New Jersey, New Jersey

So I went to New Jersey for the Put Your Heart in a Book conference.

I did my packing over several days and remembered a lot of things that I might otherwise have forgotten, had I packed in a hurry.  As usual, however, I forgot my hairbrush.  But not to worry, you can’t tell the difference–which was why I demoted hairbrushes from friends to nodding acquaintances in the first place.  🙂

Another thing I forgot was a pretty basket to display all the promo goodies I’d taken to NJ.  I took a look around the hotel room and pressed into service the lovely black box used to hold paper coffee cups, coffee pouches, teabags, sugar packets and such.  It was perfect.  I might never bother taking a basket with me again.  🙂

But you are here to read about Meredith.  So allow me to report that yes, she is alive and well–and looking awfully cute in a cowhide-print dress and red boots.  Chic with a touch of bohemian quirk.  (My conference attire, on the other hand, swing from twee to tarty and back, with very little in between.)

She is very close to finishing her next book–due out in July 2011.  The book is going to have a marriage of convenience theme and a heroine who knows her way around salty language, both of which I love.  Alas, I did not get a chance to read the manuscript, but I did get to fondle  the lucky Alpha Smart that will birth the next Meredith Duran masterpiece.

Meredith gave her very first romance writing workshop at the conference, on using backstory to shape what a character fears, and then having those deep-seated fears drive the story forward.  It was brilliant and profoundly insightful.

I give an occasional workshop on evoking emotions which advises entering a character via their deepest, darkest pain.

Fear and pain, two sides of the same coin, wouldn’t you say?  Little wonder Meredith and I see eye-to-eye on so many things.

(But as exceptional as Meredith’s workshop was, I’m afraid I am going to have to hand the best-in-show award to the one given by the one and only Anne Stuart.  I am never going to write a hero dark enough to rival Anne’s renowned antiheroes, but I went to her How to Write the Dark Romance workshop just to be nearer her barbed halo.

Anne Stuart

Okay, I went because I was curious as to just how fun and fearless she could be.  I left a squealing fangirl of her sheer awesomeness.  On my gravestone I want the epitaph: “There is only ever one Anne Stuart, but Sherry Thomas made herself into a pretty good fascimile.”

I only regret I didn’t invite myself up to her room to see the pig.)

And wouldn’t you know, Meredith promised that after she’s done with the current manuscript, she’s going to blog on a regular basis.  I can’t wait.  Meredith has one of the most immense and satisfying minds around.

Which was why I was saddened that she left the conference right after the book signing on Saturday.  But if her going home sooner is going to produce the next Meredith Duran oeuvre sooner, then I must do my part for romance and let her go.  🙂

Let’s see, what else?  If you have the chance, definitely attend the NJRWA conference.  It is run with wonderful vigor and efficiency.  Robyn Carr gave a great speech on her 30-years-in-the-making overnight success.  (We got to sit at conference chair Miriam Allenson’s table; she was on the opposite end of the table from us, but it was a thrill getting a special seating asignment!)  Virginia Kantra showed me the Roman woman strut–definitely ask her to tell you the story should you be lucky enough to run into her.  And the one and only Anne Stuart sat down next to me toward the end of the book signing and said, “I hear you write pretty racy books.”

Folks, at that  moment I’d have admitted to writing anything, least of all racy books!

And at the booksellers’ luncheon I met Stacey Agdern, who works at the bookstore at Grand Central Station.  I really can’t think of a cooler place on earth!  Here’s me, Stacey (r), and Kate Garrabrant (l), who is more familiarly known as Katiebabs around the romance blogosphere.

And this, just because it’s the next picture in my camera, the tableau Senior Kidlet arranged before the house.  The Great Pumpkin Pickaxe Massacre.  Pretty good way to salvage a destroyed jack-o-lantern, I say.  🙂

Foreign Covers–July Omnibus Edition (Now Updated With Slovene Covers)

We haven’t had a foreign cover post in a while, so here’s a big one.  🙂

I think I’m excited about getting new foreign covers because it’s like getting new clothes.  I like new clothes, but I am in general disinclined to shop.  We are in July now and this entire year I’ve spent less than $300 on clothes and accessories combined.  For the money I’m willing to fork over per piece–as you can guess, not much at all–there is usually something not quite there with the style, the cut, the fit, the whatnot, which means time spent browsing is time largely wasted.  And as for White House Black Market, which has the style, the cut, the fit, and the whatnot, alas, they do not carry enough color and I can only wear so much black before the twee-ness of my soul rebels and I begin to long for all kinds of pastels.

