Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sexy Six Christmas Sentences

Christmas is known for carols and cookies

It took every ounce of self-control not to linger over the sweet, round curve of her ass. The one he’d accidentally brushed against a thousand times over the years. Kyle had learned to immediately run lines of computer code in his head in order to prevent a very un-friend like reaction from tenting the front of his pants. Because his best friend had one heck of a body. He never mentioned it, and tried like hell never even to acknowledge it to himself. But times like this, it was impossible to ignore.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Sci-Fi Holiday Romance Treat!

Boy, have I got a treat for you today - a free holiday read from my fellow Carina Press author PJ Schnyder!
This science fiction romance short story has a particular history and is, in fact, the response to a gauntlet tossed down by The Galaxy Express after their review of HUNTING KAT, Book 1 in the Triton Experiment series:
A Gift for Boggle is my answer:
Boggle receives a special Christmas delivery, exclusive and non-transferable. He just has to make sure he doesn’t fry the courier with his security system. O.o
And wait, there’s more coming! Readers can subscribe to PJ's newsletter for a special sneak peek of a surprise coming just in time for Christmas featuring Ord, her podcasting partner in Mangos & White Rice.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Sexy Ghost Story Release!

One of the best things about Maryland Romance Writers is how many talented writers we have in different genres. Historical, fantasy, contemporary, YA, erotica, you name it! So I'm thrilled to be able to share with you the release of a new book by Joya Fields. Her romantic suspense, Beneath The Surface, recently won the Golden Leaf Award, and is a RT Book Reviews 2012 finalist as well. In other words, the woman knows her way around the page! Today is the release of the first of her Baltimore based, very sexy ghost stories, Hereafter.
When by-the-numbers accountant Rob Morrison, a skeptic of all things paranormal, moves into a new apartment and discovers it is haunted by the corporeal ghost of a beautiful woman, he must hastily reconsider his beliefs and revisit his painful past.

With no memory of her time on earth, Angie Barsotti doesn’t understand why she’s compelled to visit the same apartment every night as a ghost caught between two worlds. If she’s to have a chance to move on, she needs to find the missing pieces of her life and death through the man who lives there…if only he’d believe in her.

Together they struggle to find the truth about her death and stumble upon a very pleasurable way to time travel, hopeful they can prevent her death. But someone doesn’t want them to discover the truth. And if she’s human again, will she have any memories of her time as a ghost…and more importantly, will she remember the man who helped her find her way?

Here's an excerpt to get you started:

Angel’s body tingled. Her skin rippled with electricity, and she recognized the signs that she’d be transported soon.

Yes. Finally. She closed her eyes, wishing she could rush the transition from her world to his. Cool air prickled her skin and she stood in the man’s dark apartment. With moonlight shining through the sheers, she could make out his form on the sofa.

He jumped up and faced her.

She wanted to speak, but she couldn’t.

“The electricity went off again,” he said.

She frowned.

He stepped closer. “Ghosts don’t exist.”

No. He couldn’t banish her again. She needed something in this world. The lights flickered, sizzled, and then went off again.

Please don’t tell me to go away; it makes me go away. She might not have a voice in this world, but she could at least think it. She would not go, not when potential answers waited in this place.

The man stepped closer. “What are you doing? Angie, why do you keep coming here?”

Don’t tell me to leave…don’t tell me to leave. Pictures flew into her mind. People smiling and laughing. A tree in the corner with white lights and boxes under it….

He’d called her Angie.

“You know me?” Her words came out a whisper, but at least they finally came out. Tears tracked down her cheeks. The electricity flickered on, and then, stayed off. The air stopped sizzling. She blinked to adjust her eyes to the darkness again.

“Christ, this can’t be happening.” He moved his fingers over something in his hand and then pocketed it.

She closed the distance between them and grasped his upper arms, pleading him with her eyes because her voice had left her again.

“Yes, I know you.” He glanced away and looked out the window, let out a huff of breath, and then gazed at her. “Your name is Angie Barsotti and you used to live here.”

No wonder the place felt so familiar. Her spirits lifted. He could help her find out who she was, help her find out what was going on.

“And,” he dragged a hand through his hair. “You died and I don’t believe in ghosts.”

Cold air, cold as ice tore through her, ripping her from the apartment.

Purchase Links:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

6 Sentences of Unrequited Christmas Longing

In addition to the carols and decorations and cookies, there's another tradition - the Christmas romance. And this is my first year participating! I'm excited to share my holiday novella, Ask Her At Christmas, with the world. Especially because it's part of an anthology with stories by Jaci Burton and Helen Kay Dimon. Here's a sneak peak. I don't think I'm disclosing to much if I let you know that these two end up together (after all, it is Christmas - you need a happy ending)!

Kyle was yummy from head to toe, and Caitlin had wanted him almost her entire life.
Of course, he didn’t know about her massive crush. She’d never hinted, never let her hands linger for an extra second on his abs when they shared sunscreen at the tiny strip of sand along Lake Michigan they called a beach. She’d never leaned over after splitting a bottle of wine and trailed a finger across the lips she would kill to have touch hers. No, Caitlin played the part of the best-friend-and-nothing-more-than-a-friend to the hilt. Because it would absolutely devastate her if she revealed her longing and he didn’t feel the same way.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Funny & Sweet Christmas Release!

