Whirlwind Romance

A rush of emotion dropped a veil over all but the tiny world of the two people in seats 11A and 11B, in a jet plane floating somewhere over the Atlantic, in a still moment in time.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

FIVE STAR REVIEW FOR TRIPTYCH

Wow! This Christmas is one great present after another.  Toni Sweeney gave me FIVE STARS for my novel Triptych, calling it “[a] very romantic To Catch a Thief…The dialogue is witty, the descriptions are poetic and lush, and the story is an entertaining and very funny one.”

Read the whole review here:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Toni Sweeney: Where the Willing Suspension of Disbelief Reigns

If you’re looking for something a little different (and it isn’t M/M or even ménage), try “Variation,” now available from The Wild Rose Press.  Today my guest Toni Sweeney, multi-multi published romance author, will tell us about her latest release (and the second book out in one week).
 

A PASSING THANKS TO QUARK  

Does anyone remember Quark? It was a one-season SF satire created by Buck Henry in 1977. Starring Richard Benjamin and Tim Tommerson, it chronicled the adventures of Adam Quark, captain of a garbage scow which was part of the United Galactic Sanitation patrol (and secretly a galactic agent). One of his crew members was Gene/Jean (played by Tommerson), a Transmute with characteristics of both sexes. Gene could change to Jean at the flick of an eyelash, leading to some hilarious situations.

When I started writing “Variation,” I decided to take a leaf from Captain Quark’s log. My “second” hero was also going to be a mutation, but I was going to go about it in a more serious way. Aleksandr Karanov is a Terran, a Russian whose village was destroyed in a nuclear meltdown, leaving the 4-year-old an orphan and possessor of the V-gene, enabling him to change sex at will. Now, he’s a Federation assassin, utilizing his ability to enable him to get close to his unsuspecting targets. Lexei’s small (5’3”), dainty, and forever being mistaken for something he’s not because of his size. As his partner says,

if he’d been about a foot taller, Karanov would have been someone to be afraid of. As it was, he was more likely to be cooed over by women, scorned by men, and not taken seriously by anyone. Which might not be a bad thing at all, considering his profession. 

Lexei’s partner is Gabriel Marsh, and the two couldn’t be more different if they’d planned it. Marsh is 6’8”, amber-eyed, and possesses a libido as granite-like as his face. He’s an Angelus, from a planet where people are judged by their morals, and he’s already decided what he thinks of his new partner.

And then he meets Deirdre…Lexei’s Other, his Alter Ego, his Second Persona. The little assassin’s extremely possessive of her and immediately warns Marsh away…and that’s where the problem comes in……for Marsh has already fallen in love with a woman who doesn’t exist. 

What do you do when the girl of your dreams is the man from your waking life? 

EXCERPT, Variation:

The doors opened automatically as he approached them and he went inside. Standing in the lobby, he glanced around. It was stark and modern, done in unrelieved white and chrome, glittering and antiseptic. There was furniture in the lobby and genuine living greenery in ceramic urns making a backdrop to the set-up, but no people around. Vaguely, he was thankful for that. At least no one’s seen me going in.

