Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Coming Attractions

    Welcome to April!

    Birds are singing, flowers are blooming, and the Lair is JUMPING!

    April 2 - Lots of great things happening this month, but perhaps most exciting of all…is the release of The Seduction of a Duke by our own fabulous Donna MacMeans! Check back in to the Lair tomorrow to party all day long with Donna on the release of her latest witty and delightful historical romance.

    April 3 - Following closely on Donna’s heels will be a treat for all you writers and anyone interested in web design and marketing. Four-time Golden Heart finalist and professional web designer Liz Bemis teams with Golden Heart winner and public relations and marketing professional Jenn Stark to talk about determining and establishing your personal "brand" and how it affects your website design and promotional efforts. You can learn more about this dynamic marketing team at: www.bemispromotions.com, or come “meet” them in the Lair.

    On April 8 - Our Anna Campbell will be hosting Harlequin Presents Extra author -- and friend of the Lair -- Annie West. Annie will be talking about her latest release, The Desert King’s Pregnant Bride. Nothing like a sexy Sheik to raise your blood pressure (in all the right ways, of course!).

    Before you've even recovered from Annie's visit, award winning author Kristan Higgins returns to the lair to talk writing and her new HQN title Too Good To Be True.

    April 14, Tawny Weber will be holding a party in the lair to celebrate the release of her latest Blaze, Coming On Strong! Stop by for chocolate, hunks and hilarity, all wrapped up in fun, sexy book-talk!!

    April 15, We'll follow Tawny's release party by having another the next day for Trish Milburn, whose alter-ego, Tricia Mills, debuts with the YA novel Heartbreak River, which has already gotten great reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal. Yay!

    April 16 - The guests continue when we host Kay Thomas. She’ll give us lots of juicy secrets about her April release from Harlequin Intrigue, Bulletproof Texas. Hopefully, she’ll tell us how sexy a spelunker can really be, and exactly what goes on in a dark cave when the head-lamps go out. ;-)

    Look out next for guest author Lisa Shearin, author of the Raine Benares series. She’ll be here to talk about The Trouble with Demons, her April release, an exciting paranormal romance and love triangle with a dark mage and a white knight. Whew! Sounds exciting!

    April 20 - Beth Andrews will celebrate the launch of A Not-So-Perfect Past, her latest SuperRomance release! Join the fun and bring your tootie horns, its gonna be a party!!!

    April 22 - Get ready for fun and laughs as New York Times best-selling author Charlotte Hughes joins us in the Lair! We'll be helping her celebrate the release of the second book in her hilarious series about psychologist, Kate Holly - Nut Case! And if that's not enough to tempt you, there is Kate's sexy fire-fighter ex-husband to drool over!

    April 21 - Debut author Lisa Cooke visits the Lair. She’ll be telling us all about her historical romance, Texas Hold Him, which features a sexy cardsharp from New Orleans. I can hear that Cajun accent coming out already!

    April 28 - And we have a very special returning guest – or should I say, a whole bunch of returning guests. We're planning a virtual field trip for all of our Banditas and Bandita Buddies to the fire station to "chat" with Jo Davis and her firefighters about Zack's story...Under Fire. I’m sure you all remember Jo’s boys from her last visit – and if you missed it, you’ve got a real treat in store!

    April 30 - Finally, we have NY Times best-selling author Brenda Novak visiting with us to launch her annual online Juvenile Diabetes Auction which begins May 1. There'll be prizes and giveaways that day, as well as a grand prize, so be sure to stop by!

    Its a month filled with lots of prizes and fun – hope you’ll join us!Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/03/
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Monday, March 30, 2009

Jodi Thomas Talks Texas, Then and Now.

    by Suzanne

    One day I was pushing a cart full of groceries through the store, ignoring my three children argue about which items they could add to the cart, feeling very mommish and worn out. As per my usual habit, I cruised through the book/magazine section looking for something new to read. There was this Western Historical Romance by an author I'd never heard of before, Jodi Thomas. Thinking, "why not?" I threw the book into my cart.

