January 30, 2013

red room of pain

Blogger's Note: During my travels the past few years, I had the opportunity to visit various booked-related hot spots. Originally posted on my now-defunct blog, Lit Adventures, this is one of my Literary Adventures. Enjoy.

Escala, 1920 Fourth Ave., from the southeast corner of
Fourth and Stewart streets.

By now, fans of E L James' Fifty Shades fans know the name Escala well.

After all, it is where the magic happens. In the bedroom... In the study... In the foyer... Ind the great room... In the red room of pain...

Christian Grey's luxury penthouse is located in the heart of Seattle within walking distance to Pike Place Market. Escala, 1920 Fourth Ave., is located on Fourth Avenue between Stewart and Virginia streets.

According to the website, the luxurious homes feature hard-wood floors, 9.5-foot standard ceilings, with 10-feet on some floors. Homes are available in one-bedroom units through penthouse size. Take a look at floorplans here. Photos of the condos are available here.


With plenty of windows, the 5,100-square-foot penthouses offer views of Elliot Bay and the Olympic Mountains. Check out penthouse photos here.

Aside from having a pretty fancy home, the website also offers a list of amenities and services ranging from semi-private elevators for each residence, spa rooms, a wine cave dining room with an adjacent climate-controlled wine facility, a private theater and a dog run. Then there is the fitness center, which has a stationary lap pool, yoga studio and steam room in addition to the free weights and changing rooms one might expect.

Between the spa, theater and wine cave, I don't know why you would ever leave home. Take a look at some of those amenities here.

A view of the Grey's neighborhood,
walking south of Escala.
You have to pay for that luxury. For example, according to the website, two-bedroom condos range from $619,000 to $1.6 million.

Most days, the best glimpse a Fifty fan can take is walking past. With the exception of public open houses, tours are available by appointment only. No faking an interest either. Only serious, pre-approved buyers will get in. This is fair, as far as I am concerned. Escala is a private residence, and dwellers deserve a bit of peace for what they pay.

Fortunately, their website has a lot of photos for you to check out.

Even if you are only able to take a walk by, the building is attractive to look at, and it is close to plenty of other Seattle attractions. Plus, there are other Fifty sites, too (which I will post about in the upcoming weeks).

Also, be sure to check out Pike Place while you are in the area. In addition to offering an amazing farmer's market with fresh fish and flowers, I imagine it might be where Ana popped out to pick up fancy chocolate to make Christian's birthday cake.

If you are seriously disappointed by not getting an inside glimpse of Ana and Christian's downtown home, you can still make it fun by taking a Fifty-themed photo outside. Where a silver tie or give you friend's bottom a smack. Get creative.

I was traveling solo, so I opted for the Ana lip bite. I could practically hear Christian say, "Stop biting your lip, Laura. My palm is twitching."

Why, hello, Mr. Grey.

Look for more Fifty Shades-inspired adventures in the weeks ahead.

Related Links
Escala
City of Seattle
Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau
Pike Place Market
Port of Seattle

My Book Reviews
Fifty Shades of Grey
Fifty Shades Darker
Fifty Shades Freed

Reading in the Kitchen Recipes
Pan-Seared Pacific Cod with Asparagus Dipped in Hollandaise Sauce and Sauteed Potatoes from Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker
Ana's Spanish Omelet from Fifty Shades Darker
Poached Salmon and Sour Cream Dip Salad from Fifty Shades Darker
Christian's Birthday Cake from Fifty Shades Darker
Carrick Grey's Lemondrop Martini from Fifty Shades Darker







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January 29, 2013

interview with the author of 'i kill me'

Blogger's Note: After reviewing Tracy H. Tucker's I Kill Me, yesterday (read it here), I am pleased to host her on the blog, today, as part of her Chick Lit Plus blog tour. Welcome to Change the Word, Tracy.

Change the Word: What was your inspiration for this book?
Tracy H. Tucker: I went through a very difficult, very unexpected divorce ten years ago. I found it cathartic to create a character who went through a similar experience. As the author of the book, I was able to control what happened, and this was comforting since my world had been so drastically shaken. I thought I'd add some humor with the hypochondria and make each chapter of the book have a double meaning...what the character was experiencing health-wise, but also what she was going through emotionally. For example, in "Heart Failure," Christine worries about having a cardiac condition but is also devastated by the realization her marriage has ended. I wanted the book to be a blend of heartache, angst, humor and personal growth, because I experienced all of those in my divorce, and I figured it could comfort other women enduring the break up of a long-term relationship. I've heard from several who said the book really resonated with them, and it makes me feel very good to have helped in some small way.

CTW: What sort of planning or research did you have to do?
THT: I used WebMD a lot :).

CTW: What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book?
THT: Time. It was very challenging to find the time to write it. It took me about two years to finish it, which is much longer than I'd anticipated. In the early stages of the book, I was a single mother to three busy girls who were involved in sports and other activities all year. That, along with my full-time teaching job and taking care of several pets, made it tough to carve out time to work on my book.

CTW: How did you overcome it?
THT: I wrote whenever I could, sometimes in only fifteen-minute increments, at different times of day. I kept thinking of the end result, and how excited I would be to get a novel published!

CTW: How do you keep yourself motivated to write?
THT: It's part of me...something I need to do to stay "me." I keep in mind the positive reviews I've gotten for this book, as well as witnessing others' successes and hearing about their current projects. Reading also motivates me to write. I love to get into a book, but I also read like a writer, paying close attention to what authors are doing. And chocolate helps :).

CTW: What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
THT: Ralph Fletcher, author of What A Writer Needs, wrote that "the writing becomes beautiful when it becomes specific." I always keep that in mind and emphasize that with my students.

CTW: What advice would you offer aspiring authors?
THT: Don't give up! Believe in yourself. Write what you want to write. The genre isn't as important as the story...don't try to write what you think the public would want. If there's a good story there, people will want to read it. And read. Stephen King said (I am paraphrasing here), if you don't have the time to read, then you won't have the tools to write. Great advice from someone who's seen a bit of success :).

CTW: What was your favorite latest read?
THT: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay. Outstanding character development, great voice, intriguing storyline and a very satisfying ending.

CTW: What's up next for you and your writing career?
THT: I'm about 30,000 words into my next book. It has some humor like I Kill Me, but it has more sex and more drama, with a major twist planned for the end. The main character is a 36-year-old veterinarian who was widowed two years ago and is raising her teen daughter. She's rather addicted to sex but prefers to keep emotions out of it... until a new man enters her life. Oh, and she keeps seeing the image of her dead husband as she orgasms. I'm hoping for an early spring release.

