Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cooking Directions

It's pumpkin and squash season in the US. I've been searching for different ways to use the pumpkin I picked up at the store. Last week I cooked my spaghetti squash and froze most of it for future use. This week I've checked out numerous recipes for pumpkin.

I was searching for something that didn't require a ton of sugar or flour...and wasn't pie. Am I the only one who really doesn't care for pie? There's pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin latte, pumpkin butter, pumpkin...

Anyway, the interesting part of recipes picked up on the Internet is the directions. Some leave out temperatures or cooking times like you're just supposed to know. Some list calories per serving--but not what a serving consists of. Some (especially the ones for HUGE quantities) have no suggestions for storing the leftovers. Freeze? Refrigerate? Can?

I suppose that's because no one plans for leftovers anymore. That's the problem when the hunk and I cook...leftovers. Anyone out there have a great pumpkin recipe? I received a wonderful paleo-bread recipe from my friend, Amarinda Jones that I plan to make, but the pumpkin is fairly big so I need two or three recipes before I start cutting it up.

How do you deal with leftovers? Or do you ever have any?


Friday, September 28, 2012

Turquoise Paint

When I was eight, we lived in a tiny "shotgun house" with an extra room bumped out on the side. My younger brothers and I shared that room and my parents slept in the "dining" room. The entire house was four rooms plus a bathroom. As compensation for having to share with my brothers, I was permitted to pick out the paint color for the room.

Perhaps it was because we lived in the deserts of Arizona, but I chose turquoise as the color. It wasn't a soft, gauzy color, nor was it the pretty bluey-green color in the photograph. No, it was the harsh green-blue of the turquoise stone fresh out of the depths of a copper mine.

Gamely, my parents painted the room and I reveled in the bright color until we moved to a different tiny house the next year. There I had the sun porch for my very own while my brothers slept on the enclosed front porch.

Several years later, when I was in my teens and we lived in Indiana, our family made a pilgrimage to the various places we'd lived in Arizona. The woman who lived in that house with the turquoise paint graciously invited us inside.

And that room still had the turquoise paint on the walls.

Dad asked her about it. She said they couldn't find anything except black that would cover the paint so they left it as is. That was many years ago and no doubt--if the house is still standing--someone has used the modern paint technology to cover that turquoise paint.

Looking back from my adult viewpoint it occurs to me we often make choices we might later wish we hadn't. Sometimes, the choices we blithely make in a moment of pique or fit of triumph have consequences we are not constrained to live with. Instead, an innocent bystander might have to deal with our choice.

Sometimes...a total stranger is stuck with the turquoise paint.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Change, Change, Change

Edit~~Prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it.

Revise~~ To prepare a newly edited version of (a text)

I'm in the midst of edits for Spear of Retribution. I've noticed when other authors refer to edits, they're discussing something entirely different. So...Anny's definitions:

Revising~~What I do to my manuscript BEFORE I submit it to a publisher. That includes all the nitty-gritty of corrections, changes in plot, additions of scenes. All that stuff.

Edits~~What I do to my manuscript after the editor sends it back to me. If I did my job before submission, then this will primarily consist of READING MY MANUSCRIPT WORD FOR WORD, signing off on the corrections the editor noted, and also making any corrections needed as I read through it. It might ALSO include any revisions necessary based on the editor's recommendations. 

When I do EDITS, the process takes about a week. I spend a lot of time fine-combing through the manuscript, hoping to catch any bits that weren't caught previously--or picked up by my editor. Sometimes, this is the change in a verb or rewording a sentence for clarity. 

In this particular set of edits, I have two lengthy revisions to deal with, thanks to the excellent suggestions from my editor. Those will likely take a day or two to write and seamlessly fit in my current manuscript.

That's how I define what stage I'm in. How do you define your process?


Tuesday, September 25, 2012


It's the middle of the night--or the middle of the day. You go out to the kitchen, open the fridge and check out the possibilities. It's a positive smorgasbord of leftovers. You didn't plan to have that many containers of odds and ends, but that's just the way it ended up. Now as you open one container after another, you discover you're the proud owner of a refrigerator of spoiled leftovers and you end up cleaning out the fridge instead of eating that snack.

