Monday, December 26, 2011

7 UP: Seven Online Marketing Resources for Self Publishing

For an independent author, online marketing is the most challenging part of the publishing process. I took the plunge into Indie publishing a little over two months ago, and I've since learned that writing the book was the easiest part! Formatting and uploading to Smashwords, Amazon's Kindle Publishing and Barnes and Noble Pubit was a somewhat manageable endeavor (even though I'm technically impaired). But online marketing is a totally different animal!

I'm still learning the ropes of online marketing, and lucky for me, my husband, a small business owner, thrives on it. Today I'd like to share a few things I've stumbled upon on my own, as well as information my husband has provided.

Let's just take a quick look at the basics. If you're serious about independently publishing and getting your author platform in place, establish a website and or blog. When I first explored developing an author platform, I created a blog here on Blogger for free. I've since turned my blog into a website, since I can create pages in Blogger. Another great site for creating your own free blog/website is Wordpress.   

In addition to creating author pages on Amazon, Facebook and Goodreads, and joining Twitter, Shelfari and Library Thing, there are numerous blogs out there to help Indie authors promote their work by offering boatloads of free advice. Several books are available too, that are reasonably priced and well worth the cost in helping you build your career. Although not technically online resources, the books I've included help you develop your online marketing techniques.  If you haven't already, visit the links below, and up your marketing knowledge by utilizing these seven resources!


1. The Creative Penn - Joanna Penn provides great information to help you write, publish and sell your book.  She is an author, blogger, speaker and business consultant. This site is aimed at people who are interested in writing, publishing of all different kinds and Internet marketing/promotion for their books (in print/ebook or audio format).

2. Book Cover Cafe - Anthony Puttee is a book marketing professional who works with writers and authors. Having worked in the publishing industry for over 6 years alongside other professionals in the industry such as publishers, editors, book  cover designers and marketing experts, you’ll see that he's passionate about crafting quality books and marketing strategies that work.

3. Marketing Tips - Tony Eldridge is the author of the Twitter tools marketing book, Conducting Effective Twitter Contests which helps people find targeted Twitter followers. He also shares his book marketing tips with fellow authors through his blog and through his free video marketing tips for authors.

4. Guerrilla Marketing - Jay Conrad Levinson offers great advice to market any business. His mission is for businesses to achieve conventional goals using unconventional methods by leveraging energy instead of money. For example, buzz marketing (word of mouth) and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).


5. How I Sold a Million eBooks in Five Months - Entrepreneur John Locke reveals the marketing system he created to sell more than 1,100,000 eBooks in five months.  Well worth the Kindle price of $2.99!

6. Dollars and Sense: The Definitive Guide to Self Publishing Success - A step-by-step guide to increasing royalties for beginners and professionals. Divided into three sections; Producing a Sales-Friendly, Professional eBook, Leveraging Your Social Media Platform, and Selling Smarter, Not Harder, Dollars & Sense walks authors through the process of writing and selling their eBooks. A steal on Amazon Kindle at $.99!  I recommend that you read this before you self publish.


7. Using SEO, Search Engine Optimization, will draw people to your site.  According to Wikipedia, search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the "natural" or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users.

The more people that visit your site, the greater your visibility. Downloading an SEO tool, such as Wordtracker SEO Blogger (free) will help you better understand what SEO is and how to use it effectively.

In the next post, I'll use an example of SEO.

Best of luck in your self publishing endeavors! Are you an Indie? If so, please share any helpful information you've discovered as an Indie author!

Thanks for visiting!

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Doris Day: Success Despite Tears

 Doris Day is releasing a new album this week entitled My Heart!   This is exciting news for all Doris Day fans because she's been out of the public eye for 17 years. 

I'm a fan, and Ms. Day is one of my favorite actresses.  She's an inspiration because her story is one of trials and perseverance.  She's also from my hometown, beautiful, historic Cincinnati! 

I'll thank you not to "dis" Cincinnati, please.  I've heard it all before...home of the Cincinnati Bungals, the Big Dead Machine, and Over The Rhine--once rated the worst neighborhood in the United States!

However, Cincinnati is home to several Hollywood legends.  Director Steven Spielberg was born there and actress Sarah Jessica Parker grew up in Cincinnati.  Dancer Vera-Ellen, singer Rosemary Clooney, and super star George Clooney all hail from the Cincinnati area.

But today, the spotlight is on Doris Day, actress, singer, dancer, super star! She could do it all, and as an actress, she could play dramatic roles, just as easily as comedic ones.  Add to that her pretty looks, svelte figure, magnificent legs, and presto--you have box office dynamite!

Despite her sunny, perky disposition, Ms. Day's road to stardom was filled with heartache and tragedy.  As a young teen, she had hopes of dancing professionally, and even won $500 in a contest with her amateur dance partner, Jerry Doherty.  But her dream to become a pro came to an end in 1937, when her leg was shattered in an automobile accident.  The car she was riding in was hit by a train.  However, while recovering, she started singing along with songs on the radio, and discovered a talent she didn't know she had.  Her mother paid for voice lessons from teacher Grace Raine, who said Doris had "tremendous potential."

Doris eventually sang on a local radio program, at a restaurant, and then went on to perform in the band of Cincinnati bandleader Barney Rapp (whose daughter Bonnie was my kindergarten teacher).  It was while performing in Rapp's band that she met trombonist Al Jorden.  She originally thought him a creep, but later fell in love and married him at the age of 17--he was 24.

Jorden abused Doris physically, cheated on her, and even insisted that she have an abortion when she became pregnant.  She kept the baby and later left Jorden.  Ironically, Doris's main ambition was to become a full time a wife and mother, not a super star.