CTW: Is there anything else you would like to share?
THT: I am so grateful to people who have taken the time to read and review my book, and I've loved hearing from people who have contacted me to say how much they enjoyed it. I can't tell you what it means to me as an author to have my work validated and how much I appreciate readers spreading the word. I'd love to hear from people via my Facebook page!

I also want to say thank you, thank you to bloggers like Laura for giving so much of their time to promote books and indie authors. We owe you so much!

Check out Tracy's other stops on her Chick Lit Plus blog tour here.

Tracy will donate 25 percent of her US royalties to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition during the month of January.

About the Author
Tracy H. Tucker is first and foremost the mother of three of the best people on Earth. She has a Master's in Literacy from the University of Maine and has inspired the youth of America for seventeen years. She's an avid animal lover and would like to publicly thank her husband for putting up with the pet hair, the dogs in the bed, the things the cats hack up and the repeated requests for goats. It's a wonderful life.


Connect with Tracy
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Tracy-H-Tucker/445365385497413
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15758840-i-kill-me
Blog: http://tracyhtucker.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/THTucker


Buy the Book
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Tracy-H.-Tucker/e/B008KZ50OS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_3
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/205124

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January 28, 2013

book review: i kill me

A high school English teacher's husband of 19 years proposing they have a threesome ends up seeming like a small problem in comparison to her other issues in Tracy H. Tucker's I Kill Me: Tales of a Jilted Hypochondriac.

Trying to be the dutiful wife, Christine Bacon agrees to her husband's request of having a threesome only to realize sharing her spouse with his busy British masseuse is not for her. When her husband tells her he's tired and bored of their married life together, she is left to raise their two daughters primarily on their own.

As she goes through the divorce, Christine finds her fear of illness and death growing increasingly bad to the point that it is detrimental to her life. At the same time, she must deal with an overbearing mother while looking for a way to mend her heart and her series of non-serious maladies.

Though Christine's journey is weighed down with some seriously heavy baggage, this book's humorous tone shone through. From being convinced her red pee is a sign of near death -- rather than proving she ate too many beets for dinner the night before -- and being convinced a pimple in her ear is the starts of cancer, her ailments offered more laugh out loud moments for the reader than anything else.

The story started off with a bang and moved quickly. I can honestly say I have never read a book that brings up a threesome on page one and has the starts of it in chapter two.

Despite the extremism of this and hypochondria, the story was still relatable for me. As someone who gave up WebMD for New Year's in 2011 after a few too many instances of diagnosing myself with parasites instead of indigestion, I could not always fault Christine's logic. Though hypochondriacs have been around longer than the Internet, in this day and age, having technology at our fingertips makes it even easier to jump to conclusions. Even if you are not a recovered WebMD addict like me, I'm sure you will be able to relate to having technology help you obsess about something.

Even though I could understand Christine, and I frequently felt badly for her, she was still kooky enough for me to want to slap some sense into her from time to time. Wanting to do this even while I liked her in general made for a fun read. I was rooting for her throughout the story and was glad to see her eventually grow a pair to stand up to the people who needed it.

I am a fan of watching a character rebuild herself, and this one did it in a unique way by pairing the stress of her life with her mental panics. 

Even while watching the sometimes train wreck that is her hypochondria, what stuck out to me most was seeing Christine balance her relationships with her children, her mother, her friends and prospective love interests. Though she makes some mistakes along the way, she ultimately proves herself to be a good mom who cares about her children's well-being. As she copes with her personal fall-out from the divorce, she is not oblivious to how this impacts her children. This was especially good to see when it is obvious her mother has not always been considerate of her feelings.

Perhaps my favorite part of this story was her relationship with her ex and overcoming it. When Richard turns out to be a Dick, she frequently refers to him as such. I'm not above laughing at a joke where a man who is acting like a dick can actually be called Dick without the caller looking like a dick even though her intent is to be one.

Did you follow that?

Rating: 4 of 5

Take a look at Tracy's other stops on her Chick Lit Plus blog tour here. Be sure to check back tomorrow for an interview with the author.

Tracy will donate 25 percent of her US royalties to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition during the month of January.


About the Author
Tracy H. Tucker is first and foremost the mother of three of the best people on Earth. She has a Master's in Literacy from the University of Maine and has inspired the youth of America for seventeen years. She's an avid animal lover and would like to publicly thank her husband for putting up with the pet hair, the dogs in the bed, the things the cats hack up and the repeated requests for goats. It's a wonderful life.


Connect with Tracy
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Tracy-H-Tucker/445365385497413
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15758840-i-kill-me
Blog: http://tracyhtucker.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/THTucker


Buy the Book
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Tracy-H.-Tucker/e/B008KZ50OS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_3
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/205124

Receive Change the Word's latest updates in your Inbox. Subscribe by entering your information under "Follow by email" in the sidebar. Follow me on Twitter @lmchap or "Like" Change the Word on Facebook.

January 27, 2013

a truth universally acknowledged

When I was 16, I fell madly and passionately in love. It was not the first time I took the plunge. As a high school student, I had three serious boyfriends and at one point in time or another considered myself in love with them. This time was different.

He was an older man. He came from old money, had friend and family connections I could not fathom and had an impressive home. When we first met, I found him proud and disagreeable, a real dick, quite frankly. But the more I came to know him, the more my opinion changed. Before I was even entirely aware of it, I had fallen in love.

Of course I am talking about Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the engmatic stud who woes Miss Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The beloved novel, which inspired countless books and movies, turns 200, tomorrow. And the story is still as gorgeous as ever.

In honor of that anniversary, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the story and how it has shaped my life as a reader and writer.

I read the book on a family road trip from our home in Omaha to Rock Springs, Colo., the summer before my junior year. As a sophomore, I read Bridget Jones's Diary and watched the movie on repeat. Knowing it was based on Austen's novel I realized I had to read the original. Even though my older friends assured me it was required reading for AP English, and I would get to it eventually senior year, I chose to be ahead of the curve. While we took I-80 west, I lost myself in the story about a young woman, her sisters and a man who proved himself far better than his first impression.

That was the name of the first draft -- First Impressions. Though I love the title, Pride and Prejudice, I find its original name beautiful. We are often told a person only has a first chance at a first impression. That is a lot of pressure to put on a person. While that may be true, this story ultimately proves that a bad first impression does not mean it has to stick.

Through the years, I have re-read the book several times and read a few of Austen's other novels -- Sense and Sensibility, Emma and Persuasion. I consider all four of these books among my favorites, and it is hard to explain why. The best reasoning I can give is this: Through Austen's books, I first experienced classic literature and chick lit. While I always knew I wanted to be a writer, after experiencing the world of Austen, I knew I would write stories about the world I lived in, including family connections, social scenarios and the like.

