Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wind Chime Café Recipe ~ Della's Sweet Rolls

Happy December! I've finished writing Wind Chime Café and the story is with my editors now. As soon as I hear back from them, I'll reveal the cover and announce a release date. :) In the meantime, I have another recipe to share with you!

Sweet Rolls play a big part in Wind Chime Café and I've been testing out variations of different recipes for months to find the best one. I think I might have gotten it right this time.

Della's Sweet Rolls

What you'll need:

3/4 c whole milk
1/4 c water 
1 1/4 oz packet active dry yeast
1/4 c sugar
6 T melted butter
1 egg
1 t vanilla
2 3/4 c flour
1 t salt
1/4 t nutmeg

1 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1 stick melted butter
1/4 t salt

1/2 stick melted butter
2 c powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
2 t milk 
1 c toasted pecans

To make the dough: warm the water and milk in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the yeast. Sprinkle 1/2 t sugar on top. Let sit for 5 mins, or until foamy. In another bowl, mix the melted butter, egg and vanilla. Add the yeast mixture to the butter mixture and whisk until combined. In a bigger bowl, mix the flour, sugar, salt and nutmeg. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and stir. Place the dough onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Shape into a ball and place in a large lightly buttered bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for about an hour, or until it's doubled in size. Take the dough out of the bowl, knead for a few seconds to remove excess air and then put it back in the bowl. Lay a piece of buttered plastic wrap directly over the dough, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

To make the filling: combine brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, melted butter and salt in a large bowl. Stir until smooth. Remove the dough from the fridge and transfer to a floured surface. Roll into a 9x13 rectangle and then spread the filling mixture onto the dough, leaving a little room at the edges so it doesn't spill out. Roll the dough into a log, using the longest edge to roll. Cut off 1/2 inch from each end and discard. Then cut eight to ten one-inch pieces from the log and lay in a buttered baking dish. (They will rise in the oven so leave some extra room in the dish. I fit eight pieces in a 9x13 dish and saved the rest of the log in the fridge for later.) Bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 mins, or until golden brown. Your kitchen will smell amazing!

To make the icing: combine melted butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Add 2-3 t milk, depending on the consistency you want. Spread the icing on the sweet rolls about tens mins after they've come out of the oven, so they're still warm, but not so hot that the icing drips off them.

Sprinkle with toasted pecans and serve warm! :)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Wind Chime Café Recipe ~ Maryland Crab Dip

It's time for another Wind Chime Café recipe!

If you've ever been to Maryland, you know that the Chesapeake Bay is famous for its blue crabs. Whether you prefer crab cakes, crab soup, crab dip, or steamed crabs, no one does it better than the Eastern Shore. :) My favorite thing to do on a beautiful sunny afternoon is spend a few hours outside at a picnic table with a bunch of friends, cracking open hot shells and dipping sweet bits of crab meat into piles of Old Bay Seasoning.

All you need is a couple of knives, a mallet, Old Bay seasoning, apple cider vinegar, a pitcher of beer (of course) and a roll of paper towels because you're going to get messy!

My favorite place to go out for crabs is the Masthead at Pier Street Marina in Oxford, Maryland. The staff is friendly, the crabs are delicious, and the view is fantastic.

If you didn't grow up on the Chesapeake Bay, picking crabs for the first time can be a little intimidating. It's best to order a few side dishes so you don't go hungry while you're catching on to the technique. :) 

A few weeks ago my mom and I came up with a new crab dip recipe for Wind Chime Café. Well...she came up with it. I was on hand for moral support. :)

Maryland Crab Dip

What you'll need:
3 T unsalted butter
2 shallots, diced
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 T Old Bay seasoning
1 1/2 t dry mustard
3/4 c half-and-half
8 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 T sherry cooking wine
4 oz sharp white cheddar cheese
3 T lemon juice
2 t Worcestershire Sauce
10 oz lump crabmeat
1/2 c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
2 slices white bread with crusts removed, torn into small pieces (or) Panko bread crumbs
1/2 t paprika
1 t olive oil
crackers for serving (or a bread bowl)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Melt 2 T butter and add shallots, cooking until soft. Add 1 T water and simmer for about 30 seconds. Stir in the cayenne pepper, Old Bay seasoning, and dry mustard. Pour in the half-and-half and bring to a simmer. Add the sherry and the cream cheese and stir. Add the cheddar cheese, a little bit at a time. Heat the mixture until it's close to bubbling (a couple of minutes). Remove from the heat. Add the lemon juice and the Worcestershire sauce and stir. Finally, add the crabmeat and half the parsley and all the basil. Transfer the mixture to an oven proof baking dish and sprinkle with bread pieces. Drizzle a little olive oil on the top, over the bread. Sprinkle with more Old Bay seasoning--be generous! Bake for about 18 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Garnish with remaining parsley and serve hot with crackers.