The second most exciting day in a writer's life is release day (the first being the day you sell the book, of course). There's such a thrill about knowing your book is out there in the world, (hopefully) making people laugh and smile and lift their spirits. I've got an extra dose of that today, because my newest release is full of Christmas spirit.

I'm honored to be in an anthology with the New York Times bestsellers Jaci Burton and Helen Kay Dimon. Their stories are heartwarming and wonderful. But today I'm focusing on my story in the anthology, Ask Her At Christmas. It is chock full of a wintry Chicago setting, two people who'll do anything in the name of friendship, and enough Christmasy festive details to make you swear you're smelling the cocoa and pine trees.

Here's a blurb to get you in the spirit:

Caitlin McIntyre's heart stops when her best friend drops to one knee and proposes. Kyle Lockhart never once hinted over the years that he has any idea she's in love with him. Not wanting to jeopardize their friendship, she's never let it slip. Good thing, too, since it turns out he's only practicing—he's about to propose to someone else.

A business merger might not be the most romantic reason to propose to a woman he barely knows, but Kyle's determined to win the respect of the dying father who's never seen him as quite good enough. Kyle's always depended on Caitlin's friendship, while trying to ignore the physical response she arouses. So he turns to her when it comes time to craft his proposal, not realizing his decision will affect their relationship, forever.
This Christmas, Kyle and Caitlin get one last chance to admit their feelings for each other, and find a mutual happily ever after, before he commits his life to another woman and Caitlin leaves town and him…for good.

You can purchase the anthology or my novella alone. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Romantic weddings in outer space with J.L. Hilton, author of Stellarnet Prince

My publisher, Carina Press, has soooo many talented authors. Occasionally I'm going to introduce you to a few, starting today with J.L. Hilton.
Hi, Christi! Thanks for letting me visit your blog to talk about my new book, Stellarnet Prince, the second book in the Stellarnet Series, published by Carina Press. It's a science fiction book with video games, aliens, lasers pew pew, wearable smartphone-type devices, virtual reality, social media, and a lot of real-world cutting-edge technology.
But it's not a typical sci-fi story because I also happen to love fairy tales and romance. The heroine, Genevieve O'Riordan, is an interstellar news blogger who begins covering an interplanetary war and falls in love with an alien rebel. My influences were Beauty & the Beast, Victorian-era literature and tales of Camelot, as much as Firefly, Babylon 5 or V for Vendetta.

I faced a lot of challenges while writing Stellarnet Prince. My characters visit Washington DC, so I went there myself for inspiration and accuracy. I did a ton of research about the United Nations and diplomacy. But one of the biggest challenges was planning a wedding for my characters. I spent more time on their wedding than I spent on my own back in 1999. I couldn't just write, “They got married,” right? I had to choose food, beverages, cake, flowers, a location and everything, just as if it were a real wedding. I wrote vows. I chose a wedding dress. I created a guest list from all of my characters.

Here are some pics that I used as my inspiration for the bride's dress and groom's suit. The bride is human and the groom is an alien, and they both live in Asteria Colony, on a far away planet. Their wedding is kind of a hodgepodge of many Earth cultures – clothing from India, music from Ireland, recital of a Shakespearean sonnet, and their Chinese friend Hax as the officiant.

This event had been built up since the first book, Stellarnet Rebel. I had to give my readers a complete and fulfilling experience. That, and several things happen at the wedding that are important to the plot – including an abduction of the bride! But I won't give you any more spoilers -- you'll have to read Stellarnet Prince to find out if she's rescued and whether the wedding goes on as planned!
There's a Rafflecopter giveaway for an ebook running November 16-23, and a Rafflecopter giveaway for a necklace November through November 30. Check them out!
J.L. Hilton is the author of the Stellarnet Series published by Carina Press, including Stellarnet Rebel (January 2012) and Stellarnet Prince (November 2012). Her artwork is featured in the books Steampunk Style Jewelry and 1000 Steampunk Creations. Visit her at or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and deviantART.
Author website:
Stellarnet website:
Publisher website:
Buy link:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Every Romance Needs a Good Bromance

Secondary characters can make or break a book. Since bromances are one of my favorite things to read, I make sure to always incorporate them in my novels. Planning for Love introduces the hero, Ben, to Gib, a British ex-pat hotel manager. They meet in the gym, where Ben's running his way straight to a heart attack on the treadmill until Gib coaxes him into a break.

“Then why, if you don’t mind me asking a personal question, were you just running as if pursued by an angry mob out for blood?”
“Nice imagery.”
“Thank you.” Gib handed over an icy bottle. “I wanted to spin something about an enraged, shotgun-wielding father and a recently defiled virgin, but I didn’t want to cast any aspersions.”
“Well, you British are famous for your restraint.”

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

An Affair of Vengeance - Release Day!

We romance writers are a supportive lot who truly enjoy celebrating the successes of our friends. So it gives me great pleasure to announce a release day for my Maryland Romance Writers chapter mate, Jamie Michele. Trust me, you are going to WANT this book (I pre-ordered, and can't wait for it to arrive today!)

AN AFFAIR OF VENGEANCE: Winner of a 2009 Golden Heart as "ROMANCE OR RETRIBUTION". A thrilling romantic suspense in which a daring intelligence officer pursues a mysterious Scotsman into the lair of the reclusive madman who killed her parents.

