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Michele’s “Memory Painter” Baklava ~ a Book Club Recipe

This month my book club, The Page Turners, met to discuss The Memory Painter. Once a month we meet for lunch and someone officially hosts. This month Michele hosted and wowed us all with delectable baked chicken salad and homemade cheddar dill scones. To top it off, she made baklava, the best I’ve ever had. She made it in honor of Bryan and Linz because it’s a Greek desert and she said “the layers of the pastry are reminiscent of the layers of Bryan and Linz’ lives.”  I was so touched by the gesture and just had to share the recipe with everyone. So here is the official recipe from Michele along with her photo.

Thank you, Michele!

Michele’s “Memory Painter” Baklava

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Butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9″ baking pan; preheat oven to 325.
In a small bowl, put
2 c coarsely chopped walnuts.
In another small bowl, stir together:
1/4 c sugar
1/2 t (heaping) cinnamon
In another bowl, melt 1 c (or 2 sticks) butter (do not use margarine).
Dampen a dish towel with water. Set it aside. Open a 1 lb box of phyllo dough (you’ll find it in the refrigerated or frozen dessert section of the grocery store, probably near the refrigerated or frozen prepared pie doughs). Your box of phyllo dough probably has two sealed packages/rolls of “paper-like” large sheets of phyllo that can tear somewhat easily, so take your time handling them. Open the packages and unroll the sheets; you’ll use about 1 1/2 of the packages. It will probably be necessary to trim the edges of the unrolled/flattened phyllo sheets so they fit the bottom of the 13×9″ baking pan (you don’t have to be precise, but know that fitting the phyllo dough helps with the uniformity). I use a pizza cutter and trim a bunch of sheets at a time. Keep the phyllo dough sheets wrapped in plastic, then cover the plastic with the dampened dish towel (the dough dries out pretty quickly unless it’s covered; it then becomes unusable).
Step A: Once trimmed to size and covered, carefully take out 2 phyllo sheets and place them in the bottom of the baking pan (if they tear a little bit, it’s okay). Quickly brush the entire top sheet with the melted butter (being sure to get all the way to the edges). Repeat with 2 more phyllo sheets. Then repeat a third time (you’ll have 6 phyllo sheets in the pan and have buttered every other layer).
Step B: Next, sprinkle 1/3 of the walnuts evenly all over the top layer of the buttered phyllo sheets. Then sprinkle 1/3 of the cinnamon/sugar on top of the walnuts.
Repeat Step A, then Step B a second time.
Repeat Step A, then Step B a third time. You should’ve used all of the walnuts and cinnamon/sugar mixture. There will be butter left.
Repeat Step A. Use all of the remaining butter on this last top sheet. Using a sharp, serrated knife, cut through all of the layers to the bottom of the pan to make 2″ squares. (It’s important that you cut through to the bottom because once the baklava is finished cooking, you won’t be able to cut it without smushing the pastry. The space you create between the pieces also helps let the glaze soak in.)
Put the baklava baking pan in the preheated oven and bake*. If the top of the baklava becomes golden brown before 25 minutes, place a sheet of foil loosely on top of the pan (this keeps the top of the pastry from burning, while allowing the middle to keep cooking).
Keeping the baklava in the oven, after 25 minutes, reduce the temperature to 300 degrees.
*About 15 minutes after you put the baklava in the oven, start making the glaze. In a medium sized saucepan over medium-low heat, combine:
1 1/3 c sugar
1 1/3 c water
1/3 c honey
1 T fresh lemon juice
Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes; stir periodically.
Once the baklava has baked for 30 minutes, take it out of the oven. Pour the sugar/honey/water glaze mixture all over the tops of the baklava and into the cuts. It may boil up a bit, but that’s fine. Put it back into the oven and bake at 300 degrees for another 15 minutes. You will have baked the baklava for a total of 40-45 minutes.
Take the baklava out of the oven and place the pan on a cooling rack. Cover with foil and let rest at room temperature for at least 4 hours before serving.
Όλες οι εργασίες σας γίνεται και ήρθε η ώρα για να απολαύσετε .
-Michele

Back in TX! At The Texas Book Festival

This past weekend I was in Austin, one of my favorite cities, for the Texas Book Festival. It was wonderful to be back. I’m originally from Houston and lived in Austin years ago before heading to college (to Alaska – where I discovered there is a rivalry between the states and I would get teased “What’s a Texan doing up here?”) A nostalgic fun fact: in Austin I worked for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper as a data entry clerk in the Classifieds Department. Now that feels like a lifetime ago!

The first thing I saw when I stepped off the airplane put a big smile on my face…

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Friday night I was thrilled to attend the gala at the Four Seasons and hear Margaret Atwood speak. Daniel Handler a.k.a Lemony Snicket was the host and Taye Diggs spoke as well. It was a fabulous night. On the way to the ballroom, this dramatic wall hanging of horns caught my eye, and in the ballroom, every seat had a book on the chair. I chose The Burma Spring because years ago I helped on a theater performance about Aung San Suu Kyi’s life. I love this picture of the book on the table.

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Saturday’s top highlights: “Everything But the Kitchen Sink,” a talk with Daniel Handler and Amelia Gray, moderated by Owen Egerton in The Paramount Theatre (which I heard is celebrating its 100th year!)… Stopping by Typewriter Rodeo‘s tent and getting a poem written for me. (I’m going to do a whole blog post just on that next) … and hearing some incredible jazz at the Elephant Bar – a bar that was rated one of the top ten jazz bars in the US. I highly recommend you go if you’re in Austin.