As a single mom, she recorded "Sentimental Journey" in 1944, and that song made her a star.  A second marriage followed to saxophonist George Wiedler.  That marriage ended after less than eight months.  By this time Hollywood had noticed Doris, and Wiedler (not fond of her son, and already cheating on her) didn't want to be known as Mr. Doris Day.

By 1951, Doris was on her way to super stardom and had married her third husband, Marty Melcher.  But 17 years later, Melcher and his business partner squandered her $24 million dollar fortune.  Melcher died leaving Doris $400,000 in debt. He'd also contracted her to do a television sitcom, which she had no desire to do. But she did it anyway, and gave it her all.  The TV show saved her, and she was later awarded a court settlement after suing Melcher's business partner. 

The Doris Day Show was a success and ran from 1968 through 1973, which is how I first became acquainted with Doris Day when I was a kid.  Back then I had no idea of her tremendous talent.

Doris Day is the number one female box office star of all time, and she's the only one who was number one four years in a row! Her extensive body of work includes 39 films and 29 albums.  Today, she works as an animal rights activist.

 "Que Sera Sera" is known as her signature song, and she is a true example of that mantra, "whatever will be will be."  She has experienced numerous hardships in her career and personal life.  But she has endured and maintained a positive outlook.  "...I just feel so fortunate and so blessed to have been able to entertain people in the theatres and on record, it’s just an amazing life that I’ve experienced." – Doris Day

My favorite Doris Day film is Calamity Jane.  In it she sings the song "Secret Love," which won the Academy Award for best original song of 1953.  Last year I learned that Doris Day had had a real "secret love" when I read that she'd had an affair with Maury Wills.

Wills is the famous L.A. Dodger base stealer, and one of the first, post-Jackie Robinson African American integration baseball players.  According to Wills and a Day biographer, the affair took place in the early ‘60s.

I had known about another interracial relationship in Doris's life, but it involved her father. In her autobiography, Doris Day: Her Own Story, she talked about her father's dislike of blacks, yet, later in life, he married a black woman!

Interracial relationships are becoming more commonplace now, but black and white couples still tend to turn a few heads. These relationships no longer need to be kept secret, however, that was a different story not so long ago.  I've written about a secret love in The Governor's Sons. I hope you'll read it, then be thankful that times have changed, and then enjoy a Doris Day movie!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dr. Gregory H. Williams: A Testament to the Power of Perseverance

 I've never met Dr. Gregory Williams, but I hope to one day.  He's the current president of the University of Cincinnati, one of the nation's top 25 public research universities.  Dr. Williams is a noted scholar with a vast background in academic leadership. Prior to his post as UC's President, he was the President of the City College of New York. 

Dr. Williams has worked in University Administration for over 30 years, holding positions at George Washington University and the University of Iowa.  In addition, he was Dean of Law School and Carter C. Kissell Professor of Law at The Ohio State University.

After I read Dr. Williams's memoir, Life on the Color Line , I was amazed that he was able to achieve as much as he has.  It's hard to believe that an individual with such an outstanding resume faced extraordinary challenges that would have destroyed most of us.

So, what made Dr. Williams's life so challenging? It wasn't a physical disability, nor was it the fact that he was a black youth in America during the '40s and 50's, although that was a large part of it.  If you're looking at his picture, you're probably surprised by his ethnicity!

His series of challenges began at age 10, when his parents divorced. Divorce is difficult for any child to endure. But imagine on top of that, learning your true identity.  Picture living a comfortable life as a white child, at the top of the food chain, so to speak, but then finding out that you're really, what in those days was referred to as a "Negro."  "I don't want to be a Negro," Dr. William's little brother Mike cried, "we can't go to the swimming pool and we can't go skating!" And that was just the beginning of their emotional readjustment to the dregs of society.

Dr. Willams and his brother left Virginia with their father, after their father divorced their white mother. From a decent life in Virginia (albeit with some issues), the elder Williams took his sons back to his home state of Indiana.  As a bi-racial man, Dr. Williams's father had passed as white.  He was known as Tony and claimed to be of Italian descent.  But back home, everyone knew Tony, now referred to as Buster, was black.  And being "Negro" inhibited employment opportunities.

The alcoholism of Dr. Williams's father caused a large amount of dysfunction, and his father's chronic unemployment prevented him from caring of his two boys.  Living from hand to mouth, they endured poverty and beatings.

In school, once Dr. Williams was singled out as black (even though he looked white), he faced rejection and ridicule from former friends, as well as hostility from teachers. And among some black students, he was shunned because of his fair complexion.

But despite the odds, Dr. Williams persevered because of an inner strength and desire to achieve.  He always wanted to be a lawyer and was never deterred from that goal.  What pushed him to achieve he said, is that every time he got discouraged, he would recall the first few months of living as an outsider among relatives in Indiana.  "I reminded myself that if I could make it through those days, all other obstacles could be overcome."

When I read Dr. Williams's memoir, I cried, then cried some more.  Now I'm tearing up as I write about it.  I'm a big believer in racial reconciliation, and I'm thankful that our country is on the mend.  But in reality, the racial divide cuts so deep, it may take another century for the wound to heal completely.

Anyone who doesn't understand the extent and complexity of racism in our nation needs to read Dr. Williams's book.  He had the unique opportunity to live as white, but then experienced the extreme culture shock of  black "reassignment."

"In spite of all the pain and grief of my early years," Dr. Williams says, "I am grateful to have been able to view the world from a place few men or women have stood...I am bound to live out my life in the middle of our society and hope that I can be a bridge between races, shouldering the heavy burden that almost destroyed my youth."

Dr. Williams succeeded in pursuing a master's degree, law degree and a doctorate.  He is a true testament to the power of perseverance!

