Saturday, July 26, 2008

This Week's Thank You's and a Free Appetizer in August!

Thank You!

First, we want to recognize this week's authors, who each came
to the table with something unique:

  • Elizabeth, who brought Moon Pies
  • Xujun, who cooked sweet rice
  • Jeff, who poured us all ryes
  • Sandra, who kicked in the ice
  • And Nicola, who added the spice
Thanks, guys, for keeping us so well fed!

Free Appetizer

We'll be starting next month's Roast a little early so we can serve up a very special appetizer.

If you love books or children, char-broiled or not, then come by
Book Roast August 24 - 25 as we kick off the school year with "Reach Out and Read." This weekend event will spotlight the Reach Out and Read charity dedicated to giving books to children. Join the festivities we have planned around this worthy cause and find out what children responded when asked, "If you could write a book, what would it be about?"

Afraid you'll miss the event or the next Book Roast week? Scroll down the left-hand side of the page and sign up for our email list and/or RSS feed!

We'll be posting more about the event a little later, but here's what Reach Out and Read is all about:

Reach Out and Read is a national non-profit organization that makes
literacy promotion a standard part of pediatric care so that children grow up
with books and a love of reading.

Reach Out and Read trains doctors and nurses to advise parents about the
importance of reading aloud and to give books to children at pediatric check-ups
from six months to five years of age. A special focus is placed on children
growing up in poverty. By building on the unique relationship between parents
and medical providers, Reach Out and Read helps families and communities
cultivate early literacy skills so that children enter school prepared to
succeed at reading.

To date, ROR doctors and nurses have distributed 5.4 million books to more
than 3.3 million children and their families annually at more than 3,795
pediatric practices, hospitals, clinics and health centers throughout the
country. To learn more, visit

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Friday's special is...The Desert Prince's Proposal

The Desert Prince's Proposal by Nicola Marsh

Click here to order from Amazon

Nicola's web site and blog

It's Friday, so it's time to move Downunder with Shona. This Friday I'm delighted because my author, Nicola Marsh, also lives in Australia.

Let me tell you a little about Nicola. She worked as a physio, before finally giving in to her lifelong urge to write in 2001. Her was first book was accepted for publication in 2003 and won the CataRomance Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Harlequin Romance 2004.

After that, there was no stopping her and Nicola now writes for Harlequin Mills and Boon Romance and Modern Heat/Presents series, has published 17 books and sold over a million copies worldwide.

The excerpt below comes from 'The Desert Prince's Proposal', Nicola's latest novel, published in the UK and the US in July, and coming out in Australia in August.

Read the excerpt and answer the three questions below for your chance to win a copy of 'The Desert Prince's Proposal' - hot off the press in so many ways...


"Welcome to the prince's private dining room." Hakim opened the door with a flourish to Bria's tentative knock. "He is waiting for you."

"Thanks," she said, her tummy tumbling with nervous anticipation as she stepped into a room taken straight from Arabian Nights.

"Enjoy your meal."

Hakim bowed and stepped out of the room, closing the door softly, leaving her trying not to gawk at her surroundings.

Everything was done in the palest shades of green, from the ice mint walls to the tiny mosaic tiles framing the traditional dome shaped windows, the low-lying sofas to the marble tiles. It had a cooling affect, like stepping into the lushest rainforest and she moved further into the room, tilting her head to absorb the impact of the ceiling.


Her head snapped back, barely giving her enough time to absorb the hand-painted mural of a dusk sky with a sprinkling of early stars scattered like diamonds across mauve silk.

However, Sam wasn't talking about the ceiling.

She could see it in every tense line of his body, from his rigid shoulders to his clenched fists, in the admiration shining clearly from his eyes and she smiled, empowered by the thought she could set him on edge this much.

"This room is beautiful," she said, wondering if he'd pick her up on the clarification.

He inclined his head as if agreeing with her though his mesmerising coal-black eyes never left her face for an instant as he crossed the room to stand in front of her.

"You are right. The room is beautiful. You are exquisite."

Her heart fluttered like a caged bird as he picked up her hand and placed a barely-there kiss on the back of it.

The kiss was nothing like the heated, erotic kiss he'd pressed to her palm at the market yesterday but the mere touch of his lips anywhere near her skin set off a chain reaction within her body as nerve endings hotwired, her skin tingled and her pulse skittered out of control.

