June 30, 2012

book reviews: june 2012 recap

I did not sneak in as much reading this month as I usually like, but June definitely had some good reads.

Check out my rundown of June's reviewed titles, including my read of the month: Lauren Clark's Dancing Naked in Dixie.

Finding Felicity by Monica Marlowe
Rating: 4 of 5
Monica Marlowe's Finding Felicity tells the story about love, loss, forgiveness and spiritual development.

Madeline O'Connor's world takes a drastic change when she learns her estranged sister is ill. She leaves behind her career-driven New York City lifestyle to be with her sister in Italy as she fights her illness. There, stays at a Benedictine monastery where she meets and falls for Brother Anthony Lamberti who takes her on an emotional and spiritual journey. New Yorker Tyler Reed also enters her life, bringing a less-complicated and also deep level of feelings to her life.

Madeline finds herself in a complicated triangle in which nothing, not even deciding who she wants to spend her life with, is easy to determine.
Read the rest of the review here.


BaSatai: Outside In by Suzan Battah
Rating: 4 of 5
Suzan Battah's BaSatai: Outside In tells the story of a girl growing up in a world different from her own and trying, but failing to fit in while fighting the natural instincts of who she is.

Seventeen years ago Armani, a BaSatai, was born and sent to live on Earth as a form of protection from a curse in her blood. The curse would cause the destruction of Earth and H-trae, her home planet, if she dies. After growing up with Elijah, who was tasked with caring for and raising her as an Earthling, she learns the truth behind her life. Constantly feeling like an outsider, Armani realizes her natural inclinations are the result of her true identity, and she fights the destiny that is set out for her.

Enter Karhl, her guardian, and Rafael, a warrior, who are tasked to prepare her for the changes that must come in her life. Add a dash of attraction, romance and jealousy, and there is a bit more complication to her already complicated life.
Read the rest of the review here.


Dancing Naked in Dixie by Lauren Clark *READ OF THE MONTH*
Rating: 5 of 5
Lauren Clark is back with her sophomore novel, Dancing Naked in Dixie, a story about an adventurous woman who has one last chance.

Julia Sullivan is a travel writer accustomed to a life of passports, hotels and international flights. That comes to a sudden stop when her new boss sends her on assignment to Alabama with the understanding that she do well or lose her job, because of the lack of quality in work as of late. Though annoyed, Julia realizes she has no choice but to do well or say hello to unemployment.

Once in the small Alabama town, Julia finds more than she bargained for in the cast of quirky characters, including a new romance with a southern gentleman/historian.
Read the rest of the review here.


Jennifer's Garden by Dianne Venetta
Rating: 4 of 5
In Dianne Venetta's Jennifer's Garden, the title character's life undergoes significant changes and turmoil as she faces the loss of one life and the beginning of another.

Cardiologist Jennifer Hamilton's mother is dying. As she copes with the grief of the impending loss, she is determined to give her mother one last gift: the joy of seeing her married well and settled. Though she does not have strong feelings for her future husband, he looks well on paper, which is good enough for her, even though her friends object. In preparation for her big day to tie the knot, she hires a gardener to reform her backyard in time for her nuptials.

Enter Jackson Montgomery, the sexy man in charge of turning her garden into a paradise. Though not the kind of man on the checklist she has carried around forever, he makes an impression on Jennifer. Before long, Jax and Jennifer are sharing more than a difference of opinion on life and love, but a mutual romance.
Read the rest of the review here.


I Couldn't Love You More by Jillian Medoff
Rating: 4.5 of 5
Jillian Medoff's I Couldn't Love You More is an emotional yet often humorous story about choices, consequences, forgiveness and family.

Eliot Gordon is happily plugging away at life in Atlanta as a mom to an adorable four-year-old, bonus mom to two other daughters and a committed partner to Grant Delaney. Kept busy with her own family and job, she also enjoys a close-knit relationship with her two sisters and mother. Even though Grant's ex-wife proves a challenge to their lives and Eliot no longer speaks to her father, she is basically content.

Everything changes when Eliot's college boyfriend Finn Montgomery returns after more than ten years away in New York City. 
Read the rest of the review here.

I'll be back with more reviews in July. There are a lot on the calendar, so look forward to that.

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June 29, 2012

sexy, delish encore


If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, then by now you know I am crazy excited to see Magic Mike, tonight, with a few of my girlfriends.

For those of you who do not know, Magic Mike is the story of an aspiring entrepreneur willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill his dreams. At the same time, he is taking a younger man under his wing to show him a new world of professional opportunities in the meantime, while falling in love with a sassy woman.

OK, so that might be the explanation I gave my father if I still lived at home and needed his permission to see a movie.While all of that is true, I left out a few key details, like the fact that the man, Magic Mike, is a talented male stripper who aspires to build custom furniture, and he is mentoring a new co-worker in the art of striping.

It looks good.

In all seriousness, the movie has received fairly positive reviews, especially when people keep in mind that this is not Casablanca or Titanic. It is a summer movie about hot men at work.

With that in mind, a lot of people have been making comparisons to the Fifty Shades trilogy. While I don't see what they have in common (one has strippers and the other has kinky sex) aside from being super sexy, I still figured this was a good opportunity to revisit some of my favorite Reading in the Kitchen recipes.

That's right: it's Fifty Shades encore time, y'all.

Pan-Seared Pacific Cod with Asparagus Dipped in Hollandaise Sauce and Sauteed Potatoes from Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker

In book one, the elusive Mr. Grey takes the innocent (well, basically by this point) Ana out for a private dinner at his home. The sexy dish sets the mood, but she still manages to stand her ground and put off the man who made her such an indecent proposal.

By book two, all thoughts of abandoning the stud are gone, and Ana has embraced their relationship, though on different terms. Again, Grey takes her for a romantic dinner, but this time it sets the mood for a delightful post-meal... engagement.

Ana's Spanish Omelet from Fifty Shades Darker

After an unpleasant morning filled with a run-in with one of Christian's exes and the threat of stalking -- or worse -- from another, Ana does what any good little pseudo-sub will do: she makes her dom something to eat.

With Beyonce on the speakers and a whisk in her hand, Ana whips up this concoction, yielding the best compliment a girl can get from a man when Grey says its good.

This delicious meal might be my favorite. Who am I kidding? We all know I loved the cake and booze best. But this one is a meal I'm still thinking about more than a month later. I should make it again, soon.