I write stories of forbidden love from the past in which my characters persevere against the odds.  It amazes me that race is such a volatile issue, even today, where love is concerned.  But if two people love each other, they should be together, no matter what the cost.

When Dr. Williams became engaged to a white girl, let's just say...her family had some issues with that.  Read his memoir to find out what happened.  And read my book, The Governor's Sons, to see what transpires in 1936 when a young law student from a wealthy southern family falls in love with "the help."

Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Why I'm Going Independent

I'm in the process of independently publishing my novels, and I'm very excited!  I'm researching the process now, but hope to have the ball rolling in the next few weeks.  This time last year, I never would have thought about self publishing, but now there are several reasons why I have: 

I first considered it seriously after interviewing author Norma Beishir.  Norma has been published traditionally as well as independently, and she's a huge advocate of self publishing because of the freedom it allows.

My cousin Dehbi, a voracious reader, has been encouraging me to self publish ever since she got a Kindle about a year ago.  "This is the new trend, you should do it!"  That's what she's been telling me, and the articles she's sent have helped me in my decision. More articles here.

Some authors have had extreme financial success in self publishing, such as Amanda Hocking and John Locke. Although exceptions to the rule, they certainly are an inspiration!

Many writers in my local RWA chapter are pursuing independent publishing, including Carey Corp.  I think Carey's recent articles about going indie finally helped me to stop straddling the fence and do it for real.  Thanks Carey!

When seeking agents, some ask for your publicity plan. When seeking epublishers, some require that you provide your own cover art.  Hmm...if I have to do my own publicity and artwork, maybe I should just do everything myself.

I love pretty covers, but I worried that I wouldn't be able to create anything that didn't look crappy or child like in design.  However, cover model Jimmy Thomas offers a great selection of romance images for a reasonable fee.  And Gimp software, similar to Photoshop, can be downloaded for free to jazz up those images!  BTW, I'm very nontechnical, so if I can make a cover with PowerPoint and doctor it up with Gimp, anybody can!

There are lots of other writers out there that write better than I do, and they're getting rejected, too!  Do I want my work to sit on a flash drive and continually get rejected, or do I want to take a chance and put it out there myself?  As the character Cal Hockley said in the movie Titanic, "A wise man makes his own luck." Hockley was the jerk Rose didn't marry, but regardless, I love that line!

If my stories can provide entertainment and earn income, as well, I'll be thrilled!

Have you considered going indie?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Moday's Writing Tip: Arrive Late, Leave Early

"Too many words..."
"Figure out what the action of the scene is going to be, or what its thrust is, and then start writing just a fraction before the action begins." Robert Masello, Robert's Rules of Writing, Rule 42: Make an Entrance

If you haven't guessed, Masello's Robert's Rules of Writing is one of my favorite craft books.  It's a small work jam packed with excellent advice!

I'm currently revising a WIP, and this rule reminds me that I don't need to fill up scenes with lots of superfluous information. 

Masello uses the example of a scene that takes place in a lecture hall.  Is it really necessary to show the students filing in, the professor straightening his notes at the podium, then clearing his throat and beginning the lecture?

Absolutely not!  If the oncoming conflict is an argument that takes place between the protagonist and the professor, that results in the protagonist getting kicked out of school, focus on that.

Masello says, "If that's what the scene is about, if that's what moves the action of your story forward, then come in just before the argument flares up and out of control.  And once the expulsion is given, end the scene...Lingering in that lecture hall will only dilute the power of the confrontation."

In closing, get to the point, and know when to quit.  Rambling and meandering is okay in a first draft, but while revising, cut what's possible so the reader won't be bored!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Recipe Friday: Pork Roast with Gravy

Here's something kid tested (by my children) and mother approved by me! It's also really easy to prepare and cooks in the crock pot.

I made this just the other day and served it with mashed sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts.  The recipe, from Reader's Digest, suggests serving it with mashed white potatoes. Rice would work well, too.  Hope you and your family enjoy this!

Pork Roast with Gravy

1 boneless whole pork loin, 3-4 lbs.
1 can chicken broth
1 cup julienned sweet red pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1T brown sugar
2 t Italian seasoning
1 t salt
1 t pepper
2 t cornstarch
2 t cold water

Cut roast in half, transfer to 5 qt. slow cooker.  In small bowl, combine broth, red pepper, onion, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and seasonings.  Pour over pork.  Cover and cook on low 3-4 hours, or until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees and meat is tender. 

For gravy, strain cooking juices and skim fat.  Pour 1 cup into small saucepan. Combine corn starch and water until smooth.  Stir into cooking juices. Bring to a boil, cook and stir two minutes or until thickened.

Do you have a favorite pork roast recipe that your mom used to make? Thanks for visiting, and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Wednesday Discussion: Share Some Fascinating Trivia From the Fiction You've Read

Audrey Munson
I'm a history buff and I love research, so whenever I read something interesting in a novel that's supposedly factual, I enjoy looking it up so I can read more.

Most recently I learned about Audrey Munson,  mentioned in Linda Fairstein's Hell Gate, a novel filled with all kinds of New York City history and trivia.

The tragic life of this model and silent screen actress intrigued me, so I had to do a little research on my own to satisfy my curiosity.

Audrey Munson (June 8, 1891 – February 20, 1996) rose to fame prior to World War I.  She was  known as "Miss Manhattan," "the Exposition Girl," and "American Venus." She was the model or inspiration for more than 15 statues in New York City. 

Fountain of the Setting Sun
Ms. Munson, who posed nude and clothed, was eventually involved in a scandal. While Munson lived in a rooming house, the married owner of the house fell in love with her.  To be with Muson, he killed his wife.  Munson was never interested in this man, who was eventually convicted of murder, but the scandal ruined her career.

