Boxed Set Friday – The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Books 1 – 3 by Lisa Maliga

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2015

Boxed Set: The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Books 1 – 3 lisa maliga ebooksI’ll admit I’m partial to boxed sets, a/k/a box sets. This is beneficial for the reader, as they can have access to a series or serial. Boxed sets are usually more cost efficient and space efficient, as you don’t have to flip from one eBook to another since they’re conveniently bundled into one file.

Before publishing my boxed set, I learned that I needed two different covers due to some online bookstores not wanting the standard three-dimensional type of cover. A non 3-D cover was the norm for some stores so that customers wouldn’t get confused into thinking they were buying actual paperback books housed in a box. Once I learned that the reason behind iTunes and Smashwords preferring a standard “flat” type of cover, I found another cover artist to design the second type of cover. Here it is:

yolanda's yummery series boxed set books 1-3 lisa maliga

I was pleased with this flat type of cover design and like it as much as the 3-D version.

I’ve noticed more boxed sets being published and I think that’s a wonderful idea. So, each Friday I’d like to highlight a boxed set whether by one author or a group of authors. Your boxed set can be on sale, free or whatever price you choose.

Want to have a special blog post dedicated to your boxed set? Send me an email and include the buy links. Once the blog has been posted on Friday, you’ll have your own boxed set page and can promote it anywhere you’d like. Your name and the title of your boxed set will be in the subject heading, making it keyword-friendly.

Just send an email to: lisa_maliga@msn.com Please use “Boxed Set Friday” in the subject heading.

Below is an example of how your page will look. If you have two different covers, I can include both of them. You can send me a longer book description. Also, if you have any fun facts about the boxed set that you’d like to share, please include them in your introductory paragraph.

Title: Boxed Set: The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Books 1 -3 

Author: Lisa Maliga

Brief Description: This collection of sweet romance/cozy mystery eBooks contains 3 full-length novels plus a chapter to the novella that started it all: Sweet Dreams. Best of all, it’s value priced! 

Genre: Sweet Romance/Cozy Mystery

Amazon US link: http://www.amazon.com/Boxed-Set-Yolandas-Yummery-Series-ebook/dp/B00T8JKSMO

All other links: http://www.lisamaliga.com/boxedsetyolandasyummeryseries.htm

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Are Laduree Macarons Really That Good?

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2015

I’d never tried a macaron until three years ago, just after I wrote the first draft of my novella, Sweet Dreams. As the cliché goes, it was love at first bite. As I’m working on part 4 of the Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Macarons of Love, I needed to reacquaint myself with the sweet delicacies. I looked forward to tasting the fragile, crispy and chewy cookies.

When one of my friends said he was going to Miami, I sent him some money along with the address of the Laduree shop in Miami Beach. I’d read about it online, learning it was only the third location in America to boast such a prestigious shop. New York City is blessed with two of these stores, but 1000 miles away, a tiny Laduree shop also sells these delectable sweets. I studied the menu and decided to get the 8-pack, enabling me to try a variety of the imported French cookies.

laduree seafoam green gift bag

From the seafoam green bag to the adorable cat and butterfly box, the presentation was perfect. 

laduree macarons cat box

Here are my opinions on the flavors I tasted.

Lemon [Citron]. Of course, the bright yellow is the visual clue that this is a lemon macaron. It had that sweet and tangy lemony aroma and taste. A must-have if you love anything citrusy, especially anything as bright as Laduree’s lemon. 

I have tried Vanilla [Vanille] macarons in the past when I bought a box of Trader Joe’s brand Trader Jacque’s a la Parissiene. This box contains 6 chocolate and 6 vanilla. Naturally, I liked them. I especially liked the fact that they cost about five bucks for a dozen – a lot less than Laduree. However, I prefer the richness of the vanilla bean-laden macaron from Laduree. It seemed fuller and richer in flavor.

Orange Blossom [Fleur d’Oranger] is succulent orange with a hint of floral. Not a brightly colored orange, it resembled the vanilla macaron. Very lovely and I could eat eight of them — just not at one time!

Salted Caramel [Caramel a la Fleur de Sel]. Smuckers makes a caramel topping that’s supposed to go on ice cream. Sometimes it goes onto a spoon and right into my mouth–bypassing the ice cream. This macaron had that sweetly scrumptious filling [third from bottom on the left in the photo]. It was hard not to consume it in just one big bite.

The Lemon Verbena [Verveine Citron] was exquisite. The green undertone separated it from its sister lemon macaron. Highly recommended.

laduree box 8 macarons

Rose Petal [Petale de Rose]. I had a sneaking suspicion that it would taste sugary and rosy and I was right. It was like eating something perfumed rather than flavored. There weren’t any rose petal bits on top. I’ve bathed in a rose Lush Tisty Tosty bath bomb and this was like eating it, minus the fizz. Honestly, I prefer to wear the scent of the rose petal; not consume it.