Poached Salmon and Sour Cream Dip Salad from Fifty Shade's Darker

This is another meal Ana puts together for her man, though under different circumstances. After a morning romp in the red room of pain (playroom), Ana creates a nutritious and well-balanced meal of watercress salad, poached salmon, boiled eggs and a fancy little dip to top it all off.

For lunch.

That girl is a serious overachiever.

Light and fresh, this is probably the most perfect summer meal of these dishes. It will cool you down and offer you important nutrients for resuming activities. *wink*

Christian's Birthday Cake from Fifty Shades Darker

If Christian Grey was my overly protective, brooding, but ridiculously sexy boyfriend, I would bake him a cake for every hour of the day to celebrate his birth. Granted, the cakes would probably come from a box, and I might even be tempted to bakery order some of the later ones, because a girl can only spend so much time barefoot in the kitchen.

Still, his really lady love managed to upstage me when she baked him one fantastic homemade cake with expensive designer chocolate frosting. What a jerk!

Carrick Grey's Lemondrop Martini from Fifty Shades Darker

Sometimes a girl has to make a stand and put another woman in her place.

Sometimes doing that involves throwing a drink in said bitch's face. And just like Ana, this drink gave me a bit of a buzz before having to toss it, so it is really a win-win for everyone involved. Well, maybe not the person on the receiving end, or the maid who had to clean it up. But it sure was a win-win for the tosser.

I can vouch for all of these dishes. They are delicious and amazing. I encourage you to try any of them out tonight.

For my part, I'm going to grab a place in line for tonight's screening of Magic Mike. I'd hate to lose even a moment of Channing Tatum searching his soul... or showing off his abs.

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June 28, 2012

overcoming the funk


I'm in a bit of a funk. Professionally, personally and productively I am just not feeling it — whatever it is.

As a result, my production is down. I had been on an exercise kick, even finding myself enjoying my work-outs, but now I have to force myself to do the routines if I do them. (I admit to skipping all of it yesterday.) I had been selling and creating multiple projects at work, which I now struggle to finish on my own. My Camp NaNoWriMo book is so far behind schedule I have no hope of passing the 50,000-word mark by midnight Saturday unless I can sneak in 30,000 words by then.

I could go on and on with my belly aches, but it does not change the simple fact that my tank is running dry, and I am short on the motivation I need to refuel it.

In a world where Facebook, Twitter and any other million social interactions — both digital and personal — are around to show off the accomplishments of all our friends and acquaintances, it is easy to compare ourselves to others. That kid from college got another amazing job. The girl in the bar is getting married to a fantastic guy. That author I follow is publishing another book. Then you look at yourself, and you can barely make yourself get out of bed and haven't washed your hair in a few days.

It is difficult not to feel like a failure.

Even though I sometimes feel that way, I know how important it is to change my attitude. Instead of making excuses for why I have not met any of my personal or professional goals, or complaining that they have not happened, it is more important to focus on what I can do today, tomorrow and the day after to achieve them.

That's a tall order. How do you fill it?

I don't pretend to have the answers. Like my novel, I consider myself a work in progress. One day, perhaps, I will have it all figured out, but until then I have to keep plugging away. That means getting off my butt and going for a jog. It means writing a little every day, even if it is only 100 words, because that is better than doing nothing. Instead of focusing on what I have not done, I should be proud of what I have. Rather than think or speak negatively, I should read or listen to motivational words. I have to do something.

There is no magic spell that can make you a success. People who achieve their goals do it, because they work for them even when they are not in the mood. That is what I tell myself. Hopefully I listen to my own advice and work through this tough patch.

Do any of you have tips for getting through funky moods?

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June 27, 2012

interview with the author of 'i couldn't love you more'

After giving 4.5 of 5 stars to I Couldn't Love You More yesterday, I am pleased to welcome Jillian Medoff, today. Jillian was good enough to share some insight into the story behind the story, advice for writers and reading suggestions for those of you looking for new reads.

Change the Word: How did you come up with the idea for I Couldn't Love You More?
Jillian Medoff: I received an MFA at NYU. While I was there, I took a master class with the very brilliant writer, Grace Paley who said, “Write what you don’t know about what you know.” It didn’t occur to me until a few years ago that this is exactly what I do. I’ll take moments from my own life, from my family’s life, from strangers’ lives and I’ll look at what would normally happen—what I know—and then I’ll consider everything I don’t know, the big “what if’s.”

I actually wrote an essay about the evolution of I Couldn’t Love You More, and about my writing career called “This is a True Story.” It’s available in both the print and eBook versions of the novel. One point I make in this essay is that I Couldn’t Love You More, like my other novels,Hunger Pointand Good Girls Gone Bad, evolved very much the way Grace Paley suggested. For instance, when I started to write I Couldn’t Love You More, here’s what I knew: I’m a mother and stepmother. I have three children. I love them each equally but all differently. I’ve always been a writer who tackles complex themes and risky subjects—I write about the things that people think but never say aloud. If a book has a predictable storyline or familiar situations, there’s little satisfaction for me in writing it. A woman deciding which man she’ll spend her life with? I’ve read that story a million times, but a stepmother deciding which of her children she’ll save in a freak accident? Now that’s a challenge. I had no idea how I would react if forced to choose between my daughters, and figuring that out became my obsession for the next decade. In fact, even though the novel is finished and published, I still grapple with the question. I mean, how can any of us know what we would do in that situation?

CTW: What kind of prep work did you do before writing? Are you more plotter or pantser?  
JM: Definitely a pantser—no question. I never do any prep work. I just start writing and see where the story takes me. I write the way I read, which is to have everything unfold as I go. At certain points, I have to do research and take stock of where I am—that’s when I might think more strategically about where I want the story to go and what I may have to do to get there, but ultimately, I like to work without a net—I’m way up there on the high wire, literally, making it up as I go along.

CTW:What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing the novel? How did you overcome it?
JM: There are challenges with every book—technical, artistic, personal—but honestly, my primary challenge with I Couldn’t Love You More was finding dedicated time to write. I’m very busy, and every single moment of my day is filled with activity. I’ve been in corporate communications since college, and now I work four days a week. It’s an anonymous, nine-to-five job—a career, actually—at a very conservative, very buttoned-up firm, but it gives my life a structure, which is important. The downside is that I have multiple commitments, which are compounded by my family—three daughters, two sisters, parents, husband—and a deep-rooted love of reading and watching TV. I’ve set up my life so that I can find time to write, but it is always a race-to-the-finish to get everything done.