From somewhere above him, he could hear music, and without knowing why, decided to follow the sound. He didn’t even check for Karanov’s name on the tenant register. Would it actually be there?
The music led him up two flights of non-escalating stairs to a door in the center of the hallway, a door which, when he tapped the inter-com pad, slowly swung open. Suspecting a trick, he stepped to one side, carefully pulled the Winchester TR-27 out of its shoulder holster and pushed the door completely open.
Cautiously, Marsh looked in. What he saw was unexpected but totally enjoyable.
A pair of softly rounded buttocks and slender white legs. A young woman, back to the door, doing some type of calisthenics. Bemidjian aerobics, if her gyrations were any indication. She appeared to be wearing nothing more than a towel and Marsh wondered how long it would be before her movements caused the tucked velour cloth rectangle to dislodge and end up on the carpet. He felt a flick of latent lust, wondering if he had enough time to wait and see. There was a headset over her ears and the way she was pausing slightly between each movement told him she was listening to a physical fitness lecture, and that, combined with the loudness of the music, was the reason she hadn’t heard his knock.
She finished the call and tossed the headset onto the counter of the little kitchenette and spun around. Damp curls bobbing, she was in the middle of a deep stretch making the breasts under the towel rise dangerously, when she saw Marsh standing there, gun in hand. Immediately, she squealed and fell against the counter. Scrambling behind it, she stood with arms crossed over her breasts, which were still pretty well covered as far as he could tell.
For just a minute, they stared at each other.
She recovered fast. Jerking the headset away from her ears, she tossed it on the counter, then touched a button on the control panel set into it. As the music died away, she said, without a quaver, “You must be Marsh, Lexei’s new partner. Come in, shut the door, and put away the hardware. We’re friendly here.”
“How’d you know who I am?” He turned to face her, acutely aware his own Inglaterre sounded awkward and stilted. Damn, I sound like someone fresh off an immigrant-freighter!
“Lexei.” She was completely composed now, as if heavily armed near-seven footers barged through her door every day. “He lets me know what I need to. What are you doing here? I thought you were supposed to be formally introduced at the beginning of the week.”
“I-I thought we should meet beforehand.” It was lame. He really didn’t have a reason and was sure she knew it.
“I’m Deirdre.” She came from behind the counter, not in the least embarrassed by her skimpy attire, and took his arm, leading him into the kitchen. “Can I get you something to drink? It’s not ten o’clock yet, so how about a cup of coffee?”
“Coffee?” She got raised eyebrows at that. “The real stuff?”
He slid his tall body onto one of the stools at the counter, noting ruefully it was definitely not constructed for someone with a normal height of six-foot-nine. He felt as if he were sitting with his knees under his chin. If either Karanov or the girl were in his place, neither’s feet would touch the floor.
“Uh-huh.” She was getting a cup from a rack on a nearby wall, lifting a glass carafe from a burner. “I know, it’s illegal, but the UTF likes to keep its employees happy. Right?”
He gave an agreeing nod. The UTF had been known to support its agents’ vices as long as they weren’t too expensive and didn’t interfere with operations.
“What other bad habits does he have?” Marsh, who’d never tasted genuine coffee in his life, ignored the cup she set before him. He couldn’t stop his nose from inhaling the steam wafting from it, however.
“Cigarettes.” She made a face. “And I think those things are abominable.”
For just a moment, Marsh stared at her silently. Cigarettes andcoffee? Well. The little guy went after the bad ones in a big way. Those items were Numbers One and Two on the Surgeon-General’s Universal List of Proscribed Substances. It took real guts to handle either by itself, and together… Once more, Marsh’s estimation of Aleksandr Karanov did an about-face.
“Of course,” she went on, as if belatedly trying to defend her absent…roommate, lover, friend…whatever he was. “He doesn’t smoke them much because he’s not certain how they’ll affect me.”
Thank God for small favors, then, was all Marsh could think at that point, though he didn’t say it aloud.
“He only does it when he’s worried.” She nodded at a small saucer-like object at the end of the counter. Marsh could see a mound of ash and three crushed and badly charred tubes of paper in it. “He smoked three last night after he got home. He’s a little anxious about meeting you.”
Same here.
As she poured herself a cup, he studied her quietly. Her hair was damp from exercising, the exact shade of ash-gold he remembered Karanov’s as being. She was dainty, probably didn’t weigh more than forty-eight kilos. The perfect mate for the diminutive assassin.
“You indulge, too?” He felt it was time he said something.
“Just the coffee.” She smiled. “At least it tastes good. Whoops! Forgot the sucrose. I can’t drink this stuff unsweetened.” She turned, opened a cabinet and stood on tiptoe, reaching to the top shelf. The towel lifted and parted, revealing a smooth pale hip with a blood-colored blemish on the white skin, an irregularly-shaped Valentine.
“You shouldn’t do that,” he told her. “It’s giving me a very good view of your heart.”
“What?” She looked over her shoulder at him, followed his gaze and reddened, placing one small hand hastily over the mark. “Oh!”
For a moment, she just stood there, deep pink spreading through the pale skin. Then, she got very busy spooning the sweetener into her cup, leaving the bowl on the counter.
“W-would you like some breakfast?” She attempted to cover the awkward moment.
“Don’t eat breakfast.”
“You should. It’s the most important meal of the day. Here—” She pulled open the refrigeration unit, took out a bowl and set it before him. “Have a strawberry.”
There were probably two quarts of the small red berries. Arcanian Strawberries, extremely expensive, clones of a now-extinct Terran plant, and definitely out of season.
“Lexei buys them special for me. By the pound.”
“They must be paying your boyfriend pretty well if he can afford these little gems.”