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Sunday I headed to the Texas Monthly building to check in for my event which was called “Thrills, Chills, and Genre Defiance” with Vu Tran, author of Dragonfish, and moderated by Geoff Rips. Here we are heading to the Capital Building, which is opened up for the festival. Our talk was in one of the chambers inside – a one-of-kind experience.

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The event had a fantastic turnout. Vu and I both read the first few pages of our books and then did a Q&A. Afterwards we headed outside to the book signing tent. (These pictures below were taken by one of my friends, Charlotte Schillaci.)

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Right near the tent I found a consignment shop and art gallery, Old Bakery and Emporium, in an historic building. Inside they had some wonderful art, including this stained glass artwork made by Stephen Moy, who I discovered is a 93 year old artist. I took a dragonfly and a flower with me back to LA to remember this fantastic weekend.

Thank you, Austin!

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Litquake Adventures

This year was my first time attending Litquake in San Francisco and it was such a wonderful experience. I participated in two events – the first was “New Voices,” an afternoon of readings from debut authors held at Z Space, a theater downtown. On the way there, my cab driver drove like a maniac and blasted jazz the whole time, all the while wanting to know about my book. It got things off to a real kinetic start.

I read with six other authors: Jan Ellison (A Small Indiscretion), Isaac Constantine (Jeremiah’s Ghost), Victoria Shorr (Backlands), Michaela Carter (Further Out Than You Thought), Val Brelinski (The Girl Who Slept With God), and Angela Pneuman (Lay It on My Heart).  I really enjoyed sitting in the audience and listening to everyone’s stories.

For my reading, I had gotten the urge several days before to try something completely new, so I read part of the Alexander Pushkin lifetime and what happens when Bryan comes out of the recall. It’s a good example of the jumps between lifetimes and how Bryan handles remembering. I’ll definitely do it again.

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The next event, “First-Time Authors Reveal All,” was a panel discussion geared for writers and was held at the Foundation Center. The event had a great turnout – a big thank you to all the writers who came! Sharing some photos below: heading into the building, the event and our silly selfie afterwards. Also, this talk was recorded. There is a link to it on YouTube if you want to take a look.

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While I was in San Francisco, the days could not have been more gorgeous and planes were flying overhead for Fleet Week. There was a real excitement in the air and it was fantastic connecting with so many writers in a city-wide celebration of books. Thank you, Litquake! Happy 16th year and here’s to many more!

SFOnWater FleetWeek

 

October Festivals – Heading to San Francisco & Austin

Next month I’m really excited to be participating in Litquake in San Francisco & the Texas Book Festival in Austin. If you’re in either city, here’s a link to the festivals below. I’d love to see you there.

For Litquake I’ll be participating in two events:

October 10th, New Voices, which is part of Off The Richter Scale, a weekend of events at Z Space. New Voices goes from 12:45 – 2:30.

October 12th, First-Time Authors Reveal All at 3pm at the Foundation Center.

For The Texas Book Festival:

The festival dates are 10/17 & 10/18. Their event schedule will be up mid-September. Here’s a link to the festival’s site.

 

My Debut Novel Adventures This Summer

The last day of August is here and since I haven’t updated my website for a while I thought I’d give a brief snapshot of my book adventures over the summer in one big post.

In late June I went to Denver for the Historical Novel Society conference. I really enjoyed this conference and there were so many highlights, including David Blixt’s weapons training workshops with the broadsword, short sword, rapier, and dagger.

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I met Diana Gabaldon, which was another highlight – I’ve been a fan of hers forever. And I joined in the book signing before the banquet.

Diana&MeDenver-Signing

Next from historicals to thrillers… This year I was a part of ITW’s Debut Author Class at ThrillerFest in New York. I really loved Thrillerfest and meeting all the other debuts. The conference hosted The Debut Breakfast on Saturday and later that day we signed books.

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Another highlight in NY – seeing my agent again. Here is the lady, Brianne Johnson, who got this whole journey started.

Bri&Me

A few days later I was back in LA for Book’d In Burbank – a fun night of author readings at Theatre Banshee and I read a scene I had never done before. (When Bryan and Linz meet at the museum for the first time and play chess at the park.)

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Two more readings finished off the summer. The first was at Barnes & Noble in Torrance. I decided to read the opening three pages of the book and then when Linz first sees Bryan’s paintings at the gallery. It’s been interesting switching up the readings and I have to say these two in combination have become my favorite to do.

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Next I did a reading at Redondo Beach Library. I’ve been to this library before to attend an event and it’s such a beautiful building. I love this wall of windows. Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore came to sell copies of the book and the library’s Events Director was a wonderful host. Somehow I didn’t end up with one picture of the reading, but we had a great audience and in-depth Q&A afterwards.

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Other news this summer – The Memory Painter was a beach read pick in Coastal Living which was exciting and also the inaugural pick for the AB-Ootlanders’ new book club, a lively bunch of Outlander fans up in Canada. I did an online chat with them at the end of July. I also received my copies of the Canadian edition. Below is a picture of the two covers together.

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Now I’m on hiatus working on my next novel but there are several more book events in October and November I’ll be doing that I’m looking forward to. In the meantime, I do post more regularly on Twitter or Facebook if you’d like to connect there.

Happy summer’s end as we enter September. Cheers!

 

 

 

Music & Writing ~ The Undercover Soundtrack

Here’s a guest blog post I just did for The Undercover Soundtrack discussing key pieces of music that inspired me while writing The Memory Painter.

Special thanks to Roz Morris, Author of My Memories of a Future Life for inviting me to write the post. I really enjoyed looking back at all the music that helped me at the keyboard.

Click here to take a look and visit all the links provided to hear some of the wonderful music from artists Anne Akiko Meyers, Paul Horn, Philip Glass and many others.