Undercover CIA officer Evangeline Quill stalks Oliver McCrea for one reason: the handsome scoundrel can lead her to the untouchable shipping magnate who ordered her parents’ assassination. She doesn’t want to see the pain in his golden eyes. Compassion for an outlaw, however chivalrous he may be, won’t help her exact revenge on her nemesis.
But Evangeline is the first good thing that battle-weary McCrea has touched in five long years, and even though he knows he should evade her pursuit, he can’t bring himself to turn away from her. She reminds him of the man he used to be, a man he isn’t sure he can ever be again, not with the ugliness of the underworld slowly disintegrating his humanity.
The closer they get, the hotter their forbidden desire becomes, but they’ll need more than passion to escape a deadly trap set by the criminal mastermind who manipulates both their lives.

Here's an excerpt to get you even more jazzed for this book:

Penard plopped down in a chair and grinned. “Now, tell me. How can I help the British kill each other today?”
The man had no sense of decorum, but at least he got to the point. McCrea did, too. “Half the last shipment was unusable. Rusted.”
Impossible!” Penard threw his hands into the air. “I reviewed the containers myself before they left France. État parfait, perfect condition!”
“So I’m a liar?”
“No, no. It’s just that the problem is your salty English air, no? Je veux dire, les fusils—I mean, the rifles were fine when they left, bad when they arrived. Maybe they don’t like the boats you put them on. What more can I do?”
“You can try again. And don’t waste my bloody time.”
“Bah.” Penard shrugged. “These things happen. We again come up with a new deal. What do you want? I get you anything, best price in Europe. Certainement. I guarantee it.”
“I want what I ordered. New Russian AKs, not used Chinese knockoffs.”
“Chinese? Chinese!” Penard gaped, rolling his eyes to the ceiling. “You get nothing but the best from me. Straight from the heart of old Mother Russia!”
He was lying, and McCrea had proof. “The Russians know how to spell.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The guns were inscribed ‘Made on Russia’ instead of ‘Made in Russia.’”
“That is all?”Penard leaned back in his chair and flashed a broad white smile. “One word? One letter? Une erreur simple. Who cares?”
“I care. I don’t pay you for replicas.”
Penard lifted his huge shoulders again. “This is not state-of-the-art weaponry we’re talking about here. No one expects AKs to come direct from Kalashnikov anymore. Chinese, Afghan, Russian; who cares? All good guns that work. And I bring them to you at the best price, no?”
“It’s not a good price if half the shipment won’t fire.”
Penard waved a hand through the hazy air. “A bit of oil will solve that.”
“I’m not running a maid service. My boss is displeased.”
“And so is mine! Believe me. This is not good news for me, either. Dites-moi. Tell me. How we can fix this? You want more AKs? I get more AKs. You want something else? I see what I can do. But let’s work it out tonight.”
McCrea didn’t answer at once, struck by a detail in Penard’s pleading speech. Penard had said that his boss was unhappy. He’d never before admitted that anyone lay between him and the weapons production, always boasting that he was the man in charge of it all from supply to street. This was the opening he’d been hoping for—the chance to move up the ladder and take out a higher rung. McCrea needed to know who Penard’s boss was. But how to get him to talk?
He decided to push for material beyond Penard’s known capabilities to deliver. The gunrunner wouldn’t say no outright. He’d either stall or push him up the chain of command. McCrea hoped for the latter.
He dropped his chin a fraction of an inch as he made his request. “You’ll give me the rest of the AK-47s we ordered, plus twenty Stingers.”
Penard erupted in thick laughter.
“Or Russian Iglas,” McCrea continued, ignoring Penard’s continued incredulity. “Strelas are acceptable if you can’t find anything more modern. But I need them within the week. Can you do it?”
“Well,” Penard drawled, looking away. Dawdling.
“It’s a yes or no question.”
“You want them here, in Marseille?”
“Within the week.”
“Bah! What do British gangsters want with anti-aircraft missiles?”
McCrea flexed his jaw. It was no business of his what McCrea intended to do with them. The Frenchman should know better than to ask such questions.
Penard lifted a dark eyebrow, but let his question die. “Très bien. I get your missiles. But I need more than a week. I’ll call you when I have them, oui?”
Non. Not good enough.” A week’s delay meant Penard didn’t have easy access to the missiles. Penard would have to ask someone more important for them, maybe have them transferred to Marseille. McCrea would rather talk to that higher-up person himself. Seeking to apply mental pressure and knowing that Penard didn’t want to lose a sale this big, he stood and took a step toward the exit.
It worked. As McCrea passed Penard’s chair, the man grabbed for McCrea’s arm. McCrea paused, looked down at the fat fingers grasping his suit jacket, and then back to Penard’s pinched, red face. The Frenchman released the fabric and stood, licking his lips.
Attendez, s’il vous plaît. Wait, friend. Please. I might know someone. Give me a day or two.”
“Give me a name.”
“Names are money.”
“Money I already gave you. Money you’ve wasted. Money I have no inclination to ever give you again.”
Penard’s mouth tightened to a thin purple crease. “I don’t like to be threatened.”
The two men locked eyes, neither flinching, neither budging. Negotiations had stagnated. Time to retreat, or advance.
McCrea always advanced.
In a single fluid motion, McCrea pulled a tactical knife out of his pants pocket and flipped it to length. He pushed its dull black blade against Penard’s jugular.
Penard yelped. McCrea hoped the bodyguards down the hall hadn’t heard him.
“Is that a no, then?” McCrea said, disturbed by how calm he sounded. As effective as this quick violence would be, he hated how easily he’d pulled the knife, and how composed he felt with it pressed against Penard’s wide neck. He hadn’t second-guessed the decision, and now, his pulse barely quickened as he contemplated how hard he’d need to push to get the result he needed. Maybe because his pulse always beat at high speed, his body no longer seemed to notice when he was engaged in a particularly violent or dangerous endeavor, but it shouldn’t feel so natural to threaten another man’s life.
