September 20, 2019

a recipe inspired by 'the marrying type' and royalty

Blogger's Note: This originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of my newsletter, The Latest. Click here to sign-up for a free subscription and to score a free ebook of my novel First & Goal.


Like so many others, I was a little obsessed with the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a year ago. I hosted a watch party for my friends complete with a make-your-own fascinator station, English breakfast bakes, and my take on their rumored (and later confirmed) lemon elderflower cake. While my first attempt turned out okay, as wedding season kicked up this year, I wanted to give it another try. I've become much better at buttercream frosting in the past year, and I really felt like *this* time I could make it perfect.

And, dear Readers, I did. Oh my goodness this cake turned out perfectly.

As an added bonus, I even found some silk flowers that matched the cover of The Marrying Type to really sweeten the whole deal. I bet Elliot Lynch of would get a lot of requests for this cake if the story took place this year.


Lemon Elderflower Cake

Ingredients

Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
juice from two lemons
lemon curd

Buttercream Frosting

1 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar
4 tbs heavy whipping cream
4 tbs elderflower cordial

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 6-inch cake rounds with parchment paper.

2. Sift and mix together flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, cream butter, lemon zest, sugar, eggs (one at a time), vanilla, milk, and lemon juice. Once well mixed, add in dry mixture, one cup at a time.

3. Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cooked through.

4. Place layers in freezer for at least one hour before assembling.

5. To make frosting: Using an electric mixer, combine room-temperature butter, powdered sugar, whipping cream, and elderflower cordial in a bowl. Mix for at least 10 minutes. (Yes, 10 minutes!)

6. To assemble: Slice cakes in half to make four layers. Cover the bottom three layers with frosting, creating a small well. Scoop lemon curd into the center of each well (the frosting around the edges will keep it in place). Stack layers and cover all sides with the remaining frosting. Don't make it too smooth to capture the rustic style that is a signature of the royal wedding cake's baker, Claire Ptak of Violet Cakes in London. Top with silk or edible flowers.


***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.***

September 13, 2019

a little about 'go for love'


Sometimes I tiptoe around a story for a long time before it's clear. And often, once the idea comes to full fruition, I wonder how it took me so long to have the "aha" moment. Actually, it's less of "aha" and more of an "are you freaking kidding me? It's so obvious" moment, but a moment all the same.

It's frustrating, but it's my process. And after almost a decade of this whole book writing deal, I'm finally coming around to embracing my processes instead of fighting them. Or, rather, I'm coming around to embracing the idea of coming around to embracing.

Yes, friends, this is what it's like inside my head. Spooky, isn't it?

I definitely tiptoed around the idea of writing "Go for Love" the novella that is now available (for a limited time only) in the Love in Charge collection. While I technically brainstormed and outlined the story in March and April of this year, its roots go all the way back to my sophomore year of college.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. For those of you who haven't picked up Love in Charge or "Go for Love" yet, here's the gist:

Days away from the launch of Global Office -- a startup that basically gives working professionals a chance to study abroad -- Sarah Burton needs help. The ancient wiring in her building keeps throwing the whole website and server offline, and she needs it in perfect shape before the website goes live. That's where Beck Spencer comes into play. A wiz at this sort of thing, he's the best man for the job. If only Beck and Sarah didn't have major history together.

Mayhem ensues. Two hearts get a second chance at love and adventure. We all live happily ever after.

So where do my college days come into play with that story?

I like to say I live my life without regrets. But like my whole attitude about embracing my writing process, that's more aspirational than factual. I do have regrets. I regret drama I stirred up back in elementary school. I regret not properly heating up a plate of chicken that gave me food poisoning over Christmas. And I regret that I was in such a rush to graduate from college, I didn't give myself time to pursue certain experiences. Particularly study abroad.

I started college in 2004 with a plan on how I'd graduate in four years. Still a high school senior, I went into the first meeting with my academic advisor with a plan, a contingency plan, and an "oh crap, nothing is going as planned" plan. He looked at my carefully sketched out notes and listened to my recitation. Then he said, "My goal is to help you relax and go with the flow by the end of your freshman year."

That bothered me enough I still remember it 15 years later. But, he wasn't completely wrong. By the end of my freshman year, I decided I'd picked the wrong major. I decided to be a journalist and transferred to a different college with an accredited program.

I transferred halfway through my sophomore year, and in that first semester at my new university, I did my former advisor proud. I went with the flow. I tried new things. I gained a bunch of weight eating plates of pasta and chicken tenders. But I also toyed with the idea of not sticking to a plan. And one of those notions was exploring the possibility of studying abroad. I was serious enough about it that I went to a couple of open houses and met with an advisor to find out how I could spend a semester in England.

