Danielle Bourdon’s Latvala Prince Series is a Hot!

If you are looking for a modern-day fairy tale — this is NOT it!  Sure, there’s a hunky prince (a few of them actually), fabulous wealth, culture and gorgeous countryside of a land all to themselves.  However, there’s also intrigues, murder plots and papparazzi that interfere with the best laid plans.  Did I mention the King and Queen also want their eldest, heir to the throne, married to a suitable woman??  The first book, Heir Untamed keeps you on your toes and keeps you up turning pages.

Danielle Bourdon’s Latvala Prince series has it all.  Sure, it’s not realistic.  Who cares?  We want romance, hot steamy men, and true love, right?  Well, you get it in spades with this series!

We have the winners…

Drum roll please…


Our first and second winner is Leti Del Mar!!  She wins the $25 gift certificate and a copy of Leaping Out on Faith.

Our third winner is Naesnest!!  This lucky winner receives a copy of The Magic Seeds which is a wonderful soft cover children’s book.

Winners, you will be contacted at the email address used for the giveaway.

Thank you all for your participation and I look forward to another year of fun, writing and prizes. 🙂

Writing Time: Time Management for Writers

With 6,378 page views in the last year I feel like I’ve done something that’s been appreciated. I enjoy blogging (as most of us do!). Why do something you don’t enjoy, right?

But then, there’s reality.

We have responsibilities, chores, families to visit, pets to groom/feed/walk/endure. 😉

When do we find the time to do the things we’re passionate about?  How do we manage our time to get ALL of the things we’re supposed to want to do in with the things we must do?

Here are some links to others who have some ideas.  Share a few of your own to move this discussion along.

 This should get us all going!  I know some of these tips greatly helped me to get off my dufus!

Remember, writers write.  (We don’t have to tweet, answer emails, or surf the ‘Net for the latest and greatest for 6 hours a don’t).  Writers write.

Authors don’t just write with no endpoint, they finish books, submit them, get rejected or accepted, and write some more.

~ Samantha Hunter, 2008 RITA Finalist

Bringing Down Your Muse

Bringing down your muse…

When I write I generally don’t like music playing unless it’s something Enya-like and it must be very low.  It’s just background noise so my brain/muse can zone out.

See?  Really calming and relaxing.  Yes, some may want to go to sleep but in a sense that’s what you have to do when you write.  One part of your brain must sleep.  That would be the active left-brain that makes you want to check email, hop over to Twitter and see what your friends are tweeting about, or just get up and do the dishes, watch a movie…you get the idea.

By playing something calming like this I find that the part of my brain that gets restless is lulled.  This way I can get the important work done — getting the words on the page and the story structure I’m seeking fleshed out.

However, I find I need different types of music to get myself going when trying to come up with a new story, add a new plot angle, or flesh out a scene that’s giving me trouble.  I am usually not actively writing for this.  I am ‘thinking’ but as you writerly readers know we’re not really thinking.  We’re casting our proverbial line into our psyche and attempting to engage our muse to help us.

For this writing activity I like a more upbeat driving beat that pushes me to move and do things that occupy my motor senses.  I usually do my thinking while cleaning, washing dishes, gardening, activities where my mind can again zone out but my body is in full action.  Something like Rob Duggan’s Clubbed to Death is my preference.

This gets my brain pumped ready and focused on the task at hand.  It reminds me of the great trilogy that this track comes from (The Matrix) and I think of the great writing that went into these screenplays.  Another track that’s equally effective for me is Khalghi Stomp by Transglobal Underground.  The global beat and Electronica helps me get right where I want to be!  It’s mellow.  It flows.  It’s cool.

This is how my muse gets down.  How do you get your muse to visit you?  Leave me your thoughts.  I’d love to hear them!

Happy Blogairy First Birthday!

Happy Bloggin’ Birthday NoteBook Blogairy!!!

One of the most important things I have learned in the past 12 months of doing this blog is that it is important to follow.  No, not follow other tweeps in Twitterland (even though that’s a cardinal rule!).  The following that I’m referring to is acquiescing to the wisdom of those who have gone before you and have forged a path filled with followers.

I’ll back up a bit to Christmas 2011.

One of my holiday gifts was a dangnamit Kindle Fire.  Being a staunch brick and mortar bookstore buyer and loving the feel of aging pages with a thick spine in my grubby little hands, the Kindle was total blasphemy.  And I let everyone around me know it.  It sat in the box untouched for about 3 – 4 weeks.  It was offered that it be returned so I could choose something that wouldn’t waste the giver’s money.  That hit the guilt nerve (as it was designed to) and I took it out of the box and fiddled with it.  I became very proficient at whiling away the hours playing Angry Birds with the volume on high so I could vibe off the sounds of breaking glass.

