Sue MacKay Goes Baking

IMG_5699Sue MacKay is on about food  – again. Yesterday I went to a  course for making specialty breads. I took my friend’s grandson with me and we had a fabulous time. I’ve always cheated when it comes to making bread – using my bread maker to make the dough. The bread has always been okay but I’ve wanted to venture further for a  while so when I saw this course advertised I just had to go. James wants to become a chef when he finishes school and is interested in bread making so it seemed a good idea to take him too. After yesterday I’m keen to try kneading my own bread. The way we were shown how to do it seemed so much easier than I remember from my previous efforts. Those attempts usually became something resembling a white rock and feet were in danger of being broken if the bread was dropped. We all made croissants, then split into groups to make bagels, crumpets, tortillas, steamed buns, and one hour bread buns. The croissants are a lot of work but well worth the effort. BUT I wish I didn’t know just how much butter goes into them! Oh boy. I’ll be having a guilt trip every time I eat one now. My hips might not like me either. Ten of us kneaded, folded, rolled, cut, shaped and cooked the most amazing morsels. Getting together with new people who have a shared interest is always fun. I joined up with a wonderful lady with a wicked sense of humour to make the crumpets and soon we were being called the crumpets. In between all this we were given two master classes on techniques and learned heaps about flours and yeasts. All good gist for future attempts at creating bread. My daughter has already ordered crumpets for Christmas morning. At the end of the day we got to sample everything we’d made.  Devine. Mouth watering. Delicious. And guess what? I’m about to enrol for the fancy breads course. Fruit loaves and Stollen, here I come. This could get addictive. Have you made your own bread? Did it come out all soft and yummy, or like my rocks?

Sports Fan Fun, or Sports Fan-atic?

It’s the start of football season in the U.S., and enthusiasm for the sport will dominate much talk among friends and family. Dare I suggest it sometimes can become over-enthusiasm?  :-)

We live in a city with a large university and, until recently, no professional sports teams. People who aren’t from here shake their heads a bit at the non-stop media coverage of college football, and our team in particular. On Saturday game days, stores are half empty as people stay glued to their TVs, and everywhere people are wearing team colors and jerseys.

OSU football

I enjoy watching, but my day isn’t ruined if I have to miss a game.  My husband and three children are all big fans, known to leap up and shout at the television, possibly clutching their hair and stomping around at the same time. Thankfully, though, none of them carry a loss around too long like a few people we know who sulk for days.  Social media lit up with nasty comments when we lost last week, and some of the letters to the newspaper sports editor seem to me to take it all waaay too seriously.  A few years ago, one friend got  so upset he kicked a footstool and broke his foot!

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Photo courtesy of Daily Mail Reporter

Of course, Americans love other sports besides football.  I was astonished to recently discover that Denver, Colorado has no fewer than seven professional sports teams playing football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, rugby and lacrosse. Talk about never-ending excitement for fans!

This was the first year my kids and all their friends regularly got together to watch World-Cup Soccer played in Brazil.  Those of you in other countries who’ve loved soccer for years probably can’t imagine that, but it’s been slow to catch on as a spectator sport here.  It’ll be interesting to see how it continues to grow in popularity.

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photo courtesy of FIFA.com

How about you?  Are you a sports fan, and if so, what do you enjoy watching and/or playing?  Do you by chance have a significant other who just might take the fun of fandom a little far and becomes a bit fanatical?  I’d love to hear your stories :-)

By the way, my next book is titled Flirting with Dr. Off-Sides  (Just kidding! A little sports humor there)  :-)  It’s really titled Flirting With Dr. Off-Limits and it will be coming out on Oct 1st!

Flirting cover

What are You Reading?

I thought I’d take this opportunity to get some book recommendations and tell you what I have been reading as well.

booksThis month’s book group book is Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders. It’s set in 1666 and is about the bubonic plague. I loved it, although I came down with the flu just as I finished it and I have to tell you, it made for some crazy fever-dreams!

I like to listen to a talking book when I garden. Sadly, everyone at my library has discovered the Borrow Box app 4432434-3x4-340x453now so often my instant need for a book means the selection is very limited as most books are out on loan. This led me to listen to Not Your Ordinary Housewife by Nikki Stern, which is about the porn industry in Australia in the 1980s. It was both disturbing and fascinating all at the same time. Most of the time I was heard shouting, ‘leave him, leave him NOW!’  Fortunately, the weeds don’t judge me!

Unknown-1A friend ofmine, Mel Scott  has just released The Devil in Denim, a sports-themed romance set around the management of a baseball team. It’s a true romance with the book centered around the couple and I’m really enjoying it.

I am off-setting the fun and romance of the Devil in Denim with forays into reading Being Jade by Kate Belle, which is a darker book with the themes of emotional deprivation and infidelity.being-jade-9781925030044_lg

So that’s me. What are you reading?

Book news? Well, I have some BIG news on Tuesday USA time/Wednesday AUS time, which will be announced on my blog so please call by :-) 

Meanwhile, if you’re in Australia or New Zealand, Saved By the Bride is available this month, September, in paperback at Big W, Kmart and Target!