Munson began suffering from schizophrenia, and at age 39 was committed to a mental institution.  She remained there for the rest of her life, dying at age 104. 

As many monuments and statues that Audrey Munson posed for, it's ironic that she herself, is buried in an unmarked grave.

Do you have some interesting trivia you'd like to share that you've found in fiction?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Trying to Break in? Try Writing a Cozy Mystery!

"Cozy mysteries have become a booming business."

The publishing world becomes more competitive every day.  Breaking into romance fiction is even getting more difficult.  But have you ever considered writing a Cozy Mystery?

According to Wikipedia, Cozy Mysteries are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously. The term was first coined in the late 20th century when various writers produced work in an attempt to re-creating the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

I didn't even know what one was until I attended the OVRWA monthly meeting over the weekend.  The program featured Cozy Mystery writers Duffy Brown (aka Dianne Castell) and Heather Webber.

Duffy Brown said that if you can't keep the mystery out of your romance, and can't keep the romance out of your mystery, you should try writing a cozy mystery.  And Heather Webber mentioned that breaking into this market is easier than trying to break into romance.  In addition, you don't have to write all those explicit love scenes!

For more information on this subgenre, visit  The author of this site says:
I find that most of the cozy mysteries that I read take place in a small, picturesque town or village, with characters who I could envision having as neighbors or friends. (Of course, once I find out who the killer is, I wouldn't particularly want that person living next to me!) They are usually not zany people, although an eccentric or two might lurk here and there.  On the whole, they are usually normal, every day characters you might have known at one time in your life.  Cozies don't usually involve a lot of gory details or explicit "adult situations," either.
Does writing a Cozy Mystery sound like something you'd like to try? Thanks for visiting!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Recipe Friday: North Carolina Barbeque

A barbecue competition is like going to a family reunion, only you get to pick your relatives." Judy Fry, The Frying Pan

If you're not from North Carolina, you may not appreciate NC barbecue.  I lived in the Tar Heel State for about 15 years and never liked it's version of BBQ as much as Ohio's, but it is tasty.

My husband, who grew up in NC, really loves it!  And my kids, who are picky eaters, actually like this version I cooked in my crock pot the other day. If you find it strange, douse in your favorite BBQ sauce and you'll love it!

This recipe is from my Slow Cooker Recipe Book that came with my GE crock pot. Hope you like it!

North Carolina Barbecue

3 lbs boneless pork butt, shoulder or blade roast
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomato
1/2 cup vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T sugar
1 heaping T red pepper flakes
1 T salt
2 t black pepper

Combine all ingredients in crock. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours. Pull meat apart with fork when done.  Makes about 3 pounds of BBQ. Great Served with baked beans and cole slaw.

What's your favorite BBQ? Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Wednesday Discussion: Heard Any Great Lines Lately?

"The new guy's an idiot...but that was a great line. I'll have to use it in my novel."

"The pen is the tongue of the mind." Miguel de Cervantes

And sometimes real life provides dialogue that our pens can have fun with incorporating into a work in progress.

What are some great lines you've heard in real life, said by a spouse, friend, child or relative? 

My favorite was said by an acquaintance at my gym. I didn't hear it first hand, but she told me after the fact. 

She'd been crudely propositioned by a military man, and her response to him from the StairMaster was as follows:

"I don't care how many battles you've fought or how many people you've killed, but if you say something like that to me again, I'm gonna get down off here and make sure you'll never be able to fight again!"

I'll have to use that in my next manuscript! Now it's your turn--share a great line and who said it!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Engage the Senses

"I love the smell of napalm in the morning." Robert Duvall as Colonel Bill Kilgore from Apocalypse Now

Reading isn't a sensory experience, so it's up to the writer to make it one! Remember show don't tell? This means going beyond the visual and taking full advantage of all the senses, including hearing, smell, touch and taste.

Todd Stone, in his Novelist's Boot Camp, says that how you go beyond sight can make a difference as well.

"As you use description to build that emotional connection between your reader and your story, consider carefully which sense you want to use. Some senses are more--more personal, closer, more private--than others. Using the more intimate senses can make your description more emotionally powerful." Stone goes on to explain the degree of intimacy in each sense:

Sight. The most passive of the senses. Our eyes are always open and we don't need to do anything to see an object, so there's very little involvement. And what we see remains outside the body.

Sound. More intimate than sight. Sound causes a physical change in the body--the vibration of the eardrum. It takes more effort to block out sound than sight, and sounds are also more easily remembered, especially when repeated in rhythmic fashion. Ever wonder why we remember nursery rhymes and cartoon jingles into adulthood? Sound is still rather passive. The stimulation can come from a distance.

Touch. As far as intimacy, touch falls in the center of the spectrum. Touch is easily remembered, and touch memory is stored in a different part of the brain than sight or sound. Touch can be active or passive. Characters can touch or be touched. Whatever stimulates touch must be close. And touch can be used as an intimate character marker--leathery skin, rough hands, scarred face. Touch, however, remains outside the body. So, although it's more intimate than sight or sound, it's less intimate than smell and taste.

Smell. The human brain's neural connections tie certain smells to certain primeval instincts and emotions, making it an intimate sense. Smells can produce strong, emotional reactions even when very faint. I have a friend who grew up in an alcoholic home.  To this day he hates the smell of beer because of what it reminds him of. Does the smell of oatmeal cookies remind you of your grandma's house? For a more powerful, intimate effect on the reader, use the sense of smell in your descriptions.