Sometimes (particularly holidays) we plan for leftovers, knowing we'll have extra turkey, ham, or some other hefty roast for future meals. We're careful to package it up and put it in the freezer. But mostly, we don't plan for those extra bits and bites. That's when we end up with the zombie leftovers.

Our writing is sometimes like that. In our exuberance, we end up with extra bits. Some of it's just too good to throw away. So we package it up for reuse somewhere else...and then forget about it. 

Then comes the day when we're rummaging around in our files for something to jumpstart our writing and we discover our zombie leftovers. Should we use them? Or should we toss 'em out? 

My advice? Take a good whiff. Then decide. And if it's a decision to toss? Then do it all the way. Don't just repackage them so they clutter up your storage area. Clean it up. Wipe down the shelves. And start fresh.

Leftovers. Not always ready for prime time.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Eye of the Beholder

It's early morning in Baltimore. I just finished reading an interesting take on obesity--and our reaction to it. The writer had some excellent observations about why we find it so abhorrent. If you would like to read the article click HERE.

It made me consider what it would be like if we were blind. How would we decide whether or not another person was attractive, friendly, smart, dangerous, happy, angry,...and so on? How would we know if they were skinny or obese? If you are not a regular reader of my blog, what do you know about my physical appearance?

The Internet is a vast repository of information, much of it false, especially in the social media area. There's a reason many authors don't post their pictures, and it's not always to do with appearance, but security or privacy. But say all things were equal and every individual had to post a current ID picture on their Facebook or Twitter account. How would it change our perceptions of them? How does it change the perceptions of our readers when they meet us or see our picture on our webpage?

Is there a true bias against obesity such that a reader wouldn't buy our book if they discovered we were fat? Is the bias that deep in our culture? And if so, could it be remotely possible that the writer of the article I read was correct in her reasoning?

I wonder.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Summer Past

Fall is here. It still looks pretty green except when you walk into a store or mall. Then all you see everywhere is a sea of orange and black. As usual, the retailers are anxious to make as much money on Halloween and other fall activities as possible. Not only is the frost on the pumpkin in some parts of the country, but thousands of pumpkins are ready to be sacrificed in the annual Jack O'Lantern orgy.

Bags of candy corn are piled high. If that's not enough to put you in a sugar coma, there are "individual/bite size" chocolate candy bars in an endless variety. Next to them are big bins of plastic pumpkins in colors never designed by nature.

For some reason fall also kicks off a blast of baking... primarily pumpkin oriented breads, cookies, cakes, puddings, pies. It seems it would be cheaper to buy a pumpkin spice candle or tart and light it, instead. Same scents with none of the calories.

From Mabon (autumnal equinox) to Halloween is one of my favorite times of year--not for the pumpkins though I truly have nothing against them--but because I love the color as the leaves turn and the crisp, scent of winter approaching. Far more than the actual New Year, fall has always signaled a new beginning for me. Perhaps it's because the kids go back to school. Perhaps it's because we take one last fling at the outdoors before we hunker down for the winter.

In any case, I'm looking forward to this fall and winter. Whatever you have planned, I wish the heartiest blessings for you and yours.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mighty Pen

True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword. ~~Edward Bulwer Lytton

We underestimate how very important our capability to communicate by writing is. Would the Arab Spring have succeeded so spectacularly without Twitter and Facebook? What would modern life be like without texting?

Yet, I fear we are losing something even as we move forward. What do we gain if we don't read the written word?

In this election year, the majority of voters are still relying on sound bytes and media coverage for information. On Constitution Day, I posed the question, "When is the last time you read our Constitution?" There were no takers. The pen is only as strong as our willingness to read what is written.

In the pre-electronic era, all information was attained by reading. Pamphlets and newspapers spread the differing political views. The public was completely aware that each pamphlet or newspaper reflected the views of the owners or publishers. But in our day of corporate owned media, we've forgotten that crucial fact. It isn't the media's job to inform us. That's our responsibility. True un-biased information can only be obtained by doing personal research...and reading!

