Weekending wardrobe

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Getting ready to pack for my upcoming book tour for THE WEEKENDERS means lots of pre-planning. I’ll be on the road, with only a few days at home, for six weeks off and on. But it’s more fun this year, because I’ve recently lost over thirty pounds. Which means basically I’ve “been forced” to buy a whole new wardrobe–including smaller bras and Spanx. Hooray! When I’m home alone, slogging away on the next book, you’ll usually find me in my wardrobe of black yoga pants and tee shirt. But in public, especially when I’m on book tour, I try to look a little more presentable and put together–even if I’m only standing in the security line at the airport, or eating breakfast at my hotel.

That’s why I was so thrilled when my friend Rhoda at Southern Hospitality reached out to let me know about all the fun casual options available from Glamour Farms Boutique. Working with the fun crew over there, Rhoda asked them to send me some cute, packable outfits suitable for weekending and beyond. I was overwhelmed by all the choices–and the range of sizes available. Nothing is more frustrating than finding an outfit you love, online or in a shop, just to discover it’s only offered in sizes extra small to super skinny.

When that big shipping box from Glamour Farms arrived, it was like Christmas morning. Rhoda came over to my house this week and graciously helped me put together three different looks–although we could easily have chosen half a dozen or more outifts.

We had such a tough time deciding which looked best, we decided to poll her readers and mine. Please feast your eyes on all the options posted here, and vote for the one you thinks looks best on me. And as a reward for your assistance, we’ve got a fun giveaway–on Thurs. May 12 we’ll pick a commenter at random–and she’ll receive a $50 Glamour Farms gift certificate. But wait, there’s more! That same winner will also receive a gift bag of MKA’s favorite things, including a first edition copy of my new novel, THE WEEKENDERS, plus a bottle of OPI Strawberry Margarita nail polish, a Red Currant aromatherapy candle, a leather embossed WEEKENDERS luggage tag, and a DVD of BRIDESMAIDS, one of my fave chick flicks perfect for weekend viewing. But wait–we’re not done yet! My friend Lucy, at LucysInspired, who makes gorgeous hand-crafted jewelry from vintage prisms and architectural salvage, has offered to give away one of her beautiful necklaces, like the one I’m wearing with the Pretty Please tunic, to our lucky winner.

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I’m wearing the Keep the Faith tunic in coral.  How great does it look on Rhoda in blue?

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Pretty Please Tunic

The Pretty Please tunic has all my favorite colors. Cute, right?

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Lucy’s Inspired Necklace
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English Garden Top

The final look is the English Garden top in ivory and teal. What do you think?

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One more awesome thing before you go…Don’t you just LOVE the Glamour Farms clothing? Guess what? They have been kind enough to offer $10 off your order by using the Promo Code  RHODA3. (Offer excludes sale items) So click here to go over to their website and buy yourself something special.

A LITTLE BACK STORY AND CHANGE OF SCENE

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A LITTLE BACK STORY

 

The day after I turned in my (very late) manuscript for THE WEEKENDERS, which publishes May 17, I rewarded myself with a mani-pedi. My color choice for my toes was a happy coral called SHE WENT ON AND ON AND ON. Which was hilarious, and totally appropriate. Because once I get going on a book, I have a very hard time getting to the end. I write, well, on and on and on. And on and on.

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I have writer pals who say they can’t imagine writing a novel as long as 300 pages. Hah! I’m just getting wound up at the 300-page mark. At the 400 page mark I’m panicking, and as I approach 500 pages, despair sets in. Will I EVER finish?

Fortunately I have an editor with infinite patience and wisdom, who simply tells me that the story takes as long as it takes.

But she can also be ruthless when necessary. Which is what happened after I turned in my manuscript for my summer 2015 novel, BEACH TOWN. “The first 75 pages have to go,” Jen told me. She was right, of course. The first 75 pages weighed the novel down and made it too long to get to the hook—that irresistible dramatic scene that “hooks” the reader into wanting to know more.