But getting foreign covers is like having fun, fabulous new clothes delivered to your home–free!

First up, Spanish DELICIOUS.  Did I mention above how much I adore pastels?  Well, here’s pastel heaven, that’s what.

I only wish I knew for sure whether she’s hugging a fancy pillow or a small sack of potatoes.  🙂

Next, pocket edition of Spanish PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS.  I was quite surprised to receive those books in the mail, as I didn’t know there was to be a pocket edition.

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Recipe Post: Writer’s Breakfast

A week or so before the RT convention in April, I started packing.  At my mother’s advice, I tried on the dresses I was taking.

Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have bothered.  These things already fit me, right?  Wrong.  I’d put on a few pounds and they all showed at the worst places: right above the decolletage on my strapless frocks.  Ack!  How can someone who doesn’t even have boobs have overboob squish-age?

So immediately I took a look at the Master Cleanse–the lemon-juice-plus-red-pepper-flake-fluid-diet I’d heard my friends talk about–and immediately jumped away from my laptop in fright.  That @#$% ain’t for the faint of heart, and I am nothing if not faint of heart.  After I recovered my will to live, I went to read GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow’s newsletter.  Because my gossip lady is always talking about Ms. Paltrow, I occasionally take a look at GOOP and remembered that a while ago Ms. Paltrow posted a one-week cleanse of her own.

Remember what I said about being faint of heart?  I didn’t manage Gwyneth’s cleanse either.  But I did come away with a great recipe for a quick, nutritious, and pretty tasty breakfast shake.

You will need:

  • 1 cup of blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries
  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or just enough to cover the berries in your blender)
  • 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder (I used my husband’s Muscle Milk)

Pour everything into a blender and blend to your preferred consistency.  I like mine smooth, Senior Kidlet prefers his berries to be chunkier.  His Hawtness likes milk so we make his with milk.

(If you are a careful examiner of pictures and wonder what is that green substance, it is a scoop of Pro Green powder.  Ms. Paltrow specified it.  I bought a canister in a moment of weakness.  It tastes like grass powder on its own, but kind of disappears in the shake.  But I chose not to include it here because it’s hella expensive and now that I’d finished with the one at home, I most likely won’t be buying it again.)

That hand is not mine, by the way, but belongs to Sr. Kidlet.

It makes a big old glass of smoothie, gets my energy up, and get me to actually ingest all those gargantuan Costco containers of berries I can’t help buying when they are in season.  If you are on a low-carb diet–hi, Meredith–it’s pretty perfect.  If you are on a vegan diet–hi, Janine–with a soy-derived protein powder, you are good to go too.  If you are me, who doesn’t like to eat anything healthy, low-carb, or low-fat, but will make an occasional sacrifice to get rid of overboob squishage, this is SPARTA!

Bon Appetit.

Inaugural Recipe Post: Cake Pops

I am a pretty decent cook. But more importantly, I’m a pretty fast cook. His Hawtness once jokingly said that I get only half credit for cooking since I do only the simplest dishes.

And then one day I said to myself, you know, these dishes are pretty simple but they hold up pretty well. I’ll bet there are other readers/writers out there who wouldn’t mind a few of those recipes–more time for reading/writing, right?

Except, well, our inaugural recipe is really simple but it isn’t exactly fast–not to mention it is also highly calorific.  So I held onto it for a long time until I had a book signing recently. And used it to lure folks to my table. I can’t speak to its success as a promotional product for my books, but one teenage boy came around five separate times for the cake pops. Ha!

The original recipe can be found at food blogger Bakerella’s website.

Here’s what you need: 

Ingredients:

  • One box Red Velvet Cake Mix plus the oil, eggs, and whatnot to bake it with
  • One 16oz can cream cheese frosting
  • Chocolate bark/coating
  • White chocolate chips (I used Nestle because it has directions on the back for how to make dipping chocolate)
  • Vegetable shortening to combine with the white chocolate chips during metling (not pictured)
  • Popsicle sticks (not pictured)

Steps:

1. Bake the cake according to directions.  Let it cool completely.

2. Crumble the cake.  (I did mine in my food processor.)

3. Combine the frosting with the cake crumbs.  (I used about 3/4 can of the frosting.)

4. Form the cake crumb frosting mixture into popsicle-size balls. And stick the popsicle sticks into them.  Now put them in the fridge or the freezer for a while so that the cake spheres firm up a bit.

