Winner of Everything I Learned…

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest for Sarah Wendell’s book Everything I Learned About Love. It was so interesting hearing the widely varied responses for what your favorite read so far in 2011 was. And I love that some of you named Carina Press books. Yay!

Without further ado, the winner of Sarah’s ARC, a Carrie Lofty book, Carina Press downloads and a book of her choice from the list in this post is Alison

Congratulations, Alison! I’ll be contacting you for details of where to send your loot.

For those of you who didn’t win, stay tuned both here and on my Twitter. I have an entire bookcase full of swag and loot I need to get cleared out of here (including three ereaders!) so I’ll be holding a ton of contests on Twitter, via my newsletter and here on the blog!

Summer Cooking: Chicken Breast ideas #dinnertip

This past weekend I asked Twitter for some good summer ideas for using the chicken breast in my fridge. I ended up doing the Key West chicken and Cilantro Lime rice I blogged about here, but I got such good ideas, I wanted to share them for those of you searching for summer cooking ideas!

@heathterwpetty Grill and shred for salads/tacos? (Or bake and shred, if your oven doesn’t heat up your kitchen too much.)

@SpiceBites Poached and shredded to use in tacos & salads!

I love Asian too esp. for summer. Do a poached chkn brst & raw veggies salad w/fish sos, lime, ginger

@DebNemeth We do a lot of chicken Caesar salads in the summer too. And chicken fajitas are always good…

Greek-flavored chicken souvlakia: marinate breast strips in oregano & lemon, saute in olive oil, serve on fried pita(continued)

w/ tzatziki (cucumber/yogurt/garlic/dill) sauce, tomatoes & sauteed onion. Serve w/ tabbouleh

@rlarocque andoori – marinate in plain yogurt and spices overnight, then BBQ. Not too spicy, either.

@HeleneYoung Tandoori chicken breasts, slow roasted, served on a bed of couscous with a green salad 🙂 And a drizzle of natural yoghurt!

@Yvena I like hammering them flat, adding spices, cooking in a pan. Maybe with a cucumber salad?

@DeniseJTompkins Fajitas and use the leftover meat to make fajita quesadillas. Mmmmmm. 🙂

@Shelley_Watters Citrus chicken: zest and juice of 1 orange & 2 limes, melted butter, garlic, salt & pepper. Cover breasts with sauce and bake.

@TrishB chk breast recipe wrap chk w/bacon mix brown sugar, pineapple juice & lil mustard baste while grilling. My kids favorite

@CarolynRosewood Cooked and cut up into cubes for a salad with tomatoes, cukes, etc. Can use almost any dressing on it including oil & vinegar.

@SilverLily I love them with pesto and melted provolone on top

@LizabethSTucker I grill them with pieces of pineapple and orange juice. You can also add some fresh coconut to give it an island taste.

@nancyevertz fajitas. Lime, honey and cilantro marinade. Probably some oil in there. Messy on the grill. Grill the breasts and then slice.

@cpblackburn Lemon pepper both sides of the chicken and bake it. That has a definite summery vibe to it.

@HillaryJacques Cut in strips, marinate in balsamic vinaigrette, then grill. Perfect on salad or rice

@Chumplet Toasted club sandwiches or chicken Caesars.

@CristalRyder Next u in Toronto, grab bottle PC Memories of Tuscany from Loblaw stores, great on chicken. I have fab creamy mustrd chkn rcpe

@beth_caudill Grilled with barbeque sauce over them is real good.

From Facebook:

Tori Scott wrote: “Marinate in Zesty Italian dressing and bake, broil, or grill. Serve with sliced avocados.”

Chiron O’Keefe wrote: “Marinate in taco seasoning, grill and make tostadas or tacos.”

Emily wrote: “Grill them and slice onto a salad with sliced strawberries, crumbled bacon, and goat cheese with raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Yum.”

Summer dinner: Key West Chicken and Cilantro Lime Rice

I don’t mind BBQ chicken, but it’s not something I want to eat often. So when I knew we were having chicken breasts on the grill for dinner tonight, I went looking for something else I could do. On AllRecipes.com, I found these two recipes, which were easy to prepare. I marinated the chicken for only a half hour, as recommended. The chicken and rice together were amazing, the flavors perfectly complemented each other. A perfect summer meal. I would have loved to have some sliced mango or a tropical fruit salad to go with it. Next time.