Taste. The most intimate of the senses. The taste buds, mouth and gums provide fast track access to the body and parts of the brain. Sensations that originate in the mouth can cause very powerful, very emotional reactions almost instantly. To activate taste, a stimulant must enter through open lips, voluntarily or involuntarily. Taste can also reflect emotion, such as the sweetness of a lover's kiss, or the coppery taste of a character's own blood. So taste is the most intimate of all.

In closing, transform your scenes from mediocre to magnificent by engaging the senses! Are you already doing this? Thanks for visiting!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Recipe Friday: Chicken and Red Tomato Curry

I love Indian food because of the extensive use of different herbs and spices.  But for the same reason I'm crazy about it, others may not like it, or even have trouble digesting it!

If you are a lover of Indian cuisine, try this easy recipe from the Cincinnati Enquirer.  It's healthy, and not too fattening.  Throw it together in one pot, serve over rice--and yum!  Hope you like it!

Lal Tamatar Murgh (Chicken and Red Tomato Curry)

3 T sunflower oil
1 medium onion
1 T ginger garlic paste *
1 1/4 lbs skinless chicken breasts, kept whole
1/2 t turmeric
1 t garam masala *
salt to taste
14 1/2 oz. can chopped tomatoes
2 T chopped cilantro

Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry onion until soft.  Add the ginger garlic paste, stir and add the chicken, stirring to seal in on all sides.  Once the chicken is sealed, stir in the turmeric, garam masala and salt.  Mix well.  Pour in tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is done, adding a little water if necessary.  Serve hot, sprinkled with cilantro.  Serves 4.

*Available in the international section of most large grocery stores.

Do you love Indian food?  If so, what's your favorite dish?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Wednesday Discussion: Seen Anything Outlandish Lately?

"You're kidding...right?"
"I was crazy back when being crazy really meant something." Charles Manson

Life always provides something outlandish to amaze, discuss, or even incorporate into a WIP.  Have you heard, read or seen anything lately that seemed totally outlandish? I have two examples to share.

The other night we ate at a fantastic local BBQ place. My kids had burgers, I had a huge slab of ribs, and my husband had brisket, pulled chicken and pulled pork.  It just so happened that the waitresses' black t-shirts were emblazoned with the huge white letters P.E.T.A.

Eeww, I thought, cutting into my meaty, fall off the bone ribs.  Then I laughed as I read what the letters stood for: People Eating Tasty Animals. Sorry, vegetarians.

My next example I found doing research on mens' sleepwear from the 1880's. Instruction and Advice for the Young Bride is a "Christian" pamphlet, written in 1894, that warns young ladies all about---(GASP) sex! For a good laugh, you'll have to read the whole thing, but here are some of the more amusing parts:

Some young women actually anticipate the wedding night ordeal with curiosity and pleasure! Beware such an attitude! A selfish and sensual husband can easily take advantage of such a bride. One cardinal rule of marriage should never be forgotten: GIVE LITTLE, GIVE SELDOM, AND ABOVE ALL, GIVE GRUDGINGLY. Otherwise what could have been a proper marriage could become an orgy of sexual lust. On the other hand, the bride's terror need not be extreme.  
While sex at best is revolting and at worse rather painful, it has to be endured, and has been by women since the beginning of time, and is compensated for by the monogamous home and by the children produced through it. It is useless, in most cases, for the bride to prevail upon the groom to forego the sexual initiation. While the ideal husband would be one who would approach his bride only at her request and only for the purpose of begetting offspring, such nobility and unselfishness cannot be expected from the average man.

Most men, if not denied, would demand sex almost every day. The wise bride will permit a maximum of two brief sexual experiences weekly during the first months of marriage. As time goes by she should make every effort to reduce this frequency. Feigned illness, sleepiness, and headaches are among the wife's best friends in this matter. Arguments, nagging, scolding, and bickering also prove very effective, if used in the late evening about an hour before the husband would normally commence his seduction.

By their tenth anniversary many wives have managed to complete their child bearing and have achieved the ultimate goal of terminating all sexual contacts with the husband. A wise bride will make it the goal never to allow her husband to see her unclothed body, and never allow him to display his unclothed body to her. Sex, when it cannot be prevented, should be practiced only in total darkness. Many women have found it useful to have thick cotton nightgowns for themselves and pajamas for their husbands.

Once the bride has donned her gown and turned off all the lights, she should lie quietly upon the bed and await her groom. When he comes groping into the room she should make no sound to guide him in her direction, lest he take this as a sign of encouragement. She should let him grope in the dark. There is always the hope that he will stumble and incur some slight injury which she can use as an excuse to deny him sexual access.

As I said, read the whole thing--you'll be amazed! I'll end this post with a quote from Dorothy Patterson (found in The Women's Devotional Bible) regarding sex in marriage from a Biblical standpoint.  Apparently, the author of the above pamphlet must not have been aware of this: 
One finds there a theology of sexuality, which, as designed by God, offers unfailing beauty and incomparable worth.  The Creator designed this most intimate union to reveal knowledge on the ultimate level (Genesis 4:1), to demonstrate the most absolute unity (Genesis 2:24), to unleash the deepest comfort (Genesis 24:67), to continue the generations through procreation (Genesis 1:28), to guard against temptation (1 Corinthians 1:2-5) and even to provide relaxation and play (Song of Songs 2:8-17, 4:1-16).

How about you? What's the most outlandish thing you've run into lately? Think you can use it in your current WIP? Thanks for visiting!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Thoughts from Anne Lamott on Avoiding Perfectionism

Anne Lamott

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life...I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it." Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

"It doesn't have to be perfect..."
All non-perfectionists can now breathe a sigh of relief! Don't you love Ms. Lamott's wise words on avoiding it? 

