Kids – got to love the little blighters.

Because it’s summer and those with kids have them underfoot more right now, I thought this was appropriate. Plus I have a friend who just gave birth. Welcome to parenthood, Nichol!

 

We’ll start with a funny video about those with kids and those without.

 

If your darling little one is prone to tantrums I suggest learning to speak their language. Or at least mimic it and make a funny video.

These dads nailed it.

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This dad wins for best facial expression sync.

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And once  you’ve made it through the all of that? You get a brand new TEEN!

 

Happy Friday!

 

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Honorary Chick – Esi Sogah

Pops Sogah 1Can we get a KickAss round of applause on this one, as we welcome Senior Editor for Kensington Publishing Corporation, acquiring for Kensington and the Zebra, Lyrical and Dafina imprints. Say hello to Esi Sogah. For her sins, Esi is also my editor on the Willow Park Romance series. I think she needs another round of applause, just for putting up with me.

Esi, tell us a little about yourself.

I was born…OK we can skip ahead. I’ve been in publishing for about a decade(!) now, beginning my career at Avon Books. There I worked mainly on historical and paranormal romances, and helped spearhead the launch of Avon Impulse. In 2014, I joined the Kensington publishing family, working on romance (mainly contemporary), mystery, and fiction. I’m a huge theater buff and a recovering TV addict. I’ve never learned how to say no to potatoes and I hope I never will.

What are the top three mistakes authors make in writing and submitting their work?

Too much exposition—I know you hear this all the time, but nothing will drag the pace of a book down more than too much exposition. More subtly, stating a character’s emotions but not showing them play out. It keeps your reader at a distance and if that emotional connection isn’t there, the book isn’t going to work for them.

Lack of research—look into the house and the editor you’re submitting to. Make sure your work is something that fits with what they’re doing. If you can’t tell, that doesn’t mean don’t submit, but don’t say “I hear you’re looking for YA” if you have no idea if that’s true.

Ground your characters in reality—even it a choice advances your plot, make sure it’s something a character (especially your heroine) would actually do in real life. So if you’ve got a romantic suspense novel about a stalker, the heroine shouldn’t be okay with having a virtual stranger in her home just because you and your readers know that he’s the hero.

Now for some fun! Rapid Fire Questions:

Favorite Things: Candy, Musicals, Naps
Pet Peeves: Slow walkers (true this, she route marched me around NYC recently), writing that’s in love with itself
Addictions: Candy, Musicals, Naps J Also British TV mysteries

Kick Ass Superpower: Making people laugh at inappropriate times

Your best book boyfriend:

  • For the night: Sebastian from Lord of Scoundrels or Colin Bridgerton from Romancing Mr. Bridgerton (or, in the immortal words of the internet, why not both?) – I’m with Esi on this, why not both?
  • For a dirty weekend: Silas Smith (Blood of the Wicked by Karina Cooper)
  • To have and to hold: Sydney Carton (A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)

Thanks so much to Esi for being with us today. Any questions for her, please post in the comment section and we’ll give her a nudge to get back to you.

Tips from the Chicks

A.S. here with this week’s Tips from the Chicks. I know, I know, I was supposed to make a video. It never happened and I’m ashamed. What I do have are some awesome Italian recipes that are not difficult to do and will make your mouth water and your toes curl. Next time I promise I’ll make a video. What I do have is some great pictures from our honeymoon where we attended a six day cooking school.

The trick to great Italian cooking is to keep if fresh and simple.

 

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Andie at the cooking school in Tuscany

Basil and Olive Pesto

Calamata Olives – 8

Black Olives – 8

Grape Tomatoes – 5

Garlic Cloves – 2

Basil – 10 fresh leaves

Olive Oil – 3 to 5 Tbls until desired thickness

Salt and Pepper to taste.

 

Place olives, tomatoes, garlic and basil in a food processor and chop for ten seconds. Drizzle olive oil into processor bowl while running until pesto is formed. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

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Hubs at the cooking school in Tuscany

Parmesan Tortilla Chips

Olive Oil – ¼ cup

Dried Oregano – 1 Tbls

Black Pepper – ½ tsp

Tortillas – 12 (I use flower but corn will work great too)

Grated Parmesan Cheese – 1 cup

Salt – ½ tsp

 

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil. In a small saucepan whisk together the olive oil, oregano and black pepper. Warm it over medium heat and set aside until cool. Brush the oil mixture over the tortillas on both sides and stack them. Cut the tortillas into strips and arrange them on the pans. Sprinkle with the cheese and salt. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

 

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Some of the food we cooked in Italy on our honeymoon.

