Saturday, January 31, 2009

January Giveaway Winners!

Just jumping in here quick to say "Congratulations!" to the winners of my "It's Seriously Still Winter" contest! Names were drawn this afternoon from all the people who commented on my blog since the re-launching my website, and the winner of the snowflake decorations plus the cocoa is:
The two other cocoa winners are:

Yay to all three of you!! And since I believe I know where you all live (*insert cackling and evil hand-rubbing*), no further steps are needed on your part. Expect prize delivery soon...

To all, my contests are just beginning for 2009! I'll be posting the details for the February giveaway (Victoria's Secret lotions :) in the next week. Plus, there'll be more Truffle Trivia and more free Girlfriends Cyber Circuit books. Looking forward to giving away new prizes but, mostly, I just love reading all of your comments. Thank you for those!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Truffle Trivia #1

So, I discovered these cute little 5-packs of truffles* this week, ate an entire box myself and thought, "Hmm. I need an excuse to give the rest of these away. Right. NOW." Result? My first trivia game. Question #1 is today's Truffle Trivia. Subsequent questions to follow in the next week or two (or until I no longer have these evil/delicious things in my house).

So, in this age of Internet access and information overload, I suspect a quick Google search, or simply an educated guess, will get the job done. A small box of truffles will be mailed out to the first person who posts in the comment section the correct answer to this question:

Today was once a release date for our dear Jane. (C'mon! You had to know it'd be an Austen question, right? :) Which of her books was published on this day--January 28th--and in which year was it published?

Good luck!

*Note: All five truffle flavors are tasty, but I'm compelled to put in a plug for the "Toffee Hazelnut Crunch." Just read this description: "Milk chocolate ganache and chewy nougat enrobed in milk chocolate, topped with hazelnut toffee." Yes! Enrobed ganache! Who thinks of this stuff? And why do I not have this job?!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Butterflies and Opiates

The absolutely lovely Nancy Parra--at her blog This Writer's Life--bestowed upon me the honor of a Butterfly Award this past week. The rules for passing it on are as follows:
1. Put the logo on your blog. (Yep. Look at the right-side column.)
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you. (Check. Thanks, Nance!)
3. Award up to ten other blogs. (See below. :-)
4. Add links to those blogs on yours. (Naturally!)
5. Leave a message for your awardees on their blogs.(Will, um, get to that, probably later...)

Since I had the pleasure of awarding some Blog Love to a few friends in the fall, I wanted to share this new and very kind award with a trio of wonderful writers I met for the first (but hopefully not only) time in San Francisco. The luncheon went by far too fast, but you know how you sometimes just like people instantly? For me, it was this way with Pam, Caryn and Robin. So, Butterfly Awards to you three! Spread them out as you will!

In other news, I've been on a quest to understand my deep and longstanding addiction to chocolate for many years. Not that I want to STOP the addiction, mind you, I merely want it to make full scientific sense. So, when I came across this piece of research in one of Dr. Neal Barnard's books (he's all about "understanding your fat genes" and things like that), I took notes. Literally.

FYI, Chocoholics: chocolate is the #1 most craved food ever (shocker...), followed by #2 other sweets, #3 savories like chips/pizza/meat, and #4 starchy stuff. Not only does it contain caffeine, it also has this amphetamine-like ingredient called "phenylethylamine" (or PEA), which works like an opiate. Apparently, in ERs, the docs use the drug "naloxone" to stop the effects of heroin and morphine because it blocks the opiate receptors in the brain and doesn't cause a narcotic high. When researchers presented this same opiate-blocking drug to serious chocoholics, it reportedly made the chocolate less appealing. After taking it, quote: "Chocolate becomes not much more exciting than, say, a piece of dry bread." Unquote.