In her wonderful book on writing she shows us that perfectionism is detrimental, because when striving for it in our manuscripts, we try not to leave too much of a mess to clean up.  But she points out that the clutter we leave behind can hide precious treasures that we'll discover later. And those treasures can be put to good use by providing more material to work with once we go back to revise and edit.

Being too tidy, according to Ms. Lamott, suggests that something is as good as it's going to get. In a previous post here, not looking back when writing a manuscript was discussed. 

The important thing is to finish.  Plow ahead, make a mess! Don't worry about every little detail or whether or not it's polished enough.  That comes later, at revision time.

Have fun with that first draft; avoiding perfectionism allows a really great story to unfold!  Do you struggle with perfectionism? Thanks for visiting and have a great day!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Recipe Friday: Maple Baked Limas

With warmer weather approaching, picnic season is just around the corner.  I know what you're thinking, what do lima beans have to do with cookouts?  Let me just say this, if you serve this as a side at your next BBQ, you may never want to go back to traditional baked beans!

This is a recipe I got from my mother-in-law years ago, and it is absolutely marvelous!  It's a hearty side, but so scrumptious, you'll think you're eating dessert!  Aside from the awesome taste, limas are really nutritious! Here are a few facts from E-how Health:

Lima beans are a good source of B vitamins including B6, niacin and folate. Lima beans also are a good source of manganese and iron.

Lima beans are a great source of dietary fiber. One cup of lima beans provides 65 percent of your daily value for fiber.

Lima beans help lower blood sugar levels. Because of their high fiber content, lima beans keep you feeling full and keep your blood sugar at an even level.

Lima beans are also a source of potassium, magnesium and iron. They provide 86 percent of the daily value of molybdenum, a mineral that helps detoxify sulfites.

One cup of cooked lima beans provides 216 calories. Calories from fat are very low--about 6. Limas are a very nutritious, low-fat food.

And to think I used to hate lima beans!  Here's today's recipe.  It's a crock pot dish, so take the time into account when you plan to make it.  Hope you enjoy!

Maple Baked Lima Beans

8 cups water
1 lb dry limas
1 cup chopped onion
1 slice bacon, diced
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup catsup
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1 bay leaf

In saucepan, bring water and beans to boil.  Simmer 1 1/2 hours.  Drain; reserve one cup of liquid.  Pour beans and reserved liquid into bowl and chill overnight.  Transfer beans and liquid into slow cooker, add remaining ingredients, stir until combined.  Cook on low 8-10 hours. Remove bay leaf

Do you like lima beans? If you don't, this recipe will change your mind! Thanks for visiting, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Wednesday Discussion: Death of a Screen Legend

 "I've always admitted that I'm ruled by my passions." Elizabeth Taylor

I was sad to hear this morning that Elizabeth Taylor had died at 79.  She'd struggled with congestive heart failure for many years and finally lost the battle.

As a 10 year old in Hollywood, her flawless beauty (violet eyes, porcelain skin and raven hair) caught the attention of talent scouts.  By age 11 (1943), she'd been signed to a long term contract with MGM that would last into the 1960's.

Ms. Taylor blossomed from a beautiful child star into a stunning leading lady by her teen years. She became an accomplished actress and two time Academy Award winner (Butterfield 8, 1960 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1966), starring in comedies and dramas.

She will be remembered for her beauty, multiple marriages, jet setting lifestyle, charitable endeavors and of course her many films. 

I think my favorite film starring Elizabeth Taylor is Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1958.  She played a wonderful Maggie! What's your favorite Elizabeth Taylor movie?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Time to Unclutter Your Manuscript?

"Do not overwrite. Oftentimes novice writers...tend to use way too many exclamation points, far too many adjectives and adverbs, and want to show off their vocabulary. Less is more. Stick to the meat of the story. Understatement is powerful." Marvin D. Wilson, Meet the Editor

I've been guilty of throwing useless clutter around my manuscript, but I'm improving!

Craft books tell you to watch the use of adverbs and adjectives.  Stephen King, in On Writing, says, "An adverb is a pernicious dandelion to be rooted out the first chance you get."

Adverbs, those words usually ending in "ly", modify verbs.  Robert Masello, in Robert's Rule's of Writing, points out that opponents of the adverb claim that if writers used properly chosen verbs, adverbs wouldn't be necessary. 

I'm glad to know Masello doesn't completely agree with this. I like adverbs, used in moderation, and  I have yet to read a novel that's completely adverb free!  Masello says that adverbs, in many cases, are used for emphasis.

Here's an example I've written:

Pam, the murder suspect, walked slowly into the room as though nothing was wrong.

Pam, the murder suspect, strode into the room as though nothing was wrong.

Pam, the murder suspect, strode leisurely into the room, as though nothing was wrong.

The last sentence uses a more effective verb.  The adverb is used for emphasis and reflects Pam's mood.

Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns.  They can be misused a lot more often than adverbs because they tend to be used in clusters.  Save clustering for peanuts and chocolate.  Adjective pile up can cause a manuscript to become a casualty in an agent's office and end up no further than the shredder.

Here's an example of adjective overload:

The young red haired boy ran wildly through the warm crashing waves of the frothy, turquoise Atlantic, enjoying the feel of the cool salty seaweed filled water against his skin.

That's just too much to wade through, but the example below is clean and tight:   

The young boy charged through the Atlantic, enjoying the feel of the frothy waves against his skin.

When adjectives are used at a minimum, and adverbs carefully chosen to add emphasis, they're much more effective.  And so is the flow of your writing.  As Marvin D. Wilson said in the above quote, "Less is more."

Is your clutter under control? Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Cassandra Marshall's Spring Free Edit Contest

Want a chance to win a free edit of your manuscript up to 100,000 words? Then you'll want to enter Freelance Editor Cassandra Marshall's Spring Free Edit Contest!

