Writing Through The Pain: When Life Does Not Imitate Art

It’s out! Finally! That’s right, after all of this time, Shadow of Sin – AKA Erin and CJ’s story – is out in the world, and I couldn’t be more excited.
You might have noticed that this book took me a long time to write. A long, long, time. In fact, this is the first new release I’ve had in nearly two years. Truthfully, this was the hardest book I’ve ever written.
And it had nothing to do with the story or the characters. What made this story so difficult for me to write was… life.
What most of you don’t know is that while I was writing this book, my marriage was falling apart. While I was trying to write the story of two characters falling in love and finding their happily ever after, what I thought was my own happily ever after came to a stunningly painful end.
There were days, weeks, months, when it was all I could do to get out of bed, take care of my kids, and deal with the fact that the life I thought I had, the future I had taken for granted, was gone.
I’m a fucking romance writer! How can I be getting divorced??
I couldn’t read – forget about write – a romance novel. Seriously, divorce and romance do not mix. Any time I got my Amazon “recommendations in romance,” my lip would curve into a sneer and I’d think, “Yeah, whatever young lovers. Call me in 15 years and let’s see how this whirlwind, hormone driven, drug like fugue works out.”
And yet, Erin and CJ lingered on my hard drive, 50 pages into their story. Poking me, nudging me, reminding me that I had promised them their story. And they were WAITING!!! And deserving.
I got mad. At at my ex, at myself, at fate, the universe.The death of my marriage had taken so much from me, I’d be damned if I was going to let it take away my creativity, my love for this work.
So I cracked the laptop. Outlined some chapters. Wrote some pages, and felt pretty good.
And then there were the days that I opened up the manuscript, sat down to write the story of two people falling in love, and broke down in tears. There were too many days like this, so many I despaired that I would never finish this book, finish any book, ever again.
Time passed. The pain dulled, my brain and body settled themselves into a steadier state. And last summer I went to the RWA national conference for the first time in several years. While there, I did hardly any business (except a meeting with my beloved agent which was more of a wine and gabfest than a business meeting). However the time spent with amazing writer friends both old and new, left me reinvigorated. While I had to let go of a very important part of my identity – I was no longer a wife – I still held another part: I was and am still a writer.
And no one can ever take that from me.
So I came home, got my ass in the chair, and I finished the draft. I sent it off to my amazing friend and critique partner, revised revised revised. And now, here it is, ready for you to enjoy.
Through it all, you, my readers, were there. You told me how much you loved my books. You asked for Erin and CJ’s story specifically. You reminded me that regardless of how sad, scared, and angry I felt, once upon a time I had brought joy to your lives in the form of my books.
And that I had brought joy to my own life through writing.
I am eternally grateful to all of you who stuck with me, for letting me know that you enjoy my work and that you wanted more.
I am also, of course, so grateful to my family who have given me unconditional love and support through all of this. And thank you to my amazing friends who saw me through the darkest of days, let me cry on their phones, their couches, sometimes literally in their laps, and reminded me how much I was loved.
Thank you my old friends, my mom friends, my writer friends. You know who you are, and I love you, all you wonderful women.
But I have to give a special shout out to Monica McCarty, who I met at my first SFRWA meeting way back in 2003. She has now seen me through the birth of my first (and second) child, the publication of my first (and 23rd) book, and now divorce (and ugh, match.com). She has held my hand (mostly over the phone) every step of the way, and she is one of my favorite people on the planet.
So now it’s time for me to step into my new, unknown future. To write a new story for myself. And I promise I will continue to write stories for you.

  • January 18, 2017

Cooking From My Books: Thanksgiving Edition

I’ll admit it, this week I’m not actually cooking from my books. But don’t worry – as soon as Shadow Of Sin hits the virtual shelves, I’ll have a bunch of Erin Flannery’s recipes to share.

In the meantime, seeing as next week is one of the most food centric of the year, I thought I’d share my all time favorite recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing.

To be honest, stuffing is one of my least favorite of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. I mean, why waste the calories on a bunch of soggy seasoned bread?

Then I discovered this recipe for Cornbread Sausage and Dried Fruit stuffing, and my stance on stuffing completely changed. Okay, it’s still not the star of my Turkey Day – we all know it’s all about the gravy. Still, once I started making this version of stuffing I started saving room on my plate for a scoop. The savory sausage and the tart-sweet dried fruit give the cornbread a ton of flavor, and the cornbread gets soft but not mushy.
Enjoy!

stuffing-550

Ingredients
1 pound bulk pork sausage
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
7 to 8 cups crumbled cornbread
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine, melted
About 3/4 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper

Preparation
1. Crumble the sausage into a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat. Stir often until sausage is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a large bowl.

2. Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat in pan. Add onions to pan and stir often until limp, about 5 minutes. Add onions to sausage.

3. Add celery, cornbread, apricots, cranberries, eggs, sage, and butter and stir to mix well, adding just enough broth to lightly moisten dressing.

