Dining Review: Rooster and the Till

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
Decadence in a glass.

Decadence in a glass.

July is a busy month at my place of business, Nordstrom International Plaza. I work a crazy amount of hours and downtime is at a minimum. It was a great idea of my children to send their dad a Father’s Day gift card to one of our favorite restaurants.

The manager of the restaurant (who is also a friend) suggested that we sit at the bar so that we could watch the talented chefs work their magic. I felt like a judge on Top Chef, and we wanted to sample each dish after it was prepared. Ferrell Alvarez, a chef/owner (the other owner, Ty Rodriguez, cooked in front of us) stood between the cooking stations, observing, and checked each plate before it was carried by the servers to the patrons. Such attention to detail is evident in the creativity of the plating, and every garnish and fillip adds to the sublime balance. Many of the flavors are unexpected and this adds to the fun. The quality of the ingredients is beyond fresh, and this is largely what allows the imagination of the chefs to run wild. Rooster and the Till is for those who have a deep appreciation for a brilliant group of foodies who want to take you with them on a journey of taste, texture, and consumable art.

We were given an appetizer by chef Alvarez that was not on the menu; sliced sunchoke, fresh ricotta, roasted pistachios, and a bit of heat from I believe came from a chipotle drizzle. A little palate play never hurt anyone, right? Oh, and I forgot the grapefruit. He had created this dish for a private dinner recently held for a group of local and visiting chefs. We knew we wanted the gnocchi and short ribs… and we don’t share this. A red wine was discussed as we reviewed the excellent selections. After tasting two wines Miles brought us, we chose a Côte du Rhône, Mon Coeur. Miles suggested the chorizo crusted octopus/pickled raisins/carrot emulsion/squid black ink beans, and that arrived before the gnocchi — it was wonderfully unexpected and something we never would have tried. After the sublime gnocchi I had to have the foie gras/sous vide pear/cashew pear butter nutella/huckleberry gastrique, melt in your mouth luxury. The wine paired perfectly with these flavors, preventing a taste bud overload, but I wasn’t done yet.

I have eaten desserts in a glass, and many times they are a mess of layers and flavors that smush together in a disappointing muddle. This dessert was magnificent — mocha custard/”candied brioche”/honey roast pistachio/pistachio gelato/cherry geleé. I finished it all, sharing a couple of bites with my husband who watched me devour it with amusement.

Treat yourself and dine here sooner rather than later. Call for reservations early. And sit at the bar if you can get a seat. Let me know what you eat because the menu changes frequently. And thank you to everyone at Rooster and the Till for a truly memorable meal.


Foie gras





The Tampa Tribune Features Author L.A. Lewandowski

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Lois Author photoWow! I am honored to be featured today by The Tampa Tribune. Journalist Joyce C. McKenzie interviews me regarding my upcoming seminar in the local library, Aspiring Authors 101. Here is the link: http://tbo.com/south-tampa/local-bestselling-author-to-host-seminar-20141112/

The Sequel to Born to Die is Released

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Valentine’s Day is a good time for a treat, don’t you think? So, here it is – the sequel to my murder mystery! A Gourmet Demise: Murder in South Tampa is finally published. I know it took longer than a lot of you wanted, but it is worth the wait. This novel is filled with all the things you love about South Tampa. Glorious mansions, art galleries, fine food and wine, trips to International Plaza – and a cast of characters you will feel you have met at Mise En Place. I’m already at work on the next one, and I promise it won’t take as long.

And what do you think of the gorgeous cover? Graphic artist Jeff Deubert once again amazed me with his talent. The painting is by Nicaraguan artist Luis Guerrero Lugo. The woman? You tell me. Enjoy!




Thriving After A One-Star Review

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Rutgers Graduate and Pulitzer-prize winning author, Junot Díaz. I loved "Oscar Wao."

It is late in the evening and you are about to make a mistake that will cause you to toss and turn all night. Sleep will elude you as you see the words dancing in front of your eyes, taunting you with their black and white judgment. There, defiling your Amazon author page is a one-star review. Blood pounds in your veins as you read. You are naked, revealed to the world as a pretender, a poser, certainly not a writer. Your head drops to your desk, and you slip slowly into madness.

If this hasn’t happened to you yet, then you either haven’t been writing long enough, or you lead a charmed existence. The one-star review is a rite of passage. No matter how great the writer, no matter how brilliant the masterpiece, someone will feel that the book was disappointing. Or they will hate it and advise others to skip it.

After much thought I decided to share with you my philosophical and practical approach to thriving after a poor review, or more accurately, one that eviscerates your book.

