Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ever just want a little romance…with your own spouse? A little alone time to remember you’re more than a parent, cook, carpooler, chef, and bringer home of “the bacon?” If any of that hits home, grab a copy of Madily in Love, the second book in author Lynda Lee Schab’s 3-book series about Madi Lee McCall, who just wants her kids to follow the rules, her mother-n-law to stop stealing, and her husband to sweep her off her feet. Is that too much to ask?

I’m proud to call Lynda my good friend and critique partner, and happy to have her visiting my blog today. She got her writing start in greeting cards and from there moved onto magazine articles and short stories. After winning several awards for her fiction manuscripts, Lynda signed her first fiction contract and the Madi series was born!

After meeting Lynda, leave a comment for a chance to win a Christmas ornament!

Writer’s often say they remember one particular piece of advice that helps them. What’s yours? That’s easy: Apply the Butt Glue and just write. In spite of my battle with discipline, that book won’t get written unless I park my behind in the chair and start typing. Even when I don’t feel like it. Even when I have a million other things to do. One of my favorite quotes on writing is “You can fix bad, but you can’t fix blank.”

Butt Glue—got it. Now that we know your secret, tell us what Madily in Love about. Madi McCall is just coming out of a marital rough patch (you’ll have to read Mind over Madi for that whole story) and she’s trying to get her marriage back on track. But that’s easier said than done, especially because her mother-in-law has moved in, Madi’s recently started working again after years of being a stay-at-home-mom, and her kids seem determined to do everything they can to turn her hair even grayer than it already is. Madi attends a “Revitalize Your Marriage with Romance” class at church and gets some great tips…that fail miserably. All she wants is some peace among the chaos. And some quality time with her husband would be nice, too.

Your publisher tagged this series as “Delightful. Witty. Entertaining. Real. Poignant. Light-hearted Women’s Fiction at its best.” Can you expand on that at all? How does the Madi Series live up to this description? While I certainly hope my stories are delightful, witty, entertaining, and poignant, the word in that description which I feel is most fitting of this series is, “real.” Women can relate to Madi because she battles with the same things we all do. No, not just chocolate, although that’s one of them! Madi has insecurities that affect her relationships – with her husband, her kids, her mother, her best friend, and God. If there’s one thing I know is that we all have “stuff.” Maybe not exactly the same stuff as everyone else, but “stuff,” nonetheless. Madi helps us realize there are others out there who probably deal with their issues just as poorly as we do sometimes. But God’s grace is enough to cover our insecurities, our faults, and weaknesses, even when we mess up and our lives feel insanely out-of-control.

What do you want readers to take away from reading Madily in Love? Although this book has to do with the importance (and fun) of adding romance to marriage, the main thing I hope readers can take away is that even though life seems unmanageable, disorderly, and chaotic, God is always in control. One of the recurring phrases throughout the book—as mentioned by Madi’s counselor—is “Embrace this place.” In other words, no matter what you’re going through, recognize that it won’t last forever. And down the road, you might just look back and see just how that “unbearable” season was essential in moving you to a place of growth and necessary change.
 
So what’s next for Madi Lee McCall? I am currently working on the 3rd and final book in the Madi series, due out in the fall of 2013. It’s titled Sylvie & Gold. Madi’s best friend Sylvie is preparing for her wedding (and if you’ve read Mind over Madi, you know who she’s marrying). With just a few weeks before the wedding, Sylvie is dealing with a lot: Her meddling and feisty soon-to-be mother-in-law, her son’s sexting issue, planning her mom’s sixtieth birthday party, and her fiance’s ex-wife, who has come back to town after a seven-year absence. Sylvie is normally pretty calm and collected. But her stress card is quickly getting maxed out. The question is whether she’ll completely lose her cool or find the happily-ever-after she longs for.

