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Cover Reveal

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So, I’ve loved every single one of my book covers, but I’ve got to say… this one might be my favorite. Turns out that the cover designer had a little inside knowledge of fine dining, so I shouldn’t be surprised that he totally nailed the look and feel of the cover for The Saturday Night Supper Club.

Without further ado, here it is!

The Saturday Night Supper Club
Don’t you just love the dark colors and the food-forward design? I can just imagine how this is going to look on the shelf.

To add even more to my excitement, I’ve gotten permission to share the first few chapters of this book to the members of my mailing list months before it’s available on the retail sites. If you’re not already signed up, you can get in the loop here. We’re still in the copy editing phase, so as soon as I get the all clear, I’ll be sending those chapters directly to my subscribers’ inboxes. Keep a look out!

I’m also going to be sending out information on how you can get involved spreading the word as part of my book launch team, so if you’re a list subscriber and you think that’s something you might be interested in, watch your e-mail for the application. Or you can always email me directly. I love to hear from you!

New Book Reveal!

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It seems like a while since I’ve done one of these, doesn’t it? That’s why I’m so excited to share with you the title and the back cover copy for my newest book, The Saturday Night Supper Club, releasing from Tyndale House Publishers in February 2018.

This isn’t the cover (stay tuned for that reveal!) but it definitely captures the feel of the book beautifully. Here’s what the story is about:

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant. But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back … even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life–and love–outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

The Saturday Night Supper Club is the first book in a new series, set in my hometown of Denver, Colorado and filled with plenty of delicious food and romance… in my opinion, the very best combination. Stay tuned for the cover reveal, coming in a week or two. I can’t wait to share this story with you!

Guilt-Free Banana Breakfast Bread

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There’s something about February that always sends me to the kitchen. I don’t know if it’s all those pink and red packages in the grocery store or the cute little heart-shaped cookies or simply the fact that Colorado is in the dead of winter, but my sweet tooth tends to come out in full force this time of year. My whole-foods, low-histamine diet doesn’t really allow for candy or packaged sweets or processed anything…and while that’s good for my waistline, it’s not so great for sitting down with tea and something carb-heavy while I plan out my day each morning.

Cue banana bread. It’s perfect for breakfast or dessert, and this version is packed with organic, natural, unprocessed ingredients. My husband insists on calling it banana cake, but this has far more in common with dense, moist Boston brown bread than it does with the cake-like sliced loaves from Starbucks. I find this particular version a bit bread-like for dessert, but it’s perfect when spread with butter for breakfast, and it goes equally well with a dollop of jam or accompanying savory dishes like eggs. Or, if you’re feeling really fancy, I can picture it cut into small cubes and used in place of croutons with a beet and chèvre salad, à la my favorite salad at Fruition in Denver.

For this recipe, I’ve gone for the best quality, minimally processed ingredients I could find: unenriched organic white whole wheat flour and organic all-purpose flour (I use Wheat Montana and Bob’s Red Mill, respectively),  local raw unfiltered honey, virgin coconut oil, organic bananas, and organic cage-free eggs.

I’ve gone through several bunches of bananas this week tweaking the recipe, so I had to run to the store for more…leaving me with slightly underripe fruit. Perfect for eating, but not so great for baking. Normally, my oven comes to the rescue, and 30-40 minutes at 300 degrees will soften them to the same degree as a counter-ripened banana. This time, nothing I did would soften those bananas, and I ended up with banana chunks in the final product. (You can see them in the sliced photo below: at 11pm the night before the blog was scheduled, I didn’t have time for a do-over. This is what happens when you eat your experiments before they’re photographed.) I don’t care for the texture of cooked banana lumps, so I really recommend you wait and use the softest, blackest bananas you can get. The riper the banana, the more intense its flavor will be in the final product.

You can see the chunks of banana because I couldn't get the fresh bananas softened enough. Oh well. At least it still tastes good!
You can see the chunks of banana because I couldn’t get the fresh bananas softened enough. Oh well. At least it still tastes good!

When you mix all the ingredients together, the coconut oil is going to cool back to a solid pretty quickly, so you’ll want to work fast once you’ve added it. If your batter turns out to be more of a cookie dough consistency–mine usually does, depending on temperature and humidity–simply press the batter down into the corner with oiled fingers or a sheet of waxed paper.