Penard’s slick, hot sweat ran onto McCrea’s hands.
“Non—oui, eh, yes, yes,” Penard squealed. “Tu me casses les coquilles! I call my cousin. I call him right now. We sit down, we figure it out. Just put the knife away, you crazy bastard. Merde!
McCrea shook his head. He wanted to talk to Penard’s cousin himself. He rammed the blade a fraction deeper into the man’s tanned skin. “What’s your cousin’s name? Where can I find him?”
Putain,” Penard cursed. “Just let me get my phone out. We solve this right now.”
“Tell me his name.”
A small trail of blood ran down Penard’s neck. McCrea kept his face impassive, but the sight of blood startled him. He’d brought the discussion to this point, not Penard. He’d initiated the bloodletting. But it’d been necessary. Men like this lived and died by a code of violence. Anything less didn’t hit their radar.
Penard’s eyes showed white as they strained to see the knife at his throat.
Good. McCrea shook off the self-doubt. He’d get what he wanted now. Just a little more pressure…
“Please, monsieur!”
He heard Penard’s panted plea as if from a faraway place. He paused with the knife tip buried in the other man’s thick epidermis.
What in the hell was he doing? This was torture, even of a son-of-a-bitch like Penard. Good men didn’t use torture to get what they needed.
McCrea didn’t know any good men.
He growled and pushed the knife a hair further into Penard’s neck. The Frenchman held his breath as a trickle of blood pooled on his collar.
“The name,” he repeated.
Assez, enough! I tell you. The man who can get your weapons is called Ménellier. He is not my cousin; he is my brother-in-law. He works for Kral. Lukas Kral. You know him, yes? Everyone knows him.”
McCrea’s hand tightened on the knife. He knew both names, but Kral’s was infamous. He’d heard rumors that his brother had hooked up with Kral to run all manner of illegal shit out of Asia and into Glasgow on his behalf. The money had been good, for a while, and Aaron had moved up in the ranks and out of Glasgow, only to end up back there a few years later, dead in a Govenhill ditch, his veins loaded with heroin.
McCrea had expected about as much. His brother never did seem to have the capacity for rational thought that a man needed to stay alive in a world like this. Immediately after graduating from the academy, McCrea had slid undercover into the same London network on the strength of his brother’s reputation and now wanted little more than to excise everything his brother had ever touched from this world. Getting to the kingpin of the European black market, then, was a top priority.
Because of his friends in high places, Lukas Kral had been off-limits to law enforcement for years, but McCrea’s group—the Serious Organized Crime Agency—had grown tired of ignoring the beast in the garden. They’d pushed for permission to investigate, and the Home Office had fought an internal war over it, but at last word, Lukas Kral was ripe for the picking for any SOCA agent who could get a hold of his branch.
McCrea nodded.“I’m familiar with the name.”
“Then you know he can get what you need. He can get you anything. Tanks, RPGs, planes. Anything!”
“How do I reach him?”
“His number is on my phone,” Penard wheezed. “You have to let me go so I can find it.”
McCrea released Penard. The man fumbled in his pockets for his phone, then found it and started rattling off Ménellier’s number.
“Not him,” McCrea interrupted. Ménellier was bigger than Penard, but was nonetheless a stepping stone. “Give me Kral’s number.”
“I can’t. I don’t have it.”
McCrea flinched toward Penard. “Are you wasting my time again?”
Penard cringed. “Merde! I can’t give you what I don’t have. You have to go through Ménellier.”
“If you’re playing with me, Penard…”
“I’m not playing with you. Mon dieu, man. I’m trying to help you out. Even I go through Ménellier. I never talk to Kral. No one does.”
“If Ménellier can’t give me what I need, I’m coming back for you.”
“Sure, sure. You’ll get what you’re looking for. Don’t worry.” Penard tried for a smile, but it showed too much of his gumline and made him look afraid. “It is a shame that it worked out this way, mon ami. I get you your AKs in a few days, okay? Then we are bons, no?”
“As bons as we can be.” McCrea straightened his tie, and without a second glance, walked straight past Penard and into the hallway, where he stumbled into the small, dark-haired woman who’d walked right into him.
The waitress. He tried to halt but couldn’t stop his momentum. She began to fall.
He couldn’t let that happen.
Without thinking, he reached out and grabbed her, sliding his hands beneath her arms and pulling her close to him.
Her body folded into his, with her strong thighs caressing his knees and her slender arms slipping around his waist. They pressed together for a long, bewildering moment, her breasts yielding softly to the firm plane of his torso, and her wild hair curling against his chin. The scent of her shimmered around him, green and sweet like a grassy meadow, reminding him briefly, painfully, of home. As much as it hurt, he wanted to sink into that remembrance, and briefly, he did exactly that, lowering his nose to her hair.
But then his brain sounded an alarm.
Why had she been standing so close to the door, and what had she overheard?
Award-winning romance writer and former zookeeper Jamie Michele has wrestled a giant python, hand-captured a rogue vulture, and brushed the teeth of an alligator, but when she decided to write a novel, she did the unexpected: she didn’t write about animals. Instead, she indulged her long fascination with international espionage, merging it with her deep knowledge of the trials of love to produce AN AFFAIR OF VENGEANCE (Montlake Romance, November 6, 2012), winner of a prestigious Golden Heart from the Romance Writers of America. Now trapped in a very boring suburb in Maryland, Jamie writes sexy, page-turning romances while managing her own little zoo, which consists of three cats and two exceedingly handsome great apes.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Second Chance At A Hero - #6 Sentence Sunday