“That’s a good one.” She laughed. It was nice, low and soft.“Glad to see you’ve got a sense of humor.”
“What do you mean?”
“Saying Lexei’s my boyfriend.”
“Isn’t he?”
“Don’t you kn—” Suddenly, she looked puzzled, then abruptly angry. “I-I’d better get Lexei.” She practically ran from the room, disappearing down a hallway.
Exactly three minutes later, Karanov himself appeared.
Totally naked.
Well, not quite. There was a towel around his neck and he was rubbing another vigorously against his wet hair. For a moment, Marsh wondered if this was his usual at-home attire, then realized he had probably been in the shower when his visitor arrived.
He could at least have dressed first. Marsh was letting his prudery surface and tried to quell it. Be open-minded, be liberal, after all, he is a Terran. That was enough of an excuse right there. Native Earthers were known for still housing some very primitive beliefs and actions, and never attempting to suppress them. And you two are going to be together for the next year or more? Oh, God!
Involved with the towel, Karanov stood there several minutes . He was still as slight as he’d been the night before, maybe only two or three inches over five feet. Marsh was startled to see that without his clothes he wasn’t as frail-looking as he’d appeared on the dance floor. There were very well-formed muscles in his chest and arms. Even the movement of using the towel gave an indication of strength Marsh wouldn’t have believed possible in such a slight body.
If he’d been about a foot taller, Karanov would have been someone to be afraid of. As it was, he was more likely to be cooed over by women, scorned by men, and not taken seriously by anyone. Which might not be a bad thing at all, considering his profession.
All Marsh could think was that he and Deirdre were perfect complements to each other and if they weren’t lovers, then… Brother and sister? Twins, maybe?
Lexei lowered the towel, looked directly at Marsh through a mop of wet ringlets and came toward him, one hand outstretched. “Well, the famous Marsh. We’re face-to-face at last.”
He had a strong grip for someone his size. Marsh forced himself not to flex his fingers as his hand was released.
“Hmmm. Big hulker, aren’t you?” For a minute, the pale eyes studied Marsh’s face as he wrapped the towel around his waist and tucked it securely. “Younger than I thought, too. The lighting in the Blue Eagleadded ten years to your age.”
“You saw us last night?”
A shrug of the slender but well-muscled shoulders, a quirking of a blond brow as he went on, with an accent just as heavy as the girl’s, “Couldn’t help it, the way you kept staring. At first I figured you were just trying to decide whether or not to attempt a pick-up.”
For just a moment, Marsh couldn’t do anything but choke.
“Hey, I’m kidding! I recognized Raine and knew exactly who you were.” Another shrug. He pulled the other towel from his neck and dropped it on a stool and went behind the counter. “Still can’t figure out why they wanted us to meet that way.”
“You mean, you knew I’d be there?”
“Nope. Didn’t take much to figure it out, though.” A shake of the golden head. He took a berry from the bowl and ate it.“You know, you really should eat breakfast. How’re you going to have enough energy to do what has to be done if you don’t nourish your body properly?”
“How’d you know—?”
“You told Deirdre. I know everything she knows.” He looked at the cup of rapidly-cooling coffee. “Didn’t touch the coffee, either. You ought to drink it. The caffeine’d pep you up. You look as if you could use a little stimulation.”
Marsh swallowed his answer to that.
“I mean, I know you’re Angelus, but nobody can be that strait-laced.” Karanov picked up Deirdre’s cup and took a swallow. “Damn! She’s filled it with sucrose again.” He grimaced as he set down the cup, and leaned both forearms on the counter. “So why are you here, Marsh? A little private follow-up to last night?”
Why does he have to make it sound so suggestive? Marsh felt himself bristle as he nodded. “I felt we needed to talk before we go to briefings tomorrow.”
“Good idea!” Karanov looked down at his cup. “I’ve always asked it be explained to my partners very thoroughly about me before we start any training.” He raised his eyes to Marsh’s, suddenly very serious. “It helps to prevent any misunderstandings.”For a bare instant, he paused, taking a deep breath and letting the words hang in the air. “So! How do you feel about working with someone like me?”
“Just keep your hands to yourself, Lexei Karanov,” Marsh told him bluntly. “And we’ll get along fine.”
Me?” He’d swear the shock he saw was real. “I was thinking more of the other way around!”
“Listen, you!” Marsh found himself on his feet, towering over the little Terran, who didn’t appear in the least intimidated. “I wouldn’t touch you—”
“I’m not talking about myself, you idiot!” For a moment, Karanov looked as if he wanted to laugh. “I mean Deirdre.”
Of course. He’d be protective of his sister, wouldn’t he? UTF assassins were notorious womanizers.
“Don’t worry, seduction’s not one of my habits.”
“Good. I try to keep her out of my work as much as possible.” He turned and saw the sugar bowl sitting on the counter. “She forgot to put it back again.” Picking it up, he opened the cabinet and stood on tiptoe, returning the bowl to the top shelf.
For just a moment, Marsh was subjected to a weird deja vu as the blond, towel-wrapped little figure reached into the cabinet. Then, the towel parted and he saw the Valentine-shaped mark on Karanov’s hip, and the little man looked over his shoulder, placing one small hand over it, saying coyly with another grin,“Sorry. Didn’t mean to give you a good view of my heart.”
Oh, God. Sweet, everloving… Abruptly, he understood. Everything. And also why he hadn’t been given any information about his new partner. “You’re a Variant, aren’t you?”
His new partner was a God-damned Variant, one of those genetic freaks who could not only change physical appearance at will, but sex as well. And if Karanov could do that, that meant Deirdre—
Damnation.
“Deirdre’s your Other, isn’t she?”
“Didn’t you know?”Karanov was staring at him with total confusion. “They didn’t tell you? Anything?
Marsh shook his head, allowing himself a faint laugh, the closest he could get to genuine amusement. Genuine, but oh so rueful.
“God! Seems we were talking at cross-purposes, weren’t we? What you must have been thinking.” Karanov looked angry. “I know exactly what you were thinking.” 

