Monday, November 29, 2010

The Boyfriend of the Month Club (+ a Giveaway!)

I'm THRILLED to welcome my wonderful friend and fellow contemporary women's fiction writer Maria Geraci to Brant Flakes today!! Her latest release, The Boyfriend of the Month Club, is a book I've been long waiting to read...and I'll finally get to on December 7th, when Amazon delivers to me the copies I pre-ordered ;). I won't be the only lucky one, though... One person who comments on Maria's guest post (anytime between today and the book's release next Tuesday 12/7) will win my second copy, and I'll send it to that person along with an individual serving of the new Starbucks VIA Christmas Blend!

Publishers Weekly wrote about the new book: "Romance readers will revel in the Austen-perfect happy ending and the warm friendships among the members of the club." And below, Maria shares with us something that will entice us as well: Her mom's flan recipe!! Thanks so much for being here, Maria ;).


A few weeks ago I called out to some of my writing buddies asking for help in spreading the word about my upcoming novel, The Boyfriend of the Month Club. As usual, the warm and generous Marilyn Brant immediately emailed me back. So first off, I’d like to thank Marilyn for hosting me on her blog today. Thanks, friend!

I’m very excited to be here talking about my new book. Those of you who write, know how much love, hard work, sweat, tears, and more love go into writing a novel. It seems like we empty our very souls out onto the pages and hope that we’re able to elicit the same emotion in the reader that we had while writing the book.

The Boyfriend of the Month Club is a story about Grace O’Bryan, a thirty-year-old single woman living in Daytona Beach, Florida, who after going on the ultimate date from hell, decides to turn her dwindling book club into a boyfriend club, where women “critique” the men they’ve dated, comparing them to classic literary heroes and villains. And yes, there’s a Mr. Darcy and a Mr. Wickham and a Mr. Rochester, and well, you get the point. One of the best parts of writing the book was the research. I had to go back and reread many of the literary classics I referenced. I know, what a hardship, huh?

The other best part of writing the book was the fact that my main character, Grace, was half-Cuban (I’m Cuban-American, so this was especially fun for me!) Grace comes from a warm and slightly quirky Cuban-Irish family that along with the women of the club, make up the cast of secondary characters in the story. I love writing secondary characters. They can say and do things that your main characters aren’t allowed to. Without a doubt my favorite secondary character in the novel was Grace’s Cuban grandmother, Abuela.

Like my own grandmother, Grace’s abuela is a smart, loving woman who only wants the best for her family. There’s a scene in the book in which she teaches Grace to make flan. If you’re not familiar with flan, it’s a custard-like desert. The recipe Grace uses is my mother’s own recipe, which uses cream cheese and gives the flan a bit of a cheesecake taste. It’s easy to make and absolutely delicious. It also makes a perfect holiday desert! Here’s a bit of a scene from the book that leads up to Grace making the flan and the recipe itself.

Abuela managed to keep one eye on the screen and gaze at Grace at the same time. “What’s the problem, mi amor?”

“I need to apologize to someone. I was thinking maybe a nice card or—”

“Man or woman?”

Grace hesitated. “Man.”

“Flan,” Abuela blurted. “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. When your abuelo Pedro was courting me, my mother used to make him flan. He couldn’t resist it. Make him a flan and he’ll throw himself at your feet.”

Grace didn’t want Joe at her feet, but maybe Abuela was onto something…

•1 -8 ounce cream cheese
•1 tsp vanilla
•1 can 12 ounces evaporated milk
•1 can 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
•½ cup sugar + 2 cups of sugar for the syrup
•5 eggs
•Pinch of salt

Combine all the ingredients (except the 2 cups of sugar) in a blender and set aside.

In a large skillet melt the 2 cups of sugar over medium/high heat until the sugar completely melts into a syrup. Pour the syrup into a baking pan with a circle in the center (like a Bundt pan) making sure to cover as much of the pan’s surface with the syrup as possible. Let it set for a few minutes. Carefully pour the liquid egg mixture in the pan over the set syrup. Place the pan inside a larger pan filled with an inch of hot water (a baño de Maria ) and place the whole thing in a 350 degree oven. Cook for 35-45 minutes until set. Let cool to room temperature and chill well. Before serving, let the chilled flan sit out on the counter for about 20 minutes (so the syrup warms up a bit), then turn onto a plate letting all the syrup drip over the custard. Serve and chill any leftovers.

If you’d like to find out more about my books, the awesome contest I’m running or if you have a book club and would like to register for a freebie packet of goodies, please visit my website at www.mariageraci.com. You can also find me on my Facebook page.

Thanks again to Marilyn for hosting me here today. You’re the best! {{HUGS, Maria!! The pleasure was all mine!}}

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Weekend in Valpo!

This past weekend was the 2nd Annual Valparaiso Book Club Road Trip! Sarah, Joyce, Karen and I trekked from northern Illinois to Valpo, Indiana to visit with Karen's parents (Karen's mom Gloria is pictured left and looking very lovely in green ;), to go pottery shopping at a favorite spot, and to join Gloria's wonderful book club. This year, they graciously read and discussed Friday Mornings at Nine...and even held their gathering at a local coffee shop! Below are a few more photos (and I made sure to get a close-up of the delicious pastries). Ladies, many thanks to ALL of you for such a fun weekend!!

