December 23, 2012

Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo with Cornbread Topping

Want a quick one-dish meal? If you like gumbo you need to make this. It's easy and delicious- a little spicy (make it to your taste), very flavorful,  with a nice balancing cornbread topping.
All you need to complete the meal is a glass of pinot noir. Or a full-bodied beer.

Makes 6 servings

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
1 cup chicken or fish stock
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
8 oz. spicy chicken cilantro sausage, precooked (or use the sausage of your choice)
2 cups shrimp, cleaned, peeled, and deveined

1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup milk
12-ounce package corn muffin mix

In an iron skillet, saute onion and celery in oil. Add bay leaves, thyme, seasonings. Pour in stock and add tomatoes and sausage. 
Cover pot and gently simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in shrimp.

To prepare the topping, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix together egg and milk, add to muffin mix, and combine until just well-blended. Drop by tablespoonfuls on top of hot shrimp mixture, leaving the center uncovered. Bake 15 to 20 minutes.

December 17, 2012

Book Review: The Art of Fielding

Sometimes a book comes along that catches the attention of every reading human being in the entire world. It gets rave reviews and all the book clubs read it and it lingers on the best seller lists forever...I'd like my book to be one of those. 
I'm always curious about those books (remember Fifty Shades of Grey?) and feel the need to read them to see what all the fuss is about.
The Art of Fielding is one of them. It's everywhere. 
Well, I tried, really I did. Mostly because it came highly recommended by a cousin whose opinion I value. We have very different taste but this sounded like one we'd agree on.
Wrong. He loved it. I can't imagine why. 
I liked the beginning - enjoyed getting to know Henry, watching this unlikely kid turn into the baseball phenom at his school. I love rooting for the underdog. But that (shockingly) turns out to be the smallest part of the story. Henry starts to (SPOILER ALERT!) slump. And not just a teeny slump but an industrial-strength slump which unfortunately didn't seem believable to me and frustrated me so much that I didn't want to read more about it.
And at the heart of this book is a really icky relationship (ANOTHER SPOILER) between the college president and a male student. Not icky because it's a homosexual relationship, but icky, icky, icky because he's the DAMN COLLEGE PRESIDENT. Wow, am I the only one who finds this offensive?
It could work (but doesn't) if there was anything vulnerable about either character that gives you any understanding about how they could let that happen. They're not even likable, making the relationship even more sleazy and repulsive. Sorry, I just don't want to read about that.
I read 54% of The Art of Fielding (according to my Kindle) and I just don't care what happens to any of these characters.
I'm truly puzzled what people see in this book. Especially my cousin who's a sweet, kind of conservative guy who likes romantic comedies. This does not compute. 
Sorry, Harv.

December 12, 2012

Enter to Win a Copy of My Book

There's a giveaway on Goodreads to win a copy of my book. Just CLICK HERE. Ends on December 17th.

December 10, 2012

The Next Big Thing

What's the next big thing? A new iPhone that starts your car and automatically calls your mom on her birthday? A chocolate mousse cupcake that speeds up your metabolism so you drop a pound every time you eat one?
Okay, no...none of the above.
The next big thing is humbly called The Next Big Thing Blog and I've been invited by author friend Randy Richardson to participate in this game of literary tag. Cute idea, right? And we all know that I'm a publicity whore so I'm jumping right on this bandwagon.
The idea is to answer ten questions and then tag other authors to do the same, and so on and so on. A chain letter, right? But all for a good cause: getting out the word about our books.
So, here goes. And be sure to scroll all the way down to meet my five author friends.
Oh, and be sure to read Randy Richardson's book Cheeseland, a heart-warming coming-of-age story about a road trip to (where else?) Wisconsin.