CTW: The story deals with some tough themes. How did you personally deal with writing some of the darker, more serious sides of the story?
JM: This is an excellent question. My natural inclination is to balance dark material by using humor. I really didn’t start out trying to be a funny writer. In fact, I’d rather not. Over the years, I have tried very hard to write in a dark, brooding, noir-like voice, but every time I do it seems and false and unnatural and simply not me. I have a predisposition to finding the absurd in the everyday, that is, looking at ordinary random moments and seeing what’s funny about them. We are each absurd in our own way, and to accept that—to celebrate it—is critical to our survival. Think about it: we live and then we die. How dark is that? Therefore, we absolutely must find humor—otherwise life would be too depressing. Of course, my philosophy doesn’t lend itself to all literary subjects. You won’t find me writing about, say, the Holocaust or missing and murdered children. But family relations, sibling rivalry, true love, the devaluation of the American dollar—all of these are perfect opportunities for humor, even in their darkest moments. 

CTW: What is the best lesson you have learned as a writer?
JM: To never become too impressed with myself, to learn that there will always be someone more talented, funnier, smarter, and better-connected who will take home the big advance and the Pulitzer. To be a great writer, to truly reach beyond your grasp, it’s important to be humble as well as realistic. If I were too impressed with myself, my work would suffer. By being honest with myself, I can be honest on the page. A good writer, an honest writer, gets as close to the bone as possible. You have to be willing to take risks, which means writing as intimately and genuinely and deeply as you can, and if you’re caught up in an illusion of yourself or the world—or you care too much what other people think—your work will be as false as you are.

CTW:What books would we find on your bookshelf?
JM: My shelves are long and deep (and my Kindle is full)! When I really love a book, I will research the author and try to find everything he/she has written. Sometimes, too, I'll write a fan letter, which I know is corny. If I love a piece of writing, it will haunt me for days, weeks even, sometimes years. Here’s what you’ll find on my bookshelves: Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison), The Sound and the Fury (William Faulkner), Then We Came to the End (Joshua Ferris), The Things They Carried (Tim O'Brien), anything by Philip Roth, especially American Pastoral and Patrimony, Anywhere but Here and My Hollywood (Mona Simpson). I also read a lot of non-fiction. I loved RandomFamily (Adrian Nicole LeBlanc), Wild (Cheryl Strayed), and Behindthe Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo), as well as countless books about history, such as the Robert Caro series on LBJ. We also have hundreds of YA books that my daughters and I have read over the years, such as The Penderwicks, the Hunger Games series, the Percy Jackson series, and so many more.

CTW: If you could meet one fictional character, who would it be and why?
JM: Holden Caulfield. I’d be interested to find out what he thinks of Facebook and the world of social networking.

CTW: What's next for you and your writing career?
JM: We actually sold I Couldn’t Love You More two years ago, so I’ve been working for almost a year and a half on a new book. All I can say is that it’s a corporate book—one I’ve been dying to write for years. It’s set in the HR Department of a small, failing company. The head of the group, an aging executive has a stroke, and then…

CTW: It sounds great so far. I'll look forward to reading it. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
JM: Read a lot—classics as well as contemporary fiction to learn how successful books are constructed, why writers make certain choices (point of view, setting, tone, etc.). Write the kinds of books you want to read otherwise you'll be less inclined to go back and revise again and again and again. My novels are never truly finished, even if they're published and sitting on the shelf. While I may no longer be interested in spending time with that particular set of characters, I can't help but think about all the ways the book could be different, the small, insignificant tweaks that no one but me would ever notice. (It's one reason why I never reread my books once they're bound and shipped.) Finally, consider trashing your outlines (see above: I call it “working without a net”). When I start a novel, I have a general idea of where I want to end up, but I never know how I'll get there. Part of what compels me to write day after day, chapter after chapter, is the discovery process, seeing the characters evolve as I get deeper and deeper into the story. It means many more revisions (I go forward and back, forward and back over a period of four years (at a minimum) for each book I write), but your novel will be richer and more honest for it.

CTW: Anything else you would like to share?
JM: I’ve had a very long and very difficult writing career. I'm not inspired to write as much as I'm driven, I need to write. That desire, that need, is as palpable and relentless as any junkie's craving, and it will possess me all day until I can park myself in a chair and do my work. I love it, I hate it; it's ecstasy when I'm writing well, it's despair when I'm not. I wouldn't wish this life on anyone, nor would I, could I, ever give it up. At this moment, though, I’m so grateful to have a third book in the world. I’m also grateful for readers, and I’d love to hear what you think of I Couldn’t Love You More, so drop me a line at jillianmedoff@gmail.com.

Read my review of I Couldn't Love You More here.

About the Author
The eldest daughter of a traveling salesman, Jillian moved 17 times by age 17, ultimately ending up in Atlanta, where her new novel is set. She has a BA from Barnard and an MFA from NYU, and is grateful for having studied with such luminary writers as Mona Simpson, Jonathan Dee, Robert Coover, and Alice Walker. She also attended Master Classes with Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, and Grace Paley. Although each author continues to influence her work in powerful and diverse ways, she suspects few of them, if any, remember her. A former fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Blue Mountain Center, VCCA and Fundacion Valparaiso in Spain, Jillian taught at NYU and the University of Georgia, but for only, like, five minutes.

You can read more about her books at www.jillianmedoff.com. She currently lives in New York with her family, and has no plans to move anytime soon.

Contact Jillian
Website
Twitter

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June 26, 2012

book review: i couldn't love you more

Jillian Medoff's I Couldn't Love You More is an emotional yet often humorous story about choices, consequences, forgiveness and family.

Eliot Gordon is happily plugging away at life in Atlanta as a mom to an adorable four-year-old, bonus mom to two other daughters and a committed partner to Grant Delaney. Kept busy with her own family and job, she also enjoys a close-knit relationship with her two sisters and mother. Even though Grant's ex-wife proves a challenge to their lives and Eliot no longer speaks to her father, she is basically content.

Everything changes when Eliot's college boyfriend Finn Montgomery returns after more than ten years away in New York City. Even though he is married and has a daughter, and she is basically married with three, part of her never forgot and always wonders about the man who got away. The two reconnect with secret coffee meetings and phone calls, which causes Eliot to have conflicting emotions about the two men in her life.

Before their rekindled friendship turns into an affair, personal tragedy strikes when the unthinkable happens during a family vacation to the coast. In the aftermath, Eliot must face the guilt and consequences that came from her error in judgement. As the family heals together, Eliot closely examines her life and what changes she must make to move on.