I have two completed first drafts, and I can see Austen's influence in both. Hell, one of them is a modern reimagining of Persuasion. But even in the other book, I see the way I have described the current socieconomic times, the latest styles and the dynamics between family and friends. The stories feature strong women characters who must undergo transformation before the last page.

Despite my admiration for Pride and Prejudice and Austen in general, her stories have come under scrutiny from others in history.

Charlotte Bronte criticized them for being to unemotional. Mark Twain harshly ranted about how much he hated her work. I find myself quite defensive when I hear these remarks. To Bronte, I say, "Austen's stories have half the drama of your books and made a bigger impression on me." (Though I do like Jane Eyre, and I hope you don't think I'm dissing you, but frankly, you started it.)

And as far Mark Twain. I know this will probably put me on the "unAmerican" list forever, but I really didn't care for the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It was one of the few required readings I actually read from cover to cover in high school. (I managed to do well enough in school without doing assigned readings I was too busy to do, because I had stories I wanted to read more, but that's a story for another day.) While I appreciated its significance in Literature (We're required to capitalize the "l" in this situation, right?) and its portrayal of 19th Century Americana, I did not enjoy reading the book. That does not mean I think it's a crappy book. It means it was not my cup of tea.

But you know what? They're entitled to their opinions, and I am entitled to mine.

What I realize now, years after reading the book and seeing these criticisms, is how much they shaped me. It made me consider how being negative about the work of another writer (or any other profession) makes a person look. Frankly, you come off as a pretentious jerk.

Art is subjective. As a book reviewer, I try to keep that in mind. It is the reason I do not believe in publishing negative reviews. It is the reason why, when I do not like a book, movie, TV show or whatever, I will say, "I don't particularly care for it, but that does not mean it sucks."

Does this make me more passive? Certainly. Does it mean I am a wuss? Perhaps. But the reason I do this, is because I never want to be someone who condescendingly acts like I know what makes something good or bad, when in reality no one can.

Now that I have ranted and raved, I'll leave you with one final example of how Pride and Prejudice shaped my life. Meet Jane and Bingley.

My baby angels, Bing and Jane, shortly after adopting them in June 2007.

My sister and I adopted our kittens more than five years ago from the Cat House, a no-kill animal shelter in Lincoln, Neb. Though I was hesitant to get pets -- they are a lot of work and responsibility, I repeatedly reminded my sister -- I was excited about it at the same time. In my head, I wanted a Lizzie and Mr. Darcy, but when we found our kittens, I knew we had a Jane and Bing instead.

For one, Jane was the most beautitful cat in the world. Personality-wise, she is more Caroline than Jane, but still, a pretty cat deserved to be named after one of the prettiest characters in literature. And, OK, while Jane can be awful from time to time, she is really quite sweet.

As for Bingley, who is one of the great loves of my life, I knew he was no Darcy the moment we met. For one, I envisioned Darcy as a black cat with what paws. For another, I thought he should be more serious. Our Bingley is neither of those. He likes everyone he meets and gives more love than I can deserve.

For someone who considered herself a dog person, I sure fell hard for these cats. And what's not to like? They're super great cuddlers and the love books. I base that on the fact that every time I sit down to read, one of them jumps on my lap to settle in for the story. Also, they both tend to curl up with books left out and purr whenever they walk by my bookshelf. Super cute, right?

So with that, Jane, Bingley and I wish Pride and Prejudice a happy anniversary, and will likely celebrate by watching Colin Firth portray the man who stole my heart 10 years ago.

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January 25, 2013

manicotti: the saga continues

Blogger's Note: I'm bringing Reading in the Kitchen back in house (easier maintenance). So, I'm posting a couple of the recipes that ran on the other site to have them here. This is post three of four in my attempt to recreate a meal from Nora Roberts' The Villa.



If you joined us last week, you will know from my tipsy post that I decided to break down the recipe I tried, and failed, to make in the fall.

It's the manicotti dish Pilar Giambelli whips up for her new gentleman friend and his children in The Villa by Nora Roberts. The culinary goddess she is, Pilar manages to pull off the meal, antipasto and tiramisu in one night. I confess, I'm no goddess. So we're breaking down this recipe to avoid another disaster.

Today, we're making homemade manicotti noodles to go with the marinara from last week. They took me an evening to make, so they get their own post.

To research this recipe, I relied on cookbooks from my mom and dad, not to mention lots of Google searching. The one I ended up using most for the base of this recipe was one from the Cooking Club of America's Pasta Recipes & Techniques. In this book, they refer to manicotti as cannelloni, or long reeds. To make it, the thinnest sheets of pasta are cut into 3 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch rectangles and stuffed with various fillings, according to the book.
The book also shared a little history lesson on stuffed pasta, which manicotti certainly falls into.
Raviolli, originally called "rabiole," seem to have been a precursor to other types of stuffed fresh pasta. According to food historian Waverly Root, ribole were invetned by the Genoese, a seafaring people, as a means of recycling leftover food aboard ships: leftovers were ground into fillings and stuffed inside pasta dough.
Interesting, right? I don't know about you, but I had never given much consideration to what people did with their leftovers in the past. It's not like they had fridges or microwaves. Knowing that some of the foods we eat, today, originated back in the day fascinates me.

With the history lesson complete, it was time to get cooking.

Before getting into how manicotti is made, let me tell you this. Making homemade pasta is not hard, but it is a lot of work. You will need plenty of counter or table space and the right tools. I had adequate space and not all of the tools, but I made do. I'll be sure to mention what you should use and what I used to make this as we go through it.

Because I am not a professional chef, instead of making hollow tubes, I created flat sheets. These flat sheets will be used to wrap the stuffing in next week's post, like one would a burrito. I wanted to make about a pound of pasta for this recipe, or 24 manicotti shells.

The ingredients I used for the dough were:
1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
3 extra large eggs
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of water

You'll notice I decided to make whole wheat pasta. If you're not watching your figure like I am, or you just don't feel like buying the wheat flour, go ahead and use 2 cups of all-purpose flour.

First, mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl (not hard when it's two types of flour) and then pour it on parchment paper. Create a well. That's what cookbooks and recipes say, but for me, I like to consider it making a volcano, then carving at the caldera. However you consider it, the point is their should be a circle of flour with a crater large enough to include your liquid ingredients.

Beat the eggs together in a bowl and pour into the well/caldera/crater. My volcano was apparently unstable and erupted, which means my egg mixture flowed out of one side like lava. This was moderately annoying, but didn't ruin the recipe by any means.