    That began my love affair with Jodi's books. (I've read them all!)

    So imagine my thrill at meeting her at an RWA conference. Then seeing her again at the Richardson, Texas annual "Buns And Roses Tea" last fall. And to top it off, get to invite her to join us on today's blog!

    Suzanne: Jodi, thank you for taking the time to visit with us. You are the Writer In Residence at West Texas A&M University campus. What does that position entail and how are you enjoying it?

    Jodi: I enjoy being writer-in-residence. Once a teacher, always a teacher, I guess. I have an office in the library and most afternoons you'll find students visiting and reading their work to me. I teach one short class each year for the continuing education program and am very excited to be teaching in the West Texas A&M Writing Academy from June 8-12 www.wtamu.edu/oce. or phone for information: 806-651-2037. I feel like if I'd had a working writer to talk to I might have saved a few years struggling, so in June four multi-published writers plan to meet in Canyon, Texas on the campus of WTA&M and spend a week working with people who want to be published in fiction. So please tell any future novelist to pack their lap tops and book a room in the dorm for a week. They'll love the workshop and they'll experience a taste of my beloved Texas.

    Suzanne: I'd like to do this virtual interview either in your campus office or your favorite spot on campus. If you could describe it to me, we'll try to give your readers a casual glimpse into that spot.

    Jodi: I'll do better then that, I'll take you on a walk in my world. My office is on the second floor of Cornette library. My window overlooks a small campus. Last Thursday I sat out in snowy weather and watched a rodeo, today I plan to drop by the baseball game. Walking across campus I see students who look like they just climbed out of bed and headed to class. (I swear they still have their pj's on) and I see cowboys in their hats and boots climbing out of their pickups. (Some drive a hundred miles round trip a day from their farm or ranch to attend here.) I live in a place where men still hold doors and tip their hats in hello. If the wind is blowing over 30 mph. we think it's a calm day. I work among librarians, who I've decided are the kindest people in the world. My favorite spot on campus is the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum where I often walk and think.

    Suzanne: What a fascinating place to visit. As a RWA Hall Of Fame Author for you Western Historicals, you've taken your readers into the world of the Texas cowboy. What do you find so romantic and enduring about these characters?

    Jodi: I love setting my stories in Texas History. Between 1830-1890 Texas was a wild place where strong people carved out lives. I like to write men who are strong and try to do the right thing. They live by a code of doing what is right. I like to write characters like this because I know men who live by such a code.

    Suzanne: Your most recent western historicals were the anthology, GIVE ME A TEXAN and the single title, TALL, DARK, AND TEXAN. Can you tell us about those stories?

    Jodi: GIVE ME A TEXAN was about a man who'd always thought he was ugly, but he had a gift for listening. When he offers marriage to the prettiest girl he's ever seen, he does so after hearing what she truly wants. After one meeting, they board the train and head to Amarillo. GIVE ME A COWBOY-a story about early rodeo days, followed TEXAN in February 09. Check out the short look at a video of GIVE ME A TEXAN AND GIVE ME A COWBOY on my website, http://www.jodithomas.com/

    TALL, DARK, AND TEXAN is a Whispering Mountain story about a man, Teagen McMurray, who had to grow up at 12. He takes over the family ranch, holds it in turmoil and raises his little brother and sister. In so doing, he hardens by 30 to a man who doesn't know how to talk to anyone. He has one friend he corresponds with by mail-a bookstore owner in Chicago. The book opens when the friend wills Teagen his wife and three daughters. And, Teagen, who has feared nothing in his life suddenly finds himself afraid of a little widow and her daughters.

    I loved writing this story. I think it's one of the most tender love stories I've ever written. The reader will laugh and cry with my characters in this touching love story about a hard man who learns to be tender.