The greatest strength in Medoff's story comes from the development and exploration of Eliot's family. The interactions between the two sets of three sisters (Eliot and her sisters, and Eliot's daughter and step-daughters) are believable to anyone who has a sister. They fight, they nag, they drive each other crazy, but at the core they love each other -- no matter what.

The men in the story were also interesting to read. It was possible to see the appeal of Grant and Finn, while also wanting to sometimes shake Eliot for putting up with either one of them. Such is life with men. Anyone who has found contentment in their present, but also still wonders about the man from the past, will be able to relate to Eliot's struggle. While I may not have always agreed with Eliot's actions or decisions, I could understand why she made them thanks to the effective story-telling.

The story also explored the relationship between mothers and fathers and their children. Through these interactions, Medoff shows that blood will always tie a family together. More importantly, she shows that love is the most important element of a family. The story shows that being a parent and a family is about caring for the others and loving them, no matter what.

Aside from the compelling family element, the story delves into choices, consequences and forgiveness in an entertaining and easy-to-read format. If you are looking for a book that will humor, suspend and make you tear up, this book is for you.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for my interview with the author.

Rating: 4.5 of 5

About the Author
The eldest daughter of a traveling salesman, Jillian moved 17 times by age 17, ultimately ending up in Atlanta, where her new novel is set. She has a BA from Barnard and an MFA from NYU, and is grateful for having studied with such luminary writers as Mona Simpson, Jonathan Dee, Robert Coover, and Alice Walker. She also attended Master Classes with Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, and Grace Paley. Although each author continues to influence her work in powerful and diverse ways, she suspects few of them, if any, remember her. A former fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Blue Mountain Center, VCCA and Fundacion Valparaiso in Spain, Jillian taught at NYU and the University of Georgia, but for only, like, five minutes.

You can read more about her books at www.jillianmedoff.com. She currently lives in New York with her family, and has no plans to move anytime soon.

Contact Jillian
Website
Twitter

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June 22, 2012

one for the money, delicious in your tummy


While doing a little grocery shopping, I fell in love.

In the midst of the produce department, I saw the object of my fancy, and I knew it had to be mine. Next to the pile of peaches and bags of grapes the sign said, "ON SALE - Fresh Pineapple." I had to have one.

Pineapples are one of my favorite foods. It is my go-to topping for pizza, a delicious snack and a regular topic of conversation on Psych. And how cute are they? All spikey on the outside, with that fantastic green plume on top, they are absolutely adorable. When I saw that sign and a pile of ripe and lovely pineapples, I had to have one.

Admiring it as I placed it on my kitchen table, I imagined the possible outcomes for this delish fruit. Would I eat it fresh? Throw it on the grill? Make a pizza? Bake with it? Oh, the possibilities! The decision would come to me, but until then, it made a fantastic center piece.

All week, I loved that pineapple and the spot of color it added to our kitchen. There was only one problem. I knew that one day, I would have to kill the pineapple or let it rot to death. This was a horrifying fact, and one I should have realized the moment I put it in my shopping cart. Not only did I have no clue about how to slice the pineapple, but I had also fallen for it. How could I be the one to cut it?

The pineapple and I in happier times.
It reminded me of the time my sister bought a pinata for our fiesta-themed bad sweater party, and she grew to love Paco, the name she gave to the pinata during their week together. On the night of the party, after spending so much time together, my poor sister could not watch the pinata meet his fate. She handed me the candy-filled donkey and a baseball bat and left me to it. In the end, it was only myself and a few of our friends who were with Paco when he met his end. His delicious and fun, but ultimately sad end.

At this moment, as I stared at my beloved pineapple, and I understood my sister's pain. The only way to ease that ache was knowing that I could make it into something so delicious, I would know its death had been worth it. But what?

Fortunately, my mom and sister came to my rescue. My sister suggested I bake a pineapple upside down cake, and Mom reminded me that Stephanie Plum, the heroine in Janet Evanovich's series, loves pineapple upside down cakes. Not only is pineapple upside down cake amazing, but Stephanie Plum the bounty hunter is a total bad ass. If I pulled this off, my pineapple's life could have meaning.

Now if I could only figure out how to cut the darn thing.

To be honest, I'm not sure I did it right. I grabbed the biggest knife in our set and started by cutting off the cute green plume. Still not completely ready to let go of this pineapple, I set it aside thinking I might be able to make it into a new centerpiece. (I was wrong. I ended up throwing it out with the rest of the peal.) After that, I cut off bits of the outside and was horrified to discover black spikes still on the fruit inside. I cut each of those out bit by bit, and finally cut out the center and sliced the pineapple into nine full circle pieces. Sadly I lacked the skill to make this look pretty, and the whole process took a lot more time than I ever imagined. It also killed most of the love I had for that pineapple. What was I thinking when I bought an uncut pineapple?

With that, I was ready to go.

Stephanie Plumb's Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Ingredients
1/4 cup melted butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
Fresh pineapple
1/2 jar maraschino cherries
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup softened butter
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1 egg

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In 9x13 pan, add melted butter and brown sugar evenly over surface. Place fresh pineapple slices on surface. (Note: Because the pineapple I bought was so big, I used six as full circles and added wedges to the spaces in between.) Place cherries in the center of each slice and as desired throughout the rest of the pan. (Most recipes say one for each center, but my family and I like cherries, so we went crazy with them.)

Mix flour, sugar, butter, baking powder, milk and egg in a bowl until well blended. Pour the batter into the pan over the fruit.

Place in center of oven and bake for about 50 minutes. Cover the dish with a flat pan or plate and turn upside down. Cake should fall nicely onto the pan, but go ahead and take any remaining sugar mixture out and cover. Serve warm for best results (but chilled it makes a great, if not too healthy, breakfast).


As you can tell from the picture, this cake did not turn out perfect or beautiful, but it was delicious. My broomie and sister loved it, each eating a couple of pieces, and the friends we shared it with were also complimentary.  Even though it was super uggo, it is one of the best tasting dishes I've baked to date. My pineapple's life was vindicated.

I would definitely make this again, but even though it was an adventure, I'm buying canned pineapple next time.

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June 21, 2012

book review: jennifer's garden

In Dianne Venetta's Jennifer's Garden, the title character's life undergoes significant changes and turmoil as she faces the loss of one life and the beginning of another.