Toni V. Sweeney was born some time between the War Between the States and the Gulf War. She has lived 30 years in the South, a score in the Middle West, and a decade on the Pacific Coast and now she’s trying for her second 30 on the Great Plains. Her first novel was published in 1989. An accomplished artist as well as writer, she has a degree in Fine Art and a diploma in Graphic Art and produces videos as well as writing. Toni maintains a website for herself and her pseudonym Icy Snow Blackstone, and has been associated with the South Coast Writer's Association, the Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers, several other writer’s loops, myspace, Facebook, and YouTube.



You can contact Toni here:




   Twitter: @tonivsweeney


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Welcome Toni Sweeney

I’d like to welcome my very first guest, the fabulous Toni Sweeney, author of more than 30 books. 


Toni V. Sweeney was born some time between the War Between the States and the Gulf War. She has lived 30 years in the South, a score in the Middle West, and a decade on the Pacific Coast and now she’s trying for her second 30 on the Great Plains. Her first novel was published in 1989. An accomplished artist as well as writer, she has a degree in Fine Art and a diploma in Graphic Art and produces videos as well as writing. Toni maintains a website for herself and her pseudonym Icy Snow Blackstone, and has been associated with the South Coast Writer's Association, the Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers, several other writer’s loops, myspace, Facebook, and YouTube.


Toni has two books coming out this week—today she’ll tell us about her new sci fi romance adventure, For the Love in Adler’s Brain.

What would a science fiction story be without a robot?  Whether it’s a Robbie kind of mechanical clunker, shouting, “Danger, Will Robinson!” or a sophisticated bit of circuitry a la Mr. Data, robots, or androids, have always fascinated people.  Why? Perhaps because they encourage the “God-sense” in Man, allowing us to pretend for a moment that we, too, can create life, not as Dr. Frankenstein did, but one that is far superior, strength and intelligence-wise.  In novels and movies, at least, the android is nearly always superior to Man, even his own creator.  And then, we go and imbue him with our own weaknesses and make him as human as ourselves, and therefore, immediately inferior…


I’ve dealt with androids before.  Remember Darius, the most perfect artificial intelligence in the world? Physically, he was a replicant of his creator, the 25-year-old duplicate of Dr. David Marx, never growing older while the original aged.  Darius also had an empathy chip, enabling him to experience emotion, and, much to his dismay, to fall in love.  He also had the power to end his own life when that love wasn’t returned.  Darius was featured in Icy Snow Blackstone’s novel Earthman’s Bride and its sequel, When the Condor Returned, and it was because of him that Earthman’s Bride won first prize in the Maryland Romance Writer’s “Inner Vixen” contest in 2008 in the “Alternate Fiction” section. A good many readers seemed to have fallen in love with Darius, as a matter of fact, liking him better than the hero.

This time around, I’m dealing with another android, this one a Federation hit man named Moondeath, aka Marcus Adler.  Adler has a strike against him when the story opens: For all intents and purposes, he’s deceased, having been the victim of a car-bomb.  He also has one thing in his favor: His love for Rena Pearson and her love for him.  And he hopes that love will help him survive as she hires Private Investigator Luc Kai’Leel to find all that remains of her lover…his brain…

Only trouble is: Luc’s fallen in love with his client, and he’s determined to prove to her that a man with warm blood pulsing inside him is superior to any mechanical look-alike with protein-plasma being electronically pumped through his artificial veins.

