Authors in Bloom Blog Hop!

Dianne Venetta_AIB Logo_2015

It’s spring, and love is in the air…along with pollen! I love gardening, and when I had to move overseas I thought I’d lose my gardening kick, but it’s in full swing! To celebrate digging in and getting my hands dirty, here’s a cute cupcake idea from Oh Cupcakes! Bake chocolate cupcakes in mini-terracotta flower pots, frost, sprinkle with crushed chocolate cookies and garnish with green fondant leaves in all shapes and sizes. Aren’t these adorable?

(courtesy of Oh! Cupcakes at http://www.ohcupcakes.net/decoration-sugar-sprouts.php)

(courtesy of Oh! Cupcakes at http://www.ohcupcakes.net/decoration-sugar-sprouts.php)

Spring looks DELICIOUS. Just like those sweet cupcakes, I have a new sweet series launching this month. These cupcake-sized romance novellas are sure to tempt you. Watch for ONE SWEET SUMMER to release on April 28th in the Melody Anne “Anderson Dynasty” Kindle World.

Love by the Numbers

ONE SWEET SUMMER kicks off the rest of the “Love by the Numbers” series coming to you each month this year. (Love by the Numbers series includes: One and a Half Regrets, Two Weeks’ Vacation, Three Little Words, Four-Footed Matchmaker, & Five Days in Paradise)

And here’s a little something else to celebrate. I’ve got THREE great ways for you to win.

One determined woman. One stubborn vet. (5)

First, follow me on Amazon for your chance to win a free copy of my latest HOT romance release, DOUBLE DOG DARE. This offer only runs until April 13th, or until all copies of the book have been awarded.

Second, you can enter to win a $10 Amazon giftcard via rafflecopter (for all your gardening and cupcake needs!):
a Rafflecopter giveaway

THIRD, we have a terrific Grand Prize. Leave a comment below telling me which “Love by the Numbers” cover you like best to be entered in the BLOG HOP GRAND PRIZE:  a Kindle Fire or Nook (winner’s choice) along with a 2nd prize of $25 gift card. Only those visitors who visit EACH and EVERY stop are eligible for the grand prize e-reader and gift card. Eligibility will be verified by hop’s end. Winners will be posted on both the first (Dianne Venetta) and last  (BloominThyme) websites.

Don’t forget to check out these other stops:


Fall into Romance Hop & GIVEAWAYS!

Ahhh…Autumn! Whether it’s the crisp smell of apples or the crunch of leaves underfoot, fall is definitely my favorite time of year. It’s the special time of year where long summer days fade into cool evenings spent in front of the firepit cuddling with my favorite honey.

And nothing suits my mood better than a brand new batch of cupcakes to celebrate the season.

Those of you who follow my romance know that I am a bonafide cupcake FREAK. In fact, each of my hot romances features an original recipe for tempting treats in the back. So, in honor of fall, I’m featuring my favorite S’mores cupcake recipe and a new giveaway with the Sexy Scribblers.

Behold…the S’mores Cupcake!

S’mores are the perfect dessert to enjoy by the fire–but even if you can’t strike a match, you can fan the flames of desire for this chocolatey-marshmallow treat in cupcake form! (Pssst…Want more delicious recipes and good stuff? Subscribe to my VIP Newsletter!)

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Sorry for the horrible photo cropping. But don’t they look deliciously toasty?!

But before I hand out the recipe at the bottom, here’s the fantabulous Rafflecopter giveaway from the Sexy Scribblers. The Scribblers are a group of authors banded together to write traveling stories that you can enjoy for FREE. And just to give you a little something to keep you warm, we’re offering a load of free books for one lucky winner! a Rafflecopter giveaway

And, just because…I’m ALSO personally offering a $5 Starbucks gift card as a personal giveaway! Because, what goes better with cupcakes than some delicious coffee (or Coffey?)

Starbucks-5-gift-card

Two steps to win my personal giveaway, 1- Subscribe to my VIP newsletter AND 2- Comment below with “Done”, “I’m a member already” or “Not interested, thanks” and tell me what beverage you plan to get with the gift card!  I’ll be announcing the winner on November 22nd, before Thanksgiving, because I am SO thankful for my readers!! Be sure to check back.

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**UPDATE**- My contest is ended. Congratulations to the winner, Rhianona!

 

Now for the cupcakes to keep you company with their ooey-gooey deliciousness on these cold Autumn nights. Or mornings. Or…lunch…because, ain’t nobody judging you.

S’mores Cupcakes – makes 24

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So cute on my kitchen counter!

