Sunday, May 31, 2009

T-Minus One Second and....LAUNCH!!!

    Yes, you guessed it, another Launch Party in the Lair!! Woohoooo! Nothing like a party with the josh hasrey.
    Today, June 1, is the official Launch for Dark and Deadly, my second Romantic Suspense. Whew! A milestone, indeed. I'm now officially multi-published.

    Whaddya know? How the heck did that happen?

    As I wrote this, I was thinking a lot about my debut, Dark and Dangerous. It hit the stands on June 1, 2008. Same Time, Last Year.

    I didn't know then what I know now.

    That sounds trite, doesn't it? However, any of you who have children will be familiar with this feeling. Everyone tells you when you're pregnant that your life is about to change irrevocably. You know it too. You think you understand it. And in some ways you do understand that monumental change that's overtaking you. In every other way?

    Ohhhh, you don't understand anything and you are in for the ride of your life!

    Even if you don't have kids, you get this. You've been there with a job, or a life change like a marriage or a divorce, or a lay-off.

    Same thing with getting that first book published. You know things are about to change. Things HAVE changed the moment you sign the contract. So, analogous to finding out you're pregnant, you get The Call and sign the contract and everything suddenly shifts into high gear. You turn the book in. You make the requested revisions. You make more revisions. You wait. You prepare - like buying for a nursery, you have to choose: what fits in the budget? How much room do you have? Book marks or magnets? Ads in RT or no ads anywhere?

    It's a blur.

    The book comes out, hopefully to notice if not acclaim, and you're on your way. Now you're not just writing for contests, for that hope of publication; NOW you have a deadline and someone is paying you to meet it.

    There are some things I promised myself I would try to never do, when I sold. So far, I'm doing pretty well. Here are a few:

    Never complain about having a deadline, since there are thousands who would love to be in your shoes.

    Okay, I'm doing well with this one because I actually LIKE deadlines. They motivate me - sometimes in a positive way, sometimes with a whip and a chair - but either way, I get-er- done when I have a deadline. The other thing here is, at risk of repetition, someone is paying me to deliver a product by a certain date. Period. That, right there, is motivation enough for me.

    Trust me, I'm a good old American Capitalist. I LIKE to get paid, even if it isn't that much at first, it's that much and I'm there to fulfill my contract.

    Never complain about how "hard" it is to find time to write.

    I'm one of the luckiest people on earth. I know this. I have a great husband who supports what I do, my sons are proud that their mom "writes books," even if they have no idea what the scope of that entails.

    I have a good writing schedule.

    If I don't have time to write, it's no one's fault but my own. I bow down in homage to those who get up at 5 am to write before the kids get up, or take a quick nap when their spouses come home so they can stay up after everyone's asleep to slip in some writing time. They do it on breaks at the day job, in between chemo appointments with their mom, while in the car pool lane, or on the night shift.

    Trust me, I know how lucky I am, and I keep my mouth shut, even when it seems like I have so much non-writing stuff to do that I don't know how I'll find the time to write.

    I'm lucky. I'll find it.

    Never disparage another writer's work, or process, or genre.

    You know, there are still so many who look down on Romance as a genre. Feeling the occasional sting of that, I resolved a while back that I wouldn't "return the favor" to any other genre.

    Are there books I don't like. Yes.
    Are there genres I don't read? Yes, again.
    Are they all valuable? Oh, my, YES!

    It takes a mystery, fantasy, literary, YA or horror writer just as long to write 415 manuscript pages as it does for me to do it. Even Poets have to struggle with word choice and character arcs and the dreaded sagging middle. Just because my genre seems to be especially persecuted (bodice ripper anyone?) after years of proving our worth, doesn't mean we are somehow better. Or Worse.

    Now, I'll be a little proud here and remind all of YOU that Romance is the only reliably selling, powerfully deliverable product in the book world right now, according to the Washington Post and several other articles.

    It's a justifiable pride I think, but I try to do it without accompanying prejudice.