Since Taste the World readers are interested in travel, please tell us MIL is set and why you choose that location. The Madi series is set in South Haven, Michigan. I chose that location not only because it's a beachtown, set on the shore of Lake Michigan, but because the winters tend to be extreme, as well. In Mind over Madi, the heavy snow plays a big part of the storyline. Madily in Love is set in the summer, during a heatwave. The best of both worlds.
What are some of your favorite spots in Michigan? Despite Michigan's economic challenges, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. Every season is beautiful and vivid. Traverse City is my favorite place to visit in the fall, when the changing leaves are at their peak. Mackinaw Island is wonderful in the summer, Holland is fun to visit in the spring, especially during Tulip Time, when the city is blooming with thousands of tulips. Being surrounded by water, there are plenty of beaches to choose from. And nothing quite tops a Lake Michigan sunset.
Do you have a recipe to share--something from the book, or just a family favorite? Well, Madi is not much of a cook. Takeout is her meal of choice, whether pizza or Chinese. But she does make a mean Mostaccioli, which you posted on your blog last year. This time, because of Madi's chocolate addiction, and because Christmas is right around the corner, I'll share a recipe that’s quick, easy and delicious. My family and friends beg for these every year. And because they're so easy to make -- and so good! -- I have no problem complying.

White Chocolate Clusters
(a.k.a. "Albino Reindeer Droppings")

Melt in microwave:
1 package White Chocolate CandyQuik
2 T. peanut butter

Stir in:
1 C. Rice Krispies
1 C. mini marshmallows
1 C. (or 6 oz) redskin or salted peanuts

Drop by teaspoonful on wax paper. Refrigerate until firm.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Falling in Love


How did you meet your spouse? The answer to that question is often stranger than fiction! Check out Falling in Love with You, a love story anthology compiled by Jennifer Wessner and Ramona Tucker, and read the story of how I met my husband. You'll also find many other crazy tales of how marriages came to be...sometimes against all odds. Here's the opening line to mine:

A cop once told me to listen to your instincts. The prickle crawling up your spine is sending you a message, and you better listen. As I pulled into the parking lot of my apartment complex, the prickle was shouting loud and clear. Danger. Evil. Drive away. But when I looked at the stranger walking aimlessly around the lot at 10:30 on an autumn night, I ignored the warning.

Don't worry -- the creep in the parking lot did not go on to become my husband. The guy who got my hand and heart comes along later in the story.

If Falling in Love with You sounds like a book worth reading, you can get it from amazon.com, oaktara.com, barnesandnoble.com, and many other booksellers. It was just released a couple of weeks ago by Christian publisher OakTara.

Since this blog is mostly dedicated to travel and recipes, I'll tell you that my story is set in a suburb of Chicago. Here in Illinois, we're famous for our corn, so I'm sharing one of my family's favorite recipes: corn casserole. You may have seen this before, but we add a secret ingredient to sweeten things up a bit.

Corn Casserole

1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 can whole kernel corn (16 oz.)
1 can creamed corn (16 oz.)
1 pkg. corn muffin mix (I use Jiffy, 8.5 oz.)
2 Tbs. sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix butter, sour cream, sugar and egg. Stir in both corns. Blend in dry muffin mix. Pour batter into a well-greased casserole dish (I use a shallow one). Bake for 1 hour until puffed up and golden brown so it's crispy on top. Don't underbake. This is meant to be soft and very moist inside. Great side dish!

Monday, October 1, 2012

BOOK CONTRACT!

It finally happened! When I returned Sept. 23rd from the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference in Dallas, I had a BOOK CONTRACT waiting in my email for Show Me a Sign, my young adult novel! Woo-hoo! For years I have ached for this moment, and you know what? It was just as good as I imagined! Now I can’t wait to hold that book in my hands…but wait I must. There is more work to be done…once I stop dancing.
 
Many thanks to Ramona Tucker of Oak Tara for taking my story and making a dream come true. I met Ramona last February at an ACFW chapter meeting, where she was the guest speaker. I seized the day by talking with her before and after the meeting, and she asked me to send her my manuscript.

Many thanks also to Patti Lacy, who entered my life as a friend and became a mentor and inspiration. And to Lynda Schab, who began as a critique partner and became a friend. To my family, who believed in me even when I didn’t, and mostly…

To my Savior, who loves me…despite everything.

THE BOOK: In Show Me a Sign, seventeen-year-old Nathan Boliva is under investigation by the FBI for a kidnapping he didn’t commit, but is desperate to solve. The victim, deaf and beautiful Haylie Summers, had just agreed to go on a date with him days before her disappearance. When the FBI finds evidence in Nathan’s backpack, they consider him a prime suspect. Determined to rescue Haylie, Nathan follows clues that soon have him staring down the barrel of the kidnapper’s gun. Plenty of drama mixed with bits of humor fill this action-packed story, which is told from Nathan’s and Haylie’s points of view.