    Suzanne: A few years back you stepped out of the past to write contemporaries set in West Texas, the first of which was The WIDOWS OF WICHITA COUNTY How did it feel to work in a new genre after being so successful in the historical market?

    Jodi: I love historical fiction, but every now and then a story came to mind that didn't fit in the past. WIDOWS OF WICHITA COUNTY was like that because it's based on an oil rig accident. My husband tried to get me to make it fit in a historical, like change it to a stage coach accident, but I couldn't. The learning curve was huge on that book. When I finished, I told him to shoot me if I ever wrote another multi-viewpoint book again because it was far too hard. About six months later I called his office and told him to go home and lock up the guns, I was starting another one. I'm now working on my sixth contemporary, (and by the way, we have no guns in the house). I have to admit that I love writing in both styles and when I'm working in one time period, I'm thinking about what I'll do when I get back to the other. For a list of all my books click
    Suzanne: TWISTED CREEK was one of my favorite books last year. Can you tell our readers a little bit about it?

    Jodi: TWISTED CREEK is about a woman who believes bad luck follows her and when good things start to happen, she doesn't think any of them can be true. She loves one person, her Nana and her grandmother is growing old and forgetful. This book is a journey into seeing people through someone else's eyes and learning to love. Readers will fall in love, not only with a place, but with the nesters, the people who stay at the lake after everyone else leaves at summer's end.

    Suzanne: Your newest release is REWRITING MONDAY. It takes place near TWISTED CREEK, doesn't it?

    Jodi: It does take place near TWISTED CREEK. I plan on writing a series of books set around a cluster of small towns.

    Suzanne: At first glance your hero and heroine are ordinary people. What twist do you give them?

    Jodi: I enjoy taking ordinary people and showing how they, just like all of us, sometimes stand as silent heroes in our lives. Pepper is a type A personality who never slows down, never backs down, and never commits in a relationship. Mike is a shy man who does his job as editor of a small town paper, not because it's the life he would have chosen, but because it's where he's needed. When they meet, she's on the run from a mistake she made that may end her career as a reporter. He feels her come into his life like a breath of fresh air, unaware that his past is about to destroy all the peace he's known.

    For me this story also came to life with the secondary characters, a couple who loved one another and was separated by so much time they weren't sure they could ever get back to where they once were. REWRITING MONDAY is a story about last chances, first loves, and the longing we all have from time to time to rewrite a moment in our lives.

    Suzanne: What is in store next for your fans? A historical or contemporary western?

    Jodi: My next story will be set in the historical time period. THE LONE TEXAN will be the next book set in Whispering Mountain. It will be out in October. The hero was a wild kid with no one to care for him, the heroine was a cherished sister with three big brothers. Sage is a doctor returning to Texas after being widowed and Drummond, a young gunfighter who's loved her since he was a boy, is the last person she wants to run into. Their love story is as wild as Texas in 1859.

    Suz: Thanks for being with us today, Jodi! It's been a great pleasure to chat with you. So, readers, which are you? A contemporary or a historical fan? And if you could go back to any time period, what and where would you go? Me? Definitely western america.

    Jodi has agreed to give away an autographed book and a tote bag as a prize package to two lucky winners.

    **don't forget, click on any book cover to order Jodi's books, or any on the sidebar to order the Bandit's newest releases!**
    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/03/
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Belacan Cake

    This Parisan Browning Essence finally arrived from Melbourne to enable me to make this Kek Belacan. Thanks to my dear friend, Chan who carried it all the way. Truly, it did make my cake looked very much like Belacan.


    Follow recipe from Secretive Cake but replace the caramel sauce aka dark soya sauce with Queen's Parisan Browning Essence.

    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/03/
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Sunday, March 29, 2009

All About Barbie, But What About G.I. Joe?

    by Jo Robertson

    I wanted to write a post celebrating Barbie’s fiftieth anniversary on March 9. But then I thought about the “dolls” that boys play with when they’re younger. We don’t call them “dolls,” but that’s certainly what they are.