Pasta with Blue Cheese and Prosciutto

Pasta (Tagliatelle or Fettuccini) – 1 pound

Blue Cheese – 1 cup

Milk – ½ cup

Prosciutto Ham – 1 cup

Olive Oil – 2 Tbls

Salt if needed. (Be careful because both the prosciutto and cheese are salty)

 

Chop the prosciutto. In a large saucepan lightly saute with the olive oil. Add the cheese and milk and heat until the cheese is completely melted. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water as directed on package. (maybe one minute less since you’re going to finish it in the sauce) Add the pasta to the sauce and coat the pasta. If it’s not wet enough add a little pasta water to thin out. Serve hot.

 

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What you find at a Tuscan farm market!

Zucchini Sauce with Penne

Zucchini – 3 or enough to make 2 cups diced

Tomatoes – 2 cans diced

Fresh Basil – 6 leaves

Garlic – 1 clove chopped small.

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Olive oil – 2 Tbls

Grate Parmesan.

 

Dice the zucchini into ½ inch cubes. Add olive oil and zucchini to a large sauce pan and saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic and tomato and saute another 3 minutes. Add in the basil, salt and pepper and let bubble gently until the flavors combine. It only takes a few minutes. Cook dry penne pasta as directed on package and add to the sauce. Mix together until pasta is coated. Serve hot with Parmesan cheese on top.

 

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The view from the vineyard.

Chippino (Italian Fish Stew)

Garlic – 5 cloves whole

Olive Oil – 4 Tbls

Onion – ½ chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

Red Pepper Flake – ¼ tsp

Diced Tomatoes – 2 cans

Tomato Paste – 2/3 can

White Wine – 1 cup (dry)

Fish Stock – 4 cups

A Firm Fish like Cod – 2 Filets

Large Shrimp – 16

Muscles – 1 dozen

Clams – 1 dozen (Canned can be substituted)

 

Put the garlic in a large pot with cold oil and brown the garlic on both sides. Remove the garlic. Season the fish fillet on both sides with salt and pepper and brown in pot 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove and set aside. Salt and Pepper the cleaned and shelled shrimp and add to pot cook for 2 to 3 minute until pink. Remove and set aside. Add the onion and saute with salt and pepper until translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add white wine and scrape any bits off the bottom of the pot. (Deglaze) Cook for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol. Add red pepper flake and tomato paste and combine thoroughly. Add the tomatoes and fish stock and simmer 20 minutes. If your muscles are fresh add them and let them open in the sauce. If they are frozen follow microwave direction and add them after. Add clams (If fresh let them open. Cut the cod into 1 inch cubes and add with shrimp. Let everything simmer for a few minutes just to make sure all the fish is warmed through. Serve hot

 

You can add a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil to the top and some Parmesan if you wish.

 

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Profiterols

Milk – 1 cup

Butter Unsalted – ¼ pound (1 stick)

Kosher Salt – Pinch

AP Flour – 1 Cup

Extra Large Eggs – 4

Heavy Cream – ½ cup

Chocolate Sauce

Caramel Sauce (optional)

Vanilla Ice Cream

 

Preheat the oven 425 F.

In a saucepan, heat the milk, butter and salt over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Add the flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and forms a dough. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for two minutes. The flour will begin to coat the bottom of the pan. Dump the hot mixture into a food processor with the steel blade. Add the eggs to the bowl and pulse until eggs are incorporated and mixture is thick.

 

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag or zip-lock and cut a ½ inch hole in the corner. Pipe mounds 1 ½ inch wide and 1 inch high onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a wet finger press down the swirl at the top of each mound. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned, then turn off the oven and allow them to sit for 10 minutes. If you tap them they should sound hallow. Allow them to cool.

 

Slice open the puffs, fill with a scoop of ice cream and drizzle with sauces.

 

 

 

 

Chasing Fire – Dedicated to Hotshots and Smoke Jumpers

Screenshot 2015-07-20 20.11.12Do you have a book you re-read every year? Year in and year out, around this time, I pull out Nora Roberts Chasing Fire. This story of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect forests, homes and people. The hot shots and smoke jumpers detailed in this story inspire a case of hero worship in me. They live fast, love hard, and are deeply loyal to each other.

The story is well told and has not just one love affair, but two. It takes a lot of attention to detail to weave two love stories, a terrific cast of characters, and action and adventure together. And to do it with the kind of accuracy into the daily lives of these firefighters, is a monumental feat.

In 2013, after the Yarnell Hill Fire, where 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots perished, I read this book twice. And cried all the way through it both times. For that, I decree this a book that kicks ass!

Well done, Nora Roberts. This book is among the top ten of my all time favorites.

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Blurb

Little else in life is as dangerous as fire jumping. But there’s also little else as thrilling—at least to Rowan Tripp. Being a Missoula smoke jumper is in Rowan’s blood: her father is a legend in the field. At this point, returning to the wilds of Montana for the season feels like coming home—even with reminders of the partner she lost last season still lingering in the air.