Key West Chicken

*note, it would be easy for the soy sauce to take over in this recipe, so I suggest tasting before you add the chicken, to make sure the lime juice is coming through. Also, you don’t have to use fresh lime juice, just buy a bottle of lime juice and make it easy on yourself! Although comments on the recipe say they marinated overnight, be very careful about marinating too long. Chicken marinating in soy sauce can be marinated too long.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Directions

  1. In a shallow container, blend soy sauce, honey, vegetable oil, lime juice, and garlic. Place chicken breast halves into the mixture, and turn to coat. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.
  3. Lightly oil the grill grate. Discard marinade, and grill chicken 6 to 8 minutes on each side, until juices run clear.

Cilantro Lime Rice

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice (Use Jasmine. No really. Use Jasmine. Yum!)
  • 2teaspoon lime zest
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (I did use fresh lime juice for this portion)
  • 3/4 cup chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. Bring the water to a boil; stir the butter and rice into the water. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Make it right in your rice cooker.
  2. Stir the lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro into the cooked rice just before serving. Taste and add more lime juice or cilantro, as needed. I let this sit, covered in the rice cooker, about 5 minutes while we got everything else ready, and it allowed the flavors to really permeate the rice.
  3. You may wish to sprinkle lightly with sea salt before serving. I have this spiced salt, Florida Sunshine, which was wonderful for this.

I’m making fish tacos for dinner on Tuesday, and will keep the leftover rice to serve with (or in, as people prefer) the tacos.

What’s your favorite #DragonBook?

This afternoon on Twitter I asked: What’s your favorite book that prominently features a dragon. Either as a shifter, character, etc. Keyword: prominent

I have absolutely no reason for asking other than general curiousity. I was browsing Amazon (avoiding cleaning my closet, like I’m supposed to be doing on Vacation Day Two) and something caught my eye. I can’t even remember what, now, but it got me to thinking about dragon books.

So I asked the question. I purposely didn’t say romance, fantasy, YA. It could be any genre, I was just looking for people’s favorites. Because I fail at Twitter today, I forgot to hashtag the question, so I gathered all of the responses so far and am posting them here. My apologies if I missed any! If you have favorites, you’re welcome to post them in the comments here or add them to Twitter, hashtag #DragonBook.

(note: When a series is mentioned, I’ve tried to link to book one in the series/trilogy, in the Kindle format)

The top 5 mentions so far:

Anne McAffrey’s Pern series

The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series

The Aisling Grey series by Katie MacAlister

(side note: I’ve read all of these except Anne McAffrey and I bought her first one, Dragonflight, earlier this week)

Books, series or authors that got multiple mentions:

Eileen WilksWorld of the Lupi books

Shelly Laurenston/GA Aiken (one author, two pseudonyms)

Dragon Heat and The Black Dragon by Allyson James

Dragonlance series by Weis and Hickman

Hurog duology by Patricia Briggs

Inheritance trilogy by Christopher Paolini

The Hobbit (by some random dude)

Tea with the Black Dragon by RA McAvoy

Patricia C Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles

Ursula K. LeGuin’s Tehanu and The Other Wind

Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb

Dragon Prince (and subsequent books) by Melanie Rawn

Firelight by Sophie Jordan (YA)

Barbara Hambly Winterlands series

And books recommended (very enthusiastically) by only one response:

The Dragons of Fyre by Janet Lane Walters

Tamora Pierce, Immortals quartet (YA)

Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward

The Dragon and the George by Gordon Dickson

Master of Dragons by Angela Knight

Eternity and a Day by Aline Hunter

Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick (YA)

A Book of Dragons, anthology

Deborah Cooke, Dragonfire series

Alison Goodman, Eon series (YA)

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller Liaden Universe series where family is known as Tree and Dragon

Minerva Wakes by Holly Lisle

Song in the Silence by Elizabeth Kerner (YA)

Jane Yolen’s Pit Dragon Trilogy (children’s: Brianna used to love these books. I loved reading them to her!)

A Dragon’s Awakening by Aya Knight

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

I stole an ARC and I liked it…(giveaway)

Of course, now I have Katy Perry singing in my head thanks to that post title.