But after almost a month of this, it was shared with me that there were other uses for the device that could help me as a writer.  At this I sniggered loudly.  No electronic thing-a-ma-jiggy was going to help me with my writing career.  Hmphf.  Computers, laptops and the internet were there for that. (Yeah, go ahead and laugh at my naiveté.)

Long story short, I found a series of books that I fell in love with and devoured on the Kindle in a matter of days.  From that point on, I never looked back!  One device could act as a library of books and the weight would always be the same in my handbag!  Thick books, thin books, e-books – no matter!  I also could save trees, step more lightly on the planet and join the current century all by using this thin lightweight device called a Kindle.  How would have thunk it?

By following this trend of utilizing an e-reader, I opened myself up to a new world.  A world where sharing my writing was as easy as pressing a few buttons and waiting 12 hours to see your book available for sale.
By following sage advice, I was able to entice and engage more people and over 1,300 people now follow me on Twitter.

Through following the many steps involved in building one’s follower base, blogging regularly, engaging others in Twitteland and tweeting content that’s pertinent, witty &/or timely this lead me to what I’ve always wanted…writer friends!

My real-life friends are not writers.  They are creative in other ways.  So, I was lonely.  Now, I’m not.  Why?  Because that good old loveable lightweight of a powerhouse, my Kindle, brought me in communication with people of like mind.

Through perusing and playing around on Twitter I came across National Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  Through NaNoWriMo I found more writing resources and new ideas and a mentor.  Through my mentor, I gained confidence and strength in my ability to navigate this new world.  I completed the 50K word NaNoWriMo challenge and haven’t looked back.

By following those who know how, the evolving technologies can be a benefit and an advantage to us instead of just another hurdle to overcome. We can be better writers, thinkers and doers with words.  We just have to get out of our own way and let opportunity, insight and community in.

To celebrate and commemorate the first year of The NoteBook Blogairy please enjoy the Rafflecopter giveaway that I am gladly following through on after months of avoidance! LOL.
You can win a $25 gift certificate to Amazon.com or one of my books.
Thanks for sticking with me this past year and I hope we become even better writerly friends.  Talk to me!  Engage me!  Dispute with me!  That’s the name of the game in this brave new world.  Or, if that’s all too much just leave a comment and I’ll take it from there.
Ta-ta for now,

Gluten-Free Buffalo Mozzarella Pizza from Pizza Arte in NYC

After yesterday’s fiasco with the teriyaki sauce I played it super safe and ate only fruit, yogurt, OJ for breakfast and, of course some water.  On the way into the office I smelled the lusciousness that is Littly Italy pizza and wanted some for lunch.  As you can imagine, the do not make gluten-free pizza.

(P.S. – If you’re like, what’s gluten-free all about? Here’s a short piece that will give you some more info.)

Went on a mission so that I can eat pizza that won’t cause me to react and found (through Zagat) Pizza Arte on the Upper Westside on 55th Street.  Yes, it’s pricey for a personal size pizza ($20.69 w/tax) but it is gluten-free has San Marzano tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella (that is pasturized, if you need to know).  They bake the gluten-free pizzas in an oven since the wood-burning oven is for the gluten pizzas.  I was very happy to see they were very cognizant of separating the baking.

I did ask for my pizza to be cut and the chef said he could not do it as he did not want to contaminate my pizza with gluten as he was now working on a gluten pizza.  He sanitized his hands and washed a pizza cutter and asked another chef to handle my request.  Tres magnific! (Okay, so I’m not French.)

I grabbed my pizza box with glee and dashed out the door hardly able to wait to get back to the office.  And I decided in the middle of the street — why wait?  Got out a mini slice and munched happily away in the midst of yellow cabs blaring, large trucks and their even larger wheels rolling past me as I dodged tourist pedestrian traffic by walking in the street almost hugging the parked cars.  [Yeah, I know.  I’m a true New Yorker with no fear of cars or bikes or rude delivery guys or — you get the picture.]

The crust was decidedly overcooked but the bottom oddly enough, was perfectly cooked.  The crust was thicker than I would have wanted and a bit chewy but the texture was firm and did not mush away as you chewed.  It has a definite Italiano flavor with the fresh basil and the San Marzano tomatoes steal the show on this pizzette!  I am fairly aware of salt and this crust was good but I noticed the salt (which means for everyone else it’s great; not salty at all!).

I let myself be satisfied with that little slice and blissfully waited to get back to the office to devour more.  With the sun shining on me as I made the 11-block trek back to the office I was the happiest gluten-free gal you ever did see.

So, if you’re ever around W. 55th Street near the corner of Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave for you other folks) drop by Pizza Arte for a lunchtime gluten-free treat.

3.5 Blogairy Food Stars
(took off 1/2 a star for the salt)

Teriyaki Me Crazy

The most mundane foods can trip you up when you least expect it.  This evening I was hungry…starving.  I had no idea what I wanted but knew that I did not have the energy to cook a full meal from scratch again tonight.

