May 30, 2010

A rose by any other name . . .

Character Names

I’ve very conscious of my character’s names. Especially now because I’ve read a critique partner’s manuscript without names in it. Just Hero, Heroine, etc. A little unnerving.

But I love naming characters. It’s like naming children. And I did name my children as my husband will tell anyone who will listen.

Jennifer was the name of the heroine in the first book I wrote. She had to have an Irish last name because she has red hair. I used O’Grady and her real father was a cop in Philadelphia. My father had many uncles who were cops there and if you get stopped by an Officer Redding in the City of Brotherly Love, I am probably related to them. But it won’t get you out of a tickt.

She isn’t my favorite heroine, but it’s the first book I published so it will always have a special place in my heart. Here hero was Sean. That’s a strong name. He was a strong, silent type so it fit. His last name, Guadette, is my mother-in-law’s maiden name. It’s French.

When my kids were younger I was involved in a Mom’s club. I used some of the kid’s names in my books. I asked the parents first, of course, and the character didn’t resemble whose name I used.

I have a manuscript called Blonde Demoltion. The heroine is Mallory Sage. This is the daughter of a good friend of mine. We’ve known each other since her Mallory and my son #2 were probably two years old. They are twelve now. The character Mallory’s hero is Trey. I have no Earthly memory of why I picked that name. But he’s McCrane, a good Irishmen. See a trend here?

Incendiary’s heroine is Chelsea. Remember On Golden Pond. Jane Fonda played a Chelsea and I really liked that name. I’ve kept it all these years and finally used it. James is her last name. I think that was one of those flipping through a phone book moments. Her hero is Jake, another strong name. Campbell is his last name. Uh, Irish?

Stone Feeney is a minor character who is a hero in another book. Stone. Probably Stone Phillips. I thought he was cute on television.

The best story I have is for a book that hasn’t been published yet. One of my favorites that I’ve written. Along Comes Pauly is a romantic comedy. The Pauly in the title is Paulo Gabagool Vincenzo. He’s Italian and from New Jersey where the story is set. Paulo is the name of a friend of mine’s, son. Paulo’s best friend in the book: Carmela Loschiavo. I needed a very Jersey Italian name for a character and once again I borrowed one from a friend’s child. He still bugs me about when the book will be published. (As if I have control over that.)

I don’t like when I don’t know how the name is pronounced. Aileen or Niall for instance. (Irish huh?). They don’t look like how they are pronounced. Neither does Sean, but for some reason that doesn’t bother me.

What do you think about character names? Have you ever read a book where you hated the character’s name?

Chris Redding lives in New Jersey with her husband, two kids, one dog and three rabbits. When she isn’t writing she works per diem for her local hospital. Her next book Incendiary will be out this year. It’s about a firefighter trying to prove he didn’t commit arson.

You can find me on the web:

May 27, 2010

A Day in the Life....

Today was an interesting and heartbreaking day.  First, my husband and I had to put our cat, nine years old, to sleep.  Two days ago, an xray revealed a mass in her abdomen.  Exploratory surgery showed that it could not be removed.  Instead of keeping her alive and in pain for a few more days, we allowed the vet to put her to sleep.  Juliette was a sweetheart of a cat, very loving and funny...because she was a typical scardey cat, jumping at every noise and running away from strangers.  But she loved us.

Now, for the interesting part:

So, I'm sitting at my computer, when I hear this noise and upon investigating, discover a teenager on his way to shcool has plowed through our fence, skidded down our driveway and left parts of the fence all over the yard.  The good news is that no one was hurt, but this is the second time in 5-6 years that a teenager has taken out this fence.....

May 26, 2010

Wednesday Chow - Strawberries and Cream Dessert

Sexy Cowboy Pictures, Images and Photos
This weekend in the US is the official kick-off of summer!  A lot of us plan picnics, gatherings or other group activities.  Here's a quick, but elegant looking dessert to take along.

Strawberries and Cream Dessert


1 (14-oz can) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1½ cup cold water
1 (4 serving-size) package instant vanilla pudding
2 cups whipping cream, whipped
1 (12-oz) prepared pound cake, cut into cubes
4 cups sliced fresh strawberries
¼ cup strawberry preserves


In a large bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and water. Mix well. Add pudding mix and beat until well blended. Chill 5 minutes. Fold in whipping cream.

Spoon 2 cups of mixture into a 4-quart round glass serving bowl; top with half the cake cubes, 2 cups strawberries and half the preserves and half the remaining pudding mixture. Repeat layers, topping with remaining pudding.