(Okay, so I wasn't entirely letting myself loose. Once a planner, always a planner.)

For a few weeks, I had it all planned out. Somehow, I'd get my life together and spend the fall semester of my senior year abroad in England. Preferably London. I wasn't sure what classes I'd take, but it would all work out. I even decided I'd write a book based on the experience. At the time, I had a loosely outlined series that would follow a college freshman as she pursued a very Bridget Jones life (but in America and during college). Book 1 would be called "Freshman Fifteen." Book 2 would be "S'more Galore." Book 3 would be "Transferitis." And Book 4 would be "Abroad." (And, I think Book 5 was going to be "Bonus Year," but I really can't remember.) My world was full of possibilities, and I would be very happy.

Then I met with my academic advisor. As a transfer student, he made sure I knew what was at stake--namely staying on track to graduate in four years. Basically, as I was already coming into the program more than a year behind my classmates, there was no way I could get into all the required journalism classes and study abroad without adding a fifth year. That eager college-bound high school senior still inside of me shriveled. And by the end of my sophomore year, I'd abandoned the idea of studying abroad in favor of getting internships and experience at newspapers.

I've often wondered "what if." It doesn't do much good to ask that, but I can't resist.

Fast forward to last November. While in Australia, I came up with a trilogy that would combine some of my travel experiences with a couple of story ideas I'd been trying to work out. They'd be focused around a trio of women who participated in a program that allowed them to work overseas for three to six months like a study abroad program for adults. When that all came together, like I said, it was very "DUH, LAURA."

And what made it even more "Seriously, duh, Laura," was a couple months later when I was asked to participate in the Love in Charge collection. I was given the prompt of writing a story about a high-powered woman finding love with blue collar man. And in that instance, it clicked again. "Prequel to the trilogy. About the woman who created it."

From there, it was just a matter of working out the details. I knew it would need to be set with a ticking clock and a problem. That all fell together fast. Then, during a brainstorming session with friends, I added the second-chance romance component, because I knew I wanted them to have a strong connection but in a super short time-frame.

So there you have it. That's how "Go for Love" came to be. I hope you'll enjoy reading this story, the others in Love in Charge, and (hopefully in 2020) the rest of the GFL trilogy!


ABOUT THE COLLECTION

When this woman steps into a room, heads turn and people listen. Whether she's commanding a new business venture, coaching a collegiate football team, or diagnosing and healing people, she's focused, influential, and passionate, and she's not about to apologize for it.

But there is loneliness and fear she can't ignore, and questions soon follow. Is a second chance meant to be, when the first was a disaster? Is her distrust of all men warranted when only one has truly ever hurt her? Can she set aside an age difference to find love?

Most of all...when a man who is everything she's never realized she wanted is right in front of her, will she be ready for the biggest undertaking of her life?

Lose yourself in these three novellas of powerful women learning that sometimes love is the one in charge.

All earnings from this anthology will be donated to the GLSEN Omaha chapter. GLSEN Omaha's mission is to "ensure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression."

Available on Amazon in Paperback & Ebook



***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.***

September 6, 2019

permission to suck

Words by Jennifer Probst. Cross-stitch by moi.

I wouldn't call myself a perfectionist. I've embraced the Type A-Minus label and accepted the fact that while my closet may be be organized by sleeve length and color, my kitchen sink will almost always have dirty dishes in it.

I'm not even sure I'd say I expect perfection from my writing. I want to do my best to tell a compelling story in an enjoyable way that connects with readers. I accept that I'll always need help from beta readers and editors to create the best product possible.

(Ooh, I just cringed at that word. Product. It sounds so mechanical. So cold. But it's accurate. Though writing is an art and a craft, it is ultimately packaged, marketed and sold like, well, a product. This notion may keep me awake tonight.)

And I was sounding so chill until I tumbled down the product rabbit hole, wasn't I? I mean, you could almost see me on the beach playing bongos with Matthew McConaughey. I sounded like someone who has relinquished control to the universe and accepted that whatever will be will be.

Only, as I prematurely revealed with my product rant, I'm not terribly que sera sera. Not in life. Not in writing. It's fair to say I aspire to be alright, alright, alright. But I'm still working on getting through a full week without feeling completely anxious about something.

If possible, I've actually become more of a worrier with my writing since I finished the first draft of my first novel back in February 2011. Back then I was proud to have written the damn thing and had no reason to doubt that the hardest part of the process was behind me.

Oh, if I only knew then.

Truth is, most times when I sit down to write, a feel a sense of dread. Don't get me wrong, like Dorothy Parker, I love having written. It's just the process of getting from thinking about writing to done writing that stresses me out.