One of the best of this year’s rookie crop, Gulliver Curry is a walking contradiction, a hotshot firefighter with a big vocabulary and a winter job at a kids’ arcade. And though Rowan, as a rule, doesn’t hook up with other smoke jumpers, Gull is convinced he can change her mind…

But everything is thrown off balance, when a dark presence lashes out against Rowan, looking to blame someone for last year’s tragedy. Rowan knows she can’t complicate things with Gull—any distractions in the air or on the ground could be lethal. But if she doesn’t find someone she can lean on when the heat gets intense, her life may go down in flames.

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Flying the Friendly Skies of Southwest Airlines

Today’s post is in honor of our traveling Chicks. Several have journeyed to NYC for RWA National Conference. They’ve been Kicking Ass in the city that never sleeps. I only hope they had flight attendants half as fun as these. These guys really know how to start a trip off right. Mr. Gemma thought I was crazy as I was laughing my way through these clips. Enjoy and think of us next time you take to the skies for a trip.

Where ever your travels take you this summer, I hope you’ll find laughter along the way.

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New Series: Tips from the Chicks

New Series: Tips from the Chicks

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Kyra here to introduce our next blog series. While we were sad to see our Flash Fiction series “What if you Fly” come to an end, the chicks and I are changing it up a bit for the next few weeks to offer a glimpse into our daily lives. And what better way to do that than to offer you some “Tips from the Chicks.”

See, away from our keyboards and author mugshots photos, we’re seven normal chicks who share a lot in common with many of you. Well, okay–normal miiiiight be stretching it a bit for a few of us. LOL  But at the end of the day, we’re pumping our own gas and cooking our own meals just like everyone else. (And some of those meals aren’t even burnt to a crisp.)

So kick back and enjoy these homespun tips as you get to learn a little bit more about the KickAss Chicks.

Tip #1: DEADHEADING (aka FLOWERBED REVIVAL)

When asked to come up with a “tip” for this series, I instantly bowed out of anything to do with cooking. I may make a mean bowl of cold cereal, but that’s nothing to write home about. Nor do I have any indoor helpful Heloise-worthy hints. I was, however, dubbed Martha Stewart at our last house by our neighbors because they frequently saw me out in the yard immersed in my flowerbeds.

Ah, landscaping–now there’s a topic I could write about all day long. Some days I do. But as you all have lives to get back to, I’ll keep this short and stick to the topic of DEADHEADING.

So what exactly is deadheading? No, it’s not a new horror series on HBO (at least, not that I know of. If you find out otherwise, let me know–I want my cut of the title idea profits). Instead, deadheading is actually a simple way to revive some of the plants in your flower gardens. Once blooms begin to wither away, simply take your pruning shears and snip off the spent flowers. For many flowering plants, this tricks them into thinking they haven’t yet produced a flower that will eventually go to seed. And since we all know reproduction makes the world go round, don’t be surprised if your plants soon begin working to generate a second (or third) batch of blooms.

Most annuals (the plants that don’t come back year after year, such as geraniums, petunias, cosmos, snapdragons, etc.) can be kept blooming all season long by deadheading, as can a number of perennials (the plants that do come back year after year, such as phlox, salvia, shasta daisy, coneflower, and delphinium). It may take some time before the new blooms appear, so be patient. It’s still far less expensive (and less back-breaking) to revive your plants than tear them all out mid-season and plant new ones.

Fresh and New

Started Out Fresh and New

Time to Snip

Flowers Spent, Time to Snip

I’ve got a short video clip below that shows me demonstrating this (while rambling to the camera and hoping my neighbors didn’t see me outside talking to myself. Again.)

So if your flower gardens are looking a bit spent, why not give deadheading a try? If nothing else, it’s a great stress-reliever to be had while outside becoming one with Mother Nature. Happy gardening, everyone!

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Lord of the Fading Lands ~ Fantasy that Kicks Ass!

 

lord of the fading lands coverI loved this book so much that I bought the other four as soon as I finished it. Now I just need to find the time to read them. Lord of the Fading Lands is infused with both sensual and deadly moments, and I could not put it down. Rain will break your heart over and over again, mending it each and every time. Rain is a King, he’s a shape-shifter and he has a broken heart. Ellysetta is nobody, but she’s his perfect match in every way. I have a feeling this series is just getting interesting. This one is a must read! And that is why this book Kicks Ass!

 

Once he drove back the darkness.
Once he loved with such passion his name was legend.

Once, driven wild with grief over the murder of his beloved, the majestic Fey King Rain Tairen Soul had laid waste to the world before vanishing into the Fading Lands. Now, a thousand yearslater, a new threat draws him back into the world—and a new love reawakens the heart he thought long-dead.

Ellysetta, a woodcarver’s daughter, calls to Rain in a way no other ever had. Mysterious and magical, her soul beckons him with a compelling, seductive song—and no matter the cost, thewildness in his blood will not be denied. as an ancient, familiar evil regains its strength, causing centuries-old alliances to crumble and threatening doom for Rain and his people . . .he must claim his truemate to embrace the destiny woven for them both in the mists of time.