If you get a chance to try the recipe, I'd love to hear what you think!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Best Romance Writers of America Conference EVER

It's been a mad writing whirlwind around here lately. I'm about halfway through Wind Chime Café, but I'll take a quick break to recap the Romance Writers of America Conference, which was AMAZING!

I've been a member of RWA since 2004 and this was my fifth time attending the national conference. This was by far the best one yet. Why? Well, a few reasons...

1) I was not hyperventilating over the fact that a single agent or editor might hold the keys to my success as an author. I control my career now. I self-publish my books and connect directly with my readers. I have the power to make my dreams come true.

2) For the first time, there was an entire workshop track dedicated to indie publishing. Thank you Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, Tina Folsom, and Liliana Hart for putting together so many fantastic workshops and for being such an inspiration. YOU changed the entire tone of this conference.

3) I participated in my first two book signings! Thank you to Sarah Morgan, two-time Rita Award winner and author of over 60 romance novels, for being such a joy to sit with at the Literacy Signing. And thank you to everyone who stopped by the Indie Signing! It was so exciting to bring so many books and not leave with a single one. :)

Since I got home, several writer friends have asked if attending a writers conference is worth it. I would highly recommend trying to attend at least one conference each year. The workshops will help take your writing to the next level, you'll get to meet some of your favorite authors in person, you can learn about industry trends and trade marketing secrets with fellow authors, and most of all you get to spend several days hanging out with new friends who share your passion for writing!

Other awesome things that happened this year: I met two close Twitter friends for the first time--Rachel Kall and Tracie Banister--who are just as wonderful in person as they are online. I got to spend the week with one of my best friends, Juliette Sobanet, and celebrate the release of her fourth book, Dancing with Paris. And I made a bunch of new friends who I'm excited to stay connected with online and hope to see again at next year's conference.

How do you get the most out of a writers conference? Some say you should go with a goal in mind. I say, go with a completely open mind. Smile and be friendly to everyone. Try not to sit with people you know at lunch, and switch it up at dinner, too. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself and get to know everyone. You never know, you might make a new friend.

The best advice I got before this year's conference was from Bob Mayer at his "Write it Forward" workshop back in March (which I highly recommend, by the way). He said, "Once you leave the room, you don't go back until the day is over, because you can't network in your room." I took his advice to heart this time, and while I was so exhausted from socializing by Saturday night that I could hardly see straight, it was worth it! Besides, there's always Guinness when things get really dire... :)

Thank you to everyone who made this conference such an amazing experience this year. Now...back to writing Wind Chime Café. :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Signing in Atlanta

If you live in the Atlanta area, I will be signing paperback copies of The Seal Island Trilogy on Wednesday, July 17th from 5:30-7:30pm at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis! Over 400 romance and women's fiction authors will be signing books at the "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing hosted by Romance Writers of America. Proceeds from the book sales will go to literacy charities, and you can click on the link to view a list of attending authors. If you're in the area, I'd love to meet you! :)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Kindle Fire #Giveaway!!

Want to win a Kindle Fire? I thought so... :) I'm participating in a joint author and blogger sponsored giveaway, hosted by Blkosiner's Book Blog. There are also a few books and additional prizes up for grabs, including an e-copy of The Selkie Spell!

Sponsoring Authors and Bloggers:
Mike Hartner
Trisha Wolfe
Chris Everheart
Ashley Lavering
Susan Kaye Quinn
Sophie Moss
Rebecca Ethington
Emma Michaels
Kelly Hashway

The giveaway is open to anyone who can use Amazon. Good luck!

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Wind Chime Café Recipe ~ Smith Island Cake

Hope everyone had a happy 4th of July! I've been writing like crazy and having so much fun getting to know Annie and Will from Wind Chime Café. Since no café book would be complete without a fantastic chocolate cake recipe, I'm attempting to master the art of the multi-layered Smith Island Cake.