    And process? Oh, my.

    I wrestled so hard with my early work, trying to fit the writing and me into SOME kind of process. Plotting. Nope. Outlining. Nope. I don't use the tools that others use, but if I hadn't tried them I would have missed some incredibly valuable lessons.

    That said, the best lesson was that I'm NOT a plotter nor am I a chapter-by-chapter pantzer. I don't outline. I DO write a synopsis and I follow it pretty well, but otherwise? For me it's a big, fat surprise all the way from "A Dark and Stormy Night" to The End.

    My process is a thing of murk and mire, rather than clean lines and an arrow shooting from a drawn bow.

    I heard NYT Author PC Cast call it the Brew and Spew method of writing.

    Yep. That I can understand.

    So, whether you're plotter to the max - chapter one, scene one, two, three - or a Murk and Mire, Brew and Spew writer like me, I lift my glass in toast. Here's to US, writers all!

    *clinkclinkclinkclink* (Wow, lots of clinking glasses! I LOIKE it!!)

    Last but not least, the thing I said I would try my BEST to not do? Pontificate.

    Yeah, you heard me. Despite the length of this tome of a post, have I said "you should do this!"?

    Nope. Not. Gonna. Do. It.

    I heard a lot of "YouShouldDoThis" when I first joined my chapter and RWA. I think in that adolescent period between being a nascent writer and a seasoned one, you find that your process is "the groove" and you want to share it with everyone as if it were the one-and-only-gospel-of-writing-amen. Then you get past it and see that some people Brew, some Plot, some fly by the seat of their Harem Pants, some slog, some sing, but all writers write to The End. No matter how we get there, we get there.

    I mostly try to just accept that others do it differently.

    So, the only "should" is that we should all get our bums back in our OWN chairs! Hahaha! (Anyone out there wince? No? Good for you!!)

    So, now that I've broken my rule a wee bit and pontificated, what are some things you hope you remember NOT to say?

    What are some things you hope you ALWAYS remember from "The Before THE CALL" time?

    Imagining yourself down the road with your third book on the NYT, what would YOU tell a brand new author?

    And last but not least on the questions, how would you answer the question La Nora seems to ALWAYS get asked.....drum roll please....WHERE do you get your ideas?

    SNORK!!!! AND...As always, grab a glass from a passing cabana boy or Gladiator (Marcus? Lucien? You're ready over there at the bar, right?) Let's stack 'em, rack 'em and pack 'em (books that is) and celebrate Dark and Deadly hitting the shelves! Buy early and often! hahaha!Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Road Trip!

    by Susan Sey

    I had an epiphany the other day.

    I didn't find an image of the Virgin Mary in my morning oatmeal or anything. It was pretty pedestrian as far as epiphanies go. My sudden blast of insight was more related to the ten-hour road trip I was preparing for.

    When I was a kid, we regularly drove up to our family cottage in Northern Michigan for the weekend. It was a four hour trip, one way. Sometimes my dad would drive back to the city for the work week, leaving my mom & sisters & I alone at the lake until he returned late Friday night.

    Every afternoon while he was away my mom would load up the giant van & take us all to the Dairy Queen in town. I can't remember what we all ate but she had an enormous Peanut Buster Parfait. Every day, rain or shine, without fail. Peanut Buster Parfait.

    When I was a kid, road trips just...happened. Like Christmas & birthday parties & dinner & clean clothes. They just magically occured & I didn't bother to think about where they came from. I got in the van at home, got out several hours later at the cottage & voila. Summer vacation was upon us.

    I thought about this as I stood in my bedroom the other day with suitcases piled up to my knees, a mountain of clean but unfolded laundry mounded on the bed, & an excel spreadsheet in hand listing out everything I needed to do/pack/remember. Getting a family from Point A to Point B is no joke. Succesful military campaigns have been mounted that require less planning.

    When I was a kid, I thought the daily trip to DQ for was us. Now that I'm older (and have survived a few solo, ten-hour road trips sans my husband,) I know better.