"Did you choose that outfit especially for me?"

"I dress for myself, not to impress any man."

His mouth kicked up in a cynical smile that said he didn't believe her for a second.

"But I'm not just any man, am I?"


1) What is Bria's reply to Sam?
2) If Nicola were to paint something on the ceiling above her bed, what would it be?
3) Where and how did Nicola's own Prince propose to her?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Thursday's Special Is ... Bad Ice!

Bad Ice by Sandra "Chumplet" Cormier

What kind of person writes "romance with a dash of suspense"? Apparently you have to be Canadian, with roots that go all the way back to 1644 when Canada was French and beavers ruled the land. Being also of Acadian, Mik'Maq and Basque descent doesn't hurt either. Except for that unibrow thing - but Sandra swears it's under control.

You must also at times imagine you're a hobbit and wander around in the woods for no apparent reason other than to pretend you're a hobbit and in need of all those maps of Middle Earth you've collected.

And it helps to surround yourself with a husband and teenagers of the geek variety, along with a dog and cat - both too pretty to be boys - while hoping to someday grow up just so you can keep a pony in your backyard.

Somehow this background gives you an astonishing ability to plop readers right into your story and make them feel like part of the action. Seriously. That's the quality about Sandra's writing the reviewers point to consistently.

In Bad Ice, Christina Mackey is thrust into the testosterone-powered world of hockey when she inadvertently prevents the murder of her idol, Jason Petersen. But as Jason's feelings for the widow who saved him grow, his past threatens not only their happiness, but the life of Christina's innocent young daughter as well.

Sandra will be posting in the comments as her alter-ego Chumplet.

For a chance to win a copy of Sandra's e-book, read the excerpt below, then answer the questions.


Jason returned his attention to the monitor. He felt a rush of relief when he learned the woman, a single mother, was only slightly wounded in the fracas and was expected to make a full recovery.

After several replays, the network returned to the live scene. The announcer stood on the steps above the players' bench. Officials still worked behind him, and a few fans remained.

“The alleged gunman was not so lucky. When arena security opened fire, he was critically wounded, then pronounced dead upon arrival at St. Michael's Hospital. Names have not been released, but it’s been reported he may have been an employee of this building. Police Services will be investigating the incident.”

Jason raised his eyebrows and glanced up at Bertie. “That’s how he got the gun in, I guess.” He shook the sweat from his hair. “Man! What a close one, huh? Who would think somebody could go postal in a hockey arena?” He finally began to unlace his skates.


“What?” Jason looked up again at Bertie’s face. His friend’s eyes focused on a point just above Jason’s head.

“Take a closer look at your lid, man.”

Jason stood and took his helmet from the shelf. A narrow groove traced along the left side of the helmet, about a half-centimeter deep and a few centimeters long, just above the gap where his ear would have protruded.

If he had been looking to the left or downward, the bullet would have penetrated his head or the back of his neck. Even if the glass slowed it down, Jason knew any impact in the temple area or the base of the skull could be fatal—or worse, career ending—whether by elbow, stick, puck, or bullet.

Jason shivered and sank back to the bench, staring with round eyes at the helmet.

“Holy shit.” He felt a ghostly tingle and rubbed the back of his head. “I could be dead right now. Shit.”

1) Which hockey team does Sandra like best?
2) What color is Jason's helmet (and why)?
3) Write a 4-line poem titled "Ode to a Hockey Puck." Please do not rhyme puck with f*** (even though we know that's all you can think to rhyme it with now).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wednesday's Special Is...Apologies Forthcoming

Xujun's book trailer left me speechless.

"Women can hold up half the sky" is a Mao quote that comes through strongly in Xujun's book. I think Xujun can hold up the entire sky. Her essays on China before and after the revolution are about people, not politics. This is how history is best remembered.

What will the history show after Xujun has been roasted? (Hey, this is a tough one to segue. I challenge you to do better.) Will she be able to handle the hot sauce and chili peppers? Will she expect an apology if we overheat her buns? Will Jeff come back to apologize for blogging naked (okay, she won't be able to answer this one.)?

We have lots to uncover. Let's get going...