EXCERPT:

With more than a little disbelief, Luc Kai’Leel looked at the young woman sitting across from him.
           She’d appeared sane enough, a definitely attractive little blonde looking almost boringly normal, until she made the statement that now forced him to question his assessment.
“You heard me!” she snapped. “You may not be Terran but you understand our language well enough! Why should I repeat myself?”
Luc flushed and felt a slight surge of anger. He might have been born on war-conquered Felida, but damn it, he was a naturalized citizen of Earth now, having given up all ways of life as practiced on his home planet and done everything possible to make himself accepted here. Under casual inspection, he could even pass for a Terran, and now t-this ditz was looking down her pert little nose at him!
“Would you mind doing it anyway?” he asked, swallowing his anger and attempting to keep his voice at a higher pitch than his usually gravelly growl. “Just to make certain I didn’t miss something in the translation?”
“Oh, very well.” She made a sound that was a cross between a gasp and a sigh of impatience. “What I want you to do, Mr. Kai’Leel, is find my fiance’s brain.”
“That's what I thought you said.” Luc looked a little unhappy. He, too, sighed. “It isn’t inside his head, I take it?”
“Marcus was killed three weeks ago. Someone spot-bombed his car.” For just a moment, she looked tearful and, whether she was crazy or not, the sight momentarily tugged at his heart. “They didn't find enough to bury.”
“We can’t assume his brain went the way the rest of his body did?”
She ignored his remark. “I think the Federation was behind it.”
Oh, great! So she has a government-persecution complex on top of everything else. Silently, he wondered if this was a punishment of some kind. Out of all the investigation agencies on the planet, why did she have to choose his to bring her delusions to?
“The Federation?” he echoed, thinking just how stupid he sounded.
“There were Marshals everywhere immediately afterward. One of them found something in the wreckage. I saw him put it in a small plasticon-baggie.”The picture she was painting displayed itself luridly in his mind…twisted remains of what had been an automobile… black uniformed agent holding a soft, bloody object in his hands. “Later, when I asked him about it, he denied having found anything but I know better. It was Marcus’ brain. I know it was.”
A hand brushed at her eyes.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Marcus told me!”
Uh-oh! She’s worse off than I thought. Definitely certifiable, positively winged-out. Maybe dangerous?
Slowly, Luc’s left hand inched toward the red Emergency button in the telephone console on the left side of the desk. One tap and the med-techs at the local psychiatric hospital would be alerted; they and their air-borne ambulance could be here in three minutes, armed with tranquilizer guns and restraining gear. He had a moment’s regret at what he was about to do, but the girl definitely needed help. And not from me.
“I wouldn’t do that!” She saw the movement. His hand stopped, but as he started to deny the action, she placed her own on the little purse resting in her lap. “You might not like what would happen if I give this a squeeze.”
“What’ve you got in there?”
A bomb? Some type of poisonous gas in a capsule which would break when pressure was applied? He wasn’t going to do anything to find out. He placed both hands in the center of the desk, one over the other.
“That's better.”
“Miss Powell, just tell me what’s so important about your boyfriend’s brain that someone would want to steal it?”
“It’s a positronic brain, Mr. Kai’Leel.” With her hand still on the purse, she relaxed a little, settling herself as she went on, “Let me explain.”
“Please do.” He almost bit his tongue as he realized she might think he was being sarcastic. No matter what she said or did, he had to keep her calm, get her out of here, and then call the Psych-Unit. At the same time, he took a deep breath, nostrils crinkling slightly as he inhaled the girl’s scent. A very pleasant female fragrance, clean, none of the usual vile perfume to insult his senses. He could detect worry, anxiety, even fear, but none of the emotion-twists madness always wrought in a person’s chemical makeup. That’s definitely confusing.
“Marcus is an android,” she began.
Oh Lord! She’s one of those women preferring synthetic men to real ones. Luc couldn’t keep the surprise or speculation out of his cat’s-pupiled eyes. She was so young, not more than twenty-two. He wondered if she’d ever had a human lover.
“An EHR-1, to be exact.”
“Never heard of that model.”
“No reason you should.” She shrugged. “It means Exact Human Replicant. He was the prototype and only one created.”
“What’s your boyfriend’s last name?”
“Adler, after his creator.”
Turning to his desk unit, he typed in the two words. In a moment, he looked back at her. “There’s no Marcus Adler listed, deactivated or otherwise.”
“There wouldn’t be.”
“No?”
She gave him a quiet, triumphant stare. “Have you ever heard of Moondeath, Mr. Kai’Leel?”
Of course, he had. Everyone had heard of Moondeaththe Federation’s ultimate killer, with a perfect record, the only assassin whose identity was a well-kept secret. No one knew his human name or what he looked like, and because of that, he’d achieved near folk-legend status among the civilian population, as well as making millionaires out of several men who’d bet their every tangible bit of property on his kills.
If Marcus Adler was Moondeath, and Moondeath was now defunct... She certainly had his attention now. “Maybe you’d better tell me everything.”
For the Love in Adler’s Brain is available from Class Act Books.