    That Peanut Buster Parfait was my mother's sanity. It was nothing less than an oasis of selfishness & indulgence. It was something to look forward to every day while trapped for a weeks in a tiny cottage with one bathroom, balky plumbing & no other kids for miles around. I don't remember if she read romance novels or not, but I hope she did. If ever a woman needed a HEA, it was my mom during those long weeks at the lake.

    This little epiphany of mine got me thinking about other transitions I've made, other times life has forced me to rearrange my thinking. Most particularly, I've revisited how I define a good book anymore.

    Before I tried writing, I didn't cut books--or authors--a lot of slack. I loved a good book. I adored a great one. I read them over & over & over again if a book took my fancy. But if a book failed to live up to the promise of the blurb? Or petered out after a promising start? Or finished with an unsatisfying limp? Oooooh. I did not forgive easily.

    But now that I write books--or attempt to write books--I have a great deal more empathy for what the author tried to do rather than what she actually did. I can admire an ambitious plot turn, even if it isn't artfully executed. I can befriend a hero or heroine who isn't quite as sympathetic as I'd have demanded before.

    I especially love books that are set in unusal locations (Ancient Rome, anybody?) and unpopular time periods (Vietnam War era stuff really appeals to me right now for some reason.) I love the fact that the author sank a year or more of her life into swimming upstream with no guarantee it would pay off. I love that somebody listened to her heart & wrote what was in it instead of trying to force her idea into a pre-formed & saleable slot.

    So tell me: When was the last time you changed your mind? Got a fresh perspective? Redefined something? Took a risk? And you're talking to somebody who recently gave both her children homemade summer haircuts, so don't hold back. Nobody's going to judge you here. :-)Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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Summer Snacks

    by Jo Robertson

    The other day I heard the ice cream man jangling his bell as his truck turned the corner near my house. No one ran after him as they did when I was a child -- lots of little kiddies racing down the street, pennies clutched in their hands.

    But the sound of that bell had an almost Pavlovian effect on me. Suddenly I wanted a treat – preferable the banana popsicles of my youth. Where did all the banana popsicles go, anyway? Can you still find them in your area?


    Summer snacks are the best kind. When the thermometer soars and it’s too hot to do anything outside except lie in the shaded hammock, all I want is a cool snack to ease the pain of sultry summer.

    Here are some of my favorite summer snacks:

    Homemade ice cream. Oh, you knew that was gonna top the list, right? I’ve shared my favorite ice cream recipe before, but I’ll repeat it below. Nothing's
    much better on a summer's day than a delicious, very large bowl of light, homemade ice cream.

    Peppermint patties. The large kind that you nibble on while drinking a tall glass of water and reading your favorite book. My brother and I used to crouch on the floor and draw with our colored pencils, each of us with a glass of ice water and a peppermint patty.


    Ah, the good old days.

    California Cuties. No, not the girls, but the small oranges that are so sweet and so perfectly sized for children's tiny fingers to peel. They're a cross between a sweet orange and a mandarin orange and are delicious! In fact, any fresh fruit is on my list of favorite snacks.


    Right now strawberries are on in California and will continue to produce until October. Yummy. I love strawberries!

    Soda. Your choice. Although I’m just saying that in my not-so-humble opinion, Pepsi outweighs Coke in the on-going Pepsi-Coke controversy. Lots of ice in a tall tumbler and hearing the fizz as the soda pours over the ice. Yum!


    Now I know the experts say soda doesn’t quench thirst nearly as well as water, but in my world, they're just plain wrong.

    Jello. No, no, not the yucky horribly-flavored kind you get in the hospital. I’m talking about the kind you bling up with lots of goodies. Apricot jello with crushed pineapple, bananas, and miniature marshmallows. Strawberry jello with Cool Whip and fresh strawberries.


    And I'm definitely not talking about the lime jello with shredded carrots my mother used to make. Whoever thought that was a good combo?

    Any dessert that doesn’t have to be baked.