Raspberry [Framboise] a bit of the filling had seeped from between the shells. When I bit into it, the entire shell spread open and cracked into different sized pieces. Perhaps some moisture had gotten in the shells? Also, the jam innards were much heavier than the shell. The taste was a 10 out of 10.

Chocolate [Chocolat]. This macaron is dark chocolate with a lovely ganache filling. This lightweight macaron is fluffy but not overly so, filled with a generous amount of the finest ganache. It’s not a milk chocolate but a semi sweet chocolate. I’d peg it at the classic 70% cacao content. It’s like a truffle inside of a macaron. Is it worth $2.80 for a few bites? YES!

laduree macarons stacks

I can describe the macarons as succulent, delectable, luxurious, decadent and use even more exclamatory adjectives, but I won’t, because I think you get that I love macarons and enjoy sharing my feelings about them. If you’re a fan of sweets, I suggest that you try them. I’d recommend eating them at room temperature. They’ll last about 3 days unrefrigerated. Refrigeration can mask the taste. However, I’ve never had macarons around long enough to chill in the fridge!

Sweet Dreams and Macarons

Copyright 2015-2016

by Lisa Maliga

sweet dreams a novella by lisa maliga ebook kindle smashwordsMacarons and sweet dreams? Yes, the two go together quite well. Macarons are sweet and somewhat crispy little cookies that can be filled with butter cream or chocolate ganache or various types of jams. They’re usually made with almond flour and are gluten-free. Macarons are often quite colorful, as you know if you’ve seen them. My opinion is that they’re the best kind of dessert—small and delicate. Fancy but not outrageously so. Yes, I’m so fond of macarons that I’m including mention of them in my sweet romance/cozy mystery, Macarons of Love: The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Book 4.

But what started it all was a romance novella I wrote called Sweet Dreams. Brenda Nevins, the main character, is a romance author/baker. Although the macarons part isn’t at the beginning of the story, these tempting little cookies do have a costarring role. During the writing of the ebook, I got obsessed with macarons. I read several cookbooks on how to make them, visited numerous websites, and sampled quite a few tasty macarons. I bought some online and even tried the Trader Joe’s version[s] which were easy to store as they went from frozen to just right in about 30 minutes.

It was a tough job, but I gutted [pun intended!] my way through it.

macarons sweet dreams bakery fresh romance novella lisa maligaAnd now, I’ll be revisiting macaron-land for the next few months while I write my book. But that’s fine with me. I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to these fine sweet treats. This board has 5000+ pictures and recipes. Check it out! http://www.pinterest.com/lisamaliga/sweet-macarons

NEW! Learn to bake macarons! Check out BAKING FRENCH MACARONS: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE.

 

Magical Cakes of Love: (The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Book 2) – Plus Excerpt

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2014-2016

magical cakes of love yolanda's yummery series book 2 lisa maligaIn Magical Cakes of Love, there is romance and mystery as one of Yolanda’s regular customers has gone missing. For those of you who’ve read The Great Brownie Taste-off [which is now FREE], you’ll know that Yolanda Carter always refers to her customers as appreciated guests. In the second book, appreciated guest Captain Angus, a homeless man who enjoys her brownies and cupcakes twice a day, mysteriously vanishes. As the story unfolds, the lead investigator thinks that either Yolanda or her best friend, Teagan Mishkin, might know more about the missing man’s whereabouts. Way more as they’re his suspects.

Here’s the official description:

With the successful launch of Yolanda’s Yummery in the trendy Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood, Yolanda Carter is on a roll. Her fame is starting to grow as news spreads about all her delicious desserts. An accompanying Beverage Bar will open in three weeks. She’s involved in a budding romance with sophisticated British tea baron, Nigel Garvey. Life is sweet.

Complications arise when Captain Angus, a regular homeless customer, disappears…and Yolanda becomes a suspect. 

Someone is framing Yolanda for the crime. Lead investigator Detective Churchill is certain that she murdered the captain. Best friend Teagan Mishkin is also a suspect and wants to clear both their names. Will Yolanda’s relationships be derailed by the daily disasters she’s encountering? Can those Magical Cakes of Love save her and the yummery?

This is a clean romance/cozy mystery, and not only was it fun to write, the cover was a joy to photograph. Yes, I had to go to the yummery to pick up one of those Decadent Chocolate Magical Cakes of Love and take almost 100 pictures of it. The day was warm and sunny with a high of 85 and even though I’m cold blooded I had to lower the temperature of the air conditioning unit from a comfortable 78 down to 70 degrees.

It was difficult to avoid sampling the cake, and I thought about cutting a slice and putting it on some fine china but I did that after I finished taking and previewing the pictures.