Guilt-Free Banana Breakfast Bread
Print Recipe
This is a true chemically-leavened bread rather than a cake masquerading as bread, moist and lightly sweet. It's equally good alone or toasted and spread with butter.
Servings Prep Time
2 loaves 10 minutes
Cook Time
50 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 loaves 10 minutes
Cook Time
50 minutes
Guilt-Free Banana Breakfast Bread
Print Recipe
This is a true chemically-leavened bread rather than a cake masquerading as bread, moist and lightly sweet. It's equally good alone or toasted and spread with butter.
Servings Prep Time
2 loaves 10 minutes
Cook Time
50 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 loaves 10 minutes
Cook Time
50 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: loaves
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare one 4" x 8" loaf pan: if non-stick, spray bottom with cooking spray; otherwise, generously grease and flour bottom and sides of pan.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together first five ingredients. In a medium bowl, combine egg, banana, honey, and oil. Add flour and stir until just combined. Batter will be lumpy.
  3. Pour batter into the pan and spread to the corners. (If your batter has cooled too much, you may need to use your fingers or a sheet of waxed paper rather than a spoon.)
  4. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Bread should spring back when pressed and will have pulled away slightly from the sides of a pan. If using an instant-read thermometer, internal temperature should read between 190-195 deg F. Cool 10 minutes in pans, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool for another 20-30 minutes before slicing.
Recipe Notes

I've tested several variations on this recipe, and all are delicious, if slightly different. Using 100% whole wheat white flour will yield an even-more bread-like loaf, whereas 100% all-purpose flour will give you more of a cake-like texture. If desired, you may substitute granulated sugar for honey; increase amount to 3/4 cup. Substituting a liquid oil like sunflower or grapeseed will give you a slightly moister and easier to spread batter; however, I find better results with coconut oil when baking at altitudes of more than 3000 feet.

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How I’m Making Over My Life in 2017

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Some of you may have noticed that I largely disappeared from sight for the last couple of years, and the answer is a simple reason: life is crazy. There’s probably not a person out there that can’t relate to that statement. It seems that demands on time and energy grow every year, without any margin to rest and recharge. For two years, I reduced my activities to the minimum so I could deal with family issues and my own health: no travel, no blogging, minimal social media. For a while, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to return to traditional publishing. I’d been planning on going indie just to get some breathing space. That is, until I got connected with the wonderful folks at Tyndale House Publishers and decided I could have no better partner if I were going to keep writing fiction.

But that brings me to a 2017 that is even more jam-packed than the ones that came before. One book to edit, two to write…a platform to rebuild, a street-team to grow, publicity to plan. Not to mention a husband who works full time, teaches martial arts four nights a week, and is starting a business… plus two boys who have school (30 minutes from our house—that’s two hours a day in the car for me), therapy appointments, tutoring, and separate activities. Oh, did I mention that we have multiple health conditions and food allergies, all which require a slightly different diet?

I figured out years ago that I can keep exactly three things in my mind at any given time, and do two of them well. And those things are constantly rotating. It requires meticulous note-planning and note-taking, the tools for which always feel less than ideal. So this year I’ve decided to focus on three things:

Devising a planning system that works for me

I’ve tried everything: Blue Sky, Erin Condren, The Spark Notebook, legal pads, the Bullet Journal. None of them quite worked for me the way that I wanted them too. The problem is, I’m both structured and freeform— I absolutely must have a traditional visual calendar to figure out where I need to be at any given time, along with the space to take notes and jot down reminders. Normally, my desk ends up littered in sticky notes, which is probably the least efficient way to plan.

What I really need is a combination of the two: traditional monthly calendar and freeform notebook, with a clean, minimalist feel. I adore beautifully decorated and designed pages, but the thought of doing it myself gives me a panic attack. I facetiously told my friend that I’m going to invent the Mullet Journal: business in the front and party in the back. After she stopped laughing, she said, “That’s a great idea. You should make it…and blog about it too.” And since this person is part-friend and part-life coach most days, I’m gonna do it.

Meal planning — for real this time

Guys, if you know me, you know I love to cook. But I am a terrible meal planner. My idea of meal planning is wandering through the produce section to get inspired by the pretty, locally-grown vegetables. Really not the most sensible way to use my time or structure my week. I’m also just started a low-histamine diet, which introduces a whole new level of restrictions and difficulties, especially since I can’t precook anything and hold it in the fridge for use later in the week. But I have to have a plan, and because of both my requirements and my kids’ food allergies, picking dinner up at Chick-Fil-A is not longer an option.

So I need a relatively-affordable, mostly-organic menu, flavors that my children will actually eat (they’re not as enamored with ethnic food as my husband and I am), and things that can be quickly cooked from fresh ingredients or prepared, frozen, and then quickly reheated in a reasonable amount of time. Oh, and don’t forget that I’m crazy picky about my food and most of the “umami bombs” I rely on for big flavors are now verboten. Let’s just call it Meal Planning Impossible, shall we? Feel free to come along for the ride…or just lay bets on how long it takes for me to lose my mind. I’m thinking they’re even odds.

