travelToday I’m traveling home from a family Thanksgiving celebration in Virginia, but Southern Exposure will be back next Tuesday.

Meantime, I want to congratulate the winners of my 5 in 2013 giveaway.

Sharon, Chelsea and Lynn all won and received autographed copies of my five books that came out in paperback this year, Wedding Ring, Endless Chain, and Lover’s Knot, all reissues of my Shenandoah Album series. Also first editions of Somewhere Between Luck and Trust, the second of my Goddesses Anonymous series, and The Christmas Wedding Quilt, with co-authors Janice Kay Johnson and Sarah Mayberry.

Don’t forget that everyone who takes the time to give their opinion about my website (details here) will be entered in a new drawing for one copy of The Christmas Wedding Quilt. More than a dozen of you have already been remarkably generous with your time and insights, and I’ll let random.org choose a winner at week’s end.

Thanks to all.

Read any good books lately?  This may be a cliched  conversation starter, but I thought it might be fun to start that very conversation right here.

Now that I’ve moved to a new community and I’m meeting new people, I’m usually asked what kind of books I write. I find myself stumbling over an answer. My mystery series is easy to explain. Clerical cozy mysteries. But my other books? Not as easy. There’s something of a controversy about the term “women’s fiction.”  Women’s fiction seems to discourage male readers, among other things, although it’s a term I still use. I think it’s clear that while men will enjoy my work, for the most part my books are about women and appeal to women because of the issues raised and the fantasies explored.

The word fiction, too, works fine, although then people always want to know what kind of fiction, so in the long run I end up using some portion of that previous explanation anyway. (more…)

And the winner is. . .

And the winner is. . .

I’m delighted to begin 2013 by announcing a  contest winner.  Wanda, also known as commenter #14 on my Sunday Poetry blogs, just won an autographed copy of Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins, an ongoing contest for the read-poetry-along-with-Emilie crowd.

Wanda’s comment: “Emilie I love this weeks poem. It says play! Have fun and do not take your self too seriously. I carry paper and pen everywhere, you never know what you may see of hear. I write down snipits of conversation and observations because they may end up in a story or a poem or may be the inspiration I need on another day.”

Great comment, Wanda.  As always random.org did the honors.  And in a side note, the poem Wanda commented on was a Billy Collins poem.  Poetic justice?

I love giving things away.  Just to let you know there are more giveaways on my schedule this year.  I’m working out details now, and will make that announcement soon.

If you haven’t liked my Facebook Page, where news is updated daily and your comments are much appreciated, why not visit and do so today?  Or if you aren’t on my mailing list, sign up for my quarterly newsletter (a New Year’s resolution) to have news occasionally delivered to your inbox.  The first is right over the horizon.

Another New Year’s resolution is to update my website.  I’ve already had a cover photo taken since one of 2012′s resolutions was to find out what color my hair really is by forgoing highlights and other salon tortures, and the second was to quit fighting the curl since I was moving to Florida and curl was inevitable.  So my new PR photo is the “new” me.   Curly and grayer than I expected.  But my hair is so much easier to deal with.

I’m gearing up for a great 2013.  Most of our moving is finished now and I can hunker down in my study.  I’ve even heard my desk will be delivered this week, which is great since I’m about to toss the little temporary desk out my window.  I’m excited about finishing a novella and launching into the third book in the Goddesses Anonymous series.  I’m also toying with a Shenandoah Album idea that I can do directly as an ebook.  I’ll let you know more about that when it’s closer to reality.

Do you have big plans for 2013?  I’d love to hear them.  A heartfelt Happy New Year one and all.

Shhh. . . Don’t tell anybody, but I’ve just updated my website and added all new pages about the upcoming release of One Mountain Away.  You can find an overview, my inspiration, praise from fellow authors and reviewers, an excerpt, book discussion questions, even a recipe.  We had hoped to have an entirely new website to launch this book, but moving put quite a kink in that plan.  So my webmaster has updated my original site and will tackle the new one later in the year.  Meantime enjoy all the new content, with more to come this week.

And speaking of things to enjoy?  Don’t forget that my Seventy Book Giveaway, celebrating the launch of this, my 70th book, is still in progress.  It’s not too late to enter, but one entry per reader, please, and only North American addresses because of postage expenses.  Congratulations to Emily Murphy and Linda Sullivan, who won book packages this past week.