Amazon link for "Apologies Forthcoming"

Xujun's website

Excerpt from "Apologies Forthcoming" by Xujun Eberlein

Each time a prospective suitor swerved away from Ou Hong, her father couldn’t help but remind her to warm the hues of her face a little. He would clumsily jest, “Have they borrowed your rice and repaid with chaff?” And he always got the rebuttal, “Where do you think I got my hues from?” Those words choked off the even-tempered old man, once an eloquent teacher of Marx-Leninism doctrine. He would quietly lament the metamorphosis of his sweet little girl, while she did what she pleased.

Ou Hong’s mother had died shortly after the end of the Cultural Revolution. As if she could not manage the tremendous relief of waking up from a decade long nightmare, her nerves just snapped like a string drawn too taut. Ou Hong was a freshman then, and her mother’s last words were like a prophecy, that she, Ou Hong, would find a suitor among neighborhood boys, someone she was familiar with from childhood. The unsaid words: someone who wouldn’t mind her aloofness and chronic sarcasm.

No one knew if the mother had a particular boy in mind, and Ou Hong took the prophecy as no more than a loving mother’s kind wish. Four years passed and when graduation time came, Ou Hong was the only girl in her Mechanical Engineering class who had not been paired. On a campus of mostly male students she dated few, and never for very long. She departed university with the crown of ‘cold-eyed princess.’

Then, in the spring, on her first day of work at the Bus Factory, she ran into a neighbor from childhood, to whom she hadn’t uttered a word for 16 years, though she had seen him on TV and around home sometimes.

She was passing workers crowded around two TV cameramen inside the factory’s gate, when a strangely familiar voice glued her feet to the ground. It came from a young man wearing a gray-striped western suit, freely and elegantly unbuttoned. His thin lips moved swiftly over a microphone while the overflowing light from his enthusiastic eyes swept through the audience. The mannerisms were his trademark as the host of the popular TV program, ‘Focal Interview.’ He cast a look on Ou Hong before she could lurch away.

“Hey, look who’s here,” he turned off the microphone and said, “mountains don’t circle but waters do.” His long, girlish eyelashes flapped, as he contemplated the white dress-shirt tucked into her red jeans.

“What a white swan,” he eulogized.

“Was I an ugly duckling before?” Ou Hong said. Immediately she bit her lip.

“No, no, I was,” he said, in the charming self-deprecating tone that had made him adorable to his massive female audience. His voice and smile tore open every little detail of that autumn day in her childhood. She could hear – with a sharp clarity – her own flustered and exasperated voice shrieking, “One day! One day...” and see him bouncing backward, turning with a sinister smile, then disappearing around a corner of the wall.


1) What is Xujun's favorite method of warming the hues on her face?
2) According to Xujun, what are two qualities of a good bus?
3) Besides lips and eyelashes, what else does Xujun look for in a man?

Tuesday's Special Is...The Digital Plague

The Digital Plague by Jeff Somers

Click here to order from Amazon.

Jeff's Website.

Jeff Somers developed an early taste for crayons.

Yep, that's right. He wasn't even finicky about them being Crayola. Even the freebies that come with restaurant kid menus. Maybe that's why what comes out of him today kicks in serious Technicolor.

These days, Jeff is tinkering with nanobots. In The Digital Plague, New York City is suffering an aggressive disease that runs from contraction to bloody death in days. However, our assassin protagonist remains mysteriously unaffected. It's a potent mix. Even more potent even than Jeff's favorite cocktails. (Not that Jeff has been known to turn away a cocktail.)

Other things to know about Jeff: (1) he voluntarily lives in New Jersey (which we Philadelphians call that-place-you-drive-through-to-get-to-the-shore), (2) he earned his English major in college without ever reading a book, (3) early in his career, the bankruptcy of publishers tended to follow the acceptance of his manuscripts. Thank God number 3 has abated!

Maybe it was the nanobots.

Without further ado, I introduce Jeff's good friend Avery Cates, who's obviously the kind of guy who takes pride in his work. Unfortunately, it's killing people.


“This is my associate,” I said. I gestured at the fat man. “This is Reggie, my contact here.”

They stared at each other for another few seconds. Reggie liked to eat, and every year he had a fat-sucking procedure performed that shed two hundred pounds in an hour, followed by a series of skin-tightening treatments. These were expensive procedures, and in me—or more precisely, my yen—Reg had found salvation. In January he was svelte and tanned, and then slowly expanded over the months until by December he was a goddamn beach ball.