    Like my Chocolate Dessert.
    · Break one angel food cake into pieces and spread in a 9x13 pan
    · Melt a 6 ounce package of chocolate chips with 3 tablespoons of water. Cool
    · Add 3 beaten egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of powered sugar.
    · Fold in 3 beaten egg whites and 1 cup of Cool Whip.
    · Pour mixture over cake and chill.
    · Top with chopped nuts.

    Any entrĂ©e that doesn’t have to be cooked. My advice – use the grill!


    Jo’s Homemade Ice Cream

    2 quarts of half and half
    1 can evaporated milk
    3 cups sugar
    1 TB lemon extract
    2 TB vanilla extract

    Mix well with wire whip and pour into ice cream maker.

    Okay, sharing time! What's your favorite summer snack? Sweet or salty? Dry or liquid? Got any favorite, non-labor intensive recipes for us?
    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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Friday, May 29, 2009

Assam Black Pomfret


    Black Pomfret is one of the frozen fishes that somehow is just as good as one which has just come out of the water.
    I had to show my guests around, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we forgot about the time. We were running very late for dinner, luckily the fish was taken out to thaw in the morning before we left home. So, cooking this dish was no effort as the assam spices was a premixed and pineapple was from the can. Only the tomatoes needed to be halves. Thank goodness for premixed spices and a well stocked pantry.

    Ingredients:
    1 black pomfret
    1/2 salt
    1 packet of Assam pedas (any brand will do - adjust taste with tamarind juice and sugar)
    2 tomatoes cut into halves
    1 can pineapple chunks

    Method:
    Clean the black pomfret of scales and salt the fish, inside and on the surface of fish.
    Follow the instructions in the packet of assam pedas premix, add in the black pomfret. Cover and cook until fish is cooked. Adjust taste with tamarind juice if not sour enough, sugar and salt according to taste.
    Add in tomatoes and pineapple chunks and bring gravy back to the boil.
    Serve hot with white rice and enjoy.


    Serves
    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sherry Thomas visits the Lair!

    by Christine Wells

    It's my pleasure to welcome back to the lair a historical romance writer who has received many accolades since her highly anticipated debut PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS wowed readers in 2008. Sherry is a double RITA finalist this year with PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, which is a strong contender for both best debut and best historical romance. You can read more about Sherry on her website.

    Sherry's third novel, NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is out now. Go and buy it. You'll be glad you did! Here is the blurb:


    Their marriage lasted only slightly longer than the honeymoon—to no one’s surprise, not even Bryony Asquith's. A man as talented, handsome, and sought after by society as Leo Marsden couldn't possibly want to spend his entire life with a woman who rebelled against propriety by becoming a doctor. Why, then, three years after their annulment and half a world away, does he track her down at her clinic in the remotest corner of India?

    Leo has no reason to think Bryony could ever forgive him for the way he treated her, but he won't rest until he’s delivered an urgent message from her sister—and fulfilled his duty by escorting her safely back to England. But as they risk their lives for each other on the journey home, will the biggest danger be the treacherous war around them—or their rekindling passion?

    First of all, I have to say that I read Not Quite a Husband almost in one sitting, sending my children to bed early and burning my husband's dinner (he assures me he likes his roast pork a little char-grilled). Can you tell our readers about your hero and heroine?

    Leo Marsden and Bryony Asquith are no longer married. In fact, since their marriage was annulled, legally speaking, they were never married. But of course it was an annulment based on lies--non-consummation and a manufactured invalidity with the wedding ceremony itself, as they lived in an era when divorces were hugely damaging, and annulments a much more discreet way to end a marriage.

    Bryony is a physician and surgeon. The fact that she is a doctor plays an important role at several points in the story. Leo is a mathematician. I'm not sure whether his being a mathematician matters tremendously to the plot, but I want him to be a mathematician because I find that kind of brilliance sexy. :-)

    Bryony and Leo are English but the story is set against the backdrop of an uprising in the North-West Frontier of India. What made you choose this setting?