Paring down — big time

I’ve been running behind the minimalism train since I read two books in late 2014: The Power of Less by Leo Babuta and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. We have a fairly modest house, but we are people who like stuff. I tend to be a collector unless I keep those impulses in check. But all my things were suffocating me. The time it takes to maintain, organize, and work around all the stuff is time I’m no longer willing to spare.

So I’ve decided to board that train for real and get serious about some major paring down. Did you know that you actually don’t need thirty colors of Post-It Notes in your desk drawer? I know that’s a humorous example—after all, Post-It Notes just take a little bit of space—but multiply that mentality towards everything you own and it can become a serious problem. I’ve already cut my kitchen gear by two-thirds and I’ve gone to a year-round capsule wardrobe to simplify my closet. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. The final goal is to have the minimum that I need to live plus the things that I absolutely love and put a smile on my face every day. Life’s too short and time’s too precious to be sucked into the black hole of consumerism. This year, I’m opting out.

These are some big goals and big changes, but I’m willing to bet most of you are feeling the same need for a fresh start for 2017. If you want to play along with the big New Year Makeover, I’d love to have you. Leave a comment below about your 2017 goals and we’ll do this together!

 

Publication Update

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It’s been an eventful spring/summer, y’all! If you follow me on social media, you probably already know the big news…I just signed a contract with Tyndale House Publishers to write a three-book contemporary romance series!

Tyndale Signing

This is kind of a big deal, because… well, Tyndale. I’ve always admired their fiction program, particularly their contemporary romance and women’s fiction, so the fact that mine straddle the line between the two genres makes it pretty much an ideal fit. Plus I knew I wanted to work with their Associate Director of Fiction, Jan Stob, from our first conversation. Editor relationships are a big part of successful publishing partnerships, so I’m very excited about this one!

The unexpected bonus is that the entire MacDonald Family series has been acquired by Tyndale as well, including Under Scottish Stars, which was scheduled for release this summer. This third book will be coming, but it will be released at a later date once scheduling and formatting and repackaging has been completed.

In the meantime, you can look forward to the first volume of my new series in Fall 2017. Set in my beloved hometown of Denver, this food-centric book focuses on the romance between the chef-owner of a local fine-dining restaurant and the writer who inadvertently tanks her career. It’s fun to be back on American soil, but you can expect the same trademark romantic chemistry and delicious food that you got in my UK series… plus some fun glimpses of Colorado’s outdoor beauty and our thriving food scene.

Stay tuned for more details as they are available, and if you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter in the sidebar to the left. I’ll even throw in a free e-book to sweeten the deal!

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New Year…New Site…New Books!

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Happy New Year! Yes, I know I’m a little behind on the well-wishes, but it felt like 2016 came barreling in and hasn’t stopped yet. However, I’m so excited to share a few bits of news with you!

The first part is probably pretty obvious by now…check out this new website! Thanks to the design expertise of the talented Emily Carlin of Swank Web Design, my romance site got a much needed update. While there are still book pages for my fantasy series, at the end of the month, the Song of Seare will be getting its new and improved home at CELaureano.com as well. If you’re so inclined, take a moment to poke around and see how pretty it all is. 🙂

The second announcement is the big one… NEW SERIES ALERT! I’m thrilled to say that I’m expanding into the clean contemporary romance genre with a new series of novellas: Discovered by Love. Even better, I’m making the very first book in the series free to my newsletter subscribers. So, if you aren’t one already, sign up now so you can be among the first to receive the e-book!

Here’s a little bit about the first Discovered by Love novella, Jilted,  available January 19, 2016.

jilted

Three days. Two jaded hearts. One unexpected love.

Bethany Hall is hiding out on a remote private island off the coast of Belize, creating romantic meals for the rich and the privileged. But when her client Derek Moretti’s bride jilts him at the altar, he’s left with a bitter view on love, a $30,000 a week bungalow, and for the first time in his life, nowhere else to be.

After Derek overhears his beautiful personal chef talking about how he dodged a bullet when his bridezilla left him, he begins to think that maybe she’s right. He convinces Bethany to act as his personal tour guide for the remainder of his trip, but neither expect that their purely platonic arrangement could shake their preconceptions about love.

Could Derek have been in the right place at the right time…just with the wrong woman?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the site and the new book! Leave me a comment below!