Since I hate limiting giveaways to North America, readers everywhere can enter another giveaway for a signed copy of poet Billy Collins’s new volume of poetry, Horoscopes for the Dead.    Rules for that one here.

I’m nearing the end of my first draft of the second novel in the Goddesses Anonymous series, Somewhere Between Luck and Trust, with my deadline a bit too close for comfort.  So back to those pages.  Don’t forget to return here on Friday for the next sneak preview of One Mountain Away.  If you’re ready for the real thing, don’t forget the book will be waiting for you on August 1st, at your favorite bookstore.

I’m always busy. You probably are, too. We zip from project to project, destination to destination. We multi-task and feel guilty we can’t do three things at once instead of two. We put memo pads beside our beds in case we remember something else we need to do in the middle of the night. We keep magazines or mail to peruse in the bathroom. We brush our teeth while we’re devising our next contribution to the Word game we’re playing on our iPhones.

My life’s been like that. But June? June was a new leap forward. In June we sold our house, tried to buy another, failed, divided our belongings into three categories, rented a 10′ U-Haul, contracted with a moving company, then proceeded to let them pack and store the Florida stuff while we moved the NY stuff ourselves. Oh, and in between?  I wrote whenever I could, answered email and tried to blog. In the middle of this?  Did I forget to mention the knee surgery and physical therapy? Or all the retirement celebrations for my husband who completed 39 years of ministry?

So it’s been a crazy, busy time, which is why Southern Exposure lagged. And frankly, I paid the price. For two weeks after arriving in New York, I was so exhausted that lifting one foot to put in front of the other was a challenge with no reward. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I wanted to stare into space and remind myself why we made these changes. I wasn’t mourning. I was just, well, tired of being busy.

I’m delighted to say that two weeks of limited activity has done the trick. I’m looking forward to finishing my book and enjoying life again in between chapters. I’m looking forward to finding another permanent home, and just as much to not having a deadline to do so.

But really, it takes a month like June to remind me how important it is not to be busy.

There was a wonderful editorial piece in the New York Times on the last day of June, which was symbolic for me. Tim Kreider in The Busy Trap tells us that people aren’t busy because they have to be (those who really must be complain of exhaustion, not busyness) but because they’re responding to their own anxieties and fears. I love his final line, “Life is too short to be busy.”

Life really is too short to be busy, particularly for a writer. How can we write if we don’t spend at least half our time filling the well? But wait, isn’t that true for stay-at-home mom’s, too? How can they be patient, thoughtful parents if they’re so busy running their kids from place to place they don’t have time to listen to them?

And isn’t it true for doctors, who these days don’t have time to listen or ponder a difficult diagnosis? Or the lawyer who’s so busy preparing multiple briefs and keeping track of billable hours he/she loses sight of the human side of the legal equation?

What about you? How does your “busyness” keep you from moving to a more thoughtful, values-driven life? What keeps you away from the things that really matter? I plan to spend July asking myself that question. But not while I’m doing a million other things. That would surely defeat the purpose. Maybe I’ll find some quiet places to sit and simply think about what I can let go of. That would be revolutionary.

How about you?

If you haven’t commented to enter my 70 Book Giveaway, you have until July 31st. Everything you need to know is right here. I’m delighted to say the first winner of  a package of five books has been chosen and contacted. Congratulations Beverly Silvestre, whose comment was chosen by random.org. The next winner will be chosen tomorrow. If you’ve already entered, sit back and enjoy the summer breeze. You don’t need to be busy again. You’ve done your part.

My best novels happen when ideas collide.  Take two seemingly unrelated but interesting situations, then watch them tango warily around each other until suddenly they’re dancing cheek to cheek, and the plot for a book has begun to form.

Today, as I was handling papers and packing books for my move to somewhere this week, the same thing occurred.  As I filed the book list my assistant had made for me, I decided to count the books I’ve written.  I discovered that One Mountain Away will be book number 70!

What a great way to inaugurate a new series.  My 70th novel.  If you’re tuning in a bit late, then you need to know that a number of those books were series romances, shorter than the single title women’s fiction I write now. Some were even novellas, of the 25,000 word variety. Some were cozy mysteries, again a bit shorter.

But 70 books is still a cause for celebration.

As I packed up what books are left in my study and wondered why I still had so many, I pondered exactly how I should celebrate this milestone. Then, of course, it hit me.