With a fork, slowly add bits of flour to the eggs in the center. Keep in mind, if you're using whole wheat flour, this is going to get thick and grainy fast. At this point, introduce some of that olive oil.

Continue forming that sticky mess into a soft ball. Again, because this was whole wheat, I noticed the flour was not as sticky as it was when I made mushroom ravioli (read about that here). I added a tablespoon or two of water, but did not notice much difference.

 
Then you'll need to knead it. This is the part that always makes me feel like a bad ass who knows what she's doing. I don't, but I pretend I do, regardless. With this being wheat pasta, my various sources said I would need to knead it for about 15 minutes instead of 10. This was hard work, folks. It's great exercise for your arm muscles though, and no pain no gain, right?


Once it was reasonably formed, and I'd kneaded the crap out of it, I let it sit on the counter under a bowl for 30 minutes.

After that, I broke the dough into six pieces. Using a rolling pin, I rolled this dough as thin as I could go. That was also tough work, because this dough was particularly thick. If you have a pasta machine, you would use that instead and likely have better results. Once I made each of the six pieces as thin as I thought they could go, I cut them into fourths using a pizza cutter. This seems to be the legit equipment suggested by the book, so party on. At this point, I again used the rolling pin to see if I could get them any thinner, and -- huzzah -- I did.


About 10 minutes before you plan to cook the pasta fill up a large pot with water and a little salt. Bring it to a boil. Place about four pieces of pasta in the pot at a time. This is fresh pasta, so you only cook it for a couple of minutes. Carefully remove the pieces with a spatula or fork. I learned that using a collander for pastas like lasagna and manicotti can actually damage the pasta, so lesson learned. Place the pieces on a towel to dry and repeat the process.

By this point, it had been a couple of hours, and I knew I was not going to bake the dish. I was also a little discouraged, because the noodles didn't look as beautiful as my first attempt. I have to keep reminding myself that this is whole grain pasta, so it's never going to look the same as your standard noodles. I layered the manicotti in parchment paper, placed it in tupperware and refrigerated it until I made the stuffing.

I did take a couple of scraggly pieces leftover from the rolling and tried those with a little marinara. I'll tell you this: it may not look pretty, but it tasted just like the whole wheat pasta I buy from the store. Maybe a little better.

So I'm calling that a success. Be sure to check back next week to see how I put the manicotti and marinara together with cheeses to make baked manicotti. 

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marinara and wine

Blogger's Note: I'm bringing Reading in the Kitchen back in house (easier maintenance). So, I'm posting a couple of the recipes that ran on the other site to have them here. This is post two of four in my attempt to recreate a meal from Nora Roberts' The Villa.


Friends, when I started this Reading in the Kitchen Adventure more than a year ago on Change the Word, I promised to tell you the truth. Well, before I get into today's recipe, I have a truth bomb to drop on you: I'm writing this while finishing the last of a bottle of wine. A bottle of wine I opened to make this dish. The recipe only calls for 1/2 a cup.

Sigh.

Pour one down, pass it around...
I'm going to be celebrating Christmas all
year thanks to this gift from a friend.
I'm telling you this, because I feel like we've reached a point in our relationship where you should know when I've had a bottle of wine before writing a post. You should be aware that if you were here and you light a match, well, I don't know what would happen, but something probably would, because people always say stuff about lighting matches around people when they've had a couple of drinks. What I do know is this post will be pretty darn long, because I'm nothing if not long-winded under the best of circumstances. Put a little wine in me, and I'm writing War and Peace.

(UPDATE: I read this post in the cold, light (dark) of day before it went live and am pleased to say I didn't see enough glaring errors to make me ashamed. So... party on.)

Now, another truth bomb (more like a Captain Obvious Bomb), but it's no secret I've been MIA the past few months. I know, I know. I suck. But I have a plan for 2013. It's what I spent the last month of 2012 putting together, and I'm in it to win it.

(Deep breath) Well I'm glad we got that out of the way. Now who wants to get into our first Reading in the Kitchen post of the new year?

Some of you may remember that last fall (my last attempt at a Reading in the Kitchen post), I made the rather stupid decision to try to make homemade marinara wine sauce, put it in homemade manicotti and serve it before a dessert of (you guessed it) homemade tiramisu.

This did not go well. My wine sauce tasted too crappy red winey (I'm cheap and the wine was cheap so it tasted cheap!), the manicotti was from a box and the tiramisu... just didn't go the way the good Lord intended this dish to be served. I ate the food anyways, but will admit I threw away portions of it, which is never good.

The supplies. See... it's simple... right?
It wasn't completely my fault though. I was basing it all on Nora Robert's The Villa. In it, Sophia's mom, Pilar, is some amazing wunder-woman who can manage this whole meal for a family dinner on a school night. Well, I'm here to tell you that I live in the real world, where women work more than eight hours a day, spend half an hour in traffic both ways and come home wanting to drink the wine, not cook with it!

But, after cursing Pilar and her perfect ways for a few months, I got serious about this business and decided my approach was wrong. Instead of trying to do this all in one day, I needed to break this bitch down. And break it down I have.

So, long story even longer, instead of making this meal in a day, I'm making it in a month. Doing it this way has thus far proven way easier. I'm for serious. The toughest part of making this marinara sauce thus far has been drinking the bottle of wine, then sitting down to write this post. So, what I'm trying to tell you is, spare yourself the trouble and invite a friend over to share the wine. You'll thank me.

So, today, we're making marinara sauce with wine. In the book, she doesn't say a whole heck of a lot about the ingredients in this marinara sauce, but I'd assume there's wine in it. Hello, it takes place on not one, but two vineyards on two continents. Of course Perfect Pilar put booze in her sauce. Now, unlike Perfect Pilar (who is actually quite lovely, I'm just jealous), I don't have vineyards or endless supplies of money to tap into, so I still went cheap on the booze. This time, I did some research.

It's tough to admit it, but both of my broomies pulled through for me on this one sharing their insight. Broomie No. 1 told me how to chop the garlic, without smelling like a piece of Texas Toast after and Broomie No. 2 told me how to cook with wine. Here's how it goes:

Chopping garlic like a pro.
Chop two cloves of garlic. The best way to chop fresh garlic is to smash them, while still in their peels, on your cutting board. Removing the peels is easy after, and chopping even easier. Next, dice half an onion. I don't know about you, but onions are almost always ginormous in the stores these days, so half goes a long ways.

Tip: Do all of your dicing right away before you turn on the stove. Not only does it save you time and prevent you from burning things, but you get the added bonus of not using a knife after you have too much booze in you.