Cardiologist Jennifer Hamilton's mother is dying. As she copes with the grief of the impending loss, she is determined to give her mother one last gift: the joy of seeing her married well and settled. Though she does not have strong feelings for her future husband, he looks well on paper, which is good enough for her, even though her friends object. In preparation for her big day to tie the knot, she hires a gardener to reform her backyard in time for her nuptials.

Enter Jackson Montgomery, the sexy man in charge of turning her garden into a paradise. Though not the kind of man on the checklist she has carried around forever, he makes an impression on Jennifer. Before long, Jax and Jennifer are sharing more than a difference of opinion on life and love, but a mutual romance.

Though a little slow to start, Jennifer's Garden soon became a fast-paced and engaging read with enjoyable characters who held my interest through the end.

Jennifer undergoes significant transformation in her personal and professional life to find happiness. Even as she deals with serious heartache, she learns to cope in a lovely way. It took me a while to develop a connection to Jennifer, but once I did, I really found myself cheering for her.

Jax was a delicious male lead, and one I found myself crushing on early in the story. He is a good match for Jennifer and a delight to follow on his own journey of change and growth. Though initially rude to him, Jax turns out to play an important role in Jennifer's transformation.

The relationships between Jennifer and her mother and Jennifer and her best friend are also a strength in the story. Both women have a huge part in her life, and she values their input more than anyone else. She may not always listen to their advice, but in the end, she ultimately follows it.

A good blend of sadness and romance, Jennifer's Garden was worth the read, and I look forward to seeing the characters again in Love on the Rocks, another book in the series, which I will review in July. 

Rating: 4 of 5

About the Author
Dianne Venetta lives in Central Florida with her husband and two children -- and her part-time Yellow Lab (Cody!). An avid gardener, she spends her spare time growing organic vegetables. Surprised by the amazing discoveries she finds there every day, she wondered, "Who knew there were so many similarities between men and plants?" What began as a brief hiatus from writing has blossomed into an ever-expanding home garden and blog at BloominThyme.com -- stop by and share some tips! When she's not knee-deep in dirt or romance, Dianne contributes garden advice (challenged!) for various websites (a crazy existence to be sure). But at the end of the day, if she can inspire someone to stop and smell the roses -- or rosemary! -- kiss their child and spouse good-night, be kind to a neighbor and Mother Earth, then she's done all right.

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June 20, 2012

dreams to reality

After celebrating another birthday with my family and friends last week, I find myself in a self-reflective and deep-thinking mindset. Who am I now? Who do I want to be tomorrow? How do I get there. No matter what part of my life I look at, it all comes back to having goals and dreams.

Goals and dreams are the foundation of everything. Whether you want to write and publish a book or buy a new home, it all begins with a hope and wish. Your wish may stay in dream mode for hours or years, but it does not make it any less significant.

It is also OK to change your goals and dreams. You owe no one, but yourself, an explanation for the reasons. We change a little (or a lot) every day. It is natural your goals should change, too.

Sometimes, your goals may conflict with one another. For example, one part of me longs to be a homeowner while the other wants to ditch all of my obligations to go be a starving artist in Los Angeles or New York. The actual course I will take is likely somewhere in between, but it is still fun to consider the possibilities of each.

In college my friend gave me a plaque with the words, "Let your dreams guide your steps." At 20 I found the words inspiring. Several years later, I still look to them for motivation. The plaque hangs on a wall in my barbrary, and I look at it every day. It reminds me that every action I take will ultimately affect the outcome of my goals and dreams.

You cannot expect to achieve your goals simply by dreaming them. You have to want them. You have to work toward them. You have to let them guide you even if the journey is hard. Life is about the journey, so make it a good one.

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June 19, 2012

book review: dancing naked in dixie

Lauren Clark is back with her sophomore novel, Dancing Naked in Dixie, a story about an adventurous woman who has one last chance.

Julia Sullivan is a travel writer accustomed to a life of passports, hotels and international flights. That comes to a sudden stop when her new boss sends her on assignment to Alabama with the understanding that she do well or lose her job, because of the lack of quality in work as of late. Though annoyed, Julia realizes she has no choice but to do well or say hello to unemployment.

Once in the small Alabama town, Julia finds more than she bargained for in the cast of quirky characters, including a new romance with a southern gentleman/historian.

At its heart, Dixie is a story about a woman seeking redemption personally and professionally. A likeable and relateable character, Julia is someone you root for and want to see succeed, much like you would a good friend. The situations she lands herself in are a good mix of humor and intrigue, which made this story fun to read.

The supporting cast to this story is also well-written and delightful to follow -- especially the ultra hunky and totally crushable Shug Jordan. More than a hunk, Shug proves that historians can be sexy.

Clark did a great job at capturing the spirit of the Deep South with her other supporting characters and setting. Though I enjoyed her debut novel, Stay Tuned, Clark's second work is even better. Dixie proves she is developing more as an author, which is great to see. I look forward to her next release.

This is definitely a book to enjoy at the beach or pool this summer while you sip on some sweet ice tea. Actually, I'd suggest you stick to regular, fresh-brewed ice tea. I'm too much of a Yankee to spoil tea with sugar.

Rating: 5 of  5

About the Author
Lauren Clark has been a voracious reader since the age of four and would rather be stranded at the library than on a desert island. In her former life, she worked as an anchor and producer for CBS affiliates in Upstate New York and Alabama. Lauren adores her family, yoga, her new Electra bike, and flavored coffee. She lives near the Florida Gulf Coast. Visit her website at LaurenClarkBooks.com.

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June 17, 2012

birthday month giveaway: week three


It's the third week of my birthday month, and because I appreciate you readers so much, I'm giving away some of the swag (aka books) I received in the past year.

How to win?

Step One: Post a comment. This week, tell me your favorite recent read and why you liked it. (I'm always looking for great new reads, and you'll help me build up my list). Make sure you include your first name and at least your last initial or something to distinguish yourself from other entrees.

Step Two: Live in the U.S. or Canada. Maybe next year I'll be a big baller who can afford international overseas shipping, but not yet.

Step Three: Check back Friday at 6 p.m. CDT to find out who wins. You will then have 72 hours to email me with your full name and address so I can send you the winnings.

People will only be entered in the drawing once a week, but feel free to come back next week and try again.

This week's winners will receive an advanced reader copy of Beth Gutcheon's Gossip or a copy of Carol Tibaldi's Willow Pond.