But despite Katy Perry in my head, I have a giveaway for you! This weekend, I was in New Jersey and visited Sarah Wendell, the very Smart Bitch, herself. Sarah’s written (another) book and I happened to know she’d gotten ARCs. And since I’ve been to her house before, I knew exactly where the box of ARCs would be kept (in her dining room). So, with much stealth–okay, no stealth was needed because you know what’s an excellent distraction? A 6 y/o (mine) a 5 y/o and a 3 y/o (hers). Try to stay focused with those three running around. Just try.

So while the children ran interference (yes I’m evil, I use children for my nefarious plans) I walked directly to the box, though fiercely protected by not one but two monstrous beasts (okay, just cats), and snagged a copy of Sarah’s upcoming book, Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels. I have that copy here (okay, it was in my purse, but NOW it’s here. See?) and I’m giving going to give it to you.

Okay, so I’m not exactly giving it to each of you, but I’m going to give it to ONE of you. I’m giving you a chance to win Sarah’s book, which she is enormously proud of, and though I haven’t had a chance to read it (don’t worry, I won’t read your copy, I have a digital ARC, neener) I am also enormously proud of for her, because it’s the second book Sarah’s written! (Haven’t read the first? Why not? Buy Beyond Heaving Bosoms, look it’s only $6 for the print version!)

But first I have to tell you, because this picture amuses me, when 2 women and 3 kids get together for lunch and dessert, the table can look pretty crazy when they’re done.

But I’m sure all you really want to know is how to win. Wait! Don’t you want to know about the book? I’m in it! (twice!) Sarah interviewed romance readers and romance authors and used their words of wisdom to bring together a unique collection of insight into just why romance novels really can help you learn about love. Maybe we’re not all heroine perfect, or hero alpha, but romance novels still guide our lives. Here’s an example (see, I really AM in it).

I know I’ve said I haven’t had a chance to read it yet (what? I JUST got the ARC) but I’ve skimmed through it, flipped through it and read a few bits here and there and, I promise, if you’re a romance fan, you want this book.

Wait! There’s more. In the spirit of the book, which is about all sorts of romance books and authors, I’m going to give you not just this ARC, but also a print or Kindle copy (your choice) of one of these books by authors who appear in Sarah’s book:

Naked in Death (or any In Death book) by J.D. Robb

Slave to Sensation or Archangel’s Kiss by Nalini Singh

Unveiled by Courtney Milan

Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah Maclean

Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

Any of the Destiny series by Toni Blake

When Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer

I’m not done! I’ll also give you a digital copy of Carrie Lofty’s  (who appears in the book!) Song of Seduction or Portrait of Seduction from Carina Press. AND your choice of 2 other digital copies of any Carina Press book released (or in ARC format if I have it).

To recap: you get an ARC of Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels, your choice of a print or digital copy from a list of books, a Carrie Lofty book from Carina Press and 2 other books (in digital format) of your choice from Carina Press. That’s (counting on fingers) five books for one winner! And yes, I will ship internationally so this contest is open to all.

What do you have to do to enter? Leave a comment (with a valid email address, please) and tell me what the best romance you’ve read so far in 2011 is. It doesn’t have to be a 2011 release, just the best romance so far in 2011. If you haven’t read a romance in 2011 (why not?) then just tell me what you’ve heard is a great romance people have read in 2011.

Just a quick note, as long as you fill in your email address where requested, you don’t need to put it in the comment form. I can still see it!

Contest will run until Friday, May 27th at noon Eastern and the winner will be chosen randomly via random.org, though you’re certainly welcome to try bribery. This is a personal contest run by me, and has no connection to either Sarah, SmartBitches, the authors listed or Carina Press.