I don’t have a release date yet, though I believe it will be sometime next year. I’ll keep you all posted. In the meantime, this announcement serves as the restart of my blog, which took a summer hiatus.

Now, for some unfinished business...

Congratulations to Karen Robbins who won The Four Ingredient Cookbook by commenting on my last post.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Nashville, Baby!

This post marks my return to blogging, after a long hiatus spent writing, working, giving travel presentations and doing the soccer mom thing. On Memorial Day, I traveled with my husband and daughter to Nashville to visit our new grandson, little Jackson. Naturally he is beautiful and sweet…and I’m pretty sure he’s a genius. Here’s a photo of him with his mommy and daddy (my stepdaughter Dani and her husband, Cameron).

Despite the 95 degree temps, we enjoyed a few sights in and around “Music City.” Here’s a few you should check out if you go.

The Opryland Hotel: So much more than a hotel, this one has rooms built around an indoor jungle the size of a football field. You don’t have to stay overnight to enjoy the beauty, but be aware, parking is about $15 per car. Once inside, you’ll find pathways that wind through waterfalls and exotic flora and fauna, including gorgeous orchids hanging from trees. When you get tired of walking, stop for some gelato and rest on a bench beside a bubbling brook, or take a quiet boat ride along the indoor river. Plenty of shops and cafes, and restaurants complete the package.

Downtown Nashville: Now this you gotta see! Several blocks of bars, shops and restaurants, but all of it done up in that unique Nashville style. Live country music pours from the doorways of each bar, and fun sculptures and statues provide plenty of touristy photo opportunities. As for me…I met Elvis! I knew those rumors of his death weren’t true. See photo for proof.

Pancake Pantry: I’d read on the Internet that it was one of the best eateries in Nashville, if you’re willing to wait in line. Waiting isn’t my thing, but it didn’t take more than 15 minutes before we were seated with a menu boasting 23 varieties of pancakes, among other things. And yes, it lived up to its reputation. I thoroughly enjoyed the Pecan Pancakes, which came with maple-pecan syrup, while my daughter loved her Apricot-Lemon Delight.

LEAVE A COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN
THE FAVORITE BRAND NAME 4 INGREDIENT COOKBOOK!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Palaces of Ice

Heading north in winter is not something I’d normally recommend, but the islands off the coast of Bayfield, Wisconsin offer breathtaking beauty worth the wearing of a few extra layers. If you're very, very lucky, you might experience the ultimate beauty: the Northern Lights (at left).

The Apostle Islands are a cluster of islands reachable by ferryboat most of the year, until the bay between Bayfield and Madeline Island becomes frozen. At that point, island bound visitors can actually drive across the bay via the ice road. While this in itself is a fun and unique experience, it doesn’t compare to the splendor of the island’s ice caves.

Imagine walking or snowshoeing across the ice and into a one of these incredible ice
palaces! Keep in mind that visiting the ice caves requires a 2-mile hike (round trip) and it’s important to call the Ice Line at (715) 779-3397 - extension 3 for the most current ice conditions. F
or more information, check out this website: http://www.nps.gov/apis/mainland-caves-winter.htm.

Winter spelunking is not the only outdoorsy thing to do on these frosty islands. Try cross country skiing, ice fishing, and winter camping (brrr…no thanks). Or for something really different: dog sledding. You can go for the annual dog sled race in February to watch the fun, or, for a fee,
actually ride a dog sled!

Thanks for stopping by. PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT for a chance to win a copy of Lynda Lee Schab’s Mind Over Madi, a delightful book about a woman trying to reconnect with her
husband, her faith, and her kids while trying to ignore the Edy’s Dibbs calling to her from the freezer.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Take the Plunge!


Today I’m welcoming author and literary agent Linda Glaz, whose Kindle edition of Polar Bear Plunge is available starting today from White Rose Publishing. Linda’s fascinating background could be a novel in itself! She is an Air Force veteran, soccer nut, karate instructor and theatre buff, in addition to being an agent with Hartline Literary. Read on to learn a little bit more about Linda and her novel, and as always, LEAVE A COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF POLAR BEAR PLUNGE.


Congratulations to Lynda Schab, who won a copy of Thyme for Love by leaving a comment on the previous post.


Synopsis of Polar Bear Plunge:

Brice Taylor might not be on Aleni Callan's Christmas list, but she finds him under her tree anyway.