About the Books

Gossip
Loviah "Lovie" French owns a small, high-end dress shop on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Renowned for her taste and discretion, Lovie is the one to whom certain women turn when they need "just the thing" for major life events—baptisms and balls, weddings and funerals—or when they just want to dish in the dressing room. Among the people who depend on Lovie's confidence are her two best friends since boarding school: Dinah Wainwright and Avis Metcalf.
Outspoken and brimming with confidence, Dinah made a name for herself as a columnist covering the doings of New York's wealthiest and most fabulous. Shy, proper Avis, in many ways Dinah's opposite, rose to prominence in the art world with her quiet manners, hard work, and precise judgment. Despite the deep affection they both feel for Lovie, they have been more or less allergic to each other since a minor incident decades earlier that has been remembered and resented with what will prove to be unimaginable consequences.
These uneasy acquaintances become unwillingly bound to each other when Dinah's favorite son and Avis's only daughter fall in love and marry. On the surface, Nick and Grace are the perfect match—a playful, romantic, buoyant, and beautiful pair. But their commitment will be strained by time and change: career setbacks, reckless choices, the birth of a child, jealousies, and rumor. At the center of their orbit is Lovie, who knows everyone's secrets and manages them as wisely as she can. Which is not wisely enough, as things turn out—a fact that will have a shattering effect on all their lives.

Willow Pond
The Roaring Twenties crumble into the Great Depression. Bootlegging is flourishing. Virginia Kingsley, New York's most successful speakeasy owner, is queen of that castle. Rudy Strauss wants to help with her business. Virginia, wisely suspicious, refuses. He shifts his trademark toothpicks to the other side of his mouth and asks about her niece, Laura, and Laura’s nineteen-month-old son, Todd. Virginia warns him off, but Rudy is intrigued. Laura is movie star beautiful but it is her ex-husband, Phillip, who is an actor. Laura, a writer, is devastated when Todd’s nanny calls, hysterical, saying Laura’s son has been kidnapped.
 
Happy Birthday Month Giveaway. May the odds be ever in your favor.

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June 14, 2012

twenty six

Happy Flag Day, America. And Happy birthday to me.

Growing up, being the vain and self-important little girl that I was, I always loved sharing a birthday with the flag. Not only did it give me a good bit of trivia about myself, but it also meant that my birthday was one of those holidays where even my neighbors who never flew a flag put one up. It was like the whole country was decorating just for me.

Now that I am older and more mature, I recognize that this just isn't so. But I still like to pretend.

Another tradition I have carried through the years is taking my birthday to do some self evaluation. Some years I am happier with where I am than others, and I figure that is normal. I am pleased to report that as of today, I am a pretty happy lady.

The past year was a busy one. While I am still working at pursuing all of my life goals and dreams, I am proud of the strides I have made to pursue it. Every day, I feel myself come one step closer to being a published author, which is the first big stop to becoming a big success. I reconnected with old friends, made new ones and have a rich life.

Instead of freaking out about being 26 (saying it does make me feel a bit ancient), I made a list of 26 things I am thankful for in my life. Here they are:

1. I finished writing two novels.

2. Have two novels in progress at more than 15,000 words each and two at 10,000 plus.

3. Wrote a web series.

4. Founded this fabulous blog.

5. According to Good Reads, I have read more than 400 books. Some may think that's nerdy, but I love books.

6. I have made a living as a writer for more than six years.

7. The author of the Fifty Shades trilogy said she loved my blog and that I was funny.

8. Have lived out of state.

9. Drove a U-Haul truck dragging a car behind it through four states in one night with two kittens in the passenger seat. By myself.

10. Visited 27 of 50 states, plus the District of Columbia (not including airport visits). This includes: Arizona, Arkansas, California , Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

11. Set foot in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

12. Went to Boston in the fall.

13. Partied on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

14. Visited London.

15. Saw Niagara Falls.

16. Met, conversed with and hugged J.C. Chasez of 'NSYNC, my teeny-bopper crush.

17. I partied at and (barely) survived the Houston Rodeo.

18. Tried and stuck to pescetarianism (vegetarianism plus fish, not some new sexy religion) since August 2011.

19. I graduated from college.

20. I may not have a large extended family, but they are a good one that has given me a lot of memories.

21. My nephew is one of the sweetest, funnies boys in the world, and I am lucky to be his aunt.

22. I have amazing friends who, for whatever reason, continue to humor me and my ridiculous ideas, laugh at my jokes and listen to my whine about the same few problems over and over.

23. I have had five pets in my lifetime, and each was/is wonderful and made my life better: Taz, Hopper, Buddy, Bingley and Jane.

24. I have an awesome little sister who is also my best friend.

25. I may complain about them, but my bromates are good guys who I know I can count on when needed.

26. I have two wonderful parents who gave me life and taught me how to live it.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my life. Having awesome people enriches me as a person. Be sure to enter this week's Birthday Month Giveaway for your chance to win one of two free books. Click here to read about how (it's super easy). 

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June 12, 2012

creating a unique world, characters in ya fiction

Blogger's note: I am pleased to welcome back Suzan Battah to Change the Word as part of her Chick Lit Plus blog tour. Check out my review of BaSatai: Outside In.

Creating a Unique World and Characters in YA Fiction

By Suzan Battah
Guest blogger

Young Adult Fiction is so much fun to write. It begins with innocence of youth with a broad, very unique point of view of the world. What makes it more exciting to write is when you include fantasy and paranormal elements. I love delving into different worlds, creating a whole new aspect of rules, cultures, powers and creatures than throwing in a whole bunch of characters filled with different ideals, values and personalities.

For BaSatai: Outside In #1 I was determined to create something as unique as possible without doing a readers head in. Something that was easy to understand but also made the readers think. First I started with the concept of a blood curse, the parallel divide between two worlds and the BaSatai born to protect the gate between the two worlds.

2010 is where BaSatai: Outside In was first developed. I was on holiday in South America, visiting family and the idea just walked into my head. I began to sketch some concepts down and plot the journey. With the characters, I formed a more in depth description and began to understand their personalities and traits. Throwing these characters into adventure and see where they go.

Female characters are so much harder for me to write than male characters but I wanted the main character to be female so Armani was developed. I've had feedback from some readers that they found Armani a bit annoying and I agree, in the first book she struggles with her identity, she doesn't just fall into line as everyone would expect and she complains about it because it sits heavily on her conscious. I wouldn't change the direction I took with Armani, she whined a bit, struggled with herself and understanding the BaSatai but that's all part and parcel with growing up and learning. I remember being a teenager it was a challenge developing and growing and yes I complained but grew up and out of it. I would love for readers to watch how Armani develops into the strong character she is.