Ha! Not that I'm advocating the use of opiate blockers or any other drugs but, c'mon. I would need to TRY THIS to believe it. We were at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in a nearby city last night and, let me tell you, pharmaceutical companies couldn't manufacture enough "naloxone" to block my desire for that dark English toffee... Sorry, Dr. Barnard. I'm throwing down the gauntlet on that one :-).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Going Green

Yeah, I decided to make a few color palette changes to my blog as well as to my website :). Thanks so much to all of you who visited the new site, offered advice, hunted down typos and weird coding things or simply sent encouraging words. I appreciated every bit of that help and support!

A few tidbits of news:

1. A HUGE whoo-hoo!!! to Lainey Bancroft on the release of her latest novella, ACTION & SATISFACTION! The premise is both sizzling and fun--check it out!

2. Many schools in our area are cancelled for tomorrow due to the subzero temps plus the freezing windchill. This kind of weather always makes me wish I'd relocated to California or New Mexico when I had the chance...and, I swear, every day I have fantasies of Maui. What about you? Anywhere you'd love to live during your least-favorite season in your respective climates? Or, have you found your perfect place?

3. Speaking of fantasies, I was sad to hear of the passing of Ricardo Montalban yesterday. I used to watch "Fantasy Island" (after "The Love Boat," of course) almost every weekend when I was a kid. The idea of there being a Mr. Roarke out there, with the power to fulfill anyone's wishes, was naturally intriguing. That fact that those fantasies were often paired with the moral, "Be careful what you wish, for you may get it," only added to its charm for me.

And, in keeping with my vow to keep this post shorter than the last, I'll end with this: Have a wonderful (and long, for many of you) weekend. Here in the States, a new Presidency begins. May it usher in only good things...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Website Launch, 100 Posts & January Giveaways

First of all, congratulations to...Lainey Bancroft on winning a copy of Brenda's book, JACK WITH A TWIST!! Yours was the name my 10-year-old drew from my pink Jane Austen bag this afternoon (yes, I really have one of those--thanks to the lovely folks at JASNA who make and sell things like this :). Lainey, please email me your snail mail address (marilynbrant@gmail.com), and I'll pass along the info to Brenda so she can send you her new book!

However, for those who entered and didn't win a book this time, I'll have other novels to give away soon (some from GCC'ers and others from special author guests), as well as little fun things to match the mood of each month. Why? Because it's my debut year and I want to celebrate...

I've been fortunate to know many of you for months--or years!--but even if you're new to my blog, I consider anyone who stops by, reads and comments to be a potential friend. And I've got to tell you, during times of stress, we need our friends. (No matter how naturally introverted we may be...) Getting a book published is a thrilling experience, yes. But, just like getting married or having a baby or being promoted or any other "good news" occasion, it brings with it a major life change and lots of new stressors. Some of them I anticipated. Some I did not. But I've been really, really lucky because when the world looked awfully messy--like during much of this week--I had friends to thank for their insights and emotional support. And since those of you reading this post care enough to be here with me for a little while, I'd like you all to know how much you're appreciated.

So, my January giveaway (the "It's Seriously Still Winter" contest) is a simple one: Anybody who leaves a comment on any Brant Flakes post from this one through the end of the month--specifically, by noon CST on Saturday 1/31/09--will be eligible to win some gourmet hot cocoa and a box of 12 glittery snowflake decorations. One person will win both items but there will be at least two others who'll win just the cocoa. Maybe more than two. I've been drinking a lot of cocoa this winter already, and I'd like to share the warmth...

I have a list of some of the other giveaways coming up on the "Contests" page of my website, which is a new addition. Actually, the website itself is new. The design is a change from the one I'd had for the past couple of years, and I've been able to include some exciting new features, like advanced reviews of my book! And a novel excerpt! Photos! Song titles! And, soon, I'll be able to put up the book's cover (I hope)! I've even got a newsletter group you can sign up for, which will have other fun things for you (target date for Issue 1, Volume 1 = sometime in February). And, eventually, there'll be more information on my 2nd women's fiction book, which I'm happy to say will be out in October 2010.

