The Magic City

The Magic City

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fighting Trial Fatigue

I have had four trials in the last ten weeks. That is a lot, if you are wondering. Too many, if you ask me.    Needless to say, writing (other than the legal kind) had to be put on pause while I kicked a little legal tail.

Thankfully, last week's Southern Magic Readers' Luncheon energized me. Being around that many writers and readers reminded me there is time to be found where I can write. I just have to be aggressive about hunting it down and defending it.  So, rather than give you a long blog post about the event, I am going to return to writing, but will leave you with the best goodie from the luncheon:  I met JEANIENE FROST!!!!!! I was able to stop hyperventilating long enough to post this pic:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

To be or not to be? Should you use a pen name?

            Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, Mrs. Leonard has accused my client of sexual harassment arising from the simple act of text messaging a picture of his pride and joy to her client. But yet, let me refer you to Defendant’s Exhibit One, her debut novel. Please highlight and circle every reference to the mattress mambo then render the verdict you find to be appropriate.

            And so begins a recurring nightmare I have that inevitably leads to the internal debate of whether I should use a pen name. I like my name. It’s mine. I answer to it when called. Sort of attached to it. But professional and privacy concerns make compelling arguments to become a superhero and adopt a secret identity. A nom de plume.

            In search of answers, I asked the wise women of Southern Magic who write under pen names for their advice. I posited five questions, and have summarized their responses:

1Why do you write under a pen name

The two primary reasons identified for writing under a pen name were personal privacy and professional anonymity.  Seems like I’m not alone in having a day job where my books could set tongues (and judgment) in motion.

However, more than one author responded the pen name was required by her publisher, either for purposes of branding (the author writing in multiple genres) or other reasons.

Unfortunately, more than one author noted her pen name came about because she'd experienced a stalker. In a world where information is a few key strokes away, their concerns are ones we should all share.

Finally, some indicated they went with a pen name because their true names were a little complicated or less marketable. Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) and Joseph Conrad (Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski) were in the same boat.

2How did you come up with your pen name?

Most authors chose derivations of their own name.  Some kept their first name while using their maiden names.  Others pulled from family nicknames.  A few used names of their favorite literary characters.  The common thread was that all the methods of choosing a name involved pulling from something personal.  Makes sense. If you are going to tie your writing career to an identity, make sure it means something to you.

One wise author pointed out the benefit not only of baby naming books but also the internet.  She gave the wise advise of searching domains for your possible pen name to make sure they would be available. Great idea! There is an actress who has my same name, and already owns the dot com url for name. 

3What are the pros of writing under a pen name?

Keeping your personal and professional life separate. A large number of the Southern Magic authors who responded extolled the freedom that the pen name provided them to write without the concern of what their friends, family and coworkers would think.

4What are the cons of writing under a pen name?

This is where the responses were great.  Here were some of my favorites:

·      I've had some Amazon bestsellers and have enjoyed some notoriety under my pen name, including best books of the year on various review sites. My latest release got a mention in USA Today and there's no one I can brag to about it.
·      Forgetting to answer to your pen name in a crowd.
·      You do have to get used to answering to a different name, though, and people who do know you under both names are never sure what to call you. I've been known to refer to myselves in third-person, which is kind of obnoxious but expedient.
·      In all honestly, I can't see many cons.  People change pen names so frequently now, due to the vagaries of the market or in order to write in a different genre, that many authors who began writing under their real name end up with a pseudonym at some point in their career.  I suppose that writing under your legal name offers some protection from someone attempting to copycat it, but other than that, it seems you should do what makes your personal situation easiest.

These answers also bring up the interesting etiquette question: when introducing an author who writes under a pen name in social situations, which name should you use? I always ask the author, but the few times I’ve forgotten I looked like the rudest person on the planet because I danced around the introduction until the author introduced herself.

5Any advice for those considering using a pen name?