Smith Island Cakes are traditionally made up of eight to ten layers of yellow cake and smothered in chocolate frosting. The recipe hails from Smith Island, Maryland, a small Chesapeake Bay island and traditional working watermen community that lies twelve miles west of Crisfield, Maryland.

For the cake layers, I used the Smith Island Museum recommended recipe from Mrs. Kitching's Smith Island Cookbook. Watch the oven closely as the layers bake really fast, and try to give each of them a minute on the highest rack so they get a nice blast of heat on top.

Mrs. Kitching's recipe calls for an icing with lots of confectioners sugar. I'm not a big fan of confectioners sugar in icing since it makes everything taste so sweet, so I substituted my great-grandmother's chocolate fudge recipe, which is OUT OF THIS WORLD!!!!

What you'll need to make the icing:
3 c. sugar
1 large can evaporated milk
1 stick butter
2 heaping TB unsweetened cocoa or choc bars to taste
1/4 t. salt or more to taste

To make the icing, bring all the ingredients except the vanilla to a boil. Continue to simmer on low while stirring until the chocolate thickens (about 15-20 mins). Take off heat. Add the vanilla. Mix by hand until it's thick enough to spread (about 15-20 mins.) *warning* The icing will thicken and turn into fudge so you have to be ready to ice the layers as soon as it thickens to the point where it won't just drip down the sides.

How gorgeous is that?? Okay, so this might not be the easiest recipe to make, but with a few friends and a bottle of wine, it is so worth it! What do you think? Are you ready to give it a try? Or did you take one look at this and think, you have got to be kidding me!?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Selkie Spell is a FINALIST in the 2013 Readers' Favorite Book Awards!

*tosses rose petals*
Thank you so much to my readers for your support, and to my amazing design team, Blue Harvest Creative, for encouraging me to enter this contest.
I am so humbled an honored by the outpouring of support from my readers and friends on Facebook and Twitter when I first made the announcement yesterday. I am so grateful for all of you. Your encouragement and kindness motivates me to write faster, harder and better every single day.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Wind Chime Café Recipe ~ Rockfish with Lemon and Thyme

Happy Summer Solstice! To celebrate the first day of summer, I'm sharing another Chesapeake Bay recipe from Wind Chime Café. One of my favorite things about living near the bay is being able to eat fresh fish--especially rockfish. Also known as striped bass or stripers, rockfish are indigenous to the Chesapeake Bay and are highly sought after by both sport and commercial fisherman. Rockfish are such a delicious and tender fish that you can get away with simply sprinkling the fillets with salt and pepper and sautéing them in butter, but we like to jazz them up a bit. :)

What you'll need:
1 lb. rockfish fillets
2 T. lemon juice
1 t. grated lemon rind
1/4 c. olive oil
2 T. chopped fresh thyme
1 t. chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Place the fillets, lemon rind, lemon juice, oil, thyme, and oregano in a plastic bag and let the fish marinate in the fridge for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Transfer the fillets and the marinade to a baking pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 13 minutes until the fish flakes apart with a fork. Serve with boiled baby red potatoes and asparagus sautéed in butter.

I hope you enjoy my Chesapeake Bay rockfish recipe. I'd love to hear what you think if you get a chance to try it. :) Are you doing anything special to celebrate the first day of summer?

**The top photo is by my friend Greta Corkran. Visit her website for more gorgeous Eastern Shore photographs:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wind Chime Café Recipe ~ Maryland Crab Cakes

As many of you know, I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and I'm working on a new trilogy set on the Chesapeake Bay. The first book, Wind Chime Café, centers around a quirky island café and explores the complex seafood culture of the region. Of course, after deciding to write a book that would include some of my favorite recipes, I realized I should probably learn how to cook them!

Over the next few weeks, I'll be taking you along on my journey to learn how to cook some authentic Chesapeake Bay recipes, including baked rockfish, oyster fritters, crab dip, and possibly a nine-layer Smith Island cake. But let's start off with everyone's favorite--the Maryland crab cake!