After that, slice up some mushrooms (the single pack you find in a grocery store). I don't cut these up too much, because I like the chunks. Once you have everything sliced and diced, turn the stove on to medium heat. At this point, you can add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or use a non-stick vegetable spray like I did. I chose this route, because it as calorie-free and easy. Once the pan is warm, throw the onions and garlic in there. Now, it only took about a minute or two for this to carmelize when I was cooking. I turned the heat down a little and added the mushrooms. While this cooked down a little, I quickly measured 1/2 cup of white wine. I selected the Blue Fin Viognier from Trader Joe's because it was cheap, from Napa Valley and it was white. Once the the pan was mostly cooked, I poured in the wine and let it simmer, stirring regularly.

Broomie No. 2 shared this tip with me. The first time I made sauce, I poured almost a cup into it and did it while the sauce was cooking. Wine is pretty bitter and so it made the sauce bitter. By adding it early on, you cook out most of the strong taste, but still add a little flavor.

If this was Cribs, I'd be saying, "This is where
the magic happens." Like a boss.
While this cooked, I opened a 6-oz can of tomato past and a 20-oz can of crushed tomatoes. My mom uses diced in her tomato sauce, but I don't like chunks of tomatoes, so the smaller the better for me. At this point, I also sprinkled some crushed red pepper, black pepper and Italian seasoning into the mix on the stove. Fresh is always best, but it's winter, and I live in Nebraska. I know my limits when it comes to fresh herbs.

With in a few minutes, I added the tomatoes and stirred. I brought the heat up temporarily to medium to get the sauce to simmer, then turned it down between low and medium low for 30 minutes. I stirred it a couple of times, but mostly I drank wine. By the time the timer went off, it was ready.

Now, in the meantime, I did what Pilar should have done while she was cooking for a bratty kid who didn't appreciate her. I drank some wine. I drank a lot of wine. But I apparently kept my wits about me enough to keep track of what I put in the food I made, so I'm winning.

While we're on the topic, I have been thinking a lot about the role of a step-parent lately. It seems like a tough job. This is way too deep of a conversation for me right now, but I guess what I'm trying to say is Pilar just scored a bunch of points from me for being able to handle a full course meal and a dick kid.

For the sake of this week, I tried the sauce on a small bed of whole wheat spaghetti and naan. I saved most of it for next week's recipe, which will be homemade manicotti.

This sauce was good. Really good. I thought I might just be a little too buzzed, so I had Broomie No. 1 try it, and he confirmed the goodness. Though it was harder to detect (which was good), the wine added a little flavor and the red pepper some spice. The onions and garlic did their thing, while the mushrooms added heartiness to the dish.

After trying this sauce, I'm sure it will be a staple in my cooking, and I look forward to using it in next week's manicotti.

Yes, I photo-bombed a container of sauce. What's the big deal?
 I'll have a more articulate post with the recipe up this weekend, but until then, I'll leave you with these questions: Do you make your own marinara? If so, what's your favorite ingredient? Do you cook with wine?

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the villa gone wild then vile

Blogger's Note: I'm bringing Reading in the Kitchen back in house (easier maintenance). So, I'm posting a couple of the recipes that ran on the other site to have them here. This is post one of four in my attempt to recreate a meal from Nora Roberts' The Villa.

See how big of a hot mess I am in this photo?
And this was only half a glass of wine into
the cooking project. Oh, if I would have only
known then what I know now... I would've
bought a second bottle!
Is it just me, or does it ever seem like these dishes I make always come together quite well? I would never say perfectly, but for a while there I was on a roll. I mean, I did not make one thing that sucked and usually it was pretty damn easy.

That will not be the case, this week.

The recipes I will share with you tomorrow and Sunday took so much time and energy while proving way more challenging than expected, it put me off Reading in the Kitchen for a couple of months.  I couldn't even write about it.

Sounds major, I know. And it was. Believe me. I was there. I saw it happen. I lived it.

Channeling the Nora Roberts goddess that I pray lies within me somewhere, on Labor Day I decided to make a couple of dishes inspired by her book, The Villa. I thought it would be fun to do a Live Tweet, which -- THANK GOD -- it appears just about no one followed. Things got a little crazy, and I can't be entirely sure what I said at the time. I was under duress.

Back to the inspiration. If you haven't read The Villa, then you don't know it tells the story about two wine making families brought together through the marriage of the matriarch and patriarch of each family. One side is Italian. The other is... I'm not sure, probably Irish or Scottish, because it's a Nora Roberts book. But the Italian side does most of the cooking, and I went that route.

In one subplot scene, while trying to impress her boyfriend's teenage kids, the MC's mom makes an amazing homemade dinner. It leaves them all raving and tears down some of the walls erected by the boyfriend's daughter -- who, if I'm being honest -- is a bit of dick. I'll be damned if I didn't want to do the same and make a family uniting, dick-kid converting dinner.

Plus, the book centers around vineyards and wine, people. Sure there's the odd little mess of murder and corporate espionage, but at the end of the day there is wine. If you're a bit of a lush like me, the prospect of cooking with and drinking wine is almost too much to handle.

After successfully making pasta last year, I decided to do homemade baked manicotti, marinara sauce and tiramisu. With a carefully constructed plan, I wanted to make it all from scratch and wow the socks off you readers.

As you will soon find out, it did not go entirely to plan. I could lie to you and say I made everything perfectly and from scratch, but I would never do that to you, because we have a relationship. I would never betray our mutual trust or shun our love by defiling it with lies. Well, probably not.

Instead, I'll admit I did some cheating. I made a frantic, last minute run to the grocery store to buy pre-made replacements for the parts I biffed, because at the end of the day, I cared about creating a complete dish that tasted good even if it meant boxed ingredients.

Mission accomplished. The final products were delicious, and even my broomie enjoyed the meal I set in front of him.

It was just a major bitch getting there.

I've decided I need to give these dishes a mulligan. If you check back in January, I'll walk you through the different parts of the cooking process. And hopefully I'll get it right. At the same time, I'll tell you what went wrong the first time around. Of course, I'll share my recipes so you can make my bastardized homemade Italian.

And somehow, we're going to get through this together.

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January 24, 2013

plugging away

Writing book one has been more of a marathon than a race.

It's been a while since I gave an update on where I stand with my writing projects. Let's dive right into that discussion, shall we?

Though I have several works in project -- yes, several -- I'm going to focus on the one getting my TLC now.

Book No. 1: HHAD (acronym of the working title - some of you know it, but I'll wait before committing it to the universe here)

I finished the first draft in February 2011. At the time, I knew it needed a little work, but had no idea how to fix the book. The No. 1 problem: It lacked focus. Also, the first draft was written in first-person, and even as I neared the end I wondered, "Would this be better in third?"

