February 7, 2019

a recipe from 'playing house'



When I briefly moved to Texas, I noticed a bunch of restaurants selling kolaches. Curious, my mom stopped by one of the stores and came with a few for us to try. We were a little surprised to discover that these were sausages wrapped in a yeasty dough, kind of like pigs in a blanket, rather than what we were used to having at home.

As a Nebraska girl (and one with family roots in the Wilbur-Claytonia area) I was familiar with the Czech dish. Pictured to the right, they use that same yeasty dough, though instead of being filled with savory sausages, they are topped with preserves like a danish (only not quite so sweet). The prune are my favorite.

While writing "Playing House," I included a scene where the heroine, Bailey, stops by her sister's with a bag of breakfast and coffee. Since they're Texas girls, I decided to have them dine on this savory dish while they gossiped about the state of their relationships.

I shared the excerpt of that scene on Tuesday (click here to read it) but you can try the recipe out for yourself.

Make Your Own Kolaches

Ingredients

1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3-4 cups all-purpose flour
Sausage links, preserves

Directions

1. Dissolve yeast into warm water and let stand for 10 minutes.

2. Scald milk on stovetop. Add butter and sugar. Allow to cool.

3. Add in salt and egg. Combine with yeast mixture. Stir in flour 1 cup at a time, kneading. Dough will be somewhat sticky, but it will come clean from fingers. Leave dough to rise until doubled in size (about one hour).

4. Cut dough into strips and wrap around sausage to make Texasstyle kolaches. Or roll into small balls and flatten, making a deep impression in center to fill with preserve of choice. Rise for 1 hour.

5. Bake on lined pan for 15-20 minutes at 375 F.


She’s a work in progress, and he’s a fixer upper.
Sparks fly when Bailey meets Wilder on the set of a home-improvement TV show.

Click here for more information about Playing House.


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

February 4, 2019

#teasertuesday: an excerpt from 'playing house'


The past two days had been nothing short of spectacular. Even though Bailey knew this was temporary, she’d probably replay some of those moments forever. 

See? Thinking like that proved she needed a hard reality check from her sister. Otherwise, she was setting herself up for disappointment. 

Armed with two cups of coffee and sausage kolaches, she was about to ring the bell when the front door swung open. Her hand froze over the buzzer and she came face-to-face with a man she’d never seen in her life.

“Uh . . .” 

She stepped back and double-checked the numbers over the door in case she’d lost her mind and landed on a stranger’s front porch. Nope. She was in the right place. Who the heck was this guy? What was he doing on her sister’s porch with his fly undone and shirt half-buttoned? And why wasn’t he Felix? Not that Bailey wanted to see Felix’s washboard abs. Or lack of them—she hadn’t really considered what he was working with under those work shirts. But he was the one who should be doing the walk of shame from her sister’s house at this hour. Not some stranger.

Her heart sank. Had something happened between Paige and Felix? Wilder said Felix was making a trip back to Houston for the weekend to visit his parents. The last she’d heard they were going strong. If everything was fine, then . . .

Paige suddenly appeared behind Mr. Six-Pack. Wrapped in a robe, her messy hair was a tell-tale sign she’d just pulled herself out of bed. She offered a welcoming grin even as Bailey’s eyes turned to slits.

“What a nice surprise.” Her eyes traveled to Bailey’s hands, and her grin grew even brighter. “You brought breakfast.”

“Enough for two. Sorry.” Bailey directed a quick glare at her sister’s guest, who was still standing around half dressed. “I didn’t realize there would be a third.”

Check back on Thursday to get my recipe for Texas-Style Kolaches!


She’s a work in progress, and he’s a fixer upper.
Sparks fly when Bailey meets Wilder on the set of a home-improvement TV show.

Click here for more information about Playing House.


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

January 31, 2019

shelfie: my january bookshelf

This year I set a goal for myself to read 50 books. I pledged it via the Goodreads Challenge, and I also created some printable inserts for my planner to keep track. Now, I'm sharing a rundown with you readers to keep myself honest (or something like that).

Quick note: There will be a few omissions this month and next. I am reading about half a dozen novels and novellas as a RITA judge for Romance Writers of America. As such, I'm not allowed to publicly share what books I have read as a judge. I'll include the page and book numbers in my totals while keeping the titles and authors a secret. Fortunately, with the temperatures dipping and the snow accumulation rising, I've had ample time to read otherwise this month.


Here's what I read in January:

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

For Better or Worse, To Love and to Cherish and From This Day Forward by Lauren Layne

My Two Husbands by Amanda Askel


I'm also in the process of reading No Safe Place by Sherri Shackelford. I'll have to give you an update on that one in my next monthly reading recap.

How about you? What did you read in January?


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

January 22, 2019

teaser tuesday: counting on you

Blogger's Note: For this Teaser Tuesday, check out a scene from my latest release, "Counting on You." In this scene, Haleigh has agreed to let Ian set her up with a dating profile on his new app, XO On Demand. We will have a read along of this book in my Reader Group on Facebook beginning February 1. 