So, I hope you'll visit and you'll find the pages interesting and informative. I also hope if you find glitches or errors of any kind that you'll PLEASE let me know!! I'm new to designing (massive understatement) and have had some hilarious discussions with friends this past week. One went something like this:

Me: How does my Home page look?
Friend (surprised): I didn't know you were such a Chicago Bears fan.
Me: Huh?
Friend: The colors. They're all dark blue and orange. And, um, you can't see the text unless you highlight it...
Me: Really? I used mostly golds, reds and blacks. That's strange. I can see them all on my screen.
Friend: Well, sometimes different browsers are incompatible with a design program and there can be visibility issues.
Me: What do you mean by "different browsers"...exactly?
Friend (explaining patiently): Firefox. Internet Explorer. Safari. You know?
Me: Ohhh, right--I've heard of those. Mine's that Explorer one.
Friend: Yeah, well, you've a problem with Firefox, then. Unless you want your Author Message to be "Go, Bears!"
Me: Crap.

Yeah. So, let's just say I have LOTS to learn and am still not entirely clear on all aspects of CSS. However, I love, love, love being in complete control of the design and content, and nothing I've done lately has matched my delight in figuring out how to make one browser window open into another or how to make text change to a different color when the cursor passes over it. It's those little things...

And on that note, I'll add one final thanks--this is my 100th post (my 101st is going to be shorter!)--and I thank you all so much for reading it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Adding a Twist to the New Year

It's a leisurely season for the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, but today I've got a treat... I'm not only welcoming Brenda Janowitz, author of JACK WITH A TWIST and SCOT ON THE ROCKS (both from Red Dress Ink), but I'm excited we'll get to kick off the New Year with a book giveaway!!

Brenda puts her law experience to good use in her latest novel JACK WITH A TWIST (Engaging your adversary and other things they don't teach you in law school). She's a native New Yorker who attended Cornell University and, then, Hofstra Law School, where she was a member of the Law Review and won the Law Review Writing Competition. Upon graduation from Hofstra, she went to work at a law firm. She later left to pursue a federal clerkship with the Honorable Marilyn Dolan Go, United States Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of New York. Since her clerkship, Brenda has worked as a career counselor at two New York City law schools, where she published a number of articles in the National Law Journal and the New York Law Journal, among others. She and her husband live in New York.

Welcome, Brenda!

Can you tell us the premise of your latest book? JACK WITH A TWIST (Engaging your adversary and other things they don’t teach you in law school) is the story of Manhattan attorney Brooke Miller, who plans the wedding of her dreams, all while litigating the biggest case of her career...which just so happens to be against her perfect fiancé. Hilarity ensues. Really. Marian Keyes called it “a funny, sweet romance” and Carole Matthews said it was “[a]nother fun-filled page-turner from Brenda.” Ironically, I wrote JACK before even getting engaged myself!

What's one scene from this story you loved writing? The most fun I had was writing the scene when Brooke’s family met her fiancé’s family for the first time. There was just so much room to be funny, crazy and completely out there. Those situations are always so stressful, so it was fun to infuse that scene with lots of humor and heart.

Name 3-4 of your favorite musical artists/groups. Did you use any musical references in your novel? I love music, so it’s so hard for me to narrow this down! My all time faves would have to be U2, Stevie Wonder, and just about anything from the 80’s. As for musical references, that would have to be the playlist for Brooke’s bachlorette party: “You’re The One That I Want,” “Come on Eileen,” “I Want Your Sex,” and Brooke’s all time favorite 80’s song, “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off.” The soundtrack sets the mood for the party and all of the drama that’s about to unfold. (Ahh! We are of like mind when it comes to the sounds of the '80s. Bono. George Michael. Olivia Newton-John. It's all good! :)

What's your Writer Fantasy? For me, it would have to be that Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore snap up the movie rights and make JACK into a movie. They, would, of course, have to give me a little cameo role!