Prior to the written word, humanity depended on word of mouth. The keepers of oral history were charged with an accurate accounting of events. Still we've ended up with a long-term version of that old childhood game of telephone.

The written word allowed for succeeding generations to read for themselves the deeds and events of the past--and record the contemporary events for the future. Will those efforts be in vain?

In January I wrote about the importance of the President signing the most recent version of the Homeland Security bill, about how this version in effect negated the rights listed in our Constitution. I cannot tell you how many people protested there was nothing to worry about because if there was, it would be on the news!

Not so.

Our pens will have no power if there is no one to read our words. Read.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Here a Calorie, There a Calorie

Keeping track of calories is an eye-opening experience. It's annoying and tedious, but still, eye-opening. Take oatmeal for instance. One serving is 150 calories. Not bad. Make it with milk and it's 270 calories. Add a tad of brown sugar...and it jumps up to 320. You say you like butter with it? 420. But it's good for you...right?

Same oatmeal made with almond milk is 210. One teaspoon of honey rounds it off to 270.

There are studies that show people lose more weight if they write down everything they eat (honesty here!) and they track calories for what they eat. I can tell you just writing it down provides a brake.

I am by no means deprived. Every morning I have one egg, one piece of bacon, oatmeal, and coffee. 440 calories for breakfast. I could eliminate the bacon and cut 40 calories but I LIKE bacon. Sausage is...180 calories. Bacon is good!

The entire day is a matter of choice. Since I discovered over 50% of my calories were liquid, I changed to water and found I really like water. I keep a glass on the desk and when I feel hungry, I have a drink, and usually empty the glass.

Conscious eating. It's not a diet. It's just an awareness of every bite we consume. I'm not a snacker by nature so I couldn't figure out where the calories were coming from. Well, I found out. Creamer for my coffee. Fruit juice. Butter on my toast PLUS peanut butter. Sweet tea. Gravy. Toast. Cheese. Sour cream.


It's kind of like all those Apps people buy for their electronics and then they wonder why their bill is so high. Or when we go to the grocery store and fill our basket with things not on our list. Heh. Since we've gone to a conscious eating plan, our grocery bill has plummeted. It's amazing how much money you can save without the add-ons.

There's been a second side effect I wasn't counting on. I don't have the same nagging urge to eat sweets. Again, it's not deprivation, just no desire.

Conscious eating.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tuatha Treasures

In ancient times the Tuatha dé Danann invaded Ireland. Some say they appeared in the clouds above the land. Some declare they sailed in from the sea, their ships hidden in a fog bank or by smoke. And a few believe they came to Ireland in great flying ships, landing in the Iron Mountains. Whatever the truth hidden in the legends, the stories all agree on four points. 
When they arrived in Eire, the People of Danu carried four wondrous treasures with them—the Lia Fail (the Stone of Destiny that shouted aloud when the rightful king touched it), the Spear of Lugh (it ensured victory to the warrior who carried it), the Cauldron of Dagda (none went away from it unsatisfied or hungry), and the Sword of Nuada (none escaped the one who wielded it.) No one living today knows what happened to the four treasures, now buried or lost in the mists of time.

The above is the basis for my Tuatha Treasures series. Book one, Shadows on Stone, is the saga of the return of the Lia Fail, the king stone.

When Maxen Pryce and Russet McGinnis dig up a strange stone on their archeological dig, they don’t suspect the startling ways it will change their lives. The stone—the Lia Fail of Tuathan legend—is the property of the goddess Danaii and she wants her possession back. While flying the artifacts to Russet’s winter home, Max and Russet’s plane is seized by Danaii and transported to Cabhán Geal, home of the Tuatha dé Danann.

Alone and dependent on each other for their survival, Max and Russet confess their love and need for each other, taking delight in their passionate interludes even as they struggle to deal with abduction, shape-shifters, hostile natives and the puzzling demands of the goddess Danaii. Unaware of the significance of the cargo hidden on their plane, they meet each new encounter with increasing determination to survive—whatever the cost—as long as they are together.

But Danaii has a plan, a plan that will take everything they have to give. If they surrender their lives to the goddess, their futures will be brighter than they can imagine. 