The ladies said it best:
·      The time to do it is before you publish, when you're first starting to establish your "platform." You're marketing a brand, basically, so you need the brand established from the outset.
·      Keep it short and simple. If you are signing books, you don’t’ want a name that will take you a long time to sign.
·      Choose something that's easy to remember, easy to pronounce, and maybe slightly different from the "pack."  I've heard it said that one should choose a name close to the beginning of the alphabet to avoid "bookshelf fatigue."  Does anyone actually walk into a bookstore and look at all the books in a genre?  Or do they browse the first half of the alphabet and make some selections and then head to the check-out?  Something to think about, at least.  I've also heard that being close to a big name on the shelf, someone like Nora for example, certainly can't hurt your chance of being noticed.  In short, my advice is do what makes you and your family comfortable and happy.

What are your thoughts on writing under a pen name? I’d love to hear your answers and thoughts on these five questions.

Thank you to all the generous Southern Magic authors for the gift of their time and advice.

Monday, August 12, 2013

So excited - Elysian Fields (Sentinels of New Orleans, #3) by Suzanne Johnson is available tomorrow!

Remember when you were a kid and it was the night before the family's Six Flags trip? You couldn't get to sleep. You knew the next day would be the BEST.  That is totally where I am right now.

The third installment in one of my favorite urban fantasy series comes out tomorrow, and I cannot wait.  If you haven't read Suzanne Johnson's Sentinels of New Orleans series, you are missing it out.  Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, this series has everything:  a feisty female wizard heroine, the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, merpeople, elves, shifters, and southern fried mystery. The series is dark, but it has some of the funniest lines I've read.  The recently released trailer for the series does a great job of capturing its flavor.

The third book in the series, Elysian Fields, promises a mystery involving a serial killer who has made our favorite wizard a target. I'm not sure if I'll be able to sleep tonight. At least I know that come midnight, that wonderful treat will download to my e-reader. Much better than Six Flags. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I'm a Maggie Double Finalist!

My day couldn't have started better yesterday. On my way to work (which is what I refer to as "grumpy time,") I received a call letting me know I was a finalist in the "Novel with Strong Romantic Elements" category of the 2013 Unpublished Maggie Award of Excellence.  My mood sublimated from surly to bubbly in an instant.  This contest, sponsored by the Georgia Romance Writers has been my Mt. Everest. While I've had luck in other contests, this was the one I couldn't crack. Thanks to a three minute phone call, I knew I was going to have a good day.

Then I got to work. My day job can be challenging, which I don't mind. However, the majority of what I do is predicated on conflict and me being a royal witch-with-a-b.  So, despite the good news, it didn't take too long for me to return to my cranky, cynical self.  In the early afternoon, I'd just finished a call with opposing counsel that left me with bruises from hitting the receiver repeatedly against my forehead when my cell phone rang.  Another Georgia area code.

Holy guacamole with hot sauce! The fabulous Connie Gilliam told me that I was a finalist in the Maggie Paranormal/Fantasy category.  I love calls from her.  She'd called me earlier this year to let me know I was a finalist in the Kiss of Death Daphne DuMaurier contest. Connie, whether she knows it or not, is my personal good luck charm. So, needless to say, I was incapable of being a confrontational lawyer because my mood was way too good. So, I decided to engage in a little self-inflicted punishment and hit the gym.

And that is the story of how I found out I was a Maggie Double Finalist.  Excuse me while I do the super Snoopy dance for a little while.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thirsty Thursday: Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist

Cocktail hour is returning to the Leonard Lair. In celebration, we have decided to work our way through my new favorite recipe book: Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by Tim Federle.

What's on tonight's menu? Choices, choices. The top contenders are:

  • A Cocktail of Two Cities
  • Are You There God, It's Me, Margarita
  • One Flew Over the Cosmo's Nest
  • Bridget Jones's Daquiri
  • The Last of the Mojitos
If you were going to concoct a literary inspired cocktail, what would it be? Cheers!

P.S.  My next read will be Steamdrunks: Cocktail Book for Steampunks :)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back in Black

You thought the blog was dead. It's okay to admit it. But guess what? I'm back :)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Beach Read Recommendations - Comment to W*n a copy of STAR CROSSED by Jennifer Echols

I WILL take a vacation this year. A true vacation. Not one scheduled around depositions. Not a conference that I pass off as a vacation. A true, lay on the beach and read a book with no interruptions vacation. That is my vow.

