Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

This will likely be my last blog post this year (unless something crazy-awesome happens to share with you guys). I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year! May you find lots of fabulous reads under your tree and may Santa bring you love and joy for your heart. I hope you get to spend time with your loved ones and friends, as I will be doing.

A peek into my Christmas...

When my kids were itty-bitty and thought ornaments were their play toys, I stopped using glass balls. Instead, my tree was decorated with homemade ornaments, memorabilia, red bows and colored lights. This year I decided to have three trees, including a grown-up one.

My pretty adult tree decorated in gold and silver and a splash of red.

This is what my big (and only) tree used to look like - bright colors and fun shapes.
And a purple angel tree for my office! What could be more perfect, right? That little candy cane hanging at the bottom? It's personalized for Alexis. =D

And since it's technically Foodie Friday, I have something else to share. Santa came early for me. Actually, his elves showed up in a truck at 8 this morning and The Man said, "That must be your stove." "My stove?!" I squealed. I hadn't been expecting it! I can't wait to bake cookies and cook Christmas dinner!
My old one cooked unevenly, baked even worse and wasn't a glass-top. I so missed the flatty I'd had for years before. And this one is a convection oven, too...which I'll be learning how to use.

Wishing you lots of smiles! See ya next year, lovelies!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Release Prep - Calling All Bloggers

I know the blog has been extremely quiet lately...though, with all the holiday chaos, I'm sure you haven't noticed. But it's true and it's mostly because I'm trying to wrap up as much as possible with Devotion so I can take a few days off for Christmas. And then - and THEN! - maybe start on a Shiny New Idea for 2012.

I still have lots to do for Devotion, though. I seriously can't wait for its release! You get all the characters you love plus some new ones and a wickedly awesome story. Yeah, I just said that about my own book. I can't help it. There's a lot to love about this one.

If you review books on your blog, Facebook page, Amazon, B&N, iBooks and/or Goodreads and want to be part of Devotion's release bash, please let me know. You could win a Kindle Fire just for doing what you do - read and write reviews.

A KINDLE FIRE you guys!

Email me at kristie (at) kristiecook (dot) com for details. Now. Do it. And please let your blogger friends know about it, too. Thanks in advance! You're the bestest!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Congrats to Bestie Author Friend Brenda Pandos

The Onyx Talisman, the final installment of The Talisman Trilogy by bestselling author (and my bestest author friend) Brenda Pandos, releases today! This is Brenda's best book yet, definitely a grand slam for the series. If you haven't read this series, you have no excuse. The first book, The Emerald Talisman is still FREE on Kindle!

About The Onyx Talisman:

"Alora looked back and the corner of her lip turned up. “It’s always darkest before the dawn, Julia. Good luck.”  Her words sent chills up my spine as she vanished."

Unrest stirs deep in Scotts Valley. Filled with uncertainty, Julia anxiously awaits Nicholas’ return. Phil, hurt and unsure of his place as a sober vampire, holds the pieces of Julia’s fragile psyche together, secretly hoping Nicholas stays away forever. Scarlett bides her time, plotting for the perfect moment to prove herself and earn redemption. But somewhere in L.A., Alora conspires to reclaim her talisman and strip Julia of everything she holds dear.

Little do they know, a war is coming and more than one vampire would like to see the Prince of Vampires overthrown. As more and more vampires show up from nowhere, addicted to her scent, Julia must pick her allies carefully before it’s too late. Can Julia bargain with fate? When the time comes, will she even have a choice? Find out how it all ends in this explosive grand finale of The Talisman Trilogy.

Where to Buy:
Barnes & Noble
Coming soon elsewhere!

Other info:
Publisher: Obsidian Mountain Publishing
Goodreads for Onyx:

Monday, December 12, 2011


I'm still working diligently on Devotion, hoping to get it wrapped up for the last round of critiques and the copy editor before Christmas so I can enjoy some time with the family. BUT, I wanted to share a couple of FREEBIE ebooks, including Promise!

That's right - Promise is FREE in ALL ebook formats!
And if you haven't read The Talisman Series by the awesome Brenda Pandos, get started now with The Emerald Talisman, which is also FREE! I just finished beta-reading The Onyx Talisman, the final book in the trilogy that releases this Friday, and it ROCKS! An excellent finale.
If you've read these but know someone looking for something good to read, please pass on the news. With everyone getting new ereaders, lots of peeps you know might be looking for some free and cheap ebooks.