5.  Now melt the chocolate bark/coating according to directions.

6.  And melt white chocolate with some vegetable shortening, according to directions.

7.  And dip!  (And drizzle, if you feel like.  I drizzled with a spoon.  I  have no talent for food decorating, but I don’t think anyone cared.  And in case you are curious, the cake pops are standing on a block of florist’s foam.)

The chocolate bark is rather heavy.  But chocolate morsels, once melted with some vegetable shortening, is really easy to work with.  So this past weekend, for Junior Kidlet’s birthday, we did an at-home chocolate fondue with my teeny tiny crockpot.  Yum.  And impressed the heck out of the kids.  🙂

(And here you thought the shea butter was an isolated instance of crazy.)  😛

But I promise, next recipe will be really, really superduper simple.  And healthy too.

And in other news, HIS AT NIGHT is finally released into the wild today.  Phew.  That means I’m almost done with publicity stuff and can go back to just writing.  What a relief.

RT Convention: A Quick Recap

My RT Convention experience would have been twice as good, but alas, at the last minute, my roommate, the awesome and babelicious Tracy Wolff could not make it.  (It’s a sign of my love for her that I don’t hate her, she who literally writes ten books a year and is a RITA nominee.)  We cussed and consoled ourselves with chocolate cakes.  Tracy, of course, had the far greater cross to bear: not being able to go at the last minute!  But I was crushed all the same: I’ve never been to a conference alone.  RT is something new and alien; I’d counted on Tracy’s familiar presence and her engaging ways with people.

So off I went, all by myself, deeply dubious of my ability to enjoy myself.  And guess what?  I managed to have a pretty decent time, thanks to all the wonderful people I met and re-met along the way.

Stuff I can remember now:

  • I had to open a box of shea butter tins for airport security.  The security lady asked, “Oh, are these wedding favors?”  🙂
  • My fellow Austinites Emily McKay, Robyn DeHart, and Hattie Ratliff were in attendance.  We hooked up for various meals throughout the conference, and came back home together.  Thank you, ladies, for adopting me and raising me so well!
  • I made my first two gift baskets ever.  The baskets were bought from a neighbor’s garage sale at a quarter a piece, I shredded construction paper I already had at home for the filling, cut lengths of Christmas ribbons, and discovered such a thing as pre-sized basket bags at Michael’s.  All the pieces were packed separately in my luggage and assembled in my hotel room.

Aren’t they cute?  I was so insufferable with pride that I recounted the entire process step by step to my Austin friends, who were kind enough to listen to my long how-to soliloquy–and only later let on that they’d been doing gift baskets for years!

  • Went to the Ellora’s Cave Ball the first night and danced, as I hadn’t danced in probably ten years, with Zoe Archer and Carrie Lofty.  Woo, these ladies have moves.  And boy, Carrie can shake those hips something fierce.  Picture here.  I only regret the picture didn’t show my bad-ass shoes.
  • KristieJ in her mullet wig.  If you don’t know the backstory, KristieJ was robbed of her rightful victory in the Great Mullet Showdown, USA vs Canada–those Canadian mullets were so divinely terrible–and had to wear a mullet wig.  But she looked really cute in the mullet!  Hats off to KristieJ for carrying off a mullet with aplomb.
  • The centaur woman at the Fairy Ball.  The other costumes were nice and beautiful, but the mostly naked lady centaur on stilts blew me away.  Of course I forgot to take a picture.  If anyone knows where to find a picture online, please let me know.
  • Actually having time to go to workshops.  I’ve been so overbooked my last few RWA conventions, so it was really nice to get around to a bunch of writer workshops at RT.  The quality is just as good, and the crowd is much less so I could ask whatever questions I wanted.
  • The Carina Press launch party.  A mashed potato buffet!  I had three helpings and now I wish I had even more.  That’s the kind of party I’m throwing next time at home.
  • Hearing the numbers called for the superstar authors at the RT Book Fair.  “Charlaine Harris, 850-875.”  “J.R. Ward, 910-925.”  Oh wow, can you imagine having that long a line of readers waiting for you?  I want.  I want!  (I also met Kathe Robin, senior reviewer of RT, in person at the signing and she was so sweet.)
  • Mr. Romance competition.  I am an avowed hater of mantitty, but the competitors seemed overall a nice group of young men.  My favorite was an actual male writer who was roped into the competition.  He’s written a book on 37 philosophers and their bad choices in love–which saddened him so much that he turned to romance for comfort, or so his intro said.  Smart Bitch Sarah, seated several seats down from me, screamed “MARRY ME!”
  • Julie James and Beth Kery also semi-adopted me during the conference.  When we met last year at RWA D.C., Julie told me that she wrote heroines who are slightly more sexually experienced, but not sluts by any means.  According to her, I replied breezily, “Oh, I write sluts.”  I was, of course, astonished to hear this.  But it does sound like the kind of stuff I might say when I’m in the mood–which is quite often.  🙂

And yes, the tins of shea butter disappeared really fast.