I need to load up on my beach reads in preparation.  I'd love for you to share with me your recommendations for 2013.  One lucky commenter will win a copy of my "must read beach read" of 2013 - STAR CROSSED by Jennifer Echols.

Winner will be announced Sunday evening.  I'll also post the list of "Recommended Reading"

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wine Down Wednesday - 2010 Smoking Loon Syrah

In honor of Valentine's Day (which my husband SWEARS is February 15 - all I am saying is he better shower me in the best 75% off candy in the land), I wanted to talk about one of my favorite reds.

There is one simple reason I could never be a vegetarian. Steak.  And why do I love steak (other than it is delicious)?  Because it gives me a great excuse to drink red wine.

One of my favorite reds to have with red meat is the 2010 Smoking Loon Syrah.  This versatile California red has a chocolaty and fruity start (hints of cherry and cranberry), but a peppery finish. It goes well with steak (beef and tuna steak) AND burgers.  It is also nice to pair with your favorite chocolates when you have to write that scene (you know the one I'm talking about).  The price point makes it a steal - it is $9.99 at all my local grocery stores.

What is your best "deal" wine that you like to pair with red meat? 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Contest Contessa Christine Glover on the Linda Howard Award of Excellence

Who coined the phrase "pantser-crapper-fixer-uper?"  Christine Glover.

Who was a TRIPLE finalist in 2012's Linda Howard Award of Excellence?  Christine Glover.

Who is my guest on the blog today?  Christine Glover!!!!!

I cannot tell you how excited I am that the 2013 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contest coordinator, Christine Glover, took time out of her insane schedule to dish about this year's contest.

Who is Christine? Everyone knows her.  Seriously.  Everyone. There are epic poems written about her in Greece.  The French have dedicated vineyards to her. And the Italians . . . I can't print here what the Italians have done without having to get a disclaimer before you enter my blog.

But, in case you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Christine before, here is her biography:  Christine Glover is an award winning contemporary romance writer of sensual, sizzling novels with dark emotional edge. Her tough, no-nonsense heroines aren’t so easily swayed by great looks and killer abs, but they surrender their hearts to her heroes when they discover they are men who won’t take advantage of their inner vulnerabilities. Her characters interrupt her showers and her workouts to tell her what happens next in the story. She has yet to figure out how to apply makeup or style her hair without someone popping into her head and giving her another scene to write. Ultimately, she sits down to write about two lost souls finding each other, discovering home, and giving her romance characters the happily-ever-after endings they deserve.

Born in the Netherlands, Christine’s parents immigrated to Canada where she spent her formative years. After meeting her own real life hero, she married her Texan Alpha man and moved to the United States where she’s lived both south and north of the Mason Dixon line. Now Christine lives in Alabama with her husband the Physicist, two insanely adorable cats and one amazing daughter. She believes we are all on a journey toward attaining our dreams, but we can’t be serious all the time. She enjoys finding the silly in the serious, making wine out of sour grapes, and giving people giggle fits along with heartfelt hugs. When she’s not writing, you can find her traveling the world, cooking gourmet food, and desperately seeking a corkscrew.

Christine is in charge of this year's Linda Howard Award of Excellence ("LHAOE" for those in the know) for unpublished romantic fiction.  She has made some exciting changes to the contest, and was gracious enough to share some time to answer some questions about the contest

You are the contest queen, having been a multiple finalist in numerous prestigious contests.  Based on your experience, what are the benefits an unpublished writer can gain from entering the LHAOE?
Heather, I have entered contests since 2005 when I was desperately seeking any kind of feedback for my writing. I got it. Most of the judges were very instrumental in leading me to craft books and improving my writing skills. The Linda Howard Award of Excellence provides that and so much more. My first experience with the LHAOE was in 2008. I entered and didn't final. However, the feedback was amazing. Kind and well thought out critique that I was able to incorporate into my manuscript and enter another prestigious contest which garnered me a major final. Unpublished writers benefit from entering the LHAOE by gaining valuable feedback from trained, RWA PRO and Published judges who really do want to see every writer attain their dream. That elusive goal of publication.