This is a FREE substantial edit that covers plot, pacing, character development, etc., so don't miss out!

It's really easy to enter, just click the link and fill out the form on Cassandra's site.  Paste in a query or a short summary (about 250 words) so she'll know what you're writing about.
Cassandra Marshall

You're allowed to ENTER ONCE PER DAY!

Fill out the form again every time you link or tweet. Include direct links, and if you post somewhere, the post must be about this contest only. One entry per type of post (one twitter status, one blog post, etc) per day. To fill out the form again, refresh the page.

For 10 bonus entries, post her button anywhere on your blog! If you include the button in your blog post, that post is worth 11 entries! If you use the button, make sure you note that the button is included when you fill out the form.

Contest is open worldwide, but has to be in English, since everything is done by email. Contest ends midnight, Monday March 21st!

I'm ready to enter, are you?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stylish Blogging

Last week Tanya Reimer, over at Life's Like That, awarded me the Stylish Blogger Award.  Thank you Tanya! Tonya had a very cool blog with all kinds of great, informative and entertaining information.  But unfortunately, today I couldn't find her blog so I can't provide a link. Tanya, where did you go? Hope you're starting a new blog, otherwise, you'll be missed in the blogosphere!

As requested by the award, here are seven items about me.  I'm listing a few things I'm passionate about:

1. God
2. My husband
3. My kids
4. Reading
5. Writing
6. Food
7. Staying Fit

Now for the fun part!  Time to pass the Stylish Blogger Award on to some very stylish bloggers:

1.  Jill Kemerer
2.  Austin James
3.  T.C McKee
4.  Catherine Lavoie
5.  Melissa at Through the Looking Glass
6.  Elaine A.M. Smith
7.  Jules at Trying to Get Over the Rainbow
8.  Myne Whitman
9.  Mary Vaughn
10. Lynnette Labelle
11. Norma Beishier
12. William Kendall
13. PK Hrezo
14. Old Kitty
15. The Happy Whisk

Check out these wonderful blogs today and enjoy the wealth of information and entertainment you'll find there! Thanks for visiting and have a great day!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Sometimes It's Okay to Tell and Not Show

Writers have been hearing about the importance of 'showing' for so long that they've begun to forget the value of 'telling'--of exposition, of summary, of omniscient narration." Robert Masello, Robert's Rules of Writing, Rule 12. Tell, Don't Show

This rule sounds contrary to anything most writers have ever read or been taught.  It's of course important to show everything worth showing, such as dramatic interaction and heated dialogue.  But it is acceptable to tell a few things, too.

Utilize the power of description about surroundings, what's going on inside a character's head, or in the world of your story itself. Masello points out the opening of Dickens A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  So if Dickens can do it...

Also, things that don't need to be seen don't need to be shown.  Who wants to read about a heroine getting ready for work? We know she'll shower, style her hair, put on makeup, get dressed, make coffee and eat breakfast. 

Only show these things if something important happens to affect the story. Perhaps she slips in the shower and breaks her leg, or spills hot coffee and scalds herself, etc., etc.

Masello mentions something that Elmore Leonard, a master of pacing, once said.  He keeps his books moving briskly along leaving out all the parts readers don't want to read.

Anything in your current WIP that can be told and not shown? Happy writing, and thanks for visiting with me today!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Recipe Friday: Beef Stroganoff

"Any of us would rather kill a cow than not have beef." Samuel Johnson

I must agree with Samuel Johnson! I love beef and here's an easy recipe that'll taste like you've slaved over a hot stove for hours, cooking it to perfection. You guessed correctly, a crock pot version of beef stroganoff.

Impress your spouse, impress your friends with a simple version that takes only minutes to prepare.  This is one of my favorite dishes from Mable Hoffman's Crockery Cookery. Hope you like it!

Beef Stroganoff

2 lbs round steak
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1 onion, sliced
1/4 t garlic salt
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t paprika
1 (10 1/2 oz.) can condensed beef broth
1 T ketchup
2 T dry red wine
1/4 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 T cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 cup sour cream
cooked rice or noodles

Cut steak into 1/4 inch strips.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place steak and onion in slow cooker.  Mix garlic salt, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, broth and ketchup in a bowl. Pour mixture over steak. Cover and cook on low 6 to 7 hours or until steak is tender.  Turn control to high. Add wine and mushrooms. Dissolve cornstarch in water in small bowl. Add to meat mixture, stirring until blended. Cover and cook on high 15 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Stir in sour cream; turn off heat. Serve with rice or noodles.  Serves 6.

Do you have a favorite beef stroganoff recipe? Thanks for visiting, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Wednesday Discussion: Are You Going to the Lori Foster Reader and Author Get Together?

Lori Foster

Attending a big conference is an awesome experience, but usually pretty pricey, and sometimes even overwhelming.

If you'd like to attend a smaller, more affordable conference with a big time feel, consider going to Lori Foster's Reader and Author Get Together, June 3-5 in Westchester (near Cincinnati), Ohio.  The conference cost is only $50 and that includes dinner on Friday night, and all three meals on Saturday!

This is the 7th year best selling authors Lori Foster and Dianne Castell, along with Barnes and Noble's Linda Keller, have put together this event for readers and published and aspiring authors. 

Although the conference is geared toward romance writers and readers, the information presented in seminars is useful to all pursuing a writing career.

Take advantage of agent, editor and publisher appointments and learn lots from programs offered regarding marketing, publishing and writing craft!  Hope to see you there!