She must be crazy. While she’d cut someone out of her life for calling her that, it was the only logical explanation Haleigh could come up with as she downloaded a beta copy of XO On Demand onto her phone.

Only the day before she’d been set up on her first blind date ever. Now, here she was, giving online dating a shot.

What a difference a day made.

She’d been completely serious about never considering online dating. She knew people who had tried it—and successfully. Not that she judged, but it seemed like such a direct and confrontational way to meet someone. By putting your profile out there, you were proclaiming to the world that you were on the prowl.

In another five minutes, she’d be one of those people. After she finished the setup and the survey Ian assured her would be fun, she’d have her first string of potential dates. Brought to her through the magic of technology.

All because she couldn’t stand the idea of her classmates judging her.

If she was one of her own students, she’d tell them it didn’t matter. That after high school no one cared what people thought. And she’d be lying.

The download completed, and the app opened on her screen. She followed Ian’s directions to create her account. His play-by-play wasn’t entirely necessary. The directions were pretty self-explanatory, but he seemed eager to help. It eased her nerves. Some.

“This is where it gets interesting.” Ian clicked a button, taking her to the next page. “Instead of having you answer fifty questions about who you are and what you want, we’ve created a quiz of sorts. Would you rather go camping or stay in a five-star hotel? Which breakfast looks most appetizing? What—”

“I’ve got it.” She flashed him a grin to soften her tone, but she needed to concentrate.
There were so many questions. None of them were too complicated or earth-shattering, but she had to choose correctly. Her future lineup of men depended on it.

Question One: Which of these dishes would you order right now?

She selected a basket of chicken strips with fries.

“That’s what I’d pick, too,” Ian said. “What do you use for dipping?”

“Honey mustard.”

“Barbecue.” He shook his head. “I knew there had to be something wrong with you.”

At least his teasing made this a little less nerve-racking. “You guys aren’t going to use these answers and sell my information to restaurants now, are you?”

“Of course not.” But he tapped his chin thoughtfully. “It isn’t a bad idea, though.”

Question Two: Where would you rather spend a Saturday afternoon?

She didn’t even have to consider this one. She picked “Binge-watching TV in my bed.”

“What’s your go-to show?”

“You heard that one last night,” she reminded him. “Doctor Who. But I’ve been known to do a Lord of the Rings or Star Wars marathon from time to time”

“Which episode is your favorite?”

“Five.” That’s what everyone always said. There was probably something about the bad knocking down the good at the end of the Empire Strikes Back that made a person seem deep. After Greg had explained that to her years ago, she’d made it her customary response.

Only when she was being totally honest, she’d admit she liked Return of the Jedi best. She loved those Ewoks.

“Okay, you’re forgiven for the honey mustard.” Ian drank from the pint that had been delivered a few moments before. “But I’ll admit, I’ve never seen Doctor Who.”

She tore herself away from the phone. “Seriously?”

He lifted a shoulder. “It’s not because I’m opposed to it. I just haven’t watched.”

She muttered about how sad it was that some people never truly lived as she returned her attention to the quiz. It took her longer than five minutes—particularly with Ian chiming in on almost every question—but eventually, she reached the end.

Are you ready to get matched?

Was she?

If she was answering, “Do you want a date to your reunion so Nina and your former classmates can shut up and Greg can suck it?” the answer would be yes. Absolutely. With bells on. As for whether or not she actually wanted to date anyone . . . that was more complicated.

Was she taking the whole thing too far? It was one thing when it was an abstract idea, but this would involve real people. And not just a random guy a co-worker set her up with. She’d be auditioning men who were online looking for love. Or a hookup. They weren’t looking for drama and baggage.

Then she remembered one of the comments freshly added to the reunion event page today. “What’s the high-low on Haleigh showing up at all?”

She clicked “find me a date.”



"Counting on You," the first book in my Amarillo Sour series
is on sale January 21-27, 2019. 


Find It On:



***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on  Amazon and BookBub.***

January 21, 2019

meet the hero of 'counting on you'

Blogger's Note: Let me take you behind-the-scenes of my latest release, Counting on You. In addition to introducing you to the hero, Ian Henning, I thought I'd give you a little insight into my plotting process by sharing the unedited character sketch of him I developed before I wrote the book. Some details changed while writing and others didn't come into play. 

Name: Ian Henning

Age: 30

Hometown: Originally from Omaha, has lived in Lincoln since college and stayed.

Who would play him? Brendan Penny

Physical Description: Brown hair that would go wavy if he let it get long enough—he usually keeps it cropped tight. (He doesn’t miss many appointments. It’s one of his guilty pleasures—going to one of those dudes-only places where you get a cranial massage with the shampoo and a close shave while ESPN plays on a big screen.) He has serious, clear blue eyes that crinkle around the edges when he’s thinking hard or amused. Strong jaw, which usually has whiskers by the end of the day. He has a little bump on his nose from getting it broken in a pick-up game of basketball in middle school. Though he plays in a Frisbee golf league and continues to play basketball or tennis with his friends, he wishes he made more time to work out, because he is a little self-conscious about how much attention he and the other founders are getting. He feels a bit scrawny, though he’s toned. He’s somewhere between 5-11 and 6-feet tall.