What's one piece of writing advice you've found valuable on your journey to publication? Keep writing! It’s so easy to get discouraged or feel like you don’t have the time to write. But like anything else that is important in life, you have to work at it and make the time for it.
 Edit! Editing your work is almost as important as the writing itself. Sure, you’re telling your story, but it’s also important to consider the way that you tell it. You want your writing to be tight, elegant and polished. It can only get to be that way through careful and thorough editing.
 Develop a very thick skin. You’re putting yourself out there when you write and not everyone is going to love what you do. But that’s okay! You’re not writing to please everyone out there. You’re writing because you have a story that you want to tell. So start getting used to criticism and then see tip #1—keep writing! (I so agree with you, particularly about the need to edit and edit again. That's absolutely been my experience, too.)

Do you remember the moment you had the idea for the book? How and when did that happen? I’ve always been a writer. In fact, that’s the reason why I became a lawyer in the first place—trying to find a career where I could write full time. But I’ve always had a real love for fiction, and I’d find myself practicing law and thinking about these fictional stories that I wanted to write. When I was invited to my ex-boyfriend’s wedding, my life slowly but surely began to resemble some of my favorite chick lit novels, and I said to myself, 'I’ve just gotta start writing this stuff down...' When I finished SCOT ON THE ROCKS, I just knew that Brooke’s story had to continue! Since both she and Jack are lawyers, I thought it would be so much fun to pit them against each other in the courtroom...all while planning their fairy-tale wedding. Thus the idea for JACK WITH A TWIST was born!

Name your top three guilty pleasures. Only three?! I have waaay more than three! But if I had to choose, I think that chocolate, bad reality TV, and shopping top my list. I could live without any one of them, but why on earth would I want to?? (Exactly. Especially the chocolate...)

Brenda, it was wonderful having you here! For all friends and visitors who read this, if you're interested in winning a copy of JACK WITH A TWIST, I'll be choosing a name from the list of people who comment on this post, and Brenda will mail a book to that lucky person. The drawing will be on Sunday at noon (Central Time), and I'll announce the winner by Monday morning.

Also, a heads up to all who stop by: This is going to be a year of many contests and giveaways. MANY. I have stuff lined up in my office, ready to send out to bloggers who participate. And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to mail fun prize packages to friends old and new. (Such a perk of this author gig! :) So, please, check back soon. I'll be giving out further details in the next week or two.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Return to Routine

Happy 2009, Everyone!

Sigh (heavy, but happy). I'm glad this "vacation" is over because, while it was quite nice, it was also extremely, almost constantly busy. This, I realize, is a mundane way of stating the truth, but it's a testament to how tired I am that I don't even want to try to think of a more creative way to express it. I'm just relieved to be back to normal--however relative that term may be.

Anyway, I went to the gym yesterday. I'm a regular there, which is not nearly as virtuous as it sounds. It's a small place and I know most of the staff, so I chat as much as I workout. Nevertheless, I do make an appearance several times per week and believe in benefits of cardio--a belief which almost equals my belief in the benefits of smooth dark chocolate. Well, or milk/white/fruit-and-nut-filled/whatever-other-kind of chocolate...

But I digress.

The gym was, not surprisingly, packed. And I knew it would be. I see it happen every year and always end up making bets with the staff as to when we'll be back to our usual (low) capacity. (See? I told you I spend a lot of time talking.) We agreed the majority of non-regulars would fizzle out by Superbowl Sunday. And while part of me acted a bit smug about the whole thing, the rest of me was sad. I want these people to reach their fitness goals. I want to reach mine (which are really more dietary than exercise-based--I've got that elliptical down). But true change takes so much more than merely "wanting," doesn't it? True change, at least in my experience, involves tolerating the temporary discomfort of doing something differently until the new way can be given a shot at becoming routine.

So, how much do I really want to tolerate the discomfort of a not-yet habit? And for how long? That's what I've been asking myself all morning.