Shadows on Stone is available now. Just click on the book cover. :-)

Book Two--Spear of Retribution--is guessed it! The return of the spear.

In 1820 Virginia, love between a white woman and a Cherokee warrior is forbidden. Fleeing the deadly pursuit from her unbalanced father, Lyrissa Murphy and Gray Horse Redhand enter a new unknown world. There they face dangerous encounters with strange warriors and animals, discover an enchanted, magical future and fall deeply in love. Their desire sustains and encourages them to accept their new responsibilities and abilities as they settle in unexpected lives at the Dragon Fort of the Tuatha.

Gray and Lyrissa's story will be available in November! Yay!

And I'm currently working on the third story in the series, the story of the cauldron of plenty. When Tymon Takenaka crashes his truck in the Great Sea on Cabhán Geal, his adventures are just beginning...


Friday, September 14, 2012

Finally Friday

Some weeks are longer than others. On many levels, this has been an extremely long, distressing week for a lot of us. The thing about Friday's an end point.

May you all have a quiet and peaceful weekend.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Step by Step

This morning I started week three on my food journal. Actually, it's a journal that I keep track of all sorts of stuff--what I eat and when, what my blood sugar is, when I take my meds, any exercise I happen to do, and the occasional results when I encounter a scale. Oh, yeah...calories. And how much water I drink each day.

Sounds exciting, eh?

Not so much. The blood sugar has been consistently a little on the high side. Today my thyroid meds should arrive (the doc kicked them up a notch) and I'm anxious to see if the new dosage also affects the sugar.

I suppose some of you are thinking how irritating it must be to keep a journal. And at times, it is. But I've discovered something about myself...or maybe, it's that I've admitted my faults. I'm an extremely impatient woman when it comes to the results of change. I want to see the results immediately. Right now!

Of course, that doesn't happen. Change is slow and if we keep up with it, results are slow. Nothing is instant. Keeping the journal allows me to see the small incremental changes in my life. It allows me to instantly judge the results of eating a piece of cake instead of an orange.

Very sobering. If you don't believe that, go out to eat. Then when you get home, pull up the restaurant's nutrition info and check out the calorie count for your meal. It will save you a lot of money because you won't go out for the next two or three months.

The journal also provides a way for me to control the results of my daily life. It keeps me on track. Will it make a huge difference? I don't know. I'm in week three and already impatient to see a big change.

Life is pretty much like that. We want instant results. We forget that all change is accomplished step by step.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where were you...

Most of us remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when a disaster struck. Not just the September eleventh attacks, but any disaster that affected us personally. It doesn't have to be a big national catastrophe. It could be a small personal issue--the death of someone close to us, a car accident, a catastrophic storm.

The thing is, once that event happens, it changes us forever. Our view of life is shifted and we see things from a different perspective. Huge catastrophic events affect more people at one time. And the more people involved in that event, the more kinship in the group. You see the kinship aspects especially after a destructive storm or earthquake. The people who were there share that event and those not affected are forever outside that circle.

In the United States of America, we witnessed and shared such an event that September morning. Unlike the rest of the world, we've had minimal worries about invasions and attacks. We'd grown complacent and maybe even a little arrogant. Bombings, invasions, attacks happened to "other" people. Not us.

And then--in an instant--that was no longer true.

There were a myriad of reactions in the following days. Fear. Anger. Grief. Insecurity. Uncertainty.

Whatever we felt, for that immediate period we knew a strange feeling of national kinship. Like most families, we squabbled amongst ourselves, but joined together at once to defend against an outside threat.

Today is an opportunity to remember not only where we were, but ponder on that national kinship. How did it vanish so quickly? And how can we get it back?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Second Time Around

The hunk stood in my office doorway and announced he had nothing to read. I looked around at the six-thousand-plus tomes occupying our bookcases and sighed. I've created a monster. He only reads e-books now.

There's a good reason for that. He has reading disabilities that make it very difficult to read a print book. Reading on a large (twenty-four inch!) monitor is much easier for him.