There's an endless stream of "what ifs" running through my head.
What if the words won't come? 
What if the words come, but they're not the right ones to capture the story in my head?
What if the words come, and they're definitely the right ones, but they still suck?  
What if this whole story sucks?  
What if I suck?
 Wow. I mean, I must be a lot of fun at parties. (Actually, I can be a lot of fun at parties. Just give me a good playlist, a lovely beverage and an audience that's down for anything, and I'll be the life of the party.)

It has taken a lot of years of going over these thoughts in my head -- and even a time or two with a counselor -- to realize just how debilitating my self doubt can be. My kingdom to have even half the confidence I had in my writing when I was fresh out of college.

But I am trying to get better at that. There's a mantra I'm trying to embrace courtesy of Jennifer Probst and her book Write Naked: A Bestseller's Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success. I absolutely recommend you read it for yourself, but I want to share one of her secrets that completely rocked my world and the way I think about my relationship with words.

Come in. Lean closer. It's a good one.

Here's the deal: We all suck sometimes. And you know what? That's okay.

Writing is a craft. Like any craft or art, it takes time to evolve and develop. It takes experimentation that work and even more that don't. In that process, sometimes you have to suck for a chance to move forward. You have to be willing to suck. And that's a hard concept to accept.

That's the key to Jennifer Probst's advice. You have to give yourself permission to suck. She actually has that written on a Post-It note that hangs over her desk. I loved that idea so much that in one of my cross-stitch frenzies, I made myself a little something with that same phrase.

Nearly two years later, I'm still learning how to give myself permission to suck. As I said, I'm no perfectionist, but I do hate failure. For so long, that fear of failure has kept me from even trying. So that's my challenge to myself and to any of you reading this. Don't let a fear of failure keep you from even trying to succeed. More, take a page from Jennifer Probst and lean into that potential failure. Because you can't get better if you don't accept you might suck along the way.

I had the opportunity to meet Jennifer Probst at the Romance Writers of American 2019 Conference in New York City. I told her how much I appreciated her sharing her mantra and wisdom with all of us. And because I'm a sap, I definitely teared up while I did.

And, because I'm me, I almost didn't do it. After weighing the pros and cons of deciding just how big of a nerd I wanted to be, I went all in. I'm so glad I did. The few minutes we spent together, and the way she grabbed my hand in excitement, are among my favorite memories from the conference and even the whole year.

In a way, it was practice for giving myself permission to suck. It was scary and awkward at first. And I had to accept that I might come off weird. But if I hadn't gotten past that and put myself out there, I wouldn't have made such a great memory. And you know what? It paid off.

Hanging out with Jennifer Probst at the Montlake signing at RWA 2019.
She may not know this, but it's quite possible we're destined to be BFFs.


***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.***

September 1, 2019

'love in charge' is now available!

It's Release Day for the Love in Charge Anthology! I am so excited to share "Go for Love" with all of you and thrilled you'll get to read two amazing stories from Jules Dixon and Michelle Morgan. All three heroines in these stories are pretty freaking awesome, and the heroes aren't so bad either.

I hope you'll enjoy reading this book and knowing that the proceeds will go to support a wonderful cause.


ABOUT THE COLLECTION

When this woman steps into a room, heads turn and people listen. Whether she's commanding a new business venture, coaching a collegiate football team, or diagnosing and healing people, she's focused, influential, and passionate, and she's not about to apologize for it.

But there is loneliness and fear she can't ignore, and questions soon follow. Is a second chance meant to be, when the first was a disaster? Is her distrust of all men warranted when only one has truly ever hurt her? Can she set aside an age difference to find love?

Most of all...when a man who is everything she's never realized she wanted is right in front of her, will she be ready for the biggest undertaking of her life?

Lose yourself in these three novellas of powerful women learning that sometimes love is the one in charge.

All earnings from this anthology will be donated to the GLSEN Omaha chapter. GLSEN Omaha's mission is to "ensure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression."

Available on Amazon in Paperback & Ebook


ABOUT THE STORIES

Go for Love by Laura Chapman 

When a glitch threatens Sarah Burton’s start-up launch, only one person can help. Beck Spencer swore he’d never give her another chance to break his heart, but he can’t say no to this offer. Despite keeping it professional, the spark between them might reignite hotter than ever.

Her Playbook by Jules Dixon 

Head football coach Hazel Stone’s childhood showed her she’d never trust another man. Payne Maxwell’s scarred face isn’t his deepest wound. Their attraction is a touchdown, but when Hazel finds a discrepancy in the department’s finances with Payne’s name attached, not to mention that he’s the ex-head coach’s son, foul flags fly in her head. When it comes to love, what play will be the right one?