Contest winners! Prepare to be moisturized!

Update from Sherry:  Carrie, Barb in MD, and Vi, your prizes are on their way.  Joie, yours will go out very soon.  Liz, we are waiting to hear from you!

After an in-depth consultation with Random.org, we offer congratulations to the winners of our contest:

Carrie

Joie

Barb in MD

Liz (1:05PM)

and our GRAND PRIZE WINNER, Vi (6:08PM)!

Soon-to-be-gleaming winners, please let Sherry know where to send your goodies!

Writing in the Dark

A NOTE FROM SHERRY: In honor of WICKED BECOMES YOU’s release next Tuesday, Plotters and Manipulators United is running a contest. Leave a comment to this post on how much you love Meredith’s books and/or how eagerly you are looking forward to WICKED BECOMES YOU, and you will be entered into a drawing. Five winners will each get a crazy-becomes-Sherry tin of organic shea butter, with the grand prize winner also getting a $25 Godiva Chocolate Gift Certificate, which Sherry just rediscovered in her goody drawer. Best of luck.  Contest ends at 11:59PM (Standard Blog Time) on Friday, April 30th!

(Please note that while Sherry will ship anywhere, the gift certificate is only good for purchases in the U.S.)


Sherry and I both have new releases coming up – mine next Tuesday, hers on May 25th. You may have heard certain shocking rumors about these books. For instance:

His at Night has no flashbacks. (Not a one!)

Wicked Becomes You has no drug addictions. (No laudanum, no habitual heavy drinking, and not even a hint of opium!)

Disbelieving, you may have asked, What’s going on here? Has the sky fallen? Are pigs flying?

Okay, so I can’t comment with any certainty on the last question. I’m in India right now, and I often spot bands of roving street pigs doing very odd things.

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Shea Butter–Or, the Extent of My Crazy

Last summer, I went to Central Market, a fabulous Austin institution.  When I was there, I saw tiny little round tins of pure shea butter being sold for $4.95.  We are talking 1/4 ounce tins.  Highway robbery, I thought to myself.

Around that time I learned about this website called From Nature with Love, a wholesaler for quality beauty ingredients.  So at some point in the following months, I decided that instead of giving out bookmarks, I would have a promo product that I would be  interested in receiving.  I would offer the public little tins of pure shea butter–which otherwise cost $4.95–with the cover of my new book on it.

Fast forward to March.  Well, if I was going to have little tins of shea butter to give away at RT, I’d best get started.  I ordered a gallon of organic shea butter, five hundred 1/4 oz slide top tins, and a box of high-gloss labels just the right size to go on top of those little tins.

And I got to work.

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A Blast from the Past

I was cleaning out my utility room last night and discovered a shoulder bag that probably hadn’t been opened in seven years, because inside were the things I brought back from the San Antonio Romance Writers’ 2003 Merritt Conference. The Merritt is a great little conference.  We Austinites drive down in the morning, have fun, and drive back in the evening.  The first time I attended, I was eight-month pregnant, and went in author Kathleen O’Reilly’s maternity suit.   The last time I attended Lisa Kleypas was the luncheon speaker–back when she still lived in Central Texas–and she was drop-dead gorgeous.  I told her she looked like Natalie Portman’s slightly older sister.

I digress.

Among those things I brought back were a little Embassy Suites Hotel notepad with a few lines jotted down.  At first I thought it might be something I was writing.  But no, it was a parody.  In 2002 I’d won the All About Romance Purple Prose Parody contest with a spoof on historical romance clichés.  I must have been trying my hand at a new one, this time a spoof of overused contemporary chestnuts.

Here it is, in all its bromidic glory:

“Oh, Rod,” Innocence whispered, “oh Rod, I can’t believe I’m back in your arms again.  Ever since you blasted out of town in your battered Chevy ten years ago after our high school graduation, I’ve been waiting for you to come back.”

“Yeah.  I heard from Mrs. Anderson at the grocery store how you always go from the class you teach at the nursery school straight home every evening–and stay there.”

“I’ve never gone on a date since.”

“Your Aunt Florie told me that.  And your best friend Betsy let me know how you still cry every time you get your period because you wish you were carrying my baby instead.”

Hee.  I guess you can tell I’m in favor of a woman having a life, especially in the absence of some bastard who just chucked her.  🙂