    So, Barbie and G.I. Joe.

    A few years ago Dr. Big and I visited Scotland on a golfing vacation. He wanted to play the original courses of the birthplace of golf – St. Andrew, Carnoustie, and Turnberry. I wanted to tour the castles.

    Among our group were two young couples, the men insanely we
    althy and quite worldly, the women blonde and vacuous. I privately dubbed the women Barbie I and Barbie II and told Dr. Big they’d be killed off by the third tee in my upcoming mystery. Their conversation spun around fake boobs, manicures, and hair extensions.

    Surprisingly we became friends and by the end of the trip, I confessed to them that I’d given them the names of Barbie I and Barbie II. They were immensely flattered and I saw beyond the surface of their glitz and superficiality to the warm, if somewhat self-absorbed, women beneath.

    Barbie is an icon so entrenched that the story above gives you a perfect picture of these two women by simply naming them.

    So to celebrate Barbie’s anniversary I thought we’d play Barbie Trivia. See how many of the questions you can get right about Barbie before you look at the pictures below or scroll down for the answers. By the way, the Barbies to the left went for $17,000 at auction. Wow! Got any mint Barbies lying around?

    1. What was the first Barbie wearing?

    2. Who was Barbie’s younger sister who made her debut in 1961?

    3. What was the first source of controversy about Barbie? What were Barbie’s original dimensions if translated on a 1/6 scale?

    4. What was the cost of the original Barbie?
    5. The last question is about G.I. Joe. What does the G.I. stand for?

    Here's some Barbie history:

    Barbie was born in March 1959 and has wormed her way into the hearts of young girls for fifty years. I was too old for dolls when Barbie was born, so my connection with her came through my three daughters. And did they ever love Barbie!
    Yes, the first edition Barbies to the right were dressed in the black and white zebra-striped bathing suits.

    Having seven children, our family couldn’t afford all the glitz and glamour that came with Barbie – her townhouse, her horse, her spa. Just the basics. So my girls made their own dollh
    ouse out of a discarded appliance box and fashioned their own clothing line from scraps of fabric left in my sewing basket.

    Small wonder that they also sewed their own Barbie outfits for each other to commemorate milestones in their own lives. Barbie Graduate when my oldest graduated from college, Barbie Married when my second walked down the aisle, Barbie Business when my youngest got a huge promotion at work.

    The Angela Merkel Barbie to the left was the first female diplomat to be made into a Barbie.

    The controversy question is a tricky one. Initially mothers were concerned about the realistic portrayal of Barbie's bustline -- a doll with breasts -- my goodness! -- but the real controversy centered around her waistline. Her waist was widened in 2000 to reflect a woman's natural figure and a belly button added. On a 1/6 scale Barbie's original dimension would've been 36-18-33; she would've been about 5'9" tall and her weight on her trademark pink scale was 110 pounds! Many wome felt that this unrealistic ideal woman would affect girls negatively.

    Barbie was the brain child of Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel, who’d watched her own daughter play with dolls and saw that she enjoyed pretending with dolls that were more like women than babies. Handler had a hard time selling the idea of a full-figured doll to the company, but eventually prevailed.
    Barbie's little sister was Skipper and the first Barbie doll cost a whopping $3!

    Barbie had the grown-up doll field until Hasbro produced the G.I. Joe action figure in 1964. Joe was a 12-inch “doll” much like Barbie but designed for boys.

    Does anyone remember those early action figures, which included Batman, Superman, and other heroes? My sons had several of them, and their favorite was Joker. It wasn’t until the 80’s that the 3 ¾ inch hard action dolls became popular on the heels of the Star Wars movies.
    The G.I. initials stand for "galvanized iron" instead of the "government issue" that many believe. On their inventories the military referred to many of the supplies made of galvanized iron, such as trash cans, as GI.

    I always wondered why G.I. Joe and Barbie didn’t hook up. Seems a natural development to me.

