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Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April Writing Challenge

Got a WIP that you need an extra nudge to get you moving again? Join in on the fun!

My goals for April -
1. Finish initial edit of book 2 for publisher
2. Finish at least 3 short stories
3. Write at least 10,000 words on one WIP novel

Check out Tristi's blog here for the main challenge:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Life Lessons from Video Games

I'm not much of a gamer. I rarely play video games, especially the newer ones. It's normally a one-way trip to motion sickness and migraine territory. Some titles are just irresistible though, Plants vs. Zombies being the prime exception. For years, I was a Tetris addict. I just couldn't get enough of the game. I was good, too. My kids still haven't wiped my high scores off the board.

Tetris taught me important life skills. Ha! you say. Let me prove it. What is Tetris, really? Visual manipulation of objects. I use that skill every week at the grocery store. I can pack a cart so full, it requires two carts to get the bagged groceries out of the store. And you should see me at Costco where almost everything comes in a nice, 90 degree corner box. Unfortunately, it's not a skill in high demand.

I can pack ten people and all their gear for a week-long trip into a 15 passenger van and still have room to breathe. Another life skill I blame on Tetris. (Why would you do that? you ask. Are you a tour guide or travel planner? Nope. I have eight kids. We do go on vacation occasionally but not often. It requires too much logistics. Troop movements, except my troops don't follow orders very often.)

I can also protect my brains from zombies using frozen watermelons, but that doesn't seem to be a high demand skill either. Not until the zombie apocalypse.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Homemade Chili

As another cold spring storm rolls in, tonight's dinner fits the bill of hot and filling and easy - chili, made fresh. Since I'm allergic to cilantro and can't stand most canned chili, here's my take on it. Though it does take some time to simmer, it's fast to throw together, even using dried beans. The house smells so good as it cooks. After the beans are soft, you can throw the rest into a crockpot to cook if you like, it takes about 6 hours on low or 4 on high. Make it hotter by adding more cayenne powder or chopped jalapenos.


2 c. dried beans, any variety (pinto, black, kidney, navy, etc.)
5 c. warm water
1 lb. hamburger
1 onion, chopped
1 4 oz. can chopped green chilies
1 quart canned tomatoes or 2 18 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 t. chili powder
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. cumin
1 t. dried oregano
2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. cayenne powder

Put beans in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Cover, and let sit for one hour. Drain beans. Add 5 c. water. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours until beans are soft. Add water if needed as they cook. They should always just be covered.

Brown hamburger, drain grease. Add browned burger, onion, tomatoes, green chilies, and spices to beans. Cover and cook for 3 - 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Salt to taste and serve with corn chips, sour cream, green onions, cheddar cheese, salsa, etc.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Author Interview Week Coming Up

I've got a great week of interviews coming up in two weeks. April 5 - 9, here on my blog, I'll be hosting some Broad Universe authors. Great people, great stories, and GREAT PRIZES! Stay tuned for details... There will definitely be books, there may even be chocolate.

Join me for my first blog tour. Details are coming.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reality vs. Wishful Thinking

So I'm doing one of my day jobs, those things necessary for paying bills and buying groceries - customer support for an iphone app company. I'm reading through emails complaining about our product. It happens. It's my job to try to fix problems and satisfy the customer. It's a frustrating racket most of the time for two reasons.

One, troubleshooting someone's internet connections on their iPhone when I have no idea what settings they use, who their provider is, or any of a million other variables, is a total crapshoot. Besides, I'm only supposed to troubleshoot our app, not their whole phone. That's what Apple support is for. But in the interest of keeping my boss and the customers happy, I do my best.

Two, customer assumptions about customer support are miles from reality. I've had customers complain that we are just too big and corporate, that we only care about raking in their hard-earned money. I fell off the couch laughing over that one. They assumed our customer support department was a large cubicle farm just full of eager customer support people, salivating over the chance to read their email the instant they sent it off.