 

“sign” language

I know I write a lot here about Brianna, but honestly, she makes me laugh so often, I have to share. I think I’ve shared with some of you that Brianna has, in the past few months, taken to communicating through her drawing and some signs. One night she was so upset with us, she taped a sign to her door. It was dark in the hallway, so she turned on a flashlight and propped it up so it was spotlighting the sign–so we’d be sure not to miss it. Dramatic six year old! But last night, we got a series of signs after I yelled at her. Actually, we often get “messages” after I yell at her. I think because I generally hold on to my patience longer than Josh does, and she comes to me when he yells at her, so when I yell, it’s even more emotionally upsetting. So let me share last night’s sequence of events with you. She goes to bed and I follow her up, because I’m collecting laundry. I ask her a series of questions, get “I don’t know” answers to all and lose my patience with both the answers and how messy her room is. I go back downstairs and am summoned upstairs by my brother 15 minutes later, who’s noticed this:

Translation: I love you but please keep out. At least she still loves us, right?

A few minutes later, these are slipped under the door.

 

In case it’s not clear, that’s Josh and I yelling, her crying and her heart broken. Dramatic much?

But apparently I haven’t broken her heart quite enough to stop a plea for help, because a few minutes later we get this under the door:

Translation: Mom help. A mosquito. A big one (I give her props for even attempting to spell mosquito at six years old. A for effort!) This sign sent me into hysterics. Why she didn’t CALL for me at this point, I don’t know (possibly because I told her not to come out of her room again, lol). Seriously, I love this kid and her “sign” language. (btw, there really was a big mosquito)

 

I learn something new about myself (from my daughter)

I have so much love for this picture Brianna made me for an early Mother’s Day using some heart sticky notes I gave her (I got them in a goody bag from a conference last weekend!). She made every one of our family members in the house (including animals) their own face and labeled them. She’s really into making “I love my family” pictures of all of us, and this is just one of many, but I think this may be my favorite, because of sheer creativity.

On a slightly more hysterical note, they made these “about mom” sheets at school. The other day we were riding in the car and Brianna says “What’s your favorite food?” To which I respond, “Well, I really like spaghetti…” at that point, she interrupts and says, “But you like Chinese right? I mean you really like Chinese? Chinese is your favorite food?” What can I say at that point except “yes, yes it is”. And that’s when I hear coming quietly from the back ” Yes! Yes! I was right!” and I caught a fist pump out of the corner of my eye.

Fast forward to Mother’s Day and I receive the paper below. Please note what my favorite food apparently is? But even more hysterically? I was shocked to discover my favorite movie is apparently “Aliens in the Attic”. Err…okay (I’ve only ever seen it once, years ago in the theater). I guess I should be glad she got my name, eye and hair color right?

Step outside your comfort zone at a conference…

Continuing the theme of talking about conferences this week, I wanted to expand on a suggestion I made in a recent interview for the Australia RWA group. Here’s the question and answer:

Any advice for conference first-timers and/or nervous introverts?

If you’re afraid no one will talk to you, carry an interesting bag, or wear some unique jewelry. It gives people a reason to say something to you. Don’t be afraid to talk to other people. I don’t think conferences are meant to be experienced as a solitary venture, and I believe the experience is always much more memorable and positive when you interact with others.

Here’s what I think: I think every author should attend at least one writer’s conference in their writing career (or belong to a local RWA chapter they attend regularly, in person). Yes, there’s a lot of support and information to be had on the internet, but there’s a particular kind of energy you get from meeting up with fellow writers in person, something you can’t get online.

The face-to-face interaction, workshops, adrenaline, talking, friendship, all add up to this rather manic, wonderful, almost gleeful energy that can not only invigorate your creativity, but remind you that there are people out there, behind those books and computers, people who are struggling, searching, trying to succeed like you. That manic, gleeful energy you can get from a conference, and slightly less so from in-person meetings, can’t be reproduced through an online interaction, or even through the phone line.

But not only should you attend a writer’s conference to capture some of the mania, but to explore opportunities. Don’t just go to a conference to socialize, go to learn and expand what you know. Maybe about the craft of writing, maybe about the business of writing. Even as someone who doesn’t write, I find part of my enjoyment of conferences comes from attending the workshops, the craft sessions, the spotlights, the Q&As and absorbing what’s being said. It’s a fantastic way to stay up-to-date with the industry, with what authors are telling each other, and it’s also a great way to remind myself–for you to remind yourself–that there’s always something new to learn, or a new way to approach the craft and business of writing.

So take yourself out of your comfort zone: go to a conference, meet new people (don’t just hang out with the people you already know), introduce yourself to new people, make connections, learn new techniques, explore new publishers and get inspired!

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