    What’s your experience with Barbie dolls or action figures? Did you play war with your action figures or house with your Barbies? Do you think Barbies are as popular now as they were initially?
    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/03/
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    The winner of the autographed copy of Jaye Wells Urban Fantasy RED-HEADED STEPCHILD is WENDY!! Yahoo for you, Wendy!!

    Please send your snail-mail addy to Suzanne @ swwelsh2001 AT yahoo DOT com. (Be sure there are 2 ww's in that addy.) And I'll be sure that prize is sent ASAP!! Congratulations, Wendy!!Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/03/
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Bandita Booty!!

    Round and round the random number generator spins and where it stops ... we have a winner!!!

    Anthea Lawson!!

    Congratulations!!! Not only are you a Rita finalist for your First Book, but you're the random winner of the $15 Amazon Gift Certificate for commenting on Rita/GH Call Day!!

    Maybe you should consider playing the lottery. :-)

    Please send your snail mail address to me at katecarlisle99@yahoo.com and I'll send you the Gift Certificate this week. Congratulations again!

    P.S. I wanted to give a tip of the hat to Shelf Awareness.com for the book game we played. Thanks again to everyone who commented!
    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/03/
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The Squishy In Between

    by Susan Sey

    So I was working on an outline for my latest masterpiece, & I surprised myself.

    This almost never happens.

    I am, in a word, predictable.

    I've had the same five CDs on shuffle in my car well over a year. I eat the same thing for breakfast every day. Lunch, too. (Different from breakfast, but the same every day. Just in case you were worried I've been eating the same meal twice a day, every day. Even I know that's not good for you.)

    On Friday nights I make pizza & after church on Sundays we have eggs & bagels. I love to eat out but am sometimes reluctant to try a new restaurant in case I don't like it. I'll have wasted my "out" meal--a luxury for me--on something I didn't like. Wah.

    And when I write, I write single title contemporary. I don't seem to have any power over this. I write in the world as it stands, & no matter how dark a backstory I give my characters, they speak in charming, zippy back-and-forths. Nothing for it, this is simply what I do.

    So I was surprised--nay, shocked--when my latest masterpiece in progress took itself a jag into the paranormal. Light paranormal, actually. Extremely light. Questionable, even. But paranormal nonetheless.

    Which has me nervous. Even if I enjoyed gadding about in new & unusual places (ha), I'm not sure it's a great idea to write myself into a questionable place in the library. Or the bookstore for that matter. Why mess with the Squishy In Between when you can write something easily defined, easily shelved, & easily consumed?

    When I buy a book, I like to know What It Is. This may be my obsessive/compulsive nature coming out, but that's why I have a particularly soft spot for category romance. Those authors are SO GOOD at defining the read. Is this a lost love book? A secret baby? A marriage of convenience? I like to know. The enjoyment comes from having my expectations met with skill & charm.

    I'm not sure readers like to be surprised but for now I'm stuck in the Squishy In Between. Neither here (straight contemporary) nor there (paranormal.)

    What do you all think? Is there room in your library for something that doesn't FIT? Do you like to be surprised, or do you buy a book because you know what you're getting? Do you have any favorite books that weren't what you expected? Or any authors who are great at serving up a surprise? Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/03/
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Vietnamese meatloaf/Cha Trung Hap

    My paternal grandmother used to cook an egg dish which is quite similar but not quite as her recipe is just eggs and ground pork. I remembered she used duck eggs instead of chicken eggs and had to put in alot of pepper to muffled the 'egginess' of the duck eggs.
    This vietnamese recipe has more ingredients and putting the egg yolks on top of the loaf gives this dish so much more appeal.


    5 eggs
    1 lb ground pork
    3 tbsp dried shredded wood ear mushroom - soak to soften
    1/2 a bundle of glass noodle - soak to soften, drain and cut into 1/4 inch lengths
    1/4 cup shredded carrot
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 stalks spring onions - chopped
    2-3 tsp fish sauce
    1 teaspoon sugar
    1/2 teaspoon pepper
    Coriander for garnishing

    Reserve 2 egg yolks and beat remaining eggs and egg whites.

