9/28/11

Author Interview: Ashley March



Please join me in welcoming historical romance author Ashley March to the blog! Her new book, Romancing the Countess, was released earlier in the month.

Why historical romance? 


Thanks so much for having me today, Amber! The simple answer to this question is that it’s the type of romance that hooked me on the genre. I think my first year of reading romance mostly consisted of historicals checked out from my local library, and my favorite authors were Jude Deveraux and Catherine Coulter.

My love in reading historical romance has led me to a love for writing it. But now I realize that I also write it because I love exploring relationships in different time periods and countries. There are a lot of possibilities when the entire world’s history and cultures are open to you.

Are there other genres you're interested in exploring?

Yes! For romance specifically, my first contemporary novella will be released in the SWEET TALK ME anthology out in November of this year. I have plans for a contemporary series after that, but no finalized details yet on when it will be published. I also have a few ideas for YA romance… The funny thing about writing is that it seems the longer you write, the more your mind is open to all sorts of stories.

I also have a few mainstream ideas, although I’m not sure when I’ll have the time to write them. One’s a book of my heart, though, so I hope it’s soon. =)



How do you balance mom duties with writing?

I don’t sleep very much. In fact, as I answer this specific interview question, it’s currently 12:30am. But I’m having fun, and that’s what matters to me the most. =)

Apart from that, I have an absolutely terrific husband. We’re both staying at home right now, and we usually take shifts with the girls during the daytime so that we can each have time to work. At night after the kids go to bed, I work until early morning. He helps out a ton with the cooking and cleaning and other household chores so I can devote most of my free time to writing and the writing business.



Who is your favorite fictional character?


I’ve answered about literary fictional characters in the past, but I’m going to have to answer the question now with a cartoon fictional character. I LOVED Darkwing Duck. =) So much, actually, that I know I’m going to be buying the DVDs for my daughters when they get older.  (I have to admit, though, that Bugs Bunny is a very, very close second.)


Both your hero and heroine in Romancing the Countess have experienced unfaithful marriages. Did that create any special challenges when telling their story?


In my mind I knew this was a very special story right from the beginning. I didn’t want to treat it irreverently and gloss over the characters’ individual pain. But in the end, it’s still a romance, and the most challenging part was at the beginning, when I had to walk a very thin line between allowing the characters space to move on individually before the time came for their romance to start developing. I had to show that, even though they didn’t immediately fall in love, there was still something there between them, an awareness—not a sexual awareness, necessarily—but still something that made them take notice of one another.


You begin each chapter with an excerpt from letters written by the hero's unfaithful wife (and written to the heroine's cheating husband). And throughout the course of the novel, your heroine, Leah, reads them. I thought that a unique (and brave) idea. Did you start out with those epigraphs in mind or were they something you added as the novel progressed?

Thank you. To be honest it was something my editor suggested when the book was finished, so I went back through and added them after the story was already complete. And I think she’s a genius for the idea, because I believe it adds an entirely new depth to the story that we wouldn’t have without it. The deceased spouses become part of their own romance in a way, instead of the typical villains they would have been otherwise.



What are you working on now?

I’m currently hosting a reader-interactive online novella on my website each week (see www.ashleymarch.com/novella), where readers can read a new chapter every Tuesday and then vote for what they want to have happen next in the story. When the novella is finished it will be self-published, with 25% of proceeds going to a charity I choose (probably something to do with children).

I’m also finishing edits for my third Signet book. MY LADY RIVAL is the launch of a new Victorian series called A Belgrave Square Affair, and I’m so excited to share these characters with my readers! It is scheduled to release on May 1, 2012.

I also have a few other projects in the works for both 2011 and 2012. Readers can keep up with all the details for what’s coming next by visiting me at www.ashleymarch.com/coming-soon or by subscribing to my newsletter at www.ashleymarch.com/email.

Alright, I have to hear it. Whether you were born in the first half of the 20th century or the second half, I’m sure you watched cartoons. What is your favorite cartoon character?


One random commenter will be chosen to win a copy of my newest book, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS (open internationally)! Also, find out how to win the ROMANCING THE COUNTESS Book Tour Grand Prize of 50+ romance novels by visiting www.ashleymarch.com!  


9/27/11

Recipe: Fresh Peach Cake

Thanks to a generous neighbor, I had a few peaches to use up. This is a wonderful breakfast cake and goes together fairly quickly. I made it without the pecans, and it tasted just fine. Although I bet it would be way more delicious WITH.

I bet this would be just as yummy with other fruit as well.




Fresh Peach Cake by Ina Garten
 Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature 
  • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 3 large, ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced 
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans 

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar for 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and vanilla, and mix until the batter is smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon.

Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan. Top with half of the peaches, then sprinkle with two-thirds of the sugar mixture. Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the remaining peaches on top, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture and the pecans. Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Hey, Look! I'm at H&H

Today, I'm over at Heroes and Heartbreakers talking about single genre romance readers. I'd love for you to stop by and say hello! (It's my very first blog post there, so I'm a teensy bit nervous.)

9/24/11

Banned Books Week September 24-October 1

I'm always surprised by the books people choose to take issue with.  Here is a list of books challenged in May 2010-May 2011. 

(PDF) http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/ideasandresources/free_downloads/2011banned.pdf

Included in the list:
  • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • The Catcher in Rye by JD Salinger
  • Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson



9/21/11

TBR Challenge Review: No Mercy by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Format: Hardcover (also available in mm paperback, ebook)
Pub Date: September 2010
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Length: 343 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

Once again, I'm squeaking in under the wire on the TBR Challenge post. This month's theme is series catchup...a book from a series you're behind in.  With the publication of Retribution, I was 2 books behind in the Dark-Hunter series. The last book I read, Bad Moon Rising, was so awful that I refused to buy another Kenyon book in hardcover. And since my library's romance selection sucks...well, it's been a year since No Mercy came out and I'm just now getting to it via a remaindered copy I picked up on clearance.

The good news? No Mercy doesn't suck nearly as hard as Bad Moon Rising did. It's a complete book (which BMR wasn't), the characters don't have a personality change mid-book (which BMR did), and the dialogue is far less sappy and more snarky. Which is something I had forgotten about the Dark Hunter series and really enjoyed while reading No Mercy.

9/20/11

Get Ready for Banned Books Week: September 24-October 1



Catcher in the Rye . . . Harry Potter . . . Captain Underpants . . .
Every year, there are hundreds of attempts to remove books from schools and libraries. Celebrate YOUR freedom to read and right to choose your book during Banned Books Week, September 24 to October 1, 2011. For more information, visit http://www.ala.org/bbooks.

9/15/11

Recipe: Blackberry Swirl Pound Cake

Blackberry Swirl Pound Cake
Recipe from Martha Stewart
(Photos and adjustments are mine)

I made this the other day to use some of the blackberries I had picked off of the vine. The berries are late this year, so I only managed to pick a few cups. Fortunately, this recipe only takes 1 1/3 cups (which means it won't cost you an arm and a leg if you have to buy your berries).

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
6 ounces blackberries (1 1/3 cups)
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter (I use butter spray) a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; butter parchment. In a food processor, puree blackberries with 2 tablespoons sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Transfer half the batter to pan (smoothing the layer down) and dot with 1/2  blackberry puree. Repeat with remaining batter and puree. With knife or skewer, swirl batter and puree together. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, 30 minutes. Lift cake out of pan and place on a serving plate; let cool completely before slicing. (Yes, you really do need to let it cool. This is a delicate, dense cake that slices beautifully when cool).

(My attempt didn't swirl as well as it should have, but tasted fine just the same. The blackberry ends up with a taste and texture similar to jam.)

9/14/11

Happy Holidays! Oh wait...

It seems like Christmas merchandise creeps onto the shelves earlier and earlier every year. I've spotted Christmas crafts in July, and the holiday decorations are popping up in big boxes as soon as the back to school promos come down.

And with the holiday decor comes the holiday romances. Many of them with publication dates of September and October. Before Halloween! And there are a ton of them coming out this year. (See pictures and links below the break.)

I personally love holiday romances, but they do seem kind of risky for authors. Their sales season is fairly short (although there are some, like me, who read them all year long.) And so many of them center around Christmas, which means they risk alienating those who celebrate other winter holidays like Hanukkah or Kwanza.


What do you think of holiday romances? Do you love them, hate them, or just feel kind of meh? And are you like me, and read them all year long or do you only read them close to the holidays?


9/7/11

Hump Day Classic Movie: The Last Starfighter

My husband did the snoopy dance in the middle of Safeway when he spotted this little gem on Blu-ray. He loves those early 80s space movies. Loves, loves, loves. Me? I like them in a campy way, but still make fun of the horrible special effects. I almost prefer the string method of spaceship effects in those 1950s movies to the early computer animated stuff.


In this movie, a teenager stuck in the middle of nowhere, living with his family in a trailer park, dreams of doing big things. But circumstances constantly force him to put others before himself. His only escape is a video game (a really primitive arcade style game!) called the Last Starfighter.

After one really bad day, he retreats to the game and manages to break the all time record. Little does he realize that the game was a test, and soon he's recruited by an alien(!) to become a Starfighter.

Yes, it really is that silly. But other than a few explosions and some mild sexual references, it's much tamer than anything but children's movies being put out today.


Gifts for the Baker