4. Spoon dressing into a shallow 2 1/2- to 3-quart casserole and cover.

5. Bake in a 325° oven until hot, about 25 minutes (if chilled, 50 to 60 minutes). Then uncover and bake until top is lightly browned, 15 to 25 minutes more. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cooking from the books: Thanksgiving Edition

  • November 16, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Peanut Butter Blossoms

I have a special treat for you all this week! Not only is it a new recipe from my upcoming release, Shadow Of Sin (Erin and CJ’s story, for those of you who have been waiting :)), it’s specially formatted into a recipe card so you can download it and print it out!

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In the case of Erin Flannery and CJ Kovacs, the adage is only partially true. Though a teenage Erin first caught young CJ’s attention with the delicious Peanut Butter Blossom cookies she was selling, it was her big gray eyes and shy smile that kept him coming back for more. Bake up a batch of these cookies today. Who knows who you’ll attract?

peanut-blossoms

Peanut Butter Blossoms Recipe Card

Ingredients:
1 8 oz bag hershey’s kisses
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (use something like Skippy or Jif – this is not a time to go healthy!)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg, 2 T milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
granulated sugar

Preparation:
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove wrappers from kisses
Beat shortening and peanut butter in a large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar, beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla, beat well.
Stir together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar and place on an uncreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Immediately press a Kiss into the center of each cookie. the cookie will crack around the edges.  Remove cookies from the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack to cool.cftbsspeanutbutterblossoms

  • November 2, 2016

Cooking From My Books: “Crack” Chicken

Okay, I have a confession to make… this week I am not cooking from my books. That’s because *gasp* I’ve gone through almost all of the recipes from all of my books!
Never fear, there are more to come… in my next release which will be on sale soon!
In the meantime, I’ll continue to post my favorite recipes every Wednesday for you to enjoy.
This week I’m featuring “Crack” Chicken, so named because it’s so good it’s addictive. Crispy panko coated chicken tenders paired with a sweet and tangy sauce? Yes please!

crack-chicken-1

Ingredients:

1 c. all-purpose flour
2 lb. chicken tenders
2 c. panko breadcrumbs
3 large Eggs, beaten
kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 c. barbecue sauce
1/2 c. brown sugar
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp. garlic powder
Ranch dressing, for serving (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large resealable Ziploc bag, combine flour and chicken. Shake until fully coated.
Set up a dredging station: In one bowl, add panko breadcrumbs and in another bowl whisk eggs and add 2 tablespoons water. Dip chicken in beaten eggs, then panko until fully coated. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and season generously with salt and pepper.
Bake until golden and crispy, 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over low heat, warm barbecue sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and garlic powder.
Coat baked chicken in sauce and serve with ranch, if desired

  • October 19, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Prsurate

This week I’m pulling yet another recipe from my first book, Delicious. Readers might remember that as a a special treat for our hero Gabe (who is of Croatian heritage), our heroine Reggie arranged to have an episode of her show Simply Delicious feature the Tadich Grill in San Francisco. The Tadich Grill was started in the gold rush days by three Croatian emigrants. Once a humble coffee stand, it’s now regarded as one of the finest seafood restaurants in the city.
On the show, Reggie learned to make prsurtate, which are basically the Croatian version of a donut – a special treat for her special man.
Enjoy!

prsurate

Ingredients:
2 pounds self-rising flour
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups milk
2 oranges, rind & juice
1 cup pecans
1 lemon, rind and juice 2 apples, chopped
1 cup raisins
2 jiggers whiskey
oil for frying
1 pound confectioners’ sugar
water (to make a glaze with confectioner’s sugar)

Instructions:
Mix all dry ingredients together, including rinds. Mix eggs, juices, and milk. Add dry mixture to the wet mixture. Fold in fruits and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls into hot oil. Fry until golden brown. Drain well and dip in glaze. Let cool before storing in a glass jar. Makes: More than a gallon jar.

  • October 12, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Danny’s Angry Steak

Hello, foodie friends! This week I’m featuring a recipe from Unleashed, the third book in my Gemini Men Series. Readers might remember that my hero, Danny Taggart, had a fondness for cooking. You may also remember that he occasionally struggled with… how shall I put it… anger issues. Some of which he worked out in the kitchen. Hence, the idea for “Danny’s Angry Steak” was born. Here the chipotle marinade gives a smoky, spicy kick to the delicious flank steak. Enjoy it with a glass of full bodied red like Syrah or Zinfandel.

A 3

Ingredients

1 beef flank steak (about 1-1 1/2 pounds)
Salt
Marinade:
1/3cup fresh lime juice
1/4cup chopped fresh cilantro
1tablespoon packed brown sugar
2teaspoons minced chipotle chilies in adobe sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1teaspoon freshly grated lime peel

Instructions

Combine marinade ingredients in small bowl; mix well. Place beef steak and marinade in food-safe plastic bag; turn steak to coat. Close bag securely and marinate in refrigerator 6 hours or as long as overnight.
Remove steak from marinade; discard marinade. Place steak on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill flank steak, covered, 11 to 16 minutes for medium rare to medium doneness (top round steak 12 to 14 minutes for medium rare doneness; do not overcook), turning occasionally. Carve steak across the grain into thin slices. Season with salt, as desired.