  1.  Check the profile of the reviewer. Look at the genres they read, and scan some of their reviews. If they have reviewed hundreds of books in your genre, compare your review to others they have written. Are their reviews typically critical? Are they an expert in the genre? Are they an avid reader of the niche you wish to reach, or did they pick up your book thinking it was a different genre?
  2. Separate how much you care about your book, from the critical comments. Put your emotion to the side as you sift through the critique. Is any of it true? It may be difficult to acknowledge that the review has merit in one or two aspects. By accepting that you are not perfect and can learn and improve you will become a better writer.
  3. Be thankful. There are thousands of books that this person could choose to read. They chose your book. And, because they read it they are entitled to their opinion.
  4. Do not argue with a reviewer. If the review was abusive, flag it and contact Amazon. Focus on getting more reviews through honest means that will dilute the sting of the one-star. Incidentally, I believe that a mix of ratings confirms to Amazon that you are not using sock puppet reviewers. Furthermore, readers who enjoyed your book may get protective of you when they feel you have been treated badly, and they will give you a glowing review to minimize the poor one.
  5. There is a time to contact a reviewer, and that would be if they say the book had a problem during the download and the formatting is a mess. I was extremely appreciative of a reviewer pointing this out to me. I checked the file and it was mostly Amazon’s problem. I would never have known about the issue if this nice woman hadn’t informed me.
  6. Move on to your next project. Congratulate yourself that you are able to provide entertainment for others. You are a special breed.

The above suggestions are just that — suggestions. No review, no matter how derogatory, is going to make me stop writing. This logical approach is the only way I have figured out to properly absorb the salient points of a critique and make them work for me. That doesn’t mean I am going to change the way I write. It does mean that I will pay attention to areas that readers have especially liked or been confused by.

One of the most famous bad reviews was written about John Keats’ masterpiece Endymion. The review was condescending and had a decidedly personal feel. The critical mistake on the part of the reviewer was to fail to:

1. Say what the book was about.

2. Discuss how the author went about saying what the book was about.

3. Finally, communicate what the reviewer felt about what the author was saying in the      book.

One might say that in attempting to combine vampires, tango, alternative lifestyles, fashion, fine food and interior design in a novella I was cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Perhaps I was naive in thinking that a fun, 124 page romp priced at $.99 would entertain and amuse. I did not expect what I received. What I have learned is this – when one attempts an artistic experiment some people will get it. The opinions will be on opposite ends of the spectrum, and I will have to take my lumps. C’est la vie.

This post appeared originally on Indies Unlimited. To read the extensive comments that followed this post, please visit the site at http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/11/14/thriving-after-a-poor-review/


Authors Eat…

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

This week author Lynne Cantwell joins us for an installment of the popular Culture and Cuisine Club feature, Authors Eat…

Before we get to Lynne’s story and recipe for Chocolate Mint Meringues, I have a confession to make. When Lynne joined the staff of Indies Unlimited I was intimidated. Along with a master’s degree in fiction from Johns Hopkins, Lynne has an impressive resume. Twenty years in broadcast journalism, time spent at CNN, and fiction writing galore – experience that I could never hope to match. What I have found, however, is that she is willing to share her expertise with fellow writers who hold themselves to the high standard she sets for her craft. She is kind and supportive of new authors. Lynne is the author of the popular five book series, “The Pipe Woman Chronicles”, as well as other novels. She has collaborated on a variety of anthologies, has published some of her short stories, and revels in writing flash fiction – just for fun. She is a witty, smart lady, and kind enough to share with us her recipe for Chocolate Mint Meringues. Yum!

In the author’s own words…

As the weather turns cooler, my thoughts are beginning to turn to the baking I need to do for the holidays. When I first started working at the law firm where I am now, I realized I couldn’t afford to buy more than a token gift for the attorneys I work with – but I could make them cookies, which, given their eighty-hour weeks, was probably not something they would do for themselves. It’s become a tradition, and one that does me a favor; I always make cookies for the holidays anyway, and this way most of them go out the door instead of onto my hips.

I have several types that I make every year, and one or two that I rotate in and out, depending on how ambitious I feel. But I always make these meringue cookies last. They’re quick and easy, so I can just about do them in my sleep, and they’re ready in the morning when I’m putting the final touches on the cookie tins.

These are not just for the holidays, either. I got the recipe from my sister-in-law, who said it’s great for when your kid tells you at 9:00 p.m. that he promised to bring cookies for the school bake sale the next day. (She was right.)

In case you’ve never made meringue before, here are a couple of definitions. “Soft peaks” means that when you pull the beaters out of the bowl, the mixture holds its shape. “Stiff peaks” means that when you pick up the bowl and turn it over, nothing falls out – but do this carefully, in case you’re not quite there yet!