I’ve been working diligently on preparing gluten free meals for myself (and my family where possible!) for the last two weeks.  Technically, I am in transition, I suppose.  Well, today definitely proved that I must be.  I broke down and purchased a book about gluten free cooking (and living).  Out of the many book choices I selected Gluten-Free Quick & Easy by Carol Fenster, Ph.D.

I began reading it lunch and continued reading on my commute home.  I placed my order for Teriyaki Chicken and veggie fried rice and sat down to wait for my order.  I continued to read as I waited.  The minutes ticked by and I read through most of the introductory portion and skipped through to some recipes.  Why did my eye land on the Thai Chicken Pizza recipe on page 84?  What did I spy?  This recipe calls for gluten-free teriyaki sauce!!!  Oh, Dear.

My order is practically ready as I’ve been waiting for about 6 minutes.  Do I eat this meal hoping that I don’t have a reaction?  Or, do I pay for it toss it and start over again??  You guessed it.  I’m a cheapie.  I paid for it brought it home and ate it (remember I was starving!).

Less than 5 minutes after I finished eating I had to blow my nose.  In an hour, my sense of smell began to wane.  By one and a half, my sense of smell was gone.  (Yeah, that’s my reaction to eating gluten.)

At that point, I researched soy sauce and found a great article on Celiac.com that discussed the two main manufacturers of soy sauce had less than 5 ppm of gluten per serving.  At this low presence in the food, most people do not react.  The soy sauce manufacturers are Kikkoman and Lima Foods.  This is probably the reason I never reacted to regular Chinese food.  But Teriyaki sauce?  It is fermented soy sauce and wheat.  You have to specifically buy a gluten-free teriyaki sauce. 

Why did I read so slowly?!?  The lesson of the day?  If I’m not sure what’s in something — DON’T EAT IT!

And how was your day?

Book Thoughts: The Inadvertent Thief by Leti Del Mar

The Inadvertent Thief by Leti Del Mar started off strongly.  The characters drew me in and engaged me in their fast-paced drama.  I kept swiping pages eager to know the in’s and out’s of the book’s opening drama – how did a thief steal two priceless paintings without setting off any security alarms?
The main character is Vivien who is the museum’s security expert who is expected to figure out how the thief did it and get both paintings back.  For Vivien, the how it was done part is the one that is stumping her!  Within hours of the thefts, she has a plan to track the paintings from the moment they left the museum building.  (She’s that good.)
Understandably, the museum’s curator is livid and has already contacted their insurance company to assist in Vivien’s investigation.  Not so understandably, the curator’s threatening her job and finally revealing what Vivien felt from the time she was initially appointed – he doesn’t want her there.  With the lambasting the curator gives her on top of the humiliation of the thefts, Vivien is not quite ready to meet the insurance agent who is awaiting her as soon as she leaves the curator’s office.
At this particular moment, Vivien’s emotional landscape ranges from the deepest anger to wanting to curl into a fetal ball and cry.  Now, she would be saddled with a dogged insurance agent watching her every move both at the museum and at her own private offices!
However, from the moment Vivien locked onto his pure green eyes sparks flew and she knew she was in for an adventurous ride.  Walter was not what she expected of an insurance agent at all.  With so much at stake, Vivien knew that she had to keep firm boundaries with this charming man whose smile never reached his emerald eyes.   Begrudgingly, Vivien has no choice but to allow him to tag along and follow her wherever she goes regarding the investigation.
Between Walter’s charming intelligence, wit and physical appeal along with the investigation that both confounds and frustrates her, Vivien is at her wit’s end.  She forces herself to focus and succeeds in blocking out her body’s natural response to the tall, muscular insurance agent with the luxury sports car that speaks to his success in retrieving other stolen works of art.
Her focus leads to her being able to track down the location of her stolen paintings which leads her into even more entanglements with Walter.  Vivien finds herself falling for him creating a string of exciting consequences for the reader – not so much for Vivien!  One particular situation leads to Walter leaving Vivien’s life at a critical juncture.
She doesn’t know if she’ll ever see him again and drops into a deep depression.  Will Vivien be able to snap back, rouse herself and revive her damaged reputation as a security expert?
The Inadvertent Thief is a wonderfully paced read that takes you on an exhilarating ride.  And, it finishes off with a big bang.
4 Blogairy Notebooks