What you'll need:
1/2 c. chopped fresh basil
1 slice of sourdough or plain white bread with the crust removed, pinched into tiny pieces
1 lb backfin crab meat
3/4 c. mayo
3/4 t dry mustard
2 t Old Bay Seasoning
1 egg
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
Toss everything in a big bowl and mix together.
Form into balls using an ice cream scoop and drop heaping scoops onto a platter.
Sprinkle more Old Bay Seasoning on the top. Be generous!
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. (This isn't crucial, but it helps keep the cakes together.)

When you're ready to cook, heat up about 1/4 inch of cooking oil in a large pan (until it sizzles when you throw a few drops of water in) and fry the crab cakes on both sides until golden brown. Serve hot with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges, and fresh corn on the cob and a salad.
If you get a chance to try my family's crab cake recipe, I'd love to hear what you think! I'm really looking forward to incorporating some Chesapeake Bay recipes into Wind Chime Café. I've always loved reading books about food and cooking. Some of my favorites are Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel,  Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks, and Chocolat by Joanne Harris. What are some of your favorite novels that involve cooking and recipes?

*The top photo is of an original Chesapeake Bay working skipjack. There are only a few dozen of these boats left.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Selkie Sorceress Giveaway Winners and Announcing a New Trilogy!

I am excited to announce the winners of The Selkie Sorceress Giveaway:

Winner of $25 Amazon Gift Card: Holly L.
Winner of signed paperback copy of The Selkie Spell: Alyson C.
Winner of signed paperback copy of The Selkie Enchantress: Janhvi
Winner of signed paperback copy of The Selkie Sorceress: Cristi R.

Congratulations to the winners and thank you all so much for entering! There will be many more giveaways in the future so stay tuned. :)

In other news, I've started working on a new romance trilogy, and the first book will release Fall 2013! The Heron Island Trilogy features a new cast of characters who I hope you will love as much as the characters in the Seal Island Trilogy. The new series takes place on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, on an island in the Chesapeake Bay. Here's a little bit about the first book:

Wind Chime Café
Heron Island Trilogy, Book One
When single mother, Annie Malone, purchases a quirky Main Street café on Heron Island, she thinks she's finally turned her dream of opening her own restaurant into a reality. Hearing rumors that a developer is about to build a five-star resort on the sleepy Chesapeake Bay island, she plans to transform the café into a premier upscale bistro. But Navy SEAL, Will Dozier, has no intention of selling his grandparents' property to a developer. Back on Heron Island for the first time in ten years and secretly struggling with PTSD, Will decides that a fling with the new girl is the perfect way to help him "get his head straight." The last thing Will expects is to fall in love...with his hometown and with Annie. But Will's life and career are in San Diego with the SEALs. Will Annie's love and the healing magic of the island be enough to convince him to stay?
I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and the Chesapeake Bay culture is very near and dear to my heart. I started a Pinterest Board with Chesapeake Bay images in case you want to get a feel for the place. I'm really looking forward to sharing this new series with you.

As always, thank you for your support of my stories. And a huge thank you to those of you who took the time to post a review for The Selkie Sorceress on Amazon. I really, really I appreciate it. :)

For those of you in the US, I hope you all enjoy a nice long Memorial Day weekend, get to spend some time in the sun with friends, and celebrate the official start of summer!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hoping for a Glimpse of Nora Roberts in Boonsboro

Most of you probably know by now that I'm a huge fan of Nora Roberts. Sea Swept was the first romance novel I ever read, and it was *the book* that made me want to become a writer. After graduating college and finishing my first romance novel, I learned about Romance Writers of America, and signed up for their annual conference. At the time, I was working as a journalist for my small town newspaper and I asked Nora Roberts' publicist if she'd grant me an interview. She did--which I'm still kind of amazed by to this day! I got to meet my favorite author, shake her hand, and interview her. Plus, she signed my copy of Sea Swept. :)

At that first RWA conference, I learned so much about writing and I realized I had a lot to learn before starting a new book. I began to study writing: reading books on craft, going to workshops, joining writers groups, and finding critique partners. I spent a lot of time learning the process, but you know what taught me to write more than anything? Reading Nora Roberts. I spent months taking her books apart, dissecting them chapter by chapter, scene by scene, trying to figure out how she created such memorable characters and stories I wanted to stay up all night reading. Once I'd learned how to put those pieces together, I tried again and wrote The Selkie Spell.