I’d like to stress that Yolanda doesn’t ordinarily make wedding cakes but in this book she makes an exception, as a favor to a good friend’s sister who’ll soon be tying the knot.  Here is part of that scene:

Excerpt from Chapter 2

Suddenly a shorter woman with dyed black hair pulled into a stubby ponytail walked in, looking around. She wore a shapeless mauve sundress paired with black sneakers. “So this is the yummery,” Rosemary said. “Kinda on the small side…” She walked over to the display case and saw only three Magical Cakes of Love and barely a dozen brownies. “Did we come at a bad time?” Rosemary asked, her forehead wrinkling.

“Rosemary! So nice to see the bride-to-be,” Yolanda said to the disgruntled woman. “Well, no, you came at the end of the day. I was just going to put everything in the fridge, but I made sure to save you a Decadent Chocolate and a Fancy Vanilla Buttercream Magical Cake of Love to test.” She gestured, moving towards the back of the store. “Let’s go back to my office and we’ll sample them.”

Thirty minutes later and they were still in Yolanda’s office with the two cakes cut into several slices, and the chocolate cake had fewer of them.

“Now I tried on 128 wedding dresses before I found the perfect one…” Rosemary commented, taking another bite of the chocolate cake slice on a paper plate. “It was a nightmare trying to get one in my petite size and style because I wanted the Sweetheart Serenade model. It’s ecru lace with puffed sleeves edged with rhinestones and pearls and a silk crinoline skirt with a detachable eighteen-foot lace train edged with pearls…oh you’d think I was looking for something unusual!” She sighed and rolled her big watery blue-gray eyes. Rosemary pulled out her iPhone and punched the screen a few times. “Here’s the winning dress…” She turned the phone’s screen so it faced Yolanda and a blurry shot of some off white creampuff meringue of a wedding dress was seen.

“That looks nice,” Yolanda stated diplomatically, glad when the phone was removed from her line of vision.

“Well it should. And let me tell you about the sixty-one punch recipes before the right one … and I think the florist is going to be changing again soon…” She enjoyed another bite of her cake, paused, and took another. She sighed loudly. “You’d think people could handle brides changing their minds occasionally.”

 

Magical Cakes of Love is available at Amazon and other online bookstores.

Amazon: Magical Cakes of Love (The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Book 2)

Amazon UK: Magical Cakes of Love (The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Book 2)

Barnes & Noble: Magical Cakes of Love (The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Book 2)

Kobo: Magical Cakes of Love (The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Book 2)

Smashwords: Magical Cakes of Love (The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Book 2)

Introducing…The Great Brownie Taste-off!

By Lisa Maliga Copyright 2014

I’ve discovered something funny about writing romance books – I like ’em sweet. Literally. In my first, Sweet Dreams, the cover art shows an original photograph of brightly colored [and incredibly sweet and fruity] French macarons. These sandwich-type cookies are small and delicate but oh so worth it! Subtle hint: try one…or a few!

brownies the great brownie taste-off by lisa maliga
Yummy brownies!

But how do I go from macarons to the classic and better known dessert of brownies? Well, I didn’t plan it. In fact, I thought I was writing the first book of the romance series, which is about cakes, not brownies. Even though I was following a detailed outline, the brownie angle took over and so I went with it. The first book of the Yolanda’s Yummery series establishes how this yummery [bakery] came into existence. Here’s what The Great Brownie Taste-off is about…

Yolanda Carter comes from a family of artisans and lives in her deceased grandparent’s cottage in Sherman Oaks, California. She works at a small cat shelter but dreams of owning a bakery. Her friend from high school, Teagan Mishkin, knows that Yolanda needs money and suggests better paying work as a cocktail waitress. The interview takes an unexpected turn and she stumbles across a scheme to close down the cat shelter. The plan Yolanda concocts may be the only way to save the shelter. Helped by her parents, coworkers and friends, a rising young blogger also takes an interest in her plight. Will she bake the best brownies of her life?

BONUS ~ Includes the winning brownie recipe!

Amazon link: The Great Brownie Taste-off [FREE!]

great brownie taste-off yolanda's yummery series book 1 free ebookNEW! PAPERBACK LINK: The Great Brownie Taste-off

Amazon UK link: The Great Brownie Taste-off [FREE!]

B&N NOOK link: The Great Brownie Taste-off [FREE!]

Kobo link: The Great Brownie Taste-off [FREE!]