Nurse Aleni Callan's anger toward God is fueled when Brice Taylor enters her life. Not only does Brice have no regard for his own life—as evidenced by the concussion and hypothermia he suffers after participating in the Polar Bear Plunge—he escaped the war in Afghanistan and lived to tell his story in a bestselling book, while her precious husband was killed.

But little does Aleni know that God’s will can be orchestrated in all kinds of ways…sometimes through a meddling but loveable mother-in-law who conspires with Brice and Aleni’s son, Tyler, to force her from a lonely, bitter life.

Q. Linda, what inspired you to write this story?

A. I have to laugh, because this was a love offering. My oldest daughter, who is a nurse, always wanted me to write about an nurse named Aleni. When White Rose sent out the word that they wanted Christmas novellas, the story just fell into place (with a nurse named Aleni)!

Q. Did you have any particular challenges along the way?

A. Honestly, this was the easiest book to write of any I’ve done. And with the wonderful crit partners I have, that made it even easier.

Q. What message do you hope will resonate in reader’s hearts after reading it?

A. That life does go on if we give it a chance. No matter HOW difficult the future looks.

Q. Will we be seeing these characters in future books?

A. I’m hoping to do a Valentine’s Day or another holiday themed book with some of the characters here.

Q. Where can readers purchase Polar Bear Plunge?

A. White Rose Publishing and Amazon. And during the month of the December, it’s only one dollar.

Q. Tell us about the apple pie recipe that follows.

A. We just had it again for Thanksgiving and it was yummy! I always eat too much of it. My mom always taught me that good apple pie has different kinds of apples and that gives it the tart/sweet combination that makes the pie taste so good.

REALLY SCRUMPTIOUS APPLE PIE

Crust:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup Swiftning (this includes animal fat, but you can substitute 2 Tbs. of
butter for 2 Tbs. of the vegetable shortening instead.)
2 Tbs. sugar
Approx. 1/4 cup ice cold water (you might need a bit more)

Cut flour and fat with two knives until coarse. Add water, a couple teaspoons at a time, until the dough pulls away from the edges. Roll into a ball. Allow to sit for a few minutes.
Roll into very thin crust and line a pie plate. Reserve the rest for the top.

Filling:
Good apple pie needs different varieties of apples for full flavor.

8-10 medium-sized apples of different varieties. Try:
Macintosh, Spies, Empire, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Jonathans, and Ida Reds.
These are all good for pie, use at least 3 kinds.
Slice very thin and mix with:
1-1/2 cups white sugar (depending on how sweet you like it. I like 1 ½)
1 scant tsp. of cinnamon—no nutmeg!!!
3 rounded Tbs. flour

In the bottom of the pie pan, sprinkle a couple tablespoons of the sugar over the bottom crust. This helps keep the bottom crust from getting soggy. Pour in the apples until they form a mound in the middle. You should have a 2-3” peak of apples when you are done. Dot with 2 tablespoons butter in pieces. Roll and place top crust. Pinch edges or add a decorative edge if you like. Cut lots of slits in the crust and bake 15 min. at 425 degrees on a lower rack. Then switch to 375 degrees for 35-40 min. Will be golden brown. You can spray water over and sprinkle lightly with sugar the last 15 minutes if you want a glaze. Allow to cool to lukewarm before serving.
Optional: You can also spoon some slightly diluted caramel (I use Kraft caramels melted with
a bit of milk) over the top about 10 min. before it's done and then sprinkle with all kinds of
chopped nuts. Finish baking. That is to die for!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thyme for Love!

Congratulations to fellow writer Pamela S. Meyers, who’s debut novel, Thyme for Love, was recently released by OakTara. This romance with a twist of murder mystery is set in one of my favorite places, the Lake Geneva, Wisconsin area, which happens to be where Pam grew up. Here’s a quick blurb about the book: When April Love signs on to be an in-house chef at an old mansion in Canoga Lake, Wisconsin, she has no idea that her former fiancĂ©, Marc Thorne, works there. It doesn’t take long for the old magnetism to recharge, but April can tell there’s something he’s reluctant to reveal. When their boss is killed, Marc is accused of the murder. Read on to learn more about the book and author, and…LEAVE A COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF THYME FOR LOVE!

ALSO…Congratulations to Laury Hubrich, who won a copy of Mind Over Madi by leaving a comment on the previous post.