I should give away 70 of my backlist novels as a thank-you to all the readers who have through the years supported me, as well as to introduce newer readers to my older books.

I should give away the books beginning in July, leading up to the publication of number 70 itself, One Mountain Away.

See what I mean about good ideas?

So, today I’m announcing my latest and greatest book giveaway.

Beginning Monday, July 2, every Monday, Wednesday, Friday through August 2nd I will give away a package of 5 books. That’s fourteen packages of 5 books each to fourteen lucky winners. Each package will contain two of my “longer” series romances, two of my single title women’s fiction novels, and one novella in an anthology with other authors. Some of the books have been on my shelves for years, but they were all my author copies and never sold or read.

All books will be signed and one in each envelope will be personalized to the winner.  Add it all up?  70 books total.

How do you enter? 

  1. Comment on ANY blog here at Southern Exposure beginning today and tell us at least one reason you read my books or WANT to read my books.  One full sentence or more, please.  
  2. I will log only one original entry per reader, although you can comment as frequently as you like.  
  3. Your opportunity to comment extends from today through midnight July 31, but remember you can comment on ANY Southern Exposure blog during that time.  Just be sure your comment explains why you read my books or want to.  Other types of comments are always welcome, but won’t be considered entries.
  4. When notified by email that you’ve won, you must provide me with an address within ten days, or another winner will be chosen to replace you.
  5. Only one win per reader.   That means fourteen unique winners.
  6. North American addresses only this time.

Simple, simple.  And I’ll remind you to comment on every blog between now and then.

By the way, this will be my final blog from Virginia, and I’ll be on hiatus for a little while as we settle for the summer in Western New York.  But I’ll be back soon, relaxed and eager.  You can count on it.

I’m back from two weeks of searching for a new place to live.  We “think” we may have found the right spot, but so far, no house, so no announcement. Having the freedom to move anywhere we can afford is daunting and exhilarating at the same time. All those options!

Meantime, my wonderful friends are busily publishing books.  And many of them are giving away copies to lucky readers.  So for fun I thought I’d list a few giveaways to tantalize you.  What better way to find a new author to love? (more…)

First a big thank you to all who emailed or contacted me through my Facebook page to say that you had bought your copy of Sunset Bridge or were on the way to the bookstore to do so this week.  It was so gratifying to get that wonderful response, and I’m delighted so many of you are looking forward to reading it. 

A second big thank you to all the radio stations who have aired interviews with me in the past week.  I’ve done sixteen so far and have five more on my schedule.  What a great way to promote a novel without leaving home, and afterwards it was great to hear from listeners who now plan to buy the book.  Along with that, many thanks to the reviewers and writer friends who have interviewed me or reviewed my novel.  Both take time and commitment, which I appreciate.

A final big thank you to everyone who sent pie recipes, links or stories to be entered in the Great Pie Prize Giveaway to celebrate the Sunset Bridge launch.  It’s been such fun to read your entries, and I intend to publish more as the months go by.  Choosing the prizes for each box was delightful and took most of a year to finish.  Who knew there were so many fabulolus pie-related items?  Jigsaw puzzles, pie birds and pie top cutters.  Plus all those luscious cookbooks.

At the end of this blog I’ll announce our final winner.  In addition to the four pie prize boxes awarded in June, the grand prize is the choice of a Kindle from Amazon, complete with Wi-Fi and E Ink pearl technology, or the Breville Pie Maker from Williams-Sonoma.

First, though, a few more recipes.  This one sounds delicious, and while Pat sent me the recipe, I found a link to make it easier for you.  It’s for Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie from Southern Living.   Sounds like summer on a dessert plate to me.  Yum!

Judy sent me this one for an old standard with a twist.  She copied the recipe off a sewing forum years ago, but due to server crashes, the recipe no longer exists and she’s never been able to find it anywhere again.  I’m delighted she copied it when she could and is sharing it with us now.

A Different Kind of Apple Pie

(Judy says: This recipe is not your usual pie crust but it is just wonderful.) 

Crust:

1 ½ cups flour, ½ cup vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons milk (very cold) 1/12 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt.

Filling:

6 cups apples peeled cored and thinly sliced, ¾ cups sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg.