What sets the LHAOE apart from other contests?

NO SYNOPSIS!!! Oh, that has been my greatest nemesis and has made entering other contests a lot harder because I've had to distill my manuscript down to a couple of pages. I'm better at writing the synopsis, but in the first round of judging, it's nice to only have to focus on the first 25 pages and making them shine.You have plenty of time to work on the synopsis which will be included when the finaling entries are forwarded to the judges, but it's not judged. That's awesome. Another thing that I feel sets this contest apart is that I am personally invested in  making sure that all the entries are treated with dignity and respect. I will vet any comments that I feel will not be conducive to building the writer's confidence. So I hope that gives new writers the courage to send in their entries. One day that entry, even if if doesn't final, could become a winner somewhere else. That's what happened to  my first LHAOE entry. It went on to WIN the LHAOE in 2012 and I got an editor at a major publishing house interested in working with me because of that win. So never give up and always work on improving your writing. You will get there!

Who are the final round judges?

I am so excited about the final judges this year. Here is the breakdown:

Historical: Chelsey Emmelhainze, Harpers Collins
Paranormal/Urban Fantasy: Latoya Smith, Grand Central Publishing
Contemporary Series Romance: Alethea Spiridon Hopson, Entangled
Single Title: Eleni Caminis, Montlake
The Write Magic (for SM members only): Beth Miller

What is the Write Magic category (and is it too late to join Southern Magic)?

The Write Magic category takes all Southern Magic members who final and/or achieve an average score of 90 or better and sends those finalists to that judge, Beth Miller. So there's a bonus round for the Southern Magic members who enter the LHAOE. It's not too late to join. And I'd love to see more members in our great writing chapter.

What is the deadline to enter?

The contest deadline is February 22, 2013. Finalists are announced in May. The winners will be announced at this year's 2013 RWA National Conference at a restaurant to be determined. I know it will be a lot of fun!!

So enter. It's a great experience. And it's my privilege and honor to be the coordinator of a contest that has given me so much as a writer. 

For more information on the contest, go to:

And if you want to become a pantser-crapper-fixer-uper (like all the cool kids), you can follow the cult of Christine on Twitter (@cjglover63), on her website and/or on her super-awesome blog (notice it over there to the right on the "Must Read Blog" list?). 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Food for Thought: Hot Bacon & Swiss Dip

There is no way this is healthy. I freely admit that. But as bathing suit season approaches with the unforgiving speed of a hurricane, this weekend is my last calorie hurrah before I have to start thinking of raw fruits and veggies as "snacks" and "treats" as opposed to punishment. 

So, in full self-indulgent style, I give you HOT BACON & SWISS DIP (yes, you just gained 1/2 a pound reading that - that is how rich this appetizer is).

What you need:

A package of low fat cream cheese (8 oz.)
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 cup of shredded swiss cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup crumbled Ritz crackers
8 slices of turkey bacon (cooked and crumbled)

What you do:

Put your cardiologist on speed dial as a precaution, and make sure all health and life insurance premiums are current.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all the cheeses and mayo together.

Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray.

Spread the cheesy goodness into the casserole dish.  Top with crackers and bacon.

Bake for about  10-15 minutes (until cheese is melted/bubbling on the edges).

Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, toasted bread, or any other edible vehicle that can get this gooey treat into your mouth.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wine Down Wednesday

Glory hallelujah! Finally, science has proven it is good for something.  A recent study shows alcohol may boost creativity.  Therefore, I raise a glass in celebration and roll out my version of Wine Down Wednesdays.

Members of my local RWA chapter join me frequently in extolling the virtues of the grape (right, Christine? Mary? Lexi? Anyone?).  Personally, I am a fan of champagne. A day without champagne is stupid. Period. End of discussion. But in a pinch, I can go for a good red. Or white. Or box o' wine. Just hand me the damn glass, okay?

Each Wednesday, I am going to talk about a recent "Wine Find." This is my mission - to find a good cheap wine. There isn't much sport in finding a good wine that is pricey. If I am paying more for a bottle of wine than it costs for me to fill up my tank with gas, it better be amazing. However, finding that elusive $5-$15 bottle that blows your mind poses my kind of challenge.  This weeks's selection is . . .