You can contact Toni here:




   Twitter: @tonivsweeney

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christopher Hitchens

RIP Christopher Hitchens. A brilliant iconoclast and writer. The kind of man who made you want to wring his neck, cry to see if you could soften him, bed him. His eyes held you; his mind kept you. His ideas...well his ideas often repulsed you. And yet you loved him because he left the wind tunnel of his mind open to any thought that could prove itself through logic.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My first guest!

Just a heads up, I'll be hosting Toni Sweeney next day (date TBA) who'll talk about her TWO new books--one a fantasy/futuristic novel entitled Variation and the other a sci/fi romance called For the Love in Adler's Brain.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ad Line for Triptych--critique please

I’d love comments on the Log Line (aka Ad Line) to my latest book Triptych. You can find it at Lynn Crain’s new blog, the aptly named Log Line Blog today.  Feel free to comment, edit or whatever.  



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Blogging on a non-Christmas Topic

For anyone who might be willing to read about something other than Christmas, I’m blogging today at Raine Delight's site  on the time-honored pursuit of seashells.  






Thursday, December 1, 2011

Merry Christmas! The Best Coffeebread in the World

Merry Christmas! You can find this recipe at Michelle McCleod's blogspot: http://michellemccleod.blogspot.com/ along with lots of other wonderful recipes for Christmas. Enjoy!

My Swedish mother-in-law made this (along with pickled herring, korv (sausage), jellied veal, and pickled beets) for her Christmas smörgåsbord every year. The first time we missed Christmas in Connecticut, my husband and children insisted that I make it. After several tries, I managed to adapt it for lazy modern bakers who like a more highly spiced loaf. The texture is similar to brioche and insists on being slathered with butter. It is best served for breakfast or at an afternoon coffee break. I advise against making this for your family if you cannot commit to offering it every year for the rest of your life.

SWEDISH COFFEE BREAD


Makes 3 loaves; freezes well
Total time preparation, rising & baking: about 4 hours


Ingredients

2 pkg dry yeast (4 ½ tsp)
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup milk
¾ cup sugar
½ cup butter
1 ½ tsp salt
5 to 5 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 T cardamom pods
4 T butter
4 T sugar


Procedure 

Grind cardamom pods very fine.  Set aside. 
In a small cup dissolve yeast in the warm water. 
Scald milk: heat until foam forms on the milk either in a pot or in the microwave, about 4 minutes in a microwave.
Combine hot milk, sugar, butter and salt in a large bowl then cool to lukewarm. Put in bowl of Kitchenaid or food processor.
Stir in 2 cups of the flour. Beat well.
Add eggs. Beat well. 
Stir in yeast, cardamom and remaining flour to make a soft dough.
If using a food processor or Kitchenaid: Using the kneading arm of the processor, knead 8-10 minutes (if using a bread machine, follow your machine instructions for dough cycle). 
Remove from machine. Place dough in greased bowl and cover with damp towel or greased plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot away from drafts and let rise till doubled in bulk (about 2 hours). 
Remove from bowl and place on floured board. Punch down and divide dough into 3 equal parts. Cover with damp cloth and let rest 10 minutes. 
Divide each part into 3 equal strands and braid loosely, pinching the ends and folding them under. Place on a greased cookie sheet, cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise till doubled (about 1 hour). 
Preheat oven to 350º. 
Bake the loaves for 20 minutes or until golden. While it is baking, melt butter and have it ready with a basting brush.
When you take the bread from the oven, place on cooling racks (I put paper towels under to catch the sugar) and immediately brush with butter. Sprinkle with sugar and any leftover cardamom.