Reality? It's me, on my couch, usually in my pj's, answering emails for about an hour a day. No, I don't answer them as they are sent. I have a life. I have three other jobs. I do my best to be polite, professional and helpful, but sometimes I just can't do what you want me to do. I can't send you a refund. I can't give you services that don't exist. I can't make an iPhone do something physically impossible.

So what does this have to do with my publishing career? Many new writers and most readers have misconceptions about the publishing world. I thought when I signed my first contract and did the final edit, my book would sell itself and I would be free to work on more writing. The truth? I spend two or three hours a day working on marketing, getting my book noticed, getting my name out there. Since I'm with a small press, I also deal with the automatic assumption that I'm self-published (a completely different topic and a very touchy one) or that I'm not really a professional because small presses don't offer large advances so therefore I must not be worth much as an author.

Truth is, I'm an author, as professional as any other. I write stories because I enjoy them. I publish them because I want to share them and make a living doing something I enjoy that doesn't involve customer support emails. I'm new, yes, to publishing and marketing. I'll make mistakes because I'm human. But if I want to be successful, it's up to me to sell my novel. And write the next one. And market that one. And so on.

So next time you make an assumption about an industry, it might not hurt to take a step back and look for the reality. And for pity's sake, give the poor person doing customer support a break. Courtesy is much appreciated in a usually thankless job.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dark and Dangerously Decadent. Cookies, That Is.

One conversation lately turned to dark and dangerous heroes and sexy villains. Why are we so attracted to those things that will hurt us? Watch people around a fire. It's hot. It will burn you. But it's so pretty. Same thing with our stories. Why do we create such dark and dangerous men for our heroes? Because we like to play with fire, no matter how much we might get burnt.

Frances Pauli
, an author friend, said about a character in my novel Nexus Point, "Tayvis is definitely dark and dangerous AND sexy as all hell." I should return the favor for her book Roarke. The title character is definitely dangerous and sexy. Maybe being a closet romance writer isn't a bad thing when it comes to speculative fiction. Dangerous? Definitely, but the kind of burn that feels so good. Most definitely a guilty pleasure.

Much like these cookies. My kids dubbed them Death by Chocolate Overload. Eat them warm, if you dare.

Decadent Chocolate Chunks

1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
1/2 T. vanilla
2/3 c. cocoa
1/2 T. baking powder
1/2 t. soda
1/2 t. salt
1 2/3 c. flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 bag semisweet choc. chips
1 bag M&M minis

Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla, cocoa, baking powder, soda, and salt. Beat well. Add flour, chips, and M&M’s. Drop by Tablespoon onto cookie sheet, bake at 375° for 9-10 minutes. makes about 6 dozen.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book launch party for Roarke by Frances Pauli

Frances Pauli's new book Roarke is now available for purchase. She writes great stuff, at least what I've read so far. She sent me a copy of Roarke to review (Thanks!). I'll get the review up soon. Promise.

Since I'm still fighting a sinus infection and can't write coherently, I'll leave you with a taste of her free serial: Space Slugs. Go read it. Seriously. You won't regret it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kitty's favorite Roast Turkey with Gravy

One of our two cats died last night. Considering she was 16, it wasn't unexpected. She lived a very long life full of cuddles, brushings, naps, catnip, all the good things cats love. One of her favorite treats was roast turkey. She would park in front of the oven the entire time it roasted, begging for tastes. We chased her off the counter and out of the garbage more than once as she rummaged for turkey bits. So for my recipe today, even though it isn't even close to the usual turkey roasting season, I offer Roast Turkey with Gravy.

1 16 - 20 lb turkey (on the small side at my house, we try to find the 25 - 30 pounders when we can)
2 large oranges, cut into quarters, don't peel
2 large onions, peeled and cut into quarters
1 T. dried rosemary

Thaw turkey completely. The fastest way to do this is to put it in the sink, with the stopper in place, and let cold water dribble over it for about 6-10 hours. It takes 3 - 5 days to thaw in the fridge. Plan ahead.