Cristalino Brut Cava

The Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava is a great find.  I am uncomfortable unless there are at least two bottles of this Spanish sparkling wine in my fridge.  The price point is just right.  Depending on where you shop, you can find it anywhere from $6.50 a bottle to $9.99.  It is a dry, crisp sparkling wine with hints of citrus.  It works well for making mimosas, but can stand alone.  I may have been known to call this "writing juice" on more than one occasion.

Have you tried this wine? What were your thoughts? Any suggestions for future wines to discuss?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Meeting the Author Makes a Difference

The Birmingham Public Library hosted its Local Author Expo this past weekend. I went to support several published authors from my local RWA chapter and had a blast. I also discovered several local authors who I'd never read.

This really drove home the point about the importance of author-reader contact. As a reader, if I have met you, I am more likely to buy and read your books. Because everything in the world revolves around me (Copernicus, honey, you got it wrong - I am the center of the universe, and all things revolve around me), I feel a connection to the book more strongly if I have met the author. That extra personal investment makes a difference. 

I'm not alone. Around Christmas, I was meandering up and down the book isles while the hubby drooled over electronics (too messy to stand close to him during those times).  I saw a book by an Alabama author and pointed it out to the lady next to me (and, of course, pointed out I knew the author).  She picked it up, excited by the book being part of the local creative scene, and bought it. 

Authors spend so much time developing their online presence, and it is important. But don't forget to get out and press the flesh. Never underestimate the power of a little gripping and grinning.

What are your favorite reader/author events to attend? Any suggestions? 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Food for Thought - Fudge Word Bombs

February and chocolate are synonymous in my mind. You can't walk into any store without being overwhelmed with displays of chocolaty goodness.

This is my "word reward." I allow myself one after each completed 1000 words on my MS. This recipe will give you an entirely new appreciation for an f-bomb! They are healthy snacks that satisfy the chocolate craving.

What you need:

1 1/3 cups pitted dates
1 cup walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons dark cocoa powder

What you do:

Put everything in a food processor and let it rip until everything is blended.
Using a small ice cream scoop (or a spoon), scoop out a handful and roll into a ball. You are shooting for the size of a ping-pong ball.
Wrap each ball in wax paper or put in a small cup-cake paper thing (you don't want these sticking together)
Store in an air-tight container

Monday, January 28, 2013

Words You Want to Punch in the Face

My husband recently started a list - Words He Wants to Punch in the Face. It is a fine idea. He started the list by saying if he had to hear the word artisanal one more time he would do something likely to land him on a no-fly list.  And so the list began.

We've been adding to the list over the last few weeks. The most recent addition - impacted. In our opinion, this is an example of where misuse of a word through the media has led to common acceptance of its abuse. 

Frequently, in media reports, the word impacted will be be used to mean affect (I'll spare you my rant on affect/effect).  Impact as a verb means to strike forcefully. As a noun it includes a collision/the striking of one thing against another, the force transmitted by a collision, the power of making a strong impression, and/or the effect of impression of one thing on another.

As a verb:  The meteor impacted the Earth.
As a noun:  The meteor had an impact on the Earth. or The hail had an impact on the outcome of the game.

The misuse comes about when the speaker tries to use impact as a verb to describe having an affect on something. For example, "the election impacted the economy."  No, no, no.  The election affected the economy.  The election had an impact on the economy. Save the use of impacted to describe dental work.

Do you have any words you want to punch in the face? 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Food for Thought - Breakfast for Dinner - Bacon Zucchini Casserole

In continuing the Friday Food tradition, I wanted to share a recipe that has helped reconcile the love-hate relationship I have with vegetables (I love to hate those vile green spawn of the earth - I am a meat and potatoes girl all the way).

This is a great recipe because you can make it in advance and eat on it for a day or two. Because it is fairly hearty, I make it for the "breakfast for dinner" nights in my house.