Regardless, I did one round of edits, and trimmed the 105,000-word first draft to a 95,000-word second draft -- still in first person. By this point it was summer 2011, and I started shopping this book around to agents. Needless to say, it did not garner any publishing requests, so I put it on the back burner while I focused on a few other writing projects.

In November 2012, I finished a third draft. This one was different. I found a focus for the story, changed it from first to third and cut out about 30,000 words. Why did I cut it so drastically? I was thinking about publishing it more as a category romance, and knew it was too long. But the big reason? I was in a rush, and didn't want to tackle any of the scenes that were too big and complicated. I sent it off for a critique from an editor. She offered some great advice, and gave me more confidence in this project than I had since writing the first draft. I took a step away from the story at this time to focus on NaNoWriMo, which as you know did not go as well as I hoped.

Since taking that break, I did a lot of soul-searching regarding this project. I realized that no matter how I did it, this story was not a category romance, and I needed to be true to it. It's a romantic comedy, and I missed some of the scenes I removed. I also came up with a couple of additional scenes I wanted to add, because I know they will make this story richer.

So, last Sunday morning I printed off the third draft of this book, created text files of the scenes I removed, and made notes about the ones I wanted to add. I skimmed the draft adding post-it notes to the places where I wanted to add or re-add scenes. And right now, I am about a quarter of the way through this story doing line edits. I suppose I could have waited to do this until I added and wrote those new scenes, but I figured I'd already paid the $16 to print the book, and I might as well make this round count.

Though I am behind the schedule I wanted for this round of edits, I am still confident I can get through it and make the changes by early February. After that, I'll do a quick read-through to make sure it works. I'll share it with my betas, and hopefully we'll have some good news to announce about this book being published sometime this year.

It has been a lot of work, but I can promise you it is worth it. I never wanted this book to be one I wrote, but left in a drawer unpublished forever. I am willing to do what it takes to make it good, or to at least meet my standards.

When this one goes to the betas, I will tackle a THIRD draft of TMT. In all fairness, the second draft was basically a light edit, and this one will require the addition of scenes or developments suggested by my betas and an editor. I have also had some epiphanies on this one, which means a few tweaks to the characters and the book's conclusion. Again, this will take some work, but it's worth it.

My goal is to have this one polished and to the betas by late March. At that time, I'll do some prep work with plans of doing Camp NaNoWriMo in April. I am thrilled with the camp schedule this summer, because the sessions are more spread out instead of back to back. I think for the first session, the one in April, I'll re-start the book I tried to do last June. There were some serious timeline and character development issues that time around. The time away from that story has helped me come up with plenty of ideas to help it.

I am also doing light research for the book I hope to tackle during the second session of Camp NaNoWriMo. I've been tinkering with this idea for about one year, and I am amazed at how much it has developed in my mind. I'm super excited to work on something fresh, and I hope to keep that excitement alive.

When I first started writing these books, I had every intention of writing near-perfect first drafts. I attended a writers workshop, and the guest author said she basically made few changes from her first draft, because she wrote so much. I made that my goal, but it has not happened. I figure I am still learning how to be a good storyteller. Just because I have read hundreds of books does not mean I instantly know how to write them. Even as I become a stronger writer, I know I will constantly have to adjust my way of thinking and try new approaches if I want to constantly develop.

So, now that I've rambled on about that, it's time for me to get back to those edits.

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January 23, 2013

date night (hold the blood)

Blogger's Note: During my travels the past few years, I had the opportunity to visit various booked-related hot spots. Originally posted on my now-defunct blog, Lit Adventures, this is one of my Literary Adventures. Enjoy.

Bella Italia, 118 E. First St., in Port Angeles, Wash., was the site of Edward
Cullen and Bella Swan's first date in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight.

Bella Swan is already interested and intrigued in Edward Cullen when he saves her from a pack of hoodlums in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. After the rescue, Bella and Edward go on their first unofficial date at an Italian restaurant in Port Angeles, Wash.

Fans can recreate the moment and try Bella's meal at Bella Italia. Located at 118 E. First St, Bella Italia is located two blocks north of the coast in the heart of downtown Port Angeles. Street parking is free with advised time restrictions, and the restaurant is conveniently located to other sites of interest to Twi-Hards.

According to its website, Bella Italia was established in 1996 to provide Italian fare with an Olympic Peninsula twist. It is opened daily for dinner at 4 p.m., which means you should schedule your time in Port Angeles for late afternoon or early evening.

Menu items include traditional Italian items, such as minestrone soup, pizza and pasta. With its close proximity to the ocean and a list of local producers, the menu also features more unique items, such as crab cakes, mussels and clams. Take a look at the full menu here.

Twilight enthusiasts will want to try Bella's Mushroom Ravioli (TM) and a Coke to duplicate Miss Swan's meal. I ordered it myself, only I subbed a Diet Coke. (Shh... don't tell.) I attempted to recreate a version of this dish for Reading in the Kitchen last fall, so I was particularly interested to see what this dish was in real life. Read about my creation here.

Different than my version and expectation, the original is served in a white sauce, topped with sliced mushrooms. The ravioli itself has minced mushroom inside, and it is heavily spiced. Despite a few of my ravioli pieces being a little tough around the edges, likely from baking in the oven, this dish was delicious. It makes me want to make another version that better compares, or to schedule another trip to the area immediately.

Bella's Mushroom Ravioli (TM)

Priced at $17, the portion was generous and filling, especially with the bread and oil provided to accompany the meal. According to a sign in the restaurant, a portion of the sales goes to support education in nearby Forks and La Push, which were also popularized by Meyer's novels.

If you would like to try the dish for yourself, but do not foresee traveling to Port Angeles in the near future, the restaurant sells Bella's Mushroom Ravioli (TM) online. You can order it here. The shipped 20-ounce dish serves two and costs $21.98 plus shipping.

Aside from the food, the restaurant's ambiance was warm and inviting, which seemed perfect for a first date -- even if the couple is boring and mortal. The service was helpful and efficient, and my water glass was never empty.

Decorated in a manner fitting an Italian restaurant, my favorite touch was the salt and pepper set on my table. The colors suited the Olympic Peninsula well, and I would like to find a matching pair for my kitchen.

Twi-hards will also appreciate the tidbits of Twilight information available. On a table near the bar, patrons can read about the famed ravioli. A window display outside highlights the full menu and a brief story about the author's visit to the restaurant.