No Turning Back by Michelle Morgan 

36-year-old chiropractor Cara Mann was doing just fine running her own practice and raising her young daughter—alone. When she hires Jack Dennis—the nerdy kid she used to babysit—for computer help in her office, he’s nothing like she remembers. But he certainly hasn’t forgotten her. Even if Cara can accept the help and support Jack is eager to offer, can she learn to love a much younger man?


ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Laura Chapman

Laura Chapman is the award-winning and best-selling author of sweet and steamy romances. A former journalist, she works at a museum by day and pens love stories at night. She also enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, sampling local libations, bingeing true crime podcasts and documentaries, and hanging out with her cats, Jane and Bingley.

Find her on: 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/laurachapmanbooks 
Instagram: www.instagram.com/laurachapmanbooks 
Twitter: www.twitter.com/lchapmanbooks

Jules Dixon

Fuzzy sock collector, martini connoisseur, baseball fanatic, and dandelion lover, author Jules Dixon is addicted to everything related to the amazing emotion of love, probably instigated by her own happily ever after of almost 30 years with her beer-brewing hubby. Their own love story created a spirited and artistic daughter and a computer genius but an ultrasarcastic son.

Jules is a 2018 RITA Finalist for her novella, In His Arms: Monroe Falls Romance.

Jules explores the rich psychology of sexuality, choices, and conflicts of high school, college, and young adult characters with sizzle and humor in her novels and novellas. She’s a busy writer, and she loves it!

Find her on: 
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JulesDixonAuthor 
Twitter: http://twitter.com/JulesofTripleR 
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/JulesDixonAuthor 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/julesdixonauthor/

Michelle Morgan

Michelle Morgan lives in Dallas, Texas with fellow writer, IT genius, and her real-life hero, Jeremy Morgan, and their two sons. She is a 2018 RITA Finalist Editor for the romance novella, “In His Arms,” by Jules Dixon.

Nothing ignites Michelle’s passion for editing like working on her own fiction. Since publishing After Henry: A love story in 2014, Michelle released her first true romance novel, Work in Progress (Love in Progress Book 1) in Summer 2019. No Turning Back is a companion novella. A follow-up novella, No Stopping Now, will release in Spring 2020, followed by Life in Progress (Love in Progress Book 2) in 2020 or 2021.

Michelle is a member of Romance Writers of America and The Editorial Freelancers Association. To learn more about her editorial services and upcoming books, visit fictionedit.com. Or you can email Michelle at michellemorganromance@ gmail.com.

Find her on:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mmorganwrites/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mmorganwrites/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8117461.Michelle_Josette_Morgan_


***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.***

August 30, 2019

let's hear it for sports romance

Blogger's Note: This originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of my newsletter, The Latest. Click here to sign-up for a free subscription and to score a free ebook of my novel First & Goal.

Football season is here. I mean, technically it kicks off here in Nebraska tomorrow. But after weeks of updates coming in from training camps, and my fantasy football league commissioner sending nearly daily updates, it might as well be football season.

This, of course, has my mind and heart thinking of all things fall. I'm talking boots, scarves, spiced beverages and treats, and more.

Before I get ahead of myself and put out pumpkin decorations, let's just stick to the start of football season. As a reader (and writer), I love a good sports romance.

Let's take a look at some sporty reads.

Impulsive by Catherine Hart

This was the first sports romance novel I read back when I was in middle school and falling for the genre. A reporter is assigned to cover a new pro-football team and begins a fake relationship with the quarterback as a mutually beneficial cover. But as the fake romance becomes real, the couple comes to realize that a series of mishaps surrounding the team might not be so accidental after all.


Intercepted by Alexa Martin

This one is all about exes and ohs . . . (get it?) After breaking up with her football-star boyfriend, Marlee has sworn off athletes forever. That is until a certain quarterback from her past re-enters the game. A behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to build a career (and relationship) within the bright lights of football, I was totally shipping Marlee and her new guy.


Risky Play by Rachel Van Dyken

A new series from Rachel Van Dyken . . . I actually haven't read this book yet, but I can't wait. This one is centered around REAL football (or, what we Americans call soccer). The premise for this book sounds SO good. And I had a great time discussing it (and our general love of sports romance) with the author herself at RWA 2019. (She's just as excited for gridiron season to begin.)


Queen of the League Trilogy by Laura Chapman


Okay, this is totally shameless and self-promotional. But I swear, I love my Queen of the League trilogy. A romantic comedy series following three fantasy football seasons in the life of Harper Duquaine, this is a sports romance series that even people who aren't into the game can appreciate. Through it all, will Harper secure her fantasy football legacy, career, and love for a happily ever after?

Where are my fellow sports romance lovers? What are your favorite sports romance reads and authors?


***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.***