Garnish with additional strawberries. Chill 4 hours or until set. Refrigerate any leftovers, covered.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

May 19, 2010

Wednesday's Chow - Mexican Lasagna


1 jar (25 oz) spaghetti sauce
1 pound ground beef or turkey*
1 can (15 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
4½ tsp chili powder
6 (8½-in diameter) flour tortillas
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 350°F. Set aside one cup of spaghetti sauce. Brown ground beef over medium-high heat; drain off fat. Stir in remaining spaghetti sauce, corn and chili powder.

In a 13x9-inch baking dish, spread one cup of the mixture to cover bottom. Arrange two tortillas over sauce, overlapping edges slightly. Layer half the sauce mixture and 1/3 of the cheese over the tortillas; repeat layers, ending with tortillas (save last bit of cheese for later). Spread reserved one cup of sauce on top.

Bake 30 minutes, then top with remaining cheese and bake an additional 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.

Serves 8.

*For a meatless dish, substitute refried beans.

Anna Kathryn Lanier

Where Tumbleweeds Hang Their Hats

May 12, 2010

Wednesday's Chow - 24 Hour Fruit Salad

24-Hour Fruit Salad


2 cups seedless grapes
2 cups sliced bananas
1 can (20 oz pineapple chunks)
2 cups red cherries
½ cup mayonnaise
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 10-oz bag miniature marshmallows
½ pint whipping cream


Mix fruit, marshmallows and pecans. Whip cream until stiff. Fold into mayonnaise, then fold mixture into fruit. Mold into a 9x13-inch dish. Chill 24 hours. Cut into squares. Serve on a lettuce leaf or as a refreshing dessert.

Yes, I know, the picture has nothing to do with the recipe... but I thought you might like it just the same.  Though I think they're all too young for me.....

Anna Kathryn Lanier
Where Tumbleweeds Hang Their Hats

May 10, 2010

Guest Author - Emma Westport


I admit, I’ve been fascinated by the story of the ‘Mercer Girls’ ever since I first heard it. We’re talking 1864-1866. Travel was hardly a joy. Why would any young woman leave the paved streets of New England or New York for Seattle, a city that was little more than a mud hole carved into the hills of Puget Sound?

Well, maybe Seattle didn’t have much to offer but, in the years following the Civil War, it had one thing New England and New York lacked---men, single men, men with no wives to warm their beds.

Enter Asa Mercer  (pictured right). A bachelor himself, he traveled to New England hoping to convince women to ‘emigrate.’ Eleven ladies decided to go. Not a large number, true, but the arrival of any woman in Seattle was hailed as a triumph. Mercer was elected to the Territorial Legislature “…without spending a nickel, making a speech, or buying a drink of whisky or a cigar for anybody…” Buoyed by his success, he decided to try again. This time, he boasted, he’d bring 300 girls to Seattle!

Alas, it was not to be. From the beginning, his plans went awry. Mercer arrived in Washington D.C. to find the city draped in black. In the wake of Lincoln’s assassination, no one had time for his ideas on ‘female emigration.’

Undaunted, Mercer stuck to his plan. He was convinced he could get 500, no, 700 young women to Seattle. 700 women? Seattle was thrown into a panic. Where would they put them? Victoria B.C. offered to take a share but---American girls? Sent to Canada? No. Better just to keep what they needed and ship the rest to Oregon.

Mercer’s estimates, however, were beyond optimistic. The job market had improved. Salaries were up. There was no need to go 7,000 miles to make a living. Cartoons and editorials mocked the very idea. Jobs? In Seattle? Teaching was the only decent job for a lady. In a city full of bachelors, exactly who was having kids? Besides, sniffed the Springfield Republican, “It may well be doubted whether any girl who goes to seek a husband is worthy to be a decent man’s wife, or is ever likely to be.’’

(Seattle, WA, 1866)

Delays and financial problems also caused Mercer’s numbers to fall. In January 1866, when the S.S. Continental finally sailed, some of Mercer’s party were removed from the ship. Their fares had not been paid.

Only 47 marriageable ladies remained but that was more than Mercer could handle. A 10 P.M. curfew? The ladies laughed. No socializing with the officers? How absurd. And it was not just the ship’s officers Mercer had to worry about. Two young women fell for Chilean officers. Those gentlemen showed up to claim their ladies and Mercer grabbed a gun. No Chilean was getting on board unless it was over his dead body! The Chileans might have obliged but cooler heads prevailed. The Captain told the crying the girls he’d put them ashore next morning if they still wished to stay but, that night, with everyone asleep, the captain pulled anchor and quietly set sail---and so ended the argument.

In San Francisco, Mercer wasn’t so lucky. Eleven ladies refused to go on. What could he do? Nothing. Broke but determined, he sold personal property to get the remaining 36 ladies to Seattle.

Jobs and marriage proposals followed quickly. The ladies were happy. The men of Seattle were not. They’d paid Mercer. They expected wives. I still wonder what might have happened if the women who sailed with Mercer hadn’t stood up for him when half the men in town were after his hide.