    LOL, it was what I could find.

    The book is inspired by the movie The Painted Veil, which is set in 1920s China. In the movie, the remote, dangerous location is absolutely necessary for the couple to repair their relationship, because it forces them to be in close proximity and rely on each other in ways that they wouldn't in a big city.

    So given that I had a certain time window in which to set my book, somewhere between 1894 and 1899, I went looking for colonial conflicts around the world. My original idea of central Asia did not work--it was not really a destination for Englishwomen. I looked as far as South Africa and New Zealand, but eventually decided to try my luck with the area where Osama Bin Laden may be hiding today, knowing that the Pashtun tribes of those mountains have a long history of resisting foreign influence.

    And bingo, lo and behold, there was a spate of trouble in the North-West Frontier of India in 1897. I mapped them out and settled on the Swat Valley Uprising, because it happened so unexpectedly and violently--the British garrison in Swat Valley was caught completely by surprise. (I didn't want my H/H to be headed knowingly into danger, lol, can't have them be too stupid to live.)

    I've noticed that the theme of estranged lovers recurs in all three of your published novels. It's one of my favourite tropes. What draws you to write about heroes and heroines with shared pasts?

    DELICIOUS is more of a forbidden-love story, but PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS and NOT QUITE A HUSBAND are definitely estranged-lover stories.

    I think it is not so much heroes and heroines with shared pasts that draw me, but the idea of how do you deal with a relationship that has gone off the rails. How do you recover from that kind of disaster and rebuild? That fascinates me. It goes to the very foundation of what romantic love is. Is it a lesser entity--rising with lust and waning with time--or is it grand and beautiful, capable of the kind of forgiveness, understanding, generosity, and commitment that make life worth living?

    I would like to believe the latter so I aspire to it in my books.

    Laura Kinsale once commented that readers are hard on heroines, that if you don't write a "nice, kind, smart, sassy, beautiful, not-too-strong, not-too-weak heroine" you need to prepare yourself for flak. The heroines you write are strong, flawed and not always "nice". Do you think readers' tastes are changing a little? Or do you agree with Claudia Dain, that just as there are alpha and beta heroines, there are alpha and beta readers?

    I never think about likeability when I read romance heroines. My two favorite heroines of all time are Louise from BEAST, by Judith Ivory, and Melanthe from FOR MY LADY'S HEART by Laura Kinsale. Neither of them would even look at me in real life, but I'd probably totally girl-crush on them! Whatever Laura Kinsale was doing, she was doing something right.

    When I write, it's the same: I don't ask myself whether my characters are likeable, I only ask whether I understand why they are the way they are.

    I'm not an authority on whether reader tastes are changing, since we did have these strong, flawed, and not always "nice" heroines before, in very, very successful books. Maybe it's like milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Readers can like more than one kind of heroine, just like you and me can like more than one kind of chocolate. Maybe the supply of dark chocolate has been low, so people have been consuming more milk chocolate. But now that dark chocolate is more readily available, people are realizing that they like it too. :-)

    Please tell us 3 quirky things about you.

    1) I have a dysfunctional sense of vocabulary. When I came to the U.S., I was thirteen, and had an English vocabulary of about 150. I had to quickly bring myself up to speed to handle school and then beef up my word bank to tackle the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test, which is a vocabulary-heavy--or at least used to be--standardized test American high school students have to take). Words like "puissant" and "invidious" entered my vocabulary long before words such as "potty" or "nerd." As a result, it often has to be pointed out to me when a word is a 25-cent word, or an archaic word, or that I can just say "collarbone" instead of "clavicle."

    2) I am incapable of writing anything based on my own life. I'm writing a contemporary romance on spec, and the heroine is 1/4 native-American. And I have been mulling whether to take out that 1/4 native-American part. Because, well, the ancestors of Native Americans came from Asia and I'm from Asia and I don't want people to think I'm writing about myself! Nuts, ain't it? That's how much I don't want the facts of my life to end up in my books.