My Two Favorite Summer Movies, 2014

by Lynne Marshall
I realize that summer is the time for blockbusters in the USA, but I basically skipped all of them after the second Captain America movie back in May. I did see a few unmemorable movies this summer, some very interesting stories in other movies, but I can’t quite say I loved them, and then two movies that I adored.
Chef and The Hundred-Foot Journey

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Interesting that both movies involve food and have a romance. Two of my favorite things! And yes, the cooking scenes were inspirational, but what impressed me the most was the passion for cooking shared by both of the main characters in these movies. Like being an artist takes a certain kind of brain and training, world-class cooking not only requires a chef devoted to his craft, but one also possessing a natural knack for flavors and tastes that enhance each other, along with the nerve to take risks and push culinary limits.

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The characters in both of these movies seemed to live and breathe food and all of its possibilities. I believed completely that both of them would die if cooking was taken away from them. The need to create exquisite dishes came from their souls.
If you haven’t seen either of these movies yet, I highly recommend them.

Now it’s your turn – what movie would you recommend for me?
I love just about every kind of movie including comedies, dramas, adventures and Science Fiction. However, I draw the line at raunchy immature humor – i.e. every movie Seth Rogan has ever been in.

Before I go, I’d like to share the cover for the Christmas anthology I’ll be in at M&B, isn’t it pretty?

Christmas by Request

Book group blues…

Egads! It’s book group tonight (or, ‘wine group’ as my hubby calls it) and once again I’m running to catch up. When I was in a book group in England we all read the same book and spent the evening talking about nuances and themes etc (very literary!! LOL)…but the one I’m in now is a lot less formal and we basically all put a few books in and then comment on whether we liked them/storylines etc. I guess it’s more of a book swap really. What I really enjoy about it is getting the chance to read other people’s recommendations (for free!).

IMG_1194So, last month I was a little, er, optimistic, when I picked the books I was going to read in ONE month…(okay, just plain greedy!). What on earth possessed me to take ALL these books? Collectively there must be millions of words there- and given that I was away for a lot of that month at conferences and have a deadline of Wednesday for my own book there was no chance I was going to get through that lot! I did manage to read The Silkworm, however, which is the second book by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) and it was great- a little more complex than the first one and with a lot more characters so it got a bit confusing- still, a good mystery! I’m now halfway through The Collected Works Of AJ Fikry which is a very enjoyable romp about a grumpy bookseller. 

I’m going overseas on Wednesday and am taking my kindle, so I’ll be handing that pile back, red-faced, for others to enjoy.

Talking of books, can I just mention that one of my medical romances recently won an award! How To Resist A Heartbreaker (Book 2 in the Infamous Maitland Brothers duet) took first place in the short sexy category of the inaugural KORU Award (Romance Writers of New Zealand). The judges are people in romance reading book groups across NZ, so I was thrilled. Even more special was the fact that my editor was at the awards dinner along with the gorgeous Sue MacKay (who wrote book one of the duet) so we all got to celebrate together!

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Me and Flo!

Me and Flo!

Sue and I

Sue and I

Okay, I best go now and finish my editing…or think about packing…or, maybe just read a chapter or two before I give those books back tonight! Are you in a book group? Is it a serious analyse-one-book kind of thing or a book swap?Where do you get your reading recommendations from?

 

 

 

 

 

First Lines

As the clock struck thirteen, the pope picked up her empty packet of contraceptive pills and told her husband he’d need to use a condom….

Ahem!

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about first lines. How to have a cracking first line that will make people want to read on. How to have a truly crazy first line that will grab someone by the proverbial (insert body part here) and make them carry on reading. Especially in these days of instant gratification, where people have short attention spans. You can’t have a few pages of purple prose, no matter how beautiful it is, if it doesn’t grab the reader, you’ve sadly lost them.

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The concept of a great first line came to me when I first started writing, obviously, but that was many years ago. You get told numerous times by teachers at school, tutors, writing instructors, that you must hook your reader with a great first line, paragraph or page. I’d paid attention to this advice, but I’d never really worked hard on that first sentence until a while back when I read, ‘Waking Up Pregnant’ by Mira Lynn Kelly. Mira not only has a great first line on the first page, but has a great first line at the start of every new chapter or scene change! I literally couldn’t put the book down because just glancing at the next chapter and scanning my eyes over the first line would hook me again and force me to carry on reading! I love that book. I learned a lot from that book and it really enforced my writing. It made me look at the books I’d written so far and examine those crucial first sentences. Were they as good as they could be? Here they are below:

1. Callie Taylor stared hard at the pregnancy test kit.
2. “Why the hell are there all these cameras? How are you supposed to get any privacy around here?”
3. “Ben? Ben, it’s me…open your eyes.”

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So what about you? What is the best first line that you have written? What’s your favourite first line from someone else?

Louisa x

The Ice Bucket Challenge

I’m sure most of the world knows about the ice bucket challenge by now.  Every celebrity and person no the planet seems to have done it by now.

And I have to confess to having a few favourites. Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Stewart…..

 

I also have a pet hate.

Lots of people are doing it without mentioning the charity that is being supported.  So my only request is – if you decide to take on the ice bucket challenge, please, please talk about the charity and your donation to them.  Because that’s the most important thing of all.

Here’s my son