Welcome to another Six Sentence Sunday! Everyone knows that romance novels are full of ups and downs. In today's six, my heroine, Ivy, gets a second chance at being with her hero - even though she really doesn't want it:

Taking a deep breath, Ivy turned around. And immediately felt as though a thousand-pound hippo stomped all that air right back out of her. The one man she’d spent weeks trying to banish from her thoughts currently leaned, ankles crossed, on the entrance wall to the Oceanarium, devilishly debonair in a tux. And why did her first reaction have to be noticing how damn handsome he looked? Because Ben Westcott—whether clothed or stark naked—was nothing if not drop-dead good looking.

“Uh oh,” whispered Daphne. “Isn’t that—”

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween treat - Pumpkin Polenta w/Italian Sausage & Fennel

I couldn't let October close out without posting one more pumpkin recipe. Today's is from Rachael Ray, and is a DELICIOUS way to get more use out of a can of pumpkin. Enjoy!


  • 1 pound bulk sweet Italian
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), 1 turn of the pan
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large fennel bulbquartered, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 14 ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or instant polenta
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (eyeball it)
  • 1 cup shredded Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (a generous handful)


  1. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and brown the sausage. Transfer the sausage to a paper towellined plate. Add 1 tablespoon of EVOO (1 turn of the pan) to the skillet and then the onion and fennel. Cook the vegetables over moderate heat until tender but not brown. Add the wine and return the sausage to the skillet. Cook the wine away, a minute or so.
  2. In a large saucepan, cook the polenta as directed in the main recipe and stir in the nutmeg when you add the thyme, salt, pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese. Top the pumpkin polenta with the sausage and fennel. Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Six Sentences That Lead To Sex

Welcome to Six Sentence Sunday! There's one heck of a storm barrelling up the East Coast. So I'm going to do my part to raise your temperature a little bit. Planning for Love, the first book in my Chicago wedding Aisle Bound series starts with a hook-up pretty early on in the story. My hero, Ben attempts to talk Ivy into coming up to his hotel room. Read this--and see if you think he was successful....

“Sweet talker.”

“Tell me you’re not interested. Tell me you don’t want to slide between the sheets, skin to skin with me, and I’ll order you that drink. We’ll chat about whatever you want, and go our separate ways.” Her mouth opened slowly, but before she could form words, he continued in the same, matter of fact tone. “Or I could make your panties—which I’m betting match your dress—damp in less than five minutes.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pork & Pumpkin Chili - Seasonal Yumminess!

I love seasonal dishes. Things that the moment they hit your tongue, you know signal a particular month. October is for all things pumpkin in my house. So today I'm sharing a slightly unusual use for pumpkin, in a chili. I've served this at my book club and received rave reviews. You can vary the heat level according to your palate, and substitute spinach or any sort of leafy green you prefer for the mustard greens. Thanks to the brilliant chefs at Food Network for this recipe.


  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 12-ounce bottle Mexican lager
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 to 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium white onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup chili powder, plus more for sprinkling
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch mustard greens, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
  • Lime wedges, for serving


Combine the pork, beer, 3 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt in a large pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat, skimming the foam off the surface. Add the chipotles and 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, cover and cook about 30 minutes.

Mix 3 tablespoons pumpkin, the sour cream and salt to taste in a bowl; cover and chill.

Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, poblano, onions and 2 teaspoons salt; cook until soft, 15 minutes. Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, the chili powder and garlic; cook 5 minutes. Add the remaining pumpkin and cook 5 minutes.

Add the tomato mixture to the pork and simmer until the meat is tender, about 30 minutes. Add the greens and cook 10 more minutes. Season with salt. Ladle the chili into bowls; top with the pumpkin cream and more chili powder. Serve with lime wedges.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Small or Big, Writing Conferences are a Must!

I'm a big fan of writing conferences. Love being surrounded by 2,000 people who eat, sleep and breathe romance just like I do. But last weekend I discovered the joy of the intimate conference.

New Jersey's Put Your Heart In A Book conference is on a much smaller scale (I'm horrible at estimating people, but I'd guess 200-400 attendees). And that is exactly what makes it so darn awesome.