Style: Totally a T-shirts and jeans kind of guy. One of the perks of being a top-ranking guy at a booming young software company means getting to dress however he wants. He has a large collection of shirts with the company logo on it, but also favors plain shirts like Haleigh. He has one suit, which he wears for quarterly board meetings and the occasional fancy dress event that is becoming more and more frequent as the company grows. Has an impressive collection of tennis shoes and flip-flops.

Personality: Task- and goal-oriented, but more of a Type A-minus. He makes goals and sets out to finish them. But he also has dirty dishes in his sink, forgets to put boxers in his hamper, and can’t remember how long the jar of mustard has been in his fridge. Though an introvert, he makes a point to be social. He’s still friends with quite a few of his classmates back in Omaha and tends to make friendships easily. He’s not a natural leader, but has grown into the roll. Though he worries about his work a lot, he is cool under pressure and definitely embodies the role of problem-solver.

Habits/Mannerisms: He has the awful, disgusting habit of popping his knuckles—something his mother hated—when he is thinking. He also leans back in his chairs (which worries Haleigh, who as a teacher is a firm preacher of “four on the floor”).

Occupation: He is the lead programmer at a booming start-up software company. Though not one of the founders, he was the first intern as a college student and first official hire after he graduated college. He is now a vice-president in the company and oversees all of the programming and design. He takes his work seriously and will work overtime without noticing. (He once spent the better part of a month sleeping on a couch in their breakroom, because he wanted to be there to fix any glitches that came up during a new product line launch.) His hard work has recently garnered more attention outside of the company. He was listed in an article of “Thirty Thirty-Somethings to Watch” in the local newspaper and his programming team was listed as one of the top game-changers in a Wired-like magazine. He’s unaccustomed to the attention, being a self-described tech nerd, and isn’t totally sure what he thinks about it.

Hobbies/Interests: He plays some casual group sports, usually with some of the other programmers and employees at his company. He frequents Amarillo Sour a few nights a week and is considered a regular. He also usually goes there with a couple of his co- workers, but has made a couple of friends of sorts with other regulars. A proud nerd, he will watch any new comic book-based movie or TV show. He’s a hug Star Wars fan and one of his proudest moments was bumping into George Lucas at a coffee shop in California where he proceeded to completely fanboy in an uncool way. He collects Pop! Figures (those big-headed dolls) for Star Wars and comic book shows. As he and Haleigh spend more time together, he follows her into a Dr. Who and Torchwood binge- watch obsession. He enjoys travel and wants to see more of the world, but hasn’t done much yet. He’s hopeful his growth in the company will allow him to do so.

Education: He studied computer programming at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a member of the Raikes School of Engineering. Prior to his work with the software company, he spent summers interning at a couple of start-ups, one in the San Francisco-area and one in Austin. He recently completed his MBA to help give him more skills in the business-side of his work, even though his heart is in programming.

Family: He is the oldest of three boys. His middle brother is a reporter in Texas, and his youngest is a student at the university. He also has a couple of step-siblings who came around after he’d already moved out of the family house. His parents are divorced and remarried. All fairly cordial. He isn’t particularly close to any of them, but he isn’t estranged either. He and his brothers have a group text, where they keep in touch. He calls his mom—who lives in Denver with her second husband—once a week. He and his dad, who lives in town, hang out once a month or so.

Other Background: He always knew he wanted to be a programmer, but he figured he’d be one, somewhat invisible person on a big team. He came on board the company, because he was friends with one of the founders, and they needed some of his experience from other internships. He has dated casually most of his adult life. He had one or two girlfriends in high school and again in college. He hasn’t used that term to describe any woman since, though. He’s not commitment-phobic, but he’s never really felt that connection to another person to want to put in the time to build a relationship. (Like Haleigh, he has expended a lot of time and energy on building his career.)

Internal Conflicts: Though he isn’t scarred by his parents’ divorce, it has left him a little jaded. He also doesn’t want to repeat them and be in a relationship that involves a lot of yelling without ever talking anything through. He also lacks a lot of confidence. He really see himself as someone who was lucky—just in the right place at the right time. He doesn’t feel like he would have found so much success for himself in his career if he hadn’t been approached with the internship at the time he was. As such, he’s always surprised when something good happens for him. He’s always waiting for the bottom to drop out (kind of like it did with his parents’ divorce—which means maybe he was a bit more scarred).

External Conflicts: His job is requiring him to be out and about in the community more—attending functions and speaking at conference. Though he likes the travel aspect and seeing new places, he’s uncomfortable with his newfound bit of celebrity. (Term used lightly.) It’s strange to him when he’s occasionally recognized, and he’s starting to feel more and more of a sense of responsibility to do what is right. He’s putting quite a bit of pressure on himself to make sure he doesn’t screw anything up for himself, but mostly for the company and the employees who depend on him.

Usual drink: Zipline-like local brew. He should drink more water, which is something Haleigh tells him whenever she has the chance.


"Counting on You," the first book in my Amarillo Sour series
is on sale January 20-27, 2019. 


Find It On:



***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on  Amazon and BookBub.***