Smashwords link: The Great Brownie Taste-off [FREE!]

brownies great brownie taste-off yolanda's yummery series

Ghirardelli Chocolate Supreme Brownie Mix Review

By Lisa Maliga

Photograph and text copyright 2014-2016

It was an impulse purchase this box of brownie mix. I needed to bake brownies so I could photograph them for my next eBook cover. So I bypassed the usual suspects of Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines for the more expensive alternative, Ghirardelli Chocolate Supreme Brownie Mix. Like the others, the additives were few—water, vegetable oil and just one egg. It also contained a chocolate syrup pouch for added flavor—something I always appreciate. The one thing I couldn’t do was add any walnuts as the brownies featured in my book are sans nuts or any other type of fun ingredients like marshmallows, shredded coconut, caramel or even frosting. But that’s okay because a true brownie will taste marvelous no matter how simple the ingredients are. And the brownies in my book are baked from scratch but they do require a bit more work than a mix brownie.

Now if you’re short on time and want an easy to make brownie, I can highly recommend the Ghirardelli Chocolate Supreme Brownie Mix. Also, if you’re a fan of buttery brownies, I suggest you grease the baking pan with butter instead of using cooking spray.

Ghirardelli kindly includes such valuable tips as not overbaking brownies. To many of you, that may be a no-brainer. To me it’s a major issue as I love soft and chewy cookies and especially slightly underbaked brownies as they tend to be heavy. However, if you want a thicker, heavier brownie they suggest adding two eggs and less water.

Being impressed with Ghirardelli’s brownie mix isn’t a surprise. I enjoy their chocolate, especially their peppermint bark. For more information about this well named brownie mix, here’s the page: http://www.ghirardellibrownies.com/products/chocolate-supreme.aspx

Like to read about brownies, bakeries, and romance? If so, check out this FREE ebook, The Great Brownie Taste-off!

brownies great brownie taste-off yolanda's yummery series
This is how they turned out!

eBook Cover Design Tips

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2013

I don’t usually write about creating an eBook cover because it’s a different process for each title. It’s not just the initial canvas–what color is the background? Will I use a photo? Another important consideration is the font. And what color will that font be, what size, etc. Creating my first romance novella’s cover was simple: I wanted something to reflect the title and that was a cupcake with sprinkles. I thought it emphasized the title along with the fact that bakeries and baked goods are featured in the storyline. I bought a six-pack of cupcakes from the supermarket and took a few photos. They looked good. They looked better after I enhanced the cupcakes with extra multicolored sugar sprinkles. Cupcake photo ready to go, I thought I’d try Amazon’s Cover Creator. Here’s the result after ten minutes of fiddling about with it: [NOTE: click to enlarge image]

sweetdreamsmockup

I wasn’t too crazy about the vertical lettering but I like the Cinzel Decorative font.

There were two issues. The Cover Creator is designed for eBooks sold on Amazon, not those sold at other online stores like B&N Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, or elsewhere. Also, while cupcakes played a part in the story, so did a fancier French pastry: the macaron. That idea for a book cover popped into my head – a stack of macarons. Not just a single stack of strawberry or chocolate macrons, I envisioned pastel colors of pink, yellow, green, and orange.

Why not try a stock photo? I discovered these: http://www.istockphoto.com/search/text/french%20macarons/filetype/photos/source/basic#17bcc90

So many macarons! So beautiful, bright, luscious looking! I was hungry after clicking through the assortment. I found just the right photo for my cover. Until I tried to buy it. I couldn’t get just one, I had to buy several. So, I decided to do it my way—take my own photos of the lovely photogenic macarons. I bought the fancy French cookies knowing I’d have to eat the results of my sweet photo shoot! 🙂

I opted for yellow and green – lovely colors. A little subdued, though. This was taken indoors in natural light but it wasn’t bright enough to show the white background.

ebooksd1

I clicked on the auto enhance button and the background turned a nice shade of sky blue.

ebookSD2

It looked good at 25% but at 100%, I saw a lot of background noise.

Scratch that cover idea.

I got creative and decided to do two stacks utilizing all the colors—totaling seven macarons. Seven almost perfect macarons. I later noticed the little crack in the left Key Lime macaron but thought it looked even more realistic. After all, these are very delicate cookies. They’re made with egg whites, never any yolks, granulated sugar and powdered sugar and finely ground almond flour.

There were three different backgrounds: white, pink and a soft blue. I thought white was too stark, pink too common, and the blue was enough of a contrast to make the bright colors pop.

Keep in mind I’m working with .PNG files at a 300 dpi capacity and the dimensions are 1600 x 2400—standard eBook cover size. So I take the double stack of macarons and remove the background thanks to the handy Magic Wand tool that Fireworks provides for people who are too lazy to actually cut out the background. With the white background, I can stay with that look or add color. As you can see, I added color. I also fiddled around with the settings so that I got brighter shades for more visual impact, although they’re actually quite close to the original colors. As I photographed them indoors I used as much lighting as possible. 

macaronstack1MED

After taking 200+ digital photos, here’s the final result: 

sweet dreams a novella by lisa maliga ebook kindle smashwords