I had lunch with NYT bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries.  How, you might ask?  By just sitting down at her table. Because that's the beauty of this conference - unfiltered access to authors, agents and editors. Went to an editor panel where they all invited attendees to pitch to them anytime during the weekend (except in the bathroom - they were pretty specific about that). So if you hadn't signed up for a pitch with one of them, a writer could hang around the hallway and wait to pitch without being seen as a stalker. For once.

I was able to have dinner with my editor, as well as a perfectly delightful fellow Carina Press author, K.A. Mitchell. I rubbed elbows/schmoozed/chatted with umpteen other big name authors, including Jade Lee and Mary Jo Putney. Was introduced to HQN senior editor Tara Parsons. Maybe one of these morsels of goodness would've happened at a big conference, but definitely not all of them.

Of course there were also fascinating workshops (3 hours with Susan Wiggs, behind-the-scenes tips from USA Today's Joyce Lamb), celebrations when three of my chapter mates won first place in the NJRWA contest, and the fun of a book signing. The late night pajama party gabfest with my friends, to be honest, would happen at any conference, big or small. My point is that even if you do attend the big romance cons like RT or RWA, put a smaller, local-ish conference on your calendar as well. The opportunities will astound you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Research Road Trips - Work or Fun?

This weekend was a blur of note and picture taking. I jumped in the car and went on a research road trip to the Finger Lakes. In past blogs I've mentioned that I get lots of story ideas when I travel. But then I'm in the middle of enjoying my vacation, so I just scribble them down and go back to lazing about. Once I decide to hunker down and craft the story, I need more.

Okay, I want more. With the plethora of information available on the Internet these days, a writer doesn't have to leave the couch to glean plenty of information about a setting. The idea for my first book, Carolina Heat, sprang from a two day trip to Charleston. Did I go back there once I started writing? Heck, no. I used travel guides and maps and brochures. And almost every review I received mentioned how well I portrayed the setting. So I'm wholly aware that I don't have to go anywhere to write a good book. My very good friend who writes books about Cleopatra's daughter doesn't have the luxury of traveling to Mauretania. And yet, her Song of the Nile absolutely transports you to that ancient court.

Last year I embarked on my first research road trip. I gleaned things that I never would've put together from the comfort of my couch. Came up with a sensational ending that only occurred because I was right there, in the moment. So now that I've finished the proposal for my Finger Lakes trilogy (working series title of Shore Secrets), I needed to soak up some atmosphere.

You're probably wondering - was it worth it? Or was it merely an indulgent, wine-tasting long weekend with my hubby? I'll admit to a couple of stops at wineries. Of course, one of my heroines owns a winery. I can finish up that research at a local winery here in Maryland once I get to her book. Her hero, however, singlehandedly runs a distillery.  Which, I found out, is exactly how Finger Lakes Distilling got its start. Did I sample delicious rum and cassis liquer?  Yup.  But did I also spend a solid half hour peppering the poor server with questions about the business. Oh, yeah. She gave me soooo much great background material.

My hubby spent the day golfing, so he was happy. I spent it touring Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Traipsed through a cemetary where the heroine's parents in book one will be buried. Decided that she'll walk there for a visit every week, and take the hero there for a kleenex-worthy moment of sharing. I never would've come up with that twist if I hadn't driven by the cemetary. Had an in-depth talk at the State Park that completely changes a character in book 2. The character who I, completely incorrectly, had decided would be a forest ranger. Except....Watkins Glen State Park doesn't have forest rangers. They have patrollers. Little details like that make a book glisten and pop with accuracy.

Then I finished the day with one of the best massages EVER. The talented Mollie VanBuskirk patiently answered every question I threw at her, no matter how weird or personal. She's a wonderful masseuse and a very sweet person. Thanks to her, the heroine of my first book will be so much more well rounded and, well, authentic!

I wrote on the front porch of my inn, staring out over Seneca Lake and the beautiful fall colors. I listened to the innkeeper tell me the story of how she and her husband started it on a whim. We ate at two restaurants that were so fantastic they are absolutely being featured in the books. I breathed in the essence of the community, and hopefully that will be reflected in my series. So yes, if you are able to visit your setting, I encourage it. It will definitely fall more on the side of work than fun. My brain ran in overdrive for three days straight, capturing images and people and flitting through a million ideas. And my books will be all the richer for it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Why Book Festivals Are So Fantastic

I spent all weekend (seriously - I logged a total of 21 hours between Friday night and Sunday) at the Baltimore Book Festival, ensconsed in our Maryland Romance Writers' tent. (Here's photographic proof - the awesome Stephanie Draven and I getting ready for our panel on Writing Funny Contemporaries.)

As an author, it was a terrific experience because:
  • You get to energize readers who already like your genre;
  • You get to snag new readers. Being part of a panel with some heavy hitters is a great way to raise awareness of your book.  Whether by doing readings, and/or perhaps managing to sell it on personality alone. Readers and authors rarely get to interact, so when we do, it is a happy thing.
  • You get to network with soooo many amazing authors (thrilled to meet Caridad Pineiro, Robin Covington, Kimberly Kincaid, Jennifer Armentrout, just to name a few!). Sharing panels with authors you respect and enjoy is such a perk....and hanging out with them at dinner afterwards is even better!
My chapter managed to keep our tent packed by offering informative, fun, and of course, sexy panels and readings and open forums. Pretty sure we touched on every possible romance topic.  On a purely selfish level, it was great to have the luxury of extended time with my chapter mates - and to be reminded all over again how talented they are.