Ingredients
Graham Cracker Crust
•1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 squares)
•5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
•1/4 cup sugar
•9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Chocolate Cupcakes (or use your favorite chocolate box mix)
•2 cups all-purpose flour
•3/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
•1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
•1 teaspoon baking soda
•1/2 teaspoon salt
•2 eggs
•1 cup milk
•1/2 cup canola oil
•2 teaspoons vanilla extract
•1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
•2/3 cup boiling water
Meringue Frosting
•6 egg whites
•1 1/2 cups sugar
•1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
•1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
 Instructions
Make the graham cracker crust first:
1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.
2.In a medium bow, mix together crumbs and sugar. Add melted butter until well blended and no dry crumbs remain.
3.Place 1 tablespoon of the mixture into each liner. Press the crumbs flat into the liner using the bottom of a small glass. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of chocolate over each crust. (Reserve remaining graham cracker crumbs and chopped chocolate to top the cupcakes before baking.)
4.Bake crusts for 8 minutes. Remove the pans and let crusts cool for at least 5 minutes before adding cupcake batter.
For the cupcakes:
1.After crusts are prepared, increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
2.In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3.Then combine eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add sugar and mix until combined. Then add flour mixture. Blend at low and then increase to medium. Beat for 2 minutes until blended and smooth. Remove bowl from stand and add boiling water. Gently stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Batter will be thin. Then let batter rest for 15 minutes and stir again gently before using. Fill liners with prepared crusts three-quarters full with batter. Sprinkle with reserved chocolate and graham cracker mixture. Bake about 16-20 minutes until done. Cool in pan for 5 minutes and then remove to a rack to cool completely.
Make the meringue frosting:
1.Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of a stand mixer. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water without letting the bottom of the bowl touch the water in the saucepan. Hold the handle of the bowl with an oven mitt while whisking the egg white mixture until the sugar is dissolved and the whites are hot to the touch… about 4 minutes. Then transfer bowl to the stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat the mixture, starting on low and increasing to high speed. Beat until stiff, glossy peaks form and the meringue has cooled, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the vanilla and whisk just to combine. Use frosting immediately.
2.Place the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with star tip. Pipe high swirls on the cupcakes and brown the meringue using a kitchen torch and serve immediately.
Enjoy!!
Source: Trophy Cupcakes & Parties! by Jennifer Shea, 2013
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Slut-Shaming in the Industry

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photo courtesy of Alisa Varner

I happened across a social media post from one my all time favorite authors that actually turned my stomach. The FB post was in response to a linked article about NPR’s lack of inclusion of her wildly popular fantasy novel, (one that I have purchased, and lent out and repurchased and reread–and which holds a coveted spot on my physical bookshelf )on their top 100 Swoon-worthy Romances. I adore this author so much, I dedicated my first historical fiction book (also NOT a romance) to her. It changed the way I thought about storytelling.

So what’s the trouble? Her luscious, ground-breaking fantasy novel wasn’t included in a list of top ROMANCES by NPR. (Click the link to see why not.)

Yes, you read that correctly. Her female-focused fantasy, which has an amazing romantic subplot, wasn’t added to a list of top romances. This lack of inclusion created hue and outcry from her fans with comments like “many romances don’t have any plot at all” and the charmer who asks “how dare you include something as trivial as plot in my spank bag material” and refers to romance “mindless fluff”.

Rabid readers…..please.

Can we stop with the genre shaming?

Seriously, folks. In an era where people get up-in-arms about slut-shaming, fat-shaming, gay-shaming, etc…why do we then feel the need to denigrate other fiction genres, simply because we don’t choose to read it? Do we really need to go here?

We have suffered through a time of the lowest literacy levels in America. As a relatively intelligent (I like to think) female, with multiple advanced degrees,  who writes and reads voraciously across genres, I’m offended that anyone feels the need to cut down one genre of books in order to make another superior. Especially not when in 2014, it was reported that one quarter of adults hadn’t read a single book.

Can we all just stop?

There’s room for all of us on the virtual bookshelf, folks, or haven’t you noticed?

Romance Writers of America, an organization that I have belonged to for many years, defines romance under these terms (my text formatting, btw):

Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.
A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.
An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

 

If this is the definition of romance according to the official industry standard in publishing romance, then why is anyone surprised to see there are books with romantic subplots being left off the list? Why the outrage? Why the backbiting comments to authors who work just at hard crafting highly successful (oh, wait, that’s right…romance accounts for over 50% of ALL fiction sales) novels?

 

I don’t complain when I don’t see Agatha Christie’s name on the NPR list of best romances. I don’t shake my fist that Tolkein is left out. I don’t concern myself with the fact that Stephen King’s name didn’t appear once on that list.

Books are books are books. Good books are even better. The fact that one doesn’t make a classified list for which it clearly doesn’t qualify doesn’t make it better or worse than any other book (or genre).

I don’t get it. Maybe it’s just me.

It’s not just me, is it?