4 egg whites

1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 1/2 c. sugar

A few drops of mint extract

A few drops of green food coloring, if desired

12-oz. bag of chocolate chips


Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl, and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, the mint flavoring, and the food coloring, and keep beating with the mixer until stiff peaks form. By hand, fold in the chocolate chips. (I usually use the mini chips, but you can use the regular size, too.)

Line several cookie sheets with waxed paper. Heat oven to 375 degrees for 15 minutes and shut off. Drop cookies by teaspoonfuls (smaller cookies turn out better) onto the lined cookie sheet and place in the oven overnight. Makes about six dozen cookies.

Intriguing cover, don't you think?

You can visit Lynne at the following links.

Blog: http://hearth-myth.blogspot.com/

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Lynne-Cantwell/e/B005JTP5NE

Taco Bus Rocks!

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Fish Tacos, refried beans and rice.

Tonight we enjoyed two amazing Tampa venues. First, we went to the gorgeous Tampa Theatre, a 1926 movie palace, to see a new digital copy of Casablanca. Then, we went to the Hillsborough Avenue Taco Bus restaurant. The food was delicious and extremely fresh. This restaurant has been featured on the Food Network. I started eating my dinner and realized I needed to take a photo fast. There are four locations and you need to go there ASAP!

Born to Die: The Montauk Murders–Free Today

Monday, July 1st, 2013

If you have not had an opportunity to read my first novel, it will be free on Amazon for the rest of the day. Enjoy!


Chris James Interviews Author Hugh Howey

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013


Interview with Hugh Howey
Posted on  by 

Here’s the scoop: I’m sitting at my work station on the Death Star, flicking dried bits of chewing gum at Carol Wyer, when suddenly I get an alert that Hugh Howey’s ship is cruising past, just out of tractor beam range. Knowing that the Evil Mastermind will be less than happy if I miss this opportunity, I run down to the shuttle bay. With no time to lose, I wind up the rubber band on the back of the shuttle really, really tightly. Then, I get in the shuttle and – ping! I’m hurtling across the heavens on an intercept course with Howey’s ship. I reach it, knock on his window, and manage to ask him these few questions before the rubber band contracts and pulls me and the shuttle back to the Death Star. Phew, that was a close one!

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Hugh Howey is the author of the award-winning Molly Fyde Saga and the New York Times and USA Today bestselling WOOLseries. The WOOL OMNIBUS won Kindle Book Review’s 2012 Indie Book of the Year Award—it has been as high as #1 in the Kindle store—and 17 countries have picked up the work for translation.

Here’s what Hugh had to say:

Hugh, you’ve mentioned that you write in multiple genres. How do you handle different genre projects at the same time? Do you have any difficulty in switching voices and moods?

Man, I wish my moods were more stable! But since they’re not, it helps me to have several projects going at once. If I get stuck or lose energy in a science fiction story, I can pop over to my erotica novel or my memoirs and add a chapter (or write one chapter and copy/paste into both of these).

I think my voice is more suited to the plot and characters than to the genre. I like getting in touch with the mood of a piece, and it colors my vocabulary, my sentence flow, my injection of humor or horror. What I’ve found, incidentally, is that the vast majority of readers are keen to explore different genres with the same author. I get a lot of emails that start off with how much they loved Wool, but that they just read I, Zombie or The Hurricane and enjoyed them even more.

Putting Wool aside for a moment, which of your other titles are you most proud of/satisfied with?

I, Zombie. It’s a book I don’t recommend anyone reading (I even warn them not to in the product description, and this isn’t a marketing trick. I really advise against it). But to me, it’s the most personal work I’ll ever write. It’s my ode to New York City, the only novel in which I directly confront my experiences at the World Trade Center on 9/11, and also a very public internal monologue in which I wrestle with my lack of belief in Free Will. In sum, it’s horrific. But I’m very glad I wrote it.

If you could turn back the clock, is there anything you would do differently?

I would wind that clock back until something snapped. I would go back to when I was twelve years old, dreaming of becoming an author, and I would have stuck with all those novels I started and never finished. I would have goofed off less and written more. I would have thirty books published by now. My lack of faith in myself to write to completion is the one thing I wish I could go back and change. It shouldn’t have taken this long to figure out how to stay motivated.

Have you participated in any groups similar to Indies Unlimited, or other writing groups? If yes, were they helpful?

Absolutely. I was part of a writing group in Boone, N.C. called Highcountry Writers. I did workshops in the writing forums of SF World. I stay active on the Kindle Boards Writers’ Cafe. There’s so much to learn from other writers and from their feedback. Writing is an inherently lonely endeavor. Having a place to commune with like-minded people is a blessing.

What would you say to a young, new writer who has a few great story ideas and little else, and who looks aghast at all the things self-publishing involves – what key advice would you give him/her?