If driving to Forks and La Push on your Twilight journeys, stopping here is a must. You will also be close to the bookstores Bella may have visited to find the book about local legends. More importantly, the town itself is adorable. I was smitten with the artistic vibe and coastal scenery, and I would gladly visit again to enjoy the area.

Related Links:
Bella Italia Restaurant
City of Port Angeles
Olympic Peninsula
Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce

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January 22, 2013

interview with the author of 'becoming mrs. walsh'

I am pleased to welcome Jessica Gordon, author of Becoming Mrs. Walsh, to Change the Word for an interview. Be sure to check out my review of her book here. Thanks for joining us, Jessica.

Change the Word: How did you come up with the idea for this book?
Jessica Gordon: My husband is the youngest of three boys so when I entered into the family, I met a lot of future in-laws. The whole experience sparked an idea. That idea grew into a novel, though while the inspiration was based on something true, the rest is of course fiction.

CTW: What was your favorite part about writing this story?
JG: The relationships. Whether it was Shoshana and her relationship with Drew, or Shoshana's relationships with her sisters-in-law, mother-in-law. Even the camaraderie between the brothers was fun to write. They just seem like a fun, glamorous family to be part of. One reader commented that she wants another single Walsh brother so she could join the family. I thought that was really funny. They are fun to read and even more fun to write.

CTW: What characteristics, if any, do you share with your main character?
JG: Shoshana is a writer, so her creative spirit and love of writing I can relate to. I also like that she is down-to-earth and real.

CTW: How do you keep yourself motivated to write?
JG: The story itself keeps me going. Writing is actually a lot like reading a book, you want to find out what happens next. In order to do so, you must write it!

CTW: What is the best writing tip anyone ever gave you?
JG: Write clearly, use the most essential, direct words to tell your story. I think a great book has two important qualities: an excellent story that is told well.

CTW: Do you have any writing resolutions for 2013?
JG: To write a sequel to Becoming Mrs. Walsh. And to keep up with the writing in general whether it is more on the Walsh family or a different book. I think the more you write, the better your writing becomes.

CTW: Who is your biggest writing role model?
JG: I love what Sophie Kinsella did with the Shopaholic series. She was able to keep all of the characters consistent and interesting. With series writing that is so important to be true to your characters while still developing great plots and imaginitive scenes. I don't think she ever disappoints as a writer.

CTW: What is your most-read, well-loved book on your bookshelf?
JG: There are so many! But, in particular, since I mentioned Sophie Kinsella, I loved a book she wrote called Undomestic Goddess. I actually laughed out loud. Usually I find many books to be funny, but I don't usually laugh audibly—especially in public, but this one I did!

CTW: What's up next for you and your writing career?
JG: Hopefully more books and readers to read them. If people are going to read one of my books, I feel it is really important to produce a story worthy of their time.

CTW: Anything else you would like to share with us?
JG: Just the love of reading, readers, writers, the whole book community. It is a wonderful group of people. I have met such interesting, kind people along the way. It is exciting to be part of such a great community.


About the Author
Jessica Gordon is a Johns Hopkins University alumna for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She received her bachelor's degree in liberal arts from the Writing Seminars program and her master's degree in communications.

After working in the corporate world for several years, Jessica decided to return to her first love: creative writing. Jessica takes her readers to the prominent Washington, D.C. area where her characters navigate through the complex world of family, in-laws, and love.

Jessica lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband. This is her first novel.

For more information on the book, check out www.jessica-gordon.com. Jessica can be reached at any time: jessica@jessica-gordon.com.

Connect with Jessica
Website: www.jessica-gordon.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaGordonBooks
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16077397-becoming-mrs-walsh
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessicabgordon

Buy the Book
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Mrs-Walsh-ebook/dp/B009O3NO9I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357616042&sr=8-1&keywords=becoming+mrs+walsh
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/becoming-mrs-walsh-jessica-gordon/1113576054?ean=2940044984059
Apple: Available in iBookstore accessed through iPad and iPhone
Smashwords includes (Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions): http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/243474


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January 21, 2013

book review: becoming mrs. walsh

A woman must reconcile what is right for her heart with what is expected of her in Jessica Gordon's Becoming Mrs. Walsh.

Engaged to marry Andrew Walsh, part of Washington, D.C., royalty, Shoshana Thompson sees her upcoming nuptials as a step up in her life. After growing up in the Midwest, the Walsh family represents the glitz and glamor she has missed from her life. In addition to having the support of the family matriarch, she hopes to fit into a band of sisters-in-law who make her feel a bit dowdy despite their kindness.

But while planning the wedding, Shoshana begins to wonder about how she will fit into this new world, one where her husband-to-be is often absent, and her feelings for another man are deeper than platonic. As the wedding day approaches, her mixed feelings become even more confused when she realizes her crush may be reciprocated.

Shoshana was easy to identify with. She wants to fit into this family, but does not feel like she matches. As the story progresses though, she seems better able to be part of the family, though her questions about her upcoming marriage increase. She knowingly makes wrong turns, which makes her human. Still, as the story progressed, there were times she frustrated me. Her increasing interest in material goods made me question her motives, but, her desire to make the right decision -- even when she fails to do it -- gave her redemption.

If she was my friend in real life, though, I would probably get in trouble for smacking her across the head when she made a couple of big mistakes.

The other characters in the story were also interesting. Her future in-laws, who initially seemed intimidating, turn out to be more personable than they seem, which goes to show we're all people at heart. The family dynamics and the complexities behind it was the story's greatest strength.

One person I never completely warmed up to, though, was her fiance. His top secret job makes him mysterious, but instead of coming off sexy, I found myself wondering why Sho wanted to be with someone who left her alone and out of the loop so much of the time. Again, I would've given the girl a wake-up call to all of that if she was real and I was her friend.

This book set out to share the story of a young woman confused and uncomfortable with her new life and succeeded at making me feel just as confused and uncomfortable as a reader. As Shoshana questioned her decisions and what was right or wrong, I found myself doing the same. This made for an interesting and gripping read.

I felt tense the entire time I read the story, much like I do when reading a mystery or thriller. That's an unusual sensation when reading a women's literature story void of a murder or other crime. The story's ending caught me off guard. I honestly did not expect it to end the way it did, and was a little disappointed with the conclusion. However, after hearing Gordon plans to write a follow-up to this book, I am a little more optimistic that the story will be resolved in book two.

Well-written with plenty of intrigue to keep the pages turning, Becoming Mrs. Walsh was an entertaining read that has me primed and ready to see how the saga continues.

Rating: 4 of 5

Check back tomorrow for my interview with Becoming Mrs. Walsh's author, Jessica Gordon.