Unwrap turkey and place in large roasting pan. I use a black ceramic coated one, make sure yours has a good fitting lid. Stuff body cavity and neck cavity with oranges and onions. Working from the tail end, gently slide your hand between the skin and the breast meat. Spread rosemary under skin. Put the lid on the roaster. This traps moisture so you get plenty for gravy and the meat stays moist. It also cooks faster. Roast in a 350° oven for 3.5 - 4.5 hours, until meat is at least 170° or until the legs pull off easily.

Remove all drippings and place in large saucepan. You should get at least 4 cups. Replace the lid on the roaster and set the turkey aside to stay warm.

For gravy, bring drippings to a boil. Mix 1/4 c. cornstarch in 1 c. cold water until no lumps remain. Stir into drippings. Bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Salt to taste. Add 1 t. rosemary to gravy if desired.

Serve gravy and turkey with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing - you know what makes a turkey dinner. And make sure to share a few tasty bits with your cats.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Writing is like...

...a box of chocolates. Each one is a little bit different. You never know what you're getting until you bite into it.

Um, not quite? Try again? No matter how carefully you follow the instructions, measure, and bake, it never turns out the same. And sometimes the serendipitous mistakes lead to the most delicious results.

Hm. Do over.

...eating an elephant. One bite at a time. It takes a lot to chew through something that large.

...bathing naked in a pool full of man-eating, ravenous sharks. With paper cuts.

No, wait. That's what being published feels like some days. How would you complete the sentence?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Butternut Custard

In honor of the March snowstorm now blowing through my yard, I'm posting this recipe. Part pumpkin pie, part baked pudding, it's all delicious. So bake some this week and curl up with a bowl. And don't feel guilty - it's low fat, low sugar, high fiber, just good for you and good to eat.


Butternut Custard

1 medium butternut squash - about 2-3 pounds
3/4 c. milk
4 eggs
1 c. brown sugar
1 t. ginger
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. salt

Split squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds. Place squash in 9x13 pan and cover with foil. Bake at 350 until very tender, about one hour. Let cool. Scoop out flesh. Place 2 c. butternut squash in blender. Add milk and eggs. Puree until smooth, about one minute, it will be very thick. Pour into bowl. Add sugar and spices. Beat with whisk until smooth. Pour into well-greased 9x13 pan, spread evenly. Bake at 400° F for twenty minutes, turn heat down to 325° about 45 minutes, until filling is set and toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm with whipped topping.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday Viral Blues

I decided I needed to post twice a week. Mondays will be devoted to writing advice, author interviews, and other topics of interest to writers. Thursdays will be recipe/family life articles.

So this Monday post is: Simple Advice for Writers, 5 easy ideas of things NOT to do (Yes, I've done them all)

1. Never write while under the influence of children. Your dialogue ends up reading something like this:
"Kiss me," she whispered, passion glittering in her eyes.
"Quit kicking the cat!"
"Oh, my dearest darling, Stop squishing peas into the carpet!"
"I don't care what your brother said, he is NOT stealing your air when he breathes!"
Her bosom heaved as his hand slapped his sister. "I'll give you something to scream about, you little monsters!"

2. Never write while under the influence of cold medication. This should be self-explanatory. If you're anything like me, your brain takes a holiday. What you write is highly entertaining but usually makes very little sense when read in the light of day.

3. Never take advice columns too seriously. Really, folks. The best way to learn to write is to do it. Then get people you trust to read what you've written and give you feedback. If all they tell you is, "This is wonderful!", find other friends who know something about writing. Pick apart books you like, books you don't like, movies, whatever has a story to tell. Study other people's writings. Then write more of your own works. Keep writing.

Good luck with your writing endeavors. I'm going to go take more cold medication now.