1. What is your working title of your book?
What More Could You Wish For 
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
Life! See number 9 below.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Contemporary fiction, women's fiction, Chick-lit, fantasy, science fiction...okay, I'm getting carried away, but the first three are accurate. Put my book in whichever category you like - just read it.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Diane Lane for Libby, Ed Harris for Michael and George Clooney for Patrick. I never really pictured Clooney as I was writing - I saw someone more like a younger version of Kris Kristofferson - but when they make the movie...well, it's Clooney who I want to thank me for giving him the role of a lifetime. I'll accept his thanks graciously.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Fifty-year-old Libby Carson reconnects online with her high school sweetheart on the same day her significant-other proposes.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My book was published by St. Martin's Press in August of 2012.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took about a year to write the first draft but then it took seven more years to make it (nearly) perfect.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I don't compare my writing to Elizabeth Berg's or Anna Quindlen or Jonathan Tropper but if you like their books I believe you will like mine.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The journey to publishing my first novel What More Could You Wish For was a long one. It began in 2002, at the end of a failed marriage that should never have happened. It followed the death of my father in January 2000 and within the year I had sold my house, got married, quit my job, moved...I was the poster child for what not to do when you're grieving.
When the marriage failed (within the year) I began writing about it. And the thing about fiction is you can make things turn out the way you wish they had.
While the story is inspired by events in my life, it is not an autobiography. When I started writing it Libby and I were very similar but as I went through the revising process Libby became her own person. The similarities: we both live in the Chicago area, we're both runners, we both have sisters. The differences are vast. Libby's much younger, she has better hair, she's luckier in love.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The story takes place in Chicago so there are scenes in many familiar sights; Macy's State Street and Garrett's Popcorn, among others. And with so many people connecting with former flames via social networking, the story is a familiar one to lots of folks, and relatable.

So now, allow me to introduce you to some of my favorite author friends who have terrific books that you need to read:

I'm so happy to be able to call Susan Breen a friend. I read her book The Fiction Class some years ago and just loved it. And now, as a published author, I've had the opportunity to connect with other authors through any number of networking ways and (lucky me!) Susan is one of them. What a treat!
If you're a writer you must read her book because you'll really relate to it, and if you're not, read it anyway because it's delightful and you'll relate to the wonderful characters.
When Susan's not writing she's teaching writing for Gotham in New York. If I lived there I would definitely be in her class.

Michael Burke is a new author friend. He's a friend of Randy Richardson's and in fact I just met Michael via email about fifteen seconds ago. It's not been easy to find people who have the time to keep this Next Big Thing Blog going so I'm happy to have found him, and any friend of Randy's is a friend of mine.
Michael has a book titled What You Don't Know About Men which I haven't read (since I just met him) but I love the title. (I'm going to resist making cracks about how short this book must be.)

Shelle Sumners is my sister. My publishing sister, that is. She and I share a publisher, St. Martin's Press, and an editor, Brenda Copeland.
I first met Shelle when we were asked to do a Twitter chat together, courtesy of It was frenetic! There were three authors and people throwing questions at us. Just try keeping up with that. But it was great fun. And what I learned about Shelle is that she's very quick, very clever and very funny.
Knowing that, you'll want to read her book, Grace Grows, which is not only an engaging read but it also comes with a soundtrack, written and performed by Shelle's husband. A family affair.
It's been a joy getting to know Shelle.

Amy Nathan is another sister (what a great, new family I've formed!). She and I also share St. Martin's and Brenda Copeland.
Amy is a wonderful writer but she's also the queen of promotion and networking, and not just for herself - she's the most generous friend and promoter of other people's work.
Amy has not only written a wonderful debut novel called The Glass Wives (pub date: May 2013) but she's got a terrific blog, Women's Fiction Writers, (where she so graciously interviewed me) and writes for numerous other publications including The Huffington Post. 
Whew! It wears me out just thinking about all that Amy does.

Then there's my friend Patricia Ann McNair who wrote the amazing book The Temple of Air. I'm in awe of Patty's talent. Her writing is so skilled, so gorgeous. The Temple of Air is a collection of connected short stories. If you're looking to read something light and breezy this isn't the book, but if you're looking to read something powerful, gritty, honest, and beautifully written, don't miss it.  

Last but not least is Bree Housely whom I recently met when we were part of Local Authors Night at one of my favorite bookstores: The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square.
You wouldn't think someone as young as Bree would have much to write about in a memoir but you'd be wrong. Her book We Hope You Like This Song  is a poignant, honest and witty memoir about her best friend who died at age 25.
Bree, who likes to say she was not named after a French cheese, is a charming new author whom I'm sure we'll hear more from.