About the Author
Jessica Gordon is a Johns Hopkins University alumna for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She received her bachelor's degree in liberal arts from the Writing Seminars program and her master's degree in communications.

After working in the corporate world for several years, Jessica decided to return to her first love: creative writing. Jessica takes her readers to the prominent Washington, D.C. area where her characters navigate through the complex world of family, in-laws, and love.

Jessica lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband. This is her first novel.

For more information on the book, check out www.jessica-gordon.com. Jessica can be reached at any time: jessica@jessica-gordon.com.

Connect with Jessica
Website: www.jessica-gordon.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaGordonBooks
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16077397-becoming-mrs-walsh
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessicabgordon

Buy the Book
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Mrs-Walsh-ebook/dp/B009O3NO9I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357616042&sr=8-1&keywords=becoming+mrs+walsh
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/becoming-mrs-walsh-jessica-gordon/1113576054?ean=2940044984059
Apple: Available in iBookstore accessed through iPad and iPhone
Smashwords includes (Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions): http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/243474



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January 18, 2013

a ruff rebuttal

Blogger's Note: Last week when I welcomed Libby Mercer to the blog to dish on authors and their cats (read it here), I thought, "Yes, this is going to be an awesome post to share, because people are always posting pictures of cats on Facebook." I was wrong. Within minutes of posting controversy ensued. Friends turned on each other in the age-old battle of determining what pet reigns supreme. To show there are no harm feelings towards the barkier pets, and because one of the great loves of my life is my dog, Buddy, I am pleased to have Jackie Bouchard give insight into the world of authors with dogs.

An Author's True Best Friend - A Ruff Rebutal
By Jackie Bouchard

Last week Laura posted on Facebook that fun and fabulous author, Libby Mercer, was guest-blogging here at Change the Word with a post titled, "An Author's Best Friend." I headed right over, ready to read all about how a dog is an author's best friend. But what did I find? An homage to cats?!

What? A cat will spill your milk willfully. It might sleep on your keyboard, but cat as author friend? I wasn't buying it...

Libby backed up her argument by posting a series of photos of famous authors with their feline friends. Okay, so Hemingway had a lot of cats. He was really just the muy-macho version of a Crazy Cat Lady. I can easily counter her authors-with-cats photos with an authors-with-dogs montage, and, as the photos below show – Hemingway also had a dog, so who was really his writing pal??

Top: Charles Dickens, Stephen King and Jack London. Middle: Ernst
Hemingway, Virginia Woolf (‘natch; hello, Woolf) and Dorothy
Parker. Bottom: Kurt Vonnegut, Anne Patchett and Anna Quindlen.

I can even list a few additional early-chick-lit writers who owned dogs, such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her cocker spaniel "Flush," Emily Dickinson and her Newfoundland "Carlo" and Emily Bronte and her mastiff "Keeper." (Wuthering Heights was early-chick-lit, right?)

Libby further pointed to the large number of author friends she has who post pictures of their own and/or anonymous cats with cute/witty captions. I bet I could match her friend for friend with authors who post pics of their pups. And they would be equally cute, and the captions equally witty!

Finally, Libby argued for cat-as-author-best-friend because a cat won't interrupt when you’re “on a roll” and make you take him/her “down three flights of stairs for a romp in the park.” But maybe that break and a romp in the park is just what you need! I get some of my best ideas while mulling my characters and plot out on long walks with my dog.

In fact, dogs are so in tune to their humans that they probably sensed that you needed a break anyway. Let’s face it, your cat just thinks of you as someone who had just better keep the litter box clean. On the other hand, if you’re a writer with a dog for a BFF (best furry friend), your dog thinks you are William Faulkner, JK Rowling, and Sophie Kinsella all rolled into one. You are a genius in your dog’s eyes. Now, who doesn’t want that kind of affirmation on a day when you’ve gotten a rejection letter or a 2-star review on Goodreads?

There’s one last argument for having a dog as your BFF if you’re a writer – look at all the material they provide you with for books! There’s: Marley & Me, Travels With Charley, Old Yeller, Rex and the City – I could go on and on. Not to mention the fact that both Jon Katz (I know, an ironic last name, right?) and Alison Pace have practically made whole careers out of writing books about dogs. My own book, What the Dog Ate, was inspired by a dog on Emergency Vet, and my current work-in-progress is a fictionalized story of the things my last dog taught me about living life to the fullest.

I’ll just end by saying, dogs rule; cats... seem like really cool pets too, but I’m allergic.


About the Author
Jackie Bouchard (www.jackiebouchard.com) was born in Southern California and lived there until she and a friend got the crazy idea to move to Bermuda. It turned out to be not such a crazy idea after all since she met her husband there. After Bermuda, she and her husband moved to Canada, then to the east coast of the US, and ultimately back to San Diego. Jackie used to be trapped in the hamster wheel of corporate America, but she was bitten by the writing bug and ultimately managed to escape. Jackie loves: reading, writing, and, yes, even 'rithmetic (seriously, algebra rocks), professional cycling, margaritas, dogs in general, her crazy rescue pup specifically and her hubby. (Not in that order.) Jackie dislikes: writing about herself in the third person.


About What the Dog Ate 
The vet handed Maggie Baxter a plastic specimen bag containing a pair of size-tiny lavender thong panties extracted from her dog; but they were not hers. Or rather, they were hers now since she'd just paid $734 to have Dr. Carter surgically remove them from Kona's gut.

This is how Maggie Baxter, a practical, rule-following accountant, discovers that her husband of seventeen years is cheating on her. All her meticulous life plans are crushed. When he leaves her for the other woman, Maggie and her the-world-is-my-smorgasbord chocolate Lab, Kona, are left to put their lives back together. As Maggie begins to develop a Plan B for her life, she decides to be more like Kona. No, she's not going to sniff crotches and eat everything that isn't nailed down; rather she'll try to approach life with more ball-chasing abandon. Finding herself in situations where she begins to go through her usual over-analysis of the pros and cons, she stops and instead asks herself: What would Kona do? With Kona as her guru, Maggie begins her quest for tail-wagging joy.

What the Dog Ate is a funny, tender story of mending a broken heart and finding love and a new life right under your nose, with woman's best friend at your side.

Read my review of it here. While you're at it, check out my reviews of Libby Mercer's Fashioning a Romance and Unmasking Maya here and here.


For More About Jackie
Website: www.jackiebouchard.com
Blog: http://poochsmooches.blogspot.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JackieBouchardWriter
Twitter: www.twitter.com/jackiebouchard
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/5781094.Jackie_Bouchard
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/What-the-Dog-Ate-ebook/dp/B007MC1A3K/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1


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