Bacon Zucchini Casserole

What you will need:

1 pound ground turkey
1 zucchini
5 garlic cloves
1 onion (I prefer red, but my husband prefers yellow)
8 eggs
2 Tablespoons of Basil
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
6 pieces of turkey bacon (cooked)

What you have to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Brown the turkey in a skillet.  Drain the fat when you are done.
Smash the cloves of garlic and then mince them.
Dice the onion.
Saute the onions and garlic until they caramelize.  Remove them from the heat and set to the side.
Julienne or shred the zucchini.
Combine in a mixing the eggs, cooked turkey, the zucchini, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and basil. Mix well, but don't overdue it. Once these ingredients are combined, add the onions and garlic.
Pour the mixture into a greased casserole dish.
Cook for 30 minutes or until it is cooked thoroughly.  Turn the broiler on, and let the top crust up/brown for about 2-3 minutes.
Remove the casserole from the oven. Crumble bacon on top and serve.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Special Guest Hildie McQueen

Today we have special guest blogger the fabulous and amazing HILDIE MCQUEEN!  (Kermit dance on my part). Not only is this lady an amazing author, but she is also a terrific person. After a few minutes in her company, she has you under her spell and before you know it, you've gone and bought all her books!  I hope you will check out her new release, WHERE THE FOUR WINDS COLLIDE.

Where The Four Winds Collide

Adeline Buckley escapes her abusive father only to find herself in a brothel, on a stagecoach to the untamed west and married to a stranger, all in that order.  Plotting another escape becomes harder, the more she gets to know her new husband.

Jackson Pruitt didn’t expect a secretive mail order bride to show up the same week cattle rustlers absconded with a large part of his herd.  The bigger surprise was the loveliness of the woman. Why would a beauty like her need to travel so far to marry?

Jackson and Adeline learn that secrets and marriage do not go hand-in-hand when both of their pasts comes knocking and both have to come to grips with the reality, that sometimes trust comes only after you lose it all.

Purchase Now On

~Excerpt and Giveaway~


This is your home now, Adeline," Jackson told her, watching her closely for a reaction. "We were married earlier this afternoon. You are my wife."
The color drained from her face and she froze, her spoon halfway to her mouth. He feared she'd faint again so he jumped up and went to her. The action startled the woman, who yelped and leaned away from him, only to topple over. Both she and the chair landed on their sides on the floor.
When Jackson tried to help her up, she scrambled to her feet and moved away from his reach.
"Married?" The shock in her voice made him wonder if the woman was mad. Surely she remembered signing the documents before the judge?
"Yes, Adeline, the judge explained it all to you before you signed the papers at the hotel. Do you not remember?"
"I..." her widened eyes met his and he fought the urge to reach out to reassure her. "I thought it was a dream."

Enter for a $20 Amazon Giftcard!
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Hildie McQueen loves storytelling and unusual settings, pair that with humor and you’ve got an idea of what her writing is like.

She makes sure action, intrigue, and sizzling romance add up to a story, her readers won’t soon forget.  Her favorite past-times are traveling, shopping and reading. She resides in beautiful small town Georgia with her super-hero husband Kurt and two unruly Chihuahuas.

Visit her blog at

Friday, January 18, 2013

Food for Thought - Sweet Potato Chili

Just like every January that has preceded this one, I made the resolution to eat better and exercise more. Just like every January that has preceded this one, I fell off the wagon onto my well padded derrière with the first week (I blame Alabama football - can you REALLY expect me to watch a national championship football game without wings and beer/champagne and cake?  Seriously - I am not a barbarian!)

To get back on track, I am trying to find recipes that are better for me than drive-through (my meal of choice) and easy to make so I can use my time writing rather than preparing food. Sugars and processed foods can kill creativity. Each Friday, I will share a recipe that helps avoid the creativity and time killers that interfere with writing.  Please comment to share your own, and if you try the recipe, let me know how it worked for you.

Sweet Potato Chili

What you will need:

A pound of ground turkey or beef (I go the turkey route and use Worcestershire sauce to give it a more beefy flavor)
2 good sized sweet potatoes
A yellow onion
A red pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons of chili powder
1.5 teaspoons of cumin
1.5 teaspoons of black pepper
Salt to taste
1 can (14.5 oz) of diced tomatoes
2 cups of beef broth
1 cup of water

What you will do:

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into cubes.
Peel and chop the onion.
Smash the cloves of garlic with the side of a knife then dice.
Chop the red pepper.
Brown your meat in a skillet on the stove.
After you drain the fat from the meat, put it along with all the other ingredients in a slow cooker/crockpot.
Cook until the sweet potatoes are fork tender (about 5 hours on low/3 hours on medium).