“You're not supposed to bring anyone else with you,” Reggie said slowly, his eyes settling lazily on Glee's chest again. “It's dangerous.” He brightened without looking up at me. “Unless this is for me?”

I flared my nostrils and leaned forward to slap him lightly across the face—not hard enough to hurt. “Eyes on me, Reg,” I said easily, stepping back. “Eyes on me.”

He blinked and gave me a piggy little stare. “Fuck you, Avery. This is a bad time. You're not popular with certain people, you know, and the Optical Facial Scanners seem to be under the impression you've been seen on security cameras in government offices.” He shrugged. “So I have to ask you to leave.”

I ignored this, pushing my hands into my pockets. “I need info on Newark, Reg. I took a little involuntary trip out there recently and I want to know who's got fingers in that trash heap, who's carting shit out there or from there, who's bribing you to let it happen.”

He tried to lean back casually, lacing his hands behind his head, but his girth pushed his belly into his desk and made him grunt in discomfort. I noticed his cigarette was nearly all ash, and watched in fascination, waiting for it to shake off. “I just told you, Avery, this isn't a good time.”

I glanced at Glee, who looked back at me and shrugged. For a second I was aware of how grown-up and poised she'd become, apparently overnight. I looked back at Reg with my grin in place—calibrated to convey amusement. This fat piece of shit thought he was in charge. I realized I could smell him, Reg's brand of sour sweat too much for scrubbers.

“Reggie, let's be friendly. Let's have a conversation, and when we're done you say, Ave, this one's on the house, on account of I was a fucking asshole when you showed up. And then I say, shit, Reggie, I surprised you, so maybe you weren't in top form, and we part friends. Okay?”

He kept trying like hell to look relaxed even though it was obvious he was straining to hold his position. “Get out. What are you going to do, slap me again? You're unarmed, Avery. You didn't get through rooftop security with a gun.” He raised his eyebrows. “You think stories about you scare me. Fuck off.”

He was right, I didn't have a gun. Getting past security in a building containing even a pissant government agency could be done—anything could be done—but it was troublesome, and unnecessary.

“Glee,” I said. She took a half step forward and snapped her arm out stiffly, a handmade bone blade leaping into her hand. I had a similar one in my boot. With practiced ease she whipped it across his face, producing a tiny red wound on the tip of his bulbous nose. She grinned down at him, her blue eyes wide and lit up.

“Ear to ear, fat man,” she said, coughing wetly. “If Avery says so.”


Now for the contest! Here are your questions.

1. Does Jeff prefer to be slapped forehand or backhand?
2. Finish this sentence: "oh yes, thank you very much. You just tapped your cigarette ash into my ____________."
3. What is Jeff's favorite method for getting past security at a Hannah Montana concert?

Let's all give Jeff a warm broiling welcome to the hot seat!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday's Special is...Promise the Moon!

Promise the Moon by Elizabeth Arnold

Click here to order from Amazon.

Elizabeth's website.

We're opening the July menu with a trained laboratory chemist. Who better to defend ethanol as an essential food group?

Elizabeth Joy Arnold began writing in her spare time when she realized chemistry wasn't her calling. Now she spends as many as 16 hours a day inside the heads of her characters. Both Promise the Moon and her first novel, Pieces of My Sister's Life, were published by Bantam. Elizabeth lives in New Jersey where she is hard at work (16 hours a day, rumors have it) on her third novel.

It's a well known fact that all chemistry majors build a homemade still during their sophomore year. We expect blueprints from Elizabeth by the end of the day.

What Promise the Moon is all about:

When war and its aftermath take Josh from Natalie and her children, she must find a way to heal her broken family. And so Natalie begins writing letters from Josh that she hides for young Anna and Toby to find—notes from heaven that attempt to explain why he left, to offer comfort and wisdom. But when Anna suddenly reveals that her father has been speaking to her from heaven, divulging stories only Josh could know, Natalie must uncover the secrets of her husband’s past—secrets he hid to protect his family.