And, taking off my author hat for a moment, as a reader I was able to go all fan-girl over some of my favorite authors. I discovered new must-have books, as well. Three solid days devoted to all things book - what could be better? So if you are an author, I highly recommend you find a festival near you and sign up to participate (or, if you are in the mid-Atlantic, let me know that you'd like to be a guest with us next year!).  If you are a reader, run, don't walk, to your nearest festival, and revel in a day all about reading.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Super Yummy Chicken & Green Bean Salad

This recipe looks weird at first - boiling a lemon?  But that is a shortcut to making preserved lemons. And then it looks ridiculously simple as a recipe, and like the dressing isn't enough.  Let me stress - this is a flavor packed, healthy, AMAZINGLY delicious recipe.  You will NOT be able to stop eating it.  Thanks to the Food Network's Ellie Krieger for dreaming it up. The only changeS I make are to not bother cooking the green beans & put on a bed of couscous.  Up to you!


  • 1 lemon, preferably unwaxed
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste, divided
  • Pinch saffron
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/4 pound skinless boneless chicken breast, pounded to 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 container feta


Prick the lemon in 3 or 4 places with a fork and place in a small pot with 1 teaspoon of salt and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 50 minutes or until the lemon is very tender. Drain and set aside to cool.

In the meantime, mix the saffron, mint, garlic, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl. Pour the marinade into a sealable plastic bag, add the chicken and let it marinate while you prepare the other ingredients.

Steam the green beans for 4 minutes and set aside to cool. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

Preheat a large skillet or grill pan which has been sprayed with cooking spray. Cook the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Set aside to cool. Cut into bite-sized chunks.

Slice the ends off of the lemon and slice it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp. Slice the peel thinly and then again into 1/4-inch pieces.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, lemon,feta, green beans and thyme. In a small bowl combine the rest of the lemon juice and the honey, whisk in the remainder of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Writing Contest for Published and Unpublished Authors

There are lots of romance writing contests out there.  A majority of them ask for the first 20 pages of a manuscript.  But the Maryland Romance Writers like to focus on the heat, so our contest is all about the sexy stuff - any 20 pages of it.

Attention romance writers: show us the chemistry!

* FEEDBACK: Entrants receive constructive feedback from first-round judges, many of them published authors. Finalists receive a brief critique by the final round judge.
* EXPOSURE: Finalists in each category will be judged by editors publishing in that subgenre. First place winners and category finalists will be listed in advertising and announcements in the RWA® Romance Writers Report.
* PRIZES: First place category winners receive a $50 cash prize and a gold Vixen pin!
* OPPORTUNITY: Last year, ONE THIRD of our contest finalists were asked to submit partial or full manuscripts.
Up to 20 pages of any scene that showcases your use of sensual tension, plus an unjudged 1-page set-up (optional).

Anyone! Membership in Maryland Romance Writers or Romance Writers of America is NOT required. The author can be published or not yet published, but the contest entry must be original and uncontracted as of September 1, 2012.

(Word counts apply to targeted finished length of completed manuscript.)
* Series Contemporary: 1950-present, 40,000-79,000 words finished length
* Single Title: 1950-present, 80,000-120,000 words finished length
* Historical: BCE-1950, 40,000-120,000 words finished length
* Alternative: time travel, fantasy, futuristic, paranormal, 85,000-120,000 words finished length
* Erotic Romance: 60,000-120,000 words finished length
* LGBT Romance: 40,000-120,000, any genre/era
* Young Adult: 40,000+ words finished length

$20 MRW members
$25 Non-MRW Members–U.S. entries and International entries

Each entry will be judged by THREE qualified judges, i.e., trained and/or published authors. The three top-scoring entries in each category will advance to the final round for evaluation by one editor and one agent who acquire in that genre.

2012 Judge List

Series Contemporary:   Elizabeth Mazer at HQN  &   Jessica Alvarez at Bookends Literary
Single Title: Emily Ohanjanians at  HQN-Mira &  Paige Wheeler at   Folio Literary
Historical: Erin Molta at Entangled &  Nicole Lukosil at Bradford Literary Agency
Alternative: Chelsey Emmelhainz at Avon & Nicole Resciniti at Seymour Agency
Erotic: Christa Desir at Samhain & Jenn Schober at Spencerhill Associates
LGBT: Kelli Collins at  Elloras Cave&  Alissa Davis at Carina Press
YA: Aubrey Poole at Sourcebooks & Kevan Lyon at Marsal Lyon

Contest opened for entries on July 1, 2012. Entries must be received and time-stamped no later than October 1, 2012.

Visit or email the 2012 “Reveal Your Inner Vixen” Contest Coordinators, Christi Barth or Eliza Knight,

Monday, September 3, 2012

Baked Egg Brunch Treat

I hosted book club last weekend, and they all went crazy for this dish (the book got mixed reviews, however).  This classic Mexican recipe, Potatoes and Chorizo with Baked Eggs (Papas y Chorizo con Huevos al Horno) is courtesy of Marge Poore's 1,000 Mexican Recipes.  The whole cookbook is fantastic.