    3) I cannot eat alone without reading. There will be times when it's midnight, and I finally sitting down to my dinner, then I get up, while my food grows cold, and search all around my house for something I want to read.

    Sherry has generously offered a signed copy of NOT QUITE A HUSBAND to one lucky reader who answers her question:

    I am personally neutral on the "exotic-ness" of book settings--a well-done setting is a well-done setting, whether it is the familiar pleasure grounds of London, or the jungles of Amazon. But since NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is set rather far and away--the North-West Frontier of British India, today's North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan--I'd like to hear what are some of the great less-used settings you have read in romances, settings that truly come alive.

    My personal favorites are Provence as portrayed by Judith Ivory in BEAST, and Hawaii in Laura Kinsale's THE SHADOW AND THE STAR. (In fact, recently, while planning for our long overdue family vacation, and looking over which island of Hawaii we wanted to go, I instantly recognized the landmarks on Oahu from THE SHADOW AND THE STAR, so of course that's where we are going! I'm going to re-read the Hawaii portions of TSATS before we leave.)

    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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Another May Winner!!!

    I'm excited to finally announce the random winner of an autographed copy of the first book in Susan Mallery's fabulous new Lone Star Sisters series, Under Her Skin. The winner is ...

    Cheri2628!!!

    Congratulations, Cheryl!!

    Please send your snail mail address to me at katecarlisle99@yahoo.com and I'll forward the info to Susan.

    Susan had a great time visiting the Banditas! Thanks to everyone who came by say hi!
    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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Sara Bennett's winner!

    Thanks, everyone, for a fun day talking historical romance in the lair yesterday and for giving Sara Bennett such a rousing welcome. The winner of the signed copy of your choice of any historical romance from Sara's backlist (including her new book LED ASTRAY BY A RAKE) is:

    ANITA JOY!

    Anita, please contact Sara on sara@sara-bennett.com and she'll organize your prize for you. Congratulations!Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Burning Questions About Weird Stuff

    Since today is my regular day to blog and I'm a little busy playing grandma to my new grandson, my very good friend, Nancy Haddock has kindly agreed to host the blog today. Please welcome Nancy, and check out her new book, The Last Vampire Standing...

    Hellloooo, Banditas! It’s a kick to be back with you, and mucho mondo thanks to Suz for inviting me!

    I’ve done a good many blogs lately, a number of them on the serious side. Today, we’re having fun! After all, it’s still the launch month of my book Last Vampire Standing, so let’s keep the party going! (And, yes, darlings, there is a copy of my new release up for grabs to those who leave a comment!)

    So, does anyone remember the film Jumpin’ Jack Flash? There’s a scene in which Whoopi Goldberg’s character, Terry Dolittle, poses the question, “What is Martinizing?” She wondered about stuff like that.

    Of course, Googling provided the Martinizing answer. But what about questions Google and the Internet can’t answer? I have burning questions about weird stuff, and perhaps you’ve wondered about these, too. To wit:

    Why do weather people only have to be right 10% of the time to keep their jobs? Did they only have to be 10% right on their meteorology exams?

    Does antimatter matter not? If so (or not), why are scientists making it?

    Why is the green M&M the only “female?”

    Do aliens take pictures of Earth and beam them home? Are we making funny faces in the pictures?


    Why did advertising folks corrupt words like Light to Lite and Glow to Glo? Did the containers get too small to hold the correctly spelled word?

    When the magnetic poles reverse, will water in the northern hemisphere drain counterclockwise?

    If a late flight can “make up time in the air,” why don’t planes fly faster all the time?

    Why does it take four supervisors to watch one construction worker do his job?

    Which fragrances combine to make up New Car Smell?

    Why do our legs take longer to tan than other parts of us?

    Where are all the lost socks? In parallel universes, with parallel washers and dryers, do they lose their socks, too? Are there enough lost single socks floating around somewhere to make pairs again?

    If someone is out to get you, and you’re not paranoid about it, is there something wrong with you?