An excerpt to whet your appetite:

After stabbing myself yet again with the upholstery needle, I threw it and Anna’s Halloween costume across the arm of the couch. “I give up!” I told Helen. “Why couldn’t they choose to be something that comes pre-packaged for twenty bucks? Whose idea was this, anyway?”

“Um, I guess I have to say it was Madison’s, sorry. She fell in love with penguins after that Happy Feet movie, which she’s seen so many times I’m considering taking out the scissors and causing the DVD irreparable damage.”

I smiled. “It was actually just a rhetorical question. I know it was Madison’s idea, I was trying to make you feel so bad you’d want to take over for me.”

“Don’t blame me. I was trying to convince Madison she wanted to wear a sheet with eyeholes.” Helen stood. “More coffee?”

“Yeah, thanks. And Band Aids, if you have them.”

I sat back on the couch. But it was not one of those couches meant for sitting back on, a Victorian style thing with no padding, so I ended up angled awkwardly against one of those types of pillows shaped like an Italian bread loaf. Helen had inherited most of her furniture from a great-aunt, and the rooms in her house looked like they should be roped off, and contain descriptive plaques.

She returned with two mugs of coffee, a box of Band Aids under one arm. Helen was in her early forties, a tad plump, and each time her husband Jack started a tour of duty she let herself go, gained weight, let her graying roots take over until a month before he was due home, when she stopped eating and dyed her hair back to coppery blonde. He’d been away for eight months now, and Helen looked at least ten years older than she actually was.

I reached for the box and she sat next to me and handed me a mug. “I can’t believe you’re leaving in two days. Madison was almost in tears last night.”

“I know.” I studied my fingers, chose two that seemed the most traumatized, and strapped on Band Aids. “Anna won’t tell me how hard the move is for her, but I know she has to be upset about it too.”

“She’s stoic.” She took a test sip, coughed and said in a choked voice, “Ooh, recommend you let that sit a minute before you try it.”

“What do you mean, stoic?”

“Oh, you know.” She shrugged. “I ask how she’s doing, and she always says she’s fine, never complains.”

“Yeah, she doesn’t complain.”

I thought of how she’d dealt with the depressive episodes her dad had suffered since returning from Iraq. On bad days he wouldn’t leave the bedroom, would lock the door and not let us in. For me, talking to him through the door while knowing that I’d get no answer was too painful, like being hung up on, that feeling of hopelessness and not mattering. But every day after school Anna had sat by his door, sometimes for an hour or more, talking about her day, somehow managing to make herself sound upbeat. “The therapist says she’s repressing her feelings, and the goal of therapy is to lure them back out, or whatever.” I looked down into my mug. “Not that it worked. You should’ve seen our family sessions; all the kids did was shrug.”

Now answer me these questions three (best answers, as judged by Elizabeth, earn an autographed copy of her book):

1) Where would Elizabeth most want to be stabbed with a needle?

2) Besides destroying innocent Warner Brothers DVDs, what else does Elizabeth like to do with her scissors?

3) How many men have promised Elizabeth the moon (and what did she do to warrant those promises)?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

We're Firing Up the Grill for July!

Take five hot titles, five fresh authors, and five days of contests and prizes. Stir well. Sprinkle with humor. Add a dash of snark. Toast lightly and serve warm.

Care to try a sample? Here's what's on the menu July 21 - 25.

Monday, July 21: Elizabeth Arnold, Promise the Moon - In the heart of a family lies shattering secrets - and a love that lasts forever. Keep those hankies close.

Tuesday, July 22: Jeff Somers, The Digital Plague - Techno-thriller. Cyborgs. Nanobots. Reanimated corpses. Do you really need to know more?

Wednesday, July 23: Xujun Eberlein, Apologies Forthcoming - Stories about China's Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. Humanistic, disturbing, enthralling.

Thursday, July 24: Sandra Cormier, Bad Ice - Hockey. Attempted murder. Romance. A cute kid. And Canada! Ahh, guilty pleasure number one.

Friday, July 25: Nicola Marsh, The Desert Prince's Proposal - Mix one independent Aussie lady with a hot desert prince and what do you get? Mmm. Guilty pleasure number two.

We'll be open for business 9:00 am ET, Monday, July 21. Seating is unlimited. No reservations required. Shoes and shirts optional.

Plus, new 24-hour business hours for the week means as soon as one contest is done, we start cooking with another! No waiting!