And since I'm here running a shameless self-promotion, I just wanted to remind you that there are some great gifts plus PRE-ORDERS of Devotion at

Friday, December 9, 2011

Foodie Friday: Family Recipes

Christmas is the time for traditions and this includes traditions in the kitchen. Anyone who cooks (and even many who don't) have at least one recipe they make every year that has been handed down the generations. Whether it's for a pie, cookie, salad or entree, it's a family favorite and it just doesn't feel like Christmas without it.

My family honors its Portuguese heritage with a soup recipe that I make every year around this time. Kale is one of the primary ingredients and it begins showing up in the stores around Thanksgiving. My version of the soup is very hearty with roast beef, Italian sausage, chorizo and potatoes, along with the kale. Everyone who has ever tried it loves it. I've never heard one person say they didn't like it or even "it's okay."

So at Thanksgiving, my mom, my aunt and I were sitting at the table after dinner and Mom asked if either of us had made this soup yet this year. Then we got to talking about how she had been to Massachusetts once and was talking about the recipe with a cousin. When they delved into details, though, they realized they had two very different ways of making the same soup. And another cousin had even a different way. The recipe had come from the Azores from the same woman, but as it was passed down, each person apparently made their own tweaks.

My hearty recipe is similar to my mother's, I think - it's been so long since I've had hers and I may have made my own adjustments. But I know ours isn't quite like what my grandmother used to make - hers had less meat and didn't use chorizo, but linguica, a Portuguese sausage. Our cousins' versions had very little meat, but white beans. I remembered watching Emeril Lagasse make it once on TV and his was also different than ours, but more like our cousins'. Now, though, I see he has one similar to our recipe.

And what's even funnier, we've always called it "coivis" but I can't find that term anywhere on the Internet, spelled any kind of logical way. I know that's what Emeril called it, too, because that's what caught my attention at the time of the show, but now all his recipes simply say "kale soup." So even the name is being lost in the modern world.

How funny that everything, even our favorite hand-me-down recipes, change over time. Then again, you can have the situation I remember reading about one time:

A young woman was making a beef roast in the oven and she cut the ends off the roast before placing it in the pan. Her new husband asked why she did that because his mom never did. She said it was part of the recipe her mother gave her and that's how her mom "always did it." Curious, though, she asked her mother the reason for cutting off the ends and Mom said it was part of the recipe her mother gave her and that's just how her mom "always did it." So the young woman called Grandma and asked why she cut the ends off the roast. "Oh, well, honey, we had very small ovens back in my day. I had to cut off the ends so the roast would fit!"

So, even as some recipes may change drastically, others stay the same even when they don't have to because "that's how we've always done it."

Do you have any family favorites that have been handed down? Do you know if it's still the same as the original or has it been changed? Do you tweak recipes, even old family favorites, to give it your own touch?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Writer Wednesday - Jessica Bell

Sorry I've been a little lame here and haven't posted much but it's all for a good reason - Devotion! I'm trying to get it all wrapped up nice and pretty for you for the beginning of February. In other words, it's sucking up all of my creativity, focus and time like a literary vampire. I'll bless haunt you with my presence more often soon enough and I'll even be able to bring back Teaser Tuesdays with some clips from Devotion. In the meantime...

Today we have a special guest post from the fabulously talented Jessica Bell, whose debut String Bridge just released last month. Jessica has been a great online writer friend who has helped me with some sticky spots during Genesis and Devotion. I'm so excited for her new release and can't wait until I have some downtime to read it.

About Jessica:
Jessica Bell is a literary women's fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist. Her debut novel, String Bridge, is slated for publication by Lucky Press, LLC, November, 2011.

She grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s. She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for Hellenic American Union, Cengage Learning, Pearson Education, Education First and Signature Manuscripts. Jessica Bell's poetry and short stories have been published in various anthologies and Literary Magazines. A full list can be found on her website. Additionally, she has written various English textbook materials and is also a singer/songwriter/guitarist. Ms. Bell's experience as an Australian living in Greece has greatly influenced her writing.

Jessica Bell has a Bachelor of Arts from Latrobe University, where she studied subjects such as modern English literature, fiction writing, nonfiction writing, screenplay writing, editing and publishing children's literature, myth and ideology, and 18th-century romanticism. 

About String Bridge:
Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage--and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits.