Monday, January 14, 2013

Meet the Fabulous Rachel Van Dyken

I had the pleasure of meeting New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Rachel Van Dyken at the Moonlight and Magnolias conference this past fall.  She graciously agreed to this interview. I am positive you will love her and her books as much as I did:

You are a prolific writer. Why do you write (and how did you start writing)? 
I write because my mind won't shut up! I have so many different story lines going on at any given time that I'm pretty sure if I didn't record some of the stuff I'm thinking. My head would explode! ;) I was a school counselor for five years. In between sessions with kids I would work on books in hopes to kind of distress. It was an emotionally trying job and it was kind of my escape from everything. The rest is history!

You write in multiple genres. Is it challenging to adapt your style among historicals, young adult, paranormal/gothic, etc.? Do you have a favorite genre you write in?
At first it was really challenging. I was writing my regency series House of Renwick and I would switch between that and my contemporary Compromising Kessen, and all of a sudden the speech would change. I'd have to go back and delete everything because my characters were saying "Devil take it!" In 2012! Now, I am able to balance it out more. I know how to change my voice a bit depending on what I'm writing. While writing Whispered Music, my regency retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I was also writing a contemporary, The Bet. Both books had interesting secondary characters and some fun love triangles. It actually helped to be able to bounce between stories when I felt drained! I think my favorite genre is regency. I have a weakness for rakes and wounded heroes. I want to see the bad boy get knocked off his feet by the independent woman. The regency period provides the perfect environment for the gentleman to seduce the lady only to find out that the lady plans on seducing him first. It's delicious, and I love it!

What is your writing process? You work on multiple books at the same time what are the challenges and benefits you experience in doing that?
The biggest challenge is remembering your characters names and also focusing on the voice of that certain novel. I think it's important to work where you are inspired. if I'm not feeling the whole historical thing, I switch it up. I think it also makes it easier for me not to hit a slump. When I get blocked I just move on and go to something else, I try not to put pressure on myself. In doing that I'm able to relax and enjoy myself! I also have some readers that prefer the historicals so its always a fun challenge to try to get them to jump genres and enjoy something different!

Why did you choose to submit to Astraea Press?  What is it like working with Stephanie Taylor/having an editor who is also an author? 
I saw Astraea Press on a blog and noticed that they were a new publisher specializing in sweet romance. I knew that I wanted to be a sweet romance author, so I submitted to them, and was completely shocked when they accepted my manuscript! I love working with Stephanie. I couldn't ask for a better company or a more wonderful woman! She is brilliant with her company and also personally edits most of my manuscripts. I can always trust her to be honest with my work. She makes me as an author want to work harder.

What are you working on? 
I'm currently working on my London Fairy Tale series. I'm doing a regency retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.  It's the third book in my fairy tales series and it focuses around Hunter Wolfsbane Duke of Haverstone. He's a very damaged and hilarious hero who is both Hunter and Wolf. He's also a spy for the crown. His partner is a woman, though he despises the fact that she's of the opposite sex. He finds her not only distracting but extremely attractive, she goes by the name Red. The story has been so fun to write and I'm excited for the finished product this Winter! (The Wolf's Pursuit has an anticipated February 2013 release date).

I'm also working on a contemporary romance about two brothers pulled between the girl next door. It's called The Bet, and should also be releasing soon. :) And because I clearly have too much time on my hands, I'm simultaneously working on a new serial regency that for my
blog in weekly posts called "The Spinster Club," it will eventually be made into a novel. :)

What appearances will you be making in the next year? 
I'll be attending RT in Kansas City. I'm also a featured author at RomCon in Denver and I think I'll be attending a few more conventions as well!

You can learn more about Rachel at her website, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter (@RachVD). She is also on Goodreads