Topping:

½ cup flour, ½ cup sugar, ½ cup butter

Preheat oven to 350F

For Crust: In a large bowl, mix together, flour, oil, milk, sugar and salt until evenly blended. Pat mixture into a 9-inch pie pan, spreading dough evenly over bottom and up sides. Crimp edges of dough and perimeter of pan.

For Filling: Toss apple slices with sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread evenly in unbaked pie shell.

For Topping: Mix together flour, sugar and butter until evenly distributed and crumbly in texture. Sprinkle over apple filling.

Place pie on a baking sheet on middle rack of preheated oven, bake 45 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

And finally, from Cindy, a pie that will not heat up your kitchen if you use her final tip.  Cindy says this it first pie she makes every summer, and you’ll see why.

Pineapple Pie

1 box instant vanilla Jello pudding

1 8oz carton sour cream

1 8.5 oz. crushed pineapple, use juice

1 small container Cool Whip

Mix the dry Jello pudding mix and the crushed pineapple. Add Sour Cream. Pour into baked and cooled 9-inch pie shell. Top with Cool Whip, all the way to the crust to seal the pie. Chill and keep in the refrigerator.

Cindy uses a graham cracker pie crust so she doesn’t have to turn on the oven.  Sounds like a good idea to me.

Finally, our grand prize winner:  Jean from Florida sent a funny story about her pie making history that I included on my blog the week I announced the second giveaway winner.  She says she never did become a pie baker, but I guarantee she can bake a good tale for us to enjoy.  Now I hope she enjoys her choice of prizes because random.org chose her entry for the grand prize.  I’ll let you know which of the two possibilities she picked.  (Late breaking edition:  Jean chose the Kindle and it’s on its way to her.  Turns out she’s a quilter and an FSU alum, like me.  Go Seminoles!)

I have so enjoyed hosting this giveaway. I hope you’ve enjoyed the recipes and stories, and for the five winners, your prizes, as well.  Again, thanks to everyone who participated.  And don’t forget the women of Happiness Key are waiting for you in the final installment of the series, Sunset Bridge, available at last.

Today our fourth and final pie prize box heads off to one lucky contestant, and it includes the pictured cookbook from one of my favorite Shenandoah Valley restaurants among many other goodies.  Find out who won at the end of this post.

Sorry you missed the contest?  You didn’t.  Don’t forget there’s still the grand prize.   On July 1 I’ll choose the winner of an Amazon Kindle or a Breville pie maker, the winner’s choice as long as both are still available. 

Did you miss the rules?  You’ll find them here and here.  There’s still time to enter, and it’s both simple and fun.  Just think pie.  Winners are chosen randomly from all correct entries.

Last week I published favorite recipes, this week some of the stories I’ve received, with links to pies on other websites.  I’ll continue sharing the entries through July, even though the giveaway will have ended.  But we can never hear too much about pie.

From Lynda,  excerpts from her poignant giveaway entry with a link to her favorite lemon meringue pie recipe.

When I was 21, my husband and I moved into a home next door to my aunt in CA.    (She just passed a year ago at 93)    I was very pregnant with my first son.  My aunt would come over with a lemon pie and tell me that it would bring us luck and speed the labor.    It was the most delicious pie.    I did go into labor the next day and had a wonderful 5lb boy.    My aunt and family always remember  that wonderful pie and all the love that went into it.    It became a very special family tradition.     I try and make this pie and it will never taste like my aunt’s.   It was all the love that went into it.  My son would be 50 years next year.   He was called to watch over us.”

This entry from Francine came with a link to a beautifully presented Upside Down Apple Pecan Pie from the Just A Pinch recipe club. 

“This pie is the one my nana taught me to make around the age of 8 or so.  I’ve made it 100′s of time and it won the North Carolina State Grand Champion  slot !! I know Nana’s looking down smiling and hollering ‘that’s my girl.’ “

I bet she’s right.

And from Adam, a pie that I’m absolutely sure Wanda will steal for her shop.  Banana Foster Cream Pie.  Watch out,  Bonita Springs is right around the corner from Happiness Key.  He says:

“I am already thinking about what pies I will be making for the Bonita Springs 4th of July Pie Baking Contest. My head is spinning with thoughts of caramel, chocolate and coconut. No, no! Banana! Yes! Banana Cream!! Oh my, Banana Cream with Caramel!!! That’s the ticket!  So what happens if someone in Bonita Springs finds this recipe and enters it into the contest??!! Oh, dear! Back to chocolate, maybe caramel, how about some coconut…”

Adam, this looks like a winner to me, and nobody here will tell a soul where to find the recipe.