Think you can come? Please share info on any affordable local writing conferences that take place near you. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Subscribe to Advanced Fiction Writing E-Zine

Randy Ingermanson

"I help turn wannabe writers into gonnabe writers." Randy Ingermanson

If you're not familiar with Randy Ingermanson's, you don't know what you're missing!  Randy is the author of Writing Fiction for Dummies.  He's also known as "The Snowflake Guy" because of this article.  It outlines the way he designs/constructs a novel, by starting small, then building up until it looks like a story. Hence the snowflake metaphor. You start with a paper triangle, then keep cutting until you make a more elaborate design emerge.

Randy, a writer and award winning author of six novels and one non-fiction book, is also a physicist and self proclaimed computer geek.  To learn more about him, click here.

His website is great, and his e-zine is free! It's a monthly publication that provides some great secrets for novelists who want to develop their craft and better market their fiction.  In addition, once you subscribe, you'll also receive his 5 day course entitled "How to Publish A Book," along with his free report on Tiger Marketing.

Visit Randy today and take advantage of all of his great free stuff!  Do you have a favorite writing website that you'd like to plug?  Thanks for stopping by, and happy writing!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Recipe Friday: Chicken Cacciatore

"You don't age while seated for a meal." Italian Food Quote

Italian Food is one of my favorites! Here's a quick and easy recipe for the crock pot that can be thrown together in minutes.  It's from Mable Hoffman's Crockery Cookery. Hope you enjoy it!

Chicken Cacciatore

1 3lb broiler chicken cut up
1 onion, chopped
1 t dried basil
1/2 t lemon pepper
1/4 t salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup rose wine
1 T sugar
1/2 green pepper, sliced
1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
Cooked pasta

Combine all ingredients, except mushrooms and pasta in slow cooker.  Cover and cook on Low 5 to 6 hours Tune control to High and add mushrooms. Cover and cook about 10 minutes. Serve over pats. Makes 5-6 servings.

Do you have a favorite Italian meal for the crock pot? Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Wednesday Discussion: How Did He Get Away With That?

"All words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind." Kahlil Gibran

Getting those words published is the hard part! If you're a prepublished writer, have you ever read a book containing all the things we've learned not to do, then wondered, how did he/she get away with that?

I read something not long ago filled with head hopping, cliches and repetition--big no no's, so I've read and been told on numerous occasions! What kinds of things have you run across in published works that you wouldn't dare put in your own?

Please refrain from mentioning specific books or authors.  This is just a fun conversation not meant to offend!

Thanks for visiting, and happy writing!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Take a Trip Down Storyteller Road

Todd Stone
"...look around. There are stories just crying to be written." Todd Stone

Need some help with a story you 've discovered that's just crying to be written, or perhaps even your current manuscript? Take a trip to Storyteller Road and visit with Todd Stone, author of Novelist's Boot Camp.

Todd offers a variety of workshops, but if you can't attend one, his website offers some of the drills and handouts he's designed for them.  And don't hesitate to order his book. I did, and I highly recommend it! 

As you probably guessed, Todd is from a military background, and military boot camp changes how recruits see themselves, their military duty, and the world around them.

"Today's novelists," Todd says, "need this same kind of transformation in how they think about and view their writing.  And, like those who don a military uniform, writers may sometimes need a begin, pursue and complete their projects."

Novelist's Boot Camp provides techniques for success in all phases of writing a novel, as Todd gives insight, tools and instruction for making the most of a writer's writing time!

I attended Todd's Unstick Yourself Workshop and it was truly amazing!  It involved drills to improve the complete writing process, and covered plotting, character development, dialogue, action, description, revision, and much more! His workshops are geared to all writers, unpublished, as well as multipublished.

But even if you can't attend a workshop, take advantage of what Todd offers at Storyteller Road! If you've attended one of his workshops, tell me what you thought! Tweet me @: maria_mckenzie. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Recipe Friday: Pork Chops with White Wine and Honey

"The pig is an encyclopedic animal, a meal on legs." Grimod de la Reyniere

Warm weather is just around the corner, so it's almost time to fire up the grill! One of my grilling favorites is pork. Not only is it tasty and affordable, but if moderately consumed, it's good for you!

According to Organic Facts, pork has a high mineral content of Phosphorus, Selenium, Sodium, Zinc, Potassium and Copper. The two minerals which are present in good quantities are Iron and Magnesium.

Pork is also highly enriched with Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Thiamin, Niacin, Riboflavin and Pantothenic Acid.

Calorific value of pork is 458.0 per 100 gm. This is high when compared to other animal products like chicken, but keep in mind moderate consumption.

Consumption of pork in moderate quantities is helpful in gaining energy. It's good for the skin, eyes, nervous system, bones and mental performance. Intake of pork also ensures better immunity to body due to presence of essential antioxidants.

I usually fix pork chops once a week, and this is one one of my favorite recipes from The Complete Barbecue Cookbook. The book, a British publication, refers to this dish as Pork Loin Chops With Apple Chutney. I've never made the chutney, so I'm excluding it. However, it's wonderful served with hot cinnamon apple sauce. Enjoy!

Pork Chops with White Wine and Honey

6 loin chops
2/3 cup white wine
2 T oil
2 T honey
1 1/2 t cumin
2 cloves garlic crushed
salt and pepper to taste

Trim chops of excess fat. Combine wine, oil, honey,  cumin, garlic, salt and pepper. Put chops in a shallow non-metallic dish. Pour marinade over chops. Store covered with plastic in the fridge from 3-24 hours, turning occasionally.

Cook chops on hot, lightly oiled BBQ grill or flatplate for eight minutes on each side or until tender.

Are you ready for spring? And BTW, what's your favorite thing to grill? Tweet me @: maria_mckenzie. Have a wonderful weekend!