.’ Initially the mixture looks very like cake mix – very moist – but don’t be tempted to add more flour. *The recommended method for hand-kneading soft dough (i.e. with a high butter/fat content), is to take a handful of the dough and pull upwards – then push back down onto the work surface.*

4) Once kneaded, cover the bowl and lea
ve to rise. This takes about 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours to double in volume depending on the temperature in your kitchen.
5) Prepare two baking sheets, and use a tablespoon to scoop out 12 portions of dough. Shape into buns and smooth the top surface using a palette knife (or finger). Cover and leave for quarter of hour to regain spring.
6) Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 375F/190C
7) Just before the buns have finished cooking prepare the glaze. Warm the milk and sugar in a small saucepan. As soon as the buns are baked use a pastry brush to anoint the tops and sprinkle with a little of the crushed sugar. The original recipe suggests that if possible eat these buns fresh from the oven. If you can’t manage 12 buns in one go, try cutting them in half and toasting them later.

Creamy Pecan Pralines
**A favorite Louisiana treat! By Beth Cornelison


3 cups sugar

1 tsp. Baking soda

1/8 tsp. salt

1 cup buttermilk

3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. butter 3 cups pecan halves

1) In a large sauce pan, combine sugar, soda, and salt. Stir.

2) While stirring constantly, add buttermilk and corn syrup and bring to boil over a medium heat. Keep stirring! Cook to a soft ball or 234 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and add butter and pecans. Beat until thick enough to drop from spoon in clumps. Drop tablespoon sized lumps to wax paper. (Protect counter top from heat with a towel.) If too stiff to drop, add one tablespoon hot water. Let cool and enjoy!

Mushroom Catsup to Howl For
** Lady Anne Addison enjoys this savory condiment with eggs, roast beef, pork, but advises the home cook to be exceptionally careful when picking mushrooms to avoid unpleasant gustatory accidents. By Donna Simpson

1) Wipe firm, fresh mushrooms and break
them into pieces. Add two tbsp of salt to every quart of the mushrooms, and arrange the latter in a large crock, sprinkling salt over each layer. Stand the jar in a cellar or other cool place for three days, stirring the contents three or four times each day.
2) At the end of the time turn mushrooms and salt into a preserving kettle, and let them get warm very slowly over a low fire. When the juice flows freely, strain it off, put it back over the fire and boil fifteen minutes.

3) Measure it then and add to each quart of the liquor one tbsp whole black peppers, one tbsp allspice, two blades of mace, a bay leaf, a tiny section of a clove of garlic, a bit of ginger root of the same size, and a very little cayenne.
4) Return the liquor to the fire once more with the spices and boil until it is reduced to half the quantity; let it cool, strain and bottle it. Seal the bottles. The addition of a tea-spoonful of brandy to each bottle is recommended by some authorities as an aid in preserving it.