Since its release, The Selkie Spell has had over 100,000 downloads (including both free and paid) and consistently landed on bestseller lists at Amazon. I recently released the third book in the Seal Island Trilogy, The Selkie Sorceress, and thanks to my readers, I am now living my dream and working as a full-time writer. To celebrate finishing my first trilogy, I thought it would be fun to take a trip to Nora Roberts' hometown, Boonsboro, Maryland! Luckily, one of my best friends just moved into a house a few miles outside Boonsboro, so she gave me the grand tour. :)

I arrived late afternoon and we popped into Dan's Restaurant and Tap House to grab a pint and watch the Kentucky Derby. Dan's is rumored to be owned by one of Roberts' sons. I have no idea what he looks like, so I can't say if we saw him or not!

We passed by the Inn Boonsboro, which Nora Roberts owns. The guest rooms are named after famous literary couples from Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Thin Man, and The Princess Bride.

The next morning, we went for a stroll through neighboring Antietam National Battlefield. I couldn't help thinking of the romances Roberts' has written that include ghosts from the civil war era. I imagine this battlefield offered some inspiration.

It's a beautiful place, but I'll admit, it starts to feel a tad unsettling after a while...
Then we headed back into town to Nora Roberts' Turn the Page Bookstore, which is run by her husband.

Look! There she is! No, just kidding. That's actually a cardboard cut out of Nora Roberts, but this entire back room is filled with her books, DVDs of movies based on her books, and the table in the middle contains a line of Inn Boonsboro soaps, perfume, and candles.

In all seriousness, I would like to say thank you to Nora Roberts, for teaching me how to write and for unknowingly showing me the path toward my dream of being a writer. Maybe one day I'll get to shake her hand again and tell her that.

What about you? Readers, what was the first romance novel you ever read? Writers, is there an author or a book that changed your life, and made you realize you wanted to become a writer?

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Selkie Sorceress Featured in USA Today!

I'm excited to announce The Selkie Sorceress was featured in USA Today on May 3, 2013! To celebrate the release of Book Three of the Bestselling Seal Island Trilogy, I have written a very special article that has never been published or appeared anywhere else online. The piece explains the enduring popularity of the romance novel through time, and how the genre's success relates to its ability to adapt to shifting social constructs. It is a condensed version of a longer academic piece that explores the persistence of the "Romance in Literature" from Medieval times to present day. You can read the article on USA Today here. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Selkie Sorceress Release Day and Giveaway!

I'm so excited to announce The Selkie Sorceress is available now on Amazon!
American detective Sam Holt has a knack for finding people who shouldn’t be found. When his last case almost killed an innocent woman, he swore off detective work forever. But when this same woman asks him for one last investigation—to find her husband’s long lost mother—Sam cannot refuse. Clairvoyant Irish artist Glenna McClure will do anything to stop Sam, even if it means teaming up with a powerful sorceress who she knows she cannot trust. But when the petals of a mysterious night-blooming rose begin to turn black, Glenna realizes that an even darker force is at work. To protect the people she loves, Glenna will have to face a terrible curse that has haunted her all her life before the final petal fades to ash.
The Seal Island Trilogy is now available in paperback!
A huge thank you to my amazing book designers, Blue Harvest Creative, for helping me navigate the paperback process and for transforming the cover and layout of each of these stories into a work of art. It is a dream come true to see my stories in print, and I can't wait to share them with all of you!
To celebrate The Selkie Sorceress and Seal Island Trilogy paperback release, I'm offering another giveaway! In addition to reducing the Kindle prices of The Selkie Spell and The Selkie Enchantress to $.99 each from April 25-28th, I am hosting a Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway!
Many of you have generously posted reviews on Amazon for my stories in the past. I am so incredibly grateful whenever I receive a review and I would like to do a little something to show my appreciation. Anyone who posts a review of The Selkie Sorceress on Amazon within the next month is eligible for this giveaway.
What can you win?
A $25 Gift Card to Amazon
A signed paperback copy of The Selkie Spell
A signed paperback copy of The Selkie Enchantress
A signed paperback copy of The Selkie Sorceress
To enter, simply use the Rafflecopter below, or send me an email at with the link to your review and I will enter you. I will choose four names on May 25th, and notify each of you individually by email.
Thank you all so much for your support. It means the world to me. :) I hope you enjoy The Selkie Sorceress as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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