Rafael is addictive, lovable, brooding and gorgeous. The BaSatai culture is very much a born for each other type of people. Armani has been thrown into a whole new world, Rafael struggles in trying to understand her. His love for her is a given which she can't accept straight away being cursed and having every type of supernatural trying to kill her. Their relationship is unique and Rafael may come across as overbearing but he'll learn to understand Armani just as she will grow and acknowledge who she is.

Karhl is the Guardian, born to live, protect and die for Armani. Guardians are unique in that they are male BaSatai with extraordinary abilities. They don't evolve and shift like the BaSatai Warriors who are both male and female. They also are very arrogant and annoying to the BaSatai which is fun to write disagreements.

Creating H-trae was not hard, I imagined a paradise with the most fantastical, dark and light of magical creatures living there with the most perfect weather. The BaSatai maintain the balance and order and with a blood curse hanging over their heads it is a life of uncertainty to follow until the curse is fulfilled or broken.

I loved creating the BaSatai world and certainly the language was fun to play with. Some readers have worked out the mystery which is very simple, others didn't so easily but I've received some positive feedback.

As a writer, I find that music has inspired me to be creative in my written work and I can visualize scenes almost immediately. I didn't really need to research this book as the creation of this world is my own concept. However, I did make lots of plot drafts and characterization notes to keep tract with such a complex setting. Of course when I start to write, my fingers have a mind of their own and you never know what might happen. Even I wasn't expecting the ending of BaSatai: Outside In ... it happened because it was meant to.

About Suzan

Suzan Battah is a proud Australian born author who has loved to write since her teenage years. In 2011 she published her first novel a contemporary multicultural romance - Mad About the Boy
In her spare time she weaves magical tales to entertain. Suzan writes YA Fiction - Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance, Regency Romance and Contemporary Romance. 
Other fun things you can find her doing is training at the gym and Latin/Ballroom dancing. Suzan is afraid of heights, loves most things that are sweet, has no clue about fashion and one day hopes to speak Spanish fluently. Her second novel a YA Urban Fantasy Adventure - BaSatai: Outside In was published April 14.
Connect with Suzan
Twitter: @suzanbattah
www.goodreads.com/suzanbattah 

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June 11, 2012

book review: basatai: outside in

Suzan Battah's BaSatai: Outside In tells the story of a girl growing up in a world different from her own and trying, but failing to fit in while fighting the natural instincts of who she is.

Seventeen years ago Armani, a BaSatai, was born and sent to live on Earth as a form of protection from a curse in her blood. The curse would cause the destruction of Earth and H-trae, her home planet, if she dies. After growing up with Elijah, who was tasked with caring for and raising her as an Earthling, she learns the truth behind her life. Constantly feeling like an outsider, Armani realizes her natural inclinations are the result of her true identity, and she fights the destiny that is set out for her.

Enter Karhl, her guardian, and Rafael, a warrior, who are tasked to prepare her for the changes that must come in her life. Add a dash of attraction, romance and jealousy, and there is a bit more complication to her already complicated life.

Battah is a solid story-teller who does well at creating interesting characters and worlds. Armani is a complicated character with many layers. The facts and history behind her character are imaginative and interesting. A victim of bullying who struggles to fit in and understand herself, she is a character young adults can relate to, even if her life is more fanciful than their own.

After reading Battah's book Mad About the Boy I looked forward to reading her take on a different genre: paranormal young adult. I was impressed. As a fellow writer, I find it challenging enough to create and cultivate a world of imaginary characters in the most real of circumstances, I find myself jealous and amazed by authors who manage to do it in another universe.

Though at times complicated to follow and a little heavy with background to start, BaSatai: Outside In was a fast, entertaining read. Fans of paranormal young adult should be entertained and pleased with the opener of the BaSatai series.

Rating: 4 of 5

Check back tomorrow for more from author Suzan Battah.

About Suzan
Suzan Battah is a proud Australian born author who has loved to write since her teenage years. In 2011 she published her first novel a contemporary multicultural romance - Mad About the Boy

In her spare time she weaves magical tales to entertain. Suzan writes YA Fiction - Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance, Regency Romance and Contemporary Romance. 

Other fun things you can find her doing is training at the gym and Latin/Ballroom dancing. Suzan is afraid of heights, loves most things that are sweet, has no clue about fashion and one day hopes to speak Spanish fluently. Her second novel a YA Urban Fantasy Adventure - BaSatai: Outside In was published April 14.

Connect with Suzan
Twitter: @suzanbattah
www.goodreads.com/suzanbattah 

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June 10, 2012

birthday monthy giveaway: week two


It's my birthday month, AND officially my birthday week!

Because I feel so blessed and love you readers so much, I want to share some of the love. This month, I will give away two books to two luck readers.

Are you one of last week's winners? Check here.

How to win?

Step One: Post a comment. This week, I'd like to hear about your favorite book growing up and why you loved it. Make sure you include your first name and at least your last initial or something to distinguish yourself from other entrees.

Step Two: Live in the U.S. or Canada. Maybe next year I'll be a big baller who can afford international overseas shipping, but not yet.

Step Three: Check back Friday at 6 p.m. CDT to find out who wins. You will then have 72 hours to email me with your full name and address so I can send you the winnings.

People will only be entered in the drawing once a week, but feel free to come back next week and try again.

This week's winners will receive a copy of Playing With Boys by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez or an Advanced Reader Copies of Carol Wolper's Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas.


About the Books

Playing With Boys
When Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez' first novel was published last year, it caused a sensation. Readers flocked to the story of six friends in Boston because both the voice and the characters Valdes-Rodriguez created were utterly fresh. A brand new, large, and eager audience came out for a book they felt had been created just for them-young American women whose Hispanic side had been overlooked by commercial novels until The Dirty Girls Social Club.

In Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez' delicious new novel-each a Latina in her late 20's -take Los Angeles by storm in Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez' delicious new novel. Marcella, Olivia and Alexis have bonded not only over the trouble with men but about how tough it is to make life work in L.A. no matter what you do. Marcella is a hot young television actress, hardly able to enjoy the life she's bought for herself and certainly not enjoying her body, which is never quite perfect enough. Olivia's boy is her toddler son-and she's tethered to him and to her suburban mommy track so tightly the other girls sometimes cringe. Alexis has a smart mouth and an ample body; she's a beautiful musicians' manager with loads of style but about enough self-esteem to fill a Prada card case. Her complicated love affair with the casually sexy Cuban rapper Goyo is a deeply satisfying romance that will delight readers almost as much as the emotional richness and girly fun of the heroines' friendship.