In other news, I was up until after 2am last night trying to satisfy my seemingly insatiable desire to Facebook surf. The urge was quite accidentally triggered. The name of an FB pal and book reviewer I like popped up when I was visiting the fan page of one of my former universities. I had no idea we'd gone to the same college until then, so I checked out the other people who'd "liked" the page and scanned through my friend's site, too, to see if she and I had any mutual acquaintances. What I found stunned me.

Turns out my friend is also FB friends with someone I'd long ago dated and had no idea what happened to in the past 20-something years. I'd never thought to look him up on Facebook (and, no, I'm not going to friend him now...I don't need to behave like my characters ;), but I was glad I came across his page, however unintentionally. It was -- in his case -- a bit like an unsolved mystery for me. I had no idea where he lived now or what he was doing, and even though we aren't official FB friends (and I don't need us to be -- LOL), I could glean enough to know that he was doing all right. And I was happy to see that.

He's someone I remember spending a very memorable college Thanksgiving meal sitting next to and bickering with (as was our habit) for about 2 hours. We argued a lot in general, but that night it was all about what attitude we should to take toward the holiday. The history of Thanksgiving isn't unflawed, but I do think nothing beats getting to take a day once per year and give thanks for the blessings of friends and family. I am so grateful for all of you. Thanks for visiting me here and for being a part of my online (and sometimes offline) life.

Happy Thanksgiving on Thursday to all who celebrate it and, to everyone, everywhere, best wishes for a wonderful week!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday Sun-Times!

It's a new week and ohhhh, my, Thanksgiving is SPEEDING toward us! Can't you just picture that plump turkey racing in our direction on those chunky little legs? (I imagine Nikes on the bird's feet and a rather frenzied expression on his face...) I'm going to be in and out of the house over the next couple of weeks for various in-person family and friend events. Likewise, I'm going to be all over the web through the end of the month, too, popping back into my Brant Flakes home to say 'hi and how's it going' before dashing off again ;).

Some things that are going on: Yesterday, an interview I did with the Chicago Sun-Times was posted in the Sunday paper and online! The link to the web version is HERE. It was such fun to open up to the Books section and see the article there!

This week, I'm a guest at the Cherry Forums Book Club to discuss Friday Mornings at Nine. Wednesday, I'll be visiting my sisters at the Girlfriends Book Club to blog about some favorite Hollywood films. Friday is my fourth and final post in my relationship series on Spirited Woman for 2010. And this weekend is a road trip I'm taking with three good friends to Indiana for a second book-club visit with the wonderful women of Valparaiso! Really looking forward to that...

What are you all doing this week or next? Any pre-Thanksgiving celebrations? Events coming up that have you driving or flying long distances?? Wishing you all a fabulous week!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In Celebration of Fond Memories, Lovely Reviews & Pumpkin Ice Cream

Just a quick hello on this bright and sunny Tuesday morning! I'm blogging over at Austen Authors today about memories of a trip to England my hubby and I took once upon a time...

And, I just read a very thoughtfully written review of Friday Mornings at Nine over at Write Meg's blog. I loved the whole thing (!!), but I wanted to share this section here:

"But this isn’t a novel about infidelity. Before you’re turned off and click away, screaming, this isn’t a book full of cheaters — and there’s no tidy synopsis for Marilyn Brant’s latest novel, a carefully crafted, entertaining and yet philosophical look at love, marriage and family.

Brant, author of 2009′s According To Jane, masterfully writes on the intricacy of female friendship. In Friday Mornings At Nine, we’re dropped into an inner circle of women who have spent years forging their bonds of trust — but still remain skeptical of opening their hearts too much. Who hasn’t felt that way? That our inner lives are something to be guarded, something to be protected, even with close friends?

That’s what struck me most about this novel: how well Brant understands the complexity of women."

I'm sure you can see why I loved reading this :). Thanks so much, Meg!

On another note, a friend emailed me yesterday with talk of ice cream (really, it's an all-season topic for us, not limited to summertime -- LOL), which reminded me that we tried Edy's slow churned pumpkin ice cream for the first time this weekend. I wasn't sure I'd like it but, ohhhh, YUM! I'm a huge fan of cinnamon ice cream, too. What about you? Favorite seasonal ice cream flavors? Do you like the Thanksgiving ones or are you holding out (like my husband) for holiday peppermint?? Do tell...

Wishing you all a fabulous fall day!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Book Club Fun & the Spirited Woman

Pictured: Michelle, Evelyn, Jeanne, Gayle, Brenda, Julie, Me and Dina

This week, I had the pleasure of joining a wonderful Chicago-area book club for a delicious lunch and conversation about Friday Mornings at Nine (and we discussed lots of other topics, too ;). This group is wonderful company, and I've been fortunate to visit with them two years in a row now. Thanks so much, ladies!

Today, I'm back at the Spirited Woman blog talking about "The Secrets We Keep" -- my second in a four-part blog series I'm writing for them about women and relationships. (This one is about women's fantasies and their secret crushes...) I hope you'll stop by and see me there! Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!!