One of the lessons we writers learn from the get-go is “write what you know.” Now that doesn’t mean we can’t delve deep into our imaginations, it simply means we should pepper in people, places, bits of dialogue, images, and experiences from our life to add color and realism to our books. Pam did that in a big way with her character, April Love, who is a chef. Pam loves to cook (making her a perfect guest on Taste the World), and was raised in the area where her book is set. I don’t know if she ever had a hotty like Marc Thorne in her life, but we’ll let Pam keep that mystery to herself.

Q: Thanks for joining us, Pam. I love the combination of romance and mystery in Thyme for Love. Can you tell us a little more about it?

A: April Love has always dreamed of being a chef. When her Aunt Kitty hears of a in-house chef position for a non-profit organization housed in a lakeshore mansion next door, April returns to Canoga Lake, Wisconsin, where she’d spent many summers growing up, to apply for the job. When she discovers her former fiancĂ© Marc Thorne working there, she wonders if this position was really God’s intention for her. After all, Marc all but left her standing at the altar to chase his own dreams in California. It doesn’t take long to realize Marc is hiding secrets and despite returning feelings for the man, April determines she will not make the same mistake as she did eight years earlier. But when their boss is found dead and Marc is framed for his murder, April has no choice but to turn sleuth to keep Marc from being accused of a murder he didn’t commit.

Q: What inspired you to write this story and use the Lake Geneva setting?

A: I’ve always loved romance and mysteries, and decided to write a story that married the two elements together. I grew up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and have always been fascinated by the many 20th Century mansions that dot the lake’s shoreline. I toyed with the idea of setting the story in one of those homes, but decided to create a smaller lake and village just to the east of Lake Geneva to gain more freedom with some of the details of the story and its characters. I loved having the area located close enough to Lake Geneva that April and Marc could go there for a meal at one of the actual restaurants there. I also gave them backgrounds that involve working on Geneva Lake as many college students do during the summer months.

Q. Will there be a sequel to Thyme for Love?

A. I’m so glad you asked. Thyme for Love is part of a three-book series called On the Road to Love. Books 2 and 3 involved April and Marc, and both are set in Canoga Lake. In Book 2, Love Will Find a Way, April moves into an old Victorian home with plans to turn it into a restaurant and catering business. It isn’t long before a discovery made while they are renovating the home threatens to hijack plans for the grand opening. In Book three, Love’s Reward, April and Marc’s wedding plans are in full swing, until it becomes apparent there is someone who doesn’t want them to marry.

Q: Will we be seeing other books from you in the near future?

A. Oh yes. I’m very excited about Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, coming out in June 2012 from Summerside Press. It’s a 1933 historical romance, and I had a blast researching for the story.

Q. When you aren’t writing, what fills your days?

A. I volunteer at my church in the multicultural ministry, helping Japanese women learn to speak English and lead a women’s small group Bible study. I’m also chapter president of my local ACFW chapter which meets monthly. Also, I enjoy reading (surprise, surprise) and movies.
I love to cook and find new ways of making things. You’ll find an adaptation of a recipe someone gave me called Chicken George at the back of Thyme for Love. The original recipe involved canned soup. Very tasty, but no trained chef would use canned soup in a recipe, so I set out to break it down and compose a healthier recipe from scratch. I thought it turned out well, but what would my friends say? I served it at my women's Bible study Christmas dinner and everyone raved about it. I loved having April prepare it in the novel, and look forward to experimenting with more recipes for the sequels.

Pam was kind enough to share her Chicken George recipe so we can all give it a try. Thank you, Pam – it sounds delicious!

Pam’s Revised Chicken George

6 boneless chicken breasts, split
8 oz. sliced Swiss cheese
10 oz. sliced Baby Bellas (mini portabella mushrooms)
1 medium chopped onion
1-1/4 cup Sour Cream (non or low fat)
1-1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
½ Cup regular sherry (not cooking sherry)

Saute mushrooms and onion in olive oil. In medium bowl mix sour cream and chicken broth (I used an electric hand-held blender tool) until blended and smooth. Add mushrooms, onions and sherry to sour cream mixture. Mix together.

Arrange chicken breasts on bottom of 9 x 13 pan. Layer Swiss cheese over chicken.

Mix herb stuffing mix with Smart Balance (I use that in place of butter or margarine). Layer over cheese.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Remove cover and bake additional ½ hour.