Only one lady, Lizzie Ordway, stayed single. An educator and suffragette, she did so by choice. The others married, including Annie Stephens who married Mercer a week after arriving in Seattle. If history is to be believed, all the ladies led full and happy lives.

And the unmarried men of Seattle? Oh, well. That’s a story for another day.

Seattle picture from:

~Emma Westport

May 4, 2010

Wednesday's Chow - Raspberry-Mint Marshmallow Creme Dip

Today's recipe comes from Betty Crocker's little booklet "Easy Appetizers." This small cookbook has "over 20 great small bites to get the good times rolling."  With fresh strawberries, pinapple and kiwifruit available in the stores, I thought this would be a great recipe for Mother's Day brunch or a Graduation party....or just for fun.

Raspberry-Mint Marshmallow Crème Dip


4 oz reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)m, softened
1 cup marshmallow crème
1 container (6 0z) lemon low-fat yogurt
½ cup fresh raspberries
2 tsp chopped fresh mint leaves
15 fresh strawberries, stems removed, cut lengthwise in half
3 kiwifruit, each cut into 10 chunks
30 pieces (2-in) fresh pineapple


In medium bowl, beat cream cheese, marshmallow crème, yogurt and raspberries with electric mixer on high speed until smooth. Fold in mint.

Cover dip and refrigerate at least 2 hours, but no longer than 12 hours. Serve dip with fresh fruits.

Anna Kathryn Lanier
Where Tumbleweeds Hang Their Hats

May 3, 2010

Romancing the Palate (Guest Blogger: Rebecca Lynn)

Thanks so much to Anna Kathryn for letting me guest-blog here! I love a chance to talk about my process, my research, and the inspiring love stories I am writing. Plus, anytime I get to talk about food, I am ecstatic.  

As a consummate foodie (food-lover, Food TV fan, home cook, former professional cook), I am always amazed at the connection between food and sex. Think of the parallels between the language we use for sex and the words we use for food. Hunger, appetite, taste, succulent, spicy, hot, delicious. Confused about which is which? Me too. We kiss with our mouths, and eat with them (but if you know me, you'll know that I hope we don't do them at the same time... it's a saliva thing). When a man/woman smells or tastes appetizing, it's more of a turn-on, sexually, for their partner. Food and love are entwined.

This is, I think, what makes me want to write foodie romances.

The experience I have when eating excellent food is the closest thing I can think of that stimulates the same pleasure pathways as the sensual experience of an intimate encounter (on whatever level). I remember eating a hamburger at a bistro in West Yellowstone where I actually considered a food-gasm. The pleasure of the combination of flavors and textures was so well-balanced, it was the best thing I've had in my mouth in years.

See, even that sounds sexual, right?

The link between food and sex is (I think) intuitive. I love to cook, and I love to eat. I also love to write and read romance novels, so the attempt at writing foodie romances was also intuitive for me. People who know me think it is, anyway. Plus, I get to have an awful lot of fun doing it.

Here's what I do for research for my foodie romance novels. I eat. I cook. I go to restaurants. I take pictures of food. I read food blogs. I read food books. I read other foodie romances. And then... I write about food. I have written about food in many different venues--from restaurant reviews to recipe reviews to cookbook reviews to general food writing--but by far my favorite is writing about food as part of a love story.

Every experience I have with food, I try to use in some way. Why? Food is very sensual. You tend to experience it with more than one sense at a time. In fact, the process of eating engages all the senses. You see the food, you smell it, you hear the way it sounds (does it sizzle, does it crunch, does it crackle, does it slurp), you touch it, and then you taste it. You feel its texture in your mouth, you experience the way it splays across your tongue, or the way its flavor explodes between your lips. See what I mean?

Writing about food makes me more aware of my senses. When I write a scene with Jake (my hero) in the kitchen, I have to be more in his head in order to familiarize myself with his food than I do in almost any other scene I write, because food is very experiential, and it draws me right in. In my opinion, the purpose of a sex scene in a romance novel is to draw the reader into the emotional skin of the characters, and to experience their life more inside their senses. Food scenes do the same thing, for me. When I write about someone's experience with food, I am drawn completely into their senses. And I challenge myself to do that more in my food scenes, which makes me more likely to do it in other non-food scenes.

Try it yourself. You're working on an ms? Put your characters in the kitchen. Or in a restaurant, sharing an excellent meal. Make the food part of the love story. Write about their sensual experience with their food, and with each other. Come over to my blog (Romancing the Palate) this week and let me know how it went. I'm going to do some food writing myself this week, and post some food-writing prompts. Try it out; see how it feels. Maybe you'll join me (or have already joined me) writing foodie romances, too!