Still, my heart sank. I loved those opening pages. They told the “back story” of my heroine, Greer Hennessy, an L.A.- based movie location scout who is the third generation woman in her family to work in the film industry. More importantly, they introduced the reader to Greer’s mother Lise, a has-been sitcom star who these days makes a living as an, ahem, “intimacy counselor”. Lise’s own mother, Dearie, had a short-lived acting career as a bit player, whose most memorable role was as an extra in a Cary Grant movie. After Lise’s birth, Dearie goes to work as a seamstress in a movie studio costume shop.

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Period headpieces at Western Costume

As always, I’d done plenty of research for BEACH TOWN, travelling to L.A., touring a movie studio, visiting Western Costume, which is the world’s largest independent costume company, interviewing seamstresses, movie people, and of course movie location scouts.

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Touring Paramount Studio

I did some location scouting of my own, visiting a 1920s-era bungalow apartment court that would provide the setting for Lise’s apartment, and later, an avocado farm in the mountains of the Central California coast, where Greer has a location shoot go very, very wrong. And of course, my friend Ki and I took a hilarious “homes of the stars” tour and ate at a Mexican restaurant that would become Lise and Greer’s favorite lunch spot.

I read up on the movie business, and even researched Cary Grant, my favorite Hollywood heartthrob, who, it turns out, might not have been as charming in real life as he appeared in the movies.

I really mourned the loss of those 75 pages, and all that back story. For months after the publication of BEACH TOWN, I thought about Dearie and Lise, and their story, and how their story contributed to Greer’s own story.

Eventually, I came up with a novel idea. Why not spin that story into a prequel to BEACH TOWN? Even though I was supposed to be working on my summer 2016 novel, THE WEEKENDERS, I just couldn’t let go of Lise and Dearie and Greer.

And that’s how CHANGE OF SCENE came to be. It’s a prequel novella, which means it’s shorter than one of my usual novels at only xxx pages, but there’s a very real, and I hope compelling story there.

Because of the shorter length, and the very short lead time I gave my publisher, we decided to make it available only for eReaders. It’s available in all E-formats, for Kindle, Nook and iBooks. I’m hoping my readers will find CHANGE OF SCENE an enjoyable read while they wait for THE WEEKENDERS to publish next month.

And in the meantime? I found another great nail color for my summer toes. It’s called SHORT STORY. No, really!

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March Madness

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Potato Broccoli Cheddar Soup

March in Atlanta can mean sunny days with temperatures in the low ’80s, or miserable, cold, rainy days in the 40s. You just never know. This morning it was cold and rainy, and I’m so ready for spring, it made me really mad. And chilly. While out running errands, I stopped at one of my favorite lunch spots in Midtown Atlanta, Metro Fresh, which specializes in made-from-scratch soups, sandwiches and salads. I had a great bowl of potato broccoli cheddar soup, and it was so good I decided to make my own version for our dinner–and in the process I made enough to share with my daughter Katie, who was feeling tired and run-down. Soup for the soul, right?

Here’s what I came up with. I started by browning some bacon, but you could totally make a vegetarian version of this by skipping the bacon, and using vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth I used.

LOADED POTATO BROCCOLI CHEDDAR SOUP–makes 6-8 servings

2 slices bacon, roughly chopped

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 cup carrots, sliced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 small onion, diced

1 Tbsp. minced garlic (I used the bottled kind)

2 Tbsp. Wondra flour

salt and pepper to taste (use salt sparingly!)

1 cup whole milk or half-and-half

3-1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth

3 cups roughly chopped broccoli florets

4 small baking potatoes

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Greek low-fat Greek yogurt.

In large heavy-bottom soup pot brown chopped bacon in a bit of olive oil. Add carrots, onions, celery and garlic, along with rest of olive oil and butter, and cook until vegetables are softened–6-8 minutes on medium heat. While that’s cooking, pop baking potatoes in microwave and cook on high, about 8 minutes. Let potatoes cool, peel and rough chop. To saucepan with vegetables,  whisk in Wondra flour, add half and half, stirring well. Add chicken broth, stir well. Add the broccoli florets and cook on medium heat, covered, about 8-10 minutes, until broccoli is softened. Add in potato cubes and stir well. Cook another five minutes or so, until all vegetables are softened. Turn off heat and using hand-held immersion blender, blend soup, leaving some chunks. Turn soup on low, add the cheddar cheese and the Greek yogurt. Stir until cheese is melted. Garnish with chopped chives and serve with cheese toasts.