Jessica's guest post:

One thing I’ve noticed since my debut, String Bridge, was released (and is certainly hard to ignore) is the fact that readers often assume the book is about me (or, in a few instances, accuse me of it being autobiographical). And you know what my reaction is on the outside? “Of course it’s not.” And I politely explain why. But my reaction on the inside is, “F%#@! This is ridiculous!”

So, in response to this epic “accusation,” and the frustration I’m feeling, I’m going to set a few things straight. Let’s start with this:

String Bridge is not about me.

So where do I start? Do I start explaining why there are so many circumstantial similarities between me and Melody, my main character? Yes, I will start with that. The truth of the matter is, it was my first novel and I was lazy. I wanted to avoid the mist of research; to write my first novel with the knowledge I already possessed. The answer, really, is simple …

  • I gave Melody my job … because I know my job inside out and have 7 years experience of it.
  • I gave Melody the aspiration to be a musician … because I’m a musician also, and can thoroughly describe how music makes one feel.
  • I gave Melody my location, Athens, Greece … because I know it like the back of my own hand. (Not to mention that it’s a really interesting city to set a story in!)
  • I gave Melody’s parents a home on a Greek island … because mine live on a Greek island and I also know that like the back of my own hand.
  • I gave Melody’s husband the same job as my partner … because I know what that kind of work entails from an outsider’s perspective.

Okay … what do you notice about these similarities? They have nothing to do with the story. They are just surface elements of character and setting.

Isn’t it interesting that readers think that because of these aspects, the novel is autobiographical? Because I can’t imagine the same reaction if I were living in New York, USA, and the book was set in New York, USA. It becomes pretty far-fetched when you think about it like that, doesn’t it?

Having said that, I think every writer puts themselves into every character, but the similarities come through in waves which depend on various factors, such as mood, while writing. For example, I’m as emotional and passionate as Melody is. I’m as cheeky as Tessa is. Depending on the circumstances, I can get as cold and aggressive as Betty and Alex, and as passive and timid and obedient as James. I can sometimes be as boisterous as Heather and as caring and generous as Serena. I can even be quite selfish at times, which I think each and every character in String Bridge is as some point or another, and so is each and every person on this planet at some point in their lives. There is always going to be a piece of the author in every single book they write. But this is a good thing. If it didn’t happen like that, then the books we read wouldn't sound very realistic, would they?

What do you think? Do you think it’s reasonable to assume someone’s debut novel is autobiographical? Why/Why not? Have there ever been any books that made you wonder if they were about the authors themselves? How would you feel if someone thought this about your work?

To read more about String Bridge and its accompanying all-original soundtrack, Melody Hill: On the Other Side, written and performed by the author, please visit: 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Foodie Friday: Holiday Treats

I love to cook, but I'm not much of a baker. I make birthday cakes throughout the year, but that's pretty much it. And those start with a box mix. BUT, Christmas time is a different story. It's the one time of year I love to bake. Which is good, because I make so many scrumptious cookies and treats, we'd all be 20 pounds heavier if I did this more often.

I have some old standbys that I make every year, many of which my late sister-in-law, who passed at the young age of 34, used to make for the whole family. So they're a tribute to Sheree.

Last year, though, I kind of hit a wall of boredom. And I realized it's because almost every single thing I made consisted of chocolate and peanut butter. Now, don't get me wrong. What better combination is there, right? Chocolate and peanut butter wins in my household every.single.time.

Lately, though, I've noticed a lot of turtle-type treats. For years, everyone in my house, including a nephew for the last two years, asks for a turtle cake for their birthday. I have two boxes of turtle brownie mix in the cupboard this very moment. When we buy refrigerated cookie dough, it's almost always the turtle variety. (Oh, yeah, I guess I do that kind of "baking" a few times throughout the year, but that doesn't really count.)

So this year I'm on the lookout for new recipes that aren't just chocolate and peanut butter. Apparently, caramel is also a fave in my house, so here are a couple yummies I think I'll give a go this year, although I'll start out with my own dough so I don't feel like I'm cheating. That's what the rest of the year is for.

Hmm...still sticking with that chocolate and peanut butter trend, just adding in caramel, too. I'll be making these (and will let you know how they are), but I'm still on the lookout for new ideas.

What are your favorite cookies and treats you make at Christmas? Any trends in your family? Care to share any recipes? Is your mouth watering just looking at those? Mine is! *Hands out napkins for the drool*