    Mix all remaining ingredients into beaten eggs.

    Pour mixture into a large heatproof (flameproof) bowl and steam covered over medium heat for about 25 minutes.

    Beat reserved egg yolks and pour over steamed egg mixture. Steam for 5 minutes.

    Garnish with coriander and serve hot with steamed rice.

    To test if the dish is cooked, simply insert a bamboo skewer into the middle of the meatloaf and if the skewer come out clean, the dish is cooked.


    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/03/
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Friday, March 27, 2009


    by Suzanne

    Have you ever people watched? Just sat on one of the benches at the mall and watched the crowd? It's fascinating. You never know what you'll see.

    There's always the harried mother of at least three small children, trying to get her shopping done without losing a child or her mind. Sometimes they take the time to sit and regroup. Maybe a bottle or a drink, or a wipe of a runny nose. Maybe time to soothe tears or give a hug.

    There's often the fashionably dressed woman in heels, bustling
    through the crowd, her heels tapping out a warning to more sedate walkers to get out of her way. Since I don't wear heels and makeup to go to the mall, these women always amaze me. I wonder if they're on a lunch or dinner break from work.

    If you go early enough on a weekday, something I get to do having days off during the week, you'll see the senior crowd. Often white-haired women in groups of two or more in sweats walking the perimeter of the mall as fast as they can, chatting as they go. Sometimes it's a family member pushing a wheelchair of the elderly, or a couple holding hands as they slowly window shop.

    There's usually a few groups of teens milling about. Some are in to fashion--to the extreme--sporting fashion labels that I certainly can't afford. Others are into their own kind of fashion--pierced facial features, spiked hair, dog collars. Even those into extreme Goth. Funny how you can watch these groups and be surprised which ones are the most curteous, while others aren't. (Usually not who you would've thought.)

    Which brings me to the point of this blog. People watching. It's what writers do. Everyone has a story. My RWA chapter sold tee shirts and mugs a few years back with the saying. WARNING: What you do may appear in my next book. I had mine at work until someone broke it. Hmmm, wonder if that was the next person I meant to kill off in a book? (This is the tote bag with the same slogan available at Cafepress.com.)

    Watching people lets me think, "What is that person's story?" Is the Goth kid rebelling against society or really a serial killer waiting to happen? Is the harried business woman trying to buy a power suit with her last few dollars in order to make a good impression on a much-needed new job? Have the older couple walking the mall been happily married, or does one of them have a secret they've hidden from the other for fifty years?

    How about you? Do you ever people watch? Do you ever make up your own stories about people you observe?Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/03/
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Renee's 7th Birthday - Princess Cupcakes

    Knowing Renee's friends loved cake and a birthday party without cake will not be the same, so, there was cake - Cupcakes for the Princesses. The cupcakes were vanilla flavored with cream cheese frosting.



    5 oz (150g)Butter - softened
    5 oz (150g)fine granulated sugar
    6 oz (175g)self-raising flour
    3 large eggs
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    Cream Cheese Frosting:
    12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
    1/2 cup powdered sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract


    Pre-heat the oven to 350F (180C).

    Line a 12 cup muffin pan, with cup cake cases.

    Crack the eggs into a cup and beat lightly with a fork.

    Place all the ingredients in a large bowl.

    Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes, until light and creamy.

    Divide the mixture evenly between the cake cases.

    Bake for 18-20 minutes until risen and firm to touch.

    Allow to cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.

    Allow to cool fully before frosting.
    Cream Cheese Frosting:

    Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, and beat at low speed until sugar is incorporated.
    Increase speed to medium high and beat until frosting is light and whipped, about 3 to 4 minutes.
    Pipe the frosting on to the cupcakes.

    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/03/
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