Rainshadow Road
Lucy Marinn is a glass artist living in mystical, beautiful, Friday Harbor, Washington.  She is stunned and blindsided by the most bitter kind of betrayal:  her fiancĂ© Kevin has left her.  His new lover is Lucy’s own sister.   Lucy's bitterness over being dumped is multiplied by the fact that she has constantly made the wrong choices in her romantic life.
Facing the severe disapproval of Lucy's parents, Kevin asks his friend Sam Nolan, a local vineyard owner on San Juan Island, to "romance" Lucy and hopefully loosen her up and get her over her anger.
Complications ensue when Sam and Lucy begin to fall in love, Kevin has second thoughts, and Lucy discovers that the new relationship in her life began under false pretenses. Questions about love, loyalty, old patterns, mistakes, and new beginnings are explored as Lucy learns that some things in life—even after being broken—can be made into something new and beautiful..

Happy Laura's Birthday Month Giveaway. May the odds be ever in your favor.

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June 8, 2012

birthday month giveaway 2012: week one winners


Congratulations to this week's Birthday Month Giveaway winners, who will each receive a free book from the blog's archive.

Cyn, Anne of Hollywood by Carol Wolper
Whitney, The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed

Please email me at lmchap@gmail.com and provide an address where I can send your book.

Thanks to both of you and everyone for the kind feedback you left on the original post. I truly enjoy working on my blog, and it is great to hear others like it, too.

If you did not win this week, I hope you will try again next week. There are plenty of prizes to come. Check back on Sunday to find out the prizes and prompts.

Have a great weekend!

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letter from camp - 6/8/12


Greetings from Camp NaNoWriMo!

It's been so long since I have written you readers, but it is because I have been so busy. It took me a while longer to get into the camp spirit this year, but now that I have, it is hard for me to stop writing once I start. And that is just great.

I'm happy to report that last night before bedtime, I reached my week one goal of 12,500 words. As you can see from the picture above, I was not too far away from it after lunch yesterday. 

Finding the time to write never stops being a problem, but it is possible to do. I do a little writing before work and during lunch (if I'm not at eating chile rellenos or pizza with my co-workers). I have jotted down sections on a piece of scrap paper in between conducting phone interviews. Yesterday, I even wrote more than 500 words on my iPhone while I was a passenger in car. Doing that alone has been a help. When paired with a couple of nights where I forced myself to sit down and be productive, my word count really grew.

With that, I'll leave you with a short description of the book I am writing and its tagline. Check back next week and I will have an excerpt.

Enjoy!

Title: Amarillo Sour

Tagline: "When life gives you lemons, make a cocktail."

After losing her newspaper job, Kass Palmore returns to her hometown to live with her brothers and work at a bar, which sends her on the road to self-discovery. While mixing drinks and popping beer bottles, she begins to love the life she has even though it does not live up to her ideals.

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June 5, 2012

the story behind felicity

Blogger's note: I am pleased to welcome Finding Felicity author Monica Marlowe to Change the Word as part of her Chick Lit Plus blog tour. Today, she shares the story behind the story and how she came up with her novel idea.

(Read my review of Finding Felicity here.)

By Monica Marlowe
Guest blogger

By the time I hung up the phone, the idea had already taken root. A friend of mine was on his way to meet with the CEO of a well-known lingerie company, a woman. I was asking myself, “What would she be like? What did she care about? Who did she care about? Was she happy?”  I’m the kind of writer who believes that character drives plot, so later that day, I went home and created Madeline O’Connor.  She was a successful entrepreneur who had devoted her life to her company, Felicity International.  Over the next few weeks, I got to know Madeline and the more I learned about her, the more I realized she really was not very happy. And I really wanted her to be.

As a spiritual seeker myself, I wanted Madeline to find peace, to find happiness, within herself and in small everyday things.  Where would she find it? How could she find it? As I started asking these questions, I remembered a retreat I had taken to a small monastery in Santa Barbara. I had been struck by how handsome one of the monks had been. Beyond that, I was captivated by how “normal” he seemed in his everyday secular clothes doing chores around the monastery. He could have been any man, anywhere. 

Then I simply started asking myself the “what if” questions.  What if Madeline went to a monastery? What if she fell in love with one of the monks? What if the monk fell in love with her?  What if …

As the ideas began to flow, I knew I needed help flushing them out to become a full-length novel. It had been a lifelong dream of mine to write so I took the plunge - I decided -  that this was the time and this was the story. I signed up for a class called “Writing Your First Novel” and began. It was in the class that the teacher and other students helped develop my ideas and the story even further. Questions like, “Where is the monastery that Madeline travels to? Why is she there? How can you increase the conflict? What would make this scene more dramatic?” all helped me craft the story into the final manuscript for Finding Felicity.

The word “felicity” means great joy or happiness.  I knew that Madeline was a woman who thought she was happy and wanted her to discover that life, and love, had so much more in store for her; I just sent her off to Italy and watched what happened. In many ways, the characters in this story revealed the plot to me. All I had to do was write it down for them.  There were many developments in the story that I had not planned at all.  I’d find myself sitting at my desk writing and all of a sudden, Madeline would say to do something that would send the story off into another direction.  Characters can be that way!

In the end, Finding Felicity came to be written because I met some characters that simply had a story to tell.  I just got out of their way and let them tell it.

About the Author 
Monica Marlowe was born in Toronto and later moved to Los Angeles. While in LA, Monica studied the craft of novel writing and participated in the Noel Hynd Workshop. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Spiritual Psychology. Now, Monica makes her home in North Carolina and divides her time between the East and West Coasts. Monica is currently writing a memoir, The Gift Horse, about acquiring her first horse and finding herself on a most unexpected path. Monica writes stories about heroes and heroines who follow their heart, wherever the path may lead, knowing that the heart has reasons of its own. 

Connect With Monica
www.twitter.com/authormonica

About Finding Felicity
When Madeline O'Connor learns that her estranged sister is gravely ill, she leaves behind her life in Manhattan to be at her sister's side in Italy. There, she discovers an ancient Benedictine monastery that accommodates travelers, and she decides to stay there, among the monks. Everything in her life turns upside down when she falls for Brother Anthony Lamberti, a soft-spoken Italian completely different from the men she knows in New York. Together Madeline and Anthony find love for the first time, and learn that life and love always find a way. When her sister dies, a new life for Madeline begins. A new life that she would never have imagined and yet is perfect for her in every way.

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