In the past, he was a slooooow reader. Now I suspect the slowness was a function of his disability. Since I bought him a digital reader for Father's Day in June and introduced him to e-books, he's plowed through more than forty books. And I'm not talking about novellas, either. He read all of J.D. Robb's "in Death" series, three Mercedes Lackey books, a couple of others I had in my e-book library, and now he's devouring the John Sandford series.

What to do? I have almost all of them in hardback. I actually like to read a print book. Purchasing them a second time in digital just seems wrong...except he's reading...and enjoying it.

Too bad there isn't a way to get a credit for the print books you've purchased when you buy them in digital. I could go for that. In the meantime, I'll just be thrilled to death he's enjoying reading again--this second time around.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Glow in the Dark

The other day I was talking to a friend about a particularly dark time in my life. She asked, "How did you get through it?"

I'll tell you. My personal pinpoints of light in the darkness--friends, family, faith. Life has a lot of "valleys of the shadow of death". Often they're black, so black we can see no way out--except for the lights in the distance held up by those around us who care enough to illuminate the way. Their words of encouragement...their occasional push in a new direction...their helping hands in the midst of disaster, were the necessary boosts I needed to reach the end of the shadows.

Never take for granted the importance of encouragement. In the darkness, pinpoints of light shine so much brighter.

Reach out. Light a candle for someone. Let your light shine.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Success Story

As I drifted about the Internet over the weekend I noticed there was a plethora of free advice--tips on how to be a success, whatever the endeavor. In my lifetime, I've discovered one truth. What will work for one person is usually an abysmal failure for the next individual. There's no particular reason, but that's pretty much how it works. My advice? Forge your own path.

Much of the time, it's a combination of being in the right place at exactly the right time--and seizing the opportunity when it passes. A long time ago I was laid off my warehouse job when the company closed down the facility. Everyone working there was offered training for new skills. Part of the training was how to write resumes, how to interview for a job, how to dress for the interview.

This was MY experience.

It was February. We had snow on the ground that morning our pipes broke. The hunk and I crawled under our mobile home to repair them. As we approached success with our repair job, I realized I was late for school. There was no time to clean up if I wanted to get there within time for my attendance to count. And if I didn't get there, I wouldn't receive my unemployment benefits for that day.

I brushed the mud and weeds off my sweatpants, washed my hands, combed my hair and zoomed off to school. When I arrived, my instructor informed me there was a position open in the office at the school and advised me to apply for it. Never one to allow grass to grow under my feet, I immediately went downstairs to ask for an application.

Perhaps I should pause here to explain my situation. The hunk had been home for nearly a year on disability. My sons were also laid off because they worked the same place I did, but they were ineligible for unemployment because they were full-time students. So we were supporting six people on two half-paychecks. I was anxious to get a job!

I filled out the application and returned it to the office. In spite of my appearance, I wanted to at least give the impression I was professional so I asked if I could make an appointment for an interview. The young woman who took my application was frankly skeptical but she went to inquire. When she came back, she said, "The Director will see you now."

I was aghast. "I'm not dressed for an interview!"

"She knows." Can't you imagine what she's told the Director?

Well, I followed her into the office. It was already clear to me I was not going to get this job. I resolved to use the interview as an opportunity to practice.

The next day as I was racing up the steps to my class, I heard a voice call my name. When I turned around to face the Director, she asked, "Do you want the job?"

Now, I could have refused that interview. But later--much later, when I'd worked there several years, I asked the Director why she hired me. And I've never forgotten her answer.

"I figured if you could get through that interview, you could handle anything else that came along with the job."

Do I recommend interviewing in muddy sweatpants? No. But that was my experience.

I've read many, many stories from authors who've been rejected multiple time, some as high as fifty or sixty before finally making their first sale. I was offered a contract six weeks after I submitted my first book. MY experience.

I'm pretty sure that doesn't mean I'm a better writer. It just means my manuscript arrived at the right time and had the attention of the right editor. Another time, another place and the editor might have read it and shrugged her shoulders. "Meh."

Sales are much the same way. They depend on so many things. Timing. Book cover. Blurb. Word of mouth. Every experience is different. Every book is different. One might be a raging success--the next a resounding failure.

Forge your own path.