  • October 5, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Pumpkin Ravioli With Sage Brown Butter

While the weather is still summery here in California, that hasn’t stopped the stores from stocking everything Pumpkin. Seriously, Today at Trader Joe’s I saw pumpkin soup crackers (???) and pumpkin spice tortilla chips. What?
So this week I’m jumping on a the pumpkin bandwagon with a recipe that was featured in Walk On The Wild Side (those who have read it will remember that this was one of the possible dishes for Brady and Molly to cook during their appearance on Simply Delicious with Reggie Caldwell). In the book, Brady and Molly make the actual pasta dough from scratch, but really, who has time for that? This is a simplified approach using pre-made pasta or wonton wrappers stuffed with a delicious pumpkin filling.
Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds store-bought fresh pasta sheets or one package fresh wonton wrappers (if you use wonton wrappers, eliminate cutting the pasta into squares)
1 (2 1⁄2-lb.) sugar pumpkin, seeds removed and cut into chunks*
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
6 amaretti, or Italian almond cookies, crushed into crumbs
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tbsp. honey
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. butter
18 fresh sage leaves, chopped, plus more to garnish

*If roasting and pureeing the pumpkin is above your pay grade feel free to use 1 1/2 cups pre-made pumpkin puree. Just make sure not to use pumpkin pie filling!

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pumpkin chunks on a lightly oiled baking sheet until tender, 30–45 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside for about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard skin. Transfer pumpkin pulp to a mixing bowl, mash with a fork, then beat in egg yolks and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Add red pepper, amaretti, cinnamon, 2 tbsp. of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, honey, wine, and salt and cook for 3–4 minutes. Mix in pumpkin, cook for 2 minutes, then transfer to a food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Return pumpkin mixture to the same pan, cover, and keep warm over low heat.
For the sage brown butter: Heat butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add sage and cook until butter is golden brown. Remove from heat.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Carefully slip pasta squares into pot and cook until they rise to the surface. Use a large skimmer to remove pasta from the water. Drain well, then lay 1 square on each of 6 plates, spoon pumpkin filling onto squares, and cover with remaining pasta squares. Drizzle sage butter over each square, sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano, and garnish with fresh sage leaves if you like.

  • September 28, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Roast Chicken With Artichoke Hearts

Today’s recipe appeared in Walk On The Wild Side (book 3 of my Big Timber, Montana series) and is also one of my own personal favorites to make at home for my two hungry boys. It couldn’t be simpler – chicken parts and jarred artichoke hearts are tossed together on a sheet pan and roasted in the oven. It’s quick to put together and – bonus – requires minimal cleanup, making it a perfect weeknight meal.
And of course, it’s delicious!
chicken-artichoke_300
Ingredients:

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (such as thighs, breasts, and drumsticks; about 3 pounds total)
2cups marinated artichoke hearts, drained (about 12 ounces)
5tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper

Preparation

Heat oven to 450° F. Toss the chicken, artichoke hearts, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, skin-side up, on the top rack until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part (avoiding the bone) registers 165° F, 30 to 35 minutes.

  • September 21, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Bison Chili

Fall is here and with it a bit of a nip in the air (even here in California). Or as a close friend calls it, “football weather.” And what better dish to whip up for a tailgate than a big batch of chili? This recipe, from Blame It On Your Heart, is a family favorite passed down by Adele and served in her cafe. It changes things up a bit by using bison meat instead of beef. Not only is it delicious, since the bison is leaner, this dish is extra healthy. Enjoy!

chili-recipe

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 pound lean ground bison
1 can crushed tomatoes (28-ounce), with their juices
2 cups water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons Mexican chili powder
1 teaspoon flour
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 can black beans (15.5-ounce), drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans (15.5-ounce), drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn kernels

Preparation:

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, and garlic, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add the ground bison; raise the heat to high and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink. Stir in the tomatoes, water, Mexican chili powder, flour, brown sugar and oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered, stirring from time to time, for 30 minutes. Stir in the beans and corn and continue cooking, partially covered, 20 minutes longer, until the chili has thickened and heat through. Season with salt and pepper, top with favorite toppings, and serve.

  • September 14, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Four Cheese Panini

What’s better than a classic grilled cheese? A souped up version with not one but four cheeses served on a delicious ciabatta roll. Brady McManus created this dish for Adele’s Cafe in Blame It On Your Heart, the first book in my Big Timber series. Serve it with a steaming cup of creamy tomato soup!

four-cheese-panini-xl-r-200010Ingredients:

1/2 cup shredded fresh mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)
1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese (4 ounces)
1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (1 ounce)
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese (3 ounces)
4 ciabatta rolls, halved lengthwise, or 8 slices firm white sandwich bread
8 arugula leaves

Preparation:

In a small bowl, combine the cheeses. Spread the cheese on the bottoms of the ciabatta rolls, top with 2 arugula leaves and close the panini.
Set a large cast-iron skillet or griddle over moderately high heat. Arrange the panini in the skillet and weight them down with a smaller pan. Cook the panini until the outside is crisp and the cheese is melted, 3 minutes per side. Cut the panini in half and serve at once.

  • September 7, 2016
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