    Okay, your turn. Come on, now, I know you have your own burning questions about weird stuff, so leave a comment and spill. Can’t think of a question? Jo-Jo the Jester, the stand-up comic in Last Vampire Standing, is still looking for material, so leave your suggestion for a vampire joke. If you’re a published author, please also leave your web URL or title of your last or upcoming book. I like sharing the stage!

    For more opportunities to win a book, see the Beach Party page on Nancy’s web site –
    www.nancyhaddock.com. Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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And The Winner is . . .

    Once again, we have booty to give away!

    The winner of Stephanie Bond's 4 Bodies and a Funeral is (cue fanfare)


    Donna S!

    Congratulations, Donna! Please email me via romancebandits@gmail.com with your contact information, and I'll pass it along to Stephanie.

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by.
    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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Braised Pork Shank With King Topshell


    Pig shank braised to tender perfection. The meat was still firm and succulent enough for a good bite whilst the skin tender and soft for a the perfect contrast in texture. The King Topshell kicked it up a knotch and made this dish definitely good stuff. As a bonus, serve with Flower Buns

    Ingredients:
    A
    1 can Mexican King Topshell/Bao Ngu
    B
    1 pig’s shank
    1 tbsp dark soy sauce
    C
    10–12 dried black mushrooms, soaked
    1 piece dried squid - washed
    4cm piece cinnamon stick
    1 star anise
    3 cloves
    3cm piece young ginger, smashed lightly
    3 cloves garlic
    1 tbsp ground tau cheong/mein see
    2 tbsp oyster sauce
    2 tbsp light soy sauce
    1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
    2 stalks spring onions
    2 tsp sugar
    1/4 tsp pepper
    2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
    Stock/water - enough to cover the shank
    Thickening (combine):
    1/2 tbsp corn flour
    1 tbsp water
    Green Leafy Vegetables - blanched

    Method:
    Bring half a pot of water to a boil. Put in shank and blanch for three to four minutes. Remove and wipe dry. While it is still hot, brush it with dark soy sauce.
    Heat 1/2 cup oil in a wok and when oil is hot, lower shank in and fry until the skin is browned. Remove and put shank in cold water to rid of excess oil.
    In a pressure cooker, heat 2 tbsp oil and add in the cinnamon bark, star anise and cloves. Fry until the cinnamon bark is opened. Then, add in the remaining ingredient B.
    Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat.When the second ring(15 lbs) on the pressure cooker appears, lower the heat and set the timer for 25 to 30 minutes.
    Release the pressure and remove the lid, check the shank for doneness and remove it from pot. (Tent with foil to keep warm)
    Return pot to the stovetop, add in the liquid from the King Topshell. Reduce the sauce abit, then add in the King Topshell - just to warm them up.
    Remove King Topshells and slice, arrange sliced King Topshells, Mushrooms around the pork shank on a platter which has blanched green leafy vegetables.
    Thicken the sauce, adjust the taste( i like to add more Shaoxing wine), and pour hot sauce over the pork shank platter.
    Sprinkle with sesame oil and serve immediately with Flower Buns.





    Serves

    Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Led Astray by Sara Bennett!

    by Anna Campbell

    It is with great pleasure I bring back another familiar face to the lair, Aussie historical romance star Sara Bennett. Sara's going to tell us about her latest series and also about what else has been happening in her world.

    For more information about Sara and her books, check out her website: http://www.sara-bennett.com/index.html

    Sara, welcome back to the lair. Your June release, LED ASTRAY BY A RAKE, kicks off a new five-book series called THE HUSBAND HUNTERS CLUB, set in the Victorian era. Can you tell us about this story?