Bake and serve in individual ramekins.  The best part is that the entire dish, except for the final breaking and baking of the eggs, can be done the day before. And it is easily doubled!
2 baking potatoes, peeled
1/2  pound fresh bulk chorizo sausages, or packaged, with casings removed

1/4medium white onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Fresh Salsa Mexicana or purchased salsa
4 large eggs
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1. Cut the potatoes into small dice, about 1/4 inch. Set aside. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Break the chorizo into small bits (if in casings, remove the casings), and cook until it begins to brown and the fat is cooked out. Add the diced potatoes, onion, and salt. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

2. Divide the potato mixture among 4 individual ramekins. (Recipe can be done to this point one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

3. Prepare salsa, if using homemade. If made ahead, remove casserole dishes from the refrigerator 1 hour before baking. Preheat the oven to 375°. Bake until the potato mixture is hot all the way through, 15 to 18 minutes.

4. Remove casserole dishes from the oven and make an indentation with a spoon in the center of each casserole. Break an egg into the indentation. Sprinkle shredded cheese equally over the eggs. Return the casseroles to the oven and bake until the eggs are cooked as desired and the cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Serve hot with fresh salsa.

Friday, August 31, 2012

When You're A Writer, Vacations Must Wait

My husband has a stressful, overwhelming job. He regularly works 10-12 hour days. So when we go on vacation, I HOUND him to cut off all contact with work.  It doesn't always happen.  No, the interruptions aren't long, but he really needs the mental time off.  So I hound him some more.

The shoe was on the other foot this year when we went to the beach.  I'd slaved to pre-write two guest blog posts so I could take the week off (well, aside from finishing my beach caper book. But that counted as fun. And what better place to write it than at the beach?)

And then, sitting with my feet buried in the sand while dolphin-spotting, I got an email.  From RT Book Reviews.They'd just reviewed my latest book in their September issue, so I was flummoxed.  Turned out they wanted me to do a feature.  A Feature!!!!  And they wanted it in three days.

Yes, I had my computer.  No, I did not have Internet, except on my phone and by driving up to a bookstore cafe on Fenwick Island. My powers of concentration were also in hibernation from liberal quantities of sun, sand, chips and wine. Not to mention the TOTAL hypocracy of telling my husband to watch TV without me while I worked.

But I said yes.  Because it was a big honor just to be asked.  And if I'd said no, they might never ask again.  Free, awesome publicity for my new book. It would engender good relations with RT. This opportunity literally dropped into my lap, and only a fool would ignore it. My hubby watched a soccer game, I cranked out 600 words, and we went right back to doing...well, blissful amounts of nothing.

Point to the story?  Writers don't have 9-5 jobs with 2 weeks vacation and sick days. You can't blow off a scheduled blog appearance because you have the flu.  And most importantly, you have to snatch at every opportunity that comes your way.  Take your smart phone with you even on vacation.  You never know when unexpected goodness will flood your inbox.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Recommendation - Funny, Sexy Political Romance!

People read holiday romances at Christmas, and beach fling books, well, at the beach. So to kick off the final push to the election, I've got a terrific political romance for you to race through - In Bed with the Opposition by Stephanie Draven. Be sure you set aside a whole night, because once you start this book, you won't be able to put it down! Here's blurb to entice you.
Armed with a sassy haircut, a sharp wit, and a personal list of rules for all life's exigencies, Grace Santiago is a fiercely loyal Senate staffer who has everything under control. At least until famous political pundit Ethan Castle walks back into her life. Grace hasn't forgotten their disastrous affair in law school, but she can't resist his bad boy charm.

When Grace learns that Ethan has been hired as a political gunslinger for the other side, her loyalties—and her heart—are torn in two. Though their sexual chemistry can't be denied, they find themselves locked in political combat. Ethan believes that all is fair in love and war, but he won't throw the election—not even to win Grace's heart. So what can a good girl like Grace do, but learn to play dirty?

Two candidates. One election. May the best man—or woman—win!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Welcome To The Booby Trap - Hot New Book Release!

Welcome to the Booby Trap, a seedy bar in Everett, Mass. where waitresses' skirts are high, necklines are low, and customers show up for the eye candy. This is the setting for Anne Browning Walker’s provocative novel, The Booby Trap (Pixel Entertainment, September 2012) in which Harvard Ph.D. candidate Bambi Benson finds the waitresses prime research for her degree in women's studies, and embarks on a mission to go undercover and completely immerse herself in their world. All goes well until handsome local celebrity Trip Whitley enters the scene.

Hoping to ruffle the feathers of his well-connected family by dating someone 'beneath' him, Trip suggests that Bambi take on the role of his girlfriend, and receive compensation for her efforts. This fits in perfectly with the vision Bambi has for her dissertation: Trip will realize the error of his ways after she reveals her true identity, and teach him not to judge base on appearances.

Sounds like a great plan, but it's about to be foiled: Bambi might actually be falling for Trip.

A fun, absorbing read, The Booby Trap was written with a particular audience in mind: Walker's closest friends. "I wanted my heroine to reflect the many smart, savvy, thoughtful, and driven women in my life,"Walker says. “Bambi is a modern-day heroine who values ambition and success in her own career, and also makes time for love.”

ANNE BROWNING WALKER is a career writer and researcher. Currently living in Washington,
D.C. with her husband, Walker is a member of Romance Writers of America and is working on
her next romance novel. Learn more at Order The Booby Trap at Amazon