And speaking of winners?  The randomly selected winner of the fourth pie prize box goes to Dee, whose wonderful story about a kind grandmother was posted here two weeks ago.  Congratulations, Dee.  And next week, our grand prize winner will be announced.

Giving away prizes?  Almost as much fun as the entries I’ve gotten.  Today’s winner (you have to read to the end) receives the third of four boxes. 

Inside?  A porcelain pie bird (for venting pie crusts) and a pewter pie charm.  A signed copy of Sunset Bridge, a pie top cutter, a Wanda’s Wonderful Pies apron, Key lime pie soap, Key lime pie mix, Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts,  and a silly Florida watch to wear whenever she needs a trip to Happiness Key

And don’t forget when all the boxes are gone, there’s still a grand prize, the winner’s choice (depending on availability) of a Kindle or a Breville Pie Maker from Williams-Sonoma– with the results of the pie maker pictured here.

Did you miss the rules?  You’ll find them here and here.  There’s still time to enter, and it’s both simple and fun.  Just think pie.  Winners are chosen randomly from all correct entries.

When I was writing Sunset Bridge (at your favorite bookstore on June 28th) I needed the name of a new specialty pie for Wanda, and decided on Million Dollar pie.  Of course I had to check to be sure there wasn’t a Million Dollar pie in existence, and of course, there was.  My Million Dollar Pie then became Pie in the Sky.  This week Madonna entered the pie prize giveaway with exactly that pie, which she says has been passed around her church for ages.  Have you had this one?

Million Dollar Pie

8 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup Eagle Brand milk
1/4 cup lemon juice

Blend ingredients together until smooth. Then blend in:

1/2 can drained, crushed pineapple
1/2 cup pecans

Pour into baked pie shell and let
set in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Top with whipped cream which has been
blended with 1/2 can drained pineapple
and 1/2 cup pecans

Kay from Minnesota’s Raspberry Pie comes with a story attached.  I’m posting exactly as I got and enjoyed it.  What a summery treat this one is.

“To me, summer means fresh fruit pies, complete with whipped cream. My first attempt at baking a pie by myself was fairly dismal: my great aunt’s recipe simply said, “make a crust.” My aunt decided I needed more detailed instructions, so provided me with the following recipe. Her extra comments make me smile every time I pull out this recipe! And that is what family recipes are all about: cherishing old memories and making new ones.”

Raspberry Pie

Crust: Mix together 3 cups of flour and 1 tsp. salt
Cut in 1 & 1/3 c. of shortening
Mix together 1 tsp. vinegar, 1 egg, and 6 TBSP cold water
Add to dry ingredients

You can work the crust all you want and its not suppose to get tough. I can patch tires with mine.
Roll out, fit into a pie plate, and bake@ 425 for about 8 minutes. If you smell it burning, tooooo late!

Makes 3 single crusts. Refrigerate what you don’t use – it will keep several weeks.

Fresh raspberry filling (for one pie)

1 quart of fresh raspberries

Cook together until thick:

1 cup water
3/4 c. sugar
2 TBSP flour
1 TBSP cornstarch

When this mixture is thick, add one CUP of the fresh raspberries. Cook a little bit longer. Cool.

Place the remaining fresh raspberries in a baked and cooled pie crust. Pour cooked berry mixture over the top. Chill and serve with gobs of whipped cream and watch the hips grow!

And the winner of the third Great Pie Giveaway is JoAn, who sent this story about her daughter’s piemaking adventures.

“When my daughter was in 4-H, and the year came around for pies, she was given a blue ribbon in the initial judging. She got a phone call that afternoon asking where her pie was for final judging for champion etc.  Someone had “lost” her pie, so she wasn’t eligible for any higher awards, and it was a delicious fresh blueberry pie. next she entered the open pie contest the fair does every year for 4-H scholarships. This is open to anyone who wants to bake and donate a pie. She won it. Our local congressman bought her pie for $600. She had made a total of 6 pies by then, and won over many skilled, experienced bakers.”

I think it was no accident that blueberry pie disappeared.  I bet it ended up in somebody’s grateful tummy.  So glad your daughter went on to other honors, and she sounds like a great daughter to have.  Congratulations and enjoy your prize box.