    Nice to be back, Anna. LED ASTRAY BY A RAKE is the first book in THE HUSBAND HUNTERS CLUB series, which is a fun series about five respectable young ladies from Miss Debenham’s Finishing School who form a club and make a pact to marry the men of their dreams rather than the men chosen for them by their families and the stuffy society they live in. These men may not be entirely suitable, and the girls swear to hunt them with all the feminine wiles in their possession. Love, they declare, will conquer all! Unfortunately that isn’t always the case, and there are lots of problems along the way. LED ASTRAY is about Miss Olivia Monteith and her chosen husband, Lord Dominic Lacey or, as he’s known in society, Wicked Nic. He seems to revel in his bad reputation, but Olivia knows he has a good heart and that they could be very happy together, if only she could persuade him to see past her respectable facade. When this fails, she decides to meet him on his own territory, at the Demimondaine Ball, and take the serious step of seducing him. I won’t give away the rest of the story, except to say that Nic has a dark secret in his past that Olivia may find it hard to forgive, even loving him as she does. (By the way, gorgeous Haddon Hall on the right was Sara's inspiration for Lacey Castle, the setting for this story).

    Ooh, sounds delicious! What's coming up next from THE HUSBAND HUNTERS CLUB?

    Marissa Rotherhild’s story is coming up next. She has her sights set on the Honorable George Kent, but when she arrives at his manor house for a weekend party, George isn’t there. Instead she meets his brother, Valentine, and falls in love. But Valentine is on a quest to find a lost rose and if Marissa wants his attention then she must help him, no matter how dangerous it may become.

    Like Bandita Donna MacMeans, you set your books in the Victorian era. What's the appeal of this time for you?

    The Victorian era is a long period, from 1837 to 1901, and you have lots of changes during that time. My new series is set in 1837, at the very beginning of the Victorian era, so everything seems new and exciting. A new queen on the throne, a new age of science and reason, the industrial revolution replacing the old ways. In this time of dramatic change, the girls of Miss Debenham’s Finishing School feel that they are making their own new beginnings and that they should be allowed to make their own decisions for the future.


    You also write paranormal romance as Sara Mackenzie. What's coming up for your alter-ego?

    I recently had a short story called THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER AND HIS WIFE published in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF PARANORMAL ROMANCE. I am about to start work on a second story, this time for THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF PARANORMAL TIME TRAVEL. I also have a trilogy outstanding—and yes, my fans are always asking when I’m going to finish it. And I promise I will!

    Do you ever get the urge to kick over the traces and write something outside the historical romance genre?

    Funny you should ask that! I used to write mainstream historical, back in the dark ages, and recently one of those books has been bought by a German publisher.

    This has encouraged me to think there may still be a place for these longer, character-filled books, set in the Australian past, and I’d like to write another one. It is just finding the time that’s difficult.

    Congratulations on the German sale. What writers have been your biggest influences?

    I read widely, and lately I’ve been reading lots of nonfiction. I suppose when I first started writing romance I read Johanna Lindsey and Katherine Woodiwiss, and I also loved the Angelique series by husband and wife team Sergeanne Golon. I wish I could get hold of some of the old French movies they made of the first few ANGELIQUE books, but they’ve never released them with English subtitles. I also read a lot of crime fiction and I like a spooky ghost story. I’ve just finished Sarah Waters' THE LITTLE STRANGER, which was brilliant. And I'm catching up with the Cynsters, with Stephanie Laurens' latest, yum.

    Do you see any trends emerging in romance and in historical romance in particular?

    Well, I’ve heard the historical is popular again! Seriously I don’t think it ever really went out of fashion, and there are so many periods of history and so many different kinds of historicals. I don’t know what the next big thing is. I just write what I write and hope everyone will enjoy it. I think that’s all a writer can do.

    Sara, is there anything you'd like to ask the Bandits and Buddies?

    What kind of historical would you really like to read? Medieval, Regency, Tudor, Viking—what?

    Sara has very generously offered one lucky commenter their choice of a signed book from her backlist of historical romances. What a great opportunity to catch up a wonderful story you might have missed out on. You can see her bookshelf here: http://www.sara-bennett.com/titles.html Good luck!Source URL: http://castleofrock.blogspot.com/2009/05/
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