Book Thoughts: Gawley’s – Exiles of Arcadia: Legionnaire

James Gawley’s epic Exiles of Arcadia: Legionnaire is a book that takes a bit of time to develop but when it does (about a chapter and a half in) you are hooked!  Now, the long development time could definitely be my own slight aversion to historical fiction (that is not a romance),  but Gawley’s character become more fully fleshed out as the story progresses and the reader gets sucked into the mystery and suspense of the internal unknown dynamics that he finds himself in.
The main character ‘Little Seneca’, the General’s son, draws your sympathy but touches your sense of pride and justice as the story unfolds.  He is a child born from an unfortunate circumstance that has created mixed feelings towards him by both of his parents.  While he is loved, there are so many old wounds surrounding his birth and his mother, Little Seneca’s father has a tough time even looking at him.
Little Seneca is now part of the infantry called the Dead Men of the Legionnaires and is tasked with having to shuck off his father’s tarnished reputation and make his way up the ranks on his own – a difficult task in that time.  However, being the General’s son makes it even harder as he has invisible enemies who know the past intimately and were affected by that past to the point of intense vengeful actions.
In between snippets of the past from older soldiers who have taken Little Seneca under their wing to present day aggressions directed at Little Seneca Exiles of Arcadia makes for fascinating reading.  The reader is drawn smoothly and deeply into the past and becomes immersed in a world that is both foreign and familiar simultaneously.
High drama brings this story to a close and a path to be taken…or not is the ending.  This is a really wonderful read that envelops the reader in a warm cloak with a pelt-collar.
Not convinced? Read an excerpt of the book here.
4 Blogairy Notebooks

A Totally Gluten-Free Aside…

While I have been working away on my novel and the editing of it, somewhere along the way I found out that I am gluten sensitive.  So, that means lots of fun for me in trying to eat food and not become ill in this society.  (Did you know that Twizzlers have gluten in them??)

I love gluten — well, the things that gluten hides in — cupcakes, cookies, pies, cakes, BREAD! Hmm!!  I used to bake up a storm for fun but have slowed down in recent years.  I guess some part of my brain understood something I didn’t want to know.  So now I am back to reading labels and creating a diet that will not cause me…issues. 🙂

Probably should back up a bit and say that gluten is in: wheat, rye, barley, spelt and oats.  Yes, OATS.  To be safe, you should look for and purchase gluten-free oats.

I went out and bought a bread maker so that I didn’t have to spend $8.95 for a tiny loaf of salty heavy bread that I really don’t care for very much (and it turns to rock inside of 3 days).  Don’t get me wrong, this bread was heavenly the first and second times.  I just couldn’t see myself continuing to eat this bread for the rest of my life (or the rest of the month).

With resolve, I brought home my Breville Custom Loaf and tried very hard to make the bread of my dreams.  Well, not too much success…yet.  I’ve made three loaves of bread…

My Very First Gluten-Free Bread
My first attempt at GF Banana Walnut Bread…missing the nuts!

GF “White” Bread – very dense!

As you can see, the breads are not that appetizing looking.  The second banana walnut loaf (with the nuts!) was really tasty.  It wasn’t too heavy and it toasted great!  But, can I eat banana walnut bread for the rest of my life?  Nope.  I’m on a mission to find another flavor and hopefully find a good sandwich bread recipe that I can easily make with my bread maker.

The “White” Bread (3rd picture) recipe seemed like it was going to be awesome and light (with 6 egg whites how could it not, right??).  However, the recipe was for another bread machine and I was not privy to the baking temperature nor the temp for the rising phase.  So, using guestimates, I rose for two hours and the rising temp was 93 degrees.  I would not make this bread again!  Way to dense and by the second day it was a rock/stone. 🙂  [Just sayin…]

And that’s the other thing, while I do not have to knead the bread because the machine does that for me, I do have to wait about 3 hours for the final product to come out of the bread maker.  Many recipes say that leaving the finished bread in the machine with the “Keep Warm” cycle on will make GF bread soggy and lose their texture.

So, in my quest for a bread with flavor, that rises, and will not put a dent in my tiles I decided to try the Gluten-Free Goddess’ recipe for Gluten-Free Carrot Bread with Chai Spices — basically a GF carrot bread loaf made in the oven and not in the bread maker.

GF Carrot Bread with Chai Spices

 While I have not cut into this loaf, it smells divine!  My family wants to cut into it now and they have not liked any of my GF loaves to date.  This bread rose well and it springs back when you touch the top.  I’m excited about this one!  It gives me hope for GF desserts that are not snowballs, gritty, or plain ole tasteless.  From a reformed baker, making desserts in a totally new gluten-free manner is disconcerting at best and frightening on the other end of the spectrum.  However, it has to be a new way of life for me.

I’ll keep baking and keep posting now and again and sharing pics.  Those of you who are further along this path please share ideas, thoughts and recipes!  I’ll try and post my results!!

And it’s a few hours later and I tried this wonderful carrot bread – and it’s great!  In fact, one of my children got to it before I did and let me know it was great!!  Thanks GF Goddess!!  Here’s the pic of the cut loaf…

Nicely risen, fluffly, light, tasty and really good!  This I can enjoy!

Many thanks in advance and hope you’re having a great evening.