Self-publishing involves as much or as little work as you want to invest in it. You don’t need to market your book. You don’t need a website. You don’t need to upload your work to sales channels. If you enjoy writing stories, you can email them to friends for free and see if they are entertained. You can post them to a blog in an instant.

The hard work is self-inflicted. I put in very long hours and work every single day because I love what I do and because I want to put out the best work possible. Don’t feel any pressure to do likewise. If you enjoy writing, do as much of it as you can. There has never been a better time to be a writer, whatever your goals and ambitions are.

Do you think a self-published book will ever win a major literary award? If yes, how far are we away from that day?

Absolutely. There are a few literary awards like the Hugos that are voted on by the fans, and the success of indie breakouts has highlighted how much power fans truly wield. As for awards like the Man Booker, Pulitzer, National Book Award, etc., I would be surprised if we didn’t see a win from a self-published book in the next five or six years. My guess is that the first of these will come from a major author who decides to publish something on their own that was too quirky or non-commercial to be picked up elsewhere. Look at Tinkers. It won the Pulitzer and came from a small press. A book like that could have been self-published and shocked everyone. I can’t wait to see it happen! (The 2013 Hugo Award nominations are open, by the way!)

Final question: Indies Unlimited has quite a few lady writers who, if they can’t actually have your babies, would nevertheless appreciate an opportunity to throw their under-garments at you. Any special message I could convey to them? :)

My wife and I live in Jupiter, Florida. So my advice would be to face south and throw away! Granted, your room is going to look like a mess afterward…

Look for WOOL in hardback in 2013 from Random House UK and keep your fingers crossed that Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian will do something exciting with the film rights!

Hugh lives with his wife Amber and their dog Bella. When he isn’t writing, he’s reading or taking a photograph.

Halloween Style

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Mmmmmmm, looks tasty.

High class cannibal

I feel a bit guilty writing this post because of all the people who had to cancel Halloween due to Hurricane Sandy. Please forgive me and enjoy the pictures I took of my home as well as the Munzo house. This year their theme was Tiki Island, and the cannibals were there to celebrate. Some neighborhood children may be missing.

"Come here, little children."

There were no survivors ...

Those photos are all from the Munzo’s party. Here are some of mine.

Freddie Krueger

The votive lit walkway

A gargoyle altar


The two-faced political candidate.


Novel: Born to Die – The Montauk Murders by L.A. Lewandowski

Monday, January 9th, 2012

The following excerpt is from my novel, “Born to Die – The Montauk Murders”.

Gianni Bruno was being difficult, something he excelled at, when necessary. He knew he could be a prick when he didn’t get exactly what he wanted.  He hadn’t gotten to where he was in life by being a pushover or by compromising; rather, he was tough, street smart and relentless. And he wanted Chantal Stevens. Margo had still not confirmed that she was coming to Miranda’s for the weekend and he was aggravated.

He refilled the heavy crystal tumbler with the single-malt scotch his valet kept out for him, added two ice cubes, and walked in his stocking feet to look at the view from his Manhattan penthouse.

He loved to look at New York, and from here he could see the Chrysler building. In his opinion, it was one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, a feminine structure in a masculine metropolis. Gianni had no doubt that New York City, if human, would be a man.

He took a mouthful of the luscious liquid, and enjoyed the warmth as it ran through his body.  He pushed his hand through his still-thick, salt and pepper hair, and willed himself to calm down and think the situation through.  There must be a way to seal this deal.

His was a life both ordered and indulgent.  His tastes, honed over years of travel and self-education were impeccable. His requirements from his staff and servants were to ‘not speak until spoken to’, and to carry out all tasks meticulously.  The demands of his various business interests required such attention, to every detail, and his upbringing and perfectionist personality also demanded it. The only area of his life that was not predictable of late was Margo.  She wasn’t coming through on her promise, and this was not acceptable.  He would have Chantal!

He took another draw on the scotch and let his thoughts drift to the last time he had seen her.  Ah, she was gorgeous; classy, well dressed, educated and sophisticated.  He met her when Margo brought her to his business meeting in St. Barts.  She had dressed and styled Margo for all the events, picking out every piece of every outfit, and Margo had never looked better.

Chantal had attended a number of the lunches and dinners, socializing effortlessly.  He had watched her, trying to figure out her ethnicity:  African with maybe some Mediterranean blood? Mixed with some English or Irish.  Having been a language major in college at Rutgers, she also spoke French, Spanish and Italian, which he overheard as she conversed with some of his associates.  She was a real class act. But he had always believed that all women were whores – or wanted to be.

“Born to Die – The Montauk Murders” is available in paperback, Kindle, and